James II of Scotland

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James II
James II of Scotland 17th century.jpg
King of Scotland
Reign21 February 1437 3 August 1460
Coronation 25 March 1437
Predecessor James I
Successor James III
Born16 October 1430
Holyrood Abbey
Died3 August 1460(1460-08-03) (aged 29)
Roxburgh Castle
Burial
Spouse
Mary of Guelders (m. 1449)
Issue
more...
James III, King of Scotland
Alexander, 1st Duke of Albany
House Stewart
Father James I, King of Scotland
Mother Joan Beaufort
Religion Roman Catholic

James II (16 October 1430 3 August 1460) was a member of the House of Stewart who reigned as King of Scotland from 1437 until his death.

Contents

Life

James was born in Holyrood Abbey. [1] He was the son of King James I and Joan Beaufort. By his first birthday his twin and only brother, Alexander, who was also the older twin, had died, thus making James the heir apparent and given the title Duke of Rothesay. On 21 February 1437, James I was assassinated and the six-year-old James immediately succeeded him as James II. He was crowned in Holyrood Abbey by Abbot Patrick on 23 March 1437. [2]

Holyrood Abbey

Holyrood Abbey is a ruined abbey of the Canons Regular in Edinburgh, Scotland. The abbey was founded in 1128 by King David I. During the 15th century, the abbey guesthouse was developed into a royal residence, and after the Scottish Reformation the Palace of Holyroodhouse was expanded further. The abbey church was used as a parish church until the 17th century, and has been ruined since the 18th century. The remaining walls of the abbey lie adjacent to the palace, at the eastern end of Edinburgh's Royal Mile. The site of the abbey is protected as a scheduled monument.

James I of Scotland 15th-century King of Scots

James I, the youngest of three sons, was born in Dunfermline Abbey to King Robert III and his wife Annabella Drummond and reigned as King of Scotland from 1406 to 1437. His older brother David, Duke of Rothesay, died under suspicious circumstances while being detained by their uncle, Robert, Duke of Albany. Fears for James's safety grew through the winter of 1405/6 and plans were made to send him to France. In February 1406, James was forced to take refuge in the castle of the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth after his escort was attacked by supporters of Archibald, 4th Earl of Douglas. He remained there until mid-March when he boarded a vessel bound for France. On 22 March English pirates captured the ship and delivered the prince to Henry IV of England. The ailing Robert III died on 4 April and the 11-year-old James, now the uncrowned King of Scotland, would not regain his freedom for another eighteen years.

Joan Beaufort, Queen of Scots Queen Consort of Scotland from 1424 to 1437

Joan Beaufort was the Queen of Scotland from 1424 to 1437 as the spouse of King James I of Scotland. During part of the minority of her son James II, she served as the regent of Scotland.

In 1449, nineteen-year-old James married fifteen-year-old Mary of Guelders, daughter of the Duke of Gelderland. She bore him seven children, six of whom survived into adulthood. Subsequently, the relations between Flanders and Scotland improved. [3] James's nickname, Fiery Face, referred to a conspicuous vermilion birthmark on his face which appears to have been deemed by contemporaries an outward sign of a fiery temper. [4]

Mary of Guelders queen consort of Scotland

Mary of Guelders was the queen consort of Scotland by marriage to King James II of Scotland. She served as regent of Scotland from 1460 to 1463.

Arnold, Duke of Guelders Duke of Guelders

Arnold of Egmond was Duke of Guelders, Count of Zutphen.

Flanders Community and region of Belgium

Flanders is the Dutch-speaking northern portion of Belgium and one of the communities, regions and language areas of Belgium. However, there are several overlapping definitions, including ones related to culture, language, politics and history, and sometimes involving neighbouring countries. The demonym associated with Flanders is Fleming, while the corresponding adjective is Flemish. The official capital of Flanders is Brussels, although the Brussels Capital Region has an independent regional government, and the government of Flanders only oversees the community aspects of Flanders life in Brussels such as (Flemish) culture and education.

James was a politic, and singularly successful king. He was popular with the commoners, with whom, like most of the Stewarts, he socialised often, in times of peace and war. His legislation has a markedly popular character. He does not appear to have inherited his father's taste for literature, which was "inherited" by at least two of his sisters; but the foundation of the University of Glasgow during his reign, by Bishop Turnbull, shows that he encouraged learning; and there are also traces of his endowments to St. Salvator's, the new college of Archbishop Kennedy at St Andrews. [5] He possessed much of his father's restless energy. However, his murder of the Earl of Douglas leaves a stain on his reign. [6]

University of Glasgow University located in Glasgow, Scotland and founded in 1451.

The University of Glasgow is a public research university in Glasgow, Scotland. Founded by papal bull in 1451, it is the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland's four ancient universities. Along with the universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and St. Andrews, the university was part of the Scottish Enlightenment during the 18th century.

William Turnbull was a Scottish politician and bishop, credited with founding Glasgow University. He served as the Bishop of Glasgow, from 1448 to 1454 and was the first chancellor of Glasgow University.

St Salvators College, St Andrews

St Salvator's College was a college of the University of St Andrews in St Andrews, Scotland. Founded in 1450, it is the oldest of the University's colleges. In 1747 it merged with St Leonard's College to form United College.

Early reign

James I was assassinated on 21 February 1437. The Queen, although hurt, managed to get to her six-year-old son, who was now king. On 25 March 1437, the six-year-old was formally crowned King of Scots at Holyrood Abbey. The Parliament of Scotland revoked alienations of crown property and prohibited them, without the consent of the Estates, that is, until James II's eighteenth birthday. [7] He lived along with his mother and five of his six sisters (Margaret had left for France, where she had married the future Louis XI of France) at Dunbar Castle until 1439. [8]

Parliament of Scotland legislature of the Kingdom of Scotland

The Parliament of Scotland was the legislature of the Kingdom of Scotland. The parliament, like other such institutions, evolved during the Middle Ages from the king's council of bishops and earls. It is first identifiable as a parliament in 1235, during the reign of Alexander II, when it was described as a "colloquium" and already possessed a political and judicial role. By the early fourteenth century, the attendance of knights and freeholders had become important, and from 1326 commissioners from the burghs attended. Consisting of the "three estates" of clergy, nobility and the burghs sitting in a single chamber, the parliament gave consent for the raising of taxation and played an important role in the administration of justice, foreign policy, war, and all manner of other legislation. Parliamentary business was also carried out by "sister" institutions, such as General Councils or Convention of Estates. These could carry out much business also dealt with by parliament – taxation, legislation and policy-making – but lacked the ultimate authority of a full parliament.

Margaret Stewart, Dauphine of France Dauphine of France

Margaret of Scotland was a Princess of Scotland and the Dauphine of France. She was the firstborn child of King James I of Scotland and Queen Joan Beaufort.

Louis XI of France king

Louis XI, called "Louis the Prudent", was King of France from 1461 to 1483. He succeeded his father Charles VII.

From 1437 to 1439 the King's first cousin Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Douglas, headed the government as lieutenant-general of the realm. After his death, and with a general lack of high-status earls in Scotland due to deaths, forfeiture or youth, political power became shared uneasily among William Crichton, 1st Lord Crichton, Lord Chancellor of Scotland (sometimes in co-operation with the Earl of Avondale), and Sir Alexander Livingston of Callendar, who had possession of the young king as the warden of the stronghold of Stirling Castle. Taking advantage of these events, Livingston placed Queen Joan and her new husband, Sir John Stewart, under "house arrest" at Stirling Castle on 3 August 1439. They were released on 4 September only by making a formal agreement to put James in the custody of the Livingstons, by giving up her dowry for his maintenance, and confessing that Livingston had acted through zeal for the king's safety. [3]

Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Douglas Scottish nobleman and general of the Hundred Years War

Archibald Douglas was a Scottish nobleman and General during the Hundred Years' War.

Scotland Country in Northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain, with a border with England to the southeast, and is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, the North Sea to the northeast, the Irish Sea to the south, and more than 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.

William Crichton, 1st Lord Crichton was an important political figure in the late medieval Kingdom of Scotland.

In 1440, in the King's name, an invitation is said to have been sent to the young, 16-year-old 6th Earl of Douglas and his younger brother, twelve-year-old David, to visit the king at Edinburgh Castle in November 1440. According to legend, they came, and were entertained at the royal table, where James, still a little boy, was charmed by them. However, they were treacherously hurried to their doom, which took place by beheading in the castle yard of Edinburgh on 24 November, with the 10-year-old king pleading for their lives. Three days later Malcolm Fleming of Cumbernauld, their chief adherent, shared the same fate. The king, being a small child, had nothing to do with this. This infamous incident took the name of "the Black Dinner".

Struggles with the Douglases

In 1449 James II reached adulthood, but he had to struggle to gain control of his kingdom. The Douglases, probably with his cooperation, used his coming of age as a way to throw the Livingstons out of the shared government, as the young king took revenge for the arrest of his mother (a means to remove her from political influence) that had taken place in 1439 and the assassination of his young Douglas cousins in which Livingston was complicit. Douglas and Crichton continued to dominate political power, and the king continued to struggle to throw off their rule. Between 1451 and 1455 he struggled to free himself from the power of the Douglases. Attempts to curb the Douglases' power took place in 1451, during the absence of William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas from Scotland, and culminated with the murder of Douglas at Stirling Castle on 22 February 1452.

The main account of Douglas's murder comes from the Auchinleck Chronicle , a near contemporary but fragmentary source. According to its account, the king accused the Earl (probably with justification) of forging links with John Macdonald, 11th Earl of Ross (also Lord of the Isles), and Alexander Lindsay, 4th Earl of Crawford. This bond, if it existed, created a dangerous axis of power of independently-minded men, forming a major rival to royal authority. When Douglas refused to break the bond with Ross, James broke into a fit of temper and stabbed Douglas 26 times and threw his body out of a window. His court officials (many of whom would rise to great influence in later years, often in former Douglas lands) then joined in the bloodbath, one allegedly striking out the Earl's brain with an axe.

This murder did not end the power of the Douglases, but rather created a state of intermittent civil war between 1452 and 1455. The main engagements were at Brodick, on the Isle of Arran; Inverkip in Renfrew; and the Battle of Arkinholm. James attempted to seize Douglas lands, but his opponents repeatedly forced him into humiliating climbdowns, whereby he returned the lands to James Douglas, 9th Earl of Douglas, and a brief and uneasy peace ensued.

Military campaigns ended indecisively, and some have argued that James stood in serious danger of being overthrown, or of having to flee the country. But James's patronage of lands, titles and office to allies of the Douglases saw their erstwhile allies begin to change sides, most importantly the Earl of Crawford after the Battle of Brechin, and in May 1455 James struck a decisive blow against the Douglases, and they were finally defeated at the Battle of Arkinholm.

In the months that followed, the Parliament of Scotland declared the extensive Douglas lands forfeit and permanently annexed them to the crown, along with many other lands, finances and castles. The Earl fled into a long English exile. James finally had the freedom to govern as he wished, and one can argue that his successors as Kings of Scots never faced such a powerful challenge to their authority again. Along with the forfeiture of the Albany Stewarts in the reign of James I, the destruction of the Black Douglases saw royal power in Scotland take a major step forward. [9]

Energetic rule

Between 1455 and 1460 James II proved to be an active and interventionist king. Ambitious plans to take Orkney, Shetland and the Isle of Man nonetheless did not succeed. The king travelled the country and has been argued to have originated the practice of raising money by giving remissions for serious crimes. It has also been argued that some of the unpopular policies of James III originated in the late 1450s. [10]

In 1458 an Act of Parliament commanded the king to modify his behaviour, but one cannot say how his reign would have developed had he lived longer. [11]

James II is the first Scots monarch for whom a contemporary likeness has survived, in the form of a woodcut showing his birthmark on the face.

