Pirates from Cley next the Sea in Norfolk
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Picture (c) by John Ashley Photography

In 1406 the wool ship Maryenknyght of Danzig was captured by Norfolk pirates. These pirates came from the small coastal village of Cley-next-the-sea and amongst their number was one Nicholas Steyard. On board the captured ship they found not only wool but also a rare prize, the eleven-year-old son of Robert III of Scotland, Prince James. James' father Robert the Bruce fearing for his safety had decided to send his young son to France for safekeeping, however this trip had now been thwarted by the men of Cley.

The journey to France had been undertaken without the permission of the King of England, Henry IV, probably because Henry would never have given it. So Prince James was conveyed to London where he was immediately imprisoned in the Tower of London. His father Robert III hearing that his son had been captured at sea by pirates died soon after receiving the news. Knowing that he was dying he is reputed to have said 'Bury me in a midden (a dunghill or refuse heap) and write, "Here lies the worst of kings and the most wretched of men".

So the eleven year old boy became King James I of Scotland, however he remained a captive of the King of England and did so for another 18 years. During his absence his uncle Albany assumed the role of governor but made no effort to secure the release of his nephew. Back in England Henry IV still ensured that James was educated as befitted his royal birth. At age 18 still in captivity James I is said to have fallen in love with Lady Joan Beaufort a close relative of the Henry IV.

It is believed that it was her influence together with a ransom payment of 40,000 that eventually secured James I release. James married Joan and the couple returned to Scotland in 1424 where James was crowned. He ruled until 20 February 1437, when at around midnight, he was assassinated by another uncle, Walter, Earl of Atholl.

 Picture (c) by John Ashley Photography