Robert II, the first Stewart King

When writing the article for the Advertiser last month about the Stewart 700 Conference in Paisley Abbey on Saturday 10 September 2016, I realised that I knew practically nothing about King Robert II, the first of the Stewart dynasty, apart from the fact that he was the son of Marjorie Bruce (only child of Robert the Bruce and his first wife, Isabella of Mar) and Walter, the 6th High Steward of Scotland. So, on the perhaps fanciful grounds that the Stewards/Stewarts could be called Renfrewshire’s local royal dynasty, I thought I’d write another article, this time mainly about Robert himself.

Robert II was born in 1216 in or near Paisley Abbey where his mother died, possibly after a riding accident. At birth, Robert was not in line to the Scottish throne as his mother’s right of succession had been extinguished by entail by the Scottish Parliament in April 1315 in favour of her uncle, Edward Bruce, brother to her father, King Robert the Bruce. (Marjorie had apparently agreed to this.) When Edward, who had been crowned king of Ireland in 1316, was killed at the battle of Dundalk in October 1318 another entail by the Scottish Parliament provided that Robert would become king if Robert the Bruce, his grandfather, died without male heirs.

However, when in 1324 Robert the Bruce and his second wife Elizabeth de Burgh, produced a male heir, David, the Bruce line was secured. After Robert the Bruce died in 1329, Robert the 7th Steward was one of the noblemen who was involved in the regency during the minority of his (half) uncle, who had become David II, and also during David’s imprisonment in England after being captured at the battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346. Robert finally became king, the first Stewart king, in 1371 when he was in his fifties and reigned until his death in 1390 at Dundonald Castle in Ayrshire.

Leaving aside his activities both as hereditary Steward/Stewart and as king, what I find remarkable about Robert II is the number of children he had, both legitimate and illegitimate. With his first wife, Elizabeth Mure of Rowallan, he had 4 sons and 5 daughters. By his second wife, Euphemia Ross, he had 2 sons and 2 daughters. All together he is said to have fathered 21 children, including 8 illegitimate sons.  Some regard his 4 children with Euphemia as his only legitimate children as several of his children with Elizabeth were born before their marriage in 1347. These children were legitimised by Papal dispensation but there was still the issue that he and Elizabeth were considered to be too closely related. However, Robert II was succeeded by his eldest son by Elizabeth, John, Earl of Carrick, who took the regnal name of Robert III.

© 2016 Gina Fisher

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