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Aberdour and Inchcolme
Lecture 6


The Regent Moray’s birth, parentage, and upbringing—Made Prior of St. Andrews in the third year of his age—Other ecclesiastical honours heaped on the child—His youthful bravery—Accompanies the Princess Mary to France—His patriotism—Abandons the profession of Churchman—His place in the work of Reformation—Knox's influence over him—Compelled to abandon the cause of the Queen-Regent—A Commissioner to France to invite Queen Mary to return to'Scotland— His devotion to her—His marriage, and Knox's sermon on the occasion—Quells disturbances on the Borders—The battle of Corrichie— Popish Plots—His opposition to the Queen’s marriage with Darnley— Flees into England—Returns after the death of Rizzio—Darnley’s murder, and Mary's favour for Bothwell—Moray at the French Court —Mary's imprisonment in Lochleven Castle—Moray's interview with her—Accepts the Regency—Character of his government—Mary's escape from Lochleven Castle—Battle of Langside—Moray’s efforts to save Mary’s life—His assassination at Linlithgow—Testimonies of friendly and unfriendly historians to his worth.

Among the great names that adorn Scottish history, few hold a higher place than that of the Regent Moray; and in any true view of one of the greatest epochs in the annals of our country—the period of the Reformation—his influence cannot but command attention. Moreover, in a neighbourhood where his title has been worn, for well-nigh three centuries, by his descendants through one of his daughters, ignorance of the leading facts and features of his life cannot be other than blameworthy. Endowed by nature with a vigorous and capacious mind, he was, in spite of circumstances connected with his birth, which were decidedly adverse, thrown by Providence in the way of men who exerted a powerful influence over him for good ; and casting himself warmly into movements both of a political and religious kind, which the circumstances of the time urgently demanded, he became great in many spheres. I shall now attempt to give you glimpses of the man in the various spheres in which the records of history hold him up to our view.

James Stewart, or Stuart, as it is now the fashion to spell his name, was a natural son of James the Fifth. His mother was Lady Margaret Erskine, daughter of John, twelfth Lord Erskine, and fifth Earl of Mar. She was afterwards married to Sir Robert Douglas of Lochleven. Thus, on his father’s side, James Stuart was a step-brother of Mary Queen of Scots, and, on his mother’s side, stepbrother of William, the first Earl of Morton, of the house of Lochleven, and of Sir George Douglas, who assisted the Queen in her escape from Lochleven Castle. The precise year of the future Regent’s birth is not with certainty known. It is, however, generally believed that he was born in 1533. Among the papers in the charter-room at Donibristle is a precept of James the Fifth, which I have seen, appointing William Durham, of Grange, ‘ attorney for the King’s well-beloved first-born natural son, James Stewart, in all actions affecting his interests.’ This paper is dated the 19th of July, in the twenty-second year of the King’s reign,—that is, in 1534, which is in harmony with the supposition that the young Lord James was born in the previous year. From the circumstances attending his birth, and the character of the times, there did not naturally lie before the child the brightest prospects of a sound education and a godly upbringing; and indeed we have little information regarding his early years. This much we know, that he was intended by his father for the Church. If any are inclined to regard this as a pious resolution on the part of the King, I must at once undeceive them. James the Fifth was not the man to be much affected by such considerations. He knew well the abuses of the Church of the period, and was not slow to express his views of the corruption that infected the clergy; but under that state of matters he had more liberty of action, in a certain direction, than he could hope for after Reformation had done its work. I allude to his appropriation of the revenues of some of the fattest livings in the Church to his own use, by appointing his natural sons, in their infancy, to them. Particular instances of this mode of procedure present themselves in connection with the subject of our sketch. When only in his third year the child was made Prior of St. Andrews, a proceeding the enormity of which will more clearly appear if we suppose a child three years of age in our own days made Bishop of a diocese in England, or placed at the head of a Divinity Hall in Scotland. The chief functions of a Prior, in King James’s eyes, must have been to draw the revenue of the benefice; and he probably consoled himself with the thought that he was quite able to do this for the infant Prior. But the corruption of the Church, which in many instances, and in the most unblushing manner, permitted such arrangements, shows how much John Knox was needed in Scotland. To render some apparent service for princely income thus received, the child seems henceforth to have been called ‘ the Prior.’ It is related, in connection with a period in the history of our country when military honours were too liberally bestowed, that a soldierly father, on wishing to know the cause of a more than usual uproar in the nursery, got for answer that it was only ‘the Major greetin’ for his parritch.’ It is not unlikely that similar demonstrations were sometimes made by the youthful ‘ Prior.’

Few details regarding James Stuart’s education have come down to us. It has been stated by some writers that he had the celebrated George Buchanan for his tutor; but Buchanan’s pupil was another son of the King’s, inheriting the same name—the boy Abbot of Kelso and Melrose. In whatever way received, the Prior got the best education his own country, in the first instance, could afford, and then he was sent to France, the University of Paris being at the time the chief fountain at which Buchanan himself, and the most of our great Scottish scholars of that period, drank. In this way the future Regent acquired habits of study and stores of learning which raised him immeasurably above the rude barons who surrounded him, and also above the great mass of the half-educated churchmen of the period. In these years of patient study, the foundation was laid of the greatness he afterwards displayed as the friend and promoter of the civil and religious liberty of his country. At this early time, however, he could never dream of the chequered, yet in the main noble, career that lay before him. Through the patronage of his father, whose sharp eye to his own worldly interest must ever have been on the outlook for greater honours to his son, the Priory of Pittenweem was added to that of St. Andrews, and, when the wearer of these honours was only eleven years of age, he got still further the Priory of Macon in France. Of course his age unfitted him for performing any of the duties connected with these offices, but that was no barrier to his getting such prizes in places so far remote. It was, to be sure, thought necessary to get the Pope’s dispensation, in order that a child might hold three benefices at once. This, however, was easily secured. The gold key, at that time, opened every lock, even in sacred Rome; and, as an acknowledgment of the boon conferred, the boy went through the form of swearing fealty to his holiness Pope Paul the Third.

