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The History of Glasgow
Volume 2 - Chapter VII - Archbishop Montgomerie—Conflict with General Assembly—Raid of Ruthven


So far, the alienation of the temporal possessions of the archbishopric had not proceeded to any great extent. A more determined effort was now, however, made. Notwithstanding the acts of the General Assembly, which probably expressed the feeling of a large number of the burgess and the lower classes of the people, the king strongly desired to continue the episcopal system of church government. In this he was supported by a large proportion of the nobility, partly, no doubt, from desire for the orderly conduct of religion and from dislike of the republican temper of the presbyterian church courts, but partly also, there is good reason to believe, from desire to profit by the transference of church property which the episcopal dignitaries had power to carry out. Foremost in supporting the young king in this policy was the now all-powerful Lennox, and it has been made quite clear that he proceeded of set purpose to exploit for his personal profit to the fullest possible extent the appointment of a new archbishop at Glasgow.

A suitable tool for his purpose lay to his hand in the person of Robert Montgomerie, minister at Stirling. Montgomerie must have been well known to the king and court, who would be among his constant hearers in the noble old kirk under the walls of Stirling Castle. So far he had been a vehement supporter of the party which opposed episcopacy, [Spottiswoode, ii. 281.] but he was evidently a poor creature, and Lennox had recognised this. The duke made a pact with him by which, if appointed archbishop, he was to receive an annual sum of £1000 Scots, with some horse corn and poultry, while all the remaining revenues were to be made over to the duke and his heirs. [Richard Hay's MS., quoted in Chalmers's Caledonia, iii. 626.]

The king himself went to Glasgow on 28th August, and while he remained there, on 3rd October, sent a letter to the town council, requiring it to acknowledge Montgomerie as archbishop, and present the usual leets to him for nomination of baiiies. This instruction the council promised " with thair hart " to obey, and the time-honoured proceeding was forthwith carried out. [Burgh Records, i. 89.] On 16th October the king left Glasgow, and next day, at the meeting of the General Assembly, Montgomerie's appointment was intimated to it. The fathers of the kirk refused, however, to recognize the appointment, and an unseemly squabble forthwith began. [Calderwood, iii. 577, and on.] Montgomerie, with an armed escort, went to Glasgow, and entered the cathedral, but, finding the pulpit occupied by a minister who refused to give way to him, withdrew for the time. [Ibid. 595.] The presbytery of Stirling then suspended him, and ordered him to attend the synod of Lothian to hear himself excommunicated. [Ibid. iii. 619, 620.] The Privy Council next took up the matter and summoned the recalcitrant kirk session of Glasgow, along with the presbyteries of Glasgow and Stirling, to appear before it. [Spottiswoode, ii. 285.] Montgomerie himself also cited the synod of Lothian to appear. These bodies all declined the jurisdiction of the Privy Council, and that high authority thereupon, on 12th April, 1582, declared that, as the kirk had refused to elect Montgomerie, the appointment to the archbishopric had fallen into the hands of the king, who exercised his right to fill the office, and forbade the kirk from taking any action against the new archbishop. [Privy Council Register, iii. 474-7.] In defiance of this order, the ministers summoned Montgomerie to appear before the General Assembly at St. Andrews on 24th April. Montgomerie, equally defiant, attended, and when the Assembly, with Andrew Melville as moderator, proposed to proceed against him, a letter was presented from the king, referring them to the order of the Privy Council, and warning them not to interfere with the royal jurisdiction. On their disregarding this, a messenger-atarms appeared, and charged them to desist under pain of being denounced as rebels and put to the horn. Still they persisted, and deposed Montgomerie from the ministry. They were proceeding to excommunicate him when he appeared in person and undertook neither to meddle with nor attempt anything regarding the archbishopric except by advice of the General Assembly. [Register of Assembly; Chalmers's Caledonia, iii. 626-7.]

On returning to court, however, Montgomerie was induced to resile from his promise, and was furnished with letters from the king calling on persons in the west country to support him. He then went to Glasgow to preach. The presbytery met to deal with the matter, but, while they were in session, the provost, Sir Mathew Stewart of Minto, with the bailies and some citizens, entered, forbade the proceedings, and summoned the ministers before the Privy Council. On the presbytery refusing to disperse, the magistrates, it was said, laid hands on John Howeson, the moderator, and in the struggle his beard was torn and one of his teeth knocked out, and he was imprisoned in the Tolbooth. [Calderwood, iii. 621; Spottiswoode, ii. 188.] During the fracas the college students rushed to help the presbytery, and as blows were exchanged, the provost, fearing a riot, caused the bells to be rung, and by tuck of drum called the burgesses to help.

