War of the Three Kings, Part One After Bannockburn


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War of the Three Kings, Part One

First of a two-part docudrama telling the story of how the Scottish army tried to drive the English out of Ireland 700 years ago.


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EXPLOSIONS MEN SHOUT AND CHANT

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Contains some scenes which some viewers may find upsetting.

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In 1315,

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an army from Britain invaded Ireland,

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numbering 6,000 battle-hardened veterans.

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It was one of the most powerful foreign forces

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ever to set foot in the country.

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But this was no English army.

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Its tough mail-clad soldiers were Scotsmen -

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gallowglasses and fighting men

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from the Highlands and Western Isles.

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Their commander was Edward Bruce,

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brother of Robert Bruce, the King of the Scots.

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Sheltron, arms. MEN SHOUT

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They had a simple objective.

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To drive out the English and make Edward Bruce King of Ireland.

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It was an ambitious plan.

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In over 100 years,

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no-one had succeeded in breaking the English stranglehold on Ireland.

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This is a story of two Celtic nations.

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A shared heritage and a forgotten war

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that could have changed the course of history.

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Open the gate!

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Open the gate!

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Open the gate!

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I have word for the king.

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I have urgent word for King Robert.

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What word?

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Sire. The English king has died.

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'I beheld these brothers of boundless ambition,

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'with whom no obligations were binding, no oaths sacred,

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'and no promises regarded that interfered with their goal

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'of freedom for their country.'

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The story of Ireland and Scotland 700 years ago

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is a story of struggle against tyranny.

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At this time, the Celtic nations were pitted against a ruthless enemy

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that seemed determined to subdue every inch of Britain and Ireland.

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When the Normans conquered England in 1066,

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their arrival signalled one of the greatest transformations

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in European history.

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And their search for power and land would change the politics

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and culture of these islands forever.

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The Normans come from northern France, where they have been used to

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building castles and training as heavy cavalry.

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They bring that military technology with them

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when they conquer England in 1066 and they carry on bringing it with them

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when they move into Scotland and as conquerors into Wales and Ireland.

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That there was a kind of demonic, psychic drive.

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They seem to have the urge to dominate.

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They seem to want to have not only what they possess

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but what everyone else possesses.

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They were of the view that they'd come to conquer

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and Wales was as vulnerable as England was and Scotland, likewise.

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And Ireland, of course, was always there in the background.

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It was on their to do list.

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Just over 100 years after the Battle of Hastings in 1066,

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an Anglo-Norman invasion force landed in Ireland.

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They conquered the island, established a new power base,

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and became known as the Anglo-Irish.

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Most native Irish kings had no option

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but to submit to these powerful newcomers.

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But many resented the new presence in their country

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and never truly accepted the English king as their monarch.

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In the late 12th century, what began to happen

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in the hundreds of years after was, essentially,

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two different societies co-existed.

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So you had Gaelic society and Norman, or what became Anglo-Irish.

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What fascinates me about Gaelic Ireland, about medieval Ireland,

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is the fact that you have two distinct societies in many ways.

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So I could travel from Dublin up to, say, O'Neill in Ulster

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and it would be like leaving one world for another.

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It's essentially two alien societies.

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So that's the fascination

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which you don't get in a lot of other countries in the Middle Ages.

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The thing about Ireland in the Middle Ages,

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which is not true of Scotland,

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is that Ireland was a very polar society.

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You know, you had the native Irish

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and you had the English of Ireland and they were two nations.

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They believed each other to be polar extremes.

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As far as the English were concerned,

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they had good reason to despise the Irish.

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After they first conquered the country,

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they brought with them a chronicler, Gerald of Wales, who described what

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he saw as the savage and uncivilised conduct of the native people.

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The Irish are a rude people, subsisting on the produce

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of their cattle only and living themselves like beasts -

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a people that has not yet departed from the primitive habits

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of pastoral life.

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Really, Gerald's writings begin a very long tradition

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of anti-Irish sentiment.

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He's pushing the Irish to one side and, I suppose,

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what can be called othering them.

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He's making them something that you can defeat because of what they are.

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You're absolutely justified.

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Neither willing to give up their old habits or learn anything new.

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Abandoning themselves to idleness and immersed in sloth,

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their greatest delight is to be exempt from toil...

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..their richest possession - the enjoyment of liberty.

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This people, then, is truly barbarous.

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Indeed, all their habits are barbarisms.

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In whatever requires industry, they are worthless.

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It's always more comfortable if you're a colonising,

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an imperial power, to be told that you're also superior.

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But there's also at the same time growing evidence that the English,

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politically, are worried about integration.

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Famously - the Statutes of Kilkenny and other laws

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in which the English are saying,

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"We want the Irish to be separate and we want the English to be separate."

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English people should not adopt Irish names,

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they should not have Irish hairstyles -

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these things are actually legislated against.

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And the law is a kind of apartheid law

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because by the end of the 13th century

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whereas to kill an English person in Ireland is a felony,

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to kill an Irishman is not.

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The native Irish felt a much closer affinity

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with their Celtic cousins in Scotland.

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The two countries had a shared history

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that dated back many centuries.

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In this shared history,

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it was the Irish who were the aggressors and colonisers.

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From around the third century AD,

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they conquered large parts of their neighbour to the northeast.

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The Scots were originally Irish.

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They came and settled in what is now Scotland

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very early in the Middle Ages.

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The Kingdom of the Scots was originally an Irish kingdom,

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Dal Riata, Gaelic speaking.

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And up until, say, about the year 1000,

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when you said the word Scot, you meant someone from Ireland.

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The first Irish people that we know of who settled in Scotland,

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they were conquerors.

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You know, we tend to think of ourselves in Ireland

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as being on the receiving end all the time of conquest

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but these people from Dal Riata

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who settled on the Western seaboard of Scotland came to conquer land.

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But when that became like a little province of Ireland,

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separated from Ireland by the North Channel,

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the Irish Church spread there as well.

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The invaders carried a sword in one hand and a Bible in the other.

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Saint Columba and other Irish monks

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helped to bring Christianity to Scotland.

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People who came over to Scotland,

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like famous examples like Columcille, Columba,

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were members of Irish dynasties.

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The kings of Scots were descended from Irish royalty.

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So, in fact, you're talking about a world, a kind of Gaelic world,

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that's absolutely continuous from, say, Cork up into Argyll.

