King David II of Scotland

Born: March 5, 1324

Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland

Died: February 22, 1371

Edinburgh, Scotland (Age 46)

David II in History

The early life of King David II of Scotland was a tenuous one to say the least. He succeeded his father, Robert I (the Bruce), in 1329 at the age of five. With the death of the king, a lengthy period of chaos ensued in Scotland, where the combination of English raids and attempts from the Scottish pretender Edward Balliol to seize the throne made it impossible for the young king to remain in the country. For this reason, David and his equally young wife Joan, daughter of King Edward II of England, were forced to take refuge in France, where they would remain until 1341, a period of seven years, under the care of Philip VI. During David's time in France, Scotland was ruled by a group of competent nobles that consisted of Sir William Douglas and the king's own nephew Robert, Steward of Scotland (known simply as "the steward," who happened to be eight years older than the king himself). David II returned to his homeland to great accord only to find dissent amongst the nobles, economic instability and continuous conflicts with the English under King Edward III. Though there was sporadic conflict between the two bordering countries at this point, the English were far more occupied with the Hundred Years War with France (where Edward III was pressing his claim to the French throne). With the English king absent from the country, Philip VI of France advised his Scottish allies to strike. David II listened to his friend and fellow king's advice and began raiding towns in northern England. After some moderate success, David's captains advised him to quit while he was ahead and return to Scotland. The king did not heed their advice, and the English retaliated, scoring a huge victory over the Scots at the Battle of Neville's Cross. King David and a number of the Scottish nobility were captured during the battle.

David II's captivity would last for eleven years, until 1357. It appears that he remained on good terms with Edward III, and he was allowed to return to Scotland on several occasions. Terms of his release were discussed sporadically throughout the time of his captivity, but no settlement could be reached until the very end. Edward III seemed set on gaining control of Scotland, or at least being named heir to the throne, but Robert the Steward, who once again acted as lieutenant of the realm in David's absence, would hear nothing of this. Instead, the Steward threw his support behind the French in an attempt to defeat the English and regain their king. However, the English won a decisive victory over the French in 1356 at Poitiers, with the French king, John II (who had succeeded his father Philip VI to the throne by this point), being taken captive. Edward III now had the ultimate bargaining power over his two enemies, being in possession of both their kings, and agreed to release David II after a lucrative ransom was agreed to.

Once David returned to Scotland, he faced yet more problems with the nobility, who were upset with the fact that a small group of the king's favorites seemed to be taking precedent above them within Scotland's government. Furthermore, most in the country were not happy with the fact that David, while in captivity, had taken a mistress. The Scots showed their displeasure by murdering said mistress in 1360. Finally, Scotland's financial situation was in tatters, and David was unable to make substantial payments towards his large ransom to Edward III. Luckily, David was able to work through a majority of these problems, working out a deal with the Scottish nobles that did not alienate them and negotiating a reduced ransom with Edward III. So, when David II suddenly died, childless, in 1371, Scotland was in a much more stable position. David was succeeded to the throne by his nephew, the Steward, as Robert II. Thus the house of Stewart that was to rule over Scotland for the next two hundred years plus was securely seated on the throne.

David II in Shakespeare

Appears in: Edward III

David II appears briefly in Edward III where he and Sir William Douglas are seen laying siege to the English castle which is holding the Countess of Salisbury. The king and his lord are speaking arrogantly about their invasion of England and their alliance with the French against their common enemy. When the English arrive, the Scots are rebuked by the countess and subsequently chased away. David II is not seen again within the play, but it is later announced that the Scots have been defeated and, with the king himself being taken captive. The timing within the play is most certainly off. Although William Douglas played a large role in the English wars in the early part of David II's reign, David himself was a young child at the time and had little or no involvement in the situation. In fact, he did not even return to Scotland, from France, until 1341, the year after the Battle of Sluys, which is portrayed after the scene that David and Douglas besiege the Countess of Salisbury's castle. Shakespeare, however, does not seem to follow the concept of time too closely within the play, keeping certain characters alive well past their time in some cases and making others older. For example, he has the Black Prince participating in the Battle of Sluys when, historically, he was boy of ten at the time of the battle.


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