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The Scottish Reformation
Chapter III.—The Knox Period, a. d. 1555—1560.
Section 5. Civil War. Treaty with England. Siege of Leith. 1559—1560


The struggle was now to pass into the phase of civil war—a war not only of religious freedom, but of national independence —a war of emancipation, not only from the yoke of Rome, but from the yoke of France.

As a religious conflict, the success of the Reformation was already virtually decided. Thirty-four years of faithful testimony to the truth, at an immense expense of suffering and blood, had at length gained over the national mind to the side of religious reform; and in two short months the altars and the idols of superstition had been destroyed, amidst the acclamations of the people, in ten of the principal towns of the kingdom, including both the ecclesiastical and the civil capitals. These two months had also virtually decided the conflict, viewed as a trial of material strength between two native Scottish parties. Apart from the French forces, it was now no longer doubtful with which party the advantage of numbers and resources lay. The nobles were rapidly going over to the camp of the Reformers, and the last scene of the brief campaign just concluded was an interview between the Lords of the Congregation and the two most powerful noblemen of the kingdom, the Duke and the Earl of Huntley, in which both the latter had promised to join them, if the Regent should discover any intention to add to the number of her French auxiliaries—a promise which they had speedily occasion to fulfil. It was now evident, therefore, that the material as well as the moral strength of the nation was on the side of reform, and that the sole reliance of the Regent and the bishops was on foreign aid. If the yoke of Rome was still to be pressed down upon the neck of the nation, it could only be by the help of the veteran legions of France; and now that that was the policy which was to be energetically pursued, it became clear to almost all Scotsmen that the struggle had become one of patriotism as well as of religion—a struggle against French interference and dictation, as well as against the Pope of Rome. The history of the next twelve months is the history of a civil war, in which the nation, aided by England, appears in arms against its rulers, aided by France. It is a history of the deepest interest to the Scottish people. That war was the very hinge and crisis of their national destiny; the fiery purgatory through which they passed from the corruption and dregs of mediaeval bondage and superstition, into the happy condition of light and liberty, which, with steadily advancing though often interrupted development, has marked their modern life. But a civil war need only be hastily sketched in a history of religious life. We can only touch the principal events, referring the reader for details to the works of civil historians.

Preparations had begun on both sides for this ulterior stage of the contest, even before the close of the two months' campaign—on the side of the Regent, by the demand for fresh troops from France, and on the side of the Reformers, by negotiations for an alliance with England. Events had just happened in both these powerful kingdoms which were equally favourable to the hopes of both the contending parties. By the death of Henry II., Francis II., the husband of Mary Queen of Scots, had become King of France, and the house of Guise had risen to the pinnacle of power; and by the death of Mary Queen of England, the Princess Elizabeth had acceded to the throne, and Protestantism was again in the ascendant both in Church and State. Both France and England, therefore, might now be relied upon to interfere effectually in the Scottish war— all the more that it soon became evident that the French court had resolved to put forward against Elizabeth the pretensions of Mary to the English crown; and that Elizabeth, stung to the quick by the discovery of this design, was determined to oppose the most vigilant and energetic resistance to the ambition of France. Scotland was thus destined to be converted into a battle-field, on which the quarrels of these foreign rivals, as well as her own civil and religious contests, were to be fought out; and she must become either a great loser or gainer by the encounter of these mighty powers upon her soil.

The idea of opening a correspondence with the English court originated with Knox, and the first letters were written by William Kirkaldy, of Grange, at his suggestion. "The said John being in St Andrews after Cupar-muir, entered in deep discourse with the Laird of Grange; the dangers were evident, but the support was not easy to be seen. After many words, John Knox burst forth as follows:—' If England would foresee their ane commodity, yea, if they did consider the danger wherein they themselves stand, they would not suffer us to perish in this quarrel, for France hath decreed no less the conquest of England than of Scotland.' After long reasoning, it was concluded betwixt them two that support should be craved of England, and for that purpose the said Laird of Grange first wrote to Sir Harry Percy, and afterwards rode from Edinburgh and spake with him." Kirkaldy's first letter to Percy remained unanswered, and has not been preserved ; but his second and third letters to Percy, and several others addressed by him to Sir William Cecil and Sir James Crofts, are still extant, and are highly honourable to the zeal and wisdom of that gallant soldier and patriot. His first letter to Cecil, dated June 23, 1559, was sent through Sir Henry Percy, at Norham, and speedily called forth from that wise statesman a most encouraging reply. As the proprieties of his high office as Secretary of State did not permit him to communicate directly on such weighty affairs with a private individual, Cecil desired Percy to seek an interview with Kirkaldy, and to show him a letter in which he instructed Percy as follows :—

