Stirling was now the only great castle which remained in the hands of the Scotch, and King Edward prepared to lay siege to this. Save for the band of Wallace there was no longer any open resistance in the field. A few holds like those of Archie Forbes still remained in the hands of their owners, their insignificance, or the time which would be wasted in subduing them, having protected them from siege. None of the nobles now remained in arms.
Bruce had for a short time taken the field; but had, as usual, hastened to make his peace with Edward. Comyn and all his adherents surrendered upon promise of their lives and freedom, and that they should retain their estates, subject to a pecuniary fine. All the nobles of Scotland were included in this capitulation, save a few who were condemned to suffer temporary banishment. Sir William Wallace alone was by name specially exempted from the surrender.
Stirling Castle was invested on the 20th of April, 1304, and for seventy days held out against all the efforts of Edward’s army. Warlike engines of all kinds had been brought from England for the siege. The religious houses of St. Andrews, Brechin, and other churches were stripped of lead for the engines. The sheriffs of London, Lincoln, York, and the governor of the Tower were ordered to collect and forward all the mangonels, quarrels, and bows and arrows they could gather; and for seventy days missiles of all kinds, immense stones, leaden balls, and javelins were rained upon the castle; and Greek fire — a new and terrible mode of destruction — was also used in the siege. But it was only when their provisions and other resources were exhausted that the garrison capitulated; and it was found that the survivors of the garrison which had defended Stirling Castle for upwards of three months against the whole force of England numbered, including its governor, Sir William Oliphant, and twenty-four knights and gentlemen, but a hundred and twenty soldiers, two monks, and thirteen females.
During the siege Wallace had kept the field, but Archie had, at his request, returned to his castle, which being but a day’s march from Stirling, might at any moment be besieged. Several times, indeed, parties appeared before it, but Edward’s hands were too full, and he could spare none of the necessary engines to undertake such a siege; and when Stirling at length fell he and his army were in too great haste to return to England to undertake another prolonged siege, especially as Aberfilly, standing in a retired position, and commanding none of the principal roads, was a hold of no political importance.