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Battle of Methven
Part of the First War of Scottish Independence
Date 19 June 1306
Location Methven, west of Perth
Result English victory
Belligerents
Flag of Scotland.svg
Kingdom of Scotland
Flag of England.svg
Kingdom of England
Commanders
Robert I of Scotland Aymer de Valence, 2nd Earl of Pembroke
Strength
4,500 men 3,000 men
Casualties and losses
~4,000 dead ~600 dead

The Battle of Methven took place at Methven in Scotland in 1306, during the Wars of Scottish Independence.

Contents

Comyn's Death

In February 1306, Robert Bruce and a small party of his followers killed John Comyn, also known as the Red Comyn, before the high altar of the Greyfriars Church in Dumfries. Both Comyn and Bruce had been forced to give fealty to Edward I on pain of execution, and every appearance is that both intended to pursue the Scottish crown. According to John Barbour's The Bruce, written with access to people who were at the event, Comyn and Bruce had previously signed an agreement to that effect which Comyn betrayed to King Edward I. However, the bad blood between the two men went far back, and they had found it impossible to work together as Guardians of the Realm. For Bruce, after Comyn's murder, the only way was forward for he would never be received back into the peace of Edward I. His only defense lay in the seizure of the political high ground: a few weeks after Comyn's death Bruce was crowned King of Scots at Scone.

The Oath of the Swans

The killing of John Comyn took Edward by complete surprise. News travelled slowly: it was some thirteen days after the event that the details reached his court at Winchester, and even then the full circumstances were unclear. The murder was initially described as the 'work of some people who are doing their utmost to trouble the peace and quiet of the realm of Scotland', but he learned the true facts later. On 5 April he appointed Aymer de Valence, Comyn's brother-in-law, and the future Earl of Pembroke, as his plenipotentiary in Scotland, with powers to raise the Dragon Banner,[1] signifying that no quarter would be given to Bruce and his adherents; or, as the chronicler John Barbour puts it 'to burn and slay and raise dragon'.

At Westminster on 20 May the king knighted the Prince of Wales and 250 other young men in preparation for the coming war. A banquet was held after the ceremony during which two decorated swans were presented to the king. Edward then vowed 'by the God of Heaven and these swans' to avenge Comyn's death and the treachery of the Scots. On his demand the newly created knights took a similar oath.

Methven

In Scotland, Robert Bruce was already engaged in a full-scale civil war with the family and friends of John Comyn. The coronation in March had given him some legitimacy; but overall the position was very uncertain. Even his wife, Elizabeth de Burgh, the daughter of the Earl of Ulster, and now queen of Scots, was concerned. After the coronation she is reported to have said 'It seems to me we are but a summer king and queen whom children crown in their support'.

Valence moved quickly, and by the middle of summer he had made his base at Perth, where he was joined by many of the supporters of John Comyn. King Robert came from the west, ready to meet his foe in battle. He was prepared to observe on this occasion the gentlemanly conventions of feudal warfare, while the English adopted less orthodox tactics. Valence was invited to leave the walls of Perth and join Bruce in battle, but he declined. The king, perhaps believing that Valence's refusal to accept his challenge was a sign of weakness, retired only a few miles to nearby Methven, where he made camp for the night. Before dawn on 19 June his little army was taken by surprise and almost destroyed, because Bruce had accepted Valence at his word and failed to take the sensible precaution of placing pickets around the camp. His entire army was routed.

After this experience, he borrowed a page from the book of William Wallace and switched to the guerrilla warfare which the latter had usually preferred.

References

  • Barbour, John, The Bruce, trans. A. A. H. Duncan, 1964.
  • Barrow, G.W. S., Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland, 1964.
  • Barron, E. M., The Scottish War of Independence, 1934.
  • Hailes, Lord (David Dalrymple), The Annals of Scotland, 1776.
  • Macnair-Scott, R., Robert Bruce, King of Scots, 1982.after that he said to the English 'hia ma name is ro

Coordinates: 56°25′13″N 3°34′55″W / 56.42014°N 3.58201°W / 56.42014; -3.58201

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