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Chap, i.] Fresh Catholic Conspiracy 169
conspiracy became known, the ministers loudly demanded the immediate arrest and punishment of the principal traitors. But James had his own reasons for proceeding more circumspectly with his dangerous subjects. To the indignation of the ministers, the Catholic earls were not brought to trial; and the only person who suffered was Graham of Fintry, one of their subordinate agents. In the circumstances, the old suspicion was confirmed that James himself was privy to the Catholic plot; and the recent publication of a remarkable document from James's own hand conclusively proves that the suspicion was justified. From this document it appears that, so early as the summer of 1592, James was privy to the scheme of a Spanish invasion of England through his own kingdom, and that he was deliberately weighing its probable results for himself1. From other recent publications we also know that all through the events that followed the discovery of the Spanish Blanks, James had a secret understanding with the Catholic earls, and that to the extent of his ability he endeavoured to shield them from the extreme penalty of the lawa.
But public opinion and the pressure of events forced James to renounce the temporising policy which he had hitherto followed towards the two religious parties. The pertinacious demands of the ministers for the punishment of the Catholic leaders were urgently supported by Elizabeth, whom, in view of the English succession, he could not afford to ignore. But it was the conduct of the irrepressible Bothwell that became the direct occasion of the suppression of the northern earls. On the 24th of July he surprised James in Holyrood Palace; and so powerful was his following that he was able to dictate his own terms. Remission was granted for all past offences of himself and his supporters; he was reinstated in all his possessions; and James consented to remove from the Court the Chancellor Thirlestane and others whom Bothwell alleged to have been the cause of all his misdemeanours. It was only James's temporary weakness that had constrained him to this humiliating agreement, and he seized the first occasion of repudiating it. In a Convention held at Stirling in September, he revoked the late concessions on the ground that they had been extorted from him by force1.
1 Hist. MSS. Commission—Calendar of the Manuscripts of the Marquis of Salisbury, 1891, Part iv. p. in. In this document James, after the manner of Burleigh, weighs the advantages and disadvantages of supporting the Spanish invasion that had been planned to take place in the summer of 1591.
1 Spanish State Papers, Vol. IV. 603.—"Statement of what happened in Scotland in the month of December last year, 1591, in consequence of the Embassy which the Catholic lords of that country wished to send to His Majesty." In this document there is new and interesting matter regarding the affair of the Spanish Blanks.
But James's troubles with Bothwell were not yet at an end. Desperado though he was, Bothwell had the support of many Protestants, who were indignant at James's unsatisfactory dealings with the Catholic conspirators. In another and the last of his harebrained enterprises, known as the " Raid of Leith," he attempted to seize the king's person, and narrowly failed in accomplishing his purpose. Foiled in this attempt, he fell on another device for gratifying his revenge; and it is here that his story links itself on to that of the Catholic earls. In the month of August he formed a secret league with these earls, with the double object of mutual defence and of overthrowing the existing religion*. Since the discovery of the Spanish Blanks, Huntly and his confederates had bade defiance to the Government, and in the preceding month (July) they had been guilty of an act which amounted to open rebellion. A Spanish ship, bearing letters and money from Pope Clement VIII to the king, had arrived at Aberdeen; and the magistrates of the town had promptly seized the envoy and three English priests who accompanied him3. On hearing this news, Huntly and his friends threatened the town with fire and sword if the prisoners were not instantly released—a threat which the magistrates were not in a position to defy.
In the face of such a proceeding, James was constrained to take the step which he had used every shift to avoid: in the month of September he summoned the lieges to attend him on an expedition against his rebel subjects. Indignant at his delay, however, the ministers had persuaded the young Earl of Argyle to take the field in advance of him. Before the arrival of James in the north, Argyle had met Huntly and Errol at Glenlivet in BanrTshire (Oct. 4). Argyle's army was greatly superior in numbers, but to his Highland infantry in their plaids and bonnets were opposed a strong body of cavalry armed with lances and clothed in mail. Treachery in Argyle's ranks gave another advantage to the enemy; and, though the accounts of the action are somewhat conflicting, Argyle appears to have sustained a severe defeat4. The day following the
1 Calderwood, v. 114—161; Spottiswoode, II. 433—436.
'Kegister of Privy Council, v. 173—5.
* Spanish State Papers, iv. 590. From the document here referred to it appears that both the letter and the money were addressed to James by Clement VIII.
4 Spanish State Papers, Iv. 590, i; Calderwood, v. 348—353; Spottiswoode, II. 458—60; Moysie's Memoirs, no; Historic of James the Sext, 338—41.
Chap, i.] Maxwell and yohnstone 171
battle of Glenlivet, James took his march northward, attended at his express desire by Andrew and James Melville and other ministers, that they might be eyewitnesses to his zeal against the Papist rebels. In spite of their late victory, the Catholic earls shrank from a further trial of strength; and, after destroying Strathbogie and Slaines, the chief houses of Huntly and Errol, James returned to Edinburgh without having met an enemy. The young Duke of Lennox, whom he left behind him as his lieutenant, completed the work of the expedition by extorting the consent of the two earls to quit the country. The failure of the northern rebellion wrought the ruin of Bothwell, discredited by his late conduct alike with Elizabeth and the Scottish ministers. Driven from Scotland, he was not more welcome in England; and his last days were spent in Naples in indigence and obscurity1.
