THE evil fortunes of Mary Stewart, who succeeded her father in the crown of Scotland, commenced at he very birth, and could scarce be considered as ceasing during the whole period of her life. Of all the unhappy princes of the line of Stewart, she was the most uniformly unfortunate. She was born 7th December, 1542, and, in a few days after, became, by her father’s death, the infant queen of a distracted country.
Two parties strove, as is usual in minorities, to obtain the supreme power. Mary of Guise, the Queen–Mother, with Cardinal David Beaton, were at the head of that which favoured the alliance with France. Hamilton, Earl of Arran, the nearest male relation of the infant Queen, was chief of the other, and possessed more extended popularity; for the nobles dreaded the bold and ambitious character of the cardinal, and the common people detested him, on account of his cruel persecution of the Reformers. The Earl of Arran, however, was but a fickle and timid man, with little, it would seem, to recommend him, besides his high birth. He was, however, preferred to the office of Regent.
Henry VIII is said to have expressed much concern for the death of his nephew, saying, there would never again reign a King in Scotland so nearly related to him, or so dear to him, and blaming, not the late James V., but his evil counsellors, for the unfortunate dispute between them. At the same time, Henry formed a plan of uniting the kingdoms of England and Scotland, by a marriage betwixt the infant Queen of Scotland and his only son, Edward VI, then a child. He took into his counsels the Earl of Glencairn and other Scottish nobles, made prisoners in the rout of Solway, and offered to set them at liberty, provided, on their return to Scotland, they would undertake to forward the match which he proposed. They were released accordingly, upon giving pledges that they would return in case the treaty should not be accomplished.
Archibald, Earl of Angus, with his brother, Sir George Douglas, took the same opportunity of returning into Scotland, after fifteen years’ exile. They had been indebted to Henry for support and protection during that long space of time. He had even admitted them to be members of his Privy Council, and by the countenance he afforded them, had given great offence to the late King James. When, therefore, the influence of the Douglasses, naturally attached to him by gratitude, was added to that of Glencairn and the others, who had been made prisoners at Solway, and to the general weight of the Protestants, favourable, of course, to an alliance with England, Henry must be considered as having a party in Scotland in every way favourable to his views.
But the impatient temper of the English monarch ruined his own scheme. He demanded the custody of the young Queen of Scotland till she should be of age to complete the marriage to be contracted by the present league, and he insisted that some of the strongest forts in the kingdom should be put into his hands. These proposals alarmed the national jealousy of the Scots, and the characteristic love of independence and liberty which we find that people have always displayed. The nation at large became persuaded that Henry VIII, under pretence of a union by marriage, nourished, like Edward I. in similar circumstances, the purpose of subduing the country. The exiled lords who had agreed to assist Henry’s views, could be of no use to him, in consequence of the extravagance of his propositions. They told Sir Ralph Sadler, the English ambassador, frankly, that the nation could not endure the surrender of the Queen’s person to Henry’s charge — that their own vassals would not take arms for them in such a cause — that the old women of Scotland, with their distaffs, nay, the very stones in the streets, would arise and fight against it.
Henry was with difficulty prevailed upon to defer the time for giving to him the custody of Queen Mary’s person, until she should be ten years old. But even this modified proposition excited the greatest jealousy; and Sir George Douglas, Henry’s chief advocate, only ventured to recommend acquiescence in the King’s proposal, as a means of gaining time. He told the Scottish nobles of a certain king, who was so fond of an ass, that he insisted his chief physician should teach the animal to speak, upon pain of being himself put to death. The physician consented to undertake the case, but gave the King to understand that it would be ten years before the operation of his medicines could take effect. The king permitted him to set to work accordingly. Now, one of the physician’s friends seeing him busy about the animal, expressed his wonder that so wise a man should undertake what was contrary to nature; to which the physician replied — “Do you not see I have gained ten years’ advantage? If I had refused the King’s orders, I must have been instantly put to death; but as it is, I have the advantage of a long delay, during which the king may die, the ass may die, or I may die myself. In either of the three cases, I am freed from my trouble.”—“Even so,” said Sir George Douglas, “if we agree to this treaty we avoid a bloody and destructive war, and have a long period before us, during which the King of England, his son Prince Edward, or the infant Queen Mary, may one of them die, so that the treaty will be broken off.” Moved by such reasons, a Parliament, which consisted almost entirely of the lords of the English party, consented to the match with England, and the Regent Arran also agreed to it.
But while one part of the Scottish nobles adopted the solution to treat with King Henry on his own terms, the Queen–Mother and Cardinal Beaton were at the head of another and still more numerous faction, who adhered to the old religion, and to the ancient alliance with France, and were, of course, directly opposed to the English match. The fickle temper of the Regent contributed to break off the treaty which he had subscribed. Within a fortnight after he had ratified the conditions of the match with England, he reconciled himself to the cardinal and Queen–Mother, and joined in putting a stop to the proposed marriage.