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The links between the two countries

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were strongest in Ulster and Western Scotland.

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Far from being a barrier, the sea helped to bind them together.

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The North Channel could be crossed in just a couple of hours

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in a birlinn, a small Scottish galley

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similar to the Viking longboat.

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These ships were often used to ferry soldiers

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between Ulster and Scotland.

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But there were stronger links,

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links forged in blood and friendship.

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The prevailing ascendancy in Scotland is a Gaelic ethos

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and its heritage draws from Ireland, it draws back towards Ireland.

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Within the Scottish tradition, they looked to Ireland

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as a sort of a fertile ground for them, where they came from.

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They looked to Irish culture as their primary influencing culture.

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Maybe it goes back to notions of greater Scotia and lesser Scotia,

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which they had in the early Middle Ages,

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of the big Scotia and the smaller Scotia.

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And the big Scotia was Ireland at that point

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because this is seen from an Irish point of view,

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looking across towards the fringes of Scotland.

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Of course, the other thing which brings the two nations together

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very strongly is genealogy.

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And so many of the highland clans

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for example, well in a nutshell,

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trace themselves back to Niall of the Nine Hostages

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and these characters... Brian Boru if they can.

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That's another thing which is kind of, an awareness,

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a binding together if you like,

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of the peoples on both sides of the channel.

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At their nearest point, Scotland and Ireland are just 12 miles apart.

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An exercise I sometimes do with my students is to turn the usual map

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of the British Isles on its side, point to Turnberry

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and say there's the heart of the Bruce lordship, now look at it.

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And you see Ireland and the Western Isles, the Scottish coast,

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the north-western English coast, in a very different light,

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a different way of understanding it.

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If you went from a royal court in Ireland to a royal court in Scotland

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in the early Middle Ages, you wouldn't have noticed a difference.

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The language would have been the same,

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the culture would have been the same,

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the stories that would have been told

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would have been the same.

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And in fact, in some cases, the families would have been the same.

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When faced with the Anglo-Normans,

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the Scots had one major advantage over the Irish.

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The Irish did not have an undisputed high king.

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Scotland, on the other hand, was ruled by a single, decisive monarch.

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Rather than sit back and wait to be conquered,

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David I of Scotland invited the Anglo-Normans in.

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He allowed some Norman lords to settle in the country,

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relying on them to safeguard his authority.

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The greatest of these lords took his name from the small town

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near Cherbourg where his family originated - Brix or Bruce.

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The most famous of all Scottish kings sprang from this lineage.

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His name was Robert Bruce and he was not just of Norman stock.

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His father's marriage to the countess of Carrick

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had injected Celtic blood into the Bruce line.

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His mother, after all, was Countess of Carrick in her own right.

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The story was that when she met Robert's father,

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the Lord of Annandale, she fell for him in a big way,

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supposedly abducted him -

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this is a nicer version of the usual story -

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she abducted him, dragged him off to Turnberry Castle

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and they were inside for three days and when they emerged

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they announced they were getting married.

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And Robert Bruce was the product of whatever went on there.

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Carrick was part of Galloway, it was the northern part of Galloway,

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and it was definitely Gaelic speaking

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quite a long time after the reign of Robert Bruce.

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So, he was raised very much in a kind of Celtic or Gaelic speaking area,

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if you like, of Scotland.

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This, you could say is what really makes Robert Bruce and Edward

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and all the other brothers real hybrids, if you like,

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real sons of many kingdoms.

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I've come increasingly to think of it

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kind of as a search for a place for Bruce.

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I think he's brought up by his grandfather and his father,

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as are probably his brothers, as well, to expect some level

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of royal status, some enhanced level of political standing.

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Robert could aspire to be King of Scotland because he was related

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to a previous claimant to the throne.

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In 1302, he strengthened his position by marrying Elizabeth,

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the daughter of Richard de Burgh, The Earl of Ulster

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and one of the most powerful Anglo-Irish leaders.

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Because Richard de Burgh had a very eligible daughter in Elizabeth,

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who grew up here at Greencastle,

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there's a certain amount of matchmaking, we think,

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that Edward I and his...basically, one of his best friends,

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Richard de Burgh, said,

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"Well, we'll cobble together a marriage arrangement

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"between Robert Bruce and Elizabeth de Burgh."

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It's possible the marriage is dangled as a sort of carrot

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by Edward I himself.

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It's a way, from his point of view, of getting a leading lord

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of south-western Scotland, part of that Irish sea world,

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as an ally of the de Burgh Earl of Ulster,

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and stabilising the Irish situation.

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While Robert harboured a desire for the crown,

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Edward I had his own plans for Scotland.

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Edward I was an extremely successful,

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ambitious and ruthless monarch.

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And when he came to the moment in circa 1290,

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when he thinks that he can establish once and for all

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that he is overlord of Scotland,

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he doesn't stop for a moment in asserting that claim.

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He's turning it into another Ireland, another Wales,

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a land, not a realm.

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And I think that quite quickly turns him

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into a very strong figure of hate.

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There's now a difference between a Scot and an Englishman

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and Edward kind of marks it.

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The characteristics which the Scots later really like to label

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the English with of being arrogant, presumptuous, over-confident,

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are first and foremost attributed to Edward himself.

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Some refused to bend the knee.

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Among them was a young patriot named William Wallace, who waged

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a desperate guerrilla war against the English takeover.

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Robert Bruce hedged his bets.

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He supported Wallace, then he supported Edward.

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But foremost in his mind was his own claim to the Scottish throne.

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Robert does have this reputation for being slightly schizophrenic,

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allying himself to Edward and the English one day,

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and then the Scots the next.

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And I think that duplicity... to understand that

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we've really got to see Robert Bruce in context.

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He tries the political solution, the diplomatic solution,

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move to the Scots, under Wallace for a bit, then leave them,

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go back to the lordship of Edward I, cause that's a better bet.

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After all, Edward I's the head honcho in western Europe,

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practically, so that's where the power base is,

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that's where you should hang in if you want to advance the interests

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of your people.

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He's a pragmatist.

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He will take whatever path he needs to take

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to get to where he wants to go.

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And if one day that means he's got to, basically, give himself up

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to the English and fight on their side, he will do.

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If he wanted to be king of Scotland,

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Robert had to deal with his main rival John Comyn.

