Picture showing the remains of Elgin Castle By Anne Burgess
The last couple of posts have been background, so it is probably time to bring the details of the campaign up to date.
Having threatened Elgin castle, but failing to take it, Robert moved southward possibly planning to use his Garioch lands as a base to launch his assault on Buchan. At this point the King fell gravely ill, and his companions feared for his life. With Robert lying ill and his small band, possibly around 700, short of food, they encountered the Earl of Buchan’s force near Slioch. The royal force now under the command of Edward Bruce, assumed a defensive position in wooded country, with boggy ground protecting the approaches. There was apparently an inconclusive action on Christmas day, where the archers of both side “bickered”, with those of the royal army having the better of the exchanges. The Earl of Buchan withdrew, but returned again on New Year’s Eve. Edward Bruce had his brother placed in a litter and formed the force up and marched off. The earl was apparently so intimidated by this show of confidence that he made no effort to prevent the royal army leaving. They march to Strathbogie, present day Huntly, and from there to Inverurie where Robert was able to recover.
Some accounts have Robert lying sick in Inverurie, and only recovering in time for the decisive engagement at Barra, but others have him recovering and renewing the assault on the Comyn lands and menacing the Earl of Ross, during the spring of 1308.
It would appear that the early months of 1308, saw several strongholds captured, and destroyed by Robert or his followers, and a resumption of the mobile warfare that had characterised the campaign to date. Whether Robert was personally involved in actions as far a field as Dornoch and Elgin, is not clear, but undoubtedly the Bruce “Spin-doctors” would have tried to maximize his involvement.
Sometime in early April another attempt was made to take Elgin castle, but this was thwarted by the arrival of a force commanded by John de Moubray.
So by some time in May 1308 the royal army was encamped at Inverurie, and the stage was set for the final showdown.
The picture above is courtesy Anne Burgess, through a “creative commons license”.
The picture is from an excellent web site http://www.geograph.org.uk/ which is a collaborative site aiming to have pictures for every grid square on the OS map of Great Britain. Well worth a look.