Battle of Methven

Battle of Methven

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Methven
partof=the First War of Scottish Independence

date=19 June 1306
place=Methven, west of Perth
result=English victory


commander1=Robert I of Scotland
commander2=Aymer de Valence, 2nd Earl of Pembroke
strength1=4,500 soldiers
strength2=3,000 soldiers
casualties1=ca. 4.000
casualties2=ca. 600

The Battle of Methven took place at Methven in Scotland in 1306, during the Wars of Scottish Independence.

Comyn's Death

In February 1306, Robert Bruce and a small party of his followers killed John Comyn, also known as the Red Comyn, before the high altar of the Greyfriars Church in Dumfries. The wars with England, later to be known as the Wars of Scottish Independence, had previously been pursued in a somewhat desultory fashion: enemies of the English at one moment were just as liable to be friends at the next; and both Bruce and Comyn had changed sides on more than one occasion. For Bruce the only way now was forward; for he would never be received back into the peace of Edward I. But now his only defence lay in the seizure of the political high ground: a few weeks after Comyn's death Bruce was crowned King of Scots at Scone.

The Oath of the Swans

The killing of John Comyn took Edward by complete surprise. News travelled slowly: it was some thirteen days after the event that the details reached his court at Winchester, and even then the full circumstances were unclear. The murder was initially described as the 'work of some people who are doing their utmost to trouble the peace and quiet of the realm of Scotland', but he learned the true facts later. On 5 April he appointed Aymer de Valence, Comyn's brother-in-law, and the future Earl of Pembroke, as his plenipotentiary in Scotland, with powers to raise the Dragon Banner, signifying that no quarter would be given to Bruce and his adherents; or, as the chronicler John Barbour puts it 'to burn and slay and raise dragon'.

At Westminster on 20 May the king knighted the Prince of Wales and 250 other young men in preparation for the coming war. A banquet was held after the ceremony during which two decorated swans were presented to the king. Edward then vowed 'by the God of Heaven and these swans' to avenge Comyn's death and the treachery of the Scots. On his demand the newly created knights took a similar oath.


In Scotland, Robert Bruce was already engaged in a full-scale civil war with the family and friends of John Comyn. The coronation in March had given him some legitimacy; but overall the position was very uncertain. Even his wife, Elizabeth de Burgh, the daughter of the Earl of Ulster, and now queen of Scots, was concerned. After the coronation she is reported to have said 'It seems to me we are but a summer king and queen whom children crown in their support'.

Valence moved quickly, and by the middle of summer he had made his base at Perth, where he was joined by many of the supporters of John Comyn. King Robert came from the west, ready to meet his foe in battle. He was prepared to observe on this occasion the gentlemanly conventions of feudal warfare, while the English adopted less orthodox tactics. Valence was invited to leave the walls of Perth and join Bruce in battle, but he declined. The king, perhaps believing that Valence's refusal to accept his challenge was a sign of weakness, retired only a few miles to nearby Methven, where he made camp for the night. Before dawn on 19 June his little army was taken by surprise and almost destroyed.


* Barbour, John, "The Bruce", trans. A. A. H. Duncan, 1964.
* Barrow, G.W. S., "Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland", 1964.
* Barron, E. M., "The Scottish War of Independence", 1934.
* Hailes, Lord (David Dalrymple), "The Annals of Scotland", 1776.
* Macnair-Scott, R., "Robert Bruce, King of Scots", 1982.after that he said to the english 'hia ma name is ro

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