Copyright ©1989 Gene Brooks  Home


The role of Scotland in the Hundred Year’s War goes back into the 1290’s as prejudices developed. A study of the role of Scotland necessarily forces one to narrate the origins and events leading to war in 1337. Scotland was a chess piece, toyed with by the players France and England; and England never failed to drive the Scots, who wanted peace with England, into the arms of the arguing French. The Scots taught the French how to fight the English, and taught the English the value of the longbow.


When the order of succession ran out in 1290, thirteen people claimed the throne of Scotland, including John Balliol and Robert the Bruce, grandfather of the future king. Edward I’s arbitration was typical of his Justinian attitude. The decision was absolutely correct by order of primogeniture and John Balliol was in no position to refuse to pay homage to Edward I. (Bingham, 41) Edward I made John Balliol king, then oppressed him. “Not satisfied with suzerainty, he was determined to make Scotland his property, his very own. The easiest way to do that was to goad Balliol into rebellion and then confiscate the kingdom of Balliol. This is what Edward deliberately did. The result was, that, far from winning Scotland, Edward converted that nation into a dangerous enemy, and presented France with a serviceable ally.” (Lang, 176) Edward I summoned John time and again to court. Once he sent the sheriff of Northumberland to summon him to London over a bill of a Gascon wine merchant charged to Alexander III! Meanwhile Edward I was called to France and refused to go. The French court declared him contumacious and seized his possessions. (Lang, 176) Edward I denounced his homage to France, and went to Gascony to win his possession back. In 1294 Edward I summoned John Balliol to court in Gascony. Enough was enough. In 1295 John repudiated his allegiance to Edward I with the following words: “Your yourself and others of your realm . . . have . . . inflicted over and over again, by naked force, grievous and intolerable injuries, slights, and wrongs upon us and the inhabitants of our realm and indeed have caused harm beyond measure to the liberties of ourselves and of our kingdom . . . and we desire to assert ourselves against you . . .and so by the present letter we renounce the fealty and homage which we have done to you.” (Stones, 141,143) He appointed a committee of Twelve Peers to enter into negotiations for a French alliance and marriage between his son Edward to the niece of the French king. (Lang, 177) On October 23, 1295, the auld alliance began as an offensive and defensive alliance against England. (Nicholson, 47) “The result of Edward’s Scottish policy now was, that he had driven Scotland into the arms of France.” (Lang, 177) In 1296 Edward I sacked Berwick, Scotland’s most important port and massacred the inhabitants. On July 11, 1296, John Balliol surrendered the kingdom and was humiliatingly stripped of his royal insignia at Brechen. Edward I took the Scot regalia and the Stone of Scone. (Bingham, 42) King John I testified: “In evil counsel we have defied our lord the king of England, [and] we acting under no constraint, and of our own free will, have surrendered to him the land of Scotland and all its people, with the homages of all of them.” (Stones, 147,149)

“The humiliation of foreign conquest, the outrage of massacre at Berwick[,] and the degradation of Scottish sovereignty . . . combined to inspire a spirit of resistance as indomitable as it was unexpected.” (Bingham, 43)


After the martyrdom of Wallace, or Waleys, as his name originated, (Smith, 197) Robert the Bruce rose to become king of Scotland. In 1309 he held the first Parliament at St. Andrews in which he got the loyalty of the nobility and clergy. Moving on the English forces in the Lowlands, he captured Perth, Dumfries, Linlithgow, Roxburgh, and Edinburgh. By spring of 1314, Stirling alone was in English hands. Edward II led 20,000 men to relieve Stirling Castle but met Bruce at Bannockburn. (Bingham, 45-46) Because of continuing Scot raids into England, Pope John XXII in June 1318 excommunicated Robert I Bruce and placed an interdict on Scotland. This action was the reason for the apologia (Nicholson, 99) in 1320, when the nobles and prelates drafted the Declaration of Arbroath to Pope John XXII, whose recognition they needed. In this Scottish Declaration of Independence, the nobles and prelates swore: “for so long as a hundred men remain alive we will never in any way be bowed beneath the yoke of English domination; for it is not for glory, riches, or honors that we fight, but for freedom alone, that which no man of worth yields up, save with his life.” (Nicholson, 100) In the autumn of 1328, the pope lifted the excommunication of Bruce and the interdict on Scotland, recognizing Bruce as king of the Scots in light of the recently concluded Treaty of Northampton. (Bingham, 47).



