John Barbour was a churchman and courtier, and as a writer is best known for his epic poem ‘The Brus’. Several other works have been attributed to him, but only ‘The Brus’ is undisputed.
Not much is known about Barbour’s early life; the place and date of birth are both unknown. He assumed the archdeaconry of Aberdeen in 1356; prior to that he had briefly held the post of precentor in Dunkeld. In later years he studied in England and in France. He died in March 1395, probably in Aberdeen.
‘The Brus’ was written in the 1370s, probably under the patronage of Robert II, grandson of Robert the Bruce, who ascended the throne in 1371, and in whose court Barbour held several posts. It is a romance in verse, a sweeping poem celebrating the life of The Bruce and the age of chivalry. Its vigorous vocabulary and lively description of action have ensured the poem is still read today, and appreciated for the unrivalled glimpse it gives into medieval history.