||James (Stewart) Stewart King James Ist of Scots was descended from a signer of the Declaration of Arbroath.|
Join: Scotland Project
Robert III Stewart
|King of Scots
4 April 1406 - 21 February 1436-7
James was born in July 1394 at Dunfermline, Fife, the third and only surviving son of Robert III, King of Scots, and his queen-consort, Annabella Drummond. He was nearly sixteen years younger than his eldest brother, born when his mother was in her early forties. James was seven years old when his mother died in 1401, and after her death he was sent to the castle of St Andrews and placed in the care of Bishop Henry Wardlaw for his education.
In March of 1402 his older brother David died in prison and James became heir to the throne. As the kingdom increasingly devolved into a state of complete lawlessness, Robert III decided Scotland was no longer a safe place for his youngest son. The king arranged for James to be secretly escorted by Henry St Clair, earl of Orkney, to the Bass Rock where he was to board a ship for France, finishing his education abroad and returning when the political situation in Scotland was more settled. Unfortunately the ship was captured 4 April 1406 off Flambrough Head by English pirates who, realizing the importance of their prisoner, took the twelve year old boy directly to the English king, and James was immediately imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was to remain a prisoner of the English, under fairly strict custody, for the next nineteen years.
Henry IV is said to have remarked [on James's capture] "Assuredly had the Scots been polite they would have sent the young man to me for his education, for I also know French." Partly to assuage his conscience over the boy's capture (which was in direct violation of a treaty in effect at that time between the two countries), the king ensured that James received an excellent education. He was strictly supervised, and studied both literature and history as well as (later in his captivity) witnessing the political manuevering at court. He became an accomplished poet (although only one of his longer poems, The Kingis Quair, which recounts his experiences while imprisoned and the courtship of his wife, still exists) and a proficient musician on the harp and the pipes. He was also naturally athletic and excelled at sports--field sports not being allowed during his captivity, he became expert at throwing the hammer and at wrestling. Although the first years of his captivity were spent locked away in the Tower, he was eventually held at Windsor Castle and in 1430 accompanied Henry V to France during the English military campaign there.
Robert III died shortly after his son James was captured, and a council held at Perth in June 1406 named the young James as 'our king' and appointed his uncle Robert Stewart, duke of Albany, earl of Fife and Menteith, to act as governor of Scotland in James's absence. Negotiations for his relief went on continuously from the time of his capture but Albany, who rather enjoyed the unlimited power he found himself with as governor of the kingdom, was in no hurry for James to return to Scotland. James outlived both Henry IV and Henry V, and was still a prisoner in England during the minority of Henry VI. In the end, it was Albany's death in 1420 and England's hope that if James were returned to the throne of Scotland, that country would no longer support France in its war with England, that brought negotiations for James's release to a head. In the fall of 1423 a treaty was finalized: a payment of sixty thousand marks, in installments, was to be made for the king's release (this was termed a reimbursement for James's care during his years in custody, rather than as a ransom); Scottish troops would be withdrawn from France; and James would agree to marry an English woman of noble birth.
Immediately following his wedding to Joan Beaufort in February 1424, James rode north to Scotland with his bride. He had been kept fully apprised of the situation there during the years of his captivity, messengers came and went frequently, and he was aware of the destruction of long wars; the turmoil among nobles fighting to extend their own power; and the terrible poverty and lawlessness which now prevailed because of the gross mismanagement of Albany and now of Albany's son, Murdoch. The amount of disorder and misrule that he witnessed on his arrival "aroused his great detestation," and he resolved that "...if God gave him 'but a dog's life,' to make 'the key keep the castle and the bracken bush the cow throughout all Scotland.'"
On 21 May 1424 James I was crowned at Scone by Bishop Wardlaw in the presence of bishops, prelates, and the nobility of the kingdom. Joan Beaufort was crowned as Queen of Scots on the same day. James's first focus was to get rid of his untrustworthy relatives who had allowed the kingdom to become lawless and corrupt, and had not exerted themselves very hard to negotiate his release from England. Within a month of his coronation, James had imprisoned Walter Stewart (who not only controlled Dumbarton Castle but also controlled the Scottish forces sent to France which James had pledged to withdraw as a condition of his own release); and also imprisoned the earl of Lennox (his cousin Murdoch's father-in-law), Murdoch himself, Murdoch's wife Isabella, and his heir, Alexander. Murdoch's youngest son, James, in retaliation for this led a raid which ransacked Dumbarton before fleeing to Ireland, and James in response promptly executed all the prisoners save Isabella. In an effort to prevent any challenges from uncles and/or cousins who were descended from his grandfather's second marriage (considered more legal than his first), James stripped Malise Graham of the earldom of Strathhearn by claiming it could not be passed down through his mother, and Malise was sent to England as one of the hostages guaranteeing the payment of James's ransom.
