List of heirs of Scotland

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List of heirs of Scotland details those people who have been either heir apparent or heir presumptive to the Kingdom of Scotland, according to the rules of cognatic primogeniture, except at times when other forms of inheritance were specified, for example from 1371 to 1542 when the succession was limited to agnatic primogeniture by Act of Parliament. Females are included in the list where appropriate; however, although the Crown could pass through the female line (for example to the House of Dunkeld in 1034), in the early middle ages it is doubtful whether a queen regnant would have been accepted as ruler.

Heirs to Malcolm III[edit]

Malcolm III, son of Duncan I defeated and killed Macbeth in 1057, who had usurped the throne upon the death of his father in 1040. His heir presumptive was his brother,

Unfortunately for Duncan, when Malcolm was killed in battle in 1093, Donald usurped the throne.

Heirs to Donald III[edit]

Donald of Scotland, brother of Malcolm III, usurped the throne upon the death of his brother in November 1093. Since Donald was childless and nearly all of his nephews were against him, his heir presumptive was the only nephew who supported him,

Donald III was deposed by his nephew Duncan II in May 1094 but eventually regained his throne in November of the same year. In 1097, one of his nephews Edgar came in Scotland with the help of the English and imprisoned Donald III. Edmund was sent to a monastery until the end of his life.

Heirs to Duncan II[edit]

Duncan II, eldest son of Malcolm III, became King of Scotland in May 1094, when he deposed his uncle, King Donald III, with the help of King of England William II. Since Edgar was married to Ethelreda, his heir apparent was his son,

However, in November 1094, Donald III came back and killed Duncan II. William left Scotland with his mother in that year, to the safety of Allerdale in Cumberland.

Heirs to Edgar[edit]

Edgar, now eldest son of Malcolm III, became King of Scotland in 1097, with the military support of his uncle Edgar the Ætheling who helped him to depose King Donald III. Since Edgar wasn't married, his heir presumptive was his next brother,

Heirs to Alexander I[edit]

Alexander I, previously ruler of Lothian and Forth, became King of Scotland on the death of his elder brother Edgar, 8 January 1122. Since his marriage to Sybilla of Normandy was childless, his heir presumptive was his sole surviving brother,

Heirs to David I[edit]

David I, previously ruler of Lothian and Cumbria, became King of all Scotland on the death of his elder brother Alexander I, 23 April 1124. His heir apparent was his eldest surviving son,

  • Henry, born in 1114. On the death of his mother, Maud, he succeeded as Earl of Huntingdon in England. He died on 12 June 1152, during the life of his father, and his place in the succession passed to the eldest of his three sons,
  • Malcolm, born on 20 March 1141. He was immediately confirmed as heir apparent to the Crown and sent on a tour of the Kingdom under the guardianship of the Earl of Fife.

David died on 24 May 1153 and was succeeded by his grandson.

Heir to Malcolm IV[edit]

Malcolm IV, known as "Malcolm the Maiden", was unmarried and had no children. His heir presumptive was his next brother

  • William, who succeeded as King on Malcolm's death, 9 December 1165.

Heirs to William I[edit]

William I was unmarried at the time of his accession, so the next heir was his younger brother,

  • David, who was made Earl of Huntingdon. He remained heir presumptive until the birth of his niece,
  • Margaret, born in 1193. She was the first child of King William by his wife Ermengarde de Beaumont, whom he had married on 5 September 1186. Another sister, Isabella, was born before the eventual arrival of a son,
  • Alexander, born on 24 August 1198, who was heir apparent from birth.

William I, known as "William the Lion" from the lion rampant he adopted as his coat of arms, died on 4 December 1214, and was succeeded by his son.

Heirs to Alexander II[edit]

Alexander II was only sixteen and unmarried at the time of his succession, and so the heiress presumptive was his elder sister,

Alexander II died on 8 July 1249 and was succeeded by his only legitimate child.

Heirs to Alexander III[edit]

Alexander III became King at the age of eight, and the heiress presumptive to the Kingdom was once again his aunt

  • Margaret, Countess of Kent. She was displaced in the succession by her namesake
  • Margaret, born to Alexander's queen Margaret of England on 28 February 1260. She was in turn displaced by the birth of her brother,
  • Alexander, Prince of Scotland, born on 21 January 1263. His death on 28 January 1283, and that of his younger brother David two years earlier, meant that his father's heiress was again his elder sister
  • Margaret, by now married to King Eirik II of Norway. She died on 9 April 1283 giving birth to a daughter,
  • Margaret, known as "the Maid of Norway", who became heiress presumptive. The King secured her recognition as such from the Estates of Scotland in 1284.

