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Robert the Bruce killing Henry de Bohun at the Battle of Bannockburn.

It was on this day in 1274, that a son was born to Robert Bruce, sixth Lord of Annandale, and to his wife Marjorie. Robert I (the Bruce) was born with great lineages on both sides of his family. His father, of Scot/Norman heritage, claimed descent from the ancient Scottish kings and would pass the title of Lord of Annandale to his son. His mother was heiress to the Earl of Carrick and possessed a French/Gaelic heritage. His claim to the Scottish throne was thrown aside by John Balliol, a puppet in the hands of Edward I, king of England. Bruce became Earl of Carrick after his mother’s death and joined his father in allegiance to the English king to wrest sovereignty from Balliol. Balliol was banished and Edward I claimed lordship over Scotland.

But in 1296, the younger Robert supported a rebellion by the Scots instead of supporting England’s usurpation. After a treaty with Edward I, Robert switched sides only to switch again when the Scots under Sir William Wallace beat the English at Stirling. Robert became guardian of Scotland, along with John Comyn but the efforts to keep Scotland free resulted in Comyn becoming sole guardian of Scotland- a title quickly denounced when the Scots surrendered to Edward I in February 1304. While Scotland was virtually destroyed by Edward, the king of England succeeded in capturing the hero of Scotland, William Wallace.  Wallace was executed in August 1305 and hope for Scotland was lost, or so it seemed.

Robert kept his titles but under the wary and cautious eyes of Edward I. Robert Bruce and John Comyn were at some odds with each other but signed a pact agreeing to hand the right of claiming the throne to Robert. Comyn had better royal lineages than Bruce,  was the most powerful noble in Scotland, and had the favor of the Scottish nobles; but the divine providence of God used a murderer to give freedom to a land that has had one of the greatest influences in the world. Comyn went back on his pact and Bruce arranged to meet him in Greyfriar’s Church in Dumfries. He accused Comyn of treachery and they came to blows, which resulted in Bruce wounding Comyn before the high altar. Two friends of Bruce went inside and finished his work. It was horrifying act indeed and it resulted in Bruce’s excommunication by the Pope.  But this act was enough to set Scotland into war again with England but with Bruce as the head. He was crowned king at Scone and was thrust into a war that looked bleak. He was defeated at Methven and his family was capotured and brutally treated by the English; his wife was held prisoner in a cage and his brother was hanged, drawn, and quartered. Edward I died leaving his son, Edward II with throne and war in Scotland. Bruce won some victories in the southwest of Scotland using guerrilla warfare but and had many successful battles all around Scotland. But all of this was done in a fashion disliked by any medieval general; he used guerilla tactics and won many castles. He finally met the English on open ground at Bannockburn, near Stirling, and won Scotland’s independence.

Robert I died on  June 7 1329, on account of leprosy but won a nation’s independence. His last request was that his heart be embalmed and taken to the Holy lands on a crusade. His heart never made it for its carrier, Sir James Douglas, was ambushed. The heart did make it back to Scotland and was buried in Melrose Abbey. Thus lived the greatest of Scotland’s kings.

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