The horrible murder of the unhappy Darnley excited the strongest suspicions, and the greatest discontent, in the city of Edinburgh, and through the whole kingdom. Bothwell was pointed out by the general voice as the author of the murder; and as he still continued to enjoy the favour of Mary, her reputation was not spared. To have brought this powerful criminal to an open and impartial trial, would have been the only way for the Queen to recover her popularity; and Mary made a show of doing this public justice, but under circumstances which favoured the criminal.
Lennox, father of the murdered Darnley, had, as was his natural duty, accused Bothwell of the murder of his son. But he received little countenance in prosecuting the accused. Every thing seemed to be done as hastily as if it were determined to defeat the operations of justice. Lennox received information on the 28th of March, that the 12th of April was appointed for the day of trial; and, at so short warning as fourteen days, he was summoned, as nearest relation of the murdered monarch, to appear as accuser, and to support the charge he had made against Bothwell. The Earl of Lennox complained that the time allowed him to prepare the charge and evidence necessary for convicting to powerful a criminal, was great too short; but he could not prevail to have it extended.
It was a usual thing in Scotland for persons accused of crimes, to come to the bar of a court of justice attended by all their friends, retainers, and dependents, the number of whom was frequently so great, that the judges and accusers were over-awed, and became afraid to proceed in the investigation; so that the purposes of justice were for the time frustrated. Bothwell, conscious of guilt, was desirous to use this means of protection to the utmost. He appeared in Edinburgh with full five thousand attendants. Two hundred chosen musketeers kept close by his side, and guarded the doors of the court as soon as the criminal had entered. In such circumstances, there could be no chance of a fair trial. Lennox did not appear, saving by one of his vassals, who protested against the proceedings of the day. No charge was made, — no proof of innocence, of course, was required, — and a jury, consisting of nobles and gentlemen of the first rank, acquitted Bothwell of a crime of which all the world believed him to be guilty.
The public mind remained dissatisfied with this mockery of justice; but Bothwell, without regarding the murmurs of the people, hurried forward to possess himself of the situation which he had made vacant by the murder of Darnley. He convened a number of the principal nobility, at a feast given in a tavern, and prevailed on them to sign a bond, in which they not only declared Bothwell altogether innocent of the King’s death, but recommended him as the fittest person whom her Majesty could choose for a husband. Morton, Maitland, and others, who afterwards were Mary’s bitter enemies and accusers, subscribed this remarkable deed; either because they were afraid of the consequences of a refusal, or that they thought it the readiest and safest course for accomplishing their own purposes, to encourage Bothwell and the Queen to run headlong to their ruin, by completing a marriage which must be disgustful to the whole kingdom.
Murray, the most important person in Scotland, had kept aloof from all these proceedings. He was in Fife when the King was murdered, and, about three days before Bothwell’s trial, he obtained leave of his sister the Queen to travel to France. Probably he did not consider that his own person would be safe, should Bothwell rise to be King.
The Earl of Bothwell, thus authorized by the apparent consent of the nobility, and, no doubt, thinking himself secure of the Queen’s approbation, suddenly appeared at the bridge of Cramond, with a thousand horse, as Mary arrived there on her return from Stirling to Edinburgh. Bothwell took the Queen’s horse by the bridle, and surrounding and disarming her attendants, he led her, as if by an appearance of force, to the strong castle of Dunbar, of which he was governor. On this occasion Mary seems neither to have attempted to resist, nor to have expressed that feeling of anger and shame which would have been proper to her character as a queen or as a woman. Her attendants were assured by the officers of Bothwell, that she was carried off in consequence of her own consent; and considering that such an outrage was offered to a sovereign of her high rank and bold spirit, her tame submission and silence under it seem otherwise to be accounted for. They remained at Dunbar ten days, after which they again appeared in Edinburgh, apparently reconciled; the earl carefully leading the Queen’s palfrey, and conducting her up to the castle of Edinburgh, the government of which was held by one of his adherents.
Whilst these strange proceedings took place, Bothwell had been able to procure a sentence of divorce against his wife, a sister of the Earl of Huntly. On the 12th of May, the Queen made a public declaration, that she forgave Bothwell the late violence which he had committed, and that, although she was at first highly displeased with him, she was now resolved not only to grant him her pardon, but also to promote him to further honours. She was as good as her word, for she created him Duke of Orkney; and, on the 15th of the same month, did Mary, with unpardonable indiscretion, commit the great folly of marrying this ambitious and profligate man, stained as he was with the blood of her husband.
The Queen was not long in discovering that by this unhappy marriage she had gotten a more ruthless and wicked husband, than she had in the flexible Darnley. Bothwell used her grossly ill, and being disappointed in his plans of getting the young Prince into his keeping, used such upbraiding language to Mary, that she prayed for a knife with which to stab herself, rather than endure his ill treatment.
In the mean time, the public discontent rose high, and Morton, Maitland, and others, who had been themselves privy to the murder of Darnley, placed themselves, notwithstanding, at the head of a numerous party of the nobility, who resolved to revenge his death, and remove Bothwell from his usurped power. They took arms hastily, and had nearly surprised the Queen and Bothwell, while feasting in the castle of the Lord Borthwick, from whence they fled to Dunbar, the Queen being concealed in the disguise of a page.
The confederated lords marched towards Dunbar, and the Queen and Bothwell, having assembled an army, advanced to the encounter, and met them on Carberry hill, not far from the place where the battle of Pinkie was fought. This was on the 15th of June, 1567. Mary would have acted more wisely in postponing the threatened action, for the Hamiltons, in great force, were on their way to join her. But she had been accustomed to gain advantages by rapid and ready movements, and was not at first sufficiently aware what an unfavourable impression existed against her even in her own army. Many, if not most, of those troops who had joined the Queen, had little inclination to fight in Bothwell’s cause. He himself, in a bravado, offered to prove his innocence of Darnley’s murder, by a duel in the lists with any of the opposite lords who should affirm his guilt. The valiant Kirkaldy of Grange, Murray of Tullibardin, and Lord Lindsay of the Byres, successively undertook the combat; but Bothwell found exceptions to each of them, and, finally, it appeared that this wicked man had not courage to fight with any one in that quarrel. In the mean time, the Queen’s army began to disband, and it became obvious that they would not fight in her cause, while they considered it as the same with that of Bothwell. She therefore recommended to him to fly from the field of action; and advice which he was not slow in following, riding to Dunbar as fast as he could, and from thence escaping by sea.
Mary surrendered herself, upon promise of respect and kind treatment, to the Laird of grange, and was conducted by him to the headquarters of the confederate army. When she arrived there, the lords received her with silent respect; but some of the common soldiers hooted at and insulted her, until Grange, drawing his sword, compelled them to be silent. The lords adopted the resolution of returning to the capital, and conveying Mary thither, surrounded by their troops.
