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

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sort," guarantors of the king's promises. Bothwell on one side,
Maitland, Home, and the Master of Glamis on the other, were to
avoid the Court till Parliament met in November. So Bruce, the
preacher, wrote to the presbytery of Dunfermline (August 15).^

On September 9 a convention assembled at Stirling. A strange
cross-current arose from the intrigues of Elizabeth and of Cecil's
son, Sir Robert, who now was chief English manager of Scot-
tish affairs. We have seen that Bothwell, immediately after the
success at Holyrood, entertained the Dean of Durham with Eliz-
abeth's plan for uniting Scottish Protestants and Catholics. How
she expected fire and water to become bosom friends it is hard
to understand, and Bowes (September 6) wrote to express his
bewilderment. The arrangement could not be concealed from
" jQ^(>£,6" — that is, the preachers. As Huntly and the Catholics
were certain to demand religious toleration, the preachers would
be purely frantic. Like Lord Hamilton, when James ventured
to hint at toleration, they would exclaim, " Then are we
all gone, then are we all gone, then are we all gone ! If
there were no more to withstand, I will withstand."^*'

The desperate intrigue, however, certainly went on till Elizabeth
presently shook off Huntly and the Catholics, with whom she was


certainly intriguing as late as September 6. Elizabeth, indeed, had
apparently thrown over Bothwell, in a letter of August 23, bidding
James " kingly and resolutely make his unsound subjects know
his power," and expressing her doubt whether the news of his
arrangement with his rebel was not an auditory hallucination of
her own.^^ On September 6 Bowes wrote that " Huntly and his
friends will go forward agreeable to their offers to her majesty," ^-
though he also expressed, as we saw, his perplexity about the
arrangement. At Linlithgow (September 11) Bothwell was ap-
prised that he must not come near Jarries, though he would be
formally restored by Parliament in November ; after which he
must quit the realm till he had licence to return. ^^ James, in
fact, had recovered his liberty, and he left Stirling with Lennox.
Why Lennox had deserted Bothwell is uncertain, but he may
have heard of his ambitious design to become Lieutenant-Gentral
of the whole kingdom. Mar and Morton accompanied James
to Lochleven, and there he was joined by Home and the gentle-
men of his name, with the Master of Glamis. All these, by the
original compact with Bothwell, had been debarred the Court.
Maitland with the Kers of Cessford also came to James, and it
was clear that the Stewart-Ruthven-Bothwell combination against
their chief was broken up, while on September 22, by public
proclamation at Edinburgh Cross, Bothwell was forbidden to ap-
proach the king under pain of treason.^* Ochiltree ceased to be
captain of the Guard ; the post was given to Home, a Catholic :
to be sure the Guard never interfered with any gentleman who
had a fancy for kidnapping his monarch.

Elizabeth remarked (October 7) that, inured as she was to
Scottish revolutions, " I should never leave wondering at such
strange and uncouth actions. . . . One while I receive a writ of
oblivion and forgiveness, then a revocation with new additions of
later consideration." "Sometimes, some you call traitors with pro-
claim" (meaning Huntly, Angus, and Errol), "and anon there
must be no proof allowed, though never so apparent against
them." Elizabeth had abandoned her intrigue with Huntly, hence
these tears. "And for Bothwell ! Jesus! Did ever any muse
more than I that you could so quietly put up so temerarious
indigne a fact. ... I refer me to my own letters what doom
I gave thereof." Elizabeth had a disinterested passion for lying :
James, of course, knew perfectly well that Bothwell's shaft came


out of her quiver.^^ Probably Elizabeth's letter was written after
Carey (September 29) had given Cecil alarming news from Berwick.
The king had nobody to whom he could intrust his personal safety
except the Catholics. " There is nothing but peace, and seeking to
link all the nobility together, which I hope will never l>e."'^'^

The preachers were as little in love with peace as Carey. Toler-
ance in religion has become so much a commonplace to recent
generations that we can scarcely understand the ferocity which the
ministers of the Kirk were to display at this and other critical
moments. But their behaviour is intelligible, if we accept the
statements, already cited, of Archibald Douglas and of Bothwell.
The Catholics may still have been — according to Bothwell, they
were — the numerical majority in Scotland, There, as in England,
they were denied the exercise of their faith by an organised revolu-
tionary minority. The Indifferents, it is probable (or to the
preachers it seemed probable), would openly desert the Kirk as
soon as toleration was proclaimed. The Church is infinitely
more agreeable than the Kirk to the natural man. Not to speak
of the charms of her service, of her music and other ecclesiastical
arts, the Church had thrown her sanction over holidays and harmless
sports, over all the innocent traditional recreations and mummeries
which Stubbes was reviling in ' The Anatomy of Abuses.' Relics
of paganism, of agricultural magic, these May-day, or Easter, or
Christmas amusements may have been, but all the offence had
been purged from them : their original significance was lost, though
now in many cases recovered by the researches of Mannhardt and
Mr Frazer. To these things, if once toleration was granted, the
populace would eagerly revert. They would gladly be emancipated,
too, from the inquisitorial tyranny of kirk-sessions, the prurient pry-
ing into the details of private morals or absence of morals, a sub-
ject to which we shall return. It is the boast of writers who take
the traditional view of the Reformation in Scotland, that it raised
the moral tone of the country. To do this was the object of the
Presbyterian clergy, but their own manifestos constantly bear testi-
mony to their failure. Profanity, adultery, simple fornication, incest,
murder, and robbery were rife, and this condition of morals was
not peculiar to parishes inadequately served by ministers, or not
" planted " with ministers at all.

Thanks to the ministers, education was relatively prosperous, and
the University of St Andrews, under a scholar and Latin poet like


Andrew Melville and his "Regents," was perhaps not inferior, in
elegance and range of learning, to the same university to-day. But
the education, for one reason or another, bore but scanty fruit in
literature. In the June of the year with which we are concerned
(1593) Christopher Marlowe died in London, a great poet in a
throng of great poets. To compare with these what had Scotland
to show? Of her poetry in that age, what remains in common
knowledge except such ballads as "The Queen's Marie" and "The
Bonny Earl Moray " ?

Meanwhile the intolerance of the Kirk must have bred the ugly
vice of religious hypocrisy. The crypto-Catholics and Indifferents
were compelled to a hypocritical compliance with the Kirk. Writers
like Mr Froude have applauded the honesty of the Reformers, men
who would not pretend to believe in what they deemed to be a lie.
But the pretence of this belief was enforced on reluctant Catholics.
The coolest and darkest intriguer of the age, Logan of Restalrig,
would end a treasonable letter with " Christ have you in His holy
keeping." As to the public morals of the age, a whole generation
after the Reformation, every page of this book testifies to their
unspeakable iniquity. One thing was obvious to the preachers —
admit toleration, and, as Hamilton said, " then are we all gone."
The country would veer round to the ancient faith : Presbyterian
excommunication, that cruel weapon, that "gully of absolute
power," would become a jest. The ancient Church would return,
and where would the holders of Church lands be ? When we look
at the patriotism of the persecuted English Catholics, in face of the
Armada, we ask why these men were forbidden the exercise of a
religion which left them true to their country? It might rather
appear that tolerance would remove all temptation to treasonable
dealings with France or Spain. The Scottish Catholics could only
hope to escape a grinding persecution by aid of foreign Powers.
It is impossible to pretend that the Protestants were ethically
better men than the Catholics. But the preachers knew their
own business. Grant toleration, " and then are we all gone," the
Kirk and the lay holders of Church lands in Scotland would be
swamped and lost in the reaction, and what the preachers believed
to be " the Truth " would perish among men. They were as con-
vinced, and as despotic, as St Dominic.

The king was known to be capable of tolerance, like his mother.
In 1584 Father Holt had written, "He has evidently made up his


mind to grant full liberty of worship, provided he can do so con-
sistently with his own personal safety, and the peace of the
country." ^"^ He had especially no wish to alarm the Catholics
of England by proving himself a persecutor. Thus, for the
preachers, the most drastic measures were a matter of life and

P'ife, where the two Melvilles ruled, was foremost in the agita-
tion. The Provincial Assembly met at St Andrews on September
25? 1593- Davidson was present — the most irreconcilable of the
Brethren. The danger, he said, proceeded from "the defection of
the king," who had shaken off Bothwell, that sanctified plague. It
was proposed to excommunicate the Catholic earls, who, when
undergraduates at St Andrews, must have signed the Confession of
Faith, James Melville pronounced the sentence, and delivered
them to Satan. All who harboured them were placed under the
same anathema. The sentence of these shepherds of the East
Neuk was to be intimated in every kirk in the kingdom. A fast
was declared to atone for many sins, and the persecution of the
English Puritans, and the commercial intercourse with Spain.
Three preachers were sent to scold Morton for dealing with
idolaters. Home was given into the hands of Satan.

