Glass Window from The Wallace Monument, Stirling representing King Robert
The Bruce. |
ROBERT I, THE BRUCE
The Bruce family had asserted their claim to the Scottish throne since
1286. It was in this context that Robert gave nominal allegiance to John
Balliol who had been appointed to the throne by Edward I.
However, when Balliol rebelled in 1296, the Bruces became increasingly
supportive of the English King in the hope of furthering their own cause.
This vacillating loyalty continued as Robert participated first in the
Wallace rebellion of 1297, and then served Edward from 1302.
In 1306, Bruce headed a new national independence movement in an attempt
to promote his claim to the throne. This political campaign, dependent
on the support of John Comyn, a representative of the Balliol administration,
was doomed. A personal feud between the two men eventually resulted in
a showdown at the Greyfriars' Church in Dumfries where Comyn was murdered
by Bruce and his supporters.
Bruce was hurriedly crowned King of Scots at Scone, an event which roused
Edward to a furious revenge. He systematically killed the Bruce family
and took his army north, scattering Robert's troops and forcing his loyal
supporters into hiding.
It is said to be at this low point in the fortunes of Robert the Bruce
that he is said to have taken inspiration from a spider sharing his hiding
place in a cave. The principle of resolute persistence was well made in
the manner of her climbing again and again, a wall to build her web. His
resolve, following this period of soul-searching, was to wage a campaign
of strategic guerilla warfare. This approach made an impressive reduction
to the number of English strongholds in Scotland, leaving only Berwick
Confidence in his leadership became hugely reinforced by his greatest
military victory - Bannockburn. Despite being vastly outnumbered by well-equipped
troops, the superior tactics and morale of his brave soldiers won the
day. The English forces were decimated and Edward was forced to flee the
field in disgrace. The following year Bruce was unanimously confirmed
by Parliament and a detailed Act of succession agreed. The war with England
continued intermittently until Scottish Independence was recognised in
the Treaty of Northhampton in 1328. Other European countries acknowledged
Scotland's new status, and following the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath,
Robert's excommunication was lifted.
This turn of events allowed him to reassert his royal authority across
the realm and prove that his diplomacy and leadership could unite factions
who had lost out in the succession battles of the 1290's. He made many
legal and political reforms, but his popularity was mainly owing to his
concern for the rights of ordinary people. He died of leprosy in 1329,
leaving a legacy of continuing Scottish independence and stands arguably
as the single most important figure in Scottish history.