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And, in 1307, when the two men met at Greyfriars Abbey in Dumfries,

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an event took place that shaped the future of Scotland forever.

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He rode there at once

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and met with Sir John Comyn in the Grey Friars, at the high altar.

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In a mocking manner he showed him the indenture,

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and then with a knife took his life on that very spot.

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Because of it such great misfortune befell him.

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The killing of Comyn is a real puzzle in terms of where the Church stood,

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because we have to understand that when Bruce killed Comyn

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he did it at the altar of the Church of the Greyfriars in Dumfries.

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And when you kill somebody in hot blood, at the altar,

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you're automatically excommunicated.

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So, it's surprising then that Bruce seems to have garnished

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so much support from the Scottish Church.

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You would have expected the opposite to happen,

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that they would hold him in total disregard.

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He's a heretic, he's damned to hell for eternity,

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but they don't see it that way for some reason, they...

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Some remarkable talent rallies around Bruce.

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And I think that's strange.

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That action, whether it is premeditated murder

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or an act of rage in an argument, that's the turning point.

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He has a lightning decision to make.

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Either he goes on the run, he basically becomes a fugitive

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or he grasps the thistle and goes for the throne.

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As soon as we get to that point where Comyn is killed,

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the path is straight ahead,

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and the path is conflict between Bruce and the king of England.

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With the support of the Scottish Church,

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Robert had himself crowned King of Scots.

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But Edward I moved quickly to crush the upstart king.

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He captured several members of the Bruce family

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and had them killed or imprisoned.

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Robert's wife, Elizabeth de Burgh, was taken captive.

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Robert was now a hunted man.

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With his followers reduced to only a small band of men

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he fled to the Western Isles of Scotland.

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For it was nearly winter and there were so many enemies around him

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that all the country made war on him.

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Such dreadful misfortunes tested them then -

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like hunger, cold and cutting rain - that no-one alive can tell it all.

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Robert Bruce found himself at the Mull of Kintyre,

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on the very edge of Scotland.

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From here he could see the coast of Ulster.

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Not for the last time, the thought struck him

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that the Irish could help in the war with England.

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When we're trying to understand him and his ultimate success

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and when we're trying to understand

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what on Earth they were up to in Ireland,

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it's something about his background in the Gaelic world

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that provides us with part of the key to that.

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From Kintyre, Bruce made the short sea journey

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to Rathlin Island off the Antrim coast.

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He is supposed to have hidden here with his followers in a dank cave,

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accessible only by boat.

0:22:180:22:21

It seems that he planned to regain the throne

0:22:210:22:23

with the help of Irish allies.

0:22:230:22:25

In fact, his two younger brothers, Thomas and Alexander Bruce,

0:22:250:22:29

had raised an Irish army and landed in Scotland.

0:22:290:22:33

But their mission came to nothing

0:22:330:22:35

and the brothers were captured and executed by Edward I.

0:22:350:22:39

It would be nearly a decade before Robert could cement his alliance

0:22:400:22:44

with the Irish.

0:22:440:22:45

Open the gate!

0:22:470:22:49

Open the gate!

0:22:490:22:52

Open the gate!

0:22:520:22:53

Open the gate!

0:22:530:22:55

In July 1307, Edward I died and in a single stroke

0:23:020:23:08

the greatest obstacle to Scottish freedom was removed.

0:23:080:23:11

Shortly before he dies,

0:23:130:23:14

Edward has a couple of English friars executed for stating

0:23:140:23:19

that Robert Bruce is the subject of the prophecies of Merlin.

0:23:190:23:23

And that means that Robert Bruce

0:23:230:23:25

is a second King Arthur,

0:23:250:23:26

that his destiny is to unite

0:23:260:23:29

Wales and Ireland and Scotland

0:23:290:23:32

against England, and drive the hated English dragon

0:23:320:23:37

back into the North Sea whence it came.

0:23:370:23:39

King Edward I would be long remembered as the most ruthless

0:23:400:23:44

and vindictive foe ever faced by Scotland.

0:23:440:23:48

His tomb in Westminster Abbey was inscribed with the words

0:23:480:23:52

Scottorum Malleus, Hammer of the Scots.

0:23:520:23:57

But his son, who now succeeded him as Edward II,

0:23:570:24:01

would prove to be a much less formidable opponent.

0:24:010:24:04

Be near your surviving comrades who yet strive for glory.

0:24:360:24:43

Inspire us to emulate your actions

0:24:430:24:47

that our efforts may prove glorious.

0:24:470:24:52

In 1314, an army led by Robert Bruce faced the English in battle.

0:24:560:25:03

The fight took place south of Stirling, somewhere near a stream

0:25:030:25:07

known as the Bannock Burn.

0:25:070:25:09

For hundreds of years,

0:25:090:25:11

there have been arguments as to the exact location of the battle.

0:25:110:25:15

In 2013, military historian and archaeologist Tony Pollard

0:25:150:25:20

spent a year searching and eventually locating

0:25:200:25:23

the site of the most important battle in Scottish history.

0:25:230:25:28

It was the pivotal encounter in the long and brutal war between Scotland

0:25:280:25:33

and England and it was very much a case of David and Goliath.

0:25:330:25:37

The Scots were outnumbered two to one.

0:25:370:25:41

Leading up to the battle,

0:25:410:25:42

Edward had been in command of the Siege of Stirling Castle.

0:25:420:25:46

And it's that siege that brings about the battle.

0:25:460:25:49

It's that siege that coaxes the English army north.

0:25:490:25:52

So you've got these three massive divisions of well-trained men

0:25:530:25:56

delivering a massive victory of the common man, really.

0:25:560:26:01

These are men on foot.

0:26:010:26:03

Many of these men are just commoners,

0:26:030:26:05

they're farmers, they're people from the town.

0:26:050:26:09

And it must have been incredibly demeaning for the English

0:26:090:26:12

who have at the heart of their army the nobility,

0:26:120:26:16

men on expensive horses wearing state-of-the-art armour.

0:26:160:26:20

They're literally brought to their knees.

0:26:200:26:22

The Scots absolutely wipe the floor with them.

0:26:220:26:26

It's an absolute disaster for the English

0:26:260:26:28

and a huge triumph for the Scots.

