The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Duke of Rothesay

The title Duke of Rothesay was the official title possessed by the Heir Apparent to the throne of Scotland. A separate Scottish throne has not existed since the Act of Union 1707 which merged the Kingdoms of Scotland and England to form the Kingdom of Great Britain (later known as the United Kingdom after a further merger with the Kingdom of Ireland). The title is now held by the heir to the throne of the United Kingdom. It is the title mandated for use by the heir apparent when in Scotland, in preference of the English titles Duke of Cornwall (which also belongs to the eldest son of the monarch by right) and Prince of Wales (traditionally granted to the Heir Apparent of the United Kingdom). The Duke of Rothesay also holds other Scottish titles, including those of Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.

The title is named for Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, but is not associated with any legal entity or landed property, unlike the Duchy of Cornwall.



David Stewart, the son of Robert III, King of Scots, first held the dukedom from its creation in 1398. After his death, his brother James, later King James I, received the dukedom. Thereafter, the heir-apparent to the Scottish Crown held the dukedom; an Act of the Scottish Parliament passed in 1469 confirmed this pattern of succession.

The Earldom of Carrick existed as early as the twelfth century. In 1306, Robert the Bruce, Earl of Carrick, became King Robert I, with the earldom merging in the Crown. In the following years, successive Kings of Scots created several heirs-apparent Earl of Carrick. The Act of 1469 finally settled the earldom on the eldest son of the Scottish monarch.

The Barony of Renfrew, another dignity held under the 1469 Act, had first come to an heir-apparent in 1404. In Scotland, barons hold feudal titles, not peerages: a Scottish lord of Parliament equates to an English or British baron. Some, however, claim that the Act of 1469 effectively elevated the Barony of Renfrew to the dignity of a peerage. Others suggest that the barony became a peerage upon the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Finally, some scholars argue that the uncertainty surrounding the text of the 1469 Act leaves the barony as a feudal dignity.

The office of Great Steward of Scotland (also called High Steward or Lord High Steward) dates back to its first holder, Walter FitzAlan, in the twelfth century. The seventh Great Steward, Robert, ascended the Scots throne as Robert II in 1371. Thereafter, only the heirs-apparent to the Crown held the office. The 1469 Act also deals with this.

Lord of the Isles

Another of the non-peerage titles belonging to the heir-apparent, that of Lord of the Isles, merits special mention. The Lords of the Isles, of the MacDonald family, originally functioned as vassals of the Scottish – or Norwegian – Kings who ruled the Western Isles. The ambitious John MacDonald II, fourth Lord of the Isles, made a secret treaty in 1462 with King Edward IV of England, by which he sought to make himself an independent ruler. In 1475, James III discovered the Lord of the Isles' actions, and the Lordship became subject to forfeiture. MacDonald later regained his position, but James IV again deprived him of his titles in 1493 after his nephew provoked a rebellion. In 1540 James V of Scotland granted the Lordship to the heirs-apparent to the Crown.

Legal basis

An Act of the Scottish Parliament passed in 1469 governs the succession to most of these titles. It provides that "the first-born Prince of the King of Scots for ever" should hold the dukedom. If the first-born Prince dies before the King then it goes to the next Heir Apparent. Though the Act specified "King," eldest sons of Queens Regnant subsequently also held the dukedom. The interpretation of the word "Prince", however, does not include women. The eldest son of the British Sovereign, as Duke of Rothesay, had the right to vote in elections for Scottish representative peers from 1707, when Scotland and England united into Great Britain, until 1963, when the UK Parliament abolished the election of representative peers.

Current Holder

HRH The Prince of Wales currently holds the title of 'Duke of Rothesay and uses it when in Scotland. He has the formal Scottish style of HRH The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay.


The arms of the Duke of Rothesay quarters the arms of the Great Steward and of the Lords of the Isles and places the arms of the heir apparent to the Scots throne in the centre.

Title Holders

Holders of the Dukedom of Rothesay, with the processes by which they became Dukes of Rothesay and by which they ceased to hold the title:

Duke of Rothesay Parent From To
David Stewart Robert III 1398 (charter) 1402 (death)
James Stewart Robert III 1402 (death of brother David) 1406 (acceded as James I)
Alexander Stewart James I 1430 (birth) 1430 (death)
James Stewart James I 1430 (death of brother Alexander) 1437 (acceded as James II)
James Stewart James II 1452 (birth) 1460 (acceded as James III)
James Stewart James III 1473 (birth) 1473 (acceded as James IV)
James Stewart James IV 1507 (birth) 1508 (death)
Arthur Stewart James IV 1509 (birth) 1510 (death)
James Stewart James IV 1512 (birth) 1513 (acceded as James V)
James Stewart James V 1540 (birth) 1541 (death)
James Stuart Mary I 1566 (birth) 1567 (acceded as James VI)
Henry Stuart, Prince of Wales James VI 1594 (birth) 1612 (death)
Charles Stuart, Duke of York James VI & I 1612 (death of brother Henry) 1625 (acceded as Charles I)
Charles James Stuart Charles I 1629 (birth) 1629 (death)
Charles Stuart Charles I 1630 (birth) 1649 (acceded as Charles II)
James Francis Edward Stuart James VII & II 1688 (birth) 1689 (father's deposition)
George Augustus George I 1714 (father's accession) 1727 (acceded as George II)
Frederick Lewis George II 1727 (father's accession) 1751 (death)
George Augustus Frederick George III 1762 (birth) 1820 (acceded as George IV)
Albert Edward Victoria 1841 (birth) 1901 (acceded as Edward VII)
George Edward VII 1901 (father's accession) 1910 (acceded as George V)
Edward George V 1910 (father's accession) 1936 (acceded as Edward VIII)
Prince Charles of Edinburgh Elizabeth II 1952 (mother's accession)  
Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46