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EXPLOSIONS MEN SHOUT AND CHANT
This programme contains some violent scenes
an army from Britain invaded Ireland,
numbering 6,000 battle-hardened veterans.
It was one of the most powerful foreign forces
ever to set foot in the country.
But this was no English army.
Its tough mail-clad soldiers were Scotsmen -
gallowglasses and fighting men
from the Highlands and Western Isles.
Their commander was Edward Bruce,
brother of Robert Bruce, the King of the Scots.
Schiltron, arms. MEN SHOUT
They had a simple objective.
To drive out the English and make Edward Bruce King of Ireland.
It was an ambitious plan.
In over 100 years,
no-one had succeeded in breaking the English stranglehold on Ireland.
This is a story of two Celtic nations.
A shared heritage and a forgotten war
that could have changed the course of history.
Soon after he arrived,
Edward Bruce had himself proclaimed High King of Ireland.
In a bid to forge an Irish-Scottish alliance,
support for Edward's claim came from Donal O'Neill,
the powerful king of Tyrone.
The English in Ireland, known as the Anglo-Irish,
were in disarray.
One of their greatest lords, Richard de Burgh,
had been crushed in battle.
Edward Bruce now had control of most of Ulster.
He brought his army southwards into Leinster,
hitting at the heart of Anglo-Irish power.
Winter 1315, 1316, the Scots are in a position where they're
actually on the threshold of sweeping everything
away in front of them.
You can't stop the Scots, they've had no serious reverse.
When the Bruces invaded Ireland,
the only people - almost without exception -
who supported them were the native Irish,
the reason being that if you were a member of the English colony
in Ireland and you joined the Bruces that made you a traitor.
So there was very little support for them in Anglo-Ireland.
Overwhelmingly, it became a war between the English in Ireland
and the native Irish, and they only had the backing of the native Irish.
The Scots knew that overall victory in Ireland was far from certain.
Before long, they were faced with a devastating enemy
that couldn't be defeated in battle.
The heavens showed anger, as if the spirits of our fallen foe were
imploring the unearthly powers to pour their gathered stores
on our unsheltered heads, threatening us with ruin.
Heavy rain had been falling in May 1315,
the month in which the Scots arrived in Ireland.
All summer long, the country was plagued by the worst weather
seen across Europe in generations.
When the time came to gather what was left of the harvest,
the reality was bleak.
There would not be enough food to last the winter.
This was the beginning of the Great European Famine,
one of the worst natural disasters in the continent's history.
For the early years of the 14th century,
Europe is subject to a series
of crop failures, and that culminates in the Great Famine of 1315-17.
Life was pretty difficult in general in Ireland.
By the time Edward Bruce arrives in 1315,
the population would probably have been substantially weakened.
It's a poor country, people are subject to...
I suppose, the inequities of war all the time,
whether you're in a Gaelic or an Anglo-Irish area.
Edward Bruce comes in here to a country where it's not exactly
optimum conditions for the population at that time.
In fact, it's going to become very difficult very quickly
from 1315 to 17.
"Many afflictions in all parts of Ireland,
"very many deaths, famine and many strange diseases, murders,
"and intolerable storms as well."
It's very telling that a number of the Irish annal sources
for the period and later
actually blame the famine itself on the presence
of the Bruce army, that somehow they've caused it
or worsened it. Although they also criticised the English forces
for adding to it, so there's certainly
a sense in which, for the ordinary purpose,
the two are run together.
If you think of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - War and Famine,
here's two of them being visited upon us at the same time.
In his first few months of being in Ireland, Edward Bruce clearly
rounds up large bodies of supply, spoil, booty
and ships it back to Scotland.
And it may be that supply was a central motive
to going there in the first place.
But by the time you get to 1316, 1317,
after two failed harvests, into your third bad winter,
livestock would be dwindling, population would be moving about
in search of food...
It's really a large part of the war itself.
"We left nothing but the harvest of a charred desert that was now
"the bitterness of dust and ashes.
"And in their affliction we began to see the hand of God
"outstretched to punish sin.
"Famine and sickness waited not to be invited, as the oppressed
"looked around for a protector, and finds he has none."
People in the Middle Ages understood their place, in a way.
That's the way the system worked.
So, if you were born into poverty,
you could look forward to an afterlife of heaven.
I mean, that's what was sold to them.
That keeps you in your place.
The world is run on these lines, there are those who work,
those who pray and those who fight.
And depending on which one you're born into, that's where you stay.
So there is an acceptance of that.
There's a kind of a fatalism about what you're born into.
