Friday, 9 October 2009

Two Underrated Scottish Kings

I am in no state for blogging at the moment, reserving what little energy I have for writing. So the following is a guest posting by Stephen Lark, to whom all credit, and copyright belongs. Although it isn't directly about House of York matters, I hope you find it interesting. I'd like to thank Stephen for his trouble - thanks Stephen! :

Robert II and Robert III are usually written off by historians – in both kingdoms - as two feeble old men with relatively short and uneventful reigns. “Nothing for you to see here, sir; move along please”.

I tend to disagree and Robert II’s marital life, as a precursor of Edward IV’s, should make them both of interest in England as well as Scotland. Delivered after his mother’s death in 1316 as the heir of his grandfather (the Bruce), he was displaced at the age of eight by his newborn uncle, David II, who reigned for forty-two of his forty-seven years, married twice but didn’t have any children – spending a few years as an English prisoner didn’t help.

Consequently, Robert had little expectation of succeeding until shortly before he did in 1371. During the intervening years, he had nine children by Elizabeth Mure from c. 1337 to her death in 1354, four by Euphemia Ross from 1355 and about eight illegitimate children. The first marriage had to be reinforced by a 1347 dispensation via the Avignon pope – although I have yet to clarify the irregularity fully. If this retrospective patch was effective then his eldest son John, who became Robert III in 1390, two years after being injured by a horse, was his heir – otherwise the sons by Ross were best-placed.

In the years from 1390, there were several plots against their successors – principally Robert III’s son James I, an English prisoner then a hostage for eighteen years – by the descendants of Robert II’s other sons, the Albany and Graham families, the latter being successful.

So why should this be of interest to English historians? First the similarity with Edward IV, the main contrast being Robert’s honesty and willingness to put things right. Second, there were similar consequences to England from 1483. Third, the human element:
Imagine that you are Henry V’s brother and Henry VI’s Regent. Joan Beaufort, your first cousin, is to marry James I but what is his authority in Scotland – is she being wasted?
You could be (sorry) Henry VII. Margaret, your daughter, is to marry James IV – and the same doubts apply.

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