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Title: Royal Edinburgh - Her Saints, Kings, Prophets and Poets
Author: Oliphant, Mrs. (Margaret), 1828-1897
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Royal Edinburgh - Her Saints, Kings, Prophets and Poets" ***

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'Mine own romantic town.' MARMION





_All rights reserved_

       *       *       *       *       *

_First Edition (Medium 8vo) 1890_
_Second Edition (Crown 8vo) 1891_

       *       *       *       *       *


       *       *       *       *       *








JAMES I. POET AND LEGISLATOR                                          38


JAMES II: WITH THE FIERY FACE                                         80


JAMES III: THE MAN OF PEACE                                          126


JAMES IV: THE KNIGHT-ERRANT                                          155


JAMES V: THE LAST OF THE HEROIC AGE                                  200




UNDER THE QUEEN REGENT                                               258


UNDER QUEEN MARY                                                     310


THE TRIUMPH AND END                                                  350


THE SCHOLAR OF THE REFORMATION                                       374




A BURGHER POET                                                       435


THE GUEST OF EDINBURGH                                               471


THE SHAKSPEARE OF SCOTLAND                                           491



ST. GILES'S FROM THE LAWNMARKET                           _Frontispiece_

ROYAL EDINBURGH                                                      xiv

QUEEN MARGARET'S CHAPEL, EDINBURGH CASTLE                              1

PILLAR IN NAVE, DUNFERMLINE ABBEY                                      5

DUNFERMLINE ABBEY                                                      7

WEST TOWER, DUNFERMLINE ABBEY                                         11

THE NAVE, DUNFERMLINE ABBEY--LOOKING WEST                             13

QUEEN MARGARET'S CAVE                                                 15

WEST DOORWAY, DUNFERMLINE ABBEY                                       17


ARMS OF QUEEN MARGARET OF SCOTLAND                                    37

THE BASS ROCK                                                         53

HOLYROOD                                                              77

EDINBURGH CASTLE FROM THE SOUTH-WEST                                  81

INNER BARRIER, EDINBURGH CASTLE                                       87

EDINBURGH CASTLE FROM THE VENNEL                                      97

ST. ANTHONY'S CHAPEL AND ST. MARGARET'S LOCH                         115

MONS MEG                                                             123

THE CANONGATE TOLBOOTH                                               127

ARMS OF JAMES IV OF SCOTLAND                                         155

OLD HOUSE IN LAWNMARKET                                              161

ST. ANTHONY'S CHAPEL                                                 165

OLD HOUSES AT HEAD OF WEST BOW                                       171

BAKEHOUSE CLOSE                                                      183

WHITE HORSE CLOSE                                                    195

SALISBURY CRAGS                                                      201

REID'S CLOSE, CANONGATE                                              211

DOORWAY, SIR A. AITCHESON'S HOUSE                                    217

LINLITHGOW PALACE                                                    227

FALKLAND PALACE                                                      253

ST. ANDREWS                                                          287

KNOX'S HOUSE, HIGH STREET                                            307

HOLYROOD PALACE AND ARTHUR'S SEAT                                    311

LOCHLEVEN                                                            331

QUEEN MARY'S BATH                                                    335

WEST DOORWAY, HOLYROOD CHAPEL                                        341

DOORWAY, HOLYROOD PALACE                                             349

MORAY HOUSE, CANONGATE                                               359

THE PENDS, ST. ANDREWS                                               365

INTERIOR OF ST. GILES'S                                              369

KNOX'S PULPIT                                                        372

NORTH DOORWAY, HERIOT'S HOSPITAL                                     381

STIRLING CASTLE                                                      417

GREYFRIARS CHURCHYARD                                                433

EDINBURGH: GENERAL VIEW                                              437

ALLAN RAMSAY'S SHOP                                                  439

CROWN OF ST. GILES'S                                                 445

SMOLLETT'S HOUSE                                                     453

ALLAN RAMSAY'S HOUSE                                                 461

ALLAN RAMSAY'S MONUMENT                                              469

DOORWAY, LADY STAIR'S CLOSE                                          471

LADY STAIR'S CLOSE                                                   477

DUGALD STEWART'S MONUMENT                                            483

BURNS'S MONUMENT                                                     489

ST. GILES'S FROM PRINCES STREET                                      493

THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH                                          497

PLAYFAIR'S MONUMENT, CALTON HILL                                     503

SIR WALTER SCOTT'S HOUSE                                             515

GEORGE STREET, EDINBURGH                                             519

SIR WALTER SCOTT                                                     520






It is strange yet scarcely difficult to the imagination to realise the
first embodiment of what is now Edinburgh in the far distance of the
early ages. Neither Pict nor Scot has left any record of what was going
on so far south in the days when the king's daughters, primitive
princesses with their rude surroundings, were placed for safety in the
_castrum puellarum_, the maiden castle, a title in after days proudly
(but perhaps not very justly) adapted to the supposed invulnerability of
the fortress perched upon its rock. Very nearly invulnerable, however,
it must have been in the days before artillery; too much so at least for
one shut-up princess, who complained of her lofty prison as a place
without verdure. If we may believe, notwithstanding the protest of that
much-deceived antiquary the Laird of Monkbarns, that these fair and
forlorn ladies were the first royal inhabitants of the Castle of
Edinburgh, we may imagine that they watched from their battlements more
wistfully than fearfully, over all the wide plain, what dust might rise
or spears might gleam, or whether any galley might be visible of reiver
or rescuer from the north. A little collection of huts or rude forts
here and there would be all that broke the sweeping line of Lothian to
the east or west, and all that width of landscape would lie under the
eyes of the watchers, giving long notice of the approach of any enemies.
"Out over the Forth I look to the north," the maidens might sing,
looking across to Dunfermline, where already there was some royal state,
or towards the faint lines of mountains in the distance, over the soft
swelling heights of the Lomonds. No doubt Edinburgh, Edwinesburgh, or
whatever the antiquaries imagine it to have been, must have been sadly
dull if safe, suspended high upon the rock, nearer heaven than earth. It
is curious to hear that it was "without verdure"; but perhaps the young
ladies took no account of the trees that clothed the precipices below
them, or the greenness that edged the Nor' Loch deep at their feet, but
sighed for the gardens and luxuriance of Dunfermline, where all was
green about their windows and the winding pathways of the dell of
Pittendreich would be pleasant to wander in. This first romantic aspect
of the Castle of Edinburgh is, however, merely traditional, and the
first real and authentic appearance of the old fortress and city in
history is in the record, at once a sacred legend and a valuable
historical chronicle, of the life of Margaret the Atheling, the first of
several Queen Margarets, the woman saint and blessed patroness of
Scotland, who has bequeathed not only many benefits and foundations of
after good to her adopted country, but her name--perhaps among
Scotswomen still the most common of all Christian names.

No more moving and delightful story was ever written or invented than
the history of this saint and Queen. She was the daughter of Edward,
called the Outlaw, and of his wife a princess of Hungary, of the race
which afterwards produced St. Elizabeth: and the sister of Edgar
Atheling, the feeble but rightful heir of the Saxon line, and
consequently of the English throne. The family, however, was more
foreign than English, having been brought up at the Court of their
grandfather, the King of Hungary, one of the most pious and one of the
richest Courts in Christendom; and it was not unnatural that when
convinced of the fact that the most legitimate of aspirants had no
chance against the force of William, they should prefer to return to the
country of their education and birth. It was no doubt a somewhat forlorn
party that set out upon this journey, for to lose a throne is seldom a
misfortune accepted with equanimity, and several of the beaten and
despondent Saxons had joined the royal exiles. Their voyage, however,
was an unprosperous one, and after much beating about by winds and
storms they were at last driven up the Firth of Forth, where their ship
found shelter in the little bay at the narrowing of the Firth, which has
since borne the name of St. Margaret's Hope.

Lying here in shelter from all the winds behind the protecting
promontory, with perhaps already some humble shrine or hermit's cell
upon Inchgarvie or Inchcolm to give them promise of Christian kindness,
with the lonely rock of Edinburgh in the distance on one side, and the
soft slopes of the Fife coast rising towards the King's palace at
Dunfermline on the other, the travellers must have awaited with some
anxiety, yet probably much hope, the notice of the barbaric people who
came to the beach to stare at their weather-beaten ships, and hurried
off to carry the news inland of such unwonted visitors. It is the very
spot which is now disturbed and changed by the monstrous cobwebs of iron
which bear the weight of the Forth Bridge and make an end for ever of
the Queen's Ferry, which Margaret must have crossed so often, and by
which a personage more familiar, Mr. Jonathan Oldbuck, once, as we all
know, made his way to the North; but these are modern reflections such
as have nothing to do with that primitive morning, fresh no doubt as
to-day with sun and dew, when Malcolm's messengers came hurrying down to
see what were these intruders, and what their purpose, and whether
anything was to be apprehended from a visit apparently so unusual. The
eager and curious emissaries had apparently no warrant to board the
strangers, but gazed and wondered at the big ship and all its
equipments, so unlike their own rude galleys; then hastened back again
with an excited and exciting description of the greatness of the
passengers on board and all their splendid array. Malcolm, cautious yet
excited too, sent forth, as we are told in the _Scotichronicon_, "his
wisest councillors" to make further inquiries. They too were astonished
by the splendour of all they saw, and especially by the mien of a
certain lady among these strangers, "whom, by her incomparable beauty,
and the pleasantness of her jocund speech, I imagined to be the chief of
the family," said the spokesman; "nor was it wonderful," adds the
chronicler, "that they should believe her to be the chief who was
destined to be Queen of Scotland and also heir of England." Perhaps it
was the after light of these events that conveyed that high appreciation
of Margaret's qualities into the story, for she must have been quite
young, and it is very unlikely that in presence of her mother, and the
brother whom they all considered as the King of England, a young girl,
however gifted, would have taken upon her the chief place.


The report he received, however, had so much effect upon King Malcolm
that he went himself to visit the strangers in their ship. He was not a
mere barbaric prince, to be dazzled by the sight of these great persons,
but no doubt had many a lingering recollection in his mind of Siward's
great house in Northumberland, where he had taken refuge after his
father's murder. It is curious and bewildering to go back in that dawn
of national life to familiar Shaksperian regions, and to think that this
primitive King who had so much in him of the savage, along with all his
love and gentleness, was the son of that gracious Duncan who addressed
his hostess like a kingly gentleman though her hospitality was to be so
fatal. King Malcolm came down, no doubt with such state as he could
muster, to see the wandering foreign princes. He was not unlearned, but
knew Latin and the English tongue, though he could not read, as we are
afterwards told. He had already reigned for fourteen years, after about
as long a period of exile, so that he could not now be in his first
youth, although he was still unmarried. He came down with his suite to
the shore amid all the stir of the inquiring country folk, gathered
about to see this strange thing--the ship with its unusual equipments,
and the group of noble persons in their fine clothes who were to be seen
upon the deck. The Athelings were carrying back with them to Hungary all
the gifts with which the Emperor, Henry III, had loaded their father
when he went to England, and had jewels and vessels of gold and many
fine things unknown to the Scots. And Margaret, even though not so
prominent as the chroniclers say, was evidently by the consent of all a
most gracious and courteous young lady, with unusual grace and vivacity
of speech. The grave middle-aged King, with his recollections of a
society more advanced than his own, which probably had made him long for
something better than his rude courtiers could supply, would seem at
once to have fallen under the spell of the wandering princess. She was
such a mate as a poor Scots King, badgered by turbulent clans, could
scarcely have hoped to find--rich and fair and young, and of the best
blood in Christendom. Whether the wooing was as short as the record we
have no means of knowing, but in the same year, 1070, Margaret was
brought with great rejoicing to Dunfermline, and there married to her
King, amid the general joy.


The royal house at Dunfermline, according to the chronicle, was
surrounded by a dense forest and guarded by immense cliffs. The latter
particular, however, it is difficult to accept, for the dell in which
the ruins of the mediæval palace (a building much more recent, it is
needless to say, than that of Malcolm) still stand, though picturesque
in its acclivities and precipices, is as far as possible from including
any cliffs that could be called immense. The young Queen made a great
change in the internal arrangements of what was no doubt a grim
stronghold enough, soft as was the country around. Probably the absence
of decoration and ornament struck her painfully, accustomed as she was
to palaces of a very different kind--for almost the first thing we hear
in the contemporary history written by her confessor Theodoric,
afterwards a monk at Durham, is of the workshops and rooms for
embroidery and all the arts which were established in Dunfermline,
presumably in the palace itself under Margaret's own eye, for the
beautifying of the great church which she founded there, and also no
doubt for her own house. Certain women of good birth were judged worthy
to share the Queen's work, and lived with her, it would seem, in a kind
of seclusion, seeing only such chosen visitors as Margaret brought with
her to cheer their labours, and forswearing all idle talk and frivolity.
The Queen had such austerity mingled with her graciousness and such
grace with her severity, says her monkish biographer, loving an
antithesis, that all feared and respected her presence. "Her life was
full of moderation and gentleness, her speech contained the very salt of
wisdom; even her silence was full of good thoughts."

This biographer--according to the conscientious and painstaking
investigations of the Bollandist Fathers, who examine in their careful
way all the guarantees and traditions of the manuscript with a jealousy
worthy of the most enlightened historians--is not Turgot, who is usually
credited with it, but Theodoric, a monk of Durham, who must have shared
with Turgot, at some period of his life, the office of spiritual
director and confidant to the Queen. It is curious that both these
writers should have passed from the northern Court to the community at
Durham, of which Turgot was prior and Theodoric a simple brother; yet
not so strange either, for Durham was largely patronised and enriched by
Margaret and her husband, their kingdom at this period reaching as far
south. Of Turgot's Life, which was presumably written in the vernacular,
there seems nothing existing; but that of Theodoric is very full, and
contains many details which set before us the life of the simple Court,
with its many labours and charities: the King full of reverence and
tender surprise and admiration of all his wife's perfections; the young
saint herself, sweet and bright in modest gravity amid a tumultuous
world little respectful of women, full of the excessive charity of the
age and of her race, and of those impulses of decoration and
embellishment which were slow to develop among the ruder difficulties of
the north. Theodoric himself must have been more or less of an artist,
for in speaking of the "golden vases" and ornaments for the altars of
her new church which Margaret devised, "I myself carried out the work,"
he says. These must have been busy days in Malcolm's primitive palace
while the workmen were busy with the great cathedral close by, the mason
with his mallet, the homely sculptor with his chisel, carving those
interlaced and embossed arches which still stand, worn and gray, but
little injured, in the wonderful permanency of stone, in the nave of the
old Abbey of Dunfermline: while the Queen's rooms opened into the hall
where her ladies sat over their embroidery, among all the primitive dyes
that art had caught from herbs and traditional mixtures, on one
hand--and on the other into noisier workshops, where workmen with
skilful delicate hammers were beating out the shining gold and silver
into sacred vessels and symbols of piety. Margaret along with her stores
of more vulgar wealth, and the ingots which were consecrated to the
manufacture of crucifix and chalice, had brought many holy relics: and
no doubt the cases and shrines in which these were enclosed afforded
models for the new, over which Father Theodoric, with his monkish cape
and cowl laid aside, and his shaven crown shining in the glow of the
furnace, was so busy. What a pleasant stir of occupation and progress,
the best and most trustworthy evidences of growing civilisation, must
have arisen within the shelter of the woods which framed that centre of
development and new life: the new abbey rising day by day, a white and
splendid reality in the clearing among the trees; the bells, symbols of
peace and pleasantness, sounding out over the half-savage country; the
chants and songs of divine worship swelling upward to the skies.
Margaret's royal manufactory of beautiful things, her tapestries and
metal work, her adaptation of all the possibilities of ornament latent
in every primitive community, with the conviction, always ennobling to
art, that by these means of sacred adornment she and her assistants and
coadjutors were serving and pleasing God, no doubt consoled her ardent
and active spirit for the loss of many comforts and graces with which
she must have been familiar. At the same time her new sphere of
influence was boundless, and the means in her hand of leavening and
moulding her new country almost unlimited--a thing above all others
delightful to a woman, to whom the noiseless and gradual operation of
influence is the chief weapon in the world.


There is nothing, however, in this history more charming than the
description of the relations between the royal pair. King Malcolm had
probably known few graces in life except those, a step or two in advance
of his own, which were to be found in Northumberland in the house of
Earl Siward; and after the long practical struggle of his reign between
the Scots and Celts, who had already so far settled down together as to
constitute something which could be called a kingdom, he had no doubt
fallen even from that higher plane of civilisation. Such rude state as
the presence of a queen even in those primitive days might have procured
had been wanting, and all his faculties were probably absorbed in
keeping peace between the unruly chieftains, and fostering perhaps here
and there the first rising of a little community of burghers, strong
enough by union to defend themselves. Uneasy, there can be little doubt,
was often the head which bore the circlet of troubled supremacy among
all those half-subdued tribes; and his dwelling in the heart of the
"dense forest," amid all the noisy retainers in the hall and jealous
nobles in the council chamber, would leave little room for beauty or
sweetness of any kind. When the stranger princess suddenly came in like
an enchantment, with her lovely looks and "jocund eloquence"--full of
smiles and pleasant speech, yet with a dignity which overawed every rude
beholder--into these rude and noisy halls, with so many graceful ways
and beautiful garments and sparkling jewels, transforming the very
chambers with embroidered hangings and all the rare embellishments of a
lady's bower, with which no doubt the ship had been provided, and which
mediæval princesses, like modern fine ladies, carried about with
them--the middle-aged man of war was evidently altogether subdued and
enraptured. To see her absorbed in prayer--an exercise which Malcolm had
perhaps felt to be the occupation of monks and hermits only--to see her
bending over her beautiful book with all its pictures, reading the
sacred story there, filled him with awe and a kind of adoration. He
could not himself read, which made the wonder all the more; but though
incapable of mastering what was within, he loved to handle and turn over
the book from which his beautiful wife derived her wisdom, touching it
with his rude hands with caressing touches, and kissing the pages she
loved. When he found one manuscript which she particularly esteemed, he
"sent for his goldsmith" and had the vellum encased in gold and
ornamented with jewels; then carried it back to her with such fond
pleasure as may be easily imagined. Margaret on her part did what she
could to secure to her King some of the punctilios of reverential
respect due in her knowledge to a monarch. She suggested the formation
of a royal guard to protect the King's person and surround him with
honour and observance. She filled the palace with her wealth, adorning
it in every way, providing fine clothes for the retainers and so
enriching the house that the table was served with dishes of gold and
silver. And it would seem that the reputation of a new and splendid
Court thus suddenly evolved among the northern mists got abroad, and
brought merchants with their wares up the Firth, and quickened, if it
did not altogether originate, the first feeble current of trade which
was the precursor and origin of all our after wealth in Scotland.



This was not all, however, that Margaret did for the commonwealth. If we
may trust her biographer, it was she who established that great
principle of reform so important in all states, and generally one of the
later fruits of civilisation, that the soldiers should be prevented from
exacting or putting under requisition the peaceful people about, and
that all they had should be honestly paid for, which was the last thing
likely to be thought of by a mediæval prince. Altogether Margaret's
influence was exerted for the best purposes to induce her husband "to
relinquish his barbarous manners and live honestly and civilly," as the
chronicler says. It was perhaps not so good an exercise of her power
when she opened arguments, apparently through Malcolm as interpreter,
with the native clergy of Scotland, the hermits and ecclesiastics of
Columba's strain, and the mysterious Culdees of whom we know so little.
The one certain fact fully established concerning them being, that they
kept Easter at a different date from that appointed by Rome. The King,
though no scholar, would seem to have been a linguist in his way, since
he spoke both languages, that is the Saxon, and the Celtic or Pictish,
again a most difficult question to determine--with a smattering of
Latin; and was thus able to act as Margaret's mouthpiece in her
arguments. She found fault with the Celts not only for the date of their
Easter, but for their habit of not communicating at that festival. It is
very curious to note in their answer the very same reason which has
prevailed in later days among all the changes of faith and ceremonial,
and is still put forth in Highland parishes as an excuse for the small
number of communicants. The Celtic priests and bishops defended their
flocks by producing the words of St. Paul, in which that Apostle says
that those who eat and drink unworthily eat and drink condemnation to
themselves. So, according to Theodoric, the Celtic party in the Church
answered Margaret, and so would their descendants, the "Men" of the
Highlands, answer at this day. The integrity of the tradition is very
remarkable. On the other hand, they offended the devout Queen by their
neglect of Sunday, a reproach which cannot be addressed to their


These theological discussions between the fair and learned Queen and the
Highland ecclesiastics and anchorites, carried on by means of her chief
convert the warrior King, whom love for her had taught to respect and
share in her devotion, must have afforded many picturesque and striking
scenes, though unfortunately there was no modern observer there to be
interested and amused, but only Theodoric standing by, himself very hot
upon the atrocity of a miscalculated Easter, and perhaps helping his
royal mistress here and there with an argument. Naturally his story is
especially full upon the religious side of Margaret's life--her much
prayer, her humility and reverence during the services of the Church, an
intent and silent listener to all teachings, only a little disposed to
rebel now and then when her confessor passed too lightly over her
faults. As for her charities, they were boundless. It was not for
nothing that the blood of St. Ursula, and that which was to give life to
still another saint, Elizabeth of Hungary, was in her veins. It is
needless to say that nobody in those days had discovered the evil of
indiscriminate almsgiving, which was, on the contrary, considered one of
the first of Christian virtues. Margaret was the providence of all the
poor around her. Her biographer tells us naïvely, with no sense that the
result was not one to be proud of, that the fame of her bounty and
kindness brought the poor in crowds to every place where she was. When
she went out they crowded round her like children round their mother.
When she had distributed everything she had of her own she took garments
and other things from her courtiers and attendants to give away, a
spoliation to which they consented willingly, knowing that the value of
everything thus appropriated would be returned to them--an excellent
reason for acquiescence. This "rapine of piety" was so strong in her
that she sometimes even appropriated to her poor certain of the gold
pieces which it was the King's custom to offer at Easter to the
Church--a pious robbery which Malcolm pretended not to perceive until he
caught her in the act, when he accused her with a laugh of tender
amusement for her rapacity. In all the touches by which the sympathetic
priest delineates the union of this pair there is something at once
humorous and pathetic in the figure of the King, the rough old warrior,
always following with his eyes the angelic saintly figure by his side,
all believing, half adoring, and yet not without that gleam of amusement
at the woman's absolute unhesitating enthusiasm--an amusement mingled
with admiration and respect, but still a smile--a delighted surprise at
all her amazing ways, and wonder what she will do next, though
everything in his eyes was perfect that she did--such as may still be
seen in the eyes of many a world-worn husband looking on at the
movements of that directer, more simple, yet more subtle being, and the
quick absolutism and certainty of the bright spirit at his side. The
grey-bearded old soldier, leader of many a raid and victor in many a
struggle, with this new revelation of beauty and purity bursting upon
his later life, becomes to us a recognisable and friendly human soul in
these glimpses we have of him, unintentional and by the way. Theodoric
himself must have liked Malcolm, half-barbarian as he was, and even
admired the look of ardent supplication which would come into the King's
face, "a great intentness and emotion," such as seemed to him
extraordinary in a secular person, and which his wife's beautiful
example and the contagion of her piety alone could have developed.

Among Margaret's many duties there was one which throws a very strange
light upon the time. Just before her arrival in Scotland, King Malcolm
had been carrying fire and sword through Northumberland in one of the
many raids over the Border which were the commonplace of the time--if
indeed we may speak of the Border at such an unsettled and shifting
period when the limits of the kingdoms were so little certain. The issue
of this raid was that Scotland, probably meaning for the most part
Lothian, the southern portion of the country, was filled with English
captives, apportioned as slaves, or servants at least, through the
entire population, so that scarcely a house was without one, either male
or female. The Queen interested herself particularly in these captives,
as was natural; sometimes paying the ransom exacted for them, and in all
cases defending and protecting them. Her emissaries went about among
them inquiring into their condition and how they were treated, visiting
them from house to house: and all that Margaret could do to mitigate the
evils of their captivity was done. Nothing can be more strange than to
realise a time when Northumbrian prisoners of war could be house slaves
in Lothian. No doubt what was true on one side was true on the other,
and Scotch captives had their turn of similar bondage.

In those days the ancient county which her children love to call the
Kingdom of Fife was far more than Edinburgh, then a mere fortress
standing up on an invulnerable rock in the middle of a fertile plain,
the centre of the national life. Not only was the King's residence at
Dunfermline, but the great Cathedral of St. Andrews was the
ecclesiastical capital, gradually working out that development of Roman
supremacy and regularity which soon swept away all that was individual
in the apostleship of St. Columba and the faith of his followers. That
the King and Queen were frequently at Edinburgh is evident from the fact
that Margaret had her oratory and chapel on the very apex of the rock,
and had there established a centre of worship and spiritual life. St.
Andrews, however, was the centre of influence, the shrine to which
pilgrims flowed, and the pious Queen, in her care for every office of
religion and eagerness to facilitate every exercise of piety, gave
special thought to the task of making the way easy and safe towards that
holy metropolis. The Canterbury of the north was divided from the other
half of Malcolm's kingdom by that sea which in these later days, at much
cost of beauty, money, and life, has been bridged over and
shortened--"the sea which divides Lothian from Scotland" according to
the chronicler, "the Scottish Sea" as it is called by others, the mighty
Firth, which to the rude galleys of the little trading villages along
its shores must have been a sea dangerous and troubled, full of risks
and perils. The Queen, we are told, erected houses of shelter on either
side of this angry strait, and established what we should call a line of
passenger boats to take the pilgrims over at the expense of the State.
One wonders how much or how little of State policy might mingle in this
pious act, for no doubt the establishment of an easy and constant means
of communication between the wealthy Lothians and the then centre of
national life must have been of unspeakable use in consolidating a
kingdom still so imperfectly knit together and divided by the formidable
line of the great estuary. It is one drawback of a religious chronicler
that no such motive, large and noble as it might be, is thought of,
since even national advantage counted so much less than the cultivation
of piety. And it is very likely that Margaret thought of nothing else,
and reckoned a prayer at the shrine of the patron saint as far more
important than the intercommunications thus established and the
knowledge of each other thus acquired by the different parts of a
kingdom which still retained the differences of separate nationalities.
A mingled aim, a practical motive, might not have accomplished half so
much; but no doubt among Malcolm's men, his greybeards pondering in
council, or perhaps himself thinking of many things as he protected all
his wife's schemes, there was a dawning perception, along with the
undoubted advantages of piety, of a national use in the quickened
intercourse and securely established communications. If so he would
probably blame himself for a mixed motive by the side of Margaret's pure
and absolute heavenly-mindedness, yet take pleasure in the secondary
unacknowledged good all the same.

Thus their life went on for nearly a quarter of a century in a course of
national development to which everything contributed, even the love of
splendour which Margaret brought with her, and her artistic tastes, and
the rage for decoration and beautiful surroundings which had then begun
to be so strong an element in national progress. She had many children
in the midst of all these labours and public interests, seven sons and
two daughters, whom she brought up most carefully in all the perfection
of her own faith. Three of these sons succeeded one after the other to
the Scottish throne, and proved the efficacy of her teaching by piety as
strong and as liberal as her own. It was in the year 1093 that
Margaret's beautiful and touching life came to an end, in great sorrow
yet triumph and pious victory over trouble. Before this time, but at a
date not indicated in the narrative, she had parted with her friend and
biographer Theodoric, probably not very long before her own death, as we
are told that she was oppressed by forebodings, or rather premonitions
of death and sorrow, of which she spoke to him with tears. When the
moment of separation came both penitent and confessor so long united in
the closest bonds of sympathy wept sore. "Farewell," said the Queen; "I
shall not live long, but you will live long after me. Remember my soul
in your prayers, and take care of my children; cease not to teach and
admonish them, especially when they are raised to great estate." He made
the promise with tears, not daring to contradict her by happier
auguries, and in this way took his last farewell of the Queen, and never
saw her more. He continues his story, however, taking it from the lips
of a priest who remained with her during the rest of her life, probably
also a Saxon, since he became a monk of St. Cuthbert's on Margaret's

The narrative goes on with an account of the declining health of the
Queen. For more than six months she had been unable to mount a horse, or
sometimes to rise from her bed, and in the midst of this illness the
King set forth upon one of his raids into England, on what provocation
or with what motive it is difficult to tell, except that the provocation
was perpetual and the motive persistent the leading rule of life. His
two elder sons accompanied him on this expedition, which for some reason
Margaret had opposed, "much dissuading" him from going; but this time,
unfortunately, had not been hearkened to. Probably she set out along
with him, on her way to Edinburgh to pass the time of his absence there,
which was a place where news could be had more readily than beyond the
sea in Fife. The solitary castle, high perched upon its hill, whence
messengers could be seen approaching, or, better still, the King's
banners coming back, was a fitter home for an anxious wife than the
palace over the Firth among its woods. How long she remained there we
are not told, and there are now unhappily no articulate remains at all
of the old stronghold which must have risen upon that height, with its
low massive walls and rude buildings. The oldest relic in Edinburgh is
that little sanctuary, plain and bare as a shed, deprived of all
external appearance of sanctity, and employed for vulgar uses for many
centuries, which has been at length discovered by its construction, the
small dark chancel arch and rude ornament, to have been a chapel, and
which there seems no doubt is at least built upon the site consecrated
for Margaret's oratory, if not the very building itself. It is small
enough and primitive enough, with its little line of toothed ornament,
and its minute windows sending in a subdued light even in the very flush
of day, to be of any antiquity. I believe that even the fortunate
antiquary who had the happiness of discovering it does not claim for
this little chapel the distinction of being the very building itself
which Margaret erected. Yet it must have been one very similar,
identical in form and ornament, so that the interested spectator may
well permit himself to picture the sick and anxious Queen, worn out with
illness and weighed down by sore forebodings, kneeling there in the
faint light before the shadowed altar, trying to derive such comfort as
was possible from the ministrations of the priests, and following with
her prayers her husband and her boys, so young still and not hardened to
war, who might be falling by the hands perhaps of her own kindred, in
the country which was hers, yet which she scarcely knew. In the
intervals of these anxious prayers, when her failing strength permitted,
how wistfully the Queen and her ladies must have gazed from the walls
far around on every side to watch for the first appearance of any
messenger or herald of return. From the woods of Dunfermline and its
soft rural landscape, and the new abbey with its sweet singing and all
its magnificence, it must have been a change indeed to dwell imprisoned
so near the sky, within the low, stern rugged walls of the primitive
fort, with a few rude houses clinging about it, and the little chapel on
the rock, small and dark, as the only representative of the stately
arches and ornate services which she loved. But the little chapel is
deeply involved in all the later history of Margaret's life.


One day her attendants remarked that she was even more sad than her
wont, and questioning her received a reply which must have made them
tremble. "Perhaps to-day," she said, "a great evil has fallen upon the
Scots, such as has not happened to them for years." Her hearers, however
it alarmed them, made as light as they could of this prophetic
foreboding, which might be but a deepened impression of the prevailing
despondency in her heart. No doubt it was a melancholy night in the
fortress, where the women who had husbands or sons or brothers in the
distant army would cluster together in the antechamber and watch for the
attendants who came and went behind the curtain into the sick chamber
where the Queen, visibly sinking day by day, lay sleepless and sad,
listening for every sound. Terrors surrounded the castle for the
personal safety of its occupants as well as for their brethren in the
wars; and no doubt there would be whispers of the King's brother, Donald
Bane, and of the watchful jealous Celtic chiefs all ready to rise with
him, should an opportunity occur, and dash the stranger brood from the
throne. All these sad prognostications were quickly realised. Next
morning brought messengers in fear and distress from the army to say
that the King had fallen at Alnwick in Northumberland, and to prove that
Margaret's prophecy had been fulfilled at the very time it was spoken.
It was November, dark and cheerless both within and without, and the
Queen would seem to have been prostrated for a day or two by the sad
news: but on the fourth day she rose from her bed and tottered to the
little chapel on the rock to hear mass for the last time, and receive
the Holy Sacrament in preparation for death. She then returned to her
rooms with the pallor of death already on her face, and bidding all
around--"me," says the priest, "and the others who stood by"--to
recommend her to Christ, asked that the black rood should be brought to
her. This was the most holy of all the relics which she had brought with
her to Scotland. It was a case of pure gold in the form of a cross,
ornamented with marvellous work, bearing the image of the Saviour
curiously carved in ivory, and enclosing a portion of the true cross
(proved to be so by many miracles). The Queen took it in her hands,
pressed it to her dying breast, and touched with it her eyes and face.
While thus devoutly employed, with her thoughts diverted from all
earthly things, Margaret was brought back to her sorrow by the sudden
entrance of her son Ethelred, who had returned from the defeated army to
carry to his mother the dreadful news of the death not only of his
father but of his elder brother. The sight of his mother in extremity,
almost gone, no doubt confused the poor boy, still little more than a
stripling, and with that weight of disaster on his head--and he answered
to her faltering inquiry at first that all was well. Margaret adjured
him by the holy cross in her arms to tell her the truth: then when she
heard of the double blow, burst out in an impassioned cry. "I thank
Thee, Lord," she said, "that givest me this agony to bear in my death
hour." Her life had been much blessed; she had known few sorrows; it was
as a crown to that pure and lovelit existence that she had this moment
of bitterest anguish before God gave to His beloved sleep.

While this sad scene was enacting within, the country was full of tumult
and conspiracy without. Donald Bane, the brother of Malcolm, had no
doubt chafed at the Saxon regime under which the King had fallen, for
years, and struggled against the influences brought in from abroad in
the retinue of the foreigner, as has been done in every commonwealth in
history at one time or another. He represented the old world, the Celtic
rule, the traditions of the past. Some of the chroniclers indeed assert
that Malcolm was illegitimate and Donald Bane the rightful heir to the
crown. He was, at all events, a pretender kept in subjection while
Malcolm's strong hand held the sceptre, but ready to seize the first
opportunity of revolution. No doubt the news of the King's death, and of
that of his heir, would run like wildfire through the country; but it
would seem that the attempt of Donald must have been already organised,
since his siege of Edinburgh, where most of his brother's children were
with their mother, placed there for safety in the King's absence, had
already begun. Upon the death of the Queen, Donald was not likely to
have treated the royal children who stood in his way with much mercy;
and the state of affairs was desperate when young Ethelred, the third of
her sons, not yet arrived at man's estate, closed his mother's eyes, and
found himself at the head of the weeping family shut up within the
castle, surrounded by precipices on every side except that upon which
his angry uncle lay with all the forces of the discontented in Scotland
at his back, all the lovers of the old regime and enemies of the
stranger, and with a fierce contingent from Norway to support his Celtic
horde. In the simplicity of the narrative we hear not a word of the
troubled councils which must have been held while the boy prince in his
sorrow and the sudden dreadful responsibility laid on his young
shoulders turned to such wise advisers as might have followed Margaret
into the stronghold, and took thought how to save the children and carry
off the precious remains of the Queen. The expedient to which they had
recourse was one which their assailants evidently thought impossible.
That the rock upon which Edinburgh Castle stands should have been
considered inaccessible by practical mountaineers like the followers of
Donald Bane seems curious: but in those days the art of climbing for
pleasure had not been discovered, and it had no place in the methods of
warfare. It seemed enough to the assailants to hold the gates and the
summit of the eastern slopes, where probably there must already have
been some clusters of huts or rough half-fortified dwellings descending
from the Castle Hill, foreshadowing a Lawnmarket at least if not yet a
Canongate. No one would seem to have thought of the possibility of any
descent on the other side from that perpendicular rock.

But despair sharpens the wits, and no doubt after many miserable
consultations a desperate expedient was found. Even now nothing but a
goat, or a schoolboy, or perhaps a young private fearful of punishment,
could find a way down the wonderful curtain of rock which forms the west
side of Edinburgh Castle; and to guide the children and their
attendants, a sorrowful little group of mourners, distracted with grief
and fear, and Margaret's body in its litter, down those rocks where
there was scarcely footing for an alert and experienced climber, must
have been one of the most difficult as it was one of the boldest of
undertakings. While the rebel host raged on the other side, and any
traitor might have brought the enemy round to intercept that slow and
painful descent, it was accomplished safely under cover of "a great
myst," Heaven, as all thought, helping the forlorn fugitives by that
natural shield. Mists are no rare things, as everybody knows, on these
heights. Perhaps it was the well-known easterly haar, the veil of salt
sea fog which Edinburgh so often wraps round her still, which, blowing
up from the mouth of the Firth, enveloped the travellers and hid them in
its folds of whiteness, impenetrable by the closest watcher, till they
had safely reached the level ground, and stealing down to the Queen's
Ferry escaped to loyal Fife and their home in Dunfermline. Needless to
say that this mist was a miraculous agency to all the family and
servants of the Queen. To us it adds a touch of local colour, the
well-known symbol of a familiar scene. Edinburgh was then nothing but a
castle upon a rock, and now is one of the fairest and most celebrated of
historical cities; but still its perpendicular crags rise inaccessible
against the setting sun, and still the white mist comes sweeping up from
the sea.

It is to the credit of the priests that this is the only miracle that is
connected with the name of Margaret, if we except the pretty legend
which tells how a hundred years later, when her descendants removed the
remains of the saint from the place where they had been deposited to lay
them before the high altar in Dunfermline, the coffin in which they were
placed could not be carried past the humble spot in which lay, brought
back from Northumberland, the bones of her King. The cortege stopped
perforce, the ceremonial had to be interrupted, for all the force of all
the bearers could not carry even in death the faithful wife from her
husband; and the only thing it was found that could be done was to
transport Malcolm along with the partner of his life to the place of
honour, to which on his own account that rude soldier had but little
claim. Many saints have had whims as to the place of their interment,
and showed them in a similar way, but this is all sweetness and tender
fidelity and worthy to be true. The royal pair were carried off
afterwards, stolen away like so much gold or silver, by Philip of Spain
to enrich his gloomy mausoleum-palace, and can be traced for a long time
in one place or another receiving that strange worship which attaches to
the most painful relics of humanity. But where they now lie, if in the
bosom of the kindly earth or among other dreadful remains in some
sanctuary filled with relics, no one knows.

Margaret had done in her lifetime great things for Scotland. She had
introduced comforts and luxuries of every kind, and the decorative arts,
and a great deal of actual wealth, into a very poor and distracted
country. The earliest charter which is found in the Scottish archives is
one of Malcolm and Margaret, showing how the time of settlement and
established order began in their reign. She had helped to give the
distracted and divided kingdom, made up of warring sects, that
consolidation and steadiness which enabled it to take its place among
recognised nations. She turned the wavering balance between Celt and
Saxon to what has proved to be the winning side, the side of progress
and advancement. The Donalds and Duncans were swept away after a brief
and bloody interval and were no more possible in Scotland after her, and
the reign of the Anglo-Saxon was assured. She was apparently the
instrument too, though there is little information on this subject, of
drawing the Church of Scotland into that close union with Rome which had
been already accomplished in England; a step which, if it lost some
doubtful freedom and independence in ecclesiastical matters, secured
still more completely a recognised place in Catholic Christendom to the
northern kingdom. "The pure Culdee" of whom we know so little did not
survive, any more than did the Celtic kings, her influence and the
transformation she effected. Her life and legend formed the
stepping-stone for Scotland into authentic history as into a
consolidated and independent existence. The veil of fable and
uncertainty cleared away before the mild shining of her name and story.
Like Edinburgh coming suddenly into sight, as in some old and primitive
picture, high upon its rock, with the slope of the Castle Hill on one
side and the precipices round, and the white mist sweeping up from the
sea, Scotland itself becomes recognisable and grows into form and order
by the light of her peaceful and gracious presence.

And it is something worth noting that this image of purity and
excellence was no monkish vision of the purity of the cloister, but that
more complete and at the same time more humble ideal of the true wife,
mother, and mistress, whose work was in and for the world and the
people, not withdrawn to any exceptional refuge or shelter--which has
always been most dear to the Anglo-Saxon race. The influence of such an
example in a country where manners and morals were equally rudimentary,
where the cloister proved often the only refuge for women, and even that
not always a safe one--was incalculable, and the protection of a
virtuous Court something altogether novel and admirable. The gentlewomen
who worked at their tapestry under Margaret's eye, and learned the
gentler manners of other Courts and countries of old civilisation by her
side, and did their wooing modestly with the sanction of her approval,
must have changed the atmosphere of the north in the most wonderful way
and quickened every current of national development though the influence
was remote and the revolution unperceived. The chroniclers go back with
a fond persistence to the story of Margaret and her sons, and the number
of her family and the circumstances of her marriage and of her death.
Before her there is little but fable; after her the stream of history
flows clear. The story of Macbeth, which is, yet is not, the
Shakspearian drama, and accordingly takes quite a curious distinct flow
of its own, like a new and imperfect version of something already
familiarly known, is the only episode of secular history that has any
reality before we come, in the next generation, to herself and her King.
The earlier annals of Adamnan, the life of Columba and the records of
his sacred isle, belong to those ever-living ever-continuing legends of
the saints in which the story of the nations counts for little. But
Margaret was fortunately secular, and though a saint, a great and
influential personage in the front of everything, and also a woman in
the fullest tide of life to whom all human events were happening; who
lived by love and died of grief, and reigned and rejoiced and triumphed
as well as suffered and prayed.

There followed, however, a terrible moment for that new Scottish-Saxon
royal family, when both their parents were thus taken from them. Donald
Bane set up a brief authority, restoring the old kingdom and banishing,
after the familiar use and wont of such revolutions, his brother's
children from Scotland. Of these children, however, but three sons are
mentioned: Edgar, Alexander, and David, who must all have been under age
at the time. Ethelred, who had the dangerous office of conveying his
brothers and sisters along with his mother's body to Dunfermline, died
or was killed immediately after this feat, and was laid with the King
and Queen before the rood altar in Dunfermline; and of Edmund, an elder
son, we have but a confused account, Wynton and Fordun both describing
him as "a man of gret wertu," who died in religion, having taken the
cowl of a monk of Cluny; whereas William of Malmesbury accuses him of
treachery and complicity in the murder of his base-born brother Duncan.
However this might be, he was at least swept from the succession, in
which there is no mention of him. Malcolm's lawful heirs were thus
reduced to the three boys whom their uncle, Edgar Atheling, had received
in England. But Donald Bane was not long permitted to enjoy his conquest
in peace. Duncan, the illegitimate son (but this counted for little in
those days) of Malcolm, who was a hostage in England, after his uncle
had held the sovereign power for six months, made a rush upon Scotland
with the help of an English army, and overcame and displaced Donald; but
in his turn was overcome after a reign of a year and a half, Donald Bane
again resuming the power, which he held for three years more. By this
time young Edgar, Margaret's son, had come to man's estate, and with the
help of the faithful Saxons who still adhered to his uncle, Edgar
Atheling, and encouraged by dreams and revelations that the crown was to
be his, came back to Scotland and succeeded finally in overcoming Donald
and securing his inheritance. The period of anarchy and trouble lasted
for five years, and no doubt the civilisation and good order which
Malcolm and Margaret had toiled to establish were for the moment much
disturbed. But after Edgar's succession the interrupted progress was
resumed. "He was a man of faire havyng," says old Wynton, and in his
time the Saxon race came again to great honour and promotion, at once by
his own firm establishment upon the Scottish throne, and by the marriage
of his sister Maud to the new King of England, Henry I., which restored
the Saxon succession and united right to might in England. Thus after a
moment of darkness and downfall the seed of the righteous took root
again and prospered, and the children of St. Margaret occupied both
thrones. Edgar, like so many of his race, died childless; but he was
peacefully succeeded by his brother Alexander, who, though as much
devoted to church-building and good works as the rest of his family, was
apparently a more warlike personage, since he was called Alexander the
Fierce, an alarming title, and was apparently most prompt and
thoroughgoing in crushing rebellion and other little incidents of the
age. He was succeeded in his turn by the youngest of Margaret's sons,
David, that "sair sanct for the crown," who covered Scotland with
ecclesiastical foundations.

    "He illumynyd in his dayes
    His landys wyth kirkis and abbayis;
    Bishoprychs he fand bot foure or three,
    Bot or he deyd nyne left he."

Among the many other foundations made by King David was the house of the
Holy Rood which has been so familiar a name in Scottish history--built
low in the valley at the foot of the surrounding hills and that castle
in which the Queen died pressing the black rood--most precious
possession--to her dying breast. Whether a recollection of that scene,
which might well have impressed itself even on the memory of a child,
and of the strange wild funeral procession, with all its associations of
grief and terror, which had stumbled down the dangerous rocks in the
mist thirty-five years before, was in David's mind, it would be vain to
inquire. The black rood of itself, besides these touching and sacred
associations, was a relic of almost unequalled sanctity, and well
warranted the erection of a holy house for its guardianship and
preservation. How far the street, which would be little more than a
collection of huts, had crept down the Castle Hill towards the new
monastery in the valley there is no evidence to show, but no doubt both
the castle and the religious house were soon surrounded by those humble
scattered dwellings, and David's charter itself makes it plain that
already the borough of Edinburgh was of some importance. Part of the
revenues of the monastery were to be derived from the dues and taxes of
the town, and it was also endowed with "one half of the tallow, lard,
and hides of the beasts slain in Edinburgh," an unsavoury but no doubt
valuable gift. The canons of the Abbey of Holyrood, or Holyrood House as
it is called from the beginning with a curious particularity, had also
permission to build another town between themselves and Edinburgh, which
would naturally cluster round the Canon's Gate--the road that led to St.
Cuthbert's, at the farther end of the North Loch, where every man could
say his mass; or more directly still to the dark little chapel upon the
castle rock, made sacred by all its memorials of the blessed Margaret.
The nucleus of the future capital is thus plainly apparent between the
two great forces of that age, the Church, the great instrument of
congregation and civilisation, and the Stronghold, in which at any
moment of danger refuge could be taken. It is curious to realise the
wild solitude of this historical ridge, with its rude houses coming into
being one by one, the low thatched roofs and wattled walls which in the
course of time were to give place to buildings so stately. The Canongate
would be but a country road leading up towards the strong and gloomy
gate which gave entrance to the _enceinte_ of the castle--itself like
some eagle's nest perched high among the clouds.

The line of Margaret went on till her sons held their Courts and dated
their charters from Holyrood House, and Parliaments were held and laws
made in the Castle of Edinburgh, and the scattered huts upon the Castle
Hill had grown into a metropolis. They were a pious and in many respects
an enlightened race, and they came to great honour and renown on both
sides of the house. Maud, Margaret's daughter, became Queen of England,
and her grand-daughter Empress, while Scotland developed and flourished
in the hands of the saintly Queen's sons and their descendants. There
are unfortunate individuals in the most prosperous races, and Scotland
never sustained greater humiliation than in her attempts to rescue
William called the Lion, a sorry lion for his kingdom, when he allowed
himself to be caught in a trap and made the prisoner of the English
king. But the children of Malcolm and Margaret retained their character
through many generations, and were a Godfearing house, full of faith and
devotion, careful of their people's interests, and dear to their hearts.
They prospered as the virtuous and excellent so often do even in this
world, and covered Scotland with endowments--endowments which indeed
proved a snare to the church on after occasions, but which at that
period were probably the best means in which money could be invested for
the benefit of the people, since alms and succour and help and teaching
in every way came from the monks in the primitive circumstances of all
nations. They were not only the guardians of learning; they were
examples in husbandry, in building, in every necessary craft; nursing
the sick, receiving the stranger, and, as the very title-deed of their
existence, feeding the poor. In those uncomplicated times there was no
such fear of pauperising the natives of the soil as holds our hands now,
and everything had to be taught to the primitive labourer, who might
have to leave the plough in the middle of the furrow and be off and away
on his lord's commands at any moment, leaving his wife and children to
struggle on with the help of the good fathers who taught the boys, or
the gentle sisters who trained the girls to more delicate work, feeding
the widow and her brood. David and his brothers, and the devout kings
who immediately followed, probably did what was best for their agitated
kingdom in establishing so many centres of assured and quiet living,
succour and peace, even if what was salvation for their age became the
danger of another time. Those foundations continued through the whole of
the period during which the lineal descendants of Margaret held the
throne. Her lineage, it is true, has never died out: but the strain
changed with the death of the last Alexander, and another change came
over Scotland not so profound as that which attended the coming of the
Saxon princess, yet great and remarkable--the end of an age of
construction, of establishment, of knitting together; the beginning of a
time disturbed with other questions, with complications of advancing
civilisation, nobles and burghers, trade and war.


(From the Ceiling of St. Machar's Cathedral, Old Aberdeen)]





The growth of Edinburgh is difficult to trace through the mists and the
tumults of the ages. The perpetual fighting which envelops the Scotland
of those days as in the "great stour" or dust, which was Sir Walter
Scott's conception of a battle, with gleams of swords and flashes of
fire breaking through, offers few breaks through which we can see
anything like the tranquil growth of that civic life which requires
something of a steady and settled order and authority to give it being.
The revolutions which took place in the country brought perpetual
vicissitude to the Castle of Edinburgh, and no doubt destroyed and drove
from their nests upon the eastern slopes of the rock the settlers who
again and again essayed to keep their footing there. When the family of
St. Margaret came to a conclusion, and the great historical struggle
which succeeded ended in the establishment of Robert Bruce upon the
throne, that great victor and statesman destroyed the Castle of
Edinburgh with other strongholds, that it might not afford a point of
vantage to the English invader or other enemies of the country's
peace--a step which would seem to have been premature, though probably,
in the great triumph and ascendency in Scotland which his noble
character and work had gained, he might have hoped that at least the
unanimity of the nation and its internal peace were secured, and that
only an enemy would attempt to dominate the reconciled and united
country. The Castle was, however, built up again and again,
re-established and destroyed, a centre of endless fighting during the
tumultuous reigns that followed, though it is only on the accession of a
new race, a family so deeply connected with the modern history of Great
Britain that no reader can be indifferent to its early appearances, that
Edinburgh begins to become visible as the centre of government, the
royal residence from whence laws were issued, and where the business of
the nation was carried on. Following what seems to be one of the most
wonderful rules of heredity--a peculiarity considerably opposed to the
views which have been recently current on that subject--Robert Bruce was
too great a man to have a son worthy of him: and after the trifling and
treacherous David the inheritance of his kingdom came through his
daughter to a family already holding a high place--the Stewards of
Scotland, great hereditary officials, though scarcely so distinguished
in character as in position. The tradition that their ancestor Banquo
was the companion of Macbeth when the prophecy was made to him which had
so great an effect upon that chieftain's career, and that to Banquo's
descendants was adjudged the crown which Macbeth had no child to
inherit, is far better known, thanks to Shakspeare, than any fact of
their early history. It is probably another instance of that inventive
ingenuity of the original chroniclers, which so cleverly imagined a
whole line of fabulous kings, to give dignity and importance to the
"ancient kingdom" thus carried back to inarticulate prehistoric ages. In
this way the Stewarts, actually a branch of a well-known Norman family,
were linked to a poetic and visionary past by their supposed
identification with the children of Banquo, with all the circumstantial
details of an elaborate pedigree. According to the legend, the dignity
of Grand Steward of Scotland was conferred by Malcolm Canmore upon a
descendant of the ancient thane, and the lineage of the family is traced
through all the dim intervening ages with scrupulous minuteness. The
title of Steward of Scotland was enough, it would seem, to make other
lordships unnecessary, and gradually developed into that family surname
with which we are now so familiar, which has wrought both Scotland and
England so much woe, yet added so intense an interest to many chapters
of national history. The early Stewards are present by name in all the
great national events: but have left little characteristic trace upon
the records, as of remarkable individuals. They took the cross in
repeated crusades, carrying their official coat with its chequers, the
brand of the Chief Servitor of the Scottish Court, through the wars of
the Holy Land, till they came finally into the highest favour and
splendour in the days of Bruce, whose cause, which was also the cause of
the independence of Scotland, they maintained. Walter, who then held the
office of Steward, was knighted on the field of Bannockburn. He was
afterwards, as the story goes, sent to receive on the Border, after
peace had been made, various prisoners who had been detained in England
during the war, and among them Marjory Bruce, the daughter of the
patriot-king. It would be easy to imagine the romance that followed: the
young knight reverently escorting the young princess across the
devastated country, which had not yet had time to recover its cruel
wounds, but yet was all astir with satisfaction and hope: and how his
account of what had happened in Scotland, and, above all, of that
memorable field where he had won from the Bruce's own famous sword the
touch of knighthood, would stir the maiden's heart. A brave young
soldier with great hereditary possessions, and holding so illustrious an
office, there was no reason why he should despair, however high-placed
his affections might be. It takes a little from the romance to be
obliged to acknowledge that he was already a widower; but marriages were
early and oft-repeated in those days, and when Marjory Bruce died her
husband was still only about twenty-three. It was thus that the crown
came to the family of the Stewards of Scotland, the Stewarts of modern
times: coming with a "lass" as her descendant said long afterwards, and
likely to "go with a lass" when it was left to the infant Mary: though
this last, with all her misfortunes, was the instrument not of
destruction but transformation, and transferred that crown to a more
splendid and enlarged dominion.

It was in the reign of Marjory's son, the grandson and namesake of the
Bruce, and of his successors, that Edinburgh began to be of importance
in the country, slowly becoming visible by means of charters and
privileges, and soon by records of Parliaments, laws made, and public
acts proceeding from the growing city. Robert Bruce, though he had
destroyed the castle, granted certain liberties and aids to the
burghers, both in repression and in favour pursuing the same idea, with
an evident desire to substitute the peaceful progress of the town for
the dangerous domination of the fortress. Between that period and the
reign of the second Stewart, King Robert III, the castle had already
been re-erected and re-destroyed more than once. Its occupation by the
English seemed the chief thing dreaded by the Scots, and it was again
and again by English hands that the fortifications were restored--such a
stronghold and point of defence being evidently of the first importance
to invaders, while much less valuable as a means of defence. In the year
1385 the walls must have encircled a large area upon the summit of the
rock, the _enceinte_ probably widening, as the arts of architecture and
fortification progressed, from the strong and grim eyrie on the edge of
the precipice to the wide and noble enclosure, with room for a palace as
well as a fortress, into which the great castles of England were
growing. The last erection of these often-cast-down walls was made by
Edward III on his raid into Scotland, and probably the royal founder of
Windsor Castle had given to the enclosure an amplitude unknown before.
The Scots king most likely had neither the money nor the habits which
made a great royal residence desirable, especially in a spot so easily
isolated and so open to attack; but he gave a charter to his burghers of
Edinburgh authorising them to build houses within the castle walls, and
to pass in and out freely without toll or due--a curious privilege,
which must have made the castle a sort of _imperium in imperio_, a town
within a town. The little closets of rooms which in a much later and
more luxurious age must have sufficed for the royal personages whom fate
drove into Edinburgh Castle as a residence, are enough to show how
limited were the requirements in point of space of the royal Scots. The
room in which James VI of Scotland was born would scarcely be occupied,
save under protest, by a housemaid in our days. But indeed the Castle of
Edinburgh was neither adapted nor intended for a royal residence. The
abbey in the valley, from which the King could retire on receipt of evil
tidings, where the winds were hushed and the air less keen, and gardens
and pleasant hillsides accessible, and all the splendour of religious
ceremonies within reach, afforded more fit and secure surroundings even
for a primitive court. The Parliament met, however, within the fortress,
and the courts of justice would seem to have been held within reach of
its shelter. And thither the burghers carried their wealth, and built
among the remains of the low huts of an earlier age their straight steep
houses, with high pitched roofs tiled with slabs of stone, rising gray
and strong within the _enceinte_, almost as strong and apt to resist
whatever missiles were possible as the walls themselves, standing out
with straight defiant gables against the northern blue.

King Robert III was a feeble, sickly, and poor-spirited king, and he had
a prodigal son of that gay, brilliant, attractive, and impracticable
kind which is so well known in fiction and romance, and, alas! also so
familiar in common life. David, Duke of Rothesay, was the first in the
Scotch records who was ever raised to that rank--nothing above the
degree of Earl having been known in the north before the son and brother
of the King, the latter by the fatal title of Albany, brought a new
degree into the roll of nobility. Young David, all unknowing of the
tragic fate before him, was then a daring and reckless youth, held
within bounds, as would appear, by the influence of a good and wise
mother, and if an anxiety and trouble, at least as yet no disgrace to
the throne. He was the contemporary of another madcap prince, far better
known to us, of whose pranks we are all more than indulgent, and whose
name has the attraction of youth and wit and freedom and boundless
humour to the reader still. David of Scotland has had no one to
celebrate his youthful adventures like him whose large and splendid
touch has made Prince Hal[1] so fine a representative of all that is
careless and gay in prodigal youth, with its noble qualities but half in
abeyance, and abounding spirit and humour and reckless fancy making its
course of wild adventure comprehensible even to the gravest. Perhaps the
licence of the Stewart blood carried the hapless northern prince into
more dangerous adventures than the wild fun of Gadshill and Eastcheap.
And Prince David's future had already been compromised by certain sordid
treacheries about his marriage when he first appears in history, without
the force of character which changed Prince Hal into a conquering leader
and strong sovereign, but with all the chivalrous instincts of a young
knight. He had been appointed at a very early age Lieutenant of the
Kingdom to replace his father, it being "well seen and kenned that our
lorde the Kyng for sickness of his person may not travail to govern the
realm," with full provision of counsellors for his help and guidance;
which argues a certain confidence in his powers. But the cares of
internal government were at this point interrupted by the more urgent
necessity of repelling an invasion, a danger not unusual, yet naturally
of an exciting kind.

[1] We here take Shakspeare's Prince Hal for granted, as we feel disposed
at all times to take the poet's word in defiance of history; though no
doubt the historical argument is calculated to throw a chill of doubt
upon that gay and brilliant image.

On this occasion the invader was Henry IV of England, the father of the
other prodigal, whose object is somewhat perplexing, and differs much
from the usual raid to which the Scots were so well accustomed. So far
as appears from all the authorities, his invasion was a sort of
promenade of defiance or bravado, though it seems unlike the character
of that astute prince to have undertaken so gratuitous a demonstration.
He penetrated as far as Leith, and lay there for some time threatening,
or appearing to threaten, Edinburgh Castle; but all that he seems to
have done was to make proclamation by his knights and heralds in every
town they passed through, of the old, always renewed, claim of
allegiance to the English crown which every generation of Scots had so
strenuously and passionately resisted. The fact that he was allowed to
penetrate so far unmolested is as remarkable as that the invasion was an
entirely peaceful one and harmed nobody. When Henry pitched his camp at
Leith, Albany was within reach with what is called a great army, but did
not advance a step to meet the invader--in face of whom, however, young
David of Rothesay, and with him many potent personages, retired into
Edinburgh Castle with every appearance of expecting a siege there. But
when no sign of any such intention appeared or warlike movement of any
kind, nothing but the gleam of Henry's spears, stationary day by day in
the same place, and a strange tranquillity, which must have encouraged
every kind of wondering rumour and alarm, the young Prince launched
forth a challenge to the English king and host to meet him in person
with two or three hundred knights on each side, and so to settle the
question between them and save the spilling of Christian blood. Henry,
it is said, replied with something of the sarcasm of a grave and
middle-aged man to the hasty youth, regretting that Prince David should
consider noble blood as less than Christian since he desired the
effusion of one and not the other. The position of the young man shut up
within the walls of the fortress in enforced inactivity while the hated
Leopards of England fluttered in the fresh breezes from the Firth, and
Henry's multitudinous tents shone in the northern sun--an army too great
to be encountered by his garrison and noble attendants alone--while dark
treason and evil intent in the person of Albany kept the army of
Scotland inactive though within reach, was one to justify any such
outbreak of impatience. David must have felt that should the invader
press, there was little help to be expected from his uncle, and that he
and his faction would look on not without pleasure to see the castle
fall and the heir of Scotland taken or slain. But King Henry's object or
meaning is more difficult to divine. Save for his proclamations, and the
quite futile summons to King Robert to do homage, he seems to have
attempted nothing against the country through which he was thus
permitted to march unmolested. The little party of knights with their
attendant squires and heralds riding to every market-cross upon the way,
proclaiming to the astonished burghers or angry village folk the
invader's manifesto, scarcely staying long enough to hear the fierce
murmurs that arose--a passing pageant, a momentary excitement and no
more--was a sort of defiant embassage which might have pleased the fancy
of a young adventurer, but scarcely of a king so wary and experienced;
and his own stay in the midst of the startled country is still more
inexplicable. When the monks of Holyrood sent a mission to him to beg
his protection, lying undefended as they did in the plain, his answer to
them was curiously apologetic. "Far be it from me," he said, "to be so
inhuman as to harm any holy house, especially Holyrood in which my
father found a safe refuge.... I am myself half Scotch by the blood of
the Comyns," added the invader. The account which Boece gives of the
expedition altogether is amusing, and strictly in accord with all that
is said by other historians, though they may not take the same amiable
view. I quote from the quaint translation of Bellenden.

    "A schort time efter King Harry came in Scotland with an army.
    Howbeit he did small injury to the people thairof, for he desirit
    nowt but his banner to be erected on their walls. Alwayis he was ane
    plesand enneme, and did gret humaniteis to the people in all places
    of Scotland where he was lodgit. Finally he showed to the lords of
    Scotland that he come in their rialm more by counsel of his nobles
    than ony hatred that he bore to Scottes. Soon efter he returnit
    without any further injure in England."

It is very seldom that a Scotch historian is able to designate an
English invader as "a pleasant enemy," and whether there was some scheme
which came to nothing under this remarkable and harmless raid, or
whether it was only the carrying out of Henry's own policy "to busy
giddy minds with foreign quarrels"

    "Lest rest and lying still might make them look
    Too near unto my state,"

it is difficult to say. The nobles pent up in Edinburgh Castle with the
hot-headed young Prince at their head did not know what to make of the
pleasant enemy. The alarm he had caused, compelling their own withdrawal
into the stronghold, wrath at the mere sight of him there in the heart
of Scotland, the humiliating inaction in which they were kept by a foe
which neither attacked nor withdrew, must have so chafed the Prince and
his companions that the challenge thrown forth like a bugle from the
heights to break this oppressive silence and bring about the lingering
crisis one way or another must have been a relief to their excitement if
nothing else. One of the bewildered reasons alleged for the invasion is
that young David had written letters to France in which he called
Bolingbroke a traitor--letters which had fallen into Henry's hands; but
this is as unlikely to have brought about the invasion as any other
frivolous cause, though no doubt it might make the young Prince still
more eager to take upon himself the settling of the quarrel. We have no
reason to suppose that any foreboding of his fate had crossed the mind
of the youth at this period of his career, yet to watch the army of
England lying below, and to know his uncle Albany close at hand, and to
feel himself incapable--with nothing but a limited garrison at his
command and no doubt the wise Douglas and the other great noblemen
holding him back--of meeting the invader except by some such fantastic
chivalrous expedient, must have been hard enough.

And how strange is the scene, little in accordance with the habits and
traditions of either country: the English camp all quiet below, as if on
a holiday expedition, the Scots looking on in uneasy expectation, not
knowing what the next moment might bring. The excitement must have grown
greater from day to day within and without, while all the inhabitants,
both citizens and garrison, kept anxious watch to detect the first sign
of the enemy's advance. Henry, we are told, was called away to oppose a
rising in Wales; not indeed that rising which we all know so well in
which Prince Hal, more fortunate than his brother prodigal, had the
means of showing what was in him; but even the suggestion approaches
once more strangely and suggestively the names of the two heirs whose
fate was so different--the one almost within sight of a miserable
ending, the other with glory and empire before him. Prince Henry did not
apparently come with his father to Scotland, or there might perhaps have
been a different ending to the tale, and it would not have needed Harry
Hotspur to rouse his namesake from his folly. There was, alas! no such
noble rival to excite David of Scotland to emulation, and no such happy
turning-point before him. No one, not even a minstrel or romancer, has
remembered it in his favour that he once defied the English host for the
love of his country and the old never-abandoned cause of Scottish
independence. Already it would seem a prodigal who was a Stewart had
less chance than other men. Whether some feeble fibre in the race had
already developed in this early representative of the name, or whether
it was the persistent ill-fortune which has always pursued them, making
life a continual struggle and death a violent ending, the fatal thread
which has run through their history for so many generations comes here
into the most tragic prominence, the beginning of a long series of
tragedies. It adds a softening touch to the record of David's unhappy
fate that the death of his mother is recorded as one of the great
misfortunes of his life. In the same year in which these public
incidents occurred the Queen died, carrying with her the chief influence
which had restrained her unfortunate son. She was Annabella Drummond, a
woman of character and note, much lamented by the people. And to add to
this misfortune she was followed to the grave within a year by the great
Earl of Angus, David's father-in-law, and the Bishop of St. Andrews, to
whom, as the Primate of Scotland, the young Prince's early instruction
had probably been committed, as his loss is noted along with the others
as a special disaster.

Thus the rash and foolish youth was left to face the world and all its
temptations with no longer any one whom he feared to grieve or whom he
felt himself bound to obey. His father, a fretful invalid, had little
claim upon his reverence, and his uncle Albany, the strong man of the
family, was his most dangerous enemy, ever on the watch to clear out of
his path those who stood between him and the throne: or such at least
was the impression which he left upon the mind of his time. Thus
deprived of all the guides who had power over him, and of the only
parent whom he could respect, the young Duke of Rothesay, only
twenty-three at most, plunged into all those indulgences which are so
fatally easy to a prince. It is supposed that the marriage into which a
false policy had driven him was not the marriage he desired. But this
was a small particular in those days, as it has proved even in other
times less rude. He ran into every kind of riot and dissipation, which
the councillors appointed to aid him could not check. After no doubt
many remonstrances and appeals this band of serious men relinquished the
attempt, declaring themselves unable to persuade the Prince even to any
regard for decency: and the ill-advised and feeble King committed to
Albany, who had been standing by waiting for some such piece of good
fortune, the reformation of his son. The catastrophe was not slow to
follow. Rothesay was seized near St. Andrews on the pretence of stopping
a mad enterprise in which he was engaged, and conveyed to Falkland,
where he died in strict confinement, "of dysentery or others say of
hunger" is the brief and terrible record--blaming no one--of the
chroniclers, on Easter Eve 1401. It would be vain to attempt to add
anything to the picture of the young unfortunate and his end which Sir
Walter Scott has given. We can but rescue out of obscurity the brief
moment in which that young life was at the turning-point and might have
changed into something noble. Had his challenge been accepted, and had
he died sword in hand outside the castle gates for Scotland and her
independence, how touching and inspiring would have been the story! But
fortune never favoured the Stewarts; they have had no luck, to use a
more homely expression, such as falls to the lot of other races, and
what might have been a legend of chivalry, the record of a young hero,
drops to the horror of a miserable murder done upon a victim who foils
even the pity he excites--a young debauchee almost as miserable and
wretched as the means by which he died.

There was this relic of generosity and honour about the unfortunate
Prince, even in his fallen state, that he refused to consent to the
assassination of the uncle, who found no difficulty, it would appear, in
assassinating him; thus showing that wayward strain of nobleness among
many defects and miseries which through all their tragic career was to
be found even in the least defensible of his race.

King Robert, who had for some time been retired from the troubles of the
throne, a poor man, infirm in health and in purpose, virtually deposed
in favour of the son who was Lieutenant or the brother who was Regent of
the kingdom, and from whom all his domestic comfort had been taken as
well as his power, was driven to desperation by this blow. He had lost
his wife and his best counsellors; he had never been strong enough to
restrain his son, nor resist his brother. David, his first-born and
heir, the gay and handsome youth who was dazzling and delightful to his
father's eyes even in his worst follies, had been, as no doubt he felt,
delivered over to his worst enemy by that father's own tremulous hand;
and the heart-broken old man in his bereavement and terror could only
think of getting the one boy who remained to him safe and out of harm's
way, perhaps with the feeling that Albany might once again persuade him
to deliver over this last hope into his hands if he did not take a
decisive step at once. The boy-prince was at St. Andrews, pursuing his
studies, under the care of the bishop, when his brother was murdered;
and from thence he was sent, when the preparations were complete, across
the Firth to the Bass, there to await a ship which should take him to
France. It was a forlorn beginning for the Prince of Scotland to be thus
hastily taken from his books and the calm of a semi-monastic life and
hurried off to that wild rock in the middle of the waves, probably with
his brother's awful story thrilling in his ears and his terrible uncle
within reach, pushing forward a mock inquiry in Parliament into the
causes of Rothesay's death. How easy it would have been for that uncle
with the supreme power in his hands to seize the boy who now stood alone
between him and the throne; and with what burning at the heart, of
impotent rage and fierce indignation, the little Prince, old enough to
know and feel his father's helplessness, his own abandonment, and his
brother's terrible end, must have been conveyed away to the sea
stronghold among the bitter eastern blasts. James, the first of the
name, was not one of the feeble ones of the family. With all the romance
and poetry of his race he conjoined a great spirit and a noble
intelligence, and even at twelve, in the precocious development of that
age of blood, when even a royal stripling had to learn to defend himself
and hold his own, he must have had some knowledge why it was that he had
to be sent thus clandestinely out of his native country: he, the hope of
Scotland, in terror for his life.

The little garrison on the rock and the governor to whom the Prince's
safety was confided must have watched with many an anxious vigil among
the trading vessels stumbling heavily down the Firth from Leith, for
that sail which was to carry their charge, into safety as they thought.
Whether there was any navy belonging to the Crown at this period, or
whether the King himself possessed some galley that could venture on the
voyage to France, we are not told. But no doubt the ship when it arrived
bore some sign by which the Prince's guardians, and unfortunately others
besides, could recognise it. It could not be in any way a cheerful
embarkation. It was in the dark days of Lent, in March, when the north
is most severe: and the grey skies and blighting wind would be
appropriate to the feelings of the exiles as they put forth from their
rock amid the wild beating of the surf, anxiously watched by the
defenders of the place, who no doubt had at the same time to keep up a
vigilant inspection landward, lest any band of spearmen from Albany
should arrive upon the adjacent shore in time to stop the flight. The
grey rock, the greyer leaden sea, the whirling flight of wild sea birds
white against the dark horizon, the little boat, kept with difficulty
from dashing against the cliffs and rocky boulders, the attendant ship,
driven up and down by the waves, and distant Fife, with its low hills in
tones of neutral tint upon the horizon--would all increase the sadness
of the parting: but no doubt there was a long breath of relief breathed
by everybody about when the vessel continued its course, and slowly
disappeared down the Firth. Whatever might happen elsewhere, at least
the heir was safe.

[Illustration: THE BASS ROCK]

But this hope soon proved futile. Whether it was some traitorous
indication from Albany, or information from another source, or pure
hazard, which directed the English ships to this one vessel with its
royal freight, it had but rounded the headland of Flamborough when it
fell into the hands of the enemy. Palm Sunday 1405 was the date of this
event, but it was not till the end of Lent 1423, almost exactly eighteen
years after, that James came back. The calamity seemed overwhelming to
the nation and to all who were not pledged to Albany throughout
Scotland. It was the death-warrant of poor old King Robert in his
retirement. He lingered out a weary year in sickness and sorrow, and
when the anniversary of his son's loss came round again, died at
Rothesay, in Bute, amid the lovely lakes and islets of western
Scotland--a scene of natural peace and tranquillity, which, let us hope,
shed some little balm upon the heart of the helpless superseded
sovereign. Perhaps he loved the place because it had given his title to
his murdered boy, the hapless David, so gallant and so gay. There is
something more than ordinarily pathetic and touching in the misfortunes
of the feeble in an age of iron. As civilisation advances they have
means of protecting themselves, but not in a time which is all for the
strongest. One son buried, like any peasant's son, ignobly in the Abbey
of Lindores: the other in an English prison, at the mercy of the "auld
enemy," whom Scotland had again and again resisted to the death: and his
kingdom entirely gone from him, in the hands of his arrogant and
imperious brother; there was nothing left for poor King Robert but to

Thus James became at thirteen, and in an English castle, the King of
Scotland. His prison, however, proved a noble school instead of an
ignoble confinement to his fine and elevated spirit. The name of Stewart
has never been so splendidly illustrated as by this patriotic and
chivalrous Prince. No doubt it is infinitely to the credit of the
English kings, both Henrys, IV and V, that he received from them all the
advantages of education that could have been given to a prince of their
own blood--advantages by which he profited nobly, acquiring every art
and cultivation that belonged to his rank, besides that divine art which
no education can communicate, and which is bestowed by what would seem a
caprice, were it not divine, upon prince or ploughman as it pleases God.
For above all his knightly and kingly qualities, his studies in chivalry
and statesmanship, which prepared him to fill the throne of Scotland as
no man save his great ancestor Bruce had yet filled it, James Stewart
was a poet of no mean rank, not unworthy to be named even in the
presence of Chaucer, and well worthy of the place which he has kept in
literature. We need not enter here into that part of his history which
concerns another locality full of great and princely associations--the
noble Castle of Windsor, where the royal youth first saw and sang the
lady of his love, "the fairest and the sweeteste yonge flour," of whom
he has left one of the most tender and beautiful descriptions that is to
be found in all the course of poetry. It is more to our present purpose
to tell how, amid all the charms of that courtly residence, so far
superior to anything which primitive Scotland could offer in the way of
dignity or luxury, the boy-king remained faithful to his country, and
maintained the independence for which she had so long struggled. It is
said that the one advantage taken of his captivity and youth was to
press the old oft-repeated arguments concerning the supposed supremacy
of England, and the homage due from the kings of Scotland, upon the boy
who bore that title sadly amid the luxury and splendour of what was
still a prison, however gracious and kind his jailers might be. No
circumstances could have been better suited to impress upon James's mind
the conviction that submission was inevitable: and it would have been
almost more than mortal virtue on the part of his captors had they not
attempted to bring about so advantageous a conviction. King Henry V,
under whom it is said the attempt was made, had been most generously
liberal to and careful of the boy. He was a man so brilliant in
reputation and success that a generous youth might well have been led by
enthusiasm into any homage that was suggested, too happy to feel himself
thus linked to so great a king; and James was very young, distant from
his own country and all native advisers, his very life as well as his
liberty in the power of those who asked this submission from him, and
the force of circumstances so great that even his own people might have
forgiven, and Holy Church could scarcely have hesitated to dispense him
from keeping, an obligation entered into under such pressure. But the
royal youth stood fast, and was not to be moved by any argument. Boece,
whose authority is unfortunately not much to be depended upon, has a
still more distinct and graphic story of judgment and firmness on the
part of the young captive. He had been, according to this account, taken
to France in the train of King Henry, who after the defeat the English
had sustained near Orleans, chiefly through the valour of the Scots who
had joined the French army, sent for James, and desired him "to pass to
the Scots, and to command them to return to Scotland. King Harry
promised, gif the said James brought this matter to good effect, not
only to remit his ransom but to send him to Scotland with great riches
and honour." James answered courteously, with expressions of goodwill
and gratitude for the humanity shown towards him, but "I marvel not
little," he said, "that thou considerest not how I have no power above
the Scots so long as I am ane private man and holden in captivity." The
chronicler adds: "Then said King Henry, 'Maist happy people shall they
be that happens to get yon noble man to their prince.'" It is a pity
that we have no more trustworthy proof of this charming story.

As a matter of fact James attained his freedom only after the death of
Albany, when the resistance or the still more effectual indifference to
his liberation of the man who alone could profit by his death in prison,
or by any unpopular step he might be seduced into making to gain his
freedom, was dead, and had ceased from troubling. It would perhaps,
however, be false to say that his imprisonment had done him nothing but
good. So far as education went this was no doubt the case; but it is
possible that in his subsequent life his reforms were too rapid, too
thorough-going, too modern, for Scotland. The English sovereigns were
richer, stronger, and more potent; the English commonalty more perfectly
developed, and more capable of affording a strong support to a monarch
who stood against the nobles and their capricious tyranny. James might
not have been the enlightened ruler he was but for his training in a
region of more advanced and cultivated civilisation; but had he been
less enlightened, more on the level of his subjects, he might have had a
less terrible end and a longer career.

He returned to Scotland--with the bride of whom he had made so beautiful
a picture, preserving her lovely looks and curious garments, and even
the blaze of the Balas ruby on her white throat, to be a delight to all
the after generations--in 1423, during Lent; and on Passion Sunday,
which Boece calls _Care_ Sunday, entered Edinburgh, where there was "a
great confluence of people out of all parts of Scotland richt desirous
to see him: for many of them," says the chronicle, "had never seen him
before, or else at least the prent of his visage was out of their
memory." There must indeed have been but few who could recognise the
little prince who had been stolen away for safety at twelve in the
accomplished man of thirty in all the fulness of his development, a
bridegroom, and accustomed to the state and prestige of a richer Court
than anything that Scotland could boast, who thus came among them full
of the highest hopes and purposes, and surrounded by unusual splendour
and wealth. It is true there was the burden behind him of a heavy ransom
to pay, but her English kindred, we may well believe, did not suffer the
Lady Jane to appear in her new kingdom without every accessory that
became a queen; and a noble retinue of adventurous knights, eager to try
their prowess against the countrymen of that great Douglas whose name
was still so well known, would swell the train of native nobles who
attended the sovereign. Old Edinburgh comes to light in the glow of this
arrival, not indeed with any distinctness of vision, but with something
of the aspect of a capital filled to overflowing with a many-coloured
and picturesque crowd. The country folk in their homespun, and all the
smaller rank of gentlemen, with their wives in the French hoods which
fashion already dictated, thronged the ways and filled every window to
see the King come in. It was more like the new setting up of a kingdom,
and first invention of that dignity, than a mere return: and eager
crowds came from every quarter to see the King, so long a mere name, now
suddenly blazing into reality, with all the primitive meaning of the
word so much greater and more living than anything that is understood in
it now. The King's Grace! after the long sway of the Regent, always
darkly feared and suspected, and the feeble deputyship full of abuses of
his son Murdoch, it was like a new world to have the true Prince come
back, the blood of Bruce, the genuine and native King, not to speak of
the fair Princess by his side and the quickened life they brought with
them. From the gates of the castle where they first alighted, down the
long ridge--through the half-grown town within its narrow walls, where a
few high houses, first evidences of the growth of the wealthy burgher
class, alternated with the low buildings which they were gradually
supplanting--through the massive masonry of the Port with its
battlements and towers to the country greenness and freshness of the
Canon's Gate which led to the great convent of the valley, there could
be no finer scene for a pageant. Holyrood was one of those great
monastic establishments in which kings could find a lodgment more
luxurious than in their own castles, and though there would scarcely
seem as yet to have been any palace attached to that holy house, it was
already a frequent residence of royalty, and with all its amenities of
parks and gardens would be more fit for the reception of a young queen
coming straight from princely Windsor than the narrow chambers in the
castle. Among the many presents which she is said to have brought with
her from England there is a special mention of fine tapestries for the
adornment of her new habitation.

Thus the royal pair took possession of their kingdom, and of the
interest and affection of the lively and eager crowd for which Edinburgh
has always been famous--a populace more like that of a French town than
an English, though with impulses sometimes leading to tragedy. James
would scarcely seem to have been settled in that part of the ancient
establishment of the abbey which was appropriated to the lodging of the
King, or to have exhausted the thanksgivings of Easter and the
rejoicings of the restoration, when he set himself to inquire into the
state of the country and of the royal finances, to which he had been so
long a stranger. There was no Civil List in those days nor votes of
supply, and the state of the Crown lands and possessions, "the King's
rents," was doubly important in view of the ransom yet to be paid, of
which only a fourth part had been remitted as the portion of the Queen.
The result of this investigation was anything but satisfactory. It was
found that during the reign of Albany many of these possessions had been
alienated, made into fiefs, and bestowed upon the leaders of the faction
which supported the Regent. "There was nothing left to sustain the
Crown," says Boece, "except the customs of burrows. He was naething
content of this," adds the chronicler with pithy conciseness, "howbeit
he shewed good will (gud vult) for the time." James had already griefs
enough against the family of his cousin without this startling
discovery; and his "gud vult" would seem rather to have been the serious
self-control of a man who was biding his time than any pretence of
friendliness with his unfaithful relations and stewards. Amid the early
pageants and festivities it is indeed recorded that he knighted Walter
Stewart among the other candidates for that honour, the flower of the
noble youth, a band of twenty-six gentlemen of the best houses in
Scotland; but this was probably a step which was inevitable, as it would
have been impossible to leave his own nearest relative out of the list
until he had finally made up his mind how the family of Albany was to be
treated. It is stated that the complaints and grievances of the people
brought him to a decision on this point, and helped him to carry out his
revenge upon the house which had, in popular belief at least, the guilt
of his brother's blood upon it as well as that of his own long
confinement. Walter Stewart, whose only other appearance in history is
that of a rebellious and undutiful son whom his father was incapable of
keeping in subjection, was arrested in Edinburgh Castle about a year
after James's restoration, and after an interval of several months his
arrest was followed by that of Duke Murdoch and his son Alexander, both
of whom were also seized in Edinburgh Castle, where they had probably
retired for safety. A few of their retainers arrested with them were
speedily liberated, and it became apparent that upon this doomed family
alone was King James's wrath directed. They were tried at Stirling, by a
court of their peers, under the presidency of the King himself. The
offences charged against them were misgovernment and oppression of the
people, the greatest of public sins: but it was no less the end of a
long tragedy. The younger branch of the race had been engaged in a
struggle with the elder for the last two generations at least: and it
had been the royal line that had suffered most during that period.
Bitterly, in blood and heartbreak and long suppression, they had been
weighed down under superior force: but now the time of reprisals had
come. As they stood there confronting each other, the stern young King
on one side and his kinsmen on the other, with a quarter of a century of
wrong between them, the shadow of the young prince at Falkland, and the
old father at Rothesay, and the eighteen years of captivity full in the
minds of all, what a day of reckoning at last! It makes the retribution
almost more tragic, like the overwhelming fate of the Greek drama, that
the men upon their trial had nothing to do with these crimes, unless it
might be the last. Murdoch of Albany had not exerted himself to liberate
James, but that was his only evident offence, and his sons were not
instrumental, so far as appears, in any injury to their royal cousin.
The sins of the fathers were to be visited upon the children. We are
told that the two sons, young men in the flower of their youth, were
executed one day, and their father and maternal grandfather, a very old
man, the Earl of Lennox, whose share in the matter it is difficult to
make out, on the next. Thus James settled summarily the question between
himself and his kinsmen. The house of Albany ended upon the scaffold,
and however just their doom might have been, there was something
appalling in this swift and sweeping revenge, carried out rigorously
without a sign of hesitation by a young king, a happy bridegroom, an
accomplished and gay cavalier.

It must indeed be allowed, notwithstanding his poetry and his evident
love of everything that was lovely and of good report, that the reign of
the first James was a stern one. Every witness agrees as to his
accomplishment, and that he was the flower of knighthood, of splendour
and courtesy, the most chivalrous, the most daring, the most graceful
and gracious of all his Court: and his genius as a poet is even more
generally acknowledged. The King's "Quhair" as a poem is quite capable
of standing on its own merits, and needs no additional prestige as the
performance of a king. Had he been but a wandering minstrel Chaucer
would have had no need to be ashamed of his pupil. It is full of
delightful descriptions of nature and love and youth: the fresh morning
as it rises upon the castled heights, the singing of the birds and
fluttering of the leaves, the impulse of a young heart even in the
languor of imprisonment to start up and meet the sun, with all the
springs of new life which at that verdant season come with every new
day--the apparition of the beautiful one suddenly appearing in the old
immemorial garden with all its flowers, herself the sweetest and the
fairest of flowers, all are set before us, with a harmony and music not
to be excelled. The young Prince chafing at his imprisonment, dreaming
of all the fantastic wonderful things he might do were he free, yet
still so full of irrepressible hope that his impatience and his longings
are but another form of pleasure, takes shape and identity as distinct
as if he had been one of the figures in that famous pilgrimage to
Canterbury, which had been part of his training in this delightful art.
If James had never reigned at all he would still have lived through all
these centuries in the guise in which he stood at his window on that May
morning, and suddenly, amid his youthful dreams, beheld the lovely
vision of the Lady Jane emerging from under the young spring verdure of
the trees. There is a certain window not generally supposed to be that
at which the royal captive stood--a window in the Norman Tower of
Windsor Castle, now fitly garnished and guarded by sympathetic hands,
from which the spectator looking out upon the deep moat-garden
underneath in the circle about the old donjon will scarcely be able to
withstand the thrill of feeling which attends a poetic scene and
incident fully realised. Nothing could be more green, more fresh, more
full of romance and association, than this garden where all is youthful
as the May, yet old in endless tradition, the garden of the Edwards and
Henrys, where Chaucer himself may have thought over his accounts or
taken the delightful image of his young squire "synging" who was, "or
flouting all the day" from among some group of bright-faced lads in
their bravery, where the countess who dropped her garter may have
wandered, and the hapless Henry, the mild and puny child who was born
there while James was undergoing his far from harsh captivity, played.
James Stewart's name, had he been no king, would have been associated
with this place, as that of his master in poetry is with the flowery
ways of Kent.

Nor was his inspiration derived alone from the well of English
undefiled. A still more wonderful gift developed in him when he got home
to his native country. Though the tones of Scotch humour were much less
refined, and its utterances at that early period could be scarcely more
than the jests and unwritten ballads of the populace, yet his early
acquaintance with them must have lingered in the young Prince's mind,
acquiring additional zest from the prepossessions of exile and the
longing for home. And when the polished singer of the King's "Quhair"
found himself again in his native land he seems to have burst forth with
the most genuine impulse into the broad fun, rustical and natural and
racy of the soil, which perhaps was more congenial to his Scottish
audience. "Peblis to the Play" and "Christis Kirk on the Green" are
poems full of the very breath of rural life and the rude yet joyous
meetings of the country folk at kirk and market, which with wonderfully
little difference of sentiment and movement also inspired Burns. He must
have had a mind full of variety and wide human sympathy almost
Shakspearian, who could step from the musings of Windsor and the
beautiful heroine, all romance and ethereal splendour, to the lasses in
their gay kirtles, and Hob and Raaf with their rustic "daffing," as true
to the life as the Ayrshire clowns of Burns, and all the clumsy yet
genial gambols of the village festival. It is one of the most curious
and least to be expected transformations of poetic versatility--for it
is even amazing how he could know the life into which he thus plunged
joyous, as if he had been familiar with it from his childhood. King
James was not without an object amid all the laughter and the pranks of
his holiday. The King's cheerful ridicule of the clumsy fellows who
could not draw the bow was intended, with a prick of scorn under the
laughter, to rouse up his rustic lieges to emulation, not to be behind
the southern pock-puddings whose deadly arrows were, in every encounter
between Scots and English, the chief danger to the fighting men of the
north. It is curious that this difference should have existed and
continued with such obstinacy through all these fighting centuries; the
Scotch spearmen were all but invulnerable in their steady square, like a
rock, but they had little defence against the cloth-yard shafts of the
English bowmen, which neither exhortation nor ridicule, neither prizes
to win nor disaster to fear, could teach them to adopt. James laboured
hard, in ways more practical than his poems, to introduce this new arm,
but in vain. It was kept up languidly in holiday contentions, like that
of Christis Kirk on the Green, while his life lasted; but when his reign
was over and the momentary stimulus withdrawn the bows were all thrown

The King's command of this humorous vein, so dear to his people, with
its trenchant sketches from the life and somewhat rough jests, is
wonderful, when his courtly breeding and long separation even from such
knowledge of rustic existence as a prince is likely to obtain is
considered. And the many-sided nature which made these humours so
familiar and easy to him is a strange discovery in the midst of all the
tragic circumstances of his life and reign. The union of the most
delicate poetry and romance with that genial whim and fancy is unusual
enough: but it is still more unusual to find the stern Justiciar,
avenger of blood and redresser of wrong, the reconstructer of a
distracted country, capable not only of the broad fun of the rustic
ballad-maker, but of so tolerant and humorous a view of the humble
commons, the underlying masses upon which society is built. For the
first aspect of affairs in Scotland could not be a cheerful one:
although it was rather with the nobles and gentlemen, the great
proprietors of the country, who had to be summoned to exhibit their
charters and prove their titles, partly no doubt with the view of
discovering what Crown lands had been alienated by the Albany party,
that the King's quarrel was, than with the humbler subjects of the

Yet there is no doubt, with all these lights and softening influences of
character and genius, that his reign was a stern one. James had
everything to reform in the country to which he came with so many new
ideas and so enlarged a knowledge of what the internal economy of a
nation might be made. It is rather against the general historical
estimate of the talents and power of the Regent Albany that the new King
should have found, as appears, so much to do for the reorganisation of
the commonwealth--regulating the laws, appointing courts of justice,
inquiring into the titles of property, and in every other way giving
consistency and order to the affairs of Scotland. However, the lavish
grants made to the great Scots lords and the licence given them to rule
their vassals as they pleased arose not from weakness but from Albany's
deliberate policy of securing a strong party on his side, a policy
exactly opposed to that of James, whose heart was set on subduing these
fierce nobles, and perhaps of developing the people at large, the nation
itself, if that is not too modern an ambition. The reign of Law, broken
and disturbed by a hundred storms, but still henceforward with a
statute-book to fall back upon and some fitful authority at its command,
began in Scotland in his day.

There are some curious details in the _Scotichronicon_ about the taxes,
now, it would seem, for the first time levied upon the general mass of
the people. In 1424, the year after James's return, a tax of twelvepence
in the pound was imposed by the Parliament at Perth, for the maintenance
of the King's state and payment of his ransom, upon all goods, lands,
and annual revenues of whatever description, both spiritual and
temporal, which was passed with the consent of the estates, no doubt
under the stimulus of the general rejoicing at the King's return. This
impost was to last for two years. An income tax so general and
all-embracing could scarcely be expected to be popular, but for the
first year it was paid, we are told, with readiness, certain of the
greatest nobles in the kingdom being appointed in their various
districts to the office of collecting. That the Church should have taken
her share in the payment of this tax says much for the loyalty of the
Scotch priesthood and their unity with the people at this crisis of the
national history. In the second year, however, grumblings arose. It is
comprehensible that a nation unaccustomed to this pressure should
respond to it in a moment of enthusiasm, yet become uneasy under the
repetition when the enthusiasm had probably died away, especially if a
fear arose that it might become permanent. King James, however, adopted
a course not at all usual with governments when the power to exact has
once been placed in their hands. When the popular murmur came to his
ears he stopped at once the unpopular demand. How the paying of the
ransom was carried on, and how the maintenance of the King's state we
need not inquire. The Crown lands were no doubt extensive still. Some
years later another experiment of the same kind was made; the new tax,
however, being only twopence in the pound, and its object the payment of
expenses of a mission sent to France to negotiate a marriage between the
baby-princess Margaret and the equally juvenile dauphin--an object which
does not appear to have appealed to the sympathies of the people, since
we are told that it was the cause of immediate murmurs, the King not
only stopped the unpopular tax but returned the money to those who had
paid it--a most admirable but seldom followed example.

The curious system afterwards employed by all the Scots kings of tours
or "raids" of justice throughout the kingdom seems to have originated in
James's energetic reign, but he carried not only the officers of the
law, but occasionally his entire Parliament with him, moving about to
the different centres of Scotland with great impartiality. Sometimes
they met at Edinburgh, in the Great Parliament Hall in the Castle, and
made "many good laws if they could have been kept," says the chronicler;
sometimes at Perth, a favourite residence of the King; and on one
memorable occasion so far north as Inverness, where, impatient of
continual disquietude in the Highlands, James went to chastise the
caterans and bring them within the reach of law. This he did with a
severe and unsparing hand, seizing a number of the most eminent chiefs
who had been invited to meet him there, and executing certain dangerous
individuals among them without mercy. These summary measures would seem
to have borne immediate fruit in the almost complete subjugation of the
Highlands. But it was hard to reckon with such a restless element as the
clans, and hanging and heading were very ineffectual measures among
people with whom "another for Hector" was the simplest suggestion of
natural law.

It was after this stern Parliament of Inverness that there occurred at
Edinburgh one of the most curious and picturesque scenes that it is
possible to imagine. One of the chiefs tried at that assize was the
greatest and most important of all, the Lord of the Isles, sometimes
called Donald and sometimes Alexander by the chroniclers, who on his
promise to amend his ways, and no longer harbour caterans or head
forays, was, no doubt out of respect for his almost princely position,
set at liberty. But no sooner was the fierce chieftain set free, "within
a few days after," says the chronicler, than he took and burnt the town
of Inverness, in which the Parliament had been held, and showed his
impenitence by an utter abuse of the mercy accorded to him. When,
however, he heard that the King himself with all the forces of the
kingdom was coming against him, Donald hastily disbanded his men and
took refuge in the watery fastnesses of his islands: and it would seem
that he must have felt the tide of national sentiment to be against him,
and his power not equal to make any stand against all the force of
peaceful and law-abiding Scotland under the energetic new King. The wily
Highlander made his submission in the way which, no doubt, he thought
most likely to disarm authority and gain exemption. He choose Easter
day, the greatest of religious festivals, for his appearance as a
penitent, and in the middle of the service in the Chapel of Holyrood
appeared suddenly, almost without clothing, and knelt down before the
King "where he was sittand at his orison," praying for grace in the name
of Him who rose from the dead that day. So strange an interruption in
the midst of all the glories of the Easter mass throws a strange and
wild light upon the varieties of national life in Scotland. That
half-savage figure, with plaid and weapons cast aside, defenceless, at
the King's mercy, in all the primitive abandonment yet calculation of
early patriarchal times; while all that the art and culture of a
splendid age could do to give magnificence to the most imposing
ceremonial of the Church surrounded this strange apparition, the incense
rising, the music pealing, the Court in all its glory of flashing jewels
and splendid stuffs filling the lofty area. Like some wild god of the
mists suddenly gleaming through the fragrant smoke between the bishop's
white robes and the kneeling King, what a strange interruption to the
mass! The King, at the request of the Queen we are told, gave him his
life, as the adjuration addressed to him and all the force of the
surroundings gave James little choice but to do; for he could not have
offended the sentiment of his people by refusing the boon which was
demanded in that Name, however doubtful he might be of the expediency of
granting it. "Then the King began to muse," says Boece. He must have
been devout indeed to have been able to return to the course of the
service with the Islesman before him on his knees, and all that wild
half of the kingdom, with its dangerous habits and fierce tribal laws,
thus suddenly made visible--a spectre which had often before troubled
the King's peace. James had not to learn for the first time that
apparent submission from such a suppliant did not necessarily mean any
real change, and must have thoroughly felt the hollowness of that
histrionic appearance and all the difficulties which beset his own
action in the matter. The conclusion was, that the life of the Lord of
the Isles was spared, but he was committed to safe keeping in the strong
Castle of Tantallon, with, however, the unfailing consequence, that his
brother took the field with all his caterans in his stead.

James reigned in Scotland for thirteen years--a reign full of commotion
and movement, by which many in high place were humiliated, the spoils of
the feudal tyrants taken from them, and the wrongs of the suffering
commonalty redressed, proceedings which procured for the King many
enemies among the nobility before the force of popular sentiment was
strong enough to balance this opposition by its support. He began in
Scotland that struggle which for some time had been going on in England
against the power of the nobles, who were still in the north something
like a number of petty kings ruling in their own right, making little
account of national laws, and regarding the King with defiance as almost
a hostile power. One of the greatest risks of such a struggle is that it
raises now and then a fiery spirit stung by the sense of injury and the
rage of deprivation into a wild passion of revenge which bursts every
restraint. The Grahams of Strathearn in the north had fallen specially
under the rectifying process of James's new laws of property: and out of
this house there suddenly arose the tragic figure of an avenger whose
brief but terrible career occupies but a single page in history, yet
contains all the elements of a fatal drama. Sir Robert Graham, of whose
antecedents there is little record, was not the head of the house, but a
younger brother of daring character, and one of those fanatics of race
to whom the glory of their house is a religion. The first we hear of him
is a sudden appearance in the Parliament of January 1435, when he made a
fiery and violent speech, ending by an impeachment of the King himself
for injustice and robbery. Such an assault would find little support in
the public assembly of the States, in the awe of the royal presence, and
Graham had to escape for his life, finding means of flight into the
Highlands, the ever-ready refuge for rebels. There he launched wild
threats against James, which the King, probably well accustomed to
missiles of the kind, paid little attention to. The monarch was warned
too, we are told, by another wild apparition, which suddenly appears out
of the mists for this purpose--a Highland witch of the order of those
who drove Macbeth's ambition to frenzy, but whose mission now was to
warn James of the mischief brewing against him. The King was brave and
careless, used to the continual presence of danger, keeping his
Christmas merrily at Perth with all the sports and entertainments with
which it was possible to cheat the gloomy weather, and made little but
additional mirth both of the prophecy and the threats. Evidently the
Court found pleasure in the fair city on the Tay. They were still
lingering there, having taken up their residence in the monastery of the
Black Friars, at the end of February. In Scotland as elsewhere the great
religious houses seem to have been the best adapted to give hospitality
to kings. It was long after this date before anything that could be
called an independent royal residence was built at Holyrood itself: for
generations the King and Court were but guests in the stately abbey,
which was, like the monastery of the Black Friars, so convenient and
commodious a house both for entertainment and shelter that its great
chambers became the natural, as they were the most stately and pleasant,
lodging that could be provided for a monarch.

The tragedy that followed is well known. At the end of a pleasant
evening when there had been music--in which James himself was the first
connoisseur in Scotland, inventing, some say, the national lilt, the
rapidly rising and falling strain which is so full of pathos yet so
adaptable to mirth--"and other honest solaces of grete pleasance and
disport," the sound of trampling feet and angry voices broke upon the
conventual stillness outside and the cheerful talk of the friendly group
within. The King was taken at a disadvantage, apparently without even a
gentleman of his Court near him, nothing but his wife and her ladies
lingering for a last moment of pleasant conversation before they went to
bed. It is easy to imagine the horror with which the little party must
have listened to the rush of the savage band, hoping perhaps at first
that it was but some tumult in the street, or affray between the
townsfolk and the caterans--never very far off and often threatening St.
John's town--till the cries and clashing of the arms came nearer, and
wild torch-light flared through the high windows and proved the fatal
object of the raid. The groans of a few easily despatched sentinels, the
absence of any serious opposition or stand in defence, the horrible
discovery of bolts and bars removed and the King at the mercy of his
enemies, must have followed in a few terrible moments. No incident in
history is better known than that piteous attempt of one distracted
girl, a Douglas, born of a heroic race, to bar the door with her own
slim arm, thrusting it through the holdfasts from which the bolt had
been taken away: poor ineffectual bar! yet enough to gain a moment when
moments were so precious, and while there was still a chance of saving
the King.

The narrative of the death struggle, and the distracted attempts to find
a place of concealment for the victim, are too heartrending to be
repeated here. James fell, it is said, with sixteen wounds in him,
hacked almost to pieces, yet facing his murderers so desperately that
some of them bore the marks of his dying grip when they were brought to
the scaffold to be killed in their turn with every circumstance of
horror conceivable some time later. The execution of these miserable
traitors, one of them the King's own uncle Athole, took place at
Edinburgh for the greater solemnity and terror of the punishment, which
was accomplished by every kind of torture. The Queen, too, after the
horrible scene of which she had been a witness, and almost more than a
witness--for she had thrown herself before her husband and had been
wounded in the terrible struggle--gathered her children and fled to
Edinburgh Castle to put the little heir of the kingdom, now James II, in
security. The hapless child was sadly crowned at Holyrood at six years
old, with a hastily adapted ceremonial, the first of many such
disastrous rites to come.

The time of James's reign had been one of rising prosperity throughout
the realm. Law and order had been established in recognised courts and
tribunals, the titles of property had been ascertained and secured, not
without loss, no doubt, to many arrogant lords who had seized upon stray
land without any lawful title, or on whom it had been illegally bestowed
during the Albany reign--but to the general confidence and safety. And
the condition of the people had no doubt improved in consequence. It is
difficult to form any estimate of what this condition was. All foreign
witnesses give testimony of an unpleasing kind, and represent the
country as wretched, squalid, and uncivilised: but on the other hand
nothing can be more unlike this report than the most valuable and
unintentional evidence furnished by King James's own poems, with their
tale of village merry-makings and frays which convey no impression of
abject poverty, nor even of that rudest level of life where material
wants are so pressing as to exclude all lighter thoughts. "On Mayday,"
says King James, "when everybody is bound to Peblis to the play,"

    "At Beltane quhan ilke bodie bownis
         To Peblis to the play,
    To heir the singing and sweit soundis,
         The solace suth to say.
    Be firth and forest furth they found,
         They graythit them full gay;
    God wot that wald they do that stound,
         For it was thair feist day
                              They said
         Of Peblis to the Play."

All the lasses of the west, he goes on to tell us, were up at cockcrow,
and no men might rest for the chatter and the noise of their
preparations. One cried that her curch was not starched enough, another
that a hood was best, another bewailed herself as "so evil sunburnt"
that she was not fit to be seen. The young folk stream along "full bold"
with the bagpipes blowing, and every village adding its contingent, "he
before and she before to see which was most gay."

    "Some said that they were mercat folk,
    Some said the Quene of May
                           Was cumit
    Of Peblis to the Play."

When they arrive at the "taverne hous" they give orders that the board
be served, and to see that the napery is white, "for we will dyn and
daunce." At "Christis Kirk on the Green" there is a similar description,
the lasses coming out as before, "weshen clean," in their new grey
kirtles "well prest with many plaits," with their gloves of doeskin and
morocco shoes. All these incidental traits, and the atmosphere of the
merry ballads, though both end in a fray, contradict with vigour the
cold and wretched picture given by outsiders of a country where the
people warmed themselves by burning sulphureous stones dug out of the
ground, where the houses had a cow's hide stretched for a door, and all
was squalid misery and nakedness. There was plenty of fighting going on
it is evident--not a lowland fair without its broken heads (a habit
that, according to Sir Walter Scott, no mean authority, lasted into the
nineteenth century)--and much oppression, the great lords reigning like
absolute tyrants in the midst of subjects without resource or
protection; but the case of the peasantry notwithstanding all these
evils does not seem to have been a bad one. A certain vigorous capacity
of revival, which history shows us continually as existing on the broad
level of the soil, must have brought them back to rough ease and
comfort, and the freedom of the natural healthful atmosphere which makes
itself apparent in transcripts of life so little likely to be forced or
optimistic. In all times and circumstances there can be little doubt
that the amount of simple enjoyment to be got out of life, especially by
the young, who form at least the half of every community, far exceeds
the elements of wellbeing which outsiders see in it. And the protection
of the Church, the comparative quiet to be enjoyed on church lands, the
charities and succour of the cloister, must have made an incalculable
addition to the possibilities of existence. Everything in James's reign
was calculated to increase the stability and good order which are the
best guarantees of national life; even his severities cultivating a
sense of security in the weak and a wholesome consciousness of the
necessity of self-restraint in the strong. For the first time for many
generations the nobles were kept within bounds, and exceptional
cruelties became if not impossible, yet of so certain discovery and
punishment that lesser tyrants at least must have trembled. The law that
might makes right fell into temporary disuse, and a better law, that of
the courts that sat periodically over all the kingdom, and--appealing
still more strongly to the imagination--a king that shut his ears to no
petition and interfered with a strong hand to right the wronged, began a
new era for the commonalty of Scotland. Even the unfavourable
description so often quoted of Eneas Silvius, reports the common people
as having "abundance of flesh and fish," no small ingredient of
wellbeing, and records rather a complete absence of luxuries than that
want which reduces the vital strength of a nation. The same authority
tells of exportations of "hides, wool, salt fish, and pearls," the
latter a curious item, although there were as yet no manufactures, and
even such necessaries as horse-shoes and every kind of harness had to be
imported from Flanders. But the Scots in their farmhouses and cottages
made the cloth with which they were clothed, and their "blew caps," the
well-known blue bonnet which has lasted to our own days. And they
retained the right which, according to her monkish chronicler, St.
Margaret had been the first to secure for them--of immunity from all
military requisitions, and even, which is a curious contradiction of the
supposed tyrannies of the nobles, held an absolute property in their own
goods which out of the island of Great Britain no peasantry in the world
possessed. The French allies who were in Scotland in the end of the
fourteenth century were struck with angry consternation to hear
themselves hailed by a set of clodhoppers, and bidden to keep the paths
and not trample down the growing corn, and to find that, however willing
the Scots men-at-arms might be to harry England when occasion offered,
not the greatest lord in the French contingent could carry off a cow or
a brace of pullets without compensation. We cannot but think that the
country in which the peasant's barnyard was thus defended was at least
as forward in the best elements of civilisation as those in which there
were hangings of arras and trenches of silver, but no security for
anything in homesteads or workshop which might be coveted by the

[Illustration: HOLYROOD]

Edinburgh, as has been said, never seems to have been a favourite
habitation of this enlightened and accomplished Prince. Perhaps Queen
Jane found the east winds too keen on the heights, or the Abbey of the
Holy Rood too low in the valley. The heir was born there it is true, and
we have note of various Parliaments and visits, but no settled residence
in the capital. One incident is mentioned by the chroniclers which must
have afforded a picturesque scene, when the King himself presided,
before the gates of Edinburgh Castle, at a duel between a knight called
Henry Knokkis or Knox (curious precursor in the dimness of distance of
another of his name!), who had been accused by an Edinburgh burgess of
treasonable speeches against the King--and his accuser. But who this
accuser was, and by what privilege he was allowed to meet a gentleman
and knight in single combat we have no information. Perhaps he was
himself of noble blood, a younger son, a man before his time, seeking
the peaceful profits of trade instead of those of the marauder, as it
has become the fashion of a later age to do. It is almost impossible not
to fancy that there must have been a touch of the burlesque in this
combat, which James himself interfered to stop, separating the
combatants. He was very careless it would seem of treasonable speeches,
apt to treat them lightly and very probably smiled a little at the zeal
of the citizen who was more jealous of his honour than he was himself.
The platform before the gates would still make a splendid area for any
feat of arms, if the winds did not interfere before the King and blow
the combatants away: and the old-world crowd with their many colours,
the jerkins slashed and embroidered with the blazon of all the great
families in Scotland, the plumed caps and dazzling helmets of courtier
and knight, the border of blue bonnets outside, and all the shining
array of fair ladies around and behind the throne, would present a more
striking picture than the best we could do nowadays. Let us hope the sun
shone and warmed the keen clear air, and threw into high relief the
towers and bastions against the northern blue.

Edinburgh by this time had grown into the proportions of a town. The
houses which the citizens had the privilege of building within the
castle precincts would appear to have been low, to secure the protection
of the walls; and by certain precautionary regulations for their
preservation from fire it would seem that many of them were still
thatched. The King's residence there, judging from the straitened
accommodation, which was all that existed in a much more advanced
period, must have been small and poor, though there already existed a
Parliament Hall, in which probably other great assemblies were held. The
city walls were continued along the crest of the ridge in narrow lines,
deflecting a little only on the south side, where the limits were broken
by several wealthy and well-cultivated enclosures where brotherhoods
were established--White and Black Friars, sons of Augustine and Dominic,
with their great detached houses, their gardens always an example of
husbandry, and chapels filling the air with pleasant sound of bells.
King James had himself endowed, besides many existing foundations, a
monastery for the Franciscans or Grey Friars, which has always continued
to be one of the chief ecclesiastic centres of Edinburgh. It was so fine
a building, as the story goes, that the humble-minded Minors declined at
first to take possession of it as being too magnificent for an Order
vowed to poverty; though as their superior was a monk from Cologne, sent
for by the King on account of his learning and sanctity, and accustomed
to the great convents of the Continent, such an objection is curious. On
the south side of the town, at some distance outside the walls, on the
platform afterwards occupied by the buildings of the old High School,
stood amid its blossoming gardens the Church of St. Mary in the Field,
afterwards so fatally known as the Kirk of Field, a great house so
extensive and stately that it had already served on several occasions as
a royal lodging. St. Giles's, one of the oldest foundations of all,
stood among its graves, at the foot of the Castle Hill in the centre of
the life of ancient Edinburgh, as it does still. These clusters of
sacred buildings, encircled by their orchards and gardens, made a fringe
of verdure, of charity and peace, sanctuaries for the living and
resting-places for the dead, round the strong and dark fortifications of
the little royal town, which hitherto had held for its life upon that
ridge of rock, a dangerous eminence lying full in every invader's way.



It is clear that the public opinion of Scotland, so far as there was
such a thing in existence, had no sympathy whatever with the murderers
of James. The instruments of that murder were in the first place
Highland caterans, with whom no terms were ever held and against whom
every man's hand was armed. And the leaders who had taken advantage of
these wild allies against their natural monarch and kindred were by the
very act put beyond the pale of sympathy. They were executed ferociously
and horribly, according to the custom of the time, the burghers of Perth
rising at once in pursuit of them, and the burghers of Edinburgh looking
on with stern satisfaction at their tortures--these towns feeling
profoundly, more perhaps than any other section of the community, the
extraordinary loss they had in the able and vigorous King, already, like
his descendant and successor, the King of the commons, their stay and
encouragement. If there was among the nobility less lamentation over a
ruler who spared none of them on account of his race, and was sternly
bent on repressing all abuse of power, it was silent in the immense and
universal horror with which the event filled Scotland. It would seem
probable that the little heir, only six years old, the only son of King
James, was not with his parents in their Christmas rejoicings at Perth,
but had been left behind at Holyrood, for we are told that the day after
his father's death the poor little wondering child was solemnly but
hastily crowned there, the dreadful news having flown to the centre of
government. He was "crownd by the nobilitie," says Pitscottie, the great
nobles who were nearest and within reach having no doubt rushed to the
spot where the heir was, to guard and also to retain in their own hands
the future King. He was proclaimed at once, and the crown, or such
substitute for it as could be laid sudden hands upon, put on his infant
head. The scene is one which recurred again and again in the history of
his race, yet nothing can take from it its touching features. At six
years old even the intimation of a father's death, especially when
taking place at a distance, would make but a transitory impression upon
the mind; yet we may well imagine the child taken from his toys, wrapped
from head to foot in some royal mantle, with a man's crown held over his
baby head, receiving with large eyes of wonder and fright easily
translated into tears, the sacred oil, the sceptre which his little
fingers could scarcely enclose. Alas for the luckless Stewarts! again
and again this affecting ceremony took place before the time of their
final promotion which was the precursor of their overthrow. They were
all kings almost from their cradle--kings ill-omened, entering upon
their royalty with infant terror and tears.


When they had crowned the little James, second of the name, the lords
held a convention "to advise whom they thought most able both for
manheid and witt to take the government of the commonwealth in hand."
They chose two men for this office, neither of whom was taken from a
very great family, or had, so far as can be known, any special
importance--Sir Alexander Livingstone, described as Knight of Callender,
and Sir William Crichton, Chancellor of Scotland. Perhaps it was one of
the compromises which are so common when parties are nearly equal in
power which thus placed two personages of secondary importance at the
head of affairs: but any advantage which might have been secured by this
selection was neutralised by the division of power, which added to all
the evils of an interregnum the perplexity of two centres of government,
so that "no man knew," as says Pitscottie, "whom he should obey." One of
the Regents reigned in Edinburgh, the other in Stirling--one had the
advantage of holding possession of the King, the other had the doubtful
good of the support of the Queen. It may be imagined what an
extraordinary contrast this was to the firm and vigilant sway of a
monarch in the fulness of manhood, with all the prestige of his many
gifts and accomplishments, his vigorous and manful character and his
unquestioned right to the government and obedience of the country. It
had been hard work enough for James I., with all these advantages, to
keep his kingdom well in hand: and it would not be easy to exaggerate
the difficulties now, with two rival and feeble powers, neither great
enough to overawe nor united enough to hold in check the independent
power of the great houses which vied with each other in the display of
dominion and wealth. In a very brief time all the ground gained by King
James was lost again. Every element of anarchy arose in new force, and
if it had been hard to secure the execution of the laws which would have
been so good had they been kept in the time when their chief
administrator was the King himself, it may be supposed what was the
difficulty now, when, save in a little circuit round each seat of
authority, there was virtually no power at all. Pitscottie gives a
curious and vivid picture of the state of affairs in this lamentable

    "In the mean time many great dissensions rose amongst us, but it was
    uncertain who were the movers, or by what occasion the chancellor
    exercised such office, further than became him. He keeped both the
    Castle of Edinburgh and also our young King thereintill, who was
    committed to his keeping by the haill nobilitie and ane great part
    of the noble men assisted to his opinion. Upon the other side, Sir
    Alexander Livingstoun bearing the authoritie committed to him by
    consent of the nobilitie, as said is, contained another faction, to
    whose opinion the Queen mother with many of the nobility very trewly
    assisted. So the principals of both the factions caused proclaime
    lettres at mercat crosses and principal villages of the realm that
    all men should obey conforme to the aforesaid letters sent forth by
    them, under the pain of death. To the which no man knew to whom he
    should obey or to whose letters he should be obedient unto. And also
    great trouble appeared in this realm, because there was no man to
    defend the burghs, priests, and poor men and labourers hauntind to
    their leisum (lawful) business either private or public. These men
    because of these enormities might not travel for thieves and
    brigands and such like: all other weak and decrepit persons who was
    unable to defend themselves, or yet to get food and sustentation to
    themselves, were most cruelly vexed in such troublous times. For
    when any passed to seek redress at the Chancellor of such injuries
    and troubles sustained by them, the thieves and brigands, feigning
    themselves to be of another faction, would burn their house and
    carry their whole goods and gear away before ever they returned
    again. And the same mischief befell those that went to complain to
    the Governor of the oppression done to them. Some other good men
    moved upon consideration and pitie of their present calamities
    tholed (endured) many such injuries, and contained themselves at
    home and sought no redresse. In the midst of these things and
    troubles, all things being out of order, Queen-Mother began to find
    out ane moyane (a means) how she should diminish the Chancellor's
    power and augment the Governor's power, whose authority she

The position of Queen Jane in the circumstances in which her husband
left her, a woman still young, with a band of small children, and no
authority in the turbulent and distracted country, is as painful a one
as could well be imagined. Her English blood would be against her, and
even her beauty, so celebrated by her chivalrous husband, and which
would no doubt increase the immediate impulse of suitors, in that
much-marrying age, towards the beautiful widow who was of royal blood to
begin with and still bore the title of Queen. That she seems to have had
no protection from her royal kindred is probably explained by the fact
that Henry VI was never very potent or secure upon his throne, and that
the Wars of the Roses were threatening and demanding the whole attention
of the English Government. Wounded in her efforts to protect her husband
by her own person, seeing him slaughtered before her eyes, there could
not be a more terrible moment in any woman's life, hard as were the
lives of women in that age of violence, than that which passed over Jane
Beaufort's head in the Blackfriars Monastery amid the blood and tumult
of that fatal night. The chroniclers, occupied by matters more weighty,
have no time to picture the scene that followed that cruel and horrible
murder, when the distracted women, who were its only witnesses, after
the tumult and the roar of the murderers had passed by, were left to
wash the wounds and compose the limbs of the dead King so lately taking
his part in their evening's pastime, and to look to the injuries of the
Queen and the torn and broken arm of Catherine Douglas, a sufferer of
whom history has no further word to say. The room with its imperfect
lights rises before us, the wintry wind rushing in by those wide-open
doors, waving about the figures on the tapestry till they too seemed to
mourn and lament with wildly tossing arms the horror of the scene--the
cries and clash of arms as the caterans fled, pausing no doubt to pick
up what scattered jewels or rich garments might lie in their way: and by
the wild illumination of a torch, or the wavering leaping flame of the
faggot on the hearth, the two wounded ladies, each with an anxious group
about her--the Queen, covered with her own and her husband's blood; the
girl, with her broken wrist, lying near the threshold which she had
defended with all her heroic might. They were used to exercise the art
of healing, to bind up wounds and bring back consciousness, these
hapless ladies, so constantly the victims of passion and ambition. But
amid all the horrors which they had to witness in their lives, horrors
in which they did not always take the healing part, there could be none
more appalling than this. Neither then nor now, however, is it at the
most terrible moment of life, when the revolted soul desires it most,
that death comes to free the sufferer. The Queen lived, no doubt, to
think of the forlorn little boy in Holyrood, the five little maidens who
were dependent upon her, and resumed the burden of life now so strangely
different, so dull and blank, so full of alarms and struggles. Her elder
child, the little Princess Margaret, had been sent to France three or
four years before, at the age of ten, to be the bride of the Dauphin--a
great match for a Scottish princess--and it is possible that her next
sister, Eleanor, who afterwards married the Duc de Bretagne, had
accompanied Margaret--two little creatures solitary in their great
promotion, separated from all who held them dear. But the four infants
who were left would be burden enough for the mother in her unassured and
unprotected state. It would seem that she was not permitted to be with
her boy, probably because of the jealousy of the Lords, who would have
no female Regent attempting to reign in the name of her son: but had
fixed her residence in Stirling under the shield of Livingstone, who as
Governor of the kingdom ought to have exercised all the functions of the
Regency, and especially the most weighty one, that of training the King.
Crichton, however, who was Chancellor, had been on the spot when James
II was crowned, and had secured his guardianship by the might of the
strong hand, if no other, removing him to Edinburgh Castle, where he
could be kept safe under watch and ward. The Queen, who would seem to
have been throughout of Livingstone's faction, and who no doubt desired
to have her son with her, both from affection and policy, set her wits
to discover a "moyane," as the chroniclers say, of recovering the
custody of the boy. The moyane was simple and primitive enough, and
might well have been pardoned to a mother deprived of her natural
rights: but it shows at the same time the importance attached to the
possession of the little King, when it was only in such a way that he
could be secured. Queen Jane set out from Stirling "with a small train"
to avert suspicion, and appeared at the gates of Edinburgh Castle
suddenly, without warning as would seem, asking to be admitted to see
her son. The Chancellor, wise and wily as he was, would appear to have
acknowledged the naturalness of this request, and "received her," the
chronicler says, "with gladness, and gave her entrance to visit her
young son, and gave command that whensoever the Queen came to the castle
it should be patent to Her Grace." Jane entered the castle accordingly,
with many protestations of her desire for peace and anxiety to prevent
dissensions, all which was, no doubt, true enough, though the
chroniclers treat her protestations with little faith, declaring her to
have "very craftilie dissembled" in order to dispel any suspicion the
Chancellor may have entertained. It would seem that she had not borne
any friendship to him beforehand, and that her show of friendship now
required explanation. However that might be, she succeeded in persuading
Crichton of her good faith, and was allowed to have free intercourse
with her son and regain her natural place in his affections. How long
they had been separated there is no evidence to show, but it could
scarcely be difficult for the mother to recover, even had it fallen into
forgetfulness, the affection of her child. When she had remained long
enough in the castle to disarm any prejudices Crichton might entertain
of her, and to persuade the little King to the device which was to
secure his freedom, the Queen informed the Chancellor that she was about
to make a pilgrimage to the famous shrine of Whitekirk, "the white kirk
of Brechin," Pitscottie says, in order to pray for the repose of the
soul of her husband and the prosperity of her son, and asked permission
to carry away two coffers with her clothes and ornaments, probably
things which she had left in the castle before her widowhood, and that
means of conveyance might be provided for these possessions to Leith,
where she was to embark. This simple request was easily granted, and the
two coffers carried out of the castle, and conveyed by "horss" to the
ship in which she herself embarked with her few attendants. But instead
of turning northward Queen Jane's ship sailed up the Firth, through the
narrow strait at Queensferry, past Borrowstounness, where the great
estuary widens out once more, into the quiet waters of the Forth,
winding through the green country to Stirling on its hill. She was "a
great pairt of the watter upward before ever the keepers of the castle
could perceive themselves deceived," says Pitscottie. As the ship neared
Stirling, the Governor of the kingdom came out of the castle with all
his forces, with great joy and triumph, and received the King and his
mother. For one of the coffers, so carefully packed and accounted for,
contained no less an ornament than the little King in person, to whose
childish mind no doubt this mode of transport was a delightful device
and pleasantry. One can imagine how the Queen's heart must have throbbed
with anxiety while her son lay hidden in the bed made for him within the
heavy chest, where if air failed, or any varlet made the discovery
prematurely, all her hopes would have come to an end. She must have
fluttered like a bird over her young about the receptacle in which her
boy lay, and talked with her ladies over his head to encourage and keep
him patient till the end of the journey was near enough, amid the
lingering links of Forth, to open the lid and set him free. It is not a
journey that is often made nowadays, but with all the lights of the
morning upon Demayat and his attendant mountains, and the sun shining
upon that rich valley, and the river at its leisure wending, as if it
loved them, through all the verdant holms and haughs, there is no
pleasanter way of travelling from Edinburgh to Stirling, the two
hill-castles of the Scottish crown.


It would be pleasant to think that Queen Jane meant something more than
the mere bolstering up of one faction against another in the distracted
kingdom by the abduction of her son. It is very possible indeed that she
did so, and that to strengthen the hands of the man who was really
Regent-Governor of Scotland, but whose power had been stolen from his
hands by the unscrupulousness of Crichton, seemed to her a great
political object, and the recovery of the supreme authority, which would
seem to have appeared to all as infallibly linked with the possession of
the young King, of the greatest importance. It is evident it was
considered by the general public to be so; but there is something
pitiful in the struggle for the poor boy, over whose small person those
fierce factionaries fought, and in whose name, still so innocent and
helpless as he was, so many ferocious deeds were done.

No sooner was he secure in Stirling than the Governor called together a
convention of his friends, to congratulate each other and praise the wit
and skill of "that noble woman, our soverain mother," who had thus set
things right. "Whereby I understand," he says piously, "that the wisest
man is not at all times the sickerest, nor yet the hardy man happiest,"
seeing that Crichton, though so great and sagacious and powerful, should
be thus deceived and brought to shame. "Be of good comfort therefore,"
adds this enlightened ruler; "all the mischief, banishment, troubles,
and vexation which the Chancellor thought to have done to us let us do
the like to him." He ended this discourse by an intimation that he was
about to besiege Edinburgh. "Let us also take up some band of
men-of-war, and every man after his power send secret messages to their
friends, that they and every one that favours us may convene together
quietly in Edinburgh earlie in the morning, so that the Chancellor
should not know us to come for the sieging of the castle till we have
the siege even belted about the walls; so ye shall have subject to you
all that would have arrogantly oppressed you."

This resolution was agreed to with enthusiasm, the Queen undertaking to
provision the army "out of her own garners"; but the Governor had no
sooner "belted the siege about the castle," an expression which renders
most graphically the surrounding of the place, than the Chancellor,
taken by surprise, prostrated by the loss of the King, and finding it
impossible to draw the powerful Earl of Douglas to his aid, made
overtures of submission, and begged for a meeting "in the fields before
the gates," where, with a few chosen friends on either side, the two
great functionaries of the kingdom might come to an agreement between

By this time there would seem to have begun that preponderating
influence of the Douglas family in Scotland which vexed the entire reign
of the second James, and prompted two of the most violent and tragic
deeds which stain the record of Scottish history. James I. was more
general in his attempt at the repression and control of his fierce
nobility, and the family most obnoxious to him was evidently that of his
uncle, nearest in blood and most dangerous to the security of the
reigning race. The Douglas, however, detaches himself in the following
generation into a power and place unexampled, and which it took the
entire force of Scotland, and all the wavering and uncertain expedients
of law, as well as the more decisive action of violence quite lawless,
to put down. Whether there was in the pretensions of this great house
any aim at the royal authority in their own persons, or ambitious
assertion of a rival claim in right of the blood of Bruce, which was as
much in their veins as in those of the Stewarts, as some recent
historians would make out, it is probably now quite impossible to
decide. The chroniclers say nothing of any such intention, nor do the
Douglases themselves, who throughout the struggle never hesitated to
make submission to the Crown when the course of fortune went against
them. The Chancellor had been deeply stung, it is evident, by the answer
of Douglas to his appeal, in which the fierce Earl declared that discord
between "you twa unhappie tyrants" was the most agreeable thing in the
world to him, and that he wished nothing more than that it should
continue. Deprived of the sanction given to all his proceedings by the
name of the King, outwitted among his wiles, and exposed to the ridicule
even of those who had regarded his wisdom with most admiration, Crichton
would seem to have turned fiercely upon the common opponent, perhaps
with a wise prescience of the evil to come, perhaps only to secure an
object of action which might avert danger from himself and bring him
once more into command of the source of authority--most likely with both
objects together, the higher and lower, as is most general in our
mingled nature. The meeting was held accordingly outside the castle
gates, the Chancellor coming forth in state bearing the keys of the
castle, which were presented, Buchanan says, to the King in person, who
accompanied the expedition, and who restored the great functionary to
his office. The great keys in the child's hand, the little treble pipe
in which the reappointment would be made, the tiny figure in the midst
of all these plotters and warriors, gives a touch of pathos to the many
pictorial scenes of an age so rich in the picturesque; but the earlier
writers say nothing of the little James's presence. There was, however,
a consultation between the two Regents, and Douglas's letter was read
with such angry comments as may be supposed. The Earl's contempt
evidently cut deep, and strongly emphasised the necessity of dealing
authoritatively with such a high-handed rebel against the appointed

It would appear, however, that little could be done against the
immediate head of that great house, and the two rulers, though they had
made friends over this common object, had to await their opportunity,
and in the meantime do their best to maintain order and to get each the
chief power into his own hands. Crichton found means before very long to
triumph over his adversaries in his turn by rekidnapping the little
King, for whom he laid wait in the woods about Stirling, where James was
permitted precociously to indulge the passion of his family for hunting.
No doubt the crafty Chancellor had pleasant inducements to bring forward
to persuade the boy to a renewed escape, for "the King smiled," say the
chroniclers, probably delighted by the novelty and renewed
adventure--the glorious gallop across country in the dewy morning, a
more pleasant prospect than the previous conveyance in his mother's big
chest. Thus in a few hours the balance was turned, and it was once more
the Chancellor and not the Governor who could issue ordinances and make
regulations in the name of the King.

Nothing, however, could be more tedious and trifling in the record than
these struggles over the small person of the child-king. But the story
quickens when the long-desired occasion arrived, and the two rulers,
rivals yet partners in power, found opportunity to strike the blow upon
which they had decided, and crush the great family which threatened to
dominate Scotland, and which was so contemptuous of their own sway. The
great Earl, Duke of Touraine, almost prince at home, the son of that
Douglas whose valour had moved England, and indeed Christendom, to
admiration, though he never won a battle--died in the midst of his
years, leaving behind him two young sons much under age as the
representatives of his name. It is extraordinary to us to realise the
place held by youth in those times, when one would suppose a man's
strength peculiarly necessary for the holding of an even nominal
position. Mr. Church has just shown in his Life of Henry V how that
prince at sixteen led armies and governed provinces; and it is clear
that this was by no means exceptional, and that the right of boys to
rule themselves and their possessions was universally acknowledged and
permitted. The young William, Earl of Douglas, is said to have been only
about fourteen at his father's death. He was but eighteen at the time of
his execution, and between these dates he appears to have exercised all
the rights of independent authority without tutor or guardian. The
position into which he entered at this early age was unequalled in
Scotland, in many respects superior to that of the nominal sovereign,
who had so many to answer to for every step he took--counsellors and
critics more plentiful than courtiers. The chronicles report all manner
of vague arrogancies and presumptions on the part of the new Earl. He
held a veritable court in his castle, very different from the
semi-prison which, whether at Edinburgh or Stirling, was all that James
of Scotland had for home and throne--and conferred fiefs and knighthood
upon his followers as if he had been a reigning prince. "The Earl of
Douglas," says Pitscottie, "being of tender age, was puffed up with new
ambition and greater pride nor he was before, as the manner of youth is;
and also prideful tyrants and flatterers that were about him through
this occasion spurred him ever to greater tyranny and oppression." The
lawless proceedings of the young potentate would seem to have stirred up
all the disorderly elements in the kingdom. His own wild Border county
grew wilder than ever, without control. Feuds broke out over all the
country, in which revenge for injuries or traditionary quarrels were lit
up of the strong hope in every man's breast not only of killing his
neighbour, but taking possession of his neighbour's lands. The caterans
swarmed down once more from the mountains and isles, and every petty
tyrant of a robber laird threw off whatever bond of law had been forced
upon him in King James's golden days. This sudden access of anarchy was
made more terrible by a famine in the country, where not very long
before it had been reported that there was fish and flesh for every man.
"A great dearth of victualls, pairtly because the labourers of the
ground might not sow nor win the corn through the tumults and cumbers of
the country," spread everywhere, and the state of the kingdom called the
conflicting authorities once more to consultation and some attempt at
united action.

The meeting this time was held in St. Giles's, the metropolitan church,
then, perhaps, scarcely less new and shining in its decoration than now,
though with altars glowing in all the shadowy aisles and the breath of
incense mounting to the lofty roof. There would not seem to have been
any prejudice as to using a sacred place for such a council, though it
might be in the chapter-house or some adjacent building that the barons
met. It is to be hoped that they did not go so far as to put into words
within the consecrated walls the full force of their intention, even if
it had come to be an intention so soon. There was but a small following
on either side, that neither party might be alarmed, and many fine
speeches were made upon the necessity of concord and mutual aid to
repress the common enemy. The Chancellor, having restolen the King,
would no doubt be most confident in tone; but on both sides there were
equal professions of devotion to the country, and so many admirable
sentiments expressed, that "all their friends on both sides that stood
about began to extol and love them both, with great thanksgiving that
they both regarded the commonwealth so mickle and preferred the same to
all private quarrels and debates." The decision to which they came was
to call a Parliament, at which aggrieved persons throughout the country
might appear and make their complaints. The result was a crowd of woeful
complainants, "such as had never been seen before. There were so many
widows, bairns, and infants seeking redress for their husbands, kin, and
friends that were cruelly slain by wicked murderers, and many for
hireling theft and murder, that it would have pitied any man to have
heard the same." This clamorous and woeful crowd filled the courts and
narrow square of the castle before the old parliament-hall with a murmur
of misery and wrath, the plaint of kin and personal injury more sharp
than a mere public grief. The two rulers and their counsellors no doubt
listened with grim satisfaction, feeling their enemy delivered into
their hands, and finding a dreadful advantage in the youth and
recklessness of the victims, who had taken no precaution, and of whom it
was so easy to conclude that they were "the principal cause of these
enormities." Whether their determination to sacrifice the young Douglas,
and so crush his house, was formed at once, it is impossible to say.
Perhaps some hope of moulding his youth to their own purpose may have at
first softened the intention of the plotters. At all events they sent
him complimentary letters, "full of coloured and pointed words,"
inviting him to Edinburgh in their joint names with all the respect that
became his rank and importance. The youth, unthinking in his boyish
exaltation of any possibility of harm to him, accepted the invitation
sent to him to visit the King at Edinburgh, and accompanied by his
brother David, the only other male of his immediate family, set out
magnificently and with full confidence with his gay train of knights and
followers--among whom, no doubt, the youthful element
predominated--towards the capital. He was met on the way by
Crichton--evidently an accomplished courtier, and full of all the habits
and ways of diplomacy--who invited the cavalcade to turn aside and rest
for a day or two in Crichton Castle, where everything had been prepared
for their reception. Here amid all the feastings and delights the great
official discoursed to the young noble about the duties of his rank and
the necessity of supporting the King's government and establishing the
authority of law over the distracted country, sweetening his sermon with
protestations of his high regard for the Douglas name, whose house, kin,
and friends were more dear to him than any in Scotland, and of affection
to the young Earl himself. Perhaps this was the turning-point, though
the young gallant in his heyday of power and self-confidence was all
unconscious of it; perhaps he received the advice too lightly, or
laughed at the seriousness of his counsellor. At all events, when the
gay band took horse again and proceeded towards Edinburgh, suspicion
began to steal among the Earl's companions. Several of them made efforts
to restrain their young leader, begging him at least to send back his
young brother David if he would not himself turn homeward. "But," says
the chronicler, "the nearer that a man be to peril or mischief he runs
more headlong thereto, and has no grace to hear them that gives him any
counsel to eschew the peril."


The only result of these attempts was that the party of boys spurred on,
more gaily, more confidently than ever, with the deceiver at their side,
who had spoken in so wise and fatherly a tone, giving so much good
advice to the heedless lads. They were welcomed into Edinburgh within
the fatal walls of the Castle with every demonstration of respect and
delight. How long the interval was before all this enthusiasm turned
into the stern preparations of murder it seems impossible to say--it
might have been on the first night that the catastrophe happened, for
anything the chroniclers tell us. The followers of Douglas were
carefully got away, "skailled out of the town," sent for lodging outside
the castle walls, while the two young brothers were marshalled, as
became their rank, to table to dine with the King. Whether they
suspected anything, or whether the little James in his helpless
innocence had any knowledge of what was going to happen, it is
impossible to tell. The feast proceeded, a royal banquet with "all
delicatis that could be procured." According to a persistent tradition,
the signal of fate was given by the bringing in of a bull's head, which
was placed before the young Earl. Mr. Burton considers this incident as
so picturesque as to be merely a romantic addition; but no symbol was
too boldly picturesque for the time. When this fatal dish appeared the
two young Douglases seem at once to have perceived their danger. They
started from the table, and for one despairing moment looked wildly
round them for some way of escape. The stir and commotion as that tragic
company started to their feet, the vain shout for help, the clash of
arms as the fierce attendants rushed in and seized the victims, the
deadly calm of the two successful conspirators who had planned the
whole, and the pale terrified face of the boy-king, but ten years old,
who "grat verie sore," and vainly appealed to the Chancellor for God's
sake to let them go, make one of the most impressive of historical
pictures. The two hapless boys were dragged out to the Castle Hill,
which amid all its associations has none more cruel, and there beheaded
with the show of a public execution, which made the treachery of the
crime still more apparent; for it had been only at most a day or two,
perhaps only a few hours, since the Earl and his brother in all their
bravery had been received with every gratulation at these same gates,
the welcome visitors, the chosen guests, of the King. The populace would
do little but stare in startled incapacity to interfere at such a scene;
some of them, perhaps, sternly satisfied at the cutting off of the
tyrant stock; some who must have felt the pity of it, and had
compunction for the young lives cut off so suddenly. A more cruel
vengeance could not be on the sins of the fathers, for it is impossible
to believe that the Regents did not take advantage of the youth of these
representatives of the famous Douglas race. Older and more experienced
men would not have fallen into the snare, or at all events would have
retained the power to sell their lives dear.

If the motives of Livingstone and Crichton were purely patriotic, it is
evident that they committed a blunder as well as a crime: for instead of
two boys rash and ill-advised and undeveloped they found themselves in
face of a resolute man who, like the young king of Israel, substituted
scorpions for whips, persecuting both of them without mercy, and finally
bringing Livingstone at least to destruction. The first to succeed to
William Douglas was his uncle, a man of no particular account, who kept
matters quiet enough for a few years; but when his son, another William,
succeeded, the Regents soon became aware that an implacable and powerful
enemy, the avenger of his two young kinsmen, but an avenger who showed
no rash eagerness and could await time and opportunity, was in their
way. The new Earl married without much ceremony, though with a papal
dispensation in consequence of their relationship, the little Maid of
Galloway, to whom a great part of the Douglas lands had gone on the
death of her brothers, and thus united once more the power and
possessions of his name. He was himself a young man, but of full age, no
longer a boy, and he would seem to have combined with much of the steady
determination to aggrandise and elevate his race which was
characteristic of the Douglases, and their indifference to commonplace
laws and other people's rights, an impulsiveness of character, and
temptation towards ostentation and display, which led him at once to
submission and to defiance at unexpected moments, and gave an element of
uncertainty to his career. Soon after his succession it would seem to
have occurred to him, after some specially unseemly disputes among some
of his own followers, that to get himself into harmony with the laws of
the realm and gain the friendship of the young King would be a good
thing to do. He came accordingly to Stirling where James was, very sick
of his governors and their wiles and struggles, and throwing himself at
the boy's feet offered himself, his goods and castles, and life itself,
for the King's service, "that he might have the licence to wait upon His
Majesty but as the soberest courtier in the King's company," and
proclaimed himself ready to take any oath that might be offered to him,
and to be "as serviceable as any man within the realm." James, it would
seem, was charmed by the noble suitor, and all the glamour of youth and
impulse which was in the splendid young cavalier, far more great and
magnificent than all the Livingstones and Crichtons, who yet came with
such abandon to the foot of the throne to devote himself to its service.
He not only forgave Douglas all his offences, but placed him at the head
of his government, "used him most familiar of any man," and looked up to
him with the half-adoring admiration which a generous boy so often feels
towards the first man who becomes his hero.

This happened in 1443, when James was but thirteen. It would be as easy
to say that Douglas displaced with a rush the two more successful
governors of the kingdom, and took their places by storm--and perhaps it
would be equally true: yet it would be vain to ignore James as an actor
in national affairs because of his extreme youth. In an age when a boy
of sixteen leads armies and quells insurrections, a boy of thirteen,
trained amid all the exciting circumstances which surrounded James
Stewart, might well have made a definite choice and acted with full
royal intention, perhaps not strong enough to be carried out by its own
impulse, yet giving a real sanction and force to the power which an
elder and stronger man was in a position to wield. We have no such means
of forming an idea of the character and personality of the second James
as we have of his father. No voice of his sounds in immortal accents to
commemorate his loves or his sadness. He appears first passively in the
hands of conspirators who played him in his childhood one against the
other, a poor little royal pawn in the big game which was so bloody and
so tortuous. His young memory must have been full of scares and of
guileful expedients, each party and individual about him trying to
circumvent the other. Never was child brought up among wilder chances.
The bewildering horror of his father's death, the sudden melancholy
coronation, and all the nobles in their sounding steel kneeling at his
baby feet, which would be followed in his experience by no expansion or
indulgence, but by the confinement of the castle; the terrible
loneliness of an imprisoned child, broken after a while by the sudden
appearance of his mother, and that merry but alarming jest of his
conveyance in the great chest, half stifled in the folds of her
embroideries and cloth of gold. Then another flight, and renewed stately
confinement among his old surroundings, monotony broken by sudden
excitements and the babble in his ears of uncomprehended politics, from
which, however, his mind, sharpened by the royal sense that these
mysterious affairs were really his own, would no doubt come to find
meaning at a far earlier age than could be possible under other
circumstances. And then that terrible scene, most appalling of all, when
he had to look on and see the two lads, not so much older than himself,
young gallants, so brave and fine, to whom the boy's heart would draw in
spite of all he might have heard against them, so much nearer to himself
than either governor or chancellor, those two noble Douglases, suddenly
changed under his eyes from gay and welcome guests to horrified victims,
with all the tragic passion of the betrayed and lost in their young
eyes. Such a scene above all must have done much to mature the
intelligence of a boy full like all his race of spirit and independence,
and compelled to look on at so much which he could not stop or remedy.
Thus passive and helpless, yet with the fiction of supremacy in his
name, we see the boy only by glimpses through the tumultuous crowd about
him with all their struggles for power, until suddenly he flashes forth
into the foreground, the chief figure in a scene more violent and
terrible still than any that had preceded it, taking up in his own
person the perpetual and unending struggle, and striking for himself the
decisive blow. There is no act so well known in James's life as that of
the second Douglas murder, which gives a sinister repetition, always
doubly impressive, to the previous tragedy. And yet between the two what
fluctuations of feeling, what changes of policy, how many long
exasperations, ineffectual pardons, convictions unwillingly formed, must
have been gone through. That he was both just and gentle we have every
possible proof, not only from the unanimous consent of the chronicles,
but from the manner in which, over and over again, he forgives and
condones the oft-repeated offences of his friend. And there could be few
more interesting psychological studies than to trace how, from the
sentiments of love and admiration he once entertained for Douglas, he
was wrought to such indignation and wrath as to yield to the weird
fascination of that precedent which must have been so burnt in upon his
childish memory, and to repeat the tragedy which within the recollection
of all men had marked the Castle of Edinburgh with so unfavourable a

We are still far from that, however, in the bright days when Douglas was
Lieutenant-Governor of the kingdom, and the men who had murdered his
kinsmen were making what struggle they could against his enmity, which
pursued them to the destruction of one family and the frequent hurt and
injury of the other. How Livingstone and his household escaped from time
to time but were finally brought to ruin, how Crichton wriggled back
into favour after every overthrow, sometimes besieged in his castle for
months together, sometimes entrusted with the highest and most
honourable missions, it would be vain to tell in detail. James would
seem to have yielded to the inspiration of his new prime minister for a
period of years, until his mind had fully developed, and he became
conscious, as his father had been, of the dangers which arose to the
common weal from the lawless sway of the great nobles, their continual
feuds among themselves, and the reckless independence of each great
man's following, whose only care was to please their lord, with little
regard either for the King and Parliament or the laws they made. During
this period his mother died, though there is little reason to suppose
that she had any power or influence in his council, or that her loss was
material to him. She had married a second time, another James Stewart
called the Black Knight of Lorne, and had taken a considerable part in
the political struggles of the time always with a little surrounding of
her own, and a natural hope in every change that it might bring her son
back to her. It is grievous that with so fair a beginning, in all the
glow of poetry and love, this lady should have dropped into the position
of a foiled conspirator, undergoing even the indignity of imprisonment
at the hands of the Regents whom she sometimes aided and sometimes
crossed in their arrangements. But a royal widow fallen from her high
estate, a queen-mother whose influence was feared and discouraged and
every attempt at interference sternly repressed, would need to have been
of a more powerful character than appears in any of her actions to make
head against her antagonists. She died in Dunbar in 1446, of grief, it
is said, for the death of her husband, who had been banished from the
kingdom in consequence of some hasty words against the power of the
Douglas, of whom however, even while he was still in disgrace, Sir James
Stewart had been a supporter. Thus ended in grief and humiliation the
life which first came into sight of the world in the garden of the great
donjon at Windsor some quarter of a century before, amid all the
splendour of English wealth and greatness, and all the sweet
surroundings of an English May.

James was married in 1450, when he had attained his twentieth year, to
Mary of Gueldres, about whom during her married life the historians find
nothing to say except that the King awarded pardon to various
delinquents at the request of the Queen--an entirely appropriate and
becoming office. No doubt his marriage, so distinct as a mark of
maturity and independence, did something towards emancipating James from
the Douglas influence; and it is quite probable that the selection of
Sir William Crichton to negotiate the marriage and bring home the bride
may indicate a lessening supremacy of favour towards Douglas in the mind
of his young sovereign. Pitscottie records a speech made to the Earl and
his brothers by the King, when he received and feasted them after their
return from a successful passage of arms with the English on the Border,
in which James points out the advantage of a settled rule and lawful
authority, and impresses upon them the necessity of punishing robbers
and reivers among their own followers, and seeing justice done to the
poor, as well as distinguishing themselves by feats of war. By this time
the Douglases had once more become a most formidable faction. The head
of the house had so successfully worked for his family that he was on
many occasions surrounded by a band of earls and barons of his own
blood, his brothers having in succession, by means of rich marriages or
other means of aggrandisement, attained the same rank as himself, and,
though not invariably, acting as his lieutenants and supporters, while
his faction was indefinitely increased by the followers of these cadets
of his house, all of them now important personages in the kingdom. It
was perhaps the swelling pride and exaltation of a man who had all
Scotland at his command, and felt himself to have reached the very
pinnacle of greatness, which suggested the singular expedition to France
and Rome upon which Douglas set forth, in the mere wantonness of
ostentation and pride, according to the opinion of all the chroniclers,
to spread his own fame throughout the world, and show the noble train
and bravery of every kind with which a Scottish lord could travel. It
was an incautious step for such a man to take, leaving behind him so
many enemies; but he would seem to have been too confident in his own
power over the King, and in his greatness and good fortune, to fear
anything. No sooner was he gone, however, than all the pent-up
grievances, the complaints of years during which he had wielded almost
supreme power in Scotland, burst forth. The King, left for the first
time to himself and to the many directors who were glad to school him
upon this subject, was startled out of his youthful ease by the tale of
wrong and oppression which was set before him. No doubt Sir William
Crichton would not be far from James's ear, nor the representatives of
his colleague, whom Douglas had pursued to the death. The state of
affairs disclosed was so alarming that John Douglas, Lord Balvenie, the
brother of the Earl, who was left his procurator and representative in
his absence, was hastily summoned to Court to answer for his chief.
Balvenie, very unwilling to risk any inquisition, held back, until he
was seized and brought before the King. His explanations were so little
satisfactory, that he was ordered at once to put order in the matter,
and to "restore to every man his own:" a command which he received
respectfully, but as soon as he got free ignored altogether, keeping
fast hold of the ill-gotten possessions, and hoping, no doubt, that the
momentary indignation would blow over, and all go on as before. James,
however, was too much roused to be trifled with. When he saw that no
effect was given to his orders he took the matter into his own hands.
The Earl of Orkney with a small following was first sent with the King's
commission to do justice and redress wrongs: but when James found his
ambassador insulted and repulsed, he took the field himself, first
making proclamation to all the retainers of the Douglas to yield to
authority on pain of being declared rebels. Arrived in Galloway, he rode
through the whole district, seizing all the fortified places, the narrow
peel-houses of the Border, every nest of robbers that lay in his way,
and, according to one account, razed to the ground the Castle of Douglas
itself, and placed a garrison of royal troops in that of Lochmaben, the
two chief strongholds of the house. But James's mission was not only to
destroy but to restore. He divided the lands thus taken from the House
of Douglas, according to Pitscottie, "among their creditors and
complainers, till they were satisfied of all things taen from them,
whereof the misdoers were convict." This, however, must only have
applied, one would suppose, to the small losses of the populace, the
lifted cows and harried lands of one small proprietor and another. "The
King," adds the same authority, "notwithstanding of this rebellion, was
not the more cruel in punishing thereof nor he was at the beginning:"
while Buchanan tells us that his clemency and moderation were applauded
even by his enemies.

This is throughout the opinion which we find of James. He was capable of
being moved to sudden violent indignation and hasty action, as was too
distinctly demonstrated afterwards; but the hasty outburst once over
came back at once without rancour to his natural benignity, always
merciful, slow to anger, ready to hear whatever the accused might have
to say for himself, and to pardon as long as pardon was possible.
Notwithstanding the rebellious and audacious contempt of all authority
but their own shown by the Douglas party, notwithstanding the standing
danger of their insolent power, their promises so often broken, their
frequent submissions and actual defiance, his aim in all his dealings
with them was rather to do justice to the oppressed than to punish the
guilty. His genial temper, and that belief in his kind which is always
so ingratiating a quality, is proved by the account Major gives of his
life on those military expeditions which from this time forth occupied
so much of his time. He lived with his soldiers as an equal, that
historian tells us, eating as they did, without the precaution of a
taster, which Major thinks highly imprudent, but which would naturally
bind to the frank and generous monarch the confidence and regard of his
fellow-soldiers, and the captains with whom he shared the sometimes
scanty provisions of the campaign.

News of these strange events was conveyed to Douglas, now in England on
his return from the pilgrimage of pride and ostentation to which, though
it was professedly for the Papal jubilee, no one attempts to give a
religious character. He was returning at his leisure, lingering on his
way, not without suspicion of secret treaties with the English in
support of the party of York, though all the prepossessions of Scotland
and King James were on the other side: but hurried home on hearing the
news, and was politic enough to make immediate submission as soon as he
became aware of the seriousness of the crisis, promising everything that
could be demanded of him in the way of obedience and respect of "the
King's peace." Once more he was fully and freely pardoned, his lands,
with some small diminution, restored, and the King's confidence given
back to him with a too magnanimous completeness. In the Parliament held
in Edinburgh in June 1451 he was present, and received back his charters
in full amity and kindness, to the great satisfaction and pleasure of
"all gud Scottis men." Later in the year, in his capacity of Warden of
the Marches, he was employed to assuage the endless quarrels of the
Border, but during his negotiations for this purpose secretly renewed
his mysterious and treacherous dealings with England, of which there is
no very clear account, but which was of all others the kind of treachery
most obnoxious to his countrymen. So far as would appear, James obtained
some hint of these clandestine proceedings, and was very angry, "highly
commoved," as was natural: on hearing which Douglas appeared once more
to ask pardon, with apparently an inexhaustible confidence in the
clemency of the young man whom he had guided so long. But the idea of
some "quyet draucht betwixt him and the King of Ingland," some secret
understanding with the old enemy, was more serious still than domestic
rebellion, and though he pardoned at the "great request" of the Queen
and nobles, the King did not again restore so doubtful a representative
to the great offices he had held. There would seem to have been a pause
of consternation on the part of Douglas when he found for the first time
the charm of his friendship and every petition for pardon ineffectual.
To attribute the change to old Crichton, who had recovered much of his
former influence and was again Chancellor, was easy, and the Earl who
had but the other day sworn the King's peace with all, set an ambush for
his old opponent, and would have succeeded in killing him but for
Crichton's son, "ane young valiant man," who overcame the bravos, and
housed his father safely in his Castle of Crichton. Douglas himself was
afterwards almost surprised in Edinburgh by Crichton's followers, and
saved himself only by a hurried departure not unlike a flight.

This disappointment, and the loss of the King's favour, and the apparent
solidity of his rivals in their place, half maddened the great noble,
little accustomed to yield to any contradiction. He had been up to this
time, save in so far as his private feuds and covetousness were
concerned, on the side of lawful authority; the King's man so long as
the King was his man, and did not interfere with the growth of his
wealth and greatness. But now he would seem to have given up hope of
recovering his hold upon his sovereign, and turned his eyes elsewhere
for support. The Earl of Crawford in the north country, and the Lord of
Isles who was also Earl of Ross in the west, were as powerful and as
intractable as Douglas himself, and more often in open rebellion than in
amity with the King, a constant danger and disturbance of all good order
and law. Douglas in his anger made an alliance with these two, by which
all bound themselves to resent and avenge any injury offered to either.
It was probably an expedient of rage and despair--the desire of doing
what was most baneful and insolent to his former friends, such as
happens often when a breach occurs--as much as a political act; but it
is evident that in every way Douglas was on the eve of open treachery,
no longer disposed to keep any terms with the royal master whose
patience had been exhausted at last. It required, however, a crowning
outrage to arouse once more James's much-forgiving spirit.

Among the gentlemen of Galloway, the most of whom rode with Douglas and
supported him in all his high-handed proceedings, too near neighbours to
venture upon independence, were a few who preferred to hold the other
side, that of law and justice and the authority of the King. Among them
was "one called Maclelan, who was tutor of Bombie for the time, and
sister's son to Sir Patrick Gray, principal servitor to the King, and
captain of his guard." The refusal of this man to serve in the
rebellious host under the Earl was immediately punished by Douglas, who
assailed his house and carried him off prisoner. The story reads like a
romance, which, however, is no reason for receiving it with discredit. A
more doubtful circumstance is that it is asserted to have happened in
Douglas Castle, which had been very recently destroyed by James, and
which was besides at a great distance from Edinburgh. I hazard a
conjecture whether it may have happened in the Castle of Abercorn, since
it must have been impossible for Douglas in Galloway to pursue Sir
Patrick to the very gates of Edinburgh. Wherever the incident may have
occurred, the story is, that Sir Patrick Gray, the uncle of the
prisoner, hastened to the King with the story of his nephew's danger,
and was at once sent off by James with "a sweit letter of supplication,"
praying the Earl to deliver over the unfortunate gentleman to the
messenger for love of the King. The Earl was at dinner when, "bloody
with spurring, fiery red with haste," Sir Patrick arrived at the castle,
where the drawbridge was lifted and the doors closed. "The Earle caused
incontinent draw the boards, and rose and met the said Sir Patrick with
great reverence and humilitie, because he was the King's principal
servant and familiar to His Grace." I tell the rest of the tale in the
words of Pitscottie:--

    "He inquired at the said Patrick if he had dined, who answered that
    he had not. Then the Earle said there was 'no talk to be had betwixt
    ane full and ane fasting; therefore ye shall dine, and we shall
    talke together at length.'

    "In this meane tyme Sir Patrick Gray sat down to his dinner, and the
    Earle treatted him and made him goode cheare, whereof Sir Patrick
    was well contented, believing all things to succeed well thereafter.
    But the Earle of Douglas on the other pairt took a suspicion and
    conjecture what Sir Patrick's Gray's commission was, and dreading
    the desyne thereof should be for his friend, the tutor of Bombie;
    therefore in the meane time when they were at the dinner, talking of
    merry matters, the Earle caused quietly take forth the tutor of
    Bombie out of prison, and have him to the greene and there strooke
    off his head and took the samine away from him, and syne covered a
    fair cloth on his bodie that nothing might be seene of that
    treasonable act that was done.

    "In this meane time when dinner was done Sir Patrick Gray presented
    the King's writing unto the Earle, who reverently received it and
    considered the effect thereof. He gave great thanks to Sir Patrick
    Gray, saying he was beholden to him that brought so familiar an
    writing from his Prince to him, considering how it stood betwixt
    them at that time: and as to the desire and supplication, it should
    be thankfullie granted to the King, and the rather for Sir Patrick's
    sake; and took him by the hand and led him furth to the greene where
    the gentleman was lying dead, and shew him the manner, and said,
    'Sir Patrick, you are come a litle too late; but yonder is your
    sister's son lying, but he wants the head; take his body and do with
    it what you will.' Sir Patrick answered again with ane sore heart,
    and said, 'My Lord, ye have taken from him his head, dispone upon
    the body as ye please;' and with that called for his horse and leapt
    thereon. And when he was on horseback he said to the Earle on this
    manner, 'My Lord, an I live ye shall be rewarded for your labour
    that ye have used at this time, according to your demerits.' At this
    saying the Earle was highly offended and cryed for horse. Sir
    Patrick seeing the Earle's fury spurred his horse, but he was chased
    neare to Edinburgh before they left him, and had it not been his
    leid horse was so tryed and goode he had been taken."

The scene that ensued when James--awaiting in Edinburgh the return of
his messenger, without a doubt we may suppose of the obedience of
Douglas the friend of his youth, the often-pardoned, owing so much to
his clemency and friendship--saw Sir Patrick arrive breathless and
haggard, scarcely escaping, though the King's messenger, with his life,
and heard his story--the insolent contempt, the brutal jest, the cruel
murder--is one that might well mark the turning-point even in a mind so
magnanimous. The King had not been entirely without signs of inheriting
his father's firmness and promptitude; but his gentleness of
disposition, and strong inclination towards kindness and peace, had in
general carried the day over his sterner qualities. He had shown both
sides of his character when he pardoned Douglas and accepted his
promises of reformation on his return, but cut him off from public
service and closed all the doors of advancement against him. The
defiance now addressed to him, the scorn of his letters and request, so
audaciously shown, raised a sudden storm of indignation in his breast.
Whether his future action was based on the decision of his council to
which he submitted, sanctioning on his own part the treachery by which
alone Douglas could be beguiled within his reach, as the chroniclers, to
whom such a device was quite justifiable, tell us; or whether when he
issued his safe-conduct he still hoped to be able to convince the Earl
of his folly in resisting, and to bring him to a real and effectual
change of mind, no one can now tell. But James was so little addicted to
treachery, so fair, tolerant and merciful, that we may well give him the
benefit of the doubt, and believe that it was with the intention of
making another effort to bring Douglas back to his right mind and
allegiance that the King invited him to Stirling, where it was strange
indeed that with all his enormities on his conscience Douglas ventured
to come, whatever were the safe-conducts given. "Some sayes he got the
great seale thereunto before he would grant to come to the King," says
the chronicle. The fact that he did come however, after all that had
passed, says much for his confidence in King James and in his own power
over him, for Douglas must have been very well aware that safe-conducts
and royal promises were but broken reeds to trust to.

When he arrived in Stirling, whatever lowering looks he might see around
him--and it is scarcely possible to believe that Sir Patrick Gray for
one could have entirely cleared his countenance of every recollection of
their last meeting, of the men-at-arms thundering at his heels, and his
nephew's body headless on the greensward--Douglas found no change in the
King, who received and banqueted him "very royally," thinking if it were
possible "with good deeds to withdraw him from his attempt that he
purposed to do." After supper the King took his rebellious subject
aside, into another room opening from that in which they had supped, and
which is still exhibited in Stirling Castle to the curious stranger, and
once more reasoned with him on his conduct. No private matter would seem
to have been introduced, the treasonable league which the Earl had made
with Crawford and Ross, rebels against the lawful authority of the
kingdom, being the subject on which James put forth all his strength of
argument. Douglas, Pitscottie tells us, answered "verrie proudlie," and
the argument grew hot between the two men, of whom one had always
hitherto been the conqueror in every such passage of arms. It was
probably this long habit of prevailing that made the proud Earl so
obstinate, since to submit in words had never heretofore been difficult
to him. At last the dispute came to a climax, in the distinct refusal of
Douglas to give up his traitor-allies. "He said he myt not nor wald
not," says a brief contemporary record. "Then the King said, 'False
traitor, if you will not, I sall,' and stert sodunly till him with ane
knyf." "And they said," adds this chronicle with grim significance,
"that Patrick Gray straik him next the King with ane pole ax on the
hed." The other companions crowded round, giving each his stroke. And
thus within a short space of years the second Earl of Douglas was killed
in a royal castle, while under a royal safe-conduct, at a climax of
hopeless discord and antagonism from which there seemed no issue. The
exasperation of the King, the dead-lock of all authority, the absolutely
impracticable point at which the two almost equal powers had arrived,
account for, though they do not excuse, such a breach of faith. I prefer
to believe that James had at least no decided purpose in his mind, but
hoped in his own power to induce Douglas to relinquish these alliances
which were incompatible with his allegiance; but that the sudden
exasperation with which he became convinced of his own powerlessness to
move him brought about in a moment the fatal issue (with who knows what
sudden wild stimulus of recollection from the murder of which he had
been a witness in his childhood?) which statesmen less impulsive had
already determined upon as necessary, though probably not in this sudden


The "Schort Memorial of the Scottis Cronikles," called the Auchinleck
Chronicle, gives a brief but striking account of the proceedings that
followed. Earl Douglas's retainers and kinsmen would seem to have been
struck dumb by the event, and probably fled in horror and dismay; but it
was not till long after, when the King had left Stirling, that the
younger brothers returned, on St. Patrick's Day in Lent, bringing with
them the safe-conduct with all its seals, which they exhibited at the
cross and dragged through the streets tied to a horse's tail, with many
wild and fierce words against the King and all that were with him,
ending by spoiling and burning the town. As James was no longer in it,
however, nor apparently any one who could resist them, this was a cheap
and unsatisfactory vengeance.

Some months after, in the summer of 1452, a Parliament was held at
Edinburgh, in which the three Estates passed a declaration that no
safe-conduct had been given on that fatal occasion--a declaration which
it is evident no one believed, and which probably was justified by some
quibble which saved the consciences of those who asserted it. The new
Earl, James Douglas, was summoned to appear at this Parliament, but
answered by a letter under his seal and that of his brother, which was
secretly affixed to the door of the Parliament House, "declynand from
the King, saying that they held not of him, nor would hold with him,
with many other slanderous words, calling them traitors that were his
secret council." Some say it was upon the church doors that this
defiance was attached. In any case it must have produced a wonderful hum
and commotion through the town, where already no doubt the slaying of
the Douglas had been discussed from every point of view--at the cross,
and among the groups at the street corners, where there would be many
adherents of the Douglas, and many citizens ready to discuss the new
event and all its possible consequences. The Parliament was followed by
a general muster upon the Burrowmuir, where the barons and their men
gathered, with all their spears and steel caps glistening in the June
sunshine, with an apparent intention of pursuing the race to its
stronghold and making an end of it. The raid, which was led by the King
in person, with an army of some thirty thousand men, accomplished little
however, doing more mischief than good the chronicle says, treading down
the new corn, and spoiling the country "right fellonly," notwithstanding
the King's presence. The result, at all events, was complete submission
on the part of the new Earl, accompanied by a promise to bear no enmity,
a promise often made but altogether impossible in the fifteenth century
to mortal flesh and blood.

It was scarcely possible however, short of a moral miracle, that such a
thing could happen as the abandonment of the entire policy of the house
of Douglas at a moment when their minds were embittered by so great a
tragedy. The new Earl was not a mere soldier, still less a courtier, but
a man of some culture, originally intended, it is said, for the Church,
though this does not seem to have withheld him from taking part in the
tumults of the time. Nor did it restrain him from marrying his brother's
widow, the hapless Maid of Galloway, whose share of the Douglas lands
made her indispensable to her two warlike cousins, though it seems
uncertain whether either of the two marriages, which necessitated two
dispensations from the Pope, was anything but nominal. After his
submission James Douglas was employed as his brother had been in the
arrangement of terms of truce with England, which was too great a
temptation for him, and led to further treasonable negotiations. He
would seem also to have renewed his brother's alliances with the rebels
of the north: and in a very brief period the nominal peace and doubtful
vows were all thrown to the winds, and this time there seems to have
been no question of partial rebellion, but every indication that a civil
war, rending the entire country in two, was about to break forth.
Douglas had the strong backing of England behind him, the support of the
Highland hordes always ready to be poured upon the peaceful country, and
many great lords in his immediate train. He had raised an army of, it is
said, forty thousand men, an enormous army for Scotland, and it was
evident that the struggle was one of life and death.

At this moment it would seem that King James for the first time lost
heart. He had been fighting during all the beginning of the year 1455,
reducing the west and south, the Douglas country, to subjection and
desolation. But when he found himself menaced by an army as great as
anything he could muster, with the angry north in the background and
clouds of half-savage warriors on the horizon, the King's heart sank. He
is said to have left Edinburgh in disgust and depression, and taken ship
at Leith for St. Andrews, to seek counsel from the best and most
trustworthy of his advisers, a man whose noble presence appears in the
distracted history with such a calm and sagacious steadfastness that we
can well understand the agitated King's sudden impulse towards him at
this painful period of his career. Bishop Kennedy had himself suffered
from the lawlessness of the Douglas retainers: and he too had royal
blood in his veins. He occupied one of the highest positions in the
Church, and his wisdom and strength had made him one of the most
prominent statesmen in the kingdom. James arrived hastily, according to
the chronicle, unexpected, and with many signs of distress and anxiety.
He betrayed to the Bishop his weariness of the ever-renewed struggle,
and of the falsehood and treachery which, even if victorious, were all
he had to encounter, the failure of every pledge and promise, the faith
sworn one day which failed him the next, and the deep discouragement
with all things round him which had taken possession of his mind. The
wise prelate heard this confession of heart-sickness and despondency,
and with a fatherly familiarity bade the young King sit down to meat,
which he much wanted, while he himself went to his oratory to pray for
enlightenment. That James thought no less than to throw up the struggle
and retire from his kingdom, is what the old writers say. But when, with
his bosom lightened by utterance of his trouble, and his courage a
little restored by food and rest, the Bishop came back to him with a
cheerful countenance from his prayers, the King took heart again.
Kennedy produced to him the old image of the sheaf of arrows which,
bound together, were not to be broken, but one by one could easily be
snapt asunder, and advised him to make proclamation of a free pardon to
all who would throw down their arms and make submission, and to march at
once against the rebel host with full confidence of victory. Inspired by
this advice, and by the companionship of the Bishop who went with him,
the King set out to meet the rebels, though with an army inferior in
number to theirs. Douglas, from some unexplained reason, wavered and
hesitated, taking no active step, and gave Bishop Kennedy time to put
his own suggestion in practice in respect to his nephew Lord
Hamilton--who was one of Douglas's chief supporters--sending secret
messengers to him to urge him to submission. Hamilton no doubt had
already perceived signs of wavering purpose and insecurity in the
heterogeneous host, in which were many whose hearts failed them at sight
of the King's banners--men who were apt to rebellion without being wound
up to the extreme point of civil war: but he had "ane kyndlie love to
Earl Douglas" as well as a regard for his own honour, and would not
lightly desert his friend. While thus uncertain he appealed to Douglas
to know what he meant to do, warning him that the longer he hesitated,
the less would be the forces at his disposal. Douglas replied haughtily
that if he were tired of waiting he might go when he pleased--an
indiscreet answer, which decided Hamilton to withdraw and throw himself
upon the King's promised mercy. The same night he went over to the royal
army, carrying with him so many that "on the morn thereafter the Earl
Douglas had not ane hunder men by his own household," the whole host
having melted away. Never was a greater risk for a monarchy nor a more
easy and bloodless escape. The Earl fled to the depths of his own
country and thence to England, where he lived long a pensioned
dependant, after all his greatness and ambition, to reappear in history
only like a ghost after many silent years.

Amid all these bewildering and bitter struggles, in which much misery
was no doubt involved, it is recorded of the King that he never lost his
humane character, and that even in the devastations he was forced to
sanction or command, the cruel reprisals carried out over all the south
of Scotland, his severity was always tempered with mercy. "He was not so
much feared as a king as loved like a father," says Major. This luminous
trait appears through all the darkness of the vexed and furious time.
The King was always ready to pardon at a word, to believe in the vows
and receive the submission of the fiercest rebels. One curious evidence
of the confidence felt in him was shown by the widow of the murdered
Earl, Margaret Douglas, the Maid of Galloway, a woman doubly injured in
every relation--the sister of the young Earl murdered at Edinburgh,
married by his successor in order to reunite the Douglas patrimony, a
great portion of which went to her as her brother's heir--and again
forced into another and unlawful marriage by her husband's brother,
immediately upon his death, for the same end. James received this
fugitive kindly, restored to her part of the lands of her family, and
finally married her--thus freeing her from the lawless bond into which
she had been driven--to his own step-brother, John, Earl of Atholl, "the
Black Knight of Lorne's son;" upon hearing of which another fugitive of
a similar description appeared upon the scene.

    "When the Earl of Ross's wyff understood the King to be some pairt
    favourable to all that sought his grace she fled also under his
    protection to eschew the cruel tyranny of her husband, which she
    dreaded sometyme before. The King called to remembrance that this
    woman was married not by her own counsel to Donald of the Isles (the
    Earl of Ross). He gave her also sufficient lands and living whereon
    she might live according to her estate."

The case of women, and especially heiresses, in that lawless age must
have been miserable indeed. Bandied about from one marriage to another,
forced to accept such security as a more or less powerful lord could
give, and when he was killed to fall victim to the next who could seize
upon her, or to whom she should be allotted by feudal suzerain or
chieftain, the mere name of a king who did not disdain a woman's plaint,
but had compassion and help to give, must have conveyed hope to many an
unhappy lady bound to a repugnant life. James would seem to have been
the only man who recognised the misery to which such unconsidered items
in the wild and tumultuous course of affairs might be driven.

Thus King James and Scotland with him were delivered from the greatest
and most dangerous of the powerful houses that held the country in fear.
Shortly after he conquered, partly by arms, partly by the strain of a
universal impulse, which seemed to rouse the barons to a better way,
those great allies in the north who held the key of the Highlands, the
Earl of Crawford and the Earl of Ross, so that at last something of a
common rule and common sentiment began to move the country. It is almost
needless to say that James took advantage of this temporary unity and
enthusiasm in order to invade England--a thing without which no Scots
King could be said to be happy. The negotiations by which he was at once
stimulated and hindered--among others by ambassadors from the Duke of
York to ask his help against Henry VI, with orders to arrest his army on
their way--are too complicated to be entered upon; but at last the Scots
forces set out and, after various successes, James found himself before
Roxburgh, a town and castle which had remained in the hands of the
English from the time when the Earl of March deserted his country for
England in the reign of Robert III. The town was soon taken, but the
castle, in which there was a brave garrison, stood out manfully. This
invasion of the Borders, and opportunity of striking a blow at the "auld
enemy," was evidently an act of the highest policy while yet the
surgings of civil war were not entirely quieted, and a diversion of
ideas as well as new opportunities of spoil were peculiarly necessary.
Its first excellent result was that Donald of the Isles, the Earl of
Ross and terror of the north country, whose submission had been but
provisionally accepted, and depended upon some evidence of real desire
for the interest of the common weal, suddenly appeared with "ane great
armie of men, all armed in the Highland fashion," and claimed the
vanguard, the place of honour, and to be allowed to take upon him "the
first press and dint of the battell." James received this unexpected
auxiliary with "great humanitie," but prudently provided, before
accepting his offer, which apparently, however, was made in all good
faith, that Donald should "stent his pavilliones a little by himself,"
until full counsel had been taken on the subject. The army was also
joined by "a great company of stout and chosen men," under the Earl of
Huntly, whose coming "made the King so blyth that he commanded to charge
all the guns and give the castle ane new volie." James would seem
throughout to have felt the greatest interest in the extraordinary new
arm of artillery which had made a revolution in warfare. He pursued
siege after siege with a zeal in which something of the ardour of a
military enthusiast and scientific inquirer mingled with the necessities
of the struggle in which he was engaged. The "Schort Cronikle," already
quoted, describes him as lingering over the siege of Abercorn, "striking
mony of the towers down with the gret gun, the whilk a Franche man shot
richt wele, and failed na shot within a fathom where it was charged him
to hit." And when, in the exultation of his heart to see each new
accession of force come in, he ordered "a new volie" against the stout
outstanding walls, the excitement of the discharge, the eagerness of an
adept to watch the effect, no doubt made this dangerous expression of
satisfaction a real demonstration of pleasure.

[Illustration: MONS MEG]

King James had attained at this time a success which probably a few
years before his warmest imagination could not have aspired to. He had
brought into subjection the great families which had almost contested
his throne with him. Douglas, the highest and most near himself, had
been swept clean out of his way. The fiercest rebel of all, the head of
the Highland caterans, with his wild host in all their savage array, was
by his side, ready to charge under his orders. The country, drained of
its most lawless elements, was beginning to breathe again, to sow its
fields and rebuild its homesteads. Instead of the horrors of civil war
his soldiers were now engaged in the most legitimate of all
enterprises--the attempt to recover from England an alienated
possession. Everything was bright before him, the hope of a great reign,
the promise of prosperity and honour and peace.

It is almost a commonplace of human experience that in such moments the
blow of fate is near at hand. The big guns which were a comparatively
new wonder, full of interest in their unaccustomed operation, were still
a danger as well as a prodigy, and James would seem to have forgotten
the precautions that were considered necessary in presence of an
armament still only partially understood. The historian assumes, as
every human observer is apt to do in face of such a calamity, a tone of
blame. "This Prince," says the chronicle with a shrill tone of
exasperation in the record of the catastrophe, "more curious than became
the majestie of a king, did stand hard by when the artilliarie was
discharging." And in a moment all the labours and struggles, and the
hope of the redeemed kingdom and all the prosperity that was to come,
were at an end. One can imagine the sudden dismay in the group around
him, the rush of his attendants, his own feeble command to keep silence
when some cry of horror rose from the pale-faced circle. His thigh had
been broken, "dung in two," by the explosion of the gun, "by which he
was struken to the ground, and died hastilie thereafter," with no time
to say more than to order silence, lest the army should be discouraged
and the siege prove in vain.

So ended the troublous reign of the second James, involved in strife and
warfare from his childhood, vexed by the treacheries and struggles over
him of his dearest friends, full of violence alien to his mind and
temper, which yet was justified by his example at the most critical
moment of his life. He made his way through continual contention,
intrigue, and blood, for which he was not to blame, to such a settlement
of national affairs as might have consolidated Scotland and made her
great--by patience and firmness and courage, and conspicuously by mercy,
notwithstanding one crime. And when the helm was in his hands, and a
fair future before him, fell, not ignominiously indeed, yet uselessly, a
noble life thrown away, leaving once more chaos behind him. He was only
twenty-nine when the thunderbolt thus falling from a clear sky destroyed
all the hopes of Scotland; yet had reigned long, for twenty-three years
of trouble, tumult, and distress.



Again the noises cease save for a wail of lamentation over the dead. The
operations of war are suspended, the dark ranks of the army stand aside,
and every trumpet and fatal cannon is silent while once more a woman and
a child come into the foreground of the historic scene. Once more, the
most pathetic figure surely in history, a little startled boy clinging
to his mother--not afraid indeed of the array of war to which he has
been accustomed all his life, and perhaps with an instinct in him of
childish majesty, the consciousness which so soon develops even in an
infant mind, of unquestioned rank, but surrounded by the atmosphere of
horror and affright in which he has been taken from among his
playthings--stands forth to be hastily enveloped in the robes so
pitifully over-large of the dead monarch. The lords, we are told, sent
for the Prince in the first sensation of the catastrophe, and had him
crowned at Kelso, feeling the necessity of that central name at least,
round which to rally. They were not always respectful of the real King
when they had him, yet the divinity which hedged the title, however
helpless the head round which it shone, was felt to be indispensable to
the unity and strength of the kingdom. Mary of Gueldres in her sudden
widowhood would seem to have behaved with great dignity and spirit at
this critical moment. She is said to have insisted that the siege should
not be abandoned, but that her husband's death might at least accomplish
what his heart had been set upon; and the army after a moment of
despondency was so "incouraged" by the coming of the Prince "that they
forgot the death of his father and past manfullie to the hous, and wan
the same, and justified the captaine theroff, and kest it down to the
ground that it should not be any impediment to them hereafter." The
execution of the captain seems a hard measure unless he was a traitor to
the Scottish crown; but no doubt the conflict became more bitter from
the terrible cost of the victory.


Once more accordingly the kingdom was thrown into the chaos which in
those days attended a long minority, the struggle for power, the
relaxation of order, and all the evils that follow when one firm hand
full of purpose drops the reins which half a dozen conflicting
competitors scramble for. There was not, at first at least, anything of
the foolish anarchy which drove Scotland into confusion during the
childhood of James II, and opened the way to so many subsequent
disasters, for Bishop Kennedy, the dead King's chief counsellor and
support and a man universally trusted, was in the front of affairs,
influencing if not originating all that was done: and to him, almost as
a matter of course, the education of the little heir was at once
confided. But Mary of Gueldres was a woman of resolution and force, and
did not give up without a struggle her pretensions to the regency.
Buchanan relates a scene which, according to his history, took place in
Edinburgh on the occasion of the first Parliament after James's death.
The Queen had established herself in the castle while Kennedy was in
Holyrood, probably with his little pupil, but there is no mention made
of James. On the second day of the Parliament Mary appeared suddenly in
what would seem to have been, according to modern phraseology, "a packed
house," her own partisans having no doubt been warned to be present by
the action of some energetic "whip," and was, then and there, by a hasty
Act, carried through at one sitting, appointed guardian and Regent,
after which summary success she returned with great pomp to her
apartments, though with what hope of having really attained a tenable
position it is impossible to say. When the news was carried to Holyrood,
Bishop Kennedy in his turn appeared before the Estates, which had been
thus taken by surprise. It is evident that the populace of Edinburgh was
excited by what had occurred--Mary's partisans no doubt rejoicing, while
the people in general, always jealous of a foreigner and never very
respectful of a woman, surged through the great line of street towards
the castle with all the fury of a popular tumult. The High Street of
Edinburgh was not unaccustomed to sudden encounters, clashing of swords
between two passing lords, each with fierce followers, and all the risks
of sudden brawls when neither would concede the "crown of the causeway."
But the townsfolk seldom did more than look on, with perhaps an
ill-concealed satisfaction in the wounds inflicted by their natural
opponents upon each other. On this occasion, however, the tumult was a
popular one, involving the interests of the citizens; and it is
difficult to believe that the inclinations of the townsfolk would not
rather lean towards the Queen, a woman of wealth and stately
surroundings, likely to entertain princes and great personages and to
fill Edinburgh with the splendour of a Court, than to the prelate,
although his tastes also were magnificent, whose metropolis was not
Edinburgh but St. Andrews, and who might consider frugality and sobriety
the best qualities for the Court of a minor. At all events the crowd had
risen and was ripe for tumult, when Bishop Kennedy persuaded them to
pause, and reminded them of the mutual forbearance and patience and
quiet which was above all necessary at such a troublous time. Other
prelates would seem to have been in his train, for we are told it was
the intercessions and explanations of "the bishops" which prevented the
tumult from rising into a fight. The parties would seem to have been so
strong, and so evenly divided, that the question was finally solved by a
compromise, Parliament appointing a council of guardians, two on each
side: Seaton and Boyd for the Queen; John Kennedy, brother of the
Bishop, and the Earl of Orkney, for the others--an experiment which was
no more successful than in the previous minority.

The Queen-mother had soon, however, something to occupy her leisure in
the visit, if visit it can be called, of Henry VI and his Queen and
household, fugitives before the victorious party of York, who had sought
refuge from the Scots, and lodging for a thousand attendants--a request
which was granted, and the convent of the Greyfriars allotted to them as
their residence. The Queen at the Castle would thus be a near neighbour
of the royal fugitives, and it is interesting to think of the meeting,
the sympathy and mutual condolences of the two women. Margaret, the
fervid Provençal, with her passionate sense of wrong and restless
energy, and the hopeless task she had of maintaining and inspiring to
play his part with any dignity her too patient and gentle king; and
Mary, the fair and placid Fleming, stung too in her pride and affections
by the refusal of the regency, and her subordination to those riotous
and unmannerly lords and the proud Bishop who had got the affairs of
Scotland in his hand. The two Queens might have had some previous
acquaintance with each other, at a time when both had fairer hopes; at
all events they amused themselves sadly, as they sat and talked
together, with fancies such as please women, of making a marriage
between the little Edward, the future victim of Tewkesbury, then a child
at his mother's knee, and the little Princess of Scotland who played
beside him, in the good days when all these troubles should be past, and
Henry or his son after him should have regained the English crown. One
follows with regretful interest the noble figure of Margaret, under the
guise in which that sworn Lancastrian Shakspeare has disclosed it to us,
before her sweeter mood had disappeared under the pressure of fate, and
when not curses but hopes came from her mouth in her young motherhood,
and every recovery and restoration, and happy marriage and royal state,
were possible for her boy. Mary too had been cut off in the middle of
her greatness. They were two Queens discrowned, two fair heads veiled
with misfortune, though nothing irremediable had as yet happened,
nothing that should make the future a desert though the present might be
dark; ready to live again in their children, and make premature treaties
over the little blonde heads at their knee. So natural a scene comes in
strangely to the records of violence and misery. Nothing more tragic
could be than the fate of Margaret; and the splendour and happiness had
been very shortlived in Mary's experience, soon quenched in sudden
destruction; but to see the two young mothers planning over the heads of
the little ones how the two kingdoms were to be united, and happiness
come back in a future that was never to be, while they sat together in
brief companionship in those strait rooms of Edinburgh Castle, which
were so narrow and so poor for a queen's habitation, or within the
precincts of the Greyfriars, looking out upon the peaceful Pentlands and
the soft hills of Braid, is like the recurring melody in a piece of
stormy music, the bit of light in a tempestuous picture. It teaches us
to perceive that, however the firmament of a kingdom may be torn with
storms, there are everywhere about, even in queens' chambers, scenes of
tenderness and peace.

