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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir William Kirkaldy of Grange
Chapter V. The Castle Blockaded


By this time the citizens of St Andrews had been roused by the numerous retinue expelled from the castle; the alarm-bells were rung, and the burghers, (by whom Beatoun was greatly beloved, notwithstanding his tyranny,) led by their provost, Sir James Learmonth of Dairsie, surrounded the castle, and, crowding at the margin of the moat, clamoured for scaling-ladders, and to be led to the assault, if the cardinal was not instantly shown to them.

“What have ye done unto our lord the cardinal?” they loudly demanded; “have ye slain him? let us see our lord the cardinal.”

From the lofty ramparts Norman Leslie scoffingly advised them to return to their houses, saying that their “lord the cardinal” had got the reward of his crimes, and they were troublesome fools for demanding to see a dead man. This answer only served to enrage them more; and they cried “We will never depart until we have seen him!” But as they spoke, the corpse of Beatoun, stripped, bloody, and ghastly, was indecently suspended over the walls of the fore-tower—“even out of the very place where before he had so exultingly beheld the execution of George Wishart.”

“There is your god!” exclaimed Norman Leslie; “and, now that we have satisfied ye, begone to your houses!”

Upon this the appalled burgesses retired, murmuring vengeance, their Lord Provost, who was in the interest of the conspirators, manifesting no inclination to lead them to the assault. Contemplating this barbarous deed with the horror which it naturally excites, the great courage and conduct of the perpetrators fail to excite our admiration; yet, execrable as the affair was, Leslie and Carnbee were soon able to assemble a numerous band to defend the deed of blood.

That “godly fact,” as Knox exultingly calls it, had no sooner been committed, than the rage of these Reformers was extended to the inanimate remains of the cardinal. Pitscottie and others record an ensuing episode, too offensive to be repeated, but very indicative of the spirit which animated the vassals of Kirkaldy and Rothes. “These,” exclaims Knox, with a triumph bordering on impiety, “these are the works of our God, whereby he would admonish the tyrants of this earth.” According to Balfour, after Beatoun had lain salted for nine months in the vault of the sea-tower, (of which a description is given in a preceding chapter,) he was obscurely interred in the convent of the Blackfriars at St Andrews.

The tidings of his death spread rage and consternation among the Catholics of Europe; in their eyes it was a deed of the utmost sacrilege and horror ; while to the persecuted Protestants it sounded like a tocsin of hope, and was only viewed as a just retribution for the fate of Wishart, and as a deadly blow to the vast power of the established church. John Knox hesitated not to write “merrily” on the subject; hut the more elegant and witty knight of the Mount wrote with better taste—

“As for the cardinal, I grant
He was the man we well might want;
God will forgive it soon.
But of a truth, the sooth to say,
Although the loon be well away,
The deed was foully done.”

It is somewhat remarkable, that on the very morning when Beatoun was slain, some Scottish exiles at Ripperwyck, in Norway, who could not have been aware of what was acting at St Andrews, solemnly burned the cardinal's effigy on the sea-shore, “making his portraitoure of a great oaken blocke, with his name upon it, affixed to a paper.”

Several likenesses of Cardinal Beatoun with his baretta are to be seen cut in freestone, in bold relief, on the walls of an ancient tower built by him near Monimail.

The old Laird of Grange and his three other sons, James, ( Thomas, and David, joined the successful conspirators in the evening, adding their vassals and influence to the garrison of the castle. Any compunction he or his sons might have felt for having abetted Beatoun’s death, was completely cured by the discovery of certain papers in the primate’s repositories, from which it appeared “that Norman Leslie, sheriff of Fife, John Leslie, father’s brother to Norman, the Lairds of Grange, elder and younger, Sir James Learmonth of Dairsic, and the Laird of Kaith, should either have been slain or else taken,” and been placed as prisoners at the mercy of him that Carnbee had slain.'

The Melvilles of Raith joined the Kirkaldys and Lesbes next day.

About Easter 1547, John Knox came to St Andrews and joined their standard, bringing with him his three pupils, George and Francis Douglas, sons of the Laird of Longniddry, and Alexander Cockburn, younger of Ormistoun. Hamilton, Beatoiun’s successor, had long been intent on Knox’s destruction; and being compelled to flee from place to place, the Reformer led a vagrant and miserable life, haunted continually by the terrors of the dungeon and stake, until, urged by danger, by the advice of his friends, and his own inclination, he sought an asylum in the castle of St Andrews—a circumstance deemed by some equal to participation in Beatoun’s murder, and which has given rise to charges of the most serious nature against his clerical character. Other persons of great note had by this time joined the growing faction; including Sir David Lindesay of the Mount, John Rough, a celebrated Reformed preacher, whom Dempster characterises as u an impious and vile apostate; ”Henry Balneaves of Halliill, (who had been made clerk-treasurer by Sir James Kirkaldy,) a senator of the College of Justice, and secretary of state; Henry Primrose, the Laird of Pitmillie, an immediate relation of Beatoun ; Sir John Auchinleck, and many gentlemen of the surname of Melville. In all, they mustered only one hundred and fifty armed men. Well aware that they had committed a fearful violation of all Divine and human laws, assured of the thunders of the church, the vengeance of the government, and of Beatoun’s kinsmen, they rushed into further rebellion and defiance. The regent immediately sent messengers with tidings of the event into France, from whence he expected galleys of war, soldiers, artillery, and engineers to assist him in reducing this little band of desperate insurgents, as the mass of the Scottish people were averse to drawing their swords against them.

He was on the western borders with an army of observation, expecting an invasion from England, when the first notice of the catastrophe reached him. With other military vassals of the crown, the Earl of Rothes was with him; and with one voice the nobles demanded that he should be brought to trial, as cognisant of his son’s crime, ere he was permitted to continue under the royal standard with soldiers whose honour was untainted. A court was held; its verdict fully acquitted him of having had the least knowledge of the Master’s designs; and then the army marched towards England.

Though outwardly the regent expressed the utmost grief for Beatoun’s death, he must have felt inwardly the highest exultation. He could not forget that his name had been the first on that black muster-roll of nobles doomed to destruction by the cardinal; he was now freed from the stern admonitions of a fearless monitor, and the annoying surveillance of one whose mind was superior by a thousand degrees to his own. However, he issued a proclamation, thirteen days after the murder, citing the Kirkaldys of Grange, Norman Leslie, and their companions, to compear before the assembled parliament of Scotland on the 30th of July, under penalty of treason. George earl of Huntly, who had succeeded Beatoun as Lord Chancellor, affixed the great seal of the kingdom to the mandate.

It was now the midsummer of 1546, and the season was one of intense heat.

On the 11th June an edict was issued, forbidding all communication with the castle of St Andrews under pain of death. For those successive fulminations the bold spirits therein cared little: they possessed a strong and magnificent castle, with all the cardinal’s treasure, jewels, church ornaments, rich hangings, gold and silver plate, munition of war, artillery, armour, provisions, and rich household stuff of every description; they had the regent’s son as hostage; and, finding themselves outlawed, they refused to listen to any terms of accommodation whatever. The fleet of their friends, the Protestant English, commanded the sea in their vicinity, and could at any time afford them supplies. To secure further support from the south, William Kirkaldy, Balneaves of Halbill, and John Leslie, were sent as envoys to Henry VIII., and returned in safety, with assurances of assistance, on condition of their promoting the intended marriage between their young queen and the Prince of Wales. An English ship brought them back to share the dangers of the blockade and siege, and they had with them an Italian soldier of fortune, who was supposed to be very skilful in all the art of war. Kejoiced at the death of Beatoun, Henry VIII. liberally supplied the insurgents with money, provisions, and stores; and to aid them in their rebellion, six ships of war, commanded by Tyrell his admiral, anchored on several occasions within gunshot of the ramparts of St Andrews. To Balneaves, Henry remitted £1480 for the subsistence of the garrison; and in the succeeding March and May, £450 for himself. As they were unable to draw any rent from their estates, he sent £200 to Sir James Kirkaldy, and £280 to the Master of Kothes. The allowance of the garrison was eightpence per diem for the soldiers, forty of whom were troopers, and had horses to forage.

The parliament met at Edinburgh on the 4th August 1546, and the eight Kirkaldys of Grange, with all others within the castle of St Andrews, were solemnly declared forfeited traitors; and the great weakness of the regent’s government is strongly evinced by the fact, that one hundred and fifty brave men were able to keep him so long and so fully at defiance.

Many of them were young in years, and all were rash; exulting in their successful vengeance, and animated by that inborn love of tumult and daring for which the Scots of those days were so eminently distinguished, they broke out into yet more open rebellion. They laid the city of St Andrews, and the whole adjacent country, under blackmail ; and the tenor of the lives of some of them became one continued scene of riot and debauchery, "oppressing all the country,” saith Pitscottie, “with spoiling of goods and ravishing of women, notwithstanding the manifold admonitions of those godly men who were with them.” Knox severely reprehended their profligacy, and attributed to it the violent ends to which some of tbeir lives came; and, indeed, it is rather remarkable that nearly all of the eonspirators perished by violenee. They plundered, wasted, and ravaged the whole adjacent parishes; and if the stem exhortations of the furious Knox failed to restrain them, it was evident that nothing short of cannon-balls would do so; and the Scottish government prepared for war. During these proceedings, John Rough, who had acted as their chaplain, made his eseape into England, where, after endeavouring to subsist by preaching and knitting caps and hose, he was burned in Smithfield by Bonner bishop of London.

On the 21st of August the Regent Arran proclaimed, by sound of trumpet, that all the vassals of the crown should muster by the 29th of the month, to blockade the castle of St Andrews; though he did not feel much anxiety either concerning its reduction or the punishment of its garrison, hut fears for the safety of his eldest son, (whom he wished to unite to the little Queen Mary.) Incited by the clamours of an indignant priesthood, and the religious importunity of the queen-dowager, he displayed the royal standard before the fortress, and invested it with a considerable body of troops. The Catholic clergy taxed themselves in the sum of £2000 monthly, to enable him to succeed.

He had with him several pieces of brass artillery; two of these were of very heavy ealibre, and familiarly known among the soldiers as Deaf Meg and Crook Mow. His train battered at intervals the strong walls for three months, but without success: the cannon-shot of those days, being generally round stones lapped in sheet-lead, were not of sufficient weight to breach a rampart. The regent was so wavering in his proceedings, that he even offered to restore their lands and heritages; but with one voice the besieged refused to accept his accommodation.

Upon this, he sent four pieces of heavy cannon to the flank of his western trenches, for the purpose of destroying the sea-tower; but notwithstanding that from these guns a constant fire was maintained all day, from seven in the morning until four in the afternoon, the cannoneers only succeeded in beating down the battlements and top-house, and unroofing some buildings next the sea. The moment the rampart gave way, from its corbells the royal cross-bowmen shot their feathered balistae with deadly precision at the unsheltered besieged, who, terrified by the falling ramparts and showers of heavy slates which descended under the concussion of every cannon-ball, were compelled to abandon the sea-tower with confusion and precipitation. But from other parts their cannon fired briskly on the regent’s trenches, and slew his master of artillery, John Borthwick, and killed and wounded many others.

A secret paper, addressed to Balneaves of Halhill, the conspirators’ agent with Henry VIII., gives a very minute account of this siege.

On the 17th December the Lyon herald sounded a trumpet before the walls, bearer of a request from the regent that they would hear an offer of his envoys, the justice-clerk and the provost of Aberdeen. Through these he offered to permit their retaining the castle and his son as hostage, until his promises of restoring the lands of Grange and others were fully performed by deeds signed and sealed; hut he required that William Kirkaldy, the heir of the ex-treasurer, should he placed in his hands, as a pledge for their peaceable conduct. This they refused to accede to; but offered him the younger sons of the Laird of Grange, James and David Kirkaldy, who were accordingly sent to his camp 5 and it does not appear that they were ever allowed to return, by which they escaped many dangers and a long captivity abroad.

A desultory shooting of crossbows, and firing of cannon and harquebusses, was maintained for three months, without much slaughter on either side; for strong ramparts, deep trenches, and armour of proof, were good preservatives of life and limb. The besieged were sometimes straitened by want of provisions; but generally flesh, flour, and wine were supplied them in the night by their secret friend, the Laird of Monkquhanny, at a private postern near the kitchen tower, where a boat could at any time, when the tide was full, come close to the eastern rocks. Monkquhanny’s son, the famous and changeable Sir James Balfour, was then serving with the insurgents, having repaired to the castle soon after the death of Beatoun.

The troops of the regent, like himself, were but coldly disposed in the affair; while Angus, Gleneairn, Marischal, Cassillis, Bothwell, Fleming, and others, who led them, were all secretly in the interest of Henry, who had gained them by gross bribery to aid him in the promotion of that marriage which was so obnoxious to the nation; and yet those men, who sold themselves so basely, again and again, to further the grasping ambition of a foreign despot, were the boasted leaders of our Scottish Reformation. Judging by the sums he received from Henry, old Sir James of the Grange appears to have sold his political influence as freely as any of his colleagues.

While the young heir of Arran was detained by this hand of successful revolters, their threats against him, if driven to extremity, must have had a powerful effect on a mind so wavering and undecided as his father’s. Their ally, Henry VIII., was extremely anxious to get this young lord into his hands, that by potion or dagger he might he rid of him for ever, as he dreaded Arran’s project of uniting bun to the infant queen—a measure which, if carried into effect, would completely have destroyed his favourite matrimonial union, which the cardinal had so long opposed; and it is to the honour of Norman Leslie and his companions that they kept the young heir of Hamilton in their own safer custody.

On the appearance of a pestilence in the city, the regent, glad of a decent pretext for furling his standard, prepared to raise the blockade and retire. Previous to this, the wild spirits in the castle had become tired of a year’s confinement within its narrow compass, and finding themselves latterly almost deserted by their abettor, Henry of England, and doubtful of their safety, if by treachery, starvation, or force, they fell into the power of the parliament, they concluded an armistice, the leading conditions of which were:—

First. That the regent should procure them absolution from the pope, Paul III.

Second. That hostilities should cease until the decision of his holiness became known.

Third. That hostages should be retained in the regent’s hands to insure the capitulation of the fortress, and release of his son, on the arrival of the papal absolution.

These articles were agreed to, although neither of the parties were sincere in the matter; but immediately after, the regent dismissed the crown vassals without achieving the object for which he had mustered them, and returned to Edinburgh to attend the meeting of parliament.

How so small a body of men could be able, for so many months, to defy his power, can only be accounted for by the fact that, in addition to their being indisposed to hostilities against the revolters, the Scottish leaders were not very proficient in the art of assailing fortified places; while the weapons, discipline, and martial impetuosity of their soldiers often unfitted them for the protracted operations of a regular siege.

On the truce being agreed to, the garrison of the castle joyfully issued forth, and openly associated with the citizens of St Andrews ; but their release from durance induced them to renew their old excesses in the most outrageous manner, until those champions of religious regeneration became regarded only in the light of libertine desperadoes.

Sir James Kirkaldy of Grange, his three brothers, and four sons, were all under doom of forfeiture and outlawry.


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