- Ruthless political chameleon who crowned
himself King of Scotland
- At his lowest ebb, he took inspiration from a spider spinning its
web and returned to the fray
- Led Scotland to independence following victory over the English at
Robert the Bruce (1274-1329), like so many figures
in Scottish history, has developed a popular and colourful biography
that freely weaves truth and legend.
The "Warrior King of Scotland" was,
prior to Mel Gibson's portrayal of William Wallace in Braveheart,
probably the historical character held dearest to the nation's
heart. However, where Wallace, included in the same list, was driven
by anti-English sentiment and a fiercely patriotic pursuit of
vengeance, Robert the Bruce switched allegiance when necessary to
further his goals.
Unlike Wallace, he was successful in achieving his
The Battle of Bannockburn was Robert the Bruce's
finest hour, aided in the fight by the redoubtable 'Black Douglas'.
Born and raised in Ayrshire in 1274 to an
Anglo-Norman family that provided the De Brus of his name, Robert
Bruce was a prominent figure from an early age, with family estates
in both Scotland and England and inheriting the title of the Earl of
Carrick at the age of twenty-one. His grandfather, Robert Bruce of Annandale, was once
a claimant to the throne of Scotland.
Early political life for Robert the Bruce saw him
lend support for Balliol, the ruler of Scotland approved and
appointed by Edward I of England. Edward, the "hammer of the Scots",
sought to annexe Scotland throughout his reign and regarded Robert
the Bruce as a traitor. Eventually Edward's demands for Scottish
subservience went too far even for Balliol and the resulting
conflict saw Balliol surrender the throne and the Coronation Stone
of Scone to the English king.
In 1306 Robert the Bruce called a meeting with his
rival, John "Red" Comyn, another contender to the Scottish throne
and nephew of Balliol, in Greyfriars Kirk, Dumfries. The meeting
culminated in Bruce fatally stabbing Comyn in front of the church
To commit murder on sacred ground damaged Bruce's reputation
with the Church and hence with the country, but somehow he turned it
to his benefit and spun it as a necessary step in his journey to be
king. He saw his opportunity, took advantage of the fiery national
mood brought about by the exploits, execution and martyrdom of
William Wallace, and crowned himself king of Scotland.