As the unhappy Queen approached Edinburgh, led as it were in triumph by the victors, the most coarse and insulting behaviour was used towards her by the lower classes. There was a banner prepared for the insurrection, displaying, on the one side, the portrait of Darnley, as he lay murdered under a tree in the fatal orchard, with these words embroidered, “Judge, and avenge my cause, O Lord!” and on the other side, the little Prince on his knees, holding up his hands, as if praying to Heaven to punish his father’s murderers. As the Queen rode through the streets, with her hair loose, her garments disordered, covered with dust, and overpowered with grief, shame, and fatigue, this fatal flag was displayed before her eyes, while the voices of the rude multitude upbraided her with having been an accomplice in Darnley’s murder. The same cries were repeated, and the same insulting banner displayed, before the windows of the Lord Provost’s house, to which she was for a few hours committed as if a prisoner. The better class of craftsmen and citizens were at length moved by her sorrows, and showed such a desire to take her part, that the lords determined to remove her from the city, where respects to her birth and misfortunes seemed likely to create partisans, in spite of her own indiscretions, and the resentment of her enemies. Accordingly, on the next evening, being 16th June, 1567, Mary, in disguised apparel, and escorted by a strong armed force, was conveyed from Holyrood to the castle of Lochleven, which stands on a little island, surrounded by the lake of the same name, and was there detained a prisoner.
The insurgent Lords now formed themselves into a Secret Council, for managing the affairs of the nation. Their first attention was turned to securing Bothwell, although, perhaps, there may have been some even among their own number, — Morton, for example, and Maitland, — who had been participant with him in the murder of Darnley, who could not be very desirous that he should be produced on a public trial. But it was necessary to make a show of pursuing him, and many were sincerely desirous that he should be taken.
Kirkaldy of Grange followed Bothwell with two vessels, and had nearly surprised him in the harbour of Lerwick, the fugitive making his escape at one issue of the bay, while Grange entered at another; and Bothwell might even then have been captured, but that Grange’s ship ran upon a rock, and was wrecked, though the crew escaped. Bothwell was only saved for a more melancholy fate. He took to piracy in the Northern Seas, in order to support himself and his sailors. He was in consequence assaulted and taken by some Danish ships of war. The Danes threw him into the dungeons of the castle of Malmay, where he died in captivity, about the end of the year 1576. It is said, that this atrocious criminal confessed at his death, that he had conducted the murder of Darnley, by the assistance of Murray, Maitland, and Morton, and that Mary was altogether guiltless of that crime. But there is little reliance to be placed on the declaration of so wicked a man, even if it were certain he had made it.
Mean time, poor Mary reaped the full consequences of Bothwell’s guilt, and of her own infatuated attachment to him. She was imprisoned in a rude and inconvenient tower, on a small islet, where there was scarce room to walk fifty yards; and not even the intercession of Queen Elizabeth, who seems for the time to have been alarmed at the successful insurrection of subjects against their sovereign, could procure any mitigation of her captivity. There was a proposal to proceed against the Queen as an accomplice in Darnley’s murder, and to take her life under that pretence. But the lords of the Secret Council resolved to adopt somewhat of a gentler course, by compelling Mary to surrender her crown to her son, then an infant, and to make the Earl of Murray regent during the child’s minority. Deeds to this purpose were drawn up, and sent to the castle of Lochleven, to be signed by the Queen. Lord Lindsay, the rudest, most bigoted, and fiercest of the confederated lords, was deputed to enforce Mary’s compliance with the commands of the council. He behaved with such peremptory brutality as had perhaps been expected, and was so unmanly as to pinch with his iron glove the arm of the poor Queen, to compel her to subscribe the deeds.
If Mary had any quarter to which, in her disastrous condition, she might look for love and favour, it was to her brother Murray. She may have been criminal — she had certainly been grossly infatuated — yet she deserved her brother’s kindness and compassion. She had loaded him with favours, and pardoned him considerable offences. Unquestionably she expected more favour from him than she met with. But Murray was ambition; and ambition breaks through the ties of blood, and forgets the obligations of gratitude. He visited his imprisoned sister and benefactress in Lochleven castle, but it was not to bring her comfort: on the contrary, he pressed all her errors on her with such hardhearted severity, that she burst into floods of tears, and abandoned herself to despair. •@Murray accepted of the regency, and in doing so broke all remaining ties of tenderness betwixt himself and his sister. He was now at the head of the ruling faction, consisting of what were called the King’s Lords; while such of the nobility as desired that Mary, being now freed from the society of Bothwell, should be placed at liberty, and restored to the administration of the kingdom, were termed the Queen’s Party. The strict and sagacious government of Murray imposed silence and submission for a time upon this last-named faction; but a singular incident changed the face of things for a moment, and gave a gleam of hope to the unfortunate captive.
Sir William Douglas, the Laid of Lochleven, owner of the castle where Mary was imprisoned, was a half-brother by the mother’s side of the Regent Murray. This baron discharged with severe fidelity the task of Mary’s jailer; but his youngest brother, George Douglas, became more sensible to the Queen’s distress, and perhaps to her beauty, than to the interests of the Regent, or of his own family. A plot laid by him for the Queen’s deliverance was discovered, and he was expelled from the island in consequence. But he kept up a correspondence with a kinsman of his own, called Little Douglas, a boy of fifteen or sixteen, who had remained in the castle. On Sunday, the 2nd May, 1568, this little William Douglas contrive to steal the keys of the castle while the family were at supper. He let Mary and her attendant out of the tower when all had gone to rest — locked the gates of the castle to prevent pursuit — placed the Queen and her waiting-woman in a little skiff, and rowed them to the shore, throwing the keys of the castle into the lake in the course of their passage. Just when they were about to set out on this adventurous voyage, the youthful pilot had made a signal, by a light in a particular window visible at the upper end of the lake, to intimate that all was safe. Lord Seaton and a party of the Hamiltons were waiting at the landing-place. The Queen instantly mounted, and hurried off to Niddry, in West Lothian, from which place she went next day to Hamilton. The news flew like lightning throughout the country, and spread enthusiasm every where. The people remembered Mary’s gentleness, grace, and beauty — they remembered her misfortunes also — and if they reflected on her errors, they though they had been punished with sufficient severity. On Sunday, Mary was a sad and helpless captive in a lonely tower. On the Saturday following, she was at the head of a powerful confederacy, by which nine earls, nine bishops, eighteen lords, and many gentlemen of high rank, engaged to defend her person and restore her power. But this gleam of success was only temporary.
It was the Queen’s purpose to place her person in security in the castle of Dunbarton, and her army, under the Earl of Argyle, proposed to carry her thither in a species of triumph. The Regent was lying at Glasgow with much inferior forces; but, with just confidence in his own military skill, as well as the talents of Morton, and the valour of Kirkaldy and other experienced soldiers, he determined to meet the Queen’s Lords in their proposed march, and to give them battle.
On 13th May, 1568, Murray occupied the village of Langside, which lay full in the march of the Queen’s army. The Hamiltons, and other gentlemen of Mary’s troop, rushed forth with ill-considered valour to dispute the pass. They fought, however, with obstinacy, after the Scottish manner; that is, they pressed on each other front to front, each fixing his spear in his opponent’s target, and then endeavouring to bear him down, as two bulls do when they encounter each other. Morton decided the battle, by attacking the flank of the Hamiltons, while their column was closely engaged in the front. The measure was decisive, and the Queen’s army was completely routed.
Queen Mary beheld this final and fatal defeat from a castle called Crookstane, about four miles from Paisley, where she and Darnley had spent some happy days after their marriage, and which, therefore, must have been the scene of bitter recollections. It was soon evident that there was no resource but in flight, and, escorted by Lord Herries and a few faithful followers, she rode sixty miles before she stopped at the Abbey of Dundrennan, in Galloway. From this place she had the means of retreating either to France or England, as she should ultimately determine. In France she was sure to have been well received; but England afforded a nearer, and, as she thought, an equally safe place of refuge.
