Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

John Knox, A Biography
Chapter XII - The Revolution Continues

THE contending forces did not long remain facing each other at St. Andrews. The Queen Regent marched by Stirling to Edinburgh and then to Dunbar, which she made her headquarters for the time being. The Protestants made Edinburgh their objective, and on the way relieved. Perth, which was held by the Queen Regent. It was after its relief that the Abbey and Palace of Scone were burned down. This was not the work of the "rascal multitude," but of certain of the Protestants of Dundee and Perth. The leaders of the Reformation, Knox included, did everything in their power to restrain the mob, but without effect. It must have been in reference to this that Knox shortly afterwards wrote the following letter to Cecil, incidentally deploring, and at the same time apologising for the violence that accompanied the new movement: "The common bruit I doubt not carrieth unto you the troubles that be lately here risen for the controversy in religion. The truth is that many of the nobility, the most part of barons, and gentlemen, with many towns and one city, have put to their hands to remove Idolatry and the monuments of the same. The Reformation is somewhat violent because the adversaries be stubborn."

On arriving at Edinburgh the Protestants found the churches already "purified" of all their images and "monuments of idolatry." The Congregation were only thirteen hundred in number, and the majority of the citizens were against them, but in a very short time their strength was augmented to six thousand by the appearance of the Earl of Glencairn. This nobleman was a great tower of strength to the Protestant party. He aided it not only by his ability and prudence but also by the powerful influence which he exercised over the Western Counties. there was now no retreat possible for either party. The Protestants had gone too far to hope for anything by yielding; they had staked their lives on the issue, and should they fail they could only hope for banishment or death. There was but one course open to the Queen Regent. Her government had been disowned, and she could only secure peace by conquering her opponents. To become a Protestant was beyond the range of possibility for a daughter of the House of Guise. She knew that she had . much to hope from delay, and that prolonged inactivity would be fatal to her opponents. She accordingly began to spread defection among their ranks by encouraging the report that the Lord James was aiming at the throne and that they were engaged in a rebellion.

The Congregation could not long hold together, because those who formed it were only soldiers for the hour, and no active service being demanded of them they retired in great numbers to their own homes. Were it not for Knox it is not at all unlikely that the Protestant party would at this time have entirely broken up, but he held them together, and, being now minister of Edinburgh, he preached discourses which kept steadily before them the great cause for which they were fighting, and kindled their enthusiasm on its behalf. The Queen Regent, hearing of the thinning of the ranks of the Congregation by dispersion, marched on Leith, which opened its gates after the firing of a single shot. The Protestants looked to Lord Erskine, the Governor of the Castle, for support, but he had pledged himself to the Regent, and threatened to fire on them and the city unless they came to terms. They had no option, and an agreement was come to by which they should surrender Holyrood Palace and quit Edinburgh within twenty-four hours. The Protestants, on the other hand, were to be permitted full liberty of worship, no French garrison was to be admitted within the city, which was to be left to its own discretion in the matter of religion. The ban of outlawry against their preachers was also withdrawn, so that they practically gained all that they in the meantime were contending for. The Congregation left Edinburgh on the 0-6th of July, Knox accompanying them, and shortly after they left they entered into another bond; pledging each other not to be cajoled by the Queen Regent into a desertion of the Protestant cause.

Willock was left behind to represent Knox as minister of Edinburgh, and he earned the praise of his colleague by his staunch adherence to the Reformed religion and his vigorous defence of the same by his preaching in St. Giles'. No special record of the order of service at this time in use is left us, although Kirkcaldy of Grange, in the letter to Sir Henry Percy to which reference has already been made, states that the Service Book which was followed was the Second Prayer Book of Edward vi. This book never attained to an assured position in the Church, nor did it continue long in use, for Knox would have none of it, but it served its purpose for the time being in giving guidance to the preacher and forming a basis of union for the people. Willock's was no easy task, for the majority of the citizens of Edinburgh were still Catholics, and the French soldiers delighted to disturb his service by marching up and down the floor of St. Giles' and jeering at his preaching.

No sooner had the Congregation reached Stirling than they made plans for gaining the support of England. Knox, we have seen, had discussed this matter earlier with his friend Kirkcaldy of Grange. It was a weary business, and its chief advocate, Knox, had to stand many a gibe at the slowness of the negotiations, and was told that they would no doubt be brought to 'a conclusion when it would be too late. The interest of England in a union with the Congregation was becoming every day clearer, and the sudden death of Henry ii. brought home to Elizabeth and her Council the desirability, if not the necessity, of coming to terms with the Protestant party. It was the policy of France, even before Henry's death, to get possession of Scotland; and France's supremacy being secured over the Northern country, the next step would be to extend that supremacy over the Southern as well. The accession to the French throne of Francis ii. increased England's danger still more, for his young Queen was the niece of the Guises, whose voice was now all powerful in the Councils of the French Government. Strong Catholics, they wished to see a revival of the old religion in Scotland and in England. Their niece was not only Queen of France, but Queen of Scotland as well, and, regarding Elizabeth as illegitimate, they wished to press Mary's claims as the next heir to the English throne.

Elizabeth and her Secretary Cecil understood all this perfectly well, but two difficulties stood in their way. The first was that peace reigned between France and England, and the second that they were not assured of a complete breach between the Protestants and the Queen Regent. The old feuds between Scotland and England were not as yet altogether healed, and at any moment a hatred of the "old enemy" might stir the Scotch to acts of hostility. Besides, Elizabeth was very loth to abet subjects in their revolt against their sovereign, for in doing so she might be cutting a stick with which to break her own back.

The Congregation, having determined to open negotiations with England, looked upon Knox, who was at this time acting as their Secretary, as the man who should take the first step. We have referred to his qualifications for this task, although diplomacy cannot be regarded as one of them. He was bold in speech, and, when occasion demanded, sufficiently prudent in action, but his methods were too direct and open to suit the wily men who guided the policy of Elizabeth. Throgmorton, the English Ambassador at Paris, pressed on Cecil the claims of Knox, and wrote saying that notwithstanding his authorship of The First Blast: "Yet forasmuch as he is now in Scotland in as great credit as ever man was there, with such as may be able to serve the Queen's Majesty's term, it were well done not to use him otherwise in mine opinion than may be for the advancement of the Queen's Majesty's service." Knox wrote to Cecil expressing a desire to see him, so that they might come to an understanding face to face. But Elizabeth's Secretary was in no mood to endanger the relations of France and England by granting an interview to the one man in Scotland who was making the government of that country impossible; besides the Secretary knew full well that to grant Knox's request would be to incur the implacable wrath of his own mistress, for there was no man so much detested by Elizabeth as the Reformer. She had little love for his Calvinism and less for his Puritanism; besides he had committed the unpardonable sin of writing The First Blast. The authorship of that book she would never forgive him.
It shows Knox's courage that he took pen in hand and wrote direct to Elizabeth herself, one of the most extraordinary letters that ever he produced. It was on the 20th of July that he concocted this famous production, for it must have been a laborious task. Taking the high ground of a Servant of Jesus Christ and a preacher of His Holy Evangel, he discharged his conscience towards her, reminding her how she "had declined from Christ in the day of His battle for fear of her life," and while expressing attachment to Elizabeth's own person, and the sincerest regard for her many virtues, he would not recede one inch from his old position in regarding the regiment or rule of a woman as "repugnant to nature, contumilie to God, and contrarious to His Revealed Word." Elizabeth's power to help Knox in the present crisis did not affect that opinion one bit, but still as one or two women, notably Deborah, had in. the providence of God been raised up to do Him special service, so God had raised up Elizabeth from "the dust to rule above His people for the comfort of His Kirk."

This letter was enclosed in his epistle to Cecil, and the Secretary, who was a prudent man, wisely omitted to deliver it. The Lords of the Congregation also wrote at the same time on their own behalf. They despatched two letters, one to Elizabeth and another to Cecil. 'Y'he latter they knew to be a friend of the Reformation, and they opened their heart and mind to him with singular frankness. They proposed to form a lasting union with England to "the praise of God's glory and the comfort of the faithful in both realms," and they hinted that unless the Regent came to their way of thinking, that complete breach between her and them, which Cecil desired, would take place. Their letter to the Queen had less of religion in it and more of politics; they knew that she valued her crown more than her Bible, so they hinted at what might happen to England if their venture failed. "If in this battle," they say, "we shall be overthrown, we fear that our ruin shall be but the entrance to a greater cruelty." Elizabeth knew this as well as they did, and in due time she came to their succour.

