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Memoirs and Adventures of Sir William Kirkaldy of Grange
Chapter XXV. The Double Betrayal, Lady Helen Kirkaldy


Thoroughly accomplished in those sciences and stratagems which form the basis of the whole art of war, Sir William Kirkaldy appears to have possessed in an eminent degree that which is termed a military mind— one, says, an enthusiastic writer, which must possess “ that grasp of thought which seizes almost every thing as if by intuition—which thinks, decides, and acts in the same moment—which is not only cool and collected, hut is roused and excited hy every danger.” This temperament, and many other estimable qualities of head and heart, must he united to form the character of a great military leader, and these essentially imparted to Kirkaldy that lofty hearing which distinguished him during his troubled career.

As a leader, his talents were strikingly displayed hy the manner in which he planned the Raid of the Black Parliament—a measure which in one night so nearly destroyed the whole of the king’s powerful faction, and restored to Mary that crown which so illegally had been torn from her brow. The talent, secrecy, and prudence which this able warrior evinced, were like the usual sagacity and skill which caused him u to he esteemed among the most eminent captains of the age,” and proved him to he (in the emphatic words of the Constable de Montmo-rencie) "le premier soldat de Europe.”

On learning the insecurity with which the regent, his friends, and two thousand of their followers, were quartered in Stirling, Kirkaldy, animated equally by a desire to avenge the Archbishop of St Andrews, whom they had so ignominiously hanged, and by the hope of capturing the whole of that Black Parliament which had proscribed him as a traitor, resolved by one bold and decisive blow to break its power for ever, restore Mary to her throne, and end a civil war which he abhorred.

t£ The Laird of Grange took great displeasure to see Scotsmen so luriously bent against each other, set on by the practices of England, and the extreme avarice of some particular men, who for their own selfish designs intended to augment their estates and raise their own fortunes upon the ruin of their neighbours.”

After a consultation with his son-in-law, the knight of Eernihirst, and Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, “a man of rare qualities, wise, true, stout, and modest, who loved Grange better than any of his own kindred,” and the leading characteristic of whose life was an intense animosity to England, a march to Stirling was resolved upon. Kirkaldy ordered three hundred chosen horse and one hundred foot on the service, the former to carry the latter behind them on their cruppers: this was a favourite tactic of his, and one which the French imperial generals revived in later times, by the introduction of voltigeurs. Led by Buccleuch, Femihirst, George earl of Huntly, Claud Hamilton lord of Paisley, and Sir David Spens of Wormiston, (whom Buchanan descrihes as an accomplished young captain of horse, inferior to none of his age in Scotland,) the detachment, after supping, and feeding their horses, set forth on the night of the 3d September. Kirkaldy intended to have led them in person, and afterwards deeply regretted that he did not; hut as the expedition was deemed a most desperate and forlorn one, heing the leader and master spirit of Mary’s faction, to whom his talents and example were of inestimahle value, and heing governor of. the first fortress in Scotland, it was not thought advisable to risk his life in the intended raid.

“Our only comfort, under God, consists in your preservation!” said Chatelherault and the lords. “He, on the other hand, alleged his presence would he necessary, for he was acquaint with difficult enterprises, and feared they would not follow rightly or carefully his directions. But they engaged to follow them strictly, and would not suffer him to ride with them.” Therefore, after giving Sir David Spens some particular injunctions concerning the safety of the Regent Lennox, he saw them move off, and remained in the castle anxiously awaiting the issue of the expedition.

There was not one of the leaders hut had some biting personal or family injury to avenge. Huntly had the fate of his kinsman Cullayne, and “stem Claud” of Paisley the fate of the archbishop, his uncle; lately three hundred troopers of Lennox had plundered his father’s ducal palace of the whole of its valuables and furniture, which were publicly sold at the cross of Linlithgow—and these and other memories he treasured up in a haughty and resentful heart, that longed to see the blood of Lennox stream upon his sword.

Preceded hy an advanced guard of horse, sent forward hy Kirkaldy to secure the strait at the Queensferry, to scour the roads, arrest all passengers, and prevent any communication with Stirling, the little hand, in the I dusky September evening, rode from Edinburgh hy the dark Cowgate Port, and ascended the hill, passing the deserted hospital of the Templars, and ruined chapel of St Mary of Placentia. A hundred mosstroopers had each a harquehussier behind him; and being all in their armour, to deceive inquiring citizens as to their real destination, they gave forth that they were en route for Jedburgh, to quell a feud between its inhabitants and Kerr of Femihirst; and, to mislead those spies who might follow, they marched southward a few miles on the Peebles road.

