Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, was riding his small, yet sturdy Garron pony in front of the Scottish army; to see that they were all in good order. He wasn’t expecting to fight in that moment, but keeping up appearances would show the English that the Scots were not just barbarians; rather, that they were ready to stand as body of committed fighting men.
It was not long before the English army began to come over the hill; their numerous banners heralding each nobleman’s portion. Robert watched them for a time, before turning to look to his general, Sir James Douglas.
“What think you of the day, Jamie?” he inquired.
“I think the English have only pomp on their side, while we have the want of freedom,” The young man replied. Bruce smiled at him.
“Let us pray it is enough then.” And with that said Bruce started back down the line of his men; talking to them; sharing the burden of their fears and doubts; reassuring them as to the fight to come, whilst assuring them that he would be in the fore also.
On the English side, Sir Henry de Bohun watched the Scottish king ride in front of his men; his massive Destrier war horse shifting in eager anticipation beneath him, sensing the tension in the air, and restless for the action that it understood would follow. De Bohun began to watch King Robert intently, as a thought worked its way into the fore of his mind then. Knowing that he could charge over and be done with the rebel King in short order, for the Bruce was only armed with a battle axe, after all, and hardly dressed for battle as he was, whilst de Bohun himself had his lance in armored hand. And before he could think against it, and consumed in noble passion, de Bohun had spurred his horse forward; charging toward the man who wore the gold circlet over his helmet.
Bruce did not hear the man coming immediately, but saw the warning in the eyes of his men. Not knowing what threat was coming his way; he snatched his battle axe from his steward then wheeled about to see it met. Douglas and the other Scots commanders stared in horror then, as they bore witness to his reckless charge. There was nothing they could do.
De Bohun had lowered his lance at the king then, and smugly urged much speed from his armored brute; eager to prove his valor and win single combat against the rebel king of Scots, wherein, he would surely find much favor in the court of Edward II. But before he knew what was happening, that something was amiss in his glorious plan; Robert the Bruce deftly jerked his Garron to the other side of de Bohun’s unstoppable course; a course on which his rude horse could no longer be turned from. Poised in his stirrups as they closed, Bruce swung his battle axe down onto the English knight’s head, and with such terrible force, that it split de Bohun’s head down and through to the breastbone. Worse still, he had shattered his axe haft in the process.
Without ceremony, or further preamble, Bruce danced his pony around the slain knight and headed back to the Scottish host, who awaited him with baited breath. Bearing the shattered haft in his hand with thoughtful countenance, he finally arrived back to be met by a ruffled Jamie Douglas; speechless, and wide-eyed. When the young man finally found his voice, he choked out:
“What were you thinking? You could have been killed, man! That was a foolish thing to do, Robert!”
Bruce accepted this; nodding sagely, and with a knowing smile, he quipped “I know. And I broke my good axe as well.”
For much of history, Scottish Kings did not think themselves above the common man in matters such as war and battle, and unlike other monarchs of the time, did not hide readily behind their gilded thrones, or expensive armies. Scottish Kings did not have that luxury, living in a dark and turbulent nation as they did; and so, they strapped ready swords to hip, and, as Scots are apt to do, fought alongside their countrymen. Scottish Kings lead by example, for how could you ask a man to die for king and country, when you would not do the same.
Needless to say, on the 23rd of June, 1314; 5000-7000 valiant Scots stood against an English host of 18000-25000. And with much rightful slaughter, saw three quarters of that terrified host slain, and with the rest routed in good order. So much so, that they could, quite rightly, chase them across the Bannockburn River on the backs of the heaped English dead that polluted its clear waters. A good day, and one that resulted in a bloody nose, of which, mighty England would not soon forget.
Oh, and also, Edward II took a red-hot poker up the bum afterward, what with fleeing Scotland like a bitch-ass coward.