The House Of Bruce
Robert the Bruce
Scotland's hero King, the renowned Robert the Bruce, was born into the Scottish nobility on 11th July, 1274, at Turnberry Castle in Carrick, Ayrshire. Robert was the son of Robert the Bruce, Lord of Annandale and Marjorie, daughter of Niall of Carrick and Margaret Stewart, herself the daughter of Walter, High Steward of Scotland.
The Bruce family was not of native Scots origin, but had its roots in Normandy, a Robert de Brus had come over to England with the army of William the Conqueror. William had rewarded De Brus by granting him lands in Yorkshire but the family had added to this inheritance by acquiring considerable lands in Huntingdonshire and in Annandale, Scotland. Robert's mother's family was of Scots Gaelic descent.
Following the extinction of the royal line of the House of Dunkeld, no clear successor existed to the throne of Scotland, a period known to history as the First Interregnum. The English King Edward I was asked to decide between the many candidates who claimed the Scottish crown, he selected John Balliol, who strictly speaking, had the slightly better hereditary right. Balliol was effectively a puppet King, set up to be manipulated by the formidable Edward and to rule Scotland according to his wishes.
Robert the Bruce's claim to the throne of Scotland derived through his great-grandmother, Isabella, the daughter of David, Earl of Huntingdon, grandson of David I. In 1296 King John Balliol was humiliated and forced to abdicate by Edward and there followed a period when there was no King in Scotland for ten years, the country was instead ruled by a series of Governors, this period is known as the Second Interregnum. When Robert's father died in 1304, he made a pact with John Comyn, the nephew of John Balliol, about the succession to Scotland's throne.
Comyn proceeded to treacherously betray Bruce, by informing the English King of their secret plans, as a result of which, Bruce narrowly escaped capture by the English. In retribution, Robert furiously attacked Comyn at an arranged meeting at the Greyfriars church in Dumfries. Possessing a savage temper when roused, he stabbed Comyn to death in a frenzied rage within the church itself , for which he was excommunicated by the outraged Pope. He was crowned King of Scotland by Isabella, Countess of Buchan, at a ceremony at Scone on 25th March, 1306. The ancient and sacred Stone of Destiny, used at the annointing of Scottish Kings since the Dark Ages, was not used in the service since it had already been carried off to London by the English and placed in Westminster Abbey as a trophy by Edward I.
Edward I, incensed at what he saw as the Bruce's treachery, sent an English army north to deal with the renegade. The Scots army met them at Methven near Perth, but victory went to the English forces. Bruce was forced to seek refuge in the remote Scottish Highlands, there, like an injured fox run to ground, he retreated into his lair, a cave where he was famously heartened by watching a persistent spider make six attempts to spin a web along the roof before finally succeeding, which inspired Robert to continue his heroic struggle against English domination.
King Robert decided to dispatch his family to the Orkney Islands for their greater safety. Queen Elizabeth and other members of his family were captured by the English en-route, and taken prisoner. His twelve year old daughter was imprisoned in the Tower and some of the female members of his family, including his sister, Christina, suffered the humiliation of being held suspended in cages in full public view by Edward. His three younger brothers, Thomas, Alexander and Niall were all executed.
This brutal treatment suceeded in making the Bruce more determined and resolute to eventually prevail. In 1307 he mounted a surprise attack on the English forces at Carrick. Edward sent another army north to deal with the rebel Scots. Robert again resorted to hiding in the hills and mounted a guerilla war. He was defeated by the Earl of Pembroke at Glen Trool in Galloway, but, refusing to be deterred, met him again at Loudon Hill where Bruce's military tactics won a much needed victory for Scotland. The indomitable Edward I decided to march up to Scotland yet again, to deal with the irksome miscreant Robert the Bruce himself.
Edward I, now aged and ailing, died at Burgh-on-Sands, Cumberland and was buried at Westminster Abbey, the mausoleum of the English Kings, with the epitaph 'The Hammer of the Scots'. So determined was he to utterly crush the Scots it was reported that he asked for the flesh to be boiled from his bones and the bones carried with the English armies into Scotland thereafter, a request which was not honoured by his son and heir Edward II.
Bruce called a Parliament at St. Andrews on 17th March, 1309, clearly exhibiting to the English by that action that he was now effective King of Scotland. Enboldened, Robert then went on the offensive and marching an army into northern England, regained those Scottish castles which were still in control of the English.