Scotland's History Articles James III, King of Scots 1460 – 1488

James III, King of Scots 1460 – 1488

James III

The life and rule of James III followed a similar pattern to that of his father. After the death of James II in 1460 the nine year old new king found himself the focus of attention of rival factions vying to control Scotland.

After assuming personal control of Scotland in 1468, James proved to be an unpopular king given to promoting unrealistic plans at the expense of his regular duties as king and head of the realm. Further, his preference for his own favourites at court alienated many powerful nobles as well as members of his own family – a weakness in his character and judgement that would eventually cost him dear.

The high point of his reign came as an unexpected bonus from his marriage in 1469 to Margaret of Denmark. A dowry of 80,000 Guilders was agreed as part of the marriage terms with a sum payable upfront and the rest mortgaged against the Orkney and Shetland islands. Unexpectedly the Danes could not raise the full amount and Scotland, as their due, claimed ownership of the islands. In rather unusual circumstances Scotland had expanded its territories.

Dissent and open rebellion were eventually to mar James reign though. James' desire for an alliance with England was unpopular. His plans to marry his son to the daughter of the English king, Edward IV, raised the spectre of raised taxation to pay for the wedding at time when the Scottish economy was suffering.

By the late 1470's James' unpopularity led to conflict. Tense relationships with his brothers Alexander, Duke of Albany, and John, Earl of Mar, threatened to end his reign. First John died in suspicious circumstances in Edinburgh, and then Alexander was exiled after being charged with treason.

With relations with England souring, Alexander made a sudden re-appearance in Scotland – as part of an English invasion force. Alexander had struck a deal with the English king and he was back to claim the throne that he believed was rightfully his.

In 1482 the invasion force captured Berwick-Upon-Tweed making it permanently a part of England. James raised an army but snubbed the leading nobles by placing his favourites in key positions of command. For the disgruntled nobility of Scotland this was the final straw.

In open rebellion, James' favourites were murdered and James himself taken prisoner and held at Edinburgh Castle. James was only saved when the English force failed to take the castle and, having run out of money and patience, returned home.

James failed to learn the lessons from the events of 1482. He still attempted to court an alliance with England and still promoted his favourites at the expense of the greater nobility. Matters worsened when the increasingly isolated king became estranged from his wife and eldest son, James.

In 1488 James faced another revolt. Again the nobles rose against him – only this time they had the king's son with them. The young prince was angered by his father's favouritism for his younger brother and feared that his right to succeed his father a king would be denied him joined the rebel lords.

James raised an army and met the rebel force at Sauchieburn, outside Stirling. At some point in the battle or just after it James was killed. Accounts differ as to the manner of his death. One version has James fall from his horse to be finished by the enemy soldiers, while another has James survive the battle only to be assassinated whilst taking shelter.

James son, figurehead of the rebel army, became the next Stewart monarch.

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