David II

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David II (1324–71), king of Scots (1329–71). He succeeded to the throne at the age of 5; and within three years his realm was invaded by Edward Balliol and Edward III of England. With his young wife Joan, sister of Edward III, he had to take refuge in France, his kingdom at times on the point of collapse. Not until 1341 was he able to return; and in 1346 he was captured at the battle of Neville's Cross, near Durham, and spent eleven years in captivity before his release in 1357. As a prisoner, his chief object was to obtain his release. To this end, he was prepared to abandon the steward's right of succession, but not to accept a union with England. He would contemplate the possible succession of John of Gaunt, a younger son of Edward III, who was not Edward's heir. This proposal, however, was rejected by the Scottish Parliament. In 1357, David was released in return for a large ransom; and proposals for a peace in 1363, on the basis of the succession of Edward III if David had no direct heir, were again rejected, very possibly with the approval of David himself.

After his return to Scotland in 1357, David's government proved efficient. He was able to impose heavy taxation to meet the cost of his ransom; yet royal finances were probably in a better state at the end of his reign than at any other time in the century. He dealt firmly with a baronial revolt in 1363 and with opposition from individual barons. He reacted strongly to disobedience by certain Highland nobles, provoked by increased taxation and an act of revocation of 1367, which bore heavily upon them. As a ruler he was evidently stronger than any of his successors before James I.

His main weakness lay in his personal affairs. His first wife seems to have abandoned him after 1357, returning to England where she died in 1362. David above all required an heir. By 1363 he had formed an attachment to Margaret Logie, whom he married in that year. When no heir was forthcoming by 1370, he divorced her and was planning to marry Agnes Dunbar, when he himself died unexpectedly, early in 1371.

David has been accused of lack of patriotism, but there seems little basis for this. Throughout, he tried to maintain the integrity of his kingdom, with success in what were often difficult circumstances.

Bruce Webster

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David II

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