In Brief

ROBERT THE BRUCE'S RIVALS: The Comyns 1212-1314. By Alan Young. Tuckwell Press Pounds 16.99

Not an academic riposte to Braveheart but the product of quarter of a century's interest by Yorkshire history lecturer Alan Young in the family who dominated 13th century Scottish politics and whose rivalry with the Bruces gives the Wars of Independence the character of a civil conflict as well as a struggle for freedom.

The Comyns built their power mainly in the north of the country. They called the shots during Alexander III's minority and helped create the good government that was shattered by his early death and that of the Maid of Norway. The Comyns backed John Balliol as king. Like the Bruces they were holders of English as well as Scottish lands. Later chroniclers branded them collaborators with Edward I, but they were no more so than Robert the Bruce, who needed history to blacken the rival family in order to excuse his murder of John Comyn in a Dumfries church.

Young restores the reputation of the losers. After Bannockburn, the Bruce ascendancy and a series of ill-timed deaths removed a family which had exemplified high medieval ideas of aristocratic partnership in royal authority.

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