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Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of James VI. 1591 - 1603 Part A


IN this period we see a continuation of the struggles of the clergy for the independence of the kirk, and those of the king for a supremacy over it; the merciless measures for repressing the Catholic faith, and the desperate practices of the Catholics for relief; the weak rule of the king in all administrative matters; and the efforts of ambitious courtiers to gain an ascendency in his councils. The first transactions of any note were those arising from the condemnation and forfeiture of Stuart, Earl of Bothwell, an illegitimate cousin of the king, and nephew by his mother to the noted Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, the murderer of Darnley. Conceiving himself to be simply a victim of the jealousy of the Chancellor Maitland, this vivacious noble was indisposed to submit to his doom; he thought, if he could reach the king’s ear, he might regain lost power and place. His consequent intrusions by night into the palace, and appearances at the head of armed parties in the field, form a strange chapter in the history of the period.

Our chronicle gives details of an unfortunate collision between the houses of Huntly and Moray, which resulted in the barbarous slaughter of the latter nobleman. The loss of public esteem which the king and the chancellor sustained through their suspected concern in this affair, and through the undoubted lenity which was shewn to the Earl of Huntly, reduced the government to such a degree of weakness, that it became necessary to give way somewhat to the demands of the clergy. To obtain their support, the episcopal arrangements of 1584 were in a great measure done away with (June 1592), and James himself passed a glowing eulogium on the Presbyterian system.

Towards the end of this year, new troubles arose, in consequence of the discovery of a treasonable correspondence, between the Catholic nobles, Huntly, Errol, and Angus, with the king of Spain. These chiefs, finding themselves harassed beyond endurance by the now triumphant Presbyterians, who would allow them no freedom for the exercise of their religion, resorted to the desperate step of seeking assistance from a foreign and a Catholic sovereign. Under the urgency of Elizabeth and the kirk, James proceeded with vigour against these nobles, whose force he easily dispelled, and whom he prosecuted to forfeiture, but without meaning to effect their entire destruction. As a set-off to this procedure, he demanded that Elizabeth should cease to harbour and support his enemy the Earl of Bothwell. The English queen answered this with all smoothness, but in secret conspired with certain persons in Scotland for re-instating Bothwell in power. The unruly earl obtained by this means a temporary mastery over James (July, August 1593). The king, having contrived by craft and some share of resolution to emancipate himself, once more resumed his authority. In February 1593-4, while the queen lay in confinement after her first child, James mustered some forces, and met the Bothwell faction in the field. The rebels were overthrown, and Bothwell fell into a low and despicable state.

The general lawlessness of the country at this period, and the frightful atrocities which were almost daily committed, make some appearance in the chronicle. Amidst the universal broils, the Presbyterian clergy formed a virtuous element, zealous for an improvement of manners and the advance of the ‘evangel,’ but equally so in using means to force their own convictions upon others, and often interfering with matters which did not properly fall within their province. The rashness of the synod of Fife in excommunicating the papist lords (September 1593), and the freedom of speech which the members used in discussing and railing at the king’s slackness regarding the putting down of popery, gave James great disgust. He spoke sharply of their ‘proud enterprises,’ and declared he should re-erect the estate of bishops, for the purpose of correcting the insolence of the Presbyterian clergy, and suppressing the liberties which they were abusing.

The Catholic lords, being driven to extremities, collected their vassals and appeared in the field. A royal host under the youthful Earl of Argyle was sent to meet them, and in a bloody fight which took place at Glenlivet on the 3d of October 1594, they gained a victory. This, however, only made it necessary for the king to proceed in person with a larger host against them. He spent many weeks in the north, destroying their castles and harassing their vassalage, yet in his heart was far from coming up to that standard of severity against the ancient faith which would have conciliated the Presbyterian ministers. After a little time, the papist nobles yielded to pass into exile; The Earl of Bothwell, finding his case desperate, also left his native country, and, as it proved, for ever. He died in obscurity abroad.

A singular riot in Edinburgh in December 1596, of which an account is given in the chronicle, led to a reaction in favour of the king against the ultra-zealous Presbyterians. James was enabled to acquire considerable influence in the church-courts, to obtain seats in parliament for certain ministers, as representing the ancient bishops, and to secure a peaceable restoration for the popish lords. His brightening prospects of the English succession added to his power within Scotland, and the latter years of his Scottish reign were marked by comparatively few events of importance.

The most remarkable was the mysterious Gowrie Conspiracy (August 5, 1600). The young Earl of Gowrie and his brother Alexander Ruthven, sons of the Gowrie who suffered in 1584, appeared to have formed a plan to entrap the king, and by the possession of his person, to work out some project for placing themselves at the head of affairs. James was induced to visit their house at Perth by a tempting story about a man who knew of a concealed treasure. After dinner, he was conducted by Alexander Ruthven into a solitary room at the end of a long gallery, and put into the hands of an armed man. At the same time a false alarm was given to his attendants, that he had left the house, and was riding homeward. While they were hurrying to their horses in the court-yard, the king had a struggle with Ruthven, who first attempted to bind, and then to poniard him. With great difficulty, and not without the exercise of considerable presence of mind, he. succeeded in giving an alarm to his attendants; one of whom, named John Ramsay, rushed to his rescue, and slew the two brothers on the spot. The death of the conspirators, and the very folly of their alleged plot, caused the tale of the king’s preservation to be received at the time,. by a few persons, as an obscure and doubtful matter; and in this light it is still regarded by some; but a dispassionate estimate of probabilities will, we think, make the affair appear as a true, though foolish scheme of two hot-headed young men, animated partly by ambition, and partly by a feeling of revenge. Their bodies were dealt with as those of traitors on the same day (November 19) on which the king’s second son, afterwards Charles I., first saw the light.


