The Earl of Murray now rifled Scotland in the name of
James vi., who was still scarcely more than a baby. He had a hard task, for
the whole country was divided between King's men and Queen's men, and was
full of unrest and war. Murray had behaved meanly and cruelly to the Queen,
but now he proved to be a wise ruler. Indeed, he was called the Good Regent.
But if he was good, he was stern, and many people
hated him, and a man called Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh swore to kill him.
Bothwellhaugh waited long, but at last his opportunity
came. The Regent, on his way from Dumbarton to Edinburgh, stayed one night
at Linlithgow. Next morning, he mounted his horse and rode through the town.
This was what Bothwellhaugh had hoped for. In those days, many of the houses
had outside staircases and wooden balconies, jutting out into the street.
Upon one of these Bothwellhaugh took his stand. The balcony was hung with
cloth, so that no one could see him. Upon the floor he placed a feather
mattress, so that no one below should hear his footsteps. At the garden gate
behind the house, stood a horse ready saddled and bridled. Uaving made all
his preparations, Bothwellhaugh, with his gun in his hand, stood and waited
for the Regent.
The streets were so crowded with people come out to
see the Regent pass, that he could go but slowly. That was all the better
for Bothwellhaugh, for his aim would be the surer. Heavily the minutes
dragged along. At last the Earl came. Opposite the house in which
Bothwellhaugh lay hidden, the procession seemed to pause. A shot rang out.
The Regent reeled in his saddle and fell. His work done, the unseen murderer
fled through the garden, leaped upon his horse, and sped away.
The Regent was not killed; though sorely wounded, he
had strength to walk back to the palace, and at first it was thought that he
would recover. But soon it was seen that there was no hope, and in a few
hours he died.
There was much grief at the Regent's death. lie was
buried with great pomp in the church of St. Giles in Edinburgh, when John
Knox preached a grand sermon, taking for his text, 'Blessed are the dead
that die in the Lord.'
Murray had been scarcely three years Regent, and was
killed on 23rd January 1570 A.D. Six months of trouble and quarrelling
followed. Then the Earl of Lennox, Darnley's father, was made Regent. But
Lennox was a weak man—far too weak for these fierce times, and soon the
whole country was in a blaze of civil war. Fathers, sons, and brothers
fought against each other. The very children in their games took sides, and
fought, King's men against Queen's men.
The Governor of Edinburgh castle, who was called
Kirkcaldy of Grange, and who had been a King's man, suddenly turned round
and became a Queen's man. With him was another, called Maitland of
Lethington. He was very clever, and when you are older, you will read much
about him and all he did during the reign of Mary. He had been one of Mary's
greatest statesmen, but he was so changeable, that a writer of the time
called him a chameleon, which is a little animal that takes the colour of
whatever it lies upon. Now Maitland openly took the Queen's side, and joined
with Kirkcaldy of Grange.
The King's men tried to hold a Parliament in
Edinburgh. But cannon thundered from the castle, till they were obliged to
leave, and go to Stirling. There they held a Parliament, and there for the
first time the little King was brought, and made to sit at the head of the
table, among all the wise men. He was only about five years old, and could
not understand what was going on. So seeing a hole in the table-cloth, he
began to play with it, sticking his fingers into it.
'What house is this? ' he asked one of the lords who sat beside him.
'The house of Parliament, your Majesty,' was the reply.
Then this Parliament has a hole in it,' said the little King, not knowing
how true his words were, and what a very large hole there was in his
Parliament, and that it was indeed torn in two.
The war raged on. The Queen's men followed the King's men to Stirling, and
attacked them there. They were driven back, but the Regent was hurt in the
fight and died in a few hours. He had ruled for little more than a year.
A new Regent was chosen. This Regent was the Earl of Mar. He was a good man,
and he longed for peace. He struggled and worked so hard for it that he
died, worn out, having been Regent only thirteen months.
The next Regent was the Earl of Morton. Under him the civil war grew fiercer
than ever. Battles were fought daily, each side hanging their prisoners or
cutting off their heads with dreadful cruelty. 'No quarter,' which means no
mercy, was the cry on both sides, and no quarter was either asked or given.
These wars were called the Douglas wars, from the Earl of Morton's name,
which was James Douglas.
The King's men were on the whole the stronger, but all this time the castle
of Edinburgh had held out for the Queen. Regent Morton however, resolved to
take the castle, cost what it might He had not cannon enough of his own, so
he sent to Queen Elizabeth of England, and she, always willing to mix
herself up with Scottish matters, sent him both guns and men.
Then the siege of Edinburgh began. Gallant Kirkcaldy, the bravest soldier of
his times, held out for more than a month. But strong though the castle
walls were, they could not stand against the fearful cannonade of the
English guns. They crumbled to pieces, as if they had been sandhills washed
away by the incoming tide. The wells within the castle became choked with
the ruins. The soldiers at last had neither anything to eat nor to drink.
