James II

James II

James II was just six years old when he was crowned and anointed as the new king in 1437. His father had been murdered by a group of disaffected nobles and although the young James was crowned king, in reality he didn't yet rule. James went to live in Stirling Castle with his mother while parliament exploded into a power struggle for control of his minority.

Initially the government was headed by Archibald Douglas but the main battle for power played out between the Crichton and Livingston families. When Douglas died with no replacement the two families made their moves. The king's mother married a minor noble and was immediately imprisoned by Livingston; this gave him control of the infant king. However when the young king went riding around Stirling Crichton turned up and effectively kidnapped him. Eventually the two reached an agreement whereby Livingston would retain custody of the king and Crichton would be named Chancellor and paid a huge salary.

In this atmosphere of political manoeuvring, with the firm rule of James I a fading memory, many of the old feuds between various families reared their ugly heads and things became quite chaotic.

In 1449 as part of a treaty with Burgundy James married Mary of Guelders, he was nineteen and ready to assume rule for himself. One of his first acts was to turn on the Livingston family who had imprisoned his mother; they were fairly unpopular and getting rid of them allowed James to increase his paltry royal income without stirring up resentment. James instituted a similar policy to his father, introducing legislation for social justice, law and order, financial stability and above all royal authority.

James next turned his attention to the powerful Black Douglases. The Douglas family had grown in power and influence over the years and they had allied themselves with other landed families as a protection against being dispossessed of their lands by the king. James saw them as a threat and between 1452 and 1455 there was almost a civil war in Scotland as he tried to remove them from the political scene altogether. Hostilities commenced when James invited the 9th Earl of Douglas to Stirling Castle and demanded he break his allegiances with other noble families specifically the Earls of Crawford and Ross. When Douglas refused the king was enraged and with the help of his courtiers he butchered the earl on the spot. Naturally the Douglas family were not best pleased and they rose up against the king.

James II proved himself a capable commander and eventually defeated the Douglases and their allies, annexing their lands to the crown. Douglas had turned to England for help and fled there after his defeat. This contributed to a renewed war between England and Scotland which had been intermittent during James' minority. Towards the end of 1460 James led a large army to siege Roxburgh castle, he was interested in all things military especially artillery which he used to great effect. Sadly it was this that was to kill him when he admiringly watched some of his artillery in action and one of the guns exploded firing a chunk of metal into his thigh, he died at the age of twenty nine. The siege was eventually successful and Roxburgh Castle was demolished marking the end of English rule in Teviotdale.

James II had been strong like his father but proved to be more capable militarily and he was fondly remembered by the people. His eldest son was eight years old when James died and would become the third Stewart king in a row to inherit his role at a very young age.