Each year almost 50,000 people from at least 40 countries across the world meet in Scotland’s capital city Edinburgh, to celebrate Scottish culture, heritage and family history. At the annual Clan Gathering, thousands of people line the Royal Mile to watch the Great Clans of Scotland proudly parading through the ancient streets of the nation’s capital with pipes sounding and drums beating the march. Many of the clans represented have a rich history, such as those featured in our listing below.
Baird: From the 13th century this surname has been associated with Lanarkshire and also with the Aberdeen and Banff regions. Important families of that name appear from the 14th century. The Bairds have long been prominent in the legal profession as well as in national affairs. John Baird was appointed Lord of Session with the title Lord Newbyth in the 17th century. General Sir David Baird (1737 – 1829) entered the Army in 1772 and served in India from 1780; he was severely wounded and taken prisoner by Hyder Ali. He captured Pondicherry in 1793 and Seringapatam in 1799 and made a famous march across the desert from the Red Sea to the River Nile in 1801. He commanded an expedition to the Cape of Good Hope in 1805. Family motto – Dominus fecit (God Made).
Bruce: The Bruces are descended from a Norman Knight who arrived in England with William the Conqueror in 1066. The name Bruce derives from an area of land in Normandy, France, now called Brix. The Bruces held important lordships in the north of England and a branch of the family settled in Annandale in the 12th century. King Robert the Bruce (1274 – 1329), was crowned King of Scotland in 1306. In that same year he was defeated at Methven, and took refuge in Rathlin. From 1307 he was actively engaged harrying the English, and in 1314 won a decisive victory over Edward II at Bannockburn. Bruce consolidated his kingdom and the war with England was closed by the Treaty of Northampton in 1328. Bruce died at Cardross the following year. Family motto – Fuimus (We have been).
Cockburn: The Cockburns are a Border Clan. The surname derives from a place name near Duns, in Berwickshire. Sir Alexander Cockburn de Langton became Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland in 1390. Sir Alexander’s son, also Sir Alexander, was created Great Usher in the Scots Parliament. The Cockburns were staunch supporters of Mary Queen of Scots, and in 1568 lost their castle at Skirling, in Midlothian as a consequence of this. Sir Alex J E Cockburn, the eminent Judge, was appointed Solicitor-General in 1850, Chief Justice in 1858 and Lord Chief Justice of England in 1859. He presided over many of the most important and notorious trials in Victorian England, including the famous Tichborne trial in 1873. Family motto – Accendit cantu (He excites us with song).
Cunningham: The family takes its name from the district of Cunningham in Ayrshire. The name derives from the Saxon “cuinneag” meaning “milk pail” along with “ham” meaning “village”. In the 12th century, the lands of Kilmaurs in Ayrshire were granted to a Norman named Warnebald, whose descendants adopted the territorial name Cunningham. The Cunninghams received additional lands thanks to their support of Robert the Bruce. It was King James III that granted Sir William Cunningham the titles of Lord Kilmaurs in 1462 and later earl of Glencairn in 1488. In 1653, the 9th Earl of Glencairn raised an army in support of Charles II. After the Restoration in 1660, Charles II appointed him Lord Chancellor.Family motto – Over Fork Over.
Dalziel: The family takes its name from Dalziel in Lanarkshire. Thomas de Dalziel swore allegiance to King Edward I of England in 1296, but later, appears to have changed sides and fought alongside King Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn. It was a Robert Dalziel who was created Lord Dalzell in 1628. Gen. Sir Thomas Dalzell fought for Charles I during the Civil War. After the Battle of Worcester in 1651, he was captured and sent to the Tower of London. He escaped the following year and subsequently traveled to Russia, where he served the Tsar as a general of cavalry against the Turks and Poles. He returned in 1666, when he was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the forces in Scotland by Charles II. He was the first Colonel of the Scots Greys, the regiment that defeated the Covenanters at the Battle of Rullion Green. Family motto – I Dare.
Douglas: One of the most powerful families in Scotland, the first documented Douglas was a William de Douglas in the 12th century in Morayshire. Although a much earlier origin of the name is thought to derive from the Gaelic dubhghlais meaning ‘black water’. In 1330 “Good Sir James Douglas” was killed in Spain, attempting to take Robert the Bruce’s heart on a crusade to the Holy Land. In the 14th century the Earldom of Douglas was created, and William, the first holder was also Earl of Mar. From his son were descended the Earls of Angus and the Queensbury branch. James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton succeeded to the title and estates in 1553. He was prominent in the assignation of Rizzio, and joined forces against Mary Queen of Scots. In 1572 he was elected Regent of Scotland, but in 1581 was beheaded for his alleged part in the Darnley Conspiracy. Family motto – Jamais arrière (Never behind).
