Bruce, Robert de VIII 1274-1329, king of Scotland, son of Robert de Bruce VII, earl of Carrick, and Marjory, daughter and heiress of Nigel, second earl of Carrick, by Marjory, daughter of Walter the Steward of Scotland, born on 11 July 1274, was descended on the father's side from a Norman baron who came with William the Conqueror to England; and on his mother's from the Celtic chiefs of Galloway, as the names of her grandfather Duncan, created earl of Carrick by William the Lion, and her father, Niel or Nigel, show. Soon after the death of her first husband, Adam de Kilconquhar, in 1271, his mother married Robert de Bruce (VII), son of the Competitor Robert de Bruce (VI), who assumed, according to Scottish custom, the title of Earl of Carrick. On the decision of the disputed succession in 1292 in favour of Baliol, and the death of his wife in the same year, the earl resigned that title to his son, and three years later acquiring, through the death of his father, the lordship of Annandale, he was afterwards known as Dominus de Annandale, while his son, the future king, was styled Earl of Carrick until his coronation in 1306. On 4 June 1295 Edward I records by a writ under his privy seal that Robert, son and heir of Robert de Bruce, senior, now deceased, had done homage for lands held of the king, and this Robert, earl of Carrick, is by another writ nominating him keeper of the castle of Carlisle called Lord of Annandale on 6 Oct. 1295, having resigned the earldom three years before. The deed of resignation, dated at Berwick on Sunday after the feast of St. Leonard (6 Nov.) 1292, was presented to Baliol at the parliament of Stirling on 3 Aug. 1293. As it was necessary that sasine of the lands should be taken by the king before he could receive the homage of the new vassal, the sheriff of Ayr was directed to take it and ascertain their extent, after which Bruce was to return and do homage. It is uncertain whether homage was ever rendered, for the disputes between Baliol and Edward had commenced, and from the first both the young Bruce and his father took Edward's side. On 24 Aug. 1296, along with the Earls of March and Angus, Robert de Brus le veil (the elder) and Robert de Brus le jovene (the younger), earl of Carrick, took the oaths of homage and fealty to Edward at Berwick (Ragman Rolls, 176 a). A series of writs in favour of the earl shows one means by which their support was gained. A debt due by him to Edward, perhaps the old debt contracted by his father in 1281, was respited on 23 July 1293, and again on 11 Feb. and 15 Oct. 1296. By the second letter of respite it appears that the earl was about to proceed to Scotland, and by the third that he had rendered such good service that the king granted him the delay needed to admit of easy payment. His father had meantime been made keeper of the castle of Carlisle, and Baliol had retaliated by seizing Annandale, which he conferred on John Comyn, earl of Buchan. In the same year Baliol's renunciation of allegiance to the English king led to the brief campaign in which Berwick, Dunbar, Roxburgh, Edinburgh, and Stirling were taken, and on 2 Jan. 1296 the abject Baliol surrendered at Kincardine or Brechin his crown and realm to Edward. In the following year the Earl of Carrick, with other Scottish nobles, received a summons to accompany Edward to Flanders as his direct vassals. The Scotch, like many English barons, declined to obey a summons in excess of feudal obligation, and Wallace, during Edward's absence abroad, having raised the standard of revolt, Bruce, although, according to Hemingford, he had sworn allegiance to Edward at Carlisle on the host and the sword of Thomas à Becket, joined for a brief space the army of the popular leader. Urgent letters had been sent to him to aid the Earl of Warenne, Edward's commander, then advancing towards Scotland, with as many men as he could muster, and at least a thousand foot from Kyle, Cunningham, Cumnock, and Carrick. Instead of complying, in June 1297, along with Wishart, bishop of Glasgow, James the Steward of Scotland, and Sir William Douglas, he laid waste the country of the adherents of Edward. Warenne, an inactive general, sent in advance Henry de Percy and Robert de Clifford, who succeeded on 9 July 1297 in making terms with Bruce and his friends by the treaty called the capitulation of Irvine. The Scottish barons were not to be called to serve beyond the sea against their will, and were to be pardoned for their recent violence, while they in turn came into the peace, or, in other words, acknowledged their allegiance to Edward. The Bishop of Glasgow, the Steward, and Alexander de Lindesay became sureties for Bruce until he should deliver his daughter Marjory as hostage for his fidelity, which might well be doubted. The treaty appears to have been confirmed by Bruce at Berwick early in August. Wallace was at this time in the forest of Selkirk, along with Sir Andrew Murray of Bothwell, gathering together the Scottish commons, who, with less division of interest than the nobles, were determined to deliver their country from the English. On 11 Sept. he defeated Earl Warenne and Cressingham the treasurer at Stirling Bridge. Dundee and other castles surrendered in consequence of this victory, and the English evacuated Berwick. Wallace and Sir Andrew Murray, son of the elder Sir Andrew, assuming the title of leaders of the Scottish army in the name of John (ie. Baliol), by God's grace illustrious king of Scotland, with consent of the community carried the war into Northumberland and Cumberland. At this time Baliol, and not Bruce, was the name under which the standard of Scottish independence was borne, but its bearer was Wallace, and its defenders the Scottish commons. In 1298, Edward returning from Flanders conducted in person the Scottish war with larger forces and better generalship, and his defeat of Wallace at Falkirk on 22 July wrested from the Scotch the fruits of the victory of Stirling Bridge. At this time Bruce again sided with his countrymen. Annandale was wasted and Lochmaben Castle taken by Clifford, and Bruce himself, to use the words of the contemporary Hemingford, when he heard of the king's coming fled from his face and burnt the castle of Ayr, which he held. Edward's campaign was a single victory, not a conquest. Pressing affairs, especially the contest with his own subjects, whose desire for the confirmation of the charters he was reluctant to concede, recalled him to England, and he was obliged to trust the settlement of Scotland to the nobles, to whom he assigned earldoms and baronies, or, as the chronicler expresses it, the hope of them. Annandale and Galloway and certain earldoms, a term which includes Carrick, he assigned to no one, that he might not irritate those earls who had only recently seceded and had not finally cast in their lot with their countrymen. As regards Bruce this conciliatory policy, so characteristic of Edward until the time for conciliation was past, had its effect, and from 1298 to 1304 he was at least not actively engaged against the English king. A truce was effected by the mediation of Philip IV of France in 1298. Baliol being now the pensioned prisoner of Edward, and Wallace an exile, a regency was appointed, which consisted of William of Lamberton, bishop of St. Andrews, John Comyn the younger, and Robert Bruce earl of Carrick, with whom for a time John de Soulis was conjoined. The only document which names Bruce is a letter of 13 Nov. 1299, by which the regents propose to Edward a suspension of hostilities on both sides. Comyn was the active regent representing the interest of Baliol and his own, as heir through his mother Ada, Baliol's sister. In 1300 the truce was renewed till Whitsunday 1301, and though Edward made an abortive attempt to resume the war on 26 Jan. 1302, the truce was again, at the instance of the French king, prolonged till November. It was during this period of intermittent war and truce, for in 1300 Edward took Caerlaverock, and in 1301 wintered at Linlithgow, that Pope Boniface VIII intervened in the dispute as to the succession to the Scottish crown, and claimed a right to decide it as lord paramount. On 27 June 1300 he despatched a bull to Edward demanding the withdrawal of his troops and the release of the Scotch ecclesiastics in his custody, which was presented by Archbishop Winchelsey to Edward at New Abbey in Galloway in October. Edward immediately summoned a parliament at Lincoln on 20 Jan. 1301, when the memorable answer denying the pope's claim to interfere in the temporal affairs of England, and asserting the feudal dependence of Scotland, was drawn up and confirmed by the seals of seven earls and ninety-seven barons for themselves and the whole community. Langtoft, a contemporary, states that Bruce was present at this parliament.
