Book Review: “The Afterlife of King James IV: Otherworld Legends of the Scottish King” by Keith J. Coleman

cover156859-mediumA king who died on the battlefield and his remains were never found. His story and his legacy went through many revisions throughout history. This sounds like a certain English king, King Richard III, but this story actually takes place decades after Richard’s death in Scotland. This is the story of King James IV of Scotland, who died at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. It was this event and how James IV was viewed afterward which Keith J. Coleman explores in his book, “The Afterlife of King James IV: Otherworld Legends of the Scottish King”.

I would like to thank Chronos Books for sending an advance copy of this book. I was not very familiar with Scottish history before reading this book so it was a very interesting read.

Coleman explains why James IV’s reign is so unique and why there were some who questioned whether the king actually died at Flodden:

Whispers about James IV defying fate and living on after his catastrophic last battle were a widespread reflex to unexpected tragedy common with many countries. Other kings are said to have cheated death and gone into hiding, or become religious penitents who went to Jerusalem or Rome. Some of these lost leaders shared another of the king’s rumoured fates: murdered by some person they knew and trusted. But very few have been believed to be actually resident in another, supernatural dimension, as one tradition of James IV insisted. This was the destiny of the truly elite, such as the primal warlord Arthur.  No ruler, not even the great emperor Charlemagne, attracted so many diverse tales about himself so immediately after his apparent death. (Coleman, 5-6).

Coleman begins his book by exploring the relationship between James IV and his father James III, as well as exploring what James IV’s reign was like. James IV did not have the best relationship with his father since James IV became the figurehead of the opposition party who wanted to see his father dead. After his father’s death, James IV became king and is said to have worn an iron belt to atone for his sins against his father. James IV was something of a ladies’ man and had numerous illegitimate children, but he did marry Margaret Tudor, the sister of Henry VIII, and had legitimate children with her. Under their marriage arrangement, James IV was not to attack England and vice versa, but James IV decided to attack while Henry VIII was away fighting in France. The one flaw in his plan was the fact that Henry VIII had his wife Catherine of Aragon take over military command while he was away and she was not going to let James IV invade. The Scottish and English armies met at the Battle of Flodden on September 9, 1513.

Since we don’t have accurate records of the Battle of Flodden, Coleman explains how the Scottish viewed the battle versus how the English and the rest of Europe viewed this event through literature. It is a very typical historiographical study, but what makes it unique is the addition of the legends and folklore about the king that came after his death. In some parts, this book does read like a ghost story combined with history. It is different, but it does capture the fascination with the supernatural that the Scottish had. In addition, Coleman explores how other historical figures received similar treatments throughout history.

This was the first book that I have read solely on Scottish history and it was a compelling read. It was a bit confusing at points when the history and supernatural elements combine, which was different to be sure, but overall it was a thought-provoking book. This may not be the best book for those who are being introduced to Scottish history, but it is one for those who are familiar with the eclectic approach of Scottish history and those who are interested in King James IV. Keith J. Coleman achieves a unique balance of the historical and supernatural elements to this specific king’s life and legacy in his book, “The Afterlife of King James IV: Otherworld Legends of the Scottish King”.

“The Afterlife of King James IV: Otherworld Legends of the Scottish King” by Keith J. Coleman, published by Chronos Books, comes out on April 26, 2019. If you are interested in ordering this book, you can find more information about how here: https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/chronos-books/our-books/afterlife-king-james-iv

Biography: King Richard III

mw05304(Born October 2, 1452- Died August 22, 1485). Son of Richard 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville. Married to Anne Neville. Father of Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales.
Richard III is one of the most controversial kings in English history. His death at the Battle of Bosworth Field led to the beginning of the Tudor Dynasty.

Richard III was born to Richard 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville on October 2, 1452 at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire. Many believed that it was a difficult birth. What we do know from historical records is that he might have been breeched born, which means that he was born upside down, which might have led to his physical deformities. From what we do know from examining his skeleton is that he had scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine.