On the Saturday night the students took possession of the cathedral, and next day excluded Montgomerie, while Principal Smeaton preached from the text, "He that enters not by the door, but by the window, the same is a thief and a robber." [Privy Council Records, iii. 486.] Next the presbytery of Edinburgh summoned Montgomerie, and the Privy Council proceeded to deal with the ministers, both of Edinburgh and Glasgow. But on 10th June, in the church of Liberton, sentence of excommunication was published against the archbishop. [Calderwood, iii. 621; Spottiswoode, ii. 289.]

On 16th June a letter from the Duke of Lennox was presented to the town council. Referring to "the truble maid laitle into your toun of Glasgw be the colleigis mouit be the ministeris," it mentioned that the king had given the college charge "not to do the lyke again," and it directed the bailies and town to resist " the violence and bosting of the college." [Burgh Records, i. 94.]

Eleven days later Andrew Melville, as moderator, opened the General Assembly with a vehement sermon against the interference of the Privy Council, [Tytler, iv. ch. ii.] and proceedings were instituted against the Duke of Lennox, the Lord Advocate, the magistrates of Glasgow, and others, for abetting Montgomerie while under excommunication. The provost and others were declared worthy of excommunication, and sentence was only delayed at the king's request. [Calderwood, iii. 626.] On 2nd July the Privy Council had Montgomerie's appointment and the nullity of his excommunication proclaimed at the cross of Edinburgh. [Privy Council Records, iii. 489.] Four days later the commissioners of the kirk presented a list of fourteen grievances before the king at Perth. [Book of the Universal Kirk, ii. 582-3.] On the 11th of the month the Privy Council ordered the Principal and students of Glasgow College to appear before them on 10th September, to answer for their action in opposing Montgomerie; [Privy Council Register, iii. 489-90, note.] and on the 20th it passed an act declaring that, as Montgomerie had been lawfully appointed to the see, all feuars and tenants must pay to him the entire fruits of the archbishopric. [Ibid. iii. 496. ]

The whole miserable business assumes larger interest as the earliest example of that clash between the royal power and the will of the people in ecclesiastical affairs which lasted throughout the reigns of James VI. and Charles I., and cost the latter monarch his head, and which was revived in the reigns of Charles II, and James VII. and II. only to end in the Revolution of 1689, which cost the Stewarts their throne.

Not least to be pitied was the luckless archbishop himself. As a person under the ban of the kirk he dared not appear in the streets of Edinburgh, where he was stoned and insulted, and forced to seek safety in flight. He was refused admission to the courts when he sought redress. The magistrates, instead of protecting him, sided with his persecutors. And even the king seemed to be rather amused than otherwise by his discomfiture. [Tytler, iv. ch. ii.]

Meanwhile Montgomerie's appointment to the archbishopric of Glasgow, and the struggle between the court and the kirk to which it led, played a highly important part in Scottish affairs, for it may be held to have led directly to the famous incident known as the Raid of Ruthven. From the first the appearance in Scotland of Esme Stewart, and his rise to power as Duke of Lennox, had been watched by Queen Elizabeth with jealousy and dismay. When the Earl of Morton, head of the English party in Scotland, was seized and thrown into prison, she had exerted herself strenuously to save him, even going the length of organizing a plot, through her envoy, Randolph, for the seizure of the king and the murder of Lennox, Argyll, and Montrose. Lennox, however, discovered the plot in the nick of time, and Randolph only saved himself by fleeing to Berwick, while the Earl of Angus, his chief tool, was banished beyond the Spey. [Tytler, iv. ch. ii.]

