The Fortunes of Nigel, by Sir Walter Scott


Note I. p. 14. — DAVID RAMSAY

David Ramsay, watchmaker and horologer to James I., was a real person, though the author has taken the liberty of pressing him into the service of fiction. Although his profession led him to cultivate the exact sciences, like many at this period he mingled them with pursuits which were mystical and fantastic. The truth was, that the boundaries between truth and falsehood in mathematics, astronomy, and similar pursuits, were not exactly known, and there existed a sort of terra incognita between them, in which the wisest men bewildered themselves. David Ramsay risked his money on the success of the vaticinations which his researches led him to form, since he sold clocks and watches under condition, that their value should not become payable till King James was crowned in the Pope’s chair at Rome. Such wagers were common in that day, as may be seen by looking at Jonson’s Every Man out of his Humour.

David Ramsay was also an actor in another singular scene, in which the notorious astrologer Lilly was a performer, and had no small expectation on the occasion, since he brought with him a half-quartern sack to put the treasure in.

“David Ramsay, his Majesty’s clock-maker, had been informed that there was a great quantity of treasure buried in the cloister of Westminster Abbey. He acquaints Dean Withnam therewith, who was also then Bishop of Lincoln. The Dean gave him liberty to search after it, with this proviso, that if any was discovered, his church should have a share of it. Davy Ramsay finds out one John Scott, who pretended the use of the Mosaical rods, to assist him herein.32 I was desired to join with him, unto which I consented. One winter’s night, Davy Ramsay, with several gentlemen, myself, and Scott, entered the cloisters. We played the hazel rods round about the cloisters. Upon the west end of the cloisters the rods turned one over another, an argument that the treasure was there. The labourers digged at least six feet deep, and then we met with a coffin; but which, in regard it was not heavy, we did not open, which we afterwards much repented.

“From the cloisters we went into the abbey church, where, upon a sudden, (there being no wind when we began,) so fierce and so high, so blustering and loud a wind did rise, that we verily believed the west end of the church would have fallen upon us. Our rods would not move at all; the candles and torches, also, but one were extinguished, or burned very dimly. John Scott, my partner, was amazed, looked pale, knew not what to think or do, until I gave directions and command to dismiss the demons; which, when done, all was quiet again, and each man returned unto his lodging late, about twelve o’clock at night. I could never since be induced to join with any such like actions.

“The true miscarriage of the business was by reason of so many people being present at the operation; for there was about thirty, some laughing, others deriding us; so that, if we had not dismissed the demons, I believe most part of the abbey church would have been blown down. Secrecy and intelligent operators, with a strong confidence and knowledge of what they are doing, are best for the work.”— LILLY’S Life and Times, p. 46.

David Ramsay had a son called William Ramsay, who appears to have possessed all his father’s credulity. He became an astrologer, and in 1651-2 published “Vox Stellarum, an Introduction to the Judgment of Eclipses and the Annual Revolutions of the World.” The edition of 1652 is inscribed, to his father. It would appear, as indeed it might be argued from his mode of disposing of his goods, that the old horologer had omitted to make hay while the sun shone; for his son, in his dedication, has this exception to the paternal virtues, “It’s true your carelessness in laying up while the sun shone for the tempests of a stormy day, hath given occasion to some inferior spirited people not to value you according to what you are by nature and in yourself, for such look not to a man longer than he is in prosperity, esteeming none but for their wealth, not wisdom, power, nor virtue.” From these expressions, it is to be apprehended that while old David Ramsay, a follower of the Stewarts, sunk under the Parliamentary government, his son, William, had advanced from being a dupe to astrology to the dignity of being himself a cheat.

32The same now called, I believe, the Divining Rod, and applied to the discovery of water not obvious to the eye.


This excellent person was but little known by his actions when alive, but we may well use, in this particular, the striking phrase of Scripture, “that being dead he yet speaketh.” We have already mentioned, in the Introduction, the splendid charity of which he was the founder; the few notices of his personal history are slight and meagre.

George Heriot was born at Trabroun, in the parish of Gladsmuir; he was the eldest son of a goldsmith in Edinburgh, descended from a family of some consequence in East Lothian. His father enjoyed the confidence of his fellow-citizens, and was their representative in Parliament. He was, besides, one of the deputies sent by the inhabitants of the city to propitiate the King, when he had left Edinburgh abruptly, after the riot of 17th December, 1596.