Marriage

A portrait of Mary of Guelders MaryofGuelders.jpg
A portrait of Mary of Guelders

Negotiations for a marriage to Mary of Guelders began in July 1447, when a Burgundian envoy came to Scotland, and were concluded by an embassy under Crichton the chancellor in September 1448. Philip settled sixty thousand crowns on his kinswoman, and her dower of ten thousand was secured on lands in Strathearn, Athole, Methven, and Linlithgow. A tournament took place before James at Stirling, on 25 February 1449, between James, master of Douglas, another James, brother to the Laird of Lochleven, and two knights of Burgundy, one of whom, Jacques de Lalain, was the most celebrated knight-errant of the time. The marriage was celebrated at Holyrood on 3 July 1449. A French chronicler, Mathieu d'Escouchy, gives a graphic account of the ceremony and the feasts which followed. Many Flemings in Mary's suite remained in Scotland, and the relations between Scotland and Flanders, already friendly under James I, consequently became closer. [3]

In Scotland the king's marriage led to his emancipation from tutelage, and to the downfall of the Livingstons. In the autumn Sir Alexander and other members of the family were arrested. At a parliament in Edinburgh on 19 January 1450, Alexander Livingston, a son of Sir Alexander, and Robert Livingston of Linlithgow were tried and executed on the Castle Hill. Sir Alexander and his kinsmen were confined in different and distant castles. A single member of the family escaped the general proscription—James, the eldest son of Sir Alexander, who, after arrest and escape to the highlands, was restored in 1454 to the office of chamberlain to which he had been appointed in the summer of 1449. [3]

Death

James II died outside the walls of Roxburgh Castle when one of his bombards exploded. Castles old and new - geograph.org.uk - 163364.jpg
James II died outside the walls of Roxburgh Castle when one of his bombards exploded.

James II enthusiastically promoted modern artillery, which he used with some success against the Black Douglases. His ambitions to increase Scotland's standing saw him besiege Roxburgh Castle in 1460, one of the last Scottish castles still held by the English after the Wars of Independence.

For this siege, James took a large number of cannons imported from Flanders. On 3 August, he was standing near one of these cannons, known as "the Lion", when it exploded and killed him. Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie stated in his history of James's reign that "as the King stood near a piece of artillery, his thigh bone was dug in two with a piece of misframed gun that brake in shooting, by which he was stricken to the ground and died hastily." [12]

The Scots carried on with the siege, led by George Douglas, 4th Earl of Angus, and the castle fell a few days later. Once the castle was captured James's widow, Mary of Guelders, ordered its destruction. [13] James's son became king as James III and Mary acted as regent until her own death three years later.

Issue

James married Mary of Guelders at Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh, on 3 July 1449. They had seven children:

NameBirthDeathNotes
Unnamed son19 May 145019 May 1450
James III 10 July 145111 June 1488James' successor as King of Scots
Mary Stewart, Countess of Arran 13 May 1453May 1488Wife of (Firstly) Thomas Boyd, Earl of Arran;
(Secondly) James Hamilton, 1st Lord Hamilton
Alexander, Duke of Albany c. 14547 August 1485
David, Earl of Moray c. 1455Bef. July 1457
John Stewart, 1st Earl of Mar and Garioch c. 1456c. 1479
Margaret 1453-1460unknown

By his unknown mistress, James also left one illegitimate son:

Fictional portrayals

James II has been depicted in plays, historical novels and short stories. They include: [14]

Ancestry

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References

  1. Grants "Old and New Edinburgh"
  2. Grants "Old and New Edinburgh"
  3. 1 2 3 4 Mackay 1892, p. 137.
  4. Mackay 1892, p. 141.
  5. Mackay 1892, p. 140.
  6. Mackay 1892, pp. 140–41.
  7. Mackay 1892, p. 136.
  8. Mackay 1892.
  9. McGladdery, James II, Chapter 4, Appendix 2 (The Auchinleck Chronicle); Brown, The Black Douglases, chapter 13; Tanner, Scottish Parliament, Chapter 5
  10. Tanner 2001, pp. 201, 204.
  11. Tanner 2001, ch. 6.
  12. Mahoney, Mike. "Scottish Monarchs - Kings and Queens of Scotland - James II". www.englishmonarchs.co.uk. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  13. Colvin and Brown (1963), p. 819; Salter (1985), p. 17
  14. 1 2 3 4 Nield (1968), p. 52
  15. "Project Gutenberg's Two Penniless Princesses, by Charlotte M. Yonge"
  16. "Edinburgh International Festival 2014"

Sources

Further reading

James II of Scotland
Born: 16 October 1430 Died: 3 August 1460
Regnal titles
Preceded by
James I
King of Scotland
1437 – 1460
Succeeded by
James III