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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir John Hepburn
Chapter II. The Scottish Bands in Bohemia, 1621


As a volunteer, young Hepburn joined Sir Andrew Gray, at his camp on the Monkrig, where soon after they received a reinforcement of one hundred and twenty hardy mosstroopers, who had been arrested for their turbulence by the Warden of the Middle Marches, and were given as soldiers to Sir Andrew, in April, by the Lords of the Scottish Privy-Council.

These made up his forces to fifteen hundred men, with whom, about the end of May, he embarked at Leith, and sailed from thence for Holland, en route to Bohemia.

There are no means of ascertaining the exact road by which these military adventurers proceeded to that country, from the mountains of which, the savage Sclavonians were then pouring down like a torrent to wage a war against the chivalry of the empire, in defence of civil liberty and religious independence; but it is more than probable that they joined a small body of English, who, under Sir Horace Vere, had also landed in Holland and passed the Rhine below Wesel, to avoid Spinola, whose troops were cantoned at Aix-la-Chapelle.

It was not without danger and difficulty that this small body of men crossed so many countries to reach the Palatinate; and indeed they dared not have attempted it, if Henry-Frederick, the prince of Nassau, had not conducted them by the way of Frankfort, and thus deceived the vigilant Spinola, who, with a powerful force, was hovering on another route to cut them off.

The time was now come when the adverse leagues and burning jealousies of the Catholics and Protestants were to plunge Germany in the long and disastrous Thirty Years’ War, concerning the origin of which a few remarks are necessary here.

In 1612, the Emperor Mathias, brother of Rodolph II., died, and the imperial dignity seemed on the verge of departing from the ancient line of Hapsburg, when the votes of the princes became united in favour of the archduke of Gratz, Ferdinand II., the younger brother of Mathias; upon which Maximilian, duke of Bavaria, who had disputed with him the throne of the empire, abandoned his pretensions, and nobly maintained the imperial dignity at a vast expense of blood and treasure.

“A union between two branches of the same family might at this time,” says Voltaire, “have changed the fate of Germany—these were the Elector Palatine and the Duke of Bavaria; but there were two great obstacles against such a union—emulation and difference of religion. The Elector Palatine was a Calvinist—the Duke of Bavaria a Catholic. The Elector was one of the most unfortunate princes of his time, and caused all the long calamities of Germany.”

Strong and somewhat overstrained ideas of civil and religious liberty at that time pervaded the continent of Europe; and the Austrians, Hungarians, and Bohemians were all alike vigilant and jealous of their privileges. When the late emperor, Mathias, caused Ferdinand of Gratz to be elected king of Hungary and Bohemia, these kingdoms complained that no regard was paid to their ancient prerogatives; and as religion made no small item in their list of complaints, the fierce Bohemians soon became furious, and the violence to which they resorted exceeded the oppressions of which they complained.

Instead of conciliating the Protestants, the rash emperor, Ferdinand, desired his lieutenant to prevent the next session of the national assembly sitting without his special licence; but that officer was unable to execute the order, for the exasperated Bohemians rushed to arms, and the states, on their assembling in the college of Charles V., went in a body to the Chancery, and, seizing the officers of the emperor, threw them over the castle window, sixty feet from the ground, and then drove the Jesuits out of Prague. The Austrian delegates escaped the fall unhurt, by the interposition of Madonna, as a small pyramid still informs posterity.

Ferdinand's indignation failed to awe the Protestants of Bohemia, who, having rapidly become formidable, thought they had every right to depose an elected king, and thus made an offer of their crown to the Elector Palatine, who had married Elizabeth Stuart, daughter of James VI. of Scotland.

Incited by the visions of a seer, who ventured to predict his future elevation to the imperial throne, the weak Elector accepted the crown, offered as it was by those who he thought had every right to dispose of it, and despatched the Baron Christopher d’Hona to his father-in-law for advice; but without waiting to receive it, anxious to enter upon his new regal dignity, with a small body of troops he advanced to Prague, where, on the 4th November, he was crowned by the Protestants King of Bohemia.

This measure interested all the princes of Europe.

The emperor Ferdinand II. and the elector Frederick IV. had each their friends and allies, who were preparing to assist them, while the cautious and cunning James VI. made a show of remaining neuter, hoping that the two competitors for Bohemia might afford him, as arbiter, an opportunity of displaying that pedantry and wisdom of which he was so vain. But both were alike jealous of his interference: Ferdinand, because he was a heretic, and the father-in-law of his foe; Frederick, because he had openly disapproved of his conduct before the English peers. Had James boldly espoused the cause of his daughter's husband, and by his fleet kept Spain and the Netherlands in awe, the Elector might have preserved his crown; for several of the German princes had levied an army in his behalf, and given the command of it to the Margrave of Anspach.

The revolt of the Hungarians under Bethlem Gabor, prince of Transylvania, still farther exasperated the proud emperor; but the Duke of Bavaria, and the ecclesiastical electors of Mentz, Triers, and Cologne, declared in his favour, while the Pope supplied him with money, and the king of Spain ordered his forces, then considered the finest in Europe, to march from Naples and Milan to his assistance. The Elector had drawn ten thousand men out of the Palatinate, and sent them into Bohemia, which made the emperor think of invading the former country; and in execution of this project, the Archduke Albert and Philip of Spain levied in the Low Countries twenty thousand veteran infantry and four thousand cavalry, to be commanded by the far-famed Ambrose, marquis of Spinola.

Though warned by the Dutch that these forces were about to march into the Palatinate, the patrimony of his son-in-law, King James remained inactive; the preparations for war continued, and the Protestants of Scotland and England became equally astonished and indignant at his apathy to the danger which menaced his daughter and her husband. This generous feeling was particularly strong in Scotland, where the people considered the good and gentle Princess Elizabeth as one of themselves; for she had been born in the old palace of Falkland, and was reared and educated by the Lady of Livingstone at the secluded town of Falkirk in West Lothian.

So strong was the memory of her amiability and beauty, that we find the brave Sir Andrew Gray, though a "ranke papist,” levying soldiers in her cause, for which Hepburn and others so readily drew their swords,

James remained aloof, indignant that the Elector had accepted the Bohemian crown without waiting for his profound advice; and it was with the greatest difficulty that the friends of his daughter could obtain his permission to muster two thousand two hundred English soldiers for the Bohemian war. This force was commanded by that gallant and veteran knight, Sir Horace Vere of Kirbyhall, who was afterwards Lord Vere of Tilbury, and master-general of the English ordnance. No less remarkable for piety than courage, it was always said the Lord Vere first made peace with God before he went out to war with man, and he was never either elated by success, nor depressed with reverse of fortune.”Knighted for his valour at the capture of Cadiz, he had served with distinction under Prince Maurice, and was engaged in that desperate affair at Sluys, where, under Count Wilhelm, "the old Scots regiment led the van of battle.”

Under Sir Horace, Burroughs and Herbert commanded as major-generals, while the Earls of Oxford and Dorset led each a company of two hundred and fifty volunteers. On the 9th July, (two months after Sir Andrew Gray and his band had sailed from Leith,) these forces left Gravesend.

It was the 1st October before these Scottish and English auxiliaries joined a part of the Bohemian army, consisting of four thousand horse and six thousand foot, for the Margrave of Anspach had not yet mustered his entire armament. Prior to this, the Marquis of Spinola, who had orders to make war on all the adherents of the Elector, had marched from Brussels, entered the Palatinate, and before either Sir Andrew Gray or Sir Horace Vere could join, the Marquis had made himself master of several small places; but, in a sharp skirmish which took place, the troops of the Elector were victorious. Ready to engage, the two armies remained long in sight of each other after this, but no general action ensued.

In the month of September, the Duke of Bavaria the Elector of Saxony, and Spinola, all being commissioned to enforce tbe imperial authority, took the field full of confidence and resolution. While the Elector of Saxony, at the head of twenty thousand men, swept over Lusatia, and, before the end of October, had conquered the whole country, the Duke subdued all Upper Austria, and, by the beginning of September, had joined the Count de Bucquoi, who commanded the Imperialists in Bohemia.

