On July 10th. Henry II had been accidentally killed in a tournament; and Mary Stuart, the niece of the Guises, was now Queen of France.
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
On July 23rd. [1559 – jl] her troops [the Queen Regent’s – jl], led by D’Oysel and Chactelherault, marched on Leith, which they reached on the morning of the 24th. As had been anticipated, neither that town nor the capital itself was in a position to offer any effectual resistance; and the leaders of the Congregation at once proposed a conference for the discussion of terms. Accordingly, the Duke and the Earl of Huntly on the one side, and Argyle, the lord James, and Glencairn on the other, met on the east slope of the Calton Hill and agreed to the following adjustment: The Congregation were to give up the coining-irons, of which they had taken possession, and they were to evacuate Edinburgh within twenty-four hours. The town was to be left free to choose its own religion; no French troops were to be introduced. The Protestants were to be allowed complete liberty of worship, but were to abstain from violence against the old religion, and these arrangements were to hold till the 10th of the following January. By this concession of liberty to worship according to their own consciences the Protestants had apparently attained the main object for which they had risen, but they well knew that they would enjoy this liberty only so long as they were strong enough to enforce it. On leaving Edinburgh, therefore, they proceeded to Stirling, where they came to an agreement as to their future plan of action. As a necessary precaution for their immediate security, they entered into a bond of mutual defense and concerted counsels. Above all, they determined to spare no pains to win support from England, which, as itself now a Protestant country, could not look on with indifference while they were engaged in a life-and-death struggle with France and Rome.
An event that had lately happened gave a new impulse to French action in Scotland. On July 10th. Henry II had been accidentally killed in a tournament; and Mary Stuart, the niece of the Guises, was now Queen of France. It was with greater zeal than ever, therefore, that the Guises sought to direct Scottish affairs according to their own interests. In the beginning of August the Protestant lords took a decided step: they sent John Knox to England with instructions that might serve as a basis of a treaty between England and the Congregation. The instructions were that if England would assist them against France, the Congregation would agree to a common league against that country. Knox only went as far as Berwick; but he brought home a letter containing a reply to the Protestant overtures from Elizabeth’s secretary, Sir William Cecil. The reply was discouraging; but it contained a practical suggestion, by which, however, the Protestant leaders were either unwilling or unable to profit. If it was money they were in need of, Cecil told them, that need present no difficulty; if they would but do as Henry VIII did with the monasteries, they would have enough money and to spare. The English Queen was, in truth, in a position that demanded the wariest going. Two-thirds of her own subjects were Catholics, and it would be an evil example to set them if she were to assist rebels in another country. Moreover, the treaty of Cateau-Cambracsis, concluded in the previous April, debarred her from hostile demonstration against France. But the peril from French ascendancy in Scotland could not be ignored, and by the gradual pressure of events Elizabeth was driven to support a course which in her heart she abhorred. Shortly after Cecil’s communication, the veteran diplomatist, Sir Ralph Sadler, came down to Scotland with a commission to effect a secret arrangement with the Protestant leaders, and brought with him three thousand pounds to distribute to the best of his wisdom.
What the Guises meant speedily became apparent. About the middle of August a thousand French soldiers landed at Leith; and, as they were accompanied by their wives and children, the object of their coming could not be misunderstood. If the leaders of the Congregation, therefore, were not to lose all the ground they had lately gained, a time for vigorous action had again come. As had been previously concerted, they met at Stirling on September 10th. and took counsel as to their further action. Here they were joined by an ally who, by his rank and his claims, was of the first importance to their cause. This was the Earl of Arran, the eldest son of the Duke of Chactelherault, who, a few months previously, had been forced to flee from France by reason of his Protestant sympathies. The value of the new confederate was soon realized. Passing to Hamilton palace, the insurgent leaders there met the Duke himself, to whom they held out such alluring prospects that he openly identified himself with their cause. During these transactions at Hamilton, alarming news came of the doings of the Regent. It was reported that she was busily engaged in fortifying Leith–a proceeding, the Congregation maintained, in direct violation of the late treaty. Disregarding their protest, she steadily proceeded with the work; and, as she was strengthened by a new contingent of eight hundred French men-at-arms, her position by the middle of autumn was such as to excite alarm alike in Scotland and England. Again there was no arbitrament but by the sword.
On October 16th the insurgent leaders entered Edinburgh with the intention of laying siege to Leith, where the Regent had taken refuge as the safest place in the kingdom. One of their earliest steps was the most audacious they had yet taken. They formally deposed Mary of Lorraine from the regency, on the ground that she had ruled as a tyrant and was betraying the country to a foreign enemy. But they soon found that they had taken a task beyond their strength. Their force amounted to but eight thousand men, most of whom were “cuntrie fellows” with no experience in war, and whose service could not extend beyond a few weeks. To this undisciplined host was opposed a garrison of three thousand trained soldiers, with the command of the sea and entrenched in a town fortified after the best military art of the time. Fortune, moreover, was against the Congregation from the first. A new installment of one thousand pounds, secretly sent by Elizabeth, was cleverly seized by James, Earl of Bothwell, afterward the notorious helpmate of Mary Stuart. Their arms, also, met with no success. While a detachment of their troops was in pursuit of Bothwell, the enemy found their opportunity and made their way even into the streets of Edinburgh; and on November 25th the reformers sustained so severe a reverse that the capital was no longer a safe place for them. They had no money to pay the few mercenaries whom they had hired; the town was tired of them; and the earl Marischal, who had charge of the castle, held resolutely aloof.