Calendar of State Papers, Scotland: Volume 11, 1593-1595. Originally published by Edinburgh, 1936.
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This, the eleventh volume of the Calendar of Scottish Papers, consists of 706 pages of text, covering a period of little more than two and a half years—from January 1592–3, till August 1595.
With the exception of some material from the British Museum (duly indicated in the Calendar), the original documents are comprised in volumes L.—LVI. (fn. 1) of the collection of Scottish Papers in the Public Record Office, London. Transcripts of these were prepared by Mr. W. K. Boyd, but as ill-health compelled him to relinquish his editorship, the task of carrying his work to completion was entrusted to the present hands.
The first impression left upon a reader of this volume might well be one of bewildered confusion among the strife of factions and the play of self-interest and personal ambitions. He seems to find little breadth of vision or nobility of purpose to redeem the sordid story of aggrandisement, deceit and treachery. This, however, is partly because his vision is near-sighted and blurred. The brevity of the period covered, the mass and repetition of details, the interweaving of rumour and fact—all these make it difficult to obtain a detached and long-distance view of the swiftly changing and crowded scene. When, however, he does acquire a just perspective, events are seen in their true significance in their proper setting.
Looking back from the standpoint of the present day, one realises that these were years of uncertainty and precarious equilibrium. The Queen of England was old and childless, and would not name a successor from among "sundry competitors in title" (p. 252). Her life-long rival, the King of Spain, was declining "to his latter end" (p. 252), and on the uncertain thread of his life hung the chief hopes of the Catholic faction in Scotland, England and the Low Countries. The Huguenot King of France was fighting for a throne which he secured at the price of his religion. (fn. 2) No one knew what a day might bring forth, and in the prevailing state of tension, cautious souls walked warily, adventurous spirits speculated, intriguing minds plotted mischief. The times induced to recklessness; and the figure of the adventurer and the schemer obscures that of the honest public servant or the ordinary man pursuing his daily path. Yet it was these last that were the backbone of the nation and in the last resort moulded its destiny.
James VI. himself was true to one unswerving purpose: it is his determination to succeed to the throne of Elizabeth that provides the clue to the labyrinthine maze of his policy. It was his aim to keep the balance even between opposing factions at home, and not to alienate Catholic opinion abroad. In the duel between England and Spain he understood the value of Scotland's strategic position as a doorway into England. By temporising with the Catholic or Spanish party he therefore hoped to raise his price as an ally in negotiating with England. Elizabeth, on her side, realised that it was essential to keep Scotland out of the arms of Spain, but she had no desire to see her "good brother" strong, nor to buy his support with money if she could secure her ends by intrigue.
Accordingly we are presented with the spectacle of two Princes, interdependent on each other, always outwardly professing love and friendship, sometimes actively co-operating, but all the while engaged in a diplomatic fencing match, and watching narrowly for the chinks in each other's armour. The consequent atmosphere of tension and general reliance upon expediency were at once a cause and a result of the sensational happenings and frequent political regroupings of the two and a half years covered by our Calendar.
We are plunged at the very beginning into the midst of the sensation created by the discovery of the plot known as the "Spanish Blanks." The evidence of the cryptic letters intercepted upon Mr. George Ker, the Catholic agent, was not in itself enough to incriminate Huntly, Angus and Errol, the three powerful intriguers with the King of Spain; and their wild scheme for a Spanish invasion of England through Scotland was probably never seriously regarded as practical statesmanship, whether by the Earls themselves or by Philip or by Elizabeth, who was not ignorant of the conspiracy that was hatching. (fn. 3)
It had a diplomatic importance in creating an atmosphere of apprehension and in affording England a pretext to interpose in Scottish affairs; but of deeper significance was the activity of the Kirk in conjunction with the burgesses and lairds. Immediately upon the apprehension of Ker, representatives of these classes consulted together "for remedies in the great dangers appearing, and thereon presenting themselves in great number to the King," they prayed for the adoption of decisive measures "and also freely offered their service with hazard of their lives and 'expense' of their goods and possessions in this cause" (p. 21). Their vigilance, alacrity and willingness to make sacrifices indicated a strength of patriotic public opinion and the existence of a self-reliant middle class which found its medium of expression through the Kirk. At times of crisis, barons, burgesses and ministers assembled in their own conventions and sent their commissioners to deal with the King, (fn. 4) and in the end it was they and not Elizabeth who supplied the money for the suppression of the rebellious Earls.
