The High Price of Victory – Battle of Stirling Bridge, September 11th, 1297.
William Wallace arrives at the de Moray banner to find his co-commander of the Army of Scotland lying fatally wounded in the marshland by the bridge at Stirling.
Following the English occupation of Scotland in 1296, bitter and hard fought rebellions flared up all over the land. To the North, Andrew de Moray led a particularly successful campaign against the authorities. To the south, William Wallace launched a savage attack against English authority. By the late summer of 1297, de Moray and Wallace had joined forces to make a particularly effective guerrilla army. Together, they rampaged through the country and brutally drove the English out of their strongholds. They effectively prevented the collection of taxes and their subsequent transportation to England. The reality of how little authority King Edward now retained in Scotland was described in a letter to the King from Hugh de Cressingham, the despised Treasurer of the English administration in Scotland:
“by far the greater part of your counties of the realm of Scotland are still unprovided with keepers, as they have been killed or imprisoned; and some have given up their bailiwicks, and others neither will nor dare return; and in some counties the Scots have established and placed bailiffs and ministers, so that no county is in proper order, excepting Berwick and Roxburgh, and this only lately.”
Of all of the castles north of the River Forth, only Dundee remained in English hands and, by September 1297, it too was under siege by Wallace and de Moray. Edward could only re-impose his authority on Scotland with a full-scale armed invasion. Sometime late in the summer of 1297, King Edward's lieutenant in Scotland and victor of the battle of Dunbar, John de Warrenne, the earl of Surrey, mustered an army and marched north into central Scotland. Moray and Wallace responded by marching with their combined forces to Stirling to await his arrival.
Moray and Wallace deployed their small army to the north of the River Forth close to the old bridge under the shadow of Stirling Castle. Surrey's handling of the ensuing battle was extremely inept. Ignoring the advice of advisors who suggested he try a pincer attack utilising nearby fords, he sent the vanguard of his army across the narrow bridge under the Scots’ gaze, expecting them to be too intimidated to attack. Unfortunately for him, the Scots did attack, when the English army was only partially deployed. In the ensuing carnage of the Battle of Stirling Bridge, Surrey's army was massacred. The bulk of his army had remained unengaged on the southern bank and it soon began to flee the scene as it became clear that Surrey had been outmanoeuvred and outfought by de Moray and Wallace.
It is estimated that Surrey lost one hundred knights and five-thousand infantrymen in the slaughter. The Scottish army's casualties remain unrecorded apart from one significant loss: Andrew de Moray had been fatally wounded in the fight. Scotland had been robbed of a supremely skilled soldier, tactician, commander and potential leader of the realm.
The exact circumstances of his death remain unknown. At a formal inquisition in November 1300 it was determined that Andrew de Moray was: "slain at Stirling against the king." However, there is mention of him still being alive in two letters issued after Stirling Bridge. The first letter, sent from Haddington on 11 October to the mayors of Lübeck and Hamburg was issued by: "Andrew de Moray and William Wallace, leaders of the kingdom of Scotland and the community of the realm." The second was issued to the prior of Hexham on 7 November by: "Andrew de Moray and William Wallace, the leaders of the army and of the realm of Scotland." Most historians have deduced from this that de Moray was injured at Stirling Bridge and died of his injuries around November 1297.
The subsequent well deserved legend of Wallace has resulted in the achievements of Andrew de Moray disappearing into the mists of time. Although there are many statues to Wallace scattered across Scotland and the world, there is no similar monument to de Moray.
Thankfully a project entitled the Guardians of Scotland Trust are set to remedy this. A stunning statue is to be erected on the site of the battle and it is hoped that this will cement, at last, Andrew de Moray’s name in the Scottish consciousness.