Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 11


KNOX'S INTRIGUES, AND HIS ACCOUNT OF THEM, 1559


The Reformers, and Knox as their secretary and historian, had now reached a very difficult and delicate point in their labours. Their purpose was, not by any means to secure toleration and freedom of conscience, but to extirpate the religion to which they were opposed. It was the religion by law existing, the creed of "Authority," of the Regent and of the King and Queen whom she represented. The position of the Congregation was therefore essentially that of rebels, and, in the state of opinion at the period, to be rebels was to be self-condemned. In the eyes of Calvin and the learned of the Genevan Church, kings were the Lord's appointed, and the Gospel must not be supported by the sword. "Better that we all perish a hundred times," Calvin wrote to Coligny in 1561. Protestants, therefore, if they would resist in arms, had to put themselves in order, and though Knox had no doubt that to exterminate idolaters was thoroughly in order, the leaders of his party were obliged to pay deference to European opinion.

By a singular coincidence they adopted precisely the same device as the more militant French Protestants laid before Calvin in August 1559-March 1560. The Scots and the Protestant French represented that they were illegally repressed by foreigners: in Scotland by Mary of Guise with her French troops; in France by the Cardinal and Duc de Guise, foreigners, who had possession of the persons and authority of the "native prince" of Scotland, Mary, and the "native prince" of France, Francis II., both being minors. The French idea was that, if they secured the aid of a native Protestant prince (Conde), they were in order, as against the foreign Guises, and might kill these tyrants, seize the King, and call an assembly of the Estates. Calvin was consulted by the chief of the conspiracy, La Renaudie; he disapproved; the legality lent by one native prince was insufficient; the details of the plot were "puerile," and Calvin waited to see how the country would take it. The plot failed, at Amboise, in March 1560.

In Scotland, as in France, devices about a prince of the native blood suggested themselves. The Regent, being of the house of Guise, was a foreigner, like her brothers in France. The "native princes" were Chatelherault and his eldest son, Arran. The leaders, soon after Lord James and Argyll formally joined the zealous brethren, saw that without foreign aid their enterprise was desperate. Their levies must break up and go home to work; the Regent's nucleus of French troops could not be ousted from the sea fortress of Dunbar, and would in all probability be joined by the army promised by Henri II. His death, the Huguenot risings, the consequent impotence of the Guises to aid the Regent, could not be foreseen. Scotland, it seemed, would be reduced to a French province; the religion would be overthrown.

There was thus no hope, except in aid from England. But by the recent treaty of Cateau Cambresis (April 2, 1559), Elizabeth was bound not to help the rebels of the French Dauphin, the husband of the Queen of Scots. Moreover, Elizabeth had no stronger passion than a hatred of rebels. If she was to be persuaded to help the Reformers, they must produce some show of a legitimate "Authority" with whom she could treat. This was as easy to find as it was to the Huguenots in the case of Conde. Chatelherault and Arran, native princes, next heirs to the crown while Mary was childless, could be produced as legitimate "Authority." But to do this implied a change of "Authority," an upsetting of "Authority," which was plain rebellion in the opinion of the Genevan doctors. Knox was thus obliged, in sermons and in the pamphlet (Book II. of his "History"), to maintain that nothing more than freedom of conscience and religion was contemplated, while, as a matter of fact, he was foremost in the intrigue for changing the "Authority," and even for depriving Mary Stuart of "entrance and title" to her rights. He therefore, in Book II. (much of which was written in August-October or September-October 1559, as an apologetic contemporary tract), conceals the actual facts of the case, and, while perpetually accusing the Regent of falsehood and perfidy, displays an extreme "economy of truth," and cannot hide the pettifogging prevarications of his party. His wiser plan would have been to cancel this Book, or much of it, when he set forth later to write a history of the Reformation. His party being then triumphant, he could have afforded to tell most of the truth, as in great part he does in his Book III. But he could not bring himself to throw over the narrative of his party pamphlet (Book II.), and it remains much as it was originally written, though new touches were added.

The point to be made in public and in the apologetic tract was that the Reformers contemplated no alteration of "Authority." This was untrue.

