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- 1592 -
T the beginning of this year Bothwell, now plunged into woes and danger and fearfully anxious, was bent on finding help from another. He went to an island of Caithness and met with his brother, the Earl, born of the same mother. Meanwhile his dependents withdrew into nearby places. Athol, a noble young man in the flower of his youth and beauty, and Gray, the head of his family, also joined his party and gave it great weight. After that plague had been expelled from the Scottish mainland, the happy King sent letters summoning the supporters of that rebellion, Gray, a turbulent troublemaker, and the Earl of Athol, a noble gentleman, to come to Perth and stand their trials. The one, who had offended against the law, began the journey but employed various artifices to drag it out. The other, reflecting on his misdeed, held the government in contempt: he failed to appear on the first day, and then, changing his mind a few days later, came to the city. Mar and Tillebarn, who possessed the greatest power at that time, interceded lest it go very hard on him. Such was the King’s mildness and moderation that he received him back into his grace and favor. Next he issued an edict that the lords of the old nobility and all men qualified to vote in Parliament should assemble at Edinburgh on June 1. Receiving this invitation, the leading lords came together from all of Scotland, and they swiftly adjudged Bothwell and his confederates public enemies, banning them from fire and water., and voting to confiscate his property. They affirmed the worship of the Reformed Religion, the ecclesiastical power of the ministers to correct morals, as well as their synods both general and special, and their presbyteries. They abolished the old tyranny of the Popes and the laws passed to oblige them. They decreed that the Jesuits and priests who had secretly crept into Scotland should be deemed traitors and be punished as such. Those who gave them hospitality, concealed them, or in any way helped were to receive the same punishment, inasmuch as, thanks to their clandestine endeavors, subjects were daily abandoning God’s pure worship and, with a flagrant lack of loyalty, defecting from their civic obedience. In a full assembly of the estates, the King attempted to discourage with them by the terrors of confiscation, exile, and death, and spoke much about the better management of the government, and especially about the commonwealth considered as a whole, about its usefulness and splendor, and about corrupt judges and the remedies for that vice. Finally he forbade that, by a relaxation of the law, things consecrated to God be profaned, or that tithes contributed by the laity be paid into his patrimony or converted to some civil or secular use. He added in a decree that, should this be done in the future, it should be null and void. But there was no lack of men who craftily managed to make a mockery of that law.
2. Athol, Erroll, Gray, Ochiltree, and a number of Lairds who supported Bothwell did not attend this Parliament. Bothwell, returning from Caithness and having collected those men privy to his conspiracy, learned of the heavy sentence passed against him and the plans that were being laid against his welfare. Suddenly, with an intolerable boldness and criminality, he broke cover, rashly took up arms once more, and applied his mind to another felony no less full of risk and audacity: seizing the King, who was expecting nothing less than violence and disturbance. But the plan seemed feasible and posed no difficulty. For Bothwell had sniffed around and learned that James was carefree and happily at leisure in the company of his intimate companions at his summer palace at Falkland, preoccupied with sporting and feasting. So he promptly assembled a gang of ruffians and, crossing the Forth, made a fast journey in that direction in the dead of night. Many came to meet him. The clan chief Patrick Gray was one of them, together with his dependents. He was the most ungrateful of men: for what memory, what great degree of obedience could match all the many notable kindnesses the King had done him? Then there were Balwearie and Aidrie with a large enough following. Many lords were party to this conspiracy: Athol, Angus, Erroll, the chief of Clan Johnstone, Colonel Stewart, and many knights of Fife ready to serve in a fight. During a time of civil strife, nothing can be long kept secret. An informer went running to the King, announcing that Bothwel was coming with an armed band to kill him. James stationed suitable men in the uproar storey of his house, who were to slow the armed men’s ascent with gunfire. He sent out riders in all directions to tell of the King’s great danger, and announce that Falkland was being besieged by copious forces. Meanwhile, with a blast of trumpets and a hostile shout, Bothwell’s men attacked various entrances to the castle. The royal dependants, standing on the rooftop, resisted those who were climbing up by means of the outbuildings, throwing down stones and tiles. They inflicted wounds on those coming up by means of narrow and treacherous places and drove them back, for they had come with murder in mind, not a fight. Then the matter took a different turn than Bothwell had hoped: he discovered that the entrances were blocked and all his plans were known, since his confederates Erroll and Colonel Stewart had been taken. Therefore, having fruitlessly attempted to besiege the castle. and knowing that the horsemen of Fife were readying an expedition and the common folk were being armed, he stole some royal horses and made a fearful escape at first light. His comrades followed in confusion. Thus that band of borderers who had undertaken such a bold crime, terrified by this unexpected turn of events, left in disarray, as each man got across the Forth with his booty as best he could. Some were caught along the way when their horses were blown, by John Hamilton, the head of his family, and by the energetic Sir James Sandilands, and were hanged. The rest got away after having experienced various adventures, and hid themselves in the wastelands of Evdale, Esk, and Liddisdale. These were subsequently found and killed. After the disgraceful flight of the conspirators, the multitude of Fife, aroused by the report that the castle was being besieged, took every manner of weaponry in the face of this sudden emergency and ran to defend their King. The gates thrown open, their armed band burst into the palace. The happy sight of the safe King gave rise to rejoicing. Having twice unwisely tried his luck in such a way that a new calamity followed upon disaster, Bothwell lurked in obscure corners of the kingdom, mixed in with a crew that was accustomed to live by thievery.
3. A few days later, Angus and Erroll were brought before the Privy Council. They had been making way to Bothwell but, stricken with fear, turned aside. The full Council decided they should be remanded to custody pending a trial. During those same days, James called into suspicion some of the principal ministers of court, Balfour Laird of Burleigh, Wemyss, Logan, and Spynie, to whom he had been particularly indulgence, Burleigh confessied, and upon his confession James pardoned him for his crime, so that he avoided punishment. But with an unfriendly countenance and manner of address he tool up the case of Logan, an intimate familiar, and accused him of having advised Borthwell that he might make a stealthy entrance through a private postern gate next to the gardens and kill the King unawares before any fear or rumor of the attempt arose. Logan said a words by way of clearing his name, but failed to absolve himself. A more serious sentence was pronounced, that of death, but, with the help of a royal girl of Danish origins who burned with love for him, he escaped and went to another country.
4. Colonel Stewart pressed with his suspicions Spynie, a man excellent for his dignified appearance and breeding, and George Home, acting out of his thirst for power, secretly increased these and accused him of being privy to this conspiracy. The hot-blooded young man said much by way of professing his innocence, and very bravely volunteered to risk his life in a fight to defend his honor and dignity. He begged the King that these false accusations of treachery might be wiped clean by him risking his life and throwing the dice of a duel. Stewart’s replay was that, if Spynie was going to deny the accusation, he was prepared to prove his case either at the law or by resorting to arms. To give extra weight to his words, he recited Spynie’s recent guilt, naming messengers, meetings, and conferences. Both of them were sent to imprison under an armed guard. Since he failed to prove his accusation with legitimate witnesses (although he gave out that this was because of the fraud and power of the accused), Stewart struck many as a slanderer. The accused, since he could not clear his name, was banned from court, and henceforth held in less royal favor. His fall served to increase the standing of George Home. The King commanded Spynie to come to court and briefly recounted his indulgence to him. When he found Spynie to be humble, he restored him to his complete fortune and status, and complained that his life was a fearful one, since he was obliged to suspect the plots of his friends, and, thanks to the perfidy of his own people, he was not safe in his palace from their secret scheming. Spynie turned aside his face and lamented his gullibility.
5. Meanwhile the Laird of Ardie and Colonel Halkerston, Bothwell’s most loyal followers, were arrested at Leith by the Master of Glamis and James Sandilands. Bound in chains, they were brought to the King, whom they moved to pity with their entreaties, although many men cried out demanding their execution. But the sovereign, thrifty when it came to the shedding of blood, shrank from killing.
6. While these things were transpiring, with his keen but perverse intellect and loquacity, Maitland managed to offend and enrage the highest lords of Argyll, Morton, Mar, Home, and Glamis, who surrounded the King at Dalkeith with a mind to destroy him, unless he appease their dislike and loathing by his prudence, moderation, and by retiring to Drumlaurie. Soon he sent a letter to the King, accusing his opponents of savagery and pride, and at the same time accusing them of tearing the commonwealth apart by their new counsels. He brought a strong band of soldiers to Dalkeith, attested that he was the King’s Chancellor, and complained that he had been barred from the office granted him by the King by the power of a few men, who had made him odious by their public accusations. The King for his part explained that his enemies were not resting content with depriving him of the Chancellorship: he must defer to fortune and the times. For if he continued to exercise the rights of a Chancellor over the objection of the lords, turmoil would ensue. Moved by these arguments, he was won over to the King’s point of view and went to Edinburgh. Along the way, he chanced to meet Lennox, Home, and Glamis with a retinue superior in spirit and numbers. They drew their weapons. The Chancellor turned aside to a steep, rough place, so both sides opponents were afraid to come to grips out of fear of each other: the one side had the numbers, the other enjoyed a position on rocky ground. Therefore, having estimated his opponents’ strength, the Chancellor passed over into Niddisdale, crossed the Nith, and resided at Drumlaurie, awaiting an opportunity to recover his jurisdiction.
7. Afterwards the King issued an edict pardoning all who would desert Bothwell’s party, with the exceptions of John Colville and James Douglas of Spott. Many foreswore the faction, including Niddrie and Kerr of Fernihurst, returned to their loyalty, and obtained immunity for their misdeeds. Some of those who clung more stubbornly to the cause, were condemned. Unable to obtain pardon, they were hanged. These were Bothwell’s bastard brother and Cochrane, men of supreme audacity. Others were long put to torture, but they could not be compelled by the agonies of their torments to disclose the hiding-places of their crew.
8. Protected from domestic plotting, the King burned with yet a greater anger, hunted for the hidden Earl, and questioned those who had concealed him, using every manner of torture. Straightway, surrounded by a band of soldiers, he began a march to Jedburgh, so that Bothwell could not use that place as a refuge. A few men of Teviotdale, who had joined the would-be regicide out of friendship, wrote a letter begging not to be punished, and surrendered themselves. The King handed them over to the Duke of Lennox for imprisonment at Liddisdale, adding a military guard. Led by this necessity to fear for his life, Bothwell pondered his danger. Since he could seek no more help from the Scots, he tried the neighboring English. He took as his partners in crime the Grahams, who dwelt in Esk and were notorious for their murder and arson, and entrusted his life, safety, and hope for escape to the wastelands of Cumbria and Northumbria. Once he was on foreign soil, the way in which Fortune was using him as her plaything elicited pity from those who a little earlier had looked on him with misliking.
9. During those great disturbances in the south, things in the north were not quiet. Moray’s followers attempted many various enterprises. Athol, Grant and Macintosh entered into joint counsel and complained about the killing of Moray, and strove to avenge Huntly’s foul deed with fire and sword. They filled everything with their noise and confusion. They unexpectedly invaded Gordon lands, killing many and plundering their property. Aroused by this incident, Huntly readied himself for a fight, but the King sent William Earl of Angus, freed from his imprisonment so he might suppress these commotions and vested with viceregal power in the north, so that, if possible, he might resolve these disturbances without resorting to violence and prevent such invasions. He spoke to both parties, warning them to lay down their arms. He himself hastened to settle their disturbances with diligence and industry, suppressing their rashness by a display of royal authority, and showing what ill results would occur, should they resort to arms. He obliged Athol and Macintosh to quit Moray and move to the region of Caledonia, urging that they forget about revenge and the murder of Moray. He requested Huntly to abandon his project for war and go to Aberdeen, lest his presence be a cause of commotion. Huntly replied that nothing was dearer to his heart than the royal authority, and from boyhood he had always striven to gain the King’s approval in all things, and so he would comply. And to both sides separated without a fight and Angus, having resolved the sedition, gained himself good repute and glory.
10. While these things were transpiring in the north, James Stewart of Ochiltree, who had previously enjoyed the dignity of Lord Chancellor and rank of Earl of Arran, eager for his erstwhile power and hoping to use new dissent to recover his old position, burst forth from the hiding-place he had occupied for the past seven years, and, allowed an interview with the King, received a very kindly reception. This offended the minds of the majority, and particularly those of the preachers, whose power he had reduced, as they remembered his former arrogance, avarice, and cruelty. Since he feared the storm that was blowing up, and perceived he could not bank down the anger of the lords, he took his nephew Ochiltree and retired, to avoid unpopularity and danger. This enterprise by an upstart deterred the nobility from their dissensions, and was advantageous to Maitland in his quest to recover his dignity.
11. At this time certain fiery, furious ministers, arrogating to themselves a new degree of license in driving their congregations wherever they wished as often as they prayed for the Kirk, people and kingdom, frequently expressed their distaste and showered down curses on Philip, his kingdom, the entire Spanish nation, and its very name. They threatened that, if henceforth any private citizen or magistrate should conduct trade in Spain, they would excommunicate him. As a reason for this interdiction, they claimed this would prevent men from altering their religion as a result of over-familiarity with the Spanish acquired by dealing with them. Many men of business and merchants were frightened by the threat of this very heavy penalty and went to the King to lodge their complaint, telling them that they were being excluded from a very lucrative market for buying and selling, with no just reasons given for the action, and that the King’s own profit derived from imposts and taxation was being diminished. The King warned the ministers that they should handle divine matters, administer the Sacraments, interpret Scripture but should not provoke the fickle, ignorant common folk with false rumors and inspire them to commit crimes.
12. A second controversy arose in many Scottish towns, and particularly in the royal city. Our ancestors had appointed Saturday to be market-day. The ministers preached that this was not a suitable day for money-making and trade, and that henceforth they did not wish it to be observed as such. There reason was to prevent men who came to Edinburgh from all over from profaning Sundays, the day reserved for God’s worship. But the magistrates and artisans, moved by their desire to turn a profit by buying and selling, refused to alter a market-day appointed by royal authority. The ministers, able to whip up their congregations with their ready tongues, roared in their sermons when they could not achieve these two ends. It was immediately decreed by an edict of the Privy Council that they should not touch on any aspect of the commonwealth in their sermons, nor proclaim vain rumors and gossip to the common folk, but rather should defer to the Council.
13. Of all nations, Scotland is most given to the Puritan religion, and for this reason the ministers commanded mischiefmaking Papists to depart the land, excommunicated them, and count excommunicates among the number of the damned. All the pious shunned intercourse and conversation with them. All the decrees of the estates were most carefully designed to condemn Papists to execution. Philip of Spain, that most energetic champion of the old way of worship, was provoking new seditions in Scotland, nourishing old ones, and stirring up the Papists against the commonwealth. Inspired by this occasion, the Jesuits Robert Abercrombie and James Gordon, Huntly’s uncle, who had previously been sent by Philip and crept into Scotland with a great amount of gold, began to act on behalf of their religion with greater freedom and audacity They complained to men of the nobles families who were devotees of the Roman superstition that the ministers were excessive harsh and barbaric, and were attempting to overthrow old-fashioned piety, and to steep men’s minds with new and sinful errors, destroy charity, oppose the authority of the King, and trample on the ancient nobility. There was no lack of nobles, heads of the greatest families (the William of Angus I have just mentioned, George Huntly, and Francis Erroll of the higher nobility, Patrick Gordon of Auchindoun, James Chisholm, and Sir David Graham of Fintry), who wished to keep Roman rituals intact and preserve them from all detraction. These made up their minds in clandestine counsels held at remote places, which seemed opportune for the business and the time. They did not dare commit their inmost thoughts to writing, lest by their handwritings they bear witness against themselves. Rather they gave a blank sheet of paper with nothing written on it, but with their signatures subscribed, to the Jesuit William Crichton, to be transmitted to Philip, who could fill it out as he saw fit, as if, by authorizing this message with their signatures, they entrusted their thoughts and secret mandates to his faith. This is how they managed their criminal act of disloyalty. Their intermediary was George Kerr of Newbottle, known to Philip and a suitable agent because he had previously done business in Spain. Therefore he undertook the task with equal faith and diligence, and during the winter months he secretly went to the harbor town of Millport, for the purpose of boarding the ship of Robert Jameson, outfitted and ready for a voyage to Spain.
14. Meanwhile Andrew Knox, a minister of Paisley, learned of their scheme and encircled his house with armed men lest he escape through some secret exit, and arrested him, together with a single servant and the letter which he had intended to take to Spain. Knox seized a bundle of letters and brought the captive to Edinburgh, where the magistrate had him imprisoned while the business was being investigated. Messengers were sent to the King to inform him that all these things were going well, for during those days he was celebrating Mar’s wedding to Lennox’ sister Allana. After the wedding he went to Edinburgh, and carefully looked into the matter. He convened the Privy Council, and at a full meeting of that order he produced the messenger with the letters destined for Philip. Interrogated about his voyage, the signed document, and his secret mandates, he invented much and dissimulated the conspiracy. Therefore the lords were of the unanimous opinion he should be put to the question. A little while thereafter, out of fear of torture he was compelled to disclose his secret mandates against the Reformed Religion and the King’s royal majesty, and confess the secrets of the plot, and all their other preparations against possible exigencies and their decisions. Meanwhile David Graham of Fintry and Barclay of Ladyland, excommunicated, were party to this scheme, and bailiffs were sent who arrested them and placed them in custody, separated so that they might not communicate with each other. The one voluntarily revealed the conspiracy against the commonwealth. When commanded to tell what he knew, the other confessed just about the same things as had Kerr. The signatures, the testimony, and interrogations made this suspicious business clear. Graham, a knight, guilty by his own admission, either because his mind was settled or because he had had enough of mortal affairs, displayed no fear when he was beheaded at Edinburgh, not without various reactions, since the execution of a man for cleaving to the Papist religion was a novelty. But he actually lost his head on a charge of treason. By a better stroke of luck, George Kerr was removed from harm’s way. At about this same time, Angus, who had been the ringleader of this conspiracy, having no suspicion that these men had given their testimony, was arrested by townsmen at Edinburgh and imprisoned, not without great indignation. But he quickly escaped and made his way to his confederates in the north.
15. When the conspiracy stood revealed, the ministers, fearing a disruption and the devastation of the Kirk, demanded that the lords who had dared such a great felony should be punished. The common folk cursed their nefarious project. Queen Elizabeth’s ambassador Bowes, fearing a hostile Spanish attack, incessantly urged and begged the King in private that he have a timely care for the peace of the Kirk, torn by sedition, and the tranquility of his realm, exact vengeance on those striving to bring about such a great uprising and change, and avert the calamities overhanging his Christian commonwealth. The king called a Parliament of the nobles at Edinburgh. Moved by the entreaties of the ministers, the authority of the ambassador, and the votes of the nobles who promised their aid for the maintenance of religion, lest he allow this disdain God and his royal majesty to go unpunished, he swiftly assembled an army and undertook an expedition to the north country, although it was wintertime and the snow was deep. Followed by the lords who were with him, and with a multitude of people flocking together from the nearby lands, he marched to Aberdeen. When the lords seeking to restore Papal power heard of the King’s sudden approach, they became panic-stricken, despaired of their prospects at home, and withdrew to the hills and solitary tracts, thinking only of concealment. Outriders were sent in every direction to arrest them but returned, having wasted an untold amount of labor. Announcing a Parliament of the north to be held at Aberdeen, the King commanded the Lairds and clan chiefs to gather. He told them the reason for his arrival., speaking of the lords’ conspiracy and the blank sheet of paper. With a bitter speech he moved them against these national regicides and begged them that, after he had led away his army, they would abide by their loyalty, and prosecute these public insults and the murder of Moray. Finally, he commanded that hostages be given. Many unhesitatingly complied and promised their help. Those who either did not appear when summoned or refused to give sureties were outlawed. To supervise these things, the Earl Marshal was appointed in the districts this side the Spey, and Athol on the far side, both invested with viceregal power.
16. There was no lack of people, outraged at the Papists because they would have betrayed the kingdom to the Spanish, who were rightly of the opinion that the lords’ homes should be demolished, their property confiscated, their cattle taken away, and they themselves put to death. Learning this, the wives of Huntly and Erroll approached the King to counter this danger in a timely way, and piteously complained of their miseries. Out of his singular kindness and mercy, he permitted their wives and children the use and enjoyment of Strathbogie and Staines, their husbands’ best-defended castles and estates. Thus the King rescued the fairest of houses from arson and destruction, which served as both a protection and an ornament to their districts. Fair judges of affairs spoke of this as an example full of clemency and good will. The ministers, accustomed to speak ill of the King with their sharp tongues and snarl against him with their barbed words, preached that this should not be called kindness, but rather a lapse of the mind in the face of the worst kind of crime. From that day forward, the sermons of Bruce, the ringleader of the Edinburgh ministers, bitter, and those of Melville’s disciples at St. Andrew turbulent, those of Davison rash and seditious, and those of Black and Ross very furious and highly dangerous. Good men, hearing these, for the most part were amazed at these rabid sermons, scorned them with their ears, disdained them with their minds, and shuddered at even the memory of Ross’s sermons.
17. At this time, John Lord Maxwell, the head of Maitland’s family, more to do him a kindness and favor than acting with legal right, held judicial sessions throughout the manors and villages of Niddisdale, Annandale, and Galloway, aimed at the nobility. He fined the humbler folk of horses and cattle, and suppressed the more powerful with sharp censure. By fear of his judicial authority he won over a great part of Johnstone’s dependents, his rival for power because of their long-standing feud. Outraged by this insult, the Lairds of these regions agreed that he must be cast out of his office as chief justice, because they were indignant that he had obtained government over the entire west country. Seeking redress, they went to the King. Maxwell likewise threateningly came to Edinburgh, with an escort by no means unarmed. He pled his cause in the Privy Council, presided over by the King, and complained that he was being opposed by nobles who owed their loyalty and dependency to their superiors, who were claiming, to the discredit of the more powerful, that they were being oppressed and reduced to servitude. His governorship of Nissidale was beyond dispute. The Lairds said much about the rightfulness of their cause, and lodged a sharp demand that he should exercise no power or authority over Galloway and Annandale. When both sides in the dispute had been given a hearing, Maxwell was not ejected from his governorship. The clan chiefs took this hard, and went home, having failed to get their way, pondering various initiatives in their minds.
18. When this controversy died down, another arose. The last Earl of Morton had left three daughters, who had married Hamilton Duke of Châtellerault, the Lord Maxwell, and James Douglas, who had attained to high honors and the government of the realm by his prudence and reputation as a soldier. When the others deferred to him, this man received the Earldom of Morton, by right of his wife and in the form of a dowry. But, having no lawful heirs, he was condemned and beheaded, as I have told above. Soon a contention arose about his heritage between two very powerful competitors, Maxwell, who could trace his lineage on his mother’s side, since she was the sister of Morton’s wife, and Douglas Laird of Lochlevin, the nearest agnate heir. These two bitterly quarreled which should succeed to the dignity. The honor was first conveyed to Maxwell, by dint of kinship and maternal right, at a time when the Hamiltons and Douglasses were in exile. But soon, when the Douglas faction proved the stronger, in accordance with the law the dignity and its incomes devolved on the Laird of Lochleven. Maxwell complained that his mother had been insulted, and himself, her son, as well. In those days, Maxwell was sitting in the first pew of St. Giles, Cathedral, Edinburgh, to hear the sermon, and Morton also attended the service that morning. He was a man of great spirit, which not even old age had broken, and seeing that his pew had been taken, claimed that it belonged to him because of his age and dignity, and disdained sitting in the second pew, lest he supply ammunition for his very powerful rival’s claim. Since he made no end to his stubbornness, it counted for nothing that they were in a holy place where one customarily prays to God: they resorted to arms to fight over their dignity. On both sides, many armed dependents stood around to offer their protection. Archibald Douglas, Morton’s son, provoked by the insult given his father, attempted to dislodge Maxwell so that his father might occupy it. But his stoutest dependents gave him their unrestrained protection, threatening Douglas with death if he persevered. This commotion so alarmed the common people that they abandoned the Cathedral in their fright. The city magistrates, fearing some savage and cruel deed, recruited some armed townsmen. They led the squabbling lords away to their lodgings and used their public authority to compel them to swear they would take up arms no more, but rather trust in the power of the courtrooms. So when their case was heard, the right and dignity of the Earldom was adjudged to Douglas, the previous decree being quashed.
19. Sandilands Laird of Calder’s father died when he was in his childhood, and he was left as a ward under the guardianship of Sir James Sandilands, a close familiar of the King. When he died, to oblige his wife, he bequeathed his manor and fertile lands to her, not in the form of a dowry, but by hereditary right. At this same time John Graham, a judge of the criminal court, was induced by his greed to marry the widow. Devoted to her husband, as a demonstration of her love and dutifulness, the woman entrusted to her new husband the land she had inherited from her previous one, together with its income. He, in hope of gaining grace and power, sued his ward for his rural estates. James Sandilands, indignant at that suit, commanded him to withdraw, and conducted himself as guardian in such a way that he stood forth as a very energetic champion of his brother’s son. Graham, undeterred in his stubbornness, dared pursue his rights at law immoderately, and despoiled the ward of his fine estates by his canny arts and a show of lawfulness. Sandilands, outraged by the fresh insult of seeing his nephew cheated, and being a man inclined to take vengeance, decided to murder Graham, and kept his eye open for any chance to do the deed. Rumor came to the King that death was threatening his chief justice, so he did not hesitate to interpose his authority, and by edict he removed Graham beyond the Forth, thinking this was the sole remedy for the present evil. Graham complied with the edict and, together with an escort of kinsmen and dependents, not unarmed, quit the city, so as to be ready should his adversary make any attempt on him. Sandilands, at the urging of his anger and passion (the worst of advisers), gathered a large band of dependents, and informed his friends about Graham’s insufferable insult. They readily agreed to the man’s killing, and awaited the signal to attack. Sandilands dared to commit this savage, atrocious deed in a suburb of the royal city. Most of Graham’s dependents abandoned him, and only a few provided protection. He put up a stiff resistance, but was cut down with great hatred. After his death, his companions took to their heels, and the noble Sir Alexander Stewart was killed by Graham’s dependents. Those responsible for this crime were not only granted immunity, but did not abstain from the King’s presence at court. This murder created a great outcry throughout Scotland, and at its proper time I shall recount how much blood was spilled for its atonement.
