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The Scottish Nation

BETHUNE, or BEATON, a surname of French origin, which belonged to an illustrious house in France, from which sprung the duke of Sully, the celebrated minister of Henry IV. It was derived from Bethune, a town in French Flanders. The Bethunes came into England with William the Conqueror. One of them was the companion of Richard Coeur de Lion, on his return from the Holy Land, and was made prisoner along with him by the duke of Austria. Duchesne, in his ‘Histoire de la Maison de Bethune,’ derives the Scottish branch from a certain Jacobin de Bethune, who, he says, came to Scotland about 1448, but there are authentic documents to prove that the family were settled in this country as early as 1165. In the end of the reign of William the Lion, or beginning of that of his son, Alexander the Second, Robert de Beton is witness to a charter by Rogerus de Quincy, comes de Wincestre (incorrectly called Winton and sometimes Wigton, in the current genealogies of ancient families), constabularius Scotie, to Seyerus de Seton, of an annuity out of the miln and miln lands of Travernent or Tranent. In a charter of mortification of lands “in territorio de Kenmuir” (now Kirriemuir) in the county of Angus, to the monks of Aberbrothwick, David de Beton and Joannes de Beton are witnesses. It was in that county that the family of the Bethunes then had their principal possessions. The chief of them was the laird of Westhall, of whom the rest are descended. In the beginning of the reign of Alexander the Third, about 1250, Dominus David de Betun and Robertus de Betun are, with several others, witnesses to a charter of Christiana de Valoines, Lady Panmure, to John Lydell, of the lands of Balbanin and Panlathine. Among those who swore fealty to Edward the First of England, and were present at the discussion of the pleas for the crown of Scotland betwixt John Baliol and Robert Bruce was Robert de Betune. [See Prynne’s History]; and amongst the seals, yet preserved, that are appended to King Edward’s decision, 1292, is “sigillum Roberti de Betune de Scotia, which is a fesse, and on a chief of file of three pendants.” Several of this name are witnesses to charters by Duncal earl of Fife.

      David de Betun, miles, and Alexander de Betun, were at the parliament held at Cambuskenneth, 6th November 1314; and to the act of forfeiture passed in that parliament is appended one of their seals, which is the same coat of arms that is on the forementioned seal of Robert de Betune. Alexander de Bethune continued faithful to the family of Bruce, and was knighted for his valour. He was slain in the battle of Dupplin 12th August, 1332.

      As stated in the article on the surname of Balfour [which see, ante], in the fifth year of the reign of Robert the Second, Robert de Bethune, styled “familiarius regis,” a younger son of the above-named Sir Alexander, married the daughter and heiress of Sir John Balfour of that ilk, and his son succeeding to the estate, the family was afterwards designed Bethune of Balfour. Of that family several of the Fife heritors were descended, and James Bethune, archbishop of St. Andrews and chancellor of Scotland; his nephew Cardinal Bethune; and the cardinal’s nephew, James Bethune, archbishop of Glasgow, were all sons of this house of Balfour. Notices of these three remarkable personages follow this article in their order. In all our histories the name is incorrectly spelled Beaton. The descendants of the family prefer it in its original and more illustrious form of Bethune.

      In the reign of James the Fourth, the estate of Creich in the parish of that name in Fife was acquired by Sir David Bethune, second son of Sir John Bethune of Balfour and Marjory Boswell, daughter of the laird of Balmuto. Sir David was brought up from his youth with James the Fourth, who held him in great favour. He was first appointed comptroller of the exchequer, and subsequently lord high treasurer of the kingdom, which office he retained till his death. [Crawford’s Officers of State, p. 368.] He acquired the lands of Creich from the Littles or Liddels, in 1502. He married a daughter of Duddingston of Sandford in Fife. Janet, their elder daughter, from whom many of the chief nobility and gentry in Scotland are descended, was married first to Sir Thomas Livingston of Easter Wemyss, and after his death she became the third wife of James, the first earl of Arran of the Hamiltons, and nephew of King James the Third. Her eldest son by the latter marriage was James, second earl of Arran and duke of Chatelherault, who became regent of the kingdom. Mary, the younger daughter, married Lord Lyle. This Sir David Bethune was an uncle of the cardinal, being a younger brother of his father, the laird of Balfour.

      His son and heir, Sir John Bethune, the second proprietor of Creich of the name of Bethune, married Janet Hay, daughter of John Hay, provost of Dundee, and niece of the laird of Naughton in Fifeshire, by whom he had four sons and seven daughters. Janet, their eldest daughter, married, first, the laird of Cranston, secondly, the laird of Craigmillar, and thirdly, Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, ancestor of the dukes of Buccleuch [see BUCCLEUCH, duke of]. To her last husband she bore four daughters. She appears to have been a woman of a masculine spirit, as she rode at the head of the clan when called out to avenge the death of Buccleuch. “She possessed also,” says Sir Walter Scott, “the hereditary abilities of her family in such a degree that the superstition of the vulgar imputed them to supernatural knowledge.” This belief in her witchcraft and the spirit of faction led to the foul accusation against her of having instigated Queen Mary to the murder of her husband. This daughter of the house of Creich has become familiarly known from the prominent place she occupies in Sir Walter Scott’s poem of the Lay of the Last Minstrel. A copy of a letter of hers, to the queen-regent, Mary of Guise, is published in the Maitland Club Miscellany. Sir John Bethune was keeper of the palace of Falkland, as his father had been, and steward of Fife, during part of the reign of James the Fifth.

      He was succeeded by his eldest son, David, who died, unmarried, in 1539, when the second son, Robert Bethune, inherited the family estate. The latter was early attached to the royal household, and attended the young queen, Mary, to France as a page. On her return to Scotland in 1561, he was appointed master of the household, heritable steward of Fife, and keeper of Falkland palace. He married a French lady, Joanna Renwall or Gryssoner, a maid of honour to the queen. By her he had two sons and eight daughters. His eldest daughter, Mary Bethune, was one of the queen’s “four Maries,” whose extraordinary beauty has been nearly as much celebrated as her own. An original portrait of Mary Bethune, in full court dress, is still preserved at Balfour house in Fife, as is also one of the Cardinal. She married, in 1566, Alexander Ogilvy of Boyne, the representative of an old and respectable branch of the noble family of Findlater. Both she and her husband were alive in 1606. The marriage contract between these parties has been published by the Maitland Club, in Part I. of their Miscellany. It is subscribed by the queen and Henry Darnley, and by the earls of Huntly, Argyle, Bothwell, Murray, and Athol, as cautioners for the bridegroom; by Ogilvy himself as Boyne and by Mary Bethune. The signatures of the bride’s father and Michael Balfour of Burleigh, his cautioner, are wanting. The beauty of Mary Bethune has been celebrated by George Buchanan in his Valentiniana.