During these campaigns, by the fortune of war and his own valour, young Hepburn, then in about his twentieth year, obtained command of a company of pikes in Sir Andrew Gray’s Scottish band, which, in 1620, and for some time prior to the fatal battle at Prague, was employed to guard the person of the Bohemian king.

Among his gallant comrades, who had left their heath-clad hills to seek for fame and fortune in the German wars, few were more daring than one named Edmond, the son of a burgess in Stirling, who, on one occasion, without armour, and with his sword between his teeth, swam the deep and rapid Danube, in front of the Austrian lines, stole past the sentinels, and, favoured by the gloom of the night, penetrated to the very heart of the imperial camp. There, by an artful stratagem, and an exertion of the greatest courage and bodily strength, he gagged, bound, and bore off their general, the great Count de Bucquoi, and re-crossing the river, presented him as a prisoner to the Prince of Orange, the ally of Bohemia.

For this and similar deeds of vjlour, he soon obtained the rank of colonel, and acquired great wealth, which he shared liberally with his relations at home, for they were all poor, and in the humblest rank of life. None stood higher in the favour of Prince Maurice than Colonel Edmond; and it is related that when standing one day on a public parade, surrounded by a number of glittering cavaliers and officers of high military rank, he was accosted by a stranger who, to win his favourable notice, professed to have come recently from Scotland, where he had left his relations well, and concluded by naming several persons of high rank.

"Begone, sir,” replied Edmond indignantly, as he turned from him to the gay group around; "I know not this person who comes to flatter my vanity; for I must inform you, sirs, if you know it not already, that I have the honour (and I shall ever be proud of it) to be the only son of an honest baker and freeman, in the ancient burrowtoun of Stirling.”

He then ordered the abashed stranger to retire. Under the Prince of Orange, and afterwards under Gustavus Adolphus, he amassed great wealth, and in the decline of life returned to die in his native town, where he built a handsome house for the parish minister, and placed in the eastern gable thereof the baker’s arms, viz., three piels, which, however, were removed in 1710. To his daughter, who married Sir Thomas Livingstone, bart., of Newbigging, he left a magnificent fortune.

Among the Scottish cavaliers who served in these wars were Robert, George, and James Haig, the three sons of John Haig of Beimerside, and his wife, Elizabeth Macdougal of Stodrig, who had been nurse to the Queen of Bohemia when she was Princess Elizabeth; and all these three died in their armour, fighting gallantly for their fair foster sister.

The hostile armies continued to watch and manoeuvre. Meanwhile the weather soon became so severe that the confederate princes led home their troops, leaving the Scots and English auxiliaries to garrison the fortified towns. Sir Horace Vere commanded in Mannheim, Sir Gerard Herbert in the castle of Heidelberg, and Sergeant-Major Burroughs in Frankenthal, a fortified abbey, the dowry of the Princess Elizabeth. Herbert was slain repelling an assault, after breaking six pikes with his own hand; and the Imperialists soon after captured Mannheim, which Sir Horace surrendered to Count Tilly, his soldiers marching out with displayed banners and uplifted pikes.

By this time Hepburn’s old friend, Robert Munro, had also espoused the profession of arms, and was serving in France, a private gentleman in the king’s regiment of guards; and he relates an anecdote of his early experience in soldiering, which forcibly reminds us of that passage in the Legend of Montrose where Dugald Dalgetty relates to Lord Menteith how he "learned the rules of service so tightly,” under old Sir Ludovick Leslie, who will be frequently mentioned in these memoirs.

"I was once made to stand, in my younger yeares, at the Louver gate in Paris, for sleeping in the morning, when I ought to have been at my exercise; for punishment, I was made to stand, from eleven before noone to eight of the clocke in the night, centry, armed with corslet, headpiece, bracelets, being iron to the teeth, in a hot summer’s day, till I was weary of my life, which ever after made me more strict in punishing those under my command.”


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