With the release of Outlaw King today on Netflix, we take a look at the life of the Outlaw King’s Queen – Elizabeth de Burgh.
Elizabeth was born in Ireland circa 1284 as the daughter of Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster and his wife, Margaret. Elizabeth married the future King, then Earl of Carrick, in 1302. She would have been about 18 years old, while Robert was 28.
The death of Margaret, Maid of Norway, had left Scotland without a monarch. When several candidates presented themselves, King Edward I of England acted as an arbitrator. He chose John Balliol, a descendant of King David I of Scotland. He was King of Scots for just four years when he renounced his fealty to the English King and was taken prisoner. Robert too was a descendant of King David I, and he seized the throne in 1306, being crowned on 25 March 1306. Within weeks of being crowned, the new King was defeated, and in this dire situation, Elizabeth, her stepdaughter Marjorie (from Robert’s first marriage to Isabella of Mar) and Robert’s sisters Christina and Mary fled north. They were escorted to Kildrummy Castle by Robert’s brother Neil, but the castle was immediately besieged by the English. Neil was captured, but the others had managed to escape. They were taken shelter in the sanctuary of St Duthac at Tain when they were seized by the Earl of Ross.
Elizabeth was taken to the manor house of Burstwick, with two elderly women as her attendant. Christina was sent to a nunnery in Lincolnshire. Mary was imprisoned in a cage at Roxburgh Castle, while Marjorie was first sent to the Tower of London and later to a nunnery in Yorkshire. The women would remain as prisoners of the English for the next eight years. Elizabeth was moved around from place to place and was also in the Tower of London for some time. It wasn’t until 1314 that Robert defeated the English at the Battle of Bannockburn. By then, Edward I had been long dead, and he had taken King Edward II’s commander prisoner. In the end, the women were exchanged for the commander and were free at last.
Elizabeth could, at last, take up her rightful place as Queen and the couple had two daughters. In 1315, Marjorie married Walter, High Steward of Scotland but her story would take yet another turn. The following year, while heavily pregnant, Marjorie fell from her horse. Her son was safely delivered, but Marjorie died not much later. In 1318, the boy named Robert for his grandfather was declared heir presumptive to the throne. On 5 March 1324, Elizabeth gave birth to a son named David followed by a short-lived son named John. By then, they had been married for 22 years. Elizabeth herself died on 26 October 1327, though it is unclear what the cause of death was. Her body was taken to Dunfermline while her entrails were buried in the Church of St Mary the Virgin at Cullen.
The battle did not end until 1 March 1328, when King Edward III issued letters patent recognising King Robert I as King of Scots. Negotiations were also underway for a marriage between David and the English Princess Joan. 1