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Regencies of Lennox and Mar, 1570-1572, pp.45-55.

THE death of the Regent Moray proved a great blow to the infant king’s party, for there was no man of equal mark and energy to take his place. The friends of the exiled queen raised their heads again, and in a force which might well give the ruling party some anxiety. Seeing the imminence of the danger, Elizabeth yielded to the wishes of Mary’s enemies,* and sent an army under the Earl of Sussex into Scotland in April. The sufferings thus occasioned in certain districts were dreadful, and the principal sufferers were the poor.

At the dictation of Elizabeth – for the Protestant lords in Scotland were wholly subservient to her – Matthew, Earl of Lennox, paternal grandfather of the young king, was elected Regent (July 17, 1570). The real ruling spirit was the Earl of Morton, who lost no time in proceeding against some friends of Queen Mary in the north. Taking the town of Brechin, which had been held for her, he caused thirty-one of the garrison to be mercilessly put to death.

Lennox being killed in a surprise at Stirling (September 3, 1571), the Earl of Mar was chosen to the vacant regency. Under him the was advanced with even increased ferocity, until it came to be a rule that no quarter should be given on either side. In little more than a twelvemonth, this gentle-natured noble sunk under the burden of government; ‘the maist cause of his deid was that he lovit peace, and could not have the same.’ – D. O. The Earl of Morton, the ablest man of the whole party since Moray, but merciless and greedy in the extreme, succeeded, with the full approbation of the Mistress of the Protestant party of Scotland.



May. – Lord Fleming being a conspicuous leader on the queen’s side, and captain of Dumbarton Castle, his lands in the counties of Lanark and Dumbarton were amongst those which fell under the vengeance of the ruling party. As one of the enormities perpetrated by the Earl of Lennox and his men on Lord Fleming’s estates – ‘they have slain and destroyit the deer of his forest of Cumbernauld, and the white kye and bulls of the said forest, to the great destruction of policy and hinder of the commonweal. For that kind of kye and bulls has been keepit this mony years in the said forest, and the like was not maintenit in ony other parts of the Isle of Albion, as is weel knawn.’ – Dalyell’s Illustrations of Scottish History.

The ‘white kye and bulls’ here spoken of are believed to have been a remnant of the original wild cattle of the Caledonian forest. Boece describes them as white, with lion-like manes, fierce, untamable, and shunning human society – so misanthropical, indeed, that they would eat nothing which the hand of man had touched. He, like the writer quoted above, says that none of them were left but only in Cumbernauld. Leslie, however, tells us that they also existed in the parks of Stirling and Kincardine. Latterly, there have been herds of the same oxen (but perhaps imported) in the Duke of Hamilton’s park of Cadzow, in Lanarkshire; in the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry’s, at Drumlanrig; and in Lord Tankerville’s park at Chillingham, in Northumberland.

July 4. – ‘… at 10 hours at night, there was ane earthquake in the city of Glasgow, and lastit but ane short space; but it causit the inhabitants of the said city to be in great terror and fear.’ – D. O.

‘In this time there was ane monstrous fish seen in Loch Fyne, having great een in the head thereof, and at some times wald stand aboon the water as high as the mast of a ship; and the said [creature] had upon thehead thereof [twa crowns, ane] aboon little, and the downmaist crown meikle; whilk was reportit by wise men, that the same was ane sign and taiken of ane sudden altercation within this realm.’ – D. O.

The low intelligence of the age is seen in nothing more conspicuously than in the numerous tales of animals alleged to have been seen, with peculiarities impossible in nature and believed to be ominous of pubic calamity.** The appearance of a similar animal in another of the Argyllshire lochs in 1510 is noted by Hector Boece, on the information of Duncan Campbell, a noble knight. This ‘terrible beast’ was ‘of the bigness of a greyhound, and footed like a gander. Issuing out of the water early in the morning about midsummer,’ he ‘did very easily and without any force or straining of himself, overthrow huge oaks with his tail, and therewith killed outright three men that hunted him with three strokes of his said tail, the rest of them saving themselves in trees thereabouts, whilst the aforesaid monster returned to the water. Those that are given to the observation of rare and uncouth sights, believe that this beast is never seen but against some great trouble and mischief to come upon the realm of Scotland.’

