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The assassination of James the First,
and the succeeding minority of his
son, a boy of only six years of age,
was, if not a triumph to the majority
of the Scottish nobility, at least an
event eminently favourable to their
power and pretensions. His murder­
ers, it is true, whether from the in­
stant execration which bursts out
against a deed of so dark and sanguin­
ary a character, or from the personal
revenge of the queen-mother, were
punished with speedy and unmitigated
severity. Yet, when the first senti­
ments of horror and amazement were
abated, and the Scottish aristocracy
begun to regard the consequences
likely to arise from the sudden de­
struction which had overtaken the
king in the midst of his schemes for
the abridgment of their exorbitant
power, it is impossible but that they
should have contemplated the event
of his death with secret satisfaction.
The sentiments so boldly avowed by
Graham in the midst of his tortures,
that the day was near at hand when
they would bless his memory for hav­

ing rid them of a tyrant, must have
forcibly recurred to their minds ; and
when they regarded the fate of the
Earl of March, so summarily and
cruelly stript of his immense posses­
sions, and contemplated the magnitude
of James’s plans, and the stern firm­
ness with which, in so short a reign,
he had carried them into effect, we
can readily believe that the recovery
of the privileges which they had lost,
and the erection of some permanent
barriers, against all future encroach-

1 The critical reader is referred to an able
answer to these “ Remarks,” by Mr Amyot.
in the twenty-third vol. of the Archæologia.
p. 277 ; to some additional observations by
the same gentleman, Archœologia, vol. xxv.
p. 394 ; to a critical “ Note,” by Sir James
Macintosh, added to the first volume of his
“ History of England ;" to a “Dissertation on
the Manner and Period of the Death of Rich­
ard the Second,” by Lord Dover; to observa­
tions on the same historical problem, by Mr
Riddell, in a volume of Legal and Antiquarian
Tracts, published at Edinburgh in 1835 ; and
to some remarks on the same point by Sir
Harris Nicolas in the Preface to the first
volume of his valuable work, the “ Proceed­
ings and Ordinances of the Privy Council of
England,” Preface, pp. 29 to 32.

120                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                     [Chap. III.

ments of the crown, would be the
great objects to which, under the mi­
nority of his successor, they would
direct their attention.

It happened also, unfortunately for
Scotland, that such a scheme for the
resumption of power by the feudal
nobility—in other words, for the return
of anarchy and disorder throughout
the country—was but too likely to
prove successful. The improvements
introduced by James the First—the
judicial machinery for the more per­
fect administration of justice; the
laws for the protection of the lower
orders against the insolence of the
great; the provisions for the admis­
sion of the representatives of the com­
mercial classes into parliament, and
for the abridgment of the military
strength of the great feudal lords—
were rather in the state of prospective
changes than of measures whose salu­
tary effects had been tried by time,
and to which the nation had become
attached by long usage. These im­
provements had been all carried into
effect within the short space of four­
teen years ; they still bore upon them
the hateful gloss of novelty and inno­
vation, and, no longer supported by
the firmness of the monarch with
whom they originated, they could
present but a feeble resistance to the
attacks of the numerous and powerful
classes whose privileges they abridged,
and with whose ambition their con­
tinuance was incompatible. The pros­
pect of recovering, during a long
minority, the estates and the feudal
perquisites which had been resumed
or cut down by James the First; the
near view of successful venality which
constantly accompanied the possession
of the great offices under an infant
sovereign; and the facility in the exe­
cution of such schemes which every
feudal government offered to any fac-
tion who were powerful or fortunate
enough to possess themselves of the
person of the king, rendered the period
upon which we now enter one of
great excitement amongst the Scottish
nobles. The greater chiefs amongst
them adopted every means to increase
their personal strength and impor­

tance, recruiting the ranks of their
armed vassals and followers, and plac­
ing persons of tried fidelity in their
castles and strongholds; the lesser
barons attached themselves to the
more powerful by those leagues or
bands which bound them by the
strictest ties to work the will of their
lord; and both classes set themselves
attentively to watch the course of
events, and to take immediate advan­
tage of those sudden changes and
emergencies which were so likely to
arise in a country thrown into the
utmost dismay and confusion by the
murder of the sovereign.

But although Such appear to have
been the low and interested feelings
of the greater proportion of the no­
bility, we are not to suppose that the
support of the crown and the cause of
order and good government were ut­
terly abandoned. They still retained
many friends in the dignified clergy,
as well as among those learned and
able Churchmen from whose ranks the
legal officers of the crown, and the
diplomatic agents who transacted all
foreign missions and alliances, were
generally selected; and they could
undoubtedly reckon upon the attach­
ment of the mercantile and commer­
cial classes, now gradually rising into
importance, and upon the affectionate
support of the great body of the
lower orders, in so far as they were
left untrammelled by the fetters of
their feudal servitude.

Whilst such were the sentiments
which animated the various bodies in
the state upon the murder of the king,
it may easily be supposed that terror
was the first feeling which arose in
the bosom of the queen-mother. Ut­
terly uncertain as to the ramifications
of the conspiracy, and trembling lest
the same vengeance which had fallen
upon the father should pursue the
son, she instantly fled with the young
prince to Edinburgh, nor did she
esteem herself secure till she had re­
treated with her charge within the
castle. The command of this fortress,
rendered now a place of far higher
importance than usual by its affording
a retreat to the queen and the prince,

1436-8.]                                           JAMES II.                                                  121

was at this time in the hands of
William Crichton, baron of Crichton,
and master of the household to the
late king, a person of great craft and
ambition, and who, although still in
the ranks of the lower nobility, wa3
destined to act a principal part in the
future history of the times.1

After the first panic had subsided,
a parliament assembled at Edinburgh
within less than a month after the
murder of the king, and measures ap­
pear to have been adopted for the
government of the country during the
minority. The first care, however, was
the coronation of the young prince,
and for this purpose the principal
nobles and barons of the kingdom,
with the dignified clergy and a great
multitude of the free tenants of the
crown, conducted him in procession
from the castle of Edinburgh to the
abbey of Holyrood, where he was
crowned and anointed amid demon­
strations of universal loyalty.2

Under any other circumstances than
those in which James succeeded, the
long-established custom of conducting
the ceremony of the coronation at the
Abbey of Scone would not have been
departed from, but its proximity to
the scene of the murder rendered it
dangerous and suspected; and as de­
lay was equally hazardous, the queen

1 Registrum Magni Sigilli, B. III. No. 161.
His first appearance is in Rymer, vol. x. p.
309, amongst the nobility who met James the
First at Durham, on his return from his long
detention in England. See also Crawford’s
Officers of State, p. 25, for his title of Magis-
ter Hospitii, as proved by a charter then in
the possession of Sir Peter Fraser of Dores,
Bart. See also MS. Chamberlain Rolls, July
4, 1438. “Et pro quinque barellis de Ham­
burgh salmonum salsorum, liberatis per com-
putantem et liberatis Domino Willielmo de
Crechtoun, custodi Castri de Edinburgh, fa-
tenti receptum super computum, ad expensas
domini nostri regis moderni, de quibus dictus
dominus respondebit ix. lib.” Again, MS.
Chamberlain Rolls, July 5,1438. “Per liber-
acionem factam Domino Willielmo de Crech-
toun, Vice-comiti et custodi Castri de Edin­
burgh, ut patet per literam suam sub signeto
ostensam super computum iiiixx librarum de
quibus asserit quinquaginta libras receptas
ad expensas coronacionis domini nostri regis

2 “Cum maximo applausu et apparatu ad
laudem Dei et leticiam tocius populi.”—Acts
of the Parliament of Scotland, vol. ii. p. 31.

was obliged to purchase security and
speed at the expense of somewhat of
that solemnity which would other­
wise have accompanied the pageant.
Two important measures followed the
coronation. The first, the nomination
of the queen-mother to undertake the
custody of the king till he had attained
his majority, and to become at the
same time the guardian of the prin­
cesses, his sisters, with an annual al­
lowance of four thousand marks;3 the
second, the appointment of Archibald,
fifth earl of Douglas and duke of Tou-
raine, to be lieutenant-general of the
kingdom.4 This baron, undoubtedly
the most powerful subject in Scotland,
and whose revenue from his estates
at home and in France was probably
nearly equal to that of his sovereign,
was the son of Archibald, fourth earl
of Douglas, who was slain at the battle
of Verneuil, and of Margaret, daugh­
ter to King Robert the Third, so that
he was nephew of the late king. His
power, however, proved to be of short
duration, for he lived little more than
a year after his nomination to this
high office.

It is unfortunate that no perfect
record has been preserved of the pro­
ceedings of the first parliament of
James the Second. From a mutilated
fragment which remains, it is certain
that it was composed, as usual, of the
clergy, barons, and commissaries of
the burghs, and that all alienations of
lands, as well as of movable property,
which happened to be in the posses­
sion of the late king at his death, and
which had been made without consent
of the three estates, were revoked,
whilst an inventory of the goods and
treasure in the royal coffers was di­
rected to be taken, and an injunction
given that no alienation of the king’s
lands or property should be made to

3 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 54.

4  Sir Thomas Boyd of Kilmarnock, in his
account in Exchequer of the rent of Duchale in
Ward, takes credit for the following payment:
—“ Et per solucionem factam Domino Comiti
de Douglas, locum tenenti domini regis, in
partem feodi sui de anno, 1438, dicto domino
locum tenenti fatenti receptum super com-
putum sexaginta librarum.”—MS. Chamber­
lain Rolls, sub anno 1438.

122                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. III.

any person whatever without the con­
sent of the three estates, until he had
reached his full age of twenty-one
years.1 We may conjecture on strong
grounds that the subjects to which the
general council next turned their at­
tention were the establishment of a
peace with England, and the renewal
of amicable relations with the court
of France and the commercial states
of Holland.

With regard to peace with England,
various circumstances concurred in the
condition of that country to facilitate
the negotiation. Under the minority
of Henry the Sixth, the war with
France, and the struggle to maintain
unimpaired the conquests of Henry
the Fifth, required a concentration of
the national strength and resources
which must have been greatly weak­
ened by any invasion upon the part
of Scotland; and the Cardinal of Win­
chester, who was at this time pos­
sessed of the principal power in the
government, was uncle to the Queen
of Scotland. Commissioners were ac­
cordingly despatched by the Scottish
parliament,2 who, after a meeting with
the English envoys, found little diffi­
culty in concluding a nine years’ truce
between the two kingdoms, which was
appointed to commence on the 1st of
May 1438, and to terminate on the 1st
of May 1447.3 Its provisions contain
some interesting enactments regarding
the commercial intercourse between
the two countries, deformed indeed
by those unwise restrictions which
were universal at this time through­
out Europe, yet evincing an ardent
anxiety for the prosperity of the
country. In addition to the common
stipulations against seizing vessels
driven into port, and preventing
shipwrecked mariners from returning
home, it was agreed that if any ves­
sel belonging to either country were

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 31.

2 Rymer, Fœdera, vol. x. pp. 679, 680, 684.

3 Chamberlain MS. Rolls computum Johan-
nis de Fyfe Receptoris firmarum de Schines,
&c. “ Et allocatur pro expensis Dominorum
de Grordoun, et de Montegomeri ac aliorum
ambassatorum regni factis in Auglia pro treu-
gis inter regna ineundis. iiiixx iijlib vis viiid.”

carried by an enemy into a port of the
other kingdom, no sale of the vessel
or cargo should be permitted without
the consent of the original owners;
that no vessel driven into any port
should be liable to arrest for any debt
of the king or of any other person,
but that all creditors should have safe-
conducts in order to sue for and re­
cover their debts with lawful damages
and interest; that in cases of ship­
wreck the property should be pre­
served and delivered to the owners;
that when goods were landed for the
purpose of repairing the ship they
might be reshipped in the same, or in
any other vessel without payment of
duties; and that vessels of either king­
dom putting into ports of the other
in distress for provisions might sell
goods for that purpose without being
chargeable with customs for the rest
of the cargo. It was finally provided
that no wool or woolfels should be
carried from one kingdom to the other,
either by land or by water; and that in
all cases of depredation not only the
chief offenders, but also the receivers
and encouragers, and even the com­
munities of the towns in which the
plundered goods were received, should
be liable for compensation to the suf­
ferers, who might sue for redress be­
fore the conservators of the truce or
the wardens of the marches. The
principal of these conservators for
England were the king’s uncle, the
Duke of Gloucester, and his kinsman,
the Duke of Norfolk, with the Earls of
Salisbury, Northumberland, and West­
moreland; and for Scotland, Archi­
bald, earl of Douglas and duke of Tou-
raine, with the Earls of Angus, Craw­
ford, and Avendale, and the Lords
Gordon, Maxwell, Montgomery, and
Crichton.4 Care was taken to send
an intimation of the truce to the Scot­
tish merchants who were resident in
Holland and in Zealand; and with re­
gard to France, although there can be
little doubt from the ancient alliance
with Scotland, and the marriage of
the sister of the king to the Dauphin,

4 Rymer, Fœdera, vol. x. p. 695. Rotuli
Scotiæ, vol. ii. pp. 306, 310. M’Pherson’s
Annals of Commerce, vol. i. p. 654.

1438.]                                               JAMES II.                                                  123

that the feelings of the country were
strongly attached to the cause of
Charles the Seventh, and that the
total expulsion of the English would
have been an event joyfully welcomed
in Scotland; yet the reverses experi­
enced in the battles of Crevant and
Verneuil effectually cooled the ardour
of that kingdom for foreign war, and
appear to have compelled the nation
to a temporary and unwilling neu­

We have seen that Antony, bishop
of Urbino, the Papal legate, was in
Scotland at the time of the murder of
the late king, and that a general
council of the clergy, which had been
called at Perth for the purpose of re­
ceiving his credentials, was abruptly
broken off by this event. The destruc­
tion of all contemporary records has
unfortunately left the proceedings of
this council in complete obscurity;
and we only know that, towards the
conclusion of the year 1438, Sir
Andrew Meldrum, a knight of St
John of Jerusalem, was despatched
through England into Scotland, on a
mission connected with the “ good of
religion,” and that a Papal nuncio,
Alfonso de Crucifubreis, proceeded
about the same time to the Scottish
court,1 It is not improbable that the
Church, which, at the present moment,
felt deep alarm from the disorders of
the Hussites in Bohemia, and the
growth of heresy in England, was
anxious to engage on its side the
council and ministers of the infant
monarch of Scotland, and to interest
them in putting down those heterodox
opinions which, it is certain, during
the last reign, had made a consider­
able progress in that country.

An extraordinary event now claims
our attention, which is involved in
much obscurity, but drew after it im­
portant results. The queen-mother
soon found that the castle of Edin­
burgh, an asylum which she had so
willingly sought for her son the king,
was rendered, by the vigilance and
jealousy of Crichton the governor,
much too difficult of access to herself
and her friends. It was, in truth, no
Rotuli Scotiæ. vol. ii. p. 311.

longer the queen, but this ambitious
baron, who was the keeper of the
royal person. Under the pretence of
superintending the expenses of the
household, he seized2 and dilapidated
the royal revenues, surrounded the
young sovereign by his own creatures,
and permitted neither the queen-
mother, the lieutenant-general of the
kingdom, nor Sir Alexander Living­
ston of Callander, a baron who had
been in high favour with the late king,
to have any share in the government.
Finding it impossible, by any remon­
strances, to obtain her wishes, the
queen had recourse to stratagem. At
the conclusion of a visit of a few
days, which she had been permitted
to pay to her son, it was dexterously
managed that the prince should be
concealed in a large wardrobe chest,
which was carried along with some
luggage out of the castle. In this he
was conveyed to Leith, and from
thence transported by water to Stir­
ling castle, the jointure-house of his
mother, which was at this time under
the command of Livingston of Callan-
der. Whether the Earl of Douglas,
the Bishop of Glasgow, who was chan­
cellor, or any of the other officers of
state, were privy to this successful
enterprise, there are unfortunately no
documents to determine; but it seems
difficult to believe that the queen
should have undertaken it and carried
it through without some powerful as­
sistants; and it is still more extra­
ordinary that no proceedings appear
to have been adopted against Crichton
for his unjustifiable seclusion of the
youthful monarch from his mother,—
an act which, as it appears in the his­
tory of the times, must have almost
amounted to treason.

The records of a parliament which
was held at Edinburgh on the 27th of
November 1438, by the Earl of Doug­
las, therein styled the lieutenant-gene­
ral of the realm; and of a second
meeting of the three estates, which
assembled at Stirling on the 13th of
March, in the same year, are so brief

2 Chamberlain MS. Rolls, computum Thomæ
Cranstoun. Receptoris redituum regis ex
parte australi aquæ de Forth. July 18, 1438.

124                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. III.

and mutilated, that little light can be
elicited either as to the different fac­
tions which unquestionably tore and
divided the state, or regarding the pro­
visions which were adopted by the
wisdom of parliament for the healing
of such disorders.

There is indeed a general provision
for the remedy of the open plunder
and robbery then prevalent in the
country. The sheriff, within whose
county the thieves had taken refuge,
was commanded to see strict restora­
tion made, and to denounce as rebels
to the king’s lieutenant all who refused
to obey him, under the penalty of
being himself removed from his office,
and punished as the principal offender.
But where there is strong reason to sus­
pect that the lieutenant and the greater
barons were themselves the robbers,
and that the sheriffs were their im­
mediate dependants, it may easily be
believed that, unless in instances where
they were desirous of cutting off some
unfortunate spoiler who had incurred
their resentment, the act was most im­
perfectly executed, if not universally

Having liberated her son the king
from the durance in which he had been
kept by Crichton, the queen-mother
appears for some time to have reposed
unlimited confidence in the fidelity of
Sir Alexander Livingston ; whilst the
Earl of Douglas, the most powerful
man in the state, refused to connect
himself with any faction; and, al­
though nominally the lieutenant-gene­
ral of the kingdom, took little interest
in the scene of trouble and intrigue
with which the youthful monarch was
surrounded. It does not even appear
that he presided in a parliament which
was assembled at Stirling, probably a
short time after the successful issue of
the enterprise of the queen. In this
meeting of the three estates the
dreadful condition of the kingdom
and the treasonable conduct of Sir
William Crichton were, as far as we
can judge from the mutilated records
which have been preserved, the prin­
cipal subjects for consideration. It

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 32,

was resolved that there should be two
sessions held yearly within the realm,
in which the lord-lieutenant and the
king’s council should sit—the first to
begin on the day after the exalta­
tion of Holy Cross; and the second
on the first Monday in Lent thereafter
following. At the same time, an
enactment was passed, with an evi­
dent reference to Crichton, by which
it was ordained that where any rebels
had taken refuge within their castles
or fortalices, and held the same against
lawful authority, or wherever there
was any “ violent presumption of re­
bellion and destruction of the country,”
it became the duty of the lieutenant
to raise the lieges, to besiege such
places, and arrest the offenders, of
whatever rank they might be.2

The Earl of Douglas, however, either
too indolent to engage in an employ­
ment which would have required the
utmost resolution, or too proud to
embroil himself with what he con­
sidered the private feuds between
Crichton and Livingston, refused to
carry the act into execution; and
Livingston, having raised his vassals,
laid siege in person to the castle of
Edinburgh. The events immediately
succeeding are involved in much ob­
scurity; so that, in the absence of
original authorities, and the errors and
contradictions of historians, it is diffi­
cult to discover their true causes, or to
give any intelligible account of the
sudden revolutions which took place.
Amid these difficulties, I adopt the
narrative which approaches nearest to
those fragments of authentic evidence
that have survived the common wreck.

When he perceived that he was be­
leaguered by the forces of Livingston,
Crichton, who did not consider him­
self strong enough to contend singly
against the united strength of the
queen and this baron, secretly pro­
posed a coalition to the Earl of Doug­
las, but his advances were received by
that powerful chief with infinite scorn.
The pride of the haughty potentate
could ill brook any suggestion of a
division of authority with one whom

2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 32.

1438-9.]                                  JAMES II.                                        125

he considered so far beneath him; and
it is said that in a fit of bitter irony
he declared how much satisfaction it
would give him if his refusal should
cause two such unprincipled disturbers
of the public peace mutually to de­
stroy each other. These rivals, how­
ever, although either of them would
willingly have risen upon the ruin of
the other, were too crafty to fulfil the
wishes of the Earl of, Douglas; and his
proud answer, which was soon carried
to their ears, seems to have produced
in their minds a disposition towards
a settlement of their differences. It
was evident that singly they could
have little hope of resisting the lieu­
tenant-general of the kingdom : but
Livingston possessed the confidence of
the queen-mother, and the custody of
the king, her son; and with this weight
thrown into the scale, it was not un­
likely that a coalition might enable
them to make head against his autho­
rity. The result of such mutual feel­
ings was a truce between the rival
lords, which ended in a complete re­
conciliation, and in the delivery of the
castle of Edinburgh into the hands of
Sir William Livingston. The young
king, whom he had carried along with
him to Edinburgh, was presented by
Crichton with the keys of the fortress,
and supped there on the night when
the agreement was concluded; on the
morrow, the new friends divided be­
tween them the power which had thus
fallen into their hands. Cameron,
bishop of Glasgow, who was a partisan
of the house of Douglas, and filled the
place of chancellor, was deprived of a
situation, in which there is reason to
believe he had behaved with much ra­
pacity. The vacant office was bestowed
upon Crichton, whilst to Livingston
was committed the guardianship of
the kings person, and the chief man­
agement in the government.1 With
regard to Douglas, it is not easy to as­
certain what measures were resolved
upon; and it is probable that this great
noble, confident in his own power, and
in the high trust committed to him

1 May 3, 1439, Cameron is Chancellor.
Mag. Sig. iii. 123. June 10,1439, Crichton is
Chancellor. Ibid. ii. 141.

by the parliament, would have im­
mediately proceeded against the con­
federate lords, as traitors to the state.
But at this important crisis he was
suddenly attacked by a malignant
fever, and died at Restalrig on the
26th of June 1439,2 leaving an im­
mense and dangerous inheritance of
power and pride to his son, a youth of
only seventeen years of age.

The coalition might, therefore, for
the present, be regarded as completely
triumphant; and Livingston and Crich-
ton, possessed of the king’s person, and
enjoying that unlimited command over
the queen-mother against which an
unprotected woman could offer no
resistance, were at liberty to reward
their friends, to requite their enemies,
and to administer the affairs of the
government with a power which, for
a while, seemed little short of absolute.
The consequences of this state of things
were such as might have been antici­
pated. The administration of the
government became venal and dis­
orderly. Owing to the infancy of the
king, and the neglect of appointing a
lieutenant-general, or governor of the
realm, in the place of the Duke of
Touraine, the nation knew not where
to look for that firm controlling
authority which should punish the
guilty, and protect the honest and in­
dustrious. Those tyrannical barons,
with which Scotland at this period
abounded in common with the other
countries of Europe, began to stir and
be busy in the anticipation of a rich
harvest of plunder, and to entertain
and increase their troops of retainers ;
whose numbers and strength, as they
calculated, would induce Livingston,
Crichton, and the lords of their party,
to attach them at any price to their

Meanwhile, in the midst of this
general confusion, the right of private

2 Gray’s MS. Advocates’ Library, rr. i. 17.
“Obitus Domini Archibaldi Ducis Turonensis
Comitis de Douglas ac Domini Galwidiæ, apud
Restalrig, 26 die mensis Junii, anno 1439, qui
jacet apud Douglas.” See, for a beautiful en­
graving of his monument, Blore’s Monumental
Remains, Part I. No. IV., a work which, it
is to be regretted, did not meet with the en­
couragement it justly merited.

126                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. III.

war, and the prevalence of deadly
feud, those two curses of the feudal
system, flourished in increased strength
and virulence. Sir Alan Stewart of
Darnley, who had held the high office
of Constable of the Scottish army in
France,1 was treacherously slain at
Polmais Thorn, between Falkirk and
Linlithgow, by Sir Thomas Boyd of
Kilmarnock, for “ auld feud which
was betwixt them,” in revenge of
which, Sir Alexander Stewart col­
lected his vassals, and, in “ plain bat­
tle,” to use the expressive words of an
old historian, “ manfully set upon Sir
Thomas Boyd, who was cruelly slain,
with many brave men on both sides.”
The ground where the conflict took
place was at Craignaucht Hill, a ro­
mantic spot, near Neilston, in Ren­
frewshire ; and with such determined
bravery was it contested, that it is
said the parties by mutual consent
retired sundry times to rest and re­
cover breath, after which they recom­
menced the combat to the sound of
the trumpet, till the victory at last
declared for the Stewarts. These
slaughters and contests amongst the
higher ranks produced their usual
abundant increase of robbery, plunder,
burning, and murder, amongst the
large body of the friends and vassals
who were in the remotest degree con­
nected with the parties; so that, whilst
Livingston and Crichton possessed the
supreme power, and, with a few of their
favourites, flourished upon the outlaw­
ries and forfeitures, and kept a firm hold
over the person of the youthful mon­
arch, whom they immured along with
his mother, the queen, in Stirling castle,
the state of the country became so de­
plorable as to call aloud for redress.

It was at this dark period that the
queen-mother, who was in the prime
of life, and still a beautiful woman,
finding that she was little else than a
prisoner in the hands of Livingston,
determined to procure protection for
herself by marriage. Whether it was
an alliance of love or of ambition, is
not apparent; but it is certain that
Margaret, unknown to the faction by

1 Andrew Stewards Hist, of the Stewarts,
pp. 160, 166.

whom she was so strictly guarded,
espoused Sir James Stewart, third son
of John Stewart, lord of Lorn,2 and
commonly known by the name of the
Black Knight of Lorn. This powerful
baron was in strict alliance with the
house of Douglas.3 As husband of
the queen-mother, to whom, in the
first instance, the parliament had com­
mitted the custody of the king’s per­
son, he might plausibly insist upon a
principal share in the education of the
youthful prince, as well as in the ad­
ministration of the government; and a
coalition between the party of the queen -
mother and the Earl of Douglas might,
if managed with prudence and address,
have put a speedy termination to the
unprincipled tyranny of Livingston.

But this able and crafty baron, who
ruled all things around the court at
his pleasure, had earlier information
of these intrigues than the queen and
her husband imagined; and whilst
they, confiding in his pretended ap­
proval of their marriage, imprudently
remained within his power, Sir James
was suddenly arrested, with his bro­
ther, Sir William Stewart, and cast
into a dungeon in Stirling castle, with
every circumstance of cruelty and
ignominy. An ancient manuscript
affirms that Livingston put “ thaim
in pittis and bollit thaim :”4 an ex­
pression of which the meaning is ob­
scure ; but to whatever atrocity these
words allude, it was soon shewn that the
ambition and audacity of the governor
of Stirling was not to be contented
with the imprisonment of the Black
Knight of Lorn. Almost immediately
after this act of violence, the apart­
ments of the queen herself, who then
resided in the castle, were invaded by
Livingston ; and although the servants
of her court, headed by Napier,5 one
of her household, made a violent re­
sistance, in which this gentleman was

2  Duncan Stewart’s Hist, and Geneal. Ac­
count of the Royal Family of Scotland, p. 171.

3 Lesley’s History, p. 14. Bannatyne edit.

4  Auchinleck Chronicle, privately printed
by Mr Thomson, Deputy-Clerk Register of
Scotland, p. 34, almost the solitary authentic
record of this obscure reign.

5  Royal Charter by James II., March 7,
1449-50, to Alexander Napier, of the lands of
Philde, Mag. Sig. iv. 4.

1439.]                                               JAMES II.                                                     127

wounded, his royal mistress was torn
from her chamber, and committed to an
apartment, where she was placed under
a guard, and cut off from all communi­
cation with her husband or his party.
It is impossible to believe that
Livingston would have dared to adopt
these treasonable measures, which af­
terwards cost him his head, unless
he had been supported by a powerful
faction, and by an armed force, which,
for the time, was sufficient to over­
come all resistance. The extraordinary
scene which followed can only be ex­
plained upon this supposition. A
general convention of the nobility was
held at Stirling, after the imprison­
ment of the queen. It was attended
by the Bishops of Glasgow, Moray,
Ross, and Dunblane, upon the part of
the clergy; and for the nobility, by the
Earl of Douglas, Alexander Seton, lord
of Gordon, Sir William Crichton, chan­
cellor, and Walter, lord of Dirleton;
and at the same time, that there might
at least be an appearance of the pre­
sence of a third estate, James of Par-
cle, commissary of Linlithgow, Wil­
liam Cranston, burgess and commis­
sary of Edinburgh, and Andrew Reid,
burgess and commissary of Inverness,
were present as representatives of the
burghs, and sanctioned, by their seals,
the transaction which took place. In
this convention, the queen-mother,
with advice and consent of this faction,
which usurped to themselves the name
of the three estates, resigned into the
keeping of Sir Alexander Livingston
of Callander the person of the king,
her dearest son, until he had reached
his majority ; she at the same time
surrendered in loan to the same baron
her castle of Stirling, as the residence
of the youthful monarch; and for the
due maintenance of his household
and dignity, conveyed to him her
annual allowance of four thousand
marks, granted by the parliament upon
the death of the king her husband.
The same deed which recorded this
strange and unexpected revolution
declared that the queen had remitted
to Sir Alexander Livingston and his
accomplices all rancour of mind which
she had erroneously conceived against

them for the imprisonment of her
person, being convinced that their
conduct had been actuated by none
other motives than those of truth,
loyalty, and a zealous anxiety for the
safety of their sovereign. It provided
also that the lords and barons who
were to compose the retinue of the
queen should be approved of by
Livingston ; and that this princess
might have access to her son at all
times, with the cautious proviso, that
such interview should take place in
the presence of unsuspected persons :
in the event of the king’s death, the
castle was to be redelivered to the
queen; and it was lastly stipulated
that the Lord of Livingston and his
friends were not to be annoyed or
brought “nearer the death” for any
part which they might have acted in
these important transactions.1

It would be ridiculous to imagine
that this pardon and sudden confi-
fidence, bestowed with so much appa­
rent cordiality, could be anything else
than hollow and compulsory. That
the queen should have received into
her intimate councils the traitors who,
not a month before, had violently
seized and imprisoned her husband,
invaded her royal chamber, staining it
with blood, and reducing her to a state
of captivity, is too absurd to be ac­
counted for even by the mutability of
female caprice. The whole transac­
tion exhibits an extraordinary picture
of the country,—of the despotic power
which, in a few weeks, might be lodged
in the hands of a successful and un­
principled faction,—of the pitiable
weakness of the party of the queen,
and the corruption and venality of the
great officers of the crown. It must
have been evident to the queen-mother
that Livingston and Crichton divided
between them the supreme power;
and, in terror for the life of her hus­
band, and dreading her own perpetual
imprisonment, she seems to have con­
sented to purchase security and free­
dom at the price of the liberty and
independence of the king, her son,

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 54. The act is dated September 4,

128                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                     [Chap. III.

then a boy in his ninth year. He was
accordingly delivered up to Living­
ston, who kept him in a state of
honourable captivity at Stirling.

