Robert the Bruce

Robert the Bruce
Robert I
King of Scots
Reign 1306–1329
Coronation 25 March 1306
Predecessor John
Successor David II
Spouse Isabella of Mar
Elizabeth de Burgh
Marjorie Bruce
David II of Scotland
House House of Bruce
Father Robert de Brus, 6th Lord of Annandale
Mother Marjorie, Countess of Carrick
Born 11 July 1274(1274-07-11)
Turnberry Castle, Ayrshire[1][2]
Died 7 June 1329(1329-06-07) (aged 54)
Manor of Cardross
Burial Dunfermline Abbey (Body) – Melrose Abbey (Heart)
Religion Roman Catholicism

Robert I (11 July 1274 – 7 June 1329), popularly known as Robert the Bruce (Medieval Gaelic: Roibert a Briuis; modern Scottish Gaelic: Raibeart Bruis; Norman French: Robert de Brus or Robert de Bruys), was King of Scots from March 25, 1306, until his death in 1329.

His paternal ancestors were of Scoto-Norman heritage (originating in Brix, Manche, Normandy), and his maternal of Franco-Gaelic.[3] He became one of Scotland's greatest kings, as well as one of the most famous warriors of his generation, eventually leading Scotland during the Wars of Scottish Independence against the Kingdom of England. He claimed the Scottish throne as a fourth great-grandson of David I of Scotland, and fought successfully during his reign to regain Scotland's place as an independent nation. Today in Scotland, Bruce is remembered as a national hero.

His body is buried in Dunfermline Abbey, while his heart is buried in Melrose Abbey. His embalmed heart was to be taken on crusade by his lieutenant and friend Sir James Douglas to the Holy Land, but only reached Moorish Granada, where it acted as a talisman for the Scottish contingent at the Battle of Teba.


Background and early life

Robert was the first son of Robert de Brus, 6th Lord of Annandale and Marjorie, Countess of Carrick.[4] His mother was by all accounts a formidable woman who, legend would have it, kept Robert Bruce's father captive until he agreed to marry her. From his mother, he inherited the Gaelic Earldom of Carrick, and through his father a Royal lineage that would give him a claim to the Scottish throne. Although his date of birth is known,[5] his place of birth is less certain, but it was probably Turnberry Castle in Ayrshire.[1][5][6][7]

Very little is known of his youth. He was probably brought up in a mixture of the Anglo-French culture of northern England and south-eastern Scotland, and the Gaelic culture of Carrick and the Irish Sea, French being his father-tongue and Gaelic his mother-tongue.[8] He may have been fostered with a local family, as was the custom (Barbour mentions his foster-brother); it is suspected that his brother Edward was fostered with his second-cousin Domhnall O'Neill.[9] Robert's first appearance in history is on a witness list of a charter issued by Alasdair MacDomhnaill, Lord of Islay. His name appears in the company of the Bishop of Argyll, the vicar of Arran, a Kintyre clerk, his father and a host of Gaelic notaries from Carrick.[10]

In 1292 his mother died, elevating the 18-year-old Robert to the Earldom of Carrick; this had the side effect of stripping his father of his jure uxoris claim to the title and lands. In November of the same year he saw Edward I, on behalf of the Guardians of Scotland, award the vacant Crown of Scotland to his grandfather's first cousin once removed, John Balliol,[11] after a lobbying campaign known as the 'Great Cause'. Almost immediately his grandfather, Robert de Brus, 5th Lord of Annandale, resigned his Lordship of Annandale to Robert's father, possibly to avoid having to swear fealty to John as a vassal lord.

Later both father and son sided with Edward I against John, whom they considered a usurper and to whom Robert had not sworn fealty.[12]

In April 1294, the younger Bruce had permission to visit Ireland for a year and a half, and, as a further mark of King Edward's favour, he received a respite for all the debts owed by him to the English Exchequer.

In 1295, Robert married his first wife, Isabella of Mar the daughter of Domhnall I, Earl of Mar and his wife Helen.

Beginning of the Wars of Independence

1562 drawing of Robert the Bruce and Isabella of Mar

In August 1296, Bruce and his father swore fealty to Edward I of England at Berwick-upon-Tweed, but in breach of this oath, which had been renewed at Carlisle, the younger Robert supported the Scottish revolt against King Edward in the following year. Urgent letters were sent ordering Bruce to support Edward's commander, John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey (to whom Bruce was related) in the summer of 1297; but instead of complying, Bruce continued to support the revolt against Edward. On 7 July, Bruce and his friends made terms with Edward by a treaty called the Capitulation of Irvine. The Scottish lords were not to serve beyond the sea against their will, and were pardoned for their recent violence in return for swearing allegiance to King Edward. The Bishop of Glasgow, James the Steward, and Sir Alexander Lindsay became sureties for Bruce until he delivered his infant daughter Marjorie as a hostage which he never did, and he was soon actively fighting for the Scots again.