- 1593 -
LIZABETH was afraid lest the fire ablaze in Scotland should create an opening for the Spanish, to the ruin of both their realms. So she warned the King that the must in a timely way suppress the Papist lords who were running riot in their ferocity, and exercise his royal power against his seditious subjects, lest his seat on the throne appear precarious. Lord Borough came from England as her ambassador, sent by the Queen to advise the King that Bothwell, responsible for so many deaths and disturbances, had secretly entered England; she would make it her business to punish those who had given him hospitality or any manner of help. Borough was also to rouse the King against the Spanish faction. He went to the King, presented his requests in writing, and requested an audience. Soon, when the full Privy Council had been convened, he was permitted to speak as he would. He spoke harshly against the Spanish, their common enemy, and somewhat pugnaciously asserted that Scotland was entirely indebted to his Queen for its liberty, and that Philip was waging war. He recounted the ways in Philip had damaged the Queen: Philip was harboring great hatred in his heart, and threatening the people of Britain with the yoke of wretched servitude and the destruction of its religion. With a similar speech he worked on the King, urging him to declare war on the Spanish King. He added Elizabeth’s mandates concerning the lords of the conspiracy: that they should be declared public enemies and their property confiscated. There was no room for gentleness, their misdeeds required extreme severity. Finally, he requested that their alliance, league, and treaty, made so solemnly, should be renewed. To this, at the request of the King and by decree of the Council, Sir Robert Melville, the Vice-Chancellor, a man of great authority for his previous career, replied that their friendship with the King of Spain had not been disrupted and free trade obtained between their countries, so that neither should their alliance be broken unless some offense or other had been committed, nor war be declared without just cause. He reminded Borough of England’s previous obligations that had been scorned or neglected: Ashby’s spurious embassy and the vain promise of the English succession. And the King of Scots, a sovereign not bound by Elizabeth’s laws, bestowed immunities, rewards, and penalties on his subjects as he himself saw fit, not according to the dictate of someone else. Finally, nothing stipulated in their most solemn treaty had been violated or transgressed, so that there was no need for its renewal. Nothing further was achieved by that embassy.
2. Having been given this response, the ambassador went home to England, red-hot with anger. The King continued in his mildness and rebuked the ministers for demanding the lords be punished. Moreover, he confirmed that the wives of Huntly and Erroll should have the greatest possible enjoyment of their property. This had the effect of annoying the Queen’s mind yet more. The Scots suspected that she was irked and an ambassador to England was appointed. Robert Melville, grave for his old age and experience, and possessed of an intelligence regarding high matters of state second to none, was chosen for this position. Granted an audience with Elizabeth, he announced his position as ambassador, asked for Bothwell back, and requested and demanded assistance against the rebels. The Queen’s reply was that, in accordance with their treaty, Bothwell was either to be handed over, if he lingered in England, or to be put to death. She burned with implacable anger and bile against the Papist lords, spared for the endangerment of the commonwealth. She accused them of having paved the way for the Spanish to enter Britain by betraying some seaports, and to have promised forces, both horse and foot. She called on God to witness their ungrateful, perfidious minds. She even went so far as to demand the punishment of Huntly, Angus, and Erroll, because they had armed the north for a deadly war, overthrown received religion, and embraced Philip with their support and good will. The prudent old man kept his temper and turned his mind from angry thoughts to moderation. He praised the King’s customary clemency towards illustrious families. He told her that the lords’ derelictions had been reported in exaggerated form because of their unpopularity, and very properly expressed his irritation at the troublemaking characters of the ministers. The Queen’s opinion remained unchanged, and she chided the King’s mildness in a speech of yet greater asperity. She was of opinion that the crimes and outrages of the rebel lords should be requited with punishments and more severe remedies, and that this vain clemency was harmful to religion and useless for the public good. She praised the piety of the ministers, who sharply retaliated for moderate offences against God. When the ambassador failed to mollify her, he hastily went home.
3. During those same days, Huntly’s wife, with a large train of dependents and escorted by noble ladies, went to Holyrood Palace, where, at the behest of her friends, in accordance with her conjugal right she received the use and enjoyment of her husband’s arable lands. When rumor of this got abroad, the people’s anger and the preachers’ dislike were increased. Those preachers, furious with rage over the indignity of the thing, bawled out more freely that not only were the King of Spain’s very evildoing agents safe, but their wives were enjoying favor, authority, and good repute at court. Even if the King ignored their outcry, doing more in accordance with his own nature and majesty than heeding anyone else’s urging or opposition, nevertheless, to put an end to these sinister popular rumors, he arrested a noblewoman of his own blood, excluded her from his court, and removed her to the northernmost part of the island.
4. At this time, too, Stephen Belius and an expert at the law, representatives of the King of Denmark, came to Scotland to investigate and report how much land Queen Anne had received as her dowry. They were shown around our hamlets and cities by select lords, made their estimation, approved the dowry, and, honored with gifts, returned to Denmark.
5. Next, a Parliament of the entire nation was held on July 1. By public decree of the estates and by a unanimous vote, the proscription of Bothwell (who was, in his turbid, seditious way, attempting to throw everything into a revolution), was renewed, his name was erased from the roster of noblemen, his family coat of arms was riven, his property confiscated, and he was banned from fire and water. Likewise the lords’ were eagerly minded to punish the Papist lords Angus, Huntly, and Erroll, who had attempted to visit war and destruction on their nation and the Kirk. The King pitied their nobility and grave situation, undeserving though they were, and removed them from their danger and disgrace, suspending their proscription on the grounds that they had promised their loyalty and dutifulness to their sovereign, and to pay handsome satisfaction to the Kirk for their malfeasances. He added that he was more inclined to pardon than to condemnation, if they repented. By this moderation he managed to offend nearly all his subjects; of the nobility he particularly irked Athol, who was especially bent on avenging Moray’s murder. Then too, Hamilton. the head of his family, kept away from the Parliament, lest by his presence he fail to consult for his own dignity and right, since it was Lennox who bore the crown.
6. In this Parliament the King bound his people by religion and divine law. With a single statute he confirmed all the privileges granted the Kirk. A number of laws were enacted against evildoers for their offenses. The people devised many safeguards against those who would plunder the commonwealth. The remaining personal patrimony of the sovereign, in large part consumed by the liberality customarily shown to young noblemen, was bound to the Crown by indissoluble links, for the support of the burdens of state during a time when the treasury was experiencing difficulties. Thus by a fine piece of legislation the grasping greed of courtiers was checked. But their ambition once more prevailed, the restraints of law were broken, and the unjust hopes of courtiers were encouraged.
7. Not long thereafter, Bothwell, having committed so many outrages, considered all his dangers and, either because of their magnitude, or out of repentance for his perfidy, or moved by the secret advice of his friends, concluded it was safer to make trial of the royal moderation and clemency than experience his strength and anger. Therefore with a few companions he secretly made his way to Edinburgh, and together with John Colville, the partner of his flight, he entered the royal bedchamber in Holyrood Abbey, wearing his sword. Soon, casting aside the weapon, he knelt before the King, and with a hangdog expression, humble voice and tears, demanding pardon, absolution, and, if the King saw fit, his just punishment. In a speech calculated to win pity, he dared beg forgiveness for his outrages and unspeakable perfidy. His kindred nobles who were present, his relatives and secret confederates in this plan, Lennox, Athol, Jarvis, Spynie, and Ochiltree, who had already been earnestly speaking on his behalf, moved the King to command this man, groveling and stretched out at full length on the ground, to get to his feet. Now that the royal wrath was appeased, the King’s first question was what insult had provoked him to undertake a war with such evil intent. Although all present were awaiting a reply, he stood silent and plunged in thought, trying to decide whether to excuse the crimes of his previous adventures as products of supreme folly and madness, or to confess, so his silence was caused not by fear, but rather by his sense of shame. Finally he wretchedly admitted that he had more reliance in the royal mercy than in his own innocence. After this speech and the earnest entreaties of Ludovic Duke of Lennox, he acknowledged his guilt and was granted pardon, and was restored to his erstwhile dignity under these conditions, that he live away from court, stand trial for the crime of consulting witches, and refrain from plots against those in the administration. Although the King planted much evidence of his clemency and moderation in mens’ minds at other times, then he did so most particularly when he forgave Bothwell, a man who scorned all law human and divine, for his outrages and felonies, who had tried his best against his fortune and blood, and had accomplished much.
8. When the King’s endangerment became known, Alexander Home of North Berwick, the Lord Provost of the city, assembled an armed band of townsmen and hastened to the palace, making a great commotion. He inquired about the sovereign’s safety, and offered his men for his protection. The King replied he had quite enough protection in his own men, and thanked Home for his loyalty and industry. On the following day Bothwell, greatly puffed-up, went in procession with magnificence through the middle of the city and the market-place to the Tollbooth, with many men rushing up to offer their congratulations, as if he had returned from a long sojourn abroad. He won over all he met with his kindness and affability. Arrogating sovereign power to himself, he indulged his hatred of his adversaries. He caused the downfalls of Maitland, Glamis the Treasurer, Alexander Home, the head of his family, and George Home, powerful for his knowledge of the ways of the court, cutting off their friends from the King, and proscribing their dependents and servants. He thought that, if he did not drive these men away from court, he could not gain the license to satisfy his appetites. Gravely offended by these things, the King, weighing everything, the removal of the servants, the banishment of the lords, the aggressive contumacy of the Earl, for the present took his counsel from necessity and decided to retire across the Forth to his pleasure-palace at Falkland to take his ease so that, with Bothwell out of his way, he could consult for his own best interests and remove the Earl’s ability to commit new crime, if any such desire remained. Therefore, by decree of the Privy Council, Bothwell was debarred from association with the King and his court until he had cleared himself of the accusation of witchcraft and heard his sentence. Bothwell himself, thinking it would greatly help his reputation if he could escape the disgrace and infamy of witchcraft, took the risk of standing his trial and was unanimously acquitted. There was no legal inquiry into his plots, treason, or conspiracy. The King departed for Leith in the company of Lennox, Athol, Spynie, Ochiltree, and his personal guard, and when he had embarked on an old ship he summoned Bothwell and offered him not only immunity and an amnesty for his previous offenses, but also a sure guarantee of security and the return of his erstwhile dignity, if he would depart the realm and live for a while in France or Italy, with the added caution that, if he created further disturbance, the memory of his old misdeeds would be revived. I can scarcely tell whether Bothwell trusted the King, or feigned loyalty and obedience. for the moment. He certainly seems not to have credited the King, suspecting that his just displeasure was being postponed rather than set aside. Meanwhile, not swayed to modesty, he was seen going about with a company of men and armed dependents., uttering reproaches and threats against his enemies. To make their devotion to their patron all the more evident, his riotous dependents threatened to kill Maitland with their own hands.
9. In a different quarter of the land, the King wandered the banks of the Clyde, its forests, glades, and agreeable places with great pleasure, until the storm of Bothwell’s times had grown calm. The effort of hunting and the exertion of running did not weary him. Having enjoyed the relaxations of his sporting and hunts, when his most noble lords made a public complaint about Bothwell’s supreme power conjoined with his licence, and made very grave allegations against him, in the month of September James convened a Parliament of the estates at Stirling, and referred the allegations to the lords’ consideration. And so on the appointed day the King, with a very strong bodyguard, betook himself to Stirling. He summoned many noblemen, especially those averse to Bothwell, and Home, Glamis, and Maitland vied with each other in running to him. Now sufficiently safe from violence, in a packed meeting he said that he was all but a captive; he feared for his life; he suspected Bothwell’s treachery; the scepter of Scotland was fallen and the crown trampled underfoot; the laws were abolished and wholly overthrown by that man’s licence and immunity; things that he had said among his servants had become common knowledge, to the effect that the recent favor the King had shown him was extorted against his will by fear of greater harm, since the King was in his power; his own downfall was being readied by Bothwell, if the lords did not come to his aid in time. It was, furthermore, unseemly for the lords of the realm and disgraceful for the King himself to issue a promise of immunity under compulsion. Not only at home, but also among neighboring nations, by such a speech he created the lords’ vehement odium against the man. When the King had brought them together to take counsel, many were of the opinion that the safety of the King should not often hinge on a single individual. Hence they decided that Bothwell and the lords and dependents should keep away from court unless granted permission or invited. They should have their immunity and amnesty for things done in the past, but should fear trouble if they renewed their misdeeds, and they humbly sued once more. Not content with this decree, a number of the lords of the opposing faction urged the King that he could justly and piously revoke an amnesty obtained by violence rather than the product of his judgment and free will. Out of these men, Walter Stewart of Blantyre and Robert Melville, members of the Privy Council, and the churchmen Robert Bruce and David Lindesay were sent to convey to Bothwell the decree and commands of the estates. He promised to do his duty by his sovereign and steer clear of the threshold of the court, adding that all men should comply with their sovereign’s instructions and a decree of the estates. The delegation was able to make a quick report that he had received their mandates with a calm mind.
10. The King was delighted by his obedience. The suspicious people were intent on nothing else: how much security would exist for Bothwell’s friends, how much reliance on the amnesty, if he were to come to court? What danger would he incur, if he humbly made his plea once again? Meanwhile, in accordance with the view of his deadly enemies Maitland, Glamis, Baron Home and George Home, by means of a herald the King proclaimed that Bothwell and his friends should not approach closer to the palace than ten miles. This edict was greeted with various rumors, as if the King were banishing him from his home and despoiling him of all his property. His constant friends and obedient dependents promised to share his fortune, whatever it may be, and to be his companions in exile. He, fearing lest he stir up a new storm without any good result, haunted the borderlands of the nation, keeping an eye out for any opportunity to throw things into confusion. Nothing made a deeper impression on the King’s mind than the zeal of the ministers, aroused on behalf of Bothwell as if he were a champion of religion. Appealing to God, they prayed that his affairs go well, out of their depraved ambition and private attachments. On the other hand, they were implacably opposed to the Papist lords. They desired to sate themselves with their blood, and in a synod at St. Andrews, shunning a debate over rights, they hounded them with their ecclesiastical imprecations. They were all the keen because the King was pliable, and for the sake of his own security and the tranquility of his realm was willing to forgive, and had granted their wives their ancestral estates in response to the entreaties of distinguished gentlemen. When Bruce and others preached against his mildness, he tempered their tribunician insolence with his prudence and began to devise some bridle with which he might control their audacious rashness and restore the power of bishops. And yet he never ceased to promote religion, decorate churches and shrines, confirm benefices granted by his ancestors, calm the savage storms that arose within the Kirk and their floods and tides, and defend and protect the sacred ship of the Kirk.
11. When all arrangements had been made to his satisfaction and a squadron of horse had been recruited to guard his person, the King summoned Bothwell and informed him by a letter that, if he did not transgress the limits of a subject, he might come to court with his escort of familiars, and that a vow of trust was in readiness. Should he do otherwise, this would be a capital crime. Summoned by the letter, Bothwell replied that the counsels of his adversaries were so arranged that, should he come to court, he would easily be overwhelmed, whereas, if he refused to appear, he would be proclaimed a public enemy. He added that Alexander Home, the clan chief, and that George I have often mentioned, were keeping watch for him at court because of their brother’s murder, and that all of Home’s and Maitland’s thoughts were devoted to his ruin. Thus he should be forgiven if he avoided the force and violence of his capital foes. When this response was received, by a herald he was commanded either to stand trial or enter into custody. Not obeying that edict, he was once more proclaimed a public enemy, and another edict was added by which any man who received him, his kinsmen, or his dependents into his home or helped him in any way would be adjudged liable to the same penalty.
12. In another part of the kingdom, across the Tay, Athol, with his turbid, unquiet nature, could not refrain from an attempted revolt. Learning of his rising, with a company of followers, not unarmed, including the Hamiltons, Maitland, the Homes, the Glamises, Lennox, Kerr, Cesford, and his mounted bodyguard, the King hastened to Doone to take him unawares and unready. Athol was forewarned by secret messengers, and escaped with great difficulty. Montrose also fled, but was brought back and haled before the King.
13. With the Doone disturbance settled, the King returned to Linlithgow, where he made no headway in resolving sedition within the Kirk, because the immoderate liberty and intolerable license of sermons had fired the minds of their congregations, and there was never a lack of fuel when, under a show of correcting morals, with their bile and stomach the preacher railed, first, at the Papists, and then at the sovereign’s familiars, condemning present evils and announcing ones to come. Not only public complaints were leveled against the King, but private ones as well, that he was grasping at popularity for his moderation in dealing with the Papists, and these he referred to the Privy Council. By authority of the Council it was decided that at October 24 at Perth there should be a close inquest into the signed letter and other accusations alleged against Angus, Huntly, Erroll, and that, in view of the nature of the crime, if they were convicted, it should cost them their heads. Robert Bruce, a notable preacher but a man over-free in his speech, begged the King to return peace to his realm and the Kirk, by commanding that the Papist lords be tried. He reminded him how he had bound by himself by oath, in a full Parliament of the lords, to show no indulgence to those lords, unless they returned into the bosom of the Kirk. The King replied that he was not about to abandon God’s Kirk and its sacred ship, at whose rudder he sat as helmsman. He would not give pardon and immunity to the Papist Earls unless they abandoned their error and prove their innocence by very sure evidence. But he did not want them to be tried in absentia. Thus Bruce was sent packing, and it appeared that he was fuming with anger, something which a chance event later increased. When an assembly was convened at Jedburgh, a town of Liddisdale, so that Kerr of Fernihurst and Hunthill, supporters of Bothwell’s party, and the incursions of reivers might be suppressed, and the King was headed there, suspecting nothing less than this, and was on the road not far from the ignoble little town of Fala, the lords of the conspiracy appeared before him, kneeling, Angus, Huntly, and Errol. Having saluted the King, they did not ask for pardon or favor for their misdeeds, but rather they earnestly beseeched that they be tried concerning their actions and their reputation, and that justice be pronounced fairly by men of good faith, at a stated time and place, where their innocence could be established. Contemplating the suppliants, the King decided he could not pardon their public injuries, and he was minded to make no decision about their crimes without having consulted the Kirk. Still irate, he told them that he could not hold an inquiry into their malfeasances against God and the Kirk without consulting with ecclesiastical representatives. He must turn to them, as if they were interpreters of divine will, so that they might have the power of judging crime which touched upon religion. When they made no end of their requests, the lords there present, moved by memory of their erstwhile good fortune, prevailed with the King to choose a number of lords, and a like number from the other estates, of very excellent and upright men who, having examined and heard the case at Perth, might serve as a jury and decide how how much needed to be punished, and how much could be forgiven.
14. Having made these arrangements, he dismissed them. And, lest he provide any grounds for suspcion, by means of his Treasurer Glamas and the Abbot of Lindores he informed the ministers of the lords’ wishes, which were scarcely unreasonable. This event increased their dislike. The magistrates of the Kirk, at a synod of their own kind held at Linlithgow, sharply complained that a trial managed in this way would be an insult to themselves: it would be held at a designated place most convenient for the Papists, and at an unsuitable date; there would be no time allowed for deliberation in this most important matter; and judges were to be nominated by the accused. Any reader can see how troubled were those times, their various commotions, the many strivings of the ministers, and their horrible results. They chose a delegation consisting of the Lairds of Calderwood and Merchiston, the ministers Galloway and James Melville, and the Lords Provost of Edinburgh and Dundee, which went to the King at Jedburgh, and petitioned for the punishment of the conspiracy. They demanded that its members be arrested and held in public custody until the day of their trial arrived. The complained that by their devious arts the Papist lords were ruining the manifest proofs of their crimes, and by their many lies managing to avoid questioning about such a terrible business. They demanded the privilege of attending the trial with an escort, not unarmed, under the pretext of protecting the royal security, should the Papists make any nefarious attempt. By their words they exaggerated the atrocity of the deed, the indignity of the inquiry, and the grave censure of the Kirk.
15. The King was very properly annoyed by the ministers’ heat and, in obedience to his nature, he calmly replied that he could not ignore the Earls now that they had humbled themselves, nor, since they requested it, could he deny them the right which was granted even to commoners. It would be a fine thing both for him and for the ministers if they were to exercise moderation in their demands. In view of their esteem and dignity, nothing could be decided against the accused without their case being tried, and he could not accept accusations in lieu of proof. The accused must be arraigned in the traditional way, be allowed to stand their trial, and be given a hearing. The legally appointed time for their trial would be forty days henceforth, and the ministers could choose its place, while the Privy Council set the day. The jurymen chosen would be the most upright of men. This alone would be contrary to the laws, that the crime committed would be determined in a courtroom in the presence of delegates rather than in a Parliament. If the ministers would incline to peace and obedience, he would attend to the rest: the public peace, the security of individuals, the increase of religion. Meanwhile, since the noblest of men were suing for justice, the benefit of the law in defending themselves was not to be denied. The matter of religion was better settled by fair law and charity than violence or fear. Concord was wholesome for themselves, and the nation. But he could not deter them from their mad discord. Next, by vote and decree of the Privy Council, the trial was postponed: the delay would give them more time to evaluate the matter. The day for the prosecution and defense was set for November 12. The lords were commanded to appear with no more than their families accompanying them, unless they preferred to be sentenced to exile and confiscation of their gods. The men of the Kirk were warned to send their representatives, with instructions. When many men had assembled on the appointed day, four members of of the upper estate were selected to determine the guilt of the accused: Lennox, Mar, the Chancellor, and Livingstone, and the same number of the next estate, Bass, Balwry, Abbothall, and Tillebarn. Representatives of Edinburgh, Dundee, Stirling, and Cowper were likewise added. If these men found them innocent or guilty, then by vote of all the orders they would be cleared or condemned. The Earls who were tainted by their wrongdoing, terrified by the fear of punishment and lacking the protection of their friends and dependents, did not dare appear on the day of trial. Summoned to appear by a writ, they replied that, in accordance with national tradition, it would be unseemly for them to risk their lives and fortunes without being able to summon their friends. The King considered the mass of evidence that needed to be sifted and, fearing greater commotion in Scotland, he remanded the entire business to a Parliament of the estates, so that he might put a check on the thirst for blood.
16. Not long thereafter, at a Parliament of the lords at Edinburgh over which the King presided, the matter was much discussed for a long time, and for the sake of the public peace an edict was drawn up and announced by heralds, containing the single remedy that appeared capable of calming the situation: by February 1 all Papists must either subscribe to the pure religion or depart the kingdom forever. If the lords accused of treason, Angus, Huntly, Erroll, Gordon, Auchindoun and Chisholm, complied with the edict prior to that date, they would be forgiven their previous crimes and would be restored to their property, estates, homes, and also to their good reputation and honor. But the madness did not stop here, since the severer kind of ministers, as if certain doom threatened unless precaution was taken for religion, vehemently insisted that there should be no amnesty for these atrocious crimes, and they had no repentance for this stubbornness. The sermons of Bruce and certain others were indeed acerb, and applied torches to the minds of their congregations, which were already throbbing with anger. I am embarrassed to describe the insolent arrogance of the Puritans. The King first used gentle words in dealing with Bruce, trying to make him desist from bitterness in his sermons, and show himself reasonable to the Papist lords, should they make a public recantation of their crime and satisfy the Kirk. He, in his usual stiff-necked way, rejected these request and nursed a grudge against the King because he did not prosecute the Papist lords, already found guilty in his own conscience, with fire and steel. When he could not be swayed, the royal wrath was directed at him in particular, because he had persistently treated the King with contumely at St. Andrews, and had convened lords and subjects for deliberation so religion would suffer no harm, without royal authority. The ministers’ insolence daily increased to the point that, not content to do their duty, they diverted all civil and criminal trials to their own tribunal, revoked public laws, and used their tribunician power to veto parliamentary decrees.
17. At this time, the Maxwells and Johnstones, thinking back on the dependents who had been killed, the property stolen by violence, and the cattle driven off because of their ancient feud, discords, and long-standing hatred, were somewhat reconciled thanks to the intervention of Herries, a kinsman of Maxwell. They exchanged pledges to do nothing hostile because of their lingering mutual hatred, and to adopt no counsel without consulting each other. Johnstone’s clansmen, taking the reconciliation as a license to steal, made a raid into Niddisdale with an eye to robbery. Spreading their devastation far and wide, the devasted the lands of Chrichton, Drumlanrig of Sanquhar, Lag, and Closeburn, with all manner of disaster, not unaware that these were wealthy but helpless families. They directed their particular wrath against Drumlanrig, and returned to Annandale with great spoils. Seeking reddress for their suffering, the Lairds went to Dumfries to the head of the Maxwell family, asking his help. Because of old quarrels about legal rights he refused to be joined to them, unless they entered into his dependency. Since they had no strength by themselves, out of sorrow for their loss and desire for revenge, they affiliated themselves to the Maxwells, and with helpless hands accepted their servitude. Meanwhile John Maxwell, the governor of the western border, who enjoyed supreme power and favor among his people and was now enhanced by these new dependents, obtained control of all Nissidale. He readied his arms with such great silence and shrewdness that Johnstone, the head of his family, could not sniff out his plot. Finally a servant named Johnstone disclosed the entire business to him and showed the handwritten documents of his enemies, signed and sealed. Amazed by this, he sent messengers to his kinsman Maxwell warning him not to violate a truce entered into with such solemnity, and break his word by providing grounds for renewing their disturbance. Maxwell, a shrewd and cunning man, realized his plan had been revealed, so he thought there was no reason to dissimulate the king’s secret mandates or postpone the business. Announcing that henceforth he would have nothing to do with Johnstone, he had no hesitation in performing the royal command. He therefore hired mercenaries under the command of Oliphant, and invaded lower Annandale to catch his enemies unawares. The Johnstones, whose own strength was unequal to the confederation of several clans, acquired the Grahams, Scotsmen notorious among the locals for their reiving, the dependents of Buccleuch, and the Elliots, and prevailed in a fight near Lochmaban in which Captain Oliphant and many of his soldiers were killed. They drove the rest into a nearby chapel, which they cruelly burned to the ground. Hence Maxwell, more pugnacious than ever, decided to avenge his injury by the ruination of Annandale.
18. During the wintertime, he assembled his old servants and dependentsand servants, and acquired new ones, together with Drumlaurig, Lag, Closeburn and the other Lairds of Nissidale with three thousand men. By the command of the King, who was ill-disposed towards Johnstone for having been privy to the Falkland raid, he entered Annandale before dawn to catch James Johnstone and his numerous clan of kinsmen unawares. He was aroused by the shouting and the sudden arrival of his enemies, sprang out of bed, and assembled a force of three hundred horsemen from his nearby followers, and then concealed himself in hiding-places and forests. His kinsman Bucchleuch sent him a hundred and twenty. Maxwell and his forces paused in a village of Annandale called Lockerbie so as to ravage Annandale. There he suddenly learned from his scouts that all the Johnstones had decamped during the night and were occupying the nearby forest so as to avoid the threatening storm. Therefore, having stayed at that village only a little while, he ravaged the nearby fields with fire and sword. Johnstone, was alert for an opportunity, and since the peril was growing because of the number of his enemies, he did not dare meet them in battle, and so set a trap. He stationed the sturdiest of his clansmen and the most ferocious of Bucchleuch’s auxiliaries in nearby groves. He himself, armed with his incredible audacity, approached the enemy with a small band of followers, to the distance of a musket-shot. Without joining battle and feigning fright, he fled, and drew the enemy to the place where he had placed his ambush. Those who had been set there sprang up at the proper time, and he quickly wheeled about and put his pursuers to rout, throwing a sudden scare in the others. He pursued his scattered enemies so they could not reassemble their forces. With their van falling back, the rest departed at a quicker step than they had arrived. Their foot soldiers were terrified by the yelling and galloping of the horsemen and their ranks were thrown into disorder by their panicky haste. The men of Annandale gave chase to the forces of their enemy, disfiguring their faces with the points of their swords, and in the haste of their victory they left many half-dead or maimed. Many there killed or taken in the flight, or drowned in rivers. Baron Maxwell himself, who was steadfast in his attempt to restore Roman rites, was killed by many blows. Johnstone was the first to rebuke him for having forgotten his sworn vow and their treaty,. With drawn sword he lopped off his hand as he was speaking and begging for mercy, and left him to be cut up by his comrades. Then he sharply pursued the fugitives so as to overcome the rest. Thanks to the speed of their horses, Drumlaurig, Lag, and Closeborn barely got away from their danger. The Laird of Newark lost an eye and his face was disfigured, but he lived a long time. Johnstone began to acquire a great reputation as the result of his successful fight. The Maxwells suffered this disaster because of their overconfidence, since they rushed into battle imprudently, and held their enemies’ small number in scorn. From that day forward, raids were conducted back and forth between Annandale and Niddisdale, to the great loss of both districts: there were murders, arsons, plundering, and unspeakable misdeeds; children were killed in their mothers’ arms; husbands in the sight of their wives; manors were burnt down; everywhere one could hear lamentable complaints and the terrible clash of arms; nothing was lacking for the appearance of a genuine war — save a reason for fighting. The Johnstones usually came away the victors thanks to the excellent prudence and bravery of James Johnstone, the head of the family.
