Alternate History

Stewart Succession (Fidei Defensor)

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The Stewart Succession was a series of events that resulted in the Union of the English and Scottish Crowns under the Stewart Dynasty in 1509 AD. The root cause of these events was the deaths of Prince Arthur and Henry of Tudor from tuberculosis in 1502 and 1503 respectively. This left their sister, Margaret, as the next heir to the English throne. However, Margaret was married to James IV of Scotland mere months before her second brother's death, and although many in the nobility opposed the marriage, it was required in the terms of the Treaty of Perpetual Peace (1502) which had been signed prior to Arthur's own death.

The immediate cause of the succession was of course the death of King Henry VII, the last of the English Tudors. James IV King of Scotland was immediately informed of his father-in-law's death and given permission to come down to London for his coronation. On that late day in May, the Union of the Crowns of England and Scotland was officially established. However, the two crowns remained legally separate and the Stewarts were still only the monarchs of two completely distinct kingdoms. This goal of the legal union of England and Scotland was one of immense importance to James, but it was something which he never managed to accomplish in his lifetime.


On the 2nd of April 1502, Arthur, Prince of Wales and heir to the English throne died of tuberculosis and left his younger brother Henry his right of succession. However, Henry had contracted his brother's tuberculosis and himself died on September 2, 1503. Per the terms of the England-Scotland Treaty of Perpetual Peace of 1502, Margaret Tudor and James IV of Scotland were married August 8, 1503 just as it seemed inevitable that Henry would die. During December of that same year, James was called down to London by Henry VII so that he could discuss the impending succession.

James arrived in time for Christmas celebrations in the English capital and was received lavishly by his soon-to-be subjects. Here, Edmund Dudley, the elected Speaker of the English House of Commons, explained Henry's decisions. First, he reasoned that if the two crowns were to be united, for however brief a period of time, it would not be safe for a woman to have the throne and so James had to receive the crown himself, rather than Margaret. Furthermore, the King promised to not undermine James' position by trying to create more male heirs. Henry of course lied and tried half-heartedly to make another heir but his failure ensured that James was none the wiser of this betrayal.

Before James returned to Scotland, Dudley sent with him some nobles and messengers through which the two were to correspond with over the topic of the succession. The nobles sent back with him to Scotland helped prepare the future King of England, whilst Dudley continued to offer his council over his letters. On March 24, 1509, King Henry VII died of tuberculosis at Richmond Palace and later that same day, James was proclaimed King of England in London.

Edmund Dudley, who was starting to grow out of favor in the Royal Court, sent a letter almost immediately to James, informing him that he was now King of England and was to return immediately to London for his coronation. In the early days of April, James gave his final speech at the Scottish Houses of Parliament, promising to return every three years. Circumstance however brought him back here far more often than that. In any case, April 5, 1509, James began his journey to London and a new age in the history of the Isles began.

James IV of Scotland

James IV King of Scotland

King James IV

Even before the above events had transpired, James had already had a very eventful, and most would say successful life in the courts of Scotland. Born in Stirling Castle from King James III of Scotland and his wife, Margaret of Denmark, James was immediately heir apparent to the throne and therefore also the Duke of Rothesay. However, his father was a very unpopular king and so when a second rebellion against his rule erupted, a 15 year-old James agreed to lead the rebel cause and in the Battle of Sauchieburn on 11 June 1488 James III was killed. Though the young boy was crowned King James IV of Scotland on June 24, he was horrified at the sin he had committed. From that date onwards, James wore a heavy iron chain cilice around his waist, next to the skin, and each Lent added extra ounces as penance.

James immediately demonstrated that he was an extremely competent ruler. In 1489 he defeated another rebellion and in 1493 he forced the Lord of the Isles to forfeit his entire estate and titles to the Scottish Crown. Although he did, briefly support Perkin Warbeck, a pretender to the English Throne, and stage an invasion of England, he recognized that peace between the two countries was in both of their best interests. James quickly established good diplomatic relations with England and in 1502, negotiated the Treaty of Perpetual Peace. As per the agreement of the treaty, he married Margaret Tudor in August 1503.

After returning from England in December, having begun his preparations to succeed to the English Throne, James started several reforms to improve the status of Scotland. After founding two new dockyards to serve the Scottish Royal Navy, James commissioned for 36 ships to be built. These included the Margaret and the Michael, on which construction was begun in early 1509. These were the two largest ships in the entire Scottish Navy at the time. In 1506 he granted a royal charter to the Edinburgh College of Surgeons and welcomed the first Scottish printing press just a year later. As well, Edinburgh Castle was made into one of the foremost gun foundries in all the Isles.

James was also a notable patron of the arts, and especially liked to fund the Makars which were so popular in Scotland at the time. Through his patronage, many famous literary figures completed some of their finest works, including the complete translation of the Aeneid by Gavin Douglas and William Dunbar, known as much for his works honoring Queen Margaret as he is for the first printed instances of obscenities in English literature. When James finally inherited the English Throne, his patronage of the arts and sciences became even more remarkable.


Throughout his journey to London, James was received lavishly by Local Lords and Barons and even commoners of his new land along the way. The King was certainly not short of accommodations. Although several banquets on the way slowed down his arrival, he finally reached the city gates of London on May 9 where he was mobbed by a crowd of spectators eager to see their new King. The makar Walter Kennedy, who accompanied the court to write of their journey wrote that "the streets seemed paved with men" on James' arrival.

Before he could add the English Crown onto his Scottish Crown, James had important business to attend to in Parliament. First, he dealt with the infamous Star Chamber by passing the Star Chamber Act of 1509 on May 14, which relegated its duties so that the Chamber was only allowed to deal with charges of Treason and political libel. This removed the Chamber's ability as a political weapon and made it much more difficult for an innocent to be charged and found guilty. By encouraging this Act, the King had immediately bought himself the full approval of the nobility, as the Chamber was a favorite of Henry's in the prosecution of displeasing nobles. Next, he had many members of the Privy Council of Scotland joined to the Privy Council of England, whilst the rest were to remain in Edinburgh to govern the country by the word of his letters. The members of his council arrived in London just hours before the coronation took place.

His final act before being crowned occurred on May 19 when the English Parliament seconded the Scottish Parliament's motion to officially combine their nation's treasuries into one, which was to be held in London. Unsurprisingly, many people saw that James was clearly working towards a legal union of both countries, and while a majority were still opposed to this final goal, it was agreed that what he was doing for the time being was still in the interests of both nations.

The actual coronation ceremony occurred at last on May 25 where, in typical English style, a grand procession followed their new King into Westminster Abbey to be crowned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Almost 2,000 guests came into the Abbey for the coronation. Among them: Edward Stafford, the Lord High Constable and standing Lord High Steward of the coronation; William Warham, the Archbishop himself as well as Lord Chancellor; John de Vere the Lord Great Chamberlain, and many, many other noblemen. Some Lords such as Thomas Howard the Lord High Treasurer did not attend for "personal reasons", though everyone knew it was for their disdain of the Scots. Ultimately though, the vast majority of the English people and Nobility, and virtually all Scotsmen, were strongly supportive of this turn in British history.

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