      David Bethune, the eldest son of Robert, succeeded him as fifth proprietor of Creich. He married Euphan P.B. Leslie, daughter of the earl of Rothes, by whom he had an only daughter, but being desirous that the estate of Creich should continue to be possessed only by those of the name of Bethune, he disponed it to his brother, James, parson of Roxburgh, who married, first, Helen Leslie, heiress of Kinniard, and after her death, Margaret Wemyss, eldest daughter of David Wemyss of that ilk, from whom it is said the earls of Wemyss are descended. Their eldest son and grandson succeeded to the estate as the seventh and eighth proprietors.

      The latter, David Bethune, married Lady Margaret Cunninghame, third daughter of the eighth earl of Glencairn; but she having no family to him, and his brother William having no male children, he sold the estate of Creich to James Bethune, then friar of Balfour, reserving to himself the liferent of the most part, and to his lady the liferent of thirty-two chalders of victual. Lamont, in his Diary of Fife, mentions that this laird of Creich, soon after disponing his property, died at his dwelling-house at Denbough, 4th March 1660. The estate was afterwards united to that of Balfour.

      During the period in which the Bethunes of Creich flourished probably no family of their rank in Scotland formed so great a number of matrimonial connexions with the noble and more powerful families of the kingdom than did its members.

BETHUNE, BEATON, or BETON, JAMES, Archbishop of St. Andrews in the reign of James V., was the sixth and youngest son of John Bethune of Balfour, by Mary, daughter of Sir David Boswell of Balmuto. Being a younger brother, he was early destined for the church; and, while yet young, was by the earl of Angus appointed provost of the collegiate church of Bothwell. He received his first benefice in 1503, and next year was advanced to the rich preferment of abbot of Dunfermline, or Dumferling, as it was then called. In 1505, upon the death of his brother, Sir David Bethune, the king bestowed upon him the staff of the high treasurer, and he was thereafter considered one of the principal ministers of state. In 1508 he was promoted to the bishopric of Galloway, and before he had held that see a year, he was made archbishop of Glasgow, on which he resigned the treasurer’s staff, that he might have more leisure to attend to his diocese. It does not appear that he had any share in the counsels that drove King James IV. into a war with England, which led to the fatal and disastrous battle of Flodden Field, where that unfortunate monarch was slain. On the king’s death, the regent duke of Albany appointed Archbishop Bethune to be high chancellor; and gave him for the support of his dignity the two rich abbeys of Kilwinning and Arbroath, which he held with his archbishopric in commendam; and by this means drew him over from the faction of the Douglas to his own party. In 1517, on the duke of Albany going to France, the archbishop was appointed one of the governors of Scotland, but the kingdom was in such confusion, that they were glad to devolve their whole power upon the earl of Arran. A convention of estates being summoned to meet at Edinburgh, April 29, 1520, the earl of Arran, with the chief of the western nobility, assembled together in the archbishop’s house, at the bottom of Blackfriars Wynd, where they resolved to apprehend the earl of Angus, alleging that his power was so great, that so long as he was free, they could not have a free parliament. Angus, informed of their design, sent his uncle, Douglas, bishop of Dunkeld, to the archbishop, offering, if he had failed in any point of his duty, to submit himself to the convention then about to meet, and the bishop earnestly recommended a compromise to prevent the effusion of blood. Bethune, who had put armour on under his cassock, laid the blame wholly on the earl of Arran, but concluded with saying, “There is no remedy! Upon my conscience, I cannot help it!” And striking his breast with his hand, to give force to his asseveration, his concealed coat of mail rattled so loud as to be heard by Bishop Douglas, who exclaimed, “How now, my lord, methinks your conscience clatters; we are priests; and to put on armour, or to bear arms, is not consistent with our character,” and so left him. the two factions having come to an engagement in the streets, Arran’s party were defeated, when the archbishop fled for sanctuary to the church of the Blackfriars, and was taken out from behind the altar, part of his dress being torn, and would certainly have been slain, had not the bishop of Dunkeld interceded for him. In 1523 he was appointed archbishop of St. Andrews by the duke of Albany, who had returned from France two years before and resumed the regency. On the abrogation, soon after, of the regent’s power by parliament, the earl of Angus having placed himself at the head of the government, the archbishop was dismissed the court, and obliged to resign the office of chancellor. When the Douglases were driven from court, the archbishop came again into power, but did not recover the office of chancellor. He now resided principally at the palace of St. Andrews, where at the instigation of his nephew, the cardinal, he proceeded violently to persecute the protestants, and caused Patrick Hamilton, the protomartyr of Scotland, a young man of piety, talents, and noble birth, to be burned to death. The sentence was subscribed by the two archbishops, three bishops, six abbots and friars, and eight divines. It is stated that the archbishop was himself averse to these severities, and the following two stories are told to show that he was not naturally inclined to such proceedings. It happened that, at one of the consultations of the clergy, some vehemently pressed for the continuance of rigorous measures against all who preached the reforming doctrines, when one Mr. John Lindsay, a man in great credit with the archbishop, said, “If you burn any more of them, take my advice, and burn them in cellars, for I dare assure you, that the smoke of Mr. Patrick Hamilton has infected all that it blew upon.” The other case was of a more serious nature. One Alexander Seton, a Black Friar, preached openly in the church of St. Andrews, that, according to St. Paul’s description of bishops, there were no bishops in Scotland; which being reported to the primate, not in very precise terms, he sent for Seton, and reproved him sharply for having said, according to his information, “That a bishop who did not preach was but a dumb dog, who fed not the flock, but fed his own belly.” Seton said that those who had reported this were liars, upon which witnesses were produced, who testified very positively to the words having been uttered. On which Seton, in reply, delivered himself thus: “My lord, you have heard, and may consider, what ears these asses have, who cannot discern between Paul, Isaiah, Zechariah, Malachi, and Friar Alexander Seton. In truth, my lord, I did preach that Paul saith, it behoveth a bishop to be a teacher. Isaiah saith, that they that feed not the flock are dumb dogs; and the prophet Zechariah saith, that they are idle pastors. Of my own head I affirmed nothing, but declared what the Spirit of God before pronounced; at whom, my lord, if you be not offended, you cannot justly be offended with me.” How much soever the bishop might be incenses, he dismissed Friar Seton without punishment, who soon after fled out of the kingdom. The archbishop in future, instead of acting himself, granted commissions to those who were more inclined to proceed against such as preached the doctrines of the Reformation, which seems to justify the remark of Spottiswood: “Seventeen years,” says that writer, “he lived bishop of this see, and was herein most unfortunate, that, under the shadow of his authority, many good men were put to death for the cause of religion, though he himself was neither violently set not much solicitous, as it was thought, how matters went in the church.” He had, in fact, committed the charge of all church matters to his nephew the cardinal. For the promotion of learning, he founded the New College in the university of St. Andrews, which he did not live to finish, and to which he left the best part of his estate, but, after his death, it was misapplied, and did not come, as he intended, to that foundation. One of the last acts of his life was the being present at the baptism of the young prince, born at St. Andrews the very year in which he died. The king retained to the last so great an affection for the archbishop, that he allowed him to dispose of all his preferments as he thought proper. He died in 1539, and was interred in the cathedral church of St. Andrews, before the high altar, having held the primacy of Scotland sixteen years. – Keith’s Scottish Bishops. – Pitscottie’s History.