This state of things could not be of
long continuance. The coalition was
from the first purely selfish; it de­
pended for its continuance upon the
strict division of authority between
two ambitious rivals; and soon after,
the chancellor, jealous of the superior
power of Livingston, determined to
make him sensible on how precarious
a basis it was founded. Seizing the
opportunity of the governor’s absence
at Perth, he rode with a strong body
of his vassals, under cover of night, to
the royal park of Stirling, in which
the king was accustomed to take the
pastime of the chase. Crichton, fa­
voured by the darkness, concealed his
followers in the wood; and, at sun­
rise, had the satisfaction to see the
royal cavalcade approach the spot
where he lay in ambush. In an in­
stant the youthful monarch was sur­
rounded by a multitude which ren­
dered resistance hopeless; and the
chancellor, kneeling, and with an
action rather of affectionate submis­
sion than of command, taking hold of
his bridle rein, besought him to leave
that fortress, where he was more a
prisoner than a king, and to permit
himself to be rescued by his faithful
subjects, and restored to his free rights
as a sovereign. Saying this, Crichton
conducted his willing victim, amid the
applauses and loyal protestations of his
vassals, to Linlithgow, where he was met
by an armed escort, who conducted
him to the castle of Edinburgh.1

To the king himself this transaction
brought merely a change of masters;
but to Livingston it was full not only
of mortification, but danger. Although
he would have been glad to have availed
himself of the power, he distrusted the
youth and versatility of the Earl of
Douglas. To the queen-mother he had
given cause of mortal offence, and
there was no other individual in the
country whose authority, if united to
his own, was weighty enough to
counteract the exorbitant power of the
January 1439. Lesley’s Hist. p. 15.

chancellor. He had recourse, there­
fore, to dissimulation; and coming to
Edinburgh, accompanied by a small
train, he despatched a flattering mes­
sage to Crichton, deplored the mis­
understanding which had taken place,
and expressed his willingness to submit
all differences to the judgment of their
mutual friends, and to have the ques­
tion regarding the custody of the royal
person determined in the same manner.
It happened that there were then pre­
sent in Edinburgh two prelates, whose
character for probity and wisdom
peculiarly fitted them for the task of
reconciling the rival lords. These
were Leighton, bishop of Aberdeen,
and Winchester, bishop of Moray, by
whose mediation Crichton and Living­
ston, unarmed, and slenderly attended,
repaired to the church of St Giles,
where a reconciliation took place; the
charge of the youthful monarch being
once more intrusted to Livingston,2
whilst the chancellor was rewarded by
an increase of his individual authority
in the management of the state, and
the advancement of his personal friends
to offices of trust and emolument.3

In the midst of these selfish and
petty contests for power, the people
were afflicted by almost every scourge
which could be let loose upon a
devoted country : by intestine feuds,
by a severe famine, and by a wide­
spread and deadly pestilence. The
fierce inhabitants of the Western
Isles, under the command of Lauchlan
Maclean and Murdoch Gibson, two
leaders notorious for their spoliations
and murders, broke in upon the con­
tinent; and, not content with the
devastation of the coast, pushed for­
ward into the heart of the Lennox,
where they slew Colquhoun of Luss
in open battle, and reduced the whole
district to the state of a blackened and
depopulated desert.4 Soon after this,
the famine became so grievous, that
multitudes of the poorer classes died
of absolute want. It is stated in an

2 Crawford’s Officers of State, p. 28. Pin-
kerton, vol. i. p. 191.

3 Buchanan and Bishop Lesley erroneously
suppose that the custody of the king’s person
remained with the chancellor Crichton.

4 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 34,

1439-40.]                                         JAMES II.                                                   129

ancient contemporary chronicle that
the boll of wheat was then generally
sold at forty shillings, and the boll of
oatmeal at thirty. We know from
the authority of Stow that the scarcity
was also severely felt in England,
where wheat rose from its ordinary
price of five shillings and fourpence
the quarter to one pound; and soon
after, in the course of the year 1440,
to one pound four shillings. The con­
sequences of unwholesome food were
soon seen in a dreadful sickness of the
nature of dysentery, which broke out
amongst the people, and carried away
great numbers; so that, when the
pestilence soon after arrived in Scot­
land, and its ravages were added to
the already widely spread calamity,
the unhappy country seemed rapidly
advancing to a state of depopulation.
This awful scourge, which first shewed
itself at Dumfries, was emphatically
denominated “the pestilence without
mercy,” for none were seized with it
who did not certainly die within
twenty-four hours after the attack.1

To these prolific causes of national
misery there was added another in
the overgrown power of the house of
Douglas, and the evils which were en­
couraged by the lawless demeanour of
its youthful chief. Upon the death of
Archibald, duke of Touraine and fifth
earl of Douglas, we have seen that the
immense estates of this family devolved
upon his son William, a youth who
was then only in his seventeenth year;
a period of life liable, even under the
most common circumstances, to be
corrupted by power and adulation.
To Douglas, however, the accession
brought a complication of trials, which
it would have required the maturity
of age and wisdom to have resisted.
As Duke of Touraine, he was a peer
of France, and possessed one of the
richest principalities in that kingdom.
In his own country he inherited
estates, or rather provinces, in Gallo­
way, Annandale, Wigtown, and other
counties, which were covered by war.

1 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 34. “ Thar tuke
it nain that ever recoverit, hot that deit
within twenty­four houris.” Fleetwood.
Chron. Preciosum, p. 83.

like vassals, and protected by numerous
castles and fortalices; and in ancestry
he could look to a long line of brave
progenitors, springing, on the father’s
side, from the heroic stock of the Good
Sir James, and connected, in the ma­
ternal line, with the royal family of
Scotland. The effects of all this upon
the character of the youthful ease
were not long of making their appear­
ance. He treated every person about
him with an unbounded arrogance of
demeanour; he affected a magnificence
which outshone the splendour of the
sovereign; when summoned by the
governor in the name of the king, he
disdained to attend the council-general,
where he was bound to give suit and
service as a vassal of the throne; and
in the reception he gave to the mes­
sages which were addressed to him
carried himself more as a supreme and
independent prince than a subject
who received the commands of his
master. Soon after the death of his
father he despatched Malcolm Flem­
ing of Biggar, along with Alan Lauder
of the Bass, as his ambassadors to carry
his oath of allegiance to the French
monarch, and receive his investiture
in the dukedom of Touraine. The
envoys appear to have been warmly
welcomed by Charles the Seventh;
and, flattered by the reception which
was given them, as well as by his
immediate accession to his foreign
principality, Douglas increased his
train of followers, enlisted into his
service multitudes of idle, fierce, and
unprincipled adventurers, who wore
his arms, professing themselves his
vassals only to obtain a licence for
their tyranny, whilst within his own
vast territories he openly insulted the
authority of the government, and tram­
pled upon the restraints of the laws.

A parliament in the meantime was
assembled (2d August 1440) at Stir­
ling, for the purpose of taking into
consideration the disordered state of
the country, and some of those reme­
dies were again proposed which had
already been attended with such fre­
quent failure, not so much from any
defect in principle, as from the imper

130                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. III.

feet manner in which they were carried
into execution. It was declared that
the Holy Church should be maintained
in freedom, and the persons and pro­
perty of ecclesiastics universally pro­
tected; according to ancient usage,
the justiciars on the southern and
northern sides of the Firth of Forth
were commanded to hold their courts
twice in the year, whilst the same
duty was to be faithfully performed by
the lords of regalities, within their
jurisdiction, and by the judges and
officers of the sovereign upon the royal
lands. On the occurrence of any re­
bellion, slaughter, or robbery, it was
ordained that the king should instantly
ride in person to the spot, and, sum­
moning before him the sheriff of the
county, see immediate justice done
upon the offenders; for the more
speedy execution of which, the barons
were directed to assist with their per­
sons, vassals, and property.1 It was,
in all probability, at this parliament
that those grievous complaints were
presented concerning the abuses which
then prevailed throughout the country,
which Lindsay of Pitscottie, the amus­
ing historian of these times, has de­
scribed as originating in the over­
grown power of the house of Douglas.
“ Many and innumerable complaints
were given in, whereof the like were
never seen before. There were so
many widows, bairns, and infants,
seeking redress for their husbands,
kindred, and friends, that were cruelly
slain by wicked bloody murderers,
sicklike many for herschip, theft and
reif, that there was no man but he
would have ruth and pity to hear the
same. Shortly, murder, theft, and
slaughter were come in such dalliance
among the people, and the king’s acts
had fallen into such contempt, that no
man wist where to seek refuge, unless
he had sworn himself a servant to some
common murderer or bloody tyrant, to
maintain him contrary to the invasion
of others, or else had given largely of
his gear to save his life, and afford him
peace and rest.” 2

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. pp. 32, 33.
Pitscottie’s History of Scotland, p 24.

There can be little doubt that this
dreadful state of things was to be
ascribed as much to the misgovern-
ment of Livingston, and the lawless
dominion of Crichton, as to the evil
example which was afforded by the
Earl of Douglas. On the one hand,
that proud potentate, whilst he kept
at a distance from court, and haughtily
declined all interference with govern­
ment, excused himself by alleging that
the custody of the sovereign and the
management of the state were in the
hands of two ambitious and unprin­
cipled tyrants who had treasonably
possessed themselves of the king’s per­
son, and sanctioned by their example
the outrages of which they complained.
On the other, Livingston and the chan­
cellor, with equal asperity, and more
of the appearance of justice—for, how­
ever unwarrantably, they represented
the supreme authority—complained
that Douglas refused obedience to the
summons of his sovereign; that he
affected a state and magnificence un­
becoming and dangerous in a subject;
and traversed the country with an
army of followers, whose excesses
created the utmost misery and dis­
tress in whatever district he chose to
fix his residence. Both complaints
were true; and Livingston and Crich-
ton soon became convinced that, to
secure their own authority, they must
crush the power of Douglas. For this
purpose, they determined to set spies
upon his conduct, and either to dis­
cover or create some occasion to work
his ruin; whilst, unfortunately for
himself, the prominent points of his
character gave them every chance of
success. He was still a youth, ambi­
tious, violent, and courageous even
to rashness; his rivals united to a
coolness and wariness, which had been
acquired in a long course of successful
intrigues, an energy of purpose and a
cruelty of heart which left no hope
for a fallen enemy. In a contest be­
tween such unequal enemies, the
triumph of the chancellor and Living­
ston might have been easily antici­
pated; but, unfortunately, much ob­
scurity hangs over the history of their
proceedings. In this failure of authen-

1440.]                                              JAMES II.                                                    131

tic evidence, a conjecture may be
hazarded that these crafty statesmen,
by means of the paid flatterers with
whom they surrounded the young earl,
prevailed upon him to express doubts as
to the legitimacy of the title of James
the Second to the throne, and to advo­
cate the pretensions of the children of
Euphemia Ross, the second queen of
Robert the Second. Nor, considering
Douglas’s own descent, was it at all
unlikely that he should listen to such
suggestions.1 By his mother, Euphe-
mia Graham, the daughter of Patrick,
earl of Strathern, he was descended
from Robert the Second; and his
second queen, Euphemia, countess of
Ross, whose children, notwithstanding
an act of the legislature which declared
the contrary, were disposed to consider
their title to the crown preferable to
any other. It is well known, on the
other hand, that the Earl of Carrick,
the son of Robert the Second, by his
first marriage with Elizabeth More,
was born to that monarch previous to
his marriage with his mother, and that
he succeeded to the crown by the title
of Robert the Third, in consequence
of that legal principle which permits
the subsequent marriage of the parties
to confer legitimacy upon the issue
born out of wedlock. Under these
circumstances, it is not difficult to
imagine that the Earl of Douglas may
have been induced to consider his
mothers brother, Malise, earl of Strath-
ern, as possessed of a more indubit­
able title to the crown than the pre­
sent sovereign, and that a conspiracy
to employ his immense and overgrown
power in reinstating him in his rights
may have been a project which was
broached amongst his adherents, and
carried to the ready ears of his
enemies.2 This theory proceeds upon

1 Douglas’s Peerage, vol. i. p. 428. By his
father, the Earl of Douglas was a near kins­
man of the king, for Douglas’s father was
cousin-german to James the Second, his
mother being a daughter to Robert the Third.

2 The reader will perhaps remember that
the injustice of James the First to this noble
youth, in depriving him of the earldom of
Strathern, and the determined purpose of
vengeance which instantly arose in the bosom
of his uncle, Robert Graham, were the causes

the idea that Douglas was inclined to
support the issue of Euphemia Ross,
the queen of Robert the Second, in
opposition to those of his first wife,
who died before his accession to the
throne; whilst, on the other hand, if
the earl considered the title of James
the First as unquestionable, he, as
the grandson of James’s eldest sister,
Margaret, daughter of Robert the
Third, might have persuaded himself
that, upon the failure of James the
Second without issue, he had a specious
claim to the crown. When we take
into consideration the fact that Doug­
las and his brother were tried for
high treason, and remember that when
the young king interceded for them,
Crichton reprimanded him for a desire
to gratify his pity at the expense of
the security of his throne, it is diffi­
cult to resist the inference that in one
or other of these ways the youthful
baron had plotted against the crown.

Having obtained sufficient evidence
of the guilt of Douglas to constitute
against him and his near adherents a
charge of treason, the next object of
his enemies was to obtain possession
of his person. For this purpose the
chancellor Crichton addressed a letter
to him, in which he flattered his
youthful vanity, and regretted, in his
own name and that of the governor
Livingston, that any misunderstanding
should have arisen which deprived the
government of his services. He ex­
pressed, in the strongest terms, their
anxiety that this should be removed,
and concluded by inviting him to
court, where he might have personal
intercourse with his royal kinsman,
where he would be received with the
distinction and consideration befitting
his high rank, and might contribute
his advice and assistance in the man­
agement of the public affairs, and the
suppression of those abuses which then
destroyed the peace of the country.
By this artful conduct, Crichton suc­
ceeded in disarming the resentment,
without awakening the suspicions, of
his opponent; and Douglas, in the
openness of his disposition, fell into

which led directly to the murder of that

132                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. III.

the snare which had been laid for him.
Accompanied by his only brother,
David, his intimate friend and counsel­
lor Sir Malcolm Fleming, and a slender
train of attendants, he proceeded to­
wards Edinburgh, at that moment the
royal residence, and on his road thither
was magnificently entertained by the
chancellor at his castle of Crichton.1
From thence he continued his journey
to the capital; but before he entered
the town it was observed by some of
the gentlemen who rode in his train
that there appeared to be too many
private messages passing between the
chancellor and the governor; and some
of his counsellors, reminding him of
an advice of his father, that in circum­
stances of danger he and his brother
ought never to proceed together, en­
treated him either to turn back, or at
least send forward his brother and
remain himself where he then was.
Confident, however, in his own opinion,
and lulled into security by the mag­
nificent hospitality of Crichton, Doug­
las rebuked his friends for their sus­
picions; and, entering the city, rode
fearlessly to the castle, where he was
met at the gates by Livingston with
every expression of devotion, and con­
ducted to the presence of his youthful
sovereign, by whom he was treated
with marked distinction.

The vengeance destined to fall upon
the Douglases does not appear to have
been immediate. It was necessary to
secure the castle against any sudden
attack; to find pretences for separat­
ing the earl from his accustomed at­
tendants ; and to make preparations
for the pageant of a trial. During
this interval, he was admitted to an
intimate familiarity with the king;
and James, who had just completed
his tenth year, with the warm and
sudden affection of that age, is said to
have become fondly attached to him :
but all was now ready, and the catas­
trophe at last was deplorably rapid
and sanguinary. Whilst Douglas and
his brother sat at dinner with the
chancellor and Livingston, after a

1 Auctarium Scotichronici, apud Fordun,
vol. ii. p. 514. Same vol. p. 490. Ferrerius.
p. 302.

sumptuous entertainment, the courses
were removed, and the two youths
found themselves accused, in words of
rude and sudden violence, as traitors
to the state.2 Aware, when too late,
that they were betrayed, they started
from the table, and attempted to
escape from the apartment; but the
door was beset by armed men, who,
on a signal from Livingston, rushed
into the chamber, and seized and
bound their victims, regardless of
their indignation and reproaches. It
is said that the youthful monarch
clung around Crichton, and pleaded
earnestly, and even with tears, for his
friends ; yet the chancellor not only
refused to listen, but sharply com­
manded him to cease his intercession
for traitors who had menaced his
throne. A hurried form of trial was
now run through, at which the youth­
ful king was compelled to preside in
person; and, condemnation having
been pronounced, the earl and his
brother were instantly carried to
execution, and beheaded in the back
court of the castle. What were the
precise charges brought against them
cannot now be discovered. That they
involved some expressions which re­
flected upon the right of the sove­
reign, and perhaps embraced a design
for the restoration of the children of
the second marriage of Robert the
Second, from which union Douglas
was himself descended, has been al­
ready stated as the most probable hy­
pothesis in the absence of all authentic
evidence.3 It is certain that three

2  Lesley’s Hist, of Scotland, p. 16. I can­
not follow the example of this writer in
retaining the fable of the bull’s head, which
is unsupported by contemporary history.
Illustrations, H.

3  All the conspiracies against the royal
family of Scotland, from the time of Robert
Bruce to the execution of the Douglases, may
be accounted for by two great objects : the
first which characterises the conspiracy of
David de Brechin against Robert the First,
and that of the Earl of Douglas on the acces­
sion of Robert the Second, was the restoration
of the right of the Baliols in preference to
that of the Bruces ; in other words, the rein­
stating the descendants of the eldest daughter
of David, earl of Huntingdon, brother to King
William the Lion, in their rights, in contra­
distinction to the children of the second
daughter, whom they regarded as having in-

1440-1.]                                          JAMES II.                                                    133

days after the execution, Malcolm
Fleming of Cumbernauld, their con­
fidential friend and adviser, was
brought to trial on a charge of trea­
son, and beheaded on the same ground,
which was still wet with the blood of
his chief.1

It might have been expected that
the whole power of the house of
Douglas would have been instantly
directed against Livingston and the
chancellor, to avenge an execution
which, although sanctioned by the
formality of a trial, was, from its
secrecy and cruelty, little better than
a state murder. Judging also from
the common course adopted by the
government after an execution for
treason, we naturally look for the con­
fiscation of the estates, and the division
of the family property amongst the
adherents of the governor and the
chancellor; but here we are again
met by a circumstance not easily
explained. James, earl of Avendale,
the grand-uncle of the murdered earl,
to whom by law the greater part of
his immense estates reverted, entered
immediately into possession of them,
and assumed the title of Earl of
Douglas, without question or difficulty.
That he was a man of fierce and de­
termined character had been early
shewn in his slaughter of Sir David
Fleming of Cumbernauld, the father
of the unfortunate baron who now
shared the fate of the Douglases;2
and yet, in an age when revenge was
esteemed a sacred obligation, and
under circumstances of provocation
which might have roused remoter
blood, we find him not only singularly
supine, but, after a short period,
united in the strictest bonds of inti­
macy with those who had destroyed

traded into them. But in addition to this,
a second object arose out of the first and
second marriages of Robert the Second, which
furnished another handle to discontent and
conspiracy. To illustrate this, however,
would exceed the limits of a note. See Illus­
trations, I.

1 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 35. In the
charter-chest of the earldom of Wigtown at
Cumbernauld is preserved the “Instrument
of Falsing the Doom of the late Malcolm
Fleming of Biggar.’’ See Illustrations, K.

2 Supra, p. 84.

the head of his house. The conjec­
ture, therefore, of an acute historian,
that the trial and execution of the
Earl of Douglas was, perhaps, under­
taken with the connivance and assist­
ance of the next heir to the earldom,
does not seem altogether improbable;
whilst it is difficult to admit the easy
solution of the problem which is
brought forward by other inquirers,
who discover that the uncommon
obesity of the new successor to this
dignity may have extinguished in him
all ideas of revenge.

The death of the Earl of Douglas
had the effect of abridging, for a short
season, the overgrown power of the
family. His French property and
dukedom of Touraine, being a male
fief, returned to the crown of France,
whilst his large unentailed estates in
the counties of Galloway and Wigtown,
along with the domains of Balvenie
and Ormond, reverted to his only
sister Margaret, the most beautiful
woman of her time, and generally
known by the appellation of the Fair
Maid of Galloway. The subsequent
history of this youthful heiress affords
another presumption that the alleged
crime of Douglas, her brother, was not
his overgrown power, but his treason­
able designs against the government;
for within three years after his death
William, earl of Douglas, who had
succeeded to his father, James the
Gross, was permitted to marry his
cousin of Galloway, and thus once
more to unite in his person the im­
mense estates of the family. Euphemia
also, the duchess of Touraine, and the
mother of the murdered earl, soon
after the death of her son, acquired a
powerful protector, by marrying Sir
James Hamilton of Cadyow, after­
wards Lord Hamilton.3
“ In the midst of these proceedings,
which for a time strengthened the au­
thority of Livingston and the chan­
cellor, the foreign relations of the
kingdom were fortunately of the most
friendly character. The intercourse
with England, during the continuance
of the truce, appears to have been

3 Andrew Stewart, Hist, of House of
Stewart, p. 464.

134                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. III.

maintained without interruption, not
only between the subjects of either
realm, who resorted from one country
to the other for the purposes of com­
merce, travel, or pleasure, but by vari­
ous mutual missions and embassies,
undertaken apparently with the single
design of confirming the good disposi­
tions which subsisted between the two
countries. With France the commu­
nication was still more cordial and
constant; whilst a marriage between
the Princess Isabella, the sister of the
king, and Francis de Montfort, eldest
son to the Duke of Bretagne, increased
the friendship between the two king­
doms. An anecdote, preserved by the
historian of Brittany, acquaints us
with the character of the princess, and
the opinions of John, surnamed the
Good and Wise, as to the qualifications
of a wife. On asking his ambassadors,
after their return from Scotland, what
opinion they had formed regarding the
lady, he received for answer, that she
was beautiful, elegantly formed, and
in the bloom and vigour of health;
but remarkably silent, not so much, as
it appeared to them, from discretion,
as from extreme simplicity. “ Dear
friends,” said John the Good and
Wise, “ return speedily and bring her
to me. She is the very woman I have
been long in search of. By St Nicho­
las ! a wife seems, to my mind, suffi­
ciently acute if she can tell the dif­
ference between her husband’s shirt
and his shirt-ruffle.” 1

The general commercial prosperity
of the Netherlands, with which Scot­
land had for many centuries carried
on a flourishing and lucrative trade,
had been injured at this time by a
war with England, and by intestine
commotions amongst themselves ; but
with Scotland their commercial rela­
tions do not appear to have experi­
enced any material interruption; and,
although the precise object of his
mission is not discoverable, Thomas,
bishop of Orkney, in 1441, repaired to
Flanders, in all probability for the

1 See Lobineam, Histoire de Bretagne, pp.
619, 621, for a beautiful portrait of this prin­
cess, taken from an original in the cathedral
church of Vannes.

purpose of confirming the amicable
correspondence between the two coun­
tries, and congratulating them on the
cessation of foreign war and domestic
dissension.2 Whilst such were the
favourable dispositions entertained by
England, France, and the Netherlands,
it appears, from the public records,
that the court of Rome was anxious
at this time to maintain a close cor­
respondence with Scotland; and there
is reason for suspecting that the growth
of Lollardism, and the progress of those
heretical opinions for which Resby had
suffered in 1407, and against which
the parliament of James the First di­
rected their censures in 1424, were
the causes which led to the frequent
missions from the Holy See. In 1438,
Andrew Meldrum, a knight of St John
of Jerusalem, paid a visit to the Scot­
tish court on a mission connected with
the good of religion. In the follow­
ing year, Alfonso de Crucifubreis, the
Papal nuncio, obtained a passport for
the purpose of proceeding through
England into Scotland; and, in 1439,
William Croyser, a native of that coun­
try, but apparently resident at Rome,
invested also with the character of
nuncio of the apostolic see, and in
company with two priests of the names
of Turnbull and Lithgow, repaired to
Scotland, where he appears to have
remained, engaged in ecclesiastical ne­
gotiations, for a considerable period.
It is unfortunate that there are no
public muniments which tend to ex­
plain or to illustrate the specific object
of the mission.3

But although threatened with no
dangers from abroad, the accumulated
evils which in all feudal kingdoms
have attended the minority of the
sovereign continued to afflict the coun­
try at home. On the death of his
father, James the Gross, the ability,
the pride, and the power of the house
of Douglas, revived with appalling
strength and vigour in William, the
eighth Earl of Douglas, his son and
successor, inferior in talents and am­
bition to none who had borne the name
before him. By his mother, Lady

2 Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. ii. p. 319.

3 Ibid. p. 302-315. Ibid. pp. 311, 317.

1441-3.]                                  JAMES II.                                                     135

Beatrix Sinclair, he was descended
from a sister of King Robert the
Third ;1 by his father, from the Lady
Christian Bruce, sister of Robert the
First.2 His extensive estates gave him
the command of a more powerful army
of military vassals than any other baron
in the kingdom, whilst the situation of
these estates made him almost an
absolute monarch upon the Borders,
which, upon any disgust or offence
offered him by the government, he
could open to the invasion of Eng­
land, or fortify against the arm and
authority of the law. He was sup­
ported also by many warlike and po­
tent lords in his own family, and by
connexion with some of the most an­
cient and influential houses in Scot­
land. His mother, a daughter of the
house of Sinclair, earl of Orkney, gave
him the alliance of this northern
baron; his brothers were the Earls of
Moray and Ormond ; by his married
sisters he was in strict friendship with
the Hays of Errol, the Flemings, and
the Lord of Dalkeith.

The possession of this great influ­
ence only stimulated an ambitious man
like Douglas to grasp at still higher au­
thority; and two paramount objects
presented themselves to his mind, to
the prosecution of which he devoted
himself with constant solicitude, and
which afford a strong light to guide us
through a portion of the history of
the country, hitherto involved in ob­
scurity. The first of these was to
marry the Fair Maid of Galloway, his
own cousin, and thus once more unite
in his person the whole power of the
house of Douglas. The second, by
means of this overwhelming influence,
to obtain the supreme management of
the state as governor of the kingdom,
and to act over again the history of
the usurpation of Albany and the cap­
tivity of James the First. It must
not be forgotten, also, that the heiress
of Galloway was descended, by the
father’s side, from the eldest sister of
James the First, and, by the mother,
from David, earl of Strathern, eldest.
son of Robert the Second by his se-

1 Douglas’s Peerage, vol. i. p. 429.
Ibid. vol. i. p. 220.

cond marriage. It is not therefore
impossible that, in the event of the
death of James the Second, some
vague idea of asserting a claim to
the crown may have suggested itself
to the imagination of this ambitious

Upon Livingston and the chancellor,
on the other hand, the plans of Doug­
las could not fail to have an impor­
tant influence. The possession of
such overgrown estates in the hands
of a single subject necessarily rendered
his friendship or his enmity a matter
of extreme importance to these states­
men, whose union was that of fear and
necessity, not of friendship. Both
were well aware that upon the loss of
their offices there would be a brief
interval between their disgrace and
their destruction. Crichton knew that
he was liable to a charge of treason for
the forcible seizure of the king’s per-
son at Stirling; Livingston, that his
imprisonment of the queen and his
usurpation of the government made
him equally guilty with the chancel­
lor; and both, that they had to an­
swer for a long catalogue of crimes, con­
fiscations, and illegal imprisonments,
which, when the day of reckoning at
last arrived, must exclude them from
all hope of mercy. To secure, there­
fore, the exclusive friendship of Doug­
las, and to employ his resources in
the mutual destruction of each other,
was the great object which governed
their policy. In the meantime, the
youthful monarch, who had not yet
completed his thirteenth year, beheld
his kingdom transformed into a stage
on which his nobles contended for the
chief power; whilst his subjects were
cruelly oppressed, and he himself
handed about, a passive puppet, from
the failing grasp of one faction into
the more iron tutelage of a more suc-
cessful party in the state. It is scarcely
possible to conceive a more miserable
picture of a nation, either as it regards
the happiness of the king or of the

It is not therefore surprising that,
soon after this, the state of the
country, abandoned by those who pos­
sessed the highest offices only to con­

136                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. III.

vert them into instruments of their
individual ambition, called loudly for
some immediate interference and re­
dress. Sir Robert Erskine, who
claimed the earldom of Mar, and
apparently on just grounds, finding
himself opposed by the intrigues of
the chancellor, took the law into his
own hands, and laying siege to the
castle of Kildrummie, carried it by
storm; upon which the king, or rather
his ministers, seized the castle of Alloa,
the property of Erskine. This same
baron, as sheriff of the Lennox, was
Governor of Dumbarton, one of the
strongest fortresses in the kingdom;
but during his absence in the north,
Galbraith of Culcreuch, a partisan of
the Earl of Douglas, with the conniv­
ance of his master, and the secret
encouragement of Crichton, ascended
the rock with a few followers, and
forcing an entrance by Wallace’s tower,
slew Robert Sempill, the captain, and
overpowering the garrison, made them­
selves masters of the place.1 In the
north, Sir William Ruthven, sheriff of
Perth, attempting, in the execution of
his office, to conduct a culprit to the
gallows, was attacked by John Gorme
Stewart of Athole, at the head of a
strong party of armed Highlanders,
who had determined to rescue their
countryman from the vengeance of the
law. Stewart had once before been
serviceable to government, in employ­
ing the wild freebooters whom he
commanded to seize the traitor Gra­
ham, who, after the murder of James
the First, had concealed himself in the
fastnesses of Athole; but. under the
capriciousness of a feudal government,
the arm which one day assisted the
execution of the law might the next
be lifted up in defiance of its autho­
rity; and Stewart, no doubt, argued
that his securing one traitor entitled
him, when it suited his own conveni­
ence, to let loose another. Ruthven,
however, a brave and determined
baron, at the head of his vassals, re­
sented this interference; and, after a

1 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 35. Wallace’s
tower was probably the tower in which Wal­
lace was confined after his capture by Men-


sanguinary conflict upon the North
Inch of Perth, both he and his fierce op­
ponent were left dead upon the field.2
In the midst of these outrageous
proceedings, the Earl of Douglas, in
prosecution of his scheme for his mar­
riage with the heiress of Galloway,
entered into a coalition with Living­
ston, the king’s governor. Living-
ston’s grandson, Sir James Hamilton
of Cadyow, had married Euphemia,
dowager-duchess of Touraine, the
mother of Douglas’s first wife; and it
is by no means improbable that the
friends of the Maiden of Galloway,
who was to bring with her so noble a
dowry, consented to her union with
the Earl of Douglas upon a promise
of this great noble to unite his in­
fluence with the governor, and put
down the arrogant domination of the
chancellor. The events, at least, which
immediately occurred demonstrate
some coalition of this sort. Douglas,
arriving suddenly at Stirling castle
with a modest train, instead of the
army of followers by which he was
commonly attended, besought and
gained admittance into the royal pre­
sence, with the humble purpose, as he
declared, of excusing himself from any
concern in those scenes of violence
which had been lately enacted at
Perth and Dumbarton. The king, as
was reported, not only received his
apology with a gracious ear, but was
so much prepossessed by his winning
addres3, and his declarations of de­
voted loyalty, that he made him a
member of his privy council, and ap­
pears soon after to have conferred
upon him the office of lieutenant-
general of the kingdom,3 which had
been enjoyed by the first Duke of
Touraine. The consequence of this
sudden elevation of Douglas was the
immediate flight of the chancellor
Crichton to the castle of Edinburgh,
where he began to strengthen the for­
tifications, to lay in provisions, and to

2 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 35.

3 Ibid. p. 36. Lesley’s Hist. p. 17. The
appointment of Douglas to be lieutenant-
general is not founded on certain historical
evidence, but inferred from his subsequent
conduct, and from his subsequent depriva­
tion. Postea, p. 152.

1443-4.]                                          JAMES II.                                                    137

recruit his garrison, as if he contem­
plated a regular siege. To imagine
that this elevation of Douglas was
accomplished by the king, a boy who
had not yet completed his thirteenth
year, would be ridiculous. It was
evidently the work of the governor,
who held an exclusive power over the
king’s person; and it indicated, for
the moment, a coalition of parties,
which might well make Crichton

In the meantime, Livingston, plead­
ing his advanced age, transferred to
his eldest son, Sir James, the weighty
charge of the sovereign’s person, and
his government of Stirling castle;
whilst Douglas, in the active exercise
of his new office of lieutenant-general,
which entitled him to summon in the
king’s name, and obtain delivery of
any fortress in the kingdom, assembled
a large military force. At the head
of these troops, and attended by the
members of the royal household and
privy council, he proceeded to the
castle of Barnton, in Mid-Lothian, the
property of the chancellor Crichton,
demanded its delivery in the king’s
behalf, and exhibited the order which
entitled him to make the requisition.
To this haughty demand, the governor
of the fortress, Sir Andrew Crichton,
sent at first a peremptory refusal; but,
after a short interval, the preparations
for a siege, and the display of the
king’s banner, overcame his resolution,
and induced him to capitulate. En­
couraged by this success, Douglas
levelled the castle with the ground,
and summoned the chancellor Crich-
ton, and his adherents, to attend a
parliament at Stirling, to answer be­
fore his peers upon a charge of high
treason. The reply made to this by
the proud baron was of a strictly
feudal nature, and consisted in a raid
or predatory expedition, in which the
whole military vassals of the house of
Crichton broke out with fire and
sword upon the lands of the Earl of
Douglas, and of his adherent, Sir John
Forester of Corstorphine, and inflicted
that sudden and summary vengeance
which gratified the feelings of their
chief, and satisfied their own lust for

plunder.1 Whilst the chancellor thus
let loose his vassals upon those who
meditated his ruin, his estates were
confiscated in the parliament which
met at Stirling ; his friends and ad­
herents, who disdained or dreaded to
appear and plead to the charges
brought against them, were outlawed,
and declared rebels to the king’s au­
thority ; and he himself, shut up in
the castle of Edinburgh, concentrated
his powers of resistance, and pondered
over the likeliest method of averting
his total destruction.

Douglas, in the meantime, received,
through the influence of the Living­
stons, the reward to which he had
ardently looked forward. A divorce
was obtained from his first countess;
a dispensation arrived from Rome,
permitting the marriage between him­
self and his cousin; and although still
a girl, who had not completed her
twelfth year, the Fair Maid of Gallo­
way2 was united to the earl, and the
immense estates which had fallen
asunder upon the execution of Wil­
liam were once more concentrated in
the person of the lieutenant-general
of the kingdom. In this manner did
Livingston, for the purpose of gratify­
ing his ancient feud with the chan­
cellor, lend his influence to the ac­
cumulation of a power, in the hands
of an ambitious subject, which was
incompatible with the welfare of the
state or the safety of the sovereign.

But although the monarch was thus
abandoned by those who ought to have
defended his rights, and the happiness
of the state sacrificed to the gratifica­
tion of individual revenge, there were
still a few honest and upright men to
be found, who foresaw the danger,
and interposed their authority to pre­
vent it; and of these the principal,
equally distinguished by his talents,
his integrity, and his high birth, was

1  Auchinleck Chronicle, pp. 36, 37.

2  In the dispensation obtained afterwards
for her marriage with her brother-in-law, it
appears that, at the time of her first mar­
riage, she was “infra nubiles annos.” An­
drew Stewart’s Hist. p. 444. The existence
of a first countess of Earl William is shewn
by the “Great Seal, vii. No. 214, under 13th
Oct. 1472 ; and 248, under 22d Jan. 1472-3.'’

138                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. III.

Kennedy, bishop of St Andrews, a
sister’s son of James the First, and by
this near connexion with the king,
entitled to stand forward as his de­
fender against the ambitious faction
who maintained possession of his per­
son. Kennedy’s rank, as head of the
Scottish Church, invested him with
an authority, to which, amid the
general corruption and licentiousness
of the other officers in the state, the
people looked with reverence and
affection. His mind, which was of the
highest order of intellect, had been
cultivated by a learned and excellent
education, enlightened by foreign
travel, and exalted by a spirit of un­
affected piety. During a residence of
four years at Rome, he had risen into
esteem with the honester part of the
Roman clergy; and, aware of the
abuses which had been introduced,
during the minority of the sovereign,
into the government of the Church—
of the venality of the presentations—
the dilapidation of the ecclesiastical
lands—the appointment of the licen­
tious dependants of the feudal barons
who had usurped the supreme power,
—Kennedy, with a resolution which
nothing could intimidate, devoted his
attention to the reformation of the man­
ners of the clergy, the dissemination
of knowledge, and the detection of all
abuses connected with the ecclesiastical
government. Upon the disgrace of
Crichton, this eminent person was ad­
vanced to the important office of chan­
cellor, which he retained only for a
brief period; and in his double capa­
city of primate and head of the law,
there were few subjects which did not,
in one way or other, come within the
reach of his conscientious and inquir­
ing spirit.

Upon even a superficial examina­
tion of the state of the country, it
required little discernment to discover
that out of the union of the two par­
ties of the Livingstons and the Doug­
lases had already sprung an infinite
multitude of grievances, which weighed
heavily upon the people, and that, if
not speedily counteracted, the further
growth of this coalition might en­
danger the security of the crown, and

threaten the life of the sovereign.
The penetrating spirit of Kennedy
soon detected an alarming confirma­
tion of these suspicions in the assi­
duity evinced by Douglas to draw
within the coalition between himself
and Livingston all the proudest and
most powerful of the feudal families,
as well as in the preference which he
manifested for those to whom the
severity of the government of James
the First had already given cause of
offence and dissatisfaction, and who,
with the unforgiving spirit of feudal
times, transferred to the person of his
son the hatred with which they had
regarded the father. Of this there
was a striking example in a league or
association which Douglas at this
time entered into with Alexander, the
second earl of Crawford, who had
married Mariot de Dunbar, the sister
of that unfortunate Earl of March
whom we have seen stripped of his
ancient and extensive inheritance by
James the First, under circumstances
of such severity, and at best of such
equivocal justice, as could never be
forgotten by the remotest connexions
of the sufferer.1 When Kennedy ob­
served such associations, indicating in
Douglas a purpose of concentrating
around him, not only the most power­
ful barons, but the most bitter ene­
mies of the ruling dynasty, he at once
threw the whole weight of his autho­
rity and experience into the scale of
the late chancellor, and united cordi­
ally with Crichton in an endeavour to
defeat such formidable purposes. But
he was instantly awakened to the
dangers of such a proceeding by the
ferocity with which his interference
was resented. At the instigation of
the lord-lieutenant, the Earl of Craw­
ford, along with Alexander Ogilvy,
Livingston, governor of Stirling castle,
Lord Hamilton, and Robert Reoch, a
wild Highland chief, assembled an over­
whelming force, and, with every cir­
cumstance of savage and indiscrimi­
nate cruelty, laid waste the lands be­
longing to the bishop, both in Fife
and Angus; leading captive his vassals,

1 Douglas’s Peerage, vol. i. p. 370. His­
tory, supra, p. 84.

1444-5.]                                         JAMES II.                                                     139

destroying his granges and villages
with fire, and giving up to wide and
indiscriminate havoc the only estates,
perhaps, in the kingdom, which, under
the quiet and enlightened rule of this
prelate, had been reduced under a
system of agricultural improvement.
Kennedy, in deep indignation, in­
stantly summoned the Earl of Craw­
ford to repair the ravages which had
been committed; and finding that the
proud baron disdained to obey, pro­
ceeded, with that religious pomp and
solemnity which was fitted to inspire
awe and terror even in the savage
bosoms of his adversaries, to excom­
municate the earl and his adherents,
suspending them from the services
and the sacraments of religion, and
denouncing, against all who harboured
or supported them, the extremest
curses of the Church.1 It may give us
some idea of the danger and the hope­
lessness of the task in which the
Bishop of St Andrews now consented
to labour—the reformation of the
abuses of the government—when we
remember that three of the principal
parties engaged in these acts of spolia­
tion were the lieutenant-general of the
kingdom, the governor of the royal
person, and one of the most confiden­
tial members of the king’s privy

Douglas, in his character of king’s
lieutenant, now assembled the vassals
of the crown, and laid siege to Edin­
burgh castle, which Crichton, who
had anticipated his movements, was
prepared to hold out against him to
the last extremity. The investment
of the fortress, however, continued
only for nine weeks; at the expiration
of which period, the chancellor, who,
since his coalition with the Bishop of
St Andrews and the house of Angus,
was discovered by his adversaries to

1 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 39. Robert
Reoch, or Swarthy Robert, was the ancestor
of the Robertsons of Strowan. He had appre­
hended the Earl of Athole, one of the mur­
derers of James the First. He is sometimes
styled Robert Duncanson. See Hist, supra,
p. 92.

2 MS. indenture in the possession of Mr
Maule of Panmure, between the king’s coun­
cil, and daily about him, on one part, and
Walter Ogilvy of Beaufort, on the other.

have a stronger party than they were
at first willing to believe, surrendered
the castle to the king, and entered
into a treaty with Livingston and
Douglas, by which he was not only
insured of indemnity, but restored to
no inconsiderable portion of his former
power and influence. 3 There can be
little doubt that the reconciliation of
this powerful statesman with the fac­
tion of Douglas was neither cordial
nor sincere : it was the result of fear
and interest, the two great motives
which influence the conduct of such
men in such times; but from the
friendship and support of so pure a
character as Kennedy, a presumption
arises in favour of the integrity of the
late chancellor, when compared with
the selfish ambition and lawless con­
duct of his opponents.

In the midst of these miserable
scenes of war and commotion, the
queen-mother, who since her marriage
with the Black Knight of Lorn had
gradually fallen into neglect and ob­
scurity, died at the castle of Dunbar.
Her fate might have afforded to any
moralist a fine lesson upon the insta­
bility of human grandeur. A daughter
of the noble and talented house of
Somerset, she was courted by James
the First, during his captivity, with
romantic ardour, in the shades of
Windsor, and in the bloom of beauty
became the queen of this great
monarch. After fourteen years of
happiness and glory, she was doomed
herself to witness the dreadful assassi­
nation of her royal consort; and hav­
ing narrowly escaped the ferocity
which would have involved her in a
similar calamity, she enjoyed, after the
capture of her husband’s murderers, a
brief interval of vengeance and of
power. Since that period, the tumult
of feudal war and the struggles of
aristocratic ambition closed thickly
around her; and losing her influence
with the guardianship of the youthful
monarch, the solitary tie which in­
vested her with distinction, she sunk
at once into the wife of a private
baron, by whom she appears to have
been early neglected, and at last utterly
Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 37.

140                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. III.

forsaken. The latest events in her
history are involved in an uncertainty
which itself pronounces a melancholy
commentary on the depth of the ne­
glect into which she had fallen ; and
we find her dying in the castle of
Dunbar, then in the possession of a
noted freebooter and outlaw, Patrick
Hepburn of Hailes. Whether this
baron had violently seized the queen,
or whether she had willingly sought a
retreat in the fortress, does not appear;
but the castle, soon after her death,
was delivered up to the king by Hep­
burn, who, as a partisan of the house
of Douglas, was pardoned his excesses,
and restored to favour.1 It was a
melancholy consequence of the inse­
curity of persons and of property in
those dark times, that a widow be­
came the mark or the victim of every
daring adventurer, and by repeated
nuptials was compelled to defend her­
self against the immediate attacks of
licentiousness and ambition.

Upon the death of their mother the
queen, the two princesses, her daugh­
ters, Jane and Eleanor, were sent to
the court of France, on a visit to their
sister, the Dauphiness—anxious, in all
probability, to escape from a country
which was at that moment divided by
contending factions, and where their
exalted rank only exposed them to
more certain danger. On their arrival
in France, however, they found the
court plunged in distress by the death
of the Dauphiness, who seems to have
become the victim of a conspiracy
which, by circulating suspicions against
her reputation, and estranging the
affections of her husband, succeeded
at last in bringing her to an early

1 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 37. Douglas’s
Peerage, vol. i. p. 224.

Hepburn was ancestor of the Earl of Both-
well, husband of Mary Queen of Scots. Three
manuscript letters of James the Second are
preserved at Durham, amongst a collection of
original papers belonging to the monastery
of Coldingham. Raines’ Hist, of North Dur­
ham, Appendix, p. 22. One of them, dated
28th April 1446, mentions the "maist tresson-
able takyn of our castell of Dunbar, bernyng
her schippis, slaughtyr, pressonying, oppres­
sion of our peple, and destruction of our land,
and mony other detestabill enormyties and
offence done be Patrick of hepburn, sone till
Adam hepburn of hales, Knycht.”

grave. There is strong evidence of
her innocence in the deep sorrow for
her death expressed by Charles the
Seventh, and his anxiety that the
Dauphin should espouse her sister
Jane, a marriage for which he in
vain solicited a Papal dispensation,
Her husband, afterwards Lewis the
Eleventh, was noted for his craft and
his malignity; and there is little doubt
that even before the slanderous attack
upon her character by Jamet de Tillay,
the neglect and cruelty of the Dau­
phin had nearly broken a heart of
much susceptibility, enfeebled by an
over-devotion to poetry and romance,
and seeking a refuge from the scenes
of domestic suffering in the pleasures
of literary composition, and the pa­
tronage of men of genius. 2

In the meantime, amid a constant
series of petty feuds and tumults,
which, originating in private ambition,
are undeserving the notice of the his­
torian, one, from the magnitude of
the scale on which it was acted, as
well as from the illustrations which it
affords us of the manners of the times,
requires a more particular recital.
The religious house of Arbroath had
appointed Alexander Lindsay, eldest
son of the Earl of Crawford, their
chief justiciar, a man of ferocious
habits, and of great ambition, who,
from the length and bushiness of
his beard, was afterwards commonly
known by the appellation of the
“Tiger, or Earl Beardy.” The pru­
dent monks, however, soon discovered
that the Tiger was too expensive a
protector, and having deposed him
from his office, they conferred it upon
Ogilvy of Innerquharity, an unpar­
donable offence in the eyes of the
Master of Crawford, who instantly

2 Berry, Hist, de Charles VII. Duclos III.
20. Paradin, Alliances Genealogiques des
Rois et Princes de Gaule, p. 111. “Mar­
guerite, fille de Jacques, Roy d’Escosse, pre­
mier de ce nom, fut premiere femme de ce
Louis, lui estant encores dauphin, et décéda,
n’ayant eu aucuns enfans, l'an 1445, à Cha­
lons, en Champaigne, auquel lieu fut inhume
son corps en la grand eglise la, ou demeura
jusqu’au regne de Roy Louis, qui le feit lore
apporter en l' Abbaie de Saint Laon de
Thouars, en Poitou, ou il git.'’ See same
work, p. 307.

1445-8.]                                           JAMES II.                                                   141

collected an army of his vassals, for
the double purpose of inflicting ven­
geance upon the intruder and repos­
sessing himself of the dignity from
which he had been ejected. There
can be little doubt that the Ogilvies
must have sunk under this threatened
attack, but accident gave them a
powerful ally in Sir Alexander Seton
of Gordon, afterwards Earl of Huntly,
who, as he returned from court, hap­
pened to lodge for the night at the
castle of Ogilvy, at the moment when
this baron was mustering his forces
against the meditated assault of Craw­
ford. Seton, although in no way
personally interested in the quarrel,
found himself, it is said, compelled to
assist the Ogilvies, by a rude but
ancient custom, which bound the
guest to take common part with his
host in all dangers which might occur
so long as the food eaten under his
roof remained in his stomach.1 With
the small train of attendants and
friends who accompanied him, he
joined the forces of Innerquharity,
and proceeding to the town of Ar-
broath, found the opposite party
drawn up in great strength on the
outside of the gates. The families
thus opposed in mortal defiance to
each other could number amongst
their adherents many of the bravest
and most opulent gentlemen in the
country; and the two armies exhibited
an imposing appearance of armed
knights, barbed horses, and em­
broidered banners. As the com­
batants, however, approached each
other, the Earl of Crawford, who had
received information of the intended
combat, being anxious to avert it,
suddenly appeared on the field, and
galloping up between the two lines,
was mortally wounded by a soldier,
who was enraged at his interference,
and ignorant of his rank. The event
naturally increased the bitterness of
hostility, and the Crawfords, who
were assisted by a large party of the
vassals of Douglas, infuriated at the
loss of their chief, attacked the Ogil-
vies with a desperation which soon

1 Lesley, De Rebus Gestis Scotorum, p. 286.
History of Scotland by the same author, p. 18.

broke their ranks, and reduced them
to irreclaimable disorder. Such, how­
ever, was the gallantry of their re­
sistance that they were almost entirely
cut to pieces; and five hundred men,
including many noble barons in Forfar
and Angus, were left dead upon the
field.2 Seton himself had nearly paid
with his life the penalty of his ad­
herence to the rude usage of the times;
and John Forbes of Pitsligo, one of his
followers, was slain; nor was the loss
which the Ogilvies sustained in the
field their worst misfortune: for Lind­
say, with his characteristic ferocity,
and protected by the authority of
Douglas, let loose his army upon their
estates; and the flames of their castles,
the slaughter of their vassals, the
plunder of their property, and the
captivity of their wives and children,
instructed the remotest adherents of
the Justiciar of Arbroath how terrible
was the vengeance which they had
provoked. What must have been the
state of the government, and how
miserable the consequences of those
feudal manners and customs, which
have been admired by superficial in­
quirers, where the pacific attempt of
a few monks to exercise their un­
doubted privilege in choosing their
own protector, could involve a whole
province in bloodshed, and kindle the
flames of civil war in the heart of the
country! It does honour to the ad­
ministration of Kennedy that, al­
though distracted by such domestic
feuds, he found leisure to attend to
the foreign commercial relations of
the state, and that a violent dissension
which had broken out betwixt the
Scots and the Bremeners, who had
seized a ship freighted from Edin­
burgh, and threatened further hos­
tilities, was amicably adjusted by en­
voys despatched for the purpose to
Flanders. 3

The consequences of the death of
the Earl of Crawford require particu­
lar attention. That ambitious noble
had been one of the firmest allies of
Douglas; and the lieutenant-general,
well aware that superior power was

2  Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 38.

3  see Illustrations, L.

142                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. III.

the sole support of an authority which
he had very grossly abused, immedi­
ately entered into a league with the
new Earl of Crawford, and Alexander,
earl of Ross and lord of the Isles, in
whose mind the imprisonment and
degrading penance inflicted upon him
by James the First had awakened de­
sires of revenge, the deeper only from
their being long repressed. The alli­
ance between these three nobles was
on the face of it an act of treason, as
it bore to be a league offensive and de­
fensive against all men, not excepting
the sovereign; and it was well known
that Crawford, from his near connex­
ion with the forfeited house of March,
inherited a hatred of the royal family,
which, increased by his native ferocity,
had at last grown up into a determined
resolution to destroy the race. The
coalition seems to have acquired addi­
tional strength during the succeeding
year by the accession of the Living­
stons, so that, with the exception of
Crichton and Kennedy, there was
scarcely to be found a baron of conse­
quence who was not compelled to sup­
port the governor in his attempt to
sink the authority of the sovereign,
and concentrate in his own person the
undivided administration of the state.
Against his success in this treason­
able project Douglas soon found that
his most formidable opponent was the
young king himself, who had reached
the age of seventeen years, and al­
though under the disadvantage of a
confined education, began to evince a
sagacity of judgment and a vigour of
character which gave the fairest pro­
mise of excellence. Cautiously ab­
staining from offering any open dis­
gust to the governor, he attached
silently to his service the upright and
able Kennedy, and the experienced
Crichton, who appears about this time
to have been raised to the dignity of a
lord in parliament, and soon after re­
instated in the important office of
chancellor. Aware even at this early
age of the intellectual superiority of
the clergy, he exerted himself to secure
the services of the most distinguished
of this order; by friendly negotiations
with England he secured the favour­

able dispositions of Henry the Sixth,
and with the courts of France and of
Rome he appears to have been on
terms of the utmost confidence and
amity. To ascribe the whole merit of
these wise and politic measures to the
young monarch would be absurd; but
allowing that they originated with the
party of Crichton and of Kennedy, with
whom he had connected himself, the
praise of the selection of such advisers
and the confidence with which they
were treated belongs to James.

This confidence was soon after
evinced upon an important occasion,
when the king granted a commission
to the chancellor Crichton, his secre­
tary, Railston, bishop of Dunkeld, and
Nicholas de Ótterburn, official of Lo­
thian, to repair to France for the pur­
pose of renewing the league which for
many centuries had subsisted between
the two countries, and with a commis­
sion to choose him a bride amongst
the princesses of that royal court.
The first part of their duty was soon
after happily accomplished, but as the
family of the King of France afforded
at that moment no suitable match for
their young sovereign, the Scottish
ambassadors, by the advice of Charles
the Seventh, proceeded to the court of
the Duke of Gueldres, and made their
proposals to Mary, the only daughter
and heiress of this wealthy potentate,
and nearly related to the French king.
In the succeeding year accordingly the
princess was solemnly affianced as the
intended consort of the King of Scot-

In the midst of these measures James
was careful to afford no open cause of
suspicion or disgust to the faction of
the Livingstons, or to the still more
powerful party of the Douglases and
Crawfords. His policy was to disunite
them in the first instance, and after­
wards to destroy them in detail; and
in furtherance of this project he ap­
pears to have called home from the
continent Sir James Stewart, the hus­
band of his late mother, the queen-
dowager, and Robert Fleming, the son

1 MS. Traitez entre les Rois de France el
les Rois d’Escosse. Advocates’ Library, Edin­

1448-9.]                                          JAMES II.                                                  143

of Sir Malcolm Fleming, who by the
command or with the connivance of
the Livingstons had been executed in
Edinburgh castle along with the Earl
of Douglas and his brother. All this
to a deep observer must have indicated
a preparation for the fall of the Liv­
ingstons, but as the king was careful
to retain them in his service, and to
use their assistance in his negotiations,
they appear to have been deceived into
a false security, and to have neglected
all means of defence and all oppor­
tunity of escape till it was too late.
Douglas, however, was not so easily
seduced, but suspecting the designs of
the monarch, which were quietly ma­
turing amid the peace and tranquillity
with which he was surrounded, deter­
mined to divide his strength and de­
feat his purposes by involving him in
a war with England. Nor was this a
matter of much difficulty, as the truce
which subsisted between the two coun­
tries was on the point of expiring, and
the Borderers had already commenced
their hostilities. Three parties at pre­
sent divided England,—that of the
good Duke of Gloucester, who seems
to have been animated by a sincere
love for his sovereign, Henry the Sixth,
and an enlightened desire to promote
the prosperity of the nation by the
maintenance of pacific relations with
Scotland; that of the queen and the
Duke of Suffolk, the determined ene­
mies of Gloucester, and solicitous only
for the concentration of the whole
power of the state into their own
hands; and, lastly, that of Richard,
duke of York, who, having already
formed a design upon the crown, made
it his chief business to widen the
breach between the two factions of
Gloucester and the queen, and to pre­
pare the way for his own advancement
by increasing the miseries which the
nation suffered under the domination
of the house of Lancaster. To this
able and ambitious prince the decay
of the English power in France and
the resumption of hostilities upon the
Borders were subjects rather of con­
gratulation than of regret; and when
both countries contained two power­
ful nobles, Douglas and the Duke of

York, equally solicitous for war, it is
only matter of surprise that hostilities
should not have broken out at a more
early period.

On their occurrence the aggression
seems to have first proceeded from the
English, who, under the command of
the Earls of Northumberland and Sa­
lisbury, wardens of the east and west
marches, broke violently, and in two
divisions of great force, into Scotland,
and left the towns of Dunbar and
Dumfries in flames. This, according
to the usual course of Border warfare,
led to an immediate invasion of Cum­
berland by James Douglas of Balveny,
brother of the Earl of Douglas, in
which Alnwick was burnt and plun­
dered, and the whole of that province
cruelly wasted and depopulated, whilst,
as a spirit of revenge and the passion­
ate desire for retaliation spread over a
wider surface, the whole armed popu­
lation of the country flowed in at the
call of the wardens, and a force of six
thousand English, under the command
of the younger Percy, along with Sir
John Harrington and Sir John Pen-
nington, crossed the Solway, and en­
camped upon the banks of the river
Sark, where they were soon after de­
feated by the Scots, under the com­
mand of Hugh, earl of Ormond,
another brother of the Earl of Doug­
las. Along with Ormond were Sir
John Wallace of Craigie, the Sheriff
of Ayr, the Laird of Johnston, and
the Master of Somerville, who com­
manded a force considerably inferior
to that which they encountered, being
about four thousand strong. They
succeeded, however, in dispersing the
English, of whom fifteen hundred men
were left dead upon the field, five
hundred drowned in the Solway, and
the leaders, Percy, Harrington, and
Pennington taken prisoners, by whose
ransom, as well as the plunder of the
English camp, the Scottish leaders
were much enriched.1 The Scots lost
only twenty-six soldiers, but Wallace

1 Auckmleck Chronicle, p. 40. The version
of this battle, which Pinkerton, in the silence
of English and Scottish historians, has ex­
tracted from the French writers Chartier and
Monstrelet, is fabulous.

144                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. III.

of Craigie, a leader of great courage
and experience, whose conduct had
mainly contributed to the victory,
soon after died of his wounds.

It would appear, however, that both
countries were willing to consider this
infringement of the peace rather as an
insulated and accidental disturbance
of the Borders than a fixed determina­
tion to renew the war. It led to no
more serious hostilities, and whilst in
England the loss of the French do­
minions, the rebellion of Ireland, and
the intrigues of the Yorkists, spread
dissatisfaction and alarm throughout
the country, the King of Scotland,
whose character seemed gradually to
gain in intelligence and vigour, looked
anxiously forward to the arrival of his
intended consort, and summoned his
parliament to meet at Stirling on the
4th of April 1449. Unfortunately, with
a single and unimportant exception,
no record of the transactions of this
meeting of the estates has reached our
times.1 We know, however, that the
practice of appointing a committee of
parliament, composed of the repre­
sentatives of the bishops, the barons,
and the commissaries of the burghs,
was continued, and it may be conjec­
tured that their remaining delibera­
tions principally regarded the approach­
ing marriage of the king. Preparations
for this joyful event now engrossed the
court, and it was determined that the
ceremony should be conducted with
much magnificence and solemnity.

On the 18th of June, the fleet which
bore the bride anchored in the Forth.
It consisted of thirteen large vessels,
and had on board a brilliant freight of
French and Burgundian chivalry. The
Archduke of Austria, the Duke of
Brittany,2 and the Lord of Campvere,

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p 60.

2 Paradin, Alliances Genealogiques de Rois
de France, p. 571. Francis the First, seventh
Duke of Brittany, “ fort bon et loyal François,
et l'un des fléaux des Anglois, mesmes au re-
couvrement de Normandie.” He died in 1450.
He married Isabella, daughter of James the
First, sister of James the Second of Scotland,
sister to the Dauphiness of France. They had
two daughters : Margaret, married to Francis,
the tenth Duke of Brittany; and Mary, mar­
ried to the Viscount of Rohan.

all brothers-in-law to the King of
Scotland, along with the Dukes of
Savoy and of Burgundy, with a suite
of knights and barons, accompanied
the princess and her ladies, whilst a
body­guard of three hundred men-at-
arms, clothed, both man and horse, in
complete steel, attended her from the
shore to the palace of Holyrood, where
she was received by her youthful con­
sort.3 The princess, a lady of great
beauty, and, as it afterwards proved,
of masculine talent and understanding,
rode, according to the manners of the
times, behind the Lord Campvere, en­
circled by the nobles of France, Bur­
gundy, and Scotland, and welcomed
by the acclamations of an immense
concourse of spectators. The portion
of the bride amounted to sixty thou­
sand crowns, which was stipulated to
be paid within two years by the
maternal uncle of the princess, Philip
the Good, duke of Burgundy, one
of the wealthiest and most powerful
princes in Europe, who now attended
her to Scotland. James, on the other
hand, settled upon the queen, in the
event of his previous decease, a dowry
of ten thousand crowns, which was
secured upon lands in Strathern,
Athole, Methven, and Linlithgow; and
he bound himself, in the event of a
male heir being born to the Duke of
Gueldres, to renounce all claims to
which his marriage with the princess
might otherwise have entitled him.
At the same period, in consideration
of the amicable and advantageous com­
mercial intercourse which from re­
mote ages had been maintained be­
tween the Scottish merchants and the
people of Brabant, Flanders, Holland,
Zealand, and other territories, all of
which were now subject to the Duke
of Burgundy, a treaty of perpetual
friendship and alliance was concluded
between these united states and the
kingdom of Scotland, in which their
respective sovereigns engaged to com­
pel all aggressors upon their mutual
subjects, whether the attack and
spoliation was conducted by land or
sea, to make the amplest satisfaction
and restitution to the injured par-
Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 41.

1449.]                                               JAMES II,                                                   145

ties.1 From the moment of the arrival
of the Princess of Gueldres till the
solemnisation of her marriage and
coronation, the time was occupied by
feasting, masks, revelry, and tourna­
ments; amongst which last amuse­
ments there occurred a noted combat
at outrance, in which three Burgun-
dian champions, famous amongst their
contemporaries for an unrivalled skill
in their weapons, challenged the bravest
of the Scottish knights to an encounter
with the lance, battle-axe, sword, and
dagger. The challenge of the foreign
knights, two of whom belonged to the
ancient and noble family of Lalain.
whilst the third was the Sieur de
Meriadet, lord of Longueville, was
accepted by James Douglas, brother of
the earl, another baron of the same
name, brother of Douglas of Lochleven,
and Sir John Ross of Halket. The
lists were erected at Stirling, where
the combatants having entered, splen­
didly apparelled, first proceeded to
arm themselves in their pavilions.
They were then knighted by the king;
and, at the sound of the trumpet, en­
gaged in a desperate encounter, in
which spears were soon shivered and
cast aside to make way for the close
combat. At length, one of the Doug­
lases being felled to the ground by the
stroke of a battle-axe, the monarch,
anxious to avoid the further effusion
of blood, or to stain his nuptial enter­
tainment by the death of such brave
knights, threw down his gauntlet, and
terminated the contest.2 It may give
us some idea of the immense power
possessed at this period by the Earl of
Douglas when we mention that on
this chivalrous occasion the military
suite by which he was surrounded,
and at the head of which he conducted
the Scottish champions to the lists,
consisted of a force amounting to five
thousand men.

Soon after this, the royal marriage
was solemnised in the Abbey of Holy-
rood, and the king, guided by the ad­
vice and experience of Crichton and

1 MS. Bib. Hárl. 4637, vol. iii. p. 183.

2 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 40. De Coucy,
p. 567. His memoirs are published at the
end of the History of Jean Chartier.

Kennedy, resumed his designs for the
vindication of his own authority, and
the destruction of those unprincipled
barons who had risen, during his min­
ority, upon its ruins. Against Doug­
las, however, on account of his exor­
bitant power, it was as yet impossible
to proceed, although an example of
his insolent cruelty occurred about
this time, in the murder of Colvil of
Oxenham and a considerable body of
his retainers,3 which deeply incensed
the young monarch. Dissembling his
resentment till a more favourable op­
portunity, the king directed his whole
strength against the faction of the
Livingstons; and having received
secret information of a great convoca­
tion which they were to hold at the
bridge of Inchbelly, which passes over
the Kelvin near Kirkintilloch, he was
fortunate enough to surround them
by the royal forces, and arrest the
leading men of the family before they
could adopt any measures either for
resistance or escape. James Living­
ston, eldest son of the aged and noted
Sir Alexander Livingston of Callander;
Robyn of Callander, captain of Dum­
barton ; David Livingston of Green­
yards; John Livingston, captain of
Doune castle ; Robert Livingston of
Lithgow; and, not long after, Sir
Alexander himself, were seized and
thrown into prison, while such expe­
dition was used that within forty days
not only their whole property was put
under arrest, but every officer who
acted under their authority was ex­
pelled violently from his situation, and
every castle or fortalice which was
held by themselves or their vassals,
seized and occupied by the sovereign.4
The manner in which this bold and
sweeping measure was carried into
execution is involved in an obscurity
very similar to that which in a former
reign attended the arrest of the family
and faction of Albany by James the
First. In both instances the great
outlines of the transaction alone re­
main, and all the minute but not less
important causes which led to the
weakening the resistance of the victims

3 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 41.
Ibid. p. 42.


146                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. III.

of royal vengeance, to the strengthen­
ing the hands of the executive, and to
the surprise and discomfiture of a for­
midable faction, which had for twelve
years controlled and set at defiance the
utmost energies of the government,
are lost in the silence of contemporary
history and the destruction of original
records. All that is certainly known
seems to indicate an extraordinary in­
crease in the resources, courage, and
ability of the king, and a proportion­
able diminution in the strength, or a
remarkable indifference and lukewarm-
ness in the zeal, of the great families
by whom he had been so long retained
in a state of ignominious durance.

Immediately after this unexpected
display of his power, which excited
great astonishment in the country, the
king despatched the Bishop of Brechin
and the Abbot of Melrose, his trea­
surer and confessor, along with the
Lords Montgomery and Grey, as his
ambassadors, for the purpose of con­
cluding a truce with England;1 and a
meeting having taken place with the
commissioners of the English monarch
in the cathedral church at Durham, on
the 25th of November, a cessation of
hostilities for an indefinite period was
agreed on, in which the most ample
provisions were included for the en­
couragement of the commerce of both
kingdoms, and which, upon six months’
previous warning being given, might
be lawfully infringed by the English
or the Scottish monarch. A confirma­
tion of the treaty with France, and a
ratification of the league with the
Duke of Brittany, immediately suc­
ceeded to the negotiations in England;2
and James having thus wisely secured
himself against any disturbance from
abroad, summoned his parliament to
meet at Edinburgh on the 19th of
January, and proceeded with a deter­
mined purpose and exemplary severity
to enforce the judgment of the law
against the manifold offences of the
house of Livingston.

Their principal crime, in itself an
act of open treason, had been the vio­
lent attack upon the queen, and the

1 Rymer, vol. xi. p. 242.

2 Mag. Sig. iv. fol. 1.

imprisonment of her person on the 3d
of August 1439; and with a manifest
reference to this subject it was de­
clared, “ That if any man should assist,
counsel, or maintain those that are
arraigned by the sovereign in the pre­
sent parliament on account of crimes
committed against the king or his late
dearest mother, they should be liable
to the punishment inflicted on the
principal offenders.” Sir Alexander
Livingston of Callander, the head of
the family, and now an aged man,
James Dundas of Dundas, his cousin-
german, and Robert Bruce, brother to
Bruce of Clackmannan, were forfeited
and imprisoned in Dumbarton castle.
The vengeance of the law next fell
upon Alexander Livingston, a younger
son of the Lord of Callander, along
with Robert Livingston, comptroller,
who were hanged and afterwards be­
headed on the Castle Hill at Edinburgh,
upon which Archibald Dundas, whose
brother had been shut up in Dumbar­
ton, threw himself into the castle of
Dundas, which was at that time strongly
garrisoned and full of provisions, de­
claring that he would die upon the
walls, or extort from the king a free
pardon to himself and his adherents.
Why the father, the eldest son, James,
and James Dundas, who were all of
them personally engaged in the atro­
cious attack on the queen,3 were per­
mitted to escape with imprisonment,
whilst a mortal punishment was re­
served for apparently inferior delin­
quents, it is difficult to discover.4
Another obscurity occurs in the

3 Mag. Sig. iv. 4. Charter by James II. to
Alexander Naper, “Compotorum suorum
Rotulatori, pro suo fideli servicio quondam
carissimo Matri Regine impenso et in re­
muneracionem et recompensationem lesionis
sui corporis, ac gravaminum et dampnorum
sibi illatorum tempore proditoriæ tradicionis
et incarcerationis dicte Reginæ, per Alex, de
Levingston, militem, et Jac. de Levingston,
filium suum, ac suos complices, nequiter per-
petrati.” See also a royal charter to the Earl
of Douglas of half of the lands of Dundas, and
Echling of Dumany and Q,ueensferry, forfeited
by James of Dundas—"propter proditoriam
tradicionem in personam regiam per eundem
Jac. commissam.”

4 Pinkerton, vol. i. p. 203, misled by Boece
and Lindsay, has committed an error in plac­
ing the destruction of the Livingstons in 1440,
and ascribing it to the Earl of Douglas.

1449.]                                               JAMES II.                                                    147

passive manner in which the Earl of
Douglas appears to have regarded the
downfall of those with whom he had
been long connected by the strictest
ties of mutual support and successful
ambition. There can be little doubt
that the king, who had now surrounded
himself by some of the ablest men in
the country, whom he chiefly selected
from the ranks of the clergy, was well
aware of the treasonable league be­
tween Douglas, Ross, and Crawford,
and already meditated the destruction
of this haughty potentate, whose power
was incompatible with the security of
the government; and it is extraordi­
nary that the example of the sudden
destruction of his companions in in-
trigue and insubordination should not
have alarmed the earl for his own
safety. The most probable account
seems to be that, aware of the increas­
ing strength of the party of the sove­
reign, he found it expedient to act as an
ally rather than an enemy, and in good
time to desert, and even to share in
the spoils of those whom he considered
it desperate to defend. It is certain,
at least, that immediately subsequent
to the forfeiture of the Livingstons
Douglas repeatedly experienced the
favour and generosity of the sovereign.
When Dundas castle, after a resolute
defence of three months, surrendered
to the royal army, the wealth of the
garrison, the cannon, provisions, and
military stores were divided between
the king, the Earl of Douglas, and Sir
William and Sir George Crichton. On
the forfeiture of Dundas’s lands, a great
part of his estate was settled on Doug­
las; his lordship of Galloway was
erected into a special regality, with
the power of holding justice and cham­
berlain ayres, to be held blanch of the
sovereign; he obtained also the lands
of Blairmaks in Lanarkshire, forfeited
by James of Dundas, and of Coulter
and Ogleface, which had been the pro­
perty of the Livingstons.1

In the same parliament which in­
flicted so signal a vengeance upon this
powerful family, the condition of the
country, and the remedy of those
abuses which had grown up during the
Mag. Sig. iv. No. 109, 110. Ibid. No. 59.

minority of the monarch, engaged the
attention of the legislature; and to
some of the resolutions which were
passed, as they throw a strong light
on the times, it will be necessary to
direct our attention. After the usual
declaration of the intention of the
sovereign to maintain the freedom of
“ Haly Kirk,” and to employ the arm
of the civil power to carry the ecclesi­
astical sentence into execution against
any persons who had fallen under the
censures of the Church, the parliament
provided that general peace should be
proclaimed and maintained throughout
the realm, and that all persons were
to be permitted to travel in security
for mercantile or other purposes, in
every part of the country, without the
necessity of “ having assurance one of
the other.” The “king’s peace,” it
was observed, was henceforth to be
“sufficient surety to every man,’' as
the sovereign was resolved to employ
such officers alone as could well punish
all disturbers of the public peace. In
the event of any person being, not­
withstanding this enactment, in mortal
fear of another, a daily and hourly
occurrence in these times of feudal
riot and disorder, he was commanded
to go to the sheriff, or nearest magis­
trate, and swear that he dreads him;
after which the officer was to take
pledges for the keeping of the peace,
according to the ancient statutes upon
this subject. Those who filled the
office of judges were to be just men,
who understood the law, and whose
character should be a warrant for an
equal administration of justice to the
small as well as to the great. It was
appointed that the justice should make
his progress through the country twice
in the year, according to the old law.2
The attention of the parliament
appears to have been next directed to
that grave subject, of which the recent
history of the country had afforded so
many illustrations, rebellion against
the king’s person and authority, upon
which it was first provided that the
crime should be punished according to
the judgment of the three estates, who

2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 35.

148                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. III.

were to take into consideration “the
quality and the quantity of the rebel­
lion.” In the next place, when any
man openly and “notourly” raised
rebellion against the sovereign, or
made war upon the lieges, or gave
encouragement or protection to those
guilty of such offences, the parliament
declared it to be the duty of the sove­
reign, with assistance of the whole
strength of the country, to proceed in
person against the offender, and inflict
upon him speedy punishment; whilst
all persons who in any way afforded
countenance to those convicted of re­
bellion were to be punished with the
same severity as the principal delin­

The next enactment of this parlia­
ment constituted an important era in
the history of the liberty of the sub­
ject; and I think it best to give it in
its ancient simplicity :—“ It is declared
to be ordained for the safety and
favour of the poor people who labour
the ground,
that they, and all others
who have taken or shall take lands in
any time to come from lords, accord­
ing to a lease which is to run for a
certain term of years, shall remain on
the lands protected by their lease till
the expiry of the same, paying all
along the same yearly rent, and this
notwithstanding the lands should pass
by sale, or by alienation, into different
hands from those by whom they were
first given in lease to the tenant.”
Under the reign of James the First,
we have already pointed out the re­
quest made by that monarch to the
great feudal lords, that they would not
summarily remove their tenantry from
their lands possessed on lease : this was
clearly the earliest step towards the
attainment of the important privilege
contained in the above statute; a wise
and memorable act in its future con­
sequences on the security of property,
the liberty of the great body of the
people, and the improvement of the

For the prevention of those inva­
sions of property, which were at this
period so frequent throughout the

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. pp. 35, 36.

country, the sheriff was peremptorily
enjoined to make immediate inquiry,
and compel the offenders to instant
restoration ; an act easily engrossed in
the statute-book, but almost impossible
to be carried into execution, so long
as the sheriff himself was under the
fear and authority of one or other of
the great feudal lords, or might per­
haps be himself a principal offender.
We find it accordingly provided that
these officers, along with the justices,
chamberlains, coroners, and other ma­
gistrates, shall be prevented from
collecting around them, in their pro­
gresses through the country, those
numerous trains of attendants, which
grievously oppressed the people, and
that they should content themselves
with that moderate number of follow­
ers appointed by the ancient laws
upon this subject.

The statute which immediately fol­
lowed, from the strength and sim­
plicity of its language, gives us a
singular and primitive picture of the
times. It related to that description
of persons who, disdaining all regu­
lar labour, have ever been, in the eyes
of the civil magistrate, a perverse and
hateful generation, “ sornars, outlyars,
masterful beggars, fools, bards, and
runners about.” For the putting away
of all such vexatious and rude persons,
who travelled through the country
with their horses, hounds, and other
property, all sheriffs, barons, aldermen,
and bailies, either without or within
burgh, were directed to make inquiry
into this matter at every court which
they held; and in the event of any
such individuals being discovered, their
horses, hounds, and other property
were to be immediately confiscated to
the crown, and they themselves put in
prison till such time as the king “had
his will of them.” And it was also
commanded by the parliament that
the same officers, when they held their
courts, should make inquiry whether
there be any persons that followed the
profession of “Fools,” or such like
runners about who did not belong to
the class of bards; and such being dis­
covered, they were to be put in prison
or in irons for such trespass as long as

1449.]                                               JAMES II.                                                   149

they had any goods or substance of
their own to live upon. If they had
nothing to live upon, it was directed
that “ their ears be nailed to the tron,
or to any other tree, and then cut off,
and they themselves banished the
country, to which if they returned
again they were upon their first appre­
hension to be hanged.”l

For the examination of the acts of
parliament and of general councils,
which had been assembled in the time
of the present king and of his late
father, the three estates appointed a
committee of twelve persons, four
chosen from the bishops, four from
the lords, and four from the commis­
saries of burghs. To this body was
committed the task of selecting all
such acts as they esteemed wise, and
calculated to promote the present ad­
vantage of the realm, which were to
be revised and presented for approval
at the next parliament to be assembled
at Perth. For the prevention of that
grievous calamity, a dearth of provi­
sions in the land, the sheriffs, bailies,
and all other officers, both without
and within the burghs, were strictly
enjoined to discover, arrest, and pun­
ish all such persons within their own
jurisdiction who were in the practice
of buying victual or corn, and hoard­
ing it up till the occurrence of a dearth,
whilst the provisions which they had
thus hoarded were directed to be es­
cheated to the king. In addition to
these enactments, whilst free permis­
sion was granted to all the subjects of
the realm to buy and sell victual at
their pleasure, either on the north
half or south half of the Firth of
Forth, yet the keeping old stacks of
corn in the farm­yard later than Christ­
mas was strictly prohibited, and it was
enjoined in equally positive terms that
neither burgesses nor other persons
who bought victual for the purpose of
selling again should be allowed to lay
up a great store of corn, and keep it
out of the market till the ripening of
the next harvest; but that at this late
season of the year they were only to
have so much grain in their possession

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 36.

as was requisite for the support of
themselves and their families.2

The succeeding statute, upon the
punishment of treason, was directed
against the repetition of the practices
of Livingston, Douglas, and Crichton,
which disgraced the minority of this
sovereign, It provided that in the
event of any person committing trea­
son against the king’s majesty by ris­
ing against him in open war, or laying
violent hands upon his person—by
giving countenance to those convicted
of treason—supplying with military
stores and armed men the castles of
convicted traitors—holding out such
castles against the king’s forces, or
assailing any fortress in which the
king’s person might happen to be at
the time—he should be immediately
arrested and openly punished as a
traitor. When those who had been
guilty of theft or robbery were men
of such power and authority that the
justiciar was not in safety to hold his
court, or to put down by the arm
of the law such “ great and masterful
theft,” he was instantly to communi­
cate with the king, who, with the as­
sistance of his privy council, should
provide a remedy ; and, in order that
such bold and daring offenders be not
placed upon their guard as to the legal
processes in preparation against them,
the justice ­clerk was commanded not
to reveal his action to any person
whatever, or alter it in any way from
the form in which it was given him,
except for the king’s advantage, or
change any names, or put out any
of the rolls without orders from the
king or his council, and this under the
penalty of the loss of his office and
estate, at the will of the sovereign.3
How lamentable a picture does it pre­
sent of the condition of the country
when such expressions could be em­
ployed; where an acknowledged in­
fringement of the law was permitted,
“if it be for the king’s advantage;”
and in which the right of the subject
to be informed of the offence of which
he was accused, previous to his trial,

2  Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol,
ii. p. 36.

3  Ibid. VOL ii. p. 37.

150                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. III.

appears to be thus unceremoniously
sacrificed !

Upon the important subject of the
money of the realm, reference was
made, in this parliament, to a former
act, now unfortunately lost, by which
twenty­four persons were chosen from
the three estates to appoint proper
regulations as to the importation of
bullion by the merchants, the new
coinage and its issue, and the circula­
tion of the money then current.
Strict search was directed to be made
at all seaports, and upon the Borders
and marches, for the apprehension of
those carrying money out of the king­
dom ; and all false strikers of gold and
silver, all forgers of false groats and
pennies, were to be seized wherever
found, and brought to the king, to be
punished as the law directed. In the
same parliament, the monarch, with
that affectionate respect for the clergy
which could not fail to be experienced
by a prince who had successfully em­
ployed their support and advice to
escape from the tyranny of his nobles,
granted to them some important privi­
leges. In a charter dated on the 24th
January 1449, he declared that, “ for
the salvation of his own soul, and that
of Queen Mary his consort, with con­
sent of his three estates, and in terms
of a schedule then presented to him,
he conferred upon all bishops of cathe­
dral churches in Scotland the privilege
of making their testaments, of levying
the fruits of vacant sees, and convert­
ing them to their use, the vicars-gene­
ral of the cathedrals rendering a true
account of the same.1

At the time the king held this par­
liament, he appears to have enter­
tained the most amicable disposition
towards England, wisely considering
that it would require a long interval
of peace to reform the condition of his
own kingdom, and to rectify the abuses
to which he was now beginning to di­
rect his undivided attention. He was
well aware that the English govern­
ment, entirely occupied in a vain effort
to retain the provinces which had been
conquered in France, and weakened by
the selfish administration of the queen
Mag. Sig. iv. 5. Jan. 24,1449.

and her favourite, Suffolk, could have
little disposition to engage in a war
with Scotland; and he considered the
protest of that government, upon the
old and exploded claim of homage, as
a piece of diplomatic etiquette which
it would be absurd to make a serious
ground of offence. He accordingly
despatched John Methven, a doctor of
decretals, as his ambassador to the
court of England: he appointed the
Bishops of Dunkeld and Brechin, with
the Earls of Douglas, Angus, and Craw­
ford, to meet the commissioners of
Henry the Sixth, for the regulation
of the truces and settlement of the
marches: whilst he encouraged, by
every method in his power, the friendly
intercourse between the two countries.2
At the same time, without absolute­
ly attempting to deprive the Earl of
Douglas of his high office of lieuten­
ant-general of the kingdom, a measure
which must have excited extreme com­
motion, he silently withdrew from him
his countenance and employment, sur­
rounding himself by the most energetic
counsellors, whom he promoted to the
chief offices in the state, rewarding
the chancellor Crichton “ for his faith­
ful services rendered to the king’s
father, and to the king himself;” and
weakening the power of the earl and
his party, rather by the formidable
counterpoise which he raised against
j it, than by any act of determined hos­
tility.3 The consequences of this line
of policy were highly favourable to the
king. The power and unjust usurpa­
tion of Douglas over the measures of
government decreased almost imper­
ceptibly, yet by sure degrees, as the
character of the sovereign increased
in firmness, and the authority of the
ministers by whom he managed the
government became more steadily ex­
erted; the terror with which the people
had regarded the tyrannic sway of this
imperious noble began to be dispelled;
and the despot himself, aware that his
dominion was on the wane, and con­
scious that any open insurrection would
be premature, determined to leave the
country for a season, and repair to

2  Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. ii. p. 342.

3  Mag. Sig. iv. 34. June 12, 1450.

1449-51.]                                        JAMES II.                                                    151

Rome on a visit to the Pope, making
some stay, in his way thither, at the
courts of England and France. His
train consisted of six knights, with
their own suites and attendants, and
fourteen gentlemen of the best fami­
lies in the country, with their servants,
accompanied by a body of eighty horse,
or men-at-arms.1

Although the only motives assigned
for this expedition were those arising
out of religion and the love of travel,
it seems by no means improbable that
Douglas had other objects in view.
In right of his wife, he possessed a
claim to the wealthy duchy of Tou-
raine; which, although then a male
fief, might be altered to heirs-general
by the King of France at the request
of so potent a baron. In England,
also, he could not possibly be igno­
rant of the intrigues of the Yorkists
against the government of Henry the
Sixth; and he may have had hopes of
strengthening his own power, or dimi­
nishing that of his sovereign, by an
alliance with a faction whose views
were expressly opposed to the pacific
policy of the present government of
Scotland. In addition to this, although
absent in person, and with the appa­
rent intention of remaining some years
abroad, he left powerful friends at
home, whose motions he directed, and
by whose assistance he entertained the
hope of once more possessing himself
of the supreme power in the state.
Upon James Douglas, his brother, Lord
of Balveny, he conferred the office of
procurator or administrator of his
estates during his absence; and there
seems a strong presumption that he
secretly renewed that treasonable cor­
respondence with the Earls of Ross
and Crawford which has been already
mentioned as embracing an offensive
and defensive alliance against all men,
not excepting the person of the sove­

In the meantime, he and his numer­
ous suite set sail for Flanders, from
which they proceeded to Paris. He
was here joined by his brother, James
Douglas, at this time a scholar at the
university, and intending to enter the
Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. ii. p. 343,

Church, but afterwards Earl of Doug­
las.2 From the court of France,
where he was received with distinc­
tion, Douglas proceeded to that of the
Supreme Pontiff, during the brilliant
season of the jubilee, where his visit
appears to have astonished the polite
and learned Italians, as much by its
foreign novelty as Toy its barbaric pomp.
His return, however, was hastened by
disturbances at home, arising out of
the insolence and tyranny of his bro­
ther, Douglas of Balveny, to whom
he had delegated his authority, and
against the abuses of whose govern­
ment such perpetual complaints were
carried to the king, that, according to
the provisions of the late act of par­
liament upon the subject, he found it
necessary to conduct in person an
armed expedition into the lands of the
delinquent. The object of this enter­
prise was to expel from their strong­
holds that congregation of powerful
barons who were retained in the ser­
vice of this feudal prince, and, under
the terror of his name, invaded the
property of the people, and defied the
control of the laws. James, however,
did not betake himself to this measure
until he had in vain attempted to ap­
pease the disturbances, and inflict pun­
ishment upon the offenders by the arm
of the civil power; but having been
driven to this last necessity, he made
himself master of Lochmaben castle, ex­
terminated from their feudal nests the
armed retainers, who were compelled
to restore their plunder, and razed
to the ground this ancient strength,
which had long been the centre of in­
subordination. He then returned to
court, and, under the idea that they
had suffered a sufficient imprisonment,
restored to liberty Sir Alexander Liv­
ingston and Dundas of Dundas, who
had been confined in Dumbarton castle
since the memorable forfeiture of the
Livingstons in the preceding year.
Dundas appears immediately to have
repaired to Rome,3 with the design, in
all probability, of secretly communi­
cating with Douglas, whilst that for-

2  Buchanan, book xi. chap, xxxii. Lesley,
p. 22.

3  Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. ii. p. 344.

152                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. III.

rnidable potentate, dreading the full
concentration of the regal vengeance,
which had already partially burst upon
him, set out forthwith on his return
to Scotland.

In the meantime, his friends and
confederates were not idle at home.
In 1445, a secret league, as we have
already seen, had been entered into
between Douglas and the Earls of Ross
and Crawford, and the confederacy now
resorted to hostile measures. Ross,
who died in 1449, had transmitted to
his eldest son, John, his treason. along
with his title; and the new earl, who
was connected by marriage with the
Livingstons, broke out into rebellion,
and seized the royal castles of Inver­
ness, Urquhart, and Ruthven in Bade-
noch. This last place he immediately
demolished; Urquhart was committed
to Sir James Livingston, who, on the
first news of Ross’s rebellion, had es­
caped from the king’s court to the
Highlands; whilst Inverness castle
was supplied with military stores, and
strongly garrisoned.1 Although a re­
bellion which threatened to involve
the whole of the northern part of
Scotland in war and tumult must have
been known, and was probably insti­
gated by Douglas, it appears that the
king, from his ignorance of the earl’s
confederacy with Ross and Crawford,
did not suspect his connivance. Doug-
las’s absence from Scotland, and the
secrecy with which the treasonable
correspondence had been conducted,
for a while blinded the eyes of the
monarch; and on his return from
Rome, having expressed his indigna­
tion at the excesses committed by his
vassals during his absence, and his
resolution to employ his power on the
side of the laws, he was again received
into favour, and appointed, along with
the Bishops of Dunkeld and Brechin,
and the Earls of Angus and Crawford,
a commissioner to treat of the pro­
longation of the truce with England.2

The earl, however, shewed himself
little worthy of this renewed confi­
dence upon the part of the king. He

1 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 44.
Rymer, vol. xi. p. 283. Rotuli Scotiæ,
vol. ii. 345.

put his seal, indeed, into the hands of
the other commissioners for the pur­
pose of giving a sanction to the articles
of truce, but he remained himself in
Scotland; and although the evidence
is not of that direct nature which
makes his guilt unquestionable, there
seems a strong presumption that, in
concert with the Earls of Ross and
Crawford, supported by the faction of
the Livingstons and Hamiltons, and
in conjunction with the party of the
Yorkists in England, he entered into
a conspiracy against his sovereign. It
is well known that at this moment the
Duke of York, father to Edward the
Fourth, was busy in exciting a spirit
of dissension in England, and anxious
to adopt every means to weaken the
power of Henry the Sixth. Douglas
accordingly despatched his brother, Sir
James, who repaired to London, and
continued there for a considerable
time, caressed by the faction which
was inimical to the existing govern­
ment; whilst the earl soon after ob­
tained a protection for himself, his
three brothers, twenty-six gentle­
men, and sixty-seven attendants, who
proposed to visit the court of Eng­
land, and proceed afterwards to the
continent.3 It is worthy of observa­
tion that the persons whose names
are included in these letters of safe-
conduct are the same who afterwards
joined the house of Douglas in their
open revolt; and there seems to be no
doubt, from this circumstance, that
although the conspiracy did not now
burst forth in its full strength, it was
rapidly gaining ground, and advancing
to maturity.