The English King, if he could have been watchful and patient, might perhaps have brought the measure, which was alike important to both countries, once more to bear. But Henry, incensed at the Regent’s double dealing, determined for immediate war. He sent a fleet and army into the frith of Forth, which landed, and, finding no opposition, burnt the capital of Scotland, and its seaport, and plundered the country around. Sir Ralph Evers, and Sir Brian Latoun, were, at the same time, employed in making inroads on the Border, which were of the fiercest and most wasteful description. The account of the ravage is tremendous. In one foray they numbered 192 towers, or houses of defence, burnt or razed; 403 Scots slain, and 816 made prisoners; 10,386 cattle, 12,492 sheep, 1296 horses, and 850 bolls of corn, driven away as spoil. Another list gives an account of the destruction of seven monasteries, or religious houses; sixteen castles or towers; five market-towns, two hundred and forty-three villages, thirteen mills, and three hospitals, all pulled down or burnt.
The exploits of the English leaders might gratify Henry’s resentment, but they greatly injured his interest in Scotland, for the whole kingdom became united to repel the invaders; and even those who liked the proposed match with England best, were, to use an expression of the time, disgusted with so rough a mode of wooing. The Douglasses themselves, bound to Henry by so many ties, were obliged, on seeing the distress and devastation of the country, to take part in the war against him, and soon found an opportunity to do so.
It seems Henry had conferred upon his two successful leaders, Evers and Latoun, all the lands which they had conquered, or should be able to conquer upon the Border, and, in particular, the fine countries of Merse and Teviotdale. “I will write the instrument of possession upon their own bodies, with sharp pens, and in blood-red ink,” said the Earl of Angus, “because they destroyed the tombs of my ancestors at the abbey of Melrose.” He accordingly urged Arran, the regent, or governor, as he was called, to move towards the frontiers, to protect them. Arran was with difficulty prevailed on to advance southward to Melrose, with scarce so many as five hundred men in his company. The English leaders were lying at Jedburgh with five thousand men. Three thousand of these were many Scottish clans who had taken the red cross, and submitted themselves to the dominion of England. With these forces Evers and Latoun made a sudden march, to surprise the governor and his handful of men; but they failed, for the Scots retreated beyond the Tweed, to the hills near Galashiels.
The English then prepared to retire to Jedburgh, and the governor, acting by Angus’s advice, followed them, and watched their motions. In the mean time, succours began to come in to the Scottish army. A bold young man, Norman Leslie, the master of Rothes, was the first to come up with three hundred horses, from Fife, gallantly armed. Afterwards the Lord Buccleuch joined them with a few of his clan, who arrived at full speed, and assured them that the rest of the Scotts would be presently on the field. This Border chieftain was a man of great military sagacity, and knew the ground well. He advised the governor and Angus to draw up their men at the foot of a small eminence, and to send their horses to the rear. The English, seeing the horses of the Scots ascend the hill, concluded they were in flight, and turned hastily back to attack them, hurrying in confusion, as to an assured conquest. Thus they came in front of the Scottish army, who were closely and firmly drawn up, at the very moment when they themselves were in confusion from their hasty advance. As the Scots began to charge, the Earl of Angus, seeing a heron arise out of the marsh, cried out, “Oh, that O had my white hawk here, that we might all join battle at once!” The English, surprised and out of breath — (and having besides, the wind in their face, which blew the smoke of the gunpowder — and the sun in their eyes, were completely defeated, and compelled to take to flight.) The Scottish Borderers, who had joined them during their prosperity, perceiving their own countrymen to be victorious, threw away their red crosses (the distinction which they had assumed as subjects of England), and fell upon the English, for the purpose of helping those against whom they had come to the field, and making amends for their desertion of the Scottish cause. These renegades made a pitiful slaughter, and the Scots in general, provoked, probably, by the late ravages of the English, showed themselves so cruel to the vanquished, that they seemed to deserve the severe blow which the nation soon afterwards received. Tradition says, that a beautiful young maiden, called Lillyard, followed her lover from the little village of Maxton, and when she saw him fall in battle, rushed herself into the heat of the fight, and was killed, after slaying several of the English. From this female, they call the field of battle Lillyard’s Edge to this day.
