Calendar of Border Papers: Volume 1, 1560-95. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1894.
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In the year 1840 the Commissioners of the Public Records caused the papers forming this collection to be bound in 74 volumes as a class by themselves. (fn. 1) It is not known how the collection was formed—whether the papers were always together, or had been selected from the general body of State Papers—nor is the precise date when they begin known, for the reason presently to be mentioned. The evident intention of the Record Commission to keep them all together was unfortunately not carried out, for the first 39 volumes were subsequently broken up and their contents dispersed in several publications of the Rolls Series.
Probably the first to take any out of their places was Mr. Markham J. Thorpe, editor of the Calendar of State Papers relating to Scotland (1509–1603), in two volumes, 1858, who observes, in the preface to his first volume, p. xxvii, that it is "difficult to determine in certain cases whether particular letters should be classed with the Scotch papers or those relating to the Borders … The Compiler has been allowed, therefore, occasionally to insert the letters of the Border officers among the Scotch papers, when those letters referred exclusively to Scotch affairs." Mr. Thorpe, however, gives no table showing how many letters he transferred, and their identification would be laborious, if indeed now practicable. But most of the papers in these dispersed volumes, were incorporated in the Foreign Series of the Rolls publications, and will be found in the 11 volumes of Calendars for the years 1558–1577, edited by the Rev. Joseph Stevenson and the late Mr. A. J. Crosbie. In most, if not all of these, the editors have given tables of the Border Papers so taken,—a very excellent proceeding, especially considering that the contents of this Foreign Series relate to a dozen or more countries, including Scotland, then considered foreign. The Editor is not aware if any of these first 39 volumes were examined by Mrs Everett Green for the Domestic Series of Record publications; but, so long ago as the year 1868, that lady was allowed by the Deputy-Keeper to select from the remaining volumes a considerable number of papers to be included in her work, and that they were so taken is evident from the transfer slips with date and signature remaining among the MSS. It is not easy to see on what principle, if any, they were so selected and removed; and, besides this, at one time the papers enclosed in a document are removed and the covering one left, at another time the process is reversed; and, as the description of the papers removed gives neither date nor other particulars, the identification of them is often uncertain. They must number several hundreds at least.
The mode in which these earlier volumes have been thus broken up does not commend itself to the present Deputy Keeper of the Public Records, who has cordially welcomed the proposal by the head of H.M. General Register House, Edinburgh, that the remaining portion shall form one of the Scottish Record Publications issued under his direction, with the sanction of the Treasury. These remaining volumes are now 35 in number, for the missing volume, numbered 40, has been added to them since they were bound by the Record Commission. That volume contains nothing but the curious scheme for fortifying the English Border on the line of the Roman Wall, (fn. 2) which, though without date, is possibly to be referred to the year 1587. The binding is apparently of the seventeenth century. (fn. 3)
To judge from the title of this collection, the historical inquirer would naturally expect to find in it nothing more than the correspondence between the English and Scottish wardens on the business of their wardenries,—viz., the inroads made on either side, and the robberies, cruelties, and murders constantly perpetrated, more especially in the English West and Middle Marches, by the clans and broken men of Liddesdale and its neighbouring dales, and the Debatable Land. (fn. 4) But though there are few documents to be found here such as those contained in The Hamilton Papers, showing the direct dealings of one government with the other in weighty affairs of international policy, there is perhaps a more varied interest to be recognised in these now under consideration. For the three Border wardens of England, in addition to their proper duties, were also charged with secret and confidential enquiries, so far as their ability extended, into the internal affairs of Scotland, as well as the intercourse of its rulers with the Continent, especially with France and Spain; and the long reports on these subjects which they from time to time forwarded to the Secretaries of State are abundant evidence of the efficient manner in which they discharged these onerous duties. They were compelled, in truth, to be not less familiar with the pen than the sword. The necessity for this vigilance, it is hardly needful to say, arose from the insecurity of Elizabeth's position. While she held the Queen of Scots a prisoner, whose title to the English throne was in the opinion of many superior to her own, the constantly recurring plots for Mary's freedom and her rival's death, always countenanced if not instigated abroad, and the close neighbourhood of Scotland, ruled by a minor, affording a sure retreat whence hostile emissaries could with ease enter her kingdom, were a perennial source of danger to be guarded against. Nor was her risk much lessened even after the tragedy of Fotheringay had removed the royal personage round whom these schemes had revolved, herself no inactive promoter of them. For the uncertainty of King James's position, tossed to and fro by several powerful factions, and the doubtfulness of his constancy to "the Religion," as it was called, the successes of Parma in the Low Countries, and the avowed designs of his master and himself to make Scotland the field whence an invasion of England might be projected, kept Elizabeth's statesmen and lieutenants on the Border in constant activity, not only till the Great Armada had sailed and been defeated, but for years afterwards; for, with perseverance worthy of a better cause, neither Philip nor Parma abandoned their designs on England after that great disaster.
With these preliminary remarks we proceed to consider the contents of this volume. The first fourteen documents, ranging from 1560 to 1576, are isolated, and seem to have been omitted by Mr Thorpe from the collection styled the Conway Papers, forming an appendix to Vol. II. of his Calendar above described. The very tender and fragmentary condition of several of these may possibly account for this. One (fn. 5) refers to the rebellion of George, Earl of Huntly, and is dated a few weeks before he fell at Corrichie, Murray his successful opponent being then in favour with his sister the Queen of Scots. Another, the original of which is not here, has a curious reference to the frequent visits paid by Mary to Lord Darnley, then under some infectious complaint, several months before she married him. (fn. 6) Two others, later in the same year, from Lord Bedford, then governor of Berwick, (fn. 7) give a glimpse of the hostility of Murray and the Protestant party to the marriage, their retreat to England, the strange underhand policy of Elizabeth towards her presumed friends, and Mary's revenge for Rizzio's death. Another of these documents, (fn. 8) the report on the minerals in Crawford Moor, is without date. The laird of Merchiston named in it being doubtless Sir Archibald Napier, who was master of the Scottish Mint, and flourished from 1550 (the date of his distinguished son's birth) till 1608, it may be a good deal later than the period here assigned, as, except in the regencies of Murray or Morton, it is hardly conceivable that an Englishman of Bowes' rank would have been permitted to make such researches before the union of the Crowns.
In the year 1577, however, the series begins to show more regularity (with the reservation already made as to papers transferred), and from that year is fairly continuous. During the seventeen years covered by this volume, the wardens for England were Lord Hunsdon on the East March, Sir John Forster on the Middle, and Henry and Thomas, lords Scrope, on the West. On the Scottish side, Lord Hume faced Hunsdon, the Lairds of Cessford and Fernihirst by turns governed the Middle March, and the Maxwells the West, with intervals when Carmichael and Johnston were in favour at Court. Robert Bowes held the office of treasurer of Berwick, besides acting as ambassador at Edinburgh, during a great part of these seventeen years,—a double duty, the due discharge of which proved to be beyond his power.
For two years the records contain little about Scotland, the most interesting event being the building of the new pier at Berwick in 1577–8, of which a very particular description is given by Bowes and others in letters and reports to Burghley, (fn. 9) showing its heavy cost. Yet there are unmistakable allusions to the perilous state of Scotland, that is as concerned Elizabeth's interests there, when the iron rule of Morton was beginning to totter before his fall,—in two letters from Bowes to Burghley. (fn. 10)
It is not unlikely that the Regent's demission of power, and the rise of French influence over the young King by the agency of Esmé Stuart of Aubigny, foreshadowing a change in the relations of the two countries, occasioned the musters on the English Border in the beginning of the year 1580, (fn. 11) and the examination into the state of the Border boundaries and armaments of fortresses later in that year. (fn. 12) And his imprisonment at its close on charges which Elizabeth and her ministers must have shrewdly suspected would undoubtedly bring him to the headsman's block, doubtless caused the very searching commission of inquiry as to the able men, both horse and foot, who could be summoned by the Warden of the West Marches, if need arose. (fn. 13) This long array, giving the individual names of nearly 9000 men and their equipment, is a valuable record of the sturdy yeomen of Cumberland and Westmoreland; for, with the exception of Lowther, Aglionby, Salkeld, and a few more of the gentlemen of the wardenry, most of the names are little known except to the local antiquary. The arms and weapons are not only given with much detail, but their absence is also noted. The jack, steel cap, and spear predominate next the Scottish Border, the bow and bill in the districts further south, and there are not above half a dozen guns or arquebusses; while two men were ready to face the enemy, one with a pitchfork and the other with a pikestaff.
The chances of Morton regaining power (fn. 14) proved futile, and the attempt to overthrow his supplanter Aubigny (now Earl and soon after Duke of Lennox), earnestly pressed by Elizabeth, completely failing, in spite of Randall and Hunsdon's joint endeavours to get up a case against him, (fn. 15) her ambassador found it necessary to leave Edinburgh, probably in March 1580–1. His letter to Hunsdon, unfortunately imperfect, gives some account of the French embassy (fn. 16) then in London on the Queen's treaty of marriage with Anjou. He was followed if not preceded by the notorious Archibald Douglas, who had procured leave from Elizabeth to enter England so early as 3rd February 1580–1, but remained probably about the Borders till 29th July, when he came up to London with an introduction to Burghley in the character of an innocent man unjustly accused. (fn. 17) It is strange that he escaped his patron's fate, and lived to be ambassador for the son of Darnley. The bluff and outspoken Hunsdon thought little of him, and said so without loss of time (fn. 18) to Burghley, who had written to him about Douglas. He disappeared from Scotland for four years, and only emerged from his retreat on the fall of his enemy Arran.
It may be convenient to see how far the successive conspiracies of the ambitious men around the young King to secure possession of his person, which took place during the six or seven years after Morton's death, are illustrated by the contents of this volume.
James, closely attended by the new Duke of Lennox and Stewart, Earl of Arran, amused himself in the autumn of 1581 in progressing about the west parts of his country, (fn. 19) these two councillors being, however, looked on with great suspicion by many, especially the Presbyterian ministers, who feared that the influence of Lennox might draw him towards France and Popery, which they proposed to counteract by "some good exhortation" in the next General Assembly. (fn. 20) This course, however well meant, was not welcome to James. He was desirous at this time to surround himself with scions of his family, for he despatched a messenger to Italy to summon home the young Earl of Bothwell who was to be such a torment to him afterwards, but then esteemed of great promise. (fn. 21) The short-lived outward concord between Lennox and Arran did not last long, the former desiring an amnesty for two of Darnley's murderers, which the King and Arran opposed. (fn. 22) In addition, the injudicious appointment by Lennox, of Montgomery minister of Stirling, as Bishop of Glasgow, roused a storm of opposition by the reformed clergy, backed by most of the nobility. (fn. 23) Here, however, the King must have supported him, for an odd account is given of their loving demeanour in public, the King throwing his arms round the Duke's neck and kissing him. (fn. 24) But the ministers, with popular opinion behind them, proved too strong; and after Montgomery had recanted before them under threat of excommunication, the Duke was obliged to retire to France, where he died the next year. (fn. 25) This result is the only notice here of the "Raid of Ruthven," which transferred the custody of James to Mar, Angus, and Gowrie, who sent Arran for a year to prison; but the King's escape from their keeping on 27th June 1583, and the way in which it was effected are related. (fn. 26) Also, the reappearance of Arran as chief in the King's councils is chronicled; (fn. 27) and in the same letter the arrival from France of the son of the late Lennox, who was destined as second Duke to enjoy favour longer than his father.
Arran now resumed the career which in two years brought about his downfall. He instigated the King against the Presbyterian ministers, (fn. 28) whose friends among the nobility, secretly backed by Elizabeth, assembled at Perth to concert a rising against him in March 1584, (fn. 29) but though they made appearance in the field, matters were scarcely ripe for their enterprise; and, after procuring the execution of Gowrie, with three relatives of the insurgent nobles, in revenge of the "Raid of Ruthven," he drove Angus, Mar, Glamis and others across the Border with many of their followers, and the Catholic faction came into power,—one reason possibly for the fresh musters on the English Marches. (fn. 30)
Arran being now chancellor of the kingdom and lieutenantgeneral of the Marches, the policy of Elizabeth and her ministers was directed to his ejection from the strong position he occupied in the King's favour, the plans suggested by some of her instruments not stopping short of his death.
Hunsdon appears to have been the only man who believed in him, and disapproved of the countenance given by Elizabeth to Angus and the other banished noblemen in his wardenry, which drew a characteristic letter to him from Walsingham, (fn. 31) whatever its effect may have been.
