The gay, young William Douglas who was killed at the
Black Dinner was succeeded by his uncle James. He was so fat, and old, and
idle, that he was called Gross James. But he did not live long, and he was
succeeded in the earldom by his son William, who was prouder and fiercer
than any of the Douglases had ever been.
The King was now growing up, and he began to take the
ruling of the kingdom into his own hands. War again broke out between
England and Scotland. Douglas, although he was an unruly subject, was a
fierce enemy of the English. He now marched with all his soldiers against
them, and fought so well that the King made him Lieutenant-General of
Scotland. But the Douglas became so proud and daring that King .James was
obliged to take this office from him again.
Terribly angry, Douglas went to his castle, vowing to
avenge this insult. He defied the King in every way that he could. He
leagued himself with other great lords against the King, wasting and
destroying the lands of those who would not join with him.
This was nothing but rebellion, and one gentleman
called Maclellan refused to join. Douglas at once seized Maclellan and
When the King heard of this, he was very angry, and at
once sent Sir Patrick Grey, Maclellan's uncle, to Douglas, with a letter
asking him to release Maclellan.
As King, James ought to have commanded Douglas to let
Maclellan go, but the Earl was so dreadfully powerful that the King dared
Sir Patrick Grey rode off with the letter as fast as
he could, and arrived at Douglas castle just as the Earl had finished
dinner. Sir Patrick wished to deliver the King's letter at once, but Douglas
would not take it, though he greeted his guest with a great show of
'Have you dined?' he asked.
No,' said Sir Patrick.
Then you must dine first before we come to business. It is ill talking
between a full man and a fisting.'
So the Douglas called for beef and for wine, and set before his visitor the
best that his castle could provide.
Sir Patrick sat down and ate well and heartily, for he was hungry after his
long ride, and the Douglas sat beside him talking cheerfully.
But Douglas had guessed why Sir Patrick had come. Secretly he sent a message
to his soldiers, and while Sir Patrick dined, his nephew was led out to the
green grass beside the castle. There he was made to lay his head upon a
block, and with one blow the headsman struck it off. Then a cloth was thrown
over the dead body and it was left there alone.
At last, after much delay, Douglas broke the seal of the King's letter, and
read it. He sat some time as if thinking it over. Then, looking up, he said,
'I thank you, Sir Patrick, for bearing to me this message from my Liege
lord. So far as it is possible he shall be obeyed.'
Taking Sir Patrick by the hand, he led him out to the grassy courtyard. 'You
have come a little too late,' he said, pointing to the dead body. 'There
lies your nephew; but he wants the head. Take his body and do with it what
With a sad heart Sir Patrick replied, 'My lord, since you have taken his
head, dispose of his body as you please.'
Then, filled with wrath and sorrow, he called for his horse and leaped upon
it. Turning in the saddle, 'My lord,' he cried in a voice shaking with
anger, 'if I live, you shall be well rewarded for the deed you have this day
The proud Earl flushed scarlet from throat to brow. Who dares defy the
Douglas in his castle?' he cried. To horse, men, to horse, and after him.'
Sir Patrick, seeing the Earl's fury, set spurs to his horse and galloped
hard. After him came the Douglas- men thundering along on their mighty
chargers. But Sir Patrick's horse was good and tried. He seemed to
understand his master's danger, and he galloped as he had never galloped
before. It was a fast and furious race, and not till the walls of Edinburgh
came in sight did the Douglas- men give it up.
Sore at heart and weary of limb, Sir Patrick made his way to the King and
told him his sad tale.
Angry and sorrowful too was the King when he heard the news. He knew not
what to do with this wild, wicked lord. For it seemed Douglas had respect
neither to King nor crown, and the very throne was in danger.
and the King had once been friends. So at last James resolved to send for
the Earl and to talk with him kindly and calmly, and try if he could not
reason with him, and make him give up his wicked ways.
The King wrote a letter and sealed it with his great seal, asking Douglas to
come to the court at Stirling, and promising him that his life and liberty
should he safe, in spite of all he had done. This letter was called a 'safe-
conduct,' which means that it was the King's promise to the Earl that no one
should attack or hurt him, and that he might safely come and go again to his
Trusting to this safe-conduct, the great Earl came, bringing with him his
five stalwart brothers, and a large band of followers. The King received him
kindly, and gave him a fine supper, hoping by gentleness and friendliness to
win him from his wild ways.
When supper was over, James drew Douglas aside in order to talk with him
privately. At first they both seemed quiet and calm, but as the King urged
Douglas to give up his league with the other nobles, they both grew hot and
'I will not break my bond for any man's asking,' said Douglas insolently.
Then growing more and more angry, he poured forth a torrent of scornful
words against the King.
James, who had a fiery temper, suddenly lost control of himself. Drawing his
dagger, 'False traitor,' he cried, 'if you will not break the bond, this
shall.' With that he •struck the Earl in the body. Sir Patrick Grey, who
stood near, remembering the threat he had made as he rode away from castle
Douglas, struck him down with his battle-axe. Others crowded round, and soon
the great Earl lay dead with twenty-six wounds in his breast.
This was a wicked action on the King's part, and although it was done in a
fit of passion, that was but a poor excuse for so unkingly an act, for James
had given his word that Douglas should return safe to his own lands. It was
an act too, which did no good, but rather evil, for the Earl had five strong
brothers ready to avenge his death. Choosing James, the eldest, as their
head, they gathered their friends and followers together. Through the
streets of the town, in scorn they dragged the King's safe-conduct tied to
the tail of an old, broken-down carthorse. Then, as they could not storm the
castle because it was so strong, they wasted the town with fire and sword.
Their four hundred trumpeters blew upon their trumpets, and heralds cried to
all the four winds of heaven that never again would a Douglas acknowledge
James as King or Prince, and that they should not cease to war against him
till they were avenged upon him for his tyranny and treachery. Again the
trumpets sounded, that all might know there was strife for ever between the
Douglas and the King.
So was a mighty rebellion kindled. All Scotland rang with civil war. The
throne seemed to tremble, and almost at times there was doubt whether James
Stewart or James Douglas should reign in Scotland. But at the height of its
pride and splendour the Douglas fortune began to turn. Many nobles forsook
the Earl's banner and joined themselves to the King. At last one morning
Douglas awoke to find his camp silent and deserted. Of the forty thousand
men that he had led out scarce one hundred remained.
The struggle was over. The Earl broke up what remained of his army, and fled
to hide in the wildest parts of the Border lands, where once lie had ruled
as lord. Then with a few followers, he fled into England. Many years later
he returned to Scotland, and, old and broken, he died a monk in the
Monastery of Lindores.
Thus ended the power of the Black Douglases.
The Earl of Angus, who was himself a Douglas, had greatly helped the King
during this rebellion. Now lie was rewarded by the title of the Douglas and
by much of his land. So it was said that the Red Douglas put down the Black.
But although the Red Douglases became famous, they never rose to such great
power as the Black Douglases had done.
Now at last for some years the land had peace. James ruled firmly and
wisely. People began to keep the laws. All seemed well. But alas, soon these
happy days were over.
Although the English had long before been driven out of Scotland, the Border
castle of Roxburgh had remained in their hands ever since the days of Edward
in, James now made up his mind to drive them out of this last stronghold,
and he laid siege to the castle.
It shows how well James had ruled his land, that all the chieftains flocked
to his aid. Even Donald, Lord-of-the-Isles, the wildest of them all, came
with his men to help the King.
But the siege lasted long, and the soldiers began to be weary of it, when
they were cheered one morning by the arrival of the Earl of Huntly with a
fresh army. The King was so pleased at this that he ordered, the gunners to
load the cannon and bombard the walls once more.
In those days, gunpowder had not been long in use, and people did not know
how to make good cannon. They were made of pieces of iron, or wood, bound
together. James was standing near one of these clumsy guns, watching the men
fire, when it burst. Splinters flew in all directions. One hit the King and
killed him where he stood.
So died King .James II. He was only twenty-nine, and had reigned
twenty-three years. He was called James of the Fiery Face, because he had a
great red mark on one cheek. Perhaps he may have been also called so because
he had a fiery temper, as we know he had, from the way in which he killed
Douglas. That is the only bad thing we hear about him. Otherwise he was a
In the Duke of Roxburgh's park at Fleurs, a hawthorn tree may still be seen
which marks the spot where he died.
But ever alas! this king of great renown,
When he had brought his realm
to great stability,
East, West, South, North, up and down,
nothing but peace and unity;
Yet came there a chance most suddenly,
This potent Prince, this King of great renown,
Was murdered by a