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James IV of Scotland


James IV (March 17, 1473September 9, 1513) was king of Scotland from 1488 to 1513.

The son of King James III and Margaret of Denmark, he was probably born in Stirling Castle. When his father was killed at the Battle of Sauchieburn on June 11, 1488 (or possibly assassinated a few hours later) the fifteen-year-old James took the throne and was crowned at Scone, Perthshire on June 24. The rebels who had gathered at Sauchieburn had done so with James supposedly as their figurehead. When James realised the indirect role which he had played in the death of his father, he decided to do penance for his sin. From that date on he wore a heavy iron chain round his waist next to the skin as a constant reminder.

James IV quickly proved to be an effective ruler. He defeated another rebellion in 1489, took a direct interest in the administration of justice and finally brought the Lord of the Isles under control in 1493. James was well educated and it was claimed that he was fluent in Lowland Scots, English, Scottish Gaelic, Latin, French, German, Italian, Flemish, Spanish and Danish.

He was a true Renaissance prince with an interest in practical and scientific matters. James granted the Edinburgh College of Surgeons a royal charter in 1506, turned Edinburgh Castle into one of Britain's foremost gun foundries and welcomed the establishment of Scotland's first printing press in 1507.

James also loved ships and saw the importance in Scotland having a large navy. He acquired thirty-eight ships for the Royal Scottish Navy and founded two new dockyards. His finest creation was the carrack Great Michael. Launched in 1511 she weighed 1,000 tons, was 240 feet in length and was then the largest ship in Europe.

For a time he supported the pretender to the English throne Perkin Warbeck and carried out a brief invasion of England on his behalf. Having fought off the aggression of King Henry VII of England, James recognized that peace between Scotland and England was in the interest of both countries, and so attempted to maintain peace with his neighbour by agreeing a treaty of "perpetual peace" in 1502 and marrying Henry's daughter Margaret Tudor, on August 8, 1503, at Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh. The couple's first three children all died in infancy. Their son James V survived, and he also had a posthumous son, Alexander, who died in infancy.

When war broke out between England and France as a result of the Italian Wars, James found himself in a difficult position. The new king of England, Henry VIII, attempted to invade France in 1513, and James reacted by declaring war on England. Hoping to take advantage of Henry's absence, he led an invading army southward, only to be killed, with many of his nobles and common soldiers, at the disastrous Battle of Flodden Field on September 9. A body thought to be his was recovered from the battlefield and taken to London for burial. As he was excommunicated, the embalmed body lay unburied for many years in the monastery of Sheen in Surrey, and was lost after the Reformation.

Rumors persisted that he had survived and had gone into exile, but there is no evidence to support them.

James also had seven illegitimate children by four different mistresses: three by Janet Kennedy, two by Marion Boyd, and one each by Margaret Drummond and Isabel Buchan. Two by Janet Kennedy died in infancy, three daughters and two sons reached adulthood. Alexander Stewart, his son by Marion Body, who James had made Archbishop of St. Andrews, died at the Battle of Flodden. His other illegitimate son was James Stewart, Earl of Moray.

Preceded by:
James III
King of Scots Succeeded by:
James V
Last updated: 10-10-2005 00:42:38
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