BETHUNE, BEATON, or BETON, DAVID, CARDINAL, PRIMATE, AND LORD HIGH CHANCELLOR OF Scotland, nephew of the preceding, was the third son of John Bethune of Balfour, elder brother of the archbishop, by Isobel, daughter of David Monypenny of Pitmilly. He was born at the mansionhouse of Balfour in 1494, and in October 1511 became a student at the university of St. Andrews. He was afterwards sent to Paris, where he studied theology and the canon and civil laws for some years. In due time he entered into holy orders, and was preferred by his uncle to the rectory of Campsie in Stirlingshire, in the diocese of Glasgow. In 1519 the duke of Albany, regent during the minority of James V., appointed him resident for Scotland at the French court. In 1523 his uncle, being translated from Glasgow to St. Andrews, and become primate of Scotland, resigned in his favour the abbey of Aberbrothwick, or Arbroath, retaining for himself one half of the rents thereof. On his return to Scotland in 1525, he took his place in parliament as superior of the abbey of Arbroath, the yearly revenues of which exceeded £10,000 sterling of our money. In October 1527, as we learn from Pitcairn’s ‘Criminal Trials,’ John Bethune of Balfour, and others, having been indicted for an assault upon the sheriff of Fife, and bail found for their appearance, the abbot of Arbroath became bound to relieve John Wardlaw of Torry of the cautionary obligation. In 1528 he was appointed by the young king, to whom he had recommended himself by his address and abilities, lord privy seal, in the place of the bishop of Dunkeld. He is said to have been the adviser of James in instituting the college of justice, or court of session, in 1530, the idea of which was suggested by the constitution of the parliament of Paris. In February 1533, Bethune, now prothonotary public, was sent ambassador to France, with Sir Thomas Erskine, to obtain a renewal of the ancient league between the two nations, and to negotiate a marriage between James and the Princess Magdalene. His skillful penetration enabled him to transmit to James much important intelligence respecting the plans of his uncle Henry VIII., by which he avoided a serious quarrel with the English monarch. He returned to Scotland with James V. and his young queen, whom he had married in France, January 1, 1537. On Queen Magdalene’s death, of consumption, on the 7th July following, he was again sent to France to negotiate a second marriage of James with Mary, daughter of the Duke of Guise, widow of the duke of Longueville. Returning with that princess, he solemnized the marriage in the cathedral church of St. Andrews. It is supposed that when he was in France on this occasion, he procured the papal bull, dated February 12, 1537, for the erection of St. Mary’s college, St. Andrews. In November of the same year, Francis I. conferred upon him all the privileges of a native-born subject of France, and gave him the rich bishopric of Mirepoix, in Languedoc, to which see he was consecrated in the succeeding December. On his return home, he became coadjutor to his uncle, now much advanced in years, in the see of St. Andrews. On the 28th of December 1538, on the recommendation of the king of France, and in consideration of his zeal, talents, and influence in his native country, Pope Paul III. advanced him to the dignity of a cardinal, by the title of Cardinal of St. Stephen in Monte Caelis; and June 20, 1539, the king of France renewed his letters of naturalization, allowing his heirs, though born in Scotland, to inherit his estate in that country.

      In the autumn of 1539, on his uncle’s death, he succeeded him in the primacy, and soon after his instalment he commenced a furious persecution of the Reformers, for the total extirpation of the Protestant doctrines. In order to be invested with supreme authority in all matters ecclesiastical, he obtained from the Pope the appointment of legatus natus, and legate a latere, in Scotland. In May 1540, accompanied by the leading nobility and clergy, he made a public entrance into St. Andrews with great pomp and splendour, and from his throne in the cathedral delivered a long address to those assembled, declaring the dangers which threatened the Holy Catholic Church from the proceedings of Henry Viii. in England, and the increase of heresy in Scotland, which, he said, had invaded the precincts of the royal court. Sir John Borthwick, provost or captain of Linlithgow, denounced for heresy, whom he had caused to be cited to answer there before him, not appearing, was condemned as a heretic and seditious incendiary, his goods confiscated, and all intercourse prohibited with him on pain of excommunication. Borthwick was accordingly burned in effigy, both at St. Andrews and Edinburgh; but he himself had taken refuge in England, and so escaped the fury of the cardinal. To remove the odium of the persecutions, on which he had now entered, from the clergy, the cardinal had the address to induce the king to appoint a Court of Inquisition to inquire after heretics in every part of the kingdom, promising him a yearly sum of 30,000 crowns of gold from the clergy, and persuading him that he could add to his revenues at least 100,000 crowns per annum more, by annexing the estates of convicted heretics to the crown. Of this court of inquisition, Sir James Hamilton, natural brother of the earl of Arran, was appointed Judge; but he was the same year executed for high treason. The cardinal had, it is said, prepared a black list, which was presented to the king, of three hundred and sixty of the chief nobility and gentry suspected of heresy, at the head of which was the earl of Arran; but the disastrous overthrow of the Scots at Solway Moss prevented the contemplated prosecutions and confiscations being carried into execution. On the king’s death at Falkland soon after, December 14, 1542, the cardinal, who, with some others, was with him at the time of his decease, was accused of having forged his will, by which he and the earls of Huntly, Argyle, and Murray, were appointed regents during the minority of the infant Queen Mary. His scheme was, however, defeated. Within a week after, the earl of Arran, being supported by most of the nobility, was proclaimed regent and governor of the kingdom.

