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Robert Bruce 1306 - 1329

Balliol's treaty with France, and Wallace's rebellion, aggravated the distrust and suspicion between Scotland and England and led to a war of attrition between the two nations. The death of Edward I brought Edward II to the English throne and he continued the attack, now against Robert Bruce who had stepped into the breach left by Balliol.

Bruce, unlike Wallace, now had the support of Scottish nobles and bishops. In June 1314 Robert Bruce besieged Stirling Castle. The English King sent a huge army to relieve the castle and it encamped at Bannockburn, about two miles to the south. On 24 June the two armies met.

Bruce's Scottish army was one-third the size of the English army, but by forming 'shiltrons' or rings of men with spears levelled at every point of assault, his soldiers managed to repel an attack and break the English lines.

Although outnumbered the Scots dug themselves pits in which the spearmen waited for the charge of the English mounted knights. Not expecting resistance, the knights fell into the trap and were decimated and routed. As his army fell back Edward fled and narrowly escaped capture.

The Scottish victory was complete and Bruce followed it up with the Declaration of Arbroath (1320) which was sent to Pope John XXII in Rome, asking for his intercession and declaring Scotland's determination to fight to the death to keep its independence.

'For as long as one hundred of us shall remain alive we shall never in any wise consent to submit to the rule of the English, for it is not for glory we fight . . . but for freedom alone.'

A truce was agreed, but no treaty was signed until Bruce marched an army into England in the reign of the following King, Edward III. Bruce died a year after the treaty, a contented man who had achieved the recognition of Scotland as an independent nation.

The threat to Scottish independence, however, remained even after Bannockburn. Fighting continued until an invasion of England in 1327 persuaded the new King, Edward III, to recognize Scottish independence.

Edward Ill's agreement was only temporary, however, and soon another English army was on its way to defeat the Scots at Halidon Hill. The Scots now lacked firm leadership, for Robert Bruce's son had been deposed by the son of John Balliol.


Robert Bruce was hiding in a hut in the forest. His enemies were seeking him far and wide. Six times he had met them in battle, and six times he had failed. Hope and courage were gone, and Bruce had given up all as lost. Full of sorrow, he lay stretched out on a pile of straw in the poor woodchopper's hut. While he lay thinking, he noticed a spider spinning her web. The spider was trying to spin a thread from one beam of the cottage to another. It was a long way between the beams, and Bruce saw how hard a thing it was for her to do.

'She can never do it,' thought the King. The little spider tried it once and failed. She tried it twice and failed. The King counted each time. At length she had tried it six times and had failed each time. 'She is like me,' thought the King. 'I have tried six battles and failed. She has tried six times to reach the beam and failed.'

Then starting up from the straw, he cried, 'I will hang my fate upon that little spider. If she swings the seventh time and fails then I will give up all for lost. If she swings the seventh time and wins, I will call my men together once more for a battle with the enemy.'

The spider tried the seventh time, letting herself down upon her slender thread. She swung out bravely. 'Look! look!' shouted the King. 'She has reached it. The thread hangs between the two beams. If the spider can do it, I can do it.' The next time Bruce won his battle.

Key Events during the Reign of Robert Bruce

1306 - Robert Bruce is crowned as Robert I at Scone but is immediately driven into hiding by the English occupation army of Edward I.

1307 - Edward I launches his final invasion of Scotland but dies on his way north. Bruce begins his campaign to drive the English out of Scotland.

1314 - Bruce besieges Stirling Castle. An English army sent to break the siege is routed at the Battle of Bannockburn.

1315 - Edward Bruce, Robert Bruce's brother, is offered and accepts the crown of Ireland by Irish lords.

1320 - Declaration of Arbroath is signed by nearly all the lords and bishops in Scotland and is sent to the Pope.

1323 - Truce between Robert Bruce and Edward II fails to prevent continuing warfare between the two countries.

1327 - Edward II is deposed and is succeeded by Edward III. Bruce launches an invasion of England to force English recognition of Scotland's independence.

1328 - Treaty of Edinburgh.

1329 - Death of Robert Bruce at Cardross Castle.

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