Andrew Lang.

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

. (page 46 of 60)
Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 46 of 60)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

and treacherous diplomacies of the chiefs. One of these, James
Macdonald of Dunluce, was a man of the world at Holyrood, a
determined and traitorous ruffian in the heather. He had been
aiding Elizabeth's Irish rebels (who knew him as " Macsorley "), and
Robert Cecil bade William Bowes to remonstrate with the king for
admitting Dunluce to his presence, also for secret dealing with
Tyrone (January 4, 1598).^^ He had a claim, a baseless one, on
Kintyre and Isla, held by Angus Macdonald, his father. The king



made the handsome freebooter a knight ; he might be useful some

At this time, and in the Parliament of December 1597, High-
land affairs had been taken in hand. The natives did not pay
their crown-rents, and the chiefs were bidden to exhibit their title-
deeds on May 15, 1598, and to give security for law and order.
Disobedience was to entail forfeiture : obedience was difficult or
impossible. " Sheepskin titles " were rare among the Celts. The
Court probably hoped to reap forfeitures, but the claymore was apt
(as James found) to engross charters on the bodies of Lowland
claimants. The Lewes and other Macleod lands were granted to a
kind of chartered company which had occasion to rue its bargain.
Meanwhile, in a series of feuds, Macallester of Loupe killed his
guardian, and was backed by Dunluce, who burned a house in
which Loupe's foes were, and also his own father, Macdonald of
Dunyveg. He imprisoned Dunyveg, and was put at by James, but
made his peace. Such was the Macsorley (Dunluce) whom Eliz-
abeth thought an ill companion for James. She was also vexed by
his words in Parliament, and he was irritated by Doleman's (that is,
Father Parsons') book in favour of a Spanish successor to the crown
of England. He excused himself on all counts of Elizabeth's indict-
ment (February i, 1598). He engaged, however, an Irishman,
Quin or Gwyn, to write in favour of his title, and also to scourge
the author of the peccant 'Faery Queen.'^^ Mr Bruce, the preacher,
at this time much out of James's favour, offered to reveal " certain
dangerous practices " to Robert Cecil, who guaranteed a recompense.
(This appears to be the Protestant Bruce, not the Catholic double
spy of the same name.) Probably the " practices " were a notion of
reverting to Spanish relations, and dealings with Elizabeth's Irish
rebels (March 1598).^* Bruce might thus avenge himself on James
for the loss of his pulpit. James was naturally wroth that Robert
Cecil had met Bothwell at Rouen, and a play in which Scotland
was ridiculed offended the Court and country.^^ Elizabeth wrote
haughtily to James (April 25), and if Cecil could have made
mischief by aid of Bothwell, he would doubtless have pursued the
usual policy of the Tudors. Elizabeth did present James with
;^3ooo, such were his "fiddler's wages."

Meanwhile there was grumbling at the expenditure of public
money on banquets to the Duke of Holstein. To make matters
worse, in May a scoundrel called Valentine Thomas gave out that


James had employed him to murder Elizabeth, and James was all
the more indignant, as Elizabeth had received Bothwell's ally, the
unwearied intriguer, John Colville. Elizabeth sent Bowes to soothe
James by protesting that she was not "of so viperous a nature" as
to believe the allegations of Valentine Thomas (July i). Meanwhile
Maclean was more and more impatient for his pay, and Glenorchy,
a secret correspondent of Cecil, was the chief restraint on High-
landers who wished to join the Irish rebels. On August 7 Glenorchy
reported the death of Maclean in a clan battle. It is a melancholy
circumstance that the authors of clan histories cannot be relied on
for that impartiality without which history becomes fiction. It is
agreed that the great Maclean fell in Isla, where he and his nephew
(Dunluce) had met to attempt an arrangement of their differences.
But while the Maclean chroniclers assert that their chief arrived at
the tryst in the garb of peace, a silken suit, armed only with the long
rapier of Tybald or Mercutio (this is Mr Ty tier's version), the learned
Gregory maintains that Maclean was killed in a regular pitched
battle. The evidence of Nicholson, writing to Robert Cecil
(August 16), supports the theory of the Macleans. Duart was
invited to a friendly meeting, he was accompanied by only 200
of his men, and was dressed in silk, doubtless in the embroidered
doublet and puffed breeches of a Court gentleman. His rapier was
a present from Argyll, whose own portrait, in the costume described,
is at Inverary Castle. At the close of the meeting Dunluce's party
attacked the Macleans, and a hidden force of armed men assailed
them, Maclean slew three with his rapier, and sent his son away to
live and avenge him. The bowmen of Clan Gilzean fled when they
saw their great chief go down.^*^ When a young son of ^Maclean's
knelt to the king for justice James remarked that "it was well fought
on both sides," but his intelligences denied that Maclean was
attacked "under trust."

