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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir William Kirkaldy of Grange
Chapter XXIII. The Lords of the Black Parliament


Amid these transactions, commissioners from the General Assembly of the church, then convened at Leith, repaired to the castle to arrange a pacification—a fruitless errand. Sir William Drury, the marshal of Berwick, who had been sent by Elizabeth on the same pretended mission, visited Kirkaldy, and afterwards the regent, with whom he had a conference, which, like all such interventions from the south, had only the effect of increasing the hatred, bloodshed, and activity on both sides.

The Laird of Grange now attacked his adversaries with other weapons than those of war. While the whole estates of the kingdom assembled at Stirling, to hold what he termed the Black Parliament, he resolved to convene one in the queen’s name, in the garrison under his command. This desperate parliament met on the 12th of June, and he had the honour of opening it. Chatelherault, Huntly, Home, Hamilton the bishop of Athens, prior of Coldingham, and abbot of Kilwinning, with Sir Thomas Kerr of Fernihirst, and many other barons, assembled in the Tolbooth, and, under a salute of cannon, rode from thence in solemn procession to the castle, with the regalia before them.

The sword was borne by Alexander lord Home;

The sceptre, by George earl of Huntly; The crown, by James duke of Chatelherault.1 Few as they were in number, Kirkaldy seemed to have inspired the members of this bold but petty parliament with something of his own daring and spirit; and they hesitated not to pronounce doom of treason and forfeiture against the Kegent Lennox, and two hundred peers and barons of the opposite faction: they forbade any innovation to be made in the Presbyterian religion, declared the demission of Mary null and void, and ordained prayers to be said for her in'the churches, and that all who omitted them should be debarred from preaching in future.

Immediately after this, in consequence of certain reports which reached him, Kirkaldy sent a gentleman with the following challenge to the castle of Dalkeith:— u Whereas it has come to my ears that some wicked persons, from very malice bred in their ungodly breasts, have taken the liberty to utter the venom of their poisoned hearts to the prejudice of my honour, so far as lies in their slanderous tongues, having by letters and reports given to the people untrue tales of me, calling me a traitor and murderer, and special permitter of the slaughter of the Earl of Murray, our late regent of good memory.....

"Always for defence of my honour, which I will maintain against all living men, this I say, without exception of any person, of whatsoever estate he be, that hath by writing, by speech, or otherwise, used such dishonest language of me as that before specified, he has dishonestlie, falselie, and mischievouslie lied in his throat!

“William Kirkaldie.

“From Edinburgh castle, Monday, 12th June 1571.”

To this cartel he received an answer from Sir Alexander Stewart, son of the Laird of Garlies—a young knight of great bravery and spirit, and who was distinguished for his zeal in the cause of the Reformation. He gained his spurs when Darnley was created Earl of Ross by Mary.

"Forsomuch as thou, by a cartel lately sent forth, boastest to answer any, without exception of person, estate, or degree, and most likely that thou meanest but in words, saying they lie that rumour thee with treason. Albeit that this cartel is so proud, that it may seem to come of a breast full both of arrogance and treason, comparing thyself to the chief nobles of Scotland, not so much as excepting the royal blood,—thou being of so base a condition that thy father had but eight oxgangs of land; thy progenitors, for the most part, salt-makers, and that thou art so notable and notorious a traitor, that this action should be decided by other judges than by adventure of arms.

"Not the less, Alexander Steioart of Garlies, will offer myself to prove thy vile and filthy treason with my person against thine, as the law and custom of arms require—with protestation that it shall not be prejudicial to my honour or my blood (encountering) with such a leat prentit gentleman, manifestly known to have committed, at sundry times, divers treasons, and taken out of the galleys to be given to the gallows. This cartel, for more security, I have subscribed with my own hand at Leith the 14th of June 1571.

"Alexander Stewart of G-arlies, younger.”

Fired at the many taunts contained in this insolent defiance, Kirkaldy replied,—

"Thy vain boasting is unworthy of an answer, yet I affirm that therein thou falsely liest! my progenitors being always gentlemen of blood and arms, and have been in greater estimation with the princes and subjects of this realm than thou art able to attain to.”

