Imagine, if you will, that it is 10th February 1306, and we are in Dumfries in Galloway in the south West of Scotland – and so it’s a fair bet, if you will forgive me, that it’s a little damp. Let me take you to the castle where a sheriff’s court was in session, and two of the most powerful lords of Scotland are both in attendance – Robert Bruce, earl of Carrick, and John Comyn the Red, Lord of Badenoch. At some point both men slipped away from the court and rode to the nearby Franciscan priory, now called the Greyfriar’s church. What they went to talk about is a matter of some debate, which we’ll come back to, but if you are of a serious mind and disposition, they went to talk about a land dispute in nearby Nithsdale, if are of a less serious disposition they went to place a few groats on some nifty looking knights in the next jousting event.
Obviously, assuming you have not skipped forward to this point without listening to the other 25 episodes of the history of Scotland, which would be very wrong of you, and you should now go to the back and wait your turn. Anyway, obviously you will know that the Bruce and Comyn families have been rivals, a rivalry which has been heightened by the recent wars of Scotland. So much so, that not only have different families been rivals, but families had been divided amongst themselves, the Bruce themselves for example. As one English Chronicler put it:
In all this fighting the Scots were so divided that often a father was with the Scots and his son with the English, or one brother was with the Scots and another with the English, or even one individual was first on one side and then on the other
As Robert Bruce and John Comyn went to Greyfriars, they did not go alone, but with some companions; John Comyn was accompanied by his uncle, Robert Comyn, and Bruce by his brother in law Christopher Seton and a knight, called Robert Fleming. The justiciary court was also in session and the Justiciar, Roger Kirkpatrick, was also with them. Who knows whether they chatted as they approached the church or if there was an atmosphere, something of an awkward silence. Comyn may well have seen Bruce as a knock kneed quitter, given his defection back to Edward in 1302, after which Comyn had fought on, but eventually been forced to submit. Bruce meanwhile had always distrusted Comyn. The Comyns as a whole were far too powerful for his liking. Bruce had worked with Comyn for a while as Guardian, but had had him by the throat once before. There was no love lost is what I am saying. And the experience under the new regime with Edward since 1304 had not been happy for Bruce. Comyn on the other hand had prospered, had been rewarded and recognised; while Bruce had been distrusted by the English king, which given his ducking and weaving, his in out shake it all about performance so far was probably not surprising. By 1306, Bruce had lost two sheriffdoms, in Ayr and Lanark, which had been given to friends of the Comyn. None of this was to Bruce’s liking of course; and this despite the pact he had sworn with the Bishop of St Andrews, William Lamberton. The terms of the pact were vague, and have been taken as an early ambition by Bruce to rebel against Edward; but it’s much more likely that it was really just a political pairing, an agreement to look out for each other’s interests in the bun fight for political power under Edward.
So, in the finest British tradition, there may have been much unsaid as the two men entered the church – it’s not terribly clear, but I am guessing Bruce and Seton and John and Robert Comyn, leaving Fleming and Kirkpatrick outside to mind the door and keep things quiet – and look after their swords which they left with them. After all, nobody wanted things to turn nasty did they?
Inside the Church the group stood before the high altar, and there followed an exchange of views., What you are about to listen to is one police reconstruction of events suitable for Crimewatch UK or some such, so in front of every sentence you an insert Maybe or probably or possibly, or could be, whatever your persion idiom. So the two started discussing their shared problems in Nithsdale and Annandale to begin with, but at some point the tone moved from traditional British passive aggressive towards simply aggressive, and things got heated. Bruce accused Comyn of treachery towards him, of, shall we say, dissing him to the king. It was Comyn’s fault raged Bruce, that his stock with the king had declined, and his circumstances with it. Comyn vehemently denied it, or maybe he goaded Bruce we do not know, but it seems likely that for a moment Bruce lost it completely. He pulled out his dagger, more used to parring apples and thrust it hard into Comyn’s body. As the shock registered and Comyn sank to the ground, Seton was the first to react and struck Robert Comyn a killing blow too. Shocked by what he had done Bruce burst from the church door and blurted. Blurting is a cathartic and often involuntary activity in which I indulge far too often it must be said, and Bruce did it now. He blurted that he thought he might have killed the Red Comyn. Oh, and that other bloke, the one everyone for the rest of time will only ever call Comyn’s uncle.
