The death of the Red Comyn in Greyfriars Church

On this day in Scottish History

Red Comyn
A heavily romanticised 19th century depiction of the murder

On the 10th February 1306, John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, known as the Red Comyn, a leading claimant to the vacant Scottish throne, is killed by his arch-rival Robert the Bruce and his supporters in front of the high altar of the Greyfriars Church in Dumfries.

Bruce quickly traveled to Scone where, on 25 March, he was crowned King of Scots. Bruce was later forced to seek papal absolution for committing murder on sacred ground.

The Comyns were one of the most powerful families in Scotland at the time. They held lands in Badenoch, Buchan and had extensive estates elsewhere in the country. When Edward I invaded Scotland in March 1296, Red Comyn, along with his father, and his cousin, John Comyn, Earl of Buchan, responded by attacking Carlisle, which was held for Edward I by Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, the father of the future King Robert the Bruce.

It is often forgotten that the Wars of Scottish Independence began with a fight between the Bruces and Comyns.

In February 1303, Comyn’s prestige increased further when he and Sir Simon Fraser defeated an English army at the Battle of Roslin, south of Edinburgh.

It is possible that Bruce killed Red Comyn in a scuffle when a heated discussion turned violent, however, it is unlikely that Bruce went to Greyfriars Church with the intention of killing Comyn.

Editors note: The popular version of the event has Bruce stabbing but not killing Comyn, who is later finished off by Sir Roger de Kirkpatrick of Closeburn, an associate and cousin of Bruce. Historians disagree as to what happened inside the church, however, the killing of Comyn was most certainly not pre-planned. The event at Greyfriars was the defining political act of 14th century Scotland. 


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