3rd August 1460

King James II is killed by an exploding cannon

James II inherited the Scottish throne on the assassination of his father, James I, in 1437, and ruled until he was killed by an exploding cannon in 1460. He had been six years old when he became king (which would not have happened had his elder twin not died in infancy), and was just 29 at the time of his death.

Murderous king

Being so young when he came to the throne meant that for the early part of his reign he was not really in charge of the country. When he came of age, his first and enduring task was therefore to claim his own authority and eject those who had been ruling on his behalf – in particular the Douglases.

This was not an easy job, but James II was determined, and is said to have stabbed William Douglas 26 times, killing him. This wasn’t the end of the struggle with the Douglases, but James gradually won favour with the Douglas family’s allies, and their power ebbed away.

Siege of Roxburgh Castle

James was killed in the siege of Roxburgh Castle, which was then in English hands. The English put up a better fight than the king had anticipated, and James “commanded to charge all the Guns to give the Castle a new Volley,” wrote Robert Lindsay in his History of Scotland. “But while this Prince, more curious than became him, or the Majesty of a King, did stand nearhand the Gunners, when the Artillery was discharged, his Thigh-Bone was dung in two with a Piece of a misframed Gun, that brake in shooting; by which he was stricken to the Ground and died hastily.”

James III, who was then around eight years old, became king upon his father’s death.



Other events that occured in August

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