19. At this time, Bothwell, his friends, dependents, and supporters were reduced to dire straits. His advocate John Russell, notable for his verbose, flowing eloquence, who was wont to help him with his counsel when he was in trouble, and Robert Stewart were imprisoned because of their steadfast friendship for him. And yet during these times he was not quiet, but rather daily hatched crueller plans, and designed schemes against Maitland. But neither his plans nor his schemes turned out well.
20. At this same time, the noble Sir Robert Kerr of Cesford, Bothwell’s antagonist, who was not unlike him in either disposition or powers, was making his way to Teviotdale, accompanied by a single servant. While he was on the road with that single manservant, he chanced to meet Bothwell. He, made more pugnacious by the hope of victory, since the opportunity had offered itself, began to demand that Kerr fight a duel with himself. His proposal was accepted. They busily readied their swords and hands, and met in combat. Their thoughts were not fixed on the peril to their lives, but rather on the glory to be won. So they came to blows and fought with considerable energy. Many blows were exchanged in vain, warded off by their breastplates, and they could not penetrate to the naked flesh. Therefore, their swords having proven useless, they separated. Then, riding forward at a gallop, Kerr’s servant had a sharp clash with Bothwell, but was frightened off by a wound. Kerr himself sprang to the aid of his endangered man. And now, having fought an equal fight, their horses blown and exhausted by their exertion, their hands hung heavy, although their eyes remained bright with passion. After their passions cooled, and neither had hope for victory, they broke off, unharmed. Thus the noble young lad blunted the headstrong audacity of the proud traitor, and the popular report of his victory exaggerated his fine bravery to the point it became an occasion for humor.
21.Word of the edict of pacification and the amnesty spread abroad to England, and this was immediately followed by another embassy. Baron Zouch, a man belonging to the high nobility who enjoyed great authority among good men for his prudence and probity, was sent to James as an ambassador. Having gained permission to approach him for a conference, he diligently executed his mandates. He beseeched the King that he should exercise his power of revenge to consult for the interests of both his nation and the Kirk; he should hasten to use fire and death to persecute the nefarious schemes of the Papal lords for the complete abolition of the pure doctrine of Christ; in view of the times and his danger, he ought to assemble an army and other things necessary for war. Finally he vehemently asserted that he should not spare any Papist Earl, but rather that they should suffer punishment for their wickedness and perfidy. To these things the King replied that their rights must be granted to all his subjects who sued for them. Soldiers could not be recruited without stipends, and stipends could not be paid without money: therefore Elizabeth should supply the funds for these soldiers. The legate did not cease assiduously maintaining at meetings of the lords and in the sight of men that, in this matter of the lords, judgment was being made, for better or worse concerning religion and the welfare of God and both their realms. The accused had been hidden way on purpose, lest they be publicly accused until the truth of their most damnable counsels had been thoroughly plumbed. For a while the King resisted the ambassador, so that there would be no proscription. The result, and the response given, was that the benefit of amnesty should be revoked, since the lords had not complied within the specified amount of time, and they were commanded by the Privy Council, speaking through a herald, to go into custody at diverse places. Since they had shown contempt for its government, they were proclaimed public enemies. But, considering the indignity of the business, this decree struck nobody as being sufficiently severe.
22. Since Queen Anne was pregnant and close to childbirth, she retired to Stirling with the King. There the ambassador persisted with undiminished energy in demanding that the Papist lords be brought before the bar or an expedition be readied. For the moment, the King thought nothing should be decided. Among so many storms and tempests, a salubrious British star shone forth. For, as an answer to the people’s hopes and prayers, a prince was born at Stirling on February 19, noble for his countenance, his bearing, the beauty of his face, the elegance of his body and mind. He was well known to all the nations by the celebrity of his fame even in his very infancy and boyhood, which was subsequently enhanced more and more as he progressed in age, thanks to his training in the Liberal Arts and his martial pursuits. But before his signs of greatness of character, inculcated by his father’s counsels, his excellent natural endowments, and the seeds of his virtues could benefit his commonwealth, they perished in their first flower. I believe that it was God’s will that he be born and taken away, to the misfortune of the public; that his death was a greater loss to the people of Britain than to himself; and that fate has never inflicted a harsher wound on Britain. At his birth, the minds of the common folk were filled with joy, and they erupted with cheers, shouts, and all the signs with which they express their happiness. Nobody was happier or more joyful than was his father James, and so, turning his mind to the baptismal ceremonies, he rebuilt the chapel at Stirling, gilding its ceiling, and adorning its walls at great expense and with consummate artistry. He hired painters, sculptors, and other practitioners of the fine arts and appointed men of knightly rank as supervisors, so that everything could be completed all the sooner.
- 1594 -
N Scotland there was constant sedition, together with the hostile license of the ministers in their sermons. Sometimes the King dissimulated this, sometimes ignored it with open eyes. When he learned that an exceedingly belligerent Bothwell had assembled a following scraped together from various sources, and was ready to resort to the force of arms, to ensure security for future times he reconciled Kerr of Cesford with Home, and bound the both of them to defend his personal safety and the integrity of the realm, and drive out Bothwell. At considerable public and private expense these two men supported great forces at Kelso. With no less zeal Buccleuch brought a draught of Scottish youth to that same place. Other lords were forbidden to assemble armed forces without the permission of the King and Privy Council. Meanwhile Bothwell lurked in the borderland of Northumberland, awaiting his opportunity and confident (as he imagined) of obtaining help from the Queen by means of intermediaries and English representatives. So Zouch, who was suspect to the King, making a show of support for Bothwell, added to his previous request that, for the sake of the public tranquility, James should either bid the Papist lords quit Scotland or drive them out by force, and weaken the Spanish faction. If he were to refuse this demand, he was certain that he would be declining to gratify her concerning a very reasonable matter. Disturbed, the King replied that if the Queen were to assist him to the best of her ability and return the fugitive Bothwell, who was constantly haunting the English borderlands, in accordance with their treaty, he would satisfy her demands, and would vigorously defend the Reformed Religion, and most punctually cultivate the alliance he had begun with her. He promised the ambassador with his words, and the Queen with a letter, that he would oppose both this plague to his commonwealth and the impending ruination of the Kirk. Some were of the opinion that it was not prudent for the sovereign to go to war over three errant lords, risking his safety and dignity. Having accomplished these things and determined the day of his departure, on his way home Zouch had a secret conference with Bothwell, and they talked much about the Earl’s safety. Returned into England and questioned by the Queen, he spoke a little about the disturbed condition of Scotland: the King was well-disposed towards religion and the public advantage of the English nation. Any day now, the troublesome lords would be ejected from Scotland if they did not refrain from their undertakings.
2. Meanwhile, while the baptismal furniture was being prepared with all magnificence and royal splendor, now that his adversaries’ forces had been dismissed, Bothwell once more began to throw everything into turmoil and confusion. Since by now he had cut himself off from any hope of pardon by his treachery and felonious behavior, although his affairs were everywhere going awry he was not yet reduced to ultimate despair, but only inspired by his danger to plan open violence and revenge. He collected large forces of every manner of reiver, of whom there were plenty in the borderland, and first went to Kelso, then to Dalkeith, and finally to the town of Leith. There he lingered a while. In a letter written to a full gathering of ministers at Dunbar, he deplored the condition of the Kirk, the ruin of the kingdom, the downfall of law and liberty, and the woes of the people. He declared that they must all band together lest as single individuals they fall victim to the revenge and mockery of the Papists. He exhorted them to be brave and high-spirited for their common safety and in the cause of religion. He requested that they send him select men who might observe and report on his sayings and doings. Finally he offered himself as their standard-bearer against the Papists. This vain ostentation of religion and show of concern for the public welfare did him no good. Then, in a proclamation drawn up at Leith, he treacherously called on God and mankind to bear witness that he had taken up arms, not against his King, his nation, and the iniquity of his adversaries, but for the public sake of the Reformed Religion. He had done so against the well-known savagery and perfidy of the Papist lords, since God’s religion, the safety of the sovereign, a justice which gave each man his due, law, liberty, public welfare, and wholesome concord between the kingdoms of Scotland and England were being placed in extreme jeopardy by he pernicious advisors who had furtively wormed their way into the commonwealth. Desperate priests at home and Spaniards abroad were criminally undertaking everything so as to oppress the commonwealth and wholly destroy its amity with the English. So he had determined, with the help of lords, barons, and common citizens, to remove those wicked counsellors from the administration of the commonwealth by a decree of the lords, if they should submit to judgement, or to oppose them and resort to arms to expel them from the realm, if they proved stubborn. For which reason he earnestly begged the King, exhorted the nobles, and commanded the common people to assist him in maintaining religion. He asked judges and magistrates to strengthen his faction in all the ways they could, and join arms with him in such a pious, just, and necessary cause. Therefore, under a show of concern for the public weal meant to mask his treachery, using the pretext of a very holy cause, he vainly solicited the nobility and commons with his popular words, since their sense of duty prevailed against the perfidy of his enticements.
3. The royal city was paralyzed, beset by suspicion, suspended in fear, and roiled by sermons. Fearing lest by their show of piety and pretended concern for the public good the ministers alienate the common people from him, the King went to the city to strengthen wavering minds and arm the multitude. Entering St. Giles Cathedral after the sermon, he begged for the citizens’ loyalty, and by speaking, exhorting, and promising to drive the Papist lords out of the kingdom, and to have a care for their common safety and prosperity, he inspired them all to take up arms. When the multitude voluntarily poured forth, he made his way to Leith. Meanwhile, when his specious edict failed and his familiar arts were of no avail, thanks to the King’s wisdom, he returned to his counsels of waging a war, and drew up his mounted forces in the fields which lie between Leith and Edinburgh, where he stood until noon so that even the King could see him beneath his banners. For his part, Bothwell could see the townsmen of Edinburgh up in arms, the fields filled with citizens gleaming in their armor, and the nobles displaying themselves under arms in squadrons, so that they might manfully resist his every move and initiative. For a long time both armies remained drawn up in battle array, but neither began a fight. Finally James Colville, distinguished for his military service in France, and John Carmichael moved up their squadrons of horse and lightly-armed foot against that traitor to their cause, Alexander Home, the head of his family. Home was allowed to do what the situation and his danger recommended. The King himself was accompanied particularly by his domestic servants, the leading members of the knighthood, and a great number of city-dwellers. When Bothwell saw that Home was avoiding battle, he called his captains together and set forth his strategy. So that he could plant the suspicion in Home’s forces that he was in a panic, he quickly made his way around Arthur’s Seat, feigning retreat to lure Home’s forces into coming on faster so that he could overwhelm them when they broke ranks, or to entice them into becoming separated from the strength of their foot soldiers and leading them to steeper ground. Nor was his tactic without a result. For Home profusely railed against the fugitives, and, rashly moving onto steeper ground, carelessly exposed himself to his enemy. Hard by the village of Woolmet Bothwell’s followers occupied a space behind a hill where they could collect themselves. Then, raising a shout, they turned back against Home and, putting his men in a fright, routed them at their first encounter. Home’s bands, impeded by their own panic and driven by their enemies’ assault, were driven back in confusion to the village of Niddrie. Bothwell clung to the backs of the fugitives for more than a mile, but dared follow no farther on horseback because of the large multitude of townsmen there, shining in their armor, and ready to rush into battle. Few of Home’s men were killed in their flight, but quite number were wounded or captured.
4. Such a great enterprise was ruinous to the very man who undertook it, since this expedition, ill-advisedly begun and uselessly completed, blunted Bothwell’s intolerable rashness, so much so that after that day his friends refused to throw the dice of war, seeing the unfortunate result of that unlucky venture. Many of his most loyal followers, and especially John Colville, changed their minds out of disgust with adversity, and were reconciled to the King. Bothwell himself retired to his usual hiding-places in the borderland. The Queen issued an edict that no man should show him hospitality or offer him any help. Thus, debarred from England, he constantly changed his hiding-places, leading a wretched life.
5. With that uprising ended, the King devoted himself to ceremonial matters and sent James Colville of Mount Vernon to the King of France, and Edward Bruce Abbot of Kinloss to Elizabeth, to invited them to the baptismal solemnities. He sent other suitable gentlemen to Belgium, Germany, and Denmark: the illustrious Sir William Keith, and William Moray, an excellent man who had once served as a captain in Belgium and was known to many of their city magistrates, and Peter Young, who had often served as ambassador to Denmark in the past, bearing letters and mandates for the same purpose. He gave Bruce the extra task of conciliating the Queen’s mind in any way he could, and once again to promise he would do those things which which he had said he would do, to Zouch in person, and to the Queen in a letter.
6. In the midst of these things, troubled times ensued, and the minister, who in their folly enjoyed a new kind of immunity, beset the King for having lied regarding their sacred cause, since he was not prosecuting the wrongdoings of the Papists. Andrew Hunter defected to Bothwell. Then too, there was the incredible, singular fury of John Ross, an supernumerary minister of Perth. He delivered a very acerb sermon filled with criticism, accusations, and aspersions of the King. With the same sharpness of tongue he rudely and slanderously defamed the memory of the King’s deceased mother and the Guise family, and in his sermon he repeatedly issued the threat that a dagger was not far removed from the royal ribs. Because they were wearied of disturbances, the clergy held a general synod in the month of May, and the ministers met in the royal city. They all gathered here from every side and came to decisions about divine matters. Here came royal representatives for the sake of registering the King’s complaint, greatly objecting to Ross’s fury, his rebukes to the King, and his reliance on Hunter. By vote of the synod, Hunter was defrocked. Regarding the King’s final complaint, the synod conducted itself in such a manner that it put off deciding whether to approve or disapprove of his raving sermon. The royal representatives took this ambiguous response amiss, and said that they understood what the synod felt. Nor did the matter end there. Rather, when the will of the synod had been ascertained, Ross’s sermons and his false reproaches against his sovereign were discussed by the Privy Council, as if they were a panel of judges, in the presence of the King. Ross, brought before the full Council, spoke up. boldly acknowledged his contumelies against the King, and vehemently defended them. This seemed a hateful business, and his admission of his rashness disgraceful The Privy Council received great acclaim for banishing him from the realm in perpetuity, and his ignominy should extend to all future ages. The council appointed the same penalty for all immoderate sermons in future time. The ecclesiastical order took this decree of the Council amiss, as being a bridle to limit the license of their preaching. But their unbounded liberty was not ended. Soon delegates of the synod produced their own list of remonstrances. They claimed that against the Papal lords, guilty of such great crimes, no force was unjust, and they demanded that a Parliament be convened, that they be adjudged public enemies, that their houses be pulled down, and that their property be confiscated. The King agreed with the clergy, said many words about all of Ross’s fury and infamy, and he up the cause of religion, saying that he would regard it as being of the utmost importance.
7. Soon he proclaimed a Parliament of the estates, to be held at Edinburgh on June 8, concerning matters touch on piety to God, the common security of them all, and the public advantage. Having inveighed against the Papist lords, those enemies of the Kirk and disturbers of the public peace, he referred the matter to the consideration of the estates. Nor were the requirements which seemed vital to the commonwealth neglected by this supreme national council. Few lords were present, and they demanded that the matter be tabled for a fuller Parliament, and refused to cast their votes, saying over and over that a vote should not be held about matters only presumed to be the case. But they were outvoted by the clergy and the commons, whom they saw had assembled in great numbers and singlemindedly for the purpose of condemning the lords, and they ceased making their objection. At length, so that they might not appear to be resisting in vain, they agreed with the vote of the other orders. Therefore at this Parliament the lords ill-disposed to God’s religion and the welfare of the Scottish public were proscribed by decree of the estates: Angus, Huntly, Erroll, the chiefs of the Hebrides, Maclean, MacNeil, and Donald Gorham. All their property was confiscated, their coats of arms were riven at the Parliament, the yearly income of their estates was to be given over to the fisc. Their sentence was approved by the acclaim of the estates and announced by heralds in the market-place, which elicited many favorable murmurs from the common folk.
8. In those same days the Jesuit James Gordon, Huntly’s uncle whom I have mentioned above, together with his co-religionists secretly landed at Aberdeen to solicit the northern Scots to support the Roman religion. The townsmen, on guard lest any secret messenger reach the lords of the conspiracy, arrested two of their number. Gordon got away to his sympathizers with writing equipment, letters, and other such things, and told them the situation. Angus, Errrol, and the Laird of Bonnington went flying to Aberdeen and demanded the prisoners be handed over. If the townsmen refused to comply, they threatened killing, arson, and other warlike reprisals. The townsmen were undaunted and not easily compelled. Choice squadrons of Gordon horsemen came along with Huntly. Then the men of Aberdeen were overcome by fear of arson and terror and yielded their captives to the lords. This event encouraged the Papists and frightened the Reformers. News of this crime was swiftly brought to the King at Edinburgh, and there was a resurgence of popular hatred of Papists. The thoroughly terrified ministers surrounded the King and begged him to consult for the security of their sovereign, and the peace and tranquility of the realm, and mete out exemplary punishment. Moved by their entreaties and mindful of his promises, he quickly convened the Privy Council for this purpose, and, in accordance with its vote, commanded that Argyll, Athol, and Forbes, who were ill-disposed towards Huntly for private grudges, should hold a levy of their friends and kinsmen, and prosecute the lords of the conspiracy with fire and sword. After the baptismal ceremony, he himself would follow them into the north with a large army.
9. Meanwhile the baptismal day was celebrated by the arrival of ambassadors from France, England, and Belgium, a great throng of lords and all manner of men, and a degree of great estate unknown before that day. All solemnities and rites pertinent to the occasion were ceremoniously observed, and there was no limit on the sports or feasting. The palace at Stirling resounded with the incredible pleasure of the royal family, the congratulations of foreign sovereigns, and a degree of magnificence which I can sketch with my words more than I can expatiate on them. The high-born Earl of Sussex, who stood in for Elizabeth, bore in his arms the baby, dressed in a gown. The other ambassadors and noble lords stood by, performing their services and handing around all the ornaments of his prince’s station. Soon, by the action of David Cunningham Bishop of Aberdeen, who performed the rites with singular sanctity, the baby was immersed in the holy font and given the name of Henry Frederick., although henceforth he was called by the simpler and more august name of Henry. On the day following the ceremony the ambassadors vied with their presents and gifts. As the result of their gift, the Dutchmen obtained free fishing rights in the Scottish sea. This was the beginning of their future power, inasmuch as, granted this right, they annually sail to our waters and salt down some of their catch, and dry the rest in the wind, and by selling them they realize a great sum of money with which they pay stipends to their soldiers, build ships, and ply a profitable trade throughout Europe, from which they gain a great part of their sustenance. I am not ashamed to remind the forgetful of these benefits and of the rule of the sea they proudly assert by the reliance they place on their shipping. While the ambassadors remained, houses were thrown open and honorable banquets given at public expense. When they departed they were thanked and given gifts. All the care for the prince’s upkeep and protection was publicly entrusted to Mar and his supervision to David Murray of Abercairney, a man notable for his virtue and fidelity of mind. The place of his upbringing was to be Stirling. Henceforth, by their advice, he passed his boyhood and youth in the cultivation of every art of both and peace and war, in hopes of his future sovereignty, and he presented consummate evidence of virtue, intelligence, and kindness.
10. When the ceremonies attendant on the birth of his son had been completed, the King, who was deeply offended by the stubborn resistance and madness of Huntly and Erroll, and unable to tolerate their arrogant pride any longer, sent ahead the Earl of Argyll, a very young man, with viceregal power. He himself proposed to follow along after with greater forces, so that he might inspect and put in good order affairs in the north. Argyll, who had had a falling-out with Huntly over the murder of Moray, assembled an army of eight thousand of his kinsmen and dependents, and marched through the wastelands of Lochaber and Badenoch and mountains all but covered with snow, involving great effort on the part of his dependents, and arrived at Gordon lands. He set siege to Huntly’s castle of Rothiemay, while its defenders protected it with stones, stakes, and missiles. When Argyll appreciated that the survivors of the garrison were prepared to offer stiff resistance, he broke off the siege and departed. Having wasted the villages of the local peasantry, he dislodged their chaotic multitude and forced it to take refuge in the wastelands. A contempt for the enemy, followed by carelessness, arose among Argyll’s men, and in their greed for plunder they began to roam about more freely. Hearing of Argyll’s great host and of its arrival, Huntly himself remained at Elgin in Moray and collected his forces. He summoned Erroll from Angus to come to his aid, thus showing the Highlanders, who were begging for his help, that he had the foresight to protect them. Meanwhile Erroll, outstanding not only for his endowments of heart and courage but also for his physical strength, came up with four hundred select horsemen. Having joined their horse and foot and receiving auxiliaries from the Highlanders, they held a council of war. They ordered lightly-armed outriders to go forward and scout their enemies’ positions. Quickly those who had gone out reported back that Argyll’s men were sitting carefree in the fields of Auchindoun at the foot of Mt. Glenlivet, stretched out in sleep or eating in the shade, and were being negligent in attending to the responsibilities of war. Hearing these things Erroll, who was in command, ordered his men, far inferior in numbers though they were, to take up arms and stand ready, and he made a silent march to Glenlivet. Seeing the enemy, he went to Huntly and informed him he was minded to try the fortunes of battle. Having regard for the large numbers of their enemies, Huntly urged postponement of battle for the moment, to await the arrival of there allies’ auxiliaries. But Erroll argued to the contrary, that delay would be injurious to themselves and good for their enemy, should Forbes’ men join them, and stubbornly clung to his plan over Huntly’s objections. For he realized that they would be fighting against fifteen hundred horse and eight thousand foot, and was of the opinion that victory would be a matter of luck, but ruin the result of boldness.
11. Erroll, intent on drawing up his battle-line, bid the armed men standing around him for his protection to be of good cheer. I shall insert his very words: “For we are superior in the stoutness of our hearts and the justice of our cause just as much as they are in number. They are accustomed to run riot, plundering and robbing. They despoil, they drive off booty, and they are imbued with no military discipline. They are lax and negligent in keeping their station. We are disciplined by nature, we have suffered many struggles and dangers, and by experience we have learned that we must either bravely win or gloriously die. And so, now that our rites are polluted and our altars overthrown, what else remains other than the complete ending of Christ’s religion, unless the particular favor of Christ and the Saints averts the danger and your bravery protects it?” Having spoken these words, he soon led them against the enemy. He ordered two brass cannon to be fired against the opposing army, wreaking terrible death and destruction on their packed multitude. Then he himself led the way among five hundred horsemen, seated on a noble charger, and attacked the enemies’ leading rank. Without delay, the fighting spread over the entire field. At the sound of the guns, Argyll’s men ran fearfully to arms. MacLean, the Hebridean clan chief, a wild man well-practised at arms, was stationed in the front as leader of all the forces, and he advanced to counter Erroll. He occupied a hill and received the charge of the squadrons of horse incautiously riding upwards. Three hundred riders were slain. Erroll himself, strenuously urging on the fight, was wounded by an arrow. Then a greater force intervened. The rest of the Gordons, commanded by Huntly, came up intact and were swept against the enemy in a great assault. The killing was atrocious. MacLean was unequal to the passion of his enemy, yet for a long time he held Argyll’s battle-line together. But the men in the front ranks, in disarray and untrained at war, took fright and began to flee, and their panic disrupted the rest of the army. Those in the rear, terrified by the deaths of those stationed in front of them, fell back. The braver were swept along by the throng and confusion of their comrades. After Argyll could no longer restrain the tangle of men either by urging or by castigating them for their fear, he was obliged to flee himself. Five hundred of Argyll’s men were lost in that fight, but nobody of notable rank save for Lochinch and his brother. Huntly’s men lost about twenty, all men of good breeding, including Patrick Gordon of Auchindoun, Huntly’s uncle, so that their victory was a grievous one. Defeated by the terrain more than by the number of casualties suffered, to their greater disgrace, their enemy passed through the nearby mountains and returned to Argyll.
12. After this unhappy fight, their leader Argyll met the King at Dundee while he was still on his northward march, hastening towards Huntly’s lands with a great band of common soldiers and mercenaries. But rumor of the disaster at Glenlivet had come to the King’s ear before anyone from the army could announce it. Nonetheless, the sad messengers did not cease until the King completed his march to the war at full speed. The ministers decreed supplications for his successful return. Learning of the King’s arrival, the lords who had been adjudged public enemies fearfully retired into steep, wild mountains with their most faithful followers, and baffled their pursuers by concealing themselves in obscure hiding-places, forests, and glades. Meanwhile the King persisted in his intentions. After the lords took flight, he decided to prosecute their dependents by the law. All who participated in the Battle of Genlivet were charged with treason. They were convicted and their property confiscated, and from this income the King paid off his mercenaries. He pardoned those who were delinquent out of fear rather than choice, and who offered the defense that they were dependents of the Gordons. But he required hostages from all of them, lest they subsequently conspire with the public enemies. He emptied the castles of Strathbogie, Staines, and Newton, and, since these could not be garrisoned and defended, he pulled them down and leveled them to the ground. Although the Privy Council urgently sought to recall him, he nevertheless persevered in reducing all the men of the north country to good order.
13. After having settled affairs in the north and taking hostages, since the winter was coming on, after two months he went to the Earl of Mar’s castle of Kildrummy, and thence he returned to Edinburgh in triumph, having left Ludovic Duke of Lennox at Aberdeen with viceregal authority, together with the distinguished Sir Robert Melville and Sir John Carmichael, companies of mercenaries, and a great band of noblemen. Lennox held judicial sessions and pronounced the law with great equity, punishing some felons and fining others of money or a stated number of cattle. He established garrisons in places bordering his enemies, and then he went to Elgin, the principal town of Moray. There the nobles came to meet him and he exhorted them to keep the faith and wholehearted hunt down the traitors. He likewise sent a letter to the Papist ministers advising them to abandon their evil-mindedness towards the commonwealth and quit Scotland for the sake of peace and quiet. They should entrust their wives and children to the royal mercy. Many men were of the opinion that the lords’ minds were shaken by Lennox. These arrangements having been made, he quit Moray and, making his way by moderate stages, he frequently stayed at right noble lodgings, Castles Boyne, Balvenie, and Findlater, and he could not have been treated with more liberality and honor. Finally he returned to Aberdeen, where he administered the rest with the help of the lords.
