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Friday, June 12, 2009

The Gutsy Women who Loved Robert

I saved the best for last this week (IMHO) because to me, even more fascinating then Robert the Bruce himself are the tangle of women who loved him. His mother, sisters and his mistress are among history's gutsiest women.

Marjorie, Countess of Carrick - Robert the Bruce's Mother (1245 - 1292): What a formidable woman! Marjorie's first husband, Adam de Kilconquhar, died in the crusades in 1270. The messenger who came to break the tragic news to her happened to be the young Robert Bruce, 6th Lord of Annandale. Marjorie instantly decided she was ready to be remarried and held him prisoner for a year until he married her in 1271! Now THAT'S a woman who knows what she wants! Marjorie and Robert went on to have 12 children together, 10 of whom survived infancy. Robert the Bruce was their eldest son.

Lady Christian Bruce - Robert the Bruce's Elder Sister (1273 - 1357): A vocal supporter of her brother Robert's claim to the throne of Scotland, Lady Christian was captured by the English in 1306 after her brother's defeat on the battlefield. She was held prisoner in the Gilbertine Nunnery for 8 years until her brother defeated the English at Bannockburn in 1314. Later she went on to marry her 3rd husband, Sir Andrew Murray who became the Guardian of Scotland after her brother's death in 1329. In 1335 when Lady Christian was 62 years of age, she lead the defence of her besieged home, Kildrummy Castle, until her husband could defeat the English in the Battle of Culbean that same year. In an age of violence and disease, Lady Christian passed away at the age of 84.

Lady Mary Bruce - Robert the Bruce's Younger Sister (B. C. 1282): Another rebellious Bruce sister, Lady Mary suffered a much harsher fate than that of her eldest sister Lady Christian. When her brother was defeated in 1306, at the age of just 24, Lady Mary was suspended in a cage on the side of Roxburgh Castle for 4 years. She was in full-view of the public who frequently abused and threw rotten food at her and her only interaction was with the castle serving women who bought her food daily. The only dignity this young woman was afforded was that she was able to retreat slightly into the walls of the castle to relieve herself out of the public eye. After her brother's success at Bannockburn, a hostage negotiation meant she was released back into the care of her family. She went on to marry a second husband, Alexander Fraser although no mention is ever made to her mental health after this ordeal.

Isobel MacDuff, Countess of Buchan - Robert the Bruce's Lover (1286 - ?): The subject of Barbara Erskine's Kingdom of Shadows (reviewed today). Isobel Macduff was an incredible woman! Rumoured to be the lover of Robert the Bruce, Isobel was married to John Comyn, Earl of Buchan. In 1306, Robert the Bruce murdered John III Comyn and Isobel's husband immediately joined the side of the English in retaliation. Isobel felt differently. Scottish Kings throughout history have always been crowned by a representative of the MacDuff family. So, stealing her husband's horses and some of his supporters, she rode off to Scone in March of 1306 to crown Robert the Bruce herself! Her husband issued a death warrant against his traitorous wife. As you've read in the previous paragraphs, Robert the Bruce was defeated by the English in 1306 and Isobel was captured. She suffered the same fate as Lady Mary Bruce, hanging from a cage in Berwick Castle. This is the direct order of Edward I:

"Let her be closely confined in an abode of stone and iron made in the shape of a cross, and let her be hung up out of doors in the open air at Berwick, that both in life and after her death, she may be a spectacle and eternal reproach to travellers."

After the Bruce's success in Bannockburn, Isobel disappears from the record books. We do not know if she survived or if four years in a cage sent her mad. Honestly, Barbara Erskine writes a chilling account of her harrowing ordeal and produces a believable conclusion to Isobel's life.

Isabel Bruce, Queen Consort of Norway - Robert the Bruce's sister (1272 - 1358): Isabel married King Erik II of Norway. You may remember his name from earlier in the week because King Erik II was actually the father of Margaret, the Maid of Norway (her death was the catalyst that plunged Scotland into war with the English). So Isabel was actually King Erik's second Scottish wife. They married when he was 25 and she was 21. By the time Isabel was 27 years old, she was a widow. She lived the rest of her life in the country she had made her home and frequently mediated between Norway and Scotland. She lived to be 86 years of age.

A big thank you to everybody who stopped by to visit Braveheart Week at Royal Reviews. I hope you've enjoyed reading about the history as much as I have enjoyed researching it this past week. All my Scottish reference books now look very loved - they're all dog-eared and covered in post it notes! This concludes Braveheart Week at Royal Reviews.

Don't forget to stick around for Emily Bryan Week starting tomorrow. Not only will Emily be guest-blogging, she'll also be giving away a book a day!

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Sharon said...

Very interesting about all the ladies. Thank you for all the great info this week!

The Book Resort said...

Love the info on the women. Thanks, Annie.

My Blog 2.0 (Dottie) said...

Thanks ladies, I'll be back (that's sounds a like like Arnold!)


Dottie :)

ibeeeg said...

Annie...thanks so much for the Braveheart week. I learned several things from your posts. This post, I have found to be incredibly interesting. Those poor women who had to suffer hanging in a cage. How awful! I have requested from my library several of the books you listed earlier on in the week. I look forward to those readings.
Thanks again for a great week!

Jenny Girl said...

Thank you very much for all of the historical info. Very interesting! Wow they were brutal back then but then again some of the things that happen today....