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3000 at Brig o' Dee. Errol would have fought, but Huntly's men
dispersed : they had been told that Huntly possessed a royal com-
mission, but, seeing James in arms against him, their hearts failed
them. Defeat meant forfeiture. James reached Aberdeen on April
20. "Bands" were taken from many of the northern chiefs and
barons for the defence of the king and the religion. Forbeses,
Rosses, Grants, Gordons, Mackintoshes, Hays, Dunbars, and
Mackenzies were obliged to sign with Cheynes and Keiths. Huntly
and Crawford were taken and warded in courteous durance : Both-
well was handed to the captain of the Guard.^*"

It is probable that the tradition about James's personal timidity is
greatly exaggerated. He is said to have been unable to look on a
drawn sword. In this rebellion he led his men where he was likely
to see plenty of cold steel. Spottiswoode declares that on the eve
of expected battle he addressed his little force with grace — " I desire
you to stand no longer than ye see me stand " : Colville gives a
similar report to Ashby, as does Fowler (April 18, April 23), and it
is clear that James had shaken off his irresolute melancholy and
played his part very well.

The worst of these successes was that they could be turned to no
real advantage. Despite the feuds and jealousies of the nobles, they
were all at one on a single point, their own right to commit high
treason with practical impunity. The victors knew that in a month,
by a turn of the wheel, they might be the vanquished. They all
keenly objected to forfeitures and capital punishments. James V.
had done his best against the Douglases, to what end ? Merely to
give England the most powerful, dangerous, and perfidious of allies.
By betraying Scotland to the disaster of Solway Moss, Sir George
Douglas practically slew James V. The house flourished again
under Morton, that scourge of the Crown. Morton was overthrown,
but his blood-feud raised up the Presbyterian Angus to capture and
dominate James, and to procure the fall of Arran. Murray and
Mary had once before overthrown and ruined the House of Huntly :
in three or four years the Gordons were as powerful as ever, and the
Huntly of the Brig o' Dee remained a thorn in the side of the State
long after his head and shoulders would have parted company had
he been a subject of Elizabeth. But no sooner was he captured
than James's war leader, Lord Hamilton, Huntly's kinsman, was
found to be opposed to his execution.^" Besides, James was per-
sonally attached to Huntly, and yet again, in a country where


the pretensions of the preachers were really the most threatening
danger to the Crown, Huntly, a Catholic, could be relied on
against the preachers. The maintenance by James of a perilous
equilibrium between Protestant theocrats and greedy Catholic
nobles, and the feudal and personal jealousies of the lords in-
different in religion, at home ; and between Elizabeth and the
Catholic Powers abroad, make up all this chapter of our history.
Original kinds of events are few, but occurrences follow each
other rapidly on to the boards, round behind the scenes, and
on again, like a stage army. Huntly and the other rebels were
to have their exits and their entrances for many a year after

The criminals were examined on May 24.^^ Huntly's examina-
tion was a little garden-party : the prisoner, James, and four or five
of the Council met in the pleasance behind the council house. He
" came in the king's will " : was warded in Borthwick Castle; Bothwell,
under Angus, at Tantallon ; Crawford at St Andrews. They were
all soon at liberty again. ^'^ " The ministers cry for justice," Fowler
reports ; but if every head that the ministers asked for had fallen,
Scotland would have been a shambles. By May 27 the Master of
Gray was at Berwick on his homeward course : " so it Avas seen that
his banishment was only for the fashion," says Calderwood. He
appears to have been restored by means of Maitland, the Chancellor,
and is at once (June 4) found sending intelligence to Cecil, for
whom, and for Rome, he continued to play the double spy. The
rebels, it seems, had practically been induced to surrender by prom-
ises of lenient usage, guaranteed by Hamilton, Angus, Mar,
Morton, Home, the Earl Marischal, and the Master of Glamis.***
Gray had reconciled himself in England with Cecil, and one part of
his business was to aid Fowler in preventing James from wedding
the daughter of Denmark, the Princess Anne.

