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Jamie Stewart

The name Stuart/Stewart goes back two generations to Robert II Earl of Strathearn who was confirmed 7th hereditary steward of Scotland. The line was based on direct descendence from Robert's maternal grand-father, King Robert I the Bruce (yes, The Bruce as in hero of Bannockburn) but interrupted by the life and death of the Bruce's son David. In references, the spelling is alternately Stewart--from steward, get it?--(traditional) or Stuart (frankified).*

(King from 1424--37)
James I of Scotland was the second son of Robert III. After James's brother David was murdered at Falkland by his uncle, the Duke of Albany, James was sent to France for safety's sake. He was captured by the English where he remained a prisoner until 1424. It is considered most likely that his uncle, the Duke of Albany engineered his capture, because it is he who profited the most from it. As a consequence of refusing to pay his nephew's high ransom, Albany ruled Scotland as Regent until he died in 1420. His son Murdoch, who been a hostage too, assumed the Regency and was a corrupt and inadequate ruler. For eighteen years, James was in English custody, though not always under lock and key.

Romantically, James saw a girl from his prison tower, fell in love with her in King Henry's English court and married her. Conveniently, she happened to be Joan Beaufort, a niece of Henry IV. A couple of years later when his cousin (and current Duke of Albany) Murdoch finally ransomed James, a sixth of that ransom was given back to James as Joan's dowry. This marriage was not a cold-blooded arrangement. Right around the time of his courtship and marriage, James authored a series of romantic love poems to Joan, ("The King's Quire" or book), c.1423-4. Portions can be found online at: The King's Quire http://eir.library.utoronto.ca/rpo/display/poem1092.html

James was amazing, certainly the most learned of all Scottish Kings after all those unransomed years spent with his nose in a book. No doubt he also had eighteen years of pent-up rage and Machiavellian vengeance spicing with those eighteen years of enculturation. When James returned to Scotland, he was a fine macho figure of man with an acknowledged powerful and barbaric physique: a rider, wrestler, archer and well-versed in all of the (contemporary) fencing and fighting arts, and blooded in war having fought for Henry against France. Furthermore, he was a man with a plan.

James came home to a Scotland in chaos. Border Barons raided, terrorized and stole 96% of tax for themselves. Highlanders were a law unto themselves. Less than 4% of the country's revenue made it to Edinburgh. (Of course, with the taxes being stolen, one might ask where do these figures come from?) A week after his coronation, James declared that peace would be enforced and "any man presume to make war against another he shall suffer the full penalties of the law." He meant what he said. The common people were crazy about him because those wars he was talking about were made by the nobility. James believed that for Scotland to come under the mantle of the rule of law, the ruler must be merciless and resolute. His vision of law and order was formed with a scholar's sense of idealistic righteousness but administered like a sovereign. For a gentle poet, musician and a brilliant scholar, James was unpredictably ruthless. Within a year of his return, James crushed his cousins the Albany Stewarts and seized their estates. Murdoch and his two sons were imprisoned and beheaded at the heading-block at Stirling.

Many Highlanders were eager for his leadership and gave him fealty. However, as James began paring away at the power of the nobility (and conversely, advancing the power and status of the common man), many nobles plotted treason. Also, the very nature of the Highland clan was independent and quarrelsome. Rumors of this reached him. He called the Highland Chiefs to Inverness. As each chief appeared, he was thrown into the dungeon. James read witty Latin poems to the gathering. Three were hanged. (No, three poems were not hung--just three chiefs.) The rest endured a brief, brutal incarceration and then received clemency and release. The message was clear that the barons were not above the law. (On one hand consider that some of these were the barons who let James sit for 18 years. On the other, consider that some of these were just the sons of dead barons who let James sit for 18 years. Some were even loyal to him.)

In typical Highland fashion, Alexander of the Isles refused to be cowed. He avenged the hanged chiefs by burning Inverness to the ground. James could not let this stand. He confronted Alexander in Lochaber and compelled him to come to Edinburgh. In shirt and drawers, Alexander knelt before the altar of Holyrood and submissively presented to James the hilt of his claymore held by the blade. Legend has it that intercession of Joan Beaufort, the Queen, saved Alexander from hanging. She did not save him from being incarcerated under lock and key by a Douglas.

On the rationale that his daughter Margaret (on the way to marry) barely missed being attacked by an English pirate, James besieged the (formerly Scottish) Roxburgh castle; but was advised by his wife to let it go. This altercation did not exactly help his credibility with England.

James strengthened the government, replaced the baron's law with the king's law, and restored respect to the crown to a degree not known since (his great, great grandfather) Robert the Bruce. James required that all sheriffs have copies of law so that none could claim ignorance. James set up a court from the three Estates to consider complaints and abuses of law, and set up a committee of wise men to regularly examine the law and advise amendment. James strengthened civil justice and criminal courts and planned to establish a parliament as he had seen in England.

No king had done so much for Scotland and no king had made so many enemies while breaking the power of the barons. He imprisoned the Douglas Earl and took the Earl of March's title and estates because of his father's crimes. In fact, the crown seized estates whenever there was doubt about an heir or if there was a female wardship to be gotten of it which was typically feudal but not appreciated by clan types who never really bowed their knees to feudalism to the extent Europeans did. James's large dysfunctional family was held together only by envy, greed, jealousy, and spite so it is no wonder that a Stewart literally stabbed him in the back.

A surviving cousin, his very own chamberlain, found an assassin, Sir Robert Graham. In 1437, James was closeted with his wife and her ladies when he heard the assassins coming. He pulled up the flooring hoping to escape through the drain, but history says it had been sealed recently to keep tennis balls from rolling into it. One wonders. Nine Scots dragged out the fighting King, stabbed him twenty-eight times. The Queen was wounded trying to save him. (It really was a love match.) She saw to it that the assassins were captured, tortured and beheaded.

*{When Mary of Scots was briefly queen of France, she spelled her name Stuart because French at that time had no letter w; later she married Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, an unpopular fellow who was accidentally strangled and bombed. So she reverted back to her Frankish spelling. She was born in 1542, well after James. }

**I have suspicions about the date of the marriage. Mostly because this source listed the Joan as Jane. OTOH, maybe somebody transferred this from a primary source, and their writing was as illegible.

*Take the dates with a grain of salt. The date of the kidnapping is definitely 1406, the return to Scotland definitely 1424 and the assassination definitely 1437. However some resources that put James's birth date at 1396 also said he was 32 years old in 1424. (For some reason 1424-1396 keep coming up as 28 in my calculator, not 32. So this either sets the birth date back to 1392 which is not likely, or James was 28 when he became King.)
Family name: James I, of Scotland
Birth date: July 1394
Death date: 1437
Nationality: Scottish
Family relations:
father: Robert III
mother: Annabella Drummond
wife: Joan (from 12 February 1424)**
brother: David, duke of Rothesay
Languages: English, Scottish
Religion: Roman Catholic
Literary period: Middle English
Dunfermline: July 1394 to 1402
St. Andrews: 1402
Tower of London: 1406
Evesham: 1407 to 1409
Nottingham Castle: 1407
Windsor Castle: 1409
Perth: 1424
Cause of death: Murder
Buried at: Convent of the Carthusians