However, Gregory gives quite a different account. There was
an open battle. Maclean was worsted and slain in a regular
set fight. The tactics of Dunluce were ingenious. The key of
the position was a certain hill-top. Dunluce, in the opening of
the fight, caused his vanguard to make a feigned retreat. They
then gained the desired eminence by a detour, and charging down-
hill, broke the Macleans. The son of the chief with difficulty
escaped.^" As is natural, Calderwood takes the Maclean view, and
accuses the king of "hounding out" Dunluce. He had never



forgiven Maclean, says Calderwood, for his behaviour in the Edin-
burgh riot of December 17, 1596. What that behaviour was we
have explained. On August 30 Dunluce presented James with a
gun, so they must have been on good terms.^^ It was the king's
intention to proceed to the Isles and suppress the disorders.
Calderwood represents this purpose as a mere farce.^^

At this time (August 1598) the preachers were much vexed by the
restoration of Archbishop Beaton, Mary's old ambassador, to his
temporalities. Mr Patrick Simpson preached against the king at
Stirling, and James, who had a passion for "brawling" in church,
arose and bade him cease to meddle in these matters.'*^ The church-
goers of this age enjoyed many exciting scenes of mere secular in-
terest. In fact Sunday was the day, and church was the scene, of
the most animated political debates. James's book, ' The True Law
of Free Monarchies,' was published in September, and supplied much
matter of discussion. By a " free monarchy " James meant a
monarchy in which the king, and nobody else, is free. Like the
preachers, he based his absurd and ruinous pretensions on detached
texts of the Old Testament. But here the ministers had the better
of the argument. The monarchies of Israel and Judah were tempered
by prophets, of whom the ministers were the representatives. James
overlooked that side of the question. The preachers were also
offended by the Christmas revels of the Court, and in January
1599 James informed the Edinburgh ministers that, "if ye speak
against me, my crown or my estate, hanging shall be the pain of the
first fault." ^^ The arrival of Huntly and Home gave umbrage to the
Brethren, and James himself was accused of writing to the Pope
(October 3, isgSy^

As in the case of his memorandum, captured with the Spanish
Blanks, and of the mission of Ogilvieof Pourie, it is difficult to ascer-
tain how far James was really tampering with the Catholic Powers.
There was enough to justify suspicion. James (October) is said to
have had a dream that Elizabeth would outlive him, wherefore he
bequeathed his wisdom to his son. Prince Henry, in the book
'Basilikon Doron,' which procured for him trouble enough.^^ In
November Father James Gordon, Huntly 's uncle, boldly returned to
Scotland, and walked straight into Holyrood. His object was to
hold a public controversy with the preachers. He was taken to the
castle and well treated, though the preachers clamoured for his death.
The Council decided merely to banish Gordon, and execute him if


he returned. By James's desire he went to stay with Lord Seton,
the preachers threatened Seton with excommunication, and there
were all the materials for a quarrel. But Gordon, finding that the
ministers would not meet him in argument, withdrew from the
country in May 1599.^ AH these affairs, with others, made the
relations between James and the Kirk unpleasant in the opening of
1599. If Elizabeth had at last frankly expressed her disbelief in
Valentine Thomas's charges against the king, she was vexed that he
had sent envoys to ask the aid of Protestant Powers, if ever he had
to assert his claim to the English crown. Elizabeth justly censured
this conduct as "indelicate," but had sent _;^3ooo (December 31).^^
But James remained dissatisfied with Elizabeth's treatment of the
affair of Valentine Thomas, which trailed on for years.

The discontent of James with the preachers found in February
1599 an outlet. In earlier days, when Bruce the preacher was a
favourite, James had given him a pension out of the rich lands of
the Abbey of Arbroath, once held by Cardinal Beaton. This
pension James withdrew in an arbitrary manner. Bruce brought
an action for recovery, and the king tried to intimidate the judges.
When it came to a vote, he asked who dared to vote against him.
Several rose and said that they must do their duty. The President,
Sir Alexander Seton, later Chancellor Dunfermline, was particularly
resolute. All honest men, he said, would vote according to their
consciences or resign. The king was defeated. The interesting
point is that the judges braved the king in defence of one of the
preachers, though certain preachers had slandered them from the
pulpit. Seton in particular had often been attacked as an idolater,
especially when he was one of the Octavians. The Court of
Session for very many years after this event was certainly believed
to be much swayed by kinship, if not by bribes. The behaviour
of the judges on this occasion is a rare example of honesty and
courage on one side, on the other of James's disastrous theories of
ro)al prerogative (March 1 6).^''

These shine in his book, the ' Basilikon Doron,' a legacy of
advice to his son. We hear of it in the autumn of 159S. On
February 17, 1599, Nicholson, the English agent in Edinburgh,
writes that he has obtained a copy.^'' At first only seven copies
were printed, or at least were privately distributed. One of them,
or extracts from it, fell into the hands of a St Andrews preacher
through Andrew Melville. Dykes, the preacher (September 1599),


laid them, without explicitly stating the authorship, before the Synod
of Fife, who humorously forwarded them to James as works of a
malignant but anonymous author. Dykes had to fly, but the synod
distinctly scored a trick off the king. He had said in his book that
"the rewling of the Kirk weill is na small part of the king's office."
"Ministers should not mell [meddle] with matters of State in
pulpit" "No man is more to be hated of a king than a proud
Puritan." " The Ministers sought to establish a democracy in this
land, and to become tribiini plebis themselves." For these evils
Episcopacy was the only remedy.^*^ In 1603 James published his
book, with a few alterations. It is easy to sympathise with his
hatred of inspired tribunes of the people. But he saw no alterna-
tive except the covert, and we may say fraudulent and illegal, in-
troduction of Episcopacy on one hand, and an attempt to erect a
despotism on the other. These ideas proved fatal to his House and
ruinous to public peace. But we may still ask. What course ought
James to have taken ? The problem of Church and State has only
drifted into an illogical modus vivendi by efflux of years, and by
weariness of warfare.

In spring and summer the State verged on bankruptcy. The
Master of Elphinstone (Balmerino) at last took the Treasury (April
20), and the company of Lowland lairds attempted to get money by
colonising the Isle of Lewes. It were too long to tell the story
of their disasters and defeat by the Celts. In June the EngHsh
Ambassador, William Bowes, coolly kidnapped an English gentle-
man named Ashfield. The victim, rather bemused with drugged
wine, was beguiled into Bowes's carriage and driven off to Berwick.^-'
This was managed by Sir John Guevara, cousin of Willoughby, who
commanded at Berwick. Willoughby, to aid the plotters, had a
swift yacht lying off Leith. The adventure has a resemblance in
outline to the probable aim of the Gowrie conspiracy later. The
arrival of an ambassador from France increased Bowes's and Robert
Cecil's belief in the king's trafficking with Catholic Powers.^^
Sempill of Beltrees was sent to Elizabeth's Court to patch up
peace about the outrage on Ashfield and other matters. Robert
Cecil suspected that Scotland was taking the Catholic course, and
unluckily the treasurer, Elphinstone, with or without James's
connivance, implicated him in dealings with the Pope. Elphin-
stone's own account, given years later, was that Archbishop Beaton
moved him to open communications with Rome. He approached


James, who only refused to call the Pope Pater and Beatissime.
The object was to get Chisholme, a Scot, Bishop of Vaizon, made
a cardinal. The scruple about the Pope's titles (like that of an
earlier Pope about King Robert Bruce's title) caused a difificulty.
Elphinstone therefore had a Latin letter drawn up in proper form
{Pater Beatissime, and all) begging for the Bishop's promotion.
As Cardinal he might disprove the calumnies against James as a
persecutor of Catholics, calumnies which stood between him and
the Catholics of England. This letter James was induced to sign,
unread, among a heap of other documents. Such, as we shall see,
was the account given later by Elphinstone (Balmerino).*^ This
intrigue was probably unknown at the time to the watchful preachers ;
indeed, according to Elphinstone's confession, it was unknown to
James, who signed the compromising letter unwittingly. The Pope's
answer to the letter is extant : he regrets that James does not even
remotely hint at a chance of his conversion. The story reached
the world in consequence of a later controversy between James and
Cardinal Bellarmine. But if the King of Scotland did not know
that he had approached the Beast, and corresponded with anti-
christ, the Queen of England did know. In the August of the fol-
lowing year (1600) the Master of Gray wrote to Cardinal Borghese :
." All that was done for our king in Rome last winter is as well known
to the Queen of England as to the intriguers themselves, though per-
haps they are not aware of it. Therefore I do not see how what was
promised in the king's name can be granted, nor that what was said
can be true, especially as to his religious opinions. I suppose he
may favour the Catholics so far as they have not yet attempted any-
thing against his will." The Master of Gray had not quite reco^"ered
favour with James, and was now a spy of Cecils. He was also in
communication with Borghese, and what he learned from Borghese
of secret dealings at Rome he doubtless reported to Cecil in
England. ^^ Gray added, what was true, that the preachers had
still a great deal of influence in Scotland, and that the king
resisted them " in a fashion, and as far as he can, not for religion,
but in defence of his own royal authority " (" pro Isesa sua majestate
et authoritate ").

