Robert the Bruce; The Rebel King Part II; The Bruce Gets His Royal Arse Kicked.
In case you missed: Part I
After murdering his rival, John Comyn, on the 10th of February, 1306, Robert the Bruce was coronated King of Scotland. Many turned to the Bruce in the hopes that Scotland could once again be an independent kingdom free of English rule. The English however, were not going to allow all of this happen quietly. As Robert the Bruce settled into his new throne, King Edward I was preparing an army to end the reign of the new king. In addition, the Bruce not only faced opposition from the English, but from many Scots as well. Many clans that were the supporters of John Comyn and John Balliol rebelled against the Bruce, seeing him as an illegitimate king who seized the throne through bloodshed and murder.
In June of 1306 a 3,000 man army composed of English soldiers and Scottish supporters of John Comyn occupied Perth in central Scotland. At this time Robert the Bruce was especially naive, believing that he could easily defeat the English army and win the war with his own 4,500 man Scottish Royal Army. The Bruce invited the English commander Earl Aymer De Valence to engage in “gentlemanly warfare”, in other words the two sides would meet in open battle and duke it out. With superior numbers, the Bruce believed he could defeat Valence’s army, winning Scottish independence. Valence however, refused the offer and held tight to his fortifications in Perth.
Robert the Bruce was so overconfident of his superiority that he didn’t even bother to post sentries around his camp. On the night of June 19th, the English left their base in Perth and conducted a surprise attack on the Scots. Roused from their sleep, the Scots were helpless as the English quickly stormed the camp, slaughtering unarmed and disoriented Scottish soldiers in the darkness of the night. Robert the Bruce himself barely escaped the assault, and was force to flee. Out of his 4,500 grand Scottish army, only 500 remained.
To escape the English, the Bruce and the remnants of his army retreated west towards the Mountains of Argyll. At Strathfillian he was met by the army of Clan MacDougall, supporters of John Comyn and a fierce enemy of Robert the Bruce. MacDougall’s 1,000 soldiers easily massacred the Bruce’s worn and tired force of 500. In one fell swoop, the Bruce’s army was completely obliterated.
Robert the Bruce and a handful of loyal men escaped the battle, but for the next several months were forced to hide in forests and caves, essentially no more than petty outlaws. Where once the Bruce had been King of Scotland, in a matter of months his kingdom was reduced to a network of hidden caves, his only subjects being cave spiders. Many of the supporters of the Bruce were rounded up and executed, including two of his brothers. His wife and daughter were forced into convents.
In the winter of 1306, Robert the Bruce put to sea on a small ship at Dunaverty and disappeared. Many believed he would never return.