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Scotland, once more exposed to the
danger and the woe pronounced upon
the nation whose king is a child, was
yet entitled to expect a pacific com­
mencement of the minority, from the
wisdom and experience of the queen-

mother, the apparent union amongst
the nobility, and the sage counsels of
the chief ministers of the late king,

1 Sir Lewis Stewart’s MS. Collections, Ad.
Library, and Extracta ex Chroaicis Scotiæ,
MS. Ad. Library, f. 288.

188                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. iv.

who, from attachment to the father,
were likely to unite for the support of
the son. Immediately after the sur­
render of the fortress of Roxburgh,
which was dismantled, and the demo­
lition of Wark castle, which had been
stormed by another division of the
army, the further prosecution of the
war was intermitted, and the nobility
conducted their monarch, then only
eight years old, to the monastery of
Kelso, where he was crowned with
the accustomed pomp and solemnity,
more than a hundred knights being
made to commemorate the simultane­
ous entrance of the prince into the
state of chivalry, and his assumption
of his hereditary throne.1 The court
then removed to Edinburgh, where the
remains of the late king were com­
mitted to the sepulchre in the vener­
able abbey of Holyrood.2

We have already seen that at this
moment the neighbouring nation of
England was torn and distracted by
the wars of York and Lancaster; and
the captivity of Henry the Sixth, the
ally of Scotland, with the escape of
his queen, and her son, the prince, into
that country, are events belonging to
the last reign. Immediately after the
royal funeral, intelligence was brought
that this fugitive princess, whose flight
had lain through Wales, was arrived
at Dumfries, where she had been re­
ceived with honour, and had taken up
her residence in the college of Linclu-
den. To this place the queen-mother
of Scotland, with the king and the
royal suite, proceeded, and a conference
took place relative to the public affairs
of both kingdoms, of which, unfortun­
ately, we have no particular account,
except that it lasted for twelve days.
A marriage was talked of between the
English prince and the sister of the
King of Scotland, but the energetic
consort of the feeble Henry required
more prompt and warlike support than
was to be derived from a distant matri­
monial alliance, and, encouraged by the
promise of a cordial co-operation upon
the part of Scotland, she returned with

1 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 58.
Extracta ex Chronicis Scotiæ, fol. 289,
" Medium circiter choram.”

haste to York, and there, in a council
of her friends, formed the resolution
of attacking London, and attempting
the rescue of her captive husband. The
complete triumph of this princess at
Wakefield, where she totally routed
the army of the Duke of York, once
more, though for a brief period, con­
firmed the ascendancy of the house of
Lancaster; and Scotland, in the re-
establishment of her ally upon the
throne, anticipated a breathing time of
peace and tranquillity.3

But the elements of civil commotion
existed in the habits of the people and
the constitution of the country. In
the north, the fertile region of all con­
fusion and rapine, Allan of Lorn of
the Wood, a sister’s son of Donald
Balloch, had seized his elder brother,
Ker of Lorn, and confined him in a
dungeon in the island of Kerweray.4
Allan’s object was to starve his victim
to death, and succeed to the estate;
but the Earl of Argyle, who was nearly
related to the unfortunate baron, de­
termined to rescue him ; and arriving
suddenly with a fleet of war galleys,
entirely defeated this fierce chief,
burnt his fleet, slew the greater part
of his men, and restored the elder
brother to his rightful inheritance.
This, although apparently an act of
justice, had the usual effect of rous­
ing the whole body of the Island
lords, and dividing them into vari­
ous parties, animated with a mortal
hostility against each other, and these
issued from their ocean-retreats to
plunder the islands, to make descents
upon the continent, and to destroy and
murder the unhappy persons who re­
fused to join their banner, or engage
in such atrocities.5

In the meantime it was thought
expedient that writs should be issued
in the royal name for the meeting of
the parliament, which assembled at
Edinburgh on the 23d of February
1460. It was fully attended, not only
by the whole body of the prelates, to
whose wisdom and experience the

3 Auchinleck Chronicle, p. 58. Carte, Hist,
of England, vol. ii. p. 757.
i.e., Kerrera.
Auchinleck Chronicle, pp. 58, 59.

1460-1.1                                           JAMES III.                                                  189

people anxiously looked for protection,
and by the great southern barons, but
by the Earl of Ross, Lord of the Isles,
and a multitude of independent High­
land chiefs, whose hands were scarce
dry from the blood which they had
lately shed in their domestic broils,
and who came, not so much from feel­
ings of affection to the crown, as
with the desire of profiting by the
changes and the insecurity which they
knew to be the attendants upon a
minority. Unfortunately no records
remain of the transactions of this first
parliament of James the Third. It is
certain, however, that the debates and
divisions of the aristocracy were carried
on with a virulence which augured ill
for the kingdom, and rendered abor­
tive, in a great measure, the delibera­
tions of the friends of order and good
government. These, however, so far
succeeded as to procure the appoint­
ment of sessions for the distribution
of justice to be held at Aberdeen,
Perth, and Edinburgh. The keeping
of the king’s person, and the govern­
ment of the kingdom, were committed,
for the present, to the queen-mother;
and this prudent princess, distrusting
the higher nobles who commanded
some of the principal fortresses, re­
moved the governors of Edinburgh,
Stirling, and Dunbar, and replaced
them by those amongst her own ser­
vants, upon whose fidelity she could
rely.1 It was impossible that such
decided measures should not excite
dissatisfaction amongst a large propor­
tion of the aristocracy, “ who,” in the
words of a contemporary chronicle,
“ loudly complained against those per­
sons, whether of the temporal or spiri­
tual estate, who committed to a woman
the government of a powerful king­
dom.” In other words, they mur­
mured that the plunder and peculation
which they had eagerly anticipated as
the ministers of a minor sovereign, were
not likely to be permitted under the
energetic government of the queen.

In the absence of authentic evidence,
it is difficult to ascertain the exact
measures which were adopted in the

1 Auchinleck Chronicle, p, 59. Lesley, Hist,
p. 33.

constitution of the new government
immediately subsequent to the death
of the king. According to Lesley, a
council of regency was formed under
the direction of the queen-mother. By
another, and, as it seems, a more pro­
bable account, the chief management
of affairs was intrusted to Kennedy,
bishop of St Andrews; and it is cer­
tain that the choice could not have
fallen upon one more fitted, from his
exemplary probity, and his eminent
talents and experience, to guide the
state amid the difficulties with which
it was surrounded. This his conduct in
office during the late reign had suffici­
ently demonstrated; and his present
appointment to be the principal minis­
ter of the crown, was a pledge given
by the queen that, however thwarted
and opposed by the selfish spirit of the
great body of the nobles, it was at least
her wish that the government should
be administered with justice and im­
partiality. The office of chancellor
was, about the same time, conferred
on Lord Evandale, a nobleman of con­
siderable ability, who had enjoyed the
advantage of a more learned education
than generally fell to the lot of the
rude barons of his age, and who had
experienced the confidence and friend­
ship of the late king. The high situa­
tion of Justiciar of Scotland was com­
mitted to Robert, lord Boyd; the
care of the privy seal intrusted to
James Lindsay, provost of Lincluden,
who was said to be admitted into the
most secret councils of the queen;
James, lord Livingston, was promoted
to the lucrative and responsible dignity
of chamberlain, whilst Liddele, rector
of Forres, was made secretary to the
king, David Guthrie of Kincaldrum
treasurer, and Sir John Colquhoun
of Luss comptroller of the house­

It was about this time that the King
of France, who had been chosen ar­
bitrator in the dispute between the
crowns of Norway and Scotland, de­
livered his final judgment upon the
subject. It has been already explained
that this serious difference, which

2 Crawford’s Officers of State, p. 37. Ibid,
p. 313. Rymer, Fœdera, vol. xi. p. 476.

190                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. IV.

threatened to involve the two king­
doms in war, originated in a claim
made by the Norwegian monarch for
the arrears of the “ annual of Norway,”
the sum payable by Scotland to that
kingdom for the possession of the
Western Isles and Man. By an ori­
ginal treaty between Magnus, king of
Norway, and Alexander the Third,
which was concluded in 1286, a certain
penalty had been imposed, upon fail­
ure on the part of Scotland to pay the
yearly quit-rent; and the Norwegian
commissioners insisted that the ori­
ginal autograph of this treaty should
be produced by the Scottish ambassa­
dors, Patrick Fokart, captain of the
King of France’s guard, and William
de Monipenny, lord of Concressault,
alleging that they would prove, from
the terms in which it was drawn up,
that an arrear of forty-four thousand
marks was due from the Scottish gov­
ernment to the King of Norway. This
demand the Scottish envoys eluded.
They alleged that the original deed
was in the hands of Kennedy, the
Provost of St Andrews, who was then
sick in Flanders, at a great distance
from the spot where the convention
was held, and insinuated that the
treaty had rather been neglected than
infringed; that no demands having
been, for a long period, made by Nor­
way, Scotland was almost justified in
considering the claim as having been
cut down by desuetude.

Unable, from the want of the origi­
nal document, to decide this point, and
anxious to avoid the prolongation of
the conference, Charles the Seventh
proposed that the disputes should be
brought to an amicable termination by
a marriage between the eldest son of
James the Second, and Margaret, the
daughter of the King of Norway.
Upon this subject the plenipotentiaries
of either power, although they inti­
mated that they had no authority to
come to a final agreement, declared
their willingness to confer with their
governments. It was stated by the
Scottish ambassadors that the terms
which they should be inclined to pro­
pose, would be the renunciation by
Norway of all claim for arrears, the

cession to Scotland of the islands of
Shetland and the Orkneys, and the
payment of the sum of a hundred
thousand crowns for the feminine de­
corations, or, in more familiar phrase,
the pin-money, of the noble virgin;
whilst, upon their part, they engaged
that their royal master should settle
upon the princess a dowry suitable to
her rank. At this moment, and appar­
ently before the Norwegian commis­
sioners had returned any answer to
the proposal, accounts of the death of
James the Second before Roxburgh
reached Bourges, where the convention
was held, and the negotiations were
brought to an abrupt conclusion; but
a foundation had been laid for a treaty
highly advantageous to Scotland; and
the advice of the royal umpire, Charles
the Seventh, that the two countries
should be careful to continue in the
Christian fellowship of peace till the
youthful parties had reached a mar­
riageable age, and the intended union
could be completed, appears to have
been wisely followed by the ministers
of both kingdoms.1

In the meantime, events of an inte­
resting and extraordinary nature oc­
curred in England. The battle of
Wakefield had replaced the sceptre in
the hands of the feeble Henry, and the
bleeding head of the Duke of York,
laid at the feet of his masculine an­
tagonist, the queen, was received by
her as a pledge that her misfortunes
were to be buried in the grave of this
determined enemy of her house. Yet,
within little more than two months,
the star of York once more assumed
the ascendant, and the total and san­
guinary defeat of the Lancastrians in
the decisive battle of Touton again
drove Henry and his consort into exile
in Scotland. So complete had been
the dispersion and slaughter of their
army, and so immediate and rapid the
flight, that their suite, when they ar­
rived, consisted only of six persons.2
They were received, however, with
much distinction; the warmest sym­
pathy was expressed for their misfor­
tunes; and the queen­mother, with

1 Torfæus, pp. 185, 186.

2 Hall, 256. Paston Letters, i. 219.

1461-2.]                                         JAMES III.                                                   191

the counsellors of the youthful mon­
arch, held various conferences on the
most prudent measures to be adopted
for the restoration of their unfortunate

ally to his hereditary throne. The

difficulties, indeed, which presented
themselves in the prosecution of such
a design, were by no means of a trifling
description. It was evident to the
good sense and mature experience of
Kennedy, who held the chief place in
the councils of the Scottish queen,
that, upon the accession of a minor
sovereign, the first object of his minis­
ters ought to be to secure the integrity
of his dominions and the popularity of
his government at home. Yet this,
at the present moment, was no easy
task. On the side of the Highlands
and the Isles, Edward the Fourth had
already commenced his intrigues with
two of the most potent and warlike
chiefs of those districts, whose fleets
and armies had repeatedly broken the
tranquillity of the kingdom, John, earl
of Ross, and Donald Balloch, commonly
called Mac Ian Vor of Isla. To meet
these two barons, or their ambassadors,
for they affected the state of indepen­
dent princes, the English monarch
despatched the banished Earl of Doug­
las, and his brother, John Douglas of
Balveny, who had sunk into English
subjects, and were animated by a mor­
tal antipathy against the house of
James the Second.1 On the side of
Norway, the differences regarding the
claims of that government, although
they had assumed, under the media­
tion of the French monarch, a more
friendly aspect, were still unsettled;
and a war with England, unless under­
taken on the necessary ground of re­
pelling an unjust attack, appeared
likely to lead to serious misfortune, and
even, if crowned with success, could
bring little permanent advantage. Yet
to desert an ally in misfortune, to whom
he was bound by the faith of repeated
treaties, would have been unjust and
ungenerous, and Henry, or rather his
queen, without affecting to be blind to
the sacrifice which must be made if
Scotland then declared war, offered to

1 Rymer, vol. xi. p. 474. Rotuli Scotiæ,
vol. ii. p. 402.

indemnify that country by the imme­
diate delivery of the two important
frontier towns of Berwick and Carlisle.2
The prize thus offered was too alluring
to be refused; and although Edward
had previously shewn a disposition to
remain on friendly terms, the occupa­
tion of so important a town was con­
sidered as an open declaration of hos­
tility, and called for immediate exer­

Personally engrossed, however, by
the unsettled state of his own king­
dom, he determined to invade Scot­
land, and, if possible, expel the reign­
ing family by means of those powerful
and rebellious chiefs which it held
within its own bosom, assisted by the
banished Douglases. We find, accord­
ingly, that in a council of their vassals
and dependants, held at Astornish, on
the 19th of October, the Earl of Ross,
along with Donald Balloch, and his
son John de Isla,3 despatched their
ambassadors to meet with the English
envoys, who, in a negotiation at West­
minster, concluded a treaty with Ed­
ward IV., which embraced some ex­
traordinary conditions. Its basis was
nothing less than the contemplated
conquest of Scotland by the army of
the island lord and the auxiliaries to
be furnished by Edward. The Lord
of the Isles, upon payment of a stipu­
lated sum of money to himself, his
son, and his ally, agreed to become for
ever the sworn vassal of England, along
with the whole body of his subjects,
and to assist him in the wars in Ire­
land, as well as elsewhere. In the
event of the entire subjugation of
Scotland by the Earls of Ross and
Douglas, the whole of the kingdom to
the north of the Scottish Sea, or Firth
of Forth, was to be divided equally be­
tween Douglas, Ross, and Donald Bal-
loch; whilst Douglas was to be restored
to the possession of those estates be­
tween the Scottish Sea and the Borders
of England, from which he was now
excluded; and upon such partition
and restoration being carried into ef­
fect, the salaries payable by England

2 Rolls of Parliament, vol. v. p. 478.

3 Gregory’s Hist, of the Western Islands,
pp. 47, 48.

192                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap IV.

to Ross and his associates, as the wages
of their defection, were to cease. This
remarkable treaty is dated at London,
on the 13th of February 1462.1

Whilst these important transactions
were taking place in England, Henry,
the exheridated monarch, in his asylum
at the Scottish court, engaged the Earl
of Angus, one of the most powerful
subjects in Scotland, by the promise of
an English dukedom, to grant him his
assistance in the recovery of his do­
minions ;2 but before any regular plan
could be organised, the Earl of Ross,
faithful to his promises to Edward, as­
sembled an army. The command of
this force he intrusted to his natural
son, Angus, and this fierce chief, as­
sisted by the veteran Donald Balloch,
at once broke into a rebellion, which
was accompanied by all those circum­
stances of atrocity and sacrilege that
distinguished the hostilities of these
island princes. Ross proclaimed him­
self King of the Hebrides, whilst his
son and Donald Balloch, having taken
possession of the castle of Inverness,
invaded the country of Athole, pub­
lished a proclamation, that no one
should dare to obey the officers of
King James—commanded all taxes to
be henceforth paid to Ross—and, after
a cruel and wasteful progress, concluded
the expedition by storming the castle
of Blair, and dragging the Earl and
Countess of Athole from the chapel
and sanctuary of St Bridget, to a dis­
tant prison in Isla.3 Thrice did Don­
ald attempt, if we may believe the his­
torian, to fire the holy pile which he
had plundered—thrice the destructive
element refused its office—and a storm
of thunder and lightning, in which the
greater part of his war-galleys were
sunk, and the rich booty with which
they were loaded consigned to the
deep, was universally ascribed to the
wrath of heaven, which had armed the

1 Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. ii. p. 407.

2 Hume of Godscroft, vol. ii. pp. 21, 22,
quotes from the original treaty, which he had
seen: “And so the treaty was sealed and
subscribed with a Henry as long as the whole
sheet of parchment; the worst shapen letters,
and the worst put together, that I ever saw.”

3 Gregory’s Hist, of the Western Islands,
p. 48.

elements against the abettor of sacri­
lege and murder. It is certain, at
least, that this idea had fixed itself
with all the strength of remorse and
superstition in the mind of the bold
and savage leader himself; and such
was the effect of the feeling, that he
became moody and almost distracted.
Commanding his principal leaders and
soldiers to strip themselves to their
shirt and drawers, and assuming him­
self the same ignominious garb, he
collected the relics of his plunder, and,
proceeding with bare feet, and a de­
jected aspect, to the chapel which he
had so lately stained with blood, he
and his attendants performed penance
before the altar. The Earl and Coun­
tess of Athole were immediately set
free from their prison—and Angus,
abandoned as it was believed by hea­
ven, at last ignominiously perished by
the dagger of an Irish harper, whose
resentment he had provoked.4

It does not appear that any simul­
taneous effort of the banished Earl of
Douglas, who at this time received
from England a yearly pension of five
hundred pounds, co-operated with the
rebellion of Ross; so that this formid­
able league, which threatened nothing
less than the conquest and dismember­
ment of Scotland, expired in a short
and insulated expedition, and fell to
pieces before the breath of religious
remorse. Meanwhile the masculine
and able consort of Henry the Sixth
was indefatigable in her efforts to re­
gain the power which she had lost.
With a convoy of four Scottish ships
she sailed from Kirkcudbright to
Bretagne, and there prevailed upon
the duke to advance the sum of twelve
thousand crowns. From Bretagne she
passed to her father, the King of
Sicily, at this time resident at Anjou,
and thence proceeded to the court of
France, where her promise to surrender
Calais the moment she was reseated on
her throne in England, induced Lewis
the Eleventh to assist her with a force
of two thousand men, under the com­
mand of the Sieur de Brézé, seneschal

4 Lesley, p 34, Bannatyne edition. Boece,
p. 383 ; and MS. note communicated by Mr

1462-4.]                                     JAMES III.                                           193

of Normandy, and a sum of twenty
thousand livres.1 With this little army,
the English queen disembarked near
Bamborough, under the confident ex­
pectation that the popularity of the
house of Lancaster, and the prompt
assistance of the Scots, would soon
recruit the ranks of her army, and
enable her to triumph over the power
of the usurper. But she was cruelly
disappointed. On her first landing,
indeed, the fortresses of Alnwick and
Dunstanburgh surrendered, and were
occupied by the troops of the Lan­
castrians; but before the Scottish
auxiliaries, under the command of
Angus, could march into England,
Edward the Fourth, in person, along
with the Earl of Warwick, advanced,
by rapid marches, at the head of a
numerous army, and compelled the
queen and her foreign ally to fly to
their ships. The Seneschal of Nor­
mandy, however, left his son in com­
mand of Alnwick, at the head of the
French auxiliaries, whilst Bamborough
castle was committed to the Duke of
Somerset and the Earl of Pembroke;
but it was impossible for the Queen
of England to struggle against the
adverse accidents which pursued her.
A storm attacked and dispersed her
fleet; and it was with infinite difficulty
and danger that she succeeded in put­
ting into Berwick.2 Brézé, the sene­
schal, after witnessing the wreck of
his best ships, and the capture of his
troops by Ogle and Manners, two of
Edward’s officers, was glad to escape
in a fishing-boat from Holy Island;
and although the Earl of Angus, at the
head of a considerable Scottish force,
gallantly brought relief to the French
auxiliaries who were shut up in Aln-
wick, and carried off the garrison in
safety, in the presence of the English
army, the expedition concluded with
Edward becoming master of the castles
of Bamborough, Dunstanburgh, and
Alnwick, whilst Margaret once more
fled to the continent, and sought an
asylum at her father ’s court.

1 Wyrecestre, p. 492. Carte, Hist, of Eng­
land, vol. ii. p. 766.

2 Wyrecestre, p. 495. Leland, Coll. vol. i.
part ii. p. 499.

In the midst of these calamities
which befell her sister-queen and ally,
it appears that the Queen-dowager of
Scotland had consented to a personal
interview with the Earl of Warwick,
as the accredited ambassador of Ed­
ward the Fourth. The object of the
negotiation was an artful proposal of
this handsome and victorious prince,
for a marriage between himself and
the widowed queen, who was then in
the bloom of her years, and possessed
of many personal charms. Although
this negotiation ultimately came to
nothing, and indeed the notoriety of
the queen’s intrigue with the Duke of
Somerset,3 and the suspicions previ­
ously breathed against her character,
rendered it difficult to believe that
Edward was in earnest, still the agita­
tion of such an alliance had the effect
of neutralising the party against Eng­
land, and diminishing the interest of
Henry the Sixth at the Scottish court.
The death also of his powerful ally,
the Earl of Angus, which appears to
have taken place about this time,
greatly weakened his party; and this
ill-fated prince, after having testified
his gratitude for the honourable recep­
tion and great humanity which he had
experienced from the provost and citi­
zens of Edinburgh, by granting to
them the same freedom of trade to all
English ports which was enjoyed by
the citizens of London,4 once more re­
paired to England, there to make a
last effort for the recovery of his king­

The nobles of Scotland, at this mo­
ment, were divided into two parties,
known by the name of the young and
the old lords :5 the first supported by
the powerful countenance of the queen-
mother and Bishop Kennedy, anxious
for lasting peace with England, and
eager to promote it by the sacrifice of
the cause of Henry, which was justly
considered desperate; the second, led
by the Earl of Angus, and after his
death, headed, in all probability, by
his son and successor, or rather by the
tutors and protectors of this youthful

3 Wyrecestre, p. 495.
Maitland’s History of Edinburgh, p. 8.
Paston Letters, vol. i. p. 270.

194                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. IV.

chief. The sudden death of the queen-
mother, Mary of Gueldres, in the
prime of her years and her beauty,
which took place on the 16th of Nov­
ember 1463,1 does not appear to have
weakened the interest of Edward, or
thrown any additional weight into the
hands of the partisans of Henry; on
the contrary, the event was followed
by immediate and active negotiations
for peace; and soon after the battle of
Hexham, a defeat which gave the
death-blow to the Lancastrian faction
in England, a solemn convention was
held between the commissioners of
both countries. It was attended, on
the part of England, by the Earls of
Warwick and Northumberland; and
on that of Scotland, by the Bishop
of Glasgow and the Earl of Argyle,
with the Lords Livingston, Boyd, and
Hamilton; and it concluded in a fifteen
years’ truce, embracing, as one of its
principal conditions, that “the King
of Scotland should give no assistance
to Henry, calling himself King of
England, to Margaret his wife, Edward
his son, or any of his friends or sup­
porters.” 2

Amidst these transactions there gra­
dually arose in Scotland another power­
ful family, destined to act a prominent
part in the public affairs of the king­
dom, and to exhibit the frequently-
repeated spectacle of office and autho­
rity abused for the lowest and most
selfish ends. I allude to the exaltation
of the Boyds, whose rapid advance­
ment to the possession of the supreme
power in the state, and the custody of
the king’s person, is involved in con­
siderable obscurity. The power of the
imperious house of Douglas was now
extinguished; it had been succeeded by
the domination of the Earl of Angus,
which was at first checked by the
influence of the queen-mother, and
had lately sunk into a temporary
weakness by the minority of the young
earl. In these circumstances, an open­
ing seems to have been left for the
intrusion of any able, powerful, and
unscrupulous adventurer, who should

1 Lesley, p. 36.

2 Rymer, vol. xi. p. 510. Rotuli Scotiæ, vol.
ii. p. 412. Abercromby, vol. ii. p. 390.

unite in his own favour the broken
and scattered families of the aristo­
cracy, and, imitating the audacious
policy of the Livingstons in the earlier
part of the reign of James the Second,
obtain exclusive possession of the king’s
person, and administer at his will the
affairs of the government. Such a
leader arose in the person of Robert,
lord Boyd, whose ancestor had done
good service to the country under the
reign of Bruce, and who himself, pro­
bably through the influence of Bishop
Kennedy, had been created a peer in
an early part of the present reign.
The brother of this nobleman, Sir
Alexander Boyd, is celebrated, in the
popular histories of this reign, as a
mirror of chivalry in all noble and
knightly accomplishments, and upon
this ground he had been selected by
the queen-mother and Kennedy as the
tutor of the youthful prince in his
martial exercises.3 To acquire an
influence over the affections of a boy
of thirteen, and to transfer that in­
fluence to his brother, Lord Boyd,
who was much about the royal person,
was no difficult task for so polished
and able a courtier as Sir Alexander;
but it appears singular that the selfish­
ness and ambition of his character, as
well as that of his brother, should have
escaped the acute discernment of Ken­
nedy ; and yet it seems probable that
some months previous to the death of
this excellent prelate, the Boyds had
formed a strong party in the state,
the object of which was to usurp the
whole power in the government, and
secure the exclusive possession of the
king’s person.

This may be presumed from a re­
markable indenture, dated at Stirling
on the 10th of February 1465,4 the
contents of which not only disclose to
us the ambition of this family, and the
numerous friends and adherents whom
they had already enlisted in their ser­
vice, but throw a strong light upon the
unworthy methods by which such con­
federacies were maintained amongst
the members of the Scottish aristo­
cracy. The agreement bears to have

3  Paston Letters, vol. i. pp. 270, 271.

4  i.e., 10th February 1465-6.

1465-6.]                                         JAMES III.                                                   195

been entered into betwixt honourable
and worshipful lords, Robert, lord
Fleming, on the one side, and Gilbert,
lord Kennedy, elder brother of the
bishop, and Sir Alexander Boyd of
Duchol, knight, upon the other; and
it declared that these persons had
solemnly bound themselves, their kin,
friends, and vassals, to stand each to
the other, in “afald kindness, supply,
and defence,” in all their causes and
quarrels in which they were either al­
ready engaged, or might happen to be
hereafter engaged, during the whole
continuance of their lives. Lord Fle­
ming, however, it would seem, had
entered into a similar covenant with
the Lords Livingston and Hamilton ;
and these two peers were specially ex-
cepted from that clause by which he
engaged to support Kennedy and Boyd
against all manner of persons who live
or die. In the same manner, these last-
mentioned potentates excepted from
the sweeping clause, which obliged
them to consider as their enemies
every opponent of Fleming, a long
list of friends, to whom they had
bound themselves in a similar inden­
ture ; and it is this part of the deed
which admits us into the secret of the
early coalition between the house of
Boyd and some of the most ancient
and influential families in Scotland.
The Earl of Crawford, Lord Mont­
gomery, Lord Maxwell, Lord Living­
ston, Lord Hamilton, and Lord Cath-
cart, along with a reverend prelate,
Patrick Graham, who soon after was
promoted to the see of St Andrews,
were specially enumerated as the co­
venanted friends of Boyd and Ken­
nedy. It was next declared that Lord
Fleming was to remain a member of
the king’s special council as long as
Lord Kennedy and Sir Alexander
Boyd were themselves continued in
the same office and service, and pro­
vided he solemnly obliged himself, in
no possible manner, either by active
measures, or by consent and advice, to
remove the king’s person from the
keeping of Kennedy and Boyd, or out
of the hands of any persons to whom
they may have committed the royal
charge. By a subsequent part of the

indenture it appears that to Fleming
was attributed a considerable influence
over the mind of the youthful mon­
arch ; for he was made to promise that
he would employ his sincere and
hearty endeavours to incline the king
to entertain a sincere and affectionate
attachment to Lord Kennedy and Sir
Alexander Boyd, with their children,
friends, and vassals. The inducement
by which Lord Fleming was persuaded
to give his cordial support to the
Boyds is next included in the agree­
ment, which, it must be allowed, was
sufficiently venal and corrupt. It was
declared that if any office happened to
fall vacant in the king’s gift, which is
a reasonable and proper thing for the
Lord Fleming’s service, he should be
promoted thereto for his reward ; and
it continues, “ if there happens a large
thing to fall, such as ward, relief,
marriage, or other perquisite, as is
meet for the Lord Fleming’s service,
he shall have it for a reasonable com­
position before any other.” It was
finally concluded between the contract­
ing parties, that two of Lord Fleming’s
friends and retainers, Tom of Somer-
ville, and Wat of Tweedie, should
be received, by Kennedy and Boyd
amongst the number of their adhe­
rents, and maintained in all their
causes and quarrels; and the deed
was solemnly sealed and ratified by
their oaths taken upon the holy gos-

Such is a specimen of the mode in
which the prosperity of the kingdom
was sacrificed to the private ambition
of the nobles ; and it is evident that
this band or indenture, by which Lord
Fleming was irrevocably tied to sup­
port the faction of the Boyds, was
merely one of many other similar in­
struments which shackled in the same
manner, and rewarded by the same
prospects of peculation, the rest of the
Scottish nobles.

These intrigues appear to have been
carried on during the mortal illness of
Bishop Kennedy, and in contemplation

1 This valuable original document was
communicated to me by James Maidment,
Esq., through whose kind permission it is
printed in the Illustrations, letter 0.

196                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                        [Chap. IV.

of his death. This event, which, in
the circumstances in which it oc­
curred, was truly a national calamity,
took place on the 10th of May 1466.1
In him the country lost the only states­
man who possessed sufficient firmness,
ability, and integrity to direct the
councils of government. He was,
indeed, in every respect a remark­
able man ; a pious and conscientious
churchman, munificent, active, and
discriminating in his charity; and
whose religion, untinged with bigotry
or superstition, was pure and practical.
His zeal for the interests of literature
and science was another prominent
and admirable feature in his character,
of which he left a noble monument in
St Salvator’s college at St Andrews,
founded by him in 1456, and richly
endowed out of his ecclesiastical re­
venues. Kennedy was nearly con­
nected with the royal family, his mo­
ther being the Lady Mary, countess of
Angus, a daughter of Robert the Third.
It appears that he had early devoted
his attention to a correction of the
manifold abuses which were daily in­
creasing in the government of the
Church; for which laudable purpose
he twice visited Italy, and experienced
the favour of the Pope. Although in
his public works, in his endowments
of churches, and in everything con­
nected with the pomp and ceremonial
of the Catholic faith, he was unusual­
ly magnificent, yet in h’s own person,
and the expenditure of his private
household, he exhibited a rare union
of purity, decorum, and frugality; nor
could the sternest judges breathe a
single aspersion against either his in­
tegrity as a minister of state, or his
private character as a minister of reli­
gion. Buchanan, whose prepossessions
were strongly against that ancient
Church, of which Kennedy was the
head in Scotland, has yet spoken of
his virtues in the highest terms of
panegyric: — “His death,” he says,
“ was so deeply deplored by all good
men, that the country seemed to weep
for him as for a public parent.”2

1 Keith’s Catalogue of the Scot. Bishops,p.19.

2  Buchanan, Histor. Rerum Scotic. book
xii. chap. 23.

Upon the decease of this virtuous
prelate, the strength of the coalition
which had been formed by the Boyds,
and the want of that firm hand which
had hitherto guided the government,
were soon felt in a lamentable manner
by the country. To get complete pos­
session of the king’s person was the
first object of the faction, and this
they accomplished in a summary and
audacious manner. Whilst the king,
who had now completed his fourteenth
year, sat in his Exchequer Court,
which was then held in the palace of
Linlithgow, Lord Boyd, accompanied
by Lord Somerville, Adam Hepburn,
master of Hailes, and Andrew Ker of
Cessford, violently invaded the court,
which was kept by the officers and at­
tendants of the chamberlain, Lord
Livingston, and, laying hands upon
the king, compelled him to mount on
horseback behind one of the Ex­
chequer deputies, and to accompany
them to Edinburgh. Lord Kennedy,
who was a principal party in the con­
spiracy, with the object of removing
from himself the public odium of such
an outrage, intercepted the cavalcade,
and, seizing the bridle of the horse
which the king rode, attempted, with
well-dissembled violence, to lead him
back to the palace. A blow from the
hunting-staff of Sir Alexander Boyd
put an end to this interference, and
the party were suffered to proceed
with their royal prize to the capital,3
The reader need hardly be reminded
that Lord Livingston, the chamber­
lain, without whose connivance this
enterprise could not have succeeded,
was one of the parties to that bond
between Lord Fleming and the Boyds,
which has been already quoted ; and
that Tom of Somerville, or, in less
familiar language, Thomas Somerville
of Plane, the brother of Lord Somer-
ville, who accompanied and assisted
Lord Boyd in his treasonable invasion
of the royal person, was another. Fle-

3 R. Mag. Sig. vii. 45, October 13, 1466.
Buchanan, book xii. chap. 21, is the autho­
rity for this pretended interposition of Ken­
nedy. The rest of the story given by him is
inaccurate. See an extract from the Trial of
the Boyds in 1469, in Crawford’s Officers of
State, p. 316.

1466.]                                              JAMES III.                                                  197

ming himself, indeed, does not appear;
and the other powerful friends of the
Boyds, the Earl of Crawford, with the
Lords Montgomery, Maxwell, Hamil­
ton, and Cathcart, are not mentioned
as having personally taken any share
in the enterprise; but can we doubt
that all of them gave it their counte­
nance and support; and that Lord
Boyd and his associates would not
have risked the commission of an act
of treason, unless they had been well
assured that the strength of their party
would enable them to defy, for the
present, every effort which might be
made against them ?

This is strikingly corroborated by
what followed. During the sitting of
a parliament, which was soon after
held at Edinburgh, an extraordinary
scene took place. In the midst of the
proceedings Lord Boyd, suddenly en­
tering the council-room, threw him­
self at the king’s feet, and embracing
his knees, earnestly besought him to
declare before the three estates whether
he had incurred his displeasure for any
part which he had taken in the late
removal of his majesty from Linlith-
gow to Edinburgh; upon which the
royal boy, previously well instructed
in his lesson, publicly assured his no­
bility that instead of being forcibly
carried off in the month of July last
from Linlithgow, as had been by some
persons erroneously asserted, he had
attended Lord Boyd and the other
knights and gentlemen who accom­
panied him of his own free-will and
pleasure. In case, however, this as­
sertion of a minor sovereign, under the
influence of a powerful faction, should
not be considered sufficiently conclu­
sive, an instrument under the great
seal was drawn up, in which Boyd and
his accomplices were pardoned;1 and
to crown this parliamentary farce, the
three estates immediately appointed
the same baron to the office of gover­
nor of the king’s person, and of his
royal brothers. They selected at the
same time a committee of certain
peers, to whom, during the interval

1 Litera approbation is in favorem Dora.
Rob. Boyd. Appendix to Crawford’s Officers
of State,” p. 473.

between the dissolution of this present
parliament and the meeting of the
next, full parliamentary powers were
intrusted. It is impossible not to pity
the miserable condition of a country
in which such abuses could be tole­
rated, in which the rights of the sove­
reign, the constitution of the great
national council, and the authority of
the laws, were not only despised and
outraged with impunity, but with a
shameless ingenuity were made parties
to their own destruction. In the same
parliament the ambassadors who were
then in England, amongst whom we
find the prelates of Glasgow and Aber­
deen, the Earls of Crawford and Ar-
gyle, with Lord Livingston, the cham­
berlain, were directed to treat of
the marriage of the king, as well as
of his royal brothers, the Lords of
Albany and Mar; and upon their
return to Scotland to come to a final
determination upon the subject with
that committee of lords to whom
the powers of parliament were in­

It is evident, however, that although
their names and their numbers are
studiously concealed, there was a party
in the kingdom inimical to the designs
of the Boyds, who absented themselves
from the meeting of the estates, and,
shut up within their feudal castles,
despised the pretended summons of
the king, and defied the authority of
those who had possessed themselves of
his person. The parliamentary com­
mittee were accordingly empowered to
sit and judge all those who held their
castles against the king or my Lord of
Albany, to summon them to immedi­
ate surrender, and in the event of their
refusal to reduce them by arms. At
the same time it was determined that
the dowry of the future queen should
be a third of the king’s rents. Some
regulations were passed against the
purchase of benefices in commendam,
and an endeavour was made to put a
stop to the alarming prevalence of
crime and oppression, by inflicting
severe fines upon the borrows or pledges
of those persons who had become se­
curity to the state that they would
keep the peace, and abstain from offer

198                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. IV.

ing violence to the person or invading
the property of their neighbours.1 If
borrows be broken,” to use the lan­
guage of the act, “ upon any bishop,
prelate, earl, or lord of parliament, the
party who had impledged himself for
his security, was to be fined a hun­
dred pounds; if upon barons, knights,
squires, or beneficed clerks, fifty
pounds; if upon burgesses, yeomen,
or priests, thirty pounds,” In the
same parliament the act of King
Robert Bruce, by which Englishmen
were forbid to hold benefices in Scot­
land, was revived; and the statutes,
so often renewed and so perpetually
infringed, against the exportation of
money out of the realm, excepting so
much as was necessary for the travel-
ler’s personal expenses, were once
more repeated. On the other hand,
to encourage the importation of money
into the kingdom, a provision was
made that every merchant who ex­
ported hides or woolfels should, for
each sack which he sold in the foreign
market, bring to the master-coiner of
the king’s mint two ounces of “ burnt
silver,” for which he was to receive
nine shillings and twopence; whilst,
for the ease and sustentation of the
king’s lieges, and to encourage alms-
deeds to be done to the poor, it was
enacted that a coinage of copper money
should be issued, four pieces or far­
things to the penny, with the device
of St Andrew’s cross, and superscribed
Edinburgh, on the one side, and a
royal crown, with the letters James
R., on the reverse. The other gold
and silver money of the realm was to
be current at the same value as be­

A restriction was made upon fo­
reign trade, by which none but free
burgesses resident within burgh, or
their factors and servants, were per­
mitted to sell or traffic in merchandise
out of the realm; always understand­
ing that it was lawful for prelates,
barons, and clerks, to send their own
property, the produce of their own
lands, out of the country by the hands

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 85.
Ibid. vol. ii. p. 86.

of their servants, and to purchase in
return such things as were needful for
their personal use. Other regulations
follow, which enable us to form some
idea of the commercial condition of
the country ; even burgesses, it would
appear, had not an unlimited permis­
sion to trade unless the trader was a
famous and worshipful man, having
of his own property half a “ last " of
goods, or so much at least under his
own power and management; no han­
dicraftsman or artisan was to be per­
mitted to trade unless he first, without
colour or dissimulation, renounced his
craft; and none of the king’s lieges
was to be permitted to freight a ship,
either within the realm or from a
foreign port, without there being a
formal agreement or charter-party
drawn up, containing certain condi­
tions which were to be fulfilled by
the shipmaster. By such conditions
the shipmaster was obliged to find a
steersman and (tymmerman) timber-
man, with a crew sufficient to navi­
gate the vessel. The merchantmen
who sailed with him were to be pro­
vided with fire, water, and salt at his
expense. If any quarrel arose between
the shipmaster and his merchant pas­
sengers, its decision was to be referred
to the court of the burgh to which the
vessel was freighted, whilst care was
to be taken that no goods should be
damaged or destroyed, shorn or staved
in by ignorant or careless stowage,
under the penalty of forfeiting the
freight-money, and making good the
loss to the merchant. No master was
to be allowed to sail his vessel during
the winter months, from the feast of
St Simon and Jude to Candlemas;
and in consequence, probably of some
misunderstanding with the Flemings,
of which there is no trace in the his­
tory of the times, all merchants were
interdicted from trading to the ports
of the Swyn, the Sluse, the Dam, or
Bruges, and ordered to pass with their
ships and cargoes to the town of Mid-
delburg. They were not, however,
to establish their trade in that city
as a staple, as it was declared to be
the intention of the government to
send commissioners to the continent

1466-9.]                                          JAMES III.                                                 199

for the purpose of negotiating for
them the privileges and freedom of
trade, and to fix the staple in that
port which offered the most liberal
terms.1 In the meantime it was per­
mitted to all merchants to trade to
Rochelle, Bordeaux, and the ports of
France and Norway, as before. In
England, during the same year, we
find the parliament of Edward the
Fourth imposing the same restrictions
upon the trade and manufactures of
the kingdom, enforcing an unattain­
able uniformity of fabric and quantity
in the worsted manufactures, and pro­
hibiting the exportation of woollen
yarn and unfulled cloth, by which the
king lost his customs and the people
their employment. The truth seems
to have been, that owing to the de­
cided inferiority of the English wool,
the foreign cloths had completely
undersold the English broadcloth;
and the parliament interfered to pre­
vent the manufacturers from diverting
their labour and their capital into that
only channel in which they appear to
have been profitably employed for
themselves and for the country.2

In the midst of these parliamentary
labours the power of the family of the
Boyds, fostered by a prepossession
which the youthful monarch seems to
have entertained for their society, and
increased by the use which they made
of their interest in the government to
reward their friends and overwhelm
their opponents, was steadily on the
increase. The Princess Mary, eldest
sister to the king, had been affianced
to the son of Henry the Sixth, but the
hand of this royal lady was not deemed
too high a reward for Sir Thomas
Boyd, the eldest son of Lord Boyd.
The island of Arran was immediately
after the marriage erected into an
earldom in favour of the bridegroom;
and his power and ambition were grati­
fied by the grant of ample estates in
the counties of Ayr, Bute, Forfar,
Perth, and Lanark.3 Soon after this
accession of dignity, Lord Boyd, who

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 87.
Statutes of the Realm, vol. ii. p. 418.
Douglas’s Peerage, vol. ii. p. 32.

already enjoyed the office of governor
to the king and his brothers, and high
justiciar of the kingdom, was pro­
moted to the lucrative and important
trust of lord chamberlain, so that,
armed in this triple authority, he may
be said to have ruled supreme over
the person of the sovereign, the ad­
ministration of justice, and the man­
agement of the revenues. The power
of this family, however, which had
shot up within a short period to such
wonderful and dangerous strength,
seems to have reached at this moment
its highest exaltation, and the fall,
when it did arrive, was destined to be
proportionably rapid and severe.

An event which soon after occurred
in Orkney had the effect of renewing
the intercourse between the courts of
Scotland and Denmark, although the
auspices under which it was resumed
were at first rather hostile than friendly.
Tulloch, bishop of Orkney, a Scotsman,
and a prelate of high accomplishments
and great suavity of manners, enjoyed
the esteem of Christiern, king of Den­
mark and Norway; and appears to
have been intrusted by this northern
potentate with a considerable share in
the government of these islands, at
that time the property of the crown
of Norway. In some contention or
feud between the Bishop and the Earl
of Orkney, a baron of a violent char­
acter and of great power, the prelate
had been seized and shut up in prison
by a son of Orkney, who shewed no
disposition to interfere for his libera­
tion. Upon this, Christiern directed
letters to the King of Scotland, in
which, whilst professing his earnest
wishes that the two kingdoms should
continue to preserve the most friendly
relations to each other, he remon­
strated against the treatment of the
bishop, requested the king’s interfer­
ence to procure his liberty, and inti­
mated his resolution not to permit the
Earl of Orkney to oppress the liege
subjects of Norway.4 So intent was
the northern potentate upon this sub­
ject, that additional letters were soon
after transmitted to the Scottish king,
in which, with the design of expedit-
Torfæi Orcades, p. 187.

200                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                     [Chap. IV.

ing his deliberations, a demand was
made for the payment of all arrears
due by Scotland to Norway, and re­
iterating his request not only for the
liberation of the bishop, but for the
restoration to the royal favour of a
noble Scottish knight, Sir John Ross
of Halket, the same who had distin­
guished himself in the famous combat,
held before James the Second, between
three warriors of Burgundy and three
champions of Scotland.

These representations had the de­
sired effect. The king had now com­
pleted his sixteenth year; it was not
expedient longer to delay his marriage;
and, in looking around for a suitable
consort, the daughter of Christiern
was thought of amongst other noble
virgins. The consequence of this was,
an amicable answer to the requests of
the Norwegian monarch, and a pro­
mise upon the part of James, that an
embassy should immediately be de­
spatched, by which it was hoped all
claims between the two crowns might
be adjusted. The Bishop of Orkney
appears to have been restored to
liberty; Ross was recalled from his
banishment, and admitted to favour;
and a parliament assembled at Edin­
burgh, for the purpose of taking into
immediate consideration the affair of
the king’s marriage.

In this meeting of the estates of the
realm a commission was drawn up,
empowering the Bishops of Glasgow
and Orkney, the Chancellor Evandale,
the Earl of Arran, and Mr Martin
Vans, grand almoner and confessor to
the king, to proceed as ambassadors to
the court of Denmark for the purpose
of negotiating a marriage between the
youthful sovereign of Scotland and
Margaret, princess of Denmark; whilst,
in the event of any failure in the over­
tures made regarding this northern
alliance, the embassy received a sort
of roving commission to extend their
matrimonial researches through the
courts of England, France, Spain, Bur­
gundy, Brittany, and Savoy. Three
thousand pounds were contributed by
the parliament for the purpose of de­
fraying the expenses of the embassy,
not, as it is stated in the act, by

way of tax, or contribution, but of
their own free-will, and without pre­
judice to follow to them in any time
to come. Of this sum, a thousand
was to be given by the clergy, a
thousand by the barons, and a thou­
sand by the burgesses of the realm.1

The Scottish ambassadors accord­
ingly proceeded to Copenhagen, and
their negotiations appear to have been
conducted with much prudence and
discretion. Their great object was to
obtain a cession from Norway of the
important islands of Orkney and Shet­
land, which, as long as they continued
the property of a foreign crown, were
likely, from their proximity to Scot­
land, and in the event of a war with
the northern powers, to become exceed­
ingly troublesome neighbours to that
kingdom. Since the ninth century,
the feudal superiority in these islands
had belonged to the Norwegian kings.
For a considerable period they had
been governed by a line of Norwegian
jarls, or earls; but these having failed
about the middle of the fourteenth
century, the earldom passed, by mar­
riage, into the ancient and noble house
of St Clair, who received their inves­
titure from the monarchs of Norway,
and took their oath of allegiance to
that crown. Nay, the sovereigns of
Norway were in the practice of occa­
sionally appointing viceroys or gover­
nors in these islands; and on the failure
of heirs in the line of the Scottish
earls, on the refusal of allegiance, or
in the event of rebellion, the islands
were liable to be reclaimed by these
foreign potentates, and at once separ­
ated from all connexion with Scotland.
In such circumstances, the acquisition
of the Orkneys, and the completing
the integrity of the dominions of the
Scottish crown, was evidently an ob­
ject of the greatest national importance.
At a remote period of Scottish history,
in 1266, the kingdom of Man and the
Western Islands were purchased from
Norway by Alexander the Third. The
stipulated annual payment of a hun­
dred marks, from its trifling value, had
not been regularly exacted. Under

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 90.

1469.]                                              JAMES III.                                                  201

the reign of James the Second, when
the arrears appear to have accumulated
for a period of twenty-six years, Chris-
tiern, king of Denmark, remonstrated,
and not only claimed the arrears, but
the penalties incurred by the failure.
In these circumstances, the case was
submitted to the arbitration of Charles
the Seventh of France, the mutual
friend of the parties who, as already
stated, recommended a marriage be­
tween the Prince of Scotland and the
daughter of the King of Denmark, as
the happiest and wisest mode of ter­
minating the differences.

It was fortunate for the ambas­
sadors of James that Christiern was
disposed, at this period, to preserve
the most friendly relations with Scot­
land. It had been the policy of this
prince, more than that of any of his
predecessors, to strengthen his influ­
ence by foreign alliances, and to support
France against the aggressions of Eng­
land, so that a matrimonial alliance
with a kingdom which had long been
the enemy of that country, was likely
to meet with his cordial concurrence.
Under so favourable an aspect the ne­
gotiation was soon concluded. The
Norwegian monarch, however, hesi­
tated about giving an immediate ces­
sion of the islands to Scotland; but
the articles of the matrimonial treaty
amounted, in their consequences, to
almost the same thing. Christiern
consented to bestow his daughter in
marriage upon King James, with a
portion of sixty thousand florins, and
a full discharge of the whole arrears
of the annual, the name given to the
yearly tribute due for the Western
Isles, and of the penalties incurred by
non-payment. Of the stipulated sum
he agreed to pay down ten thousand
florins before his daughter’s departure
for Scotland, and to give a mortgage
of the sovereignty of the Orkney
Islands, which were to remain the pro­
perty of the kingdom of Scotland till
the remaining fifty thousand florins
of the marriage portion should be paid.
Upon the part of James, it was agreed
that his consort, Margaret of Denmark,
should, in the event of his death, be
confirmed in the possession of the

palace of Linlithgow and the castle of
Doun, in Menteith, with their terri­
tories; and, besides this, that she
should enjoy a revenue amounting to
one-third of the royal lands.1 The
exchequer of the Danish monarch had,
at this time, been drained by continued
civil commotions in his kingdom of
Sweden, and, owing to the delay in the
stipulated payment of the dowry, the
residence of the Scottish ambassadors
at the northern court was protracted
for several months. During this in­
terval, Boyd, earl of Arran, returned to
Scotland with the object of laying be­
fore James the terms of the treaty, and
receiving his further instructions re­
garding the passage of the bride to her
new country.

Upon Boyd’s departure from Copen­
hagen, it seems probable that Christiern
became acquainted, from the informa­
tion of his brother ambassadors who re­
mained, with the overgrown power of
the family of Arran, and the thraldom
in which he held the youthful king,
and that in justice to his daughter,
the future queen, he had determined
to undermine his influence. The im­
perious manners of such a spoilt fa­
vourite of fortune as Arran were likely
to prove disagreeable to the majesty
of Denmark, and even amongst his
brother ambassadors there were pro­
bably some who, having suffered under
the rod of his power, would not be in­
disposed to share in the spoils of his
forfeiture, and to lend themselves in­
struments to compass his ruin. Whilst
such schemes for the destruction of
the power of the despotic family of
Boyd were ripening in Denmark, the
Scottish nobles, during his absence on
the embassy, had entered into an
equally formidable coalition against
him; and the eyes of the king, no
longer a boy, became opened to the
ignominious tutelage in which he had
been kept, and the dangerous plurality
of the highest offices enjoyed by the
high-chamberlain and the Earl of
Arran. All this, however, was kept
concealed for the present; and as
winter was now at hand, and the fre­
quent storms in these northern lati-
Torfæi Orcades, p. 15.

202                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. IV.

tudes were naturally formidable to the
ambassadors and their timid bride, it
was resolved to delay the voyage till
spring.1 At that period Arran again
proceeded with great pomp to the
Danish court, and on his arrival it was
found that Christiern, whose pecuniary
difficulties continued, instead of ten
thousand, could only pay two thousand
florins of his daughter’s dowry. Such
being the case, he proposed a further
mortgage of the islands of Shetland,
till he should advance the remaining
eight thousand florins, and, as may be
easily supposed, the Scottish ambas­
sadors were not slow to embrace his
offer. The money was never paid, and
since this period the islands of Orkney
and Shetland have remained attached
to the Scottish crown.

Having brought these matters to a
conclusion in a manner honourable to
themselves and highly beneficial to the
country, the Scottish ambassadors,
bearing with them their youthful
bride, a princess of great beauty and
accomplishments, and attended by a
brilliant train of Danish nobles, set
sail for Scotland, and landed at Leith
in the month of July, amidst the re­
joicings of her future subjects. She
was now in her sixteenth year, and
the youthful monarch, who had not
yet completed his eighteenth, received
her with the gallantry and ardour in­
cident to his age. Soon after her ar­
rival, the marriage ceremony was com­
pleted with much pomp and solemnity
in the abbey church of Holyrood, and
was succeeded by a variety and splen­
dour in the pageants and entertain­
ments, and a perseverance in the
feasting and revelry, which were long
afterwards remembered.2

The next great public event which
succeeded the king’s marriage was the
fall of the proud and powerful house
of Boyd ; and so very similar were the
circumstances which attended their
ruin to those by which the destruc­
tion of the Livingston family was ac­
companied, under the reign of James

1 Ferrerius, p. 388. Lesley, History of
Scotland, p. 38.

2 Lesley’s History of Scotland, p. 38. Fer-
rerius, p. 388, printed at the end of Boece.

the Second, that, in describing the
fate of the one, we seem to be repeat­
ing the catastrophe of the other. The
reflection which here necessarily forces
itself upon the mind is, that the con­
stitution of Scotland at this period
invariably encouraged some powerful
family in the aristocracy to monopolise
the supreme power in the state ; and,
as the manner by which they effected
this purpose was the same in all cases,
by a band namely, or coalition, with
the most powerful, and influential per-
sons in the country, so the mode
adopted by their enemies for their
ruin and discomfiture was equally uni­
form : a counter coalition, headed by
the sovereign whom they had op­
pressed, and held together by the
hopes of sharing in the spoils which
they had amassed during their career.

Whilst the Danish fleet, which
brought the youthful bride and the
Scottish ambassadors, was yet in the
Forth, the king’s sister, who was the
wife of Arran, had become acquainted
with the designs which were then in
agitation ; and, alarmed for the safety
of her husband, against whom she
perceived that her royal brother had
conceived the deepest animosity, she
secretly left the court, procured a con­
veyance on board the fleet, and in­
formed him of his danger. It hap­
pened, unfortunately for his family,
that this proud noble, overwhelmed
with intelligence for which he was so
little prepared, adopted the step most
calculated to irritate the king’s mind
against him. It might have been pos­
sible for Arran to have awakened an
old attachment, or at least to have
diluted the bitterness of indignation,
by a personal appeal to the generosity
of the monarch ; but instead of this,
without landing with his brother am­
bassadors, he secretly got on board a
vessel, and taking his wife along with
him, whose presence he perhaps be­
lieved would be a pledge for his se­
curity, escaped to Denmark, a country
scarcely less inimical to him than

On being informed of his flight, the
king was much incensed, and imme­
diately after the conclusion of the re-

1469.]                                               JAMES III.                                                 203

joicings for his marriage, a parliament
assembled at Edinburgh, in which the
destruction of this great family was
completed in a very summary manner.
Lord Boyd, his brother, Sir Alexander
Boyd of Drumcol, and his son, the
Earl of Arran, were summoned to ap­
pear and answer the charges which
should be brought against them.
Boyd, the lord justiciar and chamber­
lain, now a very old man, made a vain
show of resistance ; and trusting per­
haps to those bands by which many of
the most powerful families in the
country had engaged to follow his
banner and espouse his quarrel, he
assembled his vassals, and advanced
to Edinburgh with a force intended to
overawe the parliament and intimidate
his judges; but he had overrated his
influence. At the display of the royal
standard, his troops of friends dis­
persed; even his own immediate de­
pendants became fearful of the conse­
quences, and dropped away by degrees;
so that the old lord, in despair for his
safety, fled across the Borders into Nor­
thumberland, where, overwhelmed by
age and misfortune, he soon after died.
The Earl of Arran, as we have seen,
had avoided the royal wrath, by a pre­
cipitate flight to Denmark; but it is
difficult to account for the stern and
inexorable measures which were
adopted against Sir Alexander Boyd,
his uncle, whose pleasing manners,
and excellence in all the chivalrous
accomplishments of the age, had
raised him to the office of the king’s
military tutor or governor, and to
whom, in his boyish years, James is
said to have been so warmly attached.
It is evident that the young king,
with a capriciousness often incident to
his time of life, had suffered his mind
to be totally alienated from his early
friend; and having consented to his
trial for treason, and the confiscation
of the large estates which had been
accumulated by the family, it is not
impossible that, contrary to his own
wishes, he may have been hurried into
the execution of a vengeance which
was the work rather of the nobles than
of the sovereign. However this may
be, Sir Alexander Boyd, whose sick­

ness had prevented him from making
his escape, was brought to trial before
the parliament for his violent abduc­
tion of the king’s person from Lin
lithgow on the 9th of July 1466, an
act of manifest treason; which being
fully proved, he was found guilty and
condemned to death. Lord Boyd, and
his son the Earl of Arran, who had
eluded the pursuit of their enemies,
were arraigned in their absence on the
same charges as those brought against
Sir Alexander Boyd; and being tried
by a jury, which included the Earls of
Crawford and Morton, and the Lords
Seton, Gordon, Abernethy, Glammis,
Lorn, and Haliburton, were also pro­
nounced guilty of treason. It was in
vain pleaded for these unfortunate
persons, that the crime of removing
the king from Linlithgow had not only
been remitted by a subsequent act of
parliament, but, upon the same great
authority, had been declared good
service. It was replied, and the truth
of the answer could not be disputed,
that this legislative act was of no avail,
having been extorted by the Boyds
when they possessed the supreme
power, and held the person of the
sovereign under a shameful durance,
which constituted an essential part of
their guilt. Sentence of death was
accordingly pronounced upon the 22d
of November 1469; and the same day,
Sir Alexander Boyd, the only victim
then in the power of the ruling fac­
tion, was executed on the Castle-hill
of Edinburgh.1

Upon the forfeiture of the estates
of Lord Boyd, and his son, the Earl of
Arran, it was judged expedient to
make an annexation to the crown of
the estates and castles which had been
engrossed by this powerful family;
and this was done, it was declared, for
behoof of the eldest sons of the kings
of Scotland. Amongst these, we find
the lordship of Bute and castle of
Rothesay, the lordship of Cowal and
the castle of Dunoon, the earldom of
Carrick, the lands and castle of Dun-
donald, the barony of Renfrew, with

1 Crawford’s Officers of State, p. 316, quot­
ing the original trial in Sir Lewis Stewart’s
MS. Collections, Advocates’ Library.

204                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                     [Chap. IV.

the lordship and castle of Kilmarnock,
the lordships of Stewarton and Dairy,
the lands of Nithsdale, Kilbride,
Nairnston, Caverton, Farinzean, Drum-
col, Teling, with the annual rent of
Brechin, and fortalice of Trabach.
When we consider the extent of the
possessions which thus became the
prize of the crown, it may account for
the readiness with which the party of
the young queen, who was naturally
jealous of the influence which the
Boyds had usurped over her husband,
embraced the earliest opportunity of
accomplishing their downfall; and a
conjecture may be hazarded, that their
chief enemies were the Chancellor
Evandale and the Lord Hamilton
although the particular details of the
conspiracy, and the names of the
other powerful and ambitious persons
whom it included in its ranks, have
been unfortunately lost. It is certain
that the house of Hamilton, which,
previously to the reign of James the
Second, had never possessed any very
formidable power, rose into high dis­
tinction upon the ruins of the family
of Boyd. At the command of the
king, the Princess Mary, who was the
wife of the banished Earl of Arran, was
compelled to leave her husband, with
whom she had fled to the continent,
and return to the Scottish court. A
divorce was then obtained, and the
Countess of Arran gave her hand to
Lord Hamilton, to whom it had been
promised in 1454, in reward for the
good services performed to the king’s
father in the great rebellion of the
Earl of Douglas.1 It is well known
that by this marriage the family of
Hamilton, under the reign of Mary,
became the nearest heirs to the Scot­
tish crown. Undismayed by the miser­
able fate of his family, the Earl of Ar-
ran, whose talents as a statesman and
a warrior were superior to most of
the nobles by whom he had been de­
serted, soon after entered the service
of Charles the Bold, duke of Bur­
gundy, in which he rose to high dis­
tinction, and became employed in ne­
gotiations with the court of England.2

1 Abercromby, vol. ii. p. 397.

2 Paston Letters, vol. i. pp. 269, 271.

The king had now reached that age
when a fair prognostication might be
made of his f uture character. He had
completed his eighteenth year. He
had married a princess, who although
considerably his junior, was endowed,
if we may trust the concurrent tes­
timony of all historians, with a rare
union of wisdom and sweetness; and
it was evident that, in any endeavour
to extricate himself from the difficul­
ties with which he was surrounded,
much, almost all of its success de­
pended upon his own personal quali­
ties. The power of the Scottish aris­
tocracy, which had greatly increased
during his own and his father’s mino­
rity, required a firm hand to check its
dangerous growth; and it happened,
unfortunately, that the temporary
triumph which had attended the in­
trigues of the Livingstons under James
the Second, and more lately the du­
rance in which the king himself was
kept by the usurpation of the house
of Boyd, had diminished in the eyes
of the nobles, and even of the people,
the respect entertained for the royal
person, and accustomed them to look
upon the sovereign as a prize to be
played for and won by the most bold
and fortunate faction in the state. To
counteract this, the possession of a
steady judgment, and the exertion of
a zealous attention to the cares of
government, were required from the
king; and in both James was deficient.
That he was so weak and even wicked
a monarch as he is described by a
certain class of historians, contrary to
the evidence of facts, and of contem­
poraries, there is no ground to believe;
but his education, which after the
death of the excellent Kennedy had
been intrusted to the Boyds, was ill
calculated to produce a sovereign fitted
to govern a country under the circum­
stances in which Scotland was then
placed. It was the interest of this
family, the more easily to overrule
everything according to their own
wishes, to give their youthful charge
a distaste for public business, to in­
dulge him to an unlimited extent in
his pleasures and amusements, to
numour every little foible in his cha-

1469-70.]                                        JAMES III.                                               205

racter, to keep him ignorant of the
state of the country, and to avoid the
slightest approach to that wholesome
severity, and early discipline of the
heart and the understanding, with­
out which nothing that is excellent
or useful in after life can be expected.
The effects of this base system pur­
sued by his governors were apparent
in the future misfortunes of the king,
whose natural disposition was good,
and whose tastes and endowments
were in some respects superior to his
age. The defects in his character
were mainly to be attributed to an ill-
directed education; but from the
political circumstances by which he
was surrounded, they were unfortun­
ately of a nature calculated to produce
the most calamitous consequences to
himself as well as to the country.

He had indeed fallen on evil days;
and whether we look to the state of
the continent or to the internal condi­
tion of Scotland, the task committed
to the supreme governor of that coun­
try was one of no easy execution. In
England, Edward the Fourth was
engrossed by his ambitious schemes
against France, although scarcely se­
cure upon the throne which he had
mounted amid the tumult and confu­
sion of a civil war; and it was his
policy, fearful of any renewal of the
war with Scotland, to encourage dis­
content, and sow the seeds of rebellion
in that country, which, under an ambi­
tious and a popular prince, might, by
uniting its strength to his adversary
of France, have occasioned him in­
finite annoyance and loss. It was, on
the other hand, the object of his saga­
cious and unprincipled rival, Lewis
the Eleventh, to engage James, by
every possible means, in a war with
England; whilst Charles the Bold,
duke of Burgundy, who had married
the sister of Edward, and whose pos­
session of the Netherlands gave him
ample means of inflicting serious in­
jury upon the commerce of Scotland,
was equally anxious to interrupt the
amicable relations between that coun­
try and France, and to preserve invio­
late the truce between James and Ed­
ward. The aspect of affairs in Eng­

land and on the continent, in relation
to Scotland, was therefore one of con­
siderable complication and difficulty,
whilst the internal state of the country
was equally dark and discouraging.

In the meantime, the same parlia­
ment which had destroyed the power
of the Boyds continued its delibera­
tions, and passed some important acts
relative to the administration of jus­
tice, the tenures of landed property,
the privileges of sanctuary, the consti-
tutjon of the courts of parliament and
justice-ayres, and the liability of the
property of the tenants who laboured
the ground for the debts of their
lord.1 Of these enactments, the last
was the most important, as it affected
the rights and the condition of so
large and meritorious a class of the
community, over whom the tyranny
exercised by the higher orders appears
to have been of a grievous description.
Previous to this, when a nobleman fell
into debt, his creditor, who sued out
a brief of distress, and obtained a
judgment against the debtor for a
certain sum, was in the practice of
having immediate recourse against
the tenant of the lordly debtor’s lands,
seizing his whole property, to his utter
loss and ruin. To remedy this, an act
was passed, by which it was declared
that, “to prevent the great impover­
ishment and destruction of the king’s
commons and rentallers, and of the
inhabitants of the estates of the nobles,
which was occasioned by the brief of
distress,” the poor tenants should not
be distrained for their landlord’s debts,
further than the sum which they were
due to him in rent; so that if the sum
in the brief of distress exceeded the
rent due, the creditor was bound to
have recourse against the other goods
and property of the debtor. If he
had no other property except his land,
it was provided that the land should
be sold, and the debt paid, so that the
poor tenants and labourers should not
be distressed,—a legislative provision
which exhibits a more liberal consi­
deration for the labouring classes than
at this period we might have been

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 95.

206                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. IV.

prepared to expect. The debtor also
was to enjoy the privilege of reclaim­
ing his land from the purchaser, if, at
any time within seven years, he should
pay down the price for which it had
been sold.1 In the same parliament
the three estates, after having con­
cluded their deliberations, elected a
committee of prelates, barons, and com­
missaries of the burghs, to whom they
delegated full powers to advise upon
certain important matters, and report
their opinion to the next parliament.
Amongst the subjects recommended
for their consideration are the “ in-
bringing or importation of bullion
into the realm, the keeping the current
money within the kingdom, and the
reduction of the king’s laws, compre­
hending the Regiam Majestatem, the
acts, statutes, and other books, into
one code or volume ; " whilst the rest,
meaning probably those statutes
which had fallen into desuetude, or
had been abrogated by posterior
enactment, were unscrupulously di­
rected to be destroyed.

The course of public events in Eng­
land now became deeply interesting,
exhibiting those sudden changes of
fortune which seated the unfortunate
Henry upon the throne, only to hurl
him from it within a few months to a
prison and a grave. In October 1470,
the successful invasion of that country
by the Earl of Warwick, and the
desertion of Edward by the greater
part of his army, compelled the mon­
arch of the Yorkists to make a sud­
den and hurried escape to Flanders.
Within five months he again landed
in England, at the head of two thou­
sand men; and such was the astonish­
ing progress of his intrigues and of
his arms, that in little more than a
month, the city of London was de­
livered up, and the sanguinary and
decisive battle of Tewkesbury com­
pletely and for ever annihilated the
hopes of the house of Lancaster.
Henry, as is well known, immediately
fell a victim to assassination in the
Tower; and his queen, after a cap­
tivity of five years, was permitted to

I Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 96.

retire to Anjou, where she died. Soon
after this important event, a negotia­
tion appears to have been opened with
Scotland, and commissioners were ap­
pointed to treat of a truce, which was
apparently to be cemented by some
matrimonial alliance, of which the
particulars do not appear.2

We have seen that the excellent
Kennedy, who had filled the see of St
Andrews with so much credit to him­
self and benefit to the nation, died in
the commencement of the year 1466,
Patrick Graham, his uterine brother,
then Bishop of Brechin, a prelate of
singular and primitive virtue, was
chosen to succeed him; and as his
promotion was obnoxious to the power­
ful faction of the Boyds, who then
ruled everything at court, the bishop-
elect secretly left the country for
Rome, and on his arrival, without
difficulty, procured his confirmation
from Pope Paul the Second. Fearing,
however, that his enemies were too
strong for him, he delayed his return ;
and the controversy regarding the
claim of the see of York to the supre­
macy of the Scottish Church having
been revived by Archbishop Nevill,
Graham, during his stay in Italy, so
earnestly and successfully exerted
himself for the independence of his
own Church, that Sixtus the Fourth,
Pope Paul’s successor, became con­
vinced by his arguments that the
claim of York was completely un­
founded. The result was a measure
which forms an era in the history of
the national Church. The see of St
Andrews was erected into an arch­
bishopric, by a bull of Sixtus the
Fourth; and the twelve bishops of
Scotland solemnly enjoined to be sub­
ject to that see in all future time.3
In addition to this privilege which
he had gained for his own Church,
Graham, who felt deeply the abuses
which had deformed it for so long
a period, induced the Pope to confer
upon him the office of legate for
the space of three years, purpos­
ing, on his return to Scotland, to

2 Rymer, Fœdera, vol. xi. p. 719.

3  Spottiswood’s History of the Church of
Scotland, pp. 58-60.

1470-3.]                                         JAMES III.                                                   207

make a determined effort for their

But little did this good man foresee
the storm which there awaited him :
the persecution which a nobility who
had fattened on the sale of church
livings, a dissolute priesthood, and a
weak and capricious monarch, were
prepared to raise against him. His
hulls of primacy and legation, which
nad been published before his arrival,
seemed only to awaken the jealousy
of the bishops, who accused him to
the king of intruding himself into the
legation, and carrying on a private
negotiation with the Roman court,
without having first procured the
royal licence. The moment he set his
foot in Scotland, he was cited to an­
swer these complaints, and inhibited
from assuming his title as archbishop,
or exercising his legatine functions.
In vain did he remonstrate against the
sentence—in vain appeal to the bulls
which he spread before the court—in
vain assert what was conspicuously
true, that he had been the instrument
of placing the Scottish Church on a
proud equality with that of the sister
kingdom, and that his efforts were
conscientiously directed to her good.
The royal mind was poisoned; his
judges were corrupted by money,
which the prelates and ecclesiastics,
who were his enemies, did not scruple
to expend on this base conspiracy.
Accusations were forged against him
by Schevez, an able but profligate man,
who, from his skill in the then fashion­
able studies of judicial astrology, had
risen into favour at court; agents
were employed at Rome, who raked
up imputations of heresy; his bankers
and creditors in that city, to whom he
was indebted for large sums expended
in procuring the bull for the arch­
bishopric, insisted on premature pay­
ment ; and the rector of his own uni­
versity forging a quarrel, for the pur­
pose of persecution, dragged him into
his court, and boldly pronounced
against him the sentence of excommu­
nication. Despising the jurisdiction
of his inferior, and confident in his
own rectitude, Graham refused obe­
dience, and bore himself with spirit

against his enemies; but the unworthy
conduct of the king, who corroborated
the sentence, entirely broke his heart,
and threw him into a state of distrac­
tion, from which he never completely
recovered. He was committed to the
charge of Schevez, his mortal enemy,
who succeeded him in the primacy;
and, unappeased in his enmity, even
by success, continued to persecute his
victim, removing him from prison to
prison, till he died at last, overcome
with age and misfortune, in the castle
of Lochleven.1

Amidst these ecclesiastical intrigues,
the attention of the privy council and
the parliament was directed to France,
with the design of attempting a recon­
ciliation between the French king and
the Duke of Burgundy, both of them
the old and faithful allies of Scotland.
The Earl of Arran had fled, we have
seen, after his disgrace in Scotland, to
the court of Burgundy, and his talents
and intrigues were successfully em­
ployed in exciting the animosity of
the duke against France and Scotland.
The same banished noble had also
sought a refuge in England, probably
with the same design which had been
pursued under similar circumstances
by the Douglases, that of persuading
Edward the Fourth to assist him in
the recovery of his forfeited estates by
an invasion of the country. To coun­
teract these intrigues, it was resolved
immediately to despatch ambassadors
to these powers, whose instructions
were unfortunately not communicated
in open parliament, but discussed se­
cretly amongst the lords of the privy
council, owing to which precaution it
is impossible to discover the nature of
the political relations which then sub­
sisted between Scotland and the conti­
nent. To the same ambassadors was
committed the task of choosing a pro­
per matrimonial alliance for the king’s
sister, a sum of three thousand pounds
being contributed in equal portions
by the three estates to meet their

About the same time, Lewis the
Eleventh despatched the Sieur Con-

1 Spottiswood’s History of the Church of
Scotland, p. 59.

208                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. IV.

cressault to the court of James, with
the object of persuading that monarch
to attack and make himself master of
the county of Brittany, which he pro­
mised to assign in perpetuity to the
Scottish crown; and it appears he had
so far succeeded, that orders were given
for a levy of six thousand men-at-arms,
which the king had determined to con­
duct in person, whilst the three es­
tates engaged to contribute six thou­
sand pounds for the expenses of the
expedition. Against this extraordi­
nary project of deserting his dominions
at a period when the state of the coun­
try so imperiously demanded his pre­
sence, the wiser and more patriotic
portion of the nobility steadily remon­
strated.1 They represented that it
must be attended with great peril to
the realm if the sovereign, in his ten­
der age, and as yet without a successor,
should leave the country, torn as it
then was by civil faction, by the dread
of threatened war, and by ecclesiasti­
cal dissension and intrigue. They ex­
posed to him the duplicity of the
conduct of Lewis, who had delayed to
put him in possession of the county
of Xaintonge, his undoubted right, and
now attempted to divert him from
insisting on the fulfilment of his sti­
pulations by an enterprise equally
hazardous and extravagant. The pre­
lates, in particular, drew up the strong­
est remonstrance upon the subject;
imploring him, by the tender love
which they bore to his person, not to
leave his dominions open to the incur­
sions of his enemies of England; to
recall the letters already written to
the King of France; and to content
himself with an earnest endeavour, by
the negotiations of his ambassadors,
to make up the differences between
Lewis the Eleventh and the Duke of
Burgundy.2 They advised him to use
every method to discover the real in­
tentions and disposition of the French
monarch; and if they found him ob­
stinate in his refusal to deliver up the
county of Xaintonge, it was recom­
mended that the ambassadors at the

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 102.
Ibid. vol. ii. pp. 102,104.

court of Burgundy should arraign the
injustice of such conduct to the duke,
and prevail upon that prince to assist
the Scottish monarch in his attempt
to recover his rights, as well as to get
possession of the rich duchy of Guel-
dres, which, they contended, had be­
come the property of the crown of
Scotland, in consequence of the impri­
sonment of the old Duke of Gueldres
by his son.3 Burgundy, however, had
himself cast the eyes of affection upon
this prize; and, with the design of
uniting it to his own territory, and
erecting the whole into a separate
sovereignty, under the title of the
kingdom of Burgundy, soon after pre­
vailed upon the imprisoned potentate
to declare him his heir, and took
forcible possession of the duchy.4

Whilst engaged in these complicated ’
negotiations with the continent, the
pacific relations with England were
renewed; and the repeated consulta­
tions between the commissioners of
the two countries, on the subject of
those infractions of the existing truce,
which were confined to the Borders,
evinced an anxiety upon the part of
both to remain on a friendly footing
with each other.5 Edward, indeed,
since his decisive victory at Tewkes-
bury, was necessarily engaged in con­
solidating his yet unstable authority;
and after having accomplished this
task, he engaged in a league with the
Duke of Burgundy against France,
with the determination of humbling
the pride of Lewis, and reviving in
that country the glory of Edward the
Third and Henry the Fifth. Under
such circumstances, a war with Scot­
land would have been fatal to the
concentration of his forces.

On the other hand, James and his
ministers had full occupation at home,
and wisely shunned all subjects of
altercation which might lead to war.
The tumults in the northern parts of
Scotland, which had arisen in conse­
quence of a feud between the Earls of

3 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 104.

4 Henault, Hist, of France, vol. i. p. 318.
Harœi Annal. Ducum Brabantiæ, p. 438.

5 Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. ii. pp. 430-439, incl.

1473-5.]                                 JAMES III.                                      209

Ross and Huntly, whose dominions
and vassalry embraced almost the
whole of the Highlands, rendered it
absolutely requisite that immediate
measures should be adopted for the
“ stanching the slaughters and depre­
dations” committed by their depen­
dants, and attempting to reduce these
districts under the control of justice
and civil polity.1 A practice of sell­
ing the royal pardon for the most out­
rageous crimes had lately been carried
to a shameless frequency; and the
Lords of the Articles, in the late par­
liament, exhorted and entreated his
highness that “he would close his
hands for a certain time coming against
all remissions and respites for mur­
der, and in the meantime, previous
to any personal interference in the
affairs of the continent,” take part of
the labour upon himself, and travel
through his realm, that his fame might
pass into other countries, and that he
might obtain for himself the reputa­
tion of a virtuous prince, who gave
an example to other sovereigns in
the establishment of justice, policy,
and peace throughout his domin­

The plan for the amendment of the
laws recommended in a late statute,
appears to have made but little pro­
gress, if we may judge by a pathetic
complaint, in which the lords and
barons besought the sovereign to select
from each estate two persons of wis­
dom, conscience, and knowledge, who
were to labour diligently towards the
“ clearing up of divers obscure matters
which existed in the books of the law,
and created a constant and daily per­
plexity.” These persons were recom­
mended, in their wisdom, to “find
good inventions which shall accord to
law and conscience, for the decision of
the daily pleas brought before the
king’s highness, and concerning which
there was as yet no law proper to
regulate their decision.” This singu­
lar enactment proceeded to state, that
after such persons in their wisdom

1 MS. extracts from the Books of the Lord
High Treasurer, March 21, 1473.

2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 104.


had fixed upon such rules of law, the
collection which they had made should
be shewn at the next parliament to
the king’s highness and his three
estates; and upon being ratified and
approved, that a book should then be
written, containing all the laws of the
realm, which was to be kept at a place
where “ the lafe " may have a copy;3
and that none other books of the law
be permitted thenceforth to be quoted
but those which were copies from this
great original, under a threatened
penalty of personal punishment and
perpetual silence to be inflicted upon
all who practised in the laws and in­
fringed these injunctions.4 A few
other regulations of this meeting of
the estates, regarding the manufacture
of artillery, or, as they were termed,
“ carts of war,” the regulation of the
coin, the importation of bullion, the
examination of goldsmiths’ work, and
the prohibition of English cloth as an
article of import, do not require any
more extended notice.5

On the 17th of March 1471-2, the
birth of a prince, afterwards James
the Fourth, had been welcomed with
great enthusiasm by the people ; and
the king, to whom, in the present dis­
contented and troubled state of the
aristocracy, the event must have been
especially grateful, was happily in­
duced to listen to the advice of his
clergy, and to renounce for the present
all intentions of a personal expedition
to the continent. He suffered him­
self also to be guided by the wisdom
of the same counsellors in his resolu­
tion to respect the truce with Eng­
land ; and on a proposal being made
by Edward the Fourth, that a lasting
peace should be concluded between
the two nations, on the basis of a
marriage between the Prince Royal of
Scotland and one of his own daughters,
James despatched an embassy for the
purpose of entering into a negotiation

3 The "lafe” probably means the body of
the inferior judges of the realm.

4  Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 105.

5   A parliament was held at Edinburgh,
October 6, 1474, of which nothing is known
but its existence. Acts of the Parliament of
Scotland, vol. ii. p. 108.


210                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. IV.

with the English commissioners upon
this important subject.1

The lady, or rather the infant fixed
on, for she was then only in her fourth
year, was Edward’s youngest daughter,
the Princess Cæcilia ; and the Bishop
of Aberdeen, Sir John Colquhoun of
Luss, and the chamberlain, James
Shaw, having repaired to England,
and concluded their deliberations, Ed­
ward directed the Bishop of Durham,
along with Russel, the keeper of his
privy seal, and John, lord Scrope, to
proceed to Edinburgh, and there con­
clude a final treaty of marriage and
alliance, which they happily accom­

A curious illustration of the for­
mality of feudal manners was pre­
sented by the ceremony of the betroth-
ment. On the 26th of October, David
Lindsay, earl of Crawford, John, lord
Scrope, knight of the garter, along
with the Chancellor Evandale, the
Earl of Argyle, and various English
commissioners and gentlemen, assem­
bled in the Low Greyfriars’ church at
Edinburgh. The Earl of Lindsay
then came forward, and declaring to
the meeting that he appeared as pro­
curator for an illustrious prince, the
Lord James, by the grace of God King
of Scots, demanded that the notarial
letters, which gave him full powers in
that character to contract the espou­
sals between Prince James, first-born
son of the said king, and heir to the
throne, and the Princess Cæcilia,
daughter to an excellent prince, Lord
Edward, king of England, should be
read aloud to the meeting. On the
other side, Lord Scrope made the
same declaration and demand; and
these preliminaries being concluded,
the Earl of Crawford, taking Lord
Scrope by the right hand, solemnly,
and in presence of the assembled par­
ties, plighted his faith that his dread
lord, the King of Scotland, and father
of Prince James, would bestow his son
in marriage upon the Princess Cæcilia
of England, when both the parties
had arrived at the proper age. Lord
Scrope, having then taken the Scottish

1  Rymer. Fœdera, vol. xi. p. 814.

2  Ibid. vol. xl p. 821.

earl by the right hand, engaged, and,
in the same solemn terms, plighted
his faith for his master, King Edward
of England. After which, the condi­
tions of the treaty upon which the
espousals took place, were arranged
by the respective commissioners of the
two countries, with an enlightened
anxiety for their mutual welfare.

It was first declared that, for the
better maintenance of peace and pro­
sperity in the “ noble isle called Bri­
tain,” some measures ought to be
adopted by the Kings of Scotland and
England, which should promote a
spirit of mutual love between the sub­
jects of both realms more effectually
than the common method of a truce,
which was scarcely sufficient to heal
the calamities inflicted by protracted
jealousies and dissensions, followed as
they had been by an obstinate war.
A more likely method for the settle­
ment of a lasting peace was then de­
clared to be the intended marriage
between Prince James and the Lady
Cæcilia; and the conditions upon
which it had been concluded were
enumerated. The truce between the
kingdoms, agreed upon first at York
in 1464, and afterwards prolonged to
1519, was to be strictly observed by
both countries. As the prince was
yet only two years old, and the prin­
cess four, the two monarchs were to
give their solemn word to use every
effort to have the marriage celebrated
whenever the parties had completed
the lawful age. During the life of
King James, the prince and princess
were to possess the whole lands and
rents which belonged to the old heri­
tage of the prince-apparent of Scotland
during the lifetime of his father,
namely, the duchy of Rothesay, the
earldom of Carrick, and the lordship
of the Steward’s lands of Scotland.
With his daughter, the King of Eng­
land was to give a dowry of twenty
thousand marks of English money;
and it was lastly agreed that, in the
event of the death of the prince or
princess, the heir-apparent of Scotland
for the time should, upon the same
terms, marry a princess of England.3
Rymer, Fœdera, vol. xi. p. 821.

1475-8.]                                     JAMES III.                                           211

Such were the principal stipulations
of a treaty which, had it been faith­
fully fulfilled by the two countries,
might have guaranteed to both the
blessings of peace, and essentially pro­
moted their national prosperity. At
first, too, the English monarch appears
to have been extremely solicitous to
fulfil the agreement. Two thousand
five hundred marks of the dowry of
the princess were advanced; and in
consequence of some remonstrances of
the Scottish king regarding the St
Salvator, a vessel belonging to the see
of St Andrews, which had been plun­
dered by the English, with another
ship, the property of the king himself,
which had been captured by a priva­
teer of the Duke of Gloucester, Ed­
ward despatched his envoy to the Scot­
tish court, with instructions to meet
the Admiral of Scotland, and afford
complete redress upon the subject.
This mission acquaints us with the
singular circumstance that the nobil­
ity, and even the monarch, continued
to occupy themselves in private com­
mercial speculations, and were in the
habit of freighting vessels, which not
only engaged in trade, but, when they
fell in with other ships similarly em­
ployed, did not scruple to attack and
make prize of them.1

The state of the northern districts,
and the continued rebellion of the Earl
of Ross, now demanded the interfer­
ence of government, and a parliament
was assembled at Edinburgh, in which
this insurgent noble was declared a
traitor, and his estates confiscated to
the crown. His intimate league with
Edward the Fourth, his association
with the rebellious Douglases, and his
outrageous conduct in “ burning, slay­
ing, and working the destruction of
the lands and liege subjects of the
king,” fully justified the severity of
the sentence ; but as the mountain
chief continued refractory, a force was
levied, and the Earls of Crawford and
Athole directed to proceed against him.

The extent of these preparations,
which comprehended a formidable
fleet as well as a land army, intimi­
dated Ross, and induced him, through
Rymer, Fœdera, vol. xi. pp. 820, 850.

the mediation of Huntly, to petition
for pardon. Assured of the favour
able disposition of the monarch, he
soon after appeared in person at Edin
burgh, and with many expressions of
contrition, surrendered himself to the
royal mercy. The earldom of Ross,
with the lands of Knapdale and
Kentire, and the office of hereditary
Sheriff of Inverness and Nairn, were
resigned by the penitent chief into
the hands of the king, and inalien­
ably annexed to the crown, whilst
he himself was relieved from the sen­
tence of forfeiture, and created a peer
of parliament, under the title of John
de Isla, lord of the Isles.2 The king
had now attained his full majority of
twenty-five years, and,, according to a
usual form, he revoked all alienations
in any way prejudicial to the crown,
which had been made during his
minority, and especially all convey­
ances of the custody of the royal cas­
tles, resuming the power of dismiss­
ing or continuing in office the per­
sons to whom they had been com­
mitted. He at the same time intrusted
the keeping and government of his
son, Prince James, to his wife and
consort, Margaret, queen of Scotland,
for the space of five years; and for
this purpose delivered to her the
castle of Edinburgh, with an annual
pension, and full power to appoint her
own constable and inferior officers.3
With the desire of cementing more
strongly the friendship with England,
a double alliance was proposed. His
sister, the Princess Margaret, was to
marry the Duke of Clarence; and his
brother, the Duke of Albany, the
Dowager-duchess of Burgundy, sister
to Edward the Fourth. This monarch,
however, appears to have courteously
waved the proposal,4 although he
seized the opportunity of an intended
visit of James to the shrine of St
John of Amiens, to request, in press­
ing terms, a personal interview with

2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 113. “ Baronem Banrentum et Dominum
Dominum Parliamenti.” Ferrerius, p. 393.

3 Mag. Sig. viii. 80. Feb. 7, 1477.

4 Letter of Edward IV, to Dr Legh his
envoy. Vespasian, c. xvi. f. 121, quoted by
| Pinkerton’s History, vol. i. p. 287.

212                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. IV.

this monarch. But the Scottish king
was induced to delay his pilgrimage,
and in obedience to a common practice
of the age, caused a large medal of
gold to be struck, as a decoration for
the shrine of the saint.1

Hitherto the reign of this prince had
been in no usual degree prosperous,
and his administration signalised by
various acquisitions, which added
strength, security, and opulence to
the kingdom. The possession of the
Orkneys and Shetland, the occupation
of Berwick and Roxburgh, the annexa­
tion of the earldom of Ross to the
crown, the establishment of the inde­
pendence and liberty of the Scottish
Church by the erection of St Andrews
into an archbishopric, the wise and
nonourable marriage treaty with Eng­
land, were all events, not only for­
tunate, but glorious. They had taken
place, it is true, under the minority of
the monarch; they were to be attri­
buted principally to the counsellors
who then conducted the affairs of the
government; and the history of the
country, after the monarch attained
his full majority, presents a melan­
choly contrast to this early portion of
his reign. It is difficult, however, to
detect the causes which led to this
rapid change; and it would be unjust
to ascribe them wholly to the character
of the king. It must be recollected
that for a considerable time previous
to this the feudal nobility of Europe
had been in a state of extraordinary
commotion and tumult; and that
events had occurred which, exhibiting
the deposition and imprisonment of
hereditary sovereigns, diminished in
the eyes of the aristocracy and of the
people the inviolable character of the
throne. At this time insurrection
had become frequent in almost every
corner of Europe; and the removal of
the hereditary prince, to make way for
some warlike usurper, or successful
invader of royalty, was no uncommon
occurrence : men’s minds were induced
to regard the crime with feelings of
far greater lenity than had hitherto
been extended to it; whilst the aris­
tocracy, who were the instruments of
Rymer, Fœdera, vol. xii. p. 53.

such revolutions, and shared in the
spoils and forfeitures which they occa­
sioned, began to be animated by a
consciousness of their own power, and
a determination to stretch it to the
utmost bounds of illegal aggression
and kingly endurance. The revolu­
tion in England, which placed Henry
the Fourth upon the throne,—the sub­
sequent history of that kingdom dur­
ing the contest between the houses of
York and Lancaster,—the political
struggles of France under Lewis the
Eleventh,—the relative condition of
the greater nobles in Germany, and of
the rights of the imperial crown under
the Emperor Sigismund,—the dissen­
sions which divided the Netherlands,
—and the civil factions and repeated
conspiracies amongst the higher nobles,
which agitated the government of
Spain, all combine to establish the
truth of this remark; and if we re­
member that the communication be­
tween Scotland and the continent was
then frequent and widely spread over
the kingdom, the powerful influence
of such a state of things may be readily

In addition to such causes of dis­
content and disorganisation, there were
other circumstances in the habits of
the Scottish nobility, as contrasted
with the pursuits of the king, which
no doubt precipitated the commotions
that conducted him to his ruin. The
nobles were haughty and warlike, but
rude, ignorant, and illiterate; when
not immediately occupied in foreign
hostilities, they were indulging in the
havoc and plunder which sprung out
of private feuds; and they regarded
with contempt every pursuit which
did not increase their military skill, or
exalt their knightly character. At
their head were the king’s two bro­
thers, the Duke of Albany and the
Earl of Mar, men of bold and stirring
spirits, and fitted by their personal
qualities to be the favourities of the
aristocracy. Their noble and athletic
figures, and delight in martial exer­
cises,—their taste for feudal pomp,
for fine horses, and tall and handsome
attendants, — their passion for the
chase, and the splendid and generous

1478.]                                             JAMES III.                                                   213

hospitality of their establishment,
united to the courtesy and graceful­
ness of their manners, made them
universally admired and beloved;
whilst Albany concealed under such
popular endowments an ambition
which, there is reason to believe, did
not scruple, even at an early period,
to entertain some aspirations towards
the throne.

To that of his brothers, the dispo­
sition of the kipg presented a remark-
able contrast. It has been the fashion
of some historians to represent James
as a compound of indolence, caprice,
and imbecility; but the assertion is
rash and unfounded. His character
was different from the age in which he
lived, for it was unwarlike; but in
some respects it was far in advance of
his own times. A love of repose and
seclusion, in the midst of which he
devoted himself to pursuits which,
though enervating, were intellectual,
and bespoke an elegant and cultivated
mind, rendered him unpopular amongst
a nobility who treated such studies
with contempt. A passion for mathe­
matics and the study of judicial astro­
logy, a taste for the erection of noble
and splendid buildings, an addiction
to the science and practice of music,
and a general disposition to patronise
the professors of literature and philo­
sophy, rather than to surround himself
with a crowd of fierce retainers ; such
were the features in the character of
this unfortunate prince, which have
drawn upon him the reprobation of
most of the contemporary historians,
but which he possessed in common
with some of the most illustrious mon­
archs who have figured in history.1
This turn of mind, in itself certainly
rather praiseworthy than the contrary,
led to consequences which were less
excusable. Aware of the impossibility
of finding men of congenial tastes
amongst his nobles, James had the
weakness, not merely to patronise, but
to exalt to the rank of favourites and
companions, the professors of his fav­
ourite studies. Architects, musicians,
painters, and astrologers, were treated
with distinction, and admitted to the
Ferrerius, p. 391.

familiar converse of the sovereign;
whilst the highest nobles found a cold
and distant reception at court, or re­
tired with a positive denial of access.
Cochrano, an architect, or as he is
indignantly termed by our feudal his­
torians, a mason; Rogers, a professor
of music; Ireland, a man of literary
and scientific acquirements, who had
been educated in France, were warmly
favoured and encouraged; whilst, even
upon such low proficients as tailors,
smiths, and fencing-masters, the trea­
sures, the smiles, and encouragement
of the monarch were profusely lavished.
Disgusted at such conduct in the sove­
reign, the whole body of the aristocracy
looked up to the brothers, Albany and
Mar, as the chief supports of the
state; and as long as the king con­
tinued on good terms with these popu­
lar noblemen, the flame of discontent
and incipient revolution was checked
at least, though far from extinguished.
But in the ambitious contests for
power, and in the sanguinary collisions
of jurisdiction, which were of frequent
occurrence in a feudal government, it
was to be dreaded that some event
might take place which should have
the effect of transforming Albany from
a friend into an enemy, and it was not
long before these fears were realised.

The government of Berwick, and
the wardenship of the eastern marches,
had been committed to this warlike
prince by his father, James the Second,
from whom he had also inherited the
important earldom of March, with the
key of the eastern Border, the castle
of Dunbar.2 In the exercise of these
extensive offices, a rivalry had sprung
up between Albany and the powerful
family of the Humes, with their fierce
allies the Hepburns, and their resist­
ance to his authority was so indig­
nantly resented by the warden, that
his enemies, to save themselves from
his vengeance, attached Cochrane, the
king’s favourite, to their party, and,
by his advice and assistance, devised
a scheme for his ruin. At this period
a belief in astrology and divination,
and a blind devotion to such dark
studies, was a predominant feature of
Pitscottie. Hist. p. 115

214                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. IV.

the age. James himself was passion­
ately addicted to them; and Schevez,
the Archbishop of St Andrews, who
had received his education at Lou-
vaine, under Spernicus, a famous as­
trologer of the time, had not scrupled
to employ them in gaining an influence
over the king, and in furthering those
ambitious schemes by which he in­
truded himself into the primacy.
Aware of this, Cochrane, who well
knew the weakness of his sovereign,
insinuated to his new allies, the
Humes, that they could adopt no
surer instrument of working upon the
royal mind than witchcraft. One
Andrews, a Flemish astrologer, whom
James had prevailed upon to reside at
his court, was induced to prophesy
that a lion would soon be devoured
by his whelps; whilst a prophetess,
who used to haunt about the palace,
and pretended to have an intercourse
with a familiar spirit, brought the
information that Mar had been em­
ploying magical arts against the king’s
life,1 and that her familiar had in­
formed her the monarch was destined
to fall by the hands of his nearest
kindred. The warm affection which
James entertained for his brothers at
first resisted these machinations; but
the result shewed that Cochrane’s esti­
mate of his sovereign’s weakness was
too true. His belief in the occult
sciences gave a force to the insinua­
tion ; his mind brooded over the pro­
phecy; he became moody and pen­
sive; shut himself up amidst his
books and instruments of divination;
and, admitting into his privacy only
his favourite adepts and astrologers,
attempted to arrive at a clearer deli­
neation of the threatened danger. To
Cochrane and his brother conspirators
such conduct only afforded a stronger
hold over the distempered fancy of
the monarch, whilst the proud char­
acter of Albany, and his violent attack
upon the Humes, were represented by
his enemies as confirmations of that
conspiracy against his royal brother,
which was to end in his deposition

1 Ferrerius, p. 393. Lesley’s History of
Scotland, p. 43. Buchanan, book xii, chap.

and death. That Albany at this
moment entertained serious designs
against the crown, cannot be made
out by any satisfactory evidence; but
that his conduct in the exercise of his
office of warden of the marches was
illegal and unjustifiable, is proved by
authentic records. Instead of em­
ploying his high authority to estab­
lish the peace of the Borders, he had
broken the truce with England by
repeated slaughters and plundering
expeditions; whilst within his own
country he had assaulted and mur­
dered John of Scougal, and surrounded
himself by a band of desperate re­
tainers, who executed whatever law­
less commission was intrusted to them.
Such conduct, combined with the
dark suspicions under which he la­
boured, effectually roused the king;
and Albany, too confident in his
power and his popularity, was sud­
denly seized and committed to confine­
ment in the castle of Edinburgh.2

Immediately after this decided mea­
sure, a parliament assembled, in which
the three estates, with the laudable
design of strengthening the amity
with England, granted to the king a
subsidy of twenty thousand marks,
for the purpose of bringing to a con­
clusion the intended marriage between
the Princess Margaret, his sister, and
Lord Rivers, brother-in-law to Ed­
ward. The divided and distracted
state of the country is strikingly de­
picted by the simple enumeration of
the matters to which the Lords of the
Articles were commanded to direct
their attention. They were to labour
for the removal of the grievous feuds
and commotions, which in Angus had
broken out between the Earls of
Angus and Errol, the Master of Craw­
ford and Lord Glammis; they were
to attempt to put down the rebellion
in Ross, Caithness, and Sutherland;
to persuade to an amicable under­
standing the Lairds of Caerlaverock
and Drumlanrig, who were at deadly
feud in Annandale; to bring within
the bonds of friendship the Turnbulls
and the Rutherfords of Teviotdale;

2 Lesley’s History of Scotland, p. 43. Bu­
chanan, book xii. chap. 39.

1488-80.]                                        JAMES III.                                                  215

and to promote a reconciliation be­
tween the sheriff of this district and
the Lord Cranstoun.1 The subject of
coinage, the state of the commerce of
the country, and the expediency of a
renewal of the negotiations with the
court of Burgundy, were likewise re­
commended for their consideration;
but in the midst of their deliberations,
Albany found means to elude the
vigilance of his guards, and to escape
from the castle of Edinburgh, an
event which threatened to plunge the
kingdom into a civil war.2 The duke
immediately retreated to his fortress
of Dunbar, where he concentrated his
force; appointed Ellem of Butterden
his constable; and by increasing his
military stores, and enlisting in his
service some of the fiercest of the
Border chieftains, seemed determined
to hold out to the last extremity. The
power of the king, however, soon after
shook his resolution, and he took a
rapid journey to France, with the
design of procuring assistance from
Lewis the Eleventh, and returning to
Scotland at the head of a band of
foreign auxiliaries. In this, however,
he was unsuccessful. He was re­
ceived; indeed, by the French monarch
with distinction; but Lewis steadily
refused to adopt any part against his
brother and ally of Scotland, or to
assist Albany in his unnatural rebel­

In his conduct at this moment,
James exhibited a decision and an
energy which vindicates his character
from the charge of indolence or im­
becility, so commonly brought against
him. He despatched the Chancellor
Evandale at the head of a strong force
to lay siege to Dunbar, which, after a
spirited defence of some months, was
delivered up to the royal arms. A
train of rude artillery accompanied
the army upon this occasion. The
construction of cannon, and the proper
method of pointing and discharging
them, appear, from contemporary re­
cords, to have been one of the subjects

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
iii. p. 122.
Lesley’s History of Scotland, p. 43.
Duclos. Hist, de Lewis XI. vol. ii, p, 308,

to which not only the king himself
directed particular attention, but
which he anxiously encouraged in his
nobility, and even amongst his clergy.
Artillerymen and skilful artisans were
procured from the continent; and
some of the principal entries in the
treasurers books at this period relate
to the experiments made in the prac­
tice of gunnery, an art still in its in­
fancy in Scotland. In the present
siege of Dunbar, the uncommon
strength of the walls withstood for
some months the artillery of the be­
siegers ; but, on the opposite side, the
cannon mounted on the ramparts of
the castle appear to have been well
served and pointed—a single ball at
one moment striking dead three of the
best knights in the army, Sir John
Colquhoun of Luss, Sir Adam Wallace
of Craigie, and Sir James Schaw of
Sauchie.4 When at last Evandale
made himself master of the castle, he
found that the governor and the
greater part of the garrison, availing
themselves of its communication with
the sea, had escaped in boats, and
taken refuge in England from the fury
of their enemies. It was not so easy
for them, however, to escape the
severe process of the law ; and a par­
liament was summoned to carry it
into immediate execution. Albany,
who was still in France, was solemnly
cited at the market-cross of Edinburgh
and before the gates of his castle of
Dunbar, to appear and answer to a
charge of treason; whilst many of his
boldest friends and retainers, Ellem of
Butterden, George Home of Polwarth,
John Blackbeird, Pait Dickson the
laird, and Tom Dickson of the Tower,
were summoned at the same time, and
upon a similar accusation.5

Previous to the meeting of the three
estates, however, an embassy arrived
from Lewis the Eleventh, the object
of which was to persuade the Scottish
monarch to pardon his brother, and to
assist the French king in the war
which Edward the Fourth meditated
against him, by the usual method of

4 Lesley, History, p. 43.
Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 128.

216                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. IV.

infringing the truce, and producing a
hostile diversion on the side of the
English Borders. The ambassador on
this occasion was Dr Ireland, a Scottish
ecclesiastic of great literary acquire­
ments, who had been educated in
France, and in whose conversation the
king took so much delight, that he
had anxiously endeavoured to fix him
at his own court. Personally disposed,
however, as he was to be pleased with
the envoy, the circumstances in which
the king was then placed rendered it
extremely difficult to break with Eng­
land. The marriage treaty which had
been concluded between the Princess
Cæcilia, Edward’s daughter, and the
heir-apparent to the Scottish throne,
had been sanctioned and ratified by
the payment of three instalments of
the dowry.1 Another royal marriage,
also, that of the Princess Margaret of
Scotland to the Earl of Rivers, was on
the eve of being concluded; and Ed­
ward had lately granted passports not
only to this noble lady, but to James
himself, who, with a suite of a thou­
sand persons, contemplated a pilgrim­
age to the shrine of St John of Amiens.
These were powerful obstacles in the
way of any rupture of the truces, and
with the greater part of the nobility
the renewal of a war with England
was equally unpopular and unpolitic;
but the attachment of the king to the
ancient league with France prevailed;
and although there is undoubtedly no
evidence of the fact, a conjecture may
be hazarded that James had detected,
at an earlier period than is generally
supposed, the existence of certain in­
trigues between Edward the Fourth
and the Duke of Albany, which are
proved by authentic documents to
have taken place in the succeeding

It does not appear that the conduct
of the Scottish monarch at this trying
conjuncture is deserving of the repro­
bation with which it has been visited
by some historians : to Albany, who
had been guilty of treason, it was al­
most generous. He did not, indeed,
agree to the request of Lewis in grant­
ing him an unconditional pardon, but

1 Rymer, Foedera, vol. xii. pp. 40. 41.

he adjourned the process of forfeiture
from time to time, in the hopes that
he might in the interval return to his
allegiance, and render himself deserv­
ing of the royal clemency; and the
same lenient measure was adopted in
the case of his offending vassals and
retainers. Against Mar, indeed, his
younger brother, who was accused of
using magical arts for the purpose of
causing the king’s death, the royal
vengeance broke out with rapid and
overwhelming violence; but the death
of this accomplished and unfortunate
prince is involved in much obscurity.
It is asserted by Lesley and Buchanan
that he was suddenly seized by the
king’s order and hurried to Craigmillar,
and that at the same time many witches
and wizards, whom he had been in the
habit of consulting upon the surest
means of shortening the life of the
monarch, were condemned to the
flames.2 The evidence derived from
these unhappy wretches left no doubt
of the guilt of the prince ; and the
choice of his death being given him,
he is said to have preferred that of
Petronius, directing his veins to be
opened in a warm bath. In opposi­
tion to this tale of our popular his­
torians, a more probable account is
given by Drummond of Hawthornden,
derived, as he affirms, from the papers
of Bishop Elphinston, a contemporary
of high character. According to his
version of the story, before James had
fixed on any definite plan of punish­
ment, Mar, from the violence of his
own temperament and the agitation
attendant upon his seizure, was at­
tacked by a fever which soon led to
delirium. In this alarming state he
was removed, by the king’s command,
from Craigmillar to a house in the
Canongate at Edinburgh, where he
was carefully attended by the royal
physicians, who, to reduce the frenzy,
opened a vein in his arm and in his
temple. This, however, proved the
cause of his death; for the patient,
when in the warm bath, was attacked
by an accession of his disorder, and

2 Old Chronicle at the end of Winton,
printed by Pinkerton. Hist. vol. i. p. §03,
Lesley’s Hist. pp. 43, 44,

1480-1.]                                         JAMES III.                                                   217

furiously tearing off the bandages, ex­
pired from weakness and exhaustion
before any styptic could be applied.
The silence of the faction of the nobles
which afterwards deposed the king
upon the subject of Mar’s death, at
a moment when they were eager to
seize every method to blacken the
conduct of their sovereign, seems to
corroborate the truth of this story.1

But although innocent of his death,
James considered the treason of his
brother as undeserving the leniency
which he still extended to Albany;
and the rich earldom of Mar was for­
feited to the crown. In the midst of
these transactions, Edward the Fourth,
who for some time had forgotten his
wonted energy in a devotion to his
pleasures, began to rouse himself from
his lethargy, and to complain of the
duplicity of Lewis and the treachery
of James, with a violence which formed
a striking contrast to the quietude of
his late conduct.

Nor can we be surprised at this
burst of indignation, and the sudden
resolution for war which accompanied
it. He found that Lewis, who had
amused him with a promise of mar­
riage between the Dauphin of France
and his daughter the Princess Eliza­
beth, had no serious intention of either
accepting this alliance or fulfilling the
treaty upon which it proceeded; he
discovered that this crafty prince had
not only proved false to his own agree­
ment, but had corrupted the faith of
his Scottish ally. Unnecessary and
suspicious delays had occurred to pre­
vent the intended marriage between
James’s sister and her affianced hus­
band, the Earl of Rivers; and the
same monarch, who had already re­
ceived three payments of the dowry
of the Princess Cæcilia, Edward’s
daughter, in contemplation of the
marriage between this lady and his
eldest son, instead of exhibiting a
friendly disposition, had begun to make
preparations for war, and to exhibit un­
equivocal intentions of violating the
truce, and invading his dominions.2

1 Drummond’s History of the Jameses, p.
Rymer, vol. xii.pp. 41,115.

Upon the part of the Scottish king,
this conduct was unwise; and it is
easy to see that, in his present resolu­
tion to engage in a war with England,
James allowed himself to be the dupe
of the French monarch, and shut his
eyes to the best interests of his king­
dom. He was unpopular with the
great body of his nobility : they des­
pised his studious and secluded habits;
they regarded with the eyes of envy
and hatred the favourites with whom
he had surrounded himself, and the
pacific and elegant pursuits to which
he was addicted. The kingdom was
full of private war and feudal disorder;
the Church had been lately wounded
by schism; and the lives of some of
the higher clergy, under the loose sup­
erintendence of Schevez, who on the
death of the unfortunate and virtuous
Graham had succeeded to the primacy,
were careless and corrupt. Nothing
could be more injurious, to a kingdom
thus situated, than to add to its in­
ternal distresses the misery of foreign
war; and indeed if there was one
cheering circumstance in the aspect of
public affairs, it was in the prospect
of peace with England. The happy
effects of a long interval of amity be­
tween the two kingdoms were begin­
ning to be apparent in the diminution
of that spirit of national animosity
which had been created by protracted
war; and now that the nation was no
longer threatened with any designs
against its independence, it must have
been the earnest wish of every lover of
his country that it should remain at
peace. So much indeed was this the
conviction of one of James’s most
faithful counsellors, Spence, bishop of
Aberdeen, that after presenting a
strong protestation against the war;
after explaining that a continuance
of peace could alone give stability to
the government, and secure the im­
provement and the happiness of the
nation, he was so overpowered with
grief when he found his remonstrances
neglected, that he fell into a profound
melancholy, from which he never re­

Both countries having thus resolved
Lesley’s History of Scotland, p. 44.

218                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. IV.

on hostilities, Edward appointed his
brother, the Duke of Gloucester, after-
wards known as Richard the Third, to
the office of lieutenant-general of the
north, with ample powers to levy an
army, and conduct the war against
Scotland. Meanwhile, before Glouces­
ter could organise his force, the Earl
of Angus broke across the marches, at
the head of a small army of Borderers.
To these men, war was the only ele­
ment in which they enjoyed existence;
and, with the celerity and cruelty
which marked their military opera­
tions, they ravaged Northumberland
for three days, burnt Bamborough,
plundered the villages and farm-
granges, and drove before them their
troops of prisoners and cattle without
any attack or impediment.1 Roused
by this insult, and by the intelligence
that the King of Scotland was about
to invade his dominions in person,
Edward hastened his preparations;
issued orders for the equipment of a
fleet against Scotland; entered into a
negotiation with the Lord of the Isles
and Donald Gorm, whose allegiance
was never steady except in the imme­
diate prospect of death and confiscation;
and aware of the desperate condition
of Albany, who was still in France,
the English monarch, by private mes­
sages, in which he held out to him the
prospect of dethroning his brother,
and seizing the crown for himself, at­
tached this ambitious prince to his
service, and prevailed upon him to
sacrifice his allegiance, and the inde­
pendence of his country, to his ambi­
tion and his vengeance.2

Nothing could be more ungrateful
than such conduct in Albany. The
process of treason and forfeiture which
had been raised against him in the
Scottish parliament, had, with much
leniency and generosity upon the part
of the king, been suffered to expire,
and an opportunity thus afforded for
his return to his former power and
station in the government. Having
divorced his first wife, a daughter of

1  Chronicle at the end of Winton, in Pin-
kerton, Hist. vol. L p. 503. Rymer, vol. xii.
p. 117.

2 Rymer. Fœdera, vol. xii. p. 140.

the potent house of Orkney, he had
married in France the Lady Anne de
la Tour, daughter of the Count d’Au-
vergne; and there can be little doubt
that the friendship of the French
monarch had a principal effect in pre­
vailing on his ally James to suspend
the vengeance of the law, and hold out
to the penitent offender the hope of
pardon. But Albany, actuated by
pride and ambition, disdained to sue
for mercy; and without hesitation,
entering into the proposed negotiation,
threw himself into the arms of Eng­

In the meantime the Scottish mon­
arch deemed it necessary to assemble
his parliament, and to adopt vigorous
measures. The wardenry of the east
marches was committed to the Earl of
Angus, that of the west to Lord Cath-
cart; the fortresses of Dunbar and
Lochmaben were strongly garrisoned
and provisioned; the Border barons,
and those whose estates lay near the
sea, were commanded to repair and
put into a posture of defence their
castles of St Andrews, Aberdeen, Tan-
tallon, Hailes, Dunglass, Hume, Ed-
rington, and the Hermitage; the whole
body of the lieges were warned to be
ready, on eight days’ notice, to assem­
ble under the royal banner, in their
best array, with bows, spears, axes,
and other warlike gear, and to bring
with them provision for twenty days.
A penalty was imposed on any soldier
whose spear was shorter than five ells
and a half; every axe­man who had
neither spear nor bow was commanded
to provide himself with a targe made
of wood or leather, according to a pat­
tern to be sent to the sheriff of the
county; 3 and all former statutes con­
cerning the regular military musters,
or “ weapon­schawings,” were enjoined
to be rigidly observed. A tax of seven
thousand marks was at the same time
ordered to be levied for the victualling
and defence of the town of Berwick,
which was threatened with a siege by

Having finished these preparations,
James despatched an envoy to the

3 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. pp. 132,133,

1481-2.]                                         JAMES III.                                                   219

English monarch, with a request that
he would abstain from granting aid to
the Duke of Burgundy, otherwise he
should esteem it his duty to send as­
sistance to the King of France. He
at the same time commissioned a herald
to deliver a remonstrance to Edward
in a personal interview, but this prince
treated the messenger with haughty
neglect, detained him long, and at last
dismissed him without an answer. In­
dignant at such conduct, James assem­
bled his army, and advanced in great
strength to the frontiers. A singular
and unexpected event, however, inter­
rupted the expedition. Before the
Scottish monarch had crossed the Bor­
ders, a nuncio from the cardinal legate,
who then resided in England, arrived
in the camp, and exhibiting the Papal
bull, commanded the king under pain
of excommunication to abstain from
war, and to beware of the violation of
that peace which the Holy See had
enjoined to be observed by all Chris­
tian princes, that they might unite
their strength against the Turks and
the enemies of Christendom. To this
remonstrance the Scottish king found
himself obliged to pay obedience, and
the army, which was numerous and
well-appointed, was immediately dis­
banded. The king, to use the words
of the parliamentary record, dispersed
his great host which had been gathered
for the resistance and invasion of his
enemies of England, at the request
and monition of the Papal bulls shewn
him at the time, in the hope and trust
that his enemies would have been
equally submissive to the command of
their holy father.1 In this expecta­
tion, however, he was disappointed.
To the Papal bulls, or the remon­
strances for the preservation of the
peace of Christendom, Edward paid
no regard. Berwick was vigorously
though ineffectually attacked, and the
English army broke across the Bor­
ders, carrying fire, bloodshed, and de­
vastation into the country, whilst a
squadron of English ships appeared in
the Forth, but were gallantly repulsed
by Andrew Wood of Leith, whose

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.

maritime skill and courage raised him
afterwards to the highest celebrity as
a naval commander.2

But these open attacks were not so
dangerous as the intrigues by which
Edward contrived to seduce from the
cause of their sovereign the wavering
affections of some of the most power­
ful of the Scottish nobility. The
banished Duke of Albany had, it may
be believed, many friends at court,
and Edward having recalled him from
France, determined to carry into im­
mediate execution his project for the
dethronement of the present King of
Scotland, and the substitution of his
brother in his stead. These designs,
in which the English monarch was
supported by the banished Earl of
Douglas, the Lord of the Isles, Donald
Gorm, and not long after by many
others of the Scottish nobility, led to
an extraordinary treaty between Al­
bany and Edward, which was con­
cluded at Fotheringay castle.3 In this
the Scottish prince at once assumed
the title of Alexander, king of Scot­
land, by the gift of Edward the Fourth,
king of England. He then bound
himself and his heirs to assist that
monarch in all his quarrels against all
earthly princes or persons. He so­
lemnly engaged to swear fealty and
perform homage to Edward within six
months after he was put in possession of
the crown and the greater portion of
the kingdom of Scotland; to break
the confederations which had hitherto
existed between Scotland and the
realm of France; to deliver into the
hands of England the town and castle
of Berwick, the castle of Lochmaben,
and the counties of Liddesdale, Esk-
dale, and Annandale; whilst, in the
last place, he promised, if according to
the laws of the Christian Church he
could make himself “clear of other
women,” that within a year he should
marry the Lady Cæcilia, King Ed­
ward’s daughter, the same princess
who was already espoused to the heir-
apparent of Scotland, Prince James.

2  Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. pp.138, 139.

3 On June 10, 1482. Rymer, Fœdera, vol.
xii. pp. 154, 156,

220                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. IV.

In the event, however, of its being
found impossible to carry into execu­
tion this contemplated alliance, he
stipulated that he would not marry his
son and heir, “if any such there be,”
without the consent of King Edward.1

In return for these obligations, by
which Albany basely consented to
sacrifice the independence of his coun­
try, the English monarch engaged to
assist the duke in his designs for the
occupation of the realm and crown of
Scotland; and both these remarkable
papers, which are yet preserved in the
Tower, bear the signature Alexander
R., (Rex,) evincing that Albany lost
no time in assuming that royal name
and dignity to which he so confidently
aspired. But these were not the only
dangers to which the King of Scotland
was exposed. There was treachery at
work amongst his nobles and in his
army. The Earl of Angus, one of the
most powerful men in the country,
Lord Gray, and Sir James Liddal of
Halkerston, appear to have been no­
minated by Albany as his commis­
sioners to complete those negotiations
with the English monarch, of which
only the rude outline was drawn up
in Fotheringay castle.

Angus was warden of the eastern
marches, and as such, possessed on
that side the keys of the kingdom.
To the common feudal qualities of
courage and cruelty this chief united
a haughty pride of birth and a con­
tempt for those intellectual studies to
which his sovereign was so deeply de­
voted. His high offices, his opulence,
and his magnificent establishment made
him popular; and, by what means it
is now difficult to discover, he suc­
ceeded in organising a conspiracy in
conjunction with Edward and Albany,
which included within its ranks the
most powerful persons amongst the
Scottish aristocracy, and had for its
object the delivery of the monarch
into the hands of his enemies. The
Earls of Huntly, Lennox, Crawford,
and Buchan; the Lords Gray, Hailes,
Hume, and Drummond, with certain
bishops whose names are not recorded,
assembled their forces at the command
Rymer. Fœdera, vol. xii. p. 156.

of the king, but with the secret de­
termination to desert him. It hap­
pened unfortunately for the prince,
who was thus marked out for destruc­
tion, that he had at this moment
lavished upon his favourite Cochrane
the principal revenues of the earldom
of Mar, and had imprudently raised
this low-born person to an influence in
the government which made him an
object of envy and hatred. These
bitter feelings were increased by some
unpopular counsel given at this time
to the king. At a season of great
dearth he is said to have persuaded
him to imitate the injurious device
practised by other European princes,
of debasing the current coin by an
issue of “black money,” or copper
pieces mixed with a small quantity of
silver, which increased the public dis­
tress, and raised the price of all the
necessaries of life.2 To the people,
therefore, he was peculiarly obnoxious
—to the barons not less so, and his
character and conduct aggravated this
enmity. Possessing a noble figure,
and combining great personal strength
and skill in the use of his weapons,
with undaunted bravery, he fearlessly
returned the feudal chiefs the scorn
with which they regarded him. In
the splendour of his apparel and estab­
lishment he eclipsed his enemies, and
it is not improbable that the king was
weak and shortsighted enough to enjoy
the mortification of his nobility, little
aware of the dark plot which at that
moment was in agitation against him.
Angus and the rest of the conspir­
ators determined to disguise their real
design for the dethronement of their
sovereign, under the specious cloak of
a zeal for reforming the government,
and dismissing from the royal councils
such unworthy persons as Cochrane
and his companions. Having matured
their plans, the English monarch com­
manded his brother, the Duke of
Gloucester, to assemble his army; and
this able leader, along with Albany and

2 Chronicle at the end of Winton, in Pin-
kerton’s History, vol. i. p. 503. Ruddiman’s
Preface to Anderson’s Diplomata, pp. 145,
146, of the English translation : Edinburgh,

1482.]                                               JAMES III.                                                 221

Douglas, advanced, at the head of a
great force, accompanied by a park of
artillery, to the siege of Berwick.

Being informed of this procedure,
James commanded a muster of the
whole force of his dominions in the
Borough Muir, an extensive common
to the west of Edinburgh; and, with­
out the slightest suspicion of the base
intentions of the conspirators, pro­
ceeded with his army, which amounted
to fifty thousand men, first to Soutra,
and from thence to Lauder. Cochrane,
who, either in derision, or from his
own presumption, was known by the
title of Earl of Mar, commanded the

’ artillery, and by the unusual splendour
of his camp furniture, provoked still
further the envy of the nobles.1 His
tent or pavilion was of silk; the
fastening chains were richly gilt; he
was accompanied by a bodyguard of
three hundred stout retainers, in sump­
tuous liveries, and armed with light
battle-axes; a helmet of polished steel,
richly inlaid with gold, was borne be­
fore him; and, when not armed for
the field, he wore a riding suit of black
velvet, with a massive gold chain
round his neck, and a hunting horn,
tipt with gold and adorned with
precious stones, slung across his shoul­

On reaching Lauder, the Scottish
army encamped between the church
and the village; and the principal
leaders, next morning, having secretly
convoked a council, without sending
any communication either to the sove­
reign or to his favourite, proceeded to
deliberate upon the most effectual
method of betraying their master, and
fulfilling their promises to Edward and
Albany. In the course of this debate,
all were agreed that it would be ex­
pedient to rid themselves, without
delay, of the hated Cochrane. His
well-known courage,—his attachment
to the king,—and the formidable force
which he commanded, rendered this
absolutely necessary. They hesitated,
however, as to the best mode for his
seizure ; and, amid the general em­
barrassment and uncertainty, Lord
Gray introduced the well-known apo-
Ferrerius, pp. 395, 396.

logue of the mice having agreed, for
the common safety, that a bell should
be suspended round the neck of their
tyrannic enemy the cat; but, being
thrown into great perplexity when it
came to the selection of one bold
enough to undertake the office, “ De­
lay not as to that,” cried Angus, with
his characteristic audacity; “leave me
to bell the cat!"—a speech which has
procured for him, from the Scottish
historians, the homely appellative of
Archibald Bell-the-cat. It happened,
by a singular coincidence, that at this
critical moment Cochrane himself
arrived at the porch of the church
where the leaders were assembled,
under the idea, probably, that it was
a council of war in which they were
engaged, and fatally ignorant of the
subject of their deliberations. He
knocked loudly, and Douglas of Loch-
leven, who kept the door, inquired who
it was that so rudely demanded ad­
mittance. “It is I,” said he, “the
Earl of Mar.”—“ The victim has been
beforehand with us,” cried Angus,
and stepping forward, bade Douglas
unbar the gate to their unhappy visi­
tor, who entered carelessly, carrying a
riding whip in his hand, and in his
usual splendid apparel. “ It becomes
not thee to wear this collar,” said
Angus, forcibly wrenching from his
neck the golden chain which he wore;
“arope wouldsuitthee better.”—“And
the horn too,” added Douglas, pulling
it from his side; “ he has been so long
a hunter of mischief that he needs
must bear this splendid bauble at his
breast.” Amidst such indignities,
Cochrane, a man of intrepidity, and
not easily alarmed, was for a moment
doubtful whether the fierce barons
who now crowded round him were
not indulging in some rude pastime.
“My lords,” said he, “is it jest or
earnest?” a question which he had
scarcely put when his immediate
seizure effectually opened his eyes to
the truth. His hands were tied ; his
person placed under a guard, which
rendered escape impossible; and a
party was instantly despatched to the
royal tent. They broke in upon the
monarch; seized Rogers, his master

222                                   HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                        [Chap. IV.

of music, and others of his favourites,
with whom he was surrounded, before
a sword could be drawn in their de­
fence ; and James, who appears to
have been unaccountably ignorant of
the plots which had been so long in
preparation against him, found him­
self, in the course of a few moments,
a prisoner in the hands of his subjects,
and beheld his friends hurried from
his presence, with a brutality and
violence which convinced him that
their lives would be instantly sacri­
ficed.1 Nor was it long before his
anticipations were realised. The mo­
ment the royal person was secured,
the conspirators dragged Cochrane to
the bridge of Lauder. It is said that
this unfortunate minion besought his
butchers not to put him to death, like
a dog, with a common rope, but at
least to gratify him by using one of
the silk cords of his tent equipage;
but even this was denied him, and he
was hanged by a halter over the par­
apet of the bridge. At the same mo­
ment, Dr Rogers, a musician of great
eminence, whose pupils were famous
in Scotland at the time that Ferrerius
composed his history,2 shared a similar
fate; and along with them, Hommil,
Torphichen, Leonard, Preston, and
some others, whose single fault seems
to have been their low birth and the
favour with which the king regarded
their talents, were put to death with
the like cruel and thoughtless preci­
pitation. When they had concluded
this disgraceful transaction, the nobles
disbanded the army, leaving their
country exposed to the advance of the
English under Gloucester and Albany;
and having conveyed their sovereign
to the capital, they shut him up in the
castle of Edinburgh.3

The consequences of this base con­
duct were, for the time, fatal to the
kingdom. Berwick, whose trade
formed one of the richest sources of
the Scottish revenue, fell into the
hands of the English ; and Gloucester
advanced to the capital through a

1 Lesley’s History of Scotland, p. 48. Illus­
trations, letter P.

2 Ferrerius, p. 395.

3 Chronicle at the end of Winton, in Pin-
kerton’s History, vol. i. p. 503. July 1482.

country where there was no army to
resist him. The Duke of Albany now
deemed himself secure of the crown ;
and the Earl of Angus, possessed of the
person of the king, awaited only a full
deliberation with the English com­
mander, to complete the revolution
by the dethronement of his sovereign.
But although the whole body of the
Scottish nobility had united willingly
with Angus, and even lent their assist­
ance to Albany and Edward to com­
plete the destruction of Cochrane and
the king’s favourites, Angus had
hitherto concealed from them the
darker portion of the plot; and when
hints were thrown out as to his real
intentions—when it was obscurely
proposed that the Duke of Albany
should be placed upon the throne, and
their rightful sovereign deposed—he
immediately discovered that he could
no longer reckon upon the support of
the nobles in his ultimate designs.
The very idea seems to have caused
an immediate separation of parties;
and the friends of the government and
of the sovereign, suspicious of a leader
who began to speculate on treason,
withdrew themselves from Angus, and
collected an army near Haddington,
with which they determined to keep
in check the further proceedings of
Albany and Gloucester.4

It was fortunate for these barons
that the full extent of their baseness
—the convention at Fotheringay, the
assumption of the title of king, the
sacrifice of the superiority and inde­
pendence of the country—were not
then revealed; and that, having been
convinced that a coalition with the
royal party was absolutely necessary,
they had not so far betrayed them­
selves as to render it impossible. A
negotiation was accordingly opened,
in which Schevez, archbishop of St
Andrews, and Livingston, bishop of
Dunkeld, along with Evandale, the
chancellor, and the Earl of Argyle,
undertook the difficult task of promot­
ing a union between the two parties,
and effecting a reconciliation between
Albany and his royal brother.5 It

4 Lesley’s History of Scotland, p. 49.
Rymer, Foedera, vol. xii. p. 160.

1482.]                                              JAMES III.                                                  223

was impossible for these leaders to act
under a commission from the king;
for since the disastrous execution of
his favourites at Lauder, this unfortu­
nate prince had been imprisoned in
the castle of Edinburgh, under the
care of his two uncles, the Earls of
Athole and Buchan. They engaged,
therefore, on their own authority, to
procure a pardon for Albany, and a
restoration to his estates and dignities,
provided he was content to return to
his allegiance, and assist his sovereign
in the government of his realm and
the maintenance of justice. The
friends of the duke, with the excep­
tion of those whose names had already
been marked in the act of parliament,
were to be included in the indemnity;
and to these conditions they engaged,
by the same deed, to procure the con­
sent of the king and the confirmation
of the three estates.1
To such an agreement, it may
readily be believed that Albany was
not loath to accede. It extricated
him, indeed, from a situation which
was not a little perilous : for he found
himself unpopular amongst the nobles,
and trembled lest circumstances might
reveal the full extent of his baseness;
whilst Gloucester, discovering that
the schemes of the duke for the de­
thronement of his brother, and the
sacrifice of the independence of the
country, had excited an odium for
which he was not prepared, determined
to withdraw his army, and to be satis­
fied with the surrender of Berwick as
the fruit of the campaign.2 There
was no difficulty, therefore, in effecting
a full reconcilement between Albany
and the king’s party, which was headed
by the Chancellor Evandale, and the
prelates of St Andrews and Dunkeld.
But it was found a less easy task to
reduce to obedience the Earls of
Athole and Buchan, who commanded
the castle of Edinburgh, and retained
possession of the person of the sove­
reign. These chiefs were the sons of
Sir James Stewart, the black knight
of Lorn, by Johanna, queen-dowager
of James the First; and if we are to

1 Rymer, Fœdera, vol. xii. p. 161.
Ibid. vol. xii. p. 162.

believe the assertions of the king him­
self, they not only kept the most
jealous watch over his person, but
would actually have slain him, had ho
not been protected by Lord Darnley
and other barons, who remained be­
side him, and refused either by
night or day to quit his apartment?
It may be doubted, however, whether
the documents in which these facts ap­
pear present us with the whole truth;
and it seems highly probable that,
amid the dark and complicated in­
trigues which were carried on at this
moment amongst the Scottish nobles,
the faction of Athole and Buchan, in­
stead of having a separate interest
from Albany, were only branches of
the same party, and kept possession
of the king’s person, that the duke, by
the eclat of delivering his sovereign
from imprisonment, might regain some­
what of the popularity which he had
lost. It is certain, at least, that
Albany, upon his restoration to his
former high offices of warden of the
east and west marches, and lord high
admiral, immediately collected an army,
and laid siege to Edinburgh castle.
The English army4 at the same time
commenced its retreat to England;
and the burgesses of Edinburgh, an­
xious to re-establish a good under­
standing between the two countries,
agreed to repay to Edward the sum
which had been advanced as the dowry
of the Lady Cæcilia, his daughter, pro­
vided he should think it expedient to
draw back from the proposed marriage
between this princess and the heir-
apparent of the Scottish throne.5 In
reply to this, Edward intimated his
resolution that the intended alliance
should not take place; and, in terms
of their obligation, the full amount of
the dowry already paid was re­trans­
mitted by the citizens to England. In
the meantime, after a decent interval
of hostilities, the Earls of Athole and
Buchan thought proper to capitulate ;
and the castle of Edinburgh, with its
royal prisoner, was delivered into the
hands of the Duke of Albany, who

3 Mag. Big. x. 44. Oct. 19, 1482.
Lesley’s History of Scotland, p, 49.
Rymer, vol. xii. p. 161.

224                                HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                    [Chap. IV.

now became the keeper of the sove­
reign, and, in concert with an over­
whelming party of the nobility, as­
sumed the direction of the govern­

The unhappy king, thus transferred
from a prison only to fall under a
durance still more intolerable, had yet
left to him a few friends in the Arch­
bishop of St Andrews, the Chancellor
Evandale, and the Earl of Argyle;
but, for the present, it was impossible
for them to make any effectual stand
against the power of Albany, and they
fled precipitately to their estates. Ev-
andale was in consequence deprived
of the chancellorship, which was con­
ferred upon Laing, bishop of Glasgow;
whilst Andrew Stewart, an ecclesiastic,
and brother to the Earls of Athole
and Buchan, was presented to the
bishopric of Moray, and promoted to
the office of keeper of the privy seal.

A parliament now assembled at
Edinburgh, and all was conducted
under the control of the Duke of
Albany. The sovereign was treated
with the greatest harshness; at times,
being actually in fear of his life, he
found himself compelled to affix his
signature and authority to papers
which gave the falsest views of the
real state of affairs; and it is curious
to trace how completely the voice of
the records was prostituted to eulogise
the conduct of Albany and his friends.
The monarch was made to thank this
usurper in the warmest terms for his
delivery from imprisonment; and the
abettors of the duke in his treasonable
assumption of the supreme power were
rewarded, under the pretence of hav­
ing hazarded their lives for the pro­
tection of the king.2

1 Lesley’s History of Scotland, p. 50.

2 It is evident that the whole of the acts of
this parliament, 2d December 1482, the char­
ters which passed the great seal, and the
various deeds and muniments which pro­
ceeded from the great officers of the crown,
ought to be viewed with the utmost suspicion
by the historian. They are not only the de­
positions of parties in their own favour, but
they are the very instruments by which they
sacrificed the public good, the liberty of the
lieges, and the property of the crown, to their
own aggrandisement; and amid such a mass
of intentional misrepresentation and error,
it would be vain to look for the truth.

At the request of the three estates,
the king, upon the plea of its being
improper for him to expose his person
to continual danger in defence of his
realm against its enemies, was recom­
mended to entreat the Duke of Albany
to accept the office of lieutenant-gene­
ral of the kingdom, with a provision
to meet the great expenses which he
must incur in the execution of its
duties. By conferring this high office
upon his brother, the sovereign was
in reality compelled to be the instru­
ment of superseding his own authority,
and declaring himself unworthy of the
crown. But this was not all. The
extensive earldom of Mar and Garioch
was deemed a proper remuneration for
the services of the lieutenant-general
in delivering his sovereign from im­
prisonment, and the principal offices
in the government appear to have
been filled by his supporters and de­
pendants.3 Nor did he neglect the
most likely methods of courting popu­
larity. Privileges were conferred on
the provost and magistrates of the
capital; the burgesses of the city were
lauded for their fidelity to the king;
the office of heritable sheriff within
the town was conferred upon their
chief magistrate; and his rights in
exacting customs, and calling out the
trained bands and armed citizens be­
neath a banner presented to them on
this occasion, and denominated the
Blue Blanket, were considerably ex­

Sensible of the strong spirit of
national enmity which still existed
between the two countries, and the
jealousy with which many regarded
his intimacy with Edward the Fourth,
the lieutenant-general issued his orders
to the lieges to make ready their war­
like accoutrements, and prepare for
hostilities. But nothing was farther
from his intentions than war. He

3  Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, p.
143. Mag. Sig. x. 32. December 2, 1482.
The expressions employed in the royal char­
ter are evidently dictated by Albany himself.
It is granted to him “for the faith, loyalty,
love, benevolence, brotherly tenderness,
piety, cordial service, and virtuous attention,”
manifested in freeing the king’s person from

4  Inventory to the City Chartulary, i. 33.

1482-3.]                                 JAMES III.                                       225

meant only to strengthen his popu­
larity by the enthusiasm with which
he knew such a measure would be
received by a large proportion of the
country, whilst, at the same time, he
privately renewed his intrigues with
the English monarch. A secret treaty
was negotiated between the commis­
sioners of Edward and the Earl of
Angus, Lord Gray, and Sir James Lid-
dal, the friends and envoys of the
duke, by which it was agreed that,
from this day forth, there should be
good amity, love, and favour between
the King of England and a high
mighty prince, Alexander, duke of
Albany, and between the subjects of
either prince dwelling within the one
realm and the other. By another
article in the same treaty, the King
of England and the Scottish ambas­
sadors engaged to Albany, that they
would not only preserve inviolate the
truce between the two kingdoms, but,
if need be, would assist him in the
conquest of the crown of Scotland “ to
his proper use,” so that he in his turn,
and the nobles of Scotland, might do
the King of England great service
against his enemy the King of France.
Another stipulation provided that,
upon the assumption of the crown of
Scotland by the duke, he should in­
stantly and for ever annul the league
between that country and France;
that he should never in all time com­
ing pretend any right or title to the
town and castle of Berwick; that he
should restore to his lands and dignity
in Scotland the banished Earl of Doug­
las ; and after he is king, and at free­
dom as to marriage, espouse one of
the daughters of King Edward. In
the event of Albany dying without
heirs, Angus, Gray, and Liddal, the
three ambassadors, engaged for them­
selves, and their friends and adherents,
to keep their castles, houses, and
strengths from James, now King of
Scots, “ and to live under the sole
allegiance of their good and gracious
prince, the King of England.” In
return for this base and treasonable
sacrifice of his country, Edward under­
took to further the views of Albany
in his conquest of the crown of Scot­

land, by sending his brother, the Duke
of Gloucester, and his cousin, the Earl
of Northumberland, with such aid
of archers and men-at-arms as was
thought necessary for the emergency.
For the present, three thousand arch­
ers were to be furnished, paid and
provisioned for six weeks ; and, in
case there should happen “a great day
of rescue,” or any other immediate
danger, Edward promised that the
Duke of Albany should be helped by
an army, through God’s grace, Suffi-
cient for his protection. 1

The contradictions and errors of our
popular historians, and the deficiency
of authentic records, have left the
period immediately succeeding this
convention between Edward and Al­
bany in much obscurity. Its conse­
quences seem to have been much the
same as those which followed the in­
trigues of Angus;2 and it is evident
that, although the duke, in his endeav­
ours to possess himself of the crown,
was assisted by Athole, Buchan, Gray,
Crichton, and others of the most
powerful nobility in Scotland, another
and a still stronger party had ranged
themselves on the side of the king,
incited to this more by their detesta­
tion of the schemes of Albany, by
which the integrity and independence
of their country as a separate kingdom
were wantonly sacrificed, than by any
strong affection for the person of their
sovereign. The measures, too, of tho
duke appear to have been rash and
precipitate. He accused the sovereign
of countenancing a conspiracy to take
him off by poison, and he retaliated
by a violent but abortive attempt to
seize the king, which weakened big
faction, and united in still stronger
opposition to his unprincipled designs
the friends of order and good govern­
ment.3 By their assistance, the mon­
arch, if he did not regain his popu­
larity, was at least enabled to make a
temporary stand against the ambition
of his brother, who, convinced that
he was on the verge of ruin, be-

1  Rymer, Fœclera, vol. xii. pp. 173-175.

2  Supra, p. 222.

3  Lesley’s History, p. 50. Original Letter,
James III. to Arbuthnot. Caledonia, vol. ii.
p. 602.


226                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. IV.

sought and obtained a timely recon­

In a parliament which was as­
sembled at Edinburgh in the con­
clusion of the eventful year 1482,
Albany was compelled to acknowledge
his manifold treasons, and to lay down
his office of lieutenant-governor of the
realm.1 He was, however, with great
weakness and inconsistency upon the
part of the government, permitted to
retain his wardenship of the marches;
and whilst he and his adherents, the
Bishop of Moray, the Earls of Athole,
Buchan, and Angus, were discharged
from approaching within six miles of
the royal person, he was indulged by
the sovereign and the parliament with
a full pardon for all former offences,
and permitted to retain his dignity
and his estates unfettered and unim­
paired. At the same time the duke
delivered a public declaration, authen­
ticated under his hand and seal, in
which he pronounced it to be a false
slander that the king had ever medi­
tated his death by poison ; he promised
from thenceforth to discontinue his
connexion with Angus, Athole, Buchan,
and the rest of his faction, “not hold­
ing them in dayly household in time
to come ; “ and he engaged to give his
letters of manrent and allegiance to
the sovereign under his seal and sub­
scription, and to endure for the full
term of his life. By the same agree­
ment the most powerful of his sup­
porters were deprived of the dignities
and offices which they had abused to
the purposes of conspiracy and rebel­
lion. The Earl of Buchan was de­
graded from his place as great cham­
berlain, which was bestowed upon the
Earl of Crawford; deprived of his
command of deputy-warden of the
middle marches; and, along with
Lord Crichton and Sir James Liddal,
who appear to have been considered
the most dangerous of the conspirators
with England, banished from the realm
for the space of three years. Angus
was compelled to remove from his

1 Indentura inter Jacobum Tertium et Du-
cem Albaniæ Alexandrum ejus fratrem. 16th
March 1482. MS. General Register House,

office of great justiciar on the south
half of the water of Forth, to resign
his stewartry of Kirkcudbright, his
sheriffdom of Lanark, and his com­
mand of the castle of Trief; 2 whilst
John of Douglas, another steady as­
sociate of Albany, was superseded in
his sheriffdom of Edinburgh. The
whole conspiracy, by which nothing
less was intended than the seizure of
the crown, and the destruction of the
independence of the country, was
acknowledged with an indifference and
effrontery which adds a deeper shade
of baseness to its authors, and punished
by the government with a leniency
which could only have proceeded from
a want of confidence between the sove
reign and the great body of his nobility
The causes of all this seem to have
been a weakness in the party opposed
to Albany, and a dread in the king“s
friends lest, if driven to despair, this
ambitious and unprincipled man might
yet be able to withstand or even to
overcome them. But the result of bo
wavering a line of policy was the same
here as in other cases where half mea­
sures are adopted. It discouraged for
the time the patriotic party, which,
having the power in their own hands,
did not dare to employ it in the pun­
ishment of the most flagrant acts of
treason which had occurred since the
time of Edward Baliol; and, by con­
vincing Albany of the indecision of
the government, and the manifest un­
popularity of the king, it encouraged
him to renew his intercourse with
England, and to repeat his attempt
upon the crown.

Accordingly, soon after the dissolu­
tion of the parliament, he removed to
his castle of Dunbar, which he garri­
soned for immediate resistance; he
provisioned his other castles; sum­
moned around him his most powerful
friends and retainers, and despatched
into England Sir James Liddal, whose
society he had lately so solemnly for­
sworn, for the purpose of renewing his
league with Edward, and requesting
his assistance against his enemies. In
consequence of these proceedings, an
English envoy, or herald, named Blue
MS. Indenture, as quoted above.

1483-4.]                                           JAMES III.                                                  227

Mantle, was commissioned to renew
the negotiations with Albany; and
he himself, indefatigable in intrigue,
soon after repaired to England.1 At
his desire, an English force invaded the
Border, and advancing to Dunbar, was
admitted into that important fortress
by Gifford of Sheriff hall, to whom it
had been committed, for the purpose
of being delivered into the hands of
his ally, King Edward. The duke
himself remained in England, busy in
concerting his measures with Douglas
and his adherents for a more formid­
able expedition; and his friend Lord
Crichton, one of the most powerful
and warlike of the Scottish barons,
engaged with the utmost ardour in
concentrating his party in Scotland,
and fortifying their castles for a de­
termined resistance against the sove­

At this critical moment happened
the death of Edward the Fourth,—an
event which greatly weakened the
party of the duke, and contributed
eventually to his total discomfiture.
Its effects, however, were not immedi­
ately fatal; and Richard the Third,
who usurped the throne, and with
whom, when Duke of Gloucester, we
have seen Albany preserving an inti­
mate correspondence, received the
renegade at court with much courtesy
and distinction. In the meantime
his repeated conspiracies excited, as
was to be expected, a very general in­
dignation in Scotland. A parliament
assembled, in which he was again sum­
moned to answer to a charge of treason;
and, having failed to appear, the three
estates found him guilty of the crime
laid to his charge, declaring that his
life, lands, offices, and all other posses­
sions, were forfeited to the king. Lord
Crichton, Sir James Liddal, Gifford of
Sheriff hall, and a long list of their
adherents, experienced a similar fate; 3
whilst the monarch of England, sur­
rounded by difficulties, and threatened

1 Processus Forisfacture Ducis Albanie.
Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol. ii.
p. 147.

2 Processus Forisfacture Domini de Crech-
toun. Ibid. pp. 154, 164.

3 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
if. pp. 152,154, 164.

with daily plots in his own kingdom,
evinced an anxiety to cultivate the
most amicable relations with Scotland,
and granted safe-conducts to Elphin-
ston, bishop of Aberdeen, and the Earl
of Crawford, as ambassadors from
James,4 with the object of renewing
the truces, and arranging the best
measures for the maintenance of peace
upon the Borders.

At the same time there arrived at
court, as ambassador from Charles the
Eight of France, who had lately suc­
ceeded to the throne of that kingdom,
Bernard Stewart, lord Aubigny. This
eminent person, whose Scottish descent
made him peculiarly acceptable to the
king, was received with high distinc­
tion ; and the ancient league between
France and Scotland was renewed by
the Scottish monarch with much so­
lemnity. Soon after, an embassy,
which consisted of the Earl of Argyle
and Schevez, archbishop of St Andrews,
with the Lords Evandale, Fleming, and
Glammis, proceeded to France,5 and
in their presence, Charles the Eighth,
then only in his fourteenth year, con­
firmed and ratified the league, and
consented to grant the most prompt
assistance to his ally for the expulsion
of the English from the kingdom, and
the reduction of his rebellious sub­

So far the treasonable conspiracy of
Albany had been completely defeated
by the energy of the king, and the
co-operation of his nobility ; and
James, shaking off that indolent de­
votion to literature and the fine arts,
which he was now convinced had
too much intruded upon his severer
duties as a sovereign, collected an
army, and laid siege to the castle of
Dunbar, which had been delivered by
Albany to the enemy, and strongly
garrisoned with English soldiers.7
Meanwhile, Albany and Douglas, al­
though courteously received by the
English king, soon discovered that it
was his determination to remain at
peace with Scotland; and, with the

4 Rymer, vol. xii. p. 207. Illustrations, Q.

5 Crawford’s Officers of State, p. 45.

6 Ibid.

7 Ferrerius, p. 397 Drummond, p. 55.

228                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. IV.

desperate resolution of making a last
struggle for the recovery of their in­
fluence, they invaded Scotland, at the
head of a small force of five hundred
horse, and pushed forward to Loch-
maben, under the fallacious idea that
they would be joined by some of their
late brothers in conspiracy, and by
their own tenantry and vassals, who
were numerous and powerful in this
district. It was St Magdalene’s day,1
upon which an annual fair was held
in the town, and a numerous concourse
of neighbouring gentry, along with a
still greater assemblage of merchants,
hawkers, and labourers, were met to­
gether, all of whom, according to the
fashion of the times, carried arms.
On the approach of Albany and Doug­
las at the head of a body of English
cavalry, it naturally occurred to the
multitude, whose booths and shops
were full of their goods and merchan­
dise, that the object of the invaders
was plunder; and with a resolution
whetted by the love of property, they
threw themselves upon the enemy.
The conflict, however, was unequal,
and on the point of terminating fatally
for the brave burghers and peasantry,
when a body of the king’s troops, of
which the chief leaders were Charteris
of Amisfield, Crichton of Sanquhar,
and Kirkpatrick of Kirkmichael, along
with the Laird of Johnston and Mur­
ray of Cockpule, advanced rapidly to
the rescue of their countrymen, and
attacked the English with a fury which
broke their ranks and decided the con­
test.2 After a grievous slaughter and
complete dispersion of their force, the
Duke of Albany escaped from the field
by the fleetness of his horse; but Doug­
las, more aged, and oppressed by the
weight of his armour, was overtaken
and made prisoner by Kirkpatrick,
who, proud of his prize, carried him
instantly to the king.3 His career had,
as we have seen, been such as to claim
little sympathy. It was that of a self­
ish and versatile politician, ever ready
to sacrifice his country to his personal
22d July.

2 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 173. Mag. Sig. xi. 77. August 10,1484.
Acta Domin. Concilii, 19th January 1484.
Mag. Sig. xi. 72. July 9, 1484.

ambition. But his rank and his mis­
fortunes, his venerable aspect and gray
hairs, moved the compassion of the
king; and he whose treason had ba­
nished him from Scotland, who for
nearly thirty years had subsisted upon
the pay of its enemies, and united
himself to every conspiracy against its
independence, was permitted to escape
with a punishment whose leniency re­
flects honour on the humanity of the
sovereign. He was confined to the
monastery of Lindores, where, after a
few years of tranquil seclusion, he
died,—the last branch of an ancient
and illustrious race, whose power, em­
ployed in the days of their early great­
ness in securing the liberty of the
country against foreign aggression, had
latterly risen into a fatal and treason­
able rivalry with the crown. It is
said that, when brought into the royal
presence, Douglas, either from shame
or pride, turned his back upon his so­
vereign, and on hearing his sentence,
muttered with a bitter smile, “ He
who may be no better, must needs
turn monk.” 4 His associate, Albany,
first took refuge in England, and from
thence passed over to France, where,
after a few years, he was accidentally
slain in a tournament.5

Two powerful enemies of the king
were thus removed; and instead of a
monarch who, like Edward the Fourth,
encouraged rebellion amongst his sub­
jects by intrigue and invasion, the
Scottish king found in Richard the
Third that calm and conciliatory dis­
position, which naturally arose out of
his terror for the occurrence of foreign
war, before he had consolidated his
newly-acquired power. To him, tran­
quillity, and popularity with the great
body of his nobility and of his people,
were as necessary as to James; and
had the Scottish aristocracy permitted
their development, the government of
either country would have been con­
ducted upon the principles of mutual
friendship and unfettered intercourse.
An embassy, consisting of the Earl of

4 Drummond, Hist. p. 53. Hume’s Doug­
las and Angus, p. 381.

5 Anselme, Histoire Genealogique, iv.
p. 529.

1484-6.]                                          JAMES III.                                                  229

Argyle, the chancellor, Lord Evandale,
Whitelaw, the secretary to the king,
and the Lord Lyle, was received with
great state by Richard at Nottingham;
and having conferred with the English
commissioners, the Archbishop of York,
the Chancellor of England, and the
Duke of Norfolk, they determined
upon a truce for three years, which
was to be cemented by a marriage be­
tween the heir of the Scottish crown,
James, duke of Rothesay, now a boy
in his fourteenth year, and Lady Anne,
niece of the King of England, and
daughter to the Duke of Suffolk.1
By one of the articles of this truce,
the castle of Dunbar, then in the pos­
session of the English, having been
delivered to them by Albany, and for
recovery of which the King of Scot­
land had made great preparations, was
to enjoy the benefit of the cessation
of hostilities for six months; after the
expiration of which period, James was
to be permitted to recover it, if he was
able, by force of arms.