There would be an idea that,
"This is my lot and this is what I have to put up with."
You are being punished, in a way, by suffering now,
for some unidentified sins that you or somebody else
did a while ago. So that is the world-view.
That is how calamitous events are understood,
like the Bruce invasion, like the famine,
like the Black Death that follows not that long afterwards.
As the year 1315 drew to a close,
Edward Bruce was campaigning in the Irish midlands.
He was many miles from his base in Ulster,
and his main priority was to find food and shelter for his army.
But in a scenario that was becoming more and more common,
the local population suffered the burden of war.
The idea is not to engage so much in actual battles,
as to take a phalanx - a huge number of men -
through a territory and devastate it.
Destroy anything in it that could help the residents
once you've passed through. So you kind of starve them out.
The chevauchee has been described as an early example of total warfare,
because it attacks women and children as well as men.
And I suspect that something like this might have been
in Edward's head in Ireland.
I have looked at an example of an attack on a settlement
outside Slane in County Meath.
There is an entry saying that 80 men, women and children
were killed by an attack of the Bruce.
So even from that you can just tell that it
must have been tremendously savage.
No quarter seems to have been given.
This was a village in an English-held area.
So what you do have, even in a country
which was used to quite savage warfare,
what was happening with Edward Bruce seems to have taken people
even then by surprise, in the ferocity of what was happening.
It's probably the worst time to be alive in the Middle Ages...
..the first half of the 14th century. It's pretty much hell.
Ravaged by famine, many areas were deserted.
Entire towns vanished at this time.
Like Ardreigh, near Athy.
This place was once a thriving settlement,
but was abandoned in the 14th century.
When a cemetery was excavated there,
over 1,000 skeletons were recovered.
Some of them date from the time of the Bruce invasion.
During the course of excavation works here, over 1,200 people
were found, so a full medieval population.
And we know this is actually an area the Bruce army
passes through, because they go through Athy
and the surrounding areas, so it was an area that would
have been affected without a shadow of a doubt by the wars.
When you come to look at how things really were for people
hundreds of years in the past, if you're looking at human remains
you're looking directly into the face of somebody who was
alive at the time the Bruce invasion was taking place.
The types of injuries that they sustain are
practically unimaginable to us now.
The tough aspect of their lives is just quite incredible.
The human remains like this are like a storybook
of people's lives at the time.
Here we have an individual that is male and aged between
35 and 45 years of age at death.
Evidence of interpersonal violence would be
evident by the presence of sharp force trauma to the skull,
which we have here in the frontal bone.
It comes in at a point, which has sharp edges on each side,
which indicates it may have been a sword and it comes to a point
just above the eye, which narrowly misses the eye.
So here we have the frontal bone,
which has the orbits of the eyes here and here,
and this is the ear.
This male was probably facing his assailant,
and a right-handed attack has come in, probably from a sword,
and it's swept in like this.
The sharp force trauma probably exposed the skull.
This individual is incredibly lucky, because he survived this blow.
And as well as this blade cut coming through here,
there is the blunt force trauma at the top of the head.
So either at the same time or two separate occasions,
this man was hit by two different weapon types.
A sharp force trauma, probably a sword,
and then a blunt force trauma,
which could be a variety of different weapons,
but the type of things in the medieval period that can inflict
this type of force are things like hammers,
that type of weaponry.
We have some from the same cemetery where people,
we can tell they've raised their arms
above their faces in an attempt to ward off blows.
So really the human remains are the human story
of what's going on at this time,
and this man is one of the people who lived through it.
Just a few miles northeast of the now vanished town of Ardreigh
is a huge artificial mound - the Motte of Ardscull.
Today, the motte is covered with trees,
but in the 14th century it had a very different appearance.
In January 1316, the Anglo-Irish lords gathered a great army here,
commanded by Edmund Butler -
the English king's representative in Ireland.
They knew the Scottish army was nearby
and were determined to destroy them once and for all.
Battlefield archaeologist Tony Pollard is following the trail
of Edward Bruce and the Scottish army
as they advanced through Ireland.
There can be no denying that this is pretty impressive.
We've been looking for battlefields
all the way down to get to here, and everywhere we've been
we've seen mottes, but they've all been much smaller than this.
Well, what we have here, Tony, is a very important settlement site.
So what we're looking at is this huge mound that originally
would have had a wooden palisade on the top.
It would have had a small garrison inside,
but what we see today is only a small fraction
really of what used to be here. There would have been
a major settlement that accompanied this motte.
And when the Anglo-Normans came to Ireland,
they constructed these mottes to try and control the landscape.