Forgetting, therefore, the various causes of emulation which existed betwixt Elizabeth and herself, and remembering only the smooth and flattering words which she had received from her sister sovereign, it did not occur to the Scottish Queen that she could incur any risk by throwing herself upon the hospitality of England. It may also be supposed, that poor Mary, amongst whose faults want generosity could not be reckoned, judged of Elizabeth according to the manner in which she would herself have treated the Queen of England in the same situation. She therefore resolved to take refuge in Elizabeth’s kingdom, in spite of the opposition of her wiser attendants. They kneeled and entreated in vain. She entered the fatal boat, crossed the Solway, and delivered herself up to a gentleman named Lowther, the English deputy-warden. Much surprised, doubtless, at the incident, he sent express to inform Queen Elizabeth; and receiving the Scottish Queen with as much respect as he had the means of showing, lodged her in Carlisle Castle.
Queen Elizabeth had two courses in her power, which might be more less generous, but were alike just and lawful. She might have received Queen Mary honourably, and afforded her the succour she petitioned for; or, if she did not think that expedient, she might have allowed her to remain in her dominions, at liberty to depart from them freely, as she had entered them voluntarily.
But Elizabeth, great as she was upon other occasions of her reign, acted on the present from mean and envious motives. She saw in the fugitive who implored her protection, a princess who possessed a right of succession to the crown of England, which, by the Catholic part of her subjects at least, was held superior to her own. She remembered that Mary had been led to assume the arms and titles of the English monarchy, or rather, that the French had assumed them in her name, when she was in childhood. She recollected, that Mary had been her rival in accomplishments; and certainly she did not forget that she was her superior in youth and beauty; and had the advantage, as she had expressed it herself, to the mother of fair son, while she remained a barren stock. Elizabeth, therefore, considered the Scottish Queen not as a sister and friend in distress, but as an enemy, over whom circumstances had given her power, and determined upon reducing her to the condition of a captive.
In pursuance of the line of conduct to which this mean train of reasoning led, the unfortunate Mary was surrounded by English guards; and, as Elizabeth reasonably doubted that if she were left upon the Border, the fugitive Queen might obtain aid from her adherents in Scotland, she was removed to Bolton castle, in Yorkshire. But some pretext was wanting for a conduct so violent, so ungenerous, and so unjust, and Elizabeth contrived to find one.
The Regent Murray, upon Mary’s flight to England, had endeavoured to vindicate his conduct in the eyes of Queen Elizabeth, by alleging that his sister had been accessory to the murder of her husband Darnley, in order that she might marry her paramour Bothwell. Now, although this, supposing it to be true, was very criminal conduct, yet Elizabeth had not the least title to constitute herself judge in the matter. Mary was no subject of hers, nor, according to the law of nations, had the English Queen any right to act as umpire in the quarrel between the Scottish sovereign and her subjects. But she extorted, in the following manner, a sort of acquiescence in her right to decide, from the Scottish Queen.
The messengers of Queen Elizabeth informed Mary, that their mistress regretted extremely that she could not at once admit her to her presence, no give her the affectionate reception which she longed to afford her, until her visiter stood clear, in the eyes of the world, of the scandalous accusations of her Scottish subjects. Mary at once undertook to make her innocence evident to Elizabeth’s satisfaction; and this the Queen of England pretended to consider as a call upon herself to act as umpire in the quarrel betwixt Mary and the part by which she had been deposed and exiled. It was in vain that Mary remonstrated, that in agreeing to remove Elizabeth’s scruples, she acted merely out of respect to her opinion, and a desire to conciliate her favour, but not with the purpose of constituting the English Queen her judge in a formal trial. Elizabeth was determined to keep the advantage which she had attained, and to act as if Mary had, of her full free will, rendered her rival the sole arbiter of her fate.
The Queen of England accordingly appointed commissioners to hear the parties, and consider the evidence which was to be laid before them by both sides. The Regent Murray appeared in person before these commissioners, in the odious character of the accuser of his sister, benefactress, and sovereign. Queen Mary also sent the most able of her adherents, the Bishop of Ross, Lord Herries, and others, to plead the case on her side.
The Commission met at York in October 1568. The proceedings commenced with a singular attempt to establish the obsolete question of the alleged supremacy of England over Scotland. “You come hither,” said the English commissioners to the Regent sand his assistants, “to submit the differences which divide the kingdom of Scotland to the Queen of England, and therefore I first require of you to pay her grace the homage due to her.” The Earl of Murray blushed and was silent. But Maitland of Lethington answered with spirit — “When Elizabeth restores to Scotland the earldom of Huntingdon, with Cumberland, Northumberland, and such other lands as Scotland did of old possess in England, we will do such homage for these territories as was done by the ancient sovereigns of Scotland who enjoyed them. As to the crown and kingdom Scotland, they are more free than those of England, which lately paid Peter-pence to Rome.”
This question being waved, they entered on the proper business of the Commission. It was not without hesitation that Murray was induced to state his accusation in explicit terms, and there was still greater difficulty in obtaining from him any evidence in support of the odious charges of matrimonial infidelity, and accession to the murder of her husband, with which that accusation charged Mary. It is true, the Queen’s conduct had been unguarded and imprudent, but there was no arguing from thence that she was guilty of the foul crime charged. Something like proof was wanted, and at length a box of letters and papers was produced, stated to have been taken from a servant of Bothwell, called Dalgleish. These letters, if genuine, certainly proved that Mary was a paramour of Bothwell while Darnley was yet alive, and that she knew and approved of the murder of that ill-fated young man. But the letters were alleged by the Queen’s commissioners to be gross forgeries, devised for the purpose of slandering their mistress. It is most remarkable, that Dalgleish had been condemned and executed without a word being asked him about these letters, even if it had been only to prove that they had been found in his possession. Lord Herries and the Bishop of Ross did not rest satisfied with defending the Queen; they charged Murray himself with having confederating with Bothwell for the destruction of Darnley.
At the end of five months’ investigation, the Queen of England informed both parties that she had, on the one hand, seen nothing which induced her to doubt the worth and honour of the Earl of Murray, while, on the other hand, he had, in her opinion, proved nothing of the criminal charges which he had brought against his Sovereign. She was therefore, she said, determined to leave the affairs of Scotland as she had found them.
To have treated both parties impartially, as her sentence seemed intended to imply her desire to do, the Queen ought to have restored Mary to liberty. But while Murray was sent down with the loan of a large sum of money, Mary was retained in that captivity which was only to end with her life.
Murray returned to Scotland, having had all the advantage of the conference at York. His coffers were replenished, and his power confirmed, by the favour of Queen Elizabeth; and he had little difficulty in scattering the remains of the Queen’s Lords, who, in fact, had never been able to make head since the battle of Langside, and the fight of their mistress.
In the mean time some extraordinary events took place in England. The Duke of Norfolk had formed a plan to restore Queen Mary to liberty, and was in recompense to be rewarded with her hand in marriage. The Regent Murray had been admitted into the secret of this plot, although it may be supposed the object was not very acceptable to him. Many of the great nobles had agreed to join in the undertaking, particularly the powerful Earls of Westmoreland and Northumberland. The plot of Norfolk was discovered and proved against him, chiefly by the declarations of Murray, who meanly betrayed the secret intrusted to him; and he was seized upon, committed to confinement, and, a few months afterwards, upon the discovery of some new intrigues, was tried and executed.
