Andrew Lang.

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

. (page 42 of 60)
Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 42 of 60)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Melville openly denied that he had ever dealt wdth him. Others
sympathised with him, and he had skill in flattering the Brethren.
Regarding him as a "sanctified plague," they had done little or
nothing to check his popularity or impair his successes, for he
used the pretext of avenging the Bonny Earl, and of earnest
Protestantism, The noted intriguer, John Colville, the agent of
the exiled earls after the death of Gowrie, now betrayed Bothwell's
natural brother, Hercules Stewart, who was hanged (February i8).6i
In brief, Bothwell's meteor course was run, and after skulking about
the country, and attempting to imitate the piratical career of his
uncle, Queen Mary's Bothwell, in the Orkneys, he fled to France.
A man of courage, enterprise, wit, and many accomplishments, he
had all the Hepburn ambition, with all the charm of recklessness.
His ambition was boundless, but crossed by a madcap vein
which frustrated his desires. From the queen to the lowest of the
people he was popular, and, among so many ruffians, he alone had
a touch of what is genial, sympathetic, and boyish. He, at least,


would gladly have avenged Queen Mary, donning armour as the
most suitable mourning. From the Continent he kept vexing the
king with fears of change, and before August 1600 was urging
Philip to invade Scotland.

Huntly still lingered in the North, but his plans were ruined
(March 25) by the arrest of a Jesuit, Father Morton, who had
landed at Leith, from Spain. He brought no money, but rather
rebukes for the ill use to which previous supplies had been devoted.
James treated Father Morton with a gentleness which Father
Creighton later applauded. Morton gave a jewel, representing
the crucifixion, to the king : James is said to have remarked that,
on account of the minute scale of the work, he could not kiss
the crucifix without kissing the thieves and the soldiers. It is
said that the preachers desired to have Morton tortured. Calder-
wood does not mention this : Father Creighton praises the king's
humanity.^2 In the ruin of the Catholic cause, Errol, Huntly,
and his uncle, the excellent Father Gordon, now took ship for the
Continent. Probably James kept on terms with them, and their
retreat was an arranged affair, as their party informed the Spanish

A domestic trouble was next added to the confusions of the State.
The queen had for long been the enemy of Maitland : the cause
was said to be a dispute about the ownership of lands at Mus-
selburgh, but there were probably other causes of resentment.
Maitland, however, had lately paid court to the queen, and had
backed, or inspired, her wish to remove the child prince from
the governance of Mar, whose ancestor had kept good watch
over James himself when a child. Allied with the queen and
Maitland were Buccleuch and Cessford, great chiefs of the reck-
less border spears. They had expected Bothwell's lands, and, says
Colville, had been disappointed.^^ It was believed that they enter-
tained the somewhat conventional design of kidnapping the little
Duke of Rothesay for their own political purposes : Maitland, we
know, was capable of anything ; and Cessford and Buccleuch were
disappointed men. The murder of one of Mar's men, on account
of a love affair, led to a great demonstration by Mar, and it was
expected that Buccleuch and Cessford would give him a meeting.*^
The quarrel about the prince lasted from April into August, James
siding with Mar and opposing Maitland. The queen was again
about to be a mother, and was in a fretful, perhaps hysterical, frame


of mind. At the end of July she was ill, and Nicholson, the English
resident at Edinburgh, tells us that James suspected her of feigning
a malady, and of merely desiring to bring him to her from Stirling
for some evil purpose. Melville, however, found that the queen's
ladies believed her to be really ill, and James hurried from StirUng.
He found her majesty with Buccleuch and Cessford ! James had
his room carefully guarded, and sent for Robert Bruce and other
preachers as advisers. Meanwhile the queen was suspected of try-
ing to keep James by her that he might be kidnapped in the usual
way. Buccleuch, the bauld Buccleuch of the Kinmont WilHe
ballad, was thought to favour this course. *^^ But Maitland, now
nearing his end, ill and old, lost nerve : James rode back safely :
Mr Galloway admonished the queen in a sermon, and the royal
pair were reconciled ('x'^ugust 15).*^^

On August 2 5 Maitland's illness was serious : Buccleuch and
Cessford had him at their mercy, they knew so much of his
designs : and his malady was thought to be diplomatic. He died
on October 3, much concerned, and with good cause, about his
soul. Calderwood takes rather a favourable view of his spiritual
estate, though " his practices, at his first entry to Court, were very
pernicious and offensive to the godly many years after. . . . He
granted, at his death, that he had greatly offended that man of God,
Mr Knox," perhaps on the subject of the amusing skit on Knox,
Murray, Wood, and other brethren, a shaft which certainly came
out of the quiver of the witty House of Lethington. This jest does
not seem so much matter for contrition as Maitland's alleged share
in Darnley's death, and alleged partnership in " the great band " for
the murder of Calder, Argyll, and the Bonny Earl. What his latest
design, in company with Buccleuch, may precisely have been is not
certain, but doubtless it was on the old lines. None the less, and
despite his confederacy with Huntly, Maitland had been a Protest-
ant, and no enemy of England. James is said not to have regretted
the loss of his old adviser.