It was impossible, however, to con­
duct their treasonable designs upon so
great a scale without exposing them­
selves to the risk of detection; and
some suspicions having been excited at
this moment, or some secret informa­
tion transmitted to the king, enough
of the intrigue was discovered to jus­
tify parliament in depriving the Earl
of Douglas of his office of lieutenant-
general of the kingdom.4 It will be
recollected that the sovereign was now

3 Rymer, vol. xi. p. 284.
Boece, book xviii. p. 372.

1451.]                                              JAMES II.                                                    153

in his twenty-first year; that by at­
taching to his service the most en­
lightened of his clergy, and making
use of the energetic talents of Crich-
ton, his chancellor, he had already left
nothing to Douglas but the name of
his great office; and although his sus­
picion of the treasonable designs of
the earl must have accelerated this last
step, yet his deprivation appears to
have been carried into execution with­
out any open rupture. Indeed, James
seems to have been anxious that the
blow should not fall too heavily; and
with this object the formidable noble
was invested almost immediately after
with the office of Warden of the west
and middle marches of Scotland. At
the same time, an entail was executed,
by which the earldoms of Douglas and
Wigtown were settled upon him and
his descendants.1

It was at this crisis of the struggle
between the legitimate prerogative of
the Scottish sovereign and his minis­
ters and the overgrown authority of
the house of Douglas that the Duke
of York and his party in England
availed themselves of the popular dis­
contents, occasioned by the loss of the
French provinces, to dispossess the
Duke of Somerset and the queen from
the chief management of the state,
and to acquire the principal control
over the government. In consequence
of this revolution, a decided change is
apparent in the conduct of England
towards the sister country, from the
principles of a wise and pacific policy
to those of an unsettled, ambitious,
and sometimes decidedly hostile charac­
ter. The first appearance of this is
discernible in the negotiations regard­
ing the truce which took place at
Durham on the 4th of August 1451,
where the amicable correspondence
between the two countries was inter­
rupted by a protest regarding the
idle and antiquated claim of homage.
Fortunately, however, this did not
prevent the treaty of truce from being
brought to a conclusion.2

In the meantime, Douglas returned
to his principality in Annandale, and

1  Mag. Sig. iv. 222. July 7, 1451.

2  Rymer, vol. xi. pp. 291, 302.

in the exercise of his authority of
warden commenced anew that series
of tyrannical measures which had
already brought upon him the indig­
nation of the government. Herries of
Terregles, a gentleman of ancient
family, having attempted to defend
himself by arms from the violence of
his partisans, and to recover from them
the property of which he had been
plundered, was taken prisoner, and
dragged before the earl, who, in con­
tempt of an express mandate of the
king, solemnly delivered by a herald,
ordered him to be instantly hanged.
Soon after this, another audaciou3
transaction occurred, in the murder
of Sir John Sandilands of Calder, a
kinsman of James, by Sir Patrick
Thornton, a dependant of the house
of Douglas, along with whom were
slain two knights, Sir James and Sir
Allan Stewart, both of whom enjoyed
the regard and intimacy of the sove­

It appears to have been about this
time that, either from the circum­
stance of its having been more openly
renewed or less carefully concealed,
the treasonable league between Doug­
las and the Earls of Ross and Craw­
ford was discovered by James, who
justly trembled at the formidable and
extensive power which he found ar­
rayed against the government. On
the side of England, however, he was
secure, owing to the recent renewal of
the truce; upon the friendship of
France he could calculate with equal
certainty; but as it was impossible at
once to destroy a conspiracy which
was backed by a force equal to almost
one-half of the armed population of
Scotland, the king was compelled to
temporise, and await a season when
his own power should be more con­
firmed, and that of Douglas weakened,
by the jealousies and dissensions
which, after some time, might be ex­
pected to break out in a confederacy,
embracing so many men of fierce, ca­
pricious, and selfish habits. Douglas,
however, who had already irritated
and insulted the monarch, by the

3 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 45. Sir J. Bal-
four’s Annals, vol. i, p. 180,

154                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. 111.

murder of Herries and Sandilands,
seemed determined not to imitate the
calmness and moderation of the go­
vernment ; and, whilst the king’s
chief minister, the chancellor Crich-
ton, was proceeding with his retinue
through the southern suburb of
Edinburgh, with the intention of
embarking on board a vessel in the
Forth, the party was suddenly attacked
by an armed band of ruffians hired
for the purpose by the earl. Contrary,
indeed, to the hopes of this lawless
baron, the old chancellor defended
himself with much bravery; and, after
being wounded, escaped to Crichton
castle, where, with a spirit which for­
got the sense of pain in the desire of
revenge,. he instantly collected his
vassals, and making an unexpected
attack upon Douglas, expelled him
and his adherents from the city.1

It affords a melancholy picture of
the times that this outrageous attack,
committed upon the person of the
chancellor and chief minister in the
kingdom, was suffered to pass un­
punished and even unnoticed by the
law, and that he who had openly de­
fied the royal authority, and trampled
upon the regulations so recently
passed in the parliament, was not long
after employed in some political ne­
gotiations with England, in which
there seems strong reason to believe
he acted a part inimical to the exist­
ing government. The explanation of
this must be looked for in the fact
that, although partially aware of his
treason, and determined to leave no­
thing unattempted to undermine and
destroy his power, James was consci­
ous that Douglas was still too strong
for him, and dreaded to drive him into
a rebellion which might have threat­
ened the security of his throne. It
was easy for him, on the other hand,
silently to defeat his treachery by
conjoining with him in the diplomatic
or judicial situations in which he was
employed those tried councillors upon
whom he could implicitly rely ; and,
in the meantime, he employed the in­
terval in concentrating that power by
means of which he trusted to over­
Hawthornden, Hist, folio ed. p. 28.

whelm him. An extraordinary out­
rage of the earl, however, accelerated
the royal vengeance.

In the execution of the negotiation
intrusted to him, Douglas had con­
tinued his correspondence with the
party of the Yorkists in England, who
still possessed a great influence in the
state, although sometimes overruled
by the opposite faction of Somerset
and the queen. It seems to have been
in consequence of such malign in­
fluence that a letter was directed at
this time by Henry the Sixth to the
Scottish government, refusing to de­
liver up certain French ambassadors,
who, on their voyage to Scotland, had
been captured by the English ; 2 and
this step, which almost amounted to a
declaration of hostility, was intended
to be followed by a rising in Scotland,
to be conducted by Douglas. On his
return, therefore, to that country, the
earl repaired to his estates; and, in
furtherance of his league with the
Earls of Ross and Crawford, summoned
the whole body of his vassals to as­
semble their armed retainers, and join
in the treasonable association. One of
these, however, a gentleman of spirit
and independence, named Maclellan,
tutor of Bomby, a sister’s son to Sir
Patrick Gray, captain of the king’s
guard, refused to obey an order which
he rightly stigmatised as an act of
open rebellion, and was in consequence
seized by the earl and cast into prison.
The speedy and mortal punishment
with which Douglas was accustomed
to visit such offences rendered the
arrest of Maclellan a subject of im­
mediate alarm at court; and as he
was beloved by the young king, and
the near kinsman of one of his con­
fidential servants, James despatched
an order, under the royal seal, com­
manding the immediate release of the
prisoner; which, to prevent all mis­
take, he sent by the hands of Sir
Patrick Gray. This baron accordingly
rode post to Douglas castle, and was
received by its haughty lord with
affected courtesy and humility. Well
aware, however, of Gray’s near rela­
tionship to his prisoner, he at once
Rymer, Fœdera, xi. p, 306.

1451.]                                               JAMES II.                                                   155

suspected the object of his errand;
and, being determined to defeat it,
gave private orders for the instant
execution of Maclellan. He then re­
turned to Gray, and requested him to
remain and share his hospitality.
“ You found me,” said he, “ just about
to sit down to dinner; if it pleases
you, we shall first conclude our repast,
and then peruse the letter with which
I am honoured by my sovereign.”
Having concluded the meal, Douglas
rose from the table, broke the royal
seal, and glancing over the contents
of the paper, assumed a look of much
concern. “ Sorry am I,” said he,
“ that it is not in my power to give
obedience to the commands of my
dread sovereign, much as I am be­
holden to him for so gracious a letter
to one whom he has been pleased of
late to regard with somewhat altered
favour; but such redress as I can
afford thou shalt have speedily.”
Douglas then took Gray by the hand,
and led him to the castle green, where
the bleeding trunk of his poor friend
lay beside the block upon which he
had been recently beheaded. “Yon­
der, Sir Patrick,” said he, “lies your
sister’s son—unfortunately he wants
the head—but you are welcome to do
with his body what you please.” It
may well be imagined how deep was
the impression made by this cold and
savage jest upon the mind of Gray;
but he was in the den of the tyrant,
and a single incautious word might
have stretched him beside his mur­
dered kinsman. Dissembling there­
fore his grief and indignation, he only
replied that, since he had taken the
head, the body was of little avail; and
calling for his horse, mounted him,
with a heavy heart, and rode across
the drawbridge, to which the earl ac­
companied him. Once more, how­
ever, without the walls, and secure of
his life, he reined up, and shaking his
mailed glove, defied Douglas as a cow­
ard, and a disgrace to knighthood,
whom, if he lived, he would requite
according to his merits, and lay as
low as the poor gentleman he had de­
stroyed. Yet even this ebullition of
natural indignation had nearly cost

him dear; for the earl, braved in his
own castle, gave orders for an instant
pursuit, and the chase was continued
almost to Edinburgh, Gray only escap­
ing by the uncommon fleetness of his

An action like this was fitted to
rouse to the highest pitch the indig­
nation of the sovereign, and the re­
prehension of every lover of freedom
and good order. It manifested an utter
contempt for the royal authority, a
defiance of the laws, and a cruel exul-
tation in the exercise of power. It
had occurred, too, at a moment when
an attempt had been made by the
statutes lately passed in parliament
to put down the insolence of aristo­
cratic tyranny, and was of the most
dangerous example. It was evident
to the sovereign that some instantan­
eous step must be taken to reduce an
overgrown power which threatened to
plunge the country into civil war, and
that the time was come when it was
to be shewn whether he or the Earl of
Douglas should henceforth rule in
Scotland. But James, who had be­
come aware of the league with Ross
and Crawford, and of the overwhelm­
ing force which Douglas was ready to
bring into the field, wisely hesitated
before he adopted that course to which
his determined temper inclined him ;
with the advice of Crichton and his
most prudent counsellors, he deter­
mined rather to enter into a personal
negotiation with Douglas, and to at­
tempt to convince him of the folly of
his ambition, in defying the authority
of the crown, and affecting the state
and jurisdiction of an independent
prince. He had hopes that, in this
manner, he might prevail upon the
earl to plead guilty to the offences
which he had committed; to accept
the pardon which was ready to be
tendered to him, upon his indemni­
fying the relations of those he had
so cruelly injured; and to take that
upright share in the government to
which he was entitled by his high
rank, his great estates, and his im­
portant official situation.

In furtherance of this design, and
Pitscottie, pp. 62-64.

156                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. III.

suppressing his indignation at his late
conduct, by considerations of political
expediency, James despatched Sir
William Lander of Hatton, who had
attended Douglas in his pilgrimage to
Rome, with a message to him, expres­
sive of the desire of the king to enter
into a personal conference, promising
absolute security for his person, and
declaring that, upon an expression of
regret for his misdemeanours, the of­
fended majesty of the law might be
appeased, and the pardon of the sove­
reign extended in his favour. It is
impossible, in the imperfect historical
evidence which remains of these dark
and mysterious transactions, to dis­
cover whether this conduct and these
promises of the king were perfectly
sincere or otherwise.

It is asserted in a contemporary
chronicle that the nobles who were
then about the person of the monarch,
meaning the privy councillors and offi­
cers of his household, put their names
and seals to a letter of safe-conduct,
which bore the royal signature, and to
which the privy seal was attached.1
It is added by the same writer that
many of the nobles had transmitted a
written obligation to the earl, by
which they bound themselves, even if
the king should shew an inclination to
break his promise, that they, to the
utmost of their power would compel
him to observe it; and there seems
no reason to doubt the accuracy of
this account.2 But, in the lax morality
of the times, the most solemn obliga­
tions were often little regarded ; and
there were many crafty casuists around
the king ready to persuade him that,
with a traitor, who, by repeated acts
of rebellion, had thrown himself with­
out the pale of the laws, no faith ought
to be kept; that, to seize such an of­
fender, every method was fair, and
even fraud praiseworthy; and that,
having once obtained possession of his
person, it would be illegal to release
him till he had been declared inno­
cent of the crimes of which he was ac­
cused by the verdict of a jury. That

1 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 46.
MS. Chronicle in the Library of the Uni­
versity of Edinburgh, A.C. c. 2G.

this was probably the full extent to
which James had carried his intentions
in entrapping Douglas is to be inferred
from the circumstances in which he
was placed, and the partial light of
contemporary records. That he medi­
tated the dreadful and unjustifiable
vengeance in which the interview con­
cluded, cannot be supposed by any
one who considers for a moment the
character of the king, the statesmen
by whose advice he was directed, or
the dangerous crisis at which the
meeting took place.

But to whatever extent the sovereign
had carried his design, Douglas, believ­
ing himself secure under the royal
protection and the oaths of the nobility,
came with a small retinue to Stirling
in company with Sir William Lauder
of Hatton;3 and having first taken up
his residence in the town, soon after
passed to the castle, where he was re­
ceived by the king with much appa­
rent cordiality, and invited to return
on the morrow to dine at the royal
table. He accordingly obeyed ; and on
the following day not only dined, but
supped with the king; whilst nothing
appeared to have disturbed in the
slightest degree the harmony of their
intercourse. After supper, however,
which we learn from the contemporary
chronicle was at seven in the evening,
the monarch, apparently anxious to
have some private conversation with
the earl, took him aside from the
crowd of courtiers by whom they were
surrounded into an inner chamber,
where there were none present but
the captain of his body­guard, Sir
Patrick Gray, whom he had lately so
cruelly injured, Sir William Crichton,
Lord Gray, Sir Simon Glendonane, and
a few more of his most intimate coun­
sellors.4 James, then walking apart
with Douglas, with as much calmness
and command of temper as he could
assume, began to remonstrate upon
his late violent and illegal proceedings.
In doing so, it was impossible he should
not speak of the execution of Herries,
the waylaying of Sandilands, and the
late atrocious murder of the tutor of

3 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 46,

4 Ibid. p. 47.

1451-2.]                                            JAMES II.                                                157

Bomby. The sovereign next informed
him that he had certain intelligence of
the treasonable league which he had
formed with the Earls of Ross and
Crawford: he explained to him that his
very admission that such a confederacy
existed made him obnoxious to the
punishment of a rebel, and threw him
out of the protection of the laws ; and
he conjured him, as he loved his coun­
try, and valued his own safety and
welfare, to break the band which bound
him to such traitors, and return, as it
became a dutiful subject, to his allegi­
ance.1 But Douglas, unaccustomed to
such remonstrances, and perhaps heated
by the recent entertainment, listened
with impatience and replied with
haughty insolence. He even broke
into reproaches; upbraided James with
his being deprived of his office of lieu­
tenant-governor of the kingdom; and
after a torrent of passionate abuse
against the councillors who had in­
sinuated themselves into the royal con­
fidence, declared that he little regarded
the name of treason with which his
proceedings had been branded; that
as for his confederacy with Ross and
Crawford, he had it not in his power
to dissolve it; and if he had, he would
be sorry to break with his best friends
to gratify the idle caprices of his sove­
reign. Hitherto the king had listened
with patience, which was the more re­
markable, as he was naturally fiery
and impetuous in his temper ; but this
rude defiance—uttered to his face by
one whom he regarded as an open
enemy; who had treated his royal
mandate with contempt; under whose
nails, to use a strong expression of the
times, the blood of his best friends
were scarce dry—entirely overcame his
self-command. He broke at once from
a state of quiescence into an ungovern­
able fury, drew his dagger, and ex­
claiming, “ False traitor, if thou wilt
not break the band, this shall! " he
stabbed him first in the throat, and
instantly after in the lower part of the
body. Upon this, Sir Patrick Gray,
with a readiness and good­will which

1 MS. Chronicle in the University Library,
Edinburgh. Hawthornden’s History, folio
edition, p. 29.

was whetted by revenge, at one blow
felled him with his pole-axe; and the
rest of the nobles who stood near the
king, rushing in upon the dying man,
meanly gratified their resentment by
repeated strokes with their knives and
daggers; so that he expired in a mo­
ment without Littering a word, and
covered with twenty-six wounds. The
window was then thrown open, and
the mangled trunk cast into an open
court adjoining the royal apartments.2

For a murder so atrocious, commit­
ted by the hand of the sovereign, and
upon the person of a subject for whose
safety he had solemnly pledged his
royal word, no justification can be
pleaded. It offered to the country, at
a time when it was important to afford
a specimen of respect for the laws, and
reverence for the authority of parlia­
ment, an example the most pernicious
that can be conceived, exhibiting the
sovereign in the disgraceful attitude
of trampling upon the rules which it
was his duty to respect, and commit­
ting with his own hand the crimes for
which he had arraigned his subjects.
But if James must be condemned, it
is impossible to feel much commisera­
tion for Douglas, whose career, from
first to last, had been that of a selfish,
ambitious, and cruel tyrant; who, at
the moment when he was cut off, was
all but a convicted traitor; and whose
death, if we except the mode by which
it was brought about, was to be re­
garded as a public benefit. These
considerations, however, were solely
entertained by the friends of peace
and good order : by the immediate re­
latives, and the wide circle of the
retainers and vassals of the earl, his
assassination was regarded with feel­
ings of bitter and unmingled indig­

Immediately after the death of his
powerful enemy, the king, at the head
of an armed force, proceeded to Perth
in pursuit of the Earl of Crawford,
another party, as we have seen, in the
league which had cost his associate so
dear. In his absence, the faction of

2 Gray’s MS, Advocates’ Library. Auchin-
leck Chronicle, p. 47. MS. Chronicle in the
University Library, Edinburgh.

158                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. III.

Douglas, led by Sir James Douglas,
the brother of the murdered chief,
who succeeded to the earldom, along
with Hugh, earl of Ormond, Lord Ha­
milton, and six hundred barons and
gentlemen, followers and supporters
of the family, invaded the town of
Stirling, and in the first ebullition of
their fury and contempt, according to
an ancient custom of defiance, blew
out upon the king twenty-four horns
at once.1 They then took the letter
of assurance, subscribed by the names
and guaranteed by the seals of the
Scottish nobles, and, exhibiting it at
the Cross, proceeded to nail it, with
many “ slanderous words,” to a board,
which they tied to the tail of a sorry
horse, and thus dragged it, amid the
hooting and execration of their fol­
lowers, through the streets. The scene
of feudal defiance was concluded by
their setting fire to the town, and
carrying off a great booty.2

In the meantime the king proceeded
to enrich and reward his servants, by
the forfeiture of the lands of those
who had shared in the treason of Doug­
las. He promoted to the office of
lieutenant-general of the kingdom the
Earl of Huntly, committing to his
assured loyalty and experience in war
the task of putting down the rebellion
of Crawford and Ross; and empower­
ing him to promise to all who came
forward to join the royal standard an
ample indemnity for past offences, as
well as to those who continued firm in
their original loyalty the most sub­
stantial marks of the favour of the
crown. Huntly, in the execution of
his new office, instantly raised a large
force in the northern counties; and
having displayed the royal banner, en­
countered the Earl of Crawford, sur-
named “ The Tiger,” on a level moor
beside the town of Brechin, and gave
him a total defeat. The action was
fought with determined bravery on
both sides, and, although Huntly far
outnumbered his opponents, for a long
time proved doubtful; but, during the
warmest part of the struggle, Colessie

1 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 47. MS. Chro­
nicle in the University Library, Edinburgh.
Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 47.

of Balnamoon, now called Bonnymoon,
who commanded the left wing of the
Angus billmen, went over to the
enemy, in consequence of some dis­
gust he had conceived the night before
in a conference with Crawford; and
the effect of his sudden desertion was
fatal to his party. His troops, dis­
mayed at this unexpected calamity,
and regardless of the furious and al­
most insane efforts which he made to
restore the day, took to flight in all
directions. John Lindsay of Brechin,
brother to the Tiger, Dundas of Dun-
das, with sixty other lords and gentle­
men, were slain upon the field. On
the other side, the loss did not exceed
five barons and a small number of
yeomen; but amongst the slain, Hunt-
ly had to mourn his two brothers, Sir
William and Sir Henry Seton.3 Dur­
ing the confusion and flight of Craw-
ford’s army, a yeoman of the opposite
side, riding eagerly in pursuit, became
involved in the crowd, and, fearful of
discovery, allowed himself to be hur­
ried along to Finhaven Castle, to which
the discomfited baron retreated. Here,
amid the tumult and riot consequent
upon a defeat, he is said to have over­
heard with horror the torrent of abuse
and blasphemy which burst from the
lips of the bearded savage, who, calling
for a cup of wine on alighting from
his horse, and cursing in the bitter­
ness of his heart the traitor who had
betrayed him, declared that he would
willingly take seven years’ roasting in
hell to have the honour of such a
victory as had that day fallen to

In the meantime, although the king
was thus victorious in the north, the
civil war, which was kindled in almost
every part of Scotland, by the murder
of Douglas, raged with pitiless and
unabated fury. The Earl of Angus,
although bearing the name of Douglas,
had refused to join in the late rebel­
lion, in consequence of which his castle
of Dalkeith, a place of great strength,
was instantly beleaguered by the ene­
my, who ravaged and burnt the adja-

3 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 48. Lesley’s
Hist. p. 23.
Hawthornden’s Hist. p. 31.

1452.]                                               JAMES II.                                                   159

cent town, and bound themselves by
a great oath not to leave the siege till
they had razed it to the ground. The
bravery, however, of Patrick Cockburn,
the governor, soon compelled them to
forego their resolution, and to divert
the fury which had been concentrated
against Dalkeith upon the villages
and granges of the adjacent coun­
try. The roads and highways became
utterly insecure, the labours of agri­
culture were intermitted, the pursuits
of trade and commerce destroyed or
feebly followed, from the terror occa­
sioned by the troops of armed banditti
who overspread the country, and no­
thing but insolent riot and needy bold­
ness was prosperous in the land. In
the north, whilst Huntly was engaged
with Crawford, the Earl of Moray,
brother of the late Earl of Douglas,
invaded and wasted his estates in
Strathbogie. Huntly, on the other
hand, victorious at Brechin, fell, with
a vengeance whetted by private as well
as public wrongs, upon the fertile
county of Moray, and completely razed
to the ground that half of the city of
Elgin which belonged to his enemy;
whilst Crawford, infuriated, but little
weakened, by his loss at Brechin, at­
tacked in detail, and “harried”1 the
lands of all those to whose refusal to
join his banner he ascribed his defeat,
expelling them from their towers and
fortalices, giving the empty habita­
tions to the flames, and carrying them­
selves and their families into captivity.
In addition to the miseries of open
war were added the dangers of domestic
treason. James, the ninth earl of
Douglas, through the agency of his
mother, Lady Beatrix, who at this time
repaired to England, continued that
secret correspondence with the party
of the Yorkists, which appears to have
been begun by the late earl.2 Soon
after this, in the extremity of his re­
sentment against the murderer of his
brother, he agreed to meet the Bishop
of Carlisle, with the Earl of Salisbury
and Henry Percy, as commissioners

1  Harried—Wasted with fire, sword, and

2  Lesley’s Hist, pp. 23, 24. Rymer, vol. xi.
p. 310.

from the English government, then
entirely under the management of the
Yorkists, and not only to enter into a
treaty of mutual alliance and support,
but to swear homage to the monarch
of England, as his lawful sovereign.
Such a miserable state of things call­
ing loudly for redress, the king sum­
moned the three estates to assemble
at Edinburgh, on the 12th of June
1453. During the night, however,
previous to the meeting a placard,
signed with the names of James, earl
of Douglas, his three brothers, and
Lord Hamilton, their near connexion,
was fixed to the door of the house of
parliament, renouncing their allegiance
to James of Scotland, as a perjured
prince and merciless murderer, who
had trampled on the laws, broken his
word and oath, and violated the most
sacred bond of hospitality; declaring
that henceforth they held no lands
from him, and never would give obe­
dience to any mandate which bore the
name and style which he had disgraced
and dishonoured.3 It may be easily
imagined that a defiance of this gross
nature was calculated to exasperate
the bitterness of feudal resentment;
and, from the mutilated records which
remain to us of the proceedings of this
parliament, the leaders and followers
of the house of Douglas appear to have
been treated with deserved severity.

It was first of all declared in a
solemn deed, which met with the
unanimous approval of the parliament,
that the late Earl of Douglas having,
at the time of his death, avowed him­
self an enemy to the king, and ac­
knowledged a treasonable league as
then existing between him and the
Earls of Crawford and Ross, was in a
state of open rebellion, and that in
such circumstances it was lawful for
the king to put him summarily to
death.4 Sir James Crichton, the eldest
son of the lord chancellor, was created
Earl of Moray, in the place of Archi­
bald Douglas, late Earl of Moray, who
was forfeited. Others of the loyal
barons, who had come forward at this

3 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 48.
Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.

160                                  HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                        [Chap. III.

dangerous crisis in support of the
crown, were rewarded with lands and
dignities. Lord Hay, constable of
Scotland, and head of an ancient
house, whose bravery and attachment
to the crown had been transmitted
through a long line of ancestry, was
created Earl of Errol. Sir George
Crichton of Cairnes was rewarded with
the earldom of Caithness, and the
Baron of Darnley, Hepburn of Hailes,
Boyd, Fleming, Borthwick, Lyle, and
Cathcart, were invested with the
dignity of lords of parliament. Lands
partly belonging to the crown, partly
consisting of estates which had been
forfeited by the Douglases and their
adherents, were bestowed upon Lord
Campbell, and his son Sir Colin Camp­
bell, Sir David Hume, Sir Alexander
Home, Sir James Keir, and others;
but as the appropriation of these
estates was an act of the secret
council, carried through without the
sanction and during the sitting of
parliament, it was believed to be un­
constitutional, and liable to legal chal­
lenge.1 In the meantime, however,
these events, combined with the in­
creasing energy and ability of the
sovereign, and the joyful occurrence
of the birth of a prince, afterwards
James the Third,2 had the effect of
weakening the once formidable power
of Douglas. The loss of its chief, the
defeat of Crawford, the forfeiture of
Moray, the sight of those strong and
powerful vassals, who, either from the
love of their prince, or the hope of
the rewards which were profusely dis­
tributed, flocked daily to court with
their troops of armed retainers, all
combined to render the allies of this
rebellious house not a little doubtful
of the ultimate success of the struggle
in which they were engaged; and
when, immediately after the conclu­
sion of the parliament, the royal
summonses were issued for the as­
sembling of an army on the moor of
Pentland, near Edinburgh, the mon­
arch in a short time found himself at
the head of a force of thirty thousand
men, excellently armed and equipped,

1 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 49.
Born June 1, 1452.

and animated by one sentiment of
loyalty and affection.3

With this army, the king proceeded
in person against the Earl of Douglas,
directing his march through the dis­
tricts of Peeblesshire, Selkirk forest,
Dumfries, and Galloway, in which
quarters lay the principal estates of
this great rebel, who did not dare to
make any resistance against the inva­
sion. To prevent the destruction of
the crops, which, as it wa3 now the
middle of autumn, were almost fully
ripe, was impossible ; and an ancient
chronicle complains that the royal
army “destroyit the country right
fellounly, baith in cornes, meadows,
and victuals;” whilst many barons
and gentlemen, who held lands under
the Douglases, but dreading the venge­
ance of the sovereign, had joined the
expedition, endured the mortification
of seeing their own estates utterly
ravaged and laid waste, by the friends
whose power they had increased, and
whose protection they anticipated.4
Notwithstanding these misfortunes,
which it is probable the sovereign, by
the utmost exertion of his prerogative,
could not prevent, the army continued
united and attached to the royal cause,
so that, on its appearance before the
castle of Douglas, that haughty chief,
who had lately renounced his allegi­
ance, and who still maintained a secret
correspondence with England, found
himself compelled to lay down his
arms, and to implore, with expressions
of deep contrition, that he might be
once more restored to favour. The
consequence of this was a negotiation,
in which James, conscious, perhaps, of
the provocation he had given, and
anxious to restore tranquillity to his
dominions, consented to pardon the
Earl of Douglas and his adherents,
upon certain conditions, which are
enumerated in a written bond, or
“appointment,” as it is denominated,
the original of which is still preserved.
In this interesting document, James,
earl of Douglas, in the first place,
engaged to abstain from every attempt
to possess himself of the lands of the

3 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 49.

1452-3.]                                            JAMES II.                                                  161

earldom of Wigtown or of the lordship
of Stewarton, forfeited by the last
earl, and presented by the sovereign
to his consort the queen. He next
promised in his own name and in that
of his brother, as well as the Lord
Hamilton, fully and for ever to for­
give all manner of rancour of heart,
feud, malice, and envy, which they
had entertained in time past, or might
conceive in time to come, against any
of the king’s subjects, and more espe­
cially against all those who were art and
part in the slaughter of the late Wil­
liam, earl of Douglas; and he stipu­
lated, for himself and his friends, to
obey the wishes of his sovereign, by
taking such persons once more heartily
into his friendship. The next pro­
vision did honour to the humanity of
the king, and evinced an enlightened
anxiety for the welfare of the lower
classes of his people. By it, the earl
obliged himself that the whole body
of his tenants and rentallers, wherever
they might be settled upon his estates,
should remain unmolested in their
farms, and protected by their tacks or
leases till “ Whitsunday come a year; "
except those tenants that occupied the
granges and farm “ steadings,” which
were in the hands of the late earl at
the time of his decease, for his own
proper use. Even these, however,
were not to be immediately dispos­
sessed, but permitted to remain upon
their farms till the ensuing Whit­
sunday, so that the corns should be
duly gathered in, and neither the pro­
prietor nor the cultivator endamaged
by the sudden desertion of the ground.
Douglas next engaged to dissolve all
illegal bands or confederations into
which he had already entered, and
to make no more treasonable agree­
ments in time to come : he promised
to bring no claim against the king for
any rents which he might have levied,
or which the queen might have dis­
trained in Douglasdale or Galloway,
previous to this agreement: he bound
himself, in the execution of his office
of warden, to maintain and defend the
Borders, and keep the truce between
the kingdoms to the best of his skill
and power, and to pay to his sovereign


lord, the king, all honour and worship,
“ he having such surety as was reason­
able for safety of his life.” Lastly,
he engaged to restore all goods which
had been seized from persons who
enjoyed letters of protection, and to
make compensation for all injuries
which they had sustained; and to this
agreement he not only put his own
hand and seal, but, for the greater
solemnity, took his oath upon the
holy gospels.1

That the king was led by sound
policy in his desire to convert the Earl
of Douglas from a dangerous opponent
of the government into a peaceable
subject cannot be doubted. But al­
though the principle was good, the
measures adopted for the accomplish­
ment of the end in view were injudi­
cious. Instead of effectually abridg­
ing the vast power of Douglas, leaving
him just so much as should prevent
him from being driven to despair,
James, either following his own
opinion or misled by the advice of
Crichton and Kennedy, who at this
time acted as his chief counsellors,
not only promised to put him into
possession of the earldom of Wigtown
and the lands of Stewarton, but en­
gaged in a negotiation with the court
of Rome, the object of which was
to prevail upon the Pope to grant a
dispensation for the marriage of the
earl with the Countess Margaret,
the youthful widow of his deceased
brother. The dispensation having ac­
cordingly been procured, the marriage
took place, although the unnatural
alliance was forced upon the heiress of
Galloway contrary to her earnest tears
and entreaties.2 It is difficult to un­
derstand, from the imperfect records
of those times, how such sagacious
politicians as Crichton and Kennedy
should have given their countenance
to a measure so pregnant with mis­
chief. It again united in the person
of the Earl of Douglas the immense
entailed and unentailed estates of the
family; and, should he haye children,

1 MS. Collections, called Sir Lewis Stew-
art’s Collections. Advocates’ Library, Edin.
a 4, 7, p. 19. It is dated 28th August 1452.
See Illustrations, M.

