In the 1290s his grandfather laid claim to the throne along with John Balliol and others.
The new King would be decided by arbitration, and the arbitrator, who was King Edward I of England, chose John Balliol.
Robert and his father lent no support to Balliol and when Edward invaded Scotland in 1296 in a move to force Balliol to abdicate, and to rule Scotland as a province of England, both Robert and his father gave support to Edward.
With the thought that he would one day rule Scotland, and fired by his own personal ambition, it is no surprise that Bruce lent his support to the side that was most likely to fulfil his objective.
He also supported William Wallace in the struggle for an independent Scotland, and after Wallace was defeated at Falkirk in 1298, Robert the Bruce was given joint guardianship of Scotland along with John Comyn.
He and Comyn could never see eye to eye, and during a quarrel in a church in Dumfries in 1306, Bruce stabbed and killed Comyn, paving the way for him to be ruler of Scotland, and he was unofficially crowned at Scone.
This was seen as an act of sacrilege and he was excommunicated by the Pope, who did not back Scotland being independent from England.
Many patriots joined Bruce in the fight against Edward, but most of their time was spent avoiding capture. In five battles against the English, Bruce lost every one, and he was eventually forced to flee the country.
Bruce and the spider :
Bruce took refuge in a cave off the coast of Ireland and spent the winter there. Legend has it that he watched a spider trying to weave a web across the roof of the cave, and it failed. Four more attempts failed.
Bruce was thinking to himself "five times the spider has failed, and that's how many battles I've lost. If the spider tries again I will try once again to free scotland." The spider took rest and after a while tried again. This time it succeeded, and Bruce returned home feeling inspired.
On his return he had successful guerrilla campaigns including recapturing Perth in 1313, but his finest hour was to come in 1314, at the battle of Bannockburn, when heavily outnumbered, he defeated Edward II of England’s 100,000 strong army, with his own army of just 30,000 men.
When Edward III ascended to the Throne of England, Bruce's army harassed the English so much that Edward was forced to acknowledge Scotland's freedom. In 1324 the Vatican finally recognised Robert the Bruce as King of Scotland, and the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, recognising Scotland as an independent kingdom, was signed in 1328.
Reconciled by the Pope and at peace with England, Robert the Bruce had realised his dream, and he died on 7th June 1329 at the age of fifty five.
The cause of death is thought to be leprosy, but this has been disputed.
Robert the Bruce was buried in Dunfermline Abbey, but his heart lies in an unopened leaden casket in Melrose Abbey, which he was instrumental in rebuilding. He is rightly remembered as one of Scotlands' great heroes.
More Scottish History :
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