Isabel MacDuff, Countess of Buchan was a woman who followed her conscience and suffered the consequences. Her family line, the MacDuffs, had the hereditary right to crown the Kings of Scotland. So in 1306 when Robert Bruce killed his rival for the throne, Red Comyn, she defied her husband, stole his horse, and rode to Scone. The place where Scottish monarchs had been crowned since 838AD
On hearing of her arrival, The Bruce who had already been crowned, agreed to go through with the rite of enthronement a second time, so on March 27th 1306 Isabel crowned Robert I. You might be forgiven for thinking The Bruce was just placating a loyal follower, but I don’t think so. By royal decree a MacDuff had crowned the kings of Scotland since 1057. Being crowned by Isabel gave his claim to the throne a legitimacy it would have lacked otherwise.
In late 1306 Edward I captured her, along with Robert’s wife, sisters, and daughter. Her husband asked for her death, but Edward had other ideas. She was imprisoned, exposed to the elements, in a cage suspended from the outer walls of Berwick Castle, the object of public humiliation.
“As she did not strike with the sword, she shall not perish by the sword... let her be closely confined in an abode of stone and iron... 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.”
Edward I, King of England
I cannot even begin to imagine how cold she must have been in winter, or how she scared she must've been when the cage swayed in the wind? I also have to wonder if the inhabitants of Berwick pitied or scorned her.
She stayed in that cage for fours years until 1310, when she was sent to a Carmelite nunnery. By this time, Robert was making headway in his campaign against the English, and the women had become valuable as hostages. Accounts vary, but it seems that this is the last time she appears in the historical record. After the Battle of Bannockburn there was a hostage exchange, and the Bruce women were returned to Scotland. Isabel was not among them and it is believed she died in captivity. A sad fate for a woman who followed her conscience and crowned a king.
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