Chapter XV: James V and the Reformation
The new times were at the door. In 1425 the Scottish Parliament had forbidden Lutheran books to be imported. But they were, of course, smuggled in; and the seed of religious revolution fell on minds disgusted by the greed and anarchy of the clerical fighters and jobbers of benefices.
James V, after he had shaken off the Douglases and become "a free king," had to deal with a political and religious situation, out of which we may say in the Scots phrase, "there was no outgait." His was the dilemma of his father before Flodden. How, against the perfidious ambition, the force in war, and the purchasing powers of Henry VIII, was James to preserve the national independence of Scotland? His problem was even harder than that of his father, because when Henry broke with Rome and robbed the religious houses a large minority, at least, of the Scottish nobles, gentry, and middle classes were, so far, heartily on the anti-Roman side. They were tired of Rome, tired of the profligacy, ignorance, and insatiable greed of the ecclesiastical dignitaries who, too often, were reckless cadets of the noble families. Many Scots had read the Lutheran books and disbelieved in transubstantiation; thought that money paid for prayers to the dead was money wasted; preferred a married and preaching to a celibate and licentious clergy who celebrated Mass; were convinced that saintly images were idols, that saintly miracles were impostures. Above all, the nobles coveted the lands of the Church, the spoils of the religious houses.
In Scotland, as elsewhere, the causes of the religious revolution were many. The wealth and luxury of the higher clergy, and of the dwellers in the abbeys, had long been the butt of satire and of the fiercer indignation of the people. Benefices, great and small, were jobbed on every side between the popes, the kings, and the great nobles. Ignorant and profligate cadets of the great houses were appointed to high ecclesiastical offices, while the minor clergy were inconceivably ignorant just at the moment when the new critical learning, with knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, was revolutionising the study of the sacred books. The celibacy of the clergy had become a mere farce; and they got dispensations enabling them to obtain ecclesiastical livings for their bastards. The kings set the worst example: both James IV and James V secured the richest abbeys, and, in the case of James IV, the Primacy, for their bastard sons. All these abuses were of old standing. "Early in the thirteenth century certain of the abbots of Jedburgh, supported by their Chapters, had granted certain of their appropriate churches to priests with a right of succession to their sons" (see "The Mediæval Church in Scotland," by the late Bishop Dowden, chap. xix. Mac-Lehose, 1910.) Oppressive customs by which "the upmost claith," or a pecuniary equivalent, was extorted as a kind of death-duty by the clergy, were sanctioned by excommunication: no grievance was more bitterly felt by the poor. The once-dreaded curses on evil-doers became a popular jest: purgatory was a mere excuse for getting money for masses.
In short, the whole medieval system was morally rotten; the statements drawn up by councils which made vain attempts to check the stereotyped abuses are as candid and copious concerning all these things as the satires of Sir David Lyndsay.
Then came disbelief in medieval dogmas: the Lutheran and other heretical books were secretly purchased and their contents assimilated. Intercession of saints, images, pilgrimages, the doctrine of the Eucharist, all fell into contempt.
As early as February 1428, as we have seen, the first Scottish martyr for evangelical religion, Patrick Hamilton, was burned at St Andrews. This sufferer was the son of a bastard of that Lord Hamilton who married the sister of James III As was usual, he obtained, when a little boy, an abbey, that of Ferne in Ross-shire. He drew the revenues, but did not wear the costume of his place; in fact, he was an example of the ordinary abuses. Educated at Paris and Louvain, he came in contact with the criticism of Erasmus and the Lutheran controversy. He next read at St Andrews, and he married. Suspected of heresy in 1427, he retired to Germany; he wrote theses called "Patrick's Places," which were reckoned heretical; he was arrested, was offered by Archbishop Beaton a chance to escape, disdained it, and was burned with unusual cruelty, - as a rule, heretics in Scotland were strangled before burning. There were other similar cases, nor could James interfere - he was bound by his Coronation Oath; again, he found in the bishops his best diplomatists, and they, of course, were all for the French alliance, in the cause of the independence of their country and Church as against Henry VIII.
