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History of the Burgh of Dumfries
Chapter XXIII


QUEEN MARY IMPRISONED IN ENGLAND – LORD HERRIES REMONSTRATES, WITHOUT EFFECT, AGAINST THE TREATMENT GIVEN TO HER – WARLIKE MEASURES TAKEN BY HIM AND THE DUKE OF CHATELHERAULT ON MARY’S BEHALF – THE LAST DAYS OF LORD HERRIES – AN ENGLISH ARMY, UNDER LORD SCROPE, ENTERS DUMFRIESSHIRE IN ORDER TO PUNISH THE QUEEN’S ADHERENTS – UNSUCCESSFUL EFFORTS MADE TO ARREST ITS MARCH – SCROPE DEFEATS THE DUMFRIESIANS, AND BURNS THE TOWN – HE DEMOLISHES THE CASTLES OF DUMFRIES, CARLAVEROCK, AND OTHER FORTRESSES – JOHN, THE EIGHTH LORD MAXWELL, INCURS THE HATRED OF THE REGENT MORTON, BY CLAIMING THE EARLDOM OF THAT NAME – OUTBREAK OF A FEUD BETWEEN THE MAXWELLS AND JOHNSTONES – CONTEST BETWEEN THEM FOR THE PROVOSTSHIP OF DUMFRIES – DESTRUCTIVE PROGRESS OF THE FEUD – ARRAN, THE NEW REGENT, ENDEAVOURS TO CRUSH LORD MAXWELL – MAXWELL AND OTHER BARONS, AT THE HEAD OF A DUMFRIESSIRE FORCE, SURPRISE AND OVERTHROW THE REGENT – AN ANMESTY GIVEN TO MAXWELL FOR ALL PAST OFFENCES – AN ACT OF GRACE PASSED IN FAVOUR OF THE BURGH – TRAGICAL FATE OF ARRAN – MAXWELL AGAIN FALLS INTO DISFAVOUR WITH THE GOVERNMENT, BY CELEBRATING MASS IN LINCLUDEN COLLEGE.

IN a small fishing-boat, with about twenty attendants, the hapless Queen sailed from a creek in the parish of Revwick (since called Port Mary) to the Cumberland coast, on the 16th of May, landing at the place which received from her the name of Maryport: thence she was conducted by the local authorities, with many tokens of respect, to Carlisle. From that city Mary penned several letters to Elizabeth, soliciting her protection and assistance. On the 5th of July she wrote to her sister sovereign: “I am come to make my moan to you, the which being heard, I would declare unto you mine innocency, and then require your aid.” In the same letter the Queen, sighing in heart for the presence of a true friend, said, “In meantime, I beseech you to send to me my Lord Herries, for I can’t be without him.” A few days afterwards Mary was removed, in spite of her complaints and remonstrances, to Lord Scrope’s castle at Bolton, on the borders of Yorkshire, where she could only with difficulty maintain correspondence with her friends in Scotland, and from which she had no chance of making her escape.

A remarkable letter from Lord Herries, addressed by him on the Queen’s behalf to Lord Scrope and Sir Francis Knollys, is preserved in the State Paper Office, in which he inveighs strongly against the detention of his royal mistress, and exposes the duplicity of Elizabeth. The following characteristic passage is well worth quoting: - “Now, my Lords,” he argues, “gif the Queen’s Majesty of that realm [England], upon quhais promise and honour my maistress came there, as I have said, will leave all the French writings, and French phrases of writings, quhilks amongis them is over meikle on baith the sides unfit, and plainly, according to the auld true custom of England and Scotland – quherein be a word promist truth was observ’d – promise in the name of the eternal God, and upon the high honour of that nobill and princely blude of the Kings of England, quhereof she is descendit, and presently wears the diaden, that she will put my mistress in her awin country, and cause her as Queen thereof, in her authority and strength, to be obeyit; and to do the same will appoint an certain day (within two months at the farthest), as we understand this to be our weil [for our welfare] sua will we, or the maist part of us, all follow upon it, leaving the Frenchmen and their evil phrases togidder. And therefore, and for the true perpetual friendship of that realm [England] will condition, and for our part, with the grace of Almighty God, keep sic heads and conditions of agreement, as noble and wise men can condescend upon for the weill of this haill island.” The letter concludes in these terms: - “This is plainly written, and I desire your lordships’ plain answer; for in truth and plainness langest continues gud friendship, quhilk in this matter, I pray God, may lang continue, and have your lordships in his keeping. Off Dumfreis, the 3d day of September, 1568. Your lordships at my power to command leifully. – HERRIS.”