In the months that followed the disclosure of the Spanish intrigues, James, partly out of friendship to Huntly and partly from motives of policy, continued to temporise with the "Papist lords," while Elizabeth as a counterpoise gave support to James's arch-enemy, Francis Stewart, Earl of Bothwell. Such a situation, already sufficiently intricate, was further complicated by the opposition of the Court to Chancellor Thirlestane. When this volume opens he was living in compulsory retirement, from which it was the King's resolve to recall him to the Council table, while a strong party in Court, supported by the Queen, exerted all their endeavours to frustrate his intention. To this end the Stewart faction staged a sensational palace revolution by introducing Bothwell and effecting a shallow and short-lived reconciliation between the King and him. The letters of Elizabeth on 23rd August 1593 afford an interesting insight into the complicated situation that then arose (Nos. 119, 120, 121).
Elizabeth kept her finger on all the strings, with skilful dexterity wresting circumstances to her own advantage. To the disquietude of her conscientious ambassador she not only gave her countenance to Bothwell but at the same time she entertained overtures from Huntly and his "co-partners" (p. 167); and for her secret diplomacy she employed "instruments" who were not in the confidence of her official agent. Her statecraft demanded such "circumspection and secrecy" (p. 46) that the right hand should not know what the left hand did. The sorely tried Mr. Bowes exercised considerable self-restraint when he "noted," without further comment, that "the courses directed to be solicited with the state, and to be taken with the parties, do not very fully agree" (p. 167).
His is one of the most attractive figures in these pages. He appears as a laborious and painstaking diplomat, "very upright," and a loyal and self-effacing colleague, though somewhat wanting in initiative. (fn. 5) One can almost see him in his letters struggling like many of his contemporaries with the difficulties of self-expression, and occasionally rising, perhaps unconsciously, almost to poetic utterance. (fn. 6) No one doubted his zeal and disinterested fidelity, no matter whether his instructions caused him to "walk under great boasts" in risk of personal danger, or to enjoy the sunshine of popularity, winning "the hearts of all honest men" in the English interests (pp. 128, 441, 455). He was stricken with infirmities and worn with thankless toil, well meriting the leave of absence which he obtained in October 1594. In his selfsacrificing devotion to his royal mistress's service he was typical of the kind of public servant who made the age of Elizabeth great.
Special envoys, no less than resident agents, found their task in Scotland arduous. Burgh and Zouche, sent to urge James to vigorous proceedings against the Spanish faction, found themselves committed to the prosecution of a double policy: besides their open mission to the king, they were entrusted with a secret dealing which, in Zouche's case at least, did much to neutralise the first. He was, indeed, expressly given to understand that "the Queen wold have her ministers doe what she will not avowe" (p. 270). He was privately instructed to promote a rising against the King's familiars at the very time when, in his official capacity, he was demanding the vigorous prosecution of the rebel Earls. The enterprisers, it is true, were admonished to respect the person of the King and of his infant son, but Elizabeth must have known just as well as they that "the King will be where the persons they resist are and will patronise their cause" (p. 306). It was small wonder, therefore, that Zouche prayed God to send him out of the country (p. 265), and that James remonstrated with Elizabeth about her ambassador's conduct, (fn. 7) just as at a later date he complained that the supplies promised by him were not provided.
