David II of Scotland

From New World Encyclopedia
David II
King of Scots
David II of Scotland.jpg
Reign 7 June 1329 – 22 February 1371
Born March 5 1324(1324-03-05)
Died February 22 1371 (aged 46)
Buried Holyrood Abbey
Predecessor Robert I
Successor Robert II
Consort Joan of the Tower
Margaret Drummond
Royal House Bruce
Father Robert I
Mother Elizabeth de Burgh

King David II of Scotland succeeded his father, Robert I better known as Robert the Bruce in 1329 at the age of five, and ruled until his death in 1371. However, his supporters lost a battle in 1333 against Edward III of England and his rival for the Scottish throne, Edward's protégé, Edward Balliol and he was taken to France for safety, remaining there until 1341. Invading England in 1346, David was captured and held as a house prisoner for the next eleven years. In 1357, the Scottish barons agreed to pay a ransom for his release, and David again returned to his native land. Only a small sum of what had been agreed was actually paid, because David set about negotiating a compromise by which he would be succeeded by an Englishman. This deal was never concluded because David died in 1371. Since he was childless, he was succeeded by his cousin, Robert, who became Robert II. David had traditionally been represented as a weak and ineffective ruler whose tenure as King of Scotland was marked by a major defeat, by seven years in exile and by another eleven under arrest. The best that is usually be said is that although Scotland came close to losing her independence during his reign, this did not actually happen. However, it has been suggested that David was rather more astute than has generally been thought and that by re-negotiating the ransom, he left the Scottish economy in a much better position while his apparent willingness to allow an Englishman to succeed him may have been part of a clever diplomatic charade.


Early Life

David II (March 5, 1324 – February 22, 1371) King of Scots, son of King Robert the Bruce by his second wife, Elizabeth de Burgh (d. 1327), was born at Dunfermline Palace, Fife.

In accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Northampton, he was married on July 17, 1328 to Joan of the Tower (d. 1362), daughter of Edward II of England and Isabella of France. This was an attempt to forge closer, and more peaceful, relations with the English.

David became king of Scotland after the death of his father on June 7, 1329. He was crowned at Scone in November 1331.

Refuge in France

Owing to the victory of Edward III of England and his protégé, Edward Balliol, at Halidon Hill in July 1333, David and his queen were sent for safety into France, reaching Boulogne in May 1334, and being received very graciously by the French king, Philip VI. Little is known about the life of the Scottish king in France, except that Château-Gaillard was given to him for a residence, and that he was present at the bloodless meeting of the English and French armies in October 1339 at Vironfosse, now known as Buironfosse, in the Arrondissement of Vervins. He appears to have allied himself with France at this time, since within a few years of returning to Scotland he invaded England apparently on behalf of the French.

Captivity in England

Edward III, however, was unable to press his advantage and place Balliol on the Scottish throne because David's supporters quickly reversed their fortune, winning a series of battles that soon had Balliol in retreat. In June 1341, David was able to return to his kingdom, where he took the reins of government into his own hands. In 1346, under the terms of the Auld Alliance, he invaded England in the interests of France, but was defeated and taken prisoner at the Battle of Neville's Cross on October 17, 1346, and remained in England for 11 years, living principally in London, at Odiham Castle in Hampshire and Windsor Castle in Berkshire. His imprisonment was not a rigorous one, and negotiations for his release were soon begun. Eventually, in October 1357, after several interruptions, a treaty was signed at Berwick by which the Scottish estates undertook to pay 100,000 marks as a ransom for their king. In fact, by the end of his imprisonment, he seems to have enjoyed a good relationship with Edward.

Return to Scotland

David returned at once to Scotland; but owing to the poverty of the kingdom it was found impossible to raise the ransom. A few installments were paid, but the king sought to get rid of the liability by offering to make Edward III, or one of his sons, his successor in Scotland. In 1364, the Scottish parliament indignantly rejected a proposal to make Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the next king; but David negotiated secretly with Edward III over this matter, after he had suppressed a rising of some of his unruly nobles. The power and authority of Parliament increased during David's reign, probably because they wanted a greater say in matters of taxation. After the initial ransom agreement, taxes were substantially increased to underwrite the payments. One significant development was that representatives of the towns gained the permanent right to sit in Parliament as the "third estate," alongside the clergy and nobility.


The king died in Edinburgh Castle in 1371. His second wife was Margaret Drummond, widow of Sir John Logie, whom he divorced in 1369. At the time of his death he was planning to marry his mistress Agnes Dunbar, daughter of Agnes Dunbar, 4th Countess of Moray. He left no children and was succeeded by his nephew, Robert II.


David II has been negatively contrasted with his more famous father. However, he became king at the age of five and so he can hardly be blamed for any of the early events of his reign, including taking refuge in France. His 1346 invasion of England was probably always doomed to failure, and during the following 11 years under arrest that he was removed from the responsibilities of governance yet once restored he does appear to have acted with a degree of skill and prudence. He started to re-negotiate the ransom, which had a positive economic result for Scotland and while he may have indicated willingness for an English relative to succeed him this did not in fact happen, and his successor was Scottish. Whether or not credit for this can be attributed to David, governance under his rule became a more participatory, shared exercise. Ford's verdict is less charitable, "In short, David was a weak and incapable ruler, with little of his father's patriotic spirit." [1]


  1. David Nash Ford, 2004, Royal Berkshire History: David II, King of Scots, Nash Ford Publishing, 2004, Retrieved November 19, 2007.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Brown, Michael. The Wars of Scotland, 1214–1371. The New Edinburgh History of Scotland, volume 4. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0748612376
  • Ford, David Nash. Royal Berkshire History: David II, King of Scots. Nash Ford Publishing, 2004. Retrieved May 19, 2020.
  • Nicholson, Ranald. Scotland. The Later Middle Ages. Edinburgh: Mercat Press; New York: Barnes & Noble, 1975. ISBN 978-0064951470
  • Penman, Michael. David II, 1329–71: The Bruce Dynasty in Scotland. East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 2003. ISBN 978-1862322028
House of Bruce
Born: 1324 1371; 
Regnal Titles

Preceded by:
King of Scots
7 June, 1329–22 February, 1371
Succeeded by: Robert II
Scottish royalty
Preceded by:
Robert Stewart
Heir of Scotland
as heir apparent
5 March 1324–7 June 1329
Succeeded by: Robert Stewart


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