19 July 2021

Remember mum on the anniversary of her birthday

Today is the anniversary of my mum's birthday.  She would have been 82 years old.  Hard to believe.  Hard to believe she had been gone 25 years.  I recall her telling me tales of the family's history. I recall her taking me to places she loved.  I recall she was a true bard and the children would gather around her at family reunions and beg her to to tell them stories of our past.  I recall she was often too sad, suffering from manic depression left untreated. 

 I recall her life ended too young.

11 July 2021

On this day 1274 Robert de Brus, earl of Carrick, king of the Scots was born

 11 July 1274: The birth of the future Robert the Bruce, or Robert I of Scotland, at Turnberry Castle.


I have 27 lines (and counting...lol) as Bruce's great-granddaughter.  Three at 17th GGF, one st 19th GGF and twenty-three at 20th GGF.

Turnberry Castle, the home of Marjorie Carrick, countess of Carrick in her own right,
 mother of Robert de Brus.

07 July 2021

The Women of Bruce — Part 4 —The Sisters of Robert the Bruce — Christian


The Women of Bruce–Part Four 
The Sisters of Robert Bruce

When I first set up my series of articles on the Women of Bruce, I had intended to devote  a single article to Robert the Bruce’s six sisters.  However, as I began writing the blog, I found one sister earned her own individual story.  For Christian de Brus was a woman to draw admiration and respect.  Born about 1273 at Turnberry Castle, she was the third daughter to Robert and Marjorie, and she is likely the most colorful, controversial and tragic Bruce sister.

Like most females of this period in history, little is recorded of her childhood, or her life before she married.  Controversy pops up quickly at this point, as it is now fashionable to try and cast doubt that her first marriage ever took place.  I cannot follow that trend.  Too much evidence says otherwise.  Her first marriage was to Gartnait mac Domhnail, Mormaer and 7th earl of Mar, sheriff of Aberdeenshire.  Gartnait’s father was a longtime supporter of the Bruces; he was ambitious, and blessed with the farseeing vision to back Clan Bruce.  The joining of Mar and Bruce bloods was the perfect balance for future rulers of the country—the Bruces coming from Norman ancestry would see the Lowlanders following them, while the ancient line of Mar would open doors through the old Celtic Scots.  With that dream in mind, Domhnall mac Uilleim, 6th earl of Mar set out to see his line woven into the Bruces through a double marriage.   

In about 1292, he wed his son Gartnait to Christian.  As her bride’s gift from her father, she received the lands of Garioch for her life.  The earls of Mar eventually inherited the feudal lordship of Garioch through her (not a peerage dignity) and were even latterly styled the "earls of Garioch”.  By the Mars inheriting Christian’s holdingher grandson being the first earl of Gariochit’s clear that she did wed him.  That assumption is further backed up by the holding of Kildrummy Castle, seat of the earls of Mar.  In 1305, her brother Robert was in possession of the Mar stronghold.  This would indicate the castle went to Mar’s small son, his heir, after his death, and Robert, as his uncle, was acting as guardian for his nephew, controlling the fortress until the boy came of age to accept responsibility of the earldom.

To further back up my inference is wording in the truce made with Edward in January 1302.  When Robert saw his fighting for Scotland was only opening the door for the return of King John Balliol—which was basically giving all the power to John Comyn earl of Buchan, and to Red Comyn, Robert gave up the struggle.  He made peace with King Edward.  It is specific to note in the pact, which can still be read, is a listing of the return of all lands in England, Scotland and France to Robert, and that his people wouldn’t suffer for taking up arms and following him in rebellion.  Right in the middle of this avowing is reference to the earl of Mar’s son being given over to Robert as his ward.  Why else would this be included in this pact, except Robert was trying to protect his nephew by Christian?

“And the King grants to Robert the wardship and marriage of the Earl of Mar's son and heir.  And because it is feared the Kingdom of Scotland may be removed out of the hands of the King’s hands which God forbid and handed over to Sir John Balliol…”

Less than three years after Gartnait wed Christian, Gartnait’s sister, Isabel, would marry Christian’s brother, Robert earl of Carrick (with papal dispensation, naturally).  Brother and sister marrying brother and sister, saw Mar blood destined to flow through the child, and future children, that would one day sit on the throne of Scotland.

arms of Mar

Christian gave Gartnait a son, Domhnall Mar, and twin daughters, Elyne de Mar and Margaret de Mar.  Only, their marriage was short-lived, and his death mysteriously unexplained.  Mar was on record as having reconciled with Edward in 1302 and the English king appointed him “warden of Garioch” to enforce Edward’s Peace.  Sometime before 1305, Gartnait vanishes from history and not a word of how or why.  We might infer he died acting as warden in the troubled times.

