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Medieval warfare Vol IV.3 - The First War of Scottish Independence

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Medieval warfare Vol IV.3 - The First War of Scottish Independence Written by Christy Beall... mehr
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Medieval warfare Vol IV.3 - The First War of Scottish Independence
Written by Christy Beall

Theme: The First War of Scottish Independence

Theme: Arnold Blumberg, 'Historical introduction - Scotland's First War of Independence'.
Illustrated by Maxime Plasse.

A long period of peace and prosperity for the Kingdom of Scotland tragically came to an end with the accidental death of her capable monarch Alexander III (r. 1249-1286) on 18 March 1286. Unfortunately, all his solid achievements were undermined by his failure to provide his country with a legitimate male heir. The issue of the succession would evolve into a drawn-out military and political conflict against England. The initial phase of this national struggle was known as the First Scottish War of Independence.

Theme: Murray Dahm, 'Blind Harry and the sources for William Wallace - Plucked from the notes of a song'.
Illustrated by Max Antonov.

The greatest eulogy to William Wallace, hero of the thirteenth-century Wars of Scottish Independence, is not Braveheart, Mel Gibson's Academy Award-winning film. This might surprise many who are not familiar with Blind Harry's The Wallace, a fifteenth-century poem with 11,877 stanzas in twelve books, written in Middle Scots.

Theme: Sidney Dean, 'Scottish asymmetric warfare - Highlanders and hobies'.

The tactics employed by William Wallace and Robert the Bruce are frequently described as guerrilla warfare. Both leaders placed a premium on mobility, deploying light cavalry and fast-moving infantry to outmaneuver the enemy, bypass strongholds, and conduct night-time and hit-and-run operations. They both fought some set battles and even won a few, but the backbone of their success was built around avoiding a 'fair fight' and leveraging the skill sets of their followers, to prevail against a technically superior enemy.

Theme: Stephen Bennett, 'Edward Longshanks' campaign in Scotland - Hammering the rebellion'.
Illustrated by Julia Lillo.

By the evening of 27 April 1286, a significant number of Scottish warriors of noble birth were in Plantagenet hands. In the aftermath of the Battle of Dunbar, 171 earls, lords, knights, and their squires were heading towards captivity in castles across England. At Brechin on 10 July, John Balliol, King of Scots, surrendered his kingdom to Edward I of England and had the royal arms torn from his surcoat. The conquest of Scotland had gone deceivingly well.

The Castle: Vassilis Pergalias, 'A symbol of dominance - Bothwell Castle'.
Illustrated by Rocio Espin.

Medieval military history is famous for the precipitous development of castles throughout Europe. Heavily fortified strongholds consisting initially of a (stone) tower protected by a palisade and moat gradually developed into superstructures consisting of double- and triple-walled castles. The grandeur of such castles cannot be missed by today's traveller who visits the site of Bothwell Castle in Scotland, where he will be awed by its majestic towers and outer ring of walls, all elegantly fitted within the green environment. The castle's history and significance to the military operations of the First War of Scottish Independence enhance its present aura.

Theme: Owen Rees, 'The Battle of Bannockburm - Claim to the throne'.
Illustrated by Milek Jakubiec.

The deep divisions of independence versus unity and Scots versus English are as relevant today as they were 700 years ago. Any historian studying this battle must avoid not only the biases of the sources, but also the political rhetoric of today, which threatens to morph history into another tool for debate. To understand the drive and desire for Scottish independence, whatever your view, you need look no further than the history and aftermath of the Battle of Bannockburn.

Theme: Tobias Capwell, 'Digital warriors and the new battlefield centre - The knights of Bannockburn'.

The new visitor centre at the site of the Battle of Bannockburn tells its story through digital animation and 3-D projection technologies. As Arms and Armour Advisor to this ambitious project, the author was responsible for briefing the designers and digital artists on the equipment used by the battle's participants. Virtual models of infantry and cavalry, men and horses, swords and spears, and all the other paraphernalia of combat were built for the centre's immersive audio-visual displays. This project has employed a fusion of diverse forms of historical evidence - written, visual, and material - to summon images of medieval warfare as it might really have been.


Blacksmithing: Graham Ashford, '"Sculpting" for the medieval armourer - Crafting the greave'.

Greenleaf Workshop armourer Graham Ashford considers the manufacture of the medieval greave, providing insights into the shaping that was required to create well-fitted armour that mirrors the individual form of the wearer.

Special: Martin Mino, 'Between East and West - The end of Moravia'.

The end of the ninth century saw the death of one of the most powerful rulers in Central Europe at that time - King Svatopluk I of Great Moravia. His reign is still controversial, but everyone agrees that he brought Great Moravia to its peak. However, he himself seems to have been the only bond that held the empire together. Soon after his death, the realm had to face its last battle.

The general: Filippo Donvito, 'Generals of the Italian Wars - The last condottieri'.
Illustrated by Giosuè Tacconi.

The first half of the fifteenth century is rightly considered the Golden Age of the Italian condottieri. By the time of the outbreak of the Italian Wars (1494-1559), some 50 years later, the military historian's attention is generally focused on other subjects, like the new German and Spanish infantries or the first modern artillery. By then, the Italian condottieri, at the head of their old-fashioned heavy cavalry, are confined to a secondary role. Yet, they still had much to teach the French and Spanish armies they were often appointed to lead on the battlefield.
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