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"How come Robert the Bruce gets no respect?" Topic

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Korvessa03 Dec 2018 10:03 a.m. PST

I watched the movie "Outlaw King" recently which I thoroughly enjoyed. As is often the case when I watch a historical movie, it encouraged me to look into the subject more deeply, so I dusted off a biography of King Robert (the one I have is by Ronald M Scott) I've had on my bookshelf for years and started giving it a read.
All of which got me wondering why Robert isn't given more respect as one of history's great commanders. At least of the middle ages. He isn't even mentioned in my copy of Dupoy's Encyclopedia of Military Biography, which seems like a crime considering some of the other considerably more obscure commanders who made it in.
Some of the reasons I think he was great:
Individually, he seems to have been a superb fighter
He won his war (always popular here) despite tremendous odds stacked against him
He won battles against larger, better equipped and supplied armies battles most other generals would have lost
His overall strategy was unusual, yet perfect for the situation.
He wasn't a vicious gunky, unlike Eddie the oneth.

jedburgh03 Dec 2018 10:19 a.m. PST

Blame Braveheart – In Scotland he is on the banknotes and there are lots of statues.

WarWizard03 Dec 2018 10:28 a.m. PST

I thought the "Outlaw King" was an excellent film also. Seems like Mel Gibson should have made a sequel to "Braveheart" even if he was going to start in it.

But "Outlaw King" did not have to rely on Gibson's usual touches such as over the top speeches, slow motion sequences, etc.

Phillius Supporting Member of TMP03 Dec 2018 10:39 a.m. PST

Outlaw King was certainly better than Braveheart.

Interesting question about RB though. I hadn't considered it before but you may have something there.

Perhaps he was seen as a bit of a chancer and never really got the whole country behind him?
We look back on Scottish folk law and history now, with a bit of bleary eyed romance, but I think the country has a long history of not really being one nation. Especially in the middle ages.

His brother Eddie was certainly a bit of a chancer with his invasion of Ireland with the intent of becoming its king. Might be a family trait.

So maybe public perception of the Bruce now, is higher than in the past, and what you are seeing in print, is a reflection of earlier opinion.

14Bore03 Dec 2018 1:20 p.m. PST

Well, the movie Braveheart did give him a bad name

D A THB03 Dec 2018 5:00 p.m. PST

Really good movie spoiled by some inaccuracies which had me wondering if any of it was correct. I read a book years ago about Bruce and was rather interested in him but the details are lost to me now. All I read after watching the film was a wiki page.

uglyfatbloke Inactive Member04 Dec 2018 6:10 a.m. PST

Korvessa….some of his victories were against bigger armies, but not better equipped ones. Scottish and English soldiers were identical to look at. The vast majority of engagements were conduced by small bodies of men-at-arms with not an infantryman to be seen. There are many popular/romantic books on Robert I (in fact you've got one already), but there is also a very considerable body of serious scholarship and I'd suggest you start with Professor Barrow's 'Robert the Bruce' which is eminently readable. If you want something with a more military perspective there's (kof kof kof) a new book by (kof kof) Dr. Chris Brown, 'King and Outlaw' and there's also his large, ungainly and rather dull book 'Bannockburn 1314; A New History'. Angus Konstam's Bannockburn book is pretty sound too.
The worst history book I have ever read (and that's saying something) is unquestionably Nusbacher's Bannockburn book which has no redeeming features at all.
For a general history try Nicholson 'Scotland: The later Middle Ages' as a starting point.
Phillius…it's questionable as to whether Edward Bruce planned on claiming Irish kingship initially…Colm MacNamee wrote a good book on the Bruce wars in Ireland.

14Bore…Braveheart gave historical movie-making a bad name.

D A THB…there's a couple of bad biffs, but overall it's not bad. The big battle scene is a bit silly with it's pits full of spikes and the presence of Edward.

Personal logo Unlucky General Supporting Member of TMP04 Dec 2018 6:37 p.m. PST

I keep saying this about a lot of movies and TV drama made today but Outlaw King is the best of it's class- in the English language anyway. I truly think we are getting better historical entertainment than we have ever enjoyed – but some people on these sorts of forums will clearly never be satisfied.

I'm surprised to hear that Robert the Bruce lacks historical respect – I always thought he got plenty. I am neither English or Scottish but the man is an historical legend and a household name in my world.

uglyfatbloke Inactive Member05 Dec 2018 3:05 a.m. PST

Just's a movie, not a documentary, but really I've seen several medieval Scotland documentaries that were utter rubbish and there's plenty of truly abysmal books too. Nusbacher's 'Bannockburn' deserves a prize for it's sheer awfulness.

Korvessa06 Dec 2018 10:57 a.m. PST

What I was trying to say is that I have seen several "coffee table" books of great commanders and the like. I have never seen one that listed King Robert as one of the great commanders.
I think he should be – especially for the medieval period. He accomplished much with little. I don't see many others doing better.

AussieAndy Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2018 8:43 p.m. PST

Was he a distant ancestor of Rodney Dangerfield?

Korvessa06 Dec 2018 9:15 p.m. PST


Could be!

uglyfatbloke Inactive Member07 Dec 2018 6:26 a.m. PST

True enough Korvessa. Same with medieval history coffee-table books; they tend to be very much centred on France and England and of course a lot of people genuinely do not understand that England and Britain are not the same thing and/or that Scotland is not part of England.

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