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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir William Kirkaldy of Grange
Chapter XVI. Carberry Hill

The insult offered to her, as a woman and a queen, by the assassination of her secretary, Mary forgave with her usual clemency: on christmas-eve, as a deed of benevolence suitable to that solemn Catholic festival, she freely pardoned the cruel Morton and seventy-five of his ruffian accomplices.

I will hasten over the aversion and disgust which the debauched and imbecile conduct of Damley excited in the mind of Mary, though her delicacy shrank from a divorce, when such was proposed at the conference of Craigmillar: the birth of the young prince (James VI.)—the death of his unhappy father—the accusation, the trial, and acquittal of the daring and infamous Bothwell—his seizure of Mary, and the fatal marriage that has been the grand feature on which all the countless discussions respecting Mary’s innocence or guilt have hinged — I will not touch upon.

Bothwell received a bond, signed by eight bishops, nine earls, and seven barons, (a strange coalition, composed of men of all factions,) recognising him as guiltless of Damley’s murder, and a suitable match for Mary, should she think of marrying again. Thus armed, that gallant but unscrupulous peer, three days after the date of the bond, as the queen was coming from a last visit to her son at Stirling, with a thousand horse dispersed her slender train, and, taking her prisoner, together with Secretary Maitland and Sir James Melville, carried her off under the very cannon of the castle of Edinburgh, which was commanded and garrisoned by creatures of his own. Without a shot being fired upon him, without a sword being drawn in her defence, the helpless queen, with a thousand lances bristling around her, was borne to Both-well’s strong castle of Dunbar, where for ten days she was a prisoner—perhaps a prey to him—closely shut up, while her people looked on with apathetic astonishment.

From thence he boldly conveyed his victim under guard to the fortress of the metropolis, where his friend, the dishonourable Balfour, commanded. The banns of marriage were immediately published by order of Both-well, who obtained the dukedom of Orkney and other titles.

His success and audacity were well calculated to rouse the indignation of such a man as Kirkaldy of Grange. He was well aware of the bond before mentioned; and on the 20th April (the very day it was granted and signed,) wrote to the Earl of Bedford, complaining in bitter terms of the servility of some of the Scottish nobles; and assuring him that, if Elizabeth would assist him and some of his friends, the murder in the Kirk-of-Field would soon be avenged. He enlarged on the danger of Bothwell’s plots against the young prince, and prophesied that lord’s speedy union to Mary.

On the 26th of the same month, two days after the queen’s seizure by Bothwell, Kirkaldy wrote tlie following indignant letter to Bedford:—

“This queen will never cease until such time as she hath wrecked all the honest men of this realm. She was minded to cause Bothwell seize her, to the end that she may the sooner end the marriage whilk she promised before she caused Bothwell murder her husband. There are many that would revenge the murder, but they fear your mistress. I am so suited, too, to enterprise the revenge, that I must either take it upon hand, or else I maun leave-the country, whilk I am determined to do if I can obtain licence. But Bothwell is minded to cut me off, if he may, ere I obtain it, and is returned out of Stirling to Edinburgh. She proposes to take the prince out of the Earl of Mar’s hands, and put him in his hands that murdered his father, as I writ in my last. I pray your lordship let me know what your mistress will do; for if we seek France, we may find favour at their hands 5 but I would rather persuade to lean to England. This meikle in haste.

“From my own house the 26th April 1567.”

From the foregoing it appears that he at that time fully believed the worst of Mary, which cannot be wondered at, when the great uncertainty of obtaining true intelligence of passing events in those days is remembered. In city and in country, the news consisted solely of flying rumours and reports, distorted and coloured to the utmost that religious malevolence, rebellious vindictiveness, and an innate love of slander could do.

With the hapless Mary the fatal die was now cast: she had crossed the gulf which was for ever to alienate her from the minds of her people; and ominously enough, according to a still-existing superstition, the marriage was celebrated in the month of May.

The numerous defenders of her character allege, with considerable plausibility, that, after being suffered to remain so many days a captive in the power of that audacious peer, marriage with him became an act rather of necessity than choice, and absolutely necessary for the safety of her reputation as a woman.

