This is the third and final book in Robyn Young’s Robert (the) Bruce trilogy, culminating in the Battle of Bannockburn, the 700th anniversary of which has been marked this year. I’m rather put out that she chose not to include the spider story, LOL, but she does mention it in the afterword, referring to it as “the now legendary arachnid” :-).
It’s a very complex period in both Scottish and English history, and the author explains in the afterword that she’s simplified events and merged events to prevent the story, which is a novel rather than a text book, from becoming too convoluted. Fair enough. I found it rather strange, though, that she chose to invent a storyline about Elizabeth de Burgh, Robert’s queen, having an affair with one of her captors, and another storyline in which it was Robert who captured Piers Gaveston and handed him over to Edward II’s English opponents. Philippa Gregory makes things like that up, but I don’t really expect Robyn Young to do so. Oh well, it was entertaining to read, and at least she explained that she’d made it up!
I like her portrayal of Robert the Bruce himself very much. She doesn’t try to show him as any sort of hero, villain or legend, but as a real human being, with good points and bad points. Edward I, on the other hand, comes across in a very negative way … but then his handling of Scottish affairs, especially his brutal decision to imprison Isabel Macduff (who came across as a very sad victim in this book – I prefer Nigel Tranter’s portrayal of her as feisty and independent) and Mary Bruce in cages, was horrific. Whatever his achievements as “the English Justinian”, it’s hard to think how anyone could portray him other than negatively when writing about Scotland. Edward II just came across as rather a prat, and it’s hard to argue with that. Robyn Young takes the view that Edward II and Piers Gaveston were lovers – I’m not sure why some people think otherwise, TBH – but whether or not they were lovers isn’t really that relevant: it’s the fact that he gave Gaveston so much power that caused the problems.
Anyway, thus endeth this excellent trilogy, the second of Robyn Young’s excellent trilogies of historical novels. I look forward to her beginning her third!