14. Now that the had returned the affairs of the north to a more advantageous condition with his consummate equity and moderation, he returned to the King more swiftly than was required by the public need. For the routed lords had emerged from their hiding-places in the hope of regaining their erstwhile fortune. Meanwhile Bothwell, ejected from England, with his wonderfully unquiet mind returned to Scotland and, thinking some disturbance should be created, betook himself to the Papist lords, whom he realized were ill-disposed towards himself because of their religious differences. To cement their alliance, which had now begun, he relied on intermediary friends. In Angus Huntly, Angus, Erroll, Bothwell, and Caithness, together with a number of confederates, exchanged pledges of loyalty and became partners in their danger, safety, and efforts. So they might be able to trust each other more, then made a secret compact, confirmed by their oaths and signatures, that they would do nothing save by common counsel, and they would calmly bear all the outcomes of fortune. From the beginning of this compact to its end, I find nothing other to have been considered than impunity for crimes, amnesty for the murder of Moray, liberty of conscience, peace, and the sharing of plunder. But these men of different religious persuasions, united by a league and criminal association to promote wrongdoing, could not long keep the faith, and went their separate ways. Huntly and Erroll, weary of the present situation and unable to resist the Kirk faction, yielded to the times and went into exile in Belgium and France. Angus, often changing his places, kept in concealment. Their mortal enemy Maitland reproached the exiles for their cowardice: “Why do these timid rebels seek out Parma? These gentlemen require a shield, since they are so feeble with the sword.”
15. Meanwhile Bothwell, neither quiet in prosperity nor patient amidst adversity, and fearing betrayal, roamed about Caithness with a few companions. His supporters and those who aided him were hunted everywhere, and many were taken and paid the forfeit for their crime., only a few being restored to their erstwhile positions of dignity and favor. Since the lords whom whom he had hoped would be his particular supporters were opposing his ventures, and thoroughly despairing of his prospects, he cursed his unquiet life and retired into England with a few companions and servants. There, not given the welcome he fancied he deserved, and fearing the ambassadors who were constantly demanding he be immediately handed back in accordance with the stipulation of the new treaty, within a few days, with fortune opposing his enterprises, he betook himself to France, thinking that a safer place for his exile. Then he long led a wretched, poverty-stricken life in Spain and Italy, living on King Philip’s pension. Prone to lust and venery, he committed many unspeakable debaucheries with nuns and other daring deeds. Thus perpetual exile made an end to Bothwell’s license and the commonwealth could rest. The property of the exiled lords was not paid into the fisc, but granted to their wives for their support and sustenance. This was conceded to honor Lennox, to whose sister Huntly was married, and at the entreaties of Erroll’s friends and those of Angus, who came to the King in large numbers to beg for this. With justice, Bothwell, a seditious fellow since boyhood, was not given such friendly treatment. All his valuable lands and rich abbeys were given to his enemies for their use and profit: Coldingham to Home, Kelso to Robert Kerr of Sesford, and Liddisdale to Walter Scott of Buccleuch, the head of his family. When his sons reached adolescence, there was scarcely any support remaining for their sustenance and other necessities of life.
16. This Walter Scott was a kinsman of Bothwell, since he was married to Walter’s mother, and had had sons by her. But amongst mankind there is a boundless greed for all things: for land, money, and property. Thus in his enthusiasm for gaining more Bucchleuch was heedless of his kinship, and lusted for and received his brother’s estates, unlucky gifts. He also enjoyed close affinity with Robert Kerr of Sesford, the husband of his sister, and this sufficed to preserve their friendship and concord. These young men, born of a very great family, were equals in power, wealth, and eagerness to gain glory. Kerr was the better of the two when it came to prudence and moderation, and sought honor for his industry, which he achieved, more by his own merit than as a gift of fortune. But Walter Scott was not so covered with glory, although he later gained a command of soldiers in Belgium and enhanced his family with the dignity of an Earldom. While they were of equal fortune and hope for power, at Maitland’s urging they agreed on headstrong schemes for diminishing Mar’s authority and removing him from his position as custodian of the prince and his administration of the commonwealth. But Mar, a prudent and sagacious man, was not lacking in the astuteness to protect himself and break their power. And yet, when a grudge arose between them out of rivalry and envy, these ardent spirits could not long remain harmonious. From faithful allies these fierce young men became deep-dyed enemies. Both swiftly gathered their large families and a band of dependents and fell to fighting. The entreaties of their friends were of no avail in cooling their anger and ridding them of their suspicions and rivalries. They were heedless of their kinship and in their mutual hatred came close to endangering their fortunes. But the King resolved this commotion and curbed their strife, reminding them of the benefits he had conferred on them by his public decrees.
- 1595 -
N Scotland, Bothwell’s brother Hercules Stewart kept shifting the place of his concealment. When he secretly went to Caithness, he was arrested by John Colville, a lying rascal who kept changing sides, and was hanged at Edinburgh, so that his punishment would serve as a spectacle. All the bystanders were moved by hatred of Colville and pity for Hercules, for he had belonged to the conspiracy more out of devotion to his brother than an evil nature. Bothwell’s other partisans were sought for, and those caught paid the price, although a number of them were taken back into the King’s good graces and pardoned. The Laird of Spott and others were driven into exile and hiding, their property confiscated.
2. At this same time, since King James found out that a Spanish fleet was being outfitted and equipped for the destruction of all Britain, he promulgated an edict commanding that a levy be held throughout Scotland, and professed that he would shun no danger for the sake of the public safety. And he exhorted his people to fight bravely on behalf of God’s religion and the security of Britain, in which they had been born. When the English complained that their borders were being harassed by Scottish reivers, he chastised the licence, boldness, and greed of the borderers. He commanded that nothing hostile be done to England by way of raids, but rather that, in the usual way, stolen property be returned by the agency of the governors of the borders and mutual peace be observed, which was recommended by their adherence to the same religious worship and their similarity of language and manners.
3. Now that the disturbance of Scottish affairs had been gradually settled, the borderlands set in good order, and sedition within the Kirk resolved, the King, enjoying peace and repose, reflected that the crown, scepter, and right of the sword and royal majesty had been granted him so that he might give an ear to suppliants and punish wrongdoers, and so, as is the personal responsibility of a King, he devoted all his efforts, energies, and undertakings to public concerns. He bestowed titles and honors on the deserving, having due regard for the nobility of the candidates’ ancestors and the distinction of their families. He often intervened with the justices sitting on the bench, or mingled with them in their deliberation chamber as one of the panel of judges. By hearing cases daily, he acquired a familiarity with the laws, opinions, customs of judging, legal precedents, secrets of government, civil laws, treaties, and pacts. If something were said to have been done out of the favor or ambition of justices, he would suddenly appear to remind the judges of the laws, their oath, and the cases they were hearing, urging at the same time that they pronounce law chastely and with integrity, neither oppressing the weaker with calumnies nor wrongly ruling in favor of the more powerful. Sometimes he would enter into courtroom debates with laymen about land tenure laws. He paid most diligent attention to the treasury, taxes, imposts, and financial affairs, the health of the fisc, and what were the outlays and needs of the commonwealth. Nor did he lose is interest in arms and military equipment, or neglect discipline. He reorganized the Privy Council and reduced its excessive number. When he presided on the bench, he made no alteration in the ancient traditions of the courtroom and the old-fashioned way in which judges pronounced sentence. He created a class of professional advocates, the seedbed from which future judges would be selected, for he took it amiss for country bumpkins unskilled in courtroom rhetoric to be admitted to the courtroom, to be brought from the plough to the bench, from household chores to litigation and judgment. In sum, anything of olden times which madness had overthrown, he restored to its proper place. He enhanced self-control, coerced luxury, and practised frugality.
4. Meanwhile Maitland, the Lord Chancellor (one cannot say whether he was more distinguished for his humane pursuits, his knowledge of the civil law, or his insight) was overtaken by a serious disease that kept him out of the courtroom. The grace he had enjoyed with his sovereign was by no means smooth-running, and the course of his life had been stormy, at one moment, calm at another. In the end he came to understand that his industry in meaningless matters had been vain and pointless, and he began to think how many floods he had subdued, how many storms both private and public he had endured, and desired to steer into a more tranquil harbor. He died at Lauder. By his equity in pronouncing judgment, by the cleverness of his intellect, by his practical experience, he earned his enduring fame. In his early days he was exposed to many dangers, and after the downfall of his brother Lethington he kept himself hidden for some time. As he advanced in years, he gradually rose to honors and positions of public responsibility. These he administered, not without earning the great dislike of the lords whom he provoked with his unrestrained sallies. It would be superfluous to repeat the individual barbs he aimed at the lords and his adversaries. But he always gave evidence of his high-mindedness. He gained great praise for his prudence and industry even in the camps of his adversaries. He left behind very distinguished monuments of his learning, in the form of his Latin epigrams. When his unpopularity faded, and the passage of time mitigated it, his reputation was variously remembered in popular talk. To some he seemed overly loquacious by nature, and not even during the times when he had responsibilities temperate enough in his words. When he was away from his desk, he struck others as easy, relaxed, urbane, free of gloominess or severity, spicing his serious conversation with a modicum of humor. On the day of his funeral, a most pious one, he was taken to his grave by his affectionate wife. Many poets made their mournful Muses sing dirges devised to commemorate his virtues. His memory is scarcely a happy one for everybody. And some, as I have mentioned, accused him of responsibility for discord among lords and the murder of Moray.
5. Now that Maitland, the Lord Chancellor of the realm, was dead, acting on his friends’ advice the King committed his affairs, magistracies, management of public responsibilities, and power over nearly everything to eight men: Alexander Seton the Chancellor, John Lindesay the Secretary, Walter Stuart, James Elphinstone, David Carnegie, Thomas Hamilton the King’s Advocate, John Skene the Master of the Rolls, and Peter Young the royal Almoner. They took an oath before God that they should undertake these public services. They ignored their own self-advantage and profit-making, as if they were owned by the public, and were greatly concerned for the common good. Without delay they began to handle the sovereign’s patrimony, revenues, moveable property, and the laws and courtrooms very handily, and devoted their experience, knowledge, and enterprise to the administration of the commonwealth. But the greater part of the nobility and Kirk, and most especially the ministers of the court, were offended by this transformation of the state of public affairs, and singlemindedly devoted themselves to undermining the power and the glory of these Octavians. They nonetheless were undeterred by the offenses of such gentlemen, out of their concern for the public advantage, and devoted all their mental powers to the commonwealth. They met daily and deliberated the means by which that advantage could be secured and enhanced. They did no little to repress the tribunician power of the ministers. They achieved peace abroad and rest at home. David Seton of Perbroth, the Chamberlain of the royal household, Robert Douglas Provost of Linclodene, the manager of Kirk revenues, Vice Chancellor Robert Melville, and the Master of Glamis, the Lord Treasurer, were removed from office. They did not just resign because of the times and their fear, but even kept away from court because they were indignant that they had been stripped of power, and they regarded the Octavians with unfriendly dispositions. When these men had been removed from the helm of state and supreme power had been placed in the hands of the Octavians, they were appointed managers of the commonwealth with responsibility for public counsel, by the vote of one and all. Walter Stewart of Blantyre, set in charge of reforming the treasury, exhibited frugality, effort, and vigilance. He retrieved crown property that had been fraudulently paid out as donatives or in any other manner. He did not appropriate other men’s money, and yet failed to escape the odium and dislike of the nobility, since fate decrees that, no matter what great happiness mortals experience, they acquire yet greater envy.
6. Maitland’s death also served to enhance the power of George Home, whom I have often mentioned, and the King’s affection led to his promotion. Now that his rival Bothwell was out of the way, he daily grew stronger in the King’s friendship than any of his other servants. Acquiring a knighthood, he gradually rose. He altered his former style of living: he danced attendance on the King and hunted for the glitter of honors with cautious counsels. By his sly arts he attempted to diminish the power of the Octavians, so as to gain their public offices for himself and the ministers of the court. He thought the safer way of undermining them was to fire the preachers to demand revenge for insults done to the Kirk, rather than launch an open attack. Meanwhile the Octavians were diligent in devising policies for the commonwealth and looking after the King’s security, and were steady in averting dangers and foresightful in enhancing the welfare of the kingdom, and turned a deaf ear to popular rumors, their most undeserved unpopularity, and the budding rivalries of the courtiers. Various incidents disturbed their thoughts and counsels, which at present I omit to describe and shall set forth at the proper time. But Home paid attention to critical common talk and the growing dislike of the King’s men, and in his mind he pondered the ways by which he might lessen the Octavians’ authority. By performing many favors he won over the sovereign’s leading servants and intimate friends. Preferring private advantage to the common good, he sent spies who, under a show of friendship, might warn the ministers that their downfall was being readied and they should be on their guard against the Octavians’ schemes. For a long time he enjoyed King James’ favor, but gained a bad reputation, being the target of secret carping. Many men were haled into court on charges of slander, and did not get off unscathed. Francis Tenant, a commoner, was punished for treason for libeling his life and morals. He used his power to have several men barred from court. He disliked George Elphinstone, a man who was enjoying red-hot favor, because of his cleverness, and decided to bring him down, even if he had been assisted by his friendship for several years and had flourished because of it. He also pursued Alexander Lindesay, a distinguished young man, who was wont to cater to the King’s pleasure but was now in a weakened position because of his support for Bothwell, for he hoped to gain first place in the King’s friendship if he could sweep them aside. He not only reduced Lindesay to a private, dishonored life, but managed even to intimidate him with fear of being put on trial for being privy to Bothwell’s conspiracy, cunningly concealing his greed for power and favor. He openly cultivated Elphinstone’s friendship, because the King was still rather well-disposed towards him, but he took every opportunity to chide the lad for his idleness and succeeded in alienating the King from him. He encouraged his dependents and servants to attack him as greatly as they could. When they found the King alone, they worked on him to place greater confidence in the prudence and dependability of Home, a man of lively and practised intellect, than that of a naive young man who was being guided by the counsels of other men. I have thought it appropriate to relate Home’s beginning and end, sudden and great, the royal favor he gained in Scotland and its increase in England, according to the unfolding sequence of events.
7. Once the killing between those two very strong families, the Johnstones and the Maxwells, had commenced (as I have described above), it proved difficult to turn these fierce, hostile men from hatred to friendship. Although the King daily beseeched them to set aside their feud, destined to come to a bad end, the Maxwells remained unfriendly and kept threatening that there would be no rest from their warfare unless Johnstone were dead. Hence Maxwell Baron Herries and the Laird of Clyde, who had the same surname, were provoked by chagrin over the terrible injury they had suffered to feel a great desire to harry their enemies. With three hundred armed men, they unexpectedly went into Annandale to catch Johnstone unawares and carefree, and console themselves for the harm he had meted out, by inflicting an equal calamity on their adversaries. When Johnstone found out how great a danger threatened, he was frightened by this sudden development, assembled his dependents, and called on them for loyalty and support. He urged them not to die unavenged. Johnstone’s followers were cock-a-hoop over the slaughter they had recently dealt out and were eager for a new fight, so they did not hesitate to resist and run to meet their enemy. In that encounter Maxwell’s men came out second best, suffering a great number of losses, including the Laird of Nether Pollok, whose singular energy shone forth in the fight. The rest ran away headlong. When this had occurred, Johnstone commanded his men to give chase and harry the routed fellows. This they did, and killed some fugitives, and mutilated the faces of others with their sword-points. From that day forward, many men had terribly scarred faces, fearsome for their wounds. But the sad outcome of this fight did not deter them from their wild madness. Rather, they frequently set ambushes to settle matters with the sword, so that Johnston might make a blood-sacrifice to Maxwell. But for a long time he eluded these dangers and ambushes, thanks to the protection of his friends and fellow clansmen. Nonetheless he created a great, inextricable amount of trouble for himself. Finally, while they were doggedly continuing their struggle, he was cut down by an act of treachery, as I shall explain at the proper time. The men of Dumfries, very keen defenders of the Maxwell name, ejected from the town all those fellow-citizens they perceived to be more inclined to Johnstone. Resorting to the same cruelty, Johnstones’s followers sometimes set ambushes for peaceful citizens out of their greed for money, and they made the district of Niddisdale rife with raids and robberies.
8. Meanwhile, while the Papist Earls lived in exile, fearful of being put on trial, Erroll, who was no safer from his enemies abroad than he had been at home, came into danger. Storm-tossed on his crossing, he was carried to Zealand, where he stayed a few days so he and his companions could recover from seasickness. There he hit upon the plan of sailing to Brabant disguised as a servant. But there was nothing rustic about him save for his costume. He was recognized by the excellent appearance of his physique and his handsome face, and was arrested and brought back by the burghers of Confirensis. Learning of this, the Queen of England required the captive be handed over in accordance with a stipulation of that their treaty, according to which neither nation should harbor an enemy of the other, and this she obtained. As the captive was handed over to the English garrison at Flushing, and his face became its former shining self. The day before he was supposed to sail for England, he invited his guards and their captain to dine with him. When they had sat down at his table, they consumed no small part of their meal, together with an abundance of drink Seeing his guards to be quite in their cups, the Earl likewise feigned drunkenness and stretched out on his bed, as if to relieve a headache with sleep. Meanwhile his servants performed all their household chores with equal intoxication, lest the English realize the trick. Then Erroll, seeing the captain and henchmen, oblivious to themselves as well as their captive, were snoring and filling everything with their drunken noise, got away through the postern gate, being the only sober man of them all. He boarded a Scottish ship that chanced to be in the harbor, outfitted and ready to sail, and a little later came home incognito, happy to be freed from such great danger.
9. Nor did the ministers, those chief architects of disturbances, refrain from their impious enterprise, although the King restrained their authority and power in all the ways he could. They vehemently accused the Octavians for serving their personal avarice rather than the public good, they auctioned off the royal patrimony as they saw fit, oppressed the weaker, openly slandered certain lords who interfered with their lust and stripped them of their public offices. By so doing they revealed their malice, and earned the disapproval of the public, not without being branded as slanderers. For, hearing of this rumor, the Octavians cleared their names and managed the public patrimony in a good and useful manner. Provoked by this great insult, they were of the opinion that it would serve the interests of the commonwealth for the order of bishops to be restored.
- 1596 -
T the beginning of the year, William Armstrong of Kinmont, a captain of reivers infamous for his robbery at home and abroad, who had often been demanded by the English for the punishment of his crime, was caught while returning from a conference of borderers held about the restitution of property. He was displayed as a spectacle for the common folk, being carried hither and thither, and then was imprisoned in Carlisle Castlee for safekeeping. Walter Stewart of Buccleuch, a clan chief and the governor of Liddisdale, took it amiss that Armstrong had been undone by deceit, and complained to the noble Lord Scroop, Warden of the Western Marches, that justice was not being properly executed, since by tradition this matter should have been dealt with by the governors of the marches. Scroop responded with a few words for the sake of clearing himself: Kinmont had been openly ravaging in the borderland, and when a number of Englishmen had attempted to defend their property, he had joined battle. He was being held as a robber, and had been captured without harm being done to any good man. When Buccleuch took this hard and elected to regard it as a personal slur, he attempted a great and memorable feat of daring. In the dead of night, he took sixty very sturdy companions with whom he was acquainted by long experience, and came to Carlisle. Without any commotion, catching the English either asleep or in a state of panic, he burst into the castle. He threatened the watchmen, the dependentsand servants of Baron Scroop, with death if anyone uttered a word. They restrained themselves out of fear or cowardice, and with braying trumpets he escorted the captive out of the castle and departed, having suffered no harm. This daring deed, committed with cunning audacity, by a small band of men in a city protected by walls and a multitude of men, could not be opposed in any way. By means of her ambassador Bowes, Queen of England, indignant that Scotsmen would not even abstain from troubling Carlisle Castle, urgently demanded that Bucchleuch should be handed over as a guilty person. The Privy Council was of the opinion that he should not be given without first standing his trial. But since he had been rashly emboldened by his own greed rather than any consideration of the common good, for his ill-advised greed for glory he was imprisoned in the castle at St. Andrews to satisfy the Queen.
2. It chanced during these days that the lords Huntly and Errol, sentenced (as I have said) to a brief exile rather than a permanent one, returned to their homeland as if from a voluntary sojourn abroad, and lived in remote districts. Their friends and wives vainly sued for pardon from exile and the restoration of their erstwhile positions of dignity, since the clergy cried out, the commons refused, and a large part of the nobility opposed, since they had been ejected by decree of the Privy Council.
3. During such a great upheaval and transformation of things, to the great rejoicing of all the estates, a second very bright star dawned for Britain. For at Dumfermline Anne gave birth to a daughter, possessed of the fairest and sweetest faice, in whom her mother’s nature shone forth, and she was named Elizabeth. No foreign lords attended her domestic festivity.
4. When the exiles’ return became common knowledge, a great rumor immediately arose, and began to be spoken about. The temerity innate to that kind of men inspired the troublemaking preachers to rail against the King, as if he were wearied of the purer religion. Thy flayed him with accusations and reproaches as if he now openly favored Papism, was a crafty supporter of Huntly and Erroll, and would dissolve the bonds of the law. Belonging to his number was David Black, a minister of St. Andrews, a turbid preacher, dear to the lower classes for his mad eloquence, who was full of very inconsiderate, mad boldness. In a sermon he very sharply complained of the King’s actions. He thundered forth that those betrayers of their nation and enemies of the Kirk had been recalled from exile, and whipped up great unpopularity among the ignorant. He blamed the undeserving King for their return, and with his unseemly slander diminished the ruler’s majesty. Then he launched into that plague of the courtroom, the order of judges: with his recriminations he chided the misdeeds of each of them, and the way of life of them all. He upbraided them in detail: their avarice, pride, wealth, and power equal to that of the laws, and condemned them all. Seeing that his speech received a friendly hearing and was welcome to the common folk, ill-advisedly and as if inspired by lunacy, in a sermon he boldly and impudently spewed forth many things concerning the right serene Queen Elizabeth and the Church of England,. This criminal, atrocious, scandalous thing became the talk of the town. For his unbridled liberty, Black won popularity with the common people, but offended the minds of all good men.
5. At that time, the Octavians were governing in a civil manner. The affairs of the fisc and the public tax-revenue were in their hands. Alarmed and irate, they summoned Black to court to plead his case, and there was no want of angry judges. The accusation was opened by the English ambassador Bowes, who complained that the majesty of his most serene Queen had been impugned by his barbed jibes. But he did not say much, think it ill-befitting to his dignity to subscribe to the arraignment and interpose the Queen’s authority in Scottish factional disputes, so he set aside his passion and his desire to retaliate and broke off his accusatory. This struck many as most strange, for an ambassador to allow someone who had maligned his sovereign to get off unscathed when the judges were quite prepared to punish. Then the King, who until that day had dealt gently with the clerical order, ordered that the law take its course with Black, a bold, troublesome, malevolent man who sought to plumb the secrets of the court. Next the Privy Council, provoked by his recent sermon, indicted him for his sermon delivered against the King and the judicial order, and for the fact that at a synod held at Fife he, together with Andrew Melville, had attempted to arouse and incite noblemen against the commonwealth. Arraigned for treason, the accused, fierce and wild by nature, replied that the words of his holy sermons had been twisted and taken for the worse, contrary to the customs and traditions of the Kirk. He rejected the authority of the King and Privy Council over sacred matters, doctrine, and Kirk discipline, and boasted that he was subject to the government of nobody but God Almighty. The judges advised him that, by decree of Parliament, the King had full and absolute authority over all his subjects of any order and condition whatsoever. He produced a document signed by himself and the elders of the Kirk, who remained at Edinburgh ready for any opportunity, appealing to the synod, which, he claimed, alone possessed the right to pass judgment over what was said in a sermon. The Council, rebuking the folly of this very vain fellow, who cloaked his crime of treason under the mantle of Kirk doctrine, rejected his appeal. Having summoned and heard twenty-six very upright witnesses, townsmen of St. Andrews, it speedily condemned him of treason, sedition, and malicious troublemaking, and sentenced him to execution, pending the King’s approval.
6. As one of the many examples of clemency he set, the King also remitted his sentence, but he cast the man into exile and restricted the area where he could live to beyond the northern river. Fearing rioting, he granted immunity to Andrew Melville, the partner in this frenzy. Then he consulted with his intimate advisors: should he ignore the ministers’ stiff-necked ways and turn a deaf ear to their insults and reproaches, or should he apply a remedy? He received diverse responses. Many, more mindful of the tenor of the times in which they were living than the royal majesty, urged him to employ entreaties rather than authority in dissuading them from their recalcitrance, lest they disturb the condition of the kingdom. They greatly praised the King’s moderation and his mind, inclined to mercy. The Octavians, understanding that, because of the ministers’ inveterate evils, a peaceful correction of the Kirk did not lie within the King’s power, were of the opinion that any means at all should be used in attacking the hot-headed arrogance of the clergy. Dismissing the Octavians, the King commanded representatives of the ministers to be summoned, who had already been prepared and equipped by their colleagues with arguments drawn from all manner of sources, both in disputations and in synods. By questioning and examining them, he discovered that the opinion of many of them did not differ from the furious rashness of Black. The King was indignant at the contumacy of their reply, since, in accordance with an ancient privilege of the Church, they denied that, in the first instance, they could be tried for sedition or treason except by a synod. The Privy Council commanded that they be recalled, and wish sharp criticism inveighed against the minister’s contumacy. Secretary John Lindesay, a man of great intellect and counsel, was instructed to determine how the ministers were minded towards the King and how great was their loyalty. He met with their leading presbyters and, with his grave modesty, he informed them that it was contrary to the law for the ministers to hold assemblies of the nobility for the purpose of fomenting sedition or disturbance, to convene synods without consulting the King or hold them without the presence of his representatives, or to insert decrees of synods in the register of laws enacted, save by royal authority. It would be better for the advantage and utility of the Kirk if bishops were to be created once more, with the old-time discipline restored, and for these to be set over God’s congregation by the common consent of the Kirk. He continued by urging them not to compel the King to restrain their riotous spirits by a harsh edict, by their contumacy and harping on clerical privilege. He produced many clear and self-evident arguments in favor of his opinion. The King, peeved at their pride and their hurling all manner of insults against himself and his lords, announced that all meetings and assemblies not sanctioned by law were forbidden. He advised the Kirk elders residing at Edinburgh, created a little earlier to summon synods and call out the ministers when danger threatened, to depart the city. They, evading and manufacturing delays, set fire to the minds of their congregations, already bursting with anger. Then the riotous ministers, as if their bridle had been removed, erupted and gave free rein to the license of their characters, lodging the accusation that, thanks to the deceit of certain Privy Counsellors, the traitors to their nation had been recalled from exile. Hence the King’s anger grew more violent and he took the occasion to accuse them of holding the majesty of their sovereign in contempt: the Kirk was derelict in its duty; impetuous sermons had been heard, inciting congregations to take up arms in behalf of the liberty of the Kirk. The ministers, nursing great anger in their hearts, were indignant that anything of their old power or the Kirk’s liberty should be diminished. With great complaints they pursued this matter in public meetings at the city of Edinburgh, to the great silence and fear of the people. Finally they delivered their seditious sermons, now to the great outcry, anger, and indignation of the wretched common folk, and now to their groaning, tears, mourning, and lamentation. They attacked the leading member of the Privy Council by name: Alexander Seton, who presided over the legal system, John Lindesay the Secretary, James Elphinstone, distinguished for his knowledge of the law, and Thomas Hamilton, the King’s Advocate, scourging them with sharp asperity for being responsible for the recent edict, disturbers of the condition of the Kirk, and supporters of the restoration of bishops.
