Robert I (Scotland)

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Sculpture of the Scottish King Robert I in front of Stirling Castle

Robert I , better known in modern English as Robert Bruce , also Robert the Bruce (born July 11, 1274 , † June 7, 1329 in Cardross , Dunbartonshire ), was King of Scotland from 1306 until his death in 1329 . The medieval Scottish Gaelic spelling was Roibert a Briuis , the Norman - French Robert de Brus . During the Scottish Wars of Independence against England he was the leader of the rebellious Scots.

Robert was a great, great, great grandson of King David I and thus established his claim to the Scottish throne. He is considered one of the most important rulers of Scotland .


Family background and early years of life

Robert was born the first child and eldest son of Robert de Brus, Earl of Carrick and his wife Marjorie, Countess of Carrick . Legend has it that Robert’s mother held his father prisoner until he finally gave in and married her. From his mother he inherited the Gaelic principality of Carrick (part of Ayrshire ) and from his father the descent from a royal line that would later enable him to claim the throne. The date of his birth is definitely certain, but not his place of birth; it was probably Turnberry Castle in Ayrshire, but Lochmaben Old Castle in Lochmaben , Dumfriesshire is also mentioned.

Little is known about his youth. He was probably raised by another family in the area, which was in keeping with local customs at the time. It can be assumed that he was fluent in Gaelic and Normand (the Norman dialect of French ), along with Latin and probably also English . According to an English chronicler, he lived most of the time at the court of Edward I. John Balliol's accession to the throne in 1292 was unjust. The new ruler appointed by England denied his family the rightful inheritance.

Soon after, his grandfather Robert de Brus, Lord of Annandale , one of the unsuccessful contenders for the Scottish throne , passed his lord title to his son, Robert's father. After the death of his wife in 1292, Robert's father passed the title of Earl of Carrick to his son. The father as well as the son allied themselves with Edward I against John Balliol. In April 1294, the younger Bruce was given permission to visit Ireland for a year and a half . As a further sign of Edward's favor, he received a deferred payment on all debts to the English royal family.

1295 married Robert his first wife Isabella of Mar , daughter of Donald, 6th Earl of Mar . Isabella gave birth to a daughter, Marjorie, between 1295 and 1297 and died shortly afterwards. Roberts daughter Marjorie Bruce married about 1315 Walter Stewart, the Steward ( High Steward ) of Scotland, and gave birth on 2 March 1316 the future King Robert II.

Beginning of the Wars of Independence

In August 1296, father and son Bruce made an oath of allegiance to King Edward I of England at Berwick-upon-Tweed and renewed it in Carlisle . But just a year later, the younger Bruce broke the vow and joined the Scottish revolt. In the summer of 1297 he was asked to assist Edward's commandant, John de Warenne . But instead of obeying the order, Robert Bruce and his followers devastated the land of those people who stood by Edward. On July 7, Bruce was forced to a truce, the "Surrender of Irvine". The Scottish lords were assured that they would not have to serve against their will in France. After a renewed oath of loyalty, they would be forgiven for the acts of violence. The Bishop of Glasgow, James the Steward and Sir Alexander Lindsay bailed out Bruce until he turned his young daughter, Marjorie, hostage.

Shortly after the Battle of Stirling Bridge on September 11, 1297, Robert Bruce again sided with his compatriots. He devastated Annandale and destroyed the English-held castle at Ayr . When Edward returned to England after his victory at the Battle of Falkirk , he withdrew Robert Bruce's sovereignty over Annandale and Carrick, but gave him the chance to prove his loyalty to him.

William Wallace had resigned from his post as Guardian of Scotland after Falkirk . He was followed by Robert Bruce and John Comyn , who shared the office that corresponded to that of an imperial administrator . But the two could not settle their personal differences. As the nephew and supporter of John Balliol , Comyn was also entitled to the throne and was therefore Bruce's competitor. In 1299 William de Lamberton , the Bishop of St Andrews , was elected third neutral guardian to defuse the looming conflict between Bruce and Comyn. In 1300 Bruce resigned from office and was replaced by Sir Ingram de Umfraville. De Umfraville, Comyn and Lamberton resigned in May 1301. The new sole guardian of Scotland was John de Soulis. He had been chosen mainly because he was not a member of either the Bruce Camp or the Comyn Camp, and was also a patriot. De Soulis actively campaigned for John Balliol to be reinstated as King of Scotland.