Maddened with thirst, and worn with hunger, they would fight no longer.
There was nothing left but to yield.
So gallant Kirkcaldy and wise Lethington gave themselves up. Kirkcaldy was
so brave, that even the fiercest of the King's men begged that his life
might be spared. But Morton, the stern Regent, had made up his mind that he
must die. So this brave man, who was 'humble, gentle, and meek—like a lamb
in the house, but like a lion in the field, and beloved of all honest men,'
died, as so many another good man and true had died, in the cause of his
beautiful and unhappy Queen.
Lethington was found dead one day. He had poisoned himself, as the old
Romans used to do, rather than be hanged by his enemies.
With the taking of Edinburgh castle, with the deaths of Kirkcaldy and
Lethington, the last hope of the Queen's men vanished. Morton had triumphed.
For five years Morton continued to rule. He was firm and brave, and
gradually peace came to the land.
But the Regent was greedy. He loved gold, and he wrung money out of the
people in all kinds of ways, till they began to hate him. The nobles hated
him too for his pride, and when the King was about twelve years of age, they
persuaded him that he was old enough to rule. The Regent was taken by
surprise. He saw that it was then no use to fight against the lords, so he
gave up his office of Regent, and went away to live quietly in his country
house—the Lion's Den, the people called it.
But Morton had no thought of really giving up his office; he was only biding
his time. One day he came posting back to court, and once more got the boy
King into his power. He was no longer called Regent, but he was ruler all
the same. James, however, was growing up, and he did not want to be ruled by
Norton. Besides, he had two friends whom he liked so much that they could
make him do as they pleased.
These were Esme Stewart, a Scottish gentleman who had lived nearly all his
life in France, and a soldier called James Stewart. The King made one of
these friends Earl of Lennox, the other Earl of Arran, and heaped many more
honours upon them.
These two men hated Norton, and soon .James, listening to their counsels,
had the Regent arrested and condemned to death, because he had helped
Bothwell to murder Darnley. There was no doubt that he had known something
of the murder, but so had Regent Murray, so had many of the other lords. It
had all happened many years before, and some of the conspirators who were
far more guilty than Morton had never been punished. But all that did not
save the Regent, and he was executed.
The lords, who hated Morton, were quite pleased at his death, but they soon
found out that instead of one ruler they had now two. For after the death of
Morton, Lennox and Arran became greater and greater. And the more powerful
they became, the more were they hated and dreaded by the nobles. At last,
some of the lords resolved to rid themselves of Lennox and Arran, and to get
possession of the King.
James was fond of hunting, and one of the nobles, called the Earl of Gowrie,
asked him to come to his castle of ltuthven to hunt. James went, and was
received with great honour. But the invitation was a trap. Secretly the
castle was surrounded by soldiers. Then the nobles went to the King, and
begged him to send away his favourites, swearing that they would no longer
be ruled and oppressed by them.
Too late, James saw why he had been invited to that lonely castle far from
his favourites. Instead of replying to the lords, lie tried to leave the
room. But one of the nobles placed his back against the door, roughly
telling the King that he must stay where he was. At that, James began to cry
with shame and anger.
But that did no good. 'Better that bairns should greet than bearded men,'
said the noble sternly. So James had to submit. He was a prisoner.
When Arran heard of what had happened, lie hurried to Ruthven, vowing
vengeance on the lords. But as soon as he entered the castle, he was seized
and thrown into prison. Lennox was banished and returned to France, where he
James was now obliged to do as the lords told him. No doubt, they were
better friends and advisers than Arran and Lennox had been, but every day he
grew more and more weary of being a prisoner. For although he was allowed to
ride about, and to hunt, and seemed to be free, he was really nothing but a
At last he managed to escape from the lords, and fled to the castle of St.
Andrews. As soon as he was within the gates, they were closed, and guarded
by his own soldiers. The King was master again.
While a prisoner, James had tried to make the best of things, and he had
pretended so well that the lords did not believe that he was very angry with
them. They did not now think that he would punish them. But they were
mistaken. James had been made to cry, and had been called 'a bairn,' and he
had neither forgotten nor forgiven. The Earl of Gowrie was beheaded, and the
rest of the lords who had helped him fled away to England. So ended the Raid
of Ruthven, as it was called.
Arran, the King's favourite, now returned to court more proud and haughty
than before. For two years he ruled as he liked, and his insolence and
vanity became greater and greater.
At last the lords could no longer bear his insolence. Many of those who had
fled to England returned, and gathering an army of ten thousand men, they
marched to Stirling. Backed by rows of sharp swords and bristling spears,
they forced James to listen to them, and to take them into his council.
Arran was driven from court, and after living for some years a miserable,
hunted wanderer among the hills and valleys of Scotland, he was killed by
one of his many enemies.