7. A few days after the winter solstice, Balcalquall, a wild, ardent preacher, gathered a city crowd and quite inflamed the minds of these unruly men, urgently inciting them to avenge Christ, and he openly bawled that the condition of the realm was being torn asunder; the lives of all good men were in utmost danger; the entire Kirk was marked down for destruction and devastation, unless champions of pure religion and piety would make a timely appearance to ward off these impending evils. He exhorted those who cleaved to the pure religion to exert themselves lest the Kirk suffer any harm, and for all those who desired the safety of religion to gather in the new church after the sermon. Quickly Lindesay, Forbes, the lords of the second rank, and many gentlemen of knightly degree, of whom the most prominent were Barganie, Blairquhan, Duntreth, Haltoun, and Fadowneside, together with other leading townsmen, began to hold gatherings to display enthusiasm for the Kirk, and announced they would take the lead in preserving religion. Robert Bruce, easily the first man of his order, who was accustomed ardently to exhort his flock to virtue and sharply to recall them from vice, thought that the minds of the common folk were ready; that if the opportunity to remain in Scotland were granted the proscribed lords, who had abandoned their patriotism, then the way would be paved for the downfall of the Kirk, and the destruction of the lives of the clergy and all citizens. Nothing was left but for them to take up arms in behalf of their common safety; by vigorously running risks, they must come to the aid of the Kirk; and they must choose leaders to exact their vengeance. His excessive piety provoked a riot, conducted with more passion than planning, to which all the common folk came a-running in confusion, quite furious enough in their own right, but driven wild by Bruce’s sermon. They decided to send a delegation to the King, telling him that their tumult, on the verge of erupting to the destruction of many, could be stopped by the punishment of four wicked madmen. The King, realizing the bad example that would be set by discarding Privy Counsellors according to the whim of the hot-headed multitude, demanded a formal indictment and maintained he would absolve them if they provided an adequate defense.
8. A few hours later, rioting broke out everywhere. Weapons were snatched up, swords drawn, and armed men scattered through the market-places and neighborhoods, at the top of their lungs urging the frantic townsmen to commit murder. The common people, a-boil with anger and indignation, came running to the Tollbooth, in which the King and judges were in session hearing cases, and they besieged the door with a band of armed men. Everywhere you could hear the clash of arms, the threats of the seditious throng, aimed now at the entire Privy Council, now at the Octavians, and confused voices demanding the sword of Gideon be wielded on behalf of God and the Kirk. The Octavians in particular were afraid, since the crowd that surrounded them, lacking any definite leader (except possibly Alexander Vasius, brandishing a naked sword and invoking the arm of Gideon), was openly shouting that the four abovementioned Councillors should be handed over for execution, threatening murder and arson if this was not granted them. Nor did their seem to be any means of stopping their evildoing and harm, unless they were allowed to have their depraved way. The number of servants within barely kept the townsmen’s mad assault from breaking down the doors of the Tollbooth. The King, no less anxious about the danger of the Privy Council than his own, quickly sent Mar and the Abbot of Holyrood to calm the townsmen’s anger, but they were unable to restore the people, mad with their blind frenzy, to sanity, with the people being whipped up by sermonizing and sedition. The judges were asked their opinion about the King’s safety. Some thought the King should remain in the Tollbooth, and his dependents should defend the doors. Others were of the opinion he should go out, surrounded by a band of dependents and servants, lest he be surrounded, before the crowd surrounding the Tollbooth had a chance to grow greater. The King himself, believing whatever was indecorous to be unsafe, and appreciating that his patience was not a remedy for this mutiny, but rather an incitement, avoided danger by an act of bravery. He stated over and over that it was better to die, if these lunatic, desperate men should stain their hands with the blood of their sovereign and the members of the Council than to disgrace the majesty of the government. He intrepidly marched through the middle of the market place and the rioting crowd, surrounded by the din of weaponry and the threats of the seditious, to Holyroodhouse, surrounded by the Octavians and the lords. With their modesty and their show of reverence for the King, they withstood the fury of the seditious men exclaiming that the Octavians were traitors and enemies of the Kirk. The leading townsmen, who had played no part in the uprising themselves, circulated among the people, admonishing them to see how they were endangering their city, and guild officers urged their excited apprentices to come to the King’s rescue. At length the maddened crowd’s frenzy subsided of its own volition, with no bloodshed or loss of life, and the citizens, raging with their bold criminality, returned to their good order.
9. Afterwards, fuming with great anger, the King and his lords began to deliberate about the civil unrest. Some spoke with freedom and daring, saying that arms had been taken up against the King, he and the Privy Council had been besieged in the courtroom, open rebellion had been displayed against the sovereign, so that the city’s sin was to be expiated by its being burned to the ground, creating a lasting monument to memorialize its crime. But the King’s mildness prevailed, although he forbade Edinburgh to trade with other cities and moved the Privy Council and courts to Leith, and henceforth forbade Edinburgh to have its own magistrates and Provosts. He ordered an investigation of the seditious, criminal townsmen who had taken up arms and surrounded the Tollbooth. The silly multitude, whose entire fortunes and protections of life were provided by their daily handiwork, suffered the most from this punishment. When they realized the infamy of their foul sedition and how their income was to be reduced, they thought of petitioning for pardon for their fury or error. Then the city magistrates who had not joined in these felonious counsels, discarding their badges of office and costumed as defendants, knelt before the King, demanding that he forgive these humble folk. They pleaded that he pardon their fellow townsmen, who had either been led astray by error or had yielded to their impulses in their frenzy and fatal madness. He should not be over-harsh in judging the townsmen because of the rashness and light-mindedness of the common folk, ever-desirous of change. To these words the King replied that he was acting more in accordance with his habit than their deserts in granting them immunity and amnesty. The King’s regular mildness and gentleness towards his subjects prevailed over the atrocity of the crime, and he insisted on nothing more serious than that the pernicious townsmen responsible for the sedition and those who had urged murder be ejected from the city. Its quarantine was countermanded, although a modest fine was imposed.
10. Peace was returned to the royal city, not without the infamy of the Puritans. Its privileges and rights were restored. Forbes, Lindesay, and a number of distinguished knights, tainted with guilt, were placed in custody. In a solemn ceremony, Bruce, Balcalquall, Watson, and Balfour, ministers of Edinburgh who had encouraged the sedition, were defrocked and placed under arrest. The royal city went without sermons, the cause of incredible, singular grief. The churches of God Almighty were closed, as were public buildings and market-places. No home was without its sorrow and secret complaints. The common folk were glum, the magistrates wore a hangdog expression as they went about staring at the ground, stiff and sad. Matrons and virgins went about dressed in morning. In their minds they kept thinking of Bruce’s venerable appearance and his superhuman words from the pulpit, and they greatly complained that the shepherds had been so long away from their flock. The King replied that down to that day he had been exceedingly gentle towards the clerical order, because he had tolerated with immunity those carpers against sovereigns, who had provoked the people with their passionate sermons. He reminded the common folk, which had come near to consternation, of their seditious utterances against himself and the Privy Council, demanding the Octavians for bloodshed and killing, although it was by their vigilant efforts that the public safety of sovereign and people had been achieved. He bade them erase the memory of their recent rioting, and not to protect detractors of their sovereign, nor to ask for the return of those leaders who spoken for Kirk liberty, who would overthrow the government of Kings and banish them from their kingdoms, if they were not opposed in a timely manner. If they had had their way now, there would be no ending to their sedition. By way of contrast, he told them that the care that the ship of the Kirk receive no harm was his responsibility. His wish was still to appear angry at the ministers, so that they would become more submissive. Such was King’s mildness towards all his subjects and his indulgence towards the Kirk and its ministers, save for those who fomented rebellion.
11. Meanwhile the Puritans left no stone unturned in their desire to retain power. For Bruce, guilty of the Edinburgh riot, called his accomplices to a council, and applied his cunning in acting and planning. By letters and messengers he summoned the lords to the aid of the Kirk. He offered John Hamilton, a leading man of the royal family, supreme power if he would take up arms to defend the Kirk. He, abhorring the Puritan riot, concluded that in future he must deal with them more cautiously. And when he understood that these troublemaking ministers were aiming, not at the tranquility of the Kirk, but at very turbulent seditions, he immediately revealed their counsels of his own free will, and showed the King the letter signed with Bruce’s name. He, receiving the handwritten document, thought this was by no means to be tolerated. Therefore, taking counsel with his lords, he bade them state their opinions. His Councillors, zealous for the King’s safety, were of the belief that his subjects’ loyalty had been undermined; the most powerful lords had been incited to damage the commonwealth; an example must be set for the others; it touched on the safety of the Queen lest any pardon be granted for such a grave crime, which tended to subvert the condition of the state and would entail harm to the commonwealth. But the King, taking pity on the commonwealth and the Kirk, approved gentler counsels out of the innate nature of his character, and employed more cautious remedies to break the power of the Puritans. Soon he addressed himself to the reform of the Kirk, and decided to restore the old discipline it had had at its foundation, not immediately, but gradually; not by threats, but by entreaties; not by his command and authority, but by his persuasion and admonishment, lest he appear to be doing violence to their consciences or indulging a personal vengeance for their unfriendly disorder. Therefore he published an edict by means of heralds, bidding all churchmen who had had no hand in fomenting the riots to meet at Perth. In a synod thus assembled, they dealt particularly with the organization of the Kirk, in which various questions about its constitution were ventilated. There was no lack of Puritans who said that the discipline of the Kirk was set above all controversy and should not be called into question or debated. If they were not led to observe it by God’s admonitions, at least they ought to be attracted to pure religion, with no vanity of ceremonies, by their nation’s innate common sense. Others, outstanding for their learning and prudence, argued to the contrary that the discipline of any church was not immutable, but liable to the alterations of the times: it could be corrected and moderated according to the opinion of the clergy. The debaters supplied many acute arguments to support their views, which swayed their listeners’ minds this way or that. Finally, it was agreed by majority vote that questions of the outside control of the Kirk be referred to a synod, and decided by its decree. The Puritans persisted in their old opinion, lest the power they had gained, and for which they had stubbornly fought for fifty years, be abolished by novel decrees. In this synod it was also enjoined that in their sermons preachers should not rebuke any man by name, nor subject him to overly sharp insults; nor should they eject any man from the company of the faithful save after due admonition. It was added that pastors should carefully attend to the care of the flocks entrusted to them, and confirm the wavering minds of their parishioners by the example of their own lives and morals and by preaching God’s Word. The Puritans, headstrong in their fury and ambition, sniffed out that secret dealings were afoot to restore the order of bishops and give them the right to vote at Kirk assemblies, and did not cease trying to obstruct this thing before it could receive a majority vote. They persuaded delegates of presbyteries not to innovate regarding any feature of Kirk discipline or allow anything to be made subject of debate. But the synod rejected their protestations and adjudged them unworthy of the privilege of the vote. And so the synod was dismissed. Frustrated in this hope, the authors of the disturbances prepared their defenses for the next synod, which had been appointed for Dundee on May 1, where the opportunity would be given every man to speak and urge what he wished or thought best concerning the government of the Kirk.
- 1597 -
ING James, possessed of a pious and religious mind and implored by the prayers of his subjects, wished to satisfy the desires of the Edinburgh citizenry, and referred the entire matter to a synod of ministers appointed for Dundee on May 1. On the appointed day, the Puritans came a-running in great numbers, with the intention of using their terror and threats to intimidate their adversaries into adopting their view, and to outvote them if the controversy under debate be put to a vote. Twelve men came nominated by each presbytery, contrary to the custom and tradition of the Kirk, since far fewer of the other party came, two or three at most. When the trick was found out, the thing was put to the vote, and a free vote was permitted. As a result, it was stipulated that in the synod three delegates could be sent, and that no presbytery could nominate more. The acts of the previous synod were confirmed with only a few words changed, to satisfy the doubtful and the scrupulous. This was done for the sake of establishing peace in the Kirk and mollifying the royal mind, which had often been inflamed by the inappropriate liberty of the Puritans. By unanimous vote men excellent for their learning and prudence were chosen with power to suspend from their office and benefice, or to defrock, in order to coerce and repress preachers who spoke disloyally about the condition of the mismanaged commonwealth or about his royal majesty and his government. They appointed ministers for the Kirk at Edinburgh, Dundee, and St. Andrews. They adopted a solid scheme of providing stipends, and set the Kirk agenda for discussion at the next national Parliament. The King opened discussions with the new representatives of the Kirk, and urged them to observe piety above all else, to exert themselves for the security and dignity of Reformed Religion, and to shun impiety, injustice, and arrogance. He invited and advised them to do right by offering hope of rewards. It was in the public interest to blunt the outspokenness of the Puritans, lest pernicious seditions nefariously arise, such as the trouble and disturbances which they had lately provoked against the King and the commonwealth. Soon he departed to St. Andrews with those delegates and the majority of the Privy Council, to free that city of domestic dissensions. There, by decree of the representatives, he defrocked the David Black I have often mentioned, a man of violent nature, and Robert Wallace, ministers of that city, who were waxing proud with their depraved opinion and provoking the minds of the lower classes with their turbulent sermons and often uttering slander. He forbade Andrew and James Melville, very learned gentlemen but constant enemies of the bishops, and other masters of colleges who were aiming at pretty much the same thing as the Melvilles, or certainly things that were not dissimilar, to intermeddle in Kirk business, lest they disturb the peace of the realm and endanger religion itself by their ambitious arrogance. There were four ministers of Edinburgh who, inspired by their fury or a preposterous ardor for religion, had occasioned a dangerous sedition on January 16, and these he restored to their erstwhile positions, and revoked the edicts which had been published against them. By so doing he gave great joy to the citizenry of Edinburgh and preserved for religion its steady course and decorum. And he entrusted the power of governing Kirk to a few men, so that its anarchy and the democracy of the innovators might gradually wither away.
2. With the license of the raging ministers coerced, he turned all his care and thoughts to the common advantage of his subjects and the security of the commonwealth. First he increased the value of his gold and silver coinage and minted them in new issues. This realized a huge profit from public imposts. Meanwhile the exiled lords, who had been granted return but who had refrained from submitting their petitions for pardon, now humbly beseeched their restoration, and implored the royal mercy. The King, who was accustomed to take pity on suppliants and men in distress, thought that Angus, Huntly, and Erroll, very noble men, ought to be absolved by a stated day. The synod objected on the grounds that acts of synods would thus be subverted, contrary to the custom and tradition of their discipline, because the King had immediately conceded what was theirs to grant, namely immunity and amnesty for crimes. He forwarded the lords’ petition to the synod. The clergy, willing to subject the power of the scepter to itself or to impair it, thought that the authority of ministers had been damaged by the absolution of the lords, and greatly opposed it. But the King emboldened the minds of good men, honorably addressing each one individually and inspiring them with a speech filled with humanity. Then he energetically fought against the faction and the power of the Puritans who sought to obstruct the absolution of the lords. He took away their license to deliver mischievous sermons, and rage against the order of lords or judges in their seditious preaching, and easily kept them at bay. Then, not without great debate, it was decided that Angus, Huntly, and Erroll would be absolved from the Kirk’s censure in the appropriate presbyteries, and the King thanked the synod for having shown its favor and duty to the lords.
3. During these times of the commonwealth, the Octavians held full sway and authority. Then both first began to topple. For George Home, increased in royal favor, despised his private condition and intended to rise higher. He broke the power of the Octavians and weakened them by his shrewd devices, never ceasing secretly to incite the commons against them. But, far more disgracefully and malevolently, David Moray the Master of Horse openly fought against the Octavians’ administration, and restored the Privy Council to its erstwhile dignity.
4. At about this same time, although the autumn was nearly at an end, nevertheless, since the rest of Scotland was pacified by Annandale and Nissidale were in a state of tumult, the King went to Dumfries, thinking it is most important and fairest task to defend good subjects from harm, and protect their fortune from evil reivers, of whom there was a great supply in those districts. Among the dependents of the Maxwells and Johnstons many reivers died by hanging. The rest, stricken with fear of punishment, gave kinsmen as hostages and obeyed commands. James took away thirty clan chiefs or their relatives, and imprisoned them in various places for their mischiefmaking, injuries, murders, and theft of property. At length the King brought home his forces, receiving great congratulations from the common folk along the way, and made Andrew Stewart of Ochiltree his representative for the western march, so that he might pronounce the law with great equity, faith, and diligence, hear the complaints of the impoverished, and chastise malefactors. Given extraordinary powers by the King, he reduced the reivers to a state of terror and promptly reduced everything to good order.
5. Now that the borderers’ troublemaking had been settled, the King began to hold a Parliament at Edinburgh, of the kind to whose authority, good faith, and prudence our ancestors used to entrust their affairs both private and public. There, by consensus of the Scottish nobility, Angus, Huntly, and Erroll, who were condemned for their riotous behavior and treason (as I have often recorded), were restored to their erstwhile dignity for the sake of common concord, lest needy desperadoes, tainted by every blot of crime, go flocking to noblemen and inspire them to murder and violence, thus tearing apart the commonwealth. At which time Angus bore the crown and Huntly the scepter, the insignia of royalty. That medicine which cures the diseased parts of the commonwealth is no less praiseworthy than the remedy which purges, cauterizes, and amputates. The King, an experienced ruler, sought a reputation for clemency on every occasion. He administered the republic in a fit manner. In pronouncing the law he had regard for naught but equity and justice, knowing that no kingdom can long endure unless supported by the bulwark of the law. He governed everything by employing moderation in the laws and in his magistrates. If there was something awry in the laws, he corrected it in accordance with his wisdom; if anything was ambiguous, he interpreted it for the better. At this Parliament he enhanced the authority of the lords and stirred up dislike of the mischievous ministers, against whose power he spoke with vehemence. He demonstrated that it would be more conducive to the advantage, safety, and dignity of the Kirk if the praiseworthy custom of our ancestors were to be reinstituted and bishops be created and set over the Lord’s flock. The delegates of the synod, a little earlier given free power by the common decision of the lords, asked, among their other petitions, that the right of the vote in Parliaments be given back to the clergy as the third estate., mixing in complaints that laymen had usurped the titles of bishops at public Parliaments and voted against the Kirk, and they petitioned that such gentlemen be deprived of the vote. By a public decree of the estates it was voted that pious ministers, possessed of integrity of morals and conspicuous for the sanctity of their lives, should be selected by the sovereign and given the titles and benefices of bishops, and that they should enjoy a free vote in Parliaments, in accordance with our ancestral tradition, but that the rights of synods, and presbyteries, and the discipline of the Kirk, should remain unchanged. By this remedy the upheavals of the Kirk were settled, and a unique way of breaking the ministers’ turbulent power by the intercession of bishops was discovered, a way which could contain within itself no great severity of punishment and civic bloodshed. Thus at length the rights of bishops were confirmed by law. For the temerity of ministers had not failed to deprive the bishops of every right and power.
6. So much concerning sacred matters. It remains for me to discuss secular ones. The lords were no less diligent in caring for the sovereign’s personal patrimony and public revenues than about his private affairs. By public decree of Parliament it was decided that all donations and sales made out of the sovereign’s patrimony should be null and void, and they granted him the power to revoke donations. They legislated many wholesome things for the common good. They stoutly maintained that bishops should occupy their old posts and enjoy the great honor of that title; they should exert themselves on behalf of the glory and dignity of the Kirk; they should govern in such a way that they could not again be ejected by a faction of ministers, and ministers should be liable for trial in the King’s courts on all matters both sacred or profane The sovereign’s inheritance should not be accessible to the greed or ambition of courtiers, and no man should purchase or rent anything except with the surcharge of a tax for the subsidy of the commonwealth. The Parliament also enacted laws for the curbing of murders and forbade the carrying of pistols, with a very serious penalty imposed; about defrauding the fisc; about publicans and officials of the treasury; and a remedy applied concerning tithes and the taxation of arable land; it was decided that no farmer should be able to remove crops from his fields before the payment of his tithes; nor should the tax-gatherers inconvenience farmers by creating undue delays; and that in their handling of lands and revenues the tax-gathers and agents should not defraud the sovereign of any portion of his income. And the King, surrounded by a throng of lords, begged them to support him, if any one of them, relying on his royal favor, should, out of ambition, rivalry, or a sense of having suffered an injustice, make any attempt on the kingdom of England. He announced his plan of sending representatives through the nearby districts and asking for their aid at an opportune time, and likewise stated that he needed a subsidy of money. They all approved his project. They vied with each other in offering horses, men, arms, and wealth, and prayed that this scheme would turn out well. In their kindness they promised a donative, which they provided. By their entreaties the lords obtained that the money they furnished for the royal expenses not be diverted to other purposes. All these laws were to be printed, if public, or written down, if private. John S:kene the Master of the Rolls, a very lettered man, applied his faith, diligence, and intellect, so that no man could plead ignorance of the laws.
7. At this time the entire order of judges was impugned by the bold-faced wickedness of a few of them. Then the opinion took root and was on all men’s lips that no wealthy man could fail in his case. Alexander Royal, a keen and vehement advocate, shrewdly observed that blot of shame on his order, and took money from his clients which he shared out among corrupt judges in exchange for their votes. These and similar events were the reason why the entire order suffered from great and long-standing infamy. Nor did the common folk so zealously support the ministers’ tribunician power for any other reason than that in their sermons they had heard that the judges were flagrantly amiss in performing their duty and the courtrooms were an outrageous disgrace.
8. Meanwhile the Scottish borderers ranged nearby places in Northumberland and Cumbria with all manner of harassment and spoilage, driving and carrying off the fortunes of the wretched locals and creating a great devastation. Some they even killed. The business descended to violence and murder by chance encounters while they drove off their booty. The English greatly complained of the Scots’ damages and evildoing. The Queen, moved by the complaints and calamity of her subjects, sent ambassadors and negotiators to the King to complain of the constant raids of the borderers, which were contrary to his pledged faith, and to make a public request that English property be returned and the guilty be handed over for punishment, in accordance with their treaty. The King calmly replied that his Scotsmen were not lacking in their own complaints about the English, and that he desired to settle the matter amicably, lest any offense arise. When the English Queen made no end of her demands and could barely be induced to look the other way concerning the recent incursions, the King summoned the governors of the borders and commanded them either to compel the disturbers of the peace to return the property or surrender them the perpetrators, if they preferred to stand their trials. The noble Sir Robert Kerr of Cesford, warden of the middle march, and Walter Scott, the head of his family and governor of Lissidale, were unable to make their clansmen give satisfaction to the English for their rapine and plunder. But the Queen daily demanded satisfaction for these wrongs. The King, to clear the public conscience of the wrongdoing of his governors, arranged for both of them to be given to the English as hostages, and they did not decline to go. When the Queen learned of this, she commanded the governor of the Berwick garrison, Sir William Bowes, to receive those right noble hostages. He entered Scotland to take possession of them. Coming there,on the appointed day, Walter Scott was the first to surrender himself. Captain Cornelius escorted him to Berwick. Robert Kerr made his appearance with squadrons of horse and the youth of Teviotdale, to show his reverence to the Queen with a similar surrender. Meanwhile, by the deceit of some man, the noise of a gunshot announced treason, a sudden uproar arose and disturbed Bowes, who was relying on law rather than arms. The English were panic-stricken, for they had been expecting legal haggling rather than a struggle. Home came there with a number of dependents to survey the affair. He forbade the infliction of any harm and, having settled the commotion, sent a fearful Bowes back to Berwick. This increased a grudge between two noble knights, for Walter Scott complained that this incident had endangered him and that Kerr was not ignorant of the plot, so that his life would have been placed in extreme jeopardy had not the captains escorting him acted more in accordance with their sense of fair play than international law. Robert Kerr for his part protested his innocence, and to make that more evident, being compelled by no other necessity, he entrusted his safety to the Queen of England, asking her to specify the time and place for his surrender. These having been stated, the one was taken to Berwick and the other to York, where they were kept in great honor and subsequently, when an agreement for future tranquility had been made, they were sent home by the good will of a forgiving Queen. For when they were surrendered, the King made a vow that no previous wrongdoing would be investigated, nor would pardon be denied to those who made their humble confession. For this purpose the mountains and hills between the adjacent kingdoms were made public land and lay as vacant as deserts, in which the sheep and cattle of the nearby inhabitants were promiscuously let out to graze. Henceforth, thanks to God’s good graces, the similarity of their worship, and the permission and moderation of Willoughby, the governor of Berwick, the neighbors led a more peaceful life without fighting and contention, and the wardens of the marches could hope for greater decorum, if the locals maintained their peace and quiet.
9. Other egregious things occurred throughout the districts of the realm. Money-lenders were daily tormenting borrowers with their sharp usury and grain-contracts. They could not be discouraged from devising new schemes of extracting interest. Not only laymen but also clerics lent out money in this way and committed usury. At that time, such great greed for wealth occupied men’s minds that, caring not a fig, they ignored laws both divine and human and sought wealth to their infamy. The King had a thought for his poor debt-ridden subjects, imposed a limit with usury laws, and curbed the lenders.
10. Meanwhile the Duke of Holstein, desirous of visiting his sister our Queen, passed through England incognito disguised as a soldier, and came to Scotland. Every illustrious lord hastened to give him an honorable reception. In the company of a great escort of lords and leading lights of the court, he made his entry into Holyroodhouse, and was greeted very kindly by our King’s facial expression and words, and treated to feasts, banquets, and hunts as he was led through the delights of our cities, now properly clad as a prince. When he had performed his duties of brotherly affection, he returned to Denmark. At his departure he was given an abundance of generous gifts.