In July 1301 Edward began the sixth campaign to Scotland. Despite capturing Bothwell and Turnberry Castle , he failed to decisively defeat the Scots and in January 1302 agreed a nine-month truce. It was around this time that Bruce and other nobles submitted to the English king, although until recently they had fought on the side of the rebels. There were several reasons for this step. Bruce no longer wanted to sacrifice his followers for a lost cause. There were rumors that John Balliol would return to Scotland with a French army. However, this would have meant that Bruce would lose any chance of ever ascending the Scottish throne himself. Edward, in turn, saw that at this point it was better to have a Scottish nobleman as an ally than an enemy; he himself faced excommunication by the Pope and a possible French invasion.

Robert the Bruce and Elizabeth de Burgh

Robert Bruce married his second wife Elizabeth de Burgh in 1302 , the daughter of Richard Og de Burgh ( Earl of Ulster and close friend of the King of England). He had probably met her at the English royal court. The wedding took place in Writtle, near Chelmsford , Essex . Elizabeth bore him four children, the future King David II as well as John, Mathilda and Margaret .

In 1303 Edward invaded Scotland again, reached Edinburgh and turned to Perth . John Comyn, meanwhile the new "Guardian of Scotland", could not hope to be able to defend himself against the English army. Eduard stayed in Perth until July and then moved on via Dundee , Montrose and Brechin to Aberdeen , where he arrived in August. He then returned to Dunfermline via Moray and Badenoch . Since Edward now practically controlled the whole country, all leading Scottish nobles submitted to him in February 1304 with the exception of William Wallace . John Comyn led the negotiations. The laws and freedoms of Scotland as they were under the reign of Alexander III. should still be valid. However, Eduard reserved a say in future legislative changes.

Robert Bruce and William de Lamberton, both of whom had witnessed the heroic Scottish defenses at the Battle of Stirling Bridge , formed an alliance on June 11, 1304. Should either of the two break the secret pact, he would pay the other a fine of ten thousand pounds. This alliance was a sign of their ingrained patriotism and their struggle for the freedom of Scotland. They intended to wait until the death of the English king, who was already of an advanced age.

Edward, meanwhile, began to fully integrate defenseless Scotland into the English kingdom. The nobles again swore allegiance. A session of parliament was called to elect those who would work with the English Parliament to set the rules for governing Scotland. The real power was in the hands of the English, the Scottish government members were mere puppets. Edward's nephew, the Earl of Richmond, headed the subordinate Scottish government.

In the meantime, William Wallace had been captured near Glasgow and brutally executed in London on August 23, 1305 . Edward had made a martyr of Wallace, a larger-than-life patriotic hero to the Scots. Instead of finally resolving the "Scottish question", he laid the foundation for further uprisings.

Excommunication and coronation

In September 1305, Eduard ordered Robert Bruce to relinquish command of Kildrummy Castle . He suspected that Bruce was not entirely trustworthy and that he might be organizing a conspiracy behind his back. The secret pact that Bruce had now made with William de Lamberton was exposed by some nobles. Bruce held a conference with John Comyn that ended in an agreement. Comyn would support Bruce's claim to the Scottish throne and receive his lands in return, or vice versa. But for reasons unknown, but probably to harm his rival, Comyn betrayed the conspiracy. Bruce, who was at the English royal court, was warned and fled to Scotland.

Robert Bruce arrived in Dumfries on February 10, 1306 and learned that Comyn was also there. The two met for a private conversation in the Franciscan church there. Bruce accused Comyn of betraying him, which Comyn denied. In anger, Bruce drew his dagger and seriously injured his opponent. When Bruce fled the church in fear, his companion Sir Roger de Kirkpatrick entered the building, found the still living Comyn and killed him. Bruce was later whether this outrage on holy ground by Pope Clement V with the excommunication occupied.

After the murder, however, the English king could no longer cover Bruce. He had broken all bridges behind him and had to act very quickly. There was only one way forward: in order not to lose everything - especially the claim to the Scottish throne - he was crowned King of Scots only a few days later on March 25, 1306 in Scone . Although he was now king, he did not yet have a kingdom. His efforts to recapture the country proved to be catastrophic failures until after the death of Edward I.


