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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Robert the Bruce's Year of Broken Pathways

Yes we're going to murky, murderous olde Scotland as I adapt this darkest of morality tales from the BBC series 'History of Scotland'. But of course I'm doing this in order to show again how the 'Year of Broken Pathways' works. Same as for Lennon, it will be the Bruce's 31st year from July 11th, 1305 to July 11th, 1306 we will be looking at. We are looking for fateful moments, that would have long term consequences and would take several years to resolve, at least until the next 'Revolution Year' (at age 36 - 1310/1311).

After the resignation of William Wallace in 1299, both Robert the Bruce and John Comyn (the Red Comyn) were made guardians of Scotland. It would be fair to say they really didn't like each other. A fight broke out in the same year at a council in Peebles and Comyn grabbed Bruce by the throat and almost killed him. It would be seven years till they met again.

In 1305 Bishop Lamberton had gone to the Pope to get a ruling that Scotland was independent and should have a King. At a meeting between the Bishop and Robert the Bruce, it was agreed he should take the crown, but the price for his silence was put at 10,000 pounds (a fantastic sum in those days). But the Bruce was not a prudent man. He organised a fateful meeting with the Red Comyn at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries, on Feb 10th, 1306. This was to discuss the future of the crown. Both had left their swords outside and met before the high altar. Robert would have told Comyn (in spite of his agreement to keep silent) that he is to be made King and this would not be taken well. Scholars will dispute what happened next. Did the Bruce always plan to murder him or did Comyn draw his dagger first? But for whatever reason a fight broke out and he stabbed Comyn, who was practically dead as a result. After the Bruce had left he received news Comyn was not dead. He sent an aide back to finish him off.

His hot temper had really got him into trouble big time. He had committed murder in a church and faced ex-communication. He fled to Glasgow Cathedral, where his co-conspiritor Bishop Wishart absolved him of blood guilt, because he had no choice. They were all in this up to their necks. He then figured his best bet was to have himself crowned King and he fled to Scone and did this on March 25th, 1306. Could there have been anything more fateful than this sorry tale of hot temper and ambition gone wrong? His sworn enemy Edward 1st of England hunted him down and with little Scottish support, he was forced to retreat to Dunaverty, on the very tip of the Mull of Kintyre. Then he put to sea and disappeared. His wife and child were captured and taken to a convent. It would be eight years before he saw them again.

What happened next became the subject of myth, with Sir Walter Scott basing his character on the hero of the novel Ivanhoe and writing a poem about him being in a cave with a spider, called 'Lord of The Isles'. But what happened after this was that in Feb 1307, he went to South West Scotland with a few hundred Irish/Hebridians, to learn how to fight the English. He didn't want Wallace's early death. In April he surprised 1500 English troops and forced them to flee and in May using trenches and better tactics, he beat 3000 English troops at Louden Hill. Edward 1st then died and the Bruce had no major opposition in Scotland for the next three years.

Do you imagine that he went about a peaceful existence or negotiated with rival families? No, this hot-headed man had unfinished buisness with the Comyn's and the Bailiol's. He simply couldn't rest until he had got rid of every last vestige of opposition. He went on a terrible rampage through Scotland, laying waste to one castle after another, along with the people and then he burnt their fields. In short he was a bloodthirsty tyrant. Then he got ill with a nameless mysterious complaint, which no medicine or doctor could cure, so he went to the highlands. Just when others thought him dead, he recovered and continued the slaughter. Can you see how this period of years of struggle in its own very different way, parallels Lennon's dragged out fight against deportation, including the 18th month 'lost weekend'.

It would not be until 1309, that he had crushed resistence everywhere and then the Pope lifted his ban of ex-communication and King Robert called his first parliament. He was not yet a hero to his people however and it would take more years, until his victory at Bannockburn, for this to happen. Is it any wonder that in his later life he did so many public acts of charity and building works for the church. Just like McBeth, he had blood on his hands and a desperate need to absolve his conscience. In the end they actually called him Good King Robert, but that is another story and I'll have to tell it another day.

So I hear you say:- "All well and good, but that is in the grisly middle ages. It's got nothing to do with me." 'Life Cycles' would say otherwise, but it's way too soon to get you to agree. You see it's all about the fateful moment in the 'Year of Broken Pathways', that then has implications for quite a few years to follow of uphill struggle. I'll be back next month with a tale from my own Australia. A tale of two 19 year olds, who made world headlines in the US in the area of crime. Who were they and why do I tell just one of their stories? Any correct answer will be published and lauded. Till then may the cycles always bring you good fortune.


  1. Ye god, what a bloody mess history is! War after war after war! The crazy lives people live. Looking forward to your next installment.

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  3. This is all news to me! I must be better at English history.

    He did very well to be remembered as Good King Robert after all those deaths!

    Thank you for a very interesting post.