Robert The Bruce "Soldier King of the Scots" 1274-1329
Athough William Wallace and Robert the Bruce were of the same period in Scottish history, their aims were, to begin with, very different. Wallace was driven by patriotism and hatred of the English invaders; Bruce on the other hand, was initially motivated by his personal ambition. The family of Bruce was Anglo-Norman and known as de Brus. Wallace was a Briton. The Bruce's grandfather had been one of the claimants to the Scottish throne when the English King, Edward I also known as Edward de long shanks hammer of the Scots, nominated Sir John Balliol. The Bruce had originally sworn allegiance to the English King too but changed sides as Wallace became recognized as the leader of the Scottish armies after his victory at Sterling Bridge.
As the success of Wallace waned, Bruce once again switched his allegiance, along with many more of the Scottish Lords who had originally joined Wallace, back to the English King. When Wallace was out of the country and Edward I was warring in France, the way was open for Bruce to take the initiative. His own patriotism had been instilled in him by his first wife, the daughter of the earl of Mar. It was the daughter of this union, through her marriage to Walter the Steward, that became the mother of the first great Scottish Stewart dynasty. Later relations in this line included Charles I, and Bonnie Prince Charlie.
In 1306 Bruce's patriotism was enhanced when he killed his hereditary enemy, the Red Comyn during a quarrel in the Church of the Convent of the Minorite Friars, in Dumfries. It is said that after he emerged from the church those with the Bruce asked him if Comyn was dead. He replied I am not sure; so Kirkpatrick of Clan Kirkpatrick entered the church and stabbed Comyn until he was sure all life had left his body. When Kirkpatrick came out of the Church the Bruce asked if Comyn was dead and Kirkpatrick replied I am sure of it. So it was that with those words that Clan Kirkpatrick got it's motto "He Is Sure". Bloodshed on sacred ground was sacrilege, and this act put Bruce outside the ways of Christendom, and enraged the English King.
An important step to being crowned was for the Bruce to get the Clergy to support him after the incident in the church when he had slain Comwyn. This was eventually achieved with the clergy swearing allegiance to him as their rightful King and amending their seals accordingly
Bruce was crowned in 1306 on the 25th of March with the backing of a few friends and with a small host gathered round him, Bruce went to Scone where the Kings of Scotland were crowned and became the King of Scotland. Two Scottish Earls and three bishops conducted the coronation. The Countess of Buchan in place of her brother who held the hereditary right to crown the Kings of Scotland, since he refused to attend in this case crowned the Bruce. The real crown having been stolen by Edward was replaced by a golden coronella. Thus Robert the Bruce, the greatest Soldier King Scotland ever had, began his battle against the English. He also began his fight to capture the hearts and minds of the Scottish people and bring back pride and independence to the beleaguered Scots.
Edward was enraged by Bruce's actions and sent a strong force north of the border that crushed the smaller Scottish force led by the Bruce, aided by the treachery of some Scots. Bruce and some of his followers took refuge in the wild mountainous areas of Athol and Argyle. He had with him Sir James Douglas, known as 'the Black Douglas', whose clan was one of the most powerful in Scotland at the time. Edward sent out many forces to find the Bruce, Sir Douglas and the rest of the small band, but they were unable to bring them to captivity. There were many close encounters where the Bruce, through sheer determination and guts, was able to avoid capture. These encounters have gone down in Scottish folklore, but at the time they gave the Scots a focus for their hopes of independence
While in hiding from the English, the Bruce's lands were confiscated and his wife and young daughter were imprisoned in English castles. The Countess of Buchan who had dared crown the Bruce was imprisoned in an open cage made of wickerwork and fixed to the walls of a castle in Berwick. Three of Bruce's brothers were put to death. Many others who opposed Edward and supported the Bruce or Wallace suffered similar fates with their heads being placed on spikes to discourage others from acting against their English overlords.
