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History of the Burgh of Dumfries
Chapter XXII


FOUR years after the memorable visit of Harlow to Dumfries, the intrepid Knox arrived in the Burgh, in order to preside at the election of a superintendent, or moderator, over the various congregations formed in the district. Reference to the Reformer’s mission is made in the following minute of the fifth General Assembly, as given by Calderwood: - “For the planting of kirks in the sheriffdomes of Dumfries, Galloway, and Nithisdaill, and the rest of the West daills: the Assemblie nominat in lites for the superintendentship, Mr. Alexander Gordon, entituled Bishop of Galloway, and Mr. Robert Pont, minister of Dunkell; ordained edicts to be sett forth for the admission upon the first Lord’s day of Aprile, and appointed the Superintendent of Glasgow, Mr. Knox, minister of Edinburgh, Mr. Robert Hamilton, minister of Ochiltree and Mauchlin, and other learned men, to be present at the inauguration of the person elected; the place of admission to the parish kirk of Drumfries.” Gordon, one of the candidates, had occupied many different sees under the old Papal system. He was first Bishop of Caithness, then of Glasgow, then of the Isles, then of Galloway, and was sometimes known as Bishop of Athens, which title he had received from the Pope on being deprived of the see of Glasgow. He was an able man, but full of duplicity; and in trying to curry favour with each of the two great religious parties, he lost the confidence of both. Pont, on the other hand, was an earnest, straightforward Presbyterian divine, and intellectually well fitted for the high position to which he aspired. [Robert Pone, born at Culross about 1524, was a learned and accomplished divine. In July, 1574, he was, with others, appointed by the General Assembly to revise all books that were printed and published. About the same time, he drew up the Calendar, and framed the rules for understanding it, for Arbuthnot and Bassandyne’s edition of the Bible. He had also a considerable share in the preparation of the Second Book of Discipline. He was elected no fewer than five times Moderator of the General Assembly; and enjoyed the rare distinction, for a clergyman, of having been appointed a Senator of the College of Justice – an office which he only accepted after receiving permission from the Assembly. Mr. Pont published several works, among others, “A newe Treatise of the right reckoning of Yeares and ages of the World, and men’s lives, and of the estate of the past decaying age thereof, this 1600 yeare of Christ (erroneously called a yeare of jubilee), which is from the Creation the 5548 yeare. Containing sundrie singularities, worthie of observation, concerning courses of times, and revolutions of the Heaven and reformations of Kalendars, and prognostication, &c., &c. Edin. 1599, 4 to. Latine, 1619, 4to.”]

A few weeks before the election, Knox, as is related in his own “History,” [Knox’s History, p. 282.] had an interview with Queen Mary, at which, curiously enough, she introduced this subject. Having met her Majesty by appointment, when out on a hawking expedition near West Kinross, she, after a reference to other matters, said, “I understand that ye are appointed to go to Dumfries, for the election of a superintendent to be established in those countries.” “Yes,” said the Reformer; “those quarters have great need of such a one, and some of the gentlemen there so require.” “But I fear,” said she, “that the Bishop of Athens would be superintendent.” “He is one, madam,” answered Knox, “that is put in election.” “If ye knew him,” said she, “as well as I do, ye would never promote him to that office, nor yet to any other within your kirk.” “What he hath been madam,” said Knox, “I never knew, nor yet will I enquire; for, in time of darkness, what could we do, but grope and go wrong, even as darkness carried us? but, if he fear not God now, he deceives many more than me; and yet, madam, I am assured God will not suffer his Church to be so far deceived, as that an unworthy man shall be elected, where free election is, and the Spirit of God is earnestly called upon to decide betwixt the two.” “Well,” rejoined her Majesty, “do as ye well; but that man is a dangerous man.” “And therein,” adds the historian, “was not the Queen deceived; for he had corrupted most part of the gentlemen, not only to nominate him, but also to elect him: which being perceived by the said John [Knox], he delayed the election, and left it with the Master of Maxwell. Mr. Robert Pont was put in election (with the foresaid bishop), to the end that his doctrine and conversation might be the better tried of those that had not known him before, and so was this bishop frustrate of his purpose for that present; and yet was he at that time the man that was most familiar with the said John in his house and at table.”