1590-1, Jan 7
The imbecility of the king amidst his rude and quarrelsome courtiers, is strongly marked by several occurrences of this particular time. The Presbyterian historian tells us that, on the day noted on the margin, as
his majesty was coming down the High Street from the Tolbooth, where he had been attending the administration of justice, his two chief friends, the Duke of Lennox and Lord Home, meeting the Laird of Logie, pulled out their swords and assaulted him. The quarrel was that Logie, a valet of the royal chamber, had refused to ‘ish’ at the duke’s order, till he was put out by force; whereupon he had given the duke foul words. While the two nobles set upon the valet, ‘the king fled into a close-head, and incontinent retired to a skinner’s booth, where it is said... fear.’ Six days after, King James was sitting in the Tolbooth, hearing the case of the Laird of Craigmillar, who was suing a divorce against his wife, when the Earl of Bothwell forcibly took away one of the most important witnesses, carried him to Crichton Castle, and there threatened him with the gallows. It seemed ‘as if there had been no king in Israel.’—Cal.

1591
During this age of general violence, the rights of women were, as a matter of course, little respected. Abductions, both under the impulse of passion and from motives of cupidity, were frequent. The young Duke of Lennox, the cousin and favourite of the king, had contracted a violent attachment to Lady Sophia Ruthven, one of the numerous children left by the unfortunate Earl of Gowrie at his death in 1584. At the order of the king, the young lady was secluded from the duke’s resort at Easter Wemyss in Fife. The duke, crossing the Firth, took the Lady Sophia out of the house where she lived, and ‘carried her away on his awn horse all the night, and on the morn married the said gentlewoman, contrair the ordinance of the kirk; whereat the king was greatly commoved.'
—Jo. Hist.

In June 1593, an abduction, of which Plutus was the prompting deity, took place under extraordinary circumstances. A young lady, daughter and apparent heir of John Carnegie, had become an object of attention to James Gray, brother of that dexterous diplomat the Master of Gray, whose treachery has made him so noted a figure at this period of Scottish history. She had already been once in the hands of her disinterested lover, but rendered back to her father, at the command of the Council. She and her father were now living in the strong house of Robert Gourlay, the merchant, in Edinburgh, when a new and successful effort was made.

On a Sunday, being the 10th of June, Lord Home, who was one of the king’s chief courtiers, came to the High Street with an armed party, designed to repress any attempt at rescue. Thus favoured, Gray and his immediate accomplices took the young lady out of her home, and, dragging her down a narrow alley to the North Loch, crossed over with her to the other side, where ten or twelve men were ready to receive her. ‘They set her upon a man’s saddle, and conveyed her away, her hair hanging about her face.’ The ravisher was ‘a gentleman of the king’s bed-chamber!’

The magistrates of Edinburgh went to Holyrood on Tuesday to complain of this outrage. ‘The king desired to know if they could complean of any that was about him. In the meantime, my Lord Home, who was chief author of the riot, was standing by. They answered nothing, because they expected for no justice.’—.Cal.

On the 6th of September 1594, Margaret Hay, a girl of only fourteen years, was forcibly taken from her mother’s house at Shiplaw, Peeblesshire, by Thomas Hay, brother of Hay of Smithfield, John and Thomas Govan, brothers, and ‘Willie Hay callit the Bastard.’ She was rescued by Cockburn of Skirling, who refused to give her up. The end of the matter does not appear.—P. C. R.

Birrel notes, under 14th August 1595, how Christian Johnston, a widow, was carried off from Edinburgh by Patrick Aikenhead. ‘The town was put in ane great fray by the ringing of the common bell,’ and ‘the said Christian was followit and brought back.’ On the 27th of November 1600, a number of persons were denounced and intercommuned for taking away the daughter of George Carkettle, burgess of Edinburgh, ‘furth of his awn house of Monkrig, where she was for the time [living] with her mother in peaceable and quiet manner.’ It afterwards appeared that the chief guilty party was Robert Hepburn of Alderston, in East Lothian.—P. C. R.

About two miles to the south-west of Edinburgh, on the slope of the Craig-Lockhart Hill, there is a mansion called Craig House of the period of James VI., and which in that time belonged to a branch of the old family of Kincaid. On the 17th of December 1600, John Kiricaid of Craig House, attended by a party of friends and servants, all ‘bodin in feir of weir, with swords, secrets, and other weapons,’ came to the village of Water of Leith, also closely adjacent to Edinburgh, and there attacked the house of Bailie John Johnston, ‘where Isobel Hutcheon, widow, was in sober, quiet, and peaceable manner for the time, dreading nae evil, harm, injury, or pursuit of ony persons, but to have lived under God’s peace and our sovereign lord’s.’ Kineaid ‘violently and forcibly brak up the doors of the said dwelling-house, entered therein, and pat violent hands on the said Isobel’s person, took her captive, reft, ravished, and took her away with him to his place of Craig House; where he deteined her, while [till] his majesty being upon the fields, accompanied with John, Earl of Mar, Sir John Ramsay, and divers others, hearing of the committing of sic ane horrible fact, directed the said John, Earl of Mar, Sir John Ramsay, and divers others his hieness’ servants, to follow him, and relieve her furth of his hands. Wha having come to his place of Craig House, and requiring for her relief; he refusit to grant the same, while [till] they menaced to bring his majesty about his said house and raise fire therein; and sae compellit him to relieve her.’

Kineaid underwent trial for this outrage, January 13, 1601, and his doom was ordered by the king to be a fine of 2500 merks, payable ‘to us and our treasurer‘—‘as also he saIl deliver to us and our treasurer his brown horse.’—Pit.

