Robert III of Scotland

On this day, 4 April 1406, Robert III of Scotland died. He was my 19th great-grandfather.

Born at Scone Palace on 14 August 1337, he was the eldest son of Robert Stewart, the only child of Walter Stewart and Marjorie Bruce, and Elizabeth Mure, daughter of Adam Mure of Rowallan and Janet Mure. At his birth, he was named John Stewart of Carrick.

His parents had married in 1336; however, the Church opposed the marriage due to the consanguinity of his parents. Consequently, John Stewart of Carrick and his siblings were deemed illegitimate. However, in 1347, a Papal dispensation was granted, legitimizing John Stewart and his siblings. In 1349, his parents were married again, this time with the Church’s blessing.

Little is known of John Stewart’s childhood. It is not until 1363 that John Stewart is mentioned again. Early that year, John Stewart, along with his father and other nobles, rebelled against his David II (John’s great-uncle). This rebellion was soon suppressed, and John Stewart and his father Robert were imprisoned.

In 1366, John Stewart married Anabella Drummond, daughter of Sir John Drummond of Stobhall, 11th Thane of Lennox and Chief of Clan Drummond, and his wife Mary Montifex. Together, John Steward and Anabella Drummond had seven children: David, James I, Robert, Margaret (my 18th great-grandmother), Mary, Egidia, and Elizabeth.

In 1367, John Stewart was created Earl of Atholl. Then, in 1368, David II named him John Stewart, Earl of Carrick.

On 22 February 1371, David II died without an heir, and John’s father Robert Stewart became Robert II of Scotland. Unfortunately, by this time, he was unwell and almost blind with “red bleared eyes.” Because of his infirmity, Robert II had difficulties controlling the government. In 1382, Robert II appointed his eldest son, John Stewart, to enforce authority on his behalf.  Under John Stewart’s administration, the conflict with England was renewed. In August 1388, the Scots defeated the English at the Battle of Otterburn; unfortunately, the Scottish commander James, Earl of Douglas, was killed.

That same year, John Stewart was crippled when a horse kicked him. After his injury in 1388, John Stewart was unable to engage in military pursuits and trusted the management of the government entirely to his brother Robert, Earl of Fife.

On 14 August 1390, John Stewart was crowned Robert III, King of Scotland, at the Augustinian Abbey, Scone. He was 53 years old.

John Stewart had always been a gentle, kind, and just man; however, he lacked the streak of ruthlessness needed to rule. On his accession to the throne, he was already a chronic invalid who battled depression. Gradually, he became an unwell recluse.

Eventually, Robert III transferred power to his brother Robert, Earl of Fife, and his eldest son, David. David was charming but irresponsible and seemed to lack good judgment. For example, when David was betrothed, he repudiated the girl, thereby making her father his enemy. David rivaled for power with his uncle Robert, Earl of Fife, refused to be set aside.

In 1401, Robert of Fife persuaded Robert III to order his own son’s arrest. Robert of Fife imprisoned David in Falkland Castle, where he died in March 1402 of either starvation of dysentery.

That same year, the forces Henry IV of England invaded Scotland, and the Scots were defeated at the Battle of Homildon Hill.

Robert III began to fear for the fate of his only surviving son, young James. In February 1406, James was secretly taken to Dirleton Castle to await a ship bound for France.  Robert of Fife sent a large force after the Crown Prince, and a battle was fought. James was ferried via a rowing boat to the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth. The 11-year-old James and his guardians were stranded for nearly one month on the island before a ship arrived to bring James to France. Meanwhile, Robert of Fife informed Henry IV of the plan. The English forces intercepted the ship, and James was captured near Flamborough Head.

When Robert III learned of his son’s capture, he became even more depressed and refused to eat. He died a few days later on 4 April 1406. At his own request, Robert III was not buried with the other kings at Scone Abbey because he believed himself unworthy of this honor, describing himself as “the worst of kings and the most miserable of men.” Instead, Robert III was interred in nearby Paisley Abbey.


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#familyhistory     #genealogy    #scottishhistory

Categories: Famous Faces and Places, On This Day, Royal Roots, Watts-Stark Line | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Robert III of Scotland

  1. I always felt sympathy for poor Robert. Even though he was king, he still felt as if he were not “good” enough. Just goes to show that wealth and power does not ensure happiness.


  2. Agree with Linda, a fascinating story — and impressive that it’s about your 19th great-grandfather. I am only back to 4th great-grandparents. In addition to the drama inherent in the tale, I was struck by the infirmities that today would be treatable but at that time could change the course of history.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Linda Stufflebean

    Fascinating history – I have a Stewart line back to the American Revolution, but stuck before then. I doubt I’ll ever be able to connect back to ancient times, but I’d love for these Stewarts to be in my famiy tree.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This story has captured me….I keep going back to re-read it!

    Liked by 1 person

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