If Christian despaired that her life was filled with sorrow at losing her husband, she could little foresee what would come at her in the year following.  A little over a year later, in March of 1306, she wed her second husband, Sir Christopher Seton.  A close companion to her brother, Christopher was at his side when Bruce faced Red Comyn at Greyfriars Abbey.  Some report it was he, not Bruce, who struck the fatal blow to Comyn (though other sources credit this deed to Sir James Kirkpatrick, another close ally of Robert).  Legend records Seton saved Robert’s life at the Battle of Methven on 19th June 1306, when the new king fell from his horse.  The battle was a total rout, setting the Scots to fleeing.

Ruins of Kildrummy Castle

Robert had sent his second wife, Elizabeth, his daughter by his first marriage, Marjorie, Isabella Macduff (the cousin who crowned him) and his two sisters—Christian and Mary—to Kildrummy Castle.  The people of Kildrummy were still devoted to Christian.  The stronghold was a formidable one, and clearly Bruce assumed they would be safe there.  Their brother Nigel was in command of the castle.  When a blacksmith betrayed all by setting a grain store afire, Nigel bravely defended the stronghold, knowing all was lost, giving his sisters and kinswomen time to flee.  Nigel lost his life for the valiant effort, along with the entire garrison of the castle.  The women were later captured by William, earl of Ross, and turned over to King Edward as prisoners.

arms of Seton

Christian was sent to solitary confinement at the Gilbertine nunnery at Sixhills in Lincolnshire, England.  She wasn’t the only female prisoner of nobility housed there.  Gwladys ferch Dafydd was the daughter of Dafydd ap Gruffud, the Last Free Prince of Wales.  After executing her father for treason, Edward sent Gwladys–a mere child—to the remote Sixhills Priory.  She died there in 1336, having spent her whole life as a prisoner to three English kings.  While Christian’s fate was grim, it was much kinder than what her sister suffered, and that of Isabella Macduff.  That Christian did not face being held in a cage outside also reinforces the validity of her marriage to Mar.  The Setons were a family rising in prominence, but held little sway in either country at that time; on the other hand, the powerful earls of Mar traced their lineage back to the early kings of Scotland.  Edward could be brutal, cruel; however, he was also mindful of forgiving perceived offenses from nobleswhen it was to his benefit.  He didn’t dare risk harming Christian for fear the Mars might raise their countrymen against him. Her sister, Mary, was married to Sir Neil Campbell, son of Cailean Mór Campbell, coming from the mighty earls of Argyll.  Why that connection didn’t help save Mary from the cage was simple—Neil was one of Bruce’s most trusted lieutenants, and had fought by his side at every point of Bruce’s rebellions.  Thus, she suffered the full force of Edward’s vindictive fury.


Sixhills Abbey, Lincolnshire, England 

The next we learn of Seton’s whereabouts comes in the attack at Loch Doon Castle.  Some try to say he was not at the Battle of Methven, citing his presence at Loch Doon.  However, the castle was a vital fortress for the earls of Carrick, and was one of three strongholds that Robert tried desperately to hang on to in order to keep power.  It is reasonable to assume, Robert sent Seton there just after the Methven defeat.   The castle was built on an island within Loch Doon, and consisted of a formidable eleven-sided curtain wall.  Yet, in spite of Seton’s heroic defence, the castle fell the 14th of August 1306.  It would not be retaken for another eight years.  The castle’s surrender supposedly came by the hand of the Governor, Sir Gilbert FitzRoland de Carrick (son of the illegitimate half-brother to Marjorie Carrick).  The truth that would come out much later: it was Gilbert’s brother-in-law who gave over to the English.   Christopher was hanged, drawn and quartered at Dumfries in accordance with Edward's new hardline policy of giving no quarter to Scottish prisoners. 


