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Timeline of Scottish History

A timeline of events in Scottish History!. Scroll through a growing chronology of events and click on them for more details and links


The heroic generation of Scotland was passing off the stage.  The King was a child.  The forfeiture by Bruce of the lands of hostile or treacherous lords, and his bestowal of the estates on his partisans, had made the disinherited nobles the enemies of Scotland, and had fed too full the House of Douglas.  As the star of Scotland was thus clouded—she had no strong man for a King during the next ninety years—the sun of England rose red and glorious under a warrior like Edward III.  The Scottish nobles in many cases ceased to be true to their proud boast that they would never submit to England.  A very brief summary of the wretched reign of David II. must here suffice.

First, the son of John Balliol, Edward, went to the English Court, and thither thronged the disinherited and forfeited lords, arranging a raid to recover their lands.  Edward III., of course, connived at their preparations.

After Randolph’s death (July 20, 1332), when Mar—a sister’s son of Bruce—was Regent, the disinherited lords, under Balliol, invaded Scotland, and Mar, with young Randolph, Menteith, and a bastard of Bruce, “Robert of Carrick,” leading a very great host, fell under the shafts of the English archers of Umfraville, Wake, the English Earl of Atholl, Talbot, Ferrers, and Zouche, at Dupplin, on the Earn (August 12, 1332).  Rolled up by arrows loosed on the flanks of their charging columns, they fell, and their dead bodies lay in heaps as tall as a lance.

On September 24, Edward Balliol was crowned King at Scone.  Later, Andrew Murray, perhaps a son of the Murray who had been Wallace’s companion-in-arms, was taken, and Balliol acknowledged Edward III. as his liege-lord at Roxburgh.  In December the second son of Randolph, with Archibald, the new Regent, brother of the great Black Douglas, drove Balliol, flying in his shirt, from Annan across the Border.  He returned, and was opposed by this Archibald Douglas, called Tineman, the Unlucky, and on July 19, 1333, Tineman suffered, at Halidon Hill, near Berwick, a defeat as terrible as Flodden; Berwick, too, was lost, practically for ever, Tineman fell, and Sir William Douglas, the Knight of Liddesdale, was a prisoner.  These Scots defeats were always due to rash frontal attacks on strong positions, the assailants passing between lines of English bowmen who loosed into their flanks.  The boy king, David, was carried to France (1334) for safety, while Balliol delivered to Edward Berwick and the chief southern counties, including that of Edinburgh, with their castles.

There followed internal wars between Balliol’s partisans, while the patriots were led by young Randolph, by the young Steward, by Sir Andrew Murray, and the wavering and cruel Douglas, called the Knight of Liddesdale, now returned from captivity.  In the desperate state of things, with Balliol and Edward ravaging Scotland at will, none showed more resolution than Bruce’s sister, who held Kildrummie Castle; and Randolph’s daughter, “Black Agnes,” who commanded that of Dunbar.  By vast gifts Balliol won over John, Lord of the Isles.  The Celts turned to the English party; Edward III. harried the province of Moray, but, in 1337, he began to undo his successes by formally claiming the crown of France: France and Scotland together could always throw off the English yoke.

Thus diverted from Scotland, Edward lost strength there while he warred with Scotland’s ally: in 1341 the Douglas, Knight of Liddesdale, recovered Edinburgh Castle by a romantic surprise.  But David returned home in 1341, a boy of eighteen, full of the foibles of chivalry, rash, sensual, extravagant, who at once gave deadly offence to the Knight of Liddesdale by preferring to him, as sheriff of Teviotdale, the brave Sir Alexander Ramsay, who had driven the English from the siege of Dunbar Castle.  Douglas threw Ramsay into Hermitage Castle in Liddesdale and starved him to death.

