Date of Birth: 11 July 1274
Spouse: (1) Isabella, daughter of Domhnall I, earl of Mar, and Helen of Wales, then (2) Elizabeth, daughter of Richard, earl of Ulster, and Margarite de Burgh
Reign: 1306 – 1329
Summary: The descendant of Norman mercenaries who fought for William the Conqueror in England in the eleventh century, Robert Bruce may have seemed an unlikely candidate for the throne of Scotland in 1306. His claim was strictly hereditary and it was not the best. The strongest claim went to John Balliol, the elected king of Scots between 1292 and 1296 when King Edward I of England installed him. John was still alive when the Scots rose up in rebellion in 1296, and Robert was one of the leaders. This was possible because Robert was the great-great-grandson of David, earl of Huntingdon, the grandson of King David I of Scotland. Through various dynastic problems, the male line of the House of Dunkeld ended in 1286 and the next-in-line died four years later having never made it to Scotland. The Guardians of the Realm, major nobles in Scotland, could not decide on a successor. John was the senior-most representative via primogeniture, but Robert's grandfather was the eldest surviving relative (called proximity-of-blood). The Bruce line refused to accept John as king and supported King Edward I when he decided to depose John in 1296. Robert became the earl of Carrick in 1292 when his mother died and he attempted to remain outside of Scottish politics for the first few years of his adult life. In 1297, Robert reneged on his fealty to Edward of England and joined the rebel cause. He briefly came to terms with England but then resumed the fight after the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Interestingly, he laid waste to his own English lands in Annandale. When William Wallace resigned as the Guardian of Scotland after the Battle of Falkirk, Robert and John's nephew John Comyn took over the post. Robert remained in the position a year before resigning. Robert returned to the English side in the conflict in 1302 after a truce was agreed upon. By 1304, all of Scotland was under Edward's control and all the leaders of the revolt had pledged their fealty to Edward except for Wallace. While Wallace was captured in Glasgow then quartered in London, Edward was busy destroying Scotland as a realm, installing English lords and demanding high tributes to England. Robert resided in England for a while until a conspiracy led by John Comyn forced him to flee to Scotland and kill the upstart. Robert, seeing no alternative, declared himself the rightful king of Scots and was crowned at Perth in 1306.
Robert I's reign started on several bad notes. He was defeated twice and his wife and daughters were captured. Two daughters and a brother were later executed by Edward I. Luckily, the king died soon after leaving the English throne to the incapable Edward II. For two years, Robert was a king on the run. Southern Scotland was in the midst of a guerrilla war; two more of Robert's brothers were killed near Loch Ryan. Robert finally began to take ground 1307, capturing castles in the Highlands and burning anything he could not take. At the Battle o the Pass of Brander, the remaining Comyn Clan as well as the MacDougalls were almost completely killed, ending their rival claim to the throne. In 1309, the Scottish Parliament recognized Robert as king of Scots. Over the next five years, English outposts throughout Scotland were reduced to ashes. Even the Isle of Man was captured in 1314. In that year, at the Battle of Bannockburn, Edward II was defeated in person and Scottish independence was secured from the English. Scottish armies marched into northern England to reclaim hereditary lands while Robert and his brother Edward invaded Ireland to free that island from the English yoke. Edward was even crowned High King of Ireland, the last person to ever receive the title. Robert hoped to secure a pan-Gaelic alliance with the goal of eventually uniting Ireland and Scotland into one state. His second marriage to the daughter of the earl of Ulster and his Gaelic ancestry on his mother's side helped support his goal. Unfortunately, southern Gaels in Ireland refused to support Robert's goals and many saw the invasion as Scottish imperialism. Edward Bruce was killed in 1318 and the struggle for Ireland largely ended after that. England finally recognized Scotland as an independent state and Robert as its king in 1328 under Edward III after Pope John XXII lifted an English-influenced excommunication of the king two decades earlier. Robert died the following year from a disease that had been effecting him for years; possibly leprosy. Robert I was succeeded by his young son David II to the throne. The son of his daughter, Marjorie, would eventually become the first Stewart king, Robert II.
Date of Death: 7 June 1329
Successor: David II
Other Monarch Deaths:
Ashikaga Takauji, shogun of Japan (1358)
Frederick William III, king of Prussia (1840)