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THE HISTORY OF SCOTLAND, BOOK XVII
LTHOUGH his son made little account of this statement, his father, moved either by divine inspiration or the workings of his own conscience, buried this thought deep in his mind, and did not allow it to go unfulfilled. For he soon went to Perth and convened a parliament, at which, in addition to many other matters, it was voted by common consent to send ambassadors to England to ransom King Robert’s son James, and to crown him king thereafter. Thus sometimes different wrongs cancel each other out and lead to better things. The noblest of the lords were chosen to perform that embassy: Henry Bishop of Aberdeen, Archibald Douglas, the fifth earl of that family, William Hay, the Constable of the realm, Richard de Cornell, Archdeacon of Lothian, and Alexander Irvine of Drum. Setting out, they anticipated that their task would be no easy one, since they thought that the English would hope for no good to come from freeing James, because of the insult he had suffered, being unlawfully held captive for all those years after coming to Henry as a refugee in search of his protection, and so they imagined the English would by no means releaseh im. But, thanks to their intervention, the business was accomplished without any difficult. For when they paid one hundred thousand marks sterling, part handed over on the spot and with hostages given as security for the rest, the English gave him free leave to depart, and a truce was arranged between their kingdoms.
2. James’ conspicuous virtue and affability had earned him many English friends, among whom the most prominent were John Beaufort Earl of Somerset, the son of the Duke of Lancaster, and his brother, who wore the red cap of a cardinal, scarcely the lowest rank in the Church. With great honors, these men escorted James and Joan, the daughter of the Earl of Somerset, on their journey to Scotland, going as far as the border of England. And his father-in-law John Beaufort, who had bestowed his daughter’s hand on him, also gave him very expensive gold and silver plate, as well as linen tapestries in which the Labors of Hercules had been embroidered with wonderful artistry. So he and his wife entered Scotland on Palm Sunday, being met by his magistrates and all the clergy, who escorted him to Edinburgh. There he was let into the city with all the honors joy loves to behold. When his arrival was announced, men came a-flocking to get a glimpse of their future king from all over Scotland , a man whom they had either never seen or whose appearance had faded from heir memories, for report of his character and erudition had gone before him. When Easter had been celebrated with due solemnity, he went to Perth, and thence to Scone, where on May 21 of the year 1424 he was seated on the throne by the regent Murdach Duke of Albany and crowned and anointed king, and his wife was crowned queen.
3. Certain noblemen had come along with James out of England, some of whom were granted landed estates and made themselves permanent homes in Scotland. Not the least of these was Andrew Gray, who afterwards, by kindness of the king, married Helen, the virgin heiress of Roger Mortimer of Foulis. And so the mastery of Foulis was by this means transferred to the family of Gray, which traces its origin to this aforesaid Andrew in Angus, where it still exists with great renown. James returned to Edinburgh from Scone, and summoned all those who had held office during the interregnum, particularly the chancellor, treasurer, comptroller, and the others who had been responsible for the collection of taxes and royal revenues. From them he learned that his uncle Robert and his son Murdach the regents, at a time when no man was able to prevent them, had squandered his patrimony on their friends and accomplices, and there was nothing left to support the crown save for port-duties and the taxes levied on cities, and when he made other discoveries of the same kind, he held his silence, bent on punishing this outrage all the more severely afterwards. And so, after poring over the account-books and ledgers of the realm, he convoked a general parliament of Scotland’s nobility at Edinburgh. And there, they heard many complaints lodged by members of the clergy, merchants, and peasants, about the indignities they had suffered during the interregnum at the hands of many men, but particularly those of Walter, the son of the regent Murdach, after his father had egged him on to do such wrongs. Therefore the king ordered the son to be placed under arrest and conveyed to Bass Castle, there to be kept under close confinement. At this same time, Malcolm Fleming of Cummernald and Thomas Boyd of Kilmarnock were imprisoned at Daldeith after having been accused of doing wrong to the common folk and oppressing them. But these lords subsequently apologized for their guilt and were let go, having returned to peasants and others the fortunes they had misappropriated, and paying a huge sum of money into the royal fisc.
4. At this parliament James bound himself by oath the defend to death his kingdom and the liberty of the Church, and the lords swiftly imitated their king and did the same. It is unnecessary to include in this work all the things done in that parliament, since they are familiar to one and all. But it will not be amiss to add this one thing, by which the king’s moderation and prudence may be understood. When public funds were lacking for his ransom, he employed such prudence in extracting it from the people that they scarcely felt it being levied on them, so far were they from receiving any harm. It was proclaimed that another parliament was to be held at Perth, in which Murdach the regent and his son Alexander were arrested and imprisoned. A little later, however, he was freed and remanded to Falkland. Likewise, Archibald Earl of Douglas, William Douglas Earl of Angus, George Dunbar Earl of Merch, Adam Hepburn of Hailes, Thomas Hay of Zester, Walter Olgivie, and twenty others were consigned to St. Andrews Castle for certain misdemeanors. James Stewart, learning his father had been arrested, gathered his forces and burned down the town of Dunbritton, killing a hundred men and also some women and children, thinking that he could get clean away and be free to do as he pleased since he had the greater numbers. But the king immediately assembled an army, followed after him, and chased him into Ireland.
