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Domestic Annals of Scotland
Reign of James VI. 1585 - 1590

These years were chiefly marked by the struggles of the more zealous clergy to replace the church upon a purely Presbyterian basis, and to maintain their assumed independence of the civil power. The king found his power encroached on, upon the one hand, by nobles richer, and having a greater command of followers, than himself; on the other, by divines who repudiated all subjection to civil authority in matters ecclesiastical, and yet arrogated powers which greatly concerned the secular rights and liberties of the people. While the reaction in his youthful mind against these besetting troubles inspired him with visionary ideas - of the true rights of a monarch, the dissimulation practised at his court by the astute emissaries of Elizabeth, the restraints imposed on his liberty and natural sentiments by the more zealous Protestant party while he was under their rule, and the tricks he was tempted to have recourse to in order to recover his freedom, and obtain some share of real power, gave him, before he was twenty, such a tutoring in craft, as marked his character during the remainder of life. A more manly and resolute person would have either broken bravely through such a complication of troubles or perished in the attempt. With the help of a good-natured pliancy, James floated on. He was of a timid disposition, greatly disrelishing the sight of weapons, and along with this temper he exhibited much good-nature. Trembling at the outrageous dispositions of his nobles, and constitutionally a lover of peace, he exerted himself to conciliate offenders, and by persuasion to make them cease to break the laws, when a vigorous procedure against them in courts of justice would have been required. For the sake of his hopes of the English succession, if not from his own convictions—which, however, are not to be doubted—he maintained the Protestant cause. At the same time, seeing that the Catholics were friends of monarchy, and might have something to say in the English succession, he desired, if possible, to avoid offending them past forgiveness. Even the ultra-zealous Presbyterian clergy, who came to remonstrate with him, in his own palace, on his public acts or his private foibles, he could treat with such pleasantry as often disarmed them, when a more strenuous policy might have failed.

In February 1586—7, the unfortunate Mary was beheaded in Fotheringay Castle, a victim to the necessities of the Protestant cause.

In 1588, when this cause was threatened with destruction by the Spanish Armada, King James and his people manifested the greatest zeal in preparing for the defence of their part of the island. They entered into a Covenant or bond, in which they made solemn profession of the Protestant faith, and avowed their resolution to oppose Popery by every means in their power. After this danger had blown over, a new alarm was excited by the discovery of a conspiracy amongst the three leading Catholic nobles of Scotland, Huntly, Errol, and Crawford, to aid in introducing a Spanish army, through Scotland, for the conquest of the British island. These nobles having broken out in rebellion, in concert with a Protestant noble of irregular character, Stuart, Earl of Bothwell, the king led an army against them, and succeeded in reducing them to obedience (April 1589). Huntly, Crawford, Errol, and Bothwell were all convicted of treason; but the king shrank from inflicting a punishment which was certain to damage his prospects with a large party in England. They were liberated after only a few months’ imprisonment.

In the latter part of 1589, James effected his marriage with the Princess Anne of Denmark. His young bride being detained in Norway for the winter, in consequence of a storm, he sailed for that country (October 22), and solemnised his nuptials at Upslo (now Christiania). In May 1590, the royal pair arrived amidst great rejoicings at Leith. The first year of the king’s married life was strangely disturbed by a series of trials for the imaginary crime of witchcraft, in which the character of the age is strongly marked.

1586, Apr 18
The Earl of Eglintoun, ‘a young nobleman of a fair and large stature’ (Moy.), was murdered by Cunningham of Robertland.

Montgomery and Cunningham were the Montague and Capulet of Ayrshire in the sixteenth century. The feud had sprung up nearly a hundred years before the above date, in consequence of the Earl of Glencairn disputing the title of the Earl of Eglintoun to the bailiery of the district of Cunningham. There had been attempts at a stanching of the feud, and even a marriage had been proposed by way of fixing the parties in amity; but at a time when peace had nearly been effected, enmity was renewed in consequence of a Montgomery killing a Cunningham in self defence.

‘The Cunninghams, being grieved hereat, made presently a vow that they should be avenged upon the fattest of the Montgomeries (for these were their words) for that fact. This vow was sae acceptable to them all, that a band was concludit, subscrivit with the chiefest of their hands, to slay the young Earl [of Eglintoun] by whatsoever mean could be devisit, and that whasoever wald take the turn in hand, and perform it, he sould not only be sustenit upon the common expenses of the rest, but sould also be maintenit and defendit by them all from danger and skaith. At last ane Cunningham of Robertland took the enterprise in hand, whilk he accomplished in this manner:

‘Twa year before his treasonable attempt, he insinuate himself in familiarity and all dutiful service to the said young earl, whereby he movit him to take pleasure without ony suspicion, till he conqueist [acquired] sic favour at his hand, that neither the gold, money, horses, armour, clothes, counsel, or voyage was hid from him, that this same Robertland was made sae participant of them all, even as though they had been his awn; and besides all this, the confidence and favour that the earl shew unto him was sae great, that he preferrit him to be his awn bed-fellow. Hereat Lord Hugo, auld Earl of Eglintoun, took great suspicion, and therefore admonist his son in a fatherly manner to beware of sic society, whilk, without all doubt, wald turn to his skaith; for he knew weel the nature of these Cunninghams to be subtle and false, and therefore willit him to give them nae traist, but to avoid their company altogether, even as he lovit his awn life or wald deserve his fatherly blessing. To this counsel the son gave little regard; but that was to his pains; and the domestic enemy was sae crafty indeed, that he wald attempt naething during the life of the father for many respects. But within short time thereafter [the father died June 1585], as the noble earl was passing a short way in pastime, accompanied with a very few of his household servants, and evil horsit himself, Robertland, accompanied with sixty armed men, came running furiously against him on borseback; and the earl, fearing the thing that followit, spurrit his horse to have fled away. His servants all fled another way, and he was left alone. The horsemen ran all upon him, and unmercifully killed him with shots of guns and strokes of swords.

‘The complaint of this odious murder being made to the king, he causit the malefactors to be chargit to a trial. But they all fled beyond sea. Robertland, wha was the first to make the invasion, passed to Denmark, where he remainit at court till the king came to Queen Anne. And because nane of the rest could be apprehendit, the king ordainit their houses to be renderit to the earl’s brother, to be usit at his arbitrament, either to be demolishit or otherwise; and he swore the great aith, that be sould never pardon any of them that had committit that odious murder. Yet, how soon his majesty was arrivit in Denmark, his pardon was demandit of the queen for the first petition, and the same was obtenit, and he was receivit in grace there in presence of them all. Thereafter he came hame in the queen’s company, and remains as ane of her majesty’s master stablers ‘—H. K. J.

The persecution of the Protestants in France at this time drove a vast number to England, where great sacrifices were made for their due entertainment. Scotland, with comparatively limited means, but perhaps warmer feeling, also made collections of money for the distressed people. According to James Melville, ‘all the Protestants in France were chargit off France within sic a day, under pain of life, lands, gudes, and gear; sae that the number of banished in England were sae great, and the poor of them sae many, that they were compelled to seek relief of us for the same . . . . in the poor bounds I had under charge at the first beginning of my ministry, we gathered about five hunder merks for that effect. . . . . The sum of the haul collection whilk the French kirks gat, extended but till about ten thousand merks.’ A considerable number of the exiles, including Pierre du Moulin, the minister of Paris, came to Edinburgh, where the magistrates gave them the common hall of the university for their worship, along with a stated allowance of money for support of their clergy. It cannot be doubted that the sight of these poor French exiles would deepen the feeling of dread and antipathy towards popery and papists, which was already strongly rooted in Scotland.

May 26
A singular collusive trial took place this day, for the purpose of clearing Mr Archibald Douglas, parson of Glasgow, of his concern in the murder of Darnley. He had been in exile or in hiding ever since, except during the regency of Morton, whose cousin he was. But now it was thought he might prove useful in advancing the king’s prospects in England; so, with the most barefaced contempt for the very forms of justice, he was tried by a packed jury, and acquitted.

It is difficult to say to what extent the king was personally concerned in absolving one of his father’s murderers. Perhaps he was not over-squeamish about murders of old date. On this point an anecdote may be quoted, though it stands somewhat under question on the score of authority. ‘When Bothwell-haugh returned from France, whither he had fled upon the murder of the Regent, it is reported that he fell down at the king’s feet, told who he was, and implored pardon. On which the king said, raising him up: "Pardon you, man; pardon you, man! Blest be he that got you! for had you not shot that fellow, I had never been king."’

June 3
Sundry persons of the name of Burne, dwelling in the middle march of Scotland, had appointed a day of combat with several persons residing in the opposite country within England, ‘upon some light purpose unknown to his majesty, and without licence cravit of his majesty or of his dearest sister [Elizabeth] or of her officers, as aucht to be in sic case.’ It was much to be feared that amongst the many persons assembled, a very small accident might be sufficient to rekindle old feuds, and that thus serious evils would arise. The Council, therefore, forbade all assembling at the place and day appointed, under pain of treason.—P.
C. R.

While the southern and more populous parts of Scotland were, as we see, sufficiently barbarous, the Highland districts were as the comparative, and the Hebrides as the superlative degree in the same quality. The king, in the first edition of his Basilicon Doron, tells his son to think no more of the Islanders than as ‘wolves and wild boars.’ Probably, when the reader has perused the following narrative, he will think the epithet not unjustly applied, although his majesty afterwards dropped it in reprinting his book. The tale is of a commotion betwixt Angus M’Connel, Lord of Kintyre, and Maclean, Lord of Islay. ‘This Angus had to his wife the sister of Maclean, and although they were brother-in-law, yet the ane was always in sic suspicion with the other, that of either side there was sae little traist, that almaist sendle [seldom] or never did they meet in amity, like unto the common sort of people, but rather as barbares upon their awn guard, or by their messengers. True it is that thir Islandish men are of nature very proud, suspicious, avaritious, full of deceit and evil intention [each] against his neighbour, by what way so ever he may circumvent him. Besides all this, they are sae cruel in taking of revenge, that neither have they regard to person, age, time, or cause; sae are they generally all sae far addicted to their awn tyrannical opinions, that in all respects they exceed in cruelty the maist barbarous people that ever has been sin’ the beginning of the warld; ane example whereof ye saIl hear in this history following:

‘Angus M’Connel, understanding, by divers reports, the gude behaviour of Maclean to be sae famous, that almaist he was recommended and praised by the haill neutral people of these parts above himself; whilk engendered sic rancour in his heart that he pretermitted nae invention how he might destroy the said Maclean. At last he devised to draw on a familiarity amang them, and inveited himself to be banqueted by Maclean; and that the rather, that Maclean should be the readier to come over to his isle with him the mair gladly, either being required, or upon set purpose, as best should please him. And when Angus had sent advertisement to Maclean, that he was to come and make gude cheer, and to be merry with him certain days, Maclean was very glad thereof, and answered to the messenger: "My brother shall be welcome," said he, "come when he list." The messenger answered, it wald be to-morrow. So when Angus arrived in effect, he was richt cheerfully welcomed by his brother-in-law, wha remained there by the space of five or sax days. And when it was perceived that Maclean’s provision was almaist spent, Angus thought it then time to remove. Indeed, the custom of that people is sae given to gluttony and drinking without all measure, that as ane is inveited to another, they never sinder sae lang as the vivers do last. In end, Angus says: "Because I have made the first obedience unto you, it will please you come over to my isle, that ye may receive as gude treatment with me as I have done with yon." Maclean answered that he durst not adventure to come to him for mistrust; and Angus said: "God forbid that ever I should intend or pretend any evil against you; but yet, to remove all doubt and suspicion frae your mind, I will give you twa pledges, whilk shall be sent unto you with diligence; to wit, my eldest son and my awn only brother-german: these twa may be keepit here by your friends till ye come safely back again." Maclean, hearing this offer, whilk appeared unto him void of all suspicion, and so decreeted to pass with him to Kintyre; and further to testify that baith he simply believed all to be true, and that upon hope of gude friendship to continue, he thought expedient to retein ae only pledge, and that was Angus’s brother, and wald carry with him his awn nevoy, the son of Angus. Whether he did this to save himself frae suspicion of danger, as apparently of the event he did it, or gif he brought him back again upon liberal favour, I will not dispute; because I have tauld you afore the perfect nature and qualities of these islands people; yet, because Maclean’s education was civil, and brought up in the gude lawis and manners of Scotland from his youth, it may be that he has had double consideration, ane by kind, and another by art of honest dissimulation.

To conclude, to Kintyre he came, accompanied with forty-five men of his kinsfolk and stout servants, in the month of July 1586; where, at the first arrival, they were made welcome with all humanity, and were sumptuously banqueted all that day. But Angus in that meantime had premonished all his friends and weelwillers within his isle of Kintyre to be at his house that same night at nine of the clock, and neither to come sooner nor later; for he had concluded with himself to kill them all the very first night of their arrival, fearing that gif he should delay any langer time, it might be that either he sould alter his malicious intention, or else that Maclean wald send for some greater forces of men for his awn defence. Thus he concealed his intent still, till baith he fand the time commodious and the very place proper; and Maclean being lodged with all his men within a lang house, that was something distant frae other housing, took to bed with him that night his nevoy, the pledge afore-spoken. But within ane hour thereafter, when Angus had assembled his men to the number of twa hundred, he placed them all in order about the house where Maclean then lay. Thereafter he came himself and called at the door upon Maclean, offering to him his reposing drink, whilk was forgotten to be given to him before he went to bed. Maclean answered, that he desired nae drink for that time. "Although so be," said the other, "it is my will that thou arise and come forth to receive it." Then began Maclean to suspect the falset, and so arase with his nevoy betwixt his shoulders, thinking that gif present killing was intended against him, he should save himself sae lang as he could by the boy; and the boy, perceiving his father with a naked sword, and a number of his men in like manlier about, cried with a loud voice, mercy to his uncle for God’s sake; whilk was granted, and immediately Maclean was removed to a secret chalmer till the morrow. Then cried Angus to the remanent that were within; sae mony as wald have their lives to be safe, they should come forth, twa only excepted, whilk he nominate; sae that obedience was wade by all the rest, and these twa only, fearing the danger, refused to come forth. Angus, seeing that, commanded incontinent to put fire to the house, whilk was immediately performed; and thus were the twa men cruelly and unmercifully burnt to the death. These twa were very near kinsmen to Maclean, and of the eldest of his clan, renowned baith for counsel and manheid. The rest that were prisoners of the haill number afore-tauld, were ilk ane beheaded the days following, ane for ilk day, till the haul is number was ended; yea, and that in Maclean’s awn sight, being constrained thereunto, with a dolorous advertisement to prepare himself for the like tragical end howsoon they should all be killed. And when the day came that Maclean should have been brought forth, miserably to have made his tragical end, like unto the rest, it pleased Angus to lowp upon his horse, and to come forth for joy and contentment of mind, even to see and behald the tyrannical fact with his awn eyes. But it pleased God, wha mercifully deals with all men, and disappoints the decrees of the wicked, to disappoint his intent for that day also, for he was not sae soon on horseback, but the horse stumbled, and Angus fell off him, and brake his leg, and so was carried hame.’—H. K. J.

