The Background

On the 7th June 1329 Robert the Bruce died at Cardross Castle and was succeeded by his five year old son David who was crowned and anointed as David II on the November 24 1331 at Scone. Thomas Randolph, the Earl of Moray and one of the 'old guard' who had long supported Robert was appointed as regent.

In 1330 the seventeen year old Edward III asserted himself as king, banished his mother Isabella and executed her lover Roger Mortimer. Whilst at the time Edward III had no reason to disturb the provisions of the Treaty of Northampton a gentleman named Edward Balliol was about to stir up some trouble.

Edward Balliol and The Disinherited

The Balliol and Bruce families had been rival claimants to the throne of Scotland, and it was John Balliol who had initially won the 'competition' to become king after the untimely death of Margaret Maid of Norway in 1290. John Balliol lost his crown right at the inception of the first war before Robert the Bruce had emerged as the champion of Scottish independence and obtained the crown for himself.

Edward Balliol was the son of John Balliol and therefore naturally considered himself as the rightful king of Scots. With the current king of Scotland being a mere child, Edward Balliol saw an opportunity to recover his inheritance and set about gathering together an army to invade Scotland and displace David II.

He found ready support from amongst the 'Disinherited'; those Scottish landowners who had lost their land through their previous support for either or both of John Balliol and Edward I. Most of these men were of Norman descent such as Henry de Beaumont, Earl of Buchan, Gilbert de Umfraville, 4th Earl of Angus, Thomas Wake and David of Strathbolgie the Earl of Athol and all eager to regain their lost lands in the north.

There was also support from amongst the nobility of the north of England as any military expedition into Scotland brought forth the prospect of loot and new lands to acquire. The whole expedition was therefore conceived in the best traditions of Norman private enterprise, akin to the Norman invasions of both Wales and Ireland.

Whilst the planned expedition might not have had the blessing of Edward III as such, he turned an indulgent blind eye towards it and, rather crucially as it turned out, lent them a division or two of Welsh archers just to help them out.

On the 31st July 1332 the invasion force of eighty-eight ships set sail from Ravenspur on the river Humber and headed for the coast of Scotland.

King Edward 1332

By a stroke of luck, for Edward Balliol and his band of adventurers at least, the Scottish regent Thomas Randolph died at Musselburgh on the 20th July and was replaced by the far less competent Donald of Mar1. So that when, a few weeks later on the 6th August 1332, the adventurers landed at Kinghorn in Fife they met only minor resistance from the Earl of Fife, and were quickly able to take Dunfermline. From Dunfermline they marched over the Ochil Hills, their intention being to seize control of the town of Perth.

Donald of Mar gathered together an army of considerable size to oppose them and occupied a position on Dupplin Moor on the opposite bank of the river Earn to block their progress. On the 12th August the two opposing armies met at the battle of Dupplin Moor. The result; Edward Balliol and his adventurers destroyed the Scottish army beneath a hail of arrows and Donald of Mar was himself killed after serving as regent for a mere three weeks.

Edward Balliol went on to occupy Perth, where he received the submission of many of the Scottish nobility and on the 24th September 1332 he was at Scone being crowned King of Scots. On the 23rd November 1332 the Treaty of Roxburgh was agreed between Edward Balliol and Edward III; Edward III acknowledged Balliol as the lawful King of Scots and Balliol in return formally acknowledged the king as his feudal superior and agreed to surrender Berwick-upon-Tweed.

But on the 16th December a Scottish force under the command of the new Earl of Moray and Archibald Douglas launched a surprise attack on Balliol's camp at Annan. The attackers succeeded in killing Balliol's brother, but Balliol himself escaped and fled "half naked" back to the safety of England.

After a reign of only four months Edward Balliol was king no more.

King Edward 1333-1341

Despite being chased out of Scotland at the end of 1332, Edward Balliol did not give up. In the spring of 1333 he returned with another army on loan from Edward III and this time laid siege to Berwick-upon-Tweed. After easter he was joined by Edward III and further troops, and by the July of that year Berwick was ready to surrender.

With Berwick about to fall, the Scottish army of Archibald Douglas were forced to engage the English army in order to lift the siege and save the town. Archibald Douglas therefore launched an assault on the English army which had taken up position at Halidon Hill just outside Berwick. The resulting battle of Halidon Hill on the 19th July 1333 once again resulted in the destruction of the Scottish army and the death of its leader.

After the disaster of Halidon Hill David II was spirited out of Scotland and taken to safety in France, whilst Edward Balliol marched into Scotland and established himself at Perth and declared himself king once more.

Edward Balliol was of course, quite dependent on Edward III for his success and in the Treaty of Newcastle signed on the 12th June 1334, revealed what price he had been willing to pay for English support. By the Treaty, Edward of Scotland agreed to surrender to Edward of England the whole of Lothian, the whole of the central upland region, and almost the whole of Galloway as well. Six days later, on the 18th June 1334 Edward Balliol personally performed homage for that part of Scotland that remained his.

The south of Scotland was now under English military occupation and Edward III spent most of the winter of 1334-35 at Roxburgh where he held his Christmas court. In the following years Edward III led campaigns into Scotland proper in support of Balliol in both 1335 and again in 1336; in the later year penetrating as far as Elgin and Inverness when he ravaged much of the north-east as he did so.

To the 'patriotic party' within Scotland and the supporters of David II, this 'surrender of the south' only inspired them to redouble their efforts to remove Edward Balliol. They had moreover, learnt form the disasters of both Dupplin Moor and Halidon Hill and politely declined to give battle, preferring to engage in random raids against English garrisons.

So despite the military support from Edward III, things did not go well for Edward Balliol; two of his key supporters, the David of Strathbolgie and Henry of Beaumont quarreled with him, and the resulting disunity amongst the party of the Disinherited enabled the supporters of David II to pick them off one by one. Henry of Beaumont was soon surrounded and persuaded to quit Scotland for good whilst David of Strathbolgie was captured and killed in 1335.

The turning point of the conflict was the year 1338.

First was the failure to take Dunbar Castle, held by Black Agnes, the Countess of March which withstood a five month siege (The countess is said to have dusted the battlements clean every day to demonstrate her confidence that the castle walls could withstand the assault of the siege weapons.)

But more importantly in 1338 Edward III stayed at home; war had broken out with France and there were rumours that the French were considering an invasion. With no English army to support him, Edward Balliol was vulnerable.

In 1339 Edward Balliol was forced to abandon Perth, and over the next two years the 'patriotic party' gradually reclaimed each fortress and town. On the 17th April 1341 Edinburgh Castle was captured from the English and word was sent to David II, now a youth of seventeen, that Balliol had fled back to England and that it was time to return. Two months later David II was back in Scotland after his seven years of exile.

King David 1341-1347

After years in exile David II returned to finally take the throne of Scotland and rule as king in June 1341. But his restoration and indeed the whole idea of maintaining an independent Scotland relied very much on the fact that Edward III was otherwise distracted by the greater prize of France.

On the 26th August 1346 Edward III defeated the French at the battle of Crecy and it seemed as if all that was in jeopardy. David II who was possibly eager to demonstrate that he was his father's son and was capable of recreating the glories of Bannockburn, gathered together an army and marched south with the intention of seizing control of Durham and opening up a second front against Edward III.

It was therefore just outside Durham on the 17th October 1346 that David's army fought an English army under the command of the Archbishop of York at the battle of Neville's Cross. It was another disaster for the Scots, thousands were killed and the survivors fled the battlefield in panic. The best that can be said about David is that at least he didn't get himself killed, but he was captured and dragged off into England as a prisoner of Edward III.

King Edward 1347-1356

With David II now a prisoner of the English there was yet another opportunity for Edward Balliol to return to Scotland and attempt to re-establish himself upon the throne.