This was the correct view. Doctrinally James and the preachers
were at one. The struggle was for the freedom of the secular
authority. Meanwhile (1599) the preachers found matter for
sermons in the permission accorded to the French Ambassador (a


Sully of Bethune) to hear a private mass. Their next grievance
was the appearance of Fletcher and Martin's troop of English
actors in Edinburgh. They took (by James's warrant) a house in
Blackfriars' Wynd. The four town sessions forbade the public to
attend the performances. The preachers were summoned before
the Council. They excused themselves by saying that James had
granted the players the use of a house, but not hcence to act plays.
This insolent evasion, put forth by Mr Bruce, did not pass. The
magistrates were obliged, says Nicholson, to withdraw the prohibi-
tion on the players, and there was a quarrel with " the bellows-
blowers " (as Nicholson invidiously styles the preachers) on the
point of their intimating James's proclamation from the pulpit.*^
The Kirk continued for centuries to be hostile to the drama.

In November James's constant anxiety about the English suc-
cession inspired the formation of a " band " wherein his subjects
promised to maintain his rights. This was known in England.
The weakness of the country was proved at a convention in De-
cember, where James did not shine as a financier, his suggestions
for increased taxation being shelved.^* In November Kirk affairs
had occupied a convention at Holyrood. The discussions con-
cerned the beginnings of the introduction of Episcopacy, and turned
on disputed texts in the Greek Testament. The Brethren argued
that all the caveats, to secure the Kirk from bishops, would be
broken if preachers with prelatic titles sat in Parliament. Andrew
Melville and others reasoned the cause of the Brethren : the con-
ference was preparatory to a discussion in the General Assembly
of 1600.

In December the beginning of the year was fixed on January i,
1600, not on March 25, as had been the usage, in itself apt to
provoke chronological confusion in historical writing.




^ James Melville, pp. 388, 389.

^ Spottiswoode, iii. 53, 54.

5 Thorpe, ii. 739-

^ James Melville, p. 416.

^ James Melville, p. 438.

^^ Spottiswoode, iii. 67.

1' Mirville, Des Esprits.

^ James Melville, pp. 390-403.

^ Thorpe, ii. 731.

• Forbes-Leith, Narratives, pp. 232-242.

8 James Melville, p. 418.

^^ Thorpe, ii. 729.

^^ Thorpe, ii. 739.
Paris, 1855.

" Hay Fleming, St Andrews Kirk-Session Register, ii. 882 and note 2. See
also Introduction, Ixxviii, Ixxxi, whence other anecdotes are cited.
15 Privy Council Register, v. 409, 410.
^^ Spottiswoode, iii. 66, 67. ^^ Thorpe, ii. 745.

^8 Act. Pari. Scot., iv. 142-146.

^9 Calderwood, v. 668, 670; Act. Pari. Scot., iv. 130.
-" Calderwood, v. 695. -^ Calderwood, v. 707-709.

2- Thorpe, ii. 746. ^ Thorpe, ii. 747.

2^ Thorpe, ii. 748. 25 Thorpe, ii. 749.

-^ Nicholson to R. Cecil, August 16. State Papers, Scot., Eliz., MS., vol. Ixii.
No. 67.

^ Gregory, pp. 284, 285 ; Tytler, ix. 285 ; Calderwood, v. 726.

^ Thorpe, ii. 755.

"^ Calderwood, v. 726, Nicholson to Robert Cecil, September 2; Thorpe, ii.


^'* Calderwood, v. 727. ^^ Calderwood, v. 731.

*- Thorpe, ii. 757. ^^ Thorpe, ii. 759.

^•' Forbes-Leith, Narratives of Scottish Catholics, pp. 243-261 ; Privy Council
Register, v. 503, 504.

■^5 Thorpe, ii. 762, 763. '^'' Thorpe, ii. 767, Nicholson to Robert Cecil.

^ Thorpe, ii. 766. '^^ James Melville, pp. 444, 446.

*" Border Calendar, ii. 607, 608. ^^ Thorpe, ii. 771-773.

•^^ Calderwood, v. 740-744. ■*- Papers, Master of Gray, p. 187.