So you consistently find them beside routeways,
whether they're roads or rivers.
We're beside the road here, a road that undoubtedly
the Bruce army would have marched down originally.
The Bruce army is the largest army that's really ever come to the country.
And it's the largest army that will be seen for
-a number of hundred years in Ireland.
And an army that size has to operate
-along the major routeways.
It has to move close to these centres of power consistently,
and that's exactly what we have at Ardscull.
So these are like castles really, but built on the cheap?
That's exactly it, a quick fix to try
and control territory as quickly as they can.
The Anglo-Irish, they seem to have a fairly big army here,
they surely had an opportunity to smash the Scots,
who by this time must have been in a fairly dilapidated state,
but they kind of let it go, don't they?
Absolutely, there's no doubt that they significantly
outnumbered the Scots and should have won.
The Scots say there were about 50,000 English descending on them,
they had about 10,000 men and they defeat - using the tactics
that you would be familiar with at Bannockburn - the English.
If you then look at the other side of the accounts,
the Anglo-Irish accounts, what they're saying is
in fact, the Scots didn't have much to do with this battle at all,
that they had a bit of a disagreement among themselves,
and after killing about 70-odd Scots,
they lost five men and then had this argument
and leave the fields,
that it was really unfortunate what occurred to them here.
Whichever way you cut it,
it doesn't really bode well for the Anglo-Irish, does it?
Either they're defeated by the Scots through sheer force of arms,
or they can't agree among themselves what to do
and have a barney and then clear off.
And I think on the balance of evidence, you have to consider
that the Scots more than likely
defeated them militarily on the battlefield.
But the Scots are allowed to fight another day?
Yeah, allowed to fight on their terms
and to fight another day, and the war continues,
and the misery continues for everybody really.
Ardscull was a missed opportunity for the Anglo-Irish.
Edmund Butler had failed to take his best chance yet
to annihilate Edward Bruce.
And now Dublin lay open to assault by the victorious Scots.
However, in the days that followed the battle, they found themselves
caught in the fog of war, that cloud of uncertainty
when an army is unsure of its own capability
and its enemy's intentions.
The Scots were hungry and exhausted.
Edward Bruce knew they were in no condition to attack
the most important city in Ireland.
At the end of the first campaigning season, if you like,
contemporary opinion was that Bruce was winning.
He had the advantage and he had an opportunity
then to consolidate his position and work ahead.
The problem for him I suppose was that that first season in Ireland
was also the first of these famine years.
The conditions weren't ripe for him
to do something very elaborate to begin with.
I think even Edward Bruce was, you know,
even after his first matter of months in Ireland
he might have begun to think that
maybe it wasn't going to go as easily
as he had thought initially.
The Scots had no option but to begin
the slow and painful march north to their base in Ulster.
Their supplies were now almost gone,
and the men began to die of starvation.
What was happening during the course of the Bruce invasion
was very extreme.
Contemporary accounts say that people were struggling
so much they were resorting to cannibalism in parts of Ireland.
"It was said truly that some evil men were so distraught by famine
"that they dragged out of cemeteries the corpses of the buried,
"and roasted the bodies on spits
"and ate every single one of them.
"And women ate their sons for hunger."
It was a very bleak time, and I think the timing was
devastating from the Scots' point of view.
The weakened Scottish army limped back to Ulster.
Even there, the Scots were not secure, as Carrickfergus Castle -
the most important stronghold in the north -
still held out against them.
Edward Bruce relied on the tried and trusted weapon
of siege warfare - starvation.
The Scots don't really need big siege engines,
they don't need to be actively attacking this all the time,
they just sit outside in their siege camp and let nature take its course.
So it's an incredibly brutal conflict,
but it's not one that involves lobbing huge missiles inside.
It's just keeping them bottled up.
And at one point the Scots send emissaries into the castle
to negotiate and they're taken prisoner by the garrison.
And rumours start to leak out that these guys
have actually been eaten by the garrison, so hungry are they.
And eventually, nature does take its course, and around about
late July, August 1316, just over a year after the siege begins,
the castle opens its gates and Edward Bruce takes control.
This victory could not hide the fact that Edward Bruce was still
a long way from being recognised across the island
as the High King.
Fedhlim O'Connor, the King of Connacht,
now threw his lot in with Bruce
and attacked English settlements throughout the western province.
But he was defeated and killed in the Battle of Athenry.
Other Gaelic chiefs showed little or no interest
in joining the Scots.