2 Andrew Stuart's Hist. p. 444.


162                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                     [Chap. III.

it revived the disputed claims between
the descendants of Euphemia Ross
and Elizabeth More, holding out an
inducement to that ambitious noble
to re-enact his brother’s treason.1
There is reason to believe, indeed,
that perhaps at the very moment when
Douglas was thus experiencing the
distinguished favour of his sovereign,
and undoubtedly within, a very short
period thereafter, he had engaged in a
secret treasonable correspondence with
Malise, earl of Menteith, then a pri­
soner in Pontefract castle, and the
English ministers. Its object was to
overturn the existing government in
Scotland, and to put an end to the
dynasty then on the throne, by means
of a civil insurrection, which was to
be seconded by the arms and money
of the Yorkists, whilst the confidence
with which he was treated enabled
him to mature his designs in the sun­
shine of the royal favour.2

In the meantime, the king, ap­
parently unsuspicious of any such in­
tentions, undertook an expedition to
the north, accompanied by his privy
council and a select body of troops,
consisting, in all probability, of that
personal guard which, in imitation of
the French monarchs, appears for the
first time during this reign in Scot­
land. The Earl of Huntly, by his zeal
and activity in the execution of his
office of lieutenant-general, had suc­
ceeded in restoring the northern coun­
ties to a state of quiet and security ;
and in the progress through Angus a
singular scene took place. The Earl
of Crawford, lately notorious for his
violent and rebellious career, and the
dread of Scotland under his appellation
of “the Tiger,” suddenly presented
himself befor the royal procession,
clothed in beggarly apparel, his feet
and head bare, and followed by a few
miserable - looking servants in the
same ragged weeds. In this dejected
state he threw himself on his knees
before the king, and with many tears
implored his forgiveness for his re-

1 Duncan Stewart’s Hist, and Greneal. Ac­
count of the Royal Family of Scotland, p. 57.

2 Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. ii. p. 368. 17th June

peated treasons. Huntly, with whom
he had already made his peace, along
with Crichton and Kennedy, by whose
advice this pageant of feudal contrition
had been prepared, now interceded on
his behalf; and the king, moved by
the penitence, not only of the princi­
pal offender, but of the miserable troop
by whom he was accompanied, ex­
tended his hand to Crawford. He
assured him that he was more anxious
to gain the hearts than the lands of
his nobles, although by repeated trea­
sons their estates had been forfeited
to the crown, and bade him and his
companions be of good cheer, as he
was ready freely to forgive them all
that had passed, and to trust that their
future loyalty would atone for their
former rebellion. The fierce chief
was accordingly restored to his honours
and estates ; and the king appears to
have had no reason to repent his cle­
mency, for Crawford, at the head of a
strong body of the barons and gentle­
men of Angus, accompanied the
monarch in his future progress. 3 On
his return, he entertained him with
great magnificence at his castle of Fin-
haven; and from this time till the
period of his death remained a faith­
ful supporter of the government. It
was unfortunate, indeed, that a fever,
which cut him off six months after his
restoration to the royal favour, left
him only this brief interval of loyalty
to atone for a life of rebellion.4

It is pleasing to be compelled for a
few moments to intermit the narrative
of domestic war and civil confusion by
the occurrence of events which indi­
cate a desire at least to soften the
ferocity of feudal manners by the in­
troduction of schools of learning. In
the month of January 1450, Pope
Nicholas, at the request of William
Turnbull, bishop of Glasgow, granted
his rescript for the foundation of a
university in that city ; and in the
month of June in the subsequent year
the Papal bull was proclaimed at the
Cross with great solemnity. Yet at
first the infant university was spar-

3 Buchanan, book xi. chap. 42. Lesley’s
Hist. p. 27.

4 Auchinleck MS. p. 51.

1453-5.]                                          JAMES II.                                                    163

ingly endowed; and such was the
iniquity of the times and the un­
favourable disposition towards learn­
ing, that so late as the year 1521, we
are informed by Mair in his History
of Scotland, it was attended by a very
small number of students. 1

The transactions which occupied
the years immediately succeeding the
death of the Earl of Crawford are in­
volved in an obscurity which is the
more to be lamented as their conse­
quences were highly important, and
ultimately led to the total destruction
of the house of Douglas. The only
contemporary chronicle which remains
is unfortunately too brief to afford us
any satisfactory insight into the great
springs of a rebellion which shook the
security of the throne ; and the light
reflected on those dark times by the
few original records which remain is
so feeble and uncertain that it operates
rather as a distraction than an assist­
ance to the historian. In such cir­
cumstances, abstaining from theory
and conjecture, the greater outlines
are all that it is possible to trace.

During the year 1454, the Earl of
Douglas entered deeply into a trea­
sonable correspondence with the
powerful party of the Yorkists in
England, who, at this time having
succeeded in undermining the influ­
ence of the Duke of Somerset, had ob­
tained the supreme management of
the state.2 The great principles which
regulated the foreign policy of the
party of York were enmity to France,
and consequently to Scotland, the an­
cient ally of that kingdom; and this
naturally led to a secret negotiation
with the Earl of Douglas. His ambi­
tion, his power, his former rebellion,
his injuries and grievances were all
intimately known at the English court;
and it was not difficult for a skilful
intriguer like the Duke of York, by
addressing to him such arguments as
were best adapted to his design, to in-

1 Major, De Gestis Scotorum, p. 19. Auch-
inleck Chronicle, p. 45.

2 Rymer, vol. xi. p. 349. Acts of the Par­
liament of Scotland, vol. ii. pp. 75, 76. Pro­
cessus Forisfacture Jacobi Douglas, olim
Comitis de Douglas. Cartes Hist, of Eng­
land, vol. ii. p. 745.

flame his mind with the prospect of
supreme authority, and rouse his pas­
sions with the hope of revenge. Doug­
las, however, had miscalculated the
strength of the king, which was far
greater than he supposed; and he had
reckoned too certainly on the support
of some powerful fellow-conspirators,
who, bound to him, not by the ties of
affection, but of interest, fell off the
moment they obtained a clear view of
the desperate nature of the enterprise
in which he was engaged.

In the midst of these threatened
dangers, and in the end of the year
1454, Lord Crichton, late chancellor of
the kingdom, and a statesman of vete­
ran experience, died at the castle of
Dunbar. If we except his early
struggles with his rival Livingston for
the custody of the person of the infant
king, his life, compared with that of
most of his fellow-nobles, was one of
upright and consistent loyalty; and
since his coalition with Kennedy he
had so endeared himself to his sove­
reign that the most intimate of the
royal counsellors dreaded to impart
to him an event which they knew
would so deeply affect him.3

In the meantime Douglas despatched
Lord Hamilton into England, where,
in a meeting with the Yorkists, an im­
mediate supply of money and of troops
was promised,4 upon the condition that
the conspirators should give a pledge
of the sincerity of their intentions, by
taking the oath of homage to the Eng­
lish crown—a piece of treachery to
which Hamilton would not consent,
although there is reason to believe it
met with few scruples in the conveni­
ent conscience of Douglas. Before,
however, this test had been taken, the
royal vengeance burst upon the prin­
cipal conspirator with a violence and
a rapidity for which he appears to
have been little prepared. James, at
the head of a force which defied all
resistance, attacked and stormed his
castle of Inveravon, and after having
razed it to the ground pressed forward
without a check to Glasgow, where he
collected the whole strength of the

3 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 52.
Ibid. p. 53.

164                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. III.

western counties, and a large force of
the Highlanders and Islesmen. With
this army he marched to Lanark, in­
vaded Douglasdale and Avondale,
which he wasted with all the fury
of military execution, and after de­
livering up to fire and sword the
estates belonging to Lord Hamilton,
passed on to Edinburgh; from thence,
without delay, at the head of a new
force, chiefly of Lowlanders, he invaded
the forests of Selkirk and Éttrick, and
compelled all the barons and landed
gentlemen of whom he entertained any
suspicion to renew their allegiance,
and join the royal banner, under the
penalty of having their castles levelled
with the ground and their estates de­
populated.1 He next besieged the
castle of Abercorn, which, from the
great strength of its walls, and the
facilities for defence afforded by its
situation, defied for a month the ut­
most attempts of the royal army.2
Battered and broken up at last by the
force of the machines which were
brought to bear upon the towers, and
exposed to the shot of a gun of large
size, which was charged and directed
by a French engineer, the place was
taken by escalade, and the principal
persons who had conducted the defence
instantly hanged. The walls were
then dismantled, and the rest of the
garrison dismissed with their lives.
During the siege a desperate but in­
effectual attempt to disperse the royal
army was made by Douglas, who con­
centrated his forces at Lanark.3 and
along with his kinsman, Lord Hamil­
ton, advanced to the neighbourhood of
Abercorn, where, however, such was
the terror of the royal name, and the
success of the secret negotiation of
Bishop Kennedy with the leaders in
the rebel army, that in one night they
deserted the banner of their chief, and
left him a solitary fugitive, exposed
to the unmitigated rigour of the regal
vengeance. Hamilton, whose treachery
to Douglas had principally occasioned

1 Auchinleck Chronicle, pp. 53, 54.

2 Original letter from James the Second to
Charles the Seventh of France. Pinkerton’s
Hist. vol. i. p. 486.

3 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 76.

this calamity, was immediately com­
mitted to close confinement, whilst the
great earl himself, hurled in a moment
from the pinnacle of pride and power
to a state of terror and destitution,
fled from his late encampment under
cover of night, and for some time so
effectually eluded pursuit that none
knew in what part of Scotland he was

In the meantime the success of the
king was attended with the happiest
effects throughout the country, not
only in affording encouragement to
the friends of peace and order, who
dreaded the re-establishment of a
power in the house of Douglas which
repeated experience had shewn to be
incompatible with the security of the
realm, but in bringing over to the
royal party those fierce feudal barons
who, either from fear or the love of
change and of plunder, had entered into
bands with the house of Douglas, and
now found it their interest to desert a
falling cause. In consequence of this
change the castles which in the com­
mencement of the rebellion had been
filled with military stores, and forti­
fied against the government, were
gradually given up, and taken posses­
sion of by the friends of the crown.
Douglas castle, with the strong for­
tresses of Thrieve in Galloway, Stra-
thaven, Lochendorb, and Tarnaway,
fell successively into the hands of the
king; and the Earl of Douglas having
once more reappeared in Annandale at
the head of a tumultuous assemblage
of outlaws, who had been drawn to­
gether by the exertions of his brothers,
the Earls of Moray and Ormond, was
encountered at Arkinholme,5 and to­
tally defeated by the king’s troops,
under the command of the Earl of
Angus. The battle was fought by
Douglas with that desperate courage
which arose out of the conviction that
it must be amongst his last struggles
for existence; but the powerful and
warlike Border families, the Maxwells,
Scotts, and Johnstons, inured to daily
conflict, had joined the standard of

4 Auchinleck Chronicle, pp. 53, 54.
Arkinholme, on the River Esk, opposite
Wauchop Kirk.

1455.]                                               JAMES II.                                                   165

the king, and the undisciplined rabble
which composed the rebel army were
unable to stand against them.1 Or-
mond was taken prisoner and instantly
executed; his brother, the Earl of
Moray, fell in the action, and after a
total dispersion of his army, the arch-
rebel, along with his only remaining
brother, Sir John Douglas of Balveny,
made his escape into the wilds of Ar-
gyleshire, where he was received by
the Earl of Roas, the only friend who
now remained to him of all the great
connexions upon whose assistance he
had so confidently reckoned in his en­
terprise against his sovereign. These
important events took place during the
continuance of the siege of Abercorn,
and the first intimation of them re­
ceived by the king was the arrival of
a soldier from the field of Arkinholme,
who laid the bleeding and mangled
head of the Earl of Moray at the feet
of his prince. “ The king,” says an
ancient chronicle, “commended the
bravery of the man who brought him
this ghastly present, although he knew
not at the first look to whom the head
belonged.” 2

Having brought his affairs to this
successful conclusion, James assem­
bled his parliament at Edinburgh on
the 9th of June 1455, and proceeded
to let loose the offended vengeance of
the laws against the rebels who had
appeared in arms against the govern­
ment. James, late earl of Douglas,
having failed to appear and answer to
the charges brought against him, after
having been duly summoned at his
castles of Douglas and Strathaven, was
declared a traitor; his mother, Bea­
trix, countess of Douglas, in conse­
quence of the support and assistance
lent by her to the cause of her son,
his brother Archibald, late earl of

1 Sir Walter Scott of Kirkurd, the male an­
cestor of the Buccleuch family, on February
22,1458-9, got a charter of lands in the barony
of Crawfordjohn, “pro eo quod interfuit con-
flictu de Arkinholme, in occisione et captione
rebellium quondam Archib. et Hugonis de
Douglas, olim Comitum Moraviæ et Ormond.”
Mag. Sigill. v. 46.’

2 MS. Chronicle of this reign in the Univer­
sity of Edinburgh, A.C. c. 26. Letter of
James the Second to Charles the Seventh.
Pinkerton, vol. i. p. 480. See Illustrations N.

Moray, who had fallen at Arkinholme
and Sir John Douglas of Balveny, who
had fortified the castle of Abercorn,
and leagued himself with the king’s
enemies of England, were involved in
the same condemnation; and the pre­
lates and clergy who sat in the parlia­
ment having retired, David Dempster
of Caraldstone pronounced it to be the
judgment of the three estates, that
these persons had forfeited their lives,
and that their whole movable and im­
movable property, their estates, chat­
tels, superiorities, and offices, had es­
cheated in the hands of the crown.
To give additional solemnity to this
sentence, the instrument of forfeiture,
which is still preserved, was corrobo­
rated by the seals of the Bishops of
St Andrews, Dunblane, Ross, Dunkeld,
and Lismore; by those of the Earls of
Athole, Angus, Menteith, Errol, and
Huntly; those of the Lords Lorn,
Erskine, Campbell, Grahame, Somer-
ville, Montgomery, Maxwell, Leslie,
Glammis, Hamilton, Gray, Boyd, and
Borthwick; whilst the sanction of the
whole body of the commissioners of
the burghs who were not provided at
the moment with the seals of their
respective communities, was declared
to be fully given by appending to it
the single seal of the burgh of Had-

Whilst such events were passing in
the low country, the Earl of Douglas,
formidable even in his last struggle,
had entered into an alliance with John,
earl of Ross and lord of the Isles, to
whom he had fled immediately after
the disastrous issue of the battle of
Arkinholme. This powerful ocean
prince immediately assembled his vas­
sals, and having collected a fleet of a
hundred light galleys, which received
on board a force of five thousand men,
he intrusted the chief command to his
near relation, Donald Balloch, lord of
Isla, and a chief of formidable power
not only in Scotland, but in the north
of Ireland.4 Animated by hereditary

3 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. pp. 42, 75, 77.

4 This Donald Balloch was son of John of
Isla, brother to Donald, earl of Ross, and in­
herited, through his mother, the territory of
the Glens, in the county of Antrim.

166                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. III.

hatred against the Scottish throne,
Donald conducted a naval “ raid,” or
predatory expedition, along the west­
ern coast of Scotland, commencing
hostilities at Innerkip, and thence
holding his progress to Bute, the
Cumbraes, and the island of Arran.
Yet, owing to the able measures of
defence adopted by the king, the
enterprise met with little success;
and the loss to the government, in
lives and in property, was singularly
disproportionate to the formidable
maritime force which was engaged.
“ There was slain,” says a contem­
porary chronicle, whose homely recital
there is no reason to suspect of in­
fidelity, “ of good men fifteen, of wo­
men two or three, of children three or
four. The plunder included five or
six hundred horse, ten thousand oxen
and kine, and more than a thousand
sheep and goats. At the same time
they burnt down several mansions in
Innerkip, around the church, harried
all Arran, stormed and levelled with
the ground the castle of Brodick, and
wasted with fire and sword the islands
of the Cumbraes. They also levied
tribute upon Bute, carrying away a
hundred bolls of meal, a hundred bolls
of malt, a hundred marts, and a hun­
dred marks of silver.”1 The expedition
appears to have been concluded by an
attack upon Lauder, bishop of Lis-
more, a prelate who had made himself
obnoxious to the party of Douglas, by
affixing his seal to the instrument of
their forfeiture. This dignitary, a son
of the ancient family of Lauder of
Balcomy in Fife, had been promoted
by James the First to the bishopric of
Argyle; but ignorant of the manners
and the language of the rude inhabit­
ants of his diocese, he early became
unpopular, and his attempts to extin­
guish the disorders with which he was
surrounded, by the firm authority of
ecclesiastical law, were received with
execration, and almost universal re­
sistance. Three years previous to the
expedition of Donald Balloch, on the
occurrence of some misunderstanding
between a parson or vicar of the
bishop, whom he had appointed to
1 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 55.

one of his churches, and some of the
Celtic officials attached to the admini­
stration of the diocese, Sir Gilbert
Maclachlan, and Sir Morice Macfad-
yan, who filled the offices of chancellor
and treasurer of the cathedral, hav­
ing assembled the whole force of the
clan Lachlan, violently assaulted the
prelate during the course of a peaceful
journey to his own cathedral church.
They scornfully addressed him in the
Gaelic tongue, dragged from their
horses and bound the hands of the
clerks which composed his train,
stripped them of their rich copes,
hoods, and velvet caps, plundered
next morning the repositories of the
church of its silver and ornaments,
even seized the bulls and charters, and
compelled the bishop, under terror of
his life, to promise that he would
never prosecute the men who had thus
shamefully abused him. Such were
the miserable scenes of havoc and
violence which fell to the lot of the
prelates who were bold enough to
undertake the charge of those remote
and savage dioceses; and we now, only
three years after this cruel assault,
find the same unfortunate dignitary
attacked by the fierce admiral of the
Isles, and after the slaughter of the
greater part of his attendants, driven
into a sanctuary which seems scarcely
to have protected him from the fury
of his enemies.2

Whilst Douglas thus succeeded in
directing against the king the ven­
geance of the Isles, he himself had
retired to England, where he was not
only received with distinction by his
ally the Duke of York, at this time
possessed of the supreme power in the
government, but repaid for his service
by an annual pension of five hundred
pounds, “ to be continued to him until
he should be restored to his posses­
sions, or to the greater part of them,
by the person who then called himself
King of Scots.” 3 It was hardly to be
expected that an indignity like this,
offered by a faction which had all
along encouraged a rebellion in Scot­
land as a principal instrument in pro-

2  Auchinleck Chronicle, pp. 50, 51.

3  Rymer, Fœdera, vol. xi. p. 367.

1455.]                                               JAMES II.                                                   167

moting their intrigues, should not have
excited the utmost resentment in the
bosom of the Scottish monarch; and it
was evident that a perseverance in such
policy must inevitably hurry the two
nations into war. James, however,
whose kingdom was scarce recovered
from the lamentable effects of the late
rebellion, with a wisdom which was
willing to overlook the personal injury,
in his anxiety to secure to his people
the blessing of peace, despatched a
conciliatory embassy to the English
court. At the same time he directed
a letter to Henry the Sixth, complain­
ing of the encouragement held out to
a convicted traitor like Douglas, warn­
ing him of the fatal consequences
which must result to himself in Eng­
land, as well as to the kingdom which
had been committed by God to his
charge, if rebellion in a subject was
thus fostered by a Christian prince;
and declaring that, however unwilling
to involve his subjects in war, he
would never so far forget his kingly
office as to permit his own dignity to
be insulted, and the prosperity of his
people endangered, with impunity, by
any power whatever.1

This spirited remonstrance appears
to have been followed by preparations
for immediate hostilities, which, it
may be easily believed, were not ren­
dered less urgent by the following
extraordinary epistle, which was soon
after transmitted to the Scottish mon­
arch :—“ The king, to an illustrious
prince, James, calling himself King of
Scotland, sends greeting: We presume
that it is notorious to all men, and
universally acknowledged as a fact,
that the supreme and direct dominion
over the kingdom of Scotland apper­
tains by law to the King of England,
as monarch of Britain. We presume
it to be equally acknowledged and
notorious, that fealty and homage are
due by the King of Scots to the
King of England, upon the principle
that it becomes a vassal to pay such
homage to his superior and overlord ;
and that from times of so remote anti­
quity that they exceed the memory
of man, even to the present day, we
Rymer, Fœdera, vol. xi. p. 383.

and our progenitors, Kings of England,
have possessed such rights, and you
and your ancestors have acknowledged
such a dependence. Wherefore, such
being the case, whence comes it that
the subject hath not scrupled insol­
ently to erect his neck against his
master? and what think ye ought to
be his punishment, when he spurns
the condition and endeavours to com­
pass the destruction of his person ?
With what sentence is treason gene­
rally visited—or have you lived so
ignorant of all things as not to be
aware of the penalties which await
the rebel, and him who is so hardy as
to deny his homage to his liege super­
ior ? If so, we would exhort you
speedily to inform yourself upon the
matter, lest the lesson should be com­
municated by the experience of your
own person, rather than by the infor­
mation of others. To the letters
which have been presented to us by
a certain person, calling himself your
lion-herald and king-at-arms, and
which are replete with all manner of
folly, insolence, and boasting, we make
this brief reply : It hath ever been the
custom of those who fight rather by
deceit than with open arms, to com­
mit an outrageous attack, in the first
instance, and then to declare war ; to
affect innocence, and shift their own
guilt upon their neighbours; to cover
themselves with the shadow of peace
and the protection of truces, whilst
beneath this veil they are fraudulently
plotting the ruin of those they call
their friends. To such persons, whose
machinations we cordially despise, it
seems to us best to reply by actions.
The repeated breaches of faith, there­
fore, which we have suffered at your
hands; the injury, rapine, robbery, and
insolence, which have been inflicted
upon us, contrary to the rights of
nations, and in defiance of the faith of
treaties, shall be passed over in silence
rather than committed to writing; for
we esteem it unworthy of our dignity
to attempt to reply to you in your own
fashion by slanders and reproaches.
We would desire, however, that, in
the mean season, you should not be
ignorant that, instead of its having the

163                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. III.

intended effect of inspiring us with
terror, we do most cordially despise
this vain confidence and insolent
boasting, in which we have observed
the weakest and most pusillanimous
persons are generally the greatest
adepts; and that you should be aware
that it is our firm purpose, with the
assistance of the Almighty, to put
down and severely chastise all such
insolent rebellions, and arrogant at­
tempts, which it hath been your prac­
tice contumeliously to direct against
us. Wishing, nevertheless, with that
charity which becomes a Christian
prince, that it may please our Lord
Jesus Christ to reclaim you from
error into the paths of justice and
truth, and to inspire you for the
future with a spirit of more enlight­
ened judgment and counsel, we bid
you farewell.” l

It does not appear that the king
took any notice of this singular speci­
men of diplomatic insolence, in which,
with an amusing inconsistency, the
writer condemns the error into which
he falls himself; but it is evident,
from the preparations appointed to be
made by the parliament which assem­
bled at Edinburgh during the course
of the same year, on the 4th of Au­
gust, and afterwards on the 13th of
October, that it had been preceded,
and it was certainly followed, by seri­
ous hostilities upon the Borders. The
particulars of these conflicts on the
marches do not, however, appear in
the later historians of the times, or in
the pages of the contemporary chro­
nicles ; and, although carried on with
all the desolating fury which distin­
guished the warfare of the marches,
they led to no important results, and
were soon after intermitted, in conse­
quence of the partial recovery of health
by Henry the Sixth, a circumstance
which removed the Duke of York from
the office of protector, and for a while
deprived him of the supreme power
in the state. The Earl of Douglas,
however, continued still in England,
animated by the bitterest resentment
against James, and exerting every effort
to organise a force sufficiently strong
Rymer. Fœdera, vol. xi. p. 383.

to enable him to invade the kingdom
from which he had been so justly ex­
pelled. His success in this treasonable
object, although ultimately of so alarm­
ing a nature as once more to threaten
the tranquillity of the kingdom, was
counteracted for the present by the
revival of the influence of the Duke of
Somerset, which had ever been favour­
able to Scotland; and the measures
adopted by the parliament for strength­
ening the authority of the crown, and
increasing the defensive force of the
kingdom, were well calculated to ren­
der abortive the utmost attempts of
its enemies.

With regard to the first of these
objects, it would be difficult to explain
the intentions of the legislature in a
more forcible manner than in the
words of the statute itself. It de­
clared, that “ since the poverty of the
crown is ofttimes the cause of the
poverty of the realm, and of many
other inconveniences which it would
be tedious to enumerate, it had been
ordained, by the advice of the full
council of parliament, that there should
be, from this time, appointed certain
lordships and castles in every part of
the realm, where, at different periods
of the year, the sovereign may be likely
to take up his residence, which were
to belong in perpetuity to the crown,
never to be settled or bestowed either
in fee or franctenure upon any person
whatever, however high his rank or
estate, except by the solemn advice
and decree of the whole parliament,
and under circumstances which affected
the welfare and prosperity of the king­
dom.” For the additional security of
the crown lands, it was further de­
clared “ that even if the present mo­
narch, or any of his successors, should
alienate or convey away to any person
the lordships and castles which were
the property of the crown, such a
transaction being contrary to the will
of parliament, should not stand good
in law ; but that it should be permitted
to the king, for the time being, to re­
sume these lands into his own hands
without the solemnity of any inter­
vening process of law; and not only
to resume them, but to insist that

1455-6.]                                          JAMES II.                                                   169

those who had unjustly occupied these
royal estates should refund the whole
rents and profits which they had re­
ceived, till the period of their resump­
tion by the crown.” It was lastly
enacted, “that the present king and
his successors should be obliged to
take an oath that they shall keep this
statute, and duly observe it in every
particular.” 1 There was added to this
enactment a particular enumeration
of the crown lands and revenue. In
the light which it throws on the his­
tory of the constitution, at a period
when the crown was struggling for
existence against the growing power
of the aristocracy, it is too interesting
to be passed over.

The first article in this enumeration
is the sum arising from the whole cus­
toms of Scotland, which were in the
hands of James the First on the day
of his death; it being, however, pro­
vided, that those officers whose pen­
sions were payable out of the customs
should receive compensation from some
other source. After this follows the
specific enumeration of the crown
lands, beginning with the lordship of
Ettrick forest, and the whole lordship
or principality of Galloway, along with
the castle of Thrieve. These two great
accessions of territory, which were now
annexed to the crown, had long formed
one of the richest and most populous
portions of the forfeited estates of the
house of Douglas. Next we find the
castle of Edinburgh, with the lands of
Ballincreif and Gosford, together with
all other estates pertaining to the
king within the sheriffdom of Lothian.
Also, the castle of Stirling, with all
the crown lands around it; the castle
of Dumbarton, with the lands of Car-
dross, Roseneath, and the pension from
Cadyow, with the pension of the
“ferme meill” of Kilpatrick; the
whole earldom of Fife, with the palace
of Falkland; the earldom of Strathern,
with the rights belonging to it; the
house and lordship of Brechin, with
the services and superiority of Cor-
tachy; the castles and lordships of In­
verness and Urquhart, with the water-

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. pp. 42, 43.

mails or rents due for the fishings of
Inverness; the lordship of Abernethy,
and the several baronies of Urquhart,
Glenorchane, Bonnechen Bonochar,
Annache, Edderdail, otherwise called
Ardmanache, Pecty, Brachly, and
Strathern; and, lastly, the Redcastle,
with the lordships in the county of
Ross which are attached to it. It was
also particularly provided that all re­
galities which at present belonged to
the king should be indissolubly an­
nexed to the crown lands, and that in
time to come no erection of regalities
should take place without the advice
of the parliament.2

Other measures of the same parlia­
ment had an evident reference to the
increasing the authority of the crown.
It was ordained that, for the future,
the wardenry of the Borders, an office
of the utmost power and responsibility,
should cease to be hereditary; that the
wardens should have no jurisdiction in
cases of treason, except where such
cases arose out of an infraction of the
truce; and that no actions or pleas in
law should be brought into the court
of the warden, but ought to be prose­
cuted before the justice-ayre. The
situation of warden had long been es­
teemed the inalienable property of the
house of Douglas, and its abolition as
a hereditary dignity was the conse­
quence of the late rebellion. But the
able ministers who at this time di­
rected the king’s councils were not
satisfied with cutting down the exorbi­
tant power of the warden. The blow
was wisely aimed against the principle
which made any office whatever a
hereditary fee; and it was declared
that, in all time to come, “no office
should be given in fee or heritage,
whilst such as had been so disposed of
since the death of the late king were
revoked and abolished, due care being
taken that any price or consideration
which had been advanced by the in­
cumbent should be restored. From
the operation of this excellent statute,
an exception was made in favour of
the wardenry of the march, which the
king had bestowed on his son, Alex-

2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. pp. 42, 43.

170                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. III.

ander, earl of March and lord of Annan-
dale.1 A few other statutes, enacted
in this same parliament, deserve atten­
tion. He who arrested any false coiner,
and brought him to the king, was to
have ten pounds for his labour, and
the escheat of the offender. Sornars2
were to be punished as severely as
thieves or robbers; and for the settle­
ment of those inferior disputes which
were perpetually occurring between
the subjects of the burghs of the realm,
it was provided that the privy council
should select eight or twelve persons,
according to the size of the town, to
whose decision all causes, not exceed­
ing the sum of five pounds, were to
be intrusted.

A curious statute followed on the
subject of dress, which is interesting,
from its minuteness. It declared, that
with regard to the dresses to be worn
by earls, lords of parliament, commis­
saries of burghs, and advocates, at all
parliaments and general councils, the
earls should take care to use mantles
of “ brown granyt,” open in the front,
furred with ermine, and lined before
with the same, surmounted by little
hoods of the same cloth, to be used
for the shoulders. The other lords of
parliament were directed to have a
mantle of red cloth, open in front, and
lined with silk, or furred with “ Cristy
gray, grece, or purray, with a hood
furred in the same manner, and com­
posed of the same cloth;” whilst all
commissaries of burghs were com­
manded to have a pair of cloaks,—such
is the phrase made use of,—of blue
cloth, made to open on the right
shoulder, to be trimmed with fur, and
having hoods of the same colour. If
any earl, lord of parliament, or com­
missary, appeared in parliament, or at
the general council, without this dress,
he was to pay a fine of ten pounds to
the king. All men of law employed
and paid as “ forespeakers,” were to
wear a dress of green cloth, made after
the fashion of a “tunykill,” or little

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 43.

2 An expressive Scottish word, meaning a
stout armed vagrant, who insists on taking
up his quarters for au indefinite period at the
various houses he visits.

tunic, with the sleeves open like a
tabard, under a penalty of five pounds
to the king, if they appeared either in
parliament or at general councils with­
out it; and in every burgh where par­
liament or general councils were held,
it was directed that there be con­
structed “ where the bar uses to
stand,” a platform, consisting of three
lines of seats, each line higher than
the other, upon which the commis­
saries of the burghs were to take
their places.3

At a prorogued meeting of the same
parliament, held at Stirling on the
13th of October, regulations were
made for the defence of the kingdom
against any sudden invasion of the
English, which explain the system of
transmitting information by beacons
adopted in those early times, in an
interesting manner. At the different
fords or passages of the Tweed be­
tween Roxburgh and Berwick, where
it was customary for the English
forces to cross the river, certain watch­
men were stationed, whose duty it was
to light a bale-fire, or beacon, the
moment they received word of the
approach of an enemy. It was to be
so placed as to be seen at Hume castle,
and to this station the watchmen were
instantly to repair. The beacon fires
were to be regulated in the following
manner :—One fire was understood to
signify that an enemy was reported
to be approaching,—two fires, that
they were coming for certain,—by four
fires, lighted up at once, and each be­
side another, like four “ canclellis, and
all at ayns"4
to use the homely lan­
guage of the statute, it was to be
understood that the invading army
was one of great strength and power.
The moment that the watchmen sta­
tioned at Eggerhope (now Edgerton)
castle descried the beacon at Hume,
they were commanded to light up
their bale-fire; and the moment the
men stationed at Soutra Edge des­
cried the Eggerhope fire, they were
to answer it by a corresponding bea­
con on their battlements ; and thus,

3 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 43.
All at once.

1456-8.]                                          JAMES II.                                                    171

fire answering to fire, from Dunbar,
Haddington, Dalkeith, all Lothian was
to be roused as far as Edinburgh
castle. At Edinburgh four beacons
were instantly to be lighted to warn
the inhabitants of Fife, Stirling, and
the eastern part of Lothian. Beacons
were also directed to be kindled on
North Berwick Law and Dunpender
Law, to warn the coast side of the
sea : it being understood that all the
fighting men on the west side of Edin­
burgh should assemble in that city;
and all to the east of it, at Hadding-
ton; whilst all merchants and burghers
were directed to join the host as it
passed through their respective com­
munities. By another statute of the
same parliament, two hundred spear­
men and two hundred bowmen were
ordered to be maintained, at the ex­
pense of the Border lords, upon the
east and middle marches; whilst, upon
the west marches, there was to be
kept up a force of one hundred bows
and one hundred spears ; the Border
lords and barons being strictly enjoined
to have their castles in good repair,
well garrisoned, and amply provided
with military stores, whilst they them­
selves were to be ready, having assem­
bled their vassals at their chief places
of residence, to join the warden, and
pass forward with the host wherever
he pleased to lead them.1

Some other statutes are worthy of
notice, as illustrating the state of the
Borders and the manners of the times.
It was directed that when a warden
raid took place, meaning an invasion
of England by the lord warden in per­
son, or when any other chieftain led
his host against the enemy, no man
was to be permitted, under pain of
death, and forfeiture of his whole
goods, to abstract any part of the
general booty, until, according to the
ancient custom of the marches, it had
been divided into three parts, in pre­
sence of the chief leader of the ex­
pedition ; any theft of the plunder or
the prisoners belonging to the leaders
or their men—any supplies furnished
to the English garrisons of Roxburgh

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. pp. 44, 45.

or Berwick — any warning given to
the English of a meditated invasion
by the Scots—any private journey
into England, without the king’s or
the warden’s safe-conduct, was to be
punished as treason, with the loss of
life and estate; and it was strictly
enjoined upon the principal leaders
of any raids into England, that they
should cause these directions of the
parliament to be communicated to
their host previous to the expedition,
so that none might allege ignorance
of the law as an excuse of its viola­

Amid these wise endeavours to
strengthen the power of the crown,
and to provide for the security of the
kingdom, James was surprised by the
arrival at court of two noble ladies,
who threw themselves upon his pro­
tection. These were the Countess of
Douglas, known before her marriage
by the name of the Fair Maid of Gal­
loway; and the Countess of Ross, a
daughter of the once powerful house
of Livingston.3 The first had been
miserable in her marriage with that
Earl of Douglas who had fallen by
the king’s hand in Stirling castle,
and equally wretched in her subse­
quent unnatural union with his bro­
ther, at this moment a rebel in Eng­
land. Profiting by his absence, she
now fled to the court of the king,
representing the cruelty with which
she had been treated both by the
one and the other. She was not only
welcomed with the utmost kindness
and courtesy, but immediately pro­
vided with a third husband, in the
king’s uterine brother, Sir John Ste­
wart, son of his mother by her second
husband, the Black Knight of Lorn.
In what manner her marriage with
Douglas was dissolved does not ap­
pear ; but it is singular that she had
no children by either of her former
husbands. Her third lord, to whom
she bore two daughters,4 was soon
afterwards created Earl of Athole, and

2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. pp. 44, 45.

3 Buchanan, book xi. chap. xlv.

4 Her two daughters were Lady Janet, mar­
ried to Alexander, earl of Huntly; and Lady
Catherine, to John, sixth Lord Forbes.

172                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                     [Chap. III.

enriched by the gift of the forfeited
barony of Balveny. To the Countess
of Ross, the wife of the rebel earl of
that name, and to whom her husband’s
treason appears to have been as dis­
tasteful as to the consort of the Earl
of Douglas, James with equal readi­
ness extended the royal favour, and
assigned her a maintenance suited to
her rank ;1 whilst not long after, a
third noble female, his sister, the
Princess Annabella, arrived from the
court of the Duke of Savoy. She had
been betrothed to Louis, the second
son of the Duke of Savoy; but, at the
request of the King of France, and on
payment of the sum of twenty-five
thousand crowns, James consented to
a dissolution of the intended mar­
riage ; and, on her return to Scotland,
she became the wife of the first Earl
of Huntly.2

Disengaged from these minor cares,
the king found himself soon after
involved in a negotiation requiring
greater delicacy in its management,
and which, if abortive, might have
been productive of consequences pre­
judicial to the kingdom. It arose out
of a complaint transmitted to the
Scottish court by Christian, king of
Norway, upon the subject of the
money due by the King of Scotland
for the Western Isles and the king­
dom of Man, in virtue of the treaty
concluded in 1426 between James the
First, and Eric, king of Norway. This
treaty itself was only a confirmation
of the original agreement, by which,
nearly two hundred years before,
Alexander the Third had purchased
these islands from Magnus, then King
of Norway; and Christian now. re­
monstrated, not merely on the ground
that a large proportion of arrears was
due, but that one of his subjects,
Biorn, son of Thorleif, the Lieutenant
of Iceland, having been driven by a
storm into a harbour in the Orkneys,
had been seized by the Scottish au­
thorities, contrary to the faith of
treaties, and cast, with his wife and
his attendants, into prison.3 Happily,

1 Mag. Sig. vii. 371. 8th February 1475.
Ibid. v. 91. 1st March 1459.
Torfæi Orcades, p. 184.

after some correspondence upon these
points, instead of an appeal to arms,
the parties adopted the expedient of
referring all differences to the decision
of Charles the Seventh, their mutual
friend and ally; who, after various
delays, pronounced his final decision
at a convention of the commissioners
of both kingdoms, which was not held
till four years after this period, in

In the meantime, in consequence of
the re-establishment of the influence
of the house of Lancaster by the resto­
ration of Henry the Sixth, and his
queen, a woman of masculine spirit,
affairs began to assume a more favour­
able aspect on the side of England;
and the King of Scotland having de­
spatched the Abbot of Melrose, Lord
Graham, Vans, dean of Glasgow, and
Mr George Fala, burgess of Edinburgh
as his commissioners to the English
government, a truce between the two
countries was concluded, which was to
last till the 6th of July 1459.4 This
change, however, in the administration
of affairs in England did not prevent
the Earl of Douglas, who during the
continuance of the power of the York­
ists had acquired a considerable in­
fluence in that country, from making
the strongest efforts to regain the vast
estates of which he had been deprived,
and to avenge himself on the sovereign
whose allegiance he had forsworn. He
accordingly assembled a force in con­
junction with the Earl of Northum­
berland, and breaking across the Bor­
der, wasted the fertile district of the
Merse in Berwickshire with the mer­
ciless fury of a renegade. After a
course of plunder and devastation,
which, without securing the confi­
dence of his new friends, made him
detested by his countrymen, he was
met and totally defeated by the Earl
of Angus, at the head of a division of
the royal army ; nearly a thousand of
the English were slain, seven hundred
taken prisoners, and Douglas, once
more driven a fugitive into England,
found himself so effectually shorn of
his power and limited in his resources,
that he remained perfectly inoffen-

4 Rymer Fœdera, vol. xi. pp. 389-399.

1456-8.]                                           JAMES II.                                                   173

sive during the remainder of this

The lordship of Douglas and the
wide domains attached to this dignity
were now, in consequence of his im­
portant public services, conferred upon
the Earl of Angus, a nobleman of
great talents and ambition, connected
by his mother, who was a daughter of
Robert the Third, with the royal
family, and inheriting by his father,
George, first earl of Angus, a son of
the first earl of Douglas, the same
claim to the crown through the blood
of Baliol which we have already seen
producing a temporary embarrassment
upon the accession of Robert the
Second in the year 1370.2 Upon the
acquisition by Angus of the forfeited
estates of Douglas, the numerous and
powerful vassals of that house imme­
diately attached themselves to the
fortunes of this rising favourite, whom
the liberality of the king had already
raised to a height of power almost
as giddy and as dangerous as that from
which his predecessor had been pre­
cipitated. Apparent, however, as were
the dangerous consequences which
might be anticipated from this policy,
we must blame rather that miserable
feudal constitution under which he
lived than censure the monarch who
was compelled to accommodate him­
self to its principles. The only wea­
pons by which a feudal sovereign could
overwhelm a noble whose strength
menaced the crown, were to be found
in the hands of his brethren of the
aristocracy; and the only mode by
which he could insure their co-opera­
tion in a struggle, which, as it involved
in some degree an attack upon their
own rights, must have excited their
jealousy, was to permit them to share
in the spoils of his forfeiture.

Some time previous to this conclu­
sive defeat of Douglas, the parliament
had again assembled at Edinburgh ;
when, at the desire of the king, they
took into consideration the great sub-

1  The MS. Chronicle in the Library of the
University of Edinburgh dates this conflict
October 23, 1458.

2  See supra, vol. i. pp. 326, 327. Duncan
Stewart’s Account of the Royal Family of
Scotland, p. 62.

jects of the defence of the country,
the regulations of the value of the
current coin, the administration of
justice, and the establishment of a set
of rules, which are entitled, “ concern­
ing the governance of the pestilence ;“
a dreadful scourge, which now for the
fifth time began to commit its ravages
in the kingdom. Upon the first head,
it was provided that all subjects of the
realm possessed of lands or goods
should be ready mounted and armed,
according to the value of their pro­
perty, to ride for the defence of the
country the moment they received
warning, either by sound of trumpet
or lighting of the beacon; that all
manner of men, between the ages of
sixteen and sixty, should hasten to join
the muster on the first intelligence of
the approach of an English host, ex­
cept they were in such extreme po­
verty as to be unable to furnish them­
selves with weapons. Every yeoman,
however, worth twenty marks, was to
furnish himself at the least with a jack
and sleeves down to the wrist, or, if
not thus equipped, with a pair of
splents, a sellat,3 or a prikit hat, a
sword and buckler, and a bow and
sheaf of arrows. If unskilled in
archery, he was to have an axe and a
targe, made either of leather or of fir,
with two straps in the inside. Warn­
ing was to be given by the proper
officers to the inhabitants of every
county, that they provide themselves
with these weapons, and attend the
weapon-schawing, or armed muster,
before the sheriffs, bailies, or stewards
of regalities, on the morrow after
the “lawe days after Christmas.” The
king, it was next declared, ought to
make it a special request to some of
the richest and most powerful barons,
“ that they make carts of war; and in
each cart place two guns, each of which
was to have two chambers, to be sup­
plied with the proper warlike tackling,
and to be furnished also with a cunning
man to shoot them. And if,” it was
quaintly added, “they have no skill
in the art of shooting with them at
the time of passing the act, it is hoped
that they will make themselves master
A helmet, or headpiece for foot-soldiers.

174                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. III.

of it before they are required to take
the field against the enemy.” 1

With regard to the provisions for
defence of the realm upon the Borders
during the summer season, the three
estates declared it to be their opinion
that the Borderers did not require the
same supplies which were thought
necessary when the matter was first
referred to the king, because this year
they were more able to defend them­
selves than in any former season; first,
it was observed they were better, and
their enemies worse provided than
before; secondly, they were certain of
peace, at least on two Borders, till
Candlemas. On the west Borders, it
was remarked, the winter was seldom
a time of distress, and the English
would be as readily persuaded to agree
to a special truce from Candlemas till
“Wedderdais,” as they now did till
Candlemas; considering, also, that
during this last summer the enemy
have experienced great losses, costs,
and labour in the war, and, as it is
hoped, will have the same in summer,
which is approaching. The English,
it was said, had been put to far more
labour and expense, and had suffered
far greater losses in the war this last
summer than the Scottish Borderers.
It was therefore the opinion of the
three estates that the Borderers should
for the present be contented without
overburdening the government by
their demands; and if any great in­
vasion was likely to come upon them,
the parliament recommended that the
midland barons should be ready to
offer them immediate supplies and

Upon the subject of the pestilence,
the great object seems to have been to
prevent contagion, by shutting up the
inhabitants both of town and country,
for a certain season, within their
houses. The clergy, to whom the
consideration of the most difficult
matters of state policy appears to have
been at this period invariably com­
mitted, were of opinion, in the words
of the statute, “that no person, either

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 45.
Ibid. vol. ii. p. 45.,

dwelling in burgh or in the upland
districts, who had provision enough to
maintain himself and his followers or
servants, should be expelled from his
own house, unless he will either not
remain in it,” or may not be shut up
in the same. And should he disobey
his neighbours, and refuse to keep him­
self within his residence, he was to be
compelled to remove from the town.
Where, however, there were any people,
neither rich enough to maintain them­
selves nor transport their families
forth of the town, the citizens were
directed to support them at their own
expense, so that they did not wander
away from the spot where they ought
to remain, and carry infection through
the kingdom, or “fyle the cuntre about
thame.” “And if any sick folk,” it
was observed, “who had been put
forth from the town, were caught
stealing away from the station where
they had been shut up,” the citizens
were commanded to follow and bring
them back again, punishing them for
such conduct, and compelling them to
remain in durance. It was directed
by the same statute that no man
should burn his neighbours’ houses,
meaning the mansions which had been
deserted as infected, or in which the
whole inhabitants had died, unless it
could be done without injury to the
adjoining healthy tenements; and the
prelates were commanded to make
general processions throughout their
dioceses twice in the week, for the
stanching of the pestilence, and “to
grant pardon” (by which word possibly
is meant indulgences) to the priests
who exposed themselves by walking
in these processions.3

With regard to the important sub­
ject of the money and coinage of the
realm, it will be necessary to look
back for a moment to the provisions
of the parliament held at Stirling a
few years before this period, which
were then purposely omitted that the
state of the coinage under this reign
and the principles by which it was re­
gulated might be brought under the
eye in a connected series.

3 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 46.

1456-7.]                                          JAMES II.                                                    175

We find it first declared in a public
paper, entitled, The Advisement of
the Deputes of the Three Estates,
touching the Matter of the Money,
that on many accounts it was con­
sidered expedient there should be an
issue of a new coinage, conforming in
weight to the money of England. Out
of the ounce of burnt or refined silver,
or bullion, eight groats were to be
coined, and smaller coins of half-
groats, pennies, halfpennies, and farth­
ings, of the same proportionate weight
and fineness. The new groat was to
have course for eightpence, the half-
groat for fourpence, the penny for two­
pence, the halfpenny for one penny,
and the farthing for a halfpenny. It
was also directed that the English
groat, of which eight groats contained
one ounce of silver, should be reckoned
of the value of eightpence the piece;
that the English half-groat, agreeing
in weight to the same, should be
taken for fourpence; and that the
English penny should only be received
for such value as the receiver chooses
to affix to it. From the time that
this new groat was struck, and a day
appointed for its issue, the groat now
current was to descend in its value to
fourpence, and the half-groat to two­
pence, till which time they were to
retain the Value of the new money.
It was next directed by the parlia­
ment that there should be struck a
new penny of gold, to be called “ a
lion,” with the figure of a lion on the
one side, and on the reverse the image
of St Andrew, clothed in a side-coat
reaching to his feet, which piece was
to be of an equal weight with the half
English noble, otherwise it should not
be received in exchange by any per­
son,—the value of which lion, from
the time it was received into currency,
was to be six shillings and eightpence
of the new coinage, and the half ­lion
three shillings and fourpence. After
the issue of the new coinage, the piece
called the demy, which, it was declared,
had now a current value of nine shil­
lings, was to be received only for six
shillings and eightpence, and the half-
demy for three shillings and fourpence.1

1 The exact value of the foreign coins then

The master of the mint was mado
responsible for all gold and silver
struck under his authority, until the
warden had taken assay of it, and put
it in his store ; nor was any man to be
obliged to receive this money should
it be reduced by clipping; the same
master having full power to select,
and to punish for any misdemeanour,
the coiners and strikers who worked
under him, and who were by no means
to be goldsmiths by profession, if any
others could be procured.2

Such were the regulations regarding
the current money of Scotland, which
were passed by the Scottish parlia­
ment in 1451; but it appears that, in
the interval between this period and
the present year, 1456, the value affixed
to the various coins above mentioned,
including those of foreign countries,
as well as the new issue of lions, groats,
and half­groats, had been found to be
too low; so that the merchants and
traders discovering that there was
actually more bullion in the money
than the statutory value fixed by par­
liament, kept it up and made it an
article of export. That such was the
case, appears evident from the expres­
sions used by the parliament of 1456
with regard to the pieces called demys,
the value of which we have seen fixed
in 1451 at six shillings and eightpence.
“ And to the intent,” it was remarked,
“that the demys which are kept in
hand should ’ come out,' and have
course through the realm, and remain
within it, instead of being carried out
of it, the parliament judged it expe-

current in Scotland was fixed at the same
time : the French real being fixed at six
shillings and eightpence ; the salute, which
is of the same weight as the new lion, at the
same rate of six shillings and eightpence;
the French crown, now current in France,
having on each side of the shield a crowned
fleur-de-lys, the Dauphin’s crown, and the
Flemish ridar, are in like manner to be esti­
mated at the same value as the new lion.
The English noble was fixed at thirteen shil­
lings and fourpence ; the half-noble at six
shillings and eightpcnce ; the Flemish noble
at twelve shillings and eightpence ; and all
the other kind of gold not included in the
established currency was to have its value
according to the agreement of the buyer and

2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. pp. 39, 40.

176                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. III.

dient that the demy be cried to ten shil­
lings.” Upon the same principle, and
to prevent the same occurrence, which
was evidently viewed with alarm by
the financiers of this period, a corre­
sponding increase of the value of the
other current coins, both of foreign
countries and of home coinage, above
that given them in 1451, was fixed by
the parliament of 1456. Thus, the
Henry English noble was fixed at
twenty ­two shillings ; the French
crown, Dauphin’s crown, salute, and
Flemish ridars, which had been fixed
at six shillings and eightpence, were
raised, in 1456, to eleven shillings;
the new lion, from its first value of
six shillings and eightpence, was raised
to ten shillings ; the new groat from
eightpence to twelvepence; the half-
groat from fourpence to sixpence. In
conclusion, the lords and auditors of
the exchequer were directed by the
same parliament to examine with the
utmost care, and make trial of the
purity of the gold and silver, which was
presented by the warden of the mint.1
It was provided that, in time of fairs
and public markets, none of the king’s
officers were to take distress, or levy
any tax, upon the goods and wares of
so small a value and bulk as to be
carried to the fair either on men’s
backs, in their arms, or on barrows
and sledges. On the other hand,
where the merchandise was of such
value and quantity, that it might be
exposed for sale in great stalls, or in
covered “ cramys " or booths, which
occupied room in the fair, a temporary
tax was allowed to be levied upon the
proprietors of these, which, however,
was directed to be restored to the mer­
chant at the court of the fair, provided
he had committed no trespass, nor
excited any disturbance during its
continuance.2 The enactments of this
parliament upon the subject of the
administration of justice, were so com­
pletely altered or modified in a subse­
quent meeting of the estates, that at
present it seems unnecessary to advert
to them.

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 46.
Ibid. vol. ii. p. 47.

In the meanwhile the condition of
the kingdom evidently improved, fos­
tered by the care of the sovereign,
whose talents, of no inferior order,
were daily advancing into the strength
and maturity of manhood. Awake to
the infinite superiority of intellect in
the clergy over the warlike but rude
and uninformed body of his nobles, it
was the wise policy of James to select
from them his chief ministers, employ­
ing them in his foreign negotiations
and the internal administration of the
kingdom, as far as it was possible to do
so, without exciting resentment in the
great class of his feudal barons. It
was the consequence of this system
that a happy understanding and a
feeling of mutual affection and sup­
port existed between the monarch and
this numerous and influential class, so
that, whilst the king maintained them
in their independence, they supported
him in his prerogative. Thus, at a
provincial council which was convoked
at Perth, where Thomas, bishop of
Aberdeen, presided as conservator sta-
it was declared, in opposition
to the doctrine so strenuously insisted
on by the Holy See, that the king had
an undoubted right, by the ancient
law and custom of Scotland, to the
ecclesiastical patronage of the kingdom,
by which it belonged to him to pre­
sent to all benefices during the vacancy
of the see. Whilst James, however,
was thus firm in the assertion of those
rights which he believed to be the
unalienable property of the crown, he
was careful to profess the greatest
reverence in all spiritual matters for
the authority of the Holy See; and
on the accession of Pius the Second,
the celebrated Æneas Sylvius, to the
Papal crown, he appointed commis­
sioners to proceed to Rome, and per­
form his usual homage to the sovereign

It was about this same time that
the crown received a valuable addition
to its political strength, in the annexa­
tion of the earldom of Mar to the
royal domains. Since the period of
the failure of the heir-male in 1435,
in the person of Alexander Stewart,
Mag. Sig. v. 82.

1457-9.]                                         JAMES II.                                                     177

natural son of the Earl of Buchan,
brother of Robert the Third, this wide
and wealthy earldom had been made
the subject of litigation, being claimed
by the crown, as ultimus hœres, by
Robert, lord Erskine, the descendant
of Lady Ellen Mar, sister of Donald,
twelfth earl of Mar, and by Sir Robert
Lyle of Duchal, who asserted his
descent from a co­heiress. There can
be no doubt that the claim of Erskine
was just and legal. So completely,
indeed, had this been established, that
in 1438 he had been served heir to
Isabel, countess of Mar; and in the
due course of law, he assumed the
title of Earl of Mar, and exercised the
rights attached to this dignity. In
consequence, however, of the act of
the legislature already alluded to,
which declared that no lands belong­
ing to the king should be disposed of
previous to his majority, without con­
sent of the three estates, the earl was
prevented from attaining possession of
his undoubted right; and now, that no
such plea could be maintained, an assize
of error was assembled in presence of
the king, and, by a verdict, which ap­
pears flagrantly unjust, founded upon
perversions of the facts and miscon­
structions of the ancient law of the
country, the service of the jury was re­
duced ; and the earldom being wrested
from the hands of its hereditary lord,
was declared to have devolved upon
the king. The transaction, in which
the rights of a private individual were
sacrificed to the desire of aggrandising
the crown, casts a severe reflection
upon the character of the king and
his ministers, and reminds us too
strongly of his father’s conduct in
appropriating the earldom of March.
It was fortunate, however, for the
monarch, that the house of Erskine
was distinguished as much by private
virtue as by hereditary loyalty; and
that, although not insensible to the
injustice with which they had been
treated, they were willing rather to
submit to the wrong than endanger
the country by redressing it. In the
meantime, James, apparently unvisited
by any compunction, settled the noble
territory which he had thus acquired

upon his third son, John, whom he
created Earl of Mar.1

Soon after this, the clemency of the
monarch was implored by one who,
from the course of his former life,
could scarcely expect that it should
be extended in his favour. John, lord
of the Isles and earl of Ross, a baron
from his early years familiar with re­
bellion, and whose coalition with the
Earls of Crawford and Douglas had,
on a former occasion, almost shook the
throne, being weakened by the death
of Crawford, and the utter defeat of
Douglas, became alarmed for the fate
which might soon overtake him, and,
by a submissive message, entreated the
royal forgiveness, offering, as far as it
was still left to him, to repair the
wrongs he had inflicted. To this com­
munication the offended monarch at
first refused to listen; because the
suppliant, like Crawford, had not in
person submitted himself uncondi­
tionally to his kingly clemency; but
after a short time, James relented
from the sternness of his resolution,
and consented to extend to the hum­
bled chief a period of probation, within
which, if he should evince the reality
of his repentance by some notable
exploit, he was to be absolved from all
the consequences of his rebellion, and
reinstated in the royal favour. What
notable service was performed by Ross
history has not recorded; but his pre­
sence, three years subsequent to this,
at the siege of Roxburgh, and his
quiescence during the interval, entitle
us to presume that he was restored to
the royal favour.

The aspect of affairs in England was
now favourable to peace, and Henry
the Sixth, with whom the Scottish
monarch had always cultivated a
friendly intercourse, having proposed
a prolongation of the truce by letters
transmitted under the privy seal,
James immediately acceded to his
wishes. A desire for the tranquillity
of his kingdom, an earnest wish to be
united in the bonds of charity and
love with all Christian princes, and a
reverent obedience to the admonitions

1 Sutherland Case, by Lord Hailes, chap. v.
p. 50.


178                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. III.

of the Pope, exhorting to peace with
all the faithful followers of Christ, and
to a strict union against the Turks
and infidels, who were the enemies of
the Catholic faith, were enumerated
by the king as the motives by which
he was actuated to extend the truce
with England for the further space of
four years,1 from the 6th of July 1459,
when the present truce terminated.
Having thus provided for his security
for a considerable period upon the side
of England, James devoted his atten­
tion to the foreign political relations
of his kingdom. An advantageous
treaty was concluded by his ambassa­
dors with John, king of Castile and
Leon. The same statesmen to whom
this negotiation was intrusted were
empowered to proceed to Denmark,
and adjust the differences between
Scotland and the northern potentate
upon the subject of the arrears due for
the Western Isles and the kingdom
of Man; whilst a representation was
made at the same time to Charles the
Seventh of France, the faithful ally of
Scotland, that the period was now long
past when the Scottish crown ought
to have received delivery of the earl­
dom of Xaintonge and lordship of
Rochfort, which were stipulated to be
conveyed to it in the marriage treaty
between the Princess Margaret, daugh­
ter of James the First, and Lewis, the
Dauphin of France. It appears by a
subsequent record of a parliament of
James the Third that the French
monarch had agreed to the demand,
and put James in possession of the

It is impossible to understand the
causes, or to trace clearly the conse­
quences of the events which at this
period occurred in Scotland without a
careful attention to the political con­
dition of the sister country, then torn
by the commencement of the fatal
contest between the houses of York
and Lancaster. In the year 1459 a
struggle had taken place amongst these
fierce competitors for the possession
of supreme power, which terminated

1 Rymer’s Fœdera, vol. xi. p. 407.
2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 104.

in favour of Henry the Sixth, who ex­
pelled from the kingdom his enemy,
the Duke of York, with whom the
Earl of Douglas, on his first flight
from Scotland, had entered into the
strictest friendship. Previous to this,
however, the Scottish renegade baron,
ever versatile and selfish, observing
the sinking fortunes of York, had em­
braced the service of the house of
Lancaster, and obtained a renewal of
his English pension as a reward from
Henry for his assistance against his
late ally of York. James at the same
time, and prior to the flight of York
to Ireland, had despatched an embassy
to Henry for the purpose of conferring
with him upon certain “ secret mat­
ters,” which of course it is vain to
look for in the instructions delivered
to the ambassadors; but Lesley, a
historian of respectable authority, in­
forms us that, at a mutual conference
between the English and Scottish com­
missioners, a treaty was concluded, by
which Henry, in return for the assis­
tance to be given him by the Scottish
king, agreed to make over to him the
county of Northumberland, along with
Durham and some neighbouring dis­
tricts, which in former times it is well
known had been the property of the
Scottish crown.3 We are not to be
astonished that the English ambassa­
dors, the Bishop of Durham, and Beau­
mont, great-chamberlain of England,
should have been required to keep
those stipulations concealed which,
had they transpired, must have ren­
dered Henry’s government so highly
unpopular; and it may be remarked
that this secret treaty, which arose
naturally out of the prior political
connexions between James and Henry,
explains the causes of the rupture of
the truce, and the subsequent invasion
of England by the Scottish monarch,
an event which, as it appears in the
narrative of our popular historians, is
involved in much obscurity.