It was the nature of Elizabeth to interfere against all marriages :
her pretext now was her desire that James should marry the Prin-
cess of Navarre. But he had heard that she was old and crooked,
and much preferred a young lady of fifteen, recommended by his
old tutor, Peter Young, lately his ambassador to Denmark. Eliz-
abeth had sent to James some money during his recent troubles,
and he humorously employed it to fit out, in opposition to the
wishes of the English queen, the Earl Marischal, a man of taste
and learning, on his mission to ask for " the sea-king's daughter


from over the sea." The lady had been bred a Lutheran, and
no one could guess that she would return to the old faith, as
she did.*^ Gray's own credit at Court was now slight : he sighed
for his old abbacy (lay) of Dunfermline, to which, whichever creed
he professed, he was devoutly attached.

The Earl Marischal did sail for Denmark (June i8), and the proxy
marriage with Anne was celebrated on August 20. Meanwhile, as
the star of Gray rose again, that of Archibald Douglas set. He
laments "a disposition to pick quarrels with him," and, apart from
his own unamiable qualities, he probably had taken part with Eng-
land against the Danish marriage. James neglected him ; he begged
from Elizabeth. Maitland also opposed the Danish wedding, but
James was determined to marry to please himself. He therefore
showed more and more favour to possible supporters, the recent
rebels. Errol made his submission in August : on August 1 2 the
rest were set at liberty. This amnesty was in honour of the Royal
bride ; but the September storms drove her little fleet hither and
thither : her own vessel was missing for three days in the Northern
Sea: she had to return home, and on October 22 James placed his
Toyal person at adventure and boldly sailed to join his bride in Den-
mark. He took Maitland with him ; for many reasons it was not
safe to leave Maitland at home. During the king's long absence the
country was quietly governed by nobles — Hamilton, Angus, Lennox,
and Bothwell — while Robert Bruce represented the preachers. All, •
being trusted, were wonderfully on their good behaviour, whereas
had Maitland stayed at home his throat would certainly have been
cut. There were, indeed, germs of feuds in the North, later to
blossom into clan warfare, — the hatred between Huntly and " the
bonny Earl Moray," — and Bothwell's relations with Elizabeth suggest
that she regarded him as a card which might be serviceable some day
in her hand. But James's absence from October to April caused no
disturbances, perhaps rather prevented them.

For some reason the king in this year showed amazing energy in
the fields of Mars and Venus. Fontaine had found him a laggard
in love, and in all courtly graces a grobian. He despised dandies,
and especially detested ear-rings, which his unhappy son wore even
on the scaffold at Whitehall. The youth of James had been con-
tinent ; alone of the Stewarts he left, as far as our knowledge goes,
no scions of amorous adventure. Modern historians accuse him of
•" precocity in vice." Where are the proofs } — even calumny, up to

THE KING'S RETURN (1590). 349

this date, puts in but one filthy word in a scandalous lampoon. We
hear of no young ladies about his Court, and his coldness caused
anxiety among his subjects. Grotesque always, James on leaving
Scotland set forth such an address to the country as only he could
frame.*^ He would have men to know that he was not "a barren
stock." He had formed at Craigmillar, all alone, his resolution to
set sail, and had put aside the objections of the Chancellor, and
indeed he had kept his own counsel as to voyaging personally till
all preparations were made. He firmly objected to being written
down "an irresolute ass." He describes his amusements in Den-
mark as " drinking and driving ower," but he also conversed with
the learned. It is not known that he obtained any evidence as
to the disputed testament of Bothwell, declaring the innocence of
Queen Mary, He returned and was received at Leith on May 20,
1590, with all the tedious forms of pageantry usual at the period.

The preachers, true to themselves, objected to the anointment of
the queen at her coronation as a Jewish ceremon)', or if not Jewish,
then popish. James threatened to call in a bishop. Anything was
better than a bishop, so Mr Robert Bruce did the anointing. ^^

The Kirk at this time was in a highly sensitive condition. Dr
Bancroft in England had preached against the Puritans (February 9,
1588), and his tone had been unworthy of a Christian and a gentle-
man. He rather appeared to imitate on the Episcopal side the style
of Knox's denunciations of " bloudie bischops," and Knox is a bad
model. What Bancroft said of the Scottish preachers (as summarised
by Dr M'Crie) was that they " took it upon them to alter the laws of
the land without the consent of the king and Estates, threatened them
with excommunication, filled the pulpits with seditious and treason-
able doctrine, utterly disclaimed the king's authority, trod upon his
sceptre, laboured to establish an ecclesiastical tyranny of an infinite
jurisdiction, such as neither the law of God nor man could tolerate,"
and so forth. Bancroft would appear to have been " intoxicated by
the exuberance of his own verbosity," but it is not difficult to under-
stand his drift ; and if the preachers did not aim at " infinite
jurisdiction," what did they aim at?