5. In the following year a parliament was convened, and the king beheaded Walter Stewart and his brother Alexander, and on the following day inflicted the same punishment on their father Murdach. He made them an example for the benefit of those imprisoned in St. Andrews Castle, pointing out that they could meet a similar end, then let them go. In the following year (which was the year of human Salvation 1427) the king went to Inverness, where he locked up Alexander of the Isles in the castle. He hanged Angus Duff, Kenneth Muir, John Robb, William Lesbie, Alexander Macmork. amd Alexander Macrae for having disturbed the peace. But when he returned to Perth, he took with him Alexander of the Isles, were a few months later, in the presence of the lords, he heavily rebuked him for having harbored robbers in his territories, or at least for failing to prosecute them, but soon began speaking to him in a more pleasant way, let him depart in freedom, on condition that for the future he do nothing of the kind. But Alexander was heedless of the great favor he had received in being let off with impunity, and ascribed his shame and infamy to royal ill-will, so as he went along he recruited a large gang of robbers, and went to Inverness. Although he and his crew of villains were extended a hospitable and friendly welcome, he sacked and fired the entire town and set siege to its castle. But he feared the arrival of the king’s forces and went off to Lochaber. Then, when he began to be pursued by the king, his followers abandoned him and he fled to the Hebrides. But when he could find nowhere there to hide, since those who had remained loyal to the king were hunting for him everywhere, he grew uncertain about what to do and it entered his head to cross over to Ireland. But then again, since there too he could not be safe from men in James’ service, he thought about throwing himself on the king’s mercy, believing that there would be some hope for himself if he were to confess his fault before having been arrested.
6. But when he talked this idea over with his friends, it struck them as safer for him to send a representative who would beg that he be allowed to do what he intended: if the king refused, then all would still be safe and sound. So he sent one of his friends who was not held under suspicion and still maintained a good reputation, for the very sight of himself would have harmed his cause. He instructed this friend to ask the king only that he be permitted to live permanently in the Hebrides. Now he was aware of his guilt, not only his more recent one (which was all the greater because the grace he had been given), but also his former one, which undoubtedly deserved great punishment, and he was likewise aware of the kindness he had received from the king, when he was only given a light and fatherly verbal chastisement and then let go. If he could once more obtain forgiveness for his faults, he would sin no more. The king’s response to his intercessor was that, if Alexander should be willing to approach him as a suppliant and entrust himself into his hands, he would then give him a hearing, but at the moment it was without point. When his words were reported to Alexander, he did not abandon all hope for a reconciliation, since had no place else where he could find safe refuge. So again and again sent friends begging with humble entreaties that at least his life be spared, but the king turned a deaf ear to those until at Eastertide Alexander himself took the opportunity of coming into Edinburgh wearing sordid clothing. Then he undressed completely , save for a white shirt to cover his body, and went to Holyrood, where the king was hearing Mass, groveled at this feet, and with wretched pleas begged for forgiveness of his sins in the name of Him Who had not disdained to send His only Son from down from heaven and to wipe clean all mortal sin by means of His death, and Who daily out of His boundless mercy shows His grace on penitents and petitioners, and does so most particularly on Easter Sunday, when all mankind experiences a change of life and prays for the forgiveness of its sins, a thing which He in His goodness grants.
7. Moved by these words, and by the intercession of his wife and friends, said that for the moment he would show him grace for the sake of the solemn and happy celebration of the feast on which we all renew the memory of our liberation from eternal death, but nevertheless commanded Alexander to stay with him until the service was finished. Then the king, thing over everything, was anxious lest, if he let the man go and restored him to his erstwhile wealth and power, he might change his mind and stir up new disturbance (for he knew that an evil nature can never grow quiet of its own volition), relegated him to Temptallon Castle, and bade him be kept there. He likewise banished Eufemia, the mother of Earl Walter of Ross, a woman of evil character who had sometimes provoked her son to dare something contrary to the king’s wishes, together with her son, to Inch Colme. And Donald Balloch, Alexander’s half-brother on his father’s side, as if he wished to, was obliged to, and possibly could avenge this wrong, summoned the clan chieftains of the islands and intimidated them into joining himself, and with their numbers avenge Alexander’s imprisonment. So he gathered his forces and crossed over to Lochaber. But Alexander Earl of Mar and Alan Stewart Earl of Caithness, forewarned of Donald’s coming, had combined their forces and defended that district. When Donald had landed his forces in Lochaber and discovered those men were not far away, at dawn he attacked their disorganized column and inflicted great slaughter. Alan was killed, together with nearly all his followers, although Alexander, having lost three hundred, managed to get away. This defeat was suffered at Inverlochty.
8. Having gained this victory Donald ravaged all Lochaber, and then went back to the Hebrides. Stung by this insult, the king went to Dunstafnag (with means “Stephen’s Castle”), intending to cross over to the Hebrides with an army. But the Hebridian elders and magistrates came to him there and held him back from his onslaught, casting all the blame on Donald and the partners in his rash enterprise: they themselves had acted under compulsion. So the king kept part of them with himself, and sent part to hunt down Donald and his confederates. That man escaped to Ireland, while three hundred of those confederates were caught three weeks later, and the king commanded them all to be hanged. He also sent an ambassador to a certain Irish chieftain named Odo, asking for his enemy Donald, for he had heard he was lurking there. Odo did not send Donald back, but a few months later he did send his head. Next, James made a progress through all the districts of Scotland, and if he discovered any evil oppressors of the common folk and priests, merchants, or peasants, who were unable to resist their power, he would convict and execute them all. No murderer was protected by a pardon for his crime issued by the regent, because the king said that this pardon only had force during the regent’s lifetime, and it was neither advantageous for the commonwealth or consistent with God’s law if so many murder and felonies were to go unpunished: if such things were to become commonplace because of their frequency, they deserved to be regarded as a form of treason. It is recorded that during the first two years of his reign men the king inflicted the death-penalty, by various means of execution, on more than three thousand men for old crimes. Then, because these punishments struck any observer as sufficient, since in every district a sufficiency of examples had been set to daunt the others who had not yet been visited by the sword of justice, it was imagined that henceforth they would cease their evildoing.