Apr 30
‘John Dickson, younger of Belchester, being apprehended, ta’en, and brought to Edinburgh, was put to the knawledge of ane assize for the slaughter of his awn natural father [in July 1588J, and also for the lying for the said offence at the process of excommunication. [Being convicted, he was] brought to the scaffold, and at the Cross broken on ane rack, [and] worried—where he lay all that night, and on the morn [was] carried to the gallows of the Burgh-moor, where the rack was set up, and the corpse laid thereupon.’—Jo. Hist.

June 6
In the midst of the proceedings regarding the witches, two ministers of Edinburgh broke out against the king in their sermons for his feeble administration of justice. One spoke of the universal contempt of his subjects; the other said he did not seem to have any power over even a witch-wife, meaning Barbara Napier. James sent for them two days after, at the Tolbooth, where he often sat beside the judges of the session. He remonstrated with them for the freedom they had used, but could not bring them to acknowledge any fault. In the conversation which ensued, they argued with the king about their respective powers. An apostle said: ‘We shall judge the angels;’ and Christ had said: ‘Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones and judge.’ Here was sufficient warrant for the parish ministers of Scotland lording it over the head of the state. After all, they protested they loved him, and he parted with them in good-humour.

On the ensuing 8th of December, a highly characteristic scene took place at Holyrood—three of the ministers ‘visiting’ the royal family as censors, ‘to try what negligence was in pastors, and abuses in the family.’ They went again upon Friday the 10th, when the king himself was present. They urged the king to have the Scriptures read at dinner and supper, and ‘willed that new elders could be chosen and the comptroller left out.’ A week after, one of them, Mr John Davidson, called in a private capacity at the palace to admonish the king about his failures in the exercise of king-craft, particularly in appointing bad men to offices, and pardoning great criminals. ‘The king answered, he found not concurrence in inferior magistrates . . . . there were diverse officers claimed their places by heritage. As for known pardons, he would answer for every one he gave by law and reason. As for unknown, such was the multitude of his businesses, that some about him deceived him by importunity, and got stolen subscriptions, from which kind of dealing he thought no flesh in his place could always be free. Further, he saw not where to make choice of fit officers, for when any man’s particular cometh in question, then their partiality may be seen.’—Cal.

Oct 28
On this day are entered in the records of the Privy Council two complaints which illustrate in a remarkable manner the state of society at that time. First, James Lord Ogilvie of Airly, ancestor of the Earls of Airly, complains that, while he was living quietly in the protection of the law, and dreading harm from no man, the Earl of Argyle, without any provocation from him, hounded out a set of broken Highlandmen to the number of about five hundred, to attack him, and spoil his lands. He had ‘retired in sober and quiet manner, to dwell and make his residence in Glen Isla,’ when, on the 21st of August, they entered the district under silence of night, ‘with sic force and violence, that the said lord, lying far from his friends, was not able to resist them, but with great difficulty and short advertisement, he, his wife and bairns, escaped.’ The invading party are described as having slain all the people they could lay their hands on, eighteen or twenty in number; besides, they ‘spulyit and away-took ane grit number of nolt, sheep, and plenishing [furniture], to the utter wreck and undoing of the haill poor inhabitants of the country.’ Having at the command of the king retired, they still hovered on the neighbouring hills, and some weeks after made a new attack upon Glen Isla as well as Glen Clova, slaying three or four persons, and taking away much spoil; ‘sae that the poor men dwelling in Glen Clova, Glen Isla, and other parts adjacent to the Month, wha are not able to make resistance, are sae oppressed by the broken men and sorners hounded out by the Earl of Argyle and his friends, and maintainit and reset by them, that neither by his majesty’s protection, nor assurance of the party, can their lives and gudes be in surety.’

This seems very mysterious, till we read the second entry, which is a complaint that, on the 16th of August bypast (five days previous to the above incident), Leighton of Usan and sundry of the Ogilvies, to the number of about threescore persons, had, at the instigation of Lord Ogilvie, gone with jacks, spears, harquebuses, and other weapons, and attacked Robert Campbell in Millhorn, William of Soutarhouse, Thomas Campbell of Keithock, and John Campbell of Muirton, whom they had mercilessly slain. How this outrage had been provoked, does not appear; but there can be no doubt that the invasion of Lord Ogilvie’s privacy in Glen Isla was a consequence of this earlier and similar incident.

The frightful cutaneous disease of leprosy prevailed in Scotland, as in most other European countries, from an early age. There was a hospital for the reception of its victims at Kingease, near Ayr, believed to have existed from the reign of King Robert I. At Glasgow, such an establishment was planted by the Lady of Lochow, daughter of Robert, Duke of Albany, and in 1584 it had six inmates. In a solitary spot between Old and New Aberdeen, there was a leper-house, but rather poorly endowed, for in this year King James is found granting the inmates a right to one peat out of every load of peats sold in the town, in consideration that their rents were ‘unable to sustene them in meat and fire, wherethrough they live very miserably.' [‘May 19, 1591, the town-council of Aberdeen made arrangements for the support of one Robert AbeII, who was ‘visited with leprosy, and thereby unable to win his living or frequent honest men’s society.’ He was placed in the house here described.—Ab. C. R. In 1612, the magistrates made the like provision for Agnes Jameson, spouse to Patrick Jack, ‘vexed and diseased with the sickness of leprosy,’ although she was not born and bred in the burgh.] There were a few other such refuges of hopeless misery throughout the land.