11. With Scottish affairs pacified for the moment, the western islanders, boorish men without laws, manners, or urbane culture, and devoid of nearly all humanity and religion, refused to pay their tribute-money to the King. In the face of that turbulent condition of the islanders, the King gave them the very wholesome advice, both publicly and in private, that they should build towns, plant orchards, enclose their meadows, and till their fields. He assigned land-grants to the inhabitants, so that they might live advantageously and pay taxes from their annual income. But James M’Connell, a seditious, truculent, and barbaric fellow, refused to pay his royal tribute after his father Agnus had died, and, taking the opportunity of increasing his domination, he plotted against Maclean, a man distinguished for his virtue and power, and a close kinsman. In his wild mind, greedy for another man’s inheritance, the seduction of this opportunity counted for more than the awareness of their kinship, since Maclean was married to his sister. Maclean, frightened by his danger, adopted the rash scheme of anticipating the man plotting against him and killing him unexpectedly. Hence, collecting from all quarters those islanders who were under his sway, he prepared to attack Islay. At that point, M’Connel learned from a spy’s report that Maclean’s armed dependentshad gathered, and were about to venture an attack on his island and siege of his castle. With the danger near at hand, he gathered his dependents and summoned auxiliaries belonging to Randolph M’Connell of Ireland, and went to confront Meclean with a large enough band of friends. Nor did Maclean make a delay in fighting. Both sides met in an atrocious battle. The Irish who had come to help inflicted many bullet-wounds at the first encounter., and from a distance they repelled the enemies who had been drawn up against them. Maclean, despairing of the outcome of such a crude strategy, urged his men to fight at close quarters, showing an example of bravery and transacting the business at sword-point. He himself dashed into the thick of the fray, eagerly and bravely, and dislodged all those who confronted him. Thanks to the inhuman cruelty of his enemies, which persisted for a long time, many of his friends died around him. The rest, having a supply of small boats, crossed over to nearby islands. Thus Maclean, the best of all the islanders when it came to endowments of body and a civilized mind, was killed. After being invited to a feast by the treachery of Agnus M’Connell and rescued by fate, he was very criminally murdered by James. Getting word of his killing, the Earl of Argyll was greatly affected by sorrow, since Maclean had devoted all his resources to helping him in his fight against Huntly, where he had displayed notable evidence of his character and virtue. Hence he had been his most active champion in life, and in death he was his avenger, searching for an opportunity for requital. M’Connell, unequal to Argyll’s power, baffled his anger by taking to unexplored hiding-places and wild solitudes. The King was no less outraged by this foul misdeed and the savagery of such barbarous men, whom he could barely compel to pay their tribute and heed his laws. From that day forward, he was always thinking of how to take their lands away from the islanders and give them to men of the nearby mainland for cultivation, and in the end he put such fear in many of those villains that they voluntarily came to him, knelt, and begged his pardon. The King’s consummate piety and justice in progressing through all districts, punishing miscreants, and retrieving others from luxury by the example he set, did not only turn the minds and eyes of the Scottish lords to himself, but inspired in the minds of the English a certain tacit premonition of his future greatness and power, which he daily increased by all his popularity, so that, after the death of the Queen, all Englishmen settled on him as the King of England.
- 1598 -
N connection with the previous year, I told how, in accordance with the decree of the Scottish lords, ambassadors were to be sent to neighboring kings, asking them to support James, should Elizabeth die or any ambitious man contest his right to the throne of England. At the beginning of the spring, Edward Bruce of Kinloss was sent ambassador to England to procure a declaration of his right of succession. Before the English Parliament, he apologized for his King’s rather frank speech about his right by blood and his hope for gaining the kingdom, and expressed his zeal for peace and concord if the Queen would not disrupt or diminish his legitimate right of succession, established by law both divine and human, and would, by a public decree of her estates, grant the King, her nearest kinsman, distinguished in the pursuits both of peace and of war, a rank second only to herself. If she did otherwise, or preferred anyone else in the right of succession, contrary to law and right, she would not lack for enemies at home, or allies for that enemy abroad. The Queen replied that she had undertaken nothing which would diminish the King’s undoubted right or arm England and Scotland for a domestic war. But it was impossible for her to extend any nearer hope for his gaining the kingdom, or have him named as heir-apparent by order of Parliament, without endangering her own safety and the public tranquility. So the King would act correctly if he would abandon this present suit for his right, but to look forward to all the benefits she she was able to concede while preserving her own security and dignity, should anything befall herself. Thus much, if he saw fit, her Parliament would confirm by its authority. Finally she advised him to promote God’s glory and not fail himself — in good time, she would not fail him.
2. There was a discussion with Cecil the Treasurer concerning the border controversy, stolen goods and cattle driven off, where the ambassador aggressively carried out his mandate by delivering a speech not at all dissimiilar. The Treasurer responded that yet more English property had been taken but not restored, reminded him of his English alliance and the Queen’s good deeds performed for all Scotland, and warned that he should not rashly rip apart the good will of sovereigns in his passionate frame of mind.
3. At this time grave rumors against King James were spread abroad in England, accusing him of a propensity towards the Papist faction and an unfriendly attitude towards the Queen. To give credibility to this thing, Gray, still living in his English exile, produced a copy of a letter to the Pope written by Elphinstone, the King’s Secretary, and signed with a forged signature, as will become evident at a later point in my work. A certain Valentine Thomas, denounced, along with others, as a reiver by an informer, was being put to the question regarding a murder, and out of fear of judgment demanded that he be given a hearing regarding a matter of the greatest importance. Granted permission to speak in private, he claimed he had been solicited by certain men to murder the Queen, and named King James as the ringleader. This he did not without suspicion of deceit, which the Queen regarded as intolerable, and commanded that this wicked slanderer, either suborned by others or criminally devising this accusation to save his skin, be placed in perpetual confinement until James came to the throne. Bruce sent out agents to learn these English rumors and quickly report them to himself, and complained that his King was being bitterly vexed by these most unprincipled libels. The Queen put no trust in Valentine’s false, lying accusation, and looked with equal disdain on the lies of the Papists and spurious letters to the Pope. To counter rumors of this kind, the ambassador sent suitable men throughout all England who could attest to the King’s steadfast constancy in religion, prudence in managing affairs of state, and justice conjoined with liberality, so as to win James the good-will of the English multitude, and it freely and voluntarily did offer him its support in asserting his royal dignity.
4. Furthermore, books were published concerning the right of succession, demonstrating that King James was entitled to succeed to the English throne by maternal right, in accordance with national laws and traditions, since he was the great-grandson of King Henry VII of England by his daughter Margaret, for no man existed with a closer claim on the kingship, and no woman was closer to the throne in her blood-line. Nor did he stand at a further remove on this father’s side, since his grandmother was Margaret Douglas, who was the niece of his great-grandfather King Henry VII. Hence no controversy could arise about either his maternal or paternal heritage. Moreover, his lawful succession would serve the dignity and advantage of the British people more than the unlawful usurpation of anyone else whatsoever, something that always came to a foul, atrocious end, as one could learn from the domestic examples recorded in the history books. By the accession of Scotland, so often claimed and sought for, the kingdom of England would be increased; the Irish conflagration would be put out; the Spanish enemy would receive a rebuff, if he did not keep within the borders of his own empire; free trade with Denmark and the Baltic states would be restored; the King would have power sufficiently strong to defend himself and his subjects; and ancient kinships of the most powerful princes and new friendships forged daily would be embraced in their alliance, if any man should attempt something contrary to James’ rights over England. But these pamphlets were far surpassed by the book which James wrote to his son concerning the best training for a sovereign, to which he gave the Greek title Basilicon Doron.
5. Assuredly the King, far removed from empty praise and common discourse, won over the minds of the commoners of England, and the support of its powerful men. By reading these tracts during their times of idle leisure, many noblemen in England were inspired, and every excellent gentleman began to join the Scottish party and favor James’ affairs. Ardent with this new loyalty, by various clever arts they got past Cecil’s guards and found their way to the ambassador, speaking of their reverence and loyalty to the King, and vowing that they would not be found wanting at the suitable moment, should any man be shown preference to the King in the line of succession. From that day forward, Henry Howard Earl of Norfolk, distinguished for his studies, was unstinting in stirring up popular support for the King. Essex himself, the principal royal favorite, who was madly popular because of his fine endowments of body and mind, was surpassed in the favor and support of the common man., and either on his own initiative, because of the equity of James’ case, or at the instigation of Anthony Bacon, a man distinguished for his learning and experience, entered into secret negotiations with the ambassador. He brought up the subject of the succession and stated that, saving for his faith and piety towards his Queen, he was a friend of King James, and at the same time promised his loyalty after Elizabeth’s death. And he went on to say that the Queen was in extreme old age, very anxious, and uncertainly hesitant about whom she should appoint as heir to her realm. It was beyond doubt that the Cecils were cunningly calling the line of succession into question, and were daily keener on advancing Philip’s obsolete claim under a show of legality. They had no liking for James, for a successor is always an object of suspicion and hatred to those in power. Hence a competition with the Cecils had grown, and soon Essex’ downfall would be readied. The ambassador, elated by this hope for a new dissension, steered clear of association with Cecil, since he distrusted his intellect, and hastily made his way back to to Scotland. When he had arrived and reported that Essex, the most splendid English courtier, had come over to their sides, and that all the lords were head-over-heels in favor of him, if he were summoned to the throne on fair terms, the King was overjoyed by, as it were, this omen of his popularity and the equity of his cause, and commenced to nurse great hope for the succession, because of the zeal of the lords and the dissensions breaking out more each day at court.
6. Amidst these upheavals in the British world, the King announced a Parliament of the estates at Edinburgh for the raising of monies, and summoned the lords of the upper rank, the Earls of Lennox, Hamilton, Angus, Errol, Cassilis, Glencairn, and Mar, and those of the second rank, Livingstone, Newbottle, Fynes, and Spynie. He spoke modestly concerning himself, but more seriously about his expenses: taxes and imposts were not sufficient to support the burdens of state. He discoursed at length and in detail about the need to select a new Privy Council, about the pacification of the lords, about the corruption of courtroom-superintendents, about the provision of armaments. His first concern was for money: new and unaccustomed port-duties were imposed on wares both imported and exported. Goods exported without payment of that duty were to be confiscated. Many ordinances were adopted concerning the raising of taxes, and great care was applied to controlling the borders. He warned against deceit in the weight or metal of the coinage. Golden coins began to receive a higher value and exchange rate. Silver ones were also commanded to be increased, so the government could turn a profit. But neither royal fields nor those reserved for religious institutions were taken away from their rapacious owners, and this was the one wholesome remedy for all these cares, the one most just relief for the public impoverishment. Balfour Laird of Burley was placed in charge of the procurement of armaments, a new office devised more to satisfy avarice than to serve the public advantage. Pursuing his private gain with no concern for the public, he bought up iron breastplates and helmets in Belgium for the protection of bodies against weapons, but these would have provided a feeble defense should an enemy appear. These he distributed to subjects and Lairds for a great price, and by his action he caused vexation to cities, manors, and villages. The common folk often spiced their conversation with complaints and harsh words against Balfour, and scourged him with all manner of reproaches and maledictions. Furthermore, at this time all things held sacred by Papists were declared profane and accursed among us. No days were sacred to the Apostles or to martyrs, the pious did not abandon their work, all Saturdays were declared to be days for conducting trade, not without the indignation of the ministers, those interpreters of God’s will. The King spent the next few days in the correction of public morals and the resolution of the bitter quarrels between Mar, Livingstone, and Elphinstone, men of very considerable authority and fortune, who quarreled with a vehement hatred. Lest anybody provoke any commotion because of their anger and rivalry, he reminded them of the evils which arise from internal discord, and the good things purveyed by concord, and cautioned that this discord should not entail public damage for the realm and private destruction for their families. So their private offenses did not continue to prevent them for agreeing concerning the safety of the commonwealth, and they cheerfully forgot their private insults for the sake of the public welfare.
7. And so, to provide counsel concerning every matter of state, thirty men, for the most part members of the Privy Council, were selected to supervise and care for the commonwealth and perform its most demanding services. Of these, sixteen were lords, and the rest leading men of the court and the chief ministers of state. For even if, in accordance with the law of the realm, lords of the higher order should comprise the Privy Council, and can be asked their opinion as the sovereign sees fit, nevertheless they are not Counselors unless chosen as such by the King. These men, sworn into office at the Parliament and placed at the helm of government so that they might provide their advice and good faith to the King in the curbing of lawsuits, thefts, and robbery, devoted themselves singlemindedly and wholehearted to the commonwealth and applied their experience, knowledge, and enthusiasm to its government. First by setting a personal example, and then by chastising and admonishing them, the King sought to lead those idlers who had indulged themselves over-freely in their manner of dress and other style of life to live according to a more modest scheme. He was of the opinion that John Graham Earl of Montrose should be appointed head of the Privy Council and president of Parliament, and, to gratify George Home, promoted him to these offices. New C and magistrates, appointed to heal the wounds of the commonwealth, met on every Sunday in Holyrood Abbey, to deliberate what served the commonwealth’s advantage, what was inimical to the public security and concord of the citizenry, and suppressed public violence, disturbances, seditions, illegal meetings and assemblies, robbery, murder, and deadly arson, the banes of our realm. They restrained men who were daring, wicked, abandoned, and sometimes also powerful, lest they rage against the weak and the helpless or lord it over-harshly. Nor should the order of justices be left without a Lord Chancellor, to whom they could turn for right and equity as often as they were in doubt. Soon Graham, celebrated for such great domestic glory, was raised to the Chancellorship by Homes’ secret machinations. But this noble gentleman, who, in addition to an outstanding pedigree, had acquired knowledge and experience in pleading the cases of his friends and in private suits, lacked the knowledge of civil law and equity requisite for trials involving public issues, so he did not dare pronounce the law. He permitted himself to be guided by conjecture and rumor of future events, and subsequently placed his faith in results and the outcome of cases. The common folk noticed this, and his close friends realized that learning for domestic purposes was one thing, but forensic learning something quite different. The entire system of judgment would have been turned topsy-turvy had not Alexander Seton Lord Fyvie, the senior member of the order, and John Preston, who had gained famous names in the courtroom for their knowledge of the civil law, out of their unstinting willingness to help the commonwealth, maintained judges’ laws, morals, rights, customs of arriving at decisions, and ancestral precedents, in their regular condition and status.
8. Secretary John Lindesay, who had attained to that position by his devoted exertions, was now a feeble old man, wearied by his great occupations, and when he could no longer come to the court or the courtroom, he delegated his office to James Elphinstone, who served his own advantage more than the public interest, and did damage to the commonwealth. Thomas Hamilton, the King’s Advocate, attained to the pinnacle of authority and eloquence in the courtroom, and possessed many fertile estates without harming any man. At this time the people very correctly judged that at no other time during James’ reign was the Privy Council stronger or in firmer control, or its head more weak and feeble. Mar, mindful of the royal dignity and likewise of his own office, had due consideration for the King’s majesty, his own dignity, the public welfare, and the security of the realm, to which he gave preference over his own advantages and purposes. But he conducted himself in such a way that he felt it necessary to justify the correctness of his counsels to the King and every leading lord. George Home, hateful and offensive to many, was promoted to the rank of Privy Councillor, and preached that silence was the best and safest bond for the administration of affairs. Advanced to a loftier rank by kindness of the King, he made his way up all the rungs of honor. No man who enjoyed his intimate familiarity was unfamiliar with the King’s liberality. Lennox, made Lord Chamberlain, found power in the sovereign’s friendship and possessed a fair measure of popularity. George Elphinstone was excluded from the royal favor by Home’s deceit, but was given relief so that he would not have to live in sorrow with no consolation. These affairs transpired at home. Beaton, the Archbishop of Glasgow, had been living in French exile for religion’s sake, but by an honorable decree of the Privy Council he was restored to his erstwhile dignity and the position as ambassador he had occupied under the King’s mother. The King could bestow no greater honor on him than to confirm the judgment of his best of mothers, under whom he had discharged that duty in an excellent way. This was a thing welcome to the Privy Council and the lords, but bitter for the troublemaking ministers, who did not dare spew any more of their bilious poison, and restrained their anger out of fear. The Archbishop wrote a letter thanking the King for making him a legate, and petitioned that by a public decree he would confirm him in his archbishopric and other benefices and offices. James had many royal virtues, but the greatest of them all was that he would bestow knighthoods on men of great use to the commonwealth, or who risked their lives for the security and glory of their nation. Nobody knighted was given money.
9. The Privy Council adopted a measure to coerce robbery and plundering along the western march. It decreed that the very doughty Sir John Carmichael should preside over the western borders and defend the integrity of those remote parts of the realm. He should punish malefactors, restrain unruly reivers, and compose the quarrels between the Johnstones and the Maxwells, which were inflicting murder, arson, and rapine as much as would open warfare. He vowed to do their bidding, and kept the borderlands in a pacified condition, and cultivated peace with his English neighbors.
10. At this same time, since domestic peace had been achieved, the King attempted to bring the islanders, those crude fellows who persistently remained caught up in the whirlpool of their turpitude, to a more civilized way of life. New colonists were assigned, and many noble gentlemen, accompanied by six hundred mercenary soldiers, attempted to gain control of Skye, the largest of all the islands lying around Scotland, which is fit for grazing, farming, birding, fishing and hunting, and bring it to a more moderate way of life. They soon crossed over and, landing their forces, occupied it, because the inhabitants, infamous for their robberies, either fled in terror or withdrew to make their plans. With the inhabitants thus driven away and their garrison established, the colonists thought their war had been won, and nourished their enemies’ audacity by their own sloth. Meanwhile the inhabitants, who had concealed themselves in forests, marshes, and impassible places, burst forth from hiding, trusting in the powers of Mackenzie. Supported by auxiliaries privately sent by nearby clan chiefs, they infested the island with their plundering and arson. Many of the barbarians were captured and killed thanks to the deceit of their own kind. More were slain by accidental encounters as they were taking away their loot, and their heads were sent to Edinburgh. In the end, when many of the soldiers had been laid low by bad weather, strange food, and dysentery, and the new colonists had also been afflicted by these evils, the inhabitants reclaimed their island’s erstwhile liberty. The Laird of Baconrie, riding about the island, was overcome by the deceit of those barbaric men and fell into their clutches, with many of his followers wounded or killed. He was soon freed, and after a length period of vexation he departed for the Orkneys. This was the condition of that adventure.
11. It was at about this time that James Douglas of Torthorwald, the nephew of the Regent Morton by his brother, a man of violent nature and unable to suffer mistreatment, took it in his head to avenge the famous wrong done his uncle. Therefore, leaving home with ten or twelve familiars, he set an ambush for James Stewart, the sometime Earl of Arran, who was fearfully changing his lurking-place in trackless wastes each day because of the resentments he had created. Catching sight of him on the road, protected by a somewhat large escort, he approached him from the roadside, determined to fight if he offered resistance. Arran’s servants and dependents could not endure an encounter, and turned tail. Arran himself, acting out of equal fear, abandoned the moderate protection he did have. Douglas drew his sword. First he sliced off his hand, and then cut through his neck with a single blow, and gained great glory among his followers for having avenged the wrongs he had suffered, both public and private. Then his companions, witnessing this feat, dismounted and, their swords drawn, did the same thing, and left the corpse lying with many a gash. James, having sheathed his sword, peacefully returned to his home. Thus this man who had lived a base and felonious life breathed his last: he who had made Morton stretch out his neck for the headsman himself offered his throat to his nephew for the cutting. Never has Fortune placed an upstart high atop a pinnacle without threatening him with a bitter downfall. It would be an immense task to enumerate all his criminal, impious acts, and the arts and dodges by which he had escaped his enemies’ traps for twelve years, changing his hiding-places daily. I have cited examples of his savagery and lust in the course of my work: the killings of noblemen, exiles, banishments, adulteries, and lunatic statements, by which he was injurious to the lords and to all the estates of the realm.
12. During these days the strength of the Scottish Puritans, broken and weaken by authority of Parliament, ebbed out of fear. But in such a great turmoil and confusion of Kirk affairs, the authority of the bishops could not be confirmed until James had been summoned to his rightful ancestral heritage, the scepter of England, and was strengthened by the accession of that most powerful nation. Then he gradually increased the responsibilities of bishops and their ecclesiastical jurisdiction, facing no opposition because the fiercest of the ministers had been restrained by exile or imprisonment. In the previous year their spiritual jurisdiction had been allowed at a Dundee synod, in accordance with the will of the King and the national synod, which was likewise held at Dundee this year for the selfsame reason. At this, it was hotly debated whether it was right and lawful for churchman to enjoy the right of the vote at the public Parliaments of the kingdom, and to try and adjudge secular cases in a civil courtroom. Many men trained in the Liberal Arts and learned in theology defended ecclesiastical jurisdiction on the basis of the formula of ancient law, discussed at this public assembly of the estates, and of the tradition of the Kirk, which had been observed and honored through the reigns of so many Kings, but was now at length undermined. The Puritans, foreseeing the ruin of that discipline they had constructed at the cost of so many efforts and risks, maintained that judges’ forensic debates, conducted among laymen, did not fall within the purview of sacred jurisdiction, and supported their view with the example of Christ, when He said, Who made me a judge over you? In this matter they did not allow themselves to be convinced by a debate, nor by any synod’s public decree, but they did not offer equal opposition to the free Parliamentary vote. In the face of such conflicting viewpoints, nothing was decided at this session, and the question was tabled pending the next synod, which was appointed for Montrose and prorogued until the year of salvation 1600. They all received the admonition not to resume debate over this matter without lengthy and serious deliberation beforehand. Hence the Puritans sorely despaired of their flocks and their Kirk discipline.
- 1599 -
HROUGHOUT this year there was thunder and lightning all over Britain and Belgium, which men’s terrified minds turned into prodigies and omens of imminent catastrophes. King James, diligent and attentive in his government of the realm, exerted himself for the security of each and every one of his subjects. He established rewards proportionate to their recipients’ dignity. By his industry and vigilance he kept all Scotland safe from internal seditions. The oppressed and the afflicted vied in coming to him, as if he were their bright, kindly star. Observing there to be an abundance of wine and a shortage of grain, he thought about suspending trade in wine, while permitting all merchants to deal in foodstuffs. But he could not implement this plan in a society which rejoiced in full bumpers, where there were more devotees of Bacchus than of Ceres. He applied so much care to restraining the judicial order so as to make judges more moderate and equitable. And he took steps so that God’s religion not be tainted by superstition or the Kirk be roiled by sedition. He thought it sufficient to punish the Laird of Ogilvy with exile for having offended his majesty with a contumacious letter. He discussed the secret matters of state with his most intimate servants and Councillors, and shared his private plans concerning English affairs with Mar, Edward Bruce, and Thomas Erskine. Secretary Elphinstone was not made privy to his thoughts because he was under the suspicion of conducting a secret correspondence with the exiled Gray. He, once James’ friend, but later banished for having committed a grave offense, as I have reported above, attached himself to Elizabeth, and was trusted and employed by Cecil regarding Scottish affairs. For he lay hidden in the extremities of the Northumberland borderland at the house of Ralph Gray of Chillingham and worked on the minds of his fellow countrymen, particularly the Elphinstones. His intercepted letters brought his undertakings to light. Many men also believed that George Home’s mind had been swayed by Cecil’s emissaries, partly by bribes, and partly by hope of rewards. Mar and Bruce understood the reason why Gray had come to Northumberland. In the Privy Council they complained that nothing was being done about the exiled Gray, if by his open effort and solicitation of the minds of Scottish lords he should disturb the state of the kingdom. Daily, certain men were reporting his secret plans, disclosed in private conversation or by letters. Elphinstone admitted he had received letters from Gray, and remarked that the Papists and their strength and arms would prove useful for his undertakings, and offered his help in reconciling them. The King replied, “if you want to grow in my court, you should seek another means of growth. For I hate the Papists and am hated by them, and I am determined never to acknowledge the Pope’s rule over the church.” This speech made no impression on Elphinstone, a fraudulent, lying fellow, who, without the King’s knowledge, deceitfully sent a letter to Pope Clement VIII, in which he tried to convince him that from the very baptismal font James had being aiming at Roman friendship, and venerated the title of Supreme Pontiff with due piety. He was that bold-faced a liar, and many years later was punished in accordance with the Lex Cornelia, as I shall tell at the proper place.
2. Throughout these days, frequent letters from England encouraged the King, telling him that he would have the prayers and votes of many men to summon him to the throne if Elizabeth were to die. They would come a-running to the borderlands, abandoning the setting sun and looking forward to the rising one. Elizabeth’s old age was a source of disgust, whereas James’ mature age was their consolation. The particular supporters of his succession were Essex, Willoughby, and Montjoy. These men opened their thoughts to him, not without the knowledge of that distinguished gentleman Anthony Bacon who spurred on the ardent support of the English Peers by offering hope for James’ succession and their future power, and made a deep impression on many men’s minds with his promises and entreaties. The King himself won the vehement allegiance of many men by his reputation for intellect, his gifts, and the great promises he made. His well-known talents exhibited in his fine works of eloquence and his Basilicon Doron, famous for its great genius, swayed many.
3. During this summer Béthune, the brother of Maximilien de Béthune of Rosny, came to Scotland as ambassador of the King of France, sent to renew their old alliance and friendship. Finding the King at Falkland, in a prolix oration he reminded him of the devotion and goodwill towards Scotland displayed by the Kings of France. Now that their civil war had ended, he asked for Scotland’s friendship and a renewal of their treaty. The ambassador was given a warm reception, his wish was granted, and a gift of hounds and horses was given to his King. Several days were consumed with banquets, and then the ambassador made no delay in sailing. A storm and adverse winds arose, and he was brought to Yarmouth, sickened by his long voyage. When the Queen learned this, she spared no effort in restoring him, supplied everything necessary for his recovery, and likewise repaired his ship, so that he might cross over into France with his retinue.
4. Obliged by a great shortage of funds, the King convened a Parliament of the nobility at Edinburgh, for the support of royal revenues. After they had weighed all things, they thought it soundest to enhance the revenues from the sale of daily needs, port-duties, and by extracting something from corn- and grain-merchants for the relief of the King’s expenditures, and by imposing a tax on every auction. The most prudent men, charged with supreme authority, who never saw advantage as something separable from dignity, resisted these new and unheard-of imposts, since they were averse to unsound money-making devices. Nor did Alexander Seton, Lord Chancellor and Lord Provost of the city entrusted to his care, cease to look out for the welfare of his townsman, and for this purpose he happily flexed his muscle so that his prince and his subjects could both enjoy prosperity. To avoid unpopularity, in accordance with the view of the Parliament, the matter was tabled pending a larger Parliament slated to be held at Perth, and Seton took it very much amiss that any consideration of harbor-duties and taxation would be brought up at that Parliament. Home, was criticized in popular rumor as being responsible for the the idea of this most heavy taxation and as a supporter of the tax-gathers, who were harsh in the collection of the harbor-duties.
5. Among us, this year was notable for its death and murders of unspeakable atrocity, inasmuch as Graham, son of the Earl of Montrose, a man of great physical strength and largeness of mind, second to nobody else of his times, grew angry at James Sandilands, who had murdered John Graham, a judge of capital cases, and came forth as his very keen avenger. Nor could he be dissuaded from such a hotheaded plan by the authority of his father the Lord Chancellor from surrounding James Hamilton on a crowded public street of the royal city with an armed gang as he was headed for the Tollbooth, and leaving him for dead after he had put up a stout resistance and suffered many wounds. To protect the body outstretched on the ground, his dependents Lockhart and Cathcart, ran up together and with singular courage defended the prostrate man from the atrocity of death. Sandilands was carried to his house, while Graham and the henchmen who had been his accomplices in this attempted murder, awestruck by the enormity of their crime, slunk away by sidestreets. Both the unworthiness of their action and their contempt for his majesty offended the King’s mind. Graham himself, having performed his act of vengeance, lest he be seen at an inopportune time, retired to the house of a familiar friend until he could learn for certain whether his enemy had been killed. Meanwhile it was announced that Sandilands lived, and, more saddened by this news than disturbed of mind, he went home.
6. At about this same time, John Carmichael, who had achieved no small reputation for his glorious achievements, was sent to Anandale to protect the border. He was a very harsh punisher of reivers and a lover of equity. He never shirked dangers, labors, and exertions in overcoming robbers, and earned no less gratitude from his King than hatred from those plunderers. Therefore when the reivers, whose egregious wrongdoing he had curbed by the severity of his judgments, concluded that his severity was not to be endured, they entered into a conspiracy against him, and planned to kill him should the opportunity arise. At length, when he was returning from a conference about reparations, the Armstrongs, those infamous reivers, raised a shout and attacked him. One shot him with a ball, another savaged him when he was wounded and half-alive, and he died before his followers could come to his rescue. His companions were witnesses to his death rather than its avengers. This was the end of that man, outstanding for his martial glory, unless he stained his reputation by his betrayal of the Irish chieftain O’Rourke. The King, outraged by this nefarious deed and entirely bent on its punishment, replaced him with James Johnstone, the head of his family, a man of proven bravery, so that he would arrest those responsible for the crime. He relentlessly exacted vengeance for this private harm done a friend and public damage done the nation.
7. At this time the King created Marquesses John Hamilton, the head of an ancient and illustrious family, and George Gordon Earl of Huntly, who had forsworn papal authority and had lately been restored to their former good graces by vote of the lords, to display the judgment concerning the dignity of lords that lay within his power. At this time this title first began to be used among the Scots, but it created more invidiousness than it bestowed enhanced glory. For the King passed over Douglas Earl of Angus, whose ancestors had so often exposed their lives to perils and dangers on behalf of their nation. William Douglas took it amiss that they had been shown preference to himself in honors, since he was their equal in his patriotism, the nobility of his pedigree, and the wealth of his very flourishing family.
- 1600 -
URING these days Cecil ceaselessly sent messengers with letters and mandates having the same intention of dealing for peace, since he knew that he would have a better opportunity of bringing down Essex if he refrained from war. James, happy in his mind and carefree, turned all his thoughts to the seemly order of the realm, the arts of peace, and to the pursuit of religion, so that he would be deemed worthy to succeed to the English throne. He tempered his government with kindness and mercy. He received his lords with royal style and treated them with great affability, but without luxury. This relaxed frame of mind was endearing to nobility and commons alike. Never were Scottish affairs more tranquil: peace, concord, security, and wealth prevailed, as did the laws. A sincere course of duty, both private and public, was being observed.
2. But, contrary to all men’s expectations, there occurred during these times an example of tragic crime, which surpassed all the felonies of previous ages. As the historians have it, its beginning and cause were the responsibility of Gowrie. When he was still a youth, the Earl of Gowrie’s father was condemned of treason in a public trial (as I have recorded above). The King exercised his royal mercy and allowed his children to keep his estates, which was welcome to nobility and commons alike. His son, who was mindful more of his father’s disgrace rather than his duty towards his King and of all the benefits conferred on himself, was enraged over this matter and determined to avenge his father’s execution with the blood of our innocent King, should the opportunity present itself. But this could not be done by open force, without running a great risk: he would have to attack the King by guile. Therefore he made all the preparations necessary to set his trap. He entered into secret conversation with his brother Alexander, and, having received his pledge of loyalty, showed him the way in which the deed was to be done. He looked around for a time and place, and added to his criminal association his dependent Andrew Henderson, (but it is uncertain whether he was privy to the conspiracy). He imagined that, once the crime had been committed, he would enjoy great power, being the Provost of a city, and promised to arrange for Henderson’s safety as well. Alexander Ruthven, his younger brother, a youth of handsome appearance but possessed of a devious mind, fell in with his plan. At his brother’s urging, with incredible speed he hurried to the King, who was busy with the hunt at Falkland. Granted an audience, so he might reveal a matter of great importance touching on the condition of the commonwealth and the King, with unwonted politeness, but with a roiling mind and a lowered face, he blurted that he had uncovered a strange thing, which the King himself needed to investigate thoroughly. Then, in a well-rehearsed speech, he started to tell how he had been taking his ease by strolling around Perth when he encountered some cloaked stranger with a veiled head, entirely dressed in a foreign style, who was frantically trying to conceal a packet of letters and a great amount of gold. Alexander grew suspicious and asked him who he was, where he came from, what was the reason for his visit, and what he had hidden in his garments. With an astonished look and stammering voice, the man replied, but did not speak with any assurance. Since the fellow refused to say who was, he took the responsibility of hustling him out of sight and was keeping him, bound, in his brother’s house, although his brother knew nothing of the mater. There, by a short interrogation, the King could learn something not to be disdained, if he hastened. His own guess was that the man had brought that wealth so as to inspire lords who had lapsed into the Roman superstition to take up arms out of their greed for gold.
3. Therefore the King, after long thinking over Alexander’s credibility and that of the business itself, concluded that no deceit attached to his story. He was captivated by its plausibility, since he remembered that in years gone by the Jesuits had imported gold to foment risings in his kingdom. So he replied he would send suitable men to probe the facts of this doubtful matter, and that he had no idea whether Alexander was telling the truth. Alexander vehemently opposed this plan and sought to dissuade the King by his entreaties and humble protestation, urging him over and over not to divulge this secret to any man. His incredible insistence, wheedlings and entreaties, rather than any desire for the gold, prevailed, so that the King commanded him to await a more definite response once the hunt had finished. Alexander, unable to bear any longer delay, complained that the opportunity was being squandered by hesitating and wasting time, and urged departure. The courtiers standing by were annoyed by these lengthy secret discussions, and pointed out that the time was passing, so they drifted away to their readied horses and delighted their minds with the pleasure of the hunt, a very clean pastime. The effort, exertion, and running required by hunting did not divert the King’s thought from the strangeness of this matter, but he had no fear of treachery, since his relaxed state of mind brushed aside all suspicion. So he bid Alexander be summoned and told him that the hunt would soon be concluded and he we would be on his way to Perth. Then Alexander told one of his companions, Alexander Henderson, to go to his brother as swiftly as he could and inform him of the King’s approach. Meanwhile he himself, gloomy and obviously plunged deep in thought, brooding on many things in the midst of the general mirth, awaited the hunt’s end. Finally the King, together with Lennox, Mar, and a certain number of unarmed gentlemen, took to the road with incredible haste, bringing along with himself not even a sword.
4. During the entire journey, the King observed the silliness of this informer and his rambling speech, and the matter started to look suspicious. He asked the Duke of Lennox, who was married to his sister, if Alexander has ever suffered from mental disturbance, and whether he had told him a pointless, foolish tale. The Duke, himself wondering about the worthlessness of this adventure, replied that he had always considered the boy to be light-minded and feckless, but he had never heard of any madness or insanity. So the King, considering the credibility of the man and of this business, and fearing that he would be blamed for being over-credulous in believing this vain tale, made a joke of its teller’s gullibility, as if it were the empty illusion of a night’s sleep. Finally, telling himself that such a pretense had more to do with empty-headedness than deceit or malice, the King set aside his fear at Alexander’s protestations and, because of his own estimate that the joke would be on the man responsible for having been upset by vain dreams, was induced to take a hopeful, trusting view of things. Wearing a happy expression, although with a troubled mind, he rode along his way, fated to entrust both his safety and that of his nation to the disloyal heart of this treacherous lad. When it was announced that the King was approaching the city, Gowrie was at his dinner and had consumed a great deal of it. Suddenly, hustling away his dinnerware as if the King had unexpectedly interrupted his meal, with eighty companions composed of his dependents and townsmen, he went to meet the King at The Bridge of Earn and escorted him, first in to the city, and then to his house, and when he had been taken into the building he bid him have a seat until a meal could be readied. James was not entertained by Gowrie with any affability, magnificence, or generosity, nor shown the honor that was his due. After the meal the King went off with Alexander as if moved by a desire to inspect the house, so that the King could be isolated, while his servants were eating, and the plan could be put into operation. He ordered that Thomas Erskine be summoned, who was always dear and acceptable to him for his faith and industry. Alexander replied that he had been summoned and was going to come soon, but meanwhile they should not delay in moving onwards. Nonetheless the King, having come into the house imprudently, neither had any idea of his own danger nor had accurately adjudged the other man’s character. With a few steps he arrived at the interior of the building. His deceitful guide, who alone was familiar with the entryways into the house, locked the door behind himself, so that the King would have no means of escape.
5. Robbed of his remaining hope by this development, and realizing for the first time that he had been deceived and that his servants were cut off from him, since all the doors were barred, James did a fine job of dissimulating his anxiety, embarrassment, and fear, and yielded to necessity. When they had come to a secret place intended for the attack, instead of a bound foreigner he found a man armed with a drawn dagger, determined to kill the King. As he regarded this assassin, who was terrible, hairy, and menacing, the King’s mind shuddered with horror at his fearful appearance, and he had a presentiment of meeting a dire end. Alexander’s manners chimed in with this nefarious apparition, as he displayed a contempt for his majesty. Not doffing his cap, he spewed forth hurtful words, and, wearing a fierce expression, he kept saying that he was the avenger of his father’s death. Moving his assassin’s dagger up to the King’s throat he threatened death. Weaponry and threats were in abundance, but the armed murderer, terrified by the King’s danger and fear for his own skin, eased up on his threatening words. He tightly gripped Alexander’s arm and, with no effort at all checked the assault of this monstrous murderer. The King observed this change of fortune, and with his familiar eloquence spoke persuasive enough words to the effect that he had been innocent of Gowrie’s death, since he was not yet an adult and had not been party to the affair. He pointed out that Gowrie’s sons had been enhanced in honors and family wealth, their sisters were intimate familiars of the Queen, their confiscated family property freely returned, and he had been numbered among his intimate friends. By this artful rhetoric he managed to conceal his fear, and he warned him not to pollute a house of hospitality with the blood of a King who had done so very well by him, as an act of headstrong fury and wild barbarism, nor commit a crime for which there would be no lack of avengers with the ability to act: he should free his flourishing house from ruin and everlasting infamy, and think of his own welfare. If he allowed the crime to go uncommitted, he promised he would never punish such an impious, wicked attempt on his life, and maintain Alexander in the same position of friendship. But if he held nothing sacred, not faith, not religion, not piety towards God, not his duty to his sovereign, and attempted this deed, he would bring down destruction on himself and his entire family. The King’s speech swayed this would-be regicide, thinking over his dire felony in his mind, which was changeable by nature, from cruelty to clemency and a wholesome pity, and, by God’s inspiration, made him more pliable. Now he was as inclined to mercy as he had previously been bent on savagery. He left the King in the chamber, having received a pledge of silence, that he would not speak, and that they could reconcile, and instructed the assassin to keep watch on him and, if the King tried a trick or dared speak a word, to take his life. He shut the door and went to his more implacable brother, and begged him to sympathize with the King in his misfortune, return to his senses, intelligence, and mildness for the sake of their family’s safety, and grant the King immunity and safety.
6. But Gowrie cast a dire vote: once the King had been captured: he should not be released, and hope for reconciliation was pointless. Then he sought for some fuel to feed this whirlwind, so that the full force of the storm would break forth. When Alexander had left, the King entered into conversation with the armed man and began to question him about the plot devised for his destruction. In the face of impending doom he was helped by something that occurred either by accident or by divine intervention. When he understood the magnitude of the crime, the conspirator Henderson’s mind became horror-stricken, and, trembling, he knelt at the King’s feet and exclaimed he had been unaware of the bloodthirsty conspiracy. It was doubtless thanks to his, help, second only to God’s, that the King avoided his end, and that man was primarily responsible for the King’s protection and safety. For at this selfsame time the murderer, having learned his brother’s decision, made a sudden return to the King in a more cruel frame of mind, and straightway, to further provoke his own madness, he wheeled about and announced that there was no way in which he could avoid his punishment, and that he had been commanded by his brother to lay hands on the King and stab him. Henderson, hating Alexander’s criminal folly, deterred him, now with his hand, now with his voice, and by so doing made the murderous man’s attempts more feeble. The sight of this best of Kings did not restrain the raving man’s fury. The majesty of his face, the dignity of his countenance, his entreaties did nothing to dissuade him from continuing and bound the King as if he were a slave, using a bandage he had wrapped around his leg. He also tried to stuff his fingers into James’s mouth so he could not cry out. The King, more mindful of the condition to which he had been born than to his present necessity, and concerned for his glory more than his life, after he had abandoned all hope and been reduced to extremities and struggled against being tied up, kept saying that thieves and robbers were to be cast in harsh bonds but not sovereigns, since they are born free and should not die in bondage. Meanwhile the royal servants had had their meal and began to grow indignant and restless, and demanded that they be shown their King, safe and sound. Gowrie lied that he had slipped out the back door, and bade them all follow him speedily. Thomas Erskine began to have his suspicions and accused Gowrie of treason. They began to fight, but were separated by the crowd of companions and servants.
7. Meanwhile the King, thinking that there was nothing left but to die a brave death, struggled more strongly, now trying to wrench away Alexander’s sword, now to smash him in the face. Finally he managed to free his hands, seized his assassin and dragged to him to a window, out of which he poked his head and forearm, and called to his servants, repeatedly crying “treason.” Taking up their arms and drawing their swords, the amazed royal dependents, observing this from the courtyard, sought the King, looking for various entryways. They broke down the doors and each man got in as best he could as they vied with each other to burst within. Lennox and Mar with a great number of companions and servants sought the doorway by which he had entered. John Ramsay, a doughty young man, prompt and handy, was ignorant of the plan of the house, but, as if led by God’s hand, came to the King, who was struggling in the utmost peril to his life, and by him the regicide was repeatedly stabbed in both sides with a dagger, since his breast was protected by armor, and he fell headlong down a staircase, half-dead. Ramsay steadfastly remained to defend his King. Then Sir Thomas Erskine came along, a man who occupied a prominent position among his people and enhanced the family glory he had inherited from his ancestors by gaining all manner of praise. A little later Hugh Herries, the royal physician, and John Erskine’s manservant Wilson came running, and in their anger they killed the unconscious assassin. Dying, he groaned and announced he was guiltless, because it was not by his own free will that he had become involved in this crime, but had been seduced by his brother. These four men, who had cut down Alexander, took control of their King and dragged him, almost against his will, into an inner bedchamber and barred the doors in order to protect him from imminent death, should violence suddenly erupt. When Gowrie heard that his brother had been killed and his corpse thrown out the back of the house, he grew ashen because of his brother’s death, and, like a lunatic, loudly raged against the courtiers and the King.
8. He and seven partners in his madness, wearing helmets, drew their swords and burst into the bedchamber, unbeknownst to the King’s dependents, and attacked his four protectors. At the beginning of the fight Thomas Erskine and Hugh Herries were wounded while resisting the men rushing in. The sole remaining hope was the noble young man Ramsay, who did not allow himself to be behindhand in doing everything he should for his sovereign and his nation. Then Gowrie, either fatigued by fighting or moved by some fatal impulse, lowered his sword. At that very moment Ramsay ran through his disloyal breast with a saving hand. Without saying a word or showing any sign if repentance, the man immediately collapsed, so as to pay the penalty he had earned for his cruelty in Hell. His servants, panic-stricken by his death, fled, the majority having received wounds. When the King saw him dead and trampled underfoot, he was freed of his great fear. Meanwhile the Duke of Lennox and Mar, together with a throng of dependentsand servants, broke down the door with pickaxes and through the opening them made they came to the King, and were overjoyed by the unanticipated sight of the dead Earl. They did complain that the revenge they were seeking had been stolen from them, but with happy faces and congratulating him with a great outcry, they seized the King’s hand and congratulated him for having most happily escaped the unforeseen danger of this blood-thirsty conspiracy and the trap set by those most damnable of brothers. The King, covered with blood and dust from his struggle, offered up thanks to God as soon as his mind was free from fear, and openly professed that he had been rescued from extreme peril so that he might rule his subjects with equity and due humanity. The rest, freed from their fear, gave thanks for the King’s rescue, but were more eloquent in their sentiments than in their words.
9. Quickly word of this attempted murder flew abroad, first through the city, and then in every direction. All the people, gripped by a sudden rage, fell into a frenzy. The lords and their dependentsescorted the King to the upper storey of the house, from where he could be seen by everybody. He stilled the unruly crowd of townsmen, who were in a state of uncertainty, since most of them had no idea what the Gowrie brothers had done or in what way they had died. He commanded the city magistrates be summoned, and he himself explained to their Provost and leading citizens all that had transpired: the Ruthvens and others who in their madness had been prepared to do violence, which had been forcibly suppressed, and they had paid the due penalty for their criminal treason. These things were heard with great approval by the magistrates. Finally, the entire multitude cried out, thanking God for His singular benefit and mercy, because their best of Kings had been rescued from the plot of this unspeakable conspiracy and the colluding brothers were dead by a stroke of public good fortune. For they would have destroyed the King and his most excellent merits, and visited the kingdom and religion with eternal destruction, had not, by God’s judgment, their scheme rebounded on their very own selves. Then the King dismissed the crowd and required of the townsmen an oath that they would remain in his power forever. Soon he commanded that Gowrie’s pockets be searched, to see if any further evidence of his bloody conspiracy could be found. There they discovered a wallet full of magical charms, prophecies, predictions, and amulets inscribed with barbaric words and writings. This he had always carried with himself, in the empty hope of security against chance misfortunes. Having done these things, James entrusted and handed over the house and the bodies of the dead to the city magistrates. In the city’s high street, the sovereign’s salvation and just revenge were celebrated, with no man complaining.
10. When word of this adventure got out, Sir Henry Bruce mounted his horse and have chase to a henchman of Gowrie named Younger, whom uncertain popular rumor had identified as an accomplice in the foul deed. He found the man lurking in the bracken and put him to death. Afterwards, when the truth was sifted more carefully, his innocence became evident, and Bruce’s rashness was condemned. On that same night, the King wrote to the Privy Council at Edinburgh announcing the atrocity of the crime and requesting that supplications for his safety be decreed. By order of the Council, thanksgiving services were decreed for all the churches. These instruction were received in silence by the ministers who, as if opposed to the King’s security, indicated that they should await a report of the entire incident before deciding whether it was a sufficiently just punishment that had destroyed the Gowries. David Lindesay Bishop of Ross, who had returned from Falkland and learned the entire story, freely rebuked Robert Bruce for his hateful temerity. Without further delay he had a trumpet call out for silence, and by means of a herald in the Edinburgh market-place he announced the story, not without public groaning and consternation: how a hired assassin had been found with a weapon in his hand; how the Earl of Gowrie had used his brother’s service in this crime; how their nefarious plot had come close to killing the King; how by divine help and providence he had been rescued from their savagery and preserved unharmed; how a just vengeance had been taken. When the audience came to understand the magnitude of his danger, their tears interrupted his speech. Then they agreed in giving their approval to that vengeance. They went to the churches and rang their bells to display their gratitude and congratulations. This was imitated in the royal city, and in the nearby towns and cities, not just in houses of God: rather everywhere, at every place and time, they attested their joy. The other ministers acted in accordance with the wholesome view of the Privy Council. Only Bruce, rash to the point of madness, gave proof of his alienated mind by his silence or at most his hesitant approval, and he would have placed himself in danger, had our mild King not held his hotheadedness and lightness of mind in scorn. But he, unconvinced by the agreement of all good men, stubbornly clung to his opinion, and was persuaded by adverse rumor. Then the leading lords and knights filled the palace and humbly knelt before their King, grasping his hand and kissing it, and, indignantly cried out that the crime was not sufficiently atoned by the blood of the would-be killers, unless the roofs and walls of the house in which such great fury and madness had been conceived were wholly pulled down, and the malefactors’ property confiscated, as a memorial monument to this hateful regicide. But our most prudent King referred this question to a Parliament of the lords. Afterwards the servants Thomas Cranston and George Craigengelt suffered capital punishment.
11. Next the King commanded his leading lords to assemble at a Parliament at Edinburgh, and there he described his hosts’ deceits and his own danger, which he avoided thanks to the intervention of Henderson. This elicited tears from his audience. By decision of the estates, the bodies of the Gowries were subjected to every manner of indignity, and their deaths did not forestall the sentences of the judges and the censure of the lords. Their corpses were beheaded at Edinburgh in a prominent place, and hung up to be seen by passers-by. And so that there might be no hope of succession within their family, there names were removed from the roster of lords and family coat of arms were riven, to the enduring disgrace of the Ruthven family. All Ruthvens and their descendants were obliged to change their names, lest they cherish hope of recovering their name by the brother’s line. They were also condemned to exile, and this was certainly a harsher punishment than is usually imposed according to Scottish custom on those condemned in cases of treason, that those who were highly tainted by guilt should earn punishment for their brothers and heirs masculine, although the Gowries’ mother and sisters were passed over. This too was ordained as an expiation of this manifest act of parricide, that the anniversary of the fifth of August should be observed with a thanksgiving supplication by all men and woman as a perpetual memorial to their liberation. Henceforth this day was observed with solemn celebrations during James’ reign, but after his death it ceased being regarded as a holiday, as the memory of this deed faded. These things having been accomplished the King pardoned Henderson, for he, having been introduced as an accomplice to the murder, committed no act of hostility. James expressed his gratitude to those very brave men who had deserved so well of himself. A belt of knighthood was bestowed on John Ramsay and he was given many gifts. To his family crest was added a strong hand wielding a sword with this inscription, This hand is the champion of King and country. His virtue earned this, for it gained him glory with posterity and bestowed safety on our best of Kings in a timely manner. Hugh Herries was likewise knighted. Thomas Erskine, a man of high birth and possessed of a lofty mind, was granted the lifetime endowment of Gowrie’s estate at Dirleton, in exchange for his excellent loyalty to the King, his devotion, and the help he strenuously provided.
12. Now, so as not to have to interrupt the thread of my history too often, at this place I shall insert the aftermath of the Gowrie Plot, which came to light eight years after the brothers’ deaths, to men’s great wonderment. A certain commoner named Sprot, a professional scribe, was arrested with letters of Robert Logan Laird of of Restalrig, by which he was openly convicted of participation in the unspeakable crime. In it he showed that, once the deed has been done, his maritime castle commonly known as Fastcastle would be the safest refuge for the regicides. Now that Logan and his servant Bower, who had served as a go-between and agent for the entire business and was wont to shuttle back and forth with letters, were dead, it seemed impossible to investigate this matter. Furthermore, the notary was so gifted at forging handwritings and seals that the true and the false could scarcely be distinguished. Nevertheless men of the more prudent kind thought that the truth needed to be extracted by torture. For great while Sprot’s questioning was inconclusive: for a long time he denied having been privy to the crime with his words and facial expression, and seemed to be being cruelly tortured for the sake of vain and empty suspicions. But afterwards he confessed that in the year 1600 Bower had unwittingly passed Logan’s letters, along with othr instruments of inheritance, to Gowrie. When he read these letters, he had learned that Logan and Bowers were undoubtedly privy to Gowrie’s crime and had aided in it. Since that day, he had been troubled by his conscience and unquiet mind, which day and night was accusing him of that nefarious deed, and it was for this reason rather than any fear of being denounced by other persons, which had made him wickedly and almost impiously conceal his knowledge. The strangeness of this thing made his hearers almost awestruck of mind. Now that evidence existed, they ensured that he was brought to trial. There he made a full confession and created no delay in being sent to his punishment. With his hands tied behind his back and a noose around his neck, he was dragged through a great multitude to his execution in Edinburgh’s market-place. There, when no human hope remained and there was no room for falsehood, in the presence of many lords and the rest of the mixed throng he confessed that by God’s aid he had survived various threats to his life, so that amidst such a great crowd he could clear his conscience. While he was seized by the executioner, while his eyes were blindfolded, while his clothing was stripped away and the apparatus of his execution was produced, he acknowledged the details of his confession, with great affirmation and steadfastness of mind. He was now in poor health, but a lively character continued to thrive and flourish in his heart. He was in his full senses and until his final breath he never departed from the steady tenor of his speech. The bystanders began to weep, his crime was hateful to his audience, and death had never come closer to a good King.
13. After the Gowrie Plot had been put down, James devoted himself to a wholesome and moderate diet and style of life, and to his leisure. He raised George Home and his Chamberlain David Moray to the height of good fortune, but they abused his favor to serve their private advantage. They converted the public patrimony to their own use and appropriated the confiscated property of condemned men. In addition to other riches, the King bestowed on Moray the Abbey of Scone, an old part of the Ruthvens’ heritage, but not without raising an outcry of envy. At the proper time I shall not pass over their ample new gifts and their vices, which entailed damage to the commonwealth.
14. During these events, another bright and beneficial star arose, a star equal to that of his father and his brother, at present a mainstay of the kingdom of Scotland and the sole hope of his island, and the future glory of our empire in Britain’s opinion. May God bring it to pass that this star long shine for humanity and the British people! Anne presented James’ dynasty with an ever-lasting progeny in the form of two brightly shining stars, Henry and Charles, and two lesser ones, Elizabeth and Margaret. Charles was born on November 19 of this year, at Dumfermline, and received that name at his baptism. His care was entrusted to Alexander Seton the Lord Chancellor, who acquired the dignity of Duke of Rothesay and Earl of Ross. During the time of his infancy and boyhood he was long troubled by diseases, but later began to give better hope for good health and grew like a happy tree to come into the succession to the throne, so that he could occupy the place of Prince of the realm, soon destined to be vacated by the death of his brother, and so that, during the first spurts of growth of his excellent nature, thanks to the harsh iniquity of fate, in a brief moment he might inherit the high hopes that had belonged to the deceased Henry. Therefore, great God Almighty, I beg and beseech You that the newly-begun British government remain stable and enduring for James its ruler and Charles its Prince, together with all their progeny, that they enjoy everlasting glory among all men, among their subjects, among men of foreign lands, and that the entire British public enjoy security.
15. Although at this time the beginning of the year fell on March 25 according to the reckoning of both Scotland and England, the King restored the ancient custom of commencing the year on January 1. An ecclesiastical synod was held at Montrose to select men suitable for representing the Kirk in the Parliaments of the realm and casting their public votes. The churchmen gathered at the appointed time and place with a throng of secretaries, full of contention and particular enthusiasms. When the synod was assembled, the King presided. No man was denied the freedom to express his doubts modestly, or to respond to objections. Once more the question was proposed for their debate of whether it was right and lawful for churchmen to vote their opinions concerning the commonwealth in public Parliaments of the estates, or to judge profane cases in secular courtrooms. No small matter was up for discussion, and this agitated naive young men who were more eager for contention than truth. The matter was long discussed among men grave for their prudence and old age, with subtle arguments advanced, and all points having a bearing on the question where handled and investigated, so that a firm conclusion might be reached in this synod. The Puritans strove to refute these propositions, relying on examples more than reasoned arguments. At length the question was put to the vote and , after arguments had been made on both sides and weighed in a just balance, it was duly and properly declared that churchmen had the right to vote at a public Parliament of the estates and hear civil cases in a secular court. After they came to an agreement on the rights of ecclesiastical power, they dealt with the question of the number of men who should represent the Kirk at Parliaments and about the integrity of morals and the sanctity of lives, so as to stop the mouths of the envious and malevolent. Pope Clement VIII secretly sent two documents to Britain, debarring James from the line of succession to the English throne. In these missives he warned the Papist clergy and the people, by right of his sacrosanct authority, that, after the death of the Queen, they should undertake to make no man King, no matter how close a blood-relation of her he might be, unless he would not only tolerate the Roman Catholic faith, but actively promote it with all his might and zeal and, in the manner of his ancestors, swear an oath so to do.