In Holinshed’s Chronicle (1577), the Firth of Forth is said occasionally to contain ‘sundry fishes of a monstrous shape, with cowls hanging over their heads like unto monks, and in the rest resembling the body of man. They show themselves above the water to the navel, howbeit they never appear but against some great pestilence of men or murrain of cattle; wherefore their only sight doth breed great terror to the Scottish nation, who are very great observers of uncouth signs and tokens.’

On the whole, it is most likely that some species of the Cetacea or Phocidæ was concerned in giving rise to these tales of sea-monsters.

Sir William Sinclair of Roslin, who was living at this time, thus notes the appearance of an extraordinary animal in the year 1500: ‘Hutcheon Frizell in Glenconie, the best and maist in estimation of the Lord Lovat’s kin, he and ane servand with him, being at the hunting on ane hie land amang very rank heather, twa arrow-draught frae him he heard like the call of ane ratch approaching near and near, while [till] at the last he saw it, and shot at it ane dead straik with ane arrow; where it lap and welterit up and down ane spear length of breadth and length The heather and bent being mair nor ane foot of height, it being in the deid-thraw, brint all to the eird [earth], as it had been muirburn. It was mair nor twa eln of length, as great as the coist of ane man, without feet, having ane mickle fin on ilk side, with ane tail and ane terrible head. His great deer-dogs wald not come near it. It had great speed. They callit it ane dragon.’

He commemorates a sea-animal not less wonderful, which was thrown upon the coast of Northumberland in 1544. ‘At the seaside at Bamburgh, there was nae kind of fish ta’en by the space of twa year; but the sea made ane great routing and horrible noise, which was by [beside] custom and use. So it chancit, at the hie spring [tide], that ane terrible beast was casten in dead, of the quantity [bulk] of ane man. Nae man could devise ane thing mair terrible, with horns on the head of it, red een, with misshapen face, with lucken [webbed] hands and feet, and ane great rumple hinging to the eird. It consumit and stinkit sae, that in short time nae man nor beast might come near it; but all the country about saw it before, and sundry took great fear and dreadour for the sicht of it a lang space after. It was callit a Sea-devil. Witness the Laird of Mow.’

‘The summer right guid, and all victuals guid cheap; the August right fair and guid weather.’ – C. F.

Sep. 1. – An extraordinary act of Gilbert, Earl of Cassillis, sometimes called KING OF CARRICK, on account of the great power which he possessed in that district.

The revenues of the abbey of Crossraguel, in Carrick, had been bestowed upon Master Allan Stewart, who thus became Commendator of the abbey, or secular abbot. The earl had got a feu of the abbey from a predecessor of Stewart, but it never was confirmed. After some fruitless endeavours to obtain a confirmation from Stewart, the earl inveigled him to the castle of Dunure, a strong fortalice situated on a rocky part of the coast overlooking the Atlantic.

Here the Commendator was honourably entertained – ‘gif a prisoner can think ony entertainment pleasing. But after that certain days were spent, and that the earl could not obtain the feus of Crossraguel according to his own appetite, he determined to prove gif a collation could work that which neither dinner nor supper could do of a long time. And so the said Master was carried to a secret chalmer. With him passit the honourable earl, his worshipful brother, and sic as was appointed to be servants at the banquet. In the chalmer there was a great iron chimney, under it a fire; other great provision was not seen.’ The earl then laid before Stewart certain letters, which he wished him to subscribe. This the captive refused to do, declaring that he was not there by his own free will. The earl, seeing that he ‘could not come to his purpose by fair means, commandit his cooks to prepare the banquet. And so first they flayit the sheep, that is, they took off the abbot’s claithes, even to his skin; and next they band him to the chimney, his legs to the one end and his arms to the other; and so they began to beet the fire, sometimes to his buttocks, sometimes to his legs, sometimes to his shoulders and arms. And that the roast should not burn, but that it might roast in sop, they spared not flamming with oil. (Lord, look thou to sic cruelty!) And, that the crying of the miserable man sould not be heard, they closed his mouth… In that torment they held the poor man, while that ofttimes he cried “for God’s sake to despatch him; he had as meikle gold in his awn purse as wald buy powder eneugh to shorten his pain.”

