I first read The Bruce Trilogy back
in the late 70s when I was stationed in Germany. I did not know much about the period as my focus was on the Napoleonic and gunpowder eras so I started with a novel to perk my interest. The story came in three separate books then and I remember having difficulty finding the last one as I got it through the military library system. Ten years later my mother went to visit my brother in Scotland and asked me what I wanted her to bring back. This was small enough for her to bring back in her luggage (my mother packs heavily and went to play golf, so I didn’t think she’d have time or space for more!)The first volume starts with Edward Plantagenet deposing John Baliol as King of Scots and bringing Scotland under his personal rule. Robert Bruce, a 22 year old Earl, slowly grows disenchanted with the English King and is torn between his duty to Scotland and his oaths to Edward. William Wallace rises in rebellion and the story revolves initially around Bruce’s reactions to Wallace’s rebellion. Once Wallace is betrayed and executed, Bruce becomes one of the joint Stewards along with John Comyn, his archenemy. Tranter covers the changes in Stewards and the events leading up to the death of Comyn at the hands of Bruce or his supporters (Tranter lays the murder at the feet of one of Bruce’s supporters although Bruce dirks Comyn in a chapel). Robert Bruce assumes the crown and begins his war to free Scotland. The story ends with Bruce’s defeat at the siege of Perth.The next volume begins with Bruce’s departure from his wife and child and the beginning of his guerrilla war in the style of William Wallace. The book ends with the battle of Bannockburn. The final volume covers the post-Bannockburn period to Bruce’s death and ends with a nice vignette on James Douglas on Crusade.
Tranter’s view of Robert Bruce can be summed up in the description of the reading of Edward II’s settlement terms with the Scots:
And so it was that the son of the man [the Lord of Northumberland] who had hectored, lectured, reproved, deceived, and harried the Bruce on so many occasions through the years, had to read aloud the words which were the justification and coping-stone of the hero-king’s thirty years of striving and suffering, indeed of his entire career….
I enjoyed a number of things about the books. Not being familiar with the era, I found to my surprise that I could keep track of the major players, their personalities and contributions. Tranter’s personalization of each character made them come alive for me. The only glaring shortcoming was a lack of maps to keep me oriented. I found that I had to keep referring to the map in volume one and three to figure out who was doing what where. All in all a highly recommended series, particularly if you can balance it out with another book on the Bruces.