Robert the Bruce
“For as long as one hundred of us shall remain alive, we shall never in any wise consent submit to the rule of the English”
1. The Bruce family had initially supported Edward I’s 1296 invasion of Scotland as they believed themselves to be the true claimants of the Scottish throne. Knowing that Edward had the military clout to remove John Balliol they hoped to benefit by being next in line to the throne. However, Edward declared himself king and in doing so managed to unite all the feuding Scots against him. Along with John ‘Red’ Comyn, Robert became guardian of Scotland after William Wallace’s defeat at Falkirk.
2. Robert was the Scottish Bishop’s candidate for the Scottish throne but he needed to John Comyn to back his claim. There was no love lost between the two men so a meeting was called under truce at the Greyfriars church. During the meeting an arugument broke out and Robert killed John. It was disastrous for his claim as he had murdered an unarmed man in a church thereby provoking civil war (as well as war with England) and excommunication from the church. Robert was an outlaw. Knowing that they werwe in too deep with Robert, some of the clergy saw that he was absolved of his crime and they hurriedly and unceremoniously crowned him King.
3. As a guerrilla leader Robert was adept and ruthless. He won victories against the English which, coinciding with the death of Edward I, forced the English back South. By 1313, Robert had either earned the loyalty of Scottish opposition or all but crushed it.
4. Bannockburn, 1314. This was the defining moment of Robert de Bruce’s reign. Robert had spent much time and effort raising an army for a decisive engagement with the English. Edward II was marching north to put an end to Scottish resistance but Robert had chosen his killing ground carefully and meticulously. The English would march straight into a trap. Opening up with their heavy infantry the English charged the Scots but the Scottish held. For two days this would continue. As English attacks faltered the Scottish defence strengthened until the attack could be sustained no longer. Edward II fled the battlefield and Robert was able to get his family released from captivity in London. Bruce would eventually force English recognition of Scottish independence by 1328.
5. Robert’s last wish was that his heart be removed from his body and taken on crusade. This was duly undertaken by Sir Robert Douglas who travelled to the Iberian Reconquista with Robert’s heart concealed in a silver casket which he himself carried. Douglas was killed during the battle of Teba whilst pursuing the routed Moorish forces. Both he and Robert’s heart were repatriated to Scotland by the surviving Scottish contingent. A memorial marks the spot in Teba where Douglas fell.