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26th of June 1488 saw the crowning of James IV at Scone
James IV came to the throne after the death of his father earlier in June after Battle of Sauchieburn. I deliberately didn’t post on the battle two weeks ago as I touched upon it in March on the post about his birth, and rather than repeating it all I knew this post would also cover it.
Sauchieburn is a little battle, even within Scotland, let alone in the wider world, yet it proved an important battle, as it brought a king to the Scottish throne who proved remarkably effective, and began to establish the country as an important player in Europe. It has also been named, Stirling Bridge and Bannockburn, in the past due to the relative area where it happened, as two other “wee” battles happened to already have those names Sauchieburn it was.
If you remember a few days ago on my post about James III marriage to Margaret of Denmark, I said his reign was a bit rocky, his wee brothers had tried to oust him less than a decade before Sauchieburn, after spending time imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle, he was released and resumed his reign, however he remained an unpopular monarch, his wife seemed to spend a lot of time smoothing things over and was more admired than James himself, however on her death in 1486 he was left isolated, he became suspicious of his son, who had been spirited away from Stirling Castle in 1482 and he had not seen in around six years. It was normal practice in those days for the monarchs, even the queen to have little to do with their children’s upbringing, it was left to the church and their scholars to bring them up.
James III knew trouble was brewing, his increasing attempts at closer ties with England caused unrest, powerful lords planned a rebellion, the Humes, Hepburns, the Earls of Angus and Argyll, and even the Bishop of Glasgow joined forces, they also had guardianship of the 15 year old Prince James who no doubt had been told his father was grooming his brother as his successor, he had already tried to marry him off to Edward IV daughter. We all know how impressionable teenagers are, so it was with all this happening he became the figurehead in the rebellion.
Both sides raised armies King James still had a number of senior supporters, The Grahams, Leslies and Cunningham’s, all powerful lords in their own right. There is no contemporary account of the battle fought at the side of Sauchie Burn, a stream about two miles south of Stirling It is believed that King James had more men, and the sword of Robert the Bruce girded at his side but neither of these factors could give him the victory.
The loyalty of his men was questionable and what exactly occurred, either before, during or immediately after the battle is unclear. Neither side used artillery - it was a traditional man-to-man encounter, on ground that was surrounded by marsh. It seems to have been over very quickly, with the young Prince James being pronounced King James IV within hours.
There are a few different tales about the death of James III, the one I have read most often is that his horse stumbled on the Bannockburn and he was carried to Beaton Hall where he asked for a priest, who turned out to be a rebel in disguise and he stabbed the king to death.
An enquired at James VI’s first parliament only tells us that James III “ happinit to be slayn" and that
“oure soverane lord that now is and the trew lordis and barouns that wes withe him in the samyne feild war innocent, quhyt and fre of the saidis slauchteris feilde and all persute of the occasioune and cause of the samyne’. James IV was crowned at Scone on 26 June 1488. As penance for causing the death of his father, James wore an iron chain for the rest of his life.
James was said to be dashing, accomplished, highly intelligent and interested in everything, he enjoyed himself with mistresses and had at least three illegitimate children.
One of his skills made chuckle a wee bit, James was known to practise dentistry and even charged his patients for his services. The palaces of Linlithgow, Falkland and Holyrood were extended under his reign and he is credited with creating an impressive navy, including the ship "The Great Michael”. It was a Renaissance court he enjoyed and by marrying Margaret Tudor, daughter of King Henry VII of England it looked like a lasting peace between the two countries was possible.
Then one day war broke out between England and France, Henry VIII was on the English throne by now and he invaded France, James had no choice but to honour the agreement that has become known as the Auld Alliance and declared war against the English, his successful reign came to and end at the disastrous Battle of Flodden on 9 September 1513.