The election of the superintendent devolved upon the ministers settled in the district. They, after hearing the two candidates preach, and testing them in other respects – and doubtless giving due weight to the counsel of Knox and Lord Herries – chose Mr. Pont, who in virtue of his office bore a rule slightly resembling that of a bishop over Galloway and Carrick, as well as Dumfriesshire. He resided in Dumfries, but was seldom long at home, as he had to devote most of his time to the visitation of his diocese – building up new congregations, supplying them with pastors (or, when these could not be obtained, with readers); trying the life, diligence, and behaviour of the ministers, the order of their churches, and the manners of the people; seeing how the poor were provided for, how the youth were instructed; giving admonition where called for; and, finally, taking note of all heinous crimes, that the same might be considered by the censures of the Church. [Spottiswoode, vol. i., p. 343.] This office, to which so many onerous duties were attached, was but of temporary duration, as when the fabric of Presbyterianism had been fairly erected it was not required. After Mr. Pont had for some time done pioneering work in Dumfriesshire, the General Assembly of the Church found matters ripe enough for the erection of four Presbyteries in the County – those of Dumfries, Penpont, Lochmaben, and Annan – and for forming them into a provincial Synod. The presence and exertions of Knox in Dumfries did much to extend the congregation there which Harlow had originated, and also to consolidate its Presbytery, which, in the course of a short period, came to occupy nearly the same sphere as the abolished Deanery of Nithsdale.

That Protestantism had made little advance in Dumfries fifteen years after the Presbyterian form of it had been ratified by Parliament, is shown by the following extract from the minutes of the General Assembly, dated 6th August, 1575. “Mr. Peter Watsone, Commissiouner of Nithisdale, compleaned that the toun of Dumfreis at Christmasse-day last by-past, seeing that neither he nor the reader would neither teache nor read upon these days, brought a reader of their own with tabret and whissell, and caused him to read the prayers, which exercise they used all the days of Yuile. The Assemblie thought good this complaint should be intimated to my Lord Regent’s grace.” Thus we see that the inhabitants tenaciously adhered to the old “Yule” ceremonies, and observed them in spite of the Presbyterian Commissioner’s example and remonstrance. We infer from another quotation that, after the lapse of thirteen years more, Popery, though losing ground, had still a powerful hold of the town.

In 1588 a General Assembly was convened for the special purpose of “repressing Jesuits and other Papist” who had come to subvert the established religion, to which Assembly the subjoined report was given in: - “In the South, about Dumfries, Mr. John Durie, Jesuit, corrupting and practicing too and fro under the name of Mr. William Laing, who with his complices had masse within the toun of Dunmfreis before Pasche and Yuile last was; the Lord Hereis, the Laird of Kilquhomate, the Goodman of Dumrushe [The distinction formerly recognized between these two designations was this: the laird was a Crown vassal or baron, the Goodman (or gudeman) was one who held land of a baron, and was often also called a fenar.] Mr. Homer Maxwell, commissar, John Mackgie, commissar clerk, Johne Bryce, merchant, John Rig, notar, Paul Thomsone, My Ladie Hereis, elder and younger, my Ladie Morton, the Lady . . . . the Lady Tweddail, Papists, apostates, interteaners, and professed favourers of Jesuits. Item, there is a certaine woman that doeth no less hurt in Dumfreis that the Jesuits, called Katherine Hairsteins. [Probably one of the Craigs family.] No resorting to heare the Worde there (in Dumfries); no discipline; holie dayes keeped by (in opposition to) plain commandement and controlling of the deacons of the crafts; all superstitious ryotousness at Yuile and Pasche, &c. [Wodrow’s History of the Kirk.] no kirks planted there.”

As previously stated, during the absence of Queen Mary in France, the Romish Church in Scotland was overthrown, and the Protestant religion, under a Presbyterian form, set up in its stead. It was the misfortune of Mary that she did not accept the new state of matters; and it was the madness of bigotry for her to attempt, as she did, to unmake the Reformation. Her return, in 1561, was hailed with enthusiasm by all parties. She was the most beautiful woman of her age; and there was at least room for hope that she would prove prudent and virtuous. “May God save that sweet face!” was the universal cry, as the Queen rode in procession to the Parliament; but the aspirations and wishes breathed regarding her were mournfully disappointed. Ten years elapsed, bringing with them numerous important events, most of them detrimental to the Queen – some of them involving on her part gross indiscretion, if not dreadful guilt – and ending in her deathward flight to the shores of England. Her marriage with Darnley, in opposition to the wish of her Protestant lords and of Queen Elizabeth – her further alienation from them when she joined the league formed by the Emperor of Germany and the Kings of France and Spain to extirpate the protestant religion – the murder of her husband, and her marriage soon after with Bothwell, who was more than suspected of having planned the horrible deed – her enforced surrender to the Lords of the Congregation – her imprisonment in Lochleven Castle – her escape – her exertions to resume the power of which she had been deprived, and their thorough failure at Langside – are the leading incidents between Mary’s joyous landing at the pier of Leith and her disastrous defeat by the Lords of the Congregation.