Shortly after the Battle of Stirling Bridge, Bruce again defected to the Scots; he laid waste to Annandale and burned the English-held castle of Ayr. Yet, when King Edward returned to England after his victory at the Battle of Falkirk, Annandale and Carrick were excepted from the Lordships and lands which he assigned to his followers.[citation needed]

William Wallace resigned as Guardian of Scotland after the Battle of Falkirk. He was succeeded by Robert Bruce and John Comyn as joint Guardians, but they could not see past their personal differences. As a nephew and supporter of King John, and as someone with a serious claim to the Scottish throne, Comyn was Bruce's enemy. In 1299, William Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrews, was appointed as a third, neutral Guardian to try to maintain order between Bruce and Comyn. The following year, Bruce finally resigned as joint Guardian and was replaced by Sir Gilbert de Umfraville, Earl of Angus.

In May 1301, Umfraville, Comyn and Lamberton also resigned as joint Guardians and were replaced by Sir John de Soules as sole Guardian. Soules was appointed largely because he was part of neither the Bruce nor the Comyn camps and was a patriot. He was an active Guardian and made renewed efforts to have King John returned to the Scottish throne.

In July, King Edward I launched his sixth campaign into Scotland. Though he captured the castles of Bothwell and Turnberry, he did little to damage the Scots' fighting ability and, in January 1302, agreed to a nine-month truce. It was around this time that Robert the Bruce submitted to Edward, along with other nobles, even though he had been on the side of the patriots until then.

There were rumours that John Balliol would return as to regain the Scottish throne. Soules, who had probably been appointed by John, supported his return, as did most other nobles. But it was no more than a rumor and nothing came of it.

However, though recently pledged to support King Edward, it is interesting to note that Robert the Bruce sent a letter to the monks at Melrose Abbey in March 1302 which effectively weakened his usefulness to the English king. Apologising for having called the monks' tenants to service in his army when there had been no national call-up, Bruce pledged that, henceforth, he would "never again" require the monks to serve unless it was to "the common army of the whole realm", for national defence. Bruce also married his second wife that year, Elizabeth de Burgh, the daughter of Richard de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster. By Elizabeth he had four children: David II, John (died in childhood), Matilda (who married Thomas Isaac and died at Aberdeen 20 July 1353), and Margaret (who married William de Moravia, 5th Earl of Sutherland in 1345).

In 1303, Edward invaded again, reaching Edinburgh, before marching to Perth. Edward stayed in Perth until July, then proceeded via Dundee, Brechin and Montrose, to Aberdeen, where he arrived in August. From there, he marched through Moray to Badenoch, before re-tracing his path back south to Dunfermline. With the country now under submission, all the leading Scots, except for William Wallace, surrendered to Edward in February 1304. John Comyn, who was by now Guardian, submitted to Edward.

The laws and liberties of Scotland were to be as they had been in the days of Alexander III, and any that needed alteration would be with the assent of King Edward and the advice of the Scots nobles.

On 11 June 1304, with both of them having witnessed the heroic efforts of their countrymen during King Edward's siege of Stirling Castle, Bruce and William Lamberton made a pact that bound them, each to the other, in “friendship and alliance against all men.” If one should break the secret pact, he would forfeit to the other the sum of ten thousand pounds. The pact is often interpreted as a sign of their deep patriotism despite both having already surrendered to the English.

With Scotland defenceless, Edward set about destroying her as a realm. Homage was again obtained under force from the nobles and the burghs, and a parliament was held to elect those who would meet later in the year with the English parliament to establish rules for the governance of Scotland. For all the apparent participation by Scots in the government, however, the English held the real power. The Earl of Richmond, Edward's nephew, was to head up the subordinate government of Scotland.

While all this took place, William Wallace was finally captured near Glasgow and was hanged, drawn and quartered in London on 23 August 1305.

In September 1305, Edward ordered Robert Bruce to put his castle at Kildrummy, "in the keeping of such a man as he himself will be willing to answer for," suggesting that King Edward suspected Robert was not entirely trustworthy and may have been plotting behind his back. However, an identical phrase appears in an agreement between Edward and his lieutenant and life-long friend, Aymer de Valence. Even more sign of Edward's distrust occurred when on October 10, 1305, Edward revoked his gift of Gilbert de Umfraville's lands to Bruce that he had made only six months before.[13]

Robert Bruce as Earl of Carrick and now 7th Lord of Annandale, held huge estates and property in Scotland and a barony and some minor properties in England and had a strong claim to the Scottish throne. He also had a large family to protect. If he claimed the throne, he would throw the country into yet another series of wars, and if he failed, he would be sacrificing everyone and everything he knew.

The killing of Comyn in Dumfries

Bruce, like all his family, had a complete belief in his right to the throne. However his actions of supporting alternately the English and Scottish armies had led to a great deal of distrust towards Bruce among the “Community of the Realm of Scotland”. His ambition was further thwarted by the person of John Comyn. Comyn had been much more resolute in his opposition to the English; he was the most powerful noble in Scotland and was related to many more powerful nobles both within Scotland and England including relatives that held the earldoms of Buchan, Mar, Ross, Fife, Angus, Dunbar and Strathrean. Lordships of Kilbride, Kirkintilloch, Lenzie, Bedrule, Scraesburgh and sheriffdoms in Banff, Dingwall, Wigtown and Aberdeen. He also had a powerful claim to the Scottish throne through his descent from Donald III on his father's side and David I on his mother's side. Comyn was the nephew of Balliol.

