Reign of Henry the Eighth - (Concluded). page 25
When Hertford had quitted the country, Arran held a Parliament at Stirling, when Lennox and his brother, the Bishop of Caithness, were impeached and condemned for high treason, and their lands confiscated. The former meeting of the Three Estates had been very slackly attended; this was crowded by the nobles, who, it was too truly said, assembled for land, expecting a share of the great demesnes of Lennox. The Earl of Argyll, who had distinguished himself by adhering to the Government amid general disaffection, received the principal portion, and the Earl of Huntly, who had also been staunch in his support of the Crown, was likewise well rewarded with a share, and received the bishopric of Caithness for his brother.
It was agreed to maintain a body of 2,000 men for the defence of the country, especially the borders. One of these was to be kept at the expense of France; and the cardinal projected a journey to that country with the Commander Lorges, to endeavour to obtain the services of a much larger force. During his absence he proposed that the queen-mother should reside with the queen in his strong castle of St. Andrews, and he sought to gain over Arran to his views more completely by intimating his favour in procuring a marriage betwixt the young queen and his son.
This information was quickly conveyed to Henry by his secret and devoted correspondent, the Laird of Brunston, in a letter dated from Ormiston House, the 6th of October, who added a dark hint that this proposed journey of the cardinal's would be cut short, assuring Henry that there never were more gentlemen anxious to do him service than at this moment - in plain English, that Henry's commissioner of murder on the borders, Sir Ralph Sadler, had now a trusty band of hired assassins waiting to take off his victim, the cardinal. We seem to be reading not English, but Venetian history. By other letters to Lord Hertford and the king at Berwick, Brunston entreated to have an interview with Sadler, and also with a member of the Council, but secret, as it might cost him his life and heritage; and stated that his friends were all ready, but that his majesty must state plainly what he wanted them to do, and what they were to have for it. As the king was requested to send his reply to Coldingham, the property of Sir George Douglas, it is pretty certain that Douglas, Angus, Cassilis, and the rest of that traitorous clique, were in this bloody secret.
Whether Brunston had the interview which he desired we are not informed; but the information which he communicated had the most exciting effect on Henry. Lord
Maxwell, one of his prisoners, had three castles of singular strength, and of the utmost importance for getting a strong hold of Scotland - Caerlaverock, Lochmaben, and Thrave. Henry demanded the surrender of these as the price of Maxwell's liberty, and as a proof that he belonged to the king's party, which, as a weak and unstable person, he had professed, in order to obtain favour at the hands of his captor. Henry now, on his showing reluctance, threatened to send him to the Tower, and charge him with suspicious conduct. This menace from a man like Henry, whose words were as deadly as daggers, terrified him into the surrender of Caerlaverock, on condition that he should be allowed to return to Scotland. But the cardinal and governor, who seem to have had good and early information of what went on in Henry's Court, forestalled both Maxwell and the king. They attacked and took all the three castles; and Maxwell was taken, with some of his English confederates, and imprisoned at Dumfries.
Defeated in this attempt, Henry still set on foot others, and in particular one for securing the west of Scotland. Donald, Lord of the Isles, who had gone to Ireland to await the junction of Lennox, for a descent on Scotland, was now dead, but his possessions and his antipathy to Scotland had descended to his successor, James Maconnell, Lord of Dunyveg. Lennox now hastened to Ireland to proceed with the expedition in conjunction with Maconnell. He first dispatched his brother, the ex-Bishop of Caithness, to sound the Constable of Dumbarton Castle, Stirling of Glorat, and prepared to follow. On the 17th of November, Lennox and the Earl of Ormond set sail from Dublin with a formidable fleet, carrying 2,000 men, raised by Ormond. Meantime, however, the cardinal, again apprised of these proceedings, attacked the castle of Dumbarton, but not being able to take it, entered into negotiations with Stirling, the constable, and the ex-Bishop of Caithness, and by offering Lennox's brother the bishopric back again, and the constable suitable inducements, won them over, and took possession of the castle. Thus again was Henry's scheme defeated, and Lennox and Ormond directed their course elsewhere. Maconnell of the Isles, disappointed of his junction with this armament, wrote to Henry, proposing that Lennox should proceed to the Isle of Sanda, near Kintyre, where he would join him with all his kinsmen and allies, with his cousin Alane Maclane of Gigha, with the Clanranald, Clancameron, Clankayne, and all of his own clan, north and south. Before Henry had time to embrace this offer, his attention was absorbed by events of extraordinary interest which arose in Scotland.
