In point of fact, it was borne in on both parties that the struggle had but begun, and that the sword only could end it.
Continuing Scotland’s Presbyterian Reformation,
our selection from John Knox: A Biography by P. Hume Brown published in 1895. The selection is presented in eight easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in Scotland’s Presbyterian Reformation.
Time: 1559 to 1572
But the time demanded deeds more than words. With a force of about eight thousand French and Scots, D’Oysel, the Regent’s chief adviser, advanced to Auchterarder, some twelve miles from Perth. With this formidable force behind her, the Regent naturally expected that her rebellious subjects would be disposed to abate their demands. To learn what terms they would now be willing to accept, she sent to Perth the lord James Stewart, Lord Sempill, and the Earl of Argyle. They were told that the town would be surrendered if assurance were given of freedom of worship and security to the worshippers. As a reply to these demands, the Regent despatched the lyon king-of-arms to make proclamation that all should “avoid the toune under pane of treasone.” At this moment, however, the Earl of Glencairn, at the head of a body of two thousand five hundred Ayrshire Protestants, made his way to within six miles of Perth. Thus checkmated, the Regent was again driven to a compromise; and on the conditions that she should quarter no French troops in the town, and grant perfect freedom of worship, the gates were at length thrown open to her. Thus closed the first act of the drama of the Scottish Reformation.
This good understanding was of short duration. Again the action of the Regent gave rise to an accusation of broken pledges. She kept to the letter of the late compact, but she evaded its spirit. She did not quarter French troops in the town, but she occupied it with Scottish soldiers in French pay, and, in further disregard of her pledges, treated the Protestants with a harshness which gave rise to bitter complaint on the part of their leaders. Argyle and the lord James, the two most prominent of these leaders, had accompanied her into Perth (May 29th.), but, indignant at these proceedings, they secretly quitted the town and at once took action to make good their protests. Summoning the Protestant gentlemen of Angus and the Mearns to meet them in St. Andrew’s on June 3rd., they proceeded to that town, as the best centre of action after Perth. In St. Andrew’s as in Perth it is John Knox who is again the outstanding figure. Here his preaching was attended by the same notable results. The monasteries of the Dominicans and the Franciscans were practically demolished by the mob, and with the approval of the magistrates every church in the town was stripped of its ornaments. Meanwhile the Regent had not been idle, and was now at Falkland with a force led by D’Oysel and Chactelherault. Confident in their strength, those two leaders marched toward Cupar, with the intention of dealing with St. Andrew’s. But again they discovered that they had miscalculated the resources of the insurgents. Issuing from St. Andrew’s, with little over a hundred horse, Argyle and the lord James were speedily reinforced by contingents from Lothian and Fife, which raised their numbers to above three thousand men. Thus strengthened, they took up their position on Cupar Muir, and awaited the approach of the Regent’s forces. But in number these forces were now inferior to those of the enemy; and, as many of the French soldiers were Huguenots and secretly sympathized with their fellow-believers, the issue of the battle could not but be doubtful. Again, therefore, there was no alternative for the Regent but to temporize. It was agreed that there should be a truce of eight days, that the Regent’s forces now in Fife should be removed from that county, and that, during the armistice, an attempt should be made to effect some permanent understanding.
The new arrangement proved as hollow as the first. In point of fact, it was borne in on both parties that the struggle had but begun, and that the sword only could end it. Already, therefore, both were looking for external support wherewith to crush their opponents. The very day after the compact at Cupar, D’Oysel wrote to the French ambassador in London that only a body of French troops could maintain the Regent’s authority. On their part the Protestant leaders now entered on those negotiations with England which eventually led to results that gave Scotland definitely to Protestantism and united the destinies of the two nations. Meanwhile, however, the Regent and her revolted subjects had to fight their own battles. The truce effected nothing, and it had no sooner expired than hostilities recommenced. The first object of the leaders of the Congregation was to relieve their brethren in Perth, and on June 24th. they sat down before that place in such numbers that it immediately and unconditionally surrendered. Perth, Dundee, and St. Andrew’s were now in their hands; but, having gone thus far, their only hope lay in giving still further proof of the strength of their cause. It was reported that the Regent meant to stop their progress southward of Stirling bridge; but, before she could effect her object, they entered that town with the consent of the majority of the citizens. By June 29th. [1559 – jl] they were in possession of the capital, whence Mary of Lorraine had fled to the castle of Dunbar.
The cause of the Congregation now appeared to be triumphant, but it contained elements of weakness of which everyone was aware and which speedily became manifest. The acts of violence which had attended the revolt were filling the law-abiding citizens with dismay. The destruction of church property in Perth and St. Andrew’s had been followed by similar excesses elsewhere. Especially disquieting had been what had occurred at Scone immediately after the surrender of Perth. In defiance of the protests of Knox, the lord James, and Argyle, the reformers of Dundee had sacked and burned to the ground the abbey and palace of that village — an outrage which Knox himself regretted in the interest of his own cause. It was a further source of weakness to the Congregation that their actions easily lent themselves to misconstruction and misrepresentation. The Regent industriously spread the plausible report both at home and abroad that their religious professions were a mere pretext, and that their real object was to overthrow herself and to make the lord James their king. But, above all, the nature of the host that supported them was such that it invariably failed them when their need was the greatest. The men who composed it had to leave their daily business in town and country; and, as they received no pay and their own affairs demanded their attention, their military service did not extend beyond a few weeks. The Protestant leaders had no sooner taken possession of Edinburgh than their following began to dwindle. During the first week their numbers amounted to over seven thousand men; by the third week they had diminished to one thousand five hundred. In these circumstances the Regent had only to bide her time, and her opportunity must come.