James V of Scotland

Dafato Team | Jan 19, 2023

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James V of Scotland (10 April 1512 - 14 December 1542) was King of Scotland from 9 September 1513 until his death.

He was the son and heir of James IV of Scotland and Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England and sister of Henry VIII of England. James V was born at Lillithgow Palace and was the only child of his parents to survive, was baptised the next day, accepted the titles of Duke of Rothesay and Prince High Stuart of Scotland. He succeeded his father at the age of 17 months when he fell on 9 September 1513 at the disastrous Battle of Fronten against the English.

James V was crowned on 21 September 1513 in the royal chapel of Sterling Castle. During his minority the regency was held by various persons, first by his mother until her marriage the following year and then by John Stuart, 2nd Duke of Albany, second heir after his younger posthumous brother Alexander Stuart, Duke of Ross, who died in infancy. Other regents were Robert Maxwell a member of the Regency who took the title of Regent of Arran of the largest island in Firth of Clyde. In January 1157 young James went from Sterling to Holyrood Castle in Edinburgh but when a plague epidemic broke out in the city he was moved to Craigmillard Castle under the care of Antoine d'Acres. 10-year-old James was in Sterling under the care of 10 men dressed in red and yellow when he went to the park below the castle six horsemen were surveying the countryside two miles away from intruders. The poets advised him to have a royal bearing, his education was at St Andrew's University under the tutelage of great poets such as Sir David Lindsay (1490 - 1555).

After coming of age in the autumn of 1524 James dismissed all the guardians appointed by his mother when he was a minor, replacing them with young noblemen such as the trumpeter Henry Rudemann. The English diplomat Thomas Magnus (1464 - 1550) gives an impressive account of the royal court at Holyrood on All Saints' Day (1524) writing : "trumpets sounded and were heard pleasantly". Magnus described the young king singing, playing with a spear, and with his horses, and gave the impression that he preferred English manners to French.

Arstibald, 6th Earl of Angus and stepfather of the young king, took James in his company and held him captive for three years (1525), exercising power himself. The first attempt to free the young king was made by Walter Skst of Branksholm who was trapped by the royal forces on 25 July 1526 and crushed at the Battle of Melrose, a second attempt on 4 September 1526 at the Battle of Lillithgow Bridge again failed to free the young king. James and his mother arrived on 20 November 1526 and stayed in the halls of the palaces at Holyrood used by the Duke of Albany, James went to the upper rooms. In February 1527 Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond gave James 20 hounds and a hunter. The diplomat Magnus notes that they sent the hounds to be trained at Hatton Castle to familiarise themselves with James's household in Scotland. James V finally escaped from the captivity of his stepfather the Earl of Angus (1528) and personally took over the government of Scotland.

James V's first act as king was to remove Angus from politics, the Douglas family was exiled, James besieged the castle of Tantallon and subdued the chieftains of the western islands. On the advice of the aristocracy, James recruited a number of famous lawyers and diplomats among whom were Adam Otterbourn and Thomas Erskine of Haltun; John Tenent of Listonchil's treasurer was sent to England but met with a cold reception.

James V significantly increased the royal revenues with profits from justice, customs and his feudal lands and gave his illegitimate sons great profits. James spent large sums on the rebuilding of the castles of Sterling, Falkland, Lillithgow and Holyrood, he installed a large number of tapestries inherited from his father. He left for his first marriage in France, sailed from Kirkwall to the Orcas (1540) from there he went to Lewis and on the Salamander ship arrived in Leith to fulfil his wish. The purpose of the journey was to enforce justice and gain control over the whole country. The international political scene was then in great turmoil in Henry VIII's conflict with the Catholic Church, James V opposed to the new movement began harsh persecution of Protestants. The most famous Patrick Hamilton (1504 - 1528) was burned in St. Andrew's Church as a heretic (1528). Later that year, the English envoy Ralph Sandler (1507 - 1587) advised James V to seize church property so that he could feed his sheep. The King of Scotland replied that he had no sheep and could be paid for by his godfather the King of France, as he stated "the monasteries have been maintained for many years by the help of God and I can have from them whatever I ask of them". Sandler knew that James V had sheep on his estates.

James V obtained money from the church after receiving permission from Pope Clement VII to tax the income from the monasteries. He sent £50 to a German rival of Luther's, Johan Kohleus, after accepting his books (1534). Pope Paul III sent James a blessed sword on 19 January 1537 with the wish that he would fight the heretics on the borders of the kingdom. The gifts were delivered on 25 February 1537 by the Pope's envoy while James V was in Compiègne, France. 16th century writers report that James's treasurer James Kirkaldi tried to persuade the king to stop the persecution of the Protestants and meet Henry VIII at York. Henry VIII sent his tapestries to York but James did not come to meet him which was seen by Cardinal David Beaton (1494 - 1546) keeper of the royal seal as a rapprochement with the Catholics of France and a cause for war. In July 1541 after communication with Irish chieftains James V was given the title of Lord of Ireland which was considered a greater challenge to Henry VIII, later the Kingdom of Ireland was created.

