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English Who's Who

Edward I Longshanks

Born in 1239 he was the son of Henry III of England and succeeded to the throne in 1272. Edward I is the bogeyman of Scottish history (closely followed by Henry VIII) because he made the attempted conquest of Scotland a personal matter, pursuing those who opposed him with a savagery even contemporaries thought excessive. For him, the Scots stood in the way of Edward uniting the whole of the British Isles under an imperial crown, making him a British Caesar. At first he pressed for recognition of the English Crown’s shady claims to overlordship, intervening in the Scottish succession crisis to have his own choice, John Balliol, installed. He then pushed Balliol into rebellion and this was the pretext for Edward’s conquest of Scotland in 1296. But the Scots would not stay conquered and rose under William Wallace, Andrew Murray and others in 1297. An increasingly exasperated Edward continued to be opposed by the Scottish Guardians (those elected to rule in the absence of a king) until 1304-5, when it seemed he had finally worn them down. But in 1306 Robert the Bruce had himself crowned and Edward marched north once again, but died in sight of the Scottish border in 1307. It is said that he ordered his body to be boiled and his bones to be carried at the head of his son’s army.


Edward II of Caernarvon

Born in 1284 he was the son of Edward I Longshanks, but had not the same stomach for war as his father. Under him, England began to slide into dissension as he allowed favourites to guide his policy. The remaining foothold England had in Scotland was gradually slipping away as Robert I the Bruce re-conquered the country, and, in 1314, Edward II was finally forced to bring a great army north. At Bannockburn the Scots routed Edward’s greater force, almost capturing Edward himself, and thereafter regained the last remaining strongholds held in favour of England. Edward II stubbornly refused to recognise the monarchy of Robert I – and reality - and continued to lobby the pope against Scotland, but he was now on the defensive as Scottish armies hammered his domains. Eventually, in 1327, Edward’s French wife Isabella and her lover deposed him and set his 14 year old son Edward III on the throne. Later that year Edward of Caernarvon was murdered.


Humphrey de Bohun earl of Hereford

He was one of the principal commanders of the English Crown and Constable of England. At Bannockburn he held joint command of the vanguard of the English army and was repulsed when attacking the Scottish forces. After the English defeat, Hereford fled to Bothwell castle where he was admitted by Walter Gilbertson and made a prisoner. Hereford was considered such an important man in England that he was later exchanged for King Robert’s queen, Elizabeth, Robert’s daughter Marjory, Robert bishop of Glasgow, and King Robert’s sister Mary Bruce. Hereford died in 1322.


Sir Henry de Bohun

An English knight who has been immortalised because he was slain in personal combat by King Robert I. He was the nephew of the earl of Hereford and saw his chance on the first day of the battle of Bannockburn to charge at the Scottish king who was out in front of the lines of troops. Bohun charged on his war horse with lance resting but King Robert, mounted on a smaller horse, swerved out of the way and brought his battle axe down through Bohun’s head, splitting it in two. John Barbour described the moment in graphic detail in The Brus. This spectacle delighted the Scottish army and enhanced King Robert’s reputation. When upbraided for risking himself he is said to have simply remarked he had broken a good axe.


Sir Robert Clifford

A northern Englishman he had served in Scotland since the 1290’s and was a proven thorn in the side of the Scottish guardians. He made a personal enemy of the Good Sir James Douglas whose lands he had taken and Douglas, it is said, killed all Clifford’s men when he retook Douglas castle and threw all their bodies down a well. Clifford was one of the leaders of the English cavalry at Bannockburn in 1314 and was among those who was killed in the middle of a charge straight into the Scottish schiltrons.