In Scotland a long succession of infant kings and weak regents helped to increase the power of the lords at the expense of the crown. The king or regent had no standing army at his disposal, nor were the resources of the royal treasury sufficient to allow the ruler to invoke the assistance of foreign mercenaries. As a result the king was dependent more or less on the lords, who were prepared to support him if their own demands were conceded, or to form private confederations or “bands” against him if they felt that they themselves were aggrieved. Parliament, which included the spiritual and lay lords, together with representatives of the lower nobility and of the cities, did not play a very important part in the government of the country. For years Scotland had been the close ally of France and the enemy of England. Such an alliance was at once the best pledge for Scotland’s independence, and the best guarantee against England’s successful invasion of France.
To put an end to the controversies regarding the primatial rights claimed by the Archbishop of York over the Scottish Church, Clement III. issued a Bull in 1188 declaring the Church of Scotland subject directly only to the Apostolic See. A further step was taken by Sixtus IV. in 1472, when St. Andrew’s was erected into a metropolitan See, under which were placed as suffragans the twelve dioceses, Glasgow, Dunkeld, Aberdeen, Moray, Brechin, Dunblane, Ross, Caithness, Candida Casa, Argyll, the Isles, and Orkney. This measure was resented by many of the bishops, but more especially by the Bishops of Glasgow, who were unwilling to submit to the jurisdiction of St. Andrew’s even after it had been declared that the latter in virtue of its office enjoyed primatial and legatine powers over Scotland (1487). In the hope of putting an end to the controversy Glasgow was erected into a metropolitan See with four suffragan dioceses, Dunkeld, Dunblane, Galloway and Argyll (1492). The bishops of Scotland were supposed to be elected by the chapters, but in reality the king or regent enjoyed a decisive voice in the selection of candidates especially during the greater part of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
As a result of this enslavement of the Church, men were appointed to bishoprics without reference to their fitness for this sacred office, and solely with the intention of providing themselves and their relatives with a decent income. Thus for example, James, Duke of Ross, brother of James IV., was appointed to the See of St. Andrew’s at the age of twenty-one, and he was succeeded by Alexander Stuart, the illegitimate son of James IV., when he had reached only his ninth year. What is true of St. Andrew’s is almost equally true of many of the other dioceses of Scotland, though it would be very wrong to assume that all the bishops of Scotland during the latter half of the fifteenth or the first half of the sixteenth centuries were unworthy men.
The religious orders of men were well represented by the Benedictines, Cistercians, Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, etc., while in most of the large cities and towns flourishing convents had been founded. The state of discipline in these various institutions varied considerably according to circumstances, but although serious attempts were made to introduce reforms especially in the houses of the Cistercians, Franciscans, and Dominicans, it cannot be contended for a moment that the Scottish monasteries and convents were free from the gravest abuses. Possibly the erection of such a multitude of collegiate churches in Scotland during the fifteenth century was due to the sad condition of so many of the religious houses, but if it was, the remedy was almost as bad as the disease. In connection with the monasteries, the chapters, and the collegiate churches, schools were carried on with a fair amount of success, sufficient at least to prepare students for the higher education given at the Universities of St. Andrew’s founded by Benedict XIII. (1410), of Glasgow, founded by Nicholas V. (1451), and of Aberdeen established through the exertions of the learned and holy Bishop Elphinstone with the approval of Alexander VI. (1495) and of James IV. Owing to the close connection with France many of the Scottish ecclesiastics pursued their studies at Paris.
The Church in Scotland was comparatively wealthy at the beginning of the Reformation movement, though it should be remembered that out of its resources it was obliged to maintain the schools, hospitals, and institutes of charity. Still the wealth of the Church in Scotland instead of being a source of strength was in reality a source of weakness, and in the end it proved to be one of the main causes of its overthrow. It excited the cupidity of the hungry nobles, and made them anxious to share in the plunder of religious houses, particularly after the example had been set across the border by Henry VIII.’s attack on the English monasteries. But before any steps were taken to bring about the forcible seizure of the ecclesiastical property the rulers and lords of Scotland adopted other means of controlling the wealth of the Church and of the monasteries. Members of the royal family or sons of the nobles were introduced into the bishoprics irrespective of their merits, and were induced to enrich their relatives by bestowing on them portions of the diocesan property. Many others of a similar class were appointed as commendatory abbots of religious houses solely for the purpose of controlling the revenue of these establishments. In some cases those so appointed were only children, in nearly all cases they were laymen, and in no case did they do anything for the maintenance of discipline, for the cultivation of a good religious spirit, or for the promotion of the wishes of the founders and endowers of the monastic institutions. What was true of the monasteries was equally true of the convents, in many of which discipline was completely relaxed. Several attempts were made to bring about a reformation, but on account of the exemptions and special privileges claimed by the religious houses, such attempts were doomed to failure, whether they were made by the bishops or by the regular superiors. Nothing less than a papal visitation, in which the visitors could have relied upon the full power of the Church and State, would have sufficed to put an end to the evil, and unfortunately no such step was taken in time to avert the calamity.
As elsewhere, so too in Scotland, it was no uncommon thing to find one man holding several benefices to which the care of souls was attached, notwithstanding all the canons that had been passed against such a glaring abuse. The clergy, following the example of so many of their superiors, showed themselves entirely unworthy of their position. Many of them were quite negligent about preaching and instructing their flock, completely regardless of clerical celibacy, and oftentimes they devoted more attention to their farms and to their cattle than to their religious obligations. One has only to refer to the decrees of the diocesan synods held by Archbishop Forman of St. Andrew’s (1515-22), to the national synods of 1549-1552, and to the letter of Cardinal Sermoneta to the Pope in 1557 to see how grievous were the abuses flourishing in all departments of the Church in Scotland at the time when the very existence of Catholicism in the kingdom was trembling in the balance. The root of all this evil was the destruction of the independence of the Church, and its complete subjugation to the crown and to the lords. As a result, when the crisis came and when most of the lords went over to the party of Knox, they found but little resistance from their unworthy relatives, whom they had introduced into positions of trust, not that they might promote religion, but that they might live by it, and in the end betray it.
It was during the reign of James V. (1513-42) that the religious revolution began on the Continent and in England. Henry VIII. of England was his uncle, and he left no stone unturned to detach his nephew from his alliance with France and from his submission to Rome; but despite Henry’s endeavors James V. refused to join in Henry’s attacks on the Pope, or to listen to the proposals for a closer union with England. The Scottish Parliament held in 1525 forbade the introduction of Lutheran books into the kingdom or the preaching of Luther’s doctrine, and a papal envoy was dispatched to the Scottish court to exhort the king to stand firm in the defense of the Church. The reply of James V. was reassuring. Soon however the new heresy began to make its appearance in the kingdom. Patrick Hamilton, commendatory abbot of Ferne and closely related to some of the most powerful families in Scotland, had come into contact with Luther and Melanchthon during his wanderings on the Continent, and on his return home he set himself to spread their teachings amongst his countrymen. He was arrested, tried for heresy, and handed over to the secular authorities who inflicted the death penalty (1528). His execution did not put an end to the movement in Scotland. In 1533 the Benedictine, Henry Forest, was condemned to death for heresy; in the following year a priest and a layman met a similar fate, and before the death of James V. several others including Dominicans and Franciscans, laymen and clerics, were either burned or obliged to seek safety in flight. James V. set himself resolutely to the task of suppressing heresy, and was supported by Parliament, which forbade all discussion on Luther’s errors except in so far as it might be necessary for their refutation, and ordered all who had Lutheran writings in their possession to deliver them to the bishops within a period of fourteen days.
Political influences, however, favored the spread of the new doctrine. It had been the dream of Henry VII., as it was also the dream of his son and successor, to strengthen England at the expense of France, by bringing about an alliance and if possible a union between England and Scotland. It was in furtherance of this design that Henry VII. had given his eldest daughter in marriage to James IV., who was slain with most of his nobles in a battle with the English on the fatal field of Flodden (1513). The schemes for a union with Scotland were continued by Henry VIII., particularly after his rupture with Rome had shown him the danger that might be anticipated from the north in case the French or the Emperor should declare war in defense of the Church. A regular contest began at the Scottish court between the friends of Rome and of France and the agents of Henry VIII., the latter of whom took care to encourage those who favored religious innovations. The queen-mother, sister of Henry VIII., and many of the nobles favored the plans of Henry, who sought to induce the King of Scotland to join him in the struggle against Rome, and who promised him in return for this service the hand of his daughter the Princess Mary and the friendship of the English nation. James V., backed by the bishops and encouraged by messengers from Rome, refused to come south for a conference with Henry VIII., or to give any countenance to the schismatical policy of his uncle. As a sign that Scotland was still true to France he married the daughter of Francis I. of France (1537), and on her death shortly after her arrival in Scotland, he took as his second wife (1538) Mary of Guise, daughter of the Duke of Guise and sister of the Cardinal of Lorraine.
