Robert Bruce (1243-1304)

Relation to me: 22nd Great-Grandfather


Robert Bruce was the 6th Lord of Annandale and jure uxoris Earl of Carrick. He was also a King David I of ScotlandLord of Hartness, Writtle and Hatfield Broad Oak, and participated in the Second Baron’s War, the Ninth Crusade, Welsh Wars, and First War of Scottish Independence. Robert was of Scoto-Norman heritage. Through his father he was the third great-grandson of David I.

Robert’s other ancestors include Richard (Strongbow) de Clare, the 2nd Earl of Pembroke, King of Leinster and Governor of Ireland, and William Marshal, the 1st Earl of Pembroke, regent of England and Henry I of England.

Robert’s Life

His birth date is generally accepted among historians, but his place of birth is not as certain. There is a legend that tells that the twenty-seven year old Robert de Brus, our subject, was a handsome young man, participating in the Ninth Crusade. When Adam de Kilconquhar, one of his companions-in-arms, would fall in 1270 at Acre, Robert was obliged to travel to tell the sad news to his widow Marjorie of Carrick. As the story goes, Marjorie was so taken with the then messenger, that she had him held captive until he had agreed to marry her, which he did in 1271. However, since the crusade that landed in Acre on the 9th of May 1271, only started to engage the Muslims in late June, the story and his participation in the crusade are generally discounted.

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

Robert Bruce (subject’s father)


In 1264, Robert’s father, the 5th Lord of Annandale, would be captured,


Henry II


along with Henry II, Richard of Cornwall and Edward I during the Battle of Lewes, Sussex. Robert would negotiate with his uncle, Bernard Brus, and cousin Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, both were supporters of Simon de Montfort, over the terms of a ransom. After the Battle of Evesham, in August of 1265, both Robert and his father would profit from the seizure of the rebellious Barons’ possessions, including those of Bernard. The younger Robert would acquire the lands in Yorkshire, Northumberland, and Bedfordshire.


Edward I


Robert and his younger brother Richard are known to have received letters of protection in July of 1270. These letters would let them, with Edward, go on crusade in August, and are also presumed to have taken the cross at Northampton in 1268. They would be joined with their father, who would seek a pardon from Alexander III, but their date of return from Acre is not as certain. It might have been as early as October of 1271, when the younger Robert is also recorded as receiving a quitclaim in Writtle, Essex from the king.

Marriage to Marjory

In 1272, Robert married, without the consent of the Scottish king, Marjory, the Countess of Carrick. As a result of his marriage, Marjorie temporarily lost her castle and estates, but would regain them upon the payment of a fine. Also around this time, Robert’s mother passed away. The date of her death isn’t known, but on the 3rd of May in 1273, his father would remarry to Christina de Ireby, the widow of Adam Jesmond, the Sheriff of Northumberland at Hoddam. This marriage would add the estates of Cumberland and the dower lands of her previous husband, to the Brus holdings.

The younger Robert, and his step-mother do not appear to have got on with one another. Robert was even recorded as trying to withhold her dower lands after his father’s death in 1295. This may be why the elder Robert appears to have independently managed the possessions in the North, as well as intermittently holding the position of Constable of Carlisle, while Robert appears to have confined himself largely to the management of the Southern and Midland possessions, with his brother Richard who had independently held Tottenham and Kempston, as well as commanding a Knight Banneret for Edward.

Richard is recorded as having received a number of wards and gifts of deer and to have also sought for permission to empark the forest at Writtle at this time also. Robert, while not part of Edward’s household, became an envoy and mouthpiece for Alexander III at court. He would swear fealty on Alexander’s behalf to Edward at Westminster in 1277, and would follow him to Gascony. He also is recorded as following Alexander to Tewkesbury in the autumn of 1278.

Three years later, Robert was a part of a delegation to Guy of Dampierre, the Count of Flanders to arrange the marriage of Alexander, the Prince of Scotland, to Guy’s daughter, Margaret. The couple would marry on the 14th of November of 1282 at Roxburgh. In that same year, he participated with his younger brother, Richard, whose commands were at Denbigh, and is paid for his services in Edward’s Conquest of Wales. The following year, in June, he was then summoned by writ to Shrewsbury for the trial of Dafydd ap Gruffydd.