0:26:280:26:31

Bannockburn would go down in history

0:26:360:26:39

as Scotland's greatest single victory over England.

0:26:390:26:42

Slowly but surely, Robert Bruce was driving the invaders

0:26:420:26:47

back to their homeland.

0:26:470:26:49

There has been a tendency for Scottish historians

0:27:000:27:04

to ignore the aftermath of Bannockburn.

0:27:040:27:07

It really should be the wonderful climax to Bruces' career

0:27:070:27:10

and he has to drip on for another, what is it, 16 years

0:27:100:27:17

before the English actually recognise his title

0:27:170:27:19

as King of Scots.

0:27:190:27:21

Robert Bruce wanted the English to recognise

0:27:210:27:23

the independence of Scotland.

0:27:230:27:25

That didn't change.

0:27:250:27:26

But he also wanted one thing more than that, of course,

0:27:260:27:29

he wanted them to recognise the independence of Scotland

0:27:290:27:31

with him as its king and that didn't change one iota after Bannockburn.

0:27:310:27:37

So, he was probably scratching his head,

0:27:370:27:40

trying to figure out what he might do next.

0:27:400:27:42

This must've been very, very depressing

0:27:420:27:45

and it seems to be one of the reasons why he has to open up

0:27:450:27:49

new fronts in the war with the English after Bannockburn.

0:27:490:27:55

Despite the great Scottish victory, there was another crucial chapter

0:27:550:27:59

in the story of the war against the English.

0:27:590:28:01

But this part of the tale would be told not in Scotland

0:28:020:28:07

but in Ireland.

0:28:070:28:08

The Anglo-Irish colonists in the country

0:28:080:28:11

would have been devastated by the news that this upstart Scot

0:28:110:28:15

had defeated their king and I'm pretty sure that nearly everyone

0:28:150:28:18

in Gaelic Ireland would have thought that this was bloody good news.

0:28:180:28:21

In April 1315, Robert Bruce called a parliament at Ayr

0:28:280:28:33

in South West Scotland to decide on the future campaign.

0:28:330:28:38

It has always been thought that it was from here that Robert Bruce

0:28:380:28:42

sent forth a famous appeal to the Irish.

0:28:420:28:45

The King sends greetings to all the kings of Ireland,

0:28:480:28:53

to the prelates and clergy,

0:28:530:28:56

and to the inhabitants of all Ireland, his friends.

0:28:560:29:00

Whereas we and you and our people and your people,

0:29:020:29:06

free since ancient times, share the same national ancestry

0:29:060:29:11

and are urged to come together more eagerly and joyfully

0:29:110:29:15

in friendship by a common language and by common custom.

0:29:150:29:21

It was only discovered in the 1950s or thereabouts.

0:29:230:29:26

It's a tremendously interesting letter from Robert Bruce

0:29:260:29:30

and it's a very kind of potent call to the Irish

0:29:300:29:33

to join forces with the Scots.

0:29:330:29:36

It's an appeal to some kind of ancient bond between the two.

0:29:360:29:40

But what if the letter dates from a much earlier period?

0:29:430:29:48

Had Robert Bruce always yearned to unite the Celtic nations?

0:29:480:29:52

Sean Duffy of Trinity College Dublin believes that the letter

0:29:520:29:55

was composed around 1306,

0:29:550:29:59

when Robert and his followers were based on Rathlin Island.

0:29:590:30:03

When you get down to the small print of the letter as it were,

0:30:040:30:07

he says that the envoys he's sending are these two men called T and A.

0:30:070:30:12

He just gives the initials

0:30:120:30:13

because that's the way the letter has survived.

0:30:130:30:16

It's pretty certain that that letter that Robert sent,

0:30:190:30:22

the envoys mentioned in it are his brothers Thomas and Alexander

0:30:220:30:26

and so, it belongs in the winter of 1306 to 1307,

0:30:260:30:30

when he was in a lot of trouble

0:30:300:30:31

and he was hanging on by his fingernails

0:30:310:30:34

to the throne of Scotland,

0:30:340:30:36

and he wanted an Irish alliance to join sides with him

0:30:360:30:39

against the English.

0:30:390:30:41

"We have sent you our beloved kinsmen,

0:30:410:30:45

"the bearers of this letter,

0:30:450:30:48

"to negotiate with you in our name

0:30:480:30:50

"about permanently strengthening and maintaining inviolate

0:30:500:30:56

"a special friendship between us and you,

0:30:560:31:01

"so that with God's will,

0:31:010:31:03

"our nation may be able to recover her ancient liberty."

0:31:030:31:07

And there's a tendency by some people to think that Robert Bruce,

0:31:090:31:12

because he's from a predominately Anglo-Norman background,

0:31:120:31:16

that this must be pure cynicism on his part, and, you know

0:31:160:31:20

because, how could he dare talk about our nation,

0:31:200:31:24

the Scots and Irish nation,

0:31:240:31:25

and our common language, as if he was a Gaelic speaker

0:31:250:31:29

and imbued with all things Gaelic.

0:31:290:31:32

The letter is genuine.

0:31:330:31:35

It seems to me the letter was sent by Robert

0:31:350:31:37

right at the start of his reign.

0:31:370:31:39

It seems to me it won a lot of backing for him in Ireland

0:31:390:31:43

and I think, therefore, we have to accept that

0:31:430:31:45

there was a Gaelic side to Robert Bruce's character.

0:31:450:31:49

I think the existence of this document,

0:31:520:31:54

and I think Sean's right in this, actually,

0:31:540:31:57

does imply very much that there's some understanding,

0:31:570:32:01

before the letter, if you like,

0:32:010:32:03

some sense of what may be a nacio, a nation.

0:32:030:32:07

That's very powerful.

0:32:070:32:09

This is a statement, if you like, if there's such a thing,

0:32:090:32:11

of kind of Gaelic...nationality,

0:32:110:32:16

if you could call it such.

0:32:160:32:18

The trouble is, the danger here is

0:32:180:32:20

whether we can use words to describe concepts in the past

0:32:200:32:26

where they didn't have words for them themselves,

0:32:260:32:28

this is our problem.

0:32:280:32:29

So if nationalism is a word

0:32:290:32:31

that doesn't come into the English language until the 19th century,

0:32:310:32:34

can we apply it to people

0:32:340:32:36

who were living in the 13th or the 14th centuries?

