Robert the Bruce Crowned King of Scotland
It should not be held too much against Robert the Bruce that his loyalties, or at least his outward loyalties, had changed several times during the Wars of Independence. Self-preservation and self-interest may not be the noblest of values, but they are practical. In a Scotland dominated by the conquering and seemingly invincible Edward I it was dangerous to side with the Scottish patriots, as Bruce ventured to do several times.
The circumstances in 1306 of Robert’s decision to mount what was effectively a coup to seize the Scottish throne are not clear. It is sometimes suggested that the move was opportunistic, based on Edward’s sickness at the time. It may be that there was little plan behind the sudden action, though an agreement had supposedly been reached according to one source with his rival to the throne, John Comyn, the latter to receive Bruce’s lands in Scotland in return for giving up his claim to the kingdom and supporting Bruce in the event of a rising. Robert the Bruce , then at the English court, was warned to flee, apparently his agreement with Comyn known to Edward (possibly the information betrayed by Comyn himself), though this is far from certain.
Bruce and Comyn agreed to meet on sacred ground, Greyfriars Church in Dumfries . The neutrality of the spot proved of little use in keeping the peace – the two men argued, and Bruce either killed Comyn outright, or wounded him badly, two of Bruce’s men finishing him off.
The die was cast. Bruce had wronged the church, killed a rival, and was an obstacle to Edward I’s continued ambitions north of the border. His choices were flight – probably abroad - or fight for the throne, and he chose to fight. His coronation took place at Scone near Perth on March 25 1306, a second one being needed the next day to placate a noble family that claimed the right to place the crown on the king’s head.
As it turned out flight also became necessary quite soon. Military matters at first went against Robert I, the Battle of Methven lost in June 1306, and the new king was forced to hide that winter – possibly in the Hebrides. His grasp on power at first tenuous was strengthened after the death of Edward I in 1307, with victories from 1310 onwards in what some see as a guerrilla campaign given his avoidance of set-piece battles. That strategy changed with his greatest moment, the point when his place at the head of Scotland’s heroes was guaranteed - his victory in 1314 at Bannockburn.
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