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Chapter 15


KNOX AND QUEEN MARY (continued), 1561-1564


Had Mary been a mere high-tempered and high-spirited girl, easily harmed in health by insults to herself and her creed, she might now have turned for support to Huntly, Cassilis, Montrose, and the other Earls who were Catholic or "unpersuaded." Her great-grandson, Charles II., when as young as she now was, did make the "Start"--the schoolboy attempt to run away from the Presbyterians to the loyalists of the North. But Mary had more self-control.

The artful Randolph found himself as hardly put to it now, in diplomacy, as the Cardinal's murderers had done, in war, when they met the scientific soldier, Strozzi. "The trade is now clean cut off from me," wrote Randolph (October 27); "I have to traffic now with other merchants than before. They know the value of their wares, and in all places how the market goeth. . . . Whatsoever policy is in all the chief and best practised heads of France; whatsoever craft, falsehood, or deceit is in all the subtle brains of Scotland," said the unscrupulous agent, "is either fresh in this woman's memory, or she can bring it out with a wet finger." {205}

Mary, in fact, was in the hands of Lethington (a pensioner of Elizabeth) and of Lord James: "subtle brains" enough. She was the "merchandise," and Lethington and Lord James wished to make Elizabeth acknowledge the Scottish Queen as her successor, the alternative being to seek her price as a wife for an European prince. An "union of hearts" with England might conceivably mean Mary's acceptance of the Anglican faith. It is not a kind thing to say about Mary, but I suspect that, if assured of the English succession, she might have gone over to the Prayer Book. In the first months of her English captivity (July 1568) Mary again dallied with the idea of conversion, for the sake of freedom. She told the Spanish Ambassador that "she would sooner be murdered," but if she could have struck her bargain with Elizabeth, I doubt that she would have chosen the Prayer Book rather than the dagger or the bowl. {206a} Her conversion would have been bitterness as of wormwood to Knox. In his eyes Anglicanism was "a bastard religion," "a mingle-mangle now commanded in your kirks." "Peculiar services appointed for Saints' days, diverse Collects as they falsely call them in remembrance of this or that Saint . . . are in my conscience no small portion of papistical superstition." {206b} "Crossing in Baptism is a diabolical invention; kneeling at the Lord's table, mummelling," (uttering the responses, apparently), "or singing of the Litany." All these practices are "diabolical inventions," in Knox's candid opinion, "with Mr. Parson's pattering of his constrained prayers, and with the mass-munging of Mr. Vicar, and of his wicked companions . . ." (A blank in the MS.) "Your Ministers, before for the most part, were none of Christ's ministers, but mass-mumming priests." He appears to speak of the Anglican Church as it was under Edward VI. (To Mrs. Locke, Dieppe, April 6, 1559.) {207a} As Elizabeth brought in "cross and candle," her Church must have been odious to our Reformer. Calvin had regarded the "silly things" in our Prayer Book as "endurable," not so Knox. Before he came back to Scotland, the Reformers were content with the English Prayer Book. By rejecting it, Knox and his allies disunited Scotland and England.

Knox's friend Arran was threatening to stir up the Congregation for the purpose of securing him in the revenues of three abbeys, including St. Andrews, of which Lord James was Prior. The extremists raised the question, "whether the Queen, being an idolater, may be obeyed in all civil and political actions." {207b}

Knox later made Chatelherault promise this obedience; what his views were in November 1561 we know not. Lord James was already distrusted by his old godly friends; it was thought he would receive what he had long desired, the Earldom of Moray (November 11, 1561), and the precise professors meditated a fresh revolution. "It must yet come to a new day," they said. {207c} Those about Arran were discontented, and nobody was more in his confidence than Knox, but at this time Arran was absent from Edinburgh; was at St. Andrews.

Meanwhile, at Court, "the ladies are merry, dancing, lusty, and fair," wrote Randolph, who flirted with Mary Beaton (November 18); and long afterwards, in 1578, when she was Lady Boyne, spoke of her as "a very dear friend." Knox complains that the girls danced when they "got the house alone"; not a public offence! He had his intelligencers in the palace.

