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 I (11 July 1274 – 7 June 1329), better known as Robert the Bruce, was the first Scottish monarch of the Bruce line.note 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 is usually considered a national symbol.
Robert the Bruce first entered the annals of history as an 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.
Robert the Bruce then grew up believing the same thing his grandfather believed: the Bruces were the rightful kings of Scotland. The reign of John Balliol — now King John (not that one) — was brief and fruitless, with the King being mostly bossed around by King Edward of England. 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 on 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.
One of the more controversial elements of his life was the killing of rival claimant "Red" John Comyn (John Baliol's nephew) at Greyfriars Church, Dumfries on the 10 February 1306. Beyond the basic facts (Bruce and Comyn entered and Robert stabbed him before the altar) the precise motivations remain a mystery. Scottish sources would claim that Comyn was a treacherous villain who plotted to betray Bruce to the English while English sources claim Bruce lured Comyn to a church so he could murder his rival. Whatever the cause, Comyn's death proved a near disastrous move for Robert the Bruce that divided Scotland at the worst possible time.
One of his most badass feats was during the Battle of Banockburn. A heavily armed English knight named Henry de Bohun on a warhorse charged against King Robert who was mounted on a smaller palfrey with an axe. At the last second Robert narrowly dodged him then stood up in his stirrups and smote de Bohun such a blow it clove through his skull and helmet. The king's only remark was that he regretted breaking his favorite axe.
During 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 Irelandnote , but his plans did not come to fruition. He died of some unspecified disease not too long after that.
Robert was succeeded by his son David II; after David died without issue in 1371, the throne of Scotland passed to Robert II Stewart, the son of Robert I's daughter Marjorie and Walter Stewart, High Steward of Scotland. As a consequence, in one of history's supreme ironies, Robert II's dynasty, eventually renamed The House of Stuart by Mary, Queen of Scots, ultimately inherited the throne of England!
He ended at #74 in One Hundred Greatest Britons.
Appears in the following works:
- The So Bad, It's Good Scottish film The Bruce (1995) chronicles his life. Quite poorly.
- Robert gets a notable Historical Villain Upgrade in Braveheart (1995), where he's portrayed as a lesser hero than William Wallace and as a man who betrayed him. Incidentally, the name "Braveheart" originally referred to him, not Wallace. Played by Angus Macfadyen.
- Robert is played by Chris Pine in Outlaw King (2018), which depicts the ups and downs of Robert's rebellion until his first major victory against the English at the battle of Loudoun Hill.
- Robert the Bruce (2019), starring Angus Macfadyen 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.
- Walter Scott's Tales of a Grandfather popularized the apocryphal tale in which a spider repeatedly tries 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.
- The German Heavy metal band Grave Digger has an "I Am" Song about him.
- Sabaton's song "Blood of Bannockburn" is about Robert's victory over Edward II at Bannockburn. The battle and the history leading up to it are described by Indy Neidell in Sabaton History's second episode.
- He appears in Civilization 6: Rise and Fall as the leader of Scotland.
- He makes an appearance in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition expansion Lord of the Wests in the fifth and last Edward Longshanks scenario as an "ally" before betraying Longshanks for the throne of Scotland.
- Crusader Kings II: Robert is playable from a custom start date after the "Rise of the Hansa" bookmark.