Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Memoirs and Adventures of Sir William Kirkaldy of Grange
Chapter XV. The Roundabout Raid, Carberry Hill


On the 19th August 1561, the young Queen Mary arrived at Leith. She was then in the nineteenth year of her age, and in all the glory of that subduing loveliness which won her the admiration, as her misfortunes have done the sympathies, of all—save the iron-hearted Knox. “The dangers she had undergone,” says her bitterest enemy; “the excellence of her mien, the delicacy of her beauty, the vigour of her blooming years, and the elegance of her wit, all joined in her recommendation.”

But, alas! poor Mary, over whose natal hour presided the star of death and misfortune, was doomed soon to find how great was the difference between the gaiety and gallantry of the polished court of France, and that of wasted and impoverished Scotland, which was distinguished only for the insolence and intolerance of its churchmen, and the ferocity of its turbulent and brutal barons, who had become absolutely barbarised, and had lost every trace of gentleness, of knighthood, and of dignity, in the storm of war and devastation which ended with the downfall of the church of Rome.

Despite the efforts of these dark-browed Reformers, agitated by the memory of her good and gallant father —the king of the poor—by that of her thirteen years’ absence from them, and stirred by that inborn spirit of loyalty which the Scots possessed in so intense a degree, the people received their beautiful queen with the utmost enthusiasm, and outvied each other in her praise.

Her mother’s dying advice to secure the support of the Protestants, and to cultivate the friendship of their leaders, particularly Maitland of Lethington and “Kirkaldy of Grange, whom the Constable de Montmorencie had named the first soldier in Europe,” had been faithfully conveyed to Mary in France by the handsome young Count de Martigues, the Sieur de la Brosse, the Bishop of Amiens, and others, who had witnessed the last moments of that dearly loved mother in the castle of Edinburgh; and Mary treasured that advice in her heart —but it availed her not.

During the five years succeeding Mary’s return to Scotland, Kirkaldy resided on his estates, and did not take any part in public matters. His family consisted only of a daughter, whom he had named after his mother, Janet Melville of Raith. This young lady in after years —when the tide of war and fortune turned against her father—experienced the favour of Mary, at a time Maiy’s favour could be of little substantial value—when the prison walls of Sheffield enclosed her.

To the queen’s illegitimate brother, the ungrateful Lord James Stuart, Sir William Kirkaldy was a steady friend and adherent in the troubles and danger of those successive wars, in which his intriguing spirit involved himself, his sister, and the nation. I know not whether Kirkaldy served under him at the Highland battle of Corrichie, when Huntly, the leader of the Popish faction, rose in arms with his sons and vassals against the established authorities. Lord James took the field against him at the head of Mary’s forces, and, by his courage and conduct, gave him an entire defeat. When he marched north, he wrote particularly to his old comrades, Kirkaldy and the Lord Lindesay, to join and aid him with their vassals and experience; but the name of the former does not appear in any of the accounts of the battle of Corrichie, as it must have done prominently, had he been there; and still it is not probable that so famous a knight could have remained inactive when such a field was to be fought.

The ninth parliament of Mary met on the 4th June 1563—the first meeting of the estates since her landing. The Earl of Huntly was forfeited for his rebellion at Corrichie, and a coronet was bestowed on Lord James Stuart, who from that day was known as the celebrated Earl of Murray. The act of attainder against the deceased Sir James Kirkaldy, his sons, and others, for the slaughter of Cardinal Beatoun, was formally reversed, (why at so late a period appears singular,) and the famous act of oblivion received the royal signature.

Though Mary was gentle and tolerant in the extreme, a storm was brewing in the distance : solicited in marriage by Don Carlos, heir of the Spanish monarchy, by the Archduke Charles of Austria, and other princes of the first houses in Europe, she rejected them all—not to choose from among her martial nobles some bold peer, who by the number of his dependants, the fame of his prowess, and the length of his sword, would have strengthened and defended her throne; but, unhappily, to fix her affections upon Henry Stuart of Damley, a weak, imbecile, and debauched young lord, whose sole recommendations were beauty, and grace of manner and person. Ruled solely by love, in direct opposition to the advice of Elizabeth, and the sentiments of a powerful faction at home, headed by the Earl of Murray, Mary, in an evil hour, espoused the handsome Darnley.

