For a moment it had all Waterloo's success. "I have brought you to the ring, hop (dance) if you can," are words of rough humour that reveal the very soul of the patriot leader, and the serried ranks answered well to his appeal. The Bishop of Durham, who led the English van, shrank wisely from the look of the squares. "Back to your mass, Bishop," shouted the reckless knights behind him, but the body of horse dashed itself vainly on the wall of spears. Terror spread through the English army, and its Welsh auxiliaries drew off in a body from the field. But the generalship of Wallace was met by that of the King. Drawing his bowmen to the front, Edward riddled the Scottish ranks with arrows, and then hurled his cavalry afresh on the wavering line. In a moment all was over, and the maddened knights rode in and out of the broken ranks, slaying without mercy. Thousands fell on the field, and Wallace himself escaped with difficulty, followed by a handful of men. But ruined as the cause of freedom seemed, his work was done. He had roused Scotland into life, and even a defeat like Falkirk left her unconquered.
Edward remained master only of the ground he stood on; want of supplies forced him to retreat; and in the following year a regency of Scotch nobles under Bruce and Comyn continued the struggle for independence. Troubles at home and dangers from abroad stayed Edward's hand. The barons were pressing more and more vigorously for redress of their grievances and the heavy taxation brought about by the war. France was still menacing, and a claim advanced by Pope Boniface the Eighth, at its suggestion, to the feudal superiority over Scotland, arrested a fresh advance of the King. A quarrel, however, which broke out between Philippe le Bel and the Papacy removed all obstacles, and enabled Edward to defy Boniface and to wring from France a treaty in which Scotland was abandoned. In 1304 he resumed the work of invasion, and again the nobles flung down their arms as he marched to the North. Comyn, at the head of the Regency, acknowledged his sovereignty, and the surrender of Stirling completed the conquest of Scotland. The triumph of Edward was but the prelude to the full execution of his designs for knitting the two countries together by a clemency and wisdom which reveal the greatness of his statesmanship. A general amnesty was extended to all who had shared in the revolt.
Wallace, who refused to avail himself of Edward's mercy, was captured, and condemned to death at Westminster on charges of treason, sacrilege, and robbery. The head of the great patriot, crowned in mockery with a circlet of laurel, was placed upon London Bridge. But the execution of Wallace was the one blot on Edward's clemency. With a masterly boldness he entrusted the government of the country to a council of Scotch nobles, many of whom were freshly pardoned for their share in the war, and apticipated the policy of Cromwell by allotting ten representatives to Scotland in the Common Parliament of his realm. A Convocation was summoned at Perth for the election of these representatives, and a great judicial scheme which was promulgated in this assembly adopted the amended laws of King David as the base of a new legislation, and divided the country for judicial purposes into four districts, Lothian, Galloway, the Highlands, and the land between the Highlands and the Forth, at the head of each of which were placed two justiciars, the one English and the other Scotch.