The Bruce (1996)




Director:     Bob Carruthers,  David McWinnie.

Starring:      Brian Blessed (Edward I),  Richard Brimblecombe (Edward II),  Conor Chamberlain (Elizabeth Bruce),  Steven Clark (English Soldier),  Pavel Douglas (John 'Red' Comyn),  Ross Dunsmore (Nigel Bruce),  Vincent Faber (Scottish Soldier),  Heather Flannagan (Majorie Bruce),  Dee Hepburn,  John Hoye (Edward James),  Michael Leighton (Aubrey),  Hildegard Neil (Queen Eleanor),  Oliver Reed (Bishop Wisharton),  Allan Sutherland (As Sudz),  Michael Van Wijk (Henry De Bohun), Sandy Welch (Robert the Bruce). 

story of the Bruce where Braveheart ends


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Out in the desert two groups of horsemen battle each other.  It's the Knight Templars versus a group of Arab horsemen.

A friar is working on the history of Scotland's greatest warrior-king, Robert the Bruce.  He tells a fellow friar that during the life of Robert, the throne of Scotland was vacant.  And there were 13 men competing to be the Scottish king.  The 13 fought amongst each other rather than go up against the English King Edward I.  In fact, they even asked Edward I to chose the man who would be the Scottish king.  Only one man defied the English king and that was Robert the Bruce.  But Robert made one big mistake.  He trusted the word of John Comyn the Red, who was also a competitor of the throne.

Robert and John are alone on horse back.  Robert tells John the Red that they should work together so they make a big difference in Scottish politics.  John suggests that Douglas join with them, but Robert doesn't think Douglas is inclined to fight for Scotland.  They will meet on Tuesday.

Edward I of England at court, Berwick-on-Tweed (on the coast southeast of Edinburgh).  A soldier named Gloucester presents a clergyman named Aubrey.  The King asks where is Aubrey's superior?  Aubrey says that his superior thought it best not to come to court.  But the man does want to complete the pact with the King.  In fact, he will arrange it so that both armies are at Tweeddale Bridge on Ash Wednesday.  A servant comes out to show everyone the crown of the King of Scotland.  The Queen says:  "Rather miserable prize for so much trouble."

After Aubrey leaves, the Queen refers to Scotland as such a stupid, little country.  The King says that this time he is going to finish off Robert the Bruce. 

Robert Bruce's Castle, Scotland.  Comyn and Douglas have sent their armies to unite with the Bruce's army.  Bruce asks Bishop Wisharton who will be the next King of Scotland?  The Bishop is not going to say.  He has urged the competitors to get their country free first and then worry about who will be King.

Sister Mary tells Robert to please leave Nigel behind because he is just too young to be fighting.  Robert will not relent.  Nigel is going with him. 

A messenger comes in to say that Comyn has said that it's time to leave, but Robert is not finished saying goodbye to everyone.  He kisses his wife Elizabeth goodbye.  She tells him when he comes back, she wants to work on having a baby. 

King Edward I gives his troops a speech.  He says his troops and he have even been in Jerusalem together.  This time the soldiers can take all the plunder they can carry.  The King also tells them that he is suspending all the rules of chivalry.  The men can do what they want to do.  The troops are to treat the Scots as infidels that should be put to death by the sword.  "Vengeance shall be mine!" 

Around a campfire, Comyn, Robert and Nigel talk about how Bishop Wisharton was for 20 years the leader of the Knights Templar.  Douglas sneaks up on the group and scares the hell out of them.  The fellow complains that there are no guards set out tonight.  Edward is in Berwick which is only a hundred miles away.  Comyn says he has a spy in Edward's encampment and he will know when the English are going to move on them.  Robert says they will set guards out.  And tomorrow they will attack the English.  Comyn shouts:  "No!"  He says the men must rest.  He also says he himself will set the guards out. 

Scots Army, Tweeddale Bridge.  The friar says that the Scots were deceived by false counsel.  They do not go immediately to do battle with the English.  They wait, while Comyn's spies do their worst. 

Aubrey tells Edward I that the Scots are at Tweeddale Bridge, just as he promised.  The Scots have no guards out.  They think they are safe because they think that Edward is still at Berwick. 

