Birth of a King but what of the woman who bore him…?

On This Day - 2nd March 1316: Birth of King Robert II of Scotland and death of Marjorie Bruce (daughter of the first King Robert and mother to the second)

700 years is a very long time. The Scotland of 700 years ago had an estimated population of under a million compared to the 5.4 million of today. Most people lived amongst mud and animals either in and around farms or castles or in the burghs (towns) earning a living as craftsmen or labouring. Most were illiterate and rather than choose a leader for themselves they were forced to be pawns in the extraordinary games of the ruling elite, sacrificed for the sake of a King. However hard done by or brainwashed we feel today, at least nobody can hammer our door down and order us to come out and fight or die on the spot - at least not in Scotland… 

667px-Scottish soldiers in the 14thC

Scottish Soldiers in the 14th Century
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

1316 Scotland was certainly a bloody place, though enjoying a period of relative stability under the reign of Robert the Bruce. Two years after the famous battle of Bannockburn meant that the English were away with their tails between their legs and for now, Scotland could breathe the free air. However, it was all about to change…


Robert the Bruce and his second wife, Elizabeth de Burgh
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

2nd March 1316 saw the birth of the boy, who after several bloody arguments, deaths and tussels, would go on to rule as Robert II of Scotland and form the famous Stuart line which eventually sat on the throne of England, completing the ambition of his fathers. It was also Robert II however, who’s children, born by different mothers, would form the basis of the furious battles of succession which would wrack Scotland just a few short generations later. Bloody battles left, right and centre started by men, cutting all in their path in their desperation to be King. 

592px-Robert II (Alba) ii

The Great Seal of Robert II, King of Scotland
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

2nd March 1316, however, also saw the death of a woman, Marjorie Bruce, and it is her tragically short life that I want to focus on today for women are all too often overlooked in these early days where history was decided by the sword. 

Marjorie Bruce Paisley Abbey

Tomb of Marjorie Bruce, Princess of Scotland,
daughter of Robert I and mother of Robert II

Public Doman via Wikimedia Commons

Marjorie was the daughter of Robert I of Scotland and Isabella of the Clan Mar, who sadly died giving birth to Marjorie at the tender age of 19. Marjorie’s fortunes waxed and waned with those of her father’s. Living life as a beloved princess of the royal court she suddenly found herself on the run and then suddenly, cruelly, the prisoner of the English and threatened with being displayed in a cage at the Tower of London after her father lost a battle. Freedom only came with another battle in which Robert I this time emerged triumphant conqueror. Remembered to this day in Scotland’s national anthem, the Battle of Bannockburn saw Marjorie finally return home and ally herself in a strong match to Walter Stewart, High Steward of Scotland. Today this might have seen the start of a powerful alliance that spanned decades. Sadly, however, they were still in the 14th Century and Marjorie was fated instead to succumb, like her mother before her, to most prolific killer of women in that age - childbirth. A riding accident had brought on her labour early and to save the potential heir (Robert II), her body was savagely cut open and she was all but cast aside and left to die. A cruel blow but not at all uncommon in an age where man was everything and a woman was but a door to the next generation of killers. 

© Isla Robertson 2017