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Gaelic British Isles & Ireland

Kingdoms of Caledonia

 

Scotland (Alba)
AD 850 - 1707

Modern Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain (England, plus Wales, plus Scotland). The nation's mainland shares a border with England to its south. It also includes amongst its territory almost eight hundred small islands, including the northern isles of Shetland and Orkney, the Hebrides, and Arran and Skye.

Having emerged from the prehistoric Early Britain stage of its existence, it was Pictland which originally covered most of today's Scotland, with the small but powerful post-Roman Dal Riadan kingdom often opposing the Picts from their west-coast base. Drest, the sixty-ninth and last Pictish king was killed in AD 850 by the shadowy figure of Kenneth MacAlpin, founder of the House of Alpin.

Kenneth was now able to claim control over much of the north, a feat which was extended to cover all of Scotland by subsequent kings. The heritage of the Picts as the rulers of a united 'Scottish' kingdom before the ascendancy of the originally-Irish Scotti themselves has largely been forgotten by later generations.

As with its southern neighbours, it would be several centuries before this new Scotland would have permanently-defined borders. Its king was, and remained, known as the 'King of the Scots', and the southern border fluctuated across the Scottish Lowlands. Large areas of the west and the northern coastline were still under the rule of various Scandinavian and Norse-Gaelic rulers, many of Viking origin, while Strathclyde still held onto some level of independence.

Hadrian's Wall

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Mick Baker, from Kings and Warriors, Craftsmen and Priests in Northern Britain AD 550-850, Leslie Alcock (Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2003), from The Kingship of the Scots 842-1292: Succession and Independence, A A M Duncan (Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2002), from Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland AD 80-1000, Alfred P Smyth (1984), from Anglo-Saxon England, Frank Stenton (Third Ed, Oxford University Press, 1971), from Early Sources of Scottish History AD 500-1286, Volume 1, Alan Orr Anderson (Reprinted with corrections, Paul Watkins, Stamford 1990), and from External Link: Scotland.)

House of Alpin (Pictland / Scotland)
AD 850 - 1034

The northernmost part of today's Great Britain had, during the period of Roman occupation below the Firth of Forth, coalesced into a region which was initially known as Caledonia, and then as Pictland. The Picts were the northern amalgamation of all of the remaining free pre-Roman peoples of the island, including Neolithic farmer cultures, Bell Beaker types, proto-Celtic Urnfield groups, and later Celtic Hallstatt groups.

The Scotti Dal Riadan kingdom was a latecomer, later than the Romans even, arriving in the troubled fifth century. They fought on and off with the Picts for superiority, but relations eventually eased and intermarriage took place to produce what would eventually become today's Scots. When the Pictish over-king was killed in 839, it was the Dal Riadans who emerged as the main governing force in Pictland. The shadowy figure of Kinet mac Alpin finished off the last remaining pocket of Pictish-controlled territory in 850 to complete Scotti mastery of the land.

However, thanks to several centuries of intermarriage and cultural cross-exchange, the House of Alpin retained the Pictish custom of passing the crown down through matrilineal descent. In fact, in its early days the kingdom of Alba may still have been more generally referred to as the kingdom of the Picts, with Kinet mac Alpin being seen as a direct successor to the last of the Pictish kings rather than a king of the Scots of Dal Riada who had assumed command.

In modern lists his son, Constantine II, is the earliest of Alba's rulers of that name. The name 'Constantine I' is used for the Pictish king, Constantine mac Fergus (789-820).

Hadrian's Wall

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Mick Baker, from Kings and Warriors, Craftsmen and Priests in Northern Britain AD 550-850, Leslie Alcock (Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2003), from The Kingship of the Scots 842-1292: Succession and Independence, A A M Duncan (Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2002), from Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland AD 80-1000, Alfred P Smyth (1984), from Anglo-Saxon England, Frank Stenton (Third Ed, Oxford University Press, 1971), from The Men of the North: The Britons and Southern Scotland, Tim Clarkson (EPUB, 2010), from The Makers of Scotland: Picts, Romans, Gaels and Vikings, T Clarkson (EPUB, 2012), from The Picts: A History, Tim Clarkson (2012, EPUB), from Strathclyde and the Anglo-Saxons in the Viking Age, Tim Clarkson (EPUB, 2014), and from Scottish Kings 1005-1625, Archibald H Dunbar (D Douglas, Edinburgh, 1899).)

850 - 860

Cináed / Kinet (Kenneth) I mac Alpin

King of Dal Riada who united Alba and Pictland.

860 - 863

Donald I mac Alpin

Brother.

863 - 877

Constantine II mac Kenneth

Son of Kenneth (Constantine I was Pictish).

872 - 877

Causantín mac Cináeda (Constantine II) fights four battles during this period (as recorded by the Prophecy of Berchán). Three of those are against Vikings, but the fourth is the Battle of Cath Lures, a location which has tentatively been identified with Glasgow, in which the 'king of the Britons of the green mantles' is overcome.

Glasgow park
Were the once-open fields around the small ninth century settlement of Glasgow on the Clyde the site of the Battle of Cath Lures at some point between 872-877?

The title 'king of the Britons' is recognised as being the ruler of Strathclyde (it is also used in Irish records). The name of the king himself is not recorded but it has to be assumed that it is King Rhun, presumably attempting to establish or confirm his independence from Constantine - unsuccessfully, it seems.

c.875

King Haraldr Hárfagri campaigns across the seas to hunt down those opponents who had fled Norway in opposition to his unification of the country. They have been raiding Norway's coast since then, causing considerable damage.

Haraldr has been carrying out regular summer expeditions against them, but around this year, having tired of simply chasing them away, he pursues them to their western bases.

His forces storm the islands of Hjaltland (Shetland) and clear them of hostile Vikings. Then he does the same on the Orkneys, plunders the Sudreys (Hebrides), chases down Vikings across Scotland, and finds that Vikings on the Isle of Man have fled before him.

As compensation for the death in battle of Ivar, son of Jarl Ragnvald of Møre, Haraldr gives Ragnvald the Orkney and Shetland Isles. He in turn hands them to Sigurd, his brother, who remains there to govern them.

Haraldr Hárfagri Halfdansson of Norway
Haraldr Hárfagri united all the minor kingdoms of Norway in the later ninth century through a mixture of force of arms and diplomacy, although the former seemed to involve most of his time

877 - 878

Aed mac Kenneth

Brother.

878 - 889

Following on from the very short reign of Aed mac Kenneth, Eochu and Giric are generally claimed as kings of the Scots, but it is unclear whether they rule jointly or as opponents, or even one after the other.

Giric could hold the senior position over the Scots with Eochu ruling in Strathclyde, although Eochu's Strathclyde connections are far from certain. He does, however, have a Pictish mother to back up his claim for the joint Scots and Pictish throne while Giric's ancestry is unknown. Eochu's successor in Strathclyde is also unknown until a notice of the death of Donald I is recorded for 900.

878 - 889

Giric I

Joint rule with Eochaid (sometimes shown as his usurper).

878 - 889

Eochu / Eochaid

King of Strathclyde (878-889)?

889 - 900

Donald II mac Constantine

King of Strathclyde (889-900). Killed by Danes.

900 - 942

Constantine (Constantinus) III mac Aed

Son of Aed.

934 - 937

The grand alliance including the Scots, Northumbrian Danes at York, Dublin Danes, and the Welsh of Gwynedd and Cumbria, mass their forces north of the Humber in a bold attempt to destroy Æthelstan of Wessex. The plan fails, however, when the West Saxons and Mercians of the south destroy the alliance at the Battle of Brunanburh in 937.

Æthelstan
This illustration of King Æthelstan, king of all Britain as proclaimed by various charters and coins of his reign, comes from the Abbreviatio Chronicorum Angliae - he was the first English monarch to be portrayed wearing a crown

942 - 954

Malcolm(Milcolumbus) I mac Donald

Son of Donald. Killed near Fetteresso.

954 - 962

Indulf mac Constantine

Son of Constantine. King of Strathclyde (943-954).

962 - 967

Duff (Dub'h) mac Malcolm

Son of Malcolm. King of Strathclyde (954-962).

967 - 971

Culen (Colin / Cuilean Finn) mac Indulf

Son of Indulf. 'White Colin'.

971 - 972

Culen and his brother, Eochaid, are slain by Britons, with Amdarch/Riderch mac Donald (Rhydderch ap Dyfnwal) generally being identified as the culprit in revenge for the king's abduction and rape of his daughter.

In the same year Amdarch is shown as being the king of Strathclyde, presumably either in opposition to Culen (which may account for the kidnap of his daughter) or as a result of Culen's death.

Following Culen's death, the kingship may be taken by another member of Clann áeda meic Cináeda in the form of Cináed mac Maíl Choluim (Kenneth II). It would be this figure who launches the revenge strike which seemingly removes Amdarch from the throne of Strathclyde in 972.

Dunmail Raise cairn
Although probably 'improved' by later generations - the Victorians were notorious for such works - the cairn at Dunmail Raise supposedly marks the burial location of King Dunmail (Donald II) of Strathclyde (943)

971 - 995

Cináed mac Maíl Choluim / Kenneth II

Son of Malcolm I. Lost the Highlands to Olav (971-977).