On the last day of June, an answer came from Stewart, arranging a meeting for single combat, a hand to hand, on horse or foot, armed with jack and spear, steel bonnet, habergeon, and plate-sleeves, sword and whinger, being the order of Scottish armour, on the Grallowlee, upon the west side of the highway, between Leith and Edinburgh, upon the third day of July next, by nine hours before noon.”

This combat, however, never took place—but not from lack of spirit on either side. Urged by the strenuous advice of his friends, Kirkaldy, whose reputation placed his courage beyond suspicion, wisely evaded the meeting, knowing his life was of the utmost consequence to Mary’s interest. He frankly told his adversary u that it was not deemed just that he should hazard the queen’s cause in his person”—an excuse which Grarlies accepted of. In the mean time, by the more numerous, splendid, and solemn Assembly of the Estates at Stirling, Sir William Kirkaldy, and his companions in arms, bad doom of treason fully recorded against them; and an embassy was despatched to Elizabeth for the purpose of establishing a more intimate alliance, and assuring her of a speedy triumph over the faction of Mary; while, at that very time, the daring Kirkaldy was forming a plan which nearly ended in the utter annihilation of the king’s party, and by which Lennox lost his life and power together.

Short as it was, the regency of the earl was stained by many deeds of blood and oppression. Weak, impetuous, and rash, he was guided solely by the cruel and avaricious Morton, whose advice, together with an intense hostility to Mary’s partisans—a sentiment excited by the memory of his son’s sad fate—hurried him into numerous atrocities. Morton had secret reasons, which shall elsewhere be developed, for wishing to compass the speedy destruction of Sir William Kirkaldy and his brother— and more especially that of Maitland, his copartner in many a scheme of political iniquity. He brooded hourly over these hopes of vengeance, till they became almost necessary to his existence and his peace. At his instigation, Lennox, on becoming master of Brechin, put seventy-six of Mary’s soldiers to death—men whose bravery, by the laws of war, honour, and humanity, fully entitled them to mercy.

Against Chatelherault, and all who bore his name, the rage of Lennox was boundless. This was particularly evinced by the cruel manner in which he hanged the duke’s brother, the Archbishop of St Andrews, at Stirling. The ignominious death of this prelate inspired the loyalists with rage, and none displayed a greater desire to avenge him than the Laird of Grange.

The celebrated Sir James Melville, whose valuable Memoirs throw much light on the intricate intrigues of those warlike times, recounts a ruse de guerre by which the regent’s party attempted to cajole Kirkaldy into a surrender. Though the brothers of the memorialist were captains of companies in the garrison of their nephew, he remained neutral, and was often hearer of pacific messages between the adverse factions. Aware of this, Morton, with his usual cunning, prevailed on the council to order the Earl of Buchan to arrest Sir James Melville, and bring him from his own house of Halhill to the camp at Leith, which was forthwith done. He was then requested to write to his nephew, stating that his life was in the utmost hazard unless the castle was instantly surrendered. Melville refused, saying scornfully, u that the proposal was childish, and would not fail to exasperate against him both his brothers and nephews, who were wroth enough already that he too did not join the standard of Mary.” Alarmed on learning the captivity and supposed danger of his kinsman, Kirkaldy secretly sent a woman with a note to him, stating that he would come at midnight and carry him off sword in hand; and that he had sent the female, as a messenger whom he deemed least liable to suspicion, to ascertain where and how he was kept. He ordered a boat to lie at the Craigs of Granton, then a lonely and deserted beach above New-haven, where the old castle of Wardie reared its turreted walls on a mass of jutting rock, against which the stream dashes, and where in the days of James I., a great Italian galley once perished in a storm. From thence, with a chosen band, he proposed to sail into Leith harbour the same night; but on receiving a billet from Melville, assuring him that he "was in no danger,” the desperate enterprise was abandoned.

Soon afterwards, on learning that Captain Michael Wemyss, with his company of a hundred trained men-at-arms, had come over from the Danish wars to join the troops of Morton at Leith, Kirkaldy desired his brother Sir James, with Captain Cullayne, and one hundred and eighty soldiers, to intercept them in the river Forth. Cullayne gladly undertook this service, for he was the most implacable foe of Morton, who had seduced his wife. The earl, who had observed Sir James march his soldiers to the shore, after seeing them embark near Leith, ordered strong bands to remain in readiness to intercept them on their return—a curious piece of bad generalship; while the regent, with a body of horse, hovered on the opposite shore.

