H. D. (Henry Duff) Traill.

Social England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) online

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hands nosegays and posies of flowers to smell at, and which
is more, two or three nosegays sticked in their breasts before." 1
The geometrical arrangement of " knots " was coming into
vogue at the great gardens of Nonesuch, Theobalds, Cobhain
Garden, and also at Hampton Court, where the hedges of
rosemary were famous. Bacon condemns the making of knots
or figures with divers coloured earths as " but toys : you may
see as good signes many times in tarts."


(I,*! ptrmlssion of the Library Committee to the Corporation of the City of London.)

WHEN Mary Stuart landed at Leith from France (1561), the JAMES
young Queen and widow of nineteen received a rough but g OI jy IL E
kindly welcome from as turbulent a people as ever sovereign isei-ieos.'
essayed to guide. Four years of vigorous rule, worthy of
the active days of her sire and grandsire, were all too soon
blighted by her unhappy marriage, followed in quick succession
by the Rizzio tragedy, the Darnley murder, the flight with
Bothwell, the shame of Carberry and Lochleven, the desperate
rally at Langside (1568), and the consequent loss of crown,
liberty, and life (1587). Seldom has the finger of History
written so much grim romance with pen so swift. The crown
was left to a feeble, ricketty child, at play in Stirling Castle,
and by-and-by to grow to manhood oblivious of that welter

1 Stubbes, p. 78


of anarchy and intrigue called the regencies of Murray, Lennox,.
Arran, and Morton. And when he did come to maturity,
easy good nature, coarse bonhomie, infirmity of purpose,
indolence, and timidity of temperament, formed a weak close
to the centuries of sturdy independence enjoyed by the
Scottish Crown.

The national forces at work during these forty years
darkened the depressing features of the time. The crown
never was feebler, the national spirit of the barons never more
corrupt and violent. Justice was openly bought and sold,
while private feud, scorning the restraints of either the law
or the Church, shocked and harassed society. The Reformation
increased the confusion, and specially intensified the curse of
foreign interference. France countenanced the Catholic lords
but did nothing to save the Queen's party or wreck reform.
More insidious and unscrupulous was the policy of Elizabeth
marked as it was by mendacity, selfishness, and trickery
Her numerous agents were the ready tools of Cecil and
Walsinghani in corrupting national feeling and fomenting
disorder. Their activity was limited only by their mistress s
strong objection to charges She would do mischief, but
grudged the expense The old suzerainty claim still blighted,
like a curse, the relationships of the sister kingdoms. The
two peoples, as an English traveller of the time observed
differed nowise in language faith, or practice Divergence
became much more marked after the Union of 1603. The
Kirk strove to save society, honestly, though with a narrow
zeal characteristic of the age Scottish Puritanism had its
limitations, but it was imbued with the national feeling, and
only leant on English support against France and reaction.
Unaided it opposed the Episcopal leanings of Morton and the
king, but in so doing it materially aided the English Puritans
in their constitutional struggle

Law and The rapidly shifting scenes of the time exhibit, with dramatic

force, the conditions of every-day life. Law and order could
hardly be said to exist The Court of Session sat. but its
procedure was often little better than the ordeal of battle-
When a Day of Law was appointed, the accused gathered his
" fighting tail " around him as witnesses to the power of his
name, not the justness of his cause. The object was to overawe

SCOTLAND, 1561-1603. 549

the court and thus evade the trial. The people were quarrel-
some and litigious. A change of Cabinet usually involved a
trial for treason, a charge of intrigue with the enemy, and
death at the Mercat Cross for the defeated party. A con-
temporary says it Avas hard for any peaceable man, as he rode

Photo: H". Spooner it Co., hti'itnd, II'. C'.

(Fro"i the painting 6i/ Mytens at Hampton Court Palace.)

out on the highway to profess openly that he was for king or
queen : " all the people casten sae lowss, and become of sic
dissolute minds and actions that nane was in account but he
that could kill or reive his neighbours.'"' The necessity for
mutual protection, for lawful or unlawful purposes, gave rise

