26/06/2014
Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Strange deaths of medieval Scottish kings

588f25a9-9e22-4218-86ac-b82a4655525c

We explore the strange deaths of four of Scotland's medieval kings. For more on Scotland's monarchs, buy our special souvenir magazine - Scotland's Kings and Queens: The Stewarts.

1. THROWN FROM HIS HORSE OVER A CLIFF

Alexander III (1241-1286) died at Kinghorn Ness on 18 March 1286 after journeying on horseback from Edinburgh Castle to Kinghorn, to visit his queen Yolande de Dreux.

According to the Chornicle of Lanercost, the king was warned of the risks of his chosen route: ‘When he arrived at the village near the crossing, the ferrymaster warned him of the danger, and advised him to go back.’

Alexander became separated from his guides and was found at the bottom of a rocky embankment with a broken neck the following day; it is believed that his horse lost its footing in the dark, sending the king to his death.

2. TRAPPED IN A DRAIN

King James I (1394-1437) was killed by assassins following rebellion in the kingdom due in part to the severity of his rule.

On 20 February 1437 he was with the queen at Blackfriars’ Monastery in Perth when Robert Stewart, his chamberlain, allowed around thirty men into the building. The assassins (who included the king’s uncle Walter, Earl of Atholl) chased the king to his hiding place in a sewer but because the escape route had recently been blocked off to prevent tennis balls going into it, the king was trapped and was stabbed to death.

English chronicler John Shirley, writing fifteen years after the death of James I (and claiming to have access to older accounts) wrote that: ‘It was reported by true persons that saw him dead, that he had sixteen deadly wounds in his breast, withouten many and other in diverse places of his body.’

3. KILLED BY A CANNON

King James II (1430-1460) was killed at the age of 29 during a siege of the castle of Roxburgh, which had been in English hands since the Wars of Independence. The king had a keen interest in the latest artillery and was killed when attempting to fire a huge cannon known as ‘the lion’.

Writing in his history of the reign of James II, chronicler Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie said: ‘as the King stood near a piece of artillery, his thigh bone was dug in two with a piece of misframed gun that brake in shooting, by which he was stricken to the ground and died hastily’.

James II is buried in the Abbey of Holyrood in Edinburgh.

4 THE SUBJECT OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES

According to most accounts, James III (1451-1488) died at the Battle of Sauchieburn (fighting those loyal to his son and heir, the future James IV) but for years after the king’s death, the identity of his killer and whether he not he actually died at Sauchieburn were disputed.

The death of James III was even featured in the ‘open secret’ exhibition at National Archives of Scotland, where a text from contemporary parliamentary records was shown, which stated that the king happinit to be slane.

The government of the new James IV attempted to put an end to rumours that the king had been killed in a cottage near Bannockburn or had been thrown from his horse, and released a statement which read: ‘oure soverane lord that now is and the trew lordis and barouns that wes withe him in the samyne feild war innocent, quhyt and fre of the saidis slauchteris feilde.’

To see an image of the parliamentary record, visit the National Archives of Scotland website.






 

Back to "Scottish history" Category

26/06/2014 Share this story   Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

Scottish engineer James Nasmyth was born - On this day in history

Scottish engineer James Nasmyth was born on 19 August 1808.


Beggars' badges in Scotland

Jonny Keen provides an introduction to the use of beggars' badges in Scotland, exploring their distribution ...


Arthur Elphinstone was executed - On this day in history

Arthur Elphinstone, Lord Balmerino, was executed on 18 August 1746.


The Battle of Verneuil was fought - On this day in history

The Battle of Verneuil was fought on 17 August 1424.


Other Articles

Carolina Nairne was born - On this day in history

Lady Carolina Nairne was born on 16 August 1766.


Sir Walter Scott was born - On this day in history

Scottish author, playwright and poet Sir Walter Scott was born on 15 August 1771. Find out more on our pages ...


Investigations cast doubt on the origin of the Haddo Madonna

Specialist advisors supporting National Trust for Scotland have cast doubt on claims that a painting held in ...


King Robert III was born - On this day in history

King Robert III of Scotland was born on 14 August 1337.