This battle was fought in 1545. A thousand Englishmen were killed, together with their two leaders, of whom Evers was buried in the abbey of Melrose, which he had repeatedly plundered, and finally burnt. A great many prisoners were made. One was Thomas Read, an alderman of the city of London, whom we are surprised to meet with in such a predicament. This worthy citizen had, we are informed, refused to pay his share of a benevolence, as it was called, that is, of a sum of money, which Henry demanded from the citizens of London. It seems that though the power of the King could not throw the alderman into jail until he paid the money, yet he could force him to serve as a soldier; and there is a letter to Lord Evers, directing that Read should be subjected to all the rigours and hardships of the service, that he might know what soldiers suffered when in the field, and be more ready another time to assist the King with money to pay them. It is to be supposed that the alderman had a large ransom to pay to the Scotsman who had the good luck to get him for a prisoner.
Henry VIII was extremely offended at this defeat of Lillyard’s Edge, or Ancram-moor, as it is frequently called, and vented his displeasure in menaces against the Earl of Angus, notwithstanding their connexion by the earl’s marriage with the King’s sister. Angus treated the threats of the English monarch with contempt. “Is our royal brother-in-law,” he said, “angry with me for being a good Scotsman, and for revenging upon Ralph Evers the destruction of my ancestors’ tombs at Melrose? They were better men than Evers, and I could in honour do no less. And will my royal brother-in-law take my life for that? Little does King Henry know the skirts of Cairntable” (a mountain near Douglas castle); “I can keep myself there against all his English host.”
The truth is, that at no period of their history had the Scottish people ever been more attached to France, and more alienated from England, than now; the proposed match between the young Queen and the English Prince of Wales being generally regarded with an abhorrence, which was chiefly owing to the vindictive and furious manner in which Henry conducted the war. Of all the Scottish nobles who had originally belonged to the English party, Lennox alone continued friendly to Henry; and he being obliged to fly into England, the King caused him to marry Lady Margaret Douglas, daughter of his sister Margaret, by her second husband the Earl of Angus, and of course the King’s niece. Their son was the unhappy Henry Lord Darnley, of whom we shall have much to say hereafter.
•@The King of France now sent a powerful body of auxiliary troops to the assistance of the Scots, besides considerable supplies of money, which enabled them to retaliate the English ravages, so that the Borders on both sides were fearfully wasted. A peace at length, in June 1546, ended a war in which both countries suffered severely, without either attaining any decisive advantage. •@The Scottish affairs were now managed almost entirely by Cardinal Beaton, a statesman, as we before observed, of great abilities, but a bigoted Catholic, and a man of a severe and cruel temper. He had gained entire influence over the Regent Arran, and had prevailed upon that fickle nobleman to abandon the Protestant doctrines, reconcile himself to the church of Rome, and consent to the persecution of the heretics, as the Protestants were still called. Many cruelties were exercised; but that which excited public feeling to the highest degree, was the barbarous death of George Wishart.
This martyr to the cause of Reformation was a man of honourable birth, great wisdom and eloquence, and of primitive piety. He preached the doctrines of the Reformed religion with zeal and with success, and was for some time protected against the efforts of the vengeful Catholics by the barons who had become converts to the Protestant faith. At length, however, he fell into the hands of the cardinal, being surrendered to him by Lord Bothwell, and was conveyed to the castle of St Andrews, a strong fortress and palace belonging to the cardinal as archbishop, and there thrown into a dungeon. Wishart was then brought to a public trial, for heresy, before the Spiritual Court, where the cardinal presided. He was accused of preaching heretical doctrine, by two priests, called Lauder and Oliphant, whose outrageous violence was strongly contrasted with the patience and presence of mind shown by the prisoner. He appealed to the authority of the Bible against that of the church of Rome; but his judges were little disposed to listen to his arguments, and he was condemned to be burnt alive. The place of execution was opposite to the stately castle of the cardinal, and Beaton himself sat upon the walls, which were hung with tapestry, to behold the death of his heretical prisoner. The spot was also carefully chosen, that the smoke of the pile might be seen as far as possible, to spread the greater terror. Wishart was then brought out, and fastened to a stake with iron chains. He was clad in a buckram garment, and several bags of gunpowder were tied round his body, to hasten the operation of the fire. A quantity of fagots were disposed around the pile. While he stood in expectation of his cruel death, he cast his eyes towards his enemy the cardinal, as he sat on the battlements of the castle enjoying the dreadful scene.
“Captain,” he said to him who commanded the guard, “may God forgive yonder man, who lies so proudly on the wall — within a few days he shall be seen lying there in as much shame as he now shows pomp and vanity.”
The pile was then fired, the powder exploded the flames arose, and Wishart was dismissed by a painful death to a blessed immortality in the next world.