He was ably assisted in his struggle against heresy and English interference by David Beaton, Archbishop of St. Andrew’s (1539-46) and a cardinal of the Roman Church. The latter was at once a churchman and a politician, loyal to Rome and to France, earnest in his defense of Scottish independence, and determined to defeat the English schemes against both the religion and liberty of Scotland. As friendly remonstrances and invitations failed to produce any effect, Henry VIII. determined to have recourse to war. He felt that he could rely upon the assistance or the neutrality of many of the Scottish nobles whom he had won over to his side, and soon events showed that this confidence was not misplaced. The Scottish army was put to a shameful flight at Solway Moss, probably more by treachery than by the cowardice of the Scottish nobles, and James V. was so heartbroken by the news of this disaster that he died in a few weeks (Dec. 1542) leaving behind him an infant daughter, to be known later as Mary Queen of Scots.
After the death of James V. the Earl of Arran, who as one of the Hamiltons was next after the king’s daughter the heir-presumptive to the throne, and who favored the new religion and English influence, was appointed regent despite the resistance of Cardinal Beaton and of the clergy. Henry VIII. believed that the favorable moment had come for carrying out his plans. He hoped to be able to imprison his old enemy Cardinal Beaton, to seize the person of the young princess, to arrange for a marriage between her and his own son Prince Edward, and to make himself virtual sovereign of Scotland. To their shame be it said he induced a number of the Scottish nobles, the Douglasses, the Earls of Cassilis, Glencairn, Bothwell, and Angus, together with many others, to agree to his designs and to promise their assistance. Unmindful of their duty to Scotland they consented to sell both their country and their religion for English gold. The regent was only too willing to lend his aid, and before the end of January the English agents were able to announce to “their Sovereign Lord” that the cardinal was a prisoner. Everything seemed to favor the religious change and the plans of union with England. Parliament met in March 1543. It decreed liberty to all to read or to have in their possession a copy of the Bible in the English or the Scottish tongue, and appointed commissioners to treat with Henry for the marriage of Mary to his son. But popular opinion in Scotland supported strongly the religious and political policy of Cardinal Beaton. The clergy of the diocese of St. Andrew’s refused to continue their ministrations until their archbishop was released. The people supported them in their demands, as did several of the nobles, and in the end, despite the protests of the English party, among the lords, the cardinal was set at liberty. The regent, the Earl of Arran, deserted his former friends, became reconciled with the Catholic Church, joined himself to the party of the cardinal and of the queen dowager, and welcomed the arrival of the French forces that had come to defend the kingdom against an English invasion.
The Scottish nobles in the pay of Henry VIII. were convinced, as was Henry VIII. himself, that so long as Cardinal Beaton was alive to guide affairs in Scotland no advance could be made in the work of destroying both the religion and the independence of the kingdom. Several of the Scottish enemies of the cardinal entered into communication with Henry himself or with his agents. They offered to murder the cardinal if only Henry promised a sufficient reward, and Henry expressed his approval of the step that was in contemplation. Meanwhile the cardinal was busy preparing schemes for a genuine reform of the Church to be submitted to a national synod called for January 1546, and in making a visitation of his diocese for the purpose of suppressing heresy. George Wishart, formerly a Greek master at Montrose, had returned from the Continent, and had begun to stir up religious dissension in several cities of Scotland. He was the close ally of the Scottish lords who were in the pay of Henry VIII., and he himself was the trusted messenger employed by Crichton, Lord of Brunston, to communicate to the English court the projected murder of Cardinal Beaton and the destruction of certain religious houses in Scotland. The cardinal, who was probably aware of his plots as well as of his preachings, secured his arrest, and brought him to St. Andrew’s, where he was tried and executed for heresy (1546). The news of the execution created considerable commotion especially in those centers where Wishart had preached, and gave new impetus to the movement for the assassination of the cardinal. In May 1546 some of the family of Leslie, who had grievances of their own to revenge, with a number of other accomplices secured an entrance to the palace of the Archbishop of St. Andrew’s, put his servants and attendants to flight, and murdered him before any help could be summoned. The murder of Cardinal Beaton was an irreparable misfortune for the Catholic Church in Scotland. He was at once an able churchman and a patriot, determined to maintain the independence of his country against the group of pro-English traitors, who were determined to change the religion of Scotland at the bidding of Scotland’s greatest enemy. John Knox, a fanatical priest, who had gone over to the new religion, welcomed the murder of the cardinal as a veritable triumph for the gospel and as a “godly act.” He hastened to join the murderers who had taken possession of the castle of St. Andrew’s, and to whom he preached as the first reformed congregation in Scotland. Henry VIII., no less jubilant for the disappearance of his strongest opponent, was not slow to assist the murderers.
But the assassination of the cardinal did not mean the triumph of the English party. It served only to embitter the feelings of the vast majority of the people, and to force the regent and queen-dowager to throw themselves more unreservedly into the arms of France. A French fleet arrived at Leith and forced the murderers assembled in the castle of St. Andrew’s to surrender. Those of them who were not fortunate enough to make their escape were taken prisoners and condemned to the French galleys. An English army led by the Duke of Somerset marched into Scotland to enforce the English demands, and especially to secure the person of the infant queen. But though it inflicted considerable havoc on Scotland, particularly on several of the religious houses, and though it overthrew the forces of the regent in the battle of Pinkie (1547), it was obliged to re-cross the borders without having secured the submission of the nation. In the following year (1548) a new French force arrived in England to assist the Scotch in their struggle against England. A Scottish Parliament renewed the alliance with France, approved of the betrothal of the young queen to the Dauphin of France, and determined to provide for the safety of her person by sending her into France. After several fruitless attempts made by the English to secure a foothold in Scotland they were obliged to give up the contest in despair, and to conclude a nine years’ peace. For so far the alliance between Catholicism and independence had won the victory against heresy and English influence (1550).
The murder of Cardinal Beaton helped to force the bishops and clergy to realize the danger of their position. They urged the regent to take stern measures in defense of the church, and what was of much more importance they attempted to set their own house in order as the best preparation for the conflict. John Hamilton, brother of the regent, was appointed Archbishop of St. Andrew’s in succession to Cardinal Beaton (1547). He assembled a national synod at Edinburgh (1549) which was attended by the bishops, abbots, and representatives of the chapters, religious houses, and collegiate churches. Though the presence of men like Lord James Stuart, the illegitimate son of James V., as commendatory prior of St. Andrew’s was not calculated to inspire confidence in the decrees of the assembly, a very wholesome scheme of reform was carried through, which, had it been enforced, might have gone far to save Catholicism in Scotland. Severe laws were passed against concubinage of the clergy, their neglect of their primary duties of preaching and instructing their flocks, and against the alienation of ecclesiastical property. Measures were taken to ensure that priests should explain the principal points of Catholic doctrine and the Scriptures regularly in their principal churches. Another synod held in 1552 continued the work of reform. Its references to the question of marriage and to the non-attendance of the people at their religious duties seem to indicate that religion was not then in a flourishing condition. The synods ordered the publication of a catechism, and enjoined all priests who had care of souls to explain a portion of it every Sunday before the principal Mass. In accordance with this decree an excellent catechism containing a very full exposition of Catholic doctrine was published. Had it come earlier, or had the clergy even then been able and willing to explain it to their people, Knox and his companions might have found themselves confronted with a much more difficult task.
Mary of Guise had shown great abilities during the contest with Henry VIII. and the Protector. Though the Earl of Arran was nominally regent it was she who guided his counsels and inspired his policy. The French government, distrustful of the regent who was also the next claimant for the Scottish throne, induced him to resign his office, for which he received in return the empty title of Duke of Châtelherault, and Mary of Guise undertook the government of Scotland for her infant daughter. About the ability of the new regent or her devotion to the Catholic Church there could be no difference of opinion, but unfortunately she was more anxious to strengthen the French hold upon Scotland than to take the necessary measures for the peace of the kingdom and the suppression of heresy. She filled her fortresses with French subjects, showing thereby that in her opinion Scotchmen could not be trusted. As a result she gave great offence to the native lords, aroused Scottish patriotism against France as it had been aroused against England by the aggressive policy of Henry VIII., and prepared the way for the dissolution of the alliance between patriotism and Catholicism, an alliance that had hitherto been the main barrier against the success of the reforming English party.
The Scots began to fear that with their young queen united in marriage to the King of France Scotland stood in danger of becoming a French province, and though the Scottish Parliament took care to safeguard the independence of the country in the marriage settlement drawn up in 1558, the leading men had grave suspicions that the agreement would have little effect. Besides, Mary of Guise had no longer anything to fear from English Protestantism, which was rendered powerless after the accession of Queen Mary. England was now united to Spain, the mortal enemy of France, and French political interests would best be served by maintaining an attitude of friendly neutrality towards English Protestants, who were likely to prove more dangerous to Spanish designs than to France. Such a policy of neutrality might result, too, it was thought, in securing the throne of England for the young Scottish queen, whose claims as the nearest legitimate heir could not be questioned. For these reasons the regent was not unwilling to allow Protestant refugees to take up their residence in Scotland, and to permit the followers of the new religion to continue their campaign so long as they did not disturb the public peace. In her correspondence with the Pope she paid little attention to the religious danger that was threatening the kingdom, and seemed to be more anxious to obtain permission to tax the clergy than to secure an energetic reform of the abuses that she painted in such dark colors. The Scottish lords, many of whom were offended by the preponderance of French soldiers and French officials, were only too willing to assist the new preachers, and what was worse, to stir up their clansmen against the old religion by holding up the bishops and clergy as the friends of France and the enemies of Scottish independence. National patriotism was now utilized to help forward the cause of Protestantism, by the very men who a few years before had agreed to betray their country for English gold, and had striven with all their might to make Henry VIII. the protector of Scotland.