In reply Davidson, the poet and preacher, wrote a letter to
Elizabeth, but it was not despatched. Complaint was made of a
tract of Archbishop Adamson's in which he gave his views about
Presbyterian eloquence. The General Assembly ordered prayers
for " the afflicted brethren in England," the Puritans. Mr James


Melville, in place of being warned by the bad example of Bancroft,
denounced before the General Assembly " these Amaziahs, the
belly-god bishops in England, by all means and money seeking
conformity of our Kirk with theirs, as did Achaz and Uriah with
the altar at Damascus." ** These excesses, as regards a " neighbour
Kirk," we must regret and condemn. Melville implored the
Brethren to ratify the old Fife excommunication against Archbishop
Adamson. It would do Adamson so much good, he said, " if he be
of the number of the elect," which, as a " vennemous enemie of
Christ's kingdome," Adamson probably was not. If, on the other
hand, he was of the elect, it does not seem that excommunication
could harm a person in that desirable position. Mr Melville's
advice was " approved by all," and yet there seems to be a want of
sweet reasonableness in his method. One thing was clear, the long
war of Scottish Presbyterians and English Puritans against the
"belly-god bishops" had begun, and the English Puritans and
Scottish Presbyterians were in alliance. Bancroft preluded to
Laud, Melville to Cargill and Cameron, Blair and Rutherford.
The Reformation brought not peace but a sword that was to rage
through the next century. These beginnings of trouble, these
violences of parson and presbyter, these furies of the rival pulpit-
eers, are more important than the feuds and follies of the noblesse.
In the excitement about forms of religious discipline nobody seems
to have bethought him that the religion was that of Christ, or to
have remembered the spirit of the Master.

The Scottish preachers continued to pray for their afflicted
brethren, the imprisoned Puritans in England. They had been
unwilling to seem to hint a censure of Elizabeth when the axe was
sharpened for Queen Mary, but when the Puritan brethren were
touched they knew no such reluctance. Elizabeth on July 6 wrote
James a stringent letter on the subject. " There has arisen, both in
your realm and mine, a sect of perilous consequence, such as would
have no kings but a presbytery ; and take our place, while they
enjoy our privilege, with a shade of God's Word, which none is
judged to follow right, without by their censure they be so deemed."
This means that the preachers desired the State to be ruled by
God's Word, of which they were the infallible interpreters.

Here really was the storm-centre of the situation. The preachers
might be, and indeed were, much better men morally than the
statesmen, and were free from personal self-seeking. But their


claim to infallibility (a claim implied, if not explicitly uttered), their
appeal to inspiration, in " the preaching place," meant nothing less
than that the State was to be governed by the pulpit. No preten-
sions could be more dangerous ; and kings were really engaged for
a century in a contest for human freedom, freedom from the political
interference of inspired and irresponsible pulpit orators. The royal
methods alienate our sympathies ; their actual aim is lost sight of in
our disgust with their measures — imprisonment, exile, dragoonings,
and the imposition of Episcopacy upon a nation which detested
" the horns of the mitre." But in these rude and unseemly ways
the warfare was waged till, after the Revolution of 1688, the power
of "new presbyter" was broken, as the power of "old priest" had
already been overthrown.

James, as a victor in the bloodless war of Brig o' Dee, and as a
married man, began to take himself seriously. He had a project
for establishing peace and unity among Protestant Powers : he even
sent two ambassadors through Germany. He would expel Jesuits,
reconcile feuds, and make the royal presence more sacred and less
easy of access. By the last idea he managed to offend Lord
Hamilton : the other schemes of reform remained unfulfilled, like
all the Acts of similar tendency which crowd our records. The
confederates of the Brig o' Dee continued to intrigue at home and
abroad. A feud broke out between Huntly and " the bonny Earl
Moray," which had fatal consequences. The Earl did not inherit
by direct descent the old Moray-Huntly blood-feud of 1562. He
was a Stewart who had married the daughter of the Regent Murray,
and his neighbourhood to Huntly would have provoked a quarrel
in any case, a quarrel involving Gordons, Campbells, Forbeses,
Stewarts, and the adjacent Celtic-speaking clans. The causes and
complexities of the feud must be explained later.