      On January 20, 1542-3, the cardinal was arrested, and imprisoned in the castle of Blackness, charged with writing to the duke of Guise to being a French army into Scotland, drive Arran from the regency, and overthrow the negotiations which were then forming between the English monarch and the ruling party in Scotland, for a marriage between the young Prince of Wales, afterwards Edward VI., and the infant Queen of Scots. For this charge Arran admitted to Sir Ralph Sadler, the English ambassador, that there was no evidence; “but,” he said, “we have other matters to charge him with, for he did forge the late king’s testament; and when the king was even almost dead, he took his hand in his, and caused it to subscribe a blank paper; and, besides that, since he has been a prisoner, he has given special and secret command to his men to keep his stronghold and castle of St. Andrews against us, which is plain disobedience and rebellion.” The cardinal’s imprisonment created great consternation among the clergy. “The public services of religion,” observes Mr. Tytler in his History, “were instantly suspended, the priests refused to administer the sacraments of baptism and burial, the churches were closed, a universal gloom overspread the countenances of the people, and the country presented the melancholy appearance of a land excommunicated for some awful crime.” He was soon after liberated, and reconciled to his cousin the regent, who was induced publicly, in the church of the Franciscans at Stirling, to abjure the protestant faith, which he had for some time professed. On the young queen’s coronation, the cardinal was again admitted of the council, and the regent appointed him chancellor of the realm.

      In January 1545-6, the cardinal, accompanied by the regent and several of the nobility, made a diocesan visitation of the counties under his jurisdiction, with the object of punishing with the utmost severity all the protestants he could find. On his arrival at Perth, a number of persons were accused of heresy by a friar named Spence. Of these, four citizens and a woman were on the 25th January, cruelly put to death; the men being hanged and the woman drowned. The names of these martyrs were, William Anderson, Robert Lamb, James Ronald, and James Finlayson, and Helen Stark, the wife of Finlayson. The crime of three of the men consisted, according to Knox and others, in having “eaten a goose on Good Friday.” The woman was accused of having refused to invoke the Virgin during her labour, declaring that she would direct her prayers to God alone in the name of Christ. The cardinal is said to have witnessed the execution from a window in the Spy tower, a building in the earl of Gowrie’s garden. Some of the citizens of Perth were banished from the city. Lord Ruthven, the provost, was deposed from his office; and Charteris of Kinfauns, a neighbouring proprietor, although by no means friendly to the cardinal, or averse to the protestant doctrines, appointed in his place. The citizens of Perth, however, would not acknowledge him as provost, and, urged by the cardinal and regent to take possession of the city by force, he was compelled to retire, after a fight where sixty of his followers were slain. The cardinal and regent now proceeded towards Dundee, where the New Testament in the original Greek had been some time taught; but within a few miles of that town, they were stopped by the approach of the earl of Rothes and Lord Gray, both noblemen favourable to the Reformation, at the head of a large body of their armed retainers. In consequence, they returned to Perth, where, by a manoeuvre of the cardinal, both Rothes and Gray, who had followed them, were arrested and lodged in prison. Rothes soon obtained his liberty, but Gray was not released for some time. At Arbroath, whither the cardinal and his party next went, he succeeded in apprehending a Black Friar named John Rogers, who had been going about preaching the protestant doctrines, and whom he confined in the sea tower of the castle of St. Andrews. A few mornings thereafter Rogers was found dead among the rocks under the castle, as if he had fallen and broken his neck while attempting to make his escape during the night. But there were not wanting those who stated and believed that the cardinal had caused the friar to be privately murdered, and thrown over the wall.

      Shortly after Bethune presided at a provincial council of the clergy held in the church of the Black Friars, Edinburgh, when he enforced upon them the necessity of proceeding vigorously against all those who either encouraged, or were suspected of encouraging, the protestant doctrines, at the same time recommending to them to reform their own lives, that no further complaints might be heard against the church. In the midst of their deliberations, the cardinal received intelligence that the celebrated George Wishart, the most eminent protestant preacher of his time, was residing at the house of Cockburn of Ormiston, in Haddingtonshire. A troop of horse was immediately sent off to secure him, but Cockburn refusing to deliver him up, the cardinal himself and the regent followed, blocking up every avenue to the house, so as to render escape impossible. The earl of Bothwell being sent for, pledged his faith to Cockburn, that he would stand by Wishart, and see that his life and person would be safe, on which Wishart delivered himself up; and Bothwell having basely surrendered him to the cardinal, he was conveyed first to Edinburgh Castle, and afterwards to St. Andrews, where he was committed to the castle prison. Being brought before the ecclesiastical tribunal, he was condemned for heresy, and burnt with great cruelty. the cardinal and other prelates witnessed the scene from a window in the castle, and, according to Buchanan and others, the following prediction was uttered by Wishart in the midst of the torturing flames: “He who now so proudly looks down upon me from yonder lofty place, (pointing to the cardinal,) shall in a few days be as ignominiously thrown down as now he proudly lolls at his east.” This cruel execution was conducted in defiance of a letter which the regent had written to him, to stay the proceedings until he should come himself to St. Andrews, and threatening that, if he did not, the blood of Wishart would be required at his hands. Wishart died with great firmness, constancy, and Christian courage; and his death caused great excitement in the kingdom, which, however, the cardinal, conceiving that he had done a meritorious action, paid no attention to.

