In 1314 the English-held castles of Roxburgh, Edinburgh and Stirling were seized and destroyed by Robert Bruce. This was the pinnacle of a policy by which Bruce systematically slighted the castles he seized in Scotland. The reign of Edward II has been seen as a period in which the military value of the castle was in decline and by analysing the role the castle played in the campaigns of Bruce it is possible to assess the importance a successful contemporary commander attached to the castle during this period. Bruce had first-hand experience of the castle at war and knew of its limitations. In 1306, however, he seized and garrisoned a number of castles preparing to use them for a specific purpose, but defeat in the field rendered them redundant. On his return in 1307 Bruce initiated a policy of destruction. Castles in the north of Scotland were slighted as they were the regional focus of the political power of his Scottish enemies, and militarily they were of little value to Bruce. In the Lowlands the first-rate castles of Scotland were destroyed precisely because they were so militarily powerful. Bruce recognised that these castles, used aggressively, were indispensable to the English war effort, and consequently he undertook a prolonged and expensive campaign to reduce them, a campaign which involved the tactic of both surprise assault and, more importantly, the set-piece siege. In 1314 the imminent English campaign led Bruce to launch an unprecedented offensive against the English-held castles of Roxburgh, Edinburgh and Stirling. These castles were subsequently slighted despite their inextricable association with the Scottish Crown. Bruce recognised that, unlike the English, he did not need to occupy castles in Scotland to fight the war. Although in Ireland a small number of castles were occupied, and Berwick was also garrisoned by Scottish troops, in northern England Bruce did not attempt to occupy English castles. Those which were seized were destroyed, an indication that Bruce never intended a conquest of Northumberland. Indeed Bruce never undertook a serious campaign aimed at the seizure of the first-rate castles of Northumberland despite their frequently perilous state. Instead he sought to gain political capital by threatening their loss and so placing enormous pressure on the English Crown. That the castle featured prominently in the campaigns of Bruce demonstrates it was not in decline. Bruce understood the continued military and political value of the castle, but he was able to exploit its inherent vulnerabilities in order to gain victory in war.


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pp. 233-257
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Archived 2009
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