JAMES IV. (1473-1513), king of Scotland, eldest son of James III., was born on the 17th of March 1473. He was nominally the leader of the rebels who defeated the troops of James III. at the Sauchieburn in June 1488, and became king when his father was killed. As he adopted an entirely different policy with the nobles from that of his father, and, moreover, showed great affability towards the lower class of his subjects, among whom he delighted to wander incognito, few if any of the kings of Scotland have won such general popularity, or passed a reign so untroubled by intestine strife. Crowned at Scone a few days after his accession, James began at once to take an active part in the business of government. A slight insurrection was easily suppressed, and a plot formed by some nobles to hand him over to the English king, Henry VII., came to nothing. In spite of this proceeding Henry wished to live at peace with his northern neighbour, and soon contemplated marrying his daughter to James, but the Scottish king was not equally pacific. When, in 1 495, Perkin Warbeck, pretending to be the duke of York, Edward IV.'s younger son, came to Scotland, James bestowed upon him both an income and a bride, and prepared to invade England in his interests. For various reasons the war was confined to a few border forays. After Warbeck left Scotland in 1497, the Spanish ambassador negotiated a peace, and in 1502 a marriage was definitely arranged between James and Henry's daughter Margaret (1489-1541). The wedding took place at Holyrood in August 1503, and it was this union which led to the accession of the Stewart dynasty to the English throne.
About the same time James crushed a rebellion in the western isles, into which he had previously led expeditions, and parliament took measures to strengthen the royal authority therein. At this date too, or a little earlier, the king of Scotland began to treat as an equal with the powerful princes of Europe, Maximilian I., Louis XII. and others; sending assistance to his uncle Hans, king of Denmark, and receiving special marks of favour from Pope Julius II., anxious to obtain his support. But his position was weakened when Henry VIII. followed Henry VII. on the English throne in 1509. Causes of quarrel already existed, and other causes, both public and private, soon arose between the two kings; sea-fights took place between their ships, while war was brought nearer by the treaty of alliance which James concluded with Louis XII. in 1512. Henry made a vain effort to prevent, or to postpone, the outbreak of hostilities; but urged on by his French ally and his queen, James declared for war, in spite of the counsels of some of his advisers, and (it is said) of the warning of an apparition. Gathering a large and well-armed force, he took Norham and other castles in August 1513, spending some time at Ford Castle, where, according to report, he was engaged in an amorous intrigue with the wife of its owner. Then he moved out to fight the advancing English army under Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey. The battle, which took place at Flodden, or more correctly, at the foot of Brankston Hill, on Friday the 9th of September 1513, is among the most famous and disastrous, if not among the most momentous, in the history of Scotland. Having led his troops from their position of vantage, the king himself was killed while fighting on foot, together with nearly all his nobles; there was no foundation for the rumour that he had escaped from the carnage. He left one legitimate child, his successor James V., but as his gallantries were numerous he had many illegitimate children, among them (by Marion Boyd) Alexander Stewart, archbishop of St Andrews and chancellor of Scotland, who was killed at Flodden, and (by Janet Kennedy) James Stewart, earl of Moray (d. 1544). One of his other mistresses was Margaret Drummond (d. 1501).
James appears to have been a brave and generous man, and a wise and energetic king. According to one account, he was possessed of considerable learning; during his reign the Scottish court attained some degree of refinement, and Scotland counted in European politics as she had never done before. Literature flourished under the royal patronage, education was encouraged, and the material condition of the country improved enormously. Prominent both as an administrator and as a lawgiver, the king by his vigorous rule did much to destroy the tendencies to independence which existed in the Highlands and Islands; but, on the other hand, his rash conduct at Flodden brought much misery upon his kingdom. He was specially interested in his navy. The tournaments which took place under his auspices were worthy of the best days of chivalry in France and England. James shared to the full in the superstitions of the age which was quickly passing away. He is said to have worn an iron belt as penance for his share in his father's death; and by his frequent visits to shrines, and his benefactions to religious foundations, he won a reputation for piety.
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