In August 1517 a clause in the Treaty of Rouen stated that the Old Alliance was to be maintained and that James was to marry a bride from the royal family of France, but all the daughters of Francis I of France were married or sick. James V sought a bride outside England first with Catherine de Medici, Duchess of Urbino and then with Mary of Austria, Queen of Hungary, sister of Charles Quintus. Plans then changed, in February 1533 two French envoys in Scotland told the Venetian envoy in London that James was thinking of marrying Christina of Denmark. Margaret of Navarre sister of Francis I recommended her sister-in-law Isabella who was the same age.

Francis I pointed out that his daughter Magdalene of France (1520-1537) was in very poor health, on 6 March 1536 James V made an agreement to marry Mary of Bourbon, the daughter of Charles of Bourbon, Duke of Vandom, who was a French princess and very rich. James V thought of visiting France, he sailed on 1 September 1536 from Kirkaldy with the Earl of Argyll, the Earl of Roth, Lord Fleming, David Beaton Abbot of Pittenwym and 500 others in his ship Mary of Willoughby. He visited first Mary at her residence in St. Kent and then King Francis I. In October 1536 during his visit he went hunting in Los with Francis himself, his dolphin son Henry, Henry II of Navarre and Hippolytus II of Este. James V renewed the Old Alliance and the Treaty of Rouen (1517) by marrying Magdalene of France (1520-1537), daughter of Francis I, on 1 January 1537 at Notre Dame de Paris. The wedding was a grand event, Francis invited 6 painters to make decorations and there were a few days of jogging in the Louvre Tower. James V on entering Paris wore magnificent clothing, a velvet coat lined in gold pieces with red folds. James's red garments at the festive season made a strong impression on the French nobles because they alone were accustomed to wearing this colour, as they report he could not speak French at all.

James and Maddalena left on 19 May 1537 for Scotland, arriving in Leith with an escort of 10 large French ships. When the royal couple arrived north they were approached by Englishmen from Brindlington and Scarborough, when the fleet arrived on 15 May outside Bamberg three English ships supplied them with fish and the royal butcher went to Northumbria to buy meat. The English border guards viewed these moves with great suspicion. Maddalena, who was not in good health, died shortly after her arrival in Scotland in July 1537. The spies told Thomas Clifford, Lord of Berwick, that the king had forbidden 'all forms of entertainment' but that he supervised his guns with a secret twice-weekly visit to Dunbar Castle with six attendants. James V proceeded to a second marriage to Mary of Guise, daughter of Claudius of Guise and widow of Louis II of Longeville by matchmaking on 12 June 1538. Mary already had two sons from her first marriage, by her marriage to Robert she had two sons who died together in infancy in April 1541 just 7 days after the baptism of the infant Robert. Their only surviving child Mary was born at Linlithgow Palace (1542)

According to legend, James V was given the title of "King of the Commons" because he made many trips around the country as a simple man to check on the situation, he often presented himself as a "farmer", he was also a very good lute player. Sir Thomas Wood notes (1562) that James had "a very good ear and could sing something he had never heard before" but his voice was "hardy". James had at his court a group of Italian musicians known as "Drummonds", these musicians were joined in the winter of 1529 on a musical and diplomatic mission from the Duke of Milan probably a Lutheran. Historian Andrew Thomas makes a clear distinction between the heavy music used in grand ceremonies and funerals and light music for private use, the light music was played with an accompaniment of violinists by 4 Frenchmen with Jacques Columbel. The music for James V is likely to have been written by David Pimple and the great Scottish composer Robert Carver (1485 - 1570) was in royal service, although there is no evidence.

James V was a patron of poets and writers, supporting William Stuart and John Bellenden, the son of his nurse, who translated Hector Boes' (1465-1536) Latin History of Scotland (1527). Sir David Lindsay, gentleman of Lyons, courtier and diplomat was another prologue poet, he produced an interlude at Lillithgow Palace which is probably part of "The Three Counties" (1540). James V had also attracted the attention of great international writers, Pierre de Ronsard author of the Valois Madeleine writing a hymn about him :

"His regal appearance and intense pursuit of virtue, honour and love are seen in the sweetness of his face, he looks like a child of Mercury and Venus".

