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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Thursday 28 September 2023

Lion Let Loose

 This is the latest in my Nigel Tranter bedtime re-read. It covers the reign of James I of Scotland, not to be confused with James I of England, who was also James VI of Scotland. OK, you can be confused!

Not one of Scotland's better-known kings, James I was born in 1394 and was King of Scots from 1406 until his assassination in 1437. 

His father, Robert III, was ailing, and the real power in the country, the Duke of Albany, had James' brother and heir killed. He was hidden on the Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth for his safety and then sent to France. However, his ship was captured by English pirates, and he was held in captivity in England by Henry IV and then his more famous son, Henry V. His captivity lasted 18 years.

This was the tail end of the Hundred Years War, in which the Scots allied with the French. This was primarily to keep the English monarchs busy in France rather than invading Scotland. Significant Scots forces were sent to France and had an important victory against the Duke of Clarence at the Battle of Baugé in 1421. James accompanied Henry V in some of his later campaigns in France, which put the monarch in a difficult position. He also provided an English wife, Joan Beaufort, a cousin of the future Henry VI.

After Henry's death, James was released for a hefty ransom. Not that he was welcomed back to Scotland by the Albany faction. Tranter, not for the first time, takes a sympathetic view of James I's actions on his return. Tranter portrays his savage destruction of the Albany faction and his Inverness Parliament, which at least partially tamed the Highlands, as a reluctant response. Modern historians are less positive. In fairness, medieval Scotland was a tough country to rule, with internal treachery, the English over the border and the Highlands semi-detached. 

James was assassinated in 1437 by the relatives of the Albany faction. However, they failed to capture and kill his son and were later caught and executed. So, the Stewarts continued on the throne.

Perhaps not one of the most gripping of Tranter's novels. The long period of captivity, more like house arrest, is challenging to turn into good historical fiction. However, it picks up in the latter parts of the book.

Typical Scots infantry sent to France during the Hundred Years War.

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