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James II of Scotland

The Essay, The Stewarts Episode 2 of 5

Glasgow novelist and crime-writer Louise Welsh gets to grips with the murders which marred the life and reign of James II King of Scots (1430-1460). After his father was murdered down a sewer by a pack of vengeful knights, young King James was wrenched from his mother's custody and found himself in the hands of guardians who thought nothing of murdering young teenage dinner guests when it suited them politically. According to blood-curdling tradition, poor James was forced to watch as the sixteen year old earl of Douglas and his younger brother were despatched at the block. In a modern novel, you'd be screaming for child protection services to step in, but when you're a medieval child King of Scots, you're all alone.

Fiction swirls about James's reign and his later epic feud with the House of Douglas. Even by the 16th century, chroniclers were making up embellishments which amounted to historical fiction. In the 19th century Walter Scott would show a 'Pulp Fiction' like talent for black-humoured dialogue when he ventured into the little butcher's shop of horror stories (some mythical and some all-too-true) from James's reign. Louise looks at the tales and motifs of James's reign from the point of view of a modern crime fiction writer. She traces his development as a character and finally anatomises the most shocking act of James's reign - where he turned into a murderer himself, leading a pack attack with blades and battle axes on a new earl of Douglas. This little after-dinner surprise (called like the first one a 'Black Dinner'), has gripped Scottish historical writers for 560 years and counting...

Release date:

15 minutes

Last on

Tue 9 Aug 2011 22:45

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