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The rise and triumph of Robert Bruce: 1314 to 1328

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The Rise and Triumph of Robert Bruce:
• The Battle of Bannockburn (23 and 24 June 1314) was a decisive victory
for the Scots.
• Under the leadership of Bruce, the Scots used the terrain to their
advantage and defeated an English army which outnumbered their forces.
• This has led to the battle becoming a very famous event in Scottish history.
• However, although Bannockburn was an important victory for the Scots, it
did not bring about the end of the war.
• Edward II still refused to recognise Scotland as an independent kingdom.
The impact of the Battle of Bannockburn
• Victory at the Battle of Bannockburn increased the confidence of the Scots.
• It did NOT signify the end of the war; England still possessed a strong
economy and many of the leading English nobles had not been present at
the battle.
• Edward II had escaped the battlefield and was not willing to accept
Scotland’s independence.
• Undoubtedly, the victory secured Bruce’s position as King of Scots; he had
proved himself as a military leader, and with this came more support.
• The Scots had captured many English knights who were used to earn
ransoms and were also exchanged for Scottish prisoners.
• Bruce was able to exchange English prisoners for his wife, daughter and
sister, who had been in captivity for ten years.
The impact of the Battle of Bannockburn
• At a parliament held at Cambuskenneth Abbey in November 1314 Bruce
passed new legislation forbidding Scottish lords to hold lands in England;
anyone who chose to do so would be disinherited
• Some of Bruce’s most powerful enemies within Scotland (ie John Comyn)
died at Bannockburn.
• This allowed Bruce to redistribute their lands amongst his supporters,
further cementing their loyalty.
Raids on Northern England
• Determined to win Scotland’s independence, Bruce took the battle to
England in the years following Bannockburn.
• His army invaded the northern counties of England every year between
1315 and 1318.
• By the end of 1318 Berwick had been recaptured and the north of England
• In response to this, Edward II raised an army and laid siege to Berwick in
September 1319.
• Bruce sent his trusted commanders, Randolph and Douglas into northern
England, where they caused so much chaos that Edward was forced to
Why was Edward II unable to defend
northern England from the Scots?
Defending the north was expensive, and the wars of independence had already
placed considerable strain on the Exchequer.
It became increasingly difficult to fund expeditions to the north.
There was little incentive for the nobles to support campaigns in the north; there
was a lack of booty to be gained and the subjugation of Scotland was looking
increasingly unobtainable.
Several years of famine in the north made it difficult to keep armies supplied with
Bruce was a clever strategist. He managed to avoid meeting the enemy in open
battle and always seemed to be one step ahead of Edward II.
Faced with continued raids on their lands, and feeling that the crown could do
nothing to protect them, lords in northern England made private arrangements with
Bruce, further demonstrating Bruce’s strength and Edward II’s weakness.
Edward Bruce and the Irish campaign
• While Robert Bruce was raiding the north of England, his brother Edward
opened up a second front in Ireland. The intention was to drive the English out
of Ireland and crown Edward Bruce King of Ireland.
• War in Ireland would tie up men and resources for the English, making control
of Scotland more difficult.
• Control of Ireland would also be a potential stepping stone to Wales; there
was fear that success in Ireland could lead to a pan-Celtic alliance against the
English, with the Irish, Welsh and Scots combining together.
• The Irish campaign ended in disaster for Edward Bruce, who was killed in
battle in 1318. However, it did divert English time and resources away from
the war against the Scots.
The Declaration of Arbroath, 1320
• In 1320 a letter to the Pope was sent from the Scots nobles to plead for
the Scottish cause.
• Bruce was not held in high regard by Pope John XXII, who had
excommunicated him as punishment for the murder of Comyn.
• In 1319 the Pope ordered Scotland’s bishops to explain why they had not
enforced the excommunication.
• The document produced in reply is known as the Declaration of Arbroath.
• The letter details the reasons for Scottish independence and justifies
Bruce’s usurpation of the throne in 1306.
What was the importance of the
Declaration of Arbroath?
• Some historians believe that the letter signifies the level of
support and commitment King Robert had by 1320.
• The stirring words of the document have been interpreted as
an expression of Scottish nationalism.
• Others have argued that many of the nobles who attached
their seals to the document would not have known the
contents of the letter.
• Was the declaration actually a piece of royal propaganda,
aimed at legitimising Bruce’s claim to the throne?
The Soules Conspiracy, 1320
• The Soules Conspiracy shows that the political situation in
Scotland remained unsettled.
• William Soules was a member of the Comyn faction.
• The aims of the conspiracy are not entirely clear, and the plot
was quickly put down.
• The affair had little impact on Bruce’s control of Scotland, but
does suggest that he did not have the full support of the
nobility, as suggested in the Declaration of Arbroath.
The road to independence
• A truce was agreed between Scotland and England in 1323.
• However, the question of overlordship remained unanswered, and the
truce had broken down by 1326.
Edward II
• Discontent with Edward II in England came to a head dramatically in 1326
when forces led by his wife, Isabella, and her lover, Roger Mortimer,
eventually overthrew him.
• Edward was replaced by his young son, Edward III.
• He was imprisoned, then brutally murdered in January 1327.
The Treaty of Edinburgh, 1328
• Bruce took advantage of events in England by ordering Douglas to invade
northern England to put pressure on Isabella, Mortimer and the new king.
• Bruce himself travelled to Ireland, renewing English fears of a Celtic
• Unable to deal effectively with the Scottish attacks and fearing rebellion
amongst their barons, Isabella and Mortimer agreed to the Scottish terms
for peace.
• The Treaty of Edinburgh officially recognised Robert as King of Scots and
acknowledged Scotland’s independence.
The death of Robert Bruce
• King Robert died in 1329.
• He had lived long enough to see Scotland become a free and
independent country.
• Bruce’s son, David, succeeded him. It seemed that Bruce had
secured the throne and that the Bruce dynasty would continue.
Reasons for the ultimate success of
Bruce, 1306–1328
• Death of Edward I in 1307 – Edward had been the driving force behind
English opposition.
• Edward II had less interest in continuing the conflict.
• Robert proved to be an excellent commander .
• Robert rewarded his followers by giving them large grants of land taken
from his enemies.
• Robert took the brave decision to destroy Scottish castles rather than risk
them falling into the hands of the English.
Reasons for the ultimate success of Bruce
• Roberts’s enemies in Scotland may have been powerful, but they were
located in isolated areas. Thus, they couldn’t support each other.
• Bruce quickly controlled Moray, allowing him internal lines of
• The Scottish Church supported him and Bishop Wishart claimed fighting
the English was the equivalent of going on a crusade.
• Bruce gained important foreign aid through Aberdeen.
• As long as Bruce controlled the north he had a reservoir of manpower and
a place to escape.
Reasons for the ultimate success of Bruce
• Victory at the Battle of Bannockburn secured Bruce’s position as King of Scots,
proved his ability as military commander and humiliated the English.
• Scottish raids into England following Bannockburn put pressure on Edward II
to accept Scotland’s independence.
• Edward Bruce’s campaign in Ireland acted as a diversion, making it more
difficult for the English to focus on conquest of Scotland.
• At the Parliament of 1318 support was given to Bruce as rightful king.
• Success of diplomacy – the Declaration of Arbroath contributed to persuading
the pope to accept the legitimacy of Bruce as king.
• Discontent within England, eventually leading to the deposition of Edward II
worked in Scotland’s favour.
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