Edward Bruce

From Academic Kids

Edward Bruce (c. 1275 - October 14, 1318) was the younger brother of Robert the Bruce. He supported his brother in the struggle for the crown of Scotland, then pursued a claim in Ireland.


Early Life

Edward was a son of Robert de Brus, Lord of Annandale and Marjorie of Carrick, 3rd Countess of Carrick. His date of birth is unknown, but as the second of five brothers it was probably not long after his older brother was born in 1274.

Some time between 1309 and 1313, Edward was created Earl of Carrick, a title previously held by his maternal grandfather Neil of Carrick, 2nd Earl of Carrick , his mother and his elder brother.

Fathering an illegitimate son

A liaison with Isabella, daughter of John of Strathbogie, 9th Earl of Atholl, produced an illegitimate son, Alexander Bruce, who would later inherit his father's earldom. Edward deserted her to marry Isabella of Ross, which began bad blood between himself and David of Strathbogie, 10th Earl of Atholl, the brother of the wronged Isabella. In 1314, on the eve of Bannockburn, David took revenge by attacking the Scottish supply depot at Cambuskenneth Abbey.

Edward was a commander at the Battle of Bannockburn on June 23-June 24, 1314.

High King of Ireland

Historical Background

By the early 14th century, Ireland had not had a High King since Ruaidri mac Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair who had been deposed by the Norman invasion in 1169. The country was divided between the Irish clans, Norman barons and English lords who all ruled parts of Ireland.

In 1258 many of the clans had attempted to unite under one High King again and elected Brian O'Neill to this position, however most of the clans would not support him and he was defeated by the Normans at the battle of Downpatrick in 1260.

Invitation to the throne

Realizing that unity was the only way to win Ireland's independence back, Donal O'Neill and most of the other Irish lords agreed to put their own personal differences aside and invited the younger brother of Robert I of Scotland to become King of Ireland in 1315. Thus opposing Lord of Ireland Edward II of England.

Robert the Bruce loved the idea and believed that an independent Ireland would be of great aid to Scotland. He personally envisioned "a grand Gaelic alliance against England", between Scotland and Ireland since both countries had not only a common heritage and ethnicity, but also a common enemy (the English). On May 25, 1315 Edward the Bruce and thousands of formerly unemployed Scottish soldiers landed in Ireland, they were quickly joined by large numbers of Irish infantry from all of the country's major clans.

On May 1, 1316 Edward was crowned King of Ireland at Dundalk. In September his brother Robert Bruce arrived with Scottish reinforcements to help him.


At first the Irish/Scottish alliance seemed unstoppable as they won battle after battle, in less than a year they had most of Ireland in their control. However by the beginning of 1317 famine had stricken most of the country making it difficult for King Edward to provide food to most of his men. Shortly later Robert the Bruce returned to Scotland and management of his own kingdom, but promised more aid and more volunteers to help his brother. For almost a year the Anglo-Norman barons did little to retake any land since the famine made it difficult for either side to provide food to soldiers in the field.


Edward obtained a dispensation for a marriage to Isabella of Ross, daughter of William MacTaggart, 3rd Earl of Ross, on June 1, 1317. Their marriage may or may not have taken place before Edward's death; in any case, they had no children.

Death at the Battle Faughart

Then in the late summer of 1318, John de Birmmingham with his army began a march against Edward the Bruce. On 24 October, 1318, the Irish army was badly defeated at the Battle of Faughart by de Birmmingham's forces. Edward himself was killed and Ireland was again left leaderless.

Historical aftermath

This was the penultimate attempt by all of Ireland's royal clans to reunite the country under one High King. In 1595 the leader of the northern branch O'Neill clan (the whole O'Neill or "Ui Niall" having previously been Ireland's principal royal family for nearly 700 years), Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone began a rebellion against Elizabeth I of England which was initially successful. However after many early victories the Irish were defeated shortly before the Queen's death in 1603.

The failure of that rebellion, combined with other factors, resulted in the Flight of the Earls in 1607, to northwestern Spain - the ancestral homeland of the Irish, Scots and Manx (both Irish and Gallician legends and anthems revere the memory of the Celtic King Milesius, and both Galicia and Asturias are counted among the Ten Celtic Nations of the world). All subsequent nationalist leaders favoured Irish independence as a republic, not revival of old pseudo-federal 'High Kingship.'

Most of Ireland did become independent, in 1921; first, as the Irish Free State, renamed Éirein 1937 - in both cases, a dominion of the British Empire (in the later case, only nominally so); then, in 1949, as the Irish Republic. During the period of dominion status, the Anglo-Irish title "King of Ireland," first bestowed by the Irish Parliament upon Henry VIII, was revived for George V, 1927-1936; Edward VIII, 1936; and George VI, 1936-1949. All three monarchs were also king over the six northeastern counties of Ireland that opted to remain British, as kings of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, respectively from 1921 through 1952, when George VI was succeeded by his elder daughter as Elizabeth II.

Meanwhile, in 1949, the current President of Ireland, Sean Thomas O'Kelly, metamorphosed from head of state nominally representing the King of Ireland to head of state not representing the King of Ireland, as the main of Ireland left behind the fiction of modern Irish monarchy along with membership in the Commonwealth of Nations.


Barrow, GWS. Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland, 1976.


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