Robert III (DNB00)

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ROBERT III (1340?–1406), king of Scotland, originally known as John, Earl of Carrick, and eldest son of Robert II [q. v.], succeeded to the throne on his father's death, and was crowned at Scone, under the name of Robert III, on 13 Aug. 1390. The change of christian name was made to avoid that of Baliol, and to continue that of Robert the Bruce, his maternal grandfather, and of Robert II, his father. He was born probably about 1340, prior to the marriage of Robert II with his first wife, Elizabeth More or Mure, and was legitimated by their subsequent marriage, for which a dispensation was procured from the pope in 1347. His original title was Lord of Kyle, the district of Ayrshire where a portion of the estates of the Bruces lay. He was created Earl of Atholl by David II in 1367, and next year Earl of Carrick, the title by which he was known during his father's life. In 1356, during the reign of David II, he is said to have taken part in suppressing a rising in Annandale, and in the latter part of his father's reign, owing to the age and indolence of Robert II [q. v.], he appears to have been active in public affairs, and to have conducted negotiations with John of Gaunt.

An accident by the kick of a horse belonging to Sir James Douglas of Dalkeith disabled him from bodily exertion prior to his father's death, and partly accounts for his brother, the Earl of Fife, becoming regent in 1389 [see Stewart, Robert, first Duke of Albany]. On the day after his own coronation, the feast of the Assumption (1390), his wife, Annabella Drummond [q. v.], was crowned queen, and homage was sworn to them both on the following day. She had already borne a son, David, the ill-fated Duke of Rothesay, on 24 Oct. 1378, twenty-one years after their marriage, if it is correctly, as it is usually, dated in 1357. Robert himself, though fifty years of age on his accession, never personally governed, so that the events of his reign scarcely belong to his biography. The acts of parliament and other official documents run in his name, but the real power was exercised by his brother, the Earl of Fife, who continued regent probably till January 1399, when the regency was assumed by the king's son, David, earl of Carrick (afterwards Duke of Rothesay).

In 1391 the treaty of 1371 between France and Scotland was renewed at Amiens by Charles VI and Walter Trail, bishop of St. Andrews, along with other Scots ambassadors. The truce with England was frequently renewed and continued to 1399. The English envoys in 1391 received instructions that Robert should attend an English parliament to do homage, and should pay 2,000l. a year for the lands which Edward III had granted to Edward Baliol. But these insulting conditions were probably never brought forward by the envoys. They were certainly not accepted by Scotland. The truce with England enabled the Scottish government to direct its attention to the lawless proceedings in the north of the Earl of Buchan, known as the Wolf of Badenoch [see Stewart, Alexander], the half-brother of King Robert.

In 1396 the famous conflict on the North Inch of Perth between thirty men of the Clan Quele and an equal number of the Clan Kay took place in presence of Robert III, and ended in the victory of the former, who kept the field with eleven survivors, while only one of the latter escaped by swimming the Tay (cf. Scott, Fair Maid of Perth).

