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Elizabeth page 5


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It was at this crisis that the progress of the Reformers in Scotland arrested the attention of the Government in England, and a letter was received from Sir Henry Percy by Kirkaldy of Grange, inquiring into the real objects of the Lords of the Congregation. Kirkaldy replied that they meant nothing but the reformation of religion; that they had purged the churches of imagery and other Popish stuff wherever they had come, and that they pull down such friaries and abbeys as will not receive the reformed faith; but that they had not meddled with a pennyworth of the Church's property, reserving the appropriation of that to the maintenance of godly ministers hereafter; that if the queen-regent would grant them spiritual liberty and send away the Frenchmen, they will obey her; if not, they will hear of no agreement. Knox also wrote to Percy in the name of the whole Congregation, and entreated that England should aid them in their struggle, telling them, in his sturdy way, that if it did it would be better for it; if not, though Scotland might suffer, England could not escape her share of the trouble.

The consequence of this was that a secret interview took place betwixt Kirkaldy and Percy, at Norham, in which assistance was promised to the Scotch Reformers by Elizabeth. The manner in which Elizabeth proposed to afford this aid was most mean and dishonourable. As a friend to the Reformation, nothing could have been more noble than to have openly and courageously owned that sympathy, and sought in a legitimate manner to influence the young Queen of Scotland to arrest the persecution of her subjects, and to allow them toleration of their religion. But nothing was further from Elizabeth's intention than this. She regarded Mary already with deep jealousy and resentment, on account of her claims on the succession to the English throne, aggravated by her having been induced to quarter the arms of England with those of Scotland. Her desire, therefore, was to weaken Mary in the affections of her subjects, and to create such troubles in Scotland as should not only prevent any attempt of Mary in England, but also afford herself opportunity of acquiring an ascendancy in Scotland. Elizabeth was bound by treaty to be at peace with both France and Scotland, yet she did not hesitate thus secretly to foment rebellion in the kingdom of the young and absent queen, to hold her subjects in her secret pay, at the same time that she professed to act uprightly and faithfully towards their Government, as by her treaty bound.

The parsimony of Elizabeth, however, and the caution of her minister Cecil, withheld all efficient aid from the Scottish Reformers at the time that it was most essential. Whilst the queen-regent delayed any active proceedings in the hope of the arrival of fresh troops from France, and the knowledge that the irregular army brought into the field by the Scottish barons could not long be kept together, Elizabeth deferred the promised subsidies. Mary of Guise, meantime, spread all kinds of reports to the disadvantage of the Covenanters, declaring that, under the guise of seeking freedom of conscience, they were conspiring to overturn the Government of the country. She caused a proclamation to be issued in the name of the young king and queen, charging the Reformers with having stolen the irons of the Mint, and of maintaining a correspondence with England - a charge only too true. She asserted that she had already offered to call a Parliament, in which everything should be satisfactorily settled, and full religious liberty conceded.

These acts had their effect. Many of the reform party, in a letter to the queen, repudiated every idea of rebellion; others drew off from the army, and the Duke of Chatelherault abandoned the Congregation. In this predicament, the Lords of the Congregation made still more impassioned appeals to Cecil, and Knox wrote to him entreating him to abate the prejudice of Elizabeth towards him. But that prejudice was of the most bitter and unconquerable kind in the heart of Elizabeth. She regarded Knox with the fiercest aversion, and swore that he should never set foot in her kingdom. He had sought through Cecil to obtain from her permission to pass through England on his way from Geneva, but received the most angry denial. Knox had perpetrated the unpardonable offence to Elizabeth in writing his "First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women," wherein, aiming a blow at his own Queen Mary, he had hit more mortally the proud Queen of England. It was in vain that Knox now attempted to correct this error. He declared that, "though he still adhered to the propositions he had set forth in his book, ho never meant to apply them in her case, whose whole life had been a miracle, God having by an extraordinary dispensation of his mercy made lawful to her that which both nature and God's law denied to other women, and that no one in England would be more willing to maintain her lawful authority than himself." He prayed that he might be permitted to come into England to plead the cause of the religion of his country. But such was the detestation with which the English queen regarded him, that he might have been thankful that she did not allow him to go there, or she would probably have served him worse than she did afterwards the Scottish queen.

