Andrew Lang.

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

. (page 33 of 60)
Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 33 of 60)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

James, under his wretched circumstances and training, had be-
come what he was. An orphan, for all that he knew orphaned by
his mother's hand ; a king, who wept when alone with a kind of
gamekeeper, because, for all that he knew, he was the son of an
Italian fiddler ; no prince was ever so unhappily born, bred, and
trained.^ Thus it may be that, on occasion, James was "worse
than devils," in Hunsdon's words. But while Arran and Gray
were about betraying Mary to Elizabeth, Davison, dining with
James, observed " the poor young prince, who is so distracted and
wearied with their importunities, as it pitied me to see it, and, if I
be not abused, groweth full of their fashions and behaviours, which
he will sometimes discourse of in broad language, as he that is not
ignorant how they use him." ^^^

From June onwards the double intrigue (of Davison and the
partisans of the exiles to seize the castle ; of Cecil, Arran, Gray,
and Hunsdon to sell Mary) went forwards, enlivened by a noisy
scene of insults between Arran and Craig, a recalcitrant preacher.
James had issued a letter against the fugitive divines which he
would have their brethren to subscribe. Craig at this time refused
(July 4).^^ Towards the end of the year he and most of the min-
isters took this test, with a qualification. On July 12 one of the
recalcitrants, Howeson, was examined before James at Falkland.
He had preached on the favourite text, " Whether it be right in
the sight of God to obey you rather than God, judge ye." The
suppressed premise on all these occasions was that the preachers
were the only judges of what God commanded, and somehow His
•commandments were almost always opposed to those of the State.
"In case they preach treason in the pulpit," they said, "the king,
the Assembly, and they to be judge what they preach, and whether
it be treason or not." The preachers were to have the casting vote
as to the treasonable nature of their own sermons.^- In James,
and in such men as he was likely to have for counsellors, the State
was poorly represented. But no human community could endure
to be governed by sermons, and the strife was not decided till after
more than a century of broils and bloodshed.


While these unseemly religious skirmishes were going on, James
(July lo) appointed Arran to treat with Hunsdon, to the disgust of
Walsingham, who was deep in the plot for holding the castle
against the king.^^ The news of the murder of the Prince of
Orange, which reached Edinburgh at this time, is said not to have
been ungrateful to James, but it naturally increased the alarm of
Protestants everywhere. The castle plot was presently detected,
just as Arran was about to ride to meet Hunsdon. Arran from
Falkland (August 5) announced apparently another, and probably
false, plot to Hunsdon in the language of contemporary piety : we
give the substance of the epistle below.* ^* Calderwood, the Prot-
estant historian, tells us that Arran " made a fashion of apprehend-
ing" Drummond of Blair, who confessed to this conspiracy. But
the castle scheme, judging from the letters of Davison and Wal-
singham, was genuine. ^^ The exiled lords denied their complicity,
Alexander Erskine was removed from the command of the castle,
which was put into Arran's hands, while Erskine (whom Elizabeth
was about to supply with money) fled into England.-"^ On August
14 Hunsdon reported his meeting with Arran at Faulden Kirk.^'^
Arran was accompanied by nearly 5000 horse, but the English and
Scottish soldiers were arrayed at a distance of two miles from each
other, some forty gentlemen of each side attending the chief nego-
tiators. Arran's vows of goodwill were such as Hunsdon thought
could be trusted, "unless he be worse than a divell." The more
important parts of Hunsdon's commission dealt with James's har-
bouring of Jesuits, such as Father Holt ; his intended " association "
with Mary, and his intrigues with the Pope, France, and Spain. As
to Jesuits, Arran replied that Elizabeth entertained James's rebels.
There was no truth, he said, in the story of the association with
Mary. James had never sent any message to the Pope, or dealt

* 14 <']vxy verie good Lord, — . , . But the same dale and in the verie
artickell of tyme of this my formr conclusion, God Almightie, the god onlie of
all truth moved the hart of a wicked conspirator to utter a plat of Treason
concluded betwixt them his Mate Reabells, and some their faverours amongst us
wfch all their conclusions of their divelishe execution against his moste innocent
Matie, and other worthie nobellmen of his Councell, u]:ipon the wcli sens that
same tyme I have bene contyneuallie occupied in examynations and triall taking
and in apprhending some knowne giltie. In eande (all praise to God) so farr
have I pffited that their same psons have confessed the whole purpose, and
subscribed their deposicions themselves, as I hope by Gods Grace to lett
yor L. see shortlie face to face. . . . — Yo' L. moste loving &c. Akrane." —
State Papers, MS. Scot., Eliz., vol. xxxvi. No. 12, i.


with Spain or France. This was a dehberate lie, as James's extant
letters to these Powers demonstrate. Arran promised to betray
Catholic dealings with James to the prejudice of Elizabeth.
Hunsdon then asked that the exiled lords might not be forfeited
by the approaching Parliament. Arran had an easy task in proving
the treason of these exiles, and the aid lent to them by Bowes,
Elizabeth's ambassador. Only a fortnight ago their latest con-
spiracy had been revealed. Hunsdon remarks that, but for the
share of Erskine in the castle plot, he might have procured the
pardon of Mar, but that James was irreconcilable to Angus and
the Douglases, who held him in deadly feud for the sake of the
Regent Morton.

James, indeed, as regards the Douglases, was situated much
as James V. had been when Henry VHI. harboured an earlier
Angus and Sir George Douglas, The Douglases had done their
best to slay him when a babe unborn ; Douglases had taken
part in his father's murder ; Morton had been his mother's bitter
foe, and had dominated himself, and to this brood of rebels the
arms of England were always open. The present Angus was a
Puritan devotee, and allied with James's enemies, the preachers.
" A harde matter to doe any thinge for them," — the Douglases, —
Hunsdon confesses. After nearly five hours of talk, Arran pre-
sented to Hunsdon the Master of Gray, for whom James asked
a safe-conduct to Elizabeth. But three weeks earlier James had
promised his mother to send one of his gentlemen to demand her
release, ^^ and now he was despatching the young and beautiful
Gray for her undoing. Arran then professed that James (or he
himself, the sentence is obscure) " never saw Jesuit in his life,
and did assure me that if there were any in Scotland, they should
not do so much harm in Scotland as their ministers will do in
England, if they preach such doctrine as they did in Scotland."
Elizabeth, who had her own Puritans, " a sect of perilous conse-
quence " to deal with, presently silenced the exiled Scottish

On the same day (August 14) Hunsdon also wrote to Burleigh
insisting on Arran's good faith, and practical kingship of Scotland, a
point not to be forgotten in judging the unhappy James. " They
do not stick to say that the king beareth the name, but he [Arran]
beareth the sway." " He seems to be very well learned. . . . Latin
is rife with him and sometimes Greek." " Avec du Grec on ne


peut gater rien ! " Hunsdon complained that the pious exiles
vapoured about Berwick with pistols, and were continually crossing
into Scotland. They ought to be removed inland, a thing which
Elizabeth did not grant till about Christmas. Hunsdon was explicit
about Gray, he was to " discover the practices " against Elizabeth.
" He is very young, but wise and secret. . . . He is no doubt very
inward with the Scottish queen and all her affairs, both in England
and France, yea, and with the Pope." ^^ Perhaps because Hunsdon's
wishes and ambitions prompted him, he was fairly won over by
Arran, while Cecil's nephew. Sir Edward Hoby, wrote letters in the
same sense. There was in Arran an air of splendid mastery. Hoby
regarded him as practically king de facto. While all the rest of the
company wore secret armour, Hoby believed that Arran and the
IMaster of Gray wore none, though Arran did not conceal his
knowledge that many of his retinue would gladly cut his throat. -**
He placed his king and himself at the feet of Cecil, Mary's most
persistent enemy.

On Arran's return to Edinburgh he was welcomed by the guns of
the castle, a novel honour, and Parliament, which presently met, ran
its course. In Edinburgh Davison, chagrined by Arran's success,
describes to Walsingham the forfeitures which fed the avarice of the
favourite's wife. The brutal treatment of Lady Gowrie by Arran is
especially insisted upon. He pushed her down in the street when
she wished to present a petition (August 24). Her genealogy has
been doubted, but she was a Stewart of the line of Methven, third
husband of Margaret Tudor, and a woman of high ambitions. This
August Parliament was busy w'ith confirming the forfeitures of the
exiles, and of the heirs of Gowrie. An Act was passed by which
all " beneficed persons," preachers and teachers, were compelled
to sign approval of the ordinances of the Parliament in May, with
promise of submission to bishops. The penalty for refusal was loss
of benefice.^^ Many preachers presently did subscribe, with a quali-
fying clause.

Meanwhile from Berwick Hunsdon reported to Cecil the useful-
ness of the Master of Gray, who knows, and will reveal, all the plans
of Mary. " The king here, nor the Earl of Arran, know nothing of
those practices but by him, and so the Earl swore to me " (August


From Edinburgh James went to Falkland, Hither, if we are to
believe a Border rufifian, Jock Grahame of Peartree, that rogue was


brought, and was bribed by James himself to shoot Angus. But
Jock, though he cherished a feud with Angus, had none with Mar.
His conscience was easy as to slaying Angus ; Mar he would not
meddle with. The bribe was never paid, and there was no shooting,
while the whole anecdote rests only on Jock's deposition, taken by
Lord Scrope (November 25). The deposition was recorded by
Calderwood, and, given Jock's character, is hardly good evidence.-^
That he made the statement, however, is certain.

Meanwhile the embassy of the Master of Gray was delayed, and
Elizabeth was doubtful of him, while as to Arran's mendacity re-
garding James and the Jesuits she was in no doubt. The capture
of Father Creighton at sea, and the discovery of his papers about
the old Guise plot, increased her suspicions. She thought of
allowing the exiled lords to reside at Holy Island, within a short
hour's ride of the Border, and on October 6 she informed them that
she was mediating for them with James. But by October 19 Gray
received his credentials. Davison had informed Walsingham that
James " disliked the change " — that is, the betrayal of his mother.
His scruples may have delayed the mission of the traitor, which, as
regards Mary, Arran may have arranged unknown to the king.-*

But Mary, in a letter to Gray of October i, denounced Gray's
pretence, made to her, that he was to announce to Elizabeth a
merely apparent discord between herself and her son. She said
that Elizabeth's sole policy was to feed James and herself with false
hopes, so as to withdraw them from their Catholic allies. And,
indeed, this was Elizabeth's purpose. Mary had often taken the
bait. If she and Elizabeth appeared to be approaching an agree-
ment, Mary was at once dropped by the Catholic princes, and then
there was no reason why Elizabeth should allow the treaty to go
farther. When Mary, consequently, turned to France, Spain, or the
Pope, then the measures in which she became involved were neces-
sarily acts of hostility to Elizabeth ; so the unhappy captive queen
was more severely treated, and, at last, was executed. There was
no escape from the weary round, of which the end was approaching.
As late as September 7 Mary had been expecting much from a visit
of Sadleir, who had seen her naked in her cradle. She was now
(after August 25) at Wingfield ; Shrewsbury no longer had her in
charge, after certain false and odious tales circulated by his wife.
Mary's secretary, Nau, was to visit the English Ministers, and Eliz-
abeth was professing that Mary must be allowed to return to Scot-


land. Mary was expressing gratitude to Archibald Douglas, and
hopes of seeing the Master of Gray. But by October i she knew
that Gray was playing a double game, and she had warnings from
Fontaine in Scotland. She told Gray that she was apprised of his
betrayal, by rumour, urged him to be loyal, and warned him against
Archibald Douglas, of whom she must recently have learned some-
thing. Walsingham having bought the secretary of the French
Ambassador, who deciphered this letter for the Master of Gray,
knew all that Mary had said of Archibald and of Elizabeth. Gray
presently wrote to Mary a letter of the most dastardly insolence, and
it was clear, though Elizabeth hesitated till near Christmas-time,
that Mary was lost.^^ Elizabeth continued to hesitate and Mary to
hope. An Italian Jesuit, Martelli, warned her that she " had too
many irons in the fire." She is accused of having written to a
supporter in Spain, saying that she had no expectations from her
treaty with Elizabeth, and that the Pope and Spain should speed
on an invasion of England.^*^ Dangerous work ; but, unless the
Catholic Powers were active on her side, she well knew that Eliz-
abeth would only play with her like a cat with a mouse.

In October-November the English association was formed for the
protection of Elizabeth, and the slaying of any person by whom, or
for whom, an attack was made on her life. This shaft was aimed
at Mary, guilty or innocent. Gray's negotiations dragged on ;
Mauvissiere, the French Ambassador, said that James was abandon-
ing his mother.^'^ Nau came from Wingfield to London to speed
the treaty for Mary's liberation. Mary was ready to consent to any
conditions. She bade the Guises abandon the expedition which
they never meant to make. But the Pope, of course, by the old
seesaw, now reproached Mary for a treaty with a, heretic. The
natural results followed. No longer in fear of the Catholic Powers,
Elizabeth extracted from Gray such secrets as he had to sell; in
return she removed the exiled Scottish lords to the south, and sent
Mary to the dismal and pestilent prison of Tutbury. Here she was
so guarded that she could not conspire : Paulet, her gaoler, saw to
that. Gray seems to have carried his point and sold his queen
about December 22,^^^ and Fontaine, as an enemy of the successful
Master, was banished from Scotland. By January 24 the Master
was back at Holyrood, and could report that James's association
with his mother was cancelled. A scoundrel always has an excuse ;
Gray's was that Mary had behaved ill to himself, in listening to


Fontaine and Nau."^^ While in England Gray had laid the founda-
tions of a plot for the ruin of Arran, of whom he was jealous, and
it may be suggested that this plot, rather than any revelations as to
Mary which he could make, was the basis of his success. Gray's
beauty and charm won for him, while in England, the friendship of
Sir Philip Sidney, which Gray, who was human, though a Scottish
politician of the period, returned with sincere affection.

Elizabeth knew that Arran was not to be trusted, and wished him
out of the way. In April 1585, after the Holy League of Guise to
exclude Henry of Navarre from the French throne took shape. Sir
Edward Wotton received his instructions as ambassador to James,
with vague promises of a pension, and actual gifts of horses and
hounds. Wotton's business was to secure, against the Holy League,
a league between England and Scotland ; but, as usual, the chief
affair of Elizabeth's ambassador was to dabble in plots against James
and his chief advisers. He found Gray, Morton (Maxwell), and
others bent on violence against Arran, but he gave to Gray a letter
from Elizabeth in which she discountenanced such measures. It
would be wiser merely to drive Arran from Court. James approved
of a league with Elizabeth, and the terms were reduced to writing.
Meanwhile Mary, in the wretched captivity of Tutbury, had been
inclined to threaten James with her maternal curse. She hoped to
see and work on his Justice-Clerk, Bellenden, who was on a mission
to London. Mary attributed James's filial impiety to the influence
of Gray, but it was on James that she would invoke the Erinnys of
a mother's malison. Her rights she would bequeath to her son's
worst enemy, and she repeated her suspicions of Archibald Douglas.'^''
While Mary's despair deepened, and was apt to drive her into perilous
courses, at Edinburgh the English Ambassador was dealing with his
allies, the conspirators against Arran.

Bellenden proposed a useful assassin, and that person, a Douglas
naturally, had an interview with Elizabeth's envoy. On the whole,
Wotton discouraged the Scottish love of dirk or gun ; but his affair
of the league between James and Elizabeth was prospering, when on
July 29 he had to announce the slaying of Sir Francis Russell and
the capture of Sir John Forster in a Border brawl. The slaughter
was, possibly, in revenge for a recent English foray, but it was per-
petrated on a day of truce. Mendoza heard that the affair rose
out of an Englishman's refusing to pay for a pair of spurs bought
from a pedlar. A Scot remonstrated, the Englishman struck him,


a brawl began, and Russell, coming out to quiet it, was slain. So
Mendoza wrote from Paris.^^ The king wept at the ill news, and
the chance was seized to throw suspicion on Arran as instigator of
the deed. Arran was therefore warded in St Andrews Castle, but
later consigned to his own house. Wotton advised Elizabeth to
take great offence at Russell's death (which seems to have been
caused in chance mellay), and to make it a handle against Arran. ^^
The occurrence of a plague in the chief towns raised " the common
clamour of the people against the earl and his lady," says Calder-
wood, while the wet weather v/as also laid to his guilt, atmospheric
effects having political causes. Arran, however, bribed the Master
of Gray to procure his release from St Andrews Castle ; or perhaps
Arran extorted this favour by using his knowledge of the Master's
conspiracy against his own life. This appears more probable
(though Wotton speaks of bribery), as the Master (August 14) wrote
to consult Archibald Douglas on his new dilemma. Elizabeth he
had offended by releasing Arran : Arran had him in the hollow of
his hand ; so Gray saw his only hope in the return of the very
exiles whose removal from the Borders he had himself accom-
plished. Gray had cut himself off from Mary, from the Catholic
Powers, from England, though he was "very penitent," and from
Arran. The exiles were his only resource.^^

On August 25 Wotton, being on a hunting expedition with
James, wrote to Walsingham.^'* Gray had just told him that it
was vain to hope to alter James's affection for Arran (though he
was at the moment removed from Court), and that while James
was in this mind the exiles could not be restored by fair means.
The league with England would be frustrated. Gray would be in
peril, and Arran might carry the king into France. Elizabeth,
therefore, should make a grievance of Russell's death, decline to
negotiate for the league, and " let slip " the exiles, provided with
money ; Gray would communicate with them through " a special
friend of his " in England (Archibald Douglas probably). Wotton
added that Morton (Maxwell), then at feud with Arran, was thought
to be in alliance with that earl, who supplied him with gold sent from
France ; possibly Morton would seize James and take him to that
country. Wotton ends, " If this plot " (Gray's) " take place I hope
I am not such an abject but 1 shall be revoked before." He made
no other demur, though James was negotiating a league with Eng-
land, and though the conspirators intended to seize the king


(September i, Wotton to Walsingham). The adventurers included
Morton (who was in disgrace because of a Maxwell and Johnstone
feud), Mar, Angus, and the Hamiltons. But Arran had reverted to
the French faction, he encouraged Holt and Dury, the Jesuits, and
received money through Robert Bruce (not the celebrated preacher
of that name), who was apt to play the part of a double spy.

Early in September the news of the enterprise of the exiles was
rumoured abroad, reaching Arran and James, who wrote to Hunsdon.
Arran being on the alert, and still, though not at Court, in secret
favour with James, Wotton knew that his own life, after all his
treacheries, was hardly worth a week's purchase. In his letters
he proves himself far from courageous, and incessantly asks to
be recalled, as the Scots " have no sense of honour."

These people have honour eternally in their mouths, even when
an ambassador is doing his best to let loose on a king his worst
enemies, and the exiled ministers, for these devoted men were pray-
ing, and preaching, and conspiring with the best. By September 18
Gray announces a probable pardon for Archibald Douglas : " the
old fox" was likely to be a valuable tool. By September 22 Arran
was mustering his forces to support the king. James meant to
proceed in arms against Morton, and this was a fair pretext for a
large levy of men. Elizabeth made an excuse out of the affair of
the death of Russell for recalling Wotton, who, to his extreme
relief, was safe in Berwick on October 15.

Only by hard spurring did he escape the hands of James ; for the
king had learned of the arrival of the exiles on the Border, where
they were met by an army of friends. The Douglases marched
north by Peebles, the Hamiltons joined hands wnth the Maxwells,
under Morton, at Dumfries, and they all trysted to meet at Falkirk,
8000 men strong, on the last day of October. Meanwhile Gray
was raising men in Fifeshire, nominally to march with James
against Morton, really to surprise Perth. That all these movements
of men should have been accomplished so secretly as to find James
utterly unprepared, seems surprising to modern readers, familiar
with the rapid conveyance of news. But we may reflect that England
was now favourable to the exiles ; that mounted couriers could easily
be stopped on the way as they rode north with tidings ; that the
Border was populated by enemies of Arran ; that the godly every-
where were partisans of Angus ; that the Maxwells controlled the
western Marches ; that James, impatient of business, was given up


to sport, — " scarcely for hunting do we either eat or sleep," wrote
the Master of Gray ; and, above all, that Arran was " discourted,"
was at Kinneil, and could not defend his master.

No sooner did Arran hear of Wotton's flight and of the exiles
crossing the Border than he rushed to Court, at Stirling, denounced
Gray, and bade James command that traitor to his presence. Gray
was summoned, and with equal courage and astuteness obeyed the
call, and by his grace and craft persuaded James of his innocence.
Arran determined to slay him in the royal presence ; but news ar-
rived that the exiles were within a mile of Stirling. Arran himself,
with ]\Iontrose, kept watch on the town walls through the night of
November i. But next day he galloped off with one follower over
the bridge of Forth, while the courtiers retired into Stirling Castle.
The exiles raised their banners against it, James sent the Master of
Gray to parley with them ; they offered security to their king, but
would give no promises as to Arran. The castle was not victualled
for a siege ; James surrendered ; Montrose, Crawford, Rothes,
Colonel Stewart, and others were taken, and Arran was proclaimed
a traitor. Henceforth he skulked and intrigued till Douglas of
Parkhead, many years later, avenged Morton by spearing his de-
nouncer at Catslack ; still later, Douglas was himself slain by a
Stewart at the cross of Edinburgh. The strong places were
handed over to the Hamiltons, Humes, Douglases, and Mar, while

Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 33 of 60)