A.D. 1260 to
The Maid of Norway
The emergence of Bruce
William Wallace Part 2
Battle of Stirling Bridge
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A.D. 350 to 794
A.D. 795 to 1260
When the crisis of succession struck Scotland in 1290 the most menacing and ultimately the King with the greatest impact was Edward of England. He had successfully strengthened his own kingdom and now turned his attentions to extending his western frontier. In two violent (even considering the standards of the time) campaigns (1276-7 and 1282-3) he annexed north and west Wales. However, he was to play a vital role in the succession of the Scottish King.
The succession to the throne of Scotland was complicated due to the "old fashioned" insistence on legality. At this point no-one really wanted to seize the throne, rather they wished to be seen as the legitimate King. There were no fewer than thirteen claimants or 'Competitors', as they were called. Many of them had little real connection (such as King Erik of Norway, as father of the Maid of Norway) and in practical terms there were only two who really mattered: John Balliol (c.1250-1313), Lord of Galloway, and Robert Bruce (1210-95), now in his eighties, the fifth Lord of Annandale and grandfather of the future king.
Although neither man could claim to be a direct descendent, Robert Bruce (the 'Competitor') could claim a certain amount of "closeness" to the line of succession than his rival John Balliol. Bruce was the grandson, on his father's side, of Isabella, the younger daughter of David, Earl of Huntingdon. Balliol, the younger of the two men, nevertheless had the senior claim: he was the great-grandson, on his mother's side, of Margaret, the eldest daughter of Earl David. The argument would centre on which was the more important, proximity or seniority.
The competition for the throne has come to be known as the 'Great Cause'. The two sides drew to entrenched positions and it threatened to degenerate into civil war between their supporters. The most powerful family in Scotland were the Comyns, Lords of Badenoch and Earls of Buchan; John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, was Balliol's brother-in-law, and there was no love lost between the Comyns and the Bruces.
To avert an armed struggle between the two factions, the Guardians approached Edward I (of England) to arbitrate between the claimants, whilst inadvertently starting the process of a much longer armed struggle between the nations. At the time, Edward appeared to be more than willing to undertake the task and summoned the Scots to a parliament to be held on 6 May 1291 at Norham Castle, the great stronghold of the Bishop of Durham on the English side of the Tweed.