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"For as long as one hundred of us shall remain alive,
we shall never in any wise consent to submit to the rule of the English,
for it is not for glory we fight, nor riches, or for honour,
but for freedom alone, which no good man loses but with his life."
Robert the Bruce at the Declaration of Arbroath.
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Robert I (11 July 1274 – 7 June 1329), better known as Robert the Bruce, was the first Scottish monarch of the Bruce line. He was a major player in the Scottish Wars of Independence and ultimately led Scotland to freedom. Today revered in Scotland as their greatest national hero, Robert is something of a Folk Hero in those parts, representing the Scottish Spirit and bravery, and usually considered a national symbol.

Robert the Bruce first entered the annals of history as a heir of the House of Bruce, his grandfather (also named Robert) was one of many claimants to the throne of Scotland in the Succession Crisis that came after King Alexander the Third. The elder Bruce lost, and John Balliol was crowned King. The elder Bruce resigned and retired. But it is said his teachings and actions greatly affected the young Robert, inspiring him to his later actions.

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Robert the Bruce then grew up believing the same thing his grandfather believed: the Bruces were the rightful kings of Scotland. John Balliol's (now King John) reign was brief and fruitless, with the King being mostly bossed around by Edward Hammer of the Scots. Soon a war between the Scots and the English began, and after a short series of battles, King John abdicated and the English had him kept as a prisoner.

Scotland was essentially left kingless, and Edward was the de facto ruler of the country. A series of rebellions sparked the war anew, and Robert the Bruce participated intensively in them as one of the leading generals in the Scottish side (but make no mistake, the man switched sides a lot). After several decades of strife, Robert the Bruce emerged as the sole victor and rightful king of Scotland.

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In his rule he secured Scotland's position as an independent nation in the eyes of the English and the world. He later attempted to unify Scotland and Ireland, but his plans did not come into fruition. He died of some unspecified disease not too long thereafter.

He ended at #74 in 100 Greatest Britons.


Appears in the following works:

Film:

  • The So Bad, It's Good Scottish film The Bruce (1995) chronicles his life. Quite poorly.
  • Robert gets a Historical Villain Upgrade in Braveheart (1995), where he's portrayed as a lesser hero than Wallace and as a man who betrayed him. Incidentally, the name "Braveheart" referred to him, not Wallace. Played by Angus Mcfayden.
  • Robert is played by Chris Pine in Outlaw King (2018), which depicts the ups and downs of Robert's rebellion until their first major victory against the English at the battle of Loudoun Hill.
  • Robert the Bruce (2019), starring Angus Macfayden as Robert once again after Braveheart. After numerous defeats, Robert finds refuge in the home of a peasant woman and her niece, nephew, and son who help to re-inspire Robert with a renewed understanding of the patriotism of ordinary Scots, which rekindles his zeal as he returns to the battlefield.

Literature:

  • Walter Scott's Tales of a Grandfather popularized the apocryphal tale in which a spider repeatedly trying to spin a web across a roof and ultimately succeeding inspires Robert to be a Determinator in Scotland.
  • 1066 and All That includes a sketch map of the confusing Battle of Bannockburn, featuring the Bruce (who is distinguished from "William the Wallace") as well as his Giant Spider. The unfair defeat of the English is attributed in part to Scottish knights' "foul riding," exemplified by the Bruce blindsiding "Henry le Bohunk" in an exhibition combat before the battle.

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