How far Dumfries and the men of the town and district were associated with the fortunes of Queen Mary, we have now to show. Of all the hapless Queen’s adherents none was more faithful, and few were more conspicuous, than Sir John Maxwell, called of Terregles because of his marriage with Lady Agnes, eldest daughter of William, Lord Herries; called also the Master of Maxwell because he was the nearest male heir of Sir John, son of Robert, the fifth Lord Maxwell; but best known in history as Lord Herries. For several years prior to 1553, he was Warden of the Western Marches. At that date he resigned the office, on the ground that he had “becum under deidlie feid with divris clans” of the Border, who impaired his influence. He took part in framing the Treaty of Norham, and other treaties with the English, in 1561 and 1563 [Keith, Appendix, p. 95.]; and was, on account of his talents, not less than his position, employed in many other acts of a national character. In right of his marriage, he became possessed of one-third of Terregles and Kirkgunzeon; and he subsequently acquired the other portions of these baronies which had belonged to the sisters of his wife. Having ability, wealth, and high rank, it was of great consequence to the Queen that he should become attached to her interests.

On the 20th of August, 1563, Mary visited Dumfries for the first time. As she was accompanied by her Council, it has been thought that the peace negotiations then going on with England occasioned her journey to the south. But she felt more interest in the chief negotiator of the treaty than in the treaty itself – was less desirous of securing peace with the English than gaining the favour of the Maxwell family, whose late chief had been lost to her service, but whose present virtual head might still be won over, though he, too, had been holding dangerous dalliance with Protestantism, and disloyal communion with her foes. Before returning to Edinburgh, Mary paid a complimentary visit to the Maxwells, in order, it may be conceived, to secure this object. Secretary Lethington [The Maitlands of Lethington and of Eccles, in Dumfriesshire, are branches of the same family, both being descended from the Norman knight, Richard de Mantelent, by his wife, the heiress of Eklis. (See ante, p. 37.) Secretary Lethington was also closely related to the Seton family, his grandmother having been Martha, daughter of George, Lord Seton, the latter of whom was descended from Sir Alexander Seton, the brother of Sir Christopher, who was executed at Dumfries in 1306.] having laid before the Queen certain correspondence between himself and the English Warden on the ostensible business that had drawn her to Dumfries, she broke up the Council, and proceeded to Terregles, where she spent the remainder of the day and the night, to the high gratification of her hosts, pleased and flattered with having an opportunity to entertain the highest lady in the land, the most accomplished woman of her time – the queen of beauty, not less than the Queen of Scots.

Five years afterwards, Mary Stuart spent a second night under to roof of Terregles Tower in very different circumstances: radiant, cheerful, buoyant, ready to believe that the clouds that were gathering on her track would break up and usher in a golden future; downcast, frenzied, despairing – a wandering fugitive, with but a solitary meteor to twinkle on the gloom – a false meteor, leading only to a lingering captivity and a cruel death: under such contrasted conditions did the old Nithsdale fortress, on these two occasions, furnish hospitality to Queen Mary of Scotland. [Queen Mary and her Privy Council were at Dumfries on 20th August, 1563. . . Mary, in all likelihood, visited the town in connection with the business (the treaty of 1563); and, to pay a compliment to the Maxwell family, she stopt at Terrigles: and the Queen’s room was lately shown there, till that part of the house was demolished. – BURNSIDE’S MS. History.] What impression she made on Sir John Maxwell during her first visit, is not recorded. If she succeeded in shaking his resolution to join the Protestant Lords, she would look upon that as a great point gained. At first Maxwell openly favoured the Reformers. The Act of Council deposing Mary of Guise from the Regency, dated October 23rd, 1559, bears his signature [Keith, p. 106.] as one of the Protestant Lords; his name appears attached to the First Book of Discipline in January, 1561 [Calderwood, p. 30.]; and, as we shall afterwards see, he joined Murray and his colleagues when they took up arms against the Queen, in the summer of 1565, for marrying Darnley, and thus, as they said, bringing Protestantism into peril. Certain it is that Sir John Maxwell’s antecedents were of such a nature as to justify Knox, when he expected to find in him a powerful ally for the overthrow of Popery.

