Review: Lion Let Loose by Nigel Tranter


James the First of Scots was an extraordinary man: poet, thinker, warrior, athlete and statesman.

And prisoner – for he was held captive for almost half his adult life.

He possessed that fatal Stewart capacity to arouse both love and hatred; to attract both undying loyalty and the darkest treachery. His romance with the proud English beauty Joanna Beaufort is one of the great love stories of history, and the love for him of Catherine Douglas, one of the most poignant.

In this compelling novel, Nigel Tranter vividly recreates the turbulent life of a remarkable man and the troubled times in which he lived.

My Review

This is an amazing story about James I of Scotland—fugitive, captive, and king who had to fight every inch of the way. Nigel Tranter gives us another unforgettable tale about those ill-fated Stewarts. They never seem to get a break! Loyal followers of the dying Robert III attempted to save the young prince from the grasp of the nefarious Duke of Albany—who had already starved his older brother to death in prison. Unfortunately, his rescuers inadvertently put him in the path of pirates who captured him for King Henry IV. What a prize for England! Our young King James was kept in honorable confinement for the next eighteen years. Henry IV, and then Henry V, attempted to wear him down and demand he swear fealty to the English king. Henry V even brought him to France in an attempt to force the Scots to quit fighting for the enemy. Throughout, James adamantly refused to cooperate.

“Did I hear you say negotiations, sir?” James interrupted, and deliberately – for to interrupt the king’s speech was something that no-one else in all England might presume to do. “Or did I mistake you?”
Henry frowned. “I said negotiations, yes. With these emissaries of Scotland.”
“On what subject, sir?”
“On subjects not a few. On the shameful Scottish aid to France. On the question of a Border truce. On my suzerainty. Aye – and even on the matter of your own, h’m, enlargement, my lord.”
James drew a deep breath. “I fear Your Majesty is in some error here,” he said. “These are not matters on which you may negotiate. Talk, yes. Discuss, maybe. But for negotiation, sir, you require the King of Scots, do you not?”

The cat-and-mouse game went on for years, until Henry V’s untimely death opened the way for James to return to Scotland. And not a moment too soon! Law and order had totally broken down, as nobles literally got away with murder. Albany’s three sons ran rampant after his death, and the eldest, Murdoch, had taken over the regency illegally. James immediately showed everyone who was boss, and imposed his will on recalcitrant earls—at much danger to himself. It took many years for him to reestablish the authority of the kingship, but the Scots were an unruly people and he was fighting a losing battle. You can tell his frustration throughout. It looked like this remarkable man might have attained a golden age for Scotland, but even he wasn’t brutal enough to make it work.


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