At the Broadgate lay the Bruce, erle was he that day.
But his name is not in the list of those summoned, or of those who agreed to the reply to the pope. It is improbable that he was there or actively engaged in the controversy which was carried on by a memorial presented to the pope on behalf of Edward in favour of the English supremacy, and replies by the Scotch in the Processus Baldredi contra figmenta Regis Angliæ, drawn by Baldred de Bisset, rector of Kinghorn, one of the Scottish commissioners at Rome. It was the policy of Bruce at this time to remain in the background, but events were hastening which brought him forward as the first actor on the stage. Scottish history at this juncture was involved with the relations of the English king to the court of France and the see of Rome. Edward made up his quarrel with Philip the Fair, whose sister Margaret he married in 1299, and with whom an alliance was completed on 20 May 1303. Gascony was restored to France, and Scotland, up to this time supported by the French king, was abandoned. The pope also, anxious to stir up Edward against Philip, with whom he had a nearer and more dangerous controversy as to the rights of church and state, though unsuccessful in his object, temporised to gain it, and withdrew his protection from the Scotch. Edward, who had reconciled his own subjects by tardy concessions, to procure the necessary supplies of men and money for the invasion of Scotland, commenced the war in earnest in 1303. In September of the previous year he ordered Sir John de Segrave to make a foray by Stirling and Kirkintilloch, but it was delayed till the following spring, and on 24 Feb. Segrave was defeated by Comyn, the regent, at Roslin. Edward himself then took the command, and in a brilliant campaign traversed the whole country from the border to Elgin, perhaps to Caithness, reducing every place of strength and wintering at Dunfermline. On 24 July of the following year (1304) the capitulation of Stirling, the only castle which held out, completed his conquest. The evidence is slight, but sufficient to show that in this campaign Bruce still supported Edward. On 3 March Edward writes to Bruce: If you complete that which you have begun, we shall hold the war ended by your deed and all the land of Scotland gained, and on the 5th of the same month to his son, referring to the Earl of Carrick and the other good people who were advancing to the parts near Stirling to pursue his enemies; on the 30th to the earl himself, a letter sent by John de Bottetourt [qv.], who was to receive supplies for his service; and on 15 April there is an urgent letter requesting him to spare no pains to cause the siege engines he was preparing with stones and timber to be forwarded, and on no account to delay because of the want of lead.
But while Bruce was thus openly supporting Edward, a secret alliance into which he entered with Lamberton, bishop of St. Andrews, the friend of Wallace, proves he had other designs, and though its terms are general, it was the first overt act which committed Bruce to the cause called patriotic in Scotland and treason in England. On 11 June, more than a month before the fall of Stirling, the earl and the bishop met at Cambuskenneth and subscribed a bond which bound them to support each other against all adversaries at all times and in all affairs, and to undertake nothing of difficulty without communication. When Lamberton was taken prisoner in 1306 he admitted the genuineness of the document, and his connection with Bruce was one charge preferred against him by Edward before the pope. Lamberton is an important link in the history of the war of independence, bringing into contact its first period under Wallace with its second under Bruce, and proving the continuity of the resistance to Edward though the leaders were different. In 1305 Wallace was betrayed and carried prisoner to London, where he was executed as a traitor, though he denied with truth that he had ever taken any oath to Edward. He was the only victim at this time. Towards the nobles and the country generally a contrary course was pursued. The one thing unpardonable was stubborn resistance, and the king evidently thought that clemency and organised government would reconcile Scotland to his rule. With this view, in a parliament held at London in Lent 1305, Edward ordered that the community of Scotland should meet at Perth on the day after the Ascension to elect representatives to come to London to a parliament to be held three weeks after the feast of St. John the Baptist (24 June) to treat of the secure custody of Scotland. His advisers in this were the Bishop of Glasgow, the Earl of Carrick (Bruce), Sir John Segrave, his lieutenant in Lothian, and Sir John de Landale, the chamberlain of Scotland. Representatives were accordingly chosen, and the English parliament to which they were summoned finally met on 16 Sept. Bruce was not one of the representatives, but other Scotch nobles were specially summoned, and he is assumed to have been of their number. An ordinance, on the model of similar ordinances for Wales and Ireland, was drawn up for the government of Scotland, by which John de Bretagne, the king's nephew, was named his lieutenant in Scotland; Sir William de Beacote, chancellor; and Sir John de Landale, chamberlain. Two justices were appointed for Lothian, Galloway, the district between the Forth and the mountains, and the district beyond the mountains respectively. Sheriffs¾either Scotchmen or Englishmen¾removable at the discretion of the lieutenant and chamberlain, were named for the counties. Coroners were to be also appointed, unless those who held the office were deemed sufficient. The custody of the castles was committed to certain persons, and as regards the castle of Kildrummy in Aberdeenshire, he was to place it in charge of a person for whom he should answer. This shows, it has been said, how much Bruce was favoured; but it is perhaps rather a proof of the attitude of half confidence, half distrust in Edward's dealings with him during the earlier period of his career, and for which the warrant was soon to appear. The provision of the ordinance as regards the laws was to prohibit the use of the customs of the Scots and of the Britons (Brets), the Celts of the highlands and Galloway. It is not known how long Bruce remained in London. On 10 Feb. 1306 he suddenly appeared in Dumfries, and in the church of the Friars Minor slew John Comyn, the late regent, and his uncle Robert. The English contemporary writers and the Scotch, the earliest of whom (Barbour) wrote at least half a century later, assign a different train of incidents as leading to this act of violence. They