971? - 997

Amlaíb mac Indulf

Brother of Culen. Claimant for the throne? Killed.

977

Records suggest that Cináed faces a degree of opposition from Culen's brother, Amlaíb. The latter is killed by Cináed in 977, with Irish sources subsequently acclaiming the dead prince as a king of Alba. Instead, it is Culen's son, Custantín, who succeeds Cináed as king.

995 - 997

Custantín / Constantine IV the Bald

Son of Culen.

997 - 1005

Cináed / Kenneth III

Son of Duff. Killed in civil war near Loch Earn.

997 - 1005

Giric II

Possible son and co-ruler. Killed by Malcolm?

1005 - 1034

Malcolm II / Máel Coluim mac Cináeda

Son of Kenneth II.

1018 - 1034

Malcolm is usually credited with being the ruler who finally subdues Strathclyde and appends it to the Scottish crown. The exact date is unknown, but the very need for Strathclyde to be subdued by the Scots shows that it has certainly fallen outside their control, despite the somewhat unsteady hand they seem to have kept on the succession for many years. Malcolm's death in 1034 sees his grandson succeed him: Duncan mac Crinan of the House of Atholl.

House of Atholl (Scotland)
AD 1034 - 1040

The northernmost part of today's Great Britain had, during the period of Roman occupation below the Firth of Forth, coalesced into a region which was initially known as Caledonia, and then as Pictland. The Scotti Dal Riadan kingdom was a latecomer, later than the Romans even, arriving in the troubled fifth century. When the Pictish over-king was killed in 839, it was the Dal Riadans who emerged as the main governing force in Pictland. The shadowy figure of Kinet mac Alpin finished off the last remaining pocket of Pictish-controlled territory in 850 to complete Scotti mastery of what was gradually becoming Scotland.

The successful kingship of Malcolm II of the House of Alpin had seen him gradually subdue the British kingdom of Strathclyde following the death of its little-known ruler, Owen the Bald, at the Battle of Carham in 1018. This expanded the borders of the Scots kingdom south-westwards by quite a large extent. Malcolm's death in 1034 saw his grandson, Duncan mac Crinan, succeed him, ushering in a short-lived first appearance on the throne for the House of Atholl.

The difference in house was due to Duncan's parents: his father was Crínán, hereditary lay abbot of Dunkeld (midway between Perth and Blair Atholl), while his mother provided the royal connection. She was Bethóc, Malcolm's daughter. Duncan himself was married to Sybil, a kinswoman of the powerful Danish Earl Siward of York. Together they produced two sons - Malcolm (Ceann Mor) and Donald Bane - whose hereditary claim was threatened by Duncan's cousin, Macbeth.

Duncan had already served as Malcolm's representative in Strathclyde between 1018-1034 (now seemingly a somewhat controversial claim to make). The Scots had generally attempted to treat Strathclyde as a junior appendage even if such a role was often more in name than in fact. Now Duncan was in charge of the senior kingdom, and he seems to have made a bit of a hash of it.

FeatureHis reign was littered with defeats and poor rule during which he was defeated by his own people and also by the English. In a vain attempt to restore his prestige, Duncan engaged on a heavily-armed royal progress through the land of Moray, where Macbeth was sub-king. This proved to be a grave error of judgement as Macbeth and his men rose up and killed Duncan at Pitgaveny (see feature link).

Hadrian's Wall

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Mick Baker, from Scottish Kings 1005-1625, Archibald H Dunbar (D Douglas, Edinburgh, 1899), from Early Sources of Scottish History AD 500-1286, Volume 1, Alan Orr Anderson (Reprinted with corrections, Paul Watkins, Stamford 1990), from The Kingship of the Scots 842-1292: Succession and Independence, A A M Duncan (Edinburgh University Press, 2002), and from External Links: Duncan I [Donnchad ua Maíl Choluim], D Broun (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography), and Libellus de exordio atque procurso istius, hoc est Dunhelmensis, ecclesie (Tract on the origins and progress of this the church of Durham), Symeon of Durham (Reviews in History).)

1034 - 1040

Duncan I / Donnchad mac Crinain

Grandson of Malcolm II. Former king in Strathclyde (1018).

1034

Duncan's accession to the senior Scottish throne as the junior ruler of Strathclyde unites the two kingdoms as one. This effectively creates modern Scotland, with it now controlling much of the Scottish mainland (but not all of the islands or yet to have a firm border with the English).

King Duncan I of Scotland
King Duncan was the grandson of the previous king of the Scots, Malcolm II, husband of Sybil, the sister or daughter of Siward of York, and cousin to Jarl Thorfinn 'the Mighty' of Orkney and Macbeth, mormaer of Moray

One of Duncan's first acts would appear to be an attempt to secure control of Caithness. This lies in the hands of Jarl Thorfinn, another grandson of Malcolm II and therefore someone with a claim to the throne which is the equal of Duncan's.

The Scots warband which has been deployed to the north finds itself hopelessly outnumbered in the ensuing engagement and is pursued all along the course of its retreat by a jubilant Thorfinn who 'subdued Sutherland and Ross and plundered far and wide over Scotland'.

A second raid with eleven warships is ignominiously defeated by Thorfinn's fleet which is moored off the south-east coast of Orkney. Thorfinn's lieutenant, Thorkell 'the Fosterer', slays Duncan's nephew - Muddan - whom Duncan had installed in Caithness. A subsequent land battle takes place at Torfnes (Burghead, or perhaps Tarbat Ness). Thorfinn wins again.

1038 - 1039

Eadulf of Bamburgh launches an attack on Scots territory by raiding into Cumbria in 1038. In a revenge attack, Duncan lays siege to Durham in the following year, only to be put to flight. His cavalry is savaged during the fighting and the heads of his slain foot soldiers are collected in the marketplace to be hung upon posts.

Bamburgh Castle
The eleventh century Norman version of Bamburgh Castle which survives today replaced the original British and Anglian fortifications which would largely have been wooden in nature

Eadulf's actions soon bring retribution down upon his head from Duncan's relative by marriage and Eadulf's main opposition in the north of England - Siward, ruler in York and would-be earl of Northumbria.

1040

Macbeth of Moray technically has a better claim to the Scottish throne than does Duncan. Now, with Duncan processing through Moray, Macbeth and his disgruntled subjects rise up and defeat the discredited king, killing him on 14 August 1040 at Bothngouane (now Pitgaveny) near Elgin. The House of Alpin is restored.

House of Alpin (Scotland)
AD 1040 - 1058

Northern Britain beyond Hadrian's Wall had during the Roman period coalesced into a region which was initially known as Caledonia, and then as Pictland. The Scotti Dal Riadan kingdom was a latecomer which was in prime position to take advantage when, in 839, the Pictish over-king was killed. They sealed their control in 850 of what was gradually becoming Scotland when Kinet mac Alpin finished off the last remaining pocket of Pictish-controlled territory.

The successful kingship of Malcolm II of the House of Alpin had seen him gradually subdue the British kingdom of Strathclyde, drawing it into the new, expanded kingdom of Scotland. Malcolm's death in 1034 saw his grandson, Duncan mac Crinan, succeed him, ushering in a short-lived first appearance on the throne for the House of Atholl. However, Duncan's six year reign was strewn with failure, so it was only a matter of time before his weary subjects decided to replace him.

FeatureAn unlucky king is never one to follow for too long. When Duncan undertook a royal progress in 1040, Macbeth, at the head of the disgruntled men of Moray, rose up and defeated him (see feature link). Duncan was killed on 14 August 1040 at Bothngouane (now Pitgaveny) near Elgin. Macbeth proved to be a good and strong king, a far cry from the evil villain portrayed in Shakespeare's work of fiction.

He reigned for a long seventeen years, while his cousin, Thorfinn, gained a sizable nine Scottish earldoms to keep him happy and remove a strong counter-claimant to the throne. This was after he had fought Macbeth to a draw when the latter attempted to force him to pay tribute. After that they were firm allies. The Scottish kingship in the eleventh century was not strictly hereditary anyway, so Macbeth's seizure of it could be accepted by the nobility provided they didn't lose out.

The kingship was based on a system called 'tanistry', or 'thanistry' (as in 'thane'), whereby the new king would be drawn from a large pool of suitable candidates, called 'tanists'. Any one of these tanists could offer a legitimate claim to the throne through ancestry or marriage. Duncan could only count one royal ancestor in his family tree, but Macbeth had two, making his claim the stronger one. Often, tanistry could be used as an excuse for the toughest and meanest of the tanists to rise to the top but, in this case, Macbeth's accession secured a relatively stable reign.