The thing about Ireland in the Middle Ages,
which is not true of Scotland,
is that Ireland was a very polar society.
You had the native Irish and you had the English of Ireland,
so of course it probably was a bit naive
to think that they could put aside these internal divisions
and rise above it for some kind of,
in inverted commas, "national cause".
But Bruce still had the backing of a formidable Gaelic leader -
Donal O'Neill of Tyrone.
O'Neill's army represented the main Irish support
for the Scottish campaign.
Instead of fighting the English, we'll fight ourselves.
And so we owe to ourselves the miseries with which we are afflicted.
Degenerates. Manifestly unworthy of our ancestors.
It was by their valour and splendid deeds that
the Irish race in all the ages past retained our liberty.
We must be at harmony at home.
We must prosecute this war with our united forces.
If we are to regain our liberty.
The idea that they thought of themselves as distinctively Irish
does emerge, but Ireland is still a very divided country
for most of the Middle Ages.
That's the tragedy, is that they didn't band together
and work together, that just never happened.
You can argue that these Irish leaders SHOULD have
put their differences aside in this national cause.
You're asking a person to take a gamble on losing everything
that he has in the world for some greater cause,
and it was too much to ask.
Each of these Irish leaders was the head of a branch
of the family, he was somebody who was
trying to hold on to his land.
And ultimately, it's all about land.
Edward Bruce's campaign was losing momentum.
He desperately needed reinforcements and supplies
for his depleted and weakened army.
And only one man could provide such assistance.
In September 1316, Edward travelled to Fife to see his brother,
the King of Scotland himself, Robert Bruce.
The Irish are impressed.
The government is frightened of the wedge that has been thrust
so quickly into the heart of English influence -
and yet...you did not march on to the walls of Dublin?
My hand was forced.
Famine and fatigue wore weary my few remaining men
while Carrickfergus still lay under siege.
I could not afford a battle on two fronts.
I heeded your advice, brother.
Demand nothing until you have the force to enhance your claim.
I fear they must face the wrath of two kings
to convince them of their loyalty.
Replenish your stocks, reinforce your men...
prepare yourself for war.
It was always Edward Bruce that we see to the fore
in this invasion of Ireland,
and indeed Robert's contemporary biographer,
this man John Barbour, who wrote a very long poem
about Robert later on in the 14th century,
he paints Edward as a bit of a troublemaker and that
Robert wanted rid of him,
but I think there are other reasons for that.
All the contemporary evidence suggests that
Robert and Edward were very close.
Edward was Robert's right-hand man.
It could be that Edward was desirous of proving himself
as the worthy successor,
worthy potential successor to Robert Bruce.
Edward might have thought,
"Well, if I'm going to be the next King of Scots,
"maybe I should show that I've got the mettle for it,"
because he must have felt somewhat overshadowed,
I think, by his brother Robert.
The whole thread running through this story, I think,
is the relationship between the two brothers, Robert and Edward.
And it's a relationship that I don't think
has been given enough attention.
I think there are assumptions made about it,
and I think some of them are very wrong.
One of which is that Robert wanted to get his brother
out of the way, because he was a possible threat.
I think that's absolute nonsense.
Robert sent his brother to Ireland because he fully trusted him,
and I don't think it smacks at all of a suspicious
or difficult relationship between Edward and Robert.
And let's face it, the entire Bruce family
has almost been wiped out. All the other brothers are dead.
It's only that pair, and I think they've got a fairly close bond.
"King Robert arrived in Ireland in this way,
"and when he had stayed in Carrickfergus for three days,
"they consulted and decided that with all their men
"they would hold their way through all Ireland,
"from one end to the other."
It is to me very interesting that one fifth of John Barbour's poem
is devoted to the Irish expedition,
and that suggests that to contemporaries,
this was a really important thing, it was a big deal.
A much bigger deal than Scottish historians
have made of it ever since.
When Robert Bruce came into Ireland the army marched down
and they were clearly marching on Dublin.
Dublin was at the centre of everything in Ireland.
It was the headquarters of the English government,
and if you were going to topple English government in Ireland,
you had to get control of Dublin.
They came as far as Castleknock,
and they were looking at the city
and contemplating an assault on it, maybe the next morning.
But the citizens of Dublin, they went inside their walls
and burned the suburbs after them
to deny the Scots cover as they tried to get to the town.
The citizens of Dublin pull down their own walls,
they retreat within the very bastions of the core of the city,
the governor flees Dublin for Cork...
it's effectively wide open.
It's hard to see, other than the capture of Dublin,
what would have tipped the balance in Ireland.
