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Robert the Bruce

Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, was born at Turnberry Castle, Ayrshire, in 1274, His father was a Scottish Nobleman and his mother was the Countess of Carrck. His grandfather, Robert de Brus, was a strong contender for the Scottish Crown following the death of Alexander III in 1286. Alexander left no male heirs and the throne fell to his four year old grand-daughter, Margaret. Edward I of England proposed a marriage between Margaret and his son but Margaret died at the age of 7 and the marriage never took place. The other claimant to the throne was John Balliol and Edward I was asked by the Scottish Barons to intercede in the selection of a King. Believing him to be the weaker and more compliant of the two, King Edward sided with John Balliol.

In return for his support, King Edward demanded that he be recognised as Lord Paramount of Scotland which gave him feudal rights over Scotland and Judicial Authority over King John. Balliol refused to comply with these demands, instead forming an alliance with France. This angered King Edward who came to Scotland seeking homage from Scottish nobles, including Robert the Bruce who was now 21 years old. In revenge, Balliol seized all Roberts’s estates in Scotland and gave them to his brother-in law, John Comyn. In 1296, Edward, supported by both Robert and his father, invaded Scotland, defeated Balliol’s army at the Battle of Dunbar and forced him to abdicate. On July 10th, he surrendered the Scottish crown to the English King who removed the Stone of Scone, the Scottish coronation stone, to London. King Edward summoned a parliament in Berwick on Tweed where he received homage and oaths of fealty from over 2000 Scots thus, seemingly, securing his authority over Scotland.

Edward, however, had not foreseen the rise of nationalism among the ordinary Scottish people in the face of English armies arriving in Scotland. Led by a Scottish knight, William Wallace, the rebellion gained momentum until the English army, although larger and better equipped, was routed at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. He was declared ‘Guardian of Scotland and Leader of its armies’. The following year the English returned in greater strength and defeated Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk. Wallace then resigned his title of Guardian of Scotland to Robert the Bruce and John Comyn.

At a meeting in Grayfriars Kirk in Dumfries Robert stabbed Comyn to death, as a result of which he was outlawed by King Edward and excommunicated by the Pope. He declared himself King of Scotland on March 27th 1306. In reply, Edward sent a large army north to defeat Bruce at the Battle of Methven and forcing Bruce to go into hiding. A year later he returned and again began to harry the English forces until King Edward was again forced to send a massive army north with himself at the head. By now he was old and weak and asked that after his death his bones should be carried at the head of his army until Scotland was finally dominated. His army was defeated at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

King Edward I was succeeded by his son, Edward II, who had no stomach for hostilities with Scotland and allowed Bruce to build on his successes. The Scottish nobles petitioned the Pope to lift Bruce’s excommunication. In May 1328 a treaty was signed in Northampton recognising Scotland as an independent state with Bruce as its king. The Scottish earls, barons and the 'community of the realm' sent a letter to Pope John XXII declaring that Robert was their rightful monarch. This was the 'Declaration of Arbroath' and it asserted the antiquity of the Scottish people and their monarchy.

Robert died on 7 June 1329. He was buried at Dunfermline. He requested that his heart be taken to the Holy Land, but it only got as far as Spain. It was returned to Scotland and buried in Melrose Abbey.