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July 10 is a date that was to have great impact on the Scottish Wars of Independence. Before Robert the Bruce became one of Scotland's greatest kings, there was John Balliol, king of Scots. In the wake of Alexander III dying without a clear heir, the Scottish lords, fearing bloody disputes among the 13 competitors for the throne, called in Edward I of England to settle the matter. The strongest claims to the throne came from John Balliol and Robert the Bruce, grandfather of the later king of Scots who fought at Bannockburn.
Edward chose John Balliol. Even today, historians discuss who had the stronger claim, and many do say that he did. However, Edward's motives were not so pure. He had declared himself overlord, or Lord Paramount of Scotland, and believed Balliol would be a suitable puppet king.
Almost immediately upon the new king's coronation on November 30, 1292, Edward I began a series of actions designed to undermine and humiliate Balliol. In 1294, Edward demanded that Scotland send troops to help fight England's war against France. King John refused. Rather, his council of twelve made a treaty with France known as the Auld Alliance.
Edward, on finding out, took a break from fighting the French to march north and sack the town of Berwick on March 30, 1296, killing thousands of men, women, and children over the course of three days.
Very shortly after his men finished their bloody massacre, Edward received a message from King John, renouncing his homage to the English king. Edward is reported to have said, O foolish knave! What folly he commits! If he will not come to us, we will go to him.
And so Edward turned his army on the Earl of March's castle at Dunbar, just north of Berwick. The Earl of March sided with Edward, but his wife, Marjory Comyn, sister to the Earl of Buchan, felt otherwise, and allowed the Scots to use the castle.
On April 27, the English defeated the Scots at Dunbar. In the following months, more castles fell to England, and finally, on July 10, John Balliol was captured by the English in a churchyard in Strathaco. There, Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham, tore Scotland's red and gold arms from Balliol's surcoat, and Balliol was forced to abdicate the throne of Scotland and sign documents admitting to allying with Edward's enemies, and giving the kingdom of Scotland to Edward.
It was a dark day for Scotland.
But it was not the end.
Perhaps Edward would have done better to allow John Balliol some nominal kingship, for from this void rose the great heroes of Scotland's Wars of Independence: William Wallace, Andrew de Moray, James Douglas, Robert the Bruce, and many more.