Robert the Bruce - King of Scots

Scottish King Robert I, known as Robert the Bruce. Though he had sworn allegiance to Edward I of England in 1296, a year later he switched sides, fighting for Scotland's independence. He was crowned King of Scots at Scone in 1306, though Scotland had not yet achieved independence. Making slow inroads, Bruce's victory at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314) was a major stride in achieving his goal. In May 1328, England's King Edward III recognized Scotland's independence and Bruce as its king.

Statue of Robert the Bruce - King of Scots

The English King Edward I

Edward I, popularly known as "Longshanks" because of his 6 foot 2 inch (1.88 m) frame and the "Hammer of the Scots" (his tombstone, in Latin, read, Hic est. Edwardus Primus Scottorum Malleus, "Here is Edward I, Hammer of the Scots"), achieved fame as the monarch who conquered Wales and who kept Scotland under English domination during his lifetime. He reigned from 1272 to 1307, ascending the throne of England on 21 November 1272 after the death of his father, King Henry III of England. His mother was Queen consort Eleanor of Provence.



Robert the Bruce Timeline

We have added a Robert the Bruce interactive timeline to make it easier to understand the events during Bruce's life that you can scroll through at your own pace and will hopefully make it easier to picture the period. see the timeline...

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Robert the Bruce Timeline



The Old Crusader

Statue of Robert the Bruce

King Robert the Bruce was born in a castle but he didn’t die in a castle. In the twilight years of his reign he turned his back on castles with a vengeance. Castles in every shape and form had dominated his life from infancy to old age. In medieval times Kings, Earls, barons and Bishops all resided in castles.

The chief strong hold of the Bruce Lords of Annandale was Lochmaben castle in Dumfriesshire. Lochmaben was enriched by a deep moat and the walls of the castle were ten feet thick. As a child Bruce and his brothers and sisters in the company of their parent, the Earl and Countess of Carrick would have arrived at Lochmaben for a summer holiday break with their Grandparents. At a signal the massive drawbridge would be lowered with a great creaking and moaning of the suspension chains and as soon as the family were inside the portcullis would be winced back down and the drawbridge raised.

King Robert must always have retained endearing memories of childhood conversations with his warrior grandfather. He would have been ‘all ears’ when the old man asked about the pearls facing him when he took the vow to go on a crusade to the Holy Land in 1270. Stories about oriental castles being sized and stormed with a terrible massacre of the doomed inhabitants. Stories about monools and mamlukes and heaving seas and sunken ships and blood drenched swords in the soaring heat of Palestine, most of all a graphic personal collection by the old man about valiant deeds done in the dust and horrid heat of the east. When Knight Templers and crusaders joined forced together as brothers of Christ in the defence of Acre. Perhaps at Locmaben castle a young Robert Bruce was as some time in his teens the worthy owner of the very battle axe with which his marshal grandfather had crushed the skulls of Muslims in the Holy Land


Fact & Fiction

In the second half of the 19th centaury, ‘Gothic Revival’ architecture had sprung up everywhere. French Gothic was by far the most favoured of the revivest styles. In Scotland alone, hundreds of churches and chapels were designed and constructed in the new architecture style. The parish churches of the period were little gems of craftsmanship, revivalist works of art in their own right. In the later 19th century it had become very much the custom to go for country walks on a Sunday afternoon – after attending church in the morning. If the family chose to walk to Cardross then back to Dumbarton. Passers by would stand and stare at ‘Bruce’s Stables’. Parents would tell their children that the ancient building was what was left of ‘King Robert the Bruce’s stable’s’ and pointing a finger in the immediate direction of Castlehill Farm on the other side of Cardross Road. The children would be informed that the farm stood at the place where the Noble Bruce had had his first great Castle. Some of the children asked daddy ‘What the King and Queen did when it was raining?’ and he would not be stuck for an answer ‘When it was raining’ says he ‘the King would be in his Country House counting his money and the Queen would be in the parlour eating bread and honey’.

At the end of the First World War in 1918, all the land between Westcliff and Dalreoch was in possession of the Laird of Ardoch. Robert Bontine Cunningham Graham was born in1852 and died in 1936. An aristocrat to his boots, the brilliant ‘Don Roberto’ was a familiar figure to the residents of Dumbarton and Cardross. Whenever he had important affairs to attend to in the Royal Burgh, who would canter his horse up from Ardoch House (and as the mood took him) break into a wild gallop down the steep brae to Dalreoch.

