Intelligent and impatient – these two adjectives were a dangerous combination, and King Edward I of England proved it when he created a terrifying weapon against the Scots. So terrifying that the Scots would have immediately surrendered to its sight, and you will understand later why.
Hint: He wasn’t called “Hammer of Scots” for a reason.
Also known as Edward Longshanks, he was King of England from 1272 to 1307. As the first son of Henry III, he was involved in his father’s political intrigues from an early age and witnessed the outright rebellion of the English barons. . After the Battle of Lewes he became their hostage but managed to escape after a few months. He defeated the baronial leader named Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265, then joined the Ninth Crusade in the Holy Land. He was on his way back to their kingdom when news of his father’s death reached him.
He proved to be one of the most effective English kings and, unsurprisingly, one of Scotland’s greatest antagonists. His father’s reign was marked by instability and military failure – things he immediately addressed and rectified upon receiving the throne. He even managed to unite the unruly barons around him and make them serve under him.
He was a big fan of a parliamentary government that helped maintain their country’s stability and huge sums of money, which was important to him so that he could pursue his ambitions, whatever the means of lift it. By this we meant the publication of the Statute of the Jewish Community in 1275 which persecuted the Jews in England and imposed a ridiculous amount of taxes on them. If that wasn’t ugly enough, he extended the policy by expelling Jews from England, leaving behind their money and property. The money Edward collected from these poor Jews was used to fund his greatest ambition to be overlord of Scotland and Wales. And so his wars began to unite the peoples of England under one crown to create what came to be known as the United Kingdom.
Henry III and the Welsh Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd made a peace deal in the 1250s after Henry tried and failed to dominate Wales. The Welsh would expand their territories into England and Henry had to recognize the royal status of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. In return, the Welsh were to recognize Henry as their overlord. When the throne passed to Edward, of course, he had to honor that deal. However, as he was determined not to repeat his father’s mistake, he used Llywelyn’s refusal to honor him as a reason to send an army to invade Wales. Caught off guard, Llywelyn was defeated and his territories taken.
In 1282, Llywelyn’s brother, named Dafydd, led a rebellion to overthrow the English in Wales. Edward was unprepared and so was pushed back by the rebels. Unfortunately, Llywelyn died in battle and the tide began to turn against them. Soon Dafydd was captured and immediately punished with execution. The rebellion, now leaderless, failed and died out.
Scottorum Malleus (Scottish Hammer)
In 1304, only Stirling Castle in Scotland had not yet fallen into his hands, and he was eager to obtain it. The castle was also perfectly located in the heart of Scotland and controlled the crossing of the River Forth, which was the gateway to the Highlands and could be closed if the castle fell into the wrong hands like Edward’s.
His army surrounded the castle while his engineers were busy building the weapon of destruction they had invented, something that would have such devastating effects in Stirling Castle that they would have no choice but to to surrender. Here’s the idea: a trebuchet.
It didn’t seem like a threatening idea, but this largest trebuchet ever made could fill 30 wagons when dismantled, and it took fifty carpenters and five foremen a short time to complete. Some say it took them three months to complete the construction of what was called the “Warwolf”.
The sight of the enormous Warwolf is said to have prompted Stirling to surrender. Edward accepted it, but cold as he was, his cruelty made him decide he wanted to see his trebuchet used. He asked the Scots to return inside their castle before ordering the first throw of a gigantic boulder. He hammered and tore down an entire castle wall. Subsequent throws fell on the buildings, turning everything to crumbs and dust. When he satisfied, only then did he accept the surrender, with only 30 Scots emerging from the now ruined castle. He spared 29 and ordered a surviving soldier to be dragged behind a horse before being hanged, just to make his point.
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