The arid hills of Braid soon rose between them and the city; night closed over the scenery, and, favoured by its shadow, they wheeled to the westward. On reaching Liherton, a little hamlet overlooked hy a baronial tower and the taper spire of an ancient church, and passing the lonely peel-house, they descended into the glen of Braid, skirted the dreary Boroughmuir, and passing the desolate swamps, the loch and castle of Corstorphine, they pushed on the way to Stirling. George Bell, ensign of Captain Hamilton’s hand, a native of the place, and consequently well acquainted with all the avenues, alleys, and wynds of that steep and gloomy town, rode with them to guide their movements when within its walls.

Strong, active, and brave to excess, there was no earthly enterprise the gallant mosstroopers would not have undertaken cheerfully ; no encounter could be too deadly, no adventure too desperate, for them to engage in. Accustomed to incessant war in all its darkest features, they saddled their steeds and donned their light armour at a moment’s notice; at the blaze of a single beacon, in some parts of Scotland, ten thousand spears were grasped, and as many men were in their stirrups. Each trooper carried his own provisions, so that they were at all times independent of pillage and forage. Their horses were small, but strong and fleet, and the steed of the wild Arabian warrior was not better trained. The long Scottish lance, the two-handed sword, the Jeddart axe, and long iron petronels were their weapons; then’ armour a light helmet, surmounted by a green sprig of the shrub that formed the badge of their clan; and all wore gorgets, plate-sleeves, and jacks stitched closely over with small pieces of jointed iron, impenetrable as the shell of an alligator.

Encumbered as these mosstroopers were by the heavily-mailed harquebussiers, with their unwieldy fire-arms, hook-rests, long swords, and daggers, the night-march of thirty miles, over rugged roads, occupied an unusual time, and dawn was breaking when they drew up near the lofty walls of old gray Stirling—a town which rises amid a fertile country, and occupies the sloping ridge of a high hill, terminated by a precipitous rock crowned by a beautiful castle of the most varied outline, and of equal strength and antiquity—the Windsor and Versailles of Scotland’s better days. A brief consultation was held ; and Lord Claud Hamilton, who had solemnly vowed himself to vengeance, urged the propriety of slaying the whole of the king’s parliament. With all the eloquence that family and political animosity could inspire, the fierce young lord advocated this cruel measure; but it was resolved to obey strictly Kirkaldy’s injunctions, hy bringing off as many prisoners as possible.

In those days Stirling was surrounded hy a strong fortified wall, which extended from the steep rocks of its stately castle to the eastern port, where a formidable arch of ponderous masonry sprung from columns of basaltic rock twenty feet in diameter. A jagged portcullis and solid gates closed the path by night, and their state keys, of solid silver, are yet preserved in the town-house. Within were vaulted chambers for the guards, whose watchfulness denied all ingress that way; and from thence the blue and winding waters of the Forth protected the city’s northern side, while an arched tower and closed gate denied all access likewise by the bridge. Leaving a number of their horses under a guard, in a secret place a mile distant from the town, the Borderers advanced with silence and caution towards the walls, and guided by Ensign Bell, and another officer named Calder, effected an entrance hy a private passage; and no sooner were they past the walls than the fierce Kerrs, and Scotts, and Hamiltons, burning to avenge the quarrels of their chiefs, poured like a torrent through the narrow closes and dark wynds, from which they debouched upon the main street of the sleeping burgh.

“A Hamilton! a Hamilton!” “God and the queen!” “Remember the Archbishop of St Andrews! ” were the slogans by which they animated each other, and struck terror into the hearts of the waking burghers, who, hy the gray light of the autumn morning, found their streets thronged hy mosstroopers in their iron jacks and dinted morions; while Captain Halkerston, with a troop of lances, took post at the city cross to prevent private dwellings being plundered — a duty he failed to execute.1 Meanwhile Captain Calder and Ensign Bell, who perfectly knew the houses (or lodgings, as the Scots termed them) of every person of distinction, acting as guides, assigned to the numerous detached parties their several posts. The houses were hurst open — doors dashed in; and the town echoed with shrieks and outcries, mingled with the cri-de-guerre of “A Hamilton — think on the archbishop!” and, in an incredibly short space of time, Mathew of Lennox the regent, the Earls of Argyle, Eglinton, Glencaim, Montrose, and Buchan, the Lords Sempill, Ochiltree, and Cathcart, all leaders of the obnoxious Black Parliament, were dragged from their beds, and, undressed, or in disordered attire, were hurried down the steep and broad High Street of Stirling, where they were hound with cords, and roughly mounted behind a body of troopers, whose stout and active steeds had been set apart for that particular purpose. Lennox had attempted to defend his residence; hut the wily mosstroopers cried aloud that they “had placed powder in the vaults, as in the Kirk-d-Field!” upon which he immediately surrendered.

The annals of war do not exhibit a better executed or a bolder exploit. Thanks to their bravery and Kirkaldy’s orders, the cause of Mary seemed triumphant— hut for a time only. While the wild troopers of the Liddel, and the spearmen of Teviotdale were emptying the stables and byres, breaking open the booths of the merchants, pillaging and destroying the goods of the terrified burghers, the furious Morton, like a roused lion, buckled on his armour, barricaded his house, which stands at the foot of the Broad Street, and animated his faithful servants to defend it by shooting with bows and fire-arms through the well-grated windows. They stood siege with resolute bravery—many were slain. The time was precious, for now the echoing city rang with platoons of musketry and the deeper boom of cul-verins. The stout old Earl of Mar, sallying from the castle at the head of forty soldiers—probably the veteran band of Mary of Lorraine—and two pieces of cannon, took possession of an unfinished edifice, called Mar’s Work, and from thence fired upon the market-place with a rapidity and precision that soon cleared it of Mary’s disorderly troops, who gave way on all sides. His soldiers now relinquished their harquebusses for sharper weapons, and, filing out by a doorway, he led them, sword in hand, against the Borderers, who fled, leaving the street strewn with killed and wounded.

Morton still defended his house, though it was fired by the assailants; and amid the flames and smoke of his burning chambers, surrounded by the flashing matchlocks of the Hamiltons, and the sharp lances of Liddesdale, he continued to fight with the most obstinate valour, until human endurance could no longer withstand the heat of the conflagration and the smoke it caused: he was forced forth, and surrendered his sword to the Laird of Buccleuch, the husband of his niece, Lady Margaret Douglas of Angus.

Now the citizens had taken arms, and, sallying out in bands, attacked the Borderers as they recoiled before the Earl of Mar; while Argyle, Morton, Ochiltree, and others, snatched up the weapons of the slain, whose bodies strewed the blood-stained pavement, and, raising the cry of “A Darnley! a Darnley,—God and the king!” assailed the followers of Huntly and Buccleuch. But Captain Calder, whom this sudden change in the fortune of the raid had rendered perfectly furious, rushed about with his sword to slay Lennox, whom Sir David Spens had made prisoner, and around them a fierce conflict was maintained with sword and dagger. Lord Claud Hamilton urged him to the deed; and, animated by excitement, personal hatred, and innate ferocity, exclaimed incessantly, during the melee,—

"Where is Lennox? where is Lennox?”

"Down the gait yonder,” answered Bell.

“Gar slay him!” replied the fierce Claud to Calder. u Shoot the regent,—think on the Archbishop of St Andrews! ”Thus urged, the captain rushed upon Lennox, (who was seated upon the crupper of Buccleuch’s war-horse,) and shot him through the back with a dag or petronel. The brave knight of Wormiston, who saw his fell intention, nobly threw himself before Lennox, and received the shot first in his own body. He remembered the particular orders of Kirkaldy to protect the regent from the Hamiltons, and in that perilous hour the generous soldier was faithful to his trust.

“I am killed—I am killed!” exclaimed Lennox, as he fell from behind Buccleuch j and in the confusion Morton and others rushed upon the young Sir David Spens, and absolutely hewed him to pieces with their swords, regardless of the almost breathless entreaties of the bleeding earl, who vainly implored them, "to spare one who had risked life in his defence!”

This terrible scene occurred at a little distance from the southern gate of Stirling, and a cairn of stones which marked the spot, remained there until 1758.

Assailed on all hands by the citizens and the numerous followers of the nobles, and disheartened by the sudden escape of their prisoners, the loyalists were compelled to sound a speedy retreat, leaving nine killed and many wounded, hut only sixteen prisoners, among whom were Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, Captain Calder, and Ensign Bell. Huntly, Femihirst and their followers, rushed in great confusion towards a gate called the Nether Port, treading down the foot in their hurry to escape; and so closely were they pursued, that not one of them would ever have returned to Edinburgh, hut for the tact and rapacity of the mosstroopers, who secured and carried off with them every horse within the walls of Stirling. With these they mounted their harquebussiers, and the whole escaped beyond the reach of danger. Thirty-eight of the king’s party lay dead in the streets, and an immense number were wounded. Young Alexander Stewart of Garlies and Sir George Buthven were slain at the Nether Gate. Sir Walter Scott surrendered to Morton, who called aloud to him,—

"Buccleuch, I will save you, as before you saved me,” and receiving his sword protected him; but Captain Cal-der was broken alive on the wheel, and the unhappy standard-bearer was hanged at the cross, after enduring the most horrible tortures that the cruelty of the time rendered legal.

The unfortunate father of Darnley was able to keep his seat on horseback until he reached the gate of Stirling castle. On ascertaining that his wound was mortal, he prepared for death with the utmost fortitude, and after inquiring for the infant king, his grandson, summoned the excited nobles, fresh and breathless from the recent conflict, around his bedside. There, after recommending their little sovereign to their affection and care, he reminded them that he had faithfully discharged his high trust as regent of the realm—that he had sealed his services with his blood, and now, in his last hour, hoped that his successor would be a noble fearing God, and loving his country.

“I recommend to your favour my familiar servants,” said he, while pressing the hand of the venerable Earl of Mar, “and desire you to give my love to my wife Meg, whom I pray God to comfort! ” He expired on the evening of the 4th of September, the day after receiving his death-wound. His countess, (the mother of the unhappy Darnley,) whom he thus designated, was the daughter of Archibald earl of Angus, and Queen Margaret, dowager of James IV., and sister of Henry VIII. of England.

He was interred, with little solemnity, in the chapel of Stirling castle.

Such was the termination of the famous Raid of the Black Parliament—which would, no doubt, have had a very different issue had Kirkaldy commanded in lieu of Huntly or Lord Hamilton.

He had anxiously awaited the result of the daring expedition his skill had planned, and was overwhelmed with astonishment, rage, and mortification on learning their defeat, the death of Lennox and of Wormiston, the loss of Bell and Calder, the captivity of his friend Buccleuch. The survivors of the raid, as they arrived, wearied, exhausted, and dispirited, at the castle of Edinburgh, were most unwelcome guests to him. It was commonly said of him, that "never an enterprise he devised misgave, when he was present himself.” He felt conscience-struck for not having led in person; and he who u used to he meek and gentle, could not now command himself, hut hurst out in harsh language, calling them disorderly beasts! ”He sincerely deplored the death of Lennox, whom he knew to have been a lover of peace, and to have been spurred on to deeds of blood and atrocity by the fierce counsels of Morton alone. Bitterly and unavailingly he regretted that he did not command the raid, knowing well that then it must have terminated in the entire ruin of the king’s party, the restoration of the queen-mother, and the accomplishment of the great object of the expedition—the capture of the whole Scottish nobility, who, on being brought to the castle of Edinburgh, would have been peaceably compelled to end the war by an agreement.

Now such hopes were fled, and for ever!

The blood of the greatest man in Scotland had dyed the streets of Stirling, and the animosity on both sides was increased tenfold.

It appeared to be not generally known who slew the regent, for Grange, addressing the Lords Huntly, Hamilton, and their followers, said sternly,—

"If I knew who had committed that foul deed, the death of Lennox, or even he who directed it to be done, with my own right hand would I revenge it!”

Lord Claud of Paisley did not deem it advisable to acknowledge what Kirkaldy no doubt suspected—his direct agency in the matter.

Though lamenting the death of Lennox, with the compassion so natural to a brave and generous mind, he could not refrain from expressions of admiration at the dashing courage of his soldiers. The following appears in a letter dated 13th September, and now preserved in the State-paper Office:—

“In their time of parliament, when all their lords, being twenty earl and lords spiritual and temporal, were convened in their principal strength, wherein were above two thousand men, three hundred of ours entered among them, and were masters of the town at least for the space of three hours—might have slain the whole noblemen, if they had pleased—and retired themselves, in the end, with a rich booty and without any harm.”


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