The Reformer in his “History” states that, in 1562, he passed from Ayr to Nithsdale and Galloway, and had a conference on divers matters with “the Master of Maxwell; a man of great judgment and experience.” [Knox’s History, p. 174.] They soon afterwards differed, however, on the question of deference to the Queen; and thenceforth they pursued opposite courses. In the following year the Bishop of St. Andrews, the Prior of Whithorn, and others, celebrated mass. On this account “some priests in the Westland were apprehended: intimation made unto others – as to the Abbot of Crossraquel, the Parson of Sanquhair, and such – that they should neither complain to the Queen nor Council, but should execute the punishment that God hath appointed to idolators in his law, by such means as they might, wherever they should be apprehended.” The Queen stormed at such freedom of speech, but she could not amend it; and thereupon sent for Knox, in the hope that he would be induced by her blandishments, or overawed by her power, to be less intolerant of the mass. The conference took place at Lochleven; and there, we are told, “she dealt with him earnestly two hours before supper, that he would be the instrument to persuade the people, and principally the gentlemen of the west, not put hand to punish any man for the using of themselves in their religions as pleased them. The other, perceiving her craft, willed her Majesty to punish malefactors according to the laws; and he durst promise quietness upon the part of all them that professed the Lord Jesus within Scotland; but if her Majesty thought to elude the laws, he said he feared some would let the Papists understand that without punishment they should not be suffered so manifestly to offend God’s majesty.”

With bold, outspoken works like these, Knox defended the course taken by himself and colleagues; and the Queen, in no gently mood, abruptly closed the interview. Next morning, two messengers from her Majesty ordered him again into the royal presence; and, according to request, he met her near West Kinross, where she had gone on a hawking expedition. As if the exhilarating pastime had exercised a soothing influence on the Queen, she exhibited quite a friendly temper, gossiped pleasantly with Knox on secular affairs, gave him good advice regarding the settlement of a superintendent at Dumfries, as already noticed, and while still bent on carrying out her own ends, seemed equally anxious to avoid an open rupture with her unconquerable subject. Mary closed this her second interview with the Reformer by saying, “And now, as touching our reasoning yesternight, I promise to do as ye required. I shall cause to summon all offenders, and ye shall know that I shall minister justice.” [Knox’s History, p. 282.] Soothing words! – lightly said, and soon broken!

In the autumn of the same year, whilst the Queen lay at Stirling, mass was celebrated with great pomp in the royal chapel at Holyrood House, Edinburgh. The ministers of the Reformed faith were scandalized by this daring violation of the law; and two of them, Andrew Armstrong and Patrick Cranston, hurrying to the place, protested against the proceedings. Cranston, finding the altar covered, and the priest preparing to go on with the ceremony, cried out, “The Queen’s Majesty is not here; how, then, dare you be so malapert as openly to do against the law?” Nothing further was done or said; but, on the report of the ministers’ interference being conveyed to the Queen, they were required by her to find surety to underlie the law “for forethought felony,” by “violent invasion” of the royal palace, and “spoliation of the same.” Knox, in a letter dated Edinburgh, 8th October, 1563, summoned the brethren to meet him in that city on the 24th of the same month, in order to make common cause with the two ministers who were that day to be tried. At a Cabinet Council, held afterwards, the Reformer’s letter was declared to be treasonable – an announcement which pleased the Queen not a little, as she expected thereby to get him fairly under her control.