0:32:360:32:39

Personally, I would say, yes, we can.

0:32:390:32:41

If it's not nationalism we're talking about,

0:32:410:32:43

it's that by almost any other name.

0:32:430:32:45

During one long winter on Rathlin Island,

0:32:510:32:56

I dreamed we would assist the sons and daughters

0:32:560:33:03

of our sister nation

0:33:030:33:04

in their fight against the common foe,

0:33:040:33:07

the English...

0:33:070:33:09

..and in doing so, reunite the Celtic people.

0:33:100:33:15

Scotland under Robert Bruce

0:33:170:33:19

and Ireland...

0:33:190:33:21

..under Edward.

0:33:230:33:24

Were we not colonised by the Irish?

0:33:270:33:31

Been bound by blood, family, language?

0:33:310:33:35

Were we not Christianised from the same source?

0:33:360:33:39

Preparations have been made.

0:33:400:33:43

We will be one with Ireland.

0:33:450:33:48

After Bannockburn, he feels you've got to carry the torch to the enemy.

0:33:500:33:54

This was Bruce's number one weapon

0:33:540:33:57

in trying to get some sense out of the English kings

0:33:570:34:00

to recognise the legitimacy of his kingship.

0:34:000:34:03

The notion was, just as we're opening up

0:34:030:34:06

a front in the North of England,

0:34:060:34:07

let's open up one in Ireland.

0:34:070:34:09

Assembling to himself men of great courage,

0:34:300:34:34

then he took ship at Ayr in the following month of May,

0:34:340:34:38

and took his way straight to Ireland.

0:34:380:34:40

They have undertaken a great project

0:34:410:34:43

when with so few as they were there,

0:34:430:34:45

they prepared to conquer all Ireland,

0:34:450:34:48

where they would see many thousands come armed to fight against them.

0:34:480:34:52

But, although few...

0:34:520:34:54

they were brave.

0:34:540:34:56

Battlefield archaeologist Tony Pollard

0:35:000:35:03

was born in England,

0:35:030:35:04

but his grandparents are from Ireland,

0:35:040:35:06

and he lives and works in Scotland.

0:35:060:35:08

He's a living example of the close links between the three countries.

0:35:100:35:14

And he's fascinated by the incredible events

0:35:150:35:17

that brought them together in bloody conflict 700 years ago.

0:35:170:35:21

Today, Larne Harbour is the most important port

0:35:230:35:26

between Ireland and Scotland on the Irish side.

0:35:260:35:29

In 1315, this would have been the place

0:35:290:35:33

where Edward Bruce's Scottish army came together

0:35:330:35:36

after landing on the beaches

0:35:360:35:38

all the way up and down this coast.

0:35:380:35:40

Around 6,000 men carried in 300 boats, it's said,

0:35:400:35:45

and these boats were birlinns,

0:35:450:35:47

they were West Highland galleys.

0:35:470:35:49

And they would have plied a daily trade

0:35:490:35:52

between here and Scotland,

0:35:520:35:53

and up and down the west coast of Scotland,

0:35:530:35:55

they wouldn't have been an uncommon sight.

0:35:550:35:57

But to have been on the hills behind us,

0:36:020:36:04

and seeing 300 of these heading towards these shores,

0:36:040:36:08

must have been incredibly daunting.

0:36:080:36:10

HE SHOUTS INSTRUCTIONS

0:36:300:36:33

Scots are used as the kind of traditional bogeymen.

0:36:360:36:38

"The Scots will come and get you."

0:36:380:36:41

And then, in May, the Scots are no longer separated from them

0:36:410:36:44

by a stretch of land,

0:36:440:36:46

they're actually here,

0:36:460:36:47

which throws the whole of the Anglo-Norman community into a panic.

0:36:470:36:51

They've never really expected to end up fighting the Scots

0:36:510:36:54

in their own back yard.

0:36:540:36:55

So when 6,000 of them come into Antrim,

0:36:550:36:58

this is like their worst nightmare come true.

0:36:580:37:02

Right, and the thing is now, Tony, do you see what's over there?

0:37:170:37:20

-That...

-How close?

-Ailsa Craig!

-Yeah.

0:37:200:37:24

-So that's Scotland.

-It's Scotland.

0:37:240:37:27

We're on the hill just above the town of Larne on the coast

0:37:290:37:32

and this is said to be the site of the first battle of the campaign.

0:37:320:37:36

Absolutely, Tony.

0:37:360:37:37

This is where Sir Thomas Mandeville

0:37:370:37:39

gathers all the Norman lords from Ulster,

0:37:390:37:42

the Bissets, the Savages, the Logans,

0:37:420:37:44

gathers them here, concentrates, cos he can see Larne over there.

0:37:440:37:48

This is a victorious army.

0:37:570:37:59

Bruce has got about 5,000 or 6,000 men with him.

0:37:590:38:02

They are the men that smashed Edward II's army at Bannockburn.

0:38:020:38:06

-It's D-Day down there.

-This is D-Day, yes.

0:38:060:38:08

If Mandeville manages to hold Bruce here,

0:38:080:38:11

the campaign's off.

0:38:110:38:13

-Or even kick him back into the sea.

-Kick him back into the sea.

0:38:130:38:15

SOLDIERS GROAN

0:38:180:38:22

THUNDER RUMBLES

0:38:380:38:41

Edward Bruce knew that he could count on certain allies in Ireland.

0:38:550:39:00

First and foremost, was Domhnall O'Neill, the king of Tyrone,

0:39:000:39:04

who had pledged to support the Scots.

0:39:040:39:06

MAON: Robert had made able preparations,

0:39:110:39:14

but we would have no success in Ireland

0:39:140:39:16

without the help of the Irish families.

0:39:160:39:19

Their attitude towards him was the pivot

0:39:190:39:22

on which all his plans were based.

0:39:220:39:24

Domhnall O'Neill was a descendant of the ancient high kings of Ireland.

0:39:270:39:31

He was in no doubt about his own royal blood

0:39:310:39:35

and his own place at the apex of the, you know, pyramid of power

0:39:350:39:40

in Gaelic Ireland.

0:39:400:39:42

You know, the problem was, though, for him

0:39:420:39:44

that many other Irish people rejected his claim to be High King.