There was, on November 16, a panic in the unguarded palace: {208a} "the poor damsels were left alone," while men hid in fear of nobody knew what, except a rumour that Arran was coming, with his congregational friends, "to take away the Queen." The story was perhaps a fable, but Arran had been uttering threats. Mary, however, expected to be secured by an alliance with Elizabeth. "The accord between the two Queens will quite overthrow them" (the Bishops), "and they say plainly that she cannot return a true Christian woman," writes Randolph. {208b}

Lethington and Randolph both suspected that if Mary abandoned idolatry, it would be after conference with Elizabeth, and rather as being converted by that fair theologian than as compelled by her subjects. Unhappily Elizabeth never would meet Mary, who, for all that we know, might at this hour have adopted the Anglican via media, despite her protests to Knox and to the Pope of her fidelity to Rome. Like Henri IV., she may at this time have been capable of preferring a crown--that of England--to a dogma. Her Mass, Randolph wrote, "is rather for despite than devotion, for those that use it care not a straw for it, and jest sometimes against it." {208c}

Randolph, at this juncture, reminded Mary that advisers of the Catholic party had prevented James V. from meeting Henry VIII. She answered, "Something is reserved for us that was not then," possibly hinting at her conversion. Lord James shared the hopes of Lethington and Randolph. "The Papists storm, thinking the meeting of the queens will overthrow Mass and all."

The Ministers of Mary, les politiques, indulged in dreams equally distasteful to the Catholics and to the more precise of the godly; dreams that came through the Ivory Gate; with pictures of the island united, and free from the despotism of Giant Pope and Giant Presbyter. {209} A schism between the brethren and their old leaders and advisers, Lord James and Lethington, was the result. At the General Assembly of December 1561, the split was manifest. The parties exchanged recriminations, and there was even question of the legality of such conventions as the General Assembly. Lethington asked whether the Queen "allowed" the gathering. Knox (apparently) replied, "Take from us the freedom of Assemblies, and take from us the Evangel . . ." He defended them as necessary for order among the preachers; but the objection, of course, was to their political interferences. The question was to be settled for Cromwell in his usual way, with a handful of hussars. It was now determined that the Queen might send Commissioners to the Assembly to represent her interests.

The plea of the godly that Mary should ratify the Book of Discipline was countered by the scoffs of Lethington. He and his brothers ever tormented Knox by persiflage. Still the preachers must be supported, and to that end, by a singular compromise, the Crown assumed dominion over the property of the old Church, a proceeding which Mary, if a good Catholic, could not have sanctioned. The higher clergy retained two-thirds of their benefices, and the other third was to be divided between the preachers and the Queen. Vested rights, those of the prelates, and the interests of the nobles to whom, in the troubles, they had feued parts of their property, were thus secured; while the preachers were put off with a humble portion. Among the abbeys, that of St. Andrews, held by the good Lord James, was one of the richest. He appears to have retained all the wealth, for, as Bishop Keith says, "the grand gulf that swallowed up the whole extent of the thirds were pensions given gratis by the Queen to those about the Court . . . of which last the Earl of Moray was always sure to obtain the thirds of his priories of St. Andrews and Pittenweem." In all, the whole reformed clergy received annually (but not in 1565-66) 24,231 pounds, 17s. 7d. Scots, while Knox and four superintendents got a few chalders of wheat and "bear." In 1568, when Mary had fallen, a gift of 333 pounds, 6s. 8d. was made to Knox from the fund, about a seventh of the money revenue of the Abbey of St. Andrews. {210} Nobody can accuse Knox of enriching himself by the Revolution. "In the stool of Edinburgh," he declared that two parts were being given to the devil, "and the third must be divided between God and the devil," between the preachers and the Queen, and the Earl of Moray, among others. The eminently godly Laird of Pitarro had the office of paying the preachers, in which he was so niggardly that the proverb ran, "The good Laird of Pitarro was an earnest professor of Christ, but the great devil receive the Comptroller."

It was argued that "many Lords have not so much to spend" as the preachers; and this was not denied (if the preachers were paid), but it was said the Lords had other industries whereby they might eke out their revenues. Many preachers, then or later, were driven also to other industries, such as keeping public-houses. {211a} Knox, at this period, gracefully writes of Mary, "we call her not a hoore." When she scattered his party after Riccio's murder, he went the full length of the expression, in his "History."