Elliot: The Elliots are one of the great ‘riding clans’ of the Scottish Borders. Their arrival in Teviotdale can be traced back to the reign of Robert the Bruce. James the 15th Chief was killed with James IV at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. From 1565, a bloody clan feud developed between the Elliots and the Scotts, after Scott of Buccleugh executed four Elliots for stealing cattle. The Elliot family held the lands of Reheugh, Larriston, Arkleton and Stobs. From the Stobs branch were descended Lord Heathfield, and Gilbert Elliot who was Governor-General of India. George Armstrong Eliott was appointed Governor of Gibraltar in 1775, and his four years’ defence of the Rock (1779 – 1783) is one of the most glorious achievements in British history. In 1787 he was created Lord Heathfield and Baron Gibraltar. Family motto – Fortiter et recte (With strength and right).
Erskine: The family takes its name from the lands of Erskine in Renfrewshire, just south of the River Clyde, which was held by Henry de Erskine in the reign of Alexander II. The Erskines were supporters of Robert the Bruce, and it was Bruce’s son, David II, that appointed Sir Robert de Erskine Keeper of Stirling Castle. Robert later became Lord Great Chamberlain of Scotland 1350 – 1357. His grandson was created Lord Erskine and from this branch was descended the Earls of Kellie. The 6th Lord Erskine was granted the Earldom of Mar in 1565, known as “Bobbing John” for his regular switching of loyalties; after raising an army of over ten thousand for James VIII, he led the Jacobite Rising of 1715. Family motto – Je Pense Plus (I think more).
Fletcher: The name originates from the French fleche meaning arrow. Families of that name are found all over Scotland as they followed the clan for whom they made the arrows, so we find them associated in Argyllshire with the Campbells and the Stewarts, and in Perthshire with the MacGregors. The famous Scottish patriot Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun (1653 – 1716), strongly opposed the Act of Union which in 1707 dissolved the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, of which he was a member, and merged it with the English Parliament at Westminster. During the 1745 Jacobite Uprising, Fletchers fought on both sides. In the early 1800’s, hundreds of Fletcher clansmen and women were cleared from the Scottish Highlands by the Campbells of Breadalbane to make way for sheep grazing with many emigrating overseas. Family motto – Dieu pour nous (God for us)
Gow: The name Gow derives from the Gaelic gobha, meaning armourer or blacksmith, and the son of the smith would therefore be Mac gobhann, known today as MacGowan. The Gows are a part of the Clan Chattan. At the Clan Battle fought on the North Inch of Perth in 1396, the hero of the fight was the Gobha Chrom – the crooked smith – said to be “small in stature, bandy legged, but fierce” he together with nine members of the Clan Chattan were all that remained alive when the battle was over. Neil Gow, the Prince of Scottish Fiddlers, was born at the Perthshire town of Inver in 1727. He was a born musician and his services were in great demand for the fashionable gatherings throughout Scotland and England. He was especially renowned for his reels and strathspeys and many of his own compositions remain popular to the present day. Family motto – Touch not the cat bot a glove.
Hamilton: This family is said to be descended from Walter Fitz Gilbert, who was granted the lands of Cadzow by Robert the Bruce. James of Cadstow was created Lord Hamilton in 1445, and married Princess Mary, the daughter of James II in 1474.Their son was created Earl of Arran in 1503, and stood next in line to the crown of Scotland. The 4th Earl of Arran became the keeper of both Edinburgh and Stirling Castles, and was created a Marquess in 1599. For his support of King Charles I, the third Marquess was created a Duke in 1643. In 1648 the Duke led a Scottish Army into England, but was defeated at the Battle of Preston by the troops of Oliver Cromwell. Together with his king he was beheaded in London in 1649. Family motto – Through.
Hay: The family of Hay has many branches through Scotland, and can trace their history back to the Norman princes de La Haye who were part of William the Conqueror’s army that swept into England in 1066. Sir William Hay was created Earl of Errol in 1453, and this branch held the office of Hereditary Constable of Scotland from the time of King Robert the Bruce. The family still retains that title, giving them precedence in Scotland second only to the royal family. In the 15th century, Sir Gilbert Hay fought alongside Joan of Arc in France. On returning to Scotland, Sir Gilbert was killed alongside King James IV and many other Scots at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Supporters of Mary Queen of Scots, the Hays rejected the Reformation. In 1806 Charles Hay, son of John Hay of Cocklaw, was raised to the Bench with the title of Lord Newton. Family motto – Serva jugum (Keep the yoke).