You might have expected some expressions of regret maybe, or concern. Furrowed brows possibly, a suggestion to send someone to fetch a doctor. But these were different, more desperate times. Phlegmatically, the Scottish Justiciar Roger Kirkpatrick took up his role as defender of the weak and impartial even-handed champion of law and justice. He famously muttered ‘I’ll make sure’ or ‘I mak Siccar’ if I have pronounced that correctly, and went into the church. Monks had fluttered out and were tending to John Comyn. ‘I’m not dead’ quavered Comyn proudly, so Kirkpatrick took his sword and hacked at the man until the job was finished. I mak Siccar is the Kirkpatrick family motto to this day, rather than the alternative ‘I poo on the head of law and justice’, and I think they have made the right choice.
Well, I never did. Here’s a pickle and make no mistake. The murder at the high altar of Greyfriars church has been a matter of some debate over the centuries, and many anachronistic drawings usually in the Victorian era with a lot of tartan and kilts hanging around. The English had no doubt what the issue was, as a letter from the English court to the Pope made clear:
Bruce rose against King Edward as a traitor, and murdered Sir John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, in the church of the Friars Minor in the town of Dumfries, at the high altar, because John would not assent to the treason which Bruce planned… to resume war… and make himself king of Scotland
Ok, that’s clear enough. The Scottish account took a different view. Bruce was indeed already planning to free Scotland from the evil English tyranny – but as soon as he drew Comyn into his plans, Comyn threatened to betray him to Edward, the little weasel. And so Bruce was forced to total him.
And then you’ve heard today the other theory – a business meeting that went badly wrong, and not just because someone forgot to bring the biscuits. But, a piece of chance that would prove the defining political act in 14th century Scottish history, and up there as one of the defining acts in all Scottish history.
It is really impossible to arrive at a definitive conclusion here – whether a planned murder, or a conversation that went wrong and ended surprisingly badly. In favour of my view of the latter, the reason I chose it, is that Bruce has already shown himself to be capable of working with Comyn, fractious though the relationship was; because the choice of a church high altar is a pretty disastrous place to choose for a murder in terms of propaganda; and because in the first few weeks he remained in contact with the English council, which suggests that if a miracle had occurred and they had offered an olive branch, he would have seized said branch. But one argument in favour of a planned murder is that Bruce went straight afterwards and broke up the sheriff’s court – I’d have thought a man in a panic more likely to run for safety first.
Whichever theory you chose; consider, that I have always been taught that crime doesn’t pay, honesty is the best policy, that the wages of sin is death, and all that, along with never wearing back shoes with a brown belt. And Bruce now stood in a position even more parlous than such a crime against fashion. He had broken pretty much every rule in the book. His act was in defiance of the King’s peace, and he would be hunted down by Edward and brought to grim and final justice – and given Edward’s distrust of him, Bruce would have little hope of reprieve. He had murdered the head of the greatest family in Scotland; and he could expect the Comyns and their clients to hunt him down if Edward didn’t get to him first, and in so doing they would be fully supported by the English government. And he had defiled the church and offended God, and the church by rights should hunt him down and anathematise him. As I say he was in a bit of a pickle.
It transpires that the wages of sin is not always death. Because Bruce’s act of violence transformed everything and released the leader that Bruce could be. The transformation of Robert the Bruce on 10th February 1306 is almost more remarkable than this extraordinary act itself. Look at Bruce before this day; prevaricating, indecisive, first in rebellion then in league, untrustworthy – it’s no wonder Edward did not trust him. Look at Bruce afterwards – resourceful, decisive, determined, brave – a man who would transform Scotland’s history. Capable of being stupid every so often, but still, king material. And you can see why this transformation occurs; before the 10th February Bruce was always weighing things up – he had to constantly choose between the needs and future of his family and tenants and his loyalties to king and country, to determine the best path between Scylla and Charybodis. Now there was only one path – he had to shoot the rapids, he had to take the initiative or he and his family would be rubbed out. All doubt, all confusion, all compromise was gone, speak now or forever hold your peace. There was another wage of this particular sin by the way. Comyn’s son was but 12 years old, and would be sent to England for safety; and the Comyns, though thirsting for justice, would always be divided and poorly led, and their response ineffectual.
