James IV of Scotland
King of Scots
File:James IV of Scotland.jpg
Reign 1488 – 1513
Coronation June 24 1488
Born March 17 1473
Stirling Castle
Died September 9 1513
Battle of Flodden Field
Predecessor James III
Successor James V
Consort Margaret Tudor
Royal House Stewart
Father James III
Mother Margaret of Denmark

Template:House of Stewart (Scotland)

James IV (March 17 1473-September 9 1513) was King of Scots from 1488 to 1513.

Life and workEdit

As the son of King James III and Margaret of Denmark, James IV was probably born in Stirling Castle. When his father was killed at the Battle of Sauchieburn on June 11, 1488 (or possibly assassinated a few hours later), the fifteen-year-old James took the throne and was crowned at Scone, Perthshire on June 24. The rebels who had gathered at Sauchieburn had done so with James supposedly as their figurehead. When James realised the indirect role which he had played in the death of his father, he decided to do penance for his sin. From that date on, he wore a heavy iron chain cilice around his waist, next to the skin, each Lent as penance.

James IV quickly proved to be an effective ruler. He defeated another rebellion in 1489, took a direct interest in the administration of justice and finally brought the Lord of the Isles under control in 1493. James was well educated and it was claimed that he was fluent in Lowland Scots/English, Scottish Gaelic, Latin, French, German, Italian, Flemish, Spanish and Danish.

He was a true Renaissance prince with an interest in practical and scientific matters. James granted the Edinburgh College of Surgeons a royal charter in 1506, turned Edinburgh Castle into one of Britain's foremost gun foundries, and welcomed the establishment of Scotland's first printing press in 1505.

James also loved ships and saw the importance in Scotland having a large navy. He acquired 38 ships for the Royal Scottish Navy and founded two new dockyards. His finest creation was the carrack Michael. Launched in 1511, she weighed 1,000 tons, was 240 feet in length and was then the largest ship in Europe.

For a time, he supported the pretender to the English throne Perkin Warbeck and carried out a brief invasion of England on his behalf. Despite this, James finally recognized that peace between Scotland and England was in the interest of both countries, and so signed the Treaty of Perpetual Peace (1502) and married Henry VII's daughter Margaret Tudor, on August 8, 1503, at Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh. The couple's first three children all died in infancy. Their son James V survived, and he also had a posthumous son, Alexander, who died in infancy.

When war broke out between England and France as a result of the Italian Wars, James found himself in a difficult position as his obligations under the Auld Alliance with France conflicted with the treaty made with England in 1502. The new king of England, Henry VIII, attempted to invade France in 1513, and James reacted by declaring war on England. Hoping to take advantage of Henry's absence, he led an invading army southward, only to be killed, with many of his nobles and common soldiers, at the disastrous Battle of Flodden Field on September 9, ending Scotland's involvement in the War of the League of Cambrai. A body, thought to be his, was recovered from the battlefield and taken to London for burial. Because he was excommunicated, the embalmed body lay unburied for many years in the monastery of Sheen in Surrey, and was lost after the Reformation. [1]

Rumors persisted that James had survived and had gone into exile, but there is no evidence to support them.

Legacy Edit

James's decision to invade England is often seen as ill-considered. However it has been argued that it can be criticised only if Scotland was not entitled to pursue an independent foreign policy, and the military force was adequate for the task, but the Battle of Flodden was lost through poor generalship. Undoubtedly his death ushered in a period of prolonged instability in Scotland.

However, James had granted the Edinburgh College of Surgeons a royal charter in 1506, expanded Edinburgh Castle into a major gun foundry, and welcomed Scotland's first printing press in 1505. He had expanded the Royal Scottish Navy with 38 more ships, creating 2 new dockyards.

James IV and Margaret Tudor had 4 children: the first 3 children all died in infancy; their son James V survived and eventually had a posthumous son, Alexander, who died in infancy.

James also had seven illegitimate children by four different mistresses. With Janet Kennedy he had James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray (1501 creation) and two children who died in infancy. With Marion Boyd he had Alexander Stewart (Archbishop of St Andrews), and Catherine Stewart, who married James Douglas, 3rd Earl of Morton. With Margaret Drummond he had Margaret. With Isabel Buchan, daughter of James Stewart, 1st Earl of Buchan, he had Lady Janet Stewart, who became the mistress of Henry II of France.

James IV is also significant in Scottish history as the last King of Scots who is known to have spoken Scottish Gaelic.


  1. Find-a-Grave, webpage: FindaGrave.


  • Norman MacDougall, James the Fourth (the most recent biography, regarded as definitive).
  • Mackie wrote the most important previous biography.

Template:Start box |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align: center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by:
James III |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|King of Scots
1488–1513 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="2"|Succeeded by:
James V |- |- |- style="text-align: center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by:
John II |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Lord of the Isles
1493–1513 |} Template:Scottish Monarchs Template:Dukes of Rothesay