Scotlands warcraft be this: footsoldiers, mountains and marshy
ground; and let her woods, her bow and spear serve for barricades.
Let menace lurk in all her narrow places among her warrior bands,
and let her plains so burn with fire that her enemies flee away.
Crying out in the night, let her men be on their guard,
and her enemies in confusion will flee from hungers sword.
Surely it will be so, as were guided by Robert, our lord.
Scotlands Strategy of Guerrilla Warfare ( c.1308)
Who was Robert
was descended from ancestors in Brix, in Flanders. In 1124, King
David I granted the massive estates of Annandale to his follower,
Robert de Brus, in order to secure the border. The name, Robert,
was very common in the family.
Born in 1274,
Bruce was the grandson of another Robert Bruce, the failed claimant
of the Scottish crown in 1290/2, and the son of yet another Robert
Bruce. His mother, Marjorie, Countess of Carrick, brought him an
ancient Gaelic lineage. Descended from the Gaelic Earls of Carrick,
she was a formidable operator who apparently held Bruces father
captive after he returned from crusade, refusing to release him
until he agreed to marry her.
Brought up at
Turnberry Castle, Bruce was a product of his lineage, speaking Gaelic,
Scots and Norman French. In 1295 he became Earl of Carrick and was
no doubt convinced of his families entitlement to Scotlands
of the Crown
Robert Bruces struggle for the Scottish crown wasnt
entirely an enterprise born of patriotism, and, although no doubt
his attitude changed over the years, Bruces motives do appear
to be slightly more self-serving than that. The ascension of his
family to royalty seemed more central to his long-term plans than
Scottish liberation from English rule. The facts speak for themselves.
and his father supported Edward Is invasion of Scotland in
1296, hoping to gain the crown after Balliols fall. They were
understandably disappointed when Edward proceeded to install himself
In 1297, Bruce,
encouraged by Bishop Wishart, raised the standard of revolt at Irvine
(the reason why he was absent at the Battle of Stirling Bridge).
However, the rising failed and Bruce, rather than join Wallace after
the Scots victory at Stirling Bridge, kept a low profile until he
could determine what the English reaction would be.
Bruce was also
absent at the Battle of Falkirk, in which Wallaces army was
devastated, but seems to have made an effort to help by burning
the town of Ayr in order to deny it to the English as they returned
In 1298, after the Scots defeat at Falkirk, Bruce and John Comyn
replaced Wallace as Guardians of Scotland. They soon quarrelled however,
Comyn being a supporter of Balliols claim to the throne, and
Bruce was replaced a year later. He continued to fight
on until it seemed Balliol was about to return, then, once again,
he submitted to the English king, hoping for recognition of his
claim to the throne.
So Bruce wasnt
adverse to switching sides in pursuit of his goal, and this wasnt
irregular practice amongst noblemen in pursuit of power at the time.
The rhetoric of the Declaration of Arbroath, 22 years
later - For as long as a hundred of us remain alive, we shall
never on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English
- was never Bruces rhetoric, for he had appealed to English
lordship on more than one occasion.
1304 was a crucial
year for Bruce. His fathers death made him the Bruce claimant
to the throne, and the capitulation of the Scots in the face of
English attacks ended hopes of a Balliol restoration. Edward I had
conquered Scotland, but he wasnt expected to live much longer.
Bruce started to seek allies.
On 11th February
1306 Robert Bruce met John The Red Comyn at Greyfriars
Kirk in Dumfries. We dont know what they discussed, but an
argument flared, swords were drawn, and Bruce stabbed Comyn before
the high altar. Comyns murder is not believed to have been
premeditated, however Bruce was excommunicated and outlawed, whilst
Scotland was plunged into civil war.
There was no
way back, Bruce realised he would have to start his
rising, that force would now take precedence over
diplomacy. Within six weeks Bishop Wishart gave him
absolution and he was hurriedly crowned king at Scone
on March 25th 1306.