Alexander III, a widower since 1274, was now left with an infant girl as the only undisputed successor to his throne. In an attempt to beget a male heir, he married Yolande de Dreux on 14 October 1285, but died on 19 March 1286 of a fall from his horse. Queen Yolande declared herself pregnant with the King's heir, but it soon became apparent that this was not the case, and Alexander's three-year-old granddaughter Margaret was recognised as heir.

The Great Cause[edit]

Scotland was ruled by the six Guardians of Scotland on behalf of the child-heir Margaret. However, other powerful nobles claimed the throne, and in an attempt to avoid a civil war the Regents appealed to King Edward I of England for assistance. By the Treaty of Birgham, 1290, Margaret was placed under Edward's guardianship and betrothed to his eldest son, the Prince of Wales. Margaret set out from Norway for Scotland in the autumn of that year, but was taken ill on the voyage and died at Orkney on 26 September 1290, age seven. Scotland was left without an heir and with two claimants, so the Guardians of Scotland again appealed to Edward I to act as an arbitrator between the Competitors for the Crown of Scotland. The two strongest claimants were

Though Bruce invoked proximity of blood and claimed to have been made Tanist of the Kingdom by the then-childless Alexander III, Balliol was the genealogically senior heir, and Edward declared in his favour following an election at Berwick-upon-Tweed, 3 August 1291.

Heir to John[edit]

King John was crowned at Scone on St Andrew's Day 1292. His heir apparent was his son by Isabella de Warenne,

  • Edward. On 23 October 1295 Edward was betrothed to Joan of Valois, the niece of Philip IV of France, when his father concluded an alliance with the French against Edward I, who had taken full advantage of his influential role in determining the Scottish succession to have himself made Lord Paramount of Scotland and John's feudal superior. In the treaty Edward was described as "future King of Scotland" and confirmed as the heir apparent to the Crown.

In retaliation for this Treaty (the foundation of the Auld Alliance), Edward invaded Scotland, defeating the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar on 27 April 1296, and John was compelled to abdicate on 10 July 1296. He and his son were taken as prisoners to England, but he was still regarded by the Scots as rightful King of Scotland. William Wallace led an uprising in John's name, winning the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, but the rebellion was crushed after the Battle of Falkirk the following year. In 1299 John was released from captivity and went into retirement on his family estates in France, taking no further interest in the recovery of his kingdom. His heirs still exist.

Heirs to Robert I (The Bruce)[edit]

After the Battle of Falkirk, William Wallace relinquished the position of Guardian of Scotland in favour of Robert de Bruce, Earl of Carrick and John Comyn of Badenoch ("the Red Comyn"), John Balliol's brother-in-law. These men had strong claims to the throne of Scotland themselves: Bruce was grandson of the Robert Bruce who had been a Competitor for the Crown in 1290, and Comyn had actually been a Competitor himself, as the senior descendant of the 11th century King Donald Bane. On 10 February 1306, Bruce murdered Comyn at what was supposed to be a parley between the two rivals, and set about claiming the throne for himself, being crowned at Scone on 27 March. Over the next years he gradually reconquered Scotland from the English, culminating in the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. He was finally recognised by the English as King of independent Scotland by the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton, 1328. At the time he seized the throne, Robert I had no sons, and the succession was not set out until the Parliament held at Ayr, which, on 27 April 1315, made Robert's brother,

  • Edward the heir, followed by Robert's daughter
  • Marjorie. In 1315 she married Walter, High Steward of Scotland; she died the following year a few hours after giving birth to their son
  • Robert, born 2 March 1316. In 1318 the Parliament of Scotland confirmed that he would succeed as King if his grandfather King Robert I died without sons. However, six years later
  • David was born, on 5 March 1324. He was son of King Robert I by his second wife Elizabeth de Burgh, and was thus heir apparent from birth. In 1328 he was created Earl of Carrick, the title held by his father before his accession.

Robert I died on 7 June 1329, and was succeeded by his only surviving son (a second son, John, had died in infancy).

Heir to David II[edit]

David II was five years old when he became King. Though he married twice during his reign (firstly to Joan of the Tower and secondly to Margaret Drummond), he had no children, and so the heir presumptive for the duration of his reign was his older nephew

  • Robert, who had been designated heir in 1318. He had succeeded his father as High Steward of Scotland on 9 April 1326, and was created Earl of Atholl in 1342 and Earl of Strathearn in 1357. He was Regent of the Kingdom in the King's absence during the wars with England, but fell out with his uncle after he was accused of desertion at the Battle of Neville's Cross, at which David was captured. After David's release in 1357, the King made attempts to pay off some of his ransom by agreeing to bequeath the Kingdom either to Edward III of England or to Edward's son Lionel of Antwerp. This would disinherit Robert, and in protest the Steward rose in rebellion in 1363, but was imprisoned with his sons, being released only shortly before the King's death.