Perhaps the last words of Wishart, which seemed to contain a prophetic spirit, incited some men to revenge his death. At any rate, the burning of that excellent person greatly increased the public detestation against the cardinal, and a daring man stood forth to gratify the general desire, by putting him to death. This was Norman Leslie, called the Master of Rothes, the same who led the men of Fife at the battle of Ancram-moor. It appears, that besides his share of the common hatred to the cardinal as a persecutor, he had some private feud or cause of quarrel with him. With no more than sixteen men, Leslie undertook to assault the cardinal in his own castle, amongst his numerous guards and domestics. It chanced that, as many workmen were still employed in labouring upon the fortifications of the castle, the wicket of the castle-gate was open early in the morning, to admit them to their work. The conspirators took advantage of this, and obtained possession of the entrance. Having thus gained admittance, they seized upon the domestics of the cardinal, and turned them one by one out of the castle, then hastened to the cardinal’s chamber, who had fastened the door. He refused them entrance, until they threatened to apply fire, when, learning that Norman Leslie was without, the despairing prelate at length undid the door, and asked for mercy. Melville, one of the conspirators, told him he should only have such mercy as he had extended to George Wishart, and the other servants of God, who had been slain by his orders. He then, with his sword pointed to his breast, bid the cardinal say his prayers to God, for his last hour was come. The conspirators now proceeded to stab their victim, and afterwards dragged the dead body to the walls, to show it to the citizens of St Andrews, his clients and dependents, who came in fury to demand what had become of their bishop. Thus his dead body really came to lie with open shame upon the very battlements of his own castle, where he had sat in triumph to behold Wishart’s execution.
Many persons who disapproved of this most unjustifiable action, were yet glad that this proud cardinal, who had sold the country in some measure to France, was at length removed. Some individuals, who assuredly would not have assisted in the slaughter, joined those who had slain the cardinal, in the defence of the castle. The Regent hastened to besiege the place, which, supplied by England with money, engineers, and provisions, was able to resist the Scottish army for five months. France, however, sent to Scotland a fleet and an army, with engineers better acquainted with the art of attacking strong places than those of the Scottish nation. The castle was, therefore, surrendered. The principal defenders of it were sent to France, and there for some time employed as galley-slaves. The common people made a song upon the event, of which the burden was —
“Priests, content ye now,
And, priests, content ye now,
Since Norman and his company
Have fill’d the galleys fou.”
Shortly after this tragical incident, King Henry VIII of England died. But his impatient and angry spirit continued to influence the counsels of the nation under the Lord Protector Somerset, who resolved to take the same violent measures to compel the Scots to give their young Queen in marriage to Edward VI., of which Henry had set an example. A chosen and well-disciplined army of eighteen thousand men, well supplied with all necessaries, and supported by an armed fleet, invaded Scotland on the eastern frontier. The Scots assembled a force of almost double the number of the invaders, but, as usual, unaccustomed to act in union together, or to follow the commands of a single general. Nevertheless, the Scottish leaders displayed at the commencement of the campaign some military skill. They posted their army behind the river Esk, near Musselburgh, a village about six miles from Edinburgh, and there seemed determined to await the advance of the English.
The Duke of Somerset, Regent of England, and general of the invading army, was now in a state of difficulty. The Scots were too strongly posted to be attached with hope of success, and it is probable the English must have retreated with dishonour, had not their enemies, in one of those fits of impatience which caused so many national calamities, abandoned their advantageous position.
Confiding in the numbers of his army, the Scottish Regent (Earl of Arran) crossed the Esk, and thus gave the English the advantage of the ground, they being drawn up on the top of a sloping eminence. The Scots formed in their usual order, a close phalanx. They were armed with broadswords of an admirable form and temper, and a coarse handkerchief was worn in double and triple folds round each man’s neck, — “not for cold,” says an old historian, “but for cutting.” Especially, each man carried a spear eighteen feet long. When drawn up, they stood close together, the first rank kneeling on one knee, and pointing their spears towards the enemy. The ranks immediately behind stooped a little, and the others stood upright, presenting their lances over the heads of their comrades, and holding them with the but-end placed against their foot, the point opposed to the breast of the enemy. So that the Scottish ranks were so completely defended by the close order in which they stood, and by the length of their lances, that to charge them seemed to be as rash as to oppose your bare hand to a hedgehog’s bristles.
The battle began by the English cavalry, under the Lord Gray, rushing upon the close array of the Scots. They stood fast, menacing the horsemen with their pikes, and calling, “Come on, ye heretics!” The charge was dreadful; but as the spears of the English horse were much shorter than those of the Scottish infantry, they had greatly the worst of the encounter, and were beaten off with the loss of many men. The Duke of Somerset commanded Lord Gray to renew the charge, but Gray replied, he might as well bid him charge a castle-wall. By the advice of the Earl of Warwick, a body of archers and musketeers was employed instead of horsemen. The thick order of the Scots exposed them to insufferable loss from the missiles now employed against them, so that the Earl of Angus, who commanded the vanguard, made an oblique movement to avoid the shot; but the main body of the Scots unhappily mistook this movement for a flight, and were thrown into confusion. The van then fled also, and the English horse returning to the attack, and their infantry pressing forward, the victory was gained with very little trouble. The Scots attempted no farther resistance, and the slaughter was very great, because the river Esk lay between the fugitives and any place of safety. Their loss was excessive. For more than five miles the fields were covered with the dead, and with the spears, shields, and swords, which the flying soldiers had cast away, that they might run the faster. The day was equally disgraceful and disastrous; so that the field of Pinkie, as it was the last great defeat which the Scots received from the English, was also one of the most calamitous. It was fought on 10th September, 1547.
It seemed to be decreed in those unhappy national wars, that the English should often be able to win great victories over the Scots, but that they should never derive any permanent advantage from their successes. The battle of Pinkie, far from paving the way to a marriage between Queen Mary and Edward VI, which was the object of Somerset’s expedition, irritated and alarmed the Scots to such a degree, that they resolved to prevent the possibility of such a union, by marrying their young mistress with the Dauphin, that is, the eldest son of the King of France, and sending her to be bred up at the French court. A hasty assent of the Scottish Parliament was obtained to this, partly by the influence of gold, partly by the appearance of the French soldiers, partly, according to the reformer Knox, by the menaces of the Lord of Buccleuch, whom he describes as “a bloody man, who swore, with many deadly oaths, that they who would not consent should do what they would like worse.”
By the match with France the great object of the English government was rendered unattainable: But the Scots had little occasion for triumph. The union with France, which they so hastily and rashly adopted, brought a new and long series of ruinous consequences upon the country.
Scotland, however, enjoyed the immediate advantages of a considerable auxiliary force of French soldiers, under an officer named D’Esse, who rendered material assistance in recovering several forts and castles which had fallen into the hands of the English after the battle of Pinkie, and in which they had left garrisons. The presence of these armed strangers gave great facilities for carrying into accomplishment the treaty with France. The Regent was gratified by the Dukedom of Chatelherault, conferred on him by the French King, with a considerable pension, in order to induce him to consent to the match. The young Queen was embarked on board the French galleys in July 1548, accompanied by four young ladies of quality of her own age, destined to be her play-fellows in childhood, and her companions when she grew up. They all bore the same name with their mistress, and were called the Queen’s Maries.
The infant Queen being thus transferred to France, her mother, Mary of Guise, the widow of James V., had the address to get herself placed at the head of affairs in Scotland. The Duke of Chatelherault, as we must now term the Earl of Arran, always flexible in his disposition, was prevailed upon to resign the office of Regent, which was occupied by the Queen Dowager, who displayed a considerable degree of wisdom and caution in the administration of the kingdom. Most men wondered at the facility with which the Duke of Chatelherault, himself so near in relation to the throne, had given place to Mary of Guise; but none was so much offended as the duke’s natural brother, who had succeeded Beaton as archbishop of St Andrews. He exclaimed with open indecency against the mean spirit of his brother, who had thus given away the power of Regent, when there was but a “squalling girl” betwixt him and the crown.
The Queen Regent, thus placed in authority, endeavoured to secure herself by diminishing the power of the Scottish nobles, and increasing that of the crown. For this purpose, she proposed that a tax should be levied on the country at large, to pay hired soldiers to fight, instead of trusting the defence of the country to the noblemen and their retainers. This proposal was exceedingly ill received by the Scottish Parliament. “We will fight for our families and our country,” they said, “better than any hirelings can do — Our fathers did so, and we will follow their example.” The Earl of Angus being checked for coming to Parliament with a thousand horse, contrary to a proclamation of the Queen Regent, that none should travel with more than their usual household train, answered jestingly, “That the knaves would not leave him; and that he would be obliged to the Queen, if she could put him on the way of being rid of them, for they consumed his beef and his ale.” She had equally bad success, when she endeavoured to persuade the earl to give her up his strong castle of Tantallon, under pretence of putting a garrison there to defend it against the English. At first he answered indirectly, as if he spoke to a hawk which he held on his wrist, and was feeding at the time, “The devil,” said he, “is in the greedy gled [kite!] Will she never be full?” The Queen, not choosing to take this hint, continued to urge her request about the garrison. “The castle, madam,” he replied, “is yours at command; but, by St Bride of Douglas, I must be the captain, and I will keep it for you as well as any one you will put into it.” The other nobles held similar opinions to those of Angus, and would by no means yield to the proposal of levying any hired troops, who, as they feared, might be employed at the pleasure of the kingdom.
