The Duke of Rothesay is a title in the Peerage of Scotland which has customarily been conferred upon the heir apparent to the Scottish throne.
The title was first conferred on David Stewart, eldest son and heir apparent of Robert III. David who had been Earl of Carrick since about 1390, was created a duke on the 28th April 1398 at the same time as his uncle Robert Stewart was awarded the dukedom of Albany, this being the first instance on which the degree of duke was awarded in the Peerage of Scotland. The choice of Rothesay being inspired by the fact that the Stewarts were the traditional keepers of Rothesay Castle on the island of Bute, which at the time as an important border fortress.
In the year 1399 David Stewart displaced his uncle Robert Stewart, 1st Duke of Albany as Regent of Scotland. Appointed for a period of three years, at the end of his term of office in 1402 David was arrested by his uncle who was acting in concert with Archibald Douglas, 4th Earl of Douglas. The Duke of Rothesay died in captivity soon thereafter. Murder was suspected but never proved and both Robert and Archibald were later acquitted of the charge.
Shortly after David's death, in 1404 his younger brother James was granted Rothesay, the lands of the Earldom of Carrick together with the Barony of Renfrew and is therefore deemed to have become Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick and Baron Renfrew, on the basis that at that time such honours were inextricably bound up with the holding of land. In any case all such titles later merged in the crown when James succeeded as James I in 1406.
This custom was followed with both the next two generations of James Stewarts (who eventually succeeded as James II and James III) who as heirs apparent to the Scottish crown found themselves ennobled as Dukes of Rothesay and similarly awarded the title of Earl of Carrick (long associated with Scottish royalty since it was held by Robert the Bruce) and the office of Steward of Scotland (being the hereditary office from which the Stewarts had derived their family name.)
These arrangements were placed on a more formal basis by Act of the Scottish Parliament dated 27th November 1469 which stipulated that the title of Duke of Rothesay would automatically be conferred upon the 'first-born Prince' of the King of Scots. A stipulation which has since been interpreted to mean, the eldest surviving son of the Scottish monarch of either gender. In essence the dignity of Rothesay can therefore be regarded as the Scottish equivalent of the English title of Duke of Cornwall.
The act of 1469 also specified that the titles of Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew and Lord of the Isles and the office of Great Steward of Scotland should similarly be conferred on the 'first-born Prince'. Since that date this collection of titles has been born by every heir apparent to the Scottish throne. (There is a technical argument regarding whether the title of Baron of Renfrew is really a Scottish parliamentary lordship and thus a peerage title or whether it is a feudal barony. No great consequences follow from it being one or the other.)
In the year 1603 James VI of Scotland, who was the first of his line to adopt the Frenchified 'Stuart' version of his surname, became James I of England, thus effecting the union of the English and Scottish Crowns. Therefore his son Henry Stuart, who had been Duke of Rothesay since his birth in 1594 also became Duke of Cornwall on his father's accession to the throne of England in 1603, and was later created Prince of Wales. Since Henry's death in 1613 the descent of the Scottish titles attached to the heir apparent of the Scottish throne has been identical to his English equivalent since they were obviously one and the same person. Or in the strict terms of peerage law "the limitation of the Scottish titles of the Heir Apparent has been treated as identical to that of the Dukedom of Cornwall".
The current Duke of Rothesay is therefore none other than Prince Charles. Although commonly known as the Prince of Wales in the rest of the world, whenever he ventures north of the border it as the Duke of Rothesay that he is formally known. (HRH Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay to be precise.)
THE DUKES OF ROTHESAY
Thereafter see Duke of Cornwall.
* Some sources include the short-lived Alexander Stewart elder brother of James II as Duke of Rothesay in 1430, presumably by the retropective application of the terms of the 1469 Act
- HRH The Prince of Wales at
- Stirnet Genealogy at
- The Peerages of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom at http://www.angeltowns.com/town/peerage/Peers.htm