"Simplicity," says Thucydides, "is no small part of a noble nature," and Knox was now to show simplicity in conduct, and in his narrative of a very curious adventure.

The Hamiltons had taken little but loss by joining the Congregation. Arran could not recover his claims, on whatever they were founded, over the wealth of St. Andrews and Dunfermline. Chatelherault feared that Mary would deprive him of his place of refuge, the castle of Dumbarton, to which he confessed that his right was "none," beyond a verbal promise of a nineteen years "farm" (when given we know not), from Mary of Guise. {211b} Randolph began to believe that Arran really had contemplated a raid on Mary at Holyrood, where she had no guards. {211c} "Why," asked Arran, "was it not as easy to take her out of the Abbey, as once it had been intended to do with her mother?"

Here were elements of trouble, and Knox adds that, according to the servants of Chatelherault, Huntly and the Hamiltons devised to slay Lord James, who in January received the Earldom of Moray, but bore the title of Earl of Mar, which earldom he held for a brief space. {212a} Huntly had claims on Moray, and hence hated Lord James. Arran was openly sending messengers to France; "his councils are too patent." Randolph at the same time found Knox and the preachers "as wilfull as learned, which heartily I lament" (January 30). The rumour that Mary had been persuaded by the Cardinal to turn Anglican "makes them run almost wild" (February 12). {212b} If the Queen were an Anglican the new Kirk would be in an ill way. Arran still sent retainers to France, and was reported to speak ill of Mary (February 21), but the Duke tried to win Randolph to a marriage between Arran and the Queen. The intended bridegroom lay abed for a week, "tormented by imaginations," but was contented, not to be reconciled with Bothwell, but to pass his misdeeds in "oblivion," {212c} as he declared to the Privy Council (February 20).

In these threatening circumstances Bothwell made Knox's friend, Barron, a rich burgess who "financed" the Earl, introduce him to our Reformer. The Earl explained that his feud with Arran was very expensive; he had for his safety to keep "a number of wicked and unprofitable men about him"--his "Lambs," the Ormistouns, {213} young Hay of Tala, probably, and the rest. He therefore repented, and wished to be reconciled to Arran. Knox, pleased at being a reconciler where nobler men had failed, and moved, after long refusal, by the entreaties of the godly, as he tells Mrs. Locke, advised Bothwell first to be reconciled to God. So Bothwell presently was, going to sermon for that very purpose. Knox promised to approach Arran, and Bothwell, with his usual impudence, chose that moment to seize an old pupil of Knox's, the young Laird of Ormiston (Cockburn). The young laird, to be sure, had fired a pistol at his enemy. However, Bothwell repented of this lapse, and at the Hamilton's great house of Kirk-of-Field, Knox made him and Arran friends. Next day they went to sermon together; on the following day they visited Chatelherault at Kinneil, some twelve miles from Edinburgh. But on the ensuing day (March 26) came the wild end of the reconciliation.

Knox had delivered his daily sermon, and was engaged with his vast correspondence, when Arran was announced, with an advocate and the town clerk. Arran began a conference with tears, said that he was betrayed, and told his tale. Bothwell had informed him that he would seize the Queen, put her in Dumbarton, kill her misguiders, the "Earl of Moray" (Mar, Lord James), Lethington, and others, "and so shall he and I rule all."

But Arran believed Bothwell really intended to accuse him of treason, or knowledge of treason, so he meant to write to Mary and Mar. Knox asked whether he had assented to the plot, and advised him to be silent. Probably he saw that Arran was distraught, and did not credit his story. But Arran said that Bothwell (as he had once done before, in 1559) would challenge him to a judicial combat--such challenges were still common, but never led to a fight. He then walked off with his legal advisers, and wrote to Mary at Falkland. {214a} If Arran went mad, he went mad "with advice of counsel." There had come the chance of "a new day," which the extremists desired, but its dawn was inauspicious.