A sort of sub-conspiracy against the King's life, in which some west country gentlemen were involved, about the beginning of 1585, two of them being executed and many banished, was probably got up by Arran to throw additional suspicion on the banished noblemen. So much may perhaps be inferred from the mention of it here. (fn. 32)
The Master of Gray, who has left an unenviable reputation in history, though at first he must have been on terms with Arran, being sent up as ambassador, (fn. 33) —in the end became a chief in strument in effecting his downfall. It may have been from some suspicion of his honesty that he was succeeded as ambassador by the Justice-Clerk, Sir Lewis Bellenden, who was sent in February 1584–5 for the express purpose of demanding not only the nobles banished for the Perth assembly, but those involved in the later conspiracy, though he too, was far from a thorough partisan of the Arran government. (fn. 34) An assembly, including Huntly and seven other northern nobles, besides barons and landed men, took place in the end of May at Aberdeen, (fn. 35) but seems to have been no more than evidence of the feeling against Arran's misrule. Gray, however, was now enlisted against him, and in correspondence with Walsingham through the Marshal of Berwick; (fn. 36) and though too much trust was not reposed in him, yet many indications pointed to Arran's insecurity. (fn. 37)
In this state of suspense, a catastrophe on the Middle March was made the ground of a heavy charge against Arran in his capacity of lieutenant-general. This was the death of Francis Lord Russell, son-in-law of Sir John Forster, on the 27th July, when attending a meeting between Sir John and the Laird of Fernihirst, the opposite warden. Though at first expressly said by Forster, writing to Walsingham on 28th July, to be an accident, (fn. 38) this admission was almost immediately withdrawn by implication, and an elaborate statement was drawn up and signed by Forster and more than thirty gentlemen of his wardenry, asserting its premeditation, from the large forces brought by Fernihirst, his assault on Forster's smaller body, and other circumstances, in complete variance with his first letter. (fn. 39) A correspondence extending over several months took place, commissions on both sides were appointed to investigate the affair, Fernihirst and some of his clan were outlawed on both sides of the Border for refusing to appear and stand their trial as accused persons, and every effort was made on the English side to prove what appears to have been a foregone conclusion with them, that Arran and Fernihirst had planned Russell's death in revenge for his intercepting their letters on some occasion not precisely specified. (fn. 40) Nothing, so far as we can see here, ever came of it, as the enemies of Arran attained their object otherwise; for, on Tuesday morning, the 2nd November 1585, Angus and the other banished lords with 7000 men, took the town of Stirling, and on the next day came to terms with the King, who had retired to the castle, thus effecting a nearly bloodless revolution. Arran had fled before their entrance. (fn. 41) They found the Master of Gray and Bellenden the Justice-Clerk with the King. (fn. 42)
The victorious party proceeded to divide offices and honours among themselves and their friends, (fn. 43) and for some time affairs proceeded with tolerable smoothness, disturbed now and then by secret messages between the King and Arran, and fears of the latter regaining favour by means of the French ambassador. (fn. 44) His prospects seem to have ended in May 1587, when the King gave a curt dismissal to his petition for aid in his poverty. (fn. 45) Fernihirst, the chief agent from the English point of view in Russell's death, died at Aberdeen a few months after the "Raid of Stirling," Forster pronouncing for his epitaph that he ought to have been hanged. (fn. 46)
A considerable stir was raised in the beginning of 1586 among the Protestant nobles and clergy and their sympathisers in England, when Maxwell, Herries, and many of the barons of the West March attended mass in public at Dumfries and neighbourhood. (fn. 47) Maxwell, who had taken the title of Morton on the Regent's death, in virtue of his descent from a co-heiress of the third Earl, though he supported the banished lords in their successful enterprise, did so from hostility to Arran, not for any love of Protestantism. The King, though perhaps secretly indisposed to meddle with him, was driven to do something; and though unable to go as far as the clergy desired, had Maxwell examined before the Council, and committed him to ward in Edinburgh, (fn. 48) all doubtless to save appearances, (fn. 49) for before many weeks had passed, Maxwell was again in authority, and his Jesuit friends at New Abbey still unmolested, though closely watched by Scrope. (fn. 50)
Archibald Douglas now returned to Scotland, fortified by "a large and ample protection" under the King's own hand and seal, (fn. 51) — a change in his fortunes doubtless due to the Protestant party being in power. For the next two years he appears as an official agent for the King at the English Court, receiving instructions through his nephew, Richard Douglas. Though he was styled by the latter the "lord ambassador," (fn. 52) it is doubtful if he was so considered at the Scottish Court; at least others, as Sir William Keith and the Master of Gray, (fn. 53) were regularly accredited to the English Court during his residence there. Maitland the Secretary, who became Chancellor about this time, (fn. 54) was his bitter enemy, and to his influence, most probably, is to be attributed the sudden reversal of Douglas's position, mentioned by Hunsdon in two letters to Burghley in December 1587 and January following. (fn. 55) The latter of these contains a strong proof of the King's dislike to him, by his refusal to receive two special hunting horses bought in England by Douglas, apparently in fulfilment of a promise made while in favour some months before, and at that time anxiously looked for by James. (fn. 56) His formal dismissal by the King is described in another letter of Hunsdon's to Burghley, (fn. 57) and he appears only once in the remaining papers contained in this volume, viz. in 1594, when complaining of the stoppage of his letters to Scotland. (fn. 58)
Resuming the main course of events, we find incidental proof that the successful Protestant nobles did not get their own way at Court, for the King refused to dismiss at their bidding Arran's brother, Sir William Stewart, another William Stewart (often confounded with him), and others of the late favourite's friends, (fn. 59) and in other ways showed himself averse to an absolute breach with the powerful Catholic party, preferring, it may be, to keep them as a counterpoise to the demands of their opponents.
Meanwhile the Commission to try his deposed mother, to which allusions are made on several occasions here, (fn. 60) had arrived at the foregone conclusion for which it was appointed. The evasive conduct of Elizabeth in regard to Mary's death-warrant is notorious, and a letter to Scrope from Davison her secretary (and scape-goat), only a week before the execution, (fn. 61) indicates her knowledge pretty clearly of what would be the result, under pretext of strengthening her West March against a sudden outbreak from Scotland. James, to keep up appearances before his Catholic nobility, professed great indignation and made threats of revenge, but these were not considered serious by the English wardens, only "brags," (fn. 62) and his personal action was confined to allowing incursions on the March. It is in fact not easy to understand that he could entertain any real affection for his mother, whom he had never seen, having been taken from her custody an infant of a year old. Moreover, had she been freed from captivity, she would surely have resumed her rights as a crowned queen, her enforced resignation being held as void by the Catholic powers and her subjects of that religion, in which case James would have been reduced to the alternative of either accepting the rank of heir-apparent, or as the King of the Protestant part of his subjects, heading a civil war against his mother,—a rôle not unknown in Scottish history, but with his views on church government an unlikely course for him. But some other practical and more powerful considerations kept him quiet, the chief being his fear of his succession to the English Crown; while a more immediate, if minor one, was the possible non-payment of his allowance from Elizabeth, if he took action for revenge. (fn. 63) But he appears to have either instigated or connived at the Catholic nobles, Huntly, Crawford, and others, entering into correspondence with the King of Spain, from whom as well as his general Parma, he himself appears to have received some communications of importance through Colonel William Stewart, his emissary, which could not but be hostile to Elizabeth. (fn. 64) The letter with this news contains also an account of a charge made in the King's presence by Arran's brother, Sir William Stewart, accusing the Master of Gray of being the chief agent in the expedition of the banished lords that ended in the capture of Stirling eighteen months before, which, though stoutly denied by Gray, we know now to be true. The disputants having been committed to ward, were brought before the King and Council a fortnight later, as Walsingham's agent in Edinburgh reported to him. (fn. 65) The accuser having, however, made further charges, implicating Huntly and Lord Claud Hamilton, it seems to have been thought expedient to let the matter drop; but the Master of Gray found it convenient to go abroad for some time. (fn. 66) This last document shows the favour extended by the King to Catholics and Prelatists, and the dislike with which the Reformed Church regarded it. In the Parliament then held, the Archbishop of Glasgow, with Lesly, bishop of Ross, and two other Scottish bishops, were restored, as were the late notorious Earl of Bothwell and his man "Black" Ormiston,—the lands of the former, though mortgaged and sold, being given to his nephew, Francis Stewart, the new Earl,—such was his favour at that time with the King. And a curious scene occurred at its rising on 29th July, when, after a speech from the Chancellor Maitland, touching revenge for the Queen's death, all the nobles vowed on their knees before the King to aid him therein, at the hazard of lands, lives, and goods, whenever he commanded; "but," adds the writer, "for maintenance of the gospel and ministry there is no provision" made. (fn. 67) Though nothing serious followed, the aspect of affairs in Scotland appeared so threatening that some precautions were thought necessary; and in December 1587 the Earl of Huntingdon was sent by Elizabeth as her lieutenant-general on the Border, with power to raise an army of 10,000 men for defence. (fn. 68) Hereupon there ensued a curious negotiation between the King, represented by Bothwell and Sir John Carmichael, and Hunsdon—who was then at Berwick—for Elizabeth, which was carried on for several months, and then ended abruptly on 31st March 1588. It was begun by Bothwell sending his master of household to Hunsdon with a special credence, desiring a private meeting, when he would satisfy Elizabeth of the King's affection and desire for peace, "if she would, deal kindly and well with him," (fn. 69) a significant hint, which the result shows to have been a request for money. Hunsdon wrote very plainly to the Queen and Burghley after his various interviews with Bothwell's envoy and Carmichael. He pointed out the danger of trifling with James, who was pressed both by France and Spain to join them, gave full details of the large offers made to him by these powers, the careful plans of Parma, and his correspondence with the Catholic lords, all showing the imminent peril of delay, and roundly told the Queen he had kept back her letter to James, as most injudicious at the time. He took her to task for haggling about his allowance, whether it should be £4000 or £5000, as she would spend twice the sum on her Border forces by the next Michaelmas. (fn. 70) The independent character of Hunsdon is well shown in his last letter on the subject to Burghley, (fn. 71) where he tells the Queen that he is sorry he took so much trouble in a matter which she seems not to think of any consequence. But it appears likely, from some indications, that James's object had been served by his getting £2000 of his allowance, which must have been paid about this time, and was followed by £3000 more in September, (fn. 72) after he had shown his goodwill in opposing the landing of any of the ships of the shattered Armada. (fn. 73) It was not a costly mode of securing his amity; but, on the other hand, James by refraining from hostility, strengthened his hope of succession to Elizabeth, though any formal acknowledgment of his right was out of the question with her. (fn. 74)
It may not improbably have been about this time that the proposal to restore the Roman Wall was drawn up. (fn. 75) Yet like preparations elsewhere against the designs of Spain, it seems rather late to have contemplated so great a work. The north of England was evidently no more than the south, in a good state of defence; (fn. 76) and the defeat of this great expedition would seem to have been due to the admitted inefficiency of the Spanish naval commander, the unwieldiness of his fleet, and the storms which it encountered, rather than to any sound scheme of land defence by England. Spirit enough there was, and her sailors did their duty; but had Parma effected a landing, the veterans of that consummate general must, humanly speaking, have scattered the hastily levied forces under Leicester like chaff before the wind.