Richard’s father was one of the most important men in all of England. He was a loyal follower to King Henry VI and when Henry VI had his bouts of mental illness, it was Richard Duke of York who would become the Lord Protector. York’s enemy was Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset, who was an ally of Margaret of Anjou; York had Somerset arrested during his protectorate but when the king recovered, Somerset was released and all of York’s reforms were reversed. York decided to face off against Somerset at the First Battle of St. Albans in 1455, where Somerset was killed. This was the first major battle in The Wars of the Roses. Margaret of Anjou never trusted York, especially when the king decided to name York and his sons the next heir to the throne, dismissing his son Edward of Westminster. Margaret of Anjou formed the Lancastrian army to face off against York and his ally Richard Neville Earl of Warwick.

It would be on December 30, 1460 when Richard’s life would radically change. This was the day when his father and eldest brother Edmund Earl of Rutland both died at the Battle of Wakefield. As the next Duke of York, Richard’s brother Edward was left the task of avenging their father’s death, with the help of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Edward did so at the Battle of Towton on March 29, 1461. This battle would ultimately lead to Edward being crowned king on June 28, 1461. Around the same time, Richard was declared Duke of Gloucester and made a Knight of the Garter and Knight of the Bath.

With this new title and his brother being King of England, Richard’s home life changed greatly. He moved to the castle of Middleham, home of Richard Neville Earl of Warwick, where he continued his education for at least four years. This was where he became friends with Francis Lovell and Robert Percy, two of his closest allied; he would also meet his future wife, Anne Neville, the daughter of the Earl of Warwick, here. Richard would leave Warwick’s household in 1468.
Warwick and Richard’s brother Edward IV were close since Warwick helped Edward become king. That was until Warwick found out that Edward had married Elizabeth Woodville instead of marrying the French princess that Warwick had in mind in order to create an English- French alliance. This was seen as an act of betrayal by not only Warwick, but the other lords of the court since it meant that Elizabeth’s family members would have a chance to marry well, thus allowing her family to move up in society. Around this time, Warwick was trying to arrange marriages for his daughters Anne and Isabel to George Duke of Clarence and Richard Duke of Gloucester, the brothers of the king. Edward did not approve of this idea at all.

Warwick decided to marry his daughter Isabel to George Duke of Clarence in July 1469, and Warwick tried to put George on the throne instead of Edward, which angered Edward IV and Parliament. Warwick took his family and his son-in-law George to France where Warwick reconciled with Margaret of Anjou. In order to cement their new alliance in order to get Henry VI back on the throne, Warwick had Anne marry Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, on December 13, 1470, making Anne Neville Princess of Wales. Their marriage would not last long.

During this time, Richard stayed loyal to his brother Edward and when Warwick came back in October 1470, Richard and Edward fled to Burgundy. They came back in March 1471. On April 14, 1471 at the Battle of Barnet, Warwick was killed. A few weeks later, on May 4, 1471 at the battle of Tewkesbury, Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, was killed and Henry VI was placed in the Tower. On May 21, 1471, King Henry VI was murdered. It is unknown who killed him, but many suspect that it was under the orders of King Edward IV. Some believe that Richard may have had a hand in this murder, but there is no evidence to either support or deny this claim.

Anne Neville was now a very powerful widow and there were again talks about her marrying Richard Duke of Gloucester. This made George Duke of Clarence nervous since he didn’t want to share the Warwick inheritance with his brother. George treated Anne like she was his ward and opposed her getting married. The story goes that George made Anne dress as a maid and hid her in a London shop, but Richard found her and escorted her to sanctuary at the Church of St Martin’s le Grand. George and Richard would feud about the lands that belonged to Anne and Isabel’s mother Anne Beauchamp. Edward resolved the matter by splitting the inheritance between the two sisters. This paved the way for Anne and Richard to be married, probably in the spring of 1472.

George would cause more trouble for Edward. Isabel died on December 22, 1476. Though it is believed that Isabel died of either consumption or childbed fever , George was convinced she had been poisoned by one of her ladies-in-waiting, Ankarette Twynyho, whom, as a consequence, he had judicially murdered in April 1477 right after her trial. The same year, George was eligible for Mary Duchess of Burgundy’s hand, but when Edward refused the marriage suit, George left court.

