A man with a plan

Born on July 11, 1274, Robert the Bruce came from an established aristocratic family with links to the Scottish royal bloodline – his grandfather was one of the claimants to the throne during the succession dispute known as the Great Cause of 1290-1292.

While Bruce inherited considerable wealth and power from his father, he had greater ambitions and became focused on pursuing his family's claim to take the Scottish crown.

Murder most foul

When William Wallace resigned as Guardian of Scotland after the Battle of Falkirk in 1298, he was succeeded by Bruce and John III Comyn who jointly took on the role, but the pair could not see past their personal differences. Bruce resigned in 1300 due to his quarrels with Comyn.

The bitter rivalry again reared its head in the summer of 1305 after a secret agreement was made that Comyn would forfeit his claim to the Scottish throne upon receipt of the Bruce lands in Scotland should an uprising occur.

According to the poet John Barbour, Comyn betrayed Bruce to King Edward I. Bruce met with Comyn at Greyfriars Kirk in Dumfries on February 10, 1306 to accuse him of treachery. They came to blows and Comyn was stabbed.

An account in Scotichronicon by the historian Walter Bower claims that after receiving word Comyn had survived the skirmish, two of Bruce's supporters – Roger de Kirkpatrick and John Lindsay – returned and finished the job. Yet, curiously Barbour's version includes no such detail.

After the death of Comyn, Bruce asserted his claim to the crown and began his campaign for the independence of Scotland.

The Brus

John Barbour's narrative poem The Brus, penned around 1375, charts the life of Robert the Bruce in the Scottish Wars of Independence during the late 13th and early 14th centuries. Written in early Scots, it comprises 20 books and just under 14,000 octosyllabic lines.

A fabled spider

The legend of Bruce and the spider has become renowned around the globe. The story goes that during the early days of Bruce's reign – defeated by the English, driven into exile and a hunted man – he sought refuge in a small, dark cave.

A spider caught Bruce's eye and he watched fascinated as the tiny creature attempted to spin its web, failing over and over until it finally managed to stick a strand of silk to the cave wall.

Bruce was inspired not to give up his own battle – supposedly the roots of the adage: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again" – and ultimately went on to achieve victory.

The legend as it is now told was first published by Sir Walter Scott in Tales Of A Grandfather in 1828 – more than 500 years after the Battle of Bannockburn. It is thought that Scott may have adapted a story told about Sir James Douglas.

Multiple locations across Scotland and Ireland lay claim to being home to the legendary cave where Bruce encountered the spider including Drumadoon on Arran, Kirkpatrick Fleming near Lockerbie, Uamh-an-Righ at Balquhidder Glen and Rathlin Island, County Antrim.

Bruce by numbers

He could speak three languages: Gaelic, Scots and Anglo-Norman French.

The average life expectancy for a male child born in the UK between 1276 and 1300 was 31.3 years. Bruce, born in 1274, lived to the age 54 – not bad going at all.

His skeleton was measured at 5ft 11in (or 180cm in new money). It is estimated that Bruce would have stood at around 6ft 1in (186 cm) tall as a young man – almost the same height as King Edward I who was 6ft 2in (188 cm).

Bruce was married twice. His first wife Isabella of Mar died soon after giving birth to their daughter Marjorie on December 12, 1296 at the Manor of Cardross in Dunbartonshire. He then married Irish-born Elizabeth de Burgh in 1302. The couple were married for 25 years and died 18 months apart.

A medieval bromance

After Comyn was killed in 1306, Bruce made his way to Glasgow and then Scone – the traditional site of Scottish coronations – when he met Sir James Douglas, who appeared on the road ahead riding on a borrowed horse.

It is believed this meeting took place at the summit of a hill in Dumfries and Galloway, now known as the Crown of Scotland, where Douglas explained his circumstances – his lands had been seized – and offered his services to Bruce.

According to Barbour in his poem The Brus: "And thus began their friendship true."

Scattered to the winds

After Bruce died on June 7, 1329, his body was buried in Dunfermline Abbey while his heart was interred in Melrose Abbey and his internal organs are said to have been embalmed and placed in St Serf's, Dumbarton, site of a medieval parish church.

There are varying accounts about how this all came to be. According to the chronicler Jean Froissart, when Bruce lay dying, he requested that his friend and loyal lieutenant Douglas carry his heart to be presented at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem as a mark of penance.

Alternatively, Barbour claimed that Bruce asked that his heart should simply be carried in battle against "God's foes" as a token of his unfulfilled ambition to go on crusade.