Arran rode to his father's house of Kinneil, where, either because he was insane, or because there really was a Bothwell-Hamilton plot, he was locked up in a room high above the ground. He let himself down from the window, reached Halyards (a place of Kirkcaldy of Grange), and was thence taken by Mar (whom Knox appears to have warned) to the Queen at Falkland. Bothwell and Gawain Hamilton were also put in ward there. Randolph gives (March 31) a similar account, but believed that there really was a plot, which Arran denied even before he arrived at Falkland. Bothwell came to purge himself, but "was found guilty on his own confession on some points." {214b}

The Queen now went to St. Andrews, where the suspects were placed in the Castle. Arran wavered, accusing Mar's mother of witchcraft. Mary was "not a little offended with Bothwell to whom she has been so good." Randolph (April 7) continued to think that Arran should be decapitated. He and Bothwell were kept in ward, and his father, the Duke, was advised to give up Dumbarton to the Crown, which he did. {215a} This was about April 23. Knox makes a grievance of the surrender; the Castle, he says, was by treaty to be in the Duke's hands till the Queen had lawful issue. {215b} Chatelherault himself, as we said, told Randolph that he had no right in the place, beyond a verbal and undated promise of the late Regent.

Knox now again illustrates his own historical methods. Mary, riding between Falkland and Lochleven, fell, was hurt, and when Randolph wrote from Edinburgh on May 11, was not expected there for two or three days. But Knox reports that, on her return from Fife to Edinburgh, she danced excessively till after midnight, because she had received letters "that persecution was begun again in France," by the Guises. {215c} Now as, according to Knox elsewhere, "Satan stirreth his terrible tail," so did one of Mary's uncles, the Duc de Guise, "stir his tail" against one of the towns appointed to pay Mary's jointure, namely Vassy, in Champagne. Here, on March 1, 1562, a massacre of Huguenots, by the Guise's retainers, began the war of religion afresh. {215d}

Now, in the first place, this could not be joyful news to set Mary dancing; as it was apt to prevent what she had most at heart, her personal interview with Elizabeth. She understood this perfectly well, and, in conversation with Randolph, after her return to Edinburgh, lamented the deeds of her uncles, as calculated "to bring them in hate and disdain of many princes," and also to chill Elizabeth's amity for herself--on which her whole policy now depended (May 29). {216a} She wept when Randolph said that, in the state of France, Elizabeth was not likely to move far from London for their interview. In this mood how could Mary give a dance to celebrate an event which threatened ruin to her hopes?

Moreover, if Knox, when he speaks of "persecution begun again," refers to the slaughter of Huguenots by Guise's retinue, at Vassy, that untoward event occurred on March 1, and Mary cannot have been celebrating it by a ball at Holyrood as late as May 14, at earliest. {216b} Knox, however, preached against her dancing, if she danced "for pleasure at the displeasure of God's people"; so he states the case. Her reward, in that case, would he "drink in hell." In his "History" he declares that Mary did dance for the evil reason attributed to her, a reason which must have been mere matter of inference on his part, and that inference wrong, judging by dates, if the reference is to the affair of Vassy. In April both French parties were committing brutalities, but these were all contrary to Mary's policy and hopes.

If Knox heard a rumour against any one, his business, according to the "Book of Discipline," was not to go and preach against that person, even by way of insinuation. {216c} Mary's offence, if any existed, was not "public," and was based on mere suspicion, or on tattle. Dr. M'Crie, indeed, says that on hearing of the affair of Vassy, the Queen "immediately after gave a splendid ball to her foreign servants." Ten weeks after the Vassy affair is not "immediately"; and Knox mentions neither foreign servants nor Vassy. {216d}

The Queen sent for Knox, and made "a long harangue," of which he does not report one word. He gives his own oration. Mary then said that she could not expect him to like her uncles, as they differed in religion. But if he heard anything of herself that he disapproved of, "come to myself and tell me, and I shall hear you." He answered that he was not bound to come "to every man in particular," but she could come to his sermons! If she would name a day and hour, he would give her a doctrinal lecture. At this very moment he "was absent from his book"; his studies were interrupted.

"You will not always be at your book," she said, and turned her back. To some papists in the antechamber he remarked, "Why should the pleasing face of a gentlewoman affray me? I have looked in the faces of many angry men, and yet have not been afraid above measure."

He was later to flee before that pleasing face.