Comyn gets the music going and has the men start dancing.  Meanwhile, the English move up to the encampment.  All of a sudden, the whole English army descends on the Scots.  Robert realizes they have been caught napping.  He tells everyone to scatter to the mountains.  As he bends down to pick up a weapon, Comyn strikes Robert on the the back very hard, knocking him down.  While Nigel is looking at this, Comyn also hits Nigel from behind. 

Nigel gets up and pulls his brother's body off the battlefield.  Edward I's son tells his father that the victory is complete.  And now will they deal with Comyn?  Dad says that from this day Scotland is not a country but a province of England.  He will then put Comyn in as King of Scotland, but the King will be the servant of the King of England.  Edward I is told that the body of Robert the Bruce is not among the dead and wounded on the field.  Edward I tells them to double-check on Bruce.  He shouts:  "I want to see him dead!"

Now the English raid the local village.   Nigel brings Bruce to the village, but he can't get anyone to help him hide Robert.  He finally has to pull Robert into a pig sty.  The English start gouging out the eyes of the Scottish men.  Nigel plays the role of Robert and is immediately cut down and repeatedly stabbed. 

Comyn now cuts his own left cheek with his sword.  He tells the Scots that they fought until the end.  He also reports that Robert has been slain.  Comyn adds that now they must make peace.  Elizabeth screams out:  "No!"  Comyn says he will make a lasting peace with Edward I.  He also mentions his claim to the Scottish throne.  Some of the members of the council say that Comyn should now be declared King.  The Bishop, however, rejects this idea.  He walks out of the room.  Another council member says that Comyn should be crowned within seven days. 

The Bruce finally revives.  He goes into the village and sees so many dead laying in the street.  He finds Nigel's body and yells to God:  "Why not me?!"  He takes the body up on a hill and makes a stone grave for Nigel.  

The friar historian says that Bruce was just about to give up his dream of sitting as the King of Scotland.  He hid in a cave.  There he watched as a spider would fall and then keeping on getting up until he reached his desired location.  He also thought about that treacherous Comyn. 

In the church.  Aubrey now has the responsibility of preparing the coronation service for the crowning of the new king.  He doesn't exactly know all the ins and outs of a coronation.  Comyn keeps telling him to "stop dithering".   All of a sudden, Robert shows up.  Comyn says that the church is hallowed ground and blood is not to be shed here.  Soon the two men are fighting each others with their daggers.  Robert stabs Comyn several times in the mid-section and the man falls dead.  Aubrey rushes over to the dead body and starts yelling:  "Murder!  Sacrilege! Help!"

The people of the village are shocked to see Robert walk through the area.  He goes to see his wife.  They hug and kiss.  Elizabeth is worried what they might do to her husband because he killed a man on hallowed ground.  Robert says he could be excommunicated, banished or even executed. 

The friar historian says that Robert had to work fast.  He had to get hold of the local Bishop and get him to crown him as the King of Scotland.  Only then would he have the strength to unite the country. 

Bruce and his men force their way into the church to talk with the Bishop.  Bishop Wisharton acknowledges that he said he would support Bruce, but he also said "when the time is right".  And now there is murder and sacrilege!  He goes on to say that perhaps Bruce should think less about becoming king and think more about how to bring about creating a Scottish kingdom.  Wisharton adds that Bruce has split Scotland in two.  On the other hand, the Bishop thinks this may be the only course open to him and Scotland.  He will absolve Bruce of his sin and then will crown him king on Palm Sunday. 

At night Elizabeth cannot sleep.  She tells her husband that every time she closes her eyes, she sees visions of the dead villagers.  She says she has dreams of snakes that are a warning for Robert not to take the throne. 

The coronation ceremony starts.  The Bishop says that an excommunication has been issued by Rome, but as long as he is the bishop, the papers will not be served.  "Hail Robert, King of Scots!"  The new King tells the people he has fought against Edward I of England five times.  This next time they will be victorious.  The crowd yells and shouts for their new king.

When Edward I finds out that not only is Robert the Bruce still alive, but he is now the King of Scotland, he gets into a rage shouting at his military leaders that they had confirmed that Robert was dead.  And so they did think him dead.  But it was Nigel they killed, not Robert.  He sends the people out of the room.  He now calls his son a liar at the top of his voice.  He also says that his son is not fit to rule for not performing this simple task for him.  He throws the fellow on the ground and starts strangling him.   He only stops when his wife yells at him.  Edward tells his son he does not want to see him until the army is ready to march into Scotland. 