Hadrian's Wall

(Information by Peter Kessler and Mick Baker, with additional information from Scottish Kings 1005-1625, Archibald H Dunbar (D Douglas, Edinburgh, 1899), from Early Sources of Scottish History AD 500-1286, Volume 1, Alan Orr Anderson (Reprinted with corrections, Paul Watkins, Stamford 1990), from Kings and Queens of Scotland, Caroline Bingham, from Biographical Dictionary of Dark Age Britain c.500-c.1050, Ann Williams, Alfred P Smyth, David Peter Kirby, & D P Kirby (Seaby, 1991), from A New History of Scotland Vol 1 - From the Earliest Times to 1603, William Croft Dickinson, from A Northern Commonwealth, Gordon Donaldson, from Scottish Historical Documents, Gordon Donaldson, from Scottish Kings, Gordon Donaldson, from Scotland - The Making of the Kingdom Vol 1, A A M Duncan, from Macbeth - High King of Scotland 1040-1057, Peter Beresford Ellis, from Northumbria AD 350-1100, N J Higham, from Alba of the Ravens, Scotland's Kings and Queens, John Marsden, from Macbeth, William Shakespeare, from The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Anne Savage (Translator & Collator, Guild Publishing, 1983), and from External Link: English Monarchs.)

1040 - 1046

Macbeth / Mac Bethad mac Findláich

Grandson-in-law of Kenneth III. Unseated by Northumbria.

1045 - 1046

Duncan's father, Crinan, lay abbot of Dunkeld, attacks Macbeth in 1045, which results in Crinan's defeat and death. In the following year, Siward, earl of Northumbria and father-in-law to the late King Duncan, succeeds in momentarily expelling Macbeth from Lothian after fighting a fierce battle in which around three thousand Scots are killed, along with fifteen hundred English. In his place he briefly installs Duncan's brother, Maldred, on the Scottish throne while Macbeth probably retreats into the north.

King Macbeth
Will the real King Macbeth please step forward - and not a witch in sight - to reclaim his unjustly tarnished reputation thanks to Shakespeare's dramatic writings

1046

Maldred

Brother of Duncan I. Installed by Northumbria.

1046

Macbeth swiftly recovers his lost throne after, perhaps, only being expelled from Lothian anyway. In that case, rather than being unseated from his throne, he remains king and Maldred is merely a rival claimant, and a puppet at that. Lothian, and his seat, are soon recovered by Macbeth.

He is mentioned prominently in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in its account of Siward's invasion, with that and an account by Florent of Worcester painting him in a good light. It is another five centuries before Macbeth's name becomes blackened.

1046 - 1057

Macbeth / Mac Bethad mac Findláich

Restored. Killed by Malcolm III.

1050

Macbeth's Scotland is stable and prosperous enough that he is able to journey on a pilgrimage to Rome. where he 'scattered silver like seed to the poor', safe in the knowledge that his kingdom will be intact upon his return. There is also evidence to suggest that Thorfinn is in Rome at about the same time - a wise precaution when he is the next-most eligible claimant for the throne.

College of Cardinals
The Catholic Church's college of cardinals (seen here in 1922) was formed in Rome in 1061 to elect the pope, one of the highly important reforms which were enacted by Pope Nicholas II

1054

Earl Siward of Northumbria and Malcolm Ceann Mor, son of Duncan I and Siward's grandson, set off on a campaign to defeat Macbeth. They do so at Dunsinnen, wresting Lothian and possibly Strathclyde from him, but they fail to depose him. Ceann Mor is set up as Malcolm III, at least in Cumbria (Strathclyde), a client king of the English.

1057

Malcolm Ceann Mor has strengthened his own position in Cumbria, and is now his own man, Siward having died in 1055. He defeats and kills Macbeth at Lumphanon (with Macbeth's death either occurring in battle or through execution immediately after it. Lulach, Macbeth's stepson, is pronounced king by Macbeth's followers.

1057 - 1058

Lulach mac Gille Coemgáin

Stepson of Macbeth. Reigned for seven months. Killed.

1058

The son of Gille Coemgáin and Gruoch, granddaughter of Kenneth III of the House of Alpin, Lulach is in his late twenties when he becomes king. His is the first coronation of a king of Scotland for which recorded details survive. He is crowned on the ancient 'Coronation Stone' at Scone Abbey on 15 August, 1057.

In effect, though, he is king only in the north, essentially in the old Pictish territories and the far north, including Orkney and Shetland, where there are family connections through Thorfinn which will ensure loyalty.

Scotland
It is important to remember that 'Scotland' as a name did not exist until at least the tenth century, showing that a later hand was behind some of the writing in the various annals in which that name was used

Malcolm Ceann Mor and his faction assume the kingship in the south. Seven months later Lulach is also slain by Malcolm, at Essie in Strathbogie. Malcolm's House of Atholl is fully in command.

House of Atholl / Canmore (Scotland)
AD 1058 - 1292

Northern Britain beyond Hadrian's Wall gradually coalesced from Pictland and Dal Riada into a united Scotland after Kinet mac Alpin finished off the last remaining pocket of Pictish-controlled territory in 850. The successful kingship of Malcolm II of the House of Alpin saw him gradually subdue the British kingdom of Strathclyde. His death in 1034 saw his grandson, Duncan mac Crinan, succeed him in a short-lived first appearance on the throne for the House of Atholl. However, Duncan's six year reign was strewn with failure, so it was only a matter of time before his weary subjects decided to replace him.

The twenty-eight year duration of the return of the House of Alpin, largely under King Macbeth, was ended when Malcolm Canmore gained the throne. The son of Duncan, Malcolm was viewed by some as the rightful king of Scotland during Macbeth's reign, despite Macbeth's better dynastic claim. This is the conflict which supplied the core of Shakespeare's inaccurate but dramatic play in the late sixteenth century.

In 1054, a campaign by Malcolm and Siward, earl of Northumbria, secured Cumbria (southern Strathclyde) for Malcolm. After that he ruled as a client king of the English, at least at first. In 1057, as Shakespeare says, he certainly did kill Macbeth, and seven months later he also killed Macbeth's successor, Lulach, a fact which was omitted from the play.

Malcolm's nickname was Ceann Mor, Anglicised as Canmore. The first part, 'ceann', means 'head' or 'chief', while the second part means 'great' (and certainly not 'big', which is a mistaken translation which sometimes gets repeated). The word has a shared origin with the Welsh form of 'great', 'mawr', which was applied to several late Welsh kings (notably the ninth century Rhodri Mawr). It could also have been the meaning behind the name of Mor ap Ceneu, supposedly a king of 'Northern Britain' in the mid-fifth century AD, showing that the eleventh century Scots version of the word was unchanged from its Brythonic origins while the Welsh version had undergone considerable change.

Hadrian's Wall

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Mick Baker and Edward Dawson, from the Annals of Inisfallen (a medieval chronicle of Ireland), from Scottish Kings 1005-1625, Archibald H Dunbar (D Douglas, Edinburgh, 1899), from Early Sources of Scottish History AD 500-1286, Volume 1, Alan Orr Anderson (Reprinted with corrections, Paul Watkins, Stamford 1990), from Kingship and Unity: Scotland, 1000-1306, G W S Barrow (Reprinted, Edinburgh University Press, 1989), from Kings and Queens of Scotland, Caroline Bingham, from Biographical Dictionary of Dark Age Britain c.500-c.1050, Ann Williams, Alfred P Smyth, David Peter Kirby, & D P Kirby (Seaby, 1991), from A New History of Scotland Vol 1 - From the Earliest Times to 1603, William Croft Dickinson, from Scottish Historical Documents, Gordon Donaldson, from Scottish Kings, Gordon Donaldson, from Scotland - The Making of the Kingdom Vol 1, A A M Duncan, from Macbeth - High King of Scotland 1040-1057, Peter Beresford Ellis, from Northumbria AD 350-1100, N J Higham, from Alba of the Ravens, Scotland's Kings and Queens, John Marsden, and from External Link: Rampant Scotland.)

1058 - 1093

Malcolm III Canmore / Ceann Mor

Son of Duncan I of Atholl. Died in battle.

1066

The Norman invasion of England forces Margaret of Wessex (later known as St Margaret, or Margaret of Scotland) to flee to the court of Malcolm III. She is the sister of Edgar the Atheling, Anglo-Saxon king in name only after the death of Harold Godwinson at Hastings.

About four years later, Malcolm marries her, and the royal couple become parents to three later kings and five other children. Margaret introduces more court ceremony and also founds Dunfermline Abbey.

Malcolm Ceann Mor and Margaret
Malcolm Ceann Mor and his second wife, Margaret, sister of Edgar the Atheling, ruled a Scotland which was coalescing into a single kingdom, one which would enjoy relative unity for as long as the House of Atholl survived

1071 - 1079

The large number of English exiles who have gathered at his court, along with raids by Malcolm into Northumberland and Cumbria (southern Strathclyde), became a concern to King William of Normandy and England who now marches north.

Malcolm is forced to submit and sign the Treaty of Abernethy in 1071, agreeing to his son, Duncan, becoming a hostage in England. Even so, Malcolm makes two more raids into England in 1079.

1091 - 1093

Another raid across the border by Malcolm in 1091 ends in defeat, and again he has to submit to the English king. It seems that, immediately after this, the English finally drive out the Scots from their hold on Cumbria (southern Strathclyde).

