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Wednesday, June 24, 1998 Published at 10:07 GMT 11:07 UK


Burial honours Robert the Bruce

The heart has survived inside a modern casket

The reburial of the heart of Robert the Bruce, the Scottish king who defeated the English at Bannockburn exactly 684 years ago, has been marked in a ceremony at Melrose Abbey.

Border bagpipes played through the rain to open the tribute to 'Good King Robert' in front of hundreds of guests and children. Prayers were said and local pupils sang Bonnie Eildonside.

The public ceremony follows a secret one on Monday when the heart was buried under the lawn of the abbey, near the English border. Officials have denied that Monday's private burial was to avoid the event being hijacked by Scottish nationalists.

[ image: The heart has become a symbol of Scotland]
The heart has become a symbol of Scotland
It was Robert the Bruce's wish, before he died in 1329, that his heart be taken to the crusades before being buried in the abbey. The heart has since become a symbol of Scottish pride.

Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar paid tribute to the king. He said: "Bruce gave definition to the Scottish crown and the country he ruled. He was himself one of the great leaders of our history."

He added: "We cannot know for certain whether the casket buried here contains the heart of Robert the Bruce but in a sense it does not matter. The casket and the heart are symbols of the man."

Third burial for heart

This burial is the heart's third. When archaeologists located the heart in 1920 they gave it a second burial in a new modern container, but they failed to mark the location of the site.

In 1996, it was rediscovered by experts from Historic Scotland and taken to a conservation laboratory.

The new burial includes a stone to mark the site, designed, after a competition, by BBC sound engineer Victoria Oswald.

The plaque bears a line from an epic Scots poem written by John Barbour in 1375, "A noble hart may have nane ease gif freedom failye", which translates, "A noble heart can know no ease without freedom."

In 1996, another potent symbol of Scottish pride, the Stone of Scone, was moved from Westminster Abbey to Edinburgh Castle.

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