Robert The Bruce, King of Scots, Bronze


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Between 1290 and 1306, when Robert I was crowned on the Stone of Destiny at the old Pictish capital of Scone, Scotland was in a state of rebellion with its major castles occupied by English soldiers. To seize the throne it had been necessary for Bruce to murder Edward's candidate with the result that the new king was considered both a traitor and a murderer. His army was defeated in two battles in 1306 after which he became a hunted fugitive. But in 1307 a very important event took place; the greatly feared and highly respected king, Edward the First died and his incompetent son was crowned in his place. After this Bruce's luck changed.
Returning to his home country in Ayrshire in the west of Scotland, Bruce raised a small army with which he slowly won back large parts of central and southern Scotland and, more importantly, the support of the Scottish nobility. Over the next 6 years with an ever increasing army all the towns and castles garrisoned by English troops were recaptured with the exception of the immensely powerful and important castle at Stirling which commanded the rich lowlands of the rivers Forth and Tay. It was to relieve the siege of this castle that Edward the Second sent a large army of foot soldiers and cavalry to Scotland in the summer of 1314. The two armies met in the valley of the Bannock Burn and the English Army was routed - mainly due to bad English general-ship and the skilful use by Bruce of his small force of cavalry against the English archers equipped with deadly longbows against which foot soldiers had no defence. With the Scottish victory Stirling Castle surrendered. The address to his troops before the battle was imagined by Robert Burns and his song 'Scots Wha Hae' is considered one of the most stirring pieces of patriotic verse ever written.
Apart from returning Scotland its lost pride Bruce did much to re-establish law and order into a country which had been ungovernable for nearly 20 years. But it was not until 1328, the year before his death from leprosy near Glasgow, that he signed the immensely important Treaty of Northampton which confirmed the recognition of himself and his successors as Kings of the Scots and the abandonment of all English claims to overlord-ship of Scotland.
For the last ten years of his life Bruce sought forgiveness for the murder of his rival Comyn of Badenoch and it was his fervent desire to participate in a Crusade. This dream was never to be realised. After his death his heart was placed in a small casket and worn round the neck of his kinsman Lord James Douglas on a crusade to evict the Moors from Spain. During the battle it is said that he threw the casket into the thick of the fray shouting 'Forward brave heart as thou were wont: Douglas will follow you or die'. He was never seen alive again. After the battle the casket was retrieved and some say it was returned to Scotland where it was buried under the altar of Melrose Abbey - a monastery he visited many times during his years of exile. The burial of his heart is, like so many other things part of the mystique of the man who is so finely woven into the tapestry of Scotland's history.
A visit to the fine statue of Robert the Bruce in full battle-armour, mounted on his war horse at the site of his great victory at Bannockburn has become a place of pilgrimage for thousands of Scots; who come to pay their respects to a man who can truly be called one of Scotland's best loved heroes. The statuette is based on the full sized monument to be found on the Stirling Castle Esplanade.