The First War of Scottish Independence was the initial chapter of engagements in a series of warring periods between English and Scottish forces lasting from the invasion by England in 1296 until the de jure restoration of Scottish independence with the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton in 1328. De facto independence was established in 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn. England attempted to establish its authority over Scotland while the Scots fought to keep English rule and authority out of Scotland.
The term "War of Independence" did not exist at the time. The war was given that name retroactively many centuries later, after the American War of Independence made the term popular.
When King Alexander III ruled Scotland, his reign had seen a period of peace and economic stability. On 19 March 1286, however, Alexander died after falling from his horse. The heir to the throne was Alexander's granddaughter, Margaret, Maid of Norway. As she was still a child and in Norway, the Scottish lords set up a government of guardians. Margaret fell ill on the voyage to Scotland and died in Orkney on 26 September 1290. The lack of a clear heir led to a period known as the "Great Cause", with several families laying claim to the throne.
With Scotland threatening to descend into civil war, King Edward I of England was invited in by the Scottish nobility to arbitrate. Before the process could begin, he insisted that all of the contenders recognise him as Lord Paramount of Scotland. In early November 1292, at a great feudal court held in the castle at Berwick-upon-Tweed, judgement was given in favour of John Balliol having the strongest claim in law.