Robert, The Bruce, perhaps the most famous of the Queen Mother's Scottish ancestors, rescued Scotland from the attempts by Edward I of England to subjugate his northern neighbour. The House of Bruce married into the Huntingdon branch of the House of Atholl. On te death of the child Margaret Queen (Maid of Norway), their claim to the Scottish throne was passed over by Edward I of England whose arbitration Awarded it to John of Balliol. Edward's subsequent humiliation of Balliol eventually proved the Bruce opportunity.
The Early Royal Houses of Scotland
Both Malcolm III and David I belonged to the House of Atholl which continued as Scotland's reigning house until the death of Margaret (The Maid of Norway) in 1290. She was the great-great-great-grand-daughter of Henry Earl of Huntingdon, eldest son of David I. Henry died a year before his father but both of is elder sons (Malcolm IV and William the Lion ) succeeded to the Scottish throne. The Earldom passed to his youngest son, David (1144-1219). Through his daughters Margaret and Isabella the Houses of Balliol and Bruce made their claims to the Scottish throne. Alexander III, Henry's great grandson, dies in 1286 leaving as his heir, his grand-daughter Margaret whose mother had married Erik II, king of Norway and died in childbirth. The lack of a direct male heir opened up the succession. The only direct descendants from David I were Margaret and the descendants of Henry of Huntingdons's two daughters.
Margaret married Alan, Lord of Galloway and their daughter, Devorgilla married John the 5th baron de Balliol. Isabella married Robert de Bruce, Lord of Annandale. Margaret was only an infant when her grand-father died and herself died at sea, aged four, on her way from Norway to Scotland. On Margaret's death there were thirteen rival claimants to the throne. The two main contenders were John Balliol, Devorgilla's son and Robert de Bruce, Earl of Carrick. Edward I England was asked to adjudicate between the rival claimants and found for Balliol, descendant of the elder daughter of henry, Earl of Huntingdon. John Balliol was inaugurated at Scone in 1292 and he swore fealty to Edward I for the kingdom of Scotland. Edward soon made it very clear that he regarded Scotland as a vassal state and John was too weak to resist and the country was ruled, in is name, by a council of ecclesiastics and noblemen who entered into a defensive alliance with Philip IV of France against England. Balliol renounced his fealty to Edward I in 1296.
Edward marched north and defeated the Scottish forces at the battle of Dunbar. Balliol surrendered himself, his kingdom and his people to Edward in the churchyard of Stracathro on July 10th 1296. Edward carried Balliol. Here he earned the nick-name Toom Tabard, empty coat, which recalls the ceremonious removal of heraldic insignia from his coat as part of his submission. Edward carried Balliol back to England and imprisoned him in Hertford castle and in the tower of London. It was at this time also that Edward I brought back the Stone of Scone (originally the Irish Stone of Destiny brought to Scotland by MacAlpine) and had it installed in Westminster Abbey where it remained for 700 years. Balliol was released in 1299 and allowed to retire to his estates at Bailleul in Normandy until his death in April 1313.
Scotland remained without a reigning monarch until 1306 when the Bruce branch finally established its claim in the person of Robert I The Bruce (1274-1329), the great grandson of Isabella, David of Huntingdon's daughter. The Scottish House of Bruce had its origins in the feudal changes initiated by David I. They traced their ancestry back to an Adam de Brus who built the castle at Brix between Cherbourg and Valognes in Normandy in the eleventh century, the ruins of which can still be seen. Adams son, Robert de Brus followed William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, to England in 1066. He died soon after arriving in England but his sons acquired great possessions in Surrey and Dorset.
Robert the Bruce
One of these, Robert de Brus, bacame a companion-in-arms to Prince David when he was sent to the English court. He accompanied David to Scotland on his accession as David I in 1124. During the English civil war he could not support David's invasion of England in support of his niece Matilda, and he resigned his holdings in Annandale to his second son, Robert, and joined the English forces gathering to resist the Scottish invasion. The Scottish army was defeated at the Battle of the Standard in 1138 and de Brus had to take his own son prisoner. The son was ultimately returned to Scotland, when, to demonstrate his determination to establish his branch of the family in Scotland, he abandoned his father's arms of a red lion on a silver field and assumed the now familiar red saltire.
William the Lion confirmed to the son the grant of the lands of Annandale made to his father by David I. Robert, fourth Lord of Annandale, laid the foundation of the royal house of Bruce when he married Isabella of Huntingdon. Their son, Robert Bruce of Annandale married Marjorie, Countess of Carrick and, as we have seen, was one of the main contenders for the Scottish throne on the death of Margaret. The defeat and exile of John Balliol left the struggle for the leadership of Scotland between the powerful Comyn and the Bruces. Robert the Bruce, son of the Carricks, met John Comyn in February 1306 in the Church of the Minorite Friars at Dumfries. As his companions dispatched the rest of the Comyn party, Bruce stabbed his rival in the heart. Within weeks Robert I was crowned King and began a long, hard campaign to make his title a reality, culminating in the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. He set about rebuilding the shattered and demoralised nation. By the time of his death in 1329 he had largely achieved this and set Scotland's Royal house on the long steady march through history to the modern world of which the Queen Mother has been such a familiar icon.
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