Loch Doon Castle ruins
(relocated in 1937 due to raising the level of the loch for a hydroelectric project)

More controversy arises—there is a question that Christian was pregnant with Christopher’s child when she was captured.  Possible?  Perhaps.  As in the question I raised in my last article over concerns that Robert’s queen had been with child there are no records referring to a child taken as prisoner, nor one born in captivity— I see the same circumstances reflected in this child of Seton.  Two different Alexander Setons are listed as her son.  One is cited as born in 1252 (which is two decades before Christian’s own birth!) and another as 1290 (at which time she hadn’t married her first husband!).  Thus, I surmise it reasonably safe to assume she was neither pregnant, nor had a newborn infant at the time of her capture.  Worse, some historians credit her with giving birth to a daughter by Seton before 1306 named Margaret.  I think they are confusing her daughter, Margaret de Mar, by Gartnait with a 'daughter' with Seton.  Possibly, an attempt of those to forge a link for their family lines to Bruce blood? 

Poor Christian even sees historians trying to deny her as mother of the son by Mar.  I suppose since they see it as target of choice to refute the marriage took place, so the next step would be to claim the children from that union aren’t hers.  Mar’s son was also held prisoner by Edward.  The naysayers point to no correspondence between the two during their captivity.  It is not hard to envision a man who commanded women held in cages, also capable of preventing correspondence to and from his prisoners.

Christian went on to live as a hostage to the English for eight years.  She was made prisoner to Edward I, and it would be another king—Edward II—that would finally recognize her brother as the true king of the Scots, and agree to send the Bruce women home in 1314.  Christian returned home to her lands, to children who were nearly grown, and once more she was a widow.

The little over a year after her release her brother, Edward, invaded Ireland, and the following year on the 2nd May 1316 he was crowned king of Ireland.  That same year Marjorie Bruce died, giving birth to her son, who would one day be King Robert II.  Bruce joined his brother in Ireland for a spell, but by 1318, Edward was slain at the Battle of Dun Delgan on 5th October.

Still, life was far from through with this woman of Bruce.  There was talk of another marriage with Sir Andrew Harclay – at the time he was raised from baron of Carlisle to earl– as part of peace talks instigated by Harclay. Nothing came of it.  I would guess Christian would not accept an Englishman for a husband.  It's just as well they didn't wed, because Harclay was arrested after signing the treaty with King Robert.  Edward II had him executed for treason, hanged, drawn and quartered, and his body parts sent to different parts of the country as a warning.

Instead, Christian married a third husband of her choosing—Sir Andrew de Moray.  This man  was the son born posthumously to the late Andrew de Moray, lord of Bothwell, the same warrior, who fought with William Wallace at Stirling Bridge.  Moray, quite possibly, would have been crowned king instead of her brother, had young Andrew not died of wounds received in the decisive battle.  It is reported that Christian gave him two sons: Sir John de Moray and Sir Thomas de Moray

arms of Moray

Peace came to Scotland.  Edward II died, replaced by his son, Edward III.  Then, King Robert died.  Christian was there for the coronation of Robert’s son, David II.  She had lost two husbands and five brothers at the altar of Scotland, and lived through the reign of three English kings.  Even so, Christian was not a lady to sit idle with her spinning and weaving.  The English came northward, yet again, this time Edward III, backing the son of John Balliol in claiming he was the real king of the Scots.

After the Battle of Dupplin in August 1332, Andrew was named Regent of Scotland, protecting Robert’s small son, King David II.  While attacking Roxburgh Castle in 1333, he was captured and held prisoner for nearly two years.  Christian arranged ransom and he was released in 1335.  Upon his return, Parliament appointed him Guardian of Scotland.  He spent five years fighting the English, and repulsing their attempts to return Balliol to the throne. 

Christian was commander of Kildrummy Castle, and while Andrew was away, she found herself besieged later that year by David Strathbogie, a claimant for the title of earl of Atholl — and Edward Balliol’s chief commander in the north.  Strathbogie moved through Scotland with fire and sword, repeating the campaign of Edward I of 1296, in a clear attempt to wipe the freeholder lords off the face of Scotland.  Laying siege to Kildrummy Castle was to be the pinnacle of his campaign.  Only one obstacle lay in his path—Christian de Brus.  The fall of the castle would have been a big setback to the Scots, perhaps to the extent of losing the country.  Possibly, since the castle had been lost to the Bruces in 1306, in true warrior fashion, Christian held the castle in resolute determination.   She refused to surrender, and kept it and its people safe until her husband could march to her aid with an army of over one thousand strong.   Thanks to Christian drawing Strathbogie’s attention to focus on the siege, Andrew was able to attack Strathbogie’ from the rear, and even though outnumbered three to one, he defeated David Strathbogie’ at Culblean 30th November 1335.  Strathbogie stood with his back to a tree, pinned there, finally killed in a last stand, along with a small group of followers, including Walter and Thomas Comyn.  (A side note–Strathbogie was married to the daughter of Hugh de Beaumont and Alice Comyn, niece of the late John Comyn, earl of Buchan – the very pair who were likely responsible for the death of Isabella Macduff, countess of Buchan).

