21st of July

St Praxedes, virgin, 2d century. St Zoticus, bishop and martyr, about 204. St Victor of Marseilles, martyr, beginning of 4th century. St Barhadbeschiabas, deacon and martyr, 354. St Arbogastus, bishop of Strasburg, confessor, about 678.

Died. – Darius III., king of Persia, murdered by Bessus, 330 B.C.; Pope Nicholas II., 1061; Daniel Sennertus, learned physician, 1637, Wittemberg; Robert Burns, national poet of Scotland, 1796, Dumfries.


‘On the 21st [July, 1796] died, at Dumfries, after a lingering illness, the celebrated Robert Burns. His poetical compositions, distinguished equally by the force of native humour, by the warmth and tenderness of passion, and by the glowing touches of a descriptive pencil, will remain a lasting monument of the vigour and the versatility of a mind guided only by the lights of nature and the inspiration of genius. The public, to whose amusement he has so largely contributed, will learn with regret that his extraordinary endowments were accompanied with frailties which rendered him useless to himself and family. The last months of his short life were spent in sickness and indigence, and his widow, with five infant children, and the hourly expectation of a sixth, is now left without any resource but what she may hope from the regard due to the memory of her husband. 


‘A subscription for the widow and children of poor Burns is immediately to be set on foot, and there is little doubt of its being an ample one. 

‘Actuated by the regard which is due to the shade of such a genius, his remains were interred on Monday last, the 25th July, with military honours and every suitable respect. The corpse having been previously conveyed to the town-hall of Dumfries, remained there till the following ceremony took place: The military there, consisting of the Cinque Port Cavalry, and the Angusshire Fencibles, having handsomely tendered their services, lined the streets on both sides to the burial-ground. The Royal Dumfries Volunteers, of which he was a member – in uniform, with crape on their left arms, supported the bier; a party of that corps, appointed to perform the military obsequies, moving in a slow, solemn time to the “Dead March in Saul,” which was played by the military band – preceded in mournful array with arms reversed. The principal part of the inhabitants and neighbourhood, with a number of particular friends of the bard, from remote parts, followed in procession; the great bells of the churches tolling at intervals. Arrived at the churchyard gate, the funeral-party, according to the rules of that exercise, formed two lines, and leaned their heads on their firelocks, pointed to the ground. Through this space the corpse was carried. The party drew up alongside the grave, and, after the interment, fired three volleys over it. The whole ceremony presented a solemn, grand, and affecting spectacle, and accorded with the general regret for the loss of a man whose like we shall scarce see again.’ 

‘Consigned to earth, here rests the lifeless clay, 
     Which once a vital spark from Heaven inspired; 
 The lamp of genius shone full bright as day, 
     Then left the world to mourn its light retired. 
 While beams that splendid orb which lights the 
     spheres – 
 While mountain streams descend to swell the 
     main – 
 While changeful seasons mark the rolling years – 
     Thy fame, O Burns, let Scotia still retain!’

To these interesting notices may here be fitly appended, what, apart from intrinsic merit, may be considered the most remarkable production ever penned regarding Burns. It was at the centenary of his birth, January 25, 1859, that a great festival was held at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, in honour of the memory of the Scottish national poet. Many personal relics of the illustrious dead were shewn; there was a concert of his best songs. Then it was announced to the vast and highly-strung auditory, that the offered prize of fifty guineas had brought together 621 poems by different authors, in honour of Burn’s memory; out of which the three gentlemen judges had selected one as the best; and this was forthwith read by Mr Phelps, the eminent tragedian, with thrilling effect. It proved to be the composition of a young countrywoman of Burns, up to that time scarcely known, but who was in some respects not less wonderful, as an example of genius springing up in the lowly paths of life – her name, ISA CRAIG. There was an enthusiastic call for the youthful prize-holder, and had she been present, she would have received honours exceeding in fervour those at the laureation of Petrarch; but Miss Craig was then pursuing her modest duties in a distant part of London, unthinking of the proceedings at Sydenham. The poem was as follows:

The widow of Burns survived him a time equal to his own entire life – thirty-eight years – and died in the same room in which he had died, in their humble home in Dumfries, in March 1834. The celebrity he gave her as his ‘bonnie Jean,’ rendered her an object of much local interest; and it is pleasant to record, that her conduct throughout her long widowhood was marked by so much good sense, good principle, and general amiableness and worth, as to secure for her the entire esteem of society. One is naturally curious about the personality of a poet’s goddess; and much silent criticism had Mrs Burns accordingly to endure. A sense of being the subject of so much curiosity made her shrink from having any portraiture of herself taken; but one day she was induced, out of curiosity regarding silhouettes, to go to the studio of a wandering artist in that style, and sit to him. The result is here represented. The reader will probably have to regret the absence of regularity in the mould of the features; yet the writer can assure him that, even at the age of fifty-eight, Jean was a sightly and agreeable woman. It is understood that, in her youth, while decidedly comely, her greatest attractions were those of a handsome figure – a charm which came out strongly when engaged in her favourite amusement of dancing. 


On this Day in Other Sources.

The Scotish Queen, finally, departed, from Paris, on her return to her native kingdom, on the 21st of July 1561. While she remained in France, after the decease of Frances II, she was called la Reine blanche. She was accompanied to St. Germains, by the King, and Queen mother, the Duke of Anjou, and the King of Navarre.

– Life of Mary, pp.15-41.

In 1561 the Tolbooth figures in one of those tulzies or rows so common in the Edinburgh of those days; but in this particular instance we see a distinct foreshadowing of the Porteous mob of the eighteenth century, by the magistrates forbidding a “Robin Hood.” This was the darling May game of Scotland as well as England, and, under the pretence of frolic, gave an unusual degree of licence; but the Scottish Calvinistic clergy, with John Knox at their head, and backed by the authority of the magistrates of Edinburgh, who had of late been chosen exclusively from that party, found it impossible to control the rage of the populace when deprived of the privilege of having a Robin Hood, with the Abbot of Unreason and the Queen of the May. Thus it came to pass, that in May, 1561, when a man in Edinburgh was chosen as “Robin Hood and Lord of Inobedience,” most probably because he was a frolicsome, witty, and popular fellow, and passed through the city with a great number of followers, noisily, and armed, with a banner displayed, to the Castle Hill, thee magistrates caught one of his companions, “a cordiner’s servant,” named James Gillon, whom they condemned to be hanged on the 21st of July. 

– Old and New Edinburgh, pp.123-138.

For this offence [of taking part in May games] a cordiner’s servant, named James Gillon, was condemned to be hanged on the 21st of July [1561]

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 to the Cross, and dang down the gibbet, and brake it in pieces, and thereafter passed to the Tolbooth, whilk was then steekit [shut]; and when they could not apprehend the keys thereof, they brought fore-hammers and dang up the same Tolbooth door perforce, the provost, bailies, and others looking thereupon; and when the said door was broken up, ane part of them past in the same, and not allenarly [only] brought the same condemnit cordiner forth of the said Tolbooth, but also all the remanent persons being thereintill; and this done they past down the Hie Gait [High Street], to have past forth at the Nether Bow, whilk was then steekit, and because they could not get furth thereat, they past up the Hie Gait again; and in the meantime the provost, bailies, and their assisters being in the writing-booth of Alexander Guthrie, past to the Tolbooth; and in their passing up the said gait, they being in the Tolbooth, as said is, shot forth at the said servants ane dag, and hurt ane servant of the craftsmen’s. That being done, there was naething but tak and slay; that is, the ane part shooting forth and casting stanes, the other part shooting hagbuts in again; and sae the craftsmen’s servants held them [conducted themselves] continually fra three hours afternoon while [till] aucht at even, and never ane man of the town steirit to defend their provost and bailies.’ – D. O

– Domestic Annals, pp.13-29.

The general assembly of the church, which had been appointed to convene, at Edinburgh, on the 20th of July, met, on the 21st [1567]. The letters, which the assembly had written, and the commissions appointed by its direction, for bringing to Edinburgh the nobles, and barons, who were adverse, from the secret council, completely failed of their effect: The extraordinary state of things; the Queen a prisoner; the capital being held by certain lords, with an armed force; were assigned, as reasons, by some of the absent nobles, and others, for not coming to such a treacherous meeting, in Edinburgh. 


Yet, the zeal of the commissioners, who were appointed by the church assembly, brought out a considerable number of the smaller barons, and others, who joined the assembly, at Edinburgh, on the 21st of July. As the ministers had, zealously, lent themselves to the insurgent lords, they resolved, at the same time, to secure their own objects. In the former sitting, they presented a set of articles to those lords, and their adherents, who were then present in the assembly, and subscribed by them. 

– Life of Mary, pp.155-184.

Murray, Morton, and Maitland, suspected the validity of their own judgments, with regard to those supposititious epistles, when they introduced the Queen’s marriage with Bothwell, as a subsidiary proof. They do not, indeed, mention any of the circumstances, attending that marriage, whether it were affectionate, or forced. There is an act of the Privy Council, on the 21st of July 1567; stating, that Bothwell had arrested the Queen on the highway; had carried her forcibly to his castle of Dunbar; and had therein coerced her, till she consented to marry him. But, consent, and coercion, stand opposed to each other: If she was coerced, she did not consent; and if she did not consent, what proof was her marriage, with that ruffian of her knowledge, or privity, as to her husband’s murder? The answer must be, that such a marriage was no proof, that she was in any manner guilty. The parliament of December 1567, which attainted Bothwell of the murder of her husband, declared him guilty of treason, on three heads; (1) that he had arrested the Queen’s person on the road; (2) that he had carried her, forcibly, to his castle of Dunbar; and (3) that he had coerced her to agree to marry him; and on those three grounds the Parliament forfeited Bothwell: But, the Parliament, incidentally, freed the Queen of any guilt; because she could not be guilty, if those three facts were true. Such, then, were the two justifications, which Murray and his faction set up, for themselves; supposititious letters, which they did not produce, and a marriage, which they themselves enabled Bothwell to effect, by coercion, rather than consent: Yet, such justification did they resolve to brush through the subsequent Parliament; trusting that there would be no objections; and that their assertions would be received, as gospel. 

– Life of Mary, pp.184-206.

Throkmorton’s Letter to Elizabeth, from Paris, 21st July 1561.

It may please your Majesty to understand: Having intelligence, that Monsieur d’Oysell had advertised the Queen of Scotland, by Rollet her secretary, the 17th of this present, what answer your majesty had made him; and hearing also of the sundry praises and discourses made here, of that your majesty answered, I sent to Dampier (a house of the Cardinal of Lorrain’s) the 19th of this month, to the Queen of Scotland, to require audience of her, which she appointed me to have the next day, in the afternoon, at St. German’s.

The 20th of this present, in the afternoon, I had access to the said Queen of Scotland, with whom I found Monsieur d’Oysell talking when I entered into her chamber; she dismissed Monsieur d’Oysell, and rose from her chair, when she saw me; unto whom I said, Madam, whereas you sent lately Monsieur d’Oysell to the Queen my mistress, to demand her majesty’s safe conduct, for your free passage, by sea, into your own realm, and to be accommodated with such favours, as upon events, you might have need of upon the coast of England: the Queen my mistress hath not thought good to suffer the said Monsieur d’Oysell to pass into Scotland, nor to satisfy your desire, for your passage home, neither for such other favours, as you required to be accommodated withall, at her majesty’s hand; inasmuch as you have not accomplished the ratification of the treaty, accorded by your deputies, in July, now twelve months ago, at Edinburgh, which in honour you are bound many ways to perform; for besides, that you stand bound by your hand and seal, whereby your commissioners were authorised, it may please you, madam, to remember that many promises have been made, for the performance thereof, as well in the king your husband’s time, as by yourself, since his death, and yet notwithstanding the treaty remaineth unratified, as before, a whole year being expired since the accord thereof, which by your commissioners was agreed to have been ratified within sixty days: So as upon this unamicable and indirect dealing, the Queen my mistress hath refused you these favours, and pleasures, by you required, and hath grounded this her majesty’s strangeness unto you, upon your own behaviour, which her majesty doth uncomfortably, both for that your majesty is, as she is, a Queen, her next neighbour, and next kinswoman; nevertheless, her majesty hath commanded me to say unto you, madam, (quoth I) that if you can like to be better advised, and to ratifie the treaty, as you in honour are bound to do, her majesty will not only give you and your’s free passage, but also will be most glad to see you pass through her realm, that you may be accommodated with the pleasure thereof, and such friendly conference may be had betwixt you, as all unkindness may be quenched, and an assured perfect amity betwixt you both for ever established. Having said thus much unto her, the said Queen sat down, and made me sit also by her; she then commanded all the audience to retire them further off, and said, Monsieur l’ambassadour, I know not well my own infirmity, nor how far I may with my passion be transported; but I like not to have so many witnesses of my passions, as the Queen your mistress was content to have, when she talked with Monsieur d’Oysell: There is nothing that doth more grieve me, than that I did so forget myself, as to require of the Queen your mistress that favour which I had no need to ask; I needed no more to have made her privy to my journey, than she doth me of hers; I may pass well enough home into my own realm, I think, without her passport, or license; for though the late King your master (said she) used all the impeachment he could both to stay me, and to catch me, when I came hither, yet you know Monsieur l’ambassadour, I came hither safely, and I may have as good means, to help me home again, as I had to come hither, if I would employ my friends:..

– Life of Mary, pp.332-338.

July 21 [1588]. – At the very time when the Spanish Armada was at sea, a Catholic pair of high rank, much though secretly interested in favour of that enterprise, were wedded at Holyrood. The bridegroom was the young Earl of Huntly, and the bride Henrietta Stuart, eldest daughter of the late Duke of Lennox. The affair was conducted with ‘great triumph, mirth, and pastime;’ but some of the other circumstances were of a more remarkable nature. The Presbyterian clergy, in a paroxysm of apprehension about the Armada, took up the strange position of refusing to allow the marriage to be performed by any clergyman capable of showing his face in the country, unless the earl should first sign the Confession of Faith – that is, abjure his religion. Huntly was induced to profess an inclination to comply, but professed to stickle at some of the Protestant doctrines. The king, on the other hand, who felt as the father of the bride, and knew that Huntly was in reality his friend, favoured and facilitated the match. To the great chagrin of the Presbyterian clergy, the ceremony was at length performed by Patrick Adamson, archbishop of St Andrews – who, however, was afterwards brought to their feet as an abject penitent, declaring among other things, ‘I married the Earl of Huntly contrair the kirk’s command, without the confession of his faith, and profession of the sincere doctrine of the Word; I repent, and craves God pardon.’ 

– Domestic Annals, pp.99-123.

The 21st of July, this year [1593], the King holds a parliament at Edinburgh, wherein the [forfeiture] of Francis Stewart, Earl of Bothwell, was again ratified and confirmed by the 3 estates, who but lately, in the beginning of this [very same] month, had been by appearance but newly reconciled to the King’s favour, (for he had forced his own peace) by taking the King at Holyroodhouse palace, which by the commons was called the second Road of the Abbey. In this parliament, also, the [forfeiture] of John Lindsay of Wauchope was repealed, and he again restored. The Queen had the 3rd of the abbey of Dunfermline ratified to her, and the Duke of Lennox the superiorities of the bishoprics of St. Andrews and Glasgow. 

– Historical Works, pp.340-416.

July 21 [1600]. – In Edinburgh, this day, ‘at nine hours at even, a combat or tulyie [was fought] between twa brether of the Dempsters, and ane of them slain by John Wilson. [He] being tane with het bluid, was execute at the flesh-stocks, where he had slain the man the night before.’ – Bir

– Domestic Annals, pp.124-176.

July 21 [1603]. – James Reid, a noted sorcerer and charmer, was strangled and burnt on the Castle-hill of Edinburgh for his alleged practice of healing by the black art. ‘Whilk craft,’ says his dittay, ‘he learnt frae the devil, his master, in Binnie Craigs and Corstorphin Craigs, where he met with him and consulted with him to learn the said craft; wha gave him three pennies at ane time, and a piece creish [grease] out of his bag at ane other time; he having appeared to the said James diverse times, whiles in the likeness of a man, whiles in the likeness of a horse… whilk likewise learned him to tak south-rinning water to cure the said diseases.’ Other crimes were alleged against him. The authorities made short work of so grievous an offender by sending him direct from judgement to execution. – Pit

– Domestic Annals, pp.177-227.

[George] Martin [of Cardone] and his sons were denounced as rebels for not appearing (July 21 [1608]). – P. C. R. 

– Domestic Annals, pp.177-227.

One thought on “21st of July

Leave a Reply