I mean, it takes them over a year to take Carrickfergus,
and it falls, and it doesn't really make much difference.
What are they actually trying to achieve?
The problem for Robert Bruce when he was in Ireland
was that he was committed to a short sharp shock here in Ireland.
He couldn't spend a year hanging around outside Dublin
for them to surrender.
So I think they took a look at the situation
and they realised it was either a lengthy siege,
or we just abandon Dublin for the time being and march on.
Leaving Dublin behind, the Scots
marched west to Leixlip,
where they spent four days
burning and plundering.
Further south, the Franciscan monks at Castledermot
had no reason to welcome the approach of Robert Bruce.
Two years before, his brother had destroyed
their friary in Dundalk.
Throughout the campaign,
the Scots had seen religious orders as legitimate targets.
Because these same religious orders stood accused of
committing atrocities of their own against the native Irish.
So these places are certainly not set aside,
they're not left alone, they are embroiled within this conflict?
They are, neither side is offering any sanctuary
to these locations at all. These are fair game.
There's no rhyme nor reason why they necessarily single out
a particular monastery, friary or abbey,
but when they do,
they visit the wrath of the Bruces upon the place.
It just demonstrates how serious the Scots were
-about this place and this operation.
-They left no stone unturned really, did they?
-No, they didn't.
In the Remonstrance in 1317 by Donal O'Neill for example,
there is a direct allegation at Abbeylara that monks
-are going around hunting Irishmen.
The monks going out hunting Irishmen,
because he wants to say,
"This is the chaos that Edward II has wreaked upon Ireland.
"This is why we want Edward Bruce to come over and save us."
One side is accusing the other side
of the most terrible crimes imaginable.
It is horrific really, what we're looking at is total war,
I guess, absolutely nothing is sacred.
There's all that Braveheart nonsense about the Scots always being
the underdog and the English aggressor, but when you step back
and look with an objective eye,
the Scots are capable of mixing it up
in a bad way with the best of them -
or should I say the worst of them?
The Bruce army was slicing its way
through the heart of Ireland,
leaving a trail of smouldering ash
and a land stripped bare in its wake.
It's a Scots military practice to actually deny your enemy
food supplies, resources and provisions.
The only thing is, of course, that it actually robs
your own army of the ability to have provisions as well.
If you can talk about public opinion
in the early 14th century that might have begun to
swing opinion slightly against the Scots.
Some people were saying, "What was so wrong with the English?"
There is one source that says this exact thing -
"Our OLD foreigners are much better than these new foreigners
"who've come in and doing all this damage."
You only have to look at the campaign.
How aimless it almost seems, weaving round and about,
first past Dublin, down into the south,
across to Limerick, back across, back up.
Are they actually desperately in search of food?
The joke that they almost starve to death,
or eating their own horses, how do you explain it?
They're marching to places to try to rouse the Irish population
to join their side,
so the furthest south they get to is within sight of Limerick,
and they're trying to get the O'Briens to join them.
The problem with the O'Briens, as with the O'Connors
and many of the other dynasties,
is that there are two rival branches.
And once one side says that he's going to join with the Scots,
the other fellow stays with the English government,
and the kind of unity that they were expecting,
it was alien to Ireland in the early 14th century.
Treachery stalks unashamed in Ireland among the nobility as well, I see!
What now, Robert?
Demand nothing until you have the strength to enforce the claim.
We retreat - to Carrickfergus.
There was more bad news for the Scots.
An army of English reinforcements had landed at Youghal
and was on its way north.
That campaign in particular is the one
to really question. At one point,
King of Scots, his brother - the High King of Ireland -
the man who would have been guardian of the Scottish realm
in the event of the death of both of these men,
Thomas Randolph, so the three leading men of Scotland
are pretty close to being starved, killed, hunted down, wiped out,
at a time when Robert Bruce only has a grandson
to follow him.
What's going on? Why do they think it's worth it?
The Scots' latest retreat had an air of finality to it.
Robert was needed back in Scotland, which the English
were threatening to invade again.
In May, he boarded a ship for his homeland.
There's a sense in which Ireland stretches them too far,
and as much as it's a two-front policy,
they can only really run one at a time effectively.
I suspect the English after a while know that.
They know that unless Edward Bruce commits to really taking
somewhere like Dublin, it's not going to tip the balance.
There is virtually no information on how the war went for
over a year after Robert's departure.
It seems that for many months, the Scots, the Irish
and the Anglo-Irish abstained from further fighting.
The most likely explanation is that each side needed to recover
after almost three years of war and famine.
