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shown in a favourable light, it is fair to say that at this period neither
he nor his associates can well have been moved by other than honest
convictions. Mary Tudor was still on the English throne : nothing
now was to be gained from England, unless on the expectation of
Mary's death and the return of Protestantism under Elizabeth. In
Mr Froude's opinion, however, " the gaunt and hungry nobles of
Scotland, careless, most of them, of God or Devil, were eyeing the
sleek and well-fed clergy like a pack of famished wolves." The
warning of Argyll was unheard by the Archbishop. On a date
variously given, but apparently between April 20 and April 28,
1558, one Walter Milne, a very aged man, and a married priest,
was tried for heresy, and burned at St Andrews.-

Untrustworthy as is Pitscottie, his word may perhaps be taken for
what occurred in his own day, almost in his own parish. " The said
Walter Mylie [Milne] was warming him in a poor's house
in Dysart, and teaching her the commandments of God to her and


her bairns, and learning her how she should instruct her house, to
bring up her bairns in the fear of God." This duty, despite the
Archbishop's Catechism, had been flagrantly neglected by the clergy
in general. To arrest such a man, in such a task, as "a seducer of
the people," and to burn him under forms of the most dubious
justice, naturally, and righteously, caused " a new fervency among
the whole people." A cairn of stones was raised on the site where
Milne had suffered. The populace was now sincerely stirred, and
Milne, as he had hoped, was the last who died for Protestantism in
Scotland. The act was cowardly and merciless. Hamilton might
have proceeded against Argyll. He preferred to burn a poor, aged,
and decrepit man for teaching the Commandments, and for having,
in Beaton's time, married and abjured his orders.

A strange event, occurring in September 1558, did not add to
the popularity of France. On their return to Scotland, at Dieppe,
the Commissioners for the marriage sickened, the Bishop of
Orkney died, and by November 29 Rothes, Cassilis, and
Fleming had not yet left France,^ where they later succumbed.
The Lord James Stewart is said never to have recovered his
health completely. According to Pitscottie, he was " hanged by
the heels by the mediciners, to cause the poison to drop out.*
A similar tale is told about Cardan's treatment of Arch-
bishop Hamilton. Naturally, poison was suspected ; but the fatal
ball at Stirling, in recent years, proves that accident and oysters
may be the cause of similar calamities. The temper both of the
populace and the gentry was exhibited in August and September.
Paul Methven, a preacher later suspended for adultery, had been
summoned to trial for heresy. But the gentry of his faction
gathered to support him, as when Knox was summoned in 1556,
and a riot seemed probable. The trial was postponed to the
beginning of September.^ Apparently not only Methven, but
Willock and other preachers were included in the summons, and
their armed defenders entered the Regent's presence, protesting,
" Shall we suffer this any longer ? No, madam ; it shall not be.
And therewith every man put on his steel bonnet." The Regent
addressed them falteringly in her broken English, " Me knew
nothing of this proclamation."^ If Buchanan and Lesley are well-
informed, the new summons against the preachers coincided with
the Feast of St Giles (September i). The old "idol," which had
been carried off, had not been replaced, but a new idol, " Young


St Giles," was borne in procession. The Regent accompanied it,
but, as she was dining in a burgess's house, while St Giles was being
carried back to his shrine, a riot arose. "The hearts of the Brethren
were wonderfully inflamed," and the rascal multitude now loved
mischief more than they feared saints. The priests were scattered
by the mob, St Giles was broken to pieces, and though Buchanan
says that there was no bloodshed, the nerves of the clergy were
shaken seriously. The Bishop of Galloway, a rhymer and, Knox
says, a gambler, died of emotion. "The articles of his creed were :
" I refer ! Decart you : ha, ha, the Four Kings, and all made, the
Devil go with it, it is but a knave ! " That " belly-god," Panter,
the learned Bishop of Ross, died in October. The Church was
seriously weakened by his decease.

In England the loss of Calais was followed by the death of Mary
Tudor (November 17, 1558). Elizabeth was naturally expected to
bring England back to a creed which would be sympathetic to the
Lords of the Congregation. They were strong in the popular
favour, England would soon be their ally, they had organised
their forces, had sent emissaries through the land to enrol adher-
ents, and hoped to win their ends, if not peacefully, then by force
of arms.'^ Their demands for right to use common prayers in
English were accepted, for the time, by Mary of Guise, provision-
ally ; they might " use them.selves godly," and apparently might
celebrate the sacrament in their own way if they would abstain
from public meetings in Edinburgh and Leith. All this till " some
uniform order might be established by a Parliament." ^ Parliament
met on November 29, and decreed the crown matrimonial to the
Dauphin.^ The Lords of the Congregation put in a letter on their
own affairs, but it is not recorded ; Knox says that their enemies
refused to let it appear in the register. The Protestants observed
that, in the existing state of the penal laws, their immortal souls
were endangered by submission to " the damnable idolatry and
intolerable abuses of the Papistical Church." In addressing mem-
bers of that Church, their tone was remote from conciliatory. They
requested that the Heresy laws should be suspended till a General
Council decided "all controversies in religion," a date obviously
remote. Secondly, lest this should seem to "set all men at liberty
to live as they list," they asked for a secular judge, with the
ordinary and necessary provisions, unknown to inquisitorial pro-
ceedings, for the defence of the accused. They appealed to the


Scriptures as the sole criterion of what was, or was not, heresy.
But who was to interpret the Scriptures ?

The Regent, in these difficult circumstances, temporised, and
the evangelical Lords put in a protest, demanding security from
persecution, and proclaiming themselves blameless, if tumults arose,
" and if it shall chance that abuses be violently reformed." ^^ There
are hints of open resistance in these documents ; but it is clear that,
unless the petitions were granted, force was the only remedy. The
state of affairs justified even civil war: it was 'intolerable that so
great a part of the commonwealth as the protesting Lords repre-
sented should be forced into hypocrisy by dread of the stake. In
modern times a mere " Disruption " would have ensued. In the
sixteenth century, compromise, or peaceful secession, was practically
impossible. One religion must conquer, and abolish, or try to
abolish, the other. Even in their petitions the Protestants de-
nounced the religion of their fathers and of their queen as " dam-
nable." The two hostile forms of Christianity could not live
together in one country. The quarrel must be decided by the

It certainly could not be decided by public disputations. That
method was attempted. While the early spring of 1559 was being
spent in the negotiations for the Peace of Cateau Cambresis, a
Catholic scholar was using his pen to aid his cause. Quentin
Kennedy, a younger son of the second Earl of Cassilis by his wife,
a daughter of Archibald, Earl of Argyll, was a good representative of
the Church. Kennedy had studied at St Andrews and Paris, and
was vicar of Penpont. In 1558 he published his ' Compendius
Tractive,' a reply to the Protestants. He argues that the Scriptures
are the witnesses to the will and purpose of God, but merely the
witnesses, not the judge. The witnesses must be examined and
cross-examined, and the Church alone is the judge, where difficulties
of interpretation arise. " The wicked opinion of some private
factious men . . . sets at nought the interpretation of ancient
General Councils." It is in vain to say, "Why should not every
man read the Scripture to seek out his own salvation ? " Every
man is not competent. How can every private reader decide,
for instance, as to doubted questions of text and rendering?
There is no opinion but some text may be wrested into its
justification. To ask (as Wallace did) to be judged by the
Scriptures is to ask an impossibility.^^ Such, with copious rein-

46 THE beggars' warning (1559).

forcements from the Bible and the Fathers, is Kennedy's doctrine.
In March 1559 he was challenged to dispute with the preacher
Willock at Ayr. Willock, says Kennedy, had been making great
play, in sermons, with Irenseus, Chrysostom, Origen, TertuUian,
and other Fathers. " I perceived the craft of the knave, who,
expecting no adversary, cited such doctors, believing that their
works had not been in this country " ; and, indeed, there can have
been no great sale for Tertullian's works in Ayrshire. But
Kennedy possessed these and other authors. He reduced Willock
to admit that he only accepted his own Fathers, "as far as he
thought they were agreeable with the Word of God." On the day
of the proposed disputation, four or five hundred Ayrshire theolo-
gians assembled to back Willock. Kennedy could have brought
twice as great a " tail," but he foresaw a riot. Nothing else could
be expected. A theological discussion would have degenerated
into a clan battle.^-

Already the din of social revolution was heard. On January i,
1559, a notice had been fastened on the gates of religious houses.
"The beggars" — the poor, halt, and maimed — demanded "restitu-
tion." The alms and the wealth of the religious foundations, they
said, were their own : they would claim all, and evict the religious,
on Whitsunday. Of course the poor never got the "patrimony"
which they claimed in "The Beggars' Warning." The example
of England might have warned them that the Reformation there
only deepened social oppression. The nobles kept the wealth of
the clergy, though perhaps the populace helped themselves at the
sacking of churches and abbeys. In Edinburgh the town council
seized and sold the treasures of St Giles' (October 1560).

