Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/James I of Scotland
JAMES I (1394–1437), king of Scotland, third son of Robert III [q. v.] and Annabella Drummond [q. v.], was born at Dunfermline shortly before 1 Aug. 1394 (letter from his mother to Richard II). His age and his father's weak health and feeble character render it probable that his education was entrusted to his mother, who lived chiefly at Dunfermline and Inverkeithing. After her death, in 1402, he was sent to St. Andrews, where he was placed under the care of Henry Wardlaw, consecrated bishop in 1403. The murder of his only surviving brother David, duke of Rothesay, in March 1402, at the instigation of his uncle Albany [q. v.] and Archibald, fourth earl of Douglas [q. v.], made it necessary that he should be in safe custody, and no better guardian could have been found. In 1405 Wardlaw received as guests the Earl of Northumberland and his grandson, young Henry Percy, Hotspur's son, driven into exile after the defeat of Shrewsbury, and the two boys were perhaps for a short time educated together. The aged and infirm king Robert, apprehensive that Albany might treat James like his brother, determined to send him to France. Embarking at the Bass Rock along with the Earl of Orkney, a bishop (according to Walsingham), and young Alexander Seton (afterwards Lord Gordon), their vessel was intercepted off Flamborough Head by an English ship of Cley in Norfolk. The bishop escaped; the prince, Orkney, and Seton were sent to Henry IV in London, who released Orkney and Seton, but detained James and his squire, William Gifford. There is discrepancy in the date assigned, both by earlier and later historians, for the capture of James. The ‘Kingis Quair,’ his own poem, implies that it was in the spring of 1404, when he was ten, or about three years past the state of innocence, i.e. the age of seven. Wyntoun suggests 12 April 1405, which Pinkerton, Irving, and Professor Skeat in his edition of the ‘Kingis Quair’ adopt. But in that case the capture would have been in most flagrant defiance of a truce which had been agreed to by Henry till Easter 1405. And Walsingham, the St. Albans chronicler, is probably more correct in assigning the event to 1406. Northumberland, who came to St. Andrews before the prince left, certainly did not reach Scotland till June 1405, and Bower states that Robert III, who is known to have died on 4 April 1406, barely survived the news of his son's capture. Mr. Burnett and Mr. W. Hardy adopt the later date, and place the capture about 14 Feb. 1406. The English records state that the first payment to the lieutenant of the Tower for the expenses of the son of the Scotch king was on 10 Dec., in respect of cost incurred from 6 July 1406, but the entries are too incomplete to prove there was no earlier payment.
For nineteen years the life of James was spent in exile under more or less strict custody. His ransom—always an item in the calculations of the English exchequer, exhausted by the French war—made his life safer than at home in the neighbourhood of an ambitious uncle and turbulent nobles. His education was carefully attended to, and improved a naturally vigorous mind. He became an expert in all manly and knightly exercises. We learn from the recent publication of English and Scottish records that he was at first confined in the Tower of London, where his expenses were allowed for at the rate of 6s. 8d. a day and 3s. 4d. for his suite, from 6 July 1406 to 10 June 1407. On that day the constable was ordered to deliver him and Griffin, son of Owen Glendower, to Richard, lord de Grey, in whose charge he was placed at Nottingham Castle, where he remained from 12 June 1407 till the middle of July. He was then removed to Evesham, where he continued at least down to 16 July 1409. In 1412 he appears to have visited Henry IV, and there is a holograph letter by him in the same year, by which he granted, or promised, lands to Sir W. Douglas of Drumlanrig, dated at Croydon, where he was probably the guest of his kinsman, Thomas Arundel [q. v.], archbishop of Canterbury.
One of the first acts of Henry V, the day after his father's death on 20 March 1413, was to recommit James to the custody of the constable of the Tower, along with the Welsh prince and his cousin, Murdoch, earl of Fife, who had been a prisoner in England since the battle of Homildon Hill. On 3 Aug. the three were ordered to be transferred to Windsor Castle. Throughout his reign Henry V treated James well, hoping through his influence to detach the Scots from the French alliance. But the constable of the Tower continued to receive payments for his expenses down to 14 Dec. 1416. On 22 Feb. 1417, after James was twenty-one, Sir John Pelham was appointed his governor, with an allowance of 700l. a year, and leave to take him to certain places. Windsor was henceforth his principal residence. After 1419 there are traces of small personal payments to James himself. The victory of Agincourt, in 1415, placed another illustrious captive in Henry's hands, Charles of Orleans, about the same age as James, and, like him, of bright intellect and poetic tastes. It has been assumed rather than proved that they were fellow-prisoners at Windsor. It is more likely that they were kept apart. In 1420 Henry was engaged in his final struggle with France, and during May, June, and July James received sundry sums towards his equipment for the French war. He sailed from Southampton in July, and joined Henry at the siege of Melun. Henry failed to detach the Scots then fighting for France. They declined to acknowledge a king who was a prisoner, and he refused, for the same reason, to claim their allegiance.
Melun capitulated after a brave resistance of four months, and James suffered the ignominy of seeing his countrymen who had taken part in the defence hanged as rebels. He was present at the triumphal entry of Henry into Paris on 1 Dec. 1420. In the beginning of the following year James went with Henry to Rouen, where he appears to have remained, during Henry's absence in England, from 3 Feb. till the middle of June. The defeat of the English at Beaugé, 23 March 1421, recalled Henry to France, and if James had in the interval returned to England he must have come back with Henry. During the first half of 1422 notices of payments to him prove that he was at Rouen. After Henry V's death he returned to England.
The negotiations for his release had gone on without intermission from the time of his capture. But Albany succeeded in procuring the ransom of his own son, Murdoch, in 1416, and as the return of James would have put an end to a regency which was actual sovereignty of Scotland, it is scarcely likely that he wished to see James back in Scotland. Albany's death in 1420 at once improved the prospects of his liberation. In May 1421 it was agreed that he should be permitted to return to his own kingdom on sufficient hostages being given, and on Henry V's death the negotiations between the Duke of Bedford [q. v.], the English, and Murdoch, the new Scottish, regent, began in earnest.
Thomas of Myrton, James's chaplain, who had been sent to Scotland on 21 Feb. 1422, appears to have been the envoy who smoothed the way for the subsequent treaty. In the autumn of 1423 English and Scottish commissioners met at Pontefract, and there the basis of the treaty was arranged: a payment of sixty thousand marks for the king's release, in instalments of ten thousand marks a year, for which hostages were to be given; an agreement that the Scottish troops should quit France, and a request that a noble English lady should be betrothed to James. The treaty was signed 10 Sept. in the chapter-house of York. On 24 Nov. Myrton was again sent to Scotland, probably to arrange as to the hostages, and in December the Scots agreed that the four principal burghs, Edinburgh, Perth, Dundee, and Aberdeen, were to become sureties for payment of part of the stipulated sum.
The condition as to the marriage was easiest fulfilled. James had already set his heart on Jane [q. v.], the young daughter of the Earl of Somerset. The marriage was celebrated in the church of St. Mary Overy in Southwark on 12 Feb. 1424, and the banquet in the adjacent palace of the lady's uncle, the Bishop of Winchester. Next day ten thousand marks of the ransom were remitted as Jane's dowry. James and his bride set out at once for Scotland, and on 28 March, at Durham, the hostages, twenty-eight of the principal nobles or their eldest sons, were delivered, along with the obligations of the four burghs, and a truce for seven years from 1 May 1424 was signed. On 5 April, at Melrose, James issued letters under his great seal confirming the treaty, and by a separate deed acknowledged that ten thousand marks were to be paid within six months of his entry into Scotland. After spending Easter in Edinburgh he was crowned at Scone, on 21 May, with great pomp by Bishop Wardlaw. The Duke of Albany, as earl of Fife, placed him on the throne. The queen was crowned with him, and the king showed favour to her English followers. Walter, elder son of the late regent, whose insubordination and profligacy had removed some obstacles to James's restoration, was arrested a week before the coronation and sent to the Bass. Malcolm Fleming of Cumbernauld, a brother-in-law of the regent, was arrested at the same time, but soon liberated. In this, as in subsequent steps taken by James to regain firm possession of the throne, his object was to strike down Albany and all his kin. He returned to Perth for his first parliament on 26 May 1424. A series of twenty-seven acts prove his legislative activity. These acts appear to have been not merely drafted but passed by the lords of the articles, a committee of the three estates, not then first instituted, but perhaps reorganised, with full power to make laws delegated to them by the other members of parliament, who were allowed to return home. The privileges of the church were confirmed; private war was prohibited; forfeiture declared the penalty of rebellion; those who abstained from assisting the king were to be deemed rebels; those who travelled with more than a proper retinue or who lay upon the land were to be punished; and officers of the law were to be appointed to administer justice to the king's commons. The customs, both great and small, were granted to the king for life; the process of ‘showing of holdings’ was to be used, to ascertain who had titles to their lands from the death of Robert I; taxes were imposed to provide for the king's ransom; salmon, an important branch of revenue, were protected by various regulations; gold and silver mines were to belong to the king; clerks were not to pass the sea without leave or to grant pensions out of their benefices; export of gold and silver was taxed, and foreign merchants were to spend their gains in Scotland; archery was encouraged, football and golf prohibited; rooks were not to be allowed to build, and muirburn after March forbidden; customs were imposed on the chief exports; money was to be coined of equal value to that of England; hostelries were to be kept in towns; and the burghs were to provide, partly by loans in Flanders, twenty thousand English nobles towards the king's ransom. The royal eye was directed to every branch of government, agriculture and trade, peace and war, currency and finance, church and state. Some of the statutes, as that relating to the coin, were never carried out; others were temporary; but it is from this parliament that the Scottish statute-book known in the courts dates. For the first time since Robert the Bruce, Scotland had effective legislation, directed by the king, and accepted by the clergy, barons, and burghs. Parliament now became annual. James had learned from the Lancastrian kings the value of a national assembly as a support against nobles who were petty kings, engaging in private war, and administering private law in their own courts. Several of the statutes of this and subsequent parliaments were copied from the more advanced constitution of England.
Before the end of 1424 Duncan, earl of Lennox, father-in-law of the late regent, was arrested and imprisoned at Edinburgh. A second parliament, at Perth, 12 March 1425, continued, and a third, on 11 March 1426, repeated the same politic legislation. The most important acts provided for registration of infeftments, or titles to land, in the king's register; prosecution of forethought felony by the king's officers; personal attendance in parliament of prelates, barons, and freeholders; revision of the old books of law by a committee of the three estates; punishment of heretics with the aid of the secular arm; prayers to be said by the clergy on behalf of the king and queen; a judicial committee or sessions, the first attempt to introduce a central court, to sit thrice a year; the punishment of idle men, and the regulation of weights and measures.
More important than the legislation was the coup d'état by which, on the ninth day of the parliament of 1425, the late regent, his younger son Alexander, with other nobles, including Archibald, earl of Douglas, William Douglas, earl of Angus [q. v.], George Dunbar, earl of March, twenty-six in all, were arrested. The castles of Falkland and Doune, the chief seats of the late regent, were seized; Isabella, the daughter of Lennox, and wife of the regent, was imprisoned, while her husband was sent to Caerlaverock. James, youngest son of the regent, the only one of the family who escaped, raised a force in the highlands, and, aided by Finlay, bishop of Lismore, burnt Dumbarton and slew Sir John, the Red Stewart of Dundonald, the king's uncle, but, pursued by the royal forces, fled by way of England to Ireland, from which he never returned. Meanwhile the parliament, adjourned to Stirling, met on 18 May 1425, to pass judgment on Albany and his kin. An assize of twenty-one nobles and barons, with Atholl, the king's uncle, as foreman, sat on the 22nd, in presence of the king, and made quick work of the charges. The record is not extant, and under the general term robbery (roboria) of one of the chronicles (Extracta ex Chronicis Scotiæ, p. 220) must be understood all the illegal acts of the regency. The ‘Book of Pluscarden’ calls their crime treason. Walter was convicted, and beheaded on the day of trial; his father, his brother Alexander, and his grandfather, Lennox, on the following day; and at the same time five retainers of Albany were hanged and their quarters sent to different towns. Some pity for the victims appears in the contemporary chronicles. This startling victory is to be attributed to the fact that the clergy were on the king's side. With the exception of the Bishop of Argyll no prelate supported Albany. James conciliated the bishops by a strict enforcement of the law against heresy, a copy of the Lancastrian statute, and by confirming their privileges. James also had the support of the ablest of the smaller barons, the natural rivals of the older nobles. Moreover he had gained the commons by good laws and impartial justice. He thus initiated the constant policy of the Stewart kings—to rely on the clergy and the burghs in order to withstand the great feudal lords.
The chief offices in the new administration were bestowed on those who had taken a leading part in James's restoration. Some of the new officers, however, like Lauder, bishop of Glasgow, and Sir John Forester of Corstorphine, the chamberlain, had already served under the regent. The heads of the house of Douglas—Archibald, earl of Douglas, William Douglas, earl of Angus, and James Douglas of Balvenie—had separated themselves from the regent, but their allegiance to James was doubtful, and had to be retained by fear. The strength of James lay in Lothian, where his adherents held the castles of Dalkeith, Dunbar, the Bass, and Tantallon; in the south-west, where they held Caerlaverock; and in Fife, where Wardlaw, his old tutor and chief adviser, held St. Andrews, and the king himself held Doune and Falkland. The possession of Perth and Dundee, Edinburgh and Stirling, gave him control of the chief burghs. The regent's party had more influence in the less civilised west, the country of Lennox, and in the highlands.
The lowlands being now safe, and the whole line of Albany cut off, the lawless condition of the highlands urgently called for strong measures. James summoned a parliament in the spring of 1427 to Inverness, where he had repaired the royal tower, and he seized forty chiefs who obeyed the summons. Alexander Macgorrie and two Campbells were tried and executed. The rest were sent to different castles throughout the kingdom, where some were put to death, though the greater number were afterwards liberated, including the Lord of the Isles, whose mother, however, was detained till her death. On his return south he held in July another parliament, chiefly occupied with reforms of the civil and ecclesiastical courts; and in the next parliament, of March 1428, he made an attempt to introduce representation of the shires and a speaker on the English model. But this change—another blow at the feudal aristocracy, who had the right of personal attendance—was not carried out. About the end of 1427, or early in 1428, Sir John Stewart of Darnley, constable of the French army, the Archbishop of Rheims, and Alain Chartier the poet, chancellor of Bayeux, came to ask the hand of the infant Princess Margaret [q. v.] for the dauphin Louis. So brilliant an offer was not to be refused. Scottish ambassadors were sent to France to arrange the terms. The treaty was signed by James at Perth on 17 July 1428, and by Charles VII at Chinon in November. The bride being only two and the bridegroom five the marriage was postponed till they reached the legal age; but the princess was to be sent to France, along with six thousand men, as soon as a French fleet arrived. Charles promised her the dowry of a dauphiness, or, if her husband came to the throne, of a queen of France, and conveyed to James the county of Saintonge and castle of Rochefort.
Margaret did not, however, go to France till the last year of her father's life, and the Scottish troops, so urgently needed to support Charles against the English, were never despatched. This treaty excited the jealousy of the English court, and Cardinal Beaufort was sent in February 1429 to James at Dunbar in order to counteract its effects. He succeeded in procuring a renewal of the truce between England and Scotland, but not in breaking off the treaty with France, though possibly in delaying its execution. But James showed no favour to England. He could not forget his enforced exile. He could not raise, and was unwilling to pay his ransom, and its non-payment became a subject of frequent remonstrance. The English court kept firm hold of the hostages, the sons of his principal nobles, and reasserted, if English writers may be credited, the superiority of England, which had been disowned as the result of the war of independence. The disorganised state of France, until the enthusiasm kindled by Joan of Arc effected its deliverance, made James see the necessity of fostering other alliances, and he pursued a foreign policy which had in view the commercial and political interests of his kingdom. In 1425 he restored, at the request of a Flemish embassy, the staple of the Scottish trade to Bruges, from which it had been removed to Middelburg in Zealand, and four years later he entered into a commercial league for one hundred years with Philip III, duke of Burgundy, as sovereign of Flanders. In 1426 a Scottish embassy under Sir William Crichton renewed at Bergen the alliance with Denmark, and settled the long-standing dispute as to the payment claimed as still due for the Hebrides. His relations with the papal see were not so amicable. James, as a good catholic, sternly suppressed heresy, restored the estates of the see of St. Andrews, and founded a Carthusian monastery at Perth. But he was also a church reformer and a Scottish patriot, who was determined to tolerate neither the abuses nor the encroachments of the church. One of James's early acts was to pass statutes forbidding the clergy to cross the sea without leave, or to purchase benefices at Rome (the Scottish equivalents of the English statutes of præmunire and provisors). In 1425 he issued a letter to the abbots and priors of the orders of St. Benedict and St. Augustine, exhorting them to reform their convents, whose abuses, he declared, threatened the ruin of religion. When he visited David I's tomb at Dunfermline he remarked that David's piety made him useless to the commonwealth, whence came the proverb that David was a ‘sair saint for the crown.’ The parliament of 1427 not only passed a stringent act to reform procedure in the church courts, but ordered the provincial council then sitting to accept it as one of their statutes.
Martin V, alarmed at these incursions of the state into the domain of the church, summoned in 1429 Cameron, archbishop of Glasgow, and chancellor, to Rome; but James sent the Bishop of Brechin and the Archdeacon of Dunkeld to remonstrate with the pope, and inform him that the chancellor's absence would be most prejudicial to the kingdom. Eugenius IV, the successor of Martin, instead of yielding, sent William Croyser, archdeacon of Teviotdale, as a nuncio, to cite his own bishop to Rome. For executing the papal citation Croyser was tried by an assize in his absence (for he had fled back to Rome), and deprived of all his benefices and property in Scotland. Eugenius in 1435 issued a bull restoring Croyser to his benefices, and denouncing the censures of the church on all who recognised the sentence. The conflict between church and state had never been so acute since Robert the Bruce refused to receive a papal bull.
The highlands again claimed the king's attention in 1429, for Alexander of the Isles had raised the clans and burnt Inverness. James surprised him in Lochaber and put him to flight, aided by the dissensions of the clans. The Lord of the Isles, forced to seek the royal clemency, appeared before James at Holyrood on Palm Sunday without arms, except a bare sword, which he offered the king, who spared his life on the intercession of the queen and barons, but sent him to Tantallon. The repair of the castles of Urquhart and Inverness, and acts for providing arms, men, and, in the west highlands, ships for the royal service, were passed in the parliament of March 1430, and were calculated to maintain peace in the highlands.
The same year was marked by the importation into Scotland of the first great cannon, the Lion, from Flanders. Artillery began from this time to be the special care of the Scottish kings, and gave them an advantage over the barons. In 1431 Donald Balloch, a kinsman of the Lord of the Isles, having defeated the Earls of Mar and Caithness at Inverlochy, James had again to take up arms in person, and Balloch was forced to fly to Ireland. The statement of Boece that an Irish chief sent Balloch's head to the king at Dunstaffnage is not corroborated. The arrest of the Earl of Douglas and John, lord Kennedy, both nephews of the king, shows that his policy had roused opposition beyond the highlands; but Douglas was released at the parliament of October 1431. This parliament granted an aid to repress the northern rebels, and imposed penalties on those who had not joined the king's army in the highlands. In 1432 what Bower calls the flying pestilence of lollardism reappeared in Scotland, and next year Paul Crawar, a missionary of the Hussites, was burnt at St. Andrews. James rewarded the diligence of Fogo, the inquisitor, with the abbacy of Melrose.
Throughout his reign James pursued his policy of destroying the power of the great nobles. One chapter of his legislation, by which he protected the tillers of the soil in the possession of their holdings, had the best results, and this innovation on the oppressive rules of the feudal law became an integral part of the law of Scotland. But his wholesale forfeiture of the nobles' estates led to his own ruin. Immediately after his return to Scotland, the attainder of Albany and his sons placed the earldoms of Fife, Monteith, and Ross in his hands, and that of Lennox the earldom of that name, and by 1436 he had gained possession of the earldom of March in the south, of Fife in the east, of Lennox, Strathearn, and Monteith in the central highlands, of Mar in the north-east, and Ross in the north. The only great earls left were Atholl (his uncle), Douglas (his nephew), Crawford, and Moray, and, with the exception of Atholl, a secret and fatal foe, none were strong enough to be formidable to the king.
In the last years of his life the relations of James with the pope became less, those with England more, strained. In 1433 he sent eight representatives to the council of Basle. In the winter of 1435 Æneas Silvius Piccolomini, afterwards Pope Pius II, was sent to James by the Cardinal of Santa Croce, and in the summer of 1436 the Bishop of Urbino followed, as a nuncio from the pope, ostensibly to reconcile the Scottish court with the papal see, and procure the repeal of the sentence against Croyser, the archdeacon; but both envoys probably had instructions to procure the adhesion of James to the treaty of Arras. Æneas Silvius was received graciously. James granted his requests and presented him with two palfreys and a pearl. A fanciful picture of his reception was painted by Pinturicchio on the walls of the library of Siena for Cardinal Piccolomini, where it may still be seen.
In 1430 Lord Scrope came from England to negotiate a peace on the basis of restoring to Scotland Berwick and Roxburgh, and James referred the matter to the parliament of Perth in October 1431. The debate in presence of James, which Bower reports, was chiefly conducted by the clergy, the Abbots of Scone and Inchcolm contending that peace could not be made without the consent of France; while Fogo, abbot of Melrose, took the opposite side. No terms could be agreed on, and the alliance with France continued. In 1436 the Princess Margaret was sent with a great retinue, under the conduct of the Earl of Orkney, to fulfil her engagement to the dauphin. On 10 Sept. 1436 William Douglas, second earl of Angus, defeated at Piperden Robert Ogle, who made a raid on the Scottish borders in breach of the truce. An attempt was also made to kidnap the king's daughter on her way to France. Thereupon James summoned the whole forces of his kingdom to the siege of Roxburgh in October 1436, but returned after an inglorious siege of fifteen days. There can be little doubt that the war with England had led to a mutiny of the Scottish barons, and that James had received information of it. After a short stay in Edinburgh, where he held his last parliament, James went to Perth to keep Christmas. As he was about to cross the Forth a highland woman shouted, ‘An ye pass this water ye shall never return again alive.’ He took up his residence in the cloister of the Black Friars at Perth. While playing a game of chess with a knight, nicknamed the ‘King of Love,’ James, referring to a prophecy that a king should die that year, said to his playmate: ‘There are no kings in Scotland but you and I; I shall take good care of myself, and I counsel you to do the same.’ A favourite squire told James he had dreamt ‘Sir Robert Graham would slay the king,’ and he received a rebuke from the Earl of Orkney. James himself had a dream of a cruel serpent and horrible toad attacking him in his chamber.
These stories were not written down till after the event, but enough was known of Sir Robert Graham to lead men to dream or to invent stories of the coming danger. In the parliament of 1435 Graham, the uncle and tutor of Malise, earl of Strathearn, whose earldom the king had seized, had taken hold of James in the presence of the three estates, and said that he arrested him in their name for his cruel conduct and illegal acts. Graham relied on a promise that the lords would support him, but they failed to keep it, and himself being arrested, was banished to the highlands, where he openly rebelled and a price was set on his head. Graham then tried, but failed, to incite the nobles to revolt at the parliament of Edinburgh in October 1436, but succeeded in procuring a secret promise of assistance from Atholl, the king's uncle, and Sir Robert Stewart, Atholl's grandson, a young man in great favour with the king, who had made him his chamberlain, and at Roxburgh constable of the army. The object of Graham and his friends was to place the crown on the head either of Atholl or his grandson. On the night of 20 Feb. 1437, when James and his courtiers, Atholl and his grandson among the rest, were amusing themselves with chess and music, reading romances and hearing tales told, the highland woman who had already warned James again appeared in the courtyard and asked an audience, but the king put her off till the morning. About midnight he drank the parting cup, and the courtiers left. Robert Stewart, the last to leave, tampered with the bolts, so that the doors could not be made fast. While James was still talking with the queen and her ladies round the fire, the noise of horses and armed men was heard. James, suspecting it was Graham, wrenched a plank from the floor with the tongs, and hid himself in a small chamber below. Catherine Douglas, afterwards called ‘Bar-lass,’ one of the queen's maids, heroically barred the door of the house with her arm, which was broken by the incursion of Graham and his followers. James's hiding-place was soon discovered. After two of the band were thrown down by the king, Graham thrust a sword through his body. Those who saw the corpse reported that there were no less than sixteen wounds in the breast alone. The alarm spread to the king's servants and the town, and the conspirators, who could not have effected their object without the aid of traitors in the king's household, fled. Before a month had elapsed all the leaders were caught, and within forty days tortured and executed with a barbarity which was deemed unusual even in that age. The king was buried in the convent of the Carthusians, where his pierced doublet was long kept as a relic. His heart was sent to the Holy Land and brought back in 1443 from Rhodes by a knight of St. John, and presented to the Carthusians. The highly coloured and circumstantial narrative of his death translated from Latin into English by John Shirley about 1440 is nearly contemporary, and has been accepted by historians. Yet it omits the heroic act of Catherine Douglas.
