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On this date in History. April 4, 1406. Death of King Robert III of Scotland.

Robert III (c.1337/40 – April 4, 1406), born John Stewart, was King of Scots from 1390 to his death. He was known primarily as John, Earl of Carrick before ascending the throne. He was the eldest son of Robert II and Elizabeth Mure and was legitimated with the marriage of his parents in 1347.


In 1368 David II, King of Scots created John Earl of Carrick. His father became king Robert II in 1371 after the unexpected death of the childless King David II. Robert II’s claim to the throne of Scotland was as the nephew of David II and also as a grand son of Robert I (Robert the Bruce). Robert II was the son of the son of Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland and of Marjorie Bruce, daughter of the Scottish king Robert the Bruce by his first wife Isabella of Mar. This made Robert II the first Scottish king of the House of Stewart (Stuart)*

John Stewart, Earl of Carrick was influential in the government of the kingdom but became progressively more impatient at his father’s longevity. The Earl of CarrickRobert II died at Dundonald Castle in Ayrshire on April 19, 1390 and was buried at Scone on April 25. The Earl of Carrick was 53 years old when he ascended the Scottish throne.

In May 1390 the Scottish Parliament granted John permission to change his regnal name to Robert III probably in part to maintain the link back to Robert I but also to disassociate himself from unpopular King John Balliol.

In 1367 Robert III, then Earl of Carrick, married Annabella Drummond the daughter of Sir John Drummond, 11th Thane of Lennox and Mary Montifex, daughter of Sir William Montifex. They had seven children. The heir to the throne was David Stewart (24 October 1378 – 26 March 1402). He was the first Duke of Rothesay from 1398. He was named after his great-great-uncle, David II of Scotland, and also held the titles of Earl of Atholl (1398–1402) and Earl of Carrick (1390–1402).

In late February 1402, while travelling officially to St Andrews, David was arrested just outside the city at Strathtyrum in a sting operation which had been arranged by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany (c. 1340 – 3 September 1420), the younger brother of Robert III, King of Scots a ruthless politician. The Duke of Albany, at that time in complicit alliance with Archibald, fourth Earl of Douglas. (David’s father-in-law, the highly influential third Earl, had died two years before, in 1400.) concocted the pretext for David’s arrest was that his lieutenancy had expired. He was initially held captive in St Andrews Castle, and soon afterwards taken to Falkland Palace, Albany’s residence in Fife. At Falkland David remained a prisoner and shortly died there, reputedly of starvation. A few weeks later, in May 1402, a public enquiry into the circumstances of David’s death exonerated Albany of all blame.

Following David, the Duke of Rothesay’s death, and with the restoration of the lieutenancy to Albany and the Scottish defeat at the battle of Humbleton, Robert III experienced almost total exclusion from political authority and was limited to his lands in the west.

By October 28, 1405 Robert III had returned to Dundonald Castle in Ayrshire. With the king’s health failing, it was decided in the winter of 1405–6 to send the young prince James, now heir to the throne after his brothers death, to France out of the reach of the Duke of Albany. On March 22, 1406 the ship was taken by English pirates off Flamborough Head, who delivered James to King Henry IV of England. Robert III had moved to Rothesay Castle where, after hearing of his son’s captivity, died on April 4, 1406, and was buried in Paisley Abbey, which had been founded by the Stewarts.

James Stewart, succeeded Robert III as James I, King of Scots (although at that time remaining uncrowned and in captivity in England) while the Duke of Albany secured himself as de facto ruler of Scotland.

* Stewart was the original spelling for the name of the Royal House. It was after the reign of Mary I, Queen of Scots and her time in France did the spelling of the Royal House change to Stuart, the French form of the name.