James IV. was the eldest Son of James III., inherited the Title of Duke of Rothesay by Birth, and was crowned King in June 1488.
Even though he had stood up to Father, he felt guilty about his Death. From penance he carried from then on an iron Belt which he complained of new Weights every year. James was under the influence of powerful Lords until he came of age. So he appointed – also to secure his power – some of his fellow Rebels for important offices within the Government.
The Parliament, which was opened for the first time in October 1488, wanted among other things the Followers of James III. tracking down what led to a renewed Rebellion in 1489. This time, western Nobles who were dissatisfied with the Government and tried unsuccessfully to capture the King. In order to bring about a reconciliation James changed in 1492 the composition of the Government council and took Followers James III. with in the Council. The focus was on expanding the King’s power, as the overwhelming majority of Scotland was ruled by the Clans.
Because of many Feuds, the Title Lord of the Isles was returned to the Crown by the Parliament, thereby disempowering the Clan MacDonald. So that he can take a oath of allegiance to the other Clan Leader, James traveled north. This was the first time that he came into contact with the Culture and the Gaelic Language of the Highlands, which resulted in a lifelong interest.
When he was old enough, he himself took over the Government in 1494, which until then was mostly run by the council and was able to quickly make some success, even if repeated visits by the Clan Leaders to renewed oaths of allegiance met with indignation.
James reformed the Legal System and central Civil Courts were created, for which he tried to found a Law School.
However, as the better Centers for Law Studies were on the european Continent, he encouraged the scottish Barons to give their eldest sons such a degree in order to equip the Courts with capable Lawyers. From 1496 Landowners were even obliged to send their eldest Sons to School. Meanwhile, there was still a problems and mutual Border Raids between Scotland and England with James only managed to close a three-year ceasefire.
Henry VII. was primarily concerned with preventing Rebel support from York by James, for which he suggested a Marriage with his Relative Katherine. Katherine, however, was not royal Blood, so a marriage for James was out of the question.
Henry’s concern over York rebels was justified.
In 1495, Perkin Warbeck -posing as the presumably deceased Son of Edward IV., Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York– attempted to land in England and claim the Throne as Richard IV. After two Defeats, he fled to Scotland, where he was received and welcomed by James honorably. To neutralize the continuing threat to Warbeck, Henry began negotiations and offered James his Daughter Margaret Tudor for Marriage. James wanted to set a Sign anyway and led in September 1495 an Army over the Border and made looting. After this Robbery, Henry James declared War. As it was uncommon to wage War during the Winter, James took the time to fortify the Borders and make some Border Raids, earning the Respect of his Compatriots. Now Henry tried again to negotiate Peace, agreeing on a seven-year truce, which was then extended to the Death of one of the two Monarchs.
In order to secure lasting Peace, they agreed that James marries Margaret Tudor and concluded in 1502 the ‘Anglo-Scottish Treaty’, which, among other things, states that the one who breaks the truce first is excommunicated. Although the Marriage was arranged, the affection James and Margaret grew together and James proved to be a caring Husband.
James showed a strong Interest in Art and Culture -he is considered the last Monarch who spoke fluently Gaelic- allowed in 1507 the construction of a Printing Press and maintained several construction projects.
He invited Bards and Musicians to the Court, employed Literary Figures and promoted Alchemy and Medicine. When Henry VIII. ascended the english Throne in 1509, the Peace Treaty between England and Scotland was renewed. Nevertheless, a year later, a conflict arose when Pope Julius II. with the ‘League of Cambrai’ -which also belonged to England- concluded an anti-french Alliance. James, a Friend of both Parties and committed to France through the ‘Auld Alliance’, tried in vain to mediate between Pope Julius and France. Over time, Relations with England deteriorated due to the growing Arrogance of Henry VIII. and James was more interested in a good Relationship with France. In 1511 Pope Julius resigned from the League of Cambrai and formed the against the french King Louis XII. directed ‘Holy League’ which also joined Henry VIII. On this occasion, Louis turned to James for an Alliance, that in the case of a War with England, the Other England also declares War. James hesitated at first, but finally agreed in 1512, which Pope Julius threatened him with the excommunication which was confirmed after his Death by Pope Leo X.
Henry secretly planned a resumption of the ‘Hundred Years’ War’ and invaded France in 1513 on the occasion of the Italian Wars. Despite the papal threat, James took advantage of the King absence and declared War on England in accordance with the Alliance with France, crossed the Border in August, and led his own troops into Battle.
James fell in September 1513 in the ‘Battle of Flodden Field’.
A corpse believed to be James was rescued on the Battlefield and transferred to London. However, due to his excommunication, he was not entitled to a christian Funeral, so Henry wrote himself -sorry unsuccessfully- to the Pope, asking him to bury his Brother-in-Law “in Royal Honors” at St. Paul’s. James is said to have been buried at St Paul’s at some unknown time, but an elizabethan Antiquarian tells the corpse to have seen it in a Shed at the Sheen Abbey, where workers cut off his head, but he was rescued by a Londoner and later on buried in St. Michael’s Church. Allegedly the Head would still have had the red Hair and a Beard.
Since James’s corpse could not be identified beyond doubt on the Battlefield, the Legend arose that he would have survived and would be on a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Margaret used this as an Argument for the dissolution of her second Marriage.
James became a national Hero because of his fight against England.
The St. Michael’s Church, in which James is said to have been buried, fell in 1666 the Great Fire of London to the victim. In its place is today a Pup.
Robert II. | Robert III. | James I. | James II. | James III. | James IV. | James V. | Mary I. | James VI. | Charles I.