David II died on 22 February 1371, and was succeeded by his nephew Robert the Steward.

Heir to Robert II (The Steward)[edit]

Before he became King, Robert had married twice: firstly to Elizabeth Mure, by whom he had four sons and five daughters, and secondly to Euphemia, Countess of Moray, by whom he had a further two sons and two daughters. However, the children of the King's first wife had been born before the granting of the dispensation for the marriage, and were therefore of doubtful legitimacy, as the legal doctrine that children born out of wedlock are legitimated by their parents' subsequent marriage had not yet been fully established in Scotland. It was thus unclear whether the heir-apparent was Robert's eldest son by his first wife, John, or his eldest son by his second wife, David. On 27 March 1371, Parliament acknowledged John, as Robert's heir and subsequently on 4 April 1373 passed an Act specifically stating the order of succession to the throne, which was limited to the King's sons (named in the Act) and the heirs male of their bodies, failing which to the King's heirs whatsoever. The heir apparent was now indisputably

  • John Stewart, the King's eldest son by his first wife, who had been created Earl of Carrick in 1368. He was disabled by a kick from a horse in 1389, and his younger brother Robert took on many of the functions of the heir-apparent, including acting as Guardian of the Kingdom.

Despite his infirmity, John succeeded to the throne on Robert II's death, 19 April 1390, in accordance with the 1371 Act. He assumed the regnal name of Robert III to avoid associations with the House of Balliol.

Heirs to Robert III[edit]

At Robert III's accession, his heir apparent was his eldest son

  • David, who became Earl of Carrick the same day. He was further created Duke of Rothesay and Earl of Atholl on 28 April 1398, the first creation of a Dukedom in Scotland. When David came of age in 1399, he was made Lieutenant of the Kingdom for his disabled father. This led to conflict with his uncle Robert, now Duke of Albany, who had previously filled that office. David was arrested by Albany and died in prison 26 March 1402, when his younger brother
  • James became heir apparent and Duke of Rothesay. To protect him from the same fate as his elder brother, he was sent to France in 1406, but was captured en route by the English and taken prisoner.

Robert III died on 4 April 1406, allegedly of grief at his son's capture, and was succeeded as King by his only surviving son James (a second son, Robert, had died young).

Heirs to James I[edit]

The new eleven-year-old King had several sisters living, but under the 1371 Act of Parliament limiting the succession to males his heir presumptive was his uncle

  • Robert, Duke of Albany, who served as Regent. The Duke of Albany made no effort whatsoever to secure the King's release from his English captors, and ruled Scotland himself until his death on 3 September 1420, when he was succeeded by his son
  • Murdoch as Duke of Albany and Regent of the Kingdom. Under Murdoch's regency the ransom on the King was finally paid, and James I returned to Scotland in 1424. However, the Albany family still had considerable power, and in an effort to regain full control of his Kingdom, James I had Murdoch and his son Sir Alexander Stewart attainted and beheaded on 25 May 1425 (Murdoch's eldest surviving son Sir Walter had been beheaded the day before). Murdoch's youngest son Sir James Stewart of Baldorran (called James Mór, or "the Fat"), fled to Ireland where he died in 1451, but he was disqualified from the succession by his father's attainder. The next male of the Stewart family was Murdoch's half-brother Robert Stewart, youngest son of the first Duke of Albany and de jure Earl of Ross following the death of his elder brother John the year before. He was still living in 1431, but the nearest male heir not of the Albany family was
  • Walter Stewart, Earl of Atholl and Caithness, youngest son of King Robert II by his second wife and the last of James I's uncles. He was instrumental in James's return from England, and assisted in the trial of his Albany relatives. He was given a third Earldom (as Earl of Strathearn) on 22 July 1427, and remained as heir presumptive until the King fathered a son,
  • Alexander, Duke of Rothesay, on 16 October 1430. However the new heir died in infancy, leaving his twin brother
  • James as heir apparent and Duke of Rothesay.

King James I was assassinated on 21 February 1437 by a group of conspirators including his uncle and sometime ally the Earl of Atholl, whereupon his infant son became King as James II.