"To say unto him, that for his letter I do privately thank him for so friendly a participation with me of such a matter; and ye may assure him, that rather than that realm should be under a foreign nation and power, oppressed and deprived of the ancient liberties thereto belonging, and the nobility thereof, and specially such as at this present seek to maintain the truth of the Christian religion, be expelled, the authority of England would adventure with power and force to aid that realm against any such foreign invasion; and, indeed, I dare also affirm, would be as sorry to see that ancient nation to be overthrown and oppressed, as this our own."

Knox took an important part in the negotiations thus happily begun, both by letters and by personal interview with Sir James Crofts at Berwick. He continued to press Cecil for some explicit promises of assistance, even after most of the Lords, disappointed by the cautious and fault-finding tone of the Secretary's later letters, "despaired of any comfort to come from that country, and therefore were determined to request no farther;" and, at last, his repeated and urgent communications were crowned with success. Elizabeth was for a long time reluctant to interfere in the contest; but her reluctance was at length overcome by the persevering representations of Cecil and other members of her council Sir Ralph Sadler was sent down to Berwick, by a commission granted on the 8th of August, to put himself in communication with the Scottish Protestants, and to aid them with his advice, and with subsidies of money. In addition to these substantial marks of friendship, Cecil was careful to keep them well informed, from time to time, of the designs and preparations of France. On the 8th of July, for example, he desired Crofts to contrive some means of advertising them that the French king "intended with speed to send an army into Scotland, of twenty ensignies of footmen, and two hundred men at arms, and that the Protestants were to be assayed with all fair promises first, next with money, and last with arms." The feeling which dictated all these acts of friendly succour, in addition to considerations of policy and interest, was warmly expressed by Cecil in a letter to the Lords of the Congregation, on the 28th of July. "The proceedings in Scotland," he remarked, "for the abandonment of idolatry and the maintenance of the freedom of their country from strangers, are such as all Christian men ought to allow. Nothing can be more joyful to them in England, who have exalted their queen to her kingdom, and brought in their Saviour Jesus Christ, than that the same blessing may come to Scotland. They in England should be utterly void of zeal to God were they not to favour the purposes of the Lords."

On the side of France, preparations for the reduction and conquest of Scotland were pushed forward with vigour, and were openly boasted of by her officers at the Scottish court The Sieur de Bdthencourt, chamberlain to the Queen Dowager, on returning to Scotland, at the beginning of August, from France, to which he had been sent with despatches, told some of the Lords that he was instructed to say, that the French king would spend the crown of France before he would fail of his revenge for their sedition. Throughout the autumn of 1559, the French forces were actively employed in strengthening the fortifications of Leith, so as to secure for themselves an impregnable position in the kingdom, and the garrison continued to receive large accessions of fresh troops from France. Many of these soldiers brought with them their wives and children—a fact which was fairly construed to indicate a design on the part of the French to establish themselves permanently in the country, especially when it became known that many of the native inhabitants of Leith were dislodged and driven out of the town to make way for these intruders. The Queen-Regent did her utmost to cloak that design. She took God to witness, in her proclamations and letters, that all such reports as were spread by the Congregation to that effect were "most vain, faigned, and untrue," and she solemnly declared, .that if for every Frenchman that was then in Scotland, she had a hundred at her command, "yet should not for that, one jot of what she had promised be broken, but the appointment be truly and surely observed in every point." "Ye shall ever find with us truth in promises, and ane motherly love towards all." But the Lords, in their counter proclamations and letters, appealed to her doings as the best proof of the hollowness of her professions. She had spoken of her "motherly love" :—

