Scottish Who's Who
Born about 1276 he was the younger, fiery brother of King Robert I. He was among the chief supporters of his brother and made the agreement that Stirling should be surrendered unless the English king relieved it – a bargain his brother is said to have been displeased about. In the event, it was this pact that led to the battle of Bannockburn. In 1315 he was declared heir to the throne after his brother but led an invasion of Ireland that same year. He was crowned king of Ireland in 1316 but defeated and killed by forces of the English Crown at Dundalk in 1318.
Elizabeth de Burgh (or Burke)
She was the daughter of Richard de Burgh earl of Ulster and married Robert the Bruce in 1302 as his second wife. In 1306, after her husband’s initial defeat, she was captured at Tain and sent to Edward Longshanks and held under house arrest in England. Not until 1314 after the Scottish victory was she returned home in a swap for the earl of Hereford who was captured by the Scots at Bannockburn. She died as queen of Scots in 1327 and was the mother of King David II.
Isabella countess of Buchan
She was the aunt of Duncan earl of Fife and the wife of John Comyn earl of Buchan. It was the earl of Fife who held the right to enthrone the king, but since Duncan was serving Edward Longshanks, his aunt Isabella now took on the role. She went to Scone and crowned Robert I as king in 1306. For this act she was captured by Edward Longshanks and imprisoned in a cage of lattice and iron in a tower at Berwick castle from 1306 until 1310.
Sir James Douglas, the Good Sir James (aka The Black Douglas)
Born about 1286 he was the son of William Douglas ‘the Hardy’ and became the principal commander of Robert I by 1315. His father having been imprisoned by Edward Longshanks, and the family lands lost, James joined Robert I in 1307 and eventually became a great enemy of the English, who called him ‘the Black Douglas’. He was one of the principal leaders of the various invasions of England between 1314 and 1327 and nearly captured the English queen and her son. In 1330 he joined the crusading army of Alphonso XI of Castile and was killed fighting the Moors in Granada carrying the heart of his dead master Robert I.
Robert I the Bruce
Born in 1274 he was the son of Robert Bruce earl of Carrick, and a descendant of David earl of Huntingdon, brother of King William the Lion, and, as such, a claimant to the Scottish Crown. Both before and during the English invasion under Edward I Longshanks, the Bruce family, like many other nobles families, opposed or supported the English as it suited their family interest. But like many of the younger generation, Robert was also driven by a sense of national identity which was sharpened through war with England. Long opposed to the rival Balliol and Comyn kindred, Robert met in 1306 with John ‘the Red’ Comyn at a church in Dumfries and slew him in the heat of argument. No there was no turning back. He gathered supporters, went to Scone, the traditional king-making centre, and had himself crowned king of Scots. Opposed by supporters of the Balliol and Comyn kin on the one hand, and at war with the English Crown on the other, Robert I was soon routed and forced to flee. He learned some sharp lessons in warfare, but returned in 1308 to ravage the Comyn lands in Buchan and begin capturing castles and towns, one by one, until he held the kingdom north of the Forth, and then moved southwards. He ransomed or sent home English and French notables he captured, but executed as traitors Scots in arms against him. In 1314 he fought and defeated Edward II at Bannockburn and retook Berwick, the last stronghold in English hands, in 1318. After Bannockburn, he and his commanders began to hammer the north of England, raiding and ransoming towns, and opened up another front by invading Ireland in 1315. These tactics were intended to force Edward II to finally recognise Scotland was an independent kingdom. Abroad Robert I allied with the king of France and in 1320 drew up a letter addressed to the pope on Scottish independence to which the principal Scottish barons put their seals. This is now known as the Declaration of Arbroath and ranks as one of the earliest and most explicit expressions of national identity in Europe. Even when Edward II was deposed the new English regime continued its warlike policy, but, in 1328, the bankrupt English government finally admitted defeat and agreed the Treaty of Edinburgh which recognised the kingship of Robert I and the independence of his country. Robert I died a year later in 1329, having suffered from a disease thought to be leprosy.
Sir Robert Keith
A North East man he joined King Robert I in 1308 and was appointed to the offices of justice beyond the Forth and marischal. In the role of mariscal Keith commanded the Scottish light horse at Bannockburn and he was crucial in attacking and routing the English archers before they could properly deploy, sending them in confusion back into their own volleys. Sir Robert would eventually be killed at the battle of Durham (Neville’s Cross) in 1346.
Thomas Randolph earl of Moray
Thomas was the son of a half sister of Robert I and therefore his nephew. Despite this close relationship, Thomas was captured by the English at the battle of Methven (1306) and fought on the side of Edward II until 1309 when he changed sides. From that point on he fought for his uncle, capturing Edinburgh castle in 1314. He was created earl of Moray in 1312 and lord of Man in 1314 and also commanded part of the Scottish army at Bannockburn. In 1329 when King Robert died Thomas became guardian of the kingdom in name of the child king David II but died in office in 1332.
Sir Walter the Beardless High Steward of Scotland
Born c.1296 he was the son of James the High Steward of Scotland. He fought at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and in 1315 married Marjory Bruce the daughter of Robert I. Their son Robert the High Steward would succeed as king in 1371 and would commission John Barbour to write the Brus. Sir Walter died in 1327.