Calendar of State Papers, Scotland: Volume 10, 1589-1593. Originally published by His Majesty's General Register House, Edinburgh, 1936.

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, 'Introduction', in Calendar of State Papers, Scotland: Volume 10, 1589-1593, (Edinburgh, 1936) pp. ix-xxix. British History Online [accessed 20 May 2024].

. "Introduction", in Calendar of State Papers, Scotland: Volume 10, 1589-1593, (Edinburgh, 1936) ix-xxix. British History Online, accessed May 20, 2024,

. "Introduction", Calendar of State Papers, Scotland: Volume 10, 1589-1593, (Edinburgh, 1936). ix-xxix. British History Online. Web. 20 May 2024,

Introduction 1588-89.

This volume covers the period from 14 March, 1588–9 to 3 January, 1592–3. The 'Affair of the Brig of Dee,' the marriage of King James VI., his plan to secure peace in western Europe, the exploits of the 'Madcap' Earl of Bothwell and the failure of administration at home, the Catholic plottings which culminated in the 'Spanish Blanks' —these are the chief events with which it deals. Their main outline has already been traced, and many of the documents printed herein used, by Tytler and later general historians of the reign of James VI.; but there is now presented to the student a wealth of detail for one of the most complicated periods of Scottish history.

The defeat of the Armada did not free Scotland from the danger of Spanish intrigues. Towards the end of February, 1589, the English Privy Council forwarded to William Asheby, the English ambassador in Scotland, for the information of King James, certain intercepted letters from the Earl of Huntly, the Earl of Errol, and other Catholics to the King of Spain and the Duke of Parma. (fn. 1) In these letters the Earls and their fellow conspirators lamented the defeat of the Armada and promised to share in another attempt against England if 6,000 Spaniards were landed in Scotland. 'Good Lord,' wrote Queen Elizabeth to James, 'methinks I do dream: no king a week could bear this.'

Personal and political reasons, however, precluded James from taking the drastic action for which she looked. He had 'a strange extraordinary affection to Huntly,' (fn. 2) and was loth to believe that his own convert to Protestantism had gone so soon astray. 'Ar thir the fruictis of zour new conversioun?' he wrote to his erring proselyte. (fn. 3) Surrounded by high and mighty subjects, closely intermarried, whose 'wickedness' and 'evil natures,' he declared, rendered him 'weary of his life among them,' (fn. 4) the King was afraid lest stern measures should lead to 'everlasting feuds.' Huntly was the leader of a strong faction opposed to Chancellor Maitland who, though enjoying the King's confidence, was weak in influence among the nobles. Nor could the King of Scotland count or rely too openly upon English help. The relations of James and Maitland, his minister, with England were suspect, and provided many of the Scottish nobility with a reason or an excuse for opposition or neutrality. Astuteness rather than force must be the guiding principle of the royal policy.

Accordingly, while Errol and other conspirators fled, Huntly was committed to Edinburgh Castle where the King paid him a daily visit and treated him as an intimate friend. When, however, he was restored to the command of the royal guard, Maitland, who had agreed to 'spare the prosecutynge of the matter agaynst Huntley for treason,' declared that he would no longer serve His Majesty. (fn. 5) After much discussion in the Council, it was resolved that Huntly should be deprived of his command and retire within three or four days to his own territory in the north. (fn. 6) On the following day, while hunting with the King, he united with the Earl of Errol and the Earl of Bothwell in attempting to persuade James to accompany them to 'some newtour place' by false reports of a tumult in Edinburgh. 'We thatt were the beholderes,' wrote Roger Aston, 'were in doutt a long tyme whatt waye we should take. . . It came to this extremety thatt the Kinge offred rather to dye there then to goe with them.' Huntly retired northwards, whither he was followed by Errol, Crawford, Montrose, Bothwell, and other conspirators. (fn. 7) The King still hesitated to strike. Even the evidence of Pringle who had intercepted the incriminating letters failed to convince him of Huntly's guilt. (fn. 8)

It was the plotting of the Earl of Bothwell that stirred the King to action. The nephew of Queen Mary's third husband, he had already an evil reputation which was to increase with the years. 'Bothwell is a man that doeth great hurt,' Asheby reported, 'a maintainer of all disordered persons both by sea and land. . . The King and all good men are weary of him.' (fn. 9) Described as of 'no religion,' though posing as a Protestant, he now sided with the Catholic confederates. (fn. 10) Making his way south, he gathered his Borderers at Kelso, and made them a long harangue in which he pictured the King as a prisoner, forced to pursue an English policy by Chancellor Maitland who had been bought by English gold. (fn. 11) On 6 April, as part of a concerted plan with his confederates in the north, he attempted to surprise the King while hunting near Edinburgh and to capture Maitland and his supporters. (fn. 12) James, whose antipathy to Bothwell seems to have been as strong as his liking for Huntly, vowed vengeance on the man who had attempted to do 'a myscheffe apon the soddeyn.' (fn. 13) As for the other confederates, Asheby wrote to Walsingham that 'there presumptuous dealing haith so sturred the Kinge as he shewes himself "felon crabbed," as the Scots terme him, and is resolved to persecute them to the uttermost.' (fn. 14) The rebels were denounced, and an army was collected at the head of which the King, accompanied by the Duke of Lennox, Lord John Hamilton, the Chancellor, and the leading nobles, set out for the north.

The details of the expedition may be followed in the letters of Thomas Fowler, an English agent who accompanied it, (fn. 15) or in the diary which Burghley characteristically compiled with his own hand. (fn. 16) The King, displaying unwonted military ardour, (fn. 17) found the confederates disposed to fight at the Brig of Dee in the neighbourhood of Aberdeen. The royal presence gave the lie to their propaganda that the King was 'a prisoner' in the hands of an English faction. (fn. 18) 'Thaire came a faintness amange them;' (fn. 19) many of their followers surrendered; and when the King entered the city, Huntly betook himself to the hills. There he might have long eluded capture, as the King's situation became increasingly difficult owing to the rigours of the weather and the necessity of maintaining in a barren country both the hired troops and the feudal array. (fn. 20) In these circumstances, the Master of Glamis, who had been taken prisoner by the confederates on their way north, proved an acceptable mediator when he escaped by the connivance of his captors. On the understanding that the members of the King's Council would 'use all their credit to persuade the King to grant his requests,' Huntly surrendered to the King's mercy. (fn. 21)

On the successful issue of his expedition, the King marched south, and on 3 May entered Edinburgh in triumph. He was now ready to proceed against Bothwell who had turned south during the King's progress north. Bothwell, however, 'had dissolved his forces when he heard that Huntly was taken;' and on 11 May he made an abject surrender to the King. Crawford had submitted on the previous day. (fn. 22) Huntly, Crawford and Bothwell were tried by their peers, found guilty, and warded. (fn. 23) But in spite of the demands of the Kirk and of the English ambassador, (fn. 24) their restraint became merely nominal. The King, now that victory had been secured, was inclined to lenity; and the rebels had obtained too many promises of support from councillors and courtiers to permit of their being severely punished. (fn. 25) It was averred, indeed, that Glamis had been a willing prisoner, intent on his own ambitious scheme to supplant the Chancellor; (fn. 26) and the embittered relations now engendered between these two servants of the King boded ill for the future.

Meanwhile the King, accompanied by Glamis and other Councillors, made a second expedition to the north. (fn. 27) From 4 July to 8 August he made Aberdeen his headquarters, visiting for the first time Ross and Cromarty. His main object was to receive further submissions—Errol surrendered on 4 July—and to settle the compositions for fines with which the confederates' more important followers made their peace. This accomplished, the King returned to Falkland Palace on 8 August, and the 'Affair of the Brig of Dee,' as it came to be termed, was over.

Among the many reasons which induced the King thus to come to terms with the faction of the Brig of Dee, the more immediate was his proposed marriage with Anne, the sister of the King of Denmark. (fn. 28) For some time, Catherine of Bourbon, sister of Henry of Navarre, had been the likelier choice; and even after the decision in favour of Anne at the beginning of February, 1589, (fn. 29) the King and his advisers hesitated. The Chancellor, Maitland, was known to be opposed to the match; many of the nobility favoured Navarre; and in April Queen Elizabeth, from whom James expected substantial tokens of approval, returned a characteristically equivocal answer to his request for advice. (fn. 30) On 14 May it was reported that the Danish match was going forward; (fn. 31) but on the 23rd the advantages of a French marriage were still being debated. (fn. 32) Four days later, the Earl Marischal discharged the ships which were to carry him to Denmark to complete the negotiations. This brought matters to a crisis. A tumult arose in Edinburgh, fomented, it was averred, by Peter Young and Colonel Stewart, who had conducted earlier negotiations in Denmark and were opposed to the marriage with the Lady of Navarre, 'old and croked and sumthing worse.' (fn. 33) The provost, bailies, and many of the burgesses, dreading the loss of trade with Denmark, threatened the lives of Maitland and the English faction 'if the marriage with Denmark went not forward, being crossed by England to keep the King unmarried altogether.' As a result of a convention held that afternoon, James declared himself 'most affecyonat to the matche with Denmarke, and prowd to goo thorowghe with it.' (fn. 34) It was resolved to despatch the Earl Marischal to Denmark, and, much to Elizabeth's annoyance, part of her recent gift to James was spent in defraying the expenses of the Earl and his retinue. (fn. 35)

The original instructions for these envoys included clauses relating to the dowry, to Danish aid for enabling James to recover 'the possession of foreyne titles dewe unto us by juste inheritaunce,' and to a proposed league of Protestant princes against the Pope and his adherents. (fn. 36) The negotiations proceeded slowly. There was difficulty about the 'tocher.' (fn. 37) But the King's 'lykinge by imaginacyon' (fn. 38) grew ever stronger. In August he was reported to be 'far in conceit with the lady;' and instructions were sent to Denmark not to respect 'the article of the dowre . . for he would not be thought a marchant for his wife.' (fn. 39)

On 28 August, 1589, James was married by proxy to Anne at Oslo, and his Queen set sail for Scotland. It was as well, perhaps, that she was storm-stayed in Norway: nothing was ready for her reception and no provision had been made for her maintenance. (fn. 40) The King, now reported to be 'wholly passionate,' awaited her arrival in feverish anxiety. (fn. 41) At last he resolved 'Leanderlike to commit himself to the waves of the ocean and all for his beloved Eroe's sake,' and sailed for Norway accompanied by the Chancellor. On 20 October, the eve of his departure, he issued the well-known proclamation to his subjects, giving the reasons for his decision and the arrangements for the government of the kingdom. (fn. 42)

In his absence, which was unexpectedly prolonged for over six months, the government was entrusted to a Council in which the various factions were carefully balanced, Lennox and Hamilton having as colleagues such recent offenders against the royal authority as Bothwell and Maxwell. The Chancellor being with the King, one cause of discord was removed, and with the cordial co-operation of the Kirk, the Council appeared to have secured peace and order. It was recognised that much depended on Bothwell. 'Without him,' Asheby, the English ambassador reported, 'the malcontentes dare attempt nothing.' (fn. 43) For a time Bothwell was on his best behaviour. (fn. 44) He was reconciled to the Kirk and openly professed a 'new birth.' (fn. 45)

