James IV of Scotland (1473–1513)
The romantic nature of King James IV of Scotland led him
to encourage the study of alchemy and the occult sciences during
his reign. Born on March 17, 1473, in Stirling Castle, Scotland,
James grew up to be crowned king in 1488 and reigned
until his death on September 9, 1513, in Branxton, England.
William Dunbar, in his Remonstrance, refers to the patronage
that James bestowed upon alchemists and charlatans, and in
the treasurer’s accounts there are numerous payments for the
‘‘quinta essencia’’ (the ‘‘fifth essence,’’ the spiritual goal of alchemy),
including wages to the persons employed and utensils
of various kinds. Following is a letter from King James to one
Master James Inglis
‘‘We graciously accept your kindness, by which in a letter
brought to us you signify that you have beside you certain books
learned in the philosophy of the true Alchemy, and that although
most worthy men have sought them from you, you have
nevertheless with difficulty kept them for our use, because you
had heard of our enthusiasm for the art. We bring you thanks
. . . and we have sent our familiar, Master James Merchenistoun,
to you, that he may see to the transfer hither of those
books which you wish us to have; whom receive in good faith
in our name. Farewell. From our Palace at Edinburgh.’’
In addition to promoting alchemy, James was also caught up
in the witchcraft hysteria of his day and wrote a book that promoted