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

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and it is likely that Gray had been dealing with the Hamiltons and
the Catholics. He admitted that he had worked for liberty of
conscience, and generally to revolutionary ends ; while his answer
as to the charge of betraying Mary has been already given. The
Estates prayed that the king would spare the Master's life and lands.
Gray was certainly betrayed by Stewart, who was to have gone as
ambassador to France for the renewal of the alliance.^ But Richard
Douglas of Whittingham, nephew of Archibald and his intelligencer
from Scotland, writes (May 22) a different story. Gray's attempt
to obtain liberty of conscience by aid of France was really his
principal offence, " suppose that he confessed somewhat also that,
before his last being in Englatid, he had written into that country
against our sovereign's mother's life." James was being much urged
to war with England, but, " so long as he may with honour, his
majesty is willing to abstain." ^^

The Parliament opened on July 8 at Edinburgh, and was pro-
rogued to July 23. The king's arrival at his majority was declared.
The liberties of the Kirk were ratified. Death was decreed against
Jesuits and seminary priests ; in only one case, much later, was this
threat fulfilled. Even hearers of mass, or distributors of Catholic
books, were menaced with entire confiscation. The temporalities


of benefices were annexed to the Crown, with certain reserves of
vested interests. This meant the downfall of bishops, their ex-
clusion from Parliament. Six members of each Estate were formed
into a commission to deal with the necessary taxation for the king's
marriage. There was the usual revocation of grants made during
the royal minority. Quarrelling for precedence of vote or place in
Parliament was denounced, and a commission was appointed to
consider claims. The minor barons, to be elected by forty-shilling
freeholders, were called to Parliament, as under the law of James I.
Persons accused of treason were permitted to employ counsel.^^ As
a matter of fact, in such trials the accused could only hope for
acquittal when their friends were in power, as at the trial of
Archibald Douglas, or of Bothwell for witchcraft. Game laws were
re-enacted, and measures, often vainly renewed, were taken to
diminish the number of fraudulent notaries. For five years no
new notaries were to be admitted ; in future they must know
Latin "reasonably," must have served seven years with Writers to
the Signet or other responsible lawyers, and, generally, were to be
under inspection. Forgery was a rampant crime, of which we shall
see a notable instance later. Theft by landed men (as when Logan
of Restalrig committed burglary in the house of Nesbit of Newton)
and murder under trust were declared to be treason. Interest on
money was limited to ten per cent yearly. With fiscal and others of
the usual good resolutions (Acts of Parliament were little more)
appeared one in favour of " universal concord." Other good
resolutions were concerned, to no avail, with maintenance of law
and order in the Highlands and Borders. ^'-^

The Parliament ended, though nothing is said about it in the
official record, with a dramatic scene in which the lords besought
James to lead them against England. This is reported by
Courcelles and others,^^ and is doubtless true. James thanked his
kneeling Estates, but said that he must wait his opportunity.
Another dramatic scene, with elements of the grotesque, was the
public reconciliation and banquet of all the lords in Edinburgh, so
admirably described by James in 'The Fortunes of Nigel.' An
order for the expulsion of the Jesuits was made, and the Protestants
were pleased, while Philip was not sorry. James, his rival, was now
too manifestly a hopeless heretic. Archibald Douglas was kept as
ambassador to England (on a semi-official unrecognised footing),
and his favour varied with James's hopes or fears as to his success



in obtaining for the king a written acknowledgment of his right
to the English crown, with a gift of lands in the north of England.
James was now very Protestant, since Philip of Spain was intent on
securing the rights bequeathed to him by Mary, and as, despite
Morton's (Maxwell's) intrigues in Spain, whither he had sailed, there
was clearly no chance of disinterested help, thence or from France.
The Scottish ambassadors had gone to Denmark ; but du Bartas,
the poet and scholar, arrived in Scotland, was feasted by the king,
was present at his friendly controversy with Andrew Melville in St
Andrews, and was thought to be proposing for James the hand of
the Princess of Navarre.

The summer was marked by Border raids into England. These
were caused, according to the letters of Richard Douglas, Archi-
bald's nephew, not by revenge for Queen Mary, but by " plain
necessity " ; the Liddesdale men would not starve while there were
beeves in Cumberland. Thus, though the Scottish Catholic lords
were as usual intriguing abroad, James remained true to his inter-
ests in England.

The " Premier," in modern language, was now Lethington's
brother and successor as Secretary, Sir John Maitland of Thirl-
stane, "the Chancellor." He held the office, with interruptions,
till 1595. He had the family wit and the family craft, and was
devoid of scruples based on sentiment — devoid, in fact, of any
scruples (he had represented Lethington at the scene of Darnley's
murder) ; but he was a fairly good Protestant, and adhered to the
English alliance. James, like his predecessors, was much vexed
by feuds : on a large scale in the Border and the Highlands, while
in St Andrews, Edinburgh, and other towns, quiet citizens were apt
to be attacked by armed men — a professor on his way to lecture, a
Writer to the Signet on his way to kirk.

As an illustration of daily hfe we may take the case of Habakkuk
Bisset, W.S. This gentleman is said to have received his Christian,
or rather Hebrew, name in a singular way. His father was Queen
INIary's caterer, and requested her to name the child. She was just
going to chapel, and chose the first name at which the Bible opened.
It was Habakkuk. Arrived at years of discretion, Habakkuk had
the misfortune to be engaged as agent for the brother of the laird
of Cockpen against two young Hamiltons of Prestoun. They con-
ceived that ce coquin d' Habakkuk est capable de tout, and vowed
revenge. One afternoon they found poor Habakkuk " going in


peaceable and quiet manner " to evening prayers, for Scottish kirks
in that age were still open "on lawful days," a relic of idolatry
which has been abolished. The young wretches set on Habakkuk
in church, like a new St Thomas of Canterbury; they broke his
head with the pommels of their swords, they chased him out by the
west porch, and they cut off two fingers of his left hand. The two
Hamiltons were denounced as rebels.^*

Such were the accidents of everyday life in an age when the
Town attacked St Mary's College at St Andrews, and the Gown,
under Andrew Melville, defended the position with gallantry and
success. " Spuilzies," or high-handed robberies, were frequent, so
were cattle-houghings ; and skirmishes with loss of life, and a blood-
feud to follow, were not uncommon. As to the political situation
of the country, we have a careful memoir drawn up by Archibald
Douglas (November 14, 1587). The situation showed "a prince
grieved in mind, and a number of nobility almost equally divided
anent their religion into Protestant and Papist, with a number of
indifferent religion." The Indifferents had joined the Catholics to
urge revenge for Mary's death, and alliance with Spain or France,
their demand being religious toleration. The king was trimming
between these factions. But few nobles were Protestants : the
Kirk relied on " the meanest sort of gentlemen, called lairds,
whose second sons and brethren are for the most part merchants
and travellers by sea," while all the burgesses were Protestant.
The Protestant nobles were calm, believing that James would never
change his religion. The lairds and tradesmen were galled by " the
infinite number of piracies " committed by the English, of which
the State Papers contain countless records. Piracy was a flourishing
English profession at this time, Drake being the most notorious of
the sea-thieves who preyed on the commerce of the world. All
Anstruther set forth after an English pirate, ran him to shore
in Suffolk, took his ship and six prisoners, and hanged two at
Anstruther, four at St Andrews. Douglas adds that, as there
are rumours of landings of aliens (probably in Galloway, whither
Morton had returned from Spain), England could expect but cold
support from his injured countrymen.

Archibald's motive, of course, was to alarm Elizabeth, and induce
her, at least privately, to acknowledge James as her successor ; or
promise, at least, not to prejudice his case, nor to give Arabella
Stuart in marriage without his consent. She ought also to make

340 THE ARMADA (1588).

amends for the piracies of her subjects.^^ James was discontented
with Elizabeth's answer to this appeal, and refused her proffer of
^4000 for his assistance. He had less reason to dread rebellion
than Elizabeth had, he said, and was on friendly terms with all
foreign princes except herself. The nobles had no grudge against
him, except for his slackness in avenging his mother. Hunsdon at
Berwick was working for amity, but as he distrusted Archibald
Douglas, the two were likely to interfere with each other, so
Richard Douglas reported (December 27, isSy).^*^

The opening of the year 1588 found Scotland troubled by the
expected advent of the Invincible Armada. The Kirk (February 6,
1588) held a special Assembly, denouncing Huntly, Herries, and
others, with a number of Jesuits. James had amused himself in
the winter by writing a commentary on the Apocalypse, "and in set-
ting out of sermons thereupon against the Papists and Spaniards." i''
Throughout February and March Huntly, Herries, Glencairn, and
others were now obscurely and timidly conspiring with Parma and
Philip, through Colonel Sempill, whose life is a romance, now
urging James to dismiss Maitland and others of his advisers.
Herries raided and spoiled the lands of Drumlanrig and of Douglas,
Provost of Lincluden.^^ Hunsdon denounced Archibald Douglas
as no ambassador; he had been discharged — and Hunsdon had
seen the documents under James's hand — ever since the Master of
Gray was in London. " If he come into Scotland, the king will
take his life." Yet Richard Douglas had always been dealing with
Archibald for James, as if the " old fox " were duly commissioned,
and Archibald had constantly negotiated with Cecil, and, in personal
interviews, with Elizabeth. James had apparently made arrange-
ments for disavowing and betraying the traitor, if that course proved
convenient. 1^ The vast preparations for Philip's invasion were going
forward, and the question was. Which party would James espouse ?
In spite of Hunsdon's allegations, he was writing with his own hand
to Archibald Douglas, and, according to Richard Douglas, would
take the English side (April 28)."'' On May 7 James ordered the
country to arm, but the cautious terms of this proclamation show
that he committed himself to no more than armed neutrality.-^

At this juncture Huntly, in the Catholic interest, was bidding for
Archibald Douglas ; he " sought you so earnestly, and offered me
so fair," says Richard Douglas, who was to manage the sale. But
Huntly's heart failed him, and whatever plot he meant to concoct


with Archibald fell to the ground. Richard Douglas returned from
his secret journey to Huntly, and, after an interview with James,
gave Archibald some cause to feel more secure. " He would be
served by you, . . . seeing you knew sufficiently the end whereat
he shot," the crown of England (May 26).^^ At this time James
attacked Morton (Maxwell), the most dangerous of the southern
Catholics, the man who might have opened the south-western ports
to Spain. Morton, newly home from Spain and France, showed his
hand too soon : his allies, Huntly, Herries, and Claude Hamilton,
left him to take his chance. The king took Lochmaben Castle,
hanged some of the garrison, and captured Morton himself.^^
Angus, the faithful of the Kirk, was made Warden on the west
Marches, — clearly James was decided on the Protestant side, — and
Sir William Stewart, Arran's brother and the denouncer of the
Master, was in high renown. Within a few weeks both of those
men were dead. On July 10 Stewart and Bothwell gave each other
the lie, in James's presence. Stewart added an insult common
among street-boys of the lewder sort. On the 30th of July the
enemies met in the High Street. Stewart stabbed one of Bothwell's
men, lost his sword, and fled. Bothwell followed and wounded
him with his rapier. " Sir William fleeth to a hollow cellar, where
they stabbed him with whingers while he was despatched."

So perished one brother-in-law of John Knox, a man daring and
perfidious. The death of Angus was believed to have been caused
by witchcraft. Pious to the last, he refused all help by counter-
witchcraft, an interesting experiment still practised in rural England.
The witches used the old scheme, an image of wax melted before
a fire, or, at least, this was rumoured.^'^ This is the version of
Calderwood, but a very different story was later told by Bothwell.
That adventurer, himself under a charge of treasonable sorcery,
confessed that he had, indeed, dealt with a wizard, Richard
Graham, but solely in the interests of Angus. It was Lady Angus
who besought Bothwell to bring the wizard to heal her bewitched
husband : Bothwell had no other dealings with the servant of Satan.
This ingenious defence, whereby the pious Angus shielded Bothwell's
character, was apparently the invention of John Colville.^^

Angus the Presbyterian was succeeded by Douglas of Glenbervie,
who, dying soon, was followed by his son, a Catholic. The Max-
well Earl of Morton lost that title, which fell to the betrayer of
Northumberland, Douglas of Lochleven. The evidences of James's

342 "fiddler's wages."

Protestant spirit, especially his action against Morton, who might
have opened the ports of the Stewartry to Spain, encouraged Eliz-
abeth. She sent Ashby to Holyrood with golden promises. He
found James at his devotion, and his letter was written (August 6)
during the agony of the Armada. Presbyterian Scotland had been
greatly alarmed.

"Terrible was the fear, piercing were the preachings, earnest,
zealous, and fervent were the prayers, sounding were the sighs and
sobs, and abounding were the tears " of the Brethren ; so James
Melville writes. The end was the arrival of a battered ship and a
starving crew of Spaniards on the Anstruther beach. James Melville
told the captain that, though enemies of the Pope, yet the Scots were
men, and moved by human compassion. So kail, porridge, fish, and
trenchant remarks on popish errors were supplied to the hungry
mariners, one of whom was Gomez de Medina, a gentleman not
ungrateful.-^ The coasts of the isles of the west were strewrv^ith
wrecks of "that great fleet invincible"; the danger was past and
over, whether of a Spanish landing in the Stewartry or of a Catholic
rising. James had taken his part " against all foreign enemies of this
island," and was thought, " by not the unwisest, too sudden to declare
himself before being assured of that he craved " ; so Richard Douglas
wrote (August 5). Elizabeth, in her alarm, had offered that, on
assurance under the Great Seal, jNIary's death should not prejudice
James's claims : he was also to have a duchy in England, a pension,
^5000 in ready money, and a guard of fifty gentlemen. But in a
week, the peril from Spain being ended, " it seems they would go
back from these offers."-'^

James, in fact, as the Master of Gray said, "got but fiddler's
wages," like all who trusted the falsest and meanest of women. He
was furious, he was enraged against Archibald Douglas ; the Catholic
lords grew stronger, they intrigued with Spain, they expected the king
to combine with them, and Richard Douglas proposed that Archibald
should come to terms with Huntly. The death of Leicester, with
whom James was friendly, complicated affairs, and James proceeded
to pay court to Walsingham. In November Elizabeth sent Thomas
Fowler to deal with James. He found matters going ill ; the Spanish
faction was in credit, the king (Ashton reported, December 13) was
running to his own destruction, the murder of the Due de Guise was
apt to cause Philip of Spain to come to terms with Scotland.^^
Huntly had dallied with the Kirk (partly that he might be allowed


to wed the sister ot Lennox) ; but he was not long to continue, even
in a shadowy way, a Presbyterian. The preachers held a thanksgiving
for the murder of Guise ; for both rehgions impartially rejoiced in
the judicious use of the dagger (December 30).-^ James Melville
revels in "a maist remarkable work of God's justice, making King
Hendrie to cause his Guard stick the Due de Guise under trust, . . .
and syne a Jacobin friar maist treasonably to stick the king. . .
Thus God glorified His name most remarkably." The Deity, it is
to be understood, conducted political enterprises after the fashion of
Philip of Spain, Elizabeth, or any other contemporary prince.

The Kirk throughout all this period was in a nervous condition,
and the preachers were usually very well informed, doubtless through
the English embassy. In January 1589 "the most vigilant mini-
sters " convened in Edinburgh, and warned the king of his danger
from Papists. He was begged not to interfere between the Kirk and
the Catholics whom it might be molesting : Jesuits ought to be
hunted for ; some of the ministers and the laity ought to be given an
inquisitorial commission to explore what nobles and others " profess
religion." James's own sincerity in the truth being doubted, he is
asked to expel all officials who may be suspected of Catholic tend-
encies. These petitions were granted.^**

In February it appeared that the preachers were no '"drytting
prophets" (as Lethington said of Knox); there was really a Catholic
plot. Cecil had laid hands on one Pringle, agent of Colonel
Sempill, and seized letters from Huntly and Errol to the Duke
of Parma and the King of Spain. Huntly and Errol were with
James when the letters were handed to him. This Pringle had
been ex_amined in England on February 15 : he was a soldier of
fortune who had served on both sides in the Low Countries. He
had dealt for Robert Bruce (Huntly's agent with Philip, a singularly
perfidious double spy and trafficker) with Huntly, Bothwell, Craw-
ford, and Lord Claude. With the letters Elizabeth sent a note of
remonstrance. James, she said, seemed to hold such traitors " dear
and near, with a parentage of near alliance," referring to Huntly's
recent marriage with a sister of the young Duke of Lennox. " Good
Lord, methinks I do dream ; no king a week could bear this ! " The
letter by Huntly was of January 24 ; James received it on February
27. Huntly in his epistle regretted that the Armada had not touched
at Scotland, where it would have found countless allies. He gave
advice for a better conducted enterprise. He lamented his recent


