James I of Scotland

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James I, King of Scots (reign: 1406 – 37) was the youngest son of Robert III and Annabella Drummond. He was born probably in late July 1394 in Dunfermline and by the time he was aged eight both of his elder brothers were dead. Robert died in infancy, and David Stewart, Duke of Rothesay died in Falkland Castle while being detained by his uncle Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany. Although parliament exonerated Albany of involvement in Rothesay's death, fears for James's safety grew during the winter of 1405–6 and plans were made to send him out of harms way to France. In February 1406 James in the company of forces loyal to Robert III clashed with those of the Albany–Douglas party forcing the prince to take temporary refuge on the Bass Rock in the Forth estuary. He remained there until mid-March when a vessel was found bound for France but English pirates captured the ship on 22 March and delivered James to Henry IV of England. On 4 April Robert III died and the 12 year old prince, now the uncrowned king of Scots, began his 18 year detention.

James given a good education at the English court where he developed respect for English methods of governance and for Henry V to the extent of serving in the English army against the French during 1420–1. Albany's son, Murdoch, held a prisoner in England following his capture in 1402 was traded by his father for Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland in 1416. This furthered James's suspicions of the intent of the Albany Stewarts. By the time James was ransomed in 1424, Murdoch had succeeded his father to the dukedom and the governorship of Scotland. In April 1424 James accompanied by his wife Joan Beaufort, daughter of the earl of Somerset, returned to Scotland but it was not altogether a popular re-entry to Scottish affairs having fought on behalf of Henry V and at times against Scottish forces in France. Additionally his £40,000 ransom meant increased taxes for repayments and the detention of Scottish nobles as collateral. Despite this, James also held qualities that were admired. The contemporary Scotichronicon by Walter Bower described James as excelling at sport, in literature and music. Unlike his father and grandfather he did not take mistresses but had many children by his consort, Queen Joan. The king had a strong desire to impose law and order among his subjects but applied it selectively at times.

James, in attempts to bolster his authority and to secure the position of the crown, launched pre-emptive attacks on his nobles including his close relatives, the Albany Stewarts who were almost wiped out in 1425. In 1428 in Inverness, James had Alexander, Lord of the Isles detained while attending a parliament—Archibald, Earl of Douglas was arrested in 1431 followed by George, Earl of March in 1434. The ransom hostages held in England were forgotten about and the repayment money was diverted into the construction of his Linlithgow Palace and other grandiose schemes.

In August 1436, James failed humiliatingly in his siege of Roxburgh Castle and then faced an ineffective attempt by Sir Robert Graham to arrest him at a general council. James was murdered at Perth on the night of 20–1 February 1437 in a failed coup by his kinsman and former ally Walter Stewart, Earl of Atholl. Queen Joan, although wounded, escaped to the safety of Edinburgh Castle where she was reunited with her son James II.

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