Edward II claimed he adhered to the current truce, but he allowed English privateers to continue to attack Flemish vessels trading with Scotland. For example, privateers seized the Flemish vessel Pelarym worth 2,000 pounds. All the Scots on board, including women and pilgrims, were massacred. Bruce demanded justice in vain. Consequently, Robert I authorized envoys to negotiate with France for a renewed alliance which was concluded April 26, 1326, at Corbeil. French would in war and peace aid and advise the Scots against the English. The Scots were bound to make war on England in the event of an Anglo-French war. In 1327, three Scot battalions invaded northern England and defeated the English at Stanhope and Weardale. Almost simultaneously, the Scots invaded Ulster in Ireland. As soon as Randolph, Douglas, and Donald of Mar left northern England, Bruce entered, besieging Norham and declaring he would annex Northumberland and parcel it out to his followers. Isabella and Earl Mortimer of March could not raise a force on such short notice and agreed to make peace on Bruce’s terms. The Treaty of Northampton (1328) was favorable to Scotland in that Scotland was treated as an equal with England. Isabel and her lover Mortimer in the name of young Edward III “renounced all pretensions to sovereignty” to Scotland; and Joanna, sister of Edward III, was married to David, son of Robert Bruce. (Scott, 87) In the quitclaim of Edward III of 1328, one sees what the treaty of Northampton meant: The Scottish borders set by Alexander III “shall remain for ever to the eminent prince Lord Robert, by the grace of God the illustrious king of Scots, our ally and dearest friend, and to his heirs and successors, divided in all things from the realm of England, entire, free, and quit, without any subjection, servitude, claim, or demand.” (Stones, 325)


“Historians tend to say that in 1331 the kings of France and England were far from thought of war. They suggest that during the next six years, while Philip was preoccupied with dreams of a Crusade, and while Edward pursued an irrelevant campaign against the Scots, the situation slipped, through a difference over feudal rights and duties in Aquitaine until there was no going back. Such a view is incomplete. . . . Fighting was both a favorite sport and also a normal means of livelihood, the accepted way to fortune and fame. To keep his throne, Edward [III] had to have the goodwill of his vassals. . . . He must now weld them together in some foreign enterprise with good prospects of external gain. There was plenty at hand for all in the wealth of France. To make safe the crown of England, he had already decided to beggar France.” (Packe, 65) Edward III must make the Scots look like the aggressor and keep Philip VI unaware of the events. Edward III wanted to attack France, but the treaty of Northampton had made the Scots a power he had to crush first.

Edward knew if Philip VI suspicioned an attack on the Scots, he would rush to help his Auld Alliance friend. (Packe, 65) If Edward broke the Northampton treaty, he would have to refund to the pope the 20,000 pounds paid by the Scots, and the French pope would have forced the collection. If Philip suspected Edward III breaking the treaty, he would certainly confiscate Aquitaine. Edward had been playing marriage games with Philip VI who invited him to go on crusade. Edward enthusiastically accepted but asked if he might wait three years while he had an expedition to Ireland. Ireland was merely pretext. Edward never meant to take an expedition to Ireland. (Nicholson, 66) Part of the Northampton treaty provided that English lords disinherited of Scot lands given them by Edward I would get them back. Robert Bruce did not fulfill this part of the treaty before his death. Edward III loudly denounced Balliol, and prohibited his crossing English lands, (but he did secretly fit them out in ships. (Nicholson, 125)

Accordingly, the English lords under Edward Balliol son of John Balliol invaded Scotland with 3000 men and archers and took the throne on September 24, 1332, from the four year old David II. Edward Balliol acknowledged Edward III as superior, surrendered Berwick, and promised to fight for Edward III. The Scots chased him out of the country in his bedclothes, riding bareback with only one foot booted. (Scott, 91-94) The Scots had crossed the Border! They were the breakers of the truce!