Writing later (probably in 1565-66) in his Third Book, Knox boasts of his own initiation of the appeal to England, which included a scheme for the marriage of the Earl of Arran, son of the Hamilton chief, Chatelherault, to Queen Elizabeth. Failing issue of Queen Mary, Arran was heir to the Scottish throne, and if he married the Queen of England, the rightful Queen of Scotland would not be likely to wear her crown. The contemplated match was apt to involve a change of dynasty. The lure of the crown for his descendants was likely to bring Chatelherault, and perhaps even his brother the Archbishop, over to the side of the Congregation: in short it was an excellent plot. Probably the idea occurred to the leaders of the Congregation at or shortly after the time when Argyll and Lord James threw in their lot definitely with the brethren on May 31. On June 14 Croft, from Berwick, writes to Cecil that the leaders, "from what I hear, will likely seek her Majesty's" (Elizabeth's) "assistance," and mean to bring Arran home. Some think that he is already at Geneva, and he appears to have made the acquaintance of Calvin, with whom later he corresponded. "They are likely to motion a marriage you know where"; of Arran, that is, with Elizabeth. {131} Moreover, one Whitlaw was at this date in France, and by June 28, communicated the plan to Throckmorton, the English Ambassador. Thus the scheme was of an even earlier date than Knox claims for his own suggestion.

He tells us that at St. Andrews, after the truce of Cupar Muir (June 13), he "burstit forth," in conversation with Kirkcaldy of Grange, on the necessity of seeking support from England. Kirkcaldy long ago had watched the secret exit from St. Andrews Castle, while his friends butchered the Cardinal. He was taken in the castle when Knox was taken; he was a prisoner in France; then he entered the French service, acting, while so engaged, as an English spy. Before and during the destruction of monasteries he was in the Regent's service, but she justly suspected him of intending to desert her at this juncture. Kirkcaldy now wrote to Cecil, without date, but probably on June 21, and with the signature "Zours as ye knaw." Being in the Regent's party openly, he was secretly betraying her; he therefore accuses her of treachery. (He left her publicly, after a pension from England had been procured for him.) He says that the Regent averred that "favourers of God's word should have liberty to live after their consciences," "yet, in the conclusion of the peace" (the eight days' truce) "she has uttered her deceitful mind, having now declared that she will be enemy to all them that shall not live after her religion." Consequently, the Protestants are wrecking "all the friaries within their bounds." But Knox has told us that they declared their intention of thus enjoying liberty of conscience before "the conclusion of the peace," and wrecked Lindores Abbey during the peace! Kirkcaldy adds that the Regent already suspects him.

Kirkcaldy, having made the orthodox charge of treachery against the woman whom he was betraying, then asks Cecil whether Elizabeth will accept their "friendship," and adds, with an eye to Arran, "I wish likewise her Majesty were not too hasty in her marriage." {133a} On June 23, writing from his house, Grange, and signing his name, Kirkcaldy renews his proposals. In both letters he anticipates the march of the Reformers to turn the Regent's garrison out of Perth. On June 25 he announces that the Lords are marching thither. They had already the secret aid of Lethington, who remained, like the traitor that he was, in the Regent's service till the end of October. {133b} Knox also writes at this time to Cecil from St. Andrews.

On June 1, Henri II. of France had written to the Regent promising to send her strong reinforcements, {133c} but he was presently killed in a tourney by the broken lance shaft of Montgomery.

The Reformers now made tryst at Perth for June 25, to restore "religion" and expel the Scots in French service. The little garrison surrendered (their opponents are reckoned by Kirkcaldy at 10,000 men), idolatry was again suppressed, and Perth restored to her municipal constitution. The ancient shrines of Scone were treated in the usual way, despite the remonstrances of Knox, Lord James, and Argyll. They had threatened Hepburn, Bishop of Moray, that if he did not join them "they neither could spare nor save his place." This was on June 20, on the same day he promised to aid them and vote with them in Parliament. {133d} Knox did his best, but the Dundee people began the work of wrecking; and the Bishop, in anger, demanded and received the return of his written promise of joining the Reformers. On the following day, irritated by some show of resistance, the people of Dundee and Perth burned the palace of Scone and the abbey, "whereat no small number of us was offended." An old woman said that "filthy beasts" dwelt "in that den," to her private knowledge, "at whose words many were pacified." The old woman is an excellent authority. {134}

The pretext of perfect loyalty was still maintained by the Reformers; their honesty we can appreciate. They did not wish, they said, to overthrow "authority"; merely to be allowed to worship in their own way (and to prevent other people from worshipping in theirs, which was the order appointed by the State). That any set of men may rebel and take their chances is now recognised, but the Reformers wanted to combine the advantages of rebellion with the reputation of loyal subjects. Persons who not only band against the sovereign, but invoke foreign aid and seek a foreign alliance, are, however noble their motives, rebels. There is no other word for them. But that they were not rebels Knox urged in a sermon at Edinburgh, which the Reformers, after devastating Stirling, reached by June 28-29 (?), and the Second Book of his "History" labours mainly to prove this point; no change of "authority" is intended.