A short time before the date of that letter, the writer of it was forfeited in Parliament; but the Regent, from motives of policy, caused the execution of the sentence to be delayed. Lord Herries continued to be a prominent character till the day of his death. Proceeding to London, in the autumn of 1568, he there, with earnestness and ability, pleaded the cause of the Queen of Scots. Soon afterwards he went to advocate her interests at the French Court, and returned with Arran, Duke of Chatelherault, to assist the latter in making good his commission from the Queen to be Lieutenant-General of the kingdom, in opposition to the Regent Murray. Hostilities were averted at an interview between the rival claimants; the Duke agreeing to acknowledge King James, on condition that the sentence of forteiture should be removed from those who had supported Queen Mary. With the view of cementing the friendship thus somewhat hastily formed, Arran and Herries were entertained at a splendid banquet by the Regent in presence of King James; but in the course of a few days, Murray’s suspicions being aroused against them, they were both, by his order, committed to Edinburgh Castle; from which, however, they were soon released, on the barbarous assassination of Murray, in January, 1570. Some months afterwards, Lord Herries joined with the Duke of Chatelherault, the Earl of Hamilton, and others, in a last attempt to promote the cause of Queen Mary by force of arms. To give a show of legality to their proceedings, the Duke summoned a meeting of the Estates. Only a very partial response was given to this citation; but, of six burghs which sent commissioners, Dumfries was one. This small Parliament (according to the author of the Diurnal) [Diurnal, p. 220.] sat in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, and sustained a supplication, tabled in the Queen’s name, setting forth that she still claimed the crown, her surrender of it having been extorted by force. On the failure of this movement, Herries, in the summer of 1571, laboured to effect a reconciliation between the contending parties, and with such success, that a convention for this purpose was signed by the chiefs on both sides, early in the following year.

Lord Herries, towards the close of life, embraced the Protestant faith, which he was so nearly doing at the outset of his public career; and he was honoured with the confidence of King James. He died suddenly, at Edinburgh, on Sabbath the 20th of January, 1582, under the following circumstances, as related by Calderwood [Appendix to octavo edition, vol. viii., p. 232.]: - When at dinner, he remarked that he found himself so weak that he durst not trust himself to go to the afternoon’s preaching. He then went out, with the intent of going “to an upper chamber in William Fowler’s lodging, to the boys bicker.” On the way, he “fell down by little and little,” exclaiming feebly, to a woman that followed him, “Hold me; for I am not weale:” after which he expired, four years before the execution of the unfortunate Queen, to whose cause, so long as it was in the last degree hopeful, his services had been devoted. John, fourth Lord Herries, was one of the ablest Scotchmen of his day; and while on some occasions he was vacillating and inconsistent, his character exhibited many points of excellence which we cannot but admire.

In 1570, Dumfriesshire, owing to the support given by some of its leading men to the cause of Mary, was ravaged by an armed force, sent by her rival Elizabeth, under Lord Scrope. John, eighth Lord Maxwell, nephew of Lord Herries, Lord Carlyle, and several other chiefs, mustered their followers, in order to resist the invaders, and were opportunely joined by a large body of burgesses from Dumfries, who, responding to their gathering cry of “A Loreburn!” appeared armed at the usual place of rendezvous, headed by the magistrates of the town. Scrope was enjoined not to injure the tenants or friends of Drumlanrig, “as he favoured the King’s faction, and the Queen’s Majesty of England.” The allied force of military retainers and warlike merchants and tradesmen, appears to have exhibited a creditable amount of prowess. Repeated attacks were made by them upon the enemy’s cavalry with varying results; but, inferior in number and equipments, they were eventually repulsed, with the loss of some prisoners, including the bailies of the Burgh.

