Robert Boyd, Scottish statesman

BOYD, ROBERT, Lord (d. 1469?), Scotch statesman, eldest son of Sir Thomas Boyd of Kilmarnock, was created a peer of parliament by James II by the title of Lord Boyd, and took his seat on 18 July 1454. In 1460 he was appointed one of the regents during the minority of the young king, James III. In 1464 (11 April) he was joined with the Bishop of Glasgow, the Abbot of Holyrood, his brother, Sir Alexander Boyd of Duncole, and three others, in a commission to negotiate a truce with Edward IV. In 1466 he obtained the appointment of his brother, Sir Alexander, as instructor to the young king in knightly exercises, and conspired with him to obtain entire control of the affairs of the kingdom. To this end they, in defiance of the protests of Lord Kennedy, one of their co-regents, took possession of the person of the king, and carried him from Linlithgow to Edinburgh, where, in a parliament summoned (9 Oct.), a public expression of approval of their conduct was obtained from the king, and an act was passed constituting Boyd sole governor of the realm. He now governed autocratically, but he appears by no means to have abused his power. On the contrary, some of the measures which he introduced must have been eminently salutary. Commendams were abolished, and religious foundations which had deviated from their original purposes were reformed. He also passed enactments designed to promote the interests of the mercantile and shipping community, prohibiting the freighting of ships without a charter-party by subjects of the king, whether within the realm or without it, and also fostering the importation and discouraging the exportation of bullion. He negotiated a marriage between the king and Margaret, the only daughter of Christian, king of Norway, thereby obtaining the cession of Orkney (8 Sept, 1468) and the formal release of the annual tribute of 100 marks, which was still nominally payable to the king of Norway, in the church of St. Magnus, Kirkwall, though it had long ceased to be paid. In 1467 he obtained for himself the office of great chamberlain for life, while his eldest son, Thomas (by Mariota, daughter of Sir Robert Maxwell of Calderwood) was created Earl of Arran and Baron of Kilmarnock, and married to the king’s elder sister, the Lady Mary. This last step was more than the jealousy of the Scotch nobles could endure, and they determined to strike a blow at the supremacy of the Boyds. Accordingly, in November 1469, Lord Robert and his brother were arraigned before the parliament on a charge of treason based on their conduct of three years previously in laying hands on the person of the king. They were found guilty and sentenced to death (22 Nov.) Boyd, however, anticipating the issue of the trial, fled to Alnwick in Northumberland, where he soon afterwards died. His brother was detained in Scotland by illness, and lost his head on the Castle Hill.

His eldest son, Thomas, Earl of Arran, was sent to Denmark to bring over the king’s destined bride, returned while the trial was in progress, and, being warned by his wife of the condition of affairs, landed the princess, but did not himself set foot on shore. He is said by the older historians of Scotland to have sailed back to Denmark accompanied by his wife, and thence to have travelled by way of Germany into France, there to have sought service with the Duke of Burgundy, and dying prematurely at Antwerp to have been splendidly buried there by the duke. In an undated letter of John Paston to Sir John Paston he is referred to in terms of the highest eulogy as ‘the most courteous, gentlest, wisest, kindest, most companionable, freest, largest, most bounteous knight,’ and as ‘one of the lightest, deliverst, best spoken, fairest archer, devoutest, most perfect, and truest to his lady of all the knights that ever’ the writer ‘was acquainted with.’ Fenn conjectures that the letter was written either in 1470 or 1472; but the expression ‘my lord the Earl of Arran which hath married the king’s sister of Scotland,’ coupled with the absence of any reference to the sudden precipitation of the family from supreme power to a position of dependence, for the estates not only of Lord Robert and his brother, but of the Earl of Arran, were forfeited in 1469, would seem to argue an earlier date. Whatever the true date may be, he was then in London lodging at the George in Lombard Street, his wife apparently with him. The date of his death is uncertain. In 1474 his widow married James, lord Hamilton, whose son was in August 1503 created Earl of Arran. Lord Robert’s second son, Alexander, was restored to a portion of the Kilmarnock estates in 1492, but without the title of Lord Boyd. Alexander’s eldest son, Robert, created Lord Boyd in 1536, is called third lord.

[Acts Parl. Scot. ii. 77, 86, 185, xii. Suppl. 23; Reg. Mag. Sig. Reg. Scot. (1424-1513), 912-15, 1177; Rymer’s FÅ“dera (Holmes), xi. 517, 524, 558; Exch. Rolls Scot. vii. lx. lxvii. 463, 500, 520, 564, 594-8, 652, 663, 670; Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, i. xl-xliii; Drummond’s Hist. Scot. 120, 127; Maitland’s Hist. Scot. ii. 660-5; Paston Letters (ed. Gairdner), iii. 47; Douglas’s Peerage, ii. 32.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 06
Boyd, Robert (d.1469?) by James McMullen Rigg

Leave a Reply