The Culblean Monument

After contracting pneumonia while besieging Edinburgh Castle in the early winter months of 1337, Andrew retired to Avoch Castle in Rossand less than a year later died, making Christian a widow for the third time.  She still retained possession of Kildrummy Castle and so she returned to her home.  King David was generous to his beloved aunt, providing her with an income from a number of sources, and his queen, Joan, was said to visit her at Kildrummy as well.

Through those years, tragedy had continually stalked Christian Bruce — brothers, husbands — so many had died.  Now, she was forced to watch her children die one-by-one, outliving all but one son.  Her first born son by Gartnait, who had spent years as a prisoner to both Edward and Edward II, was appointed Guardian of Scotland on 2nd August, 1332, following the death of Thomas Randolph, 1st earl of Moray (Christian's nephew).  The honor was only for a matter of days.  On the 11th of August at Dupplin Moor. Mar led the second division of the Scottish army, while Robert Bruce, lord of Liddesdale (Bruce's illegitimate son) led the first division.  Mar never saw his 38th birthday.  (Odd happenchance — Domhnall's son, Thomas, Mormaer of Mar, 1st earl of Garioch would also die at the same age.)  Domhnall was killed, along with Bruce of Liddesdale, who died leading the first charge.  Lost as well was Christian's grandnephew, son of Randolph—Thomas Randolph, 2nd earl of Moray.  A cousin, Duncan, earl of Fife a lieutenant under Mar (and brother to the woman who crowned Bruce king) barely escaped.  After her son's death, her husband had been appointed Guardian.

Margaret de Mar died in 1338 (the same year Christian had lost Andrew); almost nothing of this daughter is recorded, even the cause of death (Historians have her so muddled with the fictional daughter of Seton).  Margaret’s twin sister, Elyne de Mar, of Rusky and Knapdale died in 1342 at age 44, cause not given.  

At the Battle of Neville's Cross, the 17th  of October 1346, King David II (Bruce’s son) was taken prisoner by the English.  Along with him was Christian’s elder son by Andrew – Sir John de Moray.  Edward III had allowed Andrew to be ransomed—a decision that came back to cost him dearly – so he refused to allow his son to be ransomed.  John died in captivity at age 31 (likely from the Black Death) in September of 1351.  Christian would have relived every breath of every day for those nearly six years, knowing what her son suffered being held a hostage.   If that wasn’t sorrow enough to break anyone’s heart, Edward demanded that John’s younger brother, Thomas, take the place of John after his death.  Christian had to watch as yet another son by Andrew was turned over to be an English hostage.  The next blow to the family came in losing Christian in 1358.  She passed away three years before Thomas.  He died at age 35 — also of the plague, in 1361 — also still a hostage to an English king.   He was Christian’s only child to outlive her, but only by three years.

As the fashion for women in history, little is recorded of Christian’s death.  Her husband, Andrew, had been buried in the chapel at Rossmarkie.  Later, his body was reinterred in Dunfermline Abbey, next to Robert Bruce and Thomas Randolph, earl of Moray. Accordingly,  one might presume it Christian’s resting place as well.   Many of her ancestors and family were buried there—especially her brother, Robert.  Due to the Reformation and destruction of the abbey, many of the royal graves were lost.  It wasn’t until 1817 that Robert’s grave was found again.  Sadly, Christian’s final resting place remains a mystery.

Dunfermline Abbey

Christian Bruce de Mar de Seton de Moray was every bit the warrior her brother was.  In return, her legend has suffered the indifference of a history that little paid her life heed, now works to deny her a husband, denied her children by both Mar and de Moray as not being hers, and then contrarily gave her three sons named Alexander and a daughter by a man who was her husband but for a few fleeting months.  In the end, it has even deprived her of a final resting place, where people could come to pay their respects. Thousands visit Robert’s tomb each year.  How many ask, “Where is the grave of Lady Christian?” Few, if any.  Sadly, I fear Christian Bruce will never get the true homage she deserves, simply because she was a woman of Bruce and not a man.

