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of October. It is curious that he passed a night or two at Restal-
rig, Logan's house, before he set sail. " Mr Robert returned to
Restalrig upon Thursday, at night, the penult of October," says
Calderwood. Mr Robert was in very bad company, if Logan
(accused of being in the plot) was at home.

Another kind of suspiciousness was rife ; England was thought to
have been Cowrie's ally, and the tone of Elizabeth, in her con-
gratulatory letter to James on his escape, is extremely tart. (August
21.) She says that she hears "her funerals have been prepared."
" Think not but how wilily soever things be carried, they are so
well known that they may do more harm to others than to me. . . .
The memory of a prince's end " (that is, apparently, reflection on
James's narrow escape) " made me call to mind such usage, which.


too many courtiers talk of, and I cannot stop my ears from ..."
She also spoke of a rumour that James meant to hand Prince
Henry over to Catholic teachers. James warmly denied these
imputations which hint at a plot of his own against Elizabeth's life.
She had never satisfied him about Valentine Thomas, and probably
suspected him of dealings with Essex, whose enterprise had brought
him to the Tower. ^^ Elizabeth softened her expressions, but the
mist of suspicions grew, and we find Bothwell's old ally, Locke,
writing to Cecil about " a party " whom Cecil has conferred with,
and who is to do something secret, and be rewarded after perform-
ance. He was Ogilvie of Pourie.'^*^

James and his queen were at odds about the Cowries. Nichol-
son's gossip on the topic need not be accepted, though it blew
widely abroad, and, if accepted, it proves nothing. The queen was
fond of Beatrix Ruthven, and, womanlike, believed what she chose
to believe.

Bishops were introduced and voted at the November Parliament
which forfeited the Ruthvens ; they were Lindsay, Gledstanes,
Douglas, and Blackburn.'*^ The stubborn incredulity of the
preachers as to the Cowrie conspiracy, and their natural reluctance
to preach on a given subject and to a given effect, had lent James
his opportunity. From the point of view of the ministers, to yield
here was to yield all. " The Spreit of God " inspired them with
what they were to utter in their sermons. Now, if their minds were
not absolutely convinced of the Cowrie treason, the Spirit, of course,
would not permit them to denounce it. We really cannot blame
them here, for the innocent heirs of Cowrie had not yet (before
December 15) been forfeited. Thus, as we look at things, James
was actually commanding the preachers to go into their pulpits and
be guilty of contempt of court. To his mind, however, and he was
not wrong, the preachers were throwing doubt on his personal word
of honour. They would not believe that things had passed as he
said, and swore that they did pass, and (Henderson apart) the
king's, in the nature of the case, was the only evidence. Thus
James fought for his royal and personal honour — if he was a liar he
was also a murderer — while the preachers fought for their consciences
and their inspiration.

On October 14, at Holyrood, there was a meeting of the fourteen
Royal Commissioners of the General Assembly with the Privy
Council at Holyrood. James had ousted five Edinburgh preachers,

VOL. II. 2 G


and their places had to be filled up. He sent James Melville and
two others of the Commissioners to consult on a delicate point with
the " outed " preachers, and, in the absence of the three, got the
remaining divines in to nominate three of the bishops already
mentioned. Their sees were Aberdeen, Ross, and Caithness, be-
cause in these sees alone could a handful of the temporal wealth of
the old Church be recovered.*^ The king, however, had not yet
wedged " the horns of the mitre " securely into the fabric of the
Kirk, and the situation of his three new bishops contained the seeds
of long wars that were to be. It might be disputed whether the
Commissioners who accepted the bishops had power to act for the
Kirk ; their concession needed ratification by a General Assembly.
Mr Gardiner looks on the bishops as holding rank derived only by
a civil appointment from the Crown, by prerogative and Act of
Parliament. They were inevitably led to interfere with the affairs
of the Kirk, which this odd kind of bishops, had no legal right to
do, being hampered by "caveats." They would be opposed by the
preachers " whose cause was the true cause of all spiritual and
moral progress in Scotland, who in the highest sense were in the
right, even when they were formally in the wrong." This is the
usual judgment of historians. The precise ministers represented
"progress spiritual and moral." Unlike the king, nobles, and
bishops, the preachers did not follow " the uncertain guide of
temporary expediency." ^^