agree that its proximate cause was the refusal of Comyn to join Bruce in opposing Edward, but the former ascribe the treachery to Bruce, who, concealing his designs, had lured Comyn to a place where he could fear no danger, while the latter relate that Comyn had revealed to Edward the scheme of Bruce to which he had been privy¾having formed a similar bond with him to that of Lamberton¾and so palliate the act of Bruce by the plea of self-defence. Records fail us, and both classes of historians wrote with a bias which has descended to most modern writers, according to the side of the border to which they belong. The hereditary enmity of the families of Bruce and Comyn, and the place of the deed, support the English view, which, in the absence of further evidence, must be accepted as more probable. Hailes suggests that the death of Comyn was due to hot words and a chance medley, but Bruce's subsequent conduct proves a design which can scarcely have been devised on the spot, though its execution may have been hastened by the death of Comyn, his possible rival for the crown. Bruce had now abandoned his former indecision, and acted with a promptness which proved he knew his opponent and the hazards on which he staked his life. He had seen the head of Wallace on London Bridge, and at Westminster the stone of destiny, on which the Scottish kings had been crowned at Scone. Which was to be his fate? It was in his favour that he numbered only about half the years of the greatest of the Plantagenets, but against him that the Scottish nobles were still divided into factions, though the popular feeling created by Wallace was gaining ground, while the church, in the persons of its two chiefs¾the Bishops of St. Andrews and Glasgow¾was on his side. What determined the issue was that in Scotland a great noble now placed himself at the head of the people, while in England the sceptre and the sword, to which Edward clung with the tenacity of a dying man, were about to pass into the hands of a son incapable of wielding them. After the death of Comyn, Bruce, collecting his adherents chiefly in the south-west of Scotland, passed from Lochmaben to Glasgow and thence to Scone, where, on 27 March 1306, he was crowned by the Bishop of St. Andrews, the Bishops of Glasgow and Moray being also present, and the Earls of Lennox, Athole, and Errol. Two days later Isabella, countess of Buchan, sister of Duncan, earl of Fife, claimed the right of her family, the Macduffs, Celtic chiefs of Fife, to place the king upon the throne, and the ceremony was repeated with a circumstance likely to conciliate the Celtic highlanders. Though crowned Bruce had still to win his kingdom, and his first efforts were failures. On 19 June he was defeated at Methven near Perth by the Earl of Pembroke, and forced to seek safety in the mountains, first of Athole and then of Breadalbane, where on 11 Aug., at Dalry in Strathfillan, Lord Lorne, the husband of an aunt of Comyn, surprised and dispersed his followers, notwithstanding his personal prowess. His wife and other ladies of his family were sent to Kildrummy for safety, and her saying, whether historical or not, proved true, that he had been a summer but would not be a winter king. It is a curious circumstance that this lady, the sister of De Burgh, earl of Ulster, whom he married after the death of his first wife, Isabella, daughter of Donald, earl of Mar, appears to have been a lukewarm supporter of her husband. After wandering as a fugitive in the west highlands, Bruce took refuge in Rachrine, an island on the Antrim coast. Meanwhile Edward, despite his years, having heard at Winchester of the death of Comyn and rising of Bruce, came north with all the speed his health allowed, and displayed an energy which showed he knew he had to cope not with a single foe but a nation. In April, at Westminster, he knighted his son Edward and three hundred others to serve in the wars, and swore by God and the Swan that he would take vengeance on Bruce, and devote the remainder of his life to the crusades. The prince added that he would not sleep two nights in one place till he reached Scotland. Before he started, and in the course of his journey, Edward made grants of the Scotch estates of Bruce and his adherents. Annandale was given to the Earl of Hereford. A parliament was summoned to meet at Carlisle on 12 March, when a bull was published excommunicating Bruce, along with another releasing Edward from his obligations to observe the charters. The attempt to crush the liberty of Scotland went hand in hand with an endeavour to violate the nascent constitution of England. Edward's constant aim was to reduce the whole island to a centralised empire under a single head, untrammelled by the bonds of a constitutional monarchy. His oaths and vows were unavailing, and he died at Burgh-on-the-Sands on 7 July 1307, without touching the soil of Scotland. Before his death he showed what his vengeance would have been. Elizabeth the wife, Marjory the daughter, and Christina the sister of Bruce were surprised in the sanctuary of St. Duthac at Tain and sent prisoners to England, where they remained till after Bannockburn. The Countess of Buchan and Mary, another of his sisters, were confined in cages, the one at Berwick, the other at Roxburgh. The Bishops of St. Andrews and Glasgow and the Abbot of Scone were sent to England and suspended from their benefices; but the pope declined to bestow them on Edward's nominees. Nigel, Bruce's youngest brother, was beheaded at Berwick; Christopher Seton, his brother-in-law, at Dumfries; Alexander Seton at Newcastle. The Earl of Athole was sent to London and, being a cousin of the king, hanged on a gallows thirty feet higher than the pole on which the head of Wallace still stood and that of Sir Simon Fraser, executed at this time. The other brothers of Bruce, Thomas and Alexander dean of Glasgow, having been taken in Galloway, were sent to Edward at Carlisle and there executed, their heads being exposed on the gates and the tower. A little before this, John, a brother of William Wallace, was captured and sent to London, where he met his brother's fate. There were many victims of minor note. But, says the chronicler of Lanercost, the number of those who wished Bruce to be confirmed in the kingdom increased daily, notwithstanding this severity. He might have said because of it, for now every class, nobles and gentry, clergy and commons, with only one or two exceptions, as the Earl of Strathearn and Randolph, Bruce's nephew, saw what Edward meant. Life and limb, land and liberty, were all in peril, and common danger taught the necessity, not felt in the time of Wallace, of making common cause.