Mary can hardly be said to have had the worse, as far as manners and logic went, of this encounter, at which Morton, Mar, and Lethington were present, and seem to have been silent. {217a}

Meanwhile, Randolph dates this affair, the dancing, the sermon, the interview, not in May, but about December 13-15, 1562, {217b} and connects the dancing with no event in France, {217c} nor can I find any such event in late November which might make Mary glad at heart. Knox, Randolph writes, mistrusts all that the Queen does or says, "as if he were of God's Privy Council, that knew how he had determined of her in the beginning, or that he knew the secrets of her heart so well that she neither did nor could have one good thought of God or of his true religion." His doings could not increase her respect for his religion.

The affair of Arran had been a sensible sorrow to Knox. "God hath further humbled me since that day which men call Good Friday," he wrote to Mrs. Locke (May 6), "than ever I have been in my life. . . ." He had rejoiced in his task of peace-making, in which the Privy Council had practically failed, and had shown great naivete in trusting Bothwell. The best he could say to Mrs. Locke was that he felt no certainty about the fact that Bothwell had tempted Arran to conspire. {218}

The probability is that the reckless and impoverished Bothwell did intend to bring in the desirable "new day," and to make the Hamiltons his tools. Meanwhile he was kept out of mischief and behind stone walls for a season. Knox had another source of annoyance which was put down with a high hand.

The dominie of the school at Linlithgow, Ninian Winzet by name, had lost his place for being an idolater. In February he had brought to the notice of our Reformer and of the Queen the question, "Is John Knox a lawful minister?" If he was called by God, where were his miracles? If by men, by what manner of men? On March 3, Winzet asked Knox for "your answer in writing." He kept launching letters at Knox in March; on March 24 he addressed the general public; and, on March 31, issued an appeal to the magistrates, who appear to have been molesting people who kept Easter. The practice was forbidden in a proclamation by the Queen on May 31. {219a} "The pain is death," writes Randolph. {219b} If Mary was ready to die for her faith, as she informed a nuncio who now secretly visited her, she seems to have been equally resolved that her subjects should not live in it.

Receiving no satisfactory written answer from Knox, Winzet began to print his tract, and then he got his reply from "soldiers and the magistrates," for the book was seized, and he himself narrowly escaped to the Continent. {219c} Knox was not to be brought to a written reply, save so far as he likened his calling to that of Amos and John the Baptist. In September he referred to his "Answer to Winzet's Questions" as forthcoming, but it never appeared. {219d} Winzet was Mary's chaplain in her Sheffield prison in 1570-72; she had him made Abbot of Ratisbon, and he is said, by Lethington's son, to have helped Lesley in writing his "History."

On June 29 the General Assembly, through Knox probably, drew up the address to the Queen, threatening her and the country with the wrath of God on her Mass, which, she is assured, is peculiarly distasteful to the Deity. The brethren are deeply disappointed that she does not attend their sermons, and ventures to prefer "your ain preconceived vain opinion." They insist that adulterers must be punished with death, and they return to their demands for the poor and the preachers. A new rising is threatened if wicked men trouble the ministers and disobey the Superintendents.

Lethington and Knox had one of their usual disputes over this manifesto; the Secretary drew up another. "Here be many fair words," said the Queen on reading it; "I cannot tell what the hearts are." {220a} She later found out the nature of Lethington's heart, a pretty black one. The excesses of the Guises in France were now the excuse or cause of the postponement of Elizabeth's meeting with Mary. The Queen therefore now undertook a northern progress, which had been arranged for in January, about the time when Lord James was made Earl of Moray. {220b}

He could not "brook" the Earldom of Moray before the Earl of Huntly was put down, Huntly being a kind of petty king in the east and north. There is every reason to suppose that Mary understood and utterly distrusted Huntly, who, though the chief Catholic in the country, had been a traitor whenever occasion served for many a year. One of his sons, John, in July, wounded an Ogilvy in Edinburgh in a quarrel over property. This affair was so managed as to drive Huntly into open rebellion, neither Mary nor her brother being sorry to take the opportunity.