■** Calderwood, v. 765, 767 ; Thorpe, ii. 777, 77S, Nicholson to Robert Cecil
November 12.

•*■* Thorpe, ii. 779.



1 600.

The year 1600 is marked in Scottish history by that mysterious
event called "The Gowrie Conspiracy." The political eftects of this
affair, in which the son and successor of the Gowrie of the Raid of
Ruthven and his brother were slain by the king's servants, were
considerable. England lost, in young Gowrie, an ally perhaps too
devoted, and the Kirk was deprived of a leader, that is, if Gowrie
was not a Catholic playing a double game. Making his advantage
of the subsequent conduct of some of the preachers, James
reduced their already enfeebled power, and took steps towards their
more complete abasement. But his own character was blotted by
the belief that he planned deliberately the slaughter of the Ruth-
vens, Gowrie and his brother, a point on which historians are still
divided. The affair seemed to come like a bolt from a serene sky,
but attention to preceding occurrences proves that, in the usual
course of Scottish affairs, a plot to capture James and reinstate the
party of the Kirk was due, and might have been expected. The
relations of James and Elizabeth were highly unsatisfactory. As
she neared her death she became even more sensitive on the
question of her successor. James's secret relations with Essex, who
was meditating a coup d'etat in his interests, were suspected, if not
clearly cnown, by Cecil. James complained that his meagre
annuity was unpaid, and pressed on the publication of new books
defending his rightful claim (January 12).^ The English priest
spy, Dr Cecil, had put out a tract nominally against the Scottish
Jesuit, Father Crichton, but really most injurious to the character
and rights of James. The book, whereof only a single copy is


known, was finished in the August of 1599.^ Dr Cecil's whole
object was to discredit James among the English Catholics. It is
actually averred by him that James in 1586 wrote to Elizabeth
a letter urging the death of his mother, with the celebrated words,
Mortui 7ion morde7it. " How little would be the gain to Catholics
were he to become king of three such kingdoms as England, Ireland,
and Scolland." Such, as early as 1596, were the opinions of Dr
Cecil. Thus among James's anxieties was the possible opposition
of perhaps a majority of the Enghsh — namely, the Catholics — to his
claim. He was also fretted by a proposed marriage for Arabella
Stuart, the daughter of his father's younger brother. She, not being
like himself an alien, might have her own faction in England, and
might offer a sounder legal claim to the succession.

While these were the relations of England and the king, on
April 3 the young Earl of Cowrie returned from the Continent to
England. He had quitted Scotland, as we saw, when aged about
seventeen, in August 1594. From October 1593 to April 1594, or
later, Gowrie with AthoU had been engaged in a confederacy
with Bothwell, and they had informed Cecil that they regarded them-
selves as subjects, or servants, of Elizabeth. The Bothwell-Gowrie-
Atholl combination failed, and young Gowrie in August 1594 went
abroad, and studied in the legal faculty of the University of Padua.
Here he and his tutor, Mr Rhynd, were scholars, as the archives of
the University show. All that is known of the young man at this
period is that in 1595 he answered in a friendly manner a friendly
letter of the king's, while to the minister of Perth he expressed
fanatically Protestant sentiments, and a hope of remedying on his
return whatever in Scotland was amiss through his absence."^ Padua
had in Scotland a name for magical studies, and after his death
Gowrie was accused of having talked about the cabala, and worn a
talisman, a practice then common enough on the Continent. In what
year he left Padua we do not know, but the author of an unpublished
vindication of his conduct says that he suffered at Rome for the truth
of his religion.* On the other hand, Nicholson, the English resident
at Holyrood, in December 1598, writes from Edinburgh that Gowrie
"has turned Papist."^ After Cowrie's death the royal chaplain,
Galloway, insisted on this point : Gowrie had been trying to induce
the king to negotiate with Rome. The king was his authority for
this statement, uttered in the royal presence. Bothwell, in writing
to the Spanish Court, reckons Gowrie and Logan of Restalrig


among Catholics (Spanish State Papers, iv. 680). It is conceivable
that Gowrie, in the interest of England, had been trying, under a
pretence of sympathy, to find out the truth as to the incessant
charges against James of tampering with the Pope.

On August 21, 1599, John Colville told Cecil that the party of
the Kirk intended to bring home Gowrie.® Whether they sent for
him or not he turned homewards, passing three months, says Calder-
wood, in the hotbed of Calvinism, with Beza at Geneva. He was
in Paris in February and March 1599, and thither Robert Bruce,
the preacher, went to call him home, as we learn from a MS.
dictated by him in old age. There, too, was Lord Home, who

Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 46 of 60)