THE regent, Mary de Guise, having died in June 1560, while her daughter Mary, the nominally reigning queen, was still in France, the management of affairs fell into the hands of the body of nobles, styled Lords of the Congregation, who had struggled for the establishment of the Protestant faith. The chief of these was Lord James Stuart, an illegitimate son of James V., and brother of the queen – the man of by far the greatest sagacity and energy of his age and country, and a most earnest votary of the new religion.
Becoming a widow in December 1560 by the death of her husband, Francis II., Mary no longer had any tie binding her to France, and consequently she resolved on returning to her own dominions. She arrived in Edinburgh in August 1561. The people regarded her beautiful face with affection, but her conduct towards the Protestant cause appeared as that of one who submits to what cannot be resisted.* One obvious motive for keeping on fair terms with Protestantism for the present, lay in her hopes of succeeding to the English crown, in the event of the death of Elizabeth, whose next heir she was.
A custom, dating far back in Catholic times, prevailed in Edinburgh in unchecked luxuriance down almost to the time of the Reformation. It consisted in a set of unruly dramatic games, called Robin Hood, the Abbot of Unreason, and the Queen of May, which were enacted every year in the floral month just mentioned. The interest felt by the populace in these whimsical merry-makings was intense. At the approach of May, they assembled and chose some respectable individuals of their number, very grave and reverend citizens perhaps, to act the parts of Robin Hood and Little John, of the Lord of Inobedience, or the Abbot of Unreason, and ‘make sports and jocosities’ for them. If the chosen actors felt it inconsistent with their tastes, gravity, or engagements, to don a fantastic dress, caper and dance, and incite their neighbours to do the like, they could only be excused on paying a fine. On the appointed day, always a Sunday or holiday, the people assembled in their best attire and in military array, and marched in blithe procession to some neighbouring field, where the fitting preparations had been made for their amusement. Robin Hood and Little John robbed bishops, fought with pinners, and contended in archery among themselves, as they had done in reality two centuries before. The Abbot of Unreason kicked up his heels and played antics like a modern pantaloon. The popular relish for all this was such as can scarcely now be credited.
Such were the Robin Hood plays of Catholic and unthinking times. By-and-by, when the Reformation approached, they were found to be disorderly and discreditable, and an act of parliament was passed against them. Still, while the upper and more serious classes frowned, the common sort of people loved the sport too much to resign it without a struggle. It came to be one of the first difficulties of the men who had carried through the Reformation, how to wrestle the people out of their love of the May-games.
In April 1561, one George Durie was chosen in Edinburgh as Robin Hood and Lord of Inobedience, and on Sunday the 12th of May, he and a great number of other persons came riotously into the city, with an ensign and arms in their hands, in disregard of both the act of parliament and an act of the town-council. Notwithstanding an effort of the magistrates to turn them back, they passed to the Castle-hill, and thence returned at their own pleasure. For this offence a cordiner’s servant, named James Gillon, was condemned to be hanged on the 21st of July.
July 21. – ‘When the time of the poor man’s hanging approachit, and that the [hangman] was coming to the gibbet with the ladder, upon which the said cordiner should have been hangit, the craftsmen’s childer [that is, persons in the employment of the craftsmen, journeymen] and servants past to armour; and first they housit Alexander Guthrie and the provost and bailies in the said Alexander’s writing-booth, and syne came down again
This was altogether an unprotestant movement, though springing only from a thoughtless love of sport. We may see in the attack on the Tolbooth a foreshadow of the doings of the Porteous mob in a later age. Thirteen persons were afterwards ‘fylit’ [convicted] by an assize for refusing to help the magistrates. – Pit.
On its being known that Queen Mary was about to arrive in Scotland from France, there was a great flocking of the upper class of people from all parts of the country to Edinburgh ‘as it were to a common spectacle.’