What Knox wanted is very obvious. He wanted to prevent Mary Stuart from enjoying her hereditary crown. She was a woman, as such under the curse of "The First Blast of the Trumpet," and she was an idolatress. Presently, as we shall see, he shows his hand to Cecil.

Before the Reformers entered Edinburgh Mary of Guise retired to the castle of Dunbar, where she had safe access to the sea. In Edinburgh Knox says that the poor sacked the monasteries "before our coming." The contemporary Diurnal of Occurrents attributes the feat to Glencairn, Ruthven, Argyll, and the Lord James. {135a}

Knox was chosen minister of Edinburgh, and as soon as they arrived the Lords, according to the "Historie of the Estate of Scotland," sent envoys to the Regent, offering obedience if she would "relax" the preachers, summoned on May 10, "from the horn" and allow them to preach. The Regent complied, but, of course, peace did not ensue, for, according to Knox, in addition to a request "that we might enjoy liberty of conscience," a demand for the withdrawal of all French forces out of Scotland was made. {135b} This could not be granted.

Presently Mary of Guise issued before July 2, in the name of the King and Queen, Francis II. and Mary Stuart, certain charges against the Reformers, which Knox in his "History" publishes. {135c} A remark that Mary Stuart lies like her mother, seems to be written later than the period (September-October 1559) when this Book II. was composed. The Regent says that the rising was only under pretence of religion, and that she has offered a Parliament for January 1560. "A manifest lie," says Knox, "for she never thought of it till we demanded it." He does not give a date to the Regent's paper, but on June 25 Kirkcaldy wrote to Percy that the Regent "is like to grant the other party" (the Reformers) "all they desire, which in part she has offered already." {136a}

Knox seizes on the word "offered" as if it necessarily meant "offered though unasked," and so styles the Regent's remark "a manifest lie." But Kirkcaldy, we see, uses the words "has in part offered already" when he means that the Regent has "offered" to grant some of the wishes of his allies.

Meanwhile the Regent will allow freedom of conscience in the country, and especially in Edinburgh. But the Reformers, her paper goes on, desire to subvert the crown. To prove this she says that they daily receive messengers from England and send their own; and they have seized the stamps in the Mint (a capital point as regards the crown) and the Palace of Holyrood, which Lesley says that they sacked. Knox replies, "there is never a sentence in the narrative true," except that his party seized the stamps merely to prevent the issue of base coin (not to coin the stolen plate of the churches and monasteries for themselves, as Lesley says they did). But Knox's own letters, and those of Kirkcaldy of Grange and Sir Henry Percy, prove that they were intriguing with England as early as June 23-25. Their conduct, with the complicity of Percy, was perfectly well known to the Regent's party, and was denounced by d'Oysel to the French ambassador in London in letters of July. {136b} Elizabeth, on August 7, answered the remonstrances of the Regent, promising to punish her officials if guilty. Nobody lied more frankly than "that imperial votaress."

When Knox says "there is never a sentence in the narrative true," he is very bold. It was not true that the rising was merely under pretext of religion. It may have been untrue that messengers went daily to England, but five letters were written between June 21 and June 28. To stand on the words of the Regent--"every day"--would be a babyish quibble. All the rest of her narrative was absolutely true.

Knox, on June 28, asked leave to enter England for secret discourse; he had already written to the same effect from St. Andrews. {137a} If Henri sends French reinforcement, Knox "is uncertain what will follow"; we may guess that authority would be in an ill way. Cecil temporised; he wanted a better name than Kirkcaldy's--a man in the Regent's service--to the negotiations (July 4). "Anywise kindle the fire," he writes to Croft (July 8). Croft is to let the Reformers know that Arran has escaped out of France. Such a chance will not again "come in our lives." We see what the chance is!

On July 19 Knox writes again to Cecil, enclosing what he means to be an apology for his "Blast of the Trumpet," to be given to Elizabeth. He says, while admitting Elizabeth's right to reign, as "judged godly," though a woman, that they "must be careful not to make entrance and title to many, by whom not only shall the truth be impugned, but also shall the country be brought to bondage and slavery. God give you eyes to foresee and wisdom to avoid the apparent danger." {137b}

The "many" to whom "entrance and title" are not to be given, manifestly are Mary Stuart, Queen of France and Scotland.

It is not very clear whether Knox, while thus working against a woman's "entrance and title" to the crown on the ground of her sex, is thinking of Mary Stuart's prospects of succession to the throne of England or of her Scottish rights, or of both. His phrase is cast in a vague way; "many" are spoken of, but it is not hard to understand what particular female claimant is in his mind.

