When your pupils watch any sporting even that features the Scottish national anthem, remind them of its links to Bannockburn and 1314. So why is it important and doesn’t everyone agree?
Sean Lang has recently stirred the controversy: “Robert the Bruce’s victory over King Edward II at Bannockburn was unquestionably important, but it wasn’t as decisive as many like to claim.
“For one thing, Edward II was one of the most incompetent men ever to occupy the English throne. It is hard to imagine his father, Edward I, the fearsome Hammer of the Scots, walking so blithely into Robert the Bruce’s trap.
“In the short term, the English were so completely defeated that Bannockburn really did seem to have established Scottish independence. But not for long.
“The English kings’ claim to overlordship of Scotland remained in force, so in 1320 Bruce had the declaration of Arbroath drawn up, addressed to the Pope and asserting Scotland’s right to be a free kingdom.
“It was needed, because although Bruce got the English to accept Scottish independence in 1328, just over a year later he was dead, leaving his five-year-old son, David II, on the throne.
“The English promptly invaded, forced the king into exile, put Edward Balliol on the throne and annexed the southern part of the kingdom. It was the end of the reign of the House of Bruce.
“Later, Scottish nationalism was to accord Bannockburn a decisive significance that would not have been so obvious to people in Scotland at the time.”
The case for it being significant
Dr Francesca Mackay, senior learning officer at the Battle of Bannockburn visitor centre in Stirling disputed Dr Lang’s claims. “The Battle of Bannockburn was a significant victory in the Scottish Wars of Independence,” she said. “It impacted on the subsequent decades of fighting by increasing Scots’ confidence to actively strike out against the English and solidified Bruce’s position as king, helping to unify the Scots behind a common leader.
“Most importantly from our perspective, though, is that the Battle of Bannockburn was an incredible tactical feat. The Scots succeeded against an army over double their size due to the excellent tactics of Robert Bruce, and it is these military tactics which make the battle the focus of so many curriculum topics and military training battlefield studies still today.”
Dr Murray Cook, archaeologist for Stirling council, said: “Bannockburn clearly is the most important battle in Scottish history. Ultimately, Bruce succeeded because Scotland’s independence from England was eventually recognised.”