Still, at this point in time it was extremely unlikely that Robert Bruce was going to be anything other than a corpse in a few weeks time. There are many points over the next couple of years where everything could, or maybe should, crash and burn – but if Bruce had been entering Wimbledon at this point, John Mac and Sue Barker would have put him down for a quick first round exit right here. That he did not owes a significant amount to Robert Wishart. The Bishop of Glasgow. Bruce was with him within weeks, and in all likeliness it was Wishart who told him to go for broke right now, and hard – to survive, Bruce’s only option was rebellion and the throne. To do that he needed the church – and Wishart and Lamberton were right behind him. Wishart climbed into the pulpit at Glasgow and declaimed Bruce to be the rightful king, told the people to support him. Wishart absolved Bruce of his sins in slaughtering Comyn at the high altar of a church. It is impossible to underestimate the importance of the church’s support of Bruce at this point. Godless outlaw was reprieved, was worthy of support.
For Wishart of course, any other option than King Robert led to the subjection of the Scottish church to the English ABY; for the Scottish church’s status as the pope’s special daughter to survive, they needed a Scottish king.
Within a few more weeks then, Bruce was at Scone. Wishart provided the vestments; the earl of Fife was 16 and on his own in London, which is not something any parent really wants to hear, but since the Earl of Fife was needed for the traditional coronation Isabell the Countess of Buchan stood in for him. Isabella the Countess of Buchan deserves something of a mench at this point, for it is a brave and interesting decision she took. She was MacDuff’s sister, daughter of the previous Earl of Fife, but she was also wife of a Comyn, so I imagine the breakfast table would have become a little frosty. She would suffer for her decision, but Scotland would have reason to be grateful to her. Lamberton the Bishop of St Andrews was there too and it was he as senior Bishop who officiated at a mass. And, a significant body of Scots gathered around Bruce – Earls of Lennox, Athol and Steward, and numerous knight and barons. A significant number came to support the new king, Robert I, king of Scots.
And a significant number did not. No Comyns, nor Ross, nor Dunbar, nor Strathearn. There was no hiding the fact that a faction had seized control of the crown. But Round one had started out pretty well, with Bruce on the throne. He understood well and clear, though, that he would be seen as the leader of a faction if he slipped back to his homeland in the south west – and so he stayed in the traditional heartlands of the Scottish and Pictish kings, in the Tay basin. Now, his actions shouted, I am no longer a regional lord, I am a Scottish king. And when he heard Edward’s deputy and a Comyn relative was heading north, Aymer de Valence, the Earl of Pembroke, Bruce prepared for round 2. Game on dude, bring it on.
Round 2 then. In early June Pembroke crossed the River Forth and attacked and took the castle at Cupar in Fife. Now as it happens, Cupar had recently been captured for Bruce by the redoubtable Robert Wishart. Slightly cheekily, Wishart had taken a gift of wood sent by Edward to help him build his cathedral at Glasgow and used it instead to build siege engines at Cupar. Which pretty much sums up our Bouncing Bishop. But unfortunately for Wishart, his presence at Cupar, now meant he was captured and in English hands.
Pembroke kept going, straight for Bruce – north to Perth, where he was joined by many supporters of John Comyn, finally now with a focus for their rage and thirst for revenge. Bruce felt he could not run at this point – he must stand and fight, or be condemned again as no king. So Bruce came to meet them, and challenged Pembroke to meet him on the field of battle, which Pembroke declined. Bruce retired to Methven, a village close by, maybe assuming there would be no immediate battle, that Pembroke had been faced down for the moment, and actually like something of a dipstick left no pickets and sentries. Pembroke however, was just messing with him. And in the early hours of the following morning, the English fell on Bruce before he’d eaten his morning sausage and routed the army. Bruce fled with a few hundred men.
Edward meanwhile was cross, genuinely grumpy. Pembroke was ordered to kill and destroy any Bruce he could get his hands on. Pembroke was a bit more fastidious and sent his captives down to Edward to deal with. Edward had them dragged through the streets of Newcastle and hanged. Robert Wishart was a bit luckier, being a bish, but his impact now on Bruce’s chances was done – he would spend the next 8 years imprisoned, and indeed would go blind. But he had done enough. Lamberton’s men meanwhile had been at Methven fighting with Bruce – and Lamberton was captured too, and would not return to Scotland until 1309, and then under English orders.
