James IV of Scotland Biography

(King of Scotland from 1488 to 1513)

Birthday: March 17, 1473 (Pisces)

Born In: Stirling, Scotland

James IV of Scotland was the king of Scotland in the late 15th century and early 16th century and is best remembered as the most successful Stewart monarch. He was the eldest son of King James III and Margaret of Denmark and was thus the heir apparent to the throne of Scotland. He grew up with two younger brothers. His father was an unsuccessful king and was not seen kindly by his own councilors and family members. His father was killed in one of the rebellions headed by his own son, James IV. James IV, however, had ordered that his father shall not be killed. Despite the warning, James III was killed in the Battle of Sauchieburn. As a king, James IV proved to be a strong and determinant ruler. He suppressed several rebellions and maintained good relations with England and France, to maintain peace. He was also a true Renaissance king who appreciated art and culture. James had befriended England, but owing to the Italian Wars, he had to face England while supporting another ally, France, in 1513. He ended up losing both the battle and his life. He was the last monarch from Great Britain to die in a battle.
Quick Facts

Died At Age: 40


Spouse/Ex-: Margaret Tudor (m. 1503)

father: James III of Scotland

mother: Margaret of Denmark, Queen of Scotland

children: Alexander Stewart (archbishop of St Andrews), Alexander Stewart - Duke of Ross, Arthur Stewart - Duke of Rothesay, James - Duke of Rothesay, James Stewart - 1st Earl of Moray (1501 creation), James V of Scotland, Janet Stewart - Lady Fleming, Margaret Stewart James IV of Scotland

Born Country: Scotland

Emperors & Kings Military Leaders

Died on: September 9, 1513

place of death: Branxton, Northumberland, England

Cause of Death: Killed In Battle

Childhood & Early Life
James IV of Scotland was born on March 17, 1473, at the ‘Stirling Castle,’ Scotland, to King James III of Scotland and his wife, Margaret of Denmark. He was the eldest son in the family and had two younger brothers, James and John. Hence, as the legal heir apparent to the Scottish crown, he was made the Duke of Rothesay.
His father, James III, was an extremely unpopular leader who had earned the hatred of all the well-wishers of Scotland, including his own councilors and family members. He faced two big rebellions during his reign as the king of Scotland, and his younger brother, Alexander Stewart, had been leading rebellions against him.
What further fuelled the nation’s hatred toward him was his pro-English stance, as it paid off poorly. It led to the English invasion of Scotland and the capture of the town Berwick by the English in 1482. In order to free the captured city, he led an attack against the English army. However, he was attacked by his own councilors and was subsequently imprisoned. It was the first major sign that his reign was practically over.
James IV’s mother, Margaret, was a more popular monarch. She was sent to the ‘Sterling Castle’ to raise her children there, as there were talks about violent rebellions. Prince James was 15 years old at that time and was made to lead the rebellion against his own father. He ordered his army that his father must not be harmed. However, his father died under mysterious circumstances in the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488.
In June 1488, James IV became the king of Scotland.
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As a King
James IV was perceived as a much better ruler than his father. He became popular with both his councillors and the general public. He crushed the first rebellion that took place under his reign in 1489, the year after he ascended to the throne.
He took great interest in the administration. In 1493, he exhibited his political and military prowess when he brought the Lord of the Isles under his direct control.
It was a time when Scotland shared an extremely complicated political relationship with England. James sided with the pretender to the English throne, Perkin Warbeck, in the mid-1490s and invaded England briefly twice, in 1496 and 1497.
Despite this, James realized that England was too strong to be made an enemy and that making peace between the two countries was the most favorable choice for both the countries. England had just come out of a civil war, and James took advantage of the situation to establish a good diplomatic relationship with their neighbor.
The ‘Treaty of Ayton’ and the ‘Treaty of Perpetual Peace’ were signed between the two countries. James also ended up marrying the daughter of English king Henry VII. However, this friendship was always rocky, owing to the interference of France.
James IV was known as a king who had a great taste for art and culture. He took great interest in scientific matters, too. He also helped establish Scotland’s first printing press, the ‘Chepman and Myller Press.’ He also built palaces and installed artistic furnishing in the existing palaces.
He was also a great believer in education being the foundation of a great nation. He was well-educated and could speak multiple languages. He passed the first education act of Scotland. Soon, a law made it mandatory for all barons and freeholders to send their heirs/eldest sons to schools to receive formal education for a period of time.
He was also interested in philosophy and psychology. As part of an experiment, he once sent two children to live with a mute woman to find out whether languages are only learned or if they are innate.
He also had a hand in establishing an alchemy workshop at the ‘Stirling Castle’ and provided a great environment for medicine and scientific research.
James IV had maintained good relations with the two European countries England and France, which did not quite eye to eye with each other. Despite many instances of the peace between the two countries being in danger, King Henry VII and James managed to maintain peaceful relations. However, following the death of Henry VII in 1509, their relation turned sour.
England and France ended up being in a war following the Italian Wars. King Henry VIII had ascended to the throne and was quite different from his father. Henry VIII did not respect the friendly relations they had with Scotland. Following Henry VIII’s invasion of France, James IV attacked England.
James had broken the peace treaty and was thus excommunicated by the cardinal of the ‘Catholic Church,’ Christopher Bainbridge. Soon, the war ended up killing him.
Family & Personal Life & Death
James IV always felt guilty about being the indirect cause of his father’s death. To atone for his sins, he wore a heavy chain cilice around his waist on the annual religious celebration of Lent and added weight to it every year.
He married the daughter of the King Henry VII of England, Margaret Tudor, in 1503, in an attempt to strengthen the country’s ties with England. Three of his sons died in infancy. His only son who reached adulthood was James V. James IV also had many illegitimate children.
James IV was an able military commander. However, the war against England proved to be his final war. He himself led an army to attack the English forces during the War of the League of Cambrai in Northumberland. He was killed during the battle, on September 9, 1513.
Henry VIII recovered his body, but it remained unburied for many years and was eventually lost. Many rumors claim that he was buried in Scotland, while many others claim that he was alive and later went into exile.
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