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James V of Scotland


James V of Scotland- Biography

James V of the House of Stewart reigned as King of Scotland. Following his father, King James IV of Scotland’s death’s in the Battle of Flodden Field, he ascended to the Scottish crown at the age of seventeen months. During his early reign, several regents, including his mother, John Stewart, 2nd Duke of Albany, and Robert Maxwell, 5th Lord Maxwell, successfully ruled in his name. He deposed the regents and was proclaimed king at the age of 12. However, it was determined that he would continue to be under the guardianship of a selected group of high nobles and would spend three months with each of them, alternating between them. He took control of the administration himself in 1528.

James was not a popular king, but he was able to complete most of his administrative tasks. He fortified his finances, gave the crown and central government more power, and enforced law and order along the frontiers, in the Highlands, and on the islands. His relationship with the Catholic Church was complicated; while he was a devout Catholic who enforced harsh penalties for what he considered heresy, this did not prevent him from levying large taxes on Church holdings. He presided over a Scotland that was mostly peaceful and a major kingdom in modern Europe. Mary I of Scotland, his only legitimate surviving child, succeeded him when he died.

James V of Scotland- Birth, Age, Ethnicity, Siblings, Education

On April 10, 1512, James V was born at Linlithgow Palace in Linlithgowshire, which is now West Lothian, Scotland. King James IV of Scotland and Queen Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England, were his parents. James was their only child that lived through infancy. A day after his birth, he was baptized and given the titles of Duke of Rothesay and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.

In the aftermath of the Italian Wars, a new outbreak of hostilities erupted between France and England. Despite being an ally of both countries, James IV declared war on England and invaded Northumbria when Henry VIII, the English King at the time, attacked France. It was a calamitous campaign. The Scottish army was crushed at the Battle of Flodden Field on September 9, 1513, and James, along with many of his peers, was slaughtered. James V’s coronation took place twelve days later in the Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle, despite the fact that he was only 17 months old at the time. In his will, his father named his mother the Regent for their young boy, as long as she remained a widow. Soon after, she won Parliamentary support.

At the time, the Scottish court was divided into two distinct groups. The pro-French group, led by James Beaton and the Archbishop of Glasgow, preferred the continuation of the Auld Alliance. The queen was at the center of the pro-English camp, and she had even opposed the war against England in which her husband died. Margaret required an alliance in order to consolidate her power. She approached the powerful House of Douglas, forming a friendship with Archibald Douglas, the restless and ambitious 6th Earl of Angus. On August 6, 1514, they secretly married.

This proved to be a mistake. It alienated her allies, and her adversaries reacted quickly. She had given up her post in accordance with James IV’s will. John Stewart, 2nd Duke of Albany, the king’s uncle, was summoned from France. The Privy Council also ordered Elizabeth to give up her authority over her sons, James and his posthumously born brother Alexander Stewart, Duke of Ross, in September. She first refused, pushing the country to the brink of civil war. Albany arrived in Scotland in May 1515 and took up his duties as Regent two months later. He skillfully used the Scottish nobility’s natural antipathy for the queen and her English ancestry. Margaret fled to her brother Henry VIII’s court in England in 1516, essentially making Albany the young king’s only protector. Margaret would learn of Alexander’s death during her somewhat self-imposed isolation.

Albany lived in France from 1517 until 1520 after obtaining the regency and signed the Treaty of Rouen with Charles, Duke of Alençon on August 26, 1517. It resurrected the Auld Alliance and secured James a French royal wife. Later, he traveled to Rome and secured papal support for James’ reign as well as his own regency. In Albany’s absence, his lieutenants wielded regency powers, such as Antoine d’Arc’s, Sieur de la Basti. When the king visited the park under the castle, he was accompanied by 20 footmen clad in crimson and gold and six horsemen who scoured the area for any hint of danger. Poets such as David Lindsay oversaw his studies at St. Andrews University.

Reign & Accession

With Albany still in France, Margaret launched a simple but effective coup d’état with the support of Robert Maxwell to transfer the king from Stirling to Edinburgh by 1524. In August, Parliament declared the end of the regency and placed complete regal powers on the monarch. It was agreed that he would continue to rule through the lords of Scotland, who would entertain the king for three months in turn.

When the time came for Angus to be the governor of his stepson, he essentially imprisoned James for the next three years, reigning in his name. Attempts were made to release the king, but they were unsuccessful. Margaret herself had become tired of her husband and was having an affair with Henry Stewart, 1st Lord Methven. In 1528, James was ultimately able to flee from Angus, seizing control of the government for himself. As his first act, James V unleashed the wrath of the crown on the House of Douglas. He exiled the family and besieged Tantallon, their ancestral home. On July 17, 1537, he burned Janet Douglas, Angus’ sister, at the stake for witchcraft.

In 1529 and 1530, he led large border raids to bring renowned leaders like Johnnie Armstrong to heel. After that, he concentrated on subduing the island’s chieftains. Tired of Henry VIII’s support for the Douglas family, James retaliated by supporting Irish rebels and claiming the title “Lord of Ireland.” His fiscal policies were aimed at increasing the crown’s income by consolidating his control on royal lands as well as revenue from justice, customs, and feudal privileges. He took money from the Catholic church with Pope Clement VII’s approval by taxing clerical wealth.