"Let this then," said they, "be tried by the fruits thereof Credit her deeds, dear brethren, if ye will not credit us; and lay the example of foreign nations, yea, of your own brethren before your eyes, and procure not your own ruin willingly. If ye tender true religion, ye see how her Grace bears herself plain enemy thereto, and maintains the tyranny of the bishops against God's Kirk. If religion be not persuaded unto you, yet cast ye not away the care ye ought to have over your commonwealth, which ye see manifestly and violently ruined before your eyes. If this will not move you, remember your dear wives, children and posterity, your ancient heritages and homes, and be assured these strangers will regard no more your right thereunto than they have done your brethren's of Leith, whenever occasion shall serve. But if ye purpose, as we doubt not but that all who have either wit or manhood will declare and prove indeed, to bruik your ancient rooms and heritages, conquered maist valiantly and defended by your maist noble progenitors, against all strangers invaders of the same, as the French pretend plainly this day; if ye will not be slaves unto them, and to have your lives, your wives, your bairns, your substance, and whatsoever is dear unto you casten at their feet, to be used and abused at the pleasure of foreign soldiers, as you see your brethren's at this day before your eyes; if, as we suppose, the least of you would rather choose with honour to die in defence of his native soil, than to live and serve so shameful a servitude ; then, brethren, let us join our forces, and both with wit and manhood resist these beginnings, or else our liberties hereafter shall be dearer bought Let no man withdraw himself herefrom. The eternal and omnipotent God, the true and only revenger of the oppressed, be our comfort and our protector against the fury and rage of the tyrants of this world, and especially from the insatiable covetousness of the Guisean generation. Amen."

The hand of Knox is conspicuous in these public documents of the Congregation. They reveal the ardour of his own patriotism, and the power of his eloquence in appealing to the nationality of his countrymen.

When the war of proclamations ended, the war of more lethal weapons began. The Lords of the Congregation having been joined in the beginning of September by the Duke of Chatelherault and his son the Earl of Arran (who had recently turned Protestant in France, and had escaped with great difficulty from the hands of the Guises)—it was agreed at Hamilton about the end of that month, that their whole forces should convene at Stirling on the 15th of October—"that from thence they might march forward to Edinburgh for the redress of the great enormities done by the French," A campaign began, which with several interruptions continued till the 7th of July in the following year, and was marked by the most violent vicissitudes of fortune. Commencing with great disasters to the arms of the Reformers, which almost overwhelmed them with discouragement, these very disasters proved in the end the occasion of their success, by bringing to their side the powerful assistance of an English army ; and the French, after gaining many advantages, and repeatedly repelling the assaults both of the Congregation and their English allies, were yet compelled at last to desist from their enterprise, and to yield the fruits of victory to their assailants, progenitors, against all strangers invaders of the same, as the French pretend plainly this day; if ye will not be slaves unto them, and to have your lives, your wives, your bairns, your substance, and whatsoever is dear unto you casten at their feet, to be used and abused at the pleasure of foreign soldiers, as you see your brethren's at this day before your eyes; if, as we suppose, the least of you would rather choose with honour to die in defence of his native soil, than to live and serve so shameful a servitude ; then, brethren, let us join our forces, and both with wit and manhood resist these beginnings, or else our liberties hereafter shall be dearer bought Let no man withdraw himself herefrom. The eternal and omnipotent God, the true and only revenger of the oppressed, be our comfort and our protector against the fury and rage of the tyrants of this world, and especially from the insatiable covetousness of the Guisean generation. Amen."

The hand of Knox is conspicuous in these public documents of the Congregation. They reveal the ardour of his own patriotism, and the power of his eloquence in appealing to the nationality of his countrymen.

