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Perth & Kinross Matters: Murder changed the course of history

The murdered king.
The murdered king.

Violent events can change the path of history – Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s wrong turn in the streets of Sarajevo in 1914 is perhaps the best-known example – but another assassination closer to home changed Scotland forever.

In the 1400s the Royal Burgh of Perth was a centre of government and church and well on its way to becoming the capital of Scotland until a bloody murder altered the course of history.

Had James I of Scotland outwitted his pursuers  as he fled through the city’s sewers, Perth could have developed into the centre of commerce and legislation it seem destined for.

The savage stabbing of King James I was a pivotal moment when royal interest in Perth was lost, and never regained.

The bloody chapter could however yet bring fame and fortune to Perth if an enduring mystery can be solved.

On the 580th anniversary of the murder, academics and archaeologists gathered in Perth to launch a bid to locate the unfortunate monarch’s grave.

It is known an opulent tomb was constructed in the Charterhouse in the city for the king and his widow, but all evidence was swept away during the Reformation and the exact location lost in the mists of time.

Now clues from dusty documents, ground penetrating  radar and archaeological test pits will be combined in the search for the royal remains.

Whatever the outcome it is likely that much more will be learned about an important period in Perth’s past, with plans to use the evidence for a digital “virtual reconstruction” of the Charterhouse complex.

The discovery of Richard III under a car park in Leicester proves such hunts can succeed, but the project team must be praying James I isn’t languishing under the Chinese takeaways, tyre and exhaust business or the bus station which now cover large sections of the search area.

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