Selkirk ‘has best claim’ to show weapons of slain Scottish king

King James IV dagger
King James IV dagger

NOWHERE has a stronger claim than Selkirk to be the place to put on public display the sword, dagger and ring which are believed to have been taken from the slain body of Scottish monarch James IV after the defeat of his army at Flodden.

Former local SNP Scottish Borders councillor Kenneth Gunn was commenting on efforts to have the artefacts loaned to Scotland in time for events to mark the 500th anniversary of the battle, which falls in September.

King James IV dagger

King James IV dagger

The sword, dagger and ring are in the College of Arms in London, where they have remained since being presented to the college in 1681.

The anniversary of the 1513 battle will witness a number of activities across the Borders and Northumberland, including in Selkirk.

It is Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale MSP Christine Grahame (SNP) who has lodged a parliamentary motion calling for the return of the king’s belongings.

Although experts have doubts the sword and dagger belonged to James, they were originally presented to the college by the sixth Duke of Norfolk, direct descendant of the second duke who, as Earl of Surrey, commanded the English forces at Flodden.

In her motion, Ms Grahame called on the parliament to note the battle’s anniversary; note that James IV was reputed to be fluent in many languages – including Latin, French, German, Flemish, Italian and Spanish – and that, among other achievements, he founded two new dockyards and acquired 38 ships for the Royal Scots navy. Also, that he granted the Edinburgh College of Surgeons a royal charter in 1506 and welcomed the establishment of Scotland’s first printing press in 1507; that his marriage to Margaret Tudor, ‘The Thistle and the Rose’, paved the way for the Union of the Crowns and probable eventual political union, and to recognise calls for the return ‘on loan’ of the only artefacts attributed to him - the sword, dagger and turquoise ring currently with the College of Arms.

Mr Gunn says he sees no reason why, if the items were loaned back to Scotland, they could not be put on public display in the Royal Burgh.

“Look at what happened with the Selkirk Silver Arrow – they said Selkirk didn’t have the facilities to display that and now it’s actually on show more often here than it is in Edinburgh,” Mr Gunn told us.

“I don’t think there is another town which could stake more of a claim as the place where these items should be displayed than Selkirk – after all Selkirk was the first town anywhere to commemorate the battle with a memorial in 1913.”

After the battle, James’s body was taken to London, where it is said to have remained unburied for many years at Sheen Priory, before being lost – something Mr Gunn says should be rectified.

“If they can track down the remains of Richard III to under a car park in Leicester, surely it is time the remains of James IV were traced and repatriated to Scotland. We need to be pushing to have the body found and returned so that it can be properly interred.”

James’s body was taken first to Berwick, where it was positively identified and then embalmed, before being transported to Newcastle, then on to York and finally to Sheen Priory, near London.

And Ms Grahame told TheSouthern: “The response from the College of Arms seems promising and I am now requesting sight of the report as soon as it can be made available.

“I am also hoping to lead a debate in parliament highlighting the impact of Flodden and indeed the significance of James IV in Scotland’s story - particularly as his marriage to Margaret Tudor paved the way for the Union of the Crowns and on to the Union of the Parliaments.

“There are many theories about the whereabouts of James IV’s body parts and I know others are pursuing this, but at least if we have the artefacts we will have made a start.”