"Excommunication is to be pronounced against
"all invading England or disturbing its peace."
Your brother may be able to afford to defy the Pope.
But if the judgment of heaven is called down upon my people...
what is to become of us?
We shall address the Pope ourselves.
Through the cardinals. We shall persuade him
that Ireland's cause is a just one.
In 1317, O'Neill and other Gaelic leaders sent a letter
known as "The Remonstrance of the Irish Princes"
to Pope John XXII.
It explained why they had supported Edward Bruce against the English.
From that time the English crossed the borders of our kingdom
with evil intent, with all their strength and using all
the skills in their power they have tried to destroy our people utterly
and eradicate them completely.
On account of the aforesaid injuries, then,
and innumerable others which cannot easily be grasped
by the human understanding, we are compelled
to enter into a deadly war with the aforementioned.
The Remonstrance claims that Donal O'Neill
had the support of a large number of the Irish bishops,
and I think that may well be the case.
Because if you read the text of the Remonstrance, the importance
of it is that it was sent to the Pope, who was then in Avignon.
And so it has to make an appeal to something
that might win the Pope over.
So it reminds him that, actually, the English came to Ireland
because they had a licence from the then Pope to do it,
Pope Adrian IV.
And that part of their mission in Ireland was meant to be
to reform the Irish Church,
but, in fact, the Remonstrance says the opposite happened,
they didn't reform the Irish Church,
they damaged the Irish Church.
So it's trying to make an ecclesiastical appeal,
to get the Pope to take the Irish side against the English,
just as at the same time,
Bruce in Scotland was trying to get the Pope
to take the Scots' side against the English.
HE READS ALOUD IN LATIN
To achieve our aims more swiftly,
we call to our help and assistance the illustrious Edward de Brus,
Earl of Carrick, and brother to the Lord Robert,
the most illustrious King of all the Scots,
and sprung from our noblest ancestors.
In its wording, the Remonstrance is uncannily similar to the
Declaration of Arbroath, which the Scottish Church and nobility
sent to the Pope three years later.
A number of Irish historians, as well as Scottish historians,
detect the hand that was behind the Declaration of Arbroath
in the Remonstrance.
That this was a product of Bruce's chancery, if you like.
A propaganda document, no question,
but it's making many similar points.
The Irish had ruled for centuries unconquered by a foreigner,
exactly as the Scots did in the declaration.
The English King came to the Irish as a friend
but betrayed them as an enemy, the same thing in Scotland.
The English ever since have reigned as tyrants in Ireland,
the same as Edward I and Edward II tried to rule in Scotland.
So there is a direct relationship between these two documents,
I'm pretty sure of it.
It's controversial, this, but if things are not
controversial in history they're not worth talking about.
It is in truth not for glory, or riches,
or honour that we are fighting.
But for freedom alone.
Which no honest man will give up... but with life itself.
I think this is really where Bruce invents something called
Bruce must have realised somewhere along the line
that as long as people had this loyalty to their clan
and their family, you could never build a state or a nation.
And I think that's when he said, "We've got to give these guys
"something greater than themselves to which they can aspire."
Bruce's supporters send a letter to the Pope,
begging him to bring pressure to bear upon Edward II
to recognise Bruce as legitimate King of Scots,
to end these terrible wars.
They tell the Pope that, "If you don't do this,
"you will be responsible for the bloodshed that follows."
In the course of this letter, they make two great pronouncements.
"If Bruce should ever submit us or our kingdom to the
"King of England or the English,
"we will remove him and set up another better able
"to govern us as our king." And this, I have argued,
is the first articulation of the contractual theory of monarchy...
And then they go on to make the statement which many people
still like to quote.
"For so long as 100 of us
"remain alive we shall never surrender,
"it is not for glory nor riches nor honours
"that we're fighting, but for freedom alone,
"which no honest person will lose but with life itself."
Who could argue with that?
Some 450 years later,
the Declaration of Arbroath would inspire one of
the most famous assertions of freedom,
human rights and self-determination ever written -
the American Declaration of Independence.
This document could have had its roots in a forgotten war,
fought in Ireland and Scotland centuries earlier.
And in 1317, that war had still to reach its conclusion.
Time was running out for Edward Bruce.
Twice he and his army had a chance to capture Dublin,
and twice they had failed.
The Irish kings who supported him
outside of Ulster had been defeated in battle.
But even in the face of these setbacks,
Edward had reason to believe that things might improve.
In 1318, for the first time in years, there was a good harvest.
Finally, he was able to supply his men properly.