Parliament begged Edward III to divert his Ireland expedition money to defend against those barbaric Scots, which he graciously did. (Nicholson, 66) Scotland had asserted her independence; therefore, Edward III declared war on the rebellion and supported Balliol. (Scott, 95) “Edward once more overran the kingdom, seized and garrisoned castles, extorted from Edward Balliol, the nominal king, the complete cession of a great part of the southern districts, and exercised complete authority, as over a conquered country.” (Scott, 96)

At Dupplin Moor August 11, 1332, the Scots had caroused the night before. The disorganized Scot attack and the English arrow made the Scot lion tuck its tail. At the Battle of Halidon Hill, July 19,1333, the positions of Bannockburn were reversed and so was the result. The next morning, Berwick fell to Edward III.(Nicholson, 126,128) Edward III had neutralized Scotland. Now he could attack France. Philip VI invited David II and Queen Joan to seek refuge in France, and they arrived May 14, 1334, and stayed in the Chateau Gaillard on the Seine. Philip VI, planning his Crusade in which he was the commander, was receiving from a special tenth tax from the clergy to prepare a navy for the Crusade, and he invited Edward III a second time. Edward’s envoys said Edward would go on crusade when concessions are made with regard to Aquitaine, and Philip was about to make concessions, when he heard his guest, David II and his small court complaining about English usurpations.(Packe, 72)

Philip of Valois could not abandon Scotland. In case of an Anglo-French conflict, Scotland could embarrass England at home.(Perroy, 89) Edward’s envoys had been happy with the crusade-Aquitaine agreement when Philip VI summoned them from bed to say there would be no agreement in Aquitaine without peace in Scotland.(Packe, 72)

Edward III must get out of Scotland; otherwise, Philip VI would confiscate Aquitaine and send help to King David II with men, money, and supplies.(Perroy, 89) “The deal was off. The Scottish war resumed.”(Packe, 72) With the news of possible French aid in the summer of 1334, Randolph and Steward took the offensive, running the English into Berwick Castle.(Nicholson, 130) Philip VI thought about offering to mediate between England and Scotland; he at least wanted peace in Scotland before he went on crusade, but he realized such mediation would favor the Scots and thus cause a war.

Benedict XII stepped in November 1335, and his legates concluded a six months truce. Pope said there would be no crusades until there was peace in Europe. Philip VI’s tenth from the churches was stopped by pope (Perroy, 90-91) because he had used some of the money for “profane purposes.”(Packe, 74) In 1335 Edward III ravaged East Lothian to the point that the period was called the Burned Candlemas because so many towns were burned. Scots would not fight a pitched battle, skirmished much, removed provisions of use to Edward III.

Edward retreated after much loss. (Scott, 103) With the hope for a crusade gone, Philip had no reason to get along with Edward. In February 1336 Edward III demanded the return of Gascony and began to look for anti-France alliances. When Edward moved again on Scotland, Philip raised his banner and marched into Aquitaine. (Packe, 73-74) He raided Perth with twenty-seven French galleys and moved the Crusade fleet from Marseilles to Normandy to look as if it would be used in Scotland’s favor. Edward III abandoned his campaign on the Scots to get ready for a general war with France.(Perroy. 90-91)

The Scots were on their last leg. England was ready to invade again. Philip’s rash action in the spring of 1336 hurried England and France to war. Although the fleet moved to Normandy, only small help was really sent, holding Scotland out for a short time. But Edward III had decided that war was inevitable, and he forgot Scotland to prepare for war with France. In September 1336, Parliament at Nottingham denounced the King of France’s movements in Scotland and voted Edward III money. “Then the administration left the northern provinces, where it had stayed for four years, returned to Westminster, zealously began military preparations, put the coasts in a state of alert, sent war material to Aquitaine, and concentrated troops and a fleet on the shores of the English Channel.” (Perroy, 91)

Slowness in getting prepared for war and getting allies led Benedict XII to reopen negotiations. Edward III said he would not negotiate unless Philip VI restored Aquitaine and abandoned the Scot alliance as a preliminary. (Perroy, 102)


Accordingly, he renewed his truce with France to include Scotland until 1354.(Lang, 258) In July 1354 at Newcastle, the Scots agreed to pay 90,000 merks sterling for King David As Edward III became involved with France, he slackened in Scotland and the Scots gained ground. The Scots sent an embassy to obtain money and assistance from the French and used it to retake castles and towns.(Scott, 100) The Scots under Black Agnes held the castle at Dunbar against the English under Salisbury. In June 1338 Salisbury withdrew under orders of Edward III who was busy with France.

