Relation to me: 20th Great-Grandfather
Robert was King of the Scots from 1371 until his death. He was the first monarch of the House of Stewart. As a son of Walter Stewart, the 6th High Steward of Scotland and Marjorie Bruce, daughter of Robert the Bruce and his first wife, Isabella of Mar. Robert Bruce was named as an heir to the throne but would die without legitimate children on the 3rd of December 1318 in battle near Dundalk in Ireland. By the time that Marjorie had died in a riding accident in 1317, Parliament decreed her then infant son, Robert, as the heir presumptive. This however would lapse on the 5 of March 1324 upon the birth of a son, David, to King Robert and his second wife, Elizabeth de Burgh.
Robert would inherit the title of High Steward of Scotland when his father died on the 9th of April 1326. In July of 1326, Parliament confirmed Robert as heir, should Prince David die without a successor.
In 1329, King Robert I had passed away and six-year-old David succeeded to the throne, with Sir Thomas Randolph, the Earl of Moray appointed as Guardian of Scotland. Edward Balliol, the son of King John Balliol, assisted by the English and Scottish nobles that were disinherited by Robert I, had invaded Scotland, inflicting heavy defeats on the Bruce party on the 11th of August 1332 at Dupplin Moor and Halidon Hill on the 19th of July 1333.
Robert had fought at Halidon, where his uncle and former guardian, Sir James Stewart was killed. After the battle, Robert’s lands in the west were given, by Balliol, to his supporter David Strathbogie, the titular Earl of Atholl. Robert would take refuge in the fortress of Dumbarton Castle in the Clyde estuary so that he could then join his uncle. In May of 1334, David had escaped to France. He’d leave Robert and John Randolph, the 3rd Earl of Moray to be joint Guardians of the kingdom. Robert would succeed in regaining his lands but after the capture of Randolph in July of 1335, his possessions were again targeted by the forces of Balliol and King Edward III of England. This could have persuaded Robert to have submitted to Balliol and the English king. It could also explain why he was removed as Guardian by September of 1335. The Guardianship would transfer to Andrew Murray of Bothwell. After the Andrew Murray in 1338, Robert was then re-appointed and retained the office until King David returned from France in June of 1341.
On the 17th of October in 1346, Robert would accompany David into battle at Neville’s Cross, Patrick Dunbar, the Earl of March, and Robert would escape or fled the field and though and David was taken as a prisoner. October of 1357, the king was ransomed for 100,000 marks to be paid in installments over ten years. Robert had married Elizabeth Mure about two years after Neville’s Cross, and together they would have four sons and five daughters. His subsequent marriage to Euphemia de Ross in 1355 also produced two sons and two daughters and had provided the basis of a future dispute regarding the line of succession.
In 1363, Robert joined a rebellion against David. He would submit to him after a threat to his right to succession was made. A year later, David made a proposal to Parliament that would cancel the remaining ransom debt of the King, if it was agreed that the Plantagenet heir would inherit the Scottish throne, should he die without issue. The proposal was rejected and Robert would succeed to the throne at the age of fifty-five after David’s unexpected passing in 1371.
England still controlled large sectors in the Lothians and in the bordering counties, so King Robert would allow his southern earls to engage in actions in English zones to regain their territories. The Scots halted trade with England and would renew their treaties with France. By 1384, the Scots had retaken most of the English occupied lands. After the commencement of Anglo-French talks, Robert was reluctant to commit Scotland to all-out war and had obtained Scotland’s inclusion in the peace treaty. Robert’s peace strategy was a factor in a virtual coup in 1384 when he lost control of the country. Robert would die in Dundonald Castle six years later and was buried at Scone Abbey.
Our subject was born in 1316 as the only child to W
alter Stewart, the High Steward of Scotland and King Robert I’s daughter Marjorie Bruce. Marjorie would die probably in 1317 after a riding accident while she was pregnant with Robert. He probably had a childhood of a Gaelic noble, growing up on lands in Bute, Clydeside, and in Renfrew.
In 1315, parliament had removed his mother’s right as an heir to her father in favor of his great uncle, Edward Bruce. Edward would be killed during the Battle of Faughart, near Dundalk on the 14th of October 1318. This had resulted in the hastily arranged Parliament in December to enact a new entail, naming Marjorie’s son, Robert, our subject, as heir, should the king die without a successor. The birth of a son, afterwards David II, to Robert on the 5th of March 1324 had canceled Robert’s position as heir presumptive. However, a Parliament at Cambuskenneth in July of 1326 would restore Robert in the line of succession should David die without an heir. The reinstatement of his status was accompanied by a gift of lands in Argyll, Roxburghshire and the Lothians.
Becoming High Steward of Scotland and a Renewal of the War of Independence
The first War of Independence had started during the reign of King John Balliol. His short reign was bedeviled by Edward I’s insistence on his overlordship of Scotland. The Scottish leadership would conclude that only war could release the country from the English king’s continued weakening of Balliol’s sovereignty and so a treaty of reciprocal assistance was finalized with France in October of 1295. The Scots went to England in March of the following year. The incursion and a treaty with France angered the English king and provoked an invasion of Scotland, taking Berwick on the 30th of March before defeating the Scots army at Dunbar on April 27.
Balliol would submit to Edward and then resigned the throne to him, before being sent to London as a prisoner. Despite this, resistance to the English would be led by William Wallace and Andrew Moray who emerged in the name of King John Balliol. Upon their deaths, Robert the Bruce had continued to resist the English and would eventually succeed in defeating Edward II of England’s forces and gained the Scottish throne for himself.
At the age of five, David Bruce had became king on the 7th of June 1329 when his father Robert had passed away. Walter the Steward had died two years earlier on the 9th of April 1327 and the orphaned eleven-year-old Robert was placed under the guardianship of his uncle, Sir James Stewart of Durrisdeer. Along with Thomas Randolph, the Earl of Moray and William Lindsey the Archdeacon of St. Andrews, Robert was appointed a joint Guardian of the Kingdom. David’s accession started the brewing for the Second Independence War, which had threatened Robert’s position as heir.
In 1332, Edward Balliol, the son of the deposed John Balliol, would lead an attack on the
Bruce sovereignty with the tacit support of King Edward II of England and the endorsement of ‘the disinherited’. Balliol’s forces delivered a heavy defeat on Bruce supporters at Dupplin Moor on the 11th of August 1332 and again at Halidon Hill on the 19th of July 1333. Seventeen year old Robert would also be a participant at Halidon Hill. Robert’s estates were overrun by Balliol, who would grant them to David Strathbogie, the titular earl of Atholl. However, Robert would evade capture and was granted protection at Dumbarton Castle, where King David was also taking refuge. Very few other strongholds would remain in Scottish hands by the winter of 1333. The only castle of Kildrummy, which was held by Christina Bruce, the elder sister of Robert I and the wife of Andrew Murray of Bothwell, Loch Leven, Loch Doon and Urquhart would hold out against Balliol’s forces. In May of 1334, the situation started to look grim for the house of Bruce and David II would gain safety in France. Robert would set out to win back his lands in West Scotland. Strathbogie came over to the Bruce interest after some disagreements with his fellow ‘disinherited’ but his fierce opposition to Randolph came to a head at a Parliament held at Dairsie Castle in the early part of 1335, when Strathbogie received support from Robert. Strathbogie would change sides again and submitted to the English king in August, then he was made Warden of Scotland. It seems as though Strathbogie may also have persuaded Robert to submit to Edward and Balliol. Sir Thomas Gray in his “Scalacronica” would claim that he had actually done so and this may explain his removal as Guardian around this time.
