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Beginning to A.D. 350
A.D. 350 to 794
A.D. 1260 to

Alexander the Second (Alexander II)

Scotland in the Thirteenth Century

The last of the descendants of Duncan II, Donald MacWilliam, invaded Moray almost as soon as the sixteen-year-old Alexander II was proclaimed King on the Stone of Destiny. Donald MacWilliam was joined by Kenneth MacHeth in this uprising, but King Alexander had a new champion in Fearchar MacTaggart, lay Abbot of Applecross, who defeated the forces of MacWilliam and MacHeth in 1215 and was himself made Earl of Ross.

King John of England's troubles with his barons were a natural opportunity for the Scots to take advantage. The young Alexander II hoped to win back the northern English earldoms and, in anticipation, invaded laying them waste through siege and other pillaging tactics. John, distracted by his troublesome barons, could not prevent it, and in 1217 Alexander led his army through England all the way to Dover, where he made contact with Louis, Dauphin of France, and paid homage.

Then he made his way back to Scotland, unchallenged following the death of John, who was followed by his son Henry the Third but without any new advantages, territories or titles. In some respects all the travels were worthless. In 1221 he married Joanna, sister of Henry III of England, and ceased to interfere in matters south of the Tweed and Solway.

Realising that his attempts to regain the "family possession" of Northumberland were futile he signed an amicable agreement, The Treaty of York, in 1237. He then turned his attention to the restive north of Scotland and to try to regain the Western Isles.

His first wife died in 1238 but the second marriage to a daughter of a French count produced a longed for male heir (Alexander III). The infant Alexander was betrothed to Henry III's daughter Margaret, in order to improve relations between the two countries.

Alexander II had consolidated the crown's control over mainland Scotland and fashioned it into a more effective realm than it had ever been. However, one area remained outwith his grasp. His Royal authority ceased at the mainland The Hebrides and the Northern Isles, were subject to the crown of Norway.

Norwegian royal authority in the Western Isles had been declining steadily as the Gaelic-speaking leaders of the warrior Somerled dynasty vied for the title of 'Lord of the Isles'. However, in Norway, a new king of great drive and imperial ambition was about to change all the internal machinations - King Hakon IV (r.1217-64).

In 1230, Hakon decided to re-establish effective Norwegian control over the Hebridean warlords, who owed him revenues and allegiance. He sent a punitive expedition in 1230 which caused considerable havoc. The Norsemen did not stay long to enjoy their exploit, but the expedition as a whole was considered to have been a success.

In 1242 (some sources suggest 1244) Alexander sent various emissaries to the Norwegians to attempt to buy the Western isles.

In 1249 he had decided enough was enough and made plans to take the islands by force. However, after assembling his fleet, the King fell ill and died in Kerrera Sound on 8 July 1249. Following the death, the army melted away but the ambition still burned brightly in his son who was at that stage only 8 years old.

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