A letter of 18th March 1588–9, (fn. 77) from the Marshal of Berwick to Lord Burghley, makes reference to a plot of the Chancellor, Glamis, and others of their party, to kill or take Huntly, who was now on friendly terms with the King; no doubt in reprisal of the Catholic lords' plot and rebellion the year before. The details of this and another letter of the marshal's to Walsingham on 7th April, (fn. 78) seem to bear out the King's good understanding with the northern lords, and the expectation that they would effect another Court change; also that the Master of Gray, still across the Channel, was in accord with them, or likely to be so, and that Bothwell had joined them against the Chancellor. But there is nothing more here on the subject, and comparative quiet prevailing, James had time to conclude his marriage with Anne of Denmark (already married by proxy), who, as is known, set sail for Scotland in August; but the winds proving contrary and her ships being driven on the coast of Norway, James somewhat gallantly set sail for Denmark on 22nd October, not returning for about six months. It is known that he asked contributions from his nobles towards the cost of the wedding, and there is a letter (fn. 79) from Bothwell, ordering the Laird of Mangerton and two other Liddesdale men to hunt venison for three days, as the marriage was expected to take place on Sunday the 29th, and he had been asked to provide for it.
Feuds and quarrels were, however, the rule among the Scottish nobles of that day, even among men of the same party; and not many months after the King and Queen were settled in Scotland, much discord prevailed, both about the Court and farther off. The Chancellor and Glamis had found several grounds of deadly quarrel. Crawford, at the instigation of the former, had revived an old feud between Glamis and the town of Forfar; and the King tried without effect to compound the deadly quarrel between Huntly and Atholl, and Moray, who were all in the field in arms. (fn. 80) The same letter reports the King's intention to pardon two great island chiefs, MacConnel and Maclean, then in prison, on getting considerable payments out of them; also the means taken by the officers of Exchequer to increase the King's revenue, by revocation of his grants from those who had no friends in Court, and appropriating church lands. The revenue aimed at sounds considerable in Scottish money, but, as in sterling it fell short of £4000, it is not surprising that James looked anxiously for Elizabeth's yearly but irregularly paid allowance.
Hitherto Bothwell has not appeared as taking any prominent part in affairs, excepting the negotiation with Hunsdon already mentioned, and indeed owed to James the restoration of his uncle's lands and dignities; but for the next two years his repeated plots to get hold of James's person and rule the State in his name, kept the kingdom in turmoil, and ended in his own downfall.
The occasion of his first outbreak against the royal authority, attacking Holyrood House on the night of 27th December 1591, as noticed in two letters from Scrope and Forster to Burghley, (fn. 81) would appear to have been the result of a conspiracy against the Chancellor, in which his associates were Angus, Mar, Morton (Douglas), and others, with the Duke of Lennox, their complaint being the Chancellor's abuse of his power in the King's councils. They disdained all thought of injury to the King's person. Though summary execution was done on some of the minor instruments, the chief actors escaped unpunished; and Bothwell six months later openly took the field, possessing himself of Lochmaben Castle, from which he expelled Carmichael, then warden, and mustered a considerable force with the aid of Maxwell, Buccleuch, and others, ostensibly to attack the Chancellor. (fn. 82) The real attack, however, was made on Falkland, where the King was in person, about the end of June, and completely failed, Bothwell being forced to retreat with loss. (fn. 83) Angus, Maxwell, and others deserted him without loss of time, not only making their peace with James, who was marching on Annandale, but also procuring the submission of Johnston and the chief men of his clan, (fn. 84) who had been among the rebels, Maxwell's reward being reinstatement as warden of the West Marches in Carmichael's place. (fn. 85) As yet no countenance seems to have been given by Elizabeth to those proceedings, but the faction opposed to the Chancellor, finding him too strong for them, made a proposition to Burghley for her assistance, through the Master of Gray, who had now returned to Scotland, and was near Berwick. (fn. 86) He represented that Hamilton, Angus, Bothwell, Atholl, Errol, Maxwell and himself were banded together against the Chancellor and other evil councillors of James, and begged her gracious permission to let them "work their own turns;" that in all other things they were ready to obey Elizabeth's commands in dealing with James, whose person should be their especial care, and nothing should be done without her knowledge and approval; though they had received great offers from the King of Spain, they could not "as true Christians" join such a nation; and finally assured her that the Chancellor was certainly dealing with Spain. These propositions were not written, but in the form of a credence, and what became of them does not appear. A month later, Bothwell himself made a tempting offer to Elizabeth to arrest and deliver up four Jesuits, if she would assist him to make his peace with James, assuring her of his soundness in religion and readiness to abide trial, offering his son in pledge of his sincerity. (fn. 87) Consideration must have been given to this, for Lowther, then acting warden at Carlisle, under instructions from Burghley, procured a sort of manifesto from Bothwell, drawn up by his friend John Colville, detailing the motives of his late proceedings against his sovereign, and asserting his innocence of any evil design. (fn. 88) The Chancellor's position had evidently been a good deal shaken by these events and by the young Queen's dislike to him as an opponent of her marriage; and she was undoubtedly a strong partisan of Bothwell and the other Stewarts, who seem now to have procured, or at least proposed to procure, the aid of the reformed clergy which was doubtless with the view of enlisting the sympathy of Elizabeth against the Catholic faction. (fn. 89) The King, however, perhaps for this reason, was bent on punishing Bothwell and his adherents on the Border, which he visited for the purpose in October, also demanding the delivery of such English borderers as had joined him in the "Raid of Falkland," and that he should not be harboured by Elizabeth's officers. (fn. 90) Though deprived of his castle of Hermitage, Bothwell succeeded in obtaining refuge along the March, at first on the West, and by the following January had transferred himself to the Eastern border; (fn. 91) and a few months later he was again in Cumberland, enjoying the hospitality of Sir Simon Musgrave at Edenhall. (fn. 92) James had no doubt made farther remonstrances at this, for his anger showed itself by his severe dealing with those of his own subjects who communed with the rebel, (fn. 93) and Elizabeth was obliged to humour his demands. She did so in her characteristic way, by ordering very severe public proclamations against receiving Bothwell or any of his associates, and giving secret orders to her wardens to the contrary. (fn. 94) Thomas, Lord Scrope, who had succeeded his late father as warden of the West March, represented to Burghley his difficulty in carrying out these instructions; and Bothwell evidently paid no attention to the proclamations, appearing in public at horse-races, and threatening, unless Elizabeth did something for his benefit, he would take a new course. (fn. 95) And he did so without loss of time, to the astonishment of James; for, having been secretly admitted to Holyrood House at night on Monday the 23rd of July, he surprised him next morning, newly risen from bed, obtained