Guide to Scotland
   Gateway to the British Isles since 1996
A Brief History of Scotland

Presented by Peter N. Williams, Ph.D.

Chapter 4: Turmoil After The Bruce

The outstanding military success of Robert Bruce was followed by his Scottish kingdom's diplomatic overtures. After an appeal from the Scottish nobility, the new Pope of Rome lifted Bruce's. May 1328 brought about a peace treaty signed at Northampton by the weary, helpless English king that recognized Scotland as an independent kingdom and Robert Bruce as king. The Declaration of Independence signed at Arbroath was the culmination of Bruce's career. All his dreams fulfilled, he died one year later. One who for years had been an Anglo-Norman vassal of the King of England had made himself into a truly national Scottish hero.

Robert Bruce's daughter had married Walter FitzAlan, the Hereditary High Steward of Scotland, also known as Walter the Steward, the later form of which became Stuart. Thrown from a horse, Marjorie was killed, but surgeons managed to deliver a son, Robert, cut from her body (in 1371, when he was 54 years old, the crippled boy became Robert II, the first of the royal line of Stuarts). Robert Bruce had then married Elizabeth de Burgh; their five-year old son, David, ascended to the throne as David II, with the Earl of Moray acting as Regent. In the meantime, in England, following the ignominious career and frightful death of Edward II, his son became King Edward III in 1327. The new king planned to intervene in the affairs of Scotland by enlisting the support of many disaffected nobles whose lands had been forfeited in their earlier fight against Bruce.

The rival Scottish army marched on Scotland and defeated the troops of the Earl of Mar, who had succeeded Moray as military commander and crowned John Balliol's son Edward as King of Scotland at Scone. This was a grievous error; Balliol was immediately sent packing by former supporters of Bruce. King Edward III's response was typical, and once again an English army was on the move in Scotland.

There was to be no Bannockburn this time. King Edward's armies captured Berwick, dispersed a French fleet that had come to aid the Scots and won a strategic battle at Halidon Hill. Worse, however, for Scotland's newly won independence was the defection of large numbers of Scottish nobles and clergy to the winning side, with the result that the Lowlands were quickly overrun and garrisoned by the English. As on the borders of Wales, these garrison towns then quickly filled up with English settlers, merchants and clergy, completely transformed the social structure (and the language). It was up to Bruce's grandson, Robert Stewart to restore the political situation.

With England now finding itself heavily engaged in the Hundred Years War with France, Stewart seized his opportunity. With French help, he drove the English out of Bute, captured Perth and cleared Scotland of invaders north of the Forth. In 1341, he brought his young Uncle David back from voluntary exile in France to reclaim his Scottish throne. Things looked promising for a while, but then disaster struck once more.

After the French army had been soundly thrashed at Crecy (where Welsh archers in the service of the English Crown had been very prominent), the King of France desperately needed Scottish intervention to relieve his forces. Accordingly, as a diversion, David II unwisely sent an army to England. His soldiers were defeated at Neville's Cross and David was captured. He spent the next 12 years of his life as a prisoner at the court of Edward III. Here the young Scot became thoroughly anglicized, preferring to live the easier life of an English court hanger-on than to endure the burdens of Scottish kingship. In the interim, Scotland was ruled once again by Robert Stewart, a much stronger, forceful leader than David.

Under Stewart, the English were defeated in a second diversionary attack by a Scottish army under Williams Douglas. Even Edward III, commanding his troops, was sent back south of the border humiliated. This time Edward signed a 10-year truce and received an enormous ransom for the weak, vacillating David. He then sat back to await developments. He did not have to wait long. English successes continued in France and many Scots had no stomach for further debilitating warfare. After all, it was their land that was continually being devastated by English armies and David went back to live his former life of comparative ease in England.

The Scots did not wish to see David's son succeed to their throne, despite an agreement he had made with King Edward. In 1371, the Scottish Parliament gave the throne to Robert Stewart, who became Robert II, the first Stuart King. However, the unfortunate country's initial hopes of restored greatness were soon dashed -- a strong and brave leader in opposition, he proved to be anything but that as King. In addition, his Norman background did not possess the authority and prestige of eight centuries of Scottish kingship. Thus, was set in motion what became the country's curse for centuries to come -- the conflict between the nobility and the Crown.

Chapter 4: Turmoil after The Bruce Continued