Robert the Bruce
warcraft be this: footsoldiers, mountains and marshy ground; and let her woods,
her bow and spear serve for barricades. Let menace lurk in all her narrow places
among her warrior bands, and let her plains so burn with fire that her enemies
Who was Robert Bruce?
Born in 1274, Bruce was the grandson of another Robert Bruce, the failed claimant of the Scottish crown in 1290/2, and the son of yet another Robert Bruce. His mother, Marjorie, Countess of Carrick, brought him an ancient Gaelic lineage. Descended from the Gaelic Earls of Carrick, she was a formidable operator who apparently held Bruceís father captive after he returned from crusade, refusing to release him until he agreed to marry her.
Brought up at Turnberry Castle, Bruce was a product of his lineage, speaking Gaelic, Scots and Norman French. In 1295 he became Earl of Carrick and was no doubt convinced of his families entitlement to Scotlandís crown.
Claimant of the Crown
In 1297, Bruce, encouraged by Bishop Wishart, raised the standard of revolt at Irvine (the reason why he was absent at the Battle of Stirling Bridge). However, the rising failed and Bruce, rather than join Wallace after the Scots victory at Stirling Bridge, kept a low profile until he could determine what the English reaction would be.
Bruce was also absent at
the Battle of Falkirk, in which Wallaceís army was devastated, but seems to
have made an effort to help by burning the town of Ayr in order to deny it to
the English as they returned south.
So Bruce wasnít adverse to switching sides in pursuit of his goal, and this wasnít irregular practice amongst noblemen in pursuit of power at the time. The anti-English rhetoric of the Declaration of Arbroath, 22 years later - ďFor as long as a hundred of us remain alive, we shall never on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the EnglishĒ - was never Bruceís rhetoric, for he had appealed to English lordship on more than one occasion.
1304 was a crucial year for Bruce. His fatherís death made him the Bruce claimant to the throne, and the capitulation of the Scots in the face of English attacks ended hopes of a Balliol restoration. Edward I had conquered Scotland, but he wasnít expected to live much longer. Bruce started to seek allies.
On 11th February 1306 Robert Bruce met John ĎThe Redí Comyn at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries. We donít know what they discussed, but an argument flared, swords were drawn, and Bruce stabbed Comyn before the high altar. Comynís murder is not believed to have been premeditated, however Bruce was excommunicated and outlawed, whilst Scotland was plunged into civil war.
There was no way back, Bruce realised he would have to start his rising, that force would now take precedence over diplomacy. Within six weeks Bishop Wishart gave him absolution and he was hurriedly crowned king at Scone on March 25th 1306
The Fugitive, Outlawed,
He ruthlessly crushed those who opposed him, forcing them into exile, but he also knew how to reward those who came over to his side. The tide seemed have turned in Robert's favour and many of the common people of Scotland now turned to him as their only hope of salvation from English tyranny.
Luck was also on his side. Edward I, furious at Bruce, died within sight of Scotland on a march north to crush the rebels. His successor, Edward II, never a match for his father, sought a two year truce with Bruce. By 1313 Robert was powerful enough to issue an ultimatum to the remaining Balliol supporters - to join him or forfeit their estates.
Bruceís commanders now
embarked on daring raids on the remaining English garrisons. Sir James Douglas
surprised Roxburgh castle, inspiring Thomas, Earl of Moray, to take Edinburgh
castle by stealth. In England, Edward II had to react. In 1314 he led a massive
invasion force into Scotland, where they met the Scots army at the now famous
Bannockburn, near Stirling.
Scotland. His challenge couldnít be ignored and the Edward IIIís government was forced to recognise Bruceís kingship and Scotlandís independence. A year later, Bruce died.Bruces body is buried in Dunfermline Abbey, whilst his heart is at Melrose Abbey in the borders. It is buried with the inscription -
ĎA noble hart may haiff nane es...Gyff fredome failyheí.
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Last modified: Thursday, 16 January 2020