Scotlands History

Renaissance Scotland - James IV

James took the throne on 11 June 1488. He was considered a successful monarch who did much to advance learning and culture. He was particularly skilled as a linguist, speaking no less than six languages, including Gaelic.

The Renaissance Court of King James IV was home to Scots Makars including William Dunbar, Walter Kennedy and Gavin Douglas. The Makars were master poets. They wrote and performed poems for the court and the nobility, and enjoyed literary battles called ‘flytings’.

Dunbar celebrated the marriage of James IV and Margaret Tudor in 1503 in his poem 'The Thrissill and the Rois' - ‘The Thistle and the Rose’. Margaret Tudor was a sister of King Henry VIII of England - so the Scots thistle married the English rose.

...The merle scho sang, 'Haill, Roiss of most delyt,
Haill, of all flouris quene and soverane;’
The lark scho song, 'Haill, Rois, both reid and quhyt,
Most plesand flour, of michty cullouris twane;’
The nychtingaill song, 'Haill, naturis suffragene,
In bewty, nurtour and every nobilness,
In riche array, renown, and gentilness.'...

William Dunbar, 'The Thrissill and the Rois' (extract), 1503

James IV and Margaret Tudor produced six children. He also had five illegitimate children.

James ruled until his death at the Battle of Flodden Field on 9 September 1513. James IV was the last Scottish King to be killed in battle. It was Margaret’s royal blood that would pave the way for the Union of the Crowns in 1603.

  • Image of a carving of a jester

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