Malcolm leads a final incursion in 1093 which leads to his defeat at Alnwick by Robert de Mowbray, earl of Northumberland and his death at the hands of Arkil Morel. His son and heir, Edward, dies in the same battle and Queen Margaret dies in Edinburgh Castle, four days later.

Normans
The Norman conquest of Britain in 1066 owed much to good fortune, but once achieved it was enforced by military strength and a prolific castle-building programme

1093 - 1094

Donald III Bane / Donalbane

Brother. Also known as Domnall Bán. Deposed.

1094

Malcom's son, Duncan, by his first wife invades the kingdom at the head of a mixed army of Northumbrians and Anglo-Normans. He is supported by Gospatric, former earl of Northumbria and by his own half-brother Edmund. Together they succeed in seizing the throne for Duncan III.

1094

Duncan II / Donnchad

Son of Malcolm III. Murdered.

1094

An uprising forces Duncan to send his foreign troops home. Now relatively defenceless, Duncan himself is murdered by Máel Petair of Mearns. The act is possibly instigated by Donald III and Edmund, at least according to the Annals of Ireland, and certainly the now-elderly Donald benefits from it, being able to regain the throne.

1094 - 1097

Donald III Bane / Donalbane

Restored. Killed or blinded, but sources differ.

1098 - 1107

Edgar / Étgar 'Probus' / 'the Valiant'

Son of Malcolm III, the first by Margaret of Scotland.

1107

When Edgar dies, his brother David becomes king of southern Scotland (below the line of the Forth and Clyde, incorporating much of the ancient kingdoms of Alt Clut and Guotodin). His brother, Alexander, is unhappy at this arrangement but David has more knights than him with which to defend his inheritance.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Gawain of the Guotodin is perhaps one of the most famous of Arthur's 'Knights of the Round Table', but his origins seem to lay in the Lothian region, although his actual presence there seems to have been extremely limited

Even more importantly, Henry I of England has already given David the 'Honour of Huntingdon' (country manors in eleven counties), having also made him prince of Cumbria (echoing the role of Malcolm Canmore in the rule of Cumbria), and has married him to a widowed heiress of Northumberland.

1107 - 1124

Alexander I mac Maíl Coluim

Brother. King in the north. Son-in-law of Henry I of England.

1114

FeatureAlexander inaugurates the construction of Scone Abbey on the ancient site at which Scottish kings have always been crowned. Archaeological work uncovers a massive encircling ditch around the Moot Hill, the actual site of coronation. The hill itself is at least partially man-made (see feature link).

1124 - 1153

David I mac Maíl Coluim 'the Saint'

Brother. King in the south until 1124.

1133

A Norman invasion from England forces King Thorkell to flee Dublin and Ireland altogether for the safety of the Scottish Highlands. In Scotland itself, King David invites large numbers of Normans to settle, build Norman castles, help him control some of the worst in-fighting amongst the lords, and help turn Scotland into a flourishing, multi-ethnic European kingdom.

King David I and King Malcolm IV of Scotland
King David 'the Saint' sits alongside his successor and grandson, Malcolm 'the Maiden', in this, the initial letter of an ornate charter for Kelso Abbey in 1159

c.1134

Although it had been founded as a small settlement in the eleventh century, Roxburgh, near Kelso on the Scottish Borders, and nestling on the banks of the River Teviot, catches the special attention of King David. Choosing it as his powerbase, he gives the town a royal charter, and builds a castle there.

Main roads, houses, and shops are added, along with several churches, all within a great defensive embankment which protects the city on the only side which is not defended by water. Most of the king's great charters are issued from Roxburgh.

It is the Edinburgh of its day, becoming one of the wealthiest cities in Scotland, and one of its four main urban centres, along with Berwick, Stirling, and Edinburgh itself. Its location is ideal to exploit the Scottish-held trading port at Berwick. Today, only a few scant remains of its castle survive.

1139

The title of earl of Northumberland falls vacant until Stephen of England is pressured into appointing a new earl by King David. David's son, Henry of Scotland, is selected for the position, signifying Scotland's strong role in the region at this time. Henry is also the father of the future Malcolm IV, a monarch who suffers from poor health and who dies at the age of twenty-four.

Battle of Lincoln
The Battle of Lincoln in 1141 was a defeat for King Stephen when he was captured while fighting on foot - his axe shaft had splintered and he was struck by a stone (thrown, it seems, by the figure on the left), and he was immediately seized by his helmet - taken from Hutchinson's Story of the British Nations (about 1923)

1153 - 1165

Malcolm IV mac Eanric 'the Maiden'

Son of Henry of Northumberland (1139). Grandson of David I.

1157

Malcolm's brother is William 'of Scotland', earl of Northumberland. He is now deprived of his title and lands by the powerful Henry II of England. The title remains in the king's hands until it is purchased in 1189 by Hugh de Puiset, bishop of Durham, and sold by Richard I who is keen to raise funds for his crusade.

1165 - 1214

William I 'the Lion'

Brother. Vassal of England (1175).

1174 - 1175

William the Lion is so-named for his mane of red hair and a headstrong attitude (although the epithet is also applied thanks to the later chronicler, John of Fordun, who refers to him as the 'lion of justice', thanks to his personal standard, a red lion rampant on a yellow field).

He spends a considerable amount of effort trying to regain his lost earldom of Northumberland, and now becomes involved in a rebellion against Henry II of England which is known as the Revolt of 1173-1174.

At the Battle of Alnwick, while supporting a raid against Henry's forces, William is captured and imprisoned. His release is only gained in 1175 when he acknowledges Henry as his feudal lord in the Treaty of Falaise.

1214 - 1249

Alexander II

Son. Died of fever in the Hebrides.

1215 - 1217

The barons of Northumberland and York pay homage to Alexander during the First Barons' War of England. The Scottish involvement of the war ends when their French allies are defeated in Kent. At the same time, in 1215, the inveterate enemies of the Scottish crown, the clans Meic Uilleim and MacHeths, rise up and are put down by loyalists.

First Barons War illusration from the Battle of Lincoln 1217
The First Barons' War in England saw a collection of the powerful baronial class rise up against King John, determined to force him to abide by Magna Carta but weakening their own cause by accepting support from France

1226

The Isle of Man passes from the overlordship of the Scandinavian crown to that of the Scottish crown. The old Viking territories are gradually being conquered by the Scottish crown during its creation of a single Scots state.

1249

Alexander II dies during an expedition to recover the Hebrides from Haakon IV of Norway. His son accedes at the age of eight as Alexander III. Two years later, he is married to Margaret, the daughter of Henry III of England. The union ensures that there is little conflict between the two countries for a generation.

1249 - 1286

Alexander III

Son of Alexander II by his second wife. Died in an accident.

1263

Alexander successfully defeats an 'invasion' by Haakon of Norway at the Battle of Largs in 1263 (the 'Last Viking Invasion' of the British Isles, although in reality the confrontation is small-scale and relatively neutral in outcome).

Following this and Haakon's death in the same year, the Treaty of Perth transfers the Hebrides and the Isle of Man to Scotland from Norway. From this point the Isle of Man is controlled directly from either Scotland or England, as the two nations vie for power. As part of the peace-making, Alexander's daughter marries Haakon's grandson, Eric II. Their daughter Margaret later becomes queen of Scotland.

1281

David

Son. Predeceased his father.

1284

Alexander

Brother. Predeceased his father.

1286 - 1290

Margaret 'Maid of Norway'

Granddaughter of Alexander III. Dau. of Eric II of Norway.

1290 - 1292

The 'First Interregnum' in Scotland is usually measured from the point of Margaret's death in 1290, but the date of Alexander's death in 1286 is also sometimes used. The difference revolves around the acceptance or otherwise of whether Margaret is officially queen, despite being uncrowned. The recognition by the Scottish parliament of her as queen would suggest that she should be accepted, whether crowned or not.

Margaret, the 'Maid of Norway'
Margaret, the 'Maid of Norway' is now an accepted queen of Scotland despite being uncrowned at her death, but this was not always the case

Margaret's death marks the end of the House of Atholl as there are no further living descendants. Instead, with the threat of dynastic war looming over the country, Scotland is governed by guardians while the English king, Edward I, is invited to adjudicate over the succession. With no one to stand in his way, he also becomes Scotland's overlord.

1290 - 1292

William Fraser

Guardian of Scotland. Bishop of St Andrews. Died 1297.

1290 - 1292

Robert Wishart

Guardian of Scotland. Bishop of Glasgow. Died 1302.

1290 - 1292

John II Comyn 'the Black'

Guardian of Scotland. Lord of Badenoch.

1290 - 1292

James Stewart

Guardian of Scotland. Fifth 'High Steward' of Scotland.

1292

A great feudal court is held at Berwick-upon-Tweed on 17 November 1292, during which John Balliol wins the vote. He is supported by John Comyn, guardian of Scotland, and his brother-in-law (among many others). The rival claimant is Robert de Brus, fifth lord of Annandale, supported by James Stewart, fifth high steward of Scotland. John Balliol is therefore appointed king of Scotland by his overlord, Edward I of England.

House of Balliol (Scotland)
AD 1292 - 1296

A united Scotland became a reality when the Dal Riadan King Kinet mac Alpin finished off the last remaining pocket of Pictish-controlled territory in 850. It still took another century or so before it became an accepted concept, not least because Strathclyde also needed to be absorbed, and several major regional lords resisted being controlled. Malcolm II of the House of Alpin gradually subdued much of the opposition before his error-prone grandson, Duncan mac Crinan, succeed him as the first ruler of the House of Atholl.

The twenty-eight year duration of the return of the House of Alpin, largely under King Macbeth, was ended when Malcolm Canmore gained the throne for a resurgent Atholl. This is the conflict which supplied the core of Shakespeare's inaccurate but dramatic play in the late sixteenth century. Malcolm's restored dynasty actually held power for over two centuries, the first lengthy period of comparative stability in the new country. The death of Alexander III in 1286 plunged the monarchy into crisis, with the country eventually being propped up by a group of 'guardians of Scotland'.

John Balliol had been one of the main contenders for the vacant Scottish throne in 1290, along with Robert de Brus, fifth lord of Annandale (grandfather to the better-known Robert the Bruce). His claim was not necessarily the superior one in terms of proximity to the royal family, as he was the great-great-great-grandson of David I on his mother's side, one generation further removed from Robert's own claim, but he was closer in terms of primogeniture.

When it came to the great feudal court which was held at Berwick-upon-Tweed on 17 November 1292, John Balliol won the vote. He was supported by John Comyn, guardian of Scotland and his brother-in-law (among many others who also supported him). The defeated Robert was supported by James Stewart, fifth high steward of Scotland but, win or lose, neither applicant was fully in control of Scotland anyway. John Balliol was appointed king of Scotland by his overlord, Edward I of England.

Unfortunately for John, King Edward treated him very much as a vassal, diminishing his authority and constantly overruling him. The Scottish nobles soon tired of this, and of their compromised king, and began to take the governance of the country into their own hands, further undermining the king's position. When they appointed a council of twelve, effectively a new panel of guardians, Edward invaded, kick-starting the Wars of Succession.

Hadrian's Wall

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Scottish Kings 1005-1625, Archibald H Dunbar (D Douglas, Edinburgh, 1899), from Under the Hammer: Edward I and Scotland, 1286-1307, Fiona J Watson (Tuckwell Press, 1998), from Robert the Bruce, Caroline Bingham (Constable, 1998), from The Making of Europe, Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change: 950-1350, Robert Bartlett (Princeton University Press, 1993), from Robert the Bruce, King of the Scots, Ronald McNair Scott, from A New History of Scotland Vol 1 - From the Earliest Times to 1603, William Croft Dickinson, from Scottish Historical Documents, Gordon Donaldson, from Scottish Kings, Gordon Donaldson, from Scotland - The Making of the Kingdom Vol 1, A A M Duncan, and from Alba of the Ravens, Scotland's Kings and Queens, John Marsden.)

1292 - 1296

John Balliol

Fifth lineal descendant of David I. Abdicated. Died 1315.

1295

On 5 July Scotland and France form an alliance, the origin of their 'Auld Alliance', against England. One of the former guardians of Scotland, Bishop William Fraser of St Andrews, is included in the party which visits France to secure the alliance.

The Auld Alliance between Scotland and France
The Auld Alliance would benefit both Scotland and France because it served to distract the English when one was especially threatened

1296 - 1297

Edward I of England invades following the formation of a council of twelve to manage the country outside the king's authority. This triggers the First Scottish War of Independence. The Scots are defeated at Dunbar in April 1296 and John Balliol formally abdicates on 10 July 1296.

The 'Second Interregnum' follows, during which Edward I again rules Scotland directly. John is imprisoned in the Tower of London until allowed to leave for France in 1299.

Rebellion flares up in Scotland, first with Robert Wishart and James Stewart, former guardians of Scotland (which ends in surrender to the English at Irvine), and then in the form of William Wallace. Initially he wins a great deal of support in some quarters and is victorious against an unwary English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297.

1297 - 1298

Sir William Wallace

Guardian of Scotland. Defeated, captured, and executed.

1298

William Wallace suffers defeat at the Battle of Falkirk in July 1298. A much later source, composed some decades after the event, states that John Comyn III arrives at the battlefield in support of Wallace, but with the intention of abandoning the Scottish army when Wallace most needs him (this act is depicted in the film, Braveheart, when Comyn leads his mounted force away at the height of the battle).

The truth of it is highly uncertain but, thanks to the defeat, Wallace is forced to relinquish the guardianship of Scotland to Robert the Bruce and Sir John Comyn of Badenoch.

Battle of Falkirk
Defeat at the Battle of Falkirk effectively ended William Wallace's rebellion, although he did continue some guerrilla actions for a time

1298 - 1300

Robert the Bruce

Joint guardian of Scotland. Earl of Carrick.

1298 - 1300

Sir John Comyn III of Badenoch

Nephew of Balliol. Joint guardian of Scotland. 'Red Comyn'.

1298 - 1302

FeatureIn 1302, in his attempts to suppress William Wallace and claimant to the throne, Robert the Bruce, during the Scottish Wars of Independence, Edward I builds a fortress at Linlithgow (see feature link).

1299 - 1301

William Lamberton

Guardian of Scotland. Bishop of St Andrews. Died 1328.

1300 - 1301

Sir Ingram de Umfraville

Guardian of Scotland.

1301

William Lamberton returns to France to exercise his influence on the sympathetic King Philip IV, while the changeable (some would say pragmatic) Sir Ingram resigns.

This leaves John de Soules as sole guardian, possible appointed by John Balliol himself, as the figurehead of the general movement to restore him to the throne (at least, the movement exists in name and general sentiment, but the convoluted nature of Scottish politics means that the Bruce faction is also vying for control, even while potentially paying lip service to the Balliol cause).

When de Soules leaves for France on a diplomatic mission, Sir John Comyn takes over, even though de Soules nominally retains his position as guardian.

John Balliol of Scotland
John Balliol, a compromise king of Scotland who was always hindered by his enforced obeisance to Edward I of England

1301 - 1304

John de Soules

Guardian of Scotland. Died 1310.

1302 - 1304

Sir John Comyn III of Badenoch

Guardian of Scotland again. Killed by Robert in 1306.

1303 - 1304

Sir John Comyn and Sir Simon Fraser defeat the English at the Battle of Roslin, near Edinburgh, in February 1303. The victory is a hard-fought one, but it is merely another stage in the power politics of Scotland.

Comyn is soon sidelined and reduced to a bit-part figure, despite his virtually untouched stronghold north of the Firth of Forth and his ability to raise large numbers of fighting men. With an invasion threatened by Edward I, one which promises to engulf Forth, Comyn is forced to enter peace negotiations in 1304, part of which include a promise to hand over William Wallace, should he come into Comyn's hands (although the validity of the promise is not put to the test).

1305

King Edward I of England appoints his nephew, John of Brittany, as guardian of Scotland. The second son of Duke John II of Brittany, John wholeheartedly shares Edward's aims when it comes to expanding the size and influence of the English kingdom. He is trusted by the English court as a diplomat and negotiator, and his term of office as guardian witnesses no major upsets.

Pierre De Dreux
Father of Duke John II of Brittany, Duke Peter I, perhaps better known as Pierre de Dreux or Pierre Mauclerc, managed to consolidate Breton power and independence rather than hand it over to the French monarch

In the same year William Wallace is captured and is subsequently hanged, drawn and quartered by the English at Smithfield, London, as an example of what happens when Edward's will is opposed.

1305 - 1307

John of Brittany

Guardian of Scotland. Earl of Richmond. Died 1334.

1306

With John Comyn dead, Robert the Bruce is now the only serious contender for the throne. Despite being excommunicated for murdering Comyn, Robert is still crowned in 1306 as the independent king of Scotland.

House of Bruce (Scotland)
AD 1306 - 1371

A united Scotland was forged in the ninth century following the union of Dal Riada and the Picts, although it still took another century or so before Strathclyde could be fully absorbed, and several major regional lords could be brought under control. The kings of the House of Alpin did much of the work, with Malcolm Canmore's House of Atholl supplying more than two centuries of relative stability. The death of Alexander III in 1286 plunged the monarchy into crisis, with the country eventually being propped up by a group of 'guardians of Scotland'.

John Balliol was one of the main contenders for the vacant Scottish throne in 1290. His claim was not necessarily the superior one in terms of proximity to the royal family, but he was closer in terms of primogeniture. The brief ascendancy of his House of Balliol was highly compromised, however, and he was quickly forced to abdicate. Scotland remained heavily dominated by King Edward I of England, the 'Hammer of the Scots'.

Several Scottish rebellions flared up, most notably those by William Wallace and Andrew Moray in 1297 under the claim that John Balliol had been unfairly forced from the throne and remained the rightful king. Balliol, however, had accepted exile in France, in the custody of Pope Boniface VIII. He was released from this in 1301, but only to move to his ancestral estates in Picardy where he remained for the rest of his life. The Scots received no support or encouragement from him after 1302.

FeatureRobert the Bruce, son of the earl of Carrick, emerged as the favourite to lead the Scots out of English control (see feature link). He sided with Edward I during the abdication of John Balliol, but switched sides during the revolt of William Wallace. In 1298 he succeeded Wallace as guardian of Scotland alongside his co-guardian, Sir John Comyn of Badenoch. As a relative of John Balliol, John Comyn was a potential rival for the throne, so Robert killed him during one of many arguments, this time in a church in Dumfries a few weeks before Robert was due to be crowned. This act earned him excommunication from Pope Clement V and the status of outlaw from Edward I, but it did not prevent him from becoming the independent king of Scotland in 1306.

Hadrian's Wall

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from Robert the Bruce, Caroline Bingham (Constable, 1998), from The Making of Europe, Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change: 950-1350, Robert Bartlett (Princeton University Press, 1993), from Scottish Kings 1005-1625, Archibald H Dunbar (D Douglas, Edinburgh, 1899), from Independence and Nationhood: Scotland 1306-1469, Alexander Grant (Edward Arnold, 1984), from Under the Hammer: Edward I and Scotland, 1286-1307, Fiona J Watson (Tuckwell Press, 1998), and from External Links: The British Monarchy, and The Scotsman.)

1306 - 1329

Robert I Bruce

Descendant of David I of Atholl. Former guardian of Scotland.

1306

FeatureHaving been crowned king (see feature link), and still at the very start of his reign, Robert is defeated by the English at the Battle of Methven. He takes refuge at Strathfillan, where he is surprised by the English in August. His wife, daughter and sisters are imprisoned, and three of his brothers are executed by the English.

Robert the Bruce
This nineteenth century engraving attempts to depict how Robert the Bruce may have appeared, although it is more Victorian than medieval

Robert flees westwards to the Antrim coast, at his lowest point (which is the source of the sixteenth century story of Robert drawing inspiration from a persistent spider mending its web in a cave). The death of his implacable enemy, Edward I, in 1307 helps him recover his position. Robert begins to wage a very effective guerrilla war against the English, establishing control north of the Firth of Forth.

1314

FeatureThe defeat of Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn on 24 June by Robert (see feature link) sees the start of a period in which the certainty of Scottish independence from England becomes more and more firmly established.

Feature FeatureThe drawing-up of the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 (see both feature links) involves Pope John XXII in negotiations after the Scottish earls, barons, and other nobles write to him declaring that they recognise Robert as their true king.

Battle of Bannockburn by William Hole
The Battle of Bannockburn by William Hole, part of a mural in three sections, from the Scottish National Portrait Museum in Edinburgh showing Robert the Bruce in the foreground

1316 - 1318

Robert's brother, Edward, is inaugurated as high king of Ireland, increasing the pressure on the English. The Bruce family have direct maternal links to Brian Boru of early eleventh century Munster and are therefore valid candidates to rule Ireland as well.

However, Edward's death in battle in 1318 ends Scottish involvement there. In Scotland itself, although Robert captures Berwick in the same year, Edward II refuses to relinquish his claim as overlord of the country.

1324 - 1326

The Pope recognises Robert as king of an independent Scotland. Two years later, the Franco-Scottish 'Auld Alliance' is renewed in the Treaty of Corbeil, by which the Scots are obliged to make war on England should hostilities break out between England and France.

1327 - 1328

FeatureEdward II of England is deposed, and the following year the English sign the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, in which England renounces its claim to Scotland. The following year, Robert the Bruce dies (and his heart is taken to Spain - see feature link). Bruce's young son succeeds him, with the support of a guardian or regent of Scotland. The post of guardian is fraught with danger, however, and none of the incumbents during David's infancy last very long.

La Rioja in Spain
Sir James 'the Black' Douglas to the English and 'Sir James the Good' to the Scots, James Douglas (1286-1330) took the heart of the late Robert the Bruce to Spain where it served as a rallying point for crusaders in the 'Reconquista'

1329 - 1371

David II

Son. Aged 4 at accession. Died childless.

1329 - 1332

Sir Thomas Randolph

Guardian of Scotland. First Earl of Moray. Died.

1332

Donald

Second guardian. Earl of Mar. Killed at Dupplin Moor.

1332 - 1333

Sir Andrew Murray of Bothwell

Third guardian. Brother-in-law of Robert the Bruce. Captured.

1332 - 1342

The English attempt to take advantage of the king's young age by promoting Edward Balliol as a rival claimant to the Scottish throne. Balliol is crowned king of Scotland by the English and his Scots supporters. After less than a year in Scotland, he is forced to flee to England, but he returns in 1333 with an invasion force and the Second Scottish War of Independence has already begun.

1332

Edward Balliol

Son of John Balliol. Rival claimant in Aug-Dec 1332.

1333

Archibald Douglas 'the Tyneman'

Fourth guardian. Killed at Halidon Hill.

1333

David is defeated at the Battle of Halidon Hill (near Berwick) and flees to France until 1341. His nephew, Robert the Steward, takes over governance of the country as 'Guardian of Scotland' until the king deems it safe to return in 1341. Edward Balliol is 'restored' as king following the English victory, and immediately cedes Lothian to the English king.

Guildhall stone shield
This stone shield from the Guildhall in London shows the royal arms of Edward III after he laid claim to the French throne (around 1340), with the fleurs-de-lis on a blue field alongside the three lions of England on a red field

1333 - 1341

Robert the Steward

Fifth guardian. Governed in the king's name during exile.

1333 - 1334

Edward Balliol

Rival claimant, restored by the English.

1335 - 1336

Edward Balliol

Rival claimant, restored again by England. Returned in 1346.

1336

Edward Balliol is deposed yet again by those loyal to King David, and any realistic hope he might have of ruling Scotland is ended with the return of the true king in 1341.

1346

King Edward III of England crushes the army of Philip of France at the Battle of Crecy in the first decade of the Hundred Years War. The seventeen year-old King David decides to invade England in support of his French allies, but he is defeated and captured at the Battle of Neville's Cross, near Durham, on 17 October. He is imprisoned by the English for eleven long years, during which time Robert the Steward governs Scotland in his name.

Edward Balliol takes the opportunity of raising an insurrection in Galloway, but although he manages to take his forces into the heart of Scotland, he wins no support there and the attempt fades to nothing.

Battle of Crecy
The Battle of Crécy on 26 August 1346 saw a small but disciplined English army defeat France and its 'finest cavalry in Europe' in the first decade of the Hundred Years War

1346 - 1357

Robert the Steward

Governed again in the king's name during his imprisonment.

1357

On 3 October 1357, the Scots agree to the terms of the Treaty of Berwick, paying an enormous ransom of 100,000 marks for the release of King David. He returns to Scotland but heavy taxation is needed to provide funds for the ransom, which is to be paid in instalments. David further alienates his subjects by using the money for his own purposes.

1371

Having attempted to remove his nephew from the line of succession in favour of King Edward III of England, David dies childless. Despite attempts to avoid it, Robert the Steward is still crowned as his successor, initiating the Stewart dynasty.

House of Stewart (Scotland)
AD 1371 - 1707

A united Scotland was forged in the ninth century following the union of Dal Riada and the Picts, plus the later addition of Strathclyde. The kings of the House of Alpin did much of the work, with Malcolm Canmore's House of Atholl supplying more than two centuries of relative stability. The death of Alexander III in 1286 plunged the monarchy into crisis, with the country eventually selecting a compromised king in the House of Balliol. His overlord was King Edward I of England, the 'Hammer of the Scots'.

Robert II, the first Stewart king of Scotland, was the son of Walter Stewart and Marjorie, daughter of Robert the Bruce, the first of the Bruce dynasty of kings. Born on 2 March 1316 at Paisley, Robert the Bruce gained the Scottish throne on 22 February 1371, at the age of fifty-four. His accession essentially did the same service for Scotland as the Tudor accession did for England, ending a series of debilitating and destructive wars for the throne.

The new Stewart dynasty bore the name of Robert's ancestor, a former high steward of the palace under David I of the twelfth century House of Atholl. The title of steward became the family name of Stewart (a common medieval occurrence and the source of a great many modern surnames). On his mother's side, Robert II was directly descended from King David via Robert the Bruce, giving legitimacy to his claim to the throne.

Robert himself served twice as guardian of Scotland following the defeat and exile of King David II in 1333. Upon the king's death, Robert was crowned his successor. His accession was far from universally welcomed however. Many of the nobles saw him as a step down from the usual kingly candidate given his family origins as little more than servants. Robert was not a strong king, which is what the country direly needed, so before long his son took over much of the day-to-day governance in an attempt to restore law and order. Few of the Stewart kings lived long and happy lives though. Many were victims of the internecine quarrelling between the Scots themselves.