Mary died in her own foundation of Trinity College Hospital--the
beautiful church of which was demolished within living memory--three
years after her husband, while her children were still very young: and
thus all further struggles about the regency were ended. She does not
seem indeed ever to have repeated her one stand for power. Bishop
Kennedy, we may well believe, was not a man with whom there would be
easy fighting. His sway procured a little respite for Scotland in the
ordinary miseries of her career. The Douglases were safely out of the
way and ended, and there was a truce of fifteen years with England which
kept danger from that side at arm's length--not, the chroniclers assure
us, from any additional love between the two countries, but because "the
Inglish had warres within themselves daylie, stryvand for the crown."
Kennedy lived some years after the Queen, guiding all the affairs of the
kingdom so wisely that "the commounweill flourished greatly." He was a
Churchman of the noblest kind, full of care for the spiritual interests
of his diocese as well as for the secular affairs which were placed in
his hands. "He caused all persones (parsons) and vicars to remain at
their paroche kirks," says Pitscottie, "for the instruction and edifying
of their flocks: and caused them preach the Word of God to the people
and visit them that were sick; and also the said Bishope visited every
kirk within the diocese four times in the year, and preached to the said
parochin himself the Word of God, and inquired of them if they were
dewly instructed by their parson and vicar, and if the poor were
sustained and the youth brought up and learned according to the order
that was taine in the house of God."

With all this, and many other gifts beside, among which are noted the
knowledge he had of the "civil laws, having practised in the same," and
his experience and sagacity in all public affairs--he was a scholar and
loved all the arts. "He founded," says Pitscottie, "ane triumphant
college in Sanct Androis, called Sanct Salvatore's College, wherein he
made his lear (library) very curiouslie and coastlie; and also he biggit
ane ship, called the Bishop's Barge, and when all three were complete,
to wit, the college, the lear, and the barge, he knew not which of the
three was the costliest; for it was reckoned for the time by honest men
of consideration that the least of the three cost him ten thousand pound
sterling." Major gives the same high character of the great Bishop,
declaring that there were but two things in him which did not merit
approval--the fact that he held a priory (but only one, that of
Pittenweem) _in commendam_, "and the sumptuositie of his sepulchre."
That sepulchre, half destroyed--after having remained a thing of beauty
for three hundred years--by ignorant and foolish hands in the end of the
eighteenth century, may still be seen in the chapel of his college at
St. Andrews, the only existing memorial of the time when all Scotland
was governed from that stormy headland to the great advantage of the
commonwealth. It is difficult to make out from the different records
whether the young King remained in the Bishop's keeping so long as he
lived, which was but until James had attained the age of thirteen, or
whether the usual struggle between the two sets of guardians appointed
by Parliament, the Boyds and Kennedies, had begun before the Bishop's
death. It may be imagined, however, that the evident advantages to the
boy of Bishop Kennedy's care would outweigh any formal appointment;
although at the same time the idea suggests itself whether in the
perversity of human nature this training was not in itself partly the
cause of James's weaknesses and errors. He would learn at St. Andrews
not only what was best in the learning of the time, but as much of the
arts as were known in Scotland, and especially that noble art of
architecture, which has been the passion of so many princes. And no
doubt he would see the advancement of professors of these arts, of men
skilful and cunning in design and decoration, the builders, the
sculptors, and the musicians, whose place in the great cathedral could
never be unimportant. A Churchman could promote and honour such public
servants in the little commonwealth of his cathedral town with greater
freedom than might be done elsewhere; and James, a studious and feeble
boy, not wise enough to see that the example of his great teacher was
here inappropriate and out of place, learned this lesson but too well.
The King grew up "a man that loved solitariness and desired never to
hear of warre, but delighted more in musick and politie and building nor
he did in the government of his realm." It would seem that he was also
fond of money, which indeed was very necessary to the carrying out of
his pursuits. It is difficult to estimate justly the position of a king
of such a temperament in such circumstances, whether he is to be blamed
for abandoning the national policy and tradition, or whether he was not
rather conscientiously trying to carry out his stewardry of his kingdom
in a better way when he withheld his countenance from the perpetual wars
of the Border, and addressed himself to the construction of noble halls
and chapels and the patronage of the arts. He was at least so far in
advance of his time, still concerned with the rudest interests of
practical life as to be universally misunderstood: and he had the
further misfortune of sharing the unpopularity of the favourites with
whom he surrounded himself, as almost every monarch has done who has
promoted men of inferior position to the high places of the State.

James's supineness, over-refinement, and love of peaceful occupations
were made the more remarkable from the contrast with two manly and
chivalrous brothers, the Dukes of Mar and Albany, of fine person and
energetic tastes, interested in all the operations of war, fond of fine
horses and gallant doings, and coming up to all the popular expectations
of what was becoming in a prince. Nothing is more difficult to make out
at any time than the real motives and meaning of family discords: and
this is still more the case in an age not yet enlightened by the clear
light of history. The chroniclers, especially Boece, have much doubt
thrown upon them by more serious historians, who quote them and build
upon them nevertheless, having really no better evidence to go upon. The
report of these witnesses is that James had been warned by witches, in
whom he believed, and by one Andrew the Fleming, an astrologer, that his
chief danger arose from his own family, and that "the lion should be
devoured by his whelps." Pitscottie's account, however, indicates a
conspiracy between Cochrane and the Homes, whom Albany had mortally
offended, as the cause at once of these prophecies and the King's alarm.
The only thing clear is that he was afraid of his brothers, and
considered their existence a danger to his life. It would appear that he
had already begun to surround himself with those favourites to whom was
attributed every evil thing in his reign, when this poison was first
instilled into his mind: and the blame was attributed rightly or wrongly
to Cochrane, the chief of his "minions," who very probably felt it to be
to his interest to detach from James's side the manly and gallant
brothers who were naturally his nearest counsellors and champions.

There is very little that is authentic known of the men whom James III
thus elevated to the steps of his throne. Cochrane was an architect
probably, though called a mason in his earlier career, and had no doubt
been employed on some of the buildings in which the King delighted,
being "verrie ingenious" and "cunning in that craft." Perhaps, however,
to make the royal favour for a mere craftsman more respectable,
according to the notions of the time, it is added in a popular story
that the favourite was a man of great strength and stature, whose
prowess in some brawl attracted the admiration of the timid monarch, to
whom a man who was a tall fellow of his hands, as well as a person of
similar tastes to himself, might well be a special object of approval. A
musician, William Roger, an Englishman, whose voice had charmed the
King--a weakness which at least was not ignoble, and was shared by
various other members of his race--was the second of James's favourites:
and there were others still less important--one the King's tailor--a
band of persons of no condition, who surrounded him no doubt with
flattery and adulation, since their promotion and maintenance were
entirely dependent on his pleasure. King Louis XI was at that time upon
the throne of France, a powerful prince whose little privy council was
composed of equally mean men, and perhaps some reflection from the Court
of the old ally of Scotland made young James believe that this was the
best and wisest thing for a King to do. Louis was also a believer in
astrologers, witches, and all the prophecies and omens in which they
dealt. To copy him was not a high ambition, but he was in his way a
great king, and it is conceivable that the feeble monarch of Scotland,
never roused to the height of his father's or grandfather's example,
took a little satisfaction in copying what he could from Louis. The
example of Oliver le Dain might make him think that he showed his
superiority by preferring his tailor, a man devoted to his service, to
Albany or Angus. And if Louis trembled at the predictions of his Eastern
sage, what more natural than that James should quake when the stars
revealed a danger which every spaewife confirmed? No doubt he would know
well the story of the mysterious spaewife who, had her advice been
taken, might have saved James I. from his murderers. It is rarely that
there is not a certain cruelty involved in selfish cowardice. In a
sudden panic the mildest-seeming creature will trample down furiously
any weaker being who stands in the way of his own safety, and James was
ready for any atrocity when he was convinced that his brothers were a
danger to his life and crown. The youngest, the handsome and gallant
Mar, was killed by one treachery or another; and Alexander of Albany,
the inheritor of that ill-omened title, was laid up in prison to be safe
out of his brother's way.

We find ourselves entirely in the regions of romance in this unfortunate
reign. Sir Walter Scott has painted for us the uncomfortable Court of
Louis with his barber and his prophet, and Dumas has reproduced almost
the identical story in his _Vingt Ans Après_, of the Duke of Albany's
escape from Edinburgh. There could scarcely be a more curious scene.
Strangely enough James himself was resident in the castle when his
brother was a prisoner there. One would have thought that so near a
neighbourhood would have seemed dangerous to the alarmed monarch, but
perhaps he thought, on the other hand, that watch and ward would be kept
more effectually under his own eyes. Mar had died in the Canongate,
perhaps in the Tolbooth there, according to tradition in a bath, where
he was bled to death, probably in order that a pretence of illness or
accident might be alleged; and Edinburgh, no doubt, was full of dark
whispers of this strange end of one prince, and the danger of the other,
shut up within the castle walls where the King's minions had full sway,
and any night might witness a second dark deed. Prince Alexander's
friends must have been busy and eager without, while he was not so
strictly under bar and bolt inside that he could not make merry with the
castle officials now and then, and cheat an evening with pleasant talk
and a glass of good wine with a young captain of the guard. One day
there came to him an intimation of the arrival of a ship at Leith with
wine from France, accompanied by some private token that there was more
in this announcement than met the ear. Albany accordingly sent a trusted
servant to order two flasks of the wine, in one of which, contained in a
tube of wax, was enclosed a letter, in the other a rope by which to
descend the castle walls. The whole story is exactly as Dumas tells the
escape of the Duc de Beaufort, though whether the romancer could have
seen the old records of Scotland, or if his legend is sanctioned by the
authentic history of France, I am unable to tell. Alexander, like the
prince in the novel, invited the Captain of the Guard to sup with him to
try the new wine--an invitation gladly accepted. After supper the
Captain "passed to the King's chamber to see what was doing, who was
then lodged in the castle," probably to get the word for the night. It
is curious to think of the unconscious officer, so little aware of what
was about to befall, going from the chamber of the captive to that of
the King, where the little Court would be assembled at their music or
their "tables," or where perhaps James was taking counsel over the
leafage of a capital or the spring of an arch--and thence returning when
all the rounds were made, the great gates barred and bolted, the
sentries set, to the Prince in his prison, who was a finer companion
still. Alexander plied the unsuspecting Captain with his wine, spiced or
perhaps drugged to make it act the sooner, and along with him a warder
or two who were in constant attendance upon the royal prisoner. A prince
to drink with such carles! "The fire was hett, and the wyne was strong":
and the united influence of the spiced drink and the hot room soon
overcame the revellers, all but Alexander and his trusty man, who had
taken care to refrain. In Dumas the gaoler was but gagged and bound: but
in Scotland life went for little, and some of the authorities say that
when the Prince saw the drunkards in his power, "he lap from the board
and strak the captane with ane whinger and slew him, and also stiked
other two with his own hand." He had been informed that he was to die
the next day if he did not escape that night, which was some excuse for
him.[2] When the men were thus disposed of, in one way or another, the
Prince and his servant, "his chamber chyld," stole out with the rope to
"a quiet place" on the wall. Coming out into the dark freshness and
stillness of the night after that stifling and horrible room, seeing the
stars once more and the distant glimmer of the sea, and feeling freedom
at hand, it was little they would reck of the gaolers, always an
obnoxious class. One would imagine that it must have been on the most
precipitous side of the castle rock where there were few sentinels and
the exit was easy, though the descent terrible. The faithful servant
tried the rope first but found it too short, and fell, breaking his
thigh. With what feelings Alexander must have stolen back to get his
sheets with which to lengthen the rope, pushing through the smoke,
almost despairing to get off in safety! One is relieved to hear that he
took his crippled attendant on his back and carried him, some say to a
safe place--or, as others say, all the way across country to where the
ship rocked at the pier of Leith. They must have got down to some dark
spot on the northern slopes, where there would be no city watchman or
late passer-by to give the alarm, and all would be clear and still
before them to the water's edge--though a long, weary, and darkling way.

[2] Buchanan's account is not so bloodthirsty: he represents Alexander
as entertaining his guests with stories of his restoration to favour,
and approaching deliverance, and dismissing them in all mirth and
friendliness though heavy with wine: so that his guards having
incontinently fallen asleep at their posts he was able to make his

    "But on the morne when the watchman perceived that the towis were
    hinging over the walls, then ran they to seek the Captane to show
    him the matter and manner, but he was not in his own chamber. Then
    they passed to the Duke's chamber and found the door open and ane
    dead man lying in the chamber door and the captane and the rest
    burning in the fire, which was very dollorous to them; and when they
    missed the Duke of Albanie and his chamber chyld, they ran speedilie
    and shewed the King how the matter had happened. But he would not
    give it credence till he passed himself and saw the matter."

These events happened in 1479, when Albany escaped to France, where he
remained for some years. Up to this period all that is said of him has
been favourable. His treatment by his brother was undeserved, and there
is no sign of either treachery or rebellion in him in these early years.
But when he had languished for a long time in France perhaps,
notwithstanding a first favourable reception, sooner or later eating the
exile's bitter bread--exasperation and despair must have so wrought in
him that he began to traffic with the "auld enemy" of England, and even
put his hand to a base treaty, by which his brother was to be dethroned
and he himself succeed to the kingdom by grace of the English king--a
stipulation which Albany must have well known would damn him for ever
with his countrymen.

In the meantime James had begun to breathe again in the relief he felt
to be freed of the presence of both his brothers. He "passed through all
Scotland at his pleasure, in peace and rest," says the chronicler. But
it was not long that a king of Scotland could be left in this repose.
The usual trouble on the Borders had begun again as soon as Edward IV
was secure upon his throne, and the English king had even sent his ships
as far as the Firth of Forth, where he burnt villages and spoiled the
coast under the very eyes of James. Though he would so much rather have
been left in quiet to complete his beautiful new buildings at Stirling
and arrange the choir in his new chapel, where there was a double supply
of musicians that the King might never want this pleasure, yet the
sufferings of the people and the angry impulse of the discontented
nobles were more than James could resist, and he set forth reluctantly
towards the Border to declare war. He had become more and more shut up
within his little circle of favourites after the death and disappearance
of his brothers, and Cochrane had gradually acquired a more and more
complete sway over the mind of his master and the affairs of the realm.
The favourite had been guilty of all those extravagances which
constitute the Nemesis of upstarts. He had trafficked in patronage and
promotion, he had debased the currency, and he was supposed to influence
the King to everything least honourable and advantageous to the country.
Last injury of all, he had either asked from the King or accepted from
him--at least, permitted himself to be tricked out in the name of Mar,
the title of the young prince whose death he was believed to have
brought about. The lords of Scotland had already remonstrated with the
King on various occasions as to the unworthy favourites who usurped
their place around his throne: and their exasperation seems to have
risen to a height beyond bearing when they found "the mason," as
Cochrane is called, with his new liveries and extravagance of personal
finery, at the head of the army which was raised to avenge the English
invasion, and in the closest confidence of the King. When they had got
as far as Lauder the great lords, who were left out of all James's
private councils, assembled in a council of their own in the parish
church to talk over their grievances, and to consult what could be done
to reform this intolerable abuse and to bring back the King to the right
way. Some, it would appear, went so far as to meditate deposition,
declaring that James was no longer fit to be their King, having
renounced their counsel and advice, banished one brother and slain
another, and "maid up fallowes, maissones, to be lords and earls in the
place of noblemen." The result of the meeting, however, was that milder
counsels prevailed so far as James was concerned: "They concluded that
the King should be taine softlie without harm of his bodie, and conveyed
to the Castle of Edinburgh with certain gentlemen," while Cochrane and
the rest were seized and hanged over Lauder Brig.

The question, however, remained, Who should be so bold as to take the
first step and lay hands upon the favourite? It was now that Lord Gray,
one of the conspirators, told, with that humour which comes in so grimly
in many dark historic scenes, the story of the mice and the cat--how the
mice conspired to save themselves by attaching a bell to the cat to warn
them of her movements--until the terrible question arose which among
them should attach to the neck of the enemy this instrument of safety.
One can imagine the grave barons with half a smile looking at each other
consciously, in acknowledgment of a risk which it needed a brave man to
run. Angus, the head of the existing branch of the Douglas family, who
had already risen into much of the power and importance of his forfeited
kinsman, answered with equally grim brevity "I'se bell the cat." But
while he spoke, the general enemy, mad with arrogance and
self-confidence, and not believing in any power or boldness which could
stop him in his career, forestalled the necessity. He came to the kirk,
where no doubt he had heard there was some unauthorised assembly,
arrayed in black velvet with bands of white, the livery he had chosen, a
great gold chain round his neck, a hunting horn slung about him adorned
with gold and jewels, and probably a marvel of mediæval art--and "rushed
rudlie at the kirk door." The hum of fierce satisfaction which arose
when the keeper of the door challenged the applicant for admission, and
the answer, "The Earl of Mar," rang into the silence in which each man
had been holding his breath, may be imagined. It was Archibald
Bell-the-Cat, ever hereafter known by that name, who advanced to meet
the swaggering intruder in all his pride of privilege and place, but
with a welcome very different from that which the favourite expected,
who had come, no doubt, to break up the whisperings of the conspirators
and assert his own authority. Angus pulled the gold chain from
Cochrane's neck, and said "a rop would sett him better," while another
Douglas standing by snatched at the horn. Cochrane, astonished but not
yet convinced that any real opposition was intended, asked between
offence and alarm, perhaps beginning to doubt the sombre excited
assembly, "My lords, is it jest or earnest?" It would seem that the grim
and terrible event of the execution "over the Bridge of Lauder" though
why this special locality was chosen we are not told, followed with an
awful rapidity. The chief offender had fallen into the hands of the
conspirators with such unhoped-for ease that they evidently felt no time
was to be lost.

    "Notwithstanding the lords held him quiet while they caused certain
    armed men pass to the King's pavilion, and two or three wyse men
    with them, and gave the King fair and pleasant words, till they had
    laid hands on all his servants, and took them and hanged them over
    the Bridge of Lauder before the King's eyes, and brought in the King
    himself to the council. Thereafter incontinent they brought out
    Cochrane and his hands bound with ane tow, behind his back, who
    desired them to take ane of his own pavilion tows [cords] which were
    of silk and bind his hands, for he thought shame to be bound with
    ane hemp tow lyk ane thiefe. The lords answered and said, 'He was
    worse than a thiefe, he was ane traitour and deserved no better.'"

The last despairing bravado of the condemned man desiring that his hands
might be bound with a silken cord at least, the horror and wrath of the
pale King, helpless, looking on, forced into the assembly of the lords
to witness their pitiless vengeance, are painfully tragical and
terrible. All James's favourite attendants, the friends of his retired
leisure and sharers in the occupations he loved, were thus executed
before his eyes--all but a certain young Ramsay, who was at least a
gentleman, and who, to save his life, leapt up behind his master upon
the horse which the King was compelled to mount to see the dreadful deed
accomplished. Ramsay's life was spared, not to the advantage of Scotland
as became afterwards apparent.

The historical student will not fail to note how close in almost every
particular is this grim incident to the catastrophe of Piers Gaveston in
England in a previous age.

The state of affairs in Scotland after this extraordinary event was more
extraordinary still, if possible. James was conveyed to Edinburgh,

    "with certain lords in companie with him that took hold on him and
    keeped him in the said castle and served and honoured him as ane
    prince ought to be in all things: for he was not put there as a
    prisoner, but for the maintaining of the commonweill: gave him leave
    to use all his directions, gifts, and casualties at his pleasure.
    For nothing was derogat from him by reason of his authority, and all
    letters was given and proclamations made and printed in his name
    lykas they were before at his inputting, nor no regent nor governour
    was chosen at that time, but every lord within his own bounds was
    sworn to minister justice and to punish theft and slaughter within
    themselves, or else to bring the doers of the same to the King's
    justice at Edinburgh."

"Thus there was peace and rest in the country the space of
three-quarters of a year," says Pitscottie. This, however, is a mistake,
for the time of the King's retirement was only three or four months,
from St. Magdalene's Day to Michaelmas. Short or long, it was one of the
most curious moments of interregnum that history knows. James was
conveyed back to Edinburgh with every show of respect, attended by the
triumphant lords, who despised his milder virtues, his preferences and
tastes, not one of whom could manage either pencil or lute, who cared
for none of these things--while his strained eyes could still see
nothing but the vision against the daylight, the impromptu gibbet of the
high-arched bridge over the Border stream, where his familiar friends
had been strung up with every sign of infamy. He had to contain within
himself the rage, the shame, the grief and loneliness of his heart, and
endure as he best could the exultation which his captors would scarcely
attempt to conceal. The historians tell us little or nothing of the
Queen, Margaret of Denmark, to whom James had been married for several
years, and who had brought with her the full allegiance of the isles,
the Hebrides, which up to that time had paid a tribute to the
Scandinavian kingdom, and Orkney and Shetland which were the Queen's
portion. Whether he found any comfort in her and in his children, when
he was thus brought back to them to the castle, which would seem to have
been their favourite residence, we are not told. At all events the shame
of such a return, and of the captivity which was veiled by so many
ironical appearances of freedom, must have been grievous to him, even as
reflected in the eyes of his foreign wife, or the wondering questions on
his sudden return of his baby son.

How this strange state of things was brought to an end it is difficult
to tell, for the story is confused and troublesome. According to
Pitscottie, James's private friends advised him first to take counsel
with the Earl of Douglas, the long-forfeited and banished Earl,
represented as being then imprisoned in Edinburgh, which is clearly
apocryphal: and afterwards with the Duke of Albany, to whom Pitscottie
is throughout very favourable, making no mention of his undoubted
treachery. For whatever may be the actual truth of all the curious and
confused movements that were going on, it appears to be beyond doubt
that Albany--though he had lately visited the English Court and formed a
treasonable bargain with Edward IV to dethrone James, and to be himself
made King in dependence upon England--now acted like a true brother.
His first use of his alliance with Edward seems to have been for the
advantage of the sovereign whom he intended to displace, a curious
paradox of which we can offer no explanation. In this magnanimous act he
had the support of the English who had engaged to help him, as the
documents prove, in so different an enterprise: all which is very
bewildering. Accompanied by the Duke of Gloucester and a small army, he
suddenly appeared in Edinburgh to deliver the royal prisoner. There
would seem to have been no fighting of any kind, nor any attempt on the
part of Albany to dethrone his brother--nothing, indeed, but what would
appear the most magnanimous action on his part, were not those secret
treaties in existence bearing a silent testimony against him. When the
lords heard of the coming of this expedition, which occurred in August
1482 (Albany having escaped in 1479, three years before), they "drew
themselves together to ane council," apparently to watch the proceedings
of the invaders.

    "Soon therafter compeired the Duke of Albanie and the Duke of
    Gloucester within the town of Edinburgh, with the number of ane
    thousand gentlemen, and entered within the Tolbooth thereof before
    the lords of Scotland, who were sitting at ane council at that time,
    and there very reverently saluted the Duke of Albanie, reverenced
    him and welcomed him home, and required of him what was his
    petition. He answered, 'I desire the King's grace, my brother, to be
    put to libertie,' which was granted to him incontinent. But the
    Chancellor answered and said, 'My lord, we will grant you your
    desires; but as to that man that is with you, we know him not, nor
    yet will we grant nothing to his desire.'"

This speech, which breathes that undying defiance of English
interference which was the very inspiration of Scotland, is too
characteristic not to be genuine. "That man" was Richard, afterwards
Richard III, "Crookback Richard," the bitter and powerful hunchback of
Shakespeare, whom other authorities have endeavoured in vain to persuade
us to regard in a more favourable light. Whatever he might be in other
aspects, in Scotland he was merely Albany's companion, silently aiding
in what seems a most legitimate and honourable mission. The only way the
historians can find of reconciling this strangely virtuous and exemplary
behaviour with the secret engagements between Albany and England is by
the conjecture that the lords of Scotland were so evidently indisposed
to favour Albany, and there was so little feeling shown towards him by
any part of the population, that the treason was silently abandoned, and
in the hopelessness of playing a treasonable part he played a
magnanimous one, with the utmost grace and semblance of sincerity; which
is a bewildering conclusion. In any case he was the deliverer of his
brother. It would seem to be the fact, however, that James's deliverance
was much aided by the attitude of the burghers of Edinburgh, who were,
as so often, on the King's side--and to whom the character of a patron
of the arts, and promoter of so many persons of their own class into his
friendship, would naturally be as great a recommendation as it was an
offence to the others. Their action at this period excited the King's
gratitude so much that he conferred upon the city a special charter,
securing the independence of their municipal government, as well as
their right to levy customs in the port of Leith, and also, it is said,
a sign of these privileges, in the shape of the standard called the Blue
Blanket, which still remains in the possession of the Edinburgh guilds,
with liberty to display it for their king, country, and city rights,
when occasion calls.

The two Dukes of Albany and Gloucester marched together to the castle,
preceded by heralds, to claim the King from the officials who had him in
charge. One can imagine the mingled relief and humiliation of James when
delivered from that stronghold by the brother who had escaped from it by
night, within a few hours of the time when he had been ordered for
execution, and who in the meantime had been an exile. There is no reason
to suppose that he was aware of the secret understanding with England to
which his brother had set his seal, so that there was nothing to lessen
the intensity of the coals of fire thus heaped upon his head. No doubt
all Edinburgh was in the streets to watch that strange sight, as the
King rode from the castle gates, past the great Church of St. Giles, and
down the long line of the Canongate to Holyrood, making his emancipation
visible to all. Apparently he had not left the castle since he was
brought into it in shame and misery after the fatal episode at Lauder.
One wonders how he looked upon the crowd which no doubt would throng
after him with acclamations--whether thankfully and cheerfully in the
pleasure of release, or with a revengeful sense of how little he owed to
their easy applauses. It is said that Albany rode behind him on the same
horse as an exhibition of amity. It is very probable that James would
find bitterness in that too, as another humiliation.

The King was no sooner free than he made it evident that he had not
forgiven the humiliation and shame to which he had been subjected. He
imprisoned in their turn a number of the lords who had been foremost in
the death of Cochrane, and would have "justified" them we are told, but
for the interference of Angus--now too great apparently for James to
touch--and Albany. For some time after the latter remained with his
brother, fulfilling the functions of chief counsellor and Prime
Minister. But whether he displayed his ambition and evil intentions, or
the old jealousy and terrors of James got the upper hand as the lords
again became suspicious of him, it is difficult to tell. At all events
Albany was forced to escape once more for his life, and again took
refuge in France, where either now or previously, for the chronology is
difficult to follow, he had made a great marriage. Here he disappears
altogether from Scottish history, and not long after from life, having
been killed by accident in a tournament. Had Albany been the elder
instead of the younger brother it seems very probable that a dark
chapter might have been left out of the history of Scotland, and a third
patriotic and energetic King carried on the traditions of the first and
second James.

But it was scarcely to be looked for that, after all the dissensions
between the King and the lords, everything should settle into harmony
again. James is said to have removed to Stirling from Edinburgh, which
no doubt had acquired painful associations to him from the time of his
enforced residence there--and to have resumed or completed the buildings
in which he had taken so much pleasure--especially the great hall of
Stirling Castle, with all its grotesque and curious ornamentation, which
seems to prove that Scotland was still much behind in refinement, though
with a barbaric inspiration of her own. Whether the renewed tumults
began by the appropriation of certain Church lands hitherto in the power
of the Homes, for the endowment of the King's new chapel, it is
difficult to tell, a similar reason having been already alleged for
disturbances in which the Duke of Albany was the antagonist of that
powerful family; at all events a very small matter was enough to awake
again all the old rancours. The malcontents headed by the same men who
had already inflicted so much suffering and shame upon the King began to
draw together in alarming numbers. Roused from among his more congenial
occupations by this renewed commotion, James sent a herald to ask the
reason of their assembling: but the herald was disrespectfully treated
and his letters torn in pieces, an insult which seems to have convinced
the King that the strongest measures of defence were necessary. He is
said to have strongly fortified Stirling, where Prince James, the heir
of the kingdom, now a boy of fifteen or sixteen, was. Perhaps the King
was suspicious of the boy, perhaps his old terrors as to the danger to
his life which was to arise from his own family had returned to him: for
the restrictions under which young James was left were exceedingly
severe and arbitrary. No man was to be allowed to enter the castle,
great or small, till the King's return, nor was the Prince to be allowed
to pass the gates "to no game, nor to meet with no man." Pitscottie says
that Edinburgh Castle was also strengthened, and the King's treasury
placed in it and all his valuables laid up there. When these precautions
were taken James embarked "in ane ship of Captane Woode's"--probably the
most legitimate way in which he could have travelled, the vessel being
that of the Admiral, Andrew Wood, the greatest sailor in Scotland--and
went to Fife, from whence he marched to the north, calling the nobles of
the northern counties round him, and gathering an army with which to
oppose the greater lords and lairds who awaited him on the other side of
the Firth of Forth. James's unusual energy must have equally roused and
alarmed the rebels, against whom the royal name was as a strong tower.
That such men as Angus and the other great nobles of Scotland, who had
reduced their King to a puppet with such entire success, should now feel
it necessary to get possession of Prince James in order to confer
dignity, on their proceedings seems very strange; but perhaps when
rebellion comes to the dignity of a pitched battle its flags and
pretensions are of more importance than when it can so order matters as
to put on an appearance of acting in the King's own interests, as at
Lauder. And how far the Prince might be an independent actor in this
troubled drama there is no evidence to show. He had arrived at an age
when youths in these early-maturing days acted for themselves; even in
our own a lad of sixteen would scarcely allow his name to be employed
against his father without some protest, and could not be treated as a
child in a conflict so momentous. Therefore it is scarcely possible to
imagine that the Prince was entirely guiltless. And the spectator cannot
but enter with warmth into the feelings of the King when he discovered
what had been done, and that his heir was in the enemy's camp, giving
substance and reason to their rebellion.

There is a curious story told of how Lord Lindsay of the Byres, a fierce
and grim baron of Fife, presented on the very eve of the battle "a great
grey courser" to the King, assuring him that were he ever in extremity
that horse would carry him, "either to fly or to follow," better than
any horse in Scotland, "if well sitten"--a present which James accepted,
and which comes in as part of the paraphernalia of fate. On the morning
of the day of battle the King mounted this horse, and "rade to ane hill
head to see the manner of the cuming" of his enemies against him. He saw
the host defiling "in three battells," with six thousand men in each,
their spears shining, their banners waving, Homes and Hepburns in the
front, with Merse and Teviotdale and all the forces of the Border, and
the men of Lothian in the rear: while in the main body rose the ensigns
of all the great lords who had already beaten and humbled
him--Bell-the-Cat and the other barons who had hanged his friends before
his eyes--but now bearing his own royal standard, with his son among
them, the bitterest thought of all. James sat upon his fleet horse,
presented to him the night before with such an ominous recommendation,
and saw his enemies bearing down upon him--his enemies and his son.
"Then," says the chronicler, "he remembered the words which the witch
had spoken to him many days before, that he should be suddenly destroyed
and put down by the nearest of his kin." For this he had allowed the
murder of young Mar and driven Alexander of Albany into exile; but who
can wonder if in his stricken soul he now perceived or imagined that no
man can cheat the Fates? His own son, his boy! Some nobler poignancy of
anguish than the mere sick despair and panic of the coward must surely
have been in his mind as he realised this last and crowning horror. The
profound moral discouragement of a man caught in the toils, and for whom
no escape was possible; the sickening sense of betrayal; the wide
country before him, in which there might still be found some peaceful
refuge far from these distractions and contradictions of men; the whirl
of the dreadful yet beautiful sight, companies marching and ever
marching, spears and helmets shining, banners waving, and all against
him--a man who had never any pleasure in the pomp and circumstance of
war. Who can wonder as these hurrying thoughts overwhelmed his mind, and
the fleet courser pawed the turf, and the wild sweet air blew free in
his face, inviting him to escape, to flee, to find somewhere comfort and
peace--that such a man should have yielded to the mad impulse, and in an
access of despair, longing for the wings of a dove that he might flee
away and be at rest, have turned from the rising tumult and fled?

Of all the ironies of Fate there could be none more bitter than that
which drove the hapless fugitive, in growing consciousness of shame,
like a straw before the wind, across the famous field of Bannockburn.
What an association to be connected with that victorious name! He had
aimed at Stirling, but wild with despair and panic and misery missed the
way. As the grey courser entered the village of Bannockburn at full
flight a woman drawing water let fall her "pig" or earthen pot in
affright, and startled the horse; and the King "being evill sitten"
(having a bad seat) fell from his saddle before the door of the mill.
The sight of this strange cavalier in his splendid armour, covered with
foam and dust, borne to the earth like a log by the weight of his
armour, appalled the simple people, who dragged him inside the mill and
covered him where he lay with some rough horsecloth, not knowing what to
do. When he had come to himself James implored the wondering people to
fetch him a priest before he died. "Who are you?" they asked, standing
over him. What a world of time had passed in that wild ride! how many
ages since the dying fugitive lying on the dusty floor and covered with
the miller's rug was James Stewart, at the head of a gallant army! "This
morning," he said, with a bitter comprehension of all that had passed
since then, "I was your King." The miller's wife ran forth to her door
calling for a priest, and some one who was passing by answered her call;
but whether he was really a priest, or only one of the stragglers of the
rebel army, seems uncertain. He came into the mill, hearing no doubt the
cries of the astonished couple that it was the King, and kneeling down
recognised the fallen monarch; but instead of hearing his confession,
drew a knife and stabbed him three or four times in the breast. Thus
miserably ended James Stewart, the third of the name.

Of all the tragical conclusions to which his family had come this was
the most deplorable, as his life had been the least satisfactory.
Whether there was more than weakness to be alleged against him it is now
impossible to tell; and whether his favourite companions and occupations
proved a spirit touched to finer issues than those about him, or showed
only, as his barons thought, a preference for low company and paltry
pursuits of peace. But howsoever his patronage of the arts, the
buildings he has left to Scotland, or the tradition of the music and
gentle pleasures which he loved, may justify him to the reader, it is at
least clear that his stewardry of his kingdom was a miserable failure,
and his life a loss and harm to his country. Instead of promoting the
much-interrupted progress of her development, so far as his individual
influence went, he arrested and hindered it. And, difficult as the
position of affairs had been when he succeeded at seven years old to his
father's uncompleted labours, the situation which he left behind him,
the country torn in two, one half of his subjects in arms against the
other, his son's name opposed to his own, and every national benefit
postponed to the settlement of this quarrel, was ten times more
difficult and terrible. He was the first of his name whose influence was
all unfavourable to the progress of the nation, not only by evil
fortune, but by the disasters of a mind not sufficient for the weight
and burden of his time. He thus died ignominiously, in the month of June
1488, having reigned twenty-eight years and lived thirty-five--a short
lifetime for so much trouble and general misfortune.


(From King's College Chapel, Old Aberdeen)]



The graver records of the nation pause at the point to which we have
arrived. The tale leaves both battlefield and council chamber, though
there is an inevitable something of both in the chronicle as there is
something of daily bread in the most festive day. But it is not with
these grave details that the historian occupies himself. The most
serious page takes a glow from the story it has to tell, the weighty
matters of national life and development stand aside, and it is a knight
of romance who stands forth to occupy the field. The story of James, the
fourth of the name, is one of those passages of veritable history in
which there is scarcely anything that might not be borrowed from a tale
of chivalry. It is pure romance from beginning to end.

Of the character and personality of the boy whose education was carried
on under strict surveillance at Stirling we know nothing whatever, until
he suddenly appears before us in the enemy's camp, whether with his own
consent or not, or how much, if with his own consent, with any knowledge
of what he was about, it is difficult to tell. His mother had died while
he was still a child, and probably for the last few years of his much
disturbed life James III had but little attention to spare for his son.
If there is any truth in a curious story told by Pitscottie of a search
on board Sir Andrew Wood's ship for the murdered King, while yet the
fact of his death was unknown, and the Prince's wistful address to the
great sailor, "Sir, are ye my father?" we might suppose that the boy had
been banished altogether from his father's presence. But perhaps this is
too slender a foundation to build upon. There can be no doubt, however,
that after the battle, little honourable to either side, and lost by the
King's party almost before begun, from which he fled in a panic so
ignominious and fatal, there was a moment of great perplexity and
dismay, when King James's fate remained a mystery, and the rebel nobles
with the boy-prince among them knew not what to do or to say, in the
doubt whether he was dead or alive, whether he might not reappear at any
moment with a host from the Highlands or from France, or even England,
at his back. When they had fully realised their unsatisfactory victory
they marched to Edinburgh, with the Prince always among them and a chill
horror about them, unaware what way to look for news of the King. The
rush of the people to watch their return with their drooping banners and
faces full of consternation, and wonder at the unaccustomed sight of the
young Prince which yet was not exciting enough to counterbalance the
anxiety, the wonder, the perpetual question what had become of the
King--must have been as a menace the more to the perplexed leaders, who
knew that a fierce mob might surge up into warfare at any moment, or a
rally from the castle cut off their discouraged and weary troops. Where
was the King? Had he perhaps got before them to Edinburgh? was he there
on that height, misty with smoke and sunshine, turning against them the
great gun, which had been forged for use against the Douglas: or ready
to appear from over the Firth terrible with a new army; or in the ships,
most likely of all, with the great admiral who lay there watching, ready
to carry off a royal fugitive or bring back strange allies to revenge
the scorn that had been done to the King? The lords decided to take
their dispirited and broken array to Leith instead of going to Holyrood,
and there collected together to hold a council of war. Among the
confused reports brought to them of what one man and another had seen or
heard was one, more likely than the rest, of boats which had been seen
to steal down Forth and make for the _Yellow Carvel_ lying in the
estuary, with apparently wounded men on board. They sent accordingly to
summon Sir Andrew Wood to their presence. The sailor probably cared
nothing about politics any further than that he held for the King--and
furious with the Lords who had withstood his Majesty declined to come
unless hostages were sent for his safety. When this was accorded, the
old sea-lion, the first admiral of Scotland, came gruffly from his ships
to answer their questions. Whether there was any resemblance between the
two men, as he stood with his cloak wrapped round him defiant before the
rebel lords, or if the Prince had, as is possible, been so long absent
from his father that the vague outline of a man enveloped and muffled
deceived him, it is impossible to say. But there is a tone of
penetrating reality in the "Sir, are ye my father?" of the troubled boy,
perhaps only then aroused to a full comprehension of his position and
the sense that he was himself guiltily involved in the proceedings which
had brought some mysterious and unknown fate upon the King. It is
difficult to see why, accepting from Pitscottie all the rest of this
affecting narrative, the modern historian should cut out this as
unworthy of belief, "Who answered," continues the chronicler, "with
tears falling from his eyes,"

    "'Sir, I am not your father, but I was a servand to your father, and
    sall be to his authoritie till I die, and ane enemy to them that was
    the occasion of his doon-putting.' The lords inquired of Captain
    Wood if he knew of the King or where he was. He answered he knew
    nothing of the King nor where he was. Then they speired what they
    were that came out of the field and passed into his ships. He
    answered: 'It was I and my brother, who were ready to have waired
    our lives with the King in his defence.' Then they said, 'He is not
    in your ships?' who answered again, 'He is not in my ship, but would
    to God he were in my ship safelie, I should defend him and keep him
    skaithless frae all the treasonable creatures who has murdered him,
    for I think to see the day when they shall be hanged and quartered
    for their demerites.'"

The lords would fain have silenced this rude sailor, but having given
hostages for his safe return were obliged to let him go. There could not
be a more vivid picture of their perplexity and trouble. They proceeded
to Edinburgh after this rebuff, coming in, we may well believe, with
little sound of trumpet or sign of welcome, and with many a threatening
countenance among the crowds that gazed wistfully upon the boy in their
midst, who, if the King were really dead, was the King--another James.
There might be old men about watching from the foot of the Canongate the
silent cortege trooping along the valley to Holyrood--men who remembered
with all the force of boyish recollection how the assassins of James I.
had been dragged and tormented through Edinburgh streets, and might
wonder and whisper inquiries to their sons whether such a horrible sight
might be coming again, and what part that pale boy had in the dreadful
deed? It was but fifty years since that catastrophe, and already two
long minorities had paralysed the progress of Scotland. How the crowding
people must have eyed him, as he rode along, the slim stripling, so
young, so helpless, in the midst of all these bearded men! What part did
he have in it? Was his father done to death by his orders? Was he
consenting at least to what was done? Was he aware of all that was to
follow that hurried ride with the lords, into which he had been beguiled
or persuaded? James III had to some degree favoured Edinburgh, where,
notwithstanding his long captivity in the Castle, he had found defenders
and friends. And there must have been many in the crowd who took part
with the unfortunate monarch, so mysteriously gone out of their midst,
and who looked with horror upon the boy who had something at least to do
with the ruin and death of his father. It was a sombre entry upon the
future dwelling to which this young James was to bring so much splendour
and rejoicing.

How these doubts were cleared up and certainty attained we have no sure
way of knowing. Pitscottie's story is that when the false priest
murdered the King, he took up the body on his back and carried it away,
"but no man knew what he did with him or where he buried him." Other
authorities speak of a funeral service in the Abbey of Cambuskenneth on
the banks of the Forth--a great religious establishment, of which one
dark grey tower alone remains upon the green meadows by the winding
river; and there is mention afterwards of a bloody shirt carried about
on the point of a lance to excite the indignant Northmen to rebellion.
But notwithstanding these facts no one ventures to say that James's body
was found or buried. Masses for the dead were sung, and every religious
honour paid; but so far as anything is told us, these rites might have
been performed around an empty bier. At last however, in some way, a
dolorous certainty, which must by many have been felt as a relief, was
attained, and the young King was crowned in Edinburgh in the summer of
1488, some weeks after his father's death. At the same time a Parliament
was called, and the Castle of Edinburgh, which all this time seems to
have kept its gates closed and rendered no submission, was summoned by
the herald to yield, "which was obediently done at the King's command,"
says the chronicle. There was evidently no thought of rebellion or of
resisting the lawful sovereign, so soon as it was certain which he was.
The procession of the herald, perhaps the Lord Lyon himself, with all
his pursuivants, up the long street to sound the trumpets outside the
castle gates and demand submission, must have brightened the waiting and
wondering city with the certainty of the new reign. But the bravery and
fine colours of such a procession, though made doubly effective by the
background of noble houses and all the lofty gables and great churches
in the crowded picturesque centre at the foot of the Castle Hill, were
not then as now strange to the "grey metropolis of the North." No
country in Christendom would seem to have so changed under the influence
of the Reformation as Scotland. The absence of pageant and ceremonial,
the discouragement of display, the suppression of the picturesque in
action, in the midst of one of the most picturesque scenes in the world,
are all of modern growth. In the fifteenth century, and especially in
the reign that was now begun, the town ran over with bright colour and
splendid spectacle. When the lists were formed upon the breezy platform,
overlooking the fair plains of Lothian, the great Firth, and the
surrounding circle of hills, at the castle gate--how brilliant must have
been both scene and setting, the living picture and the wonderful frame,
and how every window would be crowded to see the hundred little
processions of knights to the jousts and ladies to the tribunes, and the
King and Queen riding with all their fine attendants "up the toun" all
the way from Holyrood! Nor would the curiosity be much less when, coming
in from the country, with every kind of quaint surrounding, the great
nobles with their glittering retinue, the lairds each with a little
posse of stout men-at-arms, as many as he could muster, the burgesses
from the towns, the clergy from all the great centres of the Church, on
mules and soft-pacing palfreys, would gather for the meetings of
Parliament. It scarcely wanted a knight-errant like the fourth James,
with his chivalrous tastes and devices, to fill the noble town with
brightness, for all these fine sights were familiar to Edinburgh. But
the brightest day was now to come.


The Parliament which assembled in all the emotion of that curious
crisis, while still the wonder and dismay of the King's tragic
disappearance were in the air, was a strange one. It was evidently
convened with the intention of shielding the party which had taken arms
against James III, while making a cunning attempt to throw the blame on
those who had stood by him: these natural sentiments being combined with
the determination, most expedient in the circumstances, to reconcile all
by punishing none. The young King and the power now exercised in his
name were in the hands of the lords who had headed the rebellion, Angus,
Home, Bothwell, and the rest; and while their own safety was naturally
their first consideration, they had evidently no desire to stir up
troublesome questions even for the fierce joy of condemning their
opponents. At one or other of the early Parliaments in this reign,
either that first held by way of smoothing over matters and preparing
such an account of all that had happened as might be promulgated by
foreign ambassadors to their respective Courts--or one which followed
the easy settlement of an attempt at rebellion already referred to, when
the Lord of Forbes carried a bloody shirt, supposed to be that of King
James, through the streets of Aberdeen, and raised a quickly-quelled
insurrection--there occurs the trial of Sir David Lindsay, one of the
most quaint narratives of a _cause célèbre_ ever written. The
chronicler, whom we may quote at some length--and whose living and
graphic narrative none even of those orthodox historians who pretend to
hold lightly the ever-delightful Pitscottie, upon whom at the same time
they rely as their chief authority, attempt to question in this
case--was himself a Lindsay, and specially concerned for the honour of
his name. The defendant was Lindsay of the Byres, one of the chief of
James III's supporters, he who had given the King that ominous gift of a
fleet courser on the eve of the battle. When he appeared at the bar of
the house so to speak--before Parliament--the following "dittay" or
indictment was made against him:--

    "Lord David Lindsay of the Byres compeir for the cruel coming
    against the King at Bannokburne with his father, and in giving him
    counsall to have devored his sone, the King's grace, here present:
    and to that effect gave him ane sword and ane hors to fortify him
    against his sone: what is your answer heirunto?"

A more curious reversal of the facts of the case could not be, and the
idea that James the actual monarch could be a rebel against his own son,
then simply the heir to the crown, is bewildering in its grave defiance
of all reason. There is not much wonder that Lindsay, "ane rasch man,
and of rud language, albeit he was stout and hardy in the field and
exercised in war," burst forth upon the assembled knights and lords,
upbraiding them with bringing the Prince into their murderous designs
against the King. The effect of his speech on the assembly would seem to
have been considerable, and it is very apparent that the party in power
had no desire to make any fight, for the Chancellor anxiously excused
Lindsay to the King as "ane man of the old world, that cannot answer
formallie nor get speech reverentlie in your Grace's presence." This
roused the brother of the culprit, a certain Mr. Patrick Lindsay,
otherwise described as a Churchman, who was by no means content to see
the head of his house thus described, nor yet that Lord Lindsay should
come "in the King's will," thus accepting forfeiture or any other
penalties that might be pronounced against him. Accordingly he
interfered in the following remarkable way:--

    "To that effect he stamped on his brother's foot to latt him
    understand that he was not content with the decree which the
    Chancellour proponed to him. But this stamp of Mr. Patrick's was so
    heavy upon his brother's foot, who had ane sair toe which was
    painful to him, wherefore he looked to him and said, 'Ye were over
    pert to stampe upon my foot; were you out of the King's presence I
    would overtake you upon the mouth.' Mr. Patrick, hearing the vain
    words of his brother, pled on his knees before the King and the
    Justice, and made his petition to them in this manner: 'Sir, if it
    will please your Grace and your honorabill counsall, I desire of
    your Grace, for His cause that is Judge of all, that your Grace will
    give me leave this day to speak for my brother, for I see there is
    no man of law that dare speak for him for fear of your Grace; and
    although he and I has not been at ane this mony yeires, yet my heart
    may not suffer me to see the native house whereof I am descended to
    perish!' So the King and the Justice gave him leave to speak for his
    brother. Then the said Mr. Patrick raise off his knees, and was very
    blythe that he had obtained that license with the King's favour. So
    he began very reverentlie to speak in this manner, saying to the
    whole lords of Parliament, and to the rest of them that were
    accusers of his brother at that time, with the rest of the lords
    that were in the summons of forfaltrie, according to their dittay,
    saying: 'I beseech you all, my lords, that be here present, for His
    sake that will give sentence and judgment on us all at the last day,
    that ye will remember now instantly is your time ... therefore now
    do all ye would be done to in the administration of justice to your
    neighbours and brethren, who are accused of their lives and
    heritages this day, whose judgment stands in your hands. Therefore
    beware in time, and open not the door that ye may not steik.' Be
    this Mr. Patrick had ended his speeches, the Chancellour bid him say
    something in defence of his brother, and to answer to the points of
    the summons made and raised upon his brother and the rest of the
    lords and barons. Then Mr. Patrick answered again and said: 'If it
    please the King's grace, and your honours that are here present, I
    say the King should not sit in judgment against his lords and
    barons, because he has made his oath of fidelity when he received
    the crown of Scotland that he should not come in judgment against
    his lords and barons in no action where he is partie himself. But
    here His Grace is both partie, and was at the committing of the
    crime himself, therefore he ought not, neither by the law of God nor
    of man, to sit in judgment at this time; wherefore we desire him, in
    the name of God, to rise and depart out of judgment, till the matter
    be further discussed conform to justice.'"

[Illustration: ST. ANTHONY'S CHAPEL]

This bold request apparently commended itself to the Parliament, for we
hear that the Chancellor and lords considered it reasonable, and the
King was accordingly desired "to rise up and pass into the inner
tolbooth, which," adds Pitscottie, "was very unpleasant to him for the
time, being ane young prince sittand upon his royall seat to be raised
by his subjects." Mr. Patrick so pressed his advantage after this
strange incident, and the argument of the young King's presence and
complicity in all that had happened was so unanswerable, added to some
inaccuracy in the indictment, of which the keen priest made the most,
that the summons was withdrawn, and Lindsay along with all the other
barons of his party would seem to have shared in the general amnesty, as
probably was the intention of all parties from the beginning. For the
victors, who were victors by a chance, were not powerful enough to carry
matters with a high hand, and their opponents, though overcome, were too
strong to be despised. It was better for all to gather round the new
King, who had no evil antecedents nor anything to prevent a new
beginning of the most hopeful kind. The scene ends with characteristic
liveliness. "The lord David Lindsay was so blyth at his brother's
sayings that he burst forth saying to him, 'Verrilie, brother, ye have
fine pyet words. I should not have trowed, by St. Amarie, that you had
sic words'"--an amusing tribute of half-scornful gratitude from the
soldier to the Churchman whose pyet or magpie words were so wonderfully
efficacious, yet so despicable in themselves, to change the fate of a
gentleman! It is grievous to find that the King was so displeased at Mr.
Patrick and his boldness that he sent him off to the Ross of Bute, and
kept him imprisoned in that solitary yet beautiful region for a whole

Notwithstanding, however, this little failure of respect to the
sovereign, and the dismal uncertainty and anxiety in which his reign
began, there seemed to be nothing but the happiest prospects opening
before the young King. Out of the miserable struggle which brought him
to the throne, he himself, most probably only awakened to the meaning of
it after all was over, brought a lifelong remorse which he never threw
off, and which was increased by the melancholy services of commemoration
and expiation, the masses for his father's soul and solemn funeral
ceremonials whether real or nominal, at all of which the youth would
have to be present with a sore and swelling heart. We are told that he
went and unburthened himself to the Dean of the Chapel Royal in
Stirling, his father's favourite church, which James III had built and
endowed, arranging the services and music with special personal care.
The Dean received his confession with kindness seeing him so penitent,
and gave him "good counsel and comfort," and remained his friend and
spiritual adviser as he grew into manhood; but we are not told whether
it was by his ordinance as a penance and constant reminder of his sin,
or by a voluntary mortification of his own, that James assumed the iron
belt which he wore always round him "and eikit it from time to time,"
that is, increased its size and weight as long as he lived. This
sensibility, which formed part of his chivalrous and generous character,
the noble, sweet, and lovable nature which conquered all hearts, at once
subdued and silenced his many critics, and furnished them with a
reproach which spite and ill-will could bring up against him when
occasion occurred. But the enemies were few and the lovers many who
surrounded the young Prince when the contentions of the crisis were once
over, and the warring factions conciliated by general condemnations in
principle which hurt nobody so long as they were not accompanied by
confiscations or deprivations. Such clemency in so young a king was a
marvel to all, the chroniclers say, though indeed there could be little
question of clemency on James's part in a mutual hushing-up, which was
evidently dictated by every circumstance of the time and the only source
of mutual safety.

When, however, he had arrived at man's estate, and makes a recognisable
and individual appearance upon the stage of history, the picture of him
is one of the most attractive ever made, the happiest and brightest
chapter in the tragic story of the Stewarts. Youth with that touch of
extravagance which becomes it, that genial wildness which all are so
ready to pardon, and an adventurous disposition, careless of personal
safety, gave a charm the more to the magnificent young King, handsome,
noble, brave, and full of universal friendliness and sympathy, who comes
forth smiling in the face of fate, ready to turn back every gloomy
augury and bring in another golden age. Pitscottie's description is full
of warmth and vivid reality:--

    "In this mean time was good peace and rest in Scotland and great
    love betwixt the King and all his subjects, and was well loved by
    them all: for he was verrie noble, and though the vice of
    covetousness rang over meikle in his father it rang not in himself:
    nor yet pykthankis nor cowards should be authorised in his companie,
    nor yet advanced; neither used he the council but of his lords,
    whereby he won the hearts of the whole nobilitie; so that he could
    ride out through any part of the realme, him alone, unknowing that
    he was King; and would lie in poor men's houses as he had been ane
    travellour through the country, and would require of them where he
    lodged, where the King was, and what ane man he was, and how he used
    himself towards his subjects, and what they spoke of him through the
    countrie. And they would answer him as they thought good, so by this
    doing the King heard the common bruit of himself. This Prince was
    wondrous hardie and diligent in execution of justice, and loved
    nothing so well as able men and horses; therefore at sundry times he
    would cause make proclamations through the land to all and sundry
    his lords and barons who were able for justing and tourney to come
    to Edinburgh to him, and there to exercise themselves for his
    pleasure, some to run with the spear, some to fight with the
    battle-axe, some with the two-handed sword, and some with the bow,
    and other exercises. By this means the King brought the realm to
    great manhood and honour: that the fame of his justing and tourney
    spread through all Europe, which caused many errant knights to come
    out of other parts to Scotland to seek justing, because they heard
    of the kinglie fame of the Prince of Scotland. But few or none of
    them passed away unmatched, and ofttimes overthrown."

The town to which, under this young and gallant Prince, the stream of
chivalry flowed, was yet more picturesque than the still and always
"romantic town" of which every Scotsman is proud. The Nor' Loch
reflected the steep rocks of the castle and the high crown of walls and
turrets that surmounted them, with nothing but fields and greenery, here
and there diversified by a village and fortified mansion between it and
the sea. The walls, which followed the irregularities of the rocky
ridge, as far as the beginning of the Canongate, were closed across the
High Street by the picturesque port and gateway of the Nether Bow, the
boundary in that direction of the town, shutting in all its busy life,
its markets, its crowding citizens, its shops and churches. On the south
at the foot of the hill, the burghers' suburb, where the merchants,
lawyers, and even some of the nobles had their houses and gardens, lay
outside the walls in the sunshine, protected only by the soft summits of
the Braid and Pentland hills: what is now the Cowgate, not a savoury
quarter, being then the South Side, the flowery and sheltered faubourg
in which all who could afford the freedom of a country residence while
still close to the town, expanded into larger life, as the wealthy
tradesfolk of all ages, and persons bound to a centre of occupation and
duty, always love to do. Towards the east, and gradually becoming as
important and busy as the High Street itself, though outside the series
of towers which guarded the city gate, lay the long line of the Court
suburb, the lofty and noble Canongate descending towards the abbey and
palace, where all that was splendid in Scotland congregated around the
gay and gallant King. Outside the Netherbow Port, striking out in
opposite directions, was the road which led to the seaport of Leith and
that which took its name from the great Kirk of Field, St. Mary's Wynd,
a pleasant walk along the outside of the fortifications to the great
monastery on its plateau, with the Pleasance, a name suggestive of all
freshness and greenery and rural pleasure, at its feet. Inside the town,
between the castle gates and those of the city, were the crowded
habitations of a mediæval town, the only place where business could be
carried on in safety, or rich wares exhibited, or money passed from hand
to hand. The Lawnmarket or Linen Market would be the chief centre of
sale and merchandise, and there, no doubt, the booths before the lower
stories, with all their merchandise displayed, and the salesmen seated
at the head of the few deep steps which led into the cavernous depths
within, would be full of fine dresses and jewellery, and the gold and
silver which, some one complains, was worn away by the fine workmanship,
which was then more prized than solid weight. The cloth of gold and
silver, the fine satins and velvets, the embroidery, more exquisite than
anything we have time or patience for now--embroidery of gold thread
which we hear of, an uncomfortable sort of luxury, even upon the linen
of great personages--would there be put forth and inspected by gallants
in all their fine array, or by the ladies in their veils, half or wholly
muffled from public inspection. Even the cheaper booths that adorned the
West Bow or smaller wynds, where the country women bought their kirtles
of red or green when they brought their produce to the market, would
show more gay colours under their shade in a season than we with our
soberer taste in years; and the town ladies, in their hoods and silk
gowns, which were permitted even in more primitive times to the
possessors of so much a year, must have been of themselves a fair sight
in all their ornaments, less veiled and muffled from profane view than
more high-born dames and demoiselles. No doubt it would be a favourite
walk with all to pass the port and see what was doing among the great
people down yonder at Holyrood, or watch a gay band of French knights
arriving from Leith with their pennons displayed, full of some challenge
lately given by the knights of Scotland, or eager to maintain on their
own account the beauty of their ladies and the strength of their spears
against all comers. Edinburgh can never have been so amusing, never so
gay and bright, as in these fine times; though, no doubt, there was
always the risk of a rush together of two parties of gallants, a mêlée
after the old mode of Clear the Causeway, a hurried shutting of shops
and pulling forth of halberds. For the younger population, at least, no
doubt these risks were almost the best part of the play.


Thus Edinburgh breasted its ridge of rock--a fair sight across all the
green country; its sentinel mountain crouching eastward between the
metropolis and the sea, its suburbs growing and expanding; this full of
the fine people of the Court, that of the quiet wealth and enjoyment
which made no extravagant demonstration. It had never been so
prosperous, never so much the centre of all that was splendid in the
kingdom, as in the reign of the fourth James--the knight of romance, the
gayest and brightest representative of the House of Stewart, though
unable to defend himself from the tragic fate which awaited every
sovereign of his name.

Among the finest sights seen in Edinburgh must have been those which
occurred very early in his reign, when the great Admiral, Sir Andrew
Wood, he who had met so proudly the inquisition of the lords, came from
sea with his prisoners and his spoils. Wood had not pleased the reigning
party by his rough fidelity to the dead King, but they could not induce
the other sea captains, by any promise of reward or advancement, to
attack and punish, as was their desire, the greatest sailor in Scotland.
And when an English expedition began to vex the Scottish coasts, there
was no one but Wood to encounter and defeat them, which he did on two
different occasions, bringing the captains of the rover
vessels--probably only half authorised by the astute King Henry VII, who
had evidently no desire to attack Scotland, but who had to permit a raid
from time to time as the most popular thing to do--as prisoners to the
courteous King, who though he "thanked Sir Andrew Wood greatly and
rewarded him richlie for his labours and great proof of his manhood,"
yet "propined (gave presents to) the English captain richlie and all his
men and sent them all safelie home, their ships and all their
furnishing, because they had shown themselves so stout and hardie
warriours." "So he sent them all back to the King of England," says the
chronicler, with full enjoyment of James's magnanimous brag and of thus
having the better of "the auld enemy" both in prowess and in courtesy,
"to let him understand he had as manlie men in Scotland as he had in
England; therefore desired him to send no more of his captains in time
coming." England was obliged to accept, it appeared, this bravado of the
Scots, having no excuse for repeating the experiment, but was
"discontented" and little pleased to be overcome both in courtesy and in

A more serious matter than this encounter at sea, which was really more
a trial of strength than anything else, was the purely chivalric
enterprise of James in taking up the cause of Perkin Warbeck, the
supposed Duke of York, who imposed upon all Europe for a time, and on
nobody so much as the King of Scotland. This adventurer, who was given
out as the younger son of Edward IV escaped by the relenting of the
murderers when his elder brother was killed in the Tower, was by
unanimous consent of all history a youth of person and manners quite
equal to his pretensions, playing his part of royal prince with a grace
and sincerity which nobody could resist. The grave Pinkerton, so
sarcastically superior to all fables, writing at the end of the
eighteenth century, had evidently not even then made up his mind how to
accept this remarkable personage, but speaks of him as "this unfortunate
prince or pretender," and of James as "sensible of the truth of his
report or misled by appearance," with an evident leaning to the side of
the hero who played so bold a game. The young adventurer came to James
with the most illustrious of guarantees. He brought letters from Charles
VIII of France, and from the Emperor Maximilian, and was followed by a
train of gallant Frenchmen and by everything that was princelike,
gracious, and splendid. So completely was he received and believed at
the Scottish Court that when there arose a mutual love, as the story
goes, between him and the Lady Catherine Gordon, daughter of the Earl of
Huntly, one of the most powerful peers in Scotland, and at the same time
of royal blood, a cousin of the King, the marriage seems to have been
accepted as a most fit and even splendid alliance. No greater pledge of
belief could have been given than this. The King of Scots threw himself
into the effort of establishing the supposed prince's claims as if they
had been his own. Curious negotiations were entered into as to what the
pretender should do if, by the help of Scotland, he was placed upon the
English throne. He was to cede Berwick, that always-coveted morsel which
had to change its allegiance from generation to generation as the
balance between the nations rose and fell--and pay a certain sum towards
defraying the expenses of the expedition, a bargain to which Perkin,
playing his part much better than any king of the theatre ever did
before, demurred, insisting upon easier terms--as he afterwards
remonstrated when James harried the Borders, declaring that he would
rather resign all hopes of the crown than secure it at the expense of
the blood and goods of his people. A pretended prince who thus spoke
might well be credited as far as faith could go. The story of this
strange enterprise is chiefly told in the letters to Henry VII of
England of Sir John Ramsay, the same who had been saved by James III
when the rest of his favourites were killed, and who had more or less
thriven since, though in evil ways, occupying a position at the Court of
James IV whom he hated, and acting as spy on his actions, which were all
reported to the English Court. Ramsay gives the English Government full
information of all that his sovereign is about to do on behalf of the
fengit (feigned) boy, and especially of the invasion of England which he
is about to undertake "against the minds of near the whole number of his
barons and people. Notwithstanding," Ramsay says, "this simple
wilfulness cannot be removed out of the King's mind for nae persuasion
or mean. I trust verrilie," adds the traitor, "that, God will, he be
punished by your mean for the cruel consent of the murder of his

Curiously enough Pitscottie, the most graphic and circumstantial of
historians, says nothing whatever of this most romantic episode. Why he
should have left it out, for it is impossible that it could have been
unknown to him, we are unable to imagine; but so it is. Buchanan however
enters fully into the tale. The wisest of James's counsellors, he tells
us, were disposed to have nothing to do with this spurious young prince
coming out of the unknown with his claim to be the rightful King of
England; but many more were in his favour, specially with the reflection
that the moment of England's difficulties was always one of advantage
for the Scots. An army was accordingly raised, with which James marched
into England, carrying Perkin with him with a train of about fourteen
hundred followers, and hopes that the country would rise to greet and
acknowledge their lost prince. But it is evident that the Northumbrians
looked on without any response, and saw in the expedition but one of the
many raids which they were always so ready to return on their side when
occasion offered. The pretender, on whose behalf all this was done,
shrank, it would appear, from the devastation, and with something like
the generous compunction of a prince protested that he would rather lose
the crown than gain it so--a protest which James must have thought a
piece of affectation, for he replied with a jeer that his companion was
too solicitous for the welfare of a country which would neither
acknowledge him as prince nor receive him as citizen. Perkin must have
begun to tire the patience of the finest gentleman in Christendom before
James would have made such a contemptuous retort. He returned with the
King, however, when this unsuccessful expedition--the only use of which
was that it proved to James the fruitlessness of fighting on behalf of a
pretender who had no hold upon the people over whom he claimed to
reign--came to an end. It was followed by some slight reprisals on the
part of the English, and after an interval by an embassy to make peace.
Henry VII would seem to have been at all times most unwilling to have
Scotland for an enemy, notwithstanding the strange motive suggested to
him by the traitor Ramsay. "Sir," writes this false Scot, "King Edward
had never fully the perfect love of his people till he had war with
Scotland; and he made sic good diligence and provision therein that to
this hour he is lovit; and your Grace may as well have as gude a tyme as
he had." But the cunning old potentate at Westminster was not moved even
by this argument. Instead of following the instructions of the virulent
spy whose hatred of his native king and country reaches the height of
passion, he sent a wise emissary, moderate like himself, the Bishop of
Durham, to inquire into the reasons of the attack.

And Edinburgh must have had another great sensational spectacle in the
arrival not only of the English commissioners, but of such a great
foreign personage as the Spanish envoy, one of the greatest grandees of
the most splendid of continental kingdoms, who had come to England to
negotiate the marriage of Catherine of Arragon with the Prince of Wales,
and who continued his journey to Scotland with letters of amity from his
sovereigns for James, and with the object of assisting in the
peacemaking between the two Kings. Henry required James to give up the
pretender into his hands--a thing which of course it was not consistent
with honour to do--but it was evident that the King of Scots had already
in his own mind given up the adventurer's cause. And after the
negotiations had been concluded and peace made between England and
Scotland, Perkin and his beautiful young wife and his train of followers
set sail from Scotland in a little flotilla of three ships, intending it
is said to go to Ireland, where he had been well received before coming
to the Court of James. The imagination follows with irrestrainable pity
the forlorn voyage of this youthful band of adventurers: the young
husband trained to all the manners and ways of thinking of a prince,
however little reality there might be in his claims; the young wife,
mild and fair, the White Rose as she was called, with the best blood of
Scotland in her veins; the few noble followers, knights, and a lady or
two who shared their fortunes, setting out vaguely to sea, not knowing
were to go, with the world before them where to choose. When they got to
Ireland Prince Perkin heard of an insurrection in Cornwall, and hastened
to put himself at the head of it, placing his wife for security in the
quaint fortress, among the waters, of St. Michael's Mount. But the
insurrection came to nothing, and "the unfortunate prince or adventurer"
was taken prisoner. He was pardoned it is said, but making a wild
attempt at insurrection again, was this time tried and executed. His
White Rose, most forlorn of ladies, was taken by King Henry from her
refuge at the end of the world, placed in charge of the Queen, and never
left the English Court again. There is no record that she and her
husband were ever allowed to meet. So ends one of the saddest and most
romantic of historical episodes.

This story takes up a large part of the early reign of James, who no
doubt saw his error at the last, but in the beginning threw himself into
Perkin's fortunes with characteristic impetuosity, and thought nothing
too good, not even his own fair kinswoman, for the rescued prince. It
was an error, however, that James shared with many high and mighty
potentates who gave their imprimatur at first to the adventurer's cause.
But even for the most genuine prince, when only a pretender, the
greatest sovereigns are but poor supporters in the long run. James had a
hundred things to do to make him forget that unfortunate adventure of
Perkin. It was in the year 1497 that this incident ended so far as the
Scottish Court was concerned, and James returned to the natural course
of his affairs, not without occasional tumults on the Border, but with
no serious fighting anywhere for a course of pleasant years. The old
traditional strife between the King and the nobles no longer tore the
kingdom asunder. Perhaps the first great event of his life, the waking
up of his boyish conscience to find himself in the camp of a faction
pitted against his own father, influenced him throughout everything, and
made the duty of conciliation and union seem the first and most
necessary; perhaps it was but the natural revulsion from those methods
which his father had adopted to his hurt and downfall; or perhaps
James's chivalrous temper, his love of magnificence and gaiety, made him
feel doubly the advantage of courtiers who should be great nobles and
his peers, not dependants made splendid by his bounty. At all events the
King lived as no Stewart had yet lived, surrounded by all without
exception who were most noble in the land, encouraging them to vie with
him in splendour, in noble exercises and pastimes, and almost, it may be
imagined--with a change of method, working by good example and genial
comradeship what his predecessors had vainly tried to do by fire and
sword--tempting them to emulate him also in preserving internal peace
and a certain reign of justice throughout the country. There was no lack
of barons in the Court of James. Angus and Home and Huntly, who had
pursued his father to the death and placed himself upon the throne, were
not turned into subservient courtiers by his gallantry and charm: but
neither was there any one of these proud lords in the ascendant, or any
withdrawn and sullen in his castle, taking no share in what was going
on. The machinery of the State worked as it had never done before. There
were few Parliaments, and not very much law-making. Enough laws had been
made under his predecessors, "if they had but been kept," to form an
ideal nation; the thing to do now was to charm, to persuade, to lead
both populace and nobility into respecting them. It would be vain to
imagine that this high purpose was always in James's mind, or that his
splendour and gaieties were part of a plan for the better regulation of
the kingdom. But that he was not without a wise policy in following his
own character and impulses, and that the spontaneous good-fellowship and
sympathy which his frank, genial, and easy nature called forth
everywhere were not of admirable effect in the welding together of the
nation, it would be unjust to say. If he had not the sterner nobility of
purpose which made the first of his name conceive and partially carry
into effect the ideal reign of justice which was the first want of his
kingdom, he had yet a noble ambition for Scotland to make her honoured
and feared and famous, and the success with which he seems to have
carried out this object of his life for many years was great. He made
the little northern kingdom known for a centre of chivalry, courtesy,
courage, and, what was more wonderful, magnificence, as it had never
been before. He penetrated that country with traditions and associations
of himself in the character always attractive to the imagination, of
that prince of good fellows, the wandering stranger, who came in unknown
and sought the hospitality of farmer or ploughman, and made the humble
board ring with wit and jest, and who thereafter was discovered by
sudden gift, or grace, or unexpected justice, to be the King:--

    "He took a bugle from his side, and blew both loud and shrill,
    And four and twenty belted knights came trooping owre the hill;"

    "Then he took out his little knife, let a' his duddies fa',
    And he was the brawest gentleman that was among them a'."

The goodman of Ballangeich,[3] the jovial and delightful Gaberlunzie,
the hero of many a homely ballad and adventure, some perhaps a trifle
over free, yet none involving any tragic treachery or betrayal, James
was the playfellow of his people, the Haroun al Raschid of Scotch
history. "By this doing the King heard the common brute (bruit) of
himself." Thus he won not only the confidence of the nobles but the
genial sympathy and kindness of the poor. A minstrel, a poet too in his
way a man curious about all handicrafts, famous in all exercises, "ane
singular good chirurgian, so that there was none of that profession if
they had any dangerous case in hand but would have craved his advice
"--he had every gift that was most likely to commend him to the people,
who were proud of a king so unlike other kings, the friend of all. And
nothing could exceed the activity of the young monarch, always occupied
for the glory of Scotland whatever he was doing. It was he who built the
great ship, the _Michael_, which was the greatest wonder ever seen in
the northern seas; a ship which took all the timber in Fife to build her
(the windswept Kingdom of Fife has never recovered that deprivation)
besides a great deal from Norway, with three hundred mariners to work
her, and carrying "ane thousand men of warre" within those solid sides,
which, all wooden as they were, could resist cannon shot. "This ship lay
in the road, and the King took great pleasure every day to come down and
see her," and would dine and sup in her, and show his lords all her
order and provisions; No doubt there were many curious parties from
Edinburgh who followed the King to see that new wonder, and that groups
would gather on the ramparts of the castle to point out on the shining
Firth the great and lofty vessel, rising like another castle out of the
depths. James had also the other splendid taste, which his unfortunate
father had shared, of building, and set in order the castle at Falkland
in the heart of the green and wealthy Fife--where there was great
hunting and coursing, and perhaps as yet not much high farming in those
days--and continued the adornments of Stirling, already so richly if
rudely decorated in the previous reign.

[3] This name and assumed character is generally supposed to belong to
James V: but all the accompanying circumstances seem to point so much
more to what is recorded of James IV, that I venture to attribute them
to him. If it is an error there is this, at least, to be said in favour
of it, that the story is as applicable to one as to the other monarch.

But Edinburgh was the centre of all the feasting and splendour which
distinguished his time. The lists were set before the castle gates, on
that lofty and breezy plateau where all the winds blow. Sometimes there
were bands of foreign chivalry breaking lances with the high Scottish
nobles according to all the stately laws of that mimic war; sometimes
warriors of other conditions, fighting Borderers or Highlanders, would
meet for an encounter of arms, ending in deadly earnest, which was not
discouraged, as we are told with grim humour, since it was again to the
realm to be disembarrassed of these champions at any cost, and the best
way was that they should kill each other amicably and have no rancour
against Justiciar or King. Among the foreign guests who visited James
was Bernard Stuart of Aubigny, Monsieur Derbine, as Pitscottie calls
him, the representative of a branch of the royal race which had settled
in France, whom James received, his kinsman being an old man, with even
more than his usual grace, making him the judge in all feats of chivalry
"at justing and tourney, and calling him father of warres, because he
was well practised in the same." Another of the visitors, Don Pedro
d'Ayala, the Spanish grandee who helped to conduct the quarrel over
Perkin Warbeck to a great issue, wrote to his royal master a description
of King James, which is highly interesting, and full of unconscious
prophecy. The Spaniard describes the young monarch at twenty-five as one
of the most accomplished and gallant of cavaliers, speaking Latin (very
well), French, German, Flemish, Italian, and Spanish; a good Christian
and Catholic, hearing two masses every morning; fond of priests--a
somewhat singular quality unless such jovial priests and boon-companions
as Dunbar, the poet-friar, were the subject of this preference; though
perhaps the seriousness which mingled with his jollity, the band of iron
under his silken vest, led him to seek by times the charm of graver
company, the mild and learned Gavin Douglas and other scholars in the
monasteries, where thought and learning had found refuge. The following
details, which are highly characteristic, bring him before us with
singular felicity, and, as afterwards turned out, with a curious
foreseeing of those points in him which brought about his tragical end.

    "Rarely even in joking a word escapes him which is not the truth. He
    prides himself much upon it, and says it does not seem to him well
    for kings to swear their treaties as they do now. The oath of a king
    should be his royal word as was the case in bygone ages. He is
    courageous even more than a king should be. I have seen him even
    undertake most dangerous things in the late wars. I sometimes clung
    to his skirts and succeeded in keeping him back. On such occasions
    he does not take the least care of himself. He is not a good
    captain, because he begins to fight before he has given his orders.
    He said to me that his subjects serve him with their persons and
    goods, in just or unjust quarrels, exactly as he likes; and that
    therefore he does not think it right to begin any warlike
    undertaking without being himself the first in danger. His deeds are
    as good as his words. For this reason, and because he is a very
    humane prince, he is much loved."

[Illustration: BAKEHOUSE CLOSE]

The perfect reason yet profound unreasonableness of this quality in
James, so fatally proved in his after history, is very finely
discriminated by the writer, who evidently had come under the spell of a
most attractive personality in this young sovereign, so natural and
manful, so generous and true. That James should acknowledge the penalty
of the fatal power he had to draw a whole nation into his quarrel, just
or unjust, by risking himself the first, is so entirely just according
to every rule of personal honour, yet so wildly foolish according to all
higher policy; exposing that very nation to evils so much greater than
the worst battle. Flodden was still far off in the darkness of the
unknown, but had this description been written after that catastrophe,
it could not more clearly have disclosed the motives and magnanimity but
tragic unwisdom of this prince of romance.

The Spaniard adds much praise of James's temperance, a virtue
indifferently practised by his subjects, and of his morality, which is
still more remarkable. The amours and intrigues of his youth, Don Pedro
informs his king, this young hero had entirely renounced, "or so at
least it is believed," partly "from fear of God, and partly from fear of
scandal," which latter "is thought very much of here"--a curious touch,
which would seem to indicate a magnificent indifference to public
opinion, not shared by the little northern Court, in the haughtier
circles of Madrid. The picture is perhaps a little flattered; and it is
hard to imagine how James could have picked up so many languages in the
course of what some writers call a neglected education, confined to
Scotland alone; but perhaps his father's fondness for clever artificers
and musicians may have made him familiar in his childhood with foreign
dependants, more amusing to a quick-witted boy than the familiar varlets
who had no tongue but "braid Scots." "The King speaks besides," says
Ayala, "the language of the savages who live in some parts of Scotland
and in the islands"; clearly in every sense of the word a man of endless
accomplishments and personal note, quite beyond the ordinary of kings.

At no time, according to unanimous testimony, had Scotland attained so
high a position of national wealth, comfort, and prosperity. The wild
Highlands had been more or less subdued by the forfeiture of the
traditionary Lord of the Isles, and the final subjection of that lawless
region, nominally at least, to the King's authority, and with every
precaution for the extension of justice and order to its farthest
limits. A navy had suddenly sprung into being, signalising itself in its
very birth by brilliant achievements and consisting of vessels few
indeed, but of exceptional size and splendour, as great for their time
as the great Italian ironclads are for this, and like them springing
from something of the bravado as well as for the real uses of a rapidly
growing power. And there had been peace, save for that little passage of
arms on account of Perkin Warbeck, throughout all the reign of
James--peace to which the warlike Scots seem to have accustomed
themselves very pleasantly, notwithstanding that on the one side of the
Border as on the other there was nothing so popular as war between the
neighbour nations; but the exploits of Sir Andrew Wood with his _Yellow
Carvel_, and the _Great Michael_ lying there proudly on the Firth, ready
to sweep the seas, afforded compensation for the postponement of other

It was in these circumstances that the negotiations for James's marriage
with the little Margaret, Princess Royal of England, and in every way,
as it turned out, a true Tudor, though then but an undeveloped child,
took place. The gallant young King, then seven or eight and twenty, in
the plenitude of his manhood, was not anxious for the bride of ten
persistently offered to him by her royal father; and the negotiations
lagged, and seemed to have gone on _à plusieurs reprises_ for several
years. But at length by the persistent efforts of Henry VII, who saw all
the advantages of the union, and no doubt also of councillors on the
Scots side, who felt that the continued prosperity of the country was
best secured by peace, it was brought about in 1504, when James must
have been just over thirty and Margaret was twelve--a very childish
bride, but probably precocious, and not too simple or ignorant, as
belonged to her violent Tudor blood. He "was married with her
solemnedlie by the advice of the nobilitie of England and Scotland, and
gatt great summes of money with her: and promise of peace and unity made
and ordained to stand between the two realms," says Pitscottie. The
great sums, however, seem problematical, as the dower of Margaret was
not a very large one, and the sacrifices made for her were
considerable--the town of Berwick being given up to England as one
preliminary step. The event, however, was one of incalculable importance
to both nations, securing as it did the eventual consolidation in one of
the realm of Great Britain, though nobody as yet foresaw that great
consequence that might follow. Along with the marriage treaty was made
one of perpetual peace between England and Scotland--a treaty indeed not
worth the paper it was written upon, yet probably giving comfort to some
sanguine spirits. Had the prudent old monarch remained on the throne of
England as long as James ruled in Scotland it might indeed never have
been broken; but Henry was already old, and his son as hot-headed as the
cousin and traditionary adversary now turned into a brother. Margaret
was conveyed into Scotland with the utmost pomp, and Edinburgh roused
itself and put on decorations like a bride to receive the little maiden,
so strangely young to be the centre of all these rejoicings: her lofty
houses covered with flutterings of tapestries and banners and every kind
of gay decoration, and her windows filled with bright faces, coifs, and
veils, and embroideries of gold that shone in the sun. The dress worn by
James, as he carried his young bride into Edinburgh seated on horseback
behind him, is fully described for the benefit of after ages. He wore a
jacket of cloth of gold bordered with purple velvet, over a doublet of
purple satin, showing at the neck the collar of a shirt embroidered with
pearls and gold, with scarlet hose to complete the resplendent costume.
At his marriage he wore a jacket of crimson satin over a doublet of
cloth of gold, with the same scarlet hose, and a gown of white damask
brocaded with gold over all. No doubt the ladies were not behind in this
contest of brave apparel. Grey Edinburgh, accustomed this long time to
the dull tones of modern habiliments, sparkled and shone in those days
of finery and splendour. The streets were meant for such fine shows; its
stairheads and strong deep doorways to relieve the glories of sweet
colour, plumes, and jewels. When the lists were set on the summit of the
hill, the gates thrown up, the garrison in their steel caps and
breastplates lining the bars, and perhaps the King himself tilting in
the mêlée, while all the ladies were throned in their galleries like
banks of flowers, what a magnificent spectacle! The half-empty streets
below still humming with groups of gazers not able to squeeze among the
throngs about the bars, but waiting the return of the splendid
procession: and more and more banners and tapestries and guards of
honour shining through the wide open gates of the port all the way down
to Holyrood. There was nothing but holiday-making and pleasure while the
feasting lasted and the bridal board was yet spread.

While this heydey of life lasted and all was bright around and about the
chivalrous James, there was a certain suitor of his Court, a merry and
reckless priest, more daring in words and admixtures of the sacred and
the profane than any mere layman would venture to be, whose familiar and
often repeated addresses to the King afford us many glimpses into the
royal surroundings and ways of living, as also many pictures of the
noisy and cheerful mediæval town which was the centre of pleasures, of
wit and gay conversation, and all that was delightful in Scotland.
Dunbar's title of fame is not so light as this. He was one of the
greatest of the followers of Chaucer, a master of melody, in some points
scarcely inferior to the master himself whose praise he celebrates as

          "Of oure Inglisch all the light
    Surmounting every tong terrestrial
      Alls far as Mayis morrow dois mydnyght."

But it is unnecessary here to discuss the "Thrissil and the Rois," the
fine music of the epithalamium with which he celebrated the coming of
Margaret Tudor into Scotland, or the more visionary splendour of the
"Golden Targe." The poet himself was not so dignified or harmonious as
his verse. He possessed the large open-air relish of life, the broad
humour, sometimes verging on coarseness, which from the time of James I.
to that of Burns has been so singularly characteristic of Scots poetry:
and found no scene of contemporary life too humble or too ludicrous for
his genius--thus his more familiar poems are better for our purpose than
his loftier productions, and show us the life and fashion of his town
and time better than anything else can do. This is one, for example, in
which he upbraids "the merchantis of renown" for allowing "Edinburgh
their nobil town" to remain in the state in which he describes it:--

    "May nane pass through your principall gates
    For stink of haddocks and of skates,
    For cryin' of carlines and debates,
    For fensome flytings of defame.
          Think ye not shame
    Before strangers of all estates
    That sic dishonour hurt your name?

    "Your stinkand schule that standis dirk
    Halds the light from your Parroche Kirk,
    Your forestairs makis your houses mirk
    Like na country but here at hame
          Think ye not shame,
    Sa little policie to work
    In hurt and sklander of your name?

    "At your hie Croce, where gold and silk
    Should be, there is but curds and milk,
    And at your Tron but cokill and wilk,
    Pansches, puddings, of Jok and Jame.
          Think ye not shame
    Kin as the world sayis that ilk
    In hurt and sklander of your name?"

Thus old Edinburgh rises before us, beautiful and brave as she is no
longer, yet thronged about the Netherbow Port, and up towards the Tron,
the weighing-place and centre of city life, with fishwives and their
stalls, with rough booths for the sale of rougher food, and with country
lasses singing curds and whey, as they still did when Allan Ramsay
nearly four hundred years after succeeded Dunbar as laureate of
Edinburgh. Notwithstanding, however, these defects the Scottish capital
continued to be the home of all delights to the poet-priest. When his
King was absent at Stirling, Dunbar in the pity of his heart sang an
(exceedingly profane) litany for the exile that he might be brought
back, prefacing it by the following compassionate strain:--

    "We that are here in Hevinis glory
    To you that are in Purgatory
    Commendis us on our hairtly wyiss,
    I mean we folk in Paradyis,
    In Edinburgh with all merriness
    To you in Strivilling in distress,
    Where neither pleasance nor delyt is,
    For pity thus ane Apostle wrytis.

    "O ye Heremeitis and Hankersaidillis
    That takis your penance at your tabillis,
    And eitis nocht meit restorative
    Nor drinkis no wyne comfortative
    Bot aill, and that is thyn and small,
    With few courses into your hall;
    But (without) company of lordis or knights
    Or any other goodly wightis,
    Solitar walkand your allone
    Seeing no thing but stok and stone,
    Out of your powerfull Purgatory
    To bring you to the bliss of glory
    Of Edinburgh the merry toun,
    We sall begin ane cairfull soun,
    And Dirige devout and meik
    The Lord of bliss doing besiek
    You to delyvre out of your noy
    And bring you soon to Edinburgh joy,
    For to be merry among us,
    And so the Dirige begynis thus."

Many are the poet's addresses to the King in happier circumstances when
James is at home and in full enjoyment of these joys of Edinburgh. His
prayers for a benefice are sometimes grave and sometimes comic, but
never-failing. He describes solicitors (or suitors) at Court, all
pushing their fortune. "Some singis, some dancis, some tells storyis."
Some try to make friends by their devotion, some have their private
advocates in the King's chamber, some flatter, some play the fool--

    "My simpleness among the lave
    Wist of na way so God me save,
    But with ane humble cheer and face
    Referris me to the Kyngis grace,
    Methinks his gracious countenance
    In ryches is my sufficence."

Not always so patient, however, he jogs James's memory with a hundred
remedies. "God gif ye war Johne Thomsounis man!" he cries with rueful
glee through a lively set of verses--

    "For war it so than weill were me
    Bot (without) benefice I wald not be;
    My hard fortune war endit then
        God gif ye war Johne Thomsounis man!"

John Thomson's man was, according to the popular saying, a man who did
as his wife told him; and Dunbar was strong in the Queen's favour.
Therefore happy had been his fate had James been of this character. We
cannot, however, follow the poet through all his pleadings and witty
appeals and remonstrances, until at last in despairing jest he commends
"the gray horse Auld Dunbar" to his Majesty, and draws or seems to draw
at last a consolatory reply, which is thus recorded at the end of the
poem under the title of "Responsio Regis."

    "Efter our writtingis, Treasurer
    Tak in this gray horse, Auld Dunbar,
    Which in my aucht with service trew
    In lyart changit is his heu.
    Gar house him now against this Yuill
    And busk him like ane Bischoppis muill,
    For with my hand I have indorst
    To pay whatever his trappouris cost."

Whether this response was really from James's hand or was but another
wile of the eager suitor it is impossible to tell: but he did eventually
have a pension granted him of twenty pounds Scots a year, until such
time as a benefice of at least fifty pounds should fall to him; so that
he was kept in hope. After this Dunbar tunes forth a song of welcome to
"his ain Lord Thesaurair," in which terror at this functionary's
inopportune absence--since quarterday we may suppose--is lost in
gratulations over his return. "Welcome," he cries--

    "Welcome my benefice and my rent
    And all the lyflett to me lent,
    Welcome my pension most preclair,
          Welcome my awin Lord Thesaurair."

Thus the reckless and jolly priest carols. A little while after he has
received his money he sings "to the Lordes of the King's Chacker," or

    "I cannot tell you how it is spendit,
    But weel I wat that it is ended."

These peculiarities, however, it need not be said do not belong entirely
to the sixteenth century. The reader will find a great deal of beautiful
poetry among the works of Dunbar. These lighter verses serve our purpose
in showing once more how perennial has been this vein of humorous
criticism, and frank fun and satire, in Scotland, in all ages, and in
throwing also a broad and amusing gleam of light upon Edinburgh in the
early fifteen hundreds, the gayest and most splendid moment perhaps of
her long history.

All these splendours, however, were hard to keep up, and though
Edinburgh and Scotland throve, the King's finances after a while seem to
have begun to fail, and there was great talk of a pilgrimage to the Holy
Land--it is supposed by the historians as a measure of securing that the
King might not have the uncomfortable alternative of cutting short his
splendours at home. This purpose, if it was gravely entertained at all,
and not one of the proposals of change with which, when need comes, the
impecunious of all classes and ages amuse themselves to put off actual
retrenchment, never came to anything. And very soon there arose
complications of various natures which threw all Christendom into an
uproar. Henry VIII, young, arrogant, and hot-headed, succeeded his
prudent father in England, and the treaty with the Scots which made, or
seemed to make, England safe on the Borders, gave the English greater
freedom in dealing with the other hereditary foe on the opposite side of
the Channel; while France on her side began to use all possible efforts
to draw from the English alliance the faithful Scots, who had always
been the means of a possible diversion, always ready to carry fire and
flame across the Border, and call back the warring English to look after
their own affairs. James, with perhaps his head slightly turned by his
own magnificence and the prosperity that had attended him since the
beginning of his career, seemed to have imagined that he was important
enough to play the part of peacemaker among the nations of Europe. And
there are many embassies recorded of a bustling bishop, Andrew Forman,
who seems for some time to have pervaded Christendom, now at Rome, now
at Paris, now in London, with various confused negotiations. It was a
learned age, and the King himself, as has been seen, had very
respectable pretensions in this way; but that there was another side to
the picture, and that notwithstanding the translator of Virgil, the
three Universities now established in Scotland, and many men of science
and knowledge both in the priesthood and out of it, there remained a
strong body of ignorance and rudeness, even among the dignified clergy
of the time, the following story, which Pitscottie tells with much
humour of Bishop Forman, James's chosen diplomatist, will show.

    "This bishop made ane banquet to the Pope and all his cardinals in
    one of the Pope's own palaces, and when they were all set according
    to their custom, that he who ought (owned) the house for the time
    should say the grace, and he was not ane good scholar, nor had not
    good Latin, but begane ruchlie in the Scottise fashione, saying
    Benedicite, believing that they should have said Dominus, but they
    answered Deus in the Italian fashioun, which put the bishop by his
    intendment (beyond his understanding), that he wist not well how to
    proceed fordward but happened in good Scottis in this manner,
    saying, what they understood not, 'The devil I give you all false
    cardinals to, in nomine Patris, Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, Amen.'
    Then all the bishop's men leuch, and all the cardinals themselves;
    and the Pope inquired whereat they leuch, and the bishop showed that
    he was not ane good clerk, and that the cardinals had put him by his
    text and intendment, therefore he gave them all to the devil in good
    Scottis, whereat the Pope himself leuch verrie earnestlie."

This did not prevent his Holiness, probably delighted with such a racy
visitor, from making Forman Legate of Scotland; and it is to be feared
that the meddling diplomatist with his want of education, was perhaps a
better example of the clergy of Scotland, who about this time began to
be the mark of all assailants as illiterate, greedy, vicious, and
rapacious, than such a gentle soul as the other poet of the age,
afterwards bishop of Dunkeld, the one mild and tranquil possessor of the
great Douglas name.

[Illustration: WHITE HORSE CLOSE]

The imbroglio of events into which it is unnecessary for us to enter
grew more and more complicated year by year, until at length it came to
be a struggle between France and England for the ally who could be of
most assistance to the one in the special way of injuring the other, and
whom it was of the first advantage to both to secure. James was bound by
the treaty of permanent peace which he had made at his marriage, and by
that marriage itself, and no doubt the strong inclination of his wife,
to England; but he was bound to France by a traditionary bond of a much
stronger kind, by the memory of long friendship and alliance, and the
persistent policy of his kingdom and race. The question was modified
besides by other circumstances. England was, as she had but too often
been, but never before in James's experience--harsh, overbearing, and
unresponsive: while France, as was also her wont, was tender,
flattering, and pertinacious. Henry refused or delayed to pay Queen
Margaret a legacy of jewels and plate left to her by her father, and at
the same time protected certain Borderers who had murdered a Scottish
knight, and defended them against justice and James, while still
summoning him to keep his word and treaty in respect to England; while
on the other hand not only the King but the Queen of France appealed to
James, he as to an ancient ally, she as to her sworn knight, to break
that artificial alliance with his haughty brother-in-law. It may well
have been that James in his own private soul had no more desire for such
a tremendous step than the nobles who struggled to the last against it.
But he had _les défauts de ses qualités_ in a high degree. He was
nothing if not a knight of romance. And though, as the poet has said--

    "His own Queen Margaret, who in Lithgow's bower
    All silent sat, and wept the weary hour,"

might be more to him than the politic Anne of France, or any fair lady
in his route, it was not in him, a paladin of chivalry, the finest of
fine gentlemen, the knight-errant of Christendom, to withstand a lady's
appeal. Perhaps, besides, he was weary of his inaction, the only prince
in Europe who was not inevitably involved in the fray; weary of holding
tourneys and building ships (some of which had been lately taken by the
English, turning the tables upon him) and keeping quiet, indulging in
the inglorious arts of peace, while everybody else was taking the field.
And Henry was arrogant and exasperating, so that even his own sister was
at the end of her brief Tudor patience; and Louis was flattering,
caressing, eloquent. When that last embassage of chivalry came with the
ring from Anne's own finger, and the charge to ride three miles on
English ground for her honour, it was the climax of many arguments. "He
loves war," the Spaniard had said. "War is profitable to him and to the
country"--a curious and pregnant saying. James would seem to have
struggled at least a little against all the impulses which were pushing
him forward to his doom. He promised a fleet to his lady in France for
her aid--a fleet foolishly if not treacherously handled by Arran, and
altogether diverted from its intended end; finally, that having failed,
James flung away all precaution and yielded to the tide of many
influences which was carrying him away.

It is needless to tell over again the tale that everybody knows: how
both heaven and hell were stirred by this ill-omened undertaking; how an
aged saint, venerable and stately, suddenly appeared out of the crowd
when the King was at his prayers in the Cathedral of Linlithgow, with a
message from on high; and how when James had gone back to Holyrood, the
High Street of Edinburgh resounded in the dead of night with trumpet
note and herald's call from the grim Hades of mediæval imagination,
summoning by name a long list of the Scottish nobility, of whom one man
defied the portent and refused the call and was saved. James paid no
heed to these warnings, whether supernatural or otherwise, or perhaps
was too far committed to give any heed to them, carried away by the wild
and fatal stream which had caught his feet, with something of that
extraordinary impetus of natural tendency long restrained which acts
with tenfold force when at last yielded to. It is unnecessary either to
tell the story of all the foolish fatal lingerings upon the ill-omened
way: trifling with treacherous ladies for whom he cared nothing, cartels
from Surrey; the abandonment of a strong position, lest it should give
him an advantage, in ever greater and greater folly of chivalry: the
refusal to attack, or let his artillery attack, till his foes were all
safely over the bridge: all exhibitions of high honour gone mad with the
intoxication of fate. The Spaniard's letter comes back in full
significance as we watch with aching hearts the fatal fray. "He said to
me that his subjects serve him with their persons and goods, in just or
unjust quarrels, exactly as he wishes, and that therefore he does not
think it right to begin any warlike undertaking without being himself
the first in danger." The knight-errant kept his _consigne_ of honour to
the last. He betrayed his people to the most utter defeat they had ever
encountered, but he was himself the first victim.

Thus died the only Stewart king who ever seemed to have a fair prospect
of escaping the fate of his unfortunate race. The worm in his
conscience, the iron belt round his body, were perhaps only symptoms of
a susceptible nature, of remorse which was excessive for the bewildered
acquiescence in rebellion of an unawakened mind and an irresponsible
age. And his life, if soiled by errors which were then and are now but
lightly thought of in a prince, was in all public matters noble,
honourable, and enlightened, with always the advantage of his country
for its aim, even in the midst of the natural gaieties and extravagances
of a happy temper and exuberant energy. He was extravagant,
light-hearted, a lover of magnificence and display, all of which things,
in the face of the political economist, sometimes prove themselves
excellent for a country when the moment comes to press it forward into
the ranks of high civilisation out of a ruder and more primitive
development. The nobility with which his father struggled to the death
he held in a leash of silk or of gold, often making them the instruments
of the justice which they had so long resisted. There was peace in his
time such as had never before been in Scotland, and redress of
grievances, and extinction or suppression of mortal feuds and intestine
struggles. It is sometimes given to a man in all light-heartedness, in
what seems the spontaneous way of his own impulses and pleasures, to do
what is best for his surroundings and his time, without any apparent
strain of self sacrifice or gravity of duty. James Stewart, the fourth
of his name, was one of these happy and beautiful natures: and though
his life was one of almost unbroken prosperity and brightness, yet no
man can say that his stewardry was not nobly held, and to the benefit of
his kingdom and people. But not for this was the doom to pass by. The
brightness and the prosperity came to an end in a sudden folly,
infatuation, and madness, which belonged to him as his sunny nature did
and his generosity of heart. And it was no evil chance, but the
principle of his life, as we have seen, that in the calamity into which
he drew his people he himself should be the first to fall.



The course of Scottish history during the fifteenth and beginning of the
sixteenth century is like that of a ship on a long voyage, full of
vicissitudes and adventures. The little barque amid all the wild
commotions of the sea, sometimes driven before the wind, sometimes
stripped of every rag of canvas, sometimes beating helpless in the
trough of the waves, rights herself when the storm is over, repairs her
masts, re-strings her cordage, puts forth again sail after sail; and
with a sure hand at the helm and a moderate breeze in her canvas, rises
white and strong against the blueness of sea and sky, triumphant over
all the assaults of external nature, animated by human will and courage,
the most indomitable of all created things, and affording perhaps the
best example of the survival and unconquerable power of these masters of
the world: till again there arises in the heavens another hurricane,
furious, ungovernable, rousing the sea to madness, striking once more
the canvas from the yards, the masts from the deck, and leaving a mere
hulk at the mercy of the waves which rush on her and over her with the
wild rage of beasts of prey. Again and again these storms overtook the
vessel of the State in Scotland, returning after every period of calm,
after every recovery of authority, as wild, as tumultuous, as
destructive as ever. Again and again they were overcome, the power of
resistance restored, the equilibrium regained, only to fall once more
into the raging of the elements. Each successive king, with perhaps one
exception, had seized the helm as soon as his hand was fit for the
strain, or even before it was strong enough for that office, and had
gallantly brought the ship round and re-established the reign of a
rational will and a certain unity of command over all the forces of the
storms; but when he fell, left the helpless vessel again to be balloted
about by all the winds of Fate.

[Illustration: SALISBURY CRAGS]

This was the case almost more wildly than ever when the fourth James
Stewart died at Flodden. The heir, the helpless infant prince, was not
two years old, and the flower of Scotland had been slain with their
king. The mature warriors and statesmen, the wise counsellors, the men
to whom the country might have looked in such an interregnum, were all
gone. There remained only Churchmen and boys in the devastated country,
a passionate English queen of Tudor blood, and no settled centre of
government or reorganised power. Such lords as were left assembled
hastily for that pathetic oft-repeated ceremony, the crowning of the
child, taken out of his cradle to have the fatal circlet put upon his
head--and committed some sort of regency, such as it was, to the Queen.
And after a moment in which the country was paralysed with woe and every
house full of mourning, Scotland plunged once more into the angry waves,
among the lions of ever-recurring anarchy and strife.

Nothing in all this turbulent and terrible history has ever been so
tragic as Flodden. The nation which had lost the very flower and
strength of its fighting men, its defenders and champions, the families
which had lost their chiefs, their breadwinners--often father and son
together, the master and his heir--were struck dumb with dismay and
anguish. It was only a long time after, when despair had sunk into a
softened recollection, that it was possible even to breathe forth that
wail over the Flowers of the Forest which all Scotland knows. In the
first shock of such an appalling event there is no place for elegy.
There was a broken cry of anguish throughout the country, echoed from
castle and cottage, where the poor women clung together, mistress and
maid equal in the flood of common loss: and there was at the same time a
strained and terrible rallying of all the poor defenders left, the old
men and rusty arms, those of every house upon the Border and every town
upon the road who had been left behind, to meet as well as they could
the no doubt inevitable march of the conquering English army, which
everybody felt sure must follow. When the news reached Edinburgh the
magistrates of the town put forth a proclamation calling upon the
inhabitants to prepare for the defence of the capital, and forbidding
the women--a most significant and heartrending order, perhaps unique in
public documents--to spread dismay through the streets by their crying
and lamentations. The condition into which the community must have
fallen when this became a public danger it is unnecessary to remark
upon. The wail that sounded through all the country must have risen to a
passionate pitch in those crowded streets, where the gates were closed
and all the defences set, and nothing looked for but the approach of the
victorious English with swords still dripping with Scottish blood. While
Edinburgh waited breathless for this possible attack an extension of the
existing wall was begun to defend the southern suburb, then semi-rural,
containing the country-houses of the wealthy burghers and lawyers, the
great convent of the Greyfriars, that of St. Mary in the Field, and many
other monastic houses. This additional wall greatly increased the
breadth of the _enceinte_, which now included a considerable space of
embowered and luxuriant fields on the south side. It was called the
Flodden Wall, and kept the memory of that great catastrophe and disaster
before the minds of the citizens for many a day.

But for some reason or other the English army which had cut Scotland to
pieces at Flodden went no farther. The victory was no doubt a very
costly one, and perhaps Henry VIII did not wish to drive the kingdom of
which his sister would now be Regent to extremity, or do anything more
to increase the desperate hostility of a country which was capable of
giving him so much trouble. At all events Surrey's army was disbanded,
and Scotland was left to resume her struggle within herself: which
proved the wildest and most miserable turmoil and anarchy which her
troubled records had yet known.

It would be at once hopeless and unnecessary to enter into any sketch of
the endless tumults of this time of distress. There was a momentary lull
in which, though all the old personal feuds arose again, the poor little
King and his mother were left undisturbed--she in possession of a
regency more or less nominal, and in a state of health which must have
subdued her activities, for her second son was not born till several
months after her husband's death. But this child was only a few months
old when Margaret, young, beautiful, impassioned, and impetuous,
compromised her position by a sudden marriage with the young Earl of
Angus--still almost a boy, and with nothing but his good looks to
recommend him--an event which at once aroused all sleeping enmities and
precipitated the usual struggle for the possession of the infant king. I
will attempt nothing but an indication of one or two scenes in Edinburgh
which took place during this struggle. Undeterred by the evil
associations which surrounded that name, the Scottish lords bethought
themselves of the French Duke of Albany, the nearest member of the royal
family, the son of that duke who had been the terror of James III, who
had conspired with England, and who finally had established himself in
France and died there. His son was a French subject, the son of a French
mother, inheriting through her great estates in France and a position
which was little inferior in dignity, and much superior in comfort, to
that of the harassed monarch of a most turbulent kingdom. But he was
James Stewart, the nearest in blood to the crown, and his name seems,
temporarily at least, to have united all parties, even the Queen, though
his presence was fatal to her claims of regency, receiving him with
courtesy and an apparent welcome. He had not been many months, however,
in Scotland before, with the sanction of his council, he claimed from
Margaret the possession of the King and his brother--sending four peers,
appointed guardians, to the castle, to receive the children. It was in
July 1515, two years after Flodden, when no doubt Edinburgh had regained
that common cheerfulness and bustle of a great town which is so little
interrupted even by the gravest public events. The deputation with their
attendants proceeded from the Canongate, where they had been sitting in
assembly, through the Netherbow Port and the bustling crowded High
Street, to the castle, no doubt gathering with them on their way all the
eager crowd which could free itself from shop or booth, all the
passers-by in the streets, a continually-increasing throng. Who the four
lords were we are not told. The whole incident is recorded in a letter
of Lord Dacre to the English Council. No doubt he had his information
either from the Queen herself or from members of her household. Of the
four men chosen by Albany the Queen was at liberty to reject one, and no
doubt they were men of weight and gravity, probably not unworthy of the

It is not difficult to realise the flying rumour which would go like the
wind before them announcing their errand, and how windows and doorways
and stairheads would fill with eager spectators, and all the moving
population would press up the hill after them to see what was to be
seen. The high houses full on every story of eager heads thrust forth,
relieving with unintentional yet lively decoration the many-windowed
fronts, the shopkeepers crowding at their doors or seizing cap and
halberd to follow, the hum and excitement of the roused town, surround
the envoys like the background of a picture. Most probably they went on
foot, the distance being so short, preceded by a glittering herald and
pursuivant--perhaps David Lindsay, who can tell? still too young to wear
the Lion of Scotland on his tabard, but keen and curious to see this
scene--he who had seen the envoy of heaven in Linlithgow Church and so
many other wonderful things. The crowd surged upwards, keeping a
respectful space in the midst for the lords with their train, and filled
with colour and movement and the murmuring of numbers that great square
before the castle gates which had held the same excited throng so often.
And before the heralds could summon the wardens or demand entrance in
the name of the Regent, the great gates rolled back, and all who were
near enough to see gazed in amazement at such a group in the gateway as
must have filled many eyes with tears, and which gave at once the most
astonishing climax to that wonderful picture. There Margaret stood, a
young woman of twenty-five, not a noble type of beauty, perhaps, but
with the fresh and florid Tudor good looks, and no doubt the imperious
Tudor port imposing to the crowd, with her child in his little cloak and
plumed bonnet, four years old, holding her hand. Among her little troop
of attendants, the ladies of her subdued Court, and the cluster of
cavaliers who surrounded her young husband, there might well be another
name of gentler fame--the then Provost of St. Giles, Gawin Douglas, poet
and statesman, who was her counsellor and the negotiator of her many
troubled affairs. But in this emergency it was the Queen herself who
bade the startled lords stand and deliver their message. They stepped
forward in some confusion, one would guess, not having calculated upon
this sudden encounter with such an unexpected champion, difficult to
silence--not only a queen with all the prestige both real and
sentimental which surrounds such a position, but also a mother whose
children were threatened. When they had finished their explanation, the
crowd looking on, no doubt impatient of the pause and of the voices that
could not reach their ears, Margaret stepped back and bade her
attendants quickly to let down the portcullis. They must have been
stationed ready with the intention, and no doubt the lords had no
attendants with them who could have hindered any such step or forced an
entrance. While the people looked on wondering, the iron bars came
crashing down, and in a moment the Queen and her child were safe though
visible within. Then Margaret addressed through that iron trellis the
astonished deputation. She told them that she was the guardian of the
castle, enfeoffed in it by her royal husband, and not minded to yield it
to any man, but that she respected the Parliament and country, and would
take six days to consider the demand made to her. The lords left outside
had no alternative but to turn and go back, not we may be sure without a
chorus of commentaries from the lively crowd, ever quick to note the
discomfiture of its masters, and delighted with such a novel sensation:
though the grave burghers would shake their heads at the boldness of the
Englishwoman who had so confronted the Scots lords in their own city.

The Queen transferred herself and her children to Stirling before the
six days had expired, but, as might be supposed, her little triumph was
short-lived. Her boyish husband had already shown signs of deserting
her, and probably enough her fancy for him was as short-lived as those
other ephemeral and still more tragical passions which her brother had
scarcely yet begun to indulge. The excuse which the Regent and his
council put forth for taking the infant King from his mother was partly
her second marriage, and partly a supposed plan for carrying off the two
children to England, which did actually exist, King Henry being, as a
matter of fact, their nearest of kin and most powerful possible
guardian, though one who would have been vehemently rejected by all
Scotland: while on the other hand the little James was as yet the most
likely heir to the English crown. But this scheme had been opposed both
by the Queen herself--whose statement that had she been a woman of
humble condition she might have taken her children in her arms and gone
unknown to her brother, but that, being a queen, she could not move
anywhere without observation, is full of homely and natural dignity--and
by Gawin Douglas, who repeats the same objection. Margaret, however, did
not long continue to identify herself with the Douglases. The conduct of
Angus gave her full reason for offence, if, perhaps, she was not
altogether guiltless on her side; and they were in a state of absolute
estrangement when the calling of a Parliament early in the year 1520
brought Angus to Edinburgh, where with his party he had been sometimes
master and sometimes proscribed man in the innumerable variations of
politics or rather of personal quarrels and intrigues. Albany had by
this time returned to France without however resigning his regency, and
authority was more or less represented by the Earl of Arran, who was at
the head of the opposite faction. The party of Arran were in possession
of Edinburgh and of the little King, now eight years old, who was in the
castle under charge of the peers who had been appointed his guardians,
when Angus reappeared. Queen Margaret amid all these tumults, finding
little encouragement from her brother, who was much more intent on
securing a party in Scotland than on consulting her wishes, had also
chosen to reside near her boy in the comparative safety of that
stronghold. Accordingly when Earl Angus came to attend the Parliament he
was confronted by his adversaries in possession of the town and of the
castle, with his wife, the most violent adversary of all, in the
fortress shut up from his access or approach. He was accompanied,
Pitscottie tells us, "with all his kin and friends to the number of five
hundred spears, weill accompanied and arrayed." But the city was
hostile, and perhaps something in the sombre air of all about awakened
the suspicions of the Douglases, especially as the gates were hastily
shut behind them and more than usual precautions taken. Awakened thus to
a sense of alarm, the threatened party sent scouts out into the streets
during the night, to find out what mischief was brewing. While the
humbler spies pursued their inquiries by wynd and changehouse, Maister
Gawin Douglas, the bishop, went out to see what he could discover of the
real state of affairs--if it was true that the westland lords had held a
secret meeting and resolved that Angus should not leave Edinburgh now
that he had put himself in their power--and "if he could find any gude
way betwixt the two parties." In pursuance of this anxious quest he went
in search of Archbishop James Beatoun, his brother of St. Andrews, whom
he found in the church of the Black Friars, assisting, it is to be
presumed, at some evening service.

    "The said Mr. Gawin desired him to take some pains to labour betwixt
    this two parties which was at ane sharp point, and meaning little
    less than that the bishop had most part the wyte (blame) thereof.
    But the bishop assured him again with ane oath, chopping on his
    breast, saying, 'By my conscience, my lord, I know not the matter.'
    But when Mr. Gawin heard the bishop's purgation, and chopping on his
    breast, and perceived the plates of his jack clattering, he thought
    the bishop deceaved him, so Mr. Gawin said to him, 'My lord, your
    conscience is not good, for I hear it clattering.'"


After all these advertisements--the bishop's secret coat of mail, the
angry discussion between two Hamiltons in the very presence of Arran the
head of the house, when he was himself willing to grant licence to Angus
"to speak with the Queen's Grace and thereafter depart out of the
town"--and all the lesser evidences of danger and conspiracy, the Earl
and his band prepared themselves for the worst. "This young lord haisted
him to his armour, and caused his friends and servants to do the same,
and went right peartlie to the gate, and stood above the Nether Bow in
arrayed battle." The other party, when they were made aware that the
Douglases were standing on their defence, came rushing together from
kirk and market, hastily assembling without discipline or order, to find
the little mail-clad line arranged in the strongest way against the
background of the houses, where, no doubt, every shopkeeper had rushed
to his bolts and bars, and every door clanged to in view of the sudden
tumult. Sir Walter has given us in _The Abbot_ a glimpse more
picturesque and graphic than any we can attempt, of the sudden scuffle
in the street between two passing groups, the armed attendants more
dangerous and less prudent than their masters, whose strife as to which
was to hold the centre of the street was enough to produce at once an
encounter of arms ending in blood, and death for some of the band. The
struggle known by the name of "Clear the Causeway" was more important,
yet of a similar kind. Angus and his five hundred spears--in reality a
much greater number since each spear was accompanied by certain
men-at-arms--had much the advantage of the other party, hurriedly roused
from their occupations, who had expected to make an easy end of the
Douglases, thus betrayed into a sort of ambush in a hostile city, where
no man would lift a hand to help them. But the tables were completely
turned upon the Hamiltons and their supporters, when rushing "out of
their lodging rudlie to the gait in ane furious rage," the peaceable
driven forward by the taunts of the others, they found Angus and his
spears in full array of battle. "When the Earl of Angus saw them coming,
and perceaved Sir Patrick Hamilton foremost, and with him the Maister of
Montgomerie, and saw them in sic ane furie, he knew well there was
nothing but fighting, and cryed to his men to save Sir Patrick Hamilton
if they might; but he came so far before the rest that he was slain
hastilie, and with him the Maister of Montgomerie, with sundry other
gentlemen, to the number of twelve score and twelve persons." The end of
the fray, which was "foughten very hardilie on both sides ane long
space," was that Arran's men were driven down the side of the hill
through the narrow wynds that led from the High Street towards the wall,
and thence made their way out through some postern, or perhaps at the
gate near the Well-house Tower, where the little well of St. Margaret
now bubbles up unconsidered, and so across the Nor' Loch, by boat or
ford. Bishop Beatoun, he whose conscience clattered beneath his robes,
fled again to the Blackfriars Church, where Mr. Gawin had found him on
the previous evening prepared for mischief, and took refuge there behind
the altar, where he was pursued and "his rockit rivin aff him, and had
been slain," but that Gawin Douglas, following the pursuers, perhaps
with a sarcastic satisfaction in setting forth the virtues of a peaceful
robe over the warlike covering that invited as well as preserved from
danger, interposed, saying, "It was shame to put hand on ane consecreat
bishop." The encounter of these two priests by evening and morning, the
supercilious refusal of the mail-clad bishop to interfere, and pretence
of ignorance--and, as one may imagine, the watch over him from afar of
his brother of Dunkeld with the full intention of peaceful yet effective
reprisals, throw a light of grim humour upon the warlike scene. Maister
Gawin had no mail-coat, and would not fight; but he must have kept an
eye upon his natural foe through the fray, and it would be strange if he
had not some pleasure in perceiving the rochet, which Beatoun must have
donned hastily to save himself, pulled over his head by rude hands in
scorn of the priestly pretence--and some satisfaction in interposing to
preserve the "consecreat bishop," whose behaviour was so little saintly.

"Thereafter the Earl of Angus passed to the castle and spoke with the
Queen at his pleasure," says Pitscottie. It could not be a very gracious
or affectionate interview. For Margaret and her husband had long before
come to a complete breach, and the greatest desire in her mind was to
divorce the young man whom she had married so hastily, who had treated
her, indeed, with little consideration, and whom she had come to hate
with a bitterness only possible to husbands and wives ill paired.

After this the young King passed from hand to hand, from one guardian or
captor to another, according to the custom of his predecessors, with
many troubled vicissitudes in his life: but it is pleasant to believe
that though the story leaves a painful impression as of a distracted
childhood, continually dragged about and harassed between contending
forces, yet that persistent placidity of nature which plants flowers
upon the very edge of the fiercest precipices interposed to secure for
little James as for other children the nursery calm, the infant
happiness which is the right of childhood. No more delightful picture of
tender infancy, the babbling of the first baby words, the sweet exigence
and endless requirements of a child, was ever made than that which Sir
David Lindsay, the future Lyon King, whom Sir Walter Scott in _gaieté de
coeur_ (that he should ever be wrong!) introduces in full panoply of
heraldic splendour before Flodden, but who was but a youth in the new
James's baby days, gives in his "Epistle to the King's Grace,"
dedicatory to one of his poems. We will venture, though with
compunction, once more as we have already done, to modernise the
spelling as far as possible, so as to present no difficulty to the
reader in the understanding of these delightful verses.

    "When thou was young I bore thee in mine arme
        Full tenderlie till thou began to gang,
    And in thy bed oft happit thee full warme;
        With lute in hand then sweetly to thee sang.
        Sometime in dancing wondrously I flang,
    And sometime playing farces on the floor,
    And sometime on mine office taking cure.

    "And sometime like a fiend transfigurate,
        And sometime like the grisly ghost of Gye,
    In divers forms oft times disfigurate,
        And sometime dissagyist full pleasantly.
        So since thy birth I have continually
    Been occupied and aye to thy pleasoure,
    And sometime Server, Coppon, and Carvoure."

In another poem he adds, upon the same subject, returning to the
pleasant memory, the following happy description:--

    "How, as a chapman bears his pack,
    I bore thy Grace upon my back,
    And sometime stridling on my neck,
    Dancing with many a bend and beck.
    The first syllables that thou didst moote
    Was '_Pa, Da Lyn_' upon the lute.
    And aye when thou camest from the school
      Then I behoved to play the fool."

"Play, Davy Lindsay:" the touch of nature brings the water to one's
eyes. Davy Lindsay had yet to play many a spring before King James, and
some that were not gay. But the gentle stripling with the infant on his
shoulder, the pertinacity of the little babbling cry, the "homely
springs" played offhand that it was pity to hear, but which the lad
enjoyed almost as much in laughing at their dashing incorrectness as the
baby who knew only that it was a pleasant sound--how bright and vivid is
the picture! Thus while the lords and his mother stormed over him, the
little King, perhaps in those small state-rooms in well-defended
Edinburgh, perhaps in the sunshine at Holyrood with his poet, had
pleasant days.

James was already a growing boy when the last and worst of the tyrannies
which oppressed his youth began. When the disastrous episode of Albany
was well over the Douglases again made one last desperate struggle for
the supreme power. Angus it would seem was not discouraged by the change
in the Queen from love to hate, nor even by the efforts which she had
begun to make to divorce and shake him off, and it is evident that he
must have secured the liking of the little King, to whom in the close
intimacy of the family as his mother's husband he must have been known
from earliest childhood. The Earl was handsome and young, one of the
finest cavaliers of the Court, and probably was kind to the infant who
could not contradict or cross him, and whose favour it was so expedient
to secure. It costs a young man little to make himself adored by a boy
to whom he seems the incarnation of manly strength and splendour. And
there is every appearance that James accepted Angus's rule at first with
pleasure, no doubt looking up to him as a guide in the manly exercises
which could be pursued in his following with more spirit and zeal than
in the Queen's surroundings. The great power of the Douglases, which it
took so much bloodshed to break down, and which James II had spent all
his life in contending with, extinguished in one branch of the family,
seemed now to have developed in another with increased and extended
force. Angus was as great, as potent, as universally feared as the Earls
of Douglas had ever been; and almost as lawless, filling the country
with his exactions and those of his dependants. He had attained this
triumph after many drawbacks and downfalls and against the strongest
opponents, and Scotland was overawed by the terror of that well-known
name. It was scarcely to be supposed, however, that the young King,
precociously aware of all the dangers of his position, could remain
subject willingly as he grew up to the sway of a vassal of the Crown
however great. There must have been private counsellors ever ready to
whisper that Douglas was nothing save by the King's authority, and that
James's favour alone could keep him in his usurped place. A few months
after he had attained the age of sixteen, the boy over whom everybody
had intrigued and plotted all his life long, who had been torn from one
side to another since ever he could remember, and whom a Douglas had but
recently threatened, at a moment of alarm, that rather than render him
up they would tear him in two, took at last the matter into his own
hands. Whether the suggestion was his own, or had in some way been
breathed into his mind, there is no evidence; but it is clear that he
had good reason to be very tired of his subjection. He had already
attempted, we are told, several means of getting free of bondage, but
had only succeeded in causing the destruction of various lords to whom
he had appealed. All his friends had been alienated from him. His mother
was powerless to help, and indeed on her own account in such evil case
that she is said to have wandered over the country in disguise,
friendless and out of favour with all. She had hastened into a third
foolish marriage as soon as she had obtained her divorce from Angus, and
thus lost all her supporters and champions. His uncle, Henry VIII, was
more closely bound to Angus, who was strongly in the interest of England
as against France, than to any other Scot, and the young King was thus
surrounded by influences hostile to his freedom.


There are moments, however, when the most vigilant watch relaxes, and it
so happened that Angus left his young prisoner on one occasion at the
Castle of Falkland, the hunting seat of the Scots kings, to all
appearance fully occupied with hunting and hawking and thinking of
nothing more important, in the charge of Archibald Douglas, the Earl's
uncle, George his brother, and a certain James Douglas of Parkhead, who
was the captain of the guard. When Angus had been gone a day or two, the
elder of these guardians asked leave of the King, according to the
formula, to go to Dundee upon personal business of his own; and George
Douglas rode off to St. Andrews to see the Bishop on a question of
taxes, leaving only the captain and his hundred guardsmen to be
accounted for. Who can doubt that young James was well used to all
devices for deceiving his gaolers, he who had been held by so many?
There was nothing in his present expedient which could have offended the
most tender conscience. He desired that preparations might be made for a
great hunting, calling upon "the laird of Ferme, forester of the park of
Falkland, and chamberlain of Fife," to warn everybody about and call all
the surrounding gentlemen "that had speedie dogs" to hunt with him,
appointing the meeting next morning at seven o'clock, "for he was
determined to slay ane deare or two for his pleasure." Pitscottie is
very particular in his description, and places the economy of the little
castle before us, among its woods--with its simplicity, its precautions,
the homeliness of the household. The King desired to have "his
disjeuner" at four in the morning, and bade James Douglas "gang the
sooner to his bed that night that he might rise the sooner in the
morning," and after he had supped, called for a drink and drank to
Douglas, saying that they should see good hunting on the morn, and
warning him not to be late; from which it may be guessed that Captain
James was not fond of early hours. The captain saw as he thought the
King go to bed, and having set the watch, and arranged everything for
the night, went to bed himself, as the boy had laughingly bidden him to
do. As soon as all was quiet, eluding the watch without apparent
difficulty, the King, attended only by "Jockie Hart, a yeoman of the
stable," and another "secret servant," escaped in the stillness of the
night into the freedom of the sleeping country. It is said by one
authority to have been in June that this evasion was made, but in June
there is scarcely any night at all in Scotland, and the brief darkness
could scarcely have served as a screen for the fugitives; probably it
was earlier in the year, when the night was more to be calculated upon.
One can imagine the breathless excitement and delight of the long ride,
with the fresh breeze in his face, and one of the richest valleys in
Scotland coming softly into sight in the midst of the morning, as the
young King full of spirit, ambition, and all the rising impulses of
manhood, left behind him the gentle shadow of the Lomond hills, and
swept round the base of the Ochils towards the castle, high-standing on
its rock, where freedom and his crown and all the privileges of royal
life and independence were awaiting him. He reached Stirling in the
breaking of the day, and galloping across the bridge, caused its gates
to be closed after him, that no pursuer might cross the river; and was
received with great rejoicing in the castle, where everything had been
prepared for his coming, and where the captain, having let down the
portcullis and made all secure, "laid the King in his bed, because he
had ridden all that night." Probably there was no moment in the life of
the young monarch, who had fallen upon such troubled times, more sweet
than this when, after the wild excitement of the long night's riding, he
closed his young eyes, at an hour so unaccustomed, in the clear radiance
of the morning, feeling his life now free before him, as light and fair
and unfettered as the rising day. But Pitscottie must continue the tale
in his own admirable way. He says:--

    "We will lat him sleep in his bed, and return to George Douglas, who
    came home to Falkland at eleven hours at night, and required at the
    porters what the King was doing, who answered that he was in his own
    chamber sleeping, who was to rise tymous to the hunting, and right
    so said the watchmen. George hearing this went to his bed, till on
    the morn that the sun rose. Then came Patrick Carmichael, baillie of
    Abernethie, and knocked at George Douglas's chamber door, and
    inquired of him what the King was doing. George answered that he was
    not waked as yet in his own chamber. The baillie answered, 'Ye are
    deceaved; he is along the bridge of Stirling this night.' Then
    George Douglas gat up hastilie and went to the porters and watchmen
    and inquired for the King, who still answered that he was sleeping
    in his own chamber. Then George Douglas came to the King's chamber
    door and found it locked, and dang it up, but found no man in it.
    Then he cryed, 'Fye, treason, the King is gone!'"

The confusion and dismay of the household were great. Some said that the
King had gone to Bambriefe "to visit a gentlewoman," which explanation
was received with relief, the question of morality being of small
consequence in comparison. George Douglas immediately leaped on his
horse to ascertain if this were true, but had not ridden more than two
miles when he met the Earl of Rothes, who told him the King was not
there. By this time the other Douglas who had gone to Dundee had
returned also, and a hurried council was held what to do. Angus himself
was immediately summoned from Tantallon by an express, "ane haistie
post," and instantly answering, set out with his uncle and brother, and
rode to Stirling with some forlorn hope it would appear of recovering
their empire over the King. But James had already gathered counsellors
round him, and was himself too strongly determined to maintain his
liberty to allow any approach. The road to Stirling would no doubt be
full of scouts, to give warning of what the discomfited but powerful
family meant to do, and as soon as their approach was known a herald was
sent to the town cross to proclaim by sound of trumpet a royal decree
that neither Angus nor his companions should approach within six miles
of where the King was under pain of death. It is curious to mark how in
a moment the great power of the Douglases and their high courage
collapsed in face of this proclamation. They paused on their hasty ride,
and held another hasty council, and though some among them were for
pressing forward and seizing once more the malapert boy who defied them,
the Earl himself and his brother decided to obey the proclamation and
withdraw. They fell back upon Linlithgow, where they paused a day or two
hoping perhaps for better news. But by this time the other nobles were
crowding round the King. Huntly, Argyle, Athole, Glencairn, Monteith,
and Rothes, with a still larger company of barons, hastened to Stirling
to protect and aid with their counsel the liberated prince. Archbishop
Beatoun, the wily Churchman, who had done all he could to overthrow
Angus,--who had been for a moment so worsted in the conflict that he
skulked about his own Fife moors in the disguise of a shepherd, but who
had lately made friends with the dominant family and entertained the
King and his guardians together, calling them "to his pasche (Easter) at
St. Andrews,"--and who had no doubt known of the momentous night
journey, and probably detained George Douglas late that evening to make
it more sure, had also joined the King.

With this powerful escort James proceeded to Edinburgh, where for some
time the lords around him kept watch night and day, keeping their little
army of attendants under arms in case of any attack on the part of
Angus. One night, we are told, James himself in full armour took the
command of the guard, more probably, however, from a boyish desire to
feel himself at the head of his defenders than for any other reason; and
even his bedchamber was shared, after an unpleasant fashion of the time,
by the bastard of Arran, "James Hamilton, that bloody butcherer," as
Pitscottie calls him, who had precipitated the fray of "Clear the
Causeway" and was Angus's most inveterate enemy. These extraordinary
precautions, however, seem to have been unnecessary. The Douglases would
appear to have accepted their defeat as complete, and to have been
entirely cowed by it. Another proclamation was put forth on the arrival
of the King in Edinburgh commanding all true subjects to refrain from
intercourse of any kind with Angus, his brother, and uncle, not to
receive them or succour them or hold any communication with them on
peril of being considered sharers in their crime--in short, a sort of
interdict after the papal fashion. The impromptu council sat for two
days in the upper chamber of the Tolbooth, which was the recognised
Parliament House, chiefly, it would seem, to hear the King's indictment
against the family of Douglas. James set forth all his grievances, his
subjection to the will of Angus, his separation from his own friends,
the appearance he had been made to assume of enmity to his real
champions, and vowed at the end, says Pitscottie, in the fervour of his
indignation and resentment, that Scotland should not hold them both. He
would receive nothing but support in that assembly where all had
suffered from the supremacy of Angus, and where the too powerful race
had no friends. The council appointed anew all the high officers of
State, whose posts had been appropriated by the Douglases, and sent an
envoy to England to announce that the government of Scotland was
henceforward in the King's own hands. It was also ordained that a
Parliament should be called in the month of September, to confirm in a
more decorous and regular way the decisions of the present hasty

When Parliament met these questions were accordingly discussed over
again, with confirmation of what had been already done. It was decided
that Angus should be summoned before them to answer for his misdeeds,
under the penalty if he did not appear of being "put to the horn and
banished during the King's will." Angus was not so rash as to trust
himself within the power of his enemies, as his kinsmen of the house of
Douglas had already done on two fatal occasions: and as neither he nor
his retainers put in an appearance, they were accordingly attainted,
their lands forfeited to the Crown, their name put under the public ban,
their great castle of Tantallon seized, and themselves proclaimed
through all the country as traitors whom no man should receive or

The complete downfall which overtook this great house after the young
King's abandonment of it is very remarkable, and shows how important was
the royal position, notwithstanding the manner in which it had been
_exploité_, and the mere nominal power of its actual possessor. The
house of Angus crumbled into the dust as soon as their young prisoner
escaped their hands. They took refuge in England, where they vainly
attempted on various occasions to negotiate for their return, but with
no success. The name continued obnoxious to James during his whole life.
Sir Walter has done his best to rehabilitate that name in the noble
Douglas of _The Lady of the Lake_, who has been identified with
Archibald of Kilspindie, "the uncle of the banished Earl," the story of
whose appearance at the games at Stirling is said to have some
foundation of reality. But the historians of the house, who alone
mention this, state the facts in a very different way.

Thus the Angus branch of the Douglas family fell, as the Earls of
Douglas had fallen, and for a generation there was little heard of it
save in mutterings of treason in moments of difficulty, which never came
to much--until in the following reign the indomitable race rose again in
another branch and under another name, and furnished in the Regent
Morton one of the strongest as well as the most questionable figures of
a deeply disturbed time. Never was a race more difficult to subdue.

The escape of James from Falkland took place between Easter and June in
the year 1527. In 1528, the Douglases being clean swept out of the
country, the young King went on a professed hunting expedition to the
Borders, where, besides innumerable deer, its ostensible reason, his
ride through the southern district carried punishment and death to many
a Border reiver and especially to the famous John or Johnnie Armstrong,
the Laird of Kilnokie, and chief or at least best-known representative
of his name. Whether it was wise policy to hang the reiver who was the
terror of the Borders, yet "never molested no Scottis man," it is not
necessary to decide. He was a scourge to the English, of whom it was
said that there was none from the Scottish Border to Newcastle who did
not "pay ane tribute to be free of his cumber." Johnnie Armstrong had
the folly to come into the King's presence with such a train, his men so
completely armed and so many in number, as to compete with royal
magnificence, not very great in Scotland in those days. "What wants yon
knave that a king should have?" said the young James, who had certainly
had enough of such powerful subjects: and he would not listen to either
excuse or explanation from the Borderer, whose defiance as he was led to
his execution, and the wail of his wild followers after him, sounds
still in the stirring strains of song and ballad. No doubt it was
justice that James did--but justice somewhat stern and out of time.

The young Court now blazing out into full splendour, with a legitimate
head and every prospect of prosperity, became again the resort of
foreign chivalry and magnificent envoys, among them a legate from the
Pope to assure the allegiance of James to the Holy See, which his uncle
of England had deserted. Henry at the same time did not neglect by
constant messengers and vague promises, now of the hand of the Princess
Mary, now of an English dukedom, to secure his nephew to his side. After
that princess, whom her father tried his utmost to put out of the
succession by divorcing her mother, James was the next heir, and Henry
did not forget that possibility. The hand of the young princess had
already been several times offered to the Scots King without any
certainty either in the proposal or its acceptance. One cannot help
wondering what might have been the issue had that unhappy Mary, to whom
history has given so grim a nickname, been thus wedded in early youth to
a gracious and gallant Stewart. In all history there occurs by times a
gleam like this of possible deliverance from fate, an opening by which
the subjects of tragedy might have secured an escape had they but known.
One wonders had she thus escaped the wrongs and bitterness of her early
career whether Mary would have got free from those traces of blood and
madness which have left so dark a shadow upon her name; or whether, in
the conflict that was to follow, her fierce Tudor passion would have
embittered every strife. It is wonderful to think that she might have
been the mother of that other Mary so different yet still more sadly
fated, who in that case never could have been the Mary Stewart she was.
We are led to something like a _reductio ad absurdum_ by such
speculations, very vain yet always attractive as they are. James was
eager to marry at the earliest possible moment, and all would have
welcomed the marriage with his kinswoman.

In this respect, however, as in almost every other, Scotland was now at
a turning-point of the utmost importance in her career. For the first
time her politics had begun to be troubled by the possibility of an
alliance with England more strong and lasting than the brief periods of
truce which had hitherto existed between two nations whose principle and
tradition were those of enmity. A perpetual peace had indeed been sworn
and signed at the time of the marriage of Margaret Tudor with James IV,
but how little lasting that had been is amply demonstrated by the fact
that no such crushing defeat had ever been inflicted upon Scotland as
that of Flodden, in which the King and the great part of his nobles
perished. Perhaps it was the germ of the design to attract the lesser
country into the arms of the greater by friendship rather than to set
her desperately at bay against all peaceful influences, which had
prevented the successful army from taking advantage of the victory; but
certainly through all the distracted period of James's minority efforts
had been made by constant envoys to acquire a share in the councils of
the country, such as had hitherto been considered the right of France,
who was the old and faithful ally as England was "the auld enemy" of the
Scots. The alliance with France had been taken for granted on all sides.
That Scotland should harass England in every war between that country
and her continental neighbour was a foregone conclusion, and it was
something still more sure, a proverb on the English side, that when
France was to be assailed the right thing was to begin with Scotland.
The position of Henry as brother of the Scottish Queen, and the nearest
relative of James, who, under circumstances not at all unlikely to
occur, might be his heir, gave the English king now a natural right to
interfere; and it is conceivable that had this right been exercised more
wisely it might have led to fortunate issues. But unhappily King Henry
had associated his influence with that of Angus, taking the part of his
sister's discarded husband with great determination, and apparently
without any sympathy in those changes in Margaret's affections which so
much resembled his own. Angus was to Scotland the representative of the
English alliance, and as everything connected with Angus had now become
hateful to James, it followed that his uncle's desire to obtain an
influence over him, which was not accompanied by any substantial marks
of kindness towards himself, did not meet with much success: though it
might have been otherwise had the vaguely-proposed marriage been carried
out. But one can scarcely be sorry that the noble and graceful James
should have escaped such an alliance.


Other and still more serious matters were now, however, surging upwards
in both England and Scotland, which doubled the silent struggle between
the old ally and the new. On the side of France was the old religion,
the Church which at this period was the strongest of the Estates of
Scotland, richer than any of the others, and possessing almost all the
political ability of the time: on the side of England a new, scarcely
recognised, but powerful influence, which was soon to attain almost
complete mastery in Scotland and shatter that Church to pieces. In the
beginning of James's reign this new power was but beginning to swell in
the silent bosom of the country, showing here and there in a trial for
heresy and in the startling fires of execution which cut off the first
martyrs for the reformed faith. But there is no evidence to show that
James, a young man full of affairs much more absorbing than religious
controversy, with more confidence, politically at least, in the Church
than in any other power of his realm, had ever been awakened to the
importance of the struggle. The smoke of those fires which blew over all
Scotland in potent fumes from St. Andrews, on the further side of the
Firth; and from Edinburgh, where on the Castle Hill in the intervals of
the tiltings and tourneys, the Vicar of Dollar for example, of whose
examination we have a most vivid and admirable report, full of
picturesque simplicity, not without humour even in the midst of the
tragedy, was burnt--along with several gentlemen of his county: does not
seem to have reached the young King, absorbed in some project of State,
or busy with new laws and regulations, or inspecting the portraits of
the great ladies among whom he had to choose his bride. There is a
curious story communicated in a letter of one of the English envoys of
the period of his conversation with a Scotch gentleman, in which we find
a description of James listening to a play represented before the Court
at the feast of the Epiphany, 1540, in the Castle of Linlithgow. This
play is believed to have been Sir David Lindsay's _Satire on the Three
Estates_, one of the most effective attacks upon the corruptions of the
Church which had ever been made, and setting forth the exactions of the
priests from the peasantry and the poor at every event of their lives,
as well as the wealth and wickedness of the monastic communities, of
which Scotland was full, and which had long been the recognised object
of popular satire and objurgation. The performance would seem to have
had as great an effect upon the young King as had the play in _Hamlet_
upon the majesty of Denmark. James turned to Beatoun (the Cardinal,
nephew and successor of Archbishop James) the Chancellor in indignant
remonstrance. Were these things so? and if they were, would not the
bishops and other powerful ecclesiastics join to repress them? Let them
do so at once, cried the sovereign: or if not he should send half a
dozen of the proudest of them to King Henry to be dealt with after his
methods. Even Churchmen had occasionally to brook such threats from an
excited prince. Beatoun answered with courtier-like submission that a
word from the King was enough, upon which James, not wont to confine
himself to words, and strong in the success with which he had overcome
one of his Estates, the lords, now so quiet under his hand, replied that
he would not spare many words for such an issue. This characteristic
scene is very interesting. But probably when the memory of what he had
heard faded from the busy King, and the tumult of public events gained
possession again of his ear and mind, he forgot the sudden impression,
or contented himself with the thought that Beatoun and the bishops must
put order in their own affairs. Pitscottie tells us in respect to a
projected visit to England, vaguely thought of and planned several years
before this time, that "the wicked bishops of Scotland would not thole"
a meeting between James and Henry. "For the bishops feared that if the
King had met with King Henry that he would have moved him to casten down
the abbeys, and to have altered the religion as the King of England had
done before. Therefore the bishops bade him to bide at home, and gave
him three thousand pounds of yearly rent out of their benefices." It is
to be feared that history has no evidence of this voluntary munificence,
but James found the ecclesiastical possessions in Scotland very useful
for the purposes of taxation, and in this respect did not permit Beatoun
to have his own way.

When the young King was in his twenty-fourth year he found himself
able--many previous negotiations on the subject having come to
nothing--to pay a visit to the Continent in his own person in order to
secure a wife. It is a greater testimony to the personal power and
vigour of James than any mere details could give that, within eight
years of the time when, a boy of sixteen, he had escaped from the power
of the Douglas, it should be possible for him to leave, after all the
wild anarchy of his minority, a pacificated and orderly kingdom behind
him, in the care of a Council of Regency, while he went forth upon a
mission so important to himself. He had altogether extinguished and
expelled the house of Douglas; he had subdued and repressed other
turbulent lords, and convinced them that his authority was neither to be
neutralised nor made light of; he had settled and calmed the Border by
the most decisive means; and he was now free to show himself in the
society of kings, and win his princess, and see the world. He had been
already the object of many overtures from contemporary Powers. The
Emperor and the Pope had both sent him envoys and conciliated his
friendship; and in the imperial house itself as well as in many others
of the highest rank there had been ladies proposed to share his crown.
The one more immediately in view when he set out on his journey was a
daughter of the Duke of Vendôme. The defeat of Charles V before
Marseilles took place almost simultaneously with James's arrival, and
the Scotch chroniclers do not lose the opportunity of asserting that it
was the coming of the King of the Scots with a supposed army of twenty
thousand men to the succour of France which was the reason of the
Emperor's precipitate withdrawal. Pitscottie narrates, with more evident
truthfulness, how the Frenchmen on the Norman coast were alarmed by the
ships, fearing it to be an enemy which hove in sight, "for there were
many strangers in his companie, so that he appeared ane great army." But
the sight of the red lion of Scotland changed their alarms into joy, and
they welcomed the Scots King and party, "at the New Haven beside Diep,"
with much rejoicing. He would seem to have pushed across France to the
Court of Vendôme without pausing to pay his respects to the King at
Paris; and we find his movements recorded in a romantic tale, which is
neither contradicted nor supported by other authorities, but likely
enough to a romantic young prince upon a love-quest. According to this
description James did not assume his proper character but appeared only
as one among the many knights, who probably represented themselves, to
make his feint successful, as merely a party of cavaliers seeking
adventure and the exercises of chivalry. He intended thus to see, while
himself unknown, "the gentlewoman who sould have been his spouse,
thinking to spy her pulchritud and behaviour unkenned by her."

    "Notwithstanding this fair ladie took suspition that the King of
    Scotland should be in the companie, wherefore she passed to her
    coffer and took out his picture, which she had gotten out of
    Scotland by ane secret moyane, and as soon as she looked to the
    picture it made her know the King of Scotland incontinent where he
    stood among the rest of his companie, and past peartlie to him, and
    took him by the hand, and said, 'Sir, ye stand over far aside;
    therefore, if it please your Grace, you may show yourself to my
    father or me, and confer and pass the time ane while.'"

Perhaps it was injudicious of the fair ladie to be so "peart." At all
events, after much feasting, "nothing but merriness and banquetting and
great cheer and lovelie communing betwixt the King's grace and the fair
ladies, with great musick and playing on instruments, and all other
kinds of pastime for the fields," as well as "jousting and running of
great horses," the ungrateful James "thought it expedient to speak
nothing of marriage at that time, till he had spoken with the King of
France, considering," adds the chronicler, who perhaps sees an excuse to
be necessary, "he was within his realm he would show him his mind and
have his counsel thereto before he concluded the matter." Pitscottie
thus saves the feelings of the lady of whom other historians say curtly
that she did not please the King. But when the Scottish band reached the
Court, though it was then in mourning for the Dauphin, recently dead,
King James was received with open arms. The King of France, sick and sad
for the loss of his son, was in the country at a hunting seat, and when
James was suddenly introduced at the door of his chamber as "the King of
Scotland, sire, come to comfort you," the arrival evidently made the
best possible impression. The sorrowful father declared, as he embraced
the young stranger, that it was as if another son had been given him
from heaven; and after a little interval the royal party, increased by
James's Scottish train, moved on to another palace. We may be allowed to
imagine that the Queen and her ladies came out to meet them, as the
first sight which James appears to have had of his future bride was
while she was "ryding in ane chariot, because she was sickly, and might
not ryd upon hors." Magdalen, too, saw him as he rode to meet the fair
cavalcade in her father's company, who looked so much happier and
brighter from the encounter with this gallant young prince. The poor
girl was already stricken for death, and had but a few months to live;
but it is very likely that her malady was that fatal but deceitful one
which leaves a more delicate beauty to its victims, and gives feverish
brightness to the eyes and colour to the cheek. A tender creature, full
of poetry and imagination, and most likely all unconscious of the fate
that hung over her, she loved the gallant cavalier from the first moment
of seeing him, and touched the heart of James by that fragile beauty and
by the affection that shone in her soft eyes. It was a marriage that no
one approved, for her days were known to be numbered. But perhaps some
faint hope that happiness, that potent physician, might arrest disease,
as it has been known to do, prevailed both with the anxious father and
the young man beloved, in whom tender pity and gratitude replaced a
warmer sentiment. At all events the marriage took place in Paris, in the
noble church of Notre Dame, in the beginning of the year 1537. The King,
we are told, sent to Scotland to invite a number of other noblemen and
gentlemen to attend his wedding, which was performed with the greatest
pomp and splendour. Not until May did the young couple set out for their
home, and then they were laden with gifts, two ships being presented to
them, a number of splendid horses fully caparisoned, and quantities of
valuable tapestries, cloth of silver and gold, and jewels of every
description. Perhaps the long delay was intended to make the journey
more safe for the poor young Queen. The voyage from Dieppe to Leith
lasted five days, and the bridal party was accompanied by an escort of
"fiftie ships of Scottismen, Frenchmen, and strangers." "When the Queen
was come upon Scottis eard, she bowed her down to the same, and kissed
the mould thereof, and thanked God that her husband and she were come
safe through the seas." There could not be a more tender or attractive
picture. How full of poetry and soft passion must the gentle creature
have been who thus took possession of the land beloved for her young
husband's sake! The Scottish eard indeed was all that she was to have of
that inheritance, for in little more than a month the gentle Magdalen
was dead. She was laid in the chapel of the palace which was to have
been her home, with "ane dolorous lamentation; for triumph and merriness
were all turned into dirges and soul-masses, which were very lamentable
to behold."

This sad story is crowned by Pitscottie with a brief note of the death
of the Duc de Vendôme's daughter, "who took sick displeasure at the King
of Scotland's marriage that she deceased immediately thereafter; whereat
the King of Scotland was highly displeased, thinking that he was the
occasion of that gentlewoman's death." Other historians say that this
tragical conclusion did not occur, but that the Princess of Vendôme was
married on the same day as James. Pitscottie's is the more romantic
ending, and rounds the pathetic tale.

After such a mournful and ineffectual attempt at married life all the
negotiations had to be begun over again, and James was at last married,
to the general satisfaction, to Mary of Guise, a woman, as it turned
out, of many fine and noble qualities, to which but indifferent justice
was ever done. It was before this event, however, and immediately after
the death of the Queen, that a curious and tragical incident happened,
which furnished another strange scene to the many associations of
Edinburgh. This was the execution of Lady Glamis upon the Castle Hill
for witchcraft and secret attempts upon the life of the King by means of
magic or of poison. No one seems to know what these attempts were.
Pitscottie gives this extraordinary event a short paragraph. The grave
Pinkerton fills a page or two with an apology or defence of James for
permitting such an act. But we are not told what was the evidence, or
how the sovereign's life was threatened. The supposed culprit was
however--and the fact is significant--the only member of the family of
Angus left in Scotland, the sister of the Earl. Once more the Castle
Hill was covered with an awed or excited crowd, not unaccustomed to that
sight, for the heretics had burnt there not long before, but at once
more and less moved than usual, for the victim was a woman fair and
dignified, such a sufferer as always calls forth the pity of the
spectators, but her crime witchcraft, a thing held in universal horror,
and with which there would be no sympathisers. Few, if any, in that
crowd would be so advanced in sentiment as to regard the cruel
exhibition with the horrified contempt of modern times. The throng that
lined that great platform would have no doubt that it was right to burn
a witch wherever she was found; and the beauty of the woman and the
grandeur of her race would give a pang the more of painful satisfaction
in her destruction. But it is strange that thus a last blow should have
been aimed at that family, once so great and strong, which James's
resentment had pursued to the end. A little while before, Archibald
Douglas of Kilspindie had thrown himself upon James's mercy--the only
member of the Douglas family who can be in any way identified with the
noble Douglas of _The Lady of the Lake_.

    "'Tis James of Douglas, by St. Serle,
    The uncle of the banished Earl."

But Archibald of Kilspindie did not meet the same forgiveness with which
his prototype in the poem was received. He was sent back into banishment
unforgiven, the King's word having been passed to forgive no one
condemned by the law. Perhaps the same stern fidelity to a stern promise
was the reason why Lady Glamis was allowed to go to the stake unrescued.
But we speculate in vain on subjects so veiled in ignorance and
uncertainty. Perhaps his counsellors acted on their own authority in
respect to a crime the reprobation and horror of which were universal,
and did not disturb the King in the first shock of his mourning. In the
same week the fair and fragile Magdalen of France was carried to her
burial, and Lady Glamis was burned at the other extremity of Edinburgh.
Perhaps it was supposed that something in the incantations of the one
had a fatal influence upon the young existence of the other. At all
events these two sensations fell to the populace of Edinburgh and all
the strangers who were constantly passing through her gates, at the same
time. Life in those days was full of pictorial circumstances which do
not belong to ours. One is inclined to wonder sometimes whether the many
additional comforts we possess make up for that perpetual movement in
the air, the excitement, the communication of new ideas, the strange
sights both pleasant and terrible. The burning of a witch or a heretic
is perhaps too tremendous a sensation to be desired by the most heroic
spectator; but the perpetual drama going on thus before the eyes of all
the world, and giving to the poorest an absolute share in every new and
strange thing, must have added a reality to national life which no
newspapers can give. That the people remain always eager for this share
in historical events, the crowds that never weary of gazing at passing
princes, the innumerable audience of the picture papers, the endless
reproduction of every insignificant public event, from a procession of
aldermen to the simplest day's journey of a royal personage, abundantly
testify. In the days of the Jameses few of the crowd could read, and
still fewer had the chance of reading. A ballad flying from voice to
voice across the country, sung at the ingle-neuk, repeated from one to
another in the little crowd at a "stairhead," in which the grossest
humorous view was the best adapted for the people, represented popular
literature. But most things that went on were visible to the crowding
population. They saw the foreign visitors, the ambassadors, the knights,
each with his distinguishable crest, who came to meet in encounter of
arms the knights of the Scottish Court. All that went on they had their
share in, and a kind of acquaintance with every notability. The public
events were a species of large emblazoned history which he who ran could

These ballads above referred to came to singular note, however, in one
of the many discussions between England and Scotland which were carried
on by means of the frequent envoys sent to James from his uncle. The
Borders, it appears, were full of this flying literature sent forth by
unknown writers, and spread probably by, here and there, a wandering
friar, more glad of a merry rhyme than disconcerted by a satire against
his own cloth, or with still more relish dispersing over the countryside
reports of King Henry's amours and divorces, and of the plundering of
abbeys and profane assumption of sacred rights by a monarch who was so
far from sanctified. Popular prophecies of how a new believing king
should be raised up to disconcert the heretics, and on the northern side
of the Border of the speedy elevation of James to the throne of England,
and final victorious triumph of the Scottish side, flew from village to
village, exciting at last the alarm of Henry and his council, who made
formal complaint of them at the Scottish Court, drawing from James a
promise that if any of his subjects should be found to be the authors of
such productions they should suffer death for it--a heavy penalty for
literary transgression. In Scotland farther north it was another kind of
ballad which was said and sung, or whispered under the breath with many
a peal of rude laughter, the Satires of "Davy Lindsay" and many a lesser
poet--ludicrous stories of erring priests and friars, indecent but
humorous, with lamentable tales of dues exacted and widows robbed, and
all the sins of the Church, the proud bishop and his lemans, the
avaricious priest and his exactions, the confessors who bullied a dying
penitent into gifts which injured his family, and all the well-worn
scandals by which in every time of reformation the coarser imagination
of the populace is stirred. If James himself was startled into an angry
demand how such things could be after he had witnessed the performance
of David Lindsay's play, which was trimmed into comparative decency for
courtly ears, it may be supposed what was the effect of that and still
broader assaults, upon the unchastened imagination of the people. The
Reformation progressed by great strides by such rude yet able help as
well as by the purer methods of religion. The priests, however, do not
seem to have made war on the balladmakers, as the great King of England
would have had his nephew do. Buchanan, indeed, whose classic weapons
had been brought into this literary crusade, and who also had his fling
at the Franciscans as well as his coarser and more popular brethren, was
imprisoned for a time, and had to withdraw from his country, but the
poets of the people, far more effective, would seem to have escaped.

All this, however, probably seemed of but little importance to James in
comparison with the greater affairs of the kingdom of which his hands
were full. When the episode of his marriages was over, and still more
important an heir secured, he returned to that imperial track in which
he had acquitted himself so well. All would seem to have been in order
in the centre of the kingdom; the Borders were as quiet as it was
possible for the Borders to be; and only the remote Highlands and
islands remained still insubordinate, in merely nominal subjection to
the laws of the kingdom. James, we are told, had long intended to make
one of the royal raids so familiar to Scottish history among his
doubtful subjects of these parts, and accordingly an expedition was very
carefully prepared, twelve ships equipped both for comfort and for war,
with every device known to the time for provisioning them and keeping
them in full efficiency. We are told that the English authorities
looking on, were exceedingly suspicious of this voyage, not knowing
whither such preparations might tend, while all Scotland watched the
setting out of the expedition almost as much in the dark as to its
motive, and full of wonder as to where the King could be going. Bonfires
were blazing on all the hilltops in rejoicing for the birth of a prince
when James took his way with his fleet down the Firth. Pinkerton, who
ought to have known better, talks of "the acclamations of numerous
spectators on the adjacent hills and shores" as if the great estuary had
been a little river. It might well be that both in Fife and Lothian
there were eager lookers-on, as soon as it was seen that the fleet was
in motion, to see the ships pass: but their acclaims must have been loud
indeed to carry from Leith to Kinghorn. The King sailed early in June
1540 towards the north. Many a yacht and pleasure ship still follows the
same route round the Scottish coast towards the wild attractions of the

    "Merrily, merrily, bounds the bark,
      She bounds before the gale,
    The mountain breeze from Ben-na-darch
      Is joyous in her sail.
    With fluttering sound like laughter hoarse
      The cords and canvas strain,
    The waves divided by her force
    In rippling eddies chased her course
      As if they laughed again."

But it was on no pleasure voyage that James had set out. He had in his
twelve ships two thousand armed men, led by the most trusted lords of
Scotland, and his mission was to reduce to order the clans who knew so
little what a king's dignity was, or the restraints of law, or the
pursuits of industry. No stand would seem to have been anywhere made
against him. Many of the chiefs of the more turbulent tribes were
brought off to the ships, not so much as prisoners in consequence of
their own misdoings, but as hostages for their clans: and the startled
isles, overawed by the sight of the King and his great ships, and by the
more generous motive of anxiety for their own chieftains in pledge for
them, calmed down out of their wild ways, and ceased from troubling in a
manner unprecedented in their turbulent history.

An incidental consequence of this voyage sounds oddly modern, as if it
might have been a transcript from the most recent records. James
perceived, or more probably had his attention directed to the fact, that
the fishermen of the north were much molested by fishing vessels from
Holland, Flanders, and the Scandinavian coasts, who interfered with
their fishing, sometimes even thrusting them by violence of arms out of
their own waters. The King accordingly detached one or two of his
vessels under the command of Maxwell, his admiral, to inquire into these
high-handed proceedings, with the result that one of the foreign fisher
pirate-ships was seized and brought to Leith to answer for their
misdoings. There they were reprimanded and bound over to better
behaviour, then dismissed without further penalty. How little effectual,
however, this treatment was, is exemplified by the fact that the
selfsame offence continues to be repeated until this very day.

There would seem to have been a little pause of calm and comfort in
James's life after this victorious expedition. Clouds already bigger
than a man's hand were forming on his horizon; the country had begun to
be agitated throughout its depths with the rising forces of the reform,
and the priests who had always surrounded James were hurrying on in the
truculence of terror to sterner and sterner enactments against heretics:
while he, probably even yet but moderately interested, thinking of other
things, and though adding to the new laws which he was persuaded to
originate in this sense, conditions to the effect that corresponding
reforms were to be wrought in the behaviour of the priesthood,--had not
entered at all into the fierce current of theological strife. He
followed the faith in which he had been bred, revolted rather than
attracted by the proceedings and pretensions of his uncle of England,
willing that the bishops, who probably knew best, and who were, as he
complained to the English ambassador, the only men of sense and ability
near him, should have their own way in their own concerns; but for
himself much more intent on the temporal welfare of his kingdom than on
its belief, or the waves of opinion which might blow over it. He had
just been very successful in what no doubt seemed to him an enterprise
much more kingly and important--the subjugation of the islands. He was
happy and prosperous in his private life, his Queen having performed the
high duty expected of her in providing the kingdom with an heir, indeed
with two sons, to make, as appeared, assurance doubly sure; and though
the burning of a heretic was not a pleasant circumstance, Beatoun and
the rest of the brotherhood were too clever and helpful as men of the
world to be easily dispensed with. James had, there can be no doubt,
much reason to be discontented and dissatisfied, as almost all his
predecessors had been, with the nobility of his kingdom. Apart from some
of those young companions-in-arms who were delightful in the camp and
field but useless in the council chamber, his state of mind would seem
to have resembled more the modern mood which is represented by the word
"bored" than any other more dignified expression. The priests might be
fierce (as indeed were the lords, still more) but they were able, and
knew something of the necessities of government. The barons disgusted
him with their petty jealousies, their want of instruction, their
incapacity for any broad or statesmanlike view, and there would seem
little doubt that he dispensed with their services as much as possible,
and turned to those persons who comprehended him with a natural movement
which unfortunately, however, is never fortunate in a king. Something of
the severance between himself and those who were nearest to him in rank,
which had ruined his grandfather, showed itself as he advanced towards
the gravity of manhood: and the fatal name of favourite began to be
attached to one man at least in the Court, who would seem to have
understood better than the others the ways and intentions of James. But
in the meantime the clouds were only gathering; the darkness had not
begun. A year or two before, the King had given to the legal faculty of
Scotland a form and constitution which it has retained to this day. He
had instituted the Court of Session, the "Feifteen," the law lords in
their grave if short-lived dignity. He had begun to build and repair and
decorate at Holyrood and Linlithgow. "He sent to Denmark," says
Pitscottie, "and brought home great horss and meares and put them in
parks that their offspring might be gotten to sustein the warres when
need was. Also he sent and furnished the country with all kinds of
craftsmen such as Frenchmen, Spaniards, and Dutchmen, which ever was the
first of their profession that could be had." He went even so far in his
desire to develop the natural wealth of his kingdom that he brought over
certain German wise men to see if gold could be found in the mines, of
which there has always been a tradition, as probably in most countries.
All these pacific enterprises occupied James's time and helped on the
prosperity of the country. But evil times were close at hand.

One of the first indications that the dreadful round of misfortune was
about to begin was the sudden denunciation of James Hamilton, the
bastard of Arran, as a conspirator against the King, an event which
Pitscottie narrates as happening in the year 1541. He had been a
favourite of the King in his youth, and a great champion against the
Douglas faction, and it was indeed his intemperate and imprudent rage
which determined the fight called Clear the Causeway, and wrought much
harm to his own party. He had been high in favour for a time, probably
on the ground of his enmity to the house of Angus, then had fallen into
discredit, but had lately been employed in certain public offices, and
if we may trust Pitscottie, had been put into some such position by the
priests as that which Saul of Tarsus held in the service of the
persecuting ecclesiastics of Jerusalem. At all events his sudden
accusation as plotting against the King's life, and especially as doing
so in the interests of the Douglases, was evidently as startling and
extraordinary to the great officials to whom the communication was made
as it would be to the reader who has heard of this personage only as the
infuriated opponent of Angus and his party. No credence seems to have
been given to the story at first, though it was told by another
Hamilton, a cousin of the culprit. As this happened, however, in the
King's absence from Edinburgh, the lords thought it a wise precaution to
secure Sir James, and, according to Pitscottie, proceeded in their own
dignified persons--the Lord Treasurer, Secretary, and "Mr. Household,"
preceded by Lyon King-of-Arms--to his lodging in Edinburgh, whence they
conveyed him to the castle. Such arrestations would probably cause but
little excitement, only a momentary rush and gazing of the crowd as the
group with its little band of attendants and defenders passed upward
along the High Street, the herald's tabard alone betraying its
character. Sir James Hamilton, however, was very well known and little
loved, and small would be the sympathy in the looks of the citizens, and
many the stern nods and whispers of satisfaction that vengeance had
seized him at length. The King, like his representatives, was astonished
by the accusation, but when he heard of the terrible "dittay" which had
been brought against Hamilton "he came suddenly out of Falkland, where
His Grace was for the time, and brought the said Sir James out of the
castle to the Tolbooth, and gave him fair assize of the lords and
barons, who convicted him of sundry points of treason; and thereafter he
was headed and quartered, and his lands annexed to the Crown."

It is a curious question, which however none of the historians think of
asking, whether there could be any connection between the scheme, if
any, for which the Lady Glamis suffered, and this wholly unexpected
outbreak of murderous intention on the part of Hamilton. The Hamiltons
and Douglases were sworn enemies, yet greater wonders have been seen
than the union of two feudal foes to compass the destruction of the
enemy of both. Angus and his brothers banished, but little forgetful of
all that had happened, and trusting in the favour of King Henry, were
soon to show themselves at the head of expeditions hostile to Scotland
across the Border. Were these two sudden disclosures of unexpected
treachery the manifestations of a deep-laid plot which might have
further developments--if with the bastard of Arran also perhaps in still
more unlikely quarters? It is but a conjecture, yet it is one that might
seem justified by two isolated events so extraordinary, and by the state
of discouragement and misery into which James seems soon to have fallen.
Pitscottie relates that the King "took ane great suspition of his
nobles, thinking that either one or other of them would deceive him;"
and then there began to appear to him "visions in his bed." He thought
he saw Sir James Hamilton, fierce and vengeful, appearing to him in the
darkness with a drawn sword, with which he cut off the King's right arm.
Next time the cruel spectre appeared it upbraided him with an unjust
sentence and struck off the other arm: "Now therefore thou sall want
both thy armes, and sall remain in sorrow ane while, and then I will
come and stryk thy head from thee," said the angry ghost. Whatever may
be the reader's opinion about the reality of these visions, there can be
little doubt that they show deep depression in the mind of James to whom
they came. He woke out of his sleep in great excitement and terror, and
told his attendants what he had dreamed, who were very "discontent of
his visioun, thinking that they would hear hastily tidings of the same."

    "On the morning word came to the King that the prince was very sick
    and like to die. When the King heard thereof he hasted to Sanct
    Andros, but, or he could come there the prince was depairted,
    whereat the King was verrie sad and dolorous. Notwithstanding
    immediately thereafter the post came out of Stirling to the King
    showing him that his second son, the Duke of Albany, could not live;
    and or the King could be in Stirling he was depairted. Whose
    departures were both within fortie-eight hours, which caused great
    lamentations to be in Scotland and in especial by the Queen, their
    mother. But the Queen comforted the King, saying they were young
    enough, and God would send them more succession."

There is no suggestion, such as might have been natural enough at that
age, of poison or foul play in the death of the two infants--nothing but
misfortune and fatality and the dark shadows closing over a life
hitherto so bright. James was the last of his name: the childless Albany
in France, whom Scotland did not love, was the only man surviving of his
kindred, and it is not wonderful if the King's heart failed him in such
a catastrophe, or if he thought himself doomed of heaven. When this
great domestic affliction came to him he was on the eve of a breach with
England, brought about not only by the usual mutual aggravations upon
the Border, but by other matters of graver importance. King Henry had
made many efforts to draw the Scottish King to his side. He had
discoursed to him himself by letter, he had sent him not only
ambassadors but preachers, he had done everything that could be done to
detach the young monarch from the band of sovereigns who were against
England, and the allegiance of the Pope. Latterly the correspondence had
become very eager and passionate on Henry's side. He had repeatedly
invited his nephew to visit him, and many negotiations had passed
between them on the subject. The project was so far advanced that Henry
came to York to meet James, and waited there for nearly a week for his
arrival. But there was great reluctance on the Scottish side to risk
their King so far on the other side of the Border. They had suggested
Newcastle as a more safe place of meeting, but this had been rejected on
the part of the English king. Finally, Henry left York in great
resentment, which was aggravated by a defeat upon the Border. Pitscottie
tells us that he sent a herald to James declaring that he considered the
truce between them broken; that "he should take such order with him as
he took with his father before him; for he had yet that same wand to
ding him with that dang his father; that is to say, the Duke of Norfolk
living that strak the field of Flodden, who slew his father with many of
the nobles of Scotland." The King of Scotland thought, the chronicler
adds, that these were "uncouth and sharp words"--an opinion in which the
reader will agree. But whether Pitscottie is verbally correct or not it
is very evident that Henry did not hesitate to rate his nephew in
exceedingly sharp and discourteous terms, as for instance bidding him
not to make a brute of himself by listening to the priests who would
lead any man by the nose who gave them credence. The negotiations
altogether were carried on from the English side in a very arrogant
manner as comported with Henry's character, made all the more
overbearing towards James by their relationship, which gave him a
certain natural title to bully his sister's son.

And everything in Scotland was now tending to the miseries of a divided
council and a nation rent asunder by internal differences. The new
opinions were making further progress day by day, the priests becoming
more fierce in their attempts to crush by violence the force of the
Reformation--attempts which in their very cruelty and ferocity betrayed
a certain growing despair. When Norfolk came to Scotland from Henry--an
ill-omened messenger if what is said above of Henry's threat was
true--the Scottish gentlemen sought him secretly with confessions of
their altered faith; and the ambassador made the startling report to
Henry that James's own mind was in so wavering and uncertain a state
that if the priests did not drive him into war during the current summer
he would confiscate the possessions of the Church before the year was
out. But Norfolk's mission, which was in itself a threat, and the
presence of the Douglases over the Border, who had never ceased to be
upheld by Henry, and whose secret machinations, of which Lady Glamis and
James Hamilton had been victims, were now about to culminate in open
mischief, all contributed to exasperate the mind of James. That he was
not supported as his father had been by the nobility, who alone had the
power of giving effect to his call for a general armament, is evident
from the first. His priestly counsellors could support him by the
imposts which he made freely upon the revenues of the Church, not always
without complaint on their part; but they were of comparatively little
influence in bringing together the hosts who had to do the fighting; and
from the first the nobility,--half of which or more was leavened with
Reformation doctrines and felt that their best support was in
England--while the whole, almost without exception, resented the
prominence of the Church in the national councils, hating and scorning
her interference in secular and especially in warlike matters, as is the
case in every age,--showed itself hostile. After various incursions on
the part of England, made with much bravado and considerable damage, one
of which was headed by Angus and his brother George Douglas (this
latter, however, being promptly punished and defeated on the spot by the
brave Borderers), James made the usual call for a general assembly of
forces on the Boroughmuir: but he had advanced only a little way on his
march to the Borders when he was stopped by the declaration of the lords
that they would only act on the defensive, and would on no account go
out of Scotland. The fathers of these same lords had followed James IV,
though with the strongest disapproval, to the fatal field of Flodden,
their loyalty triumphing over their judgment: but the sons on either
side had no such bond between them. James disbanded in disgust the
reluctant host, which considered less the honour of Scotland than their
own safety; but got together afterwards a smaller army under the
leadership of Lord Maxwell, with which to try over again the old issue.
Pitscottie's account of the discussions and dissensions, and of all the
scorns which subdued James's spirit, is very graphic. Norfolk had led a
great body of men into Scotland, who though not advancing very far had
done great harm burning and ravaging; but, checked by a smaller force,
which held him back without giving battle, had finally retired across
the Border, where James was very anxious to have followed him.

    "The King's mind was very ardent on battel on English ground, which
    when the lords perceived they passed again to the council, and
    concluded that they would not follow the Duke of Norfolk at that
    time for the King's pleasure, because they said that it was not
    grounded upon no good cause or reasone, and that he was ane better
    priests' king nor he was theirs, and used more of priests' counsel
    nor theirs. Therefore they had the less will to fight with him, and
    said it was more meritoriously done to hang all such as gave counsel
    to the King to break his promises to the King of England, whereof
    they perceived great inconvenients to befall. When they had thus
    concluded, and the King being advertised thereof, the King departed
    with his familiar servants to Edinburgh; but the army and council
    remained still at Lauder."

It was a fatal spot for such a controversy, the spot where, two
generations before, the favourite friends and counsellors of James III,
whether guilty or not guilty--who can say?--were hanged over the bridge
as an example to all common men who should pretend to serve a king whose
peers and the nobles of his realm were shut out from the first of his
favour. James V had in his train some familiar servants, confidants of
his many public undertakings, who were not of noble blood or, at least,
of distinguished rank, and his angry withdrawal might well be explained
by his determination to save them, if indeed any explanations beyond his
vexed and miserable sense of humiliation and desertion were necessary to
account for it. He left the lords, whom he would seem to have had no
longer either the means or the heart to confront, saying in his rage and
shame that he would "either make them fight or flee, or else Scotland
should not keep him and them both," and returned to Edinburgh sick at
heart to his Queen, who was not in very good health to cheer
him--passing, no doubt, with a deepened sense of humiliation through the
crowds which would throng about for news, and to whom the spectacle of
their King thus returning discomfited was no pleasant sight; if it were
not, perhaps, that many among them had now begun to think all failures
and disappointments were so many proofs of the displeasure of heaven
against one who would not take upon him the office of reformer.

When James heard soon after that his rebellious lords had disbanded
their host, he collected a smaller army to revenge the ravages of
Norfolk, issuing, according to Pitscottie, a proclamation bidding all
who loved him be ready within twenty-four hours "to follow the King
wherever he pleased to pass"; but even this new levy was little
subordinate. After it had penetrated a little way into England a fatal
mistake arose--an idea that Oliver Sinclair, the King's "minion," whom
he had sent to read a manifesto to the army, had been appointed its
general--upon which the new bands, disgusted in their turn, fell into a
forced retreat, and getting involved in the broken ground of Solway Moss
were there pursued and surrounded by the English, miserably defeated and
put to flight. "There was but ane small number slain in the field," says
Pitscottie, "to wit, there was slain on both sides but twenty-four,
whereof was nine Scottishmen and fifteen Englishmen"; a very great
number, however, were taken prisoners, many of the gentlemen, it is
suggested, preferring captivity to the encounter of the King after such
an inexcusable catastrophe. We are not told why it was that James had
not himself taken the command of his army. He does not even seem to have
accompanied it, perhaps fearing that personal opposition which was an
insult to a king in those days.

    "When these news came to the King of Scotland where he was for the
    time, how his lords were taken and had in England, and his army
    defaitt, he grew wondrous dollorous and pensive, seeing no good
    success to chance him over his enemies. Then he began to remord his
    conscience, and thought his misgovernance towards God had the wyte
    therof and was the principal cause of his misfortune; calling to
    mind how he had broken his promise to his uncle the King of England,
    and had lost the hearts of his nobles throw evil counsel and false
    flattery of his bishops, and those private counsellors and his
    courtiers, not regarding his wyse lords' counsels."

"He passed to Edinburgh," adds the chronicler, "and there remained eight
days with great dollour and lamentation for the tinsell (loss) of his
lieges and shame to himself." Discouragement beyond the reach of mortal
help or hope seemed to have taken hold of the unfortunate King. He saw
himself alone, no one standing by him, his nobles hostile, his people
indifferent; he had vowed that Scotland should not be broad enough to
hold both them and him, but he had no power to carry out this angry
threat. His life had been threatened in mysterious ways; he had lost his
children, his confidence in himself and his fortunes; last and worst of
all, he was dishonoured in the eyes of the world. His army had refused
to advance, his soldiers to fight. He was the King, but able to give
effect to none of a king's wishes--neither to punish his enemies nor to
carry out his promises. He who had done so much for his realm could do
no more. He who had ridden the Border further and swifter than any
man-at-arms to carry the terror of justice and the sway of law--who had
daunted the dauntless Highlands and held the fiercest chiefs in
check--who had been courted by pope and emperor, and admired and feasted
at the splendid Courts of France--he who had been the King of the
Commons, the idol of the people--was now cast down and miserable, the
most shamed and helpless of kings.

There seems no reason why James should have so entirely lost heart.
There had already been moments in his life when he had suffered sore
discouragement and overthrow, yet never had been overcome. But now it is
clear he felt himself at the end of his resources. How could he ever
hold up his head again? a man who could not keep his own kingdom from
invasion, or avenge himself upon his enemies! After he had lingered a
little in Edinburgh, where the Queen was now near the moment which
should give another heir to Scotland, he left the capital--perhaps to
save her at such a time from the sight and the contagion of his
despair--and crossed the Firth to Falkland, a place so associated with
stirring passages in his career. But there his sickness of heart turned
to illness of body; he became so "vehement sick" that his life was
despaired of; he was "very near strangled to death by extreme
melancholie." One hope remained, that the Queen might restore some
confidence to his failing strength and mind by an heir to the crown,
another James, for whom it might be worth while to live. James sent for
some of his friends, "certain of his lords, both spiritual and
temporal," to help him to bear this time of suspense, and advise him
what might yet be done to set matters right, who surrounded him, as may
be imagined, very anxiously, fearing the issue.

    "By this the post came out of Linlithgow showing the King good
    tidings that the Queen was delivered. The King inquired whether it
    was man or woman. The messenger said it was ane fair dochter. The
    King answered and said, 'Farewell! it came with ane lass, and it
    will pass with ane lass,' and so commended himself to Almighty God,
    and spoke little from thereforth, but turned his back to his lords
    and his face to the wall."

Even at this bitter moment, however, the dying Prince was not left alone
with his last disappointment. Cardinal Beatoun, whose influence had been
so inauspicious in his life, pressed forward, "seeing him begin to fail
of his strength and natural speech," and thrust upon him a paper for his
signature, "wherein the Cardinal had writ what he pleased for his own
particular weill," evidently with some directions about the regency,
that ordeal which Scotland, unhappily, had now again to go through. When
James had put his dying hand to this authority, wrested from him in his
last weakness, a faint light of peace seems to have fallen across his

[Illustration: FALKLAND PALACE]

    "As I have shown you, he turned him upon his back, and looked and
    beheld his lords around about, and gave ane little lauchter, syne
    kissed his hand and gave it to all his lords about him, and
    thereafter held up his hands to God and yielded the spirit."

There are many pathetic death scenes in history, but few more touching.
His father, after a splendid and prosperous life, had fallen "in the
lost battle, borne down by the flying;" he, after a career almost as
chivalrous and splendid and full of noble work for his country, in a
still more forlorn overthrow; his hopes all gone from him, his strength
broken in his youth. Nothing, it would seem, could save these princes,
so noble and so unfortunate. It was enough to bear the name of James
Stewart to be weighed down by cruel Fate. But before his spirit shook
off the mortal coil a ray of peace had shot through the clouds; he
looked upon the anxious faces of his friends, some of whom at least must
surely have been true friends, bound to him by comradeship and
brotherhood, with that low laugh which is one of the most touching
expressions of weakened and failing humanity--love and kindness in it,
and a certain pleasure to see them round him; and yet to be free of it
all--the heavy kingship, the hopes that ever failed, the friends that so
rarely were true. The lips that touched that cold hand which he kissed
before he gave to them must have trembled, perhaps with compunction, let
us hope with some vow of fidelity to his memory and trust.

Thus died the last of the five Jameses--the last in one sense of that
unfortunate but gallant line. A life more swept by storms, more rent
asunder by conflicting passions and influences, more tragic still and
passionate than theirs, was to part them from the singularly changed,
modified, and modernised successors who, with a difference, were to wear
yet drop this ancient crown. The Stewarts after Mary are no longer like
those that went before. James's dying words came in some curious fashion
true, though not as he thought. It came with a lass and it went with a
lass that ancient crown. When another James reached the throne Scotland
was no more as it had been.

It may seem a fantastic chronology to end here the records of the
Stewards of Scotland: but it is I think justified by this change, which
altered altogether the character of the history and the circumstances of
the monarchs. Henceforward new agencies, new powers, were at work in the
little proud and self-contained kingdom, which had maintained its
independence and individuality so long. Torn asunder by rival
influences, by intrigues incessant and profound, by that struggle
between the old and the new which was never more desperate than in her
bosom, and which, being a religious change chiefly, was one of life and
death: and with a monarch no longer native, but of foreign training and
thoughts, even if she had not been a woman and half a Tudor, the little
ship of State, the gallant little nation, plunged amid waves and
billows, not unfamiliar, indeed, but fiercer and wilder than ever
before, with winds so much increased in force as they raged over wider

The Stewards of Scotland here ended their special trust and gave in
their account. No race was ever more unfortunate, but I think we may say
that none more nobly endeavoured to discharge that high commission. With
one exception, and that doubtful--for a man may be weak and may not be
brave without being a bad man or even king--every bearer of this fated
name laboured with courage and constancy at the great work of elevating
his country. "Another for Hector!" cried the Highland warrior when his
young chief was in danger, and all the world has read the story with
moistened eyes. Another for Scotland! had been the cry of the house of
Stewart throughout more than a century. As one man fell he handed the
sword to another; to an infant hand trained amid feuds and anarchy, but
always clasping, as soon as it had force enough, the royal weapon with
royal courage and meaning. None of the Jameses lived beyond the earliest
chapter of middle age; all of them succeeded in early youth, most of
them in childhood; and, with but that uncertain exception of James III,
every one of them was actuated by a noble patriotism, and did his
_devoir_ manfully for the improvement and development of his country.
They were noble gentlemen one and all: the bigotry, the egotism, the
obstinacy of the later Stewarts were not in them. Knights and paladins
of an age of romance, they were also stern executors of justice, bold
innovators, with eyes ever open to every expedient of progress and
prosperity. Their faults were those faults of a light heart and genial
temperament, which are the most easily understood and pardoned. Under
their sway their country and their little capital came to be known over
Christendom as not unworthy to hold place among the reigning kingdoms
and cities through which the stream of chivalry flowed. They invented
the trade, the shipping, the laws and civic order of Scotland. Among her
heroes there are none more worthy of everlasting remembrance. They
fulfilled their stewardry with a unity of purpose and a steadfastness of
aim which, when we take into account the continually recurring lapses of
long minorities, is one of the wonders of the time. Edinburgh grew under
their sway from an angry village, lying between a fierce castle and a
rich monastery, little distinguished above its peers, less favoured than
Stirling, less wealthy than the town of St. John, to one of the most
noted of cities, picturesque and splendid, full of noble houses, the
centre of national life and government. And it is curious to record that
no one of the monarchs who brought it such nobility and fame left any
sadness of death to the associations of Edinburgh. They lived and were
wedded and filled with the brightness of their happier moments the town
which afforded so beautiful a scene for all rejoicings: they died on the
field of battle or in other places in conflict or violence or despair.
But Edinburgh only retains the brighter memories, the triumphal
processions, the bridal finery, the jousts and the feasts, the
Parliaments and proclamations of laws and high alliances. The reigns of
the Jameses contain the history of her rise, her splendour, her climax
of beauty and stateliness, without any association of downfall or decay.





There is perhaps among the many historical personages attached by close
association to Edinburgh no one so living, so vigorous, so present, as
the great figure of the Reformer and Prophet, who once filled the air
with echoes of his vehement and impassioned oratory, who led both Lords
and Commons, and mated with princes on more than equal terms, the
headstrong, powerful, passionate Preacher, who was at once the leading
spirit of his time and its most vigorous chronicler. To fill the circle
of association, he alone, of all the animated groups who withstood or
who followed him, has left us not only a number of books which disclose
his mind with all its powers and imperfections, but the very dwelling in
which he passed at least the latter part of his life, intact and
authentic, a memorial more striking and attractive than any "storied urn
or animated bust." Nor are even the associations of burial wanting; for
though it is no longer within the solemn enclosure of a churchyard, and
there is no certainty that the stone which is supposed to mark the
position of the Reformer's grave is historically exact, it is yet sure
enough that near by, within reach of the doors of his ancient church,
beneath the pavement trodden by so many feet, his remains repose in the
centre of the life of the Scottish capital, a position more appropriate
than any other that could be imagined. Thus by life and by death this
singular and most evident and unmistakable man, still alive in every
lineament, is connected with the city in which his life was passed, and
in the history of which he can never be forgotten. There may be doubts
about other localities, and it may be difficult to identify the houses
which have been inhabited and the floors that have been trod by other
distinguished personages. Crowding footsteps of the poor have
obliterated the record in many a noble house abandoned by history; even
the fated steps of the Queen save in one bloodstained closet have left
but little authentic trace. But Knox is still present with all the force
of an indestructible individuality--in the existing life of the country
which took so strong an impression from him, and in the absolutely
personal facts of the church in which he preached, the house in which he
lived, the stone under which he lies.

To estimate the share he had in the foundations of that modern Scotland
which has so increased and thriven since his day, is perhaps more hard
now than it was even eighty years ago, when his biography was written by
Dr. M'Crie to the great interest and enthusiasm of the country. The laws
of historical judgment are subject to perpetual change, and the general
estimate of the great personages of the past has undergone various
modifications since that time. Perhaps even the Church is less sure of
her share in the record, less certain of the doom once so unhesitatingly
denounced against "the Paip that Pagan fu' of pride"; less confident of
her own superiority to all other developments of Christianity. The least
enlightened are no longer able to feel with a good conscience, as our
best instructed fathers did, that an important part of religious liberty
was freedom to curse and pull down every tenet other than their own. No
belief has been more obstinate or is more time-honoured: but in theory
at least it has been much subdued in recent times, so that few of us are
able to hold by our own side with the perfect confidence which once we
felt. And in these changing views, and in the impulse towards a greater
catholicity of feeling which has sprung up in Scotland, the influence of
that uncompromising teacher to whom reform was everything, who had no
prepossession in favour of what was old and venerable, but desired with
all the fervour of his fiery soul to make everything new, has doubtless
waned, save to that sacred simplicity of ignorance which forms no
judgment. But nothing can obliterate the person and strenuous being of
John Knox, or make him a less interesting figure on the crowded and
tragic stage of that epoch which he dominated and chronicled. And
nothing can unlink the associations which make him ever present and
living in Edinburgh, which was the capital and centre of his kingdom as
much as of any king who ever breathed.

