His great estates and connexionsHe was also connected by marriage with the royal family of England,* and was undoubtedly one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, subject in Scotland. Bruce and Comyn were thus the heads of two rival parties in the state, whose animosity was excited by their mutual claims to the same crown, and whose interests were irreconcileable. Accordingly, when Edward gave his famous award in favour of Baliol, Bruce, the competitor, refused to take the oath of homage;and although he acquiesced in the decision, gave up his lands in the vale of Annandale, which he must have held as a vassal under Baliol, to his son, the Earl of Carrick; again, in 1293, the Earl of Carrick resigned his lands and earldom of Carrick to his son Robert, then a young man in the service of the King of England.J In the years 1295 and 1296, Edward invaded Scotland, and reduced Baliol, and the party of the Comyns, to submission. During this contest, Bruce the Earl of Carrick, and son of the competitor, possessed of large estates in England, continued faithful to Edward. He thus preserved his estates, and hoped to see the destruction of the only rivals who stood between him and his claim to the throne. Nor was this a vain expectation; for Edward, on hearing of the revolt of Baliol and the Comyns, undoubtedly held out the prospect of the throne to Bruce :§ and these circumstances afford us a complete explanation of the inactivity of that baron and his son at this period. Meanwhile Baliol and the Comyns issued a hasty order, confiscating the estates of all who preserved their allegiance to Edward. In consequence of this resolution, the lordship of Annandale, the paternal inheritance of the Earl of Carrick, was declared forfeited, and given by Baliol to John Comyn earl of Buchan, who immediately seized and occupied Brace's castle of Lochmaben, an insult which there is reason to think the proud baron never forgave. Compelled to submit to Edward, the Comyns, and the principal nobles who supported them, were now carried prisoners into England; and, when restored to liberty, it was only on condition that they should join his army in Flanders, and assist him in his foreign wars.
During the brief but noble stand made by Wallace for the national liberty, Robert Brace, then a young man of three-and-twenty, was placed in difficult and critical circumstances. It was in his favour that his rivals, the Comyns, were no longer in the field, but kept in durance by Edward. His father remained in England, where he possessed large estates, and continued faithful in his allegiance to the king. At this time it is important to remark what Walter Hemingford, a contemporary English historian, has said of young Brace: After mentioning the revolt which was headed by Wallace, he informs us, "that the Bishop of Carlisle, and other barons, to whom the peace of that district was committed, became suspicious of the fidelity of Robert Brace the younger, Earl of Carrick, and sent for him to come and treat upon the affairs of Edward, if he intended to remain faithful to that monarch." Brace, he continues, did not dare to disobey, but came on the day appointed, with his vassals of Galloway, and took an oath on the sacred host, and upon the sword of St Thomas, that ho would assist the kiug against the Scots, and all his enemies, both byword and deed. Having taken this oath, he returned to his country; and, to give a colour of truth to his fidelity, collected his vassals, and ravaged the lands of William Douglas, carrying the wife and infant children of this knight into Annandale. Soon after this, however, as he returned from a meeting of the Scottish conspirators to his own country, having assembled his father's men of Annandale, (for his father himself then resided in the south of England, and was ignorant of his son's treachery,) he told them, "that it was true he had lately taken a foolish oath at Carlisle, of which they had heard." He assured them that it was extorted by force, and that he not only deeply repented what he had done, but hoped soon to get absolution. Meanwhile he added, "that he was resolved to go with his own vassals, and join the nation from which he sprung; and he earnestly entreated them to do the same, and come along with him as his dear friends and counsellors. The men of Annandale, however, disliking the peril of this undertaking, whilst their master, the elder Bruce, was in England, decamped in the night; and the young Bruce, aspiring to the crown, as was generally reported, joined himself to the rebels, and entered into the conspiracy with the Bishop of Glasgow, and the Steward of Scotland, who were at the bottom of the plot." Such is an almost literal translation from the words of Walter Hemingford, whose information as to Scottish affairs at this period, seems to have been minute and accurate.