We are compelled to see matters in a different light. The
preachers who sympathised with the anarchism of Bothwell, or
sheltered with Logan of Restalrig,** or approved of raids upon the
royal person, followed expediency just as other politicians did.
They were often the agents, sometimes the spies, of a foreign and
unfriendly country — England. They were less often formally in
the wrong than the king was. They were highly moral men,
despite their festive free lances like Bothwell and Logan. But
their morals did not prevent Bruce from calling for the death of
Henderson merely as an experiment in evidence. Two despotisms,
two claims to absolute power, were in conflict, — the claim of inspired
prophets, the claims of an anointed king. " Progress " was equally
impossible under either claim. The two irreconcilable forces, each
of them incompatible with the freedom of the State and of the
individual, were obliged to destroy each other. Meanwhile James
had bishops voting in Parliament. But the impossibility of en-


dowing the sees, and the attempts of the Crown to do so out of the
alienated Church lands, combined with the horror of anything that
looked like the services of the old faith, were to produce the Civil

During the stress of these affairs Charles I. was born at Falkland,
on November ig. His mother had just passed through agitations
only second to those of Mary before the birth of James VI. An
old anecdote avers that the child's nurse once found a spectral
cloaked man rocking the cradle : this, of course, was the enemy of
mankind, and James drew the darkest omens from the phenomenon.

The year 1600 ended, leaving James "a free king" as regarded
the resistance of the Kirk, but still plagued by deadly feuds among
the nobles. Huntly and Argyll were not yet reconciled ; the Maxwells
and Johnstones, the Ogilvies and Lindsays, the Clan Gregor and
the rest of the world carried on their ancient vendettas, and in
Ayrshire began the series of crimes connected with Mure of
Auchendrane. Scotland was still anarchic*

* Persons curious as to the Gowrie conspiracy will find the case against the
king stated in Mr Louis Barbe's interesting volume, "The Tragedy of Gowrie
House" (Gardiner, Paisley, 1S87). The author has considered Mr Barbe's argu-
ments carefully, but remains of the opinion that the plot was a Ruthven, not a
royal conspiracy. He has made a full study of the case, and of the fresh manu-
script materials in "James VI. and the Gowrie Mystery" (Longmans, 1902).

In writing this and the preceding chapter, I had not before me Major Martin
Hume's interesting "Treason and Plot," based partly on uncalendared papers at
Hatfield. Major Hume thinks that James at this period was deep in plot with
Rome and Spain. He speaks of " the many letters now before us in which James
does pretend his desire for reconciliation with Rome " (p. 419, note i. p. 420).
I have no knowledge of any such letters later than the one of 1584. From the
Pope's answer to the disputed letter sent by Elphinstone in 1598, it is clear that
James, if he wrote this epistle, made no pretension of a desire to change his creed —
his Holiness regrets the circumstance. "Lord Hume was sent to Paris and to
Italy ... to beg for recognition" (May 1599), says Major Hume (p. 380). Lord
Hume went to Paris and to Brussels to meet Bothwell — much to James's annoy-
ance — to Italy he did not go. The "advertisements" of John Colville, a starving
spy in exile (1599), are "sensational" rumours not worthy of consideration. His
myths are recorded by Major Hume (p. 380), and long ago by Tytler (ix. 313, 314).
If the wild tales were true, James rejected the Papal offers of 100,000 crowns down,
and 2,000,000 to follow ! That James had received abundance of Spanish or
Roman gold is impossible. We know, from Nicholson, and from the reports of
the financial Convention of June 29, 1600, that he was desperately needy. Com-
pare Major Hume, "the encouragement and money he was getting from the
Catholic powers ..." (p. 395). It was Colville's business to send in what is now

468 NOTES.

called "scare news," and he did so, but was so easily detected by his English
employers that he turned Catholic "for a morsel of bread." For these and other
reasons, I must venture to dissent from the conclusions of Major Hume, till
evidence of a more satisfactory sort is produced. At most, I think, James wished
to pose as a tolerant prince, despite his persecution of his Catholic subjects.


^ Nicholson to Robert Cecil, January 12, 1600; Thorpe, ii. 780.
2 Reprinted by Mr T. G. Law, Miscellany of the Scottish History Society,
vol. i.

^ Pitcaim, ii. 330.

* State Papers Scotland, MS. Elizabeth, vol. Ixvi., No. 52.
^ Thorpe, ii. 762.
^ Hatfield Calendar.

' Winwood Memorials, pp. 37, 146 ; Border Calendar, ii. 645. For Bruce's
mission to a person whom in 1624 he calls "The Master of Cowrie," see
Wodrow's " Life of Bruce," p. 10, 1842.
^ Winwood Memorials, p. 156.
9 Thorpe, ii. 782.

1" Nicholson to Robert Cecil, April 20, 1600.
" Thorpe, ii. 7S2, 783.
^^ Arnot's " Criminal Trials," p. 373.
^^ Border Calendar, ii. 659.
1* Thorpe, ii. 782.
15 Thorpe, ii. 783.

