David Stewart, Duke of Rothesay

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David Stewart
Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Atholl & Carrick
Born24 October 1378
Died26 March 1402
Falkland Palace
SpouseMary Douglas
House Stewart
Father Robert III of Scotland
Mother Anabella Drummond

David Stewart (24 October 1378 26 March 1402) was heir apparent to the throne of Scotland from 1390 and the first Duke of Rothesay from 1398. He was named after his great-great-uncle, David II of Scotland, and also held the titles of Earl of Atholl (13981402) and Earl of Carrick (13901402). He shares with his uncle and arch-rival, Robert Stewart, first Duke of Albany, the distinction of being first dukes to be created in the Scottish peerage. David never became king. His marriage to Mary Douglas, daughter of Archibald the Grim, [1] the third Earl of Douglas, was without issue.



David Stewart, as eldest son of King Robert III and his wife, Anabella Drummond, was heir to the throne of Scotland. About 1396 he was entrusted with the government or pacification of the northern parts of the kingdom. [2] [3] At a meeting of the Estates held in January 1399 it was resolved that he, as heir to the throne, should be appointed "lieutenant" of the kingdom with full sovereign powers for three years, partly due to the infirmity of his father and at a time of civil unrest and conflict with England. [4] Although this gave him an opportunity to flex political muscle, his room for manoeuvre was significantly constrained, however, by a combination of youthful inexperience and the ultimately mortal rivalry of his uncle, Robert Stewart (brother of Robert III; the latter was named John before he became king), Duke of Albany, who had been protector of the kingdom prior to David's lieutenancy. Albany was a ruthlessly effective politician with a well-developed power base, and his designs on the throne were well understood. David's subsequent marriage to Marjorie, forming a Douglas alliance with the throne, also caused a serious rupture with George I, Earl of March, whose daughter Elizabeth had originally been betrothed to David. David is known to have involved himself in the political life of the kingdom, playing a role for instance in peace negotiations with John of Gaunt in the Marches.

David appears to have had an ally in his mother, the Queen, who had worked to strengthen her son's hand, arranging the great tournament of 1398 in Edinburgh when he was knighted [5] and being present, along with the king, in that same year when David was created Duke of Rothesay, in the same ceremony, performed by Walter Trail, Archbishop of St Andrews, which also created the title Duke of Albany for his uncle. But both the Queen and Archbishop were dead by 1401. His father, the King, appears to have had little ability by that date to influence events effectively.


Falkland Palace, where David died in mysterious circumstances. Falkland Palace.jpg
Falkland Palace, where David died in mysterious circumstances.

In late February 1402, while travelling officially to St Andrews, David was arrested just outside the city at Strathtyrum in a sting operation which had been arranged by Albany, at that time in complicit alliance with David's brother-in-law, Archibald, the fourth Earl of Douglas, who was offended with Rothesay for his unfaithfulness to his wife, the sister of Douglas. (David's father-in-law, the highly influential third Earl, had died two years before, in 1400.) The pretext for David's arrest was that the three-year period of his lieutenancy had expired. He was initially held captive in St Andrews Castle, and soon afterwards taken to Falkland Palace, Albany's residence in Fife. According to Bower, the prince spent the journey hooded and mounted backwards on a mule. At Falkland David remained a prisoner and shortly died there, reputedly of starvation. He was buried privately in Lindores Abbey. A few weeks later, in May 1402, a public enquiry into the circumstances of David's death exonerated Albany of all blame. [6] [7]

Four years later, in 1406, David's younger brother, James Stewart, succeeded Robert III as king (although at that time remaining uncrowned and in captivity in England) while Albany secured himself as de facto ruler of Scotland.

Fictional portrayals

As well as featuring in relevant historical novels by Nigel Tranter, David appears as a principal character in Walter Scott's The Fair Maid of Perth .


  1. "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/54172.
  2. Tytler 1887, page 5.
  3. citing Burnett, ed. (1878). Rotuli scaccarii regum Scotorum = The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland. Edinburgh: H.M. General Register House. p. 402.
  4. The Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707, K.M. Brown et al eds (St Andrews, 2007-2019), 1399/1/3. Date accessed: 3 October 2019
  5. Marshall, Rosalind K. (2019). Scottish Queens, 1034–1714. ISBN   9781788851848.
  6. Tytler 1887, page 21.
  7. citing Dalrymple, David (1773). Remarks on the History of Scotland. Edinburgh: Balfour & Smellie. p. 278.


Tytler, Patrick Fraser (1887). The history of Scotland from the accession of Alexander III. to the union. II. Edinburgh: W. P. Nimmo.

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