In these circumstances, Scotland was comparatively free from disorder: but it was a more uneasy peace than modern historians have recognised. There was constant dread that the Spanish faction would 'putt owt theire heades.' (fn. 46) The movements of noted Jesuits, and circumstantial rumours of Catholic plots backed by Spanish support, thoroughly alarmed the Scottish Council. Advantage of the situation was taken by the Queen of England, (fn. 47) only too anxious to have an excuse to interfere in Scottish affairs. Asheby was replaced by the more experienced Robert Bowes as English ambassador, and the forces on the English border and in the north of England were kept in readiness to support the 'Kinge's party' in Scotland. (fn. 48) Under the influence of the Kirk, former Acts against Jesuits and seminary priests were re-issued, and commissioners appointed to co-operate with the clergy in enforcing them. (fn. 49) Efforts were made to detach Bothwell from his former confederates; and it is significant of his potential power for mischief that his intrigues were the main pre-occupation of Bowes until the King's return. Twice, at least, during this period, Bothwell received letters from Elizabeth herself. (fn. 50) As a means of serving her, he proposed that he should maintain a secret correspondence with the Duke of Parma in order to discover the designs of Spain. (fn. 51) Robert Bruce, the well-known Edinburgh divine, to whom this precious scheme was disclosed, was not unnaturally 'doubtfull of the happie event,' though he was willing to keep the matter quiet 'for the benefitt of religion and quietnes in this realme.' (fn. 52) The plan, so favourable to double dealing on Bothwell's part, was dropped; and though Bothwell professed to have ceased all intelligence with Spain, he was careful not to commit himself until he should receive some substantial token of Elizabeth's favour. (fn. 53) He was thus still 'playing the Suysser, ibi fas ubi maxima merces,' (fn. 54) when King James and his bride landed in Scotland on 1 May, 1590. (fn. 55) A fortnight later, Bothwell was reported to be in favour with the King, (fn. 56) to whom he had promised to give up all communication with Parma. (fn. 57)

The King had returned from Denmark full of renewed enthusiasm for his own scheme for dealing with the European situation. The possibility of a league consisting of Scotland, England, France, Denmark, and the Protestant princes of Germany had been one of the factors in his Danish marriage. (fn. 58) It had formed part of the instructions for the negotiators of the match in June, 1589, (fn. 59) and it had been used as an argument—argumentum longe petitum (fn. 60) —to secure Elizabeth's favour. It had been the subject of discussion between the King of Scots and the Council of Denmark; (fn. 61) and Colonel Stewart had been authorised by Elizabeth to convey her approval to James, although later Burghley made it plain that his royal mistress was not to appear as a suppliant for peace. (fn. 62)

At the beginning of June, 1590, Colonel Stewart and John Skene set out as the Scottish envoys, (fn. 63) and were received by Elizabeth on their way through London and supplied with funds for their expenses. (fn. 64) According to their instructions —the subject of a careful analysis by Burghley—they were to place before the Danish and German Protestant rulers the necessity for peace in Christendom and make arrangements for a 'joynt legation' to induce England, France, and Spain to come to terms. In the event of a refusal from England and France, the Protestant princes would withdraw their friendship and deprive them of material aid. If the King of Spain rejected 'so godlie a mocion' then a league, offensive if possible, was to be formed against his pernicious designs. (fn. 65) Replies to these overtures were eventually received from Denmark, Hesse, Saxony, and others, (fn. 66) but little came of them. The Danes, indeed, had independently despatched an envoy to Spain: but meanwhile James had appealed to the German princes to aid the King of France against his rebels, and it was assumed that the King of Scotland 'intended no further treaty for peace.' (fn. 67) Abortive as James's plan for universal peace proved to be, it is noteworthy as his earliest attempt to win the title of the 'Peacemaker of Europe.'

Whatever course these negotiations might have taken, the King of Scots would have been precluded from playing an active part in continental affairs by the state of his kingdom at home. He returned from Denmark full of zeal for good government in church and state. A week after the coronation of the Queen, he informed the congregation at the close of the sermon in the church of St. Giles, Edinburgh, that he would reform 'th'abuses in his realme to the comfort and benefitt of his good subjectes and for the chastisement of the disobedient.' (fn. 68) Accordingly, the ministers were promised favourable consideration for their proposals concerning discipline, stipends, Jesuits, and papists. (fn. 69) Economies in the royal household were effected. (fn. 70) An attempt was made to enhance the dignity of the court; (fn. 71) and information regarding Elizabeth's tact in such delicate matters was communicated by Burghley. (fn. 72) The Lords of Session were to be examined for bribery and corruption. The Privy Council was to consist of persons of 'good religion, wisdom, experience, and good behaviour' and approved by the Queen of England. (fn. 73) Disorders in the Borders were to be put down. Bothwell, the worst offender, was warned by James that 'as he had resolved to be a reformed King so he wold have him to be a reformed lord.' (fn. 74) A comprehensive list of 'heids' for discussion by the Council was drawn up. (fn. 75) When the Earl of Worcester arrived in Edinburgh with the Garter for the King, he found a convention discussing many of these proposals. (fn. 76) But his report of the proceedings foreshadowed failure. 'The King,' he wrote, 'is mightily withstood.' Little was done for the Kirk. (fn. 77) The Privy Council appointed in 1587 was continued. (fn. 78) Bothwell evaded giving satisfaction for a Liddesdale foray which retarded the settlement of Border disputes. 'Many things intended since the King's return have had little success,' Bowes reported in August, 1590. (fn. 79)

It was among his own councillors that James found the greatest opposition to reform. The King, wrote Bowes in June, 1590, complained of discords among his Council, saying, 'they spring from the devill that seeke the defeat of all his reformacions.' (fn. 80) The proposed reforms affected both the material and the political interests of the nobility and officials, and gave fresh vigour to their jealousy of Maitland, the King's trusted minister, with whom the new policy was associated. The intrigues at court, therefore, once more centred round the policy to be pursued towards Huntly, Errol, and their associates of the Brig of Dee, whose complete restoration to favour might bring about Maitland's downfall. Maitland was naturally opposed to the re-instatement of his enemies; but, unconnected by ties of kinship with the noble families, he had to depend solely on the King's support. As James wrote to him on one occasion: 'Your felicitie, wardlie man, depend onlie upon ane, and consist onlie by and in him.' (fn. 81) Accordingly the Chancellor had to adjust his own ideas to those of his royal master.

On the departure of his wedding guests, James, according to Bowes, had contemplated placing Huntly, Errol, Bothwell, and Montrose in ward to prevent future mischief. But he changed his mind. He will 'rather seeke to kepe two faccions,' wrote Bowes, 'or els by faire meanes to unite all togither.' (fn. 82) This policy the King consistently pursued, despite the advice of Elizabeth that he should suppress the northern Earls. 'It will make him to be the better obeied whilest he reigneth,' wrote Burghley, 'and thearein facies hominis is facies leonis.' (fn. 83) The Earl of Worcester, as English envoy with the Garter, appears to have extracted a promise from James that he would take stern measures—a promise of which the King was repeatedly reminded. (fn. 84)

James was naturally anxious to keep on good terms with the Queen of England. For this reason, in spite of the opposition of the ministers, he banished Penry the Marprelate, who had sought refuge in Scotland. (fn. 85) For the sake of peace he accepted a half-hearted and private apology from Bancroft, who in his famous sermon at St. Paul's Cross had launched his novel theory of the divine right of episcopacy and questioned the King of Scotland's sincerity in his ecclesiastical policy. (fn. 86) He had incurred the odium of some of his subjects by handing over to English justice O'Rourke who had fomented rebellion in Ireland. (fn. 87) But he was not to be moved in his determination to deal with the 'northern faction' in his own way. 'If our lenitye be misconstrued,' he instructed his ambassador, Sir John Carmichael, to inform Elizabeth, 'ye sall ansuear it is trew we ar naturallye enclyned to clemencye . . . and that in our state and pepill both we and our progenitours have tryed be experience a rigoreus proceadeur hes often rather moved nor repressed rebellions; 'and,' he added with no small justification, 'having no full and firme assurance of our sayd darrest sister . . . we are moved the more to abstean from hard proceadeur. . . . ' (fn. 88)

The Kirk was opposed to this policy; but at a meeting of the Council, at which ministers of the Presbytery of Edinburgh were present, it was generally agreed that the confederates of the Brig of Dee should be received, under certain conditions, into the King's grace. (fn. 89) As a result, Errol was detached from his associates and reconciled to the King and the Chancellor. (fn. 90) From another confederate, the Laird of Auchendoun, James received the original 'bond of the rode of the Brig of Dee' (fn. 91) and thus secured a hold over the others. Another six months passed, and Huntly, despite Maitland's protests, received a full remission for all his offences. (fn. 92) Circumstances had proved too strong for the Chancellor. He had resisted the offers of the Catholic party, (fn. 93) and the plots of the notorious Master of Gray. (fn. 94) But his position had been weakened by the discords among his Protestant fellow-councillors, the main cause being the jealousy and ambition of the Master of Glamis. Glamis had been the mediator for Errol, and had been supported by Morton and Mar. (fn. 95) The Chancellor confessed to Bowes that he had been compelled to agree with Huntly by the King's express commands; 'and he acknowledgeth that by the sight of Glamys secrett curtyng of these noblemen, for his owne strengthe he was dryven to show the more favour to them [the Spanish faction].' He could not bear alone the burden and wrath of all malcontents. (fn. 96)

These incessant intrigues at court had increased the enmity against Maitland, and the plans for reform and vigorous administration were undermined. The hereditary feud between Huntly and Moray, for example, flared up into a series of quarrels which 'set the whole north in twoe partes.' (fn. 97) In the south, a similar state of affairs resulted from the misdeeds of Bothwell who, in the course of his longdrawn-out quarrel with the King and the Chancellor, by a strange paradox came to be regarded as voicing the general discontent engendered by the state of anarchy to which the kingdom was being reduced.

The friendship between Bothwell and the King, reported in May, 1590, had been of short duration. Turbulent and reckless himself, Bothwell was unable, or rather unwilling, to maintain order among his unruly followers in Liddesdale, and was the chief obstacle to the general settlement of Border disputes. (fn. 98) In July the King had ordered him to remove from his company 'the evill rable of murtherers, theives, and wicked persons that onelie found refuge under him and to reforme his unchristian life.' (fn. 99) The complaints continued; (fn. 100) and in January, 1591, the King loaded him with reproaches in his house at Kelso, and 'vowed to God' that if he did not reform he would call to memory all his faults and punish him as far as the law allowed. (fn. 101) This rebuke effected some amendment; (fn. 102) but a fresh discovery of Bothwell's misdeeds brought down upon him the pent-up wrath of the King.

The discovery was made in the course of the King's energetic measures against witchcraft, an activity in which unfortunately he achieved success. (fn. 103) Richie Graham, accused of being a wizard, charged Bothwell with 'evil device against the King's life.' Bothwell denied all and was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle. A convention was summoned to consider the case. (fn. 104) In the meantime, Barbara Napier, a witch accused by Graham of aiding Bothwell, was acquitted, much to the indignation of the King. Such a verdict, if allowed to stand, would have invalidated the charge against Bothwell. A new trial was ordered by 'the great novelty' of an assize of error; and the King took the unprecedented step of sitting in person as a judge and delivering an interesting oration in which the reality of witchcraft and the effects of another acquittal were duly emphasised. (fn. 105) The witch was found guilty, a verdict which was 'thought to touch Bothwell narrowly.' (fn. 106) Bothwell himself fully apprehended the danger, and, repudiating terms of banishment, made his escape. (fn. 107) Denounced as a traitor and outlawed, he was to prove during the next four years a constant source of danger to the state.

