JAMES I. was killed in 1437 A.D., and his son, who was
also called James, was then only six years old. He was, however, crowned at
once, for although some of the nobles had hated James I., he had been loved
by most of the people, and they willingly accepted his little son as their
Sir Robert Graham had thought and hoped that the
people would bless him, and love him for having rid them of a cruel tyrant.
He soon found out his mistake. The people cursed him for his deed. Filled
with terrible rage and hatred, they hunted him and those who had helped him,
till in little more than a month, every man of them was taken prisoner. They
were all put to death in most horrible and cruel ways. However bad their
crime had been, we cannot help shuddering at the terrible punishments which
fell upon the murderers. And Graham, instead of being remembered with love,
was remembered with hate.
That slew our King,
God give him shame,'
sang the common people.
As James II. was such a little boy, of course he could
not himself rule. So several of the great nobles were chosen to rule
These powerful men were jealous of each other, and
quarrelled, each trying to be greater than the other, and each trying to get
possession of the King.
The greatest of all the lords was Earl Douglas. Ever
since the days of the good Lord James, the Douglas family had been growing
more and more powerful. Now they were the greatest and proudest nobles in
the land, and they kept state like princes. Indeed, their houses were far
more splendid, and their servants far more numerous than the King's. Within
their own lands, which were large and wide, they did as they liked. When the
Earl Douglas rode abroad, he was attended by a thousand knights and
soldiers. He held a Parliament, made knights, and waged war, as if he were a
king. What he desired he took. No man was strong enough to stand against
him, and all the wild young men of the land, seeking for adventure, flocked
to join the Douglas soldiery.
This powerful earl was now made Governor of the
kingdom. He died, however, in about a year, and was succeeded in his earldom
by his son William. William was only seventeen, but he was ever more proud
and grand than his father had been.
At first the Queen-mother, as Queen Jane was now
called, lived with her little son the King in Edinburgh castle. But soon she
began to be afraid of Sir William Crichton, who was Chancellor of the
kingdom and Governor of the castle, and she feared that he meant to do some
evil to the King. So she pretended that she wanted to go on a pilgrimage,
and, hiding .James in one of her boxes, she ran away with him to Stirling
The Governor of Stirling, who was Sir William
Crichton's rival, was greatly pleased to see the Queen and her little son,
for now, having possession of the King, he was the more powerful.
For about two years the Queen-mother and her son lived
in Stirling, and after the death of Archibald, Earl of Douglas, Sir
Alexander Livingstone, the Governor of Stirling, was made Governor of the
kingdom. And he, having the King in his power, ruled as he liked, taking
counsel of neither lord nor baron. This made Sir William Crichton very
angry, and he longed to get possession of the King once more. So one dark
night, with about a hundred armed men he took his way to Stirling, and there
near the castle-walls he lay in hiding, hoping to capture the King when he
came out to ride in the morning.
As Sir William had expected, the King came out very
early in the morning, accompanied only by a few horsemen. James rode gaily
along, and before he knew what was happening, He found himself surrounded by
armed men. Very humbly and reverently they all bowed before the King, who
was greatly astonished at their sudden appearance.
Then Sir William came forward and spoke to James in a
gentle, loving manner. 'I pray your Majesty,' he said, pointing to the gates
of Stirling, 'let me deliver you out of that prison. The Governor wickedly
keeps you there to the hurt of your kingdom. Come with me to Edinburgh, or
to any part of Scotland that you please, and 1 will keep you safe from all
dangers, and from the power of those who would do you hurt. For it becomes a
Prince to live freely, governing others, and not subject to any vassal's
rule or correction. I speak for those who wish you well.'
As Sir William spoke the King began to smile. He knew
that in Stirling castle he could not do as he liked. Both his mother and the
Governor often said to him, 'You must do this,' or 'You must do that,' and
he thought how nice it would be to do just as he liked. So he smiled. And
seeing him smile, Sir William knew that he had got what he wanted. He knew
that the King was willing to go with him. Laying hold of his bridle, he
turned his horse's head towards Edinburgh. Then some of the King's servants
and followers, who had come out to ride with him, came forward and tried to
persuade him not to go with Sir William.