Lord Scrope forwarded an account of the affair [Cabala, p. 164.] to the English Government, under date Carlisle, 21st April, 1570, the substance of which we subjoin. After announcing that he had entered Scotland, and encamped at “Heclefeagham” [Ecclefechan] he states that Simon Musgrave had, at his instance, “burned the towns of Hoddame, Maynes, Troltrow, Revel, Calpoole, Blackshaw, Sherrington, Bankend, Lowgher, Lougherwood and Hecklefeugham;” that the said Simon Musgrave and his company having come to Old Cockpool, “there was the Lord Maxwell with his forces, and the inhabitants of Drumfriese assembled, who skirmished with the couriers, and compelled them to retire; thereupon the said Simon marched into Blackshaw, where the Lord Maxwell was, and, with a hundred horsemen, did give the charge to Maxwell, and made him flee, in which flight there were a hundred prisoners taken, whereof the principal was the aldermen of Drumfriese, and sixteen of the burgesses. The chase was followed within one mile of Dumfriese. After which the said Simon returned to Blackshaw, and burnt it, and seized a great number of cattle;” and as he was proceeding to inflict a fiery visit of the same kind on “Bankend, Lowgher, and Lougherwood,” Lords Maxwell and Carlyle, and the Lairds of Holmends, Closeburne, Lagg, Hempsfield, Cowhill, and Tenoll [Tinwald], at the head of four hundred horsemen and six hundred footmen, charged Musgrave’s forces very sore, forcing them to alight, and draw their company to a strong place, and to abide the charge of their enemies; and so they remained till the said Simon came to them, and alighted, and put company in order, and set his horses between his company and the sea, and so stood in order to receive the enemy:” and in this sort continued, charging and receiving their changes, the space of three hours. I being at Cembretreys [Cunnertress], sent my band of horsemen with my brother Edward, and a hundred and fifty foot with Mr. Audley and Mr. Herbert, to their relief.” Thus reinforced, Musgrave compelled the Scots to flee, and captured a hundred of them, including some petty lairds – Maxwell, Carlyle, Johnstone, and the other chiefs only escaping “by the strenthe of the Laird of Cockpool’s house, and a great wood and morass near adjoining.”

The writer states in a postscript, that though, according to order, Drumlanrig’s tenants had been spared, “they were as cruel against us as any others;” and he closes with the ominous intimation that he had applied for five hundred men, with whom to march against Dumfries, “and lie in that town and burn and spoil it; for the open receipt of her Majesty’s rebels is there manifeste.”

Scrope, on being joined by a fresh body of soldiers, under the Earl of Sussex, executed his mission mercilessly. The sweep of his vengeance took in a wider field than was at first intended; but it fell always with double force on the estates of Lords Maxwell and Herries, Murray of Cockpool, and such other noblemen as were noted for their attachment to Queen Mary. Dumfries suffered terribly: it had audaciously harboured “the English Queen’s rebels;” and did it not deserve, on that account, to be razed to its foundations? The English leaders thought the town merited no forbearance, and they showed it none. Its desolated Castle, its flaming houses, leaving but “the blackness of ashes” to mark where the populous streets once stood, proved how well the marauders had done their work. Similar evidences of their destructive expedition were visible in many parts of the surrounding country: its results being summed up in the dry formal report made by Scrope to the English Government, setting forth that he had “took and cast doun the Castles of Carlaverock, Hoddam, Dumfries, Tinwald [The old place of Tinwald, situated in what was formerly a part of Lochar Moss, and a seat of a branch of the Maxwell family, seems to have been well fitted for a place of defence. Till within a few years, part of the old building remained. It is now (1834) entirely demolished, and the materials have been removed. – Statistical Account, p. 44.], Cowhill [Cowhill Tower, says Grose (vol. i., p. 146) stood upon an eminence commanding a charming prospect of the Vale of Nith, from Friars’ Carse to Dumfries: it had long been the seat of the Maxwells, cadets of the noble family of Nithsdale. In the year 1570, the old castle being burned by the English, this tower was built in 1579. Grose took a sketch of the second tower, and a few weeks afterwards it was taken down by George Johnstone, Esq. of Conheath, who had purchased it from the previous proprietor in order that he might erect a stately mansion on its site.], and sundry other gentlemen’s houses, dependers on the house of Maxwell, and, having burnt the toun of Dumfries, returned with great spoil into England.” James Douglas, fourth Earl of Morton, became Regent in 1572 [He was the second son of Sir George Douglas of Pittendriech, younger brother of Archibald, sixth Earl of Angus.]; and he having, with the aid of an English force, reduced Queen Mary’s only remaining stronghold, Edinburgh Castle, the civil war was brought to a close, and Dumfriesshire was for a season relieved from the presence of a foreign enemy.