Edward's hatred of Scotland passed beyond the grave. On his tomb, by his order, was inscribed ‘Edwardus Primus, Scotorum Malleus: Pactum serva.’ One of his last requests was that his bones should be carried with the army whenever the Scotch rebelled, and only reinterred after they were subdued. This dying wish was disregarded by his weak heir, who wasted in the pomp of his funeral, followed by the dissipations of a youthful court, the critical moment of the war, fancying that, with Bruce an exile and his chief supporters in prison or on the gallows, it was over before it had really begun. Bruce meanwhile, like Alfred, was learning in adversity. The spider, according to the well-known story, taught him perseverance. After spending the winter in Rachrine he ventured in early spring to Arran in Scotland, and thence to Carrick, his own country, where he had many brave adventures and hair-breadth escapes, which should be read in the verses of Barbour or the tales of Scott. Scarcely certain history, they represent the popular conception of his character in the next and succeeding generations. On 10 May he defeated the Earl of Pembroke at Loudon Hill, but failed to take Ayr. Edward, in the end of August, roused himself; but a march to and back from Cumnock without an action was the whole inglorious campaign. His favour for Piers Gaveston and consequent quarrels with the chief barons of England, as well as his approaching marriage to Isabella, daughter of Philip the Fair, led him to quit Scotland. In his absence Bruce and his brother Edward reduced Galloway, and Bruce, leaving his brother in the south, transferred his own operations to Aberdeenshire. It was rumoured that Edward would have made peace on condition of getting aid against his own barons. The feeble conduct of the war on the English side, and frequent changes of generals, indicate distracted counsels, which in part account for the uninterrupted success that now attended Bruce's arms.
In the end of 1307, and again in May 1308, unless the chroniclers have made two expeditions of one, he overran Buchan, and on 22 May defeated its earl, one of his chief Scotch opponents, at Inverury¾a soldier's medicine for the illness his hardships had brought on. Fifty years after, when Barbour wrote, men still talked of the ‘harrying of Buchan.’ In the same year Edward Bruce again conquered the Galwegians, and Sir James Douglas took Randolph, the king's nephew, prisoner, who afterwards atoned for this apostasy to the national cause by good service. Bruce next turned to Argyll, where the lord of Lorne, his principal opponent in the west, met the same fate as the Earl of Buchan, his troops being defeated at the pass of Brander, and Dunstaffnage taken.
In March 1309 a truce with England was made through the mediation of Philip of France and the pope, and Lamberton, bishop of St. Andrews, was released by Edward and allowed to return home, after receiving homage and pledges, which gave hope that he would act in Edward's interest. Further negotiations were carried on for the whole of the following year; but mutual surprises and breaches of the truce rendered it certain that the war was only interrupted.
On 24 Feb. 1310, at a general council in Dundee, the clergy solemnly recognised Bruce as rightful king of Scotland. It was a sign of the progress he had made that all the bishops joined in this declaration.
In the autumn of this year Edward, with a large force, made an expedition into Scotland as far as Linlithgow; but Bruce evaded him, and he returned without any material success, though a famine followed the ravages of his troops. A second projected expedition in 1311 did not take place. The next three years were signalised by the reduction of the castles still held by the English in Scotland. Linlithgow had been surprised by the stratagem of a peasant called Binney, in the end of 1310; Dumbarton was surrendered by Sir John Menteith in October 1311; Perth was taken by Bruce himself on 8 Jan. 1312. It marked his position that he concluded on 29 Oct. at Inverness with Hakon V a confirmation of the treaty of 1266 between Alexander III and Magnus IV, by which the Norwegian king ceded to Scotland the Isle of Man, the Sucheys, and all the other islands ‘on the west and south of the great Haf,’ except the isles of Orkney and Shetland (Acts Parl. Scot. i. 481). Encouraged by his success, he made a raid into the north of England. On his return he reduced Butel in Galloway, Dumfries, and Dalswinton, and threatened Berwick, where Edward himself was. In March 1313 Douglas surprised Roxburgh, and Randolph Edinburgh; in May Bruce made another English raid, failed to take Carlisle, but subdued the Isle of Man. Edward Bruce had about the same time taken Rutherglen and Dundee, and laid siege to Stirling, whose governor, Mowbray, agreed to surrender if not relieved before 24 June 1314. All the castles were dismantled or destroyed; for experience had shown they were the points which the English invaders were able longest to hold. By the close of 1313 Berwick, the key to the borders, and Stirling, the key to the highlands, alone remained in English hands. The disputes between Edward and his barons were now in some degree allayed by the institution of the lords ordainers and the execution of his favourite Gaveston, and it was felt if Scotland was not to be lost a great effort must be made. Accordingly, on 11 June, the whole available forces of England, with a contingent from Ireland, numbering in all about 100,000 men, of whom 50,000 were archers and 40,000 cavalry, were mustered at Berwick, the Earls of Lancaster, Warenne, Arundel, and Warwick alone of the great feudatories declining to attend in person, but sending the bare contingent to which their feudal obligations bound them. They at once marched to the relief of Stirling, and punctual to the day reached Falkirk on 22 June. A preliminary skirmish on Sunday with the advanced guard, which attempted to throw itself into the town, was distinguished by the personal combat of Bruce, who, raising himself in his stirrups from the pony he rode, felled Henry de Bohun with a single blow of his battleaxe. When blamed for exposing himself to danger, he turned the subject by lamenting that the axe was broken.
