The Coronation of Robert II, 1371

This content was produced by Gwen Sinclair, and guest contributor Dr Lucinda Dean

It was said that Robert the 7th High Steward of Scotland was in residence at his castle in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute when news was hurriedly dispatched to inform him that his uncle, David II King of Scots, had died unexpectedly in Edinburgh Castle on the 22nd February 1371.

Robert Stewart (1316-1390) was a powerful figure in his own right as he inherited the role of High Steward from his father Walter Stewart (c.1296 9 April 1327) when he was a young man following in the footsteps of a long line of Scotland’s High Stewards. His claim to the throne, however, was something he inherited from his mother, Marjorie (c.1298-1316), as she was the eldest daughter of Robert I and his first wife Isabella of Mar. This powerful parentage created in him the catalyst for the merging of these two families, and with it the start of the Royal Stewart Dynasty.

The story goes that there was little love lost between him and his uncle, David II, Robert the Bruce’s son from his second marriage to Elizabeth de Burgh. Despite being his nephew, Robert was nearly 10 years older than David and had played a prominent role during David’s minority (1329-1341) and his imprisonment in England (1346-1357) – during a period known as the  Second Scottish War of Independence – making Robert a very powerful figure. Indeed the 15th century chronicle of Walter Bower states of the young Robert c.1334:

“…he began to attract certain brave men to his side, and to draw Scots of good sense towards him, to enlarge his army every day, and to attach their hearts to himself in mutual affection and firm loyalty. For he was then beginning to grow into a young man of attractive physical appearance above the sons of men, broad and tall in physique… In him innate goodness produced such charm that he was fervently loved by nearly all the faithful Scottish peoples.”[1]

Though Bower’s description needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, as he was known to favour the Stewart dynasty, it’s not hard to see why David and Robert may not always have seen eye to eye when Robert intermittently enjoyed such loyalty from some of the Scottish people. Robert Stewart is described by John Prebble in his book ‘The Lion of the North’- his personal view of the history of Scotland – as being “tall and handsome” though looking at the world through “bloodshot eyes” and yet, might now have been forgiven for looking a little red-rimmed on receipt of this news of his nephew’s untimely death.2 We’re sure that this must have come as something of a shock, given that David was only 46 years old, and that they were blood kin even if they had not always been the best of friends. Furthering the reddening of his retinas may well also have come from the stark fact that this left him in no doubt as heir to the throne – and he had just become the new King at the age of 55.

It’s fair to say that it was not every day that medieval Scotland found itself with a new king; indeed, David II had been king since the death of his father in 1329. We can imagine that his rather untimely demise would have been the talk of the kingdom, and beyond, as the news travelled from the tiniest of hamlets and to the great stone castles throughout Europe. Perhaps on reaching Robert’s estates here at Dundonald, his household may well have excitedly begun preparations for his return – by hastily completing his tower house castle to befit the king. For this reason, we have been celebrating the 650th anniversary of Dundonald Castle this year, since it is thought that the Castle here dates to the start of his reign beginning in 1371, and with it we have been unpacking Robert II’s lesser told story.

Robert and his entourage would have almost immediately begun to make preparations to leave Rothesay, probably disembarking at Portencross Castle in North Ayrshire (according to their website it was reputedly known as his main port of call to reach the mainland) to make his way to Caislean Credi – ‘Hill of Credulity’- at Scone Abbey – which survives as Moot Hill. The Abbey itself, according to archaeological finds, most probably stood south of what is now Scone Palace, towards Friars Den. Since the time of Kenneth MacAlpin in the 9th century Scone was the site of Scottish king making. Enthronement was essential to this ceremony, and this is where the famous ‘An Lia Fáil’ or the ‘Stone of Destiny’, comes into the limelight. Some say this may have been used in the inauguration ritual since the Pictish Kings of Dun Ad. By 1371, this important relic had long since been removed to England. During the First War of Independence, as part  of Edward I’s seemingly relentless quest to subjugate Scotland, he took the stone as a spoil of war, along with the ceremonial regalia in 1296 (after the removal of John Balliol as king) with the hope of perverting the course of such king-making rituals. This had little effect since in 1306, Robert the Bruce was made king at Scone, and on that day the entire destiny of Scotland altered irrevocably, and with it the story which we explore today, would not have been possible.

So, what would Robert’s coronation ceremony have been like? What would his ceremonial regalia have looked like? And just who were the hoi polloi in attendance? To help us to get to the bottom of these questions and to shine some light on this destiny changing event in Scotland’s colourful history, we’re delighted to have guest contributor, Dr Lucinda Dean – Lecturer in History (Late Medieval and Early Modern Scotland and Europe) at University of The Highlands and Islands / Oilthigh na Gàidhealtachd agus nan Eilean here to share her researched knowledge on this very subject.


Over to Dr Dean:

Although Robert had long been recognised as the heir of his childless uncle David II, an assembly of nobles, clergy, and burgesses (i.e., the ‘political community’) met first of all ‘to choose him as king and offer him the crown’. This event has often been seen to reflect the weakness of Robert II as he faced a ‘challenge’ right at the start of his reign, but acclamation and choice of the political community (however staged) was an important part of the Scottish coronation.

A contemporary record (below) states that the coronation happened at Scone on 26 March, with the enthronement on the mound the following day. Later chroniclers (John of Fordun, Andrew of Wyntoun, and Walter Bower) tied the event to the religious Feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin, which was celebrated on 25 March. It may have been that chroniclers preferred to tie events to the nearest feast day, or they may have wanted to associate the coronation with the inauguration[2] of Robert I, which occurred on or around the feast of the Annunciation in 1306. The exact dates are unclear, but we know that it was a two-day event that took place between 25 and 27 March 1371:

In the year 1371 after the incarnation of the Lord, on 26 March at Scone, Robert the Steward of Scotland, earl of Strathearn, nephew of the lord David [II] de Bruce of glorious memory, the illustrious king of Scots who recently died, was crowned and anointed as king by the reverend father in Christ the lord William de Landels, bishop of St Andrews. At which coronation and anointing, the lords prelates, earls and barons and all the nobles written below were present, with a great assembled multitude of people from all parts of the kingdom of Scotland.[3]

The first part of Robert’s coronation took place in the abbey church at Scone. It is possible that a new royal seal matrix was carried in procession to signify the new reign and the end of the old, with David II’s matrix possibly broken. A poet or herald would have recited Robert’s genealogy to demonstrate his dynastic claim to the throne. William Landel, bishop of St Andrews crowned Robert and anointed him with holy oil: a ritual called unction. Robert would also have been invested with the royal honours: sword, sceptre, and crown.

Robert’s crown would have been an open circlet rather than a closed crown with a bonnet, which was a later development. It would have been made of  gold and was likely decorated with diamonds. Some of the diamonds in the current crown, remodelled for James V in 1540, are of fourteenth century cut, suggesting that these same diamonds were part of Robert II’s crown. Robert may also have worn a royal robe of purple, as did other kings of Scots around the same period.

Edward I had stolen the Stone of Scone, the crown, and the sceptre in 1296, and the coronet used at Robert I’s inauguration in 1306 was also taken to England, so the crown used for Robert II was not the same one as was used for his grandfather, Robert I.

The following day, a second and equally important part of the ceremony took place – the new king was enthroned outside on the mound at Scone, and clerics, nobles, and knights paid him homage and made oaths of fealty.

“And so, after the aforesaid coronation and anointing had been celebrated duly, amicably and solemnly in all ways, as was proper, the next day, with the king sitting on the royal throne upon the hill of Scone, as is the custom, the prelates, earls and barons and nobles written below assembled and compeared in his presence: namely, the lord William de Landels, bishop of St Andrews, the lord Walter de Wardlaw, bishop of Glasgow, the lord Alexander de Kininmont, bishop of Aberdeen, the lord Alexander Bur, bishop of Moray, the lord Patrick de Leuchers, bishop of Brechin, the lord Walter de Coventry, bishop of Dunblane, the lord Stephen Pay, prior of St Andrews, [John de Strathmiglo] abbot of Dunfermline, [John] abbot of Arbroath, [John] abbot of the monastery of Holyrood of Edinburgh, [Roger] abbot of Lindores and the abbot of Scone; Sir John Stewart, the king’s firstborn, earl of Carrick and steward of Scotland, Sir David Stewart, younger son of the king, earl of Strathearn, Sir Thomas earl of Mar, Sir William earl of Douglas, Sir Robert Stewart, the king’s son, earl of Menteith, Sir Alexander Stewart, the king’s son, barons; and the nobles, namely, [Walter de Faslane] lord of Lennox, Thomas de Hay, constable of Scotland, Sir William de Keith, marischal of Scotland, Sir Archibald de Douglas, Sir Robert de Erskine, Sir Alexander de Lindsay, Sir David de Graham, Sir Walter de Haliburton, knights, Sir John de Carrick, chancellor, and Sir Walter de Biggar, chamberlain of Scotland, also William de Cunningham, James de Douglas, James Fraser, Alexander Fraser, William de Dishington, David Watson, David de Annan, Roger de Mortimer, Robert de Ramsay, Alan Stewart, Duncan Wallace, Robert Stewart, George de Abernethy, David Fleming, Nicholas de Erskine, John de Lyle, Simon de Preston, John de Maxwell, John de Strachan, Robert de Dalziel and Walter de Ogilvy, John de Tours, Sir Alexander Stewart, and Andrew Campbell, knights, the lord of Seton, John Kennedy and Gillespic Campbell, William de Fenton, John de Sinclair, John de Crawford, Alexander de Straton, Alexander Scrimgeour, John de Crichton, Patrick Gray, John de Menzies, Robert de Normanville, John, lord of Livingston, John de Cragie, Hugh Fraser, Alexander de Strachan, and Donald MacNair. All of whom individually made homage and oaths of fealty to our said lord the king apart from the lord Bishop of Dunblane and Sir Archibald de Douglas, who had nevertheless performed oaths of fealty.”[4]

The people who paid homage to Robert included six bishops, five abbots and a prior, five earls, and various lords and knights. The listing of the abbot of Dunfermline before the other abbots may indicate that he had a prominent role in the ceremony, perhaps keeping the holy oil and the relics of St Margaret on which the coronation oath might have been made. Robert I was buried at Dunfermline, too, so the new king perhaps wanted to hark back to his influential predecessor.

The following day again, Robert’s son John (later Robert III) was named heir to the throne. He was the son of Robert’s first wife, Elizabeth Mure, of Rowallan in Ayrshire, and was later king of Scotland as Robert III on the death of his father at Dundonald Castle in 1390:

“In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, amen. In the year after the Lord’s incarnation 1371, according to the custom and calculation of the Scottish Church, on 27 of the month of March, the most serene prince the lord Robert, by the grace of God illustrious king of Scots, being at Scone at the time of his coronation, the prelates, earls, barons and others from the clergy and people of his realm attending him, after his sacred unction and coronation was solemnly performed… wishing, by the custom and example… of the same good King Robert of celebrated memory, his grandfather, to declare his successor and true heir in the same place in the presence of the clergy and people, although it was and is clearly agreed concerning this; from the abundant and unanimous consent and assent of the said prelates, earls, nobles and magnates, he indicated, asserted and recognised, declared and expressed his wish, that when he happens by divine dispensation to depart this life, the lord John [Stewart], his firstborn son, earl of Carrick and steward of Scotland, will be and ought to be his true and legitimate heir, and after his death he shall and ought to succeed him, if God wills it, to the kingdom of Scotland, and he shall sit and ought to sit upon the throne of his kingdom after him. Moreover, this declaration having been made, as above, by the lord our king himself in this way, concerning his aforementioned firstborn and heir, each one of the prelates, earls, nobles, magnates and others being in the same place, by their own voice individually, for himself, his heirs and successors, asserted, affirmed, declared, recognised and wished that the same lord John, surviving and living after the death of his aforementioned father, should, by the grace of divine favour, be in the future the king of Scotland as the legitimate heir of his same father, each promising in good faith, and having raised a hand in sign of the giving of the fealty, that he will regard him as king and the legitimate heir of the same father, and aid and defend him against any mortals, [and] also cause his seal to be appended to a writing or instrument upon this matter in sign of his aforesaid consent and permission, when they shall be asked upon this matter. Which recognition, promise and giving of fealty having been gone through and enacted in the council of our lord king, our same lord king, through the venerable man Mr John de Peebles, doctor of decreets, canon of Glasgow, his clerk, caused to be pronounced in public how from abundant [consent] he had indicated and declared the aforementioned lord John, his firstborn son, his true heir, just as he is and ought to be by law the future king, God willing, of the kingdom of Scotland, after his death; and how the aforementioned earls, nobles and others of the council affirmed, recognised, consented and promised, by means of the aforementioned fealty; and how all the people had been caused to be assembled with the clergy, so that in their presence and with their unanimous consent it should be done and made public, so nobody might pretend to be ignorant in any way concerning this matter in future. For all the multitude of prelates, earls and barons, and the others, both the clergy and the people, by a unanimous desire and harmonious utterance, no one at all claiming otherwise, affirmed, recognised and wished the same lord John, as the firstborn and true heir of our lord king his father, to be their future king, and having raised a hand in sign of the giving of fealty, they promised that they would hold him as their future king, God willing, after the death of his father and aid and defend him with all their strength against any mortals. Which things being thus completed, the aforesaid prelates, earls and barons being in the same place appended their seals to this writing for perpetual and future memory, in testimony of all the foregoing things, along with the sign and subscription of the below written notary public. These things were enacted at the abbey of Scone in the month, day and year written above.

And I, John Rollo, clerk of Moray diocese, notary public by apostolic authority, was present in person at the aforesaid announcement, declaration, affirmation, also the act of promising [and] the raising of hands, and at the public proclamation of the aforesaid Mr John de Peebles, along with the venerable fathers in Christ lords William [de Landels], bishop of St Andrews, Walter [de Wardlaw], bishop of Glasgow, and Patrick [de Leuchers], bishop of Brechin, and the distinguished men Sir John de Carrick, canon of Glasgow, the chancellor of Scotland, Sir Walter de Biggar, parson of the church of Erroll, the chamberlain of Scotland, the noble and powerful men Sir Thomas earl of Mar, Sir William earl of Douglas and Robert the Steward, earl [of Carrick], Sir Thomas de Hay, constable of Scotland, Sir William de Keith, marischal of Scotland, Sir Archibald de Douglas, Sir James de Douglas, Sir Robert Erskine and Sir Duncan Wallace, barons and knights, Mr John de Peebles abovesaid, and many other witnesses specially summoned and invited to the foregoing, approving this first in the private chamber of the aforesaid lord king in his private council and afterwards in his parliament chamber in public, as aforesaid, in presence of a multitude of people, done in the year, day, month and at the place stated above, ninth year of the pontifical indiction, in the first year of the [pontificate of] the most holy father in Christ and our Lord the lord by divine providence Pope Gregory XI, and I understood, saw and heard all and singular those things expressed above while they were being conducted in this way. I have signed the present instrument ([written] by the hand of another) by my customary sign at the instance of the aforesaid lord John, firstborn of the same lord king, earl of Carrick, steward of Scotland, subscribing this in my own hand, having been specially summoned and invited, in testimony of all the foregoing things, the interlineation in the last line of my subscription [of the word] ‘John’ being approved.[5]

The celebrations surrounding the coronation in 1371 included the purchase of 32 gallons of wine, costing £4 6s. 8d.[6] but unfortunately the full expenses of the event are unknown due to the fragmentary survival of the financial records at this time.[7] We do know from surviving records, however, that Robert II continued to work on the tomb of his predecessor – David II – at Holyrood Abbey to make sure that he had a suitable final resting place.

In 1373 parliament ruled that after Robert’s death the kingdom should pass to his eldest son and his son’s male heirs, and so on for each of his legitimate sons.[8] His eldest sons, by Elizabeth Mure, were higher in the order of succession than the younger sons, by his second wife Euphemia Ross. Around the same time Euphemia was herself crowned at Scone by Alexander Kininmund, bishop of Aberdeen. Her coronation was perhaps delayed by the need to secure the status of Robert’s eldest sons.[9]


Many thanks to Dr Dean for helping us to build a clearer picture as to what Robert’s coronation would have been like – giving us a wider understanding about Robert – the man who was unexpectedly king – and a man who came to the throne surrounded with so many potential of successors, (21 children that we know of!) it’s easy to see why his Stewart dynasty lasted for 343 years!

To find out more about Robert II and his life at Dundonald Castle, check out our other blog posts, films and events which we’ve been creating to help celebrate the 650th anniversary of Royal Dundonald Castle. Watch out for our next blog piece coming soon which will be something of a nod towards the kind of entertainment Robert II and his courtiers would have expected to enjoy inside one of his two great halls here at Dundonald!  


Further information:

Find out more about the rather complicated relationship between Bruce’s descendants in our short film https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uG7yEWGovgc

References:

1  Walter Bower, Scotichronicon, ed. D.E.R. Watt et al. (9 vols, Aberdeen, 1987-98), Vol. 7, pp. 104-105.

2  John Prebble, The Lion in the North-1000 Years of Scotland’s History (Book Club Associates, 1971) p 128

3  It is called inauguration before the introduction of unction (anointing with holy oil), so Robert I was ‘inaugurated’  whereas Robert II was ‘crowned’.

4  Records of the Parliaments of Scotland, A1371/1.

5  Records of the Parliaments of Scotland, A1371/2

6  Records of the Parliaments of Scotland, A1371/4.

7  ER, Vol. II, p. 365.

8  ER, Vol. II, p. 365.

9  Records of the Parliaments of Scotland, 1373/3

 10 Amy Hayes, ‘The Late Medieval Scottish Queen c.1371 – c.1513’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of  Aberdeen,  2016), p 123.

Sources

  • Lucinda Dean, ‘Crowns, Wedding Rings, and Processions: Continuity and Change in the Representations of Scottish Royal Authority in State Ceremony, c. 1214 – c. 1603’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Stirling, 2013)
  • Lucinda Dean, ‘The Scottish Royal Honours: Objects, Ceremony and Use’ (research report for HES, 2017)
  • Lucinda Dean, ‘Where to Make the King (or Queen): The Importance of Place in Scottish Inaugurations and Coronations from 1214 to 1651’, in Oliver O’Grady and Richard Oram (eds), Royal Scone: A Scottish Medieval Royal Centre in Europe (forthcoming)
  • S. I. Boardman, ‘Robert III (d. 1406)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • S. I. Boardman, ‘Euphemia [née Euphemia Ross] (b. in or before 1329?, d. 1388/9)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • https://canmore.org.uk/site/28192/scone-abbey
  • http://www.portencrosscastle.org.uk/history.htm
  • Prebble, J, 1971. The Lion in the North; one thousand years fo Scotland’s History. Bookclub Associates.
  • https://scone-palace.co.uk/palace-grounds/rich-scottish-history

Images:

Header Image: Robert II Coronation by Gwen Sinclair for FODC (background stained glass window image by Peter H from Pixabay)

Welcome Hame Robert II image by Gwen Sinclair of FODC – reconstructed castle screenshot from animation by permission of Andrew Spratt

Scone Abbey, The Archway to the side of City of Stone.jpg: From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4d/Robert_II%2C_King_of_Scotland_seal.png