With things better in Scotland the nobles brought back King David II and Queen Joanna in 1341.(Scott, 101) By May 1342, Perth, Edinburgh, Roxburgh, and Stirling had fallen to the Scots.(Lang,254) A truce between France and England included Scotland to last February 1343 to Michaelmas 1346 (Lang, 256), but the Westminster Parliament did not trust the Scots, stating in June 1344, “the Scots say openly that whenever the said Adversary [the king of France] lets them know that he does not wish to keep the truces they will not keep them either, but will raid upon England and accomplish as much damage as they can.” (Nicholson, 144) The French king encouraged David II to renew the war with England while Edward III was at Calais.

David mustered at Perth on October 5, 1346, 2,000 men-at-arms, 20,000 Hobelers or light horsemen, and 10,000 footmen and archers (Lang, 257) and entered England on the West frontier and marched east toward Durham, “harassing and wasting the land with great severity.”(Scott, 101-102) The Scots took the castle of Liddel, plundered Lanercost, and “went about burning royally.” (Lang, 257) They boasted no one could oppose them. The English rumored that David would soon see London. He would. The Archbishop of York William La Zouche (Nicholson, 146) and the northern lords surprised the Scots at Neville’s Cross near Durham on October 17, 1346.

“Just before the battle, one of David’s most skilful soldiers, Sir John de Grahame, came to him and asked that he might have a number of horse-soldiers to attack the English archers, as Bruce had arranged at Bannockburn. David would not listen to him, and it turned out exactly as Grahame expected.”(Brown, 185) English arrows made havoc in the Scot army, one wounding David II badly in the face. John Coupland captured David but not before the king had knocked out Coupland’s two front teeth. (Nicholson, 146) He was imprisoned in the Tower after being paraded in the streets of London. (Scott, 101-102) It would take the Scots over a century to retake what was lost at Neville’s Cross. (Nicholson, 148)

Meanwhile Edward III took Calais, but needed money’s ransom. Scotland and England were moving toward peace, but France interfered. Forty thousand moutons d’or arrived from the continent for Scotland to raid and capture Berwick. Berwick was soon Scotland’s but not for long. Edward III recaptured it in January 1356. (Lang, 259)


At Falkirk Edward I “had also the celebrated archers of England, each of whom was said to carry twelve Scotsmen’s lives under his girdle; because every archer had twelve arrows stuck in his belt.” (Scott, 53)

23 June 1314-Bannockburn’s effects, Scotland became independent under Robert the Bruce. (Scott, 85) In the 1330’s invasions of Scotland, the English knights began dismounting for combat. In superiority to the continent, English used the hated infantry, the pikemen, the Welsh knifemen, and the archers who were not very accurate but fired three shots to a Genoese crossbowman’s one. (Perroy, 97) Halidon Hill was two miles from Berwick. Archers of England made the day. The Scots were fully exposed on the side of the hill.(Scott, 95)


In 1384, an eight month’s truce was concluded between England and France at Boulogne. The Scots had an option to participate, and French envoys arrived in Edinburgh with news of the truce in mid-April 1384. At the same time, however, a group of French knight adventurers arrived in Scotland to raid northern England.