Maitland founded the House of Lauderdale, which later gave
Scotland a famous statesman. At this very time we first meet
Archibald Primrose, an intriguer with John Colville and Elizabeth's
Ministers. Here first appears in affairs the ancestor of the House of
Rosebery. While new men arose, AthoU died (September 22), By
the end of the year the strife between Mar and Buccleuch and Cess-
ford was appeased, and Buccleuch was received at Court. The


Scottish queen later threw all the blame oi' the quarrel about her
child on the dead Maitland, insisting that she had warned James,
and preserved him from an attack on his person.^*" The queen's
biographer, Miss Strickland, takes a less favourable view of her con-
duct. In origin the affair was a nursery cabal which politicians used
for their own purposes. But James came better out of the contest
than his unfortunate and exiled descendant, James, eighth of the
name, was to emerge from a similar affair (1726). Anne was
already suspected, we learn, of idolatrous tendencies, fostered prob-
ably by Lady Huntly and others of her intimates.

The autumn had been notable for the Irish rising of Tyrone, who
was to have been backed by several thousand warriors from the West
Highlands and the Isles. Maclean of Duart, who wielded the battle-
axe at Glenrinnes, had the address to capture large numbers of the
Highland auxiliaries under Clanranald, and with the aid of Argyll
relieved England from a considerable danger. He found it much
more difficult to extract from the avarice of Elizabeth a trifle of
2000 crowns for his expenses. An incident of local interest was a
heroic " barring out " at the High School of Edinburgh in Septem-
ber. " The litde boys began to shoot and stab." Docked of half
their holidays, a poor fortnight, the boys held the school, the old
building on the site of the Blackfriars, near Kirk-o'-Field. An
impetuous bailie, Macmorran, led a charge against the doors with an
improvised battering-ram, and was shot by William Sinclair, son of
the Chancellor of Caithness. The main interest to us is that Sir
Walter Scott as a boy may have known "the bailie's window,"
whence the shot was fired.

In August of the year there had been trouble with a preacher
presently to become more notorious. This was Mr David Black,
of St Andrews. He was accused of speaking ill of Queen Mary,
and an effort was made to convict him before a mixed and informal
commission. Andrew Melville interfered in his usual masterful
way, but James Melville smoothed the matter over. He alleged
at St Andrews, in a sermon, that Mr Black "had commended his
majesty's mother for many great and rare gifts, and excellent
virtues." If Black did this, it is unfortunate that his sermon has
not been preserved. He " very sparingly and soberly had touched
the truth of the judgment of God which had come on her for
resisting the wholesome admonition of the Word of God." Every-
thing considered, common decency should have warned Black


against raking up the history of his king's mother, or of any
living man's mother, and the Brethren seem, provisionally, to
have come into this opinion. "^^

The ministers were still very sensitive about the Catholic earls.
Their wives were practically left in possession of their property :
movements of Catholics, involving feuds, were common in the
North, and a new Spanish invasion was apprehended in Novem-
ber. The exiled earls were in the same position as the Hamiltons
and the Ruthven raiders had been when banished : it was certain
that they would come back sooner or later.

James in November 1595 was playing the part of Protestant
Hero, and ordering a universal " wapinschawing," or review of the
whole armed forces of the country, all for " the defence of the
kingdom against the detestable conspiracy against Christ and his
Evangel presently in readiness." ^^ The wapinschaw, when it did
occur, exhibited a mournful array of " Guse Gibbies."

The death of Maitland left James free to manifest his own
powers and policy. He denounced the carrying of pistols : he
demanded a list of all " horners " (outlaws), which he never got :
"he will let them know that he will be obeyed and reverenced
as a king," and will suffer no more blood-feuds to run their san-
guinar}' course.'*^ He might as well have tried, like Canute, to
make the waves "reverence and obey" him. He was backed by
no force of men or money. A generous gift of a purse of gold
from the queen on New Year's Day 1596 much astonished
James. Whence came that rare metal? he asked, and her majesty
praised her household financiers, Alexander Seton, the President ;
Lindsay, Elphinstone, and Thomas Hamilton. James resolved to
employ them in Treasury matters : Seton throve to be the great
Chancellor, Dunfermline ; Elphinstone, as Balmerino, had a re-
markable career of favour, with a mournful end ; and Hamilton,
popularly styled Tam o' the Cowgate, flourished as King's Advo-
cate, was created Lord Binning, then Earl of Melrose, and
founded the existing House of Haddington. The anecdote of the
New Year's purse of gold is related by John Colville.''^

NOTES. 399


^ Border Calendar, i. 490 ; August 15, 1593.

