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Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of Mary: 1565 - 1567

IN July 1565, Mary married her youthful cousin, Henry Lord Darnley, son of the Earl of Lennox. This was a match not without its politic aspect, as things stood at that time, for, by accepting Darnley as her husband, the Scottish queen took a rival out of her way to the English throne, and added his pretensions to her own. As Darnley, however, was a Catholic, the union was disrelished by Queen Elizabeth, as well as by all the leaders of the Protestant interest in Scotland. A still greater objection to it lay in the weak and childish character of the young king.

Moray and his friends were thrown by the event into a rebellion; which, however, quickly ended in his defeat and exile. The queen then ruled for some time with the assistance of her husband and of her Italian secretary, David Riccio. In such circumstances, it was unavoidable that the confidence of her Protestant people should abate. Darnley soon proved to be little worth the sacrifice she had made for his sake. By a freak of youthful folly, prompted by jealousy of Riccio’s influence, he associated in a conspiracy with the banished Moray and his associates, for putting the Italian away from the queen; thinking he might then bear undivided sway. Riccio was assassinated at Holyroodhouse, in the queen’s presence (March 9, 1566), and the Protestant lords immediately returned. The horrible outrage took a strong hold of Mary’s feelings, and was allowed too much to sway her subsequent actions. She seemed, however, to be reconciled to her husband; and not long after, her son, who afterwards became James VI., was born (June 19, 1566).

The childishness and low habits of Darnley completely unfitted him to become an adviser and help to the queen; he proved, on the contrary, a source of great trouble and vexation. Indignant as she was at Moray, Morton, and other Protestant lords who had been concerned in the Riccio assassination, she was little inclined to lean upon them as before. As the only remaining resource, she began to give her confidence to the Earl of Bothwell and the Earl of Huntly, two nobles of great power, but whose administration could not bring her so much popularity. Bothwell was a man of coarse character, fully as much disposed as any man in that age to gain his ambitious ends by violence. As early as March 1561—2, he had formed a plan for seizing the queen’s Person, and carrying her to the castle of Dumbarton, that he and the Duke of Chatelherault might enjoy the government between them. He had since then been restored to favour; but, so far from the queen having ever appeared to regard him as a lover, she had, so lately as February 1565—6, promoted and sanctioned his marriage to a friend of her own, a sister of the Earl of Huntly. He seems now to have thought that an opportunity was presented for his acquiring a mastery in Scotland. He caused the wretched Darnley to be murdered at his lodging in the Kirk of Field, near Edinburgh (March 12, 1567). Being suspected and accused of this act, he submitted to a trial, but was able to overbear justice, and to maintain his place in the queen’s councils.

Mary, consequently, suffered in reputation, though whether she was aware of Bothwell’s guilt is to this day a matter of doubt; much less is it certain that she had, as has been suspected, a guilty knowledge of her husband’s death.

Having procured the countenance of some of the nobility to his plans, Bothwell seized the queen at the river Almond (April 24), and conducted her to his castle of Dunbar, where he kept her a prisoner, as was generally believed, by her own consent. His wife being hastily divorced, he married the queen (May 15), and thus seemed to have fully attained the object of his ambition; but the Protestant leaders rose in arms, took the queen away from him, and drove him into banishment. Mary, as one suspected of horrible crimes, was imprisoned in Lochleven Castle (June 17), and forced to sign a deed of abdication in favour of her infant son, who was consequently crowned as James VI., with the Earl of Moray as regent during his minority (July 29).

‘Ane guid summer and har’est,’—C. F.

1565, Aug 6
The queen and her husband were obliged, immediately after their marriage, to set about the suppression of a rebellion. The measure they adopted for raising troops was according to the custom and rule of the Scottish government. ‘There was ane proclamation at the Mercat Cross of Edinburgh, commanding all and sundry earls, lords, barons, freeholders, gentlemen, and substantious yeomen, to address them with fifteen days victuals, to pass and convoy the king and queen to the parts of Fife, under the pain of tinsel [loss] of life, lands, and guids; and also commanding all and sundry the inhabitants of the burgh of Edinburgh, betwixt sixteen and sixty, to address them in the same manner, under the pains aforesaid.’—D. O. On the 22d of the month, this order was extended to ‘all our sovereign’s lieges.’

This feudal mode of raising an army was felt as a serious burden, particularly in the larger towns, where industry had attained, of course, the highest organisation. For the Rothschilds of Edinburgh, such as they were, there was another trouble. The mode of raising money adopted by Henry and Mary was not quite what would suit the views of modern men of that class. Sept. 27, ‘Our soveranes causit certain of the principals of Edinburgh to come to them to Halyrndehouse, and after their coming, some of free will, and some brought agains their will, our soverane lady made ane orison to them, desiring them to lend her certain sowms of money, whilk they refusit to do; and therefore they were commandit to remain in ward within the auld tower wherein my lord of Murray lodgit, wherein they remainit.’ Ultimately, the two difficulties were in a manner solved by each other. On the 6th of October, the above-mentioned notables of the city ‘agreeit with our soveranes in this manner, to lend their majesties ten thousand merks, upon the superiority of Leith, under reversion and alse to give their highnesses ane thousand pounds, to suffer the haill town to remain at hame.’

For some time after, the criminal records abound in cases of persons ‘delatit for abiding from the queen’s host.’ On such occasions, some are found excusing themselves on account of sickness or personal infirmity; others plead their having sent substitutes. When no excuse could be made, fines are imposed. On the whole, it appears to have been a public burden of no light character, and during the reign of Mary, and the subsequent regencies, it was, owing to the great troubles of the country, of frequent occurrence.

‘Great herships and oppression in mony parts of Scotland, in Strathearn, in Lennox, in Glenalmond, in Breadalbin; baith slaughter and oppression being made in sundry other parts by the Earl of Argyle and M’Gregor and their accomplices. Siclike in Strathardle, mony men slain by the men of Athole and the Stuarts of Lorn.’—C. F.

The town-council of Edinburgh were accustomed annually, at this time, to bestow upon their chief a bullock, which was called The Provost’s Ox, twelve pounds Scots being allowed for the purpose of buying the best that was to be had. They also now gave him a tun of wine, and twelve ells of velvet to make him a gown, as an acknowledgment of special services he had done to the city. - City Register, apud Maitland.

1566, Mar 2
' was ordainit by the ministers, exhorters, and readers of this realm, that they should begin ane public abstinence fra that day aucht hours afternoon, whilk was Saturday, unto Sunday at five hours at even, and then to take but bread and drink, and that in ane sober manner, during the whilk time the people to be occupiet in prayers and hearing the word of God; and as meikle to be done the next Sunday thereafter, for to pray to the eternal God that he wald saften and pacify his angry wrath whilk appearandly is come upon us for our sins, and specially that God wald inform, mollify, and make soft the hearts of our sovereigns towards our nobility whilk are now banished in England. . . .‘—D. O

These nobles were meanwhile arranging very active measures by the arm of flesh to bring about the desired change. Before the second fast had taken place, Riccio lay cold with his fifty-six wounds in the ante-chamber of Holyrood, the palace was in the hands of Morton, and the exiled lords had returned to Edinburgh.

1566, June
Paul Methven, originally a baker in Dundee, afterwards minister of Jedburgh, for an immorality of a gross kind, was excommunicated by the General Assembly in 1563. He was from the first penitent, offering to submit to any punishment which the church might impose for his offence, ‘even if it were to lose any member of his body.’ After two or three years of troubles and buffetings to and fro, he succeeded in inducing the Assembly to look mildly on his case. ‘It was ordainit that he present himself personally before the Assembly, and, being entrit, [he] prostrate[d] himself before the whole brethren with weeping and howling, and, being cornmandit to rise, might not express farther his request, being, as appeared, so sore troublit with anguish of heart.’ The penance imposed gives a striking idea of the discipline of these Calvinistic fathers: ‘The said Paul upon the twa preaching-days betwixt the Sundays, sall come to the kirk door of Edinburgh when the second bell rings, clad in sackcloth, bareheaded and barefooted, and there remain while [until] he be brought in to the sermon, and placed in the public spectacle above the people in the next Sunday after sail declare signs of his inward repentance to the people, humbly requiring the kirk’s forgiveness; whilk done, he sail be clad in his awn apparel, and received in the society of the kirk as ane lively member thereof.’

June 19
A prince, who subsequently became James VI., was born to the queen in Edinburgh Castle, within that small irregularly shaped room, of about eight feet each way, which is still to be seen in the angle of the old palace. The wet-nurse of the royal babe was a certain Lady Reres, whose name occurs unpleasantly in the subsequent history of Mary. At the same time, the Countess of Athole, who was believed to have magical gifts, was brought to bed in the Castle. In a conversation which took place five years after, at Fallside in Fife, between one Andrew Lundie and John Knox, the former related that, ‘when the queen was lying in gisson of the king, the Lady Athole, lying there likewise, baith within the Castle of Edinburgh, he came there for some business, and callit for the Lady Reres, whom he faud in her chalmer, lying bedfast, and, he asking of her disease, she answerit that she was never so troubled with no bairn that ever she bar; for the Lady Athole had casten all the pyne of her childbirth upon her.’

It was a prevalent belief of that age that the pains of parturition could be transferred by supernatural art, and not merely to another woman, but to a man or to one of the lower animals. Amongst the charges against an enchantress of the upper ranks called Eupham M’Calyean, twenty-five years after this time, is one to the effect, that, for relief of her pain at the time of the birth of her two sons, she had had a bored stone laid under her pillow, and enchanted powder rolled up in her hair—likewise ‘your guidman’s sark taue aff him, and laid womplit nuder your bed-feet; the whilk being practisit, your sickness was casten aff you unnaturally, upon ane dog, whilk ran away and was never seen again.’

Dec 10
‘The Earl of Bedford, accompanied with forty horsemen, Englishmen, come as ambassador frae the queen’s majesty of England, to nominate ane woman in Scotland, to be
cummer to our sovereigns, to the baptising of our prince, their son, to the burgh of Edinburgh, and was lodgit in my lord duke’s lodging at the Kirk of Field. In his coming in Edinburgh, he was honourably convoyit by the gentlemen of Lothian, but for the maist part by them of the Religion, because the said earl favourit the same greatumly. The said earl brought ane font, frae the queen’s grace of England, of twa stane wecht, to be presentit to our sovereigns, in the whilk their son and our prince should be baptisit; the same was of fine gold. And he brought ane ring with ane stan; to be delivered to the said woman whit should occupy the place of the queen’s grace of England in the time of the said baptising.’.._D. O.

Dec 17
The young prince was baptised at Stirling Castle, and named Charles James. The preparations in apparel and decorations were magnificent beyond everything of the kind hitherto known. ‘The said prince was borne ont of his chalmer to the chapel by the French ambassador, my Lady of Argyle, cummer for the Queen of England by commission, and Monsieur La Croc for the Duke of Savoy. All the barons and gentlemen bore prickets of wax, wha stood in rank on ilk side, frae the prince’s chalmer door to the said chapel. Next the French ambassador, ane great serge of wax by the Earl of Athole, the salt-vat by the Earl of Eglintonn, the cude by the Lord Semple, the basin and layer by the Lord Ross; and at the chapel door, the prince was receivit by my Lord Sanct Androis, wha was executor ofjicii in pontificalibus, with staff, mitre, cross, and the rest. Collaterals to him were the Bishops of Dunkeld [and] Dumblane, with their rochets and hoods; and also assistit with rochets and hoods the Bishop of Ross, the Prior of Whithorn, and sundry others with serpclaiths and hoods, and the hale college of the chapel royal, with their habits and u[p]maist copes[?]. The prince was baptisit in the said font, and thir solemnities endit by near five hours afternoon, with singing and playing on organs.’D. O.

It appears that at these festivities the skeleton was not wanting. ‘There was sitting in the entry of the Castle a poor man asking alms, having a young child upon his knee, whose head was so great [hydrocepbalus?] that the body of the child could scarce bear it up. A certain gentleman perceiving it, could scarce refrain from tears, for fear of the evils he judged to be portended.’— Knox.

1567, Feb 10
‘. . . . At twa hours in the morning, there come certain traitors to the provost’s house [in the Kirk of Field], wherein was our sovereign’s husband Henry, and ane servant of his, callit William Taylor, lying in their naked beds; and there privily with wraug keys openit the doors, and come in upon the said prince, and there without mercy worried him and his said servant in their beds; and thereafter took him and his servant furth of that house, and cuist him naked in ane yard beside the Thief Raw, and syne come to the house again, and blew the house in the air, sae that there remainit not ane stane upon ane other, undestroyit. At five hours, the said prince and his servant was found lying dead in the said yard, and was ta’en into ane house in the Kirk of Field, and laid while [till] they were buriet.’—D. O.

