Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Jane (d.1445)

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JANE or JOHANNA (d. 1445), queen of Scotland, was the daughter of John Beaufort, earl of Somerset. Her mother was Margaret, daughter of Thomas Holland, second earl of Kent [q. v.], and niece of Richard II, who became after her first husband's death Duchess of Clarence. James I, king of Scotland [q. v.], when a prisoner at Windsor, saw her walking in the garden of the castle, fell in love at first sight, and wrote the story of his love in the ‘Kingis Quair.’ The marriage, which suited the English rulers, and was made one of the conditions of his release, took place at St. Mary Overy Church in Southwark on 12 Feb. 1424. In the following month the married pair proceeded to Scotland, stopping at Durham, where the hostages for James were delivered, and they reached Edinburgh before Easter. On 21 May they were crowned by Bishop Wardlaw at Scone. Their marriage was happy. [For Jane's children see under James I of Scotland.]

A gratuity to the masons building the palace of Linlithgow, and a gift of the mastership of the hospital of Mary Magdalene, near the same town, to her chaplain, point to it as Jane's favourite residence in Scotland. She received grants for her annuity from the burgh customs, and in the second parliament of the reign the clergy were enjoined, after the English custom, to pray for her along with the king in a set collect. In the chapel of St. John the Baptist, built by James near the parish church of Corstorphine, three chaplains were endowed to pray for her soul and that of her husband.

At the king's tragic death in 1437 she played a memorable part, interposing her body, according to one account, to save him, and being herself wounded in the struggle, though according to another she was saved from injury by the interposition of a son of Sir Robert Graham. This unconscious fulfilment of the lines in the ‘Kingis Quair,’

And this floure, I can saye no more
So hertly has unto my help attendit,
That from the deth her man sche has defendit,

has been often noticed, but the original meaning was only that her love saved him from captivity or from despair. To her energy is generally ascribed the rapid punishment of his murderers, who were executed within forty days. James had taken the precaution, not unusual in those times, to make the leading nobles swear allegiance to the queen as well as to himself, and she held for a short time the practical regency of the kingdom and custody of the young king, James II [q. v.] In the parliament of 1439 her guardianship of the infant king and his four unmarried sisters was confirmed, but Archibald, earl of Douglas [q. v.], was made regent or king's lieutenant.

In the contest for the person of the king between Crichton and Livingstone, the queen actively sided with Livingstone [see under James II]. Before 21 Sept. 1439 Jane married Sir James Stewart, the Black ‘Rider,’ or Knight of Lorne, and at that date obtained a dispensation on three different grounds within the forbidden degrees of consanguinity and affinity. It was necessary to find a protector against Crichton and Livingstone, who had now united, and kept forcible possession of her son; but on 3 Aug. she and her husband were surprised and violently attacked in Stirling Castle by Livingstone. Her husband and his brother were committed to a dungeon in the castle, and Jane herself was removed to some other stronghold. On 4 Sept. she signed an agreement with Livingstone, by which she surrendered the custody of the king till his majority, gave up her dowry for his maintenance, and the castle of Stirling for his residence. The release of her husband and his brother explains how this deed was extorted. By the Knight of Lorne Jane had three sons: John Stewart of Balveny (d. 1512) [q. v.], created Earl of Atholl by James II; James Stewart (d. 1500?) [q. v.], earl of Buchan, called ‘Hearty James;’ and Andrew, who became bishop of Moray. In the midst of the continued troubles of the minority of James II, Jane died on 15 July 1445, at Dunbar, where she had been under the protection or in the custody of Patrick Hepburn of Hailes. She was buried beside her first husband in the Carthusian convent at Perth. The Knight of Lorne survived, and seems to have taken refuge in England. Her devoted attachment to James is the principal fact in Jane's life. Her children, especially her son, respected her memory. A portrait, perhaps authentic, engraved in Pinkerton's ‘Iconographia,’ presents regular features and a pleasing expression.

[Bowers's continuation of Fordun; Account of the Death of James I, published by the Maitland Club; Brief Chronicle of Scotland, published by Mr. Thomas Thomson; see also Exchequer Rolls, the Great Seal Register, and the Scottish Documents in the English Records, vol. iii., edited by Bain.]

Æ. M.