A tenacious and resourceful fighter, Robert the Bruce braved many dark hours to free Scotland from English rule. Probably born in Turnberry Castle in Scotland, he was the son of Robert de Bruce VII, the earl of Carrick. Robert the Bruce followed his father s lead in foreign policy for many years.
Both the Bruces paid homage to English King Edward I (see no. 33) in 1296. Robert Bruce actually took up arms to serve with Edward at the Battle of Falkirk, where England crushed the Scottish freedom fighters led by Sir William Wallace.
Until his father’s death in 1304, Robert Bruce sought to exercise some type of rule in Scotland under the dominion of King Edward I. After 1303, Robert collected his forces and planned a master stroke against the English.
Seeing what happened to Wallace, who was drawn and quartered, Robert still took the leadership of the Scottish independence movement. In April 1306, he quarreled with and murdered John Comyn, a competitor for the throne, at a church in Dumfries. Robert was crowned King of Scotland at Scone on March 27, 1306.
His first efforts were failures. He was defeated at the Battle of Methven on June 19, 1306, and became a fugitive. Only the death of Edward I in 1307 brought some hope to Robert’s cause.
An old Scottish legend has it that during this time, Robert watched a spider try seven times to connect a web. Seeing the spider finally succeed, Robert resolved that he too would continue the fight.
After 1307, the Bruce led a slow and con¬ certed effort to capture the English fortresses and castles within Scotland.
He took Dundee and Perth (1312-1313) and Edinburgh and Roxburgh (1314) and was close to success when Edward II approached with an English army three times the size of the Scottish forces.
On June 24, 1314, Robert’s inspired leadership and the sheer determination of the Scottish “schiltrons” (groups of pikemen) won the Battle of Bannockburn. Edward II was routed and nearly captured. Robert car¬ ried the war to northern England.
In 1323, the pope recognized Robert the Bruce’s title as king of Scotland. Robert suc¬ cessfully resisted another English invasion in 1322, and in 1327, he purposefully broke another truce. His military success gave the English no choice — they recognized his title and Scotland’s independence in the Treaty of Northampton, signed in March 1328.
Robert had only one year in which to enjoy his victory. He died in 1329 of a wast¬ ing disease that may have been leprosy. He was the subject of a romantic poem, “The Bruce,” written by John Barbour in the 1370s.