At the same time that this embassy
took place, the purport of which was
openly declared, and appears in the
public records, much secret inter­
course was carried on between Richard
the Third and the Scottish nobility
and clergy, in which the names occur
of several barons who took a promi­
nent part against the king in the sub­
sequent rebellion. From the brief and
cautious manner in which the passports
for such persons are worded, it is im­
possible to point out the subjects of
their private negotiation; but there
seems ground to presume that the
aristocratic faction, which had been
for a long time opposed to the king,
and which gave him its lukewarm
support solely for the purpose of crush­
ing the desperate treasons of Albany,
had now begun to intrigue with

From the time of the rising at Lau-
der, the execution of Cochrane and his
associates, and the subsequent impri­
sonment of the sovereign, many of
the Scottish nobles must have been
sensible that they had subjected them­
selves to a charge of treason, and that
Rymer, Fœdera, vol. xii. pp. 236,244, 250.

the monarch only waited for the op­
portunity of returning power to employ
it in their destruction. The blood of
his favourites, shed with a wanton­
ness and inhumanity which nothing
could justify, called loud for ven­
geance : however devoted to the indo­
lent cultivation of the fine arts, or
enervated by the pursuit of pleasure
and the society of the female sex, the
character of James partook somewhat
of the firmness and tenacity of revenge
which distinguished his grandfather,
James the First; and it was antici­
pated that his return to liberty, and
the free exercise of his prerogative,
would bring a fearful day of reckoning
to the conspirators at Lauder. The
instances of the Douglases, the Living­
stons, and the Boyds, some of whom,
previous to their trial and execution,
had stood in far more favourable cir­
cumstances than most of the present
nobles, must to them have been full
of warning; and it was natural for
those who felt the treacherous and
unstable ground on which they stood,
to endeavour to strengthen their fac­
tion by a secret negotiation with Eng­
land. To what extent Richard listened
to such advances, does not appear; but
there seems to be little doubt that, on
the meeting of parliament in the com­
mencement of the year 1485, a large
proportion of the Scottish aristocracy
had persuaded themselves that the se­
curity of their lives and their property
was incompatible with the resumption
of his royal authority by the monarch
whom they had insulted and impri­
soned : on the other hand, it is evi­
dent that, by whatever various motives
they were actuated, a more numerous
party, consisting both of the clergy
and of the barons, had attached them­
selves to the interest of the sovereign;
and whilst many must be supposed to
have been influenced by the selfish
hope of sharing in the plunder and
confiscation which invariably accom­
panied the destruction of a feudal fac­
tion, a few perhaps were animated by
a patriotic desire to support the autho-
rity of the crown, and give strength
and energy to the feeble government
of the country. Such appear to have

230                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. IV.

been the relative situations of the two
great factions in the state on the open­
ing of the parliament in the commence­
ment of the year 1485; and most of
its acts seem to have been wisely
calculated for the good of the com­

It was resolved to despatch an em­
bassy to the court of England, for the
purpose of concluding the marriage
between the Duke of Rothesay and
the niece of Richard. Provisions were
adopted for the maintenance of tran­
quillity throughout the realm, by hold­
ing justice-ayres twice in the year;
the king was advised to call a part of
the lords and head men of his king­
dom, who were to bring to trial and
execution all notorious offenders, and
Schevez, the Archbishop of St An­
drews, was to be despatched on an
embassy to the court of Rome, having
instructions to procure the Papal con­
firmation of the alliances which had
been concluded between Scotland and
the kingdoms of France and Denmark.
Other matters of importance, affecting
mutually the rights claimed by the
crown, and the authority maintained
by the see of Rome, were intrusted to
the same diplomatist. It was to be
reverently submitted to the holy
father, that the king, having nomi­
nated his “tender clerk and coun-
sellor,” Alexander Inglis, to the bi­
shopric of Dunkeld, requested the
Papal confirmation of his promotion
as speedily as possible; and the ambas­
sador was to declare determinately,
that his sovereign would not suffer
any other person, who had presumed
to procure his promotion to this bi­
shopric contrary to the royal will, to
enter into possession. An earnest re­
monstrance was to be presented to the
Pope, requesting, that on the decease
of any prelate or beneficed clergyman,
his holiness would be pleased to delay
the disposition to such dignities for
six months, in consequence of the dis­
tance of the realm of Scotland from
the Holy See, within which time the
king’s letter of supplication for the
promotion to the vacant benefice of
such persons as were agreeable to him
might reach the pontiff,—a privilege

which, it was remarked, the sovereign
considered himself entitled to insist
upon, since the prelates of his realm
had the first vote in his parliament,
and were members of his secret coun­
cil. In the same parliament, an act
of James the Second, which made it
treason for any clerk to purchase
benefices in the court of Rome, the
presentation to which belonged to the
crown, was directed to be rigidly car­
ried into execution; and all persons
who maintained or supported any
ecclesiastics who had thus intruded
themselves into vacant sees, were
ordered to be punished by the same
penalties of proscription and rebel­
lion as the principal offenders. Some
homely provisions regarding the ex­
tortion of ferrymen, who were in
the habit of taking double and treble
freight, and a regulation concerning
the coinage, concluded the subjects
which upon this occasion occupied the
wisdom of Parliament.1

It was within four months after this,
that Richard the Third was cut off
in the midst of his unprincipled, but
daring and energetic career, by a re­
volution, which placed Henry, earl of
Richmond, upon the throne of Eng­
land, under the title of Henry the
Seventh. That a faction in Scotland
supported the Earl of Richmond, we
have the authority of his rival Richard
for believing;2 but who were the indi­
viduals to whom the king alluded, and
to what extent their intrigues had been
carried on, there are no authentic
documents to determine. The plot of
Richmond, as it is well known, was
fostered in the court of France; and
Bernard Stewart, lord Aubigny, com­
manded the body of French soldiers
which accompanied him to England.
Aubigny was, as we have seen, of Scot­
tish extraction, and nearly related to
the Earl of Lennox.3 He had been

1 Acts of the Par. of Scot. vol. ii. p. 173.

2 Fenn’s Paston Letters, vol. ii. p. 326.

3  Bernard Stewart, lord Aubigny, and John
Stewart of Darnley, first Earl of Lennox, were
brothers’ children. Mathew, earl of Lennox,
to whom Aubigny left his fortune, was the
son of the first earl. By his sisters, the
Ladies Elizabeth, Marion, Janet, and Mar­
garet Stewart, the Earl of Lennox was con­
nected by marriage with the Earl of Argyle,

1486-7.]                                         JAMES III.                                                   231

ambassador to the Scottish court in
the year 1484; and it is by no means
improbable that, to further the plot
for the invasion of England by the
Earl of Richmond, Aubigny, an able
politician, as well as an eminent mili­
tary leader, had induced that party of
the Scottish lords, who were already
disaffected to the king, to make a
diversion by invading England, and
breaking the truce between the king­
doms. The impetuosity of Richard,
however, hurried on a battle before
any symptoms of open hostility had
broken out; and when the death of
the usurper, on the field of Bosworth,
had placed the crown upon the head
of Henry, this monarch became natu­
rally as desirous of cultivating peace as
he had formerly been anxious to pro­
mote a war. Yet with this change of
policy, the connexion of the new king
with the faction of the Scottish barons
which was opposed to the government
of James, may have remained as inti­
mate as before; and when many of
the same nobles, who had conspired
with France against Richard, began to
form plots for the destruction of their
own sovereign, it is by no means im­
probable that they looked for support
to their friend and ally the King of
England. The extraordinary caution
with which Henry carried on his diplo­
matic negotiations, has rendered it ex­
ceedingly difficult for succeeding his­
torians to detect his political intrigues,
but there are some circumstances which
create a presumption that the designs
of James’s enemies were neither un­
known nor unacceptable to him.

In the meantime, however, the
accession of Henry seemed, at first, to
bring only a continuance of friendly
dispositions between the two kingdoms.
Within a month after the death of
Richard, the English monarch made
overtures for the establishment of
peace, and appointed the Earl of Nor­
thumberland, who was warden of the
marches, to open a negotiation with
such envoys as James might select.1

Lord Crichton of Sanquhar, Lord Ross of
Halkhead, and ir John Colquhoun of Luss.
Douglas Peerage, vol. ii. pp. 95, 96.
Rymer, vol. xii. pp. 285-316

Accordingly, Elphinston, bishop of
Aberdeen, Whitelaw, the king’s secre­
tary, with the Lords Bothwell and
Kennedy, and the Abbot of Holyrood,
were despatched as ambassadors; and
after various conferences, a three years’
truce was agreed on, preparatory to a
final pacification, whilst the Earl of
Angus and the Lord Maxwell were ap­
pointed wardens of the middle and
western marches. Upon the part of
England, the Earl of Northumberland
and Lord Dacres were nominated to
the same office on the eastern and
western Borders, whilst overtures were
made for a marriage between James,
marquis of Ormond, James’s second
son, and the Lady Catherine, daughter
of Edward the Fourth, and sister-in-
law to King Henry.

Soon after this, James was deprived,
by death, of his queen, the Lady Mar­
garet, daughter to Christiern, king of
Denmark, a princess whose virtues
were of that modest and unobtrusive
character which make little figure in
history, and to whom, if we may be­
lieve the report of his enemies, the
king was not warmly attached.2 The
aspersions, indeed, which were so un­
sparingly poured upon the memory of
this monarch by the faction which
dethroned and destroyed him, and the
certain falsehood of some of their most
confident accusations, render the stories
of his alienation from his queen, and
his attachment to other women, at
best extremely doubtful. It is certain,
however, that before a year of grief
had expired, the royal widower began
to think of another marriage, which
should connect him more intimately
in the bonds of peace and affectionate
intercourse with England. The prin­
cess upon whom he had fixed his affec­
tions, was the Queen-dowager of Eng­
land, the widow of Edward the Fourth,
and the mother-in-law of Henry the
Seventh; but before this union could
be effected, a conspiracy broke out,

2 The period of her death, Pinkerton (vol. i. p.
324) observes, has not been mentioned by the
Scottish historians. We are enabled, however,
to approximate nearly to the exact time, by
the expression used in a charter in the Mor­
ton Cartulary, dated 16th Oct. 1486, which men­
tions her as that time “ nuper defuncta.”

232                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. IV.

which had been long collecting strength
and virulence, and whose effects were
as fatal as its history is obscure and

We have already remarked that
since the period of the conspiracy at
the bridge of Lauder, in which a great
body of the Scottish nobles rose against
the sovereign, imprisoned his person,
usurped the administration of the go­
vernment, and, without trial or con­
viction, inflicted the punishment of
death upon his principal favourites
and counsellors, the barons engaged in
that enterprise had never been cordi­
ally reconciled to the king, and were
well aware that they lived with a
charge of treason hanging over their
heads—that they held their estates,
and even their lives, only so long as
their party continued in power. Nearty
five years had now elapsed since the
execution of Cochrane, and in that
interval some alterations had occurred,
which were quite sufficient to alarm
them. The character of the king had
undergone a material change; he had
attached to his interest some of the
wisest of the clergy, and not a few of
the most powerful of his nobility ; he
had preserved peace with England,—
had completely triumphed over the
traitorous designs of his brother Al­
bany and the Earl of Douglas,—had
maintained his alliance with France,
Flanders, and the northern courts of
Europe, unbroken, — had supported
with great firmness and dignity his
royal prerogative against the encroach­
ments of the see of Rome,—and had
made repeated endeavours to enforce
the authority of the Jaws, to improve
the administration of justice, and re­
strain the independent power of the
feudal nobility, by the enactments of
his parliament, and the increasing
energy and attention with which he
devoted himself to the cares of govern­
ment. It has indeed been the fashion
of some of our popular historians to
represent the character of this unfor­
tunate prince as a base mixture of
wickedness and weakness; but nothing
can be more untrue than such a pic­
ture. The facts of his reign, and the
measures of his government, demon­

strate its infidelity to the original; and
convince us that such calumnies pro­
ceeded from the voice of a faction de­
sirous to blacken the memory of a
monarch whom they had deserted and
betrayed. But, even admitting that
the full merit of the wise and active
administration of the government
which had lately taken place, did not
belong to the king, it was evident to
his enemies that their power was on
the decline, and that their danger was
becoming imminent. The character
of the monarch, indeed, was far from
relentless or unforgiving; and the mild­
ness of the punishment of Albany, and
the benevolence of the sentence against
Douglas, might have inspired them
with hope, and promoted a reconci­
liation ; but they knew also that there
were many about the royal person
who would advise a different course,
and to whom the forfeiture, and the
expectation of sharing in their estates,
would present an inviting prospect.

On consulting together they appear
to have come to the resolution to mus­
ter their whole strength at the ensuing
parliament; to sound the disposition of
the king and his party towards accept­
ing their submission, and encouraging
a coalition; and when they had warily
estimated the comparative strength of
their own faction, and that of the
monarch, to form their plan, either of
adherence to the government and sub­
mission to the king, or of a determined
rebellion against both. In the mean­
time, however, the death of the queen,
and the treachery of those to whom
the keeping and education of the heir-
apparent was intrusted, enabled them
to usurp an influence over his mind,
which they artfully turned to their
own advantage.

To gain the prince to favour their
designs against his father, and to allure
him to join their party, by the pros­
pect of an early possession of the sove­
reign power, was a project which had
been so frequently and successfully
repeated in the tumultuous transac­
tions of Scotland, and other feudal
kingdoms, that it naturally suggested
itself to the discontented nobles ; and
it was no difficult task for such crafty

1487.]                                   JAMES III.                                       233

and unscrupulous intriguers to work
upon the youthful ambition of his
character. James, duke of Rothesay,
was now in his fifteenth year ; his dis­
position was aspiring and impetuous;
and, although still a boy, his mind
seems to have been far beyond his
years. It was easy for them to in­
flame his boyish feelings against his
father, by the same false and unfound­
ed tales with which they afterwards
polluted the popular mind, and ex­
cused their own attacks upon the
government; and previous to the
meeting of the parliament, they had
succeeded in estranging the affections
of the son from the father, and pro­
ducing in his mind a readiness to unite
himself to their party. Whilst such
had been the conduct of the faction
• which opposed itself to the govern­
ment, the king, shaking off the love of
indolent retirement which he had too
long encouraged, mustered his friends
around him, consulted with his most
confidential officers, and resolved that
the proceedings of the ensuing parlia­
ment should be conducted with an
energy and a wisdom which should
convince his enemies that they were
mistaken in him.

Such appears to have been the re­
lative position of the monarch, and the
faction of the discontented nobles, at
the period of the meeting of parlia­
ment, on the 13th of October 1487.1
On that day a more numerous as­
semblage of the nobles attended than
for many years had been seen in the
Scottish parliament; and although the
barons who were inimical to the king
were pleased to find that they mus­
tered in formidable strength, it was
thought expedient to make overtures
to the sovereign for an amicable ad­
justment of all their disputes and
grievances, upon condition that a full
pardon should be granted to all such
barons as had made themselves ob­
noxious to the laws, by treason, ra­
pine, or other offences. To such a
proposition, however, the party of the
sovereign, too confident in their own
power, gave an absolute denial. They

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 176.

brought in an act of parliament.,
which declared, that for the purpose
of re-establishing justice and tranquil­
lity throughout the realm, which, in
consequence of the delay of inflicting
“ sharp execution upon traitors and
murderers, had been greatly broken
and distressed, the kings highness had
acceded to the request of his three
estates, and was determined to refuse
all applications for pardon of such
crimes, or of any similar offences, for
seven years to come.” In return for
the readiness with which the king had
obeyed the wishes of his parliament,
the lords spiritual and temporal, with
the barons and freeholders, gave their
promise that, in all time coming, they
would cease to maintain, or stand at
the bar with traitors, men-slayers,
thieves, or robbers, always excepting
that they must not be prevented from
taking part in “sober wise,” with
their kin and friends, in the defence
of their honest actions. They en­
gaged also to assist the king and his
officers to bring all such offenders to
justice, that they might “underly”
the law; and when, in consequence of
the strength of the party accused, the
coroner was unable to make his arrest-
ment, they promised, with their armed
vassals, to apprehend the delinquent.
Other acts were passed at the same
time, to which it is unnecessary to
refer; but the proceedings were amply
sufficient to convince the barons,
whose rebellion against the sovereign
had made them liable to a charge of
treason, that extreme measures were
meditated against them. The parlia­
ment was then prorogued to the 11th
of January; and it was intimated by
the sovereign that a full attendance
of the whole body of the prelates,
barons, and freeholders would be in­
sisted on, it having been resolved
that all absent members should not
only be punished by the infliction of
the usual fine, but in such other me­
thod as the king was wont to adopt to
those who disobeyed his orders and
incurred his high displeasure.

In the interval an important nego­
tiation took place between the Bishops
of Exeter and Aberdeen, who met

234                                    HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. IV.

at Edinburgh, and agreed that the
present truce subsisting between the
kingdoms should be prolonged to
the 1st of September 1489. It was
determined also that the proposed
marriage between the King of Scots
and the Princess Elizabeth, widow
of Edward the Fourth, should take
place as soon as the preliminaries
could be settled, in a diet to be held
at Edinburgh; whilst the peace be­
tween the two countries should be
further cemented by the marriage of
James’s second son, the Marquis of
Ormond, to the Lady Catherine, third
daughter of Edward the Fourth, and
of James, prince of Scotland and duke
of Rothesay, to another daughter of
the same royal line.1 These royal
alliances were interrupted by a de­
mand of the Scottish monarch. As a
preliminary, he insisted upon the sur­
render of the town of Berwick, which
for so long a period had been the pro­
perty of Scotland, and the rich em­
porium of its trade. To this last con­
dition Henry would by no means con­
sent.2 He was well aware of the
importance of this Border fortress, as
commanding a frontier against the
Scots; and so high a value did he set
upon its continuing in the possession
of England, that, from the moment
that James had pertinaciously required
its restoration, all serious thoughts of
the proposed alliances were at an end;
and the politics of the English mon­
arch, instead of being animated by the
desire of a friendly union with the
king, became infected with a partiality
for the faction of his discontented

Nor had these barons, during this
interval, been idle : they had consoli­
dated their own strength ; appointed
various points of rendezvous for their
vassals and retainers, and put their
castles into a posture of defence : they
had prevailed on some of the prelates
and dignified clergy to join their party,
whose affections the king had alienated
by his severe reprobation of their pro­
ceedings, in purchasing the nomination

1 Rymer, Fœdera, vol. xii. p. 329.
Feb. 10, 1487. Rotuli Scotiæ, vol. ii. p.

to vacant benefices at the Papal court:
they had completely corrupted the
principles of the king’s eldest son, the
Duke of Rothesay, and prevailed upon
him to lend his name and his presence
to their treasonable attack upon the
government; and although it cannot
be asserted upon conclusive evidence,
there is some reason to believe that
the conspiracy was countenanced at
least, if not supported, at the court of
Henry the Seventh.

In the meantime the parliament,
which had been prorogued to the
month of January, again assembled,3
and was attended in great force by
both factions. Aware of the intrigues
which were in agitation against him,
and incensed at the conduct of his
enemies in working upon the ambition,
and alienating from him the affections,
of his son and successor, James pro­
ceeded to adopt decided measures.
He brought forward his second son,
created him Duke of Ross, Marquis of
Ormond, Earl of Edirdale, and Lord
of Brechin and Novar, and by accumu­
lating upon him these high titles,
appeared to point him out as his in­
tended successor in the throne. He
strengthened his own party by raising
the Barons of Drummond, Crichton of
Sanquhar, Hay, and Ruthven, to the
dignity and privileges of lords of par­
liament; he procured the consent of
the three estates to the immediate
departure of an embassy to the court
of England, for the purpose of making
a final agreement regarding his own
marriage and that of the prince his
son; with instructions to the ambas­
sadors that they should insist either on
the delivery of the castle and the city
of Berwick into the hands of the Scots,
or upon the castle being cast down and
destroyed. He appointed the Earls of
Crawford and Huntly to be justices on
the north half beyond the Forth ; and
from the Lords Bothwell, Glammis,
Lyle, and Drummond, directed the
parliament to select two justices for
the southern division of the kingdom.
With regard to the rights, which he
contended belonged to the crown, in

3 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 180.

1487.]                                               JAMES III.                                                 235

disposing of vacant benefices,—rights
which interfered with those ecclesias-
tical privileges claimed by the court
of Rome as part of its inalienable pre-
rogative, the conduct of the monarch
was spirited and consistent. He had
united the priory of Coldingham to
the royal chapel at Stirling,1 a measure
which the potent Border family of
the Humes affected to consider as an
interference with their patronage, but
upon what ground is not apparent.
They made it a pretext, however, for
oining the ranks of the discontented
nobles ; opposed the annexation in a
violent and outrageous manner, and
attempted to overturn the act of the
king by an appeal to the Pope. The
monarch, in the first instance, inter-
dicted all persons from presenting or
countenancing such appeals, under
penalty of the forfeiture of life, lands,
and goods; and finding this warning
insufficient, he directed summonses to
be issued against the offenders, ordain-
ing them to stand their trial before a
committee of parliament, and abide
the sentence of the law.2 Aware also
that there would be some attempt at
interference on the part of the Papal
court, it was declared by the parlia­
ment that the king was bound to pre­
serve that ancient privilege which had
been conferred upon his progenitors
by a special bull, and by which the
Scottish monarchs were not obliged to
receive any legate or messenger of that
court within their realm, unless a
communication were first made to the
king and his council as to the nature
of the message, so that it might be
perfectly understood, before they were
permitted to enter the kingdom, that
they brought no communication con-
trary to the will of the sovereign or
the common prosperity of his realm,
If therefore, it was said, any such
negate happened to be now on his
journey, or hereafter arrived, the par-
liament recommended that messengers
should be immediately sent to the
Borders to prohibit him from setting
his foot within the kingdom until he

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
Ibid. vol. ii. p. 183.

first explained to his highness the
cause of his coming.3 In the same
parliament, and with a like resolute
spirit, the king obtained an act to be
passed, which insisted on his right to
nominate to vacant benefices as an
inalienable prerogative of his crown,
and in which his determination was
declared, to keep his clerk, Mr David
Abercromby, unvexed and untroubled
in the enjoyment of the deanery of
Aberdeen, notwithstanding any at­
tempt to the contrary by persons who
founded their title of interference
upon a purchase or impetration of this
ecclesiastical preferment at the court
of Rome.

The parliament was then adjourned
to the 5th of May, and the members
dispersed; but the quiet was of short
continuance, and the materials of civil
commotion, so long pent up in the
bosom of the country, in consequence
of the determined measures adopted
by the king, at length took fire, and
blazed forth into open rebellion. In
the severity of the late acts of parlia­
ment, the Earls of Argyle and Angus,
the Lords Lyle, Drummond, and
Hailes, Blacader, bishop of Glasgow,
and many other powerful barons who
had joined their party, saw clearly the
measures which were intended for
their destruction, and determined, ere
it was too late, to convince their ene­
mies that their power was more for­
midable than they anticipated. They
accordingly concentrated their forces.
The young prince, already estranged
from his father, and flattered with the
adulation of a party which addressed
him as king, issued from Stirling
castle,4 the governor of which, James
Shaw of Sauchie, had early joined the
conspiracy, and placed himself at the
head of the insurgent army; whilst
James, who had unfortunately per­
mitted his friends and supporters to
return to their estates after the disso­
lution of the parliament, found him­
self almost alone amidst a thickening
tumult of revolt and violence, which
it was impossible to resist. Cut to the

3  Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol
ii. p. 183.

4  Ibid. vol. ii. pp. 211, 223.

236                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. IV

heart also, by seeing his own son at
the head of his enemies, the king
formed the sudden resolution of retir­
ing from the southern provinces of
his kingdom, which were occupied
chiefly by his enemies, to those nor­
thern districts, where he could still
rely on the loyalty of his subjects,
and the support of a large body of his
nobility. Previous to this, however,
he despatched the Earl of Buchan,
along with Lord Bothwell and the
Bishop of Moray, on an embassy to
Henry the Seventh, to solicit the
assistance of that monarch, and pro­
cure the presence of a body of Eng­
lish troops to overawe his rebels,
and defend him against the imminent
dangers with which he was sur­
rounded.1 He at the same time de­
prived Argyle of the office of chan­
cellor, and conferred that dignity upon
Elphinston, bishop of Aberdeen, one
of the ablest and most faithful of his
counsellors ; and anxious to detach his
son from the party of the insurgents,
and to save him from incurring the
penalties of treason, he sent proposals
to the misguided youth, in. which, the
severity of the king and the affection
of the father were judiciously blended.
But all was in vain. From the mo­
ment that the prince left Stirling, and
placed himself at the head of their
party, the rebels boldly declared that
James the Third, having forfeited the
affections of his people, oppressed his
nobility, and brought in the English
to subdue the nation, had forfeited
the crown, and ceased to reign. They
then proclaimed his son as his suc­
cessor, under the title of James the
Fourth, and in his name proceeded to
carry on the government. The Earl
of Argyle was reinstated in his office
of chancellor ;2 a negotiation was
opened with the court of England ;
and Henry, who had looked coldly on
the father, in consequence of his in­
sisting upon the restoration of Ber­
wick, did not scruple to treat with the
son as King of Scots, and to grant
passports for his ambassadors, the
Bishops of Glasgow and Dunkeld, the

1 Rymer, Fœdera, vol. xii. p. 334.
Mag. Sig. x. 122. Feb. 18, 1487.

Earl of Argyle, the Lords Lyle and
Hailes, with the Master of Hume.3

The alarm of the king at the bold­
ness and success of such measures was
great. He was surrounded on all sides
by his enemies, and in daily risk of
being made a captive by his son. It
was absolutely necessary, therefore,
to hasten his retreat to the north; but
before his preparations were completed,
the rebels advanced upon Edinburgh,
his baggage and money were seized at
Leith, and the monarch had scarcely
time to throw himself into a ship be­
longing to Sir Andrew Wood, and
pass over to Fife, when he heard that
the whole southern provinces were in
arms.4 The disaffection, however, had
reached no further, and James, as
he proceeded towards Aberdeen, and
issued orders for the array of Strathern
and Angus, had the gratification to
find himself within a short time at
the head of a numerous and formid­
able army. His uncle, Athole, with
the Earls of Huntly and Crawford, and
a strong assemblage of northern barons,
joined his standard. Lord Lindsay of
the Byres, a veteran commander of
great talent and devoted loyalty, who
had served in the French wars, assem­
bled a body of three thousand foot­
men and a thousand horse. The old
baron, who led this force in person,
was mounted on a gray courser of
great size and spirit. On meeting the
king, he dismounted, and placing the
reins in the hands of his sovereign,
begged him to accept of the best war-
horse in Scotland. “ If your grace
will only sit well,” said the blunt old
soldier, “his speed will outdo all I
have ever seen either to flee or follow.”
The present was highly valued by the
monarch, but it was thought ominous
at the time, and led to fatal results.
Soon after this, the king was met by
Lord Ruthven at the head of a thou­
sand gentlemen well mounted and
clothed in complete body-armour, with
a thousand archers, and a thousand
infantry.5 As he advanced, his forces

3  Rymer, Fœdera, vol. xii. p. 340.

4 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 202.

5 Pitscottie, Hist. p. 140. Ferrerius, p.

1487-3.]                                          JAMES III.                                                  237

daily increased. The Earls of Buchan
and Errol; the Lords Glammis, Forbes,
and Kilmaurs; his standard-bearer,
Sir William Turnbull; the Barons of
Tullibardine and Pourie: Innes of
Innes, Colessie of Balnamoon, Somer
of Balyard, and many other loyalists,
incensed at the unnatural rebellion,
and commiserating the condition of
the country, warmly espoused his
cause; so that he soon found himself
at the head of a well-appointed army
of thirty thousand men, with which
he instantly advanced against the
rebel lords.1

He found them stationed with the
prince his son at Blackness, on the
coast between Queensferry and Bor-
rowstounness; but the sight of his sub­
jects arrayed in mortal conflict against
each other, and commanded by the
heir to his throne, affected the bene­
volent heart of the monarch, and in­
duced him to listen to the advice of
the Earls of Huntly and Errol, who
earnestly besought permission to at­
tempt an accommodation. A negotia­
tion was accordingly opened, and cer­
tain articles of agreement were drawn
up and corroborated by the royal sig­
nature, which, if we may believe the
suspicious evidence of the conspirators
themselves, were violated by the king,
who suffered himself to be overruled
by the stern councils of the Earl of
Buchan.2 Irritated at such undue
influence, the Earl Marshal, along with
Huntly, Errol, and Lord Glammis,
deserted the royal camp, and retired
to their respective estates; whilst
Buchan, who perhaps wisely dreaded
to lose an opportunity of extinguish­
ing the rebellion which might never
again occur, attacked the prince’s
army, and gained an advantage, which,
although magnified into a victory,
appears to have been little else than
a severe skirmish, too undecided to
deter the prince and his associates
from keeping the field in the face of
the royal army.3 The odious sight of
civil bloodshed, however, created in
both armies an indisposition to push

1 Acts of Parl. of Scotland, vol. ii. p. 202.

2  Ibid. vol. ii. pp. 202, 210.

3  Ibid. vol. ii, p. 204.

the battle to extremities; and the
monarch, whose heart sickened at the
prospect of protracted rebellion, again,
by the mediation of his uncle, the
Earl of Athole, made proposals for an
amicable adjustment of the grievances
for the redress of which his opponents
were in arms. Commissioners were
accordingly appointed, and a pacifica­
tion agreed on, remarkable for the
leniency of its stipulations, and the
tenderness with which the royal pa­
rent conducted himself towards his
son. It will be remembered that
James was at the head of an army
flushed with recent success,—that he
had been grossly calumniated by the
rebellious subjects whom he was now
willing to admit to pardon,—that his
son, a youth in his sixteenth year,
had usurped his name and authority
of king,—that they had filled his king­
dom with confusion and bloodshed;
under such circumstances, the condi­
tions agreed on contradict in the
strongest manner the representations
of the popular historians regarding
the character of this unfortunate
prince. It was stipulated that the
royal estate and authority of the sove­
reign should be maintained, so that
the king might exercise his preroga­
tives, and administer justice to his
lieges, throughout every part of his
realm; that his person should at all
times be in honour and security;
and that such prelates, earls, lords,
and barons, as were most noted for
wisdom, prudence, and fidelity, should
be kept around him. All those barons
whom the prince had hitherto ad­
mitted to his confidence, and whose
evil councils had done displeasure to
the king, were to make honourable
amends to the monarch, by adopting
a wise and discreet line of conduct,
under the condition that full security
was to be given them for their lives,
honours, and estates. The king en­
gaged to maintain the household of
the heir-apparent, and support the
lords and officers of his establishment
in befitting dignity, provided they
were honourable and faithful persons,
distinguished for wisdom and fidelity,
under whose directions my lord the

233                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                      [Chap. IV.

prince might become obedient to his
royal father, and increase in that
dutiful love and tenderness which
ought ever to be preserved between
them. On these conditions, the king
declared his readiness to forgive and
admit to his favour all the prince’s
friends and servants against whom he
had conceived any displeasure; whilst
his highness the prince intimated his
willingness to dismiss from his mind
all rancorous feelings against the lords
spiritual and temporal who had ad­
hered to the service of their sovereign
in this time of trouble. In conclu­
sion, it was agreed by both parties
that all feuds or dissensions which at
that moment existed between various
great lords and barons, and more
especially between the Earl of Buchan
and the Lord Lyle, should be com­
posed and concluded; so that our
sovereign lord and his lieges might
once more live in peace, justice, and
concord, and tranquillity be re-estab­
lished throughout the realm.1

Whatever causes led to this pacifica­
tion, it is evident that the terms
offered to the prince and his rebellious
party were far too favourable, and
that the humanity which dictated so
feeble and insecure a compromise was
little else than weakness. The king
was then in circumstances which, if
properly turned to advantage, must,
in all probability, have given him
a complete triumph over a conspir­
acy whose ramifications had spread
throughout the kingdom. Under the
pretence of the redress of grievances
partly ideal, partly true, but princi­
pally of their own creation, a faction
of his prelates and nobles had with­
drawn their allegiance from their
sovereign, seduced the affections of
the prince, and attempted to over­
turn the government of the country
by force of arms. To have entered
into terms with such offenders upon
any other basis than a full and uncon­
ditional surrender, was the extremity
of folly; but instead of this, James,
in his anxiety to avoid a mortal con­
test, which, after the advantage at

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol.
ii. p. 210.

Blackness, the insurgent lords would
scarcely have hazarded, permitted the
son who had usurped his kingly
name, and the subjects who had
defied the laws of the realm, to nego­
tiate, with arms in their hands, on a
footing of equality. No petition for
forgiveness, no expression of peni­
tence, was suffered to escape: the
prince spoke throughout, not as a son
conscious that he had offended, but as
a sovereign transacting a treaty with
his equal. The pacification of Black­
ness was, in truth, a triumph to the
faction of the discontented nobles;
and it required little penetration to
foresee that the tranquillity which
was established on such a foundation
could not be of any long duration : it
was a confession of weakness, pro­
nounced at a time when firmness at
least, if not severity, were the only
guides to the permanent settlement of
the convulsions which now agitated
the kingdom.

Unconscious, however, of the dan­
gers which surrounded him, and trust­
ing too implicitly to the promises of
the insurgents, James retired to Edin­
burgh, dismissed his army, and per­
mitted the northern lords, upon whose
fidelity he chiefly depended, to return
to their estates. He then proceeded
to reward the barons to whose zeal he
had been indebted, and who had dis­
tinguished themselves in the conflict
at Blackness. The Earl of Crawford
was created Duke of Montrose; Lord
Kilmaurs was raised to the rank of
Earl of Glencairn; Sir Thomas Turn-
bull, his standard-bearer, Sir Andrew
Wood, the Lairds of Balnamoon, Lag,
Balyard, and others of his adherents,
received grants of lands; and the king
weakly imagined that, if any bitter
feelings were yet cherished in the
bosoms of his son and his nobles, the
mediation of the French monarch, to
whom he had lately despatched am­
bassadors, and the interference of the
Holy See, to which a mission had been
also directed, might effectually remove
them.2 Nothing, however, could be
more vain than such anticipations.

2 Mag. Sig. x. 69. May 18,1488. Ibid, ix,
77, same date. Ibid. xii. 565. June 25,1492.

1488.]                                               JAMES III.                                                  239

The monarch had scarcely time to re­
organise his court, and take up his
residence within his castle of Edin­
burgh, when he was informed that his
son, and the same fierce and ambitious
faction, had resumed their schemes of
insurrection, and assembled in more
formidable numbers than before. It
may be doubted, indeed, whether they
had ever dispersed; and it is difficult
to account for the infatuation of the
king and his advisers, when we find
them consenting to the dismissal of
the royal army at the very moment
the rebels continued to retain their

James, however, had a few powerful
friends around him, and these urged
him, ere it was too late, to reassemble
his army without a moment’s delay.
The Duke of Montrose, the Earls of
Menteith and Glencairn, the Lords
Erskine, Graham, Ruthven, and Lord
Lindsay of the Byres, immediately col­
lected their followers ; and such was
the popularity of the royal cause, that
within a short time the royal army
mustered in sufficient strength to take
the field against the insurgents. Sum­
monses were rapidly forwarded to the
northern lords, and it was at first de­
termined that, till these reinforcements
joined the army, the sovereign should
remain at Edinburgh, and avoid the
risk of a battle. But this resolution,
undoubtedly the wisest that could be
adopted, was abandoned. It was sug­
gested that Stirling would be a more
convenient rendezvous for the northern
chiefs and clans; and, abandoning his
strong castle of Edinburgh, the mon­
arch advanced to this town, attacked
the prince his son, who was encamped
in the neighbourhood, drove him across
the Forth, and after dispersing this
portion of the rebels, demanded ad­
mittance into his castle of Stirling.1
This, however, was peremptorily re­
fused him by Shaw of Sauchie, the
governor, who had joined the prince ;
and before time was given him to de­
cide whether it would be expedient to
lay siege to the fortress, intelligence
was brought that his enemies had
pressed on from Falkirk, and occupied

1 Mag. Sig. xii. 64. 9th January 1488.

the high level plain above the bridge
of the Torwood.2 Upon hearing this,
James immediately advanced against
them, and encountered the insurgent
army on a tract of ground known at
the present day by the name of Little
Canglar, which is situated upon the
east side of a small brook called Sauchie
Burn, about two miles from Stirling,
and one mile from the celebrated field
of Bannockburn, where Bruce had de­
feated Edward. Although inexperi­
enced in war, James was not deficient
in courage. By the advice of Lord
Lindsay, with other veteran soldiers,
the royal army, much inferior in num­
bers to the insurgents, was drawn up
in three divisions. The first, consist­
ing of such of the northern clans as
had arrived before the battle, was
commanded by the Earls of Athole
and Huntly, forming an advance of
Highlandmen armed with bows, long
daggers, swords, and targets; in the
rear division were the westland and
Stirlingshire men, commanded by the
Earl of Menteith, with the Lords
Erskine and Graham; whilst the king
himself led the main battle, composed
of the burghers and commons.3 He
was splendidly armed, and rode the
tall gray horse which had lately been
presented to him by Lord Lindsay.
On his right this veteran soldier, with
the Earl of Crawford, commanded a
fine body of cavalry, consisting of the
chivalry of Fife and Angus; whilst
Lord Ruthven, with the men of Strath-
ern and Stormont, formed his left wing,
with a body of nearly five thousand
spearmen. Against this array, the
rebel lords, advancing rapidly from the
Torwood, formed themselves also in
three battles. The first division was
led by the Lord Hailes and the Master
of Hume, and composed of the hardy
spearmen of East Lothian and the
Merse.4 Lord Gray commanded the
second line, formed of the fierce Gal­
wegians, and the more disciplined and
hardy Borderers of Liddesdale and

2 Pitscottie, History, vol. i. pp. 218, 219, by

3 Nimmo’s Stirlingshire, p. 226. Lesley’s
History, p. 57.

4 Ferrerius, p. 400. Buchanan, book xii.
chap. 61. Pitscottie, History, vol. i. p. 219.

240                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                    [CHAP. IV.

Annandale—men trained from their
infancy to arms, and happy only in a
state of war. In the main battle were
the principal lords who had conspired
against the king, and at their head the
young prince himself, whose mind,
torn between ambition and remorse,
is said to have sought for comfort in
issuing an order that no one should
dare, in the ensuing conflict, to lay
violent hands upon his father.1

The onset commenced by showers
of arrows, which did little execution,
as the bow, although lately more en­
couraged amongst the Highland troops,
was never a favourite or formidable
weapon with the nation. In the
charge with the spear, however, the
royalists drove back the enemy’s first
line and gained a decided advantage ;
but it lasted only till the advance of
the Borderers, who attacked with such
steady and determined valour, that
they not only recovered the ground
which had been lost, but made a dread­
ful slaughter, and at last compelled
the Earls of Huntly and Menteith to
retreat in confusion upon the main
battle, commanded by the king. The
conflict, however, was continued for
some time with great obstinacy, and
James’s forces, although inferior in
number to the insurgents, made a
desperate stand. They at last, how­
ever began to waver, and the tumult
and slaughter approached the spot
where the king had stationed himself.
The lords who surrounded his person
implored him not to run the risk of
death or captivity, which must bring
ruin upon their cause, but to leave
the field whilst there was yet a chance
of safety. To this advice James con­
sented, not unreluctantly, if we may
believe his enemies; and whilst his
nobles obstinately protracted the bat­
tle, the monarch spurred his horse,
and fled at full speed towards the vil­
lage of Bannockburn. The precaution,
however, which was intended to secure
his safety, only hastened his destruc-

1 Pinkerton (vol. i. p. 334) has represented
the conflict which followed these dispositions
as a brief skirmish, hurried to a conclusion by
the timidity and flight of the king. Of this,
however, there is no evidence.

tion. On crossing the little river Ban­
nock, at a hamlet called Milltown, he
came suddenly upon a woman drawing
water, who, alarmed at the apparition
of an armed horseman, threw down
her pitcher, and fled into the house.2
At this noise the horse, taking fright,
swerved in the midst of his career,
and the king, losing his seat and fall­
ing heavily, was so much bruised by
the concussion and the weight of his
armour, that he swooned away. He
was instantly carried into a miller’s
cottage hard by, whose inmates, ig­
norant of the rank of the sufferer, but
compassionating his distress, treated
him with great humanity. They
placed him on a bed; cordials, such
as their poverty could bestow, were
administered, and the unhappy mon­
arch at length opening his eyes, ear­
nestly required the presence of a
priest, to whom he might confess be­
fore his death. On being questioned
regarding his name and rank, he in­
cautiously answered, “ Alas ! I was
your sovereign this morning ; “ upon
which the poor woman rushed out of
the cottage, wringing her hands, and
calling aloud for a priest to come and
confess the king. By this time a party
of the straggling soldiers of the prince’s
army had reached the spot, and one
whose name is not certainly known,
but whom some historians assert to
have been an ecclesiastic named Borth-
wick, in Lord Gray’s service, hearing
the woman’s lamentation, announced
himself as a priest, and was admitted
into the cottage. He found the mon­
arch lying on a flock-bed, with a coarse
cloth thrown over him, and kneeling
down, inquired with apparent tender­
ness and anxiety how it fared with
him, and whether with medical assist­
ance he might yet recover. The king
assured him that there was hope, but
in the meanwhile besought him to
receive his confession, upon which the
ruffian bent over him, under pretence
of proceeding to discharge his holy
office, and drawing his dagger, stabbed

2 The cottage, called Beaton’s Mill, where
the king was murdered, is still pointed out to
the traveller; and the great antiquity and thick­
ness of the walls corroborate the tradition.

1488.]                                               JAMES III.                                                 241

his unresisting victim to the heart,
repeating his strokes till he perceived
life to be completely extinct. The
atrocity of the deed seems to have had
the effect of throwing over it a studied
obscurity ; so that, although it is as­
serted that the murderer carried off
the body of his sovereign, his move­
ments were never certainly traced, and
his name and condition are to this
day undiscovered. A body, however,
ascertained to be that of James, was
afterwards found in the neighbour­
hood, and interred with royal honours,
beside his queen, in the Abbey of

After the flight of the king, the bat­
tle was neither long nor obstinately
contested. Anxious to save their army,
and dispirited by a vague rumour
of the death of their master, the royal­
ist leaders retired upon Stirling, and
were not hotly pursued by the prince,
who is said to have been seized with
sudden and overwhelming remorse on
being informed of the melancholy fate
of his father. Dazzled, however, by
his accession to the throne, and flat­
tered by the professions of devoted-
ness and affection of his party, these
repentant feelings for the present were
evanescent, although they afterwards
broke out with a strength which oc­
casionally embittered his existence.
In the battle the loss was on neither
side very great, although the Earls of
Glencairn and Bothwell, with the
Lords Erskine, Semple, and Ruthven,
were amongst the slain in the royalist
party. The army of the insurgent
nobles passed the night upon the field,
and next day fell back upon Linlith-
gow, when the lords permitted their
vassals to disperse, and began anxious­
ly to consult regarding the measures
which it was necessary to adopt for
the immediate administration of the

Thus perished, in the prime of life,
and the victim of a conspiracy, headed
by his own son, James the Third of
Scotland; a prince whose character
appears to have been misrepresented

1 Ferrerius, p. 400. Lesley’s History, p. 57.
Mag. Sig. xiii. 251. 6th April 1496.
Ferrerius, p. 400.

and mistaken by writers of two very
different parties, and whose real dis­
position is to be sought for neither in
the mistaken aspersions of Buchanan,
nor in the vague and indiscriminate
panegyric of some later authors. Buch­
anan, misled by the attacks of a fac­
tion, whose interest it was to paint the
monarch whom they had deposed and
murdered, as weak, unjust, and aban­
doned to low pleasures, has exagge­
rated the picture by his own prejudices
and antipathies; other writers, amongst
whom Abercromby is the most con­
spicuous, have, with an equal aberra­
tion from the truth, represented him
as almost faultless. That James had
any design, similar to that of his able
and energetic grandfather, of raising
the kingly power upon the ruins of the
nobility, is an assertion not only un­
supported by any authentic testimony,
but contradicted by the facts which
are already before the reader. That
he was cruel or tyrannical is an un­
founded aspersion, ungraciously pro­
ceeding from those who had expe­
rienced his repeated lenity, and who,
in the last fatal scenes of his life,
abused his ready forgiveness to com­
pass his ruin. That he murdered his
brother is an untruth, emanating from
the same source, contradicted by the
highest contemporary evidence, and
abandoned by his worst enemies as too
ridiculous to be stated at a time when
they were anxiously collecting every
possible accusation against him. Yet
it figures in the classical pages of
Buchanan,—a very convincing proof of
the slight examination which that
great man was accustomed to bestow
upon any story which coincided with
his preconceived opinions, and flat­
tered his prejudices against monarchy.
Equally unfounded was that imputa­
tion, so strongly urged against’ this
prince by his insurgent nobles, that
he had attempted to accomplish the
perpetual subjection of the realm to
England. His brother Albany had
truly done so; and the original records
of his negotiations, and of his homage
sworn to Edward, remain to this day,
although we in vain look for an account
of this extraordinary intrigue in the

242                                      HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                     [Chap. IV.

pages of the popular historians. In
this attempt to destroy the independ­
ence of the kingdom, it is equally cer­
tain that Albany was supported by a
great proportion of the nobility, who
now rose against the king, and whose
names appear in the contemporary
muniments of the period; but we in
vain look in the pages of the Fcedera,
or in the rolls of Westminster and the
Tower, for an atom of evidence to shew
that James, in his natural anxiety for
assistance against a rebellion of his own
subjects, had ceased for a moment to
treat with Henry the Seventh as an
independent sovereign. So far, indeed,
from this being the case, we know
that, at a time when conciliation was
necessary, he refused to benefit him­
self by sacrificing any portion of his
kingdom, and insisted on the redeli-
very of Berwick with an obstinacy
which in all probability disgusted the
English monarch, and rendered him
lukewarm in his support.

James’s misfortunes, in truth, are to
be attributed more to the extraordinary
circumstances of the times in which he
lived, than to any very marked defects
in the character or conduct of the
monarch himself, although both were
certainly far from blameless. At this
period, in almost every kingdom in
Europe with which Scotland was con­
nected, the power of the great feudal
nobles and that of the sovereign had
been arrayed in jealous and mortal
hostility against each other. The time
appeared to have arrived in which both
parties seemed convinced that they
were on the confines of a great change,
and that the sovereignty of the throne
must either sink under the superior
strength of the greater nobles, or the
tyranny and independence of these
feudal tyrants receive a blow from
which it would not be easy for them
to recover. In this struggle another
remarkable feature is to be discerned.
The nobles, anxious for a leader, and
eager to procure some counterpoise to
the weight of the king’s name and
authority, generally attempted to se­
duce the heir-apparent, or some one
of the royal family, to favour their
designs, bribing him to dethrone his

parent or relative by the promise of
placing him immediately upon the
throne. The principles of loyalty, and
the respect for hereditary succession,
were thus diluted in their strength,
and weakened in their conservative
effects; and from the constant inter­
course, both commercial and political,
which existed between Scotland and
the other countries of Europe, the
examples of kings resisted or deposed
by their nobles, and monarchs impri­
soned by their children, were not lost
upon the fervid and restless genius of
the Scottish aristocracy. In France,
indeed, the struggle had terminated
under Lewis the Eleventh in favour of
the crown; but the lesson to be de­
rived from it was not the less instruc­
tive to the Scottish nobility. In Flan­
ders and the states of Holland, they
had before them the spectacle of an
independent prince deposed and impri­
soned by his son; and in Germany,
the reign of Frederick the Third, which
was contemporaneous with our James
the Third, presented one constant scene
of struggle and discontent between the
emperor and his nobility, in which
this weak and capricious potentate was
uniformly defeated. 1

In the struggle in Scotland, which
ended by the death of the unfortunate
monarch, it is important to observe,
that whilst the pretext used by the
barons was resistance to royal oppres­
sion and the establishment of liberty,
the middle classes and the great body
of the people took no share. They
did not side with the nobles, whose
efforts on this occasion were entirely
selfish and exclusive. On the contrary,
so far as they were represented by the
commissaries of the burghs who sat in
parliament, they joined the party of
the king and the clergy; by whom
frequent efforts were made to intro-

1 “ Although,” says Eneas Sylvius, in his
address to the electoral princes, “we acknow­
ledge Frederic to be our emperor and king,
his title to such an appellation seems to be in
no little degree precarious; for where is his
power ? You give him just as much obedience
as you choose, and you choose to give him
very little.” “Tantum ei parietis quantum
vultis, vultis enim minimum.” A sentence
which might be applied with equal if not
greater force to Scotland.

1488.]                                               JAMES III.                                                  243

duce a more effectual administration
of justice, and a more constant respect
for the rights of individuals, and the
protection of property. With this
object laws were promulgated, and
alternate threats and exhortations
upon these subjects are to be found in
the record of each successive parlia­
ment; but the offenders continued
refractory, and these offenders, it was
notorious to the whole country, were
the nobility and their dependants.
The very men whose important offices
ought, if conscientiously administered,
to have secured the rights of the great
body of the people,—the justiciars,
chancellors, chamberlains, sheriffs, and
others,—were often their worst oppres­
sors : partial and venal in their admini­
stration of justice; severe in their
exactions of obedience; and decided in
their opposition to every right which
interfered with their own power. Their
interest and their privileges, as feudal
nobles, came into collision with their
duties as servants and officers of the
government; and the consequence was
apparent in the remarkable fact that,
in the struggle between the crown and
the aristocracy, wherever the greater
offices were in the hands of the clergy,
they generally supported the sove­
reign; but wherever they were in­
trusted to the nobility, they almost
uniformly combined against him.

When we find the popular historians
departing so widely from the truth in
the false and partial colouring which
they have thrown over the history of
this reign, we may be permitted to
receive their personal character of the
monarch with considerable suspicion.
According to these writers, James’s
great fault seems to have been a
devotion to studies and accomplish­
ments which, in this rude and warlike
age, were deemed unworthy of his
rank and dignity. He was an enthu­
siast in music, and took delight in
architecture, and the construction of
splendid and noble palaces and build­
ings ; he was fond of rich and gorgeous
dresses, and ready to spend large sums
in the encouragement of the most skil­
ful and curious workers in gold and
steel; and the productions of these

artists, their inlaid armour, massive
gold chains, and jewel-hilted daggers,
were purchased by him at high prices,
whilst they themselves were admitted,
if we believe the same writers, to an
intimacy and friendship with the sove­
reign which disgusted the nobility.
The true account of this was probably
that James received these ingenious
artisans into his palace, where he gave
them employment, and took pleasure
in superintending their labours—an
amusement for which he might have
pleaded the example of some of the
wisest and most popular sovereigns.
But the barons, for whose rude and
unintellectual society the monarch
shewed little predilection, returned
the neglect with which they were un­
wisely treated, by pouring contempt
and ridicule upon the pursuits to which
he was devoted. Cochrane the archi­
tect, who had gained favour with the
king by his genius in an art which, in
its higher branches, is eminently intel­
lectual, was stigmatised as a low mason.
Rogers, whose musical compositions
were fitted to refine and improve the
barbarous taste of the age, and whose
works were long after highly esteemed
in Scotland, was ridiculed as a com­
mon fiddler or buffoon; and other
artists, whose talents had been warmly
encouraged by the sovereign, were
treated with the same indignity. It
would be absurd, however, from the
evidence of such interested witnesses,
to form our opinion of the true char­
acter of his favourites, as they have
been termed, or of the encouragement
which they received from the sovereign.
To the Scottish barons of this age,
Phidias would have been but a stone-
cutter, and Apelles no better than the
artisan who stained their oaken wain­
scot. The error of the king lay, not
so much in the encouragement of in­
genuity and excellence, as in the in­
dolent neglect of those duties and cares
of government, which were in no de­
gree incompatible with his patronage
of the fine arts. Had he possessed the
energy and powerful intellect of his
grandfather—had he devoted the
greater portion of his time to the ad­
ministration of justice, to a friendly

244                                     HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.                       [Chap. V.

intercourse with his feudal nobles, and
a strict and watchful superintendence
of their conduct in the offices intrusted
to them, he might safely have employed
his leisure in any way most agreeable
to him ; but it happened to this prince,
as it has to many a devotee of taste
and sensibility, that a too exquisite
perception of excellence in the fine
arts, and an enthusiastic love for the
studies intimately connected with
them, in exclusion of more ordinary
duties, produced an indolent refine­
ment, which shrunk from common
exertion, and transformed a character
originally full of intellectual and moral
promise, into that of a secluded, but
not unamiable misanthropist. Nothing
can justify the king’s inattention to
the cares of government, and the reck­
lessness with which he shut his ears
to the complaints and remonstrances
of his nobility; but that he was cruel,
unjust, or unforgiving—that he was a
selfish and avaricious voluptuary—or
that he drew down upon himself, by
these dark portions of his character,

the merited execration and vengeance
of his nobles, is a representation founded
on no authentic evidence, and contra­
dicted by the uniform history of his
reign and of his misfortunes.

By his queen, Margaret, daughter
to Christiern, king of Denmark, James
left a family of three children, all of
them sons: James, his successor; a
second son, also named James, created
Marquis of Ormond, and who after­
wards became Archbishop of St An­
drews; and John, earl of Mar, who
died without issue. The king was
eminently handsome; his figure was
tall, athletic, and well proportioned;
his countenance combined intelligence
with sweetness; and his deep brown
complexion and black hair resembled
the hue rather of the warmer climates
of the south, than that which we meet
in colder latitudes. His manners were
dignified, but somewhat cold and dis­
tant, owing to his reserved and secluded
habits of life. He was murdered in
the thirty-fifth year of his age, and the
twenty-eighth of his reign.

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