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In James the First Scotland was at
length destined to receive a sovereign
of no common character and endow­
ments. We have seen that when a
boy of fourteen he was seized by the
English, and from that time till his
return in 1424, twenty years of his
life, embracing the period of all others
the most important and decisive in
the formation of future character, had
been passed in captivity. If unjust
in his detention, Henry the Fourth
appears to have been anxious to com­
pensate for his infringement of the
law of nations by the care which he
bestowed upon the education of the
youthful monarch. He was instructed
in all the warlike exercises, and in the
high-bred observances and polished
manners of the school of chivalry; he
was generously provided with masters
in the various arts and sciences; and
as it was the era of the revival of
learning in England, the age especially
of the rise of poetic literature in
Chaucer and Gower, his mind and
imagination became deeply infected
with a passion for those elegant pur­
suits. But James, during his long
captivity, enjoyed far higher advan­
tages. He was able to study the arts
of government, to make his observa­
tions on the mode of administering
justice in England, and to extract
wisdom and experience from a per-

1 Rymer, Fœdera, vol. x. pp. 333, 343.
Dated April 5, 1425.

sonal acquaintance with the disputes
between the sovereign and his nobility;
whilst in the friendship and confidence
with which he appears to have been
uniformly treated by Henry the Fifth,
who made him the partner of his cam­
paigns in France, he became acquainted
with the politics of both countries, re­
ceived his education in the art of war
from one of the greatest captains whom
it has produced; and, from his not
being personally engaged, had leisure
to avail himself to the utmost of the
opportunities which his peculiar situa­
tion presented. There were other
changes also which were then gradu­
ally beginning to manifest themselves
in the political condition of the two
countries, which, to his acute and dis­
cerning mind, must necessarily have
presented a subject of thought and
speculation—I mean the repeated ris­
ings of the commons against the in­
tolerable tyranny of the feudal nobility,
and the increased wealth and conse­
quence of the middle classes of the
state; events which, in the moral his­
tory of those times, are of deep interest
and importance, and of which the
future monarch of Scotland was a per­
sonal observer. The school, therefore,
in which James was educated seems
to have been eminently qualified to
produce a wise and excellent king;
and the history of his reign corrobor­
ates this observation.

On entering his kingdom, James

1424.]                                                JAMES I.                                                      51

proceeded to Edinburgh, where he held
the festival of Easter; and on the
twenty-first of May he and his queen
were solemnly crowned in the Abbey
Church of Scone. According to an
ancient hereditary right, the king was
placed in the royal seat by the late
governor, Murdoch, duke of Albany
and earl of Fife, whilst Henry Ward-
law, bishop of St Andrews, the same
faithful prelate to whom the charge
of his early education had been com­
mitted, anointed his royal master, and
placed the crown upon his head, amid
a crowded assembly of the nobility
and clergy, and the shouts and re­
joicings of the people. The king then
proceeded to bestow the honour of
knighthood upon Alexander Stewart,
the younger son of the Duke of Albany;
upon the Earls of March, Angus, and
Crawford; William Hay of Errol, con­
stable of Scotland, John Scrymgeour,
constable of Dundee, Alexander Seton
of Gordon, and eighteen others of the
principal nobility and barons; 1 after
which he convoked his parliament on
the 26th of May, and proceeded to the
arduous task of inquiring into the
abuses of the government, and adopt­
ing measures for their reformation.

Hitherto James had been but im­
perfectly informed regarding the
extent to which the government of
Albany and his feeble successor had
promoted, or permitted, the grossest
injustice and the most unlicensed
peculation. He had probably sus­
pected that the picture had been ex­
aggerated ; and with that deliberate
policy which constituted a striking
part of his character, he resolved to
conduct his investigations in person,
before he gave the slightest hint of
his ultimate intentions. It is said,
indeed, that when he first entered the
kingdom, the dreadful description
given by one of his nobles of the un­
bridled licentiousness and contempt
of the laws which everywhere pre­
vailed threw him for a moment off his
guard. “ Let God but grant me life,”
cried he, with a loud voice, “ and there
shall not be a spot in my dominions

1 Extracta ex Chronicis Scotiæ, MS. fol. 269,
270. Fordun a Groodal, vol. ii. p. 474.

where the key shall not keep the
castle, and the furze-bush the cow,
though I myself should lead the life
of a dog to accomplish it! " 2 This,
however, was probably spoken in con­
fidence, for the object of the king was
to inform himself of the exact con­
dition of his dominions without excit­
ing alarm, or raising a suspicion, which
might foster opposition and induce
concealment. The very persons who
sat in this parliament, and through
whose assistance the investigation
must be conducted, were themselves
the worst defaulters; an imprudent
word escaping him, and much more
a sudden imprisonment or a hasty,
perhaps an unsuccessful, attempt at
impeachment, would have been the
signal for the nobles to fly to their
estates and shut themselves up in their
feudal castles, where they could have
defied every effort of the king to ap­
prehend them; and in this way all his
plans might have been defeated or in­
definitely protracted, and the country
plunged into something approaching
to a civil war.

The three estates of the realm hav­
ing been assembled, certain persons
were elected for the determination of
the “Articles" to be proposed to them
by the king, leave of returning home
being given to the other members of
the parliament. Committees of parlia­
ment had already been introduced by
David the Second, on the ground of
general convenience, and the anxiety
of the barons and landholders to be
present on their estates during the
time of harvest.3 From this period
to the present time, embracing an in­
terval of more than half a century,
the destruction of the records of the
parliaments of Robert the Second
and Third, and of the government of
Albany and his son, renders it impos­
sible to trace the progress of this im­
portant change, by which we now
find the Lords of the Articles “ certe
persone ad articulos,”
an acknowledged
institution, in the room of the par­
liamentary committees of David the

2  Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 511.

3  Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, sub
anno 1424, History, supra, vol. i. p. 263.

52                                 HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                     [Chap. II.

Second ; but it is probable that the
king availed himself of this privilege
to form a small body of the nobility,
clergy and burgesses, of whose fidelity
he was secure, and who lent him their
assistance in the difficult task upon
which he now engaged.

The parliament opened with an
enactment commanding all men to
honour the Church, declaring that its
ministers should enjoy, in all things,
their ancient freedom and established
privileges, and that no person should
dare to hinder the clergy from granting
leases of their lands or tithes, under
the spiritual censures commonly in­
curred by such prevention. A procla­
mation followed, directed against the
prevalence of private war and feuds
amongst the nobility, enjoining the
king’s subjects to maintain thencefor­
ward a firm peace throughout the
realm, and discharging all barons,
under the highest pains of the law,
from “ moving or making war against
each other ; from riding through the
country with a more numerous fol­
lowing of horse than properly belonged
to their estate, or for which, in their
progress, due payment was not made
to the king’s lieges and hostellars.
All such riders or gangars,” upon
complaint being made, were to be
apprehended by the officers of the
lands where the trespass had been
committed, and kept in sure custody
till the king declared his pleasure
regarding them; and, in order to the
due execution of this and other enact­
ments, it was ordained that officers
and ministers of the laws should be
appointed generally throughout the
realm, whose personal estate must be
of wealth and sufficiency enough to
be proceeded against, in the event of
malversation, and from whose vigour
and ability the “commons of the land “
should be certain of receiving justice.1

The penalty of rebellion or treason
against the king’s person was declared
to be the forfeiture of life, lands, and
goods, whilst all friends or supporters

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 2. Statutes of the Realm, Rich, II. vol.
ii. pp. 9, 10. Statutes against Bonds or Con­

of rebels were to be punished accord
ing to the pleasure of the sovereign.
The enactments which followed re­
garding those troops of sturdy men­
dicants who traversed the country,
extorting charity where it was not
speedily bestowed, present us with
some curious illustrations of the man­
ners of the times. The king com­
manded that no companies of such
loose and unlicensed persons should
be permitted to beg or insist on
quarters from any husbandman or
Churchman, sojourning in the abbeys
or on the farm granges, and devouring
the wealth of the country. An excep­
tion was made in favour of “ royal
beggars,” with regard to whom it is
declared that the king had agreed,
by advice of his parliament, that no
beggars or “thiggars” be permitted
to beg, either in the burgh or through­
out the country, between the ages of
fourteen and threescore and ten years,
unless it be first ascertained by the
council of the burgh that they are
incapacitated from supporting them­
selves in any other way. It was
directed that they who were thus per­
mitted to support themselves should
wear a certain token, to be furnished
them by the sheriff, or the alderman
and bailies; and that proclamation be
made that all beggars having no such
tokens do immediately betake them­
selves to such trades as may enable
them to win their own living, under
the penalty of burning on the cheek
and banishment from the country.2
It is curious to discern, in this primi­
tive legislative enactment, the first
institution of the king’s blue-coats or
bedesmen, a venerable order of privi­
leged mendicants, whose existence
has but ceased within the present

During the weak administration of
Robert the Second and Third, and still
more under the unprincipled govern­
ment of Albany, the “ great customs,”
or the duties levied throughout the
realm upon the exportation or impor
tation of merchandise, had been di­
minished by various grants to private

2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. pp. 2, 8.

1424.]                                               JAMES I.                                                      53

persons ; and, in addition to this, the
crown lauds had been shamelessly
alienated and dilapidated. It was
declared by the parliament that in all
time coming the great customs should
remain in the hands of the king for
the support of his royal estate, and
that all persons who made any claim
upon such customs should produce to
the sovereign the deed or grant upon
which such a demand was maintained.1
With regard to the lands and rents
which were formerly in possession of
the ancestors of the king, it was pro­
vided that special directions should be
given to the different sheriffs through­
out the realm to make inquiries of
the oldest and worthiest officers with­
in their sheriffdom, as to the particular
lands or annual rents which belonged
to the king, or in former times were
in the hands of his royal predecessors,
David the Second, Robert the Second,
and Robert the Third. In these
returns by the sheriffs, the names of
the present possessors of these lands
were directed to be included, and an
inquest was then to be summoned,
who, after having examined the pro­
per evidence, were enjoined to return
a verdict under their seals, adjudging
the property to belong to the crown.
To facilitate such measures, it was
declared that the king may summon,
according to his free will and pleasure,
his various tenants and vassals to
exhibit their charters and holdings, in
order to discover the exact extent of
their property.2

The next enactment related to a
very important subject, the payment
of the fifty thousand marks which
were due to England, and the deliver­
ance of the hostages who were de­
tained in security. Upon this sub­
ject it was ordained that a specific
sum should be raised upon the whole
lands of the kingdom, including regal­
ity lands as well as others, as it would
be grievous and heavy upon the com­
mons to raise the whole “finance” at

1 See a statute of Richard the Second on
the same subject, pp. 41, 42, vol. ii. Statutes
of the Realm.

2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 4,

once. For this purpose, an aid or
donative, expressed in the statute by
the old Saxon Word a zelde, and
amounting to the sum of twelve
pennies in every pound, was directed
to be raised upon all rents, lands, and
goods, belonging to lords and barons
within their domains, including both
corn and cattle. From this valuation,
however, all riding horses, draught
oxen, and household utensils, were ex-
cepted. The burgesses, in like man­
ner, were directed to contribute their
share out of their goods and rents.
In addition to this donative, the
parliament determined that certain
taxes should also be raised upon the
cattle and the corn, the particulars of
which were minutely detailed in the
record. As to the tax upon all grain
which was then housed, excepting the
purveyance of the lords and barons for
their own consumption, it was ordained
that the boll of wheat should pay two
shillings; the boll of rye, bear, and
pease, sixteenpence; and the boll of
oats, sixpence. With regard to the
green corn, all the standing crops were
to remain untaxed until brought into
the barn. As to cattle, it was de­
termined that a cow and her calf, or
quey of two years old, should pay
six shillings and eightpence; a draught
ox the same ; every wedder and ewe,
each at the rate of twelve pennies;
every goat, gimmer, and dinmont,
the same; each wild mare, with her
colt of three year old, ten shillings;
and lastly, every colt of three years
and upwards, a mark.3

For the purpose of the just collec­
tion of this tax throughout the coun­
try, it was directed that every sheriff
should within his own sheriffdom sum­
mon the barons and freeholders of the
king, and by their advice select cer­
tain honest and discreet men, who
should be ready to abide upon all
occasions the scrutiny of the sovereign
as to their faithful discharge of their
office in the taxation; and to whom
the task of making an “ Extent,” as
it was technically called, or, in other
words, of drawing up an exact inven­
tory of the property of the country,

3 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, p. 4,

54                                      HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                        [Chap. II.

should be committed. These officers,
or “ extentours,” are directed to be
sworn as to the faithful execution of
their office, before the barons of the
sheriffdom; they are commanded, in
order to insure a more complete in­
vestigation, to take with them the
parish priest, who is to be enjoined by
his bishop to inform them faithfully
of all the goods in the parish; and
having done so, they are then to mark
down the extent in a book furnished
for the purpose, in which the special
names of every town in the kingdom,
and of every person dwelling therein,
with the exact amount of their pro­
perty, was to be particularly enume­
rated ; all which books were to be de­
livered into the hands of the king’s
auditors at Perth, upon the 12th day
of July next. It is deeply to be re­
gretted that none of these records of
the property of the kingdom have
reached our time.

It was further declared upon this
important subject, that all the lands
of the kingdom should be taxed ac­
cording to their present value, and
that the tax upon all goods and. gear
should be paid in money of the like
value with the coin then current in
the realm. It was specially enjoined
that no one in the kingdom, whether
he be of the rank of clerk, baron, or
burgess, should be excepted from pay­
ment of this tax, and that all should
have the money ready to be delivered
within fifteen days after the taxation
had been struck, the officers employed
in its collection being empowered,
upon failure, to take payment in kind,
a cow being estimated at five shillings;
a ewe or wedder, at twelve pence ; a
goat, gimmer, or dinmont, at eight-
pence ; a three-year-old colt at a mark;
a wild mare and her foal at ten shil­
lings ; a boll of wheat at twelve pen­
nies ; of rye, bear, and pease, at eight-
pence ; and of oats, at threepence.1
If the lord of the land, where such
payment in kind had been taken, chose
to advance the sum for his tenants,
the sheriffs were commanded to de­
liver the goods to him; if not, they

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.

were to be sold at the next market
cross, or sent to the king.

It was next determined by the par­
liament that the prelates should tax
their rents and kirks in the same
manner, and at the same rate, as the
baron’s land; every bishop in each
deanery of his diocese being directed
to cause his official and dean to sum­
mon all his tenants and freeholders
before him, and to select tax-gatherers,
whose duty it was to “extend” the
ecclesiastical lands in the same way as
the rest of the property of the coun­
try; it being provided, in every in­
stance where a churchman paid the
whole value of his benefice, that the
fruits of his kirk lands should next
year be free from all imposition or
exaction. In the taxation of the rents
and goods of the burgesses, the sheriff
was directed to send a superintendent
to see that the tax-gatherers, who were
chosen by the aldermen and bailies,
executed their duty faithfully and
truly; and it was directed that the
salary and expenses of the various col­
lectors in baronies, burghs, or church
lands, should be respectively deter­
mined by the sheriff, aldermen, and pre­
lates, and deducted from the whole
amount of the tax, when it was given
into the hands of the “ auditors " ap­
pointed by the king to receive the
gross sum, on the 12th day of July, at
Perth. The auditors appointed were
the Bishops of Dunkeld and Dunblane,
the Abbots of Balmerinoch and St
Colm’s Inch, Mr John Scheves, the
Earl of Athole, Sir Patrick Dunbar,
William Borthwick, Patrick Ogilvy,
James Douglas of Balveny, and Wil­
liam Erskine of Kinnoul. I have been
anxious to give the entire details of
this scheme of taxation, as it furnishes
us with many interesting facts illus-
trative of the state of property in the
country at this early period of its his­
tory, and as it is not to be found in
the ordinary edition of the Statutes of
James the First.

After some severe enactments against
the slayers of salmon within the for­
bidden time, which a posterior statute
informs us was in the interval between
the feast of the Assumption of Our

1424.1                                              JAMES I.                                                        55

Lady and the feast of St Andrew in
the winter, it was declared that all
yairs and cruves, (meaning certain me­
chanical contrivances for the taking of
fish by means of wattled traps placed
between two walls in the stream of
the river,) which have been built in
fresh waters where the sea ebbs and
flows, should be put down for three
years, on account of the destruction of
the spawn, or young fry, which they ne­
cessarily occasion. This regulation was
commanded to be peremptorily en­
forced, even by those whose charters
included a right of “ cruve fishing,”
under the penalty of a hundred shil­
lings; and the ancient regulation re­
garding the removal of the cruve on
Saturday night, known by the name
of “ Saturday’s Slap,” as well as the
rules which determined the statutory
width of the “ hecks,” or wattled inter­
stices, were enjoined to be strictly ob­
served.1 The extent to which the
fisheries had been carried in Scotland,
and the object which they formed even
to the foreign fishcurers, appeared in
the statutory provisions regarding the
royal custom imposed upon all herring
taken within the realm, being one
penny upon every thousand fresh her­
ring sold in the market. Upon every
last of herring which were taken by
Scottish fishermen and barrelled, a
duty of four shillings, and on every
last taken by strangers, a duty of six
shillings was imposed; whilst, from
every thousand red herrings made
within the kingdom, a duty of four
pennies was to be exacted.2

With regard to mines of gold or
silver, it was provided that wherever
such have been discovered within the
lands of any lord or baron, if it can be
proved that three half pennies of silver
can be produced out of the pound of
lead, the mine should, according to
the established practice of other realms,
belong to the king—a species of pro­
perty from which there is no evidence
that any substantial wealth ever flowed
into the royal exchequer. It was en-

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 5.

2 A last, according to Skene, contains
twelve great barrels, or fourteen smaller
barrels, pp. 139, 140.

acted that no gold or silver should be
permitted to be carried forth of the
realm, except it pay a duty of forty
pence upon every pound exported ;
and in the event of any attempt to
contravene this provision, the de­
faulter was to forfeit the whole gold
or silver, and to pay a fine of forty-one
pennies to the king. It was moreover
provided that in every instance where
merchant strangers have disposed of
their goods for money, they should
either expend the same in the pur­
chase of Scottish merchandise, or in
the payment of their personal expenses,
for proof of which they must bring
the evidence of the host of the inn
where they made their abode; or, if
they wished to carry it out of the
realm, they were to pay the duty upon
exportation.3 It was determined that
the money in present circulation
throughout the realm, which had been
greatly depreciated from the original
standard, should be called in, and a
new coinage issued of like weight and
fineness with the money of England.

It having been found that a con­
siderable trade had been carried on
in the sale and exportation of oxen,
sheep and horses, it was provided, in
the same spirit of unenlightened po­
licy which distinguished the whole
body of the statutes relative to the
commerce of the country, that upon
every pound of the price received in
such transactions a duty of twelve
pennies should be levied by the king.
Upon the same erroneous principle, so
soon as it was discovered that a con­
siderable trade was carried on in the
exportation of the skins of harts and
hinds, of martins, fumarts, rabbits,
does, roes, otters, and foxes, it was pro­
vided that a check should be given to
this flourishing branch of trade, by
imposing a certain tax or custom upon
each of such commodities, in the event
of their being purchased for exporta­
tion.4 It appears that many abuses

3 In England, by a statute of Henry IV.,
merchant strangers were permitted to export
one-half of the money received for their
manufactures. Statutes of the Realm, vol. ii.
p. 122.

4 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 6.

56                                      HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                         [Chap. II.

had crept into the ecclesiastical state
of the country by the frequent pur-
chase of pensions from the Pope,
against which practices a special sta­
tute was directed, declaring that in
all time coming no person should pur-
chase any pension payable out of any
benefice, religious or secular, under
the penalty of forfeiting the same to
the crown; and that no clerk, without
an express licence from the king,
should either himself pass over the
sea, or send procurators for him upon
any foreign errand.

A singular and primitive enactment
followed regarding rookeries; in which,
after a preamble stating the mischief
to the corn which was occasioned by
rooks building in the trees of kirkyards
and orchards, it was provided that the
proprietors of such trees should, by
every method in their power, prevent
the birds from building; and, if this
cannot be accomplished, that they at
least take special care that the young
rooks, or branchers, were not suffered
to take wing, under the penalty that
all trees upon which the nests are
found at Beltane, and from which it
can be established, by good evidence,
that the young birds have escaped,
should be forfeited to the crown, and
forthwith cut down, unless redeemed
by the proprietor. No man, under a
penalty of forty shillings, was to burn
muirs from the month of March till
the corn be cut down; and if any such
defaulter was unable to raise the sum,
he was commanded to be imprisoned
for forty days.

The great superiority of the English
archers has been frequently pointed
out in the course of this history; and
the importance of introducing a more
frequent practice of the long­bow ap­
pears to have impressed itself deeply
on the mind of the king, who had the
best opportunity, under Henry the
Fifth, of witnessing its destructive
effects during his French campaigns.
It was accordingly provided that all
the male subjects of the realm, after
reaching the age of twelve years,
“busk them to be archers;” that is,
provide themselves with the usual
arms of an archer; and that upon

every ten pound land bow­marks be
constructed, especially in the vicinity
of parish churches, where the people
may practice archery, and, at the least,
shoot thrice about, under the penalty
of paying a wedder to the lord of the
land, in the event of neglecting the
injunction. To give further encourage­
ment to archery, the pastime of foot­
ball, which appears to have been a
favourite national game in Scotland,
was forbidden, under a severe penalty,
in order that the common people
might give the whole of their leisure
time to the acquisition of a just eye
and a steady hand, in the use of the

Such is an abstract of the statutory
regulations of the first parliament of
James; and it is evident that, making
allowance for the different circum­
stances in which the two countries
were situated, the most useful provi­
sions, as well as those which imply the
deepest ignorance of the true principles
of commercial policy, were borrowed
from England. Those, for instance,
which imposed a penalty upon the ex­
portation of sheep, horses, and cattle;
which implied so deep a jealousy of
the gold and silver being carried out
of the realm; which forbade the rid­
ing armed, or with too formidable a
band of servants; which encouraged
archery ; which related to mendicants
and vagabonds; to the duties and
qualifications of bailies and magis­
trates; which extended to the privi­
leges of the Church, and forbade the
interference of the Pope with the
benefices of the realm, are, with a few
changes, to be found amongst the sta­
tutes of Richard the Second, and the
fourth and fifth Henries; and prove
that the king, during his long detention
in England, had made himself inti­
mately acquainted with the legislative
policy of that kingdom.

It admits of little doubt that during
the sitting of this parliament James
was secretly preparing for those de­
termined measures, by which, eight
months afterwards, he effectually
crushed the family of Albany, and

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. pp. 5, 6.

1424.]                                               JAMES I.                                                       57

compelled the fierce nobility, who had
so long despised all restraint, to re-
spect the authority of the laws, and
tremble before the power of the crown.
But in these projects it was necessary
to proceed with extreme caution; and
the institution of the Lords of the
Articles seems to have furnished the
king with an instrument well suited
for the purpose he had in view, which,
without creating alarm, enabled him
gradually to mature his plans, and
conduct them to a successful issue.
Who were the persons selected for this
committee it is, unfortunately, impos­
sible to discover; but we may be cer­
tain that they enjoyed the confidence of
the king, and were prepared to support
him to the utmost of their power. With
them, after the return of the rest of the
most powerful lords and barons to their
estates, who, from the warmth and
cordiality with which they were re­
ceived, had little suspicion of the
secret measures meditated against
them, James prepared and passed into
laws many statutes, which, from the
proud spirit of his nobles, he knew
they would not hesitate to despise and
disobey, and thus furnish him with an
opportunity to bring the offenders
within the power of the laws, which
he had determined to enforce to the
utmost rigour against them. Amongst
the statutes, which were evidently
designed to be the future means of
coercing his nobility, those which re­
garded the resumption of the lands of
the crown, and the exhibition of the
charters by which their estates were
held, may be at once recognised; and to
these may be added the enactments
against the numerous assemblies of
armed vassals with which the feudal
nobility of the time were accustomed
to traverse the country, and bid de­
fiance to the local magistracy.

The loss of many original records,
which might have thrown some certain
light upon this interesting portion of
our history, renders it impossible to
trace the various links in the projects
of the king. Some prominent facts
alone remain; yet from these it is not
difficult to discover at least the outline
of his proceedings.

He suffered eight months to expire
before he convoked that celebrated
parliament at Perth, at which he had
secretly resolved to exhibit his own
strength, and to inflict a signal venge­
ance upon the powerful family of
Albany. During this interval he ap­
pears to have gained to his party the
whole influence of the clergy, and to
have quietly consolidated his own
power amongst a portion of the barons.
The Earl of Mar, and his son Sir Tho­
mas Stewart, William Lauder, bishop
of Glasgow and chancellor, Sir Wal­
ter Ogilvy, the treasurer, John Came­
ron, provost of the Collegiate Church
of Lincluden, and private secretary
to the king, Sir John Forester of Cor­
storphine, chamberlain, Sir John Stew­
art and Sir Robert Lauder of the Bass,
Thomas Somerville of Carnwath, and
Alexander Levingston of Callander,
members of the king’s council, were,
in all probability, the only persons
whom James admitted to his confi­
dence, and intrusted with the exe­
cution of his designs;l whilst the
utmost secrecy appears to have been
observed with regard to his ultimate

Meanwhile Duke Murdoch and his
sons, with the Earls of Douglas,
March, and Angus, and the most
powerful of the nobility, had sepa­
rated without any suspicion of the
blow which was meditated against
them; and, once more settled on their
own estates, and surrounded by their
feudal retainers, soon forgot the sta­
tutes which had been so lately en­
acted; and with that spirit of fierce
independence which had been nour­
ished under the government of Albany
and his son, dreamt little of producing
their charters or giving up the crown
lands or rents which they had received,
of abridging their feudal state or dis­
missing their armed followers, or,
indeed, of yielding obedience to any
part of the laws which interfered with
their individual importance and autho­
rity. They considered the statutes in

1 See Hay’s MS. Collection of Diplomata,
vol. iii. p. 98, for a deed dated 30th December
1424, which gives the members of the king’s
privy council,

58                                      HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                         [Chap. II.

precisely the same light in which there
is reason to believe all parliamentary
enactments had been regarded in Scot­
land for a long period before this : as
mandates to be obeyed by the lower
orders, under the strictest exactions
of penalty and forfeitures; and to be
attended to by the great and the
powerful, provided they suited their
own convenience, and did not offer any
great violence to their feelings of pride
or their possession of power. The
weak and feeble government of Robert
the Second and Third, with the indul­
gence to which the aristocracy were
accustomed under Albany, had riveted
this idea firmly in their minds; and
they acted upon it without the suspi­
cion that a monarch might one day be
found not only with sagacity to pro­
cure the enactment of laws which
should level their independence, but
with a determination of character, and
a command of means, which should
enable him to carry these laws into

On being summoned, therefore, by
the king to attend a parliament, to be
held at Perth on the 12th of March,
they obeyed without hesitation ; and
as the first subject which appears to
have been brought before the three
estates was the dissemination of the
heretical opinions of the Lollards,
which began to revive about this time
in the country, no alarm was excited,
and the business of the parliament pro­
ceeded as usual. It was determined
that due inquiry should be made by
the ministers of the king whether the
statutes passed in his former parlia­
ment had been obeyed; and, in the
event of its being discovered that they
had been disregarded, orders were
issued for the punishment of the
offenders. All leagues or confederacies
amongst the king’s lieges were strictly
forbidden; all assistance afforded to
rebels, all false reports, or “leasing-
makings,” which tended to create dis­
cord between the sovereign and his
people, were prohibited under the
penalty of forfeiting life and lands,,;
and in every instance where the pro­
perty of the Church was found to have
been illegally occupied, restoration was

ordered to be made by due process of

The parliament had now continued
for eight days, and as yet everything
went on without disturbance; but on
the ninth an extraordinary scene pre­
sented itself. Murdoch, the late gov­
ernor, with Lord Alexander Stewart,
his younger son, were suddenly ar­
rested, and immediately afterwards
twenty-six of the principal nobles and
barons shared the same fate. Amongst
these were Archibald, earl of Douglas,
William Douglas, earl of Angus,
George Dunbar, earl of March, William
Hay of Errol, constable of Scotland,
Scrymgeour, constable of Dundee,
Alexander Lindesay, Adam Hepburn
of Hailes, Thomas Hay of Yester,
Herbert Maxwell of Caerlaverock,
Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie, Alan
Otterburn, secretary to the Duke of
Albany, Sir John Montgomery, Sir
John Stewart of Dundonald, com­
monly called the Red Stewart, and
thirteen others. During the course
of the same year, and a short time
previous to this energetic measure,
the king had imprisoned Walter, the
eldest son of Albany, along with the
Earl of Lennox and Sir Robert Gra­
ham : a man of a fierce and vindictive
disposition, who from that moment
vowed the most determined revenge,
which he lived to execute in the mur­
der of his sovereign.2 The heir of
Albany was shut up in the strong
castle of the Bass, belonging to Sir
Robert Lauder, a firm friend of the
king; whilst Graham and Lennox
were committed to Dunbar; and the
Duke of Albany himself confined in
the first instance in the castle of St
Andrews, and afterwards transferred
to that of Caerlaverock. At the same
moment, the king took possession of
the castles of Falkland, and of the
fortified palace of Doune, the favourite
residence of Albany.3 Here he found
Isabella, the wife of Albany, a daugh­
ter of the Earl of Lennox, whom he
immediately committed to the castle

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 7.

2  Fordun a Hearne, vol. iv. p. 1269.

3  Statistical Account of Scotland, vol. xx.
pp. 57, 60.

1424.]                                                JAMES I.                                                      59

of Tantallan; and with a success and
a rapidity which can only be accounted
for by the supposition of the utmost
vigour in the execution of his plans,
and a strong military power to over­
awe all opposition, he possessed him­
self of the strongest fortresses in the
country; and, after adjourning the
parliament, to meet within the space
of two months at Stirling, upon the
18th of May,1 he proceeded to adopt
measures for inflicting a speedy and
dreadful revenge upon the most power­
ful of his opponents.

In the palace of Stirling, on the
24th of May, a court was held with
great pomp and solemnity for the
trial of Walter Stewart, the eldest son
of the Duke of Albany. The king,
sitting on his throne, clothed with the
robes and insignia of majesty, with
the sceptre in his hand, and wearing
the royal crown, presided as supreme
judge of his people. The loss of all
record of this trial is deeply to be
regretted, as it would have thrown
light upon an interesting but obscure
portion of our history. We know
only from an ancient chronicle that
the heir of Albany was tried for rob­
bery, " de roboria.” The jury was
composed of twenty-one of the princi­
pal nobles and barons; and it is a re­
markable circumstance that amongst
their names which have been pre­
served we find seven of the twenty-six
barons whom the king had seized and
imprisoned two months before at
Perth, when he arrested Albany and
his sons. Amongst these seven were
the three most powerful lords in the
body of the Scottish aristocracy—the
Earls of Douglas, March, and Angus;
the rest were Sir John de Montgomery,
Gilbert Hay of Errol, the constable,
Sir Herbert Herries of Terregles, and
Sir Robert Cuningham of Kilmaurs.2
Others who sat upon this jury we
know to have been the assured friends
of the king, and members of his privy
council. These were, Alexander Stew­
art, earl of Mar, Sir John Forester of
Corstorphine, Sir Thomas Somerville

1 Fordun a Hearne, vol. iv. p. 1270.
Ibid. pp. 1269-71. See also Extracta ex
Chronicis Scotiæ, MS. p. 272.

of Carnwath, and Sir Alexander Lev-
ingston of Callander. It is probable
that the seven jurymen above men­
tioned were persons attached to the
party of Albany, and that the inten­
tion of the king in their imprisonment
was to compel them to renounce all
idea of supporting him and to abandon
him to his fate. In this result, what­
ever were the means adopted for its
accomplishment, the king succeeded.
The trial of Walter Stewart occupied
a single day. He was found guilty,
and condemned to death. His fate
excited a deep feeling of sympathy and
compassion in the breasts of the
people; for the noble figure and digni­
fied manners of the eldest son of
Albany were peculiarly calculated to
make him friends amongst the lower
classes of the community.

On the following day, Duke Mur­
doch himself, with his second son,
Alexander, and his father-indaw, the
Earl of Lennox, were tried before the
same jury. What were the crimes
alleged against the Earl of Lennox
and Alexander Stewart it is now im­
possible to determine ; but it may be
conjectured, on strong grounds, that
the usurpation of the government and
the assumption of supreme authority
during the captivity of the king,
offences amounting to high treason,
constituted the principal charge against
the late regent. His father undoubt­
edly succeeded to the regency by the
determination of the three estates
assembled in parliament; but there
is no evidence that any such decision
was passed which sanctioned the high
station assumed by the son; and if so,
every act of his government was an
act of treason, upon which the jury
could have no difficulty in pronounc­
ing their verdict. Albany was accord­
ingly found guilty; the same sentence
was pronounced upon his son, Alex­
ander Stewart; the Earl of Lennox
was next condemned; and these three
noble persons were publicly executed
on that fatal eminence, before the
castle of Stirling, known by the name
of the Heading Hill. As the condem­
nation of Walter Stewart had excited
unwonted commiseration amongst the

60                                      HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                         [Chap. II.

people, the spectacle now afforded
was calculated to raise that feeling to
a still higher pitch of distress and
compassion. Albany and his two sons
were men of almost gigantic stature,1
and of so noble a presence, that it was
impossible to look upon them without
an involuntary feeling of admiration ;
whilst the venerable appearance aud
white hairs of Lennox, who had
reached his eightieth year, inspired
a sentiment of tenderness and pity,
which, even if they admitted the jus­
tice of the sentence, was apt to raise
in the bosom of the spectators a dis­
position to condemn the rapid and
unrelenting severity with which it
was carried into execution. Even in
their days of pride and usurpation,
the family of Albany had been the
favourites of the people. Its founder,
the regent, courted popularity; and
although a usurper, and stained with
murders, seems in a great measure to
have gained his end. It is impossible
indeed to reconcile the high eulogium
of Bower and Winton2 with the dark
actions of his life ; but it is evident,
from the tone of these historians, that
the severity of James did not carry
along with it the feelings of the people.
Yet, looking at the state of things in
Scotland, it is easy to understand the
object of the king. It was his inten­
tion to exhibit to a nation, long ac­
customed to regard the laws with con­
tempt and the royal authority as a
name of empty menace, a memorable
example of stern and inflexible justice,
and to convince them that a great
change had already taken place in the
executive part of the government.

With this view, another dreadful
exhibition followed the execution of
the family of Albany. James Stewart,
the youngest son of this unfortunate
person, was the only member of it
who had avoided the arrest of the

1 Albany and his sons were buried in the
church of the Preaching Friars at Stirling, on
the south side of the high altar, "figuris et
armis eorundem depictis.”— Extracta ex
Chronicis Scotiæ, MS. p. 272. Fordun a
Goodal, vol. ii. p. 483. “ Homines giganteæ

2 Fordun a Hearne, p. 1228. Winton, vol.
ii. pp. 419, 420. See Illustrations, E.

king, and escaped to the Highlands.
Driven to despair by the ruin which
threatened his house, he collected a
band of armed freebooters, and, assisted
by Finlay, bishop of Lismore, and
Argyle, his father’s chaplain, attacked
the burgh of Dumbarton with a fury
which nothing could resist. The kings
uncle, Sir John of Dundonald, called
the Red Stewart, was slain, the town
sacked and given to the flames, and
thirty men murdered; after which the
son of Albany returned to his fast­
nesses in the north. But so hot was
the pursuit which was instituted by
the royal vengeance, that he and the
ecclesiastical bandit who accompauied
him were dislodged from their retreats,
and compelled to fly to Ireland.3 Five
of his accomplices, however, were
seized, and their execution, which im­
mediately succeeded that of Albany,
was unpardonably cruel and disgust­
ing. They were torn to pieces by
wild horses, after which their warm
and quivering limbs were suspended
upon gibbets : a terrible warning to
the people of the punishment which
awaited those who imagined that the
fidelity which impelled them to exe­
cute the commands of their feudal
lord was superior to the ties which
bound them to obey the laws of the

These executions were followed by
the forfeiture to the crown of the im­
mense estates belonging to Albany
and to the Earl of Lennox; a season­
able supply of revenue, which, amid the
general plunder to which the royal
lands had been exposed, was much
wanted to support the dignity of the
throne, and in the occupation of a
considerable portion of which, there is
reason to believe, the king only re­
sumed what had formerly belonged to
him. With regard to the conduct of
the Bishop of Lismore, James appears
to have made complaint to the Pope,
who directed a bull, addressed to the
Bishops of St Andrews and Dunblane,
by which they were empowered to
inquire into the treason of the prelate,
and other rebels against the king.4

3 Fordun a Hearne, vol. iv. p. 1270.

4 Innes’ MS. Chronology, quoted by Chal-

1424.]                                               JAMES I.                                                      61

The remaining barons who had been
imprisoned at the time of Albany's
arrest appear to have been restored
to liberty immediately after his execu­
tion, and the parliament proceeded to
the enactment of several statutes,
which exhibit a singular combination
of wisdom and ignorance, some being
as truly calculated to promote, as
others were fitted to retard, the im­
provement and prosperity of the
country. It was ordained that every
man of such simple estate as made it
reasonable that he should be a labourer
or husbandman should either combine
with his neighbour to pay half the
expense of an ox and a plough, or dig
every day a portion of land seven feet
in length and six feet in breadth. In
every sheriffdom within the realm,
“ weaponschawings, " or an armed
muster of the whole fighting men in
the county for the purpose of military
exercise and an inspection of their
weapons, were appointed to be held
four times in the course of the year.
Symptoms of the decay of the forest
and green wood, or perhaps, more
correctly speaking, proofs of the im­
proved attention of the nobles to the
enclosure of their parks and the orna­
mental woods around their castles, are
to be discerned in the enactment,
which declared it to be a part of the
duty of the Justice Clerk to make
inquiries regarding those defaulters,
who steal green wood, or strip the
trees of their bark under cover of
night, or break into orchards to purloin
the fruit; and provided that, where
any man found his stolen woods in
other lords’ lands, it should be lawful
for him on the instant to seize both
the goods and the thief, and to have
him brought to trial in the court of
the baron upon whose lands the crime
was committed.1

With regard to the commerce of the
country, some regulations were now
passed, dictated by the same jealous
spirit which has been already remarked
as pervading the whole body of our

mers in his Life of James the First, p. 14,
prefixed to the Poetic Remains.

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol. ii.
pp. 7. 8.

commercial legislation. It was strictly
enjoined that no tallow should be
exported out of the country, under the
penalty of being forfeited to the king;
that no horses were to be carried forth
of the realm till they were past the
age of three years; and that no mer­
chant was to be permitted to pass the
sea for the purposes of trade, unless
he either possess in property, or at
least in commission, three serplaiths
of wool, or the value of such in mer­
chandise, to be determined by an
inquest of his neighbours, under a
penalty of forty­ one pounds to the
king, if found guilty of disobeying the

Upon the subject of the adminis­
tration of justice to the people in
general, and more especially to such
poor and needy persons who could not
pay an advocate for conducting their
cause, a statute was passed in this
parliament which breathes a spirit of
enlarged humanity. After declaring
that all bills of complaints, which, for
divers reasons, affecting the profit of
the realm, could not be determined by
the parliament, should be brought
before the particular judge of the
district to which they belong, to whom
the king was to give injunction to
distribute justice, without fraud or
favour, as well to the poor as to the
rich, in every part of the realm, it
proceeded as follows, in language re­
markable for its strength and sim­
plicity :—“ And gif thar be ony pur
creatur,” it observes, “ that for defalte
of cunnyng or dispens, can nocht, or
may nocht folow his caus ; the king,
for the lufe of God, sall ordane that
the juge before quhame the causs suld
be determyt purway and get a lele and
wyss advocate to folow sic creaturis
caus. And gif sic caus be obtenyt,
the wrangar sall assythe the party
skathit, and ye advocatis costis that
travale. And gif the juge refusys to
doe the lawe evinly, as is befor saide,
ye party plenzeand sall haf recours to
ye king, ye quhilk sall sa rigorusly
punyst sic jugis, yat it be ane en-
sampill till all utheris.” 2

2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol. ii.
p. 8.

62                                      HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                        [Chap. II.

It was declared to be the intention
of the sovereign to grant a remission
or pardon of any injury committed
upon person or property in the Low­
land districts of his dominions, where
the defaulter made reparation, or, ac­
cording to the Scottish phrase, “as-
sythement,” to the injured party, and
where the extent of the loss had been
previously ascertained by a jury of
honest and faithful men; but from
this rule the Highlands, or northern
divisions of the country, were excepted,
where, on account of the practice of
indiscriminate robbery and murder
which had prevailed, previous to the
return of the king, it was impossible
to ascertain correctly the extent of the
depredation, or the amount of the
assythement. The condition of his
northern dominions, and the character
and manners of his Highland subjects,
—if indeed they could be called his
subjects whose allegiance was of so
peculiar and capricious a nature,—
had given birth to many anxious
thoughts in the king, and led not
long after this to a personal visit to
these remote regions, which formed an
interesting episode in his reign.

The only remaining matter of im­
portance which came under the con­
sideration of this parliament was the
growth of heresy, a subject which,
in its connexion as with the first feeble
dawnings of reformation, is peculiarly
interesting and worthy of attention.
It was directed that every bishop
within his diocese should make in­
quisition of all Lollards and heretics,
where such were to be found, in order
that they be punished according to
the laws of the holy Catholic Church,
and that the civil power be called in
for the support of the ecclesiastical,
if required.1 Eighteen years had now
elapsed since John Resby, a follower
of the great Wickliff, was burnt at
Perth. It was then known that his
preaching, and the little treatises
which he or his disciples had dis­
seminated through the country, had
made a deep impression; and the
ancient historian who informs us of

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. pp. 7, 8.

the circumstance observes that, even
in his own day, these same books and
conclusions were secretly preserved by
some unhappy persons under the in­
stigation of the devil, and upon the
principle that stolen waters are sweet.2

There can be no doubt that at this
period the consciences of not a few in
the country were alarmed as to the
foundations of a faith upon which
they had hitherto relied, and that
they began to judge and reason for
themselves upon a subject of all
others the most important which can
occupy the human mind,—the grounds
of a sinner’s pardon and acceptance
with God. An under­current of re­
formation, which the Church denomi­
nated heresy, was beginning gradually
to sap the foundations upon which
the ancient Papal fabric had been
hitherto securely resting; and the
Scottish clergy, alarmed at the symp­
toms of spiritual rebellion, and pos­
sessing great influence over the mind
of the monarch, prevailed upon him
to interpose the authority of a legis­
lative enactment, to discountenance
the growth of the new opinions, and
to confirm and follow up the efforts
of the Church, by the strength and
terror of the secular arm. The educa­
tion of James in England, under the
direction of two monarchs, who had
sullied their reign by the cruel perse­
cution of the followers of Wickliff,
was little calculated to open his mind
to the convictions of truth, or to the
principles of toleration; and at this
moment he owed so much to the
clergy, and was so engrossed with his
efforts for the consolidation of the
royal power, that he could neither
refuse their request nor inquire into
the circumstances under which it was
preferred. The statute, therefore,
against Lollards and heretics was
passed; the symptoms of rebellion,
which ought to have stimulated the
clergy to greater zeal, purity, and
usefulness, were put down by a strong
hand; and the reformation was re­
tarded only to become more resistless
at the last.

In the destruction of our national
2 Fordun a Hearne, vol. iv. p. 1169.

1424-5.]                                           JAMES I.                                                      63

records many links in the history of
this remarkable parliament have been
lost; but the success with which the
king conducted this overthrow of the
house of Albany certainly gives us a
high idea of his ability and courage ;
and in the great outlines enough has
been left to convince us that the
undertaking was of a nature the most
delicate and dangerous which could
have presented itself to a monarch
recently seated on a precarious throne,
surrounded by a fierce nobility, to
whom he was almost a stranger, and
the most powerful of whom were con­
nected by blood or by marriage with
the ancient house whose destruction
he meditated. The example indeed
was terrible; the scaffold was flooded
with royal and noble blood; and it is
impossible not to experience a feeling
of sorrow and indignation at the cruel
and unrelenting severity of James. It
seems as if his rage and mortification
at the escape of his uncle, the prime
offender, was but imperfectly satisfied
with the punishment of the feeble
Murdoch; and that his deep revenge
almost delighted to glut itself in the
extermination of every scion of that
unfortunate house. But to form a
just opinion, indeed, of the conduct of
the king, we must not forget the
galling circumstances in which he was
situated. Deprived for nineteen years
of his paternal kingdom by a system of
unprincipled usurpation; living almost
within sight of his throne, yet unable
to reach it; feeling his royal spirit
strong within him, but detained and
dragged back by the successful and
selfish intrigues of Albany, it is not
surprising that when he did at last
escape from his bonds his rage should
be that of the chafed lion who has
broken the toils, and that the principle
of revenge, in those dark days esteemed
as much a duty as a pleasure, should
mingle itself with his more cool de­
termination to inflict punishment upon
his enemies.

But laying individual feelings aside,
the barbarism of the times, and the
precarious state in which he found
the government, compelled James to
adopt strong measures. Nothing but

an example of speedy and inflexible
severity could have made an impres­
sion upon the iron-nerved and ferocious
nobles, whose passions, under the go­
vernment of the house of Albany, had
been nursed up into a state of reck­
less indulgence, and a contempt of all
legitimate authority; and there seems
reason to believe that the conduct
pursued by the king was deemed by
him absolutely necessary to consoli­
date his own power, and enable him
to carry into effect his ultimate designs
for promoting the interests of the
country. Immediately after the con­
clusion of the parliament, James de­
spatched Lord Montgomery of Eliot-
ston, and Sir Humphrey Cunningham,
to seize the castle of Lochlomond,1 the
property of Sir James Stewart, the
youngest son of Albany, who had fled
to Ireland along with his father’s chap­
lain, the Bishop of Lismore. Such
was the terror inspired by the severity
of James, that this fierce youth never
afterwards returned, but died in ban­
ishment ; so that the ruin of the house
of Albany appeared to be complete.

In the course of the preceding year
the queen had brought into the world
a daughter, her first-born, who was
baptized by the name of Margaret;
and, as the policy of France led those
who then ruled in her councils to
esteem the alliance of Scotland of
great importance in her protracted
struggle with England, it was deter­
mined to negotiate a marriage between
Louis of Anjou, the heir to the throne,
and the infant princess. In that king­
dom the affairs of Charles the Seventh
were still in a precarious situation.
Although the great military genius of
Henry the Fifth no longer directed
and animated the operations of the
campaign, yet, under the Duke of
Bedford, who had been appointed Re­
gent of France, fortune still favoured
the arms of the invaders ; and the
successive defeats of Crevant and Ver-
neuil, in which the auxiliary forces of
the Scots were almost entirely cut to

1 “ In the south end of the island Inchmurin,
the ancient family of Lennox had a castle, but
it is now in ruins.” This is probably the
castle alluded to, Stat. Acct. vol. ix. p. 16.
Extracta ex Chronicis Scotiæ, fol. 273.

64                                      HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                        [Chap. II.

pieces, had lent a vigour and confi­
dence to the councils and conduct of
the English, and imparted a propor­
tionable despondency to the French,
which seemed to augur a fatal result
to the efforts of that brave people.
It became necessary, therefore, to
court every alliance from which effec-
tual assistance might be expected;
and the army of seven thousand Scot­
tish men-at-arms, which had passed
over under the command of the Earls
of Buchan and Wigtown in 1420, with
the additional auxiliary force which
the Earl of Douglas led to join the
army of Charles the Seventh, con­
vinced that monarch that the assist­
ance of Scotland was an object, to at­
tain which no efforts should be spared.
Accordingly Stewart of Darnley, Lord
of Aubigny and Constable of the Scot­
tish army in France, along with the
Archbishop of Rheims, the first prelate
in the realm, were despatched in 1425
upon an embassy to negotiate the mar­
riage between Margaret of Scotland
and Louis the Dauphin, and to renew
the ancient league which had so long
connected the two countries with each

James received the ambassadors
with great distinction, agreed to the
proposed alliance, and despatched
Leighton, bishop of Aberdeen, with
Lauder, archdeacon of Lothian, and
Sir Patrick Ogilvy, justiciar of Scot­
land, to return his answer to the Court
of France. It was determined that in
five years the parties should be be­
trothed, after which the Scottish
princess was to be conveyed with all
honour to her royal consort. About
the same time the king appears to
have sent ambassadors to the Court
of Rome, but it is difficult to discover
whether they merely conveyed those
general expressions of spiritual allegi­
ance which it was usual for sovereigns
to transmit to the Holy See after their
coronation, or related to matters more
intimately affecting the ecclesiastical
state of the kingdom. If we may
judge from the numbers and dignity
of the envoys, the communication was
one of importance, and may, perhaps,
Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 484.

have related to those measures for the
extirpation of heresy which we have
seen occupying the attention of the
legislature under James’s second par­
liament. It was a principle of this en­
terprising monarch, in his schemes for
the recovery and consolidation of his
own power, to cultivate the friendship
of the clergy, whom he regarded as a
counterpoise to the nobles ; and with
this view he issued a commission to
Leighton, the bishop of Aberdeen,
authorising him to resume all aliena­
tions of the lands of the Church which
had been made during the regencies
of the two Albanies, commanding his
justiciars and officers of the law to
assist in all proper measures for the
recovery of the property which had
been lost, and conferring upon the
prelate the power of anathema in case
of resistance.2

During the same year there arrived
in Scotland an embassy from the
States of Flanders, upon a subject of
great commercial importance. It ap­
pears that the Flemings, as allies of
England, had committed hostilities
against the Scottish merchants during
the captivity of the king, which had
induced him to order the staple of the
Scottish commerce in the Netherlands
to be removed to Middelburgh in
Zealand. The measure had been at­
tended with much loss to the Flemish
traders; and the object of the em­
bassy was to solicit the return of the
trade. The king, who at the period
of its arrival was engaged in keeping
his birthday, surrounded by his barons,
at St Andrews, received the Flemish
envoys with distinction; and, aware
of the importance of encouraging the
commercial enterprise of his people,
seized the opportunity of procuring
more ample privileges for the Scottish
merchants in Flanders, in return for
which he agreed that the staple should
be restored.3

At this period, besides the wealthy
citizens and burghers who adopted
commerce as a profession, it was not
uncommon for the richer nobles and

2  MS. in Harleian Coll. quoted in Pinker-
ton’s History, vol. i. p. 116.

3  Forduu a Goodal, vol. ii. pp. 487, 509,

1425.]                                                JAMES I.                                                       65

gentry, and even for the sovereign, to
embark in mercantile adventures. In
1408 the Earl of Douglas freighted a
vessel, with one or two supercargoes,
and a crew of twenty mariners, to
trade in Normandy and Rochelle; in
the succeeding year the Duke of Al­
bany was the proprietor of a vessel
which carried six hundred quarters of
malt, and was navigated by a master
and twenty-four sailors; and at a still
later period a vessel, the Mary of
Leith, obtained a safe-conduct from
the English monarch to unship her
cargo, which belonged to his dear
cousin James, the King of Scotland,
in the port of London, and expose the
merchandise to sale.1 At the same
time the Lombards, esteemed perhaps
the most wealthy and enterprising
merchants in Europe, continued to
carry on a lucrative trade with Scot­
land ; and one of their large carracks,
which, compared with the smaller
craft of the English and Scottish
merchants, is distinguished by the
contemporary chronicler as an “ enor­
mous vessel,” navis immanissima, was
wrecked by a sudden storm in the Firth
of Forth. The gale was accompanied
by a high spring­tide, against which the
mariners of Italy, accustomed to the
Mediterranean navigation, had taken
no precautions; so that the ship was
driven from her anchors and cast
ashore at Granton, about three miles
above Leith.2

The tax of twelve pennies upon
every pound of rent, and other
branches of income, which was di­
rected to be levied in the first parlia­
ment held at Perth after the king’s
return, has been already mentioned.
The sum to be thus collected was
destined for the payment of the ar­
rears which the king had become
bound to advance to England, as the
amount of expense incurred by his
maintenance during his captivity; and
it appears by the account of Walter
Bower, the continuator of Fordun,
who was himself one of the commis-

1 Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. ii. p. 257. Ibid. 1st
Sept. 9 Henry IV., p. 187. 2d Dec. 11 Henry
IV., p. 193.

2 Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 487.

sioners for this taxation, that during
the first year it amounted to fourteen
thousand marks; which would give
nearly two hundred and eighty thou­
sand marks, or about three millions
of modern sterling money, as the an­
nual income of the people of Scotland
in 1424.

It must be recollected, however,
that this does not include the lands
and cattle employed by landholders in
their own husbandry, which were par­
ticularly excepted in the collection.
The tax itself was an innovation; and
in the second year the zeal of the peo­
ple cooled; they openly murmured
against the universal impoverishment
it occasioned; and the collection was
far less productive. In those primi­
tive times, all taxes, except in cus­
toms, which became a part of the
apparent price of the goods on which
they were charged, were wholly un­
known in Scotland. The people were
accustomed to see the king support
his dignity, and discharge his debts,
by the revenues of the crown lands,
which, previous to the late dilapida­
tions, were amply sufficient for that
purpose; and with equal prudence and
generosity, although supported by a
resolution of the three estates, James
declined to avail himself of this invi­
dious mode of increasing his revenue,
and gave orders that no further efforts
should be made to levy the imposi­

Upon the 11th of March 1425, the
king convoked his third parliament
at Perth, and the institution of the
Lords of the Articles appears to have
been fully established. The various
subjects upon which the decision of
the great council was requested were
declared to be submitted by the sove­
reign to the determination of certain
persons to be chosen by the three
estates from the prelates, earls, and
barons then assembled; and the legis­
lative enactments which resulted from
their deliberations convey to us an
animated and instructive picture of
the condition of the country. After
the usual declaration, that the holy

3 Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 482. M’Pher-
son’s Annals of Commerce, vol. i. p. 640.

66                                      HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                         [Chap. II.

Catholic Church and its ministers
should continue to enjoy their ancient
privileges, and be permitted without
hindrance to grant leases of their
lands, or of their teinds, there follows
a series of regulations and improve­
ments, both as to the laws themselves
and the manner of their administra­
tion, which are well worthy of atten­

It was first announced that all the
subjects of the realm must be gov-
erned by the statutes passed in par­
liament, and not by any particular
laws, or any spiritual privileges or
customs of other countries; and a new
court, known by the name of the
Session, was instituted for the admi­
nistration of justice to the people. It
was declared that the king, with the
consent of his parliament, had ordained
that his chancellor, and along with
him certain discreet persons of the
three estates, who were to be chosen
and deputed by himself, should, from
this day forth, sit three times in the
year, at whatever place the sovereign
may appoint them, for the examina­
tion and decision of all causes and
quarrels which may be determined
before the king’s council; and that
these judges should have their ex­
penses paid by the parties against
whom the decision was given out of
the fines of court, or otherwise as the
monarch may determine. The first
session of this new court was appointed
to be held the day after the feast of
St Michael the Archangel, or on the
30th of September; the second on the
Monday of the first week of Lent; and
the third on the morning preceding
the feast of St John the Baptist.1

A Register was next appointed, in
which a record was to be kept of all
charters and infeftments, as well as of
all letters of protection, or confirma­
tions of ancient rights or privileges,
which, since the king’s return, had
been granted to any individuals; and,
within four months after the passing
of this act, all such charters were to
be produced by the parties to whom
they have been granted, and regularly

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 11.

marked in the book of record. Any
person who was a judge or officer of
justice within the realm, or any per­
son who had prosecuted and sum­
moned another to stand his trial, was
forbidden, under a penalty of ten
pounds, to sit upon his jury; and none
were to be allowed to practise as at­
torneys in the justice-ayres, or courts
held by the king’s justiciars, or their
deputies, who were not known to the
justice and the barons as persons of
sufficient learning and discretion. Six
wise and able men, best acquainted
with the laws, were directed to be
chosen from each of the three estates,
to whom was committed the examina­
tion of the books of the law, that is to
say, “Regiam Majestatem,” and “Quo-
niam Attachiamenta; " and these per­
sons were directed by parliament, in
language which marked the simple
legislation of the times, “ to mend the
lawis that needis mendying,” to re­
concile all contradictory, and explain
all obscure enactments, so that hence­
forth fraud and cunning may assist no
man in obtaining an unjust judgment
against his neighbour.2

One of the greatest difficulties which
at this early period stood in the way
of all improvement introduced by par­
liamentary regulations was the slow­
ness with which these regulations were
communicated to the more distant
districts of the country; and the ex­
treme ignorance of the laws which sub­
sisted, not only amongst the subjects
of the realm and the inferior ministers
of justice, but even amongst the nobles
and barons, who, living in their own
castles in remote situations, rude and
illiterate in their habits, and bigoted
in their attachment to those ancient
institutions under which they had so
long tyrannised over their vassals, were
little anxious to become acquainted
with new laws; and frequently, when
they did penetrate so far, pretended
ignorance, as a cover for their diso­
bedience. To obviate, as far as pos­
sible, this evil, it was directed by the
parliament that all statutes and ordi­
nances made prior to this should be

2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 11.

1425-6.]                                             JAMES I.                                                      67

first transcribed in the king’s register,
and afterwards that copies of them
should be given to the different sheriffs
in the country. The sheriffs were
then strictly enjoined to publish and
proclaim these statutes in the chief
and most notable places in the sheriff-
dom, and to distribute copies of them
to prelates, barons, and burghs of
bailiery, the expense being paid by
those who made the application. They
were commanded, under the penalty
of being deprived of their office, to
cause all acts of the legislature to be
observed throughout their county, and
to inculcate upon the people, whether
burghers or landholders, obedience to
the provisions made by their sovereign
since his return from England; so that,
in time coming, no man should have
cause to pretend ignorance of the

The defence of the country was an­
other subject which came before this
parliament. It was provided that all
merchants of the realm passing be­
yond seas should, along with their
usual cargoes, bring home such a sup­
ply of harness and armour as could be
stowed in the vessel, besides spears,
spear-shafts, bows, and bow-strings;
nor was this to be omitted upon any
of their voyages. Particular injunc­
tions were added with regard to the
regulation of “ weaponschawings,’” or
the annual county musters for the in­
spection of arms, and the encourage­
ment of warlike exercises. Every
sheriff was directed to hold them four
times in the year within his county,
upon which occasion it was his duty
to see that every gentleman, having
ten pounds value in land, should be
sufficiently harnessed and armed with
steel basnet, leg-harness, sword, spear,
and dagger, and that all gentlemen of
less property should be armed accord­
ing to their estate. All yeomen of the
realm, between the ages of sixteen and
sixty, were directed to be provided
with bows and a sheaf of arrows. With
regard to the burghs, it was appointed
that the weaponschawing should be
held within them also, four times

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 11.

during the year, that all their inhabi­
tants should be well armed, and that
the aldermen and the bailies were to
be held responsible for the due ob­
servance of this regulation; whilst
certain penalties were inflicted on
all gentlemen and yeomen who may
be found transgressing these enact­

The regulations relating to the com­
mercial prosperity of the country, and
its intercourse with other nations,
manifest the same jealousy and igno­
rance of the true prosperity of the
realm which influenced the delibera­
tions of the former parliaments. Taxes
were repeated upon the exportation of
money, compulsory regulations pro­
mulgated against foreign merchants,
by which they were compelled to lay
out the money which they received
for their commodities upon the pur­
chase of Scottish merchandise, direc­
tions were given to the sheriffs and
other ministers of the law, upon the
coasts opposite to Ireland, to prevent
all ships and galleys from sailing to
that country without special licence of
the king’s deputes, to be appointed
for this purpose in every seaport; no
merchant or shipman was to be al­
lowed to give to any Irish subject a
passage into Scotland, unless such
stranger could shew a letter or pass­
port from the lord of the land from
whence he came declaring the busi­
ness for which he desired to enter the
realm; and all such persons, previous
to their being allowed to land, were
to be examined by the king’s deputy
of the seaport where the ship had
weighed anchor, so that it might be
discovered whether the business they
had in hand were to the profit or the
prejudice of the king and his estate.
These strict enactments were declared
to proceed from no desire to break or
interrupt the good understanding which
had been long maintained between the
King of Scotland “ and his gud aulde
frendis the Erschry of Irelande;” but
because at that time the open rebels
of the king had taken refuge in that
country, and the welfare and safety of

2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. pp. 9, 10.

68                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                         [Chap. II

the realm might be endangered by all
such unrestrained intercourse as should
give them an opportunity of plotting
with their friends, or afford facilities
to the Irish of becoming acquainted
with the private affairs of the govern­
ment of Scotland.1

A quaint and amusing provision was
introduced in this parliament, which
is entitled, “Anent hostillaris in vil-
lagis and burowyis.” It informs us
that hostlers or innkeepers had made
grievous complaints to the king against
a villanous practice of his lieges, who,
in travelling from one part of the
country to another, were in the habit
of taking up their residence with their
acquaintances and friends, instead of
going to the regular inns and hostel-
ries, whereupon the sovereign, with
counsel and consent of the three
estates, prohibited all travellers on
foot or horseback from rendezvousing
at any station except the established
hostelry of the burgh or village ; and
interdicted all burgesses or villagers
from extending to them their hospi­
tality, under the penalty of forty shil­
lings. The higher ranks of the nobles
and the gentry would, however, have
considered this as an infringement
upon their liberty, and it was accord­
ingly declared that all persons whose
estate permitted them to travel with
a large retinue in company might
quarter themselves upon their friends,
under the condition that they sent
their attendants and horses to be
lodged at the common hostelries.2

The remaining enactments of this
parliament related to the regulation
of the weights and measures, and to
the appointment of an established
standard to be used throughout the
realm; to the obligation of all barons
or freeholders to attend the parliament
in person; to the offering up of regu­
lar prayers and collects by all priests,
religious and secular, throughout the
kingdom, for the health and prosperity
of the king, his royal consort, and their
children ; and, lastly, to the apprehen­
sion of all stout, idle vagabonds, who

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 11.
Ibid. vol. ii. p. 10.

possess the ability but not the inclina­
tion to labour for their own living.
These were to be apprehended by the.
sheriff, and compelled within forty
days to bind themselves to some law­
ful craft, so that they should no longer
devour and trouble the country. The
regulation of the standard size of the
boll, firlot, half firlot, peck, and gallon,
which were to be used throughout the
kingdom, was referred to the next par­
liament, whilst it was declared that
the water measures then in use should
continue the same ; that with regard
to weights there should be made a
standard stone, which was to weigh
exactly fifteen legal troy pounds, but
to be divided into sixteen Scots pounds,
and that according to this standard
weights should be made, and used by
all buyers and sellers throughout the

James had already increased the
strength and prosperity of his king­
dom by various foreign treaties of
alliance and commercial intercourse.
He was at peace with England; the an­
cient ties between France and Scotland
were about to be more firmly drawn
together by the projected marriage
between his daughter and the Dau­
phin ; he had re-established his ami­
cable relations with Flanders; and the
court of Rome, flattered by his zeal
against heresy, and his devotedness to
the Church, was disposed to support
him with all its influence. To com­
plete these friendly relations with
foreign powers, he now concluded by
his ambassadors, William, lord Crich-
ton, his chamberlain, and William
Fowlis, provost of the collegiate church
of Bothwell, his almoner, a treaty with
Eric, king of Denmark, Norway, and
Sweden, in which the ancient alliances
entered into between Alexander the
Third, Robert the First, and the
princes who in their days occupied
the northern throne, were ratified and
confirmed; mutual freedom of trade
agreed upon, saving the peculiar rights
and customs of both kingdoms; and
all damages, transgressions, and de­
faults on either side cancelled and for­
given. James also consented to con­
tinue the annual payment of a hundred

1426-7]                                 JAMES I.                                           69

marks for the sovereignty of the little
kingdom of Man and the Western Isles,
which Alexander the Third had pur­
chased in 1266 for the sum of four
thousand marks.1 Their allegiance,
indeed, was of a precarious nature,
and for a long time previous to this
the nominal possession of the Isles,
instead of an acquisition of strength
and revenue, had proved a thorn in the
side of the country; but the king,
with that firmness and decision of
character for which he was remarkable,
had now determined, by an expedition
conducted in person, to reduce within
the control of the laws the northern
parts of his dominions, and confidently
looked forward to the time when these
islands would be esteemed an acquisi­
tion of no common importance.

Meanwhile he prepared to carry his
schemes into execution. Having sum­
moned his parliament to meet him at
Inverness, he proceeded, surrounded
by his principal nobles and barons,
and at the head of a force which ren­
dered all resistance unavailing, to
establish his residence for a season in
the heart of his northern dominions.2
It was their gloomy castles and almost
inaccessible fastnesses which had given
refuge to those fierce and independent
chiefs who neither desired his friend­
ship nor deprecated his resentment,
and who were now destined at last to
experience the same unrelenting se­
verity which had fallen upon the house
of Albany. At this period the con­
dition of the Highlands, so far as it is
discoverable from the few authentic
documents which have reached our
times, appears to have been in the
highest degree rude and uncivilised.
There existed a singular combination
of Celtic and of feudal manners.
Powerful chiefs of Norman name and
Norman blood had penetrated into
the remotest districts, and ruled over
multitudes of vassals and serfs whose
strange and uncouth appellatives pro­
claim their difference of race in the
most convincing manner.3 The tenure

1 Fordun a Hearne, vol. iv. pp. 1355, 1358.

2 Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 488.

3 MS. Adv. Lib. Coll. Diplom. a Macfar-
lane, vol. i. p. 245. MS. Cart. Moray, p. 263.
See Illustrations, F,

of lands by charter and seisin, the
feudal services due by the vassal to
his lord, the bands of friendship or of
manrent which indissolubly united cer­
tain chiefs and nobles to each other,
the baronial courts, and the compli­
cated official pomp of feudal life, were
all to be found in full strength and
operation in the northern counties;
but the dependence of the barons,
who had taken up their residence in
these wild districts, upon the king,
and their allegiance and subordination
to the laws, were far less intimate and
influential than in the Lowland divi­
sions of the country; and as they ex­
perienced less protection, we have
already seen that in great public
emergencies, when the captivity of
the sovereign, or the payment of his
ransom, called for the imposition of a
tax upon property throughout the
kingdom, these great northern chiefs
thought themselves at liberty to resist
its collection within their mountain­
ous principalities.4

Besides such Scoto-Norman barons,
however, there were to be found in
the Highlands and the Isles those
fierce aboriginal chiefs who hated
the Saxon and the Norman race, and
offered a mortal opposition to the
settlement of all intruders within a
country which they considered their
own. They exercised the same autho­
rity over the various clans or septs of
which they were the heads or leaders
which the baron possessed over his
vassals and their military followers ;
and the dreadful disputes and colli­
sions which perpetually occurred be­
tween these distinct ranks of poten­
tates were accompanied by spoliations,
ravages, imprisonments, and murders,
which had at last become so frequent
and so far extended that the whole
country beyond the Grampian range
was likely to be cut off by these abuses
from all regular communication with
the more pacific parts of the kingdom.

This state of things called loudly
for redress, and the measures of the
king on reaching Inverness were of a
prompt and determined character.
He summoned the most powerful
History, supra, vol. i. pp. 227, 228.

70                                       HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. II.

chiefs to attend his parliament, and
this command, however extraordinary
it may appear, these ferocious leaders
did not think proper to disobey. It
may be that he employed stratagem,
and held out the prospect of pardon
and reconciliation ; or perhaps a dread­
ful example of immediate execution
in the event of resistance may have
persuaded the Highland nobles that
obedience gave them a chance for
their lives, whilst a refusal left them
no hope of escape. But by whatever
method their attendance was secured,
they soon bitterly repented their fa­
cility, for instantly on entering the
hall of parliament they were arrested,
ironed, and cast into separate prisons,
where all communication with each
other or with their followers was im­
possible. So overjoyed was James at
the success of his plan, and the ap­
parent readiness with which these
fierce leaders seemed to rush into the
toils which had been prepared for
them, that Bower described him as
turning triumphantly to his courtiers
whilst they tied the hands of the
captives, and reciting some leonine or.
monkish rhymes, applauding the skill
exhibited in their arrest, and the de­
served death which awaited them.
Upon this occasion forty greater and
lesser chiefs were seized, but the
names of the highest only have been
preserved,—Alexander of the Isles;
Angus Dow, with his four sons, who
could bring into the field four thou­
sand men from Strathnaver; Kenneth
More, with his son-in-law, Angus of
Moray and Makmathan, who could
command a sept of two thousand
strong; Alexander Makreiny of Gar­
morau, and John Macarthur, a potent
chief, each of whom could muster a
thousand men; along with John Ross,
William Lesley, and James Campbell,
are those enumerated by our contem­
porary historian, whilst the Countess
of Ross, the mother of Alexander of
the Isles, and heiress of Sir Walter
Lesley, a rich and potent baron, was
apprehended at the same time, and
compelled to share the captivity of
her son.1
1 Fordun a Hearne, vol. iv. pp. 1283, 1284.

Some of these, whose crimes had
rendered them especially obnoxious,
the king ordered to immediate execu­
tion. James Campbell was tried, con­
victed, and hanged for his murder of
John of the Isles; Alexander Mak-
reiny and John Macarthur were be­
headed, and their fellow-captives dis­
persed and confined in different prisons
throughout the kingdom. Of these
not a few were afterwards condemned
and executed, whilst the rest, against
whom nothing very flagrant could be
proved, were suffered to escape with
their lives. By some this clemency
was speedily abused, and by none
more than the most powerful and
ambitious of them all, Alexander of
the Isles.

This ocean lord, half prince and
half pirate, had shewn himself willing,
upon all occasions, to embrace the
friendship of England, and to shake
himself loose of all dependence upon
his sovereign ; whilst the immense
body of vassals whom he could muster
under his banner, and the powerful
fleet with which he could sweep the
northern seas, rendered his alliance or
his enmity a matter of no inconsider­
able consequence. After a short con-
finement, the king, moved, perhaps,
by his descent from the ancient family
of Lesley, a house of high and heredi­
tary loyalty, restored him to liberty,
after an admonition to change the evil
courses to which he had been addicted,
and to evince his gratitude by a life of
consistent attachment to the throne.
Alexander, however, after having re­
covered his liberty, only waited to see
the king returned to his Lowland do­
minions, and then broke out into a
paroxysm of fury and revenge. He
collected the whole strength of Ross
and of the Isles, and, at the head of
an army of ten thousand men, griev­
ously wasted the country, directing
his principal vengeance against the
crown lands, and concluding his cam­
paign by razing to the ground the
royal burgh of Inverness.2

James, however, with an activity for
which his enemy was little prepared,
instantly collected a feudal force, and
Fordun a Hearne, vol. iv. p. 1285.

1427.]                                               JAMES I.                                                       71

flew, rather than marched, to the
Highlands, where, in Lochaber, he
came up with the fierce but confused
and undisciplined army of the island
chief. Although his army was pro­
bably far inferior in numbers, yet the
sudden appearance of the royal banner,
the boldness with which he confronted
his enemy, and the terror of the king’s
name, gave him all the advantage of a
surprise; and before the battle began
Alexander found himself deserted by
the clan Chattan and the clan Came­
ron, who to a man went over to the
royal army. It is deeply to be re­
gretted that the account of this expe­
dition should be so meagre, even in
Bower, who was a contemporary. All
those particular details, which would
have given interest to the story, and
individuality to the character of the
persons who acted in it, and which a
little pains might have then preserved,
are now irrecoverably lost. We know
only that the Lord of the Isles, with
his chieftains and ketherans, was com­
pletely routed, and so hotly pursued
by the king that he sent an embassy
to sue for peace. This presumption
greatly incensed the monarch ; he de­
rided the idea of an outlaw, who knew
not where to rest the sole of his foot,
and whom his soldiers were then hunt­
ing from one retreat to another, arro­
gating to himself the dignity of an
independent prince, and attempting to
open a correspondence by his ambassa­
dors; and sternly and scornfully re­
fusing to enter into any negotiation,
returned to his capital, after giving
strict orders to his officers to exert
every effort for his apprehension.

Driven to despair, and finding it
every day more difficult to elude the
vigilance which was exerted, Alexan­
der resolved at last to throw himself
upon the royal mercy. Having pri­
vately travelled to Edinburgh, this
proud chief, who had claimed an
equality with kings, condescended to
an unheard-of humiliation. Upon a
solemn festival, when the monarch
and his queen, attended by their suite,
and surrounded by the nobles of the
court, stood in front of the high altar
in the church of Holyrood, a miserable-

looking man, clothed only in his shirt
and drawers, holding a naked sword
in his hand, and with a countenance
and manner in which grief and desti­
tution were strongly exhibited, sud­
denly presented himself before them.
It was the Lord of the Isles, who fell
upon his knees, and delivering up his
sword to the king, implored his cle­
mency. James granted him his life,
but instantly imprisoned him in Tan-
tallan castle, under the charge of
William, earl of Angus, his nephew.
His mother, the Countess of Ross, was
committed to close confinement in
the ancient monastery of Inchcolm,
situated in an island in the Firth of
Forth.1 She was released, however,
after little more than a year’s im­
prisonment ; and the island lord him­
self soon after experienced the royal
favour, and was restored to his lands
and possessions.

This unbending severity, which in
some instances approached the very
borders of cruelty, was, perhaps, a
necessary ingredient in the character
of a monarch who, when he ascended
the throne, found his kingdom, to use
the expressive language of an ancient
chronicle,2 little else than a wide den
of robbers. Two anecdotes of this
period have been preserved by Bower,
the faithful contemporary historian of
the times, which illustrate in a striking
manner both the character of the king
and the condition of the country. In
the Highland districts, one of those
ferocious chieftains against whom the
king had directed an act of Parliament,
already quoted, had broken in upon a
poor cottager, and carried off two of
her cows. Such was the unlicensed
state of the country, that the robber
walked abroad, and was loudly accused
by the aggrieved party, who swore
that she would never put off her shoes
again till she had carried her com­
plaint to the king in person. “ It is
false,” cried he; “ I’ll have you shod
myself before you reach the court;”
and with a brutality scarcely credible,
the monster carried his threat into

1  Fordun a Hearne, vol. iv. p. 1286.

2  MS. Chronicon ab anno 1390 ad annum
1402. Cartulary of Moray, p. 220.

72                             HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                   [Chap. II.

execution, by fixing with nails driven
into the flesh two horse shoes of iron
upon her naked feet, after which he
thrust her wounded and bleeding on
the highway. Some humane persons
took pity on her; and, when cured,
she retained her original purpose,
sought out the king, told her story,
and shewed her feet, still seamed and
scarred by the inhuman treatment
she had received. James heard her
with that mixture of pity, kindness,
and uncontrollable indignation which
marked his character; and having
instantly directed his writs to the
sheriff of the county where the robber
chief resided, had him seized within a
short time, and sent to Perth, where
the court was then held. He was
instantly tried and condemned; a
linen shirt was thrown over him, upon
which was painted a rude representa­
tion of his crime; and, after being
paraded in this ignominious dress
through the streets of the town, he
was dragged at a horse’s tail, and
hanged on a gallows.1 Such examples,
there can be little doubt, had an ex­
cellent effect upon the fierce classes,
for a warning to whom they were in­
tended, and caused them to associate
a degree of terror with the name of
the king; which accounts in some
measure for the promptitude of their
obedience when he arrived among
them in person.

The other story to which I have al­
luded is almost equally characteristic.
A noble of high rank, and nearly re­
lated to the king, having quarrelled
with another baron in presence of the
monarch and his court, so far forgot
himself, that he struck his adversary
on the face. James instantly had him
seized, and ordered him to stretch out
his hand upon the council table ; he
then unsheathed the short cutlass
which he carried at his girdle, gave it
to the baron who received the blow,
and commanded him to strike off the
hand which had insulted his honour
and was forfeited to the laws, threat­
ening him with death if he refused.
There is little doubt, from what we
know of the character of this prince,
Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 510.

that he was in earnest; but a thrill of
horror ran through the court, his pre­
lates and council reminded him of the
duty of forgiveness, and the queen,
who was present, fell at his feet, im­
plored pardon for the guilty, and at
last obtained a remission of the sen­
tence. The offender, however, was
instantly banished from court.2

One of the most remarkable features
in the government of this prince was
the frequent recurrence of his parlia­
ments. From the period of his return
from England till his death, his reign
embraced only thirteen years; and in
that time the great council of the
nation was thirteen times assembled.
His object was evidently to render the
higher nobles more dependent upon
the crown, to break down that danger­
ous spirit of pride and individual con­
sequence which confined them to their
separate principalities, and taught
them, for year after year, to tyrannise
over their unhappy vassals, without
the dread of a superior, or the restraint
even of an equal, to accustom them
to the spectacle of the laws, proceed­
ing not from their individual caprice
or authority, but from the collective
wisdom of the three estates, sanc­
tioned by the consent, and carried
into execution by the power, of the
crown acting through its ministers.

In a parliament, of which the prin­
cipal provisions have been already
noticed, it had been made incumbent
upon all earls, barons, and freeholders
to attend the meeting of the estates
in person; and the practice of sending
procurators or attorneys in their place,
which, there seems reason to believe,
had become not unfrequent, was
strictly forbidden, unless due cause of
absence be proved. In two subsequent
meetings of the great council of the
nation, the first of which appears to
have been held at Perth on the 30th
of September 1426, and the second on
the 1st of July 1427, some important
enactments occur, which evince the
unwearied attention of the king to the
manufactures, the commerce, the agri­
culture of his dominions, and to the
speedy and impartial administration
Fordun a Hearne, vol. iv. pp. 1334, 1335.

1427.]                                               JAMES I.                                                       73

of justice to all classes of his subjects.1
It is evident, from the tenor of a
series of regulations concerning the
deacons of the trades, or crafts, that
the government of James, probably
from its extreme firmness and severity,
had already become unpopular. It
was first commanded that the deacons
of the crafts should confine themselves
strictly and simply to their duties of
ascertaining, by an inspection every
fifteen days, whether the workmen be
sufficiently expert in their business,
but it was added that they should
have no authority to alter the laws of
the craft, or to punish those who have
offended against them; and in the
parliament of 1427 it was declared
that the provisions regarding the ap­
pointment of deacons of the crafts
within the royal burghs having been
found productive of grievous injury to
the realm, were henceforth annulled;
that no deacon be permitted after this
to be elected, whilst those already
chosen to fill this office were pro­
hibited from exercising their func­
tions, or holding their visual meetings,
which had led to conspiracies.2 It is
possible, however, that these con­
spiracies may have been combinations
amongst the various workmen on sub­
jects connected with their trade,
rather than any serious plots against

To the aldermen and council of the
different towns was committed the
charge of fixing the prices of the vari­
ous kinds of work, which they were
to regulate by an examination of the
value of the raw material, and an esti­
mate of the labour of the workman ;
whilst the same judges were to fix the
wages given to wrights, masons, and
such other handicraftsmen who con­
tributed their skill and labour, but did
not furnish the materials. Every far­
mer and husbandman who possessed a
plough and eight oxen was commanded
to sow annually a firlot of wheat, half
a firlot of pease, and forty beans, under
a penalty of ten shillings, to be paid
to the baron of the land, for each in-

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. pp. 13, 14.

fringement of the law; whilst the baron
himself, if he either neglected to sow
the same quantity within his own
demesnes, or omitted to exact the
penalty from an offending tenant, was
made liable in a fine of forty shillings
for every offence, to be paid to the
king. The small quantity of beans
here mentioned renders it probable
that this is the era of their earliest
introduction into Scotland.3

It would appear that although the
castles of the Lowland barons, during
the regencies of the two Albanies, had
been maintained by their proprietors
in sufficient strength, the houses of
defence, and the various fortalices of
the country, beyond that lofty range
of hills known anciently by the name
of the Mounth, had gradually fallen
into decay, a state of things proceed­
ing, without doubt, from the lawless
state of these districts, divided amongst
a few petty tyrants, and the extreme
insecurity of life and property to any
inferior barons who dared to settle
within them. To remedy this evil, it
was determined by the parliament that
every lord who had lands beyond the
Mounth, upon which, in “ auld tymes,”
there were castles, fortalices, or manor
places, should be compelled to rebuild
or repair them, and either himself to
reside therein, or to procure a friend
to take his place. The object of the
statute is described to be the gracious
government of the lands by good
polity, and the happy effects which
must result from the produce of the
soil being consumed upon the lands
themselves where it was grown,—an
error, perhaps, in civil policy, but
which evinced, even in its aberration,
an anxiety to discover the causes of
national prosperity, which is remark­
able for so remote a period.4

The extreme jealousy with which
the transportation of money, or bullion,
out of the realm, had always been re­
garded was carried to an extraordinary
height in the parliament of the 1st of
July 1427, for we find an enactment,
entitled, “ Anent the finance of clerks

3 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol. ii.
p. 13.

74                                       HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Char II.

by which all such learned persons pro­
posing to go beyond seas were strictly
enjoined either to make change of their
money, which they had allotted for
the expenses of their travel, with the
money-changers within the realm, or
at least with the merchants of the
country.” The same act was made im­
perative upon all lay travellers; and both
clerks and laymen were commanded
not to leave the country before they
had duly informed the king’s chancel­
lor of the exchange which they had
transacted, and of the object of their

Some of the most important regu­
lations in this parliament of July 1427
regarded the administration of civil
and criminal justice, a subject upon
which the king appears to have la­
boured with an enthusiasm and assi­
duity which evinces how deeply he
felt the disorders of this part of the
government. It was first declared
that all persons who should be elected
judges, in this or any succeeding par­
liament, for the determination of causes
or disputes, should be obliged to take
an oath that they will decide the ques­
tions brought before them to the best
of their knowledge, and without fraud
or favour. In the settlement of dis­
putes by arbitration, it was enacted
that for the future, where the arbiters
consist of clerks, a churchman, having
the casting vote, was to be chosen by
the bishop of the diocese, with advice
of his chapter; where the case to be
determined had arisen without burgh,
between the vassals of a baron or
others, the oversman having the cast­
ing vote was to be chosen by the sheriff’,
with advice of the lord of the barony;
and if the plea took place between citi­
zens within burgh, the provost and his
council were to select the oversman, it
being specially provided that for the
future all arbitrations were to be deter­
mined, not by an even, but an uneven
number of arbiters.1 With regard to
the case of Scottish merchants dying
abroad in Zealand, Flanders, or other
parts of the continent, if it be certain
that they were not resident in these

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol. ii.
p. 14.

parts, but had merely visited them for
the purposes of trade, all causes or
disputes regarding their succession, or
their other transactions, were declared
cognisable by the ordinary judge with­
in whose jurisdictions their testaments
were confirmed; even although it was
proved that part of the property of
the deceased trader was at that time
in England, or in parts beyond seas.

In a general council held at Perth
on the 1st of March 1427 a change
was introduced relative to the attend­
ance of the smaller barons and free
tenants in parliament, which, as intro­
ducing the principle of representation,
is worthy of particular attention. It
was determined by the king, with con­
sent of his council general, that the
small barons and free tenants needed
not to come hereafter to parliaments
nor general councils, provided that from
each sheriffdom there be sent two or
more wise men, to be chosen at the
head court of each sheriffdorn, in pro­
portion to its size. An exception,
however, was introduced with regard
to the sheriffdorns of Clackmannan and
Kinross, which were directed to return
each a single representative. It was
next declared that by these commis­
saries in a body there should be elected
an expert man, to be called the Com­
mon Speaker of the Parliament, whose
duty it should be to bring forward
all cases of importance involving the
rights or privileges of the commons;
and that such commissaries should
have full powers intrusted to them by
the rest of the smaller barons and free
tenants to discuss and finally to deter­
mine what subjects or cases it might
be proper to bring before the council
or parliament. It was finally ordained
that the expenses of the commissaries
and of the speaker should be paid by
their electors who owed suit and pre­
sence in the parliament or council, but
that this new regulation should have
no interference with the bishops, ab­
bots, priors, dukes, earls, lords of par­
liament, and bannerets, whom the king
declared he would continue to summon
by his special precept.2 It is probable

2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol. ii.
pp. 15, 16, cap. 2.

1427-9.]                                            JAMES I.                                                      75

that in this famous law, James had
in view the parliamentary regulations
which were introduced into England
as early as the reign of Henry the
Third, relative to the elections of
knights of the shire, and which he
had an opportunity of observing in
full force, under the fourth and fifth
Henries, during his long residence in
England.1 As far as we can judge
from the concise, but clear, expressions
of the act itself, it is evident that it
contained the rude draught or first
embryo of a Lower House, in the
shape of a committee or assembly of
the commissaries of the shires, who
deliberated by themselves on the pro­
per points to be brought before the
higher court of parliament by their

It is worthy of remark that an
institution which was destined after­
wards to become the most valuable
and inalienable right of a free subject—
that of appearing by his representa­
tives in the great council of the na­
tion—arose, in the first instance, from
an attempt to avoid or to elude it. To
come to parliament was considered by
the smaller barons who held of the
crown in capite an intolerable and
expensive grievance; and the act of
James was nothing else than a per­
mission of absence to this numerous
body on condition of their electing a
substitute, and each paying a propor­
tion of his expenses.

In the same parliament other acts
were passed, strikingly illustrative of
the condition of the country. Every
baron, within his barony, was directed,
at the proper season, to search for and
slay the wolves’ whelps, and to pay
two shillings a­head for them to any
man who brought them : the tenants
were commanded to assist the barons
on all occasions when a wolf-hunt was
held, under the penalty of “ a wedder”
for non-appearance; and such hunts
were to take place four times in the
year : no cruves, or machines for catch­
ing fish, were to be placed in waters
where the tide ebbed and flowed, for
three years to come : where the mer-

1 Rapin’s Acta Regia, vol. i. p. 41. Sta­
tutes of the Realm, vol. ii. pp. 156. 170, 235.

chants trading to the continent could
not procure Scottish ships, they were
permitted to freight their cargoes in
foreign vessels : no lepers were to dwell
anywhere but in their own hospitals,
at the gate of the town, or other places
without the bounds of the burgh;
strict inquiries were directed to be
made by the officials of the bishops,
in their visitations, with regard to all
persons, whether lay or secular, who
might be smitten with this loathsome
disease, so that they should be de­
nounced, and compelled to obey the
statute; and no lepers were to be
allowed to enter any burgh, except
thrice in the week, — on Mondays,
Wednesdays, and Fridays, between the
hours of ten and two, for the purpose
of purchasing their food; if, however,
a fair or market happened to be held
on any of these days, they were to
come in the morning, and not to mix
indiscriminately with the multitude.

If any clerk, whether secular or reli­
gious, were desirous of passing beyond
seas, it was made incumbent on him
first to come to his ordinary to shew
good cause for his expedition, and to
make faith that he should not be guilty
of any kind of simony or “ barratrie,”
a word meaning the purchasing of
benefices by money. All such default-
ers or “ barratoures” were to be con­
victed, under the statute already made
against those who carried money out
of the realm; and not only who were
convicted of this crime in time to
come, but all now without the realm,
being guilty of it, were made liable to
the penalties of the statute, and none
permitted either to send them money,
or to give them assistance, to whatever
rank or dignity in the Church they may
have attained.2 It was enacted that
no man should dare to interpret the
statutes contrary to their real mean­
ing, as understood by those who framed
them; and that the litigants in any
plea should attend at court simply ac­
companied by their councillors and
“ forespeakers,” and such sober re­
tinue as befitted their estate, and not

2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol. ii.
p. 16. Skene, De Verborum Significatione, voce

76                                       HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                        [Chap. II.

with a multitude of armed followers
on foot or horseback.

In the same general council some
strict regulations occur regarding the
prices charged by various craftsmen,
such as masons, smiths, tailors, weavers,
and the like, who had been in the
practice of insisting upon a higher
price for their labour than they were
by law entitled to. Wardens of each
craft were directed to be yearly elected
in every burgh, who, with the advice
of other discreet and unsuspected men,
were to examine and estimate the ma­
terials and workmanship of every trade,
and fix upon it a certain price, not to
be exceeded by the artificer, under the
forfeiture of the article thus over­
charged. In lands without the burgh
the duty of the warden was to be per­
formed by the baron, and the sheriff
to see that he duly performs it. The
council concluded by an act imposing
a penalty of forty shillings upon all per­
sons who should slay partridges, plovers,
black-cocks, gray-hens, muir-cocks, by
any kind of instrument or contrivance,
between lentryn and August.

It may be remarked that the meet­
ing of the three estates in which these
various enactments were passed is not
denominated a parliament, but a gene­
ral council—a term possibly implying
a higher degree of solemnity, and con­
ferring perhaps upon the statutes
passed in it a more unchallengeable
authority than the word parliament.
It is difficult, however, to understand
the precise distinction, or to discover
wherein this superior sanctity consists;
for, in looking to its internal constitu­
tion, we find that the members who
composed the general council were
exactly the same as those who sat in
the parliament; the bishops, abbots,
priors, earls, barons, and free tenants
who held of the king in capite, and
certain burgesses from every burgh in
the kingdom, “some of whom were
absent upon a legitimate excuse, and
others contumaciously, who, on this
account, were found liable in a fine of
ten pounds.” 1 Within four months
after the meeting of this last general

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 15.

council, the king convoked another
solemn assembly of the same descrip­
tion at Perth, on the 12th of July
1428, in which it was determined that
all successors of prelates, and all the
heirs of earls, barons, and free tenants
of the crown, should be bound before
they were permitted to enter into
possession of their temporalities or
their estates, to take the same oath of
allegiance to the queen which they
had sworn to the sovereign—a regula­
tion by which the king, in the event
of his death, prepared his subjects to
regard the queen as regent, and en­
deavoured to guard against those con­
vulsions which were too likely to arise
during a minority.2

It is time, however, to return from
this history of our early legislation to
the course of our narrative. Although
gradually gaining ground, France was
still grievously oppressed by the united
attacks of England and Burgundy ;
and Charles the Seventh, esteeming it
of consequence to secure the friend­
ship and assistance of Scotland, fol­
lowed up the betrothment between
James’s only daughter and the Dau­
phin by a contract of marriage, for
which purpose the Archbishop of
Rheims, and Stuart, lord of Darnley
and count of Dreux, again visited
Scotland. Instead of a dower, which
Scotland was at that time little able
to offer, James was requested to send
to France six thousand soldiers ; and
the royal bride was, in return, to be
provided in an income as ample as any
hitherto settled upon the queens of
France. In addition to this, the county
of Xaintonge and the lordship of Roch-
fort were to be made over to the Scot­
tish king ; all former alliances were
to be renewed and ratified by the mu­
tual oaths of the two monarchs; and
the French monarch engaged to send
transports for the passage of the Scot­
tish soldiers to France.

The extraordinary rise and splendid
military successes of the Maid of Or­
leans, which occurred in the year im­
mediately following this embassy,
rendered it unnecessary for the French

2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. pp. 16, 17.

1429-30.]                                         JAMES I.                                                       77

king to insist upon this article in the
treaty ; but the jealousy and appre­
hensions of England were roused by
the prospect of so intimate an alliance,
and the Cardinal Beaufort, the uncle
of James’s queen, who at this time
was one of the leading directors in the
government of England, made pro­
posals for an interview upon the
marches between the Scottish mon­
arch and himself, for the purpose of
consulting upon some affairs intimately
connected with the mutual weal and
honour of the two realms. James,
however, seems to have considered it
beneath the dignity of an independent
sovereign to leave his kingdom and
engage in a personal conference with
a subject, and the meeting never took
place.1 The two countries, however,
fortunately continued on amicable
terms with each other, and time was
given to the Scottish monarch to pur­
sue his schemes of improvement, and
to evince his continued zeal for every­
thing which affected the happiness of
his subjects and the internal prosperity
of his kingdom.

It appears that at this period the
poor tenants and labourers of the soil
had been reduced to grievous distress
by being dispossessed of their farms,
and turned out of their cottages, when­
ever their landlord chose to grant a
lease of the estate, or dispose of it to
a new proprietor; and such was then
the enslaved condition of the lower
classes in Scotland that the king, who
was bound to respect the laws which
affected the rights of the feudal lords,
could not of his own authority ame­
liorate the condition of the labourers.
He made it a request, however, to the
prelates and barons of his realm, in a
parliament held at Perth on the 26th
of April 1429, that they would not
summarily and suddenly remove the
husbandmen from any lands of which
they had granted new leases, for the
space of a year after such transaction,
unless where the baron to whom the
estate belonged proposed to occupy
the lands himself, and keep them for
his own private use ; a benevolent

1 Rymer, vol. x. p. 410. Rotuli Scotiæ,
vol. ii. p. 264.

enactment, which perhaps may be re­
garded as the first step towards that
important privilege, which was twenty
years afterwards conceded to the great
body of the farmers and labourers,
and which is known in Scottish law
under the name of the real right of

A sumptuary law was passed at the
same time, by which it was ordered
that no person under the rank of
knight, or having less than two hun­
dred marks of yearly income, should
wear clothes made of silk, adorned
with the richer kinds of furs, or em­
broidered with gold or pearls. The
eldest sons or heirs of all knights were
permitted to dress as sumptuously as
their fathers ; and the aldermen,
bailies, and council of the towns, to
wear furred gowns; whilst all others
were enjoined to equip themselves in
such grave and honest apparel as be­
fitted their station, that is to say, in
“serpis, beltis, uches, and chenzies.”
In these regulations, the apparel of
the women was not forgotten. The
increasing wealth and luxury of the
commercial classes had introduced a
corresponding, and, as it was then
esteemed, an unseemly magnificence in
the habiliments of the rich burghers’
wives, who imitated, and in all pro­
bability exaggerated, the dresses of the
ladies of the court. It was com­
manded that neither commoners’ wives
nor their servants should wear long
trains, rich hoods or ruffs, purfled
sleeves, or costly “curches” of lawn;
and that all gentlemen’s wives should
take care that their array did not ex­
ceed the personal estate of their hus­

All persons who were possessed of
property affording a yearly rent of
twenty pounds, or of movable goods
to the value of a hundred pounds,
were to be well horsed, and armed
“ from head to heel,” as became their
rank as gentlemen ; whilst others of
inferior wealth, extending only to ten
pounds in rent, or fifty pounds in
goods, were bound to provide them-

2  Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. pp. 17, 35.

3  Ibid. 17, 18.

78                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                         [Chap. II.

selves with a gorget, rearbrace, vant-
brace, breastplate, greaves, and leg-
splints, and with gloves of plate, or
iron gauntlets. The arms of the lower
classes were also minutely detailed.
Every yeoman whose property amount­
ed to twenty pounds in goods was
commanded to arm himself with a
good doublet of fence, or a haber­
geon, an iron hat, or knapscull, a bow
and sheaf of arrows, a sword, buckler,
and dagger. The second rank of yeo­
men, who possessed only ten pounds
in property, were to provide for them­
selves a bow and sheaf of arrows,
a sword, buckler, and dagger; whilst
the lowest class of all, who had no skill
in archery, were to have a good “suir“
hat, a doublet of fence, with sword
and buckler, an axe also, or at least a
staff pointed with iron. Every citizen
or burgess possessing fifty pounds in
property was commanded to arm him­
self in the same fashion as a gentle­
man ; and the burgess yeoman of in­
ferior rank, possessing property to the
extent of twenty pounds, to provide a
doublet and habergeon, with a sword
and buckler, a bow and sheaf of ar­
rows, and a knife or dagger. It was
finally made imperative on the barons
within their barony, and the bailies
within burgh, to carry these enact­
ments into immediate execution, under
certain penalties or fines, which, in
the event of failure, were to be levied
by the sheriff of the county.1

In the late rebellion of the Lord of
the Isles the want of a fleet had been
severely felt, and these statutes re­
garding the land force of the country
were followed by other regulations of
equal importance concerning the estab­
lishment of a navy,—a subject which
we have seen occupying the last exer­
tions of Bruce.

All barons and lords possessing
estates within six miles of the sea, in
the western and northern portions of
the kingdom, and opposite the isles,
were commanded to contribute to the
building and equipment of galleys for
the public service, in the proportion
of one oar to every four marks’ worth

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii.p. 18.

of land,2 and to have such vessels
ready to put to sea within a year.
From this obligation all such barons
as held their lands by the service of
finding vessels were of course excepted,
they being still bound to furnish them
according to the terms of their charter.
In the event of any merchant-ships
having been wrecked upon the coast,
the confiscation of their cargoes to the
king, or their preservation for their
owners, was made dependent upon the
law respecting wrecks in the country
to which such vessels belonged ; it
being just that they should receive
from foreign governments the same
protection which it was the practice
of their government to extend to
foreign vessels. It was enacted in the
same parliament that all advocates, or
forespeakers, who were employed in
pleading causes in any temporal court,
and also the parties litigant, if they
happened to be present, should swear,
before they be heard, that the cause
which they were about to plead was
just and true, according to their
belief; or, in the simple words of the
act itself, “ that they trow the cause
is gude and lele that they shall plead,”

In the same year, to the great joy
of the monarch and the kingdom, his
queen was delivered of twin sons,
whose baptism was celebrated with
much solemnity, one of them being
named Alexander, probably after
Alexander the Third, whose memory
was still dear to the people, and the
other James. At the font the king
created both these infants knights,
and conferred the same honour on the
youthful heirs of the Earl of Douglas,
the Chancellor, Lord Crichton, Lord
Borthwick, Logan of Restalrig, and
others of his nobility.3 The first of
these boys died very young, but the
second, James, was destined to succeed
his father in the throne.

The truce with England was now on
the point of expiring, and the king,
who was anxious to concentrate his

2  Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 19. What is here the precise value of
an oar cannot be discovered from any ex­
pression in the act.

3  Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 490.

1431.]                                                 JAMES I.                                                     79

whole efforts upon the pacification of
the northern parts of his dominions,
and whose unremitted attention was
required at home to carry his new laws
into execution, felt equally disposed
with Henry the Sixth to negotiate for
a renewal of the armistice, and to dis­
cuss the possibility of concluding a
permanent peace. For this purpose,
a meeting took place between com­
missioners from both nations, who
concluded a truce for five years, from
the 1st of April 1431, in the provi­
sions of which an anxious desire was
manifested on both sides to adopt
every possible expedient for restrain­
ing the intolerable lawlessness of the
Border warfare. In the same truce
various rude accommodations to each
other’s commerce were agreed upon
by the governments of the sister king­
doms ; it was forbidden to seize mer­
chants, pilgrims, and fishers of either
country, when driven into strange
ports by stress of weather ; ship­
wrecked men were to be allowed to pass
to their own homes; in cases of piracy,
not only the principal aggressors, but
all who had encouraged the adventure
or received the plunder, were to be
liable in compensation, and amenable
to punishment; and it was lastly
agreed that no aggressions by the
subjects of either kingdom should
occasion a breach of the truce.1

Having concluded this measure,
James found himself at leisure to take
into consideration the condition of
the Highlands, which, notwithstanding
the severity of the examples already
made, called loudly for his interfer­
ence. Donald Balloch, a near relation
of the Lord of the Isles, enraged at
what he deemed the pusillanimous
submission of his kinsman, having col­
lected a fleet and an army in the Heb­
rides, ran his galleys into the neck of
sea which divides Morven from the
little island of Lismore, and, disem­
barking at Lochaber, broke down upon
that district with all the ferocity of
northern warfare, cutting to pieces a
superior force commanded by Alex-

1 Rymer, Fœdera, vol. x. p. 482. See
M’Pherson’s Annals of Commerce, vol. i. p.

ander, earl of Mar, and Alan Stewart,
earl of Caithness, whom James had
stationed there for the protection of
the Highlands. The conflict took
place at Inverlochy; and such was the
fury of the attack, that the superior
discipline and armour of the Low­
land knights was unavailing against
the broadswords and battle-axes of
the islesmen. The Earl of Caith­
ness, with sixteen of his personal
retinue, and many other barons and
knights, were left dead on the field ;
while Mar, with great difficulty, suc­
ceeded in rescuing the remains of the
royal army. From the result of this
battle, as well as the severe loss ex­
perienced at Harlaw, it was evident
that the islesmen and the ketherans
were every day becoming more for­
midable enemies, and that their arms
and their discipline must have been of
late years essentially improved. Don­
ald Balloch, however, notwithstand­
ing the dispersion of the royal army,
appears to have considered it hazard­
ous to attempt to follow up his suc­
cess ; and having ravaged Lochaber,
and carried off as much plunder as he
could collect, re-embarked in his
galleys, retreated first to the isles, and
afterwards to Ireland.2

About the same time, in the wild
and remote county of Caithness, a
desperate conflict took place between
Angus Dow Mackay and Angus Mur­
ray, two leaders of opposite septs or
clans, which, from some domestic
quarrel, had arrayed themselves in
mortal opposition. They met in a
strath or valley upon the water of
Naver; when such was the ferocity
and exterminating spirit with which
the battle was contested, that out of
twelve hundred only nine are said to
have remained alive;3 an event which,
considering the infinite mischiefs
lately occasioned by their lawless
and undisciplined manners, was per-
haps considered a subject rather of
congratulation than of regret to the

These excesses, however, for the

2  Fordun a Hearne, vol. iv. p. 1289. Ex-
tracta ex Chronicis Scotiæ, p. 277.

3  Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 491.

80                                      HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                        [Chap. II.

time, had the effect of throwing the
whole of the northern parts of the
country into a state of tumult and
rebellion; and the king having col­
lected an army, summoned his feudal
barons to attend him, and determined
to proceed against his enemies in
person. With some of the most
powerful of the nobility, this northern
expedition seems to have been un­
popular ; and the potent Earl of Dou­
glas, with Lord Kennedy, both of
them nephews to James, were com­
mitted to ward in the castles of Loch-
leven and Stirling, probably from
some disgust expressed at the royal
commands.1 The rendezvous was
appointed at Perth, where, previous
to his northern expedition, a parlia­
ment was held on the 15th of Octo­
ber; and to defray the expenses
of the undertaking, a land-tax, or
“zelcle” was raised upon the whole
lands in the kingdom, ecclesiastical as
well as temporal. Its amount was
declared to be ten pennies in every
pound from those lands where, upon a
former occasion, the tax of two pennies
had been levied, and twelve pennies
in the pound out of all lands which
had been excepted from the payment
of this smaller contribution. At the
same time, the king directed his
justices to take proper measures for
the punishment of those vassals who
had disobeyed his summons, and ab­
sented themselves from the host; and,
with the intention of passing into the
Western Isles, and inflicting exemplary
vengeance against the pirate chiefs
who had joined Donald Balloch,
he proceeded to Dimstaffhage castle.
Here he found himself in a short
time surrounded by crowds of sup­
pliant island lords, who, dreading the
determined character of James, were
eager to make their submission, and
to throw the whole blame of the rebel­
lion upon Balloch, whose power they
dared not resist. By their means three
hundred of the most noted thieves
and robbers were seized and led to
immediate execution ; and soon after
Donald Balloch was himself betrayed
by one of the petty kings of Ireland,
Fordun a Hearne, vol. iv. p. 1288.

who, having entered into a secret
treaty with James, cut off his head,
and sent it to the king.2

It was at this period that the pesti­
lence again broke out in Scotland; but
the visitation, although sufficiently
dreadful, appears to have assumed a
less fatal character than that which in
1348 carried off almost a third part
of the population of the kingdom.
The winter had been unusually severe
and stormy, and the cold so intense,
that not only the domestic cattle, but
the hardier beasts of the chase, almost
entirely perished. It is difficult in
the meagre annals of contemporary
historians to detect anything like the
distinguishing symptoms of this awful
scourge. In contradistinction to the
pestilences which, in 1348, 1361, and
1378, had committed such fatal ra­
vages, Bower denominates this the “ pes-
tilentia volatilis; "3 and we know that,
having first appeared at Edinburgh in
the month of February 1430, it con­
tinued throughout the year 1432, at
which time it was prevalent in Had-
dington;4 while in the year imme-
diately preceding, (1431,) during the
parliament which was held at Perth
in October, the volatile character of
the disease seems to be pointed out
by the provision that the collectors
of the land-tax should be obliged to
arrange their accounts on the Feast of
the Purification of the Virgin, next to
come, “ at Perth, provided the pesti­
lence be not there, and if it is there, at
Saint Andrews.” 5 The inclemency of
the season, the poverty of the lower
classes, and the dreadful ravages oc­
casioned by private war, and by the
ferocity of the northern clans, must
have greatly increased the distresses
occasioned by such a calamity ; and

2  Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 20. Buchanan, book x. chap, xxxiii.
xxxvi. It is singular that James’s expedi­
tion against his northern rebels in 1431 is not
mentioned either by Fordun, or Bower in his
Continuation ; yet that such an expedition
took place ,the Acts of the Parliament held at
Perth, 15th of October 1431, afford undoubted

3  Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. pp. 347, 365,
391, 490.

4 Extracta ex Chronicis Scotiæ, p. 277.
Acts of Parliament, vol. ii. p. 20.

1432-3.]                                 JAMES I.                                           81

it appears from the accounts of our
contemporary chroniclers, that dur­
ing the height of the ravages which
the pestilence occasioned, the popular
mind, under the influence of terror and
ignorance, became agitated with fright­
ful stories and wild and romantic
superstitions. A total eclipse of the
sun, which occurred on the 17th of
June 1432, increased these terrors, the
obscuration beginning at three in the
afternoon, and for half an hour causing
a darkness as deep as midnight. It
was long remembered in Scotland by
the name of the Black Hour.1

The continuance of the successes of
the French, and the repeated defeats
which the English had experienced,
now rendered it of importance to the
government of Henry the Sixth to
make a serious effort for the establish­
ment of a lasting peace with Scotland ;
and for this purpose Lord Scrope pro­
ceeded as envoy to the court of James,
with proposals so decidedly advan­
tageous, that it is difficult to account
for their rejection. The English king,
he declared, was ready to purchase so
desirable a blessing as a peace by the
delivery of Roxburgh and Berwick
into the hands of the Scots, and the
restitution of all that had anciently
belonged to their kingdom. Anxious
to obtain the advice of his parliament
upon so momentous an offer, James
appointed a general council of the
whole states of the realm to be held
at Perth in October,2 in which he laid
before them the proposals of England.

The whole body of the temporal
barons agreed in the expediency of
entering upon an immediate negotia­
tion, preparatory to a treaty of peace,
and the majority of the prelates and
higher Churchmen concurred in this
proposal ; but amongst the minor
clergy there existed a party attached
to the interests of France, which was
headed by the Abbots of Scone and
Inchcolm. They warmly contended
that, considering the engagements with

1  Fordun a Hearne, vol. iv. p. 1307.

2  Ibid. vol. iv. p. 1808. I do not find in
Rymer’s Fœdera, in the Acts of the Parlia­
ment, or in the Rotuli Scotiæ, any deed
throwing light upon this transaction,


that country, and the treaty of mar­
riage and alliance which the king had
lately ratified, it was impossible to
accept the proposals of England, con­
sistently with his honour, and the
regard due to a solemn agreement,
which had been examined by the Uni­
versity of Paris, and had received the
ratification of the Pope. These argu­
ments were seconded by the Abbot of
Melrose, and with much violence op­
posed by Lawrence of Lindores, who,
as the great inquisitor of all heretical
opinions, imagined that he detected
in the propositions of his brethren of
the Church some tenets which were
not strictly orthodox. This led to a
warm reply, and the debate, instead
of a temperate discussion of the poli­
tical question which had been sub­
mitted to the parliament, degenerated
into a theological controversy of use­
less length and bitterness, which un­
fortunately led, in the first instance,
to a delay of the principal business,
and ultimately to a rejection of all
proposals of peace.3

The succeeding year was barbar­
ously signalised by the trial and con­
demnation of Paul Crawar, a Bohemian,
who was burnt for heresy at St An­
drews on the 23d of July. He had
been sent by the citizens of Prague,
who had adopted the tenets of Wick-
liff, to open an intercourse with their
brethren in Scotland. Of these earnest
inquirers after truth there appears to
have been a small sect, who, undaunted
by the dreadful fate of Resby, con­
tinued secretly to examine the alleged
errors of the Catholic Church, and to
disseminate what they contended were
principles more orthodox and scrip­
tural. Crawar was a physician, and
came into Scotland with letters which
spoke highly of his eminence in his
art; but he seized every opportunity
of inculcating principles contrary to
the established doctrines of the Church;
and the inquisitor, Lawrence of Lin-
dores, arraigned him before his court,
and entered into a laboured confuta­
tion of his opinions. He found him,
however, not only a courageous, but
according to the admission of his ene.

3 Fordun a Hearae, vol. iv. pp. 1309,1310,

82                                      HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                         [Chap. II.

mies, a singularly acute opponent. In
theological controversy, in an acquaint­
ance with the sacred Scriptures, and
in the power of prompt and apposite
quotation, the Bohemian physician
was unrivalled; but it was soon dis­
covered that he had adopted all the
opinions of the disciples of Wickliff
and of the heretics of Prague, and
that his profession of a physician was
merely a cloak to conceal his real
character as a zealous reformer.

That he had made many converts
there can be no doubt, from the ex­
pressions used by Bower; and the
laboured exposition and denunciation
of his errors, which is given by the
historian, contains evidence that his
opinions were on some points those of
Wickliff, which had been propagated
twenty-six years before by Resby. He
and his followers taught that the
Bible ought to be freely communicated
to the people; that, in a temporal
kingdom, the spiritual power should
be subservient to the civil; that ma­
gistrates had a right to arraign, on
trial, and to punish delinquent eccle­
siastics and prelates; that purgatory
was a fable; the efficacy of pilgrim­
ages an imposition; the power of the
“keys,” the doctrine of transubstan-
tiation, and the ceremonies of absolu­
tion, a delusion and invention of man.
The historian adds, that this sect de­
nied the resurrection of the dead, re­
commended a community of goods,
and that their lives were gross and
licentious.1 In the celebration of the
Lord’s Supper they departed entirely
from the solemnities which distin­
guished this rite in the usage of the
Catholic Church. They used no splen­
did vestments, attended to no canoni­
cal hours or set form of words, but
began the service at once by the Lord’s
Prayer; after which they read the
history of the institution of the Sup­
per as contained in the New Testa­
ment, and then proceeded to distri­
bute the elements, using common
bread and a common drinking-cup or

These practices and principles, in

1 Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. pp. 495, 496.
Ibid. vol. ii. p. 495.

some of which we can recognise not
merely a dawning, but nearly a full
development of the tenets of Luther,
excited a deep alarm amongst the
clergy, who found a warm supporter
in the king. James had been brought
up in a cruel and selfish school; for
both Henry the Fourth and his son
were determined persecutors, and the
price which they did not scruple to
pay for the money and the influence
of the clergy was the groans and tor­
tures of those who sealed their con­
fession with their blood. A familiarity
with religious persecution, and an early
habit of confounding it with a zeal for
the truth, became thus familiar to the
mind of the youthful king; and the
temptations to favour and encourage
his clergy, as a check and counterpoise
to the power of his nobles, was not
easily resisted. When, accordingly,
Lawrence of Lindores, the inquisitor
of heresy, became ambitious to sig­
nalise the same controversial powers
against Crawar which he had already
exerted in the confutation of Resby,
he found no difficulties thrown in his
way. The Bohemian reformer was
seized, arraigned, confuted, and con­
demned ; and as he boldly refused to
renounce his opinions, he was led to
the stake, and gave up his life for the
principles he had disseminated, with
the utmost cheerfulness and resolu­
tion.3 The great council of Basle,
which was held at this time, had taken
special cognisance of the errors of
Wickliff; and as the Bishops of Glas­
gow and Moray, with the Abbot of
Arbroath, and many of the Scottish
nobles, attended at this solemn assem­
bly of the Church, it is probable that
their increased devotion to the Catholic
faith, and anxiety for the extermina­
tion of heretical opinions in their own
country, proceeded from their late in­
tercourse with this great theological

In the midst of his labours for the
pacification of his northern dominions,
and his anxiety for the suppression of
heresy, the king never forgot his great
plan for the diminution of the exor-

3 Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. pp. 442, 495.
Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. ii. pp. 276, 284.

1433-4.]                                            JAMES I.                                                       So

bitant power of the nobles; and with
this view he now disclosed a design of
a bold character, but which, however
expedient, was scarcely reconcilable
to the principles of justice. The strong
castle of Dunbar, and the extensive
estate, or rather principality, of the
Earl of March, since the days of David
the First, had been a perpetual thorn
in the side of the Scottish government;
its situation having enabled each suc­
cessive earl to hold in his hands a
power far too great for any subject.
It was a common saying, that March
held the keys of the kingdom at his
girdle. The possession of the various
castles which commanded the passes
permitted him to admit an enemy at
pleasure into the heart of the country,
and almost rendered the prosperity of
the nation dependent upon the fidelity
of a single baron. These circum­
stances, accordingly, had produced the
effects which might have been anti­
cipated ; and the Earls of March had
shewn themselves for many generations
the most ambitious and the most in­
triguing of the whole race of Scottish
nobles; as pre-eminent in their power
as they were precarious in their

The conduct of the father of the
present earl had been productive of
infinite distress and misery to Scot­
land. Disgusted at the affront offered
to his daughter by the Duke of Rothe-
say’s breach of his betrothed promise,
and by his subsequent marriage with
the house of Douglas, he had fled to
England in 1401, and for eight years
had acted the part of an able and un­
relenting renegade. He had ravaged
Scotland in company with Hotspur;
he had been the great cause of the
disastrous defeat at Homildon; his
military talents were still more decid­
edly displayed upon the side of Henry
the Fourth at Shrewsbury; and his
son, the earl, against whom James
now resolved to direct his vengeance,
had defeated the Scots at West Nesbit.
After the accession of Albany to the
kingdom, the elder March, in 1408,
returned to his native country; and
having been restored to his estates,
which had been forfeited to the crown

in consequence of his rebellion, he
continued in the quiet possession of
them till his death, which happened
in 1420.

He was succeeded by his son, George,
earl of March, a baron who, with the
single exception of having fought
against the Scots at Nesbit, does not
appear to have inherited any part of
his father’s versatility; and who, al­
though arrested by James at the time
when Duke Murdoch was imprisoned,
shared that fate in common with many
others of the nobility, who seem to
have purchased their peace with the
king by sitting upon the jury which
condemned his unfortunate cousin. It
was a remarkable feature, however, in
the character of this monarch, that he
retained his purposes with a steadiness
and patience that gave little alarm,
while it enabled him quietly to watch
his opportunity; that he was calculat­
ing upon the removal of obstacles, and
smoothing the road for the execution
of his designs, when no one suspected
that such designs existed. In the par­
liament held at Perth, on the 15th of
October 1431, it had been declared by
the three estates 1 that the governor
of the realm, during the period of his
government, had no power to alienate
any lands which, by the decease of a
bastard, might have fallen to the crown ;
and that, on this ground, the donation
of the lands of Yetholm, which had
been made by Albany, when governor,
to Adam Ker, was of none effect, al­
though it had been completed by feudal
investiture. It is very probable that,
at this or a subsequent period, other
enactments may have been passed re­
lative to the power possessed by the
king to resume such estates as, having
once been forfeited for treason, had
been restored by the governor. No
record of such, however, remains; and
we only know that James, having felt
his way, and being probably sure of
his own strength, determined on the
resumption of the immense estates of
March into the hands of the crown.

A parliament was accordingly as­
sembled at Perth, on the 10th of

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 20.

84                                      HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                         [Chap. II.

January 1434, and its first proceeding
was to select a committee of nine per­
sons, including three of the clergy,
three of the barons, and three of the
burgesses, to determine all causes
which might be brought before them.
The Abbots of Scone and of St Colm,1
the Provost of the collegiate church
of Methven, Sir Robert Stewart
of Lorn, Sir Thomas Somerville of
Somerville, and Sir Walter Haliburton
of Dirleton, along with John Spens of
Perth, Thomas Chambers of Aberdeen,
and James Parkle of Linlithgow, were
the judges chosen upon this occasion;
but whether the important cause re­
lating to the earldom of March came
before them, or was pleaded in pre­
sence of the whole body of the parlia­
ment, is not easily ascertained. It is
certain that the question regarding the
forfeiture of the property, and its re­
version to the crown, in consequence
of the treason of the late Earl of March,
was discussed with all due solemnity
by the advocates or prolocutors of the
king, and of the earl then in posses­
sion ; after which, this baron and his
counsel being ordered to retire, the
judges considered the reasons which
had been urged on both sides, and
made up their opinion upon the case.
March and his prolocutors were then
readmitted, and the doomster de­
clared it to be the decision of the par­
liament that, in consequence of the
forfeiture of Lord George of Dunbar,
formerly Earl of March, all title of
property to the lands of the earldom
of March and lordship of Dunbar, with
whatever other lands the same baron
held of the crown, belonged of right
to the king, and might immediately
be insisted on.2

Against this measure, which in a
moment reduced one of the most
powerful subjects in the realm to the
condition of a landless dependant upon
the charity of the crown, it does not
appear that the earl or his friends
dared to offer any remonstrance or
resistance. They probably knew it

1 Walter Bower, the excellent Continuator
of Fordun.

2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 23.

would be ineffectual, and might bring
upon them still more fatal conse­
quences ; and James proceeded to com­
plete his plan for the security of the
kingdom by taking possession of the
forfeited estate, and delivering the
keeping of the castle of Dunbar, which
he had seized in the preceding year, to
Sir Walter Haliburton of Dirleton.
He then, to soften in some degree the
severity of his conduct, conferred upon
March the title of Earl of Buchan, and
assigned to him, out of the revenues
of that northern principality, an annual
pension of four hundred marks. That
noble person, however, full of resent­
ment for the cruelty with which he
had been treated, disdained to assume
a title which he regarded as only a
mark of his degradation; and almost
immediately after the judgment, bid­
ding adieu to his country, in company
with his eldest son, retired to England.3
Although this extraordinary proceed­
ing appears not to have occasioned any
open symptoms of dissatisfaction at
the moment, it is impossible to con­
ceive that it should not have roused
the jealousy and alarmed the minds of
the great body of the feudal nobility.
It cannot, perhaps, be pronounced
strictly unjust; yet there was a harsh­
ness, it may almost be said a tyranny,
in the manner in which such princely
estates were torn from the family,
after they had been possessed for
twenty-six years without challenge or

During the long usurpation of Al­
bany, many of the nobles had either
acquired, or been permitted to retain
their lands, upon tenures in every
respect as unsound as that by which
March possessed his earldom, and none
knew whether they might not be the
next victims. A dark suspicion that
the life of the king was incompatible
with their security and independence
began secretly to infuse itself into
their minds; and from a proceeding
which took place before the dissolution
of the parliament, the monarch him­
self appears to have been aware of the
probability of conspiracy, and to have
contemplated the possibility of his
Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. ii. p. 293.

1434-6.]                                           JAMES I.                                                       85

being suddenly cut off in the midst of
his schemes for the consolidation of
his power. He did not allow them to
separate and return to their homes,
before the whole lords of parliament
temporal and spiritual, as well as the
commissaries of the burghs, had pro­
mised to give their bonds of adherence
and fidelity to their sovereign lady the

About the same time the king ac­
quired a great accession of property
and power by the death of Alexander
Stewart, the famous Earl of Mar, and
a natural son of the Earl of Buchan,
James’s uncle. The estates of this
wealthy and potent person, who, from
a rude and ferocious Highland free­
booter, had become one of the ablest
captains and most experienced states­
men in the nation,2 reverted upon his
death to the crown, upon the ground
of his bastardy. The humiliation of
the hated race of Albany was now
complete. Murdoch and his sons,
with the Earl of Lennox, had perished
on the scaffold, and their whole
estates had reverted to the crown;
although the Earl of Buchan, who was
slain at Verneuil, had left an only
daughter, to whom the title belonged,
by a stretch of power bordering upon
injustice, the title had been bestowed
upon the disinherited March, and now
the immense estates of the Earl of
Mar, the natural son of Buchan, re­
verted to the crown. The power of
the king became thus every day more
formidable ; but it was built upon the
oppression of his feudal nobility, a set
of men with whom it was considered
a meanness to forget an injury, and
whose revenge was generally deep and
terrible—and so the result shewed.

Entirely occupied with a vain and
unsuccessful effort to retain their con­
quests in France, the English govern­
ment evinced every anxiety to pre­
serve inviolate the truce with Scot­
land ; but the spirit of Border hostility
could not be long restrained, and Sir
Robert Ogle, from some cause which is

1  Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 23. The expression is, “dare literas
suas retenenciæ et fidelitatis Domine nostre

2  Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 500.

not easily discoverable, broke across
the marches, at the head of a strong
body of knights and men-at-arms.
He was met, however, and totally
routed, near Piperden, by the Earl of
Angus, Hepburn of Hailes, and Sir
Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie, he
himself being taken captive, forty
slain, and nearly the whole of his party
made prisoners.3 James violently re­
monstrated against this unprovoked
infraction of the truce, and, in his
letters to the English regency, insisted
upon immediate redress; but his com­
plaints were overlooked or rejected,
and the king was not of a temper to
bear such an affront with tameness, or
to forget it when an opportunity for
retaliation occurred.

These indignant feelings were in­
creased by an occurrence which fol­
lowed soon after the conflict at Piper-
den. The Dauphin of France, who
had been betrothed to Margaret, the
daughter of the Scottish king, had
now attained his thirteenth year, and
the princess herself was ten years old :
it was accordingly resolved to com­
plete the marriage; and with this
view, two French envoys having ar­
rived in Scotland, the youthful bride
was sent to the court of the King of
France, accompanied by a splendid
train of the nobility. The fleet which
carried her to her future kingdom,
where her lot was singularly wretched,
was commanded by the Earl of Ork­
ney, William Sinclair. The Bishop of
Brechin, Sir Walter Ogilvy the trea­
surer, Sir Herbert Harris, Sir John Max­
well of Calderwood, Sir John Campbell
of Loudon, Sir John Wishart, and many
other barons, attended in her suite.
They were waited on by a hundred
and forty youthful squires, and a guard
of a thousand men-at-arms; and the
fleet consisted of three large ships and
six barges.4

In defiance of the truce which then
subsisted between the two kingdoms,
the English government determined,
if possible, to intercept the princess
upon her passage to France, and for
this purpose fitted out a large fleet,

3 Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p, 501.
Ibid. vol. ii, p. 485.

86                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                         [Chap. II.

which anchored off the coast of Bre-
tagne, in order to watch the motions
of the Scots. It was impossible that
so flagrant an insult should fail to
rouse the indignation of the Scottish
king. It convinced him how little
was to be trusted to the honour of a go­
vernment which disregarded a solemn
truce the moment a favourable oppor­
tunity for conquest, or annoyance, pre­
sented itself, whilst it reminded him
of the treachery by which he had him­
self been seized, and brought all the
bitterness of his long captivity before
him. The project, however, was un­
successful. The English were drawn
away from their watch by the appear­
ance of a company of Flemish mer­
chantmen, laden with wine from Ro-
chelle, which they pursued and cap­
tured ; but the triumph was of short
duration; for almost immediately after
a Spanish fleet appeared in sight, and
an engagement took place, in which
the English were beaten, their Flemish
prizes wrested from their hands, and
they themselves compelled to take to
flight. In the midst of these transac­
tions, the little Scottish squadron,
with the Dauphiness and her suite,
safely entered the port of Rochelle,
and disembarked at Neville Priory,
where she was received by the Arch­
bishop of Rheims and the Bishop of
Poictiers and Xaintonge. The mar­
riage was afterwards celebrated at
Tours with much magnificence, in pre­
sence of the King and Queen of
France, the Queen of Sicily, and the
nobility of both kingdoms.1 By the
common practice of most feudal states,
an expensive ceremony of this kind
was considered a proper occasion for
the imposition of a general tax through­
out the kingdom; but James refused
to oppress the great body of his sub­
jects by any measure of this nature,
and contented himself with those gifts
or largesses which the prelates and the
chief nobility of the court were wont
to contribute upon such joyful occur­

The late infraction of the truce by
Ogle, and the insidious attempt upon

1  Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. pp. 485, 501.

2  Ibid.

the part of the English government to
intercept the Dauphiness, his daugh­
ter, had inflamed the resentment of
the Scottish king, and rendered him
not averse to the renewal of the war.
It is probable, however, that there
were other causes for this sudden reso­
lution; and these are perhaps to be
sought in the irritated feelings with
which a portion of the nobility began
to regard the government of James.
To find excitement and employment
for such dangerous spirits, the monarch
assembled the whole force of his do­
minions ; and with an army formidable
indeed in numbers, but weakened by
intrigues and discontent amongst the
principal leaders, he commenced the
siege of Roxburgh.3

The subsequent course of events is
involved in much obscurity, which the
few original documents that remain
do not in any satisfactory manner re­
move. After having spent fifteen days
in the siege, during which time the
warlike engines for the attack were
broken and rendered useless, and the
quarrels, arrows, and missiles entirely
exhausted, the castle was on the eve
of being surrendered, when the queen
suddenly arrived in the camp, and
James, apparently in consequence of
the secret information which she com­
municated, abruptly put a period to
the siege, disbanded his army, and with
a haste which implied some weighty
cause of alarm, returned ingloriously
into the interior of his dominions.
For such an abrupt step no certain
cause can be assigned, but such, be­
yond question, was the fact; and it
naturally leads to the conjecture that
James was suddenly informed of some
treacherous designs against him, and
suspected that the conspirators lurked
within his own kingdom.4

This precipitate dismissal of his

3 Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 502. The king
was engaged in the siege of Roxburgh 10th
August 1436. Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. ii. p. 295.

4 Bower (Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 502)
says nothing of the arrival of the queen at
Roxburgh ; but the ancient MS., entitled Ex-
tracta ex Chronicis Scotiæ, p. 279, expressly
states the fact:—“Per quindecim dies obsi-
dioni vacabant. et nihil laudis actum est
veniens regina abduxit regem ; reliqui sunt
secuti et sic cessavit.”

1436.]                                               JAMES L                                                       87

forces took place in August, and two
months afterwards the king held a
general council at Edinburgh, on the
22d of October 1436, in whose pro­
ceedings we can discern nothing in­
timating any continued suspicion of
a conspiracy. Some commercial re­
gulations were passed, which, under
the mistaken idea that they were en­
couragements, proved, in reality, re­
strictions upon commerce. Exporters
of wool were in future to give security
to bring home and deliver to the mas­
ter of the mint three ounces of bullion
for every sack of wool, nine ounces for
a last of hides, and three ounces for
such quantity of other goods as paid
freight, equal to an ancient measure
called a serplaith; whilst, in addition
to the impolicy of restricting the mer­
chants from importing such goods as
they esteemed most likely to increase
their profits, the delivery of the silver
was regulated by weight or measure,
and not by value. Other unwise re­
strictions were imposed. No English
cloth was permitted to be purchased
by the Scottish merchants, nor were
English traders allowed to carry any
articles of Scottish trade or manufac­
ture out of the kingdom, unless such
were specified particularly in their let­
ters of safe-conduct.1

Yet, in the midst of these parlia­
mentary proceedings, more dark de­
signs were in agitation amongst the
nobility ; and the seeds of discontent
and rebellion, which the king imagined
had been entirely eradicated after the
retreat from Roxburgh, were secretly
expanding themselves into a conspi­
racy, of which the history and rami­
fications are as obscure as the result
was deplorable. Its chief actors, how­
ever, and the temper and objects by
which they were regulated, may be as­
certained on authentic evidence. The
chief promoters of the plot were Sir
Robert Graham, brother of Sir Patrick
Graham of Kincardine; Walter Stew­
art, earl of Athole, a son of Robert the
Second ; and his grandson, Sir Robert
Stewart, who filled the office of cham-

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol. ii.
pp. 23, 24. M’Pherson’s Annals of Commerce,
vol. i. p. 650.

berlain to the king, by whom he was
much caressed and favoured. Graham’s
disposition was one which, even in a
civilised age, would have made him a
dangerous enemy; but in those feudal
times, when revenge was a virtue, and
forgiveness a weakness, it became, un­
der such nurture, peculiarly dark and
ferocious. Unshaken courage, and a
contempt of pain and danger, a per­
suasive power of bending others to
his purposes, a dissimulation which
enabled him to conceal his private
ambition under a zeal for the public
good, and a cruelty which knew nei­
ther hesitation nor remorse, were the
moral elements which formed the cha­
racter of this daring conspirator.

Upon the return of the king from
his detention in England, and at the
time that he inflicted his summary
vengeance upon the house of Albany,
Sir Robert Graham had been impri­
soned, along with the other adherents
of that powerful family; but it seems
probable that he obtained his liberty,
and for a while became reconciled to
the government. Another transaction,
however, was at hand, which, it is said,
rekindled his feelings into a deter­
mined purpose of revenge. This was
the seizure or resumption of the earl­
dom of Strathern by the king, David,
earl of Strathern, the brother of the
Earl of Athole, was the eldest son of
Robert the Second, by his second
wife, Euphemia Ross. He left an
only daughter, who married Patrick
Graham, son of Sir Patrick Graham of
Kincardine, and, in right of his wife,
Earl of Strathern, to whose children,
as the transmission of these feudal
dignities through females was the ac­
knowledged law of Scotland, the title
and estates undoubtedly belonged.
James, however, fixed his eyes upon
this powerful earldom. He contended
that it was limited to heirs-male; that
upon the death of David, earl of
Strathern, it ought to have reverted
to the crown; and that Albany, the
governor, had no power to permit Pa­
trick Graham or his son to assume so
extensive a fief, which he resumed as
his own. Although, however, he dis­
possessed Malise Graham, the son of

88                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                          [Chap. II.

the Earl of Strathern, of his lands and
dignity, James appears to have been
anxious to remove the appearance of in-
justice from such conduct, and to con­
ciliate the disinherited family. For this
purpose he conferred the liferent of
the earldom of Strathern upon Athole,
and he created the new earldom of
Menteith in favour of Malise Graham.1

This attempt at conciliation, how­
ever, did not succeed ; and indeed, not­
withstanding the disguise which the
king threw over it, it is easy to see
that his conduct must have appeared
both selfish and tyrannical. It was
selfish, because, from the extreme age
of Athole, James looked to the almost
immediate possession of the rich earl­
dom which he had torn from the
Grahams ; and tyrannical, because
there appears no ground for the asser­
tion that it was a male fief. Malise
Graham was now a youth, and absent
in England; but his uncle, Sir Robert
Graham, remonstrated, as the natural
guardian of his rights; and finding it
in vain to sue for redress, he deter­
mined upon revenge. It was no diffi­
cult matter for a spirit like his to work
upon the jealousies and discontented
feelings of the nobles; and there were
yet remaining many friends of Albany,
who remembered the dreadful fate of
that unhappy house, and who con­
sidered themselves bound by those
strict ties of feudal vassalage then
esteemed sacred to revenge it the mo­
ment an opportunity presented itself.

Amongst these persons, Graham,
who himself felt the influence of such
feelings in the strongest possible man­
ner, found many ready associates; but
although the body of the higher nobi­
lity were sufficiently eager to enter
into his designs for the abridgment of
the royal prerogative, and the resump­
tion of the power which they had lost,
they appear at first to have shrunk
from anything beyond this.2 It was
determined meanwhile that Graham,
who was an eloquent speaker, should
detail their grievances in parliament,

1 Hailes, Sutherland Case, chap. v. p. 57.

2 Contemporary Account of “The dethe of
the King of Scotis,” first printed by Pinker-
ton, Hist. vol. i. p. 462.

and that his remonstrance should be
seconded by the rest of the nobles.
The natural audacity of his character,
however, made him exceed his com­
mission. He spoke with open detesta­
tion of the tyrannical conduct of the
government; pointed out in glowing
language the ruin of the noblest fami­
lies in the state; and concluded by an
appeal to the barons who surrounded
him, beseeching them to save the au­
thority of the laws, were it even at
the risk of laying a temporary restraint
upon the person of the sovereign. The
temerity of this speech confounded the
barons who had promised to support
him: they trembled and hesitated;
whilst James, starting from his throne,
commanded them instantly to arrest
the traitor, and was promptlv obeyed.
Graham meanwhile loudly expressed
the bitterest contempt for the pusil­
lanimity of his associates; but he was
hurried to prison, soon after banished
from court, and his estates confiscated
to the crown.3

James, if not already sensible of the
dangerous character of Graham, must
have now been fully aware of it; and
how he should have suffered so bold
and able a rebel to escape, is difficult
to understand. It is evident, I think,
that the connexion between Graham,
the Earl of Athole, and Sir Robert
Stewart had not at this time proceeded
to the formation of those atrocious
designs which they afterwards carried
into execution, for we cannot doubt
that the king must have examined the
whole affair with the utmost anxiety;
and his banishment of Graham only
may convince us that, in this instance,
he did not suspect him of plotting
with others of his nobility.

Enraged at the ruin of his fortunes,
this audacious man retreated to the
Highlands, and within their gloomy
recesses meditated a desperate revenge.
But the mode in which he proceeded
had something great about it, and
shewed that he was no hired or com­
mon assassin. He sent a letter to
James, in which he renounced his alle­
giance ; he defied him, as a tyrant who

3 Contemporary Account of “ The dethe of
the King of Scotis,” Hist. vol. i, p. 464.

1436.]                                                JAMES I.                                                      89

had ruined his family, and left him
houseless and landless; and he warned
him that, wherever he could find op­
portunity, he would slay him as his
mortal enemy. These threats, coming
from a vagabond traitor, James de­
spised ; but he made proclamation for
his apprehension, and fixed a large
sum of gold on his head.1

In the meantime parliament met,
and Graham, although immured in
his Highland retreats, found means to
communicate with the discontented
nobles, and to induce the Earl of
Athole, and his grandson, Sir Robert
Stewart, to enter fully into his schemes
for the destruction of the king. He
represented to this baron, who, though
now aged, inherited the proud ambi­
tion of his family, that Robert the
Third was born out of wedlock, and
that the crown belonged to him, as the
lawful son of the second marriage of
Robert the Second, or, if he chose to
decline it, to Stewart, his grandson.
The single life of a tyrant, who had
destroyed his house, and whose power
was every day becoming more for­
midable, was, he contended, all that
stood between him and the throne,
for James’s son was yet a boy in his
sixth year, and might be easily dis­
posed of; and such was the unpopu­
larity of the government, that the
whole body of the nobility would
readily welcome a change. It is said
also that Graham worked upon
Athole’s ambition by the predictions
of a Highland seer, who had prophesied
that this earl should be crowned in
that same year; a story much in the
superstitious character of the times,
and not unlikely to be true, as the
conspiracy was undoubtedly brought
to its height within the Highlands. If
Graham was thus able to seduce the
age and experience of Athole, it is not
surprising that the prospect of a crown
easily captivated the youthful ambi­
tion of Sir Robert Stewart, his grand­
son; and as he was chamberlain to
the king, enjoyed his most intimate
confidence, and was constantly em­
ployed in offices about his person, his
accession to the plot may be regarded
Contemporary Account.

as the principal cause of its success.
Graham’s inferior assistants were prin­
cipally some obscure dependants on
the house of Albany, Christopher and
Thomas Chambers,2 with Sir John
Hall and his brother; but his influence
in the Highlands had collected a body
of three hundred ketherans, without
whose co-operation it is not probable
that he could have effected his pur­

All things were now nearly ready,
whilst the king, naturally of a fearless
and confident temper, and occupied
with his schemes for the amelioration
of the commerce of the kingdom, and
the better execution of the laws, ap­
peared to have forgotten the insolence
of Graham, and to have been persuaded
that the discontents amongst his no­
bility had passed away. Christmas
approaching, it was determined that
the court should keep the festival at
Perth, in the monastery of the Domini­
cans, or Black Friars, a noble edifice,
which gave ample room for the accom­
modation of the royal retinue. This
resolution gave an unlooked-for facility
to the traitors, for it brought their
victim to the borders of the Highlands.
It was accordingly resolved by Graham
that the murder should be committed
at this holy season; and, after his
preparations had been made, he waited
patiently for the arrival of the king.

It was impossible, however, that a
plot which embraced so many agents
should be kept completely secret; and
a Highland woman, who in those days
of superstition laid claim to prophetic
skill, becoming acquainted with the
design, resolved to betray it to the
king. Accordingly, as the monarch
and his nobles were on their road to
cross the Firth of Forth, then called
the Scottish sea, she presented herself
before the royal cavalcade, and ad­
dressing James, solemnly warned him,
“ that if he crossed that water he
should never return again alive.” 3 He
was struck with her wild appearance,

2 Contemporary Account, p. 466. In the
Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. ii. p. 159. we find John
del Chambre in the employment of Albany
in 1401.

3 Contemporary Account, Pinkerton. vol.
i. p. 465.

90                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                         [Chap. II.

and the earnestness of her manner,
stopt for a moment, and commanded a
knight who rode beside him to inquire
what she meant. Whether from stu­
pidity or treachery is not certain, the
commission was hurriedly executed,
and she had only time to say that her
information came from one Hubert;
when the same knight observing that
she was either mad or intoxicated, the
king gave orders to proceed, and, hav­
ing crossed the firth, rode on to Perth.
James, as was expected, took up his
residence in the Dominican monastery,
and the court was unusually brilliant
and joyous. Day after day passed in
every species of feudal delight and
revelry; and the conspirators had
matured their plan, and fixed the very
hour for the murder, whilst the un­
happy prince dreamt of nothing but

It was on the night between the
20th and the 21st of February that
Graham resolved to carry his purpose
into effect. After dark, he had pro­
cured Sir Robert Stewart, whose
office of chamberlain facilitated his
treachery, and rendered him above
all suspicion, to place wooden boards
across the moat which surrounded the
monastery, over which the conspirators
might pass without disturbing the
warder, and to destroy the locks and
remove the bolts of the doors by
which the royal bedchamber com­
municated with the outer room, and
this apartment with the passage. On
this fatal evening the revels of the
court were kept up to a late hour.
The common sports and diversions of
the time, the game of tables, the read­
ing romances, the harp and the song,
occupied the night; and the prince
himself appears to have been in un­
usually gay and cheerful spirits. He
even jested about a prophecy which
had declared that a king should that
year be slain; and when engaged in
playing at chess with a young knight,
whom in his sport he was accustomed
to call the King of Love, warned him
to look well to his safety, as they were
the only two kings in the land.1 In
the midst of this playful conversation,
Contemporary Account, p. 466.

