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Campaign to find grave of murdered Scots king

THE lost grave of a murdered Scots king could lead to the next major historical search.

coup: James I was murdered at a monastery in Perth in 1437.
coup: James I was murdered at a monastery in Perth in 1437.

James I of Scotland was killed in Perth on February 21, 1437, but the exact site of his grave has been forgotten over time.

James I was king of Scotland from April 1406 to February 1437, although he spent his first 18 years as king in English captivity after becoming a hostage of King Henry IV of England, and later King Henry V.

He returned to Scotland in March 1424 and ruled for 13 years before his murder at Blackfriars Monastery in Perth, in an assassination led by Scottish landowner Sir Robert Graham.

The coup was arranged by Graham and the king's cousin Sir Robert Stewart, who was chamberlain of the royal household at the time.

Stewart used his privileged position to allow a small band of enemies of the king to enter the building. They had turned on him after a disastrous military expedition against the English at Roxburgh.

James had time to hide in a sewer but, with its exit recently blocked off to prevent tennis balls getting lost, he was trapped and stabbed to death. James II was crowned at Holyrood Abbey on March 25 that year.

In May, the main conspirators, including Stewart and Graham, were executed.

Now Tory MSP Murdo Fraser is leading a campaign to find the exact site of the king's grave.

Mr Fraser said: "Leicester will no doubt benefit from the worldwide attention brought by the exhumation of Richard III.

"A similar project in Perth would have the potential to attract similar global acclaim – which can do no harm in promoting the city.

"The story behind the assassination of King James I is well known and historians are almost certain that he lies buried underneath Hospital Street in Perth."

He added: "The logistics behind any disinterment would be considerable.

"However, if finances can be found, this project would provide historians and archaeologists with another fascinating look into our often bloody past."

It is known that James I is buried in the grounds of the Carthusian monastery he founded. A memorial at the corner of King Street and Hospital Street marks the fact.

However, the site of the cemetery has been forgotten since the monastery was swept away during the Reformation.

Inspired by the success of the English dig, local history enthusiasts are calling for the money to finance a similar investigation in Perth to be sourced.

George McPhee, 50, said: "There are interesting parallels with the discovery of the skeleton of Richard III and the resting place of Scots king James I.

"The Leicester search sounded an impossible task but they proved the doubters wrong.

"I would love to see the money raised to finance a similar search in Perth."

While saying that such a search was plausible, Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust archaeologist David Strachan expressed caution.

The area of the monastery grounds was quite large, he said, and a lot has been developed over the years. It is now the site of the King James VI Hospital building, tenements, shops, roads and a car park.

Ground-penetrating radar would be required to attempt to identify any burials on accessible areas of ground.

Mr Strachan said: "It could be quite a broad area but a search is entirely plausible.

"You only know when you do it but looking for a skeleton of that period is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. You could get it but there would be no guarantee of a result."

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