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Conflicts of the Clans

The Spanish Blanks, and What Follows Thereupon

The year 1592, the Ministry and Church of Scotland thought it necessary that all such as professed the Roman religion in the kingdom should either be compelled to embrace the reformed religion, or else that the censure of excommunication should be used against them, and their goods discerned to appertain to the King so long as they remained disobedient. Mr. George Carr, doctor of laws, was the first that withstood, and was excommunicated; the next was David Graham of Fintrie.

This Mr. George Carr, considering that hereby he could have no quiet residence within his native country, did deliberate with himself to pass beyond sea into Spain; and, therefore, that he might be the more welcome there, he devised certain blanks, as if they had been subscribed by some of the Scottish nobility, and directed from them to the King of Spain, to be filled up at his pleasure; which project was first hatched by the Jesuits, and chiefly by Father Crightoun, who, for some discontentment, had, a few years before, left Scotland and fled into Spain, where he endeavoured to insinuate himself with King Philip's favour, and published a book concerning the genealogy of his daughter, the Infante, married to the Archduke; wherein he did his best to prove that the two Crowns of England and Scotland did appertain unto her; and, that this cunning Jesuit might the rather move King Philip to make war against the King of Scotland, he wrote books and pamphlets in the disgrace of his own native Prince.

Then he adviseth with himself that his next and readiest way was to solicit some of his friends in Scotland, who were of his faith; and, to this effect, he wrote letters, this year, 1592, to this George Carr, and to such of his own colleagues, the Jesuits, as were then in this kingdom, whereby he made them understand what great favour and credit he had with the King of Spain, who, by his persuasions, was resolved both to invade England, and to establish the Catholic faith in Scotland; but, first, that King Philip would be assured of the good will of the Catholics of Scotland; whereupon he behoved to have certain blanks subscribed by the Catholics, and that he should cause them to be filled up afterwards; which, if he did obtain, he had promise of the King of Spain to send them 250,000 crowns to be distributed among them. After this advertisement of Father Crightoun's, this George Carr (by the advice of the Jesuits then resident in Scotland) devised these blanks, to the effect that George Carr might transport them into Spain.

Carr addressed himself to the town of Ayr to have taken shipping there, and, lying in the Isle of Cumrye, attending a fair wind, he was discovered, by the indiscretion of Father Abercromby, and apprehended in the ship; from whence he was carried back to Ayr, and from thence conveyed to Edinburgh. With him was found a packet of letters, directed (as it were) from some Scottish noblemen into Spain and some parts of France; therein were found blanks alleged subscribed by the Earl of Angus, the Earl of Huntly, the Earl of Erroll, and Sir Patrick Gordon of Achindoun, uncle to the Earl of Huntly.

The blanks were thus, Imprimis, two missive bills directed to the King of Spain; the one subscribed de votre Majeste tres humble et tres obeissant serviteur, Francois Comte d'Erroll; another on this manner, de votre Majeste tres humble et tres obeissant serviteur,Guillaume Comte d'Angus; item, another blank subscribed by them all four, as it were by form of contract or obligation conjointly, thus -- Gulielmus Angusiae Comes, Georgius Comes de Huntley, Franciscus Erroliae Comes, Patricius Gordon de Achindowne Miles; item, a blank subscribed apart by Franciscus Erroliae Comes; item, one by Georgius Comes de Huntley; item, one by Gulielmus Angusiae Comes;.

Hereupon the ministers sent some of the Privy Council to the King to Alloway (where His Majesty then lay) to advertise him of these blanks. The King came to Edinburgh, where all the matter was debated to him at length, partly by Mr. Bowes Leiger, Ambassador for the Queen of England in Scotland, and partly by Mr. Robert Bruce, Principal Minister at Edinburgh, showing that the realm of Scotland was in apparent danger of Spaniards to be brought in, by the forenamed earls being Papists; and, thereby, both his Majesty's crown was in danger and the Established religion at hazard to be altered. That Mr. George Carr had sufficiently declared the whole circumstance of the business in his confession, accusing the Popish lords as guilty of these blanks; and thus, taking the matter already pro confesso, they urge the business vehemently, and do entreat His Majesty to proceed against them with all celerity and rigour.

Then was David Graham of Fintrie apprehended, arraigned, and executed at Edinburgh, in February this year, 1592 (or 1593 stilo novo, who, thinking to save himself thereby, did write a long letter, subscribed with his own hand, directed to the King, wherein he made mention that the Roman Catholics of Scotland had undertaken to receive such a number of soldiers as the King of Spain and his Council should appoint; and, in case he would bestow any money for levying of men here, they should willingly both convey the King's army into England, and retain a certain number in Scotland, for reformation of religion, and to purchase liberty of conscience; that he himself had given counsel thereunto divers times, after that the matter was communicated to him by the Jesuits, and because he fore-new this purpose, and concealed the same, he was in danger of the law; for this cause, he desired not to be tried by a jury, but offered himself unto the King's mercy and will, when he was arraigned at the bar. The King (nottheless of this his voluntary confession) commanded to proceed against him according to the law; which was done.

After this, the King's Majesty (believing certainly that these blanks, together with the information and intelligence of Father Crightoun concerning the Spanish King, were true indeed) addressed himself to the North of Scotland, for prosecuting Huntly, Angus, and Erroll, and made his Majesty's residence at Aberdeen. Themselves and their dependents were, by open obedience and appearance before the King; but they having understood before the King's coming, and how his Majesty was incensed and stirred up against them, they had all left their ordinary habitations void. The Countesses of Huntly and Erroll came to the King, to whom he granted their houses and rents, without making any account thereof to his Majesty's Treasurer for the supposed transgression of their husbands.

In this meantime, the Queen of England sent an extraordinary ambassador into Scotland, whom the King received at Edinburgh, after his Majesty's return from Aberdeen. This ambassador required that the peace and confederacy concluded and confirmed at Leith, after the expulsing of the French army from Scotland, should now, de novo, be ratified by his Majesty in his perfect age; and further, that he should without delay punish the lords and gentlemen suspected of treason, and tried by their own writs and messages; that he should grant them no favour, but extreme rigour; for fear of the inconvenience that should follow upon their wicked pretences, if they were unpunished, when both time and occasion permitted the same.

Still the English Ambassador and the Scottish Ministers urged the King to call the Catholic lords to a trial of their peers; but the King procured to the ministers this much for them, that, by their favours, they might be brought to be tried without warding; and thereafter to make such satisfaction as should be thought requisite; that in case they were found culpable, to be punished as justice should require; and, if it were otherwise, that they should be absolved; but the ministers would not yield unto the King's pleasure therein, nor permit that the Popish lords should have any trial, till they should be first warded until the nobles should convene to try them.

The King refused to ward them until they were found guilty; knowing, by this time, their innocence; for George Carr had refused what he had before, through fear, confessed against the lords, touching the Spanish blanks. His Majesty was earnest with the ministers that no ex-communication should pass against the lords before their trial; which was refused; whereupon there was a convention of the estates holden by his Majesty at St. Johnstoun, the year 1593, to curb the power of the presbyterial ministers. There it was resolved (to suppress their liberty) the estate of bishops should be erected and restored.

Within a few days after, the King went from St. Johnstoun to the abbey of Holyrood house; whither also came secretly the Earls of Huntly, Angus, and Erroll. The next day, the King riding at Lauder to visit Chancellor Maitland (who was then sick) these three earls came to his Majesty on the highway; and there humbling themselves, in a few words demanded licence to be tried, which his Majesty granted.

But the King thereafter, in respect that he had promised both to the Ambassador of England, and to the ministers at Edinburgh, that he should neither receive them, nor admit them to his presence and favour, until they were tried; he directed the master of Glammis and the lord Lindores unto the ambassador and the ministers, to certify them of their coming to his Majesty on the highway, at such time and place as he looked not for; and, although he had used but some few words unto them, yet he would proceed no further, nor show them any other favour, but according to justice and reason. Then the ministry assembled themselves, by their commissioners at Edinburgh, together with certain barons and baillies of burghs (the King being then at Jedburgh for some affairs of the commonwealth). They concluded, all in one voice, some articles to be presently demanded of his Majesty; which I omit to relate, as fitting to be supprest.

Whereupon the affairs of the King and of the Church were directly opposite and repugnant to another, the King caused proclamations to be made, commanding all his lieges and subjects to reset and receive the Earls of Angus, Huntly, and Erroll, which should not be imputed until them as a crime at any time thereafter; whereby also licence was granted unto them to pass and repass freely in other parts of the country publicly, as best should please them. The ministers, upon the contrary, offered their proclamation in the churches to their parishioners, commanding the people to abhor them, and to refuse their companies by any kind of way, and exhorting all men to be upon their defence, and to arm themselves for expelling of these Earls and their adherents: moreover, the ministry by their solicitations had drawn a great number of people into Edinburgh.

Whereupon His Majesty did call a convention of the estates, and caused a proclamation to be made, and published in divers capital towns of the realm, charging all and sundry His Majesty's subjects, of what estate, quality, or degree soever, that none of them should resort or repair to the burgh of Edinburgh, or place of His Majesty's residence, upon whatsoever colour or pretence, during the handling and ordering of these matters in question, except such persons as were appointed and specially written for, or that did crave and obtain His Majesty's licence for their coming.

In this commission, which was appointed at Edinburgh for decision of all controversies, there were nominated six earls, six lords, six barons, six burgesses, and six ministers, elected and chose by his Majesty and his Council; and although the six ministers were well qualified men, and such as the rest of the brethren could justly find no fault withal, yet, because they were not nominated by themselves in general voices, they were afraid to be prejudged in their authority and estate; and, therefore, were chosen by the King and the Council: therefore the King, with advice of his Council, commanded their names to be blotted out, that no minister thereafter should be nominated in commission, but that they all, or some certain number, by command of the rest, should only be supplicants, if they had anything to crave, and no otherwise; and thus were the ministers themselves the cause that their authority was diminished.