In a sheltered spot called Greenside, near the northern skirts of the Calton Hill, a small monastery of Carmelite Friars had had a brief existence before the Reformation. On its desolate site, a merchant-burgess of Edinburgh, John Robertson by name (whom we soon after find in the office of bailie), now erected a small house for the reception of lepers, led thereto, it is stated, by a sense of gratitude to God for a signal deliverance vouchsafed to him. The town-council concurred in his object, and undertook the oversight and direction of the establishment. A committee of their number, in conjunction with a minister of the city, and John Robertson himself, drew up rules for the house, and arranged the means of its support. Five men afflicted with leprosy, and two women, the wives of two of these men, but not themselves lepers, were admitted, each leper being allowed four shillings Scots money—equal to 4d. sterling—weekly, and also having a privilege of begging under certain restrictions. They were on no account to go about for alms, or to stir from the house at all, or to admit any visitor, under penalty of death, and, to shew how earnest was the spirit of this rule, a gibbet was erected at the gable of the hospital, ready for the instant execution of any transgressor. From sunset to sunrise, their door was to he kept fast locked, under the same penalty. Each patient was to take his turn of sitting at the door ‘with ane clapper,’ to attract the attention of people passing between Edinburgh and Leith, and to beg from them for the general benefit. The rest were meanwhile to stay within doors. The two wives, Isobel Barear and Jonet Gatt, were to be allowed to go to market, to purchase vivres for the lepers and for themselves, but not to call anywhere else in town, under penalty of death. A person was appointed to read prayers to the inmates each Sunday, and a weekly oversight was confided to the Masters of Trinity Hospital. It serves curiously to realise the whole arrangement to our minds, that this hospital still exists, though the leper-house seems to have been extinct since the middle of the seventeenth century.’

Dec 16
We have under this date a curious specimen of the administration of justice under King James. Letters are raised at the instance of’ Helen Henderson, spouse of William Murray elder of Romanno; Margaret Tweedie, spouse of John Murray younger of Romanno; and —— Nisbet, spouse of William Murray, third Laird of Romanno, with the puir tenants, cotters, and labourers of the ground of the lands of Romanno, lying within the sheriffdom of Peebles:’ stating that these three lairds, with sundry other persons, had been denounced at the horn for theft concern in the slaughter of John Hamilton of Coitquott and his son; and, on the complaint of the widow and children of the said John, with a false report that the Lairds of Romanno were fortifying their tower of Romanno, there to defend themselves against the powers of the law, ‘his majesty appointit the same to be keepit by four persons, allowing them monthly the sum of twenty merks... to be payit out of the living of Romanno,’ and caused letters to he directed to the complainers, charging them with this payment. The three ladies appeal against this order, on the ground that they had not been previously heard in their own cause. Had they been so, they could have shewn reasons to the contrary—’ the house of Romanno was never keepit agains his hieness, but the same, as alsae the country, is left by the said rebels, and that immediately after committing the fact (gif in their awn defence and by procurement of other persons God knaws and time will try), and therefore needit nae sic keepers, it being hot ane auld and ruinons touir, no meet for nae man to keep or hazard his life into, and, besides this, the said Helen Henderson, Margaret Tweedie, and — Nisbet, are infeft in conjunct fee and liferent in the haill lands of Romanno, whilk is bot a puir ten-pund land, in effect barren of the self, and subject to the incursion and stouthreif of the broken men and thieves of baith the borders, and, as is mair nor notour, will not sustene the said complenars nor their families, they having nae manner of thing else whereupon to live.’ The ladies further pointed out the hardship of punishing the innocent for the guilty, and pleaded how they had already made a great composition with the representatives of the slaughtered persons. Nevertheless, on parties being heard before the Council, the letters complained of were found to be legal and proper, and so the garrison imposed on the old tower would remain for the meantime a burden on the estate.—P. C.
R.

On the ensuing 17th of March, Jonas Hamilton of Coitquott gave surety by sundry of his friends, under large sums, that ‘Margaret Tweedie, relict of John Murray of Romanno, her tenants and servants, sall be harmless and skaithless.’

The garrison consisted of this Jonas; William, his brother; William Hamilton in Cranston; and William Brown in Bordland. It appears that the Murrays had held the house in contempt of a summons from John Blainslie, ‘Bute pursuivant,’ and had been thrust out with their families by force. The widow Margaret, with feminine tenacity of purpose, obtained a letter under the king’s signet for dispossessing the Hamilton garrison; and now this was reclaimed against. Parties being heard in presence, his majesty affirmed the order for the surrender of the house to the widow, on condition that she should give security that it should not prove a refuge for her outlawed relatives.—P. C. R.

Dec 22
During this troublous period of the king’s reign, the book of the Privy Council becomes a kind of review of the nobility and gentry of Scotland, as they severally appear to give caution for one another as to the maintenance of the peace, or are cited or denounced for its infraction. As an example of a kind of entry which occurs several times at every meeting, John Murray of Blackbarony becomes ‘actit and obleist as cautioner or surety for William Burnett of the Barns [both in Peeblesshire], that he sall compeir personally before the king’s majesty and Lords of Secret Council, at Halyrudhouse, or where it sall happen to be for the time, the 29 day of December instant, and answer to sic things as sall be inquirit of him, touching sic deidly feid as he has interest in, and that he sall underly sic order as his hieness and the said lords sall demene to him thereanent, under the pain of ane thousand merks.’—P. C. R.

The Earl of Bothwell seems to have been little distressed by his forfeiture. According to his own ideas, he was only suffering from the malice of a successful enemy, the Chancellor Maitland. All that he aimed at was a change of administration in his own favour. How to bring it about? In our days, such a discharged favourite would bide his time, in hopes that some new turn of affairs or a gust of popular favour through the House of Commons would bring him into favour again. In Scotland, at the close of the sixteenth century, the needful first step was to obtain, by whatever means, possession of the king’s person. Now then commenced a series of remarkable assaults on King James by his turbulent cousin.