      In April 1546, shortly after the martyrdom of Wishart, the cardinal proceeded to the castle of Finhaven, to the marriage of the eldest of his illegitimate daughters by Mrs. Marion Ogilvy, of the house of Airly, with whom he had long lived in scandalous concubinage, and there, with infamous effrontery, married her to the eldest son of the earl of Crawford, giving with her 4,000 merks of dowry. The marriage-contract, subscribed by him, in which he styles her “my daughter,” is yet extant. In the midst of the marriage rejoicings, intelligence was received that an English fleet had appeared off the coast, and he immediately returned to St. Andrews, and began to fortify his castle, but while thus engaged preparing against foreign enemies, he had no suspicion of any at home. He had procured from Norman Leslie, eldest son of the earl of Rothes, a bond of manrent or feudal service for the estate of Easter Wemyss, which Leslie had resigned to the cardinal on a promise of an advantageous equivalent. Demanding the fulfilment of the bargain, the proud priest refused, on which, dreading the primate’s vengeance, Norman concerted measures with his uncle, Mr. John Leslie, a violent enemy of the cardinal, and some other persons, to cut him off. There were very few concerned in this conspiracy, the principal persons being the two Leslies, William Kirkaldy of Grange, Peter Carmichael of Fife, and James Melville of Raith, most of whom had some private cause of wrong against the cardinal. On the 28th of May 1546, Norman Leslie entered St. Andrews with some followers, but not so many as to excite suspicion. The others assembled in that city during the evening; Kirkaldy came there on the previous day; John Leslie arrived late, lest his appearance should excite alarm. Next morning they assembled early in the vicinity of the castle, and on the porter lowering the drawbridge, to admit the workmen whom the cardinal had been employing incessantly at the fortifications. Norman Leslie entered with three men; and while speaking to the porter, as to the hour when the cardinal would be stirring and could be seen, Kirkaldy of Grange and his party also gained admission into the court-yard. John Leslie now appeared with a few attendants, but when the porter saw him he suspected the design, and attempted to lift the drawbridge. He was prevented by Leslie, who sprang across the gap with his attendants, slew the porter, threw the body into the foss, and seized the keys of the fortress. the workmen and domestics, about one hundred and fifty individuals, were then ejected, and being now in full possession of the fortress, before there was even an alarm in the town, they dropped the portcullis, and closed the gates. The cardinal, roused by the noise, arose from his couch. According to Knox, Marion Ogilvy had been with him the preceding night, and she was “espy’d to depart from him by the privy postern that morning.” Opening the casement, he inquired the cause of the noise. A voice answered him that Norman Leslie had taken the castle. He ran to the postern, but finding it locked, he returned to his apartment, and seizing a sword, proceeded to barricade the door with the heaviest furniture, assisted by the page or attendant who waited on him. John Leslie now advanced to the prelate’s room, and demanded admittance. “Who is there?” inquired the cardinal. “My name is Leslie,” replied the assailant. “Which of the Leslies?” asked the cardinal; “are you Norman? – I must have Norman, he is my friend” “Content yourself with those who are here,” was the reply, “for you will get no other.” They then insisted that the cardinal should open the door, which he had refused to do. While they were attempting to force it, the prelate concealed a box of gold under some coals in a corner of the room, and then sat down on a chair, exclaiming to those outside, “ I am a priest; I am a priest.” Finding them resolute to gain admittance, he at length asked them if they would save his life. “It may be that we will,” replied John Leslie. “Nay,” said the cardinal, “swear unto me by God’s wounds, and I will admit you.” The elder Leslie now called out for fire, the door from its strength resisting all their exertions. a quantity of burning coals was brought to burn the door, when the cardinal, or his chamberlain, seeing farther resistance hopeless, opened the door, on the strongest assurances of personal safety. On their entrance he cried out, “I am a priest, I am a priest; you will not slay me!” They rushed on the cardinal, and John Leslie, and another conspirator named Carmichael, repeatedly struck him. But Melville of Raith, who had been intimately acquainted with Wishart, perceiving them in a furious passion, pushed them aside, saying, “This work and judgment of God, although it be secret, ought to be done with greater gravity,” and presenting the point of his sword, he thus addressed the wounded prelate: – “Repent thee of thy former wicked life, but especially the shedding of the blood of that notable instrument of God, Mr. George Wishart, who, although the flame of fire consumed before men, yet cries for vengeance upon thee, and we from God are sent to avenge it. Remember that neither the hatred of thy person, the love of riches, nor the fear of thy power, moved or moveth me to strike thee, but because thou hast been an obstinate enemy of Christ and the holy gospel.” Melville then passed his sword through the cardinal’s body several times, who sunk into his chair, and saying, “I am a priest, fie, fie, all is gone!” Instantly expired. The alarm had by this time been given in the town; the bells were rung, and the citizens, headed by the provost, surrounded the entire wall of the castle. “What have you done with my lord cardinal?” they clamorously demanded: “Have you slain my lord cardinal?” They were answered by the conspirators from the battlements, that it would be as well to return to their houses, for the man whom they called the cardinal had received his reward, and would trouble them no more. This reply having only the more enraged them, they were addressed by Norman Leslie as unreasonable fools, who demanded an audience with a dead man. Dragging the bleeding body of the murdered primate to the spot, they suspended it by a sheet over the wall, by the same window from which he had but a short time before witnessed the martyrdom of Mr. George Wishart, exclaiming, “There is your God; and now that you are satisfied, get home to your houses,” – a command with which, in horror and amazement, they eventually complied. The body of the cardinal was salted, and after being treated with disgusting indignity, was thrown into the ground-floor of the sea-tower. His death excited joy among the Protestants, and consternation among the Catholics; the feelings of the more moderate being well expressed in Sir David Lindsay of the Mount’s oft-repeated verse:

                        “As for the cardinal, I grant
                        He was a man we well might want –
                              God will forgive it soon:
                        But of a truth, the sooth to say
                        Although the loon be well away,
                              The deed was foully done.”

David - Cardinal Bethune

      The engraving given of Cardinal Bethune is from a rare portrait at St. Mary’s College, Blairs, near Aberdeen. With him fell the last prop of the papal church in Scotland. He understood well the policy of the courts of France and Rome, and thought that the interests of Scotland could only be promoted in accordance with it. In times of danger he evinced resolution of mind, steadiness of purpose, and a firm and unswerving attachment to the principles which he conceived to be the most fitted for the prosperity of his native country. He was a man of commanding talents, and a politician of the highest order – one thoroughly acquainted with the temper, influence, and weight of the whole feudal nobility of Scotland; but, says Keith, (Hist. p. 45.) “It were to be wished the same praise could be given him with respect to his morals. Mrs. Marion Ogilvy, a daughter of the predecessors of the earls of Airlie, bore him several children; some of whose descendants, both of the male and female line, are known to be persons of good note in our country at this day.” A contemporary writer, Paulus Jovius, says of him: “His pride was so great, that he quarrelled with the old archbishop of Glasgow (Dunbar) in his own city, and pushed this quarrel so far that their men fought in the very church. His ambition was boundless, for he took into his own hands the entire management of the affairs of the kingdom.” He was haughty, cruel, licentious, and intolerant in the extreme. Devoted to the Church of Rome, he upheld her doctrines by the most sanguinary measures. He possessed little learning, and knew scarcely anything of the controversial writings of the age. Dempster mentions that he wrote ‘Memoirs of his own Embasseys;’ a ‘Treatise on St. Peter’s Supremacy;’ and ‘Letters to several Persons,’ of which that author observes there are several copies extant in the national libraries at Paris. His great riches he bequeathed to his natural children, having three sons and three daughters. One of his sons became a Protestant; his daughters were married into families of distinction.

BETHUNE, JAMES, Archbishop of Glasgow, a nephew of the cardinal, was educated chiefly at Paris. In 1552 he was raised to the archiepiscopal see of Glasgow; and, according to some writers, was consecrated at Rome, whither it is conjectured he was sent to give the Pope an account of the ecclesiastical affairs of Scotland after the murder of his uncle the cardinal. In 1557 he was one of the commissioners appointed to witness the marriage of the young Queen Mary to the Dauphin of France, and was present at the ceremony in the cathedral church of Notre Dame, April 24, 1558. On his return, he acted as a privy counsellor to the queen-mother, Mary of Guise, appointed regent by her daughter on her going to France. Owing to the disputes about religion which then agitated the kingdom, and the proceedings of the Reformers, the archbishop retired to France in July 1560, carrying with him the treasures and records of his archiepiscopal see, and carefully deposited them in the Scots college at Paris. On his departure the protestants in Scotland appointed a preacher in Glasgow, and seized all the revenues of the archbishopric. As his capacity and fidelity were well known to the queen his mistress, she resolved, after the death of the king her consort and her return to Scotland, to leave her affairs in France in his hands. Accordingly, in 1561, he was declared her ambassador to France, and, in June 1564, his commission was renewed. He resided in Paris as ambassador, first from Queen Mary, and afterwards from King James, till his death in 1603, enjoying all that time the highest confidence of his sovereign. Having carefully preserved Queen Mary’s letters, and other papers communicated in him, these would have formed valuable materials for history, had the greater part of them not been taken away or destroyed. While in France, he received scarcely any money from Scotland; but, when King James came of age, he restored him both to the title and revenues of his archbishopric. Previous to this, he had obtained several ecclesiastical preferments in France. He died April 24, 1603, aged 86. He is represented as a prelate of great prudence, moderation, loyalty, and learning. He was succeeded in his see by the celebrated Spottiswood. According to Dempster, he wrote ‘A Commentary on the Book of Kings;’ “A Lamentation for the Kingdom of Scotland;’ ‘A Book of Controversies against the Sectaries;’ ‘Observations upon Gratian’s Decretals;’ and ‘A Collection of Scotch Proverbs,’ – none of which were ever printed. – Spottiswood’s History.

BETHUNE, ALEXANDER, a literary peasant, of unpretending worth and rare talent, was the son of an agricultural labourer of the same name, and was born at Upper Rankeillor, in the parish of Monimail, Fifeshire, about the end of July 1804. From the extreme poverty of his parents, he received but a scanty education, having, up to the age of twenty-two been only four or five months at school, while his brother John, the subject of the following article, who was a few years younger, was at school but one day. To their mother, whose maiden name was Alison Christie, they were mainly indebted for the cultivation of those talents which subsequently obtained for them a very respectable standing in the literary world. At the age of fourteen Alexander was engaged in the occupation of labourer. He describes himself as having been set to dig at raw fourteen, and for more than a year afterwards, his joints, in first attempting to move in the morning, creaked like machinery wanting oil. Previous to this his parents had removed to the hamlet of Lochend, near the loch of Lindores. At the age of twenty-one, he enrolled himself in the evening classes taught by the Rev. John Adamson, afterwards of Dundee, who about 1825 kept a school at Lochend. With the view of improving his condition, he commenced learning the weaving business, under the instruction of his brother, (see next article,) but after expending all their savings in the purchase of the necessary apparatus, they were compelled, from the general failures which took place in 1825 and following year, to seek employment as outdoor labourers, at the rate of one shilling a-day. In 1829, while employed in a quarry, Alexander was thrown into the air by a blast of gunpowder, and so dreadfully mangled that those who came to his aid after the accident, anticipated his speedy death. He, however, recovered, and in four months after he was able to resume his labours. Three years thereafter he met with an accident of a similar kind, by which he was again fearfully disfigured, and from the effects of which he never altogether recovered. His leisure hours were diligently devoted to literary pursuits, and besides contributing several tales and other pieces to the periodicals of the day, he completed a series of ‘Tales and Sketches of the Scottish Peasantry,’ a work which, on its publication in 1838, was justly admired for its truthfulness and vigorous delineation of rustic character, as well as for the author’s general knowledge of human nature. the risk of the publication was undertaken by Mr. Shortrede, then a printer in Edinburgh, who gave for the copyright the price of the first fifty copies sold, an arrangement with which the author was perfectly satisfied.

