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Reactions to the death of Gaveston varied considerably. Edward was furious and deeply upset over what he saw as the murder of Gaveston; he made provisions for Gaveston’s family, and intended to take revenge on the barons involved. The earls of Pembroke and Surrey were embarrassed and angry about Warwick’s actions, and shifted their support to Edward in the aftermath.

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Edward II, King of England and Lord of Ireland.

To Lancaster and his core of supporters, the execution had been both legal and necessary to preserve the stability of the kingdom. Civil war again appeared likely, but in December, the Earl of Pembroke negotiated a potential peace treaty between the two sides, which would pardon the opposition barons for the killing of Gaveston, in exchange for their support for a fresh campaign in Scotland. Lancaster and Warwick, however, did not give the treaty their immediate approval, and further negotiations continued through most of 1313.

Meanwhile, the Earl of Pembroke had been negotiating with France to resolve the long-standing disagreements over the administration of Gascony, and as part of this Edward and Isabella agreed to travel to Paris in June 1313 to meet with Philippe IV. The meeting between the two kings proved a spectacular visit, including a grand ceremony in which the two kings knighted Philippe IV’s sons and 200 other men in Notre-Dame de Paris, large banquets along the River Seine, and a public declaration that both kings and their queens would join a crusade to the Levant.

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Philippe IV, King of France and Navarre

On his return from France, Edward found his political position greatly strengthened. After intense negotiation, the earls, including Lancaster and Warwick, came to a compromise in October 1313, fundamentally very similar to the draft agreement of the previous December. Edward’s finances improved, thanks to parliament agreeing to the raising of taxes, a loan of 160,000 florins (£25,000) from the Pope, £33,000 borrowed from Philip, and further loans organised by Edward’s new Italian banker, Antonio Pessagno.[160] For the first time in his reign, Edward’s government was well-funded.

Battle of Bannockburn

By 1314, Robert the Bruce had recaptured most of the castles in Scotland once held by Edward, pushing raiding parties into northern England as far as Carlisle. In response, Edward planned a major military campaign with the support of Lancaster and the barons, mustering a large army between 15,000 and 20,000 strong.

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Robert I, King of Scotland

Edward II and his advisors were aware of the places the Scots were likely to challenge them and sent orders for their troops to prepare for an enemy established in boggy ground near the River Forth, near Stirling. The English appear to have advanced in four divisions, whereas the Scots were in three divisions known as ‘schiltrons’, which were strong defensive squares of men with pikes.

Location of the battlefield

The exact site of the Battle of Bannockburn has been debated for many years, but most modern historians agree that the traditional site, where a visitor centre and statue have been erected, is not correct.

A large number of alternative locations have been considered but modern researchers believe only two merit serious consideration:

An area of peaty ground outside the village of Balquhiderock known as the Dryfield, about .75 miles (1.21 km) east of the traditional site.

The Carse of Balquhiderock, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) northeast of the traditional site. This location is accepted by the National Trust as the most likely site.

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The battle began on June 23 and lasted two days. As the English army attempted to force its way across the high ground of the Bannock Burn, which was surrounded by marshland. Skirmishing between the two sides broke out, resulting in the death of Sir Henry de Bohun, whom Robert killed in personal combat. Edward continued his advance the following day, and encountered the bulk of the Scottish army as they emerged from the woods of New Park.

His cavalry found it hard to operate in the cramped terrain and were crushed by Robert’s spearmen. The English army was overwhelmed and its leaders were unable to regain control. The English were gradually pushed back and ground down by the Scots’ schiltrons. The English longbowmen attempted to support the advance of the knights but were ordered to stop shooting, as they were causing casualties among their own.

Edward stayed behind to fight, but it became obvious to the Earl of Pembroke that the battle was lost and he dragged the king away from the battlefield, hotly pursued by the Scottish forces. Edward only just escaped the heavy fighting, making a vow to found a Carmelite religious house at Oxford if he survived.

Aftermath

The defeat of the English opened up the north of England to Scottish raids and allowed the Scottish invasion of Ireland. In exchange for the captured nobles, Edward II released Robert’s wife Elizabeth de Burgh, sisters Christina Bruce, Mary Bruce and daughter Marjorie Bruce, ending their 8-year imprisonment in England. These finally led, after the failure of the Declaration of Arbroath to secure Scotland’s independence by diplomatic means, to the Treaty of Edinburgh–Northampton in 1328. Under the treaty the English crown recognised the full independence of the Kingdom of Scotland, and acknowledged Robert the Bruce, and his heirs and successors, as the rightful rulers.

After the fiasco of Bannockburn, the earls of Lancaster and Warwick saw their political influence increase, and they pressured Edward to re-implement the Ordinances of 1311. Lancaster became the head of the royal council in 1316, promising to take forward the Ordinances through a new reform commission, but he appears to have abandoned this role soon afterwards, partially because of disagreements with the other barons, and possibly because of ill-health. Lancaster refused to meet with Edward in parliament for the next two years, bringing effective governance to a standstill.

Edward’s difficulties were exacerbated by prolonged problems in English agriculture, part of a wider phenomenon in northern Europe known as the Great Famine. It began with torrential rains in late 1314, followed by a very cold winter and heavy rains the following spring that killed many sheep and cattle. The bad weather continued, almost unabated, into 1321, resulting in a string of bad harvests. Revenues from the exports of wool plummeted and the price of food rose, despite attempts by Edward’s government to control prices. Edward called for hoarders to release food, and tried to encourage both internal trade and the importation of grain, but with little success.