The Prior’s career, however, was to be less in the Church than in the tented field, less in the camp than in the senate-house and at Court. And while he seems never to have cared much for an ecclesiastical life, the germs of a liking for the other spheres named speedily showed themselves. While only fifteen, he showed that he belonged to the Church Militant in a sense not quite orthodox. In 1548, when Scotland was invaded by English troops, a fleet under Lord Clinton was sent to the Firth of Forth to co-operate with English land forces. This fleet made a descent on the Fife coast at St. Monans, and caused great consternation. The Laird of Wemyss speedily opposed the English invaders; and the youthful Prior no sooner heard, at St. Andrews, of the threatened danger, than he mustered all the help that an unexpected call could gather together, and, along with Wemyss, repulsed the English with great slaughter. It is generally admitted that on this occasion the Prior, although a mere lad, gave indications of that cool and determined bravery, the benefit of which Scotland reaped at later times and on more hotly contested fields.

It is difficult to trace the various journeys to France which Lord James, as he now began to be called, made about this time. When his sister Mary, afterwards Queen of Scots, went to France, a child six years old, accompanied by her ‘four Maries’—Mary Beaton, Mary Seaton, Mary Fleming, and Mary Livingston—Lord James sailed in the same royal galley. And from time to time we have traces of him, now in Scotland and now in France.

Grave changes had, however, taken place in our country, even before he sailed with his sister to France. His father had died of a broken heart, partly the result of the defeat sustained by his troops in their contests with those of England, and partly owing to the turbulent spirit of his nobles, which led the way to national dishonour. And, following closely on the death of the King, came a state of matters between Scotland and England not unlike what had existed after the death of Alexander the Third. Henry of England wished to espouse his eldest son, the Prince of Wales, to the Princess Mary of Scotland; and, balked in that project, he did what he could to enlist the Douglases, and other discontented nobles, in a shameful plot to make their country a mere province of England.

We are not called upon to enter minutely into the history of these and other intrigues, which now began to darken the horizon of our country’s hopes. We have only to look at the attitude towards them taken up by Lord James. And it has to be said that, in all the movements of that dark time, he occupied, what was regarded by those best qualified to judge, the most loyal ground. Even when Mary of Guise became Regent, although she was a woman who seemed willing to sacrifice the best interests of Scotland to French ideas of politics and religion, Lord James was firmly on her side in opposition to England. And in 1557 we find him, Prior of St. Andrews as he still was, making an incursion into England, accompanied by Lord Robert Stuart, another of the King’s many natural sons, who, as we might have expected, was also a Church dignitary, being Abbot of Holyrood. The two Churchmen and their followers did not inflict much damage on England, nor do they seem to have suffered much either. In the same year we find Lord James in France, as a commissioner from Scotland to attend the marriage of his sister to the Dauphin. By this time the subject of our sketch appears to have abandoned all idea of remaining in the service of the Church. The current of Reformation views, setting in strongly from Germany and England, had already made it evident that the old corrupt state of affairs could not be much longer tolerated. Cardinal Beaton’s intrigues in State affairs, especially his shameful forgery of a document, purporting to be signed by the late King, appointing that wily ecclesiastic Regent of the kingdom, must have opened the eyes of many to the policy of the Churchmen of the time. The barbarities of Beaton, which at length drew assassination down on him, had brought the Reformers, and their doctrines and aims, more fully before the mind of the country. Above all, the Bible had been given to the people in a language they could understand; and, along with the reading of the Word, the preaching of the Evangel by Knox and his fellow-labourers had awakened the people from a long spiritual sleep. The sagacious could see that the country was on the verge of important religious changes. Already the death-knell of Popery was sounded, in the tones of a faithfully preached Gospel. The first great instrument, in the hand of God, in bringing about the Reformation in Scotland was John Knox; the second was Lord James Stuart.

To trace all the steps by which this remarkable man was led from being a devoted friend, and even a partisan, of his sister and her mother, the Queen-Regent, till he took up the position of thorough independence of judgment, and then that of antagonism to both, would far exceed the limits of this sketch. On this subject the most conflicting opinions are held and defended by historians of different schools. Some maintain that disappointed ambition was the cause of his alienation from his sister; and that in all the steps he subsequently took, he had only his own aggrandisement at heart. Others, again, assert that only the purest and noblest motives, and a clear view of what was to serve the highest interests of his country, affected him. We cannot espouse either of these views, pure and simple. That ambition alone was the mainspring of such a noble career we believe to be unsupported by trustworthy evidence, and indeed self-contradictory; while, on the other hand, we are not prepared to admit that the regency was never the object of his ambition, or that he had, from the first, a clear view of the noble course he was to run, or a firm purpose to make it so entirely subservient to the highest interests of patriotism and religion. Like many others, who are instruments in a higher Hand, he came to see, bit by bit, the task assigned him; and many a time found himself used to bring about ends that he had only dimly foreseen, or had not thought of at all. But even with these limitations, if it does not evidently appear, ere we have done, that James Stuart was one of the noblest and best of the many great men of whom our country can boast, the fault will lie with the writer, and not with his subject.

Some who are never at a loss to find reasons, however sordid, for the actions of a public man, have asserted that the change which came over Lord James’s career, immediately after his sister’s marriage, was due to disappointed ambition. They say that at this time he sought from Mary the earldom of Moray, but that, acting on the advice of her mother, she refused it, promising him, however, instead of the earldom, a bishopric, either in England or France,— an honour, we may suppose, much less to his taste. There is, we believe, no reason to doubt that the request was made, and the refusal given ; but there is not sufficient evidence for the existence of the estrangement, which is alleged to have immediately followed, and still less proof that Lord James’s future career was due to disappointed ambition. Other thoughts and feelings were now in his mind.