Heirs to James II[edit]

At the accession of James II the next male heir to the Crown was the late King's assassin

The only other unquestionably legitimate male member of the House of Stewart apart from the King was now Sir James "Mór" Stewart of Baldorran, son of the second Duke of Albany, who was in exile in Ireland. However, as he was under attainder, the next heir according to the 1373 Act of Parliament was the "heir whomsoever" (i.e. including females) of King Robert II. It was still uncertain at this time as to who this would be, as the 1373 Act, while determining which of the King's sons should succeed him, had not pronounced on the legitimacy of the King's elder children one way or the other. If the children of Robert II by his first wife were legitimated by their parents' subsequent marriage (as later legal doctrine would have it), then the heir presumptive in 1437 was the King's eldest sister

  • Margaret, who had married the King of France's son the Dauphin Louis on 24 June 1436. She died without children on 16 August 1444, leaving her sister
  • Isabella as next heir. She was the wife of the Duke of Brittany, by whom she had two daughters. However she was displaced in the succession after her brother was married on 3 July 1449 to Mary of Guelders, who bore him the first of eight children,
  • a son, on 19 May 1450 (he died the same day, but seven surviving children followed).

However, if the children of Elizabeth Mure were not legitimate, then the heir whomsoever of Robert II during the period 1437 to 1451 was

In the event this potential problem over the succession never arose, as Queen Mary gave birth to a son and heir apparent,

After fathering three more sons, King James II, an artillery enthusiast, was killed by an exploding cannon while besieging Roxburgh Castle, 3 October 1460, and was succeeded by his eldest son.

Heirs to James III[edit]

James III was nine years old at his accession, and his heir-presumptive was his next brother

  • Alexander, who had been created Duke of Albany. He was next in line to the throne for the next twelve years, until the King begat a son,
  • James, Duke of Rothesay, on 17 March 1473. After the death in 1485 of the Duke of Albany, who had previously laid claim to the crown with English help as "Alexander IV", the Duke of Rothesay became the figurehead for nobles dissatisfied with the King's misrule.

James III was killed in battle with the rebels at Sauchie Burn on 11 June 1488 and his son ascended the throne as James IV.

Heirs to James IV[edit]

At the accession of James IV his heir-presumptive was his next brother

James IV died the next year in battle at Flodden, 9 September 1513, and was succeeded as King by his only son (though another was born posthumously).

Heirs to James V[edit]

The new King's mother Margaret Tudor was still pregnant at his accession, so the unborn child was heir-presumptive. He was born on 30 April 1514 and given the name

  • Alexander and the title Duke of Ross. He only survived until 8 December 1515, so
  • the Duke of Albany again became heir-presumptive. He served intermittently as Regent for the young King, opposed by the Queen and her new husband the Earl of Angus, and later returned to France, where he died without issue on 2 July 1536.

The King was now the only surviving male member of the Royal Family, as had been the case from 1437 to 1451, and it was arguable who should be legally next in line under the 1373 Act as heir general of Robert II (see above).

The senior representative of Robert II's legitimate children by his second wife was

The senior representative of Robert II's legitimated children by his first wife was

King James V died only days later on 14 December 1542 and Mary succeeded as Queen of Scots under the Earl of Arran's regency. This was not disputed by the contemporary Earl of Menteith, the other potential claimant. However, when the third Earl's great-grandson William was confirmed as Earl of Strathearn and heir-of-line of Robert II's eldest unquestionably legitimate son David in 1631, he began to boast that he had a better claim to the throne than the then King, Charles I. He was swiftly removed from his offices and deprived of the Earldom of Strathearn in 1633, being given the inferior title of Earl of Airth.[1]

Heirs to Mary I (Queen Of Scots)[edit]

The new Queen was only a few days old when she succeeded her father. The heir-presumptive was her kinsman

  • the Earl of Arran, who was named Regent. He became a leader of the pro-French party, being instrumental in arranging the marriage of the Queen to the eldest son of King Henry II of France, the Dauphin Francis, and was rewarded by the French king with the title of Duc de Châtellherault in 1548. In 1554 he surrendered the regency to the Queen's mother, Mary of Guise, in return for confirmation of his status as heir-presumptive. He later joined the Protestant faction, and tried to marry the widowed Queen to his son James, but retired to his estates in 1565 after Mary married her first cousin Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. The couple's first child,
  • James, Duke of Rothesay, was born on 19 June 1566 and was heir-apparent from that date.

After Mary's third marriage to the Earl of Bothwell, the Lords of Scotland rose in rebellion against her, and on 24 July 1567 she was forced to abdicate in favour of her son, who became James VI.