The personages of this well-told tale were properly designated Angus Macdonald of Islay, and Lachlan Maclean of Dowart; the latter is described by Mr Tytler as ‘an island Amadis of colossal strength and stature,’ ‘by no means illiterate,’ ‘and possessing, by the vigour of his natural talents, a commanding influence over the rude and fierce islesmen.’ Angus of Islay was step-son to the Irish Earl of Tyrone, and much mixed up with the troubled politics of the north of Ireland in that age. There was an old feud regarding land between Angus and his brother-in-law Maclean. In 1585, it received fresh excitement from an outrage on the laws of hospitality committed by Maclean’s people upon the retinue of Donald Mor of Sleat, when that chief chanced to take shelter from a storm in the isle of Jura. Angus of Islay, having gone to visit Maclean soon after, was seized and imprisoned along with his followers; and he was not liberated till he had agreed to renounce the disputed lands. Such, in reality, was the nature of the visit which the annalist has described as prompted by deceit on the part of Angus. With one of the two hostages exacted from Angus on this occasion, Maclean soon after went to Islay to see after the recovered lands; with strange simplicity, he complied with an invitation of Angus to visit him at his house of Mullintrea, though not till he had received repeated protestations that no harm was intended to him. Here it was that the barbarous circumstances related by our annalist took place.’

By the intervention of a royal message, and the interference of the acting head of the clan Campbell, Angus rendered up Maclean, ‘on receiving a promise of pardon for his crimes, and on eight hostages of rank being placed in his hands by Maclean, for the performance of certain conditions which the latter was forced to subscribe. To complete this singular picture of barbarism, Lachlan was no sooner free, than he ravaged Islay with fire and sword; in requital of which, Angus ravaged the isles of Mull and Tiree, killing every human inhabitant and every beast that fell into his hands.

The various clans siding with their respective friends in this contest, it became the cause of a general war throughout the islands and West Highlands, which lasted some time, notwithstanding every effort of the government to put it down.

Oct 8
The Master of Yester, whom we have just seen as a peace-breaker, comes once more before the Council as a turbulent and wicked person. Sir John Stewart of Traquair, and his brother James Stewart of Shillinglaw, lieutenant of his majesty’s guard, appear as complainers, setting forth, in the first place, how it is well known of Sir John Stewart, that ‘having his dwelling-place on the south side of Tweed, in a room subject to the invasions and thieves of the broken men of the Borders, and lying betwixt them and sundry his majesty’s true lieges, whom commonly they herry and oppress, how at all times himself, his brother, his friends and neighbours assisting him, dwelling betwixt the burgh of Peebles and Gaithopeburn, resistit the stouthreif and oppressions of the said thieves and broken men, to the comfort and relief of mony true men, in whilk course they intend, God willing, to continue to their lives end.’ Of late, however, so proceeds the complaint, ‘they have been, and is greatumly hindered therein, by reason that William, Master of Yester, by the causing, direction, at least owersicht and tolerance, of William Lord Hay of Yester, his father, sheriff of Peebles and provost of the burgh of Peebles (wha, by the laws of this realm . . . . aucht to mak his said son answerable,’ but had ‘placit him in the principal house and strength of Neidpath,’ though he has been a denounced rebel for nearly the space of a year ‘for his inobedience to underlie the laws,’ till within the last few days that he obtained relaxation) . . . . had in the meantime ‘not only usurpit and taken upon him the charge of the sheriffship of Peebles, and provostry of the burgh thereof, but ane absolute command to proclaim and hald wappinshawings at times nawise appointit by his hieness’ direction, to banish and give up kindness to all persons in  burgh or land where he pleases, to tak up men’s gear under pretence of unlaws fra wappinshawings or other unnecessar causes, never being lawfully callit nor convenit; . . . . and forder, it is weel knawn to sundry of the lords of Secret Council, that the said Master socht the life of the said James Stewart, and dayly shores and boasts to slay him, and all others of his kin, friends, allies, assisters, and partakers.’ On the petition of’ the complainers, the Council heard parties, the peccant Master appearing for himself, and in excuse for his father, who was sick and unable to travel. And the end of the matter was, that the case was remitted to the judgment of the Court of Session, to be decided by them as they might think proper. Meanwhile, the Master was enjoined to cease molesting the Stewarts and their friends and dependents between this and the 8th of January next.—P. C. R.

On the 29th April 1587, it is stated that the king had dealt between these hostile parties, and arranged letters of affirmance between them, in order to secure peace for the future; but the Master of Yester had refused to subscribe. For this he is threatened with being denounced rebel, or, as the ordinary phrase was, being put to the horn. On the 12th May, the king ordered him to enter in ward north of the Tay, and there remain till liberated; and a few weeks later, on this order not being complied with, the Master was denounced rebel, and all forbidden to assist or receive him.—P. C. K

In a memoir of the Hays of Tweeddale, composed by a member of the family a century later, the character and objects of the parties in this dispute are precisely reversed. The Master of Yester—whose nickname, it seems, was Wood-sword—is described as a great upholder of the laws against thieves, while the Stewarts of Traquair were the reverse. The passage is worth transcribing, as an example of the favourable views of which a man’s actions are always more or less susceptible in the eyes of friends, especially after the lapse of a few years.

‘In his time, the Borders being much infested with broken men and thieving, this lord, who always rode accompanied with twenty-four horsemen and as many footmen armed, did take and hanged a great [many] of them. He was at feud with the house of Traquair for seconding the thieves, in pursuit of whom he received a wound in the face. King James the Sixth being desirous to have this feud taken away, as all others of the country, and he refusing, was committed to the Castle of Edinburgh, out of which he made his escape, and immediately made ane new inroad against the thieves, of whom he killed a great many, in a place called from thence the Bloody Haugh, near Riskin-hope, in Rodonna; whereupon King James was pleased to make a hunting journey, and came to the house of Neidpath, whither the king called Traquair, with his two sons, who made to Lord Yester acknowledgment for the wrong they had done him, and then peace was made by the king. This was witnessed by one William Geddes, who was my lord’s butler, and lived till the year 1632.’—Genealogy of the Hays of Tweeddale, by Father R. A. Hay.

1586-7, Feb
A few days before the death of Queen Mary in Fotheringay Castle, the king, her son, ‘to manifest his natural affection towards his dearest mother, whose preservation he always earnestly wished, required the ministers to pray for her, at all preachings and common prayers, after the following form: "The Lord illuuminate and enlighten her spirit, that she may attain to the knowledge of his truth, for the safety of soul and body, and preserve her from the present peril."

‘Some of the ministry agreed to that form of prayer, thinking it very lawful, since it was his majesty’s pleasure; but some of them, especially the ministers of Edinburgh, refused to pray but as they were moved by the spirit.’

‘On the 3d. of February [five days before Mary’s execution], the king appointed Patrick, Archbishop of St Andrews, a man evil thought of by the ministry and others, to preach in the kirk of Edinburgh, and resolved to attend the preaching himself. When the day came, Mr John Coupar, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, accompanied with the rest of the brethren, came in and prevented the bishop, by taking place in the pulpit before his coming into the kirk; and as the said John was beginning the prayer, the king’s majesty commanded him to stop: whereupon he gave a knock on the pulpit, using an exclamation in these terms: "This day shall bear witness against you in the day of the Lord. Wo be to thee, O Edinburgh! for the last of thy plagues shall be worse than the first!" After having uttered these words, he passed down from the pulpit, and, together with the whole wives in the kirk, removed out of the same.’—Moy. R.

Another account says: ‘The Bishop of St Andrews went up, and, after the English form, began to beck in a low courtesy to the king; whereas the custom of this kirk was first to salute God, to do God’s work, and then, after sermon and divine worship, to give reverence and make courtesy particularly to the king. But soon after the bishop was entered into the pulpit, all the people in the kirk gave a shout and loud cry, so as nothing could be heard, and almost all ran out of the kirk, especially the women. This carriage of the people made the king rise up and cry: "What devil ails the people, that they may not tarry to hear a man preach!" ‘—Row.

The archbishop ‘preached a sermon concerning prayer for princes, whereby he convinced the whole people who remained in the kirk, that the desire of the king’s majesty to pray for his mother was most honourable and reasonable.’—Moy. R.

It gives a striking idea of the difficulty attending the transmission of intelligence in those days—in connection, it must be owned, in this instance, with the deceitful and stealthy conduct of Elizabeth—that Mary had been upwards of a fortnight dead before her son King James was fully apprised of the fact in Edinburgh. On the 15th, he received a message from Kerr of Cessford, the warden of the Borders, informing him that the English warden had just communicated to him this sad intelligence. Not believing it on this authority, the king went to hunt at Calder, but at the same time sent his secretary to Berwick to make inquiry. This gentleman returned on the 23d, with certain information of Mary’s death. ‘This put his majesty into a very great displeasure and grief, so that he went to bed that night without supper; and on the morrow, by seven o’clock, went to Dalkeith, there to remain solitary.’ —Moy. R.

‘Certain it is that King James, her only son, was not a little moved to hear such unparalleled and uncouth news, who loved his dearest mother with the greatest piety that could be seen in a son. [He] took exceeding grief to heart, not without deep displeasure for the same; and much lamented and mourned for her many days.’ —Pa. And.

Many years after, when he had mounted the English throne, King James told Sir James Harrington, that his mother’s death had been foreseen in Scotland, ‘being, as he said, "spoken of in secret by those whose power of [second] sight presented to them a bloody head dancing in the air." He did remark much on this gift, and said he had sought out of certain books a sure way to attain knowledge of future chances.’

Attention was strongly fixed at this time on the confidence manifested by such as were of the Catholic religion, chiefly gentry, in entertaining Jesuits and seminary priests, who performed mass in their houses, and even took possession of some of the ruinous parish churches, doing what in them lay to seduce the people back to the old faith We are told, for instance, that Lord Maxwell openly caused mass to be sung in the abbey-church of Lincluden, near Dumfries, on three successive days at Christmas 1586. Pasch and Yule began again to be kept by the common sort of people, and saints’ wells were much resorted to for the cure of diseases. The General Assembly declared it to be ‘ane exceeding great grief to all such as have any spunk of the love of God and his kirk,’ to see the land thus polluted with ‘idolatry’ and ‘pusionable doctrine.’ They considered the evil as chiefly owing to the laxity of the state in the repression of papistry, and the positive encouragement which it rendered in some instances to papists. At the same time, the reformed religion was in miserable condition, many of the parish kirks being ruinous and destitute of pastors, while the pastors that did anywhere exist were defrauded of their revenues, starved, and sometimes greatly abused in their very persons by the papist gentle-folks. A great defection was seriously apprehended as now imminent, unless some change should take place in the king’s counsels and conduct. He was pathetically exhorted to execute the laws against both the priests and their entertainers. It was demanded, in particular, that all papist noblemen should be ‘presently exiled the country,’ while certain of the priests should be sent away by the first ships, with certification that on their daring to return they should be hanged without further process.

According to the same General Assembly, the moral condition of the country was awful, ‘ugly heaps of all kinds of sin lying in every nook and part’ of it—no spot but what was overwhelmed as by ‘a spate’ [inundation], ‘with abusing of the blessed name of God, with swearing, perjury, and lies, with profaning of the Sabbath-day with mercats, gluttony, drunkenness, fighting, playing, dancing, &c., with rebelling against magistrates and the laws of the country, with blood touching blood, with incest, fornication, adulteries, and sacrilege, theft and oppression, with false witness[ing], and finally with all kinds of impiety and wrong.’ The poor at the same time ‘vaiging [wandering] in great troops and companies through the country, without either law or religion.’—B. U. K.

1587, May
The French poet, Guillaume Sallust, Sieur du Bartas, paid a visit to Scotland. For any eminent literary man of either England or France to travel north of the Tweed, was as yet a rarity and a marvel. The king, however, had contracted an admiration of Du Bartas, and translated some of his poetry; and now a royal invitation had brought him to Holyrood. It would be curious to learn what were the sentiments of the polite Frenchman on coming in contact with James’s circle at the palace, or seeing the rude state of the people generally throughout the country.

We learn that ‘he was received according to his worthiness, entertained honourably, and liberally propined ‘—that is, favoured with presents. At the end of June, the king made an excursion to St Andrews, taking the French poet along with him, that he might see the principal seat of learning in Scotland. We have some curious particulars of the visit from the Dutch pencil of James Melville. St Mary’s College, the principal theological seminary of the country, was now presided over by the faithful Presbyterian Andrew Melville, the man of most marked talent and energy in the Scotch church after the days of Knox. In the Castle lived, in much reduced state, the nominal archbishop, Patrick Adamson, a man of fine literary talents, but weak in character, and, upon the whole, not a credit to Scottish Episcopacy. James admired and patronised Adamson; but he had a trembling faith in the powerful wit and inflexible courage and integrity of Melville. The king, ‘coming first without any warning to the new college [St Mary’s], he calls for Mr Andrew, saying he was come with that gentleman to have a lesson. Mr Andrew answers, "that he had teached his ordinar that day in the forenoon." "That is all ane," says the king; "I maun have a lesson, and be here within an hour for that effect." And indeed, within less than an hour, his majesty was in the school, and the haill university convenit with him, before whom Mr Andrew extempore entreated maist clearly and mightily of the right government of Christ, and in effect refuted the haill acts of parliament made against the discipline thereof, to the great instruction and comfort of his auditory, except the king alane, wha was very angry all that night.’

On the morrow, ‘the bishop had baith a prepared lesson and feast made for the king. His lesson was a tighted-up abridgment of all he had teached the year bypast—.namely, anent the corrupt grounds whilk he had put in the king’s head contrary to the true discipline. To the whilk lesson Mr Andrew went contrair to his custom, and with his awn pen marked all his false grounds and reasons; and without further [preparation] causit ring his bell at twa afternoon the same day, whereof the king hearing, he sent to Mr Andrew, desiring him to be moderate and have regard to his presence, otherwise he wald discharge him. He answerit courageously, that his majesty’s ear and tender breast was piteously and dangerously filled with errors and untruths by that wicked man, the whilk he could not suffer to pass, and brook a life [and yet remain alive]; otherwise, except the stopping of the breath of God’s mouth and prejudging of his truth, he should behave himself maist moderately and reverently to his majesty in all respects. The king sent again to him and me, desiring it should be sae, and shawing that he wald have his four hours [a light meal at four o’clock] in the college, and drink with Mr Andrew. Sae, coming to that lesson with the bishop, wha requested the king for leave to make answer instantly in case anything were spoken against his doctrine. But there Mr Andrew, making him [affecting] as though he had naething to do but with the papist, brings ont their warks, and reads out of them all the bishop’s grounds and reasons. The whilk, when he had at length and maist clearly shawn to be plain papistry, then he sets against the same with all his mean [power], and with immutable force of reasoning, from clear grounds of Scripture, with a mighty parrhesie and flood of eloquence, he dings them sae down, that the bishop was dashed and strucken as dumb as the stock he sat upon. After the lesson, the king, in his mother-tongue, made some distingoes, and discoursit a while thereon, and gave certain injunctions to the university for reverencing and obeying of his bishop; wha fra that day furth began to tire of his teaching, and to fall mair and mair in disgrace and confusion. The king, with Monsieur du Bartas, came to the college-hall, where I causit prepare and have in readiness a banquet of wet and dry confections, with all sorts of wine, whereat his majesty campit very merrily a gude while, and thereafter went to his horse. But Monsieur du Bartas tarried behind, and conferrit with my uncle and me a whole hour, and syne followed after the king; wha inquiring of him that night, as ane tauld me, "What was his judgment of the twa he had heard in St Andrews?" he answerit the king, "that they were baith learned men, but the bishop’s were cunned [conned] and prepared matters, and Mr Andrew had a great ready store of all kind of learning within him; and, by [besides] that, Mr Andrew’s spreit and courage was far above the other." The whilk judgment the king approved.’

The Sicur du Bartas was ‘dismissed in the harvest, to his majesty’s great praise, sae lang as the French tongue is used and understood in the world.’—Ja. Mel.

The small merchant-craft of Scotland was much troubled with pirates, chiefly of the English nation. James Melville gives a lively account of an affair with an English piratical vessel, which took place in connection with the Fife port where he served as pastor.

‘At my first coming to Anstruther there fell out a heavy accident, whilk vexit my mind mickle at first, but drew me mickle nearer my God, and teached me what it was to have a care of a flock. Ane of our crears, returning from England, was beset by an English pirate, pill[ag]ed, and a very guid honest man of Anstruther slain therein. The whilk loon coming pertly to the very road of Pittenweem, spulyied a ship lying therein, and misused the men thereof. This wrang could not be suffered by our men, lest they should be made a common prey to sic limmers. Therefore, purchasing a commission, they riggit out a proper fly-boat, and every man encouraging another, made almaist the haill honest and best men in all the town to go in her to the sea. This was a great vexation and grief to my heart, to see at my first entry the best part of my flock ventured upon a pack of pirates, whereof the smallest member of the meanest was mair in valour than a shipful of them. And yet I durst not stay some [un]less nor I stayed all, and all I durst not, baith for the dangerous preparative, and the friends of the honest man wha was slain, and of them that were abusit, wha were many, in sic sort as the matter concerned the haill. But my God knaws what a sair heart they left behind when they parted out of my sight, or rather what a heart they carried with them, leaving a bouk behind. I neither ate, drank, nor sleepit, but by constraint of nature, my thought and care always being upon them, and commending them to God, till aucht or ten days were endit, and they in sight returning, with all guid tokens of joy, flags, streamers, and ensignie displayed, whom with great joy we receivit, and went together to the kirk, and praised God.

‘The captain, for the time, a godly, wise, and stout man, recounted to me truly their haill proceeding. That they, meeting with their admiral, a great ship of St Andrews, weel riggit out by the burghs, being fine of sail, went before her all the way, and made every ship they forgathered with, of whatsomever nation, to strike and do homage to the king of Scotland, shawing them for what cause they were riggit forth, and inquiring of knaves and pirates. At last, they meet with a proud stiff Englishman, wha refuses to do reverence; therefore the captain, thinking it was a loon, commands to give them his nose-piece: the whilk delashit lights on the tie of the Englishman’s mainsail, and down it comes; then he yields, being but a merchant. But there was the merciful providence of God, in staying a great piece of the Englishman, lying out her stern in readiness to be shot, whilk, if it had lighted amang our folks, being many in little room, without fence, wald have cruelly demeaned them all. But God, directing that first shot, preserved them. From them they approached to the shore at Suffolk, and finds by Providence the loon [rogue], wha had newlins taken a crear of our awn town, and was spulying her. Howsoon they spy ane coming warlike, the loons leave their prize, and run their ship on land, our fly-boat after, and almaist was on land with them; yet, staying bard by, they delash their ordnance at the loons, and a number going a-land, pursues and takes a half-dozen of them, and puts them aboard in their boat. The gentlemen of the country and towns beside, hearing the noise of shooting, gathers with haste, supposing the Spanyard had landed, and apprehending a number of the bone in our men’s hands, desirit to knaw the matter. The whilk when the justices of peace understood, and saw the king of Scotland’s arms, with twa gallant ships in warlike manner, yielded and gave reverence thereto, suffering our folks to take with them their prisoners and pirate’s ship, whilk they brought with them, with half-a-dozen of the loons; whereof twa were hangit on our pier-end, the rest in St Andrews; with nae hurt at all to any of our folks, wha ever since syne have been free from English pirates. All praise to God for ever. Amen.’

King James at this time attempted what Dr Robertson, with somewhat too much complaisance, calls a work worthy of a king. Many of his nobility were at feud with each other on account of past grievances. For example, Glammis bore deadly hatred against the Earl of Crawford, in consequence of the killing of his father by some of Crawford’s people at Stirling in 1578. With the Earl of Angus, whose piety and love of the clergy induced James to call him the Ministers’ King, it was sufficient ground of hostility against the Earl of Montrose that he had sat as chancellor on the jury which adjudged Morton to the Maiden. The Earls of Huntly and Marischal had some mutual grudge of their own, perhaps little intelligible to southern men. So it was with others. The nobility being now assembled at a convention, James, who never could check outrages amongst them by the sword of justice, did what a good-natured weak man could to induce them to be reconciled to each other, and call it peace when there was no peace. Assembling them all at a banquet in Holyrood on a Sunday, he drank to them thrice, and solemnly called on them to maintain concord, threatening to be an enemy to him who should first disobey the injunction. Next day, [May 11] after supper, then an early meal, and after ‘many scolls’ had been drunk to each other, he made them all march in procession ‘in their doublets’ up the Canongate, two and two, holding by each other’s hands, and each pair being a couple of reconciled enemies. He himself went in front, with Lord Hamilton on his right hand, and the Lord Chancellor Maitland on the left; next after, the Duke of Lennox and Lord Claud Hamilton; then Angus and Montrose, Huntly and Marischal, Crawford and the Master of Glammis. Coming to the Tolbooth, his majesty ordered all the prisoners for debt to be released. Thence he advanced to the picturesque old market-cross, covered with tapestry for the occasion, and where the magistrates had set out a long table well furnished with bread, wine, and sweetmeats. Amidst the blare of trumpets and the boom of cannon, the young monarch publicly drank to his nobles, wishing them peace and happiness, and made them all drink to each other. The people, long accustomed to sights of bloody contention, looked on with unspeakable joy, danced, broke into songs of mirth, and brought out all imaginable musical instruments to give additional, albeit discordant expression, to their happiness. All acknowledged that no such sight had ever been seen in Edinburgh. In the general transport, the gloomy gibbet, usually kept standing there in readiness, was cast down, as if it could never again be needed. Sweetmeats, and glasses from which toasts had been drunk, flew about both from the table of the feast and from the responsive parties on the fore-stairs. When all was done, the king and nobles returned in the same form as they had come.— Moy. Bir. Cal. H K J.

Healing measures like these were not nearly so good as they seemed. In less than two months, we find six or seven of the nobles quarrelling about priority of voting, and Lord Home passing a challenge to Lord Fleming—’ wha were not sufferit to fecht, albeit they were baith weel willing.’

King James had a sincere antipathy to deadly feuds and quarrels, because he loved peace and good humour; but timidity, want of strong will, and partly, perhaps, his very bonhomie, prevented him from taking those severe measures with offenders which alone could effectually repress such practices. He desired to correct men by proclamations or at the most ‘hornings;’ and when one gentleman had literally killed his neighbour in a casual rencontre, the king was satisfied if he could induce the son or other relations of the deceased to meet the guilty person, make up matters for a sum of money, shake hands, and agree there should be no more of it. He liked to be personally busy in effecting reconciliations, and at length came to use what he considered as cornpulsory measures for bringing the parties to his presence, that he might see to their renewing friendship. Thus, on the 22d November 1599, an edict of council was sent to James Hoppringle of Galashiels, and George Hoppringle of Blindlee, commanding them to come and submit the quarrel standing between them to the arbitrament of friends, on pain of being charged with rebellion. On the 12th of January ensuing, James Tweedie of Drumelzier and William Veitch of Dawick were charged, under like pains, to come and subscribe letters of assurance, for ‘the feid and inimitie standing betwixt them.’—P. C. R.

In consequence of a bad crop in 1586, there was ‘great scant and dearth’ this year, ‘and great death of people for hunger.’—H.K.J.

Elizabeth issued a proclamation regarding scarcity, 2d January 1586—7. She speaks of ‘foreseeing the general dearth of corn and other victuals, partly through the unseasonableness of the year past, whereby want bath grown more in some countries than in others, but most of all, generally, through the uncharitable greediness of great corn-masters, &c.’ This was the invariable cry on all occasions of dearth. All would be well if only those possessing grain would not reserve it in hope of higher prices. No one ever dreamed of that benefit which the modern political economist sees in the reservings of the corn-mercbant—namely’, an equalising of consumption over the whole period of the scarcity, as contrasted with the over-free use of the victual at first, and increased scarcity afterwards. Perhaps there was, after all, some grounds for the wrath at forestallers, for in former days, as we well know, there was less means of obtaining information regarding the extent of the failure of a crop than there is now, and those gentlemen, accordingly, were rather speculators on a possible, than on an ascertained case. They would hence appear as men aiming at the making of a scarcity where there was perhaps no great occasion for it. What offence greater, the poor public would naturally say, than that of deliberately trying to starve us!

King James had lately sent Vans of Barnbarroch, and his own ex-preceptor, Peter Young, as ambassadors to Denmark, to negotiate a match with the daughter of Frederick II. He now (June 14, 1587) wrote to those gentlemen, ordering them to see to certain Scotch ships which had gone to Dantzie for grain, designing to carry it to other foreign ports for a profit: he demands that they shall not be passed by the tollena!er at Elsinore, till the skippers enter into an obligation to bring the grain to Scotland, ‘for the relief of the puir and supply of the dearth and scarcity.' How would a modem con-merchant feel if his Vessels were now stopped at the Sound with such a demand as this!

1587, Sep
Patrick Hamilton, brother of the Laird of Preston, and captain of Brodick Castle in Arran, was denounced rebel for not appearing before the king and Council, to answer a complaint of Abacuck Bisset, writer to the Signet in Edinburgh. It appears that Patrick, accompanied by two nephews, had attacked Mr Bisset in St Giles’s Kirk in Edinburgh, during the sitting of parliament, with a sword, and cut off the haul fingers of his left hand.’

This Abacuck Bisset was clerk to Sir John Skene, Lord Clerk Register. He compiled a treatise entitled The Rolment of Courtis, contenand the Auldest Lawis, Actis, Statutis, Constitutionis, and Antiquities of His Majesties Native and maist Ancient Realme of Scotland, as ane Frie Kingdome, &c.

We have hitherto heard the name of Queen Mary chiefly in connection with tragic matters: verily a name of tears. For once we find her connected with a piece of pleasantry, and it was in association with the author of the Rolment of Courtis. The father of this worthy writer was caterer to the queen. One day, as she was passing to mass, he acquainted her with his having a child to be baptised, and desired her to assign the infant its name. She said she would open the Bible in the chapel, and whatever name she cast up, that should be given to the child. The name cast up was that of the prophet Habakkuk, which, in the form of Abacuck, was accordingly conferred on the future writer.

Abacuck Bisset’s Rolment of Courtis exists in manuscript in the Advocates’ Library, only a portion of it, containing A Short Form of Process for civil cases, having been printed. It was composed in the old age of the author, after the commencement of the reign of Charles I., and seems to have been designed for immediate publication, as it is prefaced with sundry of those complimentary verses with which authors used to gratify each other in days while as yet reviews were not. One set of these, by Mr Alexander Craig of Rose Craig, and which appears in his Poetical Exercises (Raban, Aberdeen, 1623), is not without some feeling:

‘Twixt was and is how various are the odds!
What one man doth another doth undo;
One consecrates religions works to
Another leaves sad wrecks and ruins new.
This book doth shew that such and such things were,
But would to God that it could say, They are!

‘When I perceive the south, north, east, and west,
And mark, alas! each monument amiss,
Then I confer times present with the past,
I read what was, but cannot tell what is:
I praise thy book with wonder, but am sorry
To read old ruins in a recent story.’

Abacuck himself appears to have had a turn for verse, and in this form he gives his poetical friends notice of the contents of his book, that they may address him regarding it. After a great deal of very dry prose matters about decreets, suspensions, exceptions, &c., he either makes or quotes the following:


All landis, wherever they be
In Scotland partis, has merches three,
Headroom, water, and montis borde,
As eldren men has made record.
Your headroom to the hill direct,
Frae your haugh tilled in effect.
Betwixt twa glenis ane montis borde,
Divides thae glenis, I sall stand for ‘t.
Water comand frae ane glen head,
Divides that glen, and stanches feid.
Thortrom burnis in montis hie
Sall stop nae headroom, though they be.

The meaning of all this is, that ancient custom in Scotland recognised three natural divisions or boundaries for land—1. Headroom, the termination of a piece of territory on the summit of the slope of the adjacent hill; 2. The line of hills between two glens; 3. The river passing through a glen. A water crossing the headroom on the summit of the mountains made no difference.

[It is to be feared that Abacuck was a person of a litigious and troublesome temper. A complaint was made against him before the Privy Council by Kenneth M’Kenzie of Kintail, to the effect that Bisset had purchased letters to force Kenneth to produce a clansman named Rory M’Allister M’Kenzie, alleged to be at the horn for default in a civil cause. It was alleged that, knowing that on the case being called, he (Kenneth) could shew many good arguments for exonerating himself of this responsibility, Bisset had delayed the calling, in hopes of being able to do it when Kenneth should not be at hand to make his own defence. The matter being brought fully before the Lords in the presence of parties, it was decreed that Kenneth should be absolved from the duty implied in Bisset’s letters.—P. C. R.

In July 1608, Abacuck was involved in a still worse-looking affair. He was charged before the Privy Council with having prosecuted Mr William Raid, of Aberdeen, in a malicious manner at law, from no cause but that of ‘some little eleist’ fallen out between him and Andrew Reid, brother of William, in which the said William had no interes.- He had also traduced William Hay in regard to the propriety of his marriage, though it was well known to be ‘an honest and famous marriage.’ The Council found the charge just, and commanded Abacuck’s proceedings to be stopped.]

‘The pest brake up in harvest in Leith, by opening up of some old kists, and in Edinburgh about the 4th of November. It continued in these two towns this winter till Candlemass.’—Cal.

This pest ‘strake a great terror in Edinburgh and all the coast-side,’ says James Melville. He adds: ‘By occasion thereof, we began the exercise of daily doctrine and prayers in our kirk, whilk continues to this day with great profit and comfort, baith of the teachers and hearers.’ The kirk-session of Perth appointed a fast ‘with great humiliation’ for eight days. In those days, there was scarcely any other recognised method of averting pestilence. The same simple diarist tells us: ‘This winter the king was occupied in commenting of the Apocalypse, and in setting out of sermons thereupon against the Papists and Spaniards: and yet, by a piece of great oversight, the Papists practised never more busily in this land, and made greater preparation for receiving the Spaniards nor [than] that year.’

In October 1588, the town-council of Glasgow was in great apprehension of a visit of the pest, as it was then in Paisley. They made arrangements for guarding the ports to prevent the entrance of people from the infected district.—M. of G.

1587-8, Feb
Mr James Gordon, a Jesuit, uncle to the Earl of Huntly, being now in Edinburgh, ‘his majesty took purpose to convene some of the ministry of Edinburgh within his own chamber in Holyroodhouse, and to send for the said Mr James; who coming before his majesty, his highness declared the cause for which he had sent for him, which was, that as he understood him to be a learned man, come into this country on purpose to persuade the people to embrace the popish religion, he would therefore shew him that his majesty was himself disposed to use some reasoning with him on religion. Whereunto Mr James objected, and said that he desired not to reason with his majesty, but would reason with any other. [James was now only twenty-one.] The king’s majesty, answering, offered and promised to lay his crown and royalty aside, and to reason with him as if he were a private man. And so his majesty began and laid down some grounds of religion, which he still observed and reasoned upon for the space of four or five hours. Some things were yielded to by Mr James, and others denied.

The said Mr James was kept in a chamber in Holyrood house five or six days, and then appointed to pass to Seaton, till he was ready to depart off the country.’—Moy. R.

1588, May 28
Alison Peirson, in Byrehill, was tried for witchcraft. The verdict recites a number of strange and incoherent charges which had been proved against her, but whose entire tenor only shews that she was a sickly nervous woman, who took her own dreams and fancies for realities. According to her own account, she had learned unlawful arts from her cousin, Mr William Simpson, son of one who had been the king’s smith at Stirling, and who had acquired his skill from a big Egyptian, by whom he had been carried away in his childhood and kept for twelve years. Being in her own youth afflicted with loss of power in one of her sides, she had applied to Mr William in Lothian, and he had not only cured her, but taught her by charms to be a healer of disease herself. Since then, she had haunted the company of the queen of Elfame, but had not seen her for the last seven years. At one time she had many good friends in Elfame; but they were all dead now. Sometimes she would be in her bed quite well, but could not tell where or in what state she might be next day. Lying down sick in Grangemuir, near Anstruther, she had seen a man in green clothes, whom she asked to help her: he went away at that time, but appeared afterwards with a multitude of people, when ‘she sanit her [blessed herself] and prayit, and passed with them further nor she could tell; and saw with them piping, and merriness, and gude cheer, and was carried to Lothian, and saw wine-puncheons with tasses [cups] with them.’ ‘Ofttimes they wald come and sit beside her, and promised that she should never want gif she wald be faithful and keep promises, but, gif she wald speak and tell of them and their doings, they sould martyr her.’ For the last sixteen years, Alison had been frequenting St Andrews as a practitioner in unlawful methods of healing; and where among her patients had been no less a person than the titular Archbishop Adamson—a fact of which his enemies did not fail to take advantage in pasquinading him. For the healing of his grace, Simpson had bidden her ‘make ane saw [salve] and rub it on his cheeks, his craig, his breast, stomach, and sides, and siclike gave her directions to use the ewe-milk, or waidrave [probably woodroof], with the herbs, claret wine; and with some other things she gave him ane sodden fowl; and that she made ane quart at ance, whilk he drank at twa draughts, twa sundry diets.’ Poor Alison was convicted and burnt.

1588, July 21
At the very time when the Spanish Armada was at sea on its way to England, a Catholic pair of high rank, much though secretly interested in favour of that enterprise, were wedded at Holyrood. The bridegroom was the young Earl of Huntly, and the bride Henrietta Stuart, eldest daughter of the late Duke of Lennox. The affair was conducted with ‘great triumph, mirth, and pastime;’ but some of the other circumstances were of a more remarkable nature. The Presbyterian clergy, in a paroxysm of apprehension about the Armada, took up the strange position of refusing to allow the marriage to be performed by any clergyman capable of shewing his face in the country, unless the earl should first sign the Confession of Faith—that is, abjure his religion. Huntly was induced to profess an inclination to comply, but professed to stickle at some of the Protestant doctrines. The king, on the other hand, who felt as the father of the bride, and knew that Huntly was in reality his friend, favoured and facilitated the match. To the great chagrin of the Presbyterian clergy, the ceremony was at length performed by Patrick Adamson, archbishop of St Andrews—who, however, was afterwards brought to their feet as an abject penitent, declaring, among other things, ‘I married the Earl of Huntly contrair the kirk’s command, without the confession of his faith, and profession of the sincere doctrine of the Word; I repent, and craves God pardon.' The writer of Adamson’s life in the Biographia Britannica has characterised this as ‘one of the completest instances of ecclesiastical folly and bigotry recorded in. history.’ Perhaps if this biographer had been a Scottish Protestant of 1588, he would not have thought so; but the affair may at least somewhat abate our surprise that the Earl of Huntly was found next year in arms against the Protestant interest.

July 20
Sir William Stuart of Monkton, a younger brother of the ill-famed ex-chancellor, ‘Captain James,’ and said to be ‘in qualities and behaviour naething different’ from that personage, had for some years had place at the king’s court, serving the government in various capacities. Only a few weeks before this date, he had conducted an expedition by which the Castle of Lochmaben was taken from the rebellious Maxwells. The captain and five of the garrison had been hung up on the green before the gate, notwithstanding a promise of their lives, alleged to have been
given. Stuart was rewarded with large spoil; and on his return to Edinburgh, with Lord Maxwell as a prisoner, he was allowed to have the custody of that nobleman.

Doubtless the blood of the upstart was somewhat heated by so rich a triumph. Meeting the unruly Earl of Bothwell a few days after in the king’s chamber, he fell into a dispute with him—the lie was given, and the altercation closed with a ribald exclamation on his part, followed by a threat on the other. Nothing more occurred till nearly three weeks after, when Sir William Stuart, coming down the High Street with a party of his minions, met Bothwell, accompanied by a younger brother of the Master of Gray, whom Stuart had lately delated for his betrayal of the king’s interest in his ambassage for the saving of Queen Mary’s life. A collision between two such parties was unavoidable. In the general fight, Stuart killed a servant of. Bothwell, but thereby lost his sword. He fled into the Blackfriars’ Wynd, pursued by the vengeful Bothwell who, as Stuart stood defenceless against a wall, ‘strake him in at the back and out at the belly, and killed him.’— Bir. Cal. H. K. J.

We are assured by a contemporary writer, that the slaughter of Sir William Stuart was ‘to the comfort of mony of the people, wha allegit that God did the same for his betraying of Mr David Maxwell and his company in Lochmaben, but specially the Lord Maxwell, wha was his prisoner in John Gourlay’s house.’—C. K. Sc. Bothwell only deemed it necessary for a few days to keep out of the way. By and by, on the king’s return from a visit to Fife, he reappeared in court as usual, uncallit, unpursuit, unpunist for this fact.’

It is curious to find the General Assembly sitting down exactly a week after this street-conflict, and proceeding quietly with its usual work of choosing a moderator, arranging about provision for the ministers, and denouncing the papists, just as it would have dime at any time nearer our own gentler day.

Great excitement prevailed throughout all Scotland, in apprehension of invasion by the Spanish Armada. There was not wanting a party prepared to co-operate with the Spaniards, if they had landed in Scotland. In this exigency, the king was compelled to forget his anger at Elizabeth on account of the recent death of his mother; he made all possible preparation for resistance, and when Sir Robert Sidney, the English ambassador, told him that if the Spaniard took England, the king might expect no greater kindness at his hand, James ‘merrily answered: "That he looked for no other benefit of the Spaniard in that case, than that which Polyphemus promised to Ulysses—namely, to devour him after all his fellows were devoured."

‘Terrible was the fear,’ says James Melville, ‘piercing were the preachings, earnest, zealous, and fervent were the prayers, sounding were the sighs and sobs, and abounding was the tears at that fast and General Assembly keepit at Edinburgh, when the news were credibly tauld, sometimes of their landing at Dunbar, sometimes at St Andrews, and in Tay, and now and then at Aberdeen and Cromarty Firth. And in very deed, as we knew certainly soon after, the Lord of armies, wha rides upon the wings of the winds, the keeper of his awn Israel, was in the meantime convoying that monstrous navy about our coasts, and directing their hulks and galiots to the islands, rocks, and sands, whereupon he had destinat their wrack and destruction. For within twa or three month thereafter, early in the morning, ane of our bailies came to my bedside, saying (hut not with fray): "I have to tell you news, sir. There is arrivit within our harbour [Anstruther, on the coast of Fife] this morning a ship full of Spaniards, but not to give mercy but to ask." And sae shaws me that the commanders had landed, and he had commandit them to their ship again, till the magistrates of the town had advisit, and the Spaniards had humbly obeyit; therefore desirit me to rise and hear their petition with them.. Up I got with diligence, and assembling the honest men of the town, came to the tolbooth; and after consultation taken to hear them, and what answer to make, there presents us a very reverend man of big stature, and grave and stout countenance, gray-haired, and very humble-like, wha, after meikle and very low courtesy, bowing down with his face near the ground, and touching my shoe with his hand, began his harangue in the Spanish tongue, whereof I understood the substance, and being about to answer in Latin, he having only a young man with him to be his interpreter, began and tauld ower again to us in gude English. The sum was, that King Philip, his master, had riggit out a navy and army to land in England for just causes to be avengit of many intolerable wrangs whilk he had receivit of that nation; but God for their sins had been against them, and, by storm of weather, had driven the navy by the coast of England, and him, with a certain [number] of captains, being the general of twenty hulks, upon an isle in Scotland, callit the Fair Isle, where they made shipwreck, and where sae mony as had escapit the merciless sea, had mair nor sax or seven weeks sufferit great hunger and cauld, till, conducting that bark out of Orkney, they were come hither as to their special friends and confederates to kiss the king’s majesty’s hand of Scotland (and therewith becket [bowed] even to the yird), and to find relief and comfort thereby to himself, these gentlemen captains, and the poor souldiers, whase condition was for the present maist miserable and pitiful.

‘I answerit this meikle in sum: "That, howbeit neither oar friendship, whilk could not be great, seeing their king and they were friends to the greatest enemy of Christ, the pope of Rome, and our king and we defied him, nor yet their cause against our neighbours and special friends of England could procure any benefit at our hands for their relief and comfort; nevertheless, they should know by experience that we were men, and sae moved by humane compassion, and Christians of better religion nor they, whilk should kythe in the fruits and effect plain contrair to theirs. For, whereas our people, resorting amang them in peaceable and lawful affairs of merchandise, were violently taken and cast in prison, their gudes and gear confiscat, and their bodies committit to the cruel flaming fire for the cause of religion, they should find naething amang us but Christian pity and warks of mercy and alms, leaving to God to work in their hearts concerning religion as it pleasit him." This being truly reported again to him by his trunshman, with great reverence he gave thanks, and said he could not make answer for their kirk and the laws and order thereof, only for himself that there were divers Scotsmen wha knew him, and to whom he had shewn courtesy and favour at Calais, and, as he supposit, some of this same town of Anstruther. Sae [I] shew him that the bailes granted him licence with the captains to go to their lodging for their refreshment, but to nane of their men to land till the ower-lord of their town was advertised, and understand the king’s majesty’s mind anent them. Thus, with great courtesy, he departed.

‘That night, the lord being advertised, came, and on the morn, accompanied with a gude number of the gentlemen of the country round about, gave the said general and the captains presence, and after the same speeches, in effect as before, receivit them in his house, and entertained them humanely, and sufferit the sooldiers to come a-laud, and lie all together, to the number of thretteen score, for the maist part young beardless men, silly [weak], trauchled [worn-out], and hungred, to the whilk a day or two kail, pottage, and fish was given. The names of the commanders were Jan Gomez de Medina, general of twenty hulks, Capitan Patricio, Capitan de Legoretto, Capitan de Luffera, Capitan Mauritio, and Signor Serrano.

‘Verily, all the while my heart melted within me for desire of thankfulness to God, when I remembered the prideful and cruel nature of thae people, and how they wald have usit us in case they had landit with their forces amang us; and als, the wonderful work of God’s mercy and justice in making us see them, the chief commanders of them, make sic courtesy to poor seamen, and their souldiers so abjectly to beg alms at our doom and in our streets.

‘In the meantime they knew not of the wrack of the rest, but supposed that the rest of the army was safely returned, till ae day I gat in St Andrews in print the wrack of the galiots in particular, with the names of the principal men, and how they were usit in Ireland and our Highlands, in Wales, and other parts of England; the whilk when I recordit to Jan Gomez, by particular and special names, O then he cried out for grief, bursted and grat. This Jan Gomez shewed great kindness to a ship of our town, whilk he fand arrestit in Calais at his hamecoming, rade to court for her, and made great roose [praise] of Scotland to his king, took the honest men to his house, and enquirit for the laird of Anstruther, for the minister, and his host; and sent hame many commendations. But we thanked God in our hearts, that we had seen them amang us in that form.’

This is on the whole a pleasing anecdote. One cannot, however, but wish that the worthy James had not commenced his speech with a taunt at the religion of the Spaniards, and that he had had the magnanimity on such an occasion to forget any injuries formerly inflicted by that nation upon his.

The shipwrecked Spaniards were not everywhere so well treated. The kirk-session of Perth, May 18, 1589, ordered the keepers of the town-gates to exclude Spaniards and other idle vagabonds and beggars, and commanded that all such persons now in the town should immediately leave it.

‘In the beginning of October [1588], one of these great ships was drove in at the Mull of Kintyre, in which there were five hundred men or thereby; she carried threescore brass cannon in her, besides others, and great store of gold and silver. She was soon after suddenly blown up by powder, and two or three hundred men in her, which happened by some of their own people.’ —Moy. R.

