Scotlands History

Elizabeth de Burgh and Marjorie Bruce

In 1302 Elizabeth de Burgh married Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, at Writtle, near Chelmsford in Essex. Bruce was a widower with a young daughter. He had first married Isabella of Mar who died, in 1296, a short time after giving birth to a daughter, Marjory Bruce.

Robert was inaugurated as King of Scots at Scone on 27 March 1306. Elizabeth is said to have later remarked, ‘Alas, we are but king and queen of the May’ – nothing more than players in the May revels.

In England they had a different name for Bruce; they called him ‘King Hobbe’- the fool. Edward I sent a force north to hunt Bruce down. After defeat at Methven, Bruce headed west to the mountains. He sent Elisabeth, Marjory, his sisters Christina and Mary Bruce, and Countess Isobel to Kildrummy Castle in the north, where his brother Neil could protect them.

The royal ladies were soon forced to flee. Kildrummy was besieged and Bruce’s brother Neil was captured. He was taken to Berwick to be hanged, drawn and beheaded. The royal ladies were probably heading to Orkney but only made it as far as the sanctuary of St Duthac at Tain in Easter Ross. There they were captured by a Balliol supporter, Earl William of Ross, who handed them over to Edward I’s men.

Countess Isobel of Fife was held captive in an iron cage at Berwick Castle. Robert’s younger sister, Mary Bruce, was locked into an iron cage at Roxburgh Castle. She was just 24 years old. Mary spent the next four years caged and humiliated. Her older sister Christian Bruce was shown more compassion and was imprisoned in a Gilbertine nunnery in Lincolnshire. Christian’s husband, Sir Christopher Seton, was hanged, drawn and beheaded at Dumfries.

Elizabeth de Burgh, Bruce’s wife, was held prisoner in England. It is thought that she was better treated because her father Richard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster, was a close friend of King Edward I. Elizabeth spent the next eight years in captivity in Burstwick, Bisham Manor, Windsor Castle, Shaftesbury Abbey, Barking Abbey and Rochester Castle.

Marjory Bruce, Robert’s daughter, was only 12 years old when she was captured at Tain. At first King Edward decided that she would be locked into an iron cage and hung for all to see from the walls of the Tower of London. Edward relented and Marjory was held in a Gilbertine nunnery in Yorkshire.

After the Battle of Bannockburn the Bruce was able to trade English nobles for his family. Mary Bruce went on to be twice married and had a son, Iain. Christian Bruce married Sir Andrew Murray who later became guardian of Scotland. Christian later led the defence of the besieged Kildrummy Castle at 62 years old and lived to 84.

Elizabeth de Burgh and Robert the Bruce were reunited and went on to have four children - Matilda, Margaret, John and David, who would become David II, King of Scots. Elizabeth died on 27 October 1327 and was buried in Dunfermline Abbey.

Marjory Bruce returned to Scotland and married Sir Walter Stewart. She fell from a horse while pregnant and died as she gave birth to a baby boy. Marjory was buried in Paisley Abbey. Her son Robert would become King Robert II, King of Scots.

  • Painting of a knight in armour and a lady with a standard showing the red lion rampant flying overhead
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