Page images

he adopted to punish the too powerful offender cannot be justified. Douglas was invited to a personal interview with his sovereign, and having obtained a safe conduct for himself and his followers, he came to Stirling, where he was entertained by the King in the Castle. After supper, about eight o'clock in the evening, the King, rising from table, led Douglas apart into the deep recess of a window; where he remonstrated with him on his late violent proceedings, and urged him to break the bond with Crawford and Ross, as being inconsistent with his allegiance to the crown. Douglas replied, that liis solemn faith was pledged to that bond, and, with much intemperate language, declared that he would not break it for living man. “ If you will not break it,” answered the King, “this shall,”—and he plunged his dagger into Douglas's body. Sir Patrick Gray, who, as captain of the guard, was standing in the room, immediately felled Douglas to the ground with his battle-axe; and the other courtiers who were present, struck the fallen Earl with their daggers. The window is still to be seen from which the body was thrown out into the court.

The brothers and followers of Douglas, upon learning the fate of their chief, fled from Stirling; and returning in stronger force burnt the town, and thereafter prepared for open war with their sovereign. We cannot here recount the battles which took place between the nobles who adhered to the King on the one side, and those who took part with the Earl of Douglas on the other. The murdered Earl was succeeded by his brother James, who does not appear to have possessed those high qualities of courage and resolution for which his ancestors were so famous. Having with a body of forty thousand men met the royal army at Abercorn, his indecision proved the ruin of himself and his house. Having declined battle at the first meeting, his adherents, who had been tampered with by the King's friends, forsook him during the night, and Douglas found his camp almost deserted in the morning. He made a hasty retreat,his estates were ravaged,-his castles taken, -his brothers defeated,--and the Earl himself, a banished man, took refuge in England. The Earl of Angus, a younger branch of the Douglas, having adhered to the King during the struggle with the rebellious Earl, was rewarded with a large portion of his kinsman's estates.

The Castle of Roxburgh had remained in the hands of the English since the battle of Durham, a period of one hundred years. James now laid siege to that important

ortress; and whilst, in company with the Earls of Huntly and Angus, he was watching the effects of a battery, one of the rude guns, composed of iron bars fastened with hoops of the same metal, exploded, and a fragment striking the King, fractured his thigh, and killed him on the spot. The queen shortly after arrived in the camp with the young prince, and exhibiting him to the army as their king, encouraged them to continue the siege ; and with such vigour was it pressed that the castle was taken in a few days.

James II., thus prematurely cut off at the age of twenty-nine, had shown much wisdom and firmness during his brief government, and had he lived, gave every promise of carrying into effect the reformations begun by his father. He was robust in person, but his face was partly deformed by a red mark on the cheek, which procured for him the name of “ James with the fiery face.”

Written for the present Work.

XI.-JAMES III.-1460-1488. JAMES III. succeeded to the throne in his eighth year, and was crowned in the Abbey of Kelso, during the siege of the castles of Roxburgh and Wark.

So long as the queen-mother and Archbishop Kenmedy survived, the country enjoyed the benefit of a wise and virtuous administration, and the prince the advantage of a prudent and judicious education. But upon their death, the power having fallen into the hands of the Boyds, we have every reason to believe, that a set of politicians so intent on the aggrandizement of their own family, and on monopolizing all authority in their own hands, discouraged in the prince all attention to business, and fostered in him those desires which were the least likely to interrupt them in their own selfish and ambitious course. The Boyds, after a brief administration of three years, were, by the other nobles, undermined in the king's favour, who, now eighteen years of age, took the government into his own hands; and for the first seven years his reign was peaceable and prosperous. The minority, indeed, had been more than usually fortunate; the Orkney and Shetland islands had been acquired from Norway; the castles of Berwick and Roxburgh gained from the English ; the earldom of Ross wrested from the Lord of the Isles and annexed to the crown, and the erection of St. Andrews into an archbishopric, had established the independence of the Scottish Church.

