JAMES, Duke of York, succeeded his brother in the three kingdoms (February 6, 1685) at a mature period of life, being fifty-three years of age. While reckoning as James II. in England and Ireland, he was the seventh of the name in Scotland. From the commencement of his reign, James took no pains to conceal his religion. Encouraged by the suppressed rebellions and the stillness which everywhere prevailed, he now thought he might safely commence a series of measures for restoring the Catholic faith in his dominions. When he found that the parliaments would not yield to him, he dissolved them, and, pretending that he had only asked their consent out of courtesy, assumed to himself the right of dispensing with the test.
The people of all orders turned their eyes to William, Prince of Orange, who had long taken a lead in opposing the arrogant continental policy of the French monarch, and whose court had for some years been a resort of British malcontents. Being invited by a great number of influential persons, of both sides in politics, including some of the clergy, he no longer hesitated to make preparations for an invasion. In October he set sail with an army of about sixteen thousand men, and on the 5th of November cast anchor in Tor Bay, in Devonshire, while the king’s fleet lay windbound at Harwich. James retired to London before the advancing army, and was immediately deserted by all his principal counsellors, and even by his younger daughter, the Princess Anne. Feeling no support around him, he first despatched the queen and her infant to France, and then prepared to follow. In the disguise of a servant, he escaped down the river to Faversham, but being there seized by the populace as a popish refugee, he was brought back to London. It was found, however, that the government could not be settled on a proper footing while he remained in the country; and he was therefore permitted once more to depart (December 23, 1688). He left the kingdom in the belief that the people could not do without him, and would call him back in triumph; but, in reality, nothing could have been more agreeable to them than his departure.
In Scotland, the Privy Council and Established Church were left by the departure of the king an isolated power in the midst of a people generally indisposed to give them support. There was an irrepressible popular eagerness to break out against such popish establishments as the king had set up – to attack and extrude the more obnoxious of the clergy, and to take some vengeance upon the more noted instruments of the late arbitrary power, as the Chancellor Perth and Graham of Claverhouse, whom James had lately created Viscount Dundee. The populace did lose no time in rising against the popishly furnished chapel-royal at Holyrood and a Catholic printing-office which had been placed in its neighbourhood; and after a struggle with the armed guards, both places were pillaged and ruined. In the other parts of Scotland, where prelacy had won some favour or been quietly endured, no particular movement took place. King William, however, finding that the Scottish bishops remained faithful to James, felt compelled to take the Presbyterians under his protection; consequently, the parliament proceeded to abolish prelacy in the church, and to establish Presbyterianism as it now exists.
Apr. 8. – The Duke of Queensberry, the Earl of Perth, and the Archbishop of St Andrews, arrived in Edinburgh from London, ‘having been only eight days by the way.’ – Foun.
This must have appeared rapid travelling in those days, for, twelve years later, the stage-coach from York to London spent the whole lawful days of a week upon its journey. This fact we learn from a passage in the diary of George Home of Kimmerghame, in Berwickshire, where the following statement is made: ‘Thursday, October 21 , Sir John Home of Blackadder set out post for London at two o’clock. It afterwards appears that he tired of posting [as slow], and [for expedition, doubtless] got into the stage-coach at York on Monday the 25th, and was expected to reach London in it on Saturday the 30th.’
Apr. 16. – The equestrian statue of Charles II., which had cost £1000, though only formed of lead, was set up in the Parliament Close, Edinburgh. ‘The vulgar people, who had never seen the like before, were much amazed at it. Some compared it to Nebuchadnezzar’s image, which all fell down and worshipped, and others foolishly to the pale horse in the Revelations, and he that sat thereon was Death.’ – Foun.
‘This winter, there happened three fires at Edinburgh, and all on the Sabbath-day, to signify God’s displeasure at the profanation of his day.’ And yet ‘there is no certain conclusion can be drawn from these providential accidents, for a few would draw just the contrary conclusion – that God was dissatisfied with our worshipping him on that day: so these providences may be variously interpreted.’ – Foun.
May. 1. – Being Sunday, a young woman of noted piety, Janet Fraser by name, the daughter of a weaver in the parish of Closeburn, Dumfriesshire, had gone out to the fields with a young female companion, and sat down to read the Bible not far from her father’s house. Feeling thirsty, she went to the river-side (the Nith) to get a drink, leaving her Bible open at the place there she had been reading, which presented the verses of the 34th chapter of Isaiah, beginning – ‘My sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment,’ &c. On returning, she found a patch of something like blood covering this very text. In great surprise, she carried the book home, where a young man tasted the substance with his tongue, and found it of a saltless or insipid flavour. On the two succeeding Sundays, while the same girl was reading her Bible in the open air, similar blotches of matter, like blood, fell upon the leaves. She did not perceive it in the act of falling till it was about an inch from the book. ‘It is not blood, for it is as tough as glue, and will not be scraped off by a knife, as blood will; but it is so like blood, as none can discern any difference by the colour.’
Jan. 19. – Copious periwigs, with curls flowing down to the shoulders, were now in vogue, both at home and abroad. There being an active exportation of hair for the foreign peruke-makers, the article was found to have become dear, and the native artists began to complain. On their petition, the Privy Council forbade the exporting of hair. – Foun.
It may give some idea of circumstances attending this fashion, that at a date not long subsequent to the period under our attention, a woman living in a town in the south of Scotland was accustomed to dispose of her crop of yellow hair to a travelling merchant at fixed intervals, and always got a guinea for it.
The girdle – a round iron plate used for baking oaten cakes over a fire – a household article once universal among the middle and humbler classes in Scotland – was invented and first made at the little burgh of Culross, in Fife. In 1599, King James gave the Culrossians an exclusive privilege to make girdles, and this had been confirmed by a gift from Charles II. in 1666. Nevertheless, a neighbouring gentleman, Preston of Valleyfield, had kept girdle-makers (craticularum fabros) on his barony, for which he was now challenged at law by the burghers of Culross. He defended himself on various grounds (July 22); and the Lords, before decision, ‘recommended to Drumcairn to take trial if the girdle-makers of Culross have any other trade or craft than that of making girdles, and at what prices they sell the same; and likewise to try if the men at Valleyfield do make sufficient girdles, and at what prices they make the same, and if they have any other trade than making of girdles, &c.’ How the matter ended we do not learn. – Foun. Dec.