Dec 27
Having secured some favour among the royal attendants, he came to Holyroodhouse at night, with his friends the Lairds of Spott and Nisbet, Mr Archibald Douglas, a natural son of the Regent Morton, Mr John Colville, and others, to the amount of forty or fifty. They ‘enterit in at a stable-door beside the east gable of the Traitor’s Tower, whilk was called the Duke’s Stable, within the whilk there was a trap and ane entress privily made. Having enterit therein, they first bereft the porter of the keys, and then passed to the chancellor’s chalmer-door; they dang tip the same. He, being foreseen by the cry of ane boy that there was ane tumult of men in the close, withdrew himself and some others within his inner chalmer, whilk has ane narrow entress, at whilk the conspirators strake with fore-hammers and shot pistolets. There was some shots of muskets shot out again [by which] some of them were hurt; [so they] for fear to be trappit, passed to the queen’s chalmer-door, whilk they brak up.’

‘In the meantime, the hail noblemen and gentlemen of his majesty’s house raise, who thought to have taken the Earl Bothwell and his complices. The earl fled; yet he returned at the south side of the abbey, where the said earl and his complices slew his majesty’s master-stabler, named William Shaw, and ane with him, named Mr Peter Shaw. But the king’s folk took eight of Bothwell’s faction, and on the morrow hanged them all without ane assize, betwixt the Girth Cross and the Abbey-gate.’—Moy. Bir.

Dec 28
‘The king’s majesty came to Sanct Geill’s Kirk, and there made ane oration anent the fray made by Bothwell and William Shaw’s slaughter, his master-stabler.’—Bir.

1592, Feb 7
The slaughter of the Bonny Earl of Moray at Dunnibrissle stands prominent amongst the tragic events of the time. It was much more a piece of clan warfare than is generally allowed by Scottish historians. Moray had connected himself with a number of gentlemen and heads of clans in the north, who had combined against the Earl of Huntly. In the latter part of 1590, there were in that district of Scotland musterings, marchings, and fightings, too obscure to make an appearance in general history, but enough to keep three counties in a state resembling civil war. Huntly, who acted as lord-lieutenant of the north, and thus had a colour of law on his side, pursued the Mackintoshes and Grants, who befriended the Earl of Moray, as rebels, both against himself, who was their feudal superior, and against the king. In a reconnoitring expedition which he made at Darnaway Castle, the Earl of Moray’s house, one of his gentlemen was unfortunately killed by a musket-shot, discharged by a servant from the battlements—an injury which the feelings of the day made it a virtue to revenge.

By the intervention of Lord Ochiltree, Moray came south to his house of Dunnibrissle, in Fife, with a view to a reconciliation with Huntly. The northern chief was also at court; but his thoughts were not turned on peace. In consequence of Moray having befriended the turbulent Bothwell, the king and Chancellor Maitland were wrought upon to grant a commission to Huntly for the capture of that nobleman, not dreaming, as we may charitably hope, of the cruel tragedy which was to ensue. Perhaps neither did Huntly meditate anything beyond taking Moray, and having him subjected to trial.

Mustering forty friends on horseback, he set out with them, as to a race at Leith; but, having thus lulled suspicion, he quickly turned away, and crossed the Forth at the Queensferry. At a late hour on a winter night, the Earl of Moray heard his lonely house surrounded by the hostile Gordons, and received a summons to surrender. He had no friend with him but one—Dunbar, sheriff of Moray—and a few servants; yet he determined to make resistance. The Gordons then gathered corn from the neighbouring farms, and piling it against the door, set it on lire. To pursue the quaint recitals of the day: ‘The Earl of Moray, being within, wissed not whether to come out and be slain, or be burned quick; yet, after avisement, this Dunbar says to my Lord of Moray: "I will go out at the gate before your lordship, and I am sure the people will charge on me, thinking me to be your lordship; sae, it being mirk under night, ye shall come out after me, and look if that ye can fend [provide] for yourself" In the meantime, this Dunbar came forth, and ran desperately amang the Earl of Huntly’s folks, and they all ran upon him and presently slew him. During this broil with Dunbar, the Earl of Moray came running out at the gate of Dunnibrissle, which stands beside the sea, and there sat down amang the rocks. But, unfortunately, the said lord’s knapseull tippet, whereon was a silk string, had taken fire, which betrayed him to his enemies in the darkness of the night, himself not knowing the same. They came down on him on a sudden, and there most cruelly, without mercy, murdered him.’—Bir. Moy.

Next morning, Edinburgh was full of mourning and lamentation for this sad event. That the victim was a Protestant and son-in-law of the Good Regent, while the Earl of Huntly was notedly the head of the popish party in Scotland, was chiefly remembered by them. The conflict of interests in the north, the death of John Gordon at Darnaway, and the possibility of Huntly having been far from meditating slaughter, were little known or reflected on. The sympathies of the king, on the other hand, were with Huntly; nor, had it been otherwise, would his majesty have found it an easy task to bring to justice a grandee who had recently come forth against the Protestant interest with ten thousand men at his back. ‘The king went forth to the hunting that morning; and hunting about Inverleith and Wardie, he saw the fire, which had not yet died out; but nothing moved with the matter.’—Cal. It was generally believed that both he and the Chancellor Maitland had not been unwilling that Huntly should do this deed. ‘The king sent for five or six of the ministers, made an harangue to them, wherein he did what he could to clear himself:, and desired them to clear his part before the people. They desired him to clear himself with earnest pursuing of Huntly with fire and sword. The king alleged his part to be like David’s when Abner was slain by Joab.’—Cal. It nevertheless appears, from the records of Privy Council, that James, on the 8th of February, being the day after the murder, retracted from Huntly his commission of lientenancy.

