Robert I


Robert I
1. ("Robert the Devil") died 1035, duke of Normandy 1028-35 (father of William I of England).
2. Also called Robert the Bruce, Robert Bruce. 1274-1329, king of Scotland 1306-29.

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born July 11, 1274
died June 7, 1329, Cardross, Dumbartonshire, Scot.

King of Scotland (1306–29).

Though Robert was of Anglo-Norman ancestry and held lands in both England and Scotland, he sided with the Scots against England and supported the rebel William Wallace. He gained the Scottish throne in 1306 after stabbing a rival to death in a quarrel. Twice defeated by Edward I (1306), he became a fugitive, hiding on a remote island off the Irish coast. Within a year, Robert returned to Scotland and began gathering supporters, and in 1314 he defeated Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn. Edward III finally recognized him and confirmed Scottish independence in 1328.

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▪ count of Flanders
also called  Robert the Frisian , French  Robert le Frison , Dutch  Robrecht de Fries 
born c. 1013
died October 13, 1093, Kassel [Germany]

      count of Flanders (1071–93), second son of Count Baldwin V. In 1063 he married Gertrude and became guardian of her son, who had inherited Frisia east of the Scheldt River. Upon this marriage, Robert's father also invested him with Imperial Flanders, including the islands of Frisia west of the Scheldt. He thus in his own right and that of his stepson became ruler of all of Frisia (Zeeland) and was known among his Flemish countrymen as Robert the Frisian.

      His right to Imperial Flanders, however, was disputed by his elder brother, Baldwin VI, who had succeeded to the countship of Flanders. War broke out between the two brothers, and Baldwin was killed in battle in 1070. Robert then claimed the tutelage of Baldwin's children and obtained the support of the German emperor Henry IV, while Richilde, Baldwin's widow, appealed to Philip I of France. The contest was decided at Ravenshoven, near Kassel, on February 22, 1071, where Robert was victorious. Richilde was taken prisoner, and her eldest son, Arnulf III, was slain. Robert obtained from Philip I the investiture of Crown Flanders and from Henry IV the fiefs that formed Imperial Flanders.

      Robert the Frisian led a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the late 1080s. In 1090, on his return, he took temporary service in the army of the Byzantine emperor Alexius I (Alexius I Comnenus), in his war against the Seljuq Turks. Robert's pilgrimage and service with the Byzantine emperor established a pattern followed later in the First Crusade (1096–99).

▪ duke of Normandy
byname  Robert the Magnificent  or  the Devil,  French  Robert le Magnifique  or  le Diable 
died between July 1 and 3, 1035, Nicaea [now İznik, Tur.]

      duke of Normandy (1027–35), the younger son of Richard II of Normandy and the father, by his mistress Arlette, of William the Conqueror (William I) of England. On the death of his father (1026), Robert contested the duchy with his elder brother Richard III, legally the heir, until the latter's opportune death a few years later. A strong ruler, Robert succeeded in exacting the obedience of his vassals even as he expanded concessions of fiefs from his ducal estates and from usurped church property to new and lower ranks of restless aristocrats. On the death of Robert II the Pious, king of France (1031), a crisis arose over the succession to the French throne. The duke gave his support to Henry I against the party favouring his younger brother; in reward for his services, he demanded and received the Vexin Français, a territory not far north of Paris, supposedly with Henry's approval. A patron of the monastic reform movement, he died while returning from a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

▪ king of France
born c. 865
died June 15, 923, Soissons, France

      younger son of Robert the Strong of Neustria and briefly king of France (922–923), or West Francia. His decisive victory over the Northmen at Chartres (911) led to a treaty settling one group of these fierce warriors in Normandy.

      Robert faithfully served his older brother, King Eudes, during Eudes's reign (888–898), as margrave. Though on Eudes's death he became one of the most powerful Frankish lords, inheriting all the family lands between the Seine and the Loire rivers, he swore fealty with other magnates to the new king, the Carolingian Charles III the Simple. From 911 onward, his role became more decisive: his defeat of the Northmen at Chartres paved the way for the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte, by which Charles assigned them territory in Normandy. Robert stood as godfather at the baptism of Rollo, the Northmen's chief.

      Robert's military success greatly enhanced his prestige, and dissension between him and the king became undisguised. When Charles III imprudently offered preferment exclusively to lords from Lorraine, the Neustrian lords, led by Robert, broke into open revolt. They elected Robert king at Reims in June 922, and the East Frankish king Henry I immediately recognized Robert's kingship and rights to Lorraine. In a battle near Soissons in 923, Charles's army was routed, but Robert was killed. His grandson was Hugh Capet, founder of the Capetian dynasty.

▪ king of Scotland
Introduction
original name  Robert VIII de Bruce, or Robert the Bruce  
born July 11, 1274
died June 7, 1329, Cardross, Dumbartonshire, Scot.
 king of Scotland (1306–29), who freed Scotland from English rule (England), winning the decisive Battle of Bannockburn (1314) and ultimately confirming Scottish independence in the Treaty of Northampton (1328).

