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Dundonald Castle, Where Robert II Died
Dundonald Castle, Where Robert II Died

Robert II or Robert Stewart lived from 2 March 1316 to 19 April 1390 and was King of Scotland from 22 February 1371 to 19 April 1390. He was the son of Robert I's daughter Marjorie and her husband Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.

The title High Steward of Scotland was first bestowed on Walter the Steward in 1191 by David I. Malcolm IV made the position hereditary, and Walter's son inherited the title and took the surname Stewart. The historical origins of the title lay in the role of the King's food bearer: in practice it meant a very senior adviser and member of the court. The 6th High Steward played an important role at the Battle of Bannockburn and married the King's daughter. Robert was their only child.

For a long time it seemed that Robert the Bruce would not have a son. In 1318 the Scottish Parliament nominated Robert Stewart as his grandfather's heir. However Robert's son David was born on 5 March 1324 and went on to become David II at the age of 4. David spent long periods out of the country, first in France as a child for safety in the face of the repeated invasions of Edward Balliol, then in England as a prisoner following his capture at the Battle of Neville's Cross on 17 October 1346.

During parts of both of the King's long absences from Scotland, Robert Stewart acted as Regent, in effect ruling the country on the King's behalf. After King David II's return from England he and Robert fell out. The King alleged that Robert had deserted him when he was captured at Haildon Hill. This was probably in response to Robert's efforts to prevent David II misappropriating funds owed to the English for his own release: and instead offering to make Edward III of England heir to the Scottish throne.

Robert Stewart rebelled against David II in 1363, but was imprisoned along with four of his sons. He was released shortly before David II's death in February 1371. David died childless, so the throne passed to Robert, who was crowned Robert II at Scone in March 1371. Robert II was the first king of the House of Stewart which was to rule Scotland for the following 230 years before unifying the crowns of England and Scotland and going on to rule the United Kingdom until... well, that's another story.

Robert II succeeded to the throne at the age of 54 and was viewed by many in his kingdom as past his best. In November 1384 he was effectively deposed by his eldest son John, Earl of Carrick. John, however, was seriously injured after being kicked by a horse, and Robert II appointed his second son, Robert, Earl of Fife, later the Duke of Albany, as Guardian of Scotland instead. Another son, Alexander, went on to achieve infamy as The Wolf of Badenoch. Robert II died at Dundonald Castle on 19 April 1390, and was buried at Scone. He was succeeded by his son John, who confusingly took the name Robert III, probably because in Scotland "John" was too closely associated with John Balliol.

Robert II was not Scotland's most effective King, though he was probably less bad than David II who he had succeeded. But he was extremely good at one thing quite important to the founder of a new dynasty: he had at least 21 children. Unfortunately his marital arrangements were to lead to considerable conflict in later generations. He married his first wife in 1336, and had four sons and a number of daughters. But the validity of his first marriage was challenged, and he re-married his first wife in 1349. By his second wife he had two sons and several daughters. He also had at least eight illegitimate children. The question mark over the legitimacy of the children born to his first marriage before 1349 was to lead to later problems.

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