Edward was convinced that George was aiming at his throne after three of George’s men were tried for treason and were executed. George was thrown into prison, and in January 1478 the king unfolded the charges against his brother to the parliament. He had slandered the king; had received oaths of allegiance to himself and his heirs and had prepared for a new rebellion. Both Houses of Parliament passed the bill of attainder, and the sentence of death was announced. It is said that Edward gave his brother a choice on how he would die and George said that he would like to be drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. What we do know is that George Duke of Clarence was executed in private in February 1478.

After George’s execution, Richard left court to take care of things in northern England. He conducted a few campaigns against James III of Scotland in 1482, which resulted in England regaining possession of Berwick, as well as the English advancing into Edinburgh. Richard was seen by his peers as a wise and strong general who ruled northern England and was granted palatine powers in the west in March 1483. Two months later, Richard’s world would change forever.

On April 9, 1483 Edward IV died and his son Edward V became king, Richard was named Lord Protector. On April 29, as previously agreed, Richard and his cousin, the Duke of Buckingham, met Queen Elizabeth’s brother, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, at Northampton. At the queen’s request, Earl Rivers was escorting the young king to London with an armed escort of 2000 men, while Richard and Buckingham’s joint escort was 600 men. The young king himself had been sent to Stony Stratford. Richard had Earl Rivers, his nephew Richard Grey and his associate, Thomas Vaughan, arrested. They were taken to Pontefract Castle, where they were executed on June 25 on the charge of treason against the Lord Protector after appearing before a tribunal led by Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. Richard took the young king under his protection, escorted him to London, and placed him in the Tower for his protection. After hearing about what had happened, the dowager queen Elizabeth Woodville took her children, including her daughters and her youngest son Richard Duke of York, and fled to sanctuary in Westminster Abbey.

At a council meeting on June 13 at the Tower of London, Richard accused William Hastings and others of having conspired against him with the Woodvilles. Hastings, once a loyal supporter of Richard and a staunch opponent of the Woodvilles, was executed without trial. On June 16, the dowager queen agreed to hand over the Duke of York to the Archbishop of Canterbury so that he might attend his brother Edward’s coronation. Richard was said to have been informed with information that Edward V was illegitimate because Edward IV had entered into a previous marriage contract. On June 22nd, the day which was supposed to be Edward V’s coronation, Dr. Ralph Shaa gave a sermon at Old St. Paul’s Cathedral declaring that Edward IV’s children, the young king, his brother and sisters, were illegitimate. On June 25, Parliament agreed that Edward V was illegitimate and the following day, June 26, Richard was proclaimed king. His joint coronation with his wife Anne Neville would occur on July 6, 1483, and his title was confirmed in an act of Parliament called the Titulus Regius, which was passed in January 1484.

We do not know what happened to the Princes in the Tower, Edward V and Richard Duke of York. They disappeared from sight after the summer of 1483, which has led many to speculate that Richard III had them murdered. At this point we cannot confirm or deny this theory. We don’t even know if they were murdered at all. It still remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in history.

Although secure on the throne, Richard had to deal with some rebellions. The main rebellion came from his once loyal supporter Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham. Buckingham decided to support the Woodvilles, Henry Tudor and his mother Margaret Beaufort to have Henry Tudor replace Richard III as king of England.

A widespread plot was soon formed, but Richard had early warning, and on October 15, 1483, he issued a proclamation against Buckingham. Buckingham, as arranged, prepared to enter England with a large force of Welshmen. Buckingham’s troops were stopped by a massive flood on the Severn and he himself took refuge with a follower, Ralph Bannister, at Lacon Hall. Bannister betrayed him for a large reward, and on the November 1, 1483, Buckingham was brought to the king at Salisbury. Buckingham never saw Richard III and right after his trial on November 2, 1483, a Sunday, he was beheaded in the courtyard between the Blue Boar Inn and the Sarcen’s Head Inn near the marketplace at Salisbury.

