In northern Scotland, two separate sieges connect two mighty bastions of north eastern power–Kildrummy Castle and Lochindorb Castle. Notably, the defence of both castles were led by two key elite women of fourteenth-century Scotland: Christina Bruce, sister of the late Robert I, aunt to David II, and wife to the Guardian of Scotland; and Catherine de Beaumont, Countess of Atholl, and daughter of one of the last major Gaelic heiresses of Scotland.
The Scottish Wars of Independence erupted in c.1297 in reaction to Edward I of England’s attempted subjugation of Scotland, following a Scottish royal succession crisis. This first stage of the wars raged until c.1328 with the signing of the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton under the reign of Robert I of Scotland. Despite this treaty, war again raised its ugly head by 1332. Edward Balliol, son of the former King of Scots, John Balliol, raised an army with the support of Edward III of England. Much of Balliol’s support was made up of the ‘Disinherited’–the nobility whose Scottish lands and titles were made forfeit for opposing the reign of Robert I. This ‘Disinherited’ host was significant in the outbreak of the second stage of the wars in the wake of Robert’s death, seeking to take back what they believed was rightfully theirs.
Despite a poor start—which included the young David II fleeing to France, Balliol being crowned King of Scots, and an English invasion of Scotland—by 1335 the Bruce party were making a comeback led by Andrew Murray, Guardian of Scotland. Murray’s loyalty to the Bruce kings can be connected through his marriage to Robert I’s sister, Christina Bruce. Christina had been a staunch supporter of her brother’s claims to kingship and was no stranger to the horrors of warfare, being held captive in England from c.1306 to c.1314. Her marriage to Murray secured a key ally for the Bruce regime, which continued into the early years of David II’s reign.
One of the primary ‘Disinherited’ opponents to the Bruce regime was David Strathbogie, claimant to the earldom of Atholl. Strathbogie had executed an infamously relentless campaign across northeastern Scotland to retake the lands and titles he believed were his. In 1335, he initiated a siege at Kildrummy Castle, the administrative seat of the earldom of Mar. Strathbogie’s motivations for taking Kildrummy were clear: control a centre of northeastern power and expand his influence in the region. Above all, Kildrummy conveniently happened to be under the keepership of Christina Bruce herself. By targeting Kildrummy, Strathbogie was directly attacking the Guardian of Scotland’s wife and a close blood relative to the Bruce crown.