It was the first stroke of the battle, with a direct effect on its issue as well as in history and drama. Bruce's troops were one-third of the English, but his generalship reduced the inequality. He had chosen and knew his ground¾the New Park, between the village of St. Ninian and the Bannock Burn, a petty stream, yet sufficient to produce marshes dangerous for horses, while the rising ground on his right gave points of observation of the advance of the English. He divided his troops into four divisions, of which his brother Edward commanded the right, Randolph the centre, Douglas the left; Bruce himself with the reserve planted his standard at the Bore Stone (still remaining on this spot), and a good point to survey the field. The camp followers were stationed on the Gillies' Hill, ready at the critical moment to appear as a reinforcement. The plain on the right, over which the cavalry, to avoid the marshy ground, had to pass, was prepared with concealed pits and spikes. But what made the battle famous in the annals of the military art as in those of Scotland was that the Scottish troops, taught by Wallace's tactics, fought on foot¾not in single line, but in battalions, apparently of round form, with their weapons pointed outwards to receive on any side the charge of the enemy. A momentary success of the English archers commenced the battle. It was reversed by a well-directed charge on their flank of a small body of light horse under the marshal Sir Robert Keith. The Scottish bowmen followed up this advantage, and the engagement then became general between the English heavy-armed horsemen, crowded into too narrow a space, and the whole Scottish force, Bruce with the reserve uniting with the three divisions and receiving the attack with their spears, which the chronicler describes as a single dense wood. The rear of the English either was unable to come up or was entangled in the broken ranks of the van or first line, and at a critical moment the camp followers, who had been hidden behind the Gillies' Hill, crossed its crest as if a new army. A panic ensued. Edward and his immediate followers sought safety in flight, and the rout became general¾one knight, Sir Giles d'Argentine, alone had courage to continue the onset, and fell bravely. The number of the English suffocated or drowned in the Bannock or the Forth was calculated at 30,000. Edward, pursued by Douglas, with difficulty reached Dunbar, and thence by sea Bamborough.
No battle of the middle ages has been more minutely recorded, but space forbids further detail. A Carmelite friar, Barton, brought to celebrate the victory, was made by his captors to recount the defeat of the English. The Chronicle of Lanercost gives the narrative of an eye-witness. Barbour, who fifty years after enlarged the description, had known some who fought, and subsequent inquiries confirm the accuracy of his plain but vivid verse. It was a day never forgotten by those who took part in it, and to be remembered by distant posterity. It decided the independence of Scotland, and, like Morgarten and Courtray, it was the beginning of the end of feudal warfare. The knights in armour, whose personal prowess often gained the field, gave place to the common soldiers, disciplined, marshalled, and led by skilful generals, as the arbiters of the destiny of nations. In the career of Bruce it was the turning point. The effects of the victory were permanent, and it was never reversed. Many English kings invaded Scotland, but none after Edward I conquered it.
The most important result as regards Bruce was the settlement of the succession at the parliament of Ayr on 26 April 1315. By a unanimous resolution the crown was settled on Robert and the heirs male of his body, whom failing, his brother Edward and the heirs male of his body, whom failing, on Robert's daughter Marjory and her heirs, upon condition that she married with his consent, or, after his death, with the consent of the estates. Provision was made for a regency in case of a minority by the king's nephew, Randolph, earl of Moray. In the event of a failure in the whole line of the Bruces, Randolph was to act as a guardian of the kingdom until the estates determined the right of succession. The bishops and prelates were declared to have jurisdiction to enforce the Act of Settlement. Soon after it passed Marjory married Walter the hereditary Steward of Scotland. Their son, Robert II, was the first king of the race of Stewart, succeeding after the long reign of his uncle, David II, son of Bruce by his second marriage, who was not yet born. This settlement showed the prudence of Bruce, and the anxiety of the Scottish nation to avoid at all hazards another disputed succession, or the appeal to external authority in case it should occur. Edward Bruce, described in the act as ‘vir strenuus et in actis bellicis pro defensione juris et libertatis regni Scotiæ quamplurimum expertus,’ had stood by his brother in the struggle for independence, and deserved the preference which ancient, though not unbroken custom, gave to the nearest male over a nearer female heir. But his active and ambitious spirit was not satisfied with the hope of succeeding to the Scottish crown. The defeat of Edward at Bannockburn, and his incapacity as a leader, encouraged the Irish Celts to attempt to throw off the English yoke. ‘All the kings of lesser Scotland (Scotia Minor) have drawn their blood from greater Scotland (Scotia Major, i.e. Ireland), and retain in some degree our language and customs,’ wrote Donald O'Neil, a Celtic chief of Ulster, to the pope, and it was natural that they should summon to their aid the victor of Bannockburn. Robert declined the offer of the Irish crown for himself, but in May 1315 Edward Bruce landed at Carrickfergus with 6,000 men. The brilliant campaign of this year, which for a moment made it seem possible that the line of Bruce might supplant that of Plantagenet, ending disastrously in the death of Edward Bruce at Dundalk, belongs chiefly to his life, and not to that of Robert. But in the spring of 1317 Robert Bruce, who had in the previous year subdued the Hebrides, and taken his old enemy John of Lorne, went to his brother's assistance. His engagement when surprised by the English at Slane in Louth is said by Barbour to have been the greatest of the nineteen victories of the Irish war. The odds were eight to one, and Edward, who marched in the van, had hurried on out of sight of his brother's troops, so that the honour was undivided, and Robert reproached Edward for neglect of good generalship. The Scotch army after this met with little resistance in its progress to the south of Ireland. Limerick was taken, but Dublin saved by its inhabitants committing it to the flames. An incident too slight to have been invented marks the humanity of Bruce in the midst of the horrors of war. Hearing a woman cry in the pangs of childbirth, he halted his troops and made provision for her delivery.
For certis, I trow there is na man
That he ne will rew a woman than,
is Barbour's expression of the speech or thought of the gentle heart of the brave warrior. The arrival of Roger Mortimer as deputy infused new vigour into the English, and the Bruces, their success too rapid to be permanent, were forced to retreat to Ulster. Before the disaster of Dundalk Robert returned to Scotland, where the English had taken advantage of his absence to resume the war. The eastern and midland marches had been gallantly defended by Sir James Douglas against the Earl of Arundel and Lord Neville, and Sir John Soulis had protected Galloway from an inroad of Hartcla, warden of the English march. Berwick still remained in the hands of Edward II, a source of danger, as well as a standing memorial of the former subjection of Scotland. To its reduction Bruce on his return at once addressed himself.
In the autumn of 1317, while he was engaged in preparations for the siege, two cardinals, Jocelin and Luke, arrived in England with bulls from Pope John XXII ‘to his beloved son the nobleman Robert de Bruce, at present governing the kingdom of Scotland,’ commanding him to consent to a truce of two years with England. They had secret instructions to excommunicate him if he disobeyed. The cardinals did not venture across the border, and their messengers were received by Bruce with a pleasant countenance, showing due reverence to the pope and the church, but declining to receive the bulls because not addressed to him as king. They urged in vain the desire of the pope not to prejudice the dispute between England and Scotland, for Bruce had the answer ready: ‘Since my father the pope and my mother the church are unwilling to prejudice either party by giving me the title of king, they ought not to prejudice me during the controversy by refusing that title, as I both hold the kingdom, receive the title from all its people, and am addressed under it by other princes.’ Another attempt to proclaim the bull by Adam Newton, guardian of the Friars Minor in Berwick, had no better result. Newton saw Bruce at Ald-Camus (Old Cambus), where he was at work day and night in the construction of siege engines, and, having got a safe-conduct for himself and his papers, returned, in hopes of being allowed to deliver them. But Bruce was firm, and would not receive the bulls unless addressed to him as king, and, as he now added, until he had possession of Berwick. Newton had the daring to proclaim the truce, but on his way home he was robbed of his papers and clothes. ‘It is rumoured,’ he adds to his report, ‘that the Lord Robert and his accomplices, who instigated the outrage, now have the papers.’ Care had been taken that another mission of John XXII sent to proclaim his accession to the papal see should not enter Scotland, so that the prelates and clergy of the Scottish province remained now, as in the former period of the war, free from a divided allegiance, and the church of Scotland was virtually independent.
In March 1318 the town of Berwick, which had stood the siege during the winter, was taken by a surprise contrived by Spalding, one of the citizens, and a few days after the castle capitulated. Entrusting it to the custody of Walter the Steward, Bruce invaded and wasted the north of England. The death of his only remaining brother and his daughter rendered a new settlement of the crown expedient, and a parliament met at Scone in December. By one of its statutes Robert, son of the Steward, and Marjory, the king's daughter, were recognised as next of kin; failing next issue of the king should he succeed while a minor, Randolph, and failing him James, lord Douglas, was to be regent. Substantially this was a re-enactment of the statute of Ayr. An important declaration was added that doubts without sufficient cause had been raised in the past as to the rule of succession, and it was now defined that the crown ought not to follow the rules of inferior fiefs, but that the male nearest in descent in the direct line, whom failing the female in the same line, whom failing the nearest male collateral, should succeed, an order sufficiently conformable to the imperial, that is the Roman law.
In this parliament Bruce established his title to be deemed as wise and practical a legislator as he had proved himself a general. The most important acts related to the national defence and the administration of justice. Every layman worth ten pounds was to be bound to provide himself with armour, and every one who had the value of a cow with a spear or bow and twenty-four arrows. A yearly weapon schaw was to be held by the sheriffs every Easter. While provision was thus made for the equipment and training of an armed nation, the excesses attendant on such a condition were restrained by a law that if any crime was committed by those coming to the army, they were to be tried before the justiciar. Stringent acts forbade the export of goods during war, or of arms at any time. As regards justice the usual proclamation was made with emphasis: ‘The king wills and commands that common law and right be done to puir and riche after the auld lawes and freedomes.’ The privilege of repledging, by which a person was removed from the jurisdiction of the king's officers, was restricted by the provision that it was to apply only when the accused was the liegeman of the lord or held land of him, or was in his service or of his kin, and if this was doubtful, a verdict of average was to decide. A new law was made against leasing making, a quaint Scotch term for treasonable language. ‘The kynghes' statute and defendyt that none be conspirators nor fynders of taylis or of tidingis thruch the quhilkis mater of discord may spryng betwixt the kyng and his pepull,’ under penalty of imprisonment at the king's will. A hortatory statute recommended the people to nourish love and friendship with each other, forbade the nobles to do injury to any of the people, and promised redress to any one injured. This was aimed at the oppressions of the feudal lords, and exhibits the side of Bruce's character which gained him the name of the good king Robert from the commons. With regard to the civil law, the feudal actions commenced by the brieves of novel disseisin and mort d'ancester, as well as the procedure in actions of debt and damage, were carefully regulated. The unreasonable delays (essoigns) which impeded justice were no longer to be allowed. No defender was to be called on to plead until the complainer had fully stated his case. Bruce, like Cromwell, Frederick the Great, and Napoleon, was a law-reformer. The man of action cannot tolerate the abuses by which law ceases to be justice.
A statute identical with the ‘Quia Emptores’ of 17 Edward I is ascribed to Bruce in the Harleian and other later manuscripts, and is included in the ‘Statuta Secunda Roberti Primi,’ by Sir J. Skene. But while transcripts of English law were not unknown in Scotland, they are little likely to have been made by Bruce, and this statute, which by preventing subinfeudation would have completely altered the whole system of Scottish land rights, is certainly spurious. In 1319 Edward tried to cut off the trade of Scotland with Flanders, but the count and the towns of Bruges and Ypres rejected his overtures. A vigorous effort to recover Berwick was repelled by Walter Stewart, its governor, aided by the skill of Crab, a Flemish engineer, and Douglas and Randolph invaded England, when the Archbishop of York was defeated in the engagement called the Chapter of Mytton, from the number of clergy slain. This diversion and the lukewarmness, if not absolute abstention, of the Earl of Lancaster and the northern barons, led to the raising of the siege. When Bruce visited Berwick he complimented his son-in-law on the success of his defence, and raised the walls ten feet all round. The pope somewhat tardily excommunicated Bruce and his adherents for his contumacy, but the English king felt unable to continue the war, and on 21 Dec. a truce was concluded for two years.
