In 1298, the ‘Hammer of the Scots’, King Edward I, was in no mood for compromise. The Scottish rebel, William Wallace now wore a sword-belt made from the flayed skin of Edward’s Scottish treasurer, slain at Stirling Bridge. When Edward invaded, Wallace at first retreated, hoping to pick off the English once they ran short of supplies. But bravado prevailed and, near Falkirk, Wallace confronted the English army behind a stretch of marshland calculated to bog down Edward’s armoured cavalry. The Scots were drawn up in ‘hedgehogs’ – infantry squares bristling with pikes. Initial English cavalry charges, detouring widely to avoid the bog, made no impression on the Scottish pikemen, but managed to destroy their archers. The Scots now lacked an offensive capability, and Edward ordered a rain of arrows from his longbows and crossbows. Virtually defenceless, the Scots lines eventually buckled, and were mown down with great slaughter: Wallace fled to the wilds.
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