0:39:440:39:49

You know, if you were a descendant of Brian Boru,

0:39:490:39:51

you weren't necessarily convinced that it was O'Neills' ancestors

0:39:510:39:55

who had a monopoly on the high kingship.

0:39:550:39:57

He was a realist who recognised

0:39:590:40:01

that his own interests could be served best

0:40:010:40:04

if they could all unite behind another figure.

0:40:040:40:07

Sure he was into it for what he could get out of it,

0:40:080:40:11

like all politicians and like all powerful men.

0:40:110:40:14

DOMHNALL O'NEILL: Though the Irish hunt be poor,

0:40:190:40:21

and though our face be small,

0:40:210:40:23

he sees his little lot as the lot of all.

0:40:230:40:28

No prince's palace rears its head

0:40:280:40:31

to shame the meanness of his humble bed.

0:40:310:40:35

THEY LAUGH

0:40:350:40:37

Man is worthy of this world

0:40:370:40:40

who rejoices in the world

0:40:400:40:42

and makes the most of it.

0:40:420:40:43

THEY LAUGH

0:40:430:40:46

The English king, and the English lords born in Ireland

0:40:550:41:00

have heartlessly inflicted cruel injuries

0:41:000:41:05

on us...and on our ancestors.

0:41:050:41:08

They have forced us to live on mountains and in forests and bogs

0:41:110:41:16

and other barren places like wild animals.

0:41:160:41:19

It's not just their laymen,

0:41:220:41:25

but even some of their clergy say

0:41:250:41:27

that it is no more a sin to kill an Irishman

0:41:270:41:30

than it is to kill a dog or other brute creature.

0:41:300:41:33

So we are compelled to enter into a deadly war with them.

0:41:350:41:39

If ever thou hast occasion for assistance

0:41:410:41:44

to repel an invader or attack a foe...

0:41:440:41:48

..call on Scotland...

0:41:500:41:51

..whom thy hospitality has taught to be grateful...

0:41:530:41:55

..and on whose heart thy kindness has made a deep impression.

0:41:560:42:01

Today, Carrickfergus is a satellite town of Belfast,

0:42:210:42:25

but in the 14th century,

0:42:250:42:27

Belfast was no more than a tiny village

0:42:270:42:30

and Carrickfergus was the most important town in Ulster,

0:42:300:42:34

a strategic outpost of great military significance.

0:42:340:42:38

It was vitally important that Edward Bruce capture it

0:42:380:42:41

to prevent the English from landing an army there.

0:42:410:42:44

Castles like Carrickfergus were the power base

0:42:450:42:48

for the Anglo-Normans or the Anglo-Irish.

0:42:480:42:51

These were the people that had come in

0:42:510:42:52

and taken over Gaelic Ireland.

0:42:520:42:54

And these were the people that

0:42:540:42:55

Bruce was intending to have a go at in his invasion.

0:42:550:42:58

So, for Edward Bruce, this castle is a very important target

0:42:580:43:02

and he's very keen to take it.

0:43:020:43:04

Cos he has to take Carrickfergus.

0:43:040:43:06

If he can take Carrickfergus

0:43:060:43:08

that means that Robert's position

0:43:080:43:10

in his wars against the English in the north,

0:43:100:43:13

it opens up everything.

0:43:130:43:15

If they can take Carrickfergus,

0:43:150:43:18

then the entire Northern Sea zone is theirs,

0:43:180:43:21

and probably the entire sea zone right down towards Bristol.

0:43:210:43:25

And if you can cut off that channel,

0:43:250:43:28

then the oxygen to the supply routes for Edward II are almost extinct.

0:43:280:43:33

Surely, one motive behind the Irish invasion

0:43:350:43:39

was that they could somehow damage the English supply routes

0:43:390:43:43

and the sources of English supply.

0:43:430:43:45

Now, if you could cut off that kind of supply,

0:43:450:43:47

you could make a big dent in enemy support,

0:43:470:43:51

or support for the enemy,

0:43:510:43:53

and I think Ireland was,

0:43:530:43:55

Ireland's recognised to have been

0:43:550:43:57

a very important bread basket for the English.

0:43:570:44:00

The Scots took Carrickfergus town without much difficulty.

0:44:030:44:07

The castle was a more difficult proposition.

0:44:070:44:10

Edward Bruce did not have the siege equipment needed

0:44:100:44:13

to take the castle by storm.

0:44:130:44:14

So he surrounded it

0:44:140:44:16

and prepared to starve its garrison into submission.

0:44:160:44:19

When Edward Bruce arrives in Ireland in 1315,

0:44:190:44:24

he's very keen to identify himself with Carrickfergus.

0:44:240:44:28

And indeed, it's while he's here

0:44:280:44:30

that around a dozen Gaelic chiefs, or even minor kings,

0:44:300:44:34

come to him and proclaim him High King of Ireland.

0:44:340:44:38

"Then all the kings of the Irishry came to Sir Edward

0:44:450:44:48

"and did their homage to him.

0:44:480:44:50

"He was well set now,

0:44:500:44:52

"and in a good way, to conquer the land altogether

0:44:520:44:55

"for he had on his side the Irish and Ulster."

0:44:550:44:58

All hail Edward the Bruce,

0:44:590:45:02

High King of all Ireland.

0:45:020:45:04

With Edward now proclaimed High King of Ireland,

0:45:080:45:11

many Gaelic leaders threw their support behind the Bruce invasion.

0:45:110:45:16

Allegiance to a Scottish king in Ireland

0:45:180:45:21

was preferable to supporting an absent English king.

0:45:210:45:24

There were Irish allies of the Bruces

0:45:270:45:29

who had convinced them that this would work.

0:45:290:45:31

The Irish wanted the English out.

0:45:320:45:35

The Irish had proved themselves incapable of uniting behind

0:45:350:45:38

any one figure within Ireland.

0:45:380:45:41

And so, the best thing, therefore,

0:45:410:45:43

was to get somebody from outside Ireland,

0:45:430:45:45

behind whom they could align.

0:45:450:45:48

It's an interesting part of the history of Ireland and Scotland.

0:45:490:45:53

There are cultural links, there's no doubt about that.

0:45:530:45:55

But really, it's a significant political leap between them,

0:45:550:46:01

with Edward coming over and claiming the High Kingship,

0:46:010:46:04

and you could say it was misguided,

0:46:040:46:07

you could say it's political sleight of hand,

0:46:070:46:09

you could say a lot of things.