2 Sir James Melville, pp. 414-417; Caldeiwood, v. 256, 257; Spottiswoode,
ii. 433, 434 ; Border Calendar, i. 48 1 -484.

^ Border Calendar, i. 491. Calderwood, v. 257, 258.

^ Spanish Papers, iv. 588, 613, 614. ^ Border Calendar, i. a^go ei seq.

^ Border Calendar, i. 486-488. An account of the trial.

^ Border Calendar, i. 488, 489.

^ Calderwood, v. 259 ; Border Calendar, i. 493.

'^^ Calderwood, v. 269. 11 Hatfield Calendar, iv. 363.

^^ Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 634. '^ Border Calemiar, i. 497, 498.

'* Calderwood, v. 259-261 ; Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 635.

'^ Hatfield Calendar, iv. 383, 3S4. ^^ Border Calendar, i. 502.

^^ Forbes-Leith, Narratives of Scottish Catholics, p. 191.

'^^ Letters of John Colville, pp. 258, 259; Bannatyne Club, 1858.

^^ Moysie, Memoirs, p. 105. -" Spottiswoode, ii. 437.

-^ Bowes to Cecil, Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 636.

^- Calderwood, v. 270 ; Border Calendar, i. 506, 507.

^ Calderwood, v. 225. -■* Hatfield Calendar, iv. 430.

25 Bowes to Cecil ; Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 637.

^ Calderwood, v. 273, 274. ^ Border Calendar, i. 510. October 31.

^ Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 63S. "^ Calderwood, v. 289, 290.

^^ Tytler, ix. 146. I have been unable to fiind the letter, quoted by Mr Tyller
at the Record Office.

^1 Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 646. ^'^ Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 646.

•** Cecil to Zouche, March 12, T orpe, Calendar, ii. 647.

^* Historic of King James the Sext, pp. 306-314.

^^ Letters ol John Colville, pp. 259, 260 ; Border Calendar, i. 525-52S.

^^ Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 650; Historie of King James the Sext, pp. 312-314.

•"' Bowes to Burghley, April 30, Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 650.

^ Hatfield Calendar, iv. 504.

33 Hatfield Calendar, iv. 517, 518. *' Hatfield Calendar, iv. 523, 524.

*^ Historie of King James the Sext, pp. 324, 325.

^ Calderwood, v. 299, 321, 323.

■** Tytler, ix. 151-154, citing a Warrender MS. ; Hatfield Calendar, iv. 509,
510, April 13, 1594.

** Calderwood, v. 337, 338.

*^ Thorpe, Calendar, v. 654, 655 ; Spanish State Papers, iv. 590.

** Letters of John Colville, p. 106.

*7 Colville to Cecil, July 30, Letters of John Colville, pp. 11 3- 11 5.

*^ Hatfield Calendar, iv. 629, 630. '"* Hatfield Calendar, iv. 630632.

50 Moysie, Memoirs, p. 104. ^^ Privy Council Register, v. 173.

82 Hatfield Calendar, iv. 5S3.

'' John Colville's Letters, pp. 123-131.

®* Miss Warrender's Illustrations of Scottish History, pp. 45-51. Both well to
the ministers.

" Spanish State Papers, iv. 590, 591.

400 NOTES.

^•^ Tames Melville, pp. 318, 319 ; Privy Council Register, Aberdeen, October 19,
V. 182.

*^ Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 668.

*® Cockburne to Bowes, Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 668.

59 Calderwood, v. 361, 362.

^^ Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 670, 671 ; Border Calendar, ii. 17.

®i Calderwood, v. 364, 365. Colville writes that he was present at the taking of
Hercules, but interceded for his life (Letters, p. 139).

®- Calderwood, v. 366 ; Creighton, An Apologie, Miscellany of the Scottish
History Society, i. 53.

^ Letters of John Colville, p. 146. *^^ Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 679, 680.

*' State Papers, Scot., MS. Eliz., vol. Ivi., No. 62.

^'' Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 689-692.

*' Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 705, February 24.

^ Calderwood, v. 380.

