This essay will look at how Robert Bruce gained control of Scotland and if he was responsible for securing Scotland’s independence from England. It will look at John Comyn’s death and the implications this had for Robert Bruce. This essay will also look at the battle of Bannockburn, the importance of this battle and if it had the desired outcome Bruce wanted.
From 1296 Scotland was without a King and under attack from Edward I there were only two real main contenders for the Scottish throne, John Comyn and Robert Bruce. Bruce and Comyn had sworn an oath of loyalty to Edward I and up until 1306 some may have questioned Robert Bruce’s loyalties regarding Scotland, sometimes he fought for Edward I and sometimes against him. One thing is clear Robert Bruce never wavered from the aspiration of his family to gain the throne of Scotland. (Hodder Gibson pg. 59)
On the 10th February 1306 Robert Bruce and John Comyn met at the church of the Grey Friars in Dumfries. Story’s differ among historians about why the two met, but it is said the two met to discuss the land-for-crown deal where one would become King of Scotland and the other would receive their land. It is also said Bruce wanted to confront Comyn on why he betrayed him by telling Edward I his motives. According to some chronicles the discussion became heated and Bruce struck Comyn with a knife injuring him, then Bruce’s men murdered Comyn. Killing Comyn in a church was the greatest sacrilege imaginable which meant instant excommunication for Bruce. This could have meant the end for Bruce not only was Edward I out for his blood but now the Comyn family and supports of the Comyn’s would be too. Bruce done the only thing he could in this situation and went confessed his sins to Bishop Wishart and received a full pardon for his actions. (Hodder & Gibson pg.58,59)
Bruce now had the full support of the church and with John Comyn dead Bruce was free to become king of Scotland and on the 25 March 1306 Bruce was inaugurated King of Scots at Scone. The community of the realm was divided due to Bruce’s actions and the legitimacy of Robert Bruce Kingship was questionable. It could be said that Bruce was not a real king, since Edward I had removed the Stone of Destiny on which Scottish Kings had been inaugurated. Not long after Bruce was made King he was forced to flee Scotland, as being captured by either the Comyn family or Edward I was looking inevitable. Edward I had also captured most of King Roberts family. However, this did not sway Bruce from his main objective of him being recognised as King of Scotland and Scotland’s Independence and in 1307 King Robert returned to reclaim his Kingdom. (Hodder & Gibson pg. 61, 62)
On King Roberts return to Scotland he raised a small army which had a few successes this showed King Roberts determination and proof he was going to continue with the struggle. Not long after King Robert’s return Edward I died not before making his son Edward II promise to continue the invasion of Scotland. However, Edward II and his now army withdrew and returned to England for his coronation. With the English gone King Robert’s focus was now back on the Comyn fraction and civil war broke out in Scotland; King Robert knew he had to defeat the Comyn family if he was to win the support of the Kingdom. King Robert only option was to be ruthless and to strike into the centre of Comyn land and gain the castle of Inverlochy. Bruce made lighting attacks on the Comyn’s and followers castles, these somewhat risky tactics seemed to work which resulted in some of the Comyn fraction falling. Bruce lastly defeated John Comyn Earl of Buchan at Inverurie and it was clear the Comyn Fraction’s power was over. (Hodder & Gibson pg.63, 64) (Class slides, Bruce’s strategy 1307-1308)
The tactics King Robert used in the North East were somewhat unusual he burned down houses had livestock slaughtered. Food stores were stolen or destroyed and anyone still loyal to the Comyn fraction was killed potentially wiping out Comyn influence. The motives behind these tactics were to deprive his enemies of any takeover or refuge. In the South West Bruce had sent Sir William Douglas to attack the enemy castles and to gather men for the cause. Bruce’s next fast and furious attack was on the Western Isles which ended with the battle of the Pass of Brander in autumn 1308. In 1309 King Robert held his first Parliament this was the first time Bruce was recognised as King of Scotland. Scotland; bishops and many nobles issued a declaration of joint approval of his Kingship, this was called the declaration of the clergy. The declaration indicates how much support King Robert has in Scotland but it also shows that some nobles were still against him or neutral to his cause. (Hodder & Gibson pg.65)
From the period of 1309 civil war in Scotland was almost over but the war against England was back on. Edward II raised an army to march from Berwick deep into Scotland but King Robert would not commit to an open battle and the English King was forced to retreat to Berwick for the winter months. However, the Scots were raiding across the border these tactics were often used by King Robert and this forced Edward II to retreat to try and protect the countries in northern England. From 1312 to 1314 most of the castles that remained in English hands were starting to fall to King Robert with Stirling and Berwick remaining to be captured. Edward II would not accept losing Stirling castle so the battle of Bannockburn was set to commence. (Hodder & Gibson pg. 66)
The battle of Bannockburn was a significant event in King Bruce legacy and there has been a lot of propaganda surrounding the battle, one thing is clear King Robert and his army did defeat the English. There are many factors to why Bruce defeated the English. The fact that Bruce knew the land to which he was fighting on and used this to his advantage by digging pot holes to manipulate the English into positions that best suited him and to dismantle the cavalry. Bruce also used schiltrons which the English could not cope with as they could not break through the schiltrons forcing the English to fall back. The morale in the Scottish camp was at a high as they were well trained and it had been a long time since they had been defeated under Bruce’s leadership. Bruce seemed to have more determination and his army had a purpose to which they were fighting for unlike the English.