latest history series has been shown through December on Monday evenings (BBC1 Scotland) and twenty-four hours later on BBC4.
The first part, of three, showed how the power vacuum caused by the sudden deaths of Alexander III and his granddaughter was resolved through the clan system and John Balliol’s abdication so that alliances were formed behind the remaining claimants Robert Bruce and John “Red” Comyn, culminating in a brawl in the Dumfries Greyfriars, during which Comyn was fatally stabbed. Robert I’s reign, including his strategic triumph as he unexpectedly arranged a pitched battle at Bannockburn is also explored.
The second part explores how, after the reign of David II, Robert I’s son, Clan Stewart evolved from a branch of the (Norman) Fitzalans, who are now Dukes of Norfolk through their Howard marriage, to supply every Scottish monarch from 1371 and every English monarch from 1603, now through the Bohemian marriage of James VI and I’s daughter. The reigns of the first three Stewarts were narrated, the weaknesses of Robert II and Robert III, the absence and the authoritarian – Lancastrian? – royal style of James I together with the conflict between Robert III‘s sons were used to show how James’ assassination and the ensuing executions, organised by his widow Joan “Beaufort”, resolved this before the end of 1437. Gradually, from James I’s time, the Stewarts succeeded in gaining power from the MacDonalds, who held the Lordship of the Isles.
Finally, we focus on Mary, simultaneously the last Stewart and the first Stuart, through her marriage to Henry, Lord Darnley (of the Lennox Stuarts), and his mysterious death at Kirk o’Fields, up to her dethronement and exile. The clan chieftains played a significant part in her initial downfall, as they plotted to reverse Knox’s organic Reformation that had taken place during her absence. At this time, her half-brother the Earl of Moray allied himself to the Earl of Morton, the leading Douglas. Then, after marrying the (Hepburn) Earl of Bothwell, Mary fled south – and her life ended at Fotheringhay where Richard III’s had begun.
As usual, this evocative series features realistic dramatisations in which Oliver appears almost as a witness in some scenes. The detail exceeds that of his A History of Scotland and, as usual, nobody featured in the episodes is beyond reproach.
Edward of Caernarvon, who was born in 1284, was king of England for nearly twenty years from 1307 as Edward II. What of his childhood?
In about October 1289, he was contracted to Margaret, known as the Maid of Norway and Queen of Scotland since 1286 when her grandfather Alexander III died. She was a year older than Edward and then travelled towards her own realm but died of seasickness in the Orkneys during September 1290 and was buried in Bergen. Negotiations took place under the Treaty of Salisbury, signed by Edward I, Robert Bruce and some other Guardians of the Realm for Scotland. A dispensation was issued by Nicholas IV, because Margaret’s grandmother was Henry III’s daughter, Henry also being Prince Edward’s grandfather.
Let us examine some of the circumstances:
i) Edward and Margaret were both under fourteen, but so were Richard of Shrewsbury and Anne Mowbray, Duchess of Norfolk and “The Princess in the Police Station”, when they married. She also died under that age of majority. Such a marriage was valid, however, although it could not yet be consummated.
ii) Edward and Margaret never actually met, but Mary I and Phillip II married by proxy before he moved to England.
iii) As late as the sixteenth century in England or Scotland, a male consort was styled as “King”. Phillip II was such, as was Henry Lord Darnley, as the contemporary coinage attests. After this, William III was a joint monarch, as James VII/II’s nephew, but George of Denmark was not.
So, if the Treaty of Salisbury included an actual contract of marriage, Edward of Caernarvon had already been King of Scotland for a year before he succeeded his father in England. Between summer 1284 and 1300, he was Edward I’s only surviving legitimate son, so the treaty would have united the two kingdoms three centuries earlier than actually happened.
This post explains a little more about the Maid, among others, emphasising that Alexander saw Edward as a future grandson-in-law almost from birth.