Lord Hailes judiciously remarks, “after Mary had been suffered to remain a fortnight under the power of a daring and profligate adventurer, few foreign princes would have solicited her hand. Some of her subjects might still have sought that honour, hut her compliance would have been humiliating beyond measure. It would have left her at the mercy of a capricious husband—it would have exposed her to the disgrace of being reproached in some sullen hour for the adventure at Dunbar. Mary was so situated at this critical period, that she was reduced to the horrid alternative, either to remain in friendless and most hazardous celibacy, or to yield her hand to Bothwell.”

This ill-assorted and most fatal union had scarcely been celebrated, when some of those very same nobles— who, instead of freeing or protecting her from Bothwell, had quietly watched this consummation of her troubles— rose in arms, and unfurled their pennons against her. Among these were James earl of Morton and Maitland of Lethington, who became her most inveterate persecutors for that marriage which they had secretly lent all their influence to bring about, and had recommended in the famous bond to which they had fixed their names; and which, for security, Bothwell committed to the care of his vassal, Sir James Balfour of Pittendriech, deputy-governor of the castle of Edinburgh.

During these public convulsions, which startled all Europe, Kirkaldy resided on his retired estates in Fifeshire, watching the rapid progress of events, longing to avenge Darnley, though he had never admired him, and feeling the bitterest enmity to Bothwell, until the nobles, roused at last from their lethargy, mustered in arms at Stirling. With his vassals, Kirkaldy immediately joined them: from that hour he bade adieu to domestic peace for ever, and never again had his sword an hour absent from his side. Like himself, many of the confederates were animated by hatred of Bothwell’s pride, and fear of his power, together with the desire of avenging the king; some by the hope of aggrandisement; Morton and others by the wish to gratify their secret patroness Elizabeth, and expecting, eventually, to secure the management of public affairs, in case of Mary’s dethronement, abdication, or death—they cared little which; but all with the avowed and ostensible purpose of defending the young prince, rescuing the queen, and destroying Bothwell.

Kirkaldy, the most active and talented, if not influential, among the confederates, on the 8th May, wrote to Bedford, distinctly stating the terms they proposed, on displaying their banners against Mary.

“First, to seek the liberty of the queen, detained by the Earl of Bothwellsecond, the preservation and keeping of the young prince; third, to pursue those that murdered the king—and for that effect their lordships have desired me to write unto your lordship, to the end that they might have your sovereign’s aid and support for suppressing the cruel murderer Bothwell, who, at the queen’s last being at Stirling, suborned certain to have poisoned the prince; for that barbarous tyrant is not contented to have murdered the father, but he must also cut off the son, for fear that he hath of being punished hereafter.”

Elizabeth, to whom Bedford showed Kirkaldy’s letter, affected to be highly incensed at the bold and indignant tone assumed by the Scottish knight, in reprehending the measures of his sovereign. His blunt honesty was peculiarly offensive to the high ideas of royal prerogative entertained by Elizabeth.

Solely intent on capturing or destroying the political viper Bothwell, Kirkaldy, by the confederates, was appointed to the command of two hundred chosen horse, for the express purpose of taking him prisoner on the first opportunity. In this troop Sir James Hume of Cowdenknowes, Sir William Douglas of Drumlanrig, and Sir Walter Kerr of Cessford, three barons of valour and distinction, served under his orders.

Struck with consternation by the tidings of this formidable league, Mary issued a proclamation requiring her subjects to take up arms, and attend to the field that unworthy husband with whom her fate was now indissolubly connected. Suspecting that the gates of Edinburgh might be shut against them by the double traitor Balfour, with whom the confederates had been tampering, they retired to the castle of Bothwell’s friend, Lord Borthwick, a baronial pile of magnificent aspect and vast strength, situated in a lonely but fertile glen eleven miles south of the capital.

Lord Home, on being joined by Kirkaldy, Morton, and Lindesay, with their vassals, to the number of two thousand lances, rode from Stirling; and, passing the walls of Edinburgh on the 11th June, made a sudden night-march to Borthwick, which they environed on all sides. Bothwell and Mary were banqueting in its beautiful and high-arched hall at the moment of the confederates’ arrival, which overwhelmed them with astonishment and dismay: their capture would have brought the insurrection to a speedy and successful issue.

