Robert the Bruce

This year filming began for a new film “ Outlaw King” about King Robert the Bruce and the City of Perth and Perthshire played an important part in the life of Scotland’s finest king.  

England and Scotland had been at war since 1296 and at one time Bruce had even fought on the side of the English, but he was caught conspiring against the English king. Now a wanted man, Bruce seized the throne of Scotland becoming Robert I King of Scots at Scone on the 25th March 1306.  

Edward of England was furious when he heard of Bruce’s coronation and sent an army north to hunt Bruce down.  This army commanded by Aymer de Valance flew the dreaded Dragon Banner, which was the flag that showed no prisoners would be taken.

The English captured Perth by June 1306 and Bruce arrived at the west of the city with his army on the 18th of June.  Bruce rode up to the city wall and demanded the English come out to battle for the City. This was refused, so Bruce insisted that the English commander come and engage in single combat, but he was told by the English that they would not fight that day as it was a Sunday so an offer to meet the next day was accepted by Bruce.  He withdrew his forces to Methven Woods.  

The Scot’s unsaddled horses, fed them, lit cooking fires and rested.  Suddenly a distant rumble was heard. This got louder and louder, then an alarm was shouted “the English attack!”.  Bruce had been betrayed. The wily, battle-hardened English commander had caught the naive young Scottish King off guard.  The Scots foot solders that were not cut down fled as the heavy armed English Knights rode through the Scottish camp slashing and stabbing with sword, battle-axe and mace.  Bruce and his knights were desperately trying to mount their horses and could offer no effective resistance. Bruce was captured in the fighting, luckily by a Scot fighting for the English. This man realised that the King of Scots would be executed if captured and let Bruce go.  In heavy fighting both Bruce and Aymer de Valance had their horses killed under them.  Bruce and what was left of his force fled the battle and lost to the Scottish cause at Methven were some of the Scottish King’s key supporters as most of those captured were executed. A stone memorial to this battle can be seen in a wooded walk at Methven and is signposted in the village.

Bruce and his shattered force fled northwest, a local Perthshire legend is that he stopped to rest at Coillebhrochain near Pitlochry and a ruined cottage standing in the middle of a field there has a plaque verifying this.

Robert the Bruce nearly lost everything at the Battle of Methven, he foolishly thought that the rules of Chivalry could be trusted in war, he learned a hard lesson and became an able and effective military commander, using stealth and hit and run tactics.  

Robert the Bruce used this method of waging war on Perth in the winter of 1311, when the city was still held by the English.  One dark frosty night, Bruce and his men crept up to the city wall and Bruce slipped into the moat of Perth at the head of his men. The Scottish attackers had brought a new weapon, rope ladders with a metal hook on the end of them. Long poles with hoops were used to secure the ladders to the city wall and Bruce and his men climbed over the wall and captured Perth, a moment which is depicted in a very fine stain glass window in Perth’s City Chambers.

The only other time Robert the Bruce chanced all on a large pitched battle with the English was at Bannockburn in the summer of 1314. Even then he was forced into it as his brother Edward Bruce, who was laying siege to the castle, made a pact with the commander of Stirling Castle that the castle would surrender if it were not relieved by the English by mid summers day 1314.  Bruce, thinking back to his defeat at Methven, fought the English at Bannockburn against his better judgment.

In 1320 Robert the Bruce had learned of a plot against him, the conspirators were tried in what was known as the Black Parliament, at Scone and executed on Perth’s Burghmuir.  

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