Thus Knox himself was intriguing with England against his Queen at the very moment when in his "History" he denies that communications were frequent between his party and England, or that any of the Regent's charges are true. As for opposing authority and being rebellious, the manifest fundamental idea of the plot is to marry Elizabeth to Arran and deny "entrance and title" to the rightful Queen. It was an admirable scheme, and had Arran not become a lunatic, had Elizabeth not been "that imperial votaress" vowed to eternal maidenhood, their bridal, with the consequent loss of the Scottish throne by Mary, would have been the most fortunate of all possible events. The brethren had, in short, a perfect right to defend their creed in arms; a perfect right to change the dynasty; a perfect right to intrigue with England, and to resist a French landing, if they could. But for a reformer of the Church to give a dead lady the lie in his "History" when the economy of truth lay rather on his own side, as he knew, is not so well. We shall see that Knox possibly had the facts in his mind during the first interview with Mary Stuart. {138}

The Lords, July 2, replied to the proclamation of Mary of Guise, saying that she accused them of a purpose "to invade her person." {139a} There is not a word of the kind in the Regent's proclamation as given by Knox himself. They denied what the Regent in her proclamation had not asserted, and what she had asserted about their dealings with England they did not venture to deny; "whereby," says Spottiswoode in his "History," "it seemed there was some dealing that way for expelling the Frenchmen, which they would not deny, and thought not convenient as then openly to profess." {139b} The task of giving the lie to the Regent when she spoke truth was left to the pen of Knox.

Meanwhile, at Dunbar, Mary of Guise was in evil case. She had sounded Erskine, the commander of the Castle, who, she hoped, would stand by her. But she had no money to pay her French troops, who were becoming mutinous, and d'Oysel "knew not to what Saint to vow himself." The Earl of Huntly, before he would serve the Crown, {139c} insisted on a promise of the Earldom of Moray; this desire was to be his ruin. Huntly was a double dealer; "the gay Gordons" were ever brave, loyal, and bewildered by their chiefs. By July 22, the Scots heard of the fatal wound of Henri II., to their encouragement. Both parties were in lack of money, and the forces of the Congregation were slipping home by hundreds. Mary, according to Knox, was exciting the Duke against Argyll and Lord James, by the charge that Lord James was aiming at the crown, in which if he succeeded, he would deprive not only her daughter of the sovereignty, but the Hamiltons of the succession. Young and ambitious as Lord James then was, and heavily as he was suspected, even in England, it is most improbable that he ever thought of being king.

The Congregation refused to let Argyll and Lord James hold conference with the Regent. Other discussions led to no result, except waste of time, to the Regent's advantage; and, on July 22, Mary, in council with Lord Erskine, Huntly, and the Duke, resolved to march against the Reformers at Edinburgh, who had no time to call in their scattered levies in the West, Angus, and Fife. Logan of Restalrig, lately an ally of the godly, surrendered Leith, over which he was the superior, to d'Oysel; and the Congregation decided to accept a truce (July 23-24).

At this point Knox's narrative becomes so embroiled that it reminds one of nothing so much as of Claude Nau's attempts to glide past an awkward point in the history of his employer, Mary Stuart. I have puzzled over Knox's narrative again and again, and hope that I have disentangled the knotted and slippery thread.

It is not wonderful that the brethren made terms, for the "Historie" states that their force numbered but 1500 men, whereas d'Oysel and the Duke led twice that number, horse and foot. They also heard from Erskine, in the Castle, that, if they did not accept "such appointment as they might have," he "would declare himself their enemy," as he had promised the Regent. It seems that she did not want war, for d'Oysel's French alone should have been able to rout the depleted ranks of the Congregation.

The question is, What were the terms of treaty? for it is Knox's endeavour to prove that the Regent broke them, and so justified the later proceedings of the Reformers. The terms, in French, are printed by Teulet. {141} They run thus:--


1. The Protestants, not being inhabitants of Edinburgh, shall depart next day.

2. They shall deliver the stamps for coining to persons appointed by the Regent, hand over Holyrood, and Ruthven and Pitarro shall be pledges for performance.

3. They shall be dutiful subjects, except in matters of religion.

4. They shall not disturb the clergy in their persons or by withholding their rents, &c., before January 10, 1560.

5. They shall not attack churches or monasteries before that date.

6. The town of Edinburgh shall enjoy liberty of conscience, and shall choose its form of religion as it pleases till that date.

7. The Regent shall not molest the preachers nor suffer the clergy to molest them for cause of religion till that date.

8. Keith, Knox, and Spottiswoode, add that no garrisons, French or Scots, shall occupy Edinburgh, but soldiers may repair thither from their garrisons for lawful business.


