A bit of Welsh and some French in our most famous king
4 April 2019
This week seven hundred and thirteen years ago Robert the Bruce had himself crowned king. It was a coup d’etat. Having murdered his rival John Comyn, he rebelled against the overlordship of Edward of England and gambled.
It was a failure.
Within weeks his scratch force was defeated by and English army at Methven near Perth. Most of his supporters were killed, scattered or imprisoned. He fled into the Highlands and was promptly attacked by the McDougalls at Dalrigh near Tyndrum, barely escaping. His cause seemed lost.
In the event, of course, Bruce prevailed. First he found refuge in the West Highlands, allying with the Macdonalds and Campbells who were, thanks to their support of Bruce, to become Scotland’s greatest clans (and rivals of each other).
But when he returned to the fray, he did so in his native South West. His mother was Countess of Carrick (now part of Ayrshire). She was a member of the ruling family of Galloway, a curious Gaelic speaking province in this otherwise old-Welsh speaking corner of Scotland.
To add to the linguistic mix, his father’s family had been of Norman French extraction – part of that extraordinary tradition of Norman adventurers who in the early Middle Ages sought fame, fortune and conquest from Scotland to the Middle East.
We do not know how many languages King Robert spoke. Latin, Old French, Old Welsh, Gaelic and Old English are all candidates.
The Bruce’s old stomping grounds in Dumfriesshire, Galloway and Ayrshire are well worth exploring. There are historic castles and ruined abbeys. Gloriously empty countryside, hills, lochs, castles and charming towns and villages. Clans and Castles has designed a tour based on the Bruce’s adventures which you can find here.
For a memorable holiday exploring Scotland's heritage and culture, check out the Clans and Castles website