James II, King of Scotland

   As king of SCOTLAND during the early stages of political and dynastic conflict in fifteenthcentury England, James II tried to take advantage of those internal dissensions to achieve territorial gains for Scotland at England’s expense. James became king in 1437 on the assassination of his father James I. Although his mother was Joan Beaufort, a younger sister of Edmund BEAUFORT, duke of Somerset, the leading rival in the 1450s of Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, James showed no marked partiality for the Lancastrian cause, perhaps because his mother died in 1445, four years before the young king assumed control of the Scottish government. James spent the early years of his majority waging war against the Douglases, one of Scotland’s most powerful magnate families. HENRY VI strained relations with James by giving the Douglases asylum in England. In 1455, James sought to recover the border town of BERWICK by exploiting the political upheaval surrounding the Battle of ST. ALBANS. He urged CHARLES VII of FRANCE to coordinate a French attack on CALAIS with a Scottish descent on Berwick. Although Charles refused to cooperate, the hostility of the Yorkist regimes in the mid-1450s led James to launch a series of raids into England in 1456. However, the continued unwillingness of Charles VII to provide assistance forced James to postpone his ambitions concerning Berwick and to conclude a twoyear truce with England in June 1457.
   Although raids continued along the border, the truce was extended until 1463, and James negotiated with both parties in the English civil war, seeking by any means to find an opportunity to regain Berwick and other border strongholds. With the defeat and capture of Henry VI at the Battle of NORTHAMPTON in July 1460, James seized his chance and laid siege to the castle of Roxburgh, intending, perhaps, to move on to Berwick after the fortress fell. Roxburgh, being on Scottish soil, was to the Scots a provocative symbol of English occupation. However, on 3 August 1460, in the midst of the siege, one of the royal ARTILLERY pieces exploded, with a fragment hitting and killing the king, who stood nearby. Despite this tragedy, the continuing political turmoil in England was too good an opportunity to be missed, and Queen MARY OF GUELDRES is said to have exhorted the army to redouble its efforts. The siege therefore continued, and Roxburgh fell on 8 August, with the nearby border castle of Wark capitulating to the Scots shortly thereafter. The recovery of Berwick remained to be accomplished by the minority government of the new king, JAMES III.
   Further Reading: McGladdery, Christine, James II (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers, 1990).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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