The business of the ruin of Huntly has seemed more of a mystery to historians than it was, though an attack by a Catholic princess on her most powerful Catholic subject does need explanation. But Randolph was with Mary during the whole expedition, and his despatches are better evidence than the fables of Buchanan and the surmises of Knox and Mr. Froude. Huntly had been out of favour ever since Lord James obtained the coveted Earldom of Moray in January, and he was thought to be opposed to Mary's visit to Elizabeth. Since January, the Queen had been bent on a northern progress. Probably the Archbishop of St. Andrews, as reported by Knox, rightly guessed the motives. At table he said, "The Queen has gone into the north, belike to seek disobedience; she may perhaps find the thing that she seeks." {221a} She wanted a quarrel with Huntly, and a quarrel she found. Her northward expedition, says Randolph, "is rather devised by herself than greatly approved by her Council." She would not visit Huntly at Strathbogie, contrary to the advice of her Council; his son, who wounded Ogilvy, had broken prison, and refused to enter himself at Stirling Castle. Huntly then supported his sons in rebellion, while Bothwell broke prison and fortified himself in Hermitage Castle. Lord James's Earldom of Moray was now publicly announced (September 18), and Huntly was accused of a desire to murder him and Lethington, while his son John was to seize the Queen. {221b} Mary was "utterly determined to bring him to utter confusion." Huntly was put to the horn on October 18; his sons took up arms. Huntly, old and corpulent, died during a defeat at Corrichie without stroke of sword; his mischievous son John was taken and executed, Mary being pleased with her success, and declaring that Huntly thought "to have married her where he would," {221c} and to have slain her brother. John Gordon confessed to the murder plot. {221d} His eldest brother, Lord Gordon, who had tried to enlist Bothwell and the Hamiltons, lay long in prison (his sister married Bothwell just before Riccio's murder). The Queen had punished the disobedience which she "went to seek," and Moray was safe in his rich earldom, while a heavy blow was dealt at the Catholicism which Huntly had protected. {222a} Cardinal Guise reports her success to de Rennes, in Austria, with triumph, and refers to an autograph letter of hers, of which Lethington's draft has lately perished by fire, unread by historians. As the Cardinal reports that she says she is trying to win her subjects back to the Church, "in which she wishes to live and die" (January 30, 1562-63), Lethington cannot be the author of that part of her lost letter. {222b}

Knox meanwhile, much puzzled by the news from the north, was in the western counties. He induced the lairds of Ayrshire to sign a Protestant band, and he had a controversy with the Abbot of Crosraguel. In misapplication of texts the abbot was even more eccentric than Knox, though he only followed St. Jerome. In his "History" Knox "cannot certainly say whether there was any secret paction and confederacy between the Queen herself and Huntly." {222c} Knox decides that though Mary executed John Gordon and other rebels, yet "it was the destruction of others that she sought," namely, of her brother, whom she hated "for his godliness and upright plainness." {222d} His upright simplicity had won him an earldom and the destruction of his rival! He and Lethington may have exaggerated Huntly's iniquities in council with Mary, but the rumours reported against her by Knox could only be inspired by the credulity of extreme ill-will. He flattered himself that he kept the Hamiltons quiet, and, at a supper with Randolph in November, made Chatelherault promise to be a good subject in civil matters, and a good Protestant in religion.

Knox says that preaching was done with even unusual vehemence in winter, when his sermon against the Queen's dancing for joy over some unknown Protestant misfortune was actually delivered, and the good seed fell on ground not wholly barren. The Queen's French and Scots musicians would not play or sing at the Queen's Christmas-day Mass, whether pricked in heart by conscience, or afraid for their lives. "Her poor soul is so troubled for the preservation of her silly Mass that she knoweth not where to turn for defence of it," says Randolph. {223a} These persecutions may have gone far to embitter the character of the victim.

Mr. Froude is certainly not an advocate of Mary Stuart, rather he is conspicuously the reverse. But he remarks that when she determined to marry Darnley, "divide Scotland," and trust to her Catholic party, she did so because she was "weary of the mask which she had so long worn, and unable to endure any longer these wild insults to her creed and herself." {223b} She had, in fact, given the policy of submission to "wild insults" rather more than a fair chance; she had, for a spirited girl, been almost incredibly long-suffering, when "barbarously baited," as Charles I. described his own treatment by the preachers and the Covenanters.


Andrew Lang

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