Another of the vessels, having found its way into the Firth of’ Clyde, sank in ten fathom water on a sandy bottom, near Portincross Castle in Ayrshire. Tradition affirms that some of the crew in this case reached the land. A local newspaper, in October 1855, recorded the recent death of Archibald Revie, at Lower Boydstone, Ardrossan, at an advanced age—a descendant of one of the Spanish sailors saved from the Spanish ship at Portincross in 1588, and who ‘retained many of the peculiarities of his race.’ In 1740, a number of pieces of brass and iron ordnance were recovered from this wreck by means of a diving-machine; and one of the latter still lies on the beach beside the old castle, bearing faint traces of the Spanish crown and arms near the breech.

The Earl of Bothwell having been drawn into the designs of the popish lords—though led only by a common hatred of the Chancellor Maitland—raised a company of men, under pretence of an expedition for the pacification of the remote isle of Lewis. Under favour of a royal warrant, he demanded a subsidy of five thousand merks from the city of Edinburgh. Meeting a refusal, he said he should ‘cause the carles disgorge him a thousand crowns in spite of their hearts! There was some resolution in these gentle burghers. When Bothwell impudently carried off one of their number, named James Nicol, to Crichton Castle, as a means of extorting money from him, they ‘threatened to pull Bothwell out of Crichton by the ears, and make his house equal with the ground.’ On their complaint to the king, ‘Bothwell, fearing the king and the town of Edinburgh, set James Nicol at liberty, and so gained nothing but shame and discredit to himself.’—Cal.

Sep 4
Though Eustachius Roche is still described as tacksman-general of the mines, it is to be suspected that that adventure was seen to be unproductive, as we find him now entering upon a new contract with the king for a wholly different object. He proposed to make a superior kind of salt by a cheap process, assigning the profits to the king, excepting only a tenth for himself and his heirs, ‘unsubject to confiscation for ony offence or crime.’ He assured the king that this project would add a hundred thousand merks yearly to his revenue. The king on his part gave him the exclusive right to make salt in the proposed new way, with certain other privileges.—P. C. R.

1589, June 3
A Bond of Association was entered into by Sir Walter Scott of Branxholm and fifty of the most important men of his kin and clan, which throws an important light on the customs of the age. A later and more notable Sir Walter Scott says of this bond— which he had seen in the possession of his cousin, William Scott, Esq. of Raeburn—that ‘it is calculated to secure against any clansman taking any "room" or possession over the head of another of the name. Any one who was accused of having done so, bound himself to stand by the award of five men, to be mutually chosen, bearing the name of Scott. Even if the chief should encroach upon the possessions of any inferior person of the name, he declares he will submit the cause, in like manner, to four persons of the name of Scott; which shews an independence on the part of the clansmen which I was not prepared for. The bond seems to have been calculated to prevent kinsmen from going to law with each other, and to secure a species of justice within the clan, to the advancement of the "guid and godlie purposes" of their chief.’—Pit.

‘In this time, [the Laird of] Easter Wernyss took up 1500 waged men for the king of Navarre, now allegit king of France.’

A sad accident befell in the family of Lord Somerville, at Drum, near Edinburgh.

‘The Lord Somerville having come from Cowthally early in the morning, in regard the weather was hot, he had ridden hard to be at the Drum by ten o’clock, which having done, he laid him down to rest. The servant, with his two sons, William, Master of Somerville, and John his brother, went with the horses to ane shot of land, called the Pretty Shot, directly opposite to the front of the house, where there was some meadow-ground for grazing the horses, and willows to shadow themselves from the heat. They had not long continued in this place, when the Master of Somerville, after some little rest, awaking from his sleep, and finding his pistols that lay hard by him wet with dew, he began to rub and dry them, when unhappily one of them went off the ratch [lock], being lying on his knee and the muzzle turned sideways. The ball struck his brother John directly in the head, and killed him outright, so that his sorrowful brother never had one word from him, albeit he begged it with many tears. A lamentable case, and much to be pitied, two brave young gentlemen so nearly related, and dearly loving one another, who besides their being brethren by birth, were entirely so in affection, communicating all their affairs and designs one to the other, wherein they were never known to differ in the least.

‘The father, hearing the shot, leapt from his [bed] (being then in the chamber of dais), to the south light, and seeing his son and servants all in a cluster, called aloud to know the matter; but receiving no answer, he suspected some mischief, and thereupon flew hastily down the stair, and went directly to the place where they were, which the gentlemen observing, they advised the Master to take him to his horse, until his father’s passion and fury should be over, which at length, upon their earnest entreaty, he did, taking his direct way for Smeaton, where his lady-mother then lived by Smeaton Ford. The father, being come upon the place, first hears the lamentation of the servants, and then sees the sad spectacle of his son all bloody and breathless, with his head laid upon a cloak, whereon he falls himself, and cries aloud: "My son, my son, dead or alive? dead or alive?" embracing him all the time, which he continued for some space, and thereby giving opportunity for his eldest son to escape. At length, finding no motion in his dear son, all in a fury he arises and cries aloud: "Where is that murderer? who has done the deed?" Staring wildly about, missing the Master, he cries out: "Oh, heavens, and is it he? Must I be bereft of two sons in one day? Yes, it must be so, and he shall have no other judge nor executioner but myself and these hands." And with that immediately mounts his horse, commanding two of his servants to attend him, making protestation in the meantime that they should both go to the grave together. But God was more merciful, for by this time the Master was past Smeaton Ford, and before his father came that length, he was at Fallside House, out of all danger. . . . Coming now a little to himself he [the father] began much to condemn this unwarrantable attempt of his, upon second thoughts. Before he came back, the sad object of his sorrow was removed to the place of Drum, and the corpse decently handled by the ladies of Edmonston, Woolmet, and Sheriff-hall, near neighbours, for in less than the hour the report went over all the country. Yea, before the king rose from dinner he had notice of it, being then in Holyroodhouse, with the circumstance of the father’s following the other son with intention to kill him; for which the king, within three days thereafter (the Lord Somerville coming to wait upon his majesty), reproved him by saying "he was a madman; that having lost one son by so sudden an accident, should needs wilfully destroy another himself, in whom, as he was certainly informed, there was neither malice nor design, but a great misfortune, occasioned by unwary handling of the pistol, which should have rather been a matter of regret and sorrow to him that the like had happened in his family, than that he should have sought after revenge. Therefore he commanded him to send for his eldest son, and be reconciled to him, for he knew he was a sober youth, and the very thoughts of his misfortune would afflict him enough, albeit he were not discountenanced by him."’

The unhappy principal in this tragedy was in reality an amiable young man, insomuch as to be called the Good Master of Somerville. ‘I have heard it reported that Sir James Bannatyne of Newhall, one of the senators of the College of Justice, asserted there was not a properer youth trod the streets of Edinburgh, nor one of whom there was greater expectation, than William, Master of Somerville; but when God designs the ruin of a family, all supports are removed, that the fall may be the more sudden, as happened in this young nobleman’s case, who after he had contracted in the latter end of February, and should have been married in April 1591, that very month he took a fever, which kept him long, and so weakened his body that he never recovered, but continued under a languishing sickness for more than ten months. It was supposed the thoughts of his own great misfortune in killing of his brother, the disagreement of his parents . . . . hastened his death. He died at Cowthally in the month of January 1592.

A devote gentleman, William Inglis of East Shiel, as the corpse passed the outer gate, struck upon his breast, and cried out to the hearing of many: "This day the head is as clean taken off the house of Cowthally, as you would strike off the head of a syboe!" And indeed it proved so.’

Aug 30
The king, now hourly expecting the arrival of his Danish bride, is found writing pressing letters to all persons of substance who bore him any good will, for contributions of means towards the proper outset of the court on the occasion. From the Laird of Barnbarroch, he entreated ‘sic quantity of fat beef and mutton on foot, wild-fowls and venison, or other stuff meet for this purpose, as possibly ye may provide and furnish of your awn or by your moyen.’

On the 2d of September, he wrote to Boswell of Balmouto a pressing, pleading letter for the loan of a thousand merks, stating that he had been disappointed of money by any more regular course, on account of its ‘scarcity in thir quarters,’ and expressing his assurance that he, the laird, would ‘rather hurt yourself very far than see the dishonour of your prince and native country.’’

The storm which impeded the Princess Anne’s voyage from Denmark to Scotland was also felt very severely in our country, and a passage-boat between Burntisland and Leith was lost, with an interesting person on board. This was Lady Melville of Garvock, born Jane Kennedy, who had been one of the maids of Queen Mary, had attended her on the scaffold at Fotheringay, and bound the embroidered handkerchief upon her eyes. Jane had subsequently married Sir Andrew Melville, master of household to King James, who, desiring her presence at the reception of his queen, because she was ‘discreet and grave,’ caused her to take this fatal voyage. ‘She, being willing to mak diligence, wald not stay for the storm, to sail the ferry; when the vehement storm drave a ship upon the said boat, and drownit the gentlewoman, and all the persons except twa.’—Mel.

Oct 22
The king, hearing of the detention of his bride by stormy weather, resolved to go to Denmark to bring her home. He sent, ‘directing Robert Jameson, burgess of Air, to bring his ship whilk was callit the JAMES, to the road of Leith, she being ane gallant ship, weel appointit with ordnance, her sails being covent with red taffeta, and her claiths red scarlet.’ On the day noted, he set sail in this vessel, with other five ships in company, and after outriding a gale or some time in the Firth of Forth, proceeded on his course with fair winds. Landing on the 28th at Flaikray, in Norway, he, after some days’ rest, commenced a difficult land-journey to Upslo— now Christiania—where the princess had taken up her residence for the winter. ‘Immediately at his coming (November 19), [he] passed quietly with buits and all, to her hieness . . . . he minded to give her a kiss after the Scots fashion, whilk she refusit, as not being the fashion of her country. Marry, after a few words spoken privily betwixt his majesty and her, there passed familiarity and kisses. They were married four days after at Upslo, and spent the remainder of the winter in Denmark.

1589-90, Feb 4
Hitherto, many of the articles of domestic use now largely manufactured in our country, had been introduced by merchants from abroad. Paper, glass, tanned leather, and soap were of this number. The present reign is the era of the first attempts at a native manufacture of all these articles, as will be fully seen in the following pages.

It was while James was absent on his matrimonial visit to Denmark, that a native manufacture of paper was first spoken of. Peter Groot Heres, a German, and sundry unnamed persons associated with him, proposed to set up this art in Scotland, under favour of certain encouragements which they demanded from the government. On what river they meant to plant their work, does not appear. We only find that the Lords of Council were willing to promote the object, calculating that thus would paper be made cheaper than hitherto, and also that by and by the natives would be enabled to become paper-makers themselves.

They granted to Peter and his co-partners liberty to carry on the manufacture of paper in Scotland for nine years, without competition, personally free from the duties of watching, warding, and tax-paying, and ‘under his majesty’s special protection, maintenance, defence, and sure safeguard.’ The only condition imposed was, that they should begin their work before the ensuing 1st of August, and carry it on constantly during the time for which the privilege was granted; otherwise the licence should be of none effect.—P. C. R.

Feb 8
It is with unexpected pleasure that we find another matter betokening the progress of literature and intelligence only four days after the licence for paper-making. Andro Hart then carried on the business of a bookseller in Edinburgh, and his name appears on so many interesting title-pages, that he is really a notable man of the time. He and John Norton, Englishman, now send a petition to the Privy Council, setting forth ‘what hurt the lieges of this realm susteint through the scarcity of buiks and volumes of all sorts,’ and to what exorbitant prices those had risen which were brought from England. They, ‘upon an earnest zeal to the propagation and incress of vertue and letters within this realm, had, two years ago, enterprisit the hame-bringing of volumes and buiks furth of Almane and Germanie, fra the whilk parts the main part of the best volumes in England are brought, and in this trade have sae behavit themselves that this town is furnist with better buiks and volumes nor it was at ony time heretofore, and the said volumes sauld by them in this country are als guid cheap as they are to be sauld in London or ony other part of England, to the great ease and commodity of all estates of persons within this realm.’ Behold, however, John Gourlay, the customer (that is, farmer of customs), had laid hands upon the books which Hart and Norton were importing, and demanded that they should pay a duty—a demand altogether unprecedented. ‘Upon the like complaint made by Thomas Vautrollier, printer, he obteint ane decreet discharging the provost and bailies of this burgh and their customer fra all asking of ony customs for ony bulks sauld or to be sauld by him.’ The present petitioners only demanded to be so treated likewise. It is gratifying to find that the lords unhesitatingly granted the prayer of the two booksellers, so that the books they imported from Germany would thenceforth be duty-free.—P. C. R.

In the early part of this year, ‘the wicked clan Gregor, so lang continuing in blood, slaughters, herships, manifest reifs, and stouths,’ fell under notice for a frightful outrage. The king had his forest of Glenartney, in Perthshire, under the care of one Drummond, usually called Drummond-ernoch, on account of his having spent part of his life in Ireland. His neighbours, the Macgregors, taking mortal offence at this man, for some cause probably connected with their own misdeeds, fell upon him one day, while he was collecting venison against the return of the king from Denmark with his new-wed spouse. They barbarously cut off the forester’s head, which they carried off with them, wrapped in the corner of a plaid. Soon after, passing the house of Ardvorlich, the lady of which was sister of the murdered man, they entered in peaceful fashion, and were regaled with bread and cheese. While the lady was absent, looking after better entertainment, they placed Drummond-ernoch’s ghastly head on the table, and put a piece of bread and cheese in the mouth, telling him in mockery to eat it, as many a similar morsel he had formerly eaten in that house. The lady, returning, and seeing the frightful object, in which she recognised her brother’s features, fled from the house in a state of distraction, and was recovered to her home and sanity with great difficulty.

This part of the story rests on tradition; but the subsequent procedure of the murderers comes to us on historical authority. The bloody head being brought to the chief of Macgregor in Balquhidder, he and the whole clan assembled in the parish kirk, and the head being then presented, all present laid their hands upon it in succession, avowing that the homicide had been done under their counsel and with their sanction, and swearing to defend the actual committers of the fact with all their power!’

These proceedings being reported to the Privy Council, a commission was granted (February 4, 1590) to the Earl of Huntly, and certain other nobles and gentlemen, to search for the culprits, and, if they should flee, to pursue them with fire and sword. What success attended this edict does not appear.

In spring, while the king was absent in Norway, a General Assembly was held in Edinburgh, and it being found that the country was surprisingly free of all steerage from either papists or evil-doers, the brethren praised God for the same, and agreed that there should be fasting and moderate diet observed every day till the king’s return. ‘The whilk custom, being found very meet for the exercise of the Sabbath, was keepit in Edinburgh, in the houses of the godly, continually thereafter. Sae that, sparing their gross and sumptuous dinners, they usit nocht but a dish of broth, or some little recreation, till night; and that whilk was spared was bestowed on the poor.' Such seems to have been the origin of a custom which many travellers remark in Scotland in the seventeenth century, of having only a lunch instead of dinner on Sunday. Our diarist makes, however, only a faint allusion in the phrase ‘till night,’ to what the same travellers remark, that there was always a hearty supper in the evenings, amply making up for the half-fast of the day, and at which human nature found vent occasionally in a little good-humour and merriment.