Christopher Chambers, one of the con­
spirators, being seized with remorse,
repeatedly approached the royal pre­
sence, intending to warn James of his
danger ; but either his heart failed
him, or he was prevented by the crowd
of knights and ladies who filled the
presence chamber, and he renounced
his purpose. It was now long past
midnight, and the traitors, Athole and
Stewart, who knew by this time that
Graham and the other conspirators
must be near at hand, heard James
express his wishes for the conclusion
of the revels with secret satisfaction ;
when, at this moment, a last effort
was made to save the unhappy prince,
which had almost succeeded. The
faithful Highland woman, who had
followed the court to Perth, again
presented herself at the door of the
chamber, and so earnestly implored to
see the king, that the usher informed
him of her wishes. It was a moment
on which his fate seemed to hang, but
his evil genius presided; he bade her
call again and tell her errand on the
morrow, )and she left the monastery,
after solemnly observing that they
would never meet again.2

Soon after this, James called for
the parting cup, and the company dis­
persed. The Earl of Athole, and Sir
Robert Stewart, the chamberlain,
were the last to leave the apartment;
and the king, who was now partly un­
dressed, stood in his night­gown before
the fire, talking gaily with the queen
and her ladies of the bedchamber,
when he was alarmed by a confused
clang of arms, and a glare of torches
in the outer court. A suspicion of
treason, and a dread that it was the
traitor Graham, instantly darted into
his mind, and the queen and the wo­
men flew to secure the door of the
apartment, but to their dismay found
the locks destroyed and the bolts re­
moved. James thus became certain
that his destruction was resolved on;
but his presence of mind did not for­
sake him, and commanding the women
to obstruct all entrance as long as they

2 Contemporary Account, p. 467. “The
said woman of Yreland that cleped herself
a dyvenourese.

1436.1                                                JAMES I.                                                       91

were able, he rushed to the windows,
but found them so firmly secured by
iron bars, that all escape was im­
possible. The steps of armed men
now came nearer and nearer, and in
utter despair he seized the tongs of the
fireplace in the apartment, and by
main force wrenching up one of the
boards of the floor, let himself down
into a small vault situated below; he
then replaced the board, and thus
completely concealed himself from ob­
servation. From this incommodious
retreat there was a communication
with the outer court by means of a
drain or square hole used for cleansing
the apartment, and of width enough
to have permitted the king to escape;
but it had unfortunately been built
up only three days before this by
James’s own direction, as the tennis
court was near it, and the balls had
frequently run in and been lost in the
aperture.1 Meanwhile, Graham and
his accomplices rushed towards the
king's bedchamber, and having slain
Walter Straiton, a page, whom they
met in the passage, began to force
open the door amidst the shrieks of
the queen and the women, who feebly
attempted to barricade it. One of the
ladies, named Catherine Douglas, with
heroic resolution thrust her arm into
the staple from which the bolt had
been treacherously removed; but it
was instantly snapt and broken by the
brutal violence of the conspirators,
who, with furious looks, and naked
weapons stained with blood, burst
into the chamber, and in their first
attack had the cowardice to wound
some of the queen’s women, as they
fled screaming into the corners of the
apartment. The queen alone did not
move, but, wrought up to a pitch of
horror and frenzy which paralysed
every member, stood rooted to the
floor, her hair hanging loosely around
her shoulders, and with nothing on
but her kirtle and mantle.1 Yet in
this helpless state one of the villains,
in the most brutal manner, attacked
and wounded her, and she would
assuredly have been slain had the

1 Contemporary Account, p. 408.

deed not been prevented by a son of
Graham’s, who peremptorily com­
manded him to leave the women and
join the search for the king, whom
the conspirators now perceived had
escaped them. Every part of the
chamber was now diligently examined,
every place of probable concealment
opened up without success; and after a
tedious search, they dispersed through
the outer rooms and passages, and
from thence extended their scrutiny
to the remoter parts of the building.

A considerable time had now elapsed
since the first alarm, and although
Graham had secured the gates and
occupied the outer courts of the mon­
astery by his Highlanders, yet the citi­
zens and the nobles who were quar­
tered in the town, already heard the
noise of the tumult, and were hasten­
ing to the spot. It seemed exceed­
ingly likely, therefore, that the king
would still be saved, for his place of
concealment had totally escaped the
attention of the conspirators, and every
moment brought his rescue nearer.
But he was ruined by his own impa­
tience. Hearing no stir, and imagin­
ing that they who sought his life had
left the place not to return, he called
to the women to bring the sheets from
the bed, and draw him up again into
the apartment; but in their attempt
to effect this, Elizabeth Douglas, one
of the queen’s women, fell down. The
noise recalled the conspirators, and at
this moment Thomas Chambers, one
of Graham’s accomplices, who knew
the monastery well, suddenly remem­
bered the small closet beneath the bed-
chamber, and conceiving, if James had
not escaped, that he must be there con­
cealed, quickly returned to the apart-
ment. In a moment he discovered
the spot where the floor was broken,
raised up the plank, and looking in, by
the light of his torch perceived the
king, and the unfortunate lady who
had fallen into the vault; upon which
he shouted to his fellows, with savage
merriment, to come back, for the bride
was found for whom they had sought
and carolled all night.3 The dreadful

3 Contemporary Account, p. 469, “ Say­
ing to his felows, Sirs, the spows is foundon,

92                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                        [Chap. II.

scene was now soon completed; yet
James, strong in his agony, although
almost naked, and without a weapon,
made a desperate defence. He seized
Sir John Hall, who had leapt down, by
the throat, and with main strength
threw him under his feet; another of
the murderers, Hall’s brother, who
next descended, met with the same
fate ; and such was the convulsive
violence with which they had been
handled, that at their execution, a
month after, the marks of the king’s
grasp were seen upon their persons.
But the villains being armed with large
knives, James’s hands and arms were
dreadfully lacerated in the struggle.
Sir Robert Graham now entered the
chamber, and springing down with his
drawn sword, threw himself upon his
victim, who earnestly implored his
mercy, and begged his life, should it
be at the price of half his kingdom.
“ Thou cruel tyrant,” said Graham,
“ never hadst thou compassion upon
thine own noble kindred, therefore
expect none now.” “At least,” said
James, “ let me have a confessor for
the good of my soul.” “ None,” cried
Graham, “ none shalt thou have but
this sword ! “ upon which he wounded
him mortally in the body, and the un­
happy prince instantly fell down, and,
bleeding and exhausted, continued
faintly to implore his life. The scene
was so piteous, that it is said at this
moment to have shook the nerves, and
moved the compassion, of the ruffian
himself, who was about to come up,
leaving the king still breathing, when
his companions above threatened him
with instant death if he did not finish
the work. He then obeyed, and, as­
sisted by the two Halls, completed the
murder by repeated wounds.1

In this atrocious manner was James
the First cut off in the prime of life,
and whilst pursuing his schemes for
the consolidation of his own power,
and the establishment of the govern­
ment upon a just and equitable basis,
with a vigour and impetuosity which
proved his ruin. The shocking deed

wherfor we ben comne, and al this nycht haf
carold here.”
Contemporary Account, p. 470.

being thus consummated, the traitors
anxiously sought for the queen, but
by this time she had escaped; and,
warned by the increasing tumult in the
town, and the alarm in the court, they
fled in great haste from the monastery,
and were descried crossing the outer
moat, and making off in the direction
of the Highlands. Sir David Dunbar,
brother to the Earl of March, overtook
and slew one of their number, after
being himself grievously wounded; 2
but he who fell was of inferior note,
and the principal conspirators made
good their retreat to the Highlands.

On entering the chamber where the
murder had been committed, a miser-
able spectacle presented itself,—the
king’s naked body bathed in blood,
and pierced with sixteen wounds. The
lamentable sight, by the pity and exe­
cration which it universally inspired,
stimulated the activity of pursuit, and.
whetted the appetite for revenge; and
the queen, disdaining to abandon her­
self to the helplessness of womanly
grief, used such unwearied efforts to
trace and apprehend the murderers,
that in less than a month they were
all taken and executed. Little, how­
ever, is known as to the exact mode of
their apprehension. The principal
conspirator, Graham, and some of his
accomplices, appear to have escaped
into the wilds of Mar; but they were
traced to their concealments and
seized by two Highland chieftains,
John Stewart Gorm, and Robert Dun­
canson, the ancestor of the ancient
family of Robertson of Strowan.3

The shocking scenes of torture which
preceded their death must not be de­
tailed, and are, it is hoped, chiefly to
be ascribed to the ferocity of the
times. It must be remembered that
at this period the common death of
every traitor was accomplished by tor-

2 Contemporary Account, p. 471. Fordun
a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 503.

3 Chamberlain Accounts, sub anno 1438.
“Et per solucionem factam Johanni Stewart
Gorme pro arrestacione Roberti Grahaam
traditoris, et suorum complicum, ut patet per
literas regis moderni. de precept, sub signeto,
et dicti Johannis Stewart de recept. concess.
super compotum 56 lib. 13 s. 4 d. Computum
Dni Ade fanconar Camerarii Comitatus de
Mar.” See Illustrations, G.

1436.]                                                JAMES I.                                                      93

ture; and in the present instance the
atrocity of the murder was thought to
call for a refinement and complication
in the punishment. Sir Robert Stew­
art and Thomas Chambers were first
taken and brought to Edinburgh,
where, after a full confession of their
guilt, which unfortunately does not
remain, they were beheaded on a high
scaffold raised in the market­place,
and their heads fixed upon the gates
of Perth. Athole, who had been
seized by the Earl of Angus, was the
next sufferer. After being exhibited
to the populace, tied to a pillar in the
city, and crowned with a paper diadem,
upon which was thrice written the
name of traitor, his head was struck off,
adorned with an iron crown, and fixed
upon the top of a spear. He denied
to the last that he was a party to the
conspiracy, although he pleaded guilty
to the knowledge and concealment of
it, affirming that he exerted every
effort to dissuade his grandson against
such atrocious designs, and believed
that he had succeeded. As he was an
old man, on the verge of seventy, his
fate was not beheld without pity.

Very different were the feelings ex­
cited by the execution of the arch-
traitor Graham, whose courage and
characteristic audacity supported him
to the last. He pleaded to his judges,
that having renounced his allegiance
under his hand and seal, and publicly
challenged and arraigned the king as
his mortal enemy, he was no longer
his subject, but his feudal equal, and
that it was lawful for him to slay him
wherever they met, without being
amenable to any court whatever; see­
ing, said he, he did no wrong nor sin,
but only slew God’s creature his
enemy.1 He knew well, he said, that
his death was resolved on, but that
the time would come when they would
gratefully pray for the soul of him who
had delivered them from a merciless
tyrant, whose avarice was so unbound­
ed that it ruined friends as well as ene­
mies, and preyed alike on the poor and
the rich. The firmness with which
he endured his complicated sufferings
was equal to the boldness of his de-
Contemporary Account, p. 473.

fence. Nailed alive and naked to a
tree, dragged through the city, fol­
lowed by the executioners, who tore
him with pincers, whilst his son was
tortured and beheaded before his face,
he bore all with amazing fortitude;
and when his sufferings became utterly
insupportable, warned his tormentors,
that if his anguish should drive him
to blasphemy, the guilt would rest on
their heads who had thus destroyed
his soul.2 Graham was at last be­
headed : and this dreadful scene of
feudal vengeance, which it is impos­
sible to read in the original account
without sentiments of the utmost
loathing and horror, concluded with
the execution of Thomas Hall, one
who had apparently belonged to the
household of the Duke of Albany, and
who to the last vindicated the share he
had taken in the king’s death.

There was nothing little in the cha­
racter of James the First: his virtues
and his faults were alike on a great
scale ; and his reign, although it em­
braced only a period of thirteen years,
reckoning from his return to his assas­
sination, stands forward brightly and
prominently in the history of the
country. Perhaps the most important
changes which he introduced were the
publication of the acts of parliament
in the spoken language of the land;
the introduction of the principle of
representation by the election of the
commissaries for shires ; the institu­
tion of the court entitled the “ Ses­
sion ; “ and the regularity with which
he assembled the parliament. Before
his time it had been the practice for
the laws, the resolutions, and the judg­
ments of the parliament to be em­
bodied in the Latin language; a cus­
tom which evidently was calculated to
retard improvement, and perpetuate
the dominion of barbarism and feudal
oppression. Before his time the great
body of the judges, to whom the ad­
ministration of the laws was intrusted,
the barons within their regalities, the
bailies, the sheriffs, mayors, sergeants,
and other inferior officers, were incap­
able of reading or understanding the
statutes ; and the importance of the
Contemporary Account, p. 474.

94                                      HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                        [Chap. II.

change from this state of darkness and
uncertainty, to that which presented
them with the law speaking in their
own tongue, cannot be too highly esti­
mated. It is of itself enough to stamp
originality upon the character of the
king, and to cause us to regard his
reign as an era in the legislative his­
tory of the country.

Nor was the frequency in the assem­
bling his parliaments of less conse­
quence. Of these convocations of the
legislature, no less than thirteen oc­
curred during his brief reign ; a strik­
ing contrast to their infrequency under
the government of his predecessors.
His great principle seems to have been
to govern the country through the
medium of his parliament; to intro­
duce into this august assembly a com­
plete representation of the body of the
smaller landed proprietors and of the
commercial classes ; and to insist on
the frequent attendance of the great
temporal and spiritual lords, not, as
they were formerly wont, in the cha­
racter of rivals of the sovereign, sur­
rounded by a little court, and backed
by numerous bands of armed vassals,
but in their accredited station, as
forming the principal and essential
portion of the council of tho nation,
bound to obey their summons to par­
liament upon the same principle which
obliged them to give suit and service
in the feudal court of their liege lord
the king.

Another striking feature in James’s
reign was his institution of the “Ses­
sion,” his constant anxiety for the ad­
ministration of justice amongst the
middle ranks and the commons, and
the frequent and anxious legislative
enactments for the severe and speedy
punishment of offenders. His deter­
mination that “he would make the
bracken-bush keep the cow "— that
proverb already alluded to, and still
gratefully remembered in Scotland1
was carried into execution by an inde­
fatigable activity, and a firmness so
inexorable as sometimes to assume the
appearance of cruelty; but in esti­
mating his true character upon this
point it is necessary to keep clearly
Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii. p. 611.

before our eyes the circumstances in
which he found the country, and the
dreadful misrule and oppression to
which the weaker individuals in the
state were subjected from the tyranny
of the higher orders. It is impossi­
ble, however, to deny that the king
was sometimes cruel and unjust; and
that when Graham accused him of
tyranny and oppression he had per­
haps more to say in his vindication
than many of our historians are will­
ing to admit. The explanation and,
in some little measure, the excuse for
this is to be found in the natural
feelings of determined and undis­
guised hostility with which he un­
doubtedly regarded the family of Al­
bany and their remotest connexions.
James considered the government of
the father and the son in its true
light—as one long usurpation—for
although the first few years of Albany’s
administration as governor had been
sanctioned by royal approval and the
voice of the parliament, yet it is not
to be forgotten that the detention of
the youthful king in England extended
through the sickening period of nine­
teen years, during the greater part of
which time the return of this prince
to his throne and to his people was
thwarted, as we have seen, by every
possible intrigue upon the part of
Albany. This base conduct was viewed
by James with more unforgiving re­
sentment from its being crowned with
success; for the aged usurper by a
quiet death escaped the meditated ven­
geance, and transmitted the supreme
authority in the state to his son, ran­
somed from captivity for this very
end, whilst his lawful prince beheld
himself still detained in England.
When he did return, therefore, it was
not to be wondered at that his resent­
ment was wrought to a high pitch ;
and deep and bloody as was the re­
tribution which he exacted, it was
neither unnatural nor, according to
the feelings of those times, wholly

But making every allowance for the
extraordinary wrongs he had suffered,
the determination which he appears
to have formed of considering every

1436.1                                               JAMES I.                                                      95

single act of Albany’s administration,
however just it may have been in
itself, as liable to be challenged and
cut down, necessarily led, when at­
tempted to be acted upon, to a stretch
of power which bordered upon tyranny.
The dilapidation, indeed, of the crown
lands, and the plunder of the royal
revenues which had taken place under
the government of Albany and his son,
afforded James a sufficient ground for
resuming a great part of what had
originally belonged to him ; but as far
as we are able to trace his schemes
for the re-establishment of the royal
authority, and the diminution of
the overgrown power of the feudal
aristocracy, there does appear about
them a stern rigour, and a love of
power, little removed from absolute
oppression. It is not, therefore, a
subject of wonder that this spirit,
which was solely directed against
his nobles, incurred their bitterest
hatred, and ultimately led to his

If we except his misguided desire
to distinguish himself as a persecutor
of the Wickliffites, James’s love for
the Church, as the best instrument he
could employ in disseminating the
blessings of education, and of general
improvement throughout the country,
was a wise and politic passion. He
found his clergy a superior and en­
lightened class of men, and he em­
ployed their power, their wealth, and
their abilities as a counterpoise to his
nobility, yet he was not, like David
the First, a munificent founder of new
religious houses; indeed, his income
was so limited as to make this impos­
sible. His efforts were directed to
the preservation of the discipline and
learning of the Church; to the revival
of the custom of holding general
councils or chapters, which had been
discontinued during his detention in
England, but of which three appear
to have been assembled during his
brief reign; to a personal inspection
of the various monasteries and reli­
gious establishments during his pro­
gresses through the kingdom, and an
affectionate reproval if he found they
had degenerated from the strictness

of their rule, or the sanctity of their

It is well known that the personal
accomplishments of this prince were
of a high character. After his return,
indeed, his incessant occupation in the
cares of government left him little lei­
sure for the cultivation of literature or
of the fine arts, but his long detention
in England gave him ample opportuni­
ties of mental cultivation, of which
he appears to have anxiously availed
himself. He was a reformer of the
language and of the poetry of his
country; he sang beautifully, and not
only accompanied himself upon the
harp and the organ, but composed
various airs and pieces of sacred
music, in which there was to be re­
cognised the same original and inven­
tive genius which distinguished this
remarkable man in everything to
which he applied his mind.2

In his person James was of the
middle size, of a make rather power­
ful and athletic than elegant, and
which fitted him to excel in all mar­
tial feats and exercises. Of these
he was extremely fond, and we have
the testimony of a contemporary
that in drawing the bow, in the
use of the lance, in horsemanship,
wrestling and running, in throw­
ing the hammer, and “putting the
stane,” few of his courtiers could com­
pete with him. His great strength,
indeed, was shewn in the dreadful and
almost successful resistance which he
made to his murderers. He died in
the forty-fourth year of his age, and
was buried in the church of the Car­
thusians at Perth, which he had him­
self founded. He left by his Queen,
Joanna, an only son, James, his suc­
cessor, then a boy in his seventh year,
and five daughters. To two of these,
Margaret, who became Queen of
France, and Eleanor, who married
Sigismund, duke of Austria, their
father transmitted his love of litera­

1 Innes, MS. Chronology, quoted by Chal­
mers in his Poetic Remains of the Scottish
kings, pp. 8, 16. Fordun a Goodal, vol. ii.
p. 508.

2 Fordun a Goodal. vol. ii. p. 504.

3 The story of the Dauphiness and Alain

96                                  HISTORICAL REMARKS

James’s remaining daughters were
Isabella, married to Francis, duke of
Bretagne; Mary, who took to her
husband the Count de Boncquan, son

to the Lord of Campvere ; and lastly,
Jane, wedded to the Earl of Angus,
and subsequently to the Earl of Mor­

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