Thirteen Claimants to the Scottish Throne

alexiiiAlexander III of Scotland died on a wild midnight dash to be at his beautiful bride’s side in 1286.  His broken body was found the following morning. It presented Scotland with a problem.  The reason that the king had a beautiful bride was that his sons had died leaving no heir.  For a few months the Scots waited to see if Alexander III’s widow was pregnant.  Then they looked around for their new monarch.

The new Queen of Scotland was Margaret, the Maid of Norway, Alexander’s granddaughter.  She was three years old at the time.  The little girl died on her way to claim her crown in 1290 aged just seven.  In some ways the six Guardians of Scotland who had been appointed to protect the kingdom during her regency may have been relieved – child monarchs were a prelude to unrest and they had effectively married the lassie off to Edward I’s son in a bid to ensure security along their southern border.


On 1st May the Scots met Edward I  at Norham.  He claimed his right to be Lord Paramount- or the feudal overlord of the Scots.  The Scots were not impressed and said that they could make no such concession because only their King could make that decision.  Resistance grew when Edward sent garrisons of armed men to ensure his will was done.


The three best claimants to the Scottish throne were Robert Bruce, John Balliol and  John of Hastings who were descended from King David I of Scotland.  Both Bruce and Balliol held lands in England so already recognised Edward as their overlord – in England.


Then there were  Eric II of Norway who had been married to Alexander III’s daughter Margaret.  Margaret had died in childbirth.  He was the father of the Maid of Norway.  Floris V, Count of Holland who appears to have forged his claim to the throne; William de Vesci; John Comyn known as the Red Comyn; Patrick, Earl of Dunbar; William de Ros; Nicholas de Soules who was a border lord; Robert de Pinkeney; Roger de Mandeville; and Patrick Galithly.


Many of the lesser known claimants to the throne made their bid for power based on the fact they were descendants of illegitimate children of previous kings such as William the Lion.


In 1292 Edward I selected John Balliol.  Four years later the Scottish Wars of Independence were well under way and the Stone of Scone was on its way to London.

4 thoughts on “Thirteen Claimants to the Scottish Throne

  1. Pingback: Margaret, Maid of Norway « The Freelance History Writer

  2. I’ve often wondered what would have happened if the Maid of Norway had survived – she was, IIRC, due to be raised alongside Edward of Caernarvon,, holding her crown in her own right and with their oldest son supposed to inherit both thrones. One presumes that raised together, they would have been friends and she might therefore have been more able to handle the reality of Edward II’s male lovers than Isabell was. So the Maid means a much much earlier unification of Scotland and England, with no Queen Isabell so no overthrow of Edward II in favour of Edward III. Edward II was a strong, healthy man – we could easily have had Edward/Margaret’s oldest son (Edward III and I, presumably) not taking the thrones until he was a grown man. Whether that would have had any influence on the numbers of Edward III’s adult children and the resulting dynastic wars of course is entirely separate.

    • There are so many what ifs in history. One of my current favourites is what if William of Normandy hadn’t won the Battle of Hastings? Fascinating thoughts.

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