Affectionate and somewhat melancholy in his youth, James was as a king decided, stern, severe, even cruel to enemies and breakers of the law, yet amiable and playful with friends, and, though regardless of the interests, even the rights, of the great lords, was zealous for those of the people. The story that he shod with horseshoes the chief who had done the same to a poor woman, is consistent with the retributive justice of his time and his own character. His attempts to reform the Scottish on, or even in advance of, the model of the English constitution of the fifteenth century led to his ruin; but he left a monarchy with a stronger hold on the loyalty of the nation, and a nation freer from feudal tyranny. Though James only lived to see the marriage of his eldest daughter, that union led to the marriage of her sisters with foreign princes, and forged new links in the connection between Scotland and Europe. It was said of him by Drummond that, while the nation made his predecessors kings, he made Scotland a nation. His children were: Margaret [q. v.], afterwards wife of Louis the Dauphin, subsequently Louis XI; Elizabeth, or Isabel, betrothed in 1441 to Francis, count of Montfort, whom she married in 1442, when he had become by his father's death Duke of Bretagne; Alexander and James, twins, born 16 Oct. 1430, of whom the former died young and the latter succeeded his father as James II; Joan or Janet, who, although dumb, married James Douglas, lord Dalkeith; Eleanor, married in 1449 Archduke Sigismund of Austria; Mary, who, while still a child, was married in 1444 to Wolfram von Borselen, lord of Camp-Vere in Zealand, and, in right of his wife, earl of Buchan in Scotland; and Annabella, betrothed in 1444 to Philip, count of Geneva, second son of Amadeus, duke of Savoy, the anti-pope Felix of the council of Basle, but who married George Gordon, second earl of Huntly [q. v.] His love for his wife never wavered. Almost alone of Scottish kings, he had no mistress and no bastards.
In person James was short and stout, broad-shouldered, narrow-waisted, but well-proportioned. and agile. ‘Quadratus,’ or square-built, is the term which Æneas Silvius used and Scottish historians accept as appropriate, though Major explains that he might have been fat for an Italian but not for a Scotsman. A portrait in the castle of Kielberg, near Tübingen, is wrongly said, by Pinkerton, in whose ‘Iconographia’ it is engraved, to represent James I. It is a picture of James II. From an engraving of James I in John Johnstone's ‘Icones’ later portraits have been taken. In this he appears as a man prematurely old, with grey hair, sunken cheek, and a double-pointed beard. His hair is said by Drummond of Hawthornden to have been auburn. His stoutness did not interfere with his activity, for he excelled in all games, the use of the bow, throwing the hammer, and wrestling. Nor was he less skilled in music, playing all the instruments then common, and having a good voice.
The imagination which inspired the ‘Kingis Quair’ did not desert him on his return home, and he composed verses both in Latin and the vernacular, though the subjects of his poems, alluded to by Major under the names ‘Yas Sen’ and ‘At Beltane,’ have not been identified. The manuscript of the ‘Quair’ was discovered by Lord Woodhouselee in the Bodleian Library in Oxford in 1783, and published by him in the same year. The best edition is that edited by Professor Skeat for the Scottish Text Society. The ascription of ‘Christis Kirk on the Green,’ ‘Peebles to the Play,’ and the ‘Ballade of Guid Counsale’ to his authorship has not been established, though the last is accepted as his by Professor Skeat, on the authority of the colophon in ‘The Gud and Godly Ballads,’ 1578, and the internal evidence of the earliest manuscript of the close of the fifteenth century. His love of learning was shown by his favour for St. Andrews. He was its nominal founder during his exile, and after his return sought out its best students for offices in church and state, attended their disputations, and confirmed their privileges. He was no pedant, and encouraged the introduction of foreign musicians and actors, as well as of artisans, from Flanders to teach his subjects. While he repressed, on political grounds, the trade with England, he fostered that with France, the Low Countries, and Scandinavia.[Bower is the contemporary authority for the whole life, Wyntoun for the few years prior to his capture. The Acts of Parliament are of more than usual importance, and the Exchequer Rolls and Great Seal Registers are useful supplementary records. For his life in England the various English records collected by Mr. Bain in vol. iii. of the Documents relating to Scotland, published in the Scottish Record Series. Pinkerton's History and Mr. Burnett's Preface to the Exchequer Rolls are the best modern histories; the latter correct, and indeed supersede, Tytler and Burton. The King's Tragedy, by D. G. Rossetti, is a modern poetic version of the prose narrative of the death of James by Shirley, printed by the Maitland Club and as an appendix to Pinkerton. Galt's Spaewife is a novel founded on the same story.]