Warwolf? Warcastle!

The Wars of Scottish Independence were long, bloody, and brutal. A major turning point in the English’s favor during the first of these wars was on 20 July 1304, when King Edward I of England accepted the surrender of Stirling Castle.

Stirling Castle

The castle was a military gateway into Northern Scotland, and the site of one of the last pockets of official Scots resistance to the English invasion after John Comyn had negotiated the surrender of the nobility in February of 1304.

Armed with twelve siege engines, the English laid siege to the castle in April 1304. For four months the castle was bombarded by lead balls (stripped from nearby church roofs), Greek fire, stone balls, and even some sort of gunpowder mixture. Edward I had sulphur and saltpetre, components of gunpowder, brought to the siege from England. Impatient with the lack of progress, Edward ordered his chief engineer, Master James of St. George, to begin work on a new, more massive engine called Warwolf.

The Warwolf (AKA Loup de Guerre; AKA Ludgar), was possibly the biggest trebuchet the world has ever seen. It took months to build, and it was so intimidating that when Edward wheeled it up to the walls of Stirling Castle on 19 July that Sir William Oliphant, commander of the 30 men left in the garrison, tried to surrender.  Edward would not deign to notice a white flag though, until he got to see his Warwolf in action. When the king got to see the mighty siege engine hurl a 300+ pound boulder and bring down an entire curtain wall, he was satisfied and allowed the castle defenders to lay down their arms.


When Stirling Castle fell, the war seemed to be over. Comyn had bent his knee, and was Edward’s vassal. However, Robert the Bruce killed John Comyn at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries on 10 February 1306, and launched the resistance anew.

How Bruce would have made out against Edward I in the long run became moot when the king died in July 1307.  Bruce continued to fight the English, now led by King Edward II. When Edward II was deposed in 1327, Bruce took advantage of the regency of Edward III of England to invade Northern England. With the king of England still in his early teens, his regents agreed to Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton on 1 May 1328, acknowledging the independence of Scotland and Robert the Bruce as King, thus ending round one of the wars.

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