An imposing rotunda monument commemorates the Battle of Bannockburn fought over two days, 23-24 June, in 1314. The battle was a decisive victory for the army of King Robert the Bruce over the army of King Edward II of England.
Bannockburn was part of the first Scottish War of Independence, which began in 1296 when Edward I was King of England and continued until 1328; as always, there is a long back story.
In 1292, Edward I was instrumental in the selection and crowning of John Balliol as King of Scotland; he then coerced recognition of himself as Lord Paramount of Scotland, treating Scotland as a vassal state and undermining John. Leading men in Scotland finally took affairs out of John’s hands, appointing a Council of Twelve to govern, setting up a treaty with France - The Auld Alliance - and forcing John's abdication in 1296. In retaliation for the treaty with France, Edward I invaded Scotland and by 1304, Scotland appeared to be conquered.
However, in 1306 Bruce seized the Scottish throne for himself and after Edward II succeeded Edward I in 1307, Bruce began a campaign against the English and also took actions to defeat his Scottish enemies. By 1313, he was in a position to demand that those still loyal to John Balliol acknowledge himself as their king or lose their lands; and also to demand the surrender of English forces then occupying Stirling Castle whose site – controlling the route north to the Highlands - gave it great strategic significance.
With Bruce’s younger brother Edward Bruce besieging the castle, Edward II put together the largest armed force ever to invade Scotland, and marched to relieve the siege. Although the English forces significantly outnumbered the Scots, they were finally defeated in a pitched battle on June 24.
Together with a modern Visitor Centre and a huge mounted statue of The Bruce, the Rotunda is located on what was traditionally thought to be the battlefield, but two other sites are now thought to be more likely. Regardless, the Rotunda is a magnificent structure, with two semicircular walls representing the opposing parties, a flagpole in the centre and an inspiring poem inscribed on the timber ring beam which crowns it. The poem, “Here lies our land” is by Kathleen Jamie and was commissioned for the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn in 2014. It ends with the words:
‘Come all ye’, the country says,
You win me, who take me most to heart.
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