James I, became king of Scotland in 1406 when he was just 12 years old- and a hostage of the English. The third son of King Robert III, by the age of eight he had become heir to the throne. His eldest brother Robert had died, leaving the next oldest, David, to run the kingdom for their ailing father. However, other family members had their eye on the Kingdom; especially the King’s brother and Chamberlain, Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany. In 1402, Albany, had Prince David arrested unjustly for extortion and incarcerated in Falkland castle where the prince died several weeks later.
King Robert, fearful for his remaining son’s life, resolved to send the boy to France. However, the nine-year-old Prince was severely seasick, and his ship was forced to land on the English coast- where the English promptly apprehended James. Two weeks later, Robert III died. James was now king, but uncrowned and a hostage of Henry IV of England, leaving Scotland to the de facto rule of the Albany Stewarts.
James remained in England for the next 18 years. He was well treated and even trusted enough to serve in the army of Henry V during the campaigns against France in the 1420s. This, however, meant he faced his countrymen on the field of battle, for Scotland was France’s ally. It was events like these that soured James’s reputation and caused contemporaries like Sir Robert Graham to later brand him as ” a tyrant, the greatest enemy the scots or Scotland might have. ”
Finally, when he was aged 30, the English released James- on the proviso that he paid a ransom of £40,000. He returned to Scotland with an English wife, Joan Beaufort and ideas of government after the English style he so admired. In 1425, he was returned to power as King and finally crowned. James’s first acts included raising taxes to pay for his ransom and sending noble hostages south. Next on his list was vengeance against the Albany Stewarts who had killed his brother, usurped his power and indirectly led to his captivity.
Robert Stewart was dead. But his son Murdoch Stewart had stepped into his shoes. James wasted no time in capturing Murdoch and executing him. Murdoch’s son, Walter Stewart quickly followed him, as did his brother Alexander. In a short space of time, James had completed out his revenge. He had destroyed the Albany Stewarts.
Vengeance, treason and the rivalry were amongst the explanations for the killings of the cousin and brother of the penultimate Yorkist king of England’s.