According to Barbour and Fordoun, in the late summer of 1305 in a secret agreement sworn, signed and sealed, John Comyn agreed to forfeit his claim to the Scottish throne in favour of Robert Bruce upon receipt of the Bruce lands in Scotland should an uprising occur led by Bruce.[14]

Whether the details of the agreement with Comyn are correct or not, King Edward moved to arrest Bruce while Bruce was still at the English court. Fortunately for Bruce, his friend, and Edward's son-in-law, Ralph de Monthermer learnt of Edward's intention and warned Bruce by sending him twelve pence and a pair of spurs. Bruce took the hint,[15] and he and a squire fled the English court during the night. They made their way quickly for Scotland and the fateful meeting with Comyn at Dumfries.

According to Barbour, Comyn betrayed his agreement with Bruce to King Edward I, and when Bruce arranged a meeting for February 10, 1306 with Comyn in the Church of Greyfriars in Dumfries and accused him of treachery, they came to blows.[16] Bruce killed Comyn in Dumfries[17] before the high altar of the church of the monastery. The Scotichronicon says that on being told that Comyn had survived the attack and was being treated, two of Bruce's supporters, Roger de Kirkpatrick uttering the words "I mak siccar ("I make sure") and John Lindsay, went back into the church and finished Bruce's work. Barbour however tells no such story. Bruce was subsequently excommunicated as a result, less for the murder than for its location. Regardless, for Bruce the die was cast at the moment in Greyfriars and so began his campaign by force for the independence of Scotland. Swords were drawn by supporters of both sides, the burial ground of the Monastery becoming the theatre of battle. Bruce and his party then attacked Dumfries Castle. The English garrison surrendered and for the third time in the day Bruce and his supporters were victorious.[18]

Bruce hurried from Dumfries to Glasgow, where, kneeling before Bishop Robert Wishart he made confession of his violence and sacrilege and was granted absolution by the Bishop. The clergy throughout the land was adjured to rally to Bruce by Wishart.[19] In spite of this, Bruce was excommunicated for this crime.[20] Realising that the 'die had been cast' and he had no alternative except to become king or a fugitive, Bruce asserted his claim to the Scottish crown.

English records still in existence today tell a completely different story. They state that the Comyn murder was planned in an attempt to gain the throne of Scotland. For this reason King Edward of England wrote to the Pope and asked for his excommunication of Robert Bruce. No records have ever been found in England stating that King Edward had any knowledge of treachery by Robert Bruce before his acts against Comyn. They state that King Edward did not hear of the murder of John Comyn until several days past his death.

Coronation at Scone – King Robert I

Bruce crowned King of Scots; modern tableau at Edinburgh Castle

Barely seven weeks after Comyn was killed in Dumfries, Bruce was crowned King of Scots by Bishop William de Lamberton at Scone, near Perth on 25 March with all formality and solemnity. The royal robes and vestments which Robert Wishart had hidden from the English were brought out by the Bishop and set upon King Robert. The bishops of Moray and Glasgow were in attendance as well as the earls of Atholl, Menteith, Lennox, and Mar. The great banner of the kings of Scotland was planted behind his throne.[21]

Isabella MacDuff, Countess of Buchan and wife of John Comyn, Earl of Buchan (a cousin of the murdered John Comyn), who claimed the right of her family, the MacDuff Earl of Fife, to crown the Scottish king for her brother, Duncan (or Donnchadh) – who was not yet of age, and in English hands – arrived the next day, too late for the coronation, so a second coronation was held and once more the crown was placed on the brow of Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, Lord of Annandale, King of the Scots.

From Scone to Bannockburn

In June 1306, he was defeated at the Battle of Methven and in August, he was surprised in Strathfillan, where he had taken refuge.[citation needed] His wife and daughters and other women of the party were sent to Kildrummy in August 1306 under the protection of Bruce's brother Neil Bruce and the Earl of Atholl and most of his remaining men.[22] Bruce, with a small following of his most faithful men, including Sir James Douglas and Gilbert Hay, Bruce's brothers Thomas, Alexander and Edward, as well as Sir Neil Campbell and the Earl of Lennox fled.[23]

Edward I marched north again in the spring. On his way, he granted the Scottish estates of Bruce and his adherents to his own followers and had published a bill excommunicating Bruce. Bruce's queen, Elizabeth, his daughter Marjorie, his sisters Christina and Mary, and Isabella MacDuff were captured in a sanctuary at Tain, and sent to harsh imprisonment, which included Mary and Isabella being hung in a cage at Roxburgh and Berwick castles respectively for about four years, and Bruce's brother Neil was executed. But, on 7 July, King Edward I died, leaving Bruce opposed by his son, Edward II.

It is still uncertain where Bruce spent the winter of 1306-07, most likely he spent it in the Hebrides (possibly sheltered by Christina of Garmoran) although Ireland is a serious possibility, and Orkney (under Norwegian rule at the time) or Norway proper although unlikely are not impossible.[24]

Bruce and his followers returned to the Scottish mainland in February in two groups. One, led by Bruce and his brother Edward landed at Turnberry Castle and began a guerrilla war in south-west Scotland. The other, led by his brothers Thomas and Alexander, landed slightly further south in Loch Ryan; but they were soon captured and were executed.

