Robert the Bruce

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Robert the Bruce

King of Scotland
In office
Preceded by John Baliol (1296)
Succeeded by David II

Born July 11, 1274
Died June 7, 1329

Robert I, King of Scots, or Robert the Bruce (July 11, 1274 - June 7, 1329) was King of Scotland from 1306 to 1329. He is one of Scotland's best-known monarchs, having led the Scots in battling for independence from England.

In 1296, Robert and his father, Robert de Brus, 6th Lord of Annandale, gave an oath of loyalty to Edward I of England. However, the younger Robert joined in the Scots rebellion against Edward in 1297. Robert and his allies were forced to sign a treaty in July 1297, by which they were pardoned in exchange for pledging allegiance to Edward. The rebellion continued, and Bruce defected again to the Scottish side in September. It is often mistakenly believed that Bruce betrayed Wallace by fighting for the English at the Battle of Falkirk. There is absolutely no evidence to support this, a belief which owes its current popularity largely to the historically inaccurate film Braveheart. Bruce was appointed as joint Guardian of Scotland along with John Comyn, but personal animosity prevented this partnership from being successful, and Robert resigned as Guardian in 1300.

Edward launched campaigns against the Scots in 1302, when Robert and many other nobles submitted to him, and again in 1303. It seemed that Edward had been successful in pacifying Scotland, but Robert and others continued to plot against him. While he believed he had a legitimate claim to the Scottish throne, Robert's actions in alternately supporting and fighting Edward caused mistrust among his peers. His ambition to the crown was particularly challenged by John Comyn, who had consistently opposed the English. Bruce invited Comyn to a meeting in February 1306 which ended in Comyn's death at the hands of Bruce and his supporters. Robert was quickly excommunicated, as were those who supported him and ultimately all of Scotland. At this, Robert asserted his claim to the monarchy, and was crowned Robert I on March 25, 1306.

In the spring of 1307 Edward once again led a military expedition to Scotland, capturing female members of Bruce's family and executing his brother, Niall. Bruce himself fled to the islands on the Scottish coast. However, the tide began to turn when Edward died during the campaign and his son Edward II lacked his military genius or leadership. In February 1308, Robert and his followers returned to the mainland to fight a guerilla war against the English, ultimately winning a number of battles throughout the year. Robert held his first Parliament in March 1309, and in 1310 the clergy of Scotland recognized his claim to the throne despite his previous excommunication. Between 1310 and 1314 Bruce's forces continued to reduce the English hold on the country, and his hold on Scotland was solidified at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

Freed from worry about further English invasions, Bruce invaded Ireland in 1315. Bruce highlighted the fact that he was descended from Gaelic royalty and promoted the idea of a Scots-Irish alliance against the English, under his kingship. He also furthered this alliance by marrying into the family of the Earl of Ulster. The Irish campaign had initial success, but for the most part the Irish outside of Ulster failed to support it, not finding Scottish occupation preferable to English. The campaign ended when Robert's brother Edward was killed at the Battle of Faughart.

Bruce's excommunication from the church was ultimately rescinded by Pope John XXII. In May 1328 the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton was signed, in which England recognized Scotland as an independent kingdom and Robert as its king. Robert the Bruce died June 7, 1329 after suffering for several years from an uncertain illness. His body was buried in Dunfermline Abbey. Robert was succeeded by his son, David II.