9. And yet at this same time Angus Duff of Strathern assembled a gang of robbers and entered into Moray and Caithness, from which he drove of a large amount of plunder. A certain Angus Murray attacked him so wrathfully, and in turn was given such a hot reception by his enemies, that not only were the two leaders killed, but so were almost all of their armies, so much so that only twelve men lived to tell the tale, and they were so sorely wounded that they had scarcely come home when they too tied. They say that, hearing of this slaughter, King James said that he felt equal sympathy for the deaths of the men of Moray and those of Caithness, but that there was nobody left for him to punish. At this time there was a second man, no less of a villain than the other, but possessed of a more depraved mind. He was named Macdonald, a notable robber of Ross, who had grown rich on his depredations. When he had wronged a certain widow and she exclaimed that she was going to go to the king and complain, “Well then,” he said, “I’ll give you a sturdy new pair of shoes.” Then he called for his blacksmith and had him nail horseshoes to the tender soles of her feet, and, to humiliate her all the more, stripped her naked for all to see. But when the woman’s feet had healed, she went to the king and lodged a complaint about the violence and humiliation she had suffered at Macdonald’s hands. The king, who had already found about about this crime and had had the scurvy rascal bound in chains for several days, consoled the widow, telling her that she would soon see the man who had wronged her receive his punishment. And so on the following the king bade Macdonald and twelve of his accomplices be produced from the prison, wearing leather aprons such as the blacksmith had worn when he nailed the iron shoes to the woman’s feet, and be led about the city for the entire day so as to increase their disgrace and shame (if the fellows had any shame left in them). He did same on the next day, and again on the one after that. Then he bade Macdonald’s head be cut off and nailed on the highest gate in the city, and his headless body be set out to feed the crows. His accomplices died on the gallows.
10. Not long thereafter, Archibald Douglas was remanded to the castle in Loch Leven for having spoken ill of the kingdom’s government, and for the same reason Sir John Kenneth was consigned to Sterling Castle. In that same year, which was the year of Christ’s Incarnation 1430, on the sixteenth day of October, the queen presented the king with twin sons. The most noble men of the realm were invited to their baptism, together with their sons, and made their appearance to enhance the ceremony with more solemnity and honor. The Earl of Douglas, now freed, appeared with his son, for he was entirely reconciled with the king, and the king knighted his son William. Now that the kingdom seemed to be completely rid of its bold felons, so that travelers had no fear of thieves or robbers, the king applied himself to other matters, which were of no small ornament or use for the realm. He first established judges to ride circuit in his kingdom, so that if any weighty issue arose, they might quickly resolve it. To these he added a supervisor of weights and measures, who would establish measures for wheat and all manner of grain, and also for salt, wine, and beer, and it was ordained that no man should use other measures than those to which he had given his seal of approval. If somebody should to otherwise, he was arrested, subjected to a heavy fine, and his measures were broken. But, to the detriment of our commonwealth, this custom died along with its author. He placed strong garrisons in all castles in the realm, and most especially those of Fife, and henceforth he relied on that district to fund his everyday expenses.
11. Nor was he forgetful of his great concern for his subjects’ studies. For he visited the new university of St. Andrews, and there, when the great chapel of the abbey had been completely rebuilt, thanks to the great expenditures of its bishops, he was present at its consecration. He sometimes attended academic disputations, in which he took a wonderful delight, and bestowed many privileges on their participants. Among other things, his will was that they would always recommend to him their best professors of theology and canon law for the filling of ecclesiastical offices, and likewise other academic men to occupy those Church livings which were his gift to bestow. Thus, during his lifetime many men received positions within the Church and other rewards for their efforts. He furthermore decreed that no man lacking, at minimum, the B. A. in either theology or canon law should be appointed a cathedral canon, save for those distinguished by their high nobility, and that no man should be entitled to receive an important inheritance who was wholly ignorant of civil and municipal law. But as soon as its author had been murdered, the nobility, which was more devoted to the glory of arms than to learning, abrogated that ordinance. Thanks to this king, divine worship was enhanced by decent ceremony. A new style of singing, in which he himself was very adept, was introduced, and in his household he maintained men very expert in that art. In addition, at this time so-called organs, such as we employ nowadays (for they used to employ the old plainchant, and I do not know if that was suitable for harmonization), were first introduced into Scotland, and the made such speedy progress in music that henceforth they were were regarded as no whit inferior to the English, who are reputed to be superior to other nations in that art.
