NQ Scottish History

The rise and triumph of Robert Bruce

Following his humiliating surrender to Edward of England in 1296, King John Balliol had become an ineffective, unwilling ruler. In light of his obvious unsuitability, the Scottish clergy set about secretly arranging for a replacement king. It came to a decision between two Guardians of Scotland: Robert Bruce (the younger) and John Comyn of Badenoch.

They finally approached Robert Bruce, determining that he would be more likely to take the steps necessary for the usurpation of the Scottish crown. In February 1306 Bruce and Comyn met at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries. The two men argued, and the situation deteriorated. Bruce lost his temper and stabbed Comyn there by the altar. There was no turning back after that: the clergy stepped up their plans, hastily arranging for Bruce’s coronation at Scone on 27 March 1306. 

King Edward of England sent troops to capture this ‘usurper king’, while Comyn’s relatives initiated a hunt of their own. Harried on all sides, the new king of Scots escaped to the sea off Argyll and wasn’t seen again until early the following year. When he did return, he did so with confidence: King Robert the Bruce raised an army and began levelling the castles and strongholds of the Comyn family and any others who opposed him.

With the death of Edward I in July 1307, there was a new English king to contend with. Edward II lacked his father’s cleverness and experience at warfare, his army repeatedly suffering defeats at the hands of King Robert, finally returning to England to regroup.

The sack of the castles of Scotland continued for nearly seven more years, culminating near Stirling at the Battle of Bannockburn in June 1314. Edward II of England had returned to Scotland, hoping to liberate the few castles still under English control. After two days of battle, the English were thoroughly demoralised and they eventually fled. 

The remaining years until the death of Edward II in 1327 were rife with conflict and political skirmishing. Representatives of both kingdoms were sent to appeal to the Pope, first from Edward, and later from Scotland in the form of the Declaration of Arbroath. Finally, in 1328, after the deposition of Edward II by his wife, Isabella, there came the Treaty of Edinburgh, recognising Scotland, and her King, as entirely independent of England.

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Key figures

Historical debate

Primary sources