Soon afterwards, however, a deadly feud broke out between its two leading families, the Maxwells and Johnstones, originated by a circumstance connected with the personal history of the eighth Lord Maxwell. In right of his mother, he was heir to one-third of the earldom of Morton [In the Scottish Nation, vol. iii., p. 208, it is stated that the title was taken from the lands of Mortoune, in the parish of East-Calder, Mid-Lothian; but it is far more probable that it was derived from the old Castle of Morton (once the seat of Dunegal), in the parish of that name, both of which were conferred on the Black Douglas when he married the Princess Egidia. The writer of the article “Morton,” in the Statistical Account, says: - “Douglas, Earl of Morton, was proprietor of the whole parish, with the exception of the Mains of Morton, lying north-west of the castle, which belonged to James Douglas, Laird of Morton. The last of this family was Captain James Douglas, who died at Baitford, Penpont, about the beginning of last century. The Earl of Morton sold his whole property and interest in this parish to Sir William Douglas of Cashoggle, who erected a house a little south of Thornhill, where he sometimes resided; but the Earl of Queensberry having obtained from Cashoggle all his lands, as well as the lands of Morton Mains from the other family, and being lord of the regality of Hawick, he obtained authority to translate that regality to Thornhill in 1610, and called it New Dalgarnock.” (Page 95.)]; he had acquired right to another third from Margaret, her elder sister, with consent of her husband, the Duke of Chatelherault; and he was also heir apparent of the youngest and only other sister, who died childless. Lord Maxwell considered, therefore, that he had the best claim to the earldom – that certain entails executed upon the estates by the Regent were illegal; and he insisted on both the title and property being made over to him. A contemporary historian states that the Regent, as if conscious that he had no legal right to call himself Earl of Morton, “pressed by all means that Lord Maxwell should renounce his title thereto.” The latter refused; and the Regent, instead of submitting the question at issue to Parliament, consigned his rival to the Castle of Edinburgh, and then to the Castle of Blackness, in the latter of which he lay for several months, till he was liberated in March, 1573. As Maxwell continued to urge his claim to be recognized as Earl of Morton, he was further punished for his pertinacity, by being deprived of the wardenship of the Western Marches: an office of great trust and profit, and which for ages had been held by members of the Maxwell family. [“The Scottish Wardens were allowed by the Crown forage and provisions for their retinue, which consisted of a guard of horsemen, by which they were constantly attended. These were levied from the royal domains on the Border. They had also a portion of the ‘unlaws’ or fines and forteits imposed in the Warden Courts; and no doubt had other modes of converting their authority to their own advantage, besides the opportunities their situation afforded them of extending their power and influence.” – Border Antiquities, Introduction by Sir Walter Scott, p. 90.] This degrading blow fell with double effect, as the office, when taken from Maxwell, was conferred upon the head of a rival house – the Laird of Johnstone.

On the execution and attainder of the Regent Morton, in 1581, the wardenship was restored to Maxwell; and, as representative of his mother, he obtained a charter of the coveted earldom. Thus raised in rank, he rose at the same time rapidly into favour at Court, till, as a result of the treasonable Raid of Ruthven, he had to flee with the Duke of Lennox, against whose influence it was directed. Towards the close of 1581, we find him accompanying the Duke in an aggressive movement against the capital, which, however, was not persevered in. Eventually the attainder passed on the deceased Regent was rescinded by royal letter, under the Great Seal, and the heir of entail, Archibald, Earl of Angus (grandson of Bell-the-Cat), thus succeeded to the old title of Earl of Morton; and thus the Scottish peerage exhibited the curious anomaly of having two noblemen possessing the same title; for though Maxwell had been concerned in treasonable proceedings, he was Earl of Morton still, in virtue of the patent granted to him in 1581. Soon a new embroglio arose, in which Lord Maxwell was involved through the cupidity of Captain James Stewart, who, upon the downfall of the Regent, received a grant of his estates, was created Earl of Arran, and obtained the chief direction of affairs – all through the unmerited favour of the King. The lands of Pollok and Maxwellhaugh, in Lanarkshire, which belonged to the Nithsdale baron, lay temptingly near those just acquired by the lucky adventurer, who, on that account, took a fancy for them, which he hastily assumed Maxwell would be ready to indulge. But Maxwell would not part with his patrimony, even when offered an equivalent for it: a decision which offended Arran’s pride, as well as disappointed his acquisitiveness. In revengeful mood, therefore, he resolved to break the power of Maxwell, since he could not bend him to his wishes.

As one step towards this result, the Regent endeavoured to weaken the Maxwell interest in Dumfries. The Provostship was held by an uncle of the Nithsdale chief, Maxwell of Newlaw [Not Maxwell of Newbie, as stated by Chalmers and some other historians.]; and with the view of getting it taken out of his hands, the Laird of Johnstone was brought forward as a rival claimant for the office; he being selected not simply on account of his local connection with the Burgh, but also because Lady Johnstone was a favourite at the Court. [Spottiswoode, vol. ii., [. 325.] Accordingly, the whole machinery of the Government, short of absolute force, was set in operation to secure the return of Arran’s protég at the Michaelmas election of 1584. In due time a royal rescript was received by the merchant councillors and deacons of incorporations, who formed the electoral body, exhorting them to discard Maxwell, and choose Johnstone as their municipal chief. What effect this arbitrary edict would have had upon the Town Council, had it been left to influence them, it is impossible to say, as the Provost of the Burgh took effectual means to render it a dead letter, and secure his re-election in defiance of the Laird of Lochwood, the Earl of Arran, and the Court. When Johnstone, with a few retainers, appeared on the day of election in the vicinity of the town, he was kept from entering it by a powerful body of the Maxwells, drawn up in battle array under the leadership of their lord; and after the crestfallen Annandale laird had departed without the “blushing honours” he had aspired to, Newlaw was once more chosen Provost of Dumfries. [Ibid., vol. ii., p. 326.]

Arran was not slow to support the complaints made by Johnstone regarding the conduct of his rival; and between them a new charge was trumped up against the Lord of Nithsdale, the nature of which he learned by a precept issued in the King’s name, accusing him of intromitting with and protecting the predatory Armstrongs. By way of sequel, a sentence of outlawry was pronounced upon Lord Maxwell; and a commission was given to the Laird of Johnstone to pursue him with fire and sword, as a contumacious rebel who deserved no mercy – to assist in which congenial work a band of mercenaries, under the notorious Captain Lammie, was sent into Dumfriesshire by the Earl of Arran. Maxwell was composed of sterner stuff than to be daunted by these preparations. Mustering his followers, he made ready to return at least blow for blow. A detachment of them, under his natural brother, Robert Maxwell of Castlemilk, encountered the Government soldiers at the head of Nithsdale, and thoroughly defeated them – killing Lammie, and taking Cranston, another officer, prisoner. [Spottiswoode, vol. ii., p. 326.] The war, thus initiated, raged for months over the County. It seemed as if it would only end in the ruin of one or both of the great families thus relentlessly pitted against each other. When the Regent Morton tossed the wardenship, like a tennis-ball, from Maxwell to Johnstone, he little knew what a bone of contention it would prove; but the Earl of Arran seems to have been quite conscious, when he introduced new elements of discord between them, that a fearful collision would be the consequence; and he undoubtedly expected that it would prove fatal to the man against whom he had formed an inveterate dislike. Maxwell, however, had not the worst of it in this the first stage of the deadly struggle. Some of his houses were burned, and some of his estates were devasted by the Johnstone party; but he retaliated by setting Lochwood in a blaze [The immense strength of this castle, and its position among impassable bogs and marshes, have already been noticed. A remark has been attributed to James VI. respecting Lochwood, to the effect that the man who built it, “though he might have the outward appearance of an honest man, must have been a knave at heart.” We can scarcely think that our British Solomon ever uttered such a foolish saying. Lochwood was erected in a warlike and turbulent age; and if made impregnable, was on that account an evidence of the wisdom, and not the knavery, of its builder. Soon after being burned by Maxwell, it was repaired; and it was inhabited till three years after the death of the first Marquis of Annandale, in 1721, when it was deserted by the family, and allowed to fall into decay.] – “that Dame Johnstone might have light to set her hood by,” as with savage humour he remarked – and also by laying waste many roods of fertile land belonging to his rival; and, worst of all, by taking him prisoner at the close of a fierce skirmish between the parties. A compromise was afterwards effected, in virtue of which Johnstone was set at liberty, though he died soon after from illness occasioned by his confinement, and a breathing time of peace was then agreed to by the combatants. Arran, thus baulked in his design, resolved on accomplishing it by a more direct way. Having, at a convention of the Estates, succeeded in obtaining a vote of £20,000 for the sole purpose of levying war against Lord Maxwell, a proclamation was forthwith issued, requiring all the King’s loyal subjects on the southern side of the Forth to meet him in fighting array and march into Nithsdale. A deadly pestilence, which broke out at Edinburgh, decimated the royal army, and saved Maxwell and Dumfriesshire from the threatened attack. [Spottiswoode, vol., p. 326.]

