Alexander II (August 24, 1198 – July 6, 1249) was King of Scotland from 1214 until his death. He concluded the Treaty of York (1237) which defined the boundary between England and Scotland, virtually unchanged today.
He was born at Haddington, East Lothian, the only son of the Scottish king William I the Lion and Ermengarde of Beaumont. He spent time in England (John of England knighted him at Clerkenwell Priory in 1213) before succeeding to the kingdom on the death of his father on December 4, 1214, being crowned at Scone on 6 December the same year.
King of Scots
In 1215, the year after his accession, the clans Meic Uilleim and MacHeths, inveterate enemies of the Scottish crown, broke into revolt; but loyalist forces speedily quelled the insurrection. In the same year Alexander joined the English barons in their struggle against John of England, and led an army into the Kingdom of England in support of their cause. This action led to the sacking of Berwick-upon-Tweed as John’s forces ravaged the north.
The Scottish forces reached the south coast of England at the port of Dover where in September 1216, Alexander paid homage to the pretender Prince Louis of France for his lands in England, chosen by the barons to replace King John. But King John having died, the Pope and the English aristocracy changed their allegiance to his nine-year-old son, Henry, forcing the French and the Scots armies to return home.
Peace between Henry III, Louis of France, and Alexander II followed on September 12, 1217 with the Treaty of Kingston. Diplomacy further strengthened the reconciliation by the marriage of Alexander to Henry’s sister Joan of England on 18 June 18, or June 25, 1221.
Royal forces crushed a revolt in Galloway in 1235 without difficulty; nor did an invasion attempted soon afterwards by its exiled leaders meet with success. Soon afterwards a claim for homage from Henry of England drew forth from Alexander a counter-claim to the northern English counties. The two kingdoms, however, settled this dispute by a compromise in 1237. This was the Treaty of York, which defined the boundary between the two kingdoms as running between the Solway Firth (in the west) and the mouth of the River Tweed (in the east).
Alexander’s first wife Joan of England died in March 1238 in Essex, and was buried in Dorset. Alexander married his second wife, Marie de Coucy, the following year on May 15, 1239. Together they had one son, the future Alexander III, born in 1241.
A threat of invasion by Henry III in 1243 for a time interrupted the friendly relations between the two countries; but the prompt action of Alexander in anticipating his attack, and the disinclination of the English barons for war, compelled him to make peace next year at Newcastle.
Alexander now turned his attention to securing the Western Isles, which were still part of the Norwegian domain of Suðreyjar. He repeatedly attempted negotiations and purchase, but without success. Alexander set out to conquer these islands but died on the way in 1249. This dispute over the Western Isles, also known as the Hebrides, was not resolved until 1266 when Magnus VI of Norway ceded them to Scotland along with the Isle of Man.
Alexander attempted to persuade Ewen, the son of Duncan, Lord of Argyll, to sever his allegiance to Haakon IV of Norway. When Ewen rejected these attempts, Alexander sailed forth to compel him, but on the way he suffered a fever at the Isle of Kerrera in the Inner Hebrides. He died there in 1249 and was buried at Melrose Abbey.
He was succeeded by his son, the seven-year-old Alexander III of Scotland.