Disappointed in his attempt, Knox did not fail, impolitic as it was, to give the proud queen a taste of his quality. He called her "an infirm vessel," and warned her that, if "she persisted in her pride and foolish presumption, she would not long escape punishment." He was equally outspoken to Cecil, from whom he hoped to obtain assistance for his cause; reminding him of his backsliding in the days of bloody Mary, when "he had followed the world in the way of perdition, to the suppressing of Christ's true evangel, to the erecting of idolatry, and to the shedding of the blood of God's most dear children, to which he had by silence consented and subscribed."

No aid coming soon from Elizabeth, the Reformers were compelled to come to terms with the queen-regent. They agreed to evacuate the town, restore the coining irons of the Mint, and refrain from any attacks on churches and religious houses, or molestation of churchmen. On the other hand, the queen agreed to give full freedom of faith and speech, and to admit neither a French nor Scotch garrison to the town. The conditions were signed by the Duke of Chatelherault, the Earl of Huntley, and D'Oyselles, to whom the negotiation was entrusted. The Reformers, before quitting the place, issued a proclamation, in which they made a false representation of the treaty, giving at length a statement of the privileges conceded, but concealing the conditions by which they had bound themselves to make no aggressions on the opposite party.

Neither party was honest in its professions. The queen-regent was looking daily for succour from France, the Reformers for support from England; and either party would, no doubt, have broken the contract with little ceremony had it found itself in a condition to dictate to the other. Sir James Melville had arrived from France during these late transactions on a private mission to ascertain the actual state of parties, and particularly whether the Lord James had any design of seizing the crown, as the queen-regent had represented. Melville interrogated Murray himself, and, professing himself satisfied with his denial, returned through England.

At this juncture died Henry II. of France. He had been in low spirits since the signing of the treaty of Cateau Cambresis; and receiving a wound in the eye whilst tilting at the celebration of the festivities on the marriages of his daughter Isabella with Philip of Spain, and his sister Margaret with the Duke of Savoy, inflammation took place, and he died on the 10th of July, 1559. He was succeeded by his son as Francis II., and thus Mary Queen of Scots became the Queen of France.

Melville, on his return, found this change had taken place. The Guises were in the ascendant, and the most determined menaces of destruction to the Protestant party in Scotland prevailed at the French court. The Congregation was greatly alarmed at the rumours of French troops which were to be sent over. The leaders had retired to Stirling, where they entered into a new bond to receive no message from the regent - who sought to sow dissension amongst them - without communicating it to the whole body. Knox was dispatched to the borders to communicate with Sir James Crofts, the governor. The assistance which the Reformers claimed was extensive. They asked for money to pay a garrison for Stirling, which they engaged to seize. They called for reinforcements by sea to secure the safety of Perth and Dundee, and proposed that Broughty Craig should be fortified, the nobles of the neighbourhood offering to do the work so that they got the money. Knox had it in his instructions to urge the seizure of Eyemouth, and money to influence the Kers, the Homes, and other borderers. Money was wanted and troops too, ready to support the movements of the Congregation: in fact, the Scottish nobles were thirsting for the pay which they had enjoyed under Henry VIII. and Edward VI.; and, in return for what they called ''this comfortable aid," they promised to enter into a strict league of alliance with Elizabeth, binding themselves to make her enemies their enemies, her friends their friends, and never to come to any accommodation with France without the consent of Elizabeth.

Knox and his companion, Alexander Whitelaw, did not go and return on this clandestine mission without incurring danger from the French, who attacked their escort at Dunbar; and they returned much disgusted with the cautious parsimony and double-faced conduct of the English queen, who, instead of furnishing the funds which they craved, accused the Congregation of lukewarmness in not more vigorously exerting themselves against the queen-regent, whilst she herself was making the most open professions of amity to that princess. Her policy is displayed in the instructions which she gave to Sir Ralph Sadler, whom she now sent as her agent to Scotland. He was to nourish the faction betwixt the Scotch and the French, so that the French should have less leisure to turn their attention to England; and he was to ascertain whether the Lord James really entertained designs against the crown.

This policy of Elizabeth's extremely chagrined the Reformers. The Lord James and the Earl of Argyll addressed letters to Sir James Crofts and to Cecil, in which they complained of the treatment shown them, and aspersions of indifference cast upon them. They even threw out mysterious threats if they were not succoured. They observed that the English Government recommended them to supply themselves out of the wealth of the churches and altars, but they replied that they had not the court with them in this matter, as England had had; but in one thing they had followed the advice of England: they had established a council, had endeavoured to bring over Chatelherault to their views, and only waited a good opportunity to depose the queen-regent, and to place the viceregal power in the hands of some chief of their own party.

Who this should be was an important question. There were three leaders who principally attracted the attention of England: Chatelherault, his son the Earl of Arran, and the Lord James. Chatelherault was a timid and undecided character; Arran was daring enough, for he aspired to the hand of Elizabeth, and was thought to be liberal and chivalric, but further experience proved him to be only rash, vain, and fickle. The man on whom the expectations of Elizabeth and her wary minister, Cecil, were fixed, was the Lord James, the natural brother of the Queen of Scots, and afterwards the noted regent Murray. He was yet not twenty-six, and devoted to the Congregation. He was of powerful mind, of inordinate ambition, and, as the way opened so brilliantly before him, it became obvious that no moral principle was likely to present any obstacle in his path to power. He had been educated in France for the Church, in a school where the most subtle and unscrupulous doctrines were taught as the real philosophy of life. Outwardly he had an honest, frank, and friendly air, covering a mind quick, penetrating, capable of seizing on the thoughts, and appropriating the plans and powers, of those around him. He had a fine person and air, a kingly presence, and his knowledge of continental politics gave him a superiority over all his countrymen. At the same time he was selfish, perfidious, and capable of the worst deeds to his nearest kindred, in the prosecution of his own advancement.

Such an instrument was precisely of the kind that the English queen and her minister desired. Cecil requested Sadler to ascertain whether the Lord James had an eye to the crown, and, if he had, to let Chatelherault take what course he pleased without troubling himself much about him. Meantime Knox wrote very plainly to Cecil, telling him that if the queen did not soon do something for the Scottish nobles, and that liberally, they would be very likely to accept the bribes which France was offering. He desired Cecil to speak out plainly, and let them know what they had to expect at once, adding that he marvelled that the queen did not write to them, as her noble father used to do to men fewer in number and of less power; alluding to those hired by him for the murder of Cardinal Beaton, a business which seemed to be approved by Knox.

This remonstrance produced the desired effect. Sadler was instructed to treat with the Scotch Reformers. A messenger from Knox assured him that if the queen would furnish money to pay a body of 1,500 arquebuses and 300 horse, they would soon expel the French from Scotland, and establish the English ascendancy there. Balnaves, a zealous adherent of the Congregation, and intimate friend of Knox, had a long private interview with Sadler, and assured him that the Reformers were resolved to make no further league with the queen-regent, but to depose her on the first opportunity, place the power in the hands of Chatelherault or Arran, and then make open treaty with England. Sadler was so satisfied with this prospect that he paid over to Balnaves 2,000 for the Lords of the Congregation, and promised to give additional aid to Kirkaldy, Ormiston, Whitelaw, and others, who expended considerable sums in the cause of the Congregation, and had their pensions from France stopped since they became its partisans.

Three hours after the arrival of Balnaves at the castle of Berwick, and whilst he and Sadler were deep in their discussions, at midnight, Arran alighted at the gate. Arran had been serving in the French army as a colonel of the Scottish guards, and in reality as a hostage for the faith of his father in Scotland. He had been summoned by Henry II. to attend the marriages of his sister and daughter to the Duke of Savoy and Philip of Spain; but Arran, who was in the secret interest of Elizabeth, sent an apology, and, as it was supposed, by the aid of Throckmorton, the English ambassador, made his escape to England, where he had several secret interviews with Elizabeth and Cecil, and then made his way to Scotland under the assumed name of M. de Beaufort.

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