Henderson and Mackendrick: The name Henderson is in Gaelic mac Eanruig (son of Henry), sometimes anglicised to McHenry, Henryson, Mackendrick, etc. The clan claim descent from the Pictish prince Big Henry, son of King Nechtan, who arrived in Kinlochleven, just north of Glencoe around 900AD. Renowned for their size and strength, the Hendersons became the personal body guards of the chief of the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe and suffered the consequences of this in 1692 at the bloody Massacre of Glencoe. Alexander Henderson was the most prominent Presbyterian divine of his time, drafting the Solemn League and Covenant in 1643. He later became Moderator of the Church of Scotland and is buried in Greyfriar’s churchyard, Edinburgh. Family motto – Sola virtus nobilitat (Virtue alone enobles).
Johnstone: There are several “John’s towns” in Scotland, however the earliest record of it being used as a surname is in 1174 by one John of Johnstone in Annadale, Dumfrieshire. Later in 1296, Sir John of Johnstone of Dumfries pledged allegiance to King Edward I of England. Although at that time Perth was known as St Johnston and an area of East Lothian was called Jonystoun it was the fighting Johnstons of the Western Borders who would become the most powerful group of Johnstons in Scotland. During the Civil War, the Clan Johnstone supported the Royalist cause of King Charles. In 1633, King Charles I rewarded this loyalty by granting the title of lordship to the Johnstone chief. By the 1700’s the Clan Chief of the Johnstones had been elevated even further, from the rank of Lord to Earl of Annadale and Secretary of State. Family motto – Nunquam non paratus (Never unprepared).
Lennox: Lennox was one of the ancient divisions of Scotland, and comprised the present county of Dumbarton, with portions of Stirling, Perth and Renfrew. The Sheriffdom of the district was granted to Mathew, Earl of Lennox in 1511. Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley (1545 – 1567) was the second son of the Earl of Lennox. He was created Duke of Albany and in 1565 he married Queen Mary, who had him proclaimed King of Scotland. The marriage was an unhappy one, and his part in the murder of Rizzio estranged him from the Queen. He was on the point of leaving the country when he was murdered at the Kirk-o’-Field in 1567. He was the father of the future King James VI and I. Family motto – I’ll defend.
Leslie: The clan takes its name from Leslie in Aberdeenshire where it was firmly established by the 12th century. George Leslie of Leslie was created Earl of Rothes in 1447. Later Leslies took up the career of professional soldiering, fighting in Germany, France and Sweden. Alex Leslie, 1st Earl of Leven, served in the Swedish Army for 30 years. He was knighted by King Gustavus Adolphos of Sweden in 1606, and appointed Field Marshall some years later. Returning to Scotland he commanded the Covenanting Army but was defeated by Cromwell at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650. After the restoration of the monarchy he was created Lord Newark. In 1680 the 7th Earl of Rothes became Lord Chancellor of Scotland. Family motto – Grip fast.
MacDonell or MacDonald of Clanranald: The largest of the Highland clans, the Norse-Gaelic Clan Ranald was descended from Ranald, son of John, Lord of the Isles. The Lord of the Isles had its own parliament and at one time was powerful enough to challenge the kings of Scotland. Their territory was principally along Scotland’s northwest coast. In the Wars of Scottish Independence the MacDonalds fought alongside Robert the Bruce. Following the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, King Robert the Bruce proclaimed that Clan Donald would always occupy the honoured position on the right wing of the Scottish army. The MacDonalds were involved in both the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite Uprisings. Bonnie Prince Charlie even landed in Clanranald territory in 1745, and it was Flora MacDonald who helped him escape to Skye after his crushing defeat at the Battle of Culloden the following year. Family motto – Per mare per terras (By sea and by land), also My hope is constant in thee.
MacDougal or MacDougall: The Clan MacDougal is descended from the eldest son Dougal or Dugald, of the princely House of Somerled, King of the Hedbrides. As eldest son, Dougal inherited his father’s lands in Argyll and Lorn, as well as the islands of Mull, Jura, Tiree and Lismore. Through marriage the MacDougalls were related to the Clan Comyn, so when Robert the Bruce murdered the Red Comyn in his bid to become king, a bloody feud erupted. In the 17th century during the Civil War the clan supported the Royalist cause, which led to them losing much of their lands; these were subsequently returned when the Stuart monarchy was restored. The MacDougalls built Ardchattan Priory near to Oban in Argyll, and the clan chiefs were buried there until the early 1700’s. Family motto – Buaidh no bas (To conquer or die).