While these affairs show the drift and the methods of the great
debate, in official religious politics we are told by Knox that the
godly trusted Mary of Guise, and rebuked those who thought her
promises hypocritical.^^ But at the moment of the general Peace
of Gateau Cambresis (April 2, 1559) the Regent "began to spew
forth and declare the latent venom of her double heart." The
treaty provided that neither realm should assist the enemies or
shelter the rebels of the other. The Regent might hope that
Elizabeth would keep the treaty. At Easter " she commanded her
household to use all abominations," and insisted on knowing when
every one received the sacrament. After this "it is supposed that
the Devil took more violent and strong possession in her," so much


SO that she " caused our preachers to be summoned " ; among them
were Willock and Paul Methven. When remonstrated with, she
blasphemed and told Glencairn and the sheriff of Ayr that princes
need keep no more of their promises than they pleased. The
summons to the preachers, however, was postponed.^*

Here accuracy of dates is desirable. In a transcript of a MS.
' Historic of the Estate of Scotland ' we do get an approach to
dates, and an account of the events, unlike Knox's. It is here said
that the preachers were summoned, in the end of December 1558,
to appear at St Andrews on February 2, 1559, and that the
summons was postponed. " We ceased not most humbly to sue
her favours," writes Knox, " and by great diligence at last obtained
that the summonses at that time were delayed." The anonymous
writer explains the nature of the humility and the " diligence " of
Knox's version : " The brethren . . . caused inform the Queen-
Regent that the said preachers would appear with such multitude of
men professing their doctrine, as was never seen before in suchlike
cases in this country." This was the traditional Scottish way of
controlling justice. Mary of Guise, fearing sedition, caused the
bishops to postpone the case, and summoned a convention at
Edinburgh " to advise for some reformation in religion." The date
was March 7, 1559, and a helpless Provincial Council was held at
the same time. Acts were passed for the reform of the lives
of the clergy, and some " Articles " suggested by the moderate
Catholics were considered. But nothing was done to any pur-
pose.^^ The Protestants dispersed : the bishops bribed Mary,
says the anonymous writer, and on March 23 a statute denounced
death against unauthorised preaching and administration of the
sacrament. In April the preachers were summoned, under pain of
outlawry. ^"^ According to Knox, this final summons was for May 10,
at Stirling. Knox himself arrived in Edinburgh on May 2. He
went to Dundee, after writing on May 3 to Mrs Locke, "Assist
me, sister, with your prayers, that now I shrink not when the battle
approacheth." On this occasion he had a powerful band of sup-
porters. Dundee was full of the gentlemen of Angus, who accom-
panied the preachers to Perth, " without armour, as peaceable men,
minding only to give confession with their preachers." Lest such
a crowd should frighten the Regent, Knox says, that they sent
Erskine of Dun to inform her of their peaceful purpose. She
begged him " to stay the multitude, and the preachers also, with


promise that she would take some better order." Erskine wrote to
the evangelists in Perth, some of whom acquiesced, others wished
to march on StirHng, until "a discharge of the former summons
should be had." Knox was now in Perth. The Queen -Regent,
"perceiving that the preachers did not appear" on May lo, had
them outlawed. Erskine retired from Stirling to Perth, "and did
conceal nothing of the queen's craft and falsehood." Consequently
the multitude, in spite of "the exhortation of the preacher and
the commandment of the magistrate, . . . destroyed the places of
idolatry," the religious houses in Perth. ^''^

