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King of Scots Length: 60mins
Published: 17 Jan, 2017
King Robert the Bruce is undoubtedly the most renowned and revered ruler in Scottish history. Bruce's story conventionally evokes images of defiant Scottish nationalism and an immortal quest to free Scotland from the shackles of English rule. However, the true story of Bruce's rise is one of political intrigue, broken promises, bloody battle and a ruthless determination to overcome his rivals.

"There is...absolutely no doubt that Bruce was almost obsessed with the idea that [he] should be King of Scots", argues Professor Ted Cowan. This obsession drove Bruce to extreme lengths, most notably the dramatic murder of his arch political rival and the most powerful man in Scotland, John Comyn, on the High Altar of Greyfriars Church.

Bruce's betrayal of Comyn contributed to the perception of the would-be king as a turncoat, a traitor who worked against the interests of the Scottish crown. This was best evidenced in Bruce's numerous switches of allegiance from Scotland to King Edward I of Edward, the Hammer of the Scots. Bruce was, according to historian Sarah Crome, 'a politician' above all else, who was determined to survive 'at any cost'.

Bruce's Machiavellian streak has meant that his achievements are often overshadowed by the unbridled patriotism and eventual martyrdom of William Wallace, so memorably portrayed in 'Braveheart'. However, in the long run, Bruce's political tinkering and diplomatic shape-shifting brought him what he'd always wanted: the Scottish crown.

Once in power, King Robert consolidated his authority through a series of bloody skirmishes first with Edward I and then his successor, Edward II. By the time of Bannockburn in 1314, Bruce was ready to stake Scotland's claim for independence, striking the greatest military victory in his nation's history and delivering a hammer-blow to the beleaguered kingship of Edward II.

King Robert the Bruce's life is a story of personal sacrifice, political calculation and ultimately, tremendous success. He was, as Professor Cowan attests, "one of the most remarkable figures to come out of the pages of Scottish history".

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