The King could find little support in his determination to capture the rebel. Bothwell had friends everywhere. (fn. 108) No reliable persons would take over his numerous offices. Buccleuch, his stepson, replaced him as Keeper of Liddesdale; but after a formal break with Bothwell, he eluded the dilemma between kinship and loyalty by going abroad. (fn. 109) Lord Hume promised to keep Bothwell out of the East March; but Bowes reported that 'he and the other noblemen have little will to do anything against him.' (fn. 110) The Duke of Lennox, dreading to offend Bothwell and the other Stewarts, 'staggered much' to take a part of the forfeited estates; and he and Hume made no effort to apprehend the rebel when he spoke to them in the fields near Leith. (fn. 111) When the King proposed to take arms against him, the nobles, in the usual Scottish fashion, subscribed a band to support the royal authority, but nothing came of it. (fn. 112) On 31 December, 1591, Bothwell surprised the King in Holyrood Palace, and many of the courtiers, including the Duke of Lennox, were suspected of complicity. (fn. 113)

Meanwhile Huntly was in great favour with the King and used his influence to further his own interests. In September, 1591, it was reported that 'blood was drawn daily in the north between Huntly's friends and the followers of Atholl, Moray, and Grant.' (fn. 114) At court the quarrels between Glamis and the Chancellor continued in spite of repeated efforts to bring about an understanding. (fn. 115) The Chancellor's administration was undermined. There was a general 'disliking of the King for his careless guiding and government.' His Chancellor was 'evell thowght and openly spoken of;' (fn. 116) and he was suspected of drawing towards Huntly and the Catholic party for support. (fn. 117) When on the night of 8 February, 1592, the Earl of Moray was done to death by Huntly and his followers, the Chancellor shared with his royal master the general odium which the cruel deed evoked. Maitland and the King, it was alleged, were both 'blemished with the grant of the blank commission—by colour whereof Huntly attempted this fact [deed]—and with privity and assent to the execution.' (fn. 118) Their subsequent actions were held to justify these suspicions. Preparations for an expedition against Huntly were postponed; (fn. 119) and the King, accompanied by the Chancellor, set off for the west, ostensibly to pursue Bothwell but in reality to avoid 'the fury of the people.' (fn. 120) Such was the general discontent that Bothwell could go where he pleased. At one time he was reported to be 'plainly resett' in the north of England, much to the indignation of the King, who declared that he was so bent on revenge against Bothwell that 'if he should seek revenge out of all the world he will give his life but he will have it.' (fn. 121) Huntly, on the other hand, was allowed to ward himself under easy conditions in Blackness Castle, and to abide a trial which legal technicalities and court intrigues were bound to render abortive. (fn. 122)

The glaring contrast in the treatment of Huntly and Bothwell increased 'the murmur and rage of the people;' and the Chancellor sought to regain the good opinion of the 'well affected' and of Moray's friends, the Stewarts, by inducing the King to return to Edinburgh to hold a convention for the purpose of reforming the government and punishing offenders. (fn. 123) Pending the meeting of Parliament, the Chancellor remained at Lethington preparing schemes to 'content the best sort;' while the King was drawn north in a fruitless effort to seize Bothwell and his abettors, including the Master of Gray. Gray disobeyed a summons to court, and an assize refused to condemn one of his servants who had received Bothwell into his master's castle at Broughty Ferry. (fn. 124)

On 24 May the convention duly met and was continued as a Parliament, Bowes returning from a visit to England in time to convey Elizabeth's advice regarding the execution of justice against Huntly, whereby the King 'should greatly honour himself and comfort his subjects.' (fn. 125) A new council and the repeal of the Black Acts of 1584 against the Kirk were among the concessions whereby Maitland hoped to conciliate public opinion. But although the ecclesiastical legislation constituted 'the first thorough legal establishment of the Presbyterian system' in Scotland, (fn. 126) the ministers failed to secure representation in the Estates, (fn. 127) and the retention of Lord Spynie and Sir George Hume on the new council indicated that the 'enemies of the Chamber' would still be able to exert their influence as the King's favourites. (fn. 128)

Maitland's schemes, in fact, proved fruitless. In spite of forfeiture, Bothwell and his friends still roamed at large and Huntly went unpunished. The Chancellor's 'good disposition' failed to renew the old fellowship with his political friends, and he had 'slydden a piece out of the King's favour' by setting himself against Huntly. (fn. 129) 'The grudge of Moray's slaughter so works in the hearts of most men and in the well affected,' wrote Bowes on 12 June, 1592, 'that they will not give their endeavours to touch Bothwell . . . in regard they think that by the welter of the state the evil counsellors and instruments in the King's chamber shall be defeated and removed.' (fn. 130)

In these circumstances Bothwell's daring raid on Falkland Palace in the same month had every chance of success. But the King made a stout defence, and after a seven hours' struggle, his enemies fled to their Border fastnesses (fn. 131). The raid revealed the treachery which surrounded the King. The Earl of Errol and Colonel Stewart were warded on suspicion before it took place; proceedings were instituted against Angus who subsequently gave himself up to the King. The captured papers of John Colville showed how far these measures were justified. (fn. 132) The chief conspirators, Bothwell, Angus, the Master of Gray, and Colville hastened to request 'oversight' in England in case of need; and Bowes and Burleigh were placed in a quandary by such requests made at the very time when the Queen of England was congratulating James on his escape and urging him to banish the suspected and execute traitors. (fn. 133) Yet the 'welter' of the court encouraged Bothwell to continue his attempts. Twice Bowes gave James timely warning of 'great enterprises;' while circumstantial rumours of another raid on Falkland were discovered to be false and intended to lure the King from his stronghold. (fn. 134)