In February of 1284, Robert would attend a convention at Scone, where the right of succession of Alexander III’s granddaughter, Margaret, was recognized. Almost a year and a half later, on June 1st of 1285, the Earl and Countess at Turnberry had granted the men of Melrose Abbey certain freedoms, according to the English law.

Another year later, he was a witness, along with his son, Robert, to the grant of the church


John Balliol


of Campbeltown to Paisley Abbey. Four years after that, he was a party to the Treaty of Birgham. The Treaty had supported his father’s claim to the vacant throne of Scotland, that was left as such upon the death of Margaret I of Scotland in 1290. The initial civil proceedings, now known as The Great Cause, had awarded the Crown to his father’s first cousin once removed, and rival, John Balliol.

In 1291, Robert would swear fealty to Edward I as the overlord of Scotland, and a year later his wife Marjorie had passed away. In November of 1292, his father, Robert, the 5th Lord of Annandale, and unsuccessful claimant, would resign his Lordship of Annandale and the claim to the throne to his son, allegedly so as to avoid having to swear fealty to John. In turn he passed his late wife’s Earldom of Carrick, in fee, to his son Robert. Younger Robert, and our subject, would set sail for Bergen, Norway for the marriage of his daughter Isabel to King Eric II of Norway, the father of the late Queen Margaret I of Scotland, son-in-law of King Alexander III, and a candidate of the Great Cause. Her dowry for the marriage was recorded by Audun Hugleiksson who would note that she brought to Eric’s second marriage:

“precious clothes

2 golden boiler

24 silver plate

4 silver salt cellars

12 two-handled soup bowls (scyphus)”

In 1294, Robert would return to England. A year later in May of 1295, his father, the 5th Lord of Annandale, passed away. On October 6th, our subject would swear fealty to Edward and was also made a Constable and Keeper of Carlisle Castle. This position, his father had previously held too. Also in this year, he would refuse a summons to the Scottish host. Annandale would be seized by King John Balliol, and gave to John “The Red” Comyn, Lord of Badenoch. He confirmed, to Gisborough Priory, the churches of Annandale and Hart. This was witnessed by Walter de Fauconberg and Marmaduke de Thweng. He would have a few more exchanges of land and grants in this year as well.


Carlisle Castle


In January of 1296, he was summoned to attend King Edward at Salisbury. Two months later, on the 26th of March, Robert’s garrison repelled an attack that was led by John Comyn, the new Lord of Annandale, across the Solway on Carlisle Castle. Robert would force the raiders to retreat back through Annandale to Sweetheart Abbey. On the 28th of April, he again would swear fealty to Edward I and fought for him at the Battle of Dunbar Castle. Four months after this, in August, along with his son Robert, he would renew the pledge of homage and fealty to Edward at the “Victory Parliament” in Berwick. Edward I would deny his claim to the throne and retired to his estates in Essex at this time. On the 29th of August, at Berwick, Robert agreed to the dower lands of his widowed step-mother, Christina, Annandale was regained and he would marry Eleanor.


Battle of Dunbar


Shortly after the Battle of Stirling Bridge, Annandale was laid to waste as a retaliation to the younger Bruce’s actions in 1297. However, when Edward had returned to England after his victory at the Battle of Falkirk, which one source accords to Robert turning the Scottish flank. John Fordun’s “Chronica Gentis Scotorum (Chronicle of the Scottish Nation)” of 1363 wrote:

“In the year 1298, the aforesaid king of England, taking it ill that he and his shoulder be put to so much loss and driven to such straits by William Wallace, gathered together a large army, and, having with him, in his company, some of the nobles of Scotland to help him, invaded Scotland. He was met by the aforesaid William, with the rest of the magnates of that kingdom; and a desperate battle was fought near Falkirk, on the 22nd of July. William was put to flight, not without serious loss both to the lords and to the common people of the Scottish nation. For, on account of the ill-will, begotten of the spring of envy, which the Comyns had conceived towards the said William, they, with their accomplices, forsook the field, and escaped unhurt. On learning their spiteful deed, and aforesaid William, wishing to save himself and his, hastened to flee by another road. But alas! Through the pride and burning envy of both, the noble Estates (communitas) of Scotland lay wretchedly overthrown throughout hill and dale, mountain and plain. Among these, of the nobles, John Stewart, with his Brendans; Macduff, of Fife; and the inhabitants thereof, were utterly cut off. But it is commonly said that Robert of Bruce—who was afterwards king of Scotland, but then fought on the side of the king of Scotland, but then fought on the side of the king of England—was the means of bringing about this victory. For, while the Scots stood invincible in their ranks, and could not be broken by either force or stratagem, this Robert of Bruce went with one line, under Anthony of Bek, by a long road round a hill, and attacked the Scots in the rear, and thus these, who had stood invincible and impenetrable in front, were craftily overcome in the rear. And it is remarkable that we seldom, if ever, read of the Scots being overcome by the English, unless through the envy of lords, or the treachery and deceit of the natives, taking them over to the other side.”