MacQuarrie: The ancestral home of the Clan MacQuarrie is the tiny Inner Hebridean island of Ulva, off Scotland’s northwest coast. The first recorded Clan Chief was John Macquarrie of Ulva, who died in 1473. In 1651 the clan suffered heavily at the Battle of Inverkeithing. Supporters of King Charles II of England, the Scots Royalist forces were decimated by the well disciplined Parliamentarian New Model Army of the English. Allan Macquarrie of Ulva, chief of the Clan MacQuarrie and most of his followers were killed in the battle. Maj-Gen Lachlan MacQuarrie joined the Black Watch in 1777, and after serving in North America, India and Egypt was appointed Governor of the convict settlement of New South Wales. The colony was in a critical condition when he arrived, but under his wise government the colony prospered. Known as the Father of Australia, he laid out Sydney, but in 1821 was forced to return to Britain due to ill health. Family motto – Turris fortis mihi Deus (God is to me a tower of strength).
Maclean: Tradition tells that this powerful clan was descended from Gilleain-nan-Tuagh (Gillian of the Battle Axe), a descendant of the Kings of Dalriada. Gillian fought against King Haakon of Norway at the Battle of Largs in 1263. The first recorded mention of the Macleans of Duart is in a Papal Dispensation of 1367, which allowed the Maclean Clan Chief to marry Mary MacDonald, the daughter of the Lord of the Isles. The Isle of Mull off Scotland’s northwest coast was the principal home of the clan, with the MacDonald dowry supplying the funds to purchase substantial parcels of the island. The Macleans supported King Charles I against the Parliamentarians. Sir Hector Ruadh Maclean and five hundred of his clansmen were slain at the Battle of Inverkeithing in 1651 by Cromwell’s New Model Army. In 1876 Sir Harry Maclean resigned his commission in the British Army to join the army of the Sultan of Morocco. He enjoyed a romantic career and became military leader and personal advisor to the Sultan. Family motto – Virtue Mine Honour.
Malcolm: The family of Malcolm had settled in the counties of Stirling, Dumbarton and Argyll by the 14th century. The name however, derives from a much earlier date, to the followers of the Irish Saint Columba who established the first monastery on the Scottish Isle of Iona. ‘Maol’ derives from the gaelic meaning ‘shaven head’ or ‘monk’, and so ‘Maol Chalum’ is a monk, or disciple of Columba. In the 18th century the chief of the Clan MacCallum, Dugald MacCallum of Poltalloch adopted the name Malcolm. It is unclear why Dugald did this, but it could be that he considered the two names interchangeable, perhaps through distant ancestral links. Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm entered the Royal Navy in 1778, and in 1798 captured three Spanish gunboats in Manila Bay. While Commander-in-Chief of the St.Helena Station, 1816-17, he won the ‘warm regard’ of Napoleon. Family motto – In ardua petit (He aims at difficult things).
Napier: Tradition says the Napiers were descended from the old Celtic Earls of Lennox. It is thought that the name derives from the occupational name of “naperer”, one who looked after the linen in the royal household. John de Napier is first named in a land charter of 1280.These lands at Kilmahew in Dunbartonshire were subsequently held by Napiers for 18 generations, before finally being sold in 1820. John assisted in the defence of Stirling Castle in 1303, and a descendent went on to become Governor of Edinburgh Castle in 1401. The 7th Laird of Merchsiton, John Napier, (1550-1617) is famous for inventing a hydraulic screw for clearing coal pits of water, a calculating machine, a battle tank or two, and the system of logarithms that so revolutionised mathematics. His son Archibald accompanied James VI to London in 1603 when he became king of England. Family motto – Sans tache (Without stain).
Robertson: The Robertsons, or Clan Donnachaidh (children of Duncan), were descended from the Celtic Earls of Atholl, who in turn were from a line of the kings of Dalriada. ‘Stout Duncan’ was a minor land-owner and clan chief in Highland Perthshire in the early 1300’s. Although the clan appears to have been loyal to the Bruce and Stewart royal dynasties, they also earned a reputation as raiders and feuders in medieval Scotland. The change of name can be dated to the fourth chief of Clann Dhonnchaidh, Robert Riabhach (Grizzled) Duncanson. It was Robert who tracked down, and brought to justice, the murderers of King James I in 1437. The Robertsons were involved in both the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite Uprisings. During the 18th and early 19th centuries the Robertson Chiefs refused to ‘clear’ their fellow clansmen in favour of the more profitable sheep. Family motto – Garg ‘n uair dhuisgear (fierce when roused).
Rose: The chief branch of the clan was the Roses of Kilravock who are recorded in Inverness in the 13th century, and the charter confirming the possession of the Barony on Kilravock is dated 1293. The family is Norman in origin, and settled in Scotland after a brief period in England. The Roses were supporters of Robert the Bruce, and it was Sir William Rose in 1306 that captured Invernairn Castle for him during the Scottish Wars of Independence. Kilravock Castle was built by Hugh Rose, the 7th Laird in 1460. During the Jacobite Uprising the Clan Rose supported the British government. Sir Hugh Rose (1803-1885) was in command of the Central Field Force during the Indian Mutiny, where he fought many successful actions, capturing 150 pieces of artillery, taking 20 forts, capturing Ratghur, Shanghur, Chundehree, Jhansi and Calpese. His skill and daring were largely responsible for saving Britain’s Indian Empire. Family motto – Constant and true.
Wallace: The Wallace family originates from the Scottish Lowland area of Strathclyde, near to Glasgow. Family members can also be traced across Ayrshire and Renfrewshire. Like other Lowland families it appears that they had taken to the new Norman fashion of adopting a surname. The first recorded use of the name can be dated to the signing of a land charter by Richard Walensis in 1160. The most famous son of the family is of course Scotland’s patriotic and romantic leader, Sir William Wallace, “the Hero of Scotland”, who was born at Elderslie in 1274. In 1297 he led the Scots patriotic forces against King Edward I of England. He won the Battle of Stirling Bridge and drove the English garrisons out of Scotland, but was defeated at Falkirk in 1298. He kept up a guerrilla war until 1305 when he was captured by treachery and executed. Family motto – Pro Libertate (For liberty).
The word "clann" comes from the Gaelic and means children, and its members claimed kinship from the common ancestor whose name they bore, and even the poorest clansman considered themselves of nobler birth than any southerner.
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Kings and Queens of Scotland from 1005 to the Union of the Crowns in 1603, when James VI succeeded to the throne of England.
Celtic kings from the unification of Scotland
1005: Malcolm II (Mael Coluim II). He acquired the throne by killing Kenneth III (Cinaed III) of a rival royal dynasty. Attempted to expand his kingdom southwards with a notable victory at the Battle of Carham, Northumbria in 1018. He was driven north again in 1027 by Canute (Cnut the Great) the Dane, the Danish king of England. Malcolm died on 25th November 1034, according to one account of the time he was “killed fighting bandits”. Leaving no sons he named his grandson Duncan I, as his successor.
1034: Duncan I (Donnchad I). Succeeded his grandfather Malcolm II as King of the Scots. Invaded northern England and besieged Durham in 1039, but was met with a disastrous defeat. Duncan was killed during, or after, a battle at Bothganowan, near Elgin, on 15th August, 1040.
1040: Macbeth. Acquired the throne after defeating Duncan I in battle following years of family feuding. He was the first Scottish king to make a pilgrimage to Rome. A generous patron of the church it is thought he was buried at Iona, the traditional resting place of the kings of the Scots.
1057: Malcolm III Canmore (Mael Coluim III Cenn Mór). Succeeded to the throne after killing Macbeth and Macbeth’s stepson Lulach in an English-sponsored attack. William I (The Conqueror) invaded Scotland in 1072 and forced Malcolm to accept the Peace of Abernethy and become his vassal.
1093: Donald III Ban. Son of Duncan I he seized the throne from his brother Malcolm III and made the Anglo-Normans very unwelcome at his court. He was defeated and dethroned by his nephew Duncan II in May 1094
1094: Duncan II. Son of Malcolm III. In 1072 he had been sent to the court of William I as a hostage. With the help of an army supplied by William II (Rufus) he defeated his uncle Donald III Ban. His foreign supporters were detested. Donald engineered his murder on 12 November 1094.
1094: Donald III Ban (restored). In 1097 Donald was captured and blinded by another of his nephews, Edgar. A true Scottish nationalist, it is perhaps fitting that this would be the last king of the Scots who would be laid to rest by the Gaelic Monks at Iona.