Aug. 19. – The queen arrived with her two vessels in Leith Roads, at seven in the morning of a dull autumn day. She was accompanied by her three uncles of the House of Guise – the Duc d’Aumale, the Grand Prior, and the Marquis d’Elbeuf; besides Monsieur d’Amville, son of the constable of France, her four gentlewomen, called the Maries, and many persons of inferior note. To pursue the narrative of one who looked on the scene with an evil eye: ‘The very face of heaven, the time of her arrival, did manifestly speak what comfort was brought unto this country with her – to wit, sorrow, dolour, darkness, and all impiety; for in the memory of man, that day of the year, was never seen a more dolorous face of the heaven, than was at her arrival, which two days after did so continue; for beside the surface weet and corruption of the air, the mist was so thick and so dark, that scarce might any man espy ane other the length of twa butts. The sun was not seen to shine two days before nor two days after. The forewarning gave God unto us; but, alas, the most part were blind.’ – Knox.
The magistrates of Edinburgh, although all of them zealous for the reformed religion, resolved to give their young sovereign a gallant reception, taxing the community for the expenses. It was likewise thought good that, ‘for the honour and pleasure of our sovereign, ane banquet sould be made upon Sunday next, to the princes, our said sovereign’s kinsmen.’ The Sunday banquet to the queen’s uncles duly took place in the cardinal’s lodging in Blackfriars’ Wynd. The entire expenses on the occasion of this royal reception were 4000 merks (above £220 sterling).
Oct. 2. – Before the queen had been settled for many weeks in her capital, the new-born zeal of the people against the old religion found vent in a way that showed in how little danger she was of being spoilt by complaisance on the part of her subjects. The provost of Edinburgh, Archibald Douglas, with the bailies and council, ‘causit ane proclamation to be proclaimit at the Cross of Edinburgh, commanding and charging all and sundry monks, friars, priests, and all others papists and profane persons, to pass furth of Edinburgh within twenty-four hours, under the pain of burning of disobeyers upon the cheek and harling of them through the town upon ane cart. At the whilk proclamation, the queen’s grace was very commovit.’ – D. O. She had, after all, sufficient influence to cause the provost and bailies to be degraded from their offices for this act of zeal.
The autumn of this year, the weather was ‘richt guid and fair.’ In the winter quarter, the weather was still fair, and there was ‘peace and rest in all Scotland.’ – C. F.
Dec. 16. – William Guild was convicted, notwithstanding his being a minor and of weak mind, of ‘the thieftous stealing and taking forth of the purse of Elizabeth Danielstone, the spouse of Niel Laing, of ane signet of gold, ane other signet of gold set with ane cornelian, ane gold ring set with ane great sapphire, ane other gold ring with ane sapphire formit like ane heart, ane gold ring set with ane turquois, ane small double gold ring set with ane diamond and ane ruby, ane auld angel-noble, and ane cusset ducat.’ – Pit. This account of the contents of Mrs Laing’s purse raises unexpected ideas as to the means and taste of the middle classes in 1561.
While Scotland was noted in the eyes of foreigners as a barren land – Shakspeare comparing it for nakedness to the palm of the hand – its own people were fain to believe and eager to boast that it was rich in minerals. In 1511, 1512, and 1513, James IV. had gold-mines worked on Crawford Muir, in the upper ward of Lanarkshire – a peculiarly sterile tract, scarcely any part of which is less than a thousand feet above the sea. In the royal accounts for those years, there are payments to Sir James Pettigrew, who seems to have been chief of the enterprise, to Simon Northberge, the master-finer, Andrew Ireland, the finer, and Gerald Essemer, a Dutchman, the melter of the mine. Under the same king, in 1512, a lead-mine was wrought at Wanlockhead, on the other side of the same group of hills in Dumfriesshire. The operations, probably interrupted by the disaster of Flodden, were resumed in 1526, under James V., who gave a company of Germans a grant of the mines of Scotland for forty-three years. Leslie tells us that these Germans, with the characteristic perseverence of their countrymen, toiled laboriously at gold-digging for many months in the surface alluvia of the moor, and obtained a considerable amount of gold; but not enough, we suspect, to remunerate the labour, otherwise the work would surely have been continued.
We shall find that the search for the precious metals in the mountainous district at the head of the vales of the Clyde and Nith, did not now fully cease, but that it never proved remunerative work. On the other hand, the lead-mines of the district have for centuries, and down to the present day, borne a conspicuous place in the economy of Scotland.
