He was born on the July 25 or December , 1394, the son of Robert III. He had an eventful childhood. In 1402 his elder brother, David, was starved to death in prison at Falkland in Fife. Before the death of his father in 1406 James was sent to France for safety.
On the way there, he was captured by the English and handed over to Henry IV of England who imprisoned him and demanded a ransom. Robert III was said to have died from grief over the capture of James. His uncle, Robert, Duke of Albany, who became Regent on the death of Robert III, was in no hurry to pay for his release. He secured the release of his son Murdoch , who was captured at the same time, but not so with James. So for the next 18 years, he languished imprisoned in the Tower of London.
After the death of his uncle in 1420, the ransom of £40,000 was finally paid, and in 1424 James returned to Scotland to find a country in chaos. He took his bride with him - he had met and fallen in love with Joan Beaufort whilst imprisoned. He married her in London in February, 1424. They would have eight children, including the future James II of Scotland, and Margaret, wife of Louis XI of France.
James was formally crowned King of Scotland at Scone Abbey, Perthshire on May 2 or 21, 1424. He immediately took strong actions to regain authority and control. One such action was to execute the Albany family, who had opposed his actions. The execution of Murdoch, Duke of Albany and two of Murdoch's sons took place on 24th of May, 1425 at Castle Hill, Stirling.
He proceeded to rule Scotland with a firm hand, and achieved numerous financial and legal reforms. For instance, for the purpose of trade with other nations, foreign exchange could only be exchanged within Scottish borders. He also tried to remodel the Scottish Parliament along English lines. However, in foreign policy, he renewed the Auld Alliance, a Scottish-French (and therefore anti-English) alliance, in 1428.
His actions throughout his reign, though effective, upset many people. During the later years of his reign, they helped to lead to his claim to the throne coming under question.
James I's grandfather, Robert II, has married twice. The awkward circumstances of the first marriage, from which James was descended, led to it being disputed. Conflict broke out between the descendants of the first marriage and the unquestionably legitimate descendants of the second marriage over who should be on the Scottish throne. Matters came to a head in February, 1437, when James was assassinated by a group of Scots led by Sir Robert Graham while staying at the Friars Preachers Monastery in Perth.
A wave of executions followed in March, 1437 of those who were part of the plot. Amongst those executed by hanging, drawing and quartering were James' uncle, Walter, Earl of Atholl, and his grandson, Robert, Master of Atholl (both of whom were descended from Robert II's second marriage).
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