Sir James’s pikemen and harquebussiers were in a small vessel which they had seized, and four boats accompanied them. In the middle of the river they came suddenly upon four large craft, containing the Danish veterans, led by their captain, whom Buchanan eulogises as a “noble, virtuous, and learned young man.” A brisk contest ensued. Wemyss, having the lesser force, fought his way shoreward, while Cullayne and Kirkaldy followed him closely. Three of their soldiers were killed, and seven wounded by bullets and pikes; but one boat was taken with thirty prisoners, whom they presented to the governor of the castle, as a trophy of the sea engagement. On landing, they would inevitably have been overpowered by Morton’s bands; but these having been seen from the city, a few light horse were sent out by Grange’s order, who drove them, at point of sword and lance, within the walls of Leith.

Mortified hy the issue of this affair, Morton resolved to draw the queen’s adherents out of their strong and lofty city, to fight him in the open fields. He had, for some time previous, completely intercepted all their provisions, by posting a chain of piquets on all roads diverging from the capital to Leith, Newhaven, and elsewhere. These outposts daily brought to his camp abundance of provisions, and detained the market carts and farmers’ horses. He compelled many of the peasantry to serve under his standard—a measure which, though it increased his force, diminished his popularity. Forty persons were once dragged from their agricultural labours, and turned into the ranks of this thorough feudal tyrant, who, on receiving a reinforcement from Sir William Douglas of Drumlanrig, thought himself sufficiently strong to take the field.

Though he had for some time been suffering under an illness, on the 16th of June he arose from bed, buckled on his rich armour, and, escorted by a guard of cavalry, marched his whole available force to the Hawkhill, a rocky knoll covered with fine wood, and situated to the northward of an old castle, where then dwelt the subtle and ambitious Baron of Restalrig.

The eminence is lofty, and on one side the ground slopes away towards Leith, then a dense mass of fantastic houses, which the eight ramparts of d’Esse, and the white pavilions of Morton’s camp, engirdled, and above which rose the ancient spires of St Mary and St Anthony. On the other it descended towards the deep blue loch, which still lies, dark and waveless, beneath the rocks of the Logans’ castle. To the westward of it lay the pretty village of Restalrig, with its gable-ended college and ivy-clad kirk, lying in a hollow, among enamelled meadows and waving copsewood.

Here, then, on the Hawkhill, within view of Edinburgh, Morton drew up his vassals in order of battle— a bravado which was soon answered by Mary’s adherents, a strong body of whom, led by the Earl of Huntly, the Lords Claud Hamilton, Home, and Herries, issued forth from the Watergate with two field-pieces and displayed banners. Marching past the north end of the bare and grassy Calton Hill, they wound among some deep quarries, from which the most ancient houses of Edinburgh have been built, and drew up in line at four hundred paces distant from the Hawkhill. Their field-pieces were about to fire, when Sir William Drury, the English ambassador, (who had supped the last night with Morton,) whose treachery to both factions had been a hundred times experienced, galloped between the adverse lines, to propose an amicable adjustment, as being preferable to a deadly combat between countrymen, relatives, and friends. With all the apparent zeal of a peacemaker, he proposed terms to Huntly, which were so satisfactory that he at once accepted them. But an important point of honour had yet to be resolved,—which party should first march off the ground. One was a proud Douglas, the other a haughty Gordon; both were obstinate and punctilious to excess—neither would be the first to move, bluntly insisted that Morton should retire first, the bravado having been his; but Morton replied only by retorts and fierce evasions. Sir William Drury, as the best mode of dealing with such intractable spirits, proposed that he should stand in the centre, and give to both the signal to retire at the same moment. To this arrangement Huntly assented; but Drury, with his usual duplicity, is said to have warned Morton how to act when the signal was given.

All eyes were bent on this English knight, who rode into the centre, paused for a moment, and then threw up his plumed hat. Huntly’s followers instantly wheeled backwards, and began their march to the city; when lo! those of Morton, instead of moving towards Leith, bent forward their pikes and standards, and, with a shout of triumph, rushed down the hill on the unformed bands of Huntly.