Thus James, in justifiable dread of the unscrupulous ambition of Henry VIII, could not run the English course, could not accept the varying creeds which Henry, who was his own Pope, put forward as his spirit moved him. James was thus inevitably committed to the losing cause - the cause of Catholicism and of France - while the intelligence no less than the avarice of his nobles and gentry ran the English course.
James had practically no choice. In 1536 Henry proposed a meeting with James "as far within England as possible." Knowing, as we do, that Henry was making repeated attempts to have James kidnapped and Archbishop Beaton also, we are surprised that James was apparently delighted at the hope of an interview with his uncle - in England. Henry declined to explain why he desired a meeting when James put the question to his envoy. James said, in effect, that he must act by advice of his Council, which, so far as it was clerical, opposed the scheme. Henry justified the views of the Council, later, when James, returning from a visit to France, asked permission to pass through England. "It is the king's honour not to receive the King of Scots in his realm except as a vassal, for there never came King of Scots into England in peaceful manner otherwise." Certain it is that, however James might enter England, he would leave it only as a vassal. Nevertheless his Council, especially his clergy, are blamed for embroiling James with Henry by dissuading him from meeting his uncle in England. Manifestly they had no choice. Henry had shown his hand too often.
At this time James, by Margaret Erskine, became the father of James, later the Regent Moray. Strange tragedies would never have occurred had the king first married Margaret Erskine, who, by 1536, was the wife of Douglas of Loch Leven. He is said to have wished for her a divorce that he might marry her; this could not be: he visited France, and on New Year's Day, 1537, wedded Madeline, daughter of Francis I. Six months later she died in Scotland.
Marriage for the king was necessary, and David Beaton, later Cardinal Beaton and Archbishop of St Andrews, obtained for his lord a lady coveted by Henry VIII, Mary, of the great Catholic house of Lorraine, widow of the Duc de Longueville, and sister of the popular and ambitious Guises. The pair were wedded on June 10, 1538; there was fresh offence to Henry and a closer tie to the Catholic cause. The appointment of Cardinal Beaton (1539) to the see of St Andrews, in succession to his uncle, gave James a servant of high ecclesiastical rank, great subtlety, and indomitable resolution, but remote from chastity of life and from clemency to heretics. Martyrdoms became more frequent, and George Buchanan, who had been tutor of James's son by Margaret Erskine, thought well to open a window in a house where he was confined, walk out, and depart to the Continent. Meanwhile Henry, no less than Beaton, was busily burning his own martyrs. In 1539 Henry renewed his intercourse with James, attempting to shake his faith in David Beaton, and to make him rob his Church. James replied that he preferred to try to reform it; and he enjoyed, in 1540, Sir David Lyndsay's satirical play on the vices of the clergy, and, indeed, of all orders of men. In 1540 James ratified the College of Justice, the fifteen Lords of Session, sitting as judges in Edinburgh.
In 1541 the idea of a meeting between James and Henry was again mooted, and Henry actually went to York, where James did not appear. Henry, who had expected him, was furious. In August 1542, on a futile pretext, he sent Norfolk with a great force to harry the Border. The English had the worse at the battle of Hadden Rig; negotiations followed; Henry proclaimed that Scottish kings had always been vassals of England, and horrified his Council by openly proposing to kidnap James. Henry's forces were now wrecking an abbey and killing women on the Border. James tried to retaliate, but his levies (October 31) at Fala Moor declined to follow him across the Border: they remembered Flodden, moreover they could not risk the person of a childless king. James prepared, however, for a raid on a great scale on the western Border, but the fact had been divulged by Sir George Douglas, Angus's brother, and had also been sold to Dacre, cheap, by another Scot. The English despatches prove that Wharton had full time for preparation, and led a competent force of horse, which, near Arthuret, charged on the right flank of the Scots, who slowly retreated, till they were entangled between the Esk and a morass, and lost their formation and their artillery, with 1200 men: a few were slain, most were drowned or were taken prisoners. The raid was no secret of the king and the priests, as Knox absurdly states; nobles of the Reforming no less than of the Catholic party were engaged; the English had full warning and a force of 3000 men, not of 400 farmers; the Scots were beaten through their own ignorance of the ground in which they had been burning and plundering. As to confusion caused by the claim of Oliver Sinclair to be commander, it is not corroborated by contemporary despatches, though Sir George Douglas reports James's lament for the conduct of his favourite, "Fled Oliver! fled Oliver!" The misfortune broke the heart of James. He went to Edinburgh, did some business, retired for a week to Linlithgow, where his queen was awaiting her delivery, and thence went to Falkland, and died of nothing more specific than shame, grief, and despair. He lived to hear of the birth of his daughter, Mary (December 8, 1542). "It came with a lass and it will go with a lass," he is said to have muttered.