Frequent parliaments or general councils were held from the commencement of Robert's reign—at Scone in March 1391, at Perth in March 1392 and October 1393, at Scone again in March 1394, at Edinburgh in August of that year, and at Stirling in October 1395. At all of these Robert appears to have been present, but the records are not preserved, and we know of their existence only by charters or orders in his name, which is not quite certain evidence of the fact of his presence. From other sources we know that his favourite residence was in the west, at Rothesay or in Ayrshire, where, like his father, he escaped the toils of government and lived on his own estates. In April 1398 he was certainly present at an important general council at Perth, where he created his son David, earl of Carrick, Duke of Rothesay, and his brother Robert, earl of Fife, duke of Albany, and invested them at Scone with the insignia of the ducal dignity, hitherto unknown in Scotland. Not he, but his wife, corresponded in 1394 with Richard II as to the marriage of their eldest son to an English princess. At a great tournament in Edinburgh the queen, and not the king, presided. In the parliament of Perth, which sat on 28 Jan. 1399, Rothesay was created lieutenant of the kingdom for three years by an act which proceeded on the preamble ‘that the king for sickness of his person may not travel to govern the realm nor restrain trespassers or rebellours’ [see Stewart, David, Duke of Rothesay]. The scheme, though well meant, had left out of account the difference between the character of the king's brother Albany, a mature and astute man, and Rothesay, a rash and reckless youth. It cannot be wondered that it miscarried. The revolution of England, by which Henry IV supplanted and murdered Richard II, for a short time delayed the miscarriage by forcing the attention of all parties in Scotland on the national defence. The Scots having refused to recognise Henry IV's title to the English crown, Henry determined to invade Scotland, and at Newcastle on 25 July 1400 issued a summons to King Robert to appear at Edinburgh on 23 Aug. and do homage to him as suzerain. The summons having been treated with contempt, Henry advanced to Edinburgh, burnt the town, and laid siege to the castle, which was defended by Rothesay. Albany levied a large army, but, halting at Calder Moor, did nothing. The skill of Rothesay's defence forced Henry to raise the siege. Meantime the matrimonial and extra-matrimonial engagements of Rothesay led to results disastrous both to himself and the peace of Scotland [see Stewart, David]. Rothesay, who led a dissolute life, betrothed himself to a daughter of George, earl of March, but finally married Elizabeth Douglas, daughter of Archibald the Grim, third earl of Douglas [q. v.] March went over to the English side, indignant at his daughter's repudiation. At the end of 1400 the queen died. Her death was soon followed by those of Archibald the Grim and Trail, bishop of St. Andrews. Rothesay attempted to seize the castle of St. Andrews, vacant by the death of Bishop Trail. Albany procured an order to arrest his nephew Rothesay in Robert his father's name, and he was taken to Falkland, where he mysteriously died on 26 March 1402. Albany at once resumed the regency. The defeat of the Scots in their attempts to invade England added national disaster to the domestic tragedy which clouded the last years of King Robert. There were also troubles in the north. Robert, now old as well as infirm, or the nobles acting in his interest, sent James, his remaining son, by sea to France; but he was taken by an English armed merchant cruiser and lodged in the Tower [see JAMES I of Scotland]. On 4 April 1406, shortly after the receipt of the news of his son's capture, Robert III died at Rothesay, or, according to one account, at Dundonald, probably a confusion with his father's death there. He had told his wife, when she urged him to follow the example of his ancestors and the custom of the age by preparing a royal tomb for himself, that ‘he was a wretched man unworthy of a proud sepulchre,’ and ‘prayed her to bury him in a dunghill with the epitaph, “Here lies the worst king and the most miserable man in the whole kingdom.”’ This is his only recorded speech, and is not inconsistent with his character. His wish as to his burial was not obeyed, and he was interred before the high altar at Paisley, where a monument has recently been erected to his memory by Queen Victoria. His life after, and for some time before, he ascended the throne must have been a melancholy one. He had sufficient sense to feel his own impotence, to see his country more exposed than it was at his accession to English invasions, his only son a captive in England, and the succession to the crown almost in the grasp of his ambitious brother. History has pronounced the verdict perhaps too favourable, that he was a good man though not a good king. His private life appears to have been without reproach, and he is one of the few Scottish kings who kept their marriage vows. Besides Rothesay and James I, he had a third son, who died young, and three daughters. The eldest daughter, Margaret, married Archibald, fourth earl of Douglas, and Duke of Touraine [q. v.] The second daughter, Mary, the wife first of George Douglas, first earl of Angus; secondly, Sir James Kennedy of Dunure, by whom she had Gilbert, first lord Kennedy, the father of David, first earl of Cassilis, and Bishop James Kennedy [q. v.]; thirdly, Sir William Graham of Kincardine, an ancestor of the Duke of Montrose through their eldest son, Robert Graham; and, fourthly, Sir William Edmondstone of Duntreath; her second son by her third marriage was Patrick Graham [q. v.], bishop of St. Andrews. The third daughter, Elizabeth, married James Douglas, earl Dalkeith, grandfather of the first earl of Morton.

[The authorities for Robert II, and in addition Exchequer Rolls, vols. iii. and iv., Professor Skeat's Preface to the Kingis Quair (Scottish Text Society).]

Æ. M.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.234
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

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348 ii 22 Robert III: for duke of Fife, Earl read earl of Fife, duke