- 1601 -
ITH no end of Kirk disturbances in sight, which had often created troubles for himself and Kirk government, King James appointed bishops throughout Scotland, to preside over their individual dioceses and hold subordinate clergymen to their duty. He granted them all authority and power of government. But they, being impeded by Parliamentary authority and with many still in doubt about the equity of their cause, as if it were a debatable point at law, humbly excused themselves pending passage of a Parliamentary decree in support of the order of bishops and their restoration to their full position by the enactment of a law. Thus the bishops gradually began to arise, and to complain about the harms previously done to them. George Home (about whose morals I have already commented) was lifted upwards by a smiling fortune, and adopted a scheme for showing his power. With George Elphinstone undone, by his shrewdness and deceit he seized control of the treasury, devising a plan for driving an unsuspecting William Elphinstone, distinguished for his nobility and wealth, out of his position of Lord Treasurer. He got in his grasp the royal bedchamber, public affairs, and the administration of all things, and, out of all private individuals, thought of himself alone. The King was beneficial to the commonwealth thanks to his care and prudence. Often, interrupting the hunt, he promoted the sincere practice of piety and gave much evidence of being an excellent sovereign. Whatever went awry was ascribed to his servants, on whom the burden of government rested. With Ephinstone out of the way, in exchange for money and support he gave George Home the management of the treasury. He assigned David Moray of Scone, a man of an illiberal face and a similar mind, the position of Lord Chamberlain and set him in charge of his land-taxes. These two were loathed and detested for their arrogance, and were even exposed to the reproaches of the common people, because they served the advantages of the fisc, but made the people languish in poverty. James made Thomas Erskine, a man of better reputation, Captain of the Guard,. and he throve thanks to his industry and vigilance. He rewarded his servants in proportion to the services they performed and bestowed on them very powerful office.. I refrain from describing individual instances of his liberality and generosity. But not even a sovereign who was that pious, that generous, could remain free of plots against himself.
2. An Italian fencing-master denounced Francis Mowbray, an unquiet, fierce, and ready-handed fellow, to Elizabeth for intending to kill the King. Hence the Queen arranged for him to be taken to Scotland and offer his testimony for the man’s conviction, an act for which she was generally praised. The Italian swordsman, notorious for his perfidy and rascality, denounced him in the Privy Council, and stated that he was ready to support the truth of his accusation in a duel. To avoid the disgrace, Mowbray did not refuse to settle the matter with his courage and good right hand. The accusation was unproven, since the Italian could not confirm it by any witnesses. The lords voted to decide the matter with a duel. Although both of them heatedly demanded a fight, our most indulgent sovereign did not permit them to act on their intentions. On the following day, until the credibility of the accusation could be established in a civil manner, Mowbray was returned to Edinburgh Castle. When he was moved either by tedium or impatience to escape from there, he tore out the hinges of a very high window, to enable his exit by means of a rope tied to a wooden beam. But it chanced that the rope was too short to reach the base of the cliff, and he broke every bone in his body when he took a hard fall onto the crags below. The guards were awakened by the noise and found him, half-alive, quivering, and wracked by his excruciating death-agonies. His body was preserved for public disgrace, and hanged up on a gallows in the middle of the royal city’s market-place. A bounty was decreed for his accuser, and the Italian’s denunciation was rewarded with an annual pension of fifty English pounds.
3. During those same days, residual hatreds between distinguished families revived. The young Moray and his dependents attempted to visit death on Huntly, who had killed his father. Many lords bound themselves by oath to risk their deaths in avenging that murder. Discovering this, the King, always very prompt in reconcile any man’s affinity and friendship, sent messengers to summon Huntly and Moray to court, and dealt with the Privy Council about their reconciliation. There existed a lengthy and vehement grudge between these two noblemen of the same rank, which had been provoked by the murder of Moray, as I have described earlier. When both of them, in accordance with Scottish custom, came to Edinburgh with a great band of dependents, the King addressed them thus: “At this present juncture I see no need to remind you of our condition and deplore the mutual killings of our nobleman, which are all too familiar to all of you, or to enumerate the evils which arise from internal discords. For many years you have nursed grudges which have been harsh and pernicious for you, and there exists a danger lest today they prove harsher for our kingdom than for you yourselves. We ask that today you make an end of them, lest they entail the public destruction of the realm and the private one of yourselves.” At this point the King’s speech was interrupted by the confused words of all the lords there present, asking the same thing. In the name of his forefathers’ glory, they asked Moray that, for the sake of the common good of the realm, he let go of the memory of his father’s murder, lest the public advantage be impeded by his private feuds, and lest he diminish the King’s dignity and tear apart the commonwealth. So the young Moray, moved by the King’s authority and the advice of the many friends who were with him, sacrificed the terrible injury he had suffered to the public advantage, and the both of them agreed on a choice of umpires to resolve their quarrels. By the faith and industry of these men, their old feud was cut off at the roots and the foundation of a new friendship and affinity was laid, as they were joined as father-in-law and son-and-law. Moray was thanked by the lords for preferring the public good to his private resentments. When their reconciliation was announced, their sovereign’s care and prudence concerning such a great affair was approved and celebrated by the common people.
4. At this same time Maxwell, an exceedingly pugnacious young man, headstrong either at the instigation of his friends or because of a personal failing, could not be induced to forgive James Johnstone, the head of his family, for his father’s murder, or turn his mind from hatred to friendship, by any command or favor of his sovereign, nor by threats or any other means. Nor could any of his dependents be found who immediately forgot Maxwell’s murder or refused to die, if vengeance could be gained. Thus dear was the welfare of their patron, and this fed the noble young man’s rashness and wildness, and soon led to his downfall, as I shall relate at its proper place.
5. Then Baron du Tour was sent as the King of France’s ambassador to Scotland. He set forth his King’s requests and mandates, and remained for common consultations. His arrival was welcome, and he was taken into the bevy of the King’s friends.
6. During these days Prince Henry, who in those years possessed no small degree of wonderful virtue, was being trained in the Liberal Arts in the hope he would come to the throne. He attracted all men’s faces, countenances, minds, and eyes to himself, not only because of his physical comeliness and beauty, but also by an excellence of mind and outstanding character the equal of his father’s, and gave hope for future frugality and self-control. In the King’s train was a certain Sir Richard Preston, who was then basking in the ardent favor of everybody because of his many endowments of body and mind. He had been brought to court to give the Prince instruction in the martial arts and employment of arms, and to introduce him to the rudiments of military service. For his good services he was subsequently granted the dignity of Earl of Desmond in Ireland by the King’s generosity. It is useful to the commonwealth that daily occurrences are sometimes bequeathed to posterity. The Laird of Ladyland, who had been steeped in the Roman worship while living abroad and returned to Scotland in hope of rewards. There he attempted to restore the ancient Roman rites and the earthly power of the Pope, being God’s vicar on earth, which had been weakened. When this became known, the ministers went to the King expostulating that the Papists’ boldness was increasing and that, thanks to their immunity, the highway to innovation was opened. The King, who could neither reject their complaints nor condemn the accused unheard, issued an edict commanding him to appear on a stated day and answer to the charges lodged against him. When he had received his summons but failed to refused to appear, royal bailiffs were sent to arrest him, but he fled to hiding-places and forests and secretly tarried in the Hebrides, where for several years he evaded danger until Andrew Knox, a minister of Paisley, applied his mind to an atrocious project and enlisted some scurvy assassins, notorious robbers induced by hope of pardon, to kill Ladyland. They ambushed him and killed him by inflicting many a wound. The brutality of this crime made its author very much disliked and did no little to increase the indignation of the Papists, since this same man had previously arrested Kerr with the Papists Earls’ letter to the King. This crime, foul enough already, was further blackened by the horrible words of George Conn in his Treatise on the Double Condition of Religion among the Scots. For his death, perhaps not undeserved in itself, set a bad public example. Likewise the death of Wood of Bonnington excited the Papists’ hatred, which was not as innocent or praiseworthy as Conn’s immoderate words of praise would have it. For, being disinherited, he broke into his father’s castle, stole his account-books, and fled in fear of punishment. His mother, a fierce woman, complained about the injury done her husband. Immediately men in the royal service were sent to arrest her son. They took him unawares, and haled him into court for examination. And he, having been tried and having sentence passed against him, was beheaded. Conn maintains that his trial was not conducted in a lawful or customary manner, and rails at his mother’s inhuman cruelty, the iniquity of the judges, and the harsh ferocity of the ministers. And not only the ministers, but leading lords are heaped with abuse, which he does throughout his book either because of his depraved nature or or the vehement hatred he conceived against the Reformed Religion, or out of a guilty conscience, since he believed his nation reciprocated his loathing, or to curry favor with the Pope of Rome his patron, by scourging those who opposed the Pope’s lust with the bitterness of his words.
- 1602 -
HIS year in Scotland everything would have been tranquil, had not the restless, bold nature of the islanders and the Highlanders troubled the public peace with their ambitious greed for plunder. The beginning of their rising was created by MacGregor, the leader in this war. He, having gathered together every wild clansmen, turned to robbery in his poverty and invaded the bordering province of Lennox, raging far and wide with fire and sword. He took off many free persons and thousands of cattle. For the suppression of his tumult, when he ranged wider, the Laird of Luss met him with an unruly throng of his own people. They came to blows and Luss suffered a disastrous defeat, with many of his followers killed amd some captured, together with a great part of their weaponry. Luss himself, being defeated in battle, fearfully fled with a few of his servants before he could be surrounded, and got away. Elated by this success, the barbaric robbers yet more ferociously ranged Lennox with fire and sword, since no man dared resist them, and went home laden with great spoils. When the King was informed of this most foul devastation by the complaints of the common people, he grew greatly angry in his mind and assumed responsibility for suppressing the disturbance. He sent around messengers to rouse the nearby lords against this criminal rabble of thieves, Argyll and Huntly, with instructions that all these young men should be driven from their homes or killed outright. Argyll demonstrated singular loyalty and usefulness, waging war at the King’s command. When the MacGregors realized that an expedition was being prepared against themselves, and that they would be unequal to it, they retained their ardent, fierce natures and abandoned their homes before any violence could occur. Resorting to a speedy flight, they retired to beasts’ lairs and wastelands together with their wives and children, and henceforth had no fixed abodes, but wandered about committing robberies both in the winter and the summer, taking with them their women and a disorderly throng of fellow-clansmen. The nimblest Highlanders, distinguished by their speed, were chosen by Argyll to pursue them. By their wiles and use of concealment they dragged out a very wretched life for several years, tolerating hunger, steel, and extremities, and likewise strange foods. In its proper place I shall relate their punishments and torments. Savagery was exercised on them and all their progeny, and justly so, in view of the cruelty of their crimes.
2. A commotion was likewise started by Donald Gorm, the clan chief of the MacDonalds, and Rory MacLeod, the chief of Skye and Lewis. Let us see what quarrel arose and what was its cause. Donald was married to MacLeod’s sister, whom he divorced on grounds of jealousy, and married the sister of Donald McClean, who had been promoted to the dignity of Baron Kintail as a means of advancing his family. They soon had a falling-out. Hence MacLeod devoted himself to his destruction, invaded the isle of Skye, and devastated Donald’s lands. Donald in his turn collected a band of clansmen, took his fill of McLeod blood, and visited every manner of catastrophe on their land with his murderers and robbers. Thus they committed atrocities against each other, nor could any more more pleasant spectacle have been given good men than the sight of the both of them killed in their fight. Angus M’Connell, the head of the Donald family, did not permit them to do further violence to each other, although in this matter it would have served the interest of the commonwealth if they had killed each other. By choosing referees to settle their displutes, he returned them to their erstwhile friendship. But the greatest influence leading to their reconciliation was the offense the King took against the leaders of the islanders and Highlanders, whose crimes had become so numerous and so great that they were intolerable.
3. With robbers suppressed, domestic dissensions resolved, and the commonwealth regulated in an advantageous way, the condition of the realm was calm and harmonious, and all things conspired to protect James’ right to the English succession. He had gained great glory in the eyes of his kinswoman the Queen and among neighboring peoples, and he was being clamored for as King of England by the unwavering choice and hope of all men, and in their prayers and wishes, should the Queen die. And soon their prayers would be granted. In the meantime, because of the nearness of their kinship, the support of the peerage, who were vying with each other to pledge their loyalty, and the commons, he was uplifted by the sure hope of the succession. And this was something which the English (their powers not to be disdained) daily confirmed by messengers. His two sons made him desirable. The one, grown to the age of nine, took great delight in military pursuits and began to display a goodly, upright character and high nobility.
4. At about this same time, Elizabeth, who had grown listless and languid in her old age, retired to Richmond to refresh her spirits and be free to devote herself to God. Howard, the Admiral, her leading friend and the companion on her life’s journey, asked her about a successor. Fretful with her cares, she made no other answer than that her throne had been a throne of Kings, and that nobody other than the next in line should succeed her. On the basis of this answer, it became clear to her surrounding friends to whom the heritage of the realm belonged, and was no longer a matter of doubt that James’ government would be beneficial for Britain, and glorious for himself and his kingdom. The entire people prayed God that, should Elizabeth succumb to her destiny, he be summoned to the throne as her successor. Soon Cecil, the most powerful of her servants, sent messengers, unbeknownst to the Queen, insinuating himself into a close friendship with the King by all dutifulness, and put him in undoubted hope of gaining the kingdom, should anything fatal occur. During these days nothing was more prominent in popular conversation than the Queen’s failing health and James’ future felicity: the kingdom would be enlarged, its boundaries determined only by the ocean, and it would have a large supply of fighting men.
5. While brooding over his anxiety and hope, the King sent Ludovic Duke of Lennox to France. He had been born in France and for that reason was particularly suited to transact matters there. His mission was to reconcile the French to his hope for gaining the English throne, and to procure their aid for a friendly, allied King, should any hostilities arise. Henry thought it dangerous for England, that most wealthy and noble of kingdoms, to fall to the Scots, for the English and Scots, united by kinship and close relations, might seek to recover Normandy and Aquitaine. So he privately disliked James’ enhancement and attempted to weaken the Queen’s mind with suspicions. By secret letters and messengers he warned her that many of her nobility were currying favor with the King of Scots and worshiping the rising sun more than the setting one. Openly he favored the King, because it crossed his mind, to his amazement and astonishment, how many bloody battles and great slaughters it had cost the French to expel the English from their territories. He promised the departing ambassador his help and French aid, should some faction oppose itself to the King of Scot’s cause and his possession of the crown, who had a better case, should the matter be tried at law, and who was more powerful, if it were contested on the battlefield. The Queen, enfeebled by old age, readily believed this, and was sick at heart to see her authority ebbing away among her people. The King, put in high hopes, awaited the outcome of her ill health. When he learned that she had recovered from her languor, he was thinking about how to rule the people of Britain with equal laws, introduce a new form of governing the Kirk, promote men of upright morals and sanctity of life to the honor of bishoprics, and enact laws weakening the excessive power of the presbyteries.
- 1603 -
S soon as the grief in men’s mind over Elizabeth’s death had abated a little, the Privy Council, Peers, and prelates hastened to the palace for common consultation about the succession of the throne, after Britain’s sun had set, and to settle the cares of the realm. With no man objecting or resisting, they voted that without delay James VI should be acclaimed as King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland. Cecil and the Howards were the first to swear their allegiance to James. The rest of the Councillors and lords there present copied them, vying with each other in their enthusiasm and prayers, decreeing all the sovereign’s honors on James, absent and unaware, and ordering that his name be inscribed on all government documents, letters, and edicts. They were not as saddened by Elizabeth’s departure as they were cheered and made happy by the hope of future tranquility and leisure. In accordance with the vote of the Council a charter was quickly drawn up and confirmed by the Great Seal of the kingdom. In that charter the happy marriage of Henry VII to Elizabeth, the daughter of Edward IV was recalled, thanks to which memories of deadly hatred and civil war were erased. Then, having set forth the King of Scots’ right by Margaret, the eldest daughter of Henry VII, now that the line of Henry VIII was wholly extinct, he was declared to be by law and right the nearest heir to the throne of England, France, and Ireland. All men were commanded to pay him the reverence due to a lawful sovereign, and those who disobeyed this edict were declared to be enemies to the English nation. The favor he found with the Commons was no less than with the Peers, since the popular enthusiasm even surpassed the ardor of the nobility. Robert Lee, Lord Mayor of London at the time, did not only bind his citizens always to display their loyalty and duty to the King by swearing an oath of allegiance, but also required this same oath from Councillors and lords entering the city in response to the announcement. Lord Treasurer Buckhurst took the oath and in name of all the Peerage swore their loyalty and duty. Having voted James the honor of the Garter, they threw open the doors, and the happy, joyful citizens received the Council and lords at the gates of the royal city. A crowd of men of all conditions surrounded them, eager to learn upon whom the good fortune of government would fall. Thronged by their large number, the lords only arrived at St. Paul’s Cross with difficulty, and it was far harder to budge the crowd which stood in their way. Finally it was cleared and kept under control by the magistrates. The town crier called for silence, and the heralds, having spoken of the Queen’s death, announced James’ succession, with the great approval of the Privy Council and the people. At noon Cecil read aloud the document. When it was being read before the fairest and largest of the city churches, in the crowded area of St. Paul’s Churchyard, and the people heard the name of James, and the amplitude and majesty of his government, such a shout arose that Cecil could barely complete his office of recitation. The single prayer of them all was for the good health of their sovereign. When the reading of the document had concluded, it is wonderful what great joy came over the townsmen’s minds. Now the city was thrown into an uproar and its appearance was changed: abandoning their mourning and sorrow, the citizens went away happy and joyful, full of good hope for the coming reign. Some went about the churches thanking our everlasting God. Others returned home to share the happy news with their wives and children. The day, which a little earlier was glum and almost morbid, became carefree and happy. From that day forward all the neighboring cities imitated London, and joined in acclaiming James as King of England.
2. Since nearly all minds foresaw a great transformation of things, entailing upheavals, battles, and woundings, as well as the downfall of the kingdom, unless the choice fell on the King of Scots, it was incredible how a single report informed the provinces that Elizabeth had left this life and James had come to power. It will serve as a great proof to posterity of God’s care that Britain remained tranquil, and that, although her rivals vainly expostulated that the Scotsmen and the Englishmen had often been at odds and could not be united because of their mutual dislike and hatred, these two people so easily united under one ruler’s power and a single government, with no killing or bloodshed. The novelty of the thing amazed all our neighbors, most particularly the Pope, who had sent his two missives to England to provoke an upheaval, one to the clergy and the other to the people. These new increments of good fortune moved nobody more than the King of France, who was always keeping an eye open to see what outcome British affairs might produce. Thanks to the wisdom, prudence, and discipline of Henry VII, the bonds of this realm were so tightly knit that they could not be rent asunder without the ruin of those who made the attempt. As long as this discipline remains uncorrupted, so long will the British government endure, most worthy of imitation. James, having now governed the Scots for thirty-six years, was the first man to be declared King of all Britain (unless we rashly believe those fables about Athelstan), with the great approval of all the multitude of our peasantry. They ran through their villages, rang their bells, and kindled bonfires to attest the public rejoicing.
3. Thus the first day of his reign, which was the last day of the year by English reckoning, called forth great excitement among the people. On the following day, which was a Friday, it was decided to send a delegation to Scotland to announce the King’s election and to summon him to his undoubted rule by a letter of the Privy Council. Alan Percy and Thomas Somerset, two right noble young men, were sent to Scotland with mandates of the Council, to acclaim him King in the name of the Peerage. But Sir Robert Kerr, not waiting for the Council’s authority, arrived at Edinburgh with almost unbelievable speed by riding a prearranged series of horses, asking about the King’s whereabouts. In the dead of night, he was suddenly admitted to the palace by the royal guard, booted and spurred as he was, and aroused those sleeping at the doorway of the royal bedchamber. Seeing his sovereign, he worshipfully fell to his knees and was the first to salute him as King of England. He told him that many lords arrived to give their congratulations, and were ready to perform any duty. Called and styled King of England, he responded to this stroke of good fortune with wonderful self-control. He altered nothing of his daily dress or his previous style of living, nor did he add the title King of England to his documents or write a word exercising this new power until he could be better informed by messengers and letters of the agreement of the Peers and Commons. On the following day, a Sunday, he did not go outdoors and exhibit himself to the curious public. In his new good fortune he was not puffed-up, arrogant, and did not put on new airs, and with his great moderation of judgment he first of all thanked God Almighty, because it was by His providence and kindness alone that he had arrived to the throne of Britain with no killing or bloodshed. For God earned this glory for Himself, it was brought about by His handiwork. But when for the next three days nothing came to confirm the credit of such a great thing, and he kept expecting other reports of Elizabeth’s death and nothing came, many men now began to have their doubts about this matter and suspected some swindle. It was the lack of news, not the slowness of letters, that made the King uneasy. Among these ambiguous hopeful rumors, messengers came from England with a letter from the Privy Council and the charter, which not only increased his optimism, but gave him firm assurance of the succession and guaranteed that Kerr had acted duly and properly in calling him King. The lords approved and praised this, and petitioned that by his authority he would confirm the gifts given them by the Queen. When he learned that Elizabeth was dead, and the supreme rule had been mandated to himself, and of the faithful disposition of the Peers and the assent of the Commons and Privy Council, and of the oath of allegiance they had all taken, he modestly accepted the title of King of England, nor was his innate human character made euphoric by such great wealth unexpectedly conferred on him.
4. But he did think that he should not be behindhand in shouldering his royal task in doing the business of the new reign, so as to requite the English for their piety, good will, and affection towards himself. Therefore he sent David Foulis with a modestly and kindly letter written to Cecil at London, in which he gave abundant testimony that he took the greatest pleasure in the Peers’ most pious and benevolent affection towards himself, and said he would make it is business to see that they would not regret their zeal and dutifulness, as often as he would have the power to express his will. He profusely thanked the Commons for being so zealous in promoting his just and lawful succession, which they could not have opposed without disloyalty, crime, and seditious license. He said that he was inspired by their love and fidelity, and in due time would not willingly omit anything which pertained to procuring the security of the realm or enhancing the fortunes of his individual subjects. Meanwhile he commended the commonwealth to the vigilant labors of the Privy Council. By means of these and similar very kindly letters, it is wonderful how much he ingratiated himself in the minds of the English. Furthermore, he diminished the rights and authority of no magistrate. In his generosity he confirmed all benefits conferred by Elizabeth: the existing appointments to the Privy Council, magistracies, governorships, and other such gifts. He reappointed the managers of the fisc and the servants at court to their same positions. The same honor was reserved for judges that they had enjoyed under Elizabeth, and he allowed them to employ their voice and authority in the public courtrooms,. He even granted the English permission to use the same seal they had employed under Elizabeth for the present, pending the manufacture of a new one. By an open letter, the Privy Council publicized the King’s great zeal and singular benevolence towards all the subjects of his realm, to great general approval.
5. A few days later he sent Edward Bruce of Kinloss (whom I have mentioned above) to open discussions with the Privy Council about determining a valuation of money that would be equally advantageous to both nations, about Elizabeth’s final honors, and about the things necessary for the royal departure. He first showed the King’s mandates to Cecil, who relayed them to the Council.
6. Meanwhile the King, summoned by his birthright to a far larger and more prosperous kingdom, delivered a speech before he quit Scotland, on the very day of his departure. In St. Giles Cathedral he addressed the surrounding multitude, beginning with his love of his nation and his accomplishments. Everything he said was received with approval and applause. After his reminiscences, he then added that he was leaving for England. When he came to the subject of his departure, his audience buzzed as its members consoled each other, and started to weep, so that it hindered his ability to speak. After they had fallen silent, he admonished them with the affirmation that his absence would not be protracted, and he stated he would often revisit the kingdom of Scotland, his natal soil. When these heard these words coming from, as it were, their father, their tears of joy welled up, so much so that once again they stopped him from speaking. In the end, having said farewell to the people and dismissed them, as if freed from his final duty, he return to the palace by the way he had come, remarking on each building he passed along the way. The meeting had scarcely broken up when the townsmen saw the royal furniture being carried to the harbor and disappearing. The city throng circulated, each man in his own way, and with in wretched tones complained about the royal departure, as if they were orphaned. The women in particular followed the disappearing column with their tears and entreaties.
7. And so at the beginning of the springtime he left Edinburgh for Dunglass with five hundred horse, scarcely a large escort. For the English Privy Council had requested him not to bring a throng of companions with him, lest they provoke disturbances and riots, and for the moment he deferred to its authority. In his train, however, were very noble gentlemen: the Duke of Lennox, the Earls of Mar, Argyll, and Moray, and a number of Barons of the Scottish nation, and also ambassadors of foreign nations, the French and the Belgians. Meanwhile the King announced by edict the day on which he intended to enter English territory, lest his uncertain and unexpected arrival disturb the citizenry and hinder the solemnity of their observances. His progress to Berwick was peaceful and modest. There was no trouble over commandeered vehicles, his outriders created no disturbances, no disdain was shown for their lodgings. Only as many pack-animals were appropriated as were necessary for carrying the King’s furniture and other equipment. To forestall any accusation of vanity, the King was dressed with moderation and thrifty in his retinue. He moved along like a common citizen, and scarcely surpassed any of his followers in his ornament, costume, or carriage. Meanwhile the English, conspicuous for their dress and the decorated horses they rode, rode up to offer their greetings and submissively do reverence to their sovereign, giving him no rest from receiving such acknowledgement.
8. As he was approaching the territory of Berwick with his modest train, horsemen rode out in their squadrons, and foot soldiers were drawn up in their companies to do him their duty. There, as he was being very ceremoniously greeted by John Kerr, Captain of the city, heaven and earth seemed to tremble at the roar of cannon and shouts of the soldiers. He was not far from the city when William Selby met him and handed over the keys to its gates, and in exchange for his good services he was knighted. A great part of the townsmen stood on the walls, eager to catch a glimpse of their new King. He entered the city as the day was drawing to its end, amidst the happy voices of the soldiers giving him their congratulations and the cheers of the citizenry. The town was not large, but was excellently defended and situated so as to protect the mouth of its river, as if a kind of demarcation-point for the two kingdoms. He attended church and offered up thanks to God. Then he headed for the palace, with a great glory of an escort, and there he went to bed.