1097: Edgar. Eldest son of Malcolm III. He had taken refuge in England when his parents died in 1093. Following the death of his half-brother Duncan II, he became the Anglo-Norman candidate for the Scottish throne. He defeated Donald III Ban with the aid of an army supplied by William II. Unmarried, he was buried at Dunfermline Priory in Fife. His sister married Henry I in 1100.
1107: Alexander I. The son of Malcolm III and his English wife St. Margaret. Succeeded his brother Edgar to the throne and continued the policy of ‘reforming’ the Scottish Church, building his new priory at Scone near Perth. He married the illegitimate daughter of Henry I. He died childless and was buried in Dunfermline.
1124: David I. The youngest son of Malcolm III and St. Margaret. A modernising king, responsible for transforming his kingdom largely by continuing the work of Anglicisation begun by his mother. He seems to have spent as much time in England as he did in Scotland. He was the first Scottish king to issue his own coins and he promoted the development of towns at Edinburgh, Dunfermline, Perth, Stirling, Inverness and Aberdeen. By the end of his reign his lands extended over Newcastle and Carlisle. He was almost as rich and powerful as the king of England, and had attained an almost mythical status through a ‘Davidian’ revolution.
1153: Malcolm IV (Mael Coluim IV). Son of Henry of Northumbria. His grandfather David I persuaded the Scottish Chiefs to recognise Malcolm as his heir to the throne, and aged 12 he became king. Recognising ‘that the King of England had a better argument by reason of his much greater power’, Malcolm surrendered Cumbria and Northumbria to Henry II. He died unmarried and with reputation for chastity, hence his nickname ‘the Maiden’.
1165: William the Lion. Second son of Henry of Northumbria. After a failed attempt to invade Northumbria, William was captured by Henry II. In return for his release, William and other Scottish nobles had to swear allegiance to Henry and hand over sons as hostages. English garrisons were installed throughout Scotland. It was only in 1189 that William was able to recover Scottish independence in return for a payment of 10,000 marks. William’s reign witnessed the extension of royal authority northwards across the Moray Firth.
1214: Alexander II. Son of William the Lion. With the Anglo-Scottish agreement of 1217, he established a peace between the two kingdoms that would last for 80 years. The agreement was further cemented by his marriage to Henry III’s sister Joan in 1221. Renouncing his ancestral claim to Northumbria, the Anglo-Scottish border was finally established by the Tweed-Solway line.
1249: Alexander III. The son of Alexander II, he married Henry III’s daughter Margaret in 1251. Following the Battle of Largs against King Haakon of Norway in Oct. 1263, Alexander secured the western Highlands and Islands for the Scottish Crown. After the deaths of his sons, Alexander gained acceptance that his granddaughter Margaret should succeed him. He fell and was killed whilst riding along the cliffs of Kinghorn in Fife.
1286 – 90: Margaret, Maid of Norway. The only child of King Eric of Norway and Margaret, daughter of Alexander III. She became queen at the age of two, and was promptly betrothed to Edward, son of Edward I. She saw neither kingdom nor husband as she died aged 7 at Kirkwall on Orkney in September 1290. Her death caused the most serious crisis in Anglo-Scottish relations.
1292 – 96: John Balliol. Following the death of Margaret in 1290 no one person held the undisputed claim to be King of the Scots. No fewer than 13 ‘competitors’, or claimants eventually emerged. They agreed to recognise Edward I’s overlordship and to abide by his arbitration. Edward decided in favour of Balliol, who did have a strong claim with links back to William the Lion. Edward’s obvious manipulation of Balliol led the Scottish nobles to set up a Council of 12 in July 1295, as well as agreeing to an alliance with the King of France. Edward invaded, and after defeating Balliol at the Battle of Dunbar imprisoned him in the Tower of London. Balliol was eventually released into papal custody and ended his life in France.
1296 -1306: annexed to England
House of Bruce
1306: Robert I the Bruce. In 1306 at Greyfriars Church Dumfries, he murdered his only possible rival for the throne, John Comyn. He was excommunicated for this sacrilege, but was still crowned King of the Scots just a few months later.
Robert was defeated in his first two battles against the English and became a fugitive, hunted by both Comyn’s friends and the English. Whilst hiding in a room he is said to have watched a spider swing from one rafter to another, in an attempt to anchor its web. It failed six times, but at the seventh attempt, succeeded. Bruce took this to be an omen and resolved to struggle on. His decisive victory over Edward II‘s army at Bannockburn in 1314 finally won the freedom he had struggled for.
1329: David II. The only surviving legitimate son of Robert Bruce, he succeeded his father when only 5 years of age. He was the first Scottish king to be crowned and anointed. Whether he would be able to keep the crown was another matter, faced with the combined hostilities of John Balliol and the ‘Disinherited’, those Scottish landowners that Robert Bruce had disinherited following his victory at Bannockburn. David was for a while even sent to France for his own safe keeping. In support of his allegiance with France he invaded England in 1346, whilst Edward III was otherwise occupied with the siege of Calais. His army was intercepted by forces raised by the Archbishop of York. David was wounded and captured. He was later released after agreeing to pay a ransom of 1000,000 marks. David died unexpectedly and without an heir, while trying to divorce his second wife in order to marry his latest mistress.
House of Stuart (Stewart)
1371: Robert II. The son of Walter the Steward and Marjory, daughter of Robert Bruce. He was recognised the heir presumptive in 1318, but the birth of David II meant that he had to wait 50 years before he could become the first Stewart king at the age of 55. A poor and ineffective ruler with little interest in soldiering, he delegated responsibility for law and order to his sons. Meanwhile he resumed to his duties of producing heirs, fathering at least 21 children.
1390: Robert III. Upon succeeding to the throne he decided to take the name Robert rather than his given name John. As King, Robert III appears to have been as ineffective as his father Robert II. In 1406 he decided to send his eldest surviving son to France; the boy was captured by the English and imprisoned in the Tower. Robert died the following month and, according to one source, asked to be buried in a midden (dunghill) as ‘the worst of kings and most wretched of men’.
1406: James I. After falling into English hands on his way to France in 1406, James was held a captive until 1424. Apparently his uncle, who also just happened to be Scotland’s governor, did little to negotiate his release. He was eventually released after agreeing to pay a 50,000 mark ransom. On his return to Scotland, he spent much of his time raising the money to pay off his ransom by imposing taxes, confiscating estates from nobles and clan chiefs. Needless to say, such actions made him few friends; a group of conspirators broke into his bedchamber and murdered him.
1437: James II. Although king since the murder of his father when he was 7, it was following his marriage to Mary of Guelders that he actually assumed control. An aggressive and warlike king, he appears to have taken particular exception to the Livingstons and Black Douglases. Fascinated by those new fangled firearms, he was blown up and killed by one of his own siege guns whilst besieging Roxburgh.
1460: James III. At the tender age of 8, he was proclaimed king following the death of his father James II. Six years later he was kidnapped; upon his return to power, he proclaimed his abductors, the Boyds, traitors. His attempt to make peace with the English by marrying his sister off to an English noble was somewhat scuppered when she was found to be already pregnant. He was killed at the Battle of Sauchieburn in Stirlingshire on 11 June 1488.
1488: James IV. The son of James III and Margaret of Denmark, he had grown up in the care of his mother at Stirling Castle. For his part in his father’s murder by the Scottish nobility at the Battle of Sauchieburn, he wore an iron belt next to skin as penitence for the rest of his life. To protect his borders he spent lavish sums on artillery and his navy. James led expeditions into the Highlands to assert royal authority and developed Edinburgh as his royal capital. He sought peace with England by marrying Henry VII’s daughter Margaret Tudor in 1503, an act that would ultimately unite the two kingdoms a century later. His immediate relationship with his brother-in-law deteriorated however when James invaded Northumberland. James was defeated and killed at Flodden, along with most of the leaders of Scottish society.
1513: James V. Still an infant at the time of his father’s death at Flodden, James’s early years were dominated by struggles between his English mother, Margaret Tudor and the Scottish nobles. Although king in name, James did not really start to gain control and rule the country until 1528. After that he slowly began to rebuild the shattered finances of the Crown, largely enriching the funds of the monarchy at the expense of the Church. Anglo-Scottish relationships once again descended into war when James failed to turn up for a scheduled meeting with Henry VIII at York in 1542. James apparently died of a nervous breakdown after hearing of the defeat of his forces following the Battle of Solway Moss.
1542: Mary Queen of Scots. Born just a week before her father King James V died. Mary was sent to France in 1548 to marry the Dauphin, the young French prince, in order to secure a Catholic alliance against England. In 1561, after he died still in his teens, Mary returned to Scotland. At this time Scotland was in the throes of the Reformation and a widening Protestant-Catholic split. A Protestant husband for Mary seemed the best chance for stability. Mary married her cousin Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, but it was not a success. Darnley became jealous of Mary’s secretary and favourite, David Riccio. He, together with others, murdered Riccio in front of Mary. She was six months pregnant at the time.
