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James II

Scone, with its sacred stone, being so near Perth and the Highlands, was perilous, and the coronation of James II. was therefore held at Holyrood (March 25, 1437). The child, who was but seven years of age, was bandied to and fro like a shuttlecock between rival adventurers. The Earl of Douglas, Archibald, fifth Earl, died 1439, took no leading part in the strife of factions: one of them led by Sir William Crichton, who held the important post of Commander of Edinburgh Castle; the other by Sir Alexander Livingstone of Callendar.

The great old Houses had been shaken by the severities of James I., at least for the time. In a Government of factions influenced by private greed, there was no important difference in policy, and we need not follow the transference of the royal person from Crichton in Edinburgh to Livingstone in Stirling Castle; the coalitions between these worthies, the battles between the Boyds of Kilmarnock and the Stewarts, who had to avenge Stewart of Derneley, Constable of the Scottish contingent in France, who was slain by Sir Thomas Boyd. The queen-mother married Sir James Stewart, the Black Knight of Lorne, and (August 3, 1439) she was captured by Livingstone, while her husband, in the mysterious words of the chronicler, was “put in a pitt and bollit.” In a month Jane Beaufort gave Livingstone an amnesty; he, not the Stewart family, not the queen-mother, now held James.

To all this the new young Earl of Douglas, a boy of eighteen, tacitly assented. He was the most powerful and wealthiest subject in Scotland; in France he was Duc de Touraine; he was descended in lawful wedlock from Robert II.; “he micht ha’e been the king,” as the ballad says of the bonny Earl of Moray. But he held proudly aloof from both Livingstone and Crichton, who were stealing the king alternately: they then combined, invited Douglas to Edinburgh Castle, with his brother David, and served up the ominous bull’s head at that “black dinner” recorded in a ballad fragment. They decapitated the two Douglas boys; the earldom fell to their granduncle, James the Fat, and presently, on his death (1443), to young William Douglas, after which “bands,” or illegal covenants, between the various leaders of factions, led to private wars of shifting fortune. Kennedy, Bishop of St Andrews, opposed the Douglas party, now strong both in lands newly acquired, till (July 3, 1449) James married Mary of Gueldres, imprisoned the Livingstones, and relied on the Bishop of St Andrews and the clergy. While Douglas was visiting Rome in 1450, the Livingstones had been forfeited, and Crichton became Chancellor.

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