Notwithstanding the endeavours of Cardinal Beaton, and the apostasy of Arran, the Reformation had now made great progress in Scotland, and it was whilst the struggle was going on betwixt the party of Angus and the party of the cardinal, backed by the money and the arms of England, that there came upon the scene the remarkable preacher, George Wishart. He arrived with the commissioners of Henry in July, 1543, who were sent to negotiate the marriage treaty, and soon made a great sensation. Wishart is supposed to have been the son of a James Wishart of Pitarro, justice-clerk to James V., and he was patronised by John Erskine, the Provost of Montrose. In Montrose he became master of a school, and was expelled for teaching Greek to his boys, avowedly as the original tongue of the New Testament. He fled to England, and in Bristol was condemned as a heretic for preaching against the offering of prayers to the Virgin. He then recanted to avoid death, but remained some years in England, returning to all and more than the opinions he had renounced in sight of the fagot. He boldly preached the insufficiency of outward ceremonies when the heart itself was not touched. He admitted only the sacraments recorded in the Scriptures; derided auricular confession; condemned the invocation of saints and the doctrine of purgatory, though he approved of fasting, and maintained that the Lord's Supper was a Divine and comfortable institution. The doctrines, conduct, and corruptions of his opponents he denounced with unsparing severity.
These traits had made him a welcome agent of opposition to the cardinal with the lords of the English party; and Beaton, at once hostile to his religious views and to him personally, as the ally of those who were seeking his life by the most abominable means, soon turned his resentment upon him. Twice he is said to have escaped from the emissaries of the cardinal lying in wait to seize him, How far he was aware of the plots and mercenary villany of those about him is uncertain; but living in the very midst of the traitor lords, and often under the very roof of the busy agent of Beaton's proposed murder, Brunston, he was so far cognisant of the preparations for the invasion of Scotland and the destruction of the cardinal's party, that he frequently announced in his sermons the approach of the horrors which at length arrived, and thus acquired the reputation of a prophet. Under the protection of the Angus party, he preached in the towns of Montrose, Dundee, Perth, and Ayr, and produced such a spirit of hostility to the old religion, that at Dundee the houses of the Black and Grey Friars were destroyed, and similar attempts were made in Edinburgh.
Whilst the friends of Wishart were seeking the life of Beaton, Beaton, aware of this, was seeking the life of Wishart, and Wishart in his addresses to the people repeatedly declared that he should perish a martyr to the cause of truth. At length Cassilis and the gentlemen of Kyle and Cunningham sent for him to meet them at Edinburgh, where they proposed that he should have an opportunity for public disputation with the bishop. Wishart proceeded to the capital, where, Cassilis and the confederates not having arrived, he soon began to preach to the people, under the protection of the barons of Lothian. At Leith, Sir George Douglas bore public testimony to the truth of his doctrine, and declared his resolution to protect the preacher. There, too, he converted John Knox, who was destined to establish the Reformation in Scotland.
In the midst of these proceedings arrived the cardinal and the governor in Edinburgh, and Beaton lost no time in endeavouring to secure the person of the popular apostle. Brunston and Ormiston removed Wishart to West Lothian to be out of the way till the arrival of Cassilis; but Wishart was not a man to lie concealed. He preached in the very face of danger, though a two-handed sword was constantly borne before him on these occasions; and at length, after a remarkable sermon
at Haddington, where he prognosticated deep miseries about to fall upon the country, he took leave affectionately of his audience, and set out for the house of Ormiston, accompanied by Brunston, Sandilands of Calder, and Ormiston. That night the house of Ormiston was surrounded by a party of horse, under the command of the Earl of Bothwell. Wishart, Sandilands, and Cockburn were seized. Cockburn and Sandilands were conducted to the castle of Edinburgh, Wishart to Hailes, the house of Bothwell, who for some time refused to give him up to the cardinal, but at length did so under promise of a great reward. Brunston had managed to escape.
