Andrew Lang.

A history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) online

. (page 27 of 60)
Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 27 of 60)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


alleged, the most part of the blame of all the sorrows of Scotland,
since the slaughter of the late Cardinal " (Beaton).^ The most
severe of modern verdicts on Knox is that of Mr Froude : " In
purity, in uprightness, in courage, truth, and stainless honour, the
Regent Murray and our English Latimer were perhaps his equals."
As to Murray and purity, Knox had none of Murray's avarice : he
betrayed no man : he took money from none, to none did he
truckle. He even urged clemency on Murray, after Langside fight,
and the Regent spared his future murderer Bothwellhaugh. But,
as Lethington said, Knox "was a man subject unto vanity." As a
historian, he is, necessarily, a partisan, and is credulous of evil about
his adversaries, and apt to boast, as the heathen Odysseus declines
to do, over dead men and women. As a Christian, Knox's fault was
to confine his view too much to the fighting parts of Scripture, and
to the denunciations of the prophets. The " sweet reasonableness "
of the Gospel was to him less attractive. He laid on men burdens
too heavy to be borne, and tried to substitute for sacerdotalism the
sway of preachers but dubiously inspired. His horror of political
murder was confined to the murders perpetrated by his opponents.
His intellect, once convinced of certain dogmas, remained stereo-
typed in a narrow mould. How little his theology affected, morally,
the leaders of his party, every page in this portion of history tells.
He was the greatest force working in the direction of resistance to
constituted authority, — itself then usually corrupt, but sometimes
l)etter than anarchy tempered by political sermons. His efforts in
favour of education, and of a proper provision for the clergy and the
poor, were too far in advance of his age to be entirely successful.
He bequeathed to Scotland a new and terrible war between the
Kirk and the State. He was a wonderful force, but the force was
rather that of Judaism than of the Gospel.

The new year, 1573, was marked by the tragedy of the castle,



248 PACIFICATION OF PERTH (FEB. 1573).

and the fall of Mary's party as a party in arms. In August 1572
Lethington had written to Mary in a tone almost of despair.^ With-
out money and aid from France, the castle must fall. The town
was in the hands of the enemy, and Morton poisoned the wells
near the castle. Sir James Balfour turned his coat, gaining a
pardon from Morton (January 9, 1573). He was thought to be
the deepest in the secret iniquity of Darnley's murder : later his
knowledge was used to ruin Morton.^ Balfour, apparently, betrayed
the Castilians just before their approaching fall. Like Knox, he
had joined the assassins of Beaton, and with Knox had rowed in
the galleys. He next alternately betrayed Mary of Guise and the
Lords of the Congregation. As Clerk Registrar he is supposed to
have prepared the band for Darnley's murder, and he betrayed the
castle to Morton. In a meeting at Perth on February 23, 1573,
he procured the pacification of most of Mary's party who deserted
Kirkcaldy ; he had refused to desert them ; the Gordons and
Hamiltons abandoned her, and the affair of Darnley's death was
to be slurred over for the moment.^ Balfour passed on to other
treacheries : already, at a meeting of the Kirk and commissioners
from the Three Estates, Episcopacy had been established, the
beginning of countless evils.*^

The Castilians alone, since the pacification of Perth, and the
surrender of Huntly and the Hamiltons, now supported Mary.
James Kirkcaldy, with a large sum in French gold, had succeeded
in landing at Blackness ; but thence he could not move. The
castle garrison suffered from want of water. Lethington could not
endure the vibration of the gun-fire, and was laid " in the low vault
of David's Tower." Surrender he dared not; the gibbet awaited
him ; Morton would never have let him go. Lethington knew too
much. He persistently hoped that, from parsimony and fear of
France, Elizabeth would never aid Morton with men and artillery.
But Killigrew kept urging this course on her, and English engineers
from Berwick sketched the fortifications, arranged and organised the
attack, and justly estimated that it would occupy but a short time.
James Kirkcaldy was captured by Morton, it is said, through the
treachery of his wife ; his gold was seized. A treaty had been
arranged by Ruthven with Drury on April 17 to the following
effect. The Crown property in the castle was to be retained for
the king. Grange, Lethington, Lord Home, Sir Robert Melville,
and Logan of Restalrig, if captured, were to be " justified " by



THE CASTLE SURRENDERS TO ENGLAND. 249

Scottish law, "wherein her majesty's advice shall be used." It
was not used in Grange's case ; Restalrig, Hume, and Melville
were more fortunate.'' An English force, with abundant artillery,
now entered Edinburgh on April 25 under Drury. Trenches
and mounds were dug and erected at close quarters. By May
1 7 thirty heavy guns were in position. The castle guns were
in part silenced, and on May 26 the assault was given at The
Spur, an outwork looking down the High Street. The Spur was
taken, and a parley was called. Kirkcaldy and Robert Melville
came out and had an interview with Drury. On May 28 Mary's
flag was struck ; the castle surrendered. In losing The Spur they
lost their last poor supply of water ; the garrison was exhausted and
mutinous.

Among the captives were Lord Home, Lethington, Kirkcaldy,
their wives. Lady Argyll, and Robert Melville.® Morton would
admit the chief prisoners (the whole garrison was but 200 men)
to no terms ; the Queen of England must decide their fate. They
were carried to Drury's quarters as Elizabeth's prisoners. Morton,
says Killigrew, "thinks them now fitter for God than for this world,
for sundry considerations." They knew too much about Morton.^
Elizabeth (June 9) asked for information about their offences ;
Kirkcaldy and Lethington were in vain appealing to their old ally,
Cecil, saying, " Forget not your own good natural." Happily
for himself, Lethington died, doubtless of " his natural sickness."
His body lay unburied, some atrocities were intended against it ;
but his wife, Mary Fleming, successfully appealed to Cecil, sup-
ported by AthoU and Drury himself. Morton hanged Kirkcaldy on
August 3. A hundred gentlemen of Scotland offered their services
under " man-rent " to the House of Douglas, if Morton would be
merciful; nay, even oflFered ;^2ooo yearly, and ;,^2o,ooo worth of
Mary's jewels. The preachers, he thought, clamoured for blood,
and blood they must have. The prestige of the dead Knox would
have been shaken if Kirkcaldy, for whom he prophesied hanging,
had not died.^*^

In a more fortunate age Kirkcaldy might have been as honest as
he was valiant. Indeed, if we may trust Sir James Melville, who
certainly was much behind the scenes of diplomacy, Kirkcaldy's
whole conduct while in the castle was that of a Bayard. Murray
could trust him, though he could not trust Murray. When Morton
first became Regent, Kirkcaldy might have made his peace on the



2 50 DEATH OF KIRKCALDY AND LETHINGTON.

best terms ; but Morton would not in that case admit Huntly, the
Hamiltons, and the rest of the queen's party to terms. Kirkcaldy,
knowing this, preferred to be betrayed rather than to betray. He
was free, we are told, from avarice and ambition. There can be
no doubt that, to Melville, Kirkcaldy seemed a very perfect gentle
knight.

In any age Lethington would have been pre-eminent as a
politician. It is almost impossible to conjecture why he made the
fatal error of entering into the plot of murdering Darnley. That
unhappy prince was then no longer dangerous ; and Lethington
naturally, and for private reasons, detested Bothwell, from whom he
had far more to dread than from Darnley. It has been guessed
that he expected Bothwell to rush to ruin, and so himself to
escape from two enemies by one murder. But Lethington's
acquiescence in the deed of Kirk-o'-Field was his own bane ; it
drove him fatally into ]Mary's fated party, and the castle was so
gallantly held from no romantic attachment to the queen (of which
we hardly find a trace in the history of the Scots of the day),
but merely because for Lethington there was no safety beyond its
walls. Outside the circle of Mary's personal attendants, her ladies,
and such men as Arthur Erskine and George and Willie Douglas,
with possibly Herries, and, as far as he dared, Robert Melville,
romance in Scotland had no effect upon politics, though in England
it was otherwise. Men acted as their personal interests, or seeming
interests, inspired them ; and loving loyalty to the queen is a refrac-
tion from the Jacobite sentiment of a later time.

Lethington's brother, John, and Robert Melville were spared
when Kirkcaldy died, Robert owing his safety to Elizabeth. He
was for many months held a prisoner at Lethington Castle and
elsewhere, continuing to intrigue for Mary after his release. His
examination was taken on October 19 before the Commendator of
Dunfermline and others, the questions asked covering the period
since October 1568. We have quoted this document several
times, in relation to the intrigues at York. If Melville spoke
truth, Lesley in his examination before Cecil did not. Melville
was closely examined as to Mary's jewels in the Castle, and
INIary declared that Morton hanged Mossman, the goldsmith, to
prevent her from learning where her jewels were. She acquitted
the late Regent Murray of dishonest dealing as to these valuable
objects, of which three great rubies, three great diamonds, and



CONDITION OF THE COUNTRY. 25 I

the diamond-set jewel known as " the H " remained in the hands
of the widow of Murray, who married Colin, the brother and suc-
cessor of Argyll. Morton, in the course of the next years, actu-
ally outlawed Argyll for not restoring the jewels, which Lady Argyll
professed to retain in pledge for money expended by Murray in
the public service. The dispute was finally pacified by Elizabeth,
Argyll restoring "the great H" and other diamonds to Morton.^^

History, if closely interrogated, is rich in details about such per-
sonal matters as these, but about the economic conditions of a people
is apt to be silent. We might suppose that " the Douglas wars," now
ended, had reduced the country to distress and destitution. Edin-
burgh had for years been bereft of her richer citizens : many of their
houses were burned : the timber-work of others had supplied the
Castilians with fuel. Glasgow, not then commercially important,
had been threatened and distressed by the Lennox-Hamilton raids.
"Gauntlets" (Thomas Crawford) had despoiled the Hamilton
tenantry : in the North, Huntly's brother, Adam Gordon, had
conquered the Forbeses and ruled Huntly's country at his will.
The Borders, where public robbery was the rule, not the exception,
had not only been devastated by Sussex and by Homes and Kers,
but by the raids which Elliots and Armstrongs, Bells, Croziers, and
Nixons, had been known to push as far as Biggar. Of the High-
lands we know that the new Earl of Argyll (the Earl of the Darnley
murder died about this time) hanged over 180 caterans in one
raid of justice.

Yet, despite war, anarchy, and plunder, Scotland had increased in
wealth and population. Just after Mar's death on November 11,
1572, Killigrew wrote to Cecil, "Methinks I see the noblemen's great
credit decay in the country, and the barons, boroughs, and suchlike
take more upon them, the ministry and religion increaseth, and the
desire in them to prevent the practice of the Papists : the number
of able men, both for horse and foot, very great and well furnished ;
their navy so augmented as it is a thing almost incredible." Yet
Drury found Berwick flooded with Scots silver, valued at fifteen
pence, but worth only ninepence. "A Scotch merchant declared
that ^100 English put into the mint would yield ;^iooo Scots." ^-

It is probable that the prosperity noted by Killigrew, both now
and later, was confined to the Lothians, Stirlingshire, and Fife. As
we have seen, the preachers had been obliged to submit to a form
of Episcopacy, and their liberties were more or less trammelled by



252 STATE OF THE KIRK.

Morton, who also robbed them of their livehhood. But these
things, after all, were the rebukes of a friend. Whatever else
Morton might be, he was decidedly anti-papal ; wherefore many
sins were forgiven him by the preachers. He is reported to have
said that they were meddlesome knaves who would be none the
worse of a hanging. This tradition is more or less borne out by a
report on the state of Scotland sent in 1594 to Pope Clement VIII.
by the Jesuits in the country. They say that " Morton was a man
of prudence, and exceedingly anxious that everything should be done
for the public good of the kingdom. He did not persecute the
Catholics, . . . but even showed them a certain amount of favour.
As for the ministers of his own religion, he treated them as men of
no character or consideration. He was in the habit of continually
repeating that there was no room for comparing the most wealthy of
the ministers with the poorest of the priests whom he had ever seen :
that in the priest there was more fidelity, more politeness, more
gravity, more hospitality, than in the whole herd of the others."

The writer goes on to say that Morton was " asked to give four
parishes to each minister," obviously that the preacher might become
" a bloated pluralist." He himself " was anxious that these useless
beings should be reduced to the fewest possible." So he gave them
four churches apiece, but kept the revenues of three.^^

This is not an impartial view : the ministers, on the other hand,
were anxious to " plant " new kirks, as the records of the General
Assembly prove, and were concerned about the ruinous condition of
the buildings, some of which were used as sheepfolds. The preachers
were so poor that they were allowed to keep taps, or alehouses.
There must have been wealthier men in their ranks, or it would
have been needless to forbid them to wear " silk hats," and gar-
ments remarked for " superfluous and vain cutting out," and " variant
hues in clothing, as red, blue, yellow, and the like, which declares
the lightness of the mind." " Costly gilding of knives or whingers"
was also forbidden to the clergy, who, to be sure, needed whingers,
for they, and their parishioners, were often prevented from attending
church because they were involved in deadly feuds.^* Learning was
not on a high level. Archibald Douglas declined to adventure him-
self in the Greek Testament when examined for the parsonship of
Glasgow ; and a gifted preacher might be elected though ignorant of
Latin. There were, indeed, men of learning and foreign education,
like Rutherford, Ramsay, Syme, Henryson, and Smeton, with David-



MORTON'S CORRUPTION. 253

son, of St Leonard's (author of the play on Kirkcaldy's hanging), who
wrote a poem against pluralists, calling Rutherford a goose : —

"Had gude John Knox not yit bene deid,
It had not come unto this held ;
Had they myntit till sic ane steir,
He had maid hevin and eirth to heir."

Davidson was banished by Morton : his poem shows the distaste of
many of the preachers to the innovations of the Regent. ^^

'■' This new ordour that is tane
Wes nocht maid be the Court allane ;
The Kirk's Commissionars wes thaie.
And did aggrie to less and mair,"

says the courtier, in Davidson's Dialogue.

"They sail be first that sail repent it,"

says the clerk, and the Kirk in 1575, aiid onwards, did repent
of their concessions to Morton. As a result of his manoeuvres,
the worthier clergy were starved and overworked, while scores of
young men of family, intruded on parishes, exceeded in silk hats and
gilded whingers, neglecting and dilapidating their cures. Out of
twenty-seven summoned to render account of their conduct, only
three appeared. Among these three was not the vicar of Carstairs,
"who hath slain the Laird of Corston."^^ Patrick Adamson of
Paisley, later Archbishop of St Andrews, " waited not on his cure."
The new bishops aimed at being independent of the censures of the
General Assembly, and at avoiding the care of any particular flock.
They were in simoniacal dependence on the great nobles, and were
accused of private immorality.

Under Morton, in fact, the Kirk was being reduced to the same
condition as the Church before the Reformation. Ignorance, proi-
ligacy, secular robbery, under a thin disguise, of ecclesiastical
revenues, were all returning : ministers sold their livings. The
bishops had none of the sacerdotal and mystic character which
attaches to them in the Catholic faith, and even to some extent
in the Anglican community. As rulers and organisers they had
little or no authority. Morton's personal attitude, considering
what the Jesuits say of him, is hard to understand. Politically,
he was anti-Catholic, and struggled hard at this time to secure
a defensive league with England and assistance in money against
France and Mary's party. This Elizabeth, though urged by Killi-



254 THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY.

grew to assent, declined to provide. She finally deserted Morton,
like her other Protestant allies in Scotland, France, and Holland.
Mere need of money, doubtless, was one of Morton's motives in
his dealings with the Kirk. He also foresaw their turbulent
interference with the State. But possibly, despite the cant which
he knew how to use, he was really averse by taste from the
rugged austerity of Presbyterianism.

The Kirk, and the country, whose character needed the sever-
ity and righteousness of the Calvinistic dispensation, were thus in
hard straits. The Presbyterian establishment was on the point of
becoming the tool of profligate politicians.

A glance at the proceedings of General Assemblies will serve
to show the ecclesiastical perils of Scotland at this moment of
transition. In August 1573 the Assembly met at Edinburgh, earls,
lords, barons, bishops, superintendents, commissioners, and preachers
being present. A recent Assembly of 1572, as we saw, had been
shunned by the nobles, who, perhaps, were not minded to forfeit,
banish, and slay all the Catholics of the country. Severe measures,
however, were taken. On May 4, 1574, "a priest was hanged in
Glasgow for saying of mass." ^^ This was probably the priest who
accused Archbishop Hamilton of Darnley's murder, on the strength,
as he averred, of something revealed to him under seal of confession.
Thousands of Catholics were driven abroad — some of them men
of learning; more were swordsmen, who took foreign service in
France and Sweden.

To return to the Assembly : its proceedings usually began by
" trial of superintendents and bishops." The democratic Assembly
delighted to rake up episcopal misdeeds. Douglas, the "tulchan"
Archbishop of St Andrews, and the Bishop of Dunkeld were " de-
lated " : the former for acts of negligence ; the latter on suspicion of
simony, perjury, and want of due severity against idolaters like the
Earl of Atholl. Strong measures were to be taken against all who
harboured excommunicated persons. The Bishop of Galloway, a
most undesirable prelate in all respects, was accused of being of
the Queen's party '; of praying for Mary ; of giving thanks for the
slaying of Lennox ; of comparing himself to Moses and David,
and was ordered to do penance in sackcloth. Morton set forth a
godly preamble as to his intention about due payment of ministers.
Inquisition into the crime of witchcraft was ordained ; with other
matters.



MONGREL EPISCOPACY. 255

In the Assembly of jNIarch 1574 the Archbishop of St Andrews
was " put at " again, — for being a pluralist, for nepotism, for not
preaching, and other misdemeanours. The Bishop of Dunkeld had
not yet excommunicated Athoil, and had allowed a corpse with a
super-cloth over it to be carried into a church " in popish manner."
The Bishop of Moray was delated of an amorous intrigue with a
young widow. Censorship of literature was attempted ; the process
lasted for some years. It was decided that the powers of bishops
in their dioceses should not exceed those of the superintendents,
and that they should continue to be subject to the discipline of the
General Assembly. Morton, as we saw, had induced the Kirk to
yield to him their thirds of the benefices ; he would take care that
the stipends to each minister should be duly paid within each
parish. As soon as the preachers permitted this course, Morton
simplified matters by assigning several kirks to each minister, and
keeping the stipends himself. The Assembly remonstrated, but to
no purpose. It continued to be troubled about the morals of the
Bishop of Moray ; about the singular reluctance of the Bishop of
Dunkeld to excommunicate his most powerful neighbour ; about
the introduction of heretical books " by Poles, crammers " (keepers
of stalls, or crames), " and others " ; and about the destruction of
"monuments of idolatry." Many kirks were found to be ruinous
throughout the country.

The assent of the Kirk to the arrangement made at Leith in 1572
had only been provisional, and subject to parliamentary alteration.
At this juncture, 1575, a new Knox arose in the person of Andrew
Melville, and the great question of Episcopacy became prominent,
with all its consequences of civil war waiting to be developed. The
quarrel is one which tempts to partisanship. It has been shown
that Morton's new mongrel kind of Church government was of the
most profligate and ruinous kind. The Scriptural and apostolic
character of Episcopacy, with all the arguments from the New
Testament and from ecclesiastical tradition, cannot here be dis-
cussed. Morton's kind of Episcopacy, at all events, was unscrip-
tural, untraditional, and intolerable. Here is an example of the
working of the system. Morton's children were all bastards, and
were provided for thus . " Pension by William, Bishop of Aberdeen,
of ^^500 to Archibald Douglas, son natural of the Regent." " Pen-
sion by Henry, Commendator of Dunkeld, to James Douglas, son
natural of the Regent." " Pension by Robert, Bishop of Caithness,



256 ANDREW MELVILLE TO THE RESCUE.

of ;;^5oo to George Douglas, son natural of the Regent." ^^ On
the othec side, the conduct of Andrew Melville and other opponents
of Prelacy was marked by courage rather than by amenity and
sweet reasonableness. The men were fighting for the Revolution
of 1560, and as time went on, and James became king in earnest,
they were fighting against foreign and Catholic intrigue. Melville
was a warrior : he could wear corslet and carry spear like any old
martial bishop of mediaeval times. The rudeness of his manners
repels sympathy, and the theocratic pretensions of the Kirk, which
revived under his influence, were incompatible with the legitimate
freedom of the individual citizen, and with the political supremacy
of the laity in the State. The questions at issue could only be
settled in a struggle for existence, which practically lasted for a
hundred years. Out of the clash of these two forces, both fierce
and intolerant, a modus vivendi was evolved after the fall of the
Stuarts, whose tyranny, subduing the wild "high-flying" temper
of the Kirkmen, made compromise possible.

The leader but for whom the Kirk might have sunk into a listless
tool of the State, or rather of the party in power, must be described.
Andrew Melville, son of a Fifeshire laird slain at Pinkie (1547), was
born at Baldovy in 1545. At Montrose he learned Greek under
Marsillier, and in 1559 proceeded to the University of St Andrews.
Here he alone, in the university, read, not in Latin translations but
in Greek, the Ethics of Aristotle, " which are the best." He appears
to have known George Buchanan, and at twenty was the subject of
Latin Elegiacs by a wandering Italian scholar, Pietro Bizzari, His
" honeyed words " are praised : they were not his most notable
characteristic. Proceeding to Paris, he read under Turnebus, and
the revolutionary logician. Ramus. Edmund Hay, a Jesuit who
was in Scotland at the time of Darnley's murder, and who had no
illusions about Queen Mary, was organising the College of Clermont,
and put Melville on his mettle. In 1568 Melville was at Poictiers
during the siege, whence he went to Geneva, and was associated
with Beza. He pursued his Greek and oriental studies, returning
to Scotland, an accomplished scholar and ardent Calvinist, in July
1574. He was offered the place of tutor to Morton's children, but
preferred the Principalship of Glasgow University, for which he
secured new endowments, reorganising the studies, and establishing



Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 27 of 60)