Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 29.djvu/150

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
James III
of Scotland

of the revenues of the monastery of Coldingham, which alienated its patrons, the powerful border family of the Humes. The chronic enmity of the great feudal houses to the sovereign, combined with the incapacity of James III, fully accounts for the extent of the revolt. Its heads were Angus (Bell the Cat), Lords Gray and Hume, and later the Earl of Huntly, Erroll, the Earl-Marischal, and Lord Glamis, chiefly, it may be observed, the lowland nobles. Most of the northern barons, the Earls of Crawford, Atholl, Monteith, Rothes, and others, and in the west Lords Kilmaurs and Boyd, remained faithful to James. The king showed special favour to Crawford, and tried to detach Angus and obtain his aid in arresting the rebels at a parliament or general council in Edinburgh in January 1488; but that stubborn earl refused to comply, disclosed the king's design to the nobles, and James himself had to seek safety by flight to the north. Crossing the Forth in a ship of Sir Andrew Wood, and summoning the barons of Fife, Strathearn, and Angus to his standard, he proceeded to Aberdeen. He then returned to Perth, where he was joined by his uncle, the Earl of Atholl, Huntly, Crawford, and Lindsay of the Byres, who led a thousand horse and three thousand infantry raised in Fife. Ruthven also brought a force of three thousand men of all arms. When he reached Stirling, James was at the head of an army of thirty thousand men. In May he met the rebels under Hepburn, lord Hailes, at Blackness on the Forth. The barons had also raised their whole forces, and James, a timid general, rather than risk an engagement, entered into a pacification, by the terms of which Atholl was delivered as a hostage. It was felt on both sides that this was a mere suspension of hostilities. James created Crawford duke of Montrose, and Kilmaurs earl of Glencairn, as a reward for their services; and his second son was made duke of Ross, with the probable intention of substituting him for his brother as heir to the crown. Envoys were despatched to France, England, and Rome, urgently begging for assistance. The castle of Edinburgh was fortified, and the royal treasure deposited in it. The rebels on their side were not idle; they increased their forces, and treated the king's heralds with derision. They gained over Shaw of Sauchie, the governor of Stirling, in whose custody the young prince James was, and, adopting the prince's standard as their own, led him with them to Linlithgow. James determined to attempt to gain possession of Stirling Castle, but Shaw refused to admit him, and on 11 June 1488 the two hosts confronted each other on the plain through which the Sauchie burn flows, about a mile south of the field of Bannockburn. The battle which followed, the most celebrated in the early civil wars of Scotland, traversed partly the same ground as that on which Bruce had won his famous victory. The rebels were superior in numbers, and their archers and spearmen gained the first advantage, which was at once turned into a victory by the flight of the king. Glencairn, Ruthven, and Erskine are the only nobles named as having been killed. James himself fled to Miltoun, called Beton's Mill, where he imprudently revealed his identity to a woman drawing water at the well, by telling her in his craven fear, ‘I was your king this morning.’ She called, according to the traditionary story, for a priest, and one of Lord Gray's men assumed that character. When asked by the fallen monarch to shrive him, the soldier replied he would give him a short shrift, and despatched him with his sword. The stories that he survived the fatal day were the rumours of the camp or the gossip of the country-side.

James was buried beside his wife at Cambuskenneth, where masses were said for a time for his soul, and a monument has recently been restored by Queen Victoria. He was only thirty-six years of age, but had been nominally king for twenty-eight years. He left three sons: James IV [q. v.], who succeeded; James Stewart, duke of Ross (1476–1504) [q. v.], afterwards archbishop of St. Andrews; and John, earl of Mar. Although pity was felt for his fate at the time, and one later historian has tried to defend his character, he was quite unfit to rule over Scotland. It may be that his opponents among the nobles, whose accounts have chiefly come down to our time, exaggerated his weaknesses of character into vices. He had a share of the culture of his race, and was a lover of letters, music, painting, and architecture. His legislation, though it is difficult to say how far he deserves personal credit for it, was, so far as it has been preserved, a continuation of that of his father and grandfather—more favourable to the commons than to the nobles. He was not so fortunate as they were in his counsellors. The murder of one brother and the treason and exile of another were avenged by the rebellion of his son. He is said to have been pious. He was certainly superstitious, and, according to Lesley, immoral in his relations with women, but there is no record of his having left bastards.

Besides the imaginary portrait in the possession of the Marquis of Lothian, attributed to George Jameson [q. v.], there is a three-quarters length picture by an unknown artist, now the property of F. Mackenzie Fraser of