Isabel Bruce, Queen of Norway

Today, we welcome Robert’s older sister to share her story with us. In the closing years of the 13th century, the Bruce family was one of the most powerful in Scotland and Isabel had a strategic role to play …

‘My name is Isabel but you may call me Isa. I was destined to become a queen. To be honest, it was the very last thing I desired, to leave my home and family, but I was groomed for greatness and expected nothing less. Scotland was in chaos for King Alexander had died without an heir and my grandfather was one of many who wished to be king, but it did not turn out the way he hoped. In the end, King Edward of England overtook Scotland and it was my younger brother, Robert, who took on the crown. It is not his story I wish to tell but my own.

I was the oldest of a great brood of children born to Lady Marjory of Carrick, a wild, unruly woman who followed her own path in life. Our family lived happily at Turnberry Castle until she died. I grew up that day, for her death was so sudden the shock of it rocked my world. A year later, my father, Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, took me to Norway to begin my new life.

My five brothers had already left home to be fostered with other noble families so the greatest wrench for me was to leave my sisters, some of whom were still very young. Christina, whom I called Kirsty — the sister closest to me in age and spirit, urged me to write to her.  And that is what happened.

To begin my story, I was frightened of the long voyage and what I would encounter at journey’s end. The Vikings had a fearsome reputation, for they had ravaged our land in the past, but Father assured me that they were a Christian nation and we had much in common. Only a few decades ago, they had attacked Scotland, but peace now reigned between our countries. Part of me was excited by the challenge, the rest was wretched with fear. What if I failed in my task — to strengthen my family’s standing and build its power base?

I was homesick! I missed so much — the household who had nurtured me, especially our old cook Mhairi; my horse and falcon; and the simple rhythms of our life. My new family had a different set of values and beliefs. They knew nothing of me or my ways. We had no shared memories. In truth, I missed the cloak of comfort, of familiar things.

After my marriage to King Eric, my path became clear. I had little choice but to put aside the old and accept my new life, embracing all the wonders it offered. I opened myself to all challenges — to learn the language; the history and culture. I chose persistence and resilience as my family and country had taught me and adjusted to my life in the busy town of Bergen. I dressed differently and ate foods that were strange to me, porpoise and whale and the like. As I grew to love the steep mountains and fjords, I had the sense of nestling into the landscape. I made friends and those friends became my new family.

In a few short years, King Eric died. My daughter and I remained strong and free in the land of the Viking, but all the while, dreadful events were overtaking my homeland and I held grave fears for my kinfolk’s safety …’