Why Cannon need to be proved: King James II, 1460, and Jacques Cartier, 1534

King James II and Jacques Cartier

Why Cannon need to be proved

In the 15th century, King James the II of Scotland held an extensive collection of artillery in his arsenals.  He had married Mary of Gueldres, a princess from Burgundy.  At that time, Burgundy was one of the most advanced European nations in military technology.  Heavy artillery (including the bombard Mons Meg) fcame as gifts to James from hi s new father-in-law. In 1460 James brought his cannon to bear on the English-held fortress of Roxburgh Castle.  Unfortunately, a faulty siege-gun exploded, wounding and leading to the death of the king.

As documented in the Asloan Manuscript, MS. 16500, f.247,

"The yere of god 1460 the thrid sonday of August King James the The year of God 1460 the third Sunday of August King James the secund with ane great ost was at the siege of Roxburgh and unhappely second with a great host was at the siege of Roxburgh and unhappily was slane with ane gun the quhilk brak in the fyring for the quhilk was slain with a gun, which broke in the firing for the which was there great dolour throu all Scotland and nevertheless all the there was great sorrow though all Scotland. Despite this the lordis that war thar remanit still with the ost and on the Fryday efter Lords that were there remained with the army and on the Friday after, richt wysly and manfully wan the forsaid castell and tynt nocht a man right wisely and manfully they won the forsaid castle and lost not a man in the winning of it. in the winning of it."

James II, (born 16 Oct 1430, Edinburgh, Scot.—died 3 Aug 1460, Roxburgh Castle, Roxburgh), king of Scots from 1437 to 1460.  He survived the civil strife of the first half of his reign and eventually emerged as a masterful ruler who consolidated his power throughout the kingdom.

Known as ‘James of the fiery face’ for the bright red birthmark that covered a whole side of his countenance, James II was one of the most forceful of the Stewart rulers. Just six when his father James I was murdered in 1437, all through his childhood and adolescence the Douglases vied with other nobles for control of him. He was 18 when he married a niece of the Duke of Burgundy, Mary of Gueldres, in 1449 and took charge of matters for himself.

With a temperament as fiery as his face, James loved hunting, tournaments and war. He was fascinated by artillery and the Duke of Burgundy gave him the Mons Meg siege gun, which is still at Edinburgh Castle. Short of money until he killed the Earl of Douglas with his own hands in 1452 and then confiscated the Douglas estates, he used the income to support his own effective government. He also had to deal with the English, whose fingers were in Scotland’s pie. While cultivating alliances abroad and negotiating with both the Yorkists and the Lancastrians during the Wars of the Roses, James assaulted Berwick in 1455, mounted a sally into Northumberland in 1456, raided the English-held Isle of Man and attacked Berwick again in 1457.

The English had long possessed Roxburgh Castle in the Borders and in 1460 James led an army to besiege it. He was standing close to one of his prized cannon when he ordered it to be fired, possibly to salute the arrival of Queen Mary. The cannon exploded and James was mortally wounded. According to Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie, writing a hundred years later, his thigh was snapped in two and he was ‘stricken to the ground and died hastily’. He was 29 years old. Roxburgh Castle fell to his forces a few days later.  (McGladdery, Christine (2015). James II. Edinburgh: John Donald)

(Lee Sie Photo)

Mons Meg, a medieval supergun of the first half of the 15th century from Edinburgh, Scotland.

Canadian Artillery History

On 20 April 1534, Jacques Cartier set sail from St. Malo in Brittany with 2 ships and 61 men.  He had been commissioned by King François of France to search for a passage to Cathay (the Orient), either around or through the New World.  If no route could be found, then Cartier was to seek out riches, especially gold, as the Spanish had found in South America.

Jacques Cartier's ship Le Grand Hermine, French postage stamp, issued 23 June 2008.

On 7 July 1534, as Cartier was sailing past Baie de Chaleur, he encountered a fleet of 50 canoes filled with Micmac Natives.  The Natives seemed excited to see them and their celebrations aboard the canoes helped to assure Cartier that they wished only to be friendly with the new-comers.  With some reservation and hesitation, Cartier met with the leader of the group.  Small items were exchanged in friendship which would be historically recorded as the first trading action between Europeans and the Natives of the New World.  However, when the other canoes began to approach the ship with unknown intent, Cartier had two cannon shots fired to scare them away.  This is the first recorded use of artillery in the New World.

Many of the units and batteries of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery (RRCA) are older than the Dominion of Canada itself.  The first artillery company in Canada was formed in the province of Canada (New France) in 1750.

Volunteer Canadian artillery batteries existed before 1855 but their history is mostly unknown.  Seven batteries of artillery were formed after the passage of the Militia Act of 1855, which allowed Canada to retain a paid military force of 5,000 men.  One of the pre-1855 volunteer batteries formed in Saint John, New Brunswick, in 1793 was called the “Loyal Company of Artillery” and exists today as the 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, RCA.

After Confederation

On 20 October 1871, the first regular Canadian army units were created, in the form of two batteries of garrison artillery; thus, that date is considered the regiment's birthday.  "A" Battery in Kingston, Ontario, and "B" Battery in Quebec City, Quebec, became gunnery schools and performed garrison duties in their respective towns.  They are still active today as part of the 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery.

The Royal Canadian Artillery has participated in every major conflict in Canada's history.

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