James 4

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James IV / Kings and Queens

  • Name  : James IV
  • Born  : 1473
  • Died  : 1513
  • Category  : Kings and Queens
  • Finest Moment : Marriage to Margaret Tudor, 1503

Crowned at Scone in 1488, after having defeated his father James III at the Battle of Sauchieburn. He was then aged 15, but was fortunate in not being awarded a crowd of ambitious 'guardians' to look after him. He was also luckier than his father had been, in not being in competition from ambitious siblings. < br>As a monarch, this left him more free to look after his country, rather than looking over his shoulder, and in the next five years he succeeded in subduing the Western Isles. The warriors of the these western isles would have their way eventually of course, and by 1498 James IV had all but given up fighting them, allowing instead the two prominent families there, the Campbells in the south, and the Gordons in the north, to fight it out.

The only real fly in this otherwise peaceful land was of course the auld enemy, England. James broke a truce with England in 1495, flirting with a Yorkist pretender to the English throne, a Perkin Warbeck. Two years later he was dismissed, and a real truce could be set up, backed, as this so often was, by marriage. Not that women had been entirely lacking. There had been Margaret Drummond, for example, to whom he written poems. She was mysteriously, though conveniently, poisoned in 1501, making the way clear for James to marry Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII. When she was old enough at 14, in 1503, they married.

Relations with England were good for a number of years, but began breaking down as James came into conflict with Henry VIII, who ruled from 1509 on. A series of misjudged alliances with Louis XII of France led inexorably to a diversionary advance into England in 1513. For a while this went well, with several castles captured, but on 9 September, James met the English at Flodden. The English were led by the old Earl of Surrey and his son, leading an army only slightly inferior to that of James. It was a major disaster for Scotland. James was killed fighting on foot, as were most of the nobility of Scotland.

James IV had continued to support the emergence of a renaissance in Scotland begun under his father. His reign is much better known than those of earlier monarchs, thanks to surviving documents, so that we know, for example, of his patronage of various poets, of the building of palaces at Holyrood, Falkland, Linlithgow and Stirling. He pioneered compulsory education (for the landed classes), and was the founder of Kings College, Aberdeen. But he, and many good men round him died at Flodden in a battle that need not have been fought. He had left a one-year-old son as heir.

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