The young knights of Scotland listened to them rather than the truce bearers. The young Scots and French adventurers met at Dalkeith and rode to meet 15,000 Scots and retaliated on the Percy’s and Mowbray’s lands for their recent raid to Edinburgh. The French truce men knew nothing of the raid and took news of peace to France, but Douglas said to his French adventurers: “You know what we can do. Send us 1,000 men-at-arms and you will see marvels.”(Lang, 278) When the truce expired in 1385, the French, hard pressed in their country, sent an army to Scotland to make war on the English. 1,000 knights and squires in full armor with a total of 5,000-6,000 men commanded by Jean de Vienne, High Admiral of France. They brought 1200 suits of armor (Scott, 104-105) with 50,000 gold francs for king and nobles.(Lang, 278)

Vienne said to the Scots: “You have always said that if you had some hundreds of French men-at-arms to help you, you would give battle to the English. Now here we are to give you aid. Let us give battle.”(Scott, 105) Richard II was moving north with an army. Scots had run to the hills and woods and driven off their cattle. Thick towers would not burn and peasant huts could be easily rebuilt. Vienne asked Douglas, “But what will you do with your army if you do not fight and how will your people endure the distress and famine and plunder, which must be the consequences of the invasion?” Archibald, Earl of Douglas answered: “You shall see that our army will not lie idle; and as for our Scottish people, they will endure pillage; they will endure famine, and every other extremity of War, but they will not endure an English master.”

King of the Scots gave permission for an invasion of northern England of French and Scots, numbering 30,000 men and 2,000 lancers.(Lang, 279) The English army numbering 7,000 men-at-arms and 60,000 archers under Lancaster entered on the eastern frontier moving toward Aberdeen, finding no subsistence from the land, laying waste villages, finding little nothing to destroy. The French were delighted at the prospect of pitched battle. The Scots wanted no such risk and withdrew. The French were of little service to a people committed to avoiding battle.(Lang, 279) The French were dissatisfied in the poor country with no forage and “no kindness or good will” (Scott, 106) from the Scots. The French barons came expecting “fair houses, halls adorned, castles, and good soft beds.”(Lang, 278)

The Scots found the French more expense to them than use. The Scots grumbled: “Who the devil needs them? Can we not fight our own battles? They will pillage worse than the English.” (Lang, 278) The French wanted too much and Scotland was too poor to provide. The French “insulted the inhabitants, and pillaged the country wherever they durst.”(Scott, 106) The Scots had nothing to do with the French. A ten flourin horse cost a Frenchman sixty with no harness. French foragers were beaten and killed by farmers. One hundred Frenchmen died in one month.(Lang, 279) France had to pay the expenses they had incurred before they could leave the country. “The French knights, who had hoped to acquire wealth and fame, returned in a very bad humour from a kingdom where the people were so wild and uncivilised and the country so mountainous and poor.”(Scott, 107) Vienne remarked: “Scotland is a very poor country and the people generally envious of the good fortunes of others and suspicious of losing anything themselves.

[The French knights] were by no means pleased at the poverty they had to encounter.”(Cameron, 13) The effect, however, was not in the French recognition that Scotland was a poor land, but was in the military strategems they learned while romping through northern England with the pikemen. The Scots fought by avoiding general battles, accepting the enemy’s destruction of their land, hurting him by getting supplies out of his reach, and fighting a guerrilla war.

At Berwick in March of 1296 the Scots learned to avoid a pitched battle with the English. From thence in rapid succession there fell the fortresses at Dunbar, Roxburgh, Jedburgh, Dumbarton, Edinburgh, Stirling, and Perth. Strikingly similar to the Scots, the French after 1385 adopted “a sensible policy of avoiding pitched battles, . . . refused to be provoked by acts of devastation, and attacked their enemy by the methods of guerilla warfare.”(Ashley, 133)Another historian said, “The conquest of France was a wild and mischievous dream. . . . At last, the enemy having learned to avoid battles in the open field, it degenerated into a series of aimless raids.”(Smith, 220-221) From whom did the French learn the art of battle avoidance except from their partners in the Auld Alliance?


“For centuries no English king invaded France, as Henry V admitted, but he found a Scot in his path. From Bauge to the field of Laffen (1748), leaders of English or Hanoverian royal lines were to fall or fly, like Clarence and the Butcher Cumberland, before Scots in French service.”(Lang, 177) In 1420 Dauphin Charles VII requested a Scot force in France. The dauphin’s country was in danger of being conquered by Henry V. John Stewart, Earl of Buchan, and Archibald, eldest son of the Earl of Douglas (Lang, 293) led 6,000-7,000 Scots to victories in France over England.