Heirs to James VI[edit]

James VI was only one year old when he became King, and so the next heir at this time was once again

King James VI and I died on 27 March 1625 and was succeeded as King by his son Charles.

Heirs to Charles I[edit]

Charles I was unmarried at his accession, so his elder sister

After being captured by the Parliamentarians, escaping and being re-captured, King Charles I was tried for high treason, and beheaded on 30 January 1649.

Heir to Charles II[edit]

Although prevented from succeeding in England, Charles II was proclaimed King in Scotland on 5 February 1649, although a promise was extracted from him to adhere to the terms of what became the Treaty of Breda. Despite disputes between the Royalists and the Covenanters, Charles was crowned on 1 January 1651. However, his forces were defeated in England at the Battle of Worcester and by the end of the year the King had fled to exile in France. Scotland ceased to be an independent nation and became part of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland under Oliver Cromwell on 16 December 1653. The deposition of Cromwell's son Richard in 1659 paved the way for the King's return, and Charles returned to the British Isles on 25 May 1660. Throughout the exile and reign of Charles II the heir-presumptive was his brother

Charles II died on 6 February 1685, leaving many illegitimate children but no legitimate ones. He was accordingly succeeded by his brother, who became James VII (II of England).

Heirs to James VII[edit]

At the time of James's accession he had no heir-apparent; of the three sons born to his late wife Anne Hyde and the one born to second wife, Mary of Modena, only one had survived past the age of three. The heiress-presumptive to the throne was therefore the King's eldest daughter

The King's Roman Catholic faith and policy of religious tolerance towards Catholics, particularly the Declaration of Indulgence, alarmed the Anglican hierarchy in his realm of England. James's imprisonment of seven Bishops who protested at his policy, and then the birth of a Catholic male heir, which raised the prospect of a Catholic dynasty on the throne, led a group of English noblemen to invite the King's Protestant nephew and son-in-law, William of Orange, to invade. This became known as the Glorious Revolution, and resulted in James's flight to France in December 1688. The English Parliament declared the throne vacant and offered it to William and his wife Mary. All these events in England had no bearing on the constitutional situation in Scotland, and it was only on 11 April 1689, the day of William and Mary's coronation in England, that the Estates of Scotland declared that James VII was no longer King, and offered the Crown jointly to the King and Queen of England. They accepted on 11 May, becoming William II and Mary II of Scots.

Heirs to William II and Mary II[edit]

Since an illness in 1679, the new Queen had been barren, so she and her husband had no children to carry on the line. The Claim of Right Act was passed in April 1689, establishing the constitutional basis for the accession of William and Mary, and that they would reign jointly, and then that the survivor would reign alone.

Queen Mary died on 28 December 1694, and King William became sole monarch of Scotland.

Heir to William II[edit]

The Claim of Right Act had determined that after the death of both William and Mary, and failing any issue born to both of them (any children born to William by a subsequent wife were placed further down the list), the Crown would next pass to Mary's sister

William II died on 8 March 1702, and was succeeded by his sister-in-law.

Heirs to Anne[edit]

At the time of her accession, Queen Anne was the last living descendant of Charles I who was a Protestant; her only child to survive past infancy, the Duke of Gloucester, had died in 1700. The succession aspect of the Claim of Right Act which had ensured her succession (and that of the Bill of Rights by which she succeeded in England) would therefore lapse on her death. The English Parliament had already found a solution to this by passing the Act of Settlement, which named Sophia, Electress of Hanover, the next-senior Protestant descendant of James I (VI of Scotland), as heiress after Anne. The Estates of Scotland had made no such provision, so there was no heir to the Scottish throne. In 1703 the Estates passed a Bill reserving to themselves the right to choose the monarch from among the Protestant descendants of the Kings of Scots in the event of Anne's death without issue, but stating that this would not be the same person as succeeded to the English throne unless the independence of Scotland as a separate Kingdom could be assured. Royal Assent to the Bill was initially withheld, but after the Scots threatened to withdraw their troops presently engaged in the War of the Spanish Succession it was passed in 1704, becoming known as the Act of Security. The Parliament of England then passed the Alien Act 1705, which stopped all Scottish exports to England and English colonies, and enacted that Scots would be treated as foreigners in England, with severe consequences for the inheritance of Scottish-owned property in England. The Alien Act also said that these measures would not be enacted if the Act of Security was repealed or if Scotland entered into parliamentary union with England. The latter eventually took place with the passage of the Act of Union, and Scotland became part of the Kingdom of Great Britain on 1 May 1707.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ For his heirs see Descendants of Sarah Ann Allardice