Extracts From the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh, 1557-1571. Originally published by Scottish Burgh Records Society, Edinburgh, 1875.
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The present volume, which forms the third of the series of "Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Edinburgh," contains a selection, mainly from the Council Register, of extracts relating to matters of national interest, or illustrative of the history of the Scottish Capital from 1557 till 1571.
The volume opens with the imposition on Edinburgh of its proportion of a national tax to defray the expenses of the marriage of Queen Mary with the Dauphin of France. It closes with the Queen deposed and a prisoner in England; Scotland distracted by two fuctions, one professing allegiance to the Queen, the other supporting the cause of her son; the Castle of Edinburgh held for her by Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange, and the Regent Lennox preparing to besiege it.
As might be expected, the records of the Burgh during these fourteen years contain frequent references to the important events that were taking place, many of them in the City and in its immediate vicinity; and it is hoped that the present volume which contains everything of general interest in the records during the period over which the selections extend, will be found to possess some interest as a contribution to the history not only of Edinburgh, but of Scotland.
It is curious to notice the ordinary stream of every-day life in the town flowing on during these years, side by side with that great current of human thought which was undermining and sweeping away old forms of faith and venerable institutions, and changing the whole aspect of Scottish character and history. When England and France were both prosecuting their schemes for attaching Scotland, and the issues of their diplomacy could not fail to exercise a mementous influence over the future of the country, the burgesses are to be found in these pages occupied in building the Newhaven; in discussing, with much keenness and not little acrimony, the relative rights and privileges of merchants and craftsmen; in extending civic hospitalities to distinguished strangers; in legislating as to the prices of victuals and the situation of markets, the repair of public buildings and highways, and all the varied details of every-day burghal life. The frequent references to "our auld enemies of England," and to the precautions to be observed against invasion by them; the ordinances as to providing armour, and as to weaponshawings and musters, as to building up approaches to the town through closes and wynds, as to furnishing artillery and gunners, and as to removing the charters and evidents of the Burgh to the Castle for safety,—all recall vividly the unhappy relations which then existed between England and Scotland. But still, absorbing as such interests must have been, appealing directly to instincts of self-preservation, as well as to sentiments of national honour, the citizens seem at no time to have been inattentive to the concerns of their daily trade within and without the Burgh. Monopoly was the order of that day, and the privileged trader was very jealous of his rights, and very careful to prevent their being invaded by those who did not possess the freedom of the town as burgesses, and the freedom of the merchant-guild or of a handicraft. As strictly, also, did the community guard its corporate rights from encroachment by adjoining and less-favoured districts. Leith, the port of the capital, to which Edinburgh then stood in a position of feudal superiority, had not the valuable and much-coveted privileges of trade. These belonged exclusively to Edinburgh, by whom they were guarded with a strictness and severity scarcely intelligible at the present day, but quite consistent with the policy and practice of the sixteenth century. Of the relations between the City and its dependency this volume affords abundant illustration. But it would be as unwarrantable to estimate the action of the citizens and authorities of the Edinburgh of that time towards Leith by the standard of the received notions of the present day, as it would now be to foster or perpetuate the jealousies of those times. The real interests of the two communities can never be antagonistic: a wise policy of mutual respect and conciliation, and a drawing together on all matters of common concern, will, it is to be hoped, lead ultimately to permanent union on the basis of common rights, interests, and privileges.
Unfortunately, the records of most of the Scottish Burghs previous to 1571 are not now extant; and as those of Edinburgh are, by reason of its being the capital, peculiarly interesting, it has been resolved to proceed forthwith with the publication of a fourth volume. The requisite transcripts are being made, and will be placed without delay in the hands of the printer.
It was intended that this volume should have contained selection from the accounts of the Treasurers and Deans of Guild for the period over which it extends, and its publication has been delayed for some time in the hope that this intention might be carried into effect. The City Chamberlain, Mr. Adam, whose intimate acquaintance with these accounts fits him beyond any other person for making the requisite selections and transcripts, kindly undertook the work, and has made considerable progress with it, but has been prevented from completing it by the pressure of other and more important duties. The fourth volume of extracts from the Records will probably be ready in the course of the present year, and the selections from the accounts from 1557 till the last date of the forthcoming volume will accompany it.
The Historical Preface, which was also intended to accompany the present volume, will be reserved for the next, or for the concluding volume, should it be resolved to carry down the selections from the Edinburgh Records to a still more recent date.
Since the first volume of Edinburgh Records was published, further investigation has enabled the List of Provosts, Presidents, Bailies, and Office-Bearers to be rendered more complete subsequent to 1500. The List appended to the present volume includes all the information which has been obtained on this subject from 1527–28, down to and including 1570–71.