his peace and promise of a fair trial, followed on the same day by proclamation at the Cross of Edinburgh that he was restored to favour. (fn. 96) Such was the simple outline given in two hurried letters sent off by John Carey, deputy-governor of Berwick, to Burghley. But Bothwell's own story, related separately to the Dean of Durham and Sir William Read a few days after, (fn. 97) gives the affair a very different complexion, more consonant with the character of James. It was a skilfully managed plot, in which the Countess of Atholl (a daughter of the late Gowrie) was the chief actor, with the aid of her husband and the Duke of Lennox, and would appear not to have been unknown to the Queen; for when James, naturally surprised at the sudden appearance of his rebellious subject sword in hand, tried to escape into her bedchamber for safety, the door was made fast against him. The whole story savours of the ludicrous, and it accords with James's character that, after finding he was in no danger, he used all sorts of persuasions to learn how far Bothwell had been supported in his late course by the money or advice of Elizabeth; in which Bothwell asserted that he had baffled him, interspersing his story to the Dean with many compliments to Elizabeth, his own devotion to her, and assurances of his opposition to the designs of Spain, with hints of James's unsoundness in politics and religion, his love affairs, and that the Queen's friendliness to Elizabeth deserved some substantial recognition. The tale certainly hung well together, and was calculated to make Elizabeth doubt whether her yearly allowance, which had been for several years paid with tolerable regularity, was not thrown away on such an uncertain neighbour.
In the meantime Bothwell had undergone his trial on the charge of compassing the King's death by witchcraft, a very formidable one then, however absurd it appears now, and was honourably acquitted, not at all to the King's satisfaction, in spite of their apparent reconciliation; (fn. 98) for it seems well established that James planned his own escape to join the northern lords, while Hume and others marched on Edinburgh to "cut the throats" of Bothwell and his friends at the close of the trial, though the scheme was defeated by Bothwell's vigilance.
Whatever Bothwell's previous conduct had been, he had been pardoned by James, tried and acquitted, besides getting a written remission to himself and his followers, to which the ministers and other influential persons were parties, signed by the King, the Earl, and the others, the King further ratifying it on his kingly word. (fn. 99) Yet the remaining correspondence in this volume exhibits him thenceforth showing relentless hostility against Bothwell. The true explanation is probably that hinted by the Dean of Durham to Burghley. (fn. 100) James had unquestionably been put in a most undignified aspect when surprised in his night-gown and trying to hide himself from his supposed intending murderer, and many men would forgive an attempted crime sooner than exposure to the ridicule of the world. The revulsion from terror to the latter feeling was, doubtless, too much for James's equanimity.
From this time Bothwell appears to have led a roving life on the Border, keeping out of the King's way, but heard of occasionally as devising plans for his annoyance—one with the assistance of the "Kirk" and the town of Edinburgh, besides many powerful nobles both north and south of Forth, to get possession of his person at the trial of Huntly, Angus and Erroll (who had made their peace on condition of abiding it), (fn. 101) which was to take place at Linlithgow early in November, and it was feared would end in their escaping justice. (fn. 102) What resulted does not appear, and he probably kept quiet, preparing for his last stroke in any force—that of 1st April 1594. With but sixty horse, as Forster forbade Henry Woddrington and 100 of his kindred to join him, he crossed the English March at Haddonrig, making for Moss Tower, a house of his own opposite Kelso, where he was joined by 400 or 500 more; and Hume, Cessford, and Buccleuch, who occupied the town with nearly twice as many, having retired from it,—the first distrusting the others, especially Buccleuch, who was Bothwell's stepson—the rebel Earl entered it quietly, marching to Dalkeith next day, where 100 horse joined him, under Lord Ochiltree. After some evolutions between his head-quarters and Leith, he took post at Niddry, about 2 miles south-east of Edinburgh, to avoid the guns of the Castle, where Hume and the King's forces in superior numbers having marched to attack him, were charged and overthrown, the chase continuing to the city gates, James witnessing the action from a safe distance. (fn. 103)
The victors, however, who had retired to Dalkeith, then held a council, and resolved to retreat to Kelso, which they did the same night. (fn. 104) The expedition thus proved abortive, and Bothwell betook himself to Liddesdale. (fn. 105) He made one more attempt to waylay and take the King on his journey from Stirling to Edinburgh with a slender guard; but his ambush was discovered by chance, his horses taken, and with his eighty followers he had to escape on foot, finally reaching his stronghold on borrowed nags. (fn. 106) The Queen, who still befriended him, is reported to have arranged a truce till after the baptism of her infant son, for which great preparations were made by James, who had succeeded in getting £4000 out of Elizabeth, (fn. 107) though it did not take place till the end of August, and Bothwell seems to have gone through the country at his pleasure. (fn. 108) His power, however, was at an end, though communications were undoubtedly made to him both by Burghley and his son Sir Robert Cecill, in a very secret manner, by means of John Carey, the nearest officer. (fn. 109) Elizabeth, by her finessing, possibly lost in Bothwell a man who might have been of service as a nominal head for the reformed party, though his religious views, like her own, were merely politic, as he soon joined the Papist side, finding his vocation as a Protestant leader gone. (fn. 110)
The sketch of his character and accomplishments given to Burghley by the Dean of Durham, (fn. 111) shows he had much impressed that dignitary, who, believing he would be the best man in Scotland for Elizabeth's purposes, urged his employment accordingly, (fn. 112) an opinion, of course depending on the weight due to the Dean's judgment. Bothwell certainly seems to have had the art of winning men, but instability or some other serious defect in his character, can only account for his fall in the prime of life from the great position he occupied. Farther notice of his career must be postponed till the next volume.
So much space having been occupied with these political affairs, it is but proper to devote some to the more immediate business of the Marches. One most important duty of the English wardens must have been to see the castles along the March kept in good repair, with the additional responsibility on the East March of keeping the harbours and bridge over the Tweed in like order. The heavy cost of the new pier has been already referred to, (fn. 113) and it as well as the "long bridge," constantly appear in the annual accounts as requiring extensive repairs. This bridge, which was only of timber, appears to have been more than once in imminent danger of complete ruin. The castle and fortifications generally, were always undergoing renovation, the damage being sometimes caused by wind, which does not say much for the masonry. Norham and Wark, the two other principal castles within the East March, were reported on in April 1594, (fn. 114) the former as then in complete ruin, except the gate-house, where Carey the constable had two chambers, probably those which he asked leave of Burghley to put up the year before, that his men might lie dry. (fn. 115) At the same time he remarked that when viewed by the Queen's officers, they estimated it would take at least £1600 to make any work to show.
The head-quarters of Sir John Forster, warden of the Middle March, appear to have been in "Alnwick Abbey," as he styles it in one instance, but usually "my house nigh Alnwick." (fn. 116) To the west, Harbottle Castle afforded him lodging when his duties led him to that side of his extensive wardenry, but it appears to have been in poor repair. Nothing is said of Alnwick Castle in these papers. Its lords were then under a cloud, Thomas the 7th earl having been executed for treason in 1572; Henry his brother and successor died mysteriously in the Tower in June 1585; and the next earl, also Henry, being then a minor, took no part in public affairs. Yet the warden seems, for whatever reason, not to have inhabited it.
The castles of the West March seem, for anything to be learned here, to have been no burden to the Exchequer. Lord Scrope had his quarters in Carlisle Castle, and his deputies held the advanced fortresses of Bewcastle and Rockcliffe, the former guarding forays from Liddesdale, the latter protecting the embouchures of Esk and Eden. All appear to have been maintained in defensible condition. This wardenry, under the two Scropes, father and son, Richard Lowther intervening for a short period—though it had its full share of trouble from Scottish incursions, suffered none of the internal divisions and quarrels which prevailed in the other two, the East March especially. The constant residence of the wardens of the West March may partly account for this. Sir John Forster, no doubt, also resided in his wardenry, but appears to have had a number of enemies among the gentlemen of it, the chief of whom was Sir Cuthbert Collingwood, head of a distinguished surname. Jealousy of the high position to which Forster had raised himself from that of a younger son, by large acquisitions of land in various parts of Northumberland, including the great Castle of Bamburgh, was perhaps at the bottom of their enmity. It is not unlikely that Forster may also have been disposed to carry his head high among his neighbours, for in a letter to Walsingham, (fn. 117) who had warned him of charges made of his conduct in office, he treats with disdain one of these, viz., breeding and feeding cattle for sale, saying they are only for the provision of his house, fed on his own ground, and thanks God he is able to do so, for the fee of his office will not maintain his house by 500 marks a year, and that he retains at his own expense thirty well mounted troopers to attend him. His alliance with the house of Bedford, whose heir was his son-in-law, must also have increased his importance. His enemies had influence enough to bring their accusations under the notice of Elizabeth, a commission being directed to Huntingdon, Lord President of the North, to enquire, and act accordingly. (fn. 118) The charges which, had they been proved, showed him unfit for his office, were formally denied, (fn. 119) Forster repeatedly urging that he might be allowed to answer them before the Queen and Council, apparently without effect, for they hung over him during the next twelve months, till Hunsdon was sent down to his own wardenry to take charge also of Forster's, and to see into the matter. (fn. 120)
Hunsdon, who was for private reasons hostile to Huntingdon the previous commissioner, lost no time in reporting to Burghley that the accusations were frivolous and malicious, hatched by Collingwood, Forster's mortal enemy, and nourished by Huntingdon, illustrating his opinion by an odd variation of the proverb about the mountain and the mouse. (fn. 121) Forster, however, besides suspension, was deprived of the custody of Harbottle and Redesdale, given to his rival Collingwood,—a doubtful step in Hunsdon's opinion, justified by events; (fn. 122) and he finally recommended the restoration of Forster to his wardenry, as the only available man to govern such a froward set of people. (fn. 123) After some interval he must have been restored, as on 19th August 1588 he wrote thanking Leicester for his influence with Huntingdon, taking occasion to mention an outrage at Harbottle by Scots thieves, who found the new keeper absent; (fn. 124) and, on 22nd June of the next year, he writes to Walsingham to defend himself against a new accusation by Sir Cuthbert, of unfair intentions against him and his sons at a warden meeting to be held the next day. (fn. 125) Still occasionally charged with misconduct by others, (fn. 126) he was in office for the next four years, till suddenly he writes to Burghley from the city of Durham on 16th February 1593–4, complaining that he had been summoned by the Queen's command to appear before the Bishop of Durham, had come at the risk of his life to a homely inn, and hoped to be kept no longer, but returned home with credit, to the blame of his secret accusers. (fn. 127) What this new charge was is unknown, but he was again at his post on 4th April, when he reported to Burghley the final attempt of Bothwell to recover his power in Scotland, not, however, relating the embargo he had laid on a body of Northumbrians about to march with him, which he left his neighbour Carey to do. (fn. 128)
His last appearance in this volume is on 27th October 1594, when he entertained Lord Hume at dinner during the latter's hunting excursion in his wardenry. (fn. 129)
The troubles of which Forster complained appear slight when contrasted with those of the thorny government of Berwick, over which Hunsdon presided. During great part of the time covered by this volume, Hunsdon, as Lord Chamberlain and a privy councillor, was not continuously resident, his place being supplied by a deputy-warden of the march and a deputy-governor of the town. The marshal was under Hunsdon's orders, but the treasurer and victualler of the garrison seem to have been directly accountable to the Lord Treasurer. There was also a local council to assist in the government of the town. The protracted absence of the governor produced the usual effect, and great abuses prevailed in the affairs of the town. Robert Bowes, the treasurer, who was also ambassador to Scotland at intermittent periods, was most irregular in his payments to the garrison, his defalcations finally amounting to an arrear of two whole years' pay. How this occurred is never clearly stated, but it does not appear to have been fully discharged. It drew upon him the anger of Elizabeth, and involved him in various schemes for its liquidation, which she declined to entertain, threatening to discharge him from her service; while the want of the money produced trouble between the soldiers and their creditors in the town. Vernon the victualler was equally inefficient, and starved the garrison, for whom he was bound by contract to provide. Sir Henry Woddrington the marshal, whom Hunsdon appointed as deputygovernor, was accused of misconduct in office, interfering with the civil government, reviling the mayor, neglecting the safety of the town, and other enormities. (fn. 130) He had grievances of his own, and complained to Walsingham in February 1586–7, that for six years, in the absence of Hunsdon and other officers, he had borne the whole burden, and was unable to endure it longer. (fn. 131) The only man of whom no complaints appear was Sir John Selby of Twisell, deputy warden and gentleman porter of Berwick.
Partly in consequence of a rumour of some designs on Berwick, and the already referred to enquiry into the complaints against Sir John Forster, Hunsdon was sent down to his government in September, where he remained till the following March, with his hands full of business. Besides Forster's enquiry, the already noticed dealings with Bothwell and Carmichael on the Scottish King's behalf, and the strengthening of Berwick, he lent himself to rather a discreditable piece of business, the theft by a servant of the French ambassador in Scotland of all his master's papers, which were carried off in a curious manner and sent to Burghley, for discovery of any State secrets they contained. (fn. 132) Hunsdon took credit for refusing to allow the thief to take any of his master's clothes or jewels.
He did something, but not much, to reform the irregularities. But a matter that occupied him greatly was the indignity offered to him by the Queen in placing a man of his experience second in command under Huntingdon, lieutenant-general of the army against Scotland, an office which he flatly refused to accept, saying he would rather lie in prison. (fn. 133) Having, as he informed both Elizabeth and Burghley, insisted with the Scots on her innocence of Mary's death, though he evidently doubted their belief in the Queen's excuses, (fn. 134) he returned to Court about the end of March 1588. (fn. 135) The state of Berwick, however, went from bad to worse; (fn. 136) and after the excitement of the Armada had passed, petitions from the unpaid garrison were sent to Burghley and himself, (fn. 137) with urgent prayers for payment of their heavy arrears; while Bowes the defaulter was reduced to a state of abject humiliation, between his fear of the Queen's displeasure and despair of success in his attempts to raise the needful funds, which appear to have ended in failure. (fn. 138) How in these circumstances he could discharge his functions as ambassador is scarcely conceivable; and it is not surprising that he was superseded by James Hudson in December 1591. Yet, he reappears as ambassador in little more than a year (Feb. 1591–2), (fn. 139) and so continued till the papers in this volume end. It is not evident how he had regained the Queen's favour, unless with her usual parsimony she made him work for little or nothing till his debts were paid, which is possible enough; for, after sending a deputation of their number to Burghley in January 1592–3, the garrison thanked him for getting them one-half of their two years' arrear, begging his continued good offices. (fn. 140) There are indications that it was stopped out of Bowes' salary as treasurer. Matters, however, were now farther complicated by the mayor and corporation making a series of complaints against Vernon the victualler, who appears to have been made paymaster in room of Bowes, which ended in Hunsdon and most of his subordinates being accused of bringing the town to the verge of ruin. The town's first petition to Burghley, on 6th February 1592–3, stated that the Almighty, not satisfied with sixteen years' correction of their sins by the hand of Bowes, was now scourging them by that of Vernon, accused the latter of paying (when he did pay) with base Scottish coins called "Atchisons," and hinted that Hunsdon's absence had much to do with it. (fn. 141) The mayor, as burgess in Parliament, followed up the suit in person, presenting also to the Queen a formidable list of abuses committed by the lord governor and other officers, or connived at by them, to the ruin of her Majesty's town. (fn. 142) The heaviest clause in this indictment was Hunsdon's spending his large official fee of £1500 away from the town, and employing the garrison in private business about his tithes. Matters were not much mended by the Queen, after the death of Sir Henry Woddrington the marshal, sending down Hunsdon's third son, John Carey, with a limited commission to act as locum tenens and enquire into certain of the charges on 27th March 1593; (fn. 143) for though Carey rectified certain things, and felt bound to report on the victualler's insufficiency for his post, the war between him, as representing his father's wrath at the presumption of the townsmen and the mayor, proceeded to some extremity; though, after farther petitions to the Queen and Burghley and Sir Robert Cecill, (fn. 144) and the mayor's dignity being salved by his again receiving the watchword by Burghley's order, which had been taken from him by Hunsdon for an alleged infringement of the town regulations, the military and civil establishments contrived to get on more peaceably.
The absenteeism of Hunsdon from his Border office was probably due to several causes. He was getting old and had a large family, whose interests he may have desired to forward at the Court. He was also a privileged person, having done good service to his royal cousin in his earlier days. His son John, whose letters to Burghley occupy great part of the last two years of this volume, seems to have had a good deal of his father's energy and plainness of speech, coupled with great deference to the Lord High Treasurer and his son, as men with much in their power. On the death of his brother Sir George Carey, he became the third Lord Hunsdon.
We must now turn our attention for a little to the Scottish wardenries, though, with the exception of the West March, there is not so much to learn here of their internal condition. The Humes were all powerful in the East March, while the Middle was alternately under the care of the rival families of Cessford and Fernihirst, Bothwell being keeper of Liddesdale till his fall, when the office was given to his step-son Buccleuch, whose family in the end obtained a great part of the extensive domains of the house of Hailes. Of the West March there is a great deal of information here, for Scrope the opposite warden kept a vigilant eye on all that took place in it. The strange manner in which the King, on the advice of one set of councillors after another, tossed the wardenry like a ball now into the hands of Maxwell, now into those of Johnston, sometimes recalling the appointment before the new officer was well established, undoubtedly prolonged or fanned the bitter feud between these rival houses, which so long desolated the dales of the Nith and the Annan, resulting in the death of one warden under the royal banner, (fn. 145) the murder of his opponent's successor, and the execution of the murderer, the son of the Lord Maxwell who fell at Lockerby. While the forays by the one clan on the other are fully detailed, the warden's death at Lockerby is briefly intimated by Scrope to Burghley. (fn. 146)
The forays by the Scottish riders were directed chiefly against the Middle and West Marches, the clans engaged in them being for the most part the Armstrongs and Elliots, who were said to be "always riding," though some of the clans of Teviotdale, as the Rutherfords, Turnbulls, Burnes, Davisons, Douglases and others took their fair share in these exploits. The Liddesdale clans however, from their geographical position, could attack at pleasure the Middle or West Marches. The destructive nature of these inroads and the frequent cruelties that were committed, appear fully in the numerous March bills given here, to which merely general reference can be made.
It is not unlikely that the English Border gentlemen, who had much to lose by these sudden incursions, had some sort of understanding occasionally with the chief men opposite them, and either paid blackmail or winked at the plunder of a neighbour. This was suspected in the Middle March, and formed one of the charges against Sir John Forster. When Hunsdon was on the March in October 1587, a great Liddesdale foray was made at Haydon Bridge near Hexham, which he on inquiry believed to be countenanced or procured by the chief men of the neighbourhood, the Herons and Ridleys, threatening, if proved, to make them "hop headless." (fn. 147) He was in effect as good as his word, for at his warden courts for both Marches at Alnwick, on 11th March following, Ridley of Willimonswick and Reinald Heron submitted to the Queen's mercy on the charge of March treason, three others fled, and more were condemned, Sir Cuthbert Collingwood coming nearly in the grasp of law for selling horses to the Scots, then involving March treason. (fn. 148) Such were the rough and ready methods of justice on the March, even with men of high position.
Nothing came amiss to the hands of the Border riders, for "insight" or the contents of a house (fn. 149) were taken, as well as cattle or sheep. In the words of the old Laird of Harden: (fn. 150) "If a haystack had but been four-footed, it would have gone too." The sleuth hound, invaluable in tracking thieves, was carried off when possible, of which there are various instances, one valued as high as £10, from Allendale, a second from Sir Cuthbert Collingwood, and a third belonging to Lord Scrope, from Bewcastle. (fn. 151) These March bills, drawn up with methodical accuracy, (fn. 152) abound with the singular "tonames" of the Border clans, so necessary where many bore the same surname. "The Laird's Jock," "Jock of the Syde," "Kinmont Will," "Archie Fire-the-Braes," "Hobby Noble," and others are well known from the Border Minstrelsy. Others, as "Nebless Clemy," "Red-neb Hobb," "Ill-drowned Geordy," "Hob the Tailor," "Eddie great-legs," "Jock halflugs," and many more may be new.
The wide reading of Sir Walter Scott is seen by the surname "Tinlin," which occurs in the Lay of the last Minstrel, as that of a retainer of Buccleuch, occurring in the musters of Cumberland. Many other surnames appear there common to both sides of the Border.
Besides these bills of outrages, there are several other documents which throw an interesting light on those wild regions, as they must have been regarded by "inland men," in the phrase of the time. The first of these is a paper sent by Scrope to Burghley at the latter's request, on 12th August 1581, (fn. 153) of the chief nobles and barons of the Scottish West March, and their relation by blood and affinity. The next is a very remarkable document, drawn up expressly for Burghley's information by Thomas Musgrave, deputy-captain of Bewcastle, about the end of 1583. (fn. 154) He evidently had an intimate knowledge of the districts on both sides of that March, their boundaries, and their lawless inhabitants; and, from notes on the paper, it was carefully studied by the Lord High Treasurer, and kept as a valuable reference. Musgrave's account of the origin of the Grames of Esk, and their alliances, is likely to be true, (fn. 155) as also his remarks on the evil consequences of the inter-marriages between the English and Scottish marchmen, their deadly feuds, and the difficulty in bringing them to justice for fear of bloody revenge.
Another paper of interest is an Assurance entered into by Forster and Scrope with the heads of the Elliots and Armstrongs of Liddesdale, in December 1584, till the following "Fastern's Eve" (Shrove Tuesday), the wardens' reason being want of redress by the King or any recognised officer. (fn. 156) Another paper, also drawn out for Burghley by Edward Aglionby, a Cumberland gentleman, about March 1592, (fn. 157) gives a clear account of the different divisions and officers both of the English and Scottish West Marches, their names and various duties, besides the surnames of both sides, their numbers, feuds, and other information.
The last paper of this nature to which the Editor will draw attention (for a general reference may suffice to others of interest) is a bill of losses sustained by the King and some of his inland subjects, chiefly in Fife, during Bothwell's raid on Falkland, against the English borderers who joined him. (fn. 158) The heavy loss of the King in horses of value probably augmented his ill-will against Bothwell; for, though generally reputed a timid man, James was a great hunter, as allusions in these papers show, and would resent the way in which his stud appears to have been cleared out by the moss-troopers, among whom the Grames of Netherby are prominent.
Many other points of interest can be but briefly noticed. Among these are the report by Carey to Sir Robert Cecill, (fn. 159) that the ambassadors of Denmark and Brunswick were drunk every day. They had been sent to attend the baptism of the Prince of Scotland, which was delayed, as appears elsewhere, till James got the money from Elizabeth to defray the cost, and spent their time thus in northern fashion. The embassy from the King of Spain to James about this time with great offers, could not be pleasing to Elizabeth, (fn. 160) for the ambassador was her revolted subject Sir William Stanley, who in 1587 had surrendered Deventer and Zutphen to the Spaniards, and deserted to them with his regiment of Irish.
The hurried manner in which Sussex, the English ambassador sent down to attend the Prince's baptism, was summoned to start from Edinburgh, which he had barely reached, for Stirling, shorn of his state accoutrements and carriages, which were behind him, (fn. 161) contrasts oddly with the printed account of that solemnity.
James's modes of procuring funds in emergencies are amusingly illustrated (fn. 162) during the visit of a noble personage of Germany, his Queen's kinsman, who arrived in November 1594, and whom he chose to entertain free of cost; but instead of doing so out of his own purse, appears to have taken the unusual course of "requiring" a loan from the Lords of Session, men of law, and writers in the courts of record (the College of Justice), which they are said to have willingly granted to the amount of £2000 sterling.
The papers, of which an outline has been given here, will not probably alter the hitherto conceived opinion of the two sovereigns, founded on a wider knowledge of their reigns. The deceitfulness and other bad qualities of Elizabeth are as apparent as ever, without much to redeem them, and the King of Scots would have seen "many things not to his advantage" had he been able to peruse the letters of the English statesmen and their correspondents on the Border and elsewhere. His shifty dealings with the Catholic earls, at one time courting their support, at another marching on them, wrecking their estates and houses, were actions not befitting an honest ruler; for, as a distinguished writer has pointed out, (fn. 163) James himself had instigated their rebellion after the death of his mother,—an assertion for which considerable evidence may be gathered among the papers now printed. His treatment of Bothwell, after professedly pardoning him and condoning his past offences, was hardly consistent with the word of a king. The excuses for him may be summed up in his constitutional timidity, his upbringing, the influence of designing favourites, his poverty, the fear of his life, surrounded as he was by turbulent nobles, whom he knew enough of history to dread: these and other causes combined to make James something of a trimmer. One thing certainly was kept steadily before him, viz., to abate the power of the reformed clergy, who had often thwarted his autocratic designs.
The only one of Elizabeth's councillors who spoke at all favourably of James, was Hunsdon, which seems strange, considering the different characters of the two men. Himself an old politician, not unacquainted with Elizabeth's diplomacy, Hunsdon seems to have compassionated the youth and poverty of the King and his isolated position, and did not hesitate to give his royal cousin a sharp rebuke for her indifference and hardness in her dealings. (fn. 164)
One valuable servant of Elizabeth passed away, in Sir Francis Walsingham, whose unceasing vigilance had detected so many plots against her life and throne. He died in April 1590, thus realising his desire, solemnly expressed to Hunsdon in a letter already noticed, (fn. 165) in which, referring to reports that his policy against Arran was designed to gain the favour of James, he said that he hoped never to live to see a successor to Elizabeth's throne. As is known, Sir Robert Cecill succeeded to his office; but, notwithstanding this, his father the Lord High Treasurer, whom no amount of labour seemed to tire, appears to have taken charge of much of the business which had devolved on his deceased colleague. Throughout the whole of the papers in this collection, even the longest of them bear the marks of the careful way in which the smallest details were examined by the great minister, who had his eye on all affairs of State.
In concluding this notice of the papers in the text, which are now printed for the first time in all their essential points, the Editor may take the opportunity to observe that their value is not solely due to the novelty of the information they contain, which is far from being absolutely new. There are various well known works of more or less authority that treat of this period in whole or part. Among these are Birrel's Diary (1532–1605), Calderwood's History of the Kirk of Scotland, The History of King James the Sext, The Autobiography of James Melville, (1556–1610), Marjoreybank's Annals of Scotland (1513–1591), Moysie's Memoirs (1577–1603), and Archbishop Spottiswood's History of the Church of Scotland. Most of these writers were contemporary, and their testimony to the events under their immediate cognizance is valuable, in spite of the bias with which they severally wrote, according to their different predilections towards one form of church government or another. (fn. 166)
But the English wardens and other observers of Scottish affairs, having no other end in view than to procure the best account of what actually happened, for the eye of the Queen and her ministers, may be relied on for accuracy, especially when they reported independently of each other. Taking one instance for an example: no two accounts of the same occurrence can differ more widely than those given by Birrel the Edinburgh burgess and the courtly Spottiswood as to the King's demeanour when confronted at his bedroom door in the early morning by Bothwell sword in hand. The comical description by the burgess of James's attempted flight down the back-stair, breeches under his arm, at the dread apparition, turns out to be much nearer the truth than the Archbishop's complimentary account of James's noble words to his probable assassin, as we learn by several independent letters and Bothwell's own story in the present collection; and, in addition, we for the first time get the exact day and hour when the affair took place, and the manner in which it was brought about,—for dates in this and other cases are not as a rule given with precision by the writers above named.
The documents calendared have been treated in the manner now generally adopted in similar Government publications, with the view of obviating as far as possible the necessity of referring to the originals. The formal beginnings and endings of letters are omitted, unimportant matter is curtailed, while all important or novel details when placed within quotation marks, are given in the actual words and spelling used by the writers. With trivial exceptions, the first person is used even when the writer's actual words are summarised.
The editor, lastly, has to acknowledge the facilities and assistance which the deputy keeper, Mr Maxwell Lyte, and his assistant officers have always afforded him in his labours, more especially Mr E. Salisbury, the officer in charge of the Literary Search Room. J. B.
London, February 1894.