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

James IV.—The Thistle and the Rose

When James iv. had reigned a little time, he began to be very sorry for having rebelled against his father, James iii. He spent much of his time in the Chapel Royal at Stirling, praying for forgiveness. As a punishment to himself he fastened a chain of iron round his waist. This he wore night and day, so that he might ever be kept in remembrance of his wickedness, and every year he added more links to the chain to make it heavier.

But although James did this, he was by no means always sad and mournful. He loved sports and games, and all the fine show of tournaments. He himself could fence and ride with the best. Often he held great tournaments at court, to which not only his own nobles, but famous knights from far countries came.

King James loved knightly games and amusements, but he loved his people too. Often he rode through his kingdom, quite alone, and plainly dressed, so that none might know that he was the King. He would go into poor men's houses and sit and talk with them as one of themselves. Then he would ask them, what they thought of the King, and how he ruled. In this way he found out what troubles and wants the people had.

The King, too, sailed in his ships all round and among the islands of Scotland, so that the wild people there, who had never seen a King before, were astonished at his grandeur. The Lord of the Isles and other Highland Chieftains rebelled from time to time against him, and the Borderers were ever ready to break out into war. But James subdued them all, and he was so just and friendly, that even those in the farthest corners of his kingdom came to know and love him. He was generous, and spent liberally the hoards of money which his father had gathered, so that there was great love between the people and their King.

James at last made peace with England, and married Margaret, the daughter of King Henry. All the people rejoiced greatly at this marriage, and it was hoped that it would help to make a lasting peace between the two countries.

There was great ceremony and splendour at the wedding, and a poet called Dunbar wrote a poem about the marriage of the Thistle and the Rose.

"Upon the awful thistle she did look,

And saw him guarded with a bush of spears;

Considering him so able for the wars,

A radiant crown of rubies she him gave,

And said, "In field go forth and guard the rest.

" 'Nor hold no other flower in such dainty

As the fresh rose, of colour red and white;

For if thou dost, hurt is thine honesty;

Considering that no flower is so perfect

So full of virtue, pleasance, and delight,

So full of blissful angelic beauty,

Imperial birth, honour, and dignity.' "

The Princess came from London, surrounded by a splendid train of knights and nobles. King James, beautifully dressed, rode to meet his bride upon a fiery, prancing steed, with trappings of gold. He and his nobles came dashing along at full gallop, and when they met the Princess they reined back so quickly that the horses were thrown upon their haunches. This was to show how well they could ride.

Then to amuse Margaret a little play was acted. A knight appeared, with a lady who carried his hunting horn and led his horse. A second knight dashed forward, seized the lady, and carried her off. A fight followed, in which the knights fought with great skill, until the King threw down his glove and called "peace."

When they came to the city, the Princess mounted upon the King's horse and rode behind him through the streets, the people shouting and cheering all the way.

Afterwards came tournaments, balls, and all kinds of merriments. In one tournament, the King, calling himself the Savage Knight, appeared surrounded by fierce wild men dressed in skins of animals, and he fought so well that he conquered all who came against him.

At last the rejoicings were over, and the people went to their homes, delighted with their gay, handsome, clever King and their lovely young Queen.

But the peace and goodwill between England and Scotland did not last long. Henry vii. died, and was succeeded by his son Henry viii. He was hot-tempered, and so was James, and they soon found causes for quarrelling.

In those days there was a great deal of fighting on the seas between merchant vessels, even when the countries were at peace. Indeed many sea-captains were little more than pirates. A quarrel arose between the English and the Scots, and the English captains went to their King to complain that they had been unlawfully stopped and robbed by Sir Andrew Barton the Scotsman.

"The King looked over his left shoulder,

'Have I never a lord in all my realm,

Will fetch yon traitor unto me?'

'Yea, that dare I,' Lord Howard says;

'Yea, that dare I with heart and hand;

If it please your grace to give me leave,

Myself will be the only man.' "

So King Henry sent Lord Thomas, and his brother Sir Edward Howard, with two great ships well fitted with cannon and archers, against Sir Andrew.

As they sailed along looking for Sir Andrew, they met another ship. "Have you seen Sir Andrew Barton?" asked Lord Howard of the captain.

"Ay, that have I," he replied sadly, "but yesterday I was his prisoner, and he has robbed me of all my goods."

