The Imprisonment of the Bruce Women

At Stuarts Weekly we are fortunate enough to meet like-minded people who are willing to share their work with us. Moniek from the website, History of Royal Women is one of these fantastic people. She has allowed us to share this wonderful piece of history with you about the history of the Stuarts.

As we’ve discussed previously ( but only briefly), the Stuart dynasty began with Robert I – aka, Robert the Bruce. This is the story of the consequences of being royal woman during the wars of independence.

Guest article written by: Moniek aka “Mo”
Originally posted to History of Royal Women on 21 September 2015

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During the First War of Scottish Independence the female relatives of King Robert (I) the Bruce of Scotland were particularly bad off.

Mary Bruce (a sister of Robert), Christina Bruce (a sister of Robert), Marjorie Bruce (the daughter of Robert), Elizabeth de Burgh (the second wife of Robert) and Isabella MacDuff (a supporter but not a relative) were captured and betrayed to the English by William, 3rd Earl of Ross. They had taken sanctuary in the Chapel of St. Duthac at Tain while on their way to the safety of Orkney. William violated their sanctuary and they were arrested and handed over.

Mary Bruce was held prisoner in an iron or wooden cage exposed to the public at Roxburgh Castle. She would spent four years in the cage being humiliated. The same fate was suffered by Isabella MacDuff. Edward I had sent the following instructions for her:

‘Let her be closely confined in an abode of stone and iron made in the shape of a cross, and let her be hung up out of doors in the open air at Berwick, that both in life and after her death, she may be a spectacle and eternal reproach to travellers.’

Mary was eventually released in 1314. She married twice and had a single son, John Campbell, Earl of Atholl. She died around 1323.

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Isabella was sent to Berwick-upon-Tweed where she indeed spent four years in a cage before being moved to a Carmelite friary. By the end of the four years they were considered valuable hostages and Edward did not want them to die of things like exposure. However, Isabella appears to be the only one who didn’t survive the ordeal. No mention is made of her during prisoner exchanges, so she had probably died by 1313.

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Christina Bruce suffered a less harsh faith and was sent to a Gilbertine nunnery at Sixhills in Lincolnshire. Her niece Marjorie was sent to a convent in Watton, though she had also been ordered to imprisonment in a cage at the Tower of London. Edward I had changed his mind just in time. Marjorie and Christina were released in 1314.

Christina married her second husband in 1326 but it appears they had no children and she died around 1356.

Marjorie Bruce married not soon after to Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland. On 2 March 1316 Marjorie was pregnant when she was thrown off her horse. She delivered the child at Paisley Abbey and died a few hours later. Her son would become the first Stuart monarch as Robert II. Marjorie was just 19 years old

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Elizabeth de Burgh was held under house arrest in not ideal conditions. She was imprisoned for eight years. She was moved around a lot, before being moved to Carlisle where a prisoner exchange took place and she was able to return to Scotland at the end of 1314.

It appears not much is known of the time during their imprisonment, though I imagine it must have been a trying time. I found some information in this book, 1 but it’s limited information. I wish we knew more about how their imprisonment effected their lives!


My name is Moniek (please call me Mo!) and I live in Arnhem in the Netherlands. I have a very British heart and I hope to live there one day. My interest began with Anne Boleyn and the Tudor times, but it greatly expanded over time as I found more and more admirable women in other countries and kingdoms.  I enjoy visiting the places where these women lived and died and I love reading about them.

WEBSITE: History of Royal Women

I am not a historian and this is just a hobby!

If you wish to contact me, you can do so here. You can also find me on Twitter, Youtube and Facebook.

2 thoughts on “The Imprisonment of the Bruce Women

  1. Hi Moneik, I am an American(whose father was born in the Netherlands). I enjoyed your article very much and also like to read anything about Scottish and English women. My email address is demery Thanks for your article. My name is Diane.


  2. Their imprisonment was brutal. This much I know. I may not know particulars but I know that they suffered. Look what happened to the brother of James the First, King of Scots, David, first Duke of Rothesay. He was starved to death. I may love Scots history but I do know it was brutal. Edward the First of England was a brutal man. I hated him. He may have loved Eleanor of Castile and even Marguerite of Valois who had give him two sons, one of which, Richard the Second is descended of, the Earl of Kent who had been the father of Joan of Kent. But Edward the First was brutal. I hate both King Edward the First and Henry the Eight for trying to subjugate Scotland. Now I hate Henry the Eight for many other reasons too but this is one of the primary reasons.


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