The French soldiers are said to have swaggered in St. Giles's, but no complaint is made that they were garrisoned in Edinburgh. In fact, they abode in the Canongate and Leith.

Now, these were the terms accepted by the Congregation. This is certain, not only because historians, Knox excepted, are unanimous, but because the terms were either actually observed, or were evaded, on a stated point of construction.


1. The Congregation left Edinburgh.

2. They handed over the stamps of the Mint, Holyrood, and the two pledges.

3. 4, 5. We do not hear that they attacked any clerics or monastery before they broke off publicly from the treaty, and Knox (i. 381) admits that Article 4 was accepted.

6. They would not permit the town of Edinburgh to choose its religion by "voting of men." On July 29, when Huntly, Chatelherault, and Erskine, the neutral commander of the Castle, asked for a plebiscite, as provided in the treaty of July 24, the Truth, said the brethren, was not a matter of human votes, and, as the brethren held St. Giles's Church before the treaty, under Article 7 they could not be dispossessed. {142a} The Regent, to avoid shadow of offence, yielded the point as to Article 6, and was accused of breach of treaty because, occupying Holyrood, she had her Mass there. Had Edinburgh been polled, the brethren knew that they would have been outvoted. {142b}


Now, Knox's object, in that part of Book II. of his "History," which was written in September-October 1559 as a tract for contemporary reading, is to prove that the Regent was the breaker of treaty. His method is first to give "the heads drawn by us, which we desired to be granted." The heads are--


1. No member of the Congregation shall be troubled in any respect by any authority for the recent "innovation" before the Parliament of January 10, 1560, decides the controversies.

2. Idolatry shall not be restored where, on the day of treaty, it has been suppressed.

3. Preachers may preach wherever they have preached and wherever they may chance to come.

4. No soldiers shall be in garrison in Edinburgh.

5. The French shall be sent away on "a reasonable day" and no more brought in without assent of the whole Nobility and Parliament. {143a}


These articles make no provision for the safety of Catholic priests and churches, and insist on suppression of idolatry where it has been put down, and the entire withdrawal of French forces. Knox's party could not possibly denounce these terms which they demanded as "things unreasonable and ungodly," for they were the very terms which they had been asking for, ever since the Regent went to Dunbar. Yet, when the treaty was made, the preachers did say "our case is not yet so desperate that we need to grant to things unreasonable and ungodly." {143b} Manifestly, therefore, the terms actually obtained, as being "unreasonable and ungodly," were not those for which the Reformers asked, and which, they publicly proclaimed, had been conceded.

Knox writes, "These our articles were altered, and another form disposeth." And here he translates the terms as given in the French, terms which provide for the safety of Catholics, the surrender of Holyrood and the Mint, but say nothing about the withdrawal of the French troops or the non-restoration of "idolatry" where it has been suppressed.

He adds, "This alteration in words and order was made" (so it actually was made) "without the knowledge and consent of those whose counsel we had used in all cases before"--clearly meaning the preachers, and also implying that the consent of the noble negotiators for the Congregation was obtained to the French articles.

Next day the Congregation left Edinburgh, after making solemn proclamation of the conditions of truce, in which they omitted all the terms of the French version, except those in their own favour, and stated (in Knox's version) that all of their own terms, except the most important, namely, the removal of the French, and the promise to bring in no more, had been granted! It may be by accident, however, that the proclamation of the Lords, as given by Knox, omits the article securing the departure of the French. {144a} There exist two MS. copies of the proclamation, in which the Lords dare to assert "that the Frenchmen should be sent away at a reasonable date, and no more brought in except by assent of the whole nobility and Parliament." {144b}

Of the terms really settled, except as regards the immunity of their own party, the Lords told the public not one word; they suppressed what was true, and added what was false.

Against this formal, public, and impudent piece of mendacity, we might expect Knox to protest in his "History"; to denounce it as a cause of God's wrath. On the other hand he states, with no disapproval, the childish quibbles by which his party defended their action.

On reading or hearing the Lords' proclamation, the Catholics, who knew the real terms of treaty, said that the Lords "in their proclamation had made no mention of anything promised to them," and "had proclaimed more than was contained in the Appointment;" among other things, doubtless, the promise to dismiss the French. {145a}

The brethren replied to these "calumnies of Papists" (as Calderwood styles them), that they "proclaimed nothing that was not finally agreed upon, in word and promise, betwixt us and those with whom the Appointment was made, whatsoever their scribes had after written, {145b} who, in very deed, had altered, both in words and sentences, our Articles, as they were first conceived; and yet if their own writings were diligently examined, the self same thing shall be found in substance."