Hadrian's Wall

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Royal House of Stuart: The Descendants of King James VI of Scotland (James I of England), Arthur C Addington (Charles Skilton, 1969-76), from The Lion & the Lilies: The Stuarts and France, Eileen Cassavetti (Macdonald & Jane's, 1977), from Scottish Kings 1005-1625, Archibald H Dunbar (D Douglas, Edinburgh, 1899), from Under the Hammer: Edward I and Scotland, 1286-1307, Fiona J Watson (Tuckwell Press, 1998), from The Making of Europe, Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change: 950-1350, Robert Bartlett (Princeton University Press, 1993), from Robert the Bruce, King of the Scots, Ronald McNair Scott, from A New History of Scotland Vol 1 - From the Earliest Times to 1603, William Croft Dickinson, from Scottish Kings, Gordon Donaldson, from Scotland - The Making of the Kingdom Vol 1, A A M Duncan, and from External Links: Royal Family History, and The Stuarts of Campbeltown, and The Royal Household.)

1371 - 1390

Robert II

Former guardian. Grandson of Robert I of the House of Bruce.

1388

A truce with England in 1384 is short-lived, mostly thanks to Robert refusing to recognise it, and the border wars continue. Now the Scots under James Douglas win a victory at the Battle of Otterburn, near Newcastle, defeating Henry Percy 'Hotspur' of the newly-created duchy of Northumberland.

Dundonald Castle
Dundonald Castle in Ayrshire was built by Robert in 1371, and he died there nineteen years later, one of the few Stewart kings to die peacefully

1390

Robert II dies peacefully at Dundonald Castle in Ayrshire at the impressive age of seventy-four. He is buried at Scone Abbey and is succeeded by his son, John, who takes the reignal name Robert III to avoid the potential bad omen of a name which was used by the hated John Balliol.

1390 - 1406

Robert III

Son. Died disabled and probably broken by defeats.

1402

Beset by internal problems, from the internecine quarrelling of the Highlanders to the intransigence of the powerful lords of the isles, Robert now faces an invasion of the lowlands by Henry IV of England. The Scots are defeated twice, at the battles of Nesbit Moor and Humbleton Hill (or Homildon Hill), and Henry briefly seizes Edinburgh.

1406

Robert suffers a riding accident which disables him, and his eldest son David is killed, probably by Robert's brother, the duke of Albany. Robert sends his ten year-old second son, James, to safety in France but his vessel is captured near Flamborough Head and he is taken prisoner by the English. The sad news may hasten Robert's death in the same year.

1406

With Robert dead, James is now the rightful king of Scotland, but he remains imprisoned in the Tower of London by the English until 1424. In his absence, his uncle, Robert, duke of Albany, governs Scotland, making little effort to secure the king's release in the hope that one of his own sons can assume the throne.

King Henry IV of England
The 1399 coup to seize the English throne by Henry IV (pictured) and his ally, Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, ushered in a more repressive regime which used burning at the stake as a way of removing undesirable figures

1406 - 1424

Robert of Albany

Brother and regent in the absence of James I.

1424

A ransom of sixty thousand marks is eventually promised for the release of James so that he can return home to be crowned at Scone. Part of this amount is defaulted by James himself.

1406 - 1437

James I

Son of Robert III. Murdered by his opponents.

1411

Highland and Lowland Scots clash at 'Red Harlaw' in Aberdeenshire on 24 July 1411, one of the bloodiest battles in Scottish history. Known more officially as the Battle of Harlaw, it is one of a series of clashes between the clans of the north-east and those of the western coast as they vie for supremacy.

1437

Having been spending large amounts on Linlithgow Palace and luxuries for the court, James has stoked discontent amongst the nobles. Supporters of Walter, lord of Atholl, the son of Robert III's second marriage (and therefore James' half-brother), assassinate the king in the Friars Preachers Dominican Monastery at Perth. He is aged just forty-two.

King James I of Scotland
Early versions of the assassination of King James I of Scotland may have originated with Queen Joan, present at the murder and seeking vengeance

1437 - 1460

James II

Son. Aged 6 at accession. Killed by a canon explosion.

1437 - 1439

Joan Beaufort

Mother and regent. Removed from office.

1437 - 1439

Archibald Douglas

Earl of Douglas and regent. Died of fever.

1439

With the death of Archibald Douglas, Scotland is suffering from a lack of senior members of the nobility so three younger regents are appointed in the form of Sir William Crichton, Sir Alexander Livingstone, and James Douglas.

Livingstone immediately takes advantage of his new position to have Queen Joan and her new husband placed under house arrest. They are only released the following year once they agree to hand over all power and control to him.

1439 - 1449?

Sir William Crichton

Lord chancellor and regent.

1439 - 1449?

Sir Alexander Livingstone

Regent.

1439 - 1443

James Douglas

Earl of Avondale and regent.

1440

The power-sharing triumvirate of Sir William Crichton, Sir Alexander Livingstone, and James Douglas conspires to break the power of the earls of Douglas. They summon the current earl, William Douglas, and his brother David to Edinburgh Castle. The young men face trumped-up charges, and are summarily beheaded. The event is known as the 'Black Dinner', and the Douglas title and lands pass to James Douglas who is consequently seen as the lead perpetrator of the crime.

1446

FeatureConstruction begins on Rosslyn Chapel. It is intended to be one of over thirty-seven collegiate churches to be built during the reigns of the first four King James, between 1406-1513 (see feature link).

Roslyn Chapel
Founded as the Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew in the fifteenth century, Roslyn Chapel was intended to be one of over thirty-seven collegiate churches in Scotland (click or tap on image to read more on a separate page)

1449 - 1452

James comes of age in 1449, and the Douglases use the event as an excuse to kick the Livingstone faction out of power, with the king's support. Over the next three years, James attempts to curb the power of the Douglases, culminating in the murder of Lord Douglas at Stirling Castle on 22 February 1452. James finds himself in a situation of intermittent civil war as he struggles for authority in Scotland.

1460

The twenty-nine year-old James besieges Roxburgh which is in the hands of the English. James has a large army and iron canon which have been newly imported from Flanders. But when he is standing nearby one of those canon on 3 August, it kills him when it explodes instead of sending a salute to his arriving queen.

1460 - 1488

James III

Son of James II. Aged 8 at accession. Deposed. Murdered.

1460 - 1463

Mary of Guelders

Mother and regent. Died.

1463

The regency of Mary of Guelders, mother of James III, is replaced by a dual regency under James Kennedy, bishop of St Andrews, and Gilbert, First Lord Kennedy.

1463 - 1465

James Kennedy

Bishop of St Andrews and regent.

1463 - 1465

Gilbert

Lord Kennedy. Regent.

1466

After conspiring with his brother, Sir Alexander Boyd, the unscrupulous Robert Boyd, First Lord Boyd, manoeuvres himself into the position of regent for the young king. An act of parliament makes him the sole 'Governor of the Realm'. He quickly secures the king's sister, Mary, in marriage for Thomas, his eldest son. James regards the match as an insult, but for the moment is not in a position to oppose it.

King James III of Scotland
The unpopular reign of the much put-upon King James III of Scotland witnessed high taxes and the nobility becoming marginalised

1466 - 1469

Robert

Lord Boyd. Regent. Died 1482.

1472

The weak and unpopular James marries Margaret of Denmark, a union which is negotiated by the even more unpopular and self-aggrandising Boyd faction at court. Her dowry includes Orkney and Shetland, so these are handed over by the Danish crown to Scotland, while the annual fee for the Western Isles is also ended. But the power of the Boyds themselves has already been broken by the king.

1482

One of Scotland's four great cities, Berwick, is finally ceded to the occupying English. James is forced to withdrawn his trade from the city, as the tax will no longer go to him.

This is probably the tipping point in the fortunes of one of the other great cities, Roxburgh. Although it had risen to greatness in the days of David I, it had suffered badly during the wars of Edward I, and the main reason for its existence has now been lost.

Roxburgh gradually becomes a ghost town which crumbles away and is lost to history by the early 1600s, until archaeologists pinpoint its main features in 2004.

Roxburgh Castle
A romantic view of Roxburgh Castle, once one of Scotland's four great cities, but seen in this 1920 print in the sixteenth or seventeenth century, by which time the former city had virtually disappeared

1488

Rebellious nobles, disaffected by James' bisexuality and his weak rule, call for his son to replace him on the throne. James' supporters are defeated at the Battle of Sauchieburn on 11 June (near Bannockburn) and James is deposed. He flees to Milltown where he is stabbed to death by a man dressed as a priest.

1488 - 1513

James IV

Son. Aged 15. Adopted the thistle as the Stewart emblem.

1493

James takes the title 'Lord of the Isles', a minor kingship in its own right, during the anarchic period in the Highlands following the death of the last MacDonald lord of the Isles. The ending of this regional power is a huge help in fully uniting Scotland.

1502 - 1503

Scotland and England agree a 'perpetual peace' when James and Henry VII come to terms. The following year, James marries Henry's daughter, Margaret Tudor, laying the basis for eventual personal union between the two crowns.

1513

James takes full advantage of the fact that Henry VIII is campaigning in France and his wife, Isabella, is governing England in his name. Encouraged by the French, James invades England, but Isabella sends an army north. The two forces meet at Flodden and the Scots are annihilated, with around 10,000 casualties which include James himself. This makes him the last British monarch to die in battle.

Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII, second son of Henry VII and 'Defender of the Faith' thanks to Pope Leo X in 1521, as portrayed in a very well known oil portrait on wood which dates to about 1526

1513 - 1542

James V

Son. Aged 1 at accession. Died broken by defeat.

1513 - 1514

Margaret Tudor

Mother and regent. Died 1541.

1514 - 1524

John Stewart

Duke of Albany. Regent and second in line to the throne.

1528

With Protestantism on the rise across Europe and England, the staunchly Catholic James V remains unbending when it comes to dealing with heretics. One of the leading Protestant reformers is Patrick Hamilton, and he is burned at the stake in St Andrews.

1541 - 1542

The death of his mother, Margaret Tudor, removes James' adherence to the 'perpetual peace' with England and, when invited, he fails to meet Henry VIII at York. Instead, he mobilises his army and prepares to invade England, but his army is defeated at Solway Moss on the Scottish borders in 1542. The news of the defeat is a powerful blow, and he dies just six days after his daughter is born.

1542 - 1567

Mary 'Queen of Scots'

Dau of James V by 2nd wife. Executed: Fotheringay (1587).

1547

In the last battle between English and Scottish royal armies, the Scots are routed at Pinkie, Edinburgh, on 10 September 1547. The battle is triggered by the uncle and Royal Protector of Edward VI, Edward Seymour, as he attempts to impose Anglican reform north of the border and force the infant Mary 'Queen of Scots' to marry Edward. Mary is smuggled to France.

1558

Still in France, and now perhaps as much a Frenchwomen as she is a Scot after living there for the greater part of her life, Mary marries Francis, son of King Henry II, in Paris on 24 April 1558. She also adopts the French spelling of Stuart for her surname. Francis becomes king of France in the following year, albeit briefly.

1559 - 1560

FeatureScone Abbey is sacked and burned by an angry mob at the height of the Reformation (see feature link). The following year, the parliament legislates for the Protestant reform of the church in Scotland. Latin mass is forbidden. In addition, the Treaty of Edinburgh between France and England recognises the sovereignty of Mary and her husband.

The gates of Scone Abbey
The gates of Scone Abbey survived in this form until 2010, when a white van driver rammed through them, destroying all of the bridging stonework

1561 - 1565

The recently-widowed Mary returns to Scotland from France, landing at Leith. Although she is still a Catholic, the country is Protestant following the reforms of John Knox. Her initial governance of a difficult country is successful, but her French-styled extravagance at court is not.

In 1565, under pressure from the nobility to marry, she agrees to an ill-judged alliance with her second cousin, Henry, Lord Darnley. He is manipulated by her enemies into leading a bunch of conspirators to murder of her secretary, David Rizzio, in front of her eyes.

1566 - 1567

Mary gives birth to Darnley's son, James Stuart, in June 1566, but the turbulent marriage is generally a disaster. When Darnley is found murdered at Kirk o'Field near Edinburgh on 10 February 1567, Mary is largely believed to be complicit in the crime.

In the same year she remarries, to the earl of Bothwell, possibly Darnley's murderer. The Scottish lords quickly imprison her in Loch Leven Castle where she abdicates in favour of her son. The earl of Mar is appointed regent (not that Mary has any choice in the matter).

1567 - 1625

James VI

Son of Mary by her second husband, Lord Darnley.

1567 - 1570

James Stewart

Earl of Moray & Mar. Regent. Assassinated.

1568

FeatureMary escapes from Loch Leven Castle but her supporters (the 'Queen's party') are defeated near Glasgow, at the Battle of Langside. She flees to England where she believes she will be protected and supported by her cousin, Elizabeth Tudor. Following a short stay at Bolton Castle (see feature link), she is instead subsequently imprisoned at Fotheringay Castle, a political embarrassment to both kingdoms.

Bolton Castle in North Yorkshire
The fourteenth century Bolton Castle was built between 1379 and 1399 by Sir Richard Le Scrope (click or tap on image to read more on a separate page)

1570 - 1571

Mathew Stewart

Earl of Lennox. Regent. Shot dead in Queen's party skirmish.

1571 - 1572

John Erskine

Earl of Mar. Regent. Died of natural causes.

1572 - 1578

James Douglas

Earl of Morton. Regent. Resigned after nobility's opposition.

1603

FeatureWith the death of Elizabeth Tudor (see feature link), her cousin, James VI of Scotland, is now also king of England. He is one of Elizabeth's closest living relatives, thanks to the marriage between James IV and Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England.

The Scottish royal court moves to London, and the two kingdoms are ruled from there. Despite this, Scotland continues to have its own judicial system, along with similarly independent educational and religious institutions.

1603 - 1625

James VI (I)

King James VI of Scotland and I of England.

1625

Upon the death of James VI he is succeeded by his son, Charles I of England and Scotland. Reignal numbering for all subsequent kings is shown for Scotland first, followed by England in parenthesis.

1625 - 1649

Charles I

Son. King of Scotland & England. Executed by Parliament.

1640

Battling against Parliament's attempts to reign in his vision of absolute monarchy, Charles I Stuart, desperate to raise funds, is still forced to summon parliament after an eleven year gap. The acrimonious 'Short Parliament' lasts for just three weeks in April before it is dismissed by the king. By November, the king's position has worsened after defeat by the Scots in the Second Bishops' War, and this time the 'Long Parliament' remains in sitting.

Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell
Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, effectively the monarch of England, Scotland, and Ireland without ever actually taking the highly dangerous step of having himself declared king and without fully implementing the reforms required to establish a full republic

1642 - 1651

Charles Stuart raises his standard, declaring war on a Parliament which is determined to force a confrontation. In 1645 the Royalist forces of King Charles are routed at the Battle of Philiphaugh, defeating Charles' cause in Scotland.

1649 - 1653

Oliver Cromwell supports the execution of the king in January 1649, and leads an army to crush the Irish in August of the same year. In 1650, he also crushes Scotland with his highly efficient New Model Army. In 1653, he dissolves Parliament and by the end of the year has assumed the role of Lord Protector of the Commonwealth.

1649 - 1658

Oliver Cromwell

Effectively controlled Parliament (1649). First Lord Protector.

1658 - 1659

Richard Cromwell

Second Lord Protector. Abdicated in favour of Charles II.

1659 - 1660

Richard Cromwell, entirely unsuited to his role as lord protector, abdicates in 1659. Negotiations with Charles II are opened, and the restored king returns to Britain. The body of Oliver Cromwell, buried in Westminster Abbey, is exhumed by Charles' supporters and hanged on the scaffold at Tyburn (near modern day Marble Arch in London). It is later cut down and beheaded, with the body probably being dumped in a nearby pit. The embalmed head is eventually removed from a spike and passes from owner to owner until it is reburied at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge in 1960.

Charles II returns from the Netherlands on his birthday to reclaim the throne, along with his Portuguese wife, Catherine of Braganza. The English Parliament proclaims him king of England on 8 May 1660.

Lulworth Castle, Dorset, England
Sir Humphrey Weld of Lulworth Castle in Dorset was a Royalist during the English Civil War, which no doubt cost him position and income during the Commonwealth, but his finances did not fare much better under the Restoration (click or tap on image to read more on a separate page)

1660 - 1685

Charles II

Son of Charles I. Restored king of Scotland & England.

1685 - 1688

James VII (II)

Brother. King James VII of Scotland & II of England.

1688

Feeling against the blatantly anti-Protestant James II of England and VII of Scotland flares up when his second wife, Mary of Modena, gives birth to a Catholic heir (commonly believed to be a changeling). His brother-in-law, William of Orange, lands in Britain with a Dutch army. The disaffected British army goes over to him, and a bloodless takeover is effected with the support of the British people, named the 'Glorious Revolution'.

James flees London for France on 11 December, and by this act is deemed to have abdicated. He and his supporters continue to hold a claim to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland for decades to come, but most of the significant Scottish nobles support William. The Jacobite pretenders to the throne are shown below with a shaded background.

1688 - 1701

James VII (II)

The deposed James II of Scotland & England.

1698

Scottish settlers make landfall in Panama, establishing the ill-fated 'Darien Venture' colony. The project is an ambitious one, and is backed financially by almost every Scottish landowner, many of whom are bankrupted when it fails. This disaster, along with the threat of an invasion by the English under William of Orange, persuades Scotland's nobles to support a formal union with England.

Map of the Darien Venture Colony
The Darien Venture colony was based around a Panamanian isthmus which was heavily forested both then and now, but the attempt was a disaster for the settlers and backers alike

1701 - 1707

James VIII (III) Francis 'Old Pretender'

Son of James II. Prince of Wales. Involved in 1716 rebellion.

1707

The union of the crowns of England and Scotland is enacted, ending the separate rule of a nominally independent Scotland by the Stuarts and instead merging the two crowns into one. The claim to the throne by the Jacobite Stuarts continues to be upheld, and attempts are made to pursue that claim, starting in an 'Early Modern Scotland' of 1708.

 
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