The Protestant Reformation Movement had a significant impact on his domestic and international policy. Against the English, James united with their old ally, the French. He persecuted several of the kingdom’s most notable Protestants, notably Patrick Hamilton, who was convicted as a heretic and burnt at the stake on February 29, 1528, in St Andrews. While in Compiègne, France, on February 25, 1537, he received a blessed sword and cap from Pope Paul III, symbolizing the Pope’s prayers that James would successfully continue his war against heresy beyond the border.

Major Conflicts

With Margaret Tudor’s death in October 1541, all prospects for peace with England were shattered. The war was unavoidable. On August 24, 1542, the Scots gained a decisive victory at the Battle of Haddon Rig. Despite Henry’s encouragement, James refused to become a Protestant. Furthermore, he expressed a desire to postpone a meeting with Henry due to his wife’s pregnancy at the time. This requirement was refused by Henry, and he attacked. James and his nobles were divided about whether or not to invade England. He was determined to undertake it, despite their advice to be more cautious.

On September 24, the troops clashed at the Battle of Solway Moss. It was a disaster, with hundreds of Scots either arrested or drowning in the River Esk. The king, beaten and afflicted with a high fever, retired to Falkland Palace, where he died on December 14, 1542, at the age of 30. He was laid to rest in Holyrood Abbey in Edinburgh.


James V put a large percentage of his profits on architecture. Stirling Castle, Falkland Palace, Linlithgow Palace, and Holyrood House were all spruced up in the latest style and adorned with his collection of exquisite tapestries. He hired a band of Italian musicians named Drummond, who he himself was a lutenist. Four French violists commanded by Jacques Columbell and lutenist Thomas de Averencia de Brescia were also present at the court. James supported some of the most influential Scottish writers of the day, including William Stewart and John Bellenden. Lord Lyon and head of the Lyon Court was Sir David Lindsay of the Mount, who penned the play “A Satire of the Three Estates.”

Personal History and Legacy

James V was determined to uphold the specific phrase in the Treaty of Rouen that promised him a French princess as a bride. The Scottish, on the other hand, were well aware that all of Francis I’s daughters were either already married or unwell. As a result, they began looking for other suitable brides in the summer of 1529. Both Catherine de’ Medici, Duchess of Urbino, and Mary of Austria, Queen of Hungary, sister of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, were considered. The French diplomats in Scotland, Guillaume du Bellay, sieur de Langes, and Etienne de Laigue, sieur de Beauvais, learned of James’ plans to marry Christina of Denmark in 1533.

After much deliberation, the French and Scots agreed that James V would marry Mary of Bourbon, daughter of the Duke of Vendôme, and receive the same dowry as if he had married a French royal. On September 1, 1536, Charles set sail for France on the flagship ‘Mary Willoughby,’ accompanied by many of his noblemen and 500 servants. He briefly met Mary in Picardy at St. Quentin before heading south to meet the French King. It was a fruitful meeting. They went wild boar hunting together, and James eventually obtained his French princess. Despite previously claiming that his daughter, Madeleine of Valois, was in bad health, Francis lavishly celebrated her marriage to the Scottish King.

On May 19, 1537, the wedded couple returned from France, arriving first in Leith. Ten large French ships guarded the Scottish force. When Madeleine arrived in Edinburgh, she wrote to her father, advising him that she was feeling better and that her symptoms had subsided.
Her health, however, quickly deteriorated. The so-called ‘Summer Queen’ died in her husband’s arms on July 7, 1537, at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. There was no problem with the marriage. James married his second wife, Mary of Guise, less than a year after she died.

She was a widow with two sons from her former marriage with Louis II, Duke of Longueville, François III d’Orléans, Duke of Longueville, and Louis of Longueville. She gave birth to three more children for James, two sons, James, Duke of Rothesay (1540), Robert, Duke of Albany (1541), and a daughter, Mary (1542). Both of their sons died in infancy. Following her father’s death, James V’s daughter Mary succeeded the Scottish throne as Mary I of Scotland, with her mother acting as Regent.

Although Mary’s reign would end in violence, with her execution ordered by Elizabeth I, her son James VI would succeed Elizabeth as James I of England. He would bring about improvements that would propel England into the modern era. He would also set the groundwork for what would become the world’s richest and largest empire. At least nine illegitimate offspring were born to James V, seven of whom were sons. The majority of them entered the clergy, and several were given titles. Adam Stewart, James Stewart, Jean Stewart, Robert Stewart, John Stewart, and Margaret Stewart were among them.


  • At least four Scottish chroniclers state that when James first saw Mary of Bourbon, he was disguised. Seeing his unusual red hair and having been given a portrait of him, she recognized him right away.
  • It was thought that James, dubbed the “King of the Commons,” frequently wandered his kingdom disguised as a “Gudeman of Ballengeich” (Landlord/Farmer of the Windy Pass).

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