But before this catastrophe, Northumberland and Westmoreland rushed into a hasty rebellion, which they were unable to conduct with sufficient vigour. Their troops dispersed without a battle before the army which Queen Elizabeth sent against them. Westmoreland found a secure refuge among the Scottish Borderers, who were favourable to the cause of Mary. They assisted him in his escape to the sea-coast, and he finally his way to Flanders, and died in exile. Northumberland was less fortunate. A Borderer, named Hector Armstrong of Harlaw, treacherously betrayed him to the Regent Murray, who refused indeed to deliver him up to Queen Elizabeth, but detained him prisoner in that same lonely castle of Lochleven, which had been lately the scene of Mary’s captivity.
All these successive events tended to establish the power of Murray, and to diminish the courage of such lords as remained attached to the opposite party. But it happens frequently, that when men appear most secure of the object they have been toiling for, their views are suddenly and strangely disappointed. A blow was impending over Murray from a quarter, which, if named to the haughty Regent, he would probably have despised, since if originated in the resentment of a private man.
After the battle of Langside, six or the Hamiltons, who had been most active on that occasion, were sentenced to die, as being guilty of treason against James VI, in having espoused his mother’s cause. In this doom there was little justice, considering how the country was divided between the claims of the mother and the son. But the decree was not acted upon, and the persons condemned received their pardon through the mediation of John Knox with the Regent.
One of the individuals thus pardoned was Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh, a man of a fierce and vindictive character. Like others in his condition, he was punished by the forfeiture of his property, although his life was spared. His wife had brought him, as her portion, the lands of Woodhouselee, near Roslin, and these were bestowed by Murray upon one of his favourites. This person exercised the right so rudely, as to turn Hamilton’s wife out of her own house undressed, and unprotected from the fury of the weather. In consequence of this brutal treatment, she became insane, and died. Her husband vowed revenge, not on the actual author of his misfortune, but upon the Regent Murray, whom he considered as the original cause of it, and whom his family prejudices induced him to regard as the usurper of the sovereign power, and the oppressor of the name and house of Hamilton. There is little doubt that the Archbishop of Saint Andrews, and some others of his name, encouraged Bothwellhaugh in this desperate resolution.
The assassin took his measures with every mark of deliberation. Having leaned that the Regent was to pass through Linlithgow on a certain day, he secretly introduced himself into an empty house belonging to the Archbishop of St Andrews, which had in front a wooden balcony looking upon the street. Bothwellhaugh hung a black cloth on the wall of the apartment where he lay, that his shadow might not be seen from without, and spread a mattress on the floor, that the sound of his feet might not be heard from beneath. To secure his escape he fastened a fleet horse in the garden behind the house, and pulled down the lintel stones from the posts of the garden door, so that he might be able to pass through it on horseback. He also strongly barricaded the front door of the house, which opened to the street of the town. Having thus prepared all for concealment until the deed was done, and for escape afterwards, he armed himself with a loaded carabine, shut himself up in the lonely chamber, and waited the arrival of his victim.
Some friend of Murray transmitted to him a hint of the danger which he might incur, in passing through the street of a place in which he was known to have enemies, and advised that he should avoid it by going round on the outside of the town; or, at least, by riding hastily past the lodging which was more particularly suspected, as belonging to the Hamiltons. But the Regent, thinking that the step recommended would have an appearance of timidity, held on his way through the crowded street. As he came opposite the fatal balcony, his horse being somewhat retarded by the number of spectators, Bothwellhaugh had time to take a deliberate aim. He fired the carabine, and the Regent fell, mortally wounded. The ball, after passing through his body, killed the horse of a gentleman who rode on his right hand. His attendants rushed furiously at the door of the house from which the shot had issued; but Bothwellhaugh’s precautions had been so securely taken that they were unable to force their entrance till he had mounted his good horse, and escaped through the garden gate. He was notwithstanding pursued so closely, that he had very nearly been taken; but after spur and whip had both failed, he pricked his horse with his dagger, compelled him to take a desperate leap over a ditch, which his pursuers were unable to cross, and thus made his escape.
The Regent died in the course of the night, leaving a character, which has been, perhaps, too highly extolled by one class of authors, and too much depreciated by another, according as his conduct to his sister was approved or condemned.
The murderer escaped to France. In the civil wars of the country, an attempt was made to engage him, as a known desperado, in the assassination of the Admiral Coligni; but he resented it as a deadly insult. He had slain a man in Scotland, he said, from whom he had sustained a mortal injury; but the world could not engage him to attempt the life of one against whom he had no personal cause of quarrel.
The death of Murray had been a an event expected by many of Queen Mary’s adherents. The very night after it happened, Scott of Buccleuch and Ker of Fairniehirst broke into England, and ravaged the frontier with more than their wonted severity. When it was objected by one of the sufferers under this foray, that the Regent would punish the party concerned in such illegal violence, the Borderer replied contemptuously, that the Regent was as cold as his bridle-bit. This served to show that their leaders had been privy to Bothwellhaugh’s action, and now desired to take advantage of it, in order to give grounds for war between the countries. But Queen Elizabeth was contented to send a small army to the frontier, to burn the castles and ravage the estates of the two clans which had been engaged in the hostile inroad; a service which they executed with much severity on the clans of Scott and Ker, without doing injury to those other Borderers against whom their mistress had no complaint.
Upon the death of Murray, Lennox was chosen Regent. He was the father of the murdered Darnley, yet showed no excessive thirst of vengeance. He endeavoured to procure a union of parties, for the purpose of domestic peace. But men’s minds on both sides had become too much exasperated against each other. The Queen’s party was strengthened by Maitland of Lethington and Kirkaldy of Grange joining that faction, after having been long the boast of that of the King. Lethington we have often mentioned as one of the ablest men in Scotland, and Kirkaldy was certainly one of the bravest. He was, besides, Governor of Edinburgh castle, and his declaring that he held that important place for the Queen gave great spirit to Mary’s adherents. At the same time, they were deprived of a stronghold of scarcely inferior consequence, by the loss of Dunbarton castle in the following extraordinary manner. This fortress is one of the strongest places in the world. It is situated on a rock, which rises almost perpendicularly from a level plain to the height of several hundred feet. On the summit of this rock the buildings are situated, and as there is only one access from below, which rises by steps, and is strongly guarded and fortified, the fort might be almost held to be impregnable, that is, impossible to be taken. One Captain Crawford of Jordan-hill, a distinguished adherent of the King’s party, resolved, nevertheless, to make an attempt on this formidable castle.
He took advantage of a misty and moonless night to bring to the foot of the castle-rock the scaling-ladders which he had provided, choosing for his terrible experiment the place where the rock was highest, and where, of course, less pains were taken to keep a regular guard. This choice was fortunate; for the first ladder broke with the weight of the men who attempted to mount, and the noise of the fall must have betrayed them, had there been any sentinel within hearing. Crawford, assisted by a soldier who had deserted from the castle, and was acting as his guide, renewed the attempt in person, having scrambled up to a projecting ledge of rock where there was some footing, contrived to make fast the ladder, by tying it to the roots of a tree, which grew about midway up the rock. Here they found a small flat surface, sufficient, however, to afford footing to the whole party, which was, of course, very few in number. In scaling the second precipice, another accident took place:— One of the party, subject to epileptic fits, was seized by one of these attacks, brought on perhaps by terror, while he was in the act of climbing up the ladder. His illness made it impossible for him either to ascend or descend. To have slain the man would have been a cruel expedient, besides that the fall of his body from the ladder might have alarmed the garrison. Crawford caused him, therefore, to be tied to the ladder; then all the rest descending, they turned the ladder, and thus mounted with ease over the belly of the epileptic person. When the party gained the summit, they slew the sentinel ere he had time to give the alarm, and easily surprised the slumbering garrison, who had trusted too much to the security of their castle to keep good watch. This exploit of Crawford may compare with any thing of the kind which we read of in history.