Jan. 23. – John Acheson, master-cunyer, and John Aslowan, burgess of Edinburgh, now completed an arrangement with Queen Mary, by virtue of which they had license to work the lead-mines of Glengoner and Wanlockhead, and carry as much as twenty thousand stone-weight of the ore to Flanders, or other foreign countries, for which they bound themselves to deliver at the Queen’s cunyie-house before the 1st of August next, forty-five ounces of fine silver for every thousand stone-weight of the ore, ‘Extending in the hale to nine hundred unces of utter fine silver.’
Acheson and Aslowan were continuing to work these mines in August 1565, when the queen and her husband, King Henry, granted a license to John, Earl of Athole, ‘to win forty thousand trone stane wecht, counting six score stanes for ilk hundred, of lead ore, and mair, gif the same may guidly be won, within the nether lead hole of Glengoner and Wanlock.’ The earl agreed to pay to their majesties in requital fifty ounces of fine silver for every thousand stone-weight of the ore. – P. C. R.
How the enterprise of Acheson and Aslowan ultimately succeeded does not appear. We suspect that, to some extent, it prospered, as the name Sloane, which seems the same as Aslowan, continued to flourish at Wanlockhead so late as the days of Burns.
Feb. – There was ‘meikle snaw in all parts; mony deer and roes slain.’ – C. F.
Apr. – The queen was at St Andrews, inquiring into a conspiracy of which the Duke of Chatelherault and the Earl of Bothwell had been accused by the Duke’s son, the Earl of Arran. In the midst of the affair, Arran proved to be ‘phrenetick.’ On the 4th of May, ‘my Lords Arran, Bothwell, and the commendator of Kilwinning came fra St Andrews to the burgh of Edinburgh in this manner – that is to say, my Lord Arran was convoyit in the queen’s grace’s coach, because of the phrenesy aforesaid, and the Earl of Bothwell and my Lord Commendator of Kilwinning rade, convoyit with twenty-four horsemen, whereof was principal Captain Stewart, captain of the queen’s guard.’ – D. O.
This is not the first notice of a travelling vehicle that occurs in our national domestic history. Several payments in connection with a chariot belonging to the late Queen Mary de Guise, so early as 1538, occur in the lord-treasurer’s books. It is not, however, likely that either the chariot of the one queen or the coach of the other was a wheeled vehicle, as, if we may trust to an authority about to be quoted, such a convenience was as yet unknown even in England.
‘In the year 1564, Guilliam Boonen, a Dutchman, became the queen’s coachman, and was the first that brought the use of coaches into England. And after a while, divers great ladies, with as great jealousy of the queen’s displeasure, made them coaches, and rid in them up and down the countries, to the great admiration of all the beholders; but then, by little and little, they grew usual among the nobility and others of sort, and within twenty years became a great trade of coach-making.
‘And about that time began long waggons to come in use, such as now come to London from Canterbury, Norwich, Ipswich, Gloucester, &c., with passengers and commodities. Lastly, even at this time (1605) began the ordinary use of carouches.’ – Howes’s Chronicle.
The author of the Memorie of the Somervilles – who, however, lived in the reign of Charles II., and probably wrote from tradition only – says that the Regent Morton used a coach, which was the second introduced into Scotland, the first being one which Alexander, Lord Seton, brought from France, when Queen Mary returned from that country. It is to be remarked that the Lord Seton of that day was George, not Alexander; and it is evident that Mary did not use a coach on her landing, or at her ceremonial entry into Edinburgh.
To turn for a moment to one of the remoter and wilder parts of the country. John Mackenzie of Kintail ‘was a great courtier with Queen Mary. He feued much of the lands of Brae Ross. When the queen sent her servants to know the condition of the gentry of Ross they came to his house of Killin; but before their coming he had gotten intelligence that it was to find out the condition of the gentry of Ross that they were coming; whilk made him cause his servants to put ane great fire of fresh arn [alder] wood when they came, to make a great reek; also he caused kill a great bull in their presence; whilk was put altogether into ane kettle to their supper. When the supper came, there were a half-dozen great dogs present, to sup the broth of the bull, whilk put all the house through-other with their tulyie. When they ended the supper, ilk ane lay where they were. The gentleman thought they had gotten purgatory on earth, and came away as soon as it was day; but when they came to the houses of Balnagowan, and Foulis, and Milton, they were feasted like princes.
