Man dressed as Robert the Bruce stands in front of Craigmillar Castle. He holds a shield with a Lion Rampant, in his other hand he holds an axe

Robert the Bruce was one of the most revered warriors of his generation. Often referred to as ‘Good King Robert’, he is best known for his defeat of the English army under Edward II at Bannockburn in 1314.

With the hotly anticipated Netflix original film, Outlaw King, being released this Friday, Robert the Bruce is very much the man of the moment.

Bruce is such a well-known figure in Scottish history that facts you may not already know about him are quite hard to come by. However, we caught up with our historians Nikki Scott and Morvern French to chat about some lesser known bits of information. Take note of our ten facts below, and impress your friends with your knowledge as you watch Outlaw King!

Man dressed as Robert the Bruce stares out of a castle window

1. Never the twain shall meet

Although they were alive at the same time, and William Wallace was Guardian of Scotland immediately before Robert the Bruce, there is no evidence that the two ever met.

2. Not an axe-ident

The poet John Barbour wrote that Bruce broke a favourite axe killing Henry de Bohun in single combat at the Battle of Bannockburn.

Accounts tell that the English knight lowered his lance and charged at Bruce. The Scot stood his ground. At the last minute Bruce side-stepped the charge, bringing down his axe on the challenger’s head.

3. Family reunion

Bruce’s victory at Bannockburn in 1314 enabled him to demand the return from English captivity of his wife Elizabeth, his daughter Marjorie, his sister Christina, and Robert Wishart, bishop of Glasgow.

4. The Peerage of Scotland

Robert the Bruce was Earl of Carrick from 1292 to 1313. This title is now held by Charles, the Prince of Wales.

5. Changing sides

Both Robert and his father were loyal to the English king when war broke out in 1296. They even paid homage to Edward I at Berwick. However, eight months later Bruce renounced his oath and joined the Scottish revolt against Edward, recognising John Balliol as king.

From 1302 to 1304 Robert was again back in English allegiance. His marriage to Elizabeth de Burgh, daughter of the earl of Ulster (part of English-held Ireland) influenced this change. From 1304 he abandoned Balliol, and planned to take the throne for himself.

man dressed as Robert the Bruce descends a spiral staircase in a castle

6. An important landowner

As well as the earldom of Carrick and the lordship of Annandale, Bruce held land in the Carse of Gowrie, Dundee, and the Garioch in Aberdeenshire.

Before the Wars it was fairly common for Scots to hold English lands. Records show that Bruce held lands in Durham and other large English estates. In 1306, Edward I confiscated the honour of Huntingdon from Bruce.

7. An attack on the Irish

In 1315, Robert’s younger brother Edward led an expedition to Ireland. His aim was to overthrow the Dublin-based English government and become the High King of Ireland.

Robert joined his brother with a sizeable force in 1317. However, bad weather, famine, and disease forced the Scots to retreat when they reached Limerick. Edward held on in the north until he was defeated and killed in 1318.

8. A regal match

As per the terms of the 1328 Treaty of Edinburgh, making peace between Scotland and England, Robert’s son David (aged 4) was married to Edward III’s sister Joan (aged 7).

Other terms of the treaty saw Scotland agree to pay England £20,000 to end the war and England recognise Scotland’s independence with Robert I as king.

9. In the archives

More than 600 written acts by Bruce have survived, including charters, brieves, letters and treaties.

Most of these documents are grants or confirmations of property. This was a key way that Bruce rewarded individuals and families who had supported him.

10. A wee bit more inclusive

During Robert’s reign, parliament became more representative of the full community of the realm. Bruce summoned a small number of burgesses from each royal burgh to attend sessions in 1312 and 1326, after which it became normal practice.

Man dressed as Robert the Bruce on castle battlements

Keep an eye out later in the week for another blog post detailing our sites that feature as filming locations in Outlaw King. A Netflix original, the film follows Robert the Bruce’s battle to regain control after being made an outlaw by the King of England for taking the Scottish Crown.

Get your popcorn ready for Friday 9 November, and keep your eyes peeled for six Historic Scotland properties on screen!


About Author

Nicki Scott

Nicki is a cultural resources advisor with our Cultural and Natural Resources team. A historian by trade, Nicki mainly gives historical advice relating to our Historic Scotland properties.

  • Cameron Bruce

    yo im 99% sure im a distant relitive of King Sir Robert the bruce earl of Carrick

    • 999manman

      Same here…thru the Montgomery side.

      • john-andrew quinn

        Scratch a Scot to reveal an Irishman. And that’s a good thing.

  • Bob McDonald

    This article misses or misinterprets some important facts about the Bruces. Firstly, they were Normans, as were the kings of England at the time. We don’t know for sure if Robert or Edward I of England actually spoke any English. Robert almost certainly did speak Gaelic, he depended on the support of the Gaelic aristocracy of Scotland and Ireland to win the throne. His mother was a member of the old Gaelic aristocracy of Galloway and claimed descent from Irish kings. This is what allowed Robert to make a claim for the throne of Scotland (a kingdom established by the Irish) and allowed his brother Edward Bruce to make a claim for the throne of Ireland. The Bruces’ invasion of Ireland was an alliance with the Gaelic lords of Ulster aimed at driving out the Norman lords of Ireland. They almost succeeded. Edward Bruce was proclaimed High King of Ireland in 1316, but he was never able to subdue the whole island. He was at the gates of Dublin in 1317, but couldn’t lay siege because his soldiers were starving. This was in the middle of the Great Famine which affected all of Europe at the time. Neither side could keep an army in the field, so the fighting stopped for about a year. The delay gave the Normans time to regroup and bring in reinforcements from England. Edward Bruce was defeated and killed at the Battle of Faughart in 1318. Thus ended the dream of a restored Kingdom of Ireland, and it remained in the hands of the Normans and their English successors until the Republic of Ireland was proclaimed in 1949.