Scotland And Its Troubles During Mary's Infancy

James V. left, as an inheritance to his kingdom, an expensive and

destructive war with England. He likewise left what, under such

circumstances, was a very questionable advantage, a treasury well stored

with gold, and a coinage in good condition, produced from the mines which

he had worked in Scotland. The foreign relations of the country demanded

the utmost attention; but the long minority necessarily ensuing, as Mary,

his only surviving lawful child, was but a few days old when James died,

awakened hopes and wishes in the ambitious which superseded all other

considerations. For a time England was forgotten; and the prize of the

Regency became a bone of civil contention and discord.

There were three persons who aspired to that office, and the pretensions

of each had their supporters, as interest or reason might dictate. The

first was the Queen-Dowager, a lady who inherited many of the peculiar

virtues, as well as some of the failings, of the illustrious house of

Guise, to which she belonged. She possessed a bold and masculine

understanding, a perseverance to overcome difficulties, and a fortitude to

bear up against misfortunes, not often met with among her sex. She was

indeed superior to most of the weaknesses of the female character; and

having, from her earliest years, deeply studied the science of government,

she felt herself, so far as mere political tactics and diplomatic

acquirements were concerned, able to cope with the craftiest of the Scotch

nobility. Besides, her intimate connexion with the French court, coupled

with the interest she might naturally be supposed to take in the affairs

of a country over which her husband had reigned, and which was her

daughter's inheritance, seemed to give her a claim of the strongest kind.

The second aspirant was Cardinal David Beaton, at that time the undoubted

head of the Catholic party in Scotland. He was a man whose abilities all

allowed, and who, had he been less tinctured with severity, and less

addicted to the exclusive principles of the Church of Rome, might probably

have filled with eclat the very highest rank in the State. He

endeavoured to strengthen his title to the Regency, by producing the will

of James V. in his favour. But as this will was dated only a short while

before the King's death, it was suspected that the Prelate had himself

written it, and obtained the King's signature, at a time when his bodily

weakness had impaired his mental faculties. Beaton was, moreover, from his

violence and rigour, particularly obnoxious to all those who favoured the


James Hamilton, Earl of Arran, and next heir to the throne, was the third

candidate, and the person upon whom the choice of the people ultimately

fell. In more settled times, this choice might possibly have been

judicious; but Arran was of far too weak and irresolute a character to be

able to regulate the government with that decision and firmness which the

existing emergency required. He had few opinions of his own, and was

continually driven hither and thither by the contradictory counsels of

those who surrounded him. He had joined, however, the reformed religion;

and this, together with the inoffensive softness of his disposition, made

him, in the eyes of many, only the more fit to govern.

The annexation of Scotland to the crown of England, either by conquest or

the more amicable means of marriage, had for many years been the object

nearest the heart of Henry VIII. and several of his predecessors. That his

father, in particular, Henry VII., had given some thought to this subject,

is evident from the answer he made to such of his Privy Council as were

unwilling that he should give his daughter Margaret in marriage to James

IV., on the ground that the English Crown might, through that marriage,

devolve to a King of Scotland. "Whereunto the King made answer, and said,

'What then? for if any such thing should happen (which God forbid), yet I

see our kingdom should take no harm thereby, because England should not

be added unto Scotland, but Scotland unto England, as to the far most

noble head of the whole island; for so much as it is always so, that the

lesser is wont, for honour's sake, to be adjoined to that which is far the

greater.'" How correct Henry VII. was in his opinion, the accession of

James VI. sufficiently proved.

Henry VIII., though aiming at the same object as his father, thought it

more natural that Scotland should accept of an English, than England of a

Scottish King. Immediately, therefore, after the birth of Mary, he

determined upon straining every nerve to secure her for his son Edward.

For this purpose, he concluded a temporary peace with the Regent Arran,

and sent back into Scotland the numerous prisoners who had surrendered

themselves at Solway Moss, upon an understanding that they should do all

they could to second his views with their countrymen. His first proposals,

however, were so extravagant, that the Scottish Parliament would not

listen to them for a moment. He demanded not only that the young Queen

should be sent into England, to be educated under his own superintendance,

but that he himself, as her future father-in-law, should be allowed an

active share in the government of Scotland. Having subsequently consented

to depart considerably from the haughty tone in which these terms were

dictated, a treaty of marriage was agreed upon at the instigation of

Arran, whom Henry had won to his interests, in which it was promised, that

Mary should be sent into England at the age of ten, and that six persons

of rank should, in the mean time, be delivered as hostages for the

fulfilment of this promise.

It may easily be conceived, that whatever the Regent, together with some

of the reformed nobility and their partisans, might think of this treaty,

the Queen Mother and Cardinal Beaton, who had for the present formed a

coalition, could not be very well satisfied with it. Henry, with all the

hasty violence of his nature, had, in a fit of spleen, espoused the

reformed opinions; and if Mary became the wife of his son, it was evident

that all the interests both of the House of Guise and of the Catholic

religion in Scotland, would suffer a fatal blow. By their forcible

representations of the inevitable ruin which they alleged this alliance

would bring upon Scotland, converting it into a mere province of their

ancient and inveterate enemies, and obliging it to renounce forever the

friendship of their constant allies the French, they succeeded in

effecting a change in public opinion; and the result was, that Arran found

himself at length obliged to yield to their superior influence, to deliver

up to the Cardinal and Mary of Lorraine the young Queen, and refuse to

ratify the engagements he had entered into with Henry. The Cardinal now

carried every thing before him, having converted or intimidated almost all

his enemies. The Earl of Lennox alone, a nobleman whose pretensions were

greater than his power, could not forgive Beaton for having used him

merely as a cat's paw in his intrigues to gain the ascendency over Arran.

Lennox had himself aspired at the Regency, alleging that his title, as

presumptive heir to the Crown, was a more legitimate one than that of the

House of Hamilton, to which Arran belonged. But the still more ambitious

Cardinal flattered only to deceive him; and when Lennox considered his

success certain, he found himself farther from the object of his wishes

than ever.

Seeing every other hope vain, Lennox set on foot a secret correspondence

with Henry, promising that monarch his best support, should he determine

upon avenging the insult he had sustained, through the vacillating conduct

of the Scotch. Henry gladly availed himself of the offer, and sent a

considerable force under the Earl of Hartford to the North, by sea, which,

having landed at Leith, and plundered that place, as well as the

neighbouring city of Edinburgh, again took its departure for England,

without attempting to penetrate further into the country. This was an

unprofitable and ill-advised expedition, for it only tended to exasperate

the minds of the Scotch, without being of any service to Henry. The Earl

of Huntly well remarked concerning it, that even although he might have

had no objections to the proposed match, he had a most especial dislike to

the manner of wooing.

The Earl of Lennox now found himself deserted in the midst of his former

friends, and went prudently into voluntary exile, by retiring into

England. Here Henry, in reward of his former services, gave him his niece,

the Lady Margaret Douglas, in marriage. She was the daughter, by the

second marriage, of Henry's sister, the Lady Margaret, wife of James IV.,

who, after the King's death, espoused Archibald Earl of Angus. By this

alliance, Lennox, though it was impossible for him to foresee such a

result, became the father of Henry Darnley, and a long line of Kings.

Shortly afterwards, an event well known in Scottish history, and which was

accomplished by means only too frequently resorted to in those unsettled

times, facilitated the conclusion of a short peace with England. Cardinal

Beaton, elevated by his success, and anxious, now that all more immediate

danger was removed, to re-establish on a firmer basis the tottering

authority of the Romish Church, determined upon striking awe into the

people, by some memorable examples of severity towards heretics. About the

end of the year 1545, he made a progress through several parts of his

diocess, accompanied by the Earl of Argyle, who was then Lord Justice

General, and other official persons, for the purpose of trying and

punishing offenders against the laws of the Church. At Perth, several of

the lieges were found guilty of arguing or disputing concerning the sense

of the Holy Scriptures, in opposition to an Act of Parliament, which

forbade any such freedom of speech, and five men and one woman were

condemned to die. Great intercession was made for them, but in vain; the

men were hanged, and the woman was drowned. Still farther to intimidate

the Reformers, a yet more memorable instance of religious persecution and

cruelty was presented to them a few months afterwards. George Wishart was

at this time one of the most learned and zealous of all the supporters of

the new doctrines in Scotland. He had been educated at the University of

Cambridge, and had, in his youth, officiated as one of the masters of the

grammar school at Montrose. His talents and perseverance rendered him

particularly obnoxious to the Cardinal, who, having contrived to make him

his prisoner, carried him to his castle at St Andrews. An Ecclesiastical

Court was there assembled, at which Wishart was sentenced to be burnt. It

may give us a clearer idea of the spirit of the times, to know, that on

the day on which this sentence was to be put in execution, Beaton issued a

proclamation, forbidding any one, under pain of church censure, to offer

up prayers for so notorious a heretic. When Wishart was brought to the

stake, and after the fire had been kindled, and was already beginning to

take effect, it is said that he turned his eyes towards a window in the

castle overlaid with tapestry, at which the Cardinal was sitting, viewing

with complacency the unfortunate man's suffering, and exclaimed,--"He who,

from yonder high place, beholdeth me with such pride, shall, within few

days, be in as much shame as now he is seen proudly to rest himself."

