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Most of you might not recognize the name Robert the Bruce. His character was in the Mel Gibson’s movie Braveheart. Robert the Bruce was the Scottish noble whose character is most remembered for betraying Wallace, but he later rose up to lead Scotland to freedom after Walllace’s execution.

He died in 1329 at the age of fifty-four. History and legend teach that shortly before his death, Robert the Bruce requested that his heart be removed from his body and taken on crusade by a worthy knight. James Douglas, one of his closest friends, was at his bedside and took on the responsibility. The heart of Robert the Bruce was embalmed and placed in a small container that Douglas carried around his neck. In every battle that Douglas fought, he literally carried the heart of his king pressed against his chest.

In the early spring of 1330, Douglas sailed from Scotland to Granada, Spain, and engaged in a campaign against the Moors. In an ill-fated battle, Douglas found himself surrounded, and in this situation death was both certain and imminent. In that moment Douglas reached for the heart strapped around his neck, flung the heart into the enemy’s midst, and cried out, “Fight for the heart of your king” One historian quoted Douglas shouting, “Forward, brave heart, as ever thou were wont to do, and Douglas will follow his king’s heart or die” The motto of the Douglas clan to which the present duke belongs is even to this day simply, “Forward.”

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