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Robert the Bruce: Scottish King

Gaelic Pure Scotch Whisky: As Scottish as Robert the Bruce himself!

Robert the Bruce was born on the 11th July 1274 and died on the 7th June 1329, he was also known as Robert 1. Robert was King of Scots from 1306 until his death. Robert was probably one of the most famous warriors of his generation and became legendary for leading Scotland against the English oppressors during the Wars of Scottish Independence. He was successfull during his reign in regaining Scotlands place as an independent nation, and is today remembered in Scotland as a national hero.

Robert the Bruce was descended from the Scoto-Norman and Gaelic nobilities, through his father he was a fourth great grandson of David I, and Roberts grandfather Robert de Brus, who was 5th Lord of Annandale, was one of the claimants to the Scottish throne during what would become known as the 'Great Cause'.

As Robert was also Earl of Carrick, he supported his families claim to the throne of Scotland and took part in William Wallaces uprising against Edward I of England. Edward was also known as Longshanks because of his height or as the Hammer of the Scots and was hated by the people of Scotland.

In 1298 Robert was given the title of Guardian of Scotland alongside his rivals for the Scottish throne, John Comyn, and William Lamberton, Bishop of St. Andrews. Bruce gave up his guardianship in 1300 because of his constant arguments and falling out with Comyn, and in 1302, Robert submitted to King Edwards rule. With the death of his father in 1304, Robert inherited his families claim to the throne of Scotland.

In 1306 following an argument during their meeting at Greyfriars monastery in Dumfries, Robert killed Comyn. Following this event, Robert was excommunicated by the Pope, but absolved by Robert Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow. Robert moved quickly to seize the throne and was crowned King of Scots on 25 March 1306, at Scone.

Edward the Longshanks army defeated Robert in battle and he was forced to escape and go into hiding in the Hebrides and Ireland. Robert returned to Scotland in 1307 and defeated the English army at Loudoun Hill and continue to conduct a very successful irregular form of warfare against the English. Robert defeated the Comyns and his other Scots enemies, destroying their strongholds and devastating their lands. In 1309 he was able to hold his first parliament at St Andrews, and a series of military victories between 1310 and 1314 won him control of the majority of Scotland.

At the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 he defeated a much bigger force of English regular army serving under the latest English King Edward II. This victory confirmed the re-establishment of an independent Scottish monarchy. The Bannockburn victory marked a major turning point, and, freed from English threats, Scotlands armies were now free to invade the northern parts of England, which they did with devastating effects. Robert also decided to expand his war against the English and create a second front by sending an army under his younger brother, Edward, to invade Ireland. Here Edward was to appeal to the native Irish to rise up against the King of Englands rule.

Despite Bannockburn and the capture of the final English stronghold at Berwick in 1318, Edward II still refused to give up his claim to the overlordship of Scotland. In 1320, the Scottish magnates and nobles submitted the Declaration of Arbroath to Pope John XXII, declaring that Robert was their rightful monarch and asserting Scotlands status as an independent kingdom. In 1324 the Pope recognized Robert as king of an independent Scotland. In 1327, the English deposed Edward II with the help of his wife, Isabella of France, in favour of their son, Edward III, and there was peace between Scotland and England with the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, by which Edward III renounced all claims to superiority over Scotland and its people.

Robert the Bruce died on 7 June 1329. His body is buried in Dunfermline Abbey, while his heart was interred in Melrose Abbey. The Kings lieutenant and friend Sir James Douglas agreed to take the late Kings embalmed heart on crusade to the Holy Land, but he only reached Moorish Granada. According to tradition, Sir James was carrying the Bruces heart in a silver casket when he was killed at the head of the Scottish contingent at the Battle of Teba. Although Sir James was killed in the battle fighting the Moors, the kings heart was recovered and brought back to Scotland where it belonged.

Robert the Bruce on the silver screen

Robert the Bruce, played by the Scottish Actor Angus Macfadyen in the Mel Gibson film Braveheart, was portrayed as a bit of a two faced individual for his twoing and froing between the Scottish and English sides.

Robert the Bruce did indeed change sides between the Scots loyalists and the English more than once in the earlier stages of the Wars of Scottish Independence, but he never betrayed William Wallace directly, and it is unlikely that he ever fought on the English side at the Battle of Falkirk. Later, the Battle of Bannockburn, that was shown in the film to be a spontaneous battle, was not, the Bruce had already been fighting a guerrilla campaign against the English for eight long years.