‘The famous King of Carrick and his cooks, perceiving the roast to be eneugh, commandit it to be tane from the fire, and the earl himself began the grace in this manner: “Benedicite, Jesus, Maria! you are the most obstinate man that ever I saw! Gif I had known that ye had been so stubborn, I wold not for a thousand crowns handled you so. I never did so to man, before you.” ‘ – Ban.

Stewart’s own account, in the complaint which he afterwards rendered to the Privy Council, is different, in as far as it describes him as yielding to the earl’s desire, in order to save his life and free himself from the pain he was suffering. He was afterwards relieved from Dunure by the Laird of Bargeny, an enemy of Cassillis. The government, however, was too weak and in too much trouble to avenge his cause against the earl, who thenceforth continued to draw the revenues of Crossraguel. But ‘my lord gave the abbot some money to live upon, whilk contentit him all his days.’ – Hist. Ken.

Oct. 4. – John Kello, minister of Spott, in Haddingtonshire, was executed in Edinburgh for the murder of his wife. The confession of this wretched man shows that he was tempted to the horrible act by a desire to marry more advantageously, his circumstances being somewhat straitened. He deliberated on the design for forty days; tried poison, which failed; then accomplished it by strangulation. His confession admits the amiable character of the victim; nay, he tells that, ‘in the verie death, she could not believe I bure her onie evil will, but was glad, as she then said, to depart, gif her death could do me either vantage or pleasure.’ According to a contemporary recital, ‘he stranglit her in her awn chamber, and thereafter closit the ordinar door that was within the house for his awn passage, and sae finely seemit to colour that purpose after he had done it, that immediately he passed to the kirk, and in the presence of the people made sermon as if he had done nae sic thing. And when he was returnit hame, he brought some neighbours into his house to vissie his wife, and callit at the ordinar door, but nae answer was made. Then he passed to another back passage with the neighbours, and that was fund open, and she hinging stranglit at the roof of the house. Then, with admiration, he cryit, as though he had knawn naething of the purpose, and they for pity in like manner cryit out. But, in [the] end, finding himself prickit with the judgments of God, of the grievous punishment wherewith transgressors have been plagued in time bygane, he thought gude to communicate his fact to ane of his brether in office, wha then was schoolmaster at Dunbar.’ – H. K. J.

Oct. – In those days, while as yet there were not only no newspapers, but no ready means of conveying letters, true intelligence made its way slowly, and the most ridiculous rumours obtained circulation. For example, on John Knox being at this time struck with apoplexy, ‘a bruit [report] went through Scotland and England that he was become the most deformed creature that ever was seen; that his face was turned awry to his neck; and that he would never preach or speak again.’ In the ensuing year, while the venerable Reformer lived at St Andrews, it was rumoured, and very generally believed as a serious truth, that he had been banished from the town, ‘because in his yard he had raised some sancts, among whom came up the devil with horns; which, when his servant, Richard Bannatyne, saw, he ran wŭd [mad], and so died.’

‘This year, in the month of July, Mr John Davidson, ane of our regents [that is, college professors], made a play at the marriage of Mr John Colvin, whilk I saw playit in Mr Knox’s presence, wherein, according to Mr Knox’s doctrine, the castle of Edinburgh was besieged, taken, and the captain, with ane or twa with him, hangit in effigy.’ – Ja. Mel.