Situated on a rocky eminence, moated round by the waters of the Gore, the donjon tower of Borthwick, from its base to its projecting battlements, rises to the height of more than a hundred feet, with walls sixteen feet thick.

A lofty barbican, flanked by square and round embattled towers, slit by innumerable loops for arrows and musketry, together with a portcullis, double gates, and draw-bridges, rendered it impregnable to the knights and horsemen of the confederates, who were quite unprovided with the artillery requisite for battering this stronghold, which is one of the finest examples of military architecture in Scotland; and so grand and imposing is its aspect, that every visitor, on coming in sight of its gigantic fa9ade, is impressed with silence and awe.

Notwithstanding the number of their enemies, Mary I and Bothwell contrived to elude them; the latter, with certain bold followers, favoured by the darkness of the night, effected an egress by a postern in the southern wall of the barbican, descended the scarped glacis, crossed the moat, and escaped down a steep and rugged glen encumbered by rocks and impending scaurs, bristling with whins and furze, but which led to his splendid castle of Crichton, crowning a hill about a mile distant, and overlooking what was then a deep and dangerous morass, but is now a fertile valley.

Birrel records that the confederates summoned the castle of Borthwick, and demanded u that the Earl of Bothwell should be surrendered unto them.”

John fifth lord of Borthwick, a steady adherent of the queen, answered from the ramparts “that the Lord Bothwell had issued forth, and was already fled to Dunbar.”

It is more than probable that the sudden and rapid night-march, by which this decisive issue came to pass, was owing to the advice of Kirkaldy, whose skill and veteran tactics as an officer of horse were of the utmost importance to the cause he espoused.

The confederates do not at that time appear to have entertained any designs against the personal liberty of Mary; but their success in putting Bothwell so easily to flight having far exceeded their first expectations, they changed their intentions regarding her. Raising the blockade of Borthwick, they rode to Morton’s castle of Dalkeith, and from thence to Edinburgh, the numerous gates of which were immediately closed against them by the Earl of Huntly, who commanded in the city for Bothwell; hut Kirkaldy and his companions beat down St Mary’s Port, and forced an entrance lance in hand.

Mary had fully calculated on the unfurling of the famous Blue Standard of the city, and consequent muster of the armed craftsmen, in her cause; but the sad tidings | that the little band of confederates had so easily won her capital, were carried to her at Borthwick by James Beatoun archbishop of Glasgow, who found her almost deserted in that vast and lonely fortress, being left with only six or seven attendants. “Her majesty,” Beatoun wrote in a letter to his brother, "in men’s clothes, booted and spurred, departed that night from Borthwick to Dunbar, whereof no man knew save my Lord Duke, (Bothwell,) some of whose servants met her majesty a mile from Borthwick, and conveyed her to Dunbar.” This was two days after Bothwell’s flight and the blockade.

Dunbar castle, an imposing pile of great antiquity, was founded on a ridge of caverned rocks, where its broad round towers had long braved the fury of the German ocean. Of this castle Bothwell had been created captain and keeper by the parliament of April, and Whitlaw of Whitlaw commanded there as his deputy.

The confederates marched eastward against this fortress, from which Mary had issued her proclamation for mustering an army in defence of her person. It was not obeyed, save by Bothwell’s immediate allies, by whose exertions the queen soon beheld four thousand brave men of Lothian and the Merse arrayed under her standard. Bothwell had a guard or chosen band of two hundred harquebussiers; and the royal stores at Dunbar furnished his troops with falcons, or light six-pound field-pieces. While her forces were rapidly increasing, the queen marched to Gladsmuir, and occupied the lofty tower of Seatoun; her soldiers were mean time cantoned in the adjacent villages of Preston, Tranent, and Cockenzie.

After halting for a night at Musselburgh, the confederates, as they marched out of that ancient and picturesque little town with trumpets sounding and kettledrums heating, amid the clamour of the inhabitants and the tolling of bells, learned that the forces of Mary, led by the Duke of Orkney, were in position on the hill of Carberry, an eminence above the town, commanding an extensive prospect of the sea and surrounding country. On the summit of that hill, now known as the Queen’s Seat, Mary held with Sir William Kirkaldy that conference which was to have so much influence on her future destiny. It is now covered with the richest copse-wood; then it was bleak and bare, or studded only by the tufts of dark-green whin, or the golden bells of the yellow broom; and a rough block of stone on its summit formed a seat for the unfortunate Mary.