12. When the king was returning to Perth and rode by Kinnoull Castle, he was informed that within it lived a noble woman who was extremely elderly and blind, but otherwise of sound body and in full possession of her other senses, who had seen William Wallace and Robert Bruce, and often spoke of them. Out of his affection for such great men, he was overcome by the desire to visit this old woman and hear her description of the carriage and strength of those men, so admired in his age (as is still true in our own). So he bade her be informed that he intended to visit her on the following day. The woman was overjoyed by the king’s arrival and gave orders that everything be readied as ornately as possible, bidding her handmaids set out her most precious tapestry, and for nothing to be left which might offend the cultured eyes of his courtiers. She had everybody in a tizzy, particularly because she was not in the habit of entertaining such great men. On the next day, when the king’s impending arrival was announced, she sat in her great hall, displaying as elegant an appearance as her advanced years and the fashion of the day permitted, together with a bevy of matrons, almost all of whom were her daughters or her granddaughters by her sons, but none of whom were as wizened by old age as she was, and awaited the king. When a handmaid told her that he had crossed her threshold, she stood up and went to greet the king with great command of herself, and, at his request, embraced him and gave him a kiss, so that for a while the king quietly wondered whether she was entirely deprived of her sight. When they had all assured him that this was indeed true, and that she had learned to handle herself by long practice, he took her by the hand and bade her sit next to himself, and in a lengthy conversation cross-examined her about ancient things. The king was hugely delighted by her discourse, and asked her, among other things, about William Wallace: about what manner of man was he, his physical appearance, his virtue, and the strength with which he was endowed. Then he asked her similar questions about Robert Bruce. She told him that Robert was a man of fine handsome appearance, and so strong that he could easily get the better of all the men of his age. But, to the same degree that he surpassed all others, he was himself surpassed by Wallace, such was his size and strength. For Wallace was so strong that, if you had put him a wrestling-ring with two Roberts, he could have thrown the both of them. Then the king questioned her about her parents and her ancestry, and, having heard much about those things, he went back to Perth in good cheer.
13. At this time, the nobles and lords of the realm were roaring their indignation because the king was intercepting the revenues (called “wardships“ or “reliefs”) which they had been accustomed to enjoy thanks to the generosity of his father and his predecessors. When these came to the king’s ears, he convened a parliament and asked them outright whether they thought it more just for the king to be supported by his own royal income or by theirs. When they unanimously replied that royal income was preferable, he proved to them that the revenues in question were actually royal ones and not their own, and that his own patrimony had been squandered by the spendthrift ways of his predecessors, the regents. As I have already indicated in its proper place, these wardships were created when parents died before their sons had attained to the legal age of twenty-one, for until their maturity the king received all their incomes, in exchange for his supervision of the heir’s interests. This is, to be sure, a vernacular word, but I have used it in my Latin because it is a familiar term. Receiving that response from the king, the lords henceforth held their peace. At about this same time, I mean the year of Christ’s birth 1431, Henry VI of England was crowned King of France by Cardinal Bicêstre, in Notre Dame Cathedral, a boy of twelve, who later lost both the kingdoms of France and England. And thus he came to James III as a refugee and was given hospitality by him, because he was angry at the English over an insult recently accepted. Thus Henry certainly provided humankind with a great example of the mutability of things and the fickle nature of Fortune, for, having been the king of two very flourishing peoples, he was soon ejected from the both of them, and compelled to lead a pitiful life depending on the kindness of others. In this, he was not dissimilar to Dionysius, that tyrant of Sicily who became a schoolmaster at Corinth. But I shall mention these things at a more apposite place.
14. At this same time, a parliament of all the orders of Scotland (I mean, of the commons, the clergy, and the nobility) was convened at Perth. Among the other ordinances, a unanimous motion was made concerning the newfangled fashion for banqueting, which the Englishman who had come into Scotland with James had transformed from modest and thrifty meals into affairs involving great luxury and boundless expenses, so much so that men were burdened more by their cost than the immense gluttony itself. Therefore Henry Wardlaw, Bishop of St. Andrews at that time, spoke for them all, when he stood up and said, “There are many conspicuously good things which you brought along with yourself when you returned to your kingdom, my excellent King James. For by means of that return, justice, which was banished from Scotland for many years, so that we had next to none of it, is restored to its former glory. Violent plundering, thefts, depredations, and all manner of wrongdoing have been removed. Religion, which previously amounted to next to nothing at all, or, since it was slight, had been abolished by constant warfare, nowadays is not only restored, but even immeasurably promoted. And the worship of the saints, which had been interrupted by the upheavals of war, now shines so bright, and has been rendered so splendidly elegant by the enrichments you have in your prudence added, that we may be so bold as to compete on an even footing with any nation you care to name for our praiseworthiness in that department. The laws which you in your wisdom have determined to be good ones are being enforced, and new ones, no less useful than they, have been added, and have made good what seemed to be lacking in this commonwealth. In sum, whatever you have found in any commonwealth of the world which you have determined to be in any conducive to your realm, you have sought that out and, by your great expenses and efforts, and out of your vigilant care, you have imported into this commonwealth of ours.
15. “As I have just said, whatever good and useful thing has survived from previous centuries in this kingdom, has been upheld by your authority. And we are very indebted to you for the new that has been bestowed on us, as being your gift to the realm. And, as I see it, them more care and effort has been spent on their procurement, the more diligently they must be maintained and preserved, lest some hidden evil spread abroad and (such being our human condition) with its plague spoil any of the good things we originally received in a pure and unsullied condition. And this is bound to happen unless you have a care, my excellent king. This is the reason why all the lords you see seated around yourself have entrusted me with the responsibility of advising and petitioning you concerning this thing, so that in this respect you will not show yourself to be any different than you have in other matters. So pray give me a friendly hearing and pay close attention, lest it seem to be by your doing that this evil is not put to rout, but rather brings along with itself an entire army of vices, all good things having been destroyed. A large number of the friends you made in England have lately arrived with yourself. These are good men, to be sure, and not unworthy of your company, but they have brought their national customs with them. Although they were above reproach when among their own countrymen, because the abuse I have in mind has become habitual there, I do not know if they have done any great wrong when they have not only failed to adapt themselves to our national ways, but have rather introduced there own. I am speaking of their great banquets and their almost daily habit of indulging in the luxury of feasting and drinking-bouts, to which they take turns in inviting each other. If these things be measured against the vices of their own nation, they would not seem excessive or deserving of a black mark. They might indeed be deemed moderate. Nevertheless, in comparison to the traditional parsimony of our own nation, nothing seems more inappropriate.