The King, on his side, however, did not fulfil his written word to prosecute the Papist Lords "at the time prefixed" (p. 303). Six months passed before he took the field in proper person against them. In the interval they had committed at Aberdeen an act of open rebellion against his sovereign authority, and had entered into a treasonable band with Bothwell—to the ultimate undoing of both contracting parties to the unnatural confederacy. (fn. 8)
At such a time, menaced by powerful rebels still at large and crippled by an impoverished exchequer, James took the hazardous step of inviting foreign princes to participate at the baptism of his son. (fn. 9) It was a characteristic act, revealing the King's high pretensions, inadequate resources and fertility of expedients.
The birth of the Prince had strengthened the dynasty by establishing the succession, but the ceremony of his baptism was designed to have an imperialistic as well as a national significance. The concourse of ambassadors of Protestant states was in keeping with James's political ideal "to advance a general alliance and confederation between all Christian kings, queens, princes and states" against "the King of Spain and his adherents" (fn. 10) (p. 105). His personal aspirations were no less indicated by his choice of a name for his son. The heir of six Jameses of the House of Stewart was christened Henry in honour of the first Tudor king of England, on whose throne his father's eyes were set. Moreover, to the "misliking" of Elizabeth, an adulatory poet styled James himself "King of all Britain in possession" (p. 431).
In strange contrast to these exalted pretensions were the actual penury of his own estate and his personal lack of dignity. James was a people's king from the point of view of his reliance upon popular support and goodwill. He went in and out among his subjects and they knew each other intimately. The monarch who assured the townsmen of Edinburgh "out of the window" of Holyroodhouse that he was safe at the hands of Bothwell (p. 130), and who greeted the English agent familiarly with a "How nowe, George," was not a prince hedged around with dignity and remote from common life. (fn. 11) This, however, was the result of straitened circumstances as well as of his individual temperament.
From a material point of view, the rich gifts presented by the United Provinces (fn. 12) and the Queen of England more than compensated for the failure to form a Christian confederacy. So clamant was his poverty that Mr. John Colville openly expressed the opinion "that his Majesty shall have great shame before the end" (p. 377). On the arrival of the first ambassadors the Queen retired to Falkland, "lest they should see her at the Abbey where she lay not like a princess of such birth and virtues" (p. 377). Owing to successive prorogations of the baptism from 15th July to 29th August, the King's embarrassments increased so much that in order to provide for the Danish ambassadors, who had been "so sumptious in their house-holding since their arrival," he had to resort to the expedient of secretly causing "the lords, barons and gentlemen of Lothian to invite them each one after the other to their houses till the very day of the baptism" (p. 385).
Poverty, indeed, was at the root of many of James's difficulties, and was rendered more acute by his carelessness in money matters. The astute and self-seeking Mr. John Colville knew how to deal with a prince whose "gentle nature is such that he cannot refuse, even if it were to give one thing twenty times" (fn. 13) (p. 596). Roger Aston, who impresses by his honesty no less than by his clear-sightedness, had the same report to make: "You know he can refuse nothing, . . . not looking what may follow" (p. 580).
Lack of funds manifestly weakened the executive machinery by undermining the King's "power to command" (p. 483). In the crisis of the raid against the rebel Earls in November 1594, Aston recorded that he "has done what he can. His jewels are in mortgage. His people are sore taxed, so that he can crave no more. He is now borrowing from the men of Leith to serve the present necessity" (p. 483). We have seen that it was largely the Kirk and the burghs that raised the money to pay the hired soldiers of the campaign. For the rest, the King had to rely on fines and feudal levies; and he resorted to the time-honoured policy of playing off rival baronial factions in the interests of the Crown. In this case he set Argyll against Huntly, thus enabling him to pursue a family quarrel with authority as the King's Lieutenant.
James was fully aware that such an elemental way of solving the difficulties of executive government meant ultimately the deepening and perpetuating of the ancient feuds which he sought to pacify. It was therefore with an aim to emancipate the Crown that he sought to establish a strong bodyguard of professional soldiers. Elizabeth, on the other hand, had no desire to see her neighbour thus strengthened, and the "evil affected" had some ground to allege that it was "no ways her intention to give her assistance, but only to put the King and his subjects by the ears and so leave him" (p. 483).
The time soon came, however, when she required his help against her "traitorously affected Irish" (p. 467), and found that her policy reacted on her. Tyrone and O'Donnell, who were raising revolt in Ulster, sought support from among the clans of the Western Highlands and Islands of Scotland; and although Elizabeth professed to despise such a rabble of traitors she did not disdain to write personal letters to James and Argyll, in October 1594, urging them to restrain the resort of their subjects to Ireland (pp. 466, 467; cf. p. 238). The King's conduct shows that he was fully aware how to profit by the new situation. He played her Majesty's own game of procrastination in order to raise the value of his support. Not only did he show no alacrity "to regard that matter more than we [the English] regard his contentment" (p. 619), but he was also not ignorant of the advantage of being able to disclaim responsibility for the actions of chieftains who lay "under the doom of forfeiture, neither answerable to King nor law" (p. 495). It may be remarked, moreover, that by committing Argyll to ward "for redressing of the faults of the highlanders" (p. 526), he was thereby postponing the date of his "answer to her Majesty anent the matter for Ireland" (pp. 527, 542), and that by taking order "for the quieting of the highlanders" he forced all the broken men "to be in readiness to depart" (p. 573).
Sir Robert Cecil and his royal mistress were, however, too astute to place sole reliance upon James and Argyll. The English government had long kept its eye upon the Western Isles, and the same tortuous policy which had been employed in dealing with Bothwell and the Catholic Earls was now applied to negotiations with the Celts. (fn. 14) Mr. John Colville, the henchman of Cecil, provided his "honourable Maecenas" with young Campbell of Lawers as a spy upon the movements of the islanders. But a man who could do greater service than he was Lauchlan MacLean of Duart, an influential Island chief and a kinsman of Argyll. With this fiery magnate a correspondence was maintained through his servant, Mr. John Auchinross, and Auchinross's gossip, John Cunningham, merchant burgess of Edinburgh. In addition to these agents there was the rather elusive personality of Mr. John Archibald, besides Mr. George Erskine, a dependent of Argyll, who was employed to negotiate between his master and MacLean, and who acted as an intelligencer to Nicolson, the English agent depute. It is characteristic of such a tangled skein of diplomacy that although co-operation between Argyll and MacLean was essential for the successful restraint of the islanders, and although they actually held counsels together for this end, yet till the very close of our Calendar "Argyll does not know that her Majesty has intelligence with MacLean, nor that MacLean has his purpose to seek the subjection of these men for her service" (p. 678, cf. p. 623).
MacLean's was the master mind that devised the soundest plan of action, but he made it plain that his support must be bought with a price, and that if the English government desired his service "the same must proceed by contract and appointment" (pp. 647, 648; cf. 592). Both he and Argyll were tempted with fair offers from the Irish rebels, whereas parsimony threatened to cost Elizabeth dear. It lost her the services of MacLean at a crisis when a "little expense" would have done "more than twenty times as much at another time" (p. 688). On the grievance that he was not employed as he looked for, he disbanded his garrison of 600 men and so allowed the adventurers free passage to Ireland; and, as John Auchinross pointed out, it was "harder and more dangerous ... to cause them return than to make them stay at home before their passing" (pp. 629, 648). Whether Elizabeth at last realised "that these matters are too long deferred with words and require more haste" (p. 690), it is left to a later volume to disclose. The present Calendar leaves an unfinished tale both in the story of the Irish rebellion and in the story of domestic politics and Court intrigue.
The strife of factions that followed upon the subjugation of the rebellious Earls was in many aspects a meaner and more sordid thing. One may justly charge the "Papist Lords" and Bothwell with treachery, lack of patriotism and the pursuit of personal ambitions in the guise of religion, but they were young men, spirited and reckless, who enjoyed the excitement of playing with fire. The intriguers who succeeded them dropped even the pretence of religious or patriotic motives and struggled for place and credit at Court. To serve their petty purposes they fomented differences between the King and Queen and made the custody of their infant son a bone of contention between them. Two rival parties—one consisting of Mar's supporters at Stirling, the other of the Queen's adherents at Edinburgh—threatened to divide the country into two hostile camps.