In April, Bruce won a small victory over the English at the Battle of Glen Trool, before defeating Aymer de Valence, 2nd Earl of Pembroke at the Battle of Loudoun Hill. At the same time, James Douglas made his first foray for Bruce into south-western Scotland, attacking and burning his own castle in Douglasdale. Leaving his brother Edward in command in Galloway, Bruce travelled north, capturing Inverlochy and Urquhart Castles, burning Inverness Castle and Nairn to the ground, then unsuccessfully threatening Elgin.

Transferring operations to Aberdeenshire in late 1307, he threatened Banff before falling seriously ill, probably owing to the hardships of the lengthy campaign. Recovering, leaving John Comyn, 3rd Earl of Buchan unsubdued at his rear, Bruce returned west to take Balvenie and Duffus Castles, then Tarradale Castle on the Black Isle. Looping back via the hinterlands of Inverness and a second failed attempt to take Elgin, Bruce finally achieved his landmark defeat of Comyn at the Battle of Inverurie in May 1308, then overran Buchan and defeated the English garrison at Aberdeen. The Harrying of Buchan in 1308 was ordered by Bruce to make sure all Clan Comyn support was extinguished. Buchan had a very large population because it was the agricultural capital of northern Scotland and much of its population was loyal to the Clan Comyn even after the defeat of the Earl of Buchan. Most of the Comyn castles in Moray, Aberdeen and Buchan were destroyed and their inhabitants killed. Bruce ordered similar harryings in Argyle and Kintyre, in the territories of Clan Dougall. With these acts, Bruce had successfully destroyed the power of Clan Comyn, which had controlled much of northern and southwestern Scotland for over a hundred and fifty years.

He then crossed to Argyll and defeated the MacDougal Clan (relatives of the Comyns) at the Battle of Pass of Brander and took Dunstaffnage Castle, the last major stronghold of the Comyns.[25]

Bruce reviewing troops before the Battle of Bannockburn.

In March 1309, he held his first Parliament at St. Andrews, and by August, he controlled all of Scotland north of the River Tay. The following year, the clergy of Scotland recognised Bruce as king at a general council. The support given to him by the church in spite of his excommunication was of great political importance.

The next three years saw the capture and reduction of one English-held castle or outpost after another: Linlithgow in 1310, Dumbarton in 1311, and Perth, by Bruce himself, in January 1312. Bruce also made raids into northern England and, landing at Ramsey in the Isle of Man, then laid siege to Castle Rushen in Castletown capturing it on 21 June 1313 to deny the island's strategic importance to the English. In the spring of 1314, Edward Bruce laid siege to Stirling Castle, whose governor, Philip de Mowbray, agreed to capitulate if not relieved before 24 June 1314. In March 1314, James Douglas captured Roxburgh, and Randolph captured Edinburgh Castle. In May, Bruce again raided England and subdued the Isle of Man.

The eight years of exhausting but deliberate refusal to meet the English on even ground have caused many to consider Bruce as one of the great guerrilla leaders of any age. This represented a transformation for one raised as a feudal knight.

The Battle of Bannockburn - 1314

Bruce secured Scottish independence from England militarily — if not diplomatically — at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

After Bannockburn - further confrontation with England then the Irish conflict

Freed from English threats, Scotland's armies could now invade northern England. Bruce also drove back a subsequent English expedition north of the border and launched raids into Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Buoyed by his military successes, Bruce's forces also invaded Ireland in 1315, purportedly to free the country from English rule (having received a reply to offers of assistance from Donal O'Neil, king of Tyrone), and to open a second front in the continuing wars with England. The Irish even crowned Edward Bruce as High King of Ireland in 1316. Robert later went there with another army to assist his brother.

To go with the invasion, Bruce popularised an ideological vision of a "Pan-Gaelic Greater Scotia" with his lineage ruling over both Ireland and Scotland. This propaganda campaign was aided by two factors. The first was his marriage alliance from 1302 with the de Burgh family of the Earldom of Ulster in Ireland; second, Bruce himself on his mother's side of Carrick, was descended from Gaelic royalty in Scotland as well as Ireland. Bruce's Irish ancestors included Eva of Leinster (d.1188), whose ancestors included Brian Boru of Munster and the kings of Leinster. Thus, lineally and geopolitically, Bruce attempted to support his anticipated notion of a pan-Gaelic alliance between Scottish-Irish Gaelic populations, under his kingship.

This is revealed by a letter he sent to the Irish chiefs, where he calls the Scots and Irish collectively nostra nacio (our nation), stressing the common language, customs and heritage of the two peoples:

Whereas we and you and our people and your people, free since ancient times, share the same national ancestry and are urged to come together more eagerly and joyfully in friendship by a common language and by common custom, we have sent you our beloved kinsman, the bearers of this letter, to negotiate with you in our name about permanently strengthening and maintaining inviolate the special friendship between us and you, so that with God's will our nation (nostra nacio) may be able to recover her ancient liberty.

