Scottish Monarchs

Dates are in some cases slightly contentious

Kenneth I c.843-58 (mac Alpin)

Regarded as first King of Scotland, indeed the man who created the nation, since he inherited the title King of Scots from his father in 841 and then became King of the Picts, though we do not know how he achieved this. We do know that from about 843 he was accepted in Pictland. He invaded Lothian several times and moved the centre of religion in Scotland from Iona to Dunkeld.

Donald I 858-62

Brother of Kenneth I, succeeded him as King of Alba.

Constantine I 862-77

Son of Kenneth I. Killed fighting the Norsemen.

Aed 877-78

(or Aodh, ‘Hugh’). Another son of Kenneth I.

Giric & Eochaid 878-89

Giric (or Grig) was a son of Donald I and, intriguingly, was known as ‘Liberator of the Scottish Church’. There is now no source which might shed light on why he should be referred to thus. Additionally, Scottish myth has styled him as a Scottish ‘Gregory the Great’ for now forgotten reasons. He was king probably in rivalry with Eochaid. Eochaid was a grandson of Kenneth I and thought to be king of part of Alba in Giric’s time.

Donald II 889-900

Constantine I’s son. Not much is known about him though he did score a victory over the Norsemen. He died at Forres.

Constantine II 900-43

Son of Aedh. He invaded Northumbria, provoking retaliation and resulting in defeat at the battle of Brunanburgh in 937 by Athelstan, King of England. He abdicated to become a monk at St.Andrews.

Malcolm I 943-54

Son of Donald II. Killed by men of Moray in battle. Moray was an ancient Pictish province which had a reputation for rebellion until the days of William I.

Indulf 954-62

Constantine II’s son. Edinburgh was added to the kingdom of Alba during his reign. Killed by Norsemen who had possibly been driven from York after its fall in 954.

Dubh 962-66

‘The Black’. Alternatively styled Duff. Killed in 966 when Culen challenged him for the second time.

Culen 966-71

‘The Whelp’. Killed his predecessor. He and his brother were killed by Rhiderich, King of Strathclyde after they had abducted the King’s daughter.

Kenneth II 971-95

Brother of Dubh (or Duff). Paid homage to Edgar of England, receiving the province of Lothian. Said to have been betrayed by a woman and murdered in Kincardine Castle.

Constantine III 995-97

Killed Kenneth II but was King of Alba for only a short time until killed in his turn by Kenneth III.

Kenneth III or Giric c.997-1005

At this period in Scottish history there are two rival accounts of the royal descent. One has Kenneth III, grandson of Malcom I, son of Dubh. If so it is possible that he killed Constantine III since some records state that a Kenneth, son (sic) of Malcolm did so. These records, though, have Giric, Kenneth’s son as Constantine’s successor. Another tradition, supported by the Annals of Ulster which show Kenneth dying as king in 1005, omits Giric. It is also possible that they ruled jointly. Whoever was king it is known that his successor was Malcolm II who, as was the fashion, murdered his predecessor.

Malcolm II 1005-34

Born: c.954 Died: 1034 Son of Kenneth II. For the ten years after his father’s murder he fought to gain supremacy over rivals which he succeeded in doing by 1005. The English king being preoccupied by raids by Danes, in 1006 Malcolm ravaged Northumberland and besieged Durham for St.Cuthbert’s treasure but was defeated by Earl Uhtred of Bamburgh. Around 1018 his victory at the Battle of Carham secured Lothian for Scotland, permanently.

Duncan I 1034-40

Born: c.1010 Died: 1040 Grandson of Malcolm II. At some stage he had inherited the kingship of Strathclyde and was the last monarch to be called ‘King of Strathclyde’. This kingship was probably subject to the king of Scotia from the early tenth century. He attacked Durham in 1039 on a looting expedition but was beaten off with heavy losses. Two rivals for the throne were Thorfinn and Macbeth. After being defeated twice by Thorfinn he was defeated and killed by Macbeth who succeeded to the throne.

Macbeth 1040-57

Born: c.1005 Died: 1057 One of the rebellious men of Moray. He was a very different character from that invented by Shakespeare in the ‘Scottish Play’. He was religious and contributed generously to the Culdees of Lochleven. He also made a pilgrimage to Rome in 1050 when he is quoted as having scattered ‘money like seed’. He dealt with a rival, Crinan, in 1045. In 1054 the English mounted an expedition, not for the first time, against him. After a hard struggle he was driven probably from at least Lothian and Strathclyde and the English set up Malcolm III, son of Duncan I as king. Nevertheless, it was not until 1057 that Macbeth was finally defeated and killed at Lumphanan.

Lulach 1057-58

Macbeth’s stepson. Recognized by some as King. Known as ‘The Simple’. Defeated and killed by Malcolm III at Essie in Strathbogie.

Malcolm III 1058-93

Born: c.1031 Died: 1093 Malcolm ‘Canmore’, that is ‘great chief’. Son of Duncan I. Exiled in England when Macbeth was king, he returned with English support and finally defeated Macbeth then his successor, Lulach. He showed his gratitude to the English by invading England several times. At times he allied himself with English rebels against William the Conqueror.

Donald III 1093-94

Born: c.1031 Died: 1100 “Donald Bane”. Younger son of Duncan I and brother of Malcolm III. While his brother avoided Macbeth in England he did the same in the western isles. Succeeded Malcolm III then deposed by Duncan II whom he defeated quickly. Deposed and imprisoned by Edgar in 1097.

Duncan II 1094

Born: c.1060 Died: 1094 Malcolm (III) Canmore’s eldest son. Hostage to the English (William the Conqueror) in 1072. In 1094 William II of England helped him to gain the Scottish throne but he only lasted six months. His uncle, Donald III, killed him and regained the throne.

Donald III (restored) 1094-97

“Donald Bane”. Younger son of Duncan I and brother of Malcolm III. While his brother avoided Macbeth in England he did the same in the western isles. Succeeded Malcolm III then deposed by Duncan II whom he defeated quickly. Deposed by Edgar.

Edgar 1097-1107

Born: c.1074 Died: 1107 Fourth son of Malcolm III and his second wife, Margaret of England. Supported Duncan II then successfully elicited English support for his own claim when Duncan was killed.

Alexander I 1107-24

Born: c.1077 Died: 1124 Fifth son of Malcolm Canmore and Margaret of England. Unsuccessfully resisted attempts to have his predecessor, Edgar’s, bequest to have some of the kingdom given to his youngest brother David honoured. He married an illegitimate daughter of Henry I of England and, in 1114, served in Henry’s expedition against the Welsh. He did not recognize the English Church’s authority over the Scottish Church, however.

David I 1124-53

Born: c.1084 Died: 1153 Youngest son of Malcolm Canmore and Margaret of England. Spent his youth in England. On his accession he reorganized the kingdom on Norman lines. He also founded many religious houses. He supported his neice, Matilda, in England against Stephen. This resulted in his heavy defeat at the battle of the Standard in 1138.

Malcolm IV 1153-65

Born: 1141 Died: 1165 Son of Earl Henry, who was the son of David I. His rule was marked by internal troubles, notably in Moray and the Hebrides. Surrendered northern English counties to Henry II of England in 1157. Died unmarried.

William I 1165-1214

Born: 1143 Died: 1214 Second son of Earl Henry who was the son of David I. Known as ‘William the Lion’. Captured on an invasion of England in 1174. Suppressed rebellions in Galloway and Ross. His three daughters married English barons. His only son, Alexander II, succeeded him.

Alexander II 1214-49

Born: 1198 Died: 1249 Son of William I. Had to put down disorder in Argyll, Caithness, Galloway and, no surprise, Moray. In 1237 he gave up claims to three areas of northern England in exchange for estates in England. Moved against Norse rule in the western isles. Succeeded by his only son.

Alexander III 1249-86

Born: 1241 Died: 1286 Only son of Alexander II. Came into conflict with King Haakon of Norway who attempted to re-establish Norse rule in the west. The Scots defeated the Norsemen at the Battle of Largs in 1263 and Haakon retreated to Kirkwall. At the Treaty of Perth in 1266 Haakon’s successor, Magnus IV, ceded the Hebrides and Isle of Man to Scotland. Killed in an accident near Kinghorn in Fife.

Margaret 1286-90

Born: c.1283 Died: 1290 The so-called “Maid of Norway”. She was the daughter of King Erik of Norway and Margaret, the daughter of Alexander III. Officially her grandfather’s heir from 1284, she succeeeded him on his death in 1286. She died on her way to Scotland, her marriage to Prince Edward of England arranged, in 1290.


John 1292-96

Born: c.1250 Died: 1313 John Balliol, the family originated from Bailleul in Normandy. They came to Scotland in the reign of David I. John was selected by Edward I of England from among the thirteen ‘competitors’ or claimants for the Scottish throne in 1292. By 1296 he had found the courage to resist Edward’s authority but was defeated at the Battle of Dunbar. He gave up the kingship and was ridiculed in Scotland as ‘Toom Tabard’ (empty coat) thereafter. First imprisoned in England, he was subsequently permitted to retire to his estates in France.


Robert I 1306-29

Born: 1274 (probably at Turnberry) Died: 1329 The famous “Robert The Bruce”. Grandson of one of the ‘competitors’ (Robert Bruce) and son of the Earl of Carrick. When Balliol resisted the English he was on the English side. Joined William Wallace’s rebellion but submitted to Edward I of England in 1302. In 1306 he murdered John Comyn who had supported the Balliol faction against the English. After that he had himself crowned king of Scotland at Scone. After some military setbacks he defeated the English and later overcame the opposition of the Pope. In 1328 England acknowledged the independence of Scotland. A treaty was signed in Edinburgh and ratified at Northhampton in the same year.

David II 1329-71

Born: 1324 Died: 1371 Son of ‘Robert The Bruce’. As a young child he was married to the sister of Edward III of England. Edward Balliol and his supporters threatening, he and his queen were sent to France in 1334. He returned in 1341, aged 17, invaded England in 1346 but was defeated at the Battle of Neville’s Cross. He was captured and was imprisoned for eleven years before a ransom of 100,000 merks was paid by the Scots. After his release he aimed at a peaceful union with England. He died childless in 1371.

Robert II 1371-90

Born: 1316 Died: 1390 His father was Walter, the 6th High Steward of Scotland and his mother was Marjory, daughter of Robert The Bruce (Robert I). He was involved in the regency when David II was in France and later a prisoner of the English. After his succession in 1371 he became increasingly unable to rule due to infirmity and his eldest son, the Earl of Carrick, then his second oldest son, Robert (later Duke of Albany) exercised power.

Robert III 1390-1406

Born: c.1337 Died: 1406 Assumed the name Robert on accession to the throne, he was the eldest son of Robert II, previously known as John, Earl of Carrick. He had been crippled by a kick from a horse and was an inept ruler. The Duke of Albany, his younger brother, wielded effective power. After the King’s elder son (David, Duke of Rothesay) was appointed Lieutenant in 1399 his days were numbered and his death in 1402 was thought to be at the instigation of Albany after he (Rothesay) had made a politically unwise marriage.

James I 1406-37

Born: 1394 (at Dunfermline) Died: 1437 Robert III’s second son. On his way to France for safety in 1406 he was captured by the English and was held captive for eighteen years. The Treaty of London in late 1423 officially released him for a ransom of �40,000 and a promise that the Scots would not send more troops to France. On his return to Scotland in 1424 he made himself unpopular with the nobility and was murdered at Perth in 1437, partly as a result of dynastic rivalry.

James II 1437-60

Born: 1430 (at Holyrood) Died: 1460 Son of James I. He married May of Gueldres in 1449. In his minority the Livingston family had taken many important offices of state. In 1450 James purged them ruthlessly and then turned on the ‘Black Douglases’, another powerful family. He murdered William, the 8th Earl of Douglas, in 1452 and finally defeated them in 1455, all the while cultivating noble families he could rely on. He died from injuries received when a cannon exploded during a siege of Roxburgh which he was making in 1460.

James III 1460-88

Born: 1452 (at St.Andrews) Died: 1488 Son of James II. He overthrew the Boyd brothers who had confined him and established their own rule for three years until 1469. In 1479 he imprisoned his brother, John Stewart, the Earl of Mar in Craigmillar Castle. The Earl subsequently died in mysterious circumstances. At the same time the King also imprisoned the Duke of Albany, Alexander Stewart, also a brother. He was confined in Edinburgh Castle but escaped, ending his days in France. He had more trouble with the nobility in 1482 when some of his followers were strung up from Lauder Bridge by men led by the Earl of Angus. The King finally met his end after defeat at the hands of nobles at the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488. The nobles used the King’s heir as a figurehead for their rebellion. James was not killed in the battle but murdered soon after.

James IV 1488-1513

Born: 1473 (probably at Stirling) Died: 1513 Son of James III and nominal head of the rebellion which deposed his father. He soon became more than a figurehead, developing the law and encouraging science, literature and education. He also took an interest in printing. As penance for his rebellion against his father he wore an iron belt . He married Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England and signed a treaty of ‘perpetual peace’ with England at that time. Unfortunately Scotland had a traditional alliance with France and when England went to war with France, James attacked the English. This resulted in the Battle of Flodden (in 1513) at which he was killed.

James V 1513-42

Born: 1512 (at Linlithgow) Died: 1542 Son of James IV. When he was fourteen, his mother’s second husband, the 6th Earl of Angus, having taken control of the nation, held him prisoner for two years. The King escaped in 1528. This episode left him with a loathing of the Angus Douglases, the Earl’s family. James first married Madeleine, daughter of Francis I of France, in 1537. She died after only a few months and he married Mary of Guise in 1538. He caused unrest by his treatment of opponents, there being a common belief that he falsely accused the wealthy in order to acquire their riches for himself. By this, among other means, he financed a lavish lifestyle. Political tensions between the clergy and the reforming party added to the unsettled atmosphere. After King Henry VIII of England had once again claimed England’s suzerainty over Scotland and invaded, James set out to invade England but the nobles disagreed with the proposal to invade. The King put the direction of matters in the hands of Cardinal Beaton, who was said to wish for a crusade against Henry VIII, and Oliver Sinclair of Pitcairns. The Scottish forces were routed at the Battle of Solway Moss in 1542. The King withdrew to Falkland where he died a few weeks later.

Mary I 1542-67

Born: 1542 (at Linlithgow) Died: 1587 The famous ‘Mary Queen of Scots’ and daughter of James V. She succeeded to the throne as a six day old child. Although originally touted as a bride for the English Prince Edward she was sent to France in 1548 to marry the Dauphin, Francis, which she did in 1558. After his death, as King, in 1560, Mary returned to Scotland in 1561. Things started to go wrong when she married Henry, Lord Darnley in 1565. Her son, the future James VI, was born in 1566 but she and Darnley became estranged and he was murdered in 1567. A few weeks later she married James, Earl of Bothwell, surrendered to rebels a month later then abdicated a month after that. She was held captive in Lochleven castle but escaped in 1568. Her forces were defeated at the Battle of Langside by those of the Regent, the Earl of Moray. She escaped to England but Elizabeth I imprisoned her for nineteen years until executing her in 1587.

James VI 1567-1625

Born: 1566 (in Edinburgh Castle) Died: 1625 Son of ‘Mary Queen of Scots’. After several regencies and factional rule, the King took charge in 1585 but was not in proper control of the country for over a decade after that. He played a masterly political game and pursued a middle course in religious matters. For the first time a Scottish monarch wielded effective authority over the more far-flung areas of the realm. He supported literature both through his own writing and his patronage. On the death of Elizabeth I of England in 1603 he inherited the crown of England in addition to that of Scotland, becoming James I of England. Unusually for a Scottish monarch he died in his bed at peace with his subjects and foreign countries. Also unusually he passed Royal power on intact to an adult son.

Charles I 1625-49

Born (at Dunfermline): 1600 Died (at Whitehall, London): 1649 He was the last monarch to be born in Scotland. When the heir to King James VI, Prince Henry, died in 1612, James’s second son Charles became heir. He succeeded his father in 1625, becoming king of England as well as Scotland. He married Henrietta Maria about a month later. The legacy of comparitive stability and prosperity in Scotland which his father had left him was squandered through his ignorance of Scotland and its people (he had been brought up in England) and through his lack of the personal qualities which had enabled his father to be so successful politically. When opposed his only response was to be obstinate. The opposition to Charles began virtually as soon as his first commands were made. He visited Scotland for his coronation in 1633, and then in 1641, attempting to placate the Covenanters. His reign finally came to an abrupt end in 1649 when he was beheaded after a ‘trial’ by his English opponents.

Charles II 1649-85 (exiled 1651-60)

Born: 1630 Died: 1685 Eldest son of Charles I. When the Scots heard of Charles I’s execution they proclaimed Charles II king, putting them at odds with the English parliamentary faction in the English Civil War. The Scots brought him back from exile in Holland on the understanding that he would sign the Covenants (these were documents opposing his father’s religious reforms). Charles was crowned at Scone at the beginning of 1651, three months after Cromwell had defeated the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar. That defeat was very much of the time. Churchmen were embedded with the Scottish army and interfered in military strategy and tactics to disastrous effect. The Scots subsequently invaded England on the King’s behalf but were defeated at the Battle of Worcester. Charles went into exile again, returning to England at the ‘Restoration’ in 1660. He never visited Scotland again.

James VII 1685-89

Born: 1633 Died: 1701 Brother of Charles II (and second son of Charles I). In 1679 then again in 1680-82 he acted as Charles II’s commissioner to the Scottish parliament. Unfortunately for at least him, he did not learn from his father’s experience and managed to alienate Scotland, the country which had been so loyal on his accession in 1685. The main reason for this was James’s determination that Roman Catholicism would be tolerated once again. At the time this was a highly unpopular and dangerous idea. Eventually he managed to get a kind of general religious toleration put into law. This sounds like a good idea nowadays; in those times it was disastrous. The different Protestant factions may well have hated each other, and they did, but they all hated Roman Catholicism. Just as his father’s downfall had been his obstinate arrogance, so was James’s. In 1689 When the English invited Wiliam of Orange (James’s son-in-law) to land in England and replace James as their king the Scots were slow to act. Acceptance of Presbyterianism in Scotland had finally been recognized by James. When William did land, and James fled, Scotland’s forces were in England, having been called there by James. The Edinburgh mob showed their disapproval of William by rioting but he was in London by then and William’s invading force of three divisions included one of Scots. After William was offered the English crown the Scots did not immediately follow that example and offer the Scottish crown to him. Naively, though, they asked him to administer the country until its future could be decided. William summoned a Convention of the (Scottish) Estates which listened to the reading of letters from both William and James, making their respective cases. Direct military threat on the spot and the placing of one of William’s supporters as President of the Convention meant that, unsurprisingly, it was decided that James had forfeited the crown by fleeing and it could be offered to William.

William II 1689-1702 & Mary II 1689-94

Born: 1650 Died: 1702 ‘William of Orange’. Known to the English as William III. He had no interest in Scotland other than as a supplier of soldiers and supplies for his military escapades in Flanders. He was anxious that independent Highland military power should be neutralized and, to that end, connived in the ‘Massacre of Glencoe’ as a general warning to all the clans. Scots became disillusioned with William and were bitter about their disproportionate contribution of men and materials to William’s struggles against Louis XIV, particularly at a time of famine in Scotland. This has become something of a tradition in Britain’s military campaigns. In theory he ruled jointly with his wife Mary, James VII’s daughter. His mother (also named Mary) was James’s sister. They were certainly ‘keeping it in the family’ but it was a family at war. In practice, despite the notional joint rule, William’s wife had little say in state matters.

Anne 1702-07

The last Stewart monarch to be officially recognized as ruler of either Scotland or England, she was ruler of both. She succeeded the childless and widowed William II in 1702. In 1701 the English parliament had decided that she, being without children, should be succeeded by the Electress Sophia of Hanover, granddaughter of James VI who had also been James I of England. With the customary arrogance of the English establishment the Scots were not consulted, despite the monarchy being a joint one, and in 1703 the Scots threatened that unless the security and privileges of Scotland were preserved, they would choose their own sovereign. The strong implication of that was that they would choose the son of James VII, known as James VIII or the ‘Old Pretender’. William II had, in anticipation of this crisis, urged a political union of the two countries. An English act of parliament threatened the Scots with draconian commercial sanctions and being treated as aliens unless they accepted the English version of the succession within a year, or agreed to political union. An extraordinary example of one country passing an act requiring another country to behave in a certain way. The Scots nobility capitulated and in 1707 political union took place. Over the many years since, various provisions of the Treaty of Union have, with impunity, been contemptuously ignored by the Westminister parliament.

On May 1 1707 the kingdoms of England and Scotland ceased to exist officially. A new United Kingdom of Great Britain came into being.