Richard was actual a very good ruler. He treated his subjects fairly and was highly regarded as a monarch by the English and his European counterparts. He was a pious man and was a staunch supporter of the church. In April 1484, Richard’s only legitimate son, Edward of Middleham, died, leaving Richard and Anne devastated. On March 16, 1485, Anne Neville died of possibly tuberculosis. There were rumors that Richard was trying to marry his niece Elizabeth of York and he had poisoned Anne to do so, but there is no evidence to prove these rumors.

Henry Tudor was able to make it to England in August 1485. Richard faced off against Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field, on August 22, 1485. Richard’s army outnumbered Henry’s by quite a bit. Richard divided his army, which outnumbered Henry’s, into three groups. One was assigned to the Duke of Norfolk and another to the Earl of Northumberland. Henry kept most of his force together and placed it under the command of the experienced Earl of Oxford. Richard’s vanguard, commanded by Norfolk, attacked but struggled against Oxford’s men, and some of Norfolk’s troops fled the field. Northumberland took no action when signaled to assist his king, so Richard gambled everything on a charge across the battlefield to kill Henry and end the fight. Seeing the King’s knights separated from his army, the Stanleys intervened; Sir William Stanley led his men to Henry’s aid, surrounding and killing Richard. Richard’s body was stripped naked and it was carried on a pack horse to the Greyfriars Church in Leicester. His remains were found in 2012 under a parking lot in Leicester and he was reburied at Leicester Cathedral on March 26, 2015.

Biography: King Henry VI

220px-King_Henry_VI_from_NPG_(2)(Born December 6, 1421- Died May 21, 1471). Son of Henry V and Catherine of Valois. Married to Margaret of Anjou. He had one son Edward of Westminster. Henry VI was a weak ruler who, combined with his bouts of mental illness and no desire to rule, led England to lose its lands in France and brought England into a 30 year civil war known as the Wars of the Roses.

Henry VI was the only child of Henry V and his wife Catherine of Valois. He was born on December 6, 1421 and became king of England at the tender age of nine months when his father died on August 31, 1422. Six weeks later, he became king of France after his grandfather Charles VI died, which was agreed upon with the Treaty of Troyes. A regency council was called and Henry’s uncle John, duke of Bedford, became his first regent, and was charged with taking care of the French, led by the king that the French declared, Charles VI’s son Charles VII. Both Charles VII and John duke of Bedford kept the Hundred Years’ War dragging on. The English captured Orleans in 1427, but in May 1429, a young Joan of Arc led a siege on Orleans, which the French was able to reconquer. This led to French nationalism which allowed the French to drive the English out of the Loire Valley and Charles VII was officially crowned king of France in June 1429.

This made Bedford nervous so he quickly had Henry VI crowned king of England in November 1429 and crowned king of France in 1431.  He was the first English king who was also the king of France, but it did not last long. With the newly founded French nationalism, the English were losing their French lands that Henry V had conquered left and right. This made Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, an ally of the English, nervous, and so he signed the Treaty of Arras with Charles VII in 1435, which recognized Charles VII as the King of France. The Hundred Years’ War would continue for another 18 years until John Talbot, the earl of Shrewsbury was defeated at Castillon in 1453. The English lost all of their French territories, except for Calais.

John, duke of Bedford, was regent until his death in 1435. After Bedford died, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester became the protector, but he did not have the same control of the government that Bedford did. In 1437, Henry declared himself of age before his 16th birthday. Henry was a weak ruler who was not interested in ruling at all, so he allowed some of the least scrupulous people to control the government. One of these men was William de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, who became the king’s steward in 1435. William was a peacemaker at heart, which led to the loss of France; his opponent at court was Humphrey of Gloucester, who wanted the war with France to continue. Suffolk was able to negotiate the marriage between Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou in 1444, in exchange for Henry surrendering Maine to the French.  The couple was married on April 23, 1445. This was not a popular decision and Henry’s life was threatened so Margaret, Suffolk and Henry left London. Margaret and Suffolk convinced the king that Gloucester was plotting an uprising so Henry had him arrested and confined at Bury St. Edmunds in February 1447, where he would die a week later. The people were not satisfied with this and Suffolk decided to switch from peacemaker to warmonger and invaded Brittany in 1449. This brought Normandy into the middle of the Hundred Years’ War and Brittany was conquered by the French in 1450. This was the last mistake by Suffolk, who was arrested and banished, but his ship was intercepted at Dover and Suffolk was killed.

