Robert Bruce, 6th Lord of Annandale and Earl of Carrick lived from July 1243 to March 1304. He is also known as Sir Robert de Brus and Robert de Bruce, and is remembered primarily as the father of a King of Scotland, Robert the Bruce, and of a King of Ireland, Edward Bruce. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Robert Bruce was the eldest son of Robert Bruce (or Robert de Brus), 5th Lord of Annandale and Isobel de Clare, daughter of the Earl of Gloucester and Hertford. He may have been born on one of the family's many estates across England and Scotland, at Writtle in Essex, though this is disputed. At the age of 20 the young Robert fought alongside his father and Henry III of England in the Battle of Lewes, part of the Second Barons' War. In the aftermath Robert had to pay a ransom for the release of his father by Simon de Montfort.
By 1270 Robert Bruce was taking part in the Eighth Crusade. When a companion, Adam de Kilconquhar, was killed, Robert took it upon himself to bring the news to Adam's widow, Marjorie, Countess of Carrick at Turnberry Castle. The story goes that Marjorie immediately fell for the handsome young Robert, and held him prisoner at Turnberry Castle until he agreed to marry her. The wedding duly took place in 1271, and Robert de Brus became Earl of Carrick de jure uxoris (in right of his wife).
In 1282 Robert served under Edward I of England during the latter's conquest of Wales. In 1292 Robert supported his father's candidacy to become King of Scotland during the adjudication which ended with Edward I appointing John Balliol as King. In 1295 Bruce was appointed by Edward I to become Constable of Carlisle Castle and the following year he fought for Edward I against the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar. He made his own claim to become King of Scotland in the same year, but his claim was rejected by Edward I. He seems to have then retired to his estates in Essex, dying in 1304 near Carlisle while en route to Annandale.
Robert and Marjorie had twelve children together, of whom 10 survived childhood. The oldest son, Robert, was born in 1274 and went on to become King Robert the Bruce. One of his daughters, Lady Christian Bruce, also played an active role in the Wars of Independence against England. Another, Isabel, married King Eric II and became Queen of Norway. One of the younger sons, Edward Bruce, was crowned High King of Ireland in 1316, and killed in battle in 1318. Three other sons were captured and executed by the English during the Wars of Independence.
Robert Bruce lived in an age when nobles in Dumfries and Galloway still tended to play off the Scots against the English, though any pretence of real independence had evaporated with the death of Alan of Galloway in 1234. This tended, however, to place Bruce in a very ambivalent position during any conflict between the Scots and the English: a situation made worse because his annual income from his English estates was worth much more to him than his income from his Scottish estates (£340 as opposed to £150). Add in a degree of personal and family loyalty to Henry III of England and his successor Edward I of England and Bruce's apparent lack of support for the cause of Scottish independence becomes easier to understand. The final complicating factor was the dislike between the Bruces and the Balliols which followed the appointment of John Balliol to the vacant post of King of Scotland in 1292.
The result is a tendency to see Robert Bruce as a strongly pro-English influence on his son, who later became King Robert the Bruce. This is probably justified to a degree: but the 1995 film Braveheart strays a long way from history in portraying him as a pantomime baddie, an evil and leprous force somehow responsible for the arrest by the English of William Wallace. This makes a great story, but Wallace was only actually arrested over a year after Robert Bruce's death.