Bruce’s resistance to Balliol might have been verging on collapse in 1335. A turn-around in its fortunes had started with the appearance of Sir Andrew Murray of Bothwell as a potent war leader at the Battle of Culblean. Murray was captured in 1332, ransomed himself two years later, and immediately sped north to lay siege to Dundarg Castle in Buchan which was held by Sir Henry de Beaumont at the time. The castle would eventually fall on the 23rd of December of 1334. Murray would then be appointed Guardian at Dunfermline during the winter of 1335 to 1336 while he was besieging Cupar Castle in Fife. He would pass away at his castle in Avoch in 1338. Robert would resume Guardianship at that time. Murray’s campaign would end any chances of Edward III having a full, lasting control over the South of Scotland. Edward’s failure in the six months siege of Dunbar Castle confirms this. Balliol would lose many of his major supporters to the Bruce side and the main English garrisons started to fall to the Scots.
John Randolph would be released in a prisoner-exchange from the English in 1341. He would visit David II in Normandy before he would return to Scotland. Just as he was a favorite of the king, David II mistrusted Robert Stewart with his powerful positions of heir presumptive and Guardian of Scotland. At the start of June 1341, the kingdom appeared stable enough for the king to return to a land where his nobles, while fighting for the Bruce cause, had considerably increased their own power bases.
On October 17th of 1346, Robert accompanied David into battle at Neville’s Cross. Many of the Scottish nobles, including Randolph, had died. David II was wounded and captured during the battle while Robert and Patrick, the earls of March had apparently fled the field.
King David Captured
With the king now imprisoned in England and Randolph dead, the Guardianship would
once again fall to Robert. Sometime in 1347, Robert would take an important step to ensure the legitimization of his four sons and six daughters by petitioning Pope Clement VI, so that canon law would allow for marriage to Elizabeth Mure. His son John was then the Earl of Carrick, but later would be King Robert III. Walter was the Lord of Fife, Robert would come to be Duke of Albany. Alexander was, at the time, Lord of Badenoch, but would later be Earl of Buchan.
Even though David was a prisoner of the English, he would retain the influence in Scotland and Robert had his Guardianship removed by Parliament and then it was given jointly to the Earls of Mar and Ross and the Lord of Douglas. This wouldn’t last though and Robert would again be appointed Guardian by the Parliament of February 1352.
While paroled, David would attend the parliament to present, to Robert and members of the Three Estates, the conditions for his release. These would contain no ransom demand, but would require the Scots to name the English prince, John of Gaunt, as heir presumptive. The Council would reject his terms, with Robert opposed to the proposal that would threaten his right of succession. The king had no other option but to return to his captivity. The English chronicler, Henry Knighton would write this of the events:
“…the Scots refused to have their King unless he entirely renounced the influence of the English, and similarly refused to submit themselves to them. And they warned him that they would neither ransom him nor allow him to be ransomed unless he pardoned them for all their acts and injuries that they had done, and all the offences that they had committed, during the time of captivity, and he should give them security for that, or otherwise they threatened to choose another king to rule them.”
By 1354, the ongoing negotiations for the king’s release had reached a stage where a proposal of a straight ransom payment of 90,000 marks to be repaid within nine years. This was guaranteed by provision of twenty high-ranking hostages and was thus agreed upon. This understanding was destroyed by Robert when he bound the Scots to the French in an action against the English in 1355.
The capture of Berwick, together with the presence of the French on English soil would jolt Edward III into moving against the Scots. In January of 1356, Edward would lead his forces into the Southeast of Scotland and burned Edinburgh and Haddington, as well as much of the Lothians in a campaign that became known as ‘Burnt Candlemas’. After Edward was victorious over the French in September, the Scots resumed negotiations for David’s release ending in October of the following year with the Treaty of Berwick. The terms of the Treaty were that in exchange for David’s freedom, a ransom of 100,000 marks would be paid in annual installments over the next ten years. Only the first two payments were completed initially and nothing further until 1366.
The failure to honor the conditions of the Berwick treaty would also allow Edward to continue to press for a Plantagenet successor to David. The terms were totally rejected by the Scottish Council and possibly Robert himself yet again. They may have been part of the cause of the brief rebellion in 1363 by Robert and the Earls of Douglas and March. Later though, the French inducements couldn’t bring David to their aid and the country would remain at peace with England until David died on the 21st of February 1371.
