Chapter XVII: Regency of Arran
The death of Cardinal Beaton left Scotland and the Church without a skilled and resolute defender. His successor in the see, Archbishop Hamilton, a half-brother of the Regent, was more licentious than the Cardinal (who seems to have been constant to Mariotte Ogilvy), and had little of his political genius. The murderers, with others of their party, held St Andrews Castle, strong in its new fortifications, which the queen-mother and Arran, the Regent, were unable to reduce. Receiving supplies from England by sea, and abetted by Henry VIII, the murderers were in treaty with him to work all his will, while some nobles, like Argyll and Huntly, wavered; though the Douglases now renounced their compact with England, and their promise to give the child queen in marriage to Henry's son. At the end of November, despairing of success in the siege, Arran asked France to send men and ships to take St Andrews Castle from the assassins, who, in December, obtained an armistice. They would surrender, they said, when they got a pardon for their guilt from the Pope; but they begged Henry VIII to move the Emperor to move the Pope to give no pardon! The remission, none the less, arrived early in April 1547, but was mocked at by the garrison of the castle.
The garrison and inmates of the castle presently welcomed the arrival of John Knox and some of his pupils. Knox (born in Haddington, 1513-1515?), a priest and notary, had borne a two-handed sword and been of the body-guard of Wishart. He was now invited by John Rough, the chaplain, to take on him the office of preacher, which he did, weeping, so strong was his sense of the solemnity of his duties. He also preached and disputed with feeble clerical opponents in the town. The congregation in the castle, though devout, were ruffianly in their lives, nor did he spare rebukes to his flock.
Before Knox arrived, Henry VIII and Francis II had died; the successor of Francis, Henri II, sent to Scotland Monsieur d'Oysel, who became the right-hand man of Mary of Guise in the Government. Meanwhile the advance of an English force against the Border, where they occupied Langholm, caused Arran to lead thither the national levies. But this gave no great relief to the besieged in the castle of St Andrews. In mid-July a well-equipped French fleet swept up the east coast; men were landed with guns; French artillery was planted on the cathedral roof and the steeple of St Salvator's College, and poured a plunging fire into the castle. In a day or two, on the last of July, the garrison surrendered. Knox, with many of his associates, was placed in the galleys and carried captive to France. On one occasion the galleys were within sight of St Andrews, and the Reformer predicted (so he says) that he would again preach there - as he did, to some purpose.
But the castle had not fallen before the English party among the nobles had arranged to betray Scottish fortresses to England; and to lead 2000 Scottish "favourers of the Word of God" to fight under the flag of St George against their country. An English host of 15,000 was assembled, and marched north accompanied by a fleet. On the 9th of September 1547 the leader, Somerset, found the Scottish army occupying a well-chosen position near Musselburgh: on their left lay the Firth, on their front a marsh and the river Esk. But next day the Scots, as when Cromwell defeated them at Dunbar, left an impregnable position in their eagerness to cut Somerset off from his ships, and were routed with great slaughter in the battle of Pinkie. Somerset made no great use of his victory: he took and held Broughty Castle on Tay, fortified Inchcolme in the Firth of Forth, and devastated Holyrood. Mischief he did, to little purpose.
The child queen was conveyed to an isle in the loch of Menteith, where she was safe, and her marriage with the Dauphin was negotiated. In June 1548 a large French force under the Sieur d'Essé arrived, and later captured Haddington, held by the English, while, despite some Franco-Scottish successes in the field, Mary was sent with her Four Maries to France, where she landed in August, the only passenger who had not been sea-sick! By April 1550 the English made peace, abandoning all their holds in Scotland. The great essential prize, the child queen, had escaped them.
The clergy burned a martyr in 1550; in 1549 they had passed measures for their own reformation: too late and futile was the scheme. Early in 1549 Knox returned from France to England, where he was minister at Berwick and at Newcastle, a chaplain of the child Edward VI., and a successful opponent of Cranmer as regards kneeling at the celebration of the Holy Communion. He refused a bishopric, foreseeing trouble under Mary Tudor, from whom he fled to the Continent. In 1550-51 Mary of Guise, visiting France, procured for Arran the Duchy of Châtelherault, and for his eldest son the command of the Scottish Archer Guard, and, by way of exchange, in 1554 took from him the Regency, surrounding herself with French advisers, notably De Roubay and d'Oysel.