This is most complicated quibbling! Knox uses his ink like the cuttle- fish, to conceal the facts. The "own writings" of the Regent's party are before us, and do not contain the terms proclaimed by the Congregation. Next, in drawing up the terms which the Congregation was compelled to accept, the "scribes" of the Regent's party necessarily, and with the consent of the Protestant negotiators, altered the terms proposed by the brethren, but not granted by the Regent's negotiators. Thirdly, the Congregation now asserted that "finally" an arrangement in conformity with their proclamation was "agreed upon in word and promise"; that is, verbally, which we never find them again alleging. The game was to foist false terms on public belief, and then to accuse the Regent of perfidy in not keeping them.

These false terms were not only publicly proclaimed by the Congregation with sound of trumpets, but they were actually sent, by Knox or Kirkcaldy, or both, to Croft at Berwick, for English reading, on July 24. In a note I print the letter, signed by Kirkcaldy, but in the holograph of Knox, according to Father Stevenson. {146} It will be remarked that the genuine articles forbidding attacks on monasteries and ensuring priests in their revenues are here omitted, while the false articles on suppression of idolatry, and expulsion of the French forces are inserted, and nothing is said about Edinburgh's special liberty to choose her religion.

The sending of this false intelligence was not the result of a misunderstanding. I have shown that the French terms were perfectly well understood, and were observed, except Article 6, on which the Regent made a concession. How then could men professionally godly venture to misreport the terms, and so make them at once seem more favourable to themselves and less discouraging to Cecil than they really were, while at the same time (as the Regent could not keep terms which she had never granted) they were used as a ground of accusation against her?

This is the point that has perplexed me, for Knox, no less than the Congregation, seems to have deliberately said good-bye to truth and honour, unless the Lords elaborately deceived their secretary and diplomatic agent. The only way in which I can suppose that Knox and his friends reconciled their consciences to their conduct is this:

Knox tells us that "when all points were communed and agreed upon by mid- persons," Chatelherault and Huntly had a private interview with Argyll, Glencairn, and others of his party. They promised that they would be enemies to the Regent if she broke any one jot of the treaty. "As much promised the duke that he would do, if in case that she would not remove her French at a reasonable day . . . " the duke being especially interested in their removal. But Huntly is not said to have made this promise--the removal of the French obviously not being part of the "Appointment." {148a}

Next, the brethren, in arguing with the Catholics about their own mendacious proclamation of the terms, said that "we proclaimed nothing which was not finally agreed upon, in word and promise, betwixt us and those with whom the Appointment was made. . . . " {148b}

I can see no explanation of Knox's conduct, except that he and his friends pacified their consciences by persuading themselves that non-official words of Huntly and Chatelherault (whatever these words may have been), spoken after "all was agreed upon," cancelled the treaty with the Regent, became the real treaty, and were binding on the Regent! Thus Knox or Kirkcaldy, or both, by letter; and Knox later, orally in conversation with Croft, could announce false terms of treaty. So great, if I am right, is a good man's power of self-persuasion! I shall welcome any more creditable theory of the Reformer's behaviour, but I can see no alternative, unless the Lords lied to Knox.

That the French should be driven out was a great point with Cecil, for he was always afraid that the Scots might slip back from the English to the old French alliance. On July 28, after the treaty of July 24, but before he heard of it, he insisted on the necessity of expelling the French, in a letter to the Reformers. {149a} He "marvels that they omit such an opportunity to help themselves." He sent a letter of vague generalities in answer to their petitions for aid. When he received, as he did, a copy of the terms of the treaty of July 24, in French, he would understand.

As further proof that Cecil was told what Knox and Kirkcaldy should have known to be untrue, we note that on August 28 the Regent, weary of the perpetual charges of perfidy anew brought against her, "ashamed not," writes Knox, to put forth a proclamation, in which she asserted that nothing, in the terms of July 23-24, forbade her to bring in more French troops, "as may clearly appear by inspection of the said Appointment, which the bearer has presently to show." {149b}

Why should the Regent have been "ashamed" to tell the truth? If the bearer showed a false and forged treaty, the Congregation must have denounced it, and produced the genuine document with the signatures. Far from that, in a reply (from internal evidence written by Knox), they admit, "neither do we here {149c} allege the breaking of the Appointment made at Leith (which, nevertheless, has manifestly been done), but"--and here the writer wanders into quite other questions. Moreover, Knox gives another reply to the Regent, "by some men," in which they write "we dispute not so much whether the bringing in of more Frenchmen be violating of the Appointment, which the Queen and her faction cannot deny to be manifestly broken by them in more cases than one," in no way connected with the French. One of these cases will presently be stated--it is comic enough to deserve record--but, beyond denial, the brethren could not, and did not even attempt to make out their charge as to the Regent's breach of truce by bringing in new, or retaining old, French forces.

