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

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On February 17 James started on his march to Aberdeen, and
Bothwell had an address to the preachers placarded at the
cross. ^^

The Catholic leaders, as usual, ran away, on this occasion as far
as Caithness. But James was suspected by Burgh of favouring the
rebels, and it was plain that he did not intend to ruin them by con-
fiscation. That policy never prospered, in fact was very seldom
permitted. Mary was not allowed to forfeit Murray and Morton :
the great families, though in separate factions, were too near kin to
let any of them be ruined. Bothwell by this time was in friendly
communication with Cecil, and Elizabeth was sending Mr Locke to
announce her acceptance of Bothwell's offers.'^'' James roundly
informed Burgh that if Elizabeth persisted in supporting Bothwell,
" not only our amity is at an end, but I shall be enforced to join in
friendship with her greatest enemies for my own safety." "^^ James
was, of course, bitterly censured for his leniency to the Catholic
lords. But, apart from his want of power, they were his last resort
against the endless treacheries of Elizabeth, who systematically
aided his dangerous and insolent personal foes. Through her ally,
Bothwell, she was to win another triumph of insult over the son of
her victim, Mary.

It was once more the turn of the General Assembly (April 24) to
increase the perplexities of James. They demanded "that all
Papists within the realm may be punished according to the laws of
God and this realm." '^" The laws of God, as far as they are published
in Holy Scripture, do not, indeed, denounce fine, imprisonment,
exile, and death against Catholics. But penalties are denounced
against idolaters in certain parts of the Old Testament, and the
preachers (who alone could interpret the Word of God) identified
Catholics with idolaters. If, again, any one asked why the preach-
ers were infallible interpreters of the divine will (as Ninian Winzet
asked Knox), the answer would seem to be that parish congre-
gations are inspired in their popular elections of preachers, a dogma
which, no doubt, could be supported by judiciously " waled "
texts. But James could not, and would not, carry out to the full
the extirpation of his Catholic subjects. In May and June in-
trigues went on for the restoration either of Arran or of Maitland.
Every kind of violent act, abduction, and murder was frequent in


Edinburgh. The queen, for some personal reason, was opposed to
Maitland's return to power, and Bowes tried, but vainly, to prevent
the despatch of Robert Melville as an envoy to Elizabeth. At the
English Court Archibald Douglas had almost dropped out of sight ;
but he was still residing in London, in a " semi-official " way. As
far back as June 1592 a sympathetic correspondent in Scotland
told him that "the ministers is sorry for Bothwell," who, if at
liberty, " would put all the papists out of the country." ^^ It is a
humorous fact that Father Creighton, at this very time, reckoned
Bothwell in a list of Scottish Catholics, probably with reason.
Bothwell gulled the Kirk (Jesuit Archives).

It was alleged in England that James, too, was mixed up in the
intrigue with Spain, and apparently that his advice to Spain was
seized with the papers of George Ker, but suppressed in the inter-
est of the king. We have seen that at the time when the Spanish
Blanks were seized the Kirk suspected James at least of partiality
to the Catholics who signed them. Calderwood writes : " Mr John
Davidson, in his Diary, recordeth on the 26th of May (1593) that
among the letters of the traffickers intercepted were [st'c] found one
to the Prince of Parma, which touched the king with knowledge
and approbation of the trafficking, and promise of assistance, &c.,
but that it was not thought expedient to publish it. Mr John was
acquaint with the discovery, and all the intercepted letters." ''*

