History Headstones: A Scottish King

John, Earl of Carrick, the illegitimate son of Robert II and Elizabeth Mure, was born around 1340. In 1349 he was legitimised when his parents and was made Earl of Carrick by David II his great-uncle.

Robert married Annabella Drummond, the daughter of Sir John Drummond, of Stobhall, near Perth, 11th Thane of Lennox and Chief of Clan Drummond, and Mary Montifex. Her aunt was Margaret Drummond, the second wife of David II of Scotland.

Robert_III_and_Annabella_Drummond
Robert III and his wife Annabella Drummond 1562.

In 1390 he succeeded his father as King of Scots, changing his name to Robert. Concerns were using the name John would remind people of John Balliol, the puppet king.

Robert was weak like his father. He was reluctant in making decisions and entirely ineffective. Anarchy was prevalent during his rule with rivalries between the Highlanders, his brothers and the Lords of the Isles.

During Robert II’s reign, Robert, Duke of Albany (too many Robert’s to keep them all squared away) and the future Robert III brother was named Governor of the realm. When Robert III became King, he took over these powers. The council though cited his lameness from a previous accident and lack of leadership as reasons to remove the powers from him. They vested them in his eldest son, David Stewart, Duke of Rothesay. The Duke was appointed Lieutenant of the Kingdom.

Well, the Duke of Albany was not keen on the new plan and had David arrested. David would die under mysterious circumstances in 1402 at Falkland Palace, which of course allowed his uncle Robert to slid right back into the role he once had.

Although the Duke of Albany was considered at fault for what many claimed was the starvation of David, he was cleared of any charges or blame by the General Council.

Robert III was in failing health and distraught over the death of his son. He took measures to protect his heir, twelve-year-old Prince James who he first hid at Dirlton Castle. To keep him safe he sent the young lad to France in February 1406.

It was quite the journey for young James who made his escape with the Earl of Orkney and his escorts to make it to Bass Rock on the Firth of Forth. They remained there for over a month as they waited for a ship from Danzig on its way to France to pick them up.

On 22 March 1406, the ship was attacked by English pirates off Flamborough Head and Prince James, the Scottish heir was taken as a prisoner and delivered to King Henry IV of England. Of course, there are more details to James and his time in England, but that is another story for an entirely different piece,

Robert III was so overtaken with grief and fell into such a deep depression it hastened the ageing King’s death. On 4 April 1406, he would die at Rothesay Castle. Before his death, he asked his epitaph state: ‘Here lies the worst of Kings and the most miserable of men.’

The grave of Robert III, Paisley Abbey
The Grave of Robert III, Paisley Abbey

Robert III was buried at Paisley Abbey. The original tomb was destroyed during the Scottish Reformation in 1560. When Queen Victoria visited Paisley Abbey in 1888, she paid for the restoration of his grave.

Robert’s son James I succeeded his father. Although he would not return to Scotland until 5 April 1424, he eventually was coronated a month late on 21 May.

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