Robert the Bruce: The Glue to Scotland’s Puzzle
By Sean Hughes
Professor Kate Baxter
The biography of Scotland's Robert Bruce begs the question: Do the tides of history force certain men into greatness, or is greatness forged within their hearts and executed through their will? If you are a believer, Bruce's history is one that surely shows how evil can be used for good and providence holds the hands of freedom seekers everywhere.
The de Brus family held lands in the southwest of Scotland, their ancestry being Celtic, but their land grants and titles (Bruce was the Earl of Carrick) following in the wake of the Norman conquest - providing them with lands in both Scotland and England and thereby producing hard choices for the Bruces at the time of the Interregnum (Barrow 22).
To be as brief as possible: In 1290, Scotland's young queen, the Maid of Norway, died without having ever stepped foot on Scottish soil, throwing Scotland into disarray as no fewer than 13 men made claim to the throne. The two best claimants were John Balliol and Robert "the Competitor" Bruce (our Robert's grandfather). At this time, Edward I was king of England - a very able and ruthless king - and he naturally sought to take advantage of the situation to bring Scotland under English suzerainty. The upshot was a long period of warfare, both amongst the Scots and with England, lasting until the 1320s. This period is known as the Wars of Independence (Scott 5).
The Scots asked Edward I to choose amongst the list of claimants and Edward picked John Balliol. There is no doubt that Balliol's claim was strongest, but Edward I also realized King John was a weak man and expected to rule Scotland through him. Balliol ruled (in a manner of speaking) from 1292 through 1296, finally having the courage to renounce his fealty to Edward I. He and his son were taken to England, but eventually allowed to retire to France, and retire from our story....