And news came from Scotland that
further reinforcements were on the way.
And so, in the autumn of 1318,
Edward made the decision to bring his army south and out of Ulster.
We know that Robert is sending reinforcements to Carrickfergus,
and it's just a question of why Edward suddenly decides
to leave Carrickfergus before King Robert comes over again.
It could be something to do with a repeat of the events of 1317,
when effectively Edward leads the vanguard down south
and Robert's main army follows him,
and it could have been some kind of attempt to take Dublin.
I suspect they only headed south in October 1318
because they had a new idea,
there was one final effort that they thought might do the trick.
So the Scots still had hopes for Ireland.
It's just possible that they might have been able to
pull some kind of a rabbit out of a hat at that stage.
We're just south of the Moyry Pass, which is one
of the most important ways to get from the north into the south.
We're on the hill at Faughart,
which is just at the mouth of the pass,
so a very important strategic location.
It's still a very important place.
Indeed, during the Troubles, this was a hot spot.
So for Edward to be up here makes total sense.
But for whatever reason, the Anglo-Irish have
got their act together and have a big army waiting for him.
And Edward Bruce has to decide what to do,
and Barbour talks about him having a Council of War with
his Irish allies and everybody's basically saying,
"Don't be so foolish, we're massively outnumbered,
"we've only got 2,000 men,
"what are we going to do against that massive force?"
There could be, in Edward's mind, that he wanted to finish this off.
Maybe there is some kind of thing going on in Edward's head
where he needs to have the same kind of victory
as Robert had at Bannockburn.
It might be the case that Edward Bruce likewise was
a bit of a hothead, and that he rushed into this battle
even though there were further...
Apparently the contemporary sources say there
were further troops on their way,
by way of reinforcement to him.
But he decided to take the gamble on the battle.
Historians have settled on this spot,
this slope facing down towards the mouth of the pass,
as the battlefield.
To me, it doesn't really make sense.
It's far too steep for cavalry to be positioned on it
if the Anglo-Irish are up here.
If Edward Bruce is up here,
he's surely going to be facing towards the town.
That seems to be where the enemy are coming from.
I am not convinced that this is the battlefield.
To me, having seen a lot of battlefields in my time,
this really doesn't make too much sense.
Every time I've been in a place of historical importance
on this trip, there's been one of these things.
Almost like a signpost saying, "Here's a battle."
And it's a motte.
It's a type of Anglo-Irish fortification.
The Normans were very good at them.
And it's basically just a mound of earth
that gives you a strong point.
And this being on the top of the hill at Faughart
makes it an ideal location for Edward Bruce
to be able to see whatever's happening around.
So I think this location is probably a pretty good marker
from where to start to think about where this battle was fought.
On top of the motte, on top of the hill at Faughart,
I've got a very clear view down into the town,
but importantly, it's not just the visibility,
this is a much gentler slope.
So, if Edward Bruce and his Scottish army
and his Irish allies are on this hill,
it offers a much better advantage
going into a fight, because his men can move down it.
They've got the advantage of height, but they can move down it
in a controlled fashion, unlike the other side,
which is just far too steep.
But he seems to fancy his chances.
So there are scores to be settled,
and indeed, on that day, they are.
"Then with great anger, Edward said,
"Let whoever wants to, help,
"but rest assured that I will fight today,
"without more delay.
"Let no man say while I'm alive that
"superior numbers would make me flee.
"God forbid that anyone should blame us
"for defending our noble name."
SCREAMING, METAL CLANGS
As it turns out, it really actually ends up being
an Anglo-Norman Bannockburn,
because they completely rout the Scots
and that's the end of the dream, on that Dundalk hillside.
SCREAMING, METAL CLANGS
He should have won that battle.
The leader of the Anglo-Irish forces
was not a particularly elevated individual.
He was a man called John de Bermingham.
He led what by all accounts is a relatively local force of people,
primarily from County Louth itself,
some of them from County Meath,
and it wasn't some vast government army
and they were trying to forestall the Bruces,
presumably before they got to Dundalk and could do a lot of damage there.
If they had beaten Bermingham's army at Faughart,
the chances of the Scots establishing
their foothold here permanently
would probably be a safe bet.
It goes very badly wrong for them.
Indeed, so badly wrong that Edward Bruce is killed in the battle.
Edward's head is removed, it's packed in a box of salt
and sent to Edward II to prove that he is actually dead.
His limbs are hacked off
and displayed in various parts of the kingdom,
again, to demonstrate that the dreaded Edward Bruce
has been vanquished.
If that's the case, this can't be the grave of Edward Bruce.
But it is a fitting memorial.
It marks the end of Edward Bruce's story,
it marks the end of the Scottish invasion of Ireland,
and three and a half years of warfare and grief and fear
come to an end somewhere near this hilltop.
GASPING AND GRUNTING
We are set here in jeopardy
To win honour or for to die
We are too far frae hame to flee
Therefore let ilk man worthy be.
For Bruce's Irish supporters, things took a turn for the worse.
Donal O'Neill's rivals, the O'Donnells, attacked him
and killed his son Seoan.
Donal himself survived,
but his hopes of driving the English from Ireland were in tatters.
The war was over.
I think there is a sense
in which King Robert is taken out of the account
of the campaign which came to grief at Faughart.
I think that in a way,
this was down to his brother,
this was Edward.
He was carrying the can for what happened here.
Maybe there's even a notion that Bruce,
given these few hints we have in his correspondence,
that Bruce somehow understood the Irish sympathetically
in a way that Edward didn't.
Edward didn't know really how to treat them.
When you think about it,
it's a pretty odd thing for a guy to sort of show up on the Irish shore
and say, "I'm here to be High King."
And they say, "Well, who are you?"
So I suspect Robert Bruce, the king,
felt that if he had led the expedition,
there might have been a different outcome.
Barbour is probably just as accurate as any medieval source would be,
but you have to bear in mind the various kind of agendas he has
and his agenda mainly is to glorify Robert, not Edward.
So he will give Edward due regarding courage and bravery,
but not necessarily a lot of common sense.
It's always Robert who is perceived
as being the one who's the wiser head,
which I think is unfair on Edward,
but that's John Barbour for you.
There are later charges against Edward Bruce that he's headstrong,
that he's over-ambitious, that he's short-tempered.
Some of that probably has to be later distancing,
by the Scots, probably,
of Robert I from his brother's failings.
I think it probably only confirmed the difficulties of Ireland,
probably the insurmountable difficulties.
I think he's more worried about what it means for Scotland,
because with his brother's death,
it's fairly clear from the evidence
that this provokes a major crisis in Scotland.
Bruce's enemies see that now he only has his grandson, an infant,
as his heir presumptive.
He hasn't yet had sons by his queen, Elizabeth de Burgh,
and there's a real danger
for the Bruce dynasty.
But the shadow of misfortune did seem to fade.
In 1324, Robert's wife gave birth to a son and heir, David,
and in 1328, the English finally recognised
Robert's right to rule Scotland.
To this day, he is remembered as the greatest monarch
ever to sit on the Scottish throne.
Robert Bruce, all through his life,
you find him back and forth in Ireland.
Even when he was on his deathbed - one contemporary source says,
"He was so ill that he could barely move his tongue," -
he had himself brought to Ireland on a couple of occasions
in the latter years of his life.
But I think that it does show that this Bruce connection
with Ulster in particular is an ongoing thing,
it's part of their background and it's part of the family life
and if you want to understand the Bruce invasion,
it's not just in terms of the long-running relationship
between Ireland and Scotland in the Middle Ages,
but it's the family ties between the Bruces
and some people in the northeast corner of Ireland.
This period, except in some very unique quarters
and specialised quarters,
has been effectively dismissed
and that is interesting in itself,
because the potential that it might have had is staggering.
The idea of having an Irish kingdom,
albeit one which had a Scots ancestry,
well, we don't know how on earth that could have played out
in, you know, centuries to come.
But for a small brief period, the Scots did have a kingdom in Ireland.
For over three years,
Edward Bruce was the self-styled ruler of that kingdom.
But he never managed to inspire and lead the Irish
in the way that Robert did the Scots.
Ireland remained, and would remain, a divided country.
The Bruce invasion of Ireland just happened to coincide with a major catastrophe: the Great European Famine of 1315-17. In this devastating time, thousands died of starvation and many more resorted to cannibalism. There were reports of corpses and even children being eaten as people tried desperately to survive, and the Scots themselves were badly ravaged by hunger.
Robert Bruce tried to salvage the situation, arriving with reinforcements in 1317, but failed to make a decisive impact. The campaign ended ignominiously the following year when Edward was killed in the Battle of Faughart.
The Bruce Invasion is one of the great 'what ifs' of history. If the Scots and Irish had succeeded in driving the English out of Ireland, they would have established a powerful Celtic alliance and England may never have become the dominant power in these islands. But they failed and 700 years on, Ireland and Scotland still live with that legacy. Scotland is still under British rule, and Ireland remains a divided country.