James's intention to reform abuses in the Exchequer alarmed the Master of Glamis, Lord Treasurer; and Mar's aim likewise to displace other ministers of state aroused the Chancellor and his following. By way of retaliation the threatened parties instigated the Queen to demand the keeping of the Prince out of the hands of Mar, his official guardian; but this was a thing which the King "cannot abide to hear," saying plainly that "whosoever would be movers of any alteration, chiefly for the removing of the Prince, seek nothing but the cutting of his throat and he will esteem them greater enemies to him than Bothwell" (p. 607). In such an electric atmosphere a sorry play was acted of personal jealousies, family feuds and palace plots. Out of the confusion, however, some points emerge worthy of note.
In the first place, faction was fomented by "wicked men"— "men who for revenge of their particulars will bring in the devil ere their cause perish" (pp. 588, 663). It is significant that at the beginning of the troubles it was Mr. John Colville who stirred up Mar against the Chancellor (p. 494). This sinister character, formerly the confidential adviser of Bothwell in the English interests, was not ashamed to offer "honest proof of his repentance" by betraying some of his associates, notably Hercules Stewart, nor to undertake to act as a spy upon his erstwhile patron, and so, true to his nature, in the motion concerning the Prince he showed himself to be "like the night howlet . . . not seen in the day, and yet . . . not idle" (pp. 542, 494). There was irreconcilable feud between him and the Chancellor, to whose place he aspired, and for his own ends he took "the best course in following Mar" (p. 659). His correspondence discloses a subtle influence for evil in his stressing of low motives and his power of insinuation. It was he who had urged Elizabeth to leave James to his own devices in the prosecution of the Earls on the ground that he "must go against these Papists or lose his crown" (p. 398); it was he who advocated the employment of Bothwell as a goad to rive the King with a wedge of his own wood (pp. 397, 407, 424); and he who now in the crisis between husband and wife imputed to them a feeling of "lurking hatred, disguised with cunning dissimulation, each intending by sleight to overcome the other" (p. 683). In contrast to this is the opinion of Roger Aston that "there was never greater appearance of love between them than at this time" (p. 681). Both writers realised that the situation was strained: the difference between them was that the former was a blower of the bellows "to set all on fire" (p. 681), whereas the latter was "in good hope that all matters shall succeed well" (p. 682); and the issue, he believed, would depend upon the King.
The attitude of James was, indeed, a crucial factor. It was his disposition, Aston reported, "to have quietness that he may have hunting and hawking, which are his chief delights" (p. 589). His position was peculiarly difficult, because his affections as well as his interests were touched. Not only were his wife and infant son used as instruments of diplomacy by the opposition, but he was torn between his personal friendship with Mar and his loyalty to Thirlestane, his old and experienced councillor. He believed that both of them were "evil dealt with" by "some wicked men," and, acting upon this faith, he sought to reconcile them for the furtherance of his service (p. 568). Nevertheless, when he suspected the Chancellor to be implicated in the projects of the Edinburgh faction, he "used some hard language to him," commanding him to yield "all obedience . . . to his Majesty's will" (p. 663). It is clear that Thirlestane found himself "in great strait," seeking to stand on fair terms with both parties, dissuading from violent measures, but unable or unwilling to cut himself adrift from "the chief ringleaders of the plot" that was so obnoxious to the King (pp. 671, 681, 662, 665, 641). James, however, carried the day, withdrew his wife from her ill counsellors, and effected a formal reconciliation between her and Mar. Thus he secured the "quietness" which he desired to follow his hunting, although all thinking men felt that the peace was a lull, and not a cessation of their "great storms" (p. 681).
