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Robert II / Kings and Queens

  • Name  : Robert II
  • Born  : 1316
  • Died  : 1390
  • Category  : Kings and Queens
  • Finest Moment : Second marriage.

Born 2 March 1216 the eldest son of Walter, 6th High Steward of Scotland, and Marjorie Bruce, daughter of Robert I. He was heir presumptive for more than 50 years, and by the time he did finally mount the throne of Scotland any interest or energy he might have had, had long gone. He seems to have diverted his energies in any case towards the ladies, being the father of at least 21 children in total, only four of which could be held to be legitimate.

He did fight well at the disastrous battle of Halidon Hill in 1333, against John Balliol with his English archers, but to some extent he remains still a largely shadowy figure. In 1347 he married Elizabeth Mure of Rowallan, this after he had already had several children by her.

The two were somewhat too closely related for their children to have a firm claim to the throne, and it fell to his second marriage, to Euphemia Ross in 1355, which produced two sons and two daughters, to realise a more legitimate heir to the throne in his eldest son, the Earl of Carrick (later Robert III).

He died, worn out, at Dundonald Castle in Ayrshire, on 19 April 1390.

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Malcolm II / Kings and Queens

  • Name  : Malcolm II
  • Born  : c.954
  • Died  : 1034
  • Category  : Kings and Queens
  • Finest Moment : Defeating King Canute at Carham (1016)

Kenneth II, his father, had died in about 995, but argy-bargy about the inheritance kept Malcolm from the throne until 1005 when he lost patience and bumped off his cousin Kenneth III. As Malcolm had no son to carry on the line, he arranged political weddings for his daughters. This worked out quite well; one daughter, Bethoc, he married off to Crinan Abbot of Dunkeld (their son would become Duncan I), the other daughter he married off to Earl Sigurd of Orkney. (On Sigurd's death in battle, his son ' Malcolm's grandson, Thorfinn, became Scotland's vassal, with his lands in Sutherland and Caithness coming under Malcolm's wing.)

Malcolm's eyes now turned south, towards Northumbria. After an unsuccessful attempt in 1006, he allied himself with Owen, King of Strathclyde, and together they defeated the English King Canute at Carham (c.1016). His territories now extended as far south as the Tweed. That left Strathclyde.

Owen died in 1018, childless, and Malcolm then claimed Strathclyde for his grandson Duncan. This was not following the normal rules of inheritance however, and his enemies had him murdered later that year at Glamis.

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Malcolm III Canmore / Kings and Queens

  • Name  : Malcolm III Canmore
  • Born  : c.1031
  • Died  : 1093
  • Category  : Kings and Queens
  • Finest Moment : Marriage to Margaret (1069)

The Canmore bit is Gaelic; can is from ceann, 'chief' or 'head', more is from mor, 'great'. He could therefore have been 'Great Chief', or 'Big Head'. As he has been variously described as lusty, barbaric, aggressive and a dedicated soldier, his name probably depended on which side of him you stood. Whatever, he founded the great House of Canmore, a dynasty which consolidated royal power in Scotland for more than two centuries.

He was the son of King Duncan I, and was a child when his father was killed by MacBeth in 1040. He then spent his youth in exile in Northumberland, with his uncle Earl Siward. His uncle introduced him to Edward the Confessor at the English court, and together they aided Malcolm to defeat and kill MacBeth at Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire, in 1057.

MacBeth's supporters immediately placed Lulach, MacBeth's stepson, on the throne, but he too was bumped off by Malcolm. They didn't mess about in those days you know. Malcolm was then free to claim the throne of Scotland.

He married twice. First time round was Ingibiorg, daughter (or widow) of Thorfinn of Orkney. One of his two sons by Ingy was Duncan II. Ingy died about 1069, and Malcolm then married Margaret, sister of Edgar Atheling. He was heir to the English throne, so it could have been an interesting time, but he was blocked by William the Conqueror. Malcolm gave refuge to Edgar, and so true romance had its merry way. This marriage produced six sons, four of whom would succeed to the throne: Duncan II (1094), Edgar (1097-1107), Alexander I (1107-24) and David I (1124-53).

