King James V of Scotland by Laura Brown

On the 10th April 1512, a boy was born to King James IV of Scots and his wife, Queen Margaret Tudor. The baby was born at Linlithgow Palace, the favourite royal residence of his father, and he was named James, following the tradition of the Stewart kings. James would be the fourth child of six pregnancies in total but he would be the only child from their marriage to survive infancy.

Linlithgow Palace

Little over a year later, his father James IV was killed at the Battle of Flodden fighting against the English – the army belonged to the baby’s uncle King Henry VIII. Now almost a year and a half old, this little child was the King of Scots – James V. He was crowned on 21st September 1513, less than a month after his father’s death.

Margaret Tudor & Archibald Douglas

The young King’s early years were dominated by regents, including his mother and the Earl of Albany. At the age of 14 he officially began his adult rule, but was taken prisoner by his step-father, the Earl of Angus, and was held for three years with his step-father ruling for him. In 1528 James escaped, and began punishing the Angus family, which included besieging their stronghold of Tantallon Castle.

According to legend, King James V was fond of disguising himself as a common man, and travelled about his kingdom, asking people what they thought of their king, and described himself as the Gudeman of Ballengeich.

King James V was very much a Renaissance monarch – he refurbished his palaces and castles in more modern styles, particularly Stirling Castle, where the Stirling Heads of the ‘rich and famous’ of his reign are still to be seen today. He was influenced by French, Italian and Burgundian styles – see if you can spot these influences when you visit his residences!

Madeleine of Valois

James V married Madeleine of Valois, the daughter of King Francois I of France in January 1537. She was weak, possibly suffering from tuberculosis, and her father was concerned that her constitution would suffer greatly in Scotland. James brought his bride back to Scotland in May 1537, where she died two months later in his arms, and she was buried at Holyrood Abbey.



King’s Fountain (c) G Hulme

After Queen Madeleine’s death he married Marie de Guise, a widow who had already refused marriage to Henry VIII (who by this time was looking for his fourth wife). As a wedding gift, James gave Marie a fountain at Linlithgow Palace. The fountain is now the oldest working fountain in the UK, and still flows with water on Sundays in July and August each year.

King James and Queen Marie had two sons – James in May 1540 and Alexander on 12th April 1541. Alexander died on 20th April 1541, his older brother followed a day later. Marie was pregnant again when James was defeated at the Battle of Solway Moss in 1542, fighting an English army belonging to his uncle, as his father had been defeated 29 years earlier.

Mary Queen of Scots

It was shortly after the battle that King James fell ill at Falkland Palace. On the 8th December, his Queen gave birth to a girl. The King was brought the news on his deathbed, and according to legend, he answered “it cam’ wi’ a lass, an’ it’ll gang wi’ a lass,” meaning that the Stewarts had come to the throne through a girl, and the Stewart dynasty would end with this child. What is known is that on his deathbed, James was delirious and spoke “no wise words”.


King James V died at the age of 30 on the 14th December 1542. He was buried at Holyrood Abbey along with Queen Madeleine and his two infant sons James and Alexander. It is believed that his tomb was destroyed during the Rough Wooing or Seven Years’ War which followed his death. His widow Marie became the Regent, and his baby daughter became Queen of Scots at 6 days old. Her name was Mary.


All pictures from Wikicommons unless stated.


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