Battle of Falkirk


This is contested, since no Bruce appears on the Falkirk roll of nobles that were present in the English army, and it ignores Blind Harry’s 15th Century claim that Wallace had burned Ayre Castle in 1297. Two 19th Century antiquarians, Alexander Murison and George Chalmers have stated that Bruce didn’t participate in the battle and in the following month had decided to burn Ayre Castle, so as to prevent it being garrisoned by the English. Annandale and Carrick were excepted from the lordships and lands which Edward had assigned to his followers, the father having not opposed Edward and the son being treated as a waverer whose allegiances may still be retained.

At the time Robert was old and ill and there are reports that he had wished for his son to seek peace with Edward. If it weren’t for his son’s actions that could jeopardize his own income, which was primarily derived from his holdings south of the border, the elder Bruce would have seen that, if the rebellion had failed and his son was against Edward, the son would have lost everything, titles, lands, and probably his own life.

On January 7th of 1298, Robert had transferred a grant of land at Hatfield Regis from Walter Arnsby to his son, William. A little over four months later he granted a John Herolff a half virgate of land in Writtle. February 1, 1299 he rented lands at Hatfield Regis in Essex to a John de Bledelowe for four shillings annually. While Robert was a resident at Writtle on the 4th of August, he also rented lands at Hatfield Regis to Nicholas de Barenton for twenty-one shillings annually.

A couple of years later, on November 26th of 1301, he granted Bunnys in Hatfield Broad Oak and Takeley, to an Edward Thurkyld. Sometime after 1301, Robert granted part of Enfeoffments Writtle, to a John de Lovetot and his wife Joan.

It wasn’t until 1302, that Robert’s son submitted to Edward I. The younger Robert would side with the Scots since his capture and the exile of Balliol. There are many reasons why he may have prompted his return to Edward, not the least of which was that the Bruce’s may have found it loathsome to continue sacrificing his followers, family and inheritance for King John. There were rumors that John would return with the French army and regain the Scottish throne. Soulis supported his return as had many other nobles, but this would lead to the Bruces losing any chance of gaining the throne for themselves.

His Death


Holm Cultram Abbey


At Easter, two years later, Robert would die while he was en-route to Annandale and was then buried at Holm Cultram Abbey in Cumberland. After his death, his wife Eleanor would remarry before the 8th of February of 1306 to Richard Waleys the Lord of Waleys, she being his first wife. They would have issue together, but shortly before the 8th of September of 1331, Eleanor too passed away.

In Fiction

Robert has been portrayed in films, such as Braveheart, as a leper. He was played by actor Ian Bannen in the film. Braveheart inaccurately portrays him as being involved in the capture of William Wallace in Edinburgh, Scotland. As noted above, Robert had died in 1304 and William Wallace was captured in August of 1305 by Sir John de Menteith in Glasgow, showing that Braveheart was inaccurate.

11 thoughts on “Robert Bruce (1243-1304)”

  1. The Bruce is well known, yet often misunderstood; once Edwards man, he soon changed course to go on and change the very destiny of Scotland. Well written and informative, keep it up. Also, thought I’d mention that Bruce is my direct great Grandfather on my mothers side, through the line of the Scottish house of Seaton, and one of Mary queen of Scots ladies in waiting 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I guess the world was a smaller place back then, that, or the bold Bruce liked the lassies. Either way, if you have some of Bruce’s blood in you, your A ok in my book.

        Liked by 1 person

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