Famous Scots
- King James III (1451-1488)

James III

The young James III being presented to the nobles by his mother, Mary of Gueldres,
after the death of King James II at Roxburgh.

Early Years
James III was born in St Andrews, Fife, in 1451, son of King James II and Mary of Gueldres. The oldest surviving son, James III was nine years old when he was crowned at Kelso Abbey on 10 August 1460. His father had died while inspecting a cannon at the siege of Roxburgh Castle in 1460. The cannon exploded, killing the king.

A governing council, led by the King's mother, Mary of Gueldres, took control and, during a civil war in England, managed to regain control of Berwick on Tweed. However, England's King Edward IV was not pleased and signed the Treaty of Westminster-Ardtornish with John, Lord of the Isles in 1462. However, James later secured the submission of the Lord of the Isles.

In the power vacuum following the Queen's death in 1463, James was kidnapped by his brothers, Robert Lord Boyd and Alexander Boyd and imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle (where he was taught chivalric pursuits).

The Boyds arranged the marriage of James to Margaret, the daughter of the King Christian I of Denmark in 1469. As a result of this union, Orkney and Shetland became part of Scotland in 1469. James began to assert his own power at this time - executing one of the Boyds and exiling the other. But his demands for taxes and debasement of the currency did not go down well. He also tried to keep peace with England and this was not popular either. At one stage he was planning an invasion of the Low Countries and Parliament had to remind him that he should be looking after domestic affairs instead. Despite all this, he did reign for over 20 years, no mean feat in those days.

Later Years
Relations with England deteriorated towards the end of the 1470s. Blackness Castle was torched by an English fleet in 1480. In 1482 an English army invaded Scotland in support of the cause of James' brother, Alexander, Duke of Albany, as king. At this point, a group of Scottish nobles murdered some of the King's favourites (a number of whom were low born) and imprisoned the King in Edinburgh castle as the English army advanced to Edinburgh. James survived by skilful negotiation and by giving up Berwick to the English. But following further conflicts with some of the Border families such as the Homes and Hepburns, whom James was trying to bring to heel, the nobles encouraged his 15-year-old son to lead a rebellion in 1488.

The king's forces were recruited mainly in the north while his son had the support of the Border lairds. The opposing armies, both flying the lion rampant, met at the Battle of Sauchieburn, near Bannockburn on 11 June 1488. King James III was wounded in the battle and left the battlefield. He was subsequently killed by a man pretending to be a priest. His son, James IV, was crowned at Scone on 26 June 1488, full of remorse for the death of his father.

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