The prevalence of the Protestant doctrines in Scotland strengthened the Scottish nobles in their disposition to make a stand against the Queen Regent’s desire to augment her power. Many great nobles, and a still greater proportion of the smaller barons, had embraced the Reformed opinions; and the preaching of John Knox, a man of great courage, zeal, and talents, made converts daily from the Catholic faith.
The Queen Regent, though herself a zealous Catholic, had for some time tolerated, and even encouraged, the Protestant party, because they supported her interest against that of the Hamiltons; but a course of politics had been adopted in France, by her brothers of the House of Guise, which occasioned her to change her conduct in this respect.
You may remember, that Edward VI of England succeeded by his father Henry. He adopted the Protestant faith, and completed the Reformation which his father began. But he died early, and was succeeded by his sister Mary of England, daughter of Henry VIII by his first wife, Catherine of Arragon, whom he divorced under pretext of scruples of conscience. This Mary endeavoured to bring back the Catholic religion, and enforced the laws against heresy with the utmost rigour. Many persons were burnt in her reign, and hence she has been called the Bloody Queen Mary. She died, however, after a short and unhappy reign, and her sister Elizabeth ascended the throne, with the general assent of all the people of England. The Catholics of foreign countries, however, and particularly those of France, objected to Elizabeth’s title to the crown. Elizabeth was Henry’s daughter by his second wife, Anne Bullen. Now, as the Pope had never consented either to the divorce of Queen Catherine, or to the marriage of Anne Bullen, the Catholic urged, that Elizabeth must be considered as illegitimate, and as having, therefore, no lawful right to succeed to the throne, which, as Henry VIII had no other child, must, they contended, descend upon Queen Mary of Scotland, as the grand-daughter of Margaret, Henry’s sister, wife of James IV. of Scotland, and the next lawful heir, according to their argument, to her deceased grand-uncle.
The court of France, not considering that the English themselves were to be held the best judges of the title of their own Queen, resolved, in an evil hour, to put forward this claim of the Scottish Queen to the English crown. Money was coined, and plate wrought, in which Mary, with her husband Francis the Dauphin, assumed the style, title, and armorial bearings of England, as well as Scotland; and thus laid the first foundation for that deadly hatred between Elizabeth and Mary, which, as you will hear by and by, led to such fatal consequences.
Queen Elizabeth, finding France was disposed to challenge her title to the crown of England, prepared to support it with all the bravery and wisdom of her character. Her first labour was to reestablish the Reformed religion upon the same footing that Edward VI. had assigned to it, and to destroy the Roman Catholic establishments, which her predecessor Mary had endeavoured to replace. As the Catholics of France and Scotland were her natural enemies, and attempted to set up the right of Queen Mary as preferable to her own, so she was sure to find friends in the Protestants of Scotland, who could not fail to entertain respect, and even affection, for a Princess, who was justly regarded as the protectress of the Protestant cause throughout all Europe. When, therefore, these changes took place in England, the Queen Regent, at the instigation of her brothers of the House of Guise, began once more to persecute the Protestants in Scotland; while their leaders turned their eyes to Elizabeth for protection, counsel, and assistance; all of which she was easily disposed to render to a party whose cause rested on the same grounds with her own. Thus, while France made a vain pretence of claiming the kingdom of England in the name of Mary, and appealed for assistance to the English Catholics, Elizabeth far more effectually increased the internal dissensions of Scotland, by espousing the cause of the Protestants of that country.
These Scottish Protestants no longer consisted solely of a few studious or reflecting men, whose indulgence in speculation had led them to adopt peculiar opinions in religion, and who could be dragged before the spiritual courts, fined, imprisoned, plundered, banished, or burnt, at pleasure. The Reformed cause had now been adopted by many of the principal nobility; and being the cause, at once, of rational religion and legitimate freedom, it was generally embraced by those who were most distinguished for wisdom and public spirit.
Among the converts to the Protestant faith, was a natural son of the late King James V., who, being designed for the Church, was at this time called Lord James Stewart, the Prior of St Andrews, but was afterwards better known by the title of the Earl of Murray. He was a young nobleman of great parts, brave and skilful in war, and in peace a lover of justice, and a friend to the liberties of his country. His wisdom, good moral conduct, and the zeal he expressed for the reformed religion, occasioned his being the most active person amongst the Lords of the Congregation, as the leaders of the Protestant party were mow called.
The Queen Regent, more in compliance with the wishes of her brothers than he own inclination, which was gentle and moderate, began the quarrel by commanding the Protestant preachers to be summoned to a court of justice at Stirling, on 10th May, 1559; but such a concourse of friends and favourers attended them, that the Queen was glad to put a stop to the trial, on condition that they should not enter the town. Yet she broke this promise, and had them proclaimed outlaws for not appearing, although they had been stopped by her own command. Both parties then prepared for hostilities; and an incident happened, which heightened their animosity, while it gave to the course of the Reformation a peculiar colour of zealous passion.
The Protestants had made their headquarters at Perth, where they had already commenced the public exercise of their religion. John Knox, whose eloquence gave him great influence with the people, had pronounced a vehement sermon against the sin of idolatry, in which he did not spare those reproached which the Queen Regent deserved for her late breach of faith. When his discourse was finished, and while the minds of the hearers were still agitated by its effects, a friar produced a little glass case, or tabernacle, containing the images of saints, which he required the bystanders to worship. A boy who was present exclaimed, “That was gross and sinful idolatry!” The priest, as incautious in his passion as ill-timed in his devotion, struck the boy a blow; and the lad, in revenge, threw a stone, which broke one of the images. Immediately all the people began to cast stones, not only at the images, but at the fine painted windows, and, finally, pulled down the altars, defaced the ornaments of the church, and nearly destroyed the whole building.
The multitude next resolved to attack the splendid convent of the Carthusians. The prior had prepared for defence his garrison, consisting of the Highland tenants belonging to some lands which the convent possessed in the district of Athole. These men were determined to make the most of the occasion, and demanded of the prior, that since they were asked to expose their lives for the good of the Church, they should be assured, that if they were killed, their families should retain possession of the lands which they themselves enjoyed. The prior impolitically refused their request. They next demanded refreshments and good liquor, to encourage them to fight. But nothing was served out to them by the sordid churchman, excepting salted salmon and thin drink; so that they had neither heart nor will to fight when it came to the push, and made little defence against the multitude, by whom the stately convent was entirely destroyed.
The example of the Reformers in Perth was followed in St Andrews and other places; and we have to regret that many beautiful buildings fell a sacrifice to the fury of the lower orders, and were either totally destroyed, or reduced to piles of shapeless ruins.
The Reformers of the better class did not countenance these extremities, although the common people had some reason for the line of violence they pursued, besides their own natural inclination to tumultuary proceedings. One great point in which the Catholics and Protestants differed was, that the former reckoned the churches as places hallowed and sacred in their own character, which it was a highly meritorious duty to ornament and adorn with every species of studied beauty of architecture. The Scottish Protestants, on the contrary, regarded them as mere buildings of stone and lime, having no especial claim to respect when the divine service was finished. The defacing, therefore, and even destroying, the splendid Catholic churches, seemed to the early Reformers the readiest mode of testifying their zeal against the superstitions of Popery. There was a degree of policy in pulling down the abbeys and monasteries, with the cells and lodgings made for the accommodation of the monks. “The true way to banish the rooks,” said John Knox, “is to pull down their nests, and the rooks will fly off.” But this maxim did not apply to the buildings used for public worship. Respecting these at least, it would have been better to have followed the example of the citizens of Glasgow, who drew out in arms, when the multitude were about to destroy the High Church of that city, and, while they agreed with the more zealous in removing all the emblems of Popish worship, insisted that the building itself should remain uninjured, and be applied to the uses of a Protestant church.
On the whole, however, though many fine buildings were destroyed in Scotland, in the first fury of the Reformation, it is better that the country should have lost these ornaments, than they should have been preserved entire, with the retention of the corrupt and superstitious doctrines which had been taught in them.
The demolition of the churched and sacred buildings augmented the Queen Regent’s displeasure against the Lords of the Congregation, and at length both parties took the field. The Protestant nobles were at the head of their numerous followers; the Queen chiefly relied upon a small but select body of French troops. The war was not very violently carried on, for the side of the Reformers became every day stronger. The Duke of Castelherault, the first nobleman in Scotland, a second time espoused the cause of the Congregation; and Maitland of Lethington, one of the wisest statesmen in the kingdom, took the same course. At the same time, although the Lords found it easy to bring together large bodies of men, yet they had not the money or means necessary to keep them together for a long time, while the French veteran soldiers were always ready to take advantage when the Reformed leaders were obliged to diminish their forces. Their difficulties became greater when the Queen Regent showed her design to fortify strongly the town of Leith and the adjacent island of Inch–Keith, and placed her French soldiers in garrison there; so that, being in possession of that seaport, she might at all times, when she saw occasion, introduce an additional number of foreigners.
•@Unskilled in the art of conducting sieges, and totally without money, the Lords of the Congregation had recourse to the assistance of England: and for the first time an English fleet and army approached the territories of Scotland by sea and land, not with the purpose of invasion, as used to be the case of old, but to assist the nation in its resistance to the arms of France, and the religion of Rome.