In consequence of this secret agree­
ment, and irritated by the disturbances
which the Duke of York and his ad­
herents, in contempt of the existing
truce, perpetually excited upon the
Lesley, History of Scotland, p. 29.

1457-9.]                                           JAMES II.                                                   179

Scottish Borders, James, in the month
of August 1459, assembled a formid­
able army, which, including camp fol­
lowers and attendants, composing
nearly one-half of the whole, mus­
tered sixty thousand strong. With
this force he broke into England, and
in the short space of a week won and
destroyed seventeen towers and castles,
ravaging Northumberland with fire and
sword, pushing forward to Durham,
and wasting the neighbouring terri­
tories with that indiscriminate havoc
which, making little distinction be­
tween Yorkists or Lancastrians, threat­
ened to injure rather than to assist the
government of his ally the English
king.1 Alarmed, accordingly, at this
desolating progress, Henry despatched
a messenger to the Scottish camp, who
in an interview with the monarch ex­
plained to him that the disturbances
which had excited his resentment
originated solely in the insolence of
the Yorkists; but that he trusted to
be able to put down his enemies within
a short period without calling upon
his faithful ally for that assistance
which, if his affairs were less prosper­
ous, he would willingly receive. In
the meantime he besought him to
cease from that invasion of his do­
minions, in which, however unwillingly,
his friends as well as his foes were ex­
posed to plunder, and to draw back
his army once more into his own king­
dom. To this demand James readily
assented, and after a brief stay in
England recrossed the Borders, and
brought his expedition to a conclusion.2
Immediately after his retreat an
English army, of which the principal
leaders were the Duke of York and the
Earl of Salisbury, and which included
various barons of both factions, ap­
proached the Scottish marches, but the
meditated invasion was interrupted by
the dissensions amongst the leaders,
and a host consisting of more than
forty thousand men fell to pieces, and
dispersed without performing anything
of consequence.3 To account for so

1 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 57.

2 Extracta ex MS. Chronicis Scotiæ, fol.
389, r.

3  Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 57.

singular an occurrence, it must be re-
collected that at this moment a tem­
porary and hollow agreement had been
concluded between the Lancastrians
and the Yorkists, in which, under the
outward appearance of amity, the
causes of mortal dissension were work­
ing as deeply as before,4 so that, whilst
it was natural to find the two factions
attempting to coalesce for the purpose
of inflicting vengeance upon the Scots,
it was equally to be expected that the
king and the Lancastrians, who now
possessed the supreme power, should
be little inclined to carry matters to
extremities. A few months, however,
once more saw England involved in
the misery of civil war, and although
Henry was totally defeated by the Earl
of Salisbury, who commanded the
Yorkists in the battle of Bloreheath,
yet his fortunes seemed again to revive
upon the desertion of the Duke of
York by his army at Ludford Field;
and James, rejoicing in the success of
his ally, immediately despatched his
ambassadors, the Bishops of Glasgow
and Aberdeen, with the Abbots of
Holyrood, Melrose, and Dunfermline,
and the Lords Livingston and Aven-
dale, to meet with the commissioners
of England, confirm the truces between
the kingdoms, and congratulate the
English monarch on his successes
against his enemies.

But short was the triumph of the
unfortunate Henry, and within the
course of a single month the decisive
victory gained by the Duke of York
and the Earl of Warwick at Northamp­
ton at once destroyed the hopes of his
party, reduced himself to the state of
a captive in the hands of his implac­
able enemies, and saw his queen and
the prince, his son, compelled to seek
a retreat in Scotland. It was now
time for James seriously to exert him­
self in favour of his ally, and the as­
sistance which, under a more favour­
able aspect of his fortunes, had been
deprecated, was now anxiously im­
plored. Nor was the Scottish monarch
insensible to the entreaty, or slow to
answer the call. He received the fugi-

4 Carte, Hist, of England, vol. ii. pp. 750,

180                                   HISTORY OP SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. III.

tive queen and the youthful prince
with much affection, assigned them a
residence and allowance suitable to
their rank; and having issued his
writs for the assembly of his vassals,
and commanded the Earl of Huntly,
his lieutenant-general, to superintend
the organising of the troops, he deter­
mined upon an immediate invasion of
England. Previous, however, to this
great expedition, which ended so fatally
for the king, there had been a meeting
of the three estates, which lasted for a
considerable period, and from whose
united wisdom and experience pro­
ceeded a series of regulations which
relate almost to every branch of the
civil government of the country. To
these, which present an interesting
picture of Scotland in the fifteenth
century, even in the short sketch to
which the historian must confine him­
self, we now for a few moments direct
our attention.

The first subject which came before
parliament is entitled concerning the
“ article of the session,” and related to
the formation of committees of parlia­
ment for the administration of justice.
It was directed that the Lords of the
Session should sit three times in the
year, for forty days at a time, in Edin­
burgh, Perth, and Aberdeen ; and that
the court or committee which was to
sit should be composed of nine judges,
who were to have votes in the decision
of causes, three being chosen from each
estate, along with the clerk of the regis­
ter. Their first sitting was directed to
begin at Aberdeen on the 15th of June,
and continue thenceforward for forty
days; the second session was to com­
mence at Perth on the 5th of October,
and the third at Edinburgh on the
13th of February. The names of the
persons to be selected from the clergy,
the barons, and the burghers, as the
different members of the session, were
then particularly enumerated for the
three several periods; and the sheriff
was directed to be ready to receive
them on their entry into the town,
and undergo such trouble or charges
as might be found necessary. In a
succeeding statute, however, it was
observed that, considering the short­

ness of the period for which the Lords
of Session are to hold their court, and
the probability that they will not be
called upon to undertake such a duty
more than once every seven years, they
ought, out of their benevolence, to pay
their own costs; and upon the con­
clusion of the three yearly sessions the
king and his council promise to select
other lords from the three estates, who
should sit in the same manner as the
first, at such places as were most con­

The next subject to which the
parliament directed their attention,
regarded the defence of the country
and the arming of the lieges. “ Wap-
inschawings,” or musters, in which the
whole disposable force of a district
assembled for their exercise in arms,
and the inspection of their weapons,
were directed to be held by the lords
and barons, spiritual as well as tem­
poral, four times in the year. The
games of the football and the golf
were to be utterly abolished. Care
was to be taken that adjoining to
each parish church a pair of butts
should be made, where shooting was
to be practised every Sunday : every
man was to shoot six shots at the
least; and if any person refused to
attend, he was to be found liable in a
fine of twopence, to be given to those
who came to the bow-marks, or “ wap-
inschawings,” for drink money. This
mode of instruction was to be used
from Pasch to Alihallowmas; so that
by the next midsummer it was ex­
pected that all persons would be ready,
thus instructed and accoutred. In
every head town of the shire there
were to be a good bow-maker, and “ a
fledger” or arrow-maker. These trades­
men were to be furnished by the town
with the materials for their trade, ac­
cording as they might require them;
and if the parish was large, according
to its size, there were to be three or
four or five bow-marks set up; so that
every man within the parish, who was
within fifty, and past twelve years of
age, should be furnished with his
weapons, and practise shooting; whilst

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
fa. p. 48.

1457.]                                               JAMES II.                                                   181

those men above this age, or past
threescore, were directed to amuse
themselves with such honest games 1
as were best adapted to their time of
life, excepting always the golf and foot­

There followed a minute and in­
teresting sumptuary law, relative to
the impoverishment of the realm by
the sumptuous apparel of men and
women ; which, as presenting a vivid
picture of the dresses of the times, I
shall give as nearly as possible in the
words of the original. It will perhaps
be recollected, that in a parliament of
James the First, held in the year
1429,2 the same subject had attracted
the attention of the legislature ; and
the present necessity of a revision of
the laws against immoderate costli­
ness in apparel, indicates an increasing
wealth and prosperity in the country.
“Seeing,” it declared, “that each estate
has been greatly impoverished through
the sumptuous clothing of men and
women, especially within the burghs,
and amongst the commonality ’ to
landwart,’ the lords thought it speed­
ful that restriction of such vanity
should be made in this manner. First,
no man within burgh that lived by
merchandise, except he be a person of
dignity, as one of the aldermen or
bailies, or other good worthy men of
the council of the town, should either
himself wear, or allow his wife to
wear, clothes of silk, or costly scarlet
gowns, or furring of mertricks; " and
all were directed to take especial care
“ to make their wives and daughters
to be habited in a manner correspond­
ent to their estate; that is to say, on
their heads short curches, with little
hoods, such as are used in Flanders,
England, and other countries; and as
to the gowns, no woman should wear
mertricks or letvis, or tails of unbe­
fitting length, nor trimmed with furs,
except on holydays.”3 At the same
time, it was ordered, “that poor gentle­
men living in the country, whose pro­
perty was within forty pounds, of old

1  See supra, p. 56.

2  See supra, p. 77.

3 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 49. The word letvis is obscure,

extent, should regulate their dress ac­
cording to the same standard ; whilst
amongst the lower classes, no labour­
ers or husbandmen were to wear, on
their work­days, any other stuff than
gray or white cloth, and on holydays,
light blue, green, or red—their wives
dressing correspondently, and using
curches of their own making. The
stuff they wore was not to exceed the
price of fortypence the ell. No wo­
man was to come to the kirk or mar­
ket with her face mussalit,’ or covered,
so that she might not be known, under
the penalty of forfeiting the curch.
And as to the clerks, no one was to
wear gowns of scarlet, or furring of
mertricks, unless he were a dignified
officer in a cathedral or college-church,
or a nobleman or doctor, or a person
having an income of two hundred
marks. These orders touching the
dresses of the community, were to be
immediately published throughout the
country, and carried into peremptory
and rigorous execution.”4

Other regulations of the same par­
liament are worthy of notice; some of
them evincing a slight approach to­
wards liberty, in an attention to the
interests of the middle and lower
classes of the people, and a desire to
get loose of the grievous shackles im­
posed by the feudal system upon
many of the most important branches
of national prosperity; others, on the
contrary, imposing restrictions upon
trade and manufactures, in that spirit
of legislative interference which, for
many ages after this, retarded com­
mercial progress, and formed a blot
upon the statute book of this country,
as well as of England. With regard
to “ feu-farms,” and their leases, it was
thought expedient by the parliament
that the king should begin and set a
good example to the rest of his barons,
so that if any estate happened to be
in “ ward,” in the hands of the crown,
upon which leases had been granted,
the tenants in such farms should not
be removed, but remain upon the
land, paying to the king the rent which
had been stipulated during the cur­
Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol

182                                HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                   [Chap. III.

rency of the lease; and, in like man­
ner, where any prelate, baron, or free­
holder, wished to set either the whole
or a part of his land in “feu-farm,” the
king was to be obliged to ratify such
“ assedations,” or leases. With regard
to “ regalities,” and the privileges con­
nected with them, a grievance essen­
tially arising out of the feudal system,
it was declared that all rights and
freedoms belonging to them should be
interpreted by the strictest law, and
preserved, according to the letter of
their founding charter ; and that any
lord of regality who abused his privi­
leges, to the breaking of the king’s laws
and the injury of the country, should
be rigorously punished.1

In the same parliament it was made
a subject of earnest request to the
king that he would take into considera­
tion the great miseries inflicted upon
men of every condition, but especially
upon his poor commons, by the man­
ner of holding his itinerant chamber­
lain courts; and that, with the advice
of his three estates now assembled,
some speedy remedy might be pro­
vided. Another heavy grievance, re­
moved at this time, was a practice
which prevailed during the sitting of
parliament, and of the session, by
which the king’s constables, and other
officers, were permitted to levy a tax
upon the merchants and tradesmen
who then brought their goods to mar­
ket, encouraged by the greater demand
for their commodities. This was de­
clared henceforth illegal, unless the
right of exaction belonged to the con­
stable “ of fee,” for which he must
shew his charter.2 An attempt was
made in the same parliament to abo­
lish that custom of entering into
“ bands or leagues,” of which we have
seen so many pernicious consequences
in the course of this history. It was
declared, that “ within the burghs
throughout the realm no bands or
leagues were to be permitted, and no
rising or commotion amongst the com­
mons, with the object of hindering the
execution of the common law of the

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 49.
Ibid. vol. ii. p. 50.

realm, unless at the express com­
mandment of their head officers;”and
that no persons who dwelt within
burghs should either enter into “ man
rent,” or ride, or “ rout” in warlike
apparel, with any leader except the
king, or his officers, or the lord of the
burgh within which they dwelt, under
the penalty of forfeiting their lives
and having their goods confiscated to
the king.3

With regard to those lawless and
desperate, or, as they are termed in
the act, “ masterful persons, who did
not scruple to seize other men’s lands
by force of arms, and detain them from
their owners,” application was directed
to be instantly made to the sheriff,
who, under pain of being dismissed
from his office, was to proceed to the
spot and expel such occupants from
the ground, or, on their refusal, com­
mit them to the king’s ward; a service
easily prescribed by the wisdom of the
three estates, but, as they were pro­
bably well aware, not to be carried
into execution except at the peril of
the life of the officer to whom it was
intrusted. All persons of every de­
gree, barons, lords spiritual, or simple
freeholders, were enjoined, when they
attended the justice-ayres or sheriff
courts, to come in sober and quiet
manner, with no more attendants than
composed their daily household, and
taking care that on entering their inn
or lodging, they laid their harness and
warlike weapons aside, using for the
time nothing but their knives; and
where any persons at deadly feud
should happen to meet at such assem­
blies, the sheriff was directed to take
pledges from both, binding them to
keep the peace; whilst, for the better
regulation of the country at the period
when justice-ayres were held, and in
consequence of the great and mixed
multitude which was then collected
together, the king’s justice was com­
manded to search for and apprehend
all masterful beggars, all idle sornars,
all itinerant bards and feigned fools,
and either to banish them from the
country, or commit them to the com-

3 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 50,

1457.]                                              JAMES II.                                                    183

mon prison. Lit, or dye, was to be
cried up,” and no litstar or dyer was
to follow the trade of a draper, or to
be permitted to buy or sell cloth;
whilst regarding the estate of mer­
chandise, and for the purpose of re­
stricting the multitude of “ sailors,”
it was the unanimous opinion of the
clergy, the barons, and the king, that
no person should be allowed to sail or
trade in ships but such as were of
good reputation and ability; that they
should have at the least three ser-
plaiths of their own goods, or the
same intrusted to them; and that
those who traded by sea in merchan­
dise ought to be freemen and indwell­
ers within burghs.1

In the same parliament some striking
regulations are met with regarding the
encouragement extended to agricul­
ture, and the state of the woods and
forests throughout the country. Every
man possessed of a plough and of eight
oxen was commanded to sow, at the
least, each year, a firlot of wheat, half
a firlot of pease, and forty beans, under
the penalty of ten shillings to the
baron of the land where he dwelt, as
often as he was found in fault; and if
the baron sowed not the same propor­
tions of grain, pease, and beans, in his
own domains, he was to pay ten shil­
lings to the king for his own offence,
and forty shillings if he neglected to
levy the statutory penalty against his
husbandmen. The disappearance of
the wood of Scotland under the reign
of James the First, and the attention
of the legislature to this subject, have
already been noticed.2 It appears from
one of the provisions of this parliament,
held by his successor, that some anxiety
upon this subject was still entertained
by the legislature; for we find it de­
clared that, “regarding the plantation
of woods and hedges, and the sowing
of broom, the lords thought it ad­
visable that the king should advise all
his freeholders, both spiritual and tem­
poral, to make it a provision in their
Whitsunday’s lease that all tenants
should plant woods and trees, make

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 49.
See supra, p. 61.

hedges, and sow broom, in places best
adapted, according to the nature of the
farm, under a penalty to be fixed by
the proprietor; and that care should be
taken that the enclosures and hedges
were not constructed of dry stakes
driven into the ground, and wattled,
or of dry worked or planed boards,
but of living trees, which might grow
and be plentiful in the land.” 3

With regard to the preservation of
such birds and wild fowls as “ are
gainful for the sustention of man,”
namely, partridge, plover, wild-ducks,
and suchlike, it was declared that no
one should destroy their nests or their
eggs, or slay them in moulting time
when unable to fly; and that, on the
contrary, all manner of persons should
be encouraged, by every method that
could be devised, utterly to extirpate
all “ fowls of reiff,” such as erns, buz­
zards, gleds, mytalls, rooks, crows,
wherever they might be found to build
and harbour; “for,” say the three es­
tates, “ the slaughter of these will
cause the multiplication of great mul­
titudes of divers kinds of wild fowls
for man’s sustentation.” In the same
spirit, red-fish, meaning salmon and
grilse, were forbidden to be taken in
close time under a fine of forty pounds;
and no manner of vessel, creel, or other
contrivance, was to be used for the
purpose of intercepting the spawn or
smelt in their passage to the sea, under
the like penalty.

Touching the destruction of the wolf,
it was enjoined by the parliament that
where such animals were known to
haunt, the sheriff, or the bailies of the
district, should assemble the popula­
tion three times in the year, between
St Mark’s day and Lammas, which is
the time of the whelps; and whoever
refused to attend the muster should
be fined a wedder, as is contained in
the old act of James the First on this
subject. He who slew a wolf was to
be entitled to a penny from every
household in the parish where it was
killed, upon bringing the head to the
sheriff; and if he brought the head of
a fox, he was to receive sixpence from

3 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 51.

184                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. III.

the same officer. The well-known
enactment passed in the reign of James
the First, against leasing-making, or the
crime of disseminating false reports, by
which discord might be created be­
tween the king and his subjects, was
confirmed in its full extent; and the
statutes of the same prince regarding
the non-attendance of freeholders in
parliament whose holding was under
forty pounds; the use of one invari­
able “ measure “ throughout the realm;
the restriction of “muir burning” after
the month of March, till the corn had
been cut down; and the publication
of the acts of the legislature, by copies
given to the sheriffs and commissaries
of burghs, which were to be openly
proclaimed and read throughout their
counties and communities, were re­
peated, and declared to be maintained
in full force.

The enactments of the parliament
concluded by an affectionate exhorta­
tion and prayer, which it would injure
to give in any words but its own:
“ Since,” it declared, “ God of His
grace had sent our sovereign lord such
progress and prosperity, that all his
rebels and breakers of justice were
removed out of his realm, and no
potent or masterful party remained
there to cause any disturbance, pro­
vided his highness was inclined him­
self to promote the peace and common
profit of the realm, and to see equal
justice distributed amongst his sub­
jects ; his three estates, with all hu­
mility, exhorted and required his high­
ness so diligently to devote himself to
the execution of these acts and statutes
above written, that God may be pleased
with him, and that all his subjects
may address their prayers for him
to God, and give thanks to their
heavenly Father, for His goodness in
sending them such a prince to be
their governor and defender.”1 Such
was the solemn conclusion of the last
parliament of James of which any
material record has been preserved;
for, although we have certain evidence
of three meetings of the great council
of the nation subsequent to this, the

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 52.

fact is only established by insulated
charters, which convey no information
of their particular proceedings. The
peroration is affectionate, but marked,
also, with a tone of honest freedom
approaching to remonstrance. It
might almost lead us to suspect that
James’s late unjustifiable proceedings,
regarding the earldom of Mar, had
occasioned some unquiet surmisings in
the minds of his nobility, that he
possibly intended to use the excuse
afforded him by the reiterated rebel­
lion of the Douglases to imitate the
designs of his father, and to attempt
to complete the scheme for the sup­
pression of the aristocracy of the king­
dom, which had cost that monarch his

In the meantime, however, the king
assembled his army. An acute writer
has pronounced it difficult to discover
the pretences or causes which induced
James to infringe the truce;2 but we
have only to look to the captivity of
Henry the Sixth, the triumph of the
Yorkists in the battle of Northampton,
and the subsequent flight of the Queen
of England to the Scottish court, to
account satisfactorily for the invasion.
James’ was bound, both by his per­
sonal friendship and connexion with
Henry, by a secret treaty, already
alluded to, and by his political rela­
tions with France, the ally of the
house of Lancaster, to exert himself
for its restoration to the throne ; and
it has already been shewn that, by the
articles of the treaty, his assistance
was not to go unrewarded. As long,
however, as Henry and his energetic
queen had the prospect of reducing
the opposition of the house of York,
and, by their unassisted efforts, secur­
ing a triumph over their enemies, the
invasion of the Scottish monarch would
have detracted from the popularity of
their party, and thrown an air of
odium even over their success; but
now that the king was a captive in the
hands of his enemies, and his queen a
fugitive in a foreign land, the assist­
ance of James, and the fulfilment of
the stipulations of the treaty, were

2 Pinkerton, Hist, of Scotland, vol. i. p.

1459-60.]                                        JAMES II.                                                    185

anxiously required. The only key to
the complicated understanding of the
transactions of Scotland during the
wars of the Two Roses, is to recollect
that the hostilities of James were
directed, not against England, but
against the successes of the house of

Since the calamitous battle of Dur­
ham, and the captivity of David the
Second, a period embracing upwards
of a hundred years, the important
frontier fortress of Roxburgh had
been in the possession of England.
It was now commanded by Neville,
lord Fauconberg,i a connexion of the
Earl of Warwick, the principal sup­
porter of the cause of the Yorkists,
and James determined to commence
his campaign by besieging it in person.
On being joined, accordingly, by the
Earl of Huntly, his lieutenant-general,
and the Earl of Angus, who had risen
into great estimation with his sove­
reign from the cordial assistance which
he had given in the suppression of the
rebellion of Douglas, the king pro­
ceeded across the Borders, at the head
of an army which was probably su­
perior in numbers to that which he
had lately conducted against England.
He was joined also by the Earl of
Ross, to whom we have seen that he
had extended a conditional pardon,
and who, eager to prove himself
worthy of an entire restoration to the
royal favour, came to the camp with a
powerful body of his fierce and war­
like vassals.2 The siege was now
opened, but it was destined to receive
a sudden and melancholy interruption.
The king, who had carried along with
the army some of those rude pieces of
ordnance which began now to be em­
ployed in Scottish war,3 proceeded, in

1 Ayloffe’s Calendars of Ancient Charters,
p. 281.

2  The Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 57, says,
“ The yer of God, 1460, the thrid Sunday of
August, King James the Secund, with ane
gret oist. was at the sege of Roxburgh.”

3  Barbour, p. 392, informs us, that at the
skirmish on the Were, in 1327, the Scots ob­
served two marvellous things in the English
army, which were entirely new to them :—

" Tymmeris for helmys war the tane,
The tothyr crakys were of weir.”
These “crakys of weir” were in all proba-

company with the Earl of Angus, and
others of his nobility, to examine a
battery which had begun to play upon
the town. Of the cannon which com­
posed it, one was a great gun of Flem­
ish manufacture, which had been pur­
chased by James the First, but little
employed during his pacific reign. It
was constructed of longitudinal bars of
iron, fixed with iron hoops, which were
made tight in a very rude manner, by
strong oaken wedges. This piece, from
the ignorance of the engineer, had
been overcharged, and as the king
stood near, intently observing the di­
rection of the guns, it unfortunately
exploded, and struck the monarch with
one of its massy wooden wedges in the
body. The blow was followed by in­
stant death,4 having fallen upon the
mortal region of the groin, and broken
the thigh; whilst the Earl of Angus,
who stood near, was severely wounded
by the same fragment.5

An event so lamentable, which cut
off their prince in the sight of his
army, whilst he was yet in the flower
of his strength, and in the very en­
trance of manhood, was accompanied
by universal regret and sorrow ; and,
perhaps, there is no more decisive
proof of the affection with which the
nobility were disposed to regard the
monarch, thus untimely snatched from
them, than the first step which they
adopted, in despatching a message to
the court, requiring the immediate
attendance of the queen, with a strict
injunction to bring her eldest son, the
prince, now king, along with her.6
Nor was the queen-mother, although
overpowered by the intelligence of her
husband’s death, of a character which,
in the over-indulgence of feminine
bility the first attempts to use cannon ; but
although Froissart asserts that, in Scotland,
guns were used at the siege of Stirling, in
1339, the fact is exceedingly doubtful.

4  MS. Extracta ex Chronicis Scotiæ, f. 289.
“Casus iste de morte regis si dici potest,
longo ante, ut fertur, preostensa est regi, per
quendan Johannem Tempelman, qui fuit
pater Domini Willmi Tempelman, Superioris
Monasterii de Cambuskenneth, qui dum gre-
gem in Montibus Ochillis.” Here the manu­
script abruptly breaks off without concluding
the tale of wonder.

5  Lesley, Hist. p. 31.

6 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 57.

186                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. III.

sorrow, was likely to forget the great
duties which she owed to her son.
Attended by a small suite, in which
were some of the prelates who formed
the wisest counsellors of the deceased
monarch, she travelled night and day
to Roxburgh, and soon presented her­
self in the midst of the army, clothed
in her weeds, and holding in her hand
the little prince, then a boy of only
eight years of age, whom, with tears,
she introduced to them as their king.
The sight was well calculated to arouse
to a high pitch the feelings of loyalty
and devotedness ; and availing herself
of the enthusiasm of the moment, she
with a magnanimity and vigour which
did her honour, besought the nobles to
continue the siege, and earnestly de­
precated the idea of breaking up the
leaguer, or disbanding the army, be­
fore they had made themselves masters
of a fortress, the possession of which
was of the first importance to Scot­
land. Heart-broken as she was with
the loss of her beloved lord, she would
rather celebrate his obsequies, she said,
by the accomplishment of a victory
which he had so much at heart, than
waste the time in vain regrets and
empty lamentations. And such was
the effect of her appeal, that the
leaders of the army, and the soldiers
themselves, catching the ardour with
which she was animated, instantly re­
commenced the attack, and, pressing
the assault with the most determined
fury, carried the castle by storm, on
the very day of her arrival in the

It must be recollected that James
had not completed his thirtieth year
when he met his death in this untimely
manner ; and of course the greater
portion of his life and reign was occu­
pied by a minority, during which the
nation was in that state of internal
disorganisation so lamentably frequent
where such an event occurs under a
feudal government. Taking this into
consideration, we need not hesitate to
pronounce him a prince of unusual
vigour and capacity ; and perhaps the
eulogium of Buchanan, no obsequious
granter of praise to kings, is one of
Lesley, Hist. p. 32.

the strongest proofs of this asser­
tion. His wisdom in the internal
administration of his kingdom was
conspicuously marked by the fre­
quency with which he assembled his
parliament, and by a series of zea­
lous and anxious, if not always en­
lightened, laws for the regulation of
the commerce, and the encouragement
of the agriculture of the country, for
the organisation of the judicial de­
partments, and the protection of the
middling and lower classes of his sub­
jects, whether farmers, artisans, or
merchants. His genius in war was
not exhibited in any great military
triumphs, for he was cut off in the
outset of his career; but the success
with which he put down, by force of
arms, the repeated rebellions of some
of the most powerful of his nobility;
the attention which he paid to the
arming of his subjects, and the en­
couragement of warlike exercises
amongst the people ; his directions to
his higher nobles to devote themselves
to the study of artillery and the con­
struction of cannon ; and the ardour
with which he appears to have engaged
in his first war with England, although
it does not justify the hyperbolical
panegyric of Abercromby and Johnson,
entitles us to believe, that in a mili­
tary contest with England, the na­
tional honour would not have been
sullied in his hands. It is not impro­
bable, however, that, had he lived a
little longer, his maturer wisdom and
experience would have considered
even a successful war, which was not
undertaken for the purposes of na­
tional defence, a severe calamity,
rather than a subject of glory or con­

His policy of employing the most
able and enlightened amongst the
clergy as his chief ministers, to whom
he intrusted his foreign negotiations,
as well as the chief offices in the
judicial and financial departments of
the government, was borrowed from
the example of his father, but improved
upon, and more exclusively followed
by the wisdom of the son ; whilst his
discrimination in selecting for the
military enterprises in which he was

1460.]                                               JAMES III.                                                  187

engaged, such able commanders as
Huntly and Angus, and that judici­
ous union of firmness and lenity by
which he ultimately disarmed of their
enmity, and attached to his interest,
such fierce spirits as the Earl of Craw­
ford and the Lord of the Isles, do equal
honour to the soundness of his judg­
ment, and to the kindly feelings of his
heart. That he was naturally of a
violent and ungovernable temper, the
unjustifiable assassination of Douglas
too lamentably demonstrated; but the
catastrophe appears to have made the
deepest impression upon a youthful
mind which, though keen, was of an
affectionate temperament fitted to feel
deeply the revulsion of remorse; and
the future lenity of a reign fertile in
rebellion, is to be traced perhaps to
the consequences of his crime, and
the lessons taught him by his repent­

In estimating his character, another
subject for praise is to be found in the
skill with which he divided into sepa­
rate factions an aristocracy which,
under any general or permanent com­
bination, would have been far too
powerful for the crown; in the art
by which he held out to them the
prospect of rising upon the ruins of
their associates in rebellion, and, by a
judicious distribution of the estates
and the dignities which were set afloat

by treason, induced them to destroy,
or at least to weaken and neutralise
the strength of each other. This policy,
under the management of such able
ministers as Kennedy and Crichton,
was his chief instrument in carrying
to a successful conclusion one of his
most prominent enterprises, the de­
struction of the immense and over­
grown power of the house of Douglas,
an event which is in itself sufficient to
mark his reign as an important era in
the history of the country.

The person of this prince was robust,
and well adapted for those warlike and
knightly exercises in which he is said
to have excelled. His countenance
was mild and intelligent, but deformed
by a large red mark on the cheek, which
has given him, amongst contemporary
chronicles, the surname of “James
with the fiery face.” By his queen
he left three sons : James, his succes­
sor, Alexander, duke of Albany, and
John, earl of Mar; and two daughters :
Mary, who took to her first husband
Lord Boyd, and afterwards Lord Hamil­
ton, and Margaret, who married Sir
William Crichton, son of the chancel­
lor. From a charter which is quoted
by Sir James Balfour, it would appear
that he had another son, named David,
created Earl of Moray, who, along
with a daughter, died in early in-

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