Now it seems certain that there actually was a manuscript of
James's among the papers found with George Ker. It is printed in
the 'Hatfield Calendar' (iv. 214). The piece is really a balancing,
after the manner used by Cecil and Robinson Crusoe, of the pros
and cons of accepting Spanish assistance. It may be of ]\Iarch-
June 1592. James gives first the reasons which may be put for-
ward in favour of instant action by Spain. On the other side is the
unreadiness of Scotland. " Since I can scarce keep myself from
some of their invasions, much less can I make them invade other
countries." He would prefer the attempt to die down, as too
many are in the secret. If anything is to be done, he would pre-
fer to do it himself, with some small help of foreign men and
money. But he knew that /te could not do it, and a successful
invasion by Philip was not in his interest. He threw cold water on
the whole plot. If once he had Scotland settled, and was in the
mind, he might forewarn Spain, and " attain to our purpose." The
paper is indorsed, " Copy of the Scotch King's instructions to Spain,


which should have been sent by Pourie Oge " (Ogilvie of Pourie),
"but thereafter were concredit to Mr John Ker, and withdrawn"
(not published) " at his taking for safety of his Majesty's honour "


Any one who reads the whole document will find that James has
no heart for the project, that he is merely " driving time," balancing
arguments, and feebly dreaming of what great things he might do
"when I like, hereafter." No mortal would send such a paper as
"Instructions to Spain," if he wanted to keep Spain friendly to his
purpose. Only prejudice could style the paper " Instructions to
Spain." Still less is the document, as Calderwood quotes David-
son, "a letter to the Prince of Parma." James wanted '■'■fewer
strange princes in the secret of it." The paper may have been
meant for Father Creighton, to quiet that bustling priest, or it may
have been a secret memorandum which fell into Pourie's hands,
Pourie being an impudent rogue and double spy. The memor-
andum was written many months before Ker's intended start to
Spain with the Blanks ; but, on the other hand, the business for
which the Blanks were wanted had been arranged by Creighton
before James's memorandum was written, as Ker confessed under
torture. We can only say that the memorandum, if really known
to the preachers, must have inflamed their habitual suspicion of
James. But he never was on the side of Huntly and the other
Catholic peers. They knew and said as much m reports to Philip."^

He sent Robert Melville to London, and Melville there found
Archibald Douglas still in touch with the English Court, and
supported at the expense of Elizabeth.'^^ Ehzabeth in July saw
Melville, and wrote one of her unintelligible pieces of euphuism
to James, avoiding details as to her support of Bothwell.''" At
about the same time (June 22) Maitland at last returned to Court,
attended by Hamilton, Montrose, Seton, Glencairn, Eglinton, and
others. Lennox, on the other side, who shared the hatred against
Maitland of the queen, Bothwell, and most of the nobles, had Mar,
Morton, Home, and the Master of Glamis among his backers,
Arran was not far off, passions were inflamed by various feuds,
Maitland withdrew to Lethington (June 28)."^ In these stormy
days Parliament met, and Bothwell was forfeited, but the Catholic
earls remained untouched. For this leniency the king's Advocate,
Makgill, gave reasons in law, but the preachers were infuriated.
Davidson (July 22) imprecated "sanctified plagues" for James's


behoof. As that " sanctified plague,"' Bothwell, surprised and
seized James on July 24, by that very trap, Lady Cowrie's house,
which James had tried to render harmless, Mr Davidson's prayer
was instantly effectual : he was a prophet as well as a poet. The
ungodly might even suggest that Davidson knew what was im-
pending, and that his inspiration had no source more di\-ine or
remote than the English Embassy, Elizabeth had sent Mr Locke
to Scotland, and he, with Colville, a veteran intriguer, and Both-
well, had secretly met in Edinburgh and organised their plot.

Some years had passed since the king's last capture. It is to
be noted that such attempts continued to be made almost till the
year when he attained the crown of England. In many instances
these assaults had the support, or at least the sympathy, of the
preachers. It is improbable that the king, and Scotland, could
ever have escaped the sufferings consequent on such anarchic
methods except by the turn of events which placed James on
the throne of a more powerful and more law-abiding country
than his ancestors kingdom. The combinations of lawless nobles
and powerful preachers must, but for the English succession, have
been fatal to Scottish civilisation.


^ Thorpe, i. 542. ' Calderwood, iv. 611.

* Illustrations of Scottish History, Miss Warrender, p. 27.