Robert Stewart II, King of Scots
David would be buried at Holyrood Abbey, almost immediately, but an armed protest by William, the Earl of Douglas would delay Robert II’s coronation until the 26th of March. The reasons for this incident still are unclear, but may have involved a dispute regarding Robert’s right of succession. It may have been directed against George Dunbar, the Earl of March and the Southern Justiciar, Robert Erskine. It would be resolved by Robert, by his giving his daughter Isabella in marriage to Douglas’ son, James and with Douglas replacing Erskine as the Justiciar, South of the Forth.
Robert’s accession did affect some others who had held offices from David II, particularly George Dunbar’s brother, John Dunbar, the Lord of Fife, who would lose his claim on Fife, and Robert Erskine’s son, Sir Thomas Erskine, who would lose control of Edinburgh Castle. The Stewarts would greatly increase their holdings in the West in Atholl and in the far North. The Earldoms of Fife and Menteith would go to Robert II’s second surviving son, Robert. The Earldoms of Buchan and Ross, along with the Lordship of Badenoch, would go to his fourth son Alexander. The eldest of the Earldoms were Strathearn and Caithness, and would go to his eldest son of his second marriage, David. Robert’s sons, John, the Earl of Carrick, the king’s heir, and Robert, the Earl of Fife were made keepers of the castles of Edinburgh and Stirling, respectively. Alexander, the Lord of Badenoch and Ross and after the Earl of Buchan, would become the king’s Justiciar and Lieutenant in the Northern part of the Kingdom.
This build up of Stewart family power did not appear to cause any resentment among the senior magnates, and the king generally didn’t threaten their territories or local rule. Where titles were transferred to his sons the individuals affected were usually very well rewarded.
Robert’s style of kingship was very different from his predecessors, David had tried to dominate his nobles, whereas Robert was to delegate his authority to his powerful sons and earls, which generally worked for the first decade of his reign. Robert II was to have influence over eight of the fifteen earldoms, either through his sons directly or by strategic marriages of his daughters to powerful lords. In 1373, Robert would ensure the future security of the Stewart dynasty by having Parliament pass entailments regarding succession. During this time, none of his sons had any heirs, so it had become necessary for the system to be devised to define precisely the circumstances in which each of his sons could inherit the crown. None of this would take precedence over the normal succession by Primogeniture.
Two years later, the king would commission John Barbour to write a poem, which would be named “The Brus”. It was a history that was intended to bolster the public image of the Stewarts as the genuine heirs of Robert I. The poem would describe the patriotic acts of both Sir James, the Black Douglas, and Walter the Steward, the king’s father, in their support of Bruce. Robert’s rule during the 1370s would see the country’s finances stabilize, which were greatly improved in part to the flourishing wool trade, which would reduce calls on the public purse and halted his predecessor’s ransom money on the death of Edward III of England.
Robert was unlike David II, whose kingship was predominantly Lothian, and therefore lowland based. This wouldn’t restrict his attention to one sector of his kingdom, but frequently visited the more remote areas of the north and west among his Gaelic lords. He had ruled over a country that had continued to have the English enclaves within its borders and the Scots who had given their allegiance to the King of England. Some important castles had English garrisons, these were Berwick, Jedburgh, Lochmaben, and Roxburgh. The English also controlled the southern areas of Berwickshire, Teviotdale, Annandale and Tweeddale.
In July of 1371, Robert would agree to a defensive treaty with the French, and although there were no outright hostilities during 1372, the English garrisons were reinforced and placed under an increased state of vigilance. Then, in 1373, attacks were made on English held areas, with the near certain backing of Robert. The attacks would accelerate in 1375 until 1377. These accelerated attacks would indicate that a central decision had probably been made for the escalation of the conflict rather than a previous small-scale marauding by border barons.
The Earl of March would successfully recover Annandale in 1376 and then would find himself constrained by the Bruges Anglo-French truce. In his dealings with Edward III, Robert would blame his border magnates for the escalation of attacks on the English. Regardless, the Scots would recapture lands that were often portioned out among the minor lords, so securing their interest in preventing the English from repossession. Despite Robert’s further condemnations of his border lords, all signs pointed at Robert backing the growing successful Scottish militancy following Edward III’s death in 1377.
In a charter dated the 25th of July 1378, the king would decree that Coldingham Priory would no longer be a daughter house of the English Durham Priory, but was to be attached to Dunfermline Abbey instead. During the early part of February 1384, the Scots were apparently unaware of the conclusion of the Anglo-French truce of the 26th of January 1384. The truce would include a Scots cease-fire, but they would conduct an all-out attack on the English zones, winning back Lochmaben Castle and Teviotdale. John of Gaunt would lead a reciprocal English attack that would take him as far as Edinburgh. He was bought off by the burgesses, but destroyed Haddington. Carrick and James, the Earl of Douglas, had wanted a retaliatory strike for the Gaunt raid. Robert may have concluded that, as the French had reneged on a previous agreement to send assistance in 1383 and then had entered into a truce with the English, that any military action would’ve been met with the retaliation and exclusion from the forthcoming Boulogne peace talks.
On the 2nd of June, 1384, Robert would resolve to send Walter Wardlaw, the Bishop of Glasgow to Anglo-French peace talks. Carrick though would ignore this and allowed raids to move into the North of England. Despite this action, by the 26th of July, the Scots were part of a truce that would expire in October. Robert would call a council to meet in September. This was probably done to work out how to proceed when the truce had concluded, and to decide how the war was to proceed after that.
Robert Loses His Authority
The son of Robert, John, Earl of Carrick, had become the foremost Stewart magnate South of the Forth, just as Alexander, his other son and Earl of Buchan was in the North. Alexander’s activities and methods of royal administration would be enforced by the Gaelic mercenaries, who would then draw criticism from the Northern Earls and Bishops, as well as from his younger half-brother, David, the Earl of Strathearn. The complaints would damage Robert’s standing within the Council and lead to more criticism to the ability to curb Buchan’s activities.
Robert’s differences with Carrick regarding the conduct of war and the continued failure or unwillingness to deal with Buchan in the North would lead to political convulsion in November of 1384 when the Council would remove the authority to govern from Robert. They would appoint Carrick as Lieutenant of the Kingdom and a coup d-etat would take place. With Robert being sidelined, there was now no impediment in the way of war.
In June of 1385 a force of 1,200 French soldiers had joined with the Scots in a campaign that would involve the Earl of Douglas, and two of Robert’s sons, John the Earl of Carrick and Robert, the Earl of Fife. The skirmishes that took place would see only small gains, but a quarrel between the French and Scottish commanders would see the abandonment of the attack on the important castle of Roxburgh. The Scot victory over the English at the Battle of Otterburn in Northumberland in August of 1388 would set in motion Carrick’s fall from power. One Scottish casualty was Carrick’s close ally James, the Earl of Douglas. He would die without an heir, which would lead to various claims to be made upon his title and estate. Carrick would also back Malcolm Drummond, the husband of Douglas’s sister. Fife would side with the successful appellant, Sir Archibald Douglas, the Lord of Galloway. Now with a powerful Douglas ally, those who had supported the king would ensure a counter-coup at the December Council meeting, when the guardianship of Scotland would be passed from Carrick, who had recently been badly injured from a horse-kick, to Fife. Many others would also approve of Fife’s intention to properly resolve the situation of lawlessness in the North, in particular the activities of his younger brother, Buchan. Fife would relieve Buchan of his offices of Lieutenant of the North and Justiciar North of Forth. The latter role would be given to Fife’s son, Murdoch Stewart.
Robert II would tour the Northeast of his Kingdom in the latter part of January in 1390. He possibly did this to reinforce the changed political scene in the North after Buchan was removed from authority. Just a couple of months later, in March, Robert was returning to Dundonald Castle in Ayreshire. A month later on the 19th of April, Robert would pass away at the castle. He would be buried on the 25th of April at Scone.