Deborah writes Scottish Medieval Historical Romances
set in the time of Robert the Bruce in a series, the Dragons of Challon.

coming in August
you will meet other sisters of Robert the Bruce in Part 5 - 
The Tale of Two Isabels

03 July 2021

Links to my articles on my women ancestors

Coming in September
Women of Bruce - Part 6 - Sisters of Robert the Bruce--Maud, Margaret and Mary

Coming in August
Women of Bruce - Part 5 - Sisters of Robert the Bruce--A Tale of Two Isabels

Coming in July -

Women of Bruce - Part 4 - Sisters of Robert the Bruce--Christian

Women of Bruce - Part 3 - The Wives of Robert the Bruce

Women of Bruce - Part 2 - Isabel Macduff, countess of Buchan, a woman who crowned a king

A Tale of Two Women and One Castle - The Ladies of Dunbar - Part Two - Agnes Randolph

A Tale of Two Women and One Castle - The Ladies of Dunbar - Part One - Marjorie Comyn

Countess Mabel Montgomerie -- a woman ahead of her times, or a monster in men's eyes

13 June 2021

The Women of Bruce - Part Three - The Two Wives of Robert Bruce


The Women of Bruce - Part Three 

 The Two Wives of Robert Bruce

What do we know of the two women that married Robert the Bruce, king of the Scots?  There have been four, maybe more films made about Bruce’s life in the last 20 years, all iffy history at best, which is sad since the story of Bruce’s rise from the earl of Carrick to the man who fought his cousin to determine who would claim the crown is a wonderful tale.  Did the women who became his brides fare any better?  For the most part they were simply omitted, or if included written with questionable inaccurately.  Both women were born to be a queen, but only one reached that pinnacle.  They were both young, both reputed to be lovely, and both came from lineage that had ancient and royal blood running through the lines.


Isabel of Mar


Arms of Isabel of Mar

Isabel of Mar was born 1278 at Kildrummy, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  She was the first wife of Robert Bruce, and she carried blood royal on both sides of her family.  Her father, Donald "Domhnall mac Uilleim" Mar, 10th earl of Mar, whose lineage goes back to origins of Clan Macdonald and “King of the Hebrides”—Somerled.  He also was the great grandson of Henry I Beauclerc, king of England, younger son of William "the Conqueror" FitzRobert, duke of Normandy, king of England.  An impressive lineage but it is matched by  Isabel’s mother—Elen “the Younger” ferch Llywelyn was a princess of Wales, and widow of Mormaer Maol Choluim II, earl of Fife.  Her grandfather on her mother’s side was Llywelyn Fawr 'the Great' Llywelyn prince of Wales and Gwynedd, who married Lady Joan Siwan Fitzjohn of Wales, lady of Snowdon, illegitimate daughter of King John of England.  So in the marriage to Isabel, Bruce was cementing bonds not only to powerful clans of Scotland, but to the high English and Welsh rulers as well.  Isabel was a woman bred to be a queen, the perfect wife to rule at Robert’s side when the time came.

Isabel’s father was an ardent supporter of Robert Bruce, 5th lord of Annandale—Bruce’s grandfather, known as 'the Competitor'—and was there at Annandale’ back during The Great Cause.  Of the seventeen lords vying for the crown of the Scots, Annandale was one of the top three contenders, if not the candidate to wear the Scottish crown.  And it wasn’t arrogance for Annandale to expect, when all was said and done, that he would become the ruler of Scotland.  When Alexander II, his cousin, lacked an heir, the king had name Annandale as tanist—a Scottish term for heir apparent.  If Alexander had died at that point in history, Annandale would have become king of the Scots with none to lay challenge.  Later, he was Regent of Scotland during the minority of his second cousin, King Alexander III.   I am sure it came as a shock, which turned to outrage, when Edward chose John Balliol over him.  Edward had deliberately held the Bruces close to him, rewarded them richly in ways he wouldn’t do with other nobles, yet at the back of his mind was the truth—the men of Bruce were not to be taken lightly.  The ultimate goal for the English king was to fold Scotland into the kingdom of England, along with Wales, and then to add France.

The Earl of Mar was one of the seven Guardians of Scotland and he had believed Robert the Bruce was the lawful King of Scots. Mar could see great advantage in aligning his family with the Bruces.   In 1292, Isabel’s older brother, Gartnait mac Domhnaill, married Robert’s older sister, Christian.  Three years later, by papal dispensation, and at the age of 18, Isabel married Robert, earl of Carrick, who was four years her senior.  In a time when marriages for nobles were little more than political power moves, legend has it that Robert and Isabel were very much in love.  Few were surprised, when a short time later, Isabel was soon with child. They seemed blessed; she had a healthy pregnancy.  Late in 1296, Isabel gave birth to a daughter.  They named her Marjorie after Bruce’s late mother, Marjorie, countess of Carrick.  Then, Fate waved a hand on the night of December 12th, Isabel died at Castle Cardross, on the Firth of Clyde, in Renfrewshire.

