To be King of Scots was never the passport to peace or joy, and for young James the Fifth the throne made an uncomfortable seat indeed. As a boy he had been deliberately corrupted by his step-father, the Red Douglas, Earl of Angus, so that he might get both King and Kingdom in his power. Even when James escaped from Angus' clutches he still had that most rebellious and powerful house to cope with. Not to mention the Hamiltons, whose chief,the Earl of Arran was next in line to the Crown, so he did not have his troubles to seek.
Add to this, James himself was impetuous, hot-bloodied, handsome, with no great interest in matters of state, but an enormous interest in women. While to the south, his Uncle Henry the Eighth of England watched every move north of the border, poised to invade.
The royal advisers therefore faced a mighty task. Of these, two Davids, Lindsay and Beaton, were among the most effective and loyal, without being uncritical of their leige-lord's weaknesses and escapades. David Beaton is now Lord Privy Seal, soon to be Cardinal, the poet David Lindsay is Lord Lyon King of Arms.
Friends from their student days, they are very different characters and frequently find themselves at loggerheads as they try to keep the unruly, perplexed and endangered nation in some sort of order, and its King from disaster.
In this second of his trilogy of love and hatred, folly and statesmanship, poetry and martyrdom, Nigel Tranter paints a vivid picture of a turbulent period, a strange friendship, and of James Stewart, by God's grace King' - but only just.