During his first parliament, at Perth, James was able to ensure the passage of twenty-seven new statutes. Among the most important of these were: private wars among the nobility were forbidden; rebellion (including any refusal to help the king) would result in forfeiture of lands; a tax of twelvepence per pound of value was laid on all lands (including regalities) to help pay for the ransom; other taxes on cattle and corn were to go to the king and silver and gold mines were to be the property of the crown; provisions were drawn up to appoint honest, impartial men to estimate property values for taxation; judges were appointed to "do the law evenly" throughout the realm and complaints about their impartiality could be made directly to the king, with a supreme court established to hear more importantant cases that were tried directly before the king and his council; measures to protect fisheries were passed; gold was not to be exported; beggars who were really in need received a license from the king to beg unmolested, others were given jobs and if they refused to work they were branded and banished; (in an effort to build a strong military force) all men in the kingdom were to practice archery, while games such as football and golf were outlawed; drinking was licensed for only certain hours; and organized fire-fighting was established. With this foundation in place, James began the work of rebuilding his kingdom.
James was absolutely ruthless in controlling the powers of the Highland Clans, who were a law unto themselves. In the spring of 1427 he summoned their chiefs to a parliament at Inverness and, when they arrived, immediately had them arrested and thrown into prison. Some were accused of serious crimes and executed after a brief trial, others were released after a short imprisonment with the hope that other clan chiefs would take notice and pledge their loyalty to the king. The king's methods were often violent, although he did succeed in establishing a system of laws and a sense of peace throughout the realm, but his sometimes heavy-handed use of force earned him some powerful enemies.
James married in February 1423/4 at St Mary Overy Church in Southwark, Surrey, Joan Beaufort, a daughter of John Beaufort, 1st earl of Somerset and his wife Margaret de Holand and a granddaughter of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster and fourth son of Edward III of England. Joan fit the treaty requirement that James marry "an English woman of noble birth," but she was also the love of his life. James wrote an epic poem, The Kingis Quair, before their marriage describing their courtship from the first glimpse he had of her from the window of his prison. He wrote passionately of his hopes increasing "day by day" (st. 181); his "long pain and true service in love" (st. 188) which eventually led to his love being reciprocated; and of his "long and true continuance in love and true service" (st. 192) to this beautiful woman. Throughout the rest of his lifetime, James remained devoted to two things: his queen, and saving his kingdom from anarchy. His love for his wife remained constant always, he was one of a very few Scottish kings who had no mistresses and no illegitimate children.
There were eight children from this marriage:
After his last parliament in Edinburgh late in 1436, James and his queen went with their court to Perth to stay through the Christmas holiday at the cloister of the Blackfriars. There, on 20 February 1437, it is said that he spent the evening with friends reading poetry, listening to music, and playing chess. Around midnight the gathering broke up and the king remained, talking with his wife and some of her women, when armed assassins stormed into the room, breaking the arm of one of the women who tried to bar the door, wounding the queen twice as she tried to protect her husband, and stabbing the king at least thirteen times in the chest. The fatal blows were struck by Sir Robert Graham, the uncle and former guardian of Malise Graham (whom James had stripped of the earldom of Strathearn at the beginning of his reign). His co-conspirators were James's uncle, Walter Stewart, earl of Athol, and Athol's grandson Sir Robert Stewart, both descendants of Euphemia Ross and conceivably heirs to the throne after James and his young son. If the conspirators believed they would be seen as saviours for murdering the king who had fought to rein in the power of the nobles, and that a parliament would happily elevate either Athol or his grandson to the throne, they were mistaken. There was no joy at the death of the king, and no uprising on behalf of Athol. Instead the conspirators were hunted down within a month and brutally tortured, then executed.
James I was buried in the convent of the Carthusians, at Perth. His heart was sent on a pilgrimage to the East and returned six years later by a knight of St John. James I changed the course of Scotland's history by breaking the power of ancient feudal traditions, instituting laws to protect the common people, and (forceably) putting an end to the constant warring among the nobility. King James's most fitting tribute may have been made by the historian Drummond, who later wrote that "...while the nation made his predecessors kings, he made Scotland a nation."
Click the Changes tab to see edits to this profile. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this profile.
Have you taken a DNA test? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.
James is 18 degrees from Michael Collins, 22 degrees from Judith Resnik, 26 degrees from Ellison Onizuka, 32 degrees from Michael Phillip Anderson, 18 degrees from Sally Ride, 28 degrees from Wubbo Johannes Ockels, 20 degrees from Neil Armstrong, 18 degrees from Virgil Grissom, 21 degrees from Christa McAuliffe, 20 degrees from Dick Scobee, 18 degrees from Edward White and 21 degrees from Frances Piercy-Reins on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.
Categories: Scotland, Arbroath Profiles Needs Review | Declaration of Arbroath, Montfichet Family Worklist | Declaration of Arbroath, Stewart Family Worklist | Scotland, Notables | Scottish Royalty | House of Stewart | Dukes of Rothesay | Prisoners of the Tower of London | This Day In History February 21 | 15th Century | Magna Carta Profiles | Clare-673 Descendants | Clare-651 Descendants | Scotland Project Managed Arbroath Profiles | Clan Stewart | Notables | Magna Carta | Magna Carta Trail Profiles Managed by the Scotland Project