the Bruce (II)
Fugitive, Outlawed, Ex-communicated King
was disastrous start to his reign. Bruce had provoked
civil war as well as war with England. One of his
brothers was killed, whilst his sisters, wife and
daughter were captured and imprisoned. In June 1306,
Bruces disorganised forces were defeated at
Methven and he fled to the Gaelic west, hiding on
Rathlin Island, off Ireland, and in the Hebrides Islands.
It is here that he passes into legend as the dispossesed
king, hiding in the mountains and in caves, suffering
hardship for the good of the nation. However,
at this point Bruce was by no means the peoples
hero in Scotland. Very few bishops or nobles had been
at his inauguration, and there is evidence to suggest
that he threatened many his countrymen into supporting
It was then that Bruce changed tactics, and success
followed. He turned out to be a natural guerrilla
commander, winning small victories at Glen Trool and
Loudon Hill. In 1308 he defeated the Comyn faction
at Inverurie and took Aberdeen, establishing control
over the Kingdom north of Perth and Dundee.
ruthlessly crushed those who opposed him, forcing
them into exile, but he also knew how to reward those
who came over to his side. The tide seemed have turned
in Robert's favour and many of the common people of
Scotland now turned to him as their only hope of salvation
from English tyranny.
was also on his side. Edward I, furious at Bruce,
died within sight of Scotland on a march north to
crush the rebels. His successor, Edward II, never
a match for his father, sought a two year truce with
Bruce. By 1313 Robert was powerful enough to issue
an ultimatum to the remaining Balliol supporters -
to join him or forfeit their estates.
commanders now embarked on daring raids on the remaining
English garrisons. Sir James Douglas surprised Roxburgh
castle, inspiring Thomas, Earl of Moray, to take Edinburgh
castle by stealth. In England, Edward II had to react.
In 1314 he led a massive invasion force into Scotland,
where they met the Scots army at the now famous Bannockburn,
Bruce had chosen his ground carefully at Bannockburn, in the battle
that ensued, on the 23rd and 24th of June, Bruce won a tremendous
victory over a vast English army. Edward II, was nearly caught up
in the catastrophe, and only just escaped. Here was perhaps his
greatest hour and the most enduring memory of Robert the Bruce -
fighting for his nation's independence against a hugely superior
English force and winning, just as Wallace had done at Stirling
Bridge 17 years earlier.
Bruce was now in total control of Scotland, however,
he still hadn't achieved his aim. Scotland's independence
and Bruce's monarchy still hadn't been recognised
by the English or the Pope, and this was essential
if his rule was to have any credence in Christendom
as a whole.
Edward Bruces invasion of Ireland 1315-18
The Scots opened a second front when Robert's brother,
Edward, invaded Ireland. Robert appealed to the native
Irish to rise against Edward IIs rule, and some
have seen this as a cynical manipulation of Gaelic
sentimentalism. The Dark Age Kings of Alba had been
intensely proud of their Gaelic-Irish origin and Bruce
wrote as king asking them to free our nation
(meaning both Scots and Irish) from English rule.
Edward Bruce may also have had a reasonable claim
to the Irish high kingship. He was supported by Irelands
most powerful king, Domnall Ua Neill, a kinsman of
Robert and Edward through their maternal grandfather.
The invasion, however, was a disaster, as famine blighted Ireland,
and Edwards bid for the high kingship ended when he was slain
in 1318. The whole expedition does show, however, just how ambitious
the Bruce family were. The attack on English-ruled Ireland could
be perceived as ploy to split English forces and, hence, better
defend Scotland, but Edward Bruce did have a serious ambition to
rule Ireland as the King. Would the Bruces have stopped at Ireland
and Scotland? Or would Wales have been their next target, in a sort
of United Celtic Kingdom?
Diplomacy & Real Politick.
On the diplomatic front, the Scots appealed to the papacy through
the famous 'Declaration of Arbroath', but to no avail. The papacy
ignored the Declaration and English recognition wasnt forthcoming.
Bruce, by now quite ill with a form of leprosy, accepted a 13 year
truce with Edward II in the knowledge he would surely die before
However, another stroke of luck helped Robert to fulfill
his ambitions. In 1328 England fell into crisis after
the deposition and murder of Edward II. Seizing the
moment, Bruce launched an invasion of northern England,
threatening to annex it to
His challenge couldnt be ignored and the Edward
IIIs government was forced to recognise Bruces
kingship and Scotlands independence. A year
later, Bruce died.
Bruces body is
buried in Dunfermline Abbey, whilst his heart is at Melrose Abbey
in the borders. It is buried with the inscription -
A noble hart may haiff nane es...Gyff fredome failyhe.