These words, though they met with little attention at the time, were

spoken of afterwards as an evident and most remarkable prophecy.

It was not long after this martyrdom, that Cardinal Beaton was present at

the marriage of one of his own illegitimate daughters, to whom he gave a

dowry of 4000 merks, and whose nuptials were solemnized with great

magnificence. Probably he conceived, that the more heretics he burned, the

more unblushingly he might confess his own sins against both religion and

common morality.

On the prelate's return to St Andrew's, Norman Lesly, a young man of

strong passions, and eldest Son to the Earl of Rothes, came to him to

demand some favour, which the Cardinal thought proper to refuse. The

particulars of the quarrel are not precisely known, but it must have been

of a serious kind; for Lesly, taking advantage of the popular feeling

which then existed against the Cardinal, determined upon seeking his own

revenge by the assassination of Beaton. He associated with himself several

accomplices, who undertook to second him in this design. Early on the

morning of the 29th of May 1546, having entered the castle by the gate,

which was open to admit some workmen who were repairing the

fortifications, he and his assistants proceeded to the door of the

Cardinal's chamber, at which they knocked. Beaton asked,--"Who is

there?"--Norman answered,--"My name is Lesly,"--adding, that the door must

be opened to him, and those that were with him. Beaton now began to fear

the worst, and attempted to secure the door. But Lesly called for fire to

burn it, upon which the Cardinal, seeing all resistance useless, permitted

them to enter. They found him sitting on a chair, pale and agitated; and

as they approached him he exclaimed,--"I am a Priest--ye will not slay

me!" Lesly, however, losing all command of his temper, struck him more

than once, and would have proceeded to further indignities, had not James

Melville, one of the assassins, "a man," says Knox, "of nature most gentle

and most modest," drawn his sword, and presenting the point to the

Cardinal, advised him to repent of his sins, informing him, at the same

time, that no hatred he bore his person, but simply his love of true

religion induced him to take part against one whom he looked upon as an

enemy to the gospel. So saying, and without waiting for an answer, he

stabbed him twice or thrice through the body. When his friends and

servants collected without, the conspirators lifted up the deceased

Prelate, and showed him to them from the very window at which he had sat

at the day of Wishart's execution. Beaton, at the time of his death, was

fifty-two. He had long been one of the leading men in Scotland, and had

enjoyed the favour of the French King, as well as that of his own

sovereign James V. Some attempt was made by the Regent to punish his

murderers, but they finally escaped into France.

There is good reason to believe that Henry VIII. secretly encouraged Lesly

and his associates in this dishonest enterprise. But, if such be the case,

that monarch did not live long enough to reap the fruits of its success.

He died only a few months later than the Cardinal; and, about the same

time, his cotemporary, Francis I., was succeeded on his throne by his son

Henry II. These changes did not materially affect the relative situation

of Scotland. They may, perhaps, have opened up still higher hopes to the

Queen Dowager, and the French party; but, in England, the Duke of

Somerset, who had been appointed Lord Protector during the minority of

Edward VI., was determined upon following out the plans of the late

monarch, and compelling the Scotch to agree to the alliance which he had


In prosecution of his designs, he marched a powerful army into Scotland,

and the result was the unfortunate battle of Pinkie. The Earl of Arran,

whose exertions to rescue the country from this new aggression, were

warmly seconded by the people, collected a force sufficiently numerous to

enable him to meet and offer battle to Somerset. The English camp was in

the neighbourhood of Prestonpans, and the Scotch took up very advantageous

ground about Musselburgh and Inveresk. Military discipline was at that

time but little understood in this country; and the reckless impetuosity

of the Scotch infantry was usually attended either with immediate success,

or, by throwing the whole battle into confusion, with irretrievable and

signal defeat. The weapons to which they principally trusted, were, in the

first place, the pike, with which, upon joining with the enemy, all the

fore-rank, standing shoulder to shoulder together, thrust straight

forwards, those who stood in the second rank putting their pikes over the

shoulders of their comrades before them. The length of these pikes or

spears was eighteen feet six inches. They seem to have been used

principally on the first onset, and were probably speedily relinquished

for the more efficient exercise of the sword, which was broad and thin,

and of excellent temper. It was employed to cut or slice with, not to

thrust; and, in defence against any similar weapon of the enemy, a large

handkerchief was wrapt twice or thrice about the neck, and a buckler

invariably carried on the left arm.

For some days the two armies continued in sight of each other, without

coming to any general engagement. The hourly anxiety which prevailed at

Edinburgh regarding the result, may be easily imagined. To inspire the

soldiers with the greater courage, it was enacted by Government, that the

heirs of those who fell upon this occasion in defence of their country,

should for five years be free from Government taxes, and the usual

assessments levied by landlords. At length, on Saturday the 10th of

September 1547, the Scotch, misled by a motion in the English army, which

they conceived indicated a design to retreat, rashly left their superior

situation, and crossing the mouth of the Esk at Musselburgh, gave the

Protector battle in the fields of Pinkie, an adjoining country seat. They

were thus so exposed, that the English fleet, which lay in the bay, was

enabled, by firing upon their flank to do them much mischief. The Earl of

Angus, who was leading the van-guard, found himself suddenly assailed by a

flight of arrows, a raking fire from a regiment or two of foreign

fusileers, and a discharge of cannon which unexpectedly opened upon him.

Unable to advance, he attempted to change his position for a more

advantageous one. The main body imagined he was falling back upon them in

confusion; and to heighten their panic, a vigorous charge, which was at

this moment made by the English cavalry, decided the fortune of the day.

After a feeble resistance the Scotch fled towards Dalkeith, Edinburgh, and

Leith, and being hotly pursued by their enemies, all the three roads were

strewed with the dead and dying. In this battle the Earl of Arran lost

upwards of 8000 men; among whom were Lord Fleming, together with many

other Scotch noblemen and gentlemen.

The English army advanced immediately upon Leith, which they took and

pillaged; and would have entered Edinburgh, had they not found it

impossible to make themselves masters of the Castle. The fleet ravaged the

towns and villages on the coasts of the Forth, and proceeded as far north

as the River Tay, seizing on whatever shipping they could meet with in the

harbours by which they passed.

Far, however, from obtaining by these violent measures, the ultimate

object of his desires, Somerset found himself farther from his point than

ever. The Scotch, enraged against England, threw themselves into the arms

of France; and the Protector, understanding that affairs in the south had

fallen into confusion, in his absence, was obliged to return home, leaving

strong garrisons in Haddington, and one or two other places, which he had

captured. The Earl of Arran, and Mary of Guise, sent immediate

intelligence to Henry II., of all that had taken place; and, sanctioned by

the Scottish Parliament, offered to conclude a treaty of marriage between

his infant son, the Dauphin Francis, and the young Scottish Queen. They,

moreover, agreed to send Mary into France, to be educated at the French

Court, until such time as the nuptials could be solemnized. This proposal

was every way acceptable to Henry, who, like his father Francis, perfectly

understood the importance of a close alliance with Scotland, as the most

efficient means for preventing the English from invading his own

dominions. He sent over an army of 6000 men, to the aid of the Regent; and

in the same vessels, which brought these troops, Mary was conveyed from

Dumbarton into France. Henry also, with much sound policy, in order to

strengthen his interests in Scotland, bestowed, about this time, upon the

Earl of Arran, the title of the Duke of Chatelherault, together with a

pension of some value. During a period of two years, a continual series of

skirmishings were carried on between the Scotch, supported by their French

allies, and the English; but without any results of much consequence on

either side. In 1550, a general peace was concluded; and the marriage of

the Scottish Queen was never afterwards made the ground of war between the

two countries.

From this period, till Mary's return to her own country, the attention of

Scotland was entirely engrossed with its own affairs, and the various

important events connected with the rise, progress, and establishment of

the Reformation. As these effected no slight change in the political

aspect of the country, and exercised a material influence over Mary's

future destiny, it will be proper to give some account of them in this

place; and these details being previously gone through, the narrative, in

so far as regards Queen Mary, will thus be preserved unbroken.