Beaton was anxious to have Wishart tried and condemned on a civil charge; but to this Arran would not consent, and the cardinal was therefore obliged to forego his vengeance, or arraign him as a heretic. He was sentenced to be burnt, and this sentence was carried into effect at St. Andrews, on the 28th of March, 1546. In this execution Beaton's malice far outran his usually sound policy. Nothing could be more mischievous to his own cause than the murder of Wishart. Till then, the people, whatever their religious opinions, regarded the political views of Beaton as patriotic, and they supported him as the great bulwark against the power and designs of England. But now they regarded him as a horrible persecutor, and they shrank from him, and his power fell. The meekness and patience with which the man, whom they now honoured with the name of martyr, bore his horrible fate, made a deep and lasting impression on the public mind.
Whilst the people thus unequivocally condemned this barbarous deed, and only the more eagerly inquired into the principles of the sufferer, the immediate confederates against the cardinal found in this event a grand warrant for carrying out their own murderous intentions. Cassilis, Glencairn, and the rest of the nobles had delayed the desperate deed, because they could not extract from Henry a distinct statement of the pay they were to receive for it. But now John Leslie, the brother to the Earl of Rothes, and Norman Leslie, his nephew, began to vow publicly that they would have the blood of Beaton as an atonement for that of the martyred Wishart. They opened anew an active correspondence with England, and associated themselves with a number of others who were exasperated at the cardinal's deed.
On the other hand, the partisans of Beaton lauded him to the skies as the saviour of the Church in Scotland, and strong in the alliance of France and the late ill-success of the English party, the cardinal appeared to enjoy a season of triumph; but it was a triumph quickly quenched in blood. Elated with his temporary success, the cardinal made a progress into Angus, and celebrated the marriage of one of his natural daughters, Margaret Bethune, to David Lindsay, Master of Crawford, at Finhaven Castle, bestowing upon her a dowry worthy of a princess. The cardinal was disturbed in his festivities by the news that Henry VIII. was pushing on his preparations for a new invasion, and he hastened to St. Andrews to put his castle into a perfect state of defence. On his arrival he summoned the barons of the neighbouring coast to consult on the best means of fortifying it against any attack of the enemy. But whilst thus busily engaged in warding off the assault of a foreign foe, a domestic and much nearer one was eagerly at work for his destruction. The Laird of Brunston was stimulating Henry to give the necessary assurance to those who were ready at a word to plunge the sword into the body of the cardinal. A quarrel arising betwixt Beaten and the Leslies brought the matter to a crisis. Norman Leslie, the Master of Rothes, had given up to Beaton the estate of Easter Wemyss, and, at a meeting of St. Andrews, had found the cardinal indisposed to make the promised equivalent for it. High words arose, and Leslie hastened to his uncle John; and both of them deeming that there was no longer any safety after the words Norman Leslie in his rage had let fall, they immediately summoned their confederates, and resolved to put the cardinal to death without delay.
On the evening of the 28th of May, Norman Leslie, attended by five followers, entered the city of St. Andrews, and rode, without exciting any suspicion, in his usual manner to his inn. Kirkaldy of Grange was awaiting him there, and after nightfall, John Leslie, whose enmity to Beaton was most notorious, stole quietly in and joined them. At daybreak the next morning, Norman Leslie and three of his attendants entered the gates of the castle court, the porter having lowered the drawbridge to admit the workmen who were employed on the cardinal's fresh fortifications. Norman inquired if the cardinal were yet up, as if he had business with him; and whilst he held the porter in conversation, Kirkaldy of Grange, James Melville, and their followers entered unobserved; but presently the porter, catching sight of John Leslie crossing the bridge, instantly suspected treason, and attempted to raise the drawbridge; but Leslie was too nimble for him, he leaped across the gap, and the conspirators, closing round the porter, dispatched him with their daggers, seized the keys, and threw the body into the fosse, without any noise or alarm. They then proceeded to dismiss the workmen as quietly from the castle, and Kirkaldy, who was well acquainted with the castle, stationed himself at the only postern through which an escape could be made. The conspirators then went to the apartments of the different gentlemen composing the household of the cardinal, awoke them, and, under menace of instant death if they made any noise, conducted them silently out of the castle, and dismissed them. Thus were 150 workmen and fifty household servants removed without any commotion by this little band of sixteen determined men, and, the portcullis being dropped, they remained masters of the castle.
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