Chapter VII; James I, 1406-1437, 31 years, pp.53-62.

[History of Scotland Contents]

John Reseby burned at Perth,                                  1408 
Battle of Harlaw,                                                         1411 
St. Andrews University founded,                             1413 
Death of the Regent Albany,                                      1419 
The Scots in France win the Battle of Baugè,           1421 
James I. returns to Scotland,                                      1424 
The king holds at Parliament at Inverness,               1427 
Paul Crawar burned at St. Andrews,                         1432 
Marriage of the king’s daughter to the Dauphin, 
afterwards Louis XI. of France,                      1434 
Death of James I.,                                                          1437

   1.  On the death of Robert III. his son James, though a prisoner in England, was acknowledged king, while his uncle Albany continued to rule the kingdom. In 1408, three years after the accession of James, there came to Scotland a refugee from persecution in England, John Reseby, a follower of Wycliffe. He was convicted of forty heresies, one of which was denying that the pope was the vicar of Christ, and, being given over to the civil power, he was burned at Perth. 

    2.  The “Lords of the Isles” had for long exercised a sort of independent rule in the north-west, and had even made treaties inimical to Scotland with the kings of England. The earldom of Ross, which the Wolf of Badenoch had possessed in right of his wife, had now fall to an heiress, who took the veil, and resigned the earldom to John, Earl of Buchan. Her aunt’s husband, Donald, Lord of the Isles, claimed the earldom. The Wolf of Badenoch’s natural son, who defeated the lowlanders at Gaskune in 1392, had, in 1404, stormed the castle of Kildrummy, carried off and married its owner, the Countess of Mar, whose husband had died the year before. He thus had become the Earl of Mar. That the Lord of the Isles should obtain the earldom of Ross was not desired by either Mar or the government, and Albany the Regent declared it to be the property of the Earl of Buchan. Donald, on the ground that he was treated with injustice, resolved on war, and, in 1411, led a host of 10,000 Highlanders through the northern mountains to Benochie, an outlying spur of the Grampians near the Don in Aberdeenshire. Thence descending he threatened that he would burn Aberdeen, and make a desert of the country as far as the Tay. Mar, who, since his marriage with a countess, had softened down the savage habits of his early life, collected an army composed of the bravest knights and gentlemen of Angus and Mearns, together with a troop of burgesses under Provost Davidson of Aberdeen, and met the Highlanders at Harlaw near Inverury. The fight was severe and bloody. The Provost of Aberdeen and many other gentlemen were slain. For a time it seemed as if the Highlanders by force of numbers would annihilate their opponents, but the Lowland gentlemen held out against each successive shock, and Donald was forced to retreat. Lowland Scotland was thus saved from the horrors threatened by this Celtic invasion. 

    3.  Not long after this, in 1413, the first University in Scotland was founded at St. Andrews. To Bishop Wardlaw belongs the credit of having established this nursery of free thought, and promoter of civilisation and learning, among a comparatively barbarous people. 

    4.  In 1419 Robert, Duke of Albany, died, aged eighty years, and was succeeded in the regency by his son Murdoch. 

   5.  Except that he was held in captivity, James I. was well treated by both Henry IV., who died in 1413, and by his successor, Henry V. The King of Scots had everything that England could give him in the way of learning and accomplishments, and he was admitted to intercourse with the great statesmen not only of England but also of France, where Henry had a court. He had also opportunities of seeing the practice of English politics, and the working of English law, and was thus the better fitted for becoming an able and enlightened ruler of his own people.

    6.  Henry V. of England had been so successful in his wars with France, that he had made himself not only nominally, but almost actually, king of that country. A party in France, however, still remained faithful to the Dauphin and the House of Valois, and cultivated the old alliance of France with Scotland. In 1419 arrangements were made for sending a Scottish force to France, and the English government gave orders to watch for and intercept them. Notwithstanding the watchfulness of the English, however, a Scottish force of 7000 men succeeded in landing in France in 1421, and under command of the Earl of Buchan they defeated the English at Baugè. This victory encouraged the French in their efforts to shake off the English yoke. The wrath of Henry V. against the Scots was terrible. He had the captive King of Scots with him, and under pretext that the Scots were fighting against their own king, he gave orders that all of them that might be taken should be hanged as rebels. In the battle of Verneuil, which was fought two years after, 1424, the Scots were almost exterminated. The French, however, never forgot the great services which the Scots had rendered to them. Out of those who survived the slaughter of Verneuil the famous Scots Guard was formed in France, and a right of common citizenship was established between the two countries. 

    7.  James of Scotland, while a captive in England, had fallen in love with Jane Beaufort, daughter of the Earl of Somerset, uncle of Henry V. The English king approved of his choice for he thought that an alliance of the Scottish king with the English royal family would tend to make friendship between the two countries. It was agreed that the marriage should take place, and that James should be set at liberty on giving hostages to pay £40,000 for his maintenance during his captivity. Of this sum £10,000 was remitted as the queen’s marriage portion. Henry V. died in 1422, but the treaty for the marriage and liberation of the King of Scots was carried out under the regency of the Duke of Bedford. James accordingly returned to Scotland with his queen, and was crowned at Scone on the 21st of May, 1424

    8.  The Regent Albany, and his successor Murdoch, had, with the view of strengthening their own power, bestowed much of the crown property on the nobles. Though they oppressed the middle classes and quarrelled with each other, the regent dared not attempt to restrain them. The land had consequently been filled with violence. 

    9.  Immediately after his coronation James set himself to reform the laws, and to cause them to be impartially administered. He caused the laws to be published in the Scots language, that no one might plead ignorance of them. A general survey and valuation of property was made. Owners of land were required to show the charters by which they held them. Enactments were made against begging and vagrancy, and the able-bodied were compelled to work. Weights and measures were regulated, and a standard of coinage was established. Provision was also made for the poor obtaining justice though unable to pay for it. The parliament was assimilated as far as possible to that of England. The king also endeavoured to improve the military organization of his people. He made enactments with respect to the arms and armour of the various classes of the community, appointed wapenshaws to be held all over the country, and set up schools of archery in every parish. 

    10.  Eight months after his accession, while the Parliament was sitting at Perth, he caused Duke Murdoch, with his two sons and twenty-six of the leading nobles, to be arrested. The late regent and his two sons were tried , found guilty, and executed on the Heading-hill of Stirling. The twenty-six nobles were set at liberty. 

    11.  The king next determined to put an end to the independence assumed by Alexander of the Isles. In 1427 he held a Parliament at Inverness, to which he summoned Alexander and fifty chiefs. They came, were seized, and imprisoned in separate dungeons. A number of them were put to death. Alexander was spared on making submission; but when set free he again raised the standard of rebellion, collected an army, and burned Inverness. He then turned southward by Lochaber, intending to march to the Lowlands, but the king led an army up to the mountains to meet him. Alexander’s forces, afraid to meet the king’s troops, dispersed, and Alexander himself saw no hope of safety but in submission. The manner in which he made his submission was peculiar, and caused some surprise. While the court were at worship in the chapel of Holyrood on Easter day. he appeared before the high altar with no clothing but a linen sheet, and kneeling before the king presented him with a naked sword. The king spared his life, but sent him as a prisoner to Tantallon Castle. Donald Baloch, a relation of the captive, took up his cause, levied an army, marched to Lochaber, and there, in 1431, defeated the Earl of Mar, the victor of Harlaw, who had been sent against him. The king raised an army, marched to Dunstaffnage in the Highlands, crushed all opposition, put Donald to flight, and received the submission of the chiefs. Donald fled to Ireland, where one of the chiefs killed him and sent his head to the king. 

   12.  In 1432 Paul Crawar, a physician from Bohemia, was burned at St. Andrews for propagating the doctrines that had been taught and preached by John Huss and Jerome of Prague. 

    13.  In 1434 the king’s eldest daughter Margaret, though but thirteen years old, was sent to France and married to the Dauphin, afterwards Louis XI. This marriage, and the tenacity with which the Scots clung to the French alliance, gave offence to England. War was declared, and there were skirmishes on the Border, but no serious contest. The king, however, raised an army and began the siege of Roxburgh, which the English still held on the north side of the Border. When the siege had lasted fifteen days, the queen came to the camp with a message, which caused the king to disband his army and return to the interior of his kingdom, where there were serious matters requiring his attention. 

    14.  James was popular with the common people, whose property, industry, and civil liberty were protected by his good laws and their impartial administration. But many of the nobles, whose excesses he had restrained and whose privileges he had curtailed, bore him no goodwill. One of them, Robert graham, had used strong expressions in Parliament about the encroachments of the king on the nobility, and denounced him as a tyrant. For this and other offences he was banished, and took refuge in the Highlands. we have seen with what severity the king had treated the Highlanders, and can therefore understand how gladly they would co-operate with Graham in seeking to take vengeance on him. They had the will, and only wanted the opportunity. 

    15.  James gave them the chance they were watching for when he resolved to hold his Christmas festivities in the monastery of the Black Friars, at Perth, in the winter of 1436. When he was on his way to Perth a Highland woman met him at a ferry which he was about to cross, and cried, “My lord the king, if you pass this water you will never return again alive.” The king, being brave and fearless, heeded not the warning but went on. He spent a merry Christmas at Perth, and seemed to have no apprehension of danger; but on the evening of the 20th of February, 1437, when the royal party had broken up, after a day spent in sport and feasting, the noise of three hundred Highlanders breaking into the monastery was heard. The king, wrapped in his dressing-gown, was lingering before the fire chatting with the queen and her ladies when the alarm was given. The first impulse of the king was to fasten the door, but the bar had been removed. A glance at the windows showed that they had been secured to prevent escape. The king told the women to hold the door as well as they could. He then seized the tongs, and using then as a lever, staved up a plank of the flooring and let himself down into a vault beneath. This vault had formerly an opening into the court of the convent by which he might have escaped; but only three days before he had ordered it to be built up, to prevent the tennis-balls with which he played from rolling into it. Meanwhile the queen and her ladies replaced the plank and endeavoured to keep the door shut. The great bolt had been removed, but Catherine Douglas thrust her arm through the staple. Her arm was soon broken, and the traitors rushed in with swords and daggers drawn. Not finding their victim in the apartment they thought he had escaped, and went elsewhere about the monastery to look for him. They soon came back, however, discovered that the floor had been newly broken, tore up the plank, and found the king. James begged for mercy, but Graham called him a cruel tyrant, and told him he should receive none. The king, though unarmed, grappled with them so fiercely, that the marks of his gripes remained on their throats till they were executed. The assassins soon finished their work. When the body was brought up to the light, sixteen wounds showed how fiercely the traitors had carried out their fell purpose. The murderers fled to the hills, but they were speedily captured and put to death with tortures, the details of which are too horrible to be related. Thus perished James I., in the forty-third year of his age, and thirty-first of his reign. 

    16.  James I. was a brave and accomplished prince. He had a handsome face, and a strong and active body. He had not only all the martial accomplishments of his age, but he was also skilled in music and poetry. The King’s Quhair, a love poem composed when he was a prisoner in England, and addressed to the Princess of Somerset, whom he afterwards married, is still admired for its tenderness and sweetness of expression. Christ’s Kirk on the Green, in which a graphic account is given of a merrymaking of country people at a rural fair, has been attributed to him. It is full of exquisite humour and raillery, and may still be read with pleasure by those who take the trouble to master the quaint old language om which it is written. He did much to improve his country and civilize his people. and his death was deservedly lamented. 

   Summary. – James I., though a captive, was acknowledged King of Scotland, and Albany ruled as Regent. Donald, Lord of the Isles, having taken offence because the Earldom of Ross, to which he thought he had a right, was given to the Earl of Buchan, led 10,000 men through the mountains towards Inverury on the Don, but the Earl of Mar collected an army and defeated him at Harlaw (1411). Lowland Scotland was thus saved from the horrors of a Celtic invasion. Two years later the University of St. Andrews was founded. Albany died in 1419, and his son Murdoch became Regent. James I. was well treated and highly educated during his captivity. he fell in love with Jane Beaufort, the daughter of the Earl of Somerset, uncle of Henry V. The King of England approved of James’ choice. The marriage took place, and the Scottish king was set at liberty in 1424. When he returned to Scotland he passed many useful laws, and cause Duke Murdoch and his sons to be beheaded for their misgovernment. He led an army into the Highlands to put an end to the independence assumed by the lords of the Isles. The king was beloved by the common people, but hated by some of the nobles. One of them, Robert Graham, formed a conspiracy against him, and in 1437 led 300 Highlanders to Perth, broke into the Blackfriars Monastery, and murdered him.

   Questions:- Who rules while James I. was a prisoner in England? What do you know of John Reseby? Give a brief narrative of the battle of Harlaw. When and by whom was St. Andrew’s University founded? When did Albany die? Who succeeded him in the regency? How was James I. treated in England? Give an account of the doings of the Scots in France from 1419 to 1424, Under what conditions did James adopt for the improvement of his country? How did he treat Duke Murdoch and his sons? Give an account of how the king dealt with Alexander of the Isles and Donald Balloch. What do you know of Paul Crawar? Why did many of the nobles, and Robert Graham in particular, bear ill-will to the king? Give a brief account of the murder of James I. What do you know of his character and his writings?
ac-ces’sion, coming to the throne.  in-im’-i-cal, unfriendly. 
ref-ū-gee’, one who has fled.  nat’-u-ral son, not born in wedlock. 
her’-e-sies, errors in religion.  spur (of the Granpians), outlying hill. 
vic‘-ar, one who acts in place of another.  com-mu’-ni-ty, the whole people. 
bur’-gess-es, freemen of a burgh or town.  wap’-en-shaws, meetings for drill and the practice of arms. 
an-ni’-hilate, completely destroy.  lev’-ied, raised. 
u-niver’-si-ty, a college or assemblage of colleges for teaching the highest subjects.  phy-si’-cian, one who cures diseases. 
nurs’er-y, place for promoting growth.  prop’-a-gāt-ing, spreading. 
civ-ili-za’-tion, refinement in manners and mode of living.  doc’-trines, opinions. 
bar’-bar-ous, rude, savage.  ten-ac’-i-ty, firmness. 
in’-ter-course, communication.  skir’-mish-es, slight battles. 
pol’-i-tics, state affairs.  in-te’-ri-or, inside. 
en-light’-ed, clear minded, wise.  cur-tailed’, made less. 
nom’-in-al-ly, in name.  en-croach’-ments, inroads. 
in-tercept, cut off, catch.  ru’-ral, belonging to the country. 
pre-text’, pretence.  mar’-tial, warlike. 
ex-ter’-mi-nat-ed, completely destroyed.  ven’-geance, revenge. 
sur-vived, lived after.  stand’-ard of coin’-age, fixed proportion of fine metal and alloy of which money was to be made. 
hos’-ta-ges, pledges or sureties.  de-nounced, spoke loudly against. 
main’-te-nance, support, cost of keeping.  co-op’-er-ate, work with. 
re-mit’-ted, let go, not exacted.  festiv’-i-ties, merrymakings. 
mar’-riage por’-tion, dowry.  mon’-as-tery, house for monks, a convent. 
lib-er-a-tion, setting free.  ap-pre-hen’-sion, dread, fear. 
op-pressed’, held down, ill-used.  lin’-ger-ing, delaying, tarrying. 
im-par’-tial-ly, fairly.  le’-ver, a bar for raising weights. 
ad-min’-is-tered, put in force.  sta’-ple, loop of iron for holding a bolt. 
pub’-lished, made known.  as-sas’-sins, murderers. 
sur’-vey, measurement.  graph’-ic, lifelike description. 
val-u-a’-tion, estimating the worth of.  at-trib’-ut-ed, ascribed to. 
e-nact’-ments, laws.  quaint, add, curious. 
char’-ters, written title-deeds.  rail’-er-y, banter. 
va’-gran-cy vic’-ar, one who acts in place of another, wandering in idleness.  con-spir’-a-cy, plot. 
as-sim’-i-la-ted. made like.  right of com’-mon cit’-izen-ship, the right of the natives of one country to all the rights and privileges of another country. 
or-gani-za’-tion, order, right arrangement.   

Mearns’, ancient name of Kincardineshire. 

Inveru’-rie, a small town on the Urie, a tributary of the Don, in Aberdeenshire. 

Baugè, a town in the department of Maine-et-Loire, France,, 23 miles north-east of Angers. 

Ver’neuil, a small town in the department of Eure, France. 

Lochab’er, a district in the south-west of Inverness-shire. 

Mar, a district on the upper Dee in Aberdeenshire. 

Dunstaff’nage, on Loch Etive in Argyleshire. 

Bohe’mia, ancient kingdom in the north of Austria. 

Prague, ancient capital of Bohemia.