Scottish History - the history of Scotland

Ch 14 - JAMES IV

Summary: James IV was an effective ruler and a true Renaissance prince. His interest in practical and scientific matters led to a great deal of progress in Scotland under his rule. He understood that peace between Scotland and England was in the interest of both countries. However, when war broke out between England and France as a result of the Italian Wars, he found himself in a difficult position. When Henry VIII attempted to invade France in 1513, James reacted by declaring war on England. He led an invading army southward, only to be killed at the disastrous Battle of Flodden Field.

Scotland History

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter

Scottish Books

Ch 14 - JAMES IV

The new king, with Angus for his Governor, Argyll for his Chancellor, and with the Kers and Hepburns in office, was crowned at Scone about June 25, 1488. He was nearly seventeen, no child, but energetic in business as in pleasure, though lifelong remorse for his rebellion gnawed at his heart. He promptly put down a rebellion of the late king's friends and of the late king's foe, Lennox, then strong in the possession of Dumbarton Castle, which, as it commands the sea-entrance by Clyde, is of great importance in the reign of Mary and James VI. James III. must have paid attention to the navy, which, under Sir Andrew Wood, already faced English pirates triumphantly. James IV. spent much money on his fleet, buying timber from France, for he was determined to make Scotland a power of weight in Europe. But at the pinch his navy vanished like a mist.

Spanish envoys and envoys from the Duchess of Burgundy visited James in 1488-1489; he was in close relations with France and Denmark, and caused anxieties to the first Tudor king, Henry VII., who kept up the Douglas alliance with Angus, and bought over Scottish politicians. While James, as his account-books show, was playing cards with Angus, that traitor was also negotiating the sale of Hermitage Castle, the main hold of the Middle Border, to England. He was detected, and the castle was intrusted to a Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell; it was still held by Queen Mary's Bothwell in 1567.

The Hepburns rose to the earldom of Bothwell on the death of Ramsay, a favourite of James III., who (1491) had arranged to kidnap James IV. with his brother, and hand them over to Henry VII., for 277 pounds, 13s. 4d.! Nothing came of this, and a truce with England was arranged in 1491. Through four reigns, till James VI. came to the English throne, the Tudor policy was to buy Scottish traitors, and attempt to secure the person of the Scottish monarch.

Meanwhile, the Church was rent by jealousies between the holder of the newly-created Archbishop of Glasgow (1491) and the Archbishop of St Andrews, and disturbed by the Lollards, in the region which was later the centre of the fiercest Covenanters,--Kyle in Ayrshire. But James laughed away the charges against the heretics (1494), whose views were, on many points, those of John Knox. In 1493-1495 James dealt in the usual way with the Highlanders and "the wicked blood of the Isles": some were hanged, some imprisoned, some became sureties for the peacefulness of their clans. In 1495, by way of tit-for-tat against English schemes, James began to back the claims of Perkin Warbeck, pretending to be Richard, Duke of York, escaped from the assassins employed by Richard III.

Perkin, whoever he was, had probably been intriguing between Ireland and Burgundy since 1488. He was welcomed by James at Stirling in November 1495, and was wedded to the king's cousin, Catherine Gordon, daughter of the Earl of Huntly, now supreme in the north. Rejecting a daughter of England, and Spanish efforts at pacification, James prepared to invade England in Perkin's cause; the scheme was sold by Ramsay, the would-be kidnapper, and came to no more than a useless raid of September 1496, followed by a futile attempt and a retreat in July 1497. The Spanish envoy, de Ayala, negotiated a seven-years' truce in September, after Perkin had failed and been taken at Taunton.

The Celts had again risen while James was busy in the Border; he put them down, and made Argyll Lieutenant of the Isles. Between the Campbells and the Huntly Gordons, as custodians of the peace, the fighting clans were expected to be more orderly. On the other hand, a son of Angus Og, himself usually reckoned a bastard of the Lord of the Isles, gave much trouble. Angus had married a daughter of the Argyll of his day; their son, Donald Dubh, was kidnapped (or, rather, his mother was kidnapped before his birth) for Argyll; he now escaped, and in 1503, found allies among the chiefs, did much scathe, was taken in 1506, but was as active as ever forty years later.

The central source of these endless Highland feuds was the family of the Macdonalds, Lords of the Isles, claiming the earldom of Ross, resisting the Lowland influences and those of the Gordons and Campbells (Huntly and Argyll), and seeking aid from England. With the capture of Donald Dubh (1506) the Highlanders became for the while comparatively quiescent; under Lennox and Argyll they suffered in the defeat of Flodden.

From 1497 to 1503 Henry VII. was negotiating for the marriage of James to his daughter Margaret Tudor; the marriage was celebrated on August 8, 1503, and a century later the great grandson of Margaret, James VI. came to the English throne. But marriage does not make friendship. There had existed since 1491 a secret alliance by which Scotland was bound to defend France if attacked by England. Henry's negotiations for the kidnapping of James were of April of the same year. Margaret, the young queen, after her marriage, was soon involved in bitter quarrels over her dowry with her own family; the slaying of a Sir Robert Ker, Warden of the Marches, by a Heron in a Border fray (1508), left an unhealed sore, as England would not give up Heron and his accomplice. Henry VII. had been pacific, but his death, in 1509, left James to face his hostile brother- in-law, the fiery young Henry VIII.

This chapter continues on the next page: the times of James IV continued

Return to index page - Scotland History