      His brother John having, in the meantime, obtained the situation of overseer on the estate of Inchrye, he accompanied him as his assistant. Before the end of a year, however, that estate passed into the hands of a new proprietor, and their engagement came to an end. As they were obliged, at the same time, to quit the house at Lochend, which formed part of the Inchrye property, the brothers came to the resolution of feuing a piece of ground near Newburgh, and immediately set about building a house for themselves. In concert with his brother, he had prepared a series of ‘Lectures on Practical Economy,’ which were published in 1839, but did not meet with the success which had been anticipated. After the death of his brother the same year he undertook the revision of his poems, which he published in a volume, with a memoir, and the first impression of seven hundred copies having been disposed of, a second edition was soon called for. A copy of the work having fallen into the hands of Mrs. Hill, the wife of Mr. Frederick Hill, inspector of prisons, that lady wrote to Alexander Bethune, offering to use her influence to procure him a situation as teacher or in some other way connected with the prisons; but after a week’s probation as a turnkey at Glasgow in March 1841, he declined the proposal, and write that he did not wish an application to be made for one who had no qualifications above the average rate of a common labourer. In 1842 he visited Edinburgh, and entered into arrangements with the Messrs. Black for the publication of ‘The Scottish Peasant’s Fireside,’ which appeared early in the following year. Previous to this he had been seized with fever, from which he never thoroughly recovered, the disease merging into pulmonary consumption. during his partial recovery, an offer was made to him to undertake the editorship of the Dumfries Standard, a newspaper then about to be started; but after conditionally accepting of the situation, should his health permit, he felt himself compelled to abandon all hope of ever being able to enter on the duties of editor. He died at Newburgh at midnight of the 13th June 1843. Previous to his death he consigned his manuscripts to his friend Mr. William M’Combie, a farmer in Aberdeenshire, and like himself a writer on social economy, who in 1845 published at Aberdeen his Life, with Selections from his Correspondence and Literary Remains. In as far as regards character and conduct, Alexander Bethune and his brother were as fine specimens of the Scottish peasantry as could anywhere be found. They were, in fact, models of the class; humble, without meanness; frugal, industrious, persevering, and unostentatiously religious, without bigotry or intolerance. the productions of his intellect caused him to be courted and esteemed by many in the upper ranks of society. This, however, did not make him vain, or turn him from the even tenor of his way. He was, all his life, a sturdy independent peasant, never ashamed in the least of his calling; digging, quarrying, felling wood, breaking stones on the highway, or building dry-stone walls, as long as he was able, by his own hands, to minister to his own wants; and on wet days and intervals of leisure, turning his attention to literary composition, as a relaxation from his ordinary toil.

BETHUNE, JOHN, the author of several poems and tales, younger brother of the preceding, was born in 1812, in the parish of Monimail, Fifeshire. At Martinmas 1813, his father removed to a place called Lochend, near the loch of Lindores, where the greater part of John Bethune’s short life was passed. He never was but one day at school. He was taught to read by his mother, and received lessons in writing and arithmetic from his brother, Alexander Bethune, who, soon after his death, published a selection from his poems, with a sketch of his life. When yet scarcely thirteen years of age, he and his brother earned their subsistence by breaking stones on the road between Lindores and Newburgh. Having been apprenticed to the weaving business in the village of Collessie, he soon became to expert at the loom, that at Martinmas 1825 he commenced business on his own account, in a house adjoining his father’s, with his brother as his apprentice. But, not succeeding, he and his brother resumed their former occupation of outdoor labourers. Most of his pieces were written amidst great privations, and, as we are told by his brother, upon such scraps of paper as he could pick up. Before the year 1831 he had produced a large collection of pieces; he also wrote and planned a number of tales, the greater part of which was left in manuscript. In October 1829 he was engaged on the estate of Inchrye as a day-labourer; and afterwards in 1835, on the death of the overseer, he was appointed in his place, at a salary of twenty-six pounds yearly, with fodder for a cow, when he engaged his brother as his assistant. There he remained for one year. To his brother’s ‘Tales and Sketches of the Scottish Peasantry,’ published in 1838, he contributed five pieces. In the following year appeared ‘Lectures on Practical Economy’ by both brothers, on the title-page of which he designated himself a “Fifeshire Forester.” This work, though designed to teach poor people habits of thrift and saving, and well spoken of by the press, did not succeed with the public, as stated in the life of his brother. As a “Fifeshire Forester” he contributed a number of poems to the ‘Scottish Christian Herald.’ He also wrote some pieces for the ‘Christian Instructor.’ In 1838, having received some small remuneration for one or two contributions to a periodical, and finding his health failing him, he determined to give up manual labour, and trust to his pen for his future support. He did not long fish in the uncertain waters of literature, as he was cut off by consumption on the forenoon of Sunday the 1st of September 1839. He died at the early age of 27. He was a man of considerable powers of mind. His whole life seems to have been a scene of constant disappointment and suffering, but he possessed a cheerful, contented disposition, and a spirit of so much independence, that when an Edinburgh friend offered to exert his influence to procure him a government situation, he at once declined it, choosing rather to support himself by his own unaided industry.

BETHUNE, SIR HENRY LINDESAY, of Kilconquhar, baronet, a distinguished general in the Persian service, was born 12th April 1787. He was descended from the ancient family of the Lords Lindsay of the Byres, who afterwards became earls of Crawford and Lindsay. The immediate ancestor of the branch of the noble and ancient house to which he belonged was William Lindsay, second son of Patrick fourth Lord Lindsay, who obtained a charter of the lands of Pyetston in Fifeshire, in March, 1529. The direct line of Pyetston had failed towards the close of the seventeenth century, but a younger branch survived in the Lindsays of Wormestone, of which the subject of this notice was the representative. He was the son of Major Martin Eccles Lindesay Bethune, by the daughter of General Tovey. He entered the military service of the East India Company in early life. and in it attained the rank of major. Being sent from Madras to Persia for the purpose of instructing and assisting the celebrated Abbas Mirza, crown prince of Persia, the eldest son of Futteh Ali Shah, in the organization of his artillery, the talent, resolution and perseverance exhibited by him, in the execution of this arduous duty, gained him the entire respect and confidence of the prince, and his heroism and intrepidity in the field established his fame throughout Persia. an instance of this is recited during the hostilities with Russia which preceded the peace negociated by Sir Gore Ouseley. Abbas Mirza had quitted his camp with his staff and suite on a shooting excursion, taking with him the artillery horses to beat for game. The Russians took advantage of his absence to surprise the camp, and carry off Major Lindesay’s six brass guns. Lindesay, on his return, seeing with a glass his cannon ranged in front of the enemy’s lines, instantly harnessed his horses, and, galloping across the intervening plain through the hostile advanced posts, cut down the guards, and brought off the guns in the face of the whole Russian army. Repeated feats of this daring character, his lofty and commanding stature, being six feet seven inches in height, and his great personal strength, always highly admired by Orientals, justified the epithet familiarly applied to him in the Persian armies, of “Rustum” – the Hercules of ancient Persian story; while his humanity and justice, and regular distribution of pay to the troops under his command – too often withheld or delayed by native officers – secured their personal attachment and esteem.