Seeing that the Nithsdale chief was marked out for ruin by the King’s minion, it is not surprising when a league was formed, by Angus and other fugitives, against Arran, that it was joined by Maxwell. The associated lords aimed at nothing less than the expulsion of the royal favourite by force. With this object in view, they raised a large body of men, to meet whom there was a new muster of Government troops, who, however, were prevented from proceeding southward by the representations of the English ambassador, whose policy it was to keep Arran in check. Maxwell and his allies, however, boldly took the initiative. They made a hurried march to Stirling, with two thousand followers; beset the castle, in which the Court at that time resided, before daybreak on the 2nd of November, 1585, and took the fortress after a two days’ siege. This act, not less patriotic than daring, was accomplished chiefly by the men of Nithsdale. It was productive of important results. Though Arran secured his personal safety by flight, he was deprived of his title and estates, and his pernicious domination was thoroughly overthrown. At a Parliament held a few days afterwards, an act was passed granting to Lord Maxwell, his servants and friends, entire indemnity for all their irregular or unlawful doings in the realm, since April 1569; and through his means special provision was made for giving the town of Dumfries the full benefits of the pacification. Of the men named in the amnesty, about six hundred were from Maxwell’s estates in Nithsdale and Galloway; about the same number from his estates in Eskdale, Ewisdale, and Wauchopedale – mostly Beatties, Littles, and Armstrongs; three hundred and forty from Lower Annandale – chiefly Bells, Carrutherses, and Irvings; and about three hundred and fifty better organized soldiers, in three companies of infantry, and two troops of cavalry – one being furnished by Nithsdale and Galloway, under John Maxwell of Newlaw, Provost of Dumfries, the other by Annandale, under George Carruthers of Holmains, and Charles Carruthers his son.

The Act referred to “in favour of the towne of Dumfreis,” sets forth “that the King’s Majesty, with the advice of the Three Estates of the present Parliament, understanding that his trustie cousin and counsellor, John, Earl of Morton, Lord Maxwell, with his haill kin, friends, and servants, during the time of the feid and trubles betwixit him and Sir John Johnstone of Dunskellie, knight, maid their special repair into the towne of Drumfreis, stuffit and garnissit with men of armes, victual, and all uther funitor neidfull for thair defense, quherento the inhabitants of the said Burgh might not oppose thame selffis in consideratioun of the said noble Lordis frendis dwelling round about, and within the said Burgh.” This wordy preamble is followed by a provision absolving the armed intruders and their successors from the legal consequences of any blame that might be thrown upon them by the Burgh; and also extending pardon to such of the inhabitants as had resetted, intercommoned with, or otherwise assisted them. Intimation is then made that the King out of his “special favour and clemencie” extends to “his lovittes, the Provest and Baillieis, Counsal, and Comonitie of the said Burgh, the lyk benefite, favour, and guid-will” that are contained in the Acts of abolition and general pacification, granted to Angus, Morton, and their colleagues; the Act closing thus: - “And furder declairis the electioun of Johnne Maxwell, of Newlaw, Provest of the said Burgh, to be guid and sufficient in its self, and to stand for him, and his successors, sua long as the saide Johnne Maxwell sal be authoriset be common election or consent of the inhabitants thairof; discharging quhmsumevir utheris rychtis, and securitie maid at any time bypast, or to be maid to any other persoun of the samyne to the contrair.” [Acts of Scot. Parl., vol., pp. 398-9.]