* Spottiswoode, ii. 365-371.

' Spanish State Papers, ir. 45, 51, 100. 13S, 145, 308, as to the obduracy of
James. Also pp. 179, 204, 227, 320, 427, 429, as to the Catholic traffickers.
° Thorpe, Calendar, i. 543, 544.
" Pn\-\- Council Register, iv. 157, 158.

* Hatfield Calendar, iii. 243 ; Murdin, pp. 5S7, 5SS.

* The report of the case is derived from the Register of the Privy Council (iv.

^^ Hatfield Calendar, iii. 25S, 259. May 22, Richard to Archibald Douglas.

^ Gowrie had no counsel, Norfolk had none ; Archibald Douglas, in his collusive
trial, had pleaded his own case, as he was well qualified to do. He vowed that
he "trusted to his innocence, and desired no prolocutor." The Earl of Orkney
had prolocutors (1615). In 1600, in the Gowrie case, the accused were dead, and
their representatives dared not appear.

^ Act. Pari. Scot., iii. 427-521. " Spanish State Papers, iv. 141.

" Privy Council Register, iv. 204, 205.


" Hatfield Calendar, iii. 295, 296. J'' Hatfield Calendar, iii. 299-301,

" Autobiography of James Melville, p. 260.

" Hatfield Calendar, iii. 307, 317 ; Calderwood, iv. 677.

^ Hatfield Calendar, iiL 313, 326; March 18, 15S8.

^ Hatfield Calendar, iii. 322.

^ Privy Council Register, iv. 277.

^ Hatfield Calendar, iiL 326.

■^ Calderw^ood, iv. 678, 679 ; Privy Council Register, iv. 286-293.

^ Calderwood, iv. 679, 680.

^ Border Calendar, iL 487.

"^ Meh-ille (the Rev.), pp. 262-264.

"" Hatfield Calendar, iii. 349, 350.

® Thorpe, Calendar, i. 551, 552.

^ Ashton to Hunsdon, Thorpe, Calendar, L 552. *> Calderwood, v. 1-3.

^* Calderwood, v. 14-37 ; Thorpe, Calendar, i. 555, 556.

^ Calderwood, v. 53, 54.

^ Thorpe, Calendar, i. 557.

^ Privy Council Re;:;ister, iv. 371-373.

^ This Angus, successor to the good Presbyterian Earl, was Douglas of Glen-
bervie. He died soon afterwards, and his son, the new Angus, was a Catholic.
He was served heir to his father in November 1591.

^ Privy Council Register, iv. 371-381; Calderwood, v. 54-56; Spottiswoode,
ii. 395 ; Thorpe, Calendar, i. 559.

"" Thorpe, Calendar, L 560.

^ Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 563.

^ Calderwood, ii. 57, 58.

** Papers of the Master of Gray, p. 157.

'*^ Papers of the Master of Gray, pp. 161 -164.

^ Spottiswoode, ii. 400-404.

^ Spottiswoode, iL 408. Compare Calderwood, v. 95, 96, who says nothing
'A the king's threat.

'^ Calderwoofi, v. 100-104.

^ For "Witchcraft" see Mr Gumly, in 'Phantasms of the Living.'

^ Thorpe, Calendar, ii, 591 ; Border Calendar, L 379, No. 709.

^ Calderwood, v. 132.

*® Calderwood, v. 106, 112.

*® James Melville, pp. 272-276.

^ Calderwood, v. 140, 141 ; Thorpe, Calendar, iL 600.

'^ Calderwood, v. 142, 143.

^ Gregory, History of the Western Highlands and Isles, pp. 245-253.

^ Thorpe, Calendar, iL 600.

** Privy Council Register, iv, 725. ^ Privj' Council Register, iv. 733.

^ Calderwood, v. 148. *'' Calderwood, v. 150-156.

* Melville, p. 294. " Second Book of Discipline, iii. 12.

** Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 609. ^ Calderwood, v. 169.

*2 Bowes to Burghley, August 15, Thorpe, Calendar, p. 611 ; Calderwood, v.
173, 174. See also, in ' Border Minstrelsy,' the ballad of "The Laird of Logic,"
and in Chiid's 'English and Scottish Ballads.'

® Calderwood, v. 179.

•* Calderwood, v. 186-190. Bowes to Burghley, December 4, Thorpe, Calendar^
ii. 618. For Lady Gowrie, cf. Thorpe, ii. 611, No, 6.


370 NOTES.

''"' The letters are in Calderwood, v. 192-214. See also Thorpe, Calendar, ii.
618-623. Also ' A Discoverie of the unnatural and traiterous Conspiracie of
Scottish Papists,' published by the king's command. John Norton, London.
1593. For the Spanish view, Spanish State Papers, iv, 603-606.

''^ Spanish State Papers, iv. 606.

^' Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 622.

^ Forbes - Leith, Narratives of Scottish Catholics, pp. 220, 221. Quoting
Father Tyrie's report. State Papers, Elizabeth, MS., vol. 1. No. 4. Appar-
ently not Calendared.

^^ Calderwood, v. 231. ''** Thorpe, Calendar, v. 624-626.

^^ Tytler, ix. 89, citing Warrender MSS. These, for long supposed to have
perished by fire, have recently been rediscovered, and are of importance.

''* Calderwood, v. 241.

^■^ Hatfield Calendar, iv. 206. Francis Tennant, a bourgeois spy, later hanged,
to Archibald Douglas, June 4, 1592.

7* Calderwood, v. 251.

^' Spanish State Papers, iv. 5S8-592, 603-607. Mr Hume Brown (ii. 216) says
that James had a secret understanding with the Catholic earls, and cites ' Spanish
State Papers,' iv. 603. But compare the same series, iv. 606 and 617, and Major
Martin Hume's 'Treason and Plot' with Mr T. G. Law in 'Miscellany of the
Scottish History Society,' vol. i. I venture to think that James did little worse
than avoid the last extremities with the Catholic earls, keeping in touch with
their schemes as an ultimate resource. Cf. p. 38S, note.

''^ Hatfield Calendar, iv. 334.

''' Hatfield Calendar, iv. 344.

'^ Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 629, 630.




Bothwell's new enterprise was at once the most grotesque and the
most picturesque of those to which James fell a victim. A Stewart
and a Hepburn, Bothwell was aided by the clan of which his king
was the chief. Lennox, and Ochiltree, and Atholl, all in the plot,
were all Stewarts (the existing House of Atholl are Murrays of Tulli-
bardine in the male line and Stewarts by female descent). The
Countess of Atholl was a daughter of Lady Cowrie, whose revenge
for her husband's execution in 1584, and for the insults and injuries
inflicted on herself by Arran, had never yet been sated. The House
of Cowrie had been restored in 1585, on Arran's fall, to its lands and
dignities ; its head, John, Earl of Cowrie, was at this time a youth of
sixteen or seventeen, who had been studying in the University of
Edinburgh under the celebrated minister, Mr RoUock. Probably he
was now at work on his thesis for his Master's degree, which he took
in August. He was then an ardent Protestant, and we shall presently
find him already engaged in a revolutionary conspiracy against the
king. We are not informed, however, that he was present or took
any part in Bothwell's new enterprise, though it had for its base
the town house of the Cowrie family — the house which James had
held in suspicion (p. 362).