      After a period of about sixteen years thus usefully spent in the service of Persia, Major Lindesay returned to his native country, where he had inherited the estate of Kilconquhar, in Fifeshire, having succeeded his grandfather, who assumed the name of Bethune, by virtue of a deed of entail made by David Bethune of Balfour in 1779. He married, in 1822, Coutts, eldest daughter of the late John Trotter of Dyrham Park, county Herts, and with her lived in domestic retirement till 1834, when the critical state of affairs in Persia called him once more into active service.

      On the demise of Futteh Ali Shah, in that year, the throne devolved on Mahomed-Mirza, his grandson, the son of the gallant Abbas Mirza, who had died during his father’s lifetime. But Mahomed’s succession was opposed by Zulli Sultan, the younger brother of Abbas and uncle of Mahomed; he raised the standard of revolt, and Persia was involved in a civil war. Mahomed appealed to England; and Sir Henry Bethune simultaneously repaired to London, and offered his services to government. the foreign secretary, Lora Palmerston, accepted them, conferred on him the local rank of colonel in Asia, and despatched him as an accredited agent of the British government. He was received with delight by the Shah, and his arrival was instantly noised throughout Persia. The “magical influence” of the name of “Lindesay Sahib,” still powerful after so many hears’ absence, spread confidence throughout the royal army, and consternation through that of the rebel Zulli Sultan, who set a price of four thousand tomauns on his head. Some difficulties at first arose, in consequence of Sir Henry’s juniority in the service to certain British officers already high in station; but they were soon removed by his nobly consenting to take an inferior command, having solely at heart the public interests, and placing himself under the orders of the chief of those officers as a temporary arrangement.

      An expedition was sent against the rebel uncle, headed by Sir Henry Bethune, who commanded the advanced guard of the Shah’s army, and, by a singularly rapid march – or, as it is described in a letter in the St. Petersburg Gazette, “dragging the army after him” – he surprised, attacked, and defeated the rebel force, and took Sulli Sultan prisoner, enabling the Shah to make his triumphal entry into Teheran in December, 1834. His services were acknowledged by a firman from the Shah, investing “the high in degree and rank, the wise and prudent, the zealous and brave, the sincere and devoted, the great among Christians, Sir Henry Bethune, descended from the Lindesays,” with the rank of general and Ameer-i-Toop Kama, or master general of artillery; and requesting him to select the best Arab horse in his stables; which being done, the Shah mounted the fiery animal, rode him into Teheran, and then dismounted, and presented him to Sir Henry. The ministers and courtiers, on hearing of this gift, petitioned the Shah not to allow so famed a steed to leave the royal stud; but the Shah replied, that he would rather lose fifty such horses, if such could be found, than disappoint Sir Henry. the Shah further conferred upon him, by a distinct firman, a “Medal of Fidelity,” with five others in pure gold, as rewards for services rendered on particular occasions, declaring, at the same time, that he had surpassed all others in his bravery in the field; and commanding that this testimony to Sir Henry’s worth and good service should be inscribed in the books of the records of the kings of Persia.

      Nor was the testimony of the British envoy, Sir John Campbell, less marked and gratifying. In his despatch to Lord Ellenborough, dated 6th May, 1835, he refers to the “unbounded confidence reposed in Sir Henry Bethune by the Persian government, and by the military of all classes,” to the “fame which he had acquired during his former services in Persia,” to the “very extraordinary influence of his name and reputation,” to “his knowledge of the language and of the habits of the people,” and to “the successful result, beyond what could possibly have been anticipated, of all his operations, as fully justifying his (Sir John’s) accession to the wish of the Shah and the court of Persia, “that the direction of all hostile operations should be intrusted to him.” “His proceedings,” he states in another letter of the 30th April 1835, “have been energetic as well as conciliatory, and his efforts have been seconded by the British officers attached to his force. Owing to the subordination preserved, little or no injury has been done to the country. The ryots (or peasantry) have appealed to  him against the oppression of their own native authorities, and have duly appreciated the contrast between the conduct of an army marching under British, and one marching under native commanders; and numberless letters and verses have been received by the Persian government in praise of the English name.” We may add to this the following extract frm a private letter from Persia, printed in the United Service Gazette: – “Great is the name of Lindesay in this country, and great ought it to be, for certainly he was just formed for service in Persia in troubled times like these. The confidence the soldiers have in him is quite wonderful, and all classes talk of him as if there never had appeared on earth before so irresistible conqueror.”

      Having thus seated the son of his early friend and le ader on the throne of his grandfather, Sir Henry Bethune returned to his native country and his family in September 1835. Soon after his arrival, he received a letter from Lord Palmerston, then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, informing him that his Majesty, the late King William the Fourth had conferred upon him the honour of a baronetcy, (7th March 1836,) “as an acknowledgment of the brilliant and important services” which he had performed in Persia, and in accordance with a request of Mahomet Shah, expressed in a letter to the king, that his Majesty would confer some rank upon Sir Henry, “which, in the English State, may descend lineally to his posterity, and always remain in his family.”

      Sir Henry Bethune remained in Scotland till the year 1850, employing himself in adding to and decorating his venerable mansion of Kilconquhar – celebrated in local story as the scene of the murder of Macduff’s wife and children – and fulfilling in other respects the quiet and unostentatious duties of a private country gentleman. During the last year of his life, his health having been much shaken, and thinking that a change of air and a milder climate might restore it, he went to Persia, to the land of his early exploits and affections, there to spend the winter. He died at Tabreez on the 19th of February, 1851, in his sixty-fourth year – surrounded by friends, even in that distant clime. Nothing could exceed the marked kindness of the Shah and the Ameer during his illness. The interest and anxiety of the queen-mother were not less marked and considerate.

      He was interred in the churchyard of the Armenians, with the full service of their church, and with every military honour which Persia could bestow. The bazaars and the streets were thronged with spectators, and the whole Christian population of Tabreez attended the ceremony. He left three sons and five daughters, and was succeeded in his title and estate by his eldest son, Sir John Trotter Bethune.

Memoirs of Alexander Bethune
Embracing selections from his correspondence and literary remains compiled and edited by William M'Combie (1845) (pdf)

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