John Knox was in every sense of the words a son of the soil, yet came of
a not unknown family, "kent folk" of East Lothian: if not lairds of any
great heritage, yet possessing lands and living sufficient to entitle
them to consideration. They were able to give him the best education of
the time, which he completed at the University of Glasgow under the
teaching of Major or Mair, the same whom George Buchanan accompanied to
France; so that both these great men, as well as various nobles and
ecclesiastics of the time, were his fellow-students, trained under the
same influence. Whether Knox followed Major to St. Andrews as Buchanan
followed him to Paris is not known; but he would seem to have lectured
on philosophy in St. Andrews at the beginning of his career. It might be
that he was himself present, and heard some of the bold and familiar
addresses of the wandering friars, the first rude champions of Reform,
whose protest against the wickedness of the bishops and the extortions
of the clergy he quotes with so much enjoyment of their rough humour, in
the beginning of his history; or even might have witnessed the lighted
pile and felt across his face the breath of that "reek" which carried
spiritual contagion with it, as it flew upon the keen breeze from the
sea over that little centre of life, full of scholars and wits, and keen
cynical spectators little likely to be convinced by any such means. It
is curious to hear of Major for instance, one of the Sorbonne, a doctor
of Paris and man of the world, as present at all those proceedings,
listening to Friar William's denunciation of the priests, to which he
gave his assent as "a doctrine that might weill be defended, for it
contayned no heresye"--and in very different circumstances to the
sermons of Rough, addressed to the slayers of the Cardinal, and to the
calling of Knox himself, a crisis of popular emotion and vehement
feeling. Such a man as Major, a son of the Renaissance, no Reformer nor
careful of any of these things, must have looked on with strange
feelings at all the revolutions accomplished before him, the rude jests
and songs, the half-jocular broadly humorous assaults, the cry of
heresy, the horror of the burnings, the deadly earnest of both preacher
and people after Beatoun's well-deserved but terrible end which cut all
compromises short. One wonders what thoughts were going on in the mind
of the old scholar who kept his place in his stall as well when mass was
sung as when every trace of that "idolatrous sacrifice" had been trodden
under foot. Would it be more or less the same to him whatever they
preached, those wild religionists, who tore each other in pieces? did he
look on with a secret smile at the turmoil they made, as if it mattered
which was uppermost, with a natural horror at the fierce flames of the
human sacrifice, yet consent in his mind that if they could so stamp the
heresy out which would otherwise destroy them, the bishops were only
logical to do it? while on the other side there was not much in point of
natural justice to be said against Norman Leslie and his men who slew
the Cardinal. Such spectators there must have been in no small number,
affording a curious rim and edge of observers to all that the more
active and violent might do or say. But these lookers-on have said
nothing on the subject, or their mild voices have been lost in the
clangour of actors vehement and earnest. It has been reserved for our
age to bring these dispassionate or, as we are apt to think, cynical
observers into the front rank.

The first scene in which John Knox comes prominently into sight of the
world occurs in the midst of that small but urgent and much-agitated
society on the fierce little headland by the sea, in the great and noble
cathedral which for most of the intervening time has been nothing but
ruins. We must in imagination rebuild these lofty walls, throw up again
the noble piers and clustered pillars, and see the townsfolk streaming
in--a crowd more picturesque in garb than any Scots assembly nowadays,
with its provost and councillors in their municipal finery: and the
grave representatives of the colleges filing in to their stalls--very
grave now, we may well believe, with many a look at the group of gentry,
among whom were half a dozen men whose hands were stained with the blood
of the Cardinal. No doubt to these spectators, beyond even the great
volume of sound which pealed upward from that vast company, in some
popular hymn or ancient war-cry of a psalm, the stir of the languid
besieging army outside, and the guns of the French Fleet, already on its
way to avenge Beatoun and crush this nest of heretics out, sounded
ominous in the background. Among the congregation was a dark, vehement
man, full of repressed fervour and energy, with two or three lads by his
side, of whom he had charge--strange tutor! flames of zeal and
earnestness burning in his deep-set eyes; the mark of the tonsure (if it
was ever there, which is a doubtful question) obliterated by long
disuse; a man known by the congregation as a zealous instructor of
youth, catechising his boys publicly of afternoons in the cathedral,
vacant then of the many services, the vespers and benedictions, of the
superseded faith.

Knox's gifts and qualities were already well known; he had been a
devoted friend and follower of Wishart, the martyr whose memory was
still fresh in the minds of all men; and these public examinations of
the three boys, and the expositions he addressed to them, but which many
of mature age also gathered to hear, had given the many competent judges
then assembled in the beleaguered city a practical knowledge of his
gifts and endowments. And Rough, who filled the post of preacher in St.
Andrews, was not a man of learning, and in consequence would seem to
have been troubled by disputatious members of the priesthood, eager, not
unnaturally, to defend their own tenets, and with all the authorities at
their fingers' ends. In this strait John Knox was entreated to accept
the charge of the congregation, but in vain. Perhaps the memory of
Wishart's charge to him, "Return to your bairns," was still in his ears;
perhaps the reluctance and hesitation of a man who felt himself
incompetent for so great a responsibility--though it is strange to
associate any idea of shrinking from responsibility with such a
dauntless spirit, and he was by this time a man of forty-two, with a
matured mind and some experience of life. At all events he "utterlie
refused": he "would not run where God had not called him." This being
so, there was no alternative but to take him by surprise and force him
into the position which all desired him to assume. And this was the step
which was accordingly taken by the assembly of the Reformers in St.
Andrews, an assembly in which were many well-known and distinguished
men, so illustrious a councillor as Sir David Lindsay, the poet and
Lyon-King of Scotland, being one of the gentlemen and commoners who
decided upon this dramatic and picturesque call.

They were all met to the preaching upon a certain day, the date of which
is not given, but which was presumably in the summer of 1547, Knox
having arrived with his pupils in St. Andrews in the Easter of that
year. The principal persons present were aware of what was coming, and
probably the mass of the congregation knew that some event more than
ordinary was preparing, which would quicken the eagerness of their
attention. The sermon was upon the right of the congregation to the
services of "any man in whom they espied the gifts of God," and the risk
on his part of refusing their call. Mair, sitting by in his doctor's
gown, though he had committed himself to no religious heresy, had
discoursed much to his students upon the rights of the people as the
source of power--a doctrine, indeed, which Knox did not hold in that
naked form, though most probably he had been influenced by these
teachings towards the still more tremendous form of doctrine which sets
forth the voice of the Christian people as representing the voice of
God. And no doubt up to this point he gave his adhesion to the words of
the preacher. But when Rough had reached the crown of his argument he
suddenly turned to where Knox sat and addressed him individually, while
the people held their breath.

"Brother," he said, "ye shall not be offended albeit that I speak unto
you that which I have in charge even from all those that are here
present: which is this. In the name of God and of His Son Jesus Christ,
and in the name of those that presently call you by my mouth, I charge
you that ye refuse not this holy vocation, but that as you tender the
glory of God, the increase of Christ His kingdom, the edification of
your brethren, and the comfort of me, whom ye understand well enough to
be oppressed by the multitude of labours, that you take upon you the
public office and charge of preaching even as ye look to avoid God's
heavy displeasure and desire that He shall multiply His grace with you."
And in the end he said to those present, "Was not this your charge to
me? and do ye not approve this vocation?" They answered, "It was, and we
approve it." "Whereat the said John, abashed, burst forth in most
abundant tears and withdrew himself to his chamber."

It would be difficult to find a more striking scene. Any sudden incident
of an individual character thus occurring in a public assembly calls
forth a thrill of interest, and gives at once to the most disconnected
crowd a pictorial unity. The interest and excitement in those roused and
eager eyes, the crowd all turned towards the astonished subject of this
appeal, the soft young faces making a little circle round him, half
terrified, half flattered by the sudden consciousness that all eyes were
turned towards them, would make a fine theme for a historical painter.
And "the said John, abashed," finding no refuge in the great excitement
and surprise of the moment, he so stern and so strong, but in tears! It
was thus that the ministry of the great Reformer began.

It is unnecessary to follow in detail a career so well known. Every
particular of it, and even the sermons with all their heads, may be
found in the _Historie of the Reformation in Scotland_, which yields in
interest, in picturesqueness and the most living and graphic power of
narrative, to none of the primitive chronicles. No professional
word-painter has ever put a dramatic scene, a contention, a battle, such
as those which were everyday occurrences in Scotland at that time, upon
paper with more pictorial force, or with half the fervour of life and
reality. The writer goes through all the gamut of popular passion. He
exults sometimes fiercely, laughs sometimes coarsely, throws in "a merry
jest," which is often grim with savage humour; but throughout all is
always real, always genuine, writing not impartially, but with the
strong conviction and sentiment of a man elucidating matters in which he
has been himself a prominent actor. The arguments of his adversaries
when he enters upon a public controversy are unaccountably feeble, which
perhaps may be explained by the fact that the friars were not much
accustomed to controversy, perhaps by the natural bias of a
controversialist to lessen the force of his antagonists' arguments; and
he does not pretend to contemplate his adversaries, either spiritual or
political, with any tolerance, or permit any possibility that they too
might perhaps mean well and have a righteous intention, even though it
was entirely opposed to that of John Knox: such ideas had no currency in
his day. That Mary of Guise might really mean and wish to avoid
bloodshed, to strike no blow that was not inevitable, to keep the breach
from being widened by actual civil war; and that the policy of
temporising as long as that was possible was anything but wicked wiles
and intentions of betrayal, was an idea which he would seem to have been
incapable of conceiving. This is a drawback perhaps common to every
struggle so important and fundamental as was the strife which began to
rage in Scotland. Had we a history compiled by the spectators to whom we
have referred it would probably, unless nature gave them an exceptional
keenness of vision, be wanting in those qualities of animation and force
which he who is confident of having every good influence on his side,
and nothing but the powers of evil against him, is likely to possess.
Major indeed was a historian, but he did not meddle with the history of
his own time; and Buchanan, while separated from the reader by the bonds
and cerements of his Latin, and therefore shut out from a popular
audience, is as great a partisan as Knox.

The little garrison of St. Andrews was taken, as everybody knows, by the
French, and carried away to prison and the galleys; but no blood was
shed to avenge the blood of Beatoun, a point which ought to be put to
their credit. John Knox suffered all these misfortunes with a steadfast
soul, still declaring to all who surrounded him, in the extremity of
suffering, hardship, and sickness, that he should again preach in that
Church of St. Andrews from which he had been taken. This is the first of
the many prophecies completely verified afterwards with which he is
credited. He escaped after about three years of captivity and misery in
France, during which he would seem to have been actually employed in the
galleys, and came to England, where it is to be supposed the story of
his influence and power with the Scotch Reformers had preceded him,
otherwise the advancement to which he reached, and which might have been
greater but for his dissatisfaction with the imperfectly Reformed Church
there, and the bondage of ceremonials and traditions still left in it,
would have been still more extraordinary. He was one of the chaplains to
the boy-king Edward, for whom he had the amiable prejudice common to
those who secure the favour of very young princes, expecting from him
everything that was great and good. At the death of the young King,
however, Knox removed hurriedly to the Continent with many others,
knowing that under the reign of Mary there would be little acceptance
for men of his views. During his stay in England he had met with a pair
of ladies who were henceforward to be very closely connected with his
life--Marjory Bowes, his future wife, and to all appearance still more
important her mother, Mrs. Bowes, to whom, contrary to the ordinary idea
of that relationship, he seems to have given much regard and affection,
notwithstanding that she was a melancholy woman, depressed and
despondent, sometimes overwhelmed with religious terrors, and requiring
continued support and encouragement in the faith. One cannot help
feeling a sort of compassion for the silent Marjory, of whom nothing is
ever heard, between her solemn lover of fifty and her sad mother. But
she is voiceless, and though there are letters of religious counsel
addressed to her under the title of "weill belovit sister," there is not
among them all, so strange is the abstract effect of religious
exhortation thus applied, one gleam of anything like individual
character, or which can throw any light upon what she was; which,
considering the marked individuality of the writer, is curious
exceedingly. We must hope that on other occasions, notwithstanding his
mature years, there were letters calculated to give more satisfaction to
a young woman than these expositions and addresses.

For the next two years Knox, now it is evident universally known
wherever the Reformation had penetrated, filled the place of minister to
a congregation of exiles assembled at Geneva, most of them refugees from
England, who had fled, as he himself had done, at the accession of Mary.
But his heart was in his own land, where in the meantime the progress of
the new Reformed faith was arrested, and silence and discouragement had
fallen over the country. The leaders were dispersed or destroyed, the
preachers silenced, and there was no one to gather together the many
groups of believers all over the country in whose hearts the seed had
sprung up strongly, but who as yet had made no public profession. In
1555 Knox suddenly reappeared in Scotland, brought thither at once by
urgent letters and by the eagerness of his own heart. When he arrived in
Edinburgh he found that many who "had a zeal to godliness" still
attended mass, probably finding it more difficult to break the continual
habit of their lives than the bonds of doctrine--and that the outer
structure of the Church remained much as it had been, without any such
shattering and falling asunder as had taken place in regions more
advanced. That this arose from no want of zeal was proved as soon as the
preacher appeared: for his arrival was no sooner known than the house in
which he had alighted from his journey was filled by a stream of
inquirers, whom he "began to exhort secretly." One night he was called
to supper with the Laird of Dun, the well-known John Erskine, who was
one of the most earnest of the Reforming party, and in the grave company
he found there--among whom were one or two ministers and the young but
already promising and eminent William Maitland of Lethington--the
question was fully discussed, Was it lawful to conform while holding a
faith not only different but hostile? was it permissible to bow down in
the house of Rimmon? To this Knox answered No, with all the
uncompromising and stern sincerity of his soul. "Nowise was it lawful."
The question was very fully defended from the other point of view.
"Nothing was omitted that might make for the temporiser"; even the
example of Paul, who went up into the Temple to pay his vow by the
advice of the Apostle James, which step, however, Knox pronounced at
once, notwithstanding his absolute reverence for Holy Writ, to have been
wrong, and not of God--a mistake of both the Apostles, and manifestly
bringing no blessing with it. His bold and assured argument cut the
ground from under the feet of the hesitating Reformers, to whom no doubt
it was very difficult thus to break away from all the traditions of
their lives.

This scene throws a strange and in some respects new light upon the more
human side of the great movement. It is easier perhaps to us who are
acquainted with all that followed to understand the fiery zeal which
flamed against every accessory of what they conceived to be
idolatry--the saintly image, which was nothing but a painted board, and
the "round clipped god" upon the altar which was blasphemously asserted
to be the very Lord Himself--than to remember that these men had also
many links of use and wont, of attachment and habit, to the churches in
which they had been christened, and the position, with all its needs and
simple duties, to which they had been born. To see them standing there
for a moment reluctant, with the tremendous breach that must be made in
life gaping before them, and the sense of universal disruption and
tearing asunder which must follow, is to me more touching than the stern
conviction which never pauses nor fears. They were so thoroughly
convinced, however, of the necessity which he reasoned out with such
remorseless logic, that Erskine first, and after him many gentlemen
through Scotland, craved the help of the preacher to put the crown upon
their convictions, and spread in their halls and private chambers, no
church being attainable, what was now for the first time called the
Table of the Lord. Knox went to Dun in Forfarshire across the great
firths of Forth and Tay, and to Calder, the house of Sir James
Sandilands, afterwards Lord Torphichen, in Lothian, where many gathered
to hear him. But it would seem to have been in the West, always the most
strenuous in doctrine, that he first celebrated the new rite, the holy
feast as yet unknown in Scotland. During the eventful winter of 1555-56
he pervaded the country thus, setting forth the special bond of
evangelical religion, uniting those different groups by the sacred seal
of the bread and wine--who can doubt received with a profound and
tremulous awe by lips to which the wafer had been hitherto the only
symbol of that act of closest communion?

This would seem to have been the chief work of Knox during the visit
which, in the midst of his Geneva ministry, he paid to his native land:
and it is easy to perceive that it was of supreme importance as
identifying and separating the converts into a definite community, bound
together by that sacrament of fealty, an oath more binding than any
expressed only in words. Hitherto the preaching and teaching of the
Word, which was itself a discovery, and came with all the freshness of a
new revelation, had been the only sacred office carried on by the
Reformers. The Sacraments were all in the hands of ecclesiastics, who
had been for generations past losing the confidence and respect of the
nation--though one cannot but believe there must still have been here
and there a humble curate, a parish priest like Chaucer's Parsoune, to
strengthen the hold of the accustomed ordinances upon men's minds, who,
however strongly they might turn against the miracle of
transubstantiation, could not cast aside the only means of partaking in
the great mystery of the body and blood of Christ. To all such here was
now the answer set forth, and the hope--the holy Table, the communion of
saints, the bread and wine of the great and ceaseless commemoration. It
would be doing the greatest wrong to these small devout assemblies, and
to the fervent preacher, devoured with eagerness to make them all, not
almost but altogether such men as himself, to call this an act of
policy. Yet that it was so, and that a bond was thus established to
consolidate the party, more sacred, more binding than any other, there
can be no reasonable doubt.

While travelling on this solemn mission from place to place and house to
house of the religious gentry of Scotland, Knox would seem to have made
Edinburgh his headquarters, and preached there from time to time, not
always secretly. He had here "a greater audience than ever before" in
"the Bishop of Dunkeld's great lodging," that ancient habitation from
which Gawin Douglas, the poet-bishop, had watched and waited while the
fight went on within the gates of the Nether Bow, and from which he
rushed out to rescue the other prelate whose corslet rang under his
rochet. Strange association, yet not inappropriate; for the mild Bishop
of Dunkeld had also found many potent words to say against the abuses of
the Church, though the new presbyter who now took his place was rather
of Beatoun's warlike mettle than of Douglas's. The nobles who came
thither to hear the preacher were so "weill contented" with his
doctrine--which is his own moderate version of what was no doubt an
enthusiasm of grave approbation--that they seem to have imagined, in
that solemn simplicity which belongs to fresh conviction, that he might
perchance, could she but hear him, move the Regent Queen herself, Mary
of Guise, an unlikely convert no doubt. He was accordingly exhorted by
three gentlemen, specified as the Earl of Glencairn, the Earl Marischal,
and Harye Drummond, to write a letter to the Queen, which Knox, always
eager for the pen, and full of matter boiling to have utterance,
immediately did. It is difficult not to think of the _sancta
simpilicitas_, which rarely belongs to such a group of men, when we
think of the grave trio of advisers, and the still graver but fiery
prophet-preacher, making this wonderful appeal. It was less wonderful in
him who loved nothing so much as to write when he could not be
preaching, to set forth those high-handed arraignments before the
visionary tribunal of the one true and only faith, of whomsoever he
could address, queen or peasant; but it is strange that men of the
world, and of the society of their time, should have thus thought it
possible to convert a lady so full of policy and cares of government, so
entirely occupied with the most important matters of statesmanship, not
to say so determined a Catholic, as the daughter of the Guises, the
sister of the Cardinal.

The attempt, as was natural, failed completely. "Which letter," resumes
Knox, "when she had read within a day or two she delivered it to the
proud prelate, Beatoun, Bishop of Glasgow, and said in mockage, 'Please
you, my lord, to read a pasquill?'" It is against the perfection of the
prophet, but not the character of the man, that this scorn stung him as
no persecution could have done. He made certain additions to the letter,
and published it in Geneva on his return there. We are not told which
part of the letter these additions are, but what he tells us seems to
indicate that the threatening prophesies, of which he says in his
_Historie_, "lett those very flatterers see what hath failed," had been
added to the original text. We forgive him his ready wrath, and even the
"threatenings" which he always considered himself at liberty to launch
at those who, in his own language, "withstood the truth": but we could
have wished that Knox had been more magnanimous, and could have
forgotten the offence after the passage of years. Mary's careless speech
would have been but "ane merry boord" had it been directed against one
of his enemies.

When Knox went back to Geneva after this winter's work to resume his
pastorate there, he left the growing cause of Reform in Scotland with a
constitution and organisation sanctified by the most sacred rites of
religion, an advantage quite inestimable in the circumstances, and
placing the cause as in an ark of safety. And when he returned to
Edinburgh two years later, the scattered groups to whom in country
houses and castles he had administered the Lord's Supper had become the
Congregation, an army existing in all quarters of Scotland, ready to
rally to the aid of any portion of the body, or eminent individual, who
might be attacked: and headed by a phalanx of Scots nobility, Lords of
the Congregation, the heads of a new party in the State, as well as of a
new Church, an altogether novel development of national life. It would
have been difficult to have spoken more boldly than Knox had done in his
letter to the Queen Regent three years before, but the Congregation in
its established position as a national party took stronger ground, and
pressed their claims to a hearing with a force of petitioners too strong
to be gainsaid. Knox had called upon Mary herself in her own person to
hear the Word and abjure her errors, but the body of Reformers asked for
measures more comprehensive and still more subversive of the established
order of things. In their first address to Mary they upbraided
themselves, with a manly penitence which must have been bewildering to
royal ears, that they had permitted their brethren in the faith to be
destroyed by "faggot fyre and sword" without resistance. "We acknowledge
it," said these strange petitioners, "to have been our bounden duty
before God either to have defended our brethren from those cruel
murtherers (seeing we are a part of that power which God hath
established in this realm) or else to have given open testification of
our faith with them." This, however, being no longer in their power,
they besought the Queen to make such horrible accidents impossible in
the future, and to grant to them permission to establish their worship;
to meet publicly or privately to make their common prayer, and read the
Scriptures in the vulgar tongue; to have the assistance of "qualified
persons in knowledge" to expound to them "any hard places of Scripture,"
and to have the Sacraments administered "in the vulgar tongue," and the
Lord's Supper in both kinds. Last of all they desired of the Queen that
"the wicked, scandalous, and detestable life of prelates and of the
State Ecclesiastical" should be reformed, stating at the same time their
wish to have the case between themselves and the priests tried not only
by the rules of the New Testament, but by the writings of the ancient
Fathers. In all this there was no intolerance, but a wholly just and
reasonable prayer, suggesting harm to no one, not even the persecutors
from whom they had suffered; altogether a claim of justice and native
right magnanimously as well as forcibly made, with dignified
recollection of their own position as "a part of that power which God
hath established in this realm," to which it would have been difficult
for any reasonable sovereign to return a discourteous or imperious

Mary of Guise did no such thing. She did not receive the address of the
Congregation as she had done the letter of Knox. But she did what was
worse, she gave no answer at all save fair words and delay. It would
have been perhaps too much to expect that even those moderate and manly
petitioners should have taken into consideration the complicated
circumstances by which she was surrounded, or the difficulties of her
position, with the "State Ecclesiastical" so strong and wealthy,
arbiters for the moment of her faith, and France and her kindred
expectant of impossible things from her, and Rome itself regarding with
a watchful eye what a Princess of so Catholic a family--defender of the
faith in a distant but at this moment exceedingly important
field--should do. Mary temporised, which was perhaps the best thing
possible for the Reformers if not for herself, and promised to take
order, to regulate matters for their advantage so soon as it was
possible, when she should have concluded various matters of more
importance that were in hand, such, for instance, as that of awarding
the crown matrimonial to her daughter's husband the young King of
France, to whom all earthly distinctions were soon to matter so little.
During this period of delay the Reformers were left unmolested to
multiply and mature, so that when her other business was despatched, and
the Queen could no longer avoid some action in the matter, the
Congregation had attained both numbers and power. When the preachers
were summoned to appear before her to plead their own cause "it was
concluded by the whole brethren that the gentlemen of every county
should accompany their preachers to the day and place appointed." This
was a proceeding entirely sanctioned by Scotch custom, of which there
were many historical examples, but it was not perhaps calculated to
promote the ends of peaceful discussion; for the gentlemen thus
described were accompanied by their households at least, if not by a
stout following of retainers, and the result was the assemblage of "such
a multitude" that even the leaders considered it likely to have "given
fear" to the Queen, although this multitude was, as the record says,
with a gleam of grim humour, "without armour as peciable men, minding
only to give confession with their preachers." Mary wisely interposed
another period of delay when she was warned what the "peaceable" escort
was with which the preachers were obeying her call.

It was, however, as little safe to let loose such an army of confessors
through the country which had to be traversed before they could reach
their homes, as to receive them in Stirling where the appointment had
been. For, mild as was their purpose and godly their intentions, it
proved too much for the sense and moderation even of that religious
crowd when they found themselves on their way northward masters of St.
Johnstone (or Perth, as moderns call it) with the fumes of a sermon of
Knox's still in their brain, and a report about that the Queen meant to
put the preachers "to the horn," for all so softly spoken as she was.
Knox's sermon had been "vehement against idolatrie," though preached in
a church still wealthy and bright with all the adornments of the ancient
faith, and in which, as the crowd dispersed, a priest appeared in his
vestments to say his mass. It gives us a curious impression of the chaos
that reigned, to hear that in the town, which was full to overflowing of
this Protestant crowd, and in the very church which still rang with the
echoes of Knox's vehement oratory, he who had no words strong enough to
denounce that idolatrous rite--there should come forth in the calm of
use and wont a nameless humble priest with his acolyte to say the mass,
which was his bounden duty whatever obstacles might be in his way. The
manner in which it is recorded, with the violent antagonism of the time,
is this--"That a priest in contempt would go to the masse; and to
declare his malignant presumption he would open up ane glorious
tabernacle which stood upon the Hie altar." On the other side no doubt
the tale would be, that with the faith and courage of a holy martyr this
venerable confessor ascended the steps of the altar to give his life, if
needful, for the holy mysteries, and fulfil his sacred office whoever
might oppose. And which was the more true version who can tell? On
neither side would it be believed, what was probably the fact, that it
was a simple brother taking little thought of the commotions round him,
who, as soon as the clamour of the preaching was over, concerned with
nothing but his mass which had to be said during canonical hours, had
come in without other intention to perform his daily duty.

But in any case, the sight of the glorious tabernacle filled with a fury
of excitement the dregs of the crowd who still lingered there. A child's
outcry, more "malapert" than the priest, called the attention of the
lingerers, and before any one knew, the passion of destruction had
seized like a frenzy upon the people. They flung themselves upon the
"glorious tabernacle," and all the statues and adornments, and laid them
in swift and sudden ruin. The rumour flew through the town, along with
the shouts and crash of metal and stone; and the remainder of the
lately-dispersed multitude came rushing back to the church which was the
scene of the outbreak, a mob "not of the gentlemen, neither of them that
were earnest professors, but of the rasckall multitude," which finding
nothing to do in the stripped walls and chapels, hurried on, led, no
doubt, by the first of the iconoclasts, who had become intoxicated with
the frenzy of destruction, to the convents of the Grey and the Black
Friars. Their violence grew as they passed on, from one scene of
destruction to another, many of them finding substantial inducements in
the shape of booty, in the well-filled meal-girnels and puncheons of
salt beef in the larders of the monks. By the time they came to these it
may be presumed that the special rage against idolatry had been
assuaged; but the demon of destruction had taken its place. And when the
excited multitude reached the noble Charterhouse with all its
picturesque buildings, "the fairest abbaye and best biggit of any within
the realm of Scotland," surrounded by pleasant gardens and noble trees,
every restraint was thrown aside. It had been founded by James I., and
there lay the remains of his murdered body along with those of many
other royal victims of the stormy and tumultuous past. So much
conscience was left that the terrified monks, or at least the Prior who
is specially mentioned, was allowed to take away with him as much silver
and gold as he was able to carry. The rest was beaten down into
indiscriminating ruin, and "within two days these three great places,
monuments of idolatrie, to wit the Grey and Black thieves and
Charterhouse monks (a building of a wondrous cost and greatness), were
so destroyed that the walls only did remain of all these great

That this was in no way the doing of Knox and his colleagues is evident;
but it is equally evident that they treated it as a mere accident and
outrage of the mob, without consequence so far as the greater question
was concerned. When the Queen, exasperated, threatened in her anger on
the receipt of the news to destroy St. Johnstone, and began to collect
an army to march upon the offenders, the Congregation assembled in Perth
professed astonishment and incredulity, treating her threats as the mere
utterances of passion, and thinking "such cruelty" impossible. There is
not a word in the letters to the Queen's Majestie, to the Nobilitie of
Scotland, and the fierce address to the priests in which they afterwards
stated their case, of any wrong on their own side or provocation given.
The Congregation takes at once the highest tone. They declare that,
faithful servants of the realm as they have always been, if this unjust
tyranny is carried out they will be constrained to take up the sword of
just defence, notifying at the same time their innocence not only to
"the King of France, to our Mistress and to her husband, but also to the
Princes and Council of everie Christian realm, declaring unto them that
this cruel, unjust, and most tyrannical murther intended against towns
and multitudes, was and is the only cause of our revolt from our
accustomed obedience." Thus they treat the threatened attack throughout
as wholly directed against their religion and religious freedom, without
the least reference to the just cause of offence given by riots so
alarming and destructive, and by the ruin of a national monument so
important as the Charterhouse. All these are as completely ignored as if
the population of St. Johnstone had been the most tranquil and
law-abiding in the world. And they do this with such evident good faith
that it is impossible not to believe that what had happened was to
themselves an unimportant incident: though it was something like what
the destruction of Westminster Abbey would have been in England. In
these respects, however, the state of feeling produced by the
Reformation followed no ordinary laws; the fervour of hatred and
contempt which the priesthood called forth in Scotland being beyond all
example or comparison, except, indeed, in some parts of France, where
Farel and his followers had set the example of destruction.

The Queen, however, did little more than threaten. Before she could move
at all, the Westland lords, who had gone home, had heard the news and
turned back in hot haste to succour their brethren. Even without that
reinforcement the French general had hesitated to approach too near the
town occupied by so many resolute men, no longer "peaceable," but
determined to defend themselves. It is very apparent that Mary wished
above all things to avoid bloodshed and any step which would precipitate
the beginning of a civil war: and she sent embassy after embassy,
selected sometimes from her own side, sometimes from that of the
Reformers, to exhort them to submission. If her part in the matter was
that of an anxious and in many ways considerate ruler, bent, so far as
in her lay, upon keeping the peace, the attitude of the Congregation
was, at the same time, a perfectly manly and moderate one, granting
their dulness of conscience in respect to the real outrage. "If the
Queen's grace would suffer the religion then begun to proceed, and not
trouble their brethren and sisters that had professed Christ Jesus with
them," they declared themselves ready to submit in any way to the
Queen's commandment; but without this promise they would not stir. Knox
himself, however, who was the soul of the party, was, according to his
wont, less self-controlled. He considered it his duty to make a special
statement to Argyle and the Lord James, the future Earl of Murray, who
were the Queen's first envoys, and to send a message to the Regent in
his own name, with a curious assumption of the prophet's office, which
is exceedingly remarkable so near the beginning of his career, and is at
once an evidence of the enormous influence which he had acquired, and of
the astonishing confidence in his own mission and powers which must have
helped him to acquire it. "Say to the Queen's Grace Regent," he required
them, "in my name, that we whom she in her blind rage doth persecute are
God's servants, faithful and obedient subjects to the authority of this
realm: that that religion which she pretendeth to maintain by fire and
sword is not the religion of Christ Jesus, but is express contrarie to
the same, ane superstition devised by the brain of man: which I offer
myself to prove against all that within Scotland will maintain the
contrarie--liberty of tongue being granted to me, and God's written word
being admitted for judge."

Thus the preacher flung down his glove like a knight of the old
chivalry, with a fiery and eager hardihood which we could the better
admire had he done more justice to his adversaries, especially the
Queen, whose good intentions it seems so difficult to misconstrue. He
warns her also, in the same high tone, that her enterprise will not
succeed, and that the end shall be her confusion, "onless betimes she
repent and desist," with all the stern certainty of an inspired prophet.
Whether the serious emissaries, who, though they were Protestants, "had
begun to muse," and perhaps could not keep their eyes from remarking the
smoke and dust of the ruins behind the energetic figure of the Reformer,
conveyed this message in full we may be permitted to doubt. They were
both young men, and it is unlikely they would prejudice their own career
by repeating to the Queen's Grace anything about her blind rage or the
confusion which would follow. Lord Sempill, who accompanied them, and
who was of the Queen's party--"a man sold under sin," says Knox--perhaps
did more justice to the message; but Knox's sole desire was that it
should be repeated word by word.

We need not, however, follow the advances and retreats, the always
imminent encounter for which the Congregation was fully ready, but from
which the Queen and her general constantly retired at the last moment,
before the gates of Perth, on Cupar Muir, and other places, making
agreement after agreement of which nothing came. In the course of this
curious dance of the two powers confronting each other much ink was
shed, however, if no blood, and the representations, letters, bonds, and
assurances must have kept the scribes on either side in constant
occupation. The Congregation was certainly the more argumentative and
long-winded of the correspondents, and never seems to have lost an
opportunity of a letter. They pervaded the country, an ever-increasing
band, which, whenever an emergency occurred, was multiplied from every
quarter at the raising of a finger on the part of the reforming lords.
That the violent beginning made in Perth had given to the populace a
taste for the pleasures of destruction, however, is very fully evident,
and it soon became clear that when the preachers and their protectors
moved "to make reformation," the mob who followed them would leave
nothing but ruins behind. This and the method of it is very well set
forth in the case of Scone, a place of great historical interest, where
the ancient kings of Scotland had been crowned. It would seem to have
been a raid of private vengeance which directed the operations, "four
zealous men," irrestrainable, it would seem, by the leaders, having set
out from Perth, "to take order with that place," considering how
obstinately proud and despiteful the Bishop of Murray had been. The
lords had already sent a letter of warning to the Bishop, who was housed
in some abbey near, advertising him that unless he would come and join
them they could neither spare nor save his place. But while the answer
lingered the town of Dundee took up the quarrel and set forth to carry
out the work.

    "To stay them was first sent the Provost of Dundee and his brother
    Alexander Halliburton Capitain, who little prevailing was sent unto
    them John Knox; but before his coming they were entered to the
    pulling down of the idols and dortour (dormitory). And albeit the
    said Maister James Halliburton, Alexander his brother, and the said
    John, did what in them lay to have stayed the fury of the multitude,
    yet were they not able to put order universalie; and therefore they
    sent for the lords, Earl of Argyle and Lord James, who coming with
    all diligence laboured to have saved the palace and the kirk. But
    because the multitude had found buried in the kirk a great number of
    idols, hid of purpose to have reserved them for a better day (as the
    Papists speak) the towns of Dundee and St. Johnstone could not be
    satisfied till that the whole reparation and ornaments of the church
    (as they term it) were destroyed. And yet did the lords so travel
    that they saved the Bishop's palace with the church and place for
    that night; for the two lords did not depart till they brought with
    them the whole number of those who most sought the Bishop's
    displeasure. The Bishop, greatly offended that anything should have
    been enterprised in reformation of his place, asked of the lords his
    bond and handwriting, which not two hours before he had sent to them
    (this was a promise to come immediately to arrange for the safety of
    his see, and also to support them in Parliament in gratitude for the
    warning they had given him); Which delivered to his messenger, Sir
    Adam Brown, advertisement was given that if any further displeasure
    chanced unto him that he should not blame them. The Bishop's
    servants that same night began to fortify the place again, and began
    to do violence to some that were carrying away such baggage as they
    could come by. The Bishop's girnel was kept the first night by the
    labours of John Knox, who by exhortation removed such as would
    violentlie have made irruption. The morrow following, some of the
    poor in hope of spoil, and some of Dundee to consider what was done,
    passed up to the said Abbey of Scone; whereat the Bishop's servants
    offended began to threaten and speak proudly, and as it was
    constantly affirmed one of the Bishop's sons stogged through with a
    rapier one of Dundee because he was looking in at the girnel door.
    This bruit noised abroad, the town of Dundee was more enraged than
    before, who putting themselves in armour sent word to the
    inhabitants of St. Johnstone, 'That unless they should support them
    to avenge that injury, that they should never from that day concur
    with them in any action.' They, easilie inflambed, gave the alarm,
    and so was that abbey and palace appointed to the saccage; in doing
    whereof they took no long deliberation, but committed the whole to
    the merriment of fire; whereat no small number of us was so
    offended, that patientlie we could not speak to any that were of
    Dundee or Saint Johnstone."

The reader will see in this frank narrative how many elements were
conjoined to bring about the outrage. Local jealousy and despite, the
rage against the Bishop and his priests, the eagerness of the needy in
hope of spoil, the excitement of a fray in which the first blow had been
struck by the adversary with just the crown of a supposed religious
motive to give the courage of a great cause to the rioters: while on the
other hand the Bishop's rashness in taking the defence upon himself and
slighting the assistance offered him is equally apparent. It is evident
enough, however, that the lords themselves had no urgent interest in the
preservation of the ancient buildings, and that Knox cared little for
any of these things. The watch of the preacher at the door of the
Bishop's girnel or storehouse, keeping back the rioters by his
exhortations, is a curious illustration of this point. He would not have
the people soil their souls with thieving, with the Bishop's meal and
malt; as for the historical walls, the altar where the old kings had
been anointed or the sanctuary where their ashes lay, what were they?
Knox was too much intent on setting Scotland loose from all previous
traditions--from the past which was idolatrous and corrupt, and in which
till it reached to the age of the Apostles he recognised no good
thing--to be concerned about the temples of Baal. What he wanted was to
cut all these dark ages away, and affiliate himself and his country
direct to Judæa and Jerusalem, to the Jewish church, not the Gothic or
the papal, or any perverted image of what he believed primitive
Christianity to have been. He served himself heir to Peter and Paul, to
Elijah and Ezekiel, and perhaps in the strong prepossession of his soul
against contemporary monks and ecclesiastics did not even know that the
Church which was so corrupt, and the religious orders which had fallen
so low, had ever brought or preserved light and blessing to the world.
Scottish history, Scottish art, were corrupted too, and woven about with
associations of these hated priests and their system which was not true
religion, but "devised by the brain of man"; and though he was himself
the most complete incarnation of Scotch vehemence, dogmatism, national
pride, and fiery feeling, he was indifferent to their national records.
His pride was involved in making his country stand, alone if need was,
or if not alone, then first, in passionate perfection in the new order
of things in the kingdom of Christ: not to keep her a place in the unity
of nations by preserving the traces of an old civilisation and
institutions as venerable and noteworthy as any in Christendom, but to
make of her a chosen nation like that people, long ago dispersed by a
sufficiently miserable catastrophe, to whom was given of old the mission
of showing forth the will of God before the world. Whether what he
gained for his country was not much more important than what he thus
deliberately sacrificed is a question that will never be answered with
any unanimity. He gained for his race a great freedom, which cannot be
justly called religious freedom, because it was, in his intention at
least, freedom to follow their own way, with none at all for those who
differed from them. He set up a high standard of piety and probity, and
for once made the business of the soul, the worship of God and study of
His laws, the most absorbing of public interests. He thrilled the whole
country through and through with the inspiration of a fervent spirit,
uncompromising in its devotion to the truth, asking no indulgence if
also, perhaps, giving none, serving God in his own way with a fidelity
above every bribe, scornful of every compromise. But he cut Scotland
adrift so far as in him lay from the brotherhood of habit and tradition,
from the communion, if not of saints, yet of many saintly uses, and much
that is beautiful in Christian life. He made his country eminent, and
secured for her one great chapter in the history of the world; but he
imprinted upon her a certain narrowness uncongenial to her character and
to her past, which has undervalued her to many superficial observers,
and done perhaps a little, but a permanent, harm to her national ideal
ever since. A small evil for so much good, but yet not to be left

More interesting in its human aspect is Knox's appearance in St.
Andrews, whither the Congregation now crowded to "make reformation,"
though doubtful if even the populace were on their side. The Bishop
"hearing of reformation to be made in his cathedral church, thought time
to stir, or else never"--which was very natural. He was accompanied by a
hundred spears, which must have meant a company at least of four or five
hundred armed men, while the Lords of the Congregation had "their quiet
households," no doubt a very adequate escort. The Bishop threatened that
if John Knox showed his face in the cathedral he should be saluted with
a dozen of culverins, and the gentlemen with him hesitated much to
expose him to such a risk: but their doubts were not shared by the
preacher. He had himself given forth, when in the galley labouring at
the oar in sight of the beloved town and sanctuary, a prophecy that he
should yet preach there, unlikely as it looked; and to recoil from any
danger, when such an opportunity arose, was not in him. "To delay to
preach the morrow (unless the bodie be violentlie witholden) I cannot,"
he said. He preached upon the casting out of the money-changers from the
Temple--a very dangerous subject for such an occasion, and "applied the
corruption that was there to the corruption that is in the Papestrie" so
well that the magistrates of the town, and also the commonalty "for the
most part, did agree to remove all monuments of idolatrie, which also
they did with expedition." But it was not on that day that the great
church shining from afar on its rocky headland, a splendid landmark over
the dangerous bay, was reduced to the condition in which it now remains,
with a few forlorn but graceful pinnacles rising against the misty blue
of sea and sky. No harm would seem to have been done except to the
altars and the decorations; and according to all evidence it is more to
the careless brutality of the eighteenth century, which found an
excellent storehouse of materials for building in the abandoned shrine,
than to any absolute outrage that its present state of utter ruin is

[Illustration: ST. ANDREWS]

The Congregation set forth on its march to Stirling, and thence to
Edinburgh in June, and so great was the commotion which had been raised
by the rumour of the "reformation" wrought in the north in Scone and St.
Johnstone that the mere news of their approach roused "the rasckall
multitude" to the mood of destruction. They had cleared out and
destroyed the convents in Stirling, and those of the Black and Grey
Friars in Edinburgh, before the Reformers came--a result which Knox at
least in no way pauses to deplore: they had left nothing, he says, "but
bare walls, yea, not so much as door or windok: wherthrou we were the
less troubled in putting order in such places." Thus the flood of
Revolution, of Reformation, of fundamental, universal change flowed on.
The victory was not assured, however, as perhaps they had hoped when
they entered Edinburgh, for though for a time everything went well, and
the preaching seems to have been followed by the greater part of the
city, the Queen, ever active, though never striking any decisive blow,
had received reinforcements from France, and to the great alarm of the
Congregation had begun to fortify Leith, forming a strong garrison there
of French soldiers, and making a new stronghold near enough to be a
perpetual menace to Edinburgh almost at her door. The position of
affairs at this moment was curious in the extreme. The Queen in Leith,
surrounded by the newly arrived forces of France, with Frenchmen placed
in all the great offices, fulminated forth decrees, commands,
explanations, orders, from within the walls that were being quickly
raised to make the fort a strong place, and from amidst the garrison of
her own countrymen, in whose fidelity she could fully trust. In
Edinburgh the Congregation were virtually supreme, but very uneasy;
their substantial adversaries quieted, but ever on the watch; the
populace ready to pull down and destroy at their indication, but not to
change their life or character--an unstable support should trouble come;
while in the castle Lord Erskine sat impartial, a sort of silent umpire,
taking neither side, though ready to intervene with a great gun on
either as occasion moved him. The fire of words which was kept up
between the two parties is one of the most amazing features of the
conflict. For every page the Queen's secretaries wrote, John Knox was
ready with ten to demonstrate her errors, her falsehood, the
impossibility that any good could come from an idolater such as she.
Other persons take part in the great wrangle, but he is clearly the
scribe and moving spirit. He writes to her in his own person, in that of
the Lord James, in that of the Congregation. She accuses them of
rebellion and treasonable intentions against herself--and they her of
her Frenchmen and her fortifications. She summons them to leave
Edinburgh on peril of all the penalties that attend high treason; they
demand from her that the Frenchmen should be sent away and the
proceedings stopped. She accuses the Duke Chatelherault--the head of the
Hamiltons, the next heir to the throne--of treasonable proceedings, and
he vindicates himself by sound of trumpet at the Cross of Edinburgh. The
correspondence grows to such a pitch that when she loses patience and
bids them be gone before a certain day, they meet in solemn conclave, to
which the preachers are called to give their advice, to discuss whether
it is lawful to depose her from her regency: and all consent with one
voice to her deprivation. The excitement of this continual exchange of
correspondence, the messages coming and going, from the Queen's side the
Lyon King himself, all glorious among his pursuivants, advancing from
Leith with his brief letter and his "credit" as spokesman, the others
replying and re-replying, scarcely ever without a response or a
denunciation to read over and talk over, must have kept the nerves and
intelligence of all at a perpetual strain. At St. Giles's and the
Tolbooth close by, which were the double centre of life in the city,
there was a perpetual alternation of preachings, to which Lords and
Commons would crowd together to listen to Knox's trumpet peals of fiery
eloquence, always upon some appropriate text, always instinct with the
most vehement energy, and consultations upon public affairs and how to
promote the triumph of religion; the lords pondering and sometimes
doubtful, the preacher ever uncompromising and absolute. A question of
public honesty had arisen in the midst of the struggle for the faith,
and the Reformers had seized the Mint to prevent the coining of base
money, which the Regent was carrying on for her necessities, and which
the Congregation, no doubt justly, considered ruinous to the trade of
the country; and the determined struggle with the Queen in respect to
her scheme for fortifying Leith and establishing a French garrison
there,--a continual check upon and menace to the freedom of the
capital,--was at least as much a question of politics as religion.

The Congregation, however, was not yet strong enough to be able to meet
the French forces, and when they attempted to besiege Leith and put a
forcible stop to the building they were defeated with shame and loss. A
curious sign of the inevitable "rift within the lute," which up to this
time had been avoided by the concentration of all men's thoughts upon
the first necessity of securing the freedom of the preachings, becomes
visible before this futile attempt at a siege. When the leaders of the
Congregation, among whom on this occasion the contingent from the towns,
and especially from Dundee, seems foremost, began to prepare for their
expedition, they chose St. Giles's Church as the most convenient for the
preparation of the scaling ladders, a practical evidence that sacredness
had departed from the church as a building, not at all to the mind of
the preachers, who probably saw no logical succession between the
hammers of the destroyers pulling down the "glorious tabernacles" and
those of the craftsmen occupied with secular work. They did not, indeed,
put their objections on this ground, but on that of the neglect of the
"preaching," a name now characteristically applied to the public worship
of God. "The Preachers spared not openly to say that they feared the
success of that enterpryse should not be prosperous because the
beginning appeyred to bring with it some contempt of God and of His
word. Other places, said they, had been more apt for such preparations
than where the people convened to common prayer and unto preaching, and
they did not hesitate to affirm that God would not suffer such contempt
of His word." Whether these objections stole the heart out of the
fighting men, who had hitherto felt themselves emphatically the soldiers
of God, it is impossible to say. They had hitherto overawed the Queen's
party by their numbers, and had never outwardly made proof of their
powers or sustained the attack of regular soldiers. And the assault of
Leith ended in a disastrous defeat. The expedition set out rashly
without leaders, while the lords and gentlemen "were gone to the
preaching," and had consequently no accompanying cavalry, and few, if
any, experienced soldiers. They were driven back with loss, and pursued
into the very Canongate, to the foot of Leith Wynd--that is, into the
cross-roads and narrow wynds which were immediately outside the city
walls. Argyle and the rest, as soon as they were aware of what had
happened, got hastily to horse, and did all they could to stop the
flight, but even this turned to harm, since the horsemen coming out to
the aid of their friends proved an additional danger to the fugitives,
and "over-rode their poor brethren at the entrance of the Nether Bow."

After this all was confusion and trouble in Edinburgh. The castle fired
one solitary gun, which stopped with a note of sudden protest the French
pursuit, coming with extraordinary dramatic effect into the always
graphic and picturesque narrative, over the heads of the flying,
discomfited crowd which was struggling among the horses' hoofs at the
narrow gate, and the Frenchmen straggling behind, up all the narrow
passages into the Canongate, snatching a piece of plunder where they
could find it, "one a kietill, ane other ane pettycoat, the third a pote
or a pan." "Je pense que vous l'avez acheté sans argent," the Queen is
reported to have said with a laugh as the pursuers came back to Leith
with their not very important booty. "This was the great and motherlie
care she took for the truth of the poor subjects of this realm," says
Knox bitterly; and yet it was very natural that she should have been
overjoyed, after all these controversies, to feel herself the stronger,
if not in argument at least in actual fight.

This defeat told greatly upon the spirits of the Congregation which had
hitherto been kept together by success, and which was in fact a mere
horde of men hastily collected, untrained in actual warfare, and in no
position for taking the offensive though strong in defence of their
rights. And money had failed. It was determined that each gentleman
should give his plate to be made into coin to supply the needs of the
Congregation, as they had the Mint in their hands: but the officials
stole away with the "irons" and this was made impracticable. They then
sent for a supply to the English envoys who were anxiously watching the
progress of events at Berwick: but the sum sent to them in answer to
their application was intercepted by the Earl of Bothwell--his first
appearance in history, on which he was to leave thereafter such traces
of disaster. And other encounters with the Frenchmen took the heart
entirely out of the Congregation; the party began to dissolve, stealing
away on every side. "Our soldiers" (mercenaries it is to be supposed in
distinction from the retainers of the lords and gentlemen) "could
skarslie be dang out of the town" to meet a sally from Leith. In
Edinburgh itself the rasckall multitude, which had been so ready to
destroy and ravage, began to throw stones at the Reformers and call them
traitors and heretics. Finally with hearts penetrated by disappointment
and the misery of defeat the Congregation abandoned Edinburgh altogether
and marched to Stirling with drooping arms and hearts.

"The said day at nine in the night," says a contemporary authority, "the
Congregation departed forth of Edinburgh to Linlithgow and left their
artillerie void upon the causeway lying, and the town desolate." It was
November, and the darkness of the night could not have been more dark
than the prospects and thoughts of that dejected band, a little while
before so triumphant. As the tramp of the half-seen procession went
heavily down the tortuous streets at the back of the castle, probably by
the West Bow and West Port, diving down into the darkness under that
black shadow where the garrison sat grimly impartial taking no part, the
populace, perhaps frightened by the too great success of their own
fickle and cruel desertion of the cause, and hoping little from the
return of the priests, would seem to have beheld with silent dismay the
departure of the Congregation. The guns which had done them so little
service which they left on the road, as the preachers would have had
them leave all the devices and aid of men, were gathered in by the
soldiers from the castle with little demonstration, and the town was
left desolate. The anonymous writer of the _Diurnal of Occurrents_ is
curiously impartial and puts down his brief records without any
expression of feeling: but a certain thrill is in these words as of
something too impressive and significant to be passed by.

It is at this miserable moment that John Knox shows himself at his best.
Hitherto his vehemence, his fierce oratory, his interminable letters and
addresses, though instinct with all the reality of a most vigorous, even
restless nature, represent to us rather a man who would if he could have
done everything,--the fighting and the protocolling as well as the
preaching, a man to whom repose was impossible, ever ready to draw forth
his pen, to mount his pulpit, to add his eager word to every
consultation, and enjoying nothing so much as to press the most
unpleasant truths upon his correspondents and hearers,--than one of
sustaining power and wisdom. The uncompromising fidelity with which he
pointed out the shortcomings of those about him, and the terrible
penalties laid up for them; and the stern denunciations in his letters,
even those which he intended to be conciliatory, make his appearance in
general more alarming than reassuring. An instance which almost tempts a
smile, grave as are all the circumstances and surroundings, is his
letter (written some time before the point at which we have now arrived)
to Cecil whom he had known in England, and whose favour he desired to
secure and indeed was confident of securing. For once he had something
to ask for himself, permission to land in England on his way back to his
native country; and greatly desired that a favourable representation of
his case might be made to Queen Elizabeth, who was naturally prejudiced
against him by his famous Blast against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.
The following letter was written from Dieppe in April 1559 with the hope
of procuring these favours from the great statesman.

    "As I have no plaisure with long writing to trouble you, Rycht
    Honourable, whose mind I know to be occupied with most grave
    matters, so mind I not greatly to labour by long preface to
    conciliate your favour, which I suppose I have already (howsomever
    rumours bruit the contrarie) as it becometh one member of Christ's
    body to have of another. The contents, therefore, of these my
    presents shall be absolved in two points. In the former I purpose to
    discharge in brief words my conscience towards you, and in the other
    somewhat I must speik in my own defence and in defence of that poor
    flock of lait assembled in the most godly Reformed church and city
    of the world Geneva. To you Sir, I say, that as from God ye have
    received life, wisdom, honours and this present estate in which ye
    stand, so ought you wholly to employ the same to the advancement of
    His glory, who only is the Author of life, the fountain of wisdom,
    and who, most assuredly, doth and will honour those that with simple
    hearts do glorify Him; which, alas, in times past ye have not done;
    but being overcome with common iniquity ye have followed the world
    in the way of perdition. For to the suppressing of Christ's true
    Evangell, to the erecting of idolatrie, and to the shedding of the
    blood of God's dear children, have you by silence consented and
    subscribed. This, your most horrible defection from the truth known
    and once professed, hath God to this day mercifully spared; yea, to
    man's judgement He hath utterly forgotten and pardoned the same. He
    hath not entreated you as He hath done others (of like knowledge),
    whom in His anger (but yet most justly according to their deserts)
    He did shortly strike after their defection. But you, guilty in the
    same offences, He hath fostered and preserved as it were in His own
    bosom. As the benefit which ye have received is great, so must God's
    justice require of you a thankful heart; for seeing that His mercy
    hath spared you being traitor to His Majesty; seeing, further, that
    among your enemies He hath preserved you; and last, seeing that
    although worthy of Hell He hath promoted you to honour and dignity,
    of you must He require (because He is just) earnest repentance for
    your former defection, a heart mindful of His merciful providence,
    and a will so ready to advance His glory that evidently it may
    appear that in vain ye have not received these graces of God--to
    performance whereof of necessity it is that carnal wisdom and
    worldly policy (to the which both ye are bruited too much inclined)
    give place to God's simple and naked truth--very love compelleth me
    to say that except the Spirit of God purge your heart from that
    venom which your eyes have seen to be destruction to others, that ye
    shall not long escape the reward of dissemblers. Call to mind what
    you ever heard proclaimed in the chapel of Saint James, when this
    verse of the first Psalm was entreated, 'Not so, oh wicked, not so;
    but as the dust which the wind hath tossed, etc.' ... And this is
    the conclusion of that which to yourself I say. Except that in the
    cause of Christ's Evangel ye be found simple, sincere, fervent and
    unfeigned, ye shall taste of the same cup which politic heads have
    drunken before you."

This manner of approaching a powerful statesman whose good offices might
be of the uttermost consequence both to the writer and his party, is
highly characteristic. There is something almost comic, if we dared to
interpose such a view between two such personages, in the warning
against "carnal wisdom and worldly policy to the which both ye are
bruited too much inclined," addressed to the great Burleigh. It is
difficult to imagine the outburst of a laugh between such a pair, yet
grave Cecil surely must have smiled.

The man who wrote this epistle and many another, leagues of letters in
no one of which does he ever mince matters, or refrain to deliver his
conscience before conveying the message of State with which he is
charged--is often wordy, sometimes tedious, now and then narrow as a
village gossip, always supremely and absolutely dogmatic, seeing no way
but his own and acknowledging no possibility of error; and the extreme
and perpetual movement of his ever-active mind, his high-blooded
intolerance, the restless force about him which never pauses to take
breath, is the chief impression produced upon the reader by his own
unfolding of himself in his wonderful history. Though he is too great
and important to be called a busybody, we still feel sympathetically
something of the suppressed irritation and sense of hindrance and
interruption with which the lords must have regarded this companion with
his "devout imaginations," whom they dared not neglect, and who was sure
to get the better in every argument, generally by reason, but at all
events by the innate force of his persistence and daring. But when they
came to Stirling, after "that dusk and dolorous night wherein all ye my
lords with shame and fear left the town", the eager nervous form, the
dark keen face of the preacher, rose before the melancholy bands like
those of the hero-leader, the standard-bearer of God. It was Wednesday
the 7th of November 1559 when the dispirited Congregation met for the
preaching and to consider afterwards "what was the next remedy in so
desperate a case." Knox took for his text certain verses of the
eightieth Psalm. "How long wilt thou be angry against the prayers of thy
people? Thou hast fed us with the bread of tears; and hast given us
tears to drink in great measure. O God of hosts, turn us again, make thy
face to shine; and we shall be saved." He began by asking, Why were the
people of God thus oppressed?

    "Our faces are this day confounded, our enemies triumph, our hearts
    have quaked for fear, and yet they remain oppressed with sorrow and
    shame. But what shall we think to be the very cause that God hath
    thus dejected us? If I shall say our sins and former unthankfulness
    to God, I speak the truth. But yet I spake more generallie than
    necessity required: for when the sins of men are rebuked in general,
    seldom it is that man descendeth within himself, accusing and
    damning in himself that which most displeaseth God."

To this particular self-examination he then leads his hearers in order
that they may not take refuge in generalities, but that each man may
examine himself. "I will divide our whole company," he says, "into two
sorts of men. The one, those who have been attached to the cause from
the beginning; the other, recent converts."

    "Let us begin at ourselves who longest has continued in this battle.
    When we were a few in number, in comparison with our enemies, when
    we had neither Erle nor Lord (a few excepted) to comfort us, we
    called upon God, we took Him for our protector, defence, and onlie
    refuge. Among us was heard no bragging of multitude or of our
    strength or policy, we did only sob to God, to have respect to the
    equity of our cause and to the cruel pursuit of the tyraneful enemy.
    But since that our number has been multiplied, and chiefly since my
    Lord Duke his Grace with his friends have been joined with us, there
    was nothing heard but 'This Lord will bring these many hundred
    spears: if this Earl be ours no man in such and such a bounds will
    trouble us.' And thus the best of us all, that before felt God's
    potent hand to be our defence, hath of late days put flesh to be our

This proved, which was an evil he had struggled against with might and
main, forbidding all compromises, all concessions that might have served
to attract the help of the powerful, and conciliate lukewarm supporters,
he turns to the other side.

    "But wherein hath my Lord Duik his Grace and his friends offended?
    It may be that as we have trusted in them so have they put too much
    confidence in their own strength. But granting so be or not, I see a
    cause most just why the duke and his friends should thus be
    confounded among the rest of their brethren. I have not yet
    forgotten what was the dolour and anguish of my own heart when at
    St. Johnstone, Cupar Muir, and Edinburgh Crags, those cruel
    murderers, that now hath put us to this dishonour, threatened our
    present destruction. My Lord Duke his Grace, and his friends at all
    the three jornayes, was to them a great comfort and unto us a great
    discourage; for his name and authority did more affray and astonish
    us, than did the force of the other: yea, without his assistance
    they would not have compelled us to appoint with the Queen upon
    unequal conditions. I am uncertain if my Lord's Grace hath
    unfeignedly repented of his assistance to those murderers unjustly
    pursuing us. Yea, I am uncertain if he hath repented of that
    innocent blood of Christ's blessed martyrs which was shed in his
    default. But let it be that so he hath done, as I hear that he hath
    confessed his offence before the Lords and brethren of the
    Congregation, yet I am assured that neither he, nor yet his friends,
    did feel before this time the anguish and grieving of heart which we
    felt when they in their blind fury pursued us. And therefore hath
    God justly permitted both them and us to fall in this confusion at
    once; us for that we put our trust and confidence in man, and them
    because that they should feel in their own hearts how bitter was the
    cup which they had made others to drink before them. Rests that both
    they and we turn to the Eternal, our God (who beats down to death to
    the intent that He may raise up again, to leave the remembrance of
    His wondrous deliverance to the praise of His own name), which if we
    do unfeignedly, I no more doubt that this our dolour, confusion, and
    fear, shall be turned into joy, honour, and boldness, than that I
    doubt that God gave the victory to the Israelites over the
    Benjaminites after that twice with ignominy they were repulsed and
    dang back. Yea, whatsoever shall come of us and our mortal
    carcasses, I doubt not but this cause in despite of Satan shall
    prevail in the realm of Scotland. For as it is the eternal truth of
    the eternal God, so shall it once prevail, however for a time it may
    be hindered. It may be that God shall plague some, for that they
    delight not in the truth, albeit for worldly respects they seem to
    favour it. Yea, God may take some of His devout children away before
    their eyes see greater troubles. But neither shall the one or the
    other so hinder this action but in the end it shall triumph."

When the sermon was ended, Knox adds, "The minds of men began
wonderfully to be erected." "The voice of one man," as Randolph
afterwards said, was "able in an hour to put more life in us than six
hundred trumpets continually blustering in our ears." The boldness with
which Knox thus exposed that elation in their own temporary success, and
in the adhesion of the Duke of Hamilton, which had led the leaders of
the Congregation into self-confidence and slackened their watchfulness,
was made solemn and authoritative by the force with which he pressed his
personal responsibility into every man's bosom. No turn of fortune, no
evil fate, but God's check upon an army enlisted in His name yet not
serving Him with a true heart, was this momentary downfall; the cause of
which was one that every man could remove in his degree; not inherent
weakness or hopeless fate, but a matter remediable, nay, which must be
remedied and cast from among them--a matter which might quench their
personal hopes and destroy them, but could not affect the divine cause,
which should surely, triumph whatever man or Satan might do. More than
six hundred trumpets, more than the tramp of a succouring army, it rang
into the men's hearts. Their spirit and their courage rose; the dolorous
night, the fear and shame, dissolved and disappeared; and the question
what to do was met not with dejection and despair but with a rising of
new hope.

The decision of the Congregation in the Senate which was held after this
stirring address was, in the first place, to address an appeal for help
to England, the sister-nation which had already made reformation, though
not in their way, and to fight the matter out with full confidence in a
happy issue. About this appeal to England, however, there were
difficulties; for Knox who suggested it, and whose name could not but
appear in the matter, had given forth, as all the world and especially
the persons chiefly attacked were aware, a tremendous "blast" against
the right of women to reign, particularly well or ill timed in a
generation subject to so many queens; and it was necessary for him to
excuse or defend himself to the greatest of the female sovereigns whom
he had attacked. Of course it was easy for him to say that he had no
great Protestant Elizabeth in his eye when he wrote, but only a bigoted
and sanguinary Mary, of whom no one knew at the time that her reign was
to be short, and her power of doing evil so small. It is almost
impossible to discuss gravely nowadays a treatise which, even in its
name (which is all that most people know of it), has the air of a
whimsical ebullition of passion, leaning towards the ridiculous, rather
than a serious protest calculated to move the minds of men. But this was
not the aspect under which it appeared to the Queens who were assailed,
not as individuals, but as a class intolerable and not to be suffered;
and it was considered necessary that Knox should write to excuse
himself, and apologise as much as was in him to the Queen, who was now
the only person on earth to whom the Congregation could look for help.
Knox's letter to Queen Elizabeth, whom he addressed indeed more as a
lesser prince, respectful but more or less equal, might do, than as a
private individual, is very characteristic. He has to apologise, but he
will not withdraw from the position he had taken. "I cannot deny the
writing," he says, "neither yet am I minded to retreat or call back any
principal point or proposition of the same." But he is surprised that
subject of offence should be found in it by her for whose accession he
renders thanks to God, declaring himself willing to be judged by
moderate and indifferent men which of the parties do most harm to the
liberty of England, he who affirms that no woman may be exalted above
any realm to make the liberty of the same thrall to any stranger nation,
"or they that approve whatsoever pleaseth Princes for the time." Leaving
thus the ticklish argument which he cannot withdraw, but finds it
impolitic to bring forward, he turns to the Queen's individual behaviour
in her position as being the thing most important at the present moment,
now that she has effectively attained her unlawful elevation.

    "Therefore, Madam, the only way to retain and keep those benefits of
    God abundantly poured now of late days upon you and upon your realm,
    is unfeignedly to render unto God, to His mercy and undeserved
    grace, the glory of your exaltation. Forget your birth, and all
    title which thereupon doth hing: and consider deeply how for fear of
    your life ye did decline from God and bow till idolatrie. Let it not
    appear ane small offence in your eyes that ye have declined from
    Christ in the day of His battle. Neither would I that you should
    esteem that mercy to be vulgar and common which ye have received: to
    wit that God hath covered your former offence, hath preserved you
    when you were most unthankful, and in the end hath exalted and
    raised you up, not only from the dust, but also from the ports of
    death, to rule above His people for the comfort of His kirk. It
    appertaineth to you, therefore, to ground the justice of your
    authority, not upon that law which from year to year doth change,
    but upon the eternal providence of Him who contraire to nature and
    without your deserving hath thus exalted your head. If then, in
    God's presence ye humble yourself, as in my heart I glorify God for
    that rest granted to His afflicted flock within England under you a
    weik instrument: so will I with tongue and pen justify your
    authority and regiment as the Holy Ghost hath justified the same in
    Debora that blessed mother in Israel. But if the premisses (as God
    forbid) neglected, ye shall begin to brag of your birth and to build
    your authority and regiment upon your own law, flatter you who so
    list your felicity shall be short. Interpret my rude words in the
    best part as written by him who is no enemy to your Grace."

It must have been new to Queen Elizabeth to hear herself called "a weik
instrument," and it is doubtful whether the first offence would be much
softened by such an address. Neither was Elizabeth a person to be amused
by the incongruity or impressed by the uncompromising boldness of the
Reformer to whom the language of apology was so hard. Policy, however,
has little to do with personal offences, although to some readers, as we
confess to ourselves, it may be more interesting to see the prophet thus
arrested, hampered by his own trumpet-blast, and making amends as much
as he can permit himself to make, though so awkwardly and with so bold a
return upon the original offence, to the offended Queen. It was far more
easy for him to warn her of what would happen did she fail in her duty
than to soothe the affront with gentle words; and his attempt at the
latter is but halting and feeble. But when he promises with tongue and
pen to justify her if she does well, Knox is once more on his own
ground--that of a man whose office is superior to all the paltry
distinctions of kingship or lordship, a servant of God commissioned to
declare His divine will, endowed with an insight beyond that of ordinary
men, and declaring with boundless certainty and confidence the things
which are to be.

We may, however, pass very shortly over the coming struggle. The English
army marched into Scotland in April 1560, and addressed itself at once
to the siege of Leith, the headquarters of the French whom the Queen
Regent had brought into Scotland, and whom it was the chief aim of the
Congregation and of their allies to drive out of the country. The siege
went on for about six weeks, during which little effect seems to have
been made, though Knox bears testimony that "the patience and stout
courage of the Englishmen, but principally of the horsemen, was worthy
of all praise." These proceedings, however, were brought to a pause by
an event which changed the position of affairs. The Queen Regent, who,
for some time, had been in declining health, harassed and beaten down by
many cares, had left Leith and taken up her abode in Edinburgh Castle
while the Reformers were absent from the capital. In that fortress, held
neutral by its captain, in the small rooms where, some seven years
after, her daughter's child was to be born, Mary lingered out the early
days of summer: and in June, while still the English guns were
thundering against Leith, her new fortifications resisting with
diminished strength, and her garrison in danger--died, escaping from her
uneasy burden of royalty when everything looked dark for her policy and
cause. Many anecdotes of her sayings and doings were current during her
lingering illness, such as might easily be reported between the two
camps with more or less truth. When she heard of the "Band" made by the
leaders of the army before Leith for the expulsion of the strangers she
is said to have called the maledictions of God upon them who counselled
her to persecute the preachers and to refuse the petitions of the best
part of the subjects of the realm. Shut out from the countrymen and
advisers in whom she had trusted, with the hitherto impartial Lord
Erskine alone at her ear, adding his word concerning the "unjust
possessors" who were to be driven "forth of this land," and overcome by
sickness, sadness, and loneliness, this lady, who had done her best to
hold the balance even and to refrain from bloodshed, though she had
little credit for it, seems to have lost courage. She saw from her
altitude on the castle rock the great fire in Leith, which probably
looked at first like the beginning of its destruction, and all the
martial bands of England, and the Scots lords and their followers, lying
between her and her friends. After some ineffectual efforts to
communicate with them otherwise, she sent for the Lords Argyle,
Glencairn, and the Earl Marischal, with the Lord James, who visited her
separately, "not all together, lest that some part of the Guysian
practice had lurked under the colour of friendship." Knox's heart was
not softened by the illness and isolation, nor even by the regrets and
repentance, of the dying Queen. She consented to see John Willock, his
colleague, and after hearing him "openly confessed that there was no
salvation but in and by the death of Jesus Christ." "But of the Mass we
had not her confession," says the implacable preacher. She died on the
9th of June, worsted, overthrown, all that she had aimed at ending in
failure, all her efforts foiled, leaving those who had been her enemies
triumphant, and the future fate of her daughter's kingdom in the hands
of "the auld enemy," the ever-dangerous neighbour of Scotland. "God, for
His good mercy's sake, rid us from the rest of the Guysian blood," was
the prayer Knox made over her grave.

And yet, so far as can be judged, Mary of Guise was no persecutor and no
tyrant. To all appearance she had honestly intended to keep peace in the
kingdom, to permit as much as she could without committing herself to
views which she did not share. And nothing could be more touching than
such an end to a life never too brilliant or happy. She had gone through
many alternations of gladness and of despair, had stood bravely by her
sensitive husband when the infant sons who were his hope had been taken
one after another, had discharged, as faithfully as circumstances and
the accidents of a tremendous crisis would let her, her duties as
Regent. Her death, lonely, desolate, and defeated, with no one near whom
she loved, to smooth her passage to the grave, might have gained her a
more gentle word of dismissal.

Within little more than a month after her death peace was signed; the
French forces departed, and the English army, not much more loved in its
help than the others in their hostility, was escorted back to the Border
and safely got rid of. On the 19th of July, all being thus happily
settled, St. Giles's was once more filled with a crowd of eager
worshippers, "the haill nobilitie and the greatest part of the
Congregation,"--a number which must have tried the capacity of the great
church, large as it is. Knox does not give his sermon on the occasion,
but we have a very noble and devout prayer, or rather thanksgiving,
which was used at this service, and in which, though there is one
reference to "proud tyrants overthrown," the spirit of devout
thankfulness is predominant. He tells us, however, that the subject of
his discourses, delivered daily, were the prophecies of Haggai, which he
found to be "proper for the time." Some of his hearers, he informs us,
spoke jestingly of having now to "bear the barrow to build the house of
God." "God be merciful to the speaker," cries the stern prophet, "for we
fear he shall have experience that the building of his ain house, the
house of God being despised, shall not be so prosperous or of such
firmity as we desire it were"--so dangerous was it to jest in the
presence of one so tremendously in earnest. The speaker referred to, of
this, as of most of the other caustic sayings of the time, is said to
have been Lethington.

The first thing done by the Parliament was the distribution of the
handful of ministers then existing among the districts which most needed
them; the second, the verification and establishment of the Confession
of Faith. No more curious scene could have been than this momentous
ceremony. The Parliament consisted of all the nobility of Scotland,
including among them the bishops and peers of the Church, and the
delegates from the boroughs. The Confession was read article by article,
and a vote taken upon each. Three only of the lords voted against it.
The bishops said nothing. What their feelings must have been, as they
sat in their places looking on, while the long array of the Congregation
voted, it is vain to attempt to imagine. There was nothing the Reformers
would have liked better than that discussion to which Knox had vainly
bidden his opponents, throwing down his glove as to mortal combat. "Some
of our ministers were present," he says, "standing upon their feet ready
to have answered in case any would have defended the Papistrie and
impugned our affirmations." But no one of all the ecclesiastics present
said a word. The Earl Marischal, when he rose in his turn to vote,
commented upon this remarkable abstinence with the straightforwardness
of a practical man. "It is long since I have had some favour to the
truth," he said, "and since I have had a suspicion of the Papistical
religion; but I praise my God this day has fully resolved me in the one
and the other. For, seeing that my Lord Bishops here present, who for
their learning can, and for the zeal they should bear to the veritie
would, I suppose, gainsay anything that directly repugns to the veritie
of God, speaks nothing in the contraire of the doctrine proposed, I
cannot but hold it to be the very truth of God." Even this speech moved
the bishops to no reply. They sat silent, perhaps too much astonished at
such an extraordinary revolution to say anything; perhaps alarmed at the
strength of the party against them. It might be that there was little
learning among them, though they had the credit of it; certainly the
arguments which Knox reports on several occasions are inconceivably
feeble on the side of the old faith. But whatever was the meaning there
they sat dumb, and looked on bewildered, confounded, while the new
Confession was voted paragraph by paragraph, and the whole scope of the
Scottish constitution changed.


The next step was the abolition of the mass, an act by which it was
forbidden that any should either hear or say that office "or be present
thereat, under the pain of confiscation of all their goods movable and
immovable, and punishing of their bodies at the discretion of the
Magistrates." Another edict followed abolishing the jurisdiction of the
Pope under pain of "proscription, banishment, and never to brook honour,
office, or dignity within this realm." "These and other things," says
the Reformer, "were orderly done in lawful and free Parliament," with
the bishops and all spiritual lords in their places sitting dumb and
making no sign. The Queen was at liberty to say afterwards, as was done,
that a Parliament where she was not represented in any way, either by
viceroy or regent, where there was no exhibition of sceptre, sword, or
crown, and in short where the monarch was left out altogether, was not a
lawful Parliament. But the most remarkable feature of this strange
assembly amid all the voting and "bruit" is the dramatic silence of the
State ecclesiastical. It is curious that no fervent brother should have
been found to maintain the cause of his faith. But probably it was
better policy to refrain. The extraordinary absence of logic as well as
toleration which made the Reformers unable to see what a lame conclusion
this was after their own struggle for freedom, and that they were
exactly following the example of their adversaries, need not be
remarked. John Knox thought it a quite sufficient answer to say that the
mass was idolatry and his own ways of thinking absolutely and certainly
true; but so of course has the Roman Catholic Church done when the
impulse of persecution was strongest in her. There is one only thing to
be said in favour of the Reformers, and that is, that while a number of
good men had been sacrificed at the stake for the Reformed doctrines, no
one was burned for saying mass; the worst that happened, notwithstanding
their fierce enactments, being the exposure in the pillory of a priest.
Rotten eggs and stones are bad arguments either in religion or
metaphysics, but not so violently bad as fire and flame.

Thus the Reformed religion was established in Scotland, and Knox settled
in St. Giles's for the remainder of his life. Whether he was at once
placed in the picturesque house with its panelled rooms and
old-fashioned comfort and gracefulness which still bears his name,
standing out in a far-seeing angle from which he could contemplate the
abounding life of the High Street, the great parish in which half his
life was spent, is not certain; but it was a most fit and natural
lodging for the minister of St. Giles's. And for the rest of his life,
with very few intervals, all the stream of public life in Scotland
flowed about this dwelling. His importance in every national question,
the continual references made to him, the appeals addressed to him by
monarch and noble, as well as by burghers and retainers, show better
than any statement the unique position he held. He was at this time a
man of fifty-five. His Marjory Bowes, never I think mentioned but by
this name, the "weill belovit sister" who is associated with so much of
his life without one trace of human identity ever stealing through the
mist that envelops her, was dead; disappearing noiseless into the grave,
where it would seem her mother, Mrs. Bowes, the religious hypochondriac
who had required so many solemn treatises in the shape of letters to
comfort her, had preceded her daughter. Two boys, the sons of Marjory,
were with their father in these panelled rooms. They both grew up, but
not to any distinction; he did not spare the rod as appears in an after
statement, but loved not to see them in tears, and probably was a fond
father enough. All these things, however, are too petty to find any
record in what he says of himself.



When the Parliament which did these great things was over, the
newly-established Kirk began to labour at its own development, supplying
as far as was possible ministers to the more important centres. There
were but thirteen available in all according to the lists of those
appointed to independent charges: and though they no doubt were
supplemented by various of the laymen who had already been authorised to
read prayers and preach in the absence of other qualified persons--one
of whom, Erskine of Dun, became one of the superintendents of the new
organisation--the clerical element must have been very small in
comparison with the number of the faithful and the power and influence
accorded to the preachers. When these indispensable arrangements had
been made the chiefs of the Reformers began to draw up the Book of
Discipline,--a compendium of the Constitution of the Church establishing
her internal order, the provisions to be made for her, her powers in
dealing with the people in general, and special sinners in
particular,--as the Confession of Faith was of her doctrines and belief.
But this was a much harder morsel for the lords to swallow. Many a stout
spirit of the Congregation had held manfully for the Reformed faith and
escaped with delight from the exactions and corruptions of the Romish
clergy who yet had not schooled his mind to give up the half of his
living, the fat commendatorship or priory which had been obtained for
him by the highest influence, and upon which he had calculated as a
lawful provision for himself and his family. One would have supposed
that the meddling and keen supervision of every act of life, which was
involved in the Church's stern claim of discipline, would also have
alarmed and revolted a body of men not all conformed to the purest
models of morality. But this seems to have troubled them little in
comparison with the necessity of giving up their share of Church lands
and ecclesiastical wealth generally, in order to provide for the
preachers, and the needs of education and charity. "Everything that
repugned to their corrupt affections was termed in their mockage 'devout
imaginations,'" says Knox: and it was no doubt Lethington from whose
quiver this winged word came, with so many more.


A number of the lords, however, subscribed to the Book of Discipline
though with reluctance, but some, and among them several of the most
staunch supporters of the Reformation, held back. Knox had himself been
placed in an independent position by his congregation, the citizens of
Edinburgh, and he was therefore more free to press stipulations which in
no way could be supposed to be for his own interest: but he evidently
had not taken into account the strong human disposition to keep what has
been acquired and the extreme practical difficulty of persuading men to
a sacrifice of property. In other matters too there were drawbacks not
sufficiently realised. There can be no grander ideal than that of a
theocracy, a commonwealth entirely ruled and guided by sacred law: but
when it is brought to practice even by the most enlightened, and men's
lives are subjected to the keen inspection of an ecclesiastical board
new to its functions, and eager for perfection, which does not disdain
the most minute detail, nor to listen to the wildest rumours, the high
ideal is apt to fall into the most intolerable petty tyranny. And
notwithstanding the high exaltation of many minds, and the wonderful
intellectual and emotional force which was expended every day in that
pulpit of St. Giles's, swaying as with great blasts and currents of
religious feeling the minds of the great congregation that filled the
aisles of the cathedral, it is to be doubted whether Edinburgh was a
very agreeable habitation in those days of early fervour, when the
Congregation occupied the chief place everywhere, and men's thoughts
were not as yet distracted by the coming of the Queen. During this
period there occurs a curious and most significant story of an Edinburgh
mob and riot, which might be placed by the side of the famous Porteous
mob of later days, and which throws a somewhat lurid light upon the
record of this most triumphant moment of the early Reformation. The
Papists and bishops, Knox says, had stirred up the rasckall multitude to
"make a Robin Hood." We may remark that he never changes his name for
the mob, of which he is always sternly contemptuous. When it destroys
convents and altars he flatters it (though he acknowledges sometimes a
certain ease in finding the matter thus settled for him) with no better
a title. He was no democrat though the most independent of citizens. The
vulgar crowd had at no time any attraction for him.

It seems no very great offence to "make a Robin Hood": but it is evident
this popular festival had been always an occasion of rioting and
disorderly behaviour since it was condemned by various acts of previous
Parliaments. It will strike the reader, however, with dismay and horror
to find that one of the ringleaders having been taken, he was condemned
to be hanged, and a gibbet erected near the Cross to carry this sentence
into execution. The _Diurnal of Occurrents_ gives by far the fullest and
most graphic account of what followed. The trades rose in anxious
tumult, at once angry and terrified.

    "The craftsmen made great solicitations at the hands of the provost,
    John Knox minister, and the baillie, to have gotten him relieved,
    promising that he would do anything possible to be done saving his
    life--who would do nothing but have him hanged. And when the time of
    the poor man's hanging approached, and that the poor man was come to
    the gibbet with the ladder upon which the said cordwainer should
    have been hanged, the craftsman's children (apprentices?) and
    servants past to armour; and first they housed Alexander Guthrie and
    the provost and baillies in the said Alexander's writing booth, and
    syne come down again to the Cross, and dang down the gibbet and
    brake it in pieces, and thereafter past to the tolbooth which was
    then steekit: and when they could not apprehend the keys thereof
    they brought hammers and dang up the said tolbooth door perforce,
    the provost, baillies, and others looking thereupon; and when the
    said door was broken up ane part of them passed in the same, and not
    only brought the said condemned cordwainer forth of the said
    tolbooth, but also all the remaining persons being thereintill: and
    this done they passed up the Hie gate, to have past forth at the
    Nether Bow."

The shutting up of the provost and bailie in the "writing booth"--one of
the wooden structures, no doubt, which hung about St. Giles's, as round
so many other cathedrals, where a crowd of little industries were
collected about the skirts of the great church, the universal centre of
life--has something grimly comic in it, worthy of an Edinburgh mob.
Guthrie's booth must have been at the west end, facing the Tolbooth, and
the impotence of the authorities, thus compelled to look on while the
apprentices and young men in their leather aprons, armed with the long
spears which were kept ready in all the shops for immediate use, broke
down the prison doors with their hammers and let the prisoners go
free--must have added a delightful zest to the triumph of the rebels,
who had so lately pleaded humbly before them for the victim's life, but
in vain. The provost was Archibald Douglas of Kilspindie, a name little
suitable for such a dilemma. When the rude mob, with their shouts and
cries, had turned their backs, the imprisoned authorities were able to
break out and take shelter in the empty Tolbooth; but when the crowd
surged up again, finding the gates closed at the Nether Bow, into the
High Street, a scuffle arose, a new "Clear the Causeway," though the
defenders of order kept within the walls of the Tolbooth, and thence
shot at the rioters, who returned their fire with hagbuts and
stones--from three in the afternoon till eight o'clock in the evening,
"and never ane man of the town stirred to defend their provost and
baillies." Finally the Constable of the Castle was sent for, who made
peace, the craftsmen only laying down their arms on condition not only
of absolute immunity from punishment for the day's doings, but with an
undertaking that all previous actions against them should be stopped,
and their masters made to receive them again without grudge or
punishment--clearly a complete victory for the rioters. This extorted
guarantee was proclaimed at the Cross at nine o'clock on the lingering
July night, in the soft twilight which departs so unwillingly from
northern skies; and a curious scene it must have been, with the
magistrates still cooped up behind the barred windows of the Tolbooth,
the triumph of the mob filling the streets with uproar, and spectators
no doubt at all the windows, story upon story, looking on, glad, can we
doubt? of something to see which was riot without being bloodshed. John
Knox adds an explanation of his conduct in his narrative of the
occurrence, which somewhat softens our feeling towards him. He refused
to ask for the life of the unlucky reveller not without a reason, such
as it was.

    "Who did answer that he had so oft solicited in their favour that
    his own conscience accused him that they used his labours for no
    other end but to be a patron to their impiety. For he had before
    made intercession for William Harlow, James Fussell, and others that
    were convict of the former tumult. They proudly said 'that if it was
    not stayed both he and the Baillies should repent it.' Whereto he
    answered 'He would not hurt his conscience for any fear of man.'"

It was not perhaps the fault of Knox or his influence that a man should
be sentenced to be hanged for the rough horseplay of a Robin Hood
performance, or because he was "Lord of Inobedience" or "Abbot of
Unreason," like Adam Woodcock; but the extraordinary exaggeration of a
society which could think such a punishment reasonable is very curious.

Equally curious is the incidental description of how "the Papists"
crowded into Edinburgh after this, apparently swaggering about the
streets, "and began to brag as that they would have defaced the
Protestants." When the Reformers perceived the audacity of their
opponents, they replied by a similar demonstration: "the brethren
assembled together and went in such companies, and that in peaceable
manner, that the Bishops and their bands forsook the causeway." Many a
strange sight must the spectators at the high windows, the old women at
their "stairheads," from which they inspected everything, have seen--the
bishops one day, the ministers another, and John Knox, were it shade or
shine, crossing the High Street with his staff every day to St. Giles's,
and seeing everything, whatever occurred on either side of him, with
those keen eyes.

This tumult, however, was almost the end of the undisturbed reign of the
Congregation. In August, Mary Stewart, with all the pomp that her poor
country could muster for her, arrived in a fog, as so many lesser people
have done, on her native shores; and henceforward the balance of power
was strangely disturbed. The gravest of the lords owned a certain
divergence from the hitherto unbroken claims of religious duty, and a
hundred softnesses and forbearances stole in, which were far from being
according to the Reformer's views. The new reign began with a startling
test of loyalty to conviction, which apparently had not been
anticipated, and which came with a shock upon the feelings even of those
who loved the Queen most. The first Sunday which Mary spent in Holyrood,
preparations were made for mass in the chapel, probably with no
foresight of the effect likely to be produced. Upon this a sudden tumult
arose in the very ante-chambers. "Shall that idol be suffered again to
take its place in this realm? It shall not," even the courtiers said to
each other. The Master of Lindsay, that grim Lindsay of the Byres, so
well known among Mary's adversaries, standing with some gentlemen of
Fife in the courtyard, declared that "the idolatrous priests should die
the death." In this situation of danger the Lord James, afterwards so
well known as Murray, the Queen's brother, put himself in the breach. He
"took upon him to keep the door of the chapel." There was no man in
Scotland more true to the faith, and none more esteemed in the
Congregation. He excused himself after for this act of true charity by
saying that his object was to prevent any Scot from entering while the
mass was proceeding: but Knox divined that it was to protect the priest,
and preserve silence and sanctity for the service, though he disapproved
it, that Murray thus intervened. The Reformers did not appreciate the
good brother's devotion. Knox declared that he was more afraid of one
mass than of ten thousand armed men, and the arches of St. Giles's rang
with his alarm, his denunciation, his solemn warning. He recounts,
however, how by degrees this feeling softened among those who frequented
the Court. "There were Protestants found," he says, "that were not
ashamed at tables and other open places to ask 'Why may not the Queen
have her mass, and the form of her religion? What can that hurt us, or
our religion?' until by degrees this indulgence rose to a warmer and
stronger sentiment. 'The Queen's mass and her priests will we maintain:
this hand and this rapier shall fight in their defence.'" One can well
imagine the chivalrous youth or even the grave baron, with generous
blood in his veins, who, with hand upon the hilt of the too ready sword,
would dare even Knox's frown with this outcry; and in these days it is
the champion of the Queen and of her conscience who secures our
sympathy. But the Reformer had at least the cruel force of logic on his
side, the severe logic which decreed the St. Bartholomew. To stamp out
the previous faith was the only policy on either side.

Then, as now, we think, there are few even of those who are forced to
believe that the after-accusations against Queen Mary were but too
clearly proved, who will not look back with a compunctious tenderness
upon that early and bright beginning of her career. So strong a sense of
remorseful pity, and the intolerableness of such a fate, overcomes the
spectator, that he who stands by and looks on, knowing all that is
coming, can scarcely help feeling that even he, unborn, might send a
shout from out the dim futurity to warn her. She came with so much hope,
so eagerly, to her new kingdom, so full of pleasure and interest and
readiness to hear and see, and to be pleased with everything--even John
Knox, that pestilent preacher, of whom she must have heard so much; he
who had written the book against women which naturally made every woman
indignant yet curious, keenly desirous to see him, to question him, to
put him on his defence. I think great injustice has been done to both in
the repeated interviews in which the sentimentalist perceives nothing
but a harsh priest upbraiding a lovely woman and making her weep; and
the sage of sterner mettle sees an almost sublime sight, a prophet
unmoved by the meretricious charms of a queen of hearts. Neither of
these exaggerated views will survive, we believe, a simple reading of
the interviews themselves, especially in Knox's account of them. He is
not merciless nor Mary silly. One would almost fancy that she liked the
encounter which matched her own quick wit against the tremendous old man
with his "blast against women," his deep-set fiery eyes, his sovereign
power to move and influence the people. He was absolutely a novel
personage to Mary: their conversations are like a quick glancing of
polished weapons--his, too heavy for her young brilliancy of speech and
nature, crushing with ponderous force the light-flashing darts of
question; but she, no way daunted, comprehending him, meeting full in
the face the prodigious thrust. A brave young creature of twenty
confronting the great Reformer, in single combat so to speak, and
retiring from the field, not triumphant indeed, but with all the honours
of war, and a blessing half extorted from him at the end, she secures a
sympathy which the weaker in such a fight does not always obtain, but
which we cannot deny to her in her bright intelligence and brave defence
of her faith. When his friends asked him, after this first interview,
what he thought of the Queen, he gave her credit for "a proud mind, a
crafty wit, and an indurate heart." But curiously enough, though the
effect is not unprecedented, the faithfulness of genius baulks the
prejudices of the writer, and there is nowhere a brighter or more genial
representation of Mary than that which is to be found in a history full
of abuse of her and vehement vituperation. She is "mischievous Marie," a
vile woman, a shameless deceiver; every bad name that can be coined by a
mediæval fancy, not unlearned in such violences; but when he is face to
face with this woman of sin it is not in Knox to give other than a true
picture, and that--apart from the grudging acknowledgment of her
qualities and indication of evil intentions divined--is almost always an
attractive one.

He, too, shows far from badly in the encounter. In this case, as in so
many others, the simple record denuded of all gloss gives at once a much
better and we do not doubt much more true representation of the two
remarkable persons involved, than when loaded with explanations, either
from other people or from themselves. It cannot be said that Knox is
just to Mary in the opinions he expresses of her, as he is in the
involuntary picture which his inalienable truthfulness to fact forces
from him. It must be remembered, however, that his history was written
after the disastrous story had advanced nearly to its end, and when the
stamp of crime (as Knox and so many more believed) had thrown a sinister
shade upon all her previous life. Looking back upon the preliminaries
which led to such wild confusion and misery, it was not unnatural that a
man so absolute in judgment should perceive in the most innocent bygone
details indications of depravity. It is one (whether good or bad we will
not say) consequence of the use and practice of what may, to use a
modern word, be called society, that men are less disposed to believe in
the existence of monstrous and hideous evil, that they do not attach an
undue importance to trifles nor take levity for vice. Knox had all the
limitations of mind natural to his humble origin, and his profession,
and the special disadvantage which must attach to the habit of
investigating by means of popular accusation and gossip, problematical
cases of immorality. He was able to believe that the Queen, when retired
into her private apartments with her ladies, indulged in "skipping not
very comelie for honest women," and that all kinds of brutal orgies went
on at court--incidents certainly unnecessary to prove her after-guilt,
and entirely out of keeping with all the surrounding associations, as if
Holyrood had been a changehouse in "Christ Kirk on the green." It did
not offend his sense of the probable or likely that such insinuations
should be made, and he recorded them accordingly not as insinuations but
as facts, in a manner only possible to that conjoint force of ignorance
and scorn which continually makes people of one class misconceive and
condemn those of another. Dancing was in those days the most decorous of
performances: but if Mary had been proved to have danced a stately _pas
seul_ in a minuet, it was to Knox, who knew no better, as if she had
indulged in the wildest bobbing of a country fair--nay, he would
probably have thought the high-skipping rural performer by far the more
innocent of the two.

This is but an instance of many similar misconceptions with which the
colour of the picture is heightened. An impassioned spectator looking on
with a foregone conclusion in his mind, never apparently able to
convince himself that vice does not always wear her trappings, but is
probably much more dangerous when she observes the ordinary modesties of
outward life, is always apt to be misled in this way. The state of
affairs in which a great body of public men, not only ministers, but
noble men and worthy persons of every degree, could personally address
the Queen, and that almost in the form of an accusation couched in the
most vehement terms, because of a libertine raid made by a few young
gallants in the night, on a house supposed to be inhabited by a woman of
damaged character, is inconceivable to us--a certain parochial
character, a pettiness as of a village, thus comes into the great
national struggle. The Queen's uncle, who had accompanied her to
Scotland, was one of the young men concerned, along with Earl Bothwell
and another. "The horror of this fact and the raretie of it commoved all
godlie hearts," said Knox--and yet there was no lack of scandals in that
age notwithstanding the zeal of purification. When the courtiers,
alarmed by this commination (in which every kind of spiritual vengeance
upon the realm and its rulers was denounced), asked, "Who durst avow
it?" the grim Lindsay replied, "A thousand gentlemen within Edinburgh."
Yet if Edinburgh was free from disorders of this kind, it was certainly
far from free of other contentions. The proclamations from the Cross
during Mary's brief reign give us the impression of being almost
ceaseless. The Queen's Majestie proclaimed by the heralds now one
decree, now another, with a crowd hastily forming to every blast of the
trumpet: and the little procession in their tabards, carrying a moving
patch of bright colour and shining ornament up all the long picturesque
line of street, both without and within the city gates, was of almost
daily occurrence. It was some compensation at least for the evils of an
uncertain rule to have that delightful pageant going on for ever.
Sometimes there would arise a protest, and one of the lords, all
splendid in his jewelled bonnet, would step forward to the Lord Lyon and
"take instruments and crave extracts," according to the time-honoured
jargon of law; while from his corner window perhaps John Knox looked
out, his eager pen already drawn to answer, the tumultuous impassioned
sentences rushing to his lips.

When it was found that no punishment was to follow that "enormitie and
fearful attemptal," but that "nightly masking" and riotous behaviour
continued, some of the lords took the matter in their own hands, and a
great band known as "my Lord Duke his friends" took the causeway to keep
order in the town. When the news was brought to Earl Bothwell that the
Hamiltons were "upon the gait," there were vows made on his side that
"the Hamiltons should be driven not only out of the town but out of the
country." The result, however, of this sudden surging up of personal
feud to strengthen the bitterness of the quarrel between licence and
repression, was that the final authorities were roused to make the fray
an affair of State; and Murray and Huntly were sent from the abbey with
their companies to stop the impending struggle. These sudden night
tumults, the din of the struggle and clashing of the swords, the
gleaming torches of the force who came to keep order, were sights very
familiar to Edinburgh. But this fray brings upon us, prominent in the
midst of the nightly brawls, the dark and ominous figure whose trace in
history is so black, so brief, and so disastrous--once only had he
appeared clearly before, when he intercepted in the interest of the
Queen Regent the money sent from England to the Congregation. Now it is
in a very different guise. Bothwell, as probably the ringleader in the
disorders of the young nobles, was apparently the only person punished.
He was confined to his own lodging, and it was apparently at this time
that he sought the intervention of Knox, who seems to have been the
universal referee. Knox gladly granted his prayer for an interview,
which was brought him by a citizen of Edinburgh, with whom the riotous
Earl had dealings. No doubt the Reformer expected a new convert; and
indeed Bothwell had his preliminary shrift to make, and confessed his
repentance of his previous action against the Congregation, which he
said was done "by the entysements of the Queen Regent." But the Earl's
object was not entirely of this pious kind. He informed Knox that he had
offended the Earl of Arran, and that he was most anxious to recover that
gentleman's favour, on the ground, apparently, that a feud with so great
a personage compelled him to maintain a great retinue, "a number of
wicked and unprofitable men, to the utter destruction of my living."

Knox received with unusual favour this petition for his intervention,
and for (to the reader) an unexpected reason: "Albeit to this hour," he
said, "it hath not chanced me to speak to your lordship face to face,
yet have I borne a good mind to your honour, and have been sorry in my
heart of the troubles that I have heard you to be involved in. For, my
lord, my grandfather, goodsire and father, have served your lordship's
predecessors, and some of them have died under their standards; and this
is part of the obligation of our Scottish kindness." He goes on
naturally to exhort his visitor to complete repentance and "perfyte
reconciliation with God;" but ends by promising his good offices for the
wished-for reconciliation with man. In this mediation Knox was
successful: and as the extraordinary chance would have it, it was at the
Kirk of Field, doomed to such dismal association for ever with
Bothwell's name, that the meeting with Arran, under the auspices of
Knox--strange conjunction!--took place, and friendship was made between
the two enemies. Knox made them a little oration as they embraced each
other, exhorting them to "study that amitie may ensure all former
offences being forgotten."

This is strange enough when one remembers the terrible tragedy which was
soon to burst these walls asunder; but stranger still was to follow. The
two adversaries thus reconciled came to the sermon together next day,
and there was much rejoicing over the new penitent. But four days after,
Arran, with a distracted countenance, followed Knox home after the
preaching, and calling out "I am treacherously betrayed," burst into
tears. He then narrated with many expressions of horror the cause of his
distress. Bothwell had made a proposal to him to carry off the Queen and
place her in Dunkeld Castle in Arran's hands (who was known to be half
distraught with love of Mary), and to kill Murray, Lethington, and the
others that now misguided her, so that he and Arran should rule alone.
The agitation of the unfortunate young man, his wild looks, his
conviction that he was himself ruined and shamed for ever, seem to have
enlightened Knox at once as to the state of his mind. Arran sent letters
all over the country--to his father, to the Queen, to Murray--repeating
this strange tale, but soon betrayed by the endless delusions which took
possession of him that his mind was entirely disordered. The story
remains one of those historical puzzles which it is impossible to solve.
Was there truth in it--a premature betrayal of the scheme which
afterwards made Bothwell infamous? did this wild suggestion drive
Arran's mind, never too strong, off the balance? or was it some strange
insight of madness into the other's dark spirit? These are questions
which no one will ever be able to answer. It seems to have caused much
perturbation in the Court and its surroundings for the moment, but is
not, strangely enough, ever referred to when events quicken and Bothwell
shows himself as he was in the madman's dream.

The chief practical question on which Knox's mind and his vigorous pen
were engaged during this early period of Mary's reign was the
all-important question to the country and Church of the provision for
the maintenance of ministers, for education, and for the poor--the
revenues, in short, of the newly-established Church, these three objects
being conjoined together as belonging to the spiritual dominion. The
proposal made in the Book of Discipline, ratified and confirmed by the
subscription of the lords, was that the tithes and other revenues of the
old Church, apart from all the tyrannical additions which had ground the
poor (the Uppermost Cloth, Corpse present, Pasch offerings, etc.),
should be given over to the Congregation for the combined uses above
described. This in principle had been conceded, though in practice it
was extremely hard to extract those revenues from the strong secular
hands into which in many cases they had fallen, and which had not even
ceased to exact the Corpse present, etc. The Reformers had strongly
urged the necessity of having the Book of Discipline ratified by the
Queen on her arrival; but this suggestion had been set aside even by the
severest of the lords as out of place for the moment. To such
enlightened critics as Lethington the whole book was a devout
imagination, a dream of theorists never to be realised. The Church,
however, with Knox at her head, was bent upon securing this
indispensable provision, though it may well be supposed that now, with
not only the commendators and pensioners but the bishops themselves and
other ecclesiastical functionaries, inspirited and encouraged by the
Queen's favour, and hoping that the good old times might yet come back,
it was more difficult than ever to get a hearing for their claim. And
great as was the importance of a matter involving the very existence of
the new ecclesiastical economy, it was, even in the opinion of the
wisest, scarcely so exciting as the mass in the Queen's chapel, against
which the ministers preached, and every careful burgher shook his head;
although the lords who came within the circle of the Court were greatly
troubled, knowing not how to take her religious observances from the
Queen, they who had just at the cost of years of conflict gained freedom
for their own. On one occasion when a party of those who had so toiled
and struggled together during all the troubled past were met in the
house of one of the clerk registers, the question was discussed between
them whether subjects might interfere to put down the idolatry of their
prince--when all the nobles took one side, and John Knox, his
colleagues, and a humble official or two were all that stood on the
other. As a manner of reconciling the conflicting opinions Knox was
commissioned to put the question to the Church of Geneva, and to ask
what in the circumstances described the Church there would recommend to
be done. But the question was never put, being transferred to
Lethington's hands, then back again to those of Knox, perhaps a mere
expedient to still an unprofitable discussion rather than a serious

While these questions were being hotly and angrily discussed on all
sides, the preachers and their party growing more and more pertinacious,
the lords impatient, angry, chafed and fretted beyond bearing by the
ever-recurring question in which they were no doubt conscious, with an
additional prick of irritation, that they were abandoning their own
side, Mary, still fearing no evil, very conciliatory to all about her,
and entirely convinced no doubt of winning the day, went lightly upon
her way, hunting, hawking, riding, making long journeys about the
kingdom, enjoying a life which, if more sombre and poor outwardly, was
far more original, unusual, and diverting than the luxurious life of the
French Court under the shadow of a malign and powerful mother-in-law. It
did not seem perhaps of great importance to her that the preachers
should breathe anathemas against every one who tolerated the mass in her
private chapel, or that the lords and their most brilliant spokesman,
her secretary Lethington, should threaten to stop the Assemblies of the
Church in retaliation. The war of letters, addresses, proclamations,
which arose once more between the contending parties is wonderful in an
age which might have been thought more given to the sword than the pen.
But it at last became evident that something must be done in one way or
the other to stop the mouth of the indomitable Knox, with whom were all
the central mass of the people, not high enough to be moved by the
influences of the Court, not low enough to fluctuate with every fickle
popular fancy. Finally it was decided that the Queen should issue a
decree for a valuation of all ecclesiastical possessions in Scotland--a
necessary preliminary measure, but turned into foolishness by the
stipulation that these possessions should be divided into three parts,
two to remain with the present possessors, while the remaining portion
should be divided between the ministers and herself. This proposed
arrangement, with which naturally every one was discontented, called
forth a flight of furious jests. "Good-morrow, my lords of the
Twa-pairts," said Huntly to the array, spiritual and secular, who were
to retain the lion's share; while, on the other hand, Knox in the pulpit
denounced the division. "I see twa parts partly given to the Devil, and
the third maun be divided between God and the Devil," he cried. "Bear
witness to me that this day I say it: ere it be long the Devil shall
have three parts of the third; and judge you then what God's portion
shall be."--"The Queen will not have enough for a pair of shoes at the
year's end after the ministers are sustained," said Lethington; and Knox
records the "dicton or proverb" which arose, as such sayings do, out of
the crowd, in respect to the official, the Comptroller, who had charge
of this hated partition--"The Laird of Pitarrow," cried the popular
voice, "was ane earnest professor of Christ; but the meikle Deil receive
the Controller."

About this time Knox had the opportunity he had long coveted of a public
disputation upon the mass; but it was held far from the centre of
affairs, at the little town of Maybole in Ayrshire, where Quentin
Kennedy of the house of Cassilis, Abbot of Crossraguel (upon whose death
George Buchanan secured his appointment as pensioner), announced himself
as ready to meet all comers on this subject. Knox would seem to have
attached little importance to it, as he does no more than mention it in
his History; but a full report exists of the controversy, which has much
more the air of a personal wrangle than of a grave and solemn
discussion. "Ye said," cries the abbot, "ye did abhor all chiding and
railing, but nature passes nurture with you."--"I will neither change
nature nor nurture with you for all the profits of Crossraguel," says
the preacher. These amenities belonged to the period. But the arguments
seem singularly feeble on both sides. The plea of the abbot rested upon
the statement in the Old Testament that Melchizedec offered bread and
wine to God. On the other side a simple denial of this, and reassertion
that the mass is an idolatrous rite, seems to have sufficed for Knox. It
is almost impossible to believe that they did not say something better
worth remembering on both sides. What they seem to have done is to have
completely wearied out their auditors, who sat for three days to listen
to the altercation, and then broke up in disgust. It is curious that
Knox, so unanswerable in personal controversy, should have been so
little effectual (so far as we can judge) in this. There is a discussion
in another part of the History upon baptism, in which he denounces the
Romish ceremonies attached to that rite as unscriptural, precisely as if
the Apostles had described in full the method to be employed.

It is probable that it was the progress of Knox through the West on this
occasion which encouraged and stimulated the gentlemen of that district,
always the most strenuous of Reformers, the descendants of the Lollards,
the forefathers of the Whigs, to take the law into their own hands in
respect to those wandering and dispossessed priests who, encouraged by
the example and support of the Queen, began to appear here and there in
half-ruined chapels or parish churches to set up a furtive altar and say
a mass, at peril if not of their lives at least of their liberty. When
Knox returned to Edinburgh the Queen was at Lochleven, not then a prison
but a cheerful seclusion, with the air blowing fresh from the pleasant
loch, and the plains of Kinross and Fife all broad and peaceful before
her, for the open-air exercises in which she delighted. She sent for
Knox to this retirement and threw herself upon his aid and charity to
stop these proceedings. It was not the first time they had met. Two
previous interviews had taken place, in the first of which Mary gaily
encountered the Stern author of the "Blast" upon that general subject,
and won from him a blessing at the end of the brief duel in which there
was no bitterness. The second had been on the occasion when Knox, in the
pulpit, objected to the dancing and festivities of Holyrood; but still
was of no very formidable character. I cannot doubt that Mary found
something very humorous and original in the obstinate and dauntless
prophet whom she desired to come to her and tell her privately when he
objected to her conduct, and not to make it the subject of his
sermons--a very natural and apparently gracious request: from which Knox
excused himself, however, as having no time to come to her chamber door
and whisper in her ear. "I cannot tell even what other men will judge of
me," he said, "that at this time of day am absent from my buke, and
waiting upon the Court."--"Ye will not always be at your buke," said the
Queen. And it was on this second interview that as he left the presence
with a composed countenance some foolish courtier remarked of Knox that
he was not afraid, and elicited the answer, noble and dignified if a
little truculent and exaggerated after an encounter not at all solemn,
"Why should the pleasing face of a gentlewoman afray me? I have looked
in the faces of many angry men and yet have not been affrayed above
measour"--a most characteristic reply.

[Illustration: LOCHLEVEN]

Mary, however, had another purpose when she sent for Knox to Lochleven,
to help her in a strait. "She travailed with him earnestly two hours
before her supper that he would be the instrument to persuade the people
and principally the gentlemen of the West not to put hands to punish
(the priests) any more for the using of themselves in their religion as
pleased them." The Reformer perceiving her intention assured her that if
she would herself punish these malefactors, no one would interfere; but
he was immovable to any argument founded on the patent fact that he and
his party had lately called that the persecution of God's saints which
now they termed the execution of the law. Mary did not enter into this
controversy; she kept to her point--the vindication of her own
authority. "Will you," she said, "allow that they should take my sword
in their hand?" a question to which Knox had his answer plain and very
full, that the sword was God's, and that Jezebel's priests were not
spared by Elijah nor Agag by Samuel because the royal authority was in
their favour. It would be difficult to conceive anything more
exasperating than such an immovable front of dogmatism; and it was a
wonder of self-control that Mary should only have shown herself
"somewhat offended" when she broke off this hopeless argument, and
withdrew to supper. The Reformer thought he was dismissed; but before
sunrise next morning two several messengers came to his chamber to bid
him speak with the Queen before he took his departure. It was a May
morning, and no doubt there was soon much cheerful commotion in the air,
boats pushed forward to the landing steps with all that tinkle of water
and din and jar of the oars which is so pleasant to those who love the
lochs and streams--for Mary was bound upon a hawking expedition, and the
preacher's second audience was to be upon the mainland. The Queen must
have been up betimes while the mists still lay on the soft Lomonds, and
the pearly grey of the northern skies had scarcely turned to the glory
of the day: and probably the preacher who was growing old was little
disposed to join the gay party whose young voices and laughter he could
hear in his chamber, where he lay "before the sun"--setting out for the
farther shore with a day's pleasure before them. It would be interesting
to penetrate what were his thoughts as he was rowed across the loch at a
more reasonable hour, when the sunshine shone on every ripple of the
water, and the green hills lay basking in the light. Did he look with
jealous eyes, and wonder whether the grey walls among the trees on St.
Serf's isle were giving shelter to some idolatrous priest? or was his
heart invaded by the beauty of the morning, the heavenly quiet, the
murmur of soft sound? His mind was heavy we know with cares for the
Church, fears for the stability of the Reformation itself, forebodings
of punishment and cursings more habitual to his thoughts, and perhaps
more congenial to the time, than prosperity and blessing. It might be
even that a faint apprehension (not fear, for in his own person Knox had
little occasion for fear even had he been of a timorous nature) of
further trouble with the Queen overclouded his aspect: and if he caught
a glimpse of the ladies and their cavaliers on the mainland, the joyous
cavalcade would rouse no sympathetic pleasure, so sure was he that their
frolics and youthful pleasure were leading to misery and doom--in which,
alas! he was too sooth a prophet.

But when Knox met the Queen's Majestie "be-west Kinross," Mary all
bright with exercise and pleasure had forgotten, or else had no mind to
remember, the offence of the previous night. She began to talk to him of
ordinary matters, of Ruthven who had (save the mark!)--dark Ruthven not
many years removed from that dreadful scene in the closet at
Holyrood--offered her a ring, and other such lively trifles. She then
turned to more serious discourse, warning Knox against Alexander Gordon,
titular Bishop of Athens, "who was most familiar with the said John in
his house and at his table," and whose professions of faith seemed so
genuine that he was about to be made Superintendent of Dumfries. "If you
knew him as well as I do, you would never promote him to that office nor
to any other within your Kirk," she said. "Thereintil was not the Queen
deceived," says Knox, though without any acknowledgment of the service
she did the Church: for on her hint he caused further inquiries to be
made, and foiled the Bishop. Again, as so often, a picture arises before
our eyes most significant and full of interest. Mary upon her horse,
perhaps pausing now and then to glance afar into the wide space, where
her hawk hung suspended a dark speck in the blue, or whirled and circled
downward to strike its prey, while the preacher on his hackney paused
reluctant, often essaying to take his leave, retained always by a new
subject. Suddenly she broached another and more private matter, turning
aside from the attendants to tell Knox of the new troubles which had
broken out in the house of Argyle between the Earl and his wife, who was
Mary's illegitimate sister. The Reformer had already settled a quarrel
between this pair, and the Queen begged him to interfere again, to write
to Argyle and smooth the matter over if possible. Then, the time having
now arrived when she must dismiss him, the field waiting for her and the
sport suspended, Mary turned again for a parting word.

    "And now," said she, "as touching our reasoning yesternight I
    promise to do as ye required. I sall cause summon the offenders, and
    ye shall know that I shall minister justice."

    "I am assured then," said he, "that ye shall please God and enjoy
    rest and prosperity within your realm; which to your Majesty is more
    profitable than all the Pope's power can be."

We have heard enough and to spare about Mary's tears and the severity of
Knox--here is a scene in which for once there is no severity, but
everything cheerful, radiant, and full of hope. Was there in all
Christendom a more hopeful princess, more gifted, more understanding,
more wise? for it was not only that she had the heart to take (or seem
to take) in a very hard matter the advice of the exasperating Reformer,
entirely inaccessible to reason on that point at least as he was--but to
give it, and that in a matter of real use to himself and his party. Was
it all dissembling as Knox believed? or was there any possibility of
public service and national advantage, and as happy and prosperous a
life as was possible to a queen, before her when she turned smiling upon
the strand and waved her hand to him as he rode away? Who can tell? That
little tower of Lochleven, that dark water between its pastoral hills,
had soon so different a tale to tell.

[Illustration: QUEEN MARY'S BATH]

Had Mary deserted her faith as it would have been such admirable policy
to do; had she said, like the great Henry, that Scotland was well worth
a mass or the sacrifice of a mass; had she turned round and persecuted
the priests of her own Church as she now was about, for their safety and
with a subterfuge excusable if ever subterfuge was, to pretend to
do--would posterity have thought the better of her? Certainly it would
not; but Knox would, and her path would have been a thousand times more
clear. Only it has to be said at the end of all, that religion had
little part in the woes of Mary. Had there been no Darnley or Bothwell
in her path, had it been in her nature to take that wise resolution of
Elizabeth's, wise for every woman who has great duties and position of
her own, how wonderfully everything might have been changed! Such
reflections, however, are very futile, though they are strangely

Knox wrote to Argyle immediately after with that plain speaking in which
he delighted, and made the Earl very angry. It might well have been part
of Mary's "craft," knowing that he was sure to do this, to embroil him
with her brother-in-law. And she prosecuted her bishops to save them
from the Westland lords, and imprisoned them gently to keep them out of
harm's way. Neither of these acts was very successful, and it would seem
that the mollifying impression that had been made upon Knox soon died
away; for when the Queen opened the next Parliament he speaks of her
splendour and that of her train in words more like those of a peevish
scold than of a prophet and statesman. "All things mislyking the
preachers," he says with candour, "they spoke boldly against the
tarjatting of their tails, and against the rest of their vanity, which
they affirmed should provoke God's vengeance not only against those
foolish women, but against the whole Realm." God's vengeance was freely
dealt out on all hands against those who disagreed with the speakers;
but the silken trains that swept the ground, the wonderful clear
starching of the delicate ruffs, the embroidered work of pearls and gems
which the fashion of the time demanded, were but slight causes to draw
forth the flaming sword. And that Parliament was very unsatisfactory to
Knox and his friends; they tried to bring in a sumptuary law; they
endeavoured to have immorality recognised as crime, and subjected to
penalties as such; and above all, they attempted to obtain the
ratification of various matters of discipline upon which Knox so pressed
that the quarrel rose high between him and Murray, and there ensued a
breach and lasting coolness--Murray being as unwilling to press Queen
Mary into measures she disliked, as Knox was determined that only by
doing so was God's vengeance to be averted. When the Parliament was over
the preacher made his usual commentary upon it in the pulpit; warning
the lords what miseries were sure to follow from their carelessness, and
discussing the chances of the Queen's marriage with much freedom and
boldness. Once more, though with more reason, was God's vengeance
invoked. "This, my lords, will I say (note the day and bear witness
after), whensoever the Nobilities of Scotland, professing the Lord
Jesus, consents that ane infidel (and all Papists are infidels) shall be
head to your Soverane, ye do so far as in ye lieth to banish Christ
Jesus from this realm." This sermon was reported to Mary with
aggravations, though it was offensive enough without any aggravations;
and once more he was summoned to the presence. The Queen was "in a
vehement furie," deeply offended, and in her nervous exasperation unable
to refrain from tears, a penalty of weakness which is one of the most
painful disabilities of women. "What have ye to do with my marriage?"
she cried again and again, with that outburst which Knox describes
somewhat brutally as "owling." His own bearing was manly though dogged.
Naturally he did not withdraw an inch, but repeated to her the scope of
his sermon with amplifications, while the gentler Erskine of Dun who
accompanied him endeavoured to soothe the paroxysm of exasperated
impatience and pain which Mary could not subdue, and for which no doubt
she scorned herself.

    "The said John stood still without any alteration of countenance,
    while that the Queen gave place to her inordinate passion; and in
    the end he said, 'Madam, in God's presence I speak, I never
    delighted in the weeping of any of God's creatures; yea, I can
    scarcely well abide the tears of my own boys whom my own hand
    corrects, much less can I rejoice in your Majestie's weeping. But
    seeing that I have offered you no just occasion to be offended, but
    have spoken the truth as my vocation craves of me, I must sustain,
    albeit unwillingly, your Majesty's tears rather than I dare hurt my
    conscience or betray my Commonwealth through my silence.'"

He was ordered to withdraw after this, and retired proud and silent to
the ante-room where he had immediate proof what it was to lose the royal
favour. Hitherto he had been, it is clear, a not unwelcome visitor: to
Mary an original, something new in prickly opposition and eloquence,
holding head against all her seductions, yet haply, at Lochleven at
least, not altogether unmoved by them, and always interesting to her
quick wit and intelligence; and Maister John had many friends among the
courtiers. But now while he waited the Queen's pleasure, not knowing
perhaps if she might not send him to the Castle or the Tolbooth in her
wrath, all his fine acquaintances forsook him. He stood, "the said
John," for an hour in that bustling ante-room, "as one whom men had
never seen," only Lord Ochiltree who had come to Holyrood with him, and
whose daughter he was about to marry, giving any sign of acquaintance to
the disgraced preacher. And Knox was human: he loved the cold shade as
little as any man, and the impertinences of all those butterfly
courtiers moved him as such a man ought not to have been moved. He burst
out suddenly upon the ladies who sat and whispered and tittered among
themselves (no doubt) at his discomfiture. He would not have us think
even then that his mind was disturbed; he merely said--

    "Oh fayr Ladies, how pleasant were this life of yours if it should
    ever abide, and then in the end that we might pass to heaven with
    all this gay gear! But fie upon that Knave Death that will come
    whether we will or not. And when he has laid on his arrest the foul
    worms will be busy with this flesh be it never so fayre and so
    tender, and the silly soul, I fear, shall be so feeble that it can
    neither carry with it gold garnissing, tarjetting, pearls, nor
    precious stones!"

Knox was never called to the royal presence more, nor did Mary ever
forgive him the exhibition of feminine weakness into which his severity
had driven her. It was intolerable, no doubt, to her pride to have been
betrayed into those tears, to have seen through them the same immovable
countenance which had yielded to none of her arguments and cared nothing
for her anger, and to have him finally compare her to his own boys whom
his own hands corrected--the blubbering of schoolboys to the tears of a
queen! There is perhaps always a mixture of the tragi-comic in every
such scene, and this humiliating comparison, obtusely intended as a sort
of blundering apology, but which brought the Queen's exasperation and
mortification to a climax, and Knox's bitter assault upon the ladies in
their fine dresses outside, give a humiliating poignancy to the
exasperated feeling on both sides such as delights a cynic. It was the
end of all personal encounter between the Queen and the preacher. She
did not forgive him, and did her best to punish: but in their last and
only subsequent meeting, Knox once more had the better of his royal

He had never been during all his career in such stormy waters as now
threatened to overwhelm him. Hitherto his bold proceedings had been
justified by the support of the first men in the kingdom. The Lords of
the Congregation, as well as that Congregation itself, the statesmen and
"natural counsellors," as they call themselves, of Scotland, had been at
his back: but now one by one they had fallen away. The Lord James, now
called Murray, the greatest of all both in influence and character, had
been the last to leave his side. The preachers, the great assembly that
filled St. Giles's almost daily, the irreconcilables with whom it was a
crime to temporise, and who would have all things settled their own way,
formed, it is true, a large though much agitated backing; but the solid
force of men who knew the world better than those absolute spirits, had
for the moment abandoned the impracticable prophet, and the party of the
Queen was eagerly on the watch to find some opportunity of crushing him
if possible. It was not long before this occurred. While Mary was absent
on one of those journeys through the kingdom which had been the constant
habit of Scottish monarchs, the usual mass was celebrated in the Chapel
of Holyrood, the priests who officiated there evidently feeling
themselves authorised to continue their usual service even in the
Queen's absence, for whose sake alone it was tolerated. But they were
interrupted by "a zealous brother," and some little tumult rose, just of
importance enough to justify the seizure of two offenders, who were
bound under sureties to "underlie the law" at a given date, within three
weeks of the offence. In the excited state of feeling which existed in
the town this arrest was magnified into something serious, and "the
brethren," consulting over the matter with perhaps involuntary
exaggeration, as if the two rioters were in danger of their lives,
concluded that Knox should write a circular letter to the Congregation
at a distance, as had been done with such effect in the early days under
the Queen Regent, bidding them assemble in Edinburgh upon the day fixed
for the trial. A copy of this letter was carried to the Court then at
Stirling and afforded the very occasion required. Murray returned in
haste from the north, and all the nobility were called to Edinburgh to
inquire into this bold semi-royal summons issued to the Queen's lieges
without her authority and in resistance to her will. "The Queen was not
a little rejoiced," says Knox, "for she thought once to be revenged of
that her great enemy." And it was evident that Mary did look forward to
the satisfaction of crushing this arrogant priest and achieving a final
triumph over the man whom she could neither awe nor charm out of his own
determined way.


The commotion produced by these proceedings was unexampled. One after
another of the men who had by Knox's side led the entire movement of the
Reformation and to whom he had been spokesman, secretary, and
counsellor, came with grave looks and anxious urgency to do what they
could to procure his submission. The Master of Maxwell, hitherto his
great friend, but who now broke off from him entirely, was the first to
appear; Then Speirs of Condie (whom he convinced), then Murray and
Lethington with whom he held one of those long arguments which were of
frequent recurrence, and which are always highly dramatic--the dour
preacher holding his own like a stone wall before all the assaults,
light, brilliant, and varied, of the accomplished secretary, whose smile
of contempt at the unconquerable personage before him and his "devout
imaginations" is often mingled with that same exasperation which drove
Mary to the womanish refuge of tears. But no one could move him. And at
last the day, or rather night, of the trial came.

It was in December, the darkest moment of the year, between six and
seven in the evening, when the Lords assembled at Holyrood, and the
formidable culprit was introduced to their presence. The rumour had
spread in the town that Knox was to be put on his trial, and the whole
Congregation came with him down the Canongate, filling the court of
Holyrood with a dark surging mass of men, who crowded the very stairs
towards the room in which the council was held. The lords were "talking
ane with another" in the preliminary moment before the council was
formed, when Knox entered the room. They were then told to take their
places, headed on one side by "the Duke" Chatelherault, and on the other
by Argyle. Murray, Glencairn, Ruthven, the Earl Marischal, Knox's tried
companions in arms, who had stood with him through many a dark day, took
their seats with averted looks, his judges now, and judges offended,
repulsed, their old sympathies aggravating the breach. Then came the
Queen "with no little worldly pomp," and took the chair between those
two rows of troubled counsellors, Lethington at one side, Maxwell at the
other. She gave an angry laugh as she took her place. "Wat ye[4] whereat
I laugh?" she said (or is reported to have said) to one of these
intimate supporters. "Yon man gart me greit, and grat never tear
himself: I will see if I can gar him greit."

[4] It would be curious to know what language Mary spoke when she is
reported to have made these very characteristic utterances. It is one of
the points in the discussion about the famous Casket letters that she
could not write Scots. Did she make love and make war, and hold courts
and councils of this grave description, in French or in a broken version
of her native tongue? No one ever says so, and it is surely a thing that
could not be passed without remark.

The proceedings being opened, Knox's letter was read. It was not a
conciliatory letter, being in reality a call if not to arms yet to that
intervention of an army of resolute men which had overawed the
authorities again and again in earlier times. It contained the usual
vehement statements about that crime of saying mass which, or even to
permit it, was the most desperate of public offences in Knox's eyes: and
there is little doubt that it exaggerated the danger of the crisis, and
contained at least one misleading statement as to matters of which there
was no proof. When it was read a moment of silence ensued, and then
Lethington spoke:--

    "Maister Knox, are ye not sorry from your heart, and do ye not
    repent that sic ane letter has passed your pen, and from you is come
    to the knowledge of others?"

    John Knox answered, "My Lord Secretaire, before I repent I must be
    taught my offence."

    "Offence!" said Lethington; "if there were no more but the
    convocation of the Queen's lieges the offence cannot be denied."

    "Remember yourself, my lord," said the other, "there is a difference
    between ane lawful convocation and ane unlawful. If I have been
    guilty in this, I have often offended since I came last in Scotland;
    for what convocation of the brethren has ever been to this day with
    which my pen served not? Before this no man laid it to my charge as
    a crime."

    "Then was then," said Lethington, "and now is now. We have no need
    of such convocations as sometime we have had."

    John Knox answered, "The time that has been is even now before my
    eyes; for I see the poor flock in no less danger now than it has
    been at any time before, except that the Devil has gotten a vissoure
    upon his face. Before he came in with his own face discovered by
    open tyranny, seeking the destruction of all that has refused
    idolatrie; and then I think ye will confess the brethren lawfully
    assembled themselves for defence of their lives. And now the Devil
    comes under the cloke of justice to do that which God would not
    suffer him to do by strength."

    "What is this?" said the Queen. "Methinks ye trifle with him. Who
    gave him authoritie to make convocation of my lieges? Is not that

    "Na, Madam," said the Lord Ruthven, "for he makes convocation of the
    people to hear prayer and sermon almost daily, and whatever your
    Grace or others will think thereof, we think it no treason."

    "Hold your peace," said the Queen, "and let him answer for himself."

    "I began, Madam," said John Knox, "to reason with the Secretare,
    whom I take to be ane far better dialectician than your Grace is,
    that all convocations are not unlawful; and now my Lord Ruthven has
    given the instance, which, if your Grace will deny, I shall address
    me for the proof."

    "I will say nothing," said the Queen, "against your religion, nor
    against your convening to your sermons. But what authority have ye
    to convocate my subjects when you will, without my commandment?"

    "I have no pleasure," said John Knox, "to decline from the former
    purpose. And yet, Madam, to satisfy your Grace's two questions I
    answer, that at my will I never convened four persons in Scotland;
    but at the order that the brethren has appointed I have given divers
    advertisements and great multitudes have assembled thereupon. And if
    your Grace complain that this was done without your Grace's
    commandment, I answer, so has all that God has blessed within this
    Realm, from the beginning of this action. And therefore, Madam, I
    must be convicted by ane just law, that I have done against the
    duties of God's messenger in writing this letter, before that either
    I be sorry or yet repent for the doing of it, as my Lord Secretare
    would persuade me; for what I have done I have done at the
    commandment of the general Kirk of this realm; and therefore I think
    I have done no wrong."

This detailed report is in the form of an addendum to Knox's original
manuscript, written hurriedly as if from dictation, as though in the
leisure of his later days the Reformer had thought it well to enrich the
story with so lifelike and well-remembered a scene. Nothing could be
more animated than the introduction of the different personages of this
grave tribunal. The long argument with Lethington which might have been
carried on indefinitely till now, the hasty interruption of the Queen,
not disposed to be troubled with metaphysics, to bring it back to the
practical question, the quibble of Ruthven of which Knox makes use, but
only in passing, are all as real as though we had been present at the
council. The Queen, with feminine persistence holding to her question,
is the only one of the assembly who has any heart to the inquiry. The
heat of a woman and a monarch personally offended is in all she says, as
well as a keen practical power of keeping to her point. It is she who
refers to the _corpus delicti_, carrying the question out of mere vague
discussion distinctly to the act complained of. Knox had said in his
letter that the prosecution of the men who had interrupted the service
at Holyrood was the opening of a door "to execute cruelty upon a greater
multitude." "So," said the Queen, "what say ye to that?" She received in
full front the tremendous charge which followed:--

    "While many doubit what the said John should answer he said to the
    Queen, 'Is it lawful for me, Madam, to answer for myself? Or shall I
    be dampned before I be heard?'

    'Say what ye can,' said she, 'for I think ye have enough ado.'

    'I will first then desire this of your Grace, Madam, and of this
    maist honourable audience, whether if your Grace knows not, that the
    obstinate Papists are deadly enemies to all such as profess the
    evangel of Jesus Christ, and that they most earnestly desire the
    extermination of them and of the true doctrine that is taught in
    this realm?'

    The Queen held her peace; but all the lords with common voice said,
    'God forbid that either the lives of the faithful or yet the staying
    of the doctrine stood in the power of the Papists; for just
    experience tells us what cruelty lies in their hearts.'"

This sudden turn of opinion, coming from her council itself, and which
already constituted a startling verdict against her, Mary seems to have
sustained with the splendid courage and self-control which she displayed
on great occasions: no tear now, no outburst of impatience. She did not
even attempt to deny the tremendous indictment, but allowed Knox to
resume his pleading. And when she spoke again it was with a complete
change of subject. Apparently her quick intelligence perceived that
after that remarkable incident the less said to recall the first object
of the council the better. She went back to her original grievance,
accusing Knox though he spoke fair before my lords (which indeed it was
a strain of forbearance to say) that he had caused her "to weep many
salt tears" at their previous meeting. His reply has much homely

    "Madam," he said, "because now the second time your Grace has
    branded me with that crime I must answer, lest for my silence I be
    holden guilty. If your Grace be ripely remembered, the Laird of Dun,
    yet living to testify the truth, was present at that time whereof
    your Grace complains. Your Grace accused me that I had irreverently
    handled you in the pulpit; that I denied. Ye said, what ado had I
    with your marriage? What was I that I should mell with such matters?
    I answered as touching nature I was ane worm of this earth, and ane
    subject of this Commonwealth, but as touching the office whereintil
    it has pleased God to place me, I was ane watchman both over the
    Realm, and over the Kirk of God gathered within the same, by reason
    whereof I was bound in conscience to blow the trumpet publicly as
    oft as ever I saw any upfall, any appearing danger either of the one
    or of the other. But so it was that ane certain bruit appeared that
    traffic of marriage was betwixt your Grace and the Spanish Ally;
    whereunto I said that if your nobilitie and your Estates did agree,
    unless that both you and your husband shall be so directly bound
    that neither of you might hurt this Commonwealth nor yet the poor
    Kirk of God within the same, that in that case I would pronounce
    that the consenters were troublers of this Commonwealth and enemies
    to God and to His promise planted within the same. At those words I
    grant your Grace stormed and burst forth into an unreasonable
    weeping. What mitigation the Laird of Dun would have made I suppose
    your Grace has not forgot. But while that nothing was able to stay
    your weeping I was compelled to say, I take God to witness that I
    never took pleasure to see any creature weep (yea, not my own
    children when my own hand bett them), meikle less can I rejoice to
    see your Grace make such regret. But seeing I have offered your
    Grace no such occasion, I must rather suffer your Grace to take your
    own pleasure than that I dare to conceal the truth and so betray
    both the Kirk of God and my Commonwealth. These were the most
    extreme words I said."

Having thus repeated his offence (even to the tears of the schoolboys)
the Reformer's shrift was ended and he was told that he might return to
his house "for that night." No doubt what he himself said is more
clearly set forth than what others replied, but that he distinctly
carried the honours of the discussion with him, and that his mien and
bearing, as here depicted, are manly, grave, and dignified as could be
desired, will not be denied by any reasonable reader. That they
impressed the council in the same way is equally evident; that council
was composed of his ancient companions in arms, the comrades of many an
anxious day and of many a triumphant moment. That he had offended and
broken with several of them would not affect the consideration that to
condemn John Knox was not a light matter; that through all the hours of
that winter evening half Edinburgh had been filling the Court of
Holyrood and keeping up a murmur of anxiety at its gates; and that it
was a dangerous crowd to whom my lords would have to give account if a
hair of his head was touched. The conclusion apparently came with the
force of a surprise upon the Queen's Majestie, and perhaps shook her
certainty of the sway over her nobility, which she had been gradually
acquiring, which was sufficient to make them defend her personal freedom
and tolerate her faith, but not to pronounce a sentence which they felt
to be unjust.

    "John Knox being departed, the Table of the Lords, and others that
    were present were demanded every man by his vote, if John Knox had
    not offended the Queen's Majestie. The lords voted uniformly they
    could find no offence. The Queen had past to her cabinet, the
    flatterers of the Court, and Lethington principally, raged. The
    Queen was brought again and placed in her chair, and they commanded
    to vote over again, which thing highly offended the haill nobilitie
    so that they began to speak in open audience--'What! shall the Laird
    of Lethington have power to control us? or shall the presence of ane
    woman cause us to offend God and to dampen ane innocent, against our
    conscience for pleasure of any creature?' And so the haill nobilitie
    absolved John Knox again."

The Queen was naturally enraged at this decision, and taunted bitterly
the Bishop of Ross, who joined in the acquittal, with following the
multitude, to which he answered with much dignity, "Your Grace may
consider that it is neither affection to the man nor yet love to his
profession that moved me to absolve him, but the simple truth"--a noble
answer, which shows that the entire body of prelates in Scotland were
not deserving of the abuse which Knox everywhere and on all occasions
pours upon them.

This was his last meeting with Mary. The part he played in public
affairs was as great, and the standing quarrel with the Court, and all
those who favoured it, more acrimonious than ever, every slanderous tale
that came on the idle winds of gossip being taken for granted, and the
most hideous accusations made in the pulpit as well as in private places
against the Queen and her lighthearted company. The principles, of such
profound importance to the nation, which were undoubtedly involved, are
discredited by the fierce denunciations and miserable personal gossip
with which they were mingled. That judgment should follow the exhibition
of "tarjetted tails," _i.e._ embroidered or highly decorated trains, and
loom black over a Court ball; and that Scotland should be punished
because the Queen and her Maries loved dancing, were threats in no way
inconsistent with the temper of the time; but they must have filled the
minds of reasonable men with many revoltings of impatience and disgust.
It says much for the real soundness of purpose and truth of intention
among the exclusive Church party that they did not permanently injure
the great cause which they had at bottom honestly at heart.




When the Assembly of the Church met in December shortly after these
stirring incidents it was remarked that Knox took no part at first in
the deliberations, an unexampled event. After the first burst of
discussion, however, on the subject of the provision for the Church, he
disclosed the reason of his unusual silence, which was that he had of
late been accused of being a seditious man, and usurping power to
himself--and that some had said of him, "What can the Pope do more than
send forth his letters, and require them to be obeyed?" When one of the
great officials present, no less a person than the Lord Justice-Clerk,
took upon him to reply, Knox silenced him with a few emphatic words--"Of
you I ask nothing," he said, "but if the Kirk that is here present do
not either absolve me or else condemn me, never shall I, in public or in
private, as ane public minister, open my mouth in doctrine or in
reasoning." It is needless to say that the Kirk decided that it was his
duty to advertise the brethren of danger whenever it might appear--but
not without "long contention," probably moved by the party of the Court.
At this period all the members of the nobility had been so universally
acknowledged as having a right to be present at the Assembly sittings,
that messengers were sent to advertise them of their guilt in absenting
themselves when in the extremely strained character of the relations
between Church and State they stayed away. There ensued, some time
after, a singular conference between the leading ministers and the lords
upon various matters, chiefly touching the conduct of John Knox, whose
constant attacks upon the mass, his manner of praying for the Queen, and
the views he had advanced upon obedience to princes, had given great
offence not only at Court but among the moderate men who found Mary's
sway, so far, a gentle and just one. This conference took the form of a
sort of duel between Knox and Lethington, the only antagonist who was at
all qualified to confront the Reformer. The comparison we have already
employed returns involuntarily to our lips; the assault of Lethington is
like that of a brilliant and chivalrous knight against some immovable
tower, from the strong walls of which he is perpetually thrown back,
while they stand invulnerable, untouched by the flashing sword which
only turns and loses its edge against those stones. His satire, his wit,
his keen perception of a weak point, are all lost upon the immovable
preacher, whose determined conviction that he himself is right in every
act and word is as a triple defence around him. This conviction keeps
Knox from perceiving what he is by no means incapable by nature of
seeing, the grotesque conceit, for instance, which is in his prayer for
the Queen. During the course of the controversy he repeats the form of
prayer which he is in the habit of using--being far too courageous a
soul to veil any supposed fault. And this is the _salvam fac_ employed
by Knox:--

    "Oh Lord! if Thy pleasure be, purge the heart of the Queen's Majesty
    from the venom of idolatry, and deliver her from the bondage and
    thraldom of Satan in the which she has been brought up and yet
    remains, for the lack of true doctrine; that she may avoid that
    eternal damnation which abides all obstinate and impenitent unto the
    end, and that this poor realm may also escape that plague and
    vengeance which inevitably follow idolatrie maintained against Thy
    manifest Word and the open light thereof." "This," Knox adds, "is
    the form of my common prayer as yourselves were witness. Now what is
    worthy of reprehension in it I would hear?"

    "There are three things," said Lethington, "that never liked me; but
    the first is, 'To pray for the Queen's Majestie with ane condition
    saying, "Illumine her heart if Thy good pleasure be," whereby it may
    appear that ye doubt of her conversion.' Where have ye the example
    of such prayer?"

    "Wheresoever the examples are," said the other, "I am assured of the
    rule which is this, 'If we ask anything according to His will He
    will hear us'; and our Maister Christ Jesus commanded us to pray
    unto our Father 'Thy will be done.'"

After this discussion has gone on for some time, Lethington, impatient,
returns to the original question.

    "But yet," said Lethington, "why pray ye not for her without moving
    any doubt?"

    "Because," said the other, "I have learnt to pray in heaven. Now
    faith, as ye know, depends upon the words of God, and so it is that
    the word teaches me that prayers profit the sons and dochters of
    God's election, of which number whether she be ane or not I have
    just cause to doubt; and therefore I pray God illuminate her heart
    if His good pleasure be."

    "But yet," said Lethington, "ye can produce the example of none that
    has so prayed before you."

    "Thereto I have already answered," said John Knox, "but yet for
    further declaration I will demand ane question, which is
    this--Whether ye think that the Apostles prayed themselves as they
    commanded others to pray?"

    "Who doubts of that?" said the haill company that were present.

    "Weil then," said John Knox, "I am assured that Peter said these
    words to Simon Magus, 'Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and
    pray to God that if it be possible the thought of your heart may be
    forgiven thee.' Here we may clearly see that Peter joins ane
    condition with his commandment."

With such extraordinary arguments, unconscious it would seem of the
absolute incongruity of his illustrations, obtusely perverse in the
dogmatism which destroys both Christian charity and sound perception,
though he was as far from obtuse as ever man was by nature--the preacher
stood immovable, nay, unassailable. The perception which defines and
sets apart things that differ was as much beyond his great intellectual
abilities, at least in those personal questions, as was the charity
which thinketh no evil. The tongues of angels could not have convinced
him that what was said to Simon Magus had no fitness to be applied to
Mary Stewart. Such distinctions might be for the profane, they were not
for him, to whom one example of Scripture was like another, always
applicable, of equal authority in every case. It is not difficult to
understand the exasperation of so modern a mind as that of Lethington,
while he attempted in vain to bring this astounding debate to a
conclusion. For Knox always, so to speak, proves his case. Granting the
twist in all his logic, the confusion of things between which there was
no just comparison--and this twist and confusion belonged to his period
as well as to himself--his grotesque argument has an appearance of
reality which carried away those who agreed with him, and confounded in
their inability to come to any ground of comprehension those who did

The debate was long and minute, and Knox was no more shaken from his
determination that the mass was idolatry and that every idolater should
die the death, than from his conviction that he did his utmost for the
Queen in praying that God might convert her, if it were possible. The
argument as to resisting princes is still longer and more elaborate, but
as it involves only large and general questions is argued out with much
more justice and perception. It was one of the subjects most continually
under discussion among all who held the Reformed faith, and Lethington
himself and all his audience had both in profession and practice held
the popular view in the time of Mary of Guise. It is like enough,
indeed, that somewhere among the crowd of faces turned towards the
disputants there was that long head and saturnine countenance, still one
of the best-known effigies of his time, of the scholar who was at that
period proud to be Queen Mary's tutor, reading Livy with her in the
afternoons, and who upon this question had views as clear as a crystal,
waiting for the moment when they could be set forth. But George
Buchanan, though he held office in the Assembly, had no warrant to claim
a hearing between such men as the learned and lively Lord Secretary and
the great prophet and preacher John Knox.

The discussion ended in nothing, as may be supposed, except a deepened
offence on the part of the Court with the impracticable Reformer, and an
additional bitterness of criticism on the part of the Congregation
touching all that went on at the abbey--the gaieties, and the beautiful
dresses, as well as the mass, and now and then a whisper of scandal,
unproved but taken for granted with that miserable eagerness which such
opposition brings. Edinburgh, between these two conflicting powers, was
no doubt able, with the wonderful impartiality of common life, to carry
on its usual existence much less affected than we could imagine possible
by any of the disorders, which almost reached the height of civil war
when Murray and the other lords were banished, and the tide of Mary's
fate began to rise darkly between the unhappy fool she had chosen for
her husband, and all the wild conflicting elements which had been enough
to tax her strength without that aggravation. Even Knox acknowledges
that "the threatenings of the preachers were fearful," though he himself
had been the first to warn the people of national judgments to be looked
for because of the offences in costume and other matters of their Queen.
We lose, however, here the picturesque and dramatic scenes which added
so much interest to the history during the brief period when she and he
were friends. The debate with Lethington, indeed, is the conclusion of
the brilliant and vivid piece of history in which we have been made to
see all that was going on in the centre of Scottish life--the continual
tumults, the great gatherings in the Church, the sermons, daily orations
full of burning eloquence and earnestness in which every occurrence of
the moment was discussed, as well as the sacred subjects which were
familiar in the mouths of all. That vigorous and trenchant pen falls
from the hand of the preacher. The fifth book of his History is prepared
it is said from his notes and under his eyes, but it is no longer the
same as when the very diction was his own, and his vivid memory, to
which all these incidents were present as when he acted in them, was the
storehouse upon which he drew. He himself appears but on one occasion
after the marriage of Mary. Darnley, with perhaps an effort to hold the
balance even and propitiate the Church, attended the service at St.
Giles's, or, as the writer now calls it, the High Kirk of Edinburgh,
where Knox was preaching in his ordinary course unprepared for such an
honour. In the course of his sermon it chanced that he characterised as
one of the punishments with which God follows national sins, that boys
and women should rule over the nations. The young King (as he was
called) was passionately offended, and Knox was called next day to the
council to answer for himself, and at the same time forbidden to preach
for a stipulated time. He replied that he had spoken only according to
his text, and that if the Church commanded him to abstain from preaching
he would obey. This is all the formal record; but the following marginal
note is added which gives a faint but not altogether ineffective glimpse
of the Knox we know:--

    "In answering he said more than he preached, for he added, that as
    the King had, to pleasure the Queen, gone to mass and dishonoured
    the Lord God, so should God in His justice make her an instrument of
    his ruin; and so it fell out in a very short time; but the Queen
    being incensed with these words fell out in tears, and to please her
    John Knox must abstain from preaching for a time."

As a matter of fact this penalty meant nothing. Knox was enjoined to
silence as long only as the Queen and Darnley were in Edinburgh; and as
they took their departure that week, his work was scarcely interrupted
at all.

During several eventful years after this Knox remained in the shade,
separated from his friends, the enemy of the Court, and much denuded of
his national importance. It was at this period that he married for the
second time. He was nearly sixty, in shattered health and worn with many
fatigues, and it was scarcely wonderful that his enemies should have
said that nothing but witchcraft could have induced a noble young lady,
Lord Ochiltree's daughter, a Stewart not far from the blood royal, to
bestow her youth upon the old preacher. So it was, however, whether
seemly or not. The lady must at least have known him well, for her
father had long been his faithful friend; and no doubt domestic comfort
and care were doubly necessary to a man whose labours were unending, and
who had never spared himself during his whole public life.

It is doubly unfortunate that we should have no record from himself of
the first chapter of that tragedy which was soon to make Scotland the
centre of curiosity and horror to Christendom, and which came into the
already troubled national life like a thunderbolt. Nothing, perhaps,
will ever fully clear up the dark death-scene of Rizzio, the darker
conspiracies and plots that led to it. The fact that the return of the
banished lords was simultaneous with his murder, and that Murray and the
rest had bound themselves in a covenant of duty and service to Darnley
for his good offices in procuring their recall, of the same date with
the other and darker bond which bound that wretched boy to the
executioners of the favourite, will always make it possible for the
partisans of the Queen to make out a certain case against the lords. And
that Knox should have left Edinburgh suddenly and without a word when
that dark deed was accomplished is once more a painful presumption
against him. But there seems no absolute evidence that either one or the
other were involved. It is extremely possible, since the English envoy
knew beforehand of some such dark purpose, that they too may have known.
But it is also evident that so summary a conclusion to the matter was
not in the mind even of Ruthven when he first presented himself like a
ghost in the Queen's closet. Persistent tradition will have it still, in
spite of demonstration to the contrary, that Signor Davie was killed in
Mary's presence at her feet; but the evidence would seem to prove that
immediate execution had not even been determined on, and that but for
the fury of the party among whom the struggling Italian was flung, and
who could not wait for their vengeance, there might have been some
pretence at legality, some sort of impeachment and condemnation, to
justify the deed, in which proceedings had they been taken both Knox and
Murray would have concurred. It is satisfactory, however, to see that
Sir James Melville, Mary's trusted and faithful friend, who was in
Holyrood during the night of the murder, and who had previously urged
upon the Queen, with all the zeal and earnestness of a man who felt his
mistress's dearest interests to be at stake, to recall and pardon Murray
(which had been done also in the strongest terms by Sir N. Throgmorton,
the English envoy), had evidently not the slightest suspicion of any
complicity on his part, and even recorded the disappointment of Ruthven
and the rest to find that the returned exiles looked coldly on them.
Melville does not even mention Knox, nor is there any further proof of
guilt on his part than is involved in the fact that he left Edinburgh on
the afternoon of the day which saw the flight, early in the morning, of
Ruthven and his band. This hurried departure must always be to the
prejudice of the Reformer; for he had been in circumstances more
apparently dangerous before and had never flinched. He had the town of
Edinburgh at his back and all the Congregation. Murray, with whom his
friendship had been renewed, was again in Edinburgh, and for the moment
at least in favour with the Queen, who had need of all the supporters
she could find. Why should Knox have fled? He promises in his History to
write one day a full account of the death of Davie, but never did so.
Evidence, indeed, either of one kind or other, is entirely wanting; but
why did he fly?

Whatever was the reason, Knox at this period disappeared entirely from
the scene where so long he had occupied the very foreground of affairs;
and until that cruel and terrible chapter of history was completed, he
was not again visible in Scotland. We cannot help feeling that though
inexplicable on other grounds, this was well for his fame. His violent
tongue and pen, no doubt, would have been in the heat of the endless
controversy. As it is, he was not only absent from the scene, but, what
is still more singular, took no part whatever in it. The veil of age was
falling over the prophet, and the penalties of a weak constitution
overstrained. Perhaps the comparative calm of England, where, strangely
enough, he chose this time to visit his boys (brought up in a manner
extraordinary for the sons of such a father, in the obscure and
comfortable quiet of English life, and evidently quite
insignificant--one of them dying unknown, a fellow of his college, the
other a country clergyman), had something to do in taming his fiery
spirit. To see the two lads with such blood in their veins in the tame
security and insignificance of an existence so different from his own,
looking at their famous father with wonder, perhaps not unmixed with
youthful disapproval, as a Presbyterian and a firebrand, must have given
that absolute soul a curious lesson. And how strange is his appearance
altogether, first and last, in the midst of that substantial,
respectable county family of Bowes--carrying off the two ladies in his
wild train: the mother to whom he was spiritual physician, director, and
guide; the gentle and silent daughter who was his wife; flaming over the
Continent and through all the troubles in Scotland with these
incongruous followers behind him, then coming back to drop the two tame
sparrows in the quiet nest which their mother had left for love of him!
All we know of them is that in their early childhood he did not spare
the rod; yet was grieved to see them weep. It would be strange if it
were not a disappointment to him, if perhaps a relief as well, to find
no sympathy in his sons for his own career. The daughters whom the young
wife of his old age brought him lived to be like him; which it is said
is the only good fortune in paternity likely to so great a man.


When Knox emerged out of the silence which here falls so strangely upon
his life (broken but by one energetic protest and appeal to the
community against the re-erection of the bishopric of St. Andrews, which
is full of all his old force) he was a weakened and ailing man, not less
ready in spirit to perform all his ancient offices as standard-bearer
and champion, but sadly unable in body to bear the fatigues and
excitement of such an agitated life. He reappeared in public for the
first time when the infant James was crowned in Stirling, preaching the
sermon which preceded that melancholy ceremony. He then returned to
Edinburgh, where for a brief period he saw the accomplishment of all his
desires under the Regent Murray's government: the mass banished; the
Kirk re-established; a provision, though still limited to a third of the
old ecclesiastical property, securely settled for the maintenance of
religion, and every precaution taken for the stability of the
settlement. He was no longer able to take the part he had done in the
affairs of the time and the guidance of the Assemblies, but he was still
able to conduct, at least, the Sunday services at St. Giles's, and to
give his strenuous advice and help in all the difficulties of
government. It must have seemed to him that the light which comes at
eventide had been fully granted to his prayers. But the death of Murray
changed all this like the end of a happy dream. His sermon in St.
Giles's, after that terrible event, is a wail of impassioned
lamentation. "He is at rest, O Lord! but we are left in extreme misery,"
he cries, his grief redoubled by the thought that it was he who had
procured from Murray the pardon of the assassin. St. Giles's was full of
the sound of weeping when the old man, worn with labour and trouble,
pronounced those beautiful words which have breathed like the tone of
the silver trumpets over so many a grave: "Blessed are the dead that die
in the Lord." It was one of the last of his appearances in that great
cathedral which he had made his own, and to which he had given the only
compensation and adornment which could make up for its old sanctities
and decoration sacrificed--the prodigious crowd of eager and sympathetic
listeners, the great voice not without discords and broken notes, but
full of natural eloquence and high religious feeling, of an orator and

A few months after Knox was prostrated by a fit of apoplexy, it is said;
but it would rather seem of paralysis, since his speech was affected. He
recovered and partially resumed preaching, but never was the same again;
and the renewed troubles into which Scotland and Edinburgh were plunged
found the old leader of the Church unequal to the task of making head
against them. The curious complication of affairs which had already
existed on several occasions in the capital when the castle and its
garrison were hostile to the city at their feet, ready to discharge a
gun into the midst of the crowded streets or threaten a sally from the
gates which opened directly upon the very centre of the town, was now
accentuated to the highest degree by the adoption of the Queen's cause
by its Captain, Kirkaldy of Grange. We cannot pause now to give any
sketch of that misplaced hero and knight of romance, the Quixote of
Scotland, who took up Mary's quarrel when others deserted her, and for
much the same reasons, because, if not guilty, she was at least supposed
to be so, and at all events was tragically unfortunate and in
circumstances wellnigh hopeless. These views brought him into desperate
opposition to Knox, once his friend and leader; and though it is
impossible to believe that a man so chivalrous and honourable would have
injured the old Reformer, yet there were many partisans of less repute
who would no doubt have willingly struck a blow at Knox under shelter of
the Captain's name. As was natural to him, however, the preacher in
these circumstances redoubled his boldness, and the more dangerous it
was to denounce Mary under the guns of the fortress held in her name,
was the more anxious with his enfeebled voice to proclaim, over and over
again, his opinion of her, and of the punishment which, had there been
justice in the world or faith in Zion, she must have undergone. Knox's
failing life was assailed at this agitated period by a kind of
persecution much more trying to him than anything he had undergone in
the past. He was assailed by anonymous libels, placards affixed to the
church doors, and thrown into the Assembly, charging him over again with
railing against the Queen, refusing to pray for her, seeking the support
of England against his native country, and so forth. These accusations
had no doubt a foundation of truth. But whatever one may think of the
matter as a question of fact, there can be no doubt that the very air
must have rung with the old man's words when he got up under those lofty
vaults of St. Giles's, and, with his grey hair streaming and his deep
eyes, deeper sunk with age and care than nature, blazing from under
their shaggy eyebrows, gave "the lie in his throat to him that either
dare or will say that ever I sought support against my native country."
"What I have been to my country," he went on, with a courage and dignity
that calls forth all our sympathies, "albeit this unthankful age will
not know, yet the ages to come will be compelled to bear witness to the
truth. And thus I cease, requiring of all men that have to oppose
anything against me that he will do it so plainly as I make myself and
all my doings manifest to the world; for to me it seems a thing most
unreasonable that in my decrepit age I should be compelled to fight
against shadows and howlets that dare not abide the light."

These flying accusations against him, to which, however, he was well
accustomed, were followed, it is said, by more startling warnings, such
as that of a musket ball which came through his window one evening, and
had he been seated in his usual place would have killed him; a thing
which might have been accidental, though no one believed so. He was
persuaded at last to leave Edinburgh only by the representations of the
citizens that were he attacked they were resolved to defend him, and
their blood would consequently be on his head. On this argument he moved
to St. Andrews, the scene of his first ministry, and always a place
beloved; leaving Edinburgh at the darkest moment of her history, the
Church silenced with him, and all the order and peace of ordinary life
suspended. At this crisis of the struggle, when Kirkaldy's garrison was
reinforced by all the party of the Hamiltons, and the city lay, overawed
and helpless, at the mercy of the fortress, the life of the Edinburgh
citizens underwent an extraordinary change. The churches were closed,
and all the pious habits of the time suspended: "neither was there any
sound of bell heard in the town, except the ringing of the cannon." How
strange this was among a population which had crowded daily to the
sermon and found the chief excitement of its life in the orations of the
preacher, it is scarcely necessary to point out.

The picture of Knox in St. Andrews, where he went in May 1571, after all
these agitations, is wonderfully soothing and subdued. He was far from
being without agitation even there. The new institution of "Tulchan"
bishops--called so by the popular wit, men who bore the title alone of
their supposed bishopric, transferring the revenue to the lay patron,
and who officiated, it would appear, much as pleased them, according to
the old rule, or to the form of the Reformed service--had just been
invented; and Knox was called upon to instal the nominal bishop of St.
Andrews, a thing which he refused to do. He was in consequence accused
by some foolish person of himself desiring to have the bishopric (such
as it was), an accusation of which it is extraordinary that he
condescended to take any notice. But apart from these rags and remnants
of familiar conflict, his life in the little city by the sea has a
pleasant repose and calm. "He ever spoke but sparingly against the mock
bishop, because he loved the man." This softer note is carried out in
the two glimpses of him which appear to us chiefly through the
recollections of the gentle James Melville, then a youth studying at St.
Andrews. The old man seems to have taken pleasure in the sight of the
boys about, who were carrying on their education in the place where he
himself had taught those "bairns," whom Wishart had sent him back to in
his fervid manhood. "He would sometimes come in and repose him in our
college yard, and call us scholars to him, and bless us and exhort us to
know God and His work in our country, and stand by the good cause--to
use our time well and learn the guid instructions and follow the guid
examples of our maisters. Our haill college (St. Leonard's) maister and
scholars were sound and zealous for the good cause, the other two
colleges not so." Nor did he disdain the amusements of the young men,
for when one of the professors made a play at the marriage of Mr. John
Colvin, it was performed in Mr. Knox's presence. Alas! truth compels us
to add that the subject of the play was grim and not so peaceful as the
occasion, for it represented the imaginary siege and taking of the
Castle of Edinburgh--then in full activity, and carrying fire and flame
to the houses of the Edinburgh burghers--and "the Captain with ane or
twa with him hanged in effigies." It would seem, however, that Knox
loved the young scholars better than their instructors, for in one of
his few letters written from St. Andrews, to the Assembly meeting at
Perth, he charges the brethren above all things "to preserve the Kirke
from the bondage of Universities," neither to subject the pulpit to
them, nor to exempt them from its jurisdiction.

[Illustration: THE PENDS, ST. ANDREWS]

Knox was lodged in the abbey of which there now remains nothing but a
portion of the enclosing wall, and it was but an old man's saunter in
the sunny morning, with his staff and his servant's arm, through the
noble gateway of the Pends to where St. Leonard's stood, looking away to
the East Neuk over the ripening fields. St. Leonard's, however, has
shared the fate of the abbey and exists no more.

Still more characteristic is the description given by the same pen of
Knox's public appearances. It was young Melville's greatest privilege,
the best of all the benefits he received during that year, to hear "that
maist notable prophet and apostle of our nation preach."

    "I had my pen and my little book and took away such things as I
    could comprehend. In the opening of his text he was moderate for the
    space of half an hour, but when he entered to application he made me
    so to grew and tremble that I could not hold a pen to write. In St.
    Andrews he was very weak. I saw him every day of his doctrine go
    hulie and fear (hooley and fairly, gently and with caution), with a
    furring of martins about his neck, a staff in the ane hand, and gude
    godlie Richart Ballenden holding up the other oxter, from the Abbey
    to the Parish Kirk; and by the same Richart and another servant
    lifted up to the pulpit, where he behoved to lean at his first
    entry; but ere he had dome his sermon, he was sae active and
    vigorous that he was like to ding the pulpit in blads and flie out
    of it."

Melville says much, as indeed most of the narratives of the time do, of
Knox's prophecies, especially in respect to the Castle of Edinburgh,
which he said would run like a sand-glass--a prediction supposed to be
fulfilled by a shower of sand pouring from some portion of the rock; and
its Captain, Kirkaldy, who was to escape over the walls, but to be taken
and to hang against the sun. All of which things, and many more,
occurred precisely as the seer said, after his death, striking great awe
to the hearts of those to whom the predictions were made. The special
prophecy in respect to Grange was softened by the announcement that "God
assures me there is mercy for his soul." And it is at once pathetic and
impressive to read of the consolation which this assurance gave to the
chivalrous Kirkaldy on the verge of the scaffold; and the awe-inspiring
spectacle presented to the believers, who after his execution saw his
body slowly turn and hang against the western sun, as it poured over the
Churchyard of St. Giles's, "west, about off the northward neuk of the
steeple." But this was after the prophet himself had passed into the

Knox returned to Edinburgh in 1572, in August, the horrors of the
struggle between the Queen's party and the King's, as it was called, or
Regent's, being for the moment quieted, and the banished citizens
returning, although no permanent pacification had yet taken place. He
had but a few months remaining of life, and was very weary of the long
struggle and longing for rest. "Weary of the world, and daily looking
for the resolution of this my earthly tabernacle," he says. And in his
last publication dated from St. Andrews, whither the printer Lekprevik
had followed him, he heartily salutes and takes good-night of all the
faithful, earnestly desiring the assistance of their prayers, "that
without any notable scandal to the evangel of Jesus Christ I may end my
battle: for," he adds, "as the world is weary of me, so am I of it." He
lived long enough to welcome his successor in St. Giles's, to whom, to
hasten his arrival, he wrote the following touching letter, one of the
last compositions of his life:--

    "All worldlie strength, yea even in things spiritual, decayes, and
    yet shall never the work of God decay. Belovit brother, seeing that
    God of His mercy, far above my expectation, has callit me over again
    to Edinburgh, and yet that I feel nature so decayed, and daylie to
    decay, that I look not for a long continuance of my battle, I would
    gladly ance discharge my conscience into your bosom, and into the
    bosom of others in whom I think the fear of God remains. Gif I had
    the abilitie of bodie, I suld not have put you to the pain to the
    whilk I now requyre you, that is, ance to visit me that we may
    confer together on heavenly things; for into earth there is no
    stability except the Kirk of Jesus Christ, ever fighting under the
    cross; to whose myghtie protection I heartilie commit you. Of
    Edinburgh the VII. of September 1572.

            JHONE KNOX.

    "Haist lest ye come too lait."

He lived to induct this successor, and to hear the terrible news of that
massacre in France, which horrified all Christendom, but was of signal
good to Scotland by procuring the almost instantaneous collapse of the
party which fought for the Queen, and held the restoration of Roman
Catholic worship to be still possible. That hope died out with the first
sound of the terrible news which proved so abundantly Knox's old
assertion that in the hands of the Papists there was no safety for his
life, or the life of any who believed with him. Almost, however, before
this grain of good in the midst of so much evil became apparent the
prophet had taken his departure from this world. After the simple
ceremonial at which he had officiated, of his successor's installation,
John Knox returned home in the light of the brief November day, as
Melville had seen him, supported by the arm of his faithful servant. The
crowd which had filled St. Giles's hurrying out before him lined the
street, and watched the old man as he crept along down the hill to his
house, with many a shaken head and many a murmured blessing. In this
last scene all were unanimous; there was no one to cast a gibe or an
unkindly look upon that slow aged progress from the scene of his
greatest labours to the death-bed which awaited him. When the spectators
saw him disappear within his own door, they all knew that it was for the
last time. He lay for about a fortnight dying, seeing everybody, leaving
a charge with one, a prophecy with another, with a certain dignified
consciousness that his death should not be merely as other men's, and
that to show the reverential company of friends who went and came how to
die was the one part of his mission which had yet to be accomplished. He
ended his career on the 24th November 1572, having thus held a sort of
court of death in his chamber and said everything he had to say--dying a
teacher and prophet to men, as he had lived.

[Illustration: INTERIOR OF ST. GILES'S]

No man has been more splendidly applauded, and none more bitterly
dispraised. It is in one sense the misfortune of our age that it is
little able to do either. If steadfast adherence to what he thought the
perfect way, if the most earnest purpose, the most unwearying labour,
the profoundest devotion to his God and his country are enough to
constitute greatness, John Knox is great. He was at the same time a man
all faults, bristling with prejudices, violent in speech, often
merciless in judgment, narrow, dogmatic, fiercely intolerant. He was
incapable of that crowning grace of the imagination and heart which
enables a man to put himself in another's place and do as he would be
done by. But even this we must take with a qualification; for Knox would
no doubt have replied to such an objection that had he been a miserable
idolater, as he considered the upholders of the mass to be, he could not
but have been grateful to any man who had dragged him by whatever means
from that superstition. He was so strong in the certainty of being right
that he was incapable even of considering the possibility that he might
be wrong. And there was in him none of those reluctances to give pain,
none of those softening expedients of charity which veil such a harsh
conviction and make men hesitate to condemn. He knew not what hesitation
was, and scorned a compromise as if it had been a lie, nor would he
suffer that others should do what was impossible to himself. His
determination to have his own way was indeed justified by the conviction
that it was the way of God, but his incapability of waiting or having
patience, or considering the wishes and convictions of others, or
contenting himself with a gradual advance and progression, have no such

These were, however, of the very essence of his character. A perfectly
dauntless nature fearing nothing, the self-confidence of an inspired
prophet, the high tyrannical impulse of a swift and fiery genius
impatient of lesser spirits, were all in him, making of him the
imperative, absolute, arrogant autocrat he was; but yet no higher
ambition, no more noble purpose, ever inspired a man. He desired for his
countrymen that they should be a chosen people like those of old whom
God had selected to receive His revelation; his ambition was to make
Scotland the most pure, the most godlike, of all countries of the earth.
In many things he was intolerable, in some he was wrong and
self-deceived. He was too eager, too restless, too intent upon doing
everything, forcing the wheels of the great universe and clutching at
his aim whatever conditions of nature might oppose--to be wholly heroic.
Yet there are none of the smoother or even more lovable figures of
history whom it would be less possible to strike from off the list of
heroes. The impression which he left upon the religion and character of
Scotland remains to this day; and if we think, as many have done during
all these ages, that that development of national life is the highest
that could be aimed at, John Knox was one of the greatest of men. But if
he transmitted many great qualities to his country, he also transmitted
the defects of these qualities. He cut Scotland adrift in many respects
from the community of Christendom. He cut her off from her ancestors and
from those hallowing traditions of many ages which are the inheritance
of the universal Church. He taught her to exult in that disruption, not
to regret it; and he left an almost ineradicable conviction of
self-superiority to a world lying in wickedness, in the innermost heart
of the nation. It is a wonderful testimony to a man that he should have
thus been able to imprint his own characteristics upon his race: and no
doubt it is because he was himself of the very quintessence of its
national character to start with, that he has maintained this prodigious
power through these three hundred years.

[Illustration: KNOX'S PULPIT. In the Antiquarian Society's Museum,

He lies, it is thought, if not within the walls of St. Giles's under the
flags between the Cathedral and the Parliament House, with all the busy
life of modern Edinburgh, the feet of generations of men treading out
the hours and years over his head; a more appropriate bed for him than
green mound or marble monument. That stony square is consecrated ground
blessed near a thousand years ago by ancient priests who cared little
more for Rome than do their modern successors now. But little heeded
Knox for priestly blessing or consecrated soil. "The earth is the Lord's
and the fulness thereof" was the only consecration of which he thought.



The age of Mary Stewart is in many ways the climax of Scottish national
history, as well as one of the most interesting and exciting chapters in
the history of the world. The Stewarts of Scotland had been up to this
point a native race entirely Scots in training as in birth, and bent
above all things upon the progress and consolidation of their own
ancient kingdom, the poor but proud; a speck all but lost in the
distance of the seas, yet known all over Christendom wherever errant
squires or chivalrous pretensions were known. But the new sovereign of
Scotland was one whose heart and pride were elsewhere, whose favourite
ambitions were directed beyond the limits of that ancient kingdom with
which she had none of the associations of youth, and to which she came a
stranger from another Court far more dazzling and splendid, with hopes
and prospects incapable of being concentrated within the boundary of the
Tweed. There is no indication that the much-contested history of Mary
Stewart has lost any of its interest during the progress of the
intermediate centuries; on the contrary, some of its questions are
almost more hotly contested now than they were at the moment when they
arose. Her chivalrous defenders are more bold than once they were, and
though the tone of her assailants is subdued, it is from a natural
softening of sentiment towards the past, and still more from the fashion
of our time, which finds an absorbing interest in the manifestations of
individual character and the discussion of individual motives, rather
than from any change of opinion. I do not venture to enter into that
long-continued conflict, or to attempt to decide for the hundredth time
whether a woman so gifted and unfortunate was more or less guilty. Both
parties have gone, and still go, too far in that discussion; and Mary
would not have thanked (I imagine) those partisans who would prove her
innocence at the cost of all those vigorous and splendid qualities which
made her remarkable. She could scarcely be at once an unoffending victim
and one of the ablest women of her time.

As this is the most interesting of all the epochs of Scottish
history--and that not for Mary's sake alone, but for the wonderful
conflict going on apart from her, and in which her tragic career is but
an episode--so it is the most exciting and picturesque period in the
records of Edinburgh, which was then in its fullest splendour of
architectural beauty and social life; its noble streets more crowded,
more gay, more tumultuous and tragical; its inhabitants more
characteristic and individual; the scenes taking place within it more
dramatic and exciting than at any other part of its history. Fine
foreign ambassadors, grave English diplomates trained in the school of
the great Cecil, and bound to the subtle and tortuous policy of the
powerful Elizabeth; besides a new unusual crowd of lighter import but
not less difficult governance, the foreign artists, musicians, courtiers
of all kinds, who hung about the palace, had come in to add a hundred
complicating interests and pursuits to the simpler if fiercer
contentions of feudal lords and protesting citizens: not to speak of the
greatest change of all, the substitution for the ambitious Churchman of
old, with a coat of mail under his rochet, of the absolute and
impracticable preacher who gave no dispensations or indulgences, and
permitted no compromise. All these new elements, complicated by the
tremendous question of the English succession, and the introduction of
many problems of foreign politics into a crisis bristling with
difficulties of its own, made the epoch extraordinary; while the very
streets were continually filled by exciting spectacles, by processions,
by sudden fights and deadly struggles, by pageants and splendours, one
succeeding another, in which the whole population had their share. The
decree of the town council that "lang weapons," spears, lances, and
Jedburgh axes, should be provided in every shop--so that when the town
bell rang every man might be ready to throw down his tools or his
merchandise and grip the ready weapon--affords the most striking
suggestion of those sudden tumults which might rise in a moment, and
which were too common to demand any special record, but kept the town in
perpetual agitation and excitement--an agitation, it is true, by no
means peculiar to Edinburgh. No painter has ever done justice to the
scene which must have been common as the day, when the beautiful young
Queen, so little accustomed to the restraints and comparative poverty of
her northern kingdom, and able to surround herself with the splendour
she loved out of her French dowry, rode out in all her bravery up the
Canongate, where every outside stair and high window would be crowded
with spectators, and through the turreted and battlemented gate to the
grim fortress on the crown of the hill, making everything splendid with
the glitter of her cortege and her own smiles and unrivalled charm.
Sadder spectacles that same beautiful Queen provided too--miserable
journeys up and down from the unhappy palace, sometimes through a stern
suppressed tumult of hostile faces, sometimes stealthily under cover of
night which alone could protect her. Everything in Edinburgh is
associated more or less with Mary's name. There is scarcely an old house
existing, with any authentic traces of antiquity, in which she is not
reported to have taken refuge in her trouble or visited in her pleasure.
The more vulgar enthusiasts of the causeways are content to abolish all
the other associations of old Edinburgh for Mary's name.

But I will not attempt to revive those pageants either of joy or sorrow.
There are other recollections which may be evoked with less historical
responsibility and at least a little more freshness and novelty. No
figure can be introduced out of that age who has not some connection one
way or other with the Queen; and the great scholar, whose reputation has
remained unique in Scotland, had some share in her earlier and happier
life, as well as a link, supposed of treachery, with her later career.
George Buchanan was the Queen's reader and master in her studies when
all was well with her. He is considered by some of her defenders to be
the forger of the wonderful letters which, if true, are the most
undeniable proof of her guilt. But these things were but incidents in
his career, and he is in himself one of the most illustrious and
memorable figures among the throngs that surrounded her in that brief
period of sovereignty which has taken more hold of the imagination of
Scotland, and indeed of the world, than many a longer and, in point of
fact, more important reign.

It is difficult to understand how it is that in later days, and when
established peace and tranquillity of living might have been supposed to
give greater encouragement to study, accurate and fine scholarship
should have ceased to be prized or cultivated in Scotland. Perhaps,
however, the very advantages upon which we have plumed ourselves so
long, the general diffusion of education and higher standard of
knowledge, is one of the causes of this failure--not only the poverty of
Scotch universities and want of endowments, but the broader and simpler
scale on which our educational systems were founded, and which have made
it more important to train men for the practical uses of teaching than
permit to them the waywardness and independence of a scholar. These
results show the "_défauts de nos qualités_," though we are not very
willing to admit the fact. But in the earlier centuries no such reproach
rested upon us. Although perhaps, then as now, the Scotch intelligence
had a special leaning towards philosophy, there was still many a learned
Scot whose reputation was in all the universities, whose Latinity was
unexceptionable, and his erudition immense, and to whom verses were
addressed and books dedicated in every centre of letters. One of the
most distinguished of these scholars was George Buchanan, and there
could be no better type of the man of letters of his time, in whom the
liberality of the cosmopolitan was united with the exclusiveness of the
member of a very strait and limited caste. He had his correspondents in
all the cities of the Continent, and at home his closest associates were
among the highest in his own land. Yet he was the son of a very poor
man, born almost a peasant and dying nearly as poor as he was born. From
wandering scholar and pedagogue he became the preceptor of a King and
the associate of princes; but he was not less independent, and he was
scarcely more rich in the one position than the other. His pride was not
in the high consultations he shared or the national movements in which
he had his part, but in his fine Latinity and the elegant turn of those
classical lines which all his learned compeers admired and applauded.
The part that he played in history has been made to look odious by
skilled critics; and the great book in which he recorded the deeds of
his contemporaries and predecessors has been assailed violently and
bitterly as prejudiced, partial, and untrue. But nobody has been able to
attack his Latin or impair the renown of his scholarship; and perhaps
had he himself chosen the foundation on which to build his fame, this is
what he would have preferred above all. History may come and politics
go, and the principles of both may change with the generations, but
Latin verse goes on for ever: no false ingenuity of criticism can pick
holes in the deathless structure of an art with which living principles
have had nothing to do for a thousand years and more.

Buchanan was born in a farmhouse, "a lowly cottage thatched with straw,"
in the year 1506, in Killearn in the county of Stirling; but not without
gentle blood in his veins, the gentility so much prized in Scotland,
which makes a traceable descent even from the roughest of country lairds
a matter of distinction. His mother was a Heriot, and one wonders
whether there might not be some connection between the great scholar and
the worthy goldsmith of the next generation, who did so much for the
boys of Edinburgh. Buchanan's best and most trustworthy biographer, Dr.
Irving,[5] pictures to his readers the sturdy young rustic trudging two
miles in all weathers to the parish school, with his "piece" in his
pocket, and already the sonorous harmonies of the great classic tongues
beginning to sound in his ears--a familiar picture which so many country
lads born to a more modest fame have emulated. In the parish school of
Killearn, in that ancient far-away Scotland before the Reformation,
which it is hard to realise, so different must it have been from the
characteristic Scotch school of all our traditions, the foundations of
Buchanan's great scholarship and power were laid. His father died while
he was still a mere child, and the future man of letters had plenty of
rough rustic work, helping his mother about the farm on the holidays,
which must have been more frequent while all the saints of the calendar
were still honoured. Trees of his planting, his biographer says, writing
in the beginning of this century, still grow upon the banks of the
little stream which runs by the beautiful ruins of Dunblane, and which
watered his mother's fields. When he had reached the age of fourteen an
uncle Heriot seeing his aptitude for study sent him off, it would seem
alone, in all his rusticity and homeliness, to Paris--a curious sign of
the close connection between Scotland and France--where he carried on
his studies or, a phrase more appropriate to his age, learned his
lessons amid the throngs of the French schools. Before he was sixteen,
however, his uncle died, leaving him desolate and unprovided for amongst
strangers; and the boy had to make his way home as best he could, half
begging, half working his passage, stopping perhaps here and there to
help a schoolboy or to write a letter for the unlearned, and earning a
bed and a meal as poor scholars were used to do. He remained a year in
his mother's house, but probably was no longer wanted for the uses of
the farm, since his next move was to the wars. He himself informs us in
the sketch of his life which he wrote in his old age that he was "moved
with a desire to study military matters," a desire by no means unusual
at seventeen. These were the days when the fantastic French Albany was
at the head of affairs in Scotland, during the childhood of James V, and
the country was in great disorder, torn with private quarrels and
dissensions. It is evident that, the kind uncle being dead and affairs
in general so little propitious, there would be little chance in the
resources of the farm of securing further university training for the
boy who had his own way to make somehow in the world; and perhaps his
experience of Paris and possession of the French language (no
inconsiderable advantage when there were so many French adventurers and
hangers on about the Court) might be expected to give him chances of
promotion; while his service perhaps exempted an elder brother, of more
use than he upon the farm, from needful service, when his feudal lord
called out his men on the summons of the Regent.

[5] I must explain that this chapter was written before the publication
of the recent, and I believe excellent, biography of Buchanan by Mr. P.


George Buchanan accordingly followed the Laird's flag upon one of the
wildest and most fruitless of Albany's expeditions to the Border, for
the siege of Wark. The great Border stronghold, the size and wonderful
proportions of which astonished the Scots army, stands forth again,
clear as when it first struck his boyish imagination, in the description
which Buchanan gives of it nearly half a century later in his history of
that time--where the reader can still see the discomfited army with its
distracted captains and councils, and futile leader, straggling back
through the deep snow, each gloomy band finding its way as best it could
to its own district. Buchanan would seem to have had enough of fighting;
and perhaps he had succeeded in proving to his relatives that neither
arms nor agriculture were his vocation; for we next find him on his way
to St. Andrews, "to hear John Major who was then teaching dialectics or
rather sophistry." Here he would seem to have studied for two years;
taking his degree in 1525 at the age of nineteen. After this he followed
Major to France, whether for love of his master, or with the idea that
Major's interest as a doctor of the Sorbonne might help him to find
employment in Paris, we are not told. One of the many stories to his
prejudice which were current in his after-career describes Buchanan as
dependent on Major and ungrateful to him, repaying with a cruel epigram
the kindness shown him. But there seems absolutely no foundation for
this accusation which was probably suggested to after-detractors anxious
for evidence that ingratitude, as one of them says, "was the great and
unpardonable blemish of his life"--by the epigram in question, in which
he distinguishes his professor as "solo cognomine Major." It might very
well be, however, that Buchanan expected a kind recommendation from his
St. Andrews master, such as the habit of the kindly Scots was apt to
give, and some help perhaps in procuring employment, and that the
failure of any aid of this description betrayed the youth into the
national tendency to harshness of speech and the bitter jeer at one who
was great only in his name.

A stranger with nothing but his learning and his Latin epigrams (though
these last were a more marketable commodity then than now) would no
doubt be forlorn enough, struggling to find himself standing-ground and
a living, subsisting hardly on what chance employment might fall in his
way, and reflecting, as most adventurers are apt to do, how easy it
would be for his prosperous countryman to befriend him. Paris, always
full of stir and commotion, had at this moment a new source of agitation
in the rising force of the Reformation principles or, as Buchanan calls
it, "the Lutheran controversy, which was already spreading far and
wide," and into the midst of which he fell on his return. Whether his
interest in the new creed did him harm in his search for an
establishment we are not told: and probably the "struggle with adverse
fortune for about two years" which he records was merely the difficulty
in making himself known which affects every young man. At the end of
that time he got an appointment in the College of St. Barbe as Professor
of Grammar, and was henceforward exempted at least from the
heart-sickening conflict with absolute poverty.

Buchanan would seem to have had already high ambitions and a certainty
that he was fit for something better than the post of schoolmaster in a
French college--for notwithstanding his eagerness to get this post we
soon find him lamenting, in the abstract indeed, but in a manner too
particular to be without special meaning, the small profit of
intellectual labour and the weariness of a continual toil which was so
little rewarded. His plaint of the long night's work, the burning of the
midnight oil, the hunt through dusty and rotting manuscripts, seems
touched with a tone of bitterness unusual in the student's murmurs over
a lot which after all brings him as much pleasure as weariness. The
ambitious lad was already, it is evident, longing for more brilliant

    "Pervigil in lucem lecta atque relecta revolves
      Et putri excuties scripta sepulta situ:
    Sæpe caput scalpes, et vivos roseris ungues,
      Irata feries pulpita sæpe manu."

At St. Barbe, however, he secured a noble young pupil of his own
country, the future Earl of Cassilis, who opened to him a brighter way,
and finally led him back to his own country and for a time to higher
fortune. When young King James came to Paris to meet Magdalen of
France--with the sudden pathetic result of a hasty romantic marriage
soon followed by the poor young lady's death--young Cassilis was still
there with his tutor, who was himself but little advanced in life beyond
his patron. And it was presumably in the train of the royal pair that
the young men returned home. In that case Buchanan must have witnessed
the touching scene that took place at the poor young Queen's
disembarkation when she kissed the soil of her new country, the land
which was to afford her only a grave. Whether dreams of Court favour and
advancement were beginning to germinate in the young scholar's brain as
he was thus suddenly swept into the train of royalty there is nothing to
say; but at all events he observed everything with keen attentive eyes,
unconsciously collecting the best materials for the history he was yet
to write. And it is clear that this accidental connection with the King
bore after-fruit. Buchanan went to Ayrshire with his young patron who
had come of age, and whose studies were over it is to be supposed: and
in the leisure of that relaxation from former duties amused himself with
compositions of various sorts, and in particular with the _Somnium_, a
lively poetical satire upon the Franciscans. The monks, who had been the
favourite butt of all the ages, were more than ever open to the assaults
of the wits now that the general sentiment had turned so strongly
against them, and Buchanan said no more than Dunbar with full
permission, before any controversy arose, had said, nor half so much as
David Lindsay was privileged to say. And Lord Cassilis' tutor had all
the freedom of a private individual responsible to no one while he
lingered at his young patron's castle, pleased to make as many as
comprehended his Latin laugh, though probably there were few capable of
appreciating its classical beauty. This, however, was but a pastime, and
his mind again began to turn towards Paris, where alone perhaps there
was to be found the kind of work for which he was most fit and the
literary applause and emulation which were dear to his soul.

He was about to set out when the King, who doubtless had owed some
entertainment to Buchanan on the lingering homeward journey, and who
must have been well aware of his character and gifts, made him pause by
offering him the tutorship of his illegitimate son, one among several
for whom James, so young as he was, not more than twenty-five, was
already responsible, another James Stewart, though not the notable James
who was afterwards the Regent Murray. This appointment brought Buchanan
at once within the charmed circle of the Court, and probably prepared
the way for all his after-honours. But his career in Edinburgh at this
moment was not especially glorious. Delighted by the _Somnium_, which
had been read to him and applauded by all the obsequious audience round,
James, who though a good Catholic liked a clever assault upon the
priests as much as any one, recommended the new member of his household
to resume the subject. It is supposed that the Grey Friars from their
great lodgment so near the Court had found fault with the appointment of
Buchanan and assailed himself as a profane and scoffing heretic. It was
certainly strange that a man who had adopted the heresies of Luther
should be appointed to the care of the son of a Catholic King, but
Buchanan it is probable kept his religious opinions to himself, and it
was not necessary to be a Protestant to give vent to the broadest
satires against the monks and friars who had been for so long the least
defensible portion of the Catholic establishment. Buchanan, however, was
not bold enough to fall upon his enemies as Sir David Lindsay did. A
poor man and a dependant, had he the highest spirit in the world, must
still bear traces of the yoke to which circumstances have accustomed
him, and a scholar is not necessarily brave. He shrank from encountering
the great and powerful community of the Grey Friars in the eye of day,
and instead of the lively assault expected from him, temporised and
wrote something which was neither satisfactory to the King who wanted a
laugh at the expense of the monks, nor to the monks who were more
enraged by the covert character of a satire which could be read both
ways, than they would have been by straightforward abuse. The
dissatisfaction of James moved Buchanan to bolder measures, and after
his halfhearted attempt to compromise himself as little as possible, he
was goaded into the most virulent use of his pen, and cut down his
adversaries with the sharp shafts of his _Franciscanus_ with a vigour
and malice which left nothing to be desired. The Court had its laugh
which was resounding and long, but neither King nor courtiers had any
penalty to pay for the pranks which the classical Samson wrought for
their pleasure.

Though they were thus mocked in high places, the Churchmen, however, had
lost none of their power, and even the protection of the royal household
did not avail the audacious poet. In the raid upon heretics which was
made in the beginning of the year 1539 Buchanan's name was included
among the guilty. He himself tells us that "Cardinal Beatoun bought his
life from the King with money": making it probably the price of some
concession that this audacious assailant should be delivered into the
hands of the Church. At all events the terrified scholar had no
confidence in the power or will of his Sovereign to protect him, and,
scared by the flames of various burnings which had taken place
throughout the kingdom, directed his best wits to finding a way of
safety. He escaped through a window while his keepers were asleep, some
say from the Castle of St. Andrews, some from that of Edinburgh. His own
account is more simple and goes into no detail. "He made his way into
England, eluding the guards set for him." But England was not more
secure than Scotland. The quick-witted fugitive found Henry VIII
impartially burning victims from both sides, on the same day at the same
stake, and considered this sublime indifference as still more dangerous
than the strife of Scotch affairs. "His old familiarity with the French,
and the singular hospitality of that nation," led him back to the city
which was then the favourite resort of all the Muses. When, however,
Buchanan arrived in Paris he found that his special enemy, Cardinal
Beatoun, had preceded him there as ambassador from King James, and,
alarmed by so dangerous a vicinity, he accepted at once an offer made to
him by Andrew Govra, one of his colleagues of former times, who had been
appointed to the charge of a college in Bordeaux, and removed thither
with the greatest expedition before his foe could be made aware of his
presence in Paris.

This was in the end of the year 1539, when Buchanan had attained the age
of thirty-three. His residence in the capital of the famous province of
Gascony seems to have been active and happy. He was Professor of Latin
in the college; perhaps the terms would be more just if we said he was
Latin master in one of the most flourishing and successful of French
schools; but our neighbours still prefer the more high-sounding
nomenclature. The great Garonne was not full of ships and trade at that
period as it is now; but Bordeaux was one of the old capital cities of
France, possessing a rank which now belongs to no French provincial
town, and had its own characteristic society, its scholars and
provincial statesmen. But the most important and notable human being of
all whom Buchanan found in his new sphere was a certain small seigneur
of Gascony, six years old, and already an accomplished Latinist, having
learned no other language from his cradle, bearing the name of Michel de
Montaigne and already a little philosopher as well as scholar. The great
essayist speaks afterwards of "George Buchanan, the celebrated Scotch
poet," as one of his masters, but he does not say whether Buchanan was
the enlightened pedagogue who connived at his endless reading and let
him off as much as was possible from other less congenial studies.

Buchanan, however, must have found the cheerful southern city, with its
Parliament and its colleges, and all the teeming life and restless
energies of the Gascon race, not unlike a kind of warmer and more
brilliant Scotland, full of national brag and gallantry, a congenial
sphere. He had been for a long time shedding complimentary verses,
sonnets, dedications, about him after the manner of the time, serving
out to everybody who was kind to him a little immortality in the shape
of classic thanks or compliment: but in Bordeaux he began to produce
works of more apparent importance, "four tragedies" intended primarily
for the use of his college, where it was the custom to represent yearly
a play, generally of an allegorical character--one of the fantastical
miracle plays which delighted the time, and which were often as profane
in reality as they were religious in pretence. The great classicist
considered his boys to be wasting their faculties in representing such
inferior performances, but humoured the prevailing taste so much as to
choose two Scriptural subjects, Jephthah and John the Baptist,
alternately with the Medea and Alcestis. He "was successful beyond his
hopes," he says, in these efforts. In all of the plays the little
Montaigne was one of the chief performers. "Before a fit age, _Alter ab
undecimo tum me vix ceperat annus_," says that great writer, "I
sustained the first parts in the Latin tragedies of Buchanan, which were
played in our College de Guienne, with dignity." The little scene is
pleasant to think of, not too long out of date to recall the scholastic
pastimes of to-day, though there is no Buchanan to produce plays for
Eton or Harrow, and probably no young Montaigne to play the hero. The
learned Scot, with his peasant breeding no doubt making him still more
conscious of the strain of gentle blood in his veins, a little rough,
irascible, and impatient in nature, notwithstanding the elegance of his
Latin speech, and the little noble, gentilhomme to his fingers' end,
half respectful, half contemptuous of the pedagogue, make a picturesque

Buchanan, however, did not feel himself safe even in Bordeaux, where he
remained only three years. It is said that Cardinal Beatoun wrote to the
Archbishop recommending his arrest, and the Franciscan community in the
Gascon city, which had heard from their brethren of his offences against
the Order, kept an unfriendly eye upon him, ready to take advantage of
any hostile opportunity. He therefore returned to Paris, where in a
similar but apparently more obscure position he spent some years. In
1547 he was very glad to accompany Govra, who had brought him to
Bordeaux, and whom Montaigne describes as "beyond comparison the
greatest Principal in France," to his native country Portugal, whither
his King had summoned him in order that his talents might be of use to
his own nation as the head of the new University of Coimbra. It would
seem that Govra carried his whole staff along with him to Portugal.
"Most of them," Buchanan says, "were men bound to him (Buchanan) for
many years in the ties of closest friendship, men who were renowned for
their works all over the world," and in whose society the Scottish
scholar felt that he would be not among strangers but among kinsmen and
friends. A still stronger inducement was, that while all Europe was
ablaze with wars and religious controversies, that one little kingdom
was at peace. The band of scholars thus removed together to their new
sphere, like a hive of bees, and at first all went well with them; but
they had not been long in Portugal when Govra died, leaving them without
any powerful patronage or protection, a band of strangers, no doubt
appearing in the aspect of supplanters of native talent to many hostile
lookers-on. Men of their pursuits and modes of thought, aliens in an
unknown country, perhaps sufficiently free of speech to alarm the
narrow-minded, no great observers of ritual or ceremony, were too likely
under any circumstances to attract the notice of the Inquisition in a
place so wholly given over to its sway.

Buchanan was probably the most distinguished among this band of
scholars; and a vague report that he had written something against the
Franciscans attached to him a special prejudice. As nobody knew what
this work was, it could not be brought formally against him, but lesser
crimes were found, such as that of eating meat in Lent and speaking
disrespectfully of monks, sins which even in Portugal most people were
more or less guilty of. Buchanan, however, had no very dreadful penalty
to bear. He was imprisoned for some months in a monastery, that he might
be brought by the monks' instruction to a better way of thinking. The
prisoner was fair enough to admit that he found his jailors by no means
bad men or unkindly in their treatment of him--an acknowledgment which
is greatly to his credit, since prejudice was equally strong on both
sides and a persecuted scholar was as little apt to see the good
qualities of his persecutors as they were to accept his satires. It
would be interesting to know what the homely fathers thought of him,
this dreadful freethinker and satirist committed to their care for
instruction. He found them "entirely ignorant of religious questions,"
though evidently so much less hostile than he had expected, and occupied
his enforced leisure in making his translation of the Psalms, a monument
of elegant verse and fine Latinity, for which the quiet of the convent
and the absence of interruptions must have been most favourable. He
would seem to have corrected the bad impression he had at first made, by
these devout studies and his behaviour generally; for when he was
released the King would not let him go, but gave him a daily allowance
for his expenses until some fit position could be found for him. But
there was evidently nothing in Lisbon which tempted Buchanan to stay. He
languished in the little capital separated from all congenial society,
and sighed for his beloved Paris which he addressed as his mistress,
writing a poem, _Desiderium Lutetiæ_, in praise of and longing for the
presence of that nymph whom so many have wooed.

At last he contrived to escape in a ship bound for England, which,
however, he found as little congenial as Portugal, and with as short a
delay as possible he returned to that Lutetia which he loved. Arrived
there, he would seem to have resumed his old work as schoolmaster in one
of the colleges, no way advanced, despite his fame and adventures, from
the first post he had held when little more than a boy, though he was
now between forty and fifty, and one of the best-known scholars of his
time. A few years later he became a member of the household of the
Maréchal de Brissac as tutor to his son, and with him spent five years,
partly in Italy in the province of Liguria where the Maréchal was
governor. For the first time he would seem to have been treated with
honour, and his advice taken in affairs of state and public business
generally, and here he tells us he devoted much of his time to the study
of sacred literature, so that he might be able to form a matured
judgment as to the controversies which were tearing the world asunder.
In the year 1560, his services being no longer required by his pupil,
Buchanan at last decided upon returning to his native country. "The
despotism of the Guises," he says, "was over, and the religious
excitement had begun to calm down." It would appear that though his
convictions had so long been on the side of the Reform, he had not yet
publicly made himself known as a member of that party. And his return to
Scotland was made with the full intention so to do.

Such was the wandering and uncertain career of the scholar and man of
letters of the sixteenth century. Perhaps Buchanan's temper was less
compliant, his character less easily adaptable to the society in which
he found himself, than most; but it may be doubted whether this was the
cause of the very small advancement in life to which he had come, since
he was complaisant enough to indite many fine verses in praise of people
who gave him a banquet or a shelter, and he seems to have gone nowhere
without making friends. He had got abundant reputation, however, if not
much else, and was known wherever he went as the celebrated poet, which
doubtless was agreeable to him if not very profitable. But it gives us a
certain insight into the life of the literary class in his time to see
so notable a man wandering from one place to another, professor or
regent or private tutor as it happened, never well off, never secure,
often in the position of a dependant. When Milton speaks of the
"others," poets whom he thus adopts into a kind of equality, who "use"

    "To sport with Amaryllis in the shade,
    Or with the tangles of Neæra's hair,"

it is supposed to be Buchanan whom he refers to, which is perhaps honour
enough for a modern classicist; though Amaryllis, the critics say, was
no more individual a love than the Lutetia before mentioned, for whom he
pined. Yet though all the scholars of his time admired and followed him,
he had to return again and again to his Latin grammar, and to small boys
not so wonderful as Michel of Montaigne; and when he returned to
Edinburgh at the age of fifty-five his worldly position was scarcely
better than when he got his first appointment at twenty-one to the
College of St. Barbe. His life was now, however, to take another form.

Buchanan's return to Scotland "after the despotism of the Guises was
over" corresponded very nearly with the return of Queen Mary. It is
surmised that he may have travelled in the suite of "the Lord James,"
the future Earl of Murray, who paid his sister a visit very soon after
the death of her husband, King Francis: certainly nothing could be more
probable than that the Scotch scholar, seeking an opportunity to return
to his native country, should have joined himself to the train of the
prince, who probably had been acquainted in his childhood with his
brother's tutor, and who was himself a man of education and a patron of
literature. If this guess should be correct it would account for
Buchanan's rapid promotion to Court favour. Edinburgh was in a state of
happy expectation when the poet came back. What was virtually a new
reign, though Mary had been the nominal possessor of the throne from her
birth, was about to begin; the fame of the young Queen had no doubt been
blown far and wide about the country on every breeze--that fame of
beauty, sweetness, and grace which is the most universally attractive of
all reputations, and which made the proud Scots prouder still in the
possession of such a prodigy. That there were graver thoughts among the
very serious and important party, who felt the safety of their
newly-established and severely-reformed Church to be in doubt if not in
danger, and who hated and feared "the mass" and the priests who
performed it as they did the devil (with whom indeed they were more
amiably familiar), does not alter the fact that the anticipation of
Mary's return was a happy one, and her welcome cordial and without
drawback. Nobody knew that there had been a project of a landing at
Aberdeen, where Huntly and the other northern lords had proposed to meet
her with twenty thousand men, thus enabling her to march upon her
capital as a conquering heroine of the old faith, putting Satan, in the
shape of John Knox, under her feet. Had she accepted this proposal how
strangely might the face of history have been changed! But there is no
reason to suppose that Mary desired to come to Scotland with fire and
flame, any more than there is that her destruction was a foregone
conclusion. She came with many prognostics of success, though also with
a continual possibility that "terrible tragedies" might come of it; and
for some time it would appear that her Court was as seemly and pleasant
as any Court could be, full of youthful pleasure and delight as became
her years and the gay youthful company that surrounded her, but also of
graver matters and thoughts and purposes becoming a noble Queen.

The first notice we have of Buchanan after his return to Scotland is
conveyed in a letter from Randolph, the English envoy in Edinburgh, in
which the question, "Who is fittest to be sent from this Queen to
attende upon the Queen's Majesty (Elizabeth) for the better continuance
of intelligence with her Highness?" is discussed. "Of any that I know,"
says the representative of England, "David Forrest is likeliest, and
most desireth it. There is with the Queen one called Mr. George
Buchanan, a Scottishe man very well learned that was schollemaster unto
Monsieur de Brissac's son, very godly and honest, whom I have always
judged fitter than any other I know." This was written in January 1562,
and shows that Buchanan was at that time about the Court and in the way
of employment, though he was not then chosen as confidential messenger
between the two queens. A little later he is visible in the exercise of
his old vocation as the tutor of Mary herself. "The Queen readeth daily
after her dinner," says the same careful narrator, "instructed by a
learned man, Mr. George Buchanan, somewhat of Lyvie." These few words
set before us a curious scene. Mary at the height of her good
resolutions and good beginning, keeping up her literature as well as all
her pleasures, her hunting, her riding, her music, her embroideries, all
the accomplishments of her royal training--makes a delightful picture.
She had the habit of working with her needle like any innocent lady in
her bower, while the lords of her Council, grim lords whom it is strange
to associate with this pretty pose of royal simplicity, discussed around
her the troublous affairs of the most turbulent kingdom in Christendom:
and after her dinner, in the languor of the afternoon, one wonders if
the lovely lady was diligent over her Livy or rather seduced her
preceptor to talk about Paris, that much-desired Lutetia which he had so
longed for, as no doubt in the bottom of her heart she too was sometimes
doing. The two so unlike each other--the beautiful young princess not
quite twenty, the old scholar and schoolmaster though a poet withal,
drawing near the extreme boundaries of middle age, and worn with much
struggling against the world and poverty--would yet find a subject and
mutual interest far apart from the book, which made endless conversation
possible, and many a pleasant comparison of experiences so different.
Buchanan had dedicated a book to one of those fair and famous Margarets
who adorned Paris at that epoch, and presumably knew her or something of
her state, and could understand her Majesty of Scotland's allusions, and
knew something of the gossip of the Court, or at least could pretend to
do so, as a man who was aware what was expected of a courtier. It is
possible indeed that Mary was truly studious, and liked her Livy as her
contemporary did, the gentle Lady Jane who had so sad a fate; but it is
much more likely, we think, that the big volume lay open, while the
scholar's eyes glowed and shone with cherished reminiscences of that
enchanting city in which his best days had flown, and Mary Stewart
responded to his recollections with all her gay wit and charm of
pleasant speech. Many are the tragic associations of Holyrood: it is
well to note that other companions more sober than Signor Davie, more
calm than Chastelar, shared now and then the Queen's leisure. Grave
commentators conclude that it spoke well for her Majesty's Latinity that
Buchanan put her on Livy; for my part I have no doubt that these two
unlikely gossips, after perhaps a sentence or two, forgot about Livy,
and talked of their Paris all the time.

Buchanan took the opportunity of this quiet and prosperous period, when
all was hopeful in the nation as well as in his own prospects, to
publish the poetical version of the Psalms which had occupied his
enforced leisure in the Portuguese monastery years before. They had not
yet seen the light in a complete form, although several of them had been
included by the well-known printer Etienne, or Stephanus as he is more
generally called, in a collection of similar translations by several
learned hands, among which he gives in a flattering preface by far the
highest place to Buchanan. The terms of laudation in which he speaks,
and which it was the fashion of the time to employ, may be judged from
the following extracts quoted by Irving. After commenting upon the
general excellence of his friend's work, superior to all others, he

    "There is nothing more honourable, nothing more splendid, than after
    excelling all others, at length to excel one's self; so in my
    judgment you have most happily attained to this praise in your
    version of these psalms. For in translating the other odes of this
    sacred poet, you have been Buchanan, that is, you have been as
    conspicuous among the other paraphrasists as the moon among the
    smaller luminaries; but when you come to the hundred and fourth
    psalm you surpass Buchanan; so that you do not now shine like the
    moon among the lesser luminaries but like the sun you seem to
    obscure all the stars by your brilliant rays."

The community of letters in these days was in the habit of expressing
the intensest mutual admiration, except when a contrary feeling not less
strong animated their minds and pens. Buchanan dedicated his psalms to
his beautiful pupil and patron in terms as highflown but more elegant,
and with a justifiable wealth of hyperbolical adulation. It would be an
undue demand upon humanity to require nothing more than plain fact in a
poetical address to a young Sovereign so gracious, so accomplished, and
so fair. And yet in the extraordinary circumstances, so soon to be
swallowed up in the abyss of a catastrophe still more extraordinary,
there is little extravagance in Buchanan's address, of which we shall
attempt a translation though most unworthy.

    "Lady, who bears the sceptre of this land
        By endless forefathers transmitted down,
    Whose worth exceeds thy fortune far, as stand
        Thy virtues o'er thy years, and the renown
    Of noble gifts over thy noble line,
        And spirit o'er thy sex:--without a frown
    Accept in this poor Latin garb of mine
          The noble songs of Israel's prophet king.
        Far from Parnassus and the classic shore,
          From under northern stars my gift I bring;
          Nor had I ventured such an ill-born thing
        To lay before thee, but for fearing more
    To miss the little chance of pleasing thee,
    Whose understanding gives a merit not in me."

Buchanan followed this publication by various others, and strangely
enough, while still enjoying the royal favour brought out his
_Franciscanus_, his _Fratres Fraterrimi_, and other satires specially
directed against the monks: which, however, seem to have done him no
harm, for he talks in 1567 of "the occupations of a court," which kept
him from bestowing the time and trouble he wished on the preparation of
his various books for the press. Whether the readings from Livy went on
all this time we have no record; but when Queen Mary married Darnley,
and when her son was born, Buchanan would still seem to have occupied
the position of Court poet, and celebrated both events by copies of
verses as flattering, as well as elegant, as the dedication. From the
first of these we may quote the lines in which Buchanan proves,
notwithstanding his long absence and cosmopolitan training, that the
native brag of the Scot was as strong in him as if he had never left his
native shores. It could scarcely be to flatter either of the bridal pair
that he burst forth into this celebration of "the ancient Kingdom."

    "For herein lies the glory of the Scot,
    To fill the woods with clamour of the chase;
    To swim the stream, and cold and heat defy,
    And hunger and fatigue. To guard their land
    Not with deep trench or wall, but with the force
    Of arms, contemning life for honour's sake;
    To keep their troth, to reverence the bonds
    Of friendship, to love virtue and not gifts.
    Such acts as these secured throughout the land
    Freedom and peace, when war raged o'er the world,
    And every other nation was constrained
    To change its native laws for foreign yoke,
    The fury of the Goth stopped here; the onslaught fierce
    Of the strong Saxon, and the tribes more strong,
    The Dane and Norman, who had conquered him,
    Nay, in our ancient annals live the tales
    Of Roman victory stayed--the Latin tide
    Which neither south wind checked, nor Parthia bleak,
    Nor waves of Meroi, nor the rushing Rhine,
    Was here arrested by this only race
    Before whose face the Roman paused and held
    The frontier of his empire, not by lines
    Of hill and river, but by walls and towns,
    By Caledonian axes oft assailed,
    Laying all hope of further gain aside."

In the meantime, while these poetical performances went on, and the
scholar occupied his leisure in preparing for publication his scattered
works--an occupation which of itself proved the quiet and good hope in
which he was living--more serious labours also occupied his mind.
Notwithstanding his tutorship at Court, Buchanan took advantage of the
moment to declare himself an adherent of the newly formed and very
belligerent Church, now settled and accepted on the basis of the
Reformation, but with little favour at Court as has been seen. He not
only put himself and his erudition at once on that side in the most open
and public way, but sat in the General Assembly, or at least in one of
the Assemblies which preceded the formal creation of that great
ecclesiastical parliament, in 1563, less than two years after his
arrival in Scotland. Nor was his position that of a simple member taking
part in the debates; he seems to have sat upon various special
committees, and to have been entrusted, along with several others, to
revise the Book of Discipline, the standard of order and governance: and
this while he was still a courtier, Mary's tutor and gossip, holding his
place in her presence, and celebrating the events of the time in courtly
and scholarly verse--a curious instance of toleration in a time which
scarcely knew its name.

To recompense Buchanan's services Queen Mary granted him, in the year
1564, an allowance from the forfeited Church property, making him
pensioner of the Abbey of Crossraguel, with an income of five hundred
pounds Scots--a sum very different, it need not be said, from the same
sum in English money. The abbey had been held by a Kennedy, the brother
of Buchanan's first pupil, the Earl of Cassilis, and very probably he
had thus some knowledge of and connection with the locality, where he
had gone with Cassilis many years before. The grant would seem for some
years to have profited him little, the then Earl of Cassilis, son of his
gentler Gilbert, having little inclination to let go his hold of the
rents which his uncle had drawn, either in favour of a new abbot or of
the pensioner; and the cruelties with which this fierce Ayrshire lord
treated the functionary who succeeded his uncle seem incredible to hear
of. George Buchanan kept out of his clutches; but it was not till some
years afterwards that we find the local tyrant bound over in sureties to
leave the two lawful proprietors of these funds alone. So far as can be
made out, Mary's grant to Buchanan was almost identical in date with the
publication of the Psalms and the sonnet which he placed at their head:
a graceful and royal return for the compliment, quite in harmony with
the customs of the time. Both events occurred, as would appear, in the
year 1564, when all was still well with the unfortunate Queen.

Buchanan has been accused of great ingratitude to Mary, because at one
time he served and flattered her, and received as a recompense for the
incense he offered, a substantial benefit: but afterwards turned from
her party to that of her brother, and condemned her with unsparing blame
in his History, as well as acted against her after her downfall. But the
ingratitude is quite incapable of proof. To be devoted to a royal
personage in his or her youth, and to maintain unbroken, however he or
she may change, this early devotion through evil and through good
report, is a romantic grace which is given to few. It was given to very
few of those who received with enthusiasm the young Queen of Scotland,
when she came unsullied, with all her natural fascination and charm,
into the country which hoped everything from her, yet knew nothing of
her. After the half-dozen years of disaster and tragedy, of which a much
greater number of her people believed her the guilty cause than the
innocent victim, there were few indeed who maintained their faith. And
Buchanan was neither romantic nor young; he had none of the elements of
an enthusiast in him. A caustic man of the world, a self-absorbed
scholar without domestic ties or usage in the art of loving, it would
have been wonderful indeed had he constituted himself the champion of
his beautiful pupil in her terrible adversity because she had shown him
a little favour and he had laid poetical homages at her feet in a
brighter time. It would be hard indeed if such a passage of mutual good
offices were to bind a man's judgment for ever, and prevent him from
exercising the right of choosing whom he will serve to all time. Mary's
bounty would suffice to give to her tutor the independence which he had
struggled for all his life, if it had been paid; but it was not paid for
several years; and it was a bounty which cost the giver nothing, so that
the claim for eternal gratitude is overweening in any case.

At the same time, both then and ever, Buchanan's patron and backer was
the Lord James, a man with whom he was very much more likely to find
himself in sympathy than with the young Queen. A grave temper and some
learning, and also the charm of early association, would naturally
attract the elderly scholar more than Mary's feminine gifts, however
great their charm. It was Murray, no doubt, who presented him to the
Queen, and procured him his position at Court; and just as the tragic
moment approached, when Mary's brilliant life was about to plunge into
darkness, Murray bestowed on Buchanan the place of all others best
suited for him, and to which his whole previous existence tended--that
of Principal of the College of St. Leonard's in the University of St.
Andrews. A more fit position, as the best field for his great gifts and
dignified retirement for his old age, could not be imagined. Buchanan
was sixty; he was of all the scholars of his time _facile princeps_,
according to the opinion of the great French printer and scholar, whose
expressions were adopted in the register of the University as describing
the qualifications of the new Principal. It might well have been
supposed that in the reconstitution and improvement of that old
University, in the supervision of his students, in the periodical visit
to Edinburgh for Church matters or educational duties, which has
afforded the necessary relaxation to many a succeeding principal, the
peaceful days of the greatest scholar in Europe would now have passed
tranquilly, until he found his resting-place, like so many others, under
the soft green mantle of the turf which, broken only by solemn
mounds--the last traces of individuality--encircled the great Cathedral
of St. Andrews as it now encircles the ruins of that once splendid

The events of the time, however, permitted no such dignified and calm
conclusion. One can imagine the horror and dismay with which the little
community at St. Andrews heard the dreadful news, carried far and wide
on every breeze, with every kind of whispered comment and
suggestion--soon to be no longer whispered with pale face and bated
breath, but proclaimed from the housetops--of Darnley's murder. Buchanan
had poured forth his celebrations of Mary's marriage and of the birth of
the heir while still a member of her household. And no doubt he had
become aware of the dissensions in that royal house, of Darnley's
ingratitude and folly and the Queen's impatience, before he escaped from
all the talk and endless gossip to the quiet of his college. But it
would seem equally clear that when the action of the sombre tragedy
quickened he was absent from the scene and knew of it only by the
rumours and reports that came across the Firth. First Rizzio's murder,
which the distant spectators would discuss, no doubt, with a thrill not
entirely of horror, a stern sense that justice had been done, a
satisfied prejudice--and no doubt some patriotic, if still prejudiced,
hope that now the Italian was removed there would be less of foreign
policy, and a more entire regard for the welfare of affairs at home.
Then would come the rumours of the Queen's vengeance, lightly held at
first, of Bothwell always in the foreground, her chief supporter and
partisan--Bothwell who, though loved by nobody, was yet a Protestant,
and therefore not altogether beyond hope. And then with ever-quickening
haste event after event--the murder of the King, for whom no one would
have mourned much had it been attended by circumstances less terrible;
the mad proceedings of the Queen, whether constrained or free, her
captivity, outrage, or conspiracy, whichever it was, her insane and
incomprehensible marriage, which no force or persuasion could account
for. As the posts arrived at uncertain intervals, delayed by weather,
strong winds and heavy seas, by breaking down of conveyances, by the
very agitations and tumults in the capital which made them so terribly
interesting, the eager spectators in Fife must have congregated to await
their arrival with an intensity of excitement, of which, with our
endless sources of information and constant communication, we can form
little idea now.

And there would seem to be no doubt of the strong immediate feeling
which arose against the Queen, the instant conclusion of the bystanders
as to her guilt. There have been no greater fluctuations in historical
opinion than those that have arisen around the facts of Mary's life.
Historians of the eighteenth century considered it as a test of a man's
moral sanity whether he persisted in believing in Mary's innocence or
not. Among her contemporaries the progress of time which softened
impression, and the many pathetic situations of her later history, the
terrible misfortunes under which she fell, her endless miseries and
troubles, and the brave spirit with which she met them, turned some
hearts again towards her, an ever-troubled but ever-devoted body of
partisans. But at the moment when these terrible events occurred there
can be little doubt that the horror and condemnation were almost
unanimous. No reasoning could explain away those wild and mad acts, no
discussion of probability come in. The mob in Edinburgh which raged
against her was checked in its fierceness and subdued to pity at sight
of the wretched lady in her despair, at that awful moment when she
appeared at the window of the Provost's lodging in the High Street, and
made her wild appeal, in all the force of impassioned and terrible
emotion, to the overawed and excited crowd. They saw her in the
carelessness of misery half-dressed, unadorned, disenchanted, and
delivered from the maddening delusion which had carried her away,
recognising in its full extent the horrors of the result--and their
hearts were rent with pity. But notwithstanding that pity and all the
innate chivalry which her sufferings called forth, Edinburgh and
Scotland, the whole alarmed and terrified nation, believed at first the
evidence of their senses. There seems nothing more distinct than this
fact throughout all the trouble and tumult of the moment. It is not to
be taken as an absolute proof of Mary's guilt. Such impressions have
existed in other though less conspicuous cases and have been proved
untrue. But that it did exist universally there can be little doubt.

The scene at the window of the Provost's lodging where the unfortunate
Queen was lodged, near the Nether Bow of Edinburgh, when brought back
from Dunbar after the flight of Bothwell by the angry lords, with the
mob clamouring underneath, and her enemies holding her fate in their
hands, seems to me one of the most significant in her history. No woman
was ever in circumstances more terrible. The situation is stronger if we
suppose her guilt, and that what we see before us is a great spirit
carried away by passion--that something beyond reason, beyond all human
power to restrain, which sometimes binds an angelic woman to a villain,
and sometimes a man of the highest power and wisdom to a lovely trifler
or a fool. It seems to me as at once more consistent with the facts and
with human nature to realise the position of the unhappy Queen as
transported by that overwhelming sentiment, and wrought on the other
side to an impatience almost maddening, by the injuries, follies,
treacheries, and universal provocation of her unworthy husband, until
the force of the bewildering current carried her in a disastrous moment
over a precipice worse than any Niagara, in a headlong course of mingled
misery, exasperation, love, and despair. Before she had even
accomplished the terrible circle of events, and become Bothwell's wife,
it requires no strong effort of the imagination to perceive that the
despair might well have come uppermost, and that Mary fully recognised,
not only the horror, but the futility and wretched failure into which
she had plunged. We do not pretend to believe that there was much to
cause remorse in the mind of such a woman in such an age in the death,
however brought about, of the miserable Darnley. Mary could have brushed
him from her memory like a fly, had that been all. But the rage of
despair and failure was in her soul when she raved like a caged lion
from door to window, imprisoned, trapped, and betrayed, expressing her
incoherent transport of pain to the mob which would have had her blood,
but which, overcome by the spectacle of that supreme and awful passion,
became silent with awe or hushed by a spasm of pity and tears.

So it has remained, a spectacle to all the earth, which the fiercest
assailant and the most rigid judge cannot long contemplate without
yielding to a painful compassion which rends the heart. Why should all
that faculty and force, all that wonderful being, with every capacity
for happiness and making happy, for wise action and beneficent dealing,
for boundless influence and power--why such youth, such strength, such
spirit, equal to every enterprise, should they have been swept away by
that remorseless fate? We can still see the trapped and ruined
Queen--exasperated still further by the consciousness that many of the
men now holding her in bonds were at least as guilty as she, guilty of
Darnley's blood, guilty if not of favouring yet of fearing Bothwell and
yielding their countenance to his plans--pacing that chamber, appearing
at that window, her loveliness, her adornments, and all the wiles of
triumphant beauty forgotten, throwing forth to the earth that was as
brass and the skies that were as iron, like a wild animal in its
torment, her hoarse inarticulate cry. And, whatever we may think of her
merits, that terrible spectacle is more than flesh and blood can bear.
Pity takes the place of wrath and indignation that she alone should
suffer: why not Lethington, Huntly, Athole, and the rest, all those
stern peers who counselled with her upon the most effectual way of
having Darnley removed, the thankless fool who disturbed every man's
peace--why were not they tried along with her, they who took such high
ground as her judges? Why should she bear the brunt of all? Even
Bothwell had escaped, and Mary stood at the bar of the world alone.

But such thoughts would not seem to have moved the first spectators, to
whom all that damning sequence of events, one precipitated on the heels
of another, came fresh as they occurred day by day. As for Buchanan, he
would be less prone to doubt than any. He knew something of the Court of
France and of the atmosphere in which Mary had received her training. He
was acquainted with many a royal scandal, and had much experience of a
world in which vice was the rule and good behaviour a mere exception,
due to a cold temperament, or a wariness uncongenial to generous youth.
Such an old man of the world is slow to believe in innocence at all, and
it is very likely that to him who knew her so well it was impossible to
conceive of Mary as an example of weak but spotless virtue. The
Principal of St. Leonard's went over to Edinburgh a few days after the
completion of that tragic chapter, when Mary had been consigned to
Lochleven, and Murray had assumed the Regency. The city was still
agitated by much discussion of the dreadful questions which occupied all
minds yet was slowly calming down like an angry sea, with long seethings
and swellings of excitement. The object of Buchanan's visit was not
curiosity or desire to be in the centre of that excitement, but a
simpler matter, which has drawn many a Principal of St. Andrews since to
the capital of Scotland, an Assembly of the Church, which opened "in the
Nether Tolbooth" on the 25th of June. Of this Assembly he, though a
layman, was appointed Moderator "for eschewing of confusion in
reasoning"--a curious motive, which proves at least that his
contemporaries had great confidence in his judgment, and also that the
passion of this excited and tumultuous time ran so high in the Church
that a stronger authority than usual was wanted to keep it within
bounds. The sentiment of the Church, or at least of the dominant party
in it, would seem to have been rather satisfaction that the Sovereign,
foreign alike in training and religion, had been set aside than any
distress at the cause. The Assembly congratulates itself that "this
present has offered some better occasion than in times bygane, and has
begun to tread down Satan under foot," which is not a very amiable
deliverance: but kindness and charity were not the Christian virtues
most approved in those days.

From this time Buchanan took up with vehemence, and indeed with
violence, the prosecution of Mary, acting often as her accuser, and
always as an active agent, secretary, or commissioner, in the conduct of
the indictment against her. He has been subject on this account to very
hard treatment especially from the recent defenders of the Queen. Mr.
Hosack, in his able book _Mary Queen of Scots and her Accusers_,
denounces him as having offered verses and adulations to the Queen at a
time when, according to his own after-statement, everybody knew her to
be living in shameless vice and corruption. This, however, is not at all
a necessary inference. It might, on the contrary, very well have lent
bitterness to Buchanan's historical record, written after the dreadful
catastrophe which so many accepted as a revelation of Mary's real
character, that he had himself been one of the deceived, who for years
had entertained no suspicion, but accepted the fair seeming as truth.
Such a sentiment is one of the most common in human nature. The friend
deceived becomes the bitterest enemy; and he who has been seduced into
undeserved approval is apt to go farther than the fiercest adversary
when he learns that his own utterances have helped to veil the crime
which he had never suspected the existence of. This motive is enough, we
think, to account for the special virulence with which Buchanan
certainly does assail the Queen, and the passion which thrills through
the _Detectio_, a sort of fury and abhorrence which makes every
paragraph tingle. She had done nothing to Buchanan to rouse any desire
for individual vengeance; and it is more rational, certainly, to believe
that the horror of the discovery inspired with a sort of rage the bosom
of the scholar--rage which was perfectly genuine in its beginning,
though it might, no doubt, be raised to whiter heat by the continually
increasing fervour of partisanship. The curious description of him given
by Sir James Melville (the courtier, not the divine) that "he was easily
abused, and so facile that he was led with any company that he haunted
for the time, which made him factious in his old days; for he spoke and
writ as they that were about him for the time informed him," would, if
accepted, give a still easier solution to this question. But it is a
little difficult to accept such a character of Buchanan, who does not
seem to have been a man easily put off from his own way, especially when
taken in conjunction with the Assembly's minute, recording his election
as president "for eschewing of confusion in reasoning." It is more easy
to believe the statement that he was "extreme vengeable against any man
that offended him, which was his greatest fault."

The much darker accusation against Buchanan, that he was a party to, or
indeed the most active agent in, the forging of certain letters reported
to have been sent by Mary to Bothwell before Darnley's murder, and known
far and wide as the Casket Letters, seems to rest upon nothing but
conjecture. He was one of the few members of the party who possessed the
literary gift, the only one, perhaps, except Lethington, whom Mr.
Skelton has presented to us as not only a very enlightened statesman,
but at all times the faithful servant of Mary, but who is accused by
earlier writers of much tergiversation and falsehood. He it was,
according to Chalmers, who was the forger, reaching the summit of
wickedness "in forging his mistress's handwriting for the odious purpose
of convicting her of the crime of aggravated murder." Chalmers was as
sturdy a champion of Mary's innocence in the eighteenth as Mr. Skelton
is in the nineteenth century, but the conduct of historical research has
very much altered in the meantime. The changes have been rung between
Lethington and Buchanan by various critics, but the last light upon the
subject seems to be that there is none, and that if the letters were
forged the forger at least cannot be identified by any art known to

It is unnecessary to pursue the question, or to bring further arguments
to prove that nothing else in Buchanan's writings indicates the
possession of such dramatic and constructive power as would be necessary
for the production of such a letter as that professedly written from
Glasgow, which is by far the most important of the contents of the
Casket. A woman's distracted soul, divided between passion and shame,
the very exaltation of guilty self-abandonment and the horror of
conscious depravity and despair, is not a thing which can be imagined or
embodied by the first ready pen, or even able intellect. No one of all
the tumultuous band that directed affairs in Scotland has given us any
reason to suppose that he was capable of it. Its very contradictions,
those changes of mood and feeling which the most ignorant reader can
perceive, are quite beyond the mark of ordinary invention. Mr. Froude
has said that only Shakespeare or Mary Stewart could have written it--at
all events the writer, supposing it to be forged, must have been of
unquestionable imaginative genius. It is one of the most wonderful
compositions ever given to the world. We look on with awe while those
dark secrets of the heart are unfolded. The revelation is too
tremendous, too overwhelming, and far too true to nature, to call forth
mere horror and condemnation. It is a proof of the often-repeated
statement that could we but see into the heart of the greatest criminal
pity would mingle with our judgment. Nothing could be more criminal and
horrible than the acts therein anticipated, yet we think it would be
impossible for any unbiassed mind to read this letter for the first time
without an increase at least of interest in the writer, so transported
by her love, ready almost to brag of the falsehood and treachery into
which it leads her, till sick shame and horror of herself breathes over
her changing mood, and she feels that even he for whose love all is
undertaken must loathe her as she loathes herself. To imagine Buchanan,
an old man of the world, somewhat coarse, fond of a rough jest, little
used to women, and past the age of passion, as producing that tragical
and terrible revelation, is almost more than impossible, it is an insult
to the reader's intelligence. And accordingly the latest writers on this
subject have relinquished that accusation; they no longer charge the old
pedagogue with such an effort of genius; they confine themselves to
accusing him of ingratitude towards his benefactress, which is as much
as to say that a little personal favour, even when well earned, is to
compel a man to shut his eyes henceforward to the character and conduct
of the person who has conferred it, and that both patriotic feeling and
political policy are to be quenched by a pension, which is a strange

There can be no doubt, however, that Buchanan made out the case against
the Queen with all the rhetorical force of which he was capable; that
the accusation was bitter, as of a man who had been personally deceived
and injured, as indeed it is quite possible that he may have felt
himself to be; and that there was no pity, no mercy, nor compunction
towards her, such as arose in many men's bosoms after a little time, and
have been rife ever since both in writers and readers. The _Detection_
is without ruth, and assumes the most criminal and degrading motives
throughout. Its intention clearly is to convince Scotland, England, and
the world of Mary's utter depravity, and the impossibility of any excuse
for her or argument in her favour. The strong and fiery indignation in
it is indeed lessened in effect, at least to us in these latter days, by
the over strength of the indictment; and the reader who turns from the
perusal of the Glasgow letter--which damns indeed yet rouses a world of
conflicting feelings, awe and terror and pity for the lost soul thus
tragically self-condemned--to the historical document in which the
charges against the Queen are authoritatively set forth, cannot fail to
be struck by the difference. It is far from being simple abhorrence with
which we regard the revelation of the one, but in the other there is no
light; the picture is inhuman and impossible in its utter blackness, the
guilt imputed to the Queen is systematic, unimpassioned, the mere
commonplace of an utterly depraved nature. The wild emotion and terrible
impulse in her becomes mere vulgar vice in her accuser's hands. In this
there is nothing wonderful, nothing out of the common course of nature,
which is prone to make every indictment more bitter than the facts that
prove it.

But it may well be believed that it was something of a fierce
consolation to the high-tempered and strong-speaking Scots, in the rush
of universal popular condemnation, to believe and assert that the Queen,
who had so disappointed and disenchanted all her well-wishers, had been
bad through and through, indecent and shameless. The inclination, almost
the wish, to think the worst of every fallen idol has not died out with
the generation which condemned Mary Stewart; and Buchanan was the
spokesman, the advocate of the other party, whose conduct could only be
justified by the establishment of her guilt. If she were not guilty,
they were traitors. If all the proof against her was but a mass of
distorted facts and false swearing, nothing in the way of punishment was
too bad for her unfaithful subjects. A mistake was impossible, the
struggle was one of life and death. The spokesman in such a tremendous
issue, the narrator and setter forth of the terrible question,
especially if he is a person whose trade it is to write, and who can be
accused of doing his work for hire, is always at a disadvantage. It can
never be proved to the vulgar mind that he has not formed his opinions
to order, that he does not give them out to the world according as they
may best benefit and satisfy his employers. His masters may be hated,
but he is both hated and despised. If it could be proved that Murray was
solely actuated by ambition and the hope of getting the throne for
himself, he would still be a belligerent with the honours of war due to
him; but the scribe, the hireling who is employed to state the whole
matter, has no position but that of a venal dependant ready to set forth
whatever is for his master's interests. Thus the historian of a party,
who makes money by his work, the literary advocate whose office it is to
make the strongest statement possible of his employer's case, is
subject--or at least was subject in more primitive times--to the worst
reproaches. His testimony was seldom taken as conscientious or true.

Buchanan's _Detection_ was peculiarly subject to this reproach. It was
written for the purpose of proving the case of the lords by demolishing
entirely that of the Queen--before England and the commissioners of
England first, seated in session to investigate the subject, and after
them before the world in general. The inquiry which was opened at York
in October 1568, six months after Mary's escape to England, was the most
like a trial of anything in which her history was discussed. She was
represented by commissioners, while Murray and several of his colleagues
were present in person, along with Buchanan and other secretaries or
minor commissioners. It was at this inquiry that the Casket Letters were
first produced under, we are bound to say, if we judge by the rules of a
period of settled law and order like our own, very suspicious
circumstances. Even the question of the language in which they were
written is a very difficult one. All through, indeed, this question is
difficult, though it is never formally discussed until that tragical
occasion. In what language did Mary and Knox hold their discussions?
Could it be always in French that this accomplished Queen wrote and
spoke? When she is reported to have said, as recorded in a previous
chapter, "That man gart me greet sore, and grat never tear," is this
expression, so distinctively and strongly Scots, a translation from some
more elegant murmur in another language? She who had so many tongues,
had she left out that in which she had been born, the language of her
childhood and of her country? This problem is only considered by the
historians when it is required to prove that a letter must be forged
because it is apparently first written in Scots. There is also a very
great point made of the difference between Scots and English, which
seems to have been very slight indeed, a difference of spelling more
than anything else, nothing that could confuse any but the most ignorant
reader. The following sentences from Buchanan's "_Admonition direct to
the Trew Lordis, maintaineris of justice_" will throw some light on the
latter question, the difference between the written speech of the two
different kingdoms, which one writer tells us would have made it easier
for Queen Elizabeth to read letters in French than Scots:--

    "It may seme to zour lordshippis," says Buchanan, "yat I, melling
    with heich materis of governing of comoun welthis do pass myne
    estait, being of sa meane qualitie, or forgetting my dewtie geveing
    counsal to ye wysest of yis realme. Not the les seeing the miserie
    sa greit appeiring, and the calamitie sa neir approching, I thocht
    it les fault to incur the cryme of surmounting my private estait
    than the blame of neglecting the publict danger."

From this the reader will be able to judge what extraordinary difficulty
there was in the Scotch to an English reader of those days. The use of z
instead of y, of y instead of th, are matters very easily mastered; and
it is surely the utmost folly to suppose that Queen Elizabeth could have
found the slightest difficulty in deciphering this northern version of
the common tongue.

The document quoted above is a very powerful and no doubt also violent
assault upon the Hamiltons, especially called forth by the murder of the
Regent Murray, the slackness of the succeeding Government in the
punishment of his assassin, and the powerful reasons there were for
destroying--a measure which Buchanan thought imperative both for the
safety of the realm and the child-king--that powerful family, the head
of which was next in succession to the Scotch Crown, and had been
popularly believed to be ready for any crime to obtain it. Now that
there was nothing but the life of a child between the Hamiltons and this
elevation, Buchanan lifted up his testimony against the supineness which
left the race undisturbed to carry out its evil designs. Murray had been
murdered in the beginning of 1570, and the _Admonition_ was printed at
Stirling a few months later. In the same year Buchanan wrote that
curious tract called the _Chameleon_, a satirical attack upon
Lethington, which is not very brilliant either in language or
conception, and fails altogether in the incisive bitterness which
characterises most of Buchanan's other political papers. "It is at least
equal in vigour and elegance to that of most compositions in the ancient
Scottish language," says Buchanan's biographer, but few modern readers
will agree in this verdict. Buchanan's hand had not the lightness
necessary for such a performance. The guilt of Mary and the death of
Murray furnished him with more emphatic motives than the iniquities of
Maitland, and he was evidently stronger in assault and invective than in
the lighter methods of composition.

It might have been supposed that his hopes of preferment would have been
seriously injured by Murray's death. But it was after this event that he
was selected for the greatest office which Scotland could bestow upon a
scholar--the education of the young King. Buchanan's services were no
doubt well worthy of such a reward: at the same time it may be allowed
that a scholar so renowned, the first of contemporary poets according to
the judgment of his class, and the greatest of lettered Scotsmen beyond
all question, could not be passed over. During the intervening time he
had retained the appointment of Principal of St. Leonard's College, his
frequent absences being made possible by the fact that though he had
much to do with the government and regulation of the University of St.
Andrews, he was not actively employed in giving instruction. But after
this we float at once into a halcyon time. It was in the end of 1569 or
beginning of 1570 that he was appointed the governor of the King, and in
this capacity and amid peaceful surroundings more appropriate to his
character than the rage of politics, the old scholar becomes more
distinctly visible than it was possible he could be in the midst of
contention and under the shadow of greater men. He was about sixty-four
at the time he entered upon the active duties of the office. "A man of
notable endowments for his knowledge of Latin poesie--much honoured in
other countries, pleasant in conversation, rehearsing on all occasions
moralities short and instructive, whereof he had abundance, inventing
when he wanted," says Sir James Melville. _Sandford and Merton_ had not
been written for the advantage of schoolboys in Melville's days, yet the
picture is that of an antiquated Mr. Barlow never forgetting the art of
instruction. The particular anecdotes, however, told of Buchanan, do not
recall Mr. Barlow or his "moralities" at all.

[Illustration: STIRLING CASTLE]

The little King James, a precocious and clever child like all the
infantile monarchs of the house of Stewart, had been established at
Stirling, always a favourite residence of the Scotch Kings, where he
held his baby Court in peace while his mother pined in England, and the
Scotch lords struggled for the mastery, and succeeded each other as
Regents at home. The troubles of the world outside seem to have been
kept far from the surroundings of the boy, to whom both the kingdoms
looked as their heir, the child in whom the glories of his race came to
a climax, and the union of the warring kingdoms was at last secured.
Personally, he was by far the least distinguished of his name, but no
one as yet suspected this fact or thought of Buchanan's pupil as less
hopeful than any of the gallant Jameses who had preceded him. The little
Court at Stirling was presided over at this early period by the Lady
Mar, a dignified matron who was "wise and sharp and kept the king in
great awe," although at the same time very tender of the child and
respectful of his royal dignity. Almost all James's immediate
surroundings seem to have belonged to this powerful race. The master of
the household was a certain Laird of Drumwhasel, to whom no other name
is given, and who is described as ambitious and greedy, a man whose
"greatest care was to advance himself and his friends." Alexander
Erskine, another member of the household, calls forth something like
enthusiasm in the courtly narrative as "a gallant, well-nurtured
gentleman, loved and honoured by all men for his good qualities and
great discretion, no ways factious nor envious, a lover of all honest
men, desiring to see men of good conversation about the prince rather
than his own nearest friends if he found them not so meet." In addition
to this official household were the tutors charged with James's
education, two of them being members of the Erskine family, abbots of
Cambuskenneth and Dryburgh, though those titles were no doubt merely
fictitious, meaning only that the "temporalities," the endowments of the
extinct monasteries, were in their hands. The other and principal
masters of James were Sir Peter Young and Mr. George Buchanan. Young was
"gentle, loth to offend the king at any time, carrying himself warily as
a man who had a mind to his own weal by keeping of his majesty's
favour"--"but Mr. George," adds the historian, "was a Stoick philosopher
who looked not far before him." He "held the king in great awe," so that
James "even trembled" as he himself says elsewhere, "at his approach,"
and did not spare either rod or word in the interests of his pupil. Some
of the anecdotes of this severe impartiality are amusing enough. At one
time annoyed by the noise which the King and his playfellows were
making, Buchanan bade them be silent under certain penalties if the
offence were repeated, and provoked by a childish impertinence from
James, took up the little culprit and whipped him with exemplary
impartiality, notwithstanding that his companion, the little Master of
Mar, stood by, on whom vicarious chastisement might have been applied.
Lady Mar, rushing to the scene of action at the sound of "the wailing
which ensued," took the child from his master's hands and consoled him
in her motherly arms, asking Buchanan indignantly how he dared to touch
the Lord's anointed. The incident is very natural and amusing in its
homely simplicity; the child crying, the lady soothing him, the sardonic
old master in his furred nightgown and velvet cap, looking on unmoved,
bidding her kiss the place to make it well. The Master of Mar no doubt
would cry too for sympathy, and the old gentleman take up his big book
and move off to seek a quieter place for study. On another occasion,
when the little King tried to get a sparrow from his companion and
crushed the bird in the struggle, Buchanan rated him as himself a bird
out of a bloody nest. He was an old man and alone in the world,
indifferent to future favours from a king whose reign he would probably
not live to see, and treating him with impartial justice.

There was, however, no indifference to James's education in this austere
simplicity: indeed it would seem that Buchanan, like other preceptors of
monarchs, had some hope of forming an ideal prince out of the boy. A few
years after his appointment to his office, and when James was still too
young to profit by it, he began to write his famous treatise, in the
form of a dialogue, upon the laws of the kingdom, the duty respectively
of kings and subjects. The _De Jure Regni_, published when the King was
about twelve, was dedicated to him in a grave and dignified letter in
which Buchanan describes his work as an attempt to expound the
prerogatives of the Scottish Crown, "in which," he says, "I endeavoured
to explain from their very cradle, so to speak, the reciprocal rights
and privileges of kings and their subjects." He goes on to say that the
book was written in the midst of the public troubles with a view to
enlightening the disturbers of the commonwealth as to their duties: but
that peace beginning to be established he had sacrificed his argument
for the sake of public tranquillity. Now, however, that it may be useful
to the development of the King he brings it forth again. The direct
address to James is full of that curious self-deception or defective
insight which is so common among those who have the training of a pupil
of great importance in the world. The boy had grown beyond the age of
personal chastisement; he had reached that in which the precocious
facility of comprehension, which is so strongly fostered by the
circumstances of such a position as his, looks to the dazzled pedagogues
and attendants like genius, and there seems no prognostic too happy or
too brilliant for the new career in which at last there is about to be
fulfilled all that men have dreamed of a king.

    "Many circumstances tend to convince me that my present exertions
    will not prove fruitless, especially your age, yet uncorrupted by
    perverse opinions; a disposition beyond your years, spontaneously
    urging you to every noble pursuit; a facility in obeying not only
    your preceptors, but all prudent monitors; a judgment and dexterity
    in disquisition which prevent you from paying much regard to
    authority, unless it be confirmed by solid argument. I likewise
    perceive that by a kind of natural instinct, you so dislike
    flattery, the nurse of tyranny, and the most grievous pest of a
    legitimate monarchy, that you as heartily hate the courtly solecisms
    and barbarisms as they are relished and affected by those who
    consider themselves as the arbiters of every elegance, and who, by
    way of seasoning their conversation, are perpetually sprinkling it
    with majesties, lordships, excellencies, and, if possible, with
    other expressions still more nauseous. Although the bounty of nature
    and the instruction of your governors may at present secure you
    against this error, yet am I compelled to entertain some slight
    degree of suspicion lest evil communication, the alluring nurse of
    the vices, should lend an unhappy impulse to your still tender mind,
    especially as I am not ignorant with what facility the external
    senses yield to seduction. I have therefore sent you this treatise,
    not only as a monitor, but even as an importunate and sometimes
    impudent dun, who in this turn of life may convoy you beyond the
    rocks of adulation; and may not merely offer you advice, but confine
    you to the path which you have entered, and if you should chance to
    deviate may reprehend you and recall your steps. If you obey this
    monitor you will ensure tranquillity to yourself and your family,
    and will transmit your glory to the most distant posterity."

That James VI should be described as disliking flattery and despising
authority, if not enforced by solid argument, is strange to hear; and
that he should be so boldly called upon to consider a plea for national
freedom and a constitutional rule, as the chief guarantee of
tranquillity and honour, is still more remarkable. Certainly it was not
from Buchanan that he got those high pretensions of divine right, which
had never flourished in Scotland; although by a not uncommon paradox the
most faithful partisans of the family which was brought to ruin by these
pretensions were found in the northern kingdom. Very different were the
doctrines upon which Buchanan nourished the royal child. James
acknowledged afterwards not ungracefully the distinction of his
instructor in letters. "All the world," he says, "knows that my master
George Buchanan was a great master in that faculty." But his opinions in
politics found no favour in his pupil's eyes when James emerged from his
youthful subjection and began to show his native mettle. At twelve,
individuality in that respect would scarcely be developed, and a
reverence for his tutor's sharp tongue and ready hand would keep the
King from premature opposition.

While this work was going on in the comparative quiet of Stirling,
Scotland was lost in the turmoil of one of the most wild and terrible
portions of her history. It is indeed rather from the glimpse we have of
the little royal household in the foreground of all that strife and
bloodshed, the Lady Mar in her matronly dignity, Buchanan in his furred
gown among his books, and the clamour and laughter of the two boys
interrupting the quiet, that we can believe in any semblance of peace or
domestic life at all in the distracted country. The Regent Lennox, the
King's grandfather, was killed under the very rocks of the castle where
James learned his lessons. His young companion's father, the Earl of
Mar, was taken from the family at Stirling and raised to a brief and
agitated Regency, through all of which a civil war was raging. And till
from beyond the seas there came the still more horrible news of that
French massacre which convulsed the world, and made an end of Mary's
party, nothing was secure from one day to another in Scotland. It was in
the midst of that very tumult and endless miserable conflict, in which
Mary's followers had at last set up the doctrine of her irresponsibility
and divine right to retain her position as Queen whatever might be her
guilt as Mary Stewart--that the scholar set himself to compose his work
upon the rights of the kingdom and the duties of kings. His high temper,
his strong partisanship, his stern logic, would find an incitement and
inspiration in those specious arguments on the other side which were so
new to Scotland, and had been contradicted over and over again in her
troublous history, where no one was so certain to be brought to book for
his offences as the erring or unsuccessful monarch. It must be difficult
for a great classicist to be at the same time a believer in the divine
right of kings; and it was a new idea for the mediæval Scot accustomed
to reverence the name, but to criticise in the sharpest practical way
the acts of his sovereign. And we may imagine that the old scholar, who
could not but hear from his window the shouts of the warfare between the
Queen's party and the King's, would have a grim satisfaction as he sat
high above them, protected more or less by the royal name, in forging at
his leisure those links of remorseless argument which, though they had
no effect upon the pupil to whom they were dedicated, had their share in
regulating that great rebellion which had so important an effect upon
the after-history of the two kingdoms.

During this period, however, Buchanan had other occupations besides his
tutorship and his literary work. He was made "director of the Chancery,"
whatever that may mean, and in 1570 was elevated to the post of Keeper
of the Privy Seal, in which capacity he served in various Parliaments:
and was also a member of the Privy Council. When the conspiracy arose
against the Regent Morton which ended in his temporary deprivation of
the regency, Buchanan seems to have taken part against him, though on
what argument we are not told: for it was Morton's power which had
brought about the re-establishment of peace and order to which he refers
in the dedication of his book. And it is a feasible conjecture that it
was by his crafty suggestion that the Regent's fictitious plaints of
being weary of his high office and desiring nothing more than that the
King's Majesty should take the government into his own hand, were
ingeniously twisted so as to give his dismissal the air of a gracious
consent to Morton's own wishes. An old man like Buchanan, well
acquainted with the wiles of logic and the pretexts of state, was more
likely to use an advantage in which there is a certain grim humour, and
to take the adversary in his own toils, than such an inexperienced
politician as young Mar, or any of the undistinguished nobles who
carried out that stratagem. Whether Buchanan supported his old pupil,
Mar, in his attempt to seize the governorship of the castle and the
King's person out of the hands of his uncle, or in what aspect he was
regarded when Morton returned to the head of affairs, we have no means
of knowing. Whatever his influence might be at the King's ear or amid
the secret meetings of the malcontents, neither as Lord Privy Seal nor
as King James's tutor did he come in public collision with any public
authority. His action, whenever he appears publicly, is perfectly
characteristic of his real position and faculties. He took part in a
commission for the establishment of a system of municipal law: he was
one of the Church's commissioners on two occasions in determining her
policy and discipline. When the reform of the Universities of Scotland,
so often taken up since then, and so slow to be accomplished, was
brought under the consideration of Parliament, Buchanan was one of the
chief of the commissioners appointed to consider it. He is reported to
have been the author of a scheme of reconstruction to be employed in the
University of St. Andrews; and it is interesting to find in this new
system that special attention was enjoined to be given to Greek, and
that the study of Hebrew was also recommended to the students. The
latter language, we believe, still remains an established part of the
studies of young men in preparation for the ministry in the Church of
Scotland. Buchanan desired that the Principal of his own College, St.
Leonards, should lecture on Plato. And he made a present of a number of
Greek books, still carefully preserved, to Glasgow University, though
why he should have chosen to send them there, instead of to his own
smaller and poorer University, we have nothing to show. It is thus
apparent that in his active public work Buchanan's chief attention was
given to his own proper subjects. There is no evidence that he did more
than was indispensable to his official character in matters more
exclusively political.

His old age thus passed, in a certain learned leisure which it is very
difficult to imagine as existing in so tumultuous a period and amid so
many violent changes and vicissitudes. He had many learned
correspondents throughout the world, almost all the great scholars of
the time being numbered among his friends; and the letters which he
received from all quarters implied a considerable amount of
letter-writing on his side. He sent copies of his books to his friends
as if he had been the most modern of novelists, and it is curious to
think of the big laborious volume of solemn Latin dramas, or that thin
but weighty tome, instinct with another and more living kind of
interest, which set forth the rights of nations--sent by some trusty
messenger, a young scholar finding in the packet entrusted to his charge
the best introduction to one of the lights of learning on the Continent,
or some adventurer making his way to a commission in the Scottish
Archers or other service of arms more profitable for a younger son than
the frays and feuds of Scotland. The learned doctors of the Sorbonne,
the scholars of Geneva, and the printers of Holland, replied on their
side not only with elaborate thanks and eulogies, but with responsive
presents, treatises or translations of their own, some of them dedicated
to the royal boy who was the pupil of their friend, and of whom he gave
so wonderful a description. "I have been guilty of trifling with a
sacred subject," wrote Berger with his volume of poems, "and I have
dedicated my trifles to a king." Another learned correspondent sends a
Plato which he has edited, one volume of which he had also inscribed to
James, begging that his friend would present it to his Majesty. They
would seem to have shared Buchanan's satisfaction in his princely pupil,
and it is chiefly by way of reflection, through these responses, that we
perceive what his opinion of the young King was, and how much proud
delight, expressed no doubt in the most classical language, he took in
the boy's aptitude and promise. The following letter, however, which is
not classical at all, but written in choice Scots and addressed to Queen
Elizabeth's envoy, Sir Thomas Randolph, gives a less dignified but very
graphic description of his own circumstances and occupations. It is
written from Stirling during Morton's Regency, when peace prevailed and
even prosperity had returned in some measure to the distracted kingdom.

    "To Maister Randolph, Squiar, Maister of Postes to the Queen's Grace
    of England.

    "Maister, I haif rescevit diverse letters frome you, and yit I haif
    answerit to nane of them--of the quhilk albeit I haif mony excuses
    such as age, forgetfulness, business, and disease, yet I will use
    nane as now, except my sweirness (reluctance) and your gentleness:
    and gif ye think nane of them sufficient, content you with ane
    confession of the falt without fear of punition to follow on my
    onkindness. As for the present I am occupied in writyng of our
    historie, being assured to content few, and to displease many
    therethrow. As to the end of it if ye gett it not or (before) this
    winter bepassit lippen (trust) not for it, no nane other writyngs
    from me. The rest of my occupation is with the gout quhilk halds me
    busy both day and night. And quhair ye say ye have not lang to lyif
    I trust to God to go before you, albeit I be on foot, and ye ryd
    _the post_: praying you also not to _dispost_ my hoste at Newark,
    Jone of Kelsterne. This I pray you partly for his awyn sake quhame I
    tho't ane gude fellow, and partly at request of such as I dare not
    refuse. And thus I take my lief shortly at you now, and my lang lief
    when God pleases, committing you to the protection of the Almighty.
    At Stirling, xxv. day of August, 1577.--Yours to command with

            G. BUCHANAN."

The mild, aged jest about preceding his friend out of life though he
must go on foot and Randolph had the advantage of commanding the Post,
and his recommendation of the erring postmaster at Newark, who was a
good fellow, throw a pleasant light of kindly humour into this letter.
And we thus hear for the first time of the History, the greatest work of
his life, which he seems to have begun in the tranquillity of the
palace-castle, notwithstanding the hostile influence of gout and
years--hostile above all to so great a piece of work. He was now over
seventy, and the end of his career seemed near at hand, although he had
but recently taken in hand so great an enterprise. Buchanan's History is
not, more than other great histories which have succeeded it, an
absolutely impartial work; but it is, throughout all his own stirring
and momentous age, the record of a bystander with abundant means of
knowledge and a keen apprehension of all the controversies and struggles
of his time. If he may perhaps glorify too much the character of his
patron and friend the Regent Murray, and take the darkest view of Mary,
we can only say that he would have been more angel than man had he kept
himself absolutely without bias in that hot and still unexhausted
debate. And there was nothing angelical about the old scholar who had
taken a part in so many historical events, from the siege of Wark
Castle, where he was present as a boy, to the Conferences at York and
Westminster, which were matters of yesterday. The science of history has
so much developed since his time that it may almost be said to have made
a new beginning; and much that was considered authoritative and
convincing then has fallen into the limbo of uncertainty, when not
rejected altogether. The many differing motives and agencies which can
only be fully estimated when the period of discussion is past, have come
to occupy a far greater space in the mind of the historian than had been
dreamed of in Buchanan's days; and the careful examination of evidence
with which we are now familiar was unknown either in the study of the
writer or the courts of law during a time which has left endless
questions from both to be debated and re-debated by succeeding
generations. But yet Buchanan's History remains the most important and
dignified record of the national existence up to his time; and no one
would now venture to treat the story of ancient Scotland, the chronicles
of her kings, or even the still undecided questions of Mary Stewart's
life and reign, without the guidance more or less of this great
authority. It was a bold step to dedicate to King James a record in
which his mother's life was denounced and condemned with such unsparing
freedom; but the astonishing absence of sympathy or human understanding
shown in this was shared by the greater part of Buchanan's
contemporaries, who evidently felt the facts of the mother's guilt to be
too abundantly demonstrated and universally consented to, to demand any
delicacy of statement as addressed to her son. No one, we think, can
entertain any doubt of the historian's own strong conviction on this
subject. Among the many fables current about Buchanan, there was one
circumstantial and oft-repeated, of his repentance on his deathbed of
his judgment of the Queen; but this is entirely set at rest by the
affecting record which we shall quote farther on of a last visit paid to
him by certain of his friends who had taken fright at the boldness of
his statements, and feared that the King, now grown up and developing
his own individual sentiments, might stop the issue of the book when he
saw these uncompromising records.

We must add one pretty story of Buchanan's kindness to his brethren in
scholarship and literature which shows the sharp and cautious scholar in
a very pleasant light. A certain Thomas Jack, a schoolmaster in Glasgow,
had composed in Latin verse a little book upon the ancient poets, called
the _Onomasticon Poeticum_, and encouraged by the friendship already, as
he says, shown to him by Buchanan, carried the book to him for revision.

    "I found him in the royal palace of Stirling, diligently engaged in
    writing his History of Scotland. He was so far from being displeased
    by the interruption that he cheerfully took my work from my hands,
    and after reading two or three pages of it, collected together his
    own papers which were scattered on the table, and said, 'I will
    desist from my work till I have done what you wish.' This promise he
    accurately fulfilled; and within a few days gave me a paper written
    with his own hand, and containing such corrections as he thought

One can imagine the old scholar seated with his documents before him in
the light of a broad window, perhaps arrived at some knotty point which
wanted consideration, and turning from the crabbed papers, which would
not fit themselves in, with that delight in a lawful interruption and
temptation to idleness which only hard-working students know. Much has
been said about the misery of such interruptions to the absorbed writer,
but no one has pointed out the occasional relief and comfort which they
bring. Buchanan must have hailed this occasion of evading for a moment
his legitimate work with all the pleasure of an old critic and
connoisseur suddenly appealed to with such a congenial demand. Even in
our ashes live their wonted fires, and where is the scholar who does not
turn with delight from his history or his sermon to criticise a copy of
verses, to _savourer_ a fine latinism or dig his pen through a false
quantity as if he were cutting down an enemy? Thomas Jack has departed
into oblivion along with his _Onomasticon_: but this record of the
friendly reception he and his book met with affords a delightful gleam
of light upon the historian's waning days.

It is more remarkable when we find another witness describing our
somewhat irascible and sharp philosopher as growing young again in the
boys who surrounded him, and adapting his mind to all ages and classes
of men. Probably by the time he came to be the King's preceptor Buchanan
had ceased to be so compliant, or very probably conceived it
appropriate, on principle, to be less indulgent to a pupil whose danger
it would be to have too many flatteries and caresses.

We have no very clear record when it was that the tutelage of James was
supposed to be over, or if Buchanan was ever formally freed from his
office. Informally the King would have seemed to be more or less his own
master at the end of Morton's Regency, when, though subject to "raids"
like that of Gowrie and the contending influence of one party after
another, there was no longer any Regent thought of, and the business of
the country was conducted formally in the King's name. It would seem,
however, from the dedication of the History, that Buchanan had ceased
for some time before its publication to take an active part in James's
education. He speaks in this of "the incurable illness" which made him
incapable of "discharging the office entrusted to me of cultivating the
genius" of the young King; and presents the book as making up in some
degree for that personal failure. The History ends with the death of the
Regent Lennox, he who was killed in Stirling almost under the
historian's eyes, and when Scotland was still distracted between two
parties, and in a state of civil warfare. It has been made a subject of
reproach to Buchanan that he stopped his chronicle before the beginning
of the Regency of Morton, because of his personal hatred to that brave
and able personage--a singular charge, seeing that Buchanan lived only a
few months after the last Regent of Scotland; and he has expressly
mentioned in one of his dedications the increased tranquillity which was
the result of Morton's government.

It is in Edinburgh we find the old man of letters in the last scene of
his long and laborious life. In September 1581 he was visited by three
gentlemen from St. Andrews, one of whom gives us the most lifelike and
interesting account of this last interview. It would have been still
more interesting had they afforded some indication where they found him,
whether he had some pleasant room granted to him in Holyrood, after so
many years with the King, a suitable retreat for his old age; or if he
had retired to some private lodging in the Canongate to end his days.
His visitors make no mention of such unimportant circumstances, but they
leave us a most touching and faithful picture of the end of his life.
These visitors were the famous Andrew Melville, Principal of the New
College at St. Andrews, a scholar almost as distinguished as himself,
who had at an earlier period been Buchanan's pupil, and who had acquired
his great knowledge in the same way, in the famous schools of the
continent; James Melville, his nephew, minister of Kilrenny on the
shores of Fife; and Thomas Buchanan, the cousin of the dying historian.
James Melville relates this last visit as follows:--

    "That September in time of vacans, my uncle Mr. Andrew, Mr. Thomas
    Buchanan and I, hearing that Mr. George Buchanan was weak, and his
    Historie under the press, past over to Edinbruck annes errand
    (expressly) to visit him and see the work. When we came to his
    chalmer we found him sitting in his chair, teaching his young man
    that servit him in his chalmer, to spell a, b, ab, and e, b, eb,
    etc. Efter salutation Mr. Andro says, 'I see, sir, ye are not
    idle.'--'Better this,' quoth he, 'nor stealing sheep--or sitting
    idle which is as ill.' Thereafter he shew us the Epistle Dedicatorie
    to the King, the which when Mr. Andro had read he told him that it
    was obscure in some places, and wanted certain words to perfeyt the
    sentence. Sayes he, 'I may do na mair for thinking on another
    matter.'--'What is that?' sayes Mr. Andro. 'To die,' quoth he; 'but
    I leave that and manie more things for you to help.'

    "We went from him to the printer's workhouse, whom we found at the
    end of the 17 book of his Cornicle at a place which we thought verie
    hard for the tyme, which might be an occasion for staying the haill
    work, anent the burial of Davie. Therefore staying the printer from
    proceeding, we came to Mr. George again, and fand him bedfast by his
    custom, and asking him how he did, 'Ever going the way of weilfare,'
    says he. Mr. Thomas, his cousin, shawes him of the hardness of that
    part of his Storie, that the King would be offendit with it, and it
    might stay all the work. 'Tell me, man,' says he, 'gif I have told
    the truth?'--'Yes,' says Mr. Thomas, 'Sir, I think so.'--'I will
    bide his feud and all his kin's then;' quoth he. 'Pray, pray to God
    for me, and let Him direct all.' So by the printing of his Cornicle
    was endit, that maist learned, wyse, and godly man endit this mortal

He was a pedagogue, perhaps something of a pedant, a hot partisan, a
special pleader; but few lives can show a more dignified and noble end.
If it was the truth he had written this old man cared for nothing else,
not even for that fame which is the last infirmity of noble minds. The
King might keep back the great work of his life, but he could not
silence the lips in which no fear of man was. Whatever might happen
afterwards, Buchanan's record was clear; to have told the truth was all
with which he had anything to do.

There is a touch of what for want of a better word we must call cynicism
in the humorous indifference with which the old philosopher is said to
have discussed his own burial. Finding, as the story goes, that there
was not money enough in the house for the last expenses, he ordered what
there was to be given to the poor, declaring that he was not concerned
as to what was to become of his remains. If they did not choose to bury
him they might let him lie, he said in grim jest. He was, however,
reverently buried by the authorities of Edinburgh, in the historical
churchyard of the Greyfriars, attended by "a great company of the
faithful," though no stone seems ever to have been placed to indicate
the spot where he was laid. Thus in some unknown corner he rests, like
so many other illustrious persons--a man who never rested in his life,
and carried down his labours to the very verge of the grave. It is a
curious satire upon human justice that his name should have been kept
green in Scotland by the rough jests of an imaginary Geordie Buchanan,
commonly supposed to have been the King's fool, as extraordinary a
travesty as it is possible to conceive. It is almost as strange a twist
of all the facts and meaning of life that the only money of which he
could be supposed to be possessed at his death should have been one
hundred pounds (Scots, no doubt), _arrears_ of the pension due to him
from the Abbey of Crossraguel, given by Queen Mary to that learned pupil
of the Sorbonne and lover of Lutetia with whom she read Latin at
Holyrood in the early days before trouble came.






After the extraordinary climax of dramatic interest which brought the
history of Edinburgh and of Scotland to the knowledge of the whole
world, and which has continued ever since to form one of the most
exciting chapters in general history, it was inevitable that when that
fated Court dispersed, and the lady who was its charm and head
disappeared also under the tragic waves which had been rising to engulf
her, there should fall a sudden blank into the record, a chill of
dulness and tedium, the charm departed and the story done. In fact, it
was not at all so, and the metropolis of Scotland continued to seethe
with contending elements, and to witness a continued struggle,
emphasised by many a martyrdom and deed of blood, and many a desperate
battle both hand to hand and head to head in the streets and in the
council chambers, all with more or less the religious question involved,
and all helping to work out the final settlement. When that final
settlement came after all the tumults and blood it had cost, it is
scarcely possible not to feel the downfall from those historical
commotions to the dead level of a certain humdrum good attained, which
was by no means the perfect state hoped for, yet which permitted peace
and moderate comfort and the growth of national wellbeing. The little
homely church towers of the Revolution, as they are to be seen, for
instance, along the coast of Fife, are not more unlike the Gothic spires
and pinnacles of the older ages, than was the limited rustical provision
of the Kirk, its restricted standing and lowered pretensions, unlike the
ideal of Knox, the theocracy of the Congregation and the Covenant.
Denuded not only of the wealth of the old communion, but of those
beautiful dwelling-places which the passion of the mob destroyed and
which the policy of the Reformers did not do too much to
preserve--deprived of the interest of that long struggle during which
each contending presbyter had something of the halo of possible
martyrdom about his head--the Church of the Revolution Settlement lost
in her established safety, if not as much as she gained, yet something
which it was not well to lose. And the kingdom in general dropped in
something like the same way into a sort of prose of existence, with most
of the picturesque and dramatic elements gone. Romance died out along
with the actual or possible tragedies of public life, and Humour came
in, in the development most opposed to romance, a humour full of mockery
and jest, less tender than keen-sighted, picking out every false
pretence with a sharp gibe and roar of laughter often rude enough, not
much considerate of other people's feelings. Perhaps there was something
in the sudden cessation of the tragic character which had always
hitherto distinguished her history, which produced in Scotland this
reign of rough wit and somewhat cynical, satirical, audacious mirth, and
which in its turn helped the iconoclasts of the previous age, and
originated that curious hatred of show, ceremony, and demonstration,
which has become part of the Scottish character. The scathing
sarcasm--unanswerable, yet false as well as true--which scorned the
"little Saint Geilie," the sacred image, as a mere "painted bradd," came
down to every detail of life; the rough jokes of the Parliament House at
every trope as well as at every pretence of superior virtue; the grim
disdain of the burgher for every rite; the rude criticism of the fields,
which checked even family tendernesses and caresses as shows and
pretences of a feeling which ought to be beyond the need of
demonstration, were all connected one with another. Nowhere has love
been more strong or devotion more absolute; but nowhere else, perhaps,
has sentiment been so restrained, or the keen gleam of a neighbour's eye
seeing through the possible too-much, held so strictly in check all
exhibitions of feeling. Jeanie Deans, that impersonation of national
character, would no more have greeted her delivered sister with a
transport of kisses and rapture than she would have borne false
testimony to save her. There is no evidence that this extreme
self-restraint existed from the beginning of the national history, but
rather everything to show that to pageants and fine sights, to dress and
decoration, the Scots were as much addicted as their neighbours. But the
natural pleasure in all such exhibitions would seem to have received a
shock, with which the swift and summary overthrow of Mary's empire of
beauty and gaiety, like the moral of a fable, had as much to do as the
scornful destruction of religious image and altar. The succeeding
generations indemnified themselves with a laugh and a gibe for the loss
of that fair surface both of Church and Court: and the nation has never
given up the keen criticism of every sham and seeming which exaggerated
the absolutism of its natural character, and along with the destruction
of false sentiment imposed a proud restraint and restriction upon much
also that was true.


[Illustration: ALLAN RAMSAY'S SHOP]

To come down from the age when Mary still reigned in Holyrood and Knox
in St. Giles's--and Edinburgh saw every phase of passion and tragedy,
wild love, hatred, revenge, and despair, with scarcely less impassioned
devotion, zeal, and fury of Reformation, and all the clang of opposed
factions, feuds, and frays in her streets--to the age when the
Parliament House and its law courts were the centre of Edinburgh, when
Holyrood was the debtors' sanctuary, and St. Giles's a cluster of parish
churches, even its distinctive name no longer used: and when the
citizens clustered about the Cross of afternoons no longer to see the
heralds in their tabards and hear the royal proclamations, but to tell
and spread the news from London and discuss the wars in the Low
Countries, and many a witty scandal, gibes from the Bench and repartees
from the Bar, the humours of the old lords and ladies in their "Lodging"
in the Canongate, and the witticisms of the favourite changehouse--is as
great a leap as if a whole world came between. The Court at St. Germains
retained the devotion of many, but Anne Stewart was on the throne, and
rebellion was not thought of, while everything was still full of hope
for the old dynasty, so that Edinburgh was at full leisure to talk and
jeer and gossip and make encounter of wits, with nothing more exciting
in hand. In this tranquil period, his apprenticeship being finished, a
certain young man from the west, by the name of Allan Ramsay, opened a
shop in the High Street "opposite Niddry's Wynd" as a
"weegmaker"--perhaps, if truth were known, a barber's shop, in all ages
known as the centre of gossip wherever it appears. It is odd, by the
way, that a place so entirely dedicated to the service of the male
portion of the population, and where women have no place, should have
this general reputation; but so it has always been. He had spent his
early years as a shepherd on Crawford Moor in the Upper Ward of
Clydesdale, and no doubt had there learned every song that floated about
the country-side. "Honest Allan" was in every respect a model of the
well-doing and prosperous Edinburgh shopkeeper of his time--a character
not too entirely engrossed by business, always ready for a frolic, a
song, a decorous bout of drinking, and known in all the haunts of the
cheerful townsmen: tolerant in morals yet always respectable, fond of
gossip, fond of fun, and if not fond of money yet judiciously disposed
to gain as much as he could make, or as his apprentices and careful wife
could make for him: and gradually progressing from a smaller to a larger
shop, from a less to a more "genteel" business, and finally to a
comfortable retirement.

In such a life there was plenty of room for enjoyment, for relaxation,
and no want of leisure to tell a good story or compose a string of
couplets where that gift existed, even when most busy. We may imagine
that he did not sit much at his block, but rather in the front of the
shop amusing his customers, while their periwigs were curled or fitted,
with Edinburgh gossip and wit in the familiarity of common citizenship,
or with anecdotes which enlightened the country gentlemen, especially
those from the west, the last _bon mot_ of the Parliament House, or the
Lord Advocate's latest deliverance. And his clubs were as numerous as
those of a young man of fashion. The "Easy Club" was composed of "young
anti-unionists," which indicates the politics which the wigmaker mildly
held in cheerful subjection to the powers that were. No doubt he would
have gone to the death (in verse) for the privileges of Edinburgh: but
the anti-unionism or sentimental Jacobitism of his class was not of a
kind to trouble any Government. And except the question of the Union,
which was settled early in his career, politics do not seem to have been
of an exciting character in Edinburgh. Local matters, always the most
interesting of any to the inhabitants of a town not great enough to be
cosmopolitan but full of distinct and striking individuality, furnished
the poetical wigmaker with his first themes. It would seem that he only
learned to rhyme from the necessity of taking his part in the high jinks
of the club; at least all his early productions were intended for its
diversion. An "Elegy on Maggie Johnstone," mistress of a convenient
"public" at Morningside, then described as "a mile and a half west from
Edinburgh," a suburb on "the south side," though now a part of the
town--which would lie in the way of the members when they took their
walks abroad, and no doubt formed the end of many a Sabbath day's
ramble--was almost the first of his known productions; and we may well
believe that the jovial shopkeepers were delighted with the sensation of
possessing a poet of their own, and held many a discussion upon the new
verses--brimful of local allusions and circumstances which everybody
knew--over their ale as they rested in the village changehouse, or among
the fumes of their punch in their evening assemblies. Verses warm from
the poet's brain have a certain intoxicating quality akin to the toddy,
and no doubt the citizens slapped their thighs and snapped their fingers
with delight when some well-known name appeared, the incidents of some
story they knew by heart, or the features of some familiar character.
The satisfaction of finding in what they would call poetry a host of
local allusions about which there was no ambiguity, which they
understood like their ABC, would rouse the first hearers to noisy
enthusiasm. And thus encouraged, the cheerful bard (as he was called in
those days) went on till his fame penetrated beyond the club. Another
elegy of a more serious description was so highly thought of that it was
printed and given to the world by the club itself. That world meant
Edinburgh, its many tradesmen, the crowded inhabitants of all the lofty
"lands" about that centre of busy social life where the Cross still
stood, and the old Tolbooth gloomed over the street, cut in two by its
big bulk and the fabric of the Luckenbooths, a sort of island of masonry
which divided what is now the broad and airy High Street opposite St.
Giles's into two narrow straits. The writers and the advocates, the
professors and the clergy, Councillor Pleydell and his kind, were not
the first to discover that Ramsay the wigmaker had something in him more
than the other rough wits of the shops and markets. And by and by the
goodwives in their high lodgings, floor over floor, ever glad of
something new, learnt to send one of the bairns with a penny to the
wigmaker's shop in the afternoon to see if Allan Ramsay had printed a
new poem: and received with rapture the damp broadsheet brought in fresh
from the press, with a fable or a song in "gude braid Scots," or a witty
letter to some answering rhymester full of local names and things. There
was no evening paper in those days, and had there been it was very
unlikely it would have penetrated into all the common stairs and crowded
tenements. But Allan's songs, of which Jean or Peggy would "ken the
tune," and the stories that would delight the bairns, were better worth
the penny than news from distant London, which was altogether foreign
and unknown to that humble audience.

This no doubt was the sort of fame and widespread popular appreciation
which made the statesman of that day--was it Fletcher of Saltoun or
Duncan Forbes the great Lord President?--bid who would make the laws so
long as he might make the songs of the people. He had in all likelihood
learnt Allan's widely flying, largely read verses, which every _gamin_
of the streets knew by heart, in his childhood. And though they might
not be in general of a very ennobling quality, there are glimpses of a
higher poetry to come in some of these productions, and a great deal of
cheerful self-assertive content and local patriotism, as well as of
rough fun and jest. If it were not for the very unnecessary introduction
of Apollo as the god to whom "the bard" addresses his wishes, there
would be something not unworthy of Burns in the following lines. The
poet has of course introduced first, as a needful contrast, "the master
o' a guid estate that can ilk thing afford," and who is much "dawted
(petted) by the gods"--

    "For me, I can be weel content
    To eat my bannock on the bent,
        And kitchen't wi' fresh air;
    O' lang-kail I can make a feast
    And cantily haud up my crest,
        And laugh at dishes rare.
    Nought frae Apollo I demand,
        But through a lengthened life,
    My outer fabric firm may stand,
        And saul clear without strife.
          May he then, but gi'e then,
            Those blessings for my share;
          I'll fairly, and squarely,
            Quit a', and seek nae mair."

It was no doubt after he had achieved this reputation of the streets--a
thing more difficult than greater fame--that his imagination developed
in more continuous and refined effort. Whether he himself printed his
penny broadsheet as well as sold it we are not informed, but as he began
after a while to combine bookselling with wigmaking we may be allowed to
imagine that the press which produced these flying leaves was either in
or near his shop. It is difficult to realise the swarming of life and
inhabitation within the high houses of the old town in an age when
comfort was little understood: and even the concentration within so
small a space, of business, work, interest, idleness, and pleasure, is
hard to comprehend by people who have been used to appropriate a
separate centre to each of the great occupations or exercises of
mankind. When London was comparatively a small town it had still its
professional distinctions--the Court, the Temple, the City, the place
where law was administered and where money was made, where society had
its abode and poverty found a shelter. But in old Edinburgh all were
piled one on the top of another--the Parliament House within sight of
the shops, the great official and the poor artificer under the same
roof: and round that historical spot over which St. Giles's crown rose
like the standard of the city, the whole community crowded, stalls and
booths of every kind encumbering the street, while special pleaders and
learned judges picked their steps in their dainty buckled shoes through
the mud and refuse of the most crowded noisy market-place, and all the
great personages of Edinburgh paced the "plainstanes" close by at
certain hours, unheeding either smell or garbage or the resounding cries
of the street.

[Illustration: CROWN OF ST. GILES'S]

In such a crowded centre the sheets that were being read so eagerly,
laughed over by the very cadgers at their booths, conned by the women at
the stairheads, lying on every counter, where Allan's new verses would
be pulled to pieces by brother wits who had known him to do better, or
heard a livelier witticism from his lips no farther gone than yestreen,
must very soon have come to the notice of the westland lads at the
college, and from them to the learned professors, and still more
directly to the lively groups that went and came to the Parliament
House. Already the wigmaker's shop had thriven and prospered; the little
man, short and fat and jovial, who had begun to lay out books in his
window under the shadow of the curled and powdered periwigs, found the
results of his double traffic more satisfactory than poets use. He
boasts in one of his rhymed addresses that he thatches the outside and
lines the inside of many a douce citizen, "and baithways gathers in the
cash." He adds--

    "And fain would prove to ilka Scot,
    That poortith's no the poet's lot."

It must have been altogether an odd little establishment--the wigs set
out upon their blocks, perhaps, who knows, the barber's humbler craft
being plied behind backs; the books multiplying daily on shelves and in
windows, and the ragged boys with their pennies waiting to see if there
was a new piece by Allan Ramsay; while perhaps in the corner, where lay
the lists of the new circulating library--the first in Scotland--Miss
Lydia Languish with her maid, or my lady's gentlewoman from some fine
house in the Canongate, had come in to ask for the last new novel from
London, the Scotch capital having not yet begun to produce that article
for itself.

One may be sure that Allan, rotund and smiling, was always ready for a
crack with the ladies, and to recommend the brand new _Pamela_, the
support of virtue, or some contemporary work of lesser genius. Though
the general costume was like that worn in the other parts of the island,
perhaps a little behind London fashions, the fair visitors would still
be veiled with the plaid, the fine woven screen of varied tartan which
covered the head like a hood, and could on occasion conceal the face
more effectually than Spanish lace or Indian muslin--a singular
peculiarity not ancient and scarcely to be called national, since the
tartan came from the still-despised Highlands, and these were Lowland
ladies who wore the plaid. This fashion would seem to have begun to be
shaken by Ramsay's time, for he pleads its cause with all the fervour of
a poetical advocate. There is something grotesque in the arguments, and
still more grotesque in the names by which he distinguishes the wearers
of the plaid.

    "Light as the pinions of the airy fry
    Of larks and linnets who traverse the sky,
    Is the Tartana, spun so very fine
    Its weight can never make the fair repine;
    Nor does it move beyond its proper sphere,
    But lets the gown in all its shape appear;
    Nor is the straightness of her waist denied
    To be by every ravished eye surveyed;
    For this the hoop may stand at largest bend,
    It comes not nigh, nor can its weight offend.

           *       *       *       *       *

    "If shining red Campbella's cheeks adorn,
    Our fancies straight conceive the blushing morn,
    Beneath whose dawn the sun of beauty lies,
    Nor need we light but from Campbella's eyes.
    If lined with green Stuarta's plaid we view,
    Or thine, Ramseia, edged around with blue,
    One shews the spring when nature is most kind,
    The other heaven whose spangles lift the mind."

The description of the manner in which this engaging garment is worn has
all the more reason to be quoted that it was not only a new piece by
Allan Ramsay, but affords a glimpse of the feminine figures that were to
be seen in the High Street of Edinburgh going to kirk and market in the
beginning of the eighteenth century. There is, too, a pleasant touch of
individuality in the musical street cry that wakes the morn.

    "From when the cock proclaims the rising day,
    And milkmaids sing around _sweet curds and whey_,
    Till grey-eyed twilight, harbinger of night,
    Pursues o'er silver mountains sinking light,
    I can unwearied from my casements view
    The Plaid, with something still about it new.
    How are we pleased when, with a handsome air,
    We see Hepburna walk with easy care!
    One arm half circles round her slender waist,
    The other like an ivory pillar placed,
    To hold her plaid around her modest face,
    Which saves her blushes with the gayest grace;
    If in white kids her slender fingers move,
    Or, unconfined, jet through the sable glove.

    "With what a pretty action Keitha holds
    Her plaid, and varies oft its airy folds!
    How does that naked space the spirits move,
    Between the ruffled lawn and envious glove!
    We by the sample, though no more be seen,
    Imagine all that's fair within the screen.

    "Thus belles in plaids veil and display their charms,
    The love-sick youth thus bright Humea warms,
    And with her graceful mien her rivals all alarms."

The fair Hepburna, Humea, Campbella, and the rest may tempt the reader
to a smile; but the picture has its value, and is a detail of importance
in the realisation of that animated and crowded scene. By this time
probably Ramsay had removed his shop to the end of the Luckenbooths,
which faced "east" to the unencumbered portion of the High Street, where
the City Cross stood, and where all the notable persons made their daily
promenade. It was here that he was visited by a kindred spirit, the poet
Gay, who had been brought to Edinburgh by his patroness the Duchess of
Queensberry, and soon formed acquaintance with the local poet. The two
little roundabout bards used to stand together at the door of the shop
to watch the crowd, in which no doubt Ramsay would be gratified by a
friendly nod from the Lord President, and swell with civic and with
personal pride to point out to the English visitor that distinguished
Scotsman the loyal and the learned Forbes. The Cross, round which this
genteel and witty crowd assembled daily, stood then, according to the
plans of the period, in the centre of the High Street, where it had been
removed for the advantage of greater space in the previous century. And
the view from Ramsay's shop--from which by this time the wigs had
entirely disappeared, and which was now a refined and cultured
bookseller's, adorned outside with medallions of two poets, Scotch and
English, Ben Jonson and Drummond of Hawthornden--was bounded by the gate
of the Netherbow with its picturesque tower, and glimpses through the
open roadway, of the Canongate beyond, and the cross lines of busy
traffic leading to Leith. It was thus a wide space between the lines of
high houses, more like a Place than a street, upon which the two gossips
gazed, no doubt with a complacent thought that their living presence
underneath carried out the symbol of the two heads above--the poets of
England and of Scotland--and that in the teeming street below them were
many who pointed out to each other this new and delightful combination.
They were not great poets, either of these round, fat, oily men of
verse. And yet the association was pleasant. Perhaps the duchess's
coach-and-six, in which the English bard had been conveyed from London,
might drive through the open port, as the two stood delighted, watching
the pedestrians hurry out of the way and the great lawyers and officials
preparing to pay their devoirs to her Grace as she drew up before the
bookshop. No doubt they thought it a scene to be remembered in the
history of letters. She was at Penicuik House on a visit to the Clerks,
who were friends and patrons of Allan, and no doubt had supped or drunk
a dish of tea at New Hall, where the Lord President (who was only the
Lord Advocate in those days) often took his case in his cousin's house,
where Ramsay was a familiar and frequent guest. When Allan made wigs no
longer, when all his occupations were about books, and everybody in
Edinburgh, gentle and simple, knew him as the poet, he would be still
more free to make his jokes and his compliments to all those fine
people. But at no time was the genial little poet "blate," as he would
himself have said. There was no shyness in him. He "braw'd it," as he
says, with no doubt the finest of periwigs, long before he had ceased to
be a skull-thatcher, and swaggered through the wynds and about the Cross
with the best. The Edinburgh shopkeeper has never been "blate." He has
always maintained a freedom of independence which has nothing of the
obsequiousness of more common traders, and which gave the greater value
to the sly compliment which he would insinuate between two jests. No
doubt Campbella and Hamilla would laugh at the little man's compliments,
his bows and admiring glances, yet would not object to his exposition of
the tartan screen, the delicate silken plaid under which they shielded
their radiant complexions and golden locks.

Allan must have seen many curious sights from those windows. The riding
of the Parliament, when in gallant order two by two--the commissioners
of the boroughs and the counties leading the way, the peers following,
through the guards on either side who lined the streets--they rode up
solemnly from Holyrood to the Parliament House, with crown and sword and
sceptre borne before them, the old insignia, without which the Acts of
the ancient Parliaments of Scotland were not considered valid--marching
for the last time to their place of meeting to give up their
trust--would be one of the most remarkable. The commoners had each two
lackeys to attend him, the barons three, the earls four, a blue-coated
brigade, relic of the old days when no gentleman moved abroad without a
following; and Lyon King-at-arms in his finery to direct the line. With
lamentation and humiliation was the session closed; even wise men who
upheld the Union consenting to the general pang with which the last
Scots Parliament went its way. And the glare of the fire must have
lighted up the poet's rooms, and angry sparks fallen, and hoarse roar of
voices drowned all domestic sounds, when the Porteous Mob turned
Edinburgh streets into a fierce scene of tragedy for one exciting night.
It would be vain indeed to describe again what Scott has set before us
in the most vivid brilliant narrative. Such a scene breaking into the
burgher quietude--the decent households which had all retired into
decorous darkness for the night waking up again with lights flitting
from story to story, the axes crashing against the doors of the
Tolbooth, the wild procession whirling down the tortuous gloom of the
West Bow--was such an interruption of monotonous life as few towns in
the eighteenth century could have equalled; and it is curious to
remember the intense national feeling and keen patriotic understanding
of how far the populace would or could endure interference, which made
Duncan Forbes in his place in Parliament stand up as almost the defender
of that wild outburst of lawlessness, and John of Argyle turn from the
royal presence to prepare his hounds, as he said, against the Queen's
threat of turning the rebellious country into a desert. These proud
Scotsmen had supported the Union: they had perceived its necessity and
its use: but there was a point at which all their susceptibilities took
fire, and Whig lords and politicians were at one with every high-handed
Tory of the early times.

Allan Ramsay must also have seen, though he says nothing of it, the
brief occupation of Edinburgh by the unfortunate Prince Charles Edward,
and at a distance the pathetic little Court in Holyrood, the Jacobite
ladies in their brief glory, the fated captains of that wild little
army, in which the old world of tradition and romance made its last
outbreak upon modern prose and the possibilities of life. One would
imagine that for a man who had lived through that episode in the heart
of the old kingdom of the Stewarts, and whose house lay half-way between
the artillery of the castle, where a hostile garrison sat grimly
watching the invaders below, and the camp at Holyrood--there would have
been nothing in his life so exciting, nothing of which the record would
have been more distinct. But human nature, which has so many
eccentricities, is in nothing so wonderful as this, that the most
remarkable historical scenes make no impression upon its profound
everyday calm, and are less important to memory than the smallest
individual incident. The swarm of the wild Highlanders that took sudden
possession of street and changehouse, the boom of the cannon overhead
vainly attempting to disperse a group here and there or kill a rebel,
and the consciousness which one would think must have thrilled through
the very air, that under those turrets in the valley was the most
interesting young adventurer of modern times, the heir of the ancient
Scots kings, their undoubted representative--how could these things fail
to affect the mind even of the most steady-going citizen? But they did,
though we cannot comprehend it. Allan has a word for every little
domestic event in town or suburbs, but there is not a syllable said
either by himself or his biographers to intimate that he knew what was
going on under his eyes at that brief and sudden moment, the "one
crowded hour of glorious life," which cost so much blood of brave men,
and which the hapless Prince paid for afterwards in the disenchanted
tedium of many a dreary year.

[Illustration: SMOLLETT'S HOUSE]

It was before this time, however, that Ramsay reached the height of his
fame and of his productions in _The Gentle Shepherd_. He had written
some years before "A Pastoral Dialogue between Patie and Roger,"
published as usual in a sheet for a penny, and no doubt affording much
pleasure to the great popular audience to whom the "new piece" was as
the daily _feuilleton_, that friendly dole of fiction which sweetens
existence. It was evidently so successful that after a while the poet
composed a pendant--a dialogue between Jenny and Peggy. These two
fragments pleased the fancy of both the learned and the simple, and no
doubt called forth many a flattering inquiry after the two rustic pairs
and demands for the rest of their simple history, which inspired the
author to weave the lovers into the web of a continuous story, adding
the rural background, so fresh and true to nature, and the rustic and
humorous characters which were wanted for the perfection of the pastoral
drama. Few poems ever have attained so great and so immediate a success.
It went from end to end of Scotland, everywhere welcomed, read, conned
over, got by heart. Such a fame would be indeed worth living for. The
fat little citizen in his shop became at once the poet of his country,
as he had been of the Edinburgh streets. It was nearly two centuries
since Dunbar and Davie Lyndsay had celebrated their romantic town: and
though the name of the latter was still a household word ("You'll no
find that in Davie Lyndsay" being the popular scornful dismissal of any
incredible tale), yet their works had fallen into forgetfulness. The new
poet was received accordingly with acclamation. People did not talk of
sales and profits in those days, and we have no information as to the
numbers issued, or the time they took to find a home in every cottage,
as well as to receive the distinction of illustration and critical
discussion, which proved that it was not only the people who interested
themselves in the new poet, but a more highly trained and difficult
audience as well. We have before us two goodly octavos in which the
little rustical comedy is enshrined in hundreds of pages of notes; and
where the argument as to its localities, identifying every spot,
occupies chapter after chapter of earnest discussion, proving exactly
where every cottage is situated, and that New Hall, the home of the
Forbeses, was the mansion of the poem, with its little farm-steading
round. Shakspeare could not have been more closely followed, and we
doubt if the localities which he has made famous were ever discussed at
such length. I can remember nearly fifty years ago investigating, with
the eagerness of a child to whom books were the most precious objects in
existence, the little shelf high on the wall at the bedhead, where a
very old woman, an old nurse in her retirement, kept her treasures, and
mounted high upon a chair, finding a much-thumbed unbound copy of _The
Gentle Shepherd_ in the dim twilight, ruddy with the glimmer of the
fire, of the cottage room. In such places it was never absent; it was
the one book which held its ground by the side of the Bible and perhaps
a volume of old-world devotion, _The Crook in the Lot_, or _The Saint's
Rest_. Such a distinction is a far more true and genuine triumph than
the sale of many editions. It went straight into the heart of the
peasant, who understood and appreciated every scene and line. And it was
discussed by all the Edinburgh clubs, and by the literati who knew their
Theocritus and could write dissertations on pastoral poetry. The
greatest poet could have hoped for no more.

And pastoral poetry was the fashion of the time. Ramsay himself had made
various other attempts before he lighted upon this quite legitimate
strain. We read with a shudder of comic horror a dialogue "On the Death
of Mr. Addison," in which the interlocutors are "Richy and Sandy," to
wit, Sir Richard Steele and Mr. Alexander Pope! who bewail their loss,
which is far worse than misfortune to their flocks, or the scorn of
their lasses, being no less than this, that "Addie, that played and sang
so sweet, is dead"! The poet received, indeed, a complimentary copy of
verses upon this production, in which he is thus addressed--

    "Well fare thee, Allan, who in mother tongue
    So sweetly hath of breathless Addy sung:
    His endless fame thy nat'ral genius fired,
    And thou hast written as if he inspired.
    'Richy and Sandy,' who do him survive,
    Long as thy rural stanzas last, shall live."

The grotesque in poetry could scarcely go farther. Mr. Burchett, who
addressed good Allan in these rhymes, was the refined gentleman who put
the wigmaker's poems into English. "Richy and Sandy" was contained in a
volume which Ramsay published by subscription, and which brought him in,
to the immense admiration of his biographer, four hundred guineas
sterling, which no doubt was a very admirable recompense indeed for so
many foolish verses. This volume contained, among other things, Ramsay's
bold continuation of "Christ's Kirk on the Green," which the same
biographer describes as "King James the First's ludicrous poem," in
which the poet of the High Street skilfully turns the poet-monarch's
rustic revel into a vulgar village debauch. But these pieces of
presumption and non-comprehension are happily all dead and gone, and
Ramsay's reputation rests upon a happier basis. It is not a small matter
to have pervaded a whole country with the simple measures of a rural
idyll--a poem in which there are not perhaps five lines of poetry, but
which is fragrant of the moors and fields, full of rustic good sense and
feeling, and as free of harm or offence as the most severe moralist
could desire. This latter quality is all the more remarkable as it
belongs to an age not at all squeamish in these matters, and to which
the frankest assaults upon a heroine's virtue were supposed to be quite
adapted for the treatment of fiction. But there is no Lovelace in _The
Gentle Shepherd_; the rustic love-making is ardent, but simple and
without guile. The swains respect as much as they admire their nymphs:
the nymphs are confident in their frank innocence, and fear no evil; the
old fathers sit cheerful and sagacious at their doors and indulge in
their cracks, not less pleased with themselves and their share of life
than are the young ones with their livelier pleasures: the cows breathe
balmy breath into the wild freshness of the pastoral scenery. There is
scarcely anything affected, false, or even stilted in the poetical
dialogues which, with a little licence for the verse and something for
the sentiment, come naturally and simply from the wholesome, genial
young shepherds and their sweethearts. To say this is to say as much as
the most fastidious critic could desire from such a composition.

Nor is it spoiled by classic models or similes. How Ramsay succeeded in
keeping Venus and Cupid out of it, in forgetting all eclogues and
pastorals, Virgil or Theocritus, and indulging in nothing that was out
of place in Scotland, it is hard to tell. The Mantuan bard, the oaten
reed, Philomela and her songs, Hymen, Ganymede, Bacchus, and all the
Olympian band disport themselves in his other verses: but _The Gentle
Shepherd_ is void of those necessary adjuncts of the eighteenth-century
muse. The wimpling burn is never called Helicon nor the heathery braes
Parnassus, and nothing can be more genuine, more natural, and familiar
than the simple scenery of Habbie's Howe--in which the eager critics
identified every scene, and the sensible poet enhanced his art by a
perfect truth to nature. _The Gentle Shepherd_ is perhaps the only
so-called Pastoral of which this can be said, and it must have required
no small amount of self-denial to dispense with all those accustomed
auxiliaries. Even the sentiments are not too highflown for the locality.
If they are perhaps more completely purified from everything gross or
fleshly than would have been the case in fact, the poet has not been
afraid to temper passion with those considerations which naturally rise
to the mind of the young farmer in choosing his mate. His Peggy, though
she has beauty enough to make up for every deficiency, has also "with
innocence the wale of sense."

    "In better sense without a flaw,
    As in her beauty, far excels them a'."

She, on her part, anticipates not raptures and blisses in her marriage,
but the hallowed usages of life.

        "I'll employ with pleasure all my art
    To keep him cheerful, and secure his heart.
    At e'en, when he comes weary frae the hill,
    I'll have a' things made ready to his will;
    In winter when he toils through wind and rain,
    A bleezin' ingle, and a clean hearth-stane;
    And soon as he's flung by his plaid and staff,
    The seething pot's be ready to tak' aff."

Ramsay's sobriety here shines in comparison with all the fables and
idylls of his age. It is entirely natural, living, and of his time.
Patie plays upon a flute of "plum-tree made with ivory virls round,"
which he bought from the proceeds of "sax good fat lambs" sold at the
West Port, instead of the rustic pipe or oaten reed, which in his heart
of hearts no doubt our wigmaker thought much finer. Thus he secured his
audience, who knew nothing about oaten reeds, and instead of the
plaudits of the dilettanti secured the true fame of popular
comprehension and knowledge. Burns was far higher and nobler in genius,
and the worship awarded to him by his countrymen is one of the favourite
subjects of gibe and jest among writers on the other side of the Tweed.
But even Burns had not the universal acceptance, the absolute command of
his audience, which belonged to honest Allan. There were politicians and
there were ecclesiastics, and good people neither one nor the other, who
shook their troubled heads over the ploughman who would not confine
himself to the daisy of the field or the Saturday night's observances of
the Cottar, but was capable of Holy Willie and the Holy Fair. But Ramsay
had no gainsayer, and _The Gentle Shepherd_ was the first of books in
most Lowland homes. Its construction, its language and sentiments, are
all as commonplace as could be imagined, but it is a wholesome, natural,
pure, and unvarnished tale, and the mind that brought it forth (well
aware of what pleased his public) and the public who relished and bought
it, give us a better view of the honest tastes and morals of the period
than anything else which has come to us from that time. There has always
been a good deal of drinking, and other vices still less consistent with
purity of heart, in Scotland. Now and then we are frightened by
statistics that give us a very ill name; but it is difficult to believe
that if the national heart had been corrupt _The Gentle Shepherd_ could
have afforded it such universal and wholesome delight.

It is curious to find two very ordinary and prosaic tradesmen thus in
the front of popular literature in the beginning of the eighteenth
century. There is no comparison between Allan Ramsay and Samuel
Richardson in respect to genius. That humdrum old bookseller evoked by
some miraculous art the most delicate and lovely of creations out of the
midst of revolting and disgusting circumstances. Fielding was a far
finer gentleman, a much more accomplished writer, even a greater genius;
but there are none of his women who are fit to tie the shoes of Clarissa
Harlowe, to whom indeed there exists no fit companion out of Shakspeare.
Our good-humoured Allan had no such gift, but he had the art of
producing one spotless and lifelike tale, absolutely true to nature and
within the power of verification by any reader, which was accepted by a
whole country with enthusiasm as the best rendering of its rural life.
We doubt if there ever was a greater literary triumph.

Ramsay would not have been the true man he was to every tradition and
inheritance of his class had he not shown a modest complacency in his
own success. He was assailed, we are told, by nameless critics, who put
forth "A Block for Allan Ramsay's Wigs," "Remarks on Ramsay's Writings,"
and so forth--and retaliated, not without dignity: "Dull foes," he says,
"nought at my hand deserve."

    "The blundering fellows ne'er forget,
      About my trade to sport their fancies,
    As if, forsooth, I would look blate,
      At what my honour most advances.

    "Auld Homer sang for's daily bread;
      Surprising Shakspeare fin'd the wool;
    Great Virgil creels and baskets made;
      And famous Ben employed the trowel.

    "Yet Dorset, Lansdown, Lauderdale,
      Bucks, Stirling, and the son of Angus,
    Even monarchs, and o' men the wale,
      Were proud to be enrolled amang us."

It is true that Homer and Shakspeare might be surprised to find
themselves rubbing elbows with the wigmaker of the High Street. Still,
he shows a fine spirit, and his very strut is respectable.

[Illustration: ALLAN RAMSAY'S HOUSE]

In the end of his life, when the author of _The Gentle Shepherd_ by all
his trades, both as poet and shopkeeper, had amassed a fortune, he built
himself a house in the most glorious position which poet could have
chosen. It is on the crest of the hill, a little way below the castle,
and is still to be seen from Princes Street--a distinct feature in the
picturesque and varied line of building. He is said, though on what
authority we are not told, to have applied to the Crown for ground
enough to build a cage for _his burd_, meaning his wife: which is
supposed to be the reason why he built his house in an octagonal shape
like a cage: his wife, however, did not live long enough to inhabit it.
Additions and emendations have been made, so that there is no great
peculiarity in the form of the old square house on the summit of the
green slope, just clear of the rocks of the castle, as it is visible
to-day. When it was built the new town of Edinburgh was not yet dreamed
of, and nothing disturbed the panorama of green fields that lay between
Edinburgh and the Firth. The town wall was falling into ruin, yet still
existed in fragmentary towers and ramparts here and there, and low down
in the depths of the descent, which was not so precipitous there as
under the castle, the high houses and green braes were reflected in the
quiet waters of the North Loch. From thence the fields and scattered
farmhouses, the Calton Hill in unadorned greenness, a church spire and a
cluster of village roofs here and there, led the eye to the shining of
the Scottish Sea, the great water with its islands, the coast of Fife
with its dotted line of little fishing towns, the two green Lomonds
standing softly distinct against the misty line of more distant hills.
It was the same view that moved Fitz-Eustace to ecstasy, still but
little changed in the eighteenth century from what it had been in the
sixteenth. And picturesque as Edinburgh still continues to be in spite
of many modern disadvantages, it was no doubt infinitely more
picturesque then, crowning the rocky ridge, with straggling lanes and
wynds dropping steeply down into the valley--opening here and there a
glimpse of the green country and the shimmer of the Firth--while on the
edge of the hill, from all the high windows, the wide landscape softened
into distance on every side, into the far-off broken ranges of mountains
and cloudy rolling vapours, and the far-retiring sweep of a horizon
traversed by all the lights and all the storms--a wide world of air and
space and infinite variety. The life of our busy modern world had
scarcely yet invaded that city on the hill. It stood isolated on the
height of its rock, reigning from that domination over all the tranquil
country: while within its lines still thronged and clamoured an active
noisy population cooped up and packed together as if it were still
unsafe to stray away out of shelter of the walls, all the faculties and
trades, all the wit and the wealth, one above another, with the
concentration, the picturesqueness, the universal acquaintance and
familiarity of a mediæval town. And beautiful as the prospect must have
been from those high-built houses, it could scarcely have exceeded the
sight of the old Edinburgh of the kings from without, standing high
above the level of the soil, with the open crown of St. Giles's rising
over its grey heights, its walls broken down by careless peace and
wellbeing, its tall tenements standing up like a line of castles. And in
the night with its glimmer of household lights at every window hanging
high in mid air, repeated with a gleam in the waters beneath and in the
stars above, which sparkled keen out of the northern blue, and the mist
of habitation, the smoke of the fires and the lamps hanging over
all--confusing outlines, yet revealing all the more brightly a higher
and a higher altitude of human lights--what a wonderful sight rising
sheer out of the green and silent champaign below!

Such was royal Edinburgh still, when the shopkeeper-poet, with his jokes
and his quips, and his good-humoured self-esteem, and certainty of his
own power, settled down in Ramsay Lodge. It would be well if all poets
had as prosperous and as fair a retirement for their old age. He lived
for some time in his quaint self-contained (according to the equally
quaint Scotch phraseology) birdcage upon the top of the hill, and
enjoyed his celebrity and his ease and the pleasant conviction that "I
the best and fairest please." His only son, the second Allan Ramsay, was
a painter of some reputation, and he had daughters to care for him and
keep his home cheerful as long as he lived. A man more satisfied with
his lot could not be. His chirrup of self-satisfaction, the flattery,
yet familiarity, of his address to all the noble lords and lairds, the
judges and advocates, his laugh of jovial optimism and personal content,
belong perfectly to the character of the comfortable citizen, "in fair
round belly with good capon lined," and the shopkeeper's rather than the
poet's desire to please. One can better fancy him at the door of his
shop looking down the High Street jocose and beaming, with a joke for
the Lord President and for the Cadie alike, hand in glove with all the
Town Council, with a compliment for every fair lady or smiling lass that
tripped by under her tartan screen, delighted with himself and all
around him--than retired in his garden on the Castle Hill, though with
all the variations of the heavens and magnificence of the landscape
before his eyes. He had no doubt the admiration of that landscape which
is never wanting to an Edinburgh citizen, a part of the creed to which
he is born; but the homely limits of the green glens and knowes, the
wimpling burn, the washing-green, the laird's hospitable house behind,
were more in Allan's way when he wanted any relaxation from the even
more attractive town. The High Street and Habbie's Howe are the true
centres of his soul.

It would be wrong not to note the collections of songs which made his
name dear to all the pleasant singers both of drawing-room and cottage.
It is a strange peculiarity in a nation possessing a characteristic and
melodious popular music of its own like Scotland, to find how little
place music as a science, or even in its more serious developments, has
ever had in the country. Nothing can be more sweet, more touching, more
tender, than the native growth of Scottish song--nothing more full of
fun and spirit than the brilliant dance music which, like the song,
seems to have sprung spontaneous from the soil. And no country has ever
more loved both songs and strathspeys, or clung to them with greater
devotion. It would be perhaps impossible for the most learned to decide
between the rival claims of Scotland and Ireland in respect to the airs
which seem native to both; but Ireland has always laboured under the
disadvantage of being far less homogeneous than Scotland, and certainly,
before the time of Moore at least, her native songs did not belong to
all classes as in the sister country. And Scotland has always through
all ages (previous to the present age) preferred her own songs to every
other. During the eighteenth century, when Edinburgh was almost more
completely the centre of society than ever before, the old tunes were
sung by ladies as much as by maid-servants, and the delicate old spinets
performed a soft accompaniment to ballads of the "Ewebuchting" and of
the "Corn Rigs," and prolonged the pathetic notes of "Waly, waly" and
the trembling wail of the "Flowers of the Forest" in the finest houses
as in the humblest. Music, more properly so called, the art which has
gradually made its way from being a modest handmaiden of poetry to full
rivalship, if not a half-implied superiority, was already a scientific
pursuit in England; and though the Italian opera aroused a violent
opposition, and Tweedledum and Tweedledee called forth the gibes of the
wits, there existed a vigorous English school of learned musicians, and
Handel and Haydn found an audience not incapable of appreciating their
best works. But while this development went on in London, Scotland still
sang her ancient simple melodies, and contemned everything else with
that audacious superiority which is born of ignorance. One might almost
imagine that this was the penalty of a national inheritance so ample and
so sweet, and that the comparative absence of traditionary music in
England opened the heart of the country to strains more ambitious and
classical. However it came about, there is no denying that so it was. If
there was any Scottish composer at all, his productions were only
imitations or modifications of the old airs. Music continued to be
represented by the songs of immemorial attraction, the woodnotes wild of
nameless minstrels, pure utterance of the soil. Perhaps the absence of
music, except in the kindred shape of psalm tunes, which was but another
form of popular song, in the Church, was one great prevailing cause of
the national insensibility to all more lavish and elaborate strains. But
this peculiarity and insensibility had at least one advantage--they kept
in constant cultivation a distinct branch of national literature, and
one that is always attractive and delightful. I do not think it is too
strong an utterance of national partiality to say that the songwriters
of Scotland are beyond comparison with those of either of the other
united kingdoms. The simplest of the old ditties brought out of the
ancient poets contain a grace of genuine poetry and real feeling far
above the unmeaning jingle of verse which is the most common utterance
of popular song; and the cultivation of this delightful gift has called
forth the most tender and artless poems from gentle writers whom nothing
but that inspiration could have made to produce what was in them. The
pathetic wail of the poor lady who found to her cost that

    "Love is bonnie, a little time when it is new,"

but that

    "When love's auld it waxeth cauld,
    And fades away like morning dew";

and that touching lullaby in which the mother hushes the babe whose

    "Father wrought her great annoy,"

with its tender and simple refrain--

    "It grieves me sore to hear thee weep,"

breathe out of the ancient depths of human trouble with a reserve and
simplicity of feeling that seem almost personal. But the kindred
inspiration which called forth the two versions of the "Flowers of the
Forest" and the ballad of "Auld Robin Gray," along with many more, shows
how warm was the impulse to this expression of feelings, which were at
once intensified and drawn out of the sphere of revelations too
individual by the breath of the melody which carried them forth.

Allan Ramsay has the merit of being the first collector of Scottish
song. He was remorseless, like his century, and made the wildest havoc
with some of his originals, cutting and slashing as suited his fancy,
and adding of his own whenever it pleased him so to do. But with the
exception of a number of Strephons and Chloes, not always ungraceful, in
the newer fashion, and a sprinkling of ruder verses in which there is
more indecency than immorality, the first two volumes of the _Tea-table
Miscellany_ are full of merit, and include many delightful simple
lyrics, songs which compare most advantageously with the insipid "words"
which at this present advanced age are used as a sort of necessary evil
to serve the purpose of the music. "Say that our way is only an
harmonious speaking of many witty or soft thoughts after the poet has
dressed them in four or five stanzas," says Ramsay, with the apology
which is a veiled assertion of higher aims, "yet undoubtedly these must
relish best with people who have not bestowed much of their time in
acquiring a taste for that downright perfect music which requires none
or very little of the poet's assistance." And he tells us in the same
preface of a letter he has had from America informing him that there too
his manual of song has gone, and that his

    "Soft verse made to a Scottish air
    Is often sung by our Virginian fair."

The book is dedicated to the ladies--the _Donne qui hanno intelletto
d'amore_, long supposed to be the final critics and judges of such
productions: and is confidently recommended to these "fair singers" for
whose "modest eyes and ears," according to the poet (but with notable
exceptions, as has been said), they were prepared. The third volume
consisted almost exclusively of English songs, among which are many
classic verses. If it were but as a stepping-stone to those perfect
lyrics, so full of natural truth and feeling, with which Burns
afterwards brought to a climax the songs of his country, the _Tea-table
Miscellany_ would have a merit of its own.

Ramsay died in 1758, when the troubles of the country were over, the
last seeds of insurrection stamped out, and the powerful revolution
begun which made the clans loyal to Government and Scotch politicians
faithful to the Union. He was buried in the Greyfriars Churchyard, where
so many of the most notable of the citizens of Edinburgh were laid. A
hundred years or so after, the enlightened community placed his statue
in the gardens that lie between the old town and the new. And thus the
poet's career was run; it was a prosperous one, full of the success that
was most sweet to him; comfort and competence and reputation, at once
that of a warm and well-to-do citizen and that of a poet. Few poets have
lived to see their productions so popular. _The Gentle Shepherd_ may be
said to have been in every cottage in Scotland in its author's lifetime,
and his songs were sung by everybody. Nor did this fame interfere with
the citizen's well-earned and more substantial reward. The shop in which
he began his prosperous career, and which was crowded so continually by
eager messengers with their pennies in search of Allan Ramsay's last new
piece--the most immediate and one of the most pleasant evidences of
success--still exists, with its high steps and broad low windows, in the
heart of the old town with which his name is so completely associated;
and the quaint square house in which his later days of ease and
retirement were spent still keeps its place on the east of the Castle
Hill, surveying from its windows the enriched and amplified yet
unalterable panorama so dear and beautiful to all Scottish eyes.





Royal Edinburgh, the city of the Scots kings and Parliament, the capital
of the ancient kingdom, would seem to have become weary somewhere in the
eighteenth century of dwelling alone upon her rock. There were, to be
sure, reasons more prosaic for the construction of the New Town, the
partner and companion of the old historical city. The population had
increased, the desire for comfort and space, and many luxuries unknown
to the early citizens of Edinburgh, had developed among the new. It was
no longer agreeable to the lawyers and philosophers to be crowded up
with the other inhabitants of a common stair, to have the din of street
cries and commotion ever in their ears, and the lowest of the population
always about their feet, as was inevitable when gentle and simple were
piled together in the High Street and Canongate. The old houses might be
noble houses when they were finally got at, through many drawbacks and
abominations--though in those days there was little appreciation even of
the stately beauty of old masonry and ornament--but their surroundings
became daily more and more intolerable. And it was an anachronism to
coop up a learned, elegant, and refined class, living under the
Hanoverian Georges in peace and loyalty, within the circle of walls now
broken down and useless, which had been adapted to protect the subjects
of the old Scottish Jameses from continual attacks.

Happily the nature of the situation prevented any amalgamation or loss
of the old boundaries and picturesque features of the ancient city, in
the new. There was no question of continuation or enlargement. Another
Edinburgh rose at the feet of the first, a sober, respectable, modern,
and square-toed town, with wide streets and buildings solid and strong,
not without pretensions to a certain stateliness of size and design, but
in strong contrast with the architecture and fashion native to the
soil--the high gables and turreted stairs of the past. The old town had
to throw a drawbridge, permanent and massive, over the hollow at her
feet before she could even reach the terraced valley on which the first
lines of habitation were drawn, and which, rounding over its steep
slope, descended towards another and yet another terrace before it stood
complete, a new-born partner and companion in life of the former
capital, lavish in space as the other was confined, leisurely and
serious as the other was animated--a new town of great houses, of big
churches--dull, as only the eighteenth century was capable of making
them--of comfort and sober wealth and intellectual progress. The
architects who adorned the Modern Athens with Roman domes and Greek
temples, and placid fictitious ruins on the breezy hill which possessed
a fatal likeness to the Acropolis, would have scoffed at the idea of
finding models in the erections of the fourteenth century--that
so-called dark age--or recognising a superior harmony and fitness in
native principles of construction.

Yet though the public taste has now returned more or less intelligently
to the earlier canons, it would be foolish not to recognise that there
is a certain advantage even in the difference of the new town from the
old. It is not the historical Edinburgh, the fierce, tumultuous,
mediæval city, the stern but not more quiet capital of the Reformers,
the noisy, dirty, whimsical, mirth-loving town, full of broad jest and
witty epigram, of the eighteenth century. The new town has a character
of its own. It is the modern, not supplanting or effacing, but standing
by the old. Those who built it considered it an extraordinary
improvement upon all that Gothic antiquity had framed. They were far
more proud of these broad streets and massive houses than of anything
their fathers had left to them, and flung down without remorse a great
deal of the antiquated building after which it is now the fashion to
inquire with so much regret. Notwithstanding the change of taste since
that time, the New Town of Edinburgh still regards the old with a little
condescension and patronage; but there is no opposition between the two.
They stand by each other in a curious peacefulness of union, each with a
certain independence yet mutual reliance. London and Paris have rubbed
off all their old angles and made themselves, notwithstanding the
existence of Gothic corners here and there, all modern, to the
extinction of most of the characteristic features of their former
living. But happy peculiarities of situation have saved our northern
capital from any such self-obliteration. Edinburgh has been fortunate
enough to preserve both sides--the ancient picturesque grace, the modern
comfort and ease. And though Mr. Ruskin has spoken very severely of the
new town, we will not throw a stone at a place so well adapted to the
necessities of modern life. Those bland fronts of polished stone would
have been more kindly and more congenial to the soil had they cut the
air with high-stepped gables and encased their stairs in the rounded
turrets which give a simple distinctive character to so many Scottish
houses; and a little colour, whether of the brick which Scotch builders
despise or the delightful washes[6] which their forefathers loved, would
be a godsend even now. But still, for a sober domestic partner, the new
town is no ill companion to the ancient city on the hill.

[6] In this respect I venture to think all Scotland errs. Many houses
throughout the country, built roughly with a rude and irregular but solid
mason-work, were made points of light in the landscape by these washes of
colour which poor dwellings retain. There is a yellow which I remember on
many old houses in which the stains of time and weather produced
varieties of tone almost as agreeable as the mellowing of marble under
the same influences, which are now stripped into native roughness and
rise in sombre grey, sometimes almost black, abstracting a much-needed
warmth from the aspect of the country round.

This adjunct to the elder Edinburgh had come into being between the time
when Allan Ramsay's career ended in the octagon house on the Castle
Hill, and another poet, very different from Ramsay, appeared in the
Scotch capital. In the meantime many persons of note had left the old
town and migrated towards the new. The old gentry of whom so many
stories have been told, especially those old ladies who held a little
court, like Mrs. Bethune Balliol, or made their bold criticism of all
things both new and old, like those who flourish in Lord Cockburn's
lively pages--continued to live in the ancestral houses which still kept
their old-fashioned perfection within, though they had to be approached
through all the squalor and misery which had already found refuge
outside in the desecrated Canongate; but society in the Scotch
metropolis was now rapidly tending across the lately erected bridge
towards the new great houses which contemplated old Edinburgh across the
little valley, where the Nor' Loch glimmered no longer and where fields
lay green where marsh and water had been. The North Bridge was a noble
structure, and the newly-built Register House at the other end one of
the finest buildings of modern times to the admiring chroniclers of
Edinburgh. And the historians and philosophers, the great doctors, the
great lawyers, the elegant critics, for whom it was more and more
necessary that the ways of access between the old town and the new might
be made more easy, presided over and criticised all those wonderful new
buildings of classic style and unbroken regularity, and watched the
progress of the Earthen Mound, a bold and picturesque expedient which
filled up the hollow and made a winding walk between, with interest as
warm as that which they took in the lectures and students, the books and
researches, which were making their city one of the intellectual centres
of the world.

This is a position to which Scotland has always aspired, and the pride
of the ambitious city and country was never more fully satisfied than in
the end of last and the beginning of the present century. Edinburgh had
never been so rich in the literary element, and the band of young men
full of genius and high spirit who were to advance her still one step
farther to the climax of fame in that particular, were growing up to
take the places of their fathers. A place in which Walter Scott was just
emerging from his delightful childhood, in which Jeffrey was a
mischievous boy and Henry Brougham a child, could not but be overflowing
with hope, especially when we remember all the good company there
already--Dugald Stewart, bringing so many fine young gentlemen from
England to wonder at the little Scotch capital, and a crowd of Erskines,
Hunters, Gregories, Monroes, and Dr. Blair and Dr. Blacklock, and the
Man of Feeling--not to speak of those wild and witty old ladies in the
Canongate, and the duchesses who still recognised the claims of
Edinburgh in its season. To all this excellent company, whose fame and
whose talk hung about both the old Edinburgh and the new like the smoke
over their roofs, there arrived one spring day a wonderful visitor, in
appearance like nothing so much as an honest hill farmer, travelling on
foot, his robust shoulders a little bowed with the habit of the plough,
his eyes shining, as no other eyes in Scotland shone, with youth and
genius and hope. He knew nobody in Edinburgh save an Ayrshire lad like
himself, like what everybody up to this time had supposed Robert Burns
to be. The difference was that the stranger a little while before had
put forth by the aid of a country printer at Kilmarnock a little volume
of rustic poetry upon the most unambitious subjects, in Westland Scotch,
the record of a ploughman's loves and frolics and thoughts. It is
something to know that these credentials were enough to rouse the whole
of that witty, learned, clever, and all-discerning community, and that
this visitor from the hills and fields in a moment found every door
opened to him, and Modern Athens, never unconscious of its own
superiority and at this moment more deeply aware than usual that it was
one of the lights of the earth, at his feet.

[Illustration: LADY STAIR'S CLOSE]

Burns was but a visitor, the lion of a season, and therefore we are not
called upon to associate with Edinburgh the whole tragic story of his
life. And yet his appearance was one of the most remarkable that has
distinguished the ancient town. He arrived among all the professors, the
men of letters, the cultured classes who held an almost ideal
pre-eminence, more like what a young author hopes than is generally to
be met with among men--his heart beating with a sense of the great
venture on which he was bound, and a proud determination to quit himself
like a man whatever were the magnitudes among which he should have to
stand. Mere Society so called, with all its bustle of gaiety and endless
occupation about nothing, might have exercised upon him something of the
fascination which fine names and fine houses and the sweep and whirl of
hurried life certainly possess; but he who expresses almost with
bitterness his disgust to see a blockhead of rank received by one of his
noble patrons with as much, nay more, consideration than is given to
himself, would probably have had very little toleration for the
butterflies of fashion: whereas Edinburgh society impressed him greatly,
as of that ideal kind of which the young and inexperienced dream, where
the best and brightest are at the head of everything, where poetry is a
passport to the innermost sanctuary and conversation is like the talk of
the gods. They were all distinguished for one literary gift or grace or
another, philosophers golden-mouthed, poets of the most polished sort:
their knowledge, their culture, their intellectual powers, were the
foundation upon which their little world was built. The great people who
were to be found among them were proud to know these scholars and
sages--it was they, and not an occasional family of rank, or still more
rare man of wealth, who gave character and meaning to Edinburgh. To be
received in such society was the highest privilege which a young poet
could desire; and it was worthy to receive and foster and encourage that
new light that came from heaven.

On their side the heads of society in Edinburgh were much interested in
this young man. There had been an article in the _Lounger_, fondly
deemed a Scotch _Spectator_, an elegant literary paper widely read not
only in Scotland but even beyond the Border, upon him and his works.
"The Ayrshire Ploughman" was the title of the article, and it set forth
all the imperfections of his breeding, his want of education, his
ignorance both of books and of the world, and yet the amazing verses he
had produced, which, though disguised in a dialect supposed to be
unknown to the elegant reader, and for which Henry Mackenzie, the Man of
Feeling, supplied a glossary--living, he himself, in an old-fashioned
house in the South Back of the Canongate and within the easiest reach of
those wonderful old ladies who spoke broad Scotch, and left no one in
any doubt as to the strong opinions expressed therein--were certified to
be worthy the perusal of the most fastidious critic. Lord Monboddo, who
was the author of speculations which forestalled Darwin and who
considered a tail to be an appendage of which men had not long got rid,
on the one side, and the metaphysicians and philosophers on the other,
would no doubt prick up their ears to hear of this absolutely new being
in whom there might be seen some traces of primeval man. We forget which
of the early Jameses it was who is said to have shut up two infants with
a dumb nurse in one of the islands of the Firth to ascertain what kind
of language they would speak when thus left to the teaching of nature.
The experiment was triumphantly successful, for the heaven-taught babies
babbled, the chroniclers tell us, a kind of Hebrew, thus proving beyond
doubt that the language of the Old Testament was the original tongue of
man. The Edinburgh savants must have received Burns with something of
the same feeling: for here was a new soul which had been shut up amid
the primeval elements, and the language it spoke was Poetry! yet poetry
disguised in imperfect dialect which might yet be trained and educated
into elegance. They asked him to dinner as a first step, and gathered
round him to hear what he would have to say; to observe the effect
produced by the sight of learning, criticism, knowledge; to enjoy his
awe, and note the improvement that could not but ensue. This curiosity
was full of kindness; their hearts were a little touched by the
ploughman, by his glowing eyes, and by the strange sight of him there
among them in the midst of their high civilisation, a rustic clown who
knew nothing better than a thatched cottage and a clay floor. No doubt
they had the sincerest desire that he should be made to understand how
much he was deficient, what a great deal he had to learn, and be taught
to use fine language, and turn his attention to higher subjects, and be
altogether elevated and brought on in the world. The situation is very
curious and full of human interest, even had the stranger been less in
importance than he was. It is wonderfully enlightening in any
circumstances to see such an encounter from both sides, to perceive the
light in which it appears to them, and the very different light in which
it is seen by _him_. There was the usual great divergence between the
views of the visitor and the highly-cultured community to which he came.
For he indeed did not come there at all to be enlightened and trained
and put in the way he should go. He came full of delightful hope that he
was coming among his own kind, that he was for the first time to meet
his own species, and recognise in other human faces the light that shone
about his own path, but in none of the other muddy ways of the
country-side; to make friends with his natural brethren, and be
understood of them as no one yet had been found to understand him. In
his high anticipations, in his warm enthusiasm of hope, he himself
figured dimly as a sort of noble exile coming back to his father's
house. So does every child of fancy regard the world of which he knows
nothing, the world of the great and famous, where to dazzled fancy all
the beautiful things, words, and thoughts for which he has been sighing
all his life are to be found.

They met, and they were, if not mutually disappointed, yet strangely
astonished and perplexed. Burns would seem to have been always on his
guard, too much on his guard we should be disposed to say, suspicious of
the intention to guide, to chasten, to educate and refine, which was
indeed in the kindest way at the bottom of everybody's thoughts. He was
determined to be astonished by nothing, to keep his head so that no one
should ever be able to say that it was turned by his new experiences--an
attitude which altogether bewildered the good people, who were willing
to give him every kind of education, to excuse any rudeness or roughness
or imperfection, but not to see a man at his ease, appearing among them
as if he were of them, requiring no allowance to be made for him,
holding his head high as any man he met. All the accounts we have of his
appearance in Edinburgh agree in this. He was neither abashed nor
embarrassed; no rustic presumption or vulgarity, but quite as little any
timidity or awkwardness, was in the Ayrshire ploughman. His shoulders a
little bent with the work to which he had been accustomed, his dress
like a countryman, a rougher cloth perhaps, a pair of good woollen
stockings rig and fur, his mother's knitting, instead of the silk which
covered limbs probably not half so robust--but so far as manners went,
nothing to apologise for or smile at. The accounts all agree in this. If
he never put himself forward too much, he never withdrew with any
unworthy shyness from his modest share in the conversation. Sometimes he
would be roused to eloquent speech, and then the admiring ladies said he
carried them "off their feet" in the contagion of his enthusiasm and
emotion. But this was a very strange phenomenon for the Edinburgh
professors and men of letters to deal with: a novice who had not come
humbly to be taught, but one who had come to take up his share of the
inheritance, to sit down among the great, as in his natural place. He
was not perhaps altogether unmoved by their insane advices to him, one
of the greatest of lyrical poets, a singer above all--to write a
tragedy, to give up the language he knew and write his poetry in the
high English which, alas! he uses in his letters. Not unmoved, and
seriously inclining to a more lofty measure, he compounded addresses to

    "Edina, Scotia's darling seat!"

and other such intolerable effusions. One can imagine him roaming
through the fields between the old town and the new, and looking up to
the "rude rough fortress," and on the other side to the brand-new
regular lines of building, where

    "Architecture's noble pride
      Bids elegance and splendour rise,"

and musing in his mind how to celebrate them in polished verse so that
even the critics may be satisfied--

    "Thy sons, Edina! social, kind,
      With open arms the stranger hail;
    Their views enlarged, their liberal mind,
      Above the narrow, rural vale;
    Attentive still to sorrow's wail,
      Or modest merit's silent claim;
    And never may their sources fail!
      And never envy blot their name!"

One wonders what the gentlemen said to this in the old town and the
new--whether it did not confuse them still further, as well intended
perhaps, but not after all like the "Epistle to Davie," though they had
all advised him to amend that rustic style. A very confusing business
altogether--difficult for the kind advisers as well as for the poet, and
with no outlet that any one could see.


We have, however, a more agreeable picture of the visitor on another
occasion when he walked out into the country with Dugald Stewart in a
spring morning to the hills of Braid and talked that gentle
philosopher's heart away, not now about Edina's palaces and towers. "He
told me ... that the sight of so many smoking cottages gave a pleasure
to his mind which none could understand who had not witnessed like
himself the happiness and worth which they contained." It is more
pleasant to think of the poet's dark eyes lighting up as he said this
than to watch him proud and self-possessed in the drawing-rooms holding
his own, taking such good care that nobody should divine how his heart
was beating and his nerves athrill.

But after all there is no such account given of this wonderful visitor
to Edinburgh as that we have from the after-recollections of a certain
"lameter" boy who was once present in a house where Burns was a guest.
The Scott boys from George Square had been admitted to the party which
they were too young to join in an ordinary way, in order that they might
see this wonder of the world, the ploughman-poet who was not afraid, but
behaved as well as any of the gentlemen. And it befell by the happiest
chance that Burns inquired who was the author of certain verses
inscribed upon a print which he had been looking at. No one knew but
young Walter, who we may be sure had not lost a look or a word of the
stranger, and who had read everything in his invalid childhood. The boy
was not bold enough to answer the question loud out, but he whispered it
to some older friend, who told the poet, no doubt with an indication of
the blushing and eager lad from whom it came, which procured him a word
and a look never forgotten. But there passed at the same time a thought
through young Walter's mind, the swift reflection of that never-failing
criticism of youth which pierces unaware through all wrappings and veils
of the soul. "I remember I thought Burns's acquaintance with English
poetry was rather limited; and also that having twenty times the ability
of Allan Ramsay and of Fergusson, he talked of them with too much
humility as his models." The much-read boy was a little shocked, no
doubt disturbed in his secret soul that the poet--so far above any other
poet that was to be seen about the world in those days--should not have
known that verse: though indeed men better read than Burns might have
been excused for their want of acquaintance with a minor poet like
Langhorne; but how true was the indignant observation, half angry, that
with "twenty times the ability" it was Allan Ramsay and the still less
important unfortunate young Fergusson to whom Burns looked up! Did the
boy wonder perhaps, though too loyal to say it--for criticism at his age
is always keen--whether there might be a something not quite real in
that devotion, and ask in the recesses of his mind whether it was
possible for such a man to be so self-deceived?

There were no doubt various affectations about Burns, as when he talks
big in his diary of observing character and finding this pursuit the
greatest entertainment of his life in Edinburgh, with a pretension very
general among half-educated persons: but there is no reason to believe
that he was not quite genuine about his predecessors. A poet is not
necessarily a critic; and Allan Ramsay's fame had been exactly of the
popular kind which would attract a son of the soil, whereas Fergusson
was the object of Burns's especial tenderness, pity, and regard. And it
is touching to recollect that the only sign he left of himself in
Edinburgh, where for the first time he learned what it was to mix in
fine company and to feel the freedom of money in his pocket, from which
he could afford a luxury, was to place a stone over the grave of
Fergusson in the Canongate Churchyard, where he lay unknown. His
application to the Kirk-Session for leave to do this is still kept upon
the books--a curious interruption amid the minutes of church discipline
and economics. One wonders if that homely memorial is kept as it ought
to be. It is a memorial not only of the admiration of one poet for
another, but of Burns's poignant pity--a wellnigh intolerable pang--for
a young soul who preceded himself in the way of poetry and despair, one
whose life, destined to better and brighter things, had been flung away
like a weed on the dismal strand. Only twenty-three years of poetry and
folly had sufficed that other reckless boy to destroy himself and
shatter his little lamp of light. Burns was only a few years older, and
perhaps, though on the heights of triumph, felt something of that
horrible tide already catching his own feet to sweep him too into the
abyss. There are few things in the world more pathetic than this tribute
of his to the victim who had gone before him.

I may perhaps venture to say, with an apology for recurring to a subject
dealt with in another book, that this poetic visit to Edinburgh reminds
me of the visit of another poet in every way very different from Burns
to another city which cannot be supposed to resemble Edinburgh except in
the wonderful charm and attraction for devotees which she possesses.
There is indeed no just comparison between Petrarch at Venice and Burns
at Edinburgh, nothing but the fantastic link, often too subtle to be
traced, which makes the mind glide or leap over innumerable distances
and diversities from one thing to another. The Italian poet came
conferring glory, great as a prince, and attended by much the same
honours and privileges, though he was but a half priest, the son of an
exile, in an age and place where birth and family were of infinitely
more importance than they are now. He was the perfection and flower of
learning and high culture, and a fame which had reached the point which
is high-fantastical, and can mount no farther--and he came to a palace
allotted to him by the Government, and every distinction which it was in
their power to bestow, and demeaned himself _en bon prince_, adorning
with skilful eloquent touches of description the glorious scene beneath
his windows, the pageants at which he was an honoured spectator. Nothing
could be more unlike the young, shy, proud, yet genial-hearted rustic,
holding firmly by that magic wand of poetry which was his sole right to
consideration, and facing the curious, puzzled, patronising world with a
certain suspicion, a certain defiance, as of one whom no craft or wile
could betray or pretension daunt--yet ready to melt into an enthusiasm
almost extravagant when a lovely young woman or a noble youth pushed
open with a touch the door always ajar, or at least unfastened, of his

    "The mother may forget the child
      That smiles sae sweetly on her knee;
    But I'll remember thee, Glencairn,
      And a' that thou hast done for me!"

What Glencairn had done was nothing but kindness, a warm reception which
not even the poet's susceptibility could think condescending: but he is
repaid with an exuberant, extravagant gratitude. Such was the man; ever
afraid to compromise his dignity, but with no measure for the
overflowings of his heart. Petrarch, so much more assured in his
eminence and superiority to all living poets, was driven from his palace
on the Riva and all his delights by the impertinent gibes of some
foolish young men. But Burns was flattered and caressed to the top of
his bent, and--forgotten, or at least dropped, and no more thought of.
He returned to Edinburgh only to find that, the gloss of novelty having
worn off, his friends were no longer ready to move heaven and earth in
order to bring him to their parties, though probably had he chosen he
might have worked himself back "into society" in a slower but more
permanent fashion. This, however, he did not choose, but fell back among
the convivial middle class, the undistinguished and over merry, where
nobody thought it too great humility to refer to Allan Ramsay and
Fergusson as his models. It must be recollected, however, that his
second visit to Edinburgh, and what seems in the telling a foolish and
almost vulgar flirtation, produced one of the most impassioned and
exquisite songs of love and despair which has ever been written in any

    "Ae fond kiss, and then we sever;
    Ae farewell, alas! for ever!"

There is a stillness of exhausted feeling in this wonderful utterance
which is the very soul of despair.

There has been no more remarkable moment in the experience of the town
which has known so many strange and striking scenes, though its interest
has little to do with history or even with national feeling. It is pure
humanity in an unusual development, an episode in the life of the poet
such as has many less important parallels, but scarcely any so fully
representative and typical. It discloses to us suddenly, as by a flash
of light striking into the darkness, the persons, the entertainments,
the sentiments of a hundred years ago. We make improvements daily in
external matters, but society--we had almost said humanity--rarely
learns. There is not the smallest hope that in Edinburgh or elsewhere a
young man of genius in Burns's position would now be either more wisely
noticed or more truly benefited by such a period of close contact with
people who ought by experience and knowledge to know better than he. The
only thing that is probable is a falling-off, not an advance. I think it
highly doubtful whether a ploughman from Ayrshire, however superlative
his genius, would now be received at all in "the best houses" and by the
first men and women in Edinburgh; and if not in Edinburgh, surely
nowhere else would such a reception as that given to Burns await the
untutored poet. The world has seldom another chance permitted to it, and
in this case I cannot but think it would be worse and not better used.

[Illustration: BURNS'S MONUMENT]



There are many variations in degree of the greatest human gifts, but
they are few in kind. The name we have ventured to place at the head of
this chapter is one not so great as that of Shakspeare, not so
all-embracing--though widely-embracing beyond any other second--not so
ideal, not so profound. Walter Scott penetrated with a luminous
revelation all that was within his scope, the most different kinds and
classes of men, those whom he loved (and he loved all whom it was
possible to love) and the few whom he hated, with the same comprehension
and power of disclosure. But Shakspeare was not restrained by the limits
of any personal scope or knowledge. He knew Lear and Macbeth, and Hamlet
and Prospero, though they were beings only of his own creation. He could
embody the loftiest passion in true flesh and blood, and show us how a
man can be moved by jealousy or ambition in the highest superlative
degree and yet be a man with all the claims upon our understanding and
pity that are possessed by any brother of our own. Nothing like Lear
ever came in our Scott's way: that extraordinary embodiment of human
passion and weakness, the forlorn and awful strength of the aged and
miserable, did not present itself to his large and genial gaze. It would
not have occurred to him perhaps had he lived to the age of Methuselah.
He knew not those horrors and dreadful depths of humanity that could
make such tragic passion possible. But he had his revenge in one way
even upon Shakspeare. Dogberry and Verges, as types of the muddle-headed
old watch--pompous, confused, and self-important--are always diverting;
but they would have been men not all ridiculous had Scott taken them in
hand--real creatures of flesh and blood, not watchmen in the abstract.
Our greater poet did not take trouble enough to make them individual,
his fancy carrying him otherwhere, and leaving him scarce the time to
put his jotting down. To Shakspeare the great ideals whom he almost
alone has been able to make into flesh and blood; to Scott all the
surrounding world, the men as we meet them about the common
thoroughfares of life. He knows no Rosalind nor Imogen, but on the other
hand Jeanie Deans and Jenny Headrigg would have been impossible to his
great predecessor. Both, we may remark, are incapable of a young
hero--the Claudios and the Bertrams being if anything a trifle worse
than Henry Morton and Young Lovel. But whereas Shakspeare is greatest
above that line of the conventional ideal, it is below that Sir Walter
is famous. The one has no restriction, however high he may soar; the
other finds nothing so common that he cannot make it immortal.


It is, however, especially in the breadth and largeness of a humanity
which has scarcely any limit to its sympathy and understanding that the
great romancist of Scotland resembles the greatest of English poets.
They are both so great, so broad, so little restrained by any individual
limitations, that a perverse criticism has made this catholic and
all-comprehending nature a kind of reproach to both, as though that
great and limpid mirror of their minds, in which all nature was
reflected, was less noble than the sharp face of a stone which can catch
but one ray. They were both subject to political prejudices and
prepossessions. Shakspeare has made of many a youth of the nineteenth
century an ardent Lancastrian, ready to pluck a red rose with Somerset
and die for Margaret and her prince; and Scott in like manner has made
many a Jacobite, though in the latter case our novelist is too full of
sense even in the midst of his own inclinations to become ever an
out-and-out partisan. But, except these prepossessions, they have no
_parti pris_. Every faction renders up its soul of meaning, the most
diverse figures unclose themselves side by side. The wit, the scholar,
the true soldier, the braggart and thief, the Jew and the Christian, the
Hamlet, hero of all time, and Shallow and Slender from the fat pastures
of English rural life, come all together, each as true as if on him
alone the poet's eye had fixed. And Scott is like him, setting before us
with unerring pencil the old superstitious despot of mediæval France,
the bustling pedant of St. James's, the ploughmen and shepherds, the
churchmen, the Border reivers and Highland caterans, the broad country
lying under a natural illumination, without strain or effort, large and
temperate as the day. Neither in the greatest poet nor the great
romancer is there any force put upon the natural fulness of life to
twist its record into a narrow circle with one motive only. It is the
round world and all that it inhabits, the grandeur and divinity of a
universe, that delights them. Their view is large as the vision of God,
or as nearly so as is given to mortal eyes. It is in this, above all,
that they resemble each other. In degree Shakspeare, it need not be
said, is all-transcendent, reaching heights such as no other man has
reached in delineation and creation: but Scott is of his splendid
species, one of his kind, the only one among all the many sons of genius
with whom this island has been blessed, for whom the boldest could make
such a claim.

Walter Scott belongs to all Scotland. He was, no man more, a lover of
the woods and fields, of mountain-sides and pastoral braes, of the river
and forest, Ettrick and Tweed and Yarrow, and Perthshire--that princely
district, half Highland, half Lowland--and the chain of silvery lochs
that pierce the mountain shadows through Stirling and Argyle: every
league of the fair country he loved. From the Western Isles and the
Orkneys to the very fringe of debatable land which parts the northern
and the southern half of Great Britain--is his, and has tokens to show
of his presence. When he came home to die at the end of almost the most
tragic yet most noble chapter of individual history which our century
has known, it was the longing of his sick heart above all other that he
should not be so unblest as to lay his bones far from the Tweed.

But yet, above all other places, it was to Edinburgh that Scott
belonged. His birth, his growth, the familiar scenes of his youth, his
education and training, the business and work of his life, were all
associated with the ancient capital. George Square--with its homely and
comfortable old-fashion, which has nothing to do with antiquity, the
first breaking out of the Edinburgh citizens into large space and air
outside the strait boundaries of the city, with the Meadows and their
trees beyond, and all the sunshine of the south side to warm the deep
_corps de logis_, the substantial and solid mansions which are so grey
without yet so full of warmth and comfort within--was the first home he
knew, and his residence up to manhood. No boy could be more an Edinburgh
boy. Lame though he was, he climbed every dangerous point upon the
hills, and knew the recesses of Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags by
heart before he knew his Latin grammar. His schoolboy fights, his
snowballing, the little armies of urchins set in battle array, the
friendly feuds of gentle and simple (sometimes attended by hard knocks,
as among his own Liddesdale farmers), fill the streets with amusing
recollections. And when he was promoted in due time to the Parliament
House and to all the frolics of the youthful Bar, and his proud father
steps forth in the snuff-coloured suit which Mr. Saunders Fairford wore
after him, to tell his friends that "my son Walter passed his private
Scots law examination with good approbation," and on Friday "puts on the
gown and gives a bit chack of dinner to his friends and acquaintances,
as is the custom," how familiar and kindly is the scene, how the sober
house lights up, and the good wine about which we have known all our
lives comes out of the cellar and the jokes fly round--Parliament House
pleasantries and recollections of the witticisms of the Bench gradually
giving place to the sallies of the wild young wits, the shaft from the
new-bent bow of the young advocate himself. Nothing can be more true and
simple than he is through all the tale, or more real than the Edinburgh
atmosphere; the fun that is mostly in the foreground; the work that is
pushed into corners yet always gets done, though it has not the air of
being important except to the excellent father whose steps on the stair
are the signal for the disappearance of a chess-board into a drawer or a
romance under the papers,--well-known tricks of youth which we have all
been guilty of. There is a curious evidence, however, in Lockhart's
_Life_, less known than the usual tales of frolic and apparent idleness,
of the professional trick of Scott's handwriting, which showed how
steadily he must have laboured even in his delightful, easy, innocently
irregular youth. "I allude particularly to a sort of flourish at the
bottom of the page, originally, I presume, adopted in engrossing as a
safeguard against the intrusion of a forged line between the legitimate
text and the attesting signature. He was quite sensible," adds his
biographer, "that this ornament might as well be dispensed with; and his
family often heard him mutter after involuntarily performing it, 'There
goes the old shop again!'" Which of us now could see that flourish
without the water coming into our eyes?


It is impossible to eradicate, from the minds of youthful students at
least, the admiration which always attends the performances of the young
man who gains his successes without apparently working for them. As a
matter of fact, it is the work which we ought to respect rather than
that apparently fortuitous accidental result: but nothing will ever cure
us of our native delight in an effect which appears to have no vulgar
cause, and great has been the misery produced by this prejudice to many
a youth who has begun with the tradition of easy triumph and presumed
upon it to the loss of all his after-life. But when there shows in the
apparent idler a sign like this of many a long hour's labour ignored and
lightly thought of, covered over with a pleasant veil of fun and ease
and happy leisure, the combination is one that no heart can resist.

Scott had read everything he could lay his hands on while he was still a
child, and boasted himself a virtuoso, that is, according to his
explanation, at six years old, "one who wishes and will know
everything;" but his boyish tastes and triumphs became more and more
athletic as he gained a firmer use of his bodily powers. No diseased
consciousness of disability in respect to his lameness, like that which
embittered Byron, could find a place in the rough wholesome atmosphere
of the Edinburgh High School and playgrounds, where nobody was too
delicate about reminding him of his infirmity, and the stout-hearted
little hero took it like a man, offering "to fight mounted," and being
tied upon a board accordingly for his first combat. "You may take him
for a poor lameter," said one of the Eldin Clerks, a sailor, with equal
friendly frankness to a party of strangers, "but he is the first to
begin a row, and the last to end it." To such a youth the imperfection
was a virtue the more. When the jovial band strolled forth upon long
walks the cheerful "lameter" bargained for three miles an hour, and kept
up with the best. They would start at five in the morning, beguiling the
way with endless pranks, on one occasion at least without a single
sixpence in all their youthful pockets with which to refresh themselves
during a thirty miles' round. "We asked every now and then at a cottage
door for a drink of water; and one or two of the goodwives, observing
our worn-out looks, brought forth milk instead of water, so with that
and hips and haws we came in little the worse." Little they cared for
fatigue and inconvenience; they were things to laugh over when the lads
got back. Scott only wished he had been a player on the flute, like
George Primrose in the _Vicar of Wakefield_, and his father shook his
head and doubted the boy was born "for nae better than a gangrel
scrapegut"--reproach of little gravity, as the expedition so poorly
provisioned was of little harm. Thus the young gentlemen bore cheerfully
what would have been hardship to a ploughman, and gibed even at each
other's weaknesses without a spark of unkindness, which made the
weakness itself into a robust matter of fact not to be brooded over.
High susceptibility might have suffered from the treatment, but high
susceptibility generally means egotism and inordinate self-esteem,
qualities which it is the very best use of public school and college to
conjure away.

Nothing indeed more cheerful, more full of endless frolic and enjoyment,
fresh air and fun and feeling, ever existed than the young manhood of
Walter Scott. Talk of Scotch gravity and seriousness! The houses in
which they were received as they roamed about--farmers' or lairds', it
was all the same to the merry lads--were only too uproarious in their
mirth; with songs and laughter they made the welkin ring. At home in
Edinburgh the fun might be less noisy, but it was not less sincere. In
the very Parliament House itself the young men clustered in their
corner, telling each other the last good things, and with much ado to
keep their young laughter within the bounds of decorum. The judge on the
Bench, the Lord President himself, greatest potentate of all, was not
more safe from the audacious wits than poor Peter Peebles. There was
nothing they did not laugh at, themselves and each other as much as Lord
Braxfield, and all the humours of a town more full of anecdote and jest,
laughable eccentricity and keen satire and amusing comment, than any
town in literature. The best joke of all perhaps was Sydney Smith's
famous _bon mot_ about the surgical operation, which no doubt he meant
as an excellent joke in the midst of that laughing community, where the
fun was only too fast and furious. Nowadays, when life is more temperate
and the world in general has mended its manners, the habits of that
period fill us with dismay; but perhaps after all there was less harm
done than appears, and not more of the fearful tribute of young life
which our fated race is always paying than is still exacted amid a
population much less generally addicted to excess. But that of course
increased rather than diminished the jovial aspect of Edinburgh life
when Walter Scott was young, and when the few cares he had in hand, the
occasional bit of work, interfered very little with the warm and lively
social life in the midst of which he had been born. He dwelt, in every
sense of the word, among his own people, his friends, the sons of his
father's friends, his associates all belonging to families like his own,
of good if modest rank and lineage, the "kent folk" of whom Scotland
loves to keep up the record. This, which is perhaps one of the greatest
advantages with which a young man can enter on life, was his from his
infancy. He and his companions had been at school together, together in
the college classes, in frequent social meetings, on the floor of the
Parliament House. Familiar faces and kind greetings were round him
wherever he went. No doubt these circumstances, so genial, so friendly
and favourable, helped to perfect the most kind, the most generous and
sunshiny of natures. And thus no man could be more completely at once
the best product and most complete representative of his native soil.

His life too was as prosperous and full of good fortune and happiness as
a man could desire. He married at twenty-six, and a few years later
received the appointment of Sheriff-Depute of Selkirkshire, which
rendered him independent of the precarious incomings of his profession,
and made the pleasure he always took in roaming the country into a
necessary part of his life's work. He had begun a playful and
pleasurable authorship some time before with some translations from the
German, Bürger's _Lenore_ and Goethe's _Götz von Berlichingen_--the
first of which was hastily made into a little book, daintily printed and
bound, in order to help his suit with an early love, so easy, so little
premeditated, was this beginning. With equal simplicity and absence of
intention he slid into the Border Minstrelsy, which he intended not for
the beginning of a long literary career, but in the first place for "a
job" to Ballantyne the printer, whom he had persuaded to establish
himself in Edinburgh--the best of printers and the most attached of
faithful and humble friends--and for fun and the pleasure of scouring
the country in pursuit of ballads, which was a search he had already
entered upon to his great enjoyment. From this nothing was so easy as to
float into original poetry, inspired by the same impulse and inspiration
as his ballads. One of the ladies of the house of Buccleuch told him the
story of the elfin page, and begged him to make a ballad of it; and from
this suggestion the _Lay of the Last Minstrel_ arose. The time was ripe
for giving forth all that had been unconsciously stirring in his teeming
fertile imagination. It came at once like a sudden bursting into flower,
with a splendid _éclosion_, out-bursting, involuntary, unlaborious,
delightful to himself as to mankind. From henceforward his name stood in
one of the highest places of literature and his fame was assured.


Nothing could be more unintentional, more spontaneous, almost careless;
a thing done for his pleasure far more than with any serious purpose;
nothing--except the later beginning, equally unintentional, of a still
more important stream of production. The poems of Scott will always be
open to much criticism; even those who love them most--and there are
many whose love for this fresh, free, spontaneous, delightful fountain
of song is strong enough to repress every impulse of criticism and
transport it beyond the reach of comment to a romantic enchanted land of
its own, where it flows in native sunshine and delight for
ever--declining to pronounce any definite judgment as to their
greatness. But to Scott in his after-work we are inclined to say no man
worthy of expressing an opinion can give any but the highest place. It
is true, and the fact has to be admitted with astonishment and regret,
that one great writer, his countryman, speaking the same language and in
every way capable of pronouncing judgment, has failed to appreciate Sir
Walter. We cannot tell why, nor pretend to solve that amazing question.
Perhaps it was the universal acclaim, the consent of every voice, that
awoke the germ of perversity that was in Thomas Carlyle: an impulse of
contradiction, especially in face of an opinion too unanimous, which is
one of our national characteristics: perhaps one of those prejudices
pertinacious as the rugged peasant nature itself, which sometimes warps
the clearest judgment; perhaps, but this we find it difficult to
believe, a narrower intensity and passion of meaning in himself which
found little reflection in the great limpid mirror which Scott held up
to nature. The beginning of Scott's chief and greatest work was as
fortuitous, as accidental (if we may use the word), as the poetry. He
took up by some passing impulse the idea of a prose story on the events
of the 'forty-five, which perhaps he considered too recent to be treated
in poetry; wrote (everybody knows the story) half a volume, read it to a
trusted critic, who probably considered it foolish for a man who had
risen to the heights of fame by one kind of composition to risk himself
now with another. It is very likely that Scott himself was easily moved
to the same opinion. He tossed the MS. into a drawer, and gave it up.
There had been no special motive in the effort, and it cost him nothing
to put it aside, to whistle for his dogs, and go out for a long round by
wood and hill, or to take his gun or rod, or to entertain his
visitors--all of which were more rational, more entertaining, and
altogether important things to do than the writing of a dull story,
which after all was not his line. For years the beginning chapters of
_Waverley_ lay there unknown. They lay very quietly, we may well
believe, not bursting the dull enclosure as they might have done had the
Baron of Bradwardine been yet born; but that good young Waverley was
always a little dull, and might have slept till doomsday had nothing
occurred to disturb his rest. One day, however, some fishing tackle was
wanted for the use of one of Scott's perpetual visitors at
Ashiestiel--not even for himself, for some chance man taking advantage
of the Shirra's open house. Visitor arriving in a good hour! fortunate
sorner, to be thereafter blessed of all men! Let us hope he got just the
lines he wanted and had a good day's sport. For in his search Scott's
eyes lighted upon the bundle of written pages. "Hallo!" he must have
said to himself, "there they are! Let's see if they're as bad as Willie
Erskine thought." In his candid soul he did not think they were very
good, unless it was perhaps the description of Waverley Honour, a great
mild English mansion which he would admire all the more that it was so
unlike Tully Veolan. Perhaps it was the contrast which brought into his
teeming brain a sudden vision of that "Scottish manor-house sixty years
since," which he went off straightway and built in his eighth chapter
with the baron and all his surroundings, which must have been awaiting
impatient that happy moment to burst into life.

And thus by spontaneous accident, by delightful, careless chance, so to
speak, the thing was done. One wonders by what equally, nay more
fortunate unthought-of haphazard it was, that the country rogue
Shakspeare, his bright eyes shining with mock penitence for the wildness
of his woodland career, and the air and the accent of the fields still
on his honeyed lips, first found out that he could string a story
together for the theatre and make the old knights and the fair ladies
live again. Of this there is no record, but only enough presumption, we
think, to make it sufficiently clear that the discovery which has ever
since been one of the chief glories of the English name, and added the
most wonderful immortal inhabitants to the population, was made, like
Scott's, by what seems a divine chance, without apparent preparation or
likelihood. In our day much more importance is given to a development
which the scientific thinker would fondly hope to be traceable by all
the leadings of race and inheritance into an evolution purely natural
and to be expected; while, on the other hand, there is nothing which
appears more splendid and dignified to others than the aspect of a life
devoted to poetry, in which the man becomes but a kind of solemn
incubator of his own thoughts. It will always be, however, an additional
delight to the greater part of the human race to see how here and there
the greatest of all heavenly tools is found unawares by the happy hand
that can wield it, no one knowing who has put it there ready for his
triumphant grasp when the fated moment comes.

Everybody will remember as a pendant--but one so much more grave that we
hesitate to cite it, though the coincidence is curious--the pause made
by Dante in the beginning of the _Inferno_, which resembles so exactly
the pause in Scott's career. The great Florentine had written seven
cantos of his wonderful poem when the rush of his affairs carried him
away from all such tranquil work and left the Latin fragment, among
other more vulgar papers, shovelled hastily into some big cassone in the
house in Florence from which he was a banished man. It was found there
after five years by a nephew who would fain have tried his prentice hand
upon the poem, yet finally took the better part of sending it to its
author--who immediately resumed _Io dico sequitando_, in a burst of
satisfaction to have recovered what he must have begun with far more
zeal and intention than Scott. The resemblance, however, which is so
curiously exact, the seven cantos and the seven chapters, the five
years' interval, the satisfaction of the work resumed, is, different as
are the men and their work, one of those fantastic parallels which are
delightful to the fantastic soul. Nothing could be more unlike than that
dark and splendid poem to Scott's sunshiny and kindly art; nothing less
resembling than the proud embittered exile with his hand against every
man, and the genial romancer whose heart overflowed with the milk of
human kindness. Yet this strange occurrence in both lives takes an
enhanced interest from the curious dissimilarity which makes the
repetition of the fact more curious still.

The sudden burst into light and publicity of a gift which had been
growing through all the changes of private life, of the wonderful stream
of knowledge, recollection, divination, boundless acquaintance with and
affection for human nature, which had gladdened the Edinburgh streets,
the Musselburgh sands, the Southland moors and river-sides, since ever
Walter Scott had begun to roam among them, with his cheerful band of
friends, his good stories, his kind and gentle thoughts--was received by
the world with a burst of delighted recognition to which we know no
parallel. We do not know, alas! what happened when the audience in the
Globe Theatre made a similar discovery. Perhaps the greater gift, by its
very splendour, would be less easily perceived in the dazzling of a
glory hitherto unknown, and obscured it may be by jealousies of actors
and their inaptitude to do justice to the wonderful poetry put into
their hands. But of that we know nothing. We know, however, that there
were no two opinions about _Waverley_. It took the world by storm, which
had had no such new sensation and no such delightful amusement for many
a day. It was not only the beginning of a new and wonderful school in
romance, a fresh chapter in literature, but the revelation of a region
and a race unknown. Scotland had begun to glow in the sunshine of
poetry, in glimpses of Burns's westland hills and fields, of Scott's
moss-troopers and romantic landscapes, visions of battle and old
tradition: but the wider horizon of a life more familiar, of a broad
country full of nature, full of character, running over with fun and
pawky humour, thrilling with high enthusiasm and devotion, where men
were still ready to risk everything in life for a falling cause, and
other men not unwilling to pick up the spoils, was a discovery and
surprise more delightful than anything that had happened to the
generation. The books flew through the island like magic, penetrating to
corners unthought of, uniting gentle and simple in an enthusiasm beyond
parallel. How the multitude got at them at all it is difficult to
understand, for these were the days of really high prices, before the
actual cost of a book got modified by one-half as now, and when there
were as yet no cheap editions. _Waverley_ was printed in three small
volumes at the cost of a guinea. We believe that to buy books was more
usual then than now, and there were circulating libraries everywhere,
conveying perhaps the stream of literature more evenly over the country
than can be attained by one gigantic Mudie. At all events; by whatever
means it was procured, _Waverley_ and its successors were read
everywhere, not only in great houses but in small, wherever there was
intelligence and a taste for books; and the interest, the curiosity, the
eagerness, were everywhere overwhelming. I have heard of girls in a
dressmaker's workroom who kept the last volume in a drawer, from whence
it was read aloud by one to the rest, the drawer being closed hurriedly
whenever the mistress came that way. From this humble scene to the
highest in the land, where the Prince Regent sat--

    "His table spread with tea and toast,
    Death-warrants, and the _Morning Post_,"

these volumes went everywhere. One of them lies before me now in rough
boards of paper, with the "blue back" of which one of Scott's
correspondents talks, not a prepossessing volume, but independent of
externals and all things else except its own native excellence and

For fifteen years after, this stream of living literature poured forth
in the largest generous volume like a great river, through every region
where English was spoken or known. His work was as the march of a
battalion, always increasing, new detachments appearing suddenly, now an
individual, now a group, to join the line. The Baron of Bradwardine with
his attendant bailie; Vich Ian Vohr and noble Evan Dhu, and all the
clan; the family at Ellangowan and that at Charlieshope, good Dandie and
all his delightful belongings; Jock Jabos and the rest; Monkbarns and
Edie Ochiltree, and all the pathos of the Mucklebackits; Bailie Nicol
Jarvie and the Dougal Cratur; humours of the clachan and the hillside;
Jeanie Deans in her perfect humbleness and truth. It would be vain to
attempt to name the new inhabitants of Scotland who appeared out of the
unseen wherever Scott moved. Neither to himself nor to his audience
could it seem that these friends of all were new created, invented by
any man. Scott, who alone could do it, withdrew the veil that had
concealed them. He opened up an entire country, a full world of men and
women, so living, so various, with their natural garb of fitting
language, and their heart of natural sentiment, and the thoughts which
they must have been thinking, by inalienable right of their humanity.
There might have been better plots or more carefully constructed
stories; as indeed in life, heaven knows, all our stories might be much
better constructed; but could we conceive it possible that these, our
country-folk and friends, could be dismissed again off the face of the
earth, how impoverished, how diminished, would Scotland be! The want of
them is more than we could contemplate, and we can well understand how
our country must have appeared to the world a poor little turbulent
country, without warmth or wealth, before these representatives of a
robust and manifold race were born.

Yet, amid the delightful enrichment of these productions to the nation
and the world, the man himself who produced them was perhaps the finest
revelation of all. And here he transcends for once the larger kindred
genius of whom we do not know, yet believe, that he was such a man as
Scott, though better off in one way and less well in others. Shakspeare
must have been somewhat oppressed with noble patrons, which Scott never
was--patrons to whom his own splendid courtesy and the magnifying
glamour in his poetic eyes must sometimes have made him more flattering
than was needful, overwhelming them with magnificent words; but on the
other hand he had not those modern drawbacks under which Scott's great
career was so bitterly burdened, the strain for money, the constant
combat with debt and liability. To bear the first yoke must have taken
much of a man's strength and tired him exceedingly: but to bear the
second is perhaps the severest test to which any buoyant spirit can be
put. And from the very beginning of his career as a novelist Scott had
this burden upon his shoulders. He bore the chains very lightly at first
with a hundred hairbreadth 'scapes which made the struggle--as even that
struggle can be made while the sufferer is strong and young--almost
exhilarating, with a glee in the relief and the power to surmount every
difficulty, and a faith strengthened by numberless examples of the
certainty--however dark things might seem up to the very last moment--of
bursting through, with an exquisite sensation of success, the hardest
coil of circumstance. But as Scott grew older these obstacles grew
stronger; he could not put sense or prudence into the heads of his
colleagues, and it was hard to teach himself, the most liberal, the most
hospitable and princely of entertainers, those habits of frugality which
are never harder to learn than by a Scots gentleman of the ancient
strain accustomed to keep open house. I do not think it has ever been
acknowledged that there is in this desperate struggle to keep afloat a
certain intoxication of its own. To foil your pursuers, your enemies,
whether they take the form of armed assailants or of pressing creditors,
by ever another and another daring combination, by sudden reliefs
unthought of, by a bold _coup_ executed at the very moment when the
crisis seems inevitable, by all the happy yet desperate chances of
warfare, has a fascination in it which no one could conceive as
attending a sordid struggle for money. The pursuit becomes exciting,
breathless, in proportion as it becomes desperate. Sometimes, when all
the stars in their courses have seemed to be fighting against the
combatant, a sudden aid like the very interposition of heaven will bring
him safety; and a confidence in this interposition takes possession of
him. He does not see how deliverance can come, but it will come. His
labouring breast strains, his brain whirls, he is at his last gasp: when
all at once the heart leaps up in his bosom, the wheels in his head
stand still, a flash of satisfaction comes over him. Once more and once
more, again and again, at the last gasp of the struggle he is saved.

No doubt something of this was in the long and desperate fight which
Scott waged with the creditors of the Ballantynes, who were also his
own. The worst of the struggle is that it almost legalises a prodigality
which to men always fixed on solid ground would be impossible. The
conviction that the money will come somehow, added to the still more
intoxicating conviction that this somehow depends oftenest upon your own
unrivalled power of work, and the confidence which all men have in you,
permits, almost sanctions, a yielding to personal temptations, and the
indulgence of a little taste and inclination of your own in the midst of
so many burdens for others. Thus Abbotsford grew, of which all the
critics have talked as if its, alas! somewhat sham antiquity and its few
acres had been the cause of all the trouble. One could have wished that
Scott's taste had been more true, that he had so dearly bought and so
fondly collected curiosities more worthy, that he should have had a
genuine old house, a direct and happy lineage, son and son's son, to
bear his name--not to posterity, with whom it was safe, but on Tweedside
among the other Scotts,--a kindly and not ignoble ambition. But he has
himself forestalled the criticisms of the antiquarians by that
delightful record of good Monkbarns's mistakes and deceptions which
would make us forgive him for any "lang ladle" or fictitious relic; and
it would be a hard heart that would be otherwise than thankful that he
had so much as Abbotsford to indemnify him for his labours and trials.
As the time approached when he was no longer able to maintain that
gallant struggle, and the power of labour failed and confidence was
lost, the position of the man becomes more tragical than the spectator
can well bear to look upon. Who can read unmoved the story of the time
when his faithful friends (though it was their necessities that had
pulled him down to the ground of this bitter failure) had to come and
tell him that his last romance was scarcely worth paper and print? who
could refrain from going down on his knees to kiss that failing hand
which could now only bring forth Count Robert of Paris where once it had
set out in glorious array of battle Sir Kenneth of Scotland, and the
stout old Constable of Chester, and Front de Boeuf, and the Scottish
archers--and which still could not be inactive, but would struggle on,
on--to pay that miserable money and leave behind a spotless name!

There is one melancholy and almost terrible consolation in such a
heartbreaking record, terrible from the light it throws upon the
constitution of human nature and the conditions of that supreme sympathy
which is the noblest kind of fame. Had Sir Walter been able to throw his
burdens from him, had he loosed the millstone from his neck and retired
in full credit and comfort to his Abbotsford to pass the conclusion of
peaceful and glorious days on the banks of the Tweed--had we known him
only as the greatest romancist of the world, the next to Shakspeare in
large creation and revelation of mankind, proud had every Scotsman been
of his name, and fondly had the nation cherished his memory. But when
his brilliant and wonderful life fell under the shadow of all these
tragical clouds, when its course was arrested by obstacles which are
usually unsurmountable, before which any other man must have broken
down, when he stood in the face of fate, in the face of every
misfortune, broken in health, in hope, in power, a lonely man where he
had been the centre of every joy in life, an enchanter with his magic
wand broken and his witchery gone--then, and then only, does Scott
attain his highest greatness and give the world most noble assurance of
a man. His diary as his life dwindles away, that life once so splendid
and so full, is like the noblest poem--its broken and falling sentences
go direct to the heart. _Fuimus_ was never written more grandly, with
more noble patience and valour. Without this downfall his triumph might
have been but as the other triumph--the tragedy of the conclusion is a
sight for men and angels. Lockhart, who preserves the record for us,
becomes for the time the greatest, with a subject more moving, more
noble, than any that his hero had selected from the records of the ages.
The pity and anguish grow too much for the spectator. We are spectators
no longer, but mournful and devoted retainers standing about, all hushed
and silent, scarcely able either to shed or to restrain the choking

One asks one's self, Is this the cost of supreme human power? is it to
be bought by nothing but the agony in which failure, real or apparent,
is a part, and in which all the exquisite tenement of reputation,
happiness, and delightsome life seems to crumble down like a house of
cards before our eyes? Dread question for the genius of the future, sad
yet sublime problem of the past! At all events it was so in the life of
Scott, which in all its greatness was never so great, so touching, so
secure of love and honour, as in the moment when his weapons fell from
his hands and his genius and being alike failed, breaking down in a last
supreme struggle for justice and honour and fair dealing, to avoid what
he thought disgrace and the intolerable stigma of having done any man

It is a penalty of such greatness, especially in the midst of an
enthusiastic and unanimous country, that it becomes more or less a thing
to trade upon, the subject of vague patriotic vapourings, and much froth
of foolish talk from uninstructed lips in the following generations. As
Stratford-on-Avon is in respect to Shakspeare all Scotland is in respect
to Burns and Scott. It has even become a mark of culture and superiority
among certain fine spirits in consequence to pretend to despise the
former of these names--perhaps really to despise it, for there is no
fathom that can sound the depths of human foolishness even in the
learned and wise. The vulgarity of fame when it becomes the cry of the
most prosaic is, however, calculated justly to alarm the literary soul,
and in the excess of Scott monuments, and wooden quaighs, and tartan
paper-knives, there is a damping and depressing quality which we must
all acknowledge.


We need not, however, in these follies forget the illuminating presence
of Scott in the midst of all the picturesque scenes of what he has
proudly called "mine own romantic town." From the High School Yards and
"the kittle nine steps," from George Square, lying cosy but grey in the
hollow amid the enlarged and beautiful openings of the Meadows, to the
Parliament House, withdrawn in the square, once blocked by the Old
Tolbooth, now confronted solely by an embellished and restored
cathedral, and to the sober street on the other side of the hollow,
where to 39 North Castle Street he took his bride and set up his
independent home, there is no corner of Edinburgh where his step and
voice have not been. And some of the most characteristic scenes which we
can call to mind in recent history rise before us in his narrative as if
we had been there. The Porteous Mob riots in our ears, the flare of the
sudden fire at the gates of the Tolbooth, the blinding smoke, the tramp
of the crowd, the sudden concentrated force of that many-headed
multitude stilled by stern resolve into unity and action, are as visible
as if they had happened yesterday. And after ransacking all the serious
volumes that tell the story and picture the aspect of old Edinburgh, we
turn back to that tale, and for the first time see the tortuous passage
between the church and the Tolbooth, the dark old prison with its lofty
turrets, the Luckenbooths linked on to its dark shadow, oppressing the
now wide thoroughfare of the High Street, where these buildings have
left no trace. No topographical record or painstaking print comes within
a hundred miles of that picture, dashed in boldly by the way, to the
entrancing tale. I cannot refrain from placing here one or two
vignettes, which I have no doubt the artist himself will allow to
surpass his best efforts, and which set the landscape before us with a
distinct yet ideal and poetical grace which pencil and graver can very
seldom equal. The first is of the exterior aspect of Edinburgh.

    "Marching in this manner they speedily reached an eminence, from
    which they could view Edinburgh stretching along the ridgy hill
    which slopes eastward from the Castle. The latter, being in a state
    of siege, or rather of blockade, by the northern insurgents, who had
    already occupied the town for two or three days, fired at intervals
    upon such parties of Highlanders as exposed themselves, either on
    the main street, or elsewhere in the vicinity of the fortress. The
    morning being calm and fair, the effect of this dropping fire was to
    invest the Castle in wreaths of smoke, the edges of which dissipated
    slowly in the air, while the central veil was darkened ever and anon
    by fresh clouds poured forth from the battlements; the whole giving,
    by the partial concealment, an appearance of grandeur and gloom,
    rendered more terrific when Waverley reflected on the cause by which
    it was produced, and that each explosion might ring some brave man's

The second introduces us to the interior of the city.

    "Under the guidance of his trusty attendant, Colonel Mannering,
    after threading a dark lane or two, reached the High Street, then
    clanging with the voices of oyster-women and the bells of pie-men,
    for it had, as his guide assured him, just 'chappit eight upon the
    Tron.' It was long since Mannering had been in the street of a
    crowded metropolis, which, with its noise and clamour, its sounds of
    trade, of revelry and of license, its variety of lights, and the
    eternally changing bustle of its hundred groups, offers, by night
    especially, a spectacle which, though composed of the most vulgar
    materials when they are separately considered, has, when they are
    combined, a striking and powerful effect on the imagination. The
    extraordinary height of the houses was marked by lights, which,
    glimmering irregularly along their front, ascended so high among the
    attics, that they seemed at length to twinkle in the middle sky.
    This _coup d'oeil_, which still subsists in a certain degree, was
    then more imposing, owing to the uninterrupted range of buildings on
    each side, which, broken only at the space where the North Bridge
    joins the main street, formed a superb and uniform Place, extending
    from the front of the Luckenbooths to the head of the Canongate, and
    corresponding in breadth and length to the uncommon height of the
    buildings on either side."

Since then this great Place has become more majestic, as well as more
open, by the clearing away of the Luckenbooths: but nothing can be finer
than the touch of the graphic yet reticent pencil which sets down before
us the glimmering of the irregular lights which seemed at last to
twinkle in the middle sky. This was how the main street of Edinburgh
still appeared when Scott himself was a boy, and no doubt he must have
caught the aspect of the previous sketch on some king's birthday or
other public holiday, the 4th of June perhaps, that familiar festival in
other regions, when the guns of the Castle were saluting and the smoke
hanging about those heights like a veil.

It was one of the privations of Scott's life as it began to fall into
its last subdued and suffering stage that he had to give up his
Edinburgh house and the cheerful company which had so long made his
winters pleasant. He loved the country and his home there at all
seasons, as the readers of the poetical chapters of friendly dedication
and communing addressed to different friends between the cantos of
_Marmion_ will well remember: but yet the yearly change, the natural
transfer of life in the short days to the cheerful surroundings of town,
the twinkling of those very lights, the assembling of bright faces, the
meeting of old friends, were always dear to him, and this sacrifice was
not one of the least which he made during the tremendous struggle of his
waning years.


With no other name could we so fitly close the story of our ancient
capital, a story fitfully told with many breaks and omissions, yet
offering some thread of connection to link together the different eras
of a picturesque and characteristic national life. Had space and
knowledge permitted, there is, in the records of Scottish law alone,
much that is interesting, along with a still larger contribution of wit
and humour and individual character, to the elucidation of the period
which passed between the end of the history of Edinburgh under her
native kings and the beginning of her brilliant record under the modern
reign of literature and poetry. This book, however, does not pretend to
set forth the Edinburgh of the Kirk or the Parliament House, each of
which has an existing record of its own. Seated on the rocks which are
more old than any history, though those precipices are now veiled with
verdure and softness, and the iron way of triumphant modern science runs
at their feet; with her crown of sacred architecture hanging over her
among the mists, and the little primeval shrine mounted upon her highest
ridge; with her palace, all too small for the requirements of an
enlarged and splendid royalty, and the great crouched and dormant
sentinel of nature watching over her through all the centuries; with her
partner, sober and ample, like a comely matron, attended by all the
modern arts and comforts, seated at the old mother's feet,--Edinburgh
can never be less than royal, one of the crowned and queenly cities of
the world. It does not need for this distinction that there should be
millions of inhabitants within her walls, or all the great threads of
industry and wealth gathered in her hands. The pathos of much that is
past and over for ever, the awe of many tragedies, a recollection almost
more true than any reality of the present, of ages and glories gone--add
a charm which the wealthiest and greatest interests of to-day cannot
give, to the city, always living, always stirring, where she stands amid
traditionary smoke and mist, the grey metropolis of the North, the
Edinburgh of a thousand fond associations,

    Our Own Romantic Town.



       *       *       *       *       *

_Printed by R. & R. CLARK, Edinburgh_

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+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.