Poor old Bruce had not yet reached the nadir of this fortunes. Fleeing from Pembroke, he was caught by the Clan MacDougall, allies of the Comyns, and again defeated at Dalrigh. Once again he fled, sending his wife and daughter and the Earl of Athol away to try and find safety in the Orkneys, while he fled to the South West and his homeland. Even that was no longer safe; hounded by the Earl of Mentieth, Bruce was forced to take ship for Argyl, but with the English close behind he fled into the Hebrides, and toward, possibly an interview with a spider.
Bruce’s family and Athol didn’t make it to the northern Islands – they were caught. Edward’s haul included Bruce’s brother Neil, his wife Elizabeth, daughter Marjorie and Sister Mary; along with Earl of Athol and Isabella Countess of Buchan. Edward was not in forgiving mood. Neil Bruce and Simon Fraser were beheaded. No Earl had been executed in England for 230 years, and it was pointed out that Athol was related to him, and surely he must stay his hand. Edward was in a rage now – another rebellion, faithless oath breakers must be ruthlessly punished. Atholl was hanged. Edward’s only sarcastic concession was to give him a gallows 30 foot higher than his fellows to mark the significance of his relationship.
In an odd sort of way, the treatment of Isabella and Bruce’s sister Mary was more shocking. Edward’s instructions were these :
Let her be closely confined in an abode of stone and iron made in the shape of a cross, and let her be hung up out of doors in the open air at Berwick, that both in life and after her death, she may be a spectacle and eternal reproach to travellers.”
In fact both of them were hung in wooden cages for all to see, with their only covered area being the loo. There they hung at Roxburgh and Berwick for 4 years. Elizabeth Bruce was put under house arrest in Holderness.
Bruce might well have reflected that When you’re chewing on life’s gristle, it’s best to no grumble, but give a little whistle. Because this is the moment for Bruce to meet his spider.
I suspect you’ll have heard the story, but if not the traditional idea is that Bruce was a desperate and hunted man, one step ahead of the English, and he hid out in various caves over the winter; there’s one of the superb Ladybird history books which has stuck in my mind all these years with a slightly agonised chap in full mail armour looking as though he could do with a wash and a night in a good bed, staring agonisingly at a spider hanging from the cave wall. The story was created by Walter Scott, in his Tales of a Grandfather in 1828, possibly picked up from folktales, and tells how Bruce watched the spider try six times to string its web between two points. Inspired by the little fellow’s persistence, Bruce is re-invigorated and determined to try again. The cave in which Bruce stayed has been the subject of much searching, including Rathlin Island off the Irish coast, but if it exists is probably unknowable.
If it exists is probably the operative phase, because an alternative theory is that Bruce did no such thing that instead Bruce found allies in the Macdonalds of Islay and the MacRuairis, who protected him from Edward’s allies in the west such as the MacDougalls. Instead of a fugitive, Bruce very probably spent the winter planning his return the next year. And the start of 1307 would bear that out, because Bruce landed with ships and men in two places; he went to his own homeland of Carrick, while his brothers Thomas and Alexander landed in Galloway. I’ll say one ting for sure about Bruce’s rebellion – it was expensive in brothers. The Gallwegians had no love of the western Isles, nor Bruce, nor the Scottish kings, and they raised a local force and defeated the Brothers Bruce. Thomas and Alexander were taken to Carlisle and executed by Edward. At Carrick, Bruce hoped his local men would turn out from their houses, hang out the bunting and flock to his side. They did no such thing.
But it is here that at last Bruce’s persistence and courage began to pay off. He knew the area around Carrick well, and he avoided his pursuers, and with a small force of men took to the hills and did a Wallace, hit and run raids. A chronicler wrote
Let menace lurk in all [Scotland’s] narrow places among her warrior bands and let her plains so burn with fire that her enemies flee away. Crying out in the night let her men be on their guard, and her enemies in confusion will flee from hunger’s sword
None the less, Pembroke began to hunt him down, and despite being driven off at Glen Trool by Bruce, in May at a place called Loudon he found Bruce and his men waiting for him. Delighted, Pembroke let his heavy cavalry charge, only to fall into a trap – the ground was spiked, horse traps laid in the ground and Pembroke’s men suffered, died – and ran. At last, Bruce had his victory.