Many members of the Gaelic and Norman nobility still mistrusted Bruce because of his earlier close ties to the English royal family and did not support him. In addition, the Norman princes still had lands on both sides of the border in England and Scotland and therefore did not dare to oppose the English king. So Robert was at first a practically powerless king and constantly on the run from Eduard, who wanted to take revenge on his unfaithful vassal and sent his captors after him. In June 1306 he was defeated in the Battle of Methven , whereupon he fled to the Highlands. In July or August, his remaining force was defeated in the battle at Dalry . He sent his female family members to Kildrummy Castle to keep them safe. After a legendary escape to the Outer Hebrides , Robert Bruce returned to Scotland in February 1307 and began to recapture his empire from his enemies inside and outside from the south-west. He tirelessly attacked - mostly from ambush - and became a master of guerrilla tactics . As a result, Bruce gradually gained the respect and much-needed support of the Scottish nobility. His first victory over the English was at Glen Trool and then defeated Aymer de Valence in the Battle of Loudoun Hill .

The English king declared Bruce's lands forfeited and distributed them among his own followers. He also published the excommunication imposed by the Pope on Robert Bruce. His wife Elizabeth de Burgh, daughter Marjorie and sister Christina were captured after the siege of Kildrummy Castle while his three younger brothers were executed. But on July 7th Edward I died and was replaced by his weak son Edward II . The tide began to turn.

Robert Bruce then handed command of the forces at Galloway to his brother Edward Bruce , while he himself moved his operations to Aberdeenshire . He overran Buchan and, after a serious illness, defeated the Earl of Buchan at the Battle of Inverurie in May 1308 . Bruce went with his troops to Argyll , defeated other internal enemies in the Battle of Brander and captured Dunstaffnage Castle . In May 1309 he convened his first session of parliament at St Andrews , and in August he controlled all areas north of the River Tay . At a general assembly in 1310, the Scottish clergy recognized him as king. That he received the support of local church leaders despite the excommunication was of great importance and probably due to the influence of his friend Lamberton.

Statue of Robert I at Bannockburn

During the next three years several English castles and outposts fell into the hands of the Scots. Linlithgow was conquered in 1310, Dumbarton in 1311 and in January 1313 Perth (Bruce leads this campaign personally). Bruce also led forays into northern England. In March 1313 James Douglas captured Roxburgh Castle while Thomas Randolph took Edinburgh Castle at the same time . In May, Bruce led another raid through the north of England and subjugated the Isle of Man .

In the dispute over Stirling Castle , the last castle in Scotland to be held by the English, the seemingly superior English army was defeated by the Scots on June 23 and 24, 1314 in the historic battle of the small brook Bannockburn, the Battle of Bannockburn . The approximately 9,000 Scots wiped out the approximately 25,000 English almost completely, and Robert Bruce became the Scottish national hero. The unexpected victory guaranteed the complete acceptance of Robert Bruce as king in his own country. Relieved of the English threat, the Scottish armies moved into England, repulsed another English army north of the border, and raided Yorkshire and Lancashire . Edward II was forced to accept an armistice.

Campaign in Ireland and diplomacy

Encouraged by the military successes, the Scottish troops launched an invasion of Ireland in 1315 . They not only wanted to free the island from English rule, but also to create a second front in the ongoing conflict with England. In addition, they pursued family goals, because in June 1315 Edward Bruce was crowned the Irish High King . In early 1317 Robert Bruce went there with another army to support his brother.

The Scots campaigned for the favor of the Irish leaders with a “Pan-Gaelic alliance”, emphasizing similarities such as language, customs and cultural heritage. The diplomatic efforts produced some success, at least in Ulster , where the Scots enjoyed full support. But outside of Ulster they met with little enthusiasm and could not record any notable successes in the south of the island.

After the trauma of the Wars of Independence, however, the free and powerful of the empire made it clear to their king in 1320 that he could not act completely arbitrarily. In the Arbroath Declaration , they declared that they would only support him as long as he was willing to uphold the rights of the nation. The crucial passage from this declaration states:

“But Robert himself, should he turn away from the task that he has begun and agree that we or our kingdom would be subjected to the English king or his people, we would cast him out as the enemy of all of us, as one who undermined our and his rights and would choose another king to defend our freedom; for as long as only a hundred of us survive we will in no way bow to English rule. Because we fight neither for fame, nor for prosperity, nor for honor; we fight only for the freedom that no righteous man gives up - except with his life. "

The state of war between the two countries continued, but in 1328 the independence of Scotland from the English King Edward III. recognized in the Edinburgh and Northampton Agreement .

Family and late life

Robert Bruce had a large family in addition to his eldest daughter Marjorie, his second wife Elizabeth de Burgh and their children. There were his brothers Edward , Alexander , Thomas and Neil , his sisters Christina (or Christian) of Mar, Isabel (later Queen of Norway), Margaret, Matilda and Mary and his nephews Donald and Thomas Randolph . Alexander, Thomas and Neil were captured and executed by the English, Edward died on the battlefield in Ireland in 1318.