"On—on! we shall soon see who keeps the field last! ” exclaimed the fierce Morton, as, at the head of his horse-guard, he charged their right flank with headlong fury, driving their scattered troopers among the confused infantry, whose retreat instantly became a flight. Morton’s foot closed up en masse to the strife, and the whole of Huntly’s men were driven in towards the city, through the old village of Abbeyhill, past Mary of Guise’s chateau, the old house of Croft-an-Eigh, and a great and pitiless slaughter ensued among the thick hedges, gray walls, and summer orchards of these old suburbs. Horse, foot, and cannon—troopers, pikemen, and harquebussiers —plumed knights and tasselled standards,—all pushed forward in tumultuous confusion to reach the old and low-browed arch of the Watergate; while the ferocious Morton, the fiery Drumlanrig, and the gigantic Laird of Drumqhasel, with their steel-clad troopers, hewed, and speared, and rode them down like a field of rye. The din of two-handed whingers and iron maces rang in.the narrow street; many men were trod to death by the hoofs of the galloping horses; Gavin Hamilton, abbot of Kilwinning, and many gentlemen of distinction, were slain in the dense press around the city gate, the whole road to which was strewed with killed and wounded, steel helmets, matchlocks, broken spears, swords, daggers, and gauntlets. Lord Home was wounded, unhorsed, and taken prisoner, together with Captain James Cullayne, Ensign Alexander Boag, several gentlemen, and seventy-two soldiers, two standards, and two culverins.

The whole were brought in triumph to Leith by Morton, who had only to regret the death of his new officer, Captain Wemyss, and one soldier; while fifty of the queen’s men lay dead on the narrow way to Edinburgh. The famous Captain Cullayne, who had distinguished himself so much in the army of Mary of Guise, was ingloriously captured in an old woman’s meal-gimel, where he had taken shelter during the hurly-burly, and out of which he was dragged in full panoply, and carried to Leith, where he found himself utterly at the mercy of Morton—the lover of his wife.

This skirmish was named by both parties the fight of Black Saturday, or Drury's Peace.

Lord Home was sent to Morton’s strong castle of Tantallon, but was afterwards exchanged, at tbe Grallowlee, for Sir William Douglas of Drumlanrig, wbo had been brought prisoner to Kirkaldy by Sir David Spens of Wormiston.

Kirkaldy was greatly exasperated when he heard the issue of this rencontre, which would have terminated so differently had he commanded there. Notwithstanding that the general voice of the people loudly accused Drury of planning the treachery with Morton, that subtle envoy, animated either by innocence or effrontery, entered the city a short time afterwards, to concert measures for a reconciliation. Huntly and other leaders of Mary’s party were unwilling to quarrel with the representative of Elizabeth, who had the life and person of their unhappy queen exposed to her heartless rigour: they were thus compelled to refrain from expressing to the marshal of Berwick their suspicions and disgust of his conduct; but, on their being assembled in the southern hall of the castle, the indignation of Kirkaldy could no longer be smothered. Turning to the ambassador —

“Sir William Drury,” said he sternly, “you have acted among us the part of a very bad man; and, but for the respect which my friends and I bear to the queen of England, whose servant you are, I would this instant lay you fast by the heels! ”

Drury made many protestations that he was entirely innocent of the affair of Black Saturday, and threw the whole shame on the Earl of Morton, whom he asserted to be the sole contriver of the treachery; but his assertions were made to men who were little disposed to think well of him; especially Kirkaldy, whose old feelings of amity to Englishmen were rapidly being replaced by those of hatred, for the intrigues and duplicity of them ministry. Drury, finding only dark looks around him, and that he had lost all credit with the loyalists, was glad to depart for Leith, covered with shame and surrounded by an escort of soldiers, sent by Kirkaldy to protect him from the fury of the incensed mob, who would infallibly have torn him to pieces.