To the havoc wrought at Perth we shall return. The torch of
civil war was lighted, a thing inevitable ; for the Government could
not for ever endure the contumacy of the preachers, and the Con-
gregation, if they left their pulpitmen to the law, would be stripped
of every rag of honour. The conflict, then, must have come ; but
was it precipitated by an act of explicit treachery on the part of Mary
of Guise ? This is the theory of several of our historians. Mary
"promised to withdraw the citations," but broke her promise, says
Hill Burton.i^ Mary "declared that if the people" (at Perth)
"would disperse, the preachers should be unmolested, the summons
discharged, and new proceedings taken, which should remove all
ground of complaint." So Tytler : ^^ adding that, " relying on this
premise, the leaders sent home their people." Dr M'Crie avers
that Mary promised that she would put a stop to the trial, and
that " the greater part " of the Protestants *' returned to their
homes." ^"^ The doctor then blames " the wanton and dishonourable
perfidy" of the Regent. Dr M'Crie often cites the MS 'Historic
of the Estate of Scotland.' Here it contradicts Knox — and is not
cited. Mr Froude remarks, " Protestant writers say that the Regent
desired them " (the preachers) " not to appear, and then outlawed
them for disobedience " (that is, for non-appearance), adding, " This
is scarcely the truth." ^^ Yet, on the next page, Mr Froude writes
that Knox, on arriving at Perth, "found the summons withdrawn."
Now Knox himself does not tell us in his History that the summons
to the preachers was withdrawn. The Queen-Regent "promised
that she would take some better order," vague enough. Some
of the leaders of the Congregation, says Knox, distrusting Mary's
vague promise of taking "some better order," desired that the
summons should be withdrawn ; but Mary, " notwithstanding any
request made in the contrary, perceiving that the preachers did not


'compear,' gave commandment to put them to the horn" — that is,
to outlaw them and their abettors. Erskine of Dun then left Stirling
and explained the situation to the Reformers in Perth. - Mary's
vague promise to Erskine caused the multitude at Perth to "dis-
perse," according to Mr Hill Burton ; according to Mr Tytler, " their
leaders sent home the people," and thus Mary's treachery secured its
end. But Knox, who was in Perth, says that " the whole multitude
with their preachers stayed." To be sure, Knox, writing to Mrs
Locke from St Andrews six weeks later (June 23), gives a version
different from that in his History. ^^ He says that the Queen-Regent
bade the multitude to " stay " (at Perth) " and not come to Stirling,
which place was appointed to the preachers to compear, and so should
no extremity be used, but the summons should be continued " (post-
poned) " till further avisement, which being gladly granted of us,
some of the brethren returned to their dwelling-places." Mary then
summoned the preachers, and outlawed them on their non-appear-
ance. Here Mary's guilt lay in persevering with a summons which
she is said to have promised to " continue till further avisement."

All this is contradicted by the anonymous, but Protestant, ' His-
toric of the Estate of Scotland.' "Albeit the Queen-Regent was
most earnestly requested and persuaded to continue " (that is, to defer
the summons), " nevertheless she remained wilful and obstinate " (that
is, did not "continue" or postpone the summons). . . . "Shortly,
the day being come" (May 10), "because they appeared not, their
sureties were outlawed" (really they were fined), "and the preachers
ordered to be put to the horn.^* On this (and not before), Erskine
of Dun, having visited Stirling to speak to the queen, " perceiving
her obstinacy, they [who ? ] returned from Stirling, and coming to
Perth, declared to the brethren the extremitie they found in the
queen." They then sacked religious houses.^^ Here we find no
word of even a vague promise of deferring the summons : Mary is
said to have refused to do so. The author "inspires confidence,"
says Mr Hume Brown, because " certain of his facts not recorded by
other contemporary Scottish historians are corroborated by the de-
spatches of d'Oysel and others in Teulet."-^ Finally, Sir James
Croft, writing from Berwick on May 19, says that the preachers,
with a train of 5000 or 6000 men, repaired towards Stirling, but
were put to the horn, and the nobles commanded to appear before
the Regent at Edinburgh. They had sent Erskine of Dun to ask
the Regent to permit a public disputation. She outlawed him.^'



The account which most modern historians really rest on is that of
Buchanan.^s He says that the Regent asked Erskine to send home
the multitude, and promised that in the meanwhile she would at-
tempt nothing against any of the faith. Many therefore went home.
Nevertheless the Regent put the preachers to the horn. But, if we
accept Knox's History, the whole tnultitude stayed at Perth, and did
not go home at all. In his letter some went home. If the Regent's
promise was conditional, depending on the dispersion of the crowd,
she broke no promise. Such, and so confused and contradictory, is
the evidence for Mary's perfidy. Probably Knox's letter of June 23
is the most trustworthy account, though it clashes with his History.
Mr Tytler's charge of " treacherous precipitation " against the Queen-
Regent is decidedly too absolute.

The real occasion of the outbreak was the habit of trying to
overawe justice by tumultuous assemblages. The ruin and wrack
wrought at Perth were such as characterise revolutions. The
Christians on the fall of Paganism ; the Huguenots at Orleans ; the
French in 1793, were equally or even more destructive to buildings,
books, and works of art than the Reformers in Scotland. Knox
was certainly conscious of the blame which attaches itself to wasteful
and wanton destruction. He says that " neither the exhortation of
the preacher nor the commandment of the magistrate could stay
them from the destroying of the places of idolatry," as we have seen.
But places are one thing, objects of art are another. The preachers,
before May 11, had instructed the multitude that God commands
*' the destruction of the monuments of idolatry." Consequently,
when the sermon of May 11, at Perth, "was vehement against
idolatry," the inevitable consequences followed. After the sermon
a priest did his duty, and performed mass, opening " a glorious
tabernacle that stood on the high altar." "A young boy" cried out
that this was intolerable. The priest struck him, and the boy, like
Smollett in youth, " had a stane in his pouch." He threw it, and
struck the tabernacle. The whole multitude destroyed the works of
art, and while the gentry and " the earnest professors " were at
dinner the rascal multitude sacked the Franciscan monastery. From
the Charter-House, founded by James I., the prior is said to have
been allowed to take away as much of the gold and silver as he
could carry. Men " had no respect to their own particular profit,
but only to abolish idolatry." Yet "the spoil was permitted to
the poor." Of the religious houses only the walls were left


Standing. 23 Priests were forbidden to do the mass under pain
of death, a significant fact which our historians usually overlook.^*'
Mr Tytler never alludes to it. The idea of Knox and his
friends appears to have been that where they held a town, such
as Perth, Catholics might not exercise their religion except at
the price of the death of their priest. On the other hand,
if the Catholic clergy elsewhere persecuted Protestants, Knox
and his allies promised to treat them as murderers, as shall pre-
sently be shown.

Clearly, if either set of persecutors were murderers, both sets
were ; but as the Reformers were a law to themselves, and
broke the law of their country, they were the less excusable. On
hearing of the acts of destruction at Perth (locally said to have been
done by men from Dundee), Mary of Guise summoned Argyll,
Arran, and Atholl, and " all the nobility." She is said by Knox to
have threatened to sow Perth with salt, especially resenting the
destruction of the Charter-House, " sacred as the burial-place of the
first of the Stewart kings," says Mr Froude. But James I. was not
precisely the first king of his House.^^ Knox meanwhile was in Perth.
Expecting the Regent's arrival there with French troops, he received
reinforcements of the godly, who began to fortify the place. On
May 22 they wrote a letter to the Regent. They assured her that
they would risk a thousand deaths rather than " deny Christ Jesus
and His manifest verity." They did not add that they meant to
inflict death on priests whose theory of Christ's verity differed from
their own. They bade the Regent leave them unharmed till they
" received answer " from Mary Stuart in France, and the Dauphin.^^
This letter meant open rebellion to constituted authority. The
writers were but "a very few and mean number of gentlemen,"
who described themselves, in a letter to the nobles, as " the Con-
gregation of Christ Jesus in Scotland." They defended their con-
duct, as usual, out of the Bible, and pointed out that the apostles
had been dissenters in their day, " did dissassent from the whole
world." The difference, perhaps, was that the apostles did not sack
the Temple and fortify Jerusalem against Rome and the Jews. For
this behaviour no New Testament warrant was cited.

Knox avers that "we required nothing but the liberty of conscience,"
a strange request from men who doomed priests to death. Reformers
and Covenanters alike desired " liberty of conscience " for themselves.
It included refusal of such liberty to their opponents. Another


letter was addressed to the clergy, " To the Congregation of Anti-
christ, the pestilent prelates and their shavelings." If they persist
in persecution, they " shall be apprehended as murderers." " We
shall begin that same war which God commanded Israel to execute
against the Canaanites." The writers had summoned their adherents,

Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 60)