Some Protestant refugees from England were soon at work in different centers of the country, and encouraged by the regent’s policy of neutrality, the man, who was destined to be the apostle of the Reformation, returned to his native land (1555). John Knox, who had shown his devotion to the Gospel by applauding the murder of Cardinal Beaton as a “godly act,” and who had founded the first reformed congregation among the murderers gathered in the castle of St. Andrew’s, having been released from the French galleys, became a pensioner of Edward VI., and took up his residence in some of the northern towns of England. In a short time he was appointed royal chaplain, and might have had the Bishopric of Rochester had he not expressed the view that such an office was incompatible with devotion to the true evangelical religion. On the accession of Queen Mary he fled from England to Geneva, from which he returned to Scotland in 1555. His violent and overbearing manner, his extravagant denunciations of his opponents, his misrepresentations of their actions and policy, and his readiness both as a speaker and as a writer, qualified him perfectly for the leadership of a revolutionary party, were it not that at certain critical moments his anxiety to avoid personal danger was calculated to shake the confidence of his followers. He was welcomed by many of the discontented nobles, amongst others by Lord Erskine afterwards Earl of Mar, Lord Lorne and his father the Earl of Argyll, Maitland Lord of Lethington, the Earl of Glencairn, and Lord James Stuart prior of St. Andrew’s, who as Earl of Moray was soon to betray his sister, Mary Queen of Scots.
Encouraged by the protection of such powerful patrons he preached freely and with great success in several districts of Scotland. The clansmen were so united to their lords that they were prepared to follow their example even in matters of religion. The bishops and the regent, to whom these proceedings must have been known, were strangely oblivious to their duties, and when at last they mustered up sufficient courage to summon Knox to appear at Edinburgh (1556), they were so alarmed by the strength of his following that they abandoned the trial. Knox, encouraged by their cowardice, preached openly in the capital, and even went so far as to address a letter to the regent calling upon her to open her mind for the reception of the truth. By this public challenge, however, he overshot the mark, and not being gifted with any particular desire to suffer martyrdom for the faith, he left Scotland suddenly and retired to the Continent (1556). For years he was the leading spirit in many of the fierce and unseemly disputes between the English Protestant exiles in Geneva and Frankfurt. Although summoned more than once by his followers to return, he contented himself with sending them written exhortations to stand firm in the faith, or by publishing violent pamphlets such as The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, in which he undertook to prove that the rule of women is repugnant to nature, contrary to God’s ordinances, and subversive of good order, equity, and justice. Though this document was aimed principally against Catharine de’ Medici, Queen Mary of England, and Mary of Guise regent of Scotland, it rankled in the mind of Queen Elizabeth after her accession, and did not serve to raise the apostle of Scotland in her estimation.
The Protestant lords, undeterred by the absence of Knox, decided to go forward with their programme. In December 1557 the Earl of Argyll, his son Lord Lorne, Glencairn, Morton, Erskine of Dun, and others, met at Edinburgh and signed a bond or covenant, by which they bound themselves solemnly to establish the “Blessed Word of God,” to encourage preachers, to defend the new doctrines even with their lives, and to maintain the Congregation of Christ in opposition to the Congregation of Satan. They pledged themselves to introduce the Book of Common Prayer, to insist on the reading of portions of the Scriptures in the vulgar tongue on Sundays and holidays, and to appoint preachers wherever the Catholic clergy were unable or unwilling to undertake this work. In many districts, where the lords of the Congregation held sway, measures were taken at once to enforce these resolutions. Confronted with this revolutionary step, the regent and the bishops should have had recourse to strong action, but the former was so interested in the approaching marriage of her daughter to the Dauphin of France (1558) that she did not wish to offend the lords, while the primate, as one of the Hamiltons, disliked the regent because she had supplanted his brother, and contented himself with gentle admonitions. The lords, confident in their strength, met in November 1558, and presented a petition to the regent, in which they demanded that the members of the Congregation should be allowed to meet in the churches, and to follow their own ritual in the vulgar tongue, that Communion should be administered under both kinds, that private individuals should be at liberty to explain difficult passages of the Sacred Scriptures, and that the clergy should be reformed. The regent after consultation with the primate consented to these requests, at least in regard to private religious assemblies, but refused to yield to another petition demanding the abolition of all laws against heresy.
The religious controversies became more and more embittered during the year 1559. The lords of the Congregation denounced the abuses of the clergy, demanded permission to use the vulgar tongue in all public religious services as well as in the administration of the sacraments, and insisted on the admission of the lower nobles and of the people to a voice in the appointment of bishops and of pastors. To put an end to the abuses that were proving such a useful weapon in the hands of the adversaries of the Church, and at the same time to give public and formal expression to the faith of the Scottish nation, a national synod met at Edinburgh (April 1559). It denounced once again the awful scandal of concubinage among the clergy, laid down useful regulations regarding preaching and the appointment of bishops, condemned plurality of benefices, nonresidence, and demands on the part of the clergy for excessive fees. To raise the standard of education among the clergy it ordained that those presented to benefices should be examined, and that each monastery should maintain some of its members at the universities. In its profession of faith the synod emphasized the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Transubstantiation, the propitiatory character of the sacrifice of the Mass, the sufficiency of Communion in one kind, the existence of a real priesthood, and purgatory, prayers for the dead, invocation of the saints, fasting, and holidays. In response to the demands of the Congregation the synod pointed out that it had not the power to change the rites and ceremonies that had been handed down for centuries, that as the Church was the definitely appointed guardian and interpreter of the Scriptures private individuals were not permitted to expound them at their will, and that in the appointment of bishops and pastors the rules laid down in canon law were quite sufficient to prevent abuses if only they were followed.
About the same time Quintin Kennedy, Benedictine Abbot of Crossraguel, conferred an immense service on religion by his written apology for the Catholic Church. Starting with the Bible and its relation to ecclesiastical authority, he undertook to show that from the very nature of the case such a book required the presence of a divinely appointed official interpreter, that the reading of the Scriptures was not necessary for salvation though in many cases it might be useful, and that the authority of the Church should not be overthrown even though the existence of scandals among churchmen could not be denied. Turning to his adversaries, he demanded what was the source of all the abuses and scandals which they charged against the Church? Was it not, he asked, the unwarrantable interference of the nobles in the nominations to ecclesiastical benefices, an interference that was responsible for having even children who were too young to hold an apple in their hands appointed to the charge of populous parishes, in order that the relatives of these children might grow rich on the revenues, and was it not the very men who were guilty of such conduct who were loudest in their denunciation of the Church? On the nobles he laid the blame for oppressing the Church, for introducing unworthy ecclesiastics into offices of trust, for depriving the poor of instruction and education, and for promoting thereby heresy and revolution.
As the year (1559) advanced the state of affairs in Scotland became daily more alarming. Preachers were everywhere at work under the protection of the lords. The regent and the French authorities, who had shown a fatal apathy in their dealings with Scottish heretics, began to wake up to the political danger involved in such a movement. A French agent, M. Béthencourt, arrived in Scotland in April 1559, and, whether it was due to his advice or not, the regent forbade the preachers to continue their disturbances. On their refusal to submit she summoned them to appear at Stirling for trial (10th May). Encouraged by the return of Knox who had landed at Leith early in the same month, and by the armed forces placed at their disposal by some of their principal patrons, they refused to attend and were outlawed. A number of the reforming lords immediately took possession of Perth, and destroyed several Catholic churches in the city. When news of this rising reached the regent she assembled her forces and marched against Perth, but as neither side was anxious for civil war at the time, a truce was agreed upon, and the forces of the regent were allowed to occupy the town. From Perth the reforming lords retreated to St. Andrew’s, where they burned and destroyed the altars, pictures, statues, and even the sacred vessels used for religious worship. The abbey church of Scone, in which a long line of Scottish kings had been crowned, was destroyed; Perth and Stirling were seized, and before the end of June 1559 Edinburgh was in the hands of the lords of the Congregation. The regent issued an appeal in the name of the king and queen of Scotland calling upon all loyal subjects to defend the government against the revolutionary Congregation, but her unfortunate preference for French soldiers and officials gave the Protestant lords the advantage of enabling them to pose as patriots engaged in the defense of their country against foreigners. They were forced, however, to capitulate and to surrender Edinburgh to the regent (26th July).
Early in this same month (1559) Henry II. of France died, and was succeeded by Francis II., the husband of Mary Queen of Scots. Elizabeth and her advisers were alarmed at the prospect that opened before them. Mary Queen of Scots, as the nearest legitimate heir to the English throne, was a dangerous neighbor, especially at a time when England was thrown into confusion by a new religious revolution, and when English Catholics might rally to her standard with the blessing of the Pope and of the Kings of France and Spain. Even though the Queen of Scotland did not resort to extremes, the very existence of a Catholic kingdom in Scotland, united by bonds of friendship and interest to France, constituted a grave danger for England; whereas if Scotland could be induced to accept the Protestant religion and to throw in its lot with its southern neighbor, the enemies of England on the Continent might rage in vain. The rebellion of the lords of the Congregation was, therefore, very welcome to Elizabeth and to Cecil. It gave them an opportunity of interfering in Scottish affairs, not, indeed, in the untactful manner in which Henry VIII. had interfered, but as the apparent defenders of Scottish independence against a French protectorate. On this occasion Scottish patriotism was to be made subservient to English political aims and at the same time to Protestant interests.
The lords of the Congregation, realizing that without assistance they could never hope to overcome the regent, turned to England for support. Their petitions were welcomed by Cecil and the leading counselors of Elizabeth, but the queen herself distrusted Knox, and disliked allying herself with open rebels. To give the movement an appearance of constitutionalism the young Earl of Arran, who had been brought to France and who had secretly embraced Calvinism, was induced to make his escape into England. As a near claimant to the Scottish throne he was welcomed at the English court, and was led to believe that if he acted prudently he might become the husband of Elizabeth, and the king of a united England and Scotland. He was dispatched into Scotland, where he succeeded in detaching his father, the Duke of Châtelherault, and several other nobles from the side of the regent. Relying on the protection of England, from which a plentiful supply of money was dispatched to the rebels, and on the new accessions to their ranks, the lords of the Congregation announced the suspension of the regent from her office (Oct. 1559) though they hesitated to take the further step of proclaiming the Earl of Arran or Lord James Stuart sovereign of Scotland. The regent replied to this act of rebellion by marching on Edinburgh, forcing the rebels to retreat to Stirling (Nov.), while the Earl of Bothwell seized large sums of money that were being forwarded to the rebel camp from England. The English advisers began to realize that money and secret assistance were not enough to secure the triumph of the Congregation in Scotland, and that the time had come when more decisive measures must be taken.
In December 1559 and January 1560, an armed force was dispatched to the north, and Admiral Winter was commanded to blockade the Forth against a French fleet. A little later a formal agreement was concluded between the Duke of Norfolk representing Elizabeth, and Lord James Stuart the commissioner for the Congregation. At first it was proposed to act in common for “the maintenance of the Christian religion,” but as these words might have given rise to serious complications on the Continent, it was decided that an alliance should be concluded for the defense of the ancient rights and liberties of Scotland. An English army of eight thousand men marched into Scotland, and the English fleet blockaded the fortress of Leith which was the key to the capital. Owing to the Huguenot risings in France the assistance that had been promised could not be sent, but nevertheless the invaders were thrown back in their first assault. In June 1560, however, Mary of Guise, worn out by the anxieties and cares of her difficult office, passed away, and three weeks later the garrison was obliged to surrender. English and French plenipotentiaries met to arrange the terms of peace. It was agreed that the French soldiers, with the exception of about one hundred and twenty men, should be drafted from Scotland, that no foreigners should be promoted to any office in the kingdom, that until the arrival of the king and queen the country should be governed by a council of twelve, seven of whom were to be selected by Mary and Francis and five by the Parliament, that the entire question of religion should be submitted to a Scottish Parliament convoked to meet on the 1st August (1560), and that, in the meantime, a kind of religious truce should be observed by both sides. It was agreed, furthermore, that the spiritual peers should hold their seats in Parliament as before, and that they should not be disturbed in their ecclesiastical possessions.
The successful invasion of Scotland by the English troops had turned the scales in favor of the lords of the Congregation. They were now masters in Scotland, but, had the bishops and clergy been zealous men worthy of their sacred office, the cause of the old Church in Scotland would not have been even then hopeless. While Knox and his friends were straining every nerve to consolidate their work by the appointment of preachers and superintendents for the rising congregation, many of the Catholic bishops and abbots, several of whom were allied by blood and friendship with the lay lords, either contented themselves with doing nothing, or went over to the enemies of the Church for the sake of securing for themselves and their descendants the ecclesiastical property that they administered. The Archbishop of St. Andrew’s and Primate of Scotland was the brother of the Earl of Arran. Though a convinced Catholic himself, he was not the man either to make a struggle or to inspire confidence at such a crisis. Archbishop Beaton of Glasgow had fled already from the kingdom; the Bishop of Argyll, another illegitimate scion of the house of Hamilton, was a Protestant or was soon to become one; Adam Bothwell, whom the Pope had appointed the previous year to the See of Orkney on the petition of the king and queen of Scotland, could not be trusted, as his subsequent conduct showed; Alexander Gordon, who claimed to be Bishop of Galloway, though he was never consecrated, had gone over openly to the enemies of the Church, as had also the provincial of the Dominicans, the sub-prior of the chapter of St. Andrew’s, and John Rowe a former agent of the Scottish bishops at the Roman Court. With men such as these to guard the interests of Catholicism in Scotland there could be little doubt about the result.
In August 1560 the Parliament met at Edinburgh. In addition to the lay lords and representatives of the lesser nobles and of the cities, there were present a number of bishops and abbots. Amongst these latter it is interesting and instructive to note the presence of Lord James Stuart, the bastard brother of the queen and one of the leaders of the Congregation, as prior of St. Andrew’s, of Lord James Hamilton son of the Earl of Arran and a follower of Knox as abbot of Arbroath, of John Stuart abbot of Coldingham, of the son of the Duke of Argyll as bishop-elect of Brechin, together with a number of other laymen, who, though holding high office in the Church, were determined to promote the new movement for the sake of the property that they hoped to obtain. The discussion opened under the presidency of Maitland, Lord of Lethington, the Scottish Cecil, a double dealer who was even more dangerous than an open enemy. A petition was presented immediately on the part of Knox and his friends that doctrines such as Transubstantiation, the sacrificial character of the Mass, Purgatory, prayers for the dead, meritorious works, etc., which had been forced upon the people by the clergy should be rejected. A confession of faith was drafted and submitted to the assembly. The Primate and the Catholic bishops present protested against the discussion of such a document on the ground that according to the terms of the Treaty of 1560 the religious question should have been submitted previously to the king and queen, and also because the treaty had never been confirmed owing to the fact that the French commissioners had exceeded their instructions. It was no doubt for this reason that a large number of the ecclesiastical and lay lords who were strongly Catholic had refused to attend the Parliament. Indeed the supporters of the old religion, relying on the help of the queen, seemed to think that any religious settlement made by Parliament was of no importance. Their refusal to discuss the confession of faith was taken, however, as a sign of their inability to refute it, and the confession was passed with but few dissentients. Later on (24th August) three other acts were formulated with the object of uprooting Catholicism in Scotland. The jurisdiction of the Pope was abolished, and the bishops were forbidden to act under his instructions; all previous Acts of Parliament contrary to God’s word or to the confession of faith as now approved were declared null and void; and all persons were forbidden to celebrate or to hear Mass under pain of confiscation of their goods for the first offence, banishment for the second, and death for the third.
The Book of Discipline which contained an exposition of the ecclesiastical policy of the Scottish Reformers was compiled by Knox and his companions. It dealt with the preaching of the Scriptures, the two sacraments Baptism and the Eucharist, the suppression of religious houses of all kinds, the election and appointment of ministers, elders and deacons, and with the means to be provided for their support and for the maintenance of education. Though the separate congregations were left more or less free regarding the kind of religious service that should be followed, the Book of Common Prayer formerly accepted in Scotland was abolished to make way for the Calvinistic Book of Common Order. In the general assemblies of the reformed Church (December 1560-May 1561) decrees were issued for the destruction of the religious houses and of all signs of idolatry, and individuals were appointed to see that these decrees were put into immediate execution.
Both parties in Scotland turned instinctively to their queen. Mary had been married in 1558, and in 1559 her husband succeeded to the throne of France under the title of Francis II. A minister was dispatched to inform her of the proceedings in Parliament, but she refused to confirm the terms of the treaty with England, or to sanction the changes that had been decreed. The death of her husband Francis II. (1560) threw her into great grief and forced her to consider the question of returning at once to her kingdom. She believed that many of those who opposed her previously, lest Scotland should become a French province, might now abandon their league with Elizabeth, and welcome home their own lawful sovereign. Nor was there anything at this time to indicate that Mary had any intention of playing the part of a champion of Catholicism, or of running the risk of forfeiting her throne in Scotland or her claims to the English crown by undertaking a campaign against the new religion. Her years of residence at the French court, where religious interests were only too often sacrificed to political designs, could not fail to have produced their natural effect. In February 1561 she sent commissioners to assure the lords of her forgiveness for what they had done, and to empower the Duke of Châtelherault and others to convoke a Parliament in her name. At a meeting of the nobles held in January 1561 her natural brother, Lord James Stuart, was deputed by the lords to offer Mary their allegiance, while the Catholic party including the Earls of Huntly, Atholl, Crawford, Sutherland, and some bishops, dispatched a messenger to warn her against the Congregation, and to place at her disposal a strong force in case she decided to land in the north. But Mary, distrusting the motives of Huntly and his friends, treated their offers of assistance with neglect, and welcomed as her savior and friend the man who even then was not unwilling to act as a spy on his sister and his queen at the bidding of Elizabeth. Mary’s selection of him as her trusted adviser boded ill for the future of her reign.
