Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/James IV of Scotland
JAMES IV (1473–1513), king of Scotland, eldest son of James III [q. v.] and Margaret, daughter of Christian I of Denmark, was born on 17 March 1473. His betrothal at Edinburgh on 18 Oct. 1474 to the Princess Cecilia [q. v.], third daughter of Edward IV, and a proposal in 1487 for his marriage to a sister-in-law of Henry VII, both came to nothing. The prince was placed at the head of the rebels at Sauchieburn, where his father was killed (11 June 1488). He was crowned at Scone in the last week of June. A chaplain at Cambuskenneth was paid to say masses for his father's soul. James performed the somewhat ostentatious penance of wearing an iron belt, if we may credit his portraits, outside his doublet, and never forgave himself for his father's death. The leaders of what could no longer be called a rebellion succeeded to the great offices of state. The Earl of Argyll became again chancellor; Alexander, master of Home [q. v.], replaced David, earl of Crawford [q. v.], as chamberlain; Knollis, preceptor of Torphichen, succeeded the abbot of Arbroath as treasurer; Lords Lyle [q. v.] and Glamis were appointed justiciars south and north of the Forth. The Earl of Angus [q. v.] as guardian of the king, Home, who soon became warden of the east marches, and Patrick Hepburn, lord Hailes [q. v.], warden of the middle and west marches, created earl of Bothwell and high admiral, were the nobles in whose hands the chief power rested. Before parliament met two staunch adherents of the late king, the Earl of Crawford and Sir Andrew Wood, were conciliated by a pardon and regrant of their estates.
After his coronation James came on 26 June from Perth to Stirling, attended his father's obsequies at Cambuskenneth, and after presiding over the audit of exchequer on 7 July, went to Edinburgh. On 3 Aug. he was at Leith to see the Danish ships which had brought his uncle, Junker Gerhard, count of Oldenburg, who was hospitably entertained till the end of the year. On 5 Aug. he went to Linlithgow, where the players acted before him, and next week to Stirling, on his way to a hunt in Glenfinlas, from which he returned to the justice ayre at Lanark on 21 Aug. On the 14th he went to Perth, from which he returned next day to Edinburgh to prepare for the meeting of parliament. In this parliament, which met on 6 Oct., all grants by James III prior to 2 Feb. 1488 were rescinded, and several of the late king's supporters were forfeited; but the Earl of Buchan was pardoned, and a declaration made that the sons of those who fell on the side of James III at Sauchie should succeed to their estates as if their ancestors had died in the king's peace.
A singular debate, the first distinctly recorded in a Scottish parliament, is entered in the minutes as ‘The Debate and Cause of the Field of Stirling,’ ending with a declaration of the three estates, which laid the whole blame for the slaughter at the battle upon James III and his ‘perverse council.’ Embassies were to be sent to the pope, and to the kings of France, Spain, and Denmark, with a copy of the Act of Indemnity under the great seal, and were at the same time to search for a wife for the new king. James, although only fifteen, began at once to attend audits of exchequer and circuits of justiciary, as well as to preside in parliament. Pitscottie gives a graphic account of the trial of Lord Lindsay of the Byres before the king in person. James kept Yule at Linlithgow, returning to Edinburgh before 14 Jan. 1489, when an adjourned session of parliament met. During the next two months he went on circuit, both in the south and north, returning on 1 April to Edinburgh, where he kept Palm Sunday, but came to Linlithgow for Easter. He took part from May to July, and again in October, in the suppression of a rebellion headed by the Earl of Lennox and Lord Lyle in the west, and by Lord Forbes [q. v.] in the north, who carried the bloody shirt of James III as his standard. The insurrection was not crushed till December. But on 28 July James had returned to Edinburgh to meet the Spanish ambassadors. He received them at Linlithgow in the middle of August, and they presented him with a sword and dagger, probably those afterwards taken at Flodden, and still preserved in the English Heralds' College. They received in return six hundred crowns. The object of the embassy, which had already negotiated a marriage between Arthur, the eldest son of Henry VII, and the Princess Katherine, was by a similar offer to detach Scotland from the French alliance; but De Puebla, its chief, exceeded his instructions, offering James the hand of an infanta instead of an illegitimate daughter of Ferdinand of Aragon, for which he was reprimanded, yet told to ‘put off the Scotch king with false hopes’ lest he should renew the French alliance.
James kept his Yule in 1489 at Edinburgh. By a prudent policy the leaders of the recent rebellion, Lennox, Huntly, the Earl-Marischal, Lyle, and Forbes, were pardoned. During the same year his attention was directed to the defence of the east coast from the attacks of English pirates, and found in Andrew Wood [q. v.] of Largo, who became one of his chief counsellors, an admiral able to cope with the marauders. The king saw the political importance of the navy, and throughout his reign the equipment of vessels of war and the encouragement of trading and fishing craft were kept steadily in view. On 3 Feb. 1490 parliament met at Edinburgh, by which the principal rebels were forfeited, though afterwards pardoned. A mutilated document in the English records of that year casts light on a plot otherwise unknown for the delivery of the persons of ‘James, king of Scotland, now reigning, and his brother, at least the king,’ to Henry VII. The parties to this plot, which was in the shape of a bond for payment of 266l. 13s. 4d., were Sir John Ramsay, Patrick Hepburn, Lord Bothwell [q. v.], and Sir Thomas Todd, a Scottish knight.
In the parliament which met on 28 April 1491 important acts were passed for ‘wapenschaws,’ or musters of the forces, in each shire, the practice of archery, the holding of justice ayres, and the reform of civil and criminal procedure. But the king's marriage chiefly interested the parliament. Embassies were despatched to find a wife in France, Spain, or any other part. The envoys paid repeated visits to France without result, and subsequently the Emperor Maximilian was requested to bestow on James his daughter Margaret, but as the lady was already betrothed to the infant of Spain, that negotiation failed. James was, perhaps, not so eager for a marriage as his advisers. His illegitimate connections were numerous. His intrigue with Marion Boyd, daughter of Archibald Boyd of Bonshaw, commenced soon after his accession, for its result was the birth, at least as early as 1495, of Alexander Stewart, afterwards archbishop of St. Andrews, as well as of a daughter, Catherine. Marion Boyd appears to have been succeeded as royal mistress-in-chief by Janet, daughter of John, lord Kennedy, and a former mistress of Archibald Douglas, fifth earl of Angus [q. v.], who became, by the king, the mother of James, born in 1499, and created earl of Moray on 20 June 1501. This connection lasted at least till 1 June 1501, when the castle and forest of Darnaway were granted to her for life, under certain conditions. She received grants from the king down to 1505 (Exchequer Rolls, pp. xii, xliii). In February 1510 she surrendered lands conveyed to her in 1498 by her earlier lover Angus, receiving in exchange all the lands of Bothwell under a decree arbitral confirmed by the king (ib. p. xlviii). This transaction perhaps gave rise to the assertion, which appears scarcely credible, that she married Angus after being discarded by the king. The best beloved of the king's mistresses was Margaret, daughter of Lord Drummond, who was high in his favour from May 1496 to 1501, the date of her death [see Drummond, Margaret]. In 1497 her only child, Lady Margaret Stewart, was born. The poem of ‘Tayis Banks,’ if the work of her royal lover, is proof of James's affection. Masses were at the king's cost sung for her soul at Cambuskenneth and other places till the close of the reign. A fifth lady of noble birth, Isabel Stewart, daughter of Lord Buchan, is mentioned as the mother of a daughter, Jean, by James, while Dunbar, who entreated the king to release himself by marriage from such entanglements, hints at more vulgar and forgotten amours.
In the autumn of 1493 James visited the Western Isles and received the homage of the chiefs, whose head, John, lord of the Isles, had been forfeited in the parliament which met in May of that year. He was at Dunstaffnage in August, and on his return south made the pilgrimage to Whithern in Galloway, which became an annual custom. In October he paid his first visit to St. Duthac's at Tain, which divided with Whithorn the honour of being the principal resort of the royal pilgrim. His frequent pilgrimages to these and other shrines, as well as his external devotion to the offices of religion, have been cited as proof that he was a good catholic. Like the penance of the iron belt, his admission to the offices of a lay canon of the cathedral of Glasgow, and a lay brother of the Friars Observant at Stirling, and his benefactions to these friars, from whom he chose his confessor, are evidence of intervals of penitence, intermingled with acts of sin, which indicate a singularly unstable character. In May 1494 he again paid a short visit to the Isles, and returned to Glasgow in July. Probably it was on the occasion of this visit that the prosecution of the lollards of Kyle in Ayrshire, before the king and his council at the instance of Robert Blacader [q. v.], the archbishop, took place, of which Knox has preserved a graphic account in his ‘History.’ If the trial was really allowed to end by a series of jocular answers to the inquisitor, James cannot have been a virulent persecutor of heretics; there were no martyrs in his reign. At Glasgow he raised an expedition, which met him at Tarbert in Kintyre on 24 July; he repaired the castle of Tarbert and took the castle of Dunaverty, which he garrisoned. But as soon as he left it was recaptured by John of Isla, and its captain hung in sight of the royal fleet. John Mackian of Ardnamurchan recovered Dunaverty in September, and John of Isla and four of his sons were sent to Edinburgh and executed. In 1495 he prepared a new expedition to the still disturbed Western Isles. At Easter he was in Stirling, busy with preparations for his personal equipment, and on 5 May, along with the lords of the west, east, and south, he came to Dumbarton. Embarking at Newark Castle, on the Ayrshire coast, he sailed to Ardnamurchan, where, at the castle of Mingary, he received the submission of some of the island chiefs. Before the end of June he returned to Glasgow, where O'Donnel, chief of Tyrconnel in Ulster, visited him and renewed an old league.
The adroit monarchs of Castile and Aragon kept dangling before the eyes of James the hope of a Spanish match, and the negotiations for this purpose form a considerable part of the external affairs of Scotland during the next three years. On 20 Nov. 1495 Perkin Warbeck [q. v.] came to Stirling. His claim to be the Duke of York, son of Edward IV, first put forward in 1491, was useful to James, now at enmity with Henry VII. James knew nothing of his real antecedents, but Warbeck brought strong credentials, and as early as March 1492 James had heard of him from the Earls of Desmond and Kildare, who forwarded letters from Perkin himself (Treasurer's Accounts, i. 190). James allowed him 1,200l. a year, for which a special tax was levied, introduced him to the principal nobility, and soon after gave him the hand of Lady Katharine Gordon, daughter of the Earl of Huntly, granddaughter of James I, and one of the beauties of the Scottish court, in marriage. The marriage, which took place with much ceremony in January, appears proof that James at this time believed in Perkin's pretensions. Preparations were at once made for a war to assist his claims, and Perkin remained in constant attendance at the royal court. James had kept Yule (1495) at Linlithgow, and two days before had received at Stirling the Spanish ambassadors, Martin de Torre and Garcia de Herrera, who had come with instructions to detach James from Perkin and secure his alliance with Henry VII, to whose eldest son, Arthur, the infanta of Spain had been already contracted in marriage. Unfortunately the astute monarchs of Spain outwitted themselves by instructing their ambassadors to keep James in play by offering him an infanta as a bride, an offer they never intended to fulfil. Their letters disclosing this duplicity fell into his hands before their arrival, and they were naturally received with coolness. He waived their proposals, but agreed to send to Spain the Archbishop of Glasgow, with one of the Spanish ambassadors, and if a marriage could be concluded to consent to peace with England. In March 1496 he went his usual pilgrimage to St. Duthac's, but returned to spend Easter at Stirling, where Perkin was still in his company. In June or July 1496 another ambassador of Spain, Don Pedro de Ayala, arrived at Stirling, where he was hospitably received. He described James as a most accomplished sovereign, knowing all the languages of Europe, Spanish included, which seems little likely; a devoted son of the church, attending all its services, confessing to the Friars Observant, and full of warlike spirit, only too rash in exposing his own person; a wise administrator, taking counsel from others, but in the end acting on his own opinion. Ayala gives contradictory accounts as to James's disposition to marry.
The Spanish monarchs, unable to fulfil the hope they had held out of an infanta, now suggested that Henry VII should offer James his own daughter, and this device was first broached by Richard Foxe [q. v.], bishop of Durham, who was sent to Scotland early in September 1496, but failed to persuade James of the sincerity of the offer or to abandon Perkin. On 2 Sept. 1496 Ramsay, a spy in the English interest, was present at a council of the Scottish king, when Perkin agreed that on obtaining the English throne he would restore Berwick and other northern districts (the seven sheriffdoms) to Scotland, as well as pay fifty thousand marks. Ramsay notes the extent of the preparations for the war, and alleges that it was opposed by the leading nobles and the king's brother, the Duke of Ross. Ramsay was also present at the reception of Monipenny, Sieur de Concressault, with letters from France, and of Roderic de Lalain from Flanders, with two small ships and six score men. The French king is said by Ramsay to have offered a hundred thousand crowns for the surrender of Perkin, and Lalain to have refused to speak to the adventurer, saying his embassy was only to the king. But a spy wishing to please his employer is a bad authority. Meanwhile James was eager to set out, and after summoning his troops to meet him at Ellem Kirk on the borders on 15 Sept., and reviewing his artillery at Restalrig on the 12th and 14th, when he made offerings at Holyrood and ordered masses to be sung at Restalrig Church, he marched, with Perkin, to Haddington on the 14th, and from that across the Lammermuir to Ellem Kirk, which he reached on the 19th. A proclamation issued in the name of Richard IV, king of England, met, to James's disappointment, with no response from the English borderers, and Perkin, pretending that he disliked to shed the blood of his own subjects, recrossed the Tweed to Coldstream. After a raid on the Northumbrian border and a fruitless siege of the house of Heiton, James himself tired of the expedition and returned to Edinburgh by 8 Oct. After spending some time in sport, he again came south to Home Castle on the east marches, where he conferred on 21 Nov. with Hans, his master-gunner, probably the Fleming much employed by the monarchs of that age in casting guns. Henry VII had, in a council at Westminster, received a subsidy for war with the Scots, and James was preparing for defence and retaliation. In the middle of December he was at Dunglas, another castle of Lord Home's, on the confines of Haddington and the Merse. His Yule was kept at Melrose. In preparation for the renewal of war with England, wapenschaws were held in January and February 1497, the artillery repaired, Dunbar fortified, and Sir Andrew Wood appointed its captain. On 14 Feb. James sent letters to the sheriffs ordaining a muster of the lieges for forty days from 6 April. Before Easter he had returned to Stirling, where he received the Spanish ambassadors, who tried in vain to induce him to give up Perkin and desist from the English war. On 23 May he visited Dunbar to inspect the fortifications. His visit was marked as usual by gifts to churches. The English, encouraged by the delay, commenced hostilities, but were defeated by the Master of Home at Duns early in June. On 12 June James was at Melrose, where his artillery and feudal levy met him, apparently not in sufficient number, for another summons was issued for Lauder on the 26th. But neither monarch was ready for a campaign. The defence of the English border was left to the energetic Bishop of Durham, who was able to ward off an assault by James on his castle of Norham, and summoning Thomas Howard, second duke of Norfolk [q. v.], then Earl of Surrey, a retaliatory raid was made on Ayton Castle, which was taken. James, according to the English historians, though in sight of the smoke of the English guns, declined a general engagement or a single combat with Surrey, who retreated across the border before the end of August. Foxe had indeed received on 12 July from his sovereign instructions which show through their diplomatic verbiage how anxious Henry was for peace. Foxe was in the first place to demand Perkin's surrender, and to represent that the terms offered by the Earl of Angus and Lord Home at Jenninghaugh, a short time before, could not be entertained; but if this was declined he was to propose a meeting between the two kings at Newcastle. A duplicate, and no doubt secret, copy of the instructions provided that, if the meeting was refused, Foxe was to be content with the offers made at Jenninghaugh, as the English army was not sufficiently prepared to march north (Gairdner, Letters of Richard III and Henry VII, i. 110). Meantime Perkin with his wife had gone by way of Ireland to Cornwall, and he was captured at Exeter on 5 Oct. The return to Scotland of the Spanish ambassador, Ayala, seems to have converted James to the side of peace, and he consented to close the enmity between the two nations by marrying Henry VII's daughter Margaret. Henry persuaded his council to consent to the alliance by the argument that, if a union followed, the lesser would be subordinate to the greater kingdom, citing the precedent of Normandy and England. Foxe, a good diplomatist, arranged the treaty of Ayton, which provided for a truce of seven years, from 30 Sept. 1497. The truce was threatened almost as soon as made by a quarrel over a game between some Scottish and English youths at Norham, but on 5 Dec. Ayala, who had gone to London, negotiated with William Warham its conversion into a peace for the joint lives of the two monarchs; it was ratified by James at St. Andrews on 10 Feb. 1498.
On 21 Feb. 1498 he started from Stirling on an expedition to the still unsettled Western Isles. He passed through Glasgow to Duchal, where his mistress, Marion Boyd, and her son, the future archbishop, resided, and thence to Ayr, whence he sailed to Campbelton, a new castle on the shores of Loch Kilkerran, now called the Bay of Campbelton. He received there the homage of Alexander Macleod of Dunvegan and Torquil Macleod of the Lews, and attempted to suppress the feud between the Clan Huistean of Sleat and the Clanranald of Moydart. Remaining only a week in Kintyre, he returned to Duchal, where on 16 March, having now completed his twenty-fifth year, he executed a revocation of all grants in his minority. In April 1499 he made Archibald Campbell, second earl of Argyll [q. v.], lieutenant of the Isles, and gave various grants to him and other chiefs who had been serviceable, and thus strengthened the royal authority in the outlying parts of the highlands and isles. In 1499 a plague, still more fatal during 1500, caused a suspension of the royal activity.
On 28 July 1500 Henry obtained a papal dispensation for James's marriage with Margaret. James and Margaret Tudor were related only in the fourth degree through the marriage of James I with Joan Beaufort, the great-grandmother of James, whose brother John, duke of Somerset, was the great-grandfather of Margaret. In October 1501 plenipotentiaries went to England to conclude the marriage, and on 24 Jan. 1502 the treaty was agreed to at Richmond. When it was confirmed by James by oath on the evangels and the mass on 10 Dec. the title of king of France had been entered in the titles of Henry; but James on the same day executed a notarial instrument declaring that this was ‘by inadvertence,’ and signed a copy in which the objectionable title was cancelled. Margaret, attended by the Earl of Surrey and a large suite, left Richmond on 27 June 1503, and reached the border before the end of July. On 3 Aug. James met her at Dalkeith. Next day he paid a private visit, and found Margaret at cards. She left her game, and to show her accomplishments danced a bass dance with Lady Surrey while James played on the harpsichord and lute. At leaving, to show his agility, he leapt on his horse without a stirrup. On the 7th she made her entry into Edinburgh, and the marriage was celebrated at Holyrood on the 8th. It was accompanied and followed by festivities of all kinds, but the English visitors reported that they admired the manhood more than the manners of the Scots. The ‘Controller's Accounts’ show an expenditure of more than 6,000l. It was, perhaps, in honour of the marriage that a new order of knighthood, which took its pattern from the round table of Arthur with the thistle as its symbol, was instituted. Though this cannot be proved from records, it is certain that the national symbol then first began to be common in connection with the royal arms. The windows at Holyrood were painted with the device of the union of the English flower with the Scottish wild plant, and Dunbar wrote, as poet of the court, ‘The Thistle and the Rose.’
Amid all the festivities, the bride, not yet fourteen, was sad, homesick, and petulant. Soon after the wedding James visited Elgin, Inverness, and Dingwall. About this time the Western Isles once more broke out into open revolt under Donald Dubh (the Black), an illegitimate son of Angus, and grandson of John, lord of the Isles. The royal forces under Huntly having proved insufficient, James in person, with his whole southern levy, took the field and crushed the rebellion. The parliament of 1504 introduced royal law by justiciars or sheriffs for the north and south isles, the former at Inverness or Dingwall, and the latter at Loch Kilkerran or Tarbert, and provided that the western highlands of the mainland were to attend the ayres of Perth and Inverness, and for the appointment of sheriffs of Ross and Caithness. Such important steps towards the civilisation of these districts were supplemented by further expeditions in April 1504. During summer and early autumn James made a raid in Eskdale, reducing the Armstrongs, Jardines, and other border clans, and after returning to Stirling in the end of September went his usual progress to the autumn ayres in the north, as far as Forres and Elgin. In 1505 he was again in the Western Isles; the McLeans of Mull and other minor chiefs of Mull and Skye submitted. Next year Stornoway Castle, the fort of Torquil Macleod of the Lews, was taken. The Earls of Argyll and Arran, Macleod of Harris, and Y or Odo Mackay of Strathnaver had all along supported the king. A poem of Dunbar blames James for sparing the life of the agile highlander, Donald Dubh, who was captured in 1506. Measures were taken in 1505 and 1506 to bring the isles south of Ardnamurchan, as well as Trotternish in Skye, into subjection by leases for short terms to the occupiers or others, on condition of their becoming loyal subjects. But well devised as these plans were, the chronic rebellion of the Western Isles was not overcome. James began, however, to introduce law and order among the islanders, whose language, it is worthy of notice, he is said to have spoken.
The important parliament of Edinburgh, on 4 June 1504, sat by continuation on 3 Oct. and 31 Dec. A daily council was instituted to meet in Edinburgh instead of the movable sessions. This was the first attempt to constitute a central fixed royal court for civil causes, a blow to the arbitrary justice of the feudal barons, and a further step towards confirming Edinburgh in the position of capital, which it had begun to assume since the death of James I. Other statutes dealt with the administration of criminal law. The privileges of the burghs were confirmed, and provision made for yearly election of magistrates from those who traded within the burghs. No begging was to be tolerated except by sick or impotent folk. All freeholders with land of one hundred merks value were to appear in parliament personally or by procurators. The most important statutes, all of which show James as a legislator at his best, related to the tenure of feu farm. This tenure, known from early times in reference to church lands, had been regulated by statute in 1457. But it was now expressly provided by one act that the king might let his whole lands annexed or unannexed in feu to any person, and that the feu should ‘stand perpetually to his heirs,’ and by another that every man, both of the spiritual and temporal estate, might do the same. Fixity of tenure was thus secured. The general revocation which closed the acts of this parliament included not only all acts prejudicial to the crown, but also to the catholic church. James was a devoted son of the church, and deserved the hat and sword with gold hilt and scabbard which Julius II sent him as a special mark of favour in 1507.
The peace with England and the suppression of rebellion gave more prominence to James's relations with foreign powers, with all of whom he desired to be on pacific terms. With Denmark his connection, owing to his near kinship, was intimate. Between August 1501 and August 1502 James sent two ships of war to aid his uncle, Hans of Denmark, against Swedish rebels. In 1507 and 1508 James again assisted Hans in his contest with Lübeck and the Hanseatic League, and in April of the latter year, in response to an embassy of Tycho Vincent, dean of Copenhagen, he despatched Andrew Barton [q. v.] with a ship to the Danish king, which, however, Barton appropriated to himself. When James prepared for the English war at the close of his reign he urgently, but in vain, solicited the aid of his uncle of Denmark, but succeeded in making him at least the nominal ally of France. His amicable relations with the Emperor Maximilian, Louis XII of France, and Henry VII enabled him to intercede effectually on behalf of Charles, duke of Gueldres, when threatened by Philip, archduke of Austria, and entitled him to remonstrate warmly with the archduke when he showed signs of being inclined to receive with favour Edmund de la Pole, earl of Suffolk. In 1506 he sent an embassy to Louis XII of France, and from both Dantzic and France he procured supplies of wood when his ship-building had exhausted the Scotch forests. On 21 Dec. an ambassador from James presented a letter of credence to the Venetian signory stating James's intention to visit Jerusalem, and requesting galleys or artificers to build them from the Venetian republic—a request willingly granted. He also asked the pope to excuse him from visiting Rome on his way. But the remonstrances of the king of Denmark and the state of his own kingdom prevented James's project from being realised. Two years later Blacader, archbishop of Glasgow, actually started for the Holy Land, perhaps as the deputy of James, but died on the way. With Spain he continued on good terms, and he remonstrated with King Emmanuel of Portugal against the piracy practised by the Portuguese, though he found the granting of letters of reprisal to the Bartons more effectual.
The year 1507 and the first half of 1508 were the most brilliant period of his reign. He was courted by foreign princes, on friendly terms with his father-in-law, blessed by the pope, and at peace with his own subjects. The last five years are a period of decline, due partly to external causes, but still more to his own defects of character. At the end of 1507 the Earl of Arran and his brother, Sir Patrick Hamilton, passed through England to France without a safe-conduct, and on their return in January 1508 they were detained as prisoners, though treated civilly. In March, Wolsey (as Mr. Gairdner thinks, and not West as Pinkerton and Tytler supposed) was sent to Scotland to receive James's remonstrances against Arran's detention. His letter to Henry VII in April contains his view of the character of James. When the English envoy reached Edinburgh the king was so much occupied in making gunpowder that he could not be received till 2 April, after which he had daily audiences till the 10th; but such was ‘the inconstancy’ of James that the envoy did not know what report to send. His chief object was to prevent the renewal of the old league between Scotland and France, which James promised to suspend so long as Henry continued to be ‘his loving father.’ The whole nation, commons as well as nobles, were in favour of the renewal; the king, the queen, and the Bishop of Moray were the only exceptions. Bernard Stewart, lord d'Aubigny, was on his way from France, and James promised that after he had heard his proposals the Bishop of Moray should be sent to Henry with a secret letter. James was willing to meet Henry on the borders. On 21 May D'Aubigny and Sellat, the president of the parliament of Paris, arrived. Their object was to enlist James in the alliance made by the treaty of Cambrai, between the pope, the emperor, and France against Venice, and to consult as to the marriage of the daughter of Louis XII, whose hand was sought by Charles of Castile, and also by Francis de Valois, dauphin of Vienne. James advised the latter. He delayed entering into the treaty, and D'Aubigny's death, a month after his arrival, interrupted negotiations.
The death of Henry VII on 22 April 1509 altered for the worse the relations of the two kingdoms. James had now to deal with an ambitious brother-in-law as eager for the honours of war as himself. Though a formal embassy under Bishop Forman congratulated the new monarch, trifling disputes continued, and finally led to war. Quarrels on the border were incessant. Henry VIII detained, in spite of repeated demands, the jewels left to his sister by her father's will. He also aided the Duchess of Savoy against the Duke of Gueldres, kinsman and ally of James. In July 1511 Andrew Barton was defeated and slain. Both monarchs now began to prepare for war. The chief object of Henry was the invasion of France; that of James, of England.
James's relations with Louis XII had now become intimate. He had done his best to reconcile the French king with the pope and the emperor by twice sending the Duke of Albany, his uncle, and the Bishop of Moray to the pope to mediate in the quarrel, which threatened to involve all Europe, but without result. He also implored by more than one envoy the assistance of Denmark, but the king was engaged with his own internal troubles. When the pope formed the Holy league against France in October 1511 Scotland was France's only ally. James was energetically making ready for war during the whole of 1511, and completed the building, though not the outfit, of the Great Michael, which took a year and day to build, and carried, he boasted, as many cannon as the French king had ever brought to a siege. The preliminaries of his league with France were signed by him at Edinburgh on 6 March, and the treaty itself on 12 July 1512. By the former he engaged to make no treaty with England unless France was included; and by the latter none without the consent of France. Henry vainly sent Lord Dacre and West on 15 April to Edinburgh to prevent the completion of the league, but early next year James, with characteristic inconstancy, sent Lord Drummond to Henry to offer terms, which the English king refused. Leo X issued an excommunication or interdict against James in 1513, and immediately afterwards James heard that war was finally resolved on in the English parliament against both France and Scotland. Still, it was Henry's obvious policy to keep peace if possible with Scotland while he invaded France; and West was again in Edinburgh in March, when James promised to abstain from hostilities for the present, but would write no letter which would ‘lose the French king,’ though he ‘cared not to keep him’ if Henry would make an equal promise. West left it to the judgment of Henry whether ‘there was craft in the demeanour and answer’ of James. He reported that he saw on all sides building and equipping of ships at Leith and Newhaven, and the preparation of artillery and fortifications. When dismissed after some angry passages with James he carried with him a letter from Margaret, indignant at the detention of her jewels. The single request of Henry, which James granted, was the appointment of a commission to treat of the border grievances in June, but when it met it adjourned. No sooner had West left than De la Motte, the French ambassador to Scotland, arrived from France. He brought four ships with provisions, fourteen thousand gold crowns of the Sun, and, besides his master's letters, one from Anne of Brittany, sending a ring and appealing to James, as her knight, to succour the French kingdom and queen in their hour of need. The Bishop of Moray, James's envoy in France, to whom Louis had given the rich bishopric of Bourges, about the same time, sent a letter to James, assuring him that his honour was lost if he did not assist France. Despite the protest of Bishop Elphinstone and ‘the smaller but better part of the nobles,’ it was determined to declare war with England unless Henry refrained from attacking France. A letter, not so imperative in its terms as might have been expected, but asking Henry whether he would enter into the truce which Louis and Ferdinand of Aragon had agreed to for a year from 1 April, was despatched by Lord Drummond on 24 May (Ellis, Orig. Letters, i. 1, 76). On 30 June Henry, instead of entering into the truce, sailed for France and began active hostilities. James at once sent his fleet under Huntly and Arran to aid the French on 26 July, and on the same day despatched the Lyon king to Henry before Terouenne had arrived, with a letter which, after recounting all the Scottish grievances, ended by peremptorily requiring Henry to desist from the French war under the penalty of an alliance between James and the French. Henry gave a contemptuous refusal. Meantime hostilities had begun on the border by the ‘Ill Raid’ of Lord Home, the chamberlain, who was defeated by Sir W. Bulmer at Broomridge, near Millfield. Before leaving England, Henry had sent Surrey from Dover to defend the borders, and James had summoned his feudal array to meet him at the Borough Muir of Edinburgh. Before leaving Linlithgow he had been warned against the war by one of the best attested apparitions in history. Sir David Lindsay, who was present, told the story to George Buchanan. A version, enlarged after the event in the prose of Pitscottie, and turned into poetry by Scott in ‘Marmion,’ describes how a bald-headed old man, in blue gown, with ‘brotikins’ on his feet, and belted with a linen girdle, suddenly appeared at the king's desk while he prayed, and prophesied his defeat and death. In Edinburgh another apparition at the Cross summoned by name the citizens on the way to the muster to the tribunal of Plotcock (Pluto or the devil), and one only, who protested, escaped that fatal summons. James nevertheless advanced with haste to Norham at the head of eighty thousand men, according to the English reports, certainly with as large a force as any Scottish king had brought into the field, and with artillery hitherto unequalled. He took Norham on 28 Aug., after a six days' siege, during which he held a parliament or council at Twiselhaugh, and seized the smaller castles of Wark, Etal, and Ford within a few days. At Ford he met the wife of its owner, still a prisoner in Scotland, and, according to an early tradition (which Pitscottie first put into history, and Buchanan adopted), he was himself taken captive by the beauty of its mistress, and wasted in a criminal intrigue the precious days which allowed Surrey to advance to the border. Surrey was at Newcastle on the 30th ‘to give an example to those that should follow.’ On Sunday, 4 Sept., he sent from Alnwick a herald proposing battle on Friday, the 9th. James detained the English herald, Rouge Croix, and sent his own, accepting the challenge. Surrey advanced to Woolerhaugh, within three miles of the Scottish camp, which was on the side of Flodden, a ridge of the Cheviots. He then made a feint march, as if about to attack the Scots on the flank, and posted his force under Barmoorwood, only two miles distant. On Friday he approached Flodden, and James, fearing that the enemy would march to Scotland, left his strong position on the hill, setting fire to the litter of his camp. The smoke impeded the view, and the two armies were within a mile before they could see each other. They met at the foot of Brankston Hill, the Scots keeping the higher ground to the south, the English on the east and west with their backs to the north. The artillery began the battle. James advanced with his main body in five or six divisions, but two formed the reserve and did not engage. It was met by the English in the same order. The king himself fought on foot in the third division. He fell within a spear's length from Surrey. Only two commanders in his division, Sir William Scot and Sir John Forman, escaped death, and they were taken prisoners. The defeat was total except on the left wing, where Lord Home and Huntly had for a time the advantage. The Scots' loss was reckoned at ten thousand by the English. Among the slain were the king's son the archbishop, the Bishop of the Isles and two abbots, twelve earls, thirteen lords, and fifty heads of families only less than noble. Every part of the country felt the blow. James is said to have clad several men in the same dress as himself that he might not be known, and might take the place of an ordinary combatant. It was variously rumoured in Scotland that he survived, that he had been treacherously slain after the battle, and that he had gone to the Holy Land. But his body was recognised, and the sword, dagger, and ring in the Heralds' College attest his death. His corpse lay unburied till Henry VIII in mockery got leave from his ally, the pope, to commit the corpse of one excommunicated to consecrated ground; but, according to Stow, it was still left, lapped in lead, in a waste room in the Carthusian monastery of Sheen till Young, the master-glazier of Queen Elizabeth, gave it an ignoble burial with the bones from the charnel-house in the church of St. Michael's.
James left only one legitimate child, his successor, James V. Five other children of Queen Margaret, whose second husband was Archibald Douglas, sixth earl of Angus [q. v.], had died infants. His illegitimate children by Marion Boyd were Alexander Stewart [q. v.], archbishop of St. Andrews; James, to whom there is a solitary reference in a letter printed by Ruddiman as a possible candidate, when only eight years old, for the abbacy of Dunfermline; and Catherine, who married James, earl of Morton; James Stewart, earl of Moray (1499–1544) [q. v.], by Janet Kennedy; Margaret, who married John, lord Gordon, by Margaret Drummond; and Jean, who married Malcolm, lord Fleming, by Isabel Stewart, daughter of the Earl of Buchan; and probably Henry, called Wemyss, bishop of Galloway (Keith, Scottish Bishops, p. 278), by a lady of that name.
Several authentic portraits of James IV have been preserved. One, in the diptych, now at Holyrood, represents him as a boy praying by the side of his father; and another, with a falcon on his wrist, formerly in the royal English collection, is at Keir. A third, attributed to Holbein, is in the possession of the Marquis of Lothian; it represents James holding a Marguerite daisy in his right hand. A fourth painting of 1507, and supposed to represent James IV, is the property of the Hon. Mrs. Maxwell-Scott. No copy of the medal he struck just before Flodden is now known to exist.
Flodden is a deeper stain than Sauchieburn on the memory of James. He was the chief author of the defeat, which his country never recovered till the union of the crowns of England and Scotland in the person of his great-grandson. A large share of the misery of Scotland during the interval must be attributed to his decision to side with France against England, and to his incompetence as a general. Yet he had the chivalry of a knight-errant and the courage of a soldier. He was a wise legislator, an energetic administrator, and no unskilful diplomatist, a patron of learning, the church, and the poor. Scotland under him advanced in civilisation, and became from a second- almost a first-class power.
The elegant latinity of James's diplomatic letters (Letters of Richard III and Henry VII), of which many are still in manuscript in the Advocates' Library and British Museum, is probably due to the scholarship of Patrick Panther, royal secretary during the greater part of the reign, and not to James, who cannot himself, as Mr. Brewer surmises (Henry VIII, i. 28), have been a pupil of Erasmus, though he entrusted the education of his bastard son Alexander, the archbishop, to the great humanist. But at no period was the Scottish court more friendly to literature and education. The chief authors were Henry the Minstrel [q. v.], Robert Henryson [q. v.], William Dunbar [q. v.], and Gavin Douglas [q. v.], besides a crowd of minor minstrels, one of whom, ‘Great Kennedy,’ was apparently counted the equal of Dunbar. History, as distinguished from mere chronicles, was beginning [cf. Boece, Hector; Hay, Sir Gilbert; and Major, John]. The statute of 1504, which required all barons and freeholders to send their sons to grammar schools till they had perfect Latin, and then to the university, marks the royal interest in education. William Elphinstone [q. v.], bishop of Aberdeen, founded the university in his town, and James gave his name to King's College. James's personal prediction was perhaps more for science than literature. He amused himself with the astrology and practised the imperfect surgery then in vogue. A professorship of medicine was instituted at Aberdeen, and more than one surgeon was in the royal pay. His dabbling in the black arts unfortunately made him a prey to impostors, one of whom, Damian, the abbot of Tungland, who pretended to fly, and obtained large sums to experiment on the quintessence, has been pilloried in Dunbar's verse. Another of the king's favourite pursuits was the tournament, already passing out of fashion in England, but never celebrated with more pomp in Scotland than at James IV's marriage, that of Perkin Warbeck, and the reception of D'Aubigny. The morality of James's court was as low as that of the Tudor kings, and its coarseness was less veiled.
James's personal faults infected his regal virtues. Inconstancy rendered him infirm as a general. Extravagance impoverished the exchequer. Obstinacy deprived him of wise counsellors, and pride exposed him, though not to the same extent as his father, to flatterers. His superstition placed him too much in the hands of a bad class of ecclesiastics. But with all these faults, he continued popular with the commons. The nobles were his natural enemies, as of all the Stewarts, but he controlled them better than any of his house, as the death-roll of Flodden proves. Dunbar, though he obtained no preferment and his satires had no effect, remained his friend. Sir David Lindsay observed him with the closeness of a courtier, and although himself a reformer, speaks of him, like Erasmus and Ayala, in terms of panegyric.The Treasurer's Accounts, Exchequer Rolls, and Acts of Parliament, the letters of James IV in Ruddiman's Epistolæ Regum Scotorum, supplemented by Mr. Gairdner's additions in the Letters of Richard III and Henry VII, the documents printed in Pinkerton's Appendix, and the poems of William Dunbar (Scottish Text Soc. ed.) are the original authorities. Major is a contemporary, but tantalisingly meagre. Buchanan, Leslie, and Lindsay of Pitscottie are separated only by one generation.]