Hamilton, the Archbishop of Saint Andrews, was made prisoner in Dunbarton, where he had taken refuge, as he was particularly hated by the King’s party. He was now in their hands, and, as they had formerly proclaimed him a traitor, they now without scruple put him to death as such. This cruel deed occasioned other violences, by way of retaliation, which, in turn, led to fresh acts of bloodshed. All natural ties were forgotten in the distinction of Kingsmen and Queensmen; and, as neither party gave quarter to their opponents, the civil war assumed a most horrible aspect. Fathers, and sons, and brother, took opposite sides, and fought against each other. The very children of the towns and villages formed themselves into bands for King James or Queen Mary, and fought inveterately with stones, sticks, and knives.
In the midst of this confusion, each party called a Parliament, which was attended, only by the Lords of their own side. The Queen’s Parliament met at Edinburgh, under protection of the castle, and its governor Kirkaldy. The King’s faction had much more numerous assembly, assuming the same denomination, at Stirling, where they produced the young King, to give authority to their proceedings. The boy, with natural childishness, taking notice of a rent in the carpet which covered the table at which the clerks sate, observed, “there was a hole in the Parliament.” These words were remarked afterwards, is if they had contained a sort of prophecy of the following singular event:—
Kirkaldy devised an enterprise, by which, if successful, he would have put a complete stop to the proceedings of the King’s Parliament, nay, to the civil war itself. He sent for Buccleuch and Fairniehirst, already noticed as zealous partisan of Mary, desiring them to bring a large party of their best horsemen, and joined with the Lord Claud Hamilton, with a detachment of infantry. The whole was guided by a man of the name of Bell, who knew the town of Stirling, being a native of that place. On the 4th of September, 1571, he introduced the party, consisting of about five hundred men, into the middle of the town, at four in the morning, without even a dog barking at them.. They then raised the alarm, crying out, “God and the Queen! think on the Archbishop of Saint Andrews! all is our own!” According to the directions they had received, they sent parties to the different houses of which the King’s lords had taken possession, and made them prisoners without resistance, except on the part of Morton, whose obstinate valour obliged them to set fire to his lodgings. He then reluctantly surrendered himself to Buccleuch, who was his near connexion. But his resistance had gained some time, and the assailants had scattered themselves in quest of plunder. At this moment, Mar brought a party of musketeers out of the castle, and placing them behind the walls of a house which he had commenced building on the castle-hill, he opened a heavy and unexpected fire upon the Queensmen. These being already in disorder, were struck with panic in the moment of victory, and began to fly. The scene was now completely changed, and they who had been triumphant the moment before, were glad to surrender to their own captives. Lennox the Regent had been mounted behind Spens of Wormeston, who had made him captive. He was a particular object of vengeance to the Hamiltons, who longed to requite the death of the Archbishop of Saint Andrews. He was killed, as was believed, by Lord Claud Hamilton’s orders, and Spens, who most honourably endeavoured to his prisoner, was slain at the same time. The Queen’s party retreated out of Stirling without much loss, for the Borderers carried off all the horses, upon which the opposite party might have followed the chase. Kirkaldy received the news of the Regent’s death with much dissatisfaction, abusing those who commanded the party as disorderly beasts, who neither knew how to gain a victory, nor how to use it. Had he placed himself at the head of the detachment, as he had earnestly desired to do, it is probable that the Raid of Stirling might have ended the war. As it fell out, the quarrel was only embittered, if possible, by the death of Lennox.
The Earl of Mar was named Regent on the King’s side. He was a man of fair and moderate views, and so honourably desirous of restoring the blessing of peace to his country, that the impossibility of attaining his object is said to have shortened his life. He died 29th October, 1572, having been Regent little more than one year.
The Earl of Morton was next made Regent. We have seen that this nobleman, however respectable for courage and talents, was nevertheless of a fierce, treacherous, and cruel disposition. He had been concerned in Rizzio’s murder, and was at least acquainted with that of Darnley. It was to be expected that he would continue the war with the same ferocious cruelty by which it had been distinguished, instead of labouring, like Mar, to diminish its violence. This fell out accordingly. Each party continued to execute their prisoners; and as skirmishes were daily fought, the number of persons who fell by the sword, or died upon the gibbet, was fearfully great. From the family name of Morton, these were called the Douglasses’ wars.
After these hostilities had existed for about five years, the Duke of Chatelherault, and the Earl of Huntly, the two principal nobles who had supported the Queen’s cause, submitted themselves to the King’s authority, and to the sway of the Regents Kirkaldy of Grange, assisted by the counsels of Maitland of Lethington, continued to maintain the castle of Edinburgh against Morton. But Queen Elizabeth, who became now desirous of ending the Scottish dissensions, sent Sir William Drury from Berwick with a considerable number of regular forces, and, what was still more needful, a large train of artillery, which formed a close siege around the castle of Edinburgh. The garrison were, however, much more distress for provisions than by the shot of the English batteries. It was not till after a valiant defence, in the course of which one of the springs which supplied the fortress with water was dried up, and the other became choked with ruins, that the gallant Kirkaldy was compelled to capitulate.
After a siege of thirty-three days he surrendered to the English general, who promised that his mistress should intercede with the Regent for favourable treatment to the governor and his adherents. This might the rather have been expected, because Morton and Kirkaldy had been at one time great friends. But the Regent was earnest in demanding the life of his valorous opponent; and Elizabeth, with little regard to her general’s honour or her own, abandoned the prisoners to Morton’s vengeance. Kirkaldy and his brother were publicly executed, to the great regret even of many of the King’s party themselves. Maitland of Lethington, more famed for talents than integrity, despaired of obtaining mercy where none had been extended to Kirkaldy, and put a period to his existence by taking poison. Thus ended the civil wars of Queen Mary’s reign, with the death of the bravest soldier, and of the ablest statesman, in Scotland; for such were Kirkaldy and Maitland.
From the time of the surrender of Edinburgh castle, 29th May, 1573, the Regent Morton was in complete possession of the supreme power in Scotland. As Queen Elizabeth had been his constant friend during the civil wars, he paid devoted attention to her wishes when he became the undisputed ruler of the kingdom.
•@Morton even went so far as to yield up to the justice, or the revenge, of the English Queen, that unfortunate Earl of Northumberland, who, as I formerly mentioned, had raised a rebellion in England, and flying into Scotland, had been confined by the Regent Murray in Lochleven castle. The surrender of this unfortunate nobleman to England was a great stain, not only on the character of Morton, but on that of Scotland in general, which had hitherto been accounted a safe and hospitable place of refuge for those whom misfortune or political faction had exiled from their own country. It was the more particularly noticed, because when Morton himself had been forced to fly to England, on account of his share in Rizzio’s murder, he had been courteously received and protected by the unhappy nobleman whom he had now delivered up to his fate. It was an additional and aggravating circumstance, that it was a Douglas who betrayed a Percy; and when the annals of their ancestors were considered, it was found that while they presented many acts of open hostility, many instances of close and firm alliance, they never till now had afforded an example of any act of treachery exercised by the one family against the other. To complete the infamy of the transaction, a sum of money was paid to the Regent on this occasion, which he divided with Douglas of Lochleven. Northumberland was beheaded at York, 1572.
