The succession problem, 1286-1292

The Succession Problem, 1286-1292

The Death of Alexander III and the Dilemma of Succession

  • Alexander III died in 1286, leaving the Scottish throne empty without a direct heir.
  • His granddaughter, Margaret, the Maid of Norway was only three years old but was recognised as the rightful heir.
  • The delay in Margaret’s arrival to Scotland led to a period known as the ‘Interregnum’, in which there was no reigning monarch, causing instability.

Guardians of Scotland

  • Six Guardians were appointed to govern Scotland until Margaret was old enough to reign. They were split equally between supporters of Robert Bruce and John Balliol.
  • The Guardians struggled to maintain order due to political, legislative and diplomatic challenges. Factional conflicts further weakened Scotland’s position.

The Death of Margaret and the Great Cause

  • Margaret died on her journey to Scotland in 1290, plunging Scotland into a succession crisis known as the ‘Great Cause’.
  • Thirteen claimants put forward their claims to the Scottish throne, among them were Robert Bruce and John Balliol. Both had strong arguments.
  • Edward I of England was invited to adjudicate the dispute but he asked the claimants to swear fealty to him, exploiting the situation to establish overlordship over Scotland.

The Decision of Edward I and Ascension of John Balliol

  • After careful deliberation, Edward I favoured John Balliol’s claim and he was inaugurated as King of Scotland in 1292.
  • Balliol’s reign was overshadowed by Edward I’s dominance and Balliol was often seen as a ‘puppet’ king. Throughout his reign, Edward I continued asserting his power over Scotland.

Key Points to Remember:

  • The death of Alexander III led to the succession problem.
  • The period of uncertainty was further complicated by the death of his heir, Margaret.
  • Factional conflicts within Scotland and Edward I’s increasing dominance were significant challenges for Scotland during the period 1286-1292.
  • Balliol’s ascension did not resolve the issue as it lead to further conflicts due to Edward I’s interference.