The English army was soon joined by the Scottish Lords of the Congregation, and advancing to Leith, laid siege to the town, which was most valorously defended by the French soldiers, who displayed a degree of ingenuity in their defence which for a long time resisted every effort of the besiegers. They were, however, blockaded by the English fleet, so that no provisions could be received by sea; and as on land they were surrounded by a considerable army, provisions became so scarce, that they were obliged to feed upon horse-flesh.
In the mean time, their mistress, the Queen Regent, had retired into the castle of Edinburgh, where grief, fatigue, and disappointed expectations, threw her into an illness, of which she died on 10th of June, 1560. The French troops in Leith were now reduced to extremity, and Francis and Mary determined upon making peace in Scotland at the expense of most important concessions to the Reformed party. All foreign troops, on both sides, were to be withdrawn accordingly.
England, and especially Queen Elizabeth, gained a great point by this treaty, for it recognized, in express terms, the title of that Princess to the throne of England; and Francis and Mary bound themselves to lay aside all claim to that kingdom, together with the arms and emblems of English sovereignty which they had assumed and borne.
The parliament of Scotland being assembled, it was soon seen that the Reformers possessed the power and inclination to direct all its resolutions upon the subject of religion. They condemned unanimously the whole fabric of Popery, and adopted, instead of the doctrines of the Church of Rome, the tenets contained in a confession, or avowal, of Faith, drawn up by the most popular of the Protestant divines. Thus the whole religious constitution of the Church was at once altered.
There was one particular in which the Scottish reformers greatly differed from those of England. The English monarch, who abolished the power of the Pope, had established that of the crown as the visible Head of the Church of England. The meaning of this phrase is, not that the King has the power of altering the religious doctrines of the church, but only that he should be the chief of the government in church affairs, as he was always in those of the State. On the contrary, the Reformed ministers of Scotland renounced the authority of any interference of the civil magistrate, whether subject or sovereign, in the affairs of the Church, declaring it should be under the exclusive direction of a court of delegates chosen from its own members, assisted by a certain number of the laity, forming what is called a General Assembly of the Church. The Scottish Reformers disclaimed also the division of the clergy into the various ranks of bishops, deans, prebendaries, and other classes of the clerical order. They discarded this subordination of ranks, though retained in the English Protestant Church, maintaining that each clergyman intrusted with a charge of souls was upon a level in every respect with the rest of his brethren. They reprobated, in particular, the order of bishop, as holding a place in the National Council, or Parliament; and asserted, that meddling in secular affairs was in itself improper for their office, and naturally led to the usurpation over men’s consciences, which had been the chief abomination of the Church of Rome. The laity of Scotland, and particularly the great nobility, saw with pleasure the readiness of the ministers to resign all those pretensions to worldly rank and consequence, which had been insisted upon by the Roman Catholic clergy, and made their self-denying abjuration of titles and worldly business a reason for limiting the subsistence which they were to derive from the funds of the Church, to the smallest possible sum of annual stipend, whilst they appropriated the rest to themselves without scruple.
It remained to dispose of the wealth lately enjoyed by the Catholic clergy, who were supposed to be possessed of half of the revenue of Scotland, so far as it arose from land. Knox and the other Reformed clergy had formed a plan for the decent maintenance of a National Church out of these extensive funds, and proposed, that what might be deemed more than sufficient for this purpose should be expended upon hospitals, schools, universities, and places of education. But the Lords, who had seized the revenues of the church, were determined not to part with the spoil they had obtained; and those whom the preachers had found most active in destroying Popery, were wonderfully cold when it was proposed to them to surrender the lands they had seized upon for their own use. The plan of John Knox was, they said, a “devout imagination,” a visionary scheme, which showed the goodness of the preacher’s intentions, but which it was impossible to carry into practice. In short, they retained by force the greater part of the church revenues for their own advantage.
When Francis and Mary, who had now become King and Queen of France, heard that the Scottish Parliament had totally altered the religion, and changed the forms of the National Church from Catholic to Protestant, they were extremely angry; and had the King lived, it is most likely they would have refused to consent to this great innovation, and preferred rekindling the war by sending a new army of French into Scotland. But if they meditated such a measure, it was entirely prevented by the death of Francis II., on the 5th of December, 1560.
During her husband’s life, Mary had exercised a great authority in France, for she possessed unbounded influence over his mind. After his death, and the accession of Charles his brother, that influence and authority were totally ended. It must have been painful to a lofty mind like Mary’s thus to endure coldness and neglect in the place where she had met with honour and obedience. She retired, therefore, from the Court of France, and determined to return to her native kingdom of Scotland; a resolution most natural in itself, but which became the introduction to a long and melancholy tale of misfortunes.
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