How this matter terminated for ever the intimacy between the Reformer and the Lord of Nithsdale, is thus narrated by Knox Himself: - “The Master of Maxwell gave unto the said John, as it were, a discharge of the familiarity which before was great betwixt them, unless that he would satisfy the Queen at her own will. The answer of John Knox was, that he knew of no offence done by him to the Queen’s Majesty, and therefore he knew not what satisfaction to make. ‘No offence!’ said he; ‘have you not written letters desiring the brethren from all parts to convene to Andrew Armstrong and Patrick Cranston?’ ‘That I grant,’ said the other; ‘but therein I acknowledge no offence done by me.’ ‘No offence!’ said he, ‘to convocate the Queen’s lieges!’ ‘Not for a just cause,’ said the other; ‘for greater things were reputed no offence within these two years.’ ‘The time,’ said he, ‘is now otherwise; for then our sovereign was absent, and now she is present.’ ‘It is neither the absence nor the presence of the Queen,’ said he, ‘that rules my conscience, but God plainly speaking in his Word. What was lawful to me the last year, is yet lawful; because my God is unchangeable.’ ‘Well,’ said the Master, ‘I have given you my counsel do as you list; but I think you shall repent it, if you bow not unto the Queen.’ ‘I understand not,’ said Knox, ‘what you mean; I never made myself an adverse party unto the Queen’s Majesty, except in the point of religion, and thereunto I think you will not desire me to bow.’ ‘Well,’ said he, ‘you are wise enough, but you will not find that men will bear with you in times to come, as they have done in times by-past.’ ‘If God stand my friend,’ said the other, ‘as I am assured he of his mercy will, so long as I depend upon his promise and prefer his glory to my life and worldly profit, I little regard how men behave themselves towards me; neither yet know I whereinto any one man hath borne with me in times by-past, unless it be that out of my mouth they have heard the word of God, which in time to come, if they refuse, my heart will be perfect, and for a season I will lament; but the incommodity will be their own.

“And after these words (hereunto the Laird of Lochinvar was witness) they departed; but unto this day, the seventeenth day of December, 1571, yea, never in this life, met they in such familiarity as before.” [Knox’s History, pp. 289-90.]

The Queen married Lord Darnley on the 27th of July, 1565; and in the following month the Duke of Hamilton, the Earl of Argyle, Murray, Glencairn, and Rothes, Lords Boyd and Ochiltree, and the rest of the Protestant chiefs, resolved upon a warlike demonstration, for the purpose of averting the perils which they expected to arise from this inauspicious union. At the head of a thousand horsemen, they proceeded to Edinburgh; but meeting there with less encouragement than they looked for, they went to Lanark, and thence to Hamilton, where they were joined by the Master of Maxwell and the Laird of Drumlanrig.

Maxwell at this time appears to have had the confidence of both parties, though his devotedness to the Queen was gradually increasing at the expense of his Protestantism, and lessening his attachment to his former colleagues. After an interview with them, he informed her Majesty, by letter, that, on being required by the Lords to pay them a visit, he could not refuse, as being in the vicinity on his way homeward at the time; that he had counselled them to disband their army; and they had resolved to pass to Dumfries, where they would take his advice into consideration, and apprise her Majesty of the result. Accordingly, the Lords went with their army to Dumfries, where, says Knox, they were “entertained most honourably” by the Master of Maxwell, “for he had the government of all that country.” [Knox’s History, p. 324.] Maxwell laboured zealously to effect a reconciliation between them and the Queen. They saw, however, that the great cause for which they had struggled was at stake – that if they winked at the Romish practices of the Court, at the favour shown by their Majesties to all who promoted Popery, and the discouragement given by them to the Protestant cause, the Reformation might by such an insidious system of warfare be rooted out, even if it were not assailed by main force; and so they would make no concessions.

“Abolish the mass, eradicate idolatry, maintain the true religion as by law established, and govern the realm by the advice of its true nobility; and we shall disperse our troops, and submit ourselves for trial.” Such was the burden of the manifesto issued by the Protestant Lords at Dumfries; and it was accompanied by a remonstrance against the royal marriage, which would be viewed by their Majesties as its bitterest ingredient. Calderwood’s quaint account of the matter is worthy of being quoted. “They proclaimed,” he says, “a declaration of their grievances at Dumfreisse, the nineteenth of September. In this declaration they reported that the Queen, after arrival, craved one quiet masse to her own household only; and how they hoped that by process of time she might be converted, and therefore passed it over with silence, but to the great grief of their consciences; for from thence it proceeded, that all that resorted to her chappell royall were unpunished; from saying it proceeded to singing, and from her chappelll to all the corners of the countrey.” [Calderwood, pp. 39, 40.]