James also busied himself much in examining and persecuting
witches and warlocks who had raised inconvenient storms, or in-
trigued to ascertain his future, or to slay by art magic himself (as
Bothwell was accused of trying to do) and his Ministers. The
usual plan was that of " sympathetic magic " ; an image of the
victim, in clay or wax, was melted in water or fire. The idea is
familiar to most savnges, and was current in ancient Greece. It is
possible enough that when the victims knew that the rite was
being performed they fell ill by dint of " suggestion " or " imagina-
tion." Montaigne at this time was giving proofs of the power


of " suggestion " upon the fancy, and so upon the body. Reginald
Scot had recently published his large and entertaining work on
the folly of current beliefs, 'The Discovery of Witchcraft.' In
Scotland not much is heard of punishment for witchcraft before the
Reformation, when Knox, the preachers, and the Regent Murray
conceived it to be their duty to denounce and burn witches.*
There can be little doubt that many witches were in intention
malevolent enough. They believed in their own powers, and
probably dealt in poison on occasion, very clumsily, as in Both-
well's attempt on the king. At the least, their pretensions inspired
terror and the physical maladies which terror can cause. But
James's action, his earnest pedantic curiosity, and the unspeak-
able tortures which he caused to be inflicted, strengthened in
this unhappy matter the hands of the preachers, and reinforced a
superstition which Reginald Scot and others attempted to laugh
away. For more than a hundred years the poorest and most
pitiable of mankind, destitute old women, were at the mercy of
every prying preacher, every hysterical child, every unfriendly neigh-
bour. In the next century we have a melancholy narrative by a
minister. A woman was accused, the parishioners were violently
inflamed against her, the laird was anxious to save her. The
examinations by the minister yielded no grounds of suspicion, but
not to condemn her was to offend the populace, alternately the
tyrants and slaves of the preachers. Happily the minister, after
leaving her in her cell, returned and listened at the door. His
eavesdropping was rewarded. He heard the old woman mumbling
to herself, and he could nearly swear that he heard another voice
replying. That voice must be the devil's. So the woman was
burned, and the minister retained his popularity. The disturbances,
noises, knockings, movements of objects, which are still common
enough in newspaper reports, were always associated with a hysteri-
cal boy or girl who used to " see " the witch.

Possibly the child had been alarmed by the witch, and herself
caused the unexplained disturbances. But the so-called " spectral
evidence " was good enough : the witch was arrested and tortured.
She implicated others : she told fables of the Sabbat, the league
with Satan, and other fragments of folk-lore, tales about Fairyland,
mortals enchanted there, and the fairy queen. The parish fell

* This is insisted on in the record of the Regent's Parh'ament of December 1567
(Act. Pari, Scot., iii. 44).



under a reign of terror : even matrons of noble family were not
safe. The cruel absurdity raged in England as in Scotland, under
Episcopacy as under Presbyterianism. Much of the fault lies at
the door of James, who could not, indeed, have controlled the
preachers, but who went out of his way to encourage beliefs that
ensanguine the courts of African kings and the camps of wandering
Australian tribes.*^ Bothwell was most unfortunately involved in
alleged dealings with witches, and was actually imprisoned in April
1 59 1, though some thought that the preachers had him incarcer-
ated for a flirtation with one of the daughters of the late Earl of
Gowrie. He was confronted with Graham the wizard, who con-
fessed to a scheme for poisoning the king in a magical manner.
A fast was held on this important occasion.*^ Bothwell broke
prison and betook himself to his Border fastness (June 21). He
was not taken : he now was, and remained, a wandering torment and
a probable source of revolution.*^ He had carried off a witness
from the Tolbooth in January while the king was in session there,
and only a few days before his majesty is said to have fled and
hidden in a skinner's shop during a street brawl between Lennox
and the " wanton laird of Logie."

