Today, September 11 is the 713th anniversary of the Battle of Stirling Bridge which was the first successful major battle for Scottish independence over the English Army of King Edward I. If you at all remember the scene from the movie BRAVEHEART you will remember that it is portrayed as a victory for the Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace, who after this battle was knighted and made guardian of Scotland. But the story of this battle and early rebellious uprisings have been distorted in favor of Wallace. Sure we know that William Wallace accomplishments garnered him a towering monument that overlooks the valley from Bannockburn to the castle at Stirling and he died at the hands of the English in 1305 after being betrayed by a fellow Scottish countrymen. But where is the monument for Andrew de Moray?
Who is he you might ask?
An etching of de Moray
Andrew de Moray was a young Scottish nobleman from the area of Moray in the Scottish highlands. He was from a well established family in the Moray area, the de Moray's of Petty. The family had a manor called Hallhill on the southern bank of the Moray Firth, as well as the Avoc Castle which was east of Inverness and whose father held the Lordship of Avoch on the Black Isle. Andrew was connected to the very well connected Comyn family thru his stepmother Euphemia Comyn and the family supported the Balliol claim to the throne of Scotland. His father, also named Andrew, was the northern Justicar and was probably named as part of the guardianship of Scotland at the death of King Alexander III. And his father's brother William held lands in the south and had connections with the Douglas family. Andrew de Moray had Scottish noble connections unlike William Wallace, who was at best from a very minor knighly family and whose father Malcolm and grandfather Adam were only knights.
When King Edward of England was asked to adjudicate the conflicting claimants to the throne of Scotland Edward chose to side with the Balliol family's claim (connected to Comyn) over that of the Bruce family who also had a very close connection back to King David I of Scotland. Some believe that Edward went with the weaker of the claimants so as to control him. Edward was now envisioning himself overlord to both Balliol and Scotland. The problem was many of the Scottish nobles had lands in both Scotland and England (ie the Bruce, Balliol, Comyn and others) putting them in a position of rebellion of their overlord, Edward I, if they rebelled toward Scottish independence. Not so the de Moray clan, whose land was just in Scotland and whose loyalties were to Scotland first and foremost, after family of course. In 1296 Balliol renounced his fealty to the English King as the Scottish nobles including the de Morays ( or Murray a later form of the family name) began to prepare for war with the English. This group of Scottish nobleman marched toward Carlisle on the Anglo/Scottish Border, which was being held for Edward by none other than the Bruce family( yep, the future Scottish king). Unable to breach the castle they laid waste to the area around Cumberland and parts of Northumberland.
Meanwhile Edward and his English Army were attacking the port town of Berwick and had captured it for England. With Berwick secure they headed toward northeast into the Lothians where they met the Scottish forces that included the de Moray men at Dunbar. The English army led by John de Warrene (Earl of Surrey) overwhelmed the Scottish nobles who weren't prepared for such organized warfare and the de Moray men were captured and imprisoned. The elder Andrew de Moray and his brother William were important prisoners and were taken to the Tower of London in the south. The younger Andrew de Moray was not as important and was imprisoned at Chester. While they were imprisoned Edward brought in Hugh Cressingham as treasurer of Scotland and he imposed huge taxes to fill Edwards coffers. Cressingham became the most hated man in Scotland and his character did not help endear him to the Scottish people. Edward meanwhile was planning a war in Flanders, but money wasn't the only thing they wanted from Scotland. They wanted to conscript the Scottish nobles to fight for the English in Flanders. This did not go over at all well with the Scottish populace and the rumblings of rebellion began in large waves across Scotland.
Andrew de Moray sometime in late 1296 or early 1297 escaped from Chester and headed north to the lands of his father in Moray in Scotland where he began systematic hit and run engagements to harass the English who had taken the castles of the north. Just about the time Wallace was harassing the English in the south. Andrew began in his father's lands of Avoch but soon the burgess and common men of the area of Moray and Inverness joined forces with him and together they created such problems that the English captain at Urquhart Castle wrote to Edward asking for assistance naming de Moray as the culprit who was corrupting the populace. It is important to note it was not only de Moray and Wallace who were rebelling at the English occupation but others in places like Fife and Galloway where the local lairds struck back at the English forces which would run and hid behind the castle walls rather than engage the locals. De Moray laid siege to Urqhuart castle after attacking the English constable but without the kind of seige engines needed de Moray and Scottish rebels left the English to hide behind the walls.
Meanwhile Edward freed some of the prisoners he had taken at Dunbar and sent them north to quell de Moray, though they did confront each other, like the siege at Urquhart the Scots with de Moray seemed to retreat into the landscape. Some historians believe it was because those sent north were Comyns, kin to de Moray, that neither party put much effort into the engagement. De Moray had in time siezed most of the north especially the area around the Moray Firth. At the same time Wallace along with a Stewart and Bishop Wishart and Robert Bruce were causing trouble for the English in the south and central belt of Scotland. Angered that his people were not able to subdue de Moray in the north, King Edward issued a safe conduct letter for Andrew to take the place of his father in the tower, if his father would fight in Flanders for England. Andrew never responded to that letter if even got it. ( is no record survives that shows he ever got it)
By the summer of 1297 thanks to de Moray's efforts in the north the English held castles began to fall to the Scots as the English were driven out toward Aberdeen. Even Urquhart castle on Loch Ness fell to de Moray, but was this was (falsly) later attributed to William Wallace in the literature of Blind Harry. By the summer of 1297 the only castle north of the Firth of Forth in English control was Dundee and Edward decided that a show of force was needed and he advised John de Warrene (Surrey) and Hugh Cressingham to confront the rebels at Stirling. Meanwhile thougth it isn't clear how, it appears apparently that throughout the year of rebellion, both Wallace and de Moray were in contact with each other's forces and their forces met just outside of Dundee where they were to lay siege the castle. When they heard the English army was on the move the combined forces of Wallace and de Moray left a small force to contiue at Dundee and they headed to Stirling in an effort to beat the English there to get the upper ground for the battlefield.
The outcome of the Battle of Stirling Bridge where a much smaller Scottish force defeated the much larger English force was because of the skill of Andrew de Moray and NOT William Wallace. Wallace was a hit and run fighter where de Moray coming from a noble family was probably being groomed for knighthood at the time of the battle at Dunbar and had recieved tactical training. It was he who decided their position at Stirling and was the one who saw the advantage of forcing the battlefield near the bridge where the land was wet and boggy and would put the English knights on horseback at a disadvantage. Added to this the bridge was the only way to ford the river at this location, unless they wanted to go further upstream at a great distance, which the Scottish knights fighting with the English suggested but were rejected. Unfortunately to cross the bridge the English were limited to riding only two or three abreast and when the English army was almost half way across the bridge on the Scottish side, the English watched in horror as their forces were being cut down by the Scots. The English knights on horse couldn't manuver in the bog and were pushed back to the swollen river Forth. Many English drowned as they tried to retreat across the river and Cressingham, who lead the army, was one of the first to fall early in the engagement (legend has it that Wallace took a strip of his skin from head to foot and made a sheath for his sword- gruesome times). Surrey recognising defeat had the bridge burned so the Scots couldn't follow retreating the English army as it headed south toward Berwick.
This victory for the Scots had been a great moral boost but the cost was great. Andrew de Moray who was wounded in the battle lived only for a couple months dying in November from his wounds but not before recieving some honors. These young generals (de Moray and Wallace) of the victorious Scots army were both knighted and made generals of the Scottish Army and were made Guardians of Scotland or at least Wallace was ( records aren't sure de Moray lived long enough for this honor). Surving records include a letter with both their signatures on it that was sent to the European Hanseatic League stating that Scotland had been successfully returned to the Scots and that they were open for business with their former trading partners. The death of de Moray and his tactical skils was felt by the Scots when in the next year Wallace took the Scottish army up against the English at Falkirk and were stunningly defeated by the English army. It is believed by some historians because of Wallace's tactical defeat at Falkirk, that the success of Stirling Bridge was because of the tactical talent of Andrew de Moray though it is William Wallace who gets all the accolades. Andrew did leave a legacy, though his father died while a prisoner in the Tower of London and he died after Stirling Bridge, his son Andrew de Moray went on to become a Scottish warrior of the caliber of his father fighting with Robert Bruce and others after the Scots gained their independence from England.
Today there are those in Scotland who want to rectify the ommission of Andrew de Moray's contribution to the fight for Scottish independence and that he should have his rightful place in history: If this Scottish MP gets his way maybe finally Andrew de Moray will get a monument that is respectful of his contribution to fight for the independence of the Scottish nation.