The Story Behind Netflix’s ‘Outlaw King

  • Jess Magee
  • Lucy Payne

Many Netflix viewers have been tirelessly waiting for the release of the new movie ‘Outlaw King’. Set as the retelling of one of the biggest events in Scottish history, director David Mackenzie creates a Game of Thrones aesthetic to bring the story of Robert the Bruce to centre stage. But whilst there was no shortage of action and drama, the lack of historical context (minus a few PowerPoint style text boxes to save them an extra couple of hours) leaves many wondering the full timeline and story behind this Scottish hero. Family Ties Robert was born July 11th, 1274. A descendant of the Scottish King David I, his family believed that Scotland should be independent from England, with his grandfather Robert de Brus pursuing this during disputes following the death of Alexander III. These disputes took Scotland into a civil war, leading to English King, Edward I, using his power to crown John Bailliol in 1292. After relations took a nose dive, King Edward launched an invasion of Scotland in 1296. After a swift victory, Robert’s family swore their loyalty to the English king. However, Robert did not follow his family entirely. He backed rebel William Wallace during an uprising against the English king but did not join Wallace during his victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Calm Before the Storm With all seeming to calm down, trouble was already right around the corner. In 1301, Edward I began another campaign with Robert seemingly swearing loyalty towards the English monarch after his rival claimant to the throne, John Comyn, was rumoured to be planning to seize power. After another invasion in 1304, the English took control over Scotland. Although Robert seemed to be on the side of the king, he had plans to retake what he believed was rightfully Scottish. In Cold Blood In 1306, he met with his rival, John, which ended in Robert stabbing Comyn at the altar of the Chapel of Greyfriars Monastery after a fight broke out between the two. Leading to his excommunication and his newly found determination for the crown. Six weeks later, his supporter, Bishop Robert Wishart, gave him absolution. This allowed him to be crowned King Robert I that same year. This taste of rebellion led to a renewed conflict with the English and disastrous civil war against those who swore their loyalty to England. Members of his family were tortured by association, with Robert’s brother famously being hung, drawn and quartered, as shown in the film. Robert faced even more problems as he and his relatively small army were defeated in 1306, leaving to his retreat with a few supporters in tow. He stayed in hiding until Edward I’s death in the summer of 1307, things began looking up for Robert and his followers. It’s Always Sunny in Bannockburn Robert began a new campaign against the new English King, Edward II, with a series of small victories leading to his establishment of a kingdom in the north of Scotland in 1308. He continued defeated Scottish rivals and English troops, allowing him to also seize the Isle of Man in 1313. Famously, in 1314 as they began to strike northern, troops were sent by King Edward II to meet Robert’s army for battle at Bannockburn. This proved to be a highly victorious and legendary battle for the Scottish King, with Edward II avoiding death by being pulled from the battlefield, which is shown much in the style of a temper tantrum during the film. After this and many more years a political power plays and success, he finally became the overall King of Scotland and freed the country from English rule in 1324, which was also recognised by Pope John XXII. He sadly died a few years later in June 1329, with his body buried in Dunfermline Abbey. Netflix’s Outlaw King is now available online for streaming.