Bruce's heart was placed in a silver casket which Douglas wore around his neck. Douglas died in the 1330 Battle of Teba which took place in what is now the province of Malaga in Andalusia. His body and the casket containing Bruce's heart were recovered after the conflict and returned to Scotland.

Leprosy: fact or fiction?

Debate has long raged over whether Bruce did indeed suffer from leprosy. In recent times, it has become accepted that these claims were merely slurs designed to harm his reputation .

Experts at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, who examined a cast of his skull, concluded last year that it was not "representative of an individual with leprosy".

Battle of Bannockburn

The exact site of the Battle of Bannockburn fought on June 23 and 24, 1314 has been debated for many years, but most modern historians agree that the traditional site – where a visitor centre and statue have been erected – is not correct.

Modern researchers believe only two other locations seem plausible. The first, an area of peaty ground outside the village of Balquhidderock known as the Dryfield, stands roughly three quarters of a mile (1.21 km) east of the traditional site. However, the Carse of Balquhidderock, about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) northeast of the traditional site, is accepted as the most likely site.

Bruce on screen

The big-budget Netflix film Outlaw King, directed by David Mackenzie and shot on location across Scotland, will be released on Friday.

Chris Pine plays Robert the Bruce, with Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Sir James Douglas and Florence Pugh as Elizabeth de Burgh. The star-studded cast includes a raft of Scottish names, including Tony Curran, James Cosmo and Alastair Mackenzie.

The £85m biopic covers the period in which Bruce stakes a claim on the Scottish throne, his time spent in exile and a landmark victory over the English army at the 1307 Battle of Loudoun Hill.

Scotland looks magnificent in the film. Linlithgow Palace, St Michael's Parish Church and Blackness Castle in West Lothian, Borthwick Castle, Doune Castle, Craigmillar Castle, Dunfermline Abbey, Glasgow Cathedral, Muiravonside Country Park near Falkirk are among more than 45 locations.

Others include Skye – the Coral Beach, Talisker and Quiraing – as well as Glencoe, Aviemore, Loch Lomond, the village of Gargunnock near Stirling and the University of Glasgow. The cast, including 400 extras, converged on Mugdock Country Park near Milngavie to film the Battle of Loudoun Hill.

Seacliff Beach in East Lothian and the Northumbrian borders at Berwick-upon-Tweed also feature.

Outlaw King opened the Toronto International Film Festival in September and had its Scottish premiere in Edinburgh last month. Mackenzie has trimmed 20 minutes from the version shown in Toronto – taking it to around two hours – following audience feedback.

Much has been made of a full-frontal shot as Pine emerges from bathing in a lochan. For anyone planning to cue up their Netflix solely for these frames, it is blink and you'll miss it (note: not a slight on the manhood of Pine, but a comment on the brevity/unerotic nature of the scene, ie man has bath).

This isn't the first time that Bruce's story has been told on screen. The Bruce (1996) saw the leading man portrayed by Sandy Welch, while Angus Macfadyen took up the role in Braveheart (1995).

Interestingly, Macfadyen is currently filming Robert The Bruce – which is slated for a 2019 release – in which he will reprise the eponymous role.

A talented clan of warrior extras

Charlie Allan was working on the Ridley Scott-directed film Robin Hood a decade ago when he heard whispers there were plans afoot for a biopic of Robert the Bruce. When Outlaw King started shooting last year, he was at the heart of the action as part of the 22-strong personal guard to Bruce.

Allan is the chief executive of the Clanranald Trust for Scotland which includes Combat International, a group of dedicated professional actors and combat re-enactment specialists for film and television.

Ahead of filming, he and his team helped train 400 extras in weaponry skills such as how to wield swords and axes. They also gave Pine and other key cast members rowing lessons on the Clyde.

The complex fight scenes shot during the film's re-enactment of the Battle of Loudoun Hill featured more than 40 members of Combat International, who represented both the Scots and English forces.

Visit clanranald.org

Could Bruce be an Essex boy?

While it is widely believed that Bruce was born in Turnberry Castle, Ayrshire, the historian Fiona Watson makes the claim that Bruce was born in England in her new book Traitor, Outlaw, King.

Dr Watson, a former history lecturer at Stirling University and the author of several books, reveals how one 14th-century chronicler refers to Bruce as "of the nation of England" and says he was born in the village of Writtle, near Chelmsford in Essex.

She insists no contemporary evidence supports the view he was born in his mother's castle at Turnberry, Ayrshire.

In her book, Dr Watson claims Bruce was fostered by a family either in the West Highlands or Ireland as part of a Celtic tradition, where she believes some of his opinions may have been formed.

Outlaw King is released globally on Netflix from Friday (November 9)