The latter years of James III.'s reign were clouded by misfortune and distracted by civil wars. Twice had the unhappy monarch to take the field in arms against his own brother, and twice in like manner against his own son. These unnatural rebellions have been by many historians imputed chiefly to the king's incapacity and misgovernment, and have induced them to draw his character as mean and contemptible. They represent him as weak and capricious, attached to low-born favourites, addicted to selfish pleasures, and disinclined to the duties of his kingly office, and to the society of his nobles. It is true that he showed a dislike to the rude manners of his haughty and ignorant barons, and perhaps he devoted too much of his time to the fine arts, music and architecture, and to persons who could aid him in these studies, whilst he neglected the more manly and chivalrous sports, which were the fashion of the age. Cochrane an architect, Rogers a musician, Ireland a man of literature and science, and Hommil a tailor, are represented as his chief associates and favourites. Whilst the king thus rendered himself unpopular, his two brothers, the Duke of Albany and the Earl of Mar, began to conceive treasonable schemes for his dethronement. Albany was imprisoned in Edinburgh castle, from which he made his escape to France; Mar was bled to death in a warm bath, whether by accident or design, is unknown.

In 1482, Albany, with an English force under the Duke of Gloucester, advanced in arms against his native country, and the Scottish army, with their sovereign at their head, marched as far as Lauder to oppose them. In the church of this village the discontented

nobles held a council, in which it was resolved to remove the king's minions, who they said were usurping their place around the throne. Lord Gray reminded them, that the mice,

according to the fable, had resolved to tie a bell round the cat's neck to give notice of her approach, which proposition, applauded by all, yet proved ineffectual, from no one having courage to tie the bell on the cat's neck. “I will bell the cat,” cried Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus, whence he was afterwards called “ Archibald Bell-the-Cat.” Cochrane now entering the council was immediately seized, and, with the rest of the king's favourites, hanged over Lauder bridge. After this savage butchery, the nobles abandoned the expedition against the English, and returning with their captive king to Edinburgh, shut him up a prisoner in the castle. The Duke of Albany found it an easy matter to come to an understanding with the rebellious nobles, but finding them disinclined to dethrone his brother and make himself king, he was content with the high office of lieutenant-general of the kingdom ; and his royal brother having assented to this, obtained his freedom, apparently at the intercession of Albany. Albany was soon convicted of new treasons, and compelled to leave the kingdom.

In 1487, the Earls of Argyle and Angus, with many other powerful barons, were base enough to corrupt the mind of the king's eldest son, now fifteen years of age, and to offer him the crown if he would join them in dethroning his father. The king, with the northern barons who remained faithful, met the adverse troops with his own son at their head near Linlithgow, where a severe skirmish took place. A negotiation followed, but the agreement it produced was of short duration. The discontented nobles, with the young prince, raised again in the following year the standard of insurrection, and a battle was fought at Sauchie, within a mile of the famous field of Bannockburn, in which the king's troops were defeated; and himself, flying from the battle, was thrown from his horse at the village of Milton. Being asked his name by the cottagers who carried him into their hut, he answered, “I was your king this morning, and desired them to fetch him a confessor. One of the enemy who was in pursuit, pretending to be a priest, entered the hut, and stabbed the king to the heart. The name of the murderer was never known. The king's The character of the unfortunate monarch, who thus perished in his thirty-fifth year, does not appear to deserve the reproaches which have too generally been heaped upon it. On


1o-ni1 min 1


occasions he manifested much zeal for the welfare of his subjects and the interests of his country, and more than once displayed no common degree of firmness in promoting the one and maintaining the other; and the very faults by which he incurred unpopularity, savour more of refinement than of vice.

Written for the present Work.

XII.-JAMES IV.--1488-1513. The first years of the reign of James IV. passed away in a course of gaiety and dissipation. The nobles were entertained in a manner suitable to their taste, with splendid banquets and magnificent shows, whilst the young monarch led a life of licentious pleasure, interrupted only by occasional fits of remorse for the unnatural part he had taken in the rebellion against his father.

In 1489, Sir Andrew Wood of Largo gained great renown for his exploits by sea. With only two ships, he captured on the west coast a squadron of five English vessels that were plundering the Scottish merchantmen, and carried his prizes into Leith. Henry VII. enraged at this, offered a reward for the capture of Wood; and an English captain, named Stephen Bull, set out with three ships strongly manned, but, after an obstinate engagement, was himself taken by the Scotch admiral, and carried into Dundee.

In 1495, Perkin Warbeck, a mysterious impostor who laid claim to the throne of England, was received in Scotland with royal honours, and James accompanied the adventurer with an army across the border ; but finding the English disinclined to acknowledge the pretender's claim, James returned within his own frontier, and Warbeck soon after set sail for the continent.

James, with all his love for amusements, and devotion to the sports of chivalry, was not neglectful of his duties as a king. He was unwearied in his attention to business, and spared no personal exertion to promote the due administration of justice throughout his dominions. In 1497, he made a progress in the time of winter as

« PreviousContinue »