JAMES V. THE KING OF THE COMMONS—HIS LAST DAYS
During the whole of the reign of James v., his uncle,
Henry, the King of England, tried to interfere with
Scottish affairs. He kept spies in Scotland, who told
him everything that took place there. But neither
James, nor the people, were willing to submit to Henry’s
You remember that in the old days all Christian
people belonged to one Church. But after a time, some
people disagreed with the Pope, and began to form a new
Church. These people were called Reformers, or Protest
ants, and as far back as the time of Regent Albany, a
Protestant martyr had died in Scotland.
Henry viii. did not like this new religion, but he had
quarrelled with the Pope, so he told the people of England,
that they must no longer look to the Pope as head of the
Church, but to their King. Having himself quarrelled
with the Pope, and being always anxious to mix himself
up in Scottish matters, King Henry tried to make his
nephew, King James, also quarrel with him. He proposed
to meet with King James at York, so that they might
talk the matter over, and although James had many
reasons for not wishing to leave the Romish Church, he
agreed to come, for neither did he wish, at that time,
to have war with England. And Henry was so hot
tempered, that to refuse might have meant war.
JAMES V., HIS LAST DAYS 298
In great state Henry travelled to York, and for six
days he waited there for James. But James never came.
The fact was, his wise men would not let him go.
They did not trust King Henry, and they were afraid of
what he might do to their King.
After waiting for six days, Henry turned home
again, furiously angry, and at once declared war against
Scotland. He renewed the old and almost forgotten
claim of over-lordship, and vowed to make himself King
Henry gathered an army and marched northward.
James, too, gathered an army and marched to meet the
English. He had reached the Border, when news was
brought that the English army had dispersed. In the
heat of his passion, Henry had not laid his plans well.
The weather was cold and wet, for it was in the middle
of November. There was nothing in all the land for
either man or horse to eat, so he was obliged to send them
As soon as the Scots nobles heard that the English
had turned back, they too, resolved to go home. They
had gathered to protect Scotland, not to invade England.
Scotland was no longer in danger, so they would not
But James now wanted to fight, and he was very
angry with the nobles when they said they would not.
He implored, he threatened, all in vain. They would not
go on. So at last, angry and disappointed, he too broke
up his army, and went back to Edinburgh.
But James could not give up his desire to fight his
uncle, and making great efforts, he again gathered a small
army and sent it into England. This army crossed the
Border at a place on the west, called the Solway Moss.
James had secretly decided to make leader of the army
294 SCOTLANDS STORY
a favourite of his, called Oliver Sinclair. So as soon as
they had entered England, Oliver, standing upon a shield
raised upon the shoulders of four strong men, read aloud
the King’s letter, or commission as it was called, bidding
the soldiers accept him as their leader.
Murmurs, loud and fierce, broke from the soldiers as
they listened. The captains, leaving their posts, gathered
to talk it over. All discipline and order were at an end.
The whole army was thrown into angry confusion.
Unfortunately, at this moment a small body of English
horse drew near. At once the English leader saw that
the Scots were in disorder. What the reason was they
cared not. It was an opportunity not to be lost, and
with levelled lances they dashed forward.
The Scots were utterly taken by surprise. With
scarce an attempt to fight, they fled. Not knowing the
country, many were caught in the Solway Moss, or
marshy ground, and died there. Others were taken
prisoner. It was not a battle, but a rout
The news filled James with despair. He was a
crushed and broken King. Everything of late had gone
wrong. His two sons had died, his nobles, he thought,
had wronged and forsaken him. Now his army was
shattered without striking a blow. For hours he sat
alone, sullen and brooding. Once he had been merry
and laughter-loving, now he would hardly utter a word.
The year was drawing to a close. ‘ Where will you
spend Christmas?’ asked his courtiers and servants, ‘so
that we may make preparations.’
‘ Choose you the place,’ he answered sadly, ‘ for I care
not. But this I can tell you, that before Christmas day
ye shall be masterless, and Scotland without a King.’
At last James became so ill that he would neither eat
nor drink, but lay upon his bed, scarcely speaking.
JAMES V., HIS LAST DAYS 295
As he lay thus, word was brought to him that a little
girl baby had been born to him. But even that could
give him no joy. ‘ Is that so ? ’ he said with a sigh. ‘ It
came with a lass, and it will go with a lass.’ This he
said, meaning that the crown had come to the Stewart
family through a woman, Marjorie, the daughter of Robert
the Bruce, who you remember married Walter the High
Steward. Their son was Robert II., the first of the
Stewart Kings. James now thought that with his little
daughter the crown would pass away from the Stewart
family. But it did not.
A few days after this, on the fourteenth of December
1542 a.d., King James v. died. He died because his
heart was broken, and he did not care to live. He was
only thirty years old. He had been stern, and perhaps
cruel, to the nobles, and had made many enemies among
them. But the people loved him. To the poor, his
palace gates were ever open. No one in poverty or
distress ever came to him in vain, so that he was called
the King of the Commons. During his reign, he had
sailed all round his kingdom, going even farther than his
father had done. He had made wise laws, he had
encouraged trade and learning, and in every way tried to
be a good King.
But first, if you want to come back to Scotland's History and Legends again, just add www.historyandlegends.com 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.
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.