These brutal actions undertaken by Edward did not have the effect he hoped for but just the opposite. Scots from the Clergy, nobles, gentles and commons rallied to Bruce's banner swearing an allegiance to him as their rightful King. For about a year Bruce was a fugitive in great danger but fate was on his side. The First Saxon King of England, Edward I; “ the 'hammer of the Scots” died, failing in his great purpose of life to totally annex Scotland under English rule. Edward's hatred of Scotland was so great that his dying wish was to have his bones carried to Scotland the next time a rebellion broke out.
The morning before the Battle of Bannock Burn was by the Scots spent in; “silence and devotion." Bruce prepared the ground around the Bannock Burn, placing his troops in strategic positions that allowed for retreat if victory proved impossible. The army was divided into four circles, under Edward Bruce, Sir James Douglas, Sir Thomas Randolph and Walter the Steward. The King himself was in charge of the reserves. The ground between the Scots and the approaching English was full of marshes and watercourses. The Bannock Burn gave some protection to the Scottish front, as did two great bogs that threatened to slow the English progress.
As the English approached the Bruce's forces before the Battle of Bannockburn the Bruce mounted upon a Shetland Pony was recognized by a young English Knight named; Sir Henry de Bohun, who in full armor and riding a great war horse charged the Bruce. On seeing the approaching attack by the young Knight the Bruce turned and stood up in the stirrups of his saddle and with one blow clove the head of the poor Knight; who by the way was his second cousin; from crown to shoulder breaking the handle of the axe in two.
The English attack commenced with a hail of arrows over the Scots. In the hand-to-hand fighting the defenders had the upper hand as the English, fighting in spaces too close, were caught up in the submerged pits and bogs. Men and horses plunged helplessly, and knights, hampered by heavy armor could not rise. The English ranks, in total disorder, suffered the final blow when a group of observers tore down the hill where they had been eagerly watching shouting the Bruce's battle cry and making the English think that Scots reinforcements had arrived. Edward II fled the field leaving some intrepid English still fighting.
Bannockburn was the greatest defeat that the English ever suffered at the hands of the Scots and the victory provided great booty, but more important, independence and Bruce as master of Scotland. The succession to the throne was quickly organized by Parliament and it ensured that if there was no male heir to Bruce that his brother Edward and his male heirs would succeed. The only child of Bruce was Marjorie who died in childbirth, after a fall from a horse, the surviving infant of the Princess later became Robert II.
Hostilities between the countries continued, Edward II running out of supplies returned south after ravaging the Scottish border area only to be surprised by the Bruce heading north after raids into Yorkshire. Treachery was waiting for Edward II after he fled south to escape the Bruce; first, by the Earl of Carlisle who was in league with the Scots and was summarily executed; and secondly, by his wife who, with her lover, was conspiring against him. With various problems hanging over him, Edward II called for a thirteen-year truce with the Scots, although this did not include recognizing Bruce as the 'King of Scotland'. The Bruce also got papal approval and with the birth of his son, he was universally recognized as King. The uneasiness between the English and Scottish neighbors continued and the Bruce was able to raise more taxes for his armies through the Scottish Parliament. The situation remained the same as Edward III replaced Edward II, though a treaty was initially signed which attempted to bring peace. Finally a large English army was forced to disband when faced by a smaller Scottish army this and other pressures playing on the English, overtures for peace were made. The terms were concluded in Edinburgh the following year with Scotland being formally recognized as an independent Kingdom, her King an independent Sovereign, her inhabitants a free and independent people. Robert the Bruce saw the fulfillment of his highest hopes and he was able to live out the last years of his life in peace at Cardross, where he died in his fifty-fifth year. His last request was that his heart be taken on the crusades against the infidel moors of Spain. Sir James Douglas carried out this last wish throwing the Bruce’s Heart out in front of him into the fighting, and following it in as he so often had done. The Black Douglas was killed in Spain but the Bruce's heart was returned to its native Scotland.
Robert the Bruce
The Coronation of Robert the Bruce
This was performed in 2006 on the 700 year anniversary
of the Crowning of Robert the Bruce
At Scone Palace in Scotland