This dramatic performance represented an unfulfilled prophecy of the Reformer. When Kirkaldy of Grance, after many years of zealous service in the reforming cause, declared for the Queen, and held out Edinburgh Castle against the Regent, Knox, who had loved him much, was deeply grieved. He felt, however, no doubt as to the ultimate triumph of his own cause against all such opposition, and it was perhaps no great venture for so acute a person to utter the prediction that, notwithstanding the trust which Kikaldy put in that powerful fortress, it should yet run like a sandglass; it should spew out the captain with shame; he should not come out at the gate, but over the walls. Mr Robert Hamilton, minister of St Andrews, asking his warrant for his vaticination, he said: ‘God is my warrant, and ye shall see it.’ ‘As the other was scarcely satisfied,’ says James Melville, ‘the next sermon from the pulpit, he repeats the threatenings, and adds thereto: “Thou that will not believe my warrant, shall see it with thy e’es that day, and shall say: ‘What have I to do here?’ ” This sermon the said Mr Robert’s servant wrote…’ – Ja. Mel.

This year ‘great weirs in the north land betwixt the Gordons and Forbeses, and the Forbeses put till the warst, and mony slain of them, and towns wasted and burnt.’ – C. F.

Adam Gordon, brother of the Earl of Huntly, was a leader in these broils, and of some avail in supporting the queen’s cause. He stained his name by a frightful act of cruelty. The house of Towie, belonging to Alexander Forbes, was maintained by his lady against Gordon. On his sending to demand its surrender, the brave dame answered that she could not give it up without direction from her husband. Gordon then set fire to it,and burnt the heroic woman, her children and servants – twenty-seven persons in all!

Aug. – ‘There was ane sow farried in William Davidson’s house, flesher in Edinburgh, of thirteen gryces [pigs], of the whilk there was ane a monster. It had the gruntle [snout] in the heich of the heid, and under that it had twa een, ane nose and mouth, ane brow, ane cheek, ane tongue, and lugs like to the similitude of man in all sorts; the remanent thereof was like ane other gryce without hair. This portendit some mischief to this burgh.’ – D. O.

Aug. 28. – The Regent Lennox held a parliament at Stirling, where he made an oration to the nobility. The king, five years old, was present, and, while his grandfather was speaking, he looked up and espied a hole in the roof, occasioned by ‘the lack of some sclates.’ At the conclusion of the harangue, the child remarked: ‘I think there is ane hole in this parliament.’

‘In effect, his majesty’s words came true; for the same month, about the end of the parliament (September 3), there came to Striviling in the night, ere the nobility or town knew, the Earl of Huntly, the queen’s lieutenant, Claud Hamilton, with the Lairds of Buccleuch and Ferniehirst, who, ere day brake, had possessed themselves of the town, crying “God and the Queen!” so that those that were for the King and his Regent could not, for the multitude of enemies, come to a head. Wherever they could see any that belonged to the Regent, him they killed without mercy. The Regent being taken prisoner by the Laird of Buccleuch, and horsed behind him, ane wicked fellow lift up his jack and shot him through the body with a pistol… [On a counter-surprise, the queen’s party] departed the town immediately. The Earl of Mar was declared Regent, and concluded the parliament. This was the hole which the young king did see in the parliament, although he meant nothing less.’ – Bal.

Dec. 24. – About this time, there was apprehended ‘one that keepit ane hostelry at Brechin, who before, at divers times, had murdered sundry that came to lodge with him, the wife being also as busy as the man, with a mell [mallet], to fell their guests sleeping in their beds.’ – Ban.


Mar. – The condition of the ordinary places of worship in this time of civil war is sketched in the Lamentation of Lady Scotland, printed by Lekprevik in 1572:1

‘The rooms appointit people to consider,
 To head God’s word, where they suld pray together,
 Are now convertit in sheep-cots and faulds,
 Or else are fallen, because nane them uphalds.
 The parish kirks, I ween, they sae misguide,
 That nane for wind and rain therein may bide:
 Therefore nae pleasure tak they of the temple,
 Nor yet to come where nocht is to contemple,
 But craws and dows, cryand and makand beir,
 That nane throuchly the minister may hear.
 But feathers, filth, and dung does lie abroad,
 Where folk should sit to hear the word of God;
 Whilk is occasion to the adversaries,
 To mock and scorn sic things before your eyes.
 Thus to disdain the house of orison,
 Does mak folk cauld to their devotion;
 And als they do disdain to hear God’s word,
 Thinking the same to be ane jesting bourd;
 They go to labour, drinking, or to play,
 And not to you,¹ upon the Sabbath day.’