In addition to his legitimate offspring, Robert Bruce had several illegitimate children from unknown lovers. The sons were Robert (died 1332 at the Battle of Dupplin) and Nigel (died 1346 at the Battle of Durham). His daughters were Elizabeth, Margaret and Christina.

Robert Bruce died on June 7, 1329 at the age of 55 at the Cardross manor in Dunbartonshire (the exact location is uncertain and may not even have been near the present-day village of Cardross ). For several years, according to contemporary reports, he had suffered from an "unclean illness". Traditionally, he is believed to have died of leprosy , but this is now doubted. Although it remains unclear what disease it was, syphilis , psoriasis, or a number of strokes are possible.

Robert's remains were interred in Dunfermline Abbey . According to his last will, however, his old comrade-in-arms James Douglas was to remove the heart and bring it on a crusade to the Holy Land to atone for Robert's murder of John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch . But Douglas only got as far as Spain , where he was killed in the battle against the Moors at the Battle of Teba . His family was allowed to include the heart of Robert Bruce in their coat of arms. The heart was later found, returned to Scotland and buried under the high altar of Melrose Abbey in Roxburghshire . Robert's only surviving son ascended the Scottish throne as David II .


Reconstruction of the bronze plate over the burial place of Robert I in Dunfermline Abbey

Robert the Bruce and his struggle for Scottish independence have been widely received to this day. Especially since the 19th century and on the 700th anniversary of his birth in 1974, Robert the Bruce has been and is increasingly stylized as a Scottish national hero. In the media reception today he is mostly portrayed as an indomitable resistance fighter who does not allow himself to be dissuaded from his goal even by repeated setbacks.

In 1846 the opera pasticcio Robert Bruce was written for the Paris Opera with music by Gioacchino Rossini, in which the Scottish struggle for freedom is dealt with.

In the burial place of Roberts, the Dunfermline Abbey, a memorial stone has been commemorating him since the 19th century and a stained glass window with a portrait since 1974 . Fragments of his tomb - destroyed in the Reformation - are exhibited in the Museum of Scotland . Statues of Robert the Bruce now stand in front of Edinburgh Castle , the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and on the site of the Battle of Bannockburn and Stirling Castle. An artist's representation of Robert the Bruce was found on the Scottish one-pound banknotes from 1981 to 1989 and from 1990 to the present day on the 20-pound notes of the Clydesdale Bank .

In a number of historical novels Robert the Bruce appears as a minor character or the legends formed around him are processed. The Scottish author Nigel Tranter dedicated three novels to Robert's life and work between 1969 and 1971, which were republished in 1985 as The Bruce Trilogy (in English). Moritz Graf von Strachwitz tells the story of the king's heart in the ballad Das Herz von Douglas with poetic freedom. The first volume of a currently emerging trilogy by Robyn Young was published in 2011 in German under the title Rebell der Krone . According to the creators of the DC comic book character Batman , Robert the Bruce was one of the role models in creating the character Bruce Wayne.

The 1996 British film The Bruce with Sandy Welch in the leading role describes Robert's rise to the rank of King of Scotland and culminates in the Battle of Bannockburn. In the 1995 US film Braveheart , Bruce is played by Angus Macfadyen and his role in the Scottish War of Independence - albeit in a strongly fictionalized way - is mentioned. The film Outlaw King (2018) depicts Robert's life and the Scottish struggle for independence from around 1301 to 1307. It begins with Robert's recognition of the rule of the English King Edward I over Scotland and his marriage to Elizabeth de Burgh , then portrays the beginning of the uprising and ends with the Battle of Loudoun Hill .

In the French army , the Marche des soldats de Robert Bruce , made famous by Scottish mercenaries in French services, for example the Royal Ecossais , is played to this day. While there are recordings from the Bundeswehr music corps , the march is rarely played by musicians from the British Army .

In 2018, a period film about "Robert the Bruce" entitled Outlaw King was released on Netflix .

That same year, Robert the Bruce was added as the leader of the Scots in the civilization VI video game .

See also


Web links

Commons : Robert I of Scotland  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Moritz Graf von Strachwitz: The heart of Douglas In: Freiburg anthology - poems
  2. ^ The Steranko History of Comics. Part 1.
  3. Outlaw King | Netflix Official Site. Retrieved December 4, 2019 .
predecessor Office successor
Robert de Brus
(de iure uxoris)
Earl of Carrick
Title merged with crown
John Balliol
(until 1296)
King of Scotland
David II