16. “And so I would not care to say that this is entirely their fault, since it is rather our own, for so eagerly accepting novel and bad customs to the detriment of our own ways. But, however the matter may stand, these drinking-bouts and belly-indulgences amount to something that entirely deserves our condemnation, since it beings with it many vices and serves as a fountainhead for many evils, bringing along with itself all manner of failed self-control, namely destructive lusts, disgraces, thefts, and immense expenditure, which are not only wont to carry the men hagridden by their influence so their final destruction, but even lead to the endangerment and downfall of great families, and indeed even of commonwealths. For if the power of self-control is such that it brings along with itself all the virtues, and whoever cultivates it quickly acquires all the good things that derive from those virtues, we must admit that its opposite, voracious incontinence, leaves behind no evil which does not bring along with itself the rest its that gang of henchmen, the vices, and particularly luxury, which it loves so much that it clings to it and can never be torn away. For if a man allows himself to be a slave to his belly, as to a very wicked master, he is obliged to do whatever it commands. Hence the rape and debauchery of virgins. Hence adultery. Hence incest. For these corruptive influences of the young, which are accustomed to drive a countless herd of vices before themselves, follow upon the wanton consumption of food and drink. As soon as they have given themselves over to feasting and drink while at idleness and free of cares, they quickly fall headlong into every manner of lust, and are more prone to the vices.
17. “For when by your enormous expenses, such as constant banquets and drinking-matches require, you have gone through your patrimony, since you can never free your mind of the enticements of these delights once you have let them in, you must seek to acquire other men’s fortunes by any means you can , so that you can sate yourself with novel pleasures. And so, when they are in their cups and reason has been unseated from her throne by food and drink, each man confesses his poverty, and this is the time they start hatching wild plans about furtive acts of robbery and sometimes even of seizing control of their commonwealth. This is the time they enter into conspiracies, invent schemes for peculation, and make arrangements among themselves for imposing exactions and oppressions on the common people. And yet those who are endowed with a certain prudence, such as old age confers, for seeing into the future better than that of the average run of man, can see that great expenditures are required to support all the pleasures, and thus that what remains of the money men used to confer on the poor in churches and on divine honors is now reserved for the luxury of elegant dining, in able to satisfy their need for pleasure. And this admits two diametrically opposed vices, namely avarice and profusion: avarice, when you hold on to your money when you ought to be giving it away, and profusion by uselessly squandering it on all on tables laden with every manner of pleasurable thing and on the worst of evils, while by a lying misuse of words calling this liberality and a lavish style of living. And it is far harder to help those who keep money for their own use than those who squander everything once and for all: for when the latter have gone through everything they own, they are compelled by necessity to adopt a more frugal way of life, whereas those who do everything so as not to run short wallow in their vices unremittingly. For, once it has come to dominate the mind, this greed for possession can never be uprooted, for it is diminished neither by abundance or dearth.
18. “Hence they explore all the seas, even the most inaccessible, forests, mountains, and the bowels of the earth, to that by their diligence they can make up for everything they have spent on their pleasures. And when long habit has made them this accustomed to pleasure, they grow energetic in their evildoing, so they may always be adding something new to their pleasure. Bur when it comes to the things which are useful for the commonwealth, I mean things which suffer no admixture of license and have no truck with the vices, they are quite slothful and inert, they are men of no use, for now the strength of both their minds and bodies is sapped. There is nothing that ruins all strength faster than softness, once the mind accepts it. In the reign of Malcolm III, when the previous custom had been to eat only one meal a day, it happened that, because of the prevailing peace and intermarriages between our royal courts, the Scots acquired the English habit of consuming two daily meals. The most prudent men in the realm saw how much evil would come about because of that change, how much damage would be introduced by that devotion to food, and so by common consent approached their king and petitioned him to enact a law enforcing our old way of eating. But. thanks to our people’s readiness to acquire vices, once they had succumbed to this it, they could be restrained by no bridle, and the king was not free to remove this habit, after it had been adopted, and it turned out as you see: that little spark has flared up into such a great bonfire.
19. “Now, therefore, were are dealing with it in its extreme form, and the question is whether we wish to embrace all the vices, having banished all the virtues, or save some remnant for ourselves. Once upon a time, our part of the world was unique for producing the bravest of men, who had no need to fear any human powers, I mean at that time when they kept out all pleasures and allowed nothing soft or effeminate to exist in themselves. But afterwards, when they adopted the pleasures of foreign nations, their strength gradually ebbed away. This was also what the Romans experienced, who governed all nations and peoples as long as they retained anything of their old-fashioned discipline, but afterwards, when nothing untainted by luxury remained for them, they lost their empire along with their virtues, and fell prey to the very same nations they had once subjugated. It is your responsibility, my king, to see that the same does not befall ourselves, for this lies within your power. No small danger is posed for us by our neighbors, as the English crowd on us from one side, and the Danes and Norwegians from another, eager to gain our nation, those nations which have so often been driven out by us after occupying nearly all our kingdom, thanks only to God’s help and the virtue of our people, when they had been returned to concord. And so, if moderation in diet and the cultivation of virtue are by themselves sufficient for the maintenance and preservation of the realm, in the absence of these things, it would necessarily collapse. Wherefore, if moderation is uniquely conjoined to the virtues, and if on the other hand excess is all-destroying, we should struggle in every possible way and strive might and main to cultivate those virtues and hiss their opposite vices off the stage, thus making our kingdom unconquerable by our enemies, and impregnable with regard to the vices.”
