Crown-magnate relations, 1437-1460
This thesis examines the relations between James II and those magnates who were active in politics during his reign, which lasted from 1437-1460. The Black Douglas family were of particular importance during both the minority and the personal rule of James II and their rise to prominence, conflict with the king, and ultimate downfall is studied with particular reference to their bases of power and support. The attitude of the king to the higher, and, where appropriate, lesser nobility is considered, and the thesis traces the development of the political community from the beginning of the reign, when the ranks of the higher nobility were severely depleted, to the state of the realm and its leaders at the time of the king's death in 1460. The major conflict with the Black Douglases is examined through official records and chronicle references and the various stages in the development of the contest are outlined and assessed. The attitude of the other members of the political community to the Crown/Douglas conflict is studied, and the king's methods of courting support, particularly through patronage, are traced. The attacks launched by the king on certain members of the nobility or, in the case of the Livingston faction, royal office holders, are considered, as are his efforts to build up the position of certain families and replenish the ranks of the nobility by creating certain earldoms and lordships of parliament. The rise of honorific dignities, i. e, the bestowal of titles which did not necessarily include the granting of any new land, is discussed, and the king's relationship with the three estates gathered in Parliament or General Council is assessed. The view of the reign of James II which appears in modern histories is traced through from contemporary sources with particular reference to the histories written in the sixteenth century which have provided much of the material, including errors and distortions, which have formed recent assessments.