0:46:090:46:10

But really, I think it does indicate that there's a recognition,

0:46:100:46:15

even though he's a politician,

0:46:150:46:17

there is a recognition that there's a possibility here

0:46:170:46:19

that there's something he could build on.

0:46:190:46:22

The strength of the cultural ties was enduring

0:46:220:46:25

and had been going on since the early Middle Ages.

0:46:250:46:27

The Anglo Irish had been completely taken off guard by the invasion

0:46:290:46:33

and were even slower to react.

0:46:330:46:35

The English king told his representative in Dublin,

0:46:350:46:38

Edmund Butler,

0:46:380:46:39

to gather the Anglo-Irish lords and raise an army.

0:46:390:46:43

The most powerful of these lords was Richard de Burgh,

0:46:430:46:46

the Earl of Ulster.

0:46:460:46:47

He was also Robert Bruce's father-in-law.

0:46:490:46:51

The Scots marched south through de Burgh's lands in Ulster,

0:46:530:46:56

into a gap between Slieve Gullion to the west

0:46:560:47:00

and the Cooley Mountains to the east.

0:47:000:47:02

This area is known as the Moyry Pass,

0:47:020:47:05

and to this day, it is an important corridor

0:47:050:47:08

between Ireland north and south.

0:47:080:47:10

Edward Bruce was now being guided into Leinster

0:47:130:47:16

by people who had old scores to settle

0:47:160:47:19

with local Anglo-Norman lords.

0:47:190:47:22

The most notorious Anglo-Norman family was the de Verdons

0:47:220:47:26

who held extensive estates in the Meath and Louth areas.

0:47:260:47:29

The de Verdons had enforced a violent claim over the people,

0:47:310:47:34

essentially ruling the area by fear and extortion.

0:47:340:47:38

This was a de Verdon castle,

0:47:400:47:42

and they were to be really quite important players

0:47:420:47:46

in the fight against the Scottish invasion.

0:47:460:47:48

The Feudal system is really like a protection racket.

0:47:560:48:00

If you're a tenant or a peasant,

0:48:000:48:02

you pay taxes or you do service for your lord.

0:48:020:48:06

But in return, your lord will protect you.

0:48:060:48:09

And that's what this castle is designed to do,

0:48:100:48:14

is to...symbolise that power

0:48:140:48:18

and that ability to protect,

0:48:180:48:20

but it doesn't really work.

0:48:200:48:23

Bruce comes down from Ulster with his army.

0:48:230:48:28

He takes one look at this,

0:48:280:48:30

and very sensibly thinks,

0:48:300:48:32

"We're already tied up with one siege at Carrickfergus.

0:48:320:48:35

"This place looks pretty impregnable,

0:48:350:48:38

"we'll give it a swerve."

0:48:380:48:40

So, they just leave it.

0:48:400:48:42

But there's more than one way to skin a cat,

0:48:420:48:46

and what they do is they burn the nearby town of Dundalk.

0:48:460:48:49

And that demonstrates to the local population

0:48:510:48:54

that their lords and masters no longer have the ability

0:48:540:48:58

to protect them.

0:48:580:48:59

And it does exactly what taking that castle would do,

0:48:590:49:03

but it's much easier.

0:49:030:49:04

PEOPLE SCREAM

0:49:070:49:11

Dundalk suffered very severely

0:49:260:49:28

during the course of the Bruce invasion.

0:49:280:49:30

Not indiscriminately.

0:49:300:49:32

I believe it was because it was held by the de Verdons.

0:49:320:49:35

If you look at all the places they attack,

0:49:360:49:38

there's usually a local political reason for it,

0:49:380:49:42

it's not some kind of indiscriminate,

0:49:420:49:45

you know, carpet bombing of Ireland by them.

0:49:450:49:48

Unless the king of England invades Scotland again,

0:49:500:49:52

the Scots will try to conquer Ireland this winter,

0:49:520:49:55

and the Irish of Ireland will help them.

0:49:550:49:58

I have lost everything fighting Edward Bruce,

0:49:580:50:01

my lands, my horses, my armour, my rents and my revenues.

0:50:010:50:05

ARMY SHOUTS IN THE DISTANCE

0:50:050:50:08

There was very little concerted opposition

0:50:160:50:18

to Edward Bruce to begin with,

0:50:180:50:20

but by the end of his first summer in Ireland,

0:50:200:50:23

the government was beginning to get its act together

0:50:230:50:25

and it realised they'd have to get an army and march after him

0:50:250:50:29

and try and meet him in the field.

0:50:290:50:31

Richard de Burgh was Earl of Ulster.

0:50:390:50:42

He created an almost impenetrable, invincible realm for himself,

0:50:420:50:46

he's one of the most powerful Anglo-Norman magnates on the island.

0:50:460:50:50

He controls lands in Connaught,

0:50:500:50:52

he controls most of the land around here in Ulster.

0:50:520:50:56

He's the one who says to the chief governor Edmund Butler

0:50:570:51:01

that he wants to tackle Bruce himself.

0:51:010:51:04

-RICHARD DE BURGH:

-I have here a force of my own of 20 battalions.

0:51:040:51:09

It is large enough to expel an equal number from the country,

0:51:090:51:13

or to kill them in it.

0:51:130:51:15

He wants to go back to Ulster

0:51:150:51:18

and actually wrestle Ulster back from the Bruces,

0:51:180:51:21

because it's almost like a personal insult to him.

0:51:210:51:23

This is his son-in-law effectively saying,

0:51:230:51:25

"I'm going to send my brother over to take away your personal kingdom."

0:51:250:51:30

Richard de Burgh effectively says,

0:51:300:51:32

"I'm not having this."

0:51:320:51:34

He decides that, "I'm going to march from Connaught,

0:51:340:51:36

"I'm going to take my Gaelic allies,

0:51:360:51:38

"and we're going to defeat Bruce in my back yard effectively."

0:51:380:51:43

Looking at this site, do you think this bit's a bit more prehistoric

0:52:280:52:32

than the sight across the way?

0:52:320:52:33

I don't know, it's...

0:52:330:52:35

I can see a big stone wall over there.

0:52:350:52:37

-I know, that looks extremely interesting.

-Oh, wow.

0:52:370:52:40

Look at them, how big are these stones, Tony?