20. When he had spoken these words, they all voted in favor of the motion that depraved habits and innovations now needed to be eradicated. But they failed to agree on the ways by which this was to be achieved. Some were of the opinion that no trace of this should be allowed to remain, not even in the king’s court, while others regarded this view as too severe. So they took a middle course and decreed that it be allowed lords, but only on solemn occasions, to make distributions of free food (a custom not practiced in Scotland prior to that time) and prepare more elegant dishes. The result was that more prestige and expense became involved in such dinners, the edict came to be held in contempt, and we have arrived at the great, limitless drunkenness we see today, and there is nothing which land or sea produces which, thanks to the greatest of efforts, does not fall victim to our gluttony There is no bird in the sky, no fish in the deep of the sea which can escape its lust. The problem is not only that we prefer the things that stimulate our pleasure, even if they are expensive, over those that are commonplace and cheap for our daily fare: rather, these enticements lead to such voracity, such greed for consuming delicacies, that can by no means be satisfied, and our bellies are so swollen that we scarce can breathe. And what am I to say about our drinking? Some folk are not satisfied to consume as much as nature allows, and all but put funnels in their mouths so they can consume more, drinking off huge measures, in this perverse way breathing and drinking at the same time, as if nature has not provided living beings with a sufficient ability to take in their nutriments. And I regard this drunkenness, as no small cause for wars both civil and foreign because, as the man said, in addition to its other evils, it provokes even the listless to fight.
21. When these things had been done, James spent huge sums on introducing all manner of craftsmen from England, Flanders, and elsewhere, to teach his people the mechanical arts. For since Scotland had suffered from nearly continual wars since the death of Alexander III, and many men skilled in those arts had been killed, the result was that young men were trained in the crafts of war rather than of peace, and all those arts had died off practically within the lifetime of a single man, so transitory and easily-forgotten or those things which are only passed down from hand to hand, and not taught to students in writing. A few days after after this parliament was dissolved, Bishop Henry caught a certain Bohemian named Paul Craw propagandizing for new sects, teaching strange doctrines about the sacrament of the Eucharist, and preaching against the veneration of the saints and auricular confession, in the university of St. Andrews. When he fetched the man in and found him to be recalcitrant, he turned him over to the professors of theology, who were to use all the powers of their virtue to dissuade the man from those opinions, but they could make no headway. So they surrendered him to the secular authorities, who discovered he had been sent from Bohemia as a kind of apostle to preach to the Scots the silly heresy of Wycliffe and Hus. And so a pyre was quickly built in the middle of the market square and he was burned. When James heard of this business, he praised them highly, and rewarded John Fogo, a Cistercian monk and a professor of Scripture, who had taken the lead in investigating Paul the Bohemian and the nature of his faith, by making him Abbot of Melrose.
22. Now that peace had been established in all quarters of his realm, King James thought he ought to leave nothing unexplored which might serve as a fine and useful help for his governing the realm. So he changed his costume and mingled with private citizens just as if he were one himself, and most of all with merchants, since other men throw their houses open to those men as to none others. Therefore, after he had a glimpse of all the manners of his subjects and the way in which they set their tables for feasts and banquets, as well as their other forms of social intercourse, he criticized the merchants in particular, because they had invited him to a banquet and then charged him money, as if he had been dining at a public inn. Then, desiring to leave behind a monument to his piety, he decided to found a monastery. At this time, there were men of goodly morals belonging the Carthusian Order, and among their number an Englishman named Oswald, who displayed many signs of his sanctity. Liking their order more than any other, James laid the foundations of an abbey in a suburb of Berth and, assembling the monks, placed Oswald in charge of them, so that by his example he could guide them to achieve the same degree of piety. At this same time there came to King James English ambassadors who had a canny scheme for using large promises to induce him to make peace: they were prepared to yield Berwick and all the region lying between the Tweed and the Recross. James understood the swindle: he perceived that it was nothing other than an attempt to break up the alliance and treaty he had made with the French. This peace was by no means arranged.
23. In the following year, which was the year of Christ 1433, King James remanded George Dunbar Earl of Merch, the son of the man who had rebelled during the reign of Robert III, to Edinburgh Castle because of his father’s treason, and immediately sent William Earl of Angus, his chancellor William Crichton, and Sir Adam Hepburn of Hailes to take possession of Dunbar. They showed the wardens of the castle a warrant commanding them to depart the castle immediately, and threatening them with the loss of their heads if they did not go promptly. Terrified by the king’s threats, those wardens did not dare resist, and Adam Hepburn was appointed governor of that castle by the king, and took possession of it. A year later, the king convened a general parliament of the lords and deprived George of the earldom of Merch because of his father’s crime. When George produced a pardon issued his father, forgiving him of his fault and suspending his punishment, and sealed by the regents and their counselors, the king’s reply was that a regent is not empowered to forgive a traitor, and that civil and municipal law ordains that his guilt must devolve upon his hears. Therefore that right noble earldom of Merch, which had belonged to Clan Dunbar for so many years, was taken away thanks to the wrongdoing of a single one of its members. But the king took pity on George, and bestowed on him the earldom of Buchan not long thereafter. But since any man could see that this earldom was a poor thing in comparison with the other one, after the death of James (who did not long survive), George and his son Patrick received an annual pension of four hundred marks from the earldom of March until James II (for whom George had stood godfather) came to his maturity.