The military adviser to the King, De Bohun, is going to have sex with a whore, when the future king and Aubrey come into his room.  Aubrey throws the woman out of the room.  The future king tells the adviser that he made him look like a fool in front of his father.  So they want De Bohun and a small group of men to surprise Robert the Bruce in his castle.  If Robert gets away again, then De Bohun is to take Robert's whole family into custody.  The Prince says if De Bohun catches Robert, he is to cut the man's throat so the rebel will die in a great deal of pain.  Then De Bohun must cut out the man's heart and bring it to his Prince.  And make sure it's
Robert this time!

Bishop Wisharton tells the King of Scotland that he must not give up, because all Scotland is now relying on him.  A very bloody man comes in to say that the English fell on them in the castle without warning.  They took the King's wife and daughter with them.  The attackers spared this one servant so he could give Edward I's message to the King of Scotland.  If he does not appear before June 21, his wife and child will be killed. 

Meanwhile, the English soldiers are brutalizing the population in the castle.  They are raping women and slitting the throats of men.  Elizabeth sees her sister-in-law Mary dead on the courtyard ground. 

An army of Scotsmen shows up and takes the castle back from the English.  For five long years the Bruce fought against Edward.  But Edward still kept his wife as a hostage. 

Edward I is dying.  He asks his son for forgiveness and asks him to finish his work in Scotland.  The son forgives him and agrees to finish the work in Scotland. 

Bishop Wisharton looks at some of the mementoes of his actions during the crusade as a leader of the Knights Templar. 

The friar says that the Bruce had conquered almost all the castles in Scotland, but still he did not have his wife.  Bishop Wisharton comes to Bruce dressed in the uniform of the Knights Templar.  Bruce tells the Bishop that he is terrified of losing.  The Bishop tells Bruce that King Edward I is dead. 

King Edward II now rules.  His mother advises him go go back into Scotland,  but not piecemeal like his father did.  She adds that Bruce will come to Sterling if his wife is there.  There in Sterling, she advises Edward to fall on Bruce as he besieges the castle at Sterling.  There Edward will crush the Bruce once and for all. 

Elizabeth is put into the dungeon prison filled with rats. 

The siege begins of Sterling castle.  The Bruce knows that Edward II will come to Stirling castle.  So he makes a plan to fight them. 

Edward II rides along with his army to the battlefield.  The Bruce gives a speech against English tyranny to his troops.  He adds that they must be ready to do or to die.  A big roar comes up from his men. 

The friar says that men, women and children came out to watch their Scottish troops at Bannockburn.  The English start moving up towards the Scots.  When they reach the lines, the horses are afraid to throw themselves into the tightly packed men with their long spears at the ready.  So the English have to change the nature of their next charge.  Infantry and horsemen head toward the Scots.  Through gaps horsemen are able to get behind the densely packed formations.  The Scottish formations start to break up. 

The men and women called camp followers get together and rush down the hill to fight the English.  The English think another whole army is descending on them and they start losing heart and begin slowly retreating.  Now it's the Scots who are rushing forward as fast as they can to kill as many Englishmen as they can.   The Bishop is even there killing English soldiers.  De Bohun kills the Bishop behind his back.  Bruce sees this and comes after De Bohun.  The big man knocks the Bruce down, but as he raises his sword up high for the killing blow, the Bruce shoves his sword into the man's mid-section and he goes down. 

The Bruce is reunited with his wife. 

The friar historian says that Robert the Bruce won freedom for his country.  He ruled Scotland until his death in 1329.  He never made it out to Jerusalem, but his heart was taken there by some Scottish fighters and thrown into the midst of the enemy troops when the fight started, as per the wish of Robert the Bruce.


Good to have this film about Robert the Bruce who won freedom for his country, Scotland.  Edward I of England was such as skilled opponent, that he continually defeated the Scots.  But Edward I died and was replaced by Edward II, King of England.  Robert the Bruce won freedom for Scotland at the Battle of Bannockburn, at least for awhile.  It's a rather short film, but well done and entertaining.   Sandy Welch (as Robert the Bruce) was very good.  Brian Blessed and Oliver Reed, of course, are well-known pros. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

see  Macbeth (1971)



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