History records that Scots won their freedom at the Battle of Bannockburn on June 24, 1314. The battle raged for two days before the heavily outnumbered Scots defeated the professional military of England’s Edward II.
The battle could easily have been over before it started. On June 23, as the two armies caught sight of each other, an English knight, Sir Henry de Bohun, saw the Scottish king riding on a pony, armed only with a battle-axe. With visions of striking down the leader of his enemies, the knight rushed at the king to put an end to the rebellion.
It was, in miniature, a picture of the battle that was to come. The Scottish king on his small pony, unprepared for battle, should have stood little chance against the trained knight on his mighty battle horse, in full armor.
Horrified, witnesses watched at Bohun charged the king. The Bruce, watched calmly as the knight approached. At the very last moment, he turned his pony to the side. As Bohun rushed past, the king stood in his stirrups and brought his battle-axe down on the knight’s head. The helmet shattered under the mighty blow, and Bohun was dead before he hit the ground.
The king’s men gathered around him, and his top advisors scolded him for allowing himself to be placed in such danger. “Bethink you, Sire, the fate of all Scotland rests upon you,” they said.
The king had other concerns on his mind. “I have broken my good axe,” was all he said, “I have broken my good axe.”