The house of the Cowries was behind and adjacent to the Palace
of Holyrood, and thither on the night of July 23 Bothwell, with the
basely adventurous John Colville, was secretly conveyed. Between
the Cowrie mansion and the palace was a covered passage patent at
all times. Coming through this passage, from the palace. Lady
Atholl led back Bothwell and Colville into James's ante-chamber, hid


them behind the arras, and locked the door of the queen's chamber.
Here, it seems probable, they waited while the gentlemen of the clan
of Stewart took possession of the outer and inner courts of Holyrood
in the grey of the July dawn. James, early astir, was "private in a
retiring-room," his majesty's clothes were loose, and " the points of
his hose not knitted up," when Colville and Bothwell appeared before
him with drawn swords in their hands. Bothwell said to the king,
" Lo, my good bairn, you that have given out that I sought your life,
it is now in this hand 1 " So Bothwell later told the Dean of Dur-
ham.^ James, with a cry of treason, fled as well as he could to the
queen's chamber. The door was locked. He turned and called the
intruders false traitors, bidding them strike if they durst. Bothwell
and Colville knelt down, AthoU and Ochiltree arrived and interceded
for the impudent suppliants. James derided their pretence of
asking for forgiveness and offering to " thole an assize " on the
old charge of witchcraft. He would not live a prisoner and dis-
honoured. Bothwell, still kneeling, kissed the hilt of his sword and
offered it to James, lowering his head and tossing aside his long
love-locks. James rose and took Bothwell apart into the embrasure
of a window. News had now reached the citizens, " the bells
were rung backward " ; the burgesses, however, gathered but slowly.
They may have heard Davidson's sermon ; was it for them to in-
terfere between the king and " sanctified plagues " ? Hume of
North Berwick, with a few other gentlemen, came under the king's
windows, offering to rescue him or lose their lives. Sir James
Melville was with Hume, and " cried up at the window of his
majesty's chamber, asking how he did ? He came to the window,
and said all would be well enough, — he had agreed with them on
certain conditions, ' which are presently to be put into writing.
Therefore,' said he, 'cause so many of the town as are come to my
relief to stay in the abbey kirkyard till I send them further word,
and return again within half an hour yourself. ' " But few of the
town had gathered, and these now retired, " so great was their mis-
content for the time that many desired a change." Melville then
went to the rooms of the Danish ambassadors, who sent him back
to make anxious inquiries. James appeared at the window with the
queen and said that all was well. Melville was later admitted to
see James, quoted Plutarch, and prosed in the manner of Polonius
Later James met the ambassadors, but could not tell them whether
he was captive or not. Captive he was ; a new guard was ap-


pointed, under Ochiltree, one of the conspirators.^ There was
something obscure and unfathomable in this plot. Bothvvell, we
shall see, met the Dean of Durham, who on August 15 favoured
Burghley with a second account of his interview with Bothwell,
fuller than that of August 5. The Queen of Scotland, the Dean
said, was " not unacquainted with his greatest affairs," and the Dean
seems to hint that she was better for England to deal with than the
king. Moreover, she was jealous of Morton's "fayre daughter."
A letter had been written as to the succession to the Scottish
throne, intercepted, and brought to Bothwell. The Dean ends by
strenuously recommending Bothwell to Elizabeth as " likeliest to do
her faithfuUest service in that country." It is useless to guess at
the intrigue as to the Scottish throne : it is not credible that the
young Gowrie was thought of, on the strength of his fabled Tudor

Whatever Bothwell's secret purposes and his relations with James's
queen may have been, the conditions which he accepted from James
were these : Full remission of all offences for himself and his
accomplices, to be ratified in the Parliament of November 1593.
Home, Maitland, the Master of Glamis, and Sir George Hume to be
dismissed from office ; Bothwell and the rest meanwhile to retire
" where they thought good." Lennox, AthoU, the Master of Gray,
the Provost, the bailies, and six preachers signed this treaty;* "the
ministers of the Kirk showed themselves highly gratified at Both-
well's return," says Bowes.