24. In this same year died Alexander Stewart Earl of Mar, who was, as previously said, the bastard of Alexander Earl of Buchan, the son of King Robert II. He was a man famed for his virtues throughout his life. For as young man he fought in the service of Philippe Duke of Burgundy at the time he stormed Lüttich, and so greatly distinguished himself in that affair that Philippe credited to him the greater part of his glory. Not long thereafter, he married Jane, the very celebrated daughter of the Count of Holland. But, either because she had had an earlier husband whom she had repudiated, or because the locals declined to except a man of foreign blood as their master, or (which seems closer to the truth), because he was expelled by the forces of Duke Philippe of Burgundy, who was invading Holland at the time, he soon came home. When he requested the pension due him and the Hollanders refused to provide it, he declared war on them and engaged them in a number of sea-battles, but very much came off the loser. But he seized an opportunity to attack a fleet of their ships returning from Danzig, laden down with all the kinds of merchandise they habitually imported from that city, and took a part of them, thus repaying them for the harm they had done him, and charging interest to boot. For he drowned all their sailors and fired their ships. Stung by the loss, the Hollanders pledged a hundred years’ truce with the Scots. His prudence in the affairs of peacetime was no less. For he imported a large number of fine stallions and mares out of Hungary, where they keep a great store of fine horses, with the result that, whereas only short and slender horses had been found here before, nowadays, thanks to the breeding of these ones, one sees very fine ones, of a tall stature. Because of his excellent prudence, he was entrusted with the administration of northern Scotland, a position he held for life. He was buried in the chapel at Dunkeld. Because he was illegitimately born, the king appropriated his estates.
25. At about this time, the king granted an audience at Perth to a herald sent by the king of Denmark (who at this time governed the Norwegians as well), come to request payment of the annual tribute once promised by King Alexander when the Scots and the Norwegians came to a settlement concerning the Hebrides, which had not been paid for many years. After keeping this man at his court for some time, he sent him home together with gifts and his ambassador Sir. William Crichton, so that the matter might be resolved in Denmark. Coming to the Danish king, William gave him a favorable response and renewed their treaty on certain terms, and since then a firm peace has endured between the Danes and the Scots. At about this same time ambassadors of King Charles VII of France were sent to Scotland for the renewal of their treaty,and requesting the hand of King James’ daughter Margaret for his firstborn son Louis. Easily obtaining this, great preparations were made and a fleet was prepared to carry over the bride. Assigned as her escort were John de Crannach Bishop of Brechin, William Sinclair Earl of Orkney, Walter Ogilvie the king’s treasurer, Sir Herbert Harris, Sir William Strathwn, Sir John Maxwell, Sir William Scott, Sir John Thomas, Sir Thomas Calvin, Alexander Seaton, Henry Graham, Henry Wardlaw, and many other noble gentlemen. She was also accompanied by a hundred and forty women of distinction, most of them virgins, among whom were Margaret’s five sisters, of whom I shall speak hereafter.
26. Before they could board ship, an English herald arrived in England at the behest of his king, forbidding Margaret from crossing over to France. If she failed to comply, he threatened that, no matter what the Scots wished, the English would seize her and her entire escort. But James disdained the English threats and was no more behindhand in commanding the expedition to move forward. God’s will kept them from falling into the clutches of the English, for at the same time they sailed, a Spanish fleet appeared not far from England, and, imagining it to be the Scottish ones, the English attacked it with eighty ships of war. But when they discovered they had encountered men spoiling for a fight, rather than a bride with a bevy of maidens to escort her, they suffered a great disaster. So, obtaining a fair wind, the fleet reached France unopposed, and, immediately traveling to Tours, the Scottish party was received by Charles and a throng of his nobility, and, with the solemn rites of the Church, Louis the Dauphin took Margaret as his wife.
27. While these things were a-doing in France and Scotland, Henry Percy took four thousand armed men and made a foray into Scotland: it is uncertain whether he did so on his own authority or by the command of his king. William Douglas Earl of Angus, Adam Hepburn of Hailes, Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie, and Alexander Elphinstone met him at Piperdene in approximately equal numbers. Although they suffered about the same amount of casualties, the Scots came out the winners. On the Scottish side fell Alexander Elphinstone while in hot pursuit of the enemy, together with two knights and over a hundred ordinary soldiers. On the English were lost Sir Henry Clydesdaie, Sir John Ogle, Sir Richard Percy, and about four hundred soldiers. Three hundred were also captured and brought to Scotland, and a great number of common soldiers was taken, more than could be driven home as plunder. When King James heard of these English inroads into his nation, he enlisted a large army and besieged Roxburgh. Now he almost brought the siege to its conclusion, so that those within the town had opened negotiations for a surrender, when all of a sudden the terrified queen hurried to the king in his camp, and announced that a conspiracy was afoot. Afraid for his life, the king abruptly broke off the siege, dismissed his army, and returned to Scotland. The ringleader of this conspiracy was the king’s uncle Walter Earl of Athol. Ambitious for the throne, he had already urged Robert the regent to kill James’ elder brother David, and, after that, James himself. But James had been rescued from the cruel hands of his uncle by his father’s foresight and, as I have described, got safely away to England. For Athol hoped that when the others had been removed he could also somehow destroy Robert. And now, when Robert’s stock had been extirpated, he had instigated two energetic men, his nephew Robert and Robert Graham, a ready-handed fellow, to commit a daring crime.