Maxwell failed in his efforts to propitiate the nobles, and at the same time he incurred the displeasure of the Queen. She imagined that he could not be on such intimate terms with them and be true to her. In great wrath she summoned him, as well as the remonstrant Lords, to her presence, and when he obeyed the citation, which they despised, she commanded him “to give over the house of Lochmaben, and the Castle which he had in keeping for the Queen.” [The King and Queen having reposed themselves a short space at Dumfries, and visited the Castle of Lochmaben, which had been in the keeping of Sir John Maxwell (formerly one of the rebels, but at this time, on his humble submission, received into favour), they returned forthwith into Edinburgh. – DEITH, p. 316.] No one knew Mary’s impulsiveness of character better than Sir John Maxwell: he bowed to the storm, assured that it would soon blow over, and he managed to retain both his fortresses, and to regain the confidence of the royal lady, who, after scolding him in the heat of passion, felt as if she had rated him too severely, and then trusted him more than ever. [Knox’s History, p. 324.]

Meanwhile, the Queen made preparations with the view of overcoming the Lords of the Congregation by force. On the 8th of October, accompanied by the King, she proceeded from Edinburgh in the direction of Dumfries, “the whole body of the realm” following her, says Pitscottie; in other words, an army of three thousand men, accoutred with jack and spear, and rendered additionally threatening by being supplied with “certain carted pieces of cannon [Pitscottie, p. 217.] – war-engines that were only then beginning to come into general use. They passed the first night, after leaving the capital, at Lanark, the second at Crawford; and the next day Douglas of Drumlanrig and Gordon of Lochinvar joined the royal host. [Both Douglas and Gordon were Protestants, and, though for a time gained over to the Queen’s side, they eventually took an active part in promoting the Reformation.] Some of the Lords clung long to the belief that Maxwell, who had not yet openly declared for the Queen, would at the last hour join their ranks; and it may easily be imagined that, whilst waiting in mingled hope and fear at Dumfries, they would send pressing messengers to Terregles House, urging its lord to join them with his retainers. Disappointed of help from that direction, they evacuated the town and proceeded to Carlisle.

When Mary arrived in Dumfries, on the 11th, she found nothing but friends. Maxwell presented himself amongst them, and received not only forgiveness, but favour, at the hands of his sovereign; and, in proof of his loyalty, he voluntarily placed the Castles of Dumfries and Carlaverock at her disposal. Though long a waverer, intriguing with the Protestant party, as if irresolute whether to swim with or resist the prevailing current, we find him steadfastly true to the Queen’s fortunes ever after his interview with her at Dumfries, in the autumn of 1565, and doing what he could to roll back the tide of Reformation. From that date, also, Mary’s doubts of him seem to have vanished; but as he was viewed with suspicion by some of her counselors, he was formally put upon his trial. The result was made known by the Queen and her husband on the 1st of January, 1566 [Keith, p. 321.] – a proclamation issued by them, stating that, after an examination by the Lords of Council into all the accusations brought against Maxwell, they had granted him full pardon and exoneration, believing the things laid at his door “to be perfectly untrue, and founded upon particular malice;” and “that as regards some of the charges, they understood right perfectly the plain contrary.” “So far from his having been a traitrous evil doer, he has been,” said the royal pair, “and is, our true servant, and our good justiciar; and, in execution of our service, has taken great travail and pains; bearing a weighty charge in the common service of this our realm many years by-past, and execute the laws upon many and notable offenders, defending our good subjects from such enormities and oppressions as is laid to his charge; nor has received no augmentation of any reversion, as is unjustly alleged, nor no gold from England; neither had, nor will, discover our secrets to them, nor others, to the hurt of us his sovereign, this our realm, nor subjects.” Reference is made to some specific charges in the following passage: - “For that he accumpanyeit in Dumfreis of late ane number of oure subjectis quhilk now ar rebellis, and past into Ingland; for that we understand that he was nevir of mynd to aud thame against us; and also be his continowal humane labouring to us for thame; and also that he wald on no wayis tak pairt nor assist with Ingland; nor pass with thame into that realme; nor as we knaw wes nevir of counsal, nor privy to no particularis we haif to lay to thair charge befoir cuming to oure toun of Dumfreis.” [Privy Council Records, 1st January, 1565.]

