History Jar Challenge 14 – kings and queens of Scotland from Kenneth III

Royal Arms of Scotland in Edinburgh Castle

Kenneth III became king of Scotland in 997. He made it into the eleventh century but died in 1005 where upon he was succeeded by a cousin Malcom II who is often identified as Prince of Cumbria, demonstrating that the northern borders between England and Scotland were not as we would recognise them today. He died in 1034 and was succeeded by his grandson – Duncan.

Duncan I signals the start of the reign of the House of Dunkeld. He’d become King of Strathclyde in 1018, again demonstrating that the late tenth – early eleventh century was a time of shifting borders and the amalgamation of kingdoms. King Duncan as all G.C.S.E. students can tell you was bumped off by Macbeth. He became king in 1040 and was succeeded by his step-son who was killed in 1058 when King Duncan’s son took the throne.

Malcolm III is also known as Malcolm Canmore which apparently means “bighead” – there’s not much one can say to that other than to move swiftly on to him marrying a Saxon refugee who promptly became St Margaret of Scotland and filled the court with her Saxon friends and relations making her unpopular with the resident Scots. Malcolm was killed in 1093 near Alnwick – which is the History Jar’s opening gambit on the Anglo-Scots wars that continued intermittently and with varying degrees of ferocity until the beginning of the seventeenth century – not counting the reprise under a different guise in the Civil War in the middle of the century.

St Margaret – Edinburgh Castle chapel

Malcolm was succeeded by his brother Duncan III who usurped the throne from Malcolm’s son which is going to make the Duncan numbering somewhat complex at this point – don’t query it, just accept that in this instance Duncan III comes before Duncan II! He grabbed the throne on 13 November 1093 but was turfed off it by the rightful successor the following year – another Duncan. Malcolm’s son is identified as Duncan II because that’s the correct ordering genealogically. Duncan II having gained the throne promptly died meaning that in a game of musical crowns Duncan III became king once more, ruling north of the Forth/Clyde line whilst his nephew Edmund ruled south of the line. Both Donald and Edmund were deposed in 1097 by King Edgar – and then you wonder why I haven’t ventured into Scottish history very much!

The parents of both Edmund and Edgar were Malcolm and Margaret so at least the Crown stayed in the family. When Edgar died the crown passed to his brother Alexander I. History records him as Alexander the Fierce. He married Sybilla who was one of King Henry I’s illegitimate daughters. The couple appear to have had no children so when he died the throne was passed to yet another brother – David who became King David I in April 1124.

If you recall, the inter-marital links between the royal houses of Scotland and England were strong at this time. Henry I had married one of St Margaret’s daughters – Edith who changed her name to Matilda when she married to fit into the Norman court better. Alexander was married to Edith/Matilda’s step-daughter and David I was married to another member of the royal family – Matilda of Huntingdon who was William the Conqueror’s niece or put another way Henry I’s cousin. By right of his marriage to Matilda, David became the earl of Huntingdon which raises the problem of a Scottish king having to do homage to a king of England for his lands in England. And you can see why politics swiftly became very complicated. Most Scottish kings got out of the bind by swearing very specific allegiance to the king of England for their lands in England “saving their own” i.e Scotland wasn’t part of the deal.

David I ruled Scotland whilst England tore itself apart during The Anarchy. He took advantage of the warfare between Stephen and Matilda to reclaim parts of Cumberland which William Rufus had annexed circa 1092, doing building work on Carlisle Castle and eventually dying there in 1153. He was succeeded by his grandson, another Malcolm.

Malcolm IV is know rather unflatteringly to history as Malcolm the Maiden. He was only eleven when he became king. He died in 1165 and was succeeded by his brother William the Lion. He married into the English royal family as well. His wife Ermengarde was the great-granddaughter of Henry I by descent from yet another illegitimate child of the English king.

Their son became Alexander II in 1214. He also married into the English royal family to cement a treaty of friendship. He married Joan Plantagenet, the legitimate daughter of King John- there are two English Joans, this one and Joan Beaufort so be aware when you’re reading about Queen Joan that there were two of them at different times. They married in York Minster in 1221. Joan was only eleven at the time of the marriage. She seems not to have had a strong position at court where her mother-in-law was the power behind the throne. She ultimately returned home to England. The chronicler Matthew Paris suggests that the royal couple were estranged and it is perhaps fortunate for Alexander that Joan died enabling him to remarry. An annulment would have led at the very least to political difficulties.

Alexander III succeeded his father in 1249. He was only eight at the time and on one occasion during his childhood was kidnapped during a power struggle between two noble families. He married in 1251 another English bride sent north to represent parental interests and keep the peace. Margaret was the daughter of King Henry III of England. Henry III didn’t help things when he tried to make Alexander recognise Henry as his overlord. In 1262 Alexander took charge of his kingdom and got round the overlord thing by swearing loyalty to Henry III “saving my own lands” as in what’s in England I am loyal to you for but what’s in Scotland’s mine! Margaret died in 1275. Unfortunately both the couple’s sons died and their daughter Margaret had married Eric II of Norway following Alexander’s attempt to remove the Scandinavians from the Western Isles.

Alexander remarried to ensure that he had a son but was so keen to see his bride that he rode off into a dark and stormy night. His horse threw him and to make matters worse his granddaughter, known as the Maid of Norway, who now inherited the Scottish crown died on her way from Norway to England. Some sources say seasickness whilst others speculate that it was food poisoning.

Thirteen claimants to the throne now emerged – which was not good news which ever way you looked at it.

Initially the Crown was claimed by the House of Balliol in the person of King John. He was the great-great grandson of King David I. He was chosen to become king of Scotland by King Edward I of England who had been asked to referee the situation. John’s wife, for those of you with enquiring minds, was part of the extended Plantagenet family. The situation gave Edward I an opportunity to promote claims of English overlordship – so King John did not necessarily win friends and influence people with his promotion to the kingship – there were also, of course, many other peeved claimants who cheerfully overlooked that genealogically by right of the first born, it was John who should be king.

Robert de Bruce was the next claimant and his claim was that he was closest to the throne by “proximity of blood.” Or put another way he might have been further away in terms of primogeniture i.e. there were older sibling family lines but he was higher up the family tree e.g. if a son survived then that son should inherit rather than a grandson even if he was the heir of the first born.

To cut a long story short John abdicated in 1296. There was an Interregnum without anyone on the throne. Then Robert Bruce seized the throne.

Robert Bruce became King Robert I. He was succeeded by his son David II in 1328 but was then overthrown in 1332 by Edward Balliol who fancied his chances despite his father having abdicated. David II regained the throne the same year but there was another throne swap in 1333 and 1334 and 1335 and 1336 – think of it as an arm wrestling contest where first one then the other seems stronger – David ruled until 1371 when he died. He had no children so was succeeded by his nephew Robert Stewart.

The House of Stewart in the form of Robert II took the throne in 1371. He died in 1390 having produced many children. His son John became king but to avoid confusion…seriously…became Robert III. His son became James I in 1406 which was unfortunate as he was a prisoner of the English at the time.

James I married Joan Beaufort, the daughter of the Earl of Somerset, granddaughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford. It was a royal love story. He wrote her a poem and dropped roses out of his window for her to find. When they returned to Scotland James was eventually assassinated and Joan took a bloody vengeance on the men who’d killed her husband.

Their son became James II when he was seven years old. Joan was marginalised after her second marriage. James II was killed on 3rd August 1460 when a canon exploded during the Siege of Roxburgh during an attempt to remove it from English custody. James III was nine years old and was assassinated in his turn in 1488. He was succeeded by his son James IV who married Margaret Tudor the eldest daughter of King Henry VII. James was killed by his royal brother-in-law’s army at the Battle of Flodden on 9th September 1513. His head and body are probably buried in separate locations having been carried back to London – which possibly didn’t help Anglo-Scottish relations very much let alone sibling ones.

James V was just seventeen months old when he became king of Scotland. he ruled until his own death after the Battle of Solway Moss in 1542. He allegedly turned his face to the wall when he heard the news of the Scottish defeat saying of his new born daughter that the crown came with a lassie and would go with one. His demise resulted in the so-called “Rough Wooing” with Henry VIII forcibly attempting to marry off his sister’s granddaughter – the infant Mary Queen of Scots – to his own son Edward. The Scots arranged a marriage with the French dauphin and sent their queen to France where she remained until Francis died and she returned home.

Mary , queen from seven days old, married for a second time to Henry Stuart. Henry’s father Matthew Stewart decided he liked the French spelling of the name better for those of you wondering about the difference in spelling – same family – fashionable Matthew. Henry, styled Lord Darnley from birth was the grandson of Margaret Tudor from her second marriage which meant that Mary’s son James who was born on 19th June 1566 had a double dose of Tudor blood. His grandmother Margaret Douglas (Margaret Tudor’s daughter by her second husband) had been born on the English side of the border when Margaret Tudor had fled Scotland – so the Darnley side of the equation were English born and English subjects so not legally debarred from inheriting English titles.

More importantly James VI of Scotland as he became was male, with a direct Tudor bloodline and by 1603 had his own heir and a spare. Following the death of Elizabeth I who died without naming an heir James was invited into England to become James I of England.

Time for a cold compress and a lay down in a darkened room?….