In 1343 the Knight began to intrigue traitorously with Edward III.; after a truce, David led his whole force into England, where his rash chivalry caused his utter defeat at Neville’s Cross, near Durham (October 17, 1346).  He was taken, as was the Bishop of St Andrews; his ransom became the central question between England and Scotland.  In 1353 Douglas, Knight of Liddesdale, was slain at Williamshope on Yarrow by his godson, William, Lord Douglas: the fact is commemorated in a fragment of perhaps our oldest narrative Border ballad.  French men-at-arms now helped the Scots to recover Berwick, merely to lose it again in 1356; in 1357 David was set free: his ransom, 100,000 merks, was to be paid by instalment.  The country was heavily taxed, but the full sum was never paid.  Meanwhile the Steward had been Regent; between him, the heir of the Crown failing issue to David, and the King, jealousies arose.  David was suspected of betraying the kingdom to England; in October 1363 he and the Earl of Douglas visited London and made a treaty adopting a son of Edward as king on David’s demise, and on his ransom being remitted, but in March 1364 his Estates rejected the proposal, to which Douglas had assented.  Till 1369 all was poverty and internal disunion; the feud, to be so often renewed, of the Douglas and the Steward raged.  David was made contemptible by a second marriage with Margaret Logie, but the war with France drove Edward III. to accept a fourteen years’ truce with Scotland.  On February 22, 1371, David died in Edinburgh Castle, being succeeded, without opposition, by the Steward, Robert II., son of Walter, and of Marjorie, daughter of Robert Bruce.  This Robert II., somewhat outworn by many years of honourable war in his country’s cause, and the father of a family, by Elizabeth Mure of Rowallan, which could hardly be rendered legitimate by any number of Papal dispensations, was the first of the Royal Stewart line.  In him a cadet branch of the English FitzAlans, themselves of a very ancient Breton stock, blossomed into Royalty.

With the coming of a dynasty which endured for three centuries, we must sketch the relations, in Scotland, of Crown and Parliament till the days of the Covenant and the Revolution of 1688.  Scotland had but little of the constitutional evolution so conspicuous in the history of England.  The reason is that while the English kings, with their fiefs and wars in France, had constantly to be asking their parliaments for money, and while Parliament first exacted the redress of grievances, in Scotland the king was expected “to live of his own” on the revenue of crown-lands, rents, feudal aids, fines exacted in Courts of Law, and duties on merchandise.  No “tenths” or “fifteenths” were exacted from clergy and people.  There could be no “constitutional resistance” when the Crown made no unconstitutional demands.

In Scotland the germ of Parliament is the King’s court of vassals of the Crown.  To the assemblies, held now in one place, now in another, would usually come the vassals of the district, with such officers of state as the Chancellor, the Chamberlain, the Steward, the Constable or Commander-in-Chief, the Justiciar, and the Marischal, and such Bishops, Abbots, Priors, Earls, Barons, and tenants-in-chief as chose to attend.  At these meetings public business was done, charters were granted, and statutes were passed; assent was made to such feudal aids as money for the king’s ransom in the case of William the Lion.  In 1295 the seals of six Royal burghs are appended to the record of a negotiation; in 1326 burgesses, as we saw, were consulted by Bruce on questions of finance.

The misfortunes and extravagance of David II. had to be paid for, and Parliament interfered with the Royal prerogative in coinage and currency, directed the administration of justice, dictated terms of peace with England, called to account even hereditary officers of the Crown (such as the Steward, Constable, and Marischal), controlled the King’s expenditure (or tried to do so), and denounced the execution of Royal warrants against the Statutes and common form of law.  They summarily rejected David’s attempt to alter the succession of the Crown.

At the same time, as attendance of multitudes during protracted Parliaments was irksome and expensive, arose the habit of intrusting business to a mere “Committee of Articles,” later “The Lords of the Articles,” selected in varying ways from the Three Estates—Spiritual, Noble, and Commons.  These Committees saved the members of Parliament from the trouble and expense of attendance, but obviously tended to become an abuse, being selected and packed to carry out the designs of the Crown or of the party of nobles in power.  All members, of whatever Estate, sat together in the same chamber.  There were no elected Knights of the Shires, no representative system.

The reign of David II. saw two Scottish authors or three, whose works are extant.  Barbour wrote the chivalrous rhymed epic-chronicle ‘The Brus’; Wyntoun, an unpoetic rhymed “cronykil”; and “Hucheoun of the Awle Ryal” produced works of more genius, if all that he is credited with be his own.

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