Meanwhile the King's efforts to capture the raiders during a progress through the West Borders had effected little (fn. 135). His energies on his return were dissipated in unravelling further intrigues among his familiars. Colonel Stewart, himself involved in the Falkland Raid, accused Wemyss of Logie and Balfour of Burley, 'gentlemen of the King's Chamber and in especial favour and trust with the King,' of intelligence with Bothwell, a charge to which they both pleaded guilty. (fn. 136) Little wonder that James declared that it was his destiny 'to dye in himself,' and 'accounted his fortune to be worse than any prince living.' (fn. 137) In turn, they accused two other royal favourites, the Laird of Spynie and Sir George Hume. (fn. 138) The investigations into Spynie's misdeeds proved long and troublesome, Colonel Stewart being even commissioned by the King to secure evidence from Bothwell. (fn. 139) But as Bowes had surmised, too 'many persons of quality were blotted with the late fault at Falkland' to permit of due punishment being exacted. (fn. 140) Logie made a romantic escape and was pardoned. (fn. 141) Burley was set free. (fn. 142) Errol and Angus were taken into favour. (fn. 143) Their return boded ill for Colonel Stewart. Accused by Errol of being the main contriver of the Falkland Raid, he was ordered to leave the country, but this arch-plotter secured his peace. (fn. 144) Only the antagonism of Lennox prevented Spynie from recovering his old place at court; (fn. 145) and the Master of Gray, of whom the King had most justifiably 'a very hard opinion,' and against whose maintenance in the north of England he had frequently protested, (fn. 146) found grace like the others by means of friendly courtiers. (fn. 147)

These bewildering pardons and reconciliations were the result of intrigues directed against Maitland and in favour of Bothwell. The Chancellor was 'in great disgrace' with the Queen; and the hatred of the Duke of Lennox and the Master of Glamis so threatened 'his life and estate' (fn. 148) that the King was forced to acknowledge that he could not 'use his service and government without the Chancellor's wrack.' (fn. 149) Maitland withdrew from court in August, 1592, and a year was to pass before he took his place again at the Council board. During that period the efforts of his enemies were directed to depriving him of his office and to weakening the King's goodwill which he still enjoyed in retreat. For a time they hoped that Colonel Stewart's disclosures would involve the Chancellor in Bothwell's disgrace; but nothing was laid to his charge. (fn. 150) In order to provide for his safety, he was appointed ambassador first to France and then to England. (fn. 151) The Queen of England, however, refused to countenance the scheme. Fresh efforts were therefore made to reconcile Maitland and Lennox, but the Duke proved inexorable. In the end Maitland decided to run the risk of remaining at home and to take refuge in England only in case of necessity. (fn. 152)

Owing to these feuds it was impossible to secure a stable administration. At the beginning of August, 1592, it was proposed to strengthen the Council appointed in June by adding representatives of the burghs and of the Kirk whose presence might help to bring order to the distracted realm. An association of the 'well-affected' of every class was to be organised, united by a 'band' pledging the King's adherents to carry out the necessary reforms. (fn. 153) Nothing came of the scheme. Rivalries for the Chancellorship and opposing views regarding Huntly and Bothwell rendered it abortive. In November, Bowes reported a rumour that Sir James Stewart, formerly Earl of Arran, the notorious enemy of the Kirk, was likely to be recalled to 'wracke' Lord Hamilton and the Chancellor, and 'knocke the pates' of the ministers. (fn. 154) After a few days' residence in Edinburgh, he was introduced at court. Some, it was averred, 'commanded to make way for the Chancellor' [Arran] and he was 'caried' to the Queen and kissed her hand. But the instant outcry of the ministers baulked his ambition and he was forced to retire. (fn. 155) Until Maitland's return in the following year, the 'new court' consisted of the Duke of Lennox, Mar, Morton, Argyll, Hume and Glamis, and such favourites as maintained their position in spite of treachery, the Duke being the leading councillor. (fn. 156)

During these 'welterings' the King's devious policy was dictated by the desire to protect Huntly and secure Bothwell. His lenity towards proved intriguers with Bothwell was based on the hope that they would reveal the Earl's secrets and enable him to be caught. (fn. 157) Those pardoned, however, merely added to the number of his secret sympathisers in and about the court, and the 'Madcap Earl' had little difficulty in procuring fresh adherents. In September these included the Border lairds of Fernieherst and Hunthill. (fn. 158) After the usual delays, due in part to distrust of his own supporters, (fn. 159) the King made a progress through the Borders 'to chastise the offenders.' (fn. 160) He found that many had taken refuge in England, and he received little satisfaction when he protested to Bowes against the 'partying' of his rebels by English officials. (fn. 161) Bowes was almost convinced, in spite of denials, that the King himself, in his extremity, was in negotiation with Bothwell; (fn. 162) and it was believed that the same favour would eventually be extended to him as had been granted to so many of his principal followers. (fn. 163)

As the future was to show, the King would never willingly receive Bothwell. In the meantime, however, James had to bide his time. Less than a third of the realm, so he was informed, would peril their lives for his sake in such a feud. (fn. 164) The majority of the 'new court' favoured Bothwell. (fn. 165) The Kirk was half-hearted in its denunciations of the traitor. As long as Huntly remained unpunished, Bothwell would find popular support. James still cherished his fondness for Huntly and was reluctant to push measures against the Catholic faction to extremes. Huntly, indeed, professed from time to time, to be willing to go into exile; (fn. 166) but such a course displeased all parties—his outlawed followers, the avengers of Moray's slaughter, and even Bothwell's friends; because if Huntly was allowed to depart, 'Elizabeth would give Bothwell no aid.' (fn. 167)

Hitherto such help had been limited to unofficial 'oversight' by the English wardens when Bothwell and his adherents sought or contemplated safety by flight. But during the second half of 1592, the rumours of Catholic and Spanish plots, current since the 'association of the Brig of Dee,' multiplied and were substantiated. In these circumstances, the appeals from Bothwell for encouragement as a supporter of English and Protestant interests received fresh consideration from Elizabeth and her advisers.

In July and August, 1592, Bowes reported renewed activity of Catholic emissaries from Flanders and Spain who were in touch with Father James Gordon, Huntly's uncle, and the northern Earls. (fn. 168) He was informed that little money had been sent and that no preparations had been made for a Spanish expedition to Scotland that summer. (fn. 169) But it was significant that Mr. Robert Bruce, the instigator of the troubles in 1589, had written from Flanders offering to reveal to the King 'the names of all the practisers and the secrets of their practice wrought in Spain or Flanders' against Scotland and England. (fn. 170) Mischief was brewing and its uncertain nature and extent added to the general uneasiness. In October, Bowes discovered that three well-known Jesuits, Gordon, M'Quirrie [Mac-Wherry] and Abercromby, were endeavouring to persuade certain noblemen to send hostages 'or other good assurances' to the King of Spain who would then be prepared to send men and treasure to Scotland. (fn. 171) But Bowes was unable to secure a copy of the 'band' which, he was convinced, was being circulated for signature. (fn. 172) The King, to whom Bowes revealed his suspicions, treated them lightly. (fn. 173) He himself had had offers of help against England from Parma, in which Bothwell was to play the leading part. (fn. 174) The ministers (to whom James later made similar disclosures) (fn. 175) were naturally alarmed, especially as it was rumoured that a general massacre of themselves and the burgesses was a part of the plan. (fn. 176) The apprehensions of the Kirk were increased by the reluctance of the King and his Council to enforce the law against such noblemen as harboured Jesuits and 'trafficking' priests, (fn. 177) and they took elaborate precautions against the emergency. (fn. 178) The ample terms of the pardon for Bruce, the agent of the Jesuits, which the King endeavoured to disavow, only deepened their suspicions. (fn. 179)

As in 1589, Bothwell was the uncertain factor. There was a constant dread that in spite of his pose as Protestant champion he would ally himself, as he eventually did, with Huntly and his Catholic confederates. (fn. 180) On the other hand, Bothwell made repeated offers of service to Elizabeth. The appeals of Bowes to the Queen and her advisers for instructions in this matter remained unanswered. At length Bothwell, through Colville, informed Bowes that unless he received a speedy and favourable reply, he 'must otherwise provide his relief and for his company.' (fn. 181) The means of doing so was obvious, and it was decided, presumably in view of the critical threat to Protestantism, that even such an uncertain traitor as Bothwell must be supported. Bowes was now directed to deal with him, (fn. 182) and before the end of 1592, Mr. Locke, a relative of Colville, was sent north to work for Bothwell's restoration. (fn. 183) The discovery of the well-known 'Spanish Blanks' precluded any immediate enterprise. (fn. 184) They opened a fresh chapter in the history of the Scottish Catholic Earls.

This volume was prepared by Mr. William K. Boyd, but owing to ill-health he was compelled to resign an editorship in the course of which he had added seven volumes (III.-IX.) to the series. The present writer is responsible for the collation and revision of the page-proofs, for adding references to material already in print, and for the Introduction. To his wife he is indebted for the laborious work of compiling the Index, on the somewhat exhaustive principles of the previous volumes, and to Mr. Henry M. Paton for revising it and preparing it for the press. His thanks are also due to Mr. F. D. Ward, M.A. (Oxon.) for help in collating the MSS. in the Public Record Office, London. During the progress of the volume, Mr. Angus, Curator of Historical Records, H.M. Register House, Edinburgh, and Mr. Henry M. Paton and Mr. MacInnes of the same Department, have given unstinted help. Mr. Angus, as General Editor of the Series, has patiently borne with the delay in publication, due to the pressure of successive changes in the official duties of the present writer.

Dr. G. F. Black, New York Public Library, kindly granted permission to reprint in the Appendix to this volume the correspondence of Robert Bowes which he had published in the Bulletin of that Library (Vol. VII., Sept., 1903). Following the MS., an eighteenth century transcript, Dr. Black attributed the letters to John Bowes. No person of that name has been traced as having any connexion with Scotland at the time; and the fact that many of the letters are duplicates of letters of Robert Bowes printed in this Calendar from the originals renders it certain that they should all be assigned to Robert. In the Appendix to this volume such duplicates have been omitted. From a linguistic point of view these transcripts are, of course, of no value.

It should be added that the second volume of The Warrender Papers, edited by Dr. Annie Cameron for the Scottish History Society since this Calendar was prepared, is an indispensable source for the period. It replaces and supplements the references to Tytler's History of Scotland in the footnotes to this Calendar.


Edinburgh, November, 1934.


  • 1. Ante, vol. ix., pp. 682 et seq.
  • 2. P. 3.
  • 3. Ante, vol. ix., p. 700.
  • 4. P. 11.
  • 5. P. 4.
  • 6. P. 5.
  • 7. Pp. 5-10.
  • 8. Pp. 17-18.
  • 9. P. 9.
  • 10. Pp. 10, 13, 15, 16.
  • 11. Pp. 20, 24, 25.
  • 12. Pp. 25-7; 34.
  • 13. P. 25.
  • 14. P. 34.
  • 15. Pp. 36 et seq.
  • 16. p. 60.
  • 17. Pp. 42, 45-6.
  • 18. P. 28.
  • 19. P. 42.
  • 20. P. 53.
  • 21. Pp. 51, 53.
  • 22. Pp. 38, 62-3, 69-70.
  • 23. Pp. 83, 84, 98.
  • 24. Pp. 72 81.
  • 25. Pp. 92, 98, 106, 110.
  • 26. Pp. 102, 351.
  • 27. Pp. 114 et seq.
  • 28. Pp. 131, 362.
  • 29. Ante, vol. ix., p. 677.
  • 30. P. 51.
  • 31. P. 73.
  • 32. P. 82.
  • 33. Pp. 95, 97.
  • 34. Pp. 88, 94.
  • 35. Pp. 87, 88, 94, 95.
  • 36. P. 104.
  • 37. P. 126.
  • 38. P. 95.
  • 39. P. 137.
  • 40. Pp. 137, 150.
  • 41. Pp. 157, 163.
  • 42. Pp. 174-9, 181.
  • 43. P. 193; cf. p. 203.
  • 44. Pp. 187, 196, 201.
  • 45. P. 192.
  • 46. P. 182.
  • 47. Pp. 199-209.
  • 48. P. 209-11.
  • 49. P. 247. cf. Privy Council Register, iv. pp. li to lii.
  • 50. Pp. 201, 239.
  • 51. Pp. 248, 855.
  • 52. P. 856.
  • 53. Pp. 282-3.
  • 54. P. 204.
  • 55. P. 288.
  • 56. P. 295.
  • 57. P. 297.
  • 58. Ante, vol. ix. p. 667.
  • 59. P. 105.
  • 60. P. 143.
  • 61. P. 291.
  • 62. Pp. 212-5, 302-4.
  • 63. P. 314.
  • 64. P. 334.
  • 65. Pp. 337-343.
  • 66. Pp. 366, 384, 388, 408.
  • 67. Pp. 441, 546, 549.
  • 68. P. 305.
  • 69. P. 295.
  • 70. P. 306.
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  • 72. P. 303.
  • 73. Pp. 307, 330.
  • 74. P. 311.
  • 75. P. 308.
  • 76. P. 325.
  • 77. P. 336.
  • 78. P. 387.
  • 79. P. 371.
  • 80. P. 315.
  • 81. P. 509.
  • 82. Pp. 300, 370.
  • 83. Pp. 303, 445.
  • 84. Pp. 334 et seq.
  • 85. Index., s.v. Penry.
  • 86. Pp. 409, 428, 432.
  • 87. Pp. 505, 739.
  • 88. P. 317.
  • 89. P. 347.
  • 90. P. 357.
  • 91. P. 362.
  • 92. Pp. 428, 429, 431, 435-440.
  • 93. Pp. 400-1.
  • 94. P. 423.
  • 95. Pp. 347, 351.
  • 96. P. 443.
  • 97. Pp. 428, 431, 452, 462, 469.
  • 98. P. 399.
  • 99. P. 359.
  • 100. Pp. 399, 420, 429, 477.
  • 101. P. 453.
  • 102. Pp. 486-7.
  • 103. Pp. 430, 457, 463-7.
  • 104. Pp. 501-2, 504-5, 513.
  • 105. Pp. 513-525.
  • 106. Pp. 530-1.
  • 107. P. 534.
  • 108. Pp. 538, 543.
  • 109. Pp. 546-7, 554, 572.
  • 110. P. 543.
  • 111. P. 550.
  • 112. Pp. 554, 558.
  • 113. Pp. 609, 616, 618, 623, 627-8.
  • 114. Pp. 552, 557, 572.
  • 115. Pp. 520, 547, 556, 560, 592, 598, 600.
  • 116. Pp. 573-4.
  • 117. Pp. 622, 625.
  • 118. Pp. 635, 639-40.
  • 119. P. 637.
  • 120. P. 648.
  • 121. Pp. 652-3.
  • 122. Pp. 654, 655, 658, 663.
  • 123. Pp. 653, 660, 663.
  • 124. Pp. 668, 669.
  • 125. P. 681.
  • 126. Masson, Register of the Privy Council, vol. iv. p. lxvii.
  • 127. P. 685.
  • 128. Pp. 668, 685.
  • 129. P. 697.
  • 130. P. 695.
  • 131. Pp. 707-713, 716-720.
  • 132. P. 728.
  • 133. Pp. 713, 723, 725, 726, 739, 744.
  • 134. Pp. 730-2, 735-7, 740.
  • 135. P. 721.
  • 136. P. 750.
  • 137. Pp. 753-4.
  • 138. P. 751.
  • 139. Pp. 758, 763, 764, 771, 774-6, 779, 780,801.
  • 140. Pp. 722, 729.
  • 141. Pp. 752, 818.
  • 142. Pp. 771-2, 784, 818.
  • 143. P. 779.
  • 144. Pp. 781, 789.
  • 145. P. 820.
  • 146. Pp. 739, 756, 774, 791.
  • 147. Pp. 784-6, 818.
  • 148. Pp. 753-7, 764.
  • 149. P. 768.
  • 150. Pp. 759, 762.
  • 151. Pp. 769, 773-5, 781.
  • 152. pp. 783, 803, 811, 814, 819.
  • 153. Pp. 746-7, 756, 759, 762, 774.
  • 154. Pp. 801, 809, 819.
  • 155. P. 821.
  • 156. Pp. 755-6, 774, 776, 781, 794.
  • 157. P. 810.
  • 158. P. 776.
  • 159. P. 780.
  • 160. P. 787.
  • 161. P. 791.
  • 162. Pp. 774, 786, 793, 803, 810.
  • 163. Pp. 787, 810, 818.
  • 164. P. 768.
  • 165. P. 805.
  • 166. Pp. 741, 742.
  • 167. Pp. 732, 741, 748.
  • 168. Pp. 728, 733, 735, 740, 747-8.
  • 169. P. 760.
  • 170. P. 766.
  • 171. Pp. 787, 789.
  • 172. Pp. 813, 818.
  • 173. Pp. 792-3.
  • 174. Pp. 806-8.
  • 175. Pp. 816-17.
  • 176. Pp. 787, 812.
  • 177. Pp. 784, 812.
  • 178. Pp. 808, 816.
  • 179. Pp. 824-5.
  • 180. Pp. 716, 732, 752.
  • 181. P. 805.
  • 182. P. 818.
  • 183. P. 822; Tytler, Hist. of Scotland (1877 edn.) iv. 189.
  • 184. Pp. 823, 828-833.