But the Governor's eldest son, who was also with them,
bade them be silent. 'It is vain,' he said, 'for us to strive with so many
armed men. The more so as they mean no harm to the King. It is better to
suffer this defeat than to attempt what is beyond our power.' So the King
was led away towards Edinburgh, and his servants turned back to Stirling
with the news.
The Governor was not at Stirling at this time, but as
soon as he heard of what had happened, he mounted upon his horse and came
galloping back as fast as he could. He was angry with himself for not having
kept the King more safely. He was angry with his friends, because he felt
sure that some of them must have been in league with Sir William, and helped
him to capture the King. But this he was determined upon, that having been
powerful he meant to continue being powerful. Yet he felt now that he was
not strong enough to stand alone, and lie was undecided what to do. 'Shall I
join with the Douglas against Sir William,' he asked himself, 'or shall I
make friends with Sir William and help him to put down the Douglas?'
In the end he made up his mind to make friends with
Sir William. So they had a meeting at Edinburgh and pretended to forgive all
the evil they had done to one another.
Soon after this a Parliament was called at Edinburgh.
There, many complaints were sent from all sides of how the whole land was
filled with murder and war, and how there was no peace nor rest for any man.
That the pride and lawlessness of the Douglas were to
blame for much of this, was certain. Crichton and Livingstone therefore made
up their minds to rid the country of him.
He was so great and powerful that they dared not take
him by force. So they wrote a kind letter to him. In this letter they told
him in many fair words that his help was needed to rule the country, and
they begged him to come to Edinburgh to see the King.
The Earl was pleased with this letter, and suspecting
no treachery, rode to Edinburgh with his young brother David and a great
company of followers. As they neared the city some of his knights began to
suspect that all was not fair and honest. So they begged the Earl to turn
back. But although the Earl was proud and haughty, he was chivalrous and
noble. 'Do not speak to me of treachery,' he said. 'The Chancellor has
treated me kindly. J will hear no evil of him.'
So they rode on, but the knights grew ever more and
more uneasy, and at last even David begged his brother to turn back.
Then the young Earl was angry. He spoke sharply to his
brother, telling him that no great noble should pay heed to tale-bearing,
and he commanded that no man in his company should again speak such words.
Then setting spurs to his horse the Earl galloped
faster than before towards Edinburgh, followed sadly by his knights, who
dared speak no more words of warning.
The Earl and his brother were received with great joy.
For a few days there was feasting and merrymaking. The King was delighted
with his new companions. He was about tell old how, and he was very tired of
having only grave, stern men about him. The Earl was young, and handsome,
and gay, and lie had such splendid stories of adventure to tell that the
King grew to love him.
But while the Douglas feasted and played with the
King, his enemies were making ready.
One day the Governor managed to send most of the
Earl's soldiers out of Edinburgh. That night there was a great feast. All
the most delightful dishes that could be thought of were prepared for the
two young nobles. But when the dinner was over, when the last dish had been
carried away, a great black bull's head was brought in upon a silver dish
and placed before the Earl. The black bull's head was the sign of death.
Too late the Earl remembered the warning of his
friends. Too late he saw that the Governor and the Chancellor meant him
evil, lie and his brother started up from the table and drew their swords.
But armed men rushed in from every side. There was no escape. They were soon
fast bound hand and foot.
Meanwhile the King wept and clung to them. He
fell upon his knees before the Chancellor, and with tears and sobs begged
him to save his new friends. But the Chancellor answered sternly, 'Earl
Douglas is your enemy. He is a traitor to his country. So long as lie has
life, the land can have neither rest nor peace. He must die.'
So the two boys were hurried away to the courtyard of
the castle, and there their heads were cut off.
This was afterwards called the Black Dinner. It was
Indeed a black dinner for the Douglases.
'Edinburgh castle, town and tower,
God grant you
sink for sin;
And that even for the black dinner
Earl Douglas got