The Duke's proceedings in the matter of the Glasgow archbishopric gave Elizabeth another chance. Her new envoy, Sir Robert Bowes, exerted himself to excite the fears of the Earls of Gowrie, Mar, Glencairn, and others, regarding a supposed counterplot of Lennox to seize them, banish the leading ministers of the kirk, establish episcopacy, and recall the imprisoned Queen Mary to take part with her son in the government. These " revelations," added to the alarm which had already been excited by the action of Lennox in enforcing the appointment of Montgomerie, immediately brought about the coup d'etat. Lennox was at Dalkeith, his chief ally, Captain Stewart, who had been made Earl of Arran, was at Kinneil, and the king was at Gowrie's house, Ruthven Castle, near Perth. On the evening of 22nd August, 1582, Gowrie, Mar, Lindsay, and the other conspirators, surrounded the castle with a thousand men, and the Earls of Mar and Gowrie, entering the royal chamber, removed the guards, and took charge of the king. Arran, galloping to retrieve the event, was seized as he entered the castle courtyard, and thrown into confinement, while Lennox was forced to retire, first to Dunbarton and afterwards to France, [Privy Council Register, iii. 506-11. On his way the Duke passed through Glasgow, and it gives some idea of the troubled state of the country to know that his train consisted of 300 men. He arrived from Edinburgh on 6th September at six in the afternoon and left at six next morning. It was the last occasion on which a member of his house occupied the Lennox mansion at the Stablegreen, for while in Dunbarton Castle the Duke conveyed it to William Stewart of Bultreis, and soon afterwards the site was broken up into building lots (Glasgow Protocols, 2456, 2666-7, 2673-4).] where he died in the following year.

Meanwhile Montgomerie, harassed beyond endurance, submitted to the kirk, as also did Sir Mathew Stewart the provost, and other Glasgow supporters, and the General Assembly remitted their case to be dealt with by the Glasgow presbytery. [Calderwood, iii. 690.] Before this could be done, however, another revolution took place. On 25th June, 1583, King James escaped from Falkland Palace to the castle of St. Andrews, called his own friends about him, and overthrew the power of Gowrie and the English faction. [Tytler, iv. ch. iii.] At a parliament held in Edinburgh in May, 1584, Montgomerie petitioned and secured a declaration commanding the censure of the kirk upon him to be stayed and the excommunication of no effect, as also that he should continue to possess all his honours, dignities, and benefices. [Act. Part. iii. 292-311.] The archbishop, however, continued most unpopular. When he appeared in the streets of Ayr, where he lived, he was mobbed by crowds of women and boys, who denounced him as an atheist, a dog, and an excommunicated beast. [Tytler, iv. ch. iv.] Nevertheless on 1st June the king sent a letter to Glasgow town council desiring that Montgomerie should be assisted and fortified by the magistrates. This they promised to do, [Burgh Records, i. 108-9.] and on 18th August, at the archbishop's request, sent a guard of six persons to accompany him to the sitting of parliament." On 7th October, exercising his powers, Montgomerie chose three persons to be bailies, and appointed Sir William Livingstone of Kilsyth to be provost.

This was the last intromission of Montgomerie, for two years, with the election of magistrates. On 2nd October, 1582, and on 30th September, 1583, in the absence of the archbishop and of his hereditary bailie, the Duke of Lennox, the nomination of a provost was made by King James himself. In the former case Sir Mathew Stewart of Minto was requested by his brother, the Prior of Blantyre, "direct from the King's majesty," and "conform to his credit and commission of the King's majesty" to accept the provostship; and in the latter year John, Earl of Montrose, appeared before Sir Mathew Stewart and the bailies and council of the previous year, and presented a letter from the king nominating him as provost. Both nominations were accepted. [Burgh Records, i. 98, 105.] Montrose was a supporter of the Lennox party.

A month after the second of these transactions, in November, 1583, Ludovic, heir of the late Duke of Lennox, having been sent for by the king from France, landed at Leith, and was warmly welcomed by James, who confirmed him in all his father's honours and estates. [Calderwood, iii. 749 ; Privy Council Records, iii. 609, 614, 615.] He succeeded also, under the arrangement made by his father, to the revenues of the Glasgow archbishopric.

In the following May, 1584, parliament annulled the kirk's excommunication of Montgomerie, and on 7th October of that year he exercised his right by nominating Sir William Livingston of Kilsyth to be provost, and George Elphinstone, William Conyngham, and Robert Rowat to be bailies. [Burgh Records, i. ii.] Also, on 5th October, 1585, he appeared personally in the council, and again nominated Sir William and selected three bailies. [Council Records, i. 117.]

Not long afterwards, however, another revolution in the government took place, and Montgomerie, in his distress and uncertainty, resigned his rights in the archbishopric in favour of William Erskine, parson of Campsie and late commendator of Paisley. [Spottiswoode, ii. 375. ] Ultimately the General Assembly allowed the luckless ex-prelate to settle as minister of Stewarton in Ayrshire. [Ibid.]


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