0:52:400:52:42

-It's massive, isn't it? Careful here, it's collapsing.

-I know.

0:52:420:52:46

This is known as the Old Fort,

0:52:460:52:48

or, actually, known locally in Connor as the trench.

0:52:480:52:51

-But it's a motte isn't it, of some sort?

-It is.

0:52:510:52:54

Why is it here? What function is it serving?

0:52:540:52:56

Well, the thing about Connor is

0:52:560:52:57

it's a very important Anglo-Norman ecclesiastical centre.

0:52:570:53:02

We think it might have been fortified,

0:53:020:53:04

so whenever de Burgh is coming up chasing after Bruce's army,

0:53:040:53:08

-he suddenly finds himself out of supply.

-Yeah.

0:53:080:53:11

He comes from Antrim to here,

0:53:110:53:13

because it has stores of whatever they need.

0:53:130:53:16

Now, he comes here to defend it and takes those stores.

0:53:160:53:19

Bruce is out there watching him.

0:53:190:53:22

De Burgh comes up here with an Irish ally, Felim O'Connor.

0:53:300:53:33

Felim O'Connor, however,

0:53:330:53:35

halfway through this campaign of chasing up to Coleraine,

0:53:350:53:38

goes back down to Connaught.

0:53:380:53:39

So de Burgh is actually left high and dry.

0:53:390:53:42

Sir Philip Mowbray actually organises Scots

0:53:420:53:45

to go and wave banners,

0:53:450:53:47

and taunts the Anglo-Normans to come out and chase him,

0:53:470:53:50

come out and chase him.

0:53:500:53:52

De Burgh sees the banners

0:53:520:53:54

and they go out in that direction

0:53:540:53:56

and they're hit in the flank,

0:53:560:53:57

and then Bruce sees the battle and suddenly joins in.

0:53:570:54:01

They refer to this battle as being

0:54:010:54:03

one of the bloodiest of the campaigns,

0:54:030:54:05

the field is wet with blood.

0:54:050:54:07

He says, yeah, as an archaeologist this is really interesting, he says,

0:54:070:54:10

"The field was wholly covered by weapons, arms and dead men."

0:54:100:54:14

"The field soon grew wet with blood.

0:54:260:54:29

"They fought there with such great fierceness,

0:54:290:54:31

"and struck such blows on each other

0:54:310:54:34

"with stick, with stone and with blow returned,

0:54:340:54:37

"as each side could land on the other,

0:54:370:54:40

"that it was dreadful to see."

0:54:400:54:42

HE SCREAMS IN PAIN

0:54:430:54:46

De Burgh is the most powerful lord in Ireland,

0:55:270:55:30

he's a battle brother of Edward I, he was at Bannockburn.

0:55:300:55:34

He is a military mind, he's a good, good warrior.

0:55:340:55:38

And yet when he comes up here, he is all powerful,

0:55:380:55:41

after the battle of Connor,

0:55:410:55:43

his power is almost completely broken.

0:55:430:55:45

He leaves here shattered.

0:55:480:55:50

After Connor, Ulster is Scottish.

0:55:520:55:56

It's no longer de Burgh's land at all.

0:55:560:55:58

If he thought that he was going to send a message to the Bruces,

0:56:030:56:06

that "Hang on here, this is my turf,"

0:56:060:56:09

what actually ends up happening

0:56:090:56:11

is he has to leave Ulster, he flees Ulster.

0:56:110:56:15

The Annals of Connaught refer to him rather wistfully,

0:56:150:56:18

as almost being like a wanderer, up and down the lands,

0:56:180:56:22

no lordship, no power.

0:56:220:56:24

Sheltron, front face!

0:56:280:56:30

Sheltron, arms! THEY SHOUT

0:56:320:56:34

Sheltron! THEY SHOUT BATTLE CRY

0:56:350:56:38

Ireland was only one front in Robert Bruce's war

0:56:380:56:41

against the English.

0:56:410:56:42

He had raided territories in northern England,

0:56:420:56:45

and personally led the army which laid siege

0:56:450:56:49

to the English border town of Carlisle.

0:56:490:56:52

No-one could deny that the Bruce brothers

0:56:520:56:54

were causing major problems for the English,

0:56:540:56:57

both at home and abroad.

0:56:570:56:59

The ma thai be, the mar honour all-out haff we...

0:57:030:57:08

..giff we ber it manlyly.

0:57:100:57:12

We are set her in juperty

0:57:150:57:16

to win honour or for to dey.

0:57:160:57:18

We are to fer fra hame to fley.

0:57:200:57:23

Tharfor lat ilk man worthi be.

0:57:230:57:26

Yone ar gadryngis of this countre,

0:57:280:57:30

and thai sal fley I trow it lychly.

0:57:300:57:33

And ilk man assaile thaim manlyly.

0:57:360:57:40

But if the judgment of heaven is called down on me and my people...

0:58:020:58:05

..what is to become of us?

0:58:060:58:08

I feel they must face the wrath of two kings

0:58:080:58:11

to convince them of their loyalty.

0:58:110:58:13

Prepare yourself for war.

0:58:130:58:15

HE SCREAMS

0:58:150:58:17

Treachery stops unashamed in Ireland among the nobility as well, I see.

0:58:190:58:23

FIRE ROARS

0:58:250:58:28

Robert the Bruce's invasion of English occupied Ireland in 1315 could have created a Celtic empire to challenge English dominance of the British Isles. This two part series explores one of history's most fascinating 'what ifs'.

In the first episode, Robert the Bruce's victory over the English at Bannockburn in 1314 did not put an end to Scotland's fight for independence. King Robert knew that his crown was not secure so he decided to open a 'second front' against the English and invade English occupied Ireland.

Robert and his brother Edward hatched an audacious plan - with the help of allies in Ulster they would unite the Scots and Irish in a powerful Celtic alliance against the English threat. In May 1315 a Scottish army landed in Ulster. The Bruce invasion looked like a great success.

The Gaelic Irish, disgruntled after 150 years of English oppression, would welcome the Scots with open arms. And at first, all went well - Edward was recognised as High King of Ireland by several leading Ulster lords. A formidable leader, he won a number of significant battles and captured English strongholds.

Was this the fulfilment of the widely believed prophecies of Merlin about a new King Arthur uniting the Celts?