Robert the Bruce
Robert I of Scotland, commonly known as Robert the Bruce (1274 – 1329), King of Scots from 1306 until his death, led Scotland in the First War of Scottish Independence from England. He won a decisive victory against king Edward II of England at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, which secured Scottish independence for centuries thereafter.
The Bruce family were Anglo-Normans who came to Scotland in the 1100s, and became related by marriage to the native Scottish royal family. When the Scottish throne was left vacant in 1290, Robert the Bruce’s grandfather claimed it, but king Edward I of England declared himself feudal overlord of Scotland and awarded its crown to John de Balliol.
When Balliol was overthrown in 1296, Bruce and his grandfather supported Edward I when he invaded Scotland to assert his authority, hoping to gain the crown after Balliol’s fall. They were disappointed, however, when Edward proceeded to crown himself King of Scots. In 1297, Bruce raised a rebellion, but it failed. In the meantime, Scottish rebel and Guardian of Scotland, William Wallace, of Braveheart fame, had won a stunning victory against the English at Stirling Bridge. Rather than join Wallace, Bruce kept a low profile while waiting to see the English reaction.
In 1298, Wallace was defeated at the Battle of Falkirk, after which Bruce and John Comyn replaced him as Guardians of Scotland. The duo soon fell out, however and went their separate ways. Bruce continued the fight for a while, but eventually submitted to Edward I, hoping for recognition of his claim to the Scottish throne, but to no avail.
In 1306, Bruce murdered Comyn in a church, then rushed to crown himself king. He was excommunicated and declared an outlaw, and Scotland was plunged into civil war. He was defeated in battle and forced to flee, hiding in the wilds of western Scotland and on islands off Ireland. Changing tactics, he launched a guerrilla campaign, and discovered that he excelled in that style of fighting.
Aided by the death of the formidable Edward I and his succession by the inept Edward II, Bruce racked up a series of small victories, and by 1308 had seized Aberdeen and ruled the north of Scotland. From that base, he gradually expanded his territory, until finally, in 1314, he seized Edinburgh. The unwarlike Edward II was forced to react, and did so by leading a large English army to invade Scotland. Bruce chose his ground carefully, and at Bannockburn, near Stirling, he destroyed the invaders.
He spent most of the rest of his reign consolidating his control over Scotland. In 1318, he captured Berwick from the English, and in the years after Bannockburn, he conducted damaging raids into England to compel recognition of his position. Finally, after the deposition of Edward II in 1327, the regency government of Edward III signed the peace Treaty of Northampton in 1328, recognizing Robert the Bruce as King of Scots, and abandoning all English claims to overlordship.