Feb 9
‘—
the Earl of Moray’s mother, accompanied with her friends, brought over her son’s and the sheriff of Moray’s dead corpse, in litters, to Leith, to be brought from thence to be buried in the aile of the Great Kirk of Edinburgh, in the Good Regent’s tomb, and, as some report, to be made first a spectacle to the people at the Cross of Edinburgh; but they were stayed by command from the king. Captain [John] Gordon [a brother of the Laird of Gieht], was left for dead at Dunnibrissle; his hat, his purse, his gold, his weapons were taken by one of his own company; his shanks [stockings] were pulled off. He was taken in by the Earl of Moray’s mother, and cherished with meat, drink, and clothing. A rare example! She brought him over with her son’s corpse to seek justice. The earl’s mother caused draw her son’s picture, as he was demained, and presented it to the king in a fine lame cloth, with lamentations, and earnest suit for justice. But little regard was had to the matter. Of the three bullets she found in the bowelling of the body of her son, she presented one to the king, another to . . . ., the third she reserved to herself’, and said: "I sall not part with this till it be bestowed on him that hindereth justice."’ ‘—Cal.

One of the king’s friends, Lord Spynie, hearing that Captain Gordon had been brought to Leith, got a warrant from the king to bring him to Edinburgh Castle, ‘to have eschewit the present trial of law;’ but Lord Ochiltree, being informed of this, took horse with about forty friends and servants in arms, and went forth after the king, who, even at this dismal moment, could not restrain his inordinate propensity to hunting. Lord Ochiltree ‘came upon the king on the north side of Corstorphine Craigs, where his majesty was taking a drink. [He] lichtit and stayit his horse at the hill foot, and came to his majesty and show[ed] him.... how far this murder touched his highness, whereof he besought him maist humbly to consider upon Lord Ochiltree his earnest desire, his majesty granted him a warrant to present Captain Gordon and his man to the trial of ane assize that same day; whilk with all diligence the said lord did perform, and the said captain was beheadit, and his man hanged. The captain condemned the fact, protesting that he was brought ignorantly upon it.’—Moy. Cal.

The Earl of Huntly made an appearance of satisfying the demands of law for the slaughter of Moray, by entering himself in ward in Blackness Castle, as preliminary to his trial; but the king released him after eight days’ confinement, and he was not again troubled on that score. It is to be observed, however, that the Bonny Earl’s death did not pass without at least an attempt at revenge in the north.

The Clan Chattan or Mackintoshes, and the Grants, were much incensed by the fact, and made great ‘stirs’ against their superior the Earl of Huntly. The earl sent the Clan Cameron against the one, and a leader called Mackranald against the other, and had great slaughter committed upon both. The Mackintoshes, still indisposed to submit, came in the fall of the year 1592, eight hundred strong, into the Gordon territories of Strathdee and Glenmuick, where they killed four gentlemen of Huntly’s vassalage. One of these was the Laird of Brackla, a place near the modern watering-village of Ballater. He was an old man, much given to hospitality, and had received a party of these invaders without any apprehension of their hostile intentions. After a kindly entertainment, they killed the old man in his own hall (November 1)—a circumstance which naturally added much bitterness to the feelings of his friends, as it was considered as the foulest style in which murder could be committed.’

The Earl of Huntly was interrupted in an invasion of the Mackintosh estate of Pettie in Inverness-shire, by a report of what was going on in Aberdeenshire. With his uncle, Sir Patrick Gordon of Auchindoun, and about thirty-six horsemen, he did not hesitate immediately to ride into Strathdee and attack the Mackintoshes, now passing over a hill called Stapliegate in the Cabrach. After a sharp skirmish, he routed them utterly, killing about sixty. He then caused parties of his people to invade and spoil the Mackintosh and Grant territories; nor did he rest till, by slaughter and pillage, he had completely reduced these clans to his obedience —G. H. S.

[In a memoir of the family of Grant, written by Mr James Chapman, minister of Cromdale, in 1729, and preserved in the Macfarlane Collections in the Advocates’ Library, there is a curious traditionary anecdote, which the writer connects with the murder of the Laird of Brackla, and yet dates in 1540. It is given in the following terms: ‘[James Laird of Grant, called Shemus nan Creagh, or James the Ravager] distinguished himself in assisting the Earl of Huntly, his cousin, against the insulta of several enemies, and particularly in revenging the murder of Gordon Baron of Brackla, on Dee water-side, who was murdered by the countrymen there. The revenge went such a length, that above six score orphans were left in the desolate country on Deeside, nobody knowing who their parents were. These miserable orphans were, out of pity and commiseration, carried by the Earl of Huntly into his castle, where they were maintained and fed thus. A long trough of wood was made wherein was put pottage or any other kind of food allowed them; and the young ones, sitting round about the trough, did eat their meat out of it as well as they could. The Laird of Grant visiting the earl, was, for diversion’s sake, brought to see the orphans slabbing at the trough; which comical sight so surprised him, that he proposed to carry one-half of them to Balcastle, alleging that, having a hand in destroying their parents, he was bound in justice to take a concern in their preservation and maintenance. Those of them that were brought to Castle-Grant are to this day called Slioch Namor—that is, the Posterity of the Trough.’ As Shemus nan Creagh died in 1553, and the Grants were not engaged on the Earl of Huntly’s side on this occasion, but participated with their relatives and allies the Mackintoshes in suffering from his vengeance, it may be presumed that this barbarous tale refers to the date assigned for it by Chapman—namely, a period fully fifty years earlier than the murder of the Laird of Brackla. It has nevertheless been introduced by Sir Walter Scott in his Tales of a Grandfather, as applicable to the reign of James VI.; and the reader who turns it up there, may experience some amusement in contrasting its ample and picturesque details with the simple original anecdote as above narrated.]

It is not unworthy of remark, that the Privy Council Record contains no notice of these outrages in the north, beyond an entry dated November 9, 1592, adverting to ‘great cruelties, herships, and disorders recently committit by the lawless broken Highlandmen of the Clan Chattan, Clan Cameron, Clanranald, and others pretending their dependence on the Earls of Huntly and Athole;’ which had ‘sae wrackit and shaken louss sundry parts of the north country, that great numbers of honest and peaceable folks are murtherit, their houses bunt now in the winter season, their guids spulyit, disponit, and exponit in prey, in far greater rigour nor it was with foreign enemies;’ for which reasons a commission was granted to the Earl of Angus to go north and deal with the said earls for the pacification of the country, and, failing this, to raise the well-affected people in arms, and put down the lawless by force. This view of the matter is so inconsistent with the statement of Sir Robert Gordon, above quoted, as to suggest that the Scottish government knew hardly anything of the relations of parties, and had heard only of there being troubles in a certain district. No notice whatever is taken of the sweeping vengeance executed by the Earl of Huntly upon the Mackintoshes and Grants. Certainly, no feature of the time is more remarkable than this freedom and power of the great nobles to do what they considered justice upon their enemies, while the king was unable by any force under his own immediate control to protect himself in his own palace.

We learn from another source, that the Earl of Angus brought matters to a bearing in conformity with the king’s direction, by causing ‘baith the parties subscryve ane assurance, bot of their awn form.’—Moy.

Feb 28
Richard Graham had for some years been noted as a prominent licentiate of the devil’s medical college. He professed to despise common witchcraft as a vulgar thing, and would only admit that he consulted spirits. Spottiswoode, speaking of the death of the good Earl of Angus, says: ‘In the time of his sickness, when the physicians found his disease not to proceed of any natural cause [it was concluded to be by enchantment], one Richard Graham being brought to give his opinion of it, made offer to cure him, saying, as the manner of these wizards is, "that he had received wrong." But when he [the earl] heard that the man was suspected to use unlawful arts, he would by no means admit him, saying: "That his life was not so dear to him, as, for the continuance of it some years, he would be beholden to any of the devil’s instruments; that he held his life of God, and was willing to render the same at His good pleasure, knowing he should change it for a better."

It is related that Sir Lewis Bellenden, Lord Justice-clerk, dealt with Graham to raise the devil. Graham having raised him in Sir Lewis’s own yard in the Canongate, ‘he [Sir Lewis] was thereby so terrified that he took sickness and thereof died.’—Stag. State.

It was satisfactorily made out that Graham had been the adviser of the witch Barbara Napier and her associates; and we have just seen that the Earl of Bothwell was likewise believed to have consulted him regarding the king’s death. This wizard, therefore—‘ notour and knawn necromancer, ane common abuser of the people ‘—was apprehended; and on the day noted in the margin, he was ‘worried and burnt at the Cross of Edinburgh.’ According to Calderwood, ‘he stood hard to his former confession touching Bothwell’s practice against the king; that Arran, Lord Fairnyear, was an enchanter; that the devil was raised at the Laird of Auchinleck’s dwelling-place, and in Sir Lewis Bellenden the Justice-clerk’s yard. The bruit [rumour] went that the chancellor [Maitland] had some tables and images about his neck, and that he was sure [safe] so long as he used them so; but Richard Graham deponed no such matter.’

Mar 7
The presbytery of Edinburgh laboured hard to get the Earl of Huntly and his friends excommunicated. They could not be brought to see that there was any need for the same severity against the Earl of Bothwell and his associates, who had tried to seize the king in his palace by night. James ‘grudged’ at this, ‘and said it would not be weel till noblemen and gentlemen got licence to break ministers’ heads.’—Cal.

Mar 31
We have at this date a peculiar proceeding recorded, regarding a dyvour or bankrupt. ‘In presence of the provost, bailies, council, and community of the burgh of Edinburgh, Patrick Lindsay, tailor, was sworn in judgment that he was not worth five [. . . .], sworn in judgment, divour and bare man. This was because he was reteinit in ward at the instance of John Anderson, burgess of the said burgh, for the sum of eighty pounds, by the space of sax ouks. After[wards], he was brought to the Cross, convoyit with the provost, bailies, and officers; and thereupon, after three Oyez’es, the said aith was published by Bartilmo Uchiltree, officer, wha cut the said Patrick’s belt in three pieces in presence of the haill people. This form of law was never practised in Edinburgh on the first erection thereof, and therefore I thought necessary to put [it] in memory.’—Jo. Hist.

June
‘There came from Aberdeen a young woman, called Helen Guthry, daughter to John Guthry, saddler, to admonish the king of his duty. She was so disquieted with the sins reigning in the country—swearing, filthy speaking, profanation of the Sabbath, &c.—that she could find no rest till she came to the king. She presented a letter to him when he was going to see his hounds. After he had read a little of it, he fell a laughing that he could scarce stand on his feet, and swore so horribly that the woman could not spare to reprove him. He asked if she was a prophetess. She answered she was a poor simple servant of God, that prayed to make him a servant of God also; that was desirous vice should be punished, and specially murder, which was chiefly craved at his hands; that she could find no rest till she put him in mind of his duty. After the king and courtiers had stormed a while, she was sent to the queen, whom she found more courteous and humane. So great and many were the enormities in the country, through impunity and want of justice, that the minds of simple and poor young women were disquieted, as ye may see; but the king and court had deaf ears to the crying sins.’ —Cal.

June 28
Half a year had now elapsed since Bothwell’s fruitless attempt on Holyroodhouse. The ‘king was living his usual free-and-easy life in his little hunting-seat or palace of Falkland in Fife, when the forfeited lord thought proper to make a new attempt in his peculiar style at a change of administration, or restoration of himself to power and favour. A little after midnight, he suddenly appeared before the royal residence with three hundred men, and tried, but in vain, to obtain entrance. James had been forewarned; and, throwing himself into the tower of the palace, which he had had time to furnish with provisions, he set the assailants at defiance. Bothwell, baffled, and fearing to meet the friends who he knew would speedily rally to the king’s assistance, left the place at seven in the morning, carrying off all the horses, in order to check pursuit.

‘Thereafter his majesty came over the water, and made ane oration in the Great Kirk of Edinburgh. Immediately after the fray, Bothwell and his men came over the water, and there were eighteen of them taken in Calder Muir, and in other parts near Calder Muir, lying sleeping for want of rest and enterteenment; and, immediately after their taking, they were all brought to Edinburgh and [five of them] hangit.

‘At the same time [July 1] the Lairds of Niddry and Samuelston [friends of Bothwell] were taken by Lord John Hamilton [lying sleeping in the meadow of Lesmahago], and warded in the Castle of Draphane. . . . Lord Hamilton] came to Edinburgh, thinking to have got grace to them from his majesty. He came down to his majesty’s lodgings at the Nether Bow, and going into Mr John Laing’s house, where his majesty lodgit, the guard standing above the [Nether Bow] port, with their hagbuts, guns, and other weapons seeing my Lord Hamilton, for the honour of his lordship, shot ane volley at my lord. There was ane man [James Sinclair of Earstone] speaking to his lordship, shot through the head; ane other by him shot through the leg; and ane bullet struck the lintel of the gate just above my lord’s head where he stood, yet no more harm done. So that, by mere accident, the said Lord Hamilton had [al]most have been slain, and not through any evil will.

‘The Lord Hamilton, seeing he could get no grace to the said two gentlemen, sent word to his bastard son Sir John, who convoyit the said two gentlemen away, and went with them himself for their more safety.’—Bir.

Early in August, a plan was devised by two courtiers, Wemyss of Logie and the Laird of Burleigh, to bring Bothwell privately into the royal presence at Dalkeith Castle. On this occasion also, the king was forewarned, and Bothwell had to retire without being introduced. Burleigh confessed his fault; but Logie either stood out, or at the utmost admitted that he engaged in the plot for a good end, desiring to learn what was the purpose of the enemy. ‘The king said: "That was too much, not making him privy." Logie said: "God forbid I should have told you anything, who can keep nothing close !" The king regretted to the queen that he had none about him who were sure.’—Cal. Logie was put into confinement.

‘Because the event of this matter had sic a success, it sall also be praised by my pen, as a worthy turn, proceeding from honest, chaste love and charity, whilk should on nae ways be obseurit from the posterity for the guid example: and therefore I have thought guid to insert the same for a perpetual memory.

‘Queen Anne, our noble princess, was served with divers gentlewomen of her awn country, and namely with ane called Mrs Margaret Twinstoun, to whom this gentleman, Wemyss of Logie, bure great honest affection, tending to the godly band of marriage; the whilk was honestly requited by the said gentlewoman, yea even in his greatest mister [trouble]. For, howsoon she understood the said gentleman to be in distress, and apparently by his confession to be punished to the death; and she, having privilege to lie in the queen’s chalmer, that same very night of his accusation, where the king was also reposing that same night, she came furth of the door privily, baith the princes being then at quiet rest, and passed to the chalmer where the said gentleman was put in custody to certain of the guard, and commanded them that immediately he should be brought to the king and queen; whereunto they giving sure credence, obeyed. But howsoon she was come back to the chalmer door, she desired the watches to stay till he should come forth again; and so she closed the door, and convoyed the gentleman to a window, where she ministrat a lang cord unto him to convoy himself down upon; and sae by her guid charitable help he happily escaped by the subtlety of love.’—.H. K. J.

‘Logie married the gentlewoman after, when he was received into the king’s favour again.’—Cal.

This incident has been made the subject of a popular ballad.

Aug
About this time, Bothwell was understood to be retired to his great estate in Liddesdale, and to be there engaged in a kind of work which is usually the privilege of royalty! ‘His majesty was informed that Bothwell had ane that cunyied false cunyie in the house of Row in Liddesdale. His majesty wrate to the Lord Ochiltree, desiring him to go to the said house, and to bring sic men to his majesty as he fand there, together with all sic instruments as could be there had for cunying, with power to raise the hail country if need were. The Lord Ochiltree gathered to the number of seven or aucht score horse, all in armour, and rade first to Jedburgh, where they stayit that night, and refreshit himself and his company; and Ferniehirst, his brother-in-law, sent with him three score horse upon the morn at night [They] rade to the house of the Row at Liddesdale, and there took the twa men out of the house beside the tower, and thereafter strake up the doors of the tower, and brought the irons that prentit the cunyie, with all the instruments, together with ane number of thirty-shilling [half-crown] pieces, whilk were cunyied there, and delivered the same to his majesty in the Abbey. The false cunyier was gone in England, and was not to be had; to seek metal to cunyie more, as was reported.’ - Moy.


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