Page images

desponding, but fill them with exultation in their last moments. The earl of Morton, who was present at his funeral, pronounced his eulogium in a few words, the more honourable for Knox, as they came from one whom he had often censured with peculiar severity: "There lies he, who never feared the face of man."




JAMES early discovered that excessive attachment to favourites which accompanied him through his whole life. This passion, which naturally arises from inexperience and youthful warmth of heart, was at his age far from being culpable; nor could it well be expected that the choice of the objects on whom he placed his affections should be made with great skill. The most considerable of them was Esme Stewart, a native of France, and son of a second brother of the earl of Lennox. He was distinguished by the title of Lord D'Aubignè, an estate in France, which descended to him from his ancestors, on whom it had been conferred in reward of their valour and services to the French crown. He arrived in Scotland about this time, on purpose to demand the estate and title of Lennox, to which he pretended a legal right. He was received at first by the king with the respect due to so near a relation. The gracefulness of his person, the elegance of his dress, and his courtly behaviour, made a great impression on James, who, even in his more mature years, was little able to resist these frivolous charms; and his affection flowed with its usual rapidity and profusion. Within a few days after Stewart's appear

ance at court, he was created lord Aberbrothick, soon after earl, and then duke of Lennox, governor of Dunbarton castle, captain of the guard, first lord of the bedchamber, and lord high chamberlain. At the same time, and without any of the envy or interference which is usual among candidates for favour, captain James Stewart, the second son of lord Ochiltree, grew into great confidence. But notwithstanding this union, Lennox and captain Stewart were persons of very opposite characters. The former was naturally gentle, humane, candid; but unacquainted with the state of the country, and misled or misinformed by those whom he trusted; not unworthy to be the companion of the young king in his amusements, but utterly disqualified for acting as a minister in directing his affairs. The latter was remarkable for all the vices which render a man formidable to his country, and a pernicious counsellor to his prince; nor did he possess any one virtue to counterbalance these vices, unless dexterity in conducting his own designs, and an enterprising courage, superior to the sense of danger, may pass by that name. Unrestrained by religion, regardless of decency, and undismayed by opposition, he aimed at objects seemingly unattainable; but under a prince void of experience, and blind to all the defects of those who had gained his favour, his audacity was successful; and honours, wealth and power, were the reward of his


Captain Stewart being appointed tutor to the earl of Arran, soon after both the title and estate of his unhappy ward, to which he advanced some frivolous claim, were conferred upon him. No less profligate in private life than audacious in his pub. lic conduct, he afterwards drew the attention of his countrymen by his infamous marriage with the countess of March. Before he grew into favour

at court, he had been often entertained in her husband's house, and without regarding the laws of hospitality or of gratitude, carried on a criminal intrigue with the wife of his benefactor, a woman young and beautiful, but, according to the description of a cotemporary historian, "intolerable in all the imperfections incident to her sex." Impatient of any restraint upon their mutual desires, they with equal ardour wished to avow their union publicly, and to legitimate by a marriage the offspring of their unlawful passion. The countess petitioned to be divorced from her husband, for a reason which no modest woman will ever plead. The judges, overawed by Arran, passed sentence without delay. And this infamous scene was concluded by a marriage, solemnized with great pomp, and beheld by all ranks of men with the utmost horror.

A parliament was held this year, at the opening of which some disputes arose between Arran and the earl now created duke of Lennox. Arran, haughty by nature, and pushed on by his wife's ambition, began to affect an equality with the duke, under whose protection he had hitherto been contented to place himself. After various attempts to form a party in the council against Lennox, he found him fixed so firmly in the king's affections, that it was impossible to shake him; and rather than lose all interest at court, from which he was banished, he made the most humble submissions to the favourite, and again recovered his former credit. This rupture contributed, however, to render the duke still more odious to the nation. During the continuance of it, Arran affected to court the clergy, pretended an extraordinary zeal for the protestant religion, and laboured to confirm the suspicions which were entertained of his rival, as an emissary of the house of Guise, and a favourer

of popery. As he was supposed to be acquainted with the duke's most secret designs, his calumnies were listened to with more credit than was due to his character. To the same cause we must ascribe several acts of parliament uncommonly favourable to the church, particularly one which abolished the practice introduced by Morton, of appointing but one minister to several parishes.

The two favourites, by their ascendant over the king, possessed uncontrolled power in the kingdom, and exercised it with the utmost wantonness. James usually resided at Dalkeith or Kinneil, the seats of Lennox and of Arran, and was attended by such company, and employed in such amusements, as did not suit his dignity. The services of those who had contributed most to place the crown on his head were but little remembered. Many who had opposed him with the greatest virulence enjoyed the rewards and honours to which the others were entitled. Exalted notions of regal prerogative, utterly inconsistent with the constitution of Scotland, being instilled by them into the mind of the young monarch, unfortunately made at that early age a deep impression there, and became the source of almost all his future errors in the government of both kingdoms.

All these circumstances irritated the impatient spirit of the Scottish nobles, who resolved to tolerate no longer the insolence of the two minions, or to stand by while their presumption and inexperience ruined both the king and kingdom. Elizabeth, who during the administration of the four regents had the entire direction of the affairs of Scotland, felt herself deprived of all influence in that kingdom ever since the death of Morton, and was ready to countenance any attempt to rescue the king out of the hands of favourites, who were leading him into measures so repugnant to all

her views. The earls of Mar and Glencairn, lord Ruthven, lately created earl of Gowrie, lord Lindsay, lord Boyd, the tutor of Glamis, the master of Oliphant, with several barons and gentlemen of distinction, entered into a combination for that purpose And as changes in administration, which among polished nations are brought about slowly and silently, by artifice and intrigue, were in that rude age effected suddenly and by violence, the king's situation, and the security of the favourites, encouraged the conspirators to have immediate recourse to force.

James, after having resided for some time in Athol, where he enjoyed his favourite amusement of hunting, was now returning towards Edinburgh with a small train. He was invited to Ruthven castle, which lay in his way; and as he suspected no danger, he went thither in hopes of farther sport. The multitude of strangers whom he found there gave him some uneasiness; and as those who were in the secret arrived every moment from different parts, the appearance of so many new faces increased his fears. He dissembled, however, and next morning made ready for the field, expecting to find there some opportunity of making his escape. But the nobles entering his bedchamber, presented a memorial against the illegal and oppressive actions of his two favourites, whom they represented as most dangerous enemies. to the religion and liberties of the nation. James, though he received this remonstrance with the complaisance which was necessary in his present situation, was extremely impatient to be gone; but as he approached the door of the apartment, the tutor of Glamis rudely stopped him. The king complained, expostulated, threatened, and finding all these without effect, burst into tears. matter," said Glamis fiercely, "better children


« PreviousContinue »