Robert The Bruce and Dumfries & Galloway
Robert the Bruce, King of Scots. Born 1274, Crowned 1306, died 1329
Robert Bruce, King of Scots, is arguably the most famous Scotsman of all time. He was born on 11th July 1274, probably at Turnberry Castle in Ayrshire, but there is a local tradition that he was born at Lochmaben where his family had their castle. Bruce’s ancestors had come over to England with William the Conqueror in 1066.
In 1126 when King David came to the Scottish throne he already held a Norman title and had a Norman wife, a result of spending most of his life at the English Court. He encouraged a host of his Norman friends to come north to Scotland. Amongst them, the Bruces were rewarded with 200,000 acres of prime agricultural land in Annandale and the lordship of Annandale. Their first castle was built in Annan. This castle was only occupied for about 20 years when a monk named Malachi cursed the Bruces for not pardoning a thief as he had requested. Not long afterwards Annan was severely flooded and the family abandoned the site in favour of their other castle at Lochmaben.
When King Alexander 111 fell to his death over a cliff at Kinghorn, Fife, in 1286, Scotland was left in turmoil. His heiress, young Princess Margaret, died on her way to Scotland from Denmark to claim her throne. The Guardians of Scotland, including Bruce’s father, invited King Edward of England to help them. He appointed John Balliol as King but four years later Edward took control himself. Further years of wars and bloodshed followed. William Wallace took up the baton in the fight against the English but was finally defeated 1298.
Two events changed Bruce. In 1304, his father died leaving Robert as a Competitor for the Scottish throne. On 10th February 1306, Bruce met his cousin, John, known as “The Red” Comyn at the High Alter of the Church of Greyfriars in Dumfries. John Comyn also had a claim to the throne and an argument developed. Bruce pulled out his dagger and stabbed Comyn. He rushed out, horrified at what he had done, and cried “I doot I hae killed him” His brother in law, Sir Roger Kirkpatrick rushed inside crying, ‘I’ll mak siccar’.
Bruce, realizing that he would be excommunicated by the Pope, gathered his loyal supporters and made his claim for the Kingdom. His theory, later proved wrong, was that the Pope would not excommunicate a crowned king. On 25th March only six weeks later he was crowned King of Scots at Scone Abbey. This only enraged King Edward even more but on midsummer’s day, 1314 the great battle between King Edward 11 and King Robert the Bruce’s men took place at Bannockburn. The date engraved on every Scottish heart.
The Robert the Bruce Commemoration Trust raised money and in 2009 the Bruce Trail, which recognizes 30 sites in the region associated with Bruce, was officially opened by Prince Andrew.
Future plans by the trust include a visitor centre to tell even more of the Bruce story.
More information can be found at: www.brucetrust.co.uk
Robert the Bruce Biography by Ian A McClumpha (Chairman, Robert the Bruce Commemoration Trust)
Photograph by Annan Bruce Statue Heritage Project Co-ordinator Jim Hawkins