On December 14th James passed away, broken by his impossible task, lost in the bewildering paths from which there was no outgait.
James was personally popular for his gaiety and his adventures while he wandered in disguise. Humorous poems are attributed to him. A man of greater genius than his might have failed when confronted by a tyrant so wealthy, ambitious, cruel, and destitute of honour as Henry VIII; constantly engaged with James's traitors in efforts to seize or slay him and his advisers. It is an easy thing to attack James because he would not trust Henry, a man who ruined all that did trust to his seeming favour.
When James died, Henry VIII seemed to hold in his hand all the winning cards in the game of which Scotland was the stake. He held Angus and his brother George Douglas; when he slipped them they would again wield the whole force of their House in the interests of England and of Henry's religion. Moreover, he held many noble prisoners taken at Solway - Glencairn, Maxwell, Cassilis, Fleming, Grey, and others, - and all of these, save Sir George Douglas, "have not sticked," says Henry himself, "to take upon them to set the crown of Scotland on our head." Henry's object was to get "the child, the person of the Cardinal, and of such as be chief hindrances to our purpose, and also the chief holds and fortresses into our hands." By sheer brigandage the Reformer king hoped to succeed where the Edwards had failed. He took the oaths of his prisoners, making them swear to secure for him the child, Beaton, and the castles, and later released them to do his bidding.
Henry's failure was due to the genius and resolution of Cardinal Beaton, heading the Catholic party.
What occurred in Scotland on James's death is obscure. Later, Beaton was said to have made the dying king's hand subscribe a blank paper filled up by appointment of Beaton himself as one of a Regency Council of four or five. There is no evidence for the tale. What actually occurred was the proclamation of the Earls of Arran, Argyll, Huntly, Moray, and of Beaton as Regents (December 19, 1542). Arran, the chief of the Hamiltons, was, we know, unless ousted by Henry VIII, the next heir to the throne after the new-born Mary. He was a good-hearted man, but the weakest of mortals, and his constant veerings from the Catholic and national to the English and reforming side were probably caused by his knowledge of his very doubtful legitimacy. Either party could bring up the doubt; Beaton, having the ear of the Pope, could be specially dangerous, but so could the opposite party if once firmly seated in office. Arran, in any case, presently ousted the Archbishop of Glasgow from the Chancellorship and gave the seals to Beaton - the man whom he presently accused of a shameless forgery of James's will.
The Regency soon came into Arran's own hands: the Solway Moss prisoners, learning this as they journeyed north, began to repent of their oaths of treachery, especially as their oaths were known or suspected in Scotland. George Douglas prevailed on Arran to seize and imprison Beaton till he answered certain charges; but no charges were ever made public, none were produced. The clergy refused to christen or bury during his captivity. Parliament met (March 12, 1543), and still there was silence as to the nature of the accusations against Beaton; and by March 22 George Douglas himself released the Cardinal (of course for a consideration) and carried him to his own strong castle of St Andrews.
Parliament permitted the reading but forbade the discussion of the Bible in English. Arran was posing as a kind of Protestant. Ambassadors were sent to Henry to negotiate a marriage between his son Edward and the baby Queen; but Scotland would not give up a fortress, would never resign her independence, would not place Mary in Henry's hands, would never submit to any but a native ruler.
The airy castle of Henry's hopes fell into dust, built as it was on the oaths of traitors. Love of such a religion as Henry professed, retaining the Mass and making free use of the stake and the gibbet, was not, even to Protestants, so attractive as to make them run the English course and submit to the English Lord Paramount. Some time was needed to make Scots, whatever their religious opinions, lick the English rod. But the scale was soon to turn; for every reforming sermon was apt to produce the harrying of religious houses, and every punishment of the robbers was persecution intolerable against which men sought English protection.
Henry VIII now turned to Arran for support. To Arran he offered the hand of his daughter, the Princess Elizabeth, who should later marry the heir of the Hamiltons. But by mid-April Arran was under the influence of his bastard brother, the Abbot of Paisley (later Archbishop Hamilton). The Earl of Lennox, a Stuart, and Keeper of Dumbarton Castle, arrived from France. He was hostile to Arran; for, if Arran were illegitimate, Lennox was next heir to the crown after Mary: he was thus, for the moment, the ally of Beaton against Arran. George Douglas visited Henry, and returned with his terms - Mary to be handed over to England at the age of ten, and to marry Prince Edward at twelve; Arran (by a prior arrangement) was to receive Scotland north of Forth, an auxiliary English army, and the hand of Elizabeth for his son. To the English contingent Arran preferred £5000 in ready money - that was his price.
Sadleyr, Henry's envoy, saw Mary of Guise, and saw her little daughter unclothed; he admired the child, but could not disentangle the cross-webs of intrigue. The national party - the Catholic party - was strongest, because least disunited. When the Scottish ambassadors who went to Henry in spring returned (July 21), the national party seized Mary and carried her to Stirling, where they offered Arran a meeting, and (he said) the child queen's hand for his son. But Arran's own partisans, Glencairn and Cassilis, told Sadleyr that he fabled freely. Representatives of both parties accepted Henry's terms, but delayed the ratification. Henry insisted that it should be ratified by August 24, but on August 16 he seized six Scottish merchant ships. Though the Treaty was ratified on August 25, Arran was compelled to insist on compensation for the ships, but on August 28 he proclaimed Beaton a traitor. In the beginning of September Arran favoured the wrecking of the Franciscan monastery in Edinburgh; and at Dundee the mob, moved by sermons from the celebrated martyr George Wishart, did sack the houses of the Franciscans and the Dominicans; Beaton's Abbey of Arbroath and the Abbey of Lindores were also plundered. Clearly it was believed that Beaton was down, and that church-pillage was authorised by Arran. Yet on September 3 Arran joined hands with Beaton! The Cardinal, by threatening to disprove Arran's legitimacy and ruin his hopes of the crown, or in some other way, had dominated the waverer, while Henry (August 29) was mobilising an army of 20,000 men for the invasion of Scotland. On September 9 Mary was crowned at Stirling. But Beaton could not hold both Arran and his rival Lennox, who committed an act of disgraceful treachery. With Glencairn he seized large supplies of money and stores sent by France to Dumbarton Castle. In 1544 he fled to England and to the protection of Henry, and married Margaret, daughter of Angus and Margaret Tudor, widow of James IV He became the father of Darnley, Mary's husband in later years, and the fortunes of Scotland were fatally involved in the feud between the Lennox Stewarts and the House of Hamilton.
Meanwhile (November 1543) Arran and Beaton together broke and persecuted the abbey robbers of Perthshire and Angus, making "martyrs" and incurring, on Beaton's part, fatal feuds with Leslies, Greys, Learmonths, and Kirkcaldys. Parliament (December 11) declared the treaty with England void; the party of the Douglases, equally suspected by Henry and by Beaton, was crushed, and George Douglas was held a hostage, still betraying his country in letters to England. Martyrs were burned in Perth and Dundee, which merely infuriated the populace. In April 1544, while Henry was giving the most cruel orders to his army of invasion, one Wishart visited him with offers, which were accepted, for the murder of the Cardinal. Early in May the English army under Hertford took Leith, "raised a jolly fire," says Hertford, in Edinburgh; he burned the towns on his line of march, and retired.
On May 17 Lennox and Glencairn sold themselves to Henry; for ample rewards they were to secure the teaching of God's word "as the mere and only foundation whence proceeds all truth and honour"! Arran defeated Glencairn when he attempted his godly task, and Lennox was driven back into England.
In June Mary of Guise fell into the hands of nobles led by Angus, while the Fife, Perthshire, and Angus lairds, lately Beaton's deadly foes, came into the Cardinal's party. With him and Arran, in November, were banded the Protestants who were to be his murderers, while the Douglases, in December, were cleared by Parliament of all their offences, and Henry offered 3000 crowns for their "trapping." Angus, in February 1545, protested that he loved Henry "best of all men," and would make Lennox Governor of Scotland, while Wharton, for Henry, was trying to kidnap Angus. Enraged by the English desecration of his ancestors' graves at Melrose Abbey, Angus united with Arran, Norman Leslie, and Buccleuch to annihilate an English force at Ancrum Moor, where Henry's men lost 800 slain and 2000 prisoners. The loyalty of Angus to his country was now, by innocents like Arran, thought assured. The plot for Beaton's murder was in 1545 negotiated between Henry and Cassilis, backed by George Douglas; and Crichton of Brunston, as before, was engaged, a godly laird in Lothian. In August the Douglases boast that, as Henry's friends, they have frustrated an invasion of England with a large French contingent, which they pretended to lead, while they secured its failure. Meanwhile, after forty years, Donald Dubh, and all the great western chiefs, none of whom could write, renewed the alliance of 1463 with England, calling themselves "auld enemies of Scotland." Their religious predilections, however, were not Protestant. They promised to destroy or reduce half of Scotland, and hailed Lennox as Governor, as in Angus's offer to Henry in spring 1545. Lennox did make an attempt against Dumbarton in November with Donald Dubh. They failed, and Donald died, without legitimate issue, at Drogheda. The Macleans, Macleods, and Macneils then came into the national party.
In September 1545 Hertford, with an English force, destroyed the religious houses at Melrose, Kelso, Dryburgh, and Jedburgh. Meanwhile the two Douglases skulked with the murderous traitor Cassilis in Ayrshire, and Henry tried to induce French deserters from the Scottish flag to murder Beaton and Arran.
Beaton could scarcely escape for ever from so many plots. His capture, in January 1546, of George Wishart, an eminently learned and virtuous Protestant preacher, and an intimate associate of the murderous, double-dyed traitor Brunston and of other Lothian pietists of the English party; and his burning of Wishart at St Andrews, on March 1, 1546, sealed the Cardinal's doom. On May 29th he was surprised in his castle of St Andrews and slain by his former ally, Norman Leslie, Master of Rothes, with Kirkcaldy of Grange, and James Melville who seems to have dealt the final stab after preaching at his powerless victim. They insulted the corpse, and held St Andrews Castle against all comers.
How gallant a fight Beaton had waged against adversaries how many and multifarious, how murderous, self-seeking, treacherous, and hypocritical, we have seen. He maintained the independence of Scotland against the most recklessly unscrupulous of assailants, though probably he was rather bent on defending the lost cause of a Church entirely and intolerably corrupt.
The two causes were at the moment inseparable, and, whatever we may think of the Church of Rome, it was not more bloodily inclined than the Church of which Henry was Pope, while it was less illogical, not being the creature of a secular tyrant. If Henry and his party had won their game, the Church of Scotland would have been Henry's Church - would have been Anglican. Thus it was Beaton who, by defeating Henry, made Presbyterian Calvinism possible in Scotland.
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