Sir John Maxwell, now become quite a favourite at Court, was present at the baptism of the young Prince (afterwards James VI.), on the 15th of December, 1566; and it is said that on this auspicious occasion he was first honoured by his royal mistress with the title of Lord Herries [This statement is countenanced by the circumstance, that a short time before the baptism, his name appears on the Sederunt of the Privy Council as “Joannes Maxwell de Terreglis, miles;” and, five months after the ceremony, it is entered on the list of jurors who tried Bothwell, as “Johne Maxwell, Lord Hereis.”], - his lady being heiress to that estate. He thus became the fourth Lord Herries, and was the first of the Maxwell family that bore the title. When Mary, three days after the murder of the King, intimated her resolution to bestow her hand upon Bothwell, Lord Herries (according to Sir James Melville) fell upon his knees before the Queen, and entreated her not to ruin her reputation, peace of mind, and prospects, by such a disgraceful union. [Melville’s Memoirs, p. 156.] But this is an incredible statement, seeing that his lordship, after serving on the jury that acquitted Bothwell, joined with other noblemen in subscribing a bond approving of the marriage, and engaging to promote the same by the “votes, counsel, fortificatioun, and assistance in word and deid;” [Kith, p. 381. The original document in the Cotton Library.] and that he was present as one of the witnesses to the nuptial ceremony.

At the Parliament held in December, after Bothwell had been ostracized, Mary immured in Lochleven Castle, and her natural brother, Murray, been made Regent, the critical condition of the country came to be discussed. Lord Herries took part in the debate; and a report of his demeanour, furnished by Sir Nicholas Throgmorton, represents him as being wonderfully reconciled to the new state of affairs, and making a notable harangue “to persuade the union of the whole realm in one mind.” “Wherein he did not spare to set forth solemnly the great praise that part of this nobility did deserve which in the beginning took meanes for punishment of the Earl Bothwell; as also seeing the Queen’s inordinate affection to that wicked man, and that she could not be induced by their persuasion to leave him, that in sequestering her person within Lochleven, they did the duty of noblemen. That their honourable doings, which had not spared to hazard their lives and lands, to avenge their native country from the slanderous reports that were spoken of it among other nations, had well deserved that all their brethren should join with them in so good a cause. That he, and they in whose names he did speak, would willingly, and without any compulsion, enter themselves in the same yoke, and put their lives and lands in the like hazard for maintenance of our cause; and if the Queen herself [Elizabeth] were in Scotland, accompanied with 20,000 men, they will be of the same mind, and fight in our quarrel” – that is, in behalf of Protestantism. “So plausible an oration,” continues the English ambassador, “and more advantageous for our party, none of ourselves could have made. He did not forget to term my Lord Regent by the name of Regent [there was no mention at all of the Earl of Murray], and to call him Grace at every word when his speeches were directed to him, accompanying all his words with low courtesies, after his manner.” [State Paper Office.] Quite the picture of a courtier; true, we doubt not, in its main features, though touched up a little to heighten the general effect, and the better to please the royal lady for whose special behoof it was sketched. Lord Herries was, in spite of these artful declarations, still a partisan of the deposed Queen, and plotting with others for her deliverance; and much of the antipathy shown by the people of Dumfries to the Regent Murray may be traced to his influence in the town.

Both the inhabitants and their magistrates sympathized strongly with Queen Mary; and when, about the end of August, a herald made his appearance at the Market Cross in High Street, to proclaim Murray Regent in the name of the young King, he narrowly escaped falling a victim to the indignation of the populace. Assembling in great force, they broke through the guards, and tore the dignified official from his elevated position before he had time to say a word. This violent conduct on the part of the Dumfriesians called forth a rebuke from the Government, and also a warning of what would befall the Burgh in the event of the outrage being repeated. As is shown in the books of the Town Council, of date 3rd September, 1567, the magistrates were enjoined to protect the sheriff and sheriff-officers in executing the Regent’s letters, and that under the terrible penalty of “losing their freedom for ever.” This threat, bad enough in itself, was aggravated by an injunction to elect, at next Michaelmas, such persons only “as were affectionate to our sovereignis service and obedience;” and by an order to remove from office all factious persons entertaining opposite sentiments. [Burnside’s MS. History.] What effect this edict had is not recorded; but, as we shall afterwards see, the inhabitants of the town soon became thoroughly leavened by Protestant doctrines, and eventually gave a cordial support to the cause of the Reformation.

