Revolt of the Isles
Part of St. George's Night
Date 1450 - 1460
Location Scotland
Result Rebel victory
  • Succession of House of Mar to the Scottish throne
  • England seizes Lothian
Flag of Scotland Western Isles

Flag of Scotland Highland clans
Flag of Scotland Douglases
Supported by Flag of England England

Royal party


Commanders and leaders
Flag of Scotland John Macdonald II

Flag of Scotland Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar
Flag of Scotland James Douglas
Flag of Scotland Alexander Lindsay

Flag of ScotlandJames I of Scotland
15,000 18,000
Casualties and losses
Heavy Heavy

The Revolt of the Isles was a rebellion against the Scottish throne which pitted a coalition of significant lords, most notably the Lord of the Isles, against the House of Stewart and its allies. The revolt had several causes, notably the increasing alienation of the Gaelic lords of northern Scotland from the Anglified court, the increasing influence of Northumbrian exiles on the King, and attempts by the south to impose Lollardism on the rest of the country. The revolt was eventually successful, overthrowing James I and replacing him with the Earl of Mar, the illegitimate son of an earlier Scottish king, thus founding the Mar dynasty. England took advantage of the chaos to seize Lothian, including Edinburgh, leaving Scotland primarily Gaelic-influenced for the next century; this drove Scotland into involvement in Ireland.


Following the failed Northumbrian Rising, thousands of Northumbrians, including the wealthy and powerful Percy earls, had fled north to Scotland, where they had been welcomed at the Scottish court by James II Stewart, who planned to use them as catspaws to facilitate expansion into the Borderlands between England Scotland or to take the Isle of Man. He married Lady Elizabeth Percy, the daughter of the dead Sir Henry Percy, who had led the rebellion, thus giving him a claim on the Earldom of Northumberland. But the King fell increasingly under Northumbrian influence, becoming increasingly sympathetic to Lollardism and presiding over a mostly English-speaking court. Meanwhile, his rivalry with the influential Douglas family worsened. At the so-called Black Dinner, in 1449, before his accession to the throne, the Earl of Douglas had been murdered at a feast in Edinburgh Castle. The powerful Douglas earls held a great deal of influence over the country, holding vast lands in Galloway. In the far West, meanwhile, the powerful Lords of the Isles, under John II Macdonald, ruled as virtual kings in their own right, and in the northeast, Alexander Lindsay, the Earl of Crawford, had refused to give up his lands, which the King had placed in forfeit to the Crown. The three men formed a secret pact at Iona on the west coast late in 1452, but news of this reached the King, who opened negotiations with the Douglases at Stirling Castle. Here, he demanded that the Earl of Douglas break the pact; when he refused, James stabbed the Earl some 26 times before throwing him out a window. His retainers in the courtyard saw his body and fled the castle, riding northeast and escaping royalists who tried to chase them down.


On hearing of the news, the new earl, James Douglas, rose in revolt, seizing several royal castles in Galloway. The Lord of the Isles and the Earl of Crawford, in accordance with their pact, joined him. The King now faced a united rising in the southwest, west and northeast.