550 THE NEW 01WEH.

to the band or covenant of Manrccl (homage), a custom peculiar
to the age and country. The legal phraseology of the time,,
too, is significant, with its quaint charges i'or herrschip, kmne-
sucken, and stovth or xtouthrief. Frightful contempt for human
life blunted the sensibilities of all. The king himself, ludi-
crously timid as he was, treated witches and weak insulters
of majesty to short shrift. In 1581 a town-officer in Edin-
burgh, selling by auction some poinded goods at the Mercat
Cross, playfully nailed pictures of the king and queen to the
gallows, that stood permanently close by. For this the man
was apprehended and hanged. The bodies of doomed victims
lay long unburied, and on the gable of every Tolbooth was
the spike for the ghastly head. Thus the heads of Morton
and the Gowries, as, at a later date, those of Montrose and
Argyll, were left to bleach on the Tolbooth of Edinburgh.
The What must have been the lot of poor husbandmen in

Districts, such times ? "Where exposed to the forayers of the Debate-
able Land, and the caterans of the North, the outer barbarians
of Skye and the Lews, farming must have existed only in
the swiftly portable form of small black cattle and sturdy
garrons. Certainty of tenure or profitable husbandry was alike
impossible. A popular poem corroborates the gloomy sketches
of Maitland and Charteris. Signs of thrift and prosperity in
the homestead excite the cupidity of the laird's wife, and the
rack-rents and double services begin. No longer has the carle
ability or wish to follow his lord to the wappenschaw " in
feir of war." Estienne Perlin, travelling about the middle of
the century, finds the country poor in gold and silver (coin),
victuals plenty, arable land indifferent, much bad and wild
uncultivated land, with here and there small towns and
villages. Fife, cut off by the sea from the disorders of North
and South, is the most flourishing district. Fynes Moryson
(1598) also notes the pleasant prospect here, but adds, " There
are no woods at all, but only the seats of the squires, shaded
with some little groves. Trees in general ore rare." He saw
Falkland, once in the midst of a royal forest, but he found it
old and ready to fall, though built so recently as James V.'s
time. Fife must have been a favourable type of prosperit}'',
with its cornlands, seacliffs rich in coals, shores abounding in
oysters, but above all in its populous burghs of Flemish and

SCOTLAND, 1561-1603. 551

Frisian origin, studding the hem of fruitful seaboard. Upon
the whole, however, Moryson has to remark, " As in the
North of England we have small pleasantness, goodness, or
abundance of fruits and flowers, in Scotland much less."

Industry and culture were confined to a few small towns. The
The population rose from about 600,000 in 1556 to a million TownB -
at the Union. With England there was little intercourse.
Only thirty-six Scots were to be found in London in 1567,
whereas the Dutch numbered nearly three thousand. Few
Southrons travelled across the Border. Moryson found no
public inns, but the better citizens brewed ale and entertained
on acquaintance or entreaty. Aberdeen and Dumfries, at
either extreme, had considerable trade, but their citizens
lived as in a camp, exposed to the feuds of the neighbour-
ing gentry. Perth and Dundee were making the most of
their favourable natural positions. A merchant of Ayr fur-
nished the King with a tine ship when he romantically set
out to fetch home his bride from Denmark. Glasgow was
but an obscure village under the shadow of the Bishop's
Castle, and did not get full burgh rights till 1636. The
nourishing ports of Berwick and St. Andrews declined rapidly
with the fall of the old Church that had fostered them.
The burgesses of Berwick had been the pioneers of commerce,
and when Bishop John of St. Andrews wished to found
another such port at his See, the King had given him the
services of Mamard, a Fleming and burgess of Berwick. The
trade of St. Andrews was at its best just before the storm
burst that wrecked the Cathedral.

The historic memories and the picturesque humours of The

the capital, at this romantic epoch, would themselves furnish

forth many a chapter of social life. It combined the interest
of Elizabethan London and Revolutionary Paris. Always cir-
cumscribed, it was, even at the Union, limited to its narrow
central ridge. The Canongate, a faubourg extending from the
Palace to the city port of the Netherbow, was the counter-
part of the London Strand. Towards the end of the century
it was beginning to be covered with noble mansions, a sign
of growing prosperity. Such of the lesser nobles as resided
in the capital had their houses on the Castle Hill around
the minor court of Mary of Guise. Later in the century


nobles and rich burgesses were disposed to leave the noisy
High Street to the craftsman, and retire to the slopes to-
wards the south. There at the foot of narrow lanes, easily
defended by closing 1 the strong iron yetts (gates) at the
entrance, they looked out upon tiny courtyards and pleasant
gardens. This aristocratic quarter of the Cowgate took its
tone from the Bishop of Dunkeld's house, and Blackfriars,
where Cardinal Beaton had lived. Near by was the house
of Napier, Master of the Mint, where the Danish nobles were
feasted in 1590. The vivres were bread and meat with abund-
ance of beer, ale, and Avine. The provost provided " naprie
and twa dozen greit veschell," the goblets or ykolls out of
which were drunk the rousing pledges that were long known
by that name.

The High Street was the scene where the Montagues and
Capulets of the time bit thumbs or delivered the assassin's
thrust with deadlv whinger. The apprentices were equally
reckless of life, and mingled sport with bloodshed. On such
occasions the broad street was speedily cleared, the booths
shut up, and the yetts at the close-heads promptly secured,
while from the boles, or round apertures, that did duty as
windows to light the turnpike stairs, pale faces looked down
upon the melee. In 1584, when there Avas a king again in the
land, an attempt Avas made to secure order and protect traders
from the constant plundering of their booths. The citizens
Avere to take the Avatch in turn. In 1596 a town-guard of
thirty Avas appointed, but to little purpose. The king Avas one
day Avalking doAvn the street Avith two of his nobles, Avhen a
feud broke out betAveen them, and he had to seek the shelter
of a skinner's booth.

The High Street Avas devoted to trading. Here Avas con-
centrated the business of a population of 30,000, in a space
of a quarter of a mile. At its upper end, in front of St.
Giles, stood the cross, and beside it the gallows. Here Avas
the 'Change and open-air parliament, The causeAvay Avas
coA T ered Avith the trons (Aveigh beams) for various markets,
besides merchants' booths, specially on Sunday, of old a
market-day, till the Kirk, after 1500, urged the magistrates
to close shops and taA'erns during divine sendee. Tanners,
brewers, and candle-makers Avere also alloAved to carry on



their noisome crafts here. Attempts were made to reduce
the mounds of garbage, and prevent swine from being a pest
on the street. Citizens were to burn bowets or lanterns at
certain places from rive till nine o'clock in the evening. Fires
were frequent and destructive, for stacks of fuel were common
enough beside the doors. In 1584 a baxter's boy, " no doubt
at Satan's prompting," says the chronicler, set fire to his
father's heather-stack, to the destruction of his house and

(Bruun and Hohenberg, " Cifitates Orbis Terrarwn.")

the hazard of the town. He was burnt quick at the Cross,
this enfant terrible. The king, reminded by his winter's
stay in Denmark (1590; of the shortcomings of his noisy
capital, wrote urging his Council to put everything in order,
'' for a king of Scotland with a new-marid wife will not come
home every day." " For God's sake," he also wrote to a city
clergyman left in charge of the capital, " take all the pains
you can to teach our people weill against our coming, lest
we be all ashamed before strangers." This worthy must also
press the provost to supply the master of work with good


craftsmen " to end the half-perfyted Abbey (the palace) that
now lies i : the deid-thraw."

Manners. sir Richard Maitland throws much light on the social

outlook alter 15(jO. He notes a less kindly teeling between
the classes. Among wealthy traders new- tangled notions are
spreading with the love of tinery and display. All this.
however, only marks better notions of comfort as great
houses ceased to be fortresses. Sleeping accommodation
improved The poor still lay on heath or rushes covered
wirh skins Fustian blankets were coming into use, with
sheets ot linen and pillows covered with silk. Some Low-
landers indulged in feather beds Archbishop Beaton left at
his death twenty-three of these. Like the glass windows,
they were laid away when the owner left home for a time
Moryson. at a knights house in 159S. tells that many servitors
in blue caps brought in the meal at dinner The table was
more than half furnished with great trenchers of soup. Each
had in it a hi tie piece of sodden meat The upper mess
(above the salt) had a pullet with some prunes in the broth
After the table was laid, each servitor sat down below the
salt. Knives for each guest were not used at table till long
after this time Even so late as Adam Smith's day, when he
was a Snell Exhibitioner at Balliol they Avere chained to the
common board. The soup was taken with horn spoons, and
the meat was held on a fork. " Formerly," says Coulange.
the}- dipped their bread and fingers in the iricassee, nowadays
everybody eats his soup on the plate: politely one must use
both spoon and tbrk ; and. from time to time, a servant must
go to the cupboard to wash them." Sumptuary laws were in
vogue. An Act of James VI enjoins no one under a prelate
or an earl to use. at, bridals or banquets, drugs or confections
brought, from abroad. The king himself was as thrifty perforce
as Elizabeth was parsimonious from choice. At the baptism
of baby Charles (1600) he writes to the laird of Arniston
"to propyne with venison, wild meat, Brissel fowls (Brazil
turkeys), capons, and siclike/' inviting him at the same time to
taste part of his oAvn good cheer. A contrast this to the feudal
plenty of the Highland barons, as disclosed by the Breadalbane
and Cawdor papers, for these had crowds of tenants paying
rent in kind. There "it snowed of meat and drink."

SCOTLAND, 1561-1603. 555

The High Street of Edinburgh must have presented a city Life,
picture, lacking certainly in Chaucer's grace of burghal life
but far richer in contrast and dramatic intensity. Here comes
the provost or bailie, bearing the keys of the city, who
" misknawls himsell

" When he gets on a f urrit gown ;

Great Lucifer, maister of Hell,
Is uoclit sa nelie [haughty] as that loon,

Wi' his keys oliukand on his arm,
As he comes braukaud [strutting] thro' the toon."

Still more gorgeous is the noble, swaggering in velvet doublet,
furred and jewelled ; or, if bent on " staying a plea,'' clad in
steel head-piece acton, jack, and plait sleeves, with sword at
hand. Behind lollovv his retainers with iron knapscull, and
harnessed in jacks, and carrying bow in hand And when
the tulzie (brawl) begins, they will rush to the booths for
fore-hammers, and beams, and smash in the heavy yetts
behind which their rivals shelter All are on foot except
on gala- days such as the Riding of the Parliament, when
the barons, on caparisoned steeds led by cadets of the
house in richly blazoned cloaks, march up the High Street.
It was a novel sight when Anne of Denmark passed to the
Abbey (1590) in "ane dame's coach drawn with aucht cursers
of her awn '

In 1561 the wife of an Edinburgh citizen had her purse
stolen, hanging at her apron while she talked with the
shopman who was putting a string to a pennar and inkhorn
she had just bought from him. The purse had in it no
fewer than seven gold rings set with precious stones, a
surprising display of luxury in a country which Shakespeare's
Dromio, playfully likening his kitchen-wench to the globe,
" found by the barrenness, hard in the palm of the hand."
Yet the close of the century showed marked progress in
prosperity. George Heriot received the king in his seven-
feet square booth in the Goldsmith's Row in Parliament
Close, and on one occasion treated him to a costlier lire than
he had ever had in the palace, for the banker flung into
the flames a bond for 2,000 which the king owed him.
Thomas Foulis, who in 1593 furnished funds for the
expedition against the Papist lords, secured a long lease






of the gold, silver, and lead mines that the monks of
Melrose and Newbattle had first worked on Crawford Muir
and in Glengoner.

James I. tried to popularise archery, but with little success,
as we see from the awkwardness of the peasants in '' Peebles
to the Play." Weapon-shaws were reserved for barons, bonnet
lairds, and rich burgesses, and for these the Bow Butts, still
in street names, existed. James Melville, writing of his
boyhood at Montrose about 1-570, tells how he was taught
the bow, golf, and single-stick; also to run, leap, swim, and
wrestle. He had not a purse for fives and the tavern, but
he now and then practised tennis. The king, who had not



(Xni'iiinii Ma*' a HI o/ S'.W/'-i/i J;i,'<'/'''/Vs Edinburgh.)

the use of his legs till he was nearly seven, played at shovel-
board and Call flic <j<t*<>. ("the royal game of goose"). The
capital had neither theatre nor concert or assembly-room
till the eighteenth century, yet we read of a list of four-
teen musical instruments that were played before Anne of
Denmark in her ym*//rxx through the capital. Chroniclers
note such exhibitions as that of Marocco, the wonderful
horse, supposed to be uncanny, of the juggler that Birrell
tells of in his " Diary," who played supple tricks on a rope
stretched between St. Giles's steeple and a stair beneath
the Cross.

The most notable plague of the century was that of
1568-69. The weather had been very severe, and the country
was much distracted after the Battle of Langside. Hunsdon,
waiting at Berwick to conduct Regent Murray from London,
complains of the great frosts, varied by such thaws as were

SCOTLAND, 1M 1-1603. 557

then threatening to sweep away Tweed Bridge. He fears
this will affect public health, yet " there is never a physician
this side of York, if indeed there be any there." A merchant
brought the pest to Edinburgh. Infected families had to
lodge in wretched booths hastily erected on the Borough
Muir. Two close biers, covered with black, and showing a
white cross, removed the dead. A bell, hung upon the
side of each, gave warning. This pest carried off nearly
three thousand.

The Reformation was a social, much more than an me Kirk.
ecclesiastical, revolution. The old Church had long lost
its hold on society. Its wealth and worldliness excited the
cupidity of the nobles ; its sloth, ignorance, and apathy
alienated the masses. The age that reared the cathedrals
and great abbeys had long passed away ; and for two
centuries nothing but a few collegiate churches had been
built. A few hovels, " scant coverit wi' heather," supplied
the rural districts. The reformers undertook the spiritual
cure of the nation on the scantiest resources. Of the old
temporalities two -thirds were retained by the bishops and
barons. The Crown doled out a portion of the remainder
to the Reformed Church. Its clergy was long poor, few in
number, and dependent on the offerings in kind of their
people. The Assembly of 1570 allowed a minister or reader
to tap ale provided they do it Avith decorum. The address,
to the General Assembly of 1572 says that "maintenance of
kirk and poor has gone to profane flatterers at Court, ruffians,
and hirelings ; the poor are oppressed with hunger, the churches
decayed for lack of clergy, the schools utterly neglected, the
sacred buildings are like sheepcotes."

The reformed clergy affected an Apostolic simplicity in THe
contrast to the splendour of the old Church. They dressed
in plain fabrics, eschewing all gay colours and finery. With
much self-denial and stern resolution they set themselves to*
reform society. Their ideal was a "theocracy saturated with
socialism." They took the field against idolaters and fomicators,
and especially against the worship of the Mass. The great
weapon in the attack was preaching. To the popular leaders
in the capital the pulpit filled the place of the modern press.
All churches alike in those days sought political power in



order to secure, with singular inconsistency, freedom and
uniformity. The people were to be enlightened, too, and so
one of the most persistent demands was to have the Bible
and the services in the vernacular. When, after long waiting,
Arbuthnot's Bible appeared, inspectors were to go into every
house to see that a copy was provided for the family. There
were now to be regular Sunday exhortations and a mid-week
service. Families were to be regularly catechised to ascertain
progress in saving knowledge. Even the Catholic lords had



to receive certain clergymen into their households. The
services were after the Low Church fashion. Few parishes
had a clergyman all to themselves ; most had only a reader.
His place was the lectern below the pulpit, still called the
letterin, or precentor's desk. The Book of Common Order
was used, and the singing kneeling reading of prayers, and
the entire service were decorously liturgical.

The old Church left a legacy of abounding immorality,
with which it had long wrestled in vain. An elaborate code
of forbidden degrees had cumbered the marriage laws, which,



Photo: J. Rtithurfifrd, Jai'lingttm.

riint:,- G W. Wilson if Co., Aberdeen.




in a small country where relationships were involved, pro-
duced irritating interference. All this bore fruit in the
clannislmcss, long pedigrees, laxity in marriage customs, and
illegitimacy which are still the stock humours of English
satire when it notices Scottish subjects. The reformed clergy
warred against this with the cuk-stool, the ducking- pond,
the penance -pillar, excommunication, and fines for behoof
of the poor. In the process manners were made rough, and
the public taste blunt. For scolds and profane swearers

they had equally severe measures, but
here the whole spirit of the age was
against them. Lindsay and Dunbar
show a wonderful variety of oaths, yet
the Three Estates was acted before the
Court. Dunbar's Dance in the Queen's
Gkalmer is but a piece of licentious
buffoonery. James VI. was accused by
the Kirk of being " blottit wi' bannin'
and swearin'."

As bright spots amid the gloom of
those troublous times one welcomes
Edward Tylney's loving picture of
Wishart's saintly simplicity, or that of
old Lethington, as sketched by his son,
the great Secretary. High up among
the Moorfoots, in his grim fortalice of
Thirlstane, amid the dreary brown moor-
land, he led a life of cultured retirement,
surrounded by his books, writing and versifying in a vein of
shrewd observation, pawky humour, or Polonius-like wisdom. An-
other beautiful character is that of the Edinburgh burgess, good
George Bannatyne, retiring to Meigle "in time of pest" (1508),
to complete his labour of love, his collection of Scottish
poetry. The book clubs which bear the names of Maitland
and Bannatyne will ever keep the memory of these men
green. Amid still more unfavourable conditions, Hugh Rose,
baron of Kilravock, gained singular repute as an improver
and planter of trees as well as a translator of the classics.

Online LibraryH. D. (Henry Duff) TraillSocial England; a record of the progress of the people in religion, laws, learning, arts, industry, commerce, science, literature and manners, from the earliest times to the present day (Volume 3) → online text (page 47 of 68)