as the success of Wallace waned, Bruce once more switched his
allegiance, along with many more of the Scottish Lords who originally
joined Wallace, back to the English King. When Wallace was out
of the country and Edward I was warring in France, the way was
open for Bruce to take the initiative. His own patriotism had
been instilled in him by his first wife, the daughter of the
earl of Mar. It was the daughter of this union, through her
marriage to Walter the Steward, that became the mother of the
first great Scottish Stewart dynasty. Later relations in this
line included Charles I, and Bonnie Prince Charlie.
time the English Parliament had written up a Constitution for
Scotland that had failed due to a lack of consent by the Scots
who had strong resentment toward the English and their involvement
in Scotland. In 1306 Bruce's patriotism was enhanced when he
killed his hereditary enemy, the Red Comyn during a quarrel
in the Church of the Convent of the Minorite Friars, in Dumfries.
Bloodshed on sacred ground was sacrilege, and this act put Bruce
outside the parameters of Christendom, and enraged Edward. With
the backing of a few friends and a small host gathered round
him, Bruce went to Scone where the Kings of Scotland were crowned
and became the King of Scotland. The coronation was conducted
by two Scottish Earls and three bishops. Bruce was crowned by
the Countess of Buchan in place of her brother who held the
hereditary right to crown the Kings of Scotland, since he refused
to attend in this case. The real crown having been stolen by
Edward was replaced by a golden coronella. Thus Robert the Bruce,
the greatest soldier king Scotland ever had, began his battle
against the English. He also began his fight to capture the
hearts and minds of the Scottish people and bring back pride
and independence to the beleaguered Scots.
enraged by Bruce's actions and sent a strong force north of
the border that crushed the smaller Scottish force, aided by
treachery by some Scots. Bruce and some of his followers took
refuge in the wild mountainous areas of Athol and Argyle. He
was accompanied by Sir James Douglas, known as 'the Black Douglas',
whose clan was one of the strongest in Scotland at the time.
Edward sent many forces to find Bruce, Douglas and the rest
of the small band, but they were unable to bring them to captivity.
There were many close encounters where Bruce, through sheer
guts and determination, was able to avoid capture. These various
encounters have gone down in Scottish folklore, but at the time
they gave the Scots a focus for their hopes of independence.
hiding from the English, Bruce's lands were confiscated and
his wife and young daughter were imprisoned in English castles.
The Countess of Buchan who had dared crown Bruce was imprisoned
in an open cage made of wickerwork and fixed to the walls of
a castle in Berwick. Three of Bruce's brothers were put to death.
Many others who opposed Edward and supported Bruce or Wallace
suffered similar fates with their heads being placed on spikes
to discourage others from acting against their English overlords.
actions undertaken by Edward, however had the opposite effect
and Scots from the Clergy, nobles, gentles and commons rallied
to Bruce's banner swearing fealty to him as their rightful King.
For about a year Bruce was a fugitive in great danger but fate
was on his side. King of England, Edward I - the 'hammer of
the Scots' - died, failing in his great purpose of life to totally
annex Scotland under English rule. Such was the hatred of Edward
that his dying wish was to have his bones carried to Scotland
the next time a rebellion broke out. Edward II was not the same
type of character as his father, though he led an army into
Scotland to obey his father's dying behest only to be defeated
in Ayrshire. Bruce continued to enhance his position by defeating
his enemies, those who had conspired with the English, within
Scotland. Philip IV of France attempted to bring about a truce
between Scotland and England but as Bruce enjoyed more success
in getting Scotland behind him, these attempts were ignored.
important step for Bruce was to get the Clergy to support him
after the incident in the church when he had slain Comwyn. This
was eventually achieved with the clergy swearing fealty to him
as their rightful King and amending their seals accordingly.
Tit for tat exchanges occurred between the English and the Scots
across the borders, with Bruce and the Scots being more successful
than their English counterparts. Various castles in Scotland
that had been taken by the English during the time of Edward
I, returned to their legitimate owners. Dumbarton, Perth, Roxburgh
and the great stronghold of Edinburgh Castle were recaptured
with daring and cunning, often with the Black Douglas acting
important stronghold of Stirling remained in the hands of the
English, so Bruce assigned the taking of it by his brother,
Edward Bruce. The English governor of the Castle suggested a
sporting challenge by offering to surrender were the Castle
not relieved before the twenty-fourth day of the following June.