In England, on the death of Edward VI, Catholicism rejoiced in the accession of Mary Tudor, which, by driving Scottish Protestant refugees back into their own country, strengthened there the party of revolt against the Church, while the queen-mother's preference of French over Scottish advisers, and her small force of trained French soldiers in garrisons, caused even the Scottish Catholics to hold France in fear and suspicion. The French counsellors (1556) urged increased taxation for purposes of national defence against England; but the nobles would rather be invaded every year than tolerate a standing army in place of their old irregular feudal levies. Their own independence of the Crown was dearer to the nobles and gentry than safety from their old enemy. They might have reflected that a standing army of Scots, officered by themselves, would be a check on the French soldiers in garrison.
Perplexed and opposed by the great clan of Hamilton, whose chief, Arran, was nearest heir to the crown, Mary of Guise was now anxious to conciliate the Protestants, and there was a "blink," as the Covenanters later said, - a lull in persecution.
After Knox's release from the French galleys in 1549, he had played, as we saw, a considerable part in the affairs of the English Church, and in the making of the second Prayer-Book of Edward VI, but had fled abroad on the accession of Mary Tudor. From Dieppe he had sent a tract to England, praying God to stir up some Phineas or Jehu to shed the blood of "abominable idolaters," - obviously of Mary of England and Philip of Spain. On earlier occasions he had followed Calvin in deprecating such sanguinary measures. The Scot, after a stormy period of quarrels with Anglican refugees in Frankfort, moved to Geneva, where the city was under a despotism of preachers and of Calvin. Here Knox found the model of Church government which, in a form if possible more extreme, he later planted in Scotland.
There, in 1549-52, the Church, under Archbishop Hamilton, Beaton's successor, had been confessing her iniquities in Provincial Councils, and attempting to purify herself on the lines of the tolerant and charitable Catechism issued by the Archbishop in 1552. Apparently a modus vivendi was being sought, and Protestants were inclined to think that they might be "occasional conformists" and attend Mass without being false to their convictions. But in this brief lull Knox came over to Scotland at the end of harvest, in 1555. On this point of occasional conformity he was fixed. The Mass was idolatry, and idolatry, by the law of God, was a capital offence. Idolaters must be converted or exterminated; they were no better than Amalekites.
This was the central rock of Knox's position: tolerance was impossible. He remained in Scotland, preaching and administering the Sacrament in the Genevan way, till June 1556. He associated with the future leaders of the religious revolution: Erskine of Dun, Lord Lorne (in 1558, fifth Earl of Argyll), James Stewart, bastard of James V, and lay Prior of St Andrews, and of Macon in France; and the Earl of Glencairn. William Maitland of Lethington, "the flower of the wits of Scotland," was to Knox a less congenial acquaintance. Not till May 1556 was Knox summoned to trial in Edinburgh, but he had a strong backing of the laity, as was the custom in Scotland, where justice was overawed by armed gatherings, and no trial was held. By July 1556 he was in France, on his way to Geneva.
The fruits of Knox's labours followed him, in March 1557, in the shape of a letter, signed by Glencairn, Lorne, Lord Erskine, and James Stewart, Mary's bastard brother. They prayed Knox to return. They were ready "to jeopardy lives and goods in the forward setting of the glory of God." This has all the air of risking civil war. Knox was not eager. It was October before he reached Dieppe on his homeward way. Meanwhile there had been hostilities between England and Scotland (as ally of France, then at odds with Philip of Spain, consort King of England), and there were Protestant tumults in Edinburgh. Knox had scruples as to raising civil war by preaching at home. The Scottish nobles had no zeal for the English war; but Knox, who received at Dieppe discouraging letters from unknown correspondents, did not cross the sea. He remained at Dieppe, preaching, till the spring of 1558.
In Knox's absence even James Stewart and Erskine of Dun agreed to hurry on the marriage between Mary, Queen of Scots, and Francis, Dauphin of France, a feeble boy, younger than herself. Their faces are pitiably young as represented in their coronation medal.
While negotiations for the marriage were begun in October, on December 3, 1557, a godly "band" or covenant for mutual aid was signed by Argyll (then near his death, in 1558); his son, Lorne; the Earl of Morton (son of the traitor, Sir George Douglas); Glencairn; and Erskine of Dun, one of the commissioners who were to visit France for the Royal marriage. They vow to risk their lives against "the Congregation of Satan" (the Church), and in defence of faithful Protestant preachers. They will establish "the blessed Word of God and His Congregation," and henceforth the Protestant party was commonly styled "The Congregation."
Parliament (November 29, 1557) had accepted the French marriage, all the ancient liberties of Scotland being secured, and the right to the throne, if Mary died without issue, being confirmed to the House of Hamilton, not to the Dauphin. The marriage-contract (April 19, 1558) did ratify these just demands; but, on April 4, Mary had been induced to sign them all away to France, leaving Scotland and her own claims to the English crown to the French king.
The marriage was celebrated on April 24, 1558. In that week the last Protestant martyr, Walter Milne, an aged priest and a married man, was burned for heresy at St Andrews. This only increased the zeal of the Congregation.
Among the Protestant preachers then in Scotland, of whom Willock, an Englishman, seems to have been the most reasonable, a certain Paul Methuen, a baker, was prominent. He had been summoned (July 28) to stand his trial for heresy, but his backing of friends was considerable, and they came before Mary of Guise in armour and with a bullying demeanour. She tried to temporise, and on September 3 a great riot broke out in Edinburgh, the image of St Giles was broken, and the mob violently assaulted a procession of priests. The country was seething with discontent, and the death of Mary Tudor (November 17, 1558), with the accession of the Protestant Elizabeth, encouraged the Congregation. Mary of Guise made large concessions: only she desired that there should be no public meetings in the capital. On January 1, 1559, church doors were placarded with "The Beggars' Warning." The Beggars (really the Brethren in their name) claimed the wealth of the religious orders. Threats were pronounced, revolution was menaced at a given date, Whitsunday, and the threats were fulfilled.
All this was the result of a plan, not of accident. Mary of Guise was intending to visit France, not longing to burn heretics. But she fell into the worst of health, and her recovery was doubted, in April 1559. Willock and Methuen had been summoned to trial (February 2, 1559), for their preachings were always apt to lead to violence on the part of their hearers. The summons was again postponed in deference to renewed menaces: a Convention had met at Edinburgh to seek for some remedy, and the last Provincial Council of the Scottish Church (March 1559) had considered vainly some proposals by moderate Catholics for internal reform.
Again the preachers were summoned to Stirling for May 10, but just a week earlier Knox arrived in Scotland. The leader of the French Protestant preachers, Morel, expressed to Calvin his fear that Knox "may fill Scotland with his madness." Now was his opportunity: the Regent was weak and ill; the Congregation was in great force; England was at least not unfavourable to its cause. From Dundee Knox marched with many gentlemen - unarmed, he says - accompanying the preachers to Perth: Erskine of Dun went as an envoy to the Regent at Stirling; she is accused by Knox of treacherous dealing (other contemporary Protestant evidence says nothing of treachery); at all events, on May 10 the preachers were outlawed for non-appearance to stand their trial. The Brethren, "the whole multitude with their preachers," says Knox, who were in Perth were infuriated, and, after a sermon from the Reformer, wrecked the church, sacked the monasteries, and, says Knox, denounced death against any priest who celebrated Mass (a circumstance usually ignored by our historians), at the same time protesting, "We require nothing but liberty of conscience"!
On May 31 a composition was made between the Regent and the insurgents, whom Argyll and James Stewart promised to join if the Regent broke the conditions. Henceforth the pretext that she had broken faith was made whenever it seemed convenient, while the Congregation permitted itself a godly liberty in construing the terms of treaties. A "band" was signed for "the destruction of idolatry" by Argyll, James Stewart, Glencairn, and others; and the Brethren scattered from Perth, breaking down altars and "idols" on their way home. Mary of Guise had promised not to leave a French garrison in Perth. She did leave some Scots in French pay, and on this slim pretext of her treachery, Argyll and James Stewart proclaimed the Regent perfidious, deserted her cause, and joined the crusade against "idolatry."
It is far from my purpose to represent Mary of Guise as a kind of stainless Una with a milk-white lamb. I am apt to believe that she caused to be forged a letter, which she attributed to Arran. See my "John Knox and the Reformation," pp. 280, 281, where the evidence is discussed. But the critical student of Knox's Chapters on these events, generally accepted as historical evidence, cannot but perceive his personal hatred of Mary of Guise, whether shown in thinly veiled hints that Cardinal Beaton was her paramour; or in charges of treacherous breach of promise, which rest primarily on his word. Again, that "the Brethren" wrecked the religious houses of Perth is what he reports to a lady, Mrs Locke; that "the rascal multitude" was guilty is the tale he tells "to all Europe" in his History. I have done my best to compare Knox's stories with contemporary documents, including his own letters. These documents throw a lurid light on his versions of events, as given in this part of his History, which is merely a partisan pamphlet of autumn 1559. The evidence is criticised in my " John Knox and the Reformation," pp. 107-157 (1905). Unhappily the letter of Mary of Guise to Henri II, after the outbreak at Perth, is missing from the archives of France.
|To Next Section|