Crushed in the north the Catholic cause had in the preceding year received another blow by the slaughter of Lord Maxwell, its most powerful representative on the Borders. Maxwell, it will be remembered, had been one of the Scottish nobles who was prepared to co-operate with the Spanish Armada, and had been attacked in his own stronghold by James himself and made prisoner by Sir William Stewart. Since that time, however, he had made his peace with James and been appointed Warden of the West Marches. It was in the discharge of his duty as Warden that he was to meet his end. Between the clans of Maxwell and Johnstone there had long been a deadly feud; but their quarrel had been recently patched up, and bonds of alliance had passed between their respective chiefs. Trusting, doubtless, to the goodwill of the Warden, one Johnstone in 1593 made a profitable raid on the lands of Lord Crichton of Sanquhar and the laird of Drumlanrig. Notwithstanding his bond with the Johnstones, Maxwell determined, not without personal motives, to discharge the duties of his office; and the result was the last memorable clan-battle on the Scottish Border. The two forces met at Dryfe Sands, near Lockerby; and though greatly inferior in numbers, the Johnstones gained a decisive victory. Before the battle both chieftains had offered a reward for the head or hand of the other. The prize fell to Johnstone—the hand of Maxwell being severed as he held it out for quarter, and his head carried off by the savage victor. From the number of face-wounds given in the battle, a "Lockerby lick" passed into the common speech of the country. The death of Maxwell and the fall of the northern earls cut off the last hope of the Catholic cause in Scotland1. Catholic emissaries still continued to plot, and the ministers did not cease from their terrors, but henceforward Catholicism was not a formidable danger.
1 Calderwood, v. 353—57; Spottiswoode, II. 460, 1.
VII. The Octavians.
With the suppression of the chief troublers of the public peace a new period in the reign of James VI. Court
intrigues now take the place of open sedition; and it is the queen who is more or less their moving spirit. Prince Henry, the heir to the Crown, was, in accordance with Scottish custom, in the keeping of his hereditary custodier, the Earl of Mar; and the queen desired to have him in her own hands. In order to effect her purpose she had gained over a considerable party, chief among whom was her old enemy, the Lord Chancellor Thirlestane, with whom she had long made her peace. The enterprise was on the eve of accomplishment, when the king, who had learned the secret from the Earl of Mar, effectually intervened, and prevented further proceedings. The failure of the queen's scheme is memorable for its results on the fortunes of Thirlestane. Driven from the Court in disgrace, he took the king's displeasure so much to heart that, according to the contemporary historian, he fell into a mortal sickness of which he died in the space of two months (October 3). He was not a high-minded public servant, but he had been the most sagacious adviser who had yet directed James's counsels; and his great measure in favour of Presbytery has given him a notable place in Scottish ecclesiastical history. His master had appreciated his services, and in a poetical epitaph he at once bewailed his loss and let the world know his own cleverness*.
Another incident of the same year has a place in every history
of the City of Edinburgh — the tragic barring-out by the
boys of the High School. Defrauded in part of their
usual autumn holiday, sixteen of them, all armed, took possession
1 The feud between the Johnstones and the Maxwells is commemorated in the ballads—" Lord Maxwell's Good Night" and "The Lads of Wamphray." In his introduction to the former of these ballads, Scott in his Border Minstrelsy gives a detailed account of the fight at Dryfe Sands and of the circumstances that led to it.
1 Calderwood, v. 365, 6, 381; Spottiswoode, II. 461 — 5. James's composition is as follows :—
"Thou passenger, that spies with gazing eyes
Chap, i.] The Octavians and the Revenue 173
of the school on a Sunday evening, and refused all the terms that were offered to them. At length, a baillie named Macmorran, reputed the richest man of his time, headed a band of town-officials and presented himself before the youthful garrison. He was received with flouts and jeers and the firing of blank-shot, and on his attempting to break in the door he was shot through the head by the son of the Chancellor of Caithness. The outcry was great; Macmorran's friends were rich ; and the boys were all the sons of barons and gentlemen. Seven of the ringleaders were thrown into prison; but after two months the case was tried before the Privy Council, when their youth and family connections secured the pardon of all \ the culprits1. ^
The year 1596 is one of the most memorable years of the reign of James VI. It was the year of that singular administrative body, known in Scottish history as the Octavians; and it was distinguished by the last, and not the least brilliant, deed of Border daring. According to Calderwood, also, the opening of this year saw the Kirk attain "its greatest purity," while its end saw the beginning of its "doleful decay."
On the death of Chancellor Thirlestane, James is reported to have said that he would appoint none to succeed him but "such as he could correct or were hangable." 15J Though he had determined to be his own chief minister, there was, however, one department in which he appears to have felt himself helpless. From the beginning of his reign he had been in constant straits for money, and his necessities had never been greater than now. To set his finances in order, therefore, he took an important step: he appointed (Jan. 9) eight Commissioners of the Exchequer, known to the country as the "Octavians," to whom he entrusted absolute power of collecting and administering the royal revenue. The " Octavians" were all men of note in their time, but three of
How rare a man leaves here his earthly part: