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Lord of the Isles, who having revived after his defeat at Harlaw, was veering round to his old defiance. He struggled vigorously, but at last gave in, travelled quietly to Edinburgh, entered the Church of Holyrood on Easter Day, an abject spectacle, and there, in front of the high altar, in presence of the whole Court, who must have been bewildered by this savage ceremony, he fell upon his knees, and holding a naked sword by the point, he delivered the hilt to the King, in token that he had found his master. One story is enough to illustrate the ferocity of the Highland robbers. Macdonald, the captain of a band in Ross-shire, having stolen two cows from a poor widow, she vowed in her anguish that she would never wear shoes again till she had carried her complaint to her king, should she walk to Edinburgh to seek him. 'It is false!' roared the barbarian, 'I will have you shod myself before you reach the Court.' Accordingly, he made a smith nail shoes to her poor naked feet, as if they had been those of a horse, and then thrust her forth, wounded and bleeding, on the highway. Macdonald believed that he had cleverly hindered the widow from taking her threatened vengeance. But he was mistaken. She recovered, and walked to Edinburgh, told her story to the King, and showed him her feet. James heard her with that mixture of pity, kindness, and uncontrollable indignation which marked his character, and caused Macdonald and twelve of his companions to be seized, to have their feet shod with iron shoes, to stand thus before the public for three days, and then to be executed.1
1 Tales of a Grandfather, p. 63.
THE DEATH OF JAMES I. AND THE REIGN OF JAMES II.
'Ah, God 1 for a man with heart, head, and hand,
For ever and ever by,
Who can rule and may not lie.'
The family of James I. consisted of one son and five daughters. The eldest Princess of Scotland was betrothed to the Dauphin of France, and in 1434, being thirteen years old, she was sent to her future home with a goodly escort of lords and ladies. The wedding was celebrated at Tours, with splendour that must have been amazing indeed to the little Princess and her country-people. To her it was a glittering inauguration to a few unhappy years, terminating in early death, for the gentle and intellectual daughter of James I. found an unworthy husband in Louis XL, of' famed malignity.' Her brief girlhood spent at the Court of Scotland, if a far less splendid, was an immeasurably happier existence. In the good example of married life set by her father and mother, in the introduction or revival of refinements never known, or long since forgotten, and of the employments and fashions of the Courts of England and France, we are reminded of the somewhat similar ' bloodless revolution' of St. Margaret . James was a 'great observer of reli
gious forms: easy for access, fair in speech and countenance, in behaviour kind, using sleep and meat to live. ... He had good command over his passions, his desires never being above his reason, nor his hopes inferior to his desires.'1 He constantly befriended Bishop Wardlaw's infant university, and invited over many illustrious persons from the Continental centres of learning. He was a good Catholic,' the privileges of ' Halie kirk' are repeatedly confirmed in the Statutes, and he strove to reform her growing corruptions. He addressed a remarkable letter to the abbots and priors of the Benedictine and Augustinian monasteries in Scotland, 'exhorting them, in the bowels of the Lord Jesus Christ, to shake off their torpor and sloth, and set themselves to work to restore their fallen discipline and rekindle their decaying fervour, that so they might save their houses from the ruin which menaced them.'3 We have seen that he was a great poet, and that in music he also excelled. He played on the lute and harp, introduced organs into the cathedrals and abbeys, and invented a new kind of music, 'plaintive and melancholy, different from all other.' That such a king, though generally beloved as the father of his people, should have many an enemy, is not remarkable. The nobles shrunk from feeling the firm and unflinching hand that kept them under, and from the searching Statute, whereby the owners of lands were required to show the charters by which they held them, many proprietors were suffering the humilia
1 Hist of the Five Jameses, Drummond of Hawthornden, p. 16.
8 He founded the only Carthusian monastery in Scotland at Perth, in the year 1429, and he is said to have invited to his kingdom the Franciscans of the Observantine reform. The Observantine convents were at Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Ayr, Perth, Stirling, Elgin, Jedburgh.
* Pref. to Statuta Ecclesue Scolicatue, vol. i. p. lxxxix.
tion of faded state and bridled power. In every class there were rough but well-meaning hearts, who hated their King because they could not understand him. He lived in a faraway world they had never entered ; his novelties of government were not 'canny,' and they could easily persuade themselves that the new burden of taxation demanded for the due administration of justice and the maintenance of an appropriate state, were the selfish impositions of a tyrant for the gratification of his passions. Foremost among those who were maddening under severe punishment was Sir Robert Graham. He had openly denounced the King as a tyrant, and away in his Highland banishment he found the Earl of Athole, a son of Robert II., and other congenial spirits delighted to help in working up a plan of deadly vengeance. The King had arranged to pass the Christmas of 1436 at the monastery of the Black Friars in Perth. Just about this time uncomfortable rumours were afloat, and unless the King was less superstitious than others of his race, he could not in the excitement of his festivities forget the warning words of a weird Highland wife, who, as he was going to cross the Forth to travel northwards, stood and prophesied: 'My Lord the King, if you pass this water you will never return again alive.' Towards the end of February the Court still lingered at the ' Fair City.' The evening of the 20th February was spent as usual in reading romances, music, and chess; and the King, in his gayest mood, while playing chess with a young knight, called the King of Love, warned him to take care of himself, as there was a prophecy that a king should die that year, and they were the only kings in the land. There was one of the company who, with anxious face and nervous movements, looked very desirous to speak to the King, and tried to get near him, but just as he had done so he changed his mind, or some one came in his way; the opportunity was gone,
and he sat down, thinking, perhaps, that it was best to let things take their course. Late in the evening a message came that a person craved to speak with the King immediately on important business. It was the same weird Highland wife who had prophesied at the river. But his highness could see no one at such an hour, and he would speak with her on the morrow. After midnight the parting cup was brought in, the company bade good-night, and most of them retired. As the King stood in his dressing-gown, in the royal bed-chamber, chatting to the Queen and her ladies, there was a sudden trampling of heavy feet on the stairs, and clashing of armour, and torches flared through the chinks in the shutters. Perceiving that something was wrong, the ladies ran to lock the doors, but found the locks spoiled, and bars gone, and the King ran to escape by the windows, but they were held tight with iron bars. A remembrance flashed upon him, and, seizing the fire-tongs, he wrenched up a board of the floor, and pulling it above him, he dropped down into a subterranean chamber. Here he bethought him of an opening by which he might get out, but, alas! by what must have appeared a terrible fatality, it was compactly filled up with masonry work, and that by his own orders, for when, three days ago, he was playing at tennis in the court, the balls used to run into it. The traitors had now burst into the chamber above, wounding the Queen, and breaking the arm of Catherine Douglas, which, with the bravery she inherited from her fathers, she had thrust into the staple of the door, as a slender substitute for the bar. Not finding the King here, they rushed over the house, and then began to search in the out-house. The King, supposing from the lull that his enemies were gone, called to the ladies to bring sheets and draw him up. In the attempt Elizabeth Douglas fell down beside him, and at this moment Chambers, one of the ruffians, coming in