James IV felt guilty for being involved, although unwillingly,
in the death of his father, James III, he wore an iron chain
around his waist as penance. Every year on the anniversary
of his father's death, he added another weight to the belt.
Under James IV, Scotland was very progressive.
Major changes were taking place in Europe, including the
end of the feudal system. James wanted his realm to take
its proper place in the new world. James gave to the Scottish
realm the effective power which made it a "new monarchy:
His reign was an expression of his own personality and its
achievements were largely due to his own vigor and ability.
Another university ,the third, was founded at Aberdeen,
the printing press came to Scotland, architecture flourished
with the remodeling of palaces at Falkirk and Stirling Castle.
A navy was established and James felt great pride for the
Great Michael, the largest warship ever to have been built
in Scotland. He was a true prince of the Renaissance in
developing the military power of his country. The people
were instructed to practice archery instead of golf and
football. James was a learned man with many interests, which
included sports, clothes, music, hunting, the arts, and
architecture. James granted the barbers and physicians the
right to form a guild and the sole right to sell whiskey
which was a medicine. Each year the guild was also given
the corpse of a hanged criminal in order to learn more about
human anatomy. James was interested in surgery and himself
extracted a tooth, set a broken leg, bled a patient. He
was even interested in alchemy and financed an adventurer
who thought he could find out how to produce gold.
It was reported to the King of Spain
that James "is exceptionally clever, and can speak
Latin, French, German, Flemish, Italian and the barbarian
Gaelic, the native tongue of nearly all his subjects. He
knows the Bible well and is conversant with most subjects.
He is a good historian and reads Latin and French history,
committing much to memory. He does not cut his hair or his
beard. He is devout and says all his prayers. He maintains
that the oath of a king should be his royal word, as was
the case in bygone times. He is active and works hard, when
he is not at war he hunts in the mountains. He is courageous.
I have seen him undertake most dangerous things in the last
wars. On such occasions he does not take the least care
This portrait of the King by the Spaniard
may have been exaggerated and he may not have spoken the
number of languages that Ayala says.
At the beginning of his reign the Highlands
were in turmoil, mainly due to the feud between the MacDonalds
and MacKenzies. He visited the Isles six times and finally
he took the Lordship of the Isles away from the MacDonalds
of Islay and annexed MacDonald lands. He tried to treat
the Highland chiefs like Lowland barons but this didn't
work. Later he used the strongest clans, the Campbells and
the Gordons to keep order. This was successful on a short
term but in the long run it did not prove out as this further
divided the clans because other chiefs resented the interference.
James was interested in education and
made it mandatory for all men of means to send their eldest
son to schools to study the arts, law and Latin. His intention
was to keep the elite and wealthy in positions of power.
It was also mandatory for all young men to train in warfare.
What comes through is the King's love
of good government and of his people. His domestic policy
was the suppression of disorder and the improvement of governmental
James wanted to marry Margaret Drummond.
However, shortly after the political marriage between himself
and Margaret Tudor, Henry VII's daughter, had been proposed
to him, Margaret Drummond and her two sisters were found
murdered. They had been poisoned. James never forgot her
and prayed for her soul for the rest of his life. He married
Henry VII's daughter, Margaret Tudor, with whom he had six
children, only one of whom survived. This was more of a
political marriage, as most were, than a romantic one. He
signed the Treaty of Perpetual Peace in Glasgow Cathedral.
James was 28 and Margaret 12. The ceremony to receive the
young Queen was filled with pageantry and something that
Scotland had not seen before. "The queen was dressed
in white satin damask bordered with crimson velvet, with
a collar of gold and pearls, a present from the King. Her
long hair nearly reached the floor. The King was also dressed
in white damask with gold trimmings, over a jacket slashed
in crimson satin and edged with black velvet." The
queen was very unhappy away from her home. Of course, she
was just a child.
Ten years after the marriage feast
and the declaration of lasting peace between England and
Scotland, James once more found himself at war with the
English. By the auld alliance James IV was bound to support
France so when Henry VIII invaded France, the Scottish king
invaded England. He also had some grievances with Henry
VIII because he would not send the jewelry that had been
promised by Henry VII to Scotland as part of the dowry of
Margaret. Another reason was that two Scottish ships had
been seized by the English. Henry VIII refused to return
them even though James had returned captured English vessels
during Henry VII's reign.
His reign ended tragically. He and
his army were wiped out at Flodden in 1513. He had gathered
an army of 20,000, the most powerful that Scotland had ever
put on the field and took it to Northumbria. The Scots chose
an ideal position on Flodden Hill for the battle. The Earl
of Surrey who was a skillful general was in command of the
English army. He realized that he had to make the Scots
change position and so he marched his army to the north,
cutting of their retreat. The Scots were arranged in five
groups, like Bruce's formation at Bannockburn. The English
were divided into two groups. The Scots had cannons but
they were very unwieldy, not like the much lighter artillery
of the English. Also, the English had expert German gunners
at the cannons. The English shot great gaps in the ranks
of the Scots. Instead of letting the English come up the
hill to him, he chose to advance down the hill. The ground
was slippery and the Scots could not remain a wall of spears
coming toward the English. The Scots spears were 19 feet
long and the English used shorter axe-like weapons which
were easier to use. The central part of his army had almost
reached the Earl of Surrey when James was killed. At the
end of the battle at nightfall, more than 10,000 brave Scots
lay dead on Flodden Hill, including the King, the Archbishop
of St. Andrews, two bishops, three abbots, nine earls, fourteen
lords and three Highland chiefs. Their bodies were buried
in deep pits and a monument stands now to commemorate the
battle and their loss.
St. Pauls Church near the battlefield
has printed a booklet about the battle. It says, in part:
"Thus ended the last medieval
battle to be found on English soil. Never again were knights
to fight in armor, their personal standards flying. Never
again were arrows, swords and spears to be the decisive
weapons. Small arms, still unknown at Flodden, would gradually
take their place."
When James died, the people of Edinburgh
felt they would never be safe from the English unless they
protected themselves. They started building fortifications
but the English did not attack again. The wall that was
completed around the city was named Flodden Wall. Some parts
of it can still be seen.
Scotland never fully recovered from
the defeat. James was a popular king, the greatest by far
of all the house of Stewart. He does not deserve the blame
which tradition has accorded to him. It was Henry, not James,
who was responsible for the war and one reason that he was
ill prepared was that he strove to keep the peace to the
very last. His campaign was not at fault. His defeat in
battle was primarily due to the fact that his ill organized
force, numerically not much more than that of the enemy,
was not adequate for its task.. So many died with him, including
his brilliant bastard son, the Archbishop of St. Andrews.
Again, the country was to suffer the uncertainties of a
long minority for James V was only 17 months old.
James's body was disemboweled, embalmed
and sent to London. His body, grotesquely preserved, was
kept in the Monastery of Sheen, then thrown in a lumber
room. Years later it was discovered by workmen who cut off
the head and used it for a macabre plaything. It was passed
from one English noble to another for years, until it was
finally buried in an anonymous grave.
Article Submitted By Neil Ritchie