Background and early life
      The Anglo-Norman family of Bruce, which had come to Scotland in the early 12th century, was related by marriage to the Scottish royal family, and hence the sixth Robert de Bruce (died 1295), grandfather of the future king, claimed the throne when it was left vacant in 1290. The English king Edward I claimed feudal superiority over the Scots and awarded the crown to John de Balliol instead.

      The eighth Robert de Bruce was born in 1274. His father, the seventh Robert de Bruce (died 1304), resigned the title of earl of Carrick in his favour in 1292, but little else is known of his career until 1306. In the confused period of rebellions against English rule from 1295 to 1304 he appears at one time among the leading supporters of the rebel William Wallace, but later apparently regained Edward I's confidence. There is nothing at this period to suggest that he was soon to become the Scottish leader in a war of independence against Edward's attempt to govern Scotland directly.

      The decisive event was the murder of John (“the Red”) Comyn in the Franciscan church at Dumfries on Feb. 10, 1306, either by Bruce or his followers. Comyn, a nephew of John de Balliol, was a possible rival for the crown, and Bruce's actions suggest that he had already decided to seize the throne. He hastened to Scone and was crowned on March 25.

King of Scots
      The new king's position was very difficult. Edward I, whose garrisons held many of the important castles in Scotland, regarded him as a traitor and made every effort to crush a movement that he treated as a rebellion. King Robert was twice defeated in 1306, at Methven, near Perth, on June 19, and at Dalry, near Tyndrum, Perthshire, on August 11. His wife and many of his supporters were captured, and three of his brothers executed. Robert himself became a fugitive, hiding on the remote island of Rathlin off the north Irish coast. It was during this period, with his fortunes at low ebb, that he is supposed to have derived hope and patience from watching a spider perseveringly weaving its web.

      In February 1307 he returned to Ayrshire. His main supporter at first was his only surviving brother, Edward, but in the next few years he attracted a number of others. Robert himself defeated John Comyn, earl of Buchan (a cousin of the slain John “the Red”), and in 1313 captured Perth, which had been in the hands of an English garrison. Much of the fighting, however, was done by Robert's supporters, notably James Douglas and Thomas Randolph, later earl of Moray, who progressively conquered Galloway, Douglasdale, the forest of Selkirk and most of the eastern borders, and finally, in 1314, Edinburgh. During these years the king was helped by the support of some of the leading Scottish churchmen and also by the death of Edward I in 1307 and the ineptness of his successor, Edward II. The test came in 1314 when a large English army attempted to relieve the garrison of Stirling. Its defeat at Bannockburn on June 24 marked the triumph of Robert I.

Consolidation of power
      Almost the whole of the rest of his reign had passed before he forced the English government to recognize his position. Berwick was captured in 1318, and there were repeated raids into the north of England, which inflicted great damage. Eventually, after the deposition of Edward II (1327), Edward III's regency government decided to make peace by the Treaty of Northampton (1328) on terms that included the recognition of Robert I's title as king of Scots and the abandonment of all English claims to overlordship.

      Robert's main energies in the years after 1314, however, were devoted to settling the affairs of his kingdom. Until the birth of the future king David II in 1324 he had no male heir, and two statutes, in 1315 and 1318, were concerned with the succession. In addition, a parliament in 1314 decreed that all who remained in the allegiance of the English should forfeit their lands; this decree provided the means to reward supporters, and there are many charters regranting the lands so forfeited. Sometimes these grants proved dangerous, for the king's chief supporters became enormously powerful. James Douglas (Douglas, Sir James), knighted at Bannockburn, acquired important lands in the counties of Selkirk and Roxburgh that became the nucleus of the later power of the Douglas family on the borders. Robert I also had to restart the processes of royal government, for administration had been more or less in abeyance since 1296. By the end of the reign the system of exchequer audits was again functioning, and to this period belongs the earliest surviving roll of the register of the great seal.

      In the last years of his life, Robert I suffered from ill health and spent most of this time at Cardross, Dumbartonshire, where he died, possibly of leprosy. His body was buried in Dunfermline Abbey, but the heart was removed on his instructions and taken by Sir James Douglas on crusade in Spain. Douglas was killed, but it appears that the heart was recovered and brought back for burial, as the king had intended, at Melrose Abbey. In 1921 a cone-shaped casket containing a heart was uncovered during excavations at the abbey, reburied at that time, and reexcavated in 1996. (Heart burial was relatively common among royalty and the aristocracy, however, and there is no specific evidence that this casket is the king's.) In later times Robert I came to be revered as one of the heroes of Scottish national sentiment and legend.

Bruce Webster

Additional Reading
The authoritative biography is G.W.S. Barrow, Robert Bruce & the Community of the Realm of Scotland, 3rd ed. (1988). This gives references to the sources and a full bibliography and supersedes all earlier works. The most important original authority for the life of Robert I is a poem in Scots by John Barbour, The Bruce, probably completed in 1376; a recent edition is ed. and trans. by A.A.M. Duncan (1997).

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Universalium. 2010.

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