verbal adherence to the Kirk. Bruce in his letter frankly confessed
that what the Catholic lords wanted was gold "for some pretended
occasions which will never fall out as they promise." Huntly had
tried to get at the money, but Bruce had defeated him. Bruce's
character was execrable, but his inferences as to Huntly were
probably judicious. All this was pleasant hearing for Huntly, if he
was present, as Calderwood says, when the letters were given to
James ; and it must have been agreeable to Maxwell to hear it averred
that a Jesuit secured his release from prison. Errol had to listen to
the tale of his conversion by Father Edmund Hay ; Crawford to the
narrative of his theological debts to Father Creighton. It seems
hardly credible that their own letters were rehearsed before any
of these peccant noblemen ; if they were, the scene must have been
of the highest comedy. As a matter of fact, Bruce was right in say-
ing that what the Catholic noblemen of Scotland wanted, in the first
place, was doubloons, pistoles, and pieces of eight. All parties were
pensioners : James and the Protestant lords and lairds, of England ;
the opposite faction, of Spain or France.

Huntly was now warded in the castle, where James and Maitland
dined with him next day. He was presently released, riding off at
the head of 200 Gordons, and Claude Hamilton was imprisoned.
By March 14 Huntly was inviting James to dinner, Errol was with
them ; but as a rising of the town was feared, Huntly rode north :
he is said to have asked James to accompany him.^^ James had
one of his tender fondnesses for Huntly ; he also suspected that the
letters attributed to him and other Catholics had been forged in
England. Ashby and Fowler now reported James's condition as
one of melancholy. His life was made a torment by the intrigues
and feuds of his nobles. To Huntly he was sincerely attached :
Bothwell he considered, so he had told Courcelles, as a feather-head ;
but Bothwell had a native love of mischief, and was powerful in the
disorderly region of Liddesdale, and among the Humes, Douglases,
and Logans of Berwickshire and East Lothian. He was also dear to
all ladies. Errol regarded Maitland, the Chancellor, as his private
enemy. Writing to Mr Bruce (the eminent preacher, not the intriguer
with whom he has been confused), Errol professed that Maitland
had accused him " behind his back." He was ready " to be tried
by the Kirk's self" (March 22, 1589).^- But Fowler reported
Errol as not likely to surrender (March 20), and James as "weary
of life." ^^ He was still making excuses for Huntly ; and Bothwell,


like Errol, was at feud with Maitland. In fact, to get rid of that
powerful minister, not a man of their own rank, but indispensable to
the State, was the motive that united Protestants like Bothwell (if
he was a Protestant) and Catholics like Huntly. The old story of
Lauder Bridge and the hanging of the low-born advisers of James
III. was ever the ideal of the nobles : not that Maitland was low-
born, his house was old and good, but he was not of the greatest
noblesse, and he had intellect, which was intolerable.

Errol was " put to the horn " — denounced outlaw — the day after
he wrote to Bruce. These plots of the nobles recur in a stereotyped
and tedious fashion. A rebellion for the actual deposition of the
king was practically impossible. It was said of James that he was
like a monkey. " If I have Jocko in my hands, I can make him
bite you \ if you have Jocko, you can make him bite me." The
constant purpose of malcontents, therefore, was to get James into
their hands, and out of those of whoever held him, Morton, Gowrie,
Arran, or in this case Maitland. At present the idea was that
Bothwell, probably with Montrose, should seize the king and " dis-
court" or slay Maitland, while Huntly and Errol should descend
from the North with the Gordons and the Hays. James was at
Halton, where the capture should have been made. He got news
of the scheme and rode to Edinburgh, whence (April 7) he
summoned his loyal subjects of Fife and the South to repair to
him, "boden" with hackbuts and spears. On the loth of April a
summons was issued against the armed and banded malcontents ;
they must surrender their fortalices. There were several Kers,
Lindsay of Halton (where James had been in peril), Bothwell,
Crawford, Montrose, Fintry (an active Catholic dealer with France),
Errol, Gardyne of Gardyne, many Gordons, including Gordon of
Gight, and a score of Lindsays.^* The confederates, therefore,
were of the lawless Border, and of Perthshire, Aberdeenshire, and
the county of Angus.

The Earl of Angus ^^ and Lord Hamilton commanded the royal
forces under James. The confederates captured the Master of
Glamis in his house : James moved out from Linlithgow with his
levies on April 11. The rebels were assembled at Perth, whence
they retreated by Dundee and Brechin. Now James showed a
spark of his mother's spirit when she drove Murray from hold to
hold into England. Many men deserted the royal banner, but he
pushed on, and with a force reckoned only at 1000 met Huntly with

Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 36 of 60)