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Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Life and Rule of Robert the Bruce – King of Scots

Early years

Robert the Bruce, the eldest son of Robert de Brus, 6th Lord of Annandale, and Marjorie, Countess of Carrick, was born on July 11, 1274. He inherited from his grandfather, Robert de Brus, the 5th Lord of Annandale, the rights to the crown of Scotland as a descendant of King David I. After the defeat of the party in the process of inheriting the Scottish crown in 1292 and enthronement of Scotland John I Balliol, the inheritance rights to the crown, along with Carrick County, were transferred to young Robert Bruce. Opposition of the clan Bruce John I to Balliol determined the initial support by Robert Bruce of the king of England Edward I in his struggle for the establishment of English domination over Scotland.

War of independence

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In the context of the invasion of Scotland by the English troops in 1296, Robert the Bruce joined the English army with his troops and swore allegiance to King Edward I of England. Support for the Bruce clan and his supporters provided Edward I a relatively easy conquest of the country and the capture of King John I. However, in 1297, William Wallace’s rebellion broke out in the country, aimed at the liberation of Scotland, which was joined by Robert the Bruce. But the rebellions of the Scottish lords were quickly and brutally suppressed, and in the Irvine Treaty Robert Bruce again pledged allegiance to the King of England. After the defeat of Wallace in the battle of Falkirk in 1298, Edward I appointed Bruce as a member of the regency council of Scotland, but in 1300 Robert Bruce was dismissed due to conflicts with another clan. In the future, Robert Bruce led the party of the Scottish barons, opposition to the rule of the Cumming and supporting the English king.

The struggle for influence in Scotland between the Bruce and Cumming clans resulted in the murder of John Cumming “Red” by Robert Bruce in one of the Dumfries churches in 1306, as a result of which Bruce actually became the head of the anti-British movement in the country. A part of the Scottish barons moved to his side, and on March 25, 1306, Robert the Bruce was crowned king. However, the rebels were quickly defeated by the British troops at Methven, Robert’s family was captured, his younger brothers were executed, and Bruce himself fled to the island of Ratlin off the west coast of Scotland.

But already in the spring of 1307, Robert I landed with a small detachment in the patrimonial county of Carrick and on May 10 defeated the army of Emer de Wales, Count of Pembroke, in the battle of Loudon Hill. At the same time, James Douglas and other Scottish barons joined Bruce, who began the gradual ousting of the English from the country. During 1308 – 1309, the troops of Bruce and Douglas defeated the Cumming party in the battles of Inveraray and on the Branders Pass and liberated northern and western Scotland.

With the death of Edward I in 1307, the armed forces of England were held down by revolts of the British magnates against the new King Edward II. The attempt of the new English invasion in 1310 failed, and by the end of 1313 the rebels liberated much of Scotland, including the largest cities ( Dundee, Perth, Edinburgh, Roxboro ), seized the Isle of Man from the British and laid siege to the English garrison at Stirling. The governor of Stirling agreed to surrender, provided that the city would not be liberated by the British army until June 24, 1314. The army of Edward II that arrived in time for this date was utterly defeated by the Scottish troops under the leadership of Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The victory at Bannockburn ensured the liberation of Scotland from the English occupation and the restoration of its independence.

Foreign and Domestic Policy

The defeat of the British troops at Bannockburn allowed Robert I to go on the offensive on the territory of England itself: in 1314 – 1315, Scottish troops raided Northumberland, Cumberland and Durham. Taking advantage of the Ulster uprising, the Scots landed in Ireland in 1315, and Edward Bruce, brother of Robert I, was crowned king of Ireland. The initial success of the military operations of the Scottish army, supported by the Bruce propaganda of the unity of the Scottish and Irish peoples, was replaced by a series of setbacks in 1317-1318, and in the battle on the Faughart hills in 1318 the Scots were defeated, and Edward Bruce was killed.

The failure in Ireland was soon compensated for by the new successes of Robert I in England: Beric was captured in 1317, and in 1319 the army of James Douglas defeated the archbishop of York under Miton, forcing the British to conclude a truce. The war resumed in 1322 with the successful actions of Robert I in Lancashire and Yorkshire. The king was also able to renew the military alliance with France (Treaty of Corbeya, 1323).

Simultaneously, Robert I stepped up efforts to reach agreement with the Pope. In the conflict between England and Scotland, the papacy took a consistent pro-British position, separating Robert Bruce and his supporters from the church and refusing to be recognized by the king of Scotland. However, the Scottish clergy supported their king and in 1320 published the “Arbrot Declaration” addressed to the Pope, which affirmed the independence of Scotland and justified Bruce’s right to the crown.

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The last attempt of the English king to achieve the submission of Scotland was made in 1327, after the overthrow of Edward II. But the campaign of Roger Mortimer and the young Edward III ended in failure. In response, the troops of Robert I again ravaged Northumberland and landed in Ireland. As a result, England was forced to sign in 1328 the Treaty of Northampton, according to which Scotland was recognized as an independent sovereign state, and Robert I – king of Scotland. The Isle of Man and Berwick were also returned to Scotland.

The defeat of the Cumming clan in Scotland by Robert Bruce and the expulsion of pro-British barons led to massive land confiscations and their redistribution in favor of the king and his entourage ( Douglas, Randolph, Campbell ) with the release of these possessions from a significant part of the obligations. As a result, the vassal relations during the reign of Robert I experienced their second revival, while the general trend for Western Europe to strengthen the royal local administration was not reflected in Scotland. In the face of acute financial deficits due to constant wars with England, Robert I was forced to abandon royal prerogatives in a large part of Scottish cities for paying a fixed annual payment in favor of the king, which later led to a narrowing of financial reserves. In 1326, the Scottish Parliament, convened in Cambuskenneth, in which for the first time in the history of the country representatives of cities took part, voted for Robert I for the period of his reign an extraordinary income tax of 10%.


Robert I died on June 7, 1329 in Cardross, his body was buried in Dunfermline Abbey, and his heart, according to the King’s will, was transferred to James Douglas, who took him on a crusade to Spain. After the death of Douglas, the heart of King Robert I returned to Scotland and was buried in Melrose Abbey in the city ​​of the same name. In 1920, archaeologists discovered and then reburied the heart, but did not indicate its exact location. In 1996, during construction work, a casket was found with a heart that was allegedly stored in it. Following the king’s death wish, it was reburied again at Melrose Abbey in 1998.

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