The title is now held by the heir to the throne of the United Kingdom, now the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the title mandated for use by the heir apparent when in Scotland, in preference to the English titles Duke of Cornwall (which also belongs to the eldest living son of the monarch, when and only when he is also heir apparent, by right) and Prince of Wales (traditionally granted to the heir apparent).
.David Stewart, Duke of Rothesay, the son of Robert III of Scotland, 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 of Scotland, 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 the Great Steward of Scotland (also called High Steward or Lord High Steward) dates back to its first holder, Walter fitz Alan, 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.
Between the 1603 Union and Prince Albert Edward's time as heir apparent, the style "Duke of Rothesay" appears to have dropped out of usage in favour of "Prince of Wales". It was Queen Victoria who mandated the title for use to refer to the eldest son and heir apparent when in Scotland, and this usage has continued since.
An Act of the Parliament of Scotland 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, the title is not inherited by his heir – it is only for the first-born son, like the Duchy of Cornwall — nor is either inherited by the deceased duke's next brother, unless that brother also becomes 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 representative peers from 1707. (The 1707 Acts of Union between the Parliament of Scotland and Parliament of England formally unified both kingdoms to create the Kingdom of Great Britain). This right continued until 1963, when the UK Parliament abolished the election of representative peers.
The arms of the Duke of Rothesay feature on the 1st and 4th quarters the arms of the Great Steward of Scotland, with the 2nd and 3rd quarters featuring the arms of the Lord of the Isles. In the centre, on an inescutcheon, are the arms of the heir apparent to the King of Scots, namely the Royal arms of Scotland with a three point label.
|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)||1488 (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)||1702 (attainder)|
|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)|
|Charles||Elizabeth II||1952 (mother's accession)|