scot.-Gaelic: Roibert a Bruis
norm.-french: Robert de Brus
Father: Robert de Brus
Mother: Marjory, Countess of Carrick
1st Isabella of Mar
2nd Elizabeth de Burgh
03/1306 in Scone
02/1306 to 07/1329
Little is known about the Childhood and adolescence of Robert I., in modern English Robert Bruce and Robert the Bruce, except that he was born on 11 July 1274 (date is considered secured) and lived for a time at the english Court of Edwards I. should have.
He should also have been a descendant of the norwegian Jarl Lodver, so that also Viking blood flowed in him. He was next to his predecessor John Balliol to the two promising Candidates for the scottish Throne, among which the english King Edward I. chose in his capacity as arbitrator and swore allegiance to him as well. He felt that the choice fell on Balliol as unjust, because he and his family were denied the rightful heir.
In 1295 he married Isabella of Mar, who died shortly after the birth of daughter Marjorie.
Time of the Wars of Independence
Even under King Balliol, Robert remained a Vassal of the english King and devoted to him.
That changed when he was commissioned by Edward I. in 1297 to capture the scottish Soldier William ‘Le Hardi’ Douglas and hand him and his Family over to the English. He felt more attached to the Guardian William Wallace, brought the Douglas Family together, joined the Resistance, and devastated the Land of those loyal to Eduard.
Together with scottish Nobles, he then set up an Army. However, there was no Battle. After tough negotiations, they agreed on 7 July 1297 a Capitulation, which went down as ‘shameful Surrender of Irvine’ in the History. After a renewed pledge of allegiance in connection with the surrender, the Scots were forgiven their Violence, which Robert could save his Titles and Lands.
Shortly after the Battle of Stirling Bridge in September 1297, Robert rejoined his compatriots and devastated annandals, destroying the British-held Castle at Ayr. After the victorious return of Edward from the ‘Battle of Falkirk’, he deprived Robert of the rights of domination, but gave him the chance to prove his loyalty.
When William Wallace resigned from his position as Guardian of Scotland, Robert and his opponent John ‘the Red’ Comyn was raised to this function. As Comyn was a relative of Balliol, there were repeated disputes, so that Robert retired two years later as Guardian and Comyn one year later. In 1302, Robert and other Nobles submitted again to the english King. In the same year, he married his second Wife, Elizabeth de Burgh -the Daughter of the Earl of Ulster- with whom he had four Children.
Coronation and reconquest of Scotland
From 1304 Robert secretly reappeared for Scotland and contract an Alliance with William de Lamberton in July.
In 1305, Robert presumably stayed in London and witnessed the Execution of William Wallace. Since Edward did not trust Robert and suspected he was organizing a conspiracy, he ordered him to give command of Kildrummy Castle.
At the same time, the Pact Robert had concluded with William de Lamberton was betrayed. Robert then agreed with Comyn to support each other in the Throne claim and to receive the Lands of each other. Presumably to harm Robert, Comyn, however, betrayed the conspiracy and Robert fled to Scotland.
In February 1306, Robert arrived in Dumfries, where Comyn was also staying.
In a private conversation in the Greyfriar’s Church, in which they wanted to settle the dispute, they came into quarrel so that Robert stabbed with a Dagger on Comyn, but did not kill him. When Robert fled in fear, his companion Roger Kirkpatrick entered the church and killed Comyn. Supposedly he called Ah’ll mak siccer (I’ll finish it) before he stormed into it.
For this murder on Sacred Ground Robert threatened the excommunication, whereby he could no longer become King. So he had three weeks -so long had the notification of the Pope and his answer needed- to take the next steps. In order not to lose everything, he hurried to Scone to be crowned. Since everything had to go quickly he was crowned King in March without the Imperial Insignia, including the Stone of Scone -Eduard had let him bring to England- and the Crown. As a Crown, therefore, a golden hoop was placed on his Head.
Actually, the coronation should have been carried out by the Earl of Fife, but the minor heir of the House stayed at the time at the english Court. Instead, his Sister, Isobel MacDuff, stole her husband’s Horses and rode to Scone during the night to claim her family’s rights, but came too late and the coronation had already been completed. However, her gesture was so significant that the Ceremony was repeated and Robert Bruce became the only King to be crowned twice.