This allowed time for an English army to attempt to relieve
the much besieged garrison and offered a chance for the Scots
to face the might of the English army once and for all. The
challenge was accepted out of chivalry and the stage was set
for the best known battle in Scottish history.
English marched north with the biggest force yet to face the
smaller Scots army. As the English approached Bruce was riding
a small mount, not expecting any attack at that point. Sir Henry
de Bohun, an English knight, recognized Bruce and seized the
chance to fight him as, unlike Bruce, he was dressed in full
armor and riding a great war horse. On seeing the oncoming attack,
Bruce turned and rising in his stirrups, with one blow, clove
de Bohun's skull in two with his battle axe, which consequently
broke. The morning of the battle followed a night of revelry
for the English, so sure were they of victory, the Scots on
the other hand had spent it in"silence and devotion."
Bruce prepared the ground around the Bannock Burn, placing his
troops in strategic positions that allowed for retreat if victory
proved impossible. The army was divided into four 'schiltrons'
or circles, under Edward Bruce, Sir James Douglas, Sir Thomas
Randolph and Walter the Steward. The King himself was in charge
of the reserves. The ground between the Scots and the approaching
English was full of marshes and watercourses. The Bannock Burn
gave some protection to the Scottish front, as did two great
bogs that threatened to slow the English progress.
attack commenced with a hail of arrows over the Scots. In the
hand to hand fighting the defenders had the upper hand as the
English, fighting in spaces too close, were caught up in the
submerged pits and bogs. Men and horses plunged helplessly,
and knights, hampered by heavy armor could not rise. The English
ranks, in total disorder, suffered the final blow when a group
of observers tore down the hill where they had been eagerly
watching shouting the Bruce's battle cry and making the English
think that Scots reinforcements had arrived. Edward II fled
the field leaving some intrepid English still fighting.
was the greatest defeat that the English ever suffered at the
hands of the Scots and the victory provided great booty, but
more important, independence and Bruce as master of Scotland.
The succession to the throne was quickly organized by Parliament
and ensured that if there was no male heir to Bruce, that his
brother Edward and his male heirs would succeed. The only child
of Bruce was Marjorie who died in child birth, after a fall
from a horse, the surviving infant of the Princess later became
intervened between the two warring countries by proclaiming
a two-year truce. Bruce ignored this as the Pope refused to
recognize him as the rightful King, and sent forces to Berwick
to retake the city that had been in the hands of the English
since Edward I had butchered its inhabitants. The English remained
oblivious to Scotland as independence and the Scots sent an
appeal to the Pope stating that, "While there exists a
hundred of us we will never submit to England. We fight not
for glory, wealth or honour, but for that liberty the loss of
which no virtuous man will survive."
between the countries continued, Edward II running out of supplies
returned south after ravaging the Scottish border area only
to be surprised by Bruce heading north after raids into Yorkshire.
Treachery was waiting for Edward II after he fled south to escape
Bruce; first, by the Earl of Carlisle who was in league with
the Scots and was summarily executed; and secondly, by his wife
who, with her lover, was conspiring against him. With various
problems hanging over him, Edward called for a thirteen-year
truce with the Scots, although this did not include recognizing
Bruce as the 'King of Scotland'. Bruce also got papal approval
and with the birth of his son, he was universally recognized
as King. The uneasiness between the English and Scottish neighbors
continued and Bruce was able to raise more taxes for his armies
through the Scottish Parliament. The situation remained the
same as Edward II was replaced by Edward III, though a treaty
was initially signed which attempted to bring peace. Finally
a large English army was forced to disband when faced by a smaller
Scottish army and with this and other pressures playing on the
English, overtures for peace were made. The terms were concluded
in Edinburgh the following year with Scotland being formally
recognized as an independent Kingdom, her King an independent
Sovereign, her inhabitants a free and independent people.