Click a green square to see the Latin text. Click a blue square to see a commentary note.
FTER the body of King James had been brought with great estate to the chapel of Holyrood belonging to the abbey of the Augustine canons, and the proper funeral rites for a king had been performed, in August of the year of Salvation 1463, the Scottish nobility met at a certain Benedictine abbey called Kelso, where James, the third of that name, was anointed in accordance with tradition, the crown was set on his head, and he succeeded to his father’s place as king, with all crying out that his reign should be happy and prosperous. Eight days thereafter, after all the orders of the realm had sworn their fealty, everyone was given leave to go home, and the boy-king was escorted in high estate to Edinburgh Castle, where he was to live under his mother’s tutelage as long as the nobles saw fit. But the people of Scotland were not long at rest. For after a while they made another expedition into English, burning its land and capturing a number of castles, of which by far the strongest was named Wark, as long as weather permitted them to campaign on foreign soil. But at the onset of winter they brought their forces home.
2. In this king’s second year, the entire Scottish nobility was convened at Edinburgh for the selection of regents of the realm. Various views were advanced at this parliament. The queen, more like a man than a woman for her high spirits, demanded this responsibility for herself, over the opposition of James Kennedy Bishop of St. Andrews, who was of the opinion that those charged with this responsibility by the parliament should preside over the king’s education as well as the care and administration of the realm. For what the woman was requesting was unbecoming for the entire realm as well as herself, as if no men worthy of that office could be found in all the kingdom, and men should not tolerate the rule of Amazons: this was against law and right, and likewise against national tradition that supreme government should be entrusted to someone devoid not only of strength, but also of counsel. But since the woman contended for this position with such determination, and chased after this honor with such ambition, that the business seemed likely to take a violent turn, the Bishops of Glascow, Dunkeld, and Aberdeen, as well as certain prudent abbots, intervened and the matter was settled in this way, that care for the king and his brothers Alexander Duke of Albany and John Earl of Mar should remain under their mother’s care, for this responsibility seemed fitting for a woman, but that should leave the administration of the realm to the lords. By common agreement the Bishop of Glasgow, the Bishop of Dunkeld, the Earl of Orkney, the Lord Graham, the Lord Boyd, and the chancellor of the realm were elected.
3. After these arrangements had been made, English ambassadors were admitted seeking a truce, and one was granted at the behest of Bishop James Kennedy, but only for a short while. A certain Alan Kerr, in order to gain the heritage of his brother John Lorne, treacherously arrested and imprisoned him, keeping him alive but a captive until he could invent some reason why, after he had been killed, he himself could come forward as the heir to his estate. When this became common knowledge, Colin Campbell Earl of Argyll, detesting Alan’s crime, attacked him with a band of soldiers, freed his brother, and imprisoned him with the intention of soon taking him to Edinburgh to stand his trial for a number of murders and robberies. But before this could be done, he died in prison, and it is uncertain whether this was for natural causes or because he had been put to death. After this, Donald of the Isles, heedless of the clemency shown him by James, played his same old role: with only a few companions at his back, he went to Inverness Castle feigning nothing but friendliness, and so its guard, suspecting no hostile intent, gave him admission. But when he got inside, being superior in numbers he took the castle by force. Collecting robbers from all over, and fetching his forces from the islands, he styled himself King of the Hebrides, thinking that he could not only do so with impunity because the king was a boy, but could turn a profit. He also sent out an edict warning that no man should give his support to the royal servants, and should pay their taxes to himself alone. And when he had assembled a large army, at night he went into Athol, at a time when nobody had a presentiment of his unexpected arrival. At a rapid pace he marched to his uncle the Earl of Athol, and captured him and his wife (the late Countess of Douglas) after they had fled to the chapel of St. Brigid at Blaire Castle, by violating its holy asylum and dragging them out of the chapel, and sent them to the very strong castle of Claig on the island of Isla. Then he despoiled the church of a great deal of moveable property, which the locals had deposited there for safekeeping when they had heard of the commotion. Thrice his followers tried to set fire to the church roof, and thrice by divine intervention the fire was quenched as it headed towards the roof-tree.
4. Next he ravaged all of Athol, foully ruining things both sacred and profane. When priests sought to prevent him with their words and deter him from his endeavors, he cowed some with his threats, administered a beating to others, and even sacrilegiously murdered some. When they attempted to take away their plunder, particularly a great number of cattle, they did not escape punishment for their desecrations. A winter storm blew up and most of them drowned, although a few managed to get ashore. Therefore, having experienced this manifest sign of divine wrath, they went to the Hebrides and immediately brought back their church-plunder. They hastened to placate St. Brigid with candles, fire, and prayers, as is their national custom, when they returned to the asylum they had recently so arrogantly and insolently defiled, tearful, barefoot, and clad only in linen shifts. But, being the instigator of these crimes, Donald came in for special revenge. For he went out of his mind, and did not do anything showing signs of reason or prudence. For this reason his friends and kinsmen, troubled by this great catastrophe, freed the Earl of Athol and his wife and brought him to St. Brigid to atone for his sacrilege. When they had lit the candles and approached the saint’s altar, all their flames changed from yellow to black. As proof of this, even today they hang in large numbers before Brigid’s statue, as I myself was shown by a priest in the year 1522.
5. A little before, when Donald’s depredations in Athol were reported to the regents and leading lords, the governors of the realm had commanded that an army immediately be enrolled and all the necessities of war be prepared, lest his growing audacity act like a contagion on others who thus far had been restrained by their reverence for the government, and incite them to similar ventures. But before everything was in readiness and the army was led forth, it was reported that these sacrilegious robbers had paid the penalties they deserved thanks to an act of divine wrath, and that they had paid reparations for losses inflicted and returned the Earl of Athol and his wife. And so for the present there was no further disturbance. The government was managed in a better way than at any other time when a child was king, and our people began to enjoy great tranquility. This was very much the result of the counsel and authority of James Kennedy, a man of much civil prudence. While our affairs were in this condition, ambassadors came to the king and his nobles from Charles Duke of Burgundy concerning peace and a renewal of the old treaty with Charles and his subject peoples. The leaders of this delegation were the Sieur de Verennes and the Sieur de Tourhon. When they had obtained this without difficulty, they disclosed the remainder of their duke’s requests, which concerned a marriage. For they asked that King James accept his daughter Mary, a kinswoman, as his wife. But since the king was still of immature years, this matter was deferred to another time so that it could be given more mature consideration, and the ambassadors went home, liberally laden down with gifts.
Thus far Master Hector Boece, a Scotsman of Dundee,
concerning James III King of Scots, nor,
I think, did he write more.