It may be noticed, finally, that the ministers played an active part in the work of pacification. The Kirk feared that "the division of this land into two factions" would afford an opportunity for the return of "the Papist lords, to the danger of religion and trouble of the country in greatest sort" (p. 669). So, just as they had been active in prosecuting practisers with Spain, in promoting the campaign against the rebel Earls, in apprehending Myreton and detecting the movements of Jesuits in general, so now they kept a vigilant eye upon the play of factions at Court and interposed to effect a settlement when occasion offered. At a time when no man dared speak openly with the King "in such matters as concern the Queen," Mr. John Davidson "spoke plain language," and Mr. Patrick Galloway was "somewhat plainer with the King than others durst be for fear of the Queen," while Mr. David Lindsay acted as an agent to effect "good and kind countenance and behaviour between them" (pp. 671, 679).
There was, however, no servility in the attitude of the ministers to the Crown. On the contrary, they could denounce the King and his courtiers with great temerity; and in pulpit they commonly mingled political perorations with spiritual discourse. It must be remembered, however, in this connection, that attendance at church bore a social as well as a religious aspect. Such ranking of precedence as obtained at Court was apparently extended to the house of God. Thus the refusal of Lord Maxwell to yield place in church to the Earl of Morton led to "some stir" and a serious risk of open strife (p. 42). Diplomatists also found an opportunity there for practising statecraft, as when the Chancellor "took occasion" to tryst Lord Zouche at church so that they might talk business on the "way homewards" (pp. 293, 294).
The minister who denounced the government from the pulpit and exclaimed against the "odiousness" of crime (p. 646) was at least no moral coward and might easily incur the wrath of the King. Doubtless many a preacher might be "more circumspect in his words" than Mr. David Black and "more reverent in his reasoning" than Mr. Andrew Melville (p. 680), but from the social point of view we must consider that there were few available channels for expressing public opinion. For want of a democratic Parliament or of the modern popular press and political organisations, men in those days had to fall back upon such mediums as sermons and placards like the "infamous libel . . . found on John Carne's door," containing a declaration "that the Duke and Mar had conspired the King's death, the overthrow of religion with slaughter of the ministers" and other incredible accusations (p. 103). On another occasion opposition to the Chancellor in "the Sessions House" was shown by pinning above his seat "epigrams" against him and "jests" prognosticating his evil end (p. 553). This somewhat crude method of attack was at least more civilised than the alleged plot to kill him and the Master of Glamis "as they came out of the Exchequer and returned to their lodgings" (p. 531).
Our Calendar shows that the argument of the sword was, indeed, only too often adopted for the settling of old scores or more recent controversies. Thus because of a standing feud between Mr. John Graham, a Lord of Session, and Sir James Sandilands, a chance encounter led to the death of Graham himself in a pistol fight and to the slaughter or death of others who happened to be present (p. 49). Little more than two years later a "stirre" of some magnitude was occasioned when "upon the quarrel between Dunipace and Garden, Dunipace has slain Forrester (Foster), one of the bailies of Stirling, as he was riding to Kirkliston" (p. 624). In this case political complications followed, inasmuch as the victim was a servant of Mar and the murderers were reputed to be the tools of Mar's adversaries— "the Queen, the Chancellor, the Master of Glamis and the rest" (p. 625).
Dangerous broils were, unhappily, but too easily aroused when nobles habitually moved about with a numerous retinue of idlehanded retainers. This accounted for many a fray in the narrow streets of Edinburgh (fn. 15); and when the political situation was tense the King had rigorously to limit the number of followers who might accompany their lords (p. 521). A concourse of the nobility in the capital was always matter of apprehension by reason of their feuds and dissensions, alliances and kinships. Their politics were very largely determined by personal ends—friendships, hatreds, acquisitiveness, or defence of what they held; and the old baronial families were often torn in sunder by the conflicting claims of consanguinity and marriage ties. Lord Burgh, coming as a stranger to Scotland, found that the nobility were "so interallied that, notwithstanding the religion they profess, they tolerate the opposite courses of the adverse parties, and excuse or cloak the faults committed" (pp. 75–6).
When one remembers, for example, that Morton had for one son-in-law the Catholic rebel Earl of Errol, for another the Presbyterian Argyll, who was the King's Lieutenant against the Catholic rebels, and for a third Lord Hume, who was "inward with the King and backward in religion," one is not greatly surprised that his affections and interests were divided. He himself had been tainted with the Spanish conspiracies in 1589, but "the danger of religion" in October 1593 moved him "to subdue his strong affection towards Angus and Errol, and to tender the safety of the religion" (fn. 15) (p. 208). When the call was great, men were apt to rise to meet it, and, conversely, when the strain was removed the inevitable reaction set in: petty intrigues took the place of national and religious struggles. Thus in the face of actual insurrection, Lennox, as the King's Lieutenant, "kept a very honest course" against Huntly, his brother-in-law but a Spanish practiser and a rebel (p. 497). He was doubtless supported in the straight path by his advisers, some of whom were ministers, zealous in the cause of the Kirk, others of whom, like Forbes, were personal enemies of Huntly, or, like Sir Robert Melville, cautious men of ripe experience, fit counsellors for his "young years." (fn. 16)
One can see, however, that in less critical times such a network of inter-alliances and personal loyalties and animosities was likely to breed "the constant inconstancy of our estate" and make the work of government difficult for a prince of slender resources.
Governance was, indeed, lamentably weak in Scotland. To the student of constitutional history, the Parliament of May 1594 may be interesting in its judicial aspect, but it is clear that it had no independent life or control over policy. Justice similarly became a fiction when the jury could be packed as in the so-called trial of Bothwell, or when the court could be intimidated as when Argyll pursued the murderers of Calder, or Mar the murderers of David Forrester. A glaring instance of licentiousness pointed such a strong contrast between the rule of law in England and the want of it in Scotland that the sober Burghley was moved to exclaim upon "a miserable state that may cause us to bless ours and our governess" (p. 98 and n.). Familiarity with violence and bloodshed blunted men's susceptibilities. It explains, for example, the hint of callousness in the bald statement that "two of Huntly's men being lately hanged were taken down and carried to be buried, whereupon one reviving is hitherto suffered to live," and it underlies the exuberant jubilation of Auchinross over his master's crafty onset upon the islesmen—a piece of "good luck done by a valiant man of war and a man of honour" who "divers times . . . played this dance here against his enemies" (pp. 473. 668–9). Irresponsible power, also, made men brutal when their baser passions were aroused: witness the revolting pleasantry of Huntly in preparing "two [human] roasts" for Athol and Mackintosh (p. 165, cf. p. 91).
In addition to the political and social miseries of the unhappy country it was visited also by economic distress. It is noteworthy that when the Kirk proclaimed a fast in August 1595, among the impending calamities which they feared was "the extreme dearth here and appearance of the increase thereof through the continual rains" (p. 670), while in the preceding spring Nicolson begged to be furnished with "speedy relief of money to supply our wants here by reason of the extreme dearth," and "the ministers have ordained a moderation of diet every Sunday, 'till the cornes come of the earth'" (pp. 670, 585). Harvests were precarious, and the spectre of starvation must always have been lurking at the back of men's minds. The campaign against the rebels in October 1594 was curtailed by reason of floods and famine, whereby "sundry of the King's army died for want of food" (p. 470). "Plain hunger," also, drove hundreds of islesmen to leave Scotland and seek service as mercenaries in the Irish wars. The Highlands and Islands must have been over-populated for the scanty means of subsistence; and "broken men" everywhere abounded. Cattle-lifting raids upon neighbouring clans in the north, or from over the Border in the south, were a means of livelihood as well as an outlet for adventure.
This dark side of the picture, however, is not the only aspect. Thus, although the country was torn by faction, the interests of trade and commerce were not neglected. James himself took up the cause of aggrieved Scottish merchants in England, while his commission to Orde and the petition of a Dundee skipper who traded in Spanish wine showed that religious and political antagonism had not cut off commercial intercourse with Spain (pp. 108, 196). On the contrary, the threat to "bar the trade of all Scottishmen" throughout the dominions of Catholic princes indicates that such a trade was not insignificant (p. 401). We have seen, moreover, that the burgesses were sufficiently wealthy to finance the King's raid against the Papist lords and that they were politically active in co-operation with the Kirk and barons when their feelings were aroused.
An interest in art further testifies to a certain prosperity in spite of the general insecurity. Fingask took "the boldness to send" to Sir Robert Cecil some pictures such as Mr. Lock "had seen painted here at Edinburgh" and which "your honour liked well to have for a gallery of yours" (No. 291). It is perhaps still more illuminating to find John Auchinross ordering a pictorial "tabill of the kinges" of Scotland as a decoration for his room in his lodgings at Dumbarton (pp. 622-3, 638).
Building activities are also recorded incidentally in our Calendar, Huntly hastened "the building of his hall and gallery at Strathbogy" only a few months before the castle was rased (p. 375). Labour was also expended to make "the house of Stirling" ready for Prince Henry's baptism (p. 413). Some of the structure erected was, however, merely of a temporary nature as a setting for the pageantry and festivities which provided a strange interlude of colour and gaiety in an otherwise sombre drama. (fn. 17)
We have seen, moreover, that the presence of foreign ambassadors at the ceremony of the baptism was a symbol that Scotland was a sovereign state in the comity of nations: and there are many other indications that the ancient kingdom was not cut off from the main stream of European events. The trafficking with Spain, the overtures for a Protestant League, the diplomatic, commercial and personal intercourse with France and Denmark and the United Provinces, the importance of Scotland as a back door into England— all these were factors that gave her a certain prominence in international relationships. Individuals also sojourned abroad, sometimes for religion's sake or under doom of banishment, sometimes for education and culture or in the course of business.
Foreign events, moreover, were followed in Scotland with an eager eye and a knowledge that men might be vitally affected by happenings abroad. King James himself, who was a kinsman of the House of Guise and the son of a widowed Queen of France, kept up a correspondence with his French relatives and offered to mediate between them and their sovereign. (fn. 18) Among his subjects adventurous and discontented spirits saw a chance of employment in the Dutch wars or in the service of the Emperor against the Turk, while the Kirk felt a kinship with their afflicted "brethren in France" (p. 182). Mr. Bowes found that "assuredly the servant in this place gets great help in her Majesty's service by the frequent receipt of foreign intelligence": and the King "called George Nicolson into his cabinet to understand the news in France" (pp. 139, 164, 509).
In those days of slow communications, when it took a considerable time for "the truth and manner" of even the most important events to become "certainly known" (p. 456), men were inevitably much at the mercy of rumour, and the pages of our Calendar show how easily false reports were spread. Bowes confessed on one occasion that "this sudden tale of the King's departure was over-rashly given to me by one of my 'talesmen,' and too readily believed by the other talesman and myself" (p. 209). Credulity did much, but deliberate purpose did more, to set empty rumours flying. Thus the rebel Earls sent Mr. Walter Lindsay to the King of Spain and the Pope to represent their cause as triumphant in Scotland; and, owing to the propaganda of Mr. James Gordon, Father Myreton "thought to have found the King to have been a Catholic" in the spring of 1595.
Rumour flourished in a period such as that covered by our Calendar, when the prevailing atmosphere was one of suspicion and dramatic events followed upon each other in swift and perplexing succession. The volume leaves an unfinished tale: it begins and it ends in the middle of a story of intrigues and unrest.
The Introduction is followed by an Appendix of six documents from the Harleian transcripts of the volume Cotton, Caligula D. ii. This has been done in order to supply gaps caused by the partial burning of the originals. Owing to the change of editorship and other difficulties, their existence was discovered too late for inclusion in their proper place, but cross-references are now given to help in placing them in their context. It will be seen that the transcriber sometimes deviates slightly from his original.
I desire to express my thanks to the Curator of the Historical Records of Scotland and his staff for their kind helpfulness during the editing of this volume.