Robert the Bruce, “The Hero King” of Scotland and this week’s Heroic Hunk, was Scotland’s George Washington. He was born in 1274 and died in 1329. He reigned as King Robert I from 1306 until his death – probably from leprosy. His body is buried in Dunfermline Abbey, while his heart is buried in Melrose Abbey (after it was returned from an unsuccessful crusade to free the Holy Land).
His claim to the throne of Scotland was based on his paternal ancestors of Scoto-Norman heritage. His mother, the Countess of Carrick in her own right, was a formidable woman of Franco-Gaelic descent who kept Robert Bruce’s father captive until he agreed to marry her.
Unlike William Wallace who, once he joined with men of like mind (don’t you love the phrase), pursued the cause for Scottish independence with absolute dedication, Robert the Bruce had wavering loyalties in his early life. After Wallace’s cruel execution in 1306, Bruce murdered John Comyn (the other claimant to the throne of Scotland) and assumed the crown of Scotland and the leadership of the Scots.
In 1307, when Edward I marched north to battle, he granted the Scottish estates of Bruce and his adherents to his own followers and published a papal bill excommunicating Bruce. Bruce’s queen, Elizabeth, his daughter Marjorie, his sisters Christina and Mary, and Isabella MacDuff were captured in a sanctuary and sent to harsh imprisonment. Mary and Isabella were hung in a cage at Roxburgh and Berwick castles for about four years. Bruce’s brother Nigel was hanged, drawn and quartered. But, on 7 July, King Edward I died, leaving Bruce opposed by his son, Edward II.
In 1314 Edward II’s army marched toward Stirling Castle which was still in English hands, though under siege. The English and British forces met at the Battle of Bannockburn in June of 1314. Thousands died as the Scots defeated Edward’s army. The river was choked with the dead as Edward II fled the field and returned to England. In spite of this terrible blow Edward II never gave up his claim to the Scottish crown, even after his imprisonment and horrific murder by his wife, Queen Isabel (who, I repeat, NEVER met William Wallace). But his son Edward III, in 1328, recognized Scotland’s independence and acknowledged Bruce as her king. Robert died the following year.
Robert I was succeeded by his surviving son Robert II. After Robert II’s death, Robert I’s only child by his first marriage, Marjorie Bruce, married Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland (1293–1326). She died in 1316, after being thrown from her horse while heavily pregnant, but the child survived. He was Robert II, who succeeded David II and founded the Stewart dynasty. Next Moonday, the Angevins. RitaVF