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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 29.djvu/146

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James II
of Scotland
140

now chamberlain, who, on the king's coming south to Linlithgow, received an extensive charter of lands in three counties, and his hereditary castle of Callendar.

In the spring of 1458 the marriages of James's sisters, Annabella and Joanna, the former to George Gordon, heir of the Earl of Huntly, and the latter, though dumb, to James Douglas, third lord Dalkeith, who was created earl of Morton, still further strengthened the crown.

The most important parliament of his reign was held in Edinburgh on 6 March 1458. It formally instituted a supreme and central court for civil justice, although it was still to meet at three places, Edinburgh, Perth, and Aberdeen, and provided that the judges, representatives of the three estates, were to pay their own expenses, apart from what could be recovered as fines. Annual circuits of the justiciary court were also to be held, for the good of the commons, and abuses of their extensive jurisdiction by the lords of regality to be put down. The chamberlain ayres, which sat in the burghs, were to be reformed, because ‘the estates, and specially the poor commons,’ had been sorely grieved by their procedure, and the extortion of fines by the royal constables or their deputies suppressed. Other statutes showed an anxious desire on the part of James to remedy abuses and to protect the poorer classes against the great lords and his own officers. Another chapter of legislation related to the tenure of land, and although it did not first introduce the tenure called ‘feu farm,’ gave legal security to the farmers who took feus against the casualty of ward, and greatly encouraged that useful modification of feudal holding. Its short preamble, that it was expedient that the king should set an example to other landowners, was carried out in practice, for we find many charters of feu granted by James, especially in Fife. There were also statutes for the reform of coinage, of weights and measures, of gold and silver work, and to prevent adulteration by goldsmiths. A commission was instituted for the reformation of hospitals. The smaller freeholders, under 20l. rent, were relieved from attendance at parliament, which was deemed a burden, not a privilege. Better provision was made for the promulgation of the statutes by the sheriffs and commissioners of burghs. It is clear from the tenor of the acts of this parliament that James II is entitled, as much as his father, to the character of a reformer. In February 1459 a further prolongation was concluded of the truce with England, for nine years, to 6 July 1468 by land, and to 28 July by sea.

Towards the end both of 1458 and 1459 parliaments were held at Perth, but nearly all the acts of these last two parliaments of the reign appear to have been destroyed or lost. No records of either kingdom are extant to support the probable statement of Boece that Douglas and Northumberland made, in 1459, an unsuccessful raid on the Scottish border; or that of Bishop Leslie, that Henry VI sent ambassadors to treat with James, and offered to restore to Scotland the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, and Durham, as the price of his help against the Duke of York. It is certain that James threw his whole influence on the Lancastrian, and Douglas on the Yorkist, side. His maternal uncle, the Duke of Somerset, was killed fighting for Henry at the battle of St. Albans, and after the defeat and capture of Henry himself at Northampton in July 1460, his wife and son fled to Scotland. A renewal of the war with England followed. James brought his whole lowland forces to besiege Roxburgh, and the artillery which had been specially prepared for use against the English castles. Reinforced by the highlanders under the Earl of Ross and the Lord of the Isles, he reduced the town and was on the eve of taking the castle, when on Sunday, 3 Aug. 1460, while he was watching the discharge of a bombard, a wedge flew out, killed him on the spot, and wounded the Earl of Angus, who stood near. His wife courageously prosecuted the siege, and the castle was soon after taken. The young prince was brought to Kelso, and crowned in its abbey, while the corpse of James was carried to Holyrood, and was buried there. He was only thirty years of age at his death. He left three sons (James III, Alexander Stewart, duke of Albany (d 1485) [q. v.], and John Stewart, earl of Mar (d 1479) [q. v.]) and two daughters, one of whom was afterwards married to Thomas, master of Boyd, created earl of Arran, and after his forfeiture to Lord Hamilton, who succeeded to the Arran earldom.

James was a vigorous, politic, and singularly successful king. He was popular with the commons, with whom, like most of the Stewarts, he mingled freely, both in peace and war. His legislation has a markedly popular character. He does not appear to have inherited his father's taste for literature, which descended to at least two of his sisters; but the foundation of the university of Glasgow in his reign, by Bishop Turnbull, perhaps shows that he encouraged learning; and there are also traces of endowments by him to St. Salvator's, the new college of Archbishop Kennedy at St. Andrews. He possessed in a high