May 1
‘The king and queen, with sundry of the nobility and blood-royal of Denmark, accompanied with sixty gentlemen—being seven great ships—convoyed by the grace of God through ane great mist by the navy of England—arrivit in the firth of Leith at two afternoon, and came by boats to Leith, to the great comfort of this nation, being on the shore of na little number.’ The royal party was ‘receivit by the Duke of Lennox, Earls Bothwell and Mar, with great din, and ordnance from Edinburgh Castle, and on the south and east ferries, as by the ships. The king took the queen by the hand, and led her up ane trance, whilk was made for that effect, covered with tapestry and claith of gold, whereon they passed, that their feet should not touch the bare earth: where Mr James Elphinston, ane of the Lords of Session, made ane orison in French, to the praise of God for their prosperous voyage.

‘The queen being placed in her lodging in Thomas Lindsay’s, the king [there] took all the noblemen of Denmark by the hand, every ane after ane other. And thereafter the king passed to the kirk, where the Lord Hamilton and Lord Fleming met her grace and convoyit them. Mr Patrick Galloway made the sermon. His majesty passed to the lodging, where they all remained while [till] the sixth day of the same month, [when] they passed, afternoon, at four hours or thereby, to the Abbey of Holyroodhouse, the king’s grace and noblemen on horse, and the queen’s grace in ane dame’s coach, drawn with aught great cussers of her awn, richly reparrit with claith of gold, silver, and purpour velvet; [and] the town of Edinburgh, Canongate, and Leith, in feir of weir, to the number of 1600 footmen. At the inner yett of the said abbey, the horsemen lichtit, [and] the king took the queen by the hand, and passed through the inner close to the great hall, and through the rest of the chalmers, which were richly hung with claith of gold and silver, and tapestry of silk: the said palace was newly repaired.’—Jo. Hist.

‘There came with the king and queen’s majesty, Callipier, the admiral of Denmark, Peter Monk, the captain of Elsinburgh, Stephen Brahe, Braid Ransome Maugaret, Nicolaus Theophilus, doctor of laws, and Henry Goodlister, captain of Bocastle, as principal and of the council of Denmark; William Vanderwant, who was appointed to wait upon her majesty, with sundry other gentlemen to the number of thirty or thereby, all in gold chains of good fashion. The number of the haul train was two hundred and twenty-three persons, who were all entertained by the king and noblemen of Scotland, and banquetted daily. They were twelve hundred merks every day for their furnishing, during the time of their remaining.’—Moy.’

May 19
The young queen, who had been crowned on the 16th, made her ceremonial entry into Edinburgh by the West Port, sitting in her chariot, which was drawn by eight splendidly caparisoned horses. She was attended by thirty-six Danes on horseback, each accompanied by some Scottish lord or knight. The citizens gave her welcome ‘with great triumph and joy, pageants being erected in every place, adorned with all things befitting. Young boys with artificial wings did fly towards her, and presented two silver keys of the city'—’as use is, under a veil.’ The Castle fired repeatedly in honour of the day, and forty-two young men of the town, dressed in white taffeta and cloth of silver, with gold chains, and disguised as Moon, danced before her along the streets. When she came to the Over Bow: ‘Mr Hercules Rollock, master of the Grammar School, made his orison. Thereafter [she] came to a scaffold at the Butter Tron.  whilk was plenished with the fairest young women of the town, fifty apparelled, with organs playing and musicians singing; where ane bairn made ane Latin orison. At the Tolbooth was younkers on ane scaffold, in women’s claithing, representing Peace, Plenty, Policy, Justice, Liberality, and Temperance [who likewise made her an oration]. ‘Thereafter, [they] passed to the kirk, where Mr Robert Bruce, minister, made the sermon." At the Cross, to which the party next came, there was ‘a covered table, whereon stood cups of gold and silver full of wine, with the goddess of corn and wine sitting thereat, and the corn in heaps by her, who, in Latin, cried that there should be plenty thereof in her time; and upon the side of the Cross sat the god Bacchus upon a puncheon of wine, winking, and casting it by cups full upon the people, besides other of the townsmen, that cast apples and nuts. Among them; and the Cross itself ran claret wine upon the causey for the loyalty of that day.’

‘All curious pastimes and conceits
Could be imaginat by man,
Was to be seen on Edinburgh gaits,
Frae time that bravity began:
Ye micht have heard on every street
Trim melody and music sweet.

* * * *

‘Organs and regals there did carp
With their gay glittering golden strings;
There was the hautboy and
the harp,
Flaying maist sweet and pleasant springs:
And some on lutes did play and sing,
Of instruments the only king.

‘Viols and virginals were here,
With gitterns maist jucundious;
Trumpets and timbrels made great beir,
With instruments melodious:
The seistar and the sumphion,
With clarche, pipe, and darion."

The variety of instruments here specified as in use in Edinburgh in 1590, will probably excite surprise.

From the Cross the queen proceeded to the Salt Tron, ‘where was represented the king’s grace’ genealogy in the form of a tree, from the Bruce till himself . . . . ane bairn at the root of the tree made the orison in Latin describing the haul bairns and branches. And syne [they] come to the Nether Bow, where the seven planets were, and gave the weird [fortune] in Latin. All their reasons was to the thanking of God and loving of the king and queen’s grace, and spoken in Latin because the queen understood na Scots.’

May 23
This evening, being a Sunday, the Danish nobles and gentlemen who had convoyed the queen to Scotland, received a formal entertainment from the magistrates of Edinburgh. A handsome alcoved room, which still exists, in the house of the Master of the Mint, in the Cowgate, was appropriated for the purpose. The style of the banquet seems to have been more remarkable for abundance than for elegance. There was simply bread and meat, with four boins of beer, four gang of ale, and four puncheons of wine. The house, however, was hung with tapestry; and the tables were decorated with chandlers and flowers. We hear, too, of napery, of ‘twa dozen great vessels,’ and of ‘cupbuirds, and men to keep them.’ The furnishing of all these articles was distributed among the city dignitaries, apparently with some reference to their respective professions.’

June 3
It forms an amusing commentary on the late grand proceedings of King James, when we find him now trying to squeeze voluntary contributions out of his courtiers and richer subjects generally, for the purpose of getting the expenses paid. Under the date marginally noted, he entreats the Laird of Barnbarroch to send immediately the remaining half of his subscription of two hundred pounds to Alexander Lawson, ‘for the relief of him and sic others as had the charge and oversicht of their houses, that, in default thereof, they be not troubled by the furnishers, wha, being for the maist part puir folks, shores [threatens] daily to use the rigour and extremity of the law against them.’ There is a similar letter written in October to the Laird of Caldwell, to quicken him in sending, what had formerly been asked, ‘according to the custom observit of auld by our maist noble progenitors;’ namely, ‘ane hackney for transporting of the lathes accompanying the queen our bedfellow.’ ‘In doing whereof,’ he goes on to say, ‘ye will do us richt acceptable pleasure, to be rememberit in any your adoes, where we may give you proof of our remembrance of your guid will accordingly. Otherwise, upon the information we have receivit of sic as ye have, we will cause the readiest ye have to be ta’en by our authority and brought in till us.’

After reading these curious missives, it is not difficult to believe in the existence of a third, which unfortunately has escaped print, in which James addresses his cousin the Earl of Mar, beseeching the loan of ‘the pair of silken hose,’ in order to grace his royal person at the reception of the Spanish ambassador!

In this month commenced a feud which for many years disturbed the peace of the upper part of the valley of the Tweed. The fact in which it took its rise was the slaughter of Patrick Veitch, son of William Veitch of Dawick (now New Posso), by or through James Tweedie of Drunielzier, Adam Tweedie of Dreva, William Tweedie of the Wrae, John Crichton of Quarter, Andrew Crichton in Cardon, and Thomas Porteous of Glenkirk. These persons were in prison in Edinburgh for the fact in July of this year; but the case was deferred to the aire of Peebles. Meanwhile, on the 20th of the month just mentioned, two relatives of the slain youth— James Veitch, younger, of North Synton, and Andrew Veitch, brother of the Laird of Tourhope—set upon John Tweedie, tutor of Drumelzier and burgess of Edinburgh, as he walked the streets of the capital, and killed him. Thus were the alleged murderers punished through a near relative, probably uncle, of the principal party. Six days after, the two Veitches were delated for the fact, and we find Veitch of Dawick taking their part in true Scottish style, by joining in surety for their appearance at trial to the extent of ten thousand merks. After some further procedure, the king was pleased to interfere with an order for the liberation of the Veitches; whereupon a Presbyterian historian cuttingly remarks: ‘He had soon forgot his promises made in the Great Kirk."

It would appear that, within a short space of time, the Tweedies of Drumelzier took revenge to a considerable extent on the Veitches: in particular they effected the slaughter of James Geddes of Glenhegden, who seems to have been brother-in-law to a principal gentleman of that family. The recital of James Geddes’s death in the Privy Council Record, affords by its minuteness a curious insight into the manner of a daylight street-murder of that time. ‘James,’ it is stated, ‘being in Edinburgh the space of aught days together, haunting and repairing to and fra openly and publicly, met almaist daily with the Laird [of Drumelzier] upon the Hie Street. The said laird, fearing to set upon him, albeit James was ever single and alane, had espies and moyeners [retainers] lying await for him about his lodging and other parts where he repairit. Upon the 29th day of December [1592], James being in the Cowgate, at David Lindsay’s buith, shoeing his horse, being altogether careless of his awn surety, seeing there was naething intendit again him by the said laird divers times of before when they met upon the Hie Gait; the said laird, being advertised by his espies and moyeners, divided his haill friends and servants in twa companies, and directit John and Robert Tweedie, his brothers-german, Patrick Porteous of Hawkshaw, John Crichton of Quarter, Charles Tweedie, household servant to the said James, and Hob Jardine, to Cow’s Close, being directly opposite to David Lindsay’s buith, and he himself; being accompanied with John and Adam Tweedie, sons to the Guidman of Dreva, passed to the Kirk Wynd, a little bewest the said buith, to await that the said James sould not have escaped; and baith the companies, being convenit at the foot of the said close, finding the said James standing at the buith door with his back to them, they rushit out of the said close, and with shots of pistolets slew him behind his back.’

The guilty parties were summoned, and, not appearing, were denounced as rebels.

In June 1593, we find James Tweedie of Drumeizier released from Edinburgh Castle, under surety that he should presently enter himself in ward in the sheriffdom of Fife. We next hear of the two belligerent parties in January 1600, when they were commanded to come and subscribe letters of assurance ‘for the feid and inimitie standing betwixt them.’ The king seems to have been content with the consideration that they had now done pretty full justice upon each other, and it was therefore unnecessary for him to trouble himself any further in the matter. It was probably with some surprise that, many years after, while residing in England, he heard that these two Tweeddale clans continued to keep up their feud. (See under March 1611.)

July 22
Two extraordinary trials took place, affording the most striking illustrations of the vices and superstitions of the time.

The family of Monro of Foulis, in Ross-shire, which still flourishes, was even then one of great antiquity, being represented by the seventeenth baron in succession. Holding possessions on the borders of the Highlands, it hovered between the characters of the Celtic chief and the Lowland gentleman. Ross of Balnagowan was a rich neighbour of similar character. The Lady Foulis of the year 1576—to use her common appellation—was Catherine Ross of the latter family, the second wife of her husband. She had a son named George; but the succession was barred to him by two sons of the previous marriage of her husband, Robert and Hector.

Her husband and his eldest son were dead when, at the above date, she and Hector, then representative of the family, were tried separately for sundry offences, Hector being, strange to say, the private pursuer against his step-mother, although he had immediately after to take his own place at the bar as a criminal. The dittay against the lady set forth a series of attempts at serious crime, partly prosecuted by natural means, and partly by superstitious practices. It appeared that she desired to put her eldest step-son out of the way, not, as might have been supposed, to favour the succession of her own offspring, but that her brother, George Ross of Balnagowan, might be free to marry Robert Mouro’s wife; to which end she also took steps for the removal of the wife of George Ross. It appears that she was not only prompted to, but assisted in her attempts by George Ross himself, although no judicial notice was taken of his criminality. Catherine Ross, described as daughter of Sir David Ross of Balnagowan, was also concerned. Having formed her design some time in the year 1576, Lady Foulis opened negotiations with various wretched persons in her neighbourhood, who practised witchcraft; and first with one named William M’Gilivray, whom she feed with a present of linen cloth, and afterwards with sums of money. One Agnes Roy, a notorious witch, was sent by her to secure the services of a particularly potent sorceress, named Marion M’Kean M’Alister, or more commonly Lasky Loncart, who was brought to Foulis, and lodged with Christian Ross Malcomson, that she might assist with her diabolic arts. Christian, too, was sent to Dingwall, to bring John M’Nillan, who appears to have been a wizard of note. Another, named Thomas M’Kean M’Allan M’Endrick, was taken into counsel; besides whom there were a few subordinate instruments. Some of the horrible crew being assembled at Canorth, images of the young Laird of Foulis and the young Lady Balnagowan were formed of butter, set up and shot at by Lasky Loncart with an elf-arrow; that is, one of those flint arrow-heads which are occasionally found, and believed by the ignorant to be fairy weapons, while in reality they are relics of our savage ancestors. The shot was repeated eight times, but without hitting the images; so this was regarded as a failure. On another day, images of clay were set up, and shot at twelve times, yet equally without effect. Linen cloth had been provided, wherewith to have swathed the images in the event of their being hit; after which they would have been interred under the bridge-end of the stank of Foulis. The object of all these proceedings was of course to produce the destruction of the persons represented by the images. This plan being ineffectual, Lady Foulis and her brother are described as soon after holding a meeting in a kiln at Drimnin, to arrange about further procedure. The result was a resolution to try the more direct means of poison with both the obnoxious persons. A stoup of poisoned ale was prepared and set aside, but was nearly all lost by a leak in the vessel. Lady Foulis then procured from Lasky Loncart a pipkin of ranker poison, which she sent to young Monro by her nurse on purpose to have deitroyed him. It fell by the way and broke, when the nurse tasting the liquor, was immediately killed by it. It was said that ‘the place where the pig [pipkin] brake, the gerse that grew upon the samen was so heich bye [beyond] the nature of other gerse, that neither cow nor sheep ever previt [tasted] thereof yet; whilk is manifest and notorious to the haill country of Ross.’ Lady Foulis is accused of afterwards making renewed attempts, not merely to poison young Monro, but many of his relations, particularly those who stood in the way of her own son’s succession. There seems, however, to have been no success in this quarter. Matters turned out better with the innocent young Lady Balnagowan. Regarding her, Lady Foulis is represented as thus expressing herself, that ‘she would do, by all kind of means, wherever it might be had, of God in heaven or the devil in hell, for the destruction and down-putting of Marjory Campbell.’ By corrupting a cook, Lady Foulis contrived that some rat-poison should be administered to her victim in a dish of kid’s kidneys. Catherine Niven, who had brought this poison, ‘scunnerit [revolted] with it sae meikle, that she said it was the sairest and maist cruel sight that ever she saw, seeing the vomit and vexation that was on the young Lady Balnagowan and her company.’ By vomiting, death seems to have been evaded, but the lady contracted in consequence what is described at the trial as an incurable illness.