While he was accused of favouring Jesuits, and of suppressing a
book written by John Davidson against Bancroft's celebrated sermon,
he was also assuring the General Assembly that the Kirk was the
purest of Kirks. " The Kirk of Geneva keepeth Pasche and Yule "
(Easter and Christmas), " what have they for them ? They have
no institution. As for our neighbour Kirk in England, it is an evil-
said mass in English, wanting nothing but the liftings " (Elevation of
the Host).*^ From this opinion James was to advance very far.
The Assembly was greatly delighted by James's adherence to the

In April 1591 shame fell upon the unhappy Archbishop of St
Andrews. The preachers gave James no rest about the most hated
of their enemies. We mainly know Adamson from his mortal foes,
who added witchcraft to the charges which they heaped upon him.
Though a scholar, he appears to have been a time-server. We have
no reason to suppose that he was the martyr of an earnest behef in
the order of bishops, or apostolic succession, but rather the kind of
man out of whom tulchans were made. He had served his king
rather than his Kirk, and his king found it at this time convenient
to desert him. Maitland was hostile to him, and that proved fatal.

VOL. II. z


He was reduced to lying in the Castle of St Andrews "like a fox
in a hole," and is accused of inducing Henry Hamilton, M.A., to
attack Professor Welwood on his way to a lecture in St Mary's. The
rector deprived Hamilton of his master's degree, the judges "gave
out compulsitors to " the rector's decision ; Hamilton was presented
with the freedom of the city. Professor Welwood was going to
lecture, a book in one hand and an hour-glass in the other, when
Hamilton attacked him with his sword. Town and Gown flew
to arms, Adamson's brother-in-law was slain in a duel at rapier
and dagger : in the end the town secured the exile of two of
the Welwood faction. All this went down to the discredit of
the Archbishop. ^^ In 1591 he offered a general recantation of
his offences. He had subjected the Kirk men to the king's
ordinances, and {proh pudor I) had taught that presbyteries were
" a foolish invention," though really they are " an ordinance of
Christ." He had intrigued with bishops of the Church of England.
Divers other offences he had committed, he was dying in poverty,
and, crowning humiliation, he owed his daily bread to his old
enemy, Andrew Melville.

The central question between James and the preachers was that
of jurisdiction. James told them that he thought he " had sovereign
judgment on all things within this realm." The reply, by INIr
Robert Pont, was typical. " There is a judgment above yours,
and that is God's, put in the hand of the nmiisters ; for we shall
judge the angels, saith the apostle." The king replied that the
judgment in the text "pertained to every shoemaker and tailor,
as well as to the Kirk." Mr Pont answered, " Christ sayeth,
' Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones and judge,' which is chiefly
referred to the apostles " (indeed, given only twelve thrones, there
were no seats for more), " and consequently to ministers." There
is the claim, frankly stated, and supported by what reasoning !
"A sect of perilous consequence, such as would have no kings
but a presbytery " ! The preachers, how selected we have seen,
pretend, in fact, to apostolical succession without using that phrase,
and claim for themselves on earth the privileges of the apostles
in heaven.

Thus there was civil and ecclesiastical anarchy. The preachers
besought James to reinforce law and order, but James was helpless.
As he said, jurisdictions were often inherited, and the officers
regarded only their private and family interests. He could not


take Bothwell, though Bothwell aimed at his life. Bothwell was
here and there, always in mischief. On December 27, 1591, he
and his retainers broke into Holyrood, he tried to burn down the
door of the king's chamber, and beat with hammers on the queen's.
He had entered through Lennox's stables, and Lennox was not free
from suspicion. The town turned out, rescued James, and captured
a few assailants of no note, who were hanged. The names of the
ruffians prove them of the Border : Hepburns, Douglases, Humes,
Ormistons, Leirmonths (mainly of Ercildoune, the Rhymer's
family), Pringles, and, what looks ill for Lennox, Stewarts. John
Colville, with Douglas of Spot, of Morton's brood, also thought it
for his interest to take part with Bothwell. ^° Craig, the preacher,
publicly informed James that, to punish his laxity, "God had made
a noise of crying and forehammers come to his own doors." ^^
Presently the character of the king himself was blemished by a
deed which for years influenced the politics of Scotland. This was
the murder, by Huntly and his retainers, of the bonny Earl Moray,
commemorated in the familiar ballad. Before describing the cir-
cumstances and consequences of this deed, it is necessary to explore
its causes, which were remote and complicated.

Colin, sixth Earl of Argyll, died in September 1584. His heir
and eldest son, Archibald, was then a child of eight years of age.
His mother was left with a council of six Campbells, including
Campbell of Glenurchy, Campbell of Calder, Campbell of Ard-

Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 37 of 60)