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Early Rulers Of Scotland

Little is known of the early rulers of Scotland. The Britons in the south formed only one of four separate groups. The others were the Picts, who occupied the north and east; the Scots, a Celtic people from Ireland who occupied Argyll and the Western Isles; and the Angles, a Germanic people who competed with the Britons for control of the south.

Until the 800's, the Angles, Britons, Picts, and Scots often raided each other for silver and cattle. After about 740, Pictish kings often dominated the country. But in 843, Kenneth MacAlpine, a king of the Scots, united his realm with that of the Picts.

Violent rivalries marked the early history of the Scottish kings, but their authority expanded. Kenneth II, who reigned from 971 to 995, received from Edgar, king of Wessex, all the English lands between the Rivers Tweed and Forth. This was the region called Lothian, the northern part of Northumbria.

In the early 1000's, Malcolm II emerged as the first ruler of Scotland roughly as we know it today. Malcolm succeeded as king in 1005. By about 1018, he had won control of Lothian and had his lordship recognized in Strathclyde. But Orkney, Shetland, and the Western Isles, all of which had long since been conquered by the Vikings for Norway, lay outside his kingdom.

About 1034, Malcolm's grandson, Duncan I, succeeded to the throne. Duncan was a weak king. In 1040, one of Duncan's generals, Macbeth, defeated and killed him in battle. Macbeth seized the throne and proved a strong ruler. In 1054, Duncan's son, Malcolm, and Siward, Earl of Northumbria, defeated Macbeth at Dunsinane. But Macbeth clung to the kingship until 1057. His stepson Lulach succeeded him but reigned for only a short time. Eventually, Malcolm took back his father's throne.
Malcolm III, known as Malcolm Canmore (Big Head), became king in 1058. He was the strongest of Scotland's early rulers and founded a dynasty that lasted nearly 250 years. Under Malcolm, Scotland accepted English influences. Malcolm's queen, Margaret, an English princess, helped to further religious life in Scotland, and after her death, she was canonized a saint.

Rulers of Scotland, 1093-1371

After Malcolm III died in 1093, his brother Donald Bane seized the throne. In 1094, Malcolm's son, Duncan II, drove out Donald Bane but was killed soon afterward. Donald Bane again assumed the kingship but in 1097, Edgar, another son of Malcolm, defeated and captured him in battle. Edgar reigned until 1107. He accepted William II of England as his overlord.

Peaceful and friendly relations continued during the reign of Edgar's brothers, Alexander I and David I. David, who reigned from 1124 to 1153, built up the independence of the Scottish church and state. He firmly established Norman feudal tenure in Scotland. David also made territorial gains for Scotland in Northumbria and Cumbria, in England.

But David's successors, his grandsons, lost much of what he had won. Malcolm IV, who was 11 years old when he became king in 1153, was forced by Henry II to return Scotland's English territories. Malcolm's brother, William, who succeeded him in 1165, tried to regain the territories but was captured and forced to acknowledge Henry as his overlord. William was known as "the Lion" because of the emblem on his shield. His reign of 49 years--from 1165 to 1214--was the longest in Scottish history. William's son, Alexander II, and grandson, Alexander III, had peaceful and fairly prosperous reigns. In 1217, Alexander II married Joan, sister of Henry III of England. Alexander III won the Western Isles from Norway in 1263.

When Alexander III died in 1286, only his 3-year-old granddaughter, Margaret, survived to continue the royal line of Malcolm Canmore. Margaret was called "the Maid of Norway" because her mother, Alexander III's daughter, had been queen of Norway. Regents ruled on her behalf for four years. Margaret died in 1290, and her death plunged Scotland into a dynastic crisis. Thirteen people claimed the throne, including John Balliol and Robert Bruce, Lord of Annandale. Both men were great-great-grandsons of David I. The council in charge of Scotland's government asked Edward I of England to judge the case of each claimant. Edward chose John Balliol.

Edward used Balliol as a puppet to control Scotland and insulted Balliol by insisting on certain petty feudal rights. In time, Balliol and the Scots rebelled. Edward captured Balliol at the Battle of Dunbar. But he also had to put down a revolt led by Sir William Wallace, a Scottish knight. Edward regained control in 1304.

The Scots soon found a fresh leader, Robert Bruce, grandson of Balliol's chief rival for the throne. Bruce was gallant, genial, and a tireless fighter. He rallied his people against the English, and he had himself crowned king of Scotland as Robert I in 1306. Bruce recaptured castles in Scotland and raided northern England. In 1314, Edward II, the son of Edward I, attacked Bruce. Bruce defeated him at the Battle of Bannockburn. By the Peace of Northampton (1328), the English recognized Scotland's independence. They agreed that Bruce's son, David, should marry Johanna, sister of Edward III of England.

After the death of Robert Bruce in 1329, Edward III joined with Edward Balliol, son of John Balliol, in defeating David Bruce's guardians. But in the 1340's, David II drove the English out of Scotland and regained his throne. In 1346, he unwisely invaded England, and was defeated and captured. Edward released him 11 years later for a large ransom. David was an unpopular king. He was brave but foolish. He died childless in 1371.

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