James III, king of Scotland, son of the preceding and of Mary of Gueldres, born in 1453, murdered in 1488. He was crowned at Kelso monastery, and as his mother was a woman of vigorous capacity, it was hoped that his minority would not prove so disastrous as that of his father had been; but a variety of circumstances overclouded the fair beginning of this reign, and rendered it one of the most unfortunate in Scotch history. The triumph of the Yorkists in England was adverse to Scotch interests, as they were identified with those of the house of Lancaster. Henry VI. and his family took refuge in Scotland after the battle of Towton had confirmed Edward IV. in possession of the English crown. Edward showed a desire to be on friendly terms with Scotland, but the Scotch adhered to the Lancastrians. In 1462 the English king made a treaty with the earl of Ross and the lord of the isles, and the banished Douglases, for the conquest and partition of Scotland. All of it north of the Forth was to be divided between Douglas, Ross, and the lord of the isles; and Douglas was to receive the old estates of his house in the south. The lord of the isles was to become Edward's vassal. This formidable treaty led to nothing. Ross alone acted under it.
He called himself king of the Hebrides, and committed some depredations, but was soon assassinated. The Scotch nobility were now divided into two parties, the old lords and the young lords, the former favoring the house of Lancaster, while the other was desirous of peace with England, which implied abandonment of Henry VI. The peace party triumphed, the Scotch covenanting to give no assistance to Henry or his party. The queen mother died in 1463. The family of Boyd then rose to power, and the aristo-cratical struggles were renewed. Bishop Kennedy, the ablest Scotch statesman of that age, who had long been in the service of the crown, died in 1466. In 1469 James married the princess Margaret of Denmark, through which alliance the Orkney and Shetland islands became permanent possessions of Scotland. The Boyds fell the same year, their estates were annexed to the crown, and the Hamilton family rose. James III. has been represented as weak and vicfous; but his foreign policy and internal legislation show that he had high capacity and sound views. Domestic peace and an alliance with England, the two things most desirable for Scotland, were his aims.
For some time after he assumed power he was successful, but the warlike and illiterate aristocracy hated him for his love of peace and fondness for letters and art. The king's brothers, Albany and Mar, headed the aristocracy, but at first were not hostile to the monarch; but Cochrane, an architect, one of the king's favorites, caused a breach between him and his brothers. Albany fled to France, and Mar lost his life, in what manner is not known. Troubles occurred with England, and Albany joined the enemies of his country, who promised to make him king of Scotland, for which he was to render homage. The Scotch aristocracy took advantage of the assemblage of a great feudal army against the English, seized the king and his favorites, and hung the latter, including Cochrane, who had been made earl of Mar, without trial. The king was placed in Edinburgh castle. Albany was reconciled to the king, and became lieutenant general. The struggle was repeatedly renewed, the king being often successful. The aristocracy, fearful of the result of the contest, prevailed upon the heir apparent, Prince James, then but 15 years old, to join them.
In 1488 the royal party was defeated at the battle of Sauchie-burn, near Bannockburn, and the king was killed in his flight by an unknown hand.