"Do you know where he is now?" asked Lord Howard. "Only let me see him, and I will fight him and carry him prisoner to our King."

"Heaven help you," cried the merchantman, "you little know what a man he is."

"He is brass within and steel without,

With beams on his topcastle strong;

And eighteen pieces of ordnance

He carries on each side along;

"And he hath a pinnace dearly dight,

St. Andrew's cross that is his guide;

His pinnace beareth ninescore men,

And fifteen cannons on each side.

"Were you twenty ships and he but one,

I swear by kirk, and bower, and hall,

He would overcome them every one,

If once his beams they down did fall."

"Never fear," said Lord Howard, "I will bring him and his ships to England, or he may carry me to Scotland."

So the merchantman turned his ship about and led Lord Howard to where Sir Andrew lay. Lord Howard pulled down the English standard, and instead, he tied a white willow wand to his mast head, as was the custom with merchant vessels. Then when they came in sight of the Scottish vessels, Lord Howard sailed past without saluting.

Now this was very rude. For just as we bow and take off our hats when we meet a friend in the streets, so, when ship meets ship upon the seas, the captains make signs of greeting to each other.

When Sir Andrew saw the English ship sail past without saluting, he was angry. "What English churls are yonder," he said, "that show so little courtesy?"

He had two ships, a large one called the Lion,  and a little pinnace called the Jenny Perwin.  So now he bade the Jenny Perwin  "Fetch back yon pedlars now to me. I swear by the mass yon English churls shall all hang at my main mast."

The little pinnace sailed off, but Sir Andrew soon saw that it was no merchantmen with which he had to do, but the King of England's ships of war. Fire flashed, cannon boomed, and a fight, fierce and long, took place. Both sides fought desperately and well, but the little pinnace was soon sunk. Sir Andrew cheered his men, Lord Howard his, but at last a keen-eyed English archer struck Sir Andrew, and he fell forward on the deck. He was sorely wounded, but he would not give in.

" 'Fight on, my men,' Sir Andrew says,

'A little I 'm hurt, but yet not slain,

I'll but lie down and bleed awhile,

And then I'll rise to fight again.

" 'Fight on, my men,' Sir Andrew says,

'And never flinch before the foe,

And stand fast by St. Andrew's cross

Until you hear my whistle blow.' "

They never heard his whistle blow. Gallant Sir Andrew had fought his last fight, and lay dead upon the deck.

Then Lord Howard, seeing that the Scottish leader was killed, boarded the Lion  and took her. But when he saw Sir Andrew lying upon the deck he felt sorry, as brave men must at the death of a gallant foe. Yet he said, "If thou wert alive as thou art dead, I must have left England many a day." For he knew that if he had not killed Sir Andrew, he himself would have been carried prisoner to Scotland. Drawing his sword, he cut off Sir Andrew's head, and ordered the body to be thrown into the sea. Then greatly rejoicing, the English sailed home with their prize.

"Thus from the wars Lord Howard came,

And back he sailed o'er the main,

With mickle joy and triumphing

Unto Thames mouth he came again.

"Lord Howard then a letter wrote,

And sealed it with seal and ring;

"Such a noble prize have I brought to your grace

As ever did subject to a king.

" 'Sir Andrew's ship I bring with me,

A braver ship was never none;

Now hath your grace two ships of war

Before in England was but one.' "

King Henry was greatly delighted with the news. He richly rewarded Lord Howard and all who had helped him. "But," he said, "where is the rover, Sir Andrew himself?"

" 'The rover he is safe, my liege,

Full many a fathom in the sea;

If he were alive as he is dead,

I must have left England many a day,' "

said Lord Howard as he uncovered the head which he had brought.

The Queen and all her fair ladies had come hoping to see Sir Andrew, for they had heard much of his splendour and daring. Now they looked with sorrow and dread at the ghastly face with hollow staring eyes, and turned away from it shuddering. The King too was sad, for he loved a brave man, even though he were an enemy.

" 'I would give,' quoth the King, 'a thousand marks,

This man were alive as he is dead;

" 'Yet for the manful part he played,

Which fought well with heart and hand,

His men shall have twelve pence a day,

Till they come to my brother King's high land.' "

So the men were sent home to Scotland. But Henry kept the Lion,  and she was made the second ship of the English navy.

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