As soon as the regent heard of the successful issue of the skirmish at Restalrig, he hastened to Leith, the fortifications of which he repaired and strengthened. Soon after this arrival, the proud and powerful Morton found that he was likely to he supplanted in the favour of the representative of royalty by another courtier, the Laird of Drumqhasel, whom a clear judgment in council and eloquence in debate had raised to the rank of an oracle among his ruder compatriots. The earl, jealous of his own influence, and revengeful to excess, though the laird’s most intimate friend, entertained the most deadly hatred against him. He would willingly have challenged the supplanter to single combat; but the laird was a man of great strength and stature ; and Morton, though a handsome man, was rather a little one, and had no wish to come within the sweep of Drumqhasel’s broadsword. He therefore resorted to the same dastardly means he had fruitlessly employed against Kirkaldy during the regency of Murray—the poniard of the assassin. Two of his valets, wretches hardened in his service, and, like himself,u nussled in blood,” were employed to watch the burly and unsuspecting Drumqhasel, with orders to despatch him on the first opportunity. Secretly as Morton conducted the plot, and though he was no novice in such infamous affairs, it reached the ears of the regent, who had a great esteem for the laird, as a native of his patrimonial province the Lennox. Afraid to offend an ally so powerful as Morton, he took no farther notice of the intended assassination than by desiring the laird to be confined to his residence in Leith, where all those knights and soldiers were lodged for whom there were not pavilions in the camp without the walls.

The moment Morton learned this, he knew the regent’s motive, and burst into a tempest of fury at what he chose to consider a deadly affront; then, ordering his train to horse, and his baggage to be packed, prepared to abandon Leith and the king’s standard together. Alarmed at the probable loss of the most influential earl of the house of Douglas, the weak regent, affecting to be ignorant of his wrathful intentions, sent a servant to acquaint him that u he meant to dine with him that day.”

“I am sorry that I cannot have the high honour of his lordship’s company,” replied the haughty earl; "my business is pressing, and obliges me to leave Leith without even bidding him adieu.”

Lennox was equally irritated and alarmed on hearing of this flat refusal, and, starting from his chair, exclaimed,—

"Then, by the holy name of God, he shall eat his dinner with me!” and, repairing instantly to the house of Morton, brought about a reconciliation by making two very humbling concessions : First, by dismissing Drumqkasel, who was banished from court, which he was not to approach within ten miles under a heavy penalty; second, the life of Captain James Cullayne, that Morton might have more peaceable possession of his wife. Mistress Cullayne, a woman of great beauty, filled with pity by the danger impending over her husband, and touched with remorse for her former inconstancy, had come to Leith to beg his life as a boom at the hands of Lennox and her seducer. But the latter, inflamed anew by her charms and tears, was inflexible ; the regent was his tool, and the prayers and tears of the wretched wife were poured forth at their feet in vain. The poor captain, who had seen many a hot battle in the fields of the Dane and Swede, and in the wars of his native country, was ignominiously hanged on a gibbet, as a peace-offering to Morton’s wickedness. Kirkaldy was greatly enraged by the cruel fate of Cullayne; but his naturally merciful disposition prevented him from making reprisals.

One of Morton’s numerous love-intrigues was soon destined to disturb the peace and blight the honour of his own family.

Two days after the fight of Restalrig, Monsieur le Yerac and a gentleman named Chisholm arrived from France, with a considerable supply from Charles IX. for Kirkaldy and his friends, consisting of suits of armour, harquebusses, saltpetre, cannon-balls, and a sum of money. On the vessel which brought them arriving in the Forth, Chisholm landed secretly, and for safety gave the gold to the care of the Abbot of St Colm. The French ambassador and his papers having been seized by Lord Lindesay, a minute concerning the gold was discovered. Chisholm was tor-timed in the iron boot, confessed all, and joined the regent, by which the valuable supplies fell into the hands of the foe—hut only for a time. Sir David Spens of Wormiston, being despatched with a hand of soldiers, hoarded the vessel, sword in hand, and, after pillaging a few articles of value, scuttled and sank her in the river, where probably her hull yet remains.

In the mean time, as governor of the castle and provost of the city of Edinburgh, Kirkaldy issued a proclamation by sound of trumpet, enjoining all citizens, who were not disposed to adhere to the cause of his mistress, to abandon the town forthwith; upon which many of them retired to Leith with their families, furniture, and goods, and were received within the ramparts by Patrick Lindsay, governor of the seaport.


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