History of the Stewarts | Battles and Historic Events
If you are a Stewart Society Member please login above to view all of the items in this section. If you want general information on how to research your ancestors and some helpful links - please look in background information.
If you have a specific question you can contact our archivist.
By mid-July Balliol´s fleet of some 88 ships waited for the right moment to sail. It came with the news that Thomas Randolph, 1st earl of Moray, the rebels and their English allies sailed on 31 July from several Yorkshire ports to Kinghorn in Fife to get round the terms of the Treaty of Northampton that did not permit English forces to cross the Tweed. On 10 August they camped at Forteviot, just south of the River Earn, a few miles short of their objective. To the north of the river Donald, earl of Mar had taken up position with a much stronger force on the heights of Dupplin Moor. The disinherited now faced one Scottish army to their front with another commanded by Patrick, earl of Dunbar fast approaching from the rear.
According to Thomas Gray, the disinherited lords were so dismayed by the size of Mar´s army that they accused Henry Beaumont of having betrayed them with false promises of Scottish support for Balliol. But Beaumont, the most experienced soldier on either side, decided to risk crossing the Earn at night, and launching a surprise attack on the enemy.
On the opposite bank of the river the Scots had a clear view of Balliol´s small army. Mar was so confident of his strength and the superiority of his position that he did not even bother to set a watch, and his army settled down on the night of 10 August, convinced of an easy victory the following day. At midnight Sir Alexander Mowbray led a picked force across a nearby ford shown to him by the sole traitor from the Scottish camp, one Murray of Tullibardine.
After crossing the ford Mowbray climbed up the rising ground towards Gask, where he immediately attacked the slumbering Scottish camp followers, in the mistaken belief that he had encountered Mar´s host. He learned his mistake by daybreak on 11 August; but by that time the rest of the army had safely crossed the Earn and taken up a strong defensive position on some high ground at the head of a narrow valley. Mar had been outflanked. Learning of the rapid approach of the main Scots force, Balliol´s army was ordered to form a line, with the archers projecting outwards on both flanks and the men-at-arms in the centre, the whole formation resembling a quarter moon. All were dismounted, save for a small group of Germans to the rear.
The Scots were angry that their enemy had been allowed to carry out so simple a manoeuvre under their noses. Lord Robert Bruce, the illegitimate son of the late king, made no secret of his conviction that Mar´s incompetence was evidence of treachery. Mar denied this, and like the earl of Gloucester at Bannockburn, resolved to be the first into battle. Lord Robert claimed this honour for himself and both charged off to destruction, followed by their disorganised schiltrons, all semblance of generalship gone. . Bruce´s battalion, pushing through the heavy arrow fire, was the first to make contact with the enemy centre, forcing Beaumont and the men-at-arms to yield a little. The front units were pushed forward on to Beaumont´s spears. Retreat or redeployment was made impossible by the arrival of Mar´s schiltron, charging down the narrow glen, and straight into the rear of Lord Robert´s men. The crush was so great that many fell never to rise again.
The bodies of the Scots were piled so high above each other that it is said they reached the height of a spear. The English surrounded the bloody heap, thrusting in their swords and spears, so that no one could be taken out alive. Scots losses were heavy: Mar and Bruce were both killed, as was Thomas Randolph, 2nd earl of Moray, Murdoch III, earl of Menteith and Alexander Fraser, the High Chamberlain. The exact number of the dead is unknown, but estimates range from a low of 2,000 to a high of 13,000. English losses were light, amounting to no more than thirty-three knights and men-at-arms. The earl of Fife tried to lead the survivors of Mar´s shattered army on an orderly retreat; but this turned into a rout after Beaumont and others took to horse, charging off in pursuit. Many who escaped the carnage inflicted by the archers were cut down by the cavalry.
Dupplin Moor may be considered the first battle at which the devastating power of the English archer was demonstrated.