Knox, of whom it was said that he “put more life” into those who heard him “than five hundred trumpets . . . .
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
As at the close of their previous rising, the leaders held a council at Stirling to determine their future policy; before they entered on their deliberations, Knox was called upon to preach a sermon — Knox, of whom it was said that he “put more life” into those who heard him “than five hundred trumpets continually blustering” in their ears. The deliberations that succeeded took a sufficiently practical shape. Young Maitland of Lethington, who had lately deserted the Regent for the Congregation, was dispatched to England with offers that might induce Elizabeth to give direct support to the cause of Protestantism in Scotland. As to their own future action, the lords made the following arrangement: Chactelherault, Argyle, Glencairn, and the lords Boyd and Ochiltry were to make their head-quarters in Glasgow; while Arran, the lord James, the lords Rothes and Ruthven, and John Knox were to act from St. Andrew’s as their centre. Their counsels at an end, they separated with the intention of reassembling at Stirling on December 16th. [1559 – jl] They had thus tried two falls with the Regent, and in both they had been worsted: the third trial of strength was to have a different ending.
The Regent was not slow to follow up her advantage. She took possession of the capital two days after the Congregation had quitted it, and she tried hard, but in vain, to persuade the earl Marischal to surrender the castle. The arrival of fresh reinforcements from France at the beginning of December enabled her to abandon her defensive policy and to take decisive measures for the suppression of revolt. On Christmas Day, while the Protestant lords were in council at Stirling, two detachments of her troops, commanded by D’Oysel, drove them precipitately from the town. Pursuing his advantage, D’Oysel dispatched his troops across Stirling bridge into Fife, and he himself with another detachment crossed from Leith, apparently with the object of gaining possession of St. Andrew’s. The task proved a hard one. At every step he was beset by the Scots under Argyle and the lord James. “The said Earl and Lord James,” says Knox, “for twenty-one days they lay in their clothes; their boots never came off; they had skirmishing almost every day; yea, some days, from morn to even.” Yet, in the teeth of all obstacles, D’Oysel steadily forced his way to within six miles of St. Andrew’s, where Knox and his friends had all but abandoned hope. But unexpected deliverance was at hand. On January 23, 1560, a fleet of strange vessels appeared at the mouth of the Frith of Forth. As a French fleet had been expected for some weeks, D’Oysel concluded that his armament had come at last. He was soon undeceived. Under his eyes the strangers seized two ships bearing provisions from Leith to his own camp. The strange vessels were an advanced squadron of a fleet sent by Elizabeth to block the Frith of Forth against further succors from France. It was now D’Oysel who was in extremities; and before he found himself safe in Linlithgow he had vivid experience at once of the rigors of a Scotch winter and of the savage hate which his countrymen had come to inspire in the nation which for three centuries had called them friends and allies.
Meanwhile, the mission of Maitland to the English court was about to lead to one of the most notable compacts in the national history. At Berwick-on-Tweed, the lord James Stewart, Lord Ruthven, and three other Scottish commissioners met the Duke of Norfolk and concluded a treaty (February 27th.) which was to insure the eventual triumph of the Congregation, to make Scotland a Protestant country, and at a later day a constituent part of a Greater Britain. The treaty was in effect a bond of mutual defense against France–Elizabeth having reluctantly consented that an English army should at once enter Scotland and assist the Congregation in driving the French soldiery out of the country. While her revolted subjects were thus making strong their hands against her, fortune was otherwise deserting the cause of the Regent. A great French armament, which was to have brought over a force sufficient to crush all opposition, had been driven back by a succession of storms; and she herself was already stricken with the disease which was soon to carry her off. In these circumstances there was but one course open to her — to fall back on the policy of self-defense and patient waiting on events. After one somewhat wanton expedition against Glasgow and the Hamiltons, her troops finally (March 29th.) retired within the fortifications of Leith, and she herself at her special request was received into the castle of Edinburgh.
On April 4th. the English and Scottish hosts joined forces at Prestonpans, and on the 6th. they sat down before Leith. The spectacle was one suggestive of many reflections; English and Scots, immemorial foes, were fighting side by side against the ancient friend of the one, the ancient enemy of the other. There could not be a more memorable illustration of the saying that “events sometimes mount the saddle and ride men.” Even with their united strength the allies had a formidable task before them. At the outset of the siege the English amounted to about nine thousand men, the Scots to ten thousand; but before many weeks had gone, these numbers had dwindled to a half. With this force the English commander, Lord Gray, had to besiege a town defended by four thousand trained soldiers and fortified by the most skilful engineers of the time. Two severe reverses sustained by the allies prove that in discipline and skill they were no match for the enemy. On April 14th the French sallied from the town, and, breaking through the English trenches, slew two hundred men. A combined assault on the town (May 7th) was brilliantly repulsed — the English and Scots leaving eight hundred dead and wounded in the trenches. It was not long before all three parties were sick of the contest. The Guises had their hands full at home and needed every soldier they had; Elizabeth heartily disliked the task of assisting rebel subjects and grudged every penny that was spent in it; and the Congregation had never been in a position to support a protracted war.