James IV: Personality & Appearance

Chapter 6 : Courageous

Whilst James' enthusiasm and eagerness to be first in everything was an attractive trait, it was one that, in the end cost him his life. By the late fifteenth century, it was becoming unusual for a king to stand in the forefront of battle, instead they acted as generals at the rear, but James insisted on showing leadership in the traditional way.

"He is courageous, even more so than a king should be. I [Ambassador Pedro de Ayala again] am a good witness of it. I have seen him often undertake most dangerous things in the last wars. On such occasions he does not take the least care of himself. He is not a good captain, because he begins to fight before he has given his orders. He said to me that his subjects serve him with their persons and goods, in just and unjust quarrels, exactly as he likes, and that therefore he does not think it right to begin any warlike undertaking without being himself the first in danger. His deeds are as good as his words".

Had James taken a more circumspect position at Flodden, rather than throwing himself into the thick of the battle, he might have lived to fight another day. But he died as he had lived – extravagantly, bravely and whole-heartedly.

This article is part of a Profile on James IV available for Kindle, for purchase from Amazon US and Amazon UK.