If Wishart’s support for Bruce had been a turning point, here was another. Bruce’s victory changed everything – the English were no longer invincible they could be beaten. An English supporter of Edward had no doubt about the impact of what had just happened:
‘I hear that Bruce never had the goodwill of his own followers or of the people in general as much as now. It appears that God is with him, for he has destroyed King Edward’s power both among the English and Scots…May it please God to prolong King Edward’s life for men say openly that when he is gone victory will go to Bruce’
Edward of course was determined once more to crush him. And with his son he came north again – but now he was ill and By July 1307, at the age of 68, Edward was dead, dying near Carlisle. If Loudon Hill had encouraged Bruce’s supporters, the death of the relentless and brutal Edward struck fear into the hearts of English supporters. The tide was on the turn. Edward II did continue his father’s campaign into southwest Scotland, but by September he was gone, and would not return or even send aid for years. By the time he did return, everything would be changed.
However disputed his claim, the situation without Edward I in the field was that Bruce was a king, facing a group of powerful but disparate magnates. He meanwhile was surrounded by a small, well knit group of supporters. In the south, James the Black Douglas cleared his lands of English supporters. His brother Edward Bruce was his closest lieutenant, and lead attacks into Galloway. In the west the MacDonalds and MacRuari’s hassled and distracted Bruce’s powerful enemies like William, Earl of Ross, and took war to their traditional rivals the McDougals. And the church, despite the absence of Wishart and Lamberton, the church was critical. The chroniclers spoke of preachers up and down the country exhorting the Scots to turn out for their king and throw out the English; the Bishop of Moray supported Bruce’s campaign into the north.
Don’t let me get carried away though – Bruce had it all to do, facing an enemy with far greater resources. And if he was to win, he must take and hold the north – that was where his most implacable enemies lay – the Comyns, and the Earl of Atholl. So in the Autumn of 1307 that was where Bruce took his army, capturing the armies of the Great Glen. And yet in early 1308 the wheels once more almost came off; Bruce fell ill, with a mysterious debilitating illness he would suffer several times; and the Comyns and Atholl seemed to have trapped him near Siloch. This time his brother Edward saved him, retreating into inaccessible ground and skirmishing with the Comyn until in May Bruce resumed the offensive. While the MacRuairis raided western Ross and distracted the Earl of Ross, Bruce defeated the Comyn at Inverurie at the battle of Barra. What followed was brutal. It became known as the herschip of Buchan, or the harrying, or the rape of Buchan. Bruce essentially decided that the Comyn and their support must be erased, terminated. What followed was therefore a slaughter and burning of the entire area, so that the economic effects would be felt still in the 1350’s. To be king Bruce needed the ruthlessness of kings, and in May 1308 he proved he would do what needed to be done. And it worked. William Earl of Ross submitted to him. The Comyns fled, John Comyn’s son would die at Bannockburn, and Buchan would never oppose Bruce again. It’s those wages of sin again.
By 1309 Bruce had control of something which could be confidently called a kingdom of Scotland, surrounded by magnates who had either supported him since 1307 or who he had won over through admiration or force, or indeed both. Bruce needed to both demonstrate this success and broaden his support by winning the consent of the wider community of the realm. And so in March 1309 Bruce, or King Robert I as I should say, held a parliament at St Andrews. This was not a simple council of the Guardians, this was a parliament on the style of King John, the whole community of the realm – prelates, earls barons and representatives of local communities. The job was not done; Edward II still had many outposts of Scottish supporters in Stirling, Perth, Dundee and Bothwell, and Lothian was still largely in his allegiance.
The Parliament at St Andrews therefore was in part a confirmation from the majority of the kingdom of Scotland that Robert was their king, and part propaganda mission to convince the rest of the world that Robert was a legitimate ruler. The parliament was not just playing to the home gallery – they were playing to France as potential allies, and to the Pope; despite the Scottish bishops’ support for Bruce their boss in Rome did not yet agree. In fact in 1306 Bruce had been excommunicated, and remained excommunicate, however little impact that had on support from the Scots.
The parliament produced a document from the clergy of Scotland called the Declaration of the Clergy.
And by the knowledge and consent of the same people he was received as king so that he might restore the defects of the kingdom and correct things needing to be corrected, and might steer those that lacked guidance. And by their authority the aforesaid king of Scots was solemnly endowed with the kingdom with whom the faithful people of the kingdom wished to live and die
It condemned Baliol’s accession as the work of Satan, which seems nicely unequivocal, and justified Bruce’s right by blood. It dismissed Bruce’s submissions and oaths to Edward as extracted by force all of this was a bit unconvincing; what was convincing was that Bruce had won his realm by the sword.
By 1309, Edward II had won a bit of breathing space from his political problems back home, and in 1310 he finally managed to return to Scotland with an army. But his political honeymoon had been brief – the campaign was hampered by many of his magnates refusing to serve with the hated Piers Gaveston. He could not bring Bruce to battle, and within a short time Edward retreated from Lothian back home. As a result, Lothian and the north of Scotland burned. Edward’s expedition had simply demonstrated just how vulnerable were the lives of those Scots left in Edward’s allegiance. By 1312, William Lamberton was not only back as Bishop of St Andrews, but was joyfully and openly able to support the man he had done much to help succeed. Over the next couple of years, Bruce reduced most of the outstanding English supporters north of Lothian – Perth in 1311, Edward Bruce finally completed the conquest of Galloway in 1313 when Dumfries fell, in 1313 Bruce carried out a surprise attack on Berwick which almost succeeded. In the same year, significantly, Bruce was carrying war outside Scotland’s borders not just into northern England but in capturing the Isle of Man. In September 1313 Bruce issued an ultimatum to all other Scots holding out that they must submit to him within a year or lose their lands and rights; the Scots and the besieged garrison of Stirling appealed to Edward II. The fighting stopped and the garrison agreed that if Edward did not come they would surrender into Robert’s lordship. Edward’s supporters in Scotland held their collective breath – while James Douglas snuck into Roxborough Castle and captured that too in a famous raid. And in 1314 of course, Edward came.
Looking back at the History of England Podcast, I managed to avoid talking about Bannockburn completely – I think I managed to persuade Zack Twambley to do a guest episode for me, and that is still available on the History of England Guests podcast, so hop over there if you want to listen to more. For here and now, suffice it to say that Edward came north with an army that may have approached twice the size of the Scottish army. But after Edward reached Edinburgh, Bruce decided that it was time to retreat no longer. And when he attacked on 24th June 1314, he scored a massive and complete victory over Edward. Although Edward escaped, thousands of his army died in the rout, though the Welsh contingent as it happens managed to retire all the way across Lothian to Carlisle in reasonably good order. Edward lost his court poet as it happens, which was fun for King Robert, since he was able to instruct said poet to compose a victory ode for the battle, which I think qualifies as pretty high grade banter. Even more fun was the English baggage train which was reputed to have yielded £200,000, which sounds like a vast exaggeration, but nonetheless whatever it was would have been a shot in the arm for the royal treasury.
Bannockburn is described as one of the truly decisive battles in British history, and certainly it ended all resistance within Scotland, at least until the 1330’s – within Scotland, King Robert was without doubt now supreme and in control. The Comyns were gone, many of the remaining Earls such as Dunbar were captured or submitted, Lothian was definitively within the kingdom of Scotland, Stirling duly surrendered.
In November 1314 Robert I as we might more properly call him now, confirmed and underlined his victory at a parliament by the site of his great victory. The parliament produced the Statute of Disinheritance, but which any lords who had not yet submitted were definitively disinherited of their lands. This group of men become known as the Disinherited, and were completely dependant on the King of England, and would remain a boil on the leg of the Scottish body politic, a boil waiting to burst. Within the boil were many lords whose primary lands were anyway in England, but included men like the Earl of Athol, and it included John MacDougall of Argyl. The wars of independence had been disastrous for the MacDougalls, who had been thrown out of western Scotland, and essentially the lordship of the western isles was now the preserve of the MacDonalds, a supremacy which would have consequences for Scotland’s future unity. And of course there was the family of the Balliols – John might have permanently resigned any hope of becoming king, even if he wanted to be, but his son, Edward, might have different views. It included also a man called William Soulis, the descendant of a man called John Soulis, who had represented Baliol as Guardian. The Disinherited would be looking for their chance, and one day it would come.
But for now, Robert I was secure in his own realm, and Scotland had regained her independence, and the hammer of the Scots must have been beating with fury against the walls of his tomb. Now Robert could take the initiative in war, beyond his borders. He could seek to settle his realm, and win international recognition for the new Scottish kingdom. It seems a good place to quote another speech reported to have been given by Bruce at Bannockburn:
‘My lords, my people, who are wont to put a high price on freedom, think of the hardships we have suffered for eight years as we have struggled for honour and freedom and for our right to the kingdom’