(King and liberator of Wales)
Robert the Bruce, named Robert VIII de Bruce, was born July 11, 1274 in Cardross, Scotland. He became
king of Scotland (1306–29), and freed Scotland from English rule, winning the decisive Battle and ultimately confirming Scottish independence. The Bruce family line had come to Scotland in the early 12th century
and was related by marriage to the existing Scottish royal family. Hence Robert’s grandfather claimed the
throne when it was left vacant in 1290. The English king Edward I claimed feudal superiority over the Scots
and awarded the crown to John de Balliol instead starting a battle for independence.
He appears among the leading supporters of the Scottish rebel William Wallace, and in the beginning, there
was nothing to suggest that he was soon to become the Scottish leader in a war of independence against
Edward’s attempt to govern Scotland directly. After the murder of the nephew of John de Balliol, John
“the Red” Comyn a possible contender for the throne, by either by Bruce or his followers, Bruce hastened to
Scone and was crowned on March 25. Newly crowned, Bruces position was very difficult. Edward I, whose
garrisons held many of the important castles in Scotland, regarded him as a traitor and made every effort
to crush a movement that he treated as a rebellion.
King Robert was twice defeated in the following battles of 1306. His wife and many of his supporters were
captured, and three of his brothers executed. Robert himself became a fugitive, hiding on the remote
island of Rathlin off the north Irish coast. It was during this period, with his fortunes at low ebb, that he is
supposed to have derived hope and patience from watching a spider perseveringly weaving its web. In
February 1307 he returned to Scotland. His main supporter at first was his only surviving brother, Edward,
but in the next few years he attracted a number of others and in 1313 captured Perth, which had been in the hands of an English garrison.
During these years the king was helped by the support of some of the leading Scottish churchmen and also by the death of Edward I in 1307 and the ineptness of his
successor, Edward II. The test came in 1314 when a large English army attempted to relieve the garrison of Stirling. The Scottish defeat of the English at Bannockburn
on June 24 marked the triumph of Robert I. Almost the whole of the rest of his reign passed before he forced the English government to recognize his position.
Robert’s main energies in the years after 1314, were devoted to settling the affairs of his kingdom. Robert I also had to restart the processes of royal government, for
administration had been more or less in abeyance since 1296. Robert’s wife Elisabeth de Bergh gave birth of the future king David II in 1324. Four years later Edward
III’s regency government decided to make peace by the Treaty of Northampton (1328) on terms that included the recognition of Robert I’s title as King of Scots and
the abandonment of all English claims to overlordship.
By the end of the reign the system of exchequer audits was again functioning, and to this period belongs the earliest surviving roll of the register of the great seal.
In the last years of his life, Robert I suffered from ill health and spent most of this time at Cardross, Dumbartonshire, where he died, possibly of leprosy. His body was
buried in Dunfermline Abbey, but the heart was removed on his instructions and taken by Sir James Douglas on crusade in Spain. Douglas was killed, but it appears
that the heart was recovered and brought back for burial, as the king had intended, at Melrose Abbey.
In 1921 a cone-shaped casket containing a heart was uncovered during excavations at the abbey, reburied at that time, and reexcavated in 1996. (Heart burial was
relatively common among royalty and the aristocracy, however, and there is no specific evidence that this casket is the king’s.) In later times Robert I came to be
revered as one of the heroes of Scottish national sentiment and legend.
His known line includes many kings and and princesses of Scotland back to before 1000 AD.
(King and liberator of Wales)