Such was the plot, directed from England by the Ministers of
Elizabeth, and worked by the Stewarts and Ruthvens of Gowrie. It
demonstrates the utter helplessness of James, who, denounced by
his clergy, lost the services of his father's murderer, Maitland ; and,
betrayed by his own clan, was thrown on the mercy of his most
insolent rebel. If, in such circumstances as these, James was un-
willing to extirpate his Catholic subjects, and tempted to look
abroad for the assistance denied him by his kinswoman, Elizabeth,
by his clan, and by his clergy, perhaps he cannot be very severely
blamed. His Catholic earls, the Spanish party in Scotland, did
blame him for keeping them in hand while he had no intention of
joining them.^

Bothwell now rode to Berwick, met John Carey (son of Lord
Hunsdon), professed his gratitude to Elizabeth, and announced his
hope of being made " Lord Lieutenant of the whole country." The


ambition of his accomplice, John Colville, was to be Secretary of
State ! Bothwell then rode to Durham, on his southward way,
quartered himself on Toby Matthew, Dean of Durham, already
mentioned, and regaled the horrified dignitary of a respectable
Church by a lively account of his performances.^ He had not
betrayed Elizabeth to James, he said ; and he had told the king that
he might forget the death of Mary, as James had forgiven it. He
advised that a plan of Elizabeth's for uniting the Catholic and
Protestant parties in Scotland should be deferred, "lest the multi-
tude of the one may in time, and that soon, wreck the other, being
fewer in number, and so become rulers of the king." Hence it
would appear that the Catholics were still a numerical majority,
which is unexpected. Bothwell then wrote a letter to Elizabeth,
"Most Renowned Empress," kissing "her heavenly hands." Had
he been an English subject, Bothwell would have rivalled Essex — he
wrote in the style that Gloriana loved. He picked up on the
Borders some hounds and horses for James, and was " cleansed " of
witchcraft at his assize on August lo. Being in power, he was
acquitted, but a letter to him from John Colville, later, makes it
very probable that Bothwell had really tried an experiment in
poisoning James, by aid of Richard Graham, the wizard. He
had only dealt with the wizard Graham, he said, in the interests
of the dying Angus.'^

From that day it is almost impossible to paint the maelstrom of
eddies, waves, and cross-currents of tides upon which James swam
like a cork, now submerged, now visible to the anxious eye. He
owed his life, probably, to the circumstance that he had no successor
in whose interest it was worth while to kill the king. Hamilton had
a better claim than Lennox, among the Stewarts Bothwell was of an
illegitimate branch, AthoU and Ochiltree were much too remote,
Gowrie can hardly have been thought of, and, in any case, all,
though banded together by the blood -feud for the bonny Earl
Moray, were too jealous of each other to attempt a change of
dynasty. James's queen was a Bothwellian : chiefly because she
hated Maitland, partly because she always opposed her husband,
partly, perhaps, because Bothwell was "a gay gallant" and an
amusing companion.

On the night of the day after Bothwell's acquittal on the charge
of witchcraft James had arranged an escape. The Humes were at
feud with the Hepburns, — the whole tangle is a mass of family


feuds, — and Home was a Catholic. The idea was that Huntly
should be ready with his Gordons, Home with his Humes, and, as
James had an unwonted tetidresse for the daughter of Morton (that
is, Douglas of Lochleven), Morton also was in the affair. Three
Erskines about the king's person were of the king's party, and two of
his gentlemen, Lesley and Ogilvy, were reckoned trustworthy. James
gave out that he was to ride to Falkland, but a speedy nag was
intended to bear him to Morton's house, Lochleven, while Home
was to attack the hostile faction in Edinburgh. But in the grey
dawn of August 11 Lesley was detected as he stole through the
palace grounds with James's ring and a letter for Home.^ So
wakeful a guerilla soldier as Bothwell was not to be caught asleep :
the Erskines, Thomas and James, Ogilvy, and Lesley were handed
over to Ochiltree's guardsmen, and a quarrel broke out between
Bothwell and James. He would not leave the king, or let him out
of his power, till he was formally restored by Parliament and had
avenged the bonny Earl Moray. Bowes was called for, and protested,
with an innocent air, against the enterprises of Bothwell. The
preachers and burgesses arranged a modus vtvendi, being, " after a

Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 39 of 60)