Ward's Book of Days.

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What happened on this day in history.

JULY 11th

On this day in history in 1274, was born Robert The Bruce.

Bruce was a contender for the throne who kept losing battles, until he was inspired by a spider to try again.

Robert de Bruce was born on 11th July 1274, into the Anglo-Norman family of Bruce, which had come to Scotland in the early 12th century, and was related to the Scottish royal family. In fact, Bruce was the great-great-great-great grandson of David I of Scots.

Between 1295 and 1304, the period of rebellions against English rule, Bruce at one period swore allegiance to Edward I of England, and, at another time, appeared among the leading supporters of the rebel William Wallace. There is nothing in his early life to suggest that he had ambitions for kingship but, in 1306, the chief claimant to the Scottish throne, John Ďthe Redí Comyn, was found dead in mysterious circumstances. There is no evidence to suggest that Bruce had him murdered, but he was accused of the crime on account of his unseemly and hasty dash to Scone to have himself crowned king, as Robert I of Scots.

The new king had angered Edward I of England, who had his own placeman in mind for the Scottish throne, and regarded Robert I as a traitor. Edward made every effort to crush what he perceived as rebellion. Robert was twice defeated in 1306, at Methven, near Perth, and at Dalry, near Tyndrum, Perthshire. His wife and some of his supporters were captured, and three of his brothers executed. Robert became a fugitive, hiding in a remote cave in Dumfriesshire. [Cave open to the public. Cove Farm, Kirkpatrick Fleming, Lockerbie, DG11 3AT]

Here, with his fortunes at a nadir, he saw a spider perseveringly weaving its web. Each time the spider failed at completing the web, but it simply started all over again, and at the seventh attempt succeeded. Inspired by this, Robert returned and gathered support from his only surviving brother and the legendry James ĎBlackí Douglas, a swordsman whose hatred of the English had increased exponentially after the death of his father at the hands of Edward Iís executioners. Robert went on to inflict a series of defeats on the English, capturing Perth and much of Galloway. Then, in 1307, Edward I died, leaving the throne of England to his inept son Edward II.

In 1314, the English army attempted to relieve the garrison of Stirling, but was met by Robertís forces at Bannockburn. Here, although outnumbered by 3 to 1, Robert inflicted a crushing defeat on the English forces, leaving 20,000 English dead in the field. The victory gave Robert effective control over Scotland, although it was not until 1328, that England recognised Scottish independence in the Treaty of Northampton.

Robert spent the rest of his reign consolidating his position. He made repeated raids into the north of England, which eventually led to the deposition of Edward II, whose followers became tired of incursions into English territory. He decreed that any nobles who remained in the allegiance of the English should forfeit their lands. Black Douglas acquired important lands in Selkirk and Roxburgh, which gave the Douglas family substantial power, which later kings of Scotland would come to fear.

In 1329, Robert he died of leprosy, contracted from meetings with pilgrims returning from Jerusalem. His body was buried in Dunfermline Abbey, [Abbey Park Place, Dunfermline, KY12 7PB] but the heart was removed on his instructions and taken by Black Douglas to be buried in Jerusalem. Douglas died fighting the Saracens in Spain, but the heart was recovered and brought back for burial at Melrose Abbey. [Melrose Abbey, Abbey Street, Melrose TD6 9LG] In 1921, a cone-shaped casket containing a heart, thought to be Robertís was uncovered during excavations at the abbey. Robert was succeeded by his son, David II, who was captured by the English and forced to resign the crown of Scotland, after his death, in favour of the king of England. Robert had a daughter, Marjorie, who married Walter Stewart. In 1316, she went riding while heavily pregnant and was thrown from her horse. She went into premature labour and gave birth to a son, Robert, but sadly she died within the hour. When David II died in 1371, leaving his kingdom to Edward III of England, Robert the younger mounted a rebellion and took the throne of Scotland as Robert II, starting the Stuart line of kings, which would eventually succeed to the English crown.

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