I thank Professor Prestwich for
his generous remarks on my book, which are all the more appreciated
because of the stature of the reviewer. Readers of his review who
have not also read my book, however, might infer that there is more
disagreement between him and myself than is actually the case. Professor
Prestwich is correct that my basic thesis is that Edward III never
pursued a battle-avoiding strategy (with the possible exception
of 1343 in Brittany, which I do not cover), but rather almost invariably
sought battle, provided he could fight it on his own terms. It is
also true that that a case for this thesis "is easier to make for
some campaigns than others," but it should be understood that I
have not tried to argue that Edward III during the Burnt Candlemas
campaign was actively aiming for a battle with the enemy, in the
way that he was in 1333, 1339, 1340, 1346, 1347, 1355, and 1359-60.
As I say on p. 338, "his strategy in 1356 was to use the opportunity
presented by the aggression against Berwick to take a great army
into Scotland, so that he could 'apply pressure directly to the
Scottish commons and magnates', who otherwise had little motive
to support the peace arrangements agreed between the two kings [Edward
III and David II]." (Emphasis added.) On the other hand, I'm sure
Professor Prestwich would agree that King Edward was certainly not
avoiding battle with the Scots that year, and indeed would have
been overjoyed had his elusive foes chosen to make an open stand
against him. Likewise, I am essentially in agreement with Professor
Prestwich - in substance if perhaps not in nuance - concerning Lancaster's
Normandy chevauchée of 1356: I write that the duke was "prepared
to fight, even outnumbered, 'if necessary', but for him a major
battle was rather an 'impediment' to his task than an overriding
goal in itself." (p. 342, emphasis added).
Since there is little or nothing of importance
with which I disagree in Professor Prestwich's review, let me turn
to the one minor point on which we are in dispute. The issue of
the position of the Scottish army during the Weardale episode is
an interesting one. As with very many other points of military detail
from this period, there is a wide divergence of scholarly opinion
the subject. Everyone agrees that when the English host first encountered
the raiders' army near Stanhope, the two forces were separated by
the river Wear. It is also agreed that after a few days in those
positions, the Scots shifted to a new position within Stanhope Park,
and the English followed them and again encamped on the far side
of the river from their enemies. There the disagreements begin.
C. McNamee and R. A. Nicholson locate the Scots on the south bank.
Professor G. W. S. Barrow has the first Scottish position on the
south bank, but recognises that their second position was on the
north bank. Barbour's various editors (most recently A. A. M. Duncan)
support or lean towards the view that the Scots were on the north
side of the river the whole time.
The main argument for the first-mentioned conclusion
is the one that Professor Prestwich gives: it is clear from Jean
le Bel and other sources that the English were marching generally
southwards from Haltwhistle on the three days before meeting the
Scots. Since they were marching south, and no mention is made of
crossing the Wear before they found the Scots on its opposite bank,
le Bel's narrative has been taken to imply that the Scots initially
occupied the south side of the river. This implication is further
strengthened by the statement of the Chronicon de Lanercost that
in order to reach Scotland after sneaking out of the park, the Scots
had to go around the English army.
There are, however, three problems with this argument.
First, John Barbour's Bruce is explicit that the initial
Scottish position lay "on north halff Wer towart Scotland." Second,
Thomas Gray's Scalacronica describes the same position as
"nearby alongside" ('prestes iouste') Stanhope, not "across from"
the hamlet, which is on the north side of the Wear. Third, it is
agreed that the second Scottish position was within the confines
of Stanhope Park. Stanhope Park was located along the northern bank
of the Wear, with its entrances at Westgate and Eastgate (which
take their names from that fact). If the initial Scottish position
was on the south bank, then in their shift of position to the park
they would have had to have crossed the river (as Barrow concludes
they did), and the English would have to have done the same: yet
there is no hint in the sources that either army did so.
Thus, even if we leave aside the perhaps overly
precise reading of the Scalacronica, we are left with a disagreement
between two explicit sources (Barbour and Lanercost), and two conflicting
hypotheses concerning a difference of omission: either the sources
neglected to mention that the English crossed the Wear before encountering
the Scots, or they neglected to mention the English and Scots crossing
the Wear during the repositioning of 2-3 August.
Although the Chronicon de Lanercost was
written well before Barbour's Bruce, or even Jean le Bel's
chronicle, that does not mean it should automatically be preferred.
Barbour's account is far more detailed, clearly having been based
on the (probably written) narrative of a participant. Insofar as
it can be checked it is very accurate, containing no errors comparable
to le Bel's conflation of the Eden and the Tyne, or his confusion
between "William" and James Douglas. If we did not know that Stanhope
Park was on the north bank of the Wear, it would be difficult to
decide which source to accept, though I would lean towards Barbour.
But that brings us back to the issue of the "silent" crossing of
the Wear. Surely it is very unlikely that the Scots or the English
would make a night crossing of the Wear while within striking distance
of the enemy, and equally unlikely that the sources on both sides
would fail to mention such a dramatic episode if it had taken place.
It is much easier to believe that le Bel simply neglected to report
that, on their journey from the Tyne, the English crossed the Wear
before turning east towards Stanhope. Hence, I conclude that the
Scots were on the "north halff Wer" next to Stanhope when they first
encountered the English, as well as later when they occupied Stanhope
I deal with this point so elaborately in this
reply because it so well illustrates the difficulty of the sources
which have to be reconciled to create a good narrative of fourteenth-century
campaigns-- but also the possibility of doing so. That is why my
footnotes (which some historians may perhaps find excessive) are
so extensive: apparently in this case they were, even so, not sufficient
to head off dispute over the facts.