Robert Bruce (1210-1295)

(c) The University of Aberdeen; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Relation to me: 23rd Great-Grandfather

Robert Bruce was the 5th Lord of Annandale, a feudal lord, Justice and Constable of Scotland and England, a Regent of Scotland. He was also a competitor for the Scottish throne in about 1290 during the Great Cause. His grandson was Robert the Bruce who would eventually become King of the Scots.


Robert the Brus (grandson of subject)


His father, Robert Bruce was the 4th Lord of Annandale and is widely known as Robert the Noble, his mother was Isobel of Huntingdon. Our subject, Robert, was also the grandson of David of Scotland, the 8th Earl of Huntingdon and Matilda de Kevilloc of Chester. He was the great-grandson of Henry of Scotland, the Earl of Huntingdon and Northumberland and Ada de Warenne, and King David I of Scotland and Maud, the Countess of Huntingdon.


Along with Annandale, Robert was a Lord of Hartlepool (which is otherwise known as Hartness), in the county of Durham and Writtle and Hatfield Broadoak in Essex, England. Robert’s first wife would bring with her the village of Ripe, in Sussex, and his second wife would bring him the Lordship of Ireby in Cumberland. His possessions were also increased after the defeat of Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. Through a series of grants that would include the estates of the former rebel barons Walter de Fauconberg, John de Melsa and his brother Bernard. Robert negotiated and paid his brother Bernard and nephew Gilbert de Clare, the 7th Earl of Gloucester, for his release after his capture took place at the Battle of Lewes back in 1264.


Battle of Evesham


Henry III had also re-appointed Robert as a Justice and Constable of Carlisle Castle and the keeper of the Castle there in 1267. He had been dismissed prior to this from the position in 1255. Robert would seek out a pardon from Alexander and probably joined the princes Edward and Edmund on their August 1270 until 1274 crusade. As Robert, if not Richard, had possibly failed to attend, or returned early, as the younger Robert is recorded as receiving a quitclaim in Writtle, Essex in October of 1271.


From 1271 until 1272, Robert would obtain the hand of Marjorie of Carrick, the younger widow heiress of Niall of Carrick, the 2nd Earl of Carrick fo rhis son, also known as Robert de Brus. At about this time, Robert’s first wife Isabella de Clare of Gloucester and Hertford died, but on the 3rd of May 1273 Robert would remarry a Christina de Ireby, the Widow of Adam Jesmond, who was the Sheriff of Northumberland. The marriage between the two would add more estates to Robert’s possessions. Cumberland and the dower land from Christina’s previous husband would go to the Brus holdings. After their marriage took place, Robert can be found to have restricted himself to the management of the family’s northern possessions, and would leave the southern ones to his sons. Robert was also Regent of Scotland at some point during the minority of his second cousin King Alexander II of Scotland.


King Alexander II


Robert was occasionally recognized as a Tanist of the Scottish throne. The closest surviving relative to the throne was Margaret of Huntingdon, who’s issue were all females until the birth of Hugh Balliol sometime in the 1260s. While Alexander was childless, he was officially named heir presumptive, but never would gain the throne as Alexander managed to beget three children. The succession in the main line of the House of Dunkeld became highly precarious, when towards the end of his reign, all three of the children had died within a few years of one another. In 1284, Alexander III induced the estates so as to recognize, as his heir-presumptive, his granddaughter Margaret, known also as the “Maid of Norway”, his only surviving descendant. The need for a male heir had led Alexander to contract a second marriage to Yolande Dreux on the 1st of November of 1285. All of this was eventually in vain. Alexander would die suddenly in a fall from his horse, when he was only forty-five years old in 1286.

Alexander’s granddaughter, only three years old at the time of her grandfather’s death, was then recognized as his successor in 1286. However, at the age of seven, Margaret was traveling towards her kingdom on the Orkney Islands when she passed away on the 26th of September 1290. Upon her death, the main royal line came to an end and thirteen claimants asserted their rights to the Scottish throne.

Succession Dispute

After the extinction of the senior line of the Scottish royal house (the line of William I of Scotland), David of Huntingdon’s descendants were the primary candidates for the throne.


John Balliol


Two of the the most notable claimants to the throne were John Balliol and Robert himself had represented descent through David’s daughters, Margaret and Isobel respectively. Robert would plead tanistry and proximity of blood in a succession dispute. He had descended from the second daughter of David of Huntingdon, whereas John Balliol had descended from his eldest daughter, and thus had lineal right. However, Robert was also the second cousin of kings of Scotland and descended in the 4th generation from King David I of Scotland. John, however, was the third cousin of the kings and descended in the 5th generation from King David I, the most recent common ancestor who had been a Scottish king.

The Great Cause

The ensuing ‘Great Cause’ would be concluded in 1292. The events of the Great Cause would take place as follows: Not long after the death of the young queen Margaret, Robert had raised a body of men with the help of the Earls of Mar and Atholl and marched to Perth with a considerable following and uncertain intentions. A Bishop by the name of William Fraser of St. Andrews, was worried about the possibility of civil war. He would write to Edward I of England and ask for assistance in choosing a new monarch. Edward would take a chance to demand sasine of the Scottish royal estate, but would agree to pass judgment in return for recognition of his suzerainty. The guardians of Scotland would deny him this, but Robert was quick to pay homage. All of the claimants would swear an oath of homage, and John Balliol would be the last to do so. The guardians were forced to concede and were therefore reinstated by Edward. The judgment process would take time.

On the 3rd of August of 1291, Edward would ask both Balliol and Bruce to choose forty auditors while he also chose twenty-four to decide the case. After they had considered all arguments, in the early part of November, the court decided in the favor of John Balliol, since he had superior claim in feudal law, not to mention greater support from the Kingdom of Scotland. In accordance with this, the final judgment was given by Edward on the 17th of November.


Robert would resign his lordship of Annandale and his claim to the throne to his eldest son Robert the Brus in 1292. Shortly after, the younger Robert’s wife Marjorie of Carrick had died and the earldom of Carrick, which Robert had ruled jure uxoris, devolved upon their eldest son, also called Robert, the future king. In 1292, our subject also held market at Ireby, Cumberland in the right of his wife. He also held market at Hartlepool, in the county of Durham within the liberties of the Bishop of Durham in 1293. Sir Robert would die at Lochmaben Castle and was then buried at Gisborough Priory in Cleveland.


Gisborough Priory ruines


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