George Heriot, the son, pursued his father’s occupation of a goldsmith, then peculiarly lucrative, and much connected with that of a money-broker. He enjoyed the favour and protection of James, and of his consort, Anne of Denmark. He married, for his first wife, a maiden of his own rank, named Christian Marjoribanks, daughter of a respectable burgess. This was in 1586. He was afterwards named jeweller to the Queen, whose account to him for a space of ten years amounted to nearly L40,000. George Heriot, having lost his wife, connected himself with the distinguished house of Rosebery, by marrying a daughter of James Primrose, Clerk to the Privy Council. Of this lady he was deprived by her dying in child-birth in 1612, before attaining her twenty-first year. After a life spent in honourable and successful industry, George Heriot died in London, to which city he had followed his royal master, on the 12th February, 1624, at the age of sixty-one years. His picture, (copied by Scougal from a lost original,) in which he is represented in the prime of life, is thus described: “His fair hair, which overshades the thoughtful brow and calm calculating eye, with the cast of humour on the lower part of the countenance, are all indicative of the genuine Scottish character, and well distinguish a person fitted to move steadily and wisely through the world, with a strength of resolution to ensure success, and a disposition to enjoy it.”— Historical and Descriptive Account of Heriot’s Hospital, with a Memoir of the Founder, by Messrs James and John Johnstone. Edinburgh, 1827.

I may add, as every thing concerning George Heriot is interesting, that his second wife, Alison Primrose, was interred in Saint Gregory’s Church, from the register of which parish the Rev. Mr. Barham, Rector, has, in the kindest manner, sent me the following extract:—“Mrs. Alison, the wife of Mr. George Heriot, gentleman, 2Oth April, 1612.” Saint Gregory’s, before the Great Fire of London which consumed the Cathedral, formed one of the towers of old Saint Paul’s, and occupied the space of ground now filled by Queen Anne’s statue. In the south aisle of the choir Mrs. Heriot reposed under a handsome monument, bearing the following inscription:—

”Sanctissimae et charissimae conjugi ALISONAE HERIOT, Jacobi Primrosii, Regia Majestatis in Sanctiori Concilio Regni Scotia Amanuensis, filiae, fernina omnibus turn animi turn corporis dotibus, ac pio cultu instructissimae, maestissimus ipsius maritus GEORGIUS HERIOT, ARMIGER, Regis, Reginae, Principum Henrici et Caroli Gemmarius, bene merenti, non sine lachrymis, hoc Monumentum pie posuit.

“Obiit Mensis Aprilis die 16, anno salutis 1612, aetatis 20, in ipso flore juventae, et mihi, parentibus, et amicis tristissimum sui desiderium reliquit.

Hic Alicia Primrosa Jacet crudo abruta fato, Intempestivas Ut rosa pressa manus. Nondum bisdenos Annorum impleverat orbes, Pulchra, pudica, Patris delicium atque viri: Quum gravida, heu! Nunquam Mater, decessit, et inde Cura dolorq: Patri, Cura dolorq: viro. Non sublata tamen Tantum translata recessit; Nunc Rosa prima Poli Quae fuit antea soli.“

The loss of a young, beautiful, and amiable partner, at a period so interesting, was the probable reason of her husband devoting his fortune to a charitable institution. The epitaph occurs in Strype’s edition of Stewe’s Survey of London, Book iii., page 228.


The English agreed in nothing more unanimously than in censuring James on account of the beggarly rabble which not only attended the King at his coming first out of Scotland, “but,” says Osborne, “which, through his whole reign, like a fluent spring, were found still crossing the Tweed.” Yet it is certain, from the number of proclamations published by the Privy Council in Scotland, and bearing marks of the King’s own diction, that he was sensible of the whole inconveniences and unpopularity attending the importunate crowd of disrespectable suitors, and as desirous to get rid of them as his Southern subjects could be. But it was in vain that his Majesty argued with his Scottish subjects on the disrespect they were bringing on their native country and sovereign, by causing the English to suppose there were no well-nurtured or independent gentry in Scotland, they who presented themselves being, in the opinion and conceit of all beholders, “but idle rascals, and poor miserable bodies.” It was even in vain that the vessels which brought up this unwelcome cargo of petitioners were threatened with fine and confiscation; the undaunted suitors continued to press forward, and, as one of the proclamations says, many of them under pretence of requiring payment of “auld debts due to them by the King,” which, it is observed with great naivete, “is, of all kinds of importunity, most unpleasing to his Majesty.” The expressions in the text are selected from these curious proclamations.

Note IV. p. 59. — KING JAMES

The dress of this monarch, together with his personal appearance, is thus described by a contemporary:—

“He was of a middle stature, more corpulent through [i.e. by means of] his clothes than in his body, yet fat enough. His legs were very weak, having had, as was thought, some foul play in his youth, or rather before he was born, that he was not able to stand at seven years of age. That weakness made him ever leaning on other men’s shoulders. His walk was even circular; his hands are in that walk ever fiddling about ——[a part of dress now laid aside]. He would make a great deal too bold with God in his passion, both with cursing and swearing, and a strain higher verging on blasphemy; but would, in his better temper, say, he hoped God would not impute them as sins, and lay them to his charge, seeing they proceeded from passion. He had need of great assistance, rather than hope, that would daily make thus bold with God.”— DALZELL’S Sketches of Scottish History, p. 86.


It will perhaps be recognised by some of my countrymen, that the caustic Scottish knight, as described in the preceding chapter, borrowed some of his attributes from a most worthy and respectable baronet, who was to be met with in Edinburgh society about twenty-five or thirty years ago. It is not by any means to be inferred, that the living person resembled the imaginary one in the course of life ascribed to him, or in his personal attributes. But his fortune was little adequate to his rank and the antiquity of his family; and, to avenge himself of this disparity, the worthy baronet lost no opportunity of making the more avowed sons of fortune feel the edge of his satire. This he had the art of disguising under the personal infirmity of deafness, and usually introduced his most severe things by an affected mistake of what was said around him. For example, at a public meeting of a certain county, this worthy gentleman had chosen to display a laced coat, of such a pattern as had not been seen in society for the better part of a century. The young men who were present amused themselves with rallying him on his taste, when he suddenly singled out one of the party:—“Auld d’ye think my coat — auld-fashioned? — indeed it canna be new; but it was the wark of a braw tailor, and that was your grandfather, who was at the head of the trade in Edinburgh about the beginning of last century.” Upon another occasion, when this type of Sir Mungo Malagrowther happened to hear a nobleman, the high chief of one of those Border clans who were accused of paying very little attention in ancient times to the distinctions of Meum and Tuum, addressing a gentleman of the same name, as if conjecturing there should be some relationship between them, he volunteered to ascertain the nature of the connexion by saying, that the “chief’s ancestors had stolen the cows, and the other gentleman’s ancestors had killed them,”— fame ascribing the origin of the latter family to a butcher. It may be well imagined, that among a people that have been always punctilious about genealogy, such a person, who had a general acquaintance with all the flaws and specks in the shields of the proud, the pretending, and the nouveaux riches, must have had the same scope for amusement as a monkey in a china shop.

Note VI. p. 98. — MRS. ANNE TURNER

Mrs. Anne Turner was a dame somewhat of the occupation of Mrs. Suddlechop in the text; that is, half milliner half procuress, and secret agent in all manner of proceedings. She was a trafficker in the poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury, for which so many subordinate agents lost their lives, while, to the great scandal of justice, the Earl of Somerset and his Countess were suffered to escape, upon a threat of Somerset to make public some secret which nearly affected his master, King James. Mrs. Turner introduced into England a French custom of using yellow starch in getting up bands and cuffs, and, by Lord Coke’s orders, she appeared in that fashion at the place of execution. She was the widow of a physician, and had been eminently beautiful, as appears from the description of her in the poem called Overbury’s Vision. There was produced in court a parcel of dolls or puppets belonging to this lady, some naked, some dressed, and which she used for exhibiting fashions upon. But, greatly to the horror of the spectators, who accounted these figures to be magical devices, there was, on their being shown, “heard a crack from the scaffold, which caused great fear, tumult, and confusion, among the spectators and throughout the hall, every one fearing hurt, as if the devil had been present, and grown angry to have his workmanship showed to such as were not his own scholars.” Compare this curious passage in the History of King James for the First Fourteen Years, 1651, with the Aulicus Coquinarius of Dr. Heylin. Both works are published in the Secret History of King James.


