Scotlands History

The Great Cause

When Alexander III and Margaret, the Maid of Norway, died, 13 nobles came forward to claim the throne. The task of choosing a new king has come to be known as ‘the Great Cause’.

Three of the nobles were thought to have the strongest claim; John Balliol, John Hastings and Robert de Brus ‘the Competitor’ (the grandfather of King Robert the Bruce). They were all descended from the daughters of David the Earl of Huntingdon and could trace their lineage to King David I of Scotland. As Robert de Brus and John Balliol jostled for power, the threat of civil war loomed.

The Scots nobles and Guardians could not decide who would be king. They turned to King Edward I of England to judge the claims. Edward demanded that all the claimants accept him as overlord of Scotland before he would intervene. All reluctantly agreed, as no-one wished to be left out of the race for the throne.

Edward I decided that John Balliol should become the King of Scots.

  • Statue of a king with curly hair and beard and gold crown

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Listen to Edward the First's judgement on the Great Cause.