Paisley Abbey

 Following her death, Isabel of Mar was buried at the Cluniac Paisley Abbey. Her tomb has not survived.  In his last act of revenge against Robert Bruce, Edward had the abbey burnt to the ground in 1307, thus destroying both the tomb of Isabel and her daughter Marjorie.  William Wallace was born in nearby Elderslie, and is believed to have been educated in the abbey when he was a boy.  Scots not being deterred had the Abbey was rebuilt.  An eerie circumstance arose when Isabel’s daughter, now grown and married to Walter Stewart, was riding near the abbey and was thrown from her horse. She was pregnant at the time.  They carried her to abbey for medical care.  I suppose saving the life of a princess came second to the child who might be king.  Robert II was born by caesarean section.  Considering the lack of anesthetics, it was small wonder she did not recover.  Marjorie was interred at the rebuilt abbey, as her mother before her had been once, and as the line of Stewarts after her.



Elizabeth de Burgh

Arms of Elizabeth de Burgh 

Elizabeth de Burgh was likely born in 1284 at Connaught Province, Ireland.  Some sources cite Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland as her place of birth.  However, since her father had been fighting in Wales with the king of England, and another daughter, Eleanor (named after Edward’s queen) was born in Wales, there is an outside chance Elizabeth might have been born there as well.  Without question she was conceived in Wales.  At this point in history, male historians barely noted the arrival of another de Burgh female, little need in their minds for accuracy of place and date of birth; they never suspected she would be one of the most famous queens of  Scotland, her legend only eclipsed by Mary queen of the Scots. 

She was the third daughter of seven, out of eleven children of  Richard Óg de Burgh, the ‘Red Earl’.  He was the 2nd earl of Ulster, 3rd baron of Connacht, Lieutenant of Ireland, Keeper of Athlone, Randown, and Roscommon Castles—and unarguably the most powerful man in Ireland.  His wife was Margaret Guines, daughter of Arnoul de Guines III and Alice de Coucy.  Margaret was a 2nd cousin once removed of Queen Eleanor.  Margaret was also a first cousin of Alexander III of Scotland, Edward I's brother-in-law.  Edward was Elizabeth’s godfather. As impressive as Margaret’s lineage was, her husband Richard matched it.  He was educated at the Court of Henry III (Edward’s father), thus cementing a lifelong friendship between Edward and Richard.  Through the years Richard was Edward’s closest friend and one of his most trusted advisers.  At nearly every battle Edward fought in England, Wales and Scotland, Richard was there at his back.

Elizabeth most likely met Robert Bruce, earl of Carrick, at the English Court.  The Bruces and de Burghs dancing to Edward’s whims, living and fighting nearly in the other’s pockets, there had to be occasions where both were in attendance.  With Isabel Mar’s death in 1296, Robert was a good catch for mothers looking for arranged marriages for their daughters. By 1300, there was some hint Edward was considering giving Robert a new bride.  Richard had three daughters of age at the time—Aveline, Eleanor and Elizabeth, the youngest.  The second daughter married Sir Thomas de Multon, 1st Lord Multon of Egremont, so that left the other two as candidates. Edward was playing a game of chess with the Bruces, often lavishing money on Robert after he refused to pay homage to John Balliol, and his lands in Scotland were seized in punishment.  At Court, he was mocked and called Edward’s Lordling. Some say, Edward paid more attention to Robert than he did his own son.  I truly think he hoped by keeping Robert close, he could curb the hunger to be the king of the Scots that had filled Robert’s father and grandfather.  And what better way than presenting him with a new wife?  Not just any bride—but one that was his goddaughter.

The English invaded Scotland in 1301.  In 1302, Robert married Elizabeth at Writtle, near Chelmsford in Essex. Robert would have been close to 28 and she was 18.  In 1304, Edward again invaded Scotland to regain control of Stirling Castle.  So, it’s not surprising to see the political turmoil around their marriage was coming to a head. 

