King Robert I of Scotland died on June 7, 1329 at the Manor of Cardross, near Dumbarton. Upon the death of Robert I the Bruce of Scotland he was David succeeded on the throne by his son David II at the age of five, and was crowned at Scone in November 1331, becoming the first Scottish monarch to be anointed at their coronation.
David II died childless on February 22, 1371 and was succeeded by his nephew as King Robert II of Scotland. Robert II (March 1316 – April 19, 1390) was the son of Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland and Marjorie, daughter of King Robert I, he was the first monarch of the House of Stewart.
King David II was buried at Holyrood Abbey and almost immediately an armed protest was lead by William, Earl of Douglas delayed Robert II’s coronation until 26 March 26, 1371.
The reasons for the incident remain unclear but may have involved a dispute regarding Robert’s right of succession, or may have been directed against George Dunbar, Earl of March (also known as Earl of Dunbar) and the southern Justiciar, Robert Erskine.
It was resolved by Robert giving his daughter Isabella in marriage to Douglas’s son, James and with Douglas replacing Erskine as Justiciar south of the Forth.
Robert’s accession did affect some others who held offices from David II. In particular, George Dunbar’s brother John Dunbar, the Lord of Fife who lost his claim on Fife and Sir Robert Erskine’s son, Sir Thomas Erskine who lost control of Edinburgh Castle.
The Stewarts greatly increased their holdings in the west, in Atholl, and in the far north: the earldoms of Fife and Menteith went to Robert II’s second surviving son, Robert; the earldoms of Buchan and Ross (along with the lordship of Badenoch) to his fourth son, Alexander; and the earldoms of Strathearn and Caithness to the eldest son of his second marriage, David.
King Robert’s sons-in-law were John MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, John Dunbar, Earl of Moray and James who would become the 2nd Earl of Douglas. Robert’s sons John, Earl of Carrick, the king’s heir, and Robert, Earl of Fife, were made keepers of the castles of Edinburgh and Stirling respectively, while Alexander, Lord of Badenoch and Ross, and were usually very well rewarded.
This style of kingship was very different from his predecessor’s—David tried to dominate his nobles whereas Robert’s strategy was to delegate authority to his powerful sons and earls and this generally worked for the first decade of his reign. Robert II was to have influence over eight of the fifteen earldoms either through his sons directly or by strategic marriages of his daughters to powerful lords.
In 1336, he first married Elizabeth Mure (died 1355), daughter of Sir Adam Mure of Rowallan. The marriage was criticized for being uncanonical, so he remarried her in 1349 after receiving a papal dispensation in 1347.
From this union, ten children reached adulthood including John (died 1406), who became King of Scotland as Robert III.
In 1355, Robert married his second wife Euphemia de Ross (died 1387), daughter of Hugh, Earl of Ross. They had four children including Walter Stewart, Earl of Atholl, born about 1360, who was beheaded at Edinburgh in 1437 for being involved in the assassination of King James I of Scotland.
King Robert II also had many illegitimate children with several mistresses, including four sons with his favorite Mariota de Cardeny, daughter of Sir John Cardeny, and widow of Alexander Mac Naugthon.
Robert’s son, John, Earl of Carrick, had become the foremost Stewart magnate south of the Forth just as Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan was in the north. The Earl of Buchan, (1343 – c. 20 July 1405), was the third surviving son of King Robert II of Scotland and youngest by his first wife, Elizabeth Mure of Rowallan.
Alexander’s activities and methods of royal administration, enforced by Gaelic mercenaries, drew criticism from northern earls and bishops and from his younger half-brother David, Earl of Strathearn. These complaints damaged the king’s standing within the Council leading to criticism of his ability to curb Buchan’s activities.
Robert III’s differences with the Carrick affinity regarding the conduct of the war and his continued failure or unwillingness to deal with Buchan in the north led to the political convulsion of November 1384 when the Council removed the king’s authority to govern and appointed Carrick as lieutenant of the kingdom—a coup d’état had taken place.
With Robert III sidelined, there was now no impediment in the way of war. In June 1385, a force of 1200 French soldiers joined the Scots in a campaign that involved the Earl of Douglas and two of Robert’s sons, John, Earl of Carrick and Robert, Earl of Fife. The skirmishes saw small gains but a quarrel between the French and Scottish commanders saw the abandonment of an attack on the important castle of Roxburgh.
The victory of the Scots over the English at the Battle of Otterburn in Northumberland in August 1388 set in motion Carrick’s fall from power. One of the Scottish casualties was Carrick’s close ally James, Earl of Douglas.
Douglas died without an heir, which led to various claims upon the title and estate—Carrick backed Malcolm Drummond, the husband of Douglas’s sister, while Fife sided with the successful appellant, Sir Archibald Douglas, lord of Galloway who possessed an entail on the Douglas estates.
Fife, now with his powerful Douglas ally, and those who supported the king ensured a countercoup at the December Council meeting when the guardianship of Scotland passed from Carrick (who had recently been badly injured from a horse-kick) to Fife. Many had also approved of Fife’s intention to properly resolve the situation of lawlessness in the north and in particular the activities of his younger brother, Buchan.
Fife relieved Buchan of his offices of lieutenant of the north and justiciar north of the Forth. The latter role was given to Fife’s son, Murdoch Stewart. Robert II toured the northeast of the kingdom in late January 1390, perhaps to reinforce the changing political scene in the north following Buchan’s removal from authority. In March, Robert returned to Dundonald Castle in Ayrshire where he died on April 19 and was buried at Scone on April 25th.