Scotland - Interregnum

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The Background

In the aftermath of the death of Margaret of Norway, Scotland was governed by the surviving Guardians, William Fraser, Bishop of St.Andrews chiefest among them, to whom the prospective monarchs put their claims.

There were finally 13 claimants to the vacant throne. Of them, 6 claimed on the basis of illegitimate descent from earlier kings. The Comyn claim rested on descent from Donald III Donalbane), and Eric of Norway laid claim through his deceased daughter, Margaret, as the grandchild of Alexander III. The remainder all made claims based on descent from Henry, Earl of Huntingdon, son of David I, through his son, David; in each case, however, they then claimed through female lines of descent, not male. Thus the elder Robert Bruce was son of Henry's younger grand-daughter, whilst John Balliol was grandson of the elder grand-daughter, and argued for primogeniture over proximity.

David had married Matilda, the daughter of the Earl of Huntingdon. Their son was Henry who inherited the earldom, and married Ada or Adela, daughter of the Earl of Surrey. Henry and Adela's son was David, named for his grandfather, who also became Earl of Huntingdon, and who also married a Matilda, in this case the daughter of the Earl of Chester. This David had no sons, but two daughters. The elder, Isobel, married Robert Bruce, lord of Annandale, whose son, grandson, and great-grandson, were all named Robert. David's younger daughter was named Margaret, and she married Alan, Lord of Galloway. Their daughter, Devorguilla, married John Balliol, and his son, also John, through his mother, claimed the throne.

The Contenders

The 13 were:

  • Robert Bruce, Lord of Annandale -- son of Robert Bruce and of Isobel, daughter of David, Earl of Huntingdon
  • John Balliol, Lord of Galloway -- grandson of Margaret, eldest daughter of David, earl of Huntingdon, who had married Alan, Lord of Galloway, and born him a daughter, Devorguilla
  • Lord John Hastings -- grandson of Ada, youngest daughter of David, on which basis he claimed entitlement, at the least, to one-third of the kingdom
  • Sir John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch -- on the basis of descent, through his mother, from Donald III
  • Patrick Dunbar, Earl of March -- who had two routes of claim, the first as descendant of William I or William the Lion, via an illegitimate daughter (named, almost inevitably in this saga, Ada); the second as unbroken male heir of the house of Dunkeld, descended from a younger brother of Duncan I. Added to which, his wife, Marjory Comyn, alleged descent from Donald III
  • Floris, Count of Holland -- claiming through another Ada, this one sister to David of Huntingdon, with the added claim that Earl David had renounced his rights to the throne of Scotland, which therefore fell to his sister.
  • John Vesy, for his father Nicholas Soulis -- by alleged descent from a daughter of Alexander III (her legitimacy was, however, in doubt), who had married Alan Durward, Alexander's Justiciary. His wife may also have passed a lesser claim to him, by reason of being a Comyn
  • William de Vesci -- by descent from Margaret, daughter of William the Lion (whose legitimacy was also queried)
  • William Ross -- by descent from Isabella, daughter of William the Lion (again her legitimacy was challenged)
  • Robert de Pinkney -- who claimed to be descended from a daughter of David I's son, Henry
  • Patrick Galithly -- who was supposed grandson to William the Lion, albeit illegitimate
  • Roger de Mandeville -- Whose ancestor had been another of William the Lion's illegitimate daughters
  • Eric of Norway -- as both father of Queen Margaret I and son-in-law of King Alexander III (not to mention already being King of Norway)

None of them had anything which resembled a clear right to the throne, although some claims were clearly less prominent than others (such as the Norwegian one).

The Judgement

The Guardians decided to invite Edward of England to take the chair at the eventual hearing of the claims. Edward agreed, but when he came to Norham Castle, he brought an army with him, and declared himself entitled to judge the matter as feudal superior and lord paramount of the kingdom of Scotland.

By midsummer the claimants had been obliged, in order to get anywhere, to concede Edward's claimed authority (although 4 withdrew rather than submit).

Of the remainder, Scotland being declared indivisible, and there being two daughters senior to his forebear, Lord John Hastings' claim was ruled out. Dunbar, Earl of March, withdrew his claim and was made Edward's Lieutenant for Scotland -- his wife, Majorie, took the Scots side and held Dunbar castle against the English (In this way, no matter which side eventually won, the family had someone "loyal" to refer to).

The Outcome

Eventually the choice boiled down to Balliol or Bruce, and Balliol had already shown himself willing to bend to Edward's demands, whereas Bruce was clearly less then enthusiastic about an English overlord. Edward therefore declared John Balliol as the new king of Scotland, and proceeded to take his homage and submission, and returned south, assuming that henceforth Scotland would be ruled for England's benefit.

See also: