JAMES V. THE KING OF THE COMMONS—THE FALL
OF THE RED DOUGLASES
All the land was filled with mourning and fear—mourn
ing for the King and all his gallant host, fear of the
English. But in this terrible time, the men who were still
left showed themselves to be both wise and brave. They
sent out a proclamation calling upon all who were fit to
carry arms, to gather to defend their country. They for
bade the women to weep and wail in the streets, for that
did no good, but only increased the misery. They told
them rather to go to the churches and pray for help to
the God of Battles.
The English, however, were not strong enough to
follow up their terrible victory, and their leader sent his
soldiers to their homes. So the time of panic and despair
Then the wise men of Scotland gathered and crowned
their little King, James v. He was only two years old,
and it was amid tears rather than rejoicings, that the
crown was placed upon his head.
At first the Queen-mother, Margaret, was made
Regent. She was clever and beautiful, but she was very
young, being only twenty-four, and she soon married the
young and handsome Earl of Angus, the head of the
Douglas family, and grandson of Bell-the-Cat. This
displeased many of the people. They thought that the
widow of their King humbled herself in marrying a
subject, and they said that now she had no more right to
be Regent. They remembered, too, that she was the sister
of the King of England, and they thought that she might
wish to make friends with England. So they sent to
France to ask John, Duke of Albany, to come to be
This John was the son of that Robert of Albany who
had fled to France after rebelling against his brother,
James III. He was therefore a cousin of the little King,
and, it seemed to most people, the best man to govern
until the King should be old enough to rule himself.
But Albany, having lived all his life in France, was far
more of a Frenchman than a Scotsman. He was accus
tomed to the gay life of the French court, and he was
not very anxious to give up his idle life there, in order to
come to rule over Scotland. But many of his friends
persuaded him that it was his duty. So he came, bring
ing with him a gay train of knights and nobles.
At first Albany seemed to rule well. Soon, however,
it was seen that he was not strong enough for the hard
task of governing such a fierce people as the Scots. He
was neither clever enough nor brave enough, and the
haughty manners of his French friends made both him
and them hated.
The great Scottish nobles formed into different parties,
each quarrelling with another and each struggling for
possession of the King. Henry of England, who was
always plotting to gain power in Scotland, secretly
encouraged these quarrels. So gradually there arose two
parties, one called the French and the other called the
English. Albany was at the head of the French party,
Angus and the Queen-mother at the head of the English.
Amid all this quarrelling, the land was once more
THE FALL OF THE RED DOUGLASES 281
given up to lawlessness. In the Islands, in the High
lands, on the Border—where the greatest and fiercest
families lived, there was bloodshed and robbery. Twice
Albany gave up the task of governing this wild nation ;
twice he returned to it. But the Scottish people grew to
hate him more and more. So a third time he went back
to France, and this time he never returned.
Soon after the Duke of Albany had gone for the last
time, Angus came into power. He took possession of
the young King, and ruled in his name. He filled all the
posts with his own relatives and friends, so that the
Douglases did as they liked. No man dared oppose
them. No man could get justice or redress unless he was
a Douglas or a friend of the Douglases.
When James was sixteen, he was declared old enough
to rule. But although James was supposed to be King,
he was really the Earl‘s prisoner. It was Angus who
ruled the land, and he ruled the King too. The Earl
made him ride through the country, on pretence of
doing justice and punishing thieves and traitors. But
there was little justice done, and there were no greater
thieves and traitors than in the King‘s own train.
King James hated Lord Angus and the Douglases,
and the longer he was kept prisoner, the more he hated
them. Several times the King‘s friends tried to free him,
but always in vain. The Douglases were too strong.
‘Your grace need not think to escape us,’ said one of
them to the King, ‘ if our enemies had hold of you on one
side, and we on the other, we should tear you to pieces
ere we should let you go.’ This speech James neither
forgot nor forgave.
At last the Douglases became so sure of their power,
that they grew careless of guarding their prisoner. One
night they left him alone in Falkland palace with only
282 SCOTLAND’S STORY
the captain of the guard and a few soldiers to watch
As soon as James knew this, he made up his mind to
escape. He was trembling with joy at the thought of
being free, but outwardly, he kept calm. Calling the
head huntsman, he gave orders for a hunting party next
morning. ‘ I shall make a great day of it,’ he said, ‘ so
tell all the gentlemen round about who have speedy dogs,
to be ready by four o‘clock in the morning.’
Having arranged everything with the huntsman, James
called for his supper, ‘ for,’ he said, ‘ I want to go early to
bed so that I can have a good sleep before the morning.
Go you to bed too,’ he added to the captain, ‘ for you will
have good hunting tomorrow and must be up early.’
Then the captain, thinking all was safe, set the watch
and went to bed.
But the King was neither in bed nor asleep. Im
patiently he waited and listened until all was quiet within
the palace. Then when the last sound had ceased and all
were asleep, he awakened a little page whom he might
trust. ‘Go quietly to Jockie Hunt the stable boy,’ he
said, ‘ ask him for a suit of clothes, and tell him to saddle
The page did as he was bid. Jockie, who was the
King‘s friend, had long been willing to help him, and was
only waiting for an opportunity which had now come.
Soon, dressed like a stable lad, and mounted upon a swift
horse, the King passed out of the palace gates with Jockie
and his page. The guards let them pass. It was nothing
unusual for servants to be sent on errands even at a late
hour, and the guards knew too that preparations for a
great hunt next day were afoot. So the three rode out
without any questions being asked.
Once beyond the palace gates, the King set spurs to
THE FALL OF THE RED DOUGLASES 288
his horse and rode hard. Fast as the good horse galloped,
it seemed but slow to the impatient King. The cool
night air whistled past, the trees rustled and whispered,
startled night birds flew across the path as the three
galloped along, every stride bringing them nearer and
nearer to freedom.
At last, just as day began to break, they thundered
over Stirling Bridge. ‘ Bar the gates,’ cried James to the
warder, ‘ let no man pass as you value your life.’ Then
weary but joyful he rode slowly on to the castle, where
friends awaited him.
Over the drawbridge and under the heavy portcullis
he rode. With tired, happy eyes, he watched the bridge
rise and the heavy gate fall. Kneeling, the Governor
presented him with the keys, while the soldiers shouted
‘ God save your Majesty.’ He was King at last
Worn out, but happy, James went to bed with the
keys of the castle safe under his pillow.
Meanwhile, late that night George Douglas, the
brother of the Earl, had returned to Falkland Palace.
‘ Where is the King ? ‘ he asked of the watchmen
‘ His Majesty is asleep,’ was the reply. ‘ He intends
to go hunting tomorrow at dawn, so has gone early to rest.’
Douglas, hearing this, and believing all to be safe,
went to bed also. But towards morning he was awakened
by a loud knocking at the door. It was hastily opened.
‘ Where is the King ? ‘ asked a man who stood there.
‘He is in bed, asleep,’ replied Douglas, much
‘ No, no,’ replied the man, ‘ this night he crossed over
Stirling Bridge. I am sure it was he that I saw.’
At that Douglas sprang from his bed, and ran to the
King‘s door. It was locked. Again and again he
knocked but could get no answer. Then putting his
284 SCOTLAND’S STORY
shoulder against it, he burst the lock and rushed into the
room. It was empty. The window was wide open. The
bed had not been slept in, and upon it lay the fine clothes
which the King had thrown off when he dressed himself
in Jockie‘s shabby suit.
‘ Treason ! treason ! ‘ shouted Douglas, ‘ the King is
gone.’ Soon the whole palace was astir. High and low
they hunted, but the King could not be found. ‘You
shall have good hunting in the morning,’ the King had
said to the captain. Now he knew the meaning of the
Post haste a messenger was sent to the Earl with the
news. Mad with anger, he hurried back to Falkland, and
gathering their followers, the two brothers set out for
But as they rode, a herald came galloping towards
them. When he saw the Douglases he halted. Blowing
his trumpet, he unfolded a paper and in a loud voice he
read the King‘s proclamation. This proclamation forbade
the Earl of Angus or any of his kin or friends, to come
within the space of six miles of the King, on pain of
Having listened to the King‘s command, the Douglases
consulted together as to what had best be done. ‘ Do not
heed this fellow. Let us ride forward,’ said one. But
the Earl and his brother decided that it would be wiser
to obey the King. So turning their horses, they rode
sadly away. Their power was broken.
Soon afterwards James called a Parliament, and one
of his first acts was to send Angus and all his family into
exile. ‘ For I avow that Scotland cannot hold us both,’
he said. So the Red Douglases fell as the Black Douglases
had fallen, and never more during the reign of James v.
did a Douglas have power in Scotland.
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