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In search of Robert Bruce, part III: medieval royal burial at Dunfermline and the tomb investigations of 1818–19

Wilkinson, C and MacGregor, M In search of Robert Bruce, part III: medieval royal burial at Dunfermline and the tomb investigations of 1818–19. Innes Review. ISSN 0020-157X (Accepted)

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Abstract

On 5 November 1819, a burial vault uncovered the previous year within the ruins of the medieval Benedictine abbey at Dunfermline was formally opened and investigated. The contemporary assumption was that the skeleton within was that of Robert I King of Scots, or Robert Bruce, and this was the dominant theme of the official report written by the King’s Remembrancer, Henry Jardine. The first article in this series explains the process behind the facial reconstruction, published in December 2016, of the skull cast made from the skeleton excavated at Dunfermline on 5 November 1819. It offers a fresh analysis of the cast to make deductions about the sex, age and physique of the individual in question, and the possible presence of disease affecting the bone. The second article broadens the scope, bringing to bear the medieval evidence to evaluate the seven available benchmarks—sex, physique, age, disease, heart burial, tomb location and manner of death—which enable conclusions to be reached about the identity of the occupant of the Dunfermline tomb. This, the third and final article in the series, is devoted to the most problematic of these benchmarks, that of tomb location. The problem derives from the facts that the Dunfermline church site acted as the principal Scottish royal mausoleum from 1093 to 1420, receiving the burials of several kings apart from Robert Bruce; and that the eastern arm of the medieval abbey, where some of these royal burials took place, has long been almost totally destroyed, and is otherwise barely recorded. The article will firstly explore the view of Thomas Bryce and Iain Fraser that the tomb investigated in 1818-19 was part of a burial group consisting of David I, Malcolm IV, Alexander III and Robert I, and probably belonged to Robert I. It will then use the available evidence to advance an alternative hypothesis: that Dunfermline abbey’s eastern arm including the choir was completed not by 1150, as has generally been supposed, but by 1180; and that David I and Malcolm IV were not a part of this burial group. If so, the probability that the tomb investigated in 1818-19 was that of Robert I would be increased. Finally, it will assess the more recent argument of Michael Penman, that this tomb may rather have belonged to David I. The conclusion reached here, and in the series as a whole, is concurrence with Bryce and Fraser that there is a strong probability that the tomb discovered and investigated at Dunfermline in 1818-19 belonged to Robert Bruce.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2103 Historical Studies
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D111 Medieval History
Q Science > QM Human anatomy
Q Science > QP Physiology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA1001 Forensic Medicine. Medical jurisprudence. Legal medicine
Divisions: Education
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Date Deposited: 10 Oct 2019 10:05
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2019 10:05
URI: http://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/11515

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