Κυριακή, 8 Μαΐου 2016

Today in Military History: April 16, 1130:Battle of Inchbare: Royal Scots-Norman Army Defeats Rebel Clansmen

 

 
Battle of Inchbare: Royal Scots-Norman Army Defeats Rebel Clansmen
Battlefield of Inchbare, as it appears today
Photograph courtesy of http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1966405
(Unless otherwise indicated, all illustrations are courtesy of Wikipedia)

Longtime readers of my mini-history lessons will note that I have highlighted battles involving the Scots a number of times in the past. Today's narrative involves a fight between two groups of Scots – a rebellious group of northern Scots, and supporters of the Royal house, which had a little help from their Anglo-Norman neighbors.

Background
In 1069 King Malcolm III, a usurper with no legitimate claim to the Scottish throne, married Princess Margaret. She was the sister of Edward Atheling, the last true Saxon claimant to the throne of England (as the designated heir of the childless Edward the Confessor). Queen Margaret pressured King Malcolm to make major changes in the Scottish Court; she imported Roman Catholic priests and churchmen from England and worked tirelessly to convert the Scottish Celtic church to Roman Catholicism.
To facilitate this takeover, Normans were brought into Scotland in even greater numbers than before. These Normans married Scottish heiresses in order to obtain title to the fertile and productive farmlands and territories. Harsh, cruel inhuman feudalism became the norm instead of the gentler paternalism of the Scottish chiefs. Celtic laws were soon discarded in favor of Roman laws, Celtic titles such as Mormaor were changed to the Teutonic "Earl." The native nobility found their powers and privileges being gradually withdrawn as the law of primogeniture began replacing previous Scottish practices.
King David I of Scotland as depicted on the Kelso Abbey charter of 1159; Original now in the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh
King David I of Scotland as depicted on the
Kelso Abbey charter of 1159
Original now in the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh
Naturally these changes were looked on first with suspicion and later with outright hostility, and a schism appeared between the Gaels and the Norman-dominated court of Malcolm III and Margaret. Malcolm fathered six sons: Edward the eldest, Edmund, Edgar, Ethelred, Alexander and the youngest David. By 1124, five of the brothers had either died, were killed, or entered Catholic orders, thus clearing the way for David's assumption of the Scottish throne.
He took the throne at a time when the great schism between the Gaels and Norman Scots was now so wide, it was becoming unbridgeable. It was not surprising that the resentful Gaels, seeing their language, Church, and way of life threatened by an alien culture, began a series of small uprisings. Due to internal bickering, no concerted effort was made to unseat the Norman-dominated Court. To make matters worse, King David brought in large numbers of his Norman friends and settled them on lands confiscated from the rebellious native Scots and Gaels.
Earl Óengus (anglicized to Angus) of Moray revived his late father's claim to the throne, not only that his father was the elder brother of King David but also that the Scottish Moray line was the true line of Celtic kings. Angus made contact with other Scottish nobles and warlords to bolster his claim. Somerled, Lord of the Isles, turned him down flat, telling Angus that he was untried in battle and any attempt he made would fail. Malcolm the Earl of Ross, a highly experienced warrior against the Norsemen, was enlisted. Angus also attempted to get the men of Galloway to rise with him. The Galloway men, though willing to engage in a bit of pillaging and looting at any time, did not consider Angus a wise leader, and an unknown quantity when it came to battle. However, Fergus of Galloway and about 300 of his mounted men, joined the Moray men to take part in the uprising and act as scouts for Earl Angus.
Scottish royal <em>burghs</em> (forts) by AD 1300, many founded by David I; Battle of Inchbare occurred three miles north of Brechin; Illustration courtesy of http://historyofengland.typepad.com/blog/maps-1225-1400.html
Scottish royal burghs (forts) by AD 1300, many founded by David I
Battle of Inchbare occurred three miles north of Brechin
Illustration courtesy of http://historyofengland.typepad.com/blog/maps-1225-1400.html
Prelude to the Battle
Once Fergus of Galloway joined them at the rendezvous near Torfness (modern Burghead), the rebels received news that King David was engaged in business down in England with his estates and the way was clear to seize the throne. Angus and his men marched south toward the royal seat at Edinburgh at the beginning of April 1130, when the passes were largely clear of snow. The rebel force stopped for a couple of days to do some pillaging and amass a herd of cattle which was immediately sent back to Moray. The Moray men then moved into the Stracathro area, making their base in the extensive woodlands and marshes north of the river North Esk. This area made a good base to do more pillaging and cattle liberating from the rich farms and lands in the vicinity.
With King David's absence, defense of the Scottish realm fell to his High Constable, Edward Siwardsson. Edward was an elderly Anglo-Saxon knight whose father may have been the lord of Northumbria during the reign of King Edward the Confessor (Earl Siward died in 1055). On hearing of the uprising, Edward immediately called upon the nobles and Norman landowners for military support and to rendezvous at Forfar. He realized that mounted troops were the key to victory and the most effective weapon at his disposal was the armored Norman knight.