‘When they went back to the queen, she asked who were the ablest men they saw in Ross. They answered: “They were all able men, except that man that was her majesty’s great courtier, Mackenzie – that he did both eat and lie with his dogs.” “Truly,” said the queen, “it were a pity of his poverty – he is the best man of them all.” Then the queen did call for all the gentry of Ross to take their land in feu, when Mackenzie got the cheap feu, and more for his thousand merks than any of the rest got for five.’ – MS. History of the Family of Mackenzie.
Sep. 28. – This day commenced a famous disputation between John Knox and Quintin Kennedy, abbot of Crossraguel, concerning the doctrines of popery. After a tedious correspondence between the two regarding the place, time, and number to be present, they met in the house of the provost of the collegiate church of Maybole, under the sanction of the Earl of Cassilis, and with forty persons on each side. The conference commenced at eight in the morning, being opened by John Knox with a prayer, which Kennedy admitted to be ‘weel said.’ It will scarcely be believed that three days were consumed by these redoubted controversialists in debating one question; and, for anything we can see, the disputation might have been still further protracted, but for an opportune circumstance. Strange to say – looking at what Maybole now is – it broke down under the burden of eighty strangers in three days! They had to disperse for lack of provisions.
Nov. – There raged at this time in Edinburgh a disease called the New Acquaintance. The queen and most of her courtiers had it; it spared neither lord nor lady, French nor English. ‘It is a pain in their heads that have it, and a soreness in their stomachs, with a great cough; it remaineth with some longer, with others shorter time, as it findeth apt bodies for the nature of the disease.’ Most probably, this disorder was the same as that now recognised as the influenza.
June 4. – In the parliament now sitting, some noticeable acts were passed. One decreed that ‘nae person carry forth of this realm ony gold or silver, under pain of escheating of the same and of all the remainder of their moveable guids;’ merchants going abroad to carry only as much as they strictly require for their travelling expenses. Another enacted, that ‘nae person take upon hand to use ony manner of witchcrafts, sorcery, or necromancy, nor give themselves furth to have ony sic craft or knowledge thereof, there-through abusing the people;’ also, that ‘nae person seek ony help, response, or consultation at ony sic users or abusers of witchcrafts… under the pain of death.’ This is the statute under which all the subsequent witch-trials took place.**
A third statute, reciting that much coal is now carried forth of the realm, often ass mere ballast for ships, causing ‘a maist exorbitant dearth and scantiness of fuel,’ forbade further exportations of the article, under strong penalties. In those early days, coal was only dug in places where it cropped out or could be got with little trouble. As yet, no special mechanical arrangements for excavating it had come into use. The comparatively small quantity of the mineral used in Edinburgh – for there peat was the reigning fuel – was brought from Tranent, nine miles off, in creels on horses’ backs. The above enactment probably referred to some partial and temporary failure of the small supply then required. It never occurred to our simple ancestors, that to export a native produce, such as coal, and get money in return, was tending to enrich the country, and in all circumstances deserved encouragement instead of prohibition.***
July. – At this time there were not wanting pretenders to the surgical art. Robert Henderson attracted the favourable notice of the town-council of Edinburgh by performing sundry wonderful cures – namely, healing a man whose hands had been cut off, a an and woman who had been run through the body with swords by the French, and a woman understood to have been suffocated, and who had lain for two days in her grave. The council ordered Robert twenty merks as a reward. – Edin. Council Register.
Sep. 13. — Two gentlemen became sureties in Edinburgh for Marion Carruthers, co-heiress of Mousewald, in Dumfriesshire, ‘that she shall not marry ane chief traitor nor other broken man of the country,’ under pain of £1000 – a large sum to stake upon a young lady’s will.
This was a year of dearth throughout Scotland; wheat being six pounds the boll, oats fifty shillings, a draught-ox twenty merks, and a wedder thirty shillings. ‘All things apperteining to the sustentation of man in triple and more exceeded their accustomed prices.’ Knox, who notes these facts, remarks that the famine was most severe in the north, where the queen had travelled in the preceding autumn: many died there. ‘So did God, according to the threatening of his law, punish the idolatry of our wicked queen, and our ingratitude, that suffered her to defile the land with that abomination again [the mass]… The riotous feasting used in court and country wherever that wicked woman repaired, provoked God to strike the staff of breid, and to give his malediction upon the fruits of the earth.’
