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The rise and triumph of Robert Bruce: 1306 to 1314

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The Rise and Triumph of Robert Bruce:
Bruce before 1306
• Robert Bruce was the grandson of the competitor who took part in the
Great Cause in 1292.
• Robert Bruce’s father, the Earl of Carrick and Lord of Annandale, held
extensive lands in France and England. In 1292 he resigned Carrick to his
son, the future king.
• Barrow has argued Bruce had been behind Wallace’s rebellion, hoping that
Wallace would win and not putting his lands in jeopardy.
• Others have argued Bruce was not really interested in helping Wallace
because he did not want to see Balliol returned to the throne.
Scottish rivalry
• Robert surrendered in 1302 to Edward.
• Since the Battle of Falkirk, Robert had led the Scottish resistance along
with his fellow guardian, John �the Red’ Comyn.
• However, Robert and John could not work together.
• After Balliol was discredited, his relatives the Comyn family believed they
were next in line to the throne.
The war, phase 2
• Edward I believed he had settled the Scottish problem after the execution
of Wallace.
• The brutal killing and dismemberment of Wallace was supposed to have
quelled the Scottish people.
• But this seems to have had the opposite effect, as many Scots were
angered by Wallace’s treatment.
• Bruce decided that with Edward returning to France it was now the right
time to make his bid for the throne.
• But first he needed to gain the support of Comyn.
Murder at Greyfriars
• Comyn, John Balliol’s nephew, practically ruled most of northern Scotland.
• Bruce controlled most of the south west and central lowlands of Scotland.
• Neither could effectively rule Scotland without the consent of the other.
• So Robert invited his rival to a meeting at Greyfriars Abbey in Dumfries in
1306 (10 February).
• Bruce hoped to convince Comyn to join forces under Robert’s leadership.
Murder at Greyfriars (continued)
• What actually happened at the
meeting is unclear, but at some
point Robert lost his temper and
stabbed Comyn.
• At the time this was a shocking
• It meant that Robert was an instant
criminal. Worse, there was the
possibility of excommunication.
• This caused Robert to lose a lot of
support in the south and most of
the north of Scotland.
Civil war
• Robert in one move had managed to cause what every Guardian of
Scotland had tried to avoid since 1286 … civil war.
• In order to prevent himself from being arrested Robert rushed to get
himself crowned at Scone.
• This was a political move: as king he could not be arrested for the murder
of Comyn.
• He was inaugurated by Bishop Wishart and the Countess of Buchan.
Edward’s reaction
• Edward was by no means happy at hearing of yet another rebellion.
• By June 1306, Bruce’s small army had been destroyed by Sir Aymer de
Valence’s English army at Methven, near Perth.
• The defeat scattered Bruce’s party. Bruce fled west only to be routed near
Loch Tay and defeated again by Comyn’s cousin, John MacDougall of Lorn,
at Dail Righ.
• Edward confiscated all of Bruce’s lands, executed one of his brothers and
captured his wife and sister at Kildrummy Castle, placing them in a
wooden cage.
Bruce’s brother and
family are captured
after the castle is
Dail Righ
Bruce is
defeated and
flees Scotland
Wishart pays for
siege engines;
Bruce captures
the castle
Bruce and his two brothers try
to win back their castle. His
brothers are captured and
by Bishop
Methven Woods
Bruce is
surprised and
Guerrilla warfare
• Bruce spent the winter travelling the islands of Scotland gaining support.
• He returned to Ayrshire and raised a new army.
• For the next seven years he engaged in a war with the supporters of
Comyn in the north east and the English in the central belt.
• Bruce’s victory in this civil war was a major achievement, considering how
many Scottish nobles were against him.
• However, he was aided in 1307 by the death of Edward I.
Bruce’s successes
• In early 1307 Bruce returned to Scotland and captured Turnberry Castle
(although two of his brothers were defeated in Galloway and executed by
Edward I).
• He then defeated a small English force at Glen Trool.
• On 10 May 1307 at Louden Hill Bruce defeated the English, led by Aymer de
• Bruce then captured Inverlochy, Urquhart, Inverness and Nairn castles from
the Comyns and their followers.
• In the battle of Inverurie in 1308 Bruce defeated his enemies in the north
east. He then went on to devastate the area, burning crops and livestock.
This was known as the Herschip of Buchan.
• At the same time, Bruce’s brother Edward led a successful attack on
Bruce’s successes
• By late summer 1308 Bruce was able to launch a successful campaign
against Alexander and John MacDougall in Argyll, achieving victory in the
battle of the Pass of Brander and capturing Dunstaffnage Castle.
• Bruce held his first official parliament at St Andrews in March 1309.
• The Declaration of the Clergy was written in 1309 to justify Bruce’s kingship.
• Bruce’s supporters captured Perth Castle from the English in 1309.
• Bruce went on to gain control of Dumfries (1313), the Isle of Man (1313),
Linlithgow (1313), Roxburgh (1313) and Edinburgh (1314).
• By October 1313 Bruce felt confident enough to issue an ultimatum to his
nobles; they had one year to accept his authority before they would face
losing their lands.
Bruce’s successes
• By late 1313 only Berwick and Stirling
remained in English hands.
Reasons for Robert’s successes
• Death of Edward I – Edward had been the driving force behind English
• Edward II had little or no 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 Robert’s successes (continued)
• 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.
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