Isobel MacDuff could no longer return to her Family and remained at the Court of the new King.
Even though Robert was now King, he still had no Kingdom, since many members of the Nobility distrusted him because of his previous relationship with Edward. Attempts to recapture the Country in the following years were failures, so that Robert was most of the time fleeing from Edward and his Troops.
According to a Legend, Robert is said to have once hidden in a Cave.
There he watched a Spider as it repeatedly tried to spin a Net. However, the spider did not give up and eventually managed to build her Net. This should have inspired Robert not to give up his fight.
The story, which allegedly referred first to James Douglas, was said to have been linked to Robert I. much later by Sir Walter Scott. Anyway…
Robert finally managed to become stronger in Scotland and find supporters. Especially when, after the Death of Edward I. in July 1307, his -military awkward- Son Edward II. took over.
In the following years, Robert -who shared the command of the troops with his Brother Edward- was able to win more and more Battles for himself. In May 1309, he convened his first parliamentary session in St. Andrews, and in 1310 he was -excommunicated- recognized by the scottish Clergy. That he had the support of local Church Leaders, despite the excommunication, was of great importance, and probably due to the influence of his Friend Lamberton.
In the following three years Robert was able to defeat a number of english Castles and Outposts and the last Castle held by the English fell in June 1314 -despite seemingly superior Army- at the ‘Battle of Bannockburn’ the Scots in the hands. The unexpected Victory secured Robert the complete acceptance and after further irruptions and raids on english Positions Edward II. found himself forced to a truce.
Campaign to Ireland
Encouraged by the military success, an Invasion of Ireland was started in May 1315, allegedly to liberate it from english Rule.
Robert’s Brother Edward was eventually crowned irish High King in May 1316 and asked Robert in the fall for support from him personally and other troops. In May 1317, Robert returned to Scotland.
The Influence of Robert grew through his successes, so that the important Nobles in 1320 in the ‘Declaration of Arborath’ the Pope asked Robert to give the blessing. At the same time, they made it clear to Robert that he could not do what he wanted, too. So it says in this statement:
“But Robert himself, should he turn away from the Task he has begun and agree that we or our Kingdom would be subject to the english King or his People, we would expel him as our enemy, as one who have undermined our and his rights, and would choose another King to defend our freedom; For as long as only one hundred of us survive, we will not submit to english Rule in any way. For we fight neither for Glory, nor for Prosperity, nor for Honor; but we fight alone for the freedom that no righteous man gives up -except with his life. ”
Three years later, Pope John XXII. recognized Robert as King.
Even this mediation attempt did not bring Peace and the raids continued. Only under Edward III. a Peace Treaty was concluded with the ‘Edinburgh and Northampton Accords’, which recognized the english Crown, Robert as King of Scotland, and Scotland as an independent Kingdom -with the borders formed under Alexander III. were confirmed.
After a renewed campaign to Ireland, the aging and sick Robert retired to his Castle at Cardross on the Clyde.
On June 7, 1329 Robert the Bruce died after long -term contemporary reports “dirty”- Disease and was buried in the Dunfermline Abbey. According to his Last Will, his Heart was previously taken, to fulfill his vow to the Church, to accompany her on a crusade to Jerusalem. However, such a “desecration of the Dead” has been prohibited since 1229 under threat of Excommunication and denial of a christian Burial of all involved. It was not until 1331 that those involved were released from their Sins at the request of Sir Thomas Randolph. Sir James Douglas kept his Heart in a Silver Box and made his way to the Holy Land with scottish Knights. In Spain, Douglas was killed in the fight against Saracens. Even before the fight he should have flung the Box against the Enemy and shouted “Lead us as you have often done, and I will follow you or die”. The Heart was later found on the Battlefield and returned to Scotland, where it was buried under the High Altar of Melrose Abbey.
For a long time it was assumed that Robert the Bruce suffered from Leprosy.
Recent studies on its Skeleton and Skull, however, show Signs of infection with Syphilis.
Excerpts from the Period can be found in the Film ‘Braveheart’ from 1995 and the 2018 released Film ‘The Outlaw King’.
Triggered by the “Hysteria” of the Film Braveheart, the Film ‘The Bruce’ was published in 1996 and tells the Life Story of Robert I. and Bannockburn.