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SCOTLAND, 1328-1488


The treaty of Northampton (1328) surrendered the Plantagenet claim to the suzerainty of Scotland. But the tender years of Bruce’s son David II (1329-71) and an opportune revival of the Balliol candidature afforded occasion for provocation which English policy was willing to exploit. The circumstances were largely of Bruce’s making. After Bannockburn he declared forfeiture upon many between whom and himself Red Cornyn’s murder raised a blood-feud. The treaty of 1328 provided for the restitution of some thus dealt with. But its stipulations were not fulfilled, and the “disinherited” set their hopes of restoration upon foreign arms. Among the disaffected were Henry de Beaumont, whose wife was niece and heiress of John Cornyn, seventh Earl of Buchan, Gilbert Umfraville, also a Cornyn by maternal descent, who claimed the earldom of Angus of which his father had been deprived, and the forfeited Earl of Atholl, whom marriage connected with the same stock. A Balliol restoration promised to promote their own, and, with Edward III’s secret encouragement, Balliol having died in 1313, his eldest son Edward returned to England from France in 1330. Two years later, accompanied by the “disinherited,” he landed in Fifeshire (1332), demanding “the lands which are our own by right,” dispersed a force under the incompetent Regent Mar at Dupplin Moor, and mastered Perth. In September he was crowned at Scone as “Edward I”. But before the end of the year he was over the Border, expelled by as sudden a turn of fortune as won his first success. Like his father, he had bartered Scotland’s independence for English support, and with English auxiliaries returned in 1333 to make another bid for the throne. Defeat at Halidon Hill, near Berwick, drove David Bruce to France for security, and Edward III exacted from his protege renewed acknowledgment of his suzerainty, along with the surrender of Berwick and Lothian (1334). Bruce’s work was undone. But Balliol’s authority depended wholly on his suzerain’s aid, and Edward III’s ambition inconveniently veered to another purpose. In October 1337 he published his claim to the throne of France. Scotland consequently was spared; her English-held strongholds were slowly recovered; Balliol was recalled to England, and in 1341 David was again among his people. Bound to France by ties of hospitality, he was now invited to strike a blow on her behalf. Defeated at Neville’s Cross (1346), he was carried into captivity, recovering his liberty eleven years later (1357) upon an undertaking to pay 100,000 marks in ten annual payments. By a subsequent agreement the rigorous terms were somewhat abated. But when David died in 1371 Scotland was still deep in debt to England, in whose hands Annandale, Berwick, Roxburgh, and Lochmaben also remained. A century passed before she was expelled from Scottish soil.

Unworthy in other aspects, David’s reign may be counted the cradle of vernacular Scottish literature. Among his subjects were John Barbour, archdeacon of Aberdeen, author of The Brus, an epic of David’s heroic father, and Andrew of Wyntoun, a canon regular of St Serfs, whose metrical Original Chronicle records history from the Creation to the accession of James I in 1406. Contemporaries of Chaucer, their remoteness from the Renaissance spirit reveals the relative backwardness of Scottish culture in a period calculated to brace rather than refine the national character. On the other hand, the Bruce reigns placed Scotland on the path of constitutional progress. Already in 1291 the voice of the Crown’s lesser vassals had been heard in a national crisis, though an organised system of county representation was not planned till the reign of James I. Unlike England, where the development of borough and county membership was simultaneous, the Scottish burghs preceded the counties as an established estate in Parliament. Bruce’s Parliament at Cambuskenneth in 1326 must be counted their earliest association with the Estates. Needing money to finance a costly and persisting warfare, his summons of the burghs was not disinterested. But, as with the English Third Estate, the date of their first appearance may not be regarded as the beginning of an uninterrupted attendance. In the course of the following hundred and thirty years they frequently were not summoned; only after 1424 their attendance seems to have been regular. The reign of David II also supplies another detail of constitutional development. At the Scone Parliament in 1367 the majority returned home causa autumpni, leaving a commission to watch the interests of their constituencies. At Perth also, in 1369, propter importunitatem et caristiam temporis, the majority departed, leaving the remainder to hold the Parliament. A few months later the practice was repeated. Alleging the impropriety of divulging matters of State to the whole body, a commission was set up, which, in 1424, was constituted specifically to consider “articles” of business submitted by the Crown. Thenceforward, till the seventeenth century, the Committee (or Lords) of the Articles virtually usurped the deliberative functions of Parliament. Whether it was the natural outcome of circumstances, or the convenient device of the Crown or another dominant interest, or modelled on French precedents1, the Committee made the Scottish Parliament the pliable instrument of the Crown. From a similar committee, appointed specially to deal with litigation (ad deliberandum super iudiciis contradictis), developed the judicatory which at a later time became the Court of Session. Still, the circumstances of the two reigns put in the hands of Parliament powers which considerably curtailed the sovereign’s prerogative—regulation of the coinage and currency, determination of war and peace, and the supervision of executive acts.

In David’s reign also the inferior clergy had direct representation in Parliament, though there is no appearance of such a praemunientes clause as Edward I addressed to the English bishops. At the Scone Parliament in 1367, besides the bishops and their proctors, priors, and abbots, certain of the lower clergy were placed upon the commission ad parliamentum tenendum. In 1369 and 1370 a similar course was followed, while in the latter Parliament a few inferior clergy (pauci de inferioribus cleri) were condemned for absence per contumaciam, a term which predicates a special summons. Throughout the fifteenth century the number of inferior clergy present was always small, in some degree for the practical reasons that deterred their secular colleagues. But a few ordinarily sat upon the Parliamentary committees, while the association of the Spiritual Estate with Parliament explains its frequent trespasses upon the domain of ecclesiastical authority. During a period of pestilence in 1456, the Estates directed the bishops to organise open-air processions in their dioceses, and to grant indulgences to the clergy conducting them. Other notable examples are Parliament’s attempts to restrict the immunities of criminous clerks, curtail the abuse of sanctuary, and oppose the system of papal provisions.

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries France and Scotland both suffered interruptions of a hitherto unbroken male succession in the reigning house. The experiences of 1292 and 1306 were repeated upon David II’s death in 1371. His heir was his nephew Robert Stewart, son of his half-sister Marjorie (ob. 1316) and Walter the High Steward (ob. 1327). Of Breton stock, the Stewarts were established in Shropshire early in the twelfth century and thence migrated to Scotland under David I’s patronage. Walter FitzAlan (ob. 1177), first of the Scottish line, received estates in Kyle and Renfrew and the High Stewardship of the kingdom, a dignity which became hereditary till a higher superseded it; from it the family took its name. Robert, sixth in descent from Walter FitzAlan, was the first of a line of sovereigns who reigned, but rarely ruled, for more than 300 years. In a period when a strong hand was needed to curb feudal arrogance, it was Scotland’s misfortune that, with few exceptions, the Stewarts were ill-equipped to accomplish their task. From 1371 onwards to 1488 the arresting fact in Scottish history is the challenge offered, especially by the house of Douglas, to the new dynasty. Supported by a private competence relatively trivial, the Stewarts were hard put to it to hold their own.

When Robert II (1371-90) received the crown, the lordship of Douglas had recently (1358) been raised to an earldom. Faithful service to Bruce brought it much property in Moffatdale, Jedburgh, Ettrick Forest, Lauderdale, Teviotdale, and Eskdale, while the Wardenship of the East Marches and Justiciarship below the Forth, augmenting its private jurisdiction, made its authority almost royal in a situation whose proximity to England afforded opportunities for spectacular service which constantly exalted it in popular estimation. William, first Earl of Douglas, significantly contested the succession to the throne with the first Stewart, and no less than six children of the first and third earls married into the royal house. James, second Earl of Douglas (ob. 1388), husband of Robert Il's daughter Isabella, placed his name upon the pinnacle of popular regard at Otterburn, the one heroic event of the first Stewart reign. Almost upon its second anniversary Robert II laid down his undistinguished sceptre.

His successor, Robert III (1390-1406), inherited his father’s character and, like him, came past middle age to the throne. Called John at the font, the unhappy associations of this name clung to him persistently. Crippled, irresolute, he stands in the background in turbulent years whose chief disturbers were his own family. The wanton burning of Elgin Cathedral (1390) was the act of his brother, fittingly named “Wolf of Badenoch,” whose clumsy effigy today is incongruously housed in Dunkeld Cathedral. Such acts as those that made his nephew Alexander Earl of Mar, and brought the earldom of Ross to the Stewarts, display a lawless spirit in the royal house which called for Parliament’s reproof in 1397. The king’s eldest son, David, Duke of Rothesay, dissolute and reckless, provoked a claim to suzerainty by the newly established house of Lancaster, and in 1400 a King of England for the last time campaigned on Scottish soil. Two years later Archibald, fourth Earl of Douglas (ob. 1424), Robert’s son-in-law, retaliating, was defeated on Homildon Hill, and, supporting Hotspur’s blusterous challenge at Shrewsbury (1403), passed into Henry IV’s custody till 1408. Meanwhile, after an act of characteristic violence, Rothesay died (1402) in confinement, probably at the instigation of his uncle Robert, Duke of Albany. Anxious to preserve his heir, James, a boy of twelve, the king sent the prince to France. Off Flamborough Head he was intercepted by English privateers, who conducted their prize to London (March 1406). The disaster broke Robert’s declining spirit.

Till his death in 1420, little concerned to procure his nephew’s release, Albany ruled as Regent in his name, and by a characteristic act of self-seeking provoked an enemy in a new quarter. For a century and a half the allegiance of the Western Isles to the Scottish Crown had been perfunctory. John of the Isles (ob. 1387), balancing his course between Bruce and Balliol, was with difficulty brought to an oath of fealty. Donald his son (ob. 1423) flung down the gage at Harlaw. Alexander, Donald’s successor (0b. 1449), was twice imprisoned as a rebel. John, last Lord of the Isles (0b.1503), suffered attainder. The record ranks the Macdonalds of the Isles with the Douglas as types of the feudal license of their generation. Donald’s quarrel with Albany was provoked by the duke’s dealing with the earldom of Ross, which devolved in 1402 on the late earl’s heiress Euphemia, Albany’s grand-daughter. Euphemia was induced to take the veil and resign the dignity to her uncle, Albany’s son, to the prejudice of her legal heir, Mary, wife of Donald of the Isles. Asserting his wife’s claim, Donald demanded the earldom, and, offering England his “allegiance and amity,” led his caterans to defeat at Harlaw (1411) a few miles from Aberdeen.

Otherwise Albany’s regency was marked by events which reveal the stirring of intellectual forces elsewhere at work in Europe. The voices of Hus and Wyclif already echoed in Scotland, where, in 1407, James Resby, an English Wyclifite, was burnt for challenging the Pope’s authority. A quarter of a century later (1433) Paul Crawar, a Bohemian, testified at the stake for similar heterodoxy. Equally significant is the foundation of the first Scottish university. The apparatus of learning as yet was confined to the cathedrals and monasteries, whose libraries, as, for instance, those of Aberdeen and Glasgow, contained the works of the Fathers, the treatises of the schoolmen, Latin translations of Aristotle, and remains of pagan antiquity. With meagre opportunities at home, Scottish students sought instruction elsewhere. Oxford and Cambridge in the infrequent intervals of peace received them in their halls. And when that avenue to learning closed, the Ancient League opportunely invited them to France. In 1326 a Scots College, restricted at first to natives of Moray, was founded at Paris. But the zeal for learning, as well as the need for an educated clergy competent to confound heresy, demanded a university on Scottish soil. In 1413 Pope Benedict XIII sanctioned a studium generale at St Andrews. Forty years later (1451) a second was established at Glasgow, and, after a similar interval, a third was founded (1495) at Aberdeen. In all three the university was the daughter of the Church whose interests it was designed to serve.

Albany’s son Murdoch, his successor as Regent, was more sensitive than his father to the national dishonour involved in the sovereign’s prolonged captivity, and the death of Henry V in 1422 facilitated an agreement. In 1423 “perpetual peace” was covenanted between the two realms, Scottish men-at-arms were recalled from French service, and James obtained his release. Delaying his return to marry Lady Joan Beaufort, the “milk-white dove” of the King’s Quair, he arrived in Scotland in the spring of 1424 and took up his heavy task. Succeeding two sovereigns of indifferent health and vitality, James came to the throne, at the age of thirty, in full physical vigour. At peace with England, save for a vain effort to recover Roxburgh (1436), his purpose bent unrelaxingly to one absorbing task. “Let God but grant me life” he is said to have promised, “and there shall not be a spot in my kingdom where the key doth not keep the castle and the bracken the cow”. The crises through which the kingdom recently had passed—the war with England, his own minority and captivity, and the accession of a new dynasty undistinguished as yet by ability or public service—had permitted the Crown to be overshadowed by its feudatories, whose addiction to private vendettas, contempt of royal authority, and subordination of national to selfish interests, constituted a serious menace to the public welfare. James held it his mission to restore to the Crown the authority others had usurped, and if he was little scrupulous in the means he employed, the circumstances called for drastic action.

James’ activity was tireless, his vengeance unrelaxing. Within two months of his return he seized Murdoch’s eldest son Walter, his brother-in-law Malcolm Fleming of Cumbernauld, and Thomas Boyd the younger of Kilmarnock, one of an aspiring family. Early in 1425 he laid hands on Murdoch’s father-in-law, the aged Earl of Lennox, and arrested Murdoch himself, his wife, and their younger son Alexander. If their fate was ever in doubt, Murdoch’s remaining son James More decided it. Descending upon Dumbarton, he gave the place to the flames and slew the garrison. James hesitated no longer: in May Murdoch’s eldest son was executed at Stirling; Murdoch, his son Alexander, and his father-in-law Lennox met the same fate. The ruin of the house of Albany requited James’ long captivity and Rothesay’s death. Till the end of his reign James retained the Lennox earldom. He dealt as summarily with three other fiefs. On the plea that it was a male fee he attached the earldom of Stratheam and sent its holder to England as a hostage for the royal ransom. The Earl of March, whose father had leagued with England in the late reign, suffered forfeiture. Putting aside the legal heir, James also seized the earldom of Mar. As summarily he dealt with Alexander of the Isles, son of Donald of Harlaw, who, with other chiefs, was seized and imprisoned. But though the most formidable of his associates went to the block, Alexander was spared, and in 1429 was again in arms, till, marching upon the lowlands, he was intercepted and made submission. Of the highlands, as of the lowlands, James was the master.

As tireless was the king’s legislative activity. Parliament empowered him to summon his vassals to produce their charters and justify possession of their lands, forbade pursuit of private vendettas and the maintenance of excessive feudal retinues, and secured the Customs to the Crown for a “living.” His enactments reveal James’ close observation. He prescribes the arms and armour at military musters, instructs all males above twelve years to “have usage of archery,” recommends the provision of practice grounds for the purpose conveniently “near paroche kirks”, proscribes the competing game of football under penalty of fine, instructs in the sowing of peas and beans, imposes penalties on negligent farmers entertaining destructive rooks “biggand in treis”, insists upon honest sporting tackle for the lure of salmon, orders vigorous hunting of wolves, and threatens poachers and unlawful slayers of the red deer. He regulates the costume of his lieges and the price of their victuals, devises precautions against the outbreak of fire, regulates weights, measures, and the coinage, ordains an inquisition of idle men, provides for hospitals, and requires ale and wine houses to close on the stroke of nine.

James was as masterful in his relations with the Church. The first act of his first Parliament assured its accustomed liberties and privileges, and in 1425 the law was enacted under which Paul Crawar suffered. James was as firm with the orthodox as with the heretic. He admonished the Church to use its wealth in the service of religion, bade the monastic fraternities put their houses in order, and gave them an example in his Carthusian foundation at Perth, the only house of that rule in Scotland. He instructed the ecclesiastical synod to modify the procedure of the Church courts, and involved himself in a dispute with the Papacy by his fearless invasion of the spiritual province. At the Council of Basle he was represented in the effort to uphold the liberties of Christendom against papal usurpation. In the constitutional development of the kingdom his reign holds a place no less important. From an early period freeholders of the Crown below baronial rank had the right to attend Parliament. In fact, they did so either perfunctorily or not at all. To give the Crown the support it needed against its baronage, James desired to establish the country lairds in Parliament alongside the burgesses. To that end, by an act of 1428, he permitted their order in every sheriffdom to send up two1 or more of their number competent to speak in their behalf. But he failed to overcome the indifference of the county gentry, and more than a century passed before county representation was satisfactorily regulated. As clearly grounded upon his English experience was James1 injunction to the county freeholders to elect “a common speaker of Parliament” competent to “propone all and sundry needs and causes pertaining to the Commons in the Parliament or General Council”. The innovation failed to commend itself and was not pressed.

The tragedy that cut short James’ strenuous career was invited partly by his rapacity, partly by the ambition of his kinsmen, descendants of his grandfather Robert II’s second marriage with Euphemia Ross, of whom James’ half-uncle Walter Earl of Atholl, only surviving son of their union, was head and representative. James himself was descended from Robert II’s first marriage with Elizabeth Mure, which, though legalised by papal licence, remained canonically irregular on grounds of consanguinity, of the previous contraction of Elizabeth to another spouse, and of her irregular cohabitation with Robert before matrimony. Atholl’s hopes of succession, advantaged by James1 destruction of the house of Albany, were further encouraged by the fact that James’ heir was not born till 1430, after six years of wedlock, and was still an infant when his father’s murder gave him the throne. The active contrivers of that deed were Sir Robert Stewart, Atholl’s grandson, whom James had admitted to his household, perhaps with an eye to naming him heir-apparent should his own marriage remain barren, and Sir Robert Graham, whom he had arrested and released upon his return to Scotland, a man whom his brother’s marriage attached to Atholl, and whom James’ treatment of Strathearn provoked. Early in 1437 Parliament was summoned to Perth to receive a papal legate. The castle not being in repair, James quartered the court upon the Black Friars outside the city. On the night of 20 or 21 February, Stewart, in service as Chamberlain, admitted Graham and a band of Atholl’s retainers. James was about to retire, when a sound of tumult warned him of danger. Seeking to bar the door of his apartment, he found the bolt withdrawn, and, raising a flag in the stone floor, dropped to a vault below. Graham, with others, entering the hall, found it empty of all but the queen and her women. But a noise from below revealed the king’s hiding-place, and there the assassins did their work.

Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, afterwards Pope Pius II, who visited Scotland in James’ reign, found it a rugged, inhospitable land, where the winter sun “illuminates the earth little more than three hours.” The towns were open and their houses for the most part constructed without lime. In the country the roofs were of turf and the doors of ox-hide. Bread was a luxury, flesh and fish the principal diet of the poor. The crops were meagre and the country ill-supplied with timber. Hides, wool, salted fish, and pearls were exported to Flanders, and the native oysters were superior to those fished in English waters. The common people lacked refinement, and their women, though comely, were not distinguished for chastity. Scotland appeared to Piccolomini “a barren wilderness,” and not until he reached Newcastle on his southward journey did he “once more behold civilisation.” Froissart, who visited the country in David II’s reign, tells a similar story: Edinburgh could not vie even with Tournai or Valenciennes. The French who campaigned in the country declared they had never known till then the meaning of poverty and hard living. On the other hand, Pedro de Ayala, who visited Scotland c. 1500, found populous towns and villages, hewn stone houses, glass windows, excellent doors, good furniture, a prosperous trade in salmon, herring, and dried fish, and a considerable and growing public revenue. Scotland’s economic development in and after James I’s reign was considerable.

From the accession of James I to that of Charles I in 1625, a period of two hundred years, every sovereign came to the throne as a minor. James I’s English widow was the first of a succession of queen-mothers left to guard a juvenile king, a circumstance of which the baronage took advantage. In no other country had their order so prolonged an opportunity to exhibit the evils of a feudal society. James II’s reign (1437-60) passed in circumstances with which Scotland was to become familiar. His mother, after her second marriage to Sir James Stewart, Knight of Lorn, vanishes out of Scotland’s story, leaving James in the control of minor notables—Sir William Crichton and Sir Alexander Livingstone of Callendar, both of whom had enjoyed his father’s favour. In collusion the two planned a crime which, whether inspired by fear or by the traditions of their dead master’s policy, put a feud between Douglas and Stewart which only the ruin of one or the other could compose. In the autumn of 1440, William, sixth Earl of Douglas, a boy of fifteen, was invited with his brother David to Edinburgh, where the young sovereign was in residence. Douglas was related to those who had planned the late king’s murder, and actually was heir to the pretensions of the house of Atholl. On these or other grounds his death was determined. The brothers were seized as they sat at meat with their royal host, and, after a swift and mock trial, were hurried to the scaffold. Both were without issue and the vast Douglas heritage was broken up. Annandale, a male fee, reverted to the Crown. The French duchy of Touraine, which dated from 1423, lapsed to the Crown of France. Only the unentailed portions of the inheritance descended to the dead earl’s sister Margaret, the Fair Maid of Galloway. No sentence of forfeiture having been declared, the title passed to James the Gross (ob, 1443), great-uncle of the murdered earl.

William, eighth Earl of Douglas (ob. 1452), set himself to exact the vengeance his father had been careless to demand. Uniting with Livingstone he procured Crichton’s outlawry and his own appointment as Lieutenant of the Realm. A papal dispensation in 1444 permitted him to marry his cousin the heiress of Galloway, and about the same time he entered into a “band” with the Earl of Crawford, the most formidable noble north of the Forth, who inherited the wrongs of the fallen house of March, and also with John, Lord of the Isles and Earl of Ross (ob. 1503). The termination of the truce made with England in 1438 gave him opportunity for service in a familiar field, and a notable victory near Gretna on the banks of the Sark in 1448 revived the prestige of the Douglas name throughout Scotland. James, now in his twentieth year, had in his cousin and chancellor, Bishop James Kennedy of St Andrews, an able statesman concerned to maintain the Crown’s authority against baronial leagues and ambition. In the summer of 1450 Douglas was dispatched to Rome on a diplomatic mission, and in his absence James made a formidable demonstration of authority on his territories. In February 1452, either unsuspicious or contemptuous of danger, Douglas obeyed a royal summons to the court at Stirling. His retinue found quarters in the town below. Douglas was housed in the castle, and on the morrow of his arrival supped with the king. The topic of the Crawford-Ross “band” was broached and the king demanded its dissolution. Douglas refused, and James flung himself upon him, shouting “False traitor, since you will not, this shall,” dirking him as he spoke. The crime demanded a conclusive trial of strength between the Crown and its most powerful vassal. Parliament attainted Crawford in June 1452 and applauded James’ recent violence upon a traitor. Lavish grants of property drew a formidable army to the Crown’s support, and before the summer was over the new Douglas and his brothers made their submission, while Crawford yielded to the king’s lieutenant, Alexander Gordon, first Earl of Huntly. For the moment James was content, permitted Douglas’ marriage with his brother’s widow, and named him a commissioner to England to negotiate a truce. Douglas probably used his opportunity to promote disloyal ends. Whatever the provocation he received, James took the field again in March 1455, wasted the Douglas lands, and drove the earl and his brothers to England, where they became pensioners of the English court. Meanwhile, in Scotland, the earl was attainted, his property forfeited, his Wardenship of the Marches recalled. Once or twice he made futile efforts to trouble Scotland, and, so engaged, was captured in 1484. He died without issue in 1488, and the greatness of his house with him.

That a subject should so long have menaced the Crown was due in large measure to the poverty of the royal house. This disability was now removed. Douglas’ attainder forfeited to the sovereign a rich property, while in 1455 opportunity was taken to attach to the Crown in perpetuity lordships which the public interest forbade to pass into the hands of subjects—Galloway and Ettrick forest, sometime Douglas property; the castles of Edinburgh, Stirling, Dumbarton, with their domains; the earldoms of Fife and Strathearn; and others of less importance. James outdistanced his father in the extent of his appropriations and enrichment of the Crown. He died master of the kingdom and in the moment of his last success. Excepting Berwick, Roxburgh remained the last fortress in English hands. It fell in August 1460, but cost the king his life. While watching the practice of one of his great pieces, “mair curious than became the majestic of ane king,” the monster burst and killed him on the spot. He was only in his thirtieth year and had reigned twenty-four Something he owed to Kennedy’s sagacity, most to his own character.

The new king, James III (1460-88), a boy of ten, inherited none of the vigour and resource of his father and grandfather. In him the royal authority was as impotent as under the first two Stewarts, the Crown once more became the sport of contending factions, and treason, abetted by England, shewed itself within the royal house. The rivalry of York and Lancaster also affected Scotland. Allied to the Beauforts, James II’’s sympathies inclined to the Lancastrians, and though his widow, Mary of Guelders, influenced by her relationship to the Duke of Burgundy, favoured the Yorkists, her son’s advisers, alarmed by the exiled Douglas’ collusion with the White Rose and the latter’s disposition to revive English claims to superiority, supported their late sovereign’s preference. In 1461, after their rout at Towton, Margaret of Anjou and her husband besought assistance and offered Berwick as a bribe. With intervals it had remained in English hands since 1396. In April 1461 Henry restored it and recruited a considerable force in Scotland in his behalf. Edward IV, retaliating, promised Douglas reinstatement and John of the Isles possession of Scotland north of the Scots Water (Firth of Forth), provided they gave him faithful and effective service as lord paramount. John of the Isles took arms, Douglas and his brother harried the marches, and Kennedy, gauging the weakness of the Lancastrian cause, at length turned Henry VI adrift. In 1463 a truce was made with Yorkist England, prolonged by mutual agreement to fifteen years.

The deaths of the queen-mother and Kennedy, first of Scotland’s ecclesiastical statesmen, delivered James in his fifteenth year to an aspiring family whose fall was as sudden as its rise was swift. The chief actors in a rapid drama were Robert Lord Boyd and his brother Sir Alexander, the latter of whom was both governor of Edinburgh Castle and the king’s instructor in martial exercises. In February 1466 the Boyds banded with others to secure the king’s person. In July James was kidnapped and carried to Edinburgh, where, in October, a submissive Parliament named Lord Boyd sole governor of the realm, keeper of the king and his two brothers, and custodian of the royal fortresses. Whether or not he acted in collusion with the Yorkist government, Boyd’s chief purpose was to advantage his family. His son received the earldom of Arran and the hand of James’ sister Mary (1467). If selfishly inspired, Boyd’s rule performed one first-rate service to Scotland. Her failure to pay the “annual” for the Western Isles since 1426 had accumulated considerable arrears, and even before James II’s death Norway declared her dissatisfaction. French mediation suggested a match between Christian I’s daughter and the Scottish king to compose the difficulty, and in 1468 Arran was sent to Norway to arrange it. His mission was successful: James’ proposal for Margaret of Norway was accepted; of her jointure one-sixth (10,000 florins) was to accompany her to Scotland; for the balance (50,000 florins) the Orkneys were pledged and full acquittance was given for the “annual.” In fact the princess brought but two of the promised ten thousand florins; her father therefore pledged the Shetlands too. Neither group was ever redeemed, and in 1472 both Orkneys and Shetlands were annexed to the Scottish Crown. The king’s marriage extinguished the Boyds’ supremacy. Arran’s presumptuous union with royalty excited the jealousy of his peers. His father and uncle, impeached of treason, suffered forfeiture and Sir Alexander went to the block. Arran passed a roving life in Europe until his death. His wife, divorced from his fortunes, gave her hand to the first Lord Hamilton (ob. 1479), to whom she took the Arran title.

James at this point could look back upon a reign not undistinguished. Berwick, Roxburgh, Orkney, and Shetland had been recovered, St Andrews had been constituted an archbishopric, John of the Isles had been brought to submission, and his earldom of Ross augmented the domains attached by forfeiture. But within the royal house dissension had been growing. In tastes and temperament James had little in common with his brothers, Alexander Duke of Albany and John Earl of Mar, who shared the contempt of his lords for what they held their sovereign’s unkingly occupations. Albany, ambitious and disloyal, sold himself to England in a treaty signed at Fotheringhay in 1482, and, joining Edward’s brother Gloucester, gave siege to Berwick. The crisis brought the barons’ quarrel with the king and his plebeian counsellors to a head. Accompanied by his favourites, James encamped at Lauder Bridge, where Archibald ‘Bell-the-Cat,’ Earl of Angus, speaking for the malcontents, threatened to retreat unless the king’s minions were dismissed, and, on James’ refusal, hanged them forthwith. Opposition to Gloucester and Albany collapsed, and, Berwick having fallen, the dukes entered Edinburgh in triumph. Returning to England, Gloucester mastered the castle, as already he possessed the town of Berwick (1482). It passed finally from Scotland’s possession.

Meanwhile, James and his brothers seemed reconciled. In December 1482 Albany received the Lieutenancy of the Realm and the earldom of Mai’ and Garioch. But he was still in league with England, where his agents in February 1483 confirmed the Fotheringhay compact. Suspecting his treason, James, in March, banished him from court, and Parliament, in May, visited his treason upon his head. Attainted, he fled across the Border, threw a last stake with exiled Douglas in 1484, and passed to the Continent, where he died (1485). Three years later James closed an uneasy reign. His favour of men “of the lowest description” remained a grievance with his nobles. His employment of ecclesiastics in the public service equally displeased them. In 1488 the storm long threatened broke. Provoked immediately by James’ intention to attach the revenues of Coldingham Priory to his Chapel Royal at Stirling, a confederacy was formed by the Homes, but agreement was reached upon the king’s undertaking to choose as his counsellors none but “prelates, lords, and others of wisdom.” Yet his sincerity was doubted, and the confederates kept the field. In June the armies faced each other at Sauchie Burn, near Bannockburn. Carried from the field by a charger beyond his management, James was tracked by his enemies to a distant hovel and dispatched in cold blood (1488). The circumstances of the murder were never divulged. The king, the curious were told, “happened to be slain.”

Thus the fifteenth century closed for Scotland in depressing conditions. The careers of Douglas and Albany, and of lesser men, Boyds, Crichtons, Livingstones, and others, reveal the imperfect degree to which, after more than a century of rule, the Stewarts had tamed their intractable baronage. On the other hand, the apparatus of an ordered State had been set up; Parliament functioned in a form it never lost; the outlying islands had been recovered to their natural allegiance; and though English enmity was still to inflict a disaster greater than any Scotland had experienced, English imperialism, working indirectly through a Balliol, Douglas, Albany, or Lord of the Isles, had been firmly resisted. With France an alliance existed which drew Scotland into the current of European politics and advanced her cultural progress. Two universities promoted learning, and cultivated thought found expression in a hardy vernacular literature which possessed, in Robert Henryson, a poet whose outlook and style bespeaks Scotland’s closeness to the Renaissance, though his contemporary Blind Harry’s Wallace glances backward at an enmity which had tested and established the foundations on which Scotland’s natural existence was laid. She awaited the Reformation to draw her into a new world of thought and action from which her geographical isolation and concentration upon the problem of national preservation as yet held her somewhat aloof.


CHAPTER XV. SPAIN, 1412-1516