Robert the Bruce was the most prominent Scottish figure of the First War of Scottish Independence fought in the early 14th century. Along with leading the Scottish resistance, Bruce was also crowned the King of the Scots in 1306.
His role is immensely significant in the history of British Isles in that he helped Scotland maintain its independence in the face of an English king who was determined to bring Scotland under English control.
Bruce not only repulsed English military incursions into Scotland but was also able to take the war to northern England and Ireland, putting England on the defensive.
Direct English intervention in Scotland began in 1292 when Edward I of England was invited by the Scots to mediate the dispute of Scottish succession.
Edward had John Balliol installed on the Scottish throne. Robert the Bruce and his family also had a claim to the Scottish throne, so they sided with Edward as the latter tried to undermine Balliol’s power in Scotland.
By 1296, Edward had invaded Scotland, deposed Balliol and installed Englishmen to rule Scotland on his behalf. This finally induced Robert the Bruce to join a rebel coalition in 1297, paving the way for him to led Scotland to independence.
Scots continued to resist Edward’s attempts to bring Scotland under effective English control. To this end, Robert the Bruce was appointed one of the Guardians of Ireland, alongside his rival John Comyn.
Due to disagreements between the two, Bruce resigned in 1300. Between 1300 and 1305, Edward I made a number of invasions of Scotland during which Bruce submitted to his authority alongside most other Scottish noblemen. This helped his retain his estates and retain his political power base in Scotland.
In 1306, Bruce killed John Comyn. This effectively made him the one man with the strongest claim to Scottish throne and enough political allies to mount effective resistance against the English.
He was crowned the King of the Scots the same year. Edward I mounted another invasion of Scotland and Bruce fled with his allies. He returned in 1307 and began a guerrilla war against English occupation.
He defeated English allies in Scotland in a number of key confrontations. By 1314, Bruce had effective control of most of Scotland and inflicted a decisive defeat on the English at the Battle of Bannockburn the same year. This would mark the point where Bruce’s resistance put the English on the defensive.
After decisively ending English ambitions in Scotland, Bruce aggressively pushed further into northern England. He also invaded Ireland in 1315 in an attempt to forge a Scott-Irish alliance against England.
He was consequently crowned the High King of Ireland in 1316 but he failed to rally sufficient support. The Scottish army in Ireland was defeated by the English forces in 1318, ending Bruce’s attempts to join Ireland and Scotland under a single crown.