At last with a heavy heart Mary determined to leave the country of her adoption. As she was unwilling to confirm the treaty with England in its entirety and to renounce her claims to the English throne, Elizabeth refused to grant passports through England, but under the shelter of a thick mist Mary succeeded in eluding all danger of capture and landed safely at Leith (Aug. 1561). From the people generally she received an enthusiastic welcome, but, when on the following Sunday she insisted that Mass should be celebrated in the private chapel of Holyrood, it required all the efforts of her brother to prevent a riot. Knox and his brethren denounced such idolatrous conduct as intolerable, and bewailed the misfortunes that God must inevitably pour out upon the country in punishment for so grievous a crime. A few days later Mary issued a proclamation announcing that no change would be made in the religious settlement without the consent of Parliament, but that in the meantime no attempt should be made to interfere with her household. A new privy council was appointed, in which the two principal members were Lord James Stuart and Maitland, Lord of Lethington, both equally untrustworthy. None of the Catholic bishops was offered a seat at the council board, and the Catholic lords were represented only by the Earls of Huntly and Argyll. A general assembly of the Reformers was held at Edinburgh (1561), which succeeded in securing a share of the ecclesiastical endowments, and another in 1562, which appointed John Craig as the assistant of Knox in Edinburgh. For so far Mary could do little for her co-religionists in Scotland, nor indeed does it appear that any serious effort was made in that direction. Still her own example was not without its effect. Several of the waverers especially in Edinburgh seem to have returned to the Church. Pius IV., who was anxious to learn the true state of affairs, commissioned the Jesuit Nicholas de Gouda (Goudanus) to visit Scotland for the purpose of encouraging the queen and of inviting the bishops to assist at the Council of Trent. He arrived in Scotland (June 1561). After waiting six weeks in the house of a Catholic nobleman he secured a secret interview with the queen at Holyrood. With most of the bishops he was not even so successful. Though he reported that they were for the greater part Catholics and men of good intentions, some of them like Sinclair of Ross refused to see him, from others he got no reply to his letters, and it was only with the greatest difficulty he contrived to have a short conversation with Bishop Crichton at Dunkeld. There is no doubt that the bishops were surrounded by powerful and watchful enemies, but it seems strange that they should have effaced themselves so completely, at a time when Knox and his opponents by means of general assemblies and other such bodies were impressing the country with their strength and activity. Even though the bishops were silent the old religion was not without some able and energetic defenders in the person of Leslie, soon to be the Bishop of Ross, Quintin Kennedy whose services have been referred to already, and Ninian Winzet, who caused Knox considerable embarrassment by his tracts, letters, and public disputations.
In his report Father de Gouda alluded to the imminent peril in which the queen stood owing to her complete reliance on her unworthy ministers. Her brother Lord James Stuart, and Maitland, both hostile to the Catholic religion, were her principal advisers. Although the Earl of Huntly had not played a very noble part in the disputes between the regent and the Congregation, he was the recognized head of the Catholic party. He had offered his services to the queen while she was still in France, but at the instigation of her brother she had refused to accept them. After her return to Scotland Huntly found that he was treated with coldness, and the earldom of Moray that belonged to his family was taken from him and conferred on his old rival, Lord James Stuart. During the queen’s journey to the north (August 1562) she refused to visit Huntly. A dispute having broken out regarding the execution of one of his followers, who was unwilling to open the gates of a Gordon castle to the queen, Huntly took up arms. He was overthrown and slain at Corrichie by the Earl of Moray (1562). In a Parliament held in May 1563 the Earls of Huntly and Sutherland and eleven nobles of the house of Gordon were attainted, and their goods confiscated. The overthrow of this nobleman, on whom the bishops had counted for support, helped to strengthen the Congregation in Scotland, and to encourage it to persecute more rigorously the followers of the old religion. During the spring of 1563 some of the Catholic clergy seem to have adopted a more forward policy, but they were accused of violation of the law. The primate and close on fifty others were tried before the courts in Edinburgh for celebrating or hearing Mass, and were committed to custody by the queen. To show that she was still Catholic, however, Mary dispatched a letter to the Council of Trent. It was read to the assembled Fathers in May 1563, and it gave entire satisfaction if we may judge by the answer that was prepared. The papal legates were not unwilling that the council should declare sentence of excommunication against Queen Elizabeth, thereby preparing the way for Mary’s claims to the throne, but the opposition of the Emperor and of Philip II. of Spain put an end to the scheme.
The question of Mary’s marriage was of paramount importance, particularly as it was probable that the issue of the marriage would succeed to the thrones of Scotland and of England. The Pope and the French favored the Archduke Charles of Austria who was disliked by the Scottish nobles as being too poor; Philip II., more for the purpose of defeating a proposed marriage of the Queen of Scotland to Charles IX. of France, suggested his own son Don Carlos as a probable suitor, but he showed little real earnestness in pushing forward the project, while Elizabeth was inclined to support her own former lover, Dudley, who was created Earl of Leicester, as it is said, to prepare the way for his marriage with the Scottish queen. But Mary, bewildered and annoyed by the varying counsels of her friends, put an end to the intrigues by marrying her cousin Lord Darnley, who as the son of the Earl of Lennox and of Margaret Douglas, granddaughter of Henry VII., had very strong claims on the English and Scottish thrones. A papal dispensation from the impediment of consanguinity was sought, but it would appear that the marriage was solemnized (29th July 1565) before the dispensation was granted. Darnley was a young man of prepossessing appearance, and as a Catholic he was the idol of his co-religionists in England. His marriage with the Queen of Scotland was agreeable to the Pope and to Philip II. of Spain, who hastened to send Mary financial assistance as well as congratulations. Such a union was, as might be expected, distasteful to the Protestant party in England, and particularly distasteful to Elizabeth, who foresaw the disastrous consequences that might ensue to England from the union of two such formidable Catholic claimants to the English throne.
The Earl of Moray and the other reforming lords, realizing that the marriage was likely to destroy their influence, determined to take up arms. Encouraged by Elizabeth, the Earls of Moray, Glencairn, the Duke of Châtelherault and others rose in rebellion, nominally in defense of Protestantism but in reality to maintain their own supremacy at court. Mary, displaying more courage than she had displayed hitherto, assembled her forces, overthrew the lords, and forced Moray and his confederates to escape across the borders into England (Oct. 1565). This victory gave new hopes to the Catholics in Scotland. Darnley began to attend Mass openly, as did several of the nobles, while the queen took steps to secure appointments to some of the vacant bishoprics.
But soon a new danger appeared from an unexpected quarter. Darnley was a vain and foolish youth who treated his wife with but scanty respect. He wished to be sovereign of Scotland, to secure the crown for the family of Lennox to the exclusion of the Hamiltons, and to force the queen to follow his counsels in all matters of state. As his wishes were not granted he determined to revenge himself on Mary’s secretary, David Riccio, whom he pretended to regard as Mary’s secret adviser. For this purpose he turned for assistance to the reformed party whose fears had been aroused by Mary’s religious policy. A confederation was formed consisting of Darnley, the Earl of Morton, Lord Ruthven, and Lindsay for the murder of Riccio. The Earl of Lennox Darnley’s father, Moray, Argyll, and Maitland of Lethington, the English ambassador, and apparently John Knox, were aware of the design and approved of it. When everything was ready for the opening of Parliament the murderers forced their way into the presence of the queen, and slew her secretary almost in her presence (9 March 1566). On the next day Darnley issued a proclamation ordering those who had assembled for the Parliament to leave Edinburgh, and on the same evening the Earl of Moray arrived in the capital.
The conspirators had agreed to proclaim Darnley king of Scotland. For this purpose the queen was to be held a prisoner or to be slain if she attempted to make her escape, but she succeeded in eluding the vigilance of her captors and in making her way to Dunbar, where she was joined by Archbishop Hamilton, the Earls of Huntly, Atholl, and Bothwell. She advanced on Edinburgh without meeting any resistance, while the murderers of Riccio were obliged to make their escape into England. Darnley deserted his fellow conspirators by communicating to the queen the details of the plot. His desertion did not, however, gain him the dictatorship he desired, as Mary pardoned Moray and Argyll, and received them together with Huntly, Atholl, and Bothwell into her councils. The birth of an heir to the throne would, it was thought, lead to a better understanding between Mary and her husband, but unfortunately it had no result. Though the baptism of the prince was carried out in the chapel-royal of Stirling Castle with all the pomp and splendor of Catholic ceremonial (December 1566) Darnley refused to be present or to take any part in the festivities. A few days later Morton and the other murderers of Riccio were pardoned, and allowed to return to Scotland.
The Earls of Moray and Argyll and the other leading conspirators were incensed against Darnley for having communicated to the queen their share in the plot that led to Riccio’s murder. Bothwell, who had done so much to frustrate the conspiracy, detested Darnley almost as fiercely as he himself was detested by both Darnley and the Earl of Lennox. During the latter half of the year 1566 nearly all the great lords of Scotland entered into a confederation or “band” against Darnley. Whether they meant merely to assist the queen to procure a legal separation from her husband with the support and approval of Parliament, or whether they intended to bring about Darnley’s death by legal or illegal means is not sufficiently clear.
Soon after the baptism of the prince, Darnley fell ill in Glasgow of small-pox. The queen sent her physician to attend him, went herself to visit him, and when he began to improve had him removed to a lonely house outside Edinburgh, where she frequently spent hours in his company. To all appearances a complete reconciliation had been effected, and Darnley in his letters expressed his entire satisfaction with the kindness and attention of his wife. Suddenly on the night of the 11th February 1567 the house was blown up, and Darnley was killed. Suspicion pointed to Bothwell as the author of the crime, and no doubt the case against him was strong, though how far he was assisted and encouraged by some of the other lords must for ever remain a mystery. Mary’s concurrence or implication in the design is not proved by any reliable evidence, and were it not for her subsequent conduct it is not likely that complicity in the murder of her husband would have been laid to her charge. At the privy council on the day following the murder an explanation was drawn up and forwarded to France, declaring that a plot against the lives of the queen, king, and principal nobles had been discovered, and that it was only by a happy accident that the queen’s life had been saved.
The Earl of Lennox, Darnley’s father, charged Bothwell publicly with the murder of the king and demanded that he should be brought to justice. A day was fixed for the trial, but as Bothwell was powerful in the councils of the queen and was both able and willing to resort to force if force were necessary, it was very difficult to procure evidence against him. Lennox pleaded unsuccessfully for a delay, and as no one was prepared to come forward to prove the charges, Bothwell was acquitted (12th April 1567). A few days later most of the lords who had assembled in Edinburgh for the meeting of Parliament met at Ainslie’s tavern and signed an agreement (Ainslie’s Band) pledging themselves before God to defend Bothwell who had been declared innocent of the murder, and, stranger still, to procure his marriage with the queen. Various and contradictory lists of the signatories have been published, but from an examination of these different lists it is sufficiently clear that most of the great lords were attached to the confederation. As usually happened when a serious crisis was approaching, Moray was absent from the country.
Bothwell, under pretence of punishing some of the robber bands, mustered his forces, overcame the small guard that accompanied the queen on her journey from Stirling to Edinburgh, and carried off herself and Maitland as prisoners to Dunbar (19 April). That Bothwell acted in collusion with Mary is not proved, but despite the advice of her confessor, of the French representative, and of her best friends Mary agreed to go through a form of marriage with Bothwell. Her new husband was a Protestant, married already to the Earl of Huntly’s sister from whom he had obtained a separation. The marriage ceremony was performed by the apostate Bishop of the Orkneys, who was soon to prove as disloyal to his queen as he had proved dishonest towards the Pope. Such a marriage celebrated under such circumstances created a most painful impression amongst the Catholics at home as well as in France and at Rome. It served to confirm their worst suspicions, and made them fear that Mary was about to desert the religion of her fathers. “With this act,” wrote the papal ambassador who had been deputed to come to Scotland but who remained at Paris, “so dishonorable to herself, the propriety of sending any sort of envoy ceases unless indeed her Majesty, in order to amend her error and inspired by God, convert the Earl to the Catholic faith.”
Many of the lords, who had signed the bond to promote the marriage of Bothwell and Mary, professed to be shocked when they learned that the marriage had taken place. Relying upon the active intervention of Elizabeth they took up arms to avenge the murder of their king. The armies of the queen and of the lords met at Carbery Hill, where after some discussion Mary surrendered herself to the lords, and Bothwell was allowed to make his escape. The queen surrendered on the understanding that she was to be treated as queen, but she soon discovered that her captors intended to deprive her of her kingdom and possibly of her life. As a first step in the proceedings she was removed from Holyrood to Loch Leven (16th June). A document was drawn up embodying her abdication of the Scottish throne in favor of her infant son, and the appointment of her brother the Earl of Moray as regent during the minority. Until Moray’s return the government was to be entrusted to a commission consisting of the Duke of Châtelherault, Lennox, Argyll, Atholl, Morton, Glencairn and Moray. Lord Lindsay and Sir Robert Melville were deputed to obtain the queen’s signature, which they succeeded in obtaining only by threats and violence (24th July 1567). The young prince was crowned a few days later, John Knox acting as preacher on the occasion, and the apostate Bishop of the Orkneys as the chief minister. Steps were taken to ensure that Mary should not make her escape from imprisonment, and Bothwell who had fled to the Orkneys was forced to escape to Denmark, where he died in 1578. Moray hastened back from France, interviewed the queen at Loch Leven, accepted the office to which he had been appointed, and was proclaimed regent in Scotland. Severe measures were taken against the Catholic clergy many of whom fled from the kingdom. The queen’s chapel at Holyrood was destroyed, and care was taken that the young king should be reared in the Protestant religion.
The lords of Scotland had taken up arms to avenge the murder of Darnley, but once they established themselves in power they took no steps to bring the murderers to justice, for the obvious reason that any judicial investigation must necessarily result in establishing their own guilt. Sir James Balfour, who had been involved deeply in the affair, was forgiven, on condition that he should surrender Edinburgh Castle into the hands of the regent. Parliament met in December 1567. It confirmed the abdication of the queen and the appointment of Moray. The laws passed against the Catholic Church in 1560 were renewed. It was enacted furthermore that for the future the kings and rulers of Scotland should swear to uphold the reformed religion and to extirpate heresy. The queen had demanded that she should be allowed to defend herself before Parliament against the attacks of her enemies, but the regent and council refused to comply with her request. Some of her friends, however, endeavored to uphold her good name, and when they were defeated in Parliament they appealed to the people by publishing a defense of their sovereign.
Though every precaution was taken to ensure the safe-keeping of the queen, she succeeded in escaping from Loch Leven (2 May 1568). She was welcomed at Dunbar by the Primate of Scotland, the Hamiltons, Huntly, Argyll, Seaton, Cassillis, and others, and soon found herself at the head of an army of eight thousand men. She declared that her abdication having been secured by violence was worthless, and that the acts of the recent Parliament were null and void. She called upon all her loyal subjects to flock to her standard. The regent, aware that unless a sudden blow could be struck help would come to Mary from the Catholics of the north as well as from France and Spain, determined to take the field at once. The armies met at Langside, near Glasgow (13th May), where the forces of the queen were overthrown. Mary accompanied by a few faithful followers made her way south towards Galloway, and at last against the advice of her best friends she determined to cross the border to throw herself on the protection of the Queen of England.
The arrival of Mary in England created a great difficulty for Elizabeth. If she were allowed to escape to France, both France and Spain might join hands to enforce her claims to the English succession, and if she were restored to the throne of Scotland, Moray and his friends could expect no mercy. It was determined, therefore, that Elizabeth should act as umpire between the queen and her rebellious subjects, so that by inducing both sides to submit their grievances to Elizabeth feeling between them might be embittered, and that in the meantime a divided Scotland might be kept in bondage. In her reply to the letter received from the Queen of Scotland Elizabeth informed her that she could not be received at court nor could any help be given to her unless she had cleared herself of the charges brought against her. Both parties in Scotland were commanded to cease hostilities, but at the same time Cecil took care to inform Moray secretly that he should take steps to enforce his authority throughout Scotland.
Mary, while repudiating Elizabeth’s right to sit in judgment on her conduct, consented that a conference should be held between her commissioners and those appointed by Elizabeth and by the rebel lords. The Dukes of Norfolk, Sussex, and Sir Ralph Sadler were the English commissioners; Bishop Leslie, Lord Livingstone, and Lord Herries represented Mary; while Moray, Morton, and Maitland of Lethington appeared to present the case of the rebel lords. The conference opened at York (October 1568). Several days were wasted in attempts made by Maitland to effect a compromise so that the production of charges and counter-charges might be unnecessary, and in considering inquiries put forward by the Earl of Moray regarding Elizabeth’s attitude in case the charges against the Scottish queen were proved. Some of the letters supposed to have been written by Mary to Bothwell were shown secretly to the English commissioners, but they do not seem to have produced any great effect on the Duke of Norfolk or even on the Duke of Sussex who was certainly not prejudiced in Mary’s favor. The latter reported that Moray could produce no proofs except certain letters the authorship of which the Queen of Scots would deny. In fact, Sussex believed that were the affair to come to trial it would go hard with the queen’s accusers. In a short time Elizabeth ordered that the venue should be changed from York to London, and Mary, believing that she would be allowed an opportunity to defend herself before the peers and representatives of foreign governments, accepted the change. She sent Bishop Leslie and Lord Herries to represent her in London, but on their arrival they found that Mary would not be allowed to appear in person, though her accusers were received by the queen, nor would the foreign ambassadors be admitted to hear the evidence.