By April 14, the Scottish Royal forces were mustered at Forfar and mounted scouts were sent out to find the Moray men. First contact was made on the hill named Lundie (Hill of God's meadow), between several of Dunbar's scouts and those of Fergus of Galloway. A short tussle took place in which a few men on each side were slain before the survivors galloped off with the news. The High Constable reckoned that the Moravians were moving towards the ford at Inchbare on the River North Esk and the wide flat flood plain on the south side of the ford was ideal for a battle.
Royal Scots-Norman Army
Anglo-Norman knight, AD 1130; Image courtesy of http://www.dbaol.com
Anglo-Norman knight, AD 1130
Image courtesy of http://www.dbaol.com
Siwardsson was joined by the Cospatric, Earl of Dunbar with nearly 800 lightly armored cavalry on smaller horses, very nimble and fleet footed. Constantine, the Earl of Fife brought over 400 Norman knights and nearly 1,000 foot soldiers. Other lords and nobles soon arrived and the High Constable had a respectable force of 3,500 horsemen and knights and about 5,000 foot soldiers armed with short swords, axes, flails and spears, but no bowmen.
Rebel Scots Army
Scottish clansman/light infantry AD 1130; Image courtesy of http://www.dbaol.com
Scottish clansman/light infantry AD 1130
Image courtesy of http://www.dbaol.com
Angus and his brother Malcolm raised an army estimated to be no more than 10,000 lightly armed clansmen (armed with spears, two handed swords, hunting bows and battle axes), and the Earl of Ross raised another 5,000 clansmen similarly armed. They were joined by the 300 or so horsemen from Galloway.
Battle of Inchbare: Opening Phase
Angus and the High Constable both sent out scouts to probe each other's positions. Pushing his rebel forces across the River North Esk, Angus and his nobles quickly arranged their men into a single, large block of men.[A] Spearmen were placed in the front ranks, with their few archers scattered throughout. A group of heavily armed clansmen – mainly wielding axes, poleaxes, and swords – were arrayed to the rear of the spearmen. [B] The Constable allowed his foot soldiers to be seen by placing them atop a prominent hill several hundred yards south of the Inchbare Ford [C]. He concealed his cavalry behind some nearby hills [D] to make the rebels believe that the footmen were the entirety of the royal army. As a result, Angus initially believed he was only facing a small force of 5,000 men to oppose his army of 15,000 men. An early morning mist gave the battlefield an eerie, preternatural feel.
Battle of Inchbare, Opening Phase [Illustration is author's work, based on information from http://www.fanaticus.org/DBA/battles/inchbare.html]
Battle of Inchbare, Opening Phase
[Illustration is author's work, based on information from http://www.fanaticus.org/DBA/battles/inchbare.html]
After making the finishing touches to his deployment, Angus ordered his men to move forward. [1] As a consequence, the Royal infantry began a slow advance from the hilltop toward the rebel force. [2]
The High Constable had hoped to lure the rebels forward, to allow his concealed horsemen to attack the enemy flanks. However – to quote famed Scottish poet Robert Burns – "The best laid schemes of mice and men, gang aft agley [often go askew.]" A small group of the hidden Anglo-Norman knights charged the rebel formations without orders, spoiling Siwardsson's plans for a surprise attack. [3]
Second Phase
Battle of Inchbare, Second Phase [Illustration is author's work, based on information from http://www.fanaticus.org/DBA/battles/inchbare.html]
Battle of Inchbare, Second Phase
[Illustration is author's work, based on information from http://www.fanaticus.org/DBA/battles/inchbare.html]
Realizing the element of surprise was lost, the Cospatric Earl of Dunbar and Earl Constantine of Fife gave the order for their mounted knights and horsemen to attack the advancing rebel army. [4] The spear- and pike-wielding clansmen presented a fearsome aspect to the charging knights. Many of the horses had to be ferociously urged by their riders to come to contact with the virtual hedge of bristling spear points.
Struck in the flank and front, the block of unarmored pikemen fought bravely, as did the Royal horsemen. Though holding their own against the rebels, the Royal knights were taken in the flank and rear by some of the Scottish infantry stationed at the rear of the rebel formation. [5] These men charged out, swinging heavy poleaxes and other weapons, hamstringing or disemboweling the horses, and pulling the knights to the ground to dispatch them with a dirk thrust or a blow from a poleaxe. Suffering heavy casualties, the knights of Dunbar and Fife were forced to retreat. [6] Certainly some of the rebel clansmen died as well but the casualties seemed to be equal on both sides. If Angus of Moray could keep his nerve and do nothing rash, then he would win this battle of attrition.
Final Phase
Battle of Inchbare, Final Phase [Illustration is author's work, based on information from http://www.fanaticus.org/DBA/battles/inchbare.html]
Battle of Inchbare, Final Phase
[Illustration is author's work, based on information from http://www.fanaticus.org/DBA/battles/inchbare.html]
