Intelligent and impatient— these two adjectives were a dangerous combination, and King Edward I of England proved that to be true when he created a terrifying weapon against the Scots. So terrifying that the Scots were said to have immediately surrendered at the sight of it, and you’ll understand later why.
Hint: He was not called “Hammer of Scots” for no reason.
Also known as Edward Longshanks, he was the King of England from 1272 to 1307. As the first son of Henry III, he was involved in the political intrigues of his father from an early age, and he witnessed the outright rebellion of the English barons. After the Battle of Lewes, he became hostage to them but managed to escape after a few months. He defeated the baronial leader named Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265 and then joined the Ninth Crusade to the Holy Land. He was on his way back to their kingdom when the news of his father’s death reached him.
He turned out to be one of the most effective English kings and, unsurprisingly, one of Scotland’s greatest antagonists. His father’s reign was marked by instability and military failure— things that he immediately addressed and rectified upon receiving the throne. He even managed to unite the unruly barons around him and have them serve under him.
He was a great fan of a Parliamentary government that helped maintain their country’s stability and huge sums of money, which was important for him so he could pursue his ambitions, regardless of the means of raising it. By that, we meant issuing the Statute of Jewry in 1275 that persecuted the Jewish in England and imposed a ridiculous amount of tax on them. If that was not ugly enough, he extended the policy by expelling the Jews from England, leaving behind their money and properties. The money that Edward gathered from these poor Jews was used to fund his greatest ambition to be the overlord of Scotland and Wales. And so his wars began to unite the Peoples of England under a single crown to create what came to be known as the United Kingdom.
Henry III and the Welsh prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd had a peace agreement made in the 1250s after Henry tried and failed to dominate Wales. The Welsh would extend their territories into England, and Henry had to recognize the royal status of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. In return, the Welsh were to acknowledge Henry as his overlord. When the throne was passed to Edward, he, of course, had to honor that agreement. However, as he was determined not to repeat his father’s mistake, he used Llywelyn’s refusal to pay homage to him as a reason to send an army to invade Wales. Caught off-guard, Llywelyn was defeated, and his territories were taken.
In 1282, Llywelyn’s brother named Dafydd led a rebellion to overthrow the English in Wales. Edward was unprepared and thus was pushed away by the rebels. Unfortunately, Llywelyn died in the battle, and the tide started to turn against them. Soon, Dafydd was captured and immediately punished with execution. The rebellion, now without a leader, failed and died out.
Scottorum Malleus (Hammer of the Scots)
In 1304, only Stirling Castle in Scotland had not fallen in his hands yet, and he was eager to get it. The castle was also perfectly situated at the heart of Scotland and had control on the River Forth crossing, which was the gateway to the Highlands and could be shut off if the castle fell into the wrong hands like Edward’s.
His army surrounded the castle while his engineers were busy constructing the weapon of destruction that they came up with, something that would have devastating effects in the Stirling Castle that they wouldn’t have a choice but to surrender. Here’s the idea: a trebuchet.
It didn’t sound like a menacing idea, but this largest trebuchet ever made could fill up 30 wagons when disassembled, and it took fifty carpenters and five foremen quite a bit of time to complete. Some say that it took them three months to complete the build what was called the “Warwolf.”
The sight of the massive Warwolf was said to have made Stirling surrender. Edward accepted it, but as cold-blooded as he was, his cruelty made him decide that he wanted to see his trebuchet be put to use. He asked the Scots to go back inside their castle before ordering the first toss of a gigantic boulder. It hammered and broke down an entire castle wall. The next tosses fell upon the buildings, turning everything to crumbs and dust. When he has satisfied, only then did he accept the surrender, with nothing but 30 Scots emerging from the now ruined castle. He spared 29 of them and ordered for one soldier survivor to be dragged behind a horse before being hanged, just to make his point we guess.