Not long after these events, they became the subject of judicial investigation, and Christian Ross and Thomas M’Kean were apprehended, brought to trial, convicted, and burnt, November 1577. It is alleged that, a few days before they suffered, Lady Foulis came into their presence, and referring to the common reports against her, accusing her of sorcery and poisoning, declared herself ready to abide a trial; when, there being no one present to accuse her, she asked instruments to that effect; after which, mounting a horse which had been kept ready, she rode away to Caithness, and remained there three-quarters of a year. By the iunercession of the Earl of Caithness, she was then taken back by her husband; and there seems to have been no further notice taken of her case for several years. At length, in 1589, her husband being dead, his successor, Robert Monro, purchased a commission for the trial of certain witches and sorcerers, aiming evidently at retribution upon his wicked step-mother. According to the dittay: ‘Before any publication thereof, and ere he might have convenient time to put the same in execution, in respect of the troubles that occurred in the north, thou, knawing thyself guilty, and fearing to bide the trial of ane assize, faud the moyen [found the means] to purchase ane suspension of the said commission; and causit insert in the said suspension, not only thy awn name, and sic others as was specified in the said commission, but also certain others who were not spoken of hilk, gif thou had been ane honest woman, and willing to abide trial, thou wald never have causit suspension of ony sic commission, but wald rather have fortherit the same.’ In the same year, Robert Monro died, under what circumstances does not appear, leaving the succession to his brother Hector, who now appeared as nominal prosecutor of his mother-in-law.

In the circumstances under which the trial took place, the jury being a packed one of humble dependents on the Foulis family, a conviction was not to be expected. Lady Foulis was ‘pronounced to be innocent and quit of the haill points of the dittay; whereupon she asked instruments.’

The dittay against Hector Monro of Foulis sets forth sundry affairs of necromancy, in which he was alleged to have been concerned along with reputed sorcerers. He had, in August 1588, communed with three notorious witches for the recovery of his elder brother, the then young laird. For this purpose, they ‘poffit the hair of Robert Monro, and plet the nails of his fingers and taes;’ seeking by these devilish means to have cured him of his sickness. Meeting no success, they told him he had been too late in sending for them. He, for fear of his father, conveyed them away under silence of night.

Having himself taken sickness in the ensuing January, while lying at a house in Alness, he had Marion M’Ingarroch, a notorious witch, brought to him for the purpose of obtaining the benefit of her skill ‘She, after her coming to you,’ says the dittay, ‘gave you three drinks of water forth of three stanes, whilk she had; and, after lang consultation had with her, she declarit that there was inc remede for you to recover your health, without the principal man of your blude should suffer death for you.’ Having pitched upon his half-brother George, he sent for him from the hunting, and, as a means of working his destruction, gave his left hand into George’s right hand, taking care at the same time not to be the first to speak. ‘That night, at ane after midnight, the said witch, with certain of her complices, passed forth of the house where ye lay, and took with them spades, and passed to ane piece of earth, lying betwixt twa sundry superiors’ lands . . . . and made ane grave of your length, and took up the ower [upper] part thereof, and laid it aside; the said earth being near the sea-flood. And, this being done, she came hame, and convenit certain of your familiars, that knew thir secrets, and informit them what should be every ane’s part, in taking of you forth to be eardit in the foresaid grave, for your relief and to the death of your brother George. Whase [that is, the accused’s] answer was, that gif George should depart suddenly, the bruit [report] wald rise, and all thir lives wald be in danger; and therefore willit her to delay the said George’s death ane space; and she took in hand to warrant him unto the 17th day of April next thereafter. And after thir plats, laid by the said witch, she and certain of your servants . . . . pat you in ane pair of blankets, and carried you forth to the said grava. And they were all commanded to be dumb and never to speak ane word, unto the time that she and your foster-mother should first speak with her master, the devil. And being brought forth, [you] was laid in the said grave; and the green earth which was cuttit, was laid aboon, and halden down with staves, the said witch being beside you. . . . . Christian Neil, your foster-mother, was commanded to run the breadth of nine rigs, and in her hand Neill younger, Hector Leith’s son. And, how soon Christian had run the breadth of the nine rigs, she came again to the grave, and inquirit at the said witch, "Whilk was her choice?" Wha answered and said, that Mr Hector was her choice to live, and your brother George to die for you. And this form was used thrice that night; and thereafter ye was carried hame, all the company being dumb, and was put in your bed.’

Contrary to what one would expect of an invalid exposed in this manner on a January night, Hector Monro recovered. His brother George took ill in April 1590, and lingered to the beginning of July, when he died. No doubt being entertained that his mortal illness was caused by witchcraft, his mother, the subject of the preceding trial, appears to have immediately commenced a prosecution against Hector, now laird; and the result was a trial following immediately that in which he had appeared as prosecutor against her. This trial had the same issue as the other, the jury being composed in a similar manner.—Pit.

Aug 18
Bessie Roy, nurse in the family of Lesly of Balquhain, was tried for sundry points of witchcraft, leading to the death of several persons. One minor offence, particularly insisted on in this woman’s case, was her being ‘a common away-taker of women’s milk.’ It was alleged that, while living in the family of William King at Barra, she had bewitched away the milk of a poor woman named Bessie Steel, who came seeking alms. ‘Sitting down by the fire,’ says the dittay, ‘to give her bairn souk [suck], thou being ane nourice thyself, and perceiving the poor woman to have mair abundance of milk than thou had; and seeing that the goodwife, thy hussie [housewife], should have deteinit the poor woman and given her the bairn to foster; thou, by thy devilish incantations and witchcraft, abstracted and took away her milk. And immediately after the poor woman was past out of the house, she perceived her milk to be taken away, came again to the said house, and compleinit to the goodwife, that the nurse had taken away her milk, and said: "Gif she were not restorit to her milk, she should divulgate the same through the country, and shaw how ye had used her." And thou, fearing thy devilish craft to be revealed, said to the poor woman: "Gif I have thy milk, come sic a night to me to this house, and ask it for God’s sake, and thou sall have it." Likeas the poor woman, being glad to receive her milk again, came that same night as thou appointed her, and lay in the house beside ye all night; and about the mids of the night, thou cried upon her and ‘wakened her, and bade her receive her milk; and incontinent she wakened, and her paps sprang out full of milk, and remained with her thereafter.’ Bessie was pronounced innocent by the jury.—Pit.

The great Highland family now represented by the Marquis of Breadalbane had at this time for its head Sir Duncan Campbell of Glenurchy, ordinarily called Donacha Dhu nan Curich (Black Duncan of the Cowl), a man of considerable force of character, and, for his time, large means, who died at an advanced age in 1631. He was distinguished for building, planting, and improving; had the taste to hire artists to decorate his house; and, some years after this time, was one of the most prominent patrons of the Scottish Vandyke, George Jameson.

The household books of this great Celtic chief exhibit his style of life about the time here noted. His rents were principally paid in kind, and the corn, cattle, and poultry thus supplied by the tenantry went directly to the support of the laird and his household. ‘In 1590, the family spent their time between Balloch and Finlarig. The oatmeal consumed was 364 bolls; the malt, 207 bolls (deducting a small quantity of struck barley used in the kitchen). They used 90 beeves ("neats," "stirks," or "fed oxen"), more than two-thirds consumed fresh; 20 swine; 200 sheep; 424 salmon, far the greater portion being from the western rivers; 15,000 herrings; 30 dozen of hard fish; 1805 "heads" of cheese, new and old, weighing 325 stone; 49 stones of butter; 26 dozen loaves of wheaten bread; of wheat flour, 3¼ bolls. The wine brought from Dundee was claret and white wine, old and new, in no very large quantities. [The malt furnished abundance of-ale of three kinds—ostler ale, household ale, and best ale, serving, doubtless, for the different grades of persons in the family] Of spices and sweet-meats, we find only notice on one occasion of small quantities of saffron, mace, ginger, pepper, "raises of cure," plumdamas, and one sugar-loaf.’

While the Laird of Glenurchy thus kept house in Strathtay, Lord Lovat supported a ménaqe not greatly different in Inverness-shire. The weekly expenditure of provisions in his house included seven bolls of malt, seven bolls of meal, and one of flour. Each year seventy beeves were consumed, besides venison, fish, poultry, kid, lamb, veal, and all sorts of feathered game in profusion. His lordship imported wines, sugars, and spices from France, in return for the salmon produced by his rivers. He was celebrated for a liberal hospitality; and when he died in 1631, five thousand armed followers and friends attended his funeral, for all of whom there would be entertainment provided.

The rude abundance shewn in these two establishments, taken in connection with the account presently to be given of the outward state of the Marquis of Huntly, the reports afforded by the Water Poet of the hospitalities he experienced in the braes of Aberdeenshire and Morayshire, and other particulars involved in our chronicle, ought somewhat to modify the prevalent notions as to the poverty of the Celtic part of Scotland in this age. There was, indeed, no manufacturing industry worth speaking of; but the natural wealth of the country, the cattle, the wild animals, and the rain, seem to have furnished the people with no inconsiderable share of the comforts of life. It will be found, too, that the mansions of Glenurchy and Huntly, a few years after this date, exhibited elegant architecture and decoration.

The rich temporalities of the Abbey of Deir, in Aberdeenshire, had been held since the Reformation by one who was no friend to the Reformed clergy—Robert Keith, second son of William, fourth Earl Marischal. In 1587, they had been erected into a temporal lordship, under the name of the Lordship of Altrie, in their possessor’s favour, to descend, after his death, to his nephew, George Earl Marischal. There was one malcontent with this arrangement—Robert Keith of Benholm, brother of the earl— probably because he had concluded in his own mind that the abbey-lands formed a more appropriate estate for a cadet than for the chief of the family, the latter being already a rich man. It would appear, however, that the earl was understood to have requited the king for the gift by the splendid style in which he conducted his ambassage to Denmark, when negotiating the royal marriage.

At the present date, Robert Keith made an attempt to take forcible possession of the abbey—an act which would have been rash and dangerous at any ordinary time, but might look feasible enough in an age so full of violences of all kinds as the present. We learn that he kept the abbey for six weeks, at the end of which he was driven out by an armed company brought against him by the Earl Marischal. Then retiring to the castle of Fedderat, he stood a siege of three days, which ended in his coming to a truce with his brother, upon what terms does not appear.

The abbacy was well worthy of a struggle, as in 1565 it comprehended a rental of £572, 8s. 6d., with thirteen and a half bolls of wheat, fourteen chalders and ten bolls of beir, and sixty-three chalders nine bolls of meal. The revenue of the earldom to which this became an addition on the death of Lord Altrie in 1593, has been stated at an amount for which there may be some difficulty in obtaining credence—namely, 270,000 merks. Lord Marisehal could enter Scotland at Berwick, and travel in the leisurely style of those days through the country to John o’ Groat’s House, and never need to take a meal or a night’s rest off his own lands. That he used his wealth generously, no one can deny, when it is remembered that he bestowed part of it in founding the Marischal College in Aberdeen. Yet, in the eyes of the common people, a weird hung over him. It was thought he did ill to stain his hands with the plunder of the old Cistercian monastery on the banks of the Ugie.

‘This Earl George, his first wife, daughter to the Lord Home, being a woman of a high spirit and of a tender conscience, forbids her husband to have such a consuming moth in his house as was the sacrilegious meddling with the abbacy of Deft. But fourteen score chalders of meal and beir was a sore tentation; and he could not weel endure the rendering back of such a morsel. Upon his absolute refusal of her demand, she had this vision . . . . she saw a great number of religious men, in their habit, come forth of that abbey to the strong craig of Dunnottar, which is the principal residence of that family. She also saw them set themselves round about the rock, to get it down and demolish it, having no instruments but only penknives; wherewith they foolishly (as it seemed to her) began to pick at the craig. She smiled to see them intend so fruitless an enterprise, and went to call her husband, to scoff and jeer them out of it. When she had (and him, and brought him to see these silly monks at their foolish work, behold! the whole craig, with all his strong and stately buildings, was by their penknives undermined and fallen in the sea, so as there remained nothing but the rack of their rich furniture and stuff floating on the waves of a raging and tempestuous sea."

The earl is believed to have mocked the popular notions and his wife’s foreboding dream, by inscribing on a tower he built at Deir, and likewise on the wall of his new college, the defying legend:


The greatness of the Keith Marischal family probably seemed to him as firmly set as the old Castle of Dunnottar itself on its conglomerate basis beside the sea. When the above story was put down in writing, sixty years had elapsed, and the narrator could not but remark the reduction which the civil war and usurpation of Cromwell had by that time wrought upon the once enormous wealth of the house of Keith Marischal What would he have felt, could he have known that in sixty years from his time, the family would be out of lands and titles, exiles from their native country; or that in sixty more, there would not be a male descendant of the Earls Marischal in existence, of cadency later than the fifteenth century, while the ancient fortress of Dunnottar would stand roofless and grass-grown, and, except for the melancholy interest of the passing visitor, might as well be crumbled beneath the waves that beat upon the subjacent cliffs!

Dec 26
A series of extraordinary trials for witchcraft and other crimes commenced at this date. One David Seaton, dwelling in Tranent, suspected his servant-maid, Geilie Duncan, of a supernatural power of curing sickness, and, having subjected her to the torture of the pilniewinks (a screw for the fingers), soon extorted from her, not only a confession that the devil had given her the power of a witch, but information inculpating a number of persons in the like criminality. Among these were John Fian (alias Cunningham), schoolmaster at Prestonpans; Agnes Sampson, a midwife at Keith; Barbara Napier, the wife of a citizen of Edinburgh; and Eupham M’Calyean, a lady of rank, daughter of a deceased judge of the Court of Session. The confessions of these persons, for the most part wrung from them by torture, form a strange jumble of possible and impossible, of horrible and ludicrous things; nor are they even devoid of historical importance, seeing that they involved the honour of the Earl of Bothwell, who was thus apparently led into those troubles from which he never got free, and by which the peace of the king and his kingdom was for some years seriously compromised.