While the preachers thus employed the spiritual weapon, a
new and very dangerous conspiracy against the king was rising
in the North. Bothwell kept all the country south of Forth in
agitation : he was now approached by a group of Northern lords.
Atholl on October 8 wrote to him from Dunkeld, addressing him
as " My Lord and Loving Brother." He feared that the " Spanish
factionaries," Huntly, Errol, and Angus, were likely to win over
the king, " to the imminent peril of religion," and to the endanger-
ment of relations with Elizabeth, " that most gracious and benign
queen." He therefore advised Bothwell to listen to Henry Locke,
the man whom Cecil used in his darkest enterprises. Bothwell
was to deal through Locke with Elizabeth, who had in that very
week been expressing to James her horror of Bothwell ! Atholl
added that he would aid Bothwell against James, and that his
allies were the Earls of Cowrie and Murray, the Masters of
Montrose and Gray, and the Forbeses.^^

James was not unaware of the machinations of Atholl and
Cowrie. They were holding a convention at the Castle of Doune
when James made a descent on them. Atholl had warning and


fled : ]\Iontrose and Cowrie awaited the king's arrival, " and wei
hardlie persevit be the king's companie, and in perrele to have
been slayne," had not Lord Hamilton rescued them.^^ Spottis-
woode says that Bothwell had trysted with Atholl at Stirling for
an effort against the king for October i ; that Atholl arrived, but
found that James had gone to Linlithgow, where were Hamilton
and other nobles. Bothwell, knowing this, did not "keep tryst"
with Atholl, who pretended that he had mustered his men at
Doune Castle (the house of the Earl of Moray) merely to hold
a court. James did not accept this excuse, — what court needed the
presence of Atholl, Cowrie, Montrose, and Moray ? Home was
sent to reconnoitre, and then took Montrose (and Cowrie, as Moysie
adds).2° (It was at this time, October 8, that Atholl wrote to Both-
well as to dealing with England through Cecil's agent, Locke.)
Montrose explained that he was merely a messenger from Atholl to
explain to James that they were all engaged in holding a court of

He was dismissed, and the affair passed over at the time ; but
the intrigues between the Atholl confederacy, Bothwell, and the
agents of England endured. Young Cowrie, now an Edinburgh
student of sixteen or seventeen, was in 1600 to become famous for
the mystery of his death, and his alleged conspiracy. He is already
seen as a partner in what might have proved a new Raid of Ruthven.
This conspiracy, though it never came to a head, pervaded politics
till the summer of 1594, and attempted to place itself under the
aegis of the Kirk, to which Cowrie, as became his father's son,
was at this time enthusiastically devoted. In part the fear of the
Catholics, in part hatred of Maitland, had united the Kirk, England,
the adventurous Bothwell, the godly Cowrie, Atholl, and the dark
Master of Cray against the king. These combined forces and
strong measures caused Huntly, Angus, and Errol to approach the
king. They desired to stand trial as to their conduct in the matter
of the Spanish Blanks (October 9).^^ They met James, and knelt
to him, between Soutra and Fala.^^ If guilty, they would suffer ;
if acquitted, would satisfy the Kirk or go abroad. They were only
accused (as regards the purpose of their signatures to the blank
sheets of paper) by one witness, Ceorge Ker, under the boot.
They explained that the matter which Father Creighton was to
have inserted above their signatures only concerned money owed
to them by foreign princes for the subsistence of the Jesuits whom


they confessed to having harboured. So Angus and Errol declared.
Huntly's signature, he said, referred to the necessity of allowing his
uncle, Father Gordon, to leave the country ; and he had Father
Gordon's attested statement that his blanks bore no other sense.
George Ker, under torture, had declared that the blanks were to
be filled up with the conditions on which Philip of Spain would
invade Scotland, and Fintry appears to have corroborated.-^ James
gave to Elizabeth the account of the blanks put forward by Angus,
Atholl, and Errol (December 7).-* This did not satisfy her. Yet,
as late as October 11, Angus, Huntly, and Errol wrote to her
thanking her for " her gracious acceptance of their suits," and
begging her to "continue her princely favour."

So far the proposals of the earls had an appearance of candour.
They would stand trial, as Bothwell had recently done. But,
according to the custom of Scotland, trial in such affairs was a
mere trial of forces. Knox, Murray, Lethington, and Bothwell, we
know, when engaged in such circumstances, appeared attended by
large levies of armed supporters, and justice was overawed. If the
earls were tried at Perth, as was their wish, they would be backed
by all the Hays, Gordons, and perhaps Douglases, who could
mount a horse and wield a spear. By October 18 they had
mustered their men.'"^^ James told the Protestants that he would
be answerable for order on the day of law : " such as came un-
desired should not be welcome." -^ The preachers, however, sum-
moned their own supporters, " bodin in feare of warre " — that is,
fully armed. All were to meet at Perth on October 24. The fiery
cross (metaphorically speaking, for the actual symbol is idolatrous)
was sent round to all the kirks. A Committee of Kirk Safety,
twelve preachers, sat at Edinburgh. James refused to acknowledge
conventions held without his orders. The assemblage of such
armed bodies of partisans was one of his main grievances against
the Kirk. The earls' forces were meeting at Perth, where Atholl
and young Gowrie, a true chip of the old Ruthven block, were
inclined to keep them out. There was every prospect of a battle
royal at Perth, which would have been the focus of all feuds and an
Armageddon of the Kirk. Humes would have met Hepburns ;
Kers, Hays, Gordons, Forbeses, Stewarts, Grahams, Ruthvens,
Campbells, Mackintoshes, with burgesses and lairds under Andrew
Melville, would have been let loose at each other's throats. We
may almost regret that James, as it were, threw down his baton and


cleared the lists. In the same way the Regent Murray had deferred
the trial of Lethington when the forces were gathered at Edinburgh
for the fray. The king forbade the trial. He may have heard of a
plot to kidnap him, described by Carey to Cecil.^'' The godly of
Edinburgh, armed with muskets and pretending to act as a Royal
Guard, were to hand James over to Bothwell, who acted with "the
Kirk, barons, and boroughs." The Catholic earls, unattended but
unmolested, must therefore wait at Perth, and be examined later
before a commission of nobles, burghs, and the Kirk. The
preachers had demanded their imprisonment, "according to the
lovable laws of Scotland." But who was to imprison them ? The
attempt would only have entailed the battle royal, which was not
to be.

Meanwhile (October 22) the Catholic earls, through Archibald
Douglas, were still in the treaty with Elizabeth, and had written a
letter of thanks to her.^ Our old friend, Lesley, Bishop of Ross,
had suggested that religious tolerance should be proposed in the
Scottish Parliament, so Archibald Douglas writes; but (October 29)
Elizabeth was threatening James for his tardiness in punishing the
earls, — she had declined to intercede for them, and was working
through Locke on Atholl, Bothwell, and Gowrie. Meanwhile
James " drove time," or procrastinated, and assemblages of partisans
in Edinburgh during the convention appointed for November 12
were forbidden. The meeting was scantily attended, the ministers
were not encouraged.

On November 26 a compromise as to the Catholic earls was
attempted, and an " Act of Abolition " was promulgated. By
February i, 1594, all subjects were to profess themselves Presby-
terians. Those who could not do so " in conscience " (a dangerous
term, the thin end of the wedge) were to depart abroad, retaining
their estates, and were not to be outlawed. The story of the
Spanish Blanks was to be dropped, unless the accused relapsed
into treasonable dealings abroad. The Catholics were to have
preachers planted in their households to convert them, and were to
send away the Jesuits, under heavy pecuniary guarantees. Accept-
ance of the arrangement must be made before January i, 1594.
The preachers denounced this sinful attempt. What ! were idolaters
to be allowed to worship Baal abroad and yet retain their property ?
In the privileged Canaan of Scotland (December 6) the Maxwells
and Johnstones had a great clan battle on Dryfe sands, and Lord


Maxwell was slain. From the pulpit Bruce threatened James :
" his reign should be troublesome, and short," if he did not abolish
his Act of Abolition.-^

We know what such prophecies meant : they had a way of
securing their own fulfilment. Elizabeth wrote an angry reply to
James's letter about the pleas of the earls. Had he not per-
mitted George Ker, their messenger, and the witness against them,
to escape ? James had, in fact, just hanged one Smeatoun through
whose aid the escape was effected. Elizabeth now sent Lord
Zouche to Edinburgh (January 15, 1594). and Zouche instantly
began to intrigue with Bothwell's ally, the Master of Gray. Zouche's
purpose appears to have been to unite the Northern conspirators,
Cowrie, Atholl, the Masters of Gray and of Montrose, with Ochil-
tree, Bothwell, the Johnstones, fresh from victory over the Catholic
Maxwells, and with the Kirk. This powerful combination would
seize the king as usual, oust Maitland and Home, drive the
Catholic earls to ruin, and avenge the bonny Earl. The scruples
or the avarice of Elizabeth stifled the plot.^*^ Meanwhile she would
not incite such proceedings, but would protect the enterprisers.
Yet (January 4, 1594) she had written to deny that Bothwell
was harboured in England by her permission.

The Act of Abolition, so odious to the godly, was now with-
drawn ; the Catholic earls had declined the terms, on the plea of
being unable to find sureties. While Elizabeth's envoy, Zouche, was
arranging a civil war on a great scale for Scotland, in which the
Stewarts and Ruthvens, under Atholl and Gowrie, should combine
with the sanguinary Johnstones of the Western Border, and Both-
well, Ochiltree, and Montrose, to attack Home, Maitland, and the
Catholics, Prince Henry was born at Stirling (February 19, 1594).
The event was welcome to loyalists, and, to use a phrase current
at that period, it " was nuts " to the Brethren. They had long felt
it as a heavy cross that there was nobody except James to kidnap,
— no feasible successor who could be set up against him. But now
there was the baby, who might be captured and used to James's
prejudice, like the Prince against James III., and James himself,
as an infant, against his mother. The proposal was at once made
to the English envoys of Elizabeth, but Elizabeth discouraged it in
a letter from Robert Cecil to Locke, her agent with the godly
(March 4).^^ Zouche was told that he had shown irop de zele.
Locke was warned not to carry any compromising papers about


him. " The proposal to follow the king into the Castle of Stirling "
(where the royal infant was in the charge of Mar), " and to besiege
the castle, makes her majesty a little careful to prevent so dishon-
ourable and so unjustifiable a course, mean they ever so duti-
fully."^^ "They" are probably the AthoU and Gowrie gang, as
Stirling was well within their reach. Elizabeth, in fact, would not
part with her money.^^

It had, however, been arranged that Bothwell should muster
men, English and Scots, and invade the country on two pretexts.
" The ane was, with help of the kinsmen and ministrie, to banish
the Catholic lords from the realm of Scotland." The other pretext
was to avenge the bonny Earl. The author of ' The Historic of
King James the Sext ' (John Colville, as is supposed) acknowledges
that England was aiding Bothwell, and that James arrested one
of Zouche's suite, who, by that ambassador's command, had dealt
with Bothwell. To check his advance, Home, Cessford, and Buc-
cleuch were stationed at Kelso, and a general levy was proclaimed.

The preachers, in daily sermons, did what they could to hamper
the king in his peril by preaching against him, and prophesying
evil. When he asked how he could leave Edinburgh defenceless
by marching against the Northern Catholics, they offered to pray
for him ! For some reason Kelso was evacuated by Buccleuch,
and occupied by Bothwell on April i. Next day he reached
Dalkeith, and was in Leith on the 3rd of April. To conciliate
the preachers, James promised, in church, to march against Huntly
when he had settled Bothwell. A few nobles, and the town, a
disorderly array, then went out against that hero, who moved
southward, slowly and in good order, lest his line of retreat should
be cut. The royal levies thought that he had fled, but their
patrols were driven in when they attempted to occupy a hill near
Woolmet : Bothwell then charged, and drove the Royal Guard in
rout, the infantry flying to Craigmillar. Within half a mile of
James's position on the Borough Moor Bothwell's trumpets sounded
the retreat, and he lay that night at Dalkeith. Probably he could
have entered Edinburgh, but the castle he could not have taken,
and there w-as no sign of a popular rising in his favour. He
certainly bore off the honours of the day, with many prisoners,
whom he released. He issued proclamations gratifying to the
godly, and awaited another opportunity.^*

John Colville at once (April 6) wrote to Cecil, teUing " how

BOTHWELL'S raid. GOWRIE retires to PADUA. 385

courageously and reverently " Bothwell and Ochiltree had be-
haved. They did not press their victory, out of respect to James's
person. He makes it pretty clear that Bothwell was disappointed
of the aid of the Atholl-Gowrie contingent. "They have been
tardy and slothful who have promised " ; he thinks that perhaps
the " letters of advertisement " to them were intercepted. Carey

Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 40 of 60)