Christina Bruce, Countess of Mar

When I started, as a writer, to explore the dynamics of the Bruce family, Robert’s sisters almost seemed to spring from the page. Nigh on seven centuries had passed but their strong, characterful faces, rich with insight and promise, formed in my mind’s eye. Their voices came to me as bright, heady chatter and I wondered how they had kept silent so long. I was beguiled and knew that a remarkable tale was about to unfold.

Here Christina, or Kirsty, as I know her, shares her story with us:

“You might ask what it was like having a brother who was destined to be king. In fact, my older sister, Isabel, was no swaying reed: Isa’s path would take her to Norway as its queen. I was pinioned, if you will, between these two unique individuals, both sturdy and straight as Scots’ pines whose roots found purchase amidst the rocky crevices. There, they found sustenance and purpose.

You could be forgiven for thinking they might have been arrogant and pompous as youngsters. But Rob and Isa were generally of an obliging disposition ─ until crossed! Once committed to an ideal, they did what was asked of them with dedication and persistence. I was of softer mettle, more malleable in nature and I adored them both.

For many years, Rob was caught between Grandfather’s zealous dream of kingship and Father’s stony will. Grandfather wanted Robert to be king and by-passed our father who was hurt and shamed by this public betrayal. Robert bore the brunt of his bitter disappointment. Our family splintered and the conflict festered.

What we knew we learnt at Grandfather’s knee: a no-nonsense man, he had been a Crusader. Best of all he taught us to use our wits ─ a strict master who always expected us to reach higher and higher, as he had done. I was inspired by the way he rose to a challenge and enjoyed the tug and thrust of a game of wits.

In time, I was betrothed to an old childhood friend, Garnait, heir to the north-eastern earldom of Mar. Our marriage vows were made in the chapel at Kildrummy. The castle towered over the landscape. I felt safe there and for many years it was my home, but fear ate away at our happiness. We lived with the threat of war, and readied ourselves for it, filling the castle with everything that might sustain us in time of siege. In the south, English armies marched across our lands and Scotland’s heart was torn out and fed as carrion to the crows …