It was the morning of Sunday the 15th of June; the weather was intensely hot, and the troops of both factions suffered considerable annoyance from the clouds of dust, the closeness of the atmosphere, and the burning rays of the unclouded sun, which darted on their shining armour. Bothwell—or the Duke of Orkney—commanded the whole of Mary’s little force, having under him the Lords Seatomi, Yester, and Borthwick, with four barons of the Mcrse—viz., Wedderbum, Langton, Cumledge, and Ilirsel; and those of the Bass, Waugh ton, Onniston in Lothian, and Ormiston of that Ilk, in Teviotdale, all men of courage and high descent.

The confederates were formed in two columns: Alexander lord Home and the Earl of Morton led the first, and Athol the second, with Glencairn, Butkven, Semp-hill, and Sanquhar.

Kirkaldy, with his two hundred spears, had galloped eastward, to get in between Bothwell and the castle of Dunbar, hoping to cut off his retreat, and by a sudden charge break the array of his cannoneers. With his usual ardour and decision, he thought by one bold dash to capture the obnoxious noble, and end at once this unfortunate contest between the queen and her subjects. This flank and front movement, though boldly executed, was rendered, to a certain extent, unavailing by subsequent negotiations; but it is strange that Bothwell did not cannonade the band of cavalry as they encircled the base of Carbefry, on which his troops were posted.

The main body of the confederates were drawn up with their left flank to the sea, almost on the same ground which, twenty years before, had witnessed the unfortunate battle of Pinkie. On both sides the numbers were now nearly equal, but they differed greatly in discipline. The army of Mary consisted of a hastily-mustered and inexperienced multitude, while that of the confederates was principally composed of gentlemen of high birth, renowned for courage, and brave as they were determined. .

The ground where those adverse bands drew up for battle is now covered with groves of the most luxuriant wood, and studded with modern villas. In those days it exhibited hut two solitary shepherds’ huts, and Pinkie Burn winding between banks of willows, sedges, and reeds; the old taper spire of St Michael’s kirk, an edifice of unknown antiquity, built of stone squared by Roman hands, rose on the Mount of the Praetorium above the wooded hanks of the Eslc; which, after making a beautiful sweep around it, and passing under the steep old Roman bridge of three arches, which, a thousand years before, had connected the Gastrum with the Municipium, flows into the Forth between Fisherrow and Musselburgh.

The latter was then, as now, a straggling and irregular burgh, with gable-ended streets, terminated by the ruined chapel of Lorretto, and the tall old manor-house of Pinkie, with its picturesque turrets overtopping its dark and shadowy groves. It was then the residence of Kirkaldy’s foeman, Duric of that Ilk, Abbot of Dunfermline, who, prior to the Reformation, had been Lord Superior of Musselburgh. Such was the prospect from the hill—

“Where Mart agonised stood,
And saw contending hosts below
Press forward to the deadly feud.
With hilt to hilt, and hand to hand,
The children of our mother-land
For battle met! The banners flaunted
Amid Carberry’s beechen grove;
And kinsmen braving kinsmen strove,
Undaunting and undaunted.”—A.

An ancient trench, which had been formed by the English in 1547, lay before the line of Mary’s forces; and on the summit of this, Bothwell, gallantly arrayed in brilliant armour, “showed himself, mounted on a brave steed.” He was well known to be an accomplished knight and fearless horseman, having once at a tournament, near the Rood of Greenside, galloped in full panoply down the steep side of the Calton, and leaped his steed into the ring, to the terror and admiration of Mary and her court.1 If any thing could have retrieved her affairs in this desperate crisis, it must have been a headlong advance under cover of a cannonade; and Bothwell should instantly have led on the soldiers of Mary to victory or death; instead of which, while anxiously waiting the arrival of Lord Herries and others with fresh reinforcements, he suffered an ineffectual negotiation to take place by means of the French ambassador.

The latter, Monsieur du Crocq, an aged noble, rode over to the insurgent lords, and endeavoured to effect an accommodation, needlessly assuring them that “Her Majesty was not desirous of bloodshed, but wished for peace; that she would grant them pardons,” he continued through his interpreter; “declare a general oblivion for what had been done, and that all should be indemnified for taking up arms against her.”

