Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Accident at Roxburgh Castle

A freak accident took the life of Scottish King James II, on August 3, 1460.  Sir Walter Scott has the story in “The History of Scotland”.

‘..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 according to formal rule. He beleaguered the castle on every side, and battered it from the north of the Tweed; his cannon bring 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 those 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 twenty-ninth 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…’

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