Alexander, Prince of Scotland, married Margaret of Flanders, daughter of Guy of Dampierre, Count of Flanders, at Roxburgh on the 15th of November, 1282.
Life is full of ‘what ifs’ and Scotland’s history is peppered with many such pointless questions. Well, it’s not all that pointless; it does make for interesting speculation. Take Andrew, Prince of Scotland, for example. Moments before his untimely death, he was the only surviving son of Alexander III, King of Scots and the man who would’ve been King. The sad fact is that he predeceased his Royal father and left that man with no heir. What if the younger Alexander had become Alexander IV, King of Scots? Had Alexander lived, we would not have seen William Wallace invent guerrilla warfare; probably. Had Alexander’s mortal coil not been extinguished, we would not have seen Robert de Brus assume the Throne in 1306; quite possibly. Had Alexander not passed away, we would not have had to endure the reign of John Balliol, ‘the Toom Tabard’; very likely. Had Alexander lived and inherited the throne, we would not have seen Edward I take such an acquisitive interest in the affairs of Scotland.
Alexander, Prince of Scotland was born at Jedburgh on the 21st of January, 1264, the son of Alexander III and his Queen Consort, Margaret of England. He was the grandson of Alexander II and of Henry III of England, and as the eldest son, he was the heir to the throne of Scotland. Alexander’s younger brother, David of Scotland, died at the age of eight, in 1281, leaving his by then widowed father with no other legitimate sons. With the succession in mind, however, Alexander married Margaret of Flanders, the daughter of Guy of Dampierre, Count of Flanders, at Roxburgh on the 15th of November, 1282. However, no children were born of that union. Whether or not there would’ve been children remains pure speculation; rendered obsolete by the fact of Alexander’s death at Lindores Abbey on the 17th of January, 1284. He was buried at Dunfermline Abbey and all of a sudden, “oops oh lordy!” Scotland was left with no heir to the Throne.
Alexander’s death caused his father to induce the Estates of Scotland to recognise his granddaughter, Margaret, the so-called ‘Maid of Norway’ as his heir-presumptive. Wee Maggie was then only three and was the daughter of Alexander’s sister Margaret who had died in childbirth. She was living in Norway with her other parent, Eric II, King of Norway and obviously too young to have any say in the matter. She later became a statistic in the great poll of history. She would’ve been Queen Margaret, but she was to die in late 1290, before her eighth birthday, on her way to Orkney on a voyage to Scotland to assume the Throne. In an attempt to secure a male heir, King Alexander decided to get remarried. His second wife was Yolande de Dreux and their marriage took place on the 1st of November, 1285. Sadly, a stillborn child was the only result of that union. Sadder still, Alexander himself died on the 26th of March, 1286, on his way home to Kinghorn in Fife, anxious to spend another night with the pregnant Yolande. Her baby was still born in November 1286.
For Scotland, the far reaching effects of the death of both Alexanders cannot be underestimated. For a start, since then, there have been no further King Alexanders; lots of King Jameses, but no more Alexanders. No more Gaelic Kings or Queens either as Alexander was the last King to have had any significant Gaelic blood line. From John Balliol onwards, the Kings and Queens of Scotland were essentially of Norman descent. If Alexander’s line had continued, it is likely that the claim of Robert de Brus, the Competitor, would never have been made; nor needed to have been made. The intervention of Edward I of England to determine who, from amongst the long list of Scottish Nobles, had the better claim to the vacant Throne would have been unnecessary.
If the younger Alexander had become Alexander IV, the Battles of Dunbar and Stirling and Falkirk and Bannockburn would likely never have been fought. Andrew Moray would not have died of his wounds in the months after the Battle of Stirling and nor would he and Wallace had to have penned the Lübeck letter. Wallace would not have been butchered in Smithfield. With Robert the Bruce unlikely to ever have stepped up to the Throne, his succession through the Stewarts (latterly, due to Mary I, Queen of Scots, dalliance with France, known as the Stuarts) would not have occurred. With no Stuarts, there would’ve been no James VI to become James I on the death of the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I, and nor would there have been a need for Cromwell to get so upset at the posturing of Charles I; another Stuart. With no Stuarts, there would’ve been no Jacobites and no Bonnie Prince Charlie and, horror of horrors, no shortbread tins – or worse still, no Drambuie.
The poem ‘To a Mouse’ by Robert Burns has a few lines that are somewhat apt in terms of predictions and ‘what ifs’:
“But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!”
The best laid schemes o’ Alexander III went agley and, whatever it was he guessed and feared, we a’ ken whit happ’n’d.