King Robert the Bruce of Scotland
Angus McFadyen as King Robert the Bruce in the film
A 20th Century Image of Bruce
Angus McFadyen portrayed Robert the Bruce in Braveheart as a
confused young man, over-influenced by his scheming father. It is true
that Bruce wanted to fight for Scotland but politics put him and Wallace on the
opposite sides of a feud over the succession.
Wallace supported the Balliol claim to the
Scottish throne, whereas Bruce was convinced that his father was the
What Still Remains -- The Heart of Robert the Bruce
Just before he died (the possible cause was leprosy), in 1329, Bruce asked that his heart should be taken out of his
body, and that Sir James Douglas should carry it with him to fight
against the Saracens in Spain. Douglas obeyed the king, and the heart was enclosed
in a silver casket. Sir James died in battle, and the casket found under
his body on the battlefield. The heart was returned to Scotland, where it was
buried at Melrose Abbey.
In the archeological excavations of the Chapter House floor of Melrose
undertaken by Historic Scotland in the summer of 1996, the team investigated
a lead container thought to contain King Robert the Bruce's heart which had been
removed from beneath the Chapter House floor.
Under laboratory conditions a small hole was drilled into the casket and the interior investigated by a fibre-optic cable. This larger
casket was then carefully opened: inside was another small conical lead casket, and an engraved copper plaque inscribed;
"The enclosed leaden casket containing a heart was found beneath Chapter House floor, March 1921, by His
Majesty's Office of Works"
The smaller conical casket is about 10 inches high and 4 inches in diameter at the base tapering to a flat
top about one and a half inches in diameter. Despite being pitted with age it was in remarkably good
One of the investigating team from Historic Scotland, Richard Welander, said that although it was not
possible to prove absolutely that it is Bruce's heart, "We can say that it is reasonable to assume that it is".
There are no records of anyone else's heart being buried at Melrose.
The casket containing the heart was not opened, and remained in Edinburgh until it was buried again
during a private ceremony at Melrose Abbey on 22 June 1998. On the 24th June, coinciding with the
anniversary of the victory of Bruce's army over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, the
Scottish Secretary of State, Donald Dewar, unveiled a plinth over the place in the abbey grounds where the heart is now buried.
The following item appeared in 1998 in the Scotsman newspaper:
There is a Mr. Mathews who wants a DNA check of Robert the Bruce's heart,
because he believes he is the illegitimate son of the late John Talbot Fletcher,
East Lothian estate has been reported to be valued at £300 million.
time-consuming genealogical research he is convinced that the Talbot
Fletchers are descendants of the Scottish king.
The heart could be the only genetic link between Mr Matthews and the
fortune. Lawyers acting for Mr Matthews have told him that if DNA
confirmed his lineage he could be entitled to a share of the family's
Mr Matthews, 61, a car plant personnel officer from Swansea, has traced
Talbot Fletchers back to a 17th century nobleman, Sir Robert Bruce, who
was said to be a direct descendant of the 14th century monarch. A local
historian is now helping him to trace earlier links.
Mr Matthews said yesterday: "There still needs to be a lot of research
but this is a positive lead and I have a solicitor working for me who
proved a paternity case using DNA techniques on a body.
"The case is still continuing and I won't rest until I have proved the
want recognition that I am John Talbot Fletcher's son and entitled to
rightful share of the inheritance.
"I am not going away, I am sticking with this.
All I have had from the Fletchers are threats, and I am sick of it."
Mr Matthews was born in a workhouse and was adopted soon afterwards. He
later discovered that his
real mother was Ivy Pinn, a maid who worked at Margam Castle, near Port
Talbot, in the 1930s.
According to anecdotal evidence from local people Miss Pinn had a
12-year affair with Talbot Fletcher
- known as Jock - the married master of Margam and the 11th Laird of
Mr Matthews believes the landowner was his father although records of
his adoption have gone
missing. His birth certificate stated "father unknown".
Talbot Fletcher inherited the family estates when he was 30 from his
great aunt, Lady Emily
Charlotte Talbot, who said in her will that he should hand over the
legacy to his eldest son when he
However, there was no legitimate child.
A month before he died in 1995, Talbot Fletcher refused to discuss any
inheritance with Mr
Matthews. He also refused a blood sample and was cremated three days
after his death.
Miss Pinn, who was moved to a workhouse when she became pregnant, was
also cremated when she
died nine years ago. Mr Matthews and his wife, Penny, of Llansamlet,
Swansea, believe a DNA test
on the heart is the only way to prove his inheritance.
Robert the Bruce died in 1329, a hero of the Scottish War of
Independence. A spokeswoman for
Historic Scotland, which has custody of the heart, said: "Any request
for exhumation of the heart
would be dealt with by the Secretary of State for Scotland but
obviously this is a sacred piece of
Scottish history and a lot of thought would have to go into moving it,
let alone subjecting it to any
Paul Heron, a researcher at the School of Microbiological Sciences at
Swansea University, said the
test was feasible: "An organ which has been kept in a lead lined casket
could well be a useful subject
"There was an exercise carried out recently in which it was proved that
a man living in a village in
Suffolk was a direct descendant of Bronze Age people who had been
living there. This was carried out
after DNA was taken from bones dating back to that time."
Mr Matthews has so far failed in an attempt to have the remains of
other members of the Talbot
Fletcher family exhumed from a tomb in Saltoun.
The Royal Bank of Scotland has estimated the family's holdings at over £300 million, the
bulk of which are tied up in East
Lothian and in Sussex.
The dynasty gave its name to the South Wales steel town of Port Talbot
and derived much of its
wealth from William Henry Fox Talbot, the physicist credited with
Angela Fletcher, the estranged wife of the current Laird of Saltoun,
said yesterday: "As far as I
understand there are no links with Mr Matthews."
The Fletcher family's firm of solicitors, Mills & Reeve of Cambridge,
said yesterday: "We cannot
confirm or deny any family link with Robert the Bruce. Mr Matthews has
so far been unsuccessful
with his claim of a direct link with the family, which the family
Novelist Dame Barbara Cartland might be called upon for a DNA sample.
She also claims to be a
descendant of Bruce.
The present clan chief of the Bruces is The Rt Hon Earl of Elgin and Kincardine.
According to Who's Who the Earl's full name is Andrew Douglas
Alexander Thomas Bruce. He's the 37th Chief of the Name of Bruce,
the 11th Earl of Elgin (created 1633) and the 15th Earl of
Kincardine (created 1647). Date of birth 17 February 1924, which makes
him 75. He has 3 sons and 2 daughters.
His address is Broomhall, Dunfermline , Scotland KY11 3DV.
Copyright 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 by Magic Dragon Multimedia.
All rights reserved worldwide. May not be reproduced without permission.
May be posted electronically provided that it is transmitted unaltered, in its
entirety, and without charge.