So, Just Who Was James V of Scotland?

We take a closer look at just who was James V of Scotland and how his life impacted the course of history.

Despite some controversies as of late, the British monarchy nowadays is decidedly more subdued and laid back than centuries past. Whereas today a controversy is considered an appearance on Oprah, centuries ago we had treasons, battles, betrayals, uprisings, crusades, affairs, and much more besides.

Yes, in terms of history, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more interesting lineage than that of the British monarchy.

Today, we’re going back in time to the early 1500s, to bonnie Scotland, to learn more about the life and times of James V of Scotland.

Early Life

Born on the 10th of April, 1512, James’ father was King James IV of Scotland, and James himself was the third son of the king. When his father, King James IV of Scotland was killed at Flodden Field, James was a little over one year old. As hard to believe as it may be, at just one year of age, James inherited the throne.

The nobles did not like this and as they had prior, they fought for power over the throne when the king was just an infant.

So, Just Who Was James V of Scotland?
Likely contemporary portrait of James V

Needless to say, as a baby, he was hardly able to rule a country, which is why, during his infancy, the country was ruled by regents, including his own mother until she got re-married the following year.

James V of Scotland moved to Edinburgh when he was 10 years of age, but at the time there was a Plague outbreak and so, in true pandemic fashion, he was forced to isolate and was relocated to Craigmillar Castle, which was very rural and away from other people.

When the 10-year old child wished to play outdoors, he was surrounded by guardsmen who would scour the countryside for miles looking for potential intruders and assailants. The best poets in the land would write nursery rhymes for the young king.  

A King Of The People?

As James V of Scotland grew older, he took on more responsibilities and became sympathetic to the poverty-stricken people of Scotland. He also enjoyed travelling and was believed to travel around Scotland disguised as a farmer, so as to blend in without raising suspicion.

James V of Scotland ruled firmly but fairly and did not tolerate heresy. He was also a strong supporter of the Catholic Church.

So, Just Who Was James V of Scotland?
Portrait of James aged around 25, by Corneille de Lyon

When James’ mother Margaret Tudor died, so did his allegiance to England. In 1541, he was invited to meet Henry VIII at York but failed. Tensions rose and James V of Scotland mobilised an army ready to invade England.

In 1542 however, on the Scottish Borders at Solway Moss, his army was defeated.

Marriages And Death

James was married twice, both to French women. The first was Madelaine de Valois, who at the time of marriage was frail and in poor health, and who sadly died a few months later.

The second was Mary of Guise mother of Mary, who went on to become Mary Queen of Scots.

So, Just Who Was James V of Scotland?
Portrait of James V and Mary of Guise, anonymous artist, c. 1542, at Falkland Palace

News of his army’s defeat to the English is said to have devastated James, who died just 6 days after the birth of his daughter Mary, who succeeded him to the throne.

He died aged 30, on the 14th of December, 1542.