James II of Scotland

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James II (Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, 16 October 1430 – 3 August 1460) reigned as King of Scots from 1437 to 1460.

He was the son of James I, King of Scots and of Joan Beaufort (daughter of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset and of Margaret Holland). He had an elder twin, Alexander Stewart, Duke of Rothesay, who lived long enough to receive a knighthood, but died in infancy. James became the father of James III.

James, whose nickname "Fiery face" because of a conspicuous vermilion birthmark on his face, had six sisters, all of whom married into various European royal dynasties.


Child King

Inheriting the throne at under seven years old, James saw the government in the hands of others for most of his reign. The assassination of his father James I had formed part of an attempt to usurp power by Walter Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl, but it failed miserably, and James's guardians had Atholl and his allies captured and executed in the months after the assassination.

From 1437 to 1439, Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Douglas, as lieutenant-general of the realm, headed the government. After his death, and with a general lack of high-status earls in Scotland because of deaths, forfeiture or youth, power became shared uneasily between William, 1st Lord Crichton, Lord Chancellor of Scotland (sometimes in co-operation with the Earl of Avondale) and Sir Alexander Livingston of Callendar, who had possession of the young king as the warden of the stronghold of Stirling Castle.

In 1440 Edinburgh Castle became the location for the 'Black Dinner', which saw the summary execution of the young William Douglas, 6th Earl of Douglas and his brother. Commentators tend to place the blame for the Black Dinner at the feet of Crichton, Livingston and particularly Avondale, as Douglas's death brought him the earldom of Douglas (as 7th earl), and the position of the most powerful magnate in Scotland.

The precise details of who ran the government year by year between 1439 and 1445 appear complex and far from certain, but in 1445 the Livingstons co-operated with William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas, son of the recently-deceased 7th Earl, to drive Crichton from power. Douglas now took the lead in governing Scotland until 1449, placing his brothers and other family members in positions of power. Yet the wily Crichton soon returned to influence, now co-operating with the Douglases.

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