Malcolm and Margaret had by all accounts a very happy marriage; she had the culture, he had the army. He allowed her to introduce English at court (she never learned Gaelic), and also to reform the church. But he couldn't stop playing with the English at war games, usually over land in Northumbria. In all he marched into England five times; on the last occasion he was cornered and killed, probably by trickery, at Alnwick, in November 1093. Also killed with him was his eldest son and heir Edward. Margaret, already ill, died four days later.

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Malcolm IV / Kings and Queens

  • Name  : Malcolm IV
  • Born  : c.1141
  • Died  : 1165
  • Category  : Kings and Queens
  • Finest Moment : Defeat of Somerled

The eldest son of Henry, Earl of Huntingdon, and the grandson of the great David I, Malcolm IV would have a tough enough time living up to his predecessor's reputation, even had the times been peaceful. Circumstances were against him from the word go. He took the throne aged 12, in 1153, and the years of peace immediately started to unravel.

Native earls, who had resented the Normanising policies of David I, began to stir up trouble. Somerled, sub-king of Argyll and ruler of the Isles, began to push for more land, while there were rebellions in Moray and Galloway.

In 1157 the English began their old tricks again; Henry II told Malcolm that he was reclaiming the English counties of Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmoreland, counties which he had ceded to David I by treaty. As a sop he confirmed Malcolm's rights to the earldom of Huntingdon (admittedly large and rich areas of England, but not quite the same thing).

Malcolm went to France in 1158 to fight for Henry, which did not go down too well at home, but he redeemed himself by soundly defeating Somerled's forces, who were sneaking up the Clyde. All this was too much for a young man who was not possessed of the robust constitution required for such rough games. Malcolm, who never married and left no heirs (his nickname was thus obviously 'The Maiden') died on 9 December 1165, at Jedburgh.

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King Angus, or Oengus / Kings and Queens

  • Name  : Angus, or Oengus
  • Born  :  ?
  • Died  : d.761
  • Category  : Kings and Queens
  • Finest Moment : Gaining the throne

'He fought the Scots, and may have founded St Andrews'

As is so often the way with someone who lived so far back, there are difficulties in verification. But Oengus was undoubtedly a Pictish King who gained fame firstly by bashing five rival claimants for the throne. In those days, strength of arm often came first, followed by the smooth talk and innate charisma.

Secondly, Oengus then bashed the Scots, who had come over from Antrim in 500 AD. But he was generous with his arm strength, bashing also the Angles and the Britons. He was, in other words, quite persistent in wanting to be left alone.

One of the many legends tells of the successful intervention of St Andrew, allowing Oengus to become victorious. Oengus in his gratefulness then dedicated a church to the saint, around which later grew the town of St Andrews. That saint, of course, later became the patron saint of Scotland. Just to be remembered from those far-off days took some doing - to have stories handed down meant a man of true stature.

The story of the Picts is a frustrating one - we do not even know what they called themselves, but what is fairly certain is that they would have been the original inhabitants of Scotland, having migrated from Europe. They disappeared round about the middle of the 9th century, their territory having encompassed the entire northern half of Scotland, including the northern isles and the outer and northern Inner Hebrides, also extending down the eastern side of the country as far as the Firth of Forth at least. They left many standing stones bearing Pictish symbols.

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Kenneth II / Kings and Queens

  • Name  : Kenneth II
  • Born  :  ?
  • Died  : d.995
  • Category  : Kings and Queens
  • Finest Moment : Adding Lothian to his kingdom, 973.

A King of the united Picts and Scots (from 971), Kenneth II was a son of Malcolm I. He succeeded Culen, another great-great-grandson of Kenneth I and reigned from 971-95. He began his reign by ravaging the Britons, but his name is also included among a group of northern and western kings said to have made submission to the Anglo-Saxon King Edgar in 973. Shortly after this, some say, Kenneth received from Edgar Lothian, the area between the Tweed and Forth rivers. This is a very early, if not the first, mention of the River Tweed as the recognised border between England and Scotland.

Kenneth II was a patron of the church at Brechin. He was killed at Fettercairn in the Mearns, apparently by his own subjects. Later stories relate that the daughter of the Thane of Angus arranged a lethal booby trap, in revenge for the death of her only son.

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James VI / Kings and Queens

  • Name  : James VI
  • Born  : 1566
  • Died  : 1625
  • Category  : Kings and Queens
  • Finest Moment : Crowned King of England (1603)

Born 19 June 1566, at Edinburgh Castle. James was the son of Queen Mary and Lord Darnley, but soon after his birth she was forced to abdicate by Lord James Stewart, whom Mary had made the Earl of Moray. James was eight months old when his father was killed in suspicious circumstances at the explosion of his house at Kirk o'Fields. By 'suspicious' we mean he found strangled in the garden. Not a great start to a future monarch, but adversity and circumstance made him a surprisingly clever and able ruler, though not a particularly nice person.

Mary never saw him following her third marriage, to Bothwell, their defeat by the rebel Scottish lords, and her abdication. James became king of Scotland on 24 July 1567 when he was one year old. Moray became Regent in his name, while George Buchanan became his tutor when he was four. His mother's name was libelled, and her gifts of toys for her son never reached him. Though he received a good education, he was raised virtually friendless, an environment which may account at least in part for some of his less savoury personality features. Four successive regents ruled in his stead; Moray, Lennox, Mar and Morton. He was 12 when the first palace coup took place, only the first of a series of attempts to seize power by holding the boy King. After nine years of this any survivor would by necessity be either dead or old before his time. James was the latter. When he was 13 his handsome cousin from France paid him a visit. James became infatuated with Esme Stewart, who was a Roman Catholic intent on seeing Mary back in power.

Meanwhile, plot and counter plot. The Ruthven family, extreme Protestants, kidnapped James and compelled Stewart to return to France, where he died two years later, in 1583. James escaped and mourned the loss of his (probably) late lover Stewart in passionate poems. He then continued to play off the two religions against each other, thereby controlling both for his own ends. His own master plan by the way, was to become King of Scotland and England. To this end, he was smart enough to see that it would be better to get on with Elizabeth I, rather than cosy up to her enemies. Even when she had Mary parted from her head, in 1587, he issued a formal complaint only.

As to the unsavoury part of his character, he was prejudiced against his Gaelic subjects, striving to exterminate them and settle their islands with English-speaking lowlanders. This policy was carried out more successfully in Northern Ireland, with ultimately long-lasting and deleterious results. He once had some Negroes dance naked in the snow, as a spectacle for his brother-in-law the King of Denmark. The dancers died, as James must have expected. He was into torture, especially women accused of witchcraft; these he liked to supervise personally. He took great pains to draw up the torture regime for Guy Fawkes. Much of this sick material he published in a book on demonology, in 1597. Shakespeare plundered it for material used in his play Macbeth.

But on to his more public life. In 1589 he married Anne, the daughter of Frederick II of Denmark. They had a son, Prince Henry, in 1594. Finally, in 1603 he had his wish, when Elizabeth I died and he succeeded to the throne as James I (of England). He was 37. Though his full ambition was to rule a greater Britain, he alienated the English from the start. He was not in touch with the mass of his English subjects, and worse, he brought to court his collection of handsome and lace-handkerchief-waving boys, the chief of whom was Robert Carr. 'The King leaneth upon his arm, pinches his cheek, smooths his ruffled garment, and, when he looketh at Carr, directeth discourse to divers others.' So went a contemporary description.

But alternative life styles apart, one good thing that can be attached to James is that he was not fond of making war. The bad thing was when his son and heir Henry died, making Prince Charles (later Charles I) heir. As he was already under the bad influence of the Duke of Buckingham (who had taken the place of Carr when that lad had fallen from grace), the ageing James was gradually sidelined, the last 18 months of his reign being effectively decided by Buckingham and Charles. He died on 27 March 1625, at Theobalds in Hertfordshire, his favourite country residence.

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James VII / Kings and Queens

  • Name  : James VII
  • Born  : 1633
  • Died  : 1701
  • Category  : Kings and Queens
  • Finest Moment : Renaming New Amsterdam, New York (1664)

James VII (James II of England), was born on 14 October 1633, in London. He was the Duke of York, second son surviving of Charles I and Henrietta Maria, and the last Stuart monarch in the direct male line. During the English Civil Wars he lived in Oxford for four years, from 1642-6, then was made a prisoner of Parliament in St James's Palace before escaping to the Netherlands in 1648. The following year he joined his mother in France.

In 1652 he joined the French Army, serving with distinction in four campaigns under the Viscount de Turenne. On the restoration of his brother Charles II he was placed in command of the English fleet in1660. Four years later, on his initiative New Amsterdam was seized from the Dutch, and renamed New York, in his honour. At this point a Protestant, he introduced religious tolerance to North America.

In 1668 however, he became a zealous Catholic, becoming party to a secret treaty in 1670 at which Charles II undertook to restore Catholicism in exchange for French gold. His reputation as a womaniser, meanwhile, was rapidly overtaking that of his brother, no mean feat. He had four children by one mistress that we know of.

In 1673, still heir presumptive, he married again, to Mary of Modena, a devout Catholic. There had been no son by his first marriage, to the commoner Anne Hyde. Over the next few years, public fears of a Catholic plot to kill Charles and put James on the throne grew to near hysterical levels. His brother Charles sent him to Edinburgh, where he ruled Scotland creditably for some time before returning to England in 1682. He succeeded his brother to the throne in 1685, at the age of 51. So far, so good.

James was known to be a man of his word, and on taking the throne he promised to defend and support the Church of England. Parliament voted him a generous income, and the Anglicans were behind him. Until the summer of 1685, that is, when Charles II's illegitimate son the Duke of Monmouth became a Protestant champion, aided by the Earl of Argyll in Scotland. Monmouth was defeated and executed, the rebellions were put down with great ferocity, and James's distrust of his subjects was heightened. He granted new regiments to Roman Catholic officers. This was the last straw for Parliament, which was prorogued in November of that year.

James continued to increase his Catholic policies. In November 1687 it was announced (to everybody's surprise) that the queen was pregnant. The following June she gave birth to a son, James Francis Edward Stewart. This was after six pregnancies which had produced no living heir. Public worries concerning the rise of Catholicism rose again. Later that month, seven bishops who had refuse to read his Declaration of Indulgence from their pulpits were acquitted at a trial. This was a major slap in the face for James. Even worse was the invite to the Protestant William of Orange to come over with an army. This he did, landing in England in the autumn of 1688.

James was by now exhibiting some behaviour which sometimes verged on the insane, and there is some basis to the story that this may have been caused by syphilis. Certainly, his judgment was very poor, particularly when compared with his former deeds in the French army and later. His Protestant generals deserted to the opposition in large numbers. His nerve eventually cracked and he attempted to flee to France but was caught. He was allowed to escape in December; in February 1689 Parliament announced that James had abdicated, and the next day, 13 February, they offered the throne to William and Mary. The Scots Parliament did likewise in May.

James landed in Ireland in March 1689, but he was effectively finished, and was defeated at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690. He died on 17 September, 1701, in Saint-Germain, France. William, who succeeded him, preferred choirboys, thus neatly protecting him from a nasty disease, and the country from a Dutch heir.