Suffolk’s allies were scapegoats for everything that was going wrong in France, which led to the revolution led by John Cade in May 1450. It was similar to the Peasants’ Revolt, however Henry VI was no Richard II and the revolt lasted for two months, until John Cade’s death. The purpose of this revolt was to purge the government, but the king did not live up to their expectations. Instead he polarized the government even further when he appointed Edmund Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset as his closest adviser. Somerset was a failure in France and he gained some notable enemies at court, especially Richard, duke of York, who was banished  to Ireland in 1447 for supporting Gloucester, but returned to England and to court in August 1450, demanding his place in the Council.

Somerset’s and York’s  rivalry simmered for several years, until  August 1453, when Henry VI had his first bout with mental illness. We are not sure what he suffered from but for weeks, he was unresponsive to everything. Some believe it was triggered by the loss of France. It affected him so much that he did not even acknowledge his only son Edward, believing that his son was born of the Holy Ghost. During this time, Richard Duke of York was made Lord Protector  in 1454 and had Somerset arrested. When Henry recovered, he restored Somerset and had York dismissed. This was the last straw for York. York and Somerset met on the battlefield at St. Albans on May 22, 1455, where Somerset was killed. This should have been the end of the conflict, however it was only just the beginning.

Henry was going to reconcile with York but another bout of mental illness hit Henry in November 1455 and York was made Lord Protector again; he was dismissed in February 1456. It was then that Margaret of Anjou took up her husband’s cause. She encouraged the new duke of Somerset Henry Beaufort to fight against York. The battlelines were being drawn. The Yorkists were led by Richard duke of York, Richard Neville earl of Salisbury and his son Richard Neville earl of Warwick. The Lancastrians were under Henry VI, but led by Margaret of Anjou, Somerset, and Henry Percy, third earl of Northumberland. In 1459, at the battle of Ludlow, the Lancastrians won and sent the Yorkists into hiding; however the Yorkists came back with a vengeance at the battle of Northampton. In September 1460, Richard duke of York officially placed his claim to the throne to Parliament. In order to avoid more conflict, York was declared the heir to the throne, in place of Prince Edward.

Henry VI seemed to be okay with this arrangement, but Margaret was not about to let this insult stand. On December 30, 1460 at the battle of Wakefield, York was killed. Margaret continued her march to London when in 1461, she met with Warwick and defeated him at the second battle of St. Albans. Warwick fled and raised another army with York’s son Edward and marched into London on March 1461. Then, in the bloodiest battle of the Wars of the Roses, Towton, the Lancastrian forces were defeated and Edward became Edward IV. Henry and Margaret fled to Scotland to seek aid from King James III. In exchange for the aid, Henry gave the Scots Berwick. After a few years, Henry was seen as an embarrassment to the Scots and so they returned him to northern England, where he was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London by English forces in July 1465.

It looked like Henry’s days were numbered, but then on October 3, 1470, he was removed from the Tower and made king yet again. What had happened was that the earl of Warwick switched sides and fought for Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou. Warwick even had his daughter married to Henry’s son Edward to show his allegiance. However, Edward IV came back in April 1471 and killed Warwick and recaptured Henry VI. On May 4, 1471, Margaret’s forces faced off against Edward IV at the battle of Tewkesbury. It was a devastating loss for the Lancastrians as Prince Edward was killed and Margaret was imprisoned in the Tower. On May 21, 1471, King Henry VI was murdered. It is unknown who killed him, but many suspect that it was under the orders of  King Edward IV.