On the 29th July 1565, this fatal marriage was celebrated after the ritual of the Roman church, which alone was sufficient to render it unpalatable to an already inflamed and bigoted people. Certain intrigues of Murray’s being discovered, he was summoned to the court; but, failing to appear, he was outlawed; and as Darnley was believed to adhere to the Catholic faith, the zeal and fears of the Reformers were roused to the utmost. Knox grossly insulted him from the pulpit; and, instigated by his doctrines, the turbulent populace of Edinburgh began to meet and murmur against the government. Displeased with the aggrandisement of his old hereditary foes, the Stuarts of Lennox, duped and assisted by Elizabeth, the Duke of Chatelherault rose in arms, and was joined by the Earls of Argyle, Rothes, Glencairn, and Kirkaldy of Grange, who, influenced by Murray, after five years of peace, again put on his armour. All these—the duke excepted—were zealous Protestants.

Murray, who had concerted measures for seizing Darnley, and carrying him prisoner to England, was at the head of these revolters, whose influence was so small that they could only muster two thousand horse: and, being aided by three hundred English auxiliaries, they took possession of Paisley. Mary acted with more energy and decision on this occasion, than might have been expected from the usual gentleness of her character.

With Darnley, now styled King Henry, she advanced from Edinburgh at the head of four thousand vassals of the crown, under the royal standard. Wearing a light helmet and gilded bourgoinette, with pistolettes at her saddle-bow, she endured the fatigues of war with admirable fortitude; and by the side of her tall husband, sheathed in his rich armour, rode at the head of her troops, to animate them by her presence and example.

She sent forward a herald-at-arms to demand the surrender of Chatelherault’s castle of Hamilton. It was refused, and the revolters prepared for immediate battle, animated by the liberal promises and countenance of Elizabeth, and by the evil counsel of the family of Hamilton, who, being next heirs to the crown, were extremely anxious that Darnley—if not Mary also—should be destroyed. Warning their rebel compeers, they averred that no firm peace could now be made with their sovereign.

"Private men,” said they, “may forget and forgive injuries offered to them ; but the wrath of princes is not to be quenched but by blood alone!”

The subtle Murray and his stern and bigoted companions are said to have seen fully the end and aim of this advice, but were compelled to retire before the forces of Mary, who now numbered beneath her standard eighteen thousand lances. The little band of insurgents marched hurriedly from place to place, without other aim or object than to escape, as all hope of successfully prosecuting their rash rebellion had vanished; and, from the circumstance of this counter-marching and pursuing, the insurrection obtained the name of the Roundabout Raid.

A party of insurgent horse, a thousand strong, led by Murray, Kirkaldy, and Chatelherault, rode from Hamilton, and, successfully outflanking the troops of Mary, reached Edinburgh on the 31st August, and made an attempt to enter, for the purpose of rousing its then warlike burghers to arms in their behalf. A severe cannonade was opened upon them from the ramparts of the castle, and they were compelled to retreat southward to Dumfries, where the insurrection ended in smoke.

Disbanding their troops, Murray, Grange and others, with their three hundred auxiliaries, fled to England, and, arriving at Carlisle, placed themselves under the protection of the Earl of Bedford, warden of the English marches. Nothing was wanting that the friendship of the English earl could supply to these brethren in disgrace; but Elizabeth, though she permitted them to be protected within her territory, treated them, as they deserved, with extreme neglect.

Meanwhile Mary’s forces swept triumphantly through Fife, levying fines and chastising rebellious vassals. The estates of Grange and Rothes, particularly, were not forgotten. Mary recalled from exile the Earl of Bothwell and other Lords who were foes to her brother, hoping by their return to strengthen her own party; while he and the Abbot of Kilwinning repaired to Queen Elizabeth, to entreat her intercession with their sovereign. With the most refined coolness and hypocrisy, though she had urged them to rebellion, she spumed them from her presence as traitors; and, overwhelmed with shame and mortification, they returned to their friends at Newcastle, where they all lived in great poverty and dejection, cursing Elizabeth’s duplicity, Murray’s rebellion, and their own rashheaded folly.