Stewart, no longer either earl or captain, took refuge in the wilds of Western Ayrshire, where he lived secretly for many years, till, in 1596, lured by the delusive hope of regaining the King’s favour, he passed to the neighbourhood of Dumfries on his way to Court. He was, it is said, encouraged to take this rash step by a “spaewife” whom he consulted. “Low as ye are now, and high as ye aince were, yere head will be raised higher yet,” was the oracular response on which he acted; but he was warned by some one who did not effect the possession of superior wisdom, to beware of the Douglasses – whose leader, Morton, he had brought to the block – and more especially to avoid the dead Regent’s nephew, James Douglas of Torthorwald. [The barony of Torthorwald had been acquired a short time previously by a branch of the Angus Douglasses.] To this warning Stewart returned a reply that would have been foolish anywhere, and became the very essence of folly when uttered – as it was – almost beneath the shadow of the old keep occupied by Morton’s kinsman: “Fear the Douglasses who may, I shall not go out of my road for any of their blood and name.” Yes; but Torthorwald will go out of his way, in order that he may take revenge on the man who could thus add impotent contempt to foul wrong. Accompanied by three retainers, Douglas, hurrying after the discarded favourite, slew him with a spear; and the weird woman’s promise was “kept to the ear, but broken to the hope,” when, soon afterward, Stewart’s gory head, elevated on a lance, was displayed, like a grisly ensign of death, from the battlements of Torthorwald. The chief actor in this tragedy suffered for it after the lapse of twelve years. Captain William Stewart, encountering Douglas on the High Street of Edinburgh, in 1608, ran him through the body in revenge for the slaughter of his uncle, the ex-Regent. [Wood’s Peerage, vol. i., p. 423.]

As has already been mentioned, the progress of the Reformation in Dumfries was impeded by the Maxwells. They still clung to the old faith; and in 1584 the fifth Lord Herries was accused of openly defying the law, by causing mass to be publicly celebrated in the town, and compelling the Protestant ministers to leave its bounds. [Spottiswoode, vol. ii., p. 381.]

His kinsman, Lord Maxwell, on the Christmas which followed the receipt of the royal amnesty, also signified his adherence to Romanism in the same illegal way. About this time the Castle of Dumfries was beginning to rise anew, by his order, out of the ruins in which it had been left by Lord Scrope fifteen years before; and it was probably at the chapel attached to it that he summoned a meeting of followers and ecclesiastics, for the purpose of making a defiant display of his religion. A gathering of this kind at all events was held in Dumfries on the 24th of December, 1585; and, after those composing it had been arranged as a procession, they marched to the neighbouring College of Lincluden, going doubtless by the Causeway Ford over the Nith, nearly opposite to the Castle. [Naturally the river is still shallow at this place – a bed of sand stretching from the right or Nithside bank till within a few yards of the Dumfries side. When, early in the spring of 1867, the Caul below the old bridge was ruptured by the breaking up of ice, the water was reduced to such a small volume that the tract of the ford was distinctly traceable. In ancient times the ford led to the Castle, and also along the left shore or Upper Sand Beds to the foot of the Vennel, and to the bridge. The ford was made passable on foot, when the river was of moderate size, and was fenced from assailing floods by stakes of wood. Hence the name Stakeford. It is called Chapel-rack Ford in some documents of last century’s date.] On arriving at the College, mass was performed in the ancient fane with unusual splendour and effect. [Calderwood’s version of the matter (page 225) is in the following terms: - “The Lord Maxwell was committed to ward in the beginning of the years 1586, for having masse openly in the Kirk of Glencluden at the Christmas before.”] For six hundred years Lincluden, first as an abbey and next as a collegiate institution, had been the scene of such religious rites; but the choral swell with which the venerable walls rung on this occasion, was as the dying requiem of the ancient faith – mass never having been since said or sung in the house of Uchtred. It threatened at first to cost Lord Maxwell a heavy price. He was summoned to appear before the King in Council, to answer for the daring offence of celebrating mass contrary to the statute; and on his proceeding to Edinburgh, he was consigned to the Castle, where he lay for several months: but he was set at liberty without being subjected to any formal trial – the King probably not wishing to press with severity one who had done the State some service, and from whom he expected future favours.


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