18th century depiction of William Wallace

Continuing from his success against the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, William Wallace had continued his ‘liberation of Scotland’ with the recapture of Berwick and raids across Northumberland. In the name of the absent John Balliol he was made a Guardian of the Realm in the March of 1298.

Edward I, the ‘Hammer of the Scots’, was determined to crush Wallace’s rebellion and that June he brought a great army together at Newcastle. With his feathers no doubt still ruffled from his year before, an advance party was taken ahead by the Earl of Surrey.

The advance party took back Roxburgh Castle on their way to Linlithgow where they rejoined Edward. The English force had over three thousand cavalry and a considerable number of archers.

Waiting at Falkirk, Wallace had gathered only half as many men, mostly armed with spears, backed by a modest cavalry made up predominantly of a number of nobles, led by Sir John Comyn, known as the ‘Black Comyn’.

When the combat began on 22 July, the Scots used their schiltron formations of spearmen in variable squares. Under the ferocity of arrows, then cavalry, the patriots were soon annihilated. The self-interested nobles on horseback would not come into the combat to support Wallace and their men and instead left the area.

Edward and Surrey had their revenge for Stirling Bridge.

Wallace managed to elude them however and after stepping down as Guardian of the Realm left for the Continent to seek military support for Scotland.