James V was himself a poet, his most important works being "The Chatterer" and "The Mad Beggar". When he married Marie of Guise, Giovanni Ferrerio, an Italian writer who was at Kinlois Abbey, dedicated a new edition of his work to the royal couple, in which he stressed the role played by the counts in the vanity of astrologers. James V, like Henry VIII, invited many artists and craftsmen to his court to enhance its Renaissance form, one of them being Robert Lindsay of Piccotti. He brought to his court many craftsmen from major European countries among them soldiers, tailors, apothecaries, sculptors and many other artisans.

A new form of technological development was a special mill in the palace of Holyrood to iron armour, the mill had a 32-foot disc and was fed by horses, his mother-in-law Antoinette of Bourbon sent him a suit of armour. The armament had steel discs for his ejector saddles, in February 1540 he ordered a breastplate of armour, in the same year as his wife's coronation he invented fireworks with his armourers. When James took steps to ban libelous works against Henry VIII, the English king, to thank him, sent him and Erald of Lancaster a gift of a lion for his zoo. The following month his army was crushed at the Battle of Solway and James died soon afterwards on 6 December, some sources say he died of a nervous breakdown on hearing the news and others say he died of influenza.

The death of his mother (1541) upset the good relations James V had with the English, initially the Scots were defeated in August 1542 at the Battle of Haddon Ring. The imperial envoy to London, Eustace Chapuys wrote on 2 October that the Scots ruled out any peaceful negotiations until after the queen had given birth to her child, Henry VIII, enraged, decided to campaign against Scotland. James V gathered his army at Lauder on 31 October 1542 to attack England but his nobles were reluctant to fight. He returned to Edinburgh and wrote a letter to his wife stressing that he had been ill for three days. John Knox describes in detail the King's last movements in Fife.

Regardless of the cause of his death, James V died at Falkland Palace at the time his only child was being born. Sir George Douglas of Pittendreh brought the news of the King's death to Berwick, the King died at midnight on Thursday 15 December, shortly before his death he whispered some unintelligible words. George Douglas notes that the loss that crushed him most psychologically was the death of Oliver Sinclair of Solway. Another English chronicler similarly states that the loss that most affected the King was that of Somerset's Erald Thomas Traherne at Dunbar. James V of Scotland was buried at Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh. The last words he said shortly before he died were "he began with a woman and he ends with a woman". The reference was aimed at the Stuart dynasty which began with Marjorie Bruce daughter of the legendary Robert Bruce and ended with his daughter. James V was succeeded by his young daughter Mary, and he was buried at Holyrood Abbey with his first wife Madalena and his two sons in January 1543. David Lindsay oversaw the construction of his tomb, Andrew Munson decorated it with a lion and a Latin inscription totalling 18 feet in length. The tomb according to the author William Drummond (1585 - 1649) was destroyed by the English (1544) at the time they burned Edinburgh (1544).

He had no children with his first wife Magdalene of France (1520-1537).

With his second wife Maria of Guise he acquired :

James V also had several illegitimate children, three of whom were born before he was 20 years old. Many of his illegitimate children pursued ecclesiastical careers; Pope Clement VII gave permission on 30 August 1534 for four of James' sons to become priests when they came of age. The document notes that the eldest James was 5 years old, the youngest James and John were 3 years old and Robert was 1, the illegitimate children of James V were :

James V of Scotland appears in the following stories and poems :


  1. James V of Scotland
  2. Ιάκωβος Ε΄ της Σκωτίας
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Weir, Alison (2008). Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy. Vintage. pp. 243–245. ISBN 9780099539735.
  4. Mackay, Æneas (1892). "James V of Scots". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 29. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 153–161.
  5. Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 5, 130, extra locks bought.
  6. Historic Manuscripts Commission, Earl of Mar & Kellie at Alloa House, (1904), 11–2, Ordinance for keeping James V, 3 August 1522.
  7. Kemp, David. "The Pleasures and Treasures of Britain: A Discerning Traveller's Companion". Dundurn 1992. Retrieved 23 August 2015. Sir David Lyndsay..was at the University (of St Andrews) and was....involved in the education of James V...many of his poems contain advice for the young king..."
  8. A. Thomas, Princelie Majestie, (Edinburgh 2005), pp. 32–33: Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland, vol. 1, (Edinburgh 1908), pp. 492–4, nos. 3267–3282
  9. Mackay, Æneas; Dictionary of National Biography: James V of Scotland, p. 153-161
  10. Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 5, 130, extra locks bought.
  11. « Les guerres d’Écosse, deuxième partie (1490-1625) », sur L'Anspessade, 30 juin 2014 (consulté le 23 juin 2020).
  12. a et b Michel Duchein, Histoire de l'Écosse, Fayard 1998, rééd. Tallandier 2013 p. 238-239

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