Balliol and Bruce

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The lack of provision for the succession after the death of the ‘Maid of Norway’ left the kingdom without a monarch for two years. The close family connections between the English and Scottish royal houses, and Edward I's political experience, resulted in a series of meetings at Norham and Berwick before him, to determine which of the eventual thirteen claimants had the best right to the throne. This affair has become known as the ‘Great Cause’. Some of the ‘competitors’ were descendants of the illegitimate offspring of William ‘the Lion’, but the main choice lay between three men—John Balliol, Robert de Bruce, and John Hastings, all descended from David, earl of Huntingdon (youngest brother of Malcolm IV and William I). Laws of inheritance were still ambiguous, but judgement was finally given on 17 November 1292 to John Balliol, as the most senior line.

After Balliol's abdication in 1296, Edward I took the control of Scotland into his own hands, but his hold was illusory. National resistance developed from skirmishes into the first war of independence, in which William Wallace played a leading role, but the Scots were forced to submit to Edward in 1304, after which he began reorganization of government with the support of many of the Scottish nobles. This was soon to be swept away by the revolt of Robert Bruce, grandson of the competitor, but the second interregnum had lasted for a decade.

Subjects: British History.

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