Our historians, and the biographers of Knox, have not taken the trouble to unravel this question of the treaty of July 24. But the behaviour of the Lords and of Knox seems characteristic, and worthy of examination.

It is not argued that Mary of Guise was, or became, incapable of worse than dissimulation (a case of forgery by her in the following year is investigated in Appendix B). But her practices at this time were such as Knox could not throw the first stone at. Her French advisers were in fact "perplexed," as Throckmorton wrote to Elizabeth (August 8). They made preparations for sending large reinforcements: they advised concession in religion: they waited on events, and the Regent could only provide, at Leith (which was jealous of Edinburgh and anxious to be made a free burgh), a place whither she could fly in peril. Meantime she would vainly exert her woman's wit among many dangers.

Knox, too, was exerting his wit in his own way. Busied in preaching and in acting as secretary and diplomatic agent to the Congregation as he was, he must also have begun in or not much later than August 1559, the part of his "History" first written by him, namely Book II. That book, as he wrote to a friend named Railton {150} on October 23, 1559 (when much of it was already penned), is meant as a defence of his party against the charge of sedition, and was clearly intended (we reiterate) for contemporary reading at home and abroad, while the strife was still unsettled. This being so, Knox continues his policy of blaming the Regent for breach of the misreported treaty of July 24: for treachery, which would justify the brethren's attack on her before the period of truce (January 10, 1559) ran out.

One clause, we know, secured the Reformers from molestation before that date. Despite this, Knox records a case of "oppressing" a brother, "which had been sufficient to prove the Appointment to be plainly violated." Lord Seton, of the Catholic party, {151a} "broke a chair on Alexander Whitelaw as he came from Preston (pans) accompanied by William Knox . . . and this he did supposing that Alexander Whitelaw had been John Knox."

So much Knox states in his Book II., writing probably in September or October 1559. But he does not here say what Alexander Whitelaw and William Knox had been doing, or inform us how he himself was concerned in the matter. He could not reveal the facts when writing in the early autumn of 1559, because the brethren were then still taking the line that they were loyal, and were suffering from the Regent's breaches of treaty, as in the matter of the broken chair.

The sole allusion here made by Knox to the English intrigues, before they were manifest to all mankind in September, is this, "Because England was of the same religion, and lay next to us, it was judged expedient first to prove them, which we did by one or two messengers, as hereafter, in its own place, more amply shall be declared." {151b} He later inserted in Book III. some account of the intrigues of July-August 1559, "in its own place," namely, in a part of his work occupied with the occurrences of January 1560. {152a}

Cecil, prior to the compact of July 24, had wished to meet Knox at Stamford. On July 30 Knox received his instructions as negotiator with England. {152b} His employers say that they hear that Huntly and Chatelherault have promised to join the Reformers if the Regent breaks a jot of the treaty of July 24, the terms of which Knox can declare. They ask money to enable them to take Stirling Castle, and "strength by sea" for the capture of Broughty Castle, on Tay. Yet they later complained of the Regent when she fortified Leith. They actually did take Broughty Castle, and then had the hardihood to aver that they only set about this when they heard in mid-September of the fortification of Leith by the Regent. They aimed at it six days after their treaty of July 24. They asked for soldiers to lie in garrison, for men, ships, and money for their Lords.

Bearing these instructions Knox sailed from Fife to Holy Island, near Berwick, and there met Croft, the Governor of that town. Croft kept him, not with sufficient secrecy, in Berwick, where he was well known, while Whitelaw was coming from Cecil with his answers to the petitions of the brethren. Meanwhile Croft held converse with Knox, who, as he reports, says that, as to the change of "Authority" (that is of sovereignty, temporary at least), the choice of the brethren would be subject to Elizabeth's wishes. Yet the brethren contemplated no change of Authority! Arran ought to be kept secretly in England "till wise men considered what was in him; if misliked he put Lord James second." As to what Knox told Croft about the terms of treaty of July 24, it is best to state the case in Croft's own words. "He (Knox) excusys the Protestantes, for that the French as commyng apon them at Edynbrogh when theyr popoll were departed to make new provysyon of vytaylles, forcyd them to make composycyon wyth the quene. Whereyn (sayeth he) the frenchmen ar apoynted to departe out of Scotland by the xth of thys monthe, and they truste verely by thys caus to be stronger, for that the Duke, apon breche of promys on the quene's part, wyll take playne parte withe the Protestantes." {153}

