Scottish Wars of Independence, 1297 to 1357
With the death of Alexander III and his last surviving child and heir in quick succession, several Scottish claimants declared their right to the throne. Of these, three were descended from David I but in particular, John Balliol and Robert Bruce had the strongest claims and wielded the most power.
Fearing civil war, the Scottish Barons and guardians wrote to King Edward I of England to intervene as an independent judge to each claim. Edward I had built his reputation as a military man. He had Crusaded, campaigned in Europe and was buoyed by his recent conquest of Wales. The Scots thought asking for his intervention the lesser of two evils. Playing on Scottish fears, Edward's initial demand was that he adjudicate with the title of Lord Paramount of Scotland. The Claimants swore allegiance as Edward expected them to, though he then went further and demanded homage from all Scottish Barons. Edward would eventually declare John Balliol as king of Scotland. He was crowned in 1292 with Edward making it clear he now considered Scotland his vassal. In 1294, Edward summoned John Balliol and demanded Scottish troops for a planned invasion of France.
The Scottish were furious. They defied Edward's orders and sent emissaries to France to forewarn the French of invasion. Upon finally learning of Scotland and France's new found alliance, Edward sent troops North knowing the Scots were still divided. In 1296 war broke out.
After initial English victories and the removal of the symbolic Stone of Scone to Westminster Abbey from Perth, rebellions broke out in areas occupied by the English led by William Wallace and Andrew Moray. The Scots scored a memorable victory at Stirling Bridge and launched raids into Northern England in 1298 but the warrior king Edward personally oversaw the reversal of these defeats by marching North at the head of his army and defeating Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk. Edward completed all his military objectives by taking Stirling Castle in 1304 and in 1305 Wallace himself was captured and executed.
There were now two claimants to the Scottish throne. Robert the Bruce and John 'Red' Comyn. A meeting was called between the two men. Although both left their swords outside Greyfriars Kirk, in which they met, a fight broke out and Bruce killed John Comyn. Bruce went into hiding but emerged in 1307 to revive the war.
While travelling North to deal with the new army of Scots flooding to Robert Bruce's banner, Edward fell ill with dysentery and died. So ended the life of one of England's most ferocious and formidable Kings, appropriately while on military campaign. Bruce went on to score a crushing victory at Bannockburn in 1314. In 1320 the Arbroath Declaration was signed by a group of Scottish nobles declaring an Independent Scotland, a form of which was sent to the Pope.
Scotland and England would continue to wage war on one another for decades but with the signing of Treaty of Berwick in 1357 the struggles came to an end. Both sides ultimately gained little but Scotland would retain her independence until the Act of Union in 1707. From this Scotland would go onto a golden age of political stability and enlightenment.
You may also be interested to read about the 18th Century Act of Union.