By 1920, council housing as we now know it had come into being. Cunningham Graham was approached by the Burgh Council with a view to purchasing about thirty acres of land for the construction of council houses. A financial settlement was finally agreed upon and construction started. The Laird still retained ownership of the two dwelling houses – the celebrated ‘Bruce’s Stables’. Brucehill came into existence circa 1925 followed by Castlehill and Westcliff in 1953. Excavations on and around the tree-topped mound at Castlehill in the late 19th centaury revealed no evidence of Bruce’s fabulous castle. No medieval artefacts, nails, beads, coins, black glass or green glazed pottery were found.

It takes time for myths to be dispelled as serious historians know to their cost. Victorian historians often turned a blind eye to facts staring them in the face. This accusation could have never be levelled at David Murny of Cardross. Doctor Murny was a lawyer and by choice a gifted historian. He was born in 1842 and died in 1928. Many years before his death he had reached the firm conclusion that the ‘Manerium de Cardross’ had never been situated at Castlehill, but at a sit close to or beside the River Leven.

‘Bruce’s Stable’s’, date from the latter part of the 18th centaury. The Scottish Episcopal Church asked the Paisley Architect John Ross to draw up plans foe a church incorporating Gothic features in the design. Ross was well ahead of his time. The Cardross Road Church served the congregation well foe many years until the new Episcopal Church in the High Street opened its doors to public worship. The old Cardross Road Church reverted back into the ownership of the Grahams of Ardoch. The church was demolished but the Gothic façade and the two dwelling houses survived.



Saint Serfs Church, Levengrove Park, Dumbarton

Bruce chose to have three separate burials. His internal organs and breastbone were buried beneath the high alter of Cardross Parish Church. At present a scheduled ancient monument in the care of Historic Scotland. It received ancient monument status June 2001.

The medieval church known as Saint Serfs can be visited at Levengrove Park in Dumbarton. A bronze plaque situated within bound of the old church. It commemorates the burial of Bruce’s mortal remains.

Bruce’s body is buried in Dunfermline Abbey and his heart at Melrose Abbey.

St Serfs, Levengrove Park in Dumbarton


(Teba) Tebas de Ardales

It is recorded by Froissart, the French chronicler, that the dying Bruce made a deathbed speech. The King stated that as a young man he had vowed to go on a crusade to the Holy Lands when he had completed the full recovery of his Kingdom from English rule. Sadly he had not been able to accomplish his hearts desire. He fervently wished that his heart to be taken from his body following his death.

His finest Knight, Sir James Douglas had the great honour of taking the King’s heart to Jerusalem for presentation at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In early August 1330, Sir James sailed from Berwick Upon Tweed in a small flotilla of ships in the direction of Spain. The flotilla stopped in Flanders before crossing the bay of Bisky onto the Spanish Port of Santander en route to Cadiz in Andalusia. The Scots Knights met up with the Spanish army under the command of the King of Castille, ‘Alphonso the Battler’.

The army camped beneath the fortress at Tebas De Ardales. Tragically, Sir James and the other Knights charged into battle against the Moorish cavalry, unaware that a battle tactic employed by the Moors was to retract. The Moorish Cavalry suddenly did an abrupt about-turn and surprised their pursuers. Sir James and four other Knights were slain on the battle field at Teba on the morning of 25th August 1330.

James Douglas memorial plaque in Teba

Strathleven Artizans retain a close connection with Teba (Tebas De Ardales), the small Spanish town where Sir James Douglas died in the battle against the Moors (Saracens). We travel to Teba to take part in the ‘El Douglas’ day, which involves pipes and drums, a wreath laying ceremony at the Sir James Douglas monument in the Plaza El Douglas.

Sir James Douglas was the foremost Knight in the Kingdom. He fought alongside the King at Bannockburn 23-24 June 1314. On the King’s last campaign in the late summer of 1327, Bruce besieged Norham Castle in England; Sir James Douglas was at his side. Norham was the last of Bruce’s military campaign.

As a final demonstration of Bruce’s achievement, the treaty of Edinburgh, 17th March 1328, ratified at Northampton, 4th May 1328.

By the Treaty of Edinburgh the Scots won English acknowledgement of Scotland’s absolute Independence. It marked culmination of Bruce’s search for final peace with England and recognition of Bruce’s title as King of Scots. Securing of a marriage contract between Edward III sister, Princess Joanna (Joan of the Tower) and Bruce’s son and heir David II, 1329-1371, cemented the treaty of Edinburgh. Sadly Bruce died 7 June 1329 at his manor house at Pailleanflath, in the village of Renton.