Bauge, in 1421, was Scotland’s greatest victory on French soil. The Duke of Clarence, brother of Henry V, attacked the Scots while they were playing football. Stewart of Railston held the bridge, but Clarence pushed him back. However, Clarence fell in the action with 2,000 other Englishmen. The Franco-Scot loss was small. The battle was over before the English archers could go to work. “The victory had no great strategic results, but it was the first turn in the tide, and greatly encouraged loyal Frenchmen.”(Lang, 294) The French king made Buchan Constable of France and Count of Aubigny.

For distinguished service on the field, the Earl of Douglas was made Duke of Touraine. “To organize more effective campaigns Charles relied on foreign mercenaries, notably the formidable Scots sent him by the regent Albany.” (Perroy, 263) However, the Scot troops were not liked in France. Although reports of Scots plundering French peasants were rarely reported,(Lang, 279) and despite victories, the French complained of the Scot presence.(Lang, 295) Duke Bedford, formerly the Regent for Henry VI, used to be ridiculed by the Earl of Douglas who called him “John with the leaden sword.” On 17 August, 1424, Duke Bedford sent a message that he intended to come and dine and drink with Earl of Douglas at Verneuil. Everyone knew this meant battle-time. The Battle was typical: English arrows and French arguments. The Scots wanted to stand their ground and await an attack. The French said they would advance if the Scots did or not.

The Scots cooperated, and the Franco-Scot army was routed. Douglas and Buchan were killed. The remains of the Scot forces were adopted by King Charles as his lifeguard and his successors continued this practice many years.(Scott, 116) In 1428 Bedford besieged Orleans, and the Scots were held up with the French in the fortress. In February 1429, Stewart Derneley sallied from Orleans to intercept a convoy of provisions going from Paris to the English. He ran into the English in laager, defended behind their encircled wagons, and Derneley and his brother fell. This battle was called the Battle of the Herrings at Rouvray. (Lang, 307)

One young lady knew the battle’s outcome before it was over. Baudricourt, Governor of Vaucouleurs, took her to the Dauphin. Jeanne d’Arc explained to him one of his secrets and recited a prayer he had made alone in his chamber. Immediately she took control, and the Franco-Scots under Arc “drove the English from Orleans, took Jargeau, routed Talbot and Fastoff at Pathay, crowned Charles at Rheims–whither the Scottish archers led the march–and would have taken Paris, but that they were betrayed by the king himself and his ministers. The Scots, under Sir Hugh Kennedy, were with Jeanne in her last victory at Lagny. . . . Alone of the peoples with whom she was concerned, the Scots never deserted, sold, betrayed, or condemned La Pucelle.”(Lang, 308) Scotland’s role in the Hundred Year’s War was one of political maneuvering. Shunned by England, she turned to France and fought valiantly for her, teaching the French how to fight and allowing the English to practice their archery on them. 
Ashley, Maurice. Great Britain to 1688. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1961.

Bingham, Caroline. The Kings And Queens of Scotland. New York: Dorset Press, 1976.

Brown, P. Hume. A Short History of Scotland. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, year?

Cameron, Joy. Prisons And Punishment in Scotland From The Middle Ages to The Present. Edinburgh: Canongate, 1983.

Lang, Andrew. A History of Scotland. New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1901, I.

Nicholson, Ranald. Scotland: The Later Middle Ages. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1974.

Packe, Michael. King Edward III. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983.

Perroy Edouard. The Hundred Years War. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1962.

Scott, Sir Walter. Tales of a Grandfather. London: Simpkin Marshall Limited, 1829.

Smith, Goldwin. The United Kingdom: a Political History. New York: MacMillan Company, 1907.

Stones, E.L.G., ed. Anglo-scottish Relations 1174-1328. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965.
Copyright 1997-2003 Gene Brooks. 
Page created February 1, 1998.
Updated November 13, 2003.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *