On Saturday 25 June 2022, A Force For Good was in the Great British City of Stirling to hold our "Bruce to Elizabeth: Our Great British Monarchy" Celebration Rally.
We were there on the 25th, because it was on the 23rd and 24th that the Battle of Bannockburn was fought, and won, by Robert the Bruce in 1314.
We were there to remember Bruce today, and to celebrate the fact that his memory lives on – and his legacy lives on – through his direct descendant Her Majesty the Queen in this her Platinum Jubilee Year!
In that sense, we celebrate the fact that the conflicts of the past are reconciled – healed – through the living embodiment of the Monarch today. We wrote an entire Special Edition of our magazine Union Heart, entitled "Happy and Glorious", which developed these matters, and it can be purchased here.
After our address ended, there was a pro-SNP/Green march which passed by us. It took 4 minutes and 30 seconds, and we counted 432 marchers.
We reminded them of the good news about Bruce to Elizabeth, and we spoke of the importance of reconciliation and healing, and the importance of not scratching at old wounds.
Prior to the event, we made the following notes to explain the background of the man of the hour, Robert the Bruce, and his famous Battle at the Bannock Burn!
JOHN BALLIOL PERIOD
When Queen Margaret died (also called the Maid of Norway, the grand-daughter of Alexander III) at the tender age of 7 in Orkney in September 1290, the Scottish throne was vacant.
There were 13 contenders including Robert the Bruce's grand-father Robert Bruce 5th Lord of Allandale.
Edward I was asked to arbitrate by nobles, who are known today as the "Guardians of Scotland".
Edward I was a descendant of the Scots King Malcolm III (Malcolm Canmore) through Malcolm's daughter, Matilda of Scotland who married Henry I of England. In that sense, Edward also had a claim to the throne of Scotland.
Be that as it may, he agreed to arbitrate on the condition of being granted various rights as feudal overlord of Scotland.
On acquiring various terms, he set up a court of "auditors", with himself as president. He chose 24 of them, while the two claimants with the strongest cases – Bruce and Balliol – appointed 40 each.
Robert de Brus, 5th Lord of Annandale, had a claim on the basis that he was the great, great grandson of David I and Maud, Countess of Huntingdon.
His claim didn't succeed and John Balliol became King.
In time, Balliol was accused of being too much of a vassal of Edward I to the point where it could be said – from a romantic view of the matter – that Scotland was losing a distinct regal and national identity.
From a harder-nosed practical point of view, the fact that certain elements of the nobility in Scotland laid claim to the ownership of the land for themselves, also played a not-inconsiderable part in their attitudes!
WILLIAM WALLACE PERIOD
Edward deposed Balliol in 1296, and until Bruce was crowned in 1306, there was no fully recognised King of Scots.
In this period William Wallace arose, and beat Edward's soldiers at Stirling Bridge on 11 September 1297.
He was defeated by Edward at the Battle of Falkirk on 22 July 1298, and subsequently renounced his title as Guardian of Scotland. He was captured and executed in 1305.
ROBERT THE BRUCE, ARISES
The man we know today as Robert the Bruce was born 11 July 1274, probably at his mother's castle – Turnberry in Ayrshire although some people say he was born in Essex.
Some people say he "was actually French" but that's wrong. That's a bit like claiming that the present Royal Family "are actually German".
After all, his ancestor, Robert de Brus, 1st Lord of Annandale, the first of the Bruce line, had settled in Scotland during the reign of King David in 1124, 150 years before Bruce was born!
Bruce's mother was Margaret, the Countess of Carrick, of the Clan MacDuff.
Today, the Earl of Carrick is Bruce's direct descendant, Prince Charles.
Bruce notoriously stabbed John Comyn – a powerful noble and John Balliol supporter – to death on 10 February 1306 in the Chapel of Greyfriars Monastery in Dumfries. He was ex-communicated for this crime.
Six weeks later, he was crowned (arguably "crowned" himself) King on 25 March 1306, at Scone, and was King of Scots to his death on 7 June 1329.
In 1307, Edward I died and was replaced by his son, Edward II.
In 1308 Bruce waged war against the Comyns in Buchan and Aberdeenshire, and against their allies, the MacDougalls in Argyle and Kintyre.
The destruction of the Comyns and the MacDougalls would lead to the rise of the Campbells and the McDonalds.
By March 1309, Bruce controlled all of Scotland north of the River Tay. He fought against the pro-Edward outposts in Linlithgow in 1310, and Dumbarton and Perth in 1311. He even invaded the Isle of Man, capturing it in 1313.
In the spring of 1314, Bruce had to control Stirling Castle if he were to control Scotland.
However, Stirling Castle was loyal to Edward II.
His younger brother (Edward Bruce) laid siege to it.
It was held by Scottish nobleman Philip de Mowbray, who was descended from the Comyn family, and who opposed Bruce.
At the time, the conflict had a lot to do with loyalties to family, to clans, to powerful people and personal interests. However, down through time, it has been simplified – and arguably corrupted for consumption – as a battle between "Scots v English".
de Mowbray agreed to surrender the Castle if it was not relieved by Midsummers Day, June 24th.
THE BATTLE at the BANNOCK BURN
For Bruce, this battle was the final throw of the dice. It was to establish his legitimacy as King.
If he lost, then his reputation would be lost and many people would have given their loyalty back to Edward II.
Edward II force-marched his army north from Berwick in an attempt to relieve de Mowbray.
By the 23rd of June, Edward's army had reached the Bannock Burn.
Here, they met Bruce and his army, with Bruce leading from the front. The day is notable for the square-go horse charge between Bruce, and one of the leaders of Edward's forces, Henry de Bohun.
Henry de Bohun rode forward with his lance, but was parried and killed by Bruce with an axe blow. Bruce's forces charged, and Edward's forces retreated back over the Bannock Burn.
By the next day, the 24th – Midsummers Day – Edward's army was weary. On receiving news of the low morale, Bruce struck early, and was able to scatter them.
It was the revolutionary use of Spear Schiltrons – groups of men with long lances who could move and form quickly like a hedgehog, which was to decimate Edward's cavalry, and ultimately win the Battle, with Edward having to be led from the Battle by his own men.
After the Battle of Bannockburn, Bruce launched raids throughout northern England, and with his brother Edward, in 1315, he also invaded Ireland, appealing to the Irish to rise against Edward II.
He captured Berwick in 1318, but Edward II still refused to renounce his own claim to be the overlord of Scotland.
In 1320, the Scottish nobility submitted the Declaration of Arbroath to Pope John XXII requesting that he recognise Robert as the rightful king. But this failed to have the desired effect. It wasn't until 1324, that the Pope recognised Robert as King of Scots.
In 1327, Edward II abdicated in favour of his son, Edward III, and peace was concluded between Scotland and England with the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton in 1328, by which Edward III renounced all claims over Scotland.
In 1328 the Pope lifted the ex-communication of Robert.
Bruce died the next year on 7 June 1329 at Cardross Manor, near Dumbarton. His body is buried in Dunfermline Abbey, his heart interred in Melrose Abbey (after a sojourn in 1330 on a crusade with Sir James Douglas in Spain), and his internal organs in St Serf's Church, Dumbarton.
He was succeeded by his son, David II.