28. For he had previously offended against the king and was consequently exiled, for which reason his personal grudge made him all the more ill-disposed towards the king. So, even if their counsels had been hindered by the queen’s intervention, since they knew their names had not yet been disclosed to the king, they thought they should not abandon their plan. Rather, driven by their guilty consciences, and allowed no peace by their fear of betrayal, they hastened to put their crime into action before the year was oiut. So they went to Perth, where the king was staying with the Dominican preachers, and bribed the guard to let them into the royal court. Penetrating to its interior, they came to the door of its bedchamber. There they stood waiting a certain courtier named John, a friend who was privy to the conspiracy, who was supposed to open the door so they could burst in. But before he appeared, Walter Stratton opened the door to fetch some wine. Seeing them standing there wearing their swords, he immediately shouted that treason was afoot and tried to get back inside, but in vain. He was immediately cut down, but he had delayed them and given a chance for Catharine Douglas, a noble girl who subsequently married Alexander Lovell of Bolunny, to slam the door shut. But that courtier John I mentioned had removed the bar, and since nothing else was available, she had the presence of mind to shove her hand in the empty space. Nevertheless, being slender and fragile, her arm was broken and she was thrust aside, and they burst into the bedroom, killing or driving off everyone standing in the way and even wounding the queen, and murdered the king with many a stab-wound. Among those who did the most in the attempt to defend the king was Patrick Dunbar, brother of George Dunbar Earl of Merch. For he fought to the very end, received many wounds and had his fingers cut off, and was left for dead.
29. In life, James was a man of middling stature, with very broad shoulders but a waist as narrow as a girl’s, and moderate-sized feet in proportion to his frame, so that some folk called him foursquare, but they were really saying that he was possessed of an excellent frame and temperament. In addition to those virtues of mind I have already mentioned, he was particularly devoted to justice and a very sharp avenger of wrongdoing: he was the inferior to none of his predecessors in the achievements of peacetime, and better than most. He was murdered in the year of Christ’s birth 1436, on the twenty-first of February, in the thirteenth of his reign. He was buried in the Carthusian monastery which he himself had founded at Perth, at a time when the work of its construction was not yet finished. When James’ death became common knowledge, the lords of the realm were deeply grieved about the murder of such a great man. So they spontaneously gathered and sent men to search for his murderers in every corner of the realm. They were found at Edinburgh and subjected to the following punishment: they stripped the Earl of Athol, the ringleader of the conspiracy and the man responsible for the murder, and stripped him of all his clothing save for a linen loincloth. Then they built a gallows-looking contraption that resembled the tree you use to raise and lower a well bucket, and mounted it on a wagon, with a rope attached. Then they drove him about the city, now hoisting him aloft so everybody could take a look at that parricide, and then let him down again to the ground. They also placed a red-hot iron crown on his scurvy head. For they said that he had once heard a witch foretelling that he would be crowned in public before departing this life, and that he had guided everything in his life and done everything so as to bring the prophecy to pass. And so that thing he had fondly imagined about himself they mockingly transformed into a very great punishment.
30. These were his torments on the first day. On the second, he was tied to a horse’s tail and his confederates were set on a cart, and they were dragged throughout the city, as before. On the third day, he was placed on a table and his belly was opened with a knife, and then his guts were drawn out and cast in a fire before his living eyes, and his quivering heart was removed and likewise cast into the fire. Then his head was cut off and his body torn into four quarters, which were sent to four districts of the kingdom. Since Athol’s nephew had been acting at his instigation, he did not suffer such a savage punishment, but he was hanged and quartered. Robert Graham, the principal assassin, was put on a wagon and the hand with which he had committed the deed was lashed to a gallows set up on the carriage, while his tormentors pierced his body all over with red-hot needles, but in such a way that he would not immediately die. Having been driven around the city, he too was quartered, just like the others. The others party to crime suffered a most shameful death. And so the greater part of them suffered this manner of vengeance for the king’s most undeserved death. At this time Aeneas Sylvius was in Scotland as a legate of Pope Eugene IV in order to arrange a peace between the English and the Scots. This was a man of outstanding learning and prudence, who for his virtues was later made pope himself. When he was in the middle of negotiating his business with the king, Fortune, so invidious towards human affairs, intervened and took away the king by this great crime. So when Aeneas had seen this deed committed, he hurled countless reproaches at all and sundry for having allowed such a great wrong to go unpunished, until the time when the conspirators were punished in the manner I have described. At that time he retracted his imprecations and had nothing but praise for the way they had been executed. And finally he achieved the object of his visit. For the pope’s plan was to make peace throughout Christendom and then war against the Saracens.
31. Some prodigies were seen during the reign of Hames. At Perth a pig gave birth to a piglet with the head of a dog, and a cow to a calf with that of a horse. A comet appeared in the autumn before his murder, and then the ensuing winter was so cold that in many places wine froze. The beer froze so solid that its casks had to be broken open, and in taverns it was sold by its weight: men would then warm it with coals and drink it. A sword was seen to fly an errant and hesitant course through the sky, affecting men with no less fear than wonder.