It was of the frame of the Reformer’s ideas, that a judgment would be sent upon the poor for errors of their ruler, and that this judgment would be intensified in a particular district merely because the ruler had given it her personal presence. He failed to observe, or threw aside, the fact that the same famine prevailed in England, where a queen entirely agreeable to him and his friends was now reigning, and certainly indulging in not a few banquetings.
Jan. 20. – ‘God from heaven, and upon the face of the earth, gave declaration that he was offended at the iniquity that was committed within this realm; for, upon the 20th day of January, there fell weet in great abundance, whilk in the falling freezit so vehemently, that the earth was but ane sheet of ice. The fowls both great and small freezit, and micht not flie: mony died, and some were taken and laid beside the fire, that their feathers might resolve. And in that same month, the sea stood still, as was clearly observed, and neither ebbed nor flowed the space of twenty-four hours.’ – Knox.
In the ensuing month meteorological signs even more alarming to the great Reformer took place. There were seen in the firmament (Feb. 15 and 18), says he, ‘battles arrayit, spears and other weapons, and as it had been the joining of two armies. Thir things were not only observed, but also spoken and constantly affirmed by men of judgment and credit.’ Nevertheless, he adds, ‘the queen and our court made merry.’
The Reformer considered these appearances as declarations of divine wrath against the iniquity of the land. Most probably they were resolvable into a simple example of the aurora borealis.****
The crimes of unruly passion and of superstition predominated in this age; but those of dexterous selfishness were not unknown.
Feb. – Thomas Peebles, goldsmith in Edinburgh, was convicted of forging coin-stamps and uttering false coin – namely, Testons, Half-testons, Non-sunts, and Lions or Hardheads. It appeared that he had given some of his false hardheads to a poor woman as the price of a burden of coal. With this money she came to the market to buy some necessary articles, and was instantly challenged for passing false coin. ‘The said Thomas being named by her to be her warrant, and deliverer of the said false coin to her, David Symmer and other bailies of the burgh of Edinburgh come with her to the said Thomas’s chalmer, to search him for trial of the verity. He held the door of his said chalmer close upon him, and wald not suffer them to enter, while [till] they brake up the door thereof upon him, and entered perforce therein; and the said Thomas being inquired if he had given the said poor woman the said lions, for the price of her coals, confessit the same; and his chalmer being searched, there was divers of the said irons, as well sunken and unsunken, together with the said false testons, &c., funden in the same, and confessit to be made and graven by him and his colleagues.’ Thomas was condemned to be hanged, and to have his property escheat to the queen. – Pit.
March. – John Knox, at the age of fifty-eight, entered into the state of wedlock for the second time, by marrying Margaret Stewart, daughter of Lord Ochiltree. She proved a good wife to the old man, and survived him. The circumstance of a young woman of rank, with royal blood in her veins – for such was the case – accepting an elderly husband so far below her degree, did not fail to excite remark; and John’s papist enemies could not account for it otherwise than by a supposition of the black art having been employed. the affair is thus adverted to by the Reformer’s shameless enemy, Nicol Burne: ‘A little after he did pursue to have alliance with the honourable house of Ochiltree, of the king’s majesty’s awn bluid. Riding there with ane great court [cortège], on ane trim gelding, nocht like ane prophet or ane auld decrepit priest, as he was, but like as he had been ane of the bluid royal, with his bands of taffeta fastenit with golden rings and precious stanes: and, as is plainly reportit in the country, by sorcery and witchcraft, [he] did sae allure that puir gentlewoman, that she could not live without him; whilk appears to be of great probability, she being ane damsel of noble bluid, and he ane auld decrepit creature of maist base degree, sae that sic ane noble house could not have degenerate sae far, except John Knox had interposed the power of his master the devil, wha, as he transfigures himself sometimes as ane angel of licht, sae he causit John Knox to appear ane of the maist noble and lusty men that could be found in the warld.’
