When Alexander died, his little grand-daughter Margaret, who was called the Maid of Norway, was only four years old. She was living in Norway with her father, but she was proclaimed Queen of Scotland, and six nobles were appointed to rule the land until she grew up.
Now began a very unhappy time for Scotland, a stormy time, as Thomas the Rhymer had foretold. The six nobles, and many others besides, quarrelled among themselves. Instead of trying to keep Scotland peaceful, they tried to make themselves great. This went on for about four years. Then Edward, King of England, who was still eager to make Scotland and England into one country, proposed that the little Queen, who was now eight years old, should marry his son Edward, Prince of Wales.
The Scottish people agreed to this, but knowing what was in Edward's mind, they made it plain to him that Scotland should remain a free country even though the Queen married the English Prince. The rights and customs of Scotland were to remain unchanged, and Scotland was never to be made a part of England. To this Edward had to appear to agree, for he saw that on no other conditions could he have his wish. But secretly he said to one of his chief advisers, "Now the time when Scotland and its petty kings shall be under my rule has at last arrived."
The little Queen set sail from Norway in a beautiful ship filled with splendid jewels, and clothes, and other rich presents from her father. But she never reached her kingdom. On the voyage she became very ill and died in Orkney. How she died, or where she was buried, we do not know. In those days news travelled very slowly. There were no trains, or posts, or telegrams, and it was not for some time after her death that the people, who were waiting anxiously for their Queen, learned that she would never come to them at all.
The death of the little Queen was a great sorrow to the people of Scotland, and it also put them into a great difficulty. The Maid of Norway had been the only direct heir to the throne, for King Alexander's children had all died before he did, and he had no other near relatives.
But he had a great many cousins and distant relatives, and now no fewer than twelve men claimed the throne. The chief of the twelve were John Baliol and Robert de Bruce, the father of that Robert who married the pretty Lady Marjorie. Each of the twelve thought that he had the best right to the throne. None would give way, so the quarrelling became very fierce.
As the twelve could not agree among themselves as to who should be King, they at last resolved to ask some one else to decide for them. So Edward, King of England, was asked to come to settle the question.
This seemed to many of the nobles the best and wisest thing to do. King Edward was king of a neighbouring country; he was King Alexander's brother-in-law, and great-uncle of the Maid of Norway, and he was known to be a wise and just man. But King Edward pretended that he was asked for none of these reasons, but because he was over-lord of Scotland.
Edward chose John Baliol as King. Both John Baliol and Robert Bruce were descended from David of Huntingdon, who was William the Lion's brother, but John Baliol was the grandson of his eldest daughter, Robert Bruce was the son of his second daughter. So Edward decided that the grandson of William the Lion's eldest, had a better right to the throne than the son of his second daughter. We must own that King Edward's choice seems the just and right one.
Unfortunately, John Baliol was a weak man and no fit King for Scotland at this time. Before Edward chose him as King he made him swear to own the King of England as over-lord. To this John Baliol consented, for Edward was so strong and he so weak that he did not dare to resist. It is said that Edward had sent for Robert de Bruce and offered him the crown on the same terms, but that Bruce had indignantly refused, and so John Baliol was chosen instead.
Kneeling before King Edward, John Baliol placed his hands between his lord's and swore to be his man. The great seal of Scotland was broken in four and given to the King of England as a sign that Scotland was his. Then he went home, believing that at last he had made himself master of Scotland.