On 6 April 1320 a Scottish parliament at Arbroath addressed a letter to the pope asserting the independence of their country and promising aid in a crusade if the pope recognised that independence. Part of this manifesto which relates to Bruce deserves to be quoted. After referring to the tyranny of Edward I, it proceeds: ‘Through His favour who woundeth and maketh whole we have been preserved from so great and numberless calamities by the valour of our lord and sovereign Robert. He, like another Joshua or Judas Maccabeus, gladly endured trials, distresses, the extremities of want, and every peril to rescue his people and inheritance out of the hands of the enemy. The divine providence, that legal succession which we will constantly maintain, and our due and unanimous consent have made him our chief and king. To him in defence of our liberty we are bound to adhere, as well of right as by reason of his deserts ¼ for through him salvation has been wrought to our people. While there exist a hundred of us we will never submit to England. We fight not for glory, wealth, or honour, but for that liberty which no virtuous man will survive. Wherefore we most earnestly request your holiness, as His vicegerent who gives equal measure to all and with whom there is no distinction of persons or nations, that you would behold with a fatherly eye the tribulations and distresses brought upon us by the English, and that you would admonish Edward to content himself with his own dominions, esteemed in former times sufficient for seven kings, and allow us Scotsmen who dwell in a poor and remote corner, and who seek for nought but our own, to remain in peace.’ A duplicate of the letter in the Register House is printed in the ‘National MSS. of Scotland,’ vol. i. Moved by this appeal, fearing to lose a province of the church, and knowing probably the weakness of Edward, the pope issued a bull recommending him to make peace with Scotland.
A conspiracy against Bruce, headed by Sir William Soulis, grandson of one of the competitors for the crown, at which he probably aimed, and taken part in by some of the landed gentry but none of the nobility, was betrayed by the Countess of Strathearn and easily put down, though the parliament of Scone, at which some of the offenders were condemned and executed for treason, got the name of the Black Parliament to mark its difference from the other parliaments of the reign. This, the only rising against Bruce, proves his firm hold of all classes. It was different with Edward. The party amongst his nobles who opposed him formed not a casual conspiracy but a chronic rebellion. Headed at first by Lancaster, and after his death by the queen mother and Mortimer, it made his whole reign a period of dissension which would have weakened a more powerful monarch, and told largely in favour of Scotland and Bruce. In December 1321 Lancaster entered into a correspondence with the Scotch leader Douglas, who invaded Northumberland and Durham simultaneously with the rising of Lancaster; but his defeat by Sir Andrew Hartcla at Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322, followed by his execution, put down for a time the English rebellion. Edward in premature confidence wrote to the pope that he would no longer make terms with the Scots except by force, and invaded Scotland in August, penetrating as far as Edinburgh and wasting the country with fire and sword. The prudence of Bruce, by which everything of value on the line of the invasion was removed, his own camp being fixed at Culross, north of the Forth, baffled as completely as a victory the last attempt of Edward II to subdue Scotland. The opposite evils of want of food and intemperance forced him to withdraw, and the sarcasm of Earl Warenne on a bull taken at Tranent, ‘Caro cara fuit,’ indicates at once the disaffection of his barons and his own contemptible generalship. In the autumn Bruce, at the head of a very large force, estimated at 80,000, retaliated by invading Yorkshire, defeating Edward near Biland Abbey, where John de Bretagne, earl of Richmond, and Henry de Sully, Butler of France, and many other prisoners were taken. The English king narrowly escaped being himself captured at York. The commencement of 1323 afforded still stronger evidence of Edward's incapacity to rule his own subjects. Sir Andrew Hartcla, although created Earl of Carlisle and rewarded with a large pension and the wardenship of the marches, met Bruce and entered into a secret treaty to maintain him and his heirs in possession of Scotland. On the discovery of this, Hartcla was tried and executed on 2 March 1323, and the Earl of Kent appointed warden in his place. But though able so far to assert his authority, the defeat at Biland had taught Edward that he could not cope with Bruce, and in March 1323 a truce gave time for negotiations at Newcastle and Thorpe, where, on 30 May, a peace for thirteen years was concluded, which was ratified by Bruce as king of Scotland at Berwick on 7 June. The continued favour shown by Edward to the Despensers, which had been the cause of Lancaster's rebellion, led to a new conspiracy in the family of the ill-fated king. His queen Isabella, and Roger Mortimer her paramour, carried it on in the name of his son, and in 1325 his brother, the Earl of Kent, joined it. Edward, deserted by almost all his barons, was taken prisoner in 1326, deposed early in the following year, and murdered on 21 Sept.
Bruce naturally took advantage of the distracted state of England to strengthen his title to the Scottish crown. In 1323 the skilful diplomacy of Randolph obtained from the pope the recognition of the title of king of Scotland by a promise to aid in a crusade, and three years later, by the treaty of Corbeil, the French king made a similar acknowledgment. At a parliament held at Cambuskenneth in 1326 the young prince David, born two years before, was solemnly recognised as heir to the crown, which in case of his death was to go to Robert the son of Marjory and the Steward. This is the first Scottish parliament in which there is clear evidence of representatives of the burghs, and the grant made by it to Bruce for his life of a tenth of the rents of the lands, as well wood and domain lands as other lands, and both within and without burgh, supplies one reason for their presence. The clergy probably made a grant in a separate assembly of their own. Although the peace between England and Scotland was ratified by Edward III on 8 March 1327, both sides made preparations for the renewal of the war, so that it is difficult to support the accusations of breach of faith against either. On 18 May Edward contracted with John of Hainault for a large force of mercenary cavalry, a sign that he was unable to rely on his own feudal levy.
On 15 June Randolph and Douglas crossed the border with 20,000 men, and Edward with more than double that number advanced to Durham. The Hainault mercenaries could not be relied on to co-operate with the English troops, and their dissensions, of which Froissart has left a lively picture, had probably much to do with the English discomfiture. A series of maneuvres and counter-maneuvres on the Tyne and Wear showed that neither side was willing to try the issue of a battle. Randolph declined a challenge to leave a favourable position on the north of the Wear and fight on the open ground at Stanhope Park. Douglas with a small band made a daring night attack on Edward's camp on 4 Aug., when his chaplain was slain and the young king with difficulty escaped. The Scotch under cover of night abandoned their camp and retreated homewards, and on 15 Aug. Edward disbanded his army at York, dismissing the Hainaulters, who had been found too costly or too dangerous allies.
