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While the terror excited by the popish conspiracy possessed the nation, the court had been divided by two rival factions, which contended for the chief direction of affairs. At the head of one was the chancellor, in whom the king reposed entire confidence. For that vey reason, perhaps, he had fallen early under the queen's displeasure. The duke of Lennox, the earl of Athol, lord Ochiltree, and all the name of Stewart espoused her quarrel, and widened the breach. And James, fond no less of domestic tranquillity than of public peace, advi sed his favourite to retire for some time, in hopes that the queen's resentment would subside. But as he stood in need, in the present juncture, of the assistance of so able a minister, he had recalled him to court. In order to prevent him from recovering his former power, the Stewarts had recourse to an expedient no less illegal than desperate. Having combined with Bothwell, who was of the same surname, they brought him back secretly into Scotland; and seizing the gates of the palace, introduced him into the royal apartment with a numerous train of armed followers. James, though deserted by all his courtiers, and incapable of resistance, discovered more indignation than fear, and reproaching them for their treachery, called on the earl to finish his treasons, by piercing his sovereign to the heart. But Bothwell fell on his knees, and implored pardon. The king was not in a condition to refuse his demands. And a few days after he signed a capi
tulation with this successful traitor, to whom he was really a prisoner, whereby he bound himself to grant him a remission for all past offences, and to procure the ratification of it in parliament; and in the mean time, to dismiss the chancellor, the master of Glamis, lord Home, and sir George Home, from his councils and presence. Bothwell, on his part, consented to remove from court, though he left there as many of his associates as he thought sufficient to prevent the return of the adverse faction.
But it was now no easy matter to keep the king under the same kind of bondage to which he had been so often subject during his minority. He discovered so much impatience to shake off his fetters, that those who imposed durst not continue the restraint. They permitted him to call a convention of the nobles at Stirling, and to repair thither himself. All Bothwell's enemies, and all who were desirous of gaining the king's favour by appearing to be so, obeyed the summons. They pronounced the insult offered to the king's person and authority to be high treason, and declared him absolved from any obligation to observe conditions extorted by force, and which violated so essentially his royal prerogative. James, however, still proffered him a pardon, provided he would sue for it as an act of mercy, and promise to retire out of the kingdom. These conditions Bothwell rejected with disdain, and betaking himself once more to arms, attempted to surprise the king, but finding him on his guard, fled to the borders.
Lord 'Zouche, forgetful of his character as ambassador from queen Elizabeth to the Scottish court, entered into private negotiations with such of the Scottish nobles as disapproved of the king's measures, and held almost an open correspondence with Bothwell, who, according to the usual artifice
of malecontents, pretended much solicitude for reforming the disorders of the commonwealth; and covered his own ambition with the specious veil of zeal against those counsellors who restrained the king from pursuing the avowed enemies of the protestant faith. Zouche encouraged him, in the name of his mistress, to take arms against his sovereign.
Meanwhile, the king and the clergy were filled with mutual distrust of each other. They were jealous, perhaps to excess, that his affections leaned too much towards the popish faction; he suspected them, without good reason, of prompting Bothwell to rebellion, and even of supplying him with money for that purpose. Little instigation, indeed, was wanting to rouse such a turbulent spirit as Bothwell's to any daring enterprise. He appeared suddenly within a mile of Edinburgh at the head of four hundred horse. The pretences by which he endeavoured to justify this insurrection were extremely popular; zeal for religion, enmity to popery, concern for the king's honour, and for the liberties of the nation. James was totally unprovided for his own defence; he had no infantry, and was accompanied only with a few horsemen of lord Home's train. In this extremity he implored the aid of the citizens of Edinburgh, and, in order to encourage them to act with zeal, he promised to proceed against the popish lords with the utmost rigour of law. Animated by their ministers, they ran cheerfully to their arms, and advanced with the king at their head against Bothwell; but he, notwithstanding his success in putting to fight lord Home, who had rashly charged him with a far inferior number of cavalry, retired to Dalkeith without daring to attack the king. His followers abandoned him soon after, and discouraged by so many successive disappointments, could never afterwards
be brought to venture into the field. He betook himself to his usual lurking places in the north of England; but Elizabeth, in compliance with the king's remonstrances, obliged him to quit that
Bothwell, whose name has been so often mentioned as the disturber of the king's tranquillity, and of the peace of the kingdom, was now in a wretched condition. Abandoned by the queen of England on account of his confederacy with the popish lords; excommunicated by the church for the same reason; and deserted, in his distress, by his own followers; he was obliged to fly for safety into France, and thence to Spain and Italy, where, after renouncing the protestant faith, he led many years an obscure and indigent life, remarkable only for a low and infamous debauchery. The king, though extremely ready to sacrifice the strongest resentments to the slightest acknowledgments, could never be softened by his submissions, nor be induced to listen to any intercession in his behalf.
JOHN, EARL OF GOWRIE,
ALEXANDER, HIS BROTHER.
DURING the summer of 1600, the kingdom enjoyed an unusual tranