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long years of conflict our sympathies are almost uni-
formly with the King. For the cause of the Crown
was the cause of order and good government, the
cause of the nobles was the cause of rapine and tur-
bulence. The mischief began with the wars of the
dispossessed barons in the reign of David. These



BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND. 23

men, indeed, it were absurd to blame. They were of
the same class as the original competitors for the
throne of Scotland brilliant adventurers, without
any ties to Scotland, without in fact any ties of
nationality at all and as no one can seriously blame
the men of the former generation for offering their
homage to Edward in order to preserve their Scotch
estates, still less can any charge be justly urged
against the men of the second generation seeking to
regain the estates of which the War of Independence
had deprived them. But with the accession of the
House of Stuart this came to an end. Every man
in all classes of society had then cast in his lot with
one country or the other. The Norman alien had
passed from the land, or had changed into the Scot-
tish noble just as, years before, he had in England.
The men of this new order of things were in every
sense of the word Scotchmen, and yet for the further-
ance of their own selfish and lawless aims they set
themselves in opposition to authority, and did what
in them lay to obstruct the advancement of the
country in civilisation and prosperity. The causes of
the extravagant power of the Scotch nobility have
been enumerated by Eobertson. He ascribes it
mainly to the extensive possessions of certain families,
to the security afforded to rebellious lords by the defen-
sible nature of the country, to the necessary effect of
the English wars in weakening the central authority,
to the hereditary jurisdictions which the legislature
often but vainly attempted to control, to the habit of
entering into bonds for mutual defence, to the long
minorities of the Crown, and to the absence of any
such counterpoise as was supplied by the peasantry
and commercial towns of England. To these we
would add another, the readiness of the Scotch nobi-
lity to betray their country whenever it suited them



24 BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

to do so. This, we think, strengthened them in their
struggles with the Crown more than all the other
causes put together ; it was with treason they began
their rebellion against James in., it was by the help
of treason that they triumphed over the vigour of
James v. There are doubtless occasions when, for a
great cause and in a desperate emergency, the aid of
foreigners may be invoked in a domestic quarrel.
Thus the Scotch Protestants looked for help to Eliza-
beth ; thus the French Huguenots sought assistance
from the same source ; thus the English Opposition
urged the Scotch to invade England in 1640 ; thus
they summoned the Dutch in 1688. But no case of
this sort can be made out for the Scotch nobles.
They transferred their allegiance to England simply
that they might gain their individual ends, or at least
that they might strengthen their order. And the
higher we go the more marked do we find this over-
bearing turbulence, and this faithlessness to their
country. A certain halo of romance surrounds the
name of Douglas, legends of chivalrous enterprise
were long associated with the memory of the good
Lord James, and Otterburn is even yet a word to
charm with. Hence the lasting popularity of that
House in spite of ambition, unruliness, and cruelty.
They would have been very differently regarded had
their countrymen known what we now know. Their
frequent rebellions made little against them ; but no
memories of the past could have won forgiveness for
their repeated alliances with the English king. With
them such treason was no rare occurrence, but, in the
words of Mr. Burton, was " consistent with the policy
of this House." Very different were the feelings of
the commonalty. Mr. Burton has only found one
instance in which reference is made to any portion of
the people as likely to change their allegiance ; and



BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND. 25

this was with regard to the Armstrongs, a border race
who had little more than a nominal allegiance to
change. It is not too much to say that as it was the
spirit of the middle class which first won Scottish
liberty, so it was the persistency of that class which
maintained it. In these early times there is but little
to admire among the Scotch nobles. To find aught
worthy to be placed beside the great families of Eng-
land we must come down many years to the time
when capacity for affairs, zeal for freedom, and love
of toleration became conspicuous in the House of
Argyll.

Against a power so great and so unscrupulously
wielded, the efforts of the kings were of no avail.
James I. took the matter in his own hand ; James IT.
sought the feeble assistance of his Parliament ; James
v. invoked the more powerful aid of the clergy ; but
all equally in vain. Robertson, while admitting that
the policy of these princes was not attended with
success, yet cautions us against the conclusion that it
was not dictated by prudence. Doubtless many cir-
cumstances combined to frustrate the endeavours of
the Crown. Still, an uneasy impression will intrude
that those endeavours were not always directed by
wisdom, or tempered by moderation. In the records
of those old struggles we seem to trace some of the
characteristics which marked the Stuart race in
times better known high-mindedness, an impatience
of independent opinion and a consequent addiction to
favouritism, a love of so-called state-craft which was
always shallow, and, if we may use the expression, an
impetuous obstinacy. Especially do we remark those
hereditary faults of the fated race in James n. and
James v. ; though in both relieved by fine and noble
qualities. The Prince who won the title of " King of
the Commons," must have had no small share of that



26 BUKTON S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

urbanity and good nature which in Charles n. so
often charmed away the resentment of an injured
nation. James I. was the one statesman of the
dynasty. He bid fair for success ; his rash haste
alone caused his failure and death. James iv. was a
blustering knight-errant unable to appreciate, still
more unable to follow out, the traditionary policy of
his House. James lit. was, we suspect, a puzzle to
his own time ; is certainly one to ours. Mr. Burton
frankly admits that he cannot discover whether this
Prince was influenced by a love of low society, or by
a taste superior to his age whether of his two chief
favourites, one was a low fiddler or the author of the
national music of Scotland, the other a mere mason
or " the artist to whom we may attribute the revival
of architecture in the country/' One thing we do
certainly know that the democratic element in the
country supported the accomplished Prince, and was
opposed to the brutality of Bell the Cat, and his gang
of titled rebels. On the whole, after making every
allowance, we cannot feel that any prince of that
fated race not even James I. was equal to the
times in which he lived and the work he had to do.
The fitful energy which inspired their assaults on an
overgrown nobility seems but feebleness when we
think of the subtlety, the sagacity, the unflinching
determination with which a man like Louis xi. ad-
dressed himself to a similar policy.

Mr. Burton gives us little help towards under-
standing these stormy times. In fact, as we have
already said, the Kingly period is the least effective
part of his book. There are, amid much misery,
some picturesque features in the story. The wild
and shifting scenes in the minority of James n., the
gay court which James iv. gathered round him, the
adventures of that Prince and of James v. in the



BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND. 27

fashion of Haroun Alraschid these and other such
themes might have grown into brilliant pictures beneath
the hand of an artist. The pictorial style of writing,
however, is not in Mr. Burton's way. But we are
certainly disappointed at the absence of anything like
a grasp of the epoch as a whole. Failing all attempt
to realise for us the life of a period, we are entitled to
look for some philosophical conception of its general
tendencies, some estimate of its influences on the
development of the nation. We find no effort at
anything of the kind in Mr. Burton's pages. His
narrative from the accession of David to the death of
James v. bears, we think, obvious traces of having
been executed as an uncongenial task.

After the death of James v. we pass into Robert-
son's fourth period, when the history of Scotland
becomes closely mixed up with the history of the
leading nations in Europe. The key to a true under-
standing of the early part of this epoch is the change
which then took place in the relations of Scotland
with France and England. Up to this time the main
effect of the alliance between France and Scotland
had been to the prejudice of the weaker country.
Scotland gained but little aid from French auxiliaries
in her resistance to England ; while the requirement
that, in event of a war between France and England,
Scotland should be bound to attack the latter, worked
somewhat like the alliance between the giant and the
dwarf in the fable. On the other hand, the inter-
position of Scotland had but little effect on the con-
tests of the greater countries. She could sometimes
occasion annoyance to England ; and her soldiers
fought well on more than one French battle-field, but
that was all. The English-French wars would pro-
bably have come to the same results had Scotland not
existed.



28 BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

As the sixteenth century wore on and the first
heavings of the coming convulsion were felt, the
insignificance of Scotland became a thing of the past.
Throughout his administration Wolsey set before
himself, as an object of vital importance, the exclu-
sion from Scotland " of the Duke of Albany and the
French faction, and the training of the realm into
the amity of England/'

The French had many advantages in the struggle.
They had possession of the ground : they were the
ancient allies of the kingdom. True, they had never
been personally popular. Their airs of superiority,
their easy faith, their utter disregard of the rights of
others, made them disliked in Scotland, just as long
afterwards the same qualities made them disliked in
Ireland. During the regency of Albany their unpopu-
larity had grown to a height. And even at that time
an uneasy feeling began to intrude that the French
alliance might possibly prove as dangerous to the inde-
pendence of Scotland as the enmity of England. The
murder of De la Bastie came not only from dislike of
the French, but also from a fear of French supremacy.
This juncture, therefore, was England's opportunity
for carrying out her long- cherished aims. That the
opportunity was lost, that the enmity of Scotland
was intensified, that England, in consequence of that
enmity, became exposed to extreme danger, was alto-
gether owing to the criminal folly of Henry vm. No
English monarch had ever such a chance afforded him
of conciliating Scotland. Henry threw the chance
away with his eyes open, in obedience to his unruly
passion. He had been fully made aware of the right
course to pursue. Ahitophel himself could not have
given better counsel than George Douglas, brother of
the Earl of Angus, gave the English ambassador. He
warned him that force would be of no avail that all



BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND. 29

the commonalty, the very boys on the street, nay, the
old women with their distaffs, would rise up against
a compulsory union with England. But with patience,
and gentle means, urged the Scottish noble, much might
be done. Let the English monarch preserve peace,
let him encourage the intercourse of the two nations,
above all let him invite the youth of the Scottish
nobility to his magnificent court, and the great end
would be attained in time. Henry would listen to no
such counsels. During the reign of James v. his scheme
for gaining over the Scottish people was to kidnap
the Scottish King. After James's death his violence
was yet less restrained. He was resolved to marry
Mary to his son. There would have been no objec-
tion to the match ; but Henry insisted on gaining
possession of Mary in the meantime. He swore he
would " drag the child from the strongest fortress they
could hold her in ; " and when Suffolk remonstrated on
the wildness of such schemes he was dismissed from his
lieutenancy. This ended in war, and in such a war as
the countries had never before known. The coast of
Fife was mercilessly ravaged; Edinburgh burned to the
ground ; the Border turned into a wilderness ; the reli-
gious houses destroyed. The instructions given to the
leaders of the English troops would be grotesque were
it not for the horror of them. They never contemplate
conquest, or any lasting result of any kind ; their con-
stant burden is to preach devastation, to insist on the
infliction of the greatest possible amount of misery.
The work on hand could not be intrusted to the men
of the borders, accustomed as they were to no gentle
warfare. Henry's troops were composed of foreign
hirelings French, Spaniards, Italians, even Greeks,
men who would not shrink from any extreme of
cruelty. We have no disposition to try by a severe
standard the acts of a statesman in pursuance of a



30 BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

statesmanlike policy. Purism in things political may
become weakness. Thus we readily admit that much
can be urged in defence of the sternest deeds of
Edward. But Henry's position was totally different.
Edward set before himself a great and worthy end
the unity of the island, and all his measures were
directed to that end. Henry set no end before himself
save the gratification of his savage nature. The sense-
less raids into Scotland which he began, and which
culminated in Pinkie, had no better origin than the
desire to forget a disappointment in the indulgence of
a cruel revenge.

The picture of Henry's dealings with Scotland would
not be complete without a word on the murder of
Cardinal Beaton. That an English monarch and Eng-
lish statesmen should have stooped to be accomplices,
if not the instigators of a treacherous assassination, is a
disgrace without parallel in the history of the country.
That they did stoop to this ignominy Mr. Tytler has
clearly shown, and Mr. Burton sorrowfully admits :

" These ugly revelations of the State Papers, if they show
us one fallen star, 1 show others. The ardent polemic who
deems himself the soldier of the Lord in a contest with
Satan, demands charitable allowances ; he is the desperate
combatant in the front ranks of a deadly struggle, who
neither asks nor gives quarter. Henry vm. is an exception
to everything. But what shall we say for English statesmen
of that age when the spirit of chivalry was mellowing itself
into that model of social excellence, the English gentleman ?
What for Hertford and Sir Ealph Sadler?"

The result of all this might have been foreseen.
Hatred of England blazed up more fiercely than ever ;
the power of France seemed to be strengthened beyond
reach of danger. But influences were working on

1 Wishart himself, who seems to have been cognisant of the plot
against the Cardinal.



BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND. 31

behalf of England more powerful for good than even
the crimes and the folly of Henry for evil. During
the minority of Mary the regency of the Queen-
mother undid all that Henry had done for France.
The former terror of the spread of French influence
began to gather strength. In old times it had been
the great point in favour of the French alliance that
it involved no prospect of subjection. But a change
had come ; and now French supremacy a worse evil
than the supremacy of England seemed impending.
The policy of the Queen-mother, dictated by the
Guises, kept this feeling alive. The terms of Mary's
marriage with the Dauphin were not fully known
in Scotland ; but what was known increased the
alarm, and what was suspected increased it yet more.
The growing spirit of Protestantism set strongly in
the same direction. Thus in 1559 we find Kirkcaldy
of Grange frankly confessing to Cecil his terror of
France, and his desire to make common cause with
England in the interest of both countries especially
dwelling on the importance to England of securing
the friendship of a people who had heretofore been
true to themselves, and would now be true to their
new ally. Urged by these various causes the reaction
went on, until, at the accession of Mary, the English
faction was, we suspect, the stronger of the two.
And the misfortunes and crimes of that unhappy
Princess brought the long struggle to a decisive
issue.

We have little space which we can devote to the
endless questions associated with the name of Queen
Mary ; there are but two points on which we would
dwell for a moment.

History has seldom recorded the doings of worse
men than the nobles who surrounded the throne of
Mary Stuart. To the turbulence and selfishness of



32 BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

their ancestors they superadded an audacity of cruelty
and treachery peculiarly their own. They had ac-
quired from France a certain hard unscrupulousness
which intensified and but thinly covered the natural
coarseness of their character. " Their dress," says
Mr. Burton, " was that of the camp or stable ; they
were dirty in person, and abrupt and disrespectful
in manner, carrying on their disputes, and even
fighting out their fierce quarrels, in the presence of
royalty." We have no purpose of tracing the tor-
tuous politics of these men. But in order to judge
Mary Stuart fairly we should remember their con-
duct on one or two crucial occasions. They murdered
Rizzio, actuated by no better motive than a savage
envy and a desire to bring back from banishment the
rebel lords. They murdered Darnley, rather than con-
sent to a divorce, to gratify their lust for revenge,
and carry out their political schemes. They acquitted
Bothwell, and signed a bond recommending him as
the husband of their Queen. They overthrew Both-
well, and deposed the Queen on the ground of this
very murder, rousing popular feeling by a picture in
which they blasphemously represented the young
Prince as invoking the vengeance of Heaven upon a
crime in the guilt of which they had fully shared.
The revolting " humbug," to use a familiar expression,
of this last stroke defies comment. Well may Dr.
Lingard declare that " more disgraceful conduct does
not sully the page of history." Even if Mary Stuart
were in very truth the " murderess of Kirk-o'-Field,"
our sympathies are rather with her than with men
who, under no equal temptation, were at once
murderers, traitors, liars, and hypocrites.

Such words do not, of course, describe all the
Scotch politicians of the time. But they do de-
scribe most of the men who were hostile to Mary ;



BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND. 33

and their application is of wider extent than some
historians would have us believe. Thus the proceed-
ings even of Mr. Froude's "noble and stainless
Murray " will not bear a close scrutiny. That he was
accessory to the murder of Bizzio is beyond all doubt.
He deserted his fellow-conspirators when punishment
overtook them, and commissioned Sir James Melville
to tell the Queen that he had " dischargit himself unto
them that had committed the lait odious crym, and
wald promyse Hir Majestie never to haue do with
them nor trauell for them/' The probabilities are
strong that he was aware of the coming fate of
Darnley. His leaving Edinburgh the day before the
murder is very suspicious in the words of a witness,
" desirous to be away while mischief was going on."
The first deposition of Paris convicts him at least of
guilty knowledge ; and from first to last he never
showed the slightest intention of dealing even-handed
justice among the murderers. Nor, waiving the im-
putations of duplicity and ingratitude, as to which
there may be a doubt, is his honesty beyond question.
Not only did he sell Queen Mary's jewels to Eliza-
beth, but he actually gave some of them to his own
wife. The Eegent Morton with great difficulty forced
from the lady the spoil with which her husband had
enriched her. 1 The judgment of Lord Sussex upon
Scotch politicians of that time with whom he came in
contact was not less true than severe : " These parties
toss between them the Crown and public affairs of
Scotland, and care neither for the mother nor the
child (as I think before God), but to serve their own
turns."

The Queen's infatuation for Both well, as the story is
commonly told, is one of the unaccountable things in

1 Preface to " The Inventories of Queen Mary," by Joseph Robertson,
pp. 129, 137.

VOL. I. C



34 BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND.

history. Writers hostile to Mary generally represent
him as an unredeemed ruffian, and ascribe her con-
duct to the lowest impulses which can move a woman.
Mr. Burton's theory is widely different and far more
natural :

" That she should fix her love on him has always been
deemed something approaching the unnatural ; but when
the circumstances are considered, the conclusion ceases to
become so absolutely startling. Mary was evidently one of
those to whom at that time a great affair of the heart was a
necessity of life a necessity increased in intensity by her
utter disappointment in her last attachment, and the loath-
ing she entertained towards its object. Who then were
near her to be the first refuge of her fugitive affections ?
None but her own nobles, foi she was not in a position to
treat with a foreign prince ; and, in looking round the most
eminent of these, including Huntly, the brother of a former
suitor, Argyle, Athole, and Arran, there were none who, on
the ground of rank and position, had claims much higher
than Bothwell, unless it might be Arran by reason of his
royal blood, and he was already a rejected suitor. In per-
sonal qualifications Bothwell was infinitely above them all.
He had a genius for command, with a dash of the chivalrous,
which made Throckmorton describe him to Queen Elizabeth,
in 1560, as "a glorious, 1 rash, and hazardous young man."
He had lived at the court of France, and thus had over his
harder and more effective qualities the polish and accomplish-
ments which were all that Darnley had beside his handsome-
ness to recommend him. . . . He was at a period of life
when the manly attractions do not begin to decline, for he had
just passed if he had passed his thirtieth year. Tradition
says that he was ill-favoured ; but I do not remember any
contemporary authority for the assertion, except the cursory
sketch of him by Brantome, who may have met him, but
does not speak as if he had. The question cannot now be

1 We cannot help thinking, however, that Mr. Burton mistakes
Throckmorton' s meaning here. At that time it was common to use
Latin and French words in their Latin or French signification, rather
than in that which they soon acquired, or even at that time bore in
English. Here we think Throckmorton uses glorious as equivalent to
gloriosus.



BURTON'S HISTORY OF SCOTLAND. 35

decided by the eye, for there does not exist a picture which
has even the reputation of being his portrait." 1 Vol. iv.
p. 324.

One quality in especial Bothwell had which we
may well believe to have done him good service with
Mary unswerving fidelity to his Queen. To others
he may have been, in the emphatic words of Ean-
clolph, " false and untrue as a devil ; " but he was
never false to her. As a boy he had fought for her
mother against the English when even Huntly and
Seaton stood aloof. From the day she herself landed
in Scotland her interest seemed to be his only care,
her wishes his only law. Surrounded by cruel and
treacherous men, opposed by her brother, degraded
by her husband, not knowing on whom to rely, a
forlorn Queen, an outraged and deserted woman, what
wonder that she should lean upon the one man who
had never failed her, that she should yield herself up
to vigour, audacity, devotion, a readiness to brave
any danger, to venture any crime at her behest that,
in her own words, she t( would leave her kingdom and
dignity, and go as a simple damsel with him ? " That
he was a profligate was a small matter in a time of
universal profligacy ; that the nature of the man was
hard and low, that he was selfish and brutal and a
tyrant, incapable of affection or gratitude, she could



Online LibraryHenry H LancasterEssays and reviews → online text (page 3 of 38)