Bruce himself now assumed the command, but his sudden attack on the eastern marches failed. Alnwick repulsed an assault of Douglas, and Randolph and Bruce were not more successful in the siege of Norham. While still engaged in it he was approached by English commissioners with overtures of peace. The preliminaries were debated at Newcastle, and at a parliament in York on 8 Feb. 1328 the most essential article was accepted. It was agreed that Scotland, ‘according to its ancient bounds in the days of Alexander III, should remain to Robert king of Scots and his heirs and successors free and divided from the kingdom of England, without any subjection, right of service, claim, or demand, and that all writs executed at any time to the contrary should be held void.’
The parliament of Northampton in April 1328 concluded the final treaty by which (1) peace was made between the two kingdoms; (2) the coronation-stone of Scone was to be restored; (3) the English king promised to ask the pope to recall all spiritual processes against the Scots; (4) the Scots agreed to pay thirty thousand marks; (5, 6, and 7) ecclesiastical property which had changed hands in the course of the war was to be restored, but not lay fiefs, with an exception in favour of three barons, Lord Wake, the Earl of Buchan, and Henry de Percy; (8) Johanna, Edward's sister, was to be given in marriage to David, the son and heir of Bruce, and to receive a jointure of 2,000l. a year; (9) the party failing to observe the articles of the treaty was to pay 2,000l. of silver to the papal treasury.
On 12 July 1328 the marriage of the infant prince and bride was celebrated at Berwick. The English and Edward, when he attained his independence from the guardianship of the queen mother and Mortimer, denounced this treaty as shameful, and ascribed it to the departure of the Hainaulters, the treachery of Mortimer, and the bribery used by the Scots. But it was the necessary result of the situation at the commencement of his reign, and the bloody war of two centuries failed to reverse its main provisions. Scotland remained an independent monarchy. The chief author of its independence barely survived the accomplishment of his work. On 7 June 1329 Bruce died at Cardross of leprosy, a disease contracted during the hard life of his earlier struggles. There are frequent, and towards the close increasing, references to his physical sufferings, which made his moral courage more conspicuous. He was buried by his wife, who had died in 1327, at Dunfermline, but his heart was, by a dying wish, entrusted to Douglas, to fulfil the vow he had been unable to execute in person of visiting the holy sepulchre. His great adversary Edward I had made a similar request, not so faithfully executed, and his grandson granted a passport to Douglas on 1 Sept. to proceed to the Holy Land, to aid the Christians against the Saracens, with the heart of Lord Robert, king of Scotland. The death of Douglas fighting against the Moors in Spain, and the recovery of the heart of Bruce by Sir William Keith, who brought it to Scotland and buried it along with the bones of Douglas in Melrose Abbey, may be accepted as authentic; but the words with which Douglas is said to have parted with it,
Now passe thou forth before
As thou was wont in field to bee,
And I shall follow or else die,
are an addition to the original verses of Barbour. When the remains of Bruce were disinterred at Dunfermline in 1819, the breastbone was found sawn through to permit of the removal of the heart.
Some interesting particulars as to the last years of Bruce are furnished by the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland. Enfeebled by disease he had to trust the chief conduct of the war to the young leaders he had trained, Randolph and Douglas, and he spent most of his time at Cardross, which he had acquired in 1326. He employed it in enlarging the castle, repairing the park walls, and ornamenting the garden, in the amusement of hawking, and the exercise of the royal virtues of hospitality and charity. Like other kings he kept a fool. A lion was his favourite pet, shipbuilding his favourite diversion. His foresight had discerned the importance of this art to the future strength and wealth of Scotland. Before his death he made preparations for his tomb, and commissioned in Paris the marble monument, afterwards erected at Dunfermline, which was surrounded with an iron-gilt railing, covered by a painted chapel of Baltic timber. The offerings to the abbot of Dunfermline and the rector of Cardross, as well as the annual payment to the chaplains at Ayr for masses for his soul, appear also to have been by his orders.
By his first marriage with Isabella of Mar he had an only daughter, Marjory, the wife of the Steward and ancestor of the last line of Scottish kings. By his second marriage with Elizabeth de Burgh, which he contracted about 1304, he had two daughters¾Matilda, who married Thomas Ysaak, a simple esquire, and Margaret, the wife of William, earl of Sutherland¾as well as his late-born son and successor, David II, and another, John, who died in infancy. Of several children not born in wedlock, Sir Robert, who fell at Dupplin, Walter, who died before him, Nigel Stewart of Carrick, Margaret, wife of Robert Glen, Elizabeth, wife of Walter Oliphant, and Christian are traced in the records.
If the character of Bruce is not understood from his acts, of which a singularly complete narrative, here condensed, has descended from so distant a time, no words could avail. Any such attempt, which might become easily mere panegyric, is better omitted, and the space left devoted to a notice of the authorities upon which this life has been based. Barbour's Bruce, the Scottish epic, is a poetical, but in the main a true, account of his whole career. Wyntoun's and Fordun's chronicles are not so full as might have been anticipated; and the former confines himself, in many important facts of the reign, to giving a reference to the Archdeacon Barbour. The English chroniclers and the Chronicle of Lanercost may be referred to with advantage. The success of Bruce and the weakness of Edward II were too conspicuous to be hidden by any national bias. The slender historical materials for the life of Wallace leant themselves on the one side to the legendary narrative of Blind Harry, and on the other to the fictions of the English writers, such as Hemingford and Rishanger, as to the real character of Wallace and the policy of Edward; but the acts of Bruce are too fully contained in authentic records and permanent results to leave room for misinterpretation. He was not originally a Scottish patriot, and may be described, as Wallace cannot, as an English rebel; but after he once assumed the leadership of the Scottish cause he never faltered under any danger or made a false step in policy until he secured its success. The records chiefly to be consulted are in Rymer's Federa, Riley's Placita, the Documents illustrative of Scottish History, published by Mr. Joseph Stevenson and Mr. Bain for the Record Series; the Scottish Exchequer Rolls; and the Acts of the Scottish Parliament. Kerr's Life and Reign of Robert the Bruce and Lord Hailes's Annals are both very accurate and full collections of the facts. The History of England down to the death of Edward I, by Mr. Pearson, and Longman's Reign of Edward II are the most trustworthy modern authorities as to the war with England written by Englishmen. Tytler's and Hill Burton's Histories of Scotland require both to be read. As an independent historian Pauli's Geschichte Englands is of great value, and probably the best single account of the war of independence.
Contributor: Æ M. [Aeneas James George Mackay]