This is quite explicit. Knox, as envoy of the Lords, declares that in the treaty it is "appointed" that the French force shall leave Scotland on August 10. (The printed calendars are not accurate.) No such matter occurred in the treaty "wyth the quene." Knox added, next day, that he himself "was unfit to treat of so great matters," and Croft appears to have agreed with him, for, by the Reformer's lack of caution, his doings in Holy Island were "well known and published." Consequently, when Whitelaw returned to Knox with Cecil's reply to the requests of the brethren, the performances of Knox and Whitelaw were no secrets, in outline at least, to the Regent's party. For this reason, Lord Seton, mistaking Whitelaw for Knox (who had set out on August 3 to join the brethren at Stirling), pursued and broke a chair on the harmless Brother Whitelaw. Such was the Regent's treacherous breach of treaty!

During this episode in his curious adventures as a diplomatist, Knox recommended Balnaves, author of a treatise on "Justification by Faith," as a better agent in these courses, and with Balnaves the new envoy of Elizabeth, Sadleir, a veteran diplomatist (wheedled in 1543 by Mary of Guise), transacted business henceforth. Sadleir was ordered to Berwick on August 6. Elizabeth infringed the treaty of Cateau Cambresis, then only four months old, by giving Sadleir 3000 pounds in gold, or some such sum, for the brethren. "They were tempting the Duke by all means possible," {154a} but he will only promise neutrality if it comes to the push, and they, Argyll and Lord James say (Glasgow, August 13), are not yet ready "to discharge this authority," that is, to depose the Regent. Chatelherault's promise was less vigorous than it had been reported!

Knox, who now acted as secretary for the Congregation, was not Sir Henry Wotton's ideal ambassador, "an honest man sent to lie abroad for his country." When he stooped to statements which seem scarcely candid, to put it mildly, he did violence to his nature. He forced himself to proclaim the loyalty of his party from the pulpit, when he could not do so without some economy of truth. {154b} He inserted things in his "History," and spoke things to Croft, which he should have known to be false. But he carried his point. He did advance the "union of hearts" with England, if in a blundering fashion, and we owe him eternal gratitude for his interest in the match, though "we like not the manner of the wooing." The reluctant hand of Elizabeth was now inextricably caught in the gear of that great machine which broke the ancient league of France and Scotland, and saved Scotland from some of the sorrows of France.

The papers of Sadleir, Elizabeth's secret agent with the Scots, show the godly pursuing their old plan of campaign. To make treaty with the Regent; to predict from the pulpit that she would break it; to make false statements about the terms of the treaty; to accuse her of their infringement; to profess loyalty; to aim at setting up a new sovereign power; to tell the populace that Mary of Guise's scanty French reinforcements--some 1500 men--came by virtue of a broken treaty; to tell Sadleir that they were very glad that the French had come, as they would excite popular hatred; to make out that the fortification of Leith was breach of treaty;--such, in brief, were the methods of the Reformers. {155}

They now took a new method of proving the Regent's breach of treaty, that she had "set up the Mass in Holyrood, which they had before suppressed." They were allowed to have their sermons in St. Giles's, but she was not to have her rites in her own abbey. Balnaves still harped on the non- dismissal of the French as a breach of treaty!

Arran, returning from Switzerland, had an interview with Elizabeth in England, in mid-September, was smuggled across the Border with the astute and unscrupulous Thomas Randolph in his train. With Arran among them, Chatelherault might waver as he would. Meanwhile Knox and Willock preached up and down the country, doubtless repeating to the people their old charges against the Regent. Lethington, the secretary of that lady, still betrayed her, telling Sadleir "that he attended upon the Regent no longer than he might have a good occasion to revolt unto the Protestants" (September 16).

Balnaves got some two to three thousand pounds in gold (the sum is variously stated) from Sadleir. "He saith, whatever pretence they make, the principal mark they shoot at is to make an alteration of the State and authority." This at least is explicit enough. The Reformers were actually renewing the civil war on charges so stale and so false. The Duke had possibly promised to desert her if she broke the truce, and now he seized on the flimsy pretence, because the Congregation, as the leaders said, had "tempted him" sufficiently. They had come up to his price. Arran, the hoped-for Hamilton king, the hoped-for husband of the Queen of England, had arrived, and with Arran the Duke joined the Reformers. About September 20 they forbade the Regent to fortify Leith.

The brethren say that they have given no "provocation." Six weeks earlier they had requested England to help them to seize and hold Broughty Castle, though the Regent may not have known that detail.

The Regent replied as became her, and Glencairn, with Erskine of Dun, wrecked the rich abbey of Paisley. The brethren now broke the truce with a vengeance.


Andrew Lang

Sorry, no summary available yet.