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Robert the Bruce

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Submitted By swyman78
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Robert I, the Bruce
Born on July 11, 1274, at Turnberry Castle in Ayrshire Scotland, Robert Bruce also known as Robert the Bruce is known as Scotland’s greatest hero. Yet, the movie Brave Heart would have you think William Wallace takes that title, making Bruce out to be nothing more than a self-serving opportunist. History however, shows us that Robert Bruce was the patient and cunning leader that Scotland needed to face the King of England Edward I, and later his son Edward II, to win Scottish independence from England.
Family Background
Robert’s father was known as Robert de Brus, 6th Lord of Annandale, descendent of David I with a distant connection to Scottish royalty. His mother was Marjory Countess of Carrick a lady of Gaelic decent. Robert the Bruce was married to Isabella of Mar in 1295 and later Elizabeth de Burgh in 1302. He fathered five legitimate children and several bastard children between the two marriages.
Early life of Robert the Bruce
The struggle for control of Scotland began in 1286 when Alexander III died leaving his infant grandchild Margaret to rule. In 1292, John Balliol was selected by some Scottish auditors to be King of Scotland. This caused a dispute on who should rule and King Edward I of England was asked to settle the dispute. John Balliol was Robert the Bruce’s rival to the throne. In 1292, at the age of 18, Robert the Bruce and his father pledged loyalty to Edward I at Berwick upon Tweed. Robert the Bruce’s lands and titles in Scotland were stripped by John Balliol for treason, and given to his brother-in-law John Comyn. Edward demanded feudal superiority of Scotland, judicial superiority over the Scottish king, and military support against France when called upon. John Balliol declared himself rightful king and signed a treaty with France. He was later defeated, in 1296, by Edward I and his own Scottish nobles including Robert the Bruce. This left Scotland without a monarch and gave rule to Edward I for 10 years. His siding with Edward I is a great example of Robert the Bruce knowing when to follow and learn how to lead later.
The Scottish uprising
In 1297, a rebellion was developing with William Wallace emerging as the leader. Robert the Bruce eventually decided to break his loyalty and joined the Scottish uprising. His famous words were “No man holds his flesh and blood in hatred, and I am no exception. I must join my own people and the nation in whom I was born.” They won a victory at Stirling Bridge in 1297 and Wallace proclaimed himself Guardian of Scotland. Wallace was later defeated at Falkirk the following year and went underground. After the defeat, Robert the Bruce again signed a pledge of loyalty with the English king so he could keep his lands and titles. This is a leader knowing when he’s picked the wrong solution and developing a different strategy to fix a problem. Robert the Bruce along with John Comyn, Balliol’s nephew was named by Edward I as Guardians of Scotland creating a bitter rivalry between Bruce and Comyn.
Taking the Throne
With Wallace underground, later captured and hung in 1305, Robert decided to make some changes to leadership. In 1306, at a church in Dumfries, Robert the Bruce accused Comyn of treason during an argument and ended up stabbing him which resulted in Comyn’s death. Robert the Bruce was excommunicated by the Pope and Edward outlawed his rule. Talk about stirring up the management. With the choice of being an outlaw or claiming the Scottish throne, he decided to declare his kingship and was backed by the Scottish Church. The crowning took place at Scone Abbey on March 25, 1306. This did not sit well with Edward I and his men attacked Scotland resulting in Robert’s defeat and escape to Northern Ireland.
Guerrilla Warfare
After spending the winter in Ireland, he returned to Scotland and led a successful guerrilla campaign against the English army. He demonstrated a great ability to use limited resources to overcome an overwhelming task. Edward I did not trust his son to take on Robert the Bruce, so with ailing health he decided to finish the task himself. This demonstrated how well respected Robert was by another leader. Edward I fell ill leading a campaign against Robert and later passed away on July 7, 1307. With his adversary dead and the incompetent son in charge, Robert removed the English from Scotland by 1314 with the overall victory being the Battle of Bannockburn in June of 1314.
In the Year 1320 Scottish Nobles with the backing of Robert issued the Declaration of Arbroath. These words were spoken in the declaration “For as longs as one hundred of us shall remain alive we shall never in any wise consent to submit to the rule of the English, for it is not for glory that we fight … but for freedom alone.” The declaration did not halt hostilities with the English until Edward II was deposed of in 1327.
Treaty and Peace
In May of 1328 Edward III recognized Scotland’s independence with the signing of The Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton ending the 30 years of War for Independence. With Scotland finally free, Robert died at Manor of Cardross near Dumbarton on June 7, 1329. He requested his heart be taken to the Holy lands. The thought behind this was to make up for the murder of Comyn in a church, his lack of going on a Crusade, and any other sins. He was succeeded by his eldest and only surviving son David II.

1. Robert the Bruce Biography [online], available at:
2. Robert the Bruce (1274 – 1329) [online], available at:
3. Britannia Biographies Robert I, the Bruce [online], available at:
4. King Robert the Bruce of Scotland [online], available at:
5. The Death of Edward I [online], available at:

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