^^ Thorpe, Calendar, ii. 699; Privy Council Register, v. 235, 236.

70 Privy Council Register, v. 246 <f/ sei/.

"' Letters of John Colville, p. 190.




The year 1596 was one of the most remarkable in the history of
Scotland. The empty exchequer caused the king to adopt one,
if not two, unusual measures. The first was the appointment of
a board of eight men to control finance and expenditure : these
"Octavians," as they were called, became practically a ruling
Cabinet, but their authority did not outlive the year. The king's
second expedient, if we may believe statements which contain
suspicious elements, was the endeavour to raise money from Spain
and the Pope, accompanying his petitions with promises of change
of creed. The history of the relations of Church and State in
this year was rich in variety. As Calderwood writes, " The Kirk
of Scotland was now come to her perfection, and the greatest
puritie that ever she atteaned unto, both in doctrine and dis-
cipline, so that her beautie was admirable to forraine Kirks." But
before the carols of Christmas-tide were sung (these were among
the left-hand fallings off which good men deplored) all was changed,
and there began " that doolefull decay and declynning of this
Kiik, which has continued to this houre, proceeding from worse
to worse," for Calderwood wrote before the glorious revival of the
Kirk in the Great Rebellion. The return of the Catholic earls,
involving the decay of the Kirk, and the famous affair of Kinmont
Willie, also marked the year 1596.

The Octavians, appointed as auditors of the Exchequer for life,
for the collection and administration of public and royal revenue
and expenditure, were a body who sat daily without salary. James
was personally reckless in expenditure and lavish in giving, while

VOL. II. 2 c

402 THE OCTAVIANS (1596).

funds were collected with difficulty, and official salaries were always
in arrears. The Octavians were expected to take order in these
affairs, but the suspicion of idolatry that was attached to some of
them mortally off"ended good men ; while bad men, the Cubiculars
or courtiers, resented their economies. The end, at the close of
the year, was a revolutionary scene, and the Octavians fell in the
crash of Kirk, State, and Court. The Octavians themselves appear
to have been wisely selected. First comes the President of the
Court of Session, Alexander Seton, called Lord Urquhart, the third
son of George, seventh Lord Seton, the famous Catholic friend of
]\Liry Stuart. Every one knows his sister, Catherine Seton, the
charming fictitious heroine of 'The Abbot.' The son of such a
father as Lord Seton, this Octavian could not but be suspected of
leanings to idolatry, and he was to be especially odious for his share
in reintroducing the banished Catholic earls. William Stewart, lay
Prior of Blantyre, was also a judge, and rose to be Treasurer.
Carnegie of Colluthie had long been an active member of the
Privy Council, and belonged to a shire of dubious Protestantism.
John Lindsay, a member of the House of Crawford, was one of the
judges, a man of affairs, who had worked hard at a scheme for the
proper endowment of the Kirk. Ecclesiastical finance, owing to
the change of faith and the depredations of laymen, was in a state
of chaos, and it is asserted that four hundred parishes were un-
supplied with regular ministers. Lindsay drew up what was called
"The Constant Plat," or scheme, for Church endowment. The
experienced Alexander Hay, Clerk of Register, held that no such
scheme could be invented, or, if invented, carried into practice ;
Lindsay constructed the system, but died in Hay's belief that it
was impracticable.^ The details of the plan are too complicated
for such a work as this, but Lindsay acknowledges that there is no
means at present to augment the stipends of poor ministers, nor to
plant new ministers, " albeit the most part of all the parish kirks
of Scotland are altogether destitute of all exercise of religion."

Every reader must have remarked that vice and wickedness, if
they did not increase after the Reformation, at all events did not
diminish, and we might infer that Calvinism, whatever its merits,
bore no better moral fruits than plain idolatry had borne. But it
ought not to be forgotten that, thanks to the greed of the nobles
and gentry of the Congregation of the Lord, many parts of Scot-
land were as destitute of rehgious teaching as the Solomon Islands,


or at best the pious had to climb by ladders into the upper rooms,
where skulking Jesuit missionaries ofiEiciated.- The financial scheme
of this Octavian, Lindsay, for re-endowment, was therefore grateful
to the preachers, though they not unjustly held that the Court used
the " plat " as a mere sop to conciliate the Brethren.^

