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Monday, June 23, 2008

Portrait of a Man: Sir Robert Boyd, Part 1

June 23, 1314

The sound of stone against mettle rasped through the night air as hundreds of men sharpened their weapons for the next day's conflict. At one campfire, a solitary young man was working. Robert felt the blade grow sharp under his skillful hand as he ground the stone against his blade. "Will all our efforts be in vain?", he wondered. He knew his 6,500 comrades were wondering the same thing. "Will my descendants live in freedom to serve God?". He laid down the whetstone and gazed thoughtfully into the fire......

Robert Boyd was born some time around 1270, in Ayr, Scotland. The Boyds had lived in and around Ayr for the past 100 years. As Robert grew up, he became close friends with young William Wallace, his cousin. When Wallace escaped, after his first capture in 1296, Robert raised a band of men from his father's lands to support Wallace. From this time on, they were nearly inseparable. Boyd led his men against the English at Lanark, after the murder of Marion Wallace, as well as against the English knight, Fenwick, who had killed Wallace's father. History records that Boyd himself killed Fenwick with a "short, stabbing sword". But tragedy soon struck, as Robert's father, who had been forced to sign the "Ragman's Roll", was treacherously murdered, along with many other Scottish nobles, including two of Wallace's uncles, at the Barns of Ayr. In a rage, Wallace and Boyd, who was now the chief of Clan Boyd, attacked the town. The barns containing the English soldiers were set on fire, and all who tried to escape, were slaughtered. After the battle of Stirling Bridge, which was a glorious victory for the Scots, Scottish independence was dealt a huge setback with the defeat at Falkirk. Due to bickering among Scottish nobles, the battle was a disaster and the army was reduced to a mere mob.Soon after this resistance was completely crushed as Wallace was treacherously betrayed to the English and cruelly tortured to death for crimes he did not commit. Devastated, Robert Boyd continued to fight at the head of small guerrilla bands.
But God raised up another mighty champion for Scotland in Robert Bruce. Bruce had to flee for his life to Scotland and he brought his family with him. Boyd rallied to Bruce's banner, with what few men he had left. Most of them died bravely at Methven, in order to give Bruce time to escape. After this setback, Bruce's army was reduced to a few retainers . They roamed the Highlands, constantly on the run for their lives. Boyd was sent, along with Bruce's family and an detachment commanded by Nigel Bruce, to Kildrummy castle. This was the last castle not captured by the English. But again, Robert the Bruce was dealt a cruel setback when Kildrummy was quickly divested by the English. His wife and children were taken back to England as prisoners. Nigel was put to death, but Robert Boyd escaped and returned to Bruce, bringing the sad news.

But the tide began to turn.

Edward Bruce, Robert Bruce's second brother, was very rash and hasty. (Robert E. Lee would have said, "He has too much of the lion and not enough of the fox".) In order to keep his brother out of trouble Bruce promoted Boyd, who was a more experienced soldier, to Edward's second in command. One morning Edward and Boyd left with a detachment of fifty men, to raid the English army commanded by Aymer St. John, numbered around 1,500 men. A dense fog had settled in during the night and the men could barely see the ground around them. As the fog lifted, Bruce realized that they had blundered into the middle of the English army! Surrounded, he quickly sounded the charge. They broke the English line like glass, turned, and charged again...and again! After the third charge, the enemy broke and fled in terror.

Robert Bruce was able to gain some momentum by re-capturing most of the castles in English hands. By 1313, only Stirling castle remained. He entrusted its capture to his brother, Edward, who quickly began the siege. But Edward, not content to wait outside for the English to starve, struck a rash bargain with the commander of Stirling. He agreed to raise the siege if Stirling was relieved in one years time. If the castle was not relieved, the governor would surrender to the Scots. Robert Bruce was very angry with his brother's action. Because of this foolish negotiation, Edward had put Scottish independence in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, in England, Edward II, son of Edward I who had begun the conquest of Scotland, was finally shaken from his lethargy and began to muster an army. He slowly crossed the Scottish border and marched toward Stirling. Numbering around 20,000 men, the English army found the small Scottish army in battle positions near a little known creek called Bannockburn.

A small skirmish had been fought earlier that day, as a group of English cavalry tried to break through and relieve the castle, but this half-hearted attempt was foiled by the Scottish pike men. About this time, at another portion of the line, Robert Bruce killed Sir Henry De Bohun in a man-on-man conflict. Although this was a great boost to his men's moral, nothing had been decisive and the main battle would be fought tomorrow......

Part II coming up!

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Blogger crazylotrfan said...

Hey Stephen, It's Chris,

This is cool! Waiting for part II!

June 24, 2008 at 10:31 AM  

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