Murder of Red Comyn
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10 February 1306
Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries
Following the death of Wallace, Bruce and Red Comyn appeared to be moving to an alliance to rise up against Edward.
In 1304, John Comyn II, known as the Red Comyn after his grandfather, moved his allegiance over to England’s Edward I and sat on his ‘Scottish Council’. When Robert the Bruce set his plans to resume the War of Independence. Bruce killed Comyn either because he would not back Robert, or because he threatened to expose his intentions.
According to legend Robert the Bruce and John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, met at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries. Bruce had called the meeting and the two left their swords outside as they entered the church.
A fight broke out before the high altar and Bruce stabbed Red Comyn.
Bruce left the church and told his men what had happened. Roger de Kirkpatrick said "You doubt. Ise mac siccar." – I make sure. Kirkpatrick and Sir John De de Lindsay went into the church to make sure that red Comyn was dead. Comyn’s uncle Sir Robert Comyn, who was also present, was killed by Bruce’s supporter and brother-in-law, Sir Christopher Seton.
A letter from the English court to the Pope said
"Bruce rose against King Edward as a traitor, and murdered Sir John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, in the church of the Friars Minor in the town of Dumfries, at the high altar, because John would not assent to the treason which Bruce planned... to resume war.. and make himself king of Scotland."
A running sword fight took place afterwards around the church, with people running away in terror from the supporters of both men . Robert the Bruce and his supporters won the day. As the Comyn support dwindled Bruce and his friends made for Dumfries Castle which they took with little difficulty.
As well as the military benefits, Comyn’s death favoured Bruce by removing another competitor to the throne of Scotland. The following month King Robert I ("The Bruce") was crowned at Scone.
Murder of one noble by another was not unusual, but because it had happened in a church, Robert the Bruce was excommunicated for a while by the Pope for this crime. Bruce ruthlessly raided the Buchan lands and destroyed the Comyn family there. When Red Comyn's only son died at the Battle of Bannockburn (fighting for the English) the hereditary office of Constable of Scotland and the castle of Slains were given to the Hays of Errol (who were distantly related).
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References, Sources and Further Reading
- Scotland - The History of a Nation by Magnus Magnusson