Tuesday, June 07, 2005

On This Day In Scottish History - June 7th (Death of Robert the Bruce)

Been a while since any posts, but here's a new one, continuing the Scottish history theme. On this day in 1329, King Robert the Bruce died at his monr in Cardross, Dumbartonshire, Scotland. The reason for his death is not known with certainty, though speculation is that he had long battled with leprosy (though is this is quite strongly refuted by an article by the Society for the History of Dentistry, of all places!).

While not going into an extended history of the Bruce (for that see the links below), a couple of interesting comments can be made. I remember being impressed with a story (possibly/probably? legend) that after many a lsos to the English, Brce was hidden away in depression in a cave. In the cave he watched a spider try to get a web cast from one side to the other, and after several failures, the spider eventually made it (some say it failed the same number of times as Bruce had lost major battles). At any rate, from this episode, Bruce resolved that "If at first you don't succeed, try, try try again". The year was 1314, and the next battle (the next try!) would be Bannockburn, perhaps the most famous Scottish victory ever. It's a nice story, and whether or not true, the sentiment leading to the victory (continuing on despite loss) is a good one.

The second episode came on Bruce's deathbed. Turning to his friend James Douglas, the dying King spoke these words:

Sir James, my dear and gallant friend, you know well the many troubles and severe hardships I have undergone in recovering and defending the rights of my crown and people, for you have participated in them all. When I was hardest beset of all, I made a vow, that if I ever overcame my difficulties, I would assume the cross, and devote the remainder of my days to warring against the enemies of our Lord and Saviour. But it has pleased providence, by this heavy malady, to take from me all hope of accomplishing, what, in my heart and soul, I have earnestly desired. Therefore, my dear and faithful companion, knowing no knight more valiant, or better fitted than yourself for such a service, my earnest desire is, that when I am dead, you take my heart with you to Jerusalem, and deposit it in the holy sepulchre, that my soul may be so acquitted from the vow which my body is unable to fulfil

I don't know what Bruce's personal walk with Christ was, and the reality of his faith, but I like to think it was true, and that he dwells wth the Saviour. As it was, Douglas was killed, andf Bruce's heart never made it to the Holy Land, but was instead buried in Melrose Abbey in the South of Scotland.

For those looking for more on Robert the Bruce, see the following links:

  • Robert Bruce, King of Scots (seven part series)

  • Called King of Scots (on his post-Bannockburn (1314) reign)

  • Robert I, 'the Bruce' (1274-1329) (a brief history)

  • Robert Bruce (A short summary of his life, as well as book reviews)

  • Also, for those who want to read Robert Burn's stirring poem on Freedom written as a fictional address by Robert Bruce on the eve of the Battle of Bannockburn, see my inaugural post


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