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Myths & Legends


The Myth of Robert Bruce and the Spider

Bruce hid from the English in the Western Isles during the winter of 1306-7, where he is said to have been inspired by a spider to try once again to recover the throne. This story is often attributed to Sir Walter Scott in Tales of a Grandfather (1827), but it first appeared in a seventeenth century history of the Douglas clan. This work, by Hume of Godscroft, suggests that Sir James Douglas, one of the few supporters to accompany Bruce to the Hebrides, observed a spider trying to climb a tree before finally succeeding at the thirteenth attempt. Douglas drew a parallel between the spider and Bruce's twelve failures in his quest for the Scottish throne, and he urged Bruce to try again.

Bruce returned to the mainland in the spring of 1307 and won victories in Ayrshire. The death of Edward I in July 1307 and weak leadership by Edward II allowed him to overcome his Scottish opponents. By 1309 he had gained enough support to hold a Parliament, and his position as king gradually strengthened over the following five years.

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