Warrior Kings Who Led Their Own Armies

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Emperor Ming Taizu
> Nation: China
> Conflict(s) Various
> When: 1368

Before he became Emperor Ming Taizu (also known as the Hongwu Emperor), Zhu Yuanzhang led forces that conquered China and ended the Yuan Dynasty, forcing the Mongols to retreat to the Central Asian steppe. The victory allowed him to proclaim himself emperor and establish the Ming Dynasty, which lasted from 1368 to 1644, making it the longest dynasty in Chinese history. He also built a navy of more than 300 ships.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

King Edward II
> Nation: England
> Conflict(s) Battle of Bannockburn
> When: 1314

Much of King Edward II’s reign involved trying to assert his authority over the English aristocracy. He conducted a losing campaign against Scotland in the Battle of Bannockburn, which became one of Scotland’s greatest military victories and briefly established Scottish independence.

Source: Hulton Archive / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

King Robert I
> Nation: Scotland
> Conflict(s) Various
> When: 1314

King Robert I, also known as Robert the Bruce, led Scotland to its greatest victory at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The battle affirmed the independence of Scotland. Success did not come easy for Robert I. He was beaten twice on the battlefield by the English in 1306 and three of his brothers were executed. Robert was forced to live in exile on a remote island north of the Irish coast before he returned to Scotland and patiently built a force that eventually defeated the English.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

King John II
> Nation: France
> Conflict(s) Battle of Poitiers
> When: 1356

Leading French forces against the English at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356, King John II, also known as Jean le Bon (John the Good), was defeated by the army of the Prince of Wales. Taken to London as a captive, he had to sign treaties that proved disastrous for his nation. Though he had gained a reputation for reneging on agreements, truces, and even the dowry for his daughter, he proved to be an honorable man: The English released him, keeping his son hostage in his place; when the son escaped, John voluntarily returned to captivity.

Source: CNG / Wikimedia Commons

King David II
> Nation: Scotland
> Conflict(s) Battle of Neville’s Cross
> When: 1346

King David II, son of Robert the Bruce, was crowned king in 1331 at age 5. Because rivals challenged his position, he was sent to France for his protection until he retook the throne in 1341. In 1346, he invaded England on behalf of France, to whom Scotland was bound by the Auld Alliance. After some initial victories, David lost the Battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346. He was wounded, captured, and held in the Tower of London and then Windsor Castle for 11 years.

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