Birthday: December 10, 1394
Died At Age: 42
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Also Known As: James I
Born Country: Scotland
Born in: Dunfermline Abbey, Dunfermline, United Kingdom
Famous as: King of Scotland
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Joan Beaufort, Queen of Scots (m. 1424)
father: Robert III of Scotland
mother: Annabella Drummond
siblings: David Stewart, Duke of Rothesay
children: Alexander Stewart; Duke of Rothesay, Annabella of Scotland, Eleanor of Scotland, Isabella of Scotland; Duchess of Brittany, James II of Scotland, Joan Stewart; Countess of Morton, Margaret Stewart; Dauphine of France, Mary Stewart; Countess of Buchan
Died on: February 21, 1437
Cause of Death: Assassination
Who was James I of Scotland?
James I of Scotland was the king of Scotland from 1406 to 1437. He was the youngest of three sons of King Robert III and Annabella Drummond, born 27 years after their marriage. James grew up in Dunfermline Abbey and spent most of his early childhood under his mother’s care until her death in 1401 when he was just seven. He was educated at the English court which imbibed in him respect for English methods of governance. After his father’s death in 1406, James became the uncrowned king of the Scots while being held hostage by King Henry IV of England. His reign over the nation was not much popular since he battled on behalf of Henry V in France and many times against the Scottish forces. He excelled in sporting activities, music, and literature. In 1436, Sir Robert Graham made an unsuccessful attempt to arrest the king at a general council after the king had failed to acquire the English-held Roxburgh Castle. A year later, in February 1437, he was assassinated at Perth. James was married to a daughter of the Earl of Somerset, Joan Beaufort. They had eight children, including James II, the king of Scotland who ruled after his death.
Childhood & Early Life
James I of Scotland was born in late July 1394 at the church at Dunfermline Abbey, to Robert III and Annabella Drummond. He had two brothers and several sisters.
His mother died in 1401. A year later, his older brother, David, Duke of Rothesay, was murdered by their ruthless uncle Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany.
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Captivity & Accession
James’ uncle Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, resumed hostilities in England alongside his close aide, Black Douglas, whose absence from his power base in Lothians helped King Robert III’s enemies Sir David Fleming of Biggar and Henry Sinclair, Earl of Orkney, become major political forces in the region.
In 1405, Bishop Henry Wardlaw of St Andrews, who was the guardian of young James, sent him to Fleming and Orkney. While Fleming was killed by James Douglas of Balvenie after he tried to further his interests in Douglas country, Orkney and James escaped. James eventually ended up becoming a hostage of King Henry IV of England.
During his son’s imprisonment, Robert III, who was at Rothesay Castle, died on 4 April 1406. James, still in captivity, now became the uncrowned king of Scotland. Henry IV treated him well and got him educated at the English court.
Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, became the governor from lieutenant and took James’ property under his control.
Although James spent the next 18 years as a hostage of Henry IV, he communicated with the Scots to maintain his visibility in his kingdom. After Henry IV’s death, his son Henry V sent James to jail where he met his cousin and Albany's son, Murdoch Stewart.
By 1420, James's position at Henry V's court had significantly improved and he was regarded as a guest. He also accompanied Henry V to France and supported the latter in using his power against the Scots.
Following Henry V's death in August 1422, James collaborated with Douglas. A year later, the general council negotiated with the English court regarding James' release.
In February 1424, James’ association with the House of Lancaster underwent a change after he married a cousin of Henry VI, Joan Beaufort. He and his queen, escorted by Scottish and English nobles, reached Abbey in April and Albany gave up his position.
Reign as the King of Scotland
After his release in 1424, James didn’t become the kind of ruler that the English council had hoped for. Instead, he emerged as an independent-minded monarch. He assumed a non-aligned position with France, Burgundy, and England, and at the same time opened up diplomatic contacts with Austria, Aragon, Denmark, Naples and Milan.
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The lack of crown revenue in the Scottish kingdom and irregular forms of political favors of Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, allowed him to remove funds from the customs. King James eventually tried to raise the crown income by withdrawing the patronage of royal guardians and predecessors.
On 13 May 1424, he got Albany's son Walter Stewart arrested. He demonstrated his ruthless nature while destroying the family of the Albany Stewarts. Their destruction yielded him the three forfeited earldoms of Menteith, Lennox, and Fife.
Also, in 1424, James’ enquiry that was set to look into the dispersal of crown estates exposed legal defects in several transactions where the earldoms of Strathearn, Mar, and March were found to be problematic. All these three earldoms were forfeited between 1427 and 1435.
To boost his income, the king succeeded in passing legislation for a tax that would go towards paying off the ransom of £26,000 to England. However, he sent only £12,000 and by 1429, stopped the payments entirely.
In July 1428, he summoned a general council at Perth in order to gain finances for a voyage to the Highlands against the Lord of the Isles. He was eventually granted the finances. He then proceeded to arrest Alexander, the third Lord of the Isles; Archibald, 5th Earl of Douglas; and George, Earl of March.
In August 1436, James entered a war with England and failed to lay siege to the English-held Roxburgh Castle. This dented his reputation badly.
The retreat from Roxburgh exposed James to questions concerning his diplomatic abilities and control over his subjects. However, this didn’t affect him and he continued with the war against England.
In October 1436, James called a general council to finance further hostilities through taxation. His acts were resisted by the estate owners, especially Sir Robert Graham, a servant of Atholl. Graham tried to arrest the king, albeit unsuccessfully.
James I of Scotland was assassinated at Perth on the night of 20/21 February 1437 by his uncle Walter Stewart, Earl of Atholl. His wife, though wounded, managed to escape.
Family & Personal Life
James I of Scotland married Joan Beaufort, a daughter of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, and his wife Margaret Holland, on 12 February 1424.
He had eight children with Beaufort: Margaret, Isabella, Joan, Alexander Stewart, Duke of Rothesay, James II of Scotland, Eleanor, Mary, and Annabella.