How did Robert the Bruce kill the English knight Henry De Bohun just before the Battle of Bannockburn commenced?
A group of English knights spotted the Scottish skirmish line
retreating. One Scot alone seemed to be waiting for them, on a grey
Highland pony and war-axe in hand. Henry De Bohun (pronounced
'Boon') recognised him, and spurred ahead of the others into a
vainglorious charge into history. Bruce did not move until the
Englishman's lance-point was just feet away. Then he pulled his
little horse aside, his axe cutting down through De Bohun's helmet
and skull from crest to chin. He rode back to his division, and
when he was reproached for the risk he had taken he looked at his
splintered weapon and said 'I have broken the haft of my good
battle-axe.' Bruce's encounter with De Bohun was the stuff of
heroic legend and has been so honoured in schoolrooms ever since,
but in an age sceptical of human motives he can appear to be more
artful than valient, and much safer than his reckless opponent.
Once committed to his tilt, head down and lance couched, De Bohun
relied upon weight and not manoeuvre, and against an enemy
similarly commited victory would have been decided by brute impact.
But here a cool-headed, lightly armed and lightly horsed man
ignored the nice obligations of chivalry, side-stepped a rider who
could not be halted and slew him like an ox as he passed.
Outnumbered three to one, the Scots should have seen the lesson,
which was perhaps what Bruce intended.