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King Robert the Bruce.

Dr Watson Provides Proof That Scotland’s Legendary King Robert The Bruce Was English Born!

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A controversial new history book called Traitor, Outlaw, King, written by eminent medieval historian Dr Fiona Watson, a former lecturer of history at Stirling University with a PhD from the University of Glasgow, makes the somewhat shocking claim that Robert the Bruce, the freedom fighting King of Scots who used guerrilla warfare to “send proud Edward homeward [to England] to think again,” was himself an Englishman.

Robert the Bruce, Hero of Scotland, Born in Essex

Robert the Bruce was, “almost certainly born in Essex” writes Dr Watson, who in her book leans heavily on the solitary words of a 14th Century chronicler who referred to Bruce as belonging to, “The nation of England… born in the village of Writtle, near Chelmsford.” Traditionally, Bruce is generally thought to have been born at his mother’s castle at Turnberry in Ayrshire, on July 11, 1274, in a landscape that is today used as a world class golf club which is currently owned by Mr Donald Trump (potus).

Boldly, Dr Watson argues that, “no contemporary evidence supports the traditional view,” and she told reporters at The Scotsman that her findings are going to come as something of a shock to many Scots, especially as the nation prepares for a patriotic revival of the Braveheart story, as Hollywood superstar Chris Pine plays the legendary Scottish figure in the forthcoming £85 million Netflix blockbuster Outlaw King.

According to Dr Watson:

“The truth may be unpalatable for some, for a chronicler from Southern England states categorically that Robert belonged to ‘the English nation’ and, more specifically, that he came into this world surrounded by the pleasant meadows, vineyards, grass and grain of Essex.”

Strengthening her hypothesis, Dr Watson added, “Bruce’s father Robert was born at Writtle in 1243, and given that Writtle was Robert’s favorite manor, it is quite believable his son should be born there.”

Statue of Robert the Bruce at the monument for the Battle of Bannockburn in Bannockburn. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Statue of Robert the Bruce at the monument for the Battle of Bannockburn in Bannockburn. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Controversial Claim

Books making such ‘big' claims inevitably attract equally sized forces of criticism. In this instance the tide of resistance will most certainly emanate from membership of The Bruce Trust, especially those people who populate the website’s message board. You see, although Dr Watson has written about Bruce having English origins, this idea is actually a timeworn concept that has been argued over for several decades. In some Scottish historical circles the suggestion is thought of as ‘a bad penny that keeps turning up.’

An article published on the Bruce Trust website by member Douglas Archibald, on May 11, 2015 discusses the reference to the Bruce being born in Essex:

“Oh well, Bruce was an Englishman after all. If so, piffle. Bruce was born at Turnberry Castle, as far as I am concerned, without a doubt.”

The remains of Turnberry Castle. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The remains of Turnberry Castle. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Can the Claim be Countered?

With passions running as strongly against the contentious “Bruce being English quote” over three years ago, while there is no doubt Dr Watson will have given this inherently sensitive subject the professional academic care it deserves, both she and her publisher will be very clear that it will take an academic sledgehammer to convince Scotland’s core Bruce supporters.

A full set of arguments to Dr Watson’s claims are already laid out on the Bruce Trust website, for example:

“It just does not make any sense. On the human nature side, we have to remember that Marjorie [Bruce’s mother], by all accounts, was a determined woman used to having her way. It’s not likely that such a lady would want to have her firstborn son anywhere other than her family home. She would want to be surrounded by the familiarity of Turnberry, family and the servants she knew well, safe in the midst of lands owned by her family for many years.”

Supporting the idea that Bruce was ‘Scottish born,’ traditional historians argue that it is doubtful that Marjorie would have wanted to give birth so far away in a foreign land where people spoke in an unfamiliar dialect. The Bruce Trust article concludes:

“There may not be a historical record of where Robert was born but common sense insists it would only be Turnberry. I think it’s high time everyone acknowledged that. Everything does not have to be written down to be obvious. So let’s stop entertaining this nonsense that Bruce was born anywhere else, especially Writtle.”

Bruce brought his axe crashing down upon the head of Bohun. From Scotland's story: a history of Scotland for boys and girls by Marshall, H. E. (Public Domain)

Bruce brought his axe crashing down upon the head of Bohun. From Scotland's story: a history of Scotland for boys and girls by Marshall, H. E. (Public Domain)

It might be the case that Dr Watson’s new book slaps hitherto unknown tangible evidence on the table which settles this debate once and for all, and if the truth be told, the work of Dr Watson is so highly-respected in Scottish history circles that it would take 100 message board historians to deter me from ‘just accepting’ whatever Dr Watson is telling me. Really, she is that good. However, as an investigative historian it was my duty to get to the source material relating to such claims and to read as many of the papers relating to a subject as time permits.

Thus, I must now leave you with a sort of paradigm that you must work out yourself.

On one hand I must urge you to trust the works and words of Dr Watson, however, bear in mind that archivist Katharine Schofield published a research article called Robert the Bruce – Essex man, which you can read on the blog of the Essex Record Office, ‘the storehouse of Essex history.” Schofield presents all of the key dates relating to the Bruce (Brus) family; births, marriages, deaths, inheritances, land transactions and titles, in Essex. Nowhere, in Schofield’s academic work is it mentioned that Robert the Bruce, who from AD 1306 became King Robert I of Scotland, was born in Essex. Nowhere.

Top image: King Robert the Bruce.   Source: Wayman/ DeviantArt

By Ashley Cowie

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Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

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