Scotlands History

Schiltron

Wallace and Moray’s victory at Stirling was all the more impressive as they lacked the heavy cavalry of the English. The Scots army was made up of peasants, burgesses and common folk. Wallace and Moray had trained a rag-tag host of farmers and small landowners into an army that had defeated battle-hardened English knights and men-at-arms. The schiltron lay at the heart of the Scots battle strategy.

A schiltron was a ‘great circle’ - a battle formation with as many as 2000 men carrying massive 12-foot-long spears. They formed huge circles or rectangles that bristled with spears like a giant lethal hedgehog.

The Scots ranks were well drilled and trained to get into formation and to face down mounted knights in armour. The ranks of the schiltron were so tightly packed that they were almost impenetrable.

After the Battle of Stirling Bridge, Wallace and Moray sent letters to merchants on the continent telling them that ‘the kingdom of Scotland, thanks be to God, has been recovered by war from the power of the English.’ One of these letters, the Lübeck Letter, has survived.

Andrew Moray, the leader of the uprising who had fought a guerrilla campaign in the north-east, finally died from his wounds two months after the Battle of Stirling Bridge. He was buried at Fortrose Cathedral.

Wallace was knighted and became the sole Guardian of Scotland - ‘Wilhelmes Wallays, Knight, Guardian of the Kingdom of Scotland and Leader of its armies.’ Wallace invaded the northern counties of England in 1297.

In July 1298 the Scots army would face Edward I’s war machine at the Battle of Falkirk. The Scots schiltrons would face a deadly challenge - the English longbow.

  • Photo of a line of soldiers in helmets and chainmail brandishing spears

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