On February 10th, 1306 at Greyfriars, Bruce met with John Red Comyn to settle, for once and all, who would be the future king of Scotland.  Comyn or his uncle tried to kill Bruce; in return, Bruce pulled his dirk from his boot and struck back, wounding Comyn.  Bruce staggered outside and told his trusted friend, Sir Alexander Seton, that he stabbed Comyn but the man was still alive. Roger de Kirkpatrick rushed inside to see, and came back with the tides that he killed Comyn. Events that would soon propel Elizabeth’s life out of control.

After meeting with the Church of Scotland, it was decided to crown Bruce king as soon as possible.  So on 27th March 1306, Robert and Elizabeth were crowned king and queen of Scots at Scone.  One might infer Elizabeth lacked faith that her husband’s bold move to be king would be a lasting one, for it is reported that she smiled faintly after the coronation and said, ‘Alas, we are but king and queen of the May that children crown for sport.’  The May King and May Queen only rule for one day.  On the other hand, perhaps it wasn’t a lack of faith in Bruce’s ability to hold the kingship as much as she understood her godfather’s ruthlessness when betrayed, and knowing also that her father would be backing Edward’s every move to put the new king down.  As well, two-thirds of Scotland aligned with Clan Comyn would be the hounds for Longshanks hunting Robert Bruce.

Thus, once again, the English army invaded.  Bruce was forced to contend with facing the English, and hampered by raising troops to fight for him.  Gold was offered to any man who could bring Bruce in.  Bruce had little time to form a strong government, or to raise his army, when he was compelled to meet the English at Methven.  Aymer de Valence, the English general acting for Edward I, had not only arrived with an established host of English soldiery and knights, the men of Comyn were flocking to him.  To Bruce’s credit he did have very able commanders in James Douglas, Christopher Seaton and Gilbert Hay to lead his troops.  Aymer de Valence seemed content to outwait Bruce.  In flamboyant fashion, Bruce invited de Valence to leave the walls of Perth and join him on the battlefield.  To his mistake, Robert presumed the preliminaries of feudal battle protocol would be observed.  When de Valence failed to take up the challenge, Bruce figured there would be no battle that day.  He and his forces retired for the night at Methven, expecting to get a good night’s sleep before the coming battle on the morrow.  Instead, before dawn, the English attacked and nearly destroyed Bruce’s forces.

Bruce had to scramble to see his family was moved out of harm’s way.  He sent  Elizabeth, his young daughter by his first marriage, Marjorie, and his sisters Mary and Christian to Kildrummy Castle, under the protection of his brother Nigel.  Kildrummy was the castle of Christian’s first husband Gartnait of Mar, and though she was now newly married to Christopher Seton, the people there were still very devoted to her.   Bruce, I would assume, thought the English would give chase to him, leaving the women safely out of reach.

Ruins of Kildrummy Castle

Again, underestimating the choices the enemy would make, the English laid siege to the castle containing the royal women. The siege finally succeeded when de Valance bribed a blacksmith with 'all the gold he could carry' to set fire to the grain store. Nigel gave a valiant defense, knowing the castle was lost, but giving time for the earl of Atholl to get the ladies safely away.  Nigel was captured alive.  He was taken to Berwick to be hanged, drawn and beheaded.

The Bruce ladies were probably heading to the Orkneys, where they would be beyond reach of Edward.  Isabel, another of Bruce’s sisters, had married Eric II Magnusson, king of Norway and ruler of the Orkneys.  Though Magnusson had died in 1299, Isabel had remained in Norway as dowager queen, and still exerted a great influence in court matter there and abroad.  However, the women only made it as far as the sanctuary of St. Duthac at Tain in Easter Ross.  There they were captured by a Balliol supporter, William, earl of Ross, who handed them over to Edward I’s men.  (Odd side noteless than two years later, Robert’s sister Maud would marry the son the earl of RossAodh 0'Beoland)  For his protection of the Bruce women, the earl of Atholl was hanged, drawn and beheaded.  His head was displayed on a pike on London Bridge.

Elizabeth spent the next eight years in captivity.  While Isabella Macduff, the woman who had crowned Bruce king, and Bruce’s sister, Mary, were taken to Berwick and Roxbury Castle, and hanged over the castle walls to punish Robert, his wife suffered a milder fate.  She was housed from October 1306 to July 1308 at Burstwick-in-Holderness, Yorkshire.  At first, she was confined with only two elderly women to take care of her needs, and ordered not to speak with her.  A letter from her during this period complained about her conditions, that she was limited to three sets of clothing and no headgear or linen bed clothing.  That saw a series of moves to other manors and castlesBisham Manor, Windsor Castle, Shaftesbury Abbey, Barking Abbey and finally Rochester Castle.   By the time she reached Windsor Castle, she had been given six servants and an allowance to pay them.  She was even permitted to have her pet Irish wolfhounds to keep her company.  At this point Edward was long dead, and she was dealing with his son, Edward II. 