When Knox preached the doctrines of the Reformation, in Calder House, in 1555, to a number of the nobility and gentry of Scotland,—who honoured themselves as much as they honoured him in being present,—there were three noblemen among his audience who afterwards took a leading part in the history of their times. These were Archibald, Lord Lorn; John, Lord Erskine; and Lord James Stuart. Lord James was now in the twenty-second year of his age, and fully alive to the important work that had begun in Scotland. This, however, was not the first time he had met the Reformer. Knox, in his History, speaks of having met him in London, at an earlier time, and has not failed to relate that the talents and energy of the young man left a most favourable impression on him. The influence of Knox over the minds of the three noblemen just named, during his ministrations at Calder House, was very great; indeed it may with safety be affirmed that the impressions then made were never effaced. After Knox’s return to Geneva, it was a letter written by these three noblemen, along with the Earl of Glencairn, that induced the Reformer to bid farewell to his flock in that town, and turn his face homewards again. And when he did return, they gave him strong and steady support. No doubt they did not in everything see eye to eye ; as indeed, at a transition time, when new and unexpected events were continually turning up, even good men, looking at things from somewhat different points of view, could hardly be expected to do. When Knox had returned home, and preached with fiery zeal against Popish idolatry at Perth, the ‘rascal multitude,’ as he calls them, took a shorter and ruder method of showing their convictions than he or the other leading Reformers approved of. This led to some unpleasant complications. The Queen-Regent vowed that she would be avenged on those who had been guilty of these tumults, saying that she would raze the town of Perth to its foundations, and sow it with salt. And she evidently meant what she said in this case; for she immediately raised an army and marched towards Perth. And in that army marched Lord James Stuart. But, as he afterwards declared, he did so, not because he had abandoned the Reformers, or their work, but because he wished the movement to go on, if possible, without a breach of the peace. He speedily found, however, that the question he had to settle was whether he would heartily side with honest men, who not only meant what they said, but would abide by what they promised ; or with the Queen-Regent, who promised anything to the Reformers that secured delay, and then openly, when it suited her, flung her promises to the winds, saying she was not bound to keep faith with heretics! The result was that Lord James abandoned the Queen-Regent and her party, being unable to trust in her promises, and he threw* himself unreservedly into the reforming party, as one of the Lords of the Congregation. By taking up this position, Lord James laid himself open to many charges. By some it was said that he had, in so acting, placed himself, along with the Reformers, in an attitude of rebellion ; while by others it was asserted that he was aiming at the Crown. But there was not the slightest foundation for either charge. His resistance to the authority of the Queen-Regent was caused by her own breach of promise ; this resistance was only partial, protecting the undoubted right of free subjects to reform abuses in religion, and put down idolatry; and it was intended to be temporary, that is, until these rights were respected. Then with regard to the assertion that Lord James was attempting to grasp the crown, that was a cuckoo-song of the Queen-Regent’s, which was raised against the Earl of Arran when he joined the Reformers, as well as against Lord James; and with just as much truth in the one case as in the other. And with reference to another accusation against Lord James and the Reformers—that they were secretly in correspondence with England and Queen Elizabeth,—that was quite true. But there are two remarks to be made regarding it, which will help to put the matter in its true light. First of all, it was the Queen-Regent who taught them that game. She drew immense supplies, both in the shape of soldiers and money, from France, to crush the Reformers ; and if she was leaning to such an extent on France, surely the Reformers cannot be blamed, if they also sought the aid of a power friendly to them and their cause. Moreover, there was nothing traitorous in their correspondence with England. They sought aid to enable them to secure their undoubted rights. The Queen-Regent, on the other hand, sought and obtained the aid of France to crush freedom of opinion, and purity of worship in Scotland. These matters are so often perverted, even in histories written in our own time,, that I could not let the opportunity slip of putting them in their true light.

On the death of the Queen-Regent, in June 1560, James Stuart was appointed one of the Lords of the Articles; and in the following year he was deputed, by a Council of the nobility, to go to France and invite Queen Mary, now a widow, to return to Scotland. This commission, which, in the circumstances, was a very delicate one, he performed with great tact and fairness. Affairs in Scotland were now in a very different condition from what they had been when Mary left it, a child six years old. The Protestant religion was now not only tolerated by the State,—it was virtually the religion of the country. But Mary, during her residence in France, had all the while been living in the very focus of Popery, and had undergone no change of opinion in regard to it. Lord James had stipulated that the Queen, on her return, should have the liberty of worshipping in accordance with her own convictions. At the same time it was evident that a Popish Queen ruling over a Protestant people would give rise to serious complications; and he used his influence to guide the Queen in such a way as to lessen these evils, if they could not be entirely avoided. It was evident, too, from the known tendencies of Mary’s maternal relatives in France, especially the Cardinal Lorraine and the Duke of Guise, that use would be made of her position in Scotland to injure the prospects of Protestantism; and in the interests of the Reformed Faith Lord James had to discover what their plans were. Altogether the mission was a very difficult one; and few could have acquitted themselves so well in the circumstances as he did.

On Queen Mary’s return to her kingdom, Lord James took his place beside her, and was of the greatest service to her and the whole nation. He was well acquainted with European politics; was a good judge of character; and, with all his depth of insight into men and things, there was an apparent carelessness in his manner, and a blunt affableness which, it is said, led those who came into contact with him to tell him what was in their minds, without making them much the wiser regarding his own views. There can be no doubt that it is to be attributed to the tact and ability of her brother that the earlier period of Mary’s reign in her own country was so placidly tided over.

Nor was it in the Council-Chamber alone that his services were rendered. His eye was vigilantly turned in many directions to discover abuses that needed correction; and his hand could wield the sword as efficiently as the pen.

We now reach an interesting period in the life of the subject of our sketch,—his marriage. There had been little of the ecclesiastic about him for long, if there ever was; and certainly there were very tempting baits thrown out to try his steadfastness in that matter. On his late journey to France he had been tempted, by the Queen and her uncles, the Guises, with the offer of a Cardinal’s hat, and the highest ecclesiastical preferment, if he would only be reconciled to Rome. But no bribe could induce him to prove false to the Reformed Faith, and his honest convictions of what duty told him to do. The last vestige of his ecclesiastical character was lost, in the eyes of the Church of Rome, when he married—a step we would humbly recommend to the Pope, his cardinals and priests, and old bachelors of all persuasions and orders, as fitted to make them happier and better men. Among the rich collection of papers in the charter-room at Donibristle, there lies the marriage-settlement of Lord James Stuart and Dame Annas Keith, the daughter of the Earl Marischal. The document is yellow, and a good deal worn ; and seeing it is more than three hundred years old this is little to be wondered at. But it is one of the most interesting relics in the possession of the Earl of Moray. The Earl Marischal was a friend to the Reformation cause, but at the same time a devoted subject of Queen Mary’s. Indeed, so far did his devotion to her go, that, when she was in confinement in England he shut himself up in his castle of Dun-nottar so closely, that he was known through all the neighbourhood by the name of ‘William of the Tower.’ To return to the subject of the marriage : it was celebrated with great solemnity and pomp. John Knox preached the sermon on theYoccasion in St. Giles’s; and, complimenting

Lord James on the noble course he had already run, he advised him to hold on unwaveringly, in case those who detected any failure should say it was his wife’s fault  The marriage was the occasion of great rejoicings; so much so, indeed, that many of the graver people were a good deal scandalised at the kind and amount of merriment that prevailed. On this occasion the Queen created her brother Earl of Mar, and gave a magnificent banquet in honour of the auspicious event.

Soon after his marriage the Earl went to the Border country to quell tumults that had reached no ordinary magnitude. Murders, robberies, and other crimes prevailed to an alarming extent there; and men who had been outlawed walked abroad as if they had done no wrong, or as if there were no law to be respected. The Earl repaired to Hawick, the headquarters of these lawless outbreaks, and inflicted prompt and condign punishment on the offenders. It gives us a strange picture of the lawlessness of the Borders at that time, and the terrible severity with which it was punished, when we read that, on this occasion, no fewer than fifty-three outlaws were apprehended in the town of Hawick, of whom eighteen were instantly drowned, ‘for lack of trees and halters,’ and six were hanged at Edinburgh. For a considerable time after this the Border country was quieter than it had for long been known to be.

By and by the Earl found a foeman worthier of his steel, in the person of the Earl of Huntly, who had been proclaimed a rebel because of several acts of lawless insubordination to his sovereign. After a desperate encounter at Corrichie, a hill about twelve miles from Aberdeen, Huntly and his faction were defeated, and Lord James, so lately created Earl of Mar, reached the higher and more substantial honour of the earldom of Moray, succeeding to the title and some of the estates which Thomas Randolph had enjoyed two centuries before.

For some time after this the Earl of Moray, as we must now call him, continued to render the most important services to his Queen and country. Mary was kept from many a blunder by the wisdom of her brother; and the only time when Moray and Knox had anything like a collision was when the former thought the fiery genius of Knox unnecessarily severe in dealing with Mary’s personal predilections for Popery. Later times, however, proved that Knox knew Mary better than her brother did. Indeed, in some things, Mary succeeded in hoodwinking Moray. The Pope sent a messenger to her, with the view of involving her in a league with the other Catholic sovereigns of Europe, for the extermination of Protestantism. Maitland of Lethington was employed to bring about the interview with the Queen and the Pope’s messenger in such a way as to elude the gaze of the Earl and the Reformers. The time chosen was when Moray and others, who would have been in the way, were attending public worship. But the sermon happened to be shorter than usual that day ; and the messenger was with difficulty smuggled out of the audience-chamber in due time. As it was, Moray asserted that he had caught a glimpse of a strange visage ; and the people outside began to whisper angry words about a foreign emissary, and the warm reception they felt inclined to give him, if they could only lay hands on him. We shall by and by see that the first dangerous trap into which Mary fell was just this one which the Pope’s emissaries laid for her that day.

We now enter on a new and painful phase of the relations between the Queen and Moray. The question of the probable marriage of the widowed Queen began to receive a good deal of attention—for Mary did not hesitate to avow that she would marry again; and it was an important consideration, affecting the State, who her husband might be. In view of the religious condition of the country, this was an all-important consideration. The Queen’s hostility to the Reformed Faith could not be concealed ; and on some occasions it would, in all likelihood, have shown itself in the form of open persecution but for the firmness of Moray. If she married a Roman Catholic, fresh complications were sure to spring from it; and the very existence of the Reformed Faith might be threatened. This to a certainty would stir the nation up to revolution. Lord Darnley, on whom Mary’s choice seemed to rest, had not yet made any decided declaration of his religious views; but he and his father, the Earl of Lennox, were believed to be at heart Roman Catholics. Besides, Darnley was a weak and vain young man, whose head seemed already to be so much turned by the attention the Queen showed him, that he began to insult those who had long helped to govern the country; and people began to consider what might be expected of him if the ‘ crown matrimonial/ which Mary proposed to give him, were placed on his head. A remarkable interview between the Queen and her brother on this subject is recorded. At a moment when Moray was off his guard, Mary put a paper nto his hands, requesting his signature to it. This was a formal approval of her marriage with Darnley, and an engagement, on Moray’s part, to promote it to the extent of his power; and the Queen ordered him to sign it on pain of her severest displeasure. Moray calmly but firmly refused. ‘Her resolution,’ he said, ‘was over hasty, and her demand on him too sudden and peremptory. What would foreign nations think of such precipitancy? What must be the opinion of the Queen of England, with whom her ambassador was, even then, in treaty, and whose answer she daily expected ?’ This was one aspect of the matter; but there was another, and higher. ‘Most of all,’ he declared, ‘he would be loath to consent to her marriage with any one of whom there was so little hope that he would be a favourer of Christ’s true religion, which was the thing most to be desired—of one who had hitherto shown himself rather an enemy than a preserver of the same.’ Angry, as well as surprised, at such determination, the Queen used every effort to induce him to abandon the ground he had thus taken up ; but neither flattery nor threatening affected him; and he was dismissed from the presence of the Queen, amidst charges of ingratitude and threatenings of displeasure.

What Mary threatened, however hastily, she generally performed in the most decided way. Moray’s enemies were now recalled to Court. Bothwell, who had conspired against his life, was invited to return. Lord George Gordon, the head of a faction bitterly opposed to Moray, was released from prison, and had the earldom of Huntly bestowed on him; and the Earl of Sutherland, who had been banished on account of his treasonable conduct at the battle of Corrichie, was recalled from exile. It was evident that both Mary and Darnley were bent on Moray’s ruin, if not his death. When the Court was filled with his enemies, he was invited to return to it, and of course he refused to walk into a den of lions, thirsting for his blood. The summons was repeated and again declined, and Moray was proclaimed an outlaw. This blow annihilated all confidence he had hitherto placed in the Queen; and, a little further on, we shall have occasion to notice another blow by which his respect for her was utterly destroyed. Moray was now in danger of his life, and great fears were entertained for the interests of the Reformed Faith in the land. A number of the reforming nobles armed themselves in selfdefence when affairs were in this condition. Mary, at the head of her troops, determined to put this attitude down as rebellion, and Moray had to flee into England.

The marriage of the Queen with the weak-minded and unprincipled Darnley twas productive of the worst consequences to herself, her husband, and the country; and, but for the overruling hand of God, it must have been fatal to the best interests of the Reformed Faith, both in Scotland and England. The facts that prove this position must be stated in few words. It cost Darnley his life, in circumstances that will be more fully and fitly told in connection with our sketch of the life of the Regent Morton. The circumstances in which Darnley’s murder took place, and more especially the events which immediately followed it, irreparably destroyed all well-grounded respect for Mary’s character, except in the eyes of those who look at such matters in the light of romance, instead of the well-established facts of history. In the very year that witnessed her marriage, Mary, the Queen of a Protestant people, at the instigation of her uncle, the Cardinal Lorraine, gave the weight of her name to one of the darkest and bloodiest schemes of the Church of Rome, for the extermination of Protestantism. This was an alliance, on the part of the Popish sovereigns of Europe, by which they swore to make an end of toleration, and to quench the rising cause of Protestantism in blood. Darnley, too, openly declared himself a Papist. It may fairly be questioned whether Mary did not, by her act in this matter, forfeit all title to the crown. It certainly was one of the most fatal errors of her life. Rizzio, her Italian secretary, was suspected, and we believe on good grounds, of being in the secret service of Rome ; and although no one can justly defend such a deed of blood as his murder, it is distinctly traceable to the Queen’s marriage with Darnley on the one hand, and the suspicions she herself had sown in the minds of her Protestant subjects on the other. Darnley, who had plotted the death of Rizzio, betrayed to the Queen his associates in the tragedy, and denied that he had any responsible share in it. But the part he acted in that matter, and the growing favour of the Queen for Bothwell, led to Darnley’s own assassination ; and that, too, not without strong suspicion of the Queen’s complicity. Moray, who had returned from England immediately after the death of Rizzio, was to some extent received into Mary’s favour again; but there could never again be the cordiality between them that there had been. She had forfeited all claim to her brother’s confidence, and she was speedily to annihilate the last grain of respect for her that he could honestly entertain. Laying aside the question of her complicity with the murder of her husband, her conduct immediately afterwards was of a kind fitted to destroy all respect for her as a woman; as all confidence in her as a queen had already been forfeited, by joining in the league to which we have lately referred. Her behaviour immediately after the murder of Darnley was indeed extraordinary. The guilt of Bothwell was patent even to the blindest; yet he continued in high favour with Mary. The most unnatural delay occurred ere efforts were made to bring the guilty persons to justice ; and when exertions were made, it was rather with a view to punish those who accused Bothwell, than to deal with Darnley’s murderers. The nation was horrified at this callousness. Evidence was known to exist, pointing to the smith who had made the false keys for the house in which Darnley was massacred, and to the person who had put the gunpowder into the cellar beneath the room in which he lay. All this pointed to lines of evidence, which, if followed up, might have revealed the guilty persons. The names of Mary and Bothwell began to be bandied about in a way that made investigation absolutely necessary. Yet nothing was done except by Bothwell himself, in the way of insolent bravado, which rather confirmed, suspicion, already too well grounded. And in little more than a fortnight Mary and her Court were engaged in frivolous sports at Seaton, as if nothing out of the way had happened,—Mary and Bothwell contending with Hamilton and Seaton in a game of archery; and, when winning, causing the last-named noblemen to pay the forfeit, in the shape of a dinner at Tranent! These are facts for which the surest evidence can be adduced. Had a tradesman’s or a peasant’s widow done anything at all analogous to this, we know what the verdict of neighbours would have been; and unless we are prepared to have one code of morals for the rich and great, and another for the poor and humble, we know what the verdict in Mary’s case must be. A sham trial of Bothwell was gone through, and a hollow verdict pronounced. He overawed a number of the nobles to sign a deed recommending him as a husband to the Queen, already twice widowed. His poor wife was divorced that she might not stand in the way. Mary knew this, and to the remonstrances of her friends, who solemnly warned her of the impending consequences of a marriage with Bothwell, she declared that at all hazards she would have him. After an apparently violent attempt on the part of Bothwell to seize the Queen’s person,—an attempt in which it is believed by many that she acquiesced, —the marriage took place ; so that in about three months’ time from the violent death of her husband, Mary married his murderer.

I have been thus minute in describing the events of this particular period, as they brought the Earl of Moray once more on the stage of public affairs ; and the complexion of his actions assumes, to a large extent, the hue in which these transactions between Bothwell and Mary appear to different minds.

Think now on the unhappy nature of public affairs in Scotland immediately after Mary’s marriage with Bothwell, and you will not wonder at the events which speedily followed. Granting even that Mary had no hand in the murder of Darnley, yet what was the nation to think of her marriage with one almost universally believed to be the murderer of her late husband? Could they ever after respect or trust their Queen, more especially when she was under the direct influence of Bothwell? What prospect was there of the personal safety, not to speak of the right education and training, of the infant prince? Already it was reported that Bothwell was scheming to get the child—then under the care of the Earl of Mar at Stirling Castle—into his hands. And what prospect was there that the laws of the country, and the simplest rules of morality, would be respected under the guidance of one who had reached his high position by trampling both under his feet? Would the life or property of even the highest subject in the realm be safe under such a regime ? And if Mary had been to any extent implicated in Darnley’s murder, as her remissness in investigating the case led so many to believe, then how could the reins of government be left longer in her hands? The nobles of the country, in this posture of affairs, banded themselves together— under the leadership of Argyle and Morton, Moray being at the time in France—to call Bothwell to account for Darnley’s death; and to make such arrangements as would render the government of the country possible. Mary and Bothwell armed, to put down the revolt, and the opposing forces met at Carberry Hill, without, however, coming to blows. The troops that Mary and Bothwell—now elevated to the rank of Duke of Orkney—had gathered around them deserted almost in a body to the standard of the nobles. Bothwell fled, and Mary put herself into the hands of the leaders of the people. The result you know. Mary was imprisoned in Lochleven Castle; her infant son was crowned King, and Moray was soon afterwards proclaimed Regent. Unhappy Mary! One must ever regret that she had not a more promising upbringing than she got at the licentious Court of France; wiser guides than her uncles of Guise, Darnley, and Bothwell; and better resting-places than Lochleven Castle and the grim shades of Fotheringay, to which her course was now tending.

But our business now is chiefly with the Regent. Moray had been four months at the Court of France, and had acquired such influence there that it was with difficulty he was allowed to leave. But he bent his steps homewards at the call of his country, now in the midst of intestine feuds, and without a governing head. Not at once, however, did he accept the Regency. While in France he could not believe the assertions made of Mary’s complicity in the murder of Darnley, and he was determined to investigate that matter most carefully. The memory of past wrongs, received at the hands of the Queen, would not, we may well believe, be permitted to hinder justice being done to her in her day of sorrow. Even when in France he had not sympathised with the measures which the nobles had taken, after the affair at Carberry; and he sent a messenger to Mary in her imprisonment, who was, however, prevented from seeing the Queen. Indeed it is admitted even by Tytler, who is not friendly to Moray, that he was, at this time, almost the only true and disinterested friend Mary had. Her nobles were nearly all against her, and that openly, with the exception of the Hamiltons. They too were, in reality, opposed to her, and were even secretly proposing that she should be put to death, in which case only the infant prince stood between the Earl and the Scottish Crown. The Reformers and the great mass of the people were against her, because of her guilty courses. The Court of France had ceased to befriend her on account of her perverse attachment to Bothwell, and counselled her confinement in a nunnery for life. Elizabeth of England, who never had borne her great goodwill, was now somewhat drawn to her in her time of suffering, moved, no doubt, by the consideration that it was wrong to treat a sovereign in this fashion. The English Court had indeed been horrified to learn, from its own accredited ambassador in Scotland, that a doctrine was openly avowed in the northern part of the island that kings and queens have no more right, either by the laws of God or the statutes of the realm, to implicate themselves in murder or other crimes than private persons have. This doctrine, fortunately, has not such an air of novelty about it now as it had then. To Moray, and to him alone, could Mary now look for advice and guidance ; and had she listened to his counsel, even at this late stage, her sun might not have gone down behind such lurid and crimson clouds.

Nearly the first thing that met Moray on his return to Scotland was what he considered conclusive evidence of Mary’s participation in the crime of Darnley’s murder. The contents of the far-famed silver casket, seized at Lochleven Castle, have given rise to many a controversy. These disputes cannot even be enumerated here, much less reopened and discussed. Suffice it to say that, while many hold the authenticity of the letters and sonnets, addressed to Bothwell by Mary, to be an open question, we cannot help thinking it closed, and closed in a way fatal to Mary’s character. One of Moray’s first efforts was to get an interview with his sister in her imprisonment at Lochleven; and he refused to accept the Regency without this condition being granted. The nobles feared that no good would come of it, but they had to consent. I know scarcely anything in all our Scottish history more sad and solemn than the record of that meeting in the Castle of Lochleven. It was the 15th day of August 1567. The hues of summer were yet in all their richness, and the blue waters of the loch rippled gently on its banks. But within the walls of the Castle winter seemed to reign ; and in the heart of the royal prisoner a sullen tempest seemed to rage. Moray was accompanied by Morton, Athole, and Lindsay ; and Mary received them with tears, complaining bitterly of the wrongs she suffered. Then, taking Moray aside, she tried to discover from him what the future had in store for her. But Moray’s brow was clouded, and his usual open and affable demeanour had deserted him. Silent and dejected, he seemed unable to unburden his mind of a heavy grief,—a conviction of wrong-doing on Mary’s part which he could not dissipate. The Queen implored him to tell her what the nobles had resolved to do with her, and whether she was to die or live. She besought him, with tears, to tell her whatever was in his mind, however reproachful it might be. And then he told, with solemn faithfulness, the story of her misgovernment and misbehaviour; the crimes of which she had been guilty, and the alienation from her best friends, which she had thus brought about; and he urged her to betake herself to God as her only hope. The interview lasted till after midnight, and amidst tears and sobs, confessions and denials, the unhappy Queen felt the force of the truth that no one, however high in rank, can set aside the laws of God and escape suffering. Early on the following morning Moray was sent for by the Queen, and perceiving that his words of the previous evening had not been in vain, he threw some rays of consolation and hope into her troubled mind; telling her that, if she deplored her faults, there was still hope that her life would be spared, and that in these circumstances he would even sacrifice his life for her. He warned her, however, that almost everything would depend upon herself; and that if she made her escape from confinement, or entered into any intrigue to bring French or English troops into the country on her behalf, she might depend upon it that the nobles would be so exasperated that her life might be sacrificed. Clinging, as she so naturally did, to life, she heard his words with some gleams of hope and even comfort. She embraced him, and besought him to accept the Regency, which he agreed to do; and telling her attendants to treat her with all gentleness, Moray left the scene of this memorable interview. On the 22d of August he was proclaimed Regent, in the midst of many solemnities. With his hand on the Gospels he vowed that he would serve God according to His Word; that he would maintain the cause of true religion in the realm; that he would govern the country according to its laws; and that he would repress violence, wrong, and error.

There are marked differences of opinion regarding some parts of Moray’s career, considered as a private individual; but with reference to the character of his government as Regent, it may be said that there is no controversy. Those who write in the interests of a faction may well be supposed to have strong evidence facing them, when they so readily admit the excellence of an administration, the head of which they do not love. For when the public acts of the Regent are weighed, they are found to have combined in them the evidence which proves him to have been a far-seeing legislator, a patriotic statesman, a firm-handed ruler, and an able and good man. The inhabitants of a petty town or village, or even of a district, are often mistaken in the estimate they form of a man ; but it is seldom the case that a whole nation falls into such a mistake. And the fact that the Scottish nation gave Moray the title of ‘The Good Regent,’ a title the bestowal of which has never been reversed, is sufficient to show how his administration of state affairs commended itself to his countrymen. Wise and salutary laws were enacted; justice was meted out with firm and equal hand to rich and poor; turbulence was checked and punished; life and property were respected; the authority of the government was acknowledged throughout the land; and in every act of his public life, the welfare of the people could be seen to be his aim. And we are not to hold that it was an easy task to bring the lawless and discordant elements of the Scottish nation, as they existed at that time, into harmony. Some flagrant wrongs, committed against the State, such as the murder of Darnley, had to be dealt with; and unfortunately, some of the most powerful of the nobles were suspected of having a hand in that crime. There are historians who have found fault with the Regent for not dealing in a more determined way with these offenders; and they give us to understand that, if they had been in the Regent’s place, they would have managed affairs much better. But with all deference to these pen-and-ink statesmen, we may humbly venture to doubt whether they would have managed so well as Moray did. The bond signed by the conspirators had been destroyed by Sir James Balfour ; and although Tytler does not hesitate to avow his belief that the contents of that paper were known to Moray, I think you will agree with me that, in such a case, more evidence is required than the conjectures of even a historian. Four of the conspirators were brought to the scaffold,—namely, Captain Blacater, Captain Cullen, Hay of Tallo, and Hepburn of Bolton ; and Bothwell himself only escaped because the ship of his pursuer, Kirkcaldy of Grange, stuck fast on a sandbank, which allowed the object of his anxious pursuit to escape to Norway.

While the Regent was busy trying to bring the murderers of Darnley to justice, the nation was startled by the news of Mary’s escape from Lochleven Castle. Moray’s warning to her had been to avoid the blunders of attempting to escape from imprisonment, or bringing French or English forces to her aid. In either case, he assured her, the result would likely be fatal, and so in the end it proved. The Regent’s power had been employed to save Mary’s life, at a time when it seemed almost hopeless to protect her; and it was not employed in vain. But what could avert her fate now', when she not only did the very thing she had been warned against, as a fatal mistake; but aggravated the doing of it by despatching a messenger to Bothwell, to tell him of her escape and bring him back to Scotland? This was a bold attempt, on her part, to bring back the old reign of terror, which, she might have known, the country would never submit to. Evidently, during her imprisonment, Mary had ‘forgotten nothing and learned nothing.’

The Regent was at Glasgow, almost unattended, when he heard of Mary’s escape, and her presence at Hamilton; and the way in which he acted is acknowledged by all to have been a remarkable instance of cool forethought and skilful generalship. Collecting a small army from the neighbouring counties, he posted it at Langside, near a lane which he knew Mary’s followers must pass. A battle ensued, short and sharp, for it lasted only three-quarters of an hour. Mary’s army, which was composed of the Hamiltons and their retainers, with a number of barons who had joined her standard, was thrown into confusion and defeated; and so skilfully had the Regent’s army been posted and generalled, that, while three hundred of their opponents fell, only one soldier of Moray’s band was left dead on the field. Alary fled to Dundrennan Abbey, in Galloway, and thence into England 3 and the Regent’s position became stronger than ever.

Space does not permit us to follow Mary’s eventful history, through all its turnings and windings, to its sad close; nor even to deal minutely with that part of it which bears most closely on the good name of the Regent. Moray has been blamed by many for the part he acted in giving evidence, at York, of Mary’s guilt. That, no doubt, is an intensely painful incident in Moray’s history; but we must bear in mind that, as Regent of the kingdom of Scotland, and charged with the maintenance and defence of her liberty, he had to act firmly and impartially in his public capacity, when his private feelings must have prompted him to hang back. Nor is it to be forgotten that, while Moray lived, Mary’s life was secure. Nay, he made anxious but unavailing efforts to get her out of Elizabeth’s hands; the conditions he proposed being that she should live the whole term of her natural life, and that a maintenance suitable to her high rank should be provided for her. The fact that this negotiation failed is not to be charged against Moray.

We now approach the close of our sketch, which must tell of the Regent’s assassination. A party in the State was opposed to him, just because of the even-handed justice which he dealt out to all and sundry. And among those who were his bitterest enemies, the leaders of the Hamilton faction were pre-eminent.

After the battle of Langside, it became evident that, if Scotland was ever to reach a condition of peace and quiet, it was necessary that those who had lifted arms against the Regent, and other constituted authorities in the State, should be proceeded against as rebels. This was done with a firm yet merciful hand by the Regent. Among those whose lands were confiscated, and whose lives were placed in jeopardy for the part they took at Langside, was Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh—the future cowardly murderer of the Regent. The story of this man’s crime is one that reflects little credit on the impartiality of some of our historians, Tytler’s among the rest. And the genius of Scott has been dishonoured by throwing around Hamilton's name the glare of a false nobility, and pity called forth by fictitious wrongs. You all know the way in which the story is sometimes told. Hamilton’s estates had been confiscated, for the reason already stated; among the rest, that of Woodhouselee, on the Esk, where his wife lived. The fiction is that the Regent ordered his servants to eject Hamilton’s wife from the house on a cold night in the depth of winter; and that the poor woman, wandering half naked in the woods of the estate, became a raving lunatic. Then a fervid imagination paints Hamilton, stung to revenge by such wrongs perpetrated against his wife, hastening to Linlithgow and shooting down his enemy there. Now, will it be believed—and there is the most thorough evidence for what is to follow—that when the life of Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh was forfeited by his action at Langside, it was spared by the Regent, and spared at the intercession of John Knox, whom Hamilton’s partisans never ceased to vilify ? Will it be believed, still further, that the Regent had nothing to do with the injury done to Hamilton’s wife at Woodhouselee? That property was given to Bellenden, the Justice-Clerk; and if his servants did not behave in a humane manner to the wife of Hamilton, it is contrary to all rules of truth and justice to blame Moray for that, or to say that it gave Hamilton the slightest excuse for wreaking his vengeance on the Regent, who had so recently spared Hamilton’s life. The assassination of the Regent Moray, at Linlithgow, was one of the meanest, most cowardly, most ungrateful, and most unpatriotic acts that history records; and those who defend it are—unconsciously, no doubt—defending what cannot bear the scrutiny of even an earth-born morality. Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh was but a wretched tool in the hands of an unpatriotic and unprincipled faction, who wished to put the Regent Moray out of the way, in order that they might bring back the old regime both in Church and State. There is something morally grand in the scene, after the miscreant had, in so cowardly a way, done the bloody deed, when the Regent’s friends stood around him, lamenting that he should have spared one who had now proved his murderer. With his dying voice, Moray declared that no one could induce him to regret any good he had done in his lifetime, even the clemency he had shown to Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh.

It is impossible to crowd into a single lecture details which, although interesting, would fill a volume if all were fitly told. Suffice it then to say that the murder of the Regent filled the whole country with horror and alarm. That one who had done so much for his country in perilous times should have fallen so soon—for he was only thirty-eight years of age when the assassin’s bullet pierced him— and fallen in such a manner, could not but be deeply deplored. If even the testimony of historians, who are in the main unfriendly to him, were gathered together, it would prove a noble eulogy. Tytler, who is by no means friendly to him, says : ‘As to his personal intrepidity, his talent for State affairs, his military capacity, and the general purity of his private life, in a corrupt age and Court, there can be no difference of opinion.’ Archbishop Spotswood says of him, that he ‘ ordered himself and his family in such sort, that it did more resemble a church than a court. . . . Not a profane or lewd word was to be heard from any of his domestics. A chapter of the Bible was always read at table, after dinner and supper; and it was his custom, on such occasions, to require his chaplain, or some learned man present, to give his opinion upon the passage, for his own instruction and that of his family.’ The Archbishop says further of him, that he was ‘ a man truly good, and worthy to be ranked among the best governors that this kingdom hath enjoyed, and therefore, to this day, honoured with the title of the Good Regent.’ And as regards the testimonies of friends, and their lamentations over Moray, time would fail us even to enumerate them.

The Regent’s body was taken to Edinburgh, and buried in St. Giles’s Church. Knox preached, to an audience of three thousand people, the sermon on the occasion, from the text, ‘Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.’ Buchanan wrote his epitaph, in a few words full of elegance, and expressive of sincere grief. Randolph, the English Ambassador, wrote a touching account of his funeral, in which the love of the friend blends with the pictorial power of the historian; and all good men lamented him.

Moray left behind him his wife and two daughters. Lady Margaret, the younger of the two, was married to Francis, ninth Earl of Errol; and Lady Elizabeth, the elder, was married to James, Lord Doun, better known afterwards as the ‘Bonny Earl’—the earldom, after some opposition, going with the elder daughter of the Regent. That honour, with the still greater one of descent from him who made it so illustrious, is what the family at Donibristle can claim. For, let honours of a hereditary kind be ever so valuable, and we would not underrate them when kept in their own place, yet which one of us does not feel, with the life of the Regent Moray before us, that to be a lover of the truth, the companion of good men, the friend of one’s country, and the benefactor of fellow-men, is an honour far greater than any earl’s coronet can bestow, and far more lasting? It is well that the nobility of our country should remember that the good alone are truly great. And should the time come when the nobility of Scotland shall turn their back on a true faith, a pure life, deeds of patriotism and acts of benevolence, outward honour may still be given them, but not the true heartfelt respect of Christian men. And for all of us, however humble the sphere may be which we occupy, the life of the Regent Moray has great and far-reaching lessons, telling us that what makes a man truly great is within the reach of all. A well-informed and well-regulated mind, a heart inspired by love to God and fellow-men, a life ennobled by purity and good deeds,—these are within the reach of the poorest, and the rich and outwardly great, without them, are poor indeed. Let these things be carefully pondered by the inhabitants of our village; and let them never fail to remember that, as when the civil liberty of our country was at stake, Robert Bruce found a noble coadjutor in Thomas Randolph, Lord of Aberdour; so, when the battle for a higher freedom had to be fought and won, John Knox found his ablest friend and supporter in James Stuart, Earl of Moray. Let such names and deeds become watchwords, and they will help to keep the fires of patriotism and religion ever burning.


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