Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

Votton and Sir Lewis Bellenden to the Scottish court. One of the chief objects of Wotton's intrigues was to ruin Arran. While a minion, so odious to the nation, continued to govern the king, his assistance could be of little advantage to Elizabeth. And though Arran, ever since his interview with Hunsdon, had appeared extremely zealous for her interest, she could place no great confidence in a man, whose conduct was so capricious and irregular, and who, notwithstanding his protestations to the contrary, still continued a secret correspondence both with Mary and with the duke of Guise. The banished lords were attached to England from affection, as well as principle, and were the only persons among the Scots whom in any dangerous exigency she could thoroughly trust. Before Bellenden left London, they had been summoned thither, under colour of vindicating themselves from his accusations, but in reality, to concert with him the most proper measures for restoring them to their country. Wotton pursued this plan, and endeavoured to ripen it for execution ; and it was greatly facilitated by an event, neither uncommon nor considerable. Sir John Forster, and Ker of Ferniherst, the English and Scottish wardens of the middle marches, having met, according to the custom of the borders, about midsummer, a fray arose, and lord Russel, the earl of Bedford's eldest son, happened to be killed. This scuffle was purely accidental, but Elizabeth chose to consider it as a design formed by Ker, at the instigation of Arran, to involve the two kingdoms in war. She insisted that both of them should be delivered up to her; and though James eluded that demand, he was obliged to confine Arran in St. Andrew's, and Ker in Aberdeen. During his absence from court, Wotton and his associates carried on their intrigues without interruption. By their advice, the banished nobles endeavoured to accommodate their differences with lord John, and lord Claud, the duke of Chatelherault's two sons, whom Morton's violence had driven out of the kingdom. Their common sufferings, and common interest, induced both parties to bury in oblivion the ancient discord, which had subsisted between the houses of Hamilton and Douglas. By Elizabeth's permission, they returned in a body to the borders of Scotland. Arran, who had again recovered favour, insisted on putting the kingdom in a posture of defence. But Gray, Bellenden, and Maitland, secretly thwarted all his measures. Some necessary orders they prevented from being issued ; others they rendered ineffectual by the manner of execution ; and all of them were obeyed slowly and with reluctance.

Meanwhile, the banished lords hastened the execution of their enterprise; and as their friends and vassals were now ready to join them, they entered Scotland. Wherever they came, they were welcomed as the deliverers of their country, and the most fervent prayers were put up to heaven for the success of their arms. They advanced, without losing a moment, towards Stirling, at the head of ten thousand men. The king, though he had assembled an army superior in number, could not venture to meet them in the field with troops, whose loyalty was extremely dubious, and who, at best, were far from being hearty in the cause ; nor was either the town or castle provided for a siege. The gates, however, of both were shut, and the nobles encamped at St. Ninians. That same night they surprised the town, or more probably it was betrayed into their hands; and Arran, who had undertaken to defend it, was obliged to save himself by a precipitate flight. Next morning they invested the castle, in which there were not provisions for twenty-four hours; and James was necessitated immediately to hearken to terms of accommodation. They were not so elated with success, as to urge extravagant demands, nor was the. king unwilling to make every reasonable concession. They obtained a pardon, in the most ample form, of all the offences they had committed; the principal forts in the kingdom were, by way of security, put into their hands ; Crawford, Montroge, and colonel Stewart were removed from the king's presence ; and a parliament was called, to establish tranquillity in the nation.

Though a great majority in this parliament consisted of the confederate nobles and their adherents, they were far from discovering a vindictive spirit. Satisfied with procuring an act, restoring them to their ancient honours and estates, and ratifying the pardon granted by the king, they seemed willing to forget all past errors in the administration, and spared James the mortification of seeing his ministers branded with any public note of infamy. Arran alone, deprived of all his honours, stripped of his borrowed spoils, and declared an enemy to his country by public proclamation, sunk back into his primitive obscurity. As he had been, during his unmerited prosperity, the object of the hatred and indignation of his countrymen, they beheld his fall without pity, nor did all his sufferings mitigate their resentment in the least degree.

FRANCIS, EARL OF BOTHWELL.

FRANCIS STEWART was son of John, prior of Coldingham, a natural child of James V. and created earl by James VI.

Though influenced by no motive of religion, still adhering to the protestant faith, this nobleman

was prompted merely by caprice, and the restlessness of his nature, to join in the traitorous correspondence set on foot by Crawford, Errol, and others of the popish lords, with the Spanish court, during the reign of James VI. Upon the discovery of this conspiracy, a short confinement was all that was inflicted on these associates. Immediately upon regaining their liberty, however, they relapsed into rebellion, but, unsupported by their countrymen, with whom James and his ministers were by no means unpopular, they were obliged to disperse, to surrender to the king, and throw themselves on his mercy. They were brought to public trial., Repeated acts of treason were easily proved against them. The king, however, did not permit any sentence to be pronounced ; and, after keeping them a few months in confinement, he took occasion, amidst the public festivity and rejoicings at the approach of his marriage, to set them at liberty.

The excessive clemency of James VI. is well known. All the defects in the feudal aristocracy were felt more sensibly during his reign than at any other period in the history of Scotland ; and universal license and anarchy prevailed, to a degree scarce cồnsistent with the preservation of society. * But, though James connived at real crimes, witchcraft, which is commonly an imaginary one, engrossed his attention, and those suspected of it felt the whole weight of his authority. Many persons, neither extremely old, nor wretchedly poor, which were usually held to be certain indications of this crime, but masters of families, and matrons of a decent rank, and in the middle age of life, were seized and tortured ; and though their confessions contained the most absurd and incredible circumstances, the king's prejudices, those of the clergy, and of the people, conspired in believing their extravagancies without hesitation, and in punishing their per

sons without

mercy.

Some of these unhappy sufferers accused Bothwell of having consulted them, in order to know the time of the king's death, and of having employed their art to raise the storms which had endangered the queen's life, and had detained James so long in Denmark. Upon this evidence that nobleman was committed to prison. His turbulent and haughty spirit could neither submit to the restraint, nor brook such an indignity. Having gained his keepers he made his escape, and imputing the accusation to the artifices of his enemy, the chancellor, assembled his followers, under pretence of driving him from the king's councils. Being favoured by some of the king's attendants, he was admitted by a secret passage, under cloud of night, into the court of the palace of Holyroodhouse. He advanced directly towards the royal apartment, but happily, before he entered, the alarm was taken and the doors shut. While he attempted to burst open some of them, and to set fire to others, the citizens of Edinburgh had time to run to their arms, and he escaped with the utmost difficulty; owing his safety to the darkness of the night, and the precipitancy with which he fled. He retired towards the north, and the king gave a commission to the earl of Huntly to pursue him and his follow ers with fire and sword; a commission, however, which failed in its effect against Bothwell, being shamefully peryerted to the gratification of Huntly's private revenge against another family.

In the parliament of 1593, Bothwell and his adherents were attainted. But he soon made a new attempt to seize the king at Falkland ; and James, betrayed by some of his courtiers, and feebly defended by others, who wished well to Bothwell, as the chancellor's avowed enemy, owed his safety to the fidelity and vigilance of Sir Robert Melyil, apd to the irresolution of Bothwell's associates.

« AnteriorContinuar »