The civil war told nowhere with more severity than on Edinburgh, which was the scene of the principal transactions. The bringing of victuals or coal to the city was forbidden by the beleaguering troops under pain of death, and the penalty was exacted in many instances. The consequence was ‘great penury and scant of vivres, sae that all was at ane exceeding dearth.’ – D. O. In May, oatmeal was nine shillings of the native money per peck; eleven ounces of wheaten bread cost 8d., ‘and baps of nine [ounces] for 12d.’ It was found necessary to demolish some houses for the sake of the wood, to be used as fuel. At the commencement of a truce on the 22d of July, the meal had risen to twelve shillings, the boll of wheat to ten pounds, and a carcass of beef to sixteen pounds. On that day, ‘after noon, the victuals whilk was keepit to ane dearth was brought to Leith and sauld, the meal for five shillings the peck,… and [sae] very mickle bread baken, that it that was sauld for sixteen pennies was sauld for six pennies. Thanks to God.’ During the scarcity, ale not being to be had, a drink of vinegar and water was substituted. – D. O.

Apr. 16. – From the day here noted to the 8th of June, the war between the queen’s party in Edinburgh and the king’s beyond the city was conducted on the principle of No quarter. All who were taken on either side were presently put to death. The common belief was, that this frightful system originated with Morton, who conceived that by such severity the war would sooner cease. In the end, both parties, ‘wearied of execution daily made, were content to cease from such rigour, and use fair wars, as in former times.’ – Spot.

In the same year, Mr Andrew Douglas, minister of Dunglass, was first tortured, and then hanged, for publicly rebuking Morton on account of his living with the widow of Captain Cullen.

Oct. 20 – ‘The Earl of Mar, regent, ended his life about three hours in the morning. It was constantly affirmed, that about the time of his death, the trough of the water of Montrose, where it runneth through his lands, was dry, the water running nevertheless above [higher up]. At the same time, a violent wind drave a great number of sheep from the links of Montrose into the sea.’ – Cal.

Some events of the kind did certainly occur about the time of the Regent’s death; but, contrary to all rule in such matters, they came after that event, if we are to believe another historian, who places them under November, and describes them as follows: ‘In this mean time was ane great ferly in Montrose. By the space of six hours, the water thereof was dry in the sea, and during the whilk space the people past within the said sea, and got sundry fishes.’ – D. O.

1  The Lady Scotland is understood to address ‘the richt honorable and godly learnit gentleman, the Laird of Dun, minister of God’s word.’
*  Which wasn’t too surprising, after all she’d acted against Mary, and with her enemies, whenever possible from the get-go and I can’t believe she was against sending MORE troops into Scotland, though Chambers here seems as though he’s trying to make her sound reticent;
“It did not require the talents, and eloquence, of Secretary Maitland, to persuade Elizabeth, that she had an interest, in supporting the insurgents of Scotland. She assured them, by a messenger, that she would give them assistance, upon such conditions, as commissioners might easily adjust. The afflictive war, in Scotland, continued. These petty hostilities were not suspended, when Admiral Winter cast anchor before Leith, in January 1559-60. The English admiral was not instructed, to make direct war either on the French, or Scots governments: But, to pretend, that he searched for pirates, and at the same time, to harass both, by every vexatious proceeding, without avowing his orders. Such were the artifices of Elizabeth, and Cecil. Elizabeth disavowed any design of a direct attack on Scotland, either by sea, or land; while she supplied the insurgents with money, and protected them, by her fleet. Norfolk came to Berwick, as her lieutenant, on the borders; to watch over the affairs of Scotland; and to countenance the insurgents.” – During her Residence in France.
**  I wonder what he’d make of the persistence of the Nessie myth.
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