Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 48.djvu/352

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
There was a problem when proofreading this page.

the Steward and his sons, and the exchequer rolls appear to prove that the Steward had been incarcerated only between June 1368 and 1369. On 22 Feb. 1371 David died in Edinburgh Castle.

Robert the Steward succeeded to the throne under the settlement of Robert the Bruce, and was crowned at Scone on 26 March 1371 under the title of Robert II. He was past his prime, having already reached his fifty-fifth year, and his children were already grown up. His precocious youth was the most brilliant portion of his life. His reign, though it lasted nineteen years, is of secondary importance, except as an epoch in Scottish history, through the commencement of a new race of kings which, notwithstanding its chequered fortunes, held the crown for more than three centuries.

In the parliament of 1372 provision was made for the election of the committee of lords of the articles out of the three estates, following the precedent set in the fortieth year of David II. This committee, which became so notable a feature of the Scottish parliament at a later period, ultimately fell under the influence of the king; but its inception appears to have been due to an opposite cause—the desire of the nobles to control the royal power. Next year parliament passed a statute as to the succession, by which it was declared that the king's five sons were to succeed according to the order of birth, in the event of failure of heirs of those elder to them. There had been comparative peace between England and Scotland till the succession of Richard II in 1377. Border raids, the capture of Mercer, a Scottish merchant captain, and the seizure of Berwick by a small band of independent Scots in the end of 1378, led to the renewal of hostilities. Robert himself, however, took no part in the war, which was conducted by the Earls of Douglas, Moray, and Mar. In 1380 John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, advanced to the border with a large force, but with full power to make peace, and a truce for a year was concluded. Next year he came to Scotland, and carried on further negotiations with the Earl of Carrick near Ayton in Berwickshire. It is significant that the whole negotiations with John of Gaunt were carried through by the Earl of Carrick, whose father, the king, is never once mentioned. The murder in 1381 of the king's son-in-law, Lyon of Glamis, by his nephew, Sir James Lindsay of Crawford, opened the great office of chamberlain, which Lyon held, to the king's second son Robert, earl of Fife, and was the first step in his ambitious career. In 1385 the truce with England expired, and war was renewed on both sides, Lancaster sailing up the Forth as far as Edinburgh, but effecting nothing of importance, while the Earls of Northumberland and Nottingham crossed the border. The Earls of Mar and Douglas, along with some French knights, retaliated in the north of England. ‘Of this journey,’ says Froissart, ‘the kynge of Scottes might ryght well excuse hymselfe, for of their assemble nor of their departyng he knew nothing, and though he had known thereof he coulde not have let it when they were once onward.’ In the parliament which met in Edinburgh in spring 1385 the Earl of Carrick was directed to carry out the restoration of order in the highlands committed to him by the parliament of 1384. All the facts point to the bodily and perhaps mental decline of Robert II. When Vienne, the admiral of France, came with a force of two thousand men and 1,400 suits of armour for the Scots, to enable them to prosecute with vigour the war with England, Robert did not at first meet him; and when he came at last to Edinburgh the French observation of him, as reported by Froissart, was: ‘It seemed right well that he was not a valiant man in arms; it seemed he had rather lie still than ride.’ But many of the Scottish nobles, as well as French allies, were eager to fight, and a levy was fixed on which amounted to thirty thousand men. Robert, perhaps really averse to war, as well as physically incapable for it, retired to the highlands, ‘because he was not,’ says Froissart, ‘in good point to ride in warfare, and there he tarried all the war through, and let his men alone.’

Neither in this expedition, nor in the defence of his kingdom when Richard II invaded it and burnt Edinburgh, nor in Sir William Douglas's brilliant diversion by a descent on Ireland, nor in the still greater expedition of 1388, in which the victory of Otterbourne and the capture of Hotspur were dearly bought with the death of Douglas, did the aged monarch take any part; and it is improbable that it was owing to any influence he personally exerted that shortly before his death Scotland was included in the truce made at Boulogne between France and England. At last, in 1389, the estates saw that the nominal government of Robert must be ended, and his eldest son, the Earl of Carrick, being disabled by a kick from a horse, his next surviving son, Robert, duke of Albany, was named guardian of the kingdom. Albany's son Murdoch was soon afterwards made justiciar north of the Forth in place of his uncle, Alexander, the Wolf of Badenoch, who was deposed from the office. Robert did not long survive his deposition. He