Although Knox failed in the end to induce Cecil to grant him an interview, he journeyed to England with that object. He was to have met the Secretary at his country house at Stamford, but the Reformer did not get farther than Berwick. Here he met Sir James Crofts, the Governor of that town, and submitted to him the proposals of the Congregation. If England took up their cause, they would form a mutual league against the French. Their reasons for desiring such a league were two, the Reform of Religion and the restoration of their ancient laws and liberties. Sir James Crofts, it is alleged, believing Knox to be unsuited for the mission which he was now attempting to discharge, advised him to return home, saying, "I think it not expedient that in such rarety of preachers ye be any long time absent from the Lords." But the fact is that Crofts himself was suspected of playing false to his country, and in any case it was the desire of Cecil that Knox at this time should not venture far into England.

He returned to Stirling with some difficulty about the 6th of August, for the Regent, hearing of his mission, had given orders to seize him. Cecil's reply to the Congregation was not very satisfactory. He advised the Lords to follow the practice of the English nobility and enrich themselves at the expense of the Church. The time was not yet ripe for acting on that advice; in due course they would take it to heart with a vengeance. Cecil, however, was better than his word, for ere long Sadler was entrusted by Elizabeth with three thousand pounds to distribute as he thought best in the interests of England.

Knox at this time was touring the country, preaching everywhere, and spreading the doctrines of the Reformed religion all over the land. So far carnal weapons had not availed him and his friends to any appreciable extent. His own voice, as the English Ambassador afterwards remarked, put more courage into them than "five hundred trumpets continually blustering in their ears"; and thus in a letter to Mrs. Locke, of date 2nd of September, he writes: "We do nothing but go about Jericho blowing with trumpets as God giveth strength, hoping victory by His power alone." St. Andrews was at this time his headquarters, and from it he sallied forth, sounding this same trumpet of the Evangel and rousing all who heard it to fresh activity in the cause of the Reformed Faith.

Consternation befell the Congregation on the announcement that a thousand French soldiers had landed in Leith; and being accompanied by their wives and children it looked as if they intended to stay. The feeling among Scotsmen now ran very high. The popular antipathy against the Regent and her French allies was roused, and the clamour was so loud and disaffection so widespread, that in self-defence she published a Manifesto laying her case before the world. She likened herself to "a small bird which being pursued will provide some nest, so her Grace could do no less than provide some sure retreat for herself and her company." This sentence is very well turned, but her nest must have been of very considerable dimensions and of extraordinary formation, for it was strongly fortified, and contained three thousand French soldiers armed to the teeth. The Congregation, most likely by the pen of Knox, replied to this Manifesto, and the sufferings which the poor realm of Scotland was enduring at the hands of the Regent are described in the strongest and most vivid terms. Taxes had been increased, the coinage debased, Frenchmen promoted over the heads of Scotsmen, and the country was being overrun by foreign soldiers, who sacked "the barnyards newly gathered, the granaries replenished, the houses garnished, and by force put the just posssesors and ancient inhabitants therefrom to shift for themselves." The Congregation in this Manifesto appealed to the patriotism of the nation, and tried to rouse their countrymen to a sense of the danger that was now more than imminent.

The Protestant party was strengthened at this time by the adhesion of the Earl of Arran. This young man was the heir of the House of Hamilton, and, after Mary, stood next to the throne. He was instrumental also in winning over his father, the Duke. This considerably added to the prestige of the Congregation in the eyes of Elizabeth, and would no doubt also have its influence upon the country at large. Arran's future was very different from what most men expected. At this time no bounds could be placed to the possibilities of his career. Not only the Scotch but even the English throne was believed to be within his reach; the latter by his marriage with Elizabeth herself. The Regent fortified Leith; the Congregation protested. Eight hundred more Frenchmen landed in the country, action must be immediate, so the Protestants determined to march on Edinburgh.

Return to Book Contents Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus