Robert I

(1274—1329) king of Scots

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earl of Carrick (1292–1306), king of Scots as Robert I (1306–29). Grandson of Robert Bruce, the competitor for the Scottish throne in 1291, Bruce never lost sight of his claim to the throne. After John Balliol's resignation in 1296, Edward I starkly refused any consideration of the Bruce claim. Despite the Scots' continued loyalty to their deposed king Bruce was deeply involved in the rising of 1297, and continued in resistance even after the defeat at Falkirk (22 July 1298). He served as joint guardian from 1298 probably to early 1300, and remained on the Scottish side till 1302. Then however he made his peace with Edward. Bruce's desertion certainly reduced the chances of Balliol's restoration; and resistance to Edward collapsed in 1304.

Bruce's next move, the coup of 1306, remains very hard to explain. We know that he tried to negotiate with John Comyn of Badenoch just before he revolted openly early in 1306, and that the result was a quarrel in which Comyn was murdered. Barrow has suggested that Bruce had been biding his time till Edward was close to death, and that in 1306 he judged the time ripe.

Bruce was crowned as Robert I on 25 March 1306; but though Edward was sick he was not to be trifled with. Robert himself was defeated at Methven (19 June 1306) by Edward's newly appointed lieutenant Aymer de Valence. Robert's supporters and relatives were hunted down and executed; he himself had to go into hiding. He reappeared in Ayrshire in the spring of 1307, and Edward I died in July. Edward II had little energy to spare for Scotland for some years, and this enabled Robert to overcome his internal enemies. The power of the Comyns was destroyed at the battle of Inverurie. Others, such as the earl of Ross, were won over. By 1314, effective English power was limited to Lothian.

The years from 1308 also saw King Robert's grip over government tightened. In a parliament at St Andrews in 1309, declarations were issued asserting Robert's right to the throne as the lawful successor of Alexander III, and denouncing the aggression of Edward I. Robert I was now widely accepted in Scotland as the rightful king. His authority was confirmed by the decisive victory of Bannockburn (24 June 1314), following on the recapture of Edinburgh and Roxburgh castles earlier in the year.

In the rest of his reign, Robert I showed himself a masterful king. He was willing to be reconciled with his former enemies, and readily accepted the loyal service of those who were willing to submit. His two chief problems were to secure the succession and to obtain recognition by other rulers. He fell foul of the papacy by his refusal to comply with a papal truce in 1317, as a result of which he was eventually excommunicated in 1320. That excommunication was respited as a result of the appeal usually known as the ‘declaration of Arbroath’; from then on, the pope was prepared at least to give King Robert his proper title. English recognition was more difficult. Edward II would not concede it; and it came only after his deposition. At last in 1328, by the treaty of Edinburgh/*Northampton, the English government admitted that Robert was king, and agreed to a marriage between his heir and a sister of the young Edward III as an earnest of a settled peace.


Subjects: British History.

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