Our first play-off group is now live, meaning that you have a chance to vote! Click here to listen to the podcast episode for Group A where we compare Constantine II, Malcolm III, Alexander III and James II or read on to get an overview of how they compare. If you already know who you want to vote for, the link to the survey is just below:
You can find out more about the Scottish Rex Factor Play-Offs here. However, to summarise…
We had thirteen monarchs in the Scottish series to be awarded the Rex Factor. To even the numbers up, our top seed (Robert the Bruce) has been given a bye straight into the Grand Final. To decide who will join him, there are three groups of four monarchs with the winner from each group going through to the final. To decide who gets there, we will be combing the electoral colleges of Ali, Graham and you (the rest of the world!)
If you’ve listened to the Group A podcast or have already made your mind up, then you can vote for who you want to win Group A here, but if you want to refresh your memory, here’s the lowdown on the four monarchs asking for your vote in Group A – will it be Constantine II, Malcolm III, Alexander III or James II?
Constantine II (900-43)
When Constantine became king in 900, Scotland was not yet fully formed as the nation we know today, the royal dynasty was in a precarious position having just been restored after a coup and there were Vikings on the prowl. A weak reign could have proved fatal for the fledgling dynasty, but thankfully Constantine was anything but. In 904, he defeated the Vikings, expelling them from Scotland, then two years later reunited the warring factions in Scotland with a ceremony at Scone. He then established the territory of Bernicia (northern Northumbria – Bamburgh) as a buffer zone between Scotland and the Vikings in York until they were united by a common threat. England was also coming into existence under Athelstan, who had imperial ambitions over the whole island. He expelled the Vikings from York in 927 and they sought Constantine’s protection, leading to Athelstan invading Scotland in 934. Constantine led a grand alliance of Scots, Britons and Vikings against the Saxons, culminating in the epic battle of Brunanburh in 937. Athelstan was victorious but Constantine survived to see Athelstan die in 939 and York fall to the Vikings soon after, re-establishing a buffer between England and Scotland. Now an old man, Constantine abdicated in 943 and retired to become an abbot, dying in 952 at the age of 78 with Scotland now a recognisable country and identity.
Malcolm III (1058-1093)
Malcolm’s life began in peril after his father, Duncan, was murdered by Macbeth in 1035. Malcolm went into exile (possibly in Orkney where he married the widow of Jarl Thorfinn the Mighty), returning in 1057 to kill first Macbeth and then, in 1058, Macbeth’s stepson, Lulach. This would prove to be a turbulent period in England with the dramatic year of 1066 seeing three major battles and the Norman conquest of England. Malcolm had links to Harald Hardrada but stayed out of trouble until the last Saxon prince, Edgar the Aetheling, was shipwrecked in Scotland along with his mother and sisters. Malcolm gave him refuge and married his sister, Margaret, who helped introduce major reforms to Scotland’s church and court, bringing it into line with the more sophisticated courts of Europe. It also brought Malcolm into conflict with the Normans, as he was not only sheltering Edgar, he also conducted numerous raids into Northumbria and gave his sons royal Saxon names. He was made to submit by William the Conqueror, but had a cheeky tendency to wait until William left the country at which point he would launch another raid. However, his luck ran out when he came into conflict with William Rufus, with Malcolm being killed in an ambush in 1093 while besieging Alnwick Castle.
Alexander III (1249-86)
Scotland had been in a strong position under Alexander III’s father, Alexander II, with all of mainland Scotland now actually Scotland. However, his father died on the verge of reconquering the Western Isles and Alexander III was just a child when he became king. As was often the case in Scotland, the minority was turbulent, with different factions fighting each other for control and possession of the young king. while Henry III of England was also poking his nose into Scottish affairs (not least by marrying Alexander to his daughter). Thankfully, when Alexander came of age in 1260, he was able to take full control and resolve the various conflicts in Scotland before then setting his sights on his father’s unfinished business in the Western Isles. Haakon IV of Norway refused a Scottish offer of purchase, so Alexander ordered an attack on Skye to provoke Haakon. A Norse armada came in 1263, but Alexander opened negotiations and cannily delayed matters long enough for storms to approach, forcing Haakon to head home. As it was, Haakon died on the way and after Alexander occupied the various islands, Norway accepted reality and ceded the islands formally. For the next two decades, Scotland enjoyed something of a golden age, with a period of unbroken peace and prosperity, enjoying friendly relations with Norway and England, where even the mighty Edward I was unable to force Alexander to acknowledge him as his liege lord (at least for the kingdom of Scotland). However, tragedy was to strike Alexander – from 1275-84, he lost his wife and three children, with only a (Norwegian) granddaughter surviving him. He had his nobles acknowledge his granddaughter as heir but remarried in a bid to produce a new heir. Unfortunately, he broke his neck riding through the night to be with his wife in 1286, leaving the country in a very uncertain position.
James II (1437-60)
Since the death of Robert the Bruce in 1329, the Scottish monarchy had become dangerously weak. The new Stewart dynasty had endured two old and sickly men in Robert II and Robert III, while James I had started well only to grow unpopular and be assassinated in 1437. It was thus over a century since the King of Scots had ruled successfully and James II was only a child. Thankfully, James II was an incredibly energetic character who emerged from his minority in 1449 ready to take control. After marrying the niece of the powerful Duke of Burgundy (and gaining some fancy new cannons), James declared his independence and removed the previous regent. He then set his sights on the rebellious and incredibly powerful 8th Earl Douglas, who had a private army largely controlling southern Scotland made an alliance with the rebellious Lord of the Isles. When Douglas refused to renounce his allegiances in a dinner with James in 1452, James personally stabbed Douglas, who was then finished off by James’s retainers, provoking a civil war with the Douglas family. This could easily have been fatal for James, but he managed to secure the backing of parliament and, using his fancy new cannons, captured the various Douglas castles and exiled his enemies. He then adopted a more diplomatic approach, holding regular parliaments, appointing new earldoms and winning the respect of the other nobles and his people. His ambitions knew no end, with attacks on the Isle of Man, negotiations for Orkney and Shetland and discussions with both houses in the Wars of the Roses (as well as trying to persuade the French to launch a joint invasion). In 1460, with the English in disarray, James led a campaign to recapture the Scottish towns of Roxburgh and Berwick. Roxburgh was taken and James set about besieging the castle, only for one of his own cannons to misfire while he was standing nearby, blowing him up and killing him, not yet 30 years old. Such was the unity that James had achieved, his nobles continued the siege after his death, capturing and then destroying the castle before heading home.
Voting (please do!)
Of course, they ALL have the Rex Factor, but who do you think is the greatest of them all? Ali and Graham have both voted but the public vote will be crucial to decide who gets through to the Grand Final. For more details about the monarchs, read their individual blog entries, listen to their podcast episodes or (to hear a comparison of them all, factor-by-factor) listen to the Group A play-off episode. Once you’ve made up your mind, click the link below to vote for who you think deserves to go through to the Grand Final.