"Not having taken up arms against the queen,” replied Morton, with haughty brevity, "but against the Duke of Orkney and other murderers of her husband, no peace or truce can be made until they are delivered into our hands, to be punished according to their demerits.”

“We came not to this field,” sternly added Alexander earl of Glencairn, “to ask pardon for what we have done, but to yield it unto those who have offended!”

Du Crocq, finding it vain to expect an accommodation with such intractable spirits, bade adieu to the queen, and with his train departed for Edinburgh.

Alive to the perils of her situation, the unhappy queen saw fully the manifold dangers which environed her in consequence of Bothwell’s crimes, and her connexion with him. On her palfrey she rode through the ranks of her little host, but found the soldiers dispirited, fatigued, and viewing her coldly. Many who were overcome by the heat of the weather stole from their places to quench their thirst in Pinkie Burn, but forgot to rejoin their colours others deserted openly in bands, and none appeared to remain stanch to her but Bothwell’s band of harquebusses, and the immediate vassals of the house of Hepburn. It was at this crisis that Kirkaldy’s squadron, after encompassing the hill, halted ; when Bothwell, perceiving his flank turned, and matters becoming desperate, sent down a herald-at-arms with a gauntlet of defiance, offering by single combat to prove his innocence of King Henry’s murder.

Kirkaldy, anxious to end these unhappy contentions, and by his sword free the queen from Bothwell and his toils for ever, rushed eagerly forward to take up the proffered gage; but Bothwell, as Duke of Orkney and Marquis of Fife, deeming the Laird of Grange, as a lesser baron, too much his inferior, refused to accept of him as the champion of the confederates, though he entertained a high sense of his worth; for, in his declaration to the King of Denmark, he speaks of u Grange, the best officer among our adversaries.”

Sir William Murray, eleventh baron of Tullybardine, comptroller of the royal household, and James Murray of Purdorvis, his brother, next pressed forward to take up the gage; but were rejected for the same reason. Bothwell, who lacked neither courage nor spirit, though he did not (like the celebrated Selden) deem all ranks equal in duelling, then challenged Morton; who, although a man of little stature, accepted the gage, and the combat was appointed to take place on foot. Old Lord Lindesay of the Byres, a man whose hauteur verged on insanity, and whose misanthropy has never been surpassed, now stepped forward and demanded the Earl to allow him the honour of meeting Bothwell, which was his right as next of kin to the murdered Darnley.

Morton immediately assented, and offered Lindesay his sword, the same ponderous weapon that his ancestor Archibald of Angus had wielded on many a bloody day, and with which he slew Spens of Kilspindie.

Lindesay examined his armour, and kneeling down before the line, audibly implored God to u strengthen the arm of the innocent, that the guilty might be punished.” Twenty knights were to attend 011 each side, and the lists were being marked out, when the other lords interdicted the combat.

"The Lord Lindesay,” said they unanimously, "shall not take upon himself the whole risk of a quarrel in which we are all equally interested.”

Other authorities say that the gentle Mary, overcome by the prospeet of blood being shed on her account, made use of her royal prerogative, and prohibited the en-eonnter.

In this time of distress she was attracted by the band of horse at the foot of the hill, and, asking her attendants who led them, was answered, "Sir William Kirkaldy of the Grange.”

At that moment she was weeping bitterly.

Entertaining the highest respect for the worth and valour of Kirkaldy, whom she knew to be incapable of violating his plighted word, she sent the Laird of Ormiston to request he would speak with her. Grange, not anticipating any danger, attended only by a gentleman, spurred his charger up the hill of Carberry, and dismounting, approached the queen, who was seated on a stone, with Bothwell near her.

Mary was then four-and-twenty, and in the full bloom of her beauty.

