Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Scottish King: Robert III

Robert III (Scottish Gaelic: Raibeart III; 14 August 1337 – 4 April 1406), born John Stewart, was King of Scots from 1390 to his death.
Robert III coin
He was known primarily as the Earl of Carrick before ascending the throne at age 53.

He was the eldest son of Robert II and Elizabeth Mure and was legitimated with the marriage of his parents in 1347.

John joined his father and other magnates in a rebellion against his grand-uncle, David II early in 1363 but submitted to him soon afterwards. He married Anabella Drummond, daughter of Sir John Drummond of Stobhall before 31 May 1367 when the Steward ceded to him the earldom of Atholl. In 1368 David created him Earl of Carrick.

His father became king in 1371 after the unexpected death of the childless King David. In the succeeding years Carrick was influential in the government of the kingdom but became progressively more impatient at his father's longevity.
Robert II
 In 1384 Carrick was appointed the king's lieutenant after having influenced the general council to remove Robert II from direct rule.

Carrick's administration saw a renewal of the conflict with England. In 1388 the Scots defeated the English at the Battle of Otterburn where the Scots' commander, James, Earl of Douglas, was killed.

By this time Carrick had been badly injured by a horse-kick but the loss of his powerful ally, Douglas, saw a turnaround in magnate support in favour of his younger brother Robert, Earl of Fife and in December 1388 the council transferred the lieutenancy to Fife.

In 1390, Robert II died and Carrick ascended the throne as Robert III but without authority to rule directly. Fife continued as lieutenant until February 1393 when power was returned to the king in conjunction with his son David.

At a council in 1399 owing to the king's 'sickness of his person', David, now Duke of Rothesay, became lieutenant of the kingdom in his own right but supervised by a special parliamentary group dominated by Fife, now styled Duke of Albany. After this, Robert III withdrew to his lands in the west and for a time played little or no part in affairs of state.

He was powerless to interfere when a dispute between Albany and Rothesay arose in 1401 which led to Rothesay's arrest and imprisonment at Albany's Falkland Castle where Rothesay died in March 1402.The general council absolved Albany from blame and reappointed him as lieutenant. The only impediment now remaining to an Albany Stewart monarchy was the king's only surviving son, James, Earl of Carrick.
Henry IV 
In February 1406 the 11-year-old James and a powerful group of followers clashed with Albany's Douglas allies resulting in the death of the king's counsellor Sir David Fleming of Cumbernauld. James escaped to the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth accompanied by Henry Sinclair, Earl of Orkney and remained there for a month before boarding a ship bound for France. The vessel was intercepted near Flamborough Head and James became the prisoner of Henry IV of England and would remain captive for the next 18 years. Robert III died in Rothesay Castle on 4 April 1406 shortly after learning of his son's imprisonment and was buried at Paisley Abbey.

In May 1390 parliament granted John permission to change his regnal name to Robert, probably in part to maintain the link back to Robert I but also to disassociate himself from King John Balliol.
Seal of Robert III
 The four-month delay in the crowning of Robert III can be seen as a period when Fife and his affinity sought to ensure their future positions, and which also saw Buchan's opportunistic attack on Elgin Cathedral, settling an old score with the Bishop of Moray, and possibly also a protest at Fife's reappointment as the king's lieutenant.

In 1392, Robert III strengthened the position of his son David, now Earl of Carrick, when he endowed him with a large annuity that allowed the young prince to build up his household and affinity, and then in 1393 regained his right to direct rule when the general council decided that Fife's lieutenancy should end, and that Carrick, now of age, should assist his father. This independence of action was demonstrated in 1395–6, when he responded to Carrick's unauthorised marriage to Elizabeth Dunbar, daughter of George, Earl of March, by ensuring its annulment.

The king appears to have also taken over the conduct of foreign affairs, preserving the peace with Richard II and managing to increase the power of the Red Douglas Earl of Angus in the southeast of the country as a counterbalance to Fife's Black Douglas ally.
Richard II
He further showed his authority when in an attempt to reduce inter-clan feuding and lawlessness, he arranged and oversaw a gladiatorial limited combat between the clans of Kay and Quhele (Clan Chattan) in Perth on 28 April 1396.

David of Carrick progressively acted independently of his father taking control of the Stewart lands in the south-west, while maintaining his links with the Drummonds of his mother, and all at a time when Fife's influence in central Scotland remained strong.