The credit of having rescued James I. from the dagger of Alexander Ruthven, is here fictitiously ascribed to an imaginary Lord Huntinglen. In reality, as may be read in every history, his preserver was John Ramsay, afterwards created Earl of Holderness, who stabbed the younger Ruthven with his dagger while he was struggling with the King. Sir Anthony Weldon informs us, that, upon the annual return of the day, the King’s deliverance was commemorated by an anniversary feast. The time was the fifth of August, “upon which,” proceeds the satirical historian, “Sir John Ramsay, for his good service in that preservation, was the principal guest, and so did the King grant him any boon he would ask that day. But he had such limitation made to his asking, as made his suit as unprofitable, as the action for which he asked it for was unserviceable to the King.”

Note VIII. p. 115. — BUCKINGHAM

Buckingham, who had a frankness in his high and irascible ambition, was always ready to bid defiance to those by whom he was thwarted or opposed. He aspired to be created Prince of Tipperary in Ireland, and Lord High Constable of England. Coventry, then Lord Keeper, opposed what seemed such an unreasonable extent of power as was annexed to the office of Constable. On this opposition, according to Sir Anthony Weldon, “the Duke peremptorily accosted Coventry, ‘Who made you Lord Keeper, Coventry?’ He replied, ‘The King.’ Buckingham replied, ‘It’s false; ’twas I did make you, and you shall know that I, who made you, can, and will, unmake you.’ Coventry thus answered him, ‘Did I conceive that I held my place by your favour, I would presently unmake myself, by rendering up the seals to his Majesty.’ Then Buckingham, in a scorn and fury, flung from him, saying, ‘You shall not keep it long;’ and surely, had not Felton prevented him, he had made good his word.”— WELDON’S Court of King James and Charles.


About this time the ancient customs arising from the long prevalence of chivalry, began to be grossly varied from the original purposes of the institution. None was more remarkable than the change which took place in the breeding and occupation of pages. This peculiar species of menial originally consisted of youths of noble birth, who, that they might be trained to the exercise of arms, were early removed from their paternal homes, where too much indulgence might have been expected, to be placed in the family of some prince or man of rank and military renown, where they served, as it were, an apprenticeship to the duties of chivalry and courtesy. Their education was severely moral, and pursued with great strictness in respect to useful exercises, and what were deemed elegant accomplishments. From being pages, they were advanced to the next gradation of squires; from squires, these candidates for the honours of knighthood were frequently made knights.

But in the sixteenth century the page had become, in many instances, a mere domestic, who sometimes, by the splendour of his address and appearance, was expected to make up in show for the absence of a whole band of retainers with swords and bucklers. We have Sir John’s authority when he cashiers part of his train.

“Falstaff will learn the humour of the age,

French thrift, you rogues, myself and skirted page.”

Jonson, in a high tone of moral indignation, thus reprobated the change. The Host of the New Inn replies to Lord Lovel, who asks to have his son for a page, that he would, with his own hands hang him, sooner

“Than damn him to this desperate course of life.

LOVEL. Call you that desperate, which, by a line

Of institution, from our ancestors

Hath been derived down to us, and received

In a succession, for the noblest way

Of brushing up our youth, in letters, arms,

Fair mien, discourses civil, exercise,

And all the blazon of a gentleman?

Where can he learn to vault, to ride, to fence,

To move his body gracefully, to speak

The language pure, or to turn his mind

Or manners more to the harmony of nature,

Than in these nurseries of nobility?

HOST. Ay, that was when the nursery’s self was noble,

And only virtue made it, not the market,

That titles were not vended at the drum

And common outcry; goodness gave the greatness,

And greatness worship; every house became

An academy, and those parts

We see departed in the practice now

Quite from the institution.

LOVEL. Why do you say so,

Or think so enviously? do they not still

Learn us the Centaur’s skill, the art of Thrace,

To ride? or Pollux’ mystery, to fence?

The Pyrrhick gestures, both to stand and spring

In armour; to be active for the wars;

To study figures, numbers and proportions,

May yield them great in counsels and the art;

To make their English sweet upon their tongue?

As reverend Chaucer says.

HOST. Sir, you mistake;

To play Sir Pandarus, my copy hath it,

And carry messages to Madam Cressid;

Instead of backing the brave steed o’mornings.

To kiss the chambermaid, and for a leap

O’ the vaulting horse, to ply the vaulting house;

For exercise of arms a bale of dice,

And two or three packs of cards to show the cheat

And nimbleness of hand; mistake a cloak

From my lord’s back, and pawn it; ease his pockets

Of a superfluous watch, or geld a jewel

Of an odd stone or so; twinge three or four buttons

From off my lady’s gown: These are the arts,

Or seven liberal deadly sciences,

Of pagery, or rather paganism,

As the tides run; to which, if he apply him,

He may, perhaps, take a degree at Tyburn,

A year the earlier come to read a lecture

Upon Aquinas, at Saint Thomas-a-Watering’s

And so go forth a laureate in hemp-circle.”

The New Inn, Act I.

Note X. p. 135. — LORD HENRY HOWARD

Lord Henry Howard was the second son of the poetical Earl of Surrey, and possessed considerable parts and learning. He wrote, in the year 1583, a book called, A Defensative against the Poison of supposed Prophecies. He gained the favour of Queen Elizabeth, by having, he says, directed his battery against a sect of prophets and pretended soothsayers, whom he accounted infesti regibus, as he expresses it. In the last years of the Queen, he became James’s most ardent partisan, and conducted with great pedantry, but much intrigue, the correspondence betwixt the Scottish King and the younger Cecil. Upon James’s accession, he was created Earl of Northampton, and Lord Privy Seal. According to De Beaumont the French Ambassador, Lord Henry Howard, was one of the greatest flatterers and calumniators that ever lived.


Edinburgh appears to have been one of the most disorderly towns in Europe, during the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century. The Diary of the honest citizen Birrel, repeatedly records such incidents as the following: “The 24 of November 1567, at two afternoon, the Laird of Airth and the Laird of Weems met on the High Gate of Edinburgh, and they and their followers fought a very bloody skirmish, where there were many hurt on both sides with shot of pistol.” These skirmishes also took place in London itself. In Shadwell’s play of The Scowrers, an old rake thus boasts of his early exploits:—“I knew the Hectors, and before them the Muns, and the Tityretu’s; they were brave fellows indeed! In these days, a man could not go from the Rose Garden to the Piazza once, but he must venture his life twice, my dear Sir Willie.” But it appears that the affrays, which, in the Scottish capital, arose out of hereditary quarrels and ancient feuds, were in London the growth of the licentiousness and arrogance of young debauchees.

Note XII. p. 144. — FRENCH COOKERY

The exertion of French ingenuity mentioned in the text is noticed by some authorities of the period; the siege of Leith was also distinguished by the protracted obstinacy of the besieged, in which was displayed all that the age possessed of defensive war, so that Brantome records that those who witnessed this siege, had, from that very circumstance, a degree of consequence yielded to their persons and opinions. He tells a story of Strozzi himself, from which it appears that his jests lay a good deal in the line of the cuisine. He caused a mule to be stolen from one Brusquet, on whom he wished to play a trick, and served up the flesh of that unclean animal so well disguised, that it passed with Brusquet for venison.

Note XIII. p. 145. — CUCKOO’S NEST

The quarrel in this chapter between the pretended captain and the citizen of London, is taken from a burlesque poem called The Counter Scuffle, that is, the Scuffle in the Prison at Wood street, so called. It is a piece of low humour, which had at the time very considerable vogue. The prisoners, it seems, had fallen into a dispute amongst themselves “which calling was of most repute,” and a lawyer put in his claim to be most highly considered. The man of war repelled his pretence with much arrogance.

“‘Wer’t not for us, thou swad,’ quoth he,

‘Where wouldst thou fay to get a fee?

But to defend such things as thee

’Tis pity;

For such as you esteem us least,

Who ever have been ready prest

To guard you and your cuckoo’s nest,

The City’”

The offence is no sooner given than it is caught up by a gallant citizen, a goldsmith, named Ellis.

“‘Of London city I am free,

And there I first my wife did see,

And for that very cause,’ said he,

‘I love it.

And he that calls it cuckoo’s nest,

Except he say he speaks in jest,

He is a villain and a beast —

‘I’ll prove it!

For though I am a man of trade,

And free of London city made,

Yet can I use gun, bill, and blade,

In battle.

And citizens, if need require,

Themselves can force the foe retire,

Whatever this low country squire

May prattle.’”

The dispute terminates in the scuffle, which is the subject of the poem. The whole may be found in the second edition of Dryden’s Miscellany, 12mo, vol. iii. 1716.

Note XIV. p. 150. — BURBAGE

Burbage, whom Camden terms another Roscius, was probably the original representative of Richard III., and seems to have been early almost identified with his prototype. Bishop Corbet, in his Iter Boreale, tells us that mine host of Market Bosworth was full of ale and history.

“Hear him, See you yon wood? there Richard lay

With his whole army; look the other way,

And lo, where Richmond, in a field of gorse,

Encamp’d himself in might and all his force.

Upon this hill they met. Why, he could tell

The inch where Richmond stood, where Richard fell;

Besides, what of his knowledge he could say,

He had authentic notice from the play,

Which I might guess by’s mustering up the ghosts

And policies not incident to hosts;

But chiefly by that one perspicuous thing,

Where he mistook a player for a king,

For when he would have said, that Richard died,

And call’d, a horse! a horse! he Burbage cried.”

RICHARD CORBET’S Poems, Edition 1815, p. 193.


This is the Highland patronymic of the late gallant Chief of Glengarry. The allusion in the text is to an unnecessary alarm taken by some lady, at the ceremonial of the coronation of George IV., at the sight of the pistols which the Chief wore as a part of his Highland dress. The circumstance produced some confusion, which was talked of at the time. All who knew Glengarry (and the author knew him well) were aware that his principles were of devoted loyalty to the person of his sovereign.


Roger Coke, in his Detection of the Court and State of England, London, 1697, p.70, observes of James I., “The king was excessively addicted to hunting, and drinking, not ordinary French and Spanish wines, but strong Greek wines, and thought he would compound his hunting with these wines; and to that purpose, he was attended by a special officer, who was, as much as he could be, always at hand to fill the King’s cup in hunting when he called for it. I have heard my father say, that, hunting with the King, after the King had drank of the wine, he also drank of it; and though he was young, and of a healthful disposition, it so deranged his head that it spoiled his pleasure and disordered him for three days after. Whether it was from drinking these wines, or from some other cause, the King became so lazy and so unwieldy, that he was trussed on horseback, and as he was set, so would he ride, without stirring himself in the saddle; nay, when his hat was set upon his head he would not take the trouble to alter it, but it sate as it was put on.”

The trussing, for which the demipique saddle of the day afforded particular facility, is alluded to in the text; and the author, among other nickcnacks of antiquity, possesses a leathern flask, like those carried by sportsmen, which is labelled, “King James’s Hunting Bottle,” with what authenticity is uncertain. Coke seems to have exaggerated the King’s taste for the bottle. Welldon says James was not intemperate in his drinking; “However, in his old age, Buckingham’s jovial suppers, when he had any turn to do with him, made him sometimes overtaken, which he would the next day remember, and repent with tears. It is true he drank very often, which was rather out of a custom than any delight; and his drinks were of that kind for strength, as Frontiniack, Canary, high country wine, tent wine, and Scottish ale, that had he not had a very strong brain, he might have been daily overtaken, though he seldom drank at any one time above four spoonfuls, many times not above one or two.”— Secret History of King James, vol. ii., p. 3. Edin. 1811.


I cannot here omit mentioning, that a painting of the old school is in existence, having a remarkable resemblance to the scene described in the foregoing chapter, although it be nevertheless true that the similarity is in all respects casual, and that the author knew not of the existence of the painting till it was sold, amongst others, with the following description attached to it in a well-drawn-up catalogue:

”Scene as represented in the Fortunes of Nigel, by Frederigo Zucchero, the King’s painter.

“This extraordinary picture, which, independent of its pictorial merit, has been esteemed a great literary curiosity, represents most faithfully the meeting, in Greenwich Park, between King James and Nigel Oliphaunt, as described in the Fortunes of Nigel, showing that the author must have taken the anecdote from authenticated facts. In the centre of the picture sits King James on horseback, very erect and stiffly. Between the King and Prince Charles, who is on the left of the picture, the Duke of Buckingham is represented riding a black horse, and pointing eagerly towards the culprit, Nigel Olifaunt, who is standing on the right side of the picture. He grasps with his right hand a gun, or crossbow, and looks angrily towards the King, who seems somewhat confused and alarmed. Behind Nigel, his servant is restraining two dogs which are barking fiercely. Nigel and his servant are both clothed in red, the livery of the Oliphaunt family in which, to this day, the town-officers of Perth are clothed, there being an old charter, granting to the Oliphaunt family, the privilege of dressing the public officers of Perth in their livery. The Duke of Buckingham is in all respects equal in magnificence of dress to the King or the Prince. The only difference that is marked between him and royalty is, that his head is uncovered. The King and the Prince wear their hats. In Letitia Aikin’s Memoirs of the Reign of King James, will be found a letter from Sir Thomas Howard to Lord L. Harrington, in which he recommends the latter to come to court, mentioning that his Majesty has spoken favourably of him. He then proceeds to give him some advice, by which he is likely to find favour in the King’s eyes. He tells him to wear a bushy ruff, well starched; and after various other directions as to his dress, he concludes, ‘but above all things fail not to praise the roan jennet whereon the King doth daily ride.’ In this picture King James is represented on the identical roan jennet. In the background of the picture are seen two or three suspicious-looking figures, as if watching the success of some plot. These may have been put in by the painter, to flatter the King, by making it be supposed that he had actually escaped, or successfully combated, some serious plot. The King is attended by a numerous band of courtiers and attendants, all of whom seem moving forward to arrest the defaulter. The painting of this picture is extremely good, but the drawing is very Gothic, and there is no attempt at the keeping of perspective. The picture is very dark and obscure, which considerably adds to the interest of the scene.”


The fears of James for his personal safety were often excited without serious grounds. On one occasion, having been induced to visit a coal-pit on the coast of Fife, he was conducted a little way under the sea, and brought to daylight again on a small island, or what was such at full tide, down which a shaft had been sunk. James, who conceived his life or liberty aimed at, when he found himself on an islet surrounded by the sea, instead of admiring, as his cicerone hoped, the unexpected change of scene, cried TREASON with all his might, and could not be pacified till he was rowed ashore. At Lockmaben he took an equally causeless alarm from a still slighter circumstance. Some vendisses, a fish peculiar to the Loch, were presented to the royal table as a delicacy; but the King, who was not familiar with their appearance, concluded they were poisoned, and broke up the banquet “with most admired disorder.”

Note XIX. p. 328. — TRAITOR’S GATE

Traitor’s Gate, which opens from the Tower of London to the Thames, was, as its name implies, that by which persons accused of state offences were conveyed to their prison. When the tide is making, and the ancient gate is beheld from within the buildings, it used to be a most striking part of the old fortress; but it is now much injured in appearance, being half built up with masonry to support a steam-engine, or something of that sort.


This execution, which so captivated the imagination of Sir Mungo Malagrowther, was really a striking one. The criminal, a furious and bigoted Puritan, had published a book in very violent terms against the match of Elizabeth with the Duke of Alencon, which he termed an union of a daughter of God with a son of antichrist. Queen Elizabeth was greatly incensed at the freedom assumed in this work, and caused the author Stubbs, with Page the publisher, and one Singleton the printer, to be tried on an act passed by Philip and Mary against the writers and dispersers of seditious publications. They were convicted, and although there was an opinion strongly entertained by the lawyers, that the act was only temporary, and expired with Queen Mary, Stubbs and Page received sentence to have their right hands struck off. They accordingly suffered the punishment, the wrist being divided by a cleaver driven through the joint by force of a mallet. The printer was pardoned. “I remember,” says the historian Camden, “being then present, that Stubbs, when his right hand was cut off, plucked off his hat with the left, and said, with a loud voice, ‘God save the Queen!’ The multitude standing about was deeply silent, either out of horror of this new and unwonted kind of punishment, or out of commiseration towards the man, as being of an honest and unblamable repute, or else out of hatred to the marriage, which most men presaged would be the overthrow of religion.”-CAMDBN’S Annals for the Year 1581.


The practical jest of Richie Moniplies going behind the arras to get an opportunity of teasing Heriot, was a pleasantry such as James might be supposed to approve of. It was customary for those who knew his humour to contrive jests of this kind for his amusement. The celebrated Archie Armstrong, and another jester called Drummond, mounted on other people’s backs, used to charge each other like knights in the tilt-yard, to the monarch’s great amusement. The following is an instance of the same kind, taken from Webster upon Witchcraft. The author is speaking of the faculty called ventriloquism.

But to make this more plain and certain, we shall add a story of a notable impostor, or ventriloquist, from the testimony of Mr. Ady, which we have had confirmed from the mouth of some courtiers, that both saw and knew him, and is this:— It hath been (saith he) credibly reported, that there was a man in the court of King James his days, that could act this imposture so lively, that he could call the King by name, and cause the King to look round about him, wondering who it was that called him, whereas he that called him stood before him in his presence, with his face towards him. But after this imposture was known, the King, in his merriment, would sometimes take occasionally this impostor to make sport upon some of his courtiers, as, for instance:—

“There was a knight belonging to the court, whom the King caused to come before him in his private room, (where no man was but the King, and this knight and the impostor,) and feigned some occasion of serious discourse with the knight; but when the King began to speak and the knight bending his attention to the King, suddenly there came a voice as out of another room, calling the knight by name, ‘Sir John, Sir John; come away, Sir John;’ at which the knight began to frown that any man should be unmannerly as to molest the King and him; and still listening to the King’s discourse, the voice came again, ‘Sir John, Sir John; come away and drink off your sack.’ At that Sir John began to swell with anger, and looked into the next room to see who it was that dared to call him so importunately, and could not find out who it was, and having chid with whomsoever he found, he returned again to the King. The King had no sooner begun to speak as formerly, but the voice came again, ‘Sir John, come away, your sack stayeth for you.’ At that Sir John began to stamp with madness, and looked out and returned several times to the King, but could not be quiet in his discourse with the King, because of the voice that so often troubled him, till the king had sported enough.”— WEBSTER on Witchcraft, p. 124.

Note XXII. p. 393. — LADY LAKE.

Whether out of a meddling propensity common to all who have a gossiping disposition, or from the love of justice, which ought to make part of a prince’s character, James was very fond of enquiring personally into the causes celebres which occurred during his reign. In the imposture of the Boy of Bilson, who pretended to be possessed, and of one Richard Haydock, a poor scholar, who pretended to preach during his sleep, the King, to use the historian Wilson’s expression, took delight in sounding with the line of his understanding, the depths of these brutish impositions, and in doing so, showed the acuteness with which he was endowed by Nature. Lady Lake’s story consisted in a clamorous complaint against the Countess of Exeter, whom she accused of a purpose to put to death Lady Lake herself, and her daughter, Lady Ross, the wife of the Countess’s own son-in-law, Lord Ross; and a forged letter was produced, in which Lady Exeter was made to acknowledge such a purpose. The account given of the occasion of obtaining this letter, was, that it had been written by the Countess at Wimbledon, in presence of Lady Lake and her daughter, Lady Ross, being designed to procure their forgiveness for her mischievous intention. The King remained still unsatisfied, the writing, in his opinion, bearing some marks of forgery. Lady Lake and her daughter then alleged, that, besides their own attestation, and that of a confidential domestic, named Diego, in whose presence Lady Exeter had written the confession, their story might also be supported by the oath of their waiting-maid, who had been placed behind the hangings at the time the letter was written, and heard the Countess of Exeter read over the confession after she had signed it. Determined to be at the bottom of this accusation, James, while hunting one day near Wimbledon, the scene of the alleged confession, suddenly left his sport, and, galloping hastily to Wimbledon, in order to examine personally the room, discovered, from the size of the apartment, that the alleged conversation could not have taken place in the manner sworn to; and that the tapestry of the chamber, which had remained in the same state for thirty years, was too short by two feet, and, therefore, could not have concealed any one behind it. This matter was accounted an exclusive discovery of the King by his own spirit of shrewd investigation. The parties were punished in the Star Chamber by fine and imprisonment.

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