In other respects, Scotland derived great advantage from the peace with England, as some degree of repose was highly necessary to this distracted country. The peace now made continued, with little interruption, for thirty years and upwards.
On one occasion, however, a smart action took place betwixt the Scots and English, which, though of little consequence, I may here tell you of, chiefly because it was the last considerable skirmish — with the exception of a deed of bold daring, of which I shall speak by and by — which the two nations had, or, it is to be hoped, ever will have, with each other.
It was the course adopted for preserving peace upon the Border, that the wardens on each side used to meet on days appointed, and deliver up to each other the malefactors who had committed aggressions upon either country, or else make pecuniary reparation for the trespasses which they had done. On the 7th July, 1575, Carmichael, as warden for the Scottish Middle Marches, met Sir John Foster, the English officer on the opposite frontier, each being, as usual, accompanied by the guards belonging to their office, as well as by the armed clans inhabiting their jurisdiction. Foster was attended by the men of Tyndale, in greater numbers than those of the Scottish Borderers, all well armed with jack and spear, as well as bows arrows. The meeting was at first peaceful. The wardens commenced their usual business of settling delinquencies; and their attendants began to traffic with each other, and to engage in sports and gaming. For, notwithstanding their habitual incursions, a sort of acquaintance was always kept up between the Borderers on both sides, like that which takes place betwixt the outposts of two contending armies.
During this mutual friendly intercourse, a dispute arose between the two wardens, Carmichael desiring delivery of an English depredator, for whom Foster, on the other hand, refused to be responsible. They both arose from their seats as the debate grew warm, and Sir John Foster told Carmichael, contemptuously, he ought to match himself with his equals. The English Borderers immediately raised their war-cry of “To it, Tynedale!” and without further ceremony, shot a flight of arrows among the Scots, who, few in number, and surprised, were with difficulty able to keep their ground. A band of the citizens of Jedburgh arrived just in time to support their countrymen, and turn the fate of the day; for most of them having fire-arms, the old English long-bow no more possessed its ancient superiority. After a smart action, the English were driven from the field; Sir John Foster, with many of the English gentlemen, being made prisoners, were sent to be at the Regent Morton’s disposal. Sir George Heron of Chipchase, and other persons of condition, were slain on the English side. The Scots lost but one gentleman of name.
Morton, afraid of Queen Elizabeth’s displeasure, thought the offence had been given by the English, treated the prisoners with distinction, and dismissed them, not only without ransom, but with presents of falcons, and other tokens of respect. “Are you not well treated?” said a Scotsman to one of these liberated prisoners, “since we give you live hawks for dead herons?”
This skirmish, called the Raid of the Redswair, took place on the mountainous ridge of the Carter. It produced no interruption of concord between the two countries, being passed over as a casual affray. Scotland, therefore, enjoyed the blessings of peace and tranquillity during the greater part of Morton’s regency.
But the advantages which the kingdom derived from peace, were in some measure destroyed by the corrupt and oppressive government of Morton, who turned his thoughts almost entirely to amassing treasure, by every means in his power. The extensive property, which formerly belonged to the Roman Catholic Church, was a mine out of which the Regent and the other great nobles contrived to work for themselves a great deal of wealth. This they did chiefly by dealing with those who were placed in the room of the abbots and priors as commendators, by which word the Scots distinguished a layman who obtained possession of an ecclesiastical benefice. To these commendators the nobles applied, and, by fair means or force, compelled them to make over and transfer to them the property of the abbacies, or at least to grant it to them in long leases for a trifling rent. That you may understand how this sort of business was managed, I will give you a curious instance of it:—
In August, 1570, Allan Stewart, commendator of the abbacy of Crossraguel, in Ayrshire, was prevailed on to visit the Earl of Cassilis, who conveyed him, partly against his will, to a lonely tower, which overhangs the sea, called the Black Vault of Denure, the ruins of which are yet visible. He was treated for some time kindly; but as his arms and servants were removed from him, he soon saw reason to consider himself less as a friendly guest than as a prisoner, to whom some foul play was intended. At length, the earl conveyed his guest into a private chamber, in which there was no furniture of any kind excepting a huge clumsy iron grate or gridiron, beneath which was a fire of charcoal. “And now, my lord abbot,” said the Earl of Cassilis, “will you be pleased to sign these deeds?” And so saying, he laid before him leases and other papers, transferring the whole lands of the abbacy of Crossraguel to the earl himself. The commendator refused to yield up the property or to subscribe the deeds. A party of ruffians then entered, and seizing the unhappy man, stripped him of his clothes, and forcibly stretched him on the iron bars, where he lay, scorched by the fire beneath, while they basted him with oil, as a cook bastes the joint of meat which she roasts upon a spit. The agony of such torture was not to be endured. The poor man cried pitifully, begging they would put him to instant death, rather than subject him to this lingering misery, and offered his purse, with the money it contained, to any who would in mercy shoot him through the head. At length he was obliged to promise to subscribe whatever the earl wished, rather than endure the excessive torture any longer. The letters and leases being then presented to him he signed them with his half-roasted hand, while the earl all the while exclaimed, with the most impudent hypocrisy, “Benedicte! you are the most obstinate man I ever saw, to oblige me to use you thus: I never thought to have treated any one as your stubbornness has made me treat you.” The commendator was afterwards delivered by a party commanded by Hamilton of Bargany, who attacked the Black Vault of Denure for the purpose of his liberation. But the wild, savage, and ferocious conduct of the earl shows in what manner the nobles obtained grants of the church lands from those who had possession of them for the time.
The Earl of Morton, however, set the example of another and less violent mode of appropriating church revenues to his own purposes. This was by reviving the order of bishops, which had been discarded from the Presbyterian form of church government. For example, on the execution of the Archbishop of Saint Andrews, he caused Douglas, Rector of Saint Andrews, to be made archbishop in his place; but then he allowed this nominal prelate only a small pension out of the large revenues of the bishopric, and retained possession of all the rest of the income for his own advantage, though the rents were levied in the bishop’s name.
These and other innovations gave great distress to John Knox, the bold and inflexible father of the Scottish Reformation. He saw with pain that the Protestant nobles were likely to diminish even the scanty subsistence which had hitherto been supplied to the Scottish clergy, out of the ample funds belonging originally to the Church of Rome. He was also jealous of the republican equality of the clergy, when he beheld the Church of Scotland innovated upon by this new introduction of bishops, though with limited incomes and diminished power. For these and other reasons he had more than once bitterly rebuked the Regent Morton; but when this remarkable man died, the Regent who attended his funeral, pronounced over his coffin an eulogium never to be forgotten. — “There lies he,” said Morton, “who never feared the face of man.”
In the state as in the church, the Regent displayed symptoms of a vindictive, avaricious, and corrupt disposition. Although the civil wars were ended, he resolved to avenge upon the Hamiltons the continued support which that powerful family had given to the Queen’s party, and the obstacles which they had thrown in the way of his own exaltation. He proceeded to act against them as public enemies, drove them out of Scotland, and seized upon their estates. The Earl of Arran, eldest brother of the family, to whom the estates actually belonged, was insane, and in a state of confinement; but this did not prevent Morton from declaring that the earldom and the lands belonging to it were forfeited, — an abuse of law which scandalized all honest men.
It was not only by confiscation that Morton endeavoured to amass wealth. He took money for the offices which he had it in his power to bestow. Even in administering justice, his hands were not pure from bribes; although to dispense the behests of law from favour or love of gain, is one of the greatest crimes of which a public man can be guilty.
It is told of Earl Morton, in a history of the family of Somerville, that a nobleman of that house having a great and important cause to be decided, in which the influence of the Regent might assuredly occasion it to be determined as he himself should thin fit, he followed, by the advice of an ancient and experienced acquaintance of the Regent, the following singular course; — Lord Somerville waited on the Earl of Morton, and recommended his case to his favourable opinion, — a kind of personal solicitation which was then much in use. Having spoken with the Regent for a short time, he turned to depart, and, opening his purse, as if to take out some money to give to the ushers and attendants, as was the custom upon such occasions, he left the purse on the table as though he had forgot it. Morton called after him, — “My lord, your purse — you have forgotten your purse!” — but Lord Somerville hastened away without turning back. He heard nothing more of the purse, which he had taken care should be pretty full of gold; but Lord Morton that day decided the cause in his favour.
Instances of such greedy profligacy by degrees alienated from Morton even the affection and inclination of his best friends, and his government at length became so unpopular, that a universal wish was entertained that the King would put an end to the Regency by assuming the government into his own hands.
These opinions prevailed so generally, that Morton, on the 12th March, 1578, resigned his office of Regent, and retired to reside in the castle of Dalkeith, as a private man, leaving the government to be administered by a council of nobles, twelve in number. But accustomed to be at the head of the government, he could not long remain inactive. He burst from his seclusion in the gloomy fortress, which the people called the Lion’s Den, and using a mixture of craft and force, expelled the new counsellors; and once more, after the old Douglas’ fashion, obtained the supreme management of public affairs. But the sovereign was no longer a child. He was now beginning to think and act for himself; and it is necessary you should know something of his character.
James VI was but an infant when he was placed of the throne of his mother. He was now only a boy of fourteen, very good-natured, and with as much learning as two excellent schoolmasters could cram him with. In fact, he had more learning than wisdom; and yet, in the course of his future life, it did not appear that he was without good sense so much, as that he was destitute of the power to form manly purposes, and the firmness necessary to maintain them. A certain childishness and meanness of mind rendered his good sense useless, and his learning ridiculous. Even from his infancy he was passionately addicted to favourites, and already, in his thirteenth or fourteenth year, there were two persons so high in his good graces that they could bring him to do any thing they pleased.
The first was Esme Stewart of Aubigny, a nephew of the late Earl of Lennox, and his heir. The King not only restored this young man to the honours of his family, but created him Duke of Lennox, and raised him with too prodigal generosity to a high situation in the state. There was nothing in the character of this favourite, either to deserve such extreme preferment, or to make him unworthy of it. He was a gallant young gentleman, who was deeply grateful to the King for his bounty, and appears to have been disposed to enjoy it without injuring any one.
Very different was the character of the other favourite of James VI. This was Captain James Stewart, a second son of the family of Ochiltree. He was an unprincipled, abandoned man, without any wisdom except cunning, and only distinguished by the audacity of his ambition and the boldness of his character.
The counsels of these two favourites increased the King’s natural desire to put an end to the sway of Morton, and Stewart resolved that the pretext for his removal should also be one which should bring him to the block. The grounds of accusation were artfully chosen. The Earl of Morton, when he resigned the regency, had obtained a pardon under the great seal for all crimes and offences which he had or might have committed against the King; but there was no mention, in that pardon, of the murder of Henry Darnley, the King’s father; and in counselling, if not in committing that murder, the Earl of Morton had certainly participated. The favourite Stewart took the office of accuser upon himself; and entering the King’s chamber suddenly when the Privy Council were assembled, he dropped on his knees before James, and accused the Earl of Morton of having been concerned in the murder of the King’s father. To this Morton, with a haughty smile, replied, that he had prosecuted the perpetrators of that offence too severely to make it probable that he himself was one of them. All he demanded was a fair enquiry.
Upon this public accusation, the earl, so lately the most powerful man in Scotland, was made prisoner, and appointed to abide a trial. The friends he had left earnestly exhorted him to fly. His nephew, the Earl of Angus, offered to raise his men, and protect him by force. Morton refused both offers, alleging he would wait the event of a fair investigation. The Queen of England interfered in Morton’s behalf with such partial eagerness, as perhaps prejudiced James still more against the prisoner, whom he was led to believe to be more attached to Elizabeth’s service than to his own.
Mean time the accuser, Stewart, was promoted to the earldom of Arran, vacant by the forfeiture of the Hamiltons. Morton, who had no knowledge of this preferment, was astonished when he heard that the charge ran against him in the name of James, Earl of Arran. When it was explained to him who it was that now enjoyed the title, he observed, “Is it ever so? then I know what I have to expect.” It was supposed that he recollected an old prophecy, which foretold “that the Bloody Heart” (the cognizance of the Douglasses) “should fall by the mouth of Arran;” and it was conjectured that the fear of some of the Hamiltons accomplishing that prophecy had made him the more actively violent in destroying that family. If so, his own tyrannical oppression only opened the way for the creation of an Arran different from those whom he had thought of.
The trial of Morton appears to have been conducted with no attention to the rules of impartial justice; for the servants of the accused person were apprehended, and put to the torture, in order to extort from them confessions which might be fatal to their master. Morton protested against two or three persons who were placed upon his jury, as being his mortal enemies; but they were nevertheless retained. They brought in a verdict, finding that he was guilty, art and part, of the murder of Henry Darnley. A man is said to be art and part of a crime, when he contrives the manner of the deed, and concurs with and encourages those who commit the crime, although he does not put his own hand to the actual execution. Morton heard the verdict with indignation, and struck his staff against the ground as he repeated the words, “Art and part! art and part! God knoweth the contrary.” On the morning after his sentence he awoke from a profound sleep — “On former nights,” he said, “I used to lie awake, thinking how I might defend myself; but now my mind is relieved of its burden.” Being conjured by the clergymen who attended him to confess all he knew of Henry Darnley’s murder, he told them, as we have noticed elsewhere, that a proposal had been made to him by Bothwell to be accessary to the deed, but that he had refused to assent to it without an order under the Queen’s hand, which Bothwell promised to procure, but could not, or at least did not, do so. Morton admitted that he had kept the secret, no knowing, he said, to whom to discover it: For if he had told it to Queen Mary, she was herself one of the conspirators; if to Darnley, he was of a disposition so fickle that the Queen would work it out of him, and then he, Morton, was equally undone. He also admitted, that he knew that his friend, dependent, and kinsman, Archibald Douglas, was present at the murder, whom, notwithstanding, he never brought to justice, but, on the contrary, continued to favour. Upon the whole, he seems to allow, that he suffered justly for concealing the crime, though he denied having given counsel or assistance to its actual execution. “But it is all the same,” he said; “I should have had the same doom, whether I were as innocent as St Stephen, or guilty as Judas.”
As they were about to lead the earl to execution, Captain Stewart, his accuser, now Earl of Arran, come to urge his subscribing a paper containing the purport of his confession. Morton replied, “I pray you trouble me not; I am now to prepare for death, and cannot write in the state in which I am.” Arran then desired to be reconciled to him, pretending he had only acted from public and conscientious motives. “It is no time to count quarrels now;” said the earl — “I forgive you and all others.”
This celebrated man died by a machined called the Maiden, which he himself had introduced into Scotland from Halifax, in Yorkshire. The criminal who suffered by this engine, was adjusted upon planks, in a prostrate state, his neck being placed beneath a sharp axe, heavily loaded with lead, which was suspended by a rope brought over a pulley. When the signal was given, the rope was cast loose, and the axe, descending on the neck of the condemned person, severed, of course, the head from the body. Morton submitted to his fate with the most Christian fortitude; and in him died the last those terrible Douglasses, whose talents and courage rendered them the pride of their country, but whose ambition was often it scourge. No one could tell what became of the treasures he had amassed, and for the sake of which he sacrificed his popularity as a liberal, and his conscience as an honest, man. He was, or seemed to be, so poor, that, when going to the scaffold, he borrowed money from a friend, that he might bestow a parting alms upon the mendicants who solicited his charity. Some have thought that his mass of wealth lies still concealed among the secret vaults of his castle of Dalkeith, now belonging to the Duke of Buccleuch. But Hume of Godscroft, who writes the history of the Douglas family, says that large sums were expended by the Earl of Angus, the nephew of Morton, in maintaining a number of exiles, who, like the earl himself, were banished from Scotland, and at length, when paying away some money for this purpose, he was heard to say, “The last of it is now gone, and I never looked that it should have done so much good.” This Godscroft believed to allude to the final expenditure of the treasures of the Regent Morton.
After the death of Morton, his faults and crimes were in a great measure forgotten, when it was observed that Arran (that is, Captain Stewart) possessed all the late Regent’s vices of corruption and oppression, without his wisdom or his talents. Lennox, the King’s other favourite, was also unpopular, chiefly because he was unacceptable to the clergy, who, although he avowedly professed the Protestant religion, were jealous of his retaining an attachment to the Catholic faith. This suspicion arose from his having been educated in France. They publicly preached against him as “a great Champion called his Grace, who, if he continued to oppose himself to religion, should have little grace in the end.”
A plot was formed among the discontented nobles to remove the King’s favourites from the court; and this was to be accomplished by forcibly seizing on the person of the King himself, which, during the minority of the prince, was the ordinary mode of changing an administration in the kingdom of Scotland.
On the 23rd August, 1582, the Earl of Gowrie invited the King to his castle at Ruthven, under pretext of hunting; he was joined by the Earl of Mar, Lord Lindsay, the Tutor of Glamis, and other noblemen, chiefly such as had been friendly to the Regent Morton, and who were, like him, attached to Queen Elizabeth’s faction. When the King saw so many persons gather round him who he knew to be of one way of thinking, and that hostile to his present measures, he became apprehensive of their intentions, and expressed himself desirous of leaving the castle.
The nobles gave him to understand that he would not be permitted to do so; and when James rose and went towards the door of the apartment, the Tutor of Glamis, a rude stern man, placed his back against it, and compelled him to return. Affronted at this act of personal restraint and violence, the King burst into tears. “Let him weep on,” said the Tutor of Glamis, fiercely; “better that bairns (children) weep, that bearded men.” These words sank deep into the King’s heart, nor did he ever forget or forgive them.
The insurgent lords took possession of the government, and banished the Duke of Lennox to France, where he died broken-hearted at the fall of his fortunes. James afterwards recalled his son to Scotland, and invested him with his father’s fortune and dignities. Arran, the King’s much less worthy favourite, was thrown into prison, and closely guarded. The King himself, reduced to a state of captivity, like his grandfather, James V, when in the hands of the Douglasses, temporized, and watched an opportunity of escape. His guards consisted of a hundred gentlemen, and their commander, Colonel Stewart, a relation of the disgraced and imprisoned Arran, was easily engaged to do what the King wished.
James, with the purpose of recovering his freedom, made a visit to Saint Andrews, and, when there, affected some curiosity to see the castle. But no sooner had he entered it than he caused the gates to be shut, and excluded from his presence the nobles who had been accessary to what was called the Raid of Ruthven.
The Earl of Gowrie and his accomplices, being thus thrust out of office, and deprived of the custody of the King’s person, united in a fresh plot for regaining the power they had lost, by a new insurrection. In this, however, they were unsuccessful. The King advanced against them with considerable forces; Gowrie was made prisoner, tried and executed at Stirling, 4th May, 1584. Angus and the the other insurgents fled to England, the ordinary refuge of Scottish exiles. The execution of Gowrie gave rise long afterwards to that extraordinary event in Scottish history, called the Gowrie Conspiracy, of which I shall give you an account by and by.
The upstart Earl of Arran was now restored to power, and indeed raised higher than ever, by that indiscriminate affection which on this and other occasions induced James to heap wealth and rank without bounds upon his favourites. This worthless minister governed every thing at court and throughout the kingdom; and, though ignorant as well as venal and profligate, he was raised to the dignity of Lord Chancellor, the highest law-office in the state, and that in which sagacity, learning, and integrity, were chiefly required.
One day when the favourite was bustling into the Court of Justice, at the head of his numerous retinue, an old man, rather meanly dressed, chanced to stand in his way. As Arran pushed rudely past him, the man stopped him, and said, “Look at me, my lord, — I am Oliver Sinclair!” Oliver Sinclair, you remember, was the favourite of James V, and had exercised during his reign as absolute a sway in Scotland as Arran now enjoyed under his grandson, James VI. In presenting himself before the present favourite in his neglected condition, he gave Arran an example of the changeful character of court favour. The lesson was a striking one; but Arran did not profit by it.
The favourite’s government became so utterly intolerable, that, in the year 1585, the banished lords found a welcome reception in Scotland, and marching to Stirling at the head of then thousand men, compelled James to receive them into his counsels; and, by using their victory with moderation, were enabled to maintain the power which they had thus gained. Arran, stripped of his earldom and ill-gotten gains, and banished from the court, was fain to live privately and miserably among the wilds of the north-west of Ayrshire, afraid of the vengeance of his numerous enemies.
The fate which he apprehended from their enmity befell him at length; for, in 1596, seeing, or thinking he saw, some chance of regaining the King’s favour, and listening, as is said, to the words of some idle soothsayer, who pretended that his head was about to be raised higher than ever, Stewart (for he was an earl no longer) ventured into the southern county of Dumfries. He received a hint to take care of his safety, since he was now in the neighbourhood of the Douglasses, who great leader, the Earl of Morton, he had been the means of destroying; and in particular, he was advised to beware of James Douglas of Torthorwald, the earl’s near kinsman [nephew]. Stewart replied haughtily, he would not go out of his road for him or all of the name of Douglas. This was reported to Torthorwald, who, considering the expression as a defiance, immediately mounted, with three servants, and pursued the disgraced favourite. When they overtook him, they thrust a spear through his body, and killed him on the spot, without resistance. His head was cut off, placed on the point of a lance, and exposed from the battlements of the tower of Torthorwald, and thus, in some sense, the soothsayer’s prophecy was made good, as his head was raised higher than before, though not in the way he had been made to hope. His body was left for several days on the placed where he was killed, and was mangled by dogs and swine. So ended this worthless minion, by a death at once bloody and obscure.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:54