When the war of proclamations ended, the war of more lethal weapons began. The Lords of the Congregation having been joined in the beginning of September by the Duke of Chatelherault and his son the Earl of Arran (who had recently turned Protestant in France, and had escaped with great difficulty from the hands of the Guises)—it was agreed at Hamilton about the end of that month, that their whole forces should convene at Stirling on the 15th of October—"that from thence they might march forward to Edinburgh for the redress of the great enormities done by the French," A campaign began, which with several interruptions continued till the 7th of July in the following year, and was marked by the most violent vicissitudes of fortune. Commencing with great disasters to the arms of the Reformers, which almost overwhelmed them with discouragement, these very disasters proved in the end the occasion of their success, by bringing to their side the powerful assistance of an English army ; and the French, after gaining many advantages, and repeatedly repelling the assaults both of the Congregation and their English allies, were yet compelled at last to desist from their enterprise, and to yield the fruits of victory to their assailants.

The march to Edinburgh on the 16th of October, was followed by a retreat to Stirling on the 5th of November. The Lords on arriving in the capital sent an advertisement to the Queen-Regent in Leith, requiring her to dismiss her French soldiers, and to throw open the gates of the town to all their sovereign's Scottish lieges; and upon her refusal to do so, they passed an act of suspension, depriving her temporarily of her authority, which they caused to be proclaimed by sound of trumpet at the market cross of Edinburgh, on the 21st of October. But the boldness of these measures was ill sustained by vigour of action or union of counsel, in carrying on the siege. The feebleness and irresolution of the Duke were a source of weakness; their most secret counsels were betrayed to the enemy by traitors in the camp; they were without money to pay their soldiers, who broke out into mutiny; their messenger, the Laird of Ormiston, who was sent to bring a subsidy of one thousand pounds from Sir Ralph Sadler at Berwick, was waylaid by the Earl of Bothwell, and robbed of the treasure; they were worsted by the French veterans in two encounters, and pursued up to the gates of the town; the numbers of their soldiers rapidly diminished; universal discouragement prevailed; and at last they were compelled to withdraw under cover of night, amidst the jeers and triumph-ings of the popish rabble, who called them heretics and traitors. When they arrived at Stirling with the shattered remains of their forces, it needed all the religious fervour and power of Knox's pulpit eloquence to reanimate their hopes, and to stimulate them to new efforts.

But in truth this failure proved a greater advantage to their cause than a partial or undecisive success would have been. It opened the eyes of Elizabeth and her councillors to the necessity of aiding them, not only with money, but with men. It was now evident that the French troops, fighting behind strong fortifications, were more than a match for the inexperienced feudal levies of the Scottish nobles; and all that was needed was an able negotiator to represent the gravity of the crisis in sufficiently vivid colours to the English court Such a man was found in William Maitland of Lethington, who had recently joined the ranks of the Reformers, and whose single accession, which took place while they lay before Leith, was almost a full compensation for all their reverses. Maitland was despatched to London, immediately after the retreat to Stirling, and was so successful in his representations, that Elizabeth consented to send immediately into the Firth of Forth a small fleet, to cut off the communications and supplies of the French garrison, and resolved to take steps for the conclusion of a treaty with the Protestant Lords, with the view of besieging Leith with the united strength of both kingdoms, in the ensuing spring.

Never was succour more welcome to struggling patriots than was the appearance of the English fleet in the Firth, on the 23d of January, 1560. Four thousand French soldiers had been for some weeks in Fife, and were pressing along the coast on their way to St Andrews, which they designed to reduce and occupy. The Earl of Arran and Lord James Stewart were in command of the Protestant forces in that quarter, but had never been able to bring more than six hundred men into the field. All they could effect was to harass the French upon their march, to cut off their foraging parties, and somewhat to impede their advance. Their efforts were heroic, and they had captains to second them, men like William Kircaldy of Grange, and the Master of Lindsay, who were heroes like themselves. "They did so valiantly," says Knox, "that it passed all credibility; for twenty-and-one days they lay in their clothes; their boots never, came off; they had skirmishing almost every day, yea some days from morn to even; they held the French so busy that for every horse they slew in the Congregation they lost four French soldiers." But the struggle was too unequal even for heroes, and it was welcome news when Admiral Winter's friendly sails hove in sight off the mouth of the Firth. Monsieur D'Osell mistook them at first for French ships, and ordered his soldiers to fire off a volley from the lofty headlands of Kin-craig, by way of salutation. But he was soon undeceived, for the admiral lost no time in capturing several French vessels filled with munitions, which were crossing the Firth at the moment of his arrival; and the French, seeing themselves thus unexpectedly cut off from communication with their magazines in Leith, w6re compelled to commence a hurried retreat to Stirling, "making more expedition in one day in returning, than they did in two in marching forward." To the sorely beleaguered warriors of the Reformation in Fife, this was "a mighty deliverance," as Knox calls it, and solemn thanks were offered up to God in the parish church of St Andrews. The Reformer had animated them at Cupar, when the danger was at its greatest, by the assurance, that though like the disciples in the storm " they had to row the ship against contrary blasts for a time, yet deliverance was at hand; at the fourth watch, if not sooner, Christ would appear;" and the event had justified his prediction by fulfilling it.

The tide of events had now turned against the Regent and her French allies. They saw themselves confronted with the united resources of two kingdoms. On the 27th of February a treaty was concluded at Berwick, between Queen Elizabeth and the Lords of the Congregation, by which she engaged to send an army into Scotland to assist them in expelling the French from the kingdom; while the Lords on their part engaged "to the uttermost of their power to aid and support her majesty's army against the French, with horsemen, footmen, and victuals, by land and sea." The month of March was employed on both sides in making preparations for the final struggle; and on the 2d of April the English army crossed the border at Berwick, under the command of Lord Gray, eight thousand strong. They were met at Preston by the Duke of Chatelherault and other Scottish lords, at the head of five thousand men; and on the 6th of April, which was the eve of Palm Sunday, the two armies arrived at Restalrig, within a mile of Leith.

We cannot stop to narrate at any length the incidents of the siege. For more than three months it was pressed with great vigour, during the whole of which time the besiegers were kept plentifully supplied with provisions, and the two allied armies acted together with entire harmony. The French garrison made a gallant defence, and were commended even by their enemies for their persistency and valour; but as their communications with France were now completely cut off both by sea and land, they were at last reduced to extreme distress. It was more than two months after the opening of the trenches before the besiegers were ready to make the assault; and when it failed, partly through mismanagement and partly through the treachery of one of the English captains, the English, nothing daunted, resolved to persevere in the siege, and were reinforced with two thousand fresh troops from Berwick. "The patience and stout courage of the Englishmen" says Knox, "but principally of the horsemen, were worthy of all praise, for where was it ever heard that eight thousand (they never exceeded that number that lay in camp) should besiege four thousand of the most desperate throat-cutters that were to be found in Europe, and lie so near unto them in daily skirmishing, the space of three months and mair?"

As the Duke of Norfolk, who lay at Berwick, was resolved that the English army "should not lack men as long as any were to be had between Tweed and Trent," the issue of the siege could not be doubtful, and the prolongation of resistance on the part of the French, after they had done all that was needful to save their military honour, could only have led to the needless effusion of blood. The truth is that France had never contemplated a war with England in this Scottish quarrel, and found herself ill prepared to sustain the burden of such a conflict; and as soon as she was convinced that Elizabeth was really in earnest to support her Scottish allies, she became desirous of withdrawing from the struggle. On the 16th of June two French commissioners arrived in Edinburgh with full power to conclude a treaty of peace, and were soon after followed by two commissioners from the English court, one of whom was Sir William Cecil. "The negotiation was langsum," says Knox, "for both England and we, fearing deceit, sought by all means that the contract should be sure, and they upon the other part protracted time to the uttermost" At last peace was concluded upon terms which secured to the country immediate deliverance from the French yoke. "By the treaty it was provided that the French troops should immediately be removed from Scotland; that an amnesty should be granted to all who had been engaged in the late resistance to the Queen-Regent; that the principal grievances of which they complained in the civil administration should be redressed; and that a free parliament should be held to settle the other affairs of the kingdom. The treaty was signed on the 7th of July. On the 16th the French army embarked at Leith, and the English troops began their march into then-own country; and on the 19th the Congregation assembled in St Giles's Church to return solemn thanks to God for the restoration of peace, and the success which had crowned their exertions. In this manner terminated the civil war which attended the Scottish Reformation, after it had continued for twelve months, with less rancour and bloodshed than have distinguished any other conflict of a similar kind."


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