It is rather surprising that a knight so celebrated for his ideas of punctilio and honour, should have joined in this ungracious and daring rebellion against a sovereign so good and tolerant as Mary; but there is no doubt he was seduced into the revolt by friendship for his old brother-soldier, Murray, by dislike for the effeminate and unwarlike Darnley, by that zeal for--the Protestant religion which was his leading characteristic through life, and fear that its cause would be' materially injured by the great power so suddenly acquired by those whom he deemed Catholics—the Stuarts of Lennox.

While he and others remained in exile, the wrath of the government fell on many of their friends and adherents; and the records of justiciary show several instances of severe but just punishment, denounced on those who had intercourse with them, as intercommuners with rebels. (Note C.)

As the day approached, appointed for the meeting of the Scottish parliament, which would decide the ultimate pardon or attainder of the exiles, Mary and her ministers were deliberating on the course to be pursued towards them, and by some she was advised to set no bounds to the severity of her resentment. Repugnant as such advice was to her humanity, their armed hostility to her husband, and the whole circumstances of their rebellion, were more, perhaps, than she could easily forgive. They had endeavoured to destroy a scheme rendered doubly dear to her by youthful passion and political interest; they were the leaders of a religious revolution, whose friendship she had courted, but whose tenets she abhorred; and in many instances they were the servile creatures of Elizabeth—a rival whose baleful influence she had every reason to fear as a woman, and to hate as a queen.

Morton, Ruthven, and Secretary Maitland, were not forgetful of their old friendship for Kirkaldy, Murray, and their companions in exile, or neglectful of their safety, which they considered of the first importance to the security of Protestantism. It was urged by them, that the banished barons were, by their families, wealth, and honours, among the most powerful and popular in the realm ; that they were now objects for commiseration, exiled, humbled, and suing for pardon with perfect submission. Mary, whose character for mercy an act of forgiveness would have greatly exalted, was ever the reverse of implacable; but the rage of Darnley, whose marriage they had opposed, almost to the issue of battle, was, as may be supposed, inexorable. To be brief—

The unhappy result of Mary’s union with this weak headed and hollow-hearted young noble, the plots against her secretary Rizzio, his horrible murder in her presence, and the flight of the perpetrators to England, then the land of refuge and encouragement for all Scottish rebels, are matters of general history, and need not to be recorded in these Memoirs.

The day after the slaughter of the unhappy Rizzio, the exiled lords re-entered Scotland. They had been fully aware of the unscrupulous political conspiracy formed against that Italian adventurer, and had returned, hoping to find their friends Morton and Ruthven at the head of a new administration; instead of which they were fugitives, stained with blood, and exposed to the just wrath of all good men; but Kirkaldy and Murray reaped one benefit from their misfortune. Mary was so overcome with horror and proper resentment at the barbarous and insulting murder committed on the person of the poor Italian, who had clung screaming to her robe, that the memory of the Roundabout Raid became lost and forgotten in this last and deadly outrage of Darnley and his accomplices.

It was on the evening of Sunday the 10th March when Sir William Kirkaldy and other exiles rode into Edinburgh. Rizzio had been slain the night before, by those "whom God raised up to do the same,” says Knox, (who appeared always to approve of the assassination of an enemy,) and his uncleansed and unavenged blood lay yet weltering on the palace floor. The capital was in a state of tumult and alarm5 the queen was detained a close prisoner in her chamber, and was scarcely permitted to speak with her attendants; while Damley, without her knowledge or advice, had issued a proclamation, commanding all prelates and lords of parliament to retire out of the city barriers forthwith. Mary’s guard were dismissed from attendance upon her, and the palace of Holyrood was closely invested by the pikemen of the assassins.

The great bell of St Giles had rung its notes of alarm over the city, and the brave burghers crowded the outer court of the palace, clamorously calling for the queen, but were confronted by the mailed vassals of the stem and ghastly Ruthven, and “murder’s foul minion,” the Earl of Morton. These ferocious peers would not permit Mary to see or address the people; and, with that bravolike ruffianism which the sermons of the time instilled, threatened to u cut her in collops, and throw her over the walls!”

Such was the state of matters when the exiles rode through the darkening and crowded streets of the excited city. Their arrival was most opportune, they having been fully apprised of the intended outrage by an arrangement made long before, between the Earl of Murray and Lord Ochiltree, the father-in-law of Knox. Either unaware of Darnley’s prohibiting the meeting of parliament, or affecting to be so, they repaired immediately to the hall of the Estates. The dark old Tolbooth was empty— its seats and benches deserted: there appeared no prosecutor —no official and, after making use of a few legal forms for exculpation—having thus answered the summons issued against them—they departed, and were ultimately deemed fully acquitted of rebellion, and restored to their honours and fortunes.

From the Tolbooth Kirkaldy accompanied the Earl of Murray to Holyrood; the Earl of Rothes, the Laird of Pitarrow, the Tutor of Pitcur, and others, who had shared their exile in Northumberland, were with them; and the whole were received and welcomed by the young King Henry. So little did Mary suspect Murray’s foreknowledge of that murder, the memory of which cast a shadow over her thoughts for years, that she immediately sent for him ; and, with his friends, he was ushered into her presence, while she was yet agitated hy the excitement of the preceding night.

"My brother!” exclaimed the poor queen, as they entered; “my brother, if he had been here, would never have permitted me to he so roughly handled! ”

Kind and confiding at all times, now softened by misfortune and insult; a prisoner in her palace, surrounded by a band of unscrupulous traitors—Mary received her rebellious brother with all the tenderness and sisterly affection of which her generous mind was capable. Guileless herself, she never thought it suspicious that he should arrive within twenty-four hours of Rizzio’s assassination; but, eager to he reconciled to him, threw her arms around him, and, regardless of Kirkaldy and the other spectators, wept bitterly on his breast. She now began to feel how much she had lost by bestowing her heart on the worthless Darnley, and sharing her crown with him, contrary to the advice of this politic brother. And he—cold, subtle, and hypocritical, as he sometimes proved—was moved by the sorrow and beauty of his sister. He appeared to receive her caresses with tenderness, and a complete reconciliation was effected between them.

So much is the history of Sir William Kirkaldy woven up with that of his unfortunate queen, that the state intrigues in which, as a soldier and diplomatist, he became involved—and, indeed, the general history of the time—can never he lost sight of for a moment, for the purpose of expatiation on private biography or minor occurrences. All the acts and transactions of the Laird of Grange were of a public and important nature: his diplomacy in the field at Carberry had a deep and powerful influence on the ultimate fate of Mary—an influence which he could little, at that time, have foreseen, but which he afterwards deplored, and atoned for with his life j and to that period of his public career we must now hasten.

During the contests which ensued between Mary and her subjects in 1566, he carried on a secret correspondence with Elizabeth’s ministers, and was of infinite service to them and the Scottish Protestant faction, by the local information with which he furnished his friend the Earl of Bedford and others.

To deserve well of Elizabeth was, I fear, to he an enemy of Mary; yet the following passage in a letter from Bedford, lieutenant of the English marches, to Secretary Cecil, shows that Kirkaldy at that time was rather more in the interest of the English faction than a loyal Scotsman ought, perhaps, to have been.

"Pray remember the Laird of Grange, for, were it not for him, the queen’s majesty, in this respect, (of privy intelligence,) had been hut ill served. He hath right well deserved, and therefore I trust you will have consideration of him.”

I would gladly have passed over such intriguing, which some readers may consider a blot on his fair fame; hut be it remembered, that though his correspondence with the English court was clandestine, and strictly contrary to the law of the land, he was steadily adhering to the popular cause when, by doing so, he strengthened Protestantism, and furthered the projects of his party.

Elizabeth employed his influence with the Earl of Argyle to detach that powerful chieftain from assisting her Irish rebels. This he successfully effected; but on his correspondence with “our auncient enemies of England” becoming suspected, it was intercepted, and ceased altogether.


Return to Book Index Page


 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast