James II of Scotland
James II (1430-60) became King of Scotland at the age of just 6. He benefitted from the misfortune of his close family, in this regard, as his twin-brother, Alexander, died at the age of only 1, and his father was assassinated. Scotland was run by James’s cousin, Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Douglas, before James came of age to rule himself, but when Douglas died in 1439, power was precariously shared amongst other nobles. This unsuitable group treacherously assassinated the 6th Earl of Douglas and his younger brother in 1440, having invited them to dinner in the king’s name.
On this occasion, James had pled for the 16- and 12-year-olds’ lives, and when he came of age in 1449 he helped the Douglas family to get revenge on the Livingstones, who were blamed for the plot. However, he turned on the family quite horribly in 1452, when he stabbed the 8th Earl of Douglas 26 times after suspecting him of complicity in a plot. This murder aside, James was a popular king, fraternising with commoners, supporting learning in Scotland, including founding the University of Glasgow, and improving diplomatic relations with Flanders through his marriage to Mary of Guelders.
James’s fondness for artillery was to cost him dear. In 1460, he besieged Roxburgh Castle, one of the last strongholds of English resistance following the Wars of Independence. For this, he used a large number of cannon imported from Flanders. On the 3rd August 1460, he was standing near to one cannon, known as The Lion, when the fuse was lit. According to the contemporary chronicler Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie, ‘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’.