Aug. -At the beginning of this month, Queen Mary paid a visit of pleasure to the Highlands of Perthshire, where the Earl of Athole was her entertainer. It is understood that Glen Tilt was the scene of a grand hunt, in the characteristic style of the country, at which the queen was present, and of which an account has been preserved to us by a scholarly personage who was in the royal train. ‘In the year 1563,’ says he (mistaking the year), ‘the Earl of Athole, a prince of the blood-royal, had, with much trouble and vast expense, a hunting-match for the entertainment of our most illustrious and most gracious queen. Our people call this a royal hunting. I was then,’ says William Barclay, ‘a young man, and was present on the occasion. Two thousand Highlanders, of wild Scotch, as you call them here, were employed to drive to the hunting-ground all the deer from the woods and hills of Athole, Badenoch, Mar, Murray, and the counties about. As these Highlanders use a light dress, and are very swift of foot, they went up and down so nimbly that in less than two months’ time they brought together 2000 red deer, besides roes and fallow-deer. The queen, the great men, and others, were in a glen when all the deer were brought before them. The sight delighted the queen very much. there were killed that day 360 deer, with five wolves and some roes.’
The queen, in the course of her excursion, is believed to have taken an interest in the
This summer there was ‘guid cheap of victuals in all parts. The year afore, the boll of meal gave five merk, and this summer it was 18s. There ye may see the grace of God.’ – C. F.
Jan. – The queen making progress in Fife cause so much banqueting as to produce a scarcity of wild-fowl: ‘partridges were sold for a crown a-piece.’ – Knox.
Apr. 1. – The communion was administered in Edinburgh, and as it was near Easter, the few remaining clergy were on the alert, and seized the priest, Sir James Carvet, as he was coming from the house where he had officiated. Knox tells us with what an absurd degree of leniency the offender was treated. They ‘conveyed him,’ says he, ‘together with the master of the house, and one or two more of the assistants, to the Tolbooth, and immediately revested him with all his garments upon him, and so carried him to the Market Cross, where they set him on high, binding the chalice in his hand, and himself tied fast to the said Cross, where he tarried the space of one hour; during which time the boys served him with his Easter eggs.
‘The next day, Carvet with his assistants were accused and convinced by an assize, according to the act of parliament; and, albeit for the same offence he deserved death, yet, for all punishment, he was set upon the Market Cross for the space of three or four hours, the hangman standing by and keeping him, [while] the boys and others were busy with egg-casting.’
The queen sent an angry letter to the magistrates about this business; from which ‘may be perceived how grievously the queen’s majesty would have been offended if the mess-monger had been handled according to his demerit’ – that is, hanged. – Knox.
Apr. – A discovery of antique remains was made at Inveresk, near Musselburgh, revealing the long-forgotten fact of the Romans once having had a settlement on that fine spot. Randolph, the English resident at Mary’s court, communicated some account of the discovery to the Earl of Bedford. ‘April 7, For certain there is found a cave beside Musselburgh, standing upon a number of pillars, made of tile-stones curiously wrought, signifying great antiquity, and strange monuments found in the same. This cometh to my knowledge, besides the common report, by th’ assurance of Alexander Clerk, who was there to see it, which I will myself do within three or four days, and write unto your lordship the more certainty thereof, for I will leave nothing of it unseen.’ ‘April 18, The cave found beside Musselburgh seemeth to be some monument of the Romans, by a stone which was found, with these words graven upon him, APPOLLONI GRANNO Q. L. SABINIANUS PROC. AUG. Divers short pillars set upright upon the ground, covered with tile-stones, large and thick, torning into divers angles, and certain places like unto chynes [chimneys] to avoid smoke. This is all I can gather thereof.’
The reader will be amused at the difficulty which Randolph seems to have felt in visiting a spot not more than six miles from Edinburgh. he will, however, be equally gratified to know that the queen herself became interested in the preservation of the remains found on this occasion. Her treasurer’s accounts contain an entry of twelvepence, paid to ‘ane boy passand of Edinburgh, with ane charge of the queen’s grace, direct to the bailies of Musselburgh, charging them to tak diligent heed and attendance that the monument of grit antiquity, new fundin, be nocht demolishit nor broken down.’
The monument here spoken of was, in reality, an altar dedicated to Apollo Grannicus, the Long-haired Apollo, by Sabinianus, proconsul of Augustus; while the cave with pillars was the hypocaust or heating-chamber of a bath, connected with a villa, of which further remains were discovered in January 1783. The spot where the antiquities were discovered in 1565 is occupied by the lawn in front of Inveresk House.