IT is was in this week in the year 1332 that the first battle of the Second War of Independence took place, and Scotland and the royal House of Bruce lost it heavily.

A Bruce king beaten? “Second” war? What’s Hamish on about, I hear you ask, to which I reply that a great many Scots know very little about the Second War of Independence and the aftermath of the reign of King Robert the Bruce, who died at his western home near Cardross, most probably at what is now Renton in West Dunbartonshire, on June 7, 1329.

He was succeeded by his only surviving son, David, the second King of Scots of that name, who was just five when his father died, having lost his mother, Elizabeth de Burgh, in 1327.

David II was already married when he became king – he had been wedded to Princess Joanna or Joan of England the previous year as part of the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton which finally recognised Scotland’s independence.

As would become a feature of the Scottish monarchy over the next three centuries, the aristocracy sought to control the young king and rule in his place.

Robert the Bruce’s great friend and ally Sir Thomas Randolph, the 1st Earl of Moray, was a wise and firm regent, but sadly died just when young David needed him most – 10 days before the battle which started the Second War of Independence. Moray actually died at Musselburgh en route to confronting the invaders from the south, and in his absence King David’s cause suffered grievously.

The Battle of Dupplin Moor on August 11-12, 1332, was not strictly a Scotland versus England encounter, as the victorious side was led by Edward Balliol, claimant to the throne of Scotland by right of his father, John Balliol, who was King of Scots from 1292 to 1296 until he abdicated in the face of pressure by the Scottish nobles and military defeat by Edward I of England.

John Balliol died in exile in France in 1314, a few months after Robert the Bruce’s victory at Bannockburn supposedly won independence for Scotland. In 1331, his son and heir Edward Balliol, then in his late 40s, was able to return to England and create an army to invade Scotland and restore himself and his family to the throne. In this cause he was aided by the “disinherited” – nobles whose tracts of land in Scotland had been confiscated for fighting against the Bruce.

The “disinherited” lost even more as a result of King Edward III signing the peace-making Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton in 1328. Their leader was Henry Beaumont, who had lost the rich earldom of Buchan which had come to him through his wife, Alice Comyn, of the aristocratic family of that name that opposed Bruce.

With Beaumont and the “disinherited” providing most of his infantry – mostly English archers – and paying for foreign cavalry mercenaries, Edward Balliol and his 2000-strong rebel army sailed north with the active encouragement of Edward III of England, to whom Balliol had sworn allegiance. They landed at Kinghorn in Fife, so that Edward III could say he had stayed neutral and not be accused of breaking the treaty by a land invasion.

On August 2, the council of Scottish nobles elected Domnhall, Earl of Mar, as Regent. Mar promptly quarrelled with Lord Robert Bruce, illegitimate son of the late king, and they could not agree on tactics, each taking charge of his own division of the Scottish army. Beaumont, by contrast, was a vastly experienced soldier and was in total control of his well-trained army, particularly the archers, which he now marched towards Perth.

The Scottish army waiting for him south of Perth outnumbered the Beaumont-Balliol force by possibly three or four to one, and such was their confidence that they did not post a guard so that the rebels – helped by a traitor known to legend as Murray of Tullibardine – were able to attack the Scottish camp at night, and though they did little damage, they now had a commanding position.

Beaumont deployed his archers on high ground at the head of a valley through which Mar’s force in giant unwieldy schiltrons promptly moved forward. They were duly cut to pieces by the English archers, and to make matters much worse, Bruce’s schiltrons charged into the rear of Mar’s men, so that more Scots died in the crush than were killed by arrows.

Beamount’s dismounted horsemen then put the surviving Scots to the sword while those fortunate to escape the carnage on the moor were chased and killed by the rebels’ foreign cavalry. The Beaumont tactics of archers and dismounted men would be used by the English for a century, especially in France.

Scottish losses were horrendous. Both Mar and Bruce were killed, as was Thomas Randolph, 2nd Earl of Moray. Mar had been Regent for less than 10 days and Randolph had been the Earl for less than a month. With as many as 4000 dead – maybe even more – it was the worst Scottish defeat since Falkirk in 1298, and smashed the nation’s confidence so much that then usurper Edward Balliol was able to have himself crowned King of Scots at Scone a month after the Battle of Dupplin Moor.

A big mistake, for the Second War of Independence was now under way and people rallied to the cause of King David II. On Tuesday in Back In The Day, we’ll see how that war transpired.