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James IV / Kings and Queens

  • Name  : James IV
  • Born  : 1473
  • Died  : 1513
  • Category  : Kings and Queens
  • Finest Moment : Marriage to Margaret Tudor, 1503

Crowned at Scone in 1488, after having defeated his father James III at the Battle of Sauchieburn. He was then aged 15, but was fortunate in not being awarded a crowd of ambitious 'guardians' to look after him. He was also luckier than his father had been, in not being in competition from ambitious siblings. < br>As a monarch, this left him more free to look after his country, rather than looking over his shoulder, and in the next five years he succeeded in subduing the Western Isles. The warriors of the these western isles would have their way eventually of course, and by 1498 James IV had all but given up fighting them, allowing instead the two prominent families there, the Campbells in the south, and the Gordons in the north, to fight it out.

The only real fly in this otherwise peaceful land was of course the auld enemy, England. James broke a truce with England in 1495, flirting with a Yorkist pretender to the English throne, a Perkin Warbeck. Two years later he was dismissed, and a real truce could be set up, backed, as this so often was, by marriage. Not that women had been entirely lacking. There had been Margaret Drummond, for example, to whom he written poems. She was mysteriously, though conveniently, poisoned in 1501, making the way clear for James to marry Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII. When she was old enough at 14, in 1503, they married.

Relations with England were good for a number of years, but began breaking down as James came into conflict with Henry VIII, who ruled from 1509 on. A series of misjudged alliances with Louis XII of France led inexorably to a diversionary advance into England in 1513. For a while this went well, with several castles captured, but on 9 September, James met the English at Flodden. The English were led by the old Earl of Surrey and his son, leading an army only slightly inferior to that of James. It was a major disaster for Scotland. James was killed fighting on foot, as were most of the nobility of Scotland.

James IV had continued to support the emergence of a renaissance in Scotland begun under his father. His reign is much better known than those of earlier monarchs, thanks to surviving documents, so that we know, for example, of his patronage of various poets, of the building of palaces at Holyrood, Falkland, Linlithgow and Stirling. He pioneered compulsory education (for the landed classes), and was the founder of Kings College, Aberdeen. But he, and many good men round him died at Flodden in a battle that need not have been fought. He had left a one-year-old son as heir.

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James V / Kings and Queens

  • Name  : James V
  • Born  : 1512
  • Died  : 1542
  • Category  : Kings and Queens
  • Finest Moment : Completion of Falkland Palace

Another sorry monarch. James V was the elder and only surviving son of James III and Margaret Tudor, succeeding his father when a tender 17 months old. For the first15 years of his life, he was accordingly shuffled about while a series of nobles governed the country. A virtual prisoner of Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, who was his stepfather, this left him with a hatred not only for the Douglas family, but for many nobles in general. Not a good start for a monarch in those days.

During his minority, careless and even incompetent financial management had all but bankrupted Scotland. Unfortunately, James V was personally greedy, so the stage was set for power games involving the Pope, the French, Henry VIII of England, and of course our James.

James V was pro-Catholic and Pro-French. He firstly extracted money from the Church by committing himself to the Catholic Church. He now looked for a wife with a large dowry, settling for Princess Madeleine, daughter of Francis I. She was frail, and died six months later, so James remarried, this time to Mary of Guise, and her dowry naturally.

James V further worsened the gap between himself and his nobles, by appointing his own agents to rule the far off corners of Scotland. He also targeted various families in the Borders, notably Armstrong, Hepburn, Home, Maxwell and Scott. These particular roosters would come home eventually, refusing to support James V in times of conflict.

Henry VIII meanwhile, looking over his own shoulder towards Europe, asked James for a meeting. The Scottish clergy would not allow James to attend, and Henry invaded Scotland. The two countries eventually settled at the Battle of Solway Moss, in November 1542. The Scots were in disarray and being unsupported by many Protestant nobles were easily defeated. James retired first to Linlithgow then Falkland Palace. He was acutely depressed and in a state of collapse. Six days after the birth of his daughter Mary, he died. It was 14 December 1542, and he was 30 years old.

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