AS we saw last week, most historians accept that the second Scottish war of independence ended with the Treaty of Berwick in 1357, and I do not propose to differ with that conclusion, though I will show over the next two weeks that independence was not guaranteed – England never really got over Bannockburn, frankly.

Again I make the point that the 1357 Treaty merely confirmed what almost everyone accepted – that apart from a few years in the reign of Edward I of England, Scotland had been a fully independent country for five centuries and more which, by the way, was longer than England as she was then constituted. So when we take back independence we are merely restoring what was always Scotland’s natural state until the parcel of rogues signed it away for a mess of pottage.

While that Berwick Treaty brought peace to Scotland and England, it was by no means the end of the threat to Scottish independence, and as we shall see, some of that threat came from within Scotland itself, and from very high places indeed. Today I will deal with that period of internal strife and next week I will deal with the man who was the single greatest threat to Scottish independence between 1357 and 1707 – King Henry VIII of England.

The Berwick Treaty did not end English occupation of numerous fortifications in southern Scotland and it did not fully recognise his kingship, but at least Scotland had its king home. King David II, son of Robert the Bruce, had three distinct phases to his reign. There were the years of his boyhood reign from the age of five after his father died in 1329, during which Regents and Guardians took control in his place – including the period from 1333 when he had to flee to France – then there were his first years of actually ruling Scotland from 1341 until his capture by the English at the Battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346, and the final phase of his reign from the Treaty of Berwick in 1357.

David is a baffling character, one of the great enigmas of Scottish history. Largely due to his period on the throne from 1341 to 1346, he is often characterised as a man who preferred women, wine, jousting and fun, and there is undoubtedly some truth in that. After all, he was only 17 when he returned from France and in his early twenties when captured and imprisoned for 11 years, the period of life when most people have a young head on young shoulders.

Ruling Scotland in his stead during that period was Robert Stewart, the seventh High Steward of Scotland, who had fled or escaped from the battlefield at Neville’s Cross after which he was named Guardian of Scotland – in effect the ruler while the king was in English captivity.

Robert was the son of Walter, sixth High Steward of Scotland, and the tragic Marjorie Bruce, daughter of King Robert the Bruce. She was killed in a riding accident in 1316 at the age of just 19 or 20 when she was in an advanced state of pregnancy – Robert was delivered by caesarean section.

The complication for David II was that, as a grandson of Robert the Bruce, Robert Stewart had already been named Heir Presumptive to the throne should David not produce a legitimate heir, so Robert was perhaps not entirely the best person to trust as David sought to end his imprisonment – England wanted a massive ransom, and after the Plague Years around 1350, that ransom was always going to be unpayable as Scotland was just too broke to provide the cash.

Robert Stewart twice stopped a deal with Edward III to free David so that was also why Edward III eventually insisted in 1357 that 20 sons of noble families should be held hostage in England until the Scots paid up – they were there a long time.

We know that David’s English wife Joan was often by his side during his captivity – Edward III was not heartless and allowed conjugal visits, but no child resulted from these. In any case, they had both been together from childhood until he was captured and there had been no children at that time either. Theirs was essentially a loveless liaison for more than three decades.

Significantly for Scotland, when David was eventually released by Edward III in 1357 and the 20 hostages went south, Joan came north for a few weeks and then chose to stay in England and nurse her ill mother. The fact that David II had an English mistress, Katherine Mortimer, from his time in captivity, may well have influenced her decision.

Katherine Mortimer met a grisly end in what was one of the most infamous assassinations of the day, though it’s been largely long forgotten. David’s love for her was so strong that he preferred dalliances with her to kingly duties, otherwise he might have seen that nobles at his court, including Thomas Stewart, the Earl of Angus, were becoming very jealous of her influence over the king. In the summer of 1360, the conspiracy against Katherine ended bloodily.

One chronicle of the time recalled that “two villains, named Hulle and Dewar, undertook to murder her, and having sought her residence under a pretence that they came from the king with instructions to bring her to court, prevailed upon the unsuspecting victim to entrust herself to their guidance. They travelled on horseback, and on the desolate moor between Melrose and Soutra, where her cries could bring none to her assistance, Hulle stabbed her with his dagger and dispatched her in an instant”.

Katherine Mortimer was buried in an upright tomb Newbattle Abbey where she was recorded as “beloved of Davie Bruise”. His retainers executed, Thomas Stewart was arraigned and charged with her murder, and he was flung into the dungeons of Dumbarton Castle where he died of the plague.

The Book of Pluscarden, the chronicle written by the monk Maurice Buchanan at Pluscarden Priory around 1460, recorded the events that happened, and of course he couldn’t add help some words of excoriation for the adulterous king.

“The same year also died Thomas, Earl of Angus, not only through his own folly in following the advice of young men, but also because, through his retainers, he contrived and plotted the death of the kings mistress Catherine (sic) Mortimer; For though through the keeping of that mistress the Queen was neglected and many other evils ensued, yet the manner of committing the crime of killing her was too outrageous, seeing that she was murdered by the said earl’s retainer while she was coming south, riding in the Kings company and train. By this may be seen what evils are brought on by that sin of adultery, as saith the Lord by the prophet.”

Monk Buchanan then goes on to blame an outbreak of the Plague on that breaching of the Seventh Commandment, and it was all David II’s fault: “See you then how adultery displeases the divine Majesty. King David, who was an open fornicator, never could have peace or happiness or prosperity or favour during his life or secure the throne in the lineal succession of his body or have fruitfulness in the plenty of his time.”

Queen Joan died two years later in 1362 in Hertford Castle at the age of just 41. Her husband did officially mourn her and it may have been her death that brought him and Edward III to a better understanding of each other – Joan was, after all, Edward’s younger sister. She was buried in London where her tomb was obliterated by a German bomb during the Blitz.

BY the time of the Queen’s death, David was already in love with Margaret Drummond, the widow of Sir John Logie, a beautiful and wealthy woman. King David was now obsessed with having an heir, and he was now free to marry Margaret. No children arrived, however.

The aforementioned understanding between monarchs was necessary because David II had tried to pay the Berwick treaty’s massive ransom of 10,000 merks per year, but had been unable to do so just a few years into the decade-long deal. After 1362, no more payments were made, so instead in a new spirit of cooperation, David negotiated with Edward III – as always, he was more interested in his war with France and wanted the Scots to stay out of that war – and resurrected an old arrangement that had been tried before and which would at least give Edward control over who sat on the Scottish throne.

As we saw last week, while he was in captivity, David had raised the possibility of an English royal succeeding to the throne of Scotland if he died without a legitimate heir, a deal opposed by Robert Stewart. Now the matter came up again, and in one of the most bizarre episodes in Scottish history, David II went to Westminster and proposed that Edward himself or Edward’s son Lionel, the Duke of Clarence, should succeed him. Some histories say it was his other son, John of Gaunt, that Edward wanted on the Scottish throne, but in 1363, the plan fell apart. The Book of Pluscarden again: “King David held a parliament at Scone where he suggested to the three estates that they should consent to the son of the king of England his wife’s brother, Lionel by name, as his successor on the throne. He became very unpopular among the people.”

In short, to be shot of the ransom, David was prepared to give his throne to an English prince. It may have been a bluff, but if so it backfired. The people’s answer had echoes of the Declaration of Arbroath – no wonder since the writer of Pluscarden was an ardent supporter of the Stewarts.

“To this they shortly and without delay or consultation answered that they would not have this man reign over them and not only him but that they would never in all time consent that an Englishman, whatever his rank of condition should be their future king.”

This had been a step too far for the nobles and they rose in anger against David. It was Robert Stewart who started off in the opposition, not least because he had lands and fortunes and the throne to lose, but it was also he who finally sabotaged the so-called rebellion of the nobles.

David II managed to quell his noble adversaries, and for the rest of his reign he appears to have ruled firmly and reasonably fairly, rebuilding the national finances to which he helped himself, and, despite French pleas, keeping out of any wars with England where Edward’s son, The Black Prince, was the new hero with his victories in France – the English were happily to leave Scotland in peace, and vice-versa.

David was determined to have one more go at siring an heir. In 1369, he divorced Margaret Drummond who promptly went off to see the Pope in Avignon to contest the divorce, only to die there.

David was unlucky, because even as he was planning his marriage to his new paramour Agnes Dunbar, niece of the heroine Black Agnes of Dunbar, the king died suddenly at Edinburgh Castle which he had spent a fortune rebuilding. He was just 46. We do not know the cause of his death, but it may have been related to the arrow wounds he had suffered at the Battle of Neville’s Cross almost 25 years previously. His had been a strange reign.

So it was on February 23, 1371, that the Stewart dynasty came to the Scottish throne. Robert Stewart became King Robert II at the age of 55. The Stewarts would reign over Scotland for the next 343 years.