Alexander III, king of Scotland (1249-1286)
Alexander III was the son of Alexander II and his second wife, Mary of Coucy. Alexander became king at the age of eight, and only five days after the death of his father.
The years of his minority were marked by a struggle for the control of affairs between two rival parties, the one led by Walter Comyn, earl of Menteith, the other by Alan Durward, the justiciar. The former was in the ascendant during the early years of the reign. At the marriage of Alexander in 1251 to Margaret daughter of Henry III of England, Henry seized the opportunity to demand from his son-in-law homage for the Scottish kingdom, but the claim was refused. In 1255 an interview between the English and Scottish kings at Kelso resulted in the repudiation of the earl of Menteith and his party in favour of their opponents. But though disgraced, they still retained great influence; and two years later, seizing the person of the king, they compelled their rivals to consent to a regency representative of both parties.
On attaining his majority in 1262, Alexander declared his intention of resuming claims on the Western Isles which had been cut short by the death of his father thirteen years before. A formal claim was laid before the Norwegian king Haakon. Not only was this unsuccessful, but next year Haakon responded with a formidable invasion force consisting of 200 ships and 15,000 men. Sailing round the west coast of Scotland he halted off Arran, where negotiations were opened. These were artfully prolonged by Alexander until the autumn storms should begin. At length Haakon, weary of delay, attacked, only to encounter a terrific storm which greatly damaged his ships. The Battle of Largs, fought next day, was indecisive, but Haakon never the less turned homewards, but died on the way. In 1266 Haakon's successor concluded the Treaty of Perth by which the Isle of Man and the Western Isles were ceded to Scotland in return for a payment of 4000 merks and an annual payment of 100 merks, Orkney and Shetland alone being retained.
The period of Alexander's reign was one of peace with England. Indeed Alexander was an honoured guest at the coronation of Edward I in 1272. Yet again it was suggested that Alexander do homage for Scotland as well as his English lands, this time by the Bishop of Norwich. Alexander's reply was cool and to the point, “to homage for my kingdom of Scotland no one has right except God alone, nor do I hold it except of God alone”. The subject was then dropped - for a while.
Towards the end of Alexander's reign, the death of all his three children within a few years made the question of the succession one of pressing importance. In 1284 he induced the Estates to recognize as his heir-presumptive his grand-daughter Margaret, the "Maid of Norway"; and next year the desire for a male heir led him to contract a second marriage to Yolande, daughter of the Count of Dreux. But all such hopes were defeated by the sudden death of the king, who was killed by a fall from his horse in the dark while riding to visit the queen at Kinghorn on the 19th of March 1286.