1^ Colville's life is traced in the preface to "Letters of John Colville," Banna-
tyne Club.

^'' Hatfield Calendar, viii. 147.
^* Hatfield Calendar, viii. 399.

^® This appears to be the sense of Craigingelt's statement in Pitcaim, ii. 157.
-" State Papers, Scotland, Eliz. , vol. Ixvi. , No. 50, published for the Roxburghe
Club in "Cowrie Conspiracy, Confessions of George Sprot" by myself,
^ Pitcaim, ii. 157.
^ Border Calendar, ii. 677.

^ Evidence of Henry Balnaves : " Was in the lodging before the tumult. Past
forth, at the request of Sir Thomas Erskine, to buy him a pair green silken
shanks." — Pitcaim, ii. 199.
^ Pitcaim, ii. 249.
2* Pitcairn, ii. 156.
^ Pitcaim, ii. 173.

^ Spottiswoode gives this version, as does : "The True Discourse of the Late
Treason," State Papers, Scotland, Eliz. vol. Ivi. No. 50, MS.
28 Act Pari. Scot., iv. 83, 84.
^ Calderwood, vi. 73, 74.
*" Privy Council Register, vi. 149, 150.

NOTES. 469

2^ Pitcairn, ii. 250, 251.
^ Pitcairn, ii. 215, 222.
2^ Pitcairn, ii. 218.
^* Pitcairn, ii. 1 74- 179.

^ State Papers Scot., Eliz., MS. vol, Ixvi., No. 78.
3S S. P. Scot., Eliz., MS. vol. Ixvi., No. 107.
2'' Privy Council Register, 1600, 1608, 1609, s.'f. Robert Oliphant.
^ S. P. Scot., MS. vol. Ixvi., No. 66.

^^ Tytler, ix. 365, 367 ; Letters of Elizabeth and James (1849), pp. 132, 133.
•'o Thorpe, ii. 788 (83).
^' Calderwood, vi. 99, 100.

•*- James Melville, p. 489 ; Register Privy Council, vi. 164, 166, and Note.
"^ Gardiner, i. 522, 523.

** Had Bruce stayed not in Logan's house, but in the village of Restalrig,
Calderwood would probably have written " Restalrig toun."



160I — 1610.

The new year (1601) was marked by the despatch of ambassadors
to sound England and Elizabeth, and by almost unusually dark and
hostile intrigues of Cecil. Before the end of the year, however, he
had abandoned these efforts in favour of a secret understanding
with James. The court was rife with quarrels and intrigues, and
James Melville kept alive the " griefs " of the Kirk, with the
vehemence of his brother, while the king summoned the General
Assembly in secular fashion by proclamations at market crosses.
The ambassadors who set out for London in February 1601 were the
Earl of Mar and the lay Abbot of Kinloss. They left Scotland in
the middle of February, and made their way to town at the pace
of a funeral procession. In a sense it taas a funeral procession.
Essex lay in prison for his famed "one day's rebellion," an attempt,
in the Scottish manner, at a raid on the person of Elizabeth.
Essex, before he was taken, managed to burn most of his papers,
especially one which he wore in a bag about his neck, and which
only contained six or seven lines. Now, about Yuletide 1600,
Essex, Southampton and others had attempted to establish a
cryptic correspondence with James. They worked through Norton,
the publisher, whose office was in St. Paul's Churchyard, but who
had a branch establishment in Edinburgh. He carried Essex's
document, recommending that Mar should be sent as ambassador
to London by February i, 1601. James was to reply by a letter
" in disguised words of three books," whether a book cypher, or by
using book-titles as cant names of the plotters. James's answer
may have been the tiny paper which Essex wore in a bag, and

JAMES AND ESSEX (160O-1601). 4/1

burned when his enterprise failed. Essex was searched, naked, for
this bag on February 18, 1601, but he had destroyed it.^ Essex
had even prepared instructions for Mar on his arrival as ambassador.
Their general purport was to warn him that Cecil would thwart
James's succession in favour of the Infanta of Spain. This was a
wild theory, but Essex added, with truth, that Cecil had done James
many ill offices. That was well known to the king, who told his
two ambassadors that Cecil and the English ministry would certainly
refuse all their requests, " to force me to appear in my true colours,
as they call it." - Essex's instructions for Mar were revealed by his
secretary, Cuffe, to Cecil, and were not likely to secure a gracious
welcome for Mar and Kinloss.^

Earlier dealings between Essex and James, the request that
James would make a military demonstration on the border, James's
ambiguous reply, were known to Elizabeth. The king, in February
1 60 1, was bidding his ambassadors ask her for a plain statement,
engrossed in the national records, that he had never conspired
against her. This he demanded as a check to any effort to defraud
him of the succession on the score of such attempts. But
Elizabeth, as if he referred only to the affair of Valentine Thomas's
charges, declined to revive old scandals by meeting James's

While Essex, after these attempts at intrigue with James, lay in
prison, expecting death, it was inconvenient that Mar and Kinloss
should arrive in London. They therefore delayed, and came after
his execution. The king commanded them to study the situation
between Elizabeth and her people, to find out whether they were
dissatisfied with her personally, or with her ministers only, to urge
his claims, not merely to the crown, but to the ^ ennox estates in
England, to ask for money, to try to secure the interest of the city,
of the Lieutenant of the Tower, and of the fleet. They were
plainly to warn Cecil and his followers that James, when king,
would use them as they should now use him. It is not certain
whether Mar and Kinloss bluntly told Cecil what James was
threatening. Cecil himself was, in fact, working against James
after the accustomed Tudor policy. Since Henry VII., every
English king had sent his agents to spy, to disturb, to enlist rebels
and traitors, to encourage the discontents of the godly, and the
enterprises of the nobles, north of Tweed. In 1601 Cecil was
playing the old game. He was employing Ogilvie of Pourie, James's


self-styled envoy to the Catholic powers, and a new spy, Thomas
Douglas, as thorns in the side of the king. Ralph Gray, residing
at Chillingham, not far from Flodden, and the Master of Gray him-
self, — (he had returned from France just after the Gowrie affair), —
harbouring at Chillingham, were also Cecil's agents in mi~chief.
" Lord Willoughby " (at Berwick) " has many errands in Scotland " ;
he had repudiated any share in the Gowrie conspiracy, in fact, he
was not at Berwick when that affair occurred.* Cecil was also
engaged in a very obscure intrigue with a Scot named Francis
Mowbray, who, in January 1603, died of hurts received in an
attempt to escape from Edinburgh Castle, where he lay on a charge
of conspiring against James's life. In 1602 Cecil seems to have
been treating with this Mowbray for the purpose of fully discovering
his plot, and communicating it to James.* But, in the spring of
1 60 1, Cecil's dealings with Mowbray are dark.^

Whether Mar and Kinloss plainly delivered James's threat to the
English intriguer or not, Cecil came to terms with them. They met
in the office of the Duchy of Lancaster in the Strand. It was
arranged that James should not publicly pester Elizabeth with his
claims, and that Cecil's commerce with James should be kept a
secret. Lord Henry Howard was to write to Kinloss for Cecil, and
he acted as an intermediary so verbose, and, in addressing James,
so crawlingly abject and hyperbolically fulsome, that his secret
correspondence is most distasteful reading. The rudeness of the
preachers is not so repulsive as the exaggerated and slavish oriental
flattery of the peers and divines of England, with whom James
henceforth had to do. In the preface to our Bibles we have a fair
or rather a moderate specimen of the style which was to confirm
James in his fatal theory of prerogative and Divine right.
Language heightened by an age of servility to Gloriana, was yet
higher spiced for the unaccustomed but greedy ears of the king of
Scotland, in the secret despatches which Howard wrote for Cecil.
"The correspondence," says Mr Bruce, the editor of the letters not
already published by Lord Hailes in 1766, "began between March
and June 1601." The later date is the more probable. Mr
Bruce, an opponent of James, admits that Cecil had other strings to

* The execution of an auctioneer for hanging up the king's portrait on the gibbet
seems cruel (Nicholson to Cecil, April 26, 1601). But the man obviously meant
to taunt James as the murderer of Gowrie. He " is to be challenged for the filthy
act" (May 20, Thomas Douglas to Cecil).


his bow (the Master of Gray for one), and " occasionally found it
difficult to repress the disposition to make assurance doubly sure,"
on the side of James.

In his first letter to Cecil James denied that he had ever been in
treasonable relations with Essex, and promised to keep Elizabeth's
minister on in his old situation. He keeps addressing Cecil as
"My dearest 10" (the cypher name), and, after October 1601,
James was fairly safe from the chance of finding Bothwell in his
bedroom or Restalrig under his bed, at least as far as Cecil could
control and direct such enthusiasts. His domestic peace was less
secure. His queen was still sore about the deaths of the Ruthvens,
and the dismissal of Mistress Beatrix. Howard and Cecil especially
distrusted Anne, James's wife ; they must never be well spoken of,
they said, in her presence. She passed the year, as she usually did,
in quarrels with James's ministers and favourites, such as Sir George
Home and Sir Thomas Erskine. Whatever her husband did was
wrong, apparently, in this lady's opinion, and so Howard and Cecil
had reasons for distrusting her. The political year ended with
James's offers to aid Elizabeth in Ireland. From the intrigues of
Cecil, now rallying to the Rising Sun, he was safe. Ogilvie of
Pourie, too, gave trouble, trying to extort blackmail from the
king, probably, but he was reduced to denying that ever he
was commissioned to do James's errands of secrecy in Flanders,
France, and Spain — a pretence which, as we saw, caused great

In ecclesiastical matters the year was comparatively peaceful.
James Melville was in bad health, and could only send letters to
the brethren, while Davidson, who also expressed himself in a letter,
was at first " warded," but, later, set at liberty. A General Assembly,
at Burntisland in May, did little beyond deciding that the country
was about to run either into papistrie or atheism, considerable
defections from the standards of the Kirk. It was decided that the
converted Catholic peers ought to be more visited by ministers, and
that the " planting " of preachers in desolate parishes was desirable.
The Edinburgh preachers who had doubted James's account of the
Cowrie plot were to be transported to other districts. It was a
grievance that James made August 5, the day of his deliverance
from the Gowries, a holiday with preachings. He took this festival
to England with him, and some of the sermons which the English
prelates preached on Gowrie Plot day are remarkably false and


fulsome. A Scottish preacher named Blythe emitted a sermon against
pardon granted by James for manslayings, "and worse." "Worse"
was a supposed pardon to Ogilvie of Pourie, who, after being
captured on the English border, had come north, partly to do what
he could for himself with James, partly in the service of Cecil.

In the spring of 1602 that resolute disbeliever in the king's
word, Robert Bruce, who had an interview with Mar and Kinloss
in England during their embassy, was allowed to come home, and
met the king. A kind of " dour " tactlessness was displayed by
Bruce. The king asked him if he was " resolved," — that is, if his
doubts as to the Cowrie matter were removed. Bruce said " Yes."
" How ? " asked the king. Bruce said by Mar's oath. Now James,
in earlier interviews, had given Bruce both word and oath, perhaps
too many oaths. The man, therefore, was calmly telling James
that he accepted Mar's oath, but not the king's. James observed
that Mar neither heard nor saw anything of the chief events.
" How then could he swear ? " Mr Bruce did not know. He was still
unsatisfied about the real matter at issue, " the part which concerned
your majesty and the Master of Cowrie," young Ruthven. " Doubt
you of that ? " said the king, " then you could not but count me a
murderer?" Bruce's answer was amazing. "It foUoweth not, if it
please you, sir, for you might have some secret cause."

That "secret cause" could only be what rumour averred, an
amour between young Ruthven, or Cowrie, and the queen. To
have Ruthven stabbed in his brother's house for that or any other
secret cause would have been murder, as James had said. Mr
Bruce's morality was as peculiar as his manners. "The king
heard him gently . . . which Mr Robert admired." He might
well " admire," as, but for Mr Bruce's cloth, any man would have
been justified in kicking him downstairs. He would sign a pro-
fession of belief, but would not utter it in the pulpit, because it was
"a doubtsome matter." "I give it a doubtsome trust." This odd
moralist would sign an expression of belief in what he did not
believe. Mr Bruce was internally praying all the time, which
exercise appears to have confused his mind.'' But Mr Bruce was at
last convinced, as we have already said, that James was guiltless of
any plot when he left Falkland on the morning of August 5, 1600.
It is not an enemy who reports these things, but the sympathetic
Calderwood. He later offered to be plain in the pulpit " as I shall
find myself to be moved by Cod's Spirit " — the old intolerable pre-


tence of direct inspiration. At the risk of tedious repetition it must
again be said that this claim of direct, not to say miraculous
illumination by the Deity was the real stone of stumbling on which
the Kirk tripped. In Covenanting days, nearly a century later, a
certain Euphan M'Cullan, of Kilconquhar, in Fife, was fervent in
prayer. She prayed for the life of a preacher named Carmichael
who was in bad health. " The Lord left me not a mouse's likeness,
and said, ' Beast that thou art . . . he ' " (Mr Carmichael) " ' was
but a reed that I spoke through, and I will provide another reed to
speak through.' " Mr Henry Rollock was provided, but, Euphan
thought, was an inferior reed. Her words are cited from " The
Memorials of Mr John Livingstone " by Lord Hailes.^ Not only

Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 49 of 60)