Another Octavian, Elphinstone of Innernaughty, was one of the
judges, but was suspected of Catholicism, as was Hamilton of Drum-
cairn, " Tarn o' the Cowgate," so called from his palace in that street
of palaces. Skene of Curriehill, also a judge, was one of the most
eminent of Scottish legists, a classical scholar, and well acquainted
with the Teutonic languages, — "a good, true, stout man, like a Dutch-
man." Finally we have Mr Peter Young, James's old tutor and
librarian, whom he employed on diplomatic missions. He, at least,
was a good Protestant. It may seem that James could have made
no better selection of officials, all men of learning in law or in fine
scholarship. If they lay under suspicion of Catholic tendencies,
that merely proves the slender hold of Calvinism on the higher
intelligences of the country, despite the adhesion of St Andrews
with its distinguished scholars.'*

The year opened, politically, with the return of Bowes as Eliz-
abeth's ambassador. Elizabeth complained of want of money : James
lamented her broken promises. She hinted that there were rumours
of his deaUng with Spain : he replied that Spain was liberal, but that
he would not be entangled in the threatened plan of invasion. How
far we may think him honest depends on our sense of an intrigue at
Rome and Madrid, then being conducted by a person who bore
alleged letters of credit from James.^ That negotiator, Ogilvie of
Pourit', concerning whom more is to be said later, had since June
1595 been dealing with Spaniards in the Low Countries. He left
Scotland when Huntly was exiled, and a letter of a Catholic sym-
pathiser at Campveire (February 24) speaks of "the King of Scots
man" (Pourie) as "a false knave," adding, "his credit is lost with
Huntly and Errol."® Was Pourie actually "the King of Scots
man," was he an accredited envoy to Spain and the Pope ; if so,
were all his papers and promises genuine ? He was at once
James's spy on Huntly, Cecil's spy on James, and an adventurer
intriguing " for his own hand." James was perhaps trying to get
papal and Spanish gold, and to induce Philip to regard him as
successor to the English crown, at which Philip, with the assent of a
party of the English Catholics, was aiming himself. James was per-


fectly capable of deceiving Elizabeth, Spain, and the Pope ; but,
on the other hand, Pourie was " a false knave," and the truth about
this intrigue (which the Kirk shrewdly suspected to be in progress)
is hard to ascertain. Bowes, at all events (March lo), sent an
unwontedly favourable report of James's loyalty, and efforts in the
cause of religion, justice, peace, and sound finance.^ But Lady
Huntly (sister of Lennox, and a friend of the queen) was at Court,
and a source of anxiety to good men.

On March 24 the General Assembly met in Edinburgh. There
was a great outpouring of grace. The irreconcilable Mr Davidson
handed in the ideas of the presbytery of Haddington, now, in a new
sense, The Lamp of the Lothians. The Assembly ought first to de-
plore the national off-fallings, beginning with a catalogue of the back-
slidings of the ministers themselves. " Let the priests, the ministers
of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar " (Joel ii. 17).
There was no altar, and sometimes no porch. Next, the more con-
genial theme of the sins of princes was to be faithfully exposed and
lamented. It was acknowledged that the king swore terribly :
indeed James's colloquial eloquence was florid both in the matters
of profanity and indecency. Lastly, the offences of the general public
were enumerated in "a catalogue over easy to be made."

On March 2 5 James made a speech to the Assembly. He wanted
money for national defence ; but as to his own sins he requested that
he might be admonished privately. That, we conceive, was his right,
and the right of the humblest of his subjects, according to the First
Book of Discipline. Queen Mary had, we saw, drawn Knox's atten-
tion to this point, but he replied evasively. James declared that
"his chamber door should be patent to the meanest minister in
Scotland," but the preachers much preferred " to do it in public,"
to castigate him from the pulpit. Regarding money for national
defence, Andrew Melville proposed to take it from the property of
the Catholic exiles. This was a natural suggestion, but the earls
had only gone abroad on a compromise arranged by Huntly's brother-
in-law, Lennox. Their wives and families were not left destitute,
but enjoyed their estates. Melville denounced this arrangement,
which was part of the detested policy of not extirpating and ruining
Catholics. Doubtless, according to the law of the land and his own
promises, James ought to have extirpated all idolaters. But however
desirable that policy may be ideally, reasons of State, and of family
affection, perhaps even of the old Adam, our fallen nature, prevented


James and the ruling classes from making real the ideal of the Kirk.
In Knox's time the same slackness had been displayed. Technically,
the ministers were right, and could charge James with hypocrisy and
falsehood ; but in a world of compromise practical politicians may
incline to palliate his offence.

In reply to Davidson, who followed Melville on the same side,
James said that he would not refuse to be judged by the Assembly,
or any minister, " providing it be done privately." Davidson,
turning to his brethren, answered that as to whether private ad-
monition for " open, and manifest continuing therein " (in sin), was

Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 42 of 60)