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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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Wednesday 10 January 2024

Price of a Princess

 This is the latest in my Nigel Tranter project. It's a slim volume, and frankly a slim story, during the period when James III (1460-88) was a child king. The story is told through his sister, the Princess Mary.

James II died when a cannon exploded during a siege, leaving a child king, which is never a good thing in a medieval state, and certainly not in Scotland. The story begins after the death of the Queen Regent when Lord Boyd of Kilmarnock grabbed the King and held him at Edinburgh Castle. He and his supporters had their coup confirmed by Parliament with the young King (he was 14) present. Lord Boyd was declared governor and ruled Scotland.

The Boyds were not one of the ancient families, elevated to the nobility from a merchant family. Their main fortress was Dean Castle in Kilmarnock, just up the road from me and recently renovated.

This was one factor in their rule being resented, although the evidence would suggest they were as competent as any other. Marrying his son off to Princess Mary was also resented by the Earls. Princesses of the period were typically used to cement alliances abroad. Tranter portrays this as a love match, which may be a bit of poetic licence!

The highlight of the period was securing a marriage for James III to Princess Margaret of Denmark. The book devotes several chapters to the embassy that achieved this. The critical factor was that because King Christian couldn't find the dowry, Scotland got Shetland and Orkney instead. 

Despite this, another coup was in the making. Tranter takes a slightly different take on how it all worked out, but I won't spoil the ending.

This is not one of Tranter's most gripping novels. With the Wars of the Roses going on, the English were distracted, so there was less military action.

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