So why had she been treated so well compared to the dire fates of Isabella and Mary?  Simply because she was Richard de Burgh’s daughter.  Edward had been planning on invading France for over a decade.  He needed men from Ireland to support that invasion, as well to replenish his forces in Scotland to fight Bruce, and de Burgh could do that. 

Bruce’s daughter was kept prisoner at the nunnery at Watton during those eight years.  But a puzzle surrounds Bruce’s daughters by Elizabeth.  They had three daughters:   Maud, Margaret and Elizabeth.  Not surprisingly, historians seem to have the births of the three mixed up, some even try to deny the existence of Elizabeth, and one says her birth was in 1364 (that is her death).   Genealogy sites list the dates of Maud’s birth as 1303, and then Margaret’s as 1307.  This seems perplexing.  Maud would have been three years old when her father was crowned king and her mother captured, if that were the case.  Yet, there is no reference to Elizabeth having a baby with her when captured by the earl of Ross.  John Fordun in his Scotichronicon refers to Maud as “did nothing worth recording”.  I would think if she had been held captive with her mother, or take from her mother by the English, then Fordun might have deemed her worthy of writing about!  And if the second daughter was born in 1307, that would mean Elizabeth have given birth to her after she was a prisoner.  Nowhere have I come across any reference to this.

There is no way a daughter could be born until late 1315.  If Maud’s actual date were 1315, and Margaret in 1316, that would dovetail with Elizabeth’s birth in 1317, backed up by reference to her as Bruce’s “youngest daughter”.

In the case of this Elizabeth, you will see some sites fail to list her as Bruce’s daughter entirely, or suggest she must be the child of one of his mistresses.  Sir David Dalrymple dismisses her out of hand.  He declared Fordun had not mentioned Elizabeth, and that he had not seen any charters of land grants to her, and that if any such charters existed they needed to be “deposited in the Register House”.  Well, they do exist.  There are a number of royal charters, mostly regrants signed by King David II, in which Elizabeth is described as "dilecte sorori me" — my beloved sister or "dilecte sorori nostre" — our beloved sister.  When Dalrymple was shown the proof, he promised to publish a correction to his The Annals of Scotland Volume 2, but he died without fulfilling that promise.  Thus, historians referencing Dalrymple today keep perpetuating the lie that she was illegitimate, or not Robert’s daughter at all.

After the Battle of Bannockburn, Elizabeth was moved to York.  There, she had an audience with Edward II.  In the end, Elizabeth was released as part of the ransom for Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford (Edward’s brother-in-law), who had been captured after Bannockburn on 29th September 1314.  In exchange for Hereford’s release, Edward was forced to give voice that Robert was the legal king of Scots, and to return Elizabeth, Christian, Mary and Marjorie, along with the aging Robert Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow.  Isabella Macduff was not mentioned in the transfer, but as I expressed in my article for her, I believe she was dead by that time.

After being reunited with Bruce, Elizabeth gave birth to daughters Maud, Margaret and Elizabeth.  There were no more children for seven years—miscarriages?—and Bruce likely feared of ever having a son and heir for the throne when Elizabeth became pregnant again.  This time, on 5th of March, a son was born.  They named him David, and he would go on to be David II, king of the Scots. Another son, John, was born in early October 1327, though little is recorded other than he died soon afterward, likely a short time before Elizabeth’s own death.

Rumors were Elizabeth might have been pregnant again when she was out riding near Cullen Castle in Banffshire when she was thrown from her horse.  The circumstances were an eerie echo of the death of Robert’s daughter just ten years before, almost as if Bruce were cursed. Whether it was from illness pertaining to the birth and death of son, John, or perhaps the miscarriage of a child she was carrying, Elizabeth de Burgh closed her eyes on the night of  October 27th, 1327 and slipped away from a world that hadn’t been too kind to her. Her entrails were buried in the Church of St. Mary of the Virgin at Cullen and her body was interred at Dunfermline Castle.  She was forty-three years old.

Deborah writes Scottish Medieval Historical Romances set in the time of Robert the Bruce in a series, The Dragons of Challon.