Thursday, March 25, 2010

James II of Scotland Crowned

On March 25, 1437, James the Fiery Face was crowned King of Scotland.  James was only 6 when he became king.  He was crowned in Holyrood House, which represented a switch from the past nearly 600 years (from Kenneth MacAlpin), during which monarchs were crowned at Scone.

Walter Scott covers James II in his History of Scotland:

"A war with England was the next object of interest during the active reign of James II. He invaded England with six thousand men, burned and plundered the country for twenty miles inland, and destroyed eighteen towers and fortalices. The Scottish army remained on English ground six days, without battle being offered, and returned home without loss, and with worship and honour. On James's retreat, the duke of York and earl Salisbury, with other English nobles, led to the border a body of about four or five thousand men; but having differed in opinion of the plan of the campaign, they quarrelled among themselves, and retired with disgrace. The cause of these internal discords in the English camp probably arose out of the dissensions concerning the red and white roses, which were now engrossing the nation. The truce with England was prolonged for nine years. James, however, seems to have deemed the period favourable for recovering such Scottish possessions as were still held by the English; accordingly we find him breaking through the truce.

It was with this view that the king collected a numerous army, and laid siege to Roxburgh, which had now been in possession of the English since the captivity of David II., and, as a military post, was of the greatest importance, being very strongly situated between the Tweed and Teviot, and not far from their confluence, in the most fertile part of the Scottish frontier. John the lord of the isles appeared in the royal camp, to atone for former errors and treasonable actions by zeal on the present occasion. He led a select body of Highlanders and islesmen armed with shirts of mail, two-handed swords, bows, and battle-axes, with which he offered to take the vanguard of the army should it be necessary to enter England, and to march a mile before the main body, so as to encounter the first brunt of the onset. Invasion, however, made no part of James's purpose on this occasion. He was desirous to recover possession of Roxburgh, and not being apprehensive of relief from England, resolved to proceed in the siege accoming to formal rule. He beleaguered the castle on every side, and battered it from the north of the Tweed, his cannon being placed in the duke of Roxburgh's park of Fleurs. James was proud of his train of cannon, and of the skill of a French engineer, who could level them so truly as to hit within a fathom of the place he aimed at, which, in these days, was held extraordinary practice. The siege had not continued many days when the arrival of the earl of Huntley, to whose valour and fidelity the king had been so much indebted with a gallant body of forces from the north, increased the king's hopes of succeeding in his enterprise. He received his noble and faithful adherent with the greatest marks of respect and regard, and conducted him to see his batteries.

Unhappily, standing in the vicinity of a gun which was about to be discharged, the rude mass, composed of ribs of iron, bound together by hoops of the same metal, burst asunder, and a fragment striking the king on the thigh, broke it asunder, and killed him on the spot. The earl of Angus was severely wounded on the same occasion.

Thus fell James the second of Scotland, in the twentyninth year of his age, and the twenty-fourth of his reign. His person was strong and well put together, and he was reckoned excellent at all exercises. His face would have been handsome, had it not been partly disfigured by a red spot, which procured him from his subjects the name of James with the fiery face. Of the natural violence of his temper he had given an unfortunate proof, by suffering himself to be surprised into a violation of faith towards Douglas. His subjects seem, however, to have considered this as the act of momentary passion; and James's clemency to Crawford, who, in the words of the chronicler, had been " right dangerous to the king," after that earl was entirely in his power, as well as the small number of persons who suffered for rebellions which shook the very throne, made his temper appear merciful, compared to that of his father, James I. He possessed the gift of being able to choose wise counsellors, and had the sense to follow their advice when chosen. In the display which James II. was called on to make of his military talents he showed both courage and conduct. His death was an inexpressible loss to his country, which was again plunged into the miseries of a long minority...."

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