On the 2nd of May, 1568, Mary escaped from Lochleven. Once more personally free, she might yet hope to reign. With the view of making that hope good, six thousand men, all too few for its realization, flocked to the royal standard – Lord Herries, Lord Maxwell, Edward Maxwell, Abbot of Dundrennan, and Gordon, Bishop of Galloway, signing a bond, with others, to do battle to the uttermost on her behalf. With such a force, Mary resolved to risk an engagement with the Regent Murray’s army; and, on the 13th of the same month, the eventful conflict took place near Glasgow, the Queen, with anxious eye, marking its varied movements from a neighbouring height. Both Lord Herries and Lord Maxwell were present; and it is said that the former, while taking an active part in the fight, wounded one of the Protestant leaders, Lord Ochiltree, in the neck. Neither individual gallantry, nor the ardent bravery of the royalist rank and file, proved of any avail. The Regent had a good position to begin with, and in virtue of that advantage, and superior generalship, he succeeded in breaking up the Queen’s vanguard; and though this disaster was more than half redeemed by her “stubborn spearmen,” it was the forerunner of a universal rout – of utter ruin to her unhappy cause.

On seeing the issue of the fight, Mary, accompanied by Lord Herries and a few other faithful followers, set off at full gallop, never drawing bridle till two score miles or more had been placed between her and the deadly field of Langside. Galloway had furnished a large proportion of her army, and thither fled the royal fugitive, threading the wild recesses of the Glenkens, pausing for a brief space on an eminence (since named Queenshill, for that reason), and there, for the first time on her dolorous ride, partaking of refreshment – a simple crust of bread, moistened with water from a neighbouring spring. [The Queen’s Well is still pointed out near Tongland Bridge.] Rest the poor lady much needs; but, with the mind distraught by terror, she cannot, dare not stay, even in the deep shadow of these friendly bowers. Crossing a wooden bridge that spanned the river Dee, about a mile above the village of Tongland, she tarries in a wayside cottage till the bridge is broken down to retard the pursuing foe, whom her trouble fancy sees hard upon her tract. [The walls of the cottage long remained on the farm of Culdoach. They were called Dun’s Wa’s – Dun being probably the name of the individual who tenanted the house when it was entered by the Queen. – History of Galloway, vol. ii., p. 507.] Then away to the strong mansion of Corra: it belongs to her faithful Herries, and here she may venture to remain for the night – the dark night of a dismal day – one of the saddest in her whole sorrowful history. Tradition tells us that Queen Mary “slept” at Corra on the night of the 13th; but we fear that this is not true in a literal sense, and that the precious “balm of hurt minds” neither closed her wearied eyes nor clamed the throbbings of her harassed brain. To Terregles next morning; but even in that powerful hold of her chief protector, Mary Stuart cannot think of remaining long. On Scottish ground, so rife with angry rebels, she may not abide: she will not trust herself to any fortress, however strong – to any sanctuary, however sacred, within their reach; and so, hurrying from Terregles on the morning of the 15th, she proceeds to Dundrennan Abbey, of which Edward Maxwell, third son of Lord Herries, is superior, and spends her last night in Scotland under its hallowed roof. [There is at Terregles House a most interesting souvenir of Queen Mary – the remains of the bed occupied by her on her visits, and which the tradition of the Maxwell family especially associates with the last night spent by her under their roof. The remains consist of a wooden scroll, some eight feet long and one foot broad; a flat cloth roof or canopy, which must originally have been supported by a timber framework; and a head-piece, measuring six feet by five, which must have hung from the roof inside till it touched the pillow which was pressed, on the sorrowful night referred to, by the head of the royal fugitive. The stuff is of serge, padded with wool, still white and fresh, and covered outside with satin that was once white, but is now no longer so, and very lavishly embroidered with needle-work – the design, a graceful-looking floral one, and which, under happier circumstances, must have looked charming in the eyes of the fair occupant of the couch. A small missal is also to be seen at Terregles which belonged to Queen Mary.] Vainly do Herries and her other steadfast friends implore her, on their knees, to keep out of Queen Elizabeth’s reach – to stay for awhile at Dundrennan, from which, if need by, she could take ship for France. Frenzied, and half despairing, she does not heed their entreaties, but sets sail for England: there to find a worse prison than had held her in her own country, and from which the grim headsman was to deliver her after the lapse of nineteen lingering years. [Mary could have reached Terregles by a much shorter route had she gone direct from Langside into Upper Nithsdale, but she appears to have been undecided at first what course to pursue. We know from a letter written by her to Queen Elizabeth, dated Workington, 17th May, 1568, that after the battle “she hasted first to Dumbarton;” she then adds, “but soon changing my course, God, of his infinite goodness, preserved me to fly into your country.”]

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