ROBERT THE BRUCE—HOW SIR HENRY DE BOHUN
MET HIS DEATH
On Sunday the 23rd of June 1314 a.d., the day before the
Governor of Stirling had promised to give up the castle,
the two armies came in sight of each other. King
Robert’s army was much smaller than that of the English.
But in Bruce, the Scots had a brave and gallant leader.
He knew how much depended upon this battle, and he
took every care to make the best of his men, and the best
of his position. Courage alone he knew could not beat
the mighty host that was coming against him, so he
thought and planned carefully.
He chose a very strong position. It was a plain
guarded in front by bogs and marshes. At one side
flowed a little river called the Bannock, with steep rocky
banks ; on the other rose the castle rock. In front,
wherever the land was firm, Bruce made his men dig
holes a few feet deep. These holes were then filled with
branches and twigs of gorse, over which the turf was again
lightly placed. From a distance the plain seemed firm
and solid ; really it was filled with pits. Besides digging
these holes, Bruce made his men scatter iron spikes, called
calthrops, over the field.
Having finished his preparations, the King sent all
the servants, camp followers, and untrained men, out of
the army, and made them go behind a hill. This hill
was afterwards called the Gillies’ Hill, that is, the servants’
When Bruce heard that the English were near, he
drew his soldiers up in line, and made a speech to them.
He reminded them of all they had suffered, of what they
had so hardly won, of what they might so easily again
lose if they were not brave and determined ; he prayed
every man who was not ready to fight to the death, to
leave the army.
‘ Scots, wha hae wi‘ Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victory.
Now’s the day, and now ’s the hour ;
See the front of battle lower ;
See approach proud Edward’s power—
Chains and slavery.
‘ Wha will be a traitor knave ?
Wha can fill a coward’s grave ?
Wha sae base as be a slave ?—
Let him turn and flee.
Wha for Scotland’s King and law
Freedom’s sword will strongly draw
Freeman stand, or freeman fa’,
Let him on wi’ me.
‘ By oppressions woes and pains !
By your sons in servile chains !
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free.
Lay the proud usurpers low !
Tyrants fall in every foe !
Liberty ‘s in every blow-
Let us do—or die.’
Edward Bruce led the right wing of the army,
Douglas, the centre, and to Randolph was given the left,
HOW DE BOHUN MET HIS DEATH 173
with a command that he should let no Englishman get
into Stirling. The King, mounted upon a little pony,
rode up and down in front of the lines, making sure that
all was ready, although he did not expect to have to fight
that day. He wore a golden crown on his helmet, so that
all might see that he was the King. He was clad in
complete armour, but carried no weapon except a battle-
The English host swept on, their armour and weapons
glittering in the June sunshine, their gay banners flutter
ing in the breeze. On they came, with sound of music
and trumpets, till the hills echoed and re-echoed.
As Bruce rode up and down he watched everything
with his keen eye, and presently he saw the glint of steel
away to the left. A party of English horsemen were
quietly making their way towards Stirling.
‘ Ah ! Randolph,’ said the King, pointing to the horse
men, ‘ a rose has fallen from your crown.’ By this he
meant that Randolph had been careless of the trust given
to him and had lost a chance of renown.
Ashamed of himself, Randolph made no reply, but
calüng to his men dashed off at full speed towards the
EngUsh. He was upon them before they reached the
town, and a fierce fight followed. But the EngUsh were
twice as many as Randolph’s little band, and it seemed
for a time as if the Scots were getting the worst of it.
Douglas watched the fight uneasily. He and Randolph
were King Robert’s best generals and greatest friends, yet
there was no jealousy between them.
‘ I pray you, sire,’ said Douglas at last, ‘ let me go to
‘You shall not stir a foot,’ repüed the King ; ‘let
Randolph free himself as best he can. I will not endanger
the whole battle for a careless boy.’
174 SCOTLAND’S STORY
‘ My liege,’ said Douglas again, ‘ I cannot stand thus
idly and see him perish when I may bring him help. So
by your leave I must away to him.’
Unwillingly then the King gave his consent, and
Douglas, with his men, hurried off to help Randolph.
But when he drew near he saw that Randolph was
beating the English without his aid. ‘ Halt,’ he cried,
‘ yonder brave men have no need of us. We will not
take any of the honour of the day from them.’ Then
he turned back to the King without having struck a
blow. A little later Randolph followed, flushed and
He had recovered his rose.
But meanwhile, the King too had been fighting. An
English knight, called Sir Henry de Bohun, had seen the
King of Scotland as he rode in front of the line, and
saying to himself that he would win great fame and settle
the battle at one stroke, he set spurs to his horse and
dashed furiously upon Bruce.
Fully armed, riding upon his great war-horse, the
English knight came thundering on. Bruce, on his little
pony, could have no chance against him. There was a
dreadful moment of suspense. The two armies watched
breathlessly. Bruce waited calmly, and when Bohun
was almost upon him, he suddenly turned his pony
aside. Bohun dashed oil As he passed, the King,
rising high in his stirrups, brought his battle-axe crash
ing down upon the knight’s head. The steel helmet
was shattered by the mighty blow, Bohun fell to the
ground dead, and his frightened horse dashed riderless
Cheer after cheer rose from the Scottish ranks, and the
generals gathered round their King. They were glad that
he was safe, yet vexed that he should so have endangered
HOW DE BOHUN MET HIS DEATH 175
his life ‘ Bethink you, sire, the fate of all Scotland rests
upon you,’ they said.
But the King answered them never a word. ‘ I have
broken my good axe,’ was all he said, ‘ I have broken my
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