Gateway to the Classics: Scotland's Story by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Scotland's Story by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall

James III.—The Story of the Boyds

The lords and barons were full of grief at the death of their King. The soldiers lost heart, and they would have given up the siege. But the Queen, hearing of this, left off her weeping and her sorrow. Drying her eyes, she took her little son James by the hand, and with him went to the lords, as they sat in council.

Sad, pale, and beautiful, she stood before them, with the little Prince beside her. "You must not give up the siege," she said, "for very shame you must not. Let not the death of one man take away all your courage from you. Forward, therefore, my lords. Shed the blood of your enemies for your King, rather than your own tears. Let it not be said that you needed to be encouraged by a woman, and that a widowed one. Rather, my lords, should you comfort her."

Cheered by these brave words, the nobles resolved to go on with the siege, and so fiercely did they assault the castle that the English, seeing no hope of help, yielded it. Then the Scots destroyed the castle, so that it should not again be a stronghold for the enemy.

The new King, who was called James iii. , was only eight years old, so the kingdom was ruled by Bishop Kennedy. In England, great churchmen were often also great statesmen, but in Scotland Bishop Kennedy was the first great churchman to be a statesman. He ruled well and wisely, but after six years he died. He was greatly mourned, for, as an old history writer says, "He knew the nature of the Scottish men so that he was the most able of any lord in Scotland to give any wise counsel, or an answer when the time occurred." Another says that his death was lamented by all men, as if in him they had lost a public father.

After the good bishop died, the great nobles, greedy of power, began each to flatter James and to try to get possession of him. Two of the boldest, Lord Boyd and his brother Alexander, succeeded in carrying him off from those who had charge of him.

One day, as the young King, who was now fourteen, sat in his court at Linlithgow, Lord Boyd and his friends rushed in. They seized the King, placed him upon a horse, and set out for Edinburgh. Gilbert Kennedy, the brother of the good Bishop, tried to stop them. He took the King's horse by the bridle and turned it again towards Linlithgow. But Alexander Boyd struck the old man with his hunting staff so that he dropped the bridle. Then the King and his captors rode on to Edinburgh, and Kennedy turned sadly back to Linlithgow.

Lord Boyd had succeeded in gaining possession of the King, but he was afraid that he might be punished for it. So when Parliament was sitting in Edinburgh he suddenly entered. Throwing himself at the King's feet he clasped his knees. "I pray you, my lord King," he cried, "declare before the lords and commons here assembled that you are not angry with me for having of late removed your Majesty from Linlithgow to Edinburgh. Declare to them that I have used no force nor in any way hurt your royal person."

James, having been told before what to say, replied, "My lords, far from being carried forth from Linlithgow by force, I do assure you that I accompanied my Lord Boyd and his knights of mine own free will and pleasure."

Whereupon Parliament agreed that Lord Boyd had done right, and that in future he should take care of the King.

After this the Boyds grew quickly greater and greater. Land, money, and power were given to them, till soon they were the most important people in the whole country.

But just as quickly as the Boyds had risen into power they fell again. It was proposed that James should marry Margaret, the daughter of the King of Denmark, and one of Lord Boyd's sons went to that country to arrange about the marriage. While he was away the nobles talked to James. They told him many evil stories of the Boyds, and showed him that he was being treated more as a prisoner than as a King. They succeeded in making him very angry with the Boyds, and he turned entirely from his old friends, and gave orders that they should be seized and put in prison. Lord Boyd and his sons, however, were warned in time, and they fled away, and died in a foreign land. But Alexander was taken prisoner, and his head was cut off.

After this the King himself ruled. He married the Princess Margaret of Denmark, and as her wedding present her father gave the islands of Orkney and Shetland to the King of Scotland. These islands had been in the possession of the Norse King ever since the days when the fierce Vikings used to come to fight and plunder along the shores of Scotland. Now they were returned to the Scottish King, and ever since they have belonged to Scotland.

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