Robert III of Scotland

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Robert III (c. 1337–April 1406), King of Scots, given name John, was the eldest son of Robert II and Elizabeth Mure and was legitimated with the marriage of his parents in 1347.

John joined his father and other magnates in a rebellion against his grand-uncle, David II early in 1363 but submitted to him soon afterwards. He married Anabella Drummond, daughter of Sir John Drummond of Stobhall before 31 May 1367 when the Steward ceded to him the earldom of Atholl. In 1368 David created him Earl of Carrick. His father became king in 1371 after the unexpected death of the childless King David. In the succeeding years Carrick was influential in the government of the kingdom but became progressively more impatient at his father's longevity. In 1384 Carrick was appointed the king's lieutenant after having influenced the general council to remove Robert II from direct rule. Carrick's administration saw a renewal of the conflict with England. In 1388 the Scots defeated the English at the Battle of Otterburn where the Scots' commander, James, Earl of Douglas, was killed. By this time Carrick had been badly injured by a horse-kick but the loss of his powerful ally, Douglas, saw a turnaround in magnate support in favour of his younger brother Robert, Earl of Fife and in December 1388 the council transferred the lieutenancy to Fife.

In 1390, Robert II died and Carrick ascended the throne as Robert III but without authority to rule directly. Fife continued as lieutenant until February 1393 when power was returned to the king in conjunction with his son David. At a council in 1399 owing to the king's 'sickness of his person', David, now Duke of Rothesay, became lieutenant of the kingdom in his own right but supervised by a special parliamentary group dominated by Fife, now styled Duke of Albany. After this, Robert III withdrew to his lands in the west and for a time played little or no part in affairs of state. He was powerless to interfere when a dispute between Albany and Rothesay arose in 1401 which led to Rothesay's arrest and imprisonment at Albany's Falkland Castle where Rothesay died in March 1402. The general council absolved Albany from blame and reappointed him as lieutenant. The only impediment now remaining to an Albany Stewart monarchy was the king's only surviving son, James, Earl of Carrick. In February 1406 the 11 year-old James and a powerful group of followers clashed with Albany's Douglas allies resulting in the death of the king's counsellor Sir David Fleming of Cumbernauld. James escaped to the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth accompanied by Henry Sinclair, Earl of Orkney and remained there for a month before boarding a ship bound for France. The vessel was intercepted near Flamborough Head and James became the prisoner of Henry IV of England and would remain captive for the next 18 years. Robert III died in Rothesay Castle on 4 April 1406 shortly after learning of his son's imprisonment and was buried at Paisley Abbey.

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