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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir William Kirkaldy of Grange
Chapter XIII. The French inroad in Fife


The ambitious projects entertained by the King of France, when be wished that the investment of the crown-matrimonial of Scotland, on the dauphin, should be made on that principle of Scottish law by which the husband of an heiress kept possession of her estates during his own life, if she happened to die without children, roused all the pride and patriotism of the people. This attempt to annex an ancient and independent kingdom as a 'province, to another, not less than the interference of Henry with the progress of the Reformation, tended to bring forth that intense hatred to France, which was so great that, in the sixth parliament of Mary, it was found necessary to pass an act cc anent speaking evil of the queen’s grace or Frenchmen.”

The advancement of several of her countrymen to important offices had greatly increased the jealousy and hatred of the Scots against Mary of Guise. One named Villemort had been made comptroller of the public revenue ; another, named Rubaye, was custodier of the great seal and a third, Bonnot, was governor of the Orcades; while the Cardinal de Guise was commendator of the abbeys of Kelso and Melrose.

The drilled and well-disciplined soldiers of d’Oisel were a source of equal fear and annoyance to a people who were destitute of standing forces; and the least accession to their strength might have proved a fatal blow to the civil and religious liberties of Scotland. Aware of the impending calamities, and of the regent’s political duplicity, the Duke of Chatelherault (her Scottish general) and the Earl of Huntly, immediately after the truce recorded in the last chapter, promised to the Lords of the Congregation, u that if the queen should, with her usual insincerity, violate any article of the treaty of truce, or refuse to gratify the wishes of the whole nation by dismissing her French troops, they would then instantly join with their countrymen in compelling her to a measure which the public safety, and the preservation of their ancient liberties, rendered necessary.”

Successive reinforcements soon arrived from France, in consequence of applications made by the queen-regent for succour. First came Monsieur Octavius, brother of the Marquis d’Elbceuf, (a peer of the house of Lorraine,) with several of the old Bandes Frangaises, who landed at Leith. Ten other compagnies arrived under the Comte de Mar-tigues, a young noble of the house of Luxembourg, afterwards Due d’Estampes, and colonel-general of the infantry of France. Captain the Sieur Jacques de la Brosse, one of the hundred knights of St Michel, (a distinguished chevalier of the house of Jean de la Brosse, who married Anne de Pisselu, Duchess d’Estampes,) arrived soon after with two thousand veteran foot, and eighty gendarmes on horseback, to fight the Reformers with glaive and spear; while Pelleve, the Bishop of Amiens, who accompanied him, with Messieurs Brochette, Foumiere, and Ferretiere, three doctors of the Sorbonne, were to engage them with syllogisms, citations, quotations, and authorities of Holy Writ. Encouraged by these accessions of force, the regent broke the treaty of Cupar, fortified Leith, and defied the Lords of the Congregation, who immediately blocked up that sea-port, which had become the head-quarters and stronghold of her obnoxious French auxiliaries.

These soldiers of fortune looked confidently forward to great titles and magnificent rewards, and were wont, in jest, to style each other, "Monsieur le Comte d’Argyle, —a Monsieur le Prior de St Andre,” &c., expecting coronets, rentals, and revenues, in exchange for blood and blows.

Sir William Kirkaldy served with the army of the Congregation during all its operations in the field, until the end of the war, when the death of Mary of Guise, and the final establishment of the Reformation, brought peace to the land for a time. His name appeal's continually in all the annals of the period ; and Knox says that he encountered and escaped many dangers. He fought bravely in defence of Fife, his native shire; and from the moment those French troops first arrived in aid of the Popish faction, and for the purpose of reducing Scotland to a province, “no man stood firmer to the interests of his country than Kirkaldy; and in the first encounter he is said to have slain the first man with his own hand.”

He commanded a body of his favourite arm, the cavalry.

The lightly-armed, fleetly-mounted, strong, active, and daring mosstroopers appear to have been generally the soldiers he preferred to lead; and these he usually selected for the desperate enterprises he undertook or designed.

During the operations before Leith, early on the morning of Monday, the 5th of November 1559, about dawn, a strong body of French soldiers made a sudden sortie from the town, to interrupt a convoy of provisions proceeding towards Edinburgh from the eastward. The Earl of Arran (who had recently abandoned the service of France) and the Lord James Stuart hurried forth to engage them. Issuing from an ancient eastern port of the city, named the Water Gate, they hurried with a party of horse and foot towards Restalrig. The French commander, whose numbers were far superior, on perceiving their approach, threw forward four hundred skirmishers, who took possession of the walls enclosing the narrow way to the castle of the Logans. Over these they levelled their heavy harquebusses on the Scots, who, becoming entangled among the low marshy grounds, and bushes, rocks, and ancient quarries, which then rendered that locality so dangerous, fell immediately into a state of confusion, which was rendered complete by their horse retiring with such disorderly speed that they rode over the infantry. Meanwhile a troop of French made a rapid flank movement towards the palace of Holyrood, for the purpose of taking possession of the Water Gate, and utterly cutting off the retreat of those whom the enfans perdus had thrown into such utter confusion.

At this crisis Kirkaldy of Grange and Whitlaw of Whitlaw dashed up cap-a-pie, with a party of lances, and by their presence and example restored order: Arran and the Lord James leaped from their chargers, and placed themselves at the head of their discomfited infantry, who could not make any resolute front, being scattered between the walls of an orchard, near the Abbey Hill, and a deep and dangerous marsh.

Kirkaldy galloped his troop eastward, covered their flank, and secured their retreat, by attacking those French who had made the circuit toward the city; and, charging briskly with levelled spears, drove back both gendarmes and harquebussiers in confusion past the steep rocks and old castle of Restalrig.

But, regardless of this, the main body had closed upon the men of the Lord James: these could no longer sustain their force or fire, but gave way, and retreated towards the east end of the city in confusion. Alexander Halyburton, a brave young captain of pikemen, fell by a bullet, and was nearly cut to pieces by the swords of the gendarmerie, who spurred their mailed horses again and again on the levelled lances of the retiring Scots, who made one desperate rally, and bore Halyburton into the city, where he immediately expired. Thirty of his soldiers were shot dead in the marsh, or trod under the hoofs of Martigue’s cavalry, who pushed triumphantly after the fugitives, and captured Monipeny of Pitmilly, the young knight of Fernihirst, the Master of Buchan, Lieutenant Dunbar, and many men-at-arms; but Kirkaldy and Whit-law made good their retreat, and regained the city unhurt.'

Soon afterwards, William Maitland of Lethington—the sincere though dangerous friend of Kirkaldy through many a future storm of political trouble, in his zeal for the Protestant religion—having exposed himself to the resentment of the queen, and fearing that his life was in danger amid her French soldiers, left Leith, and, abandoning the regent, to whom he was principal secretary, surrendered himself to Kirkaldy, by whom he was gladly presented to the Lords of the Congregation, to whose successful cause his eminent talents as a statesman added both strength and reputation.

At the time that reverses, and delayed aid from England, had sunk the spirit of the Reformers to a very low ebb, Kirkaldy’s presence, animation, and exhortations alone kept the faction from altogether falling to pieces. He was particularly obnoxious to the French ; and though they admired and respected his reputation for bravery and military skill, they signally displayed their hostility by the relentless manner in which they ravaged his estates in Fife, after unsuccessfully assailing his house at Halyards, on the heights to the northward of Auchtertool. Though a spacious, imposing, and picturesque old manor-house, it was not so well calculated for defence as his castles of Grange or Wester Kinghom; and, on the French gendarmerie approaching, he had a narrow escape from being made prisoner.

While the Lords of the Congregation were waiting an answer from Elizabeth of England, to whom they had sent their new ally, William Maitland of Lethington, with an application for aid, to enable them to prosecute the siege of Leith, the French made a desolating sortie from that place.

Led by General d’Oisel in person, a body of veteran infantry, and some of the young and gallant de Martigue’s gendarmerie, marched from their strong fortifications with a train of culverins. Passing through Linlithgowshire, they demolished Chatelherault’s residence, wasted his lands at Kinniel, and ravaged all the fertile country on their route, in a manner equally wanton and barbarous: they then crossed the Forth at Stirling bridge, and proceeded along the coast of Fife, with the intention of fortifying the city and castle of St Andrews. As they proceeded, their devastateurs made similar ravages: the towns, villages, farms, and castles, were given to the flames, their inmates to outrage, and sometimes to the sword; the cattle were slaughtered, the horses hamstrung, and the stored-up crops destroyed.

They seized the castle of Wester Kinghorn, and began to fortify the little town to eastward of it—Burntisland, situated upon a rocky peninsula washed by the waters of the Firth. Though only four thousand strong, the excellence of then’ discipline and weapons enabled them to bear down all before them, in a manner which increased the detestation of the brave but untrained vassals of the Reformed barons. The Lords Ruthvcn and James Stuart marched from Stirling to Cupar with a body of the Congregation to watch their movements, and gave to Sir William Kirkaldy the command of six hundred select horse,1 with whom he harassed the French continually, beating up their outposts and quarters by day and night at the most unexpected times, intercepting their convoys of provisions, and cutting off their straggling parties. Though they outnumbered him by inoie than six to one, this indefatigable soldier, and his - young brother David, who rode by his side, kept them in such perpetual alarm and danger, that they dared not unbuckle their armour or unsaddle their horses.

‘‘For twenty-one days their boots never came off; they had skirmishing almost every day—yea, some days from morning until night;” and for every man Kirkaldy lost, the foe lost four.

The first encounter was at Pettycur, a small haven, a mile and a half westward of Kirkaldy’s castle of Grange. There, between bleak and barren crags of basalt, lies a little bay of smooth water, where the petit corps disembarked, and gave their name to the place. A reinforcement to d’Oisel were seen crossing the Forth in four vessels. As they landed, Kirkaldy and Lord Put liven charged them with a party of horse, but were repulsed, leaving many of their comrades slain by the sea-shore. The Earl of Sutherland was wounded by a harquebuss-shot; and a party of French, sallying from Wester King-horn, turned the flank of the Scots, who immediately retired, leaving Paul Lambird, a Fleming, and a French Protestant page, in the hands of the victors, who immediately hanged them from the battlements of St Leonard’s tower, on entering the burgh of Kinghom.

The resistance made by a small garrison in the castle of Dysart stopped the career of French havoc for a time, and engaged them in desultory skirmishing for twenty days. Exasperated by their resistance, and galled by the incessant onslaughts of Kirkaldy’s horse, d’Oisel’s soldiers razed to the very foundations his village of Grange, destroyed his farm-towns, drove away his tenants, and, by lodging gunpowder in its vaults, blew up and otherwise defaced and dismantled his ancestral castle of the same name.

The devastation of his property made a deep impression on Kirkaldy; but the demolition of his old family residence stung him most keenly. On the succeeding day he sent a personal cartel of defiance to Monsieur d’Oisel, reproaching him bitterly with his wanton barbarity, and reminding him that he had ever treated the French generously—"Yea, he had saved their lives, when he might have suffered their throats to be cut but since they had treated him with such rigour, they might expect stem reprisals for the time to come. As for d’Oisel himself, he bade the messenger add, that he knew he could never come within sword’s length of him, in consequence of his cowardice; but it might be that he would yet have vengeance upon him, either in Scotland or in France, for his misdeeds at Grange.


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