Buchanan relates two ‘prodigies’ which happened in connection with the death of Darnley. ‘One John Lundin, a gentleman of Fife, having long been sick of a fever, the day before the king was killed, about noon, raised himself a little in his bed, and, as if he bad been astonished, cried out to those that stood by him, with a loud voice, "to go help the king, for the parricides were just then murdering him;" and a while after he called out with a mournful tone, "Now it is too late to help him; he is already murdered;" and he himself lived not long after he had uttered these words.’ The other circumstance occurred just at the time the murder happened. ‘Three of the familiar friends of the Earl of Athole, the king’s cousin, men of reputation for valour and estate, had their lodgings not far from the king’s. When they were asleep about midnight, there was a certain man seemed to come to Dugald Stewart, who lay next the wall, and to draw his hand gently over his beard and cheek, so as to awake him, saying, "Arise, they are offering violence to you." He presently awaked, and was considering the apparition within himself; when another of them cries out presently in the same bed, "Who kicks me?" Dugald answered, "Perhaps it is a cat, which used to walk about in the night;" upon which the third, who was not yet awake, rose presently out of his bed, and stood upon the floor, demanding "who it was that had given him a box on the ear?" As soon as he had spoken, a person seemed to go out of the house by the door, and that not without some noise. Whilst they were descanting on what they had heard and seen, the noise of the blowing up of the king’s house put them into a very terrible consternation.’

Apr 24
‘. . . . whilk was Sanct Mark’s even, our sovereign lady, riding frae Stirling (whereto she passed a little before to visie her son) to Edinburgh, James Earl of Bothwell, accompaniet with seven or aueht hundred men and friends, whom he causit believe that he would ride upon the thieves of Liddesdale, met our sovereign lady betwixt Kirklisthn and Edinburgh, at ane place called the Briggis, accompathet with ane few number, and there took her person, [which he conducted] to the castle of Dunbar. The rumour of the ravishing of her majesty coming to the provost of Edinburgh, incontinent the common bell rang, and the inhabitants ran to armour and weapons, the ports was steekit, [and] the artillery of the Castle shot.’—D.

The place indicated was well chosen for the purpose, being in an angle of ground enclosed by the Almond River and the Gogar Burn, which meet here; so that the queen and her little party could not have fled except at considerable risk. The post-road from Linlithgow to Edinburgh still passes by the spot, immediately after crossing the river Almond by the Boat-house Bridge. [Walter Goodall and Miss Agnes Strickland have been misled by the description of the place in Bothwell’s Act of Forfeiture—’ ad pontes, vulgo vocatos foulbriggs ‘—into the belief that the queen was seized at the suburb of Edinburgh formerly called Foulbriggs, and now Fountain Bridge. In reality, the expression in the Act, rightly translated, applies to the place indicated in the Diurnal of Occurrents—’at the Briggs, commonly called Foulbriggs,’ the syllable foul being presumably a vulgar casual addition which the ancient marshy condition of the place rendered appropriate. All the other contemporary writers place the scene of the seizure at the Almond— Buchanan, Birrel, and Herries—while Sir James Melville, who was one of the party seized, says ‘betwixt Linlithgow and Edinburgh‘—an expression he could scarcely have used if the fact had happened close to the city. In Ane Chronicle of the Kings of Scotland, printed by the Maitland Club, and apparently contemporary, the brig of Awmont is the locality assigned. But the most powerful evidence on the subject, and what sets the matter at rest, is a Remission under the Privy Seal, of date October 1, 1567, to Andrew Redpath, for his being concerned in ‘besetting the queen’s way . . . . near the water of Awmond and for taking and ravishing her,’ &c. It may be remarked that there is no evidence of the suburb alluded to by Miss Strickland having been called Foulbriggs, or having existed at all, at that time, while we have proof of the existence of a place on the Almond Water under the name of the Briggs, long before this time. In the Register of the Privy Seal is ‘ane lettre maid to Robert Hamilton in Briggis, makand him capitane and kepar of the place and palace of Linlithgow,’ &c. 1543, Aug. 22.] Thus characterised, it is perhaps of all places on the road from Linlithgow to Edinburgh, that which Bothwell might be expected to choose if he had been in no collusion with the queen, and anxious to take her at advantage.

May 11
The queen had time at this remarkable crisis of her history— when just about to be married to Bothwell—to grant a letter to ‘the cunning men of the occupation and craft of chirurgeons,’ freeing them from the duty of attending hosts and wappenshaws, and also from that of ‘passing upon inquests and assizes,’ in order that they might have ‘the greater occasion to study the perfection of the said craft, to the uttermost of their ingynes [abilities].’

There is a common belief that surgeons and butchers are exempt from serving on juries, on account of the assumed effect of their profession in making them reckless as to destruction of life. Perhaps the notion has in part taken its rise in this exemption from service for the surgeons, though it appears to have been granted on more honourable consideration.

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