The Commissioners did assemble at Edinburgh, as was appointed, and after some few days' disputation and reasoning, among divers other things, they discerned that the three Popish Earls and Achindoun should not from thenceforth be accused for the crime they were summoned for, founded upon the blanks, but the same to remain abolished and in oblivion, and to be null thereafter; which was proclaimed by edict, at the Market Cross of Edinburgh.

The advertisement of this edict being sent from Edinburgh to the Queen of England by her Ambassador, she sent the Lord South into Scotland; willing the King to remit his lenity towards the Catholic lords, and deal plainly with rigorous justice, as the cause and good reason required. The two Ambassadors of England followed the King from Edinburgh to Stirling, by whose diligence and procurement letters were directed, charging the Roman Catholic Earls to enter their persons in prison, under the pain of treason. There was also a Parliament proclaimed, to be holden the 15th of April next ensuing.

In the meantime, great instance was made by the ministers of Scotland and by the Ambassadors of England, that the Roman Catholic lords should be summoned to hear and see the process of forfaulture led against them. In end they do prevail; and direction was given for the same against the Parliament, which was appointed to be in April, 1594.

Nevertheless, the Ambassadors of England and the ministers of Scotland, thinking that the King and his counsellors were more negligent in prosecuting of the Popish lords than was promised or expected; it was secretly devised that the Earl of Bothwell, being an outlaw, should invade Scotland, by the assistance of England, upon two pretences: the first was, that, by the help of the ministers he might banish the Popish lords out of the realm of Scotland, and that the Queen of England should support him with money; which, being known and revealed, did so incense the King against her Ambassador, that a special gentleman of the Lord South's was committed to prison in the Castle of Edinburgh, who confessed that, by the command of the Ambassador, he had spoken with the Earl of Bothwell and with Mr. John Colvill (Bothwell's chief counsellor). The second pretence was to revenge the Earl of Murray's death against Huntly and his partakers; and to fortify his purpose, the Earls of Argyle and Athole should be ready in arms, attending Bothwell's coming, to join with him against Huntly.

The King, hearing of these two pretences, thought it expedient with advice of his council, to make a general proclamation that no manner of persons should convocate his lieges in arms, for whatsoever occasion, without His Majesty's licence, under the pain of death. Whereupon Bothwell came to Kelso, and from thence to Leith, the 2nd of April, 1594.

The King being advertised of his coming, went to sermon that morning in the High Church of Edinburgh, and there, sermon being ended, he made great instance to the people, that they would assist him to suppress their common enemy Bothwell, and, to animate the Ministry and the people, he promised, in their presence, that he should never lay down arms, till he either suppressed or banished the Popish lords and their adherents; so the King led the people out of Edinburgh towards Leith; and, betwixt Leith and Edinburgh, there was a company selected out of the army, which, under the conduct of the lord Hume and Wemyss Colvill, should invade Bothwell, who, perceiving the King marching out of Edinburgh, with his army, towards Leith; and seeing that the earls of Argyle and Athole had failed him, he retires from Leith, with his company, and takes the way of Musselburgh, and so return into England; but the lord Hume, with his train, overtakes Bothwell beside Duddistone, where, after a little skirmish, the lord Hume was overthrown, and all his people beaten and chased back again to Edinburgh. Bothwell, perceiving that the King was sending more forces against him, retires towards the south borders, and so into England.

The Earl of Bothwell being thus gone, the King returns to Edinburgh, and seeing no other means to satisfy the ministers, and all utterly to suppress Bothwell's rebellion, he condescended to the forfaulture of the Popish lords, being forced to yield to present necessity. A Parliament was holden at Edinburgh the penult day of May, 1594; all and whatsoever petitions then craved by the ministers were assented to by this Parliament, where there were present but only three earls and six lords; by reason whereof things were violently carried by the ministers.

The criminal cause of the Popish lords being read and considered by a few number of nobles there present, they would gladly have delayed the determination thereof until a fuller convention of the nobility was assembled; but the ministers and commissioners of burghs, being the greater number, prevailed; and found the hand-writs by witnesses cognosed; the rest was past over, as proven by presumption; the nobles suspended their voices, because the Popish lords' intentions were not proven judicially; always they were forfaulted and made proscript by plurality of such voices as were there present, and their arms were riven in the justice place, in presence of the Parliament.

These noblemen, being thus forfaulted, the King was also moved to make the Earl of Argyle, his Majesty's lieutenant-general in the north of Scotland, to invade the Earls of Huntly and Erroll; whereupon followed the battle of Glenlivat in October, 1594; which happened as I have declared already; and were afterward restored the year of God, 1597.


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