What famous Scottish king was a leper?

June 6, 2017 | Author: | Posted in History

Robert the Bruce (1274-1329), liberator of Scotland and King of that country from 1315 until his death, was a victim of leprosy. The Scottish King had made a vow to go on a crusade to the Holy Land, but was prevented from doing so, first by wars at home and then by the disease that he knew would end his life.

The royal leper, who spent the last two years of his life at Cardross Castle on the northern shore of the Firth of Clyde, asked Sir James Douglas (the Good) who had fought under Bruce in the decisive Battle of Bannockburn, to take his heart to Jerusalem for burial. After Bruce died of leprosy his heart was removed and the body buried in the abbey church of Dunfermline, the “Westminster of Scotland.”

In 1390 Sir James set out for Palestine with the embalmecl heart of Bruce in a silver casket, but while traveling through Spain he joined a band of Christians who were being besieged by the Moors. According to tradition, just before Douglas was killed in the battle he threw Bruce’s heart in the midst of the infidel host, crying, “Go thou before as thou wert wont to do, and Douglas will follow.” One of his knights recovered the heart of Bruce and took it and the body of Douglas back to Scotland, where both were buried in Melrose Abbey. When Bruce’s body was disinterred in 1819 the remains showed clearly that the heart had been removed.

A royal leper is mentioned in the Bible. II Kings 15:5 says the Lord smote King Azariah (Uzziah) of Judah “so that he was a leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a several house.” Baldwin IV, King of Ierusalem from 1174 to 1185, was a leper and died of the disease at the supposed age of twenty-four. He is the hero of Zofia Kossak’s The Leper King (1945).

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