The diplomacy worked to a certain extent, at least in Ulster, where the Scots had some support. The Irish chief, Donal O'Neil, for instance, later justified his support for the Scots to Pope John XXII by saying "the Kings of Lesser Scotia all trace their blood to our Greater Scotia and retain to some degree our language and customs."[26]

The Bruce campaign to Ireland was characterised by some initial military success. However, the Scots failed to win over the non-Ulster chiefs, or to make any other significant gains in the south of the island, where people couldn't see the difference between English and Scottish occupation. Eventually it was defeated when Edward Bruce was killed at the Battle of Faughart. The Irish Annals of the period described the defeat of the Bruces by the English as one of the greatest things ever done for the Irish nation due to the fact it brought an end to the famine and pillaging brought on the Irish by both the Scots and the English.[27]


Robert Bruce's reign also witnessed some diplomatic achievements. The Declaration of Arbroath of 1320 strengthened his position, particularly vis-à-vis the Papacy. Pope John XXII eventually lifted Bruce's excommunication. In May 1328 King Edward III of England signed the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, which recognised Scotland as an independent kingdom, and Bruce as its king.


The alleged death mask of Robert Bruce, Rosslyn Chapel (1446), Scotland
King Robert is buried in Dunfermline Abbey.

Robert died on 7 June 1329, at the Manor of Cardross, near Dumbarton[28] He had suffered for some years from what some contemporary accounts describe as an "unclean ailment". The traditional view is that this was leprosy, but this was not mentioned in contemporary accounts, and is now disputed with syphilis, psoriasis[citation needed], motor neurone disease and a series of strokes all proposed as possible alternatives.[29]

His body lies buried in Dunfermline Abbey but before he died Robert requested that his heart should be removed and then carried in battle 'Against God's foes' . This was to make up for his failure to go on crusade during his life and atone for his sins, not least the murder of John Comyn in the Greyfriars church, Dumfries. Sir James Douglas and Sir Simon Locard were allotted the task. Bruce's preserved heart was placed in a silver casket, which Douglas then carried on a chain around his neck while Locard held the key (creating the surname Lockhart)[citation needed]. When a projected international crusade failed to materialise, Douglas, Locard, and company sailed to Spain where Alfonso XI of Castile was mounting a campaign against the Moorish kingdom of Granada. Douglas was killed in battle during the siege of Battle of Teba in August 1330 while fulfilling his promise. His body and the casket containing the embalmed heart of Robert the Bruce were found together upon the field. They were conveyed back to Scotland by the two surviving companions, Sir William Keith of Galston and Sir Symon Locard. In accordance with Bruce's written request, it was buried at Melrose Abbey, in Roxburghshire.[30] In 1920 the heart was discovered by archaeologists and was reburied, but the location was not marked.[31] In 1996, a casket was unearthed during construction work.[32] Scientific study by AOC archaeologists in Edinburgh, demonstrated that it did indeed contain a human heart and it was of appropriate age. It was reburied in Melrose Abbey in 1998, pursuant to the dying wishes of the King.[31]

Physical Appearance

Dunfermline Abbey tower incorporating the words KING ROBERT THE BRUCE

In 1818, almost 500 years after the death of Robert Bruce, workmen uncovered a tomb in Dunfermline Abbey. Here, within an oak and lead coffin, they found a skeleton wrapped in gold cloth. Some 5 feet 11 inches tall (Scientists think Bruce would have been around 6 feet tall as a young man which by medieval standards was impressive). The skeleton clearly showed that the chest had been cut open to remove the contents. There is no doubt that this was indeed, Robert Bruce King of Scots. Before he was reburied, a plaster cast was made of his skull.[33]

Family and descendants

Bruce's legitimate children were, with his first wife Isabella of Mar:

With his second wife Elizabeth de Burgh:

  • Margaret, married William de Moravia, 5th Earl of Sutherland between 2 August and 28 September 1345. Had son, John (1346–1361).[34]
  • Matilda (Maud), married first to Thomas Isaac, secondly to Richard de Kelso, fifth feudal lord of the Free Barony of Kelsoland.
  • David II, who as a child succeeded his father to the throne.
  • John, born October 1327 and died young. Buried in Restenneth Priory.[34]

Bruce also had six acknowledged illegitimate children:

Their mothers are unknown, although there is the slight possibility that a Christian of Carrick, mentioned by Barbour as assisting Bruce's campaign, was the mother of the last two.[35]

Bruce's family also included his brothers, Edward, Alexander, Thomas, and Neil, his sisters Christina, Isabel (Queen of Norway), Margaret, Matilda, and Mary, and his nephews Donald II, Earl of Mar and Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray.

Bruce's descendants include all later Scottish monarchs (except Edward Balliol whom Bruce loyalists would regard as a usurper) and all British monarchs since the Union of the Crowns in 1603. A large number of families definitely are descended from him[36] but there is controversy about some claims.[37]


Monuments and commemoration

Depictions in Art

Bruce statue at Stirling Castle.
Bruce statue at the entrance to Edinburgh Castle

Robert I was originally buried in Dunfermline Abbey, traditional resting-place of Scottish monarchs since the reign of Malcolm III. His tomb, imported from Paris, was extremely elaborate, carved from gilded alabaster. It was destroyed at the Reformation, but some fragments were discovered in the 19th century (now in the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh).

