Highland Warlord - Amy Jarecki
The King’s Outlaws is a romantic series based upon the heroes who supported Robert the Bruce during his rise to greatness. It was an era of brutal unrest, which is often misunderstood. The following foreword summarizes the political climate and historical events leading up to the opening of Chapter One.
A great deal is unknown about Robert the Bruce’s early life. It is a fact that the Bruce Clan had divided loyalties because of their land holdings on either side of the Scottish/English border as was the case with many noble families. However, Robert the Bruce’s actions even as a young man demonstrated a leaning of patriotism for his beloved Scotland. He was a loyal son, a dedicated father, and a nobleman caught amid the turmoil of his time.
Robert the Bruce was only eleven years of age when King Alexander III died in March of 1286. Indeed, Robert would have still been a lad at his father’s table when in 1290 he received news of the death of Alexander’s only heir, the Maid of Norway. With no clear successor, Edward I of England, who was also Alexander’s father-in-law, was invited by Scottish magnates to select the next king. Several families stepped forward as competitors for the crown, but those with the strongest claims were the Balliols and the Bruces. Edward, who later earned the moniker, “Hammer of the Scots”, immediately seized the opportunity to declare himself suzerain, or overlord of Scotland. The Bruces were considered too powerful for Edward’s interests and, thus, in November of 1292 he selected the weaker competitor, John Balliol, as king.
Afterward, to protect his family’s claim to the throne, in 1295 Robert de Brus, 6th Lord of Annandale, resigned the earldom of Carrick to his eldest son, Robert the Bruce, now a twenty-one-year-old man.
During Balliol’s four-year reign, Edward required the Scottish king to repeatedly submit to humiliating subjugation. In 1296, Balliol retaliated, was defeated, and eventually sent into exile in France. Of course, Edward saw fit to retaliate and flex his muscle against the Scots. Most memorable in this rising was the sack of Berwick in the spring of 1296 where, for three days, Edward’s army slaughtered men, women, and children in one of the most savage acts of war ever committed. Further rubbing salt into the wound, at Wark the Scottish nobles, including the elder Bruce and his son, were required to sign the Ragman Roll declaring fealty to Edward, after which, the patriarch of the Bruce Clan decided to withdraw from the political scene. No matter what the new Earl of Carrick felt or how much he desired revenge, Robert was bound by a familial duty to obey his father.
But he eventually acted on his conscience. On the 7th of July1297, Robert the Bruce took part in a failed rising at Irvine. As a result, he was nearly forced to surrender his daughter, Marjorie, to Edward. But when Robert refused, three sureties were accepted on his behalf, that of Bishop Wishart, the Stewart, and Sir Alexander Lindsay. Needless to say, Bruce then came under a great deal of English scrutiny. Also in 1297, William Wallace joined forces with Andrew de Moray and defeated the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. In June of 1298, Wallace was retained as Guardian of Scotland and, as legend has it, was knighted by the Earl of Carrick. This act was a key indication that the Bruces, as with many nobles, had finally endured enough of Edward’s tyranny and had begun subtle activities to support the Scottish cause.
When Wallace left for the Continent to seek help from the pope, it is important to note that Robert the Bruce was appointed guardian along with Bishop Lamberton, and John Comyn, nephew of John Balliol (yet another contender for the throne). Bruce and Comyn did not get along, possibly because of Robert’s radical leanings toward independence, but his fervor ended up seeing him edged out of the guardianship.
By 1300, there was once again one Guardian of Scotland, Sir John de Soules. At this time, Edward was still conducting raids into Scotland and, in 1301 after skirmishes led by Robert the Bruce, Edward captured Turnberry, Robert’s ancestral castle. In a political ploy to regain his lands, he surrendered in January of 1302, six months before his twenty-eighth birthday. With the restoration of his estates, he was hamstringed by the determination to stay alive and stay free. It is said the ensuing years were the most difficult of his life. He was called upon many