Her son, the future King James VI, was baptised into the Catholic faith at Stirling Castle. This caused alarm amongst the Protestants. Darnley later died in mysterious circumstances. Mary sought comfort in James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, and rumours abounded that she was pregnant by him. Mary and Bothwell married. The Lords of Congregation did not approve of the liaison and she was imprisoned in Leven Castle. Mary eventually escaped and fled to England. In Protestant England, Catholic Mary’s arrival provoked a political crisis for Queen Elizabeth I. After 19 years of imprisonment in various castles throughout England, Mary was found guilty of treason for plotting against Elizabeth and was beheaded at Fotheringhay.
1567: James VI and I. Became king aged just 13 months following the abdication of his mother. By his late teens he was already beginning to demonstrate political intelligence and diplomacy in order to control government.
He assumed real power in 1583, and quickly established a strong centralised authority. He married Anne of Denmark in 1589.
As the great-grandson of Margaret Tudor, he succeeded to the English throne when Elizabeth I died in 1603, thus ending the centuries-old Anglo-Scots border wars.
1603: Union of the crowns of Scotland and England.
The House was established in the 14th century and the Stewart rule spanned from 1371-1714. Despite the longevity of their reign the Stewart monarchs were not without their failings, which lead to murders, beheadings, and a civil war to name but a few!
Mary, Queen of Scots is perhaps the best known figure in Scotland’s history. Her life provided tragedy and romance, more dramatic than any legend.
The Anglo-Scottish Wars were a series of battles between England and Scotland between 1296 and 1346, also called the Wars of Scottish Independence,
The Stewart dynasty descended from King Robert I's daughter and her husband, Walter the Steward. Despite early unrest and weak government caused by several Stewart kings succeeding as minors, the dynasty flourished for over three centuries. During this time, Scotland moved forward to become a modern and prosperous nation. Stewart monarchs such as King James IV and VI were Renaissance patrons of artistic, scientific, commercial, religious and political endeavour, sponsoring figures including the poet Robert Henryson and humanist George Buchanan. Also of significance was the arrival in the mid-sixteenth century of the Reformation movement, bringing about the replacement of Catholic Mary Queen of Scots by her son King James VI. It was through the Stewart dynasty that the two thrones of England and Scotland - and later the governments - came to be united. The 'Marriage of the Thistle and the Rose' took place at Stirling Castle in 1503 between King James IV and Princess Margaret Tudor, daughter of King Henry VII of England. This union of the Scottish and English Royal families eventually led in 1603 to the succession of a Stewart (now with a change of spelling) to the throne of England.
Anne (r.1702-1714) Born in 1665, the younger daughter of James VII and II by his first wife, Anne Hyde, Queen Anne inherited the throne in 1702. She came to Scotland as a 15-year-old when her father was Lord High Commissioner at Holyroodhouse, enjoying the balls and entertainments, but poor health in later years meant that she never made the journey north again. She was married at 18 to Prince George of Denmark, whom she loved devotedly, but her 18 pregnancies all ended in miscarriage, stillbirth or the birth of babies who did not live beyond childhood. Only William, Duke of Gloucester survived his earliest years, but he suffered from hydrocephalus and died five days after his eleventh birthday. During Queen Anne's reign, Scotland and England found it increasingly difficult to co-exist peacefully, for their separate parliaments had conflicting foreign and economic policies. Eventually, the situation became so unstable that the Union of the Crowns itself seemed to be in danger. In 1701, England settled the succession of the Protestant Sophia of Hanover, granddaughter of James VI and I, but two years later the Scots declared that they were free to choose someone else, the implication being that they might select the exiled Jacobite claimant, James VII and II's son. The situation was untenable. After months of bitter debate, the anti-Unionists led by Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun were finally defeated and the Scottish Parliament agreed that henceforth the kingdoms of Scotland and England would be united as Great Britain, with one parliament. The Hanoverian succession was thereby recognised, there would in future be freedom of trade, the coinage, weights and measures would be uniform and Scotland would be represented in Parliament by 45 MPs and 16 elected peers. The Treaty of Union came into effect on 1 May 1707. Many Scots disliked the Treaty of Union, for they had favoured a federal rather than an incorporating union, and in the final years of Queen Anne's reign there was widespread disappointment when the hoped-for economic benefits were not immediately forthcoming. Moreover, the Jacobites continued to support the exiled Prince James Francis Edward. In 1714, Queen Anne died, the last Stuart monarch. Sophia of Hanover had died only a few weeks previously, and so her eldest son George, Elector of Hanover became George I of Great Britain.
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