The new commission opened at Westminster (4th Dec. 1568). The lords brought forward their charges against the queen accusing her of complicity in the murder of her husband. In proof of this they produced a number of letters that were supposed to have been contained in a casket left behind him by Bothwell in Edinburgh, when he fled from that city in June 1567. This casket contained eight letters and some sonnets, which, if really written by Mary, proved beyond doubt that she was hand in glove with Bothwell in bringing about the murder of Darnley. The Casket Letters considered in the light of her own conduct furnished damaging evidence of Mary’s guilt. Whether these letters were genuine or forged is never likely to be established with certainty, but considering the character of Mary’s opponents, their well-known genius for duplicity, the contradictory statements put forward by their witnesses and the indecent haste with which the whole enquiry was brought to a close, it is difficult to believe that the evidence of Mary’s authorship was convincing. The commissioners acting on Mary’s behalf labored under grave disadvantages from the fact that their mistress was not at hand for consultation. As a consequence they made many mistakes in their pleadings, but they were on sure ground when they demanded that copies of the incriminating letters should be forwarded to Mary for examination. This demand, though supported by the French ambassador, was refused, and Mary was never allowed an opportunity to reply to the main charge brought against her. An offer was made that proceedings should be dropped if Mary would consent to resign the throne of Scotland in favor of her son, and when she refused this offer the conference was brought to a sudden termination. Moray and his friends were informed that “nothing had been produced against them as yet that might impair their honor and allegiance; and on the other part there had been nothing sufficiently produced or shown by them against the queen their sovereign, whereby the Queen of England should conceive or take any evil opinion of the queen her good sister for anything yet seen” (Jan. 1569). The Earl of Moray and his companions were allowed to return to Scotland, and nothing more was done either to establish the innocence or the guilt of the Queen of Scotland. The object of Elizabeth and her advisers had been attained. They had blackened the character of Mary; they had driven a wedge between herself and her nobles, and had allowed Moray to return to Scotland to rule as an English dependent.
To prevent Queen Mary from falling into the hands of the Catholic lords of the north she was removed from Tutbury to Coventry (26th January 1569). Whatever might be said of Mary’s conduct during her early years in Scotland, or whatever doubt might have been entertained about her orthodoxy by the Pope and by the Catholic powers of the Continent, everything unfavorable to her was forgotten by them in their sympathy for her sufferings, and in their admiration for her fortitude and sincere attachment to her religion. Pius V. and Philip II. were as deeply interested in her fate as were the Catholics of Scotland and of England. A scheme was arranged to promote her marriage to the Duke of Norfolk and to secure her succession to the English throne, but Elizabeth anticipated the design by imprisoning the Duke, suppressing the rebellion of the northern lords (1569), and by braving the terrors of the papal excommunication leveled against her the following year.
When later on a new plot was discovered with the same object in view Norfolk was put to death (1572). While Mary was alive in England she was a source of constant danger to Elizabeth’s throne. English Catholics driven to desperation by the penal laws were certain to turn to her as their lawful sovereign, while the Catholic nations on the Continent could fall back on the imprisoned queen whenever they chose to stir up disorder, or possibly to attempt an invasion. Dangerous as she was in prison, she might be still more dangerous if she were free to effect her escape either to Scotland or to France. In her death lay Elizabeth’s best hope of peace, and as the rigor of her confinement failed to kill her, an attempt was made to induce the Scots to undertake a work that the English feared to undertake. At last an opportunity was given of bringing about her execution and of covering the measure with an appearance of legality. A scheme for her release was undertaken by Babington, with every detail of which the spies of Cecil were intimately acquainted, if they did not actually help to arrange them. Babington’s letters to Mary and her replies were betrayed and copied. It is certain that Mary knew what was intended, but there is no evidence to show that she approved of the murder of Elizabeth. When the proper time came Babington and his accomplices were arrested and put to death (October 1586), and Mary’s fate was submitted to the decision of Parliament. Both houses petitioned that the Queen of Scotland should be executed, but Elizabeth, fearful of the consequences and hoping that Mary’s jailer Paulet, would relieve her of the responsibility, hesitated to sign the death warrant. At last, however, she overcame her scruples, and on the 8th February 1587, Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded at Fotheringay. Her attitude to the last was worthy of praise. She died a martyr for her religion, and by her death she expiated fully the imprudences and waverings of her youth. Elizabeth pretended to be horrified by the action of her ministers. Her secretary was imprisoned and fined to prove to Scotland, France, and Spain that the Queen of England had no responsibility for the tragedy of Fotheringay.
Meanwhile how fared it with Catholicism in Scotland? The Regent Moray returned from England early in 1569. Acting on the repeated requests of the General Assembly he undertook new measures against the Catholic Church. Catholic officials and professors were removed from Aberdeen University; several priests were arrested and punished though the regent was unwilling to inflict the death penalty, and many distinguished clerics and laymen, including the Primate and Bishop Leslie, were outlawed and their goods confiscated. The regent was not destined however to enjoy long the fruits of his treachery against his sister. In 1570, at the very time when he was plotting with the English government to get the Queen of Scotland into his power, he was shot in Linlithgow by one of the Hamiltons, the hereditary enemies of his house.
On his death there were two strong parties in Scotland. The majority of the nobles, including the Duke of Châtelherault, Argyll, Huntly, Atholl, and even Kirkcaldy and Maitland of Lethington, two former supporters of Moray, ranged themselves on the side of their imprisoned queen, and might have succeeded in re-establishing her authority had not Elizabeth espoused the cause of Morton, Mar, Glencairn and Ruthven, backed as these were by Knox and the preachers. Two English armies were dispatched into Scotland, and with the help of the English forces the Earl of Lennox, Darnley’s father, was appointed regent (July 1570). It was not the first time that he had sought to destroy the independence of his country by invoking the assistance of the English, and as he had gone over to Protestantism he was determined to throw himself into the arms of the Reformers. The castle of Dunbarton was still in the possession of the queen’s supporters. He laid siege to it, and captured it in April 1571. Here he seized the Primate of Scotland, and had him put to death after a summary trial. The chapter met and elected Robert Hay, but he was never consecrated, and for more than three hundred years St. Andrew’s was without a Catholic bishop. In September 1571 Lennox was slain, and the Earl of Mar was elected regent. During his short reign he was unable to enforce his authority in the country. Negotiations were opened with him by Cecil’s agents to induce him to undertake the execution of the Queen of Scotland, who was to be sent back from England for the purpose, but his sudden death in 1572 put an end to the scheme.
He was succeeded by the Earl of Morton, another of Elizabeth’s agents. At first Morton was not unfavorable to the Catholics owing to the disputes that arose between himself and the preachers about the re-establishment of the episcopal form of government, but later on he adopted a policy of violent opposition to the old religion. Some of the priests were put to death; others were arrested or banished; a list of Catholics including Beaton the Archbishop of Glasgow, Leslie Bishop of Ross, and Chisholm Bishop of Dunblane was drawn up for proscription, and steps were taken to suppress Catholic holidays and to remove from the churches everything that called to mind Catholic devotions.
In 1578 the young king demanded Morton’s resignation. A council of twelve was appointed in his place, at the head of which stood the Earls of Argyll and Atholl. Elizabeth was annoyed at the fall of her minion, and took no pains to conceal her annoyance from the young king. It looked as if friendly relations between the two courts might be broken, and the Catholic party both at home and on the Continent were filled with new hopes. In 1579 Esmé Stuart, Lord d’Aubigny, a nephew of the former Earl of Lennox, arrived from France, where he had been educated as a Catholic. He was welcomed at court by the king and created Earl of Lennox. James fell completely under his sway, though the preachers regarded d’Aubigny as a Catholic spy. Regardless of Elizabeth’s friendship, James was induced to open communications with his mother, and when the Earl of Morton rose in rebellion against such a policy he was arrested and put to death (1582). Though apparently Lennox made profession of accepting the established religion in Scotland, he was endeavoring secretly to bring about an understanding between Mary and her son, to secure the release of the former from captivity, and to assist the Catholic cause. The preachers took alarm at the sudden and unexpected increase of Popery. “Before this French court came to Scotland,” said Walter Belcanqual in one of his sermons in 1580 “there were either few or none that durst avow themselves Papists, neither yet publicly in the country, neither in the reformed cities, neither in the king’s palace. But since that time, not only begin the Papists within the realm to lift up their heads, but also our Scottish Papists that were outside the realm swarm home from all places like locusts, and have taken such hardihood unto them that not only have they access to the French court, but also in the king’s palace, in the particular sessions of our kirks, and general assemblies thereof, durst plainly avow their Papistry, and impugn the truth, both against the laws of the realm and discipline of the Church, contrary to all practice that we have had before.”
The members of the General Assembly, annoyed at the attempt of the king to support the episcopal system of government, were determined to remove Lennox, whom they regarded as an emissary of Rome. Elizabeth’s agents, too, were busy stirring up discontent. A plot formed by Ruthven Earl of Gowrie, the Earl of Mar, and others, for the capture of the king, was carried out successfully during a visit paid by James to Ruthven’s castle at Gowrie (The Gowrie Plot). He was seized and lodged safely in Stirling. The Earl of Arran who attempted to rescue his sovereign was made prisoner, and Lennox was obliged to flee to France (1582).
For a time Melville and the preachers, who gloried in Gowrie’s successful machinations, held the king in bondage. The General Assembly of 1582 expressed its approval of what had been done, and renewed its attacks upon the episcopal system. James, however, succeeded in making his escape from confinement; the Earl of Arran was recalled to court; Ruthven was declared a traitor and was beheaded, and the other conspirators were obliged to make their escape to England. James entered into close correspondence with some of the Catholic powers abroad, and even went so far as to appeal to the Pope for assistance against the enemies who surrounded him (1584). For a time it seemed as if a great Catholic reaction was about to set in. Priests who had escaped from England were laboring with success in the Scottish mission-fields; a few Jesuits had arrived from the Continent, and France, Spain, and the Pope were in correspondence regarding the assistance that might be given to James and his mother. But the spies of Elizabeth soon obtained knowledge of what was in contemplation. France and Spain were too jealous of one another to undertake an armed expedition, without which success was impossible. Negotiations were opened up with a view of detaching James from the Catholic party, and of inspiring him with distrust for his mother. As he was always more anxious to secure his accession to the English throne than to defend either his mother’s life or her religion, he succumbed completely to English influence.
Not even the execution of his mother in 1587 was sufficient to rouse him to take serious action. Though he was urged by many of the Scottish nobles to declare war he contented himself with angry speeches and protests that passed unheeded. Even many of the Presbyterian lords were ready to support him had he declared war, and Catholic noblemen like the Earls of Huntly, Erroll, and Crawford, Lord Maxwell, and Lord Hamilton, offered their assistance. It was well-known, too, that Philip II. was preparing at the time for an invasion of England. Had Scotland declared war the results might have been disastrous for England, but James, instead of taking the offensive, accepted a pension from Elizabeth and offered to assist in the defense of the kingdom. He endeavored at first to conciliate the Catholic party by restoring John Leslie Bishop of Ross, who had been for years a most zealous defender of Mary Queen of Scots, to his See and his possessions, and by appointing the exiled Archbishop of Glasgow to be his ambassador at the French court. The General Assemblies, however, backed up by Elizabeth forced him to take strong measures against the adherents of the old religion. In 1593 a proclamation was issued ordering all Jesuits and seminary priests to leave Edinburgh within two hours under pain of death, and a violent campaign was begun in nearly every part of Scotland against the Catholic nobles and clergy. The Catholic lords who were in close communication with Spain were forced to take up arms. Their forces were mustered under the Earls of Huntly and Erroll, and gained a complete victory at Glenlivet over the Earl of Argyll who was dispatched against them. When the news of this defeat reached the king at Dundee he displayed unwonted activity. He assembled a large army to punish his rebellious subjects, and the Catholic lords were at last forced to make their escape from the country. With the flight of Huntly and Erroll (1595) and the dispersal of their troops the triumph of Protestantism in Scotland was assured.
The great leader in the attack on the Catholic Church in Scotland was John Knox who belonged to the Geneva school, and who worked hard for the introduction of the Calvinist system of Church government. The state of affairs in Scotland at the time was very favorable to his designs. Obviously there could be no question of royal supremacy or of a State Church being established after the English model, since the Queen of Scotland was a staunch supporter of the Roman Church. Neither could the principle of parliamentary control be accepted since the Scottish Parliament was comparatively powerless. Had the revenues and possessions of the Scottish bishoprics and ecclesiastical benefices been left untouched the democratic form of government would have been impossible, but as the hungry lords of Scotland had appropriated already the wealth of the Church they had no special interest in the ecclesiastical appointments. The result was that the General Assemblies, composed of both preachers and laymen, became the recognized governing body of the new religion, and they arrogated to themselves full control of ecclesiastical affairs. The bishops who were willing to conform were not, however, removed from office. They were subjected to the control of the General Assembly, and were placed on the same level as the recently named superintendents.
But the regents who governed Scotland during the minority of James VI. were not inclined to receive with favor the idea of ecclesiastical independence. In 1571 the Earl of Mar insisted on appointing an archbishop to St. Andrew’s without reference to the General Assembly, and immediately the preachers were up in arms. They were handicapped in their resistance by the fact that their great leader Knox was too ill to afford them much assistance, and at last they were forced to accept a compromise according to which the old system of ecclesiastical government was left practically untouched. Archbishops, bishops, deans and chapters were retained; the bishops were to be elected by the chapters with the permission and approval of the king and were to receive the temporalities by royal grant; and all persons admitted to benefices were to promise obedience to their bishops. At the same time it was agreed that the bishops should be subject to the General Assemblies in spiritual matters, as they were subject to the king in temporals. It was hoped that by means of this compromise peace might be secured, but in a short time the attack on episcopal government was renewed with still greater vigor. A new leader had appeared in the person of Andrew Melville, the Principal of the College of Glasgow, and the friend of the great Swiss Reformer, Beza. Despite the fact that the regent espoused the cause of episcopacy the General Assemblies were determined to continue the struggle for its overthrow. The adoption in 1580 of the Second Book of Discipline, involving as it did the overthrow of episcopal authority, the rejection of state interference and the assertion that spiritual authority was derived only from the people, was a severe blow to the young king and his advisers; but they found some consolation in the fact that the Scottish Parliament re-asserted the principle of royal supremacy and recognized the authority of the bishops (1584).
A form of declaration was drawn up which all preachers were required to sign under threat of dismissal. During the years 1585 and 1586 serious attempts were made by the government to reduce them to subjection, but without any important result. In fact, at the suggestion of Melville, the General Assembly pronounced sentence of excommunication against Archbishop Adamson (1586), and the archbishop was obliged to submit himself to the judgment of that body. From that time things went from bad to worse till in 1592 Parliament gave its formal sanction to Presbyterianism, though the Second Book of Discipline was not approved, nor were the bishops deprived of their civil positions. Hardly had James been seated on the English throne than he determined to make another effort to force episcopacy and royal supremacy on the Scottish Church. He appointed several new bishops to the vacant Sees (1603). As the preachers still offered a strong opposition Melville was invited to a conference at Hampton Court (1606) where a warm debate took place between the representatives of the Presbyterians and their opponents. Melville and his friends refused to yield, and when the former was summoned to appear before the privy council to answer for certain verses he had composed, he seized the Archbishop of Canterbury by the sleeves of his rochet, denounced him as an enemy of the gospel truth, and assured him that he would oppose his schemes to the last drop of blood. He was arrested and thrown into prison. Parliament supported the king (1609); a High Commission Court was established in 1610 to deal with the preachers, and in the same year the nominees of James were consecrated by English prelates. But despite the efforts of James and of his successor Charles I., Presbyterianism still continued to flourish in Scotland.
Though the flight of the Earls of Huntly and Erroll (1595) had assured the triumph of Presbyterianism many of the people of Scotland, particularly of those in the north, still remained devoted to the old religion. The Jesuit Fathers had been untiring in their efforts, and the labors of men like Fathers Creighton, Hay, Gordon, and Abercromby were far from being unfruitful. Still the ecclesiastical organization had broken down; the supply of priests was likely to become exhausted, and, unless some attempt was made to maintain unity and authority, as well as provide means of education for clerical students, there was grave danger that Catholicism might soon be extinguished. In 1598 George Blackwell received faculties as archpriest or superior of the Scotch mission, and was provided with a number of consultors to assist him in his difficult task. A Scotch college was established at Rome by Clement VIII. to supply Scotland with priests (1600). Another college of a similar kind was founded at Tournai in 1576 by Dr. James Cheyne. Later on it was removed to Pont-à-Mousson and placed under the control of the Jesuits, and finally it was brought to Douay. The old Irish foundations at Würzburg and Regensburg were taken over by the Scotch, and utilized for the education of priests. Scottish colleges were also established at Paris and at Madrid (transferred to Valladolid).
The Catholics of Scotland expected some toleration from James I., but they were doomed to disappointment. The king was unable and unwilling to put an end to the violent persecution carried on by the kirk, which aimed at wiping out every trace of Catholicity by directing its attacks against the Catholic nobility of the north and against the Jesuits, one of whom, Father Ogilvie was put to death (1516). Similarly under Charles I. the persecution continued unabated, but, notwithstanding all the penalties leveled against the clergy, many priests were found willing and ready to help their co-religionists in Scotland. Jesuits, Benedictines, Franciscans from Ireland, Capuchins, and Vincentians vied with each other in their efforts to confirm the faith of those who remained true and to win back those who had fallen away. During the Protectorate the Catholics could hope for no mercy, nor did the accession of Charles II. make much change in their sad condition. Under James II. they enjoyed a brief spell of liberty. The chapel at Holyrood was opened once again, and some provision was made from the private resources of the king for the support of the missions, and of the foreign colleges.But the favor of James II. led to still greater persecutions once he had been overthrown to make way for William of Orange. During the reigns of William and Mary, of Anne and of George I. the position of the Scotch Catholics was even worse than that of their brethren in England or Ireland. In his anxiety to encourage both the priests and the laity Innocent XII. appointed Bishop Thomas Nicholson as vicar-apostolic of Scotland in 1694, and, as it was impossible for him to give sufficient attention to the districts in the north and west where Catholics were still fairly numerous, Dr. Hugh MacDonald was appointed vicar-apostolic of the Highlands in 1726. When the Pretender arrived in Scotland the Catholics flocked to his standard, and when he was defeated at Culloden (1746) they were obliged to pay a heavy penalty for their loyalty to the old rulers. The Highland clans were either cut up in battle or deported; the Catholic chapels were closed, and so violent was the persecution that ensued that it seemed as if the wishes of the kirk were about to be realized. But events soon showed that those who imagined they had seen the extinction of Catholicism in Scotland were doomed to disappointment.
Original text by James MacCaffrey, edited and revised by William Mackis - this text © 2005. Please note: all applicable material on this website is protected by law and may not be copied without express written permission.