Robert the Bruce: the never-say-die king (and the spider)
Robert the Bruce, more formally known as King Robert I of Scotland, was born on this day, July 11 1274. He was a fierce warrior-king, who led the Scots in a number of battles trying to win independence from England, despite he is probably best known for his alleged encounter with a spider!
Historically, he first took up arms against the English in 1297 when he joined the revolt led by freedom fighter William Wallace, the Scottish hero portrayed by Mel Gibson in the popular 1995 Oscar-winning movie, Braveheart.
Robert came from a long line of noble ancestors and as well as shaking off the shackles of the English oppressors, he had ambitions to become King of Scotland, so much so that in 1306 he stabbed to death John Comyn, his main rival for the throne, in a church. Of course, this act did not please the Pope who promptly excommunicated the ambitious Scot.
Undeterred, Robert went on to claim the throne and to step up his campaign against the English, culminating in the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 where he defeated a much larger army led by King Edward II of England himself.
Before that, however, he lost six successive battles and was forced to go into hiding.
According to legend, as a desperate Robert lay on his bed he watched a spider swinging from the roof, trying to spin a web. Six times it tried and failed to complete the web, but became successful on the seventh attempt.
As story goes, Robert took this as an omen, picked up his sword, rallied his men and resumed his campaign against the hated English.
And so, in 1320, Scottish nobles sent the Declaration of Arbroath to the Pope, asserting Scotland’s independence and naming Robert as their rightful king.
Four years later, the Pope formally accepted this declaration.
The never-say-die king passed away in 1329, leaving instructions that his heart was to be removed from his body and taken on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
However It never made it, because the knight making the journey, Sir James Douglas, was killed on the way and Robert the Bruce’s embalmed heart was then returned to Scotland and buried in Melrose Abbey. His body was buried at Dunfermline Abbey.