As the horsemen fell back, the advancing phalanx of Royal infantry charged into the fray. For several hours, the two armies charged and counter-charged, [7] liberally spilling Scottish and Anglo-Norman blood over the ground. Casualties mounted inexorably and some notable names fell in these charges. The Cospatric Earl of Dunbar and Constantine, Earl of Fife had fallen by the early afternoon and the Royal forces were becoming tired and demoralized. After reordering their ranks, the Anglo-Norman knights charged again and again, as both sides continued to sustain casualties. [8]
Then, as if in answer to a Royal prayer, Angus of Moray made a huge mistake; responding to a personal challenge from a Norman knight, the rebel commander was struck down and killed. [9] Command of the rebels fell to Malcolm MacEth, Angus's younger and inexperienced brother. However, Malcolm quickly started to lose his nerve. Hoping to continue the fight, the Earl of Ross stepped in, took command of the rebel forces and continued the fight.
Shortly afterwards some rebel Galloway scouts reported a great host of knights and horsemen coming up to join the Royal forces. [E] These were reinforcements of some 2,400 horsemen from the Merse who were late in joining the Constable's army.[10] The Earl of Ross was now facing certain calamity, his men must have been totally exhausted and any attack by 2,400 fresh horsemen could only have one result: the fence of spears would be broken and then the horsemen would be in a position to massacre the Highland clansmen. The Earl of Ross accordingly decided to disengage his forces whilst he still could and retreat in good order.
Malcolm of Ross started to send parties of men back across the ford to the relative safety of the trees and expanses of marshy flood plain on the north side of the ford, leaving a portion of his men to cover the retreat. [11] He knew that the Royal heavy horsemen could not follow in such terrain. Gradually the numbers dwindled on the south side of the river and the unremitting attacks by cavalry and knights continued unabated. An attack by the Royal foot soldiers was repulsed with heavy casualties and then the Earl of Ross fought his way back across the ford, suffering casualties all the time but also inflicting losses on the Royal knights and horsemen. He had abandoned the large quantities of loot and a herd of cattle which diverted the attention of the Royal forces, who busied themselves in claiming a share of the spoils, allowing Malcolm of Ross and the Moray forces to disengage and escape in the gathering mists, darkness and the trees. The exhausted Royal forces did not follow them up.
Aftermath
Edward the High Constable wrote in his report that over 4,000 rebels had been slain including the Mormaor Earl of Moray; and that his own casualties were around 1,000 (this figure does not include the conscripted foot-soldiers who were killed, only the better classes of people were listed), including the Cospatric Earl of Dunbar and Constantine Earl of Fife, as well as over 100 illustrious knights. This was a serious loss indeed for King David, for so many of the Norman nobility to fall in battle against clansmen that they regarded as savage barbarian scum.
The claim that 4,000 Moray men were slain is suspect, (this figure is probably exaggerated to hide the true scale of the near-disaster and mishandling of his battle by the Constable) and the true figure is more likely to be around 1,500-1,800. All in all the casualties on both sides were pretty even and by disengaging in good order, the Moray casualties were kept low.
Footnote #1: An indication of the state that the Royal forces were in can be deduced from the fact that they failed to follow up the retreating rebel forces, and that they spent several days regrouping at Brechin where they were joined by King David  newly arrived from England. The Earl of Ross yielded the battlefield to the Royal forces thus giving the High Constable the grounds to claim an outright victory albeit a pyrrhic one. Historians down the centuries have accepted these propaganda figures as truth, whereas in fact this battle was a close run affair.
Footnote #2: With the death of Angus of Moray, the lordship of that northern Scottish realm fell to King David. However, it would take an additional four years of military actions for all opposition to the throne to be wiped out.
Footnote #3: Malcolm MacEth was betrayed by his own adherents in 1134 for the reward offered for him, and he was handed over to King David. For the next twenty-three years, Malcolm was imprisoned in Roxburgh Castle, dying in 1157.
Footnote #4: In 1138, David I invaded England to support the claim of his niece Matilda (daughter of the late Henry I and David's older sister Edith) to the throne of England. Despite a numerical superiority, David's army lost the battle of Northallerton (also known as the "battle of the Standard") to an English army composed mainly of city militia. [For more information on this battle please see my BurnPit post from August of last year: Battle of Northallerton; Outnumbered English Forces Defeat Scottish Invaders]
Footnote #5: David was one of medieval Scotland's greatest monastic patrons. Starting in 1113, David founded over a dozen new monasteries during his reign. Not only were such monasteries an expression of David's piety, they also functioned to transform Scottish society. Monasteries became centers of foreign influence, and provided sources of literate men, able to serve the crown's growing administrative needs. These new monasteries introduced new agricultural practices.
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