The king was increasingly blamed for the failure to pacify the Gaelic areas in west and north.

The general council held in Perth in April 1398 criticised the king's governance, and empowered his brother Robert and his son David—now respectively the Dukes of Albany and Rothesay—to lead an army against Donald, Lord of the Isles and his brothers. In November 1398, an influential group of magnates and prelates met at Falkland Castle that included Albany, Rothesay, Archibald, Earl of Douglas, Albany's son Murdoch, justiciar North of the Forth along with the bishops Walter of St Andrews and Gilbert of Aberdeen—the outcome of this meeting manifested itself at the council meeting held in January 1399 when the king was forced to surrender power to Rothesay for a period of three years.

The kin of the border earls took advantage of the confusion in England after the deposition of Richard II by Henry, Duke of Lancaster, and harried and forayed into England causing much damage, and taking Wark Castle around 13 October 1399.
Portrait of Henry, Duke of Lancaster (c.1310-1361), a Knight Founder of the Order of the Garter, wearing a blue Garter mantle over plate armour and surcoat with his arms. A framed tablet displays painted arms of successors in his Garter stall at St. George's Chapel, Windsor
A far reaching dispute between Rothesay and George Dunbar, Earl of March, occurred when Rothesay, rather than remarrying Elizabeth Dunbar as previously agreed, decided to marry Mary Douglas, daughter of the Earl of Douglas. March, enraged by this, wrote to Henry IV on 18 February 1400, and by July had entered Henry's service.

In 1401, Rothesay took on a more assertive and autonomous attitude, circumventing proper procedures, unjustifiably appropriating sums from the customs of the burghs on the east coast, before provoking further animosity when he confiscated the revenues of the temporalities of the vacant bishopric of St Andrews.
Douglas Family Crest
Rothesay had also in conjunction with his uncle, Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, confronted Albany's influence in central Scotland. As soon his lieutenancy expired in 1402, Rothesay was arrested and imprisoned in Albany's Falkland Castle where he died in March 1402.

Rothesay's death probably lay with Albany and Douglas, who would have looked upon the possibility of the young prince acceding to the throne with great apprehension.

They certainly fell under suspicion, but were cleared of all blame by a general council, 'where, by divine providence and not otherwise, it is discerned that he departed from this life.' Following Rothesay's death, and with the restoration of the lieutenancy to Albany and the Scottish defeat at the battle of Humbleton, Robert III experienced almost total exclusion from political authority and was limited to his lands in the west.
Gold lion coin of Robert III, brother of Alexander Stewart.
Showing Scotland’s patron saint, St. Andrew,  flanked by fleur-de-lys.
The inscription reads ‘God is my Defender and my Redeemer’.

By late 1404 Robert, with the aid of his close councillors Henry Sinclair, Earl of Orkney, Sir David Fleming and Henry Wardlaw, had succeeded in re-establishing himself and intervened in favour of Alexander Stewart, the Earl of Buchan's illegitimate son, who was in dispute with Albany over the earldom of Mar.

Robert III again exhibited his new resolve when in December 1404 he created a new regality in the Stewartry for his sole remaining son and heir, James, now Earl of Carrick—an act designed to prevent these lands falling into Albany's hands.

By 28 October 1405 Robert III had returned to Dundonald Castle in Ayrshire. With the king's health failing, it was decided in the winter of 1405–6 to send the young prince to France out of the reach of Albany. Despite this, the manner of James's flight from Scotland was unplanned.
Head of William Sinclair, the founder of Rosslyn Chapel
In February 1406, the 12-year-old James together with Orkney and Fleming, at the head of a large group of followers left the safety of Bishop Wardlaw's protection in St Andrews and journeyed through the hostile Douglas territories of east Lothian—an act probably designed to demonstrate James's royal endorsement of his custodians, but also a move by his custodians to further their own interests in the traditional Douglas heartlands.
Depiction of St Andrew on Burgh's Family Crest
Events went seriously wrong for James and he had to escape to the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth along with the Earl of Orkney after his escorts were attacked by James Douglas of Balvenie, and which resulted in Sir David Fleming's death. Their confinement on the rock was to last for over a month before a ship from Danzig, en route for France, picked them up. On 22 March 1406 the ship was taken by English pirates off Flamborough Head, who delivered James to King Henry IV of England. Robert III had moved to Rothesay Castle where, after hearing of his son's captivity, he died 4 April 1406, and was buried in the Stewart foundation abbey of Paisley.

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