Nature had formed this fair being for love rather than for governing a nation of lawless barons and unscrupulous serfs, who possessed all the headlong valour of the age of chivalry, without the gentle courtesy which distinguished it. Her dark gray eyes admirably expressed the softness and vivacity of her disposition, as her full pouting lips and dimpled chin did archness and wit, and her pure open brow intelligence and candour. One moment her eyes were languid, and the next they were full of fire: the brightness of her complexion was dazzling, and her hair was of the most beautiful auburn. Her taste in dressing lent additional lustre to her charms: she rode with courage and danced with grace; which, with her love of Parisian gaiety, formed the ultima Thule of horror and abomination in the nostrils of Knox and his intolerant compatriots. But Mary could read Virgil and Livy with Buchanan, when such high-born ruffians as Glencairn could scarcely sign their names: in short, the name of Mary Stuart summons at once to the mind all that the greatest enthusiast can imagine of misfortune, of beauty, and romance.

Kirkaldy knelt respectfully before her. Tall, strong, sheathed in the complete armour of a knight, this courtly soldier, from his bearing and aspect, was as prepossessing as the gifted being he saluted.

The queen addressed him calmly, and bade him remember "that there were punishments in another world to be inflicted upon the rebellious in this; that all honourable men would look upon avenging King Henry’s murder as a poor pretence for the confederates taking arms, as they themselves had voted the Duke of Orkney innocent of that crime, and, by their recommendation, had brought about that union which, by force of arms, they now sought to disannul.”

"No man can bear a greater affection for your royal person than I,” replied Kirkaldy with ardour and frankness. "All those lords with whom I am engaged, and whose measures I have espoused, as being, in my opinion, most consistent with the strict rules of duty and honour, are the most faithful subjects of your grace, and have only taken up arms for your service and safety. You are now in the hands of dangerous enemies—men of wicked lives, whose very breath infects your reputation —men whose advices have ruined your authority and alienated the affection of your subjects. If guilty, the Duke of Orkney is unworthy the honour of being your husband; if innocent, he may with safety submit to a new trial. For myself, and those with whom I am in arms, I can assert that nothing is designed by us but the re-establishment of order and good government, on that footing which has been handed down to us by our ancestors.”

He added much more concerning Bothwell’s crimes, and the cruelty with which he had divorced his countess, the accomplished Lady Jane Gordon, to whom he had been married only six months before. The handsome but vindictive earl, who, during the conference had been an anxious listener, enraged by the boldness and freedom of Kirkaldy, secretly desired one of his harquebussiers to shoot him. The assassin was in the act of deliberately levelling his long-barrelled weapon at the unsuspecting knight, who was yet kneeling before Mary, when she observed the act. Starting, she uttered a scream, and throwing herself before the harquebuss, exclaimed to Bothwell, that surely he would not disgrace her so far as to murder one to whom she had promised protection.

What notice Kirkaldy took of this intended outrage, Melville, who records it, does not say; but, in no way daunted, he continued to urge, that if ever Mary expected to enjoy the confidence of her subjects, she must instantly abandon Bothwell, who, being charged with regicide, would be allowed to leave the field until the cause were tried in a civil court; and that if Mary would come over to the troops of the confederates, they wTould from that moment again acknowledge and obey her as their sovereign.

Finding herself deserted by her friends, fearful of war and anxious for peace, expecting to be generously and kindly received on the pledged word of the gallant envoy, the queen (whose confidence and good nature appear at times to have bordered on girlish simplicity) readily agreed to perform what Kirkaldy proposed. Delighted with her answer, he repaired to the confederate barons, who ratified his stipulations. Galloping back, he communicated their resolution to the queen, and taking Bothwell by the hand, with soldier-like frankness advised him to depart, promising that he would neither be opposed nor followed.

Overwhelmed for a moment with remorse and disappointment, perhaps by despair, the unfortunate noble turned his eyes for the last time to gaze on that beautiful queen, whose hand he had committed so many daring crimes, and risked so many dangers, to obtain. Bidding her a sad adieu, he rode down the hill with a few attendants, leaving Mary, fame, a throne, and hope behind him.

Unworthy as he was, his ultimate fate cannot be contemplated without pity. Although lord of so many noble castles and estates, heir of so many sounding titles and magnificent heritages, the representative of the long line of the Hepburns of Hailes, from that hour he was an outcast:—

“A fugitive among his own,
Disguised, deserted, desolate—
A weed upon the torrent thrown—
A Cain among the sons of men—
A pirate on the ocean—then
A Scandinavian captive, fettered
To die amid the dungeon’s gloom!”—A.

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