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Early Stewart Kings Of Scotland

Robert II. was crowned at Scone on March 26, 1371. He was elderly, jovial, pacific, and had little to fear from England when the deaths of Edward III. and the Black Prince left the crown to the infant Richard II. There was fighting against isolated English castles within the Scottish border, to amuse the warlike Douglases and Percies, and there were truces, irregular and ill kept. In 1384 great English and Scottish raids were made, and gentlemen of France, who came over for sport, were scurvily entertained, and (1385) saw more plundering than honest fighting under James, Earl of Douglas, who merely showed them an army that, under Richard II., burned Melrose Abbey and fired Edinburgh, Perth, and Dundee. Edinburgh was a town of 400 houses. Richard insisted that not more than a third of his huge force should be English Borderers, who had no idea of hitting their Scottish neighbours, fathers-in-law and brothers-in-law, too hard. The one famous fight, that of Otterburn (August 15, 1388), was a great and joyous passage of arms by moonlight. The Douglas fell, the Percy was led captive away; the survivors gained advancement in renown and the hearty applause of the chivalrous chronicler, Froissart. The oldest ballads extant on this affair were current in 1550, and show traces of the reading of Froissart and the English chroniclers.

In 1390 died Robert II. Only his youth was glorious. The reign of his son, Robert III. (crowned August 14, 1390), was that of a weakling who let power fall into the hands of his brother, the Duke of Albany, or his son David, Duke of Rothesay, who held the reins after the Parliament (a Parliament that bitterly blamed the Government) of January 1399. (With these two princes the title of Duke first appears in Scotland.) The follies of young David alienated all: he broke his betrothal to the daughter of the Earl of March; March retired to England, becoming the man of Henry IV.; and though Rothesay wedded the daughter of the Earl of Douglas, he was arrested by Albany and Douglas and was starved to death, or died of dysentery, in Falkland Castle (1402). The Highlanders had been in anarchy throughout the reign; their blood was let in the great clan duel of thirty against thirty, on the Inch of Perth, in 1396. Probably clans Cameron and Chattan were the combatants.

On Rothesay’s death Albany was Governor, while Douglas was taken prisoner in the great Border defeat of Homildon Hill, not far from Flodden. But then (1403) came the alliance of Douglas with Percy; Percy’s quarrel with Henry IV. and their defeat; and Hotspur’s death, Douglas’s capture at Shrewsbury. Between Shakespeare, in “Henry IV.,” and Scott, in ‘The Fair Maid of Perth,’ the most notable events in the reign of Robert III. are immortalised. The King’s last misfortune was the capture by the English at sea, on the way to France, of his son James in February-March 1406. On April 4, 1406, Robert went to his rest, one of the most unhappy of the fated princes of his line.

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