King Alexander III (r.1249-86)

Alexander III was only eight years old when he attained the crown of Scotland. Two years later he would be married to Margaret, the daughter of Henry III, in a move which the Scots nobles would secure good relations with England. The battle for power in leading the young king fell between Walter Comyn, the Earl of Mentieth, and Alan Durward, the Justicar of Scotia. Finally this power struggle was ended when Mentieth kidnapped the young king but this was eventually settled by a deal brokered in September 1258. In 1260 Alexander took personal control of the kingdom.

In that year he travelled south to England with his pregnant wife to demand his dowry from Henry III, now ten years late. He obtained a promise from the English king that the dowry would be made. Margaret bore Alexander a daughter, also Margaret, in February 1261.

In the same year, he turned his attention on the Western Isles. This was still Norwegian territory and Alexander sent a diplomatic core to the Norwegian king, Haakon IV, to negotiate a settlement. The Norwegian king was in no mood to bargain and any prospect of a peaceful solution ended.

A year later, Alexander offered the Isles a Scottish takeover. The islanders though turned to Haakon IV for help. The Norwegian king had to act fast but by the time of September 1263 when his fleet came to the Firth of Clyde to engage Alexander's force, the islanders support for Haakon was already slipping. Alexander had his base at Ayr, and, knowing that Haakon would soon need to find a base for the winter for his fleet, managed to successfully prolong negotiations. In an attempt to hurry the Scots Haakon sent a force up Loch Long, and hauling their longboats over land, launched into Loch Lomond and his vikings terrorised the Lennox (although this would have been the northern part of the region not Drumchapel). This did not however hurry the Scots and at the end of the month gales started to decimate the Norwegian fleet. Haakon landed on the 2nd October to salvage what he could from his stranded fleet, but he fled just as the Scots arrived to face the Norwegian host on the beach; the Battle of Largs. The Norwegian expedition was a disaster and Haakon sought the safety of Orkney where he died on the 16th December.

Haakon's son now sent a diplomatic core to Alexander but now it was the Norwegian's turn to be turned away. Alexander made preparation to invade the Isle of Man but the Manx king submitted to the Scots. The island was annexed into the Scottish crown in 1265 a year later. Meanwhile the Scots fleet now turned on the Western Isles but the islanders generally submitted to the Scots. Alexander also attacked the remnants of Norse influence still hanging on in Caithness and Ross. By the time the Norwegians returned in 1265 to broker a deal, Alexander was already in control of these former Norse enclaves. The treaty of Perth in 1266 secured Scottish sovereignty for the islands by initial payment of 4000 marks.

Alexander's queen Margaret died in 1275. She had left him two sons; Alexander and David, and a daughter Margaret. The viking threat ended, Margaret was to marry the thirteen year old King Eric II of Norway in 1281. She was to die after childbirth of her daughter Margaret in 1283. Then his younger son David had died, aged 7. In 1284, his heir Alexander also died. The heir was now the nine month old Margaret. In this age of child morality it was imperative that Alexander remarried. He did so, to Yolande of Dreux in late 1285.

As a typical newly-wed Alexander was eager to return to his young wife. In early 1286, after a long council, albeit with plenty of alcohol, Alexander was desperate to return to his Queen, in Kinghorn, eight miles away. Although everyone advised the king against making the journey at nightfall with a storm approaching, the king insisted and rode off into the night. The following morning he was found dead at Pettycur, a mile from Kinghorn, his neck broken having been thrown from his horse. The infant Margaret, the Maid of Norway, was now Queen.