Scotland's History, Legends, Wildlife and Hunting Practices...because the past lives in us and guides our footsteps.



James l was killed in 1437 a.d., and his son, who was
also called James, was then only six years old. He was,
however, crowned at once, for although some of the nobles
had hated James I., he had been loved by most of the
people, and they willingly accepted his little son as their

Sir Robert Graham had thought and hoped that the
people would bless him, and love him for having rid them
of a cruel tyrant. He soon found out his mistake. The
people cursed him for his deed. Filled with terrible rage
and hatred, they hunted him and those who had helped
him, till in little more than a month, every man of them
was taken prisoner. They were all put to death in most
horrible and cruel ways. However bad their crime had
been, we cannot help shuddering at the terrible punish­
ments which fell upon the murderers. And Graham,
instead of being remembered with love, was remembered
with hate.

Robert Graham,
That slew our King,
God give him shame,’

sang the common people.

As James II. was such a little boy, of course he could


238                    SCOTLAND’S STORY

not himself rule. So several of the great nobles were
chosen to rule instead.

These powerful men were jealous of each other, and
quarrelled, each trying to be greater than the other, and
each trying to get possession of the King.

The greatest of all the lords was Earl Douglas. Ever
since the days of the good Lord James, the Douglas
family had been growing more and more powerful. Now
they were the greatest and proudest nobles in the land,
and they kept state like princes. Indeed, their houses
were far more splendid, and their servants far more
numerous than the King’s. Within their own lands,
which were large and wide, they did as they liked. When
the Earl Douglas rode abroad, he was attended by a
thousand knights and soldiers. He held a Parliament,
made knights, and waged war, as if he were a king.
What he desired he took. No man was strong enough
to stand against him, and all the wild young men of the
land, seeking for adventure, flocked to join the Douglas

This powerful earl was now made Governor of the
kingdom. He died, however, in about a year, and was
succeeded in his earldom by his son William. William
was only seventeen, but he was even more proud and
grand than his father had been.

At first the Queen-mother, as Queen Jane was now
called, lived with her little son the King in Edinburgh
castle. But soon she began to be afraid of Sir William
Crichton, who was Chancellor of the kingdom and
Governor of the castle, and she feared that he meant to
do some evil to the King. So she pretended that she
wanted to go on a pilgrimage, and, hiding James in one
of her boxes, she ran away with him to Stirling castle.

The Governor of Stirling, who was Sir William


Crichton’s rival, was greatly pleased to see the Queen
and her little son, for now, having possession of the King,
he was the more powerful.

For about two years the Queen-mother and her son
lived in Stirling, and after the death of Archibald, Earl
of Douglas, Sir Alexander Livingstone, the Governor of
Stirling, was made Governor of the kingdom. And he,
having the King in his power, ruled as he liked, taking
counsel of neither lord nor baron. This made Sir William
Crichton very angry, and he longed to get possession of
the King once more. So one dark night, with about a
hundred armed men he took his way to Stirling, and
there near the castle-walls he lay in hiding, hoping to
capture the King when he came out to ride in the

As Sir William had expected, the King came out very
early in the morning, accompanied only by a few horse­
men. James rode gaily along, and before he knew what
was happening, he found himself surrounded by armed
men. Very humbly and reverently they all bowed before
the King, who was greatly astonished at their sudden

Then Sir William came forward and spoke to James
in a gentle, loving manner. ‘ I pray your Majesty,’ he
said, pointing to the gates of Stirling, ‘ let me deliver you
out of that prison. The Governor wickedly keeps you
there to the hurt of your kingdom. Come with me to
Edinburgh, or to any part of Scotland that you please,
and I will keep you safe from all dangers, and from the
power of those who would do you hurt. For it becomes
a Prince to live freely, governing others, and not subject
to any vassal‘s rule or correction I speak for those who
wish you well.’

As Sir William spoke the King began to smile. He

240                    SCOTLAND’S STORY

knew that in Stirling castle he could not do as he liked.
Both his mother and the Governor often said to him,
‘You must do this,’ or ‘You must do that,’ and he
thought how nice it would be to do just as he liked.
So he smiled. And seeing him smile, Sir William knew
that he had got what he wanted. He knew that the
King was willing to go with him. Laying hold of his
bridle, he turned his horse’s head towards Edinburgh.
Then some of the King’s servants and followers, who had
come out to ride with him, came forward and tried to
persuade him not to go with Sir William.

But the Governor’s eldest son, who was also with
them, bade them be silent. ‘ It is vain,’ he said, ‘ for us
to strive with so many armed men. The more so as they
mean no harm to the King. It is better to suffer this
defeat than to attempt what is beyond our power.’ So
the King was led away towards Edinburgh, and his
servants turned back to Stirling with the news.

The Governor was not at Stirling at this time, but as
soon as he heard of what had happened, he mounted upon
his horse and came galloping back as fast as he could.
He was angry with himself for not having kept the King
more safely. He was angry with his friends, because he
felt sure that some of them must have been in league
with Sir William, and helped him to capture the King.
But this he was determined upon, that having been
powerful he meant to continue being powerful. Yet he
felt now that he was not strong enough to stand alone,
and he was undecided what to do. ‘ Shall I join with the
Douglas against Sir William,’ he asked himself, ‘ or shall
I make friends with Sir William and help him to put
down the Douglas ? ’

In the end he made up his mind to make friends with
Sir William. So they had a meeting at Edinburgh and


pretended to forgive all the evil they had done to one

Soon after this a Parliament was called at Edinburgh.
There, many complaints were sent from all sides of how
the whole land was filled with murder and war, and how
there was no peace nor rest for any man.

That the pride and lawlessness of the Douglas were
to blame for much of this, was certain. Crichton and
Livingstone therefore made up their minds to rid the
country of him.

He was so great and powerful that they dared not
take him by force. So they wrote a kind letter to him.
In this letter they told him in many fair words that his
help was needed to rule the country, and they begged
him to come to Edinburgh to see the King.

The Earl was pleased with this letter, and suspecting
no treachery, rode to Edinburgh with his young brother
David and a great company of followers. As they neared
the city some of his knights began to suspect that all was
not fair and honest. So they begged the Earl to turn
back. But although the Earl was proud and haughty,
he was chivalrous and noble. ‘ Do not speak to me of
treachery,’ he said. ‘ The Chancellor has treated me kindly.
I will hear no evil of him.’

So they rode on, but the knights grew ever more and
more uneasy, and at last even David begged his brother
to turn back.

Then the young Earl was angry. He spoke sharply
to his brother, telling him that no great noble should pay
heed to tale­bearing, and he commanded that no man in
his company should again speak such words.

Then setting spurs to his horse the Earl galloped faster
than before towards Edinburgh, followed sadly by his
knights, who dared speak no more words of warning.

242                    SCOTLAND’S STORY

The Earl and his brother were received with great joy.
For a few days there was feasting and merrymaking.
The King was delighted with his new companions. He
was about ten years old now, and he was very tired of
having only grave, stern men about him. The Earl was
young, and handsome, and gay, and he had such splendid
stories of adventure to tell that the King grew to love

But while the Douglas feasted and played with the
King, his enemies were making ready.

One day the Governor managed to send most of
the Earl‘s soldiers out of Edinburgh. That night there
was a great feast. All the most delightful dishes that
could be thought of were prepared for the two young
nobles. But when the dinner was over, when the
last dish had been carried away, a great black bull‘s
head was brought in upon a silver dish and placed
before the Earl. The black bull‘s head was the sign of

Too late the Earl remembered the warning of his
friends. Too late he saw that the Governor and the
Chancellor meant him evil. He and his brother started
up from the table and drew their swords. But armed
men rushed in from every side. There was no escape.
They were soon fast bound hand and foot.

Meanwhile the King wept and clung to them. He
fell upon his knees before the Chancellor, and with tears
and sobs begged him to save his new friends. But the
Chancellor answered sternly, ‘ Earl Douglas is your
enemy. He is a traitor to his country. So long as
he has life, the land can have neither rest nor peace. He
must die.’

So the two boys were hurried away to the courtyard
of the castle, and there their heads were cut off.


This was afterwards called the Black Dinner. It was
Indeed a black dinner for the Douglases.

Edinburgh castle, town and tower,
God grant you sink for sin ;
And that even fo
r the black dinner
Earl Douglas got therein

But first, if you want to come back to Scotland's History and Legends again, just add to your bookmarks or favorites now! Then you'll find it easy!

Also, please consider sharing our Scottish History and Legends website with your online friends.

Our Privacy Policy can be found at
Copyright © 2000-present Donald Urquhart. All Rights Reserved. Designated trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners. Use of this Web site constitutes acceptance of our legal disclaimer.