Fian, who was a young man, confessed to some wicked arts which he had practised for obtaining the love of a young woman of his neighbourhood. There was nothing in them or their effects but what is easily reconcilable with natural fact, even to the striking of a rival with a sort of madness, under which, when brought into the king’s chamber, where Fian was under examination, he fell a-bounding and capering with an energy which it required many persons to restrain, and this for an hour together, at the end of which he declared that he had been in a sound sleep. But Fian also admitted, though only under torture, his having had conferences with the devil; he had attended various meetings of witches with the Enemy of Man, some of which took place in North Berwick Kirk, and on these occasions he had acted as registrar or clerk of proceedings. He had also been one of a party of witches which went off from Prestonpans one night to a ship at sea, which they sunk by their incantations. He had chased a cat at Tranent, with the design of throwing it into the sea, in order to raise storms for the destruction of shipping; and in this chase it was alleged that he was borne above the ground, and had leaped a wall, the head of which he could not, but for witchcraft, have touched with his hand. Out of many facts laid to his charge at his trial, there is one which modem science has no difficulty in explaining upon natural principles—’ Passing to Tranent on horseback, and ane man with him, [he] by his devilish craft, raisit up four candles upon the horse’s twa lugs [ears], and ane other candle upon the staff whilk the man had in his hand, and gave sic licht as gif it had been daylicht; like as the said candles returnit with the said man at his hame-coming, and causit him fall dead at the entry within the house.’

After his first examination and confession, Fian was put into a separate room, where he quickly came to a state of penitence, renounced the devil and his works, and professed to have returned to God. Next day he told his keepers that he had had a Vision of the devil, who, finding him a determined rebel against his authority, said: ‘Once ere thou die thou shalt be mine;’ after which he broke a white wand which he held in his hand, and vanished. Fian soon after contrived to escape from prison, but was retaken and brought back, when, being found to deny his former confession, the king expressed his belief that he must have entered into a new compact with the Prince of Darkness. His person was searched for marks, but in vain; and he was then subjected to tortures of the direst kind, with a view to bringing him back to his confession. The nails of the poor wretch were torn away with pincers; needles were thrust up to the heads in his fingers, and his legs were crushed in the boots till ‘the blood and marrow spouted forth.’ He resisted all, and thus only impressed the king and others with the conviction that the devil had entered into his heart. He was then arraigned, condemned, and burned.

The trials of three of the women inculpated took place in the course of a few ensuing months—that of Agnes Sampson on the 27th of January 1591. At the previous examinations, the king presided, manifesting a deep interest in the declarations of the prisoners, as if he read therein the materials of a new branch of science; and, indeed, there can be little doubt that what he now learned formed the groundwork of his subsequent work on Demonology.

The cases were the more remarkable on account of the apparent character and station of the culprits. Sampson was a grave, matron-like woman, who gave composed, pertinent answers to all that was put to her; while Napier and M’Calyean belonged to the upper class of society. Sampson’s dittay consists of no fewer than fifty-three articles, each charging some distinct form or act of sorcery, most of them cures or attempts to cure, or else prophecies of events which actually came to pass, all being done with the assistance of her familiar, the devil. The various articles, numerous as they are, must have been founded on the confessions previously drawn from the accused by means of the inhuman torture of a rope twisted round the head, which she is said to have endured for an hour unmoved. It was alleged that for her cures she uttered incantations in rhyme; but these appear to have had nothing devilish in them, one being merely a rough version of the Apostles’ Creed, while another runs as follows:

‘All kinds of ills that ever may be,
In Christ’s name I conjure ye;
I conjure ye baith mair and less,
With all the vertues of the Mess;
And richt sae, by the nailis sae,
That nailit Jesus and nae mae;
And richt sae, by the samen blude,
That reekit o’er the ruthful rood:
Furth of the flesh and of the bane,
And in the erd and in the stane,
I conjure ye in God’s name!’

In two or three cases, one is reminded of the doctrines of modern mesmerism. Being called to see a sick boy at Prestonpans, she only graipit him—that is, felt him over—and he was healed. Some cattle she had cured by going up between them in their stalls, ‘straking their backs and wames [stroking their backs and bellies], and saying Ave Maria oft ower.’ The thirty-fifth count charges her with ‘curing Robert Kerse in Dalkeith, wha was heavily tormented with witchcraft and disease laid on him by ane westland warlock, when he was in Dumfries; whilk sickness she took upon herself, and keepit with great groaning and torment till the morn; on whilk time there was ane great din heard in the house; whilk sickness she cast off herself in the close, to the effect ane cat or dog might have gotten the same; and, notwithstanding, the same was laid upon Alexander Douglas in Dalkeith, wha dwined and departed therewith, and the said Robert Kerse was made hale.’

A curious affair is related as taking place at a gentleman’s house near Edinburgh. ‘When she was sent for to heal the auld Lady Edmestone, when she lay sick, before the said Agnes departit she tauld to the gentlewomen that she should tell them that night whether the lady wald heal or nocht; and appointit them to be in the garden after supper, betwix five and sax at even. She passit to the garden to devise upon her prayer, on what time she chargit the devil, calling him Elva, to come and speak to her; wha came in ower the dyke, in likeness of ane dog, and came sae near her, that she was afraid, and chargit him "on the law that he lived on," to come nae nearer, but to answer her; and she demandit "whether the lady wald live or not." He said: "Her days were gane." When he demandit: "Gif the gentlewomen her dochters, where they were?" And she said: "That the gentlewomen said, that they were to be there." He answerit: "Ane of them sould be in peril, and that he sould have ane of them." She answerit: "It sould not be sae;" and sae [he] departit frae her yowling. Frae this time till after supper, he remainit in the wall [well]. When the gentlewomen came in, the dog came out of the wall, and appearit to them; whereat they were affrayit. In the meantime, ane of the said gentlewomen, the Lady Torsonce, ran to the wall, being forcit and drawn by the devil, wha wald have drownit her, were not the said Agnes and the rest of the gentlewomen gat ane grip of her, and with all their forces drew her back again, whilk made them all affrayit. The dog passit away thereafter with ane yowl. Then she said to the gentlewomen that she could not help the lady, in respect that her prayer stoppit, and that she was sorry for it.....

On Sampson’s trial, some of the transactions first revealed in Fian’s case came out in greater detail, particularly the night-meeting of the sorcerers of the district with their grisly master at North Berwick Kirk. What follows was the woman’s own confession before the king: ‘The devil, in man’s likeness, met her going out in the fields from her awn house in Keith, betwix five and sax at even, being her alane, and commandit her to be at North Berwick Kirk the next nicht. She passit there on horseback, convoyit by her good-son, called John Couper, and lichtit at the kirk-yard: a little before she came to it, about eleven hours at even, they dancit alangs the kirk-yard. Geilie Duncan playit to them on ane trump. John Fian, missalit [masked], led all the rest; the said Agnes and her daughter followit next; besides thir, wee [little] Kate Gray, George Mowat’s wife, Robert Grierson, Catherine Duncan, Bessie Wright, Isobel Gylour, John Ramsay’s wife, Annie Richardson, Jonet Gaw, Nicol Murray’s wife tailor, Christian Carrington alias Lukit, Maisie Aitchison, Marion Paterson, Alexander Whitelaw, Marion Nicholson, Marion Bailie, Jonet Nicholson, John Graymeal, Isobel Lauder, Helen White, Margaret Thomson, Marion Shiel, Helen Lauder, Archy Hennel’s wife, Duncan Buchanan, Marion Congleton, Bessie Gullan, Bessie Brown the smith’s wife, Thomas Burnhill and his wife, Gilbert M’Gill, John M’Gill, Catherine M’Gill, with the rest of their complices, above ane hundred persons, whereof there was sax men, and all the rest women. The women first made their homage, and next the men. The men were turned nine times withershins about [contrary to the direction of the sun], and the women sax times.’ Another account, from Sampson’s confessions, states that the witches took hands and danced a reel to Geilie Duncan’s music, singing in one voice:

'Cummer, go ye before; cummer, go ye;
Gif ye will not go before, cummer, let me.’

Geilie Duncan, being sent for, came and played the very tune over again, upon a Jew’s harp, before the king.

To proceed with the narrative as given in the dittay: ‘John Fian blew up the doors, and blew in the lichts, whilk were like meikle black candles sticking round about the pulpit. The devil start up himself in the pulpit, like ane meikle black man, and callit every man by his name, and every ane answerit: "Here, Master."


Robert Grierson being namit, they ran all hirdy-girdy, and were angry; for it was promisit, that he should be callit "Robert the Comptroller, alias Rob the Rower," for expreming of his name. The first thing he demandit was, "Gif they [had] keepit all promise and been guid servants?" and "What they had done since the last time they had convenit?" On his command, they openit up the graves, twa within and ane without the kirk, and took off the joints of their fingers, tacs, and knees, and partit them amang them; and the said Agnes Sampson gat for her part ane winding-sheet and twa joints, whilk she tint negligently. The devil commandit them to keep the joints upon them, while [fill] they were dry, and then to make ane powder of them, to do evil withal. Then he commandit them to keep his commandments, whilk were to do all the evil they could.’ The devil then ordered them to perform an act of homage towards himself, which does not admit of description, but which may be said to have been at least one degree more humiliating than the kissing of the papal great toes. In the account of the confessions, it is stated that he inveighed against the king, and, being asked why he had such a hatred to him, answered: ‘By reason the king is the greatest enemy he hath in the world.’ According to the dittay, the devil ‘had on him ane gown and ane hat, whilk were baith black; and they that were assembled, part stood and part sat. John Fian was ever nearest the devil, at his left elbock; Graymeal keepit the door.’

Mrs Sampson was adjudged to be taken to the Castle-hill, and there strangled at a stake, and her body burned to ashes.

Barbara Napier was tried, May 8, 1591, on charges similar to those preferred against Sampson: she was found guilty of a few of the less important articles, but acquitted of being at the North Berwick convention and other more grave charges; nevertheless, she was condemned to death. The king was highly incensed at the partial acquittal, and came in person to court to preside at a trial of the jurors for wilful error, when they contrived to avert his wrath by throwing themselves on his mercy. After all, Napier had execution delayed on account of pregnancy, and in the end was set at liberty. Of the royal leniency on this occasion, the clergy did not fail to take note. It will be found that they twitted the king with it some time after.

At Sampson’s trial, the only charge against her in which the safety of the king was involved, was the helping to raise a storm to stop the coming of the queen to Scotland. But now, on the trial of Napier, more serious charges were preferred. It was alleged that at Lammas last there had been a witch-meeting at Aitchison’s Haven, and in the midst of it was the devil, ‘in likeness of ane black man.’ ‘Agnes Sampson proponit the destruction of his hieness’ person, saying to the devil: "We have ane turn to do, and we wald be at it if we could, and therefore help us to it." The devil answerit, "he sould do what he could, but it wald be lang to; because it wald be thorterit [thwarted];" and he promisit to her and them ane picture of wax, and ordenit her and them to hing, roast, and drop ane taid [toad], and to lay the drops of the taid, mixed with strong wash, ane adder-skin, and the thing in the forehead of ane new foalit foal, in his hieness’ way, where it micht drop upon his hieness’ head or his body, for his hieness’ destruction. . . . Agnes Sampson was appointit to mak the picture [of the king], and to give it to the devil to be enchantit, whilk she made indeed, and gave it to him; and he promisit to give it to the said Barbara [Napier] and to Effie M’Calycan, at the next meeting, to be roastit... There was ane appointit to seek some of his hieness’ linen claiths, to do the turn with.’ At the North Berwick meeting on All-hallow even, ‘Robert Grierson said thir words: "Where is the thing ye promisit?" meaning the picture of wax devisit for roasting and undoing his hieness’ person, whilk Agnes Sampson gave him. . . . . He answerit: "It sould be gotten at next meeting.". . . . Barbara and Effie M’Calyean gat then ane promise of the devil, that his hieness’ picture sould be gotten to them twa, and that right soon’ It is highly noteworthy that none of these particulars appear either in the indictments against Fian and Sampson, or in the accounts of their confessions which came out about the time of their trials.

The trial of Eupham M’Calyean commenced on the 9th of June. She was taxed with many acts of sorcery of a common kind—such as this: ‘Consulting and seeking help at Anny Sampson, ane notorious witch, for relief of your pain in the time of the birth of your twa sons, and receiving frae her to that effect ane bored stane, to be laid under the bowster, put under your head, enchanted moulds [earth] and powder put in ane piece paper, to be usit and rowit in your hair; and at the time of your drowis [throes], your guidman’s sark to be presently ta’en off him aud laid wimplit round your bed feet. The whilk being practisit by you . . . . your sickness was casten off you, unnaturally, in the birth of your first son, upon ane dog, whilk ran away and never was seen again: and in the birth of your last son, the same practice was usit, and your natural and kindly pain unnaturally casten off you upon the wanton cat in the house; whilk likewise was never seen thereafter.’ It was also alleged of Eupham, that, eighteen years before, she had ‘consulted with Jonet Cunningham in the Canongate-head, alias callit Lady Bothwell, ane auld indytit witch of the finest champ, for poisoning of Joseph Douglas of Pumfrastown, and that by ane potion of composit water whilk she send her servant John Tweedale for, to be brought up to Barbara Towers’s house in ane chopin stoup.’ What was more to the purpose, she was accused of her concern in the affair of the waxen picture, and of having conspired to raise a storm for stopping or drowning the queen on her way from Denmark. After a trial of three days, a verdict was returned against her on the chief points, and this unfortunate lady was condemned to be burned alive at a stake on the Castle-hill.

Throughout all the proceedings connected with these trials, as far as they have been preserved, there is no appearance of any imputation against the Earl of Bothwell; but Spottiswoode affirms that Sampson, in her confessions, had attributed to him the guilt of suggesting the picture device, adding that the devil, finding his plans of no avail against the king, said: ‘Il est ua homme de Dieu.’ It also appears that James discovered further matter against Bothwell, in the course of examining the wizard Richard Graham. The turbulent lord was therefore committed to ward, from which he broke out only three days before the death of M’Calyean, June 22d. He was now forfaulted on a former sentence, and henceforth became a broken man, though one still able to create no small trouble to his sovereign.

A review of these circumstances leaves a strange feeling on the mind, as if we were reading that which was deficient in some of the most necessary elements of human action. It is difficult to see to what extent the so-called wizards and witches were deluders and deluded. Was there any basis in fact for the affair at North Berwick Kirk, confessed to by two or three of the culprits, though, it may be remarked, with varying circumstances? Was Geilie Duncan’s dance-tune truly repeated before the king? Or were these matters of mere hallucination? Did these women really aim at doing harm to any one, or were they only lunatics? The story reads the more inexplicably when we see so many names as of simple villagers involved in it, and find a king and all his court and clergy viewing it in a serious light.

This year was marked by ‘a plague amang the bestial’—.-Chron. Perth.

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