The site of the tomb in Dunfermline Abbey was marked by large carved stone letters spelling out "King Robert the Bruce" around the top of the bell tower, when the eastern half of the abbey church was rebuilt in the first half of the 19th century. In 1974 the Bruce Memorial Window was installed in the north transept, commemorating the 700th anniversary of the year of his birth. It depicts stained glass images of the Bruce flanked by his chief men, Christ, and saints associated with Scotland.[38]

A 1929 statue of Robert the Bruce is set in the wall of Edinburgh Castle at the entrance, along with one of William Wallace. In Edinburgh also, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery has statues of Bruce and Wallace in niches flanking the main entrance. The building also contains several frescos depicting scenes from Scots history by William Brassey Hole in the entrance foyer, including a large example of Bruce marshalling his men at Bannockburn.

Statues of the Bruce also stand on the battleground at Bannockburn, outside Stirling Castle [39] and Marischal College in Aberdeen.


From 1981 to 1989, Robert the Bruce was portrayed on £1 notes issued by the Clydesdale Bank, one of the three Scottish banks with right to issue banknotes. He was shown on the obverse crowned in battle dress, surrounded by thistles, and on the reverse in full battle armour in a scene from the Battle of Bannockburn.[40] When the Clydesdale Bank discontinued £1 banknotes, Robert The Bruce's portrait was moved onto the bank's £20 banknote in 1990 and it has remained there to date.[41]


The airline British Caledonian, named a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 (G-BHDI) after Robert the Bruce.[42]


According to a legend, at some point while he was on the run during the winter of 1306–07, Bruce hid in a cave on Rathlin Island off the north coast of Ireland, where he observed a spider spinning a web, trying to make a connection from one area of the cave's roof to another. Each time the spider failed, it began again until it succeeded. Inspired by this, Bruce returned to inflict a series of defeats on the English, thus winning him more supporters and eventual victory. The story serves to illustrate the maxim: "if at first you don't succeed, try try again." Other versions have Bruce in a small house watching the spider try to make its connection between two roof beams;[43] or, defeated for the seventh time by the English, watching the spider make its attempt seven times, succeeding on the eighth try.[citation needed]

But this legend appears for the first time in only a much later account, "Tales of a Grandfather" by Sir Walter Scott, and may have originally been told about his companion-in-arms Sir James Douglas (the "Black Douglas"), who had spent time hiding out in caves within his manor of Lintalee, which was then occupied by the English. The entire account may in fact be a version of a literary trope used in royal biographical writing. A similar story is told, for example, in Jewish sources about King David, and in Persian folklore about the Mongolian warlord Tamerlane and an ant.[44]

The Bruce in fiction

  • 1865: In George MacDonald's novel Alec Forbes of Howglen, the character Annie Anderson is raised by her stingy relative Robert Bruce. Though he is no relation to this great figure of Scottish history, MacDonald's Robert Bruce constantly refers to the story of "his ancestor and the spider," even when it is totally irrelevant to the conversation at the moment.
  • 1887: In Nellie Bly's Ten Days in a Mad-House she references the Bruce's night of watching the spider and her own attempts in staying awake.
  • 1906: The book In Freedom's Cause was written by G. A. Henty. Robert the Bruce is the Scottish king. It is a good Scottish fiction book, also telling about William Wallace and other Scottish heroes.
  • 1939: The names "Robert the Bruce" and "Mad Anthony Wayne" are the inspiration for "Bruce Wayne", the name for the civilian identity of DC Comics superhero Batman.
  • 1948: In the live-action Disney movie "So Dear to My Heart", a cartoon sequence portrays Robert the Bruce's legendary encounter with the determined spider, as well as his subsequent victory. The sequence animates part of a song called 'stick-to-it-ivity' which is sung to teach the main character about the importance of perseverance in the face of adversity.
  • 1969 - 1971: Scottish author Nigel Tranter wrote a trilogy, considered largely accurate, based on the life of King Robert: The Steps to the Empty Throne, The Path of the Hero King and The Price of the King's Peace. This has been published in one volume as The Bruce Trilogy.
  • 1995: In the movie Braveheart, Robert the Bruce is portrayed by Scottish actor Angus Macfadyen. The film incorrectly showed him taking the field at Falkirk as part of the English army; he never betrayed William Wallace (despite having changed sides). Wallace is also alleged to have been a complete supporter of Robert the Bruce, but Wallace was a supporter of the Balliol claim to the throne which Bruce consistently opposed.
  • 1996: The German power metal band Grave Digger included a song called "The Bruce" on their album Tunes of War, a concept album about the Scottish struggles for independence from England.
  • 1996: In the film The Bruce, Robert the Bruce was portrayed by Sandy Welch.
  • 1998: The revolt of Robert the Bruce is the topic of Mollie Hunter's book The King's Swift Rider, written from the point of view of a bold young Scot and future monk who joins the rebellion as a noncombatant.
  • 1998 - 2001: Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris wrote a fantasy fiction series(The Temple and the Stone and The Temple and the Crown) linking Robert the Bruce with the Knights Templar.
  • 2002 - 2006: Chronicles of the reign of Robert the Bruce (or Robert de Brus) are published in a series titled Rebel King, Hammer of the Scots (2002); Rebel King, The Har'ships (2004); and Rebel King, Bannok Burn (2006). Two more volumes are planned.
  • 2009: The third volume of Jack Whyte's Templar Trilogy, "Order in Chaos", is largely set in Scotland during the rise of The Bruce. It winds up its story just after the battle at Bannockburn. It covers a lot of the challenges and politics of that era.
  • 2010: Robert the Burce is the main protagonist in English novelist Robyn Young's Insurrection trilogy, starting the novel Insurrection.
  • 2010 - 2012: Romance writer Monica McCarty wrote a series of books (the Highland Guard Novels) about Robert the Bruce's legendary secret Islemen guard and Bruce's guerilla warfare tactics. Though Bruce is a minor character, his battles and the events surrounding his war against England are catalogued.


  1. ^ a b Robert's absolution for Comyn’s murder, in 1310, gives Robert as a layman of Carrick, indicating Carrick / Turnberry was either his primary residence, or place of birth. Lochmaben has a claim, as a possession of the Bruce family, but is not supported by a medieval source. The contemporary claims of Essex / the Bruce estate at Writtle Essex, during the coronation of Edward, have been discounted by G. W. S. Barrow.
  2. ^ Robert The Bruce. Publisher: Heinemann. ISBN 0-431-05883-0.
  3. ^ G. W. S. Barrow,Robert Bruce: and the community of the realm of Scotland (4th edition ed.), p. 34 :- "This was indeed a marriage of Celtic with Anglo-Norman Scotland, though hardly in the protagonists themselves, since Majorie was descended from Henry I, her husband from Malcom Canmore. But Annandale was settled by people of English, or Anglo-Scandinavian speech, and thoroughly feudalised. Carrick was historically an integral part of Galloway, and though the earls had achieved some feudalisation, the society of Carrick at the end of the 13th century remained emphatically Celtic."
  4. ^ Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families By Douglas Richardson, Kimball G. Everingham.
  5. ^ a b King Robert the Bruce By A. F. Murison.
  6. ^ Geoffrey le Baker's: Chronicon Galfridi le Baker de Swynebroke, ed. Edward Maunde Thompson (Oxford, 1889).
  7. ^ Scottish Kings 1005 – 1625, by Sir Archibald H Dunbar, Bt., Edinburgh, 1899, p. 127, where Robert the Bruce's birthplace is given "at Writtle, near Chelmsford in Essex, on the 11th July 1274". Baker, cited above, is also mentioned with other authorities.
  8. ^ Barrow, Robert Bruce, 4th ed., pp. 34–35
  9. ^ Barrow, Robert Bruce, 4th ed., p. 430; Duffy, "Bruce Brothers and the Irish Sea World", p. 60
  10. ^ Barrow, Robert Bruce, 4th ed., p. 35
  11. ^ Scott, Robert the Bruce, p. 29.
  12. ^ Fordun, Scotichronicon, p. 309.
  13. ^ Scott, Robert the Bruce, p. 72.
  14. ^ Fordun, Scotichronicon, p. 330; Barbour, The Bruce, p. 13.
  15. ^ Ronald McNair Scott (1988). Robert the Bruce, King of Scots. Canongate: p. 72.
  16. ^ Barbour, The Bruce, p. 15.
  17. ^ Dumfries Undiscovered Scotland: The Ultimate Online Guide
  18. ^ "Dumfries Feature Page on Undiscovered Scotland". Retrieved 5 November 2011. 
  19. ^ Scott, Robert the Bruce, p. 74.
  20. ^ The History Channel 17 May 2006.
  21. ^ Scott, Robert the Bruce, p. 75.
  22. ^ Scott, RonaldMcNair, Robert the Bruce, pp. 84–85.
  23. ^ Scott, Robert the Bruce, pp. 84–85.
  24. ^ Traquair, Peter Freedom's Sword
  25. ^ Barrow, Geoffrey Wallis Stuart (2005). Robert Bruce : and the community of the realm of Scotland (4th edition ed.). Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0748620222. . (Retrieved from Google Books).
  26. ^ Remonstrance of the Irish Chiefs to Pope John XXII, p. 46.
  27. ^ The Annals of Connacht.
  28. ^ The exact location is uncertain and it may not have been very near the modern village of Cardross, although it was probably in Cardross Parish. Barrow suggests that it was at present-day Mains of Cardross farm on the outskirts of Dumbarton, beside the River Leven. [1]
  29. ^ Kaufman MH, MacLennan WJ (2001-04-01). "Robert the Bruce and Leprosy". History of Dentistry Research Newsletter. Retrieved 2010-02-28. 
  30. ^ Acts of Robert I, king of Scots, 1306-1329, ed. A.A.M. Duncan (Regesta Regum Scottorum, vol.v [1988]), no.380 and notes
  31. ^ a b Burial Honours Robert the Bruce.
  32. ^ "Melrose Abbey". Retrieved 2008-06-20. 
  33. ^ Bannockburn heritage centre Stirling "Reconstructing a King"
  34. ^ a b Weir, Alison., Britain's royal families, the complete genealogy (London, 2008) pg. 211
  35. ^ Bingham p. 335
  36. ^ Lauder-Frost, Gregory, FSA Scot,Darr Some Descendants of Robert the Bruce, in The Scottish Genealogist, vol. LI, No.2, June 2004: 49–58, ISSN 0300-337X.
  37. ^ John McCain, veteran war hero: yes. But a descendant of Robert the Bruce? Baloney.
  38. ^ "Dunfermline Abbey History". The Church of Scotland. Retrieved 2008-10-20. 
  39. ^ Robert the Bruce statue in place after 130-year delay
  40. ^ "Clydesdale 1 Pound obverse, 1982". Ron Wise's Banknoteworld. Retrieved 2008-10-20. ; "Clydesdale 1 Pound reverse, 1982". Ron Wise's Banknoteworld. Retrieved 2008-10-20. 
  41. ^ "Current Banknotes : Clydesdale Bank". The Committee of Scottish Clearing Bankers. Retrieved 2008-10-20. 
  42. ^ "McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 aircraft". Retrieved 2008-10-20. 
  43. ^ "Robert Bruce and the Spider". Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  44. ^ – Uzbekistan, Shakhrisabz.


  • Barrow, G. W. S. (1998), Robert Bruce & the Community of the Realm of Scotland, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, ISBN 0852245394 .
  • Balfour Paul, James (1904), The Scots Peerage, Edinburgh: David Douglas .
  • Bartlett, Robert (1993), The Making of Europe, Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change: 950–1350, Princeton: Princeton University Press, ISBN 069103298X .
  • Bingham, Charlotte (1998), Robert the Bruce, London: Constable, ISBN 0094764409 .
  • Brown, Chris (2004), Robert the Bruce. A Life Chronicled, Stroud: Tempus, ISBN 0752425757 .
  • Brown, Chris (2008), Bannockburn 1314, Stroud: History, ISBN 9780752446004 .
  • Dunbar, Archibald H. (1899), Scottish Kings 1005–1625, Edinburgh: D. Douglas, pp. 126–141 , with copious original source materiéls.
  • Loudoun, Darren (2007), Scotlands Brave .
  • Macnamee, Colm (2006), The Wars of the Bruces: England and Ireland 1306–1328, Edinburgh: Donald, ISBN 9780859766531 .
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, .
  • Ó Néill, Domhnall (1317), "Remonstrance of the Irish Chiefs to Pope John XXII", CELT archive, .
  • Nicholson, R., Scotland in the Later Middle Ages .
  • Geoffrey the Baker's: Chronicon Galfridi le Baker de Swynebroke, ed. Edward Maunde Thompson (Oxford, 1889).
  • Robert Bruce King Of Scots, by Agnes Muir Mackenzie

External links

Robert the Bruce
House of Bruce
Born: 11 July 1274 Died: 7 June 1329
Preceded by
Earl of Carrick
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Robert VI de Brus
Lord of Annandale
Succeeded by
Thomas Randolph
Regnal titles
Title last held by
King of Scots
Succeeded by
David II

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  • Robert the Bruce — Robert I. (* 11. Juli 1274; † 7. Juni 1329) war von 1306 bis zu seinem Tod König von Schottland. Im modernen Englisch ist er heute besser bekannt als Robert (the) Bruce, die normannisch französische Schreibweise war Robert de Brus, die… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Robert the Bruce — Robert Ier d Écosse Pour les articles homonymes, voir Robert Ier et Robert de Bruce. Robert the Bruce Robert I …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Robert the Bruce — →Bruce, Robert …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Robert the Bruce — (also Robert Bruce, Robert I) (1274–1329) the king of Scotland from 1306 until his death. He joined William Wallace in trying to take power from the English in Scotland, but was defeated several times by the army of King Edward I. He finally… …   Universalium

  • Robert the Bruce — noun king of Scotland from 1306 to 1329; defeated the English army under Edward II at Bannockburn and gained recognition of Scottish independence (1274 1329) • Syn: ↑Bruce, ↑Robert I • Instance Hypernyms: ↑king, ↑male monarch, ↑Rex …   Useful english dictionary

  • Robert Ier Bruce — Robert Ier d Écosse Pour les articles homonymes, voir Robert Ier et Robert de Bruce. Robert the Bruce Robert I …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Robert le Bruce — Robert Ier d Écosse Pour les articles homonymes, voir Robert Ier et Robert de Bruce. Robert the Bruce Robert I …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Robert de Bruce — Robert Bruce Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Robert Bruce ou de Bruce, Brus, Bruis peut se référer à plusieurs personnes, tous membres de la Maison de Bruce, famille de barons écossais d …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Robert de bruce (comte de carrick) — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Robert Bruce. Robert de Bruce (Robert VI Bruce) (vers 1253 – 1304), 6e lord d Annandale, comte de Carrick en droit de sa femme, fut un seigneur écossais. Il était le fils et héritier de Robert Bruce le… …   Wikipédia en Français

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