But this time around the regency fell on one Robert Stewart2 who demonstrated a greater capability for the role than may of his predecessors. Edward Balliol found that he was unable to extend his authority much beyond his family's traditional powerbase in Galloway, and in any case the Black Death struck Scotland in 1350 and rapidly decimated the country and it may well have been the case that people had other things on their minds.3

With most of Scotland firmly in the grip of Robert Stewart as regent, Edward Balliol finally decided he'd had enough and in January 1356 he met with Edward III at Roxburgh and formally surrendered all his rights over the Scottish throne to Edward III in return for a pension.4

Another King Edward 1356-1357

After acquiring Edward Balliol's 'rights' over Scotland Edward III could and did style himself as 'King of Scotland'.

He made some attempt to impose his authority over Lothian, but when storms scattered his supply ships, his army grew hungry and Edward III returned to England within a few weeks. But he took the opportunity before he left, to ravage Lothian so mercilessly and so brutally that it was long remembered afterwards under the name of Burnt Candlemas.

Perhaps Edward III now decided that the Scots resistance was such that it was never going to be worth his while to divert sufficient military resources to subjugate the country. Or perhaps he decided that there might be a cheaper way of getting what he wanted.

King David 1357-1371

On the 3rd October 1357 the Treaty of Berwick was signed, freeing David II from imprisonment in return for the future payment of 100,000 marks5. David II was therefore free to return to Scotland and to resume his interrupted rule.

One of the ironies of the whole conflict is that the Scots spent the best part of two decades fighting against Edward Balliol because he was seen as being Edward III's stooge, and in favour of David II the symbol of their independence only to find that David II turned out to be cut from the very same mould as Edward Balliol.

David never produced a male heir, disliked the idea of the succession falling to his nephew Rober Stewart, and never could quite find the money to pay off the debt demanded by the Treaty of Berwick. He was to spend much of this last part of his reign trying to persuade the Scots to accept a deal whereby Edward III or one of his sons would become his heir, and intriguing with Edward III when the Scottish Parliament politely declined to authorise any such suggestion.

David even went so far as to nominate Edward III as his heir in his will but the Scots took no notice and adopted Robert Stewart as king instead.


When did the Second War end? It could be argued that the Treaty of Berwick marked the end of the conflict as it essentially brought the fighting to an end. But an argument could also be made that it was not until the accession of Robert Stewart to the throne as Robert II that Edward III finally gave up hopes of uniting both kingdoms under a single crown.

The Second War is much less well known and documented than the First War, it is a much less dramatic and romantic affair, there are no rousing patriotic heroes in the mould of William Wallace or Robert the Bruce and no against-the-odds victories such as Bannockburn. There is a tendency to lump them both together as the 'Scottish Wars of Independence' and deal with the Second War in a couple of sentences about Edward Balliol.

War is a curious thing and is worth noting that the Scots were utterly and comprehensively defeated in all three major battles of the war and yet ended up retaining the very independence that they were fighting for. In fact, after thirty or so years of intermittent conflict at no time did either Edward Balliol or Edward III ever succeed in establishing control over anything like the full extent of the country and the only territorial change as a result of the war was that England ended up gaining Berwick-upon-Tweed.

The Scots were helped enormously by the fact that the Hundred Years War had kicked off in 1339, and the war with France received priority throughout Edward III's reign. But credit was also due to the Scottish nobility who consistently and stubbornly refused to comprise the independence they had previously won, in defiance, most of the time, from the very kings who ruled over them.


1Donald of Mar aka the Earl of Mar was the father of Isobel of Mar the first wife of Robert the Bruce.

2 Robert Stewart was a grandson of Robert the Bruce and who had briefly been Robert's nominated heir before the birth of David and remained the next in line for the throne given David's lack of an heir.

3 The Scots were in fact massing an army at Ettrick ready to invade the plague-stricken England just before they too were struck down by the plague. They naively believed the Black Plague to be God's judgement on the English and that they were therefore safe from its effects.

4 Edward Balliol eventually died in 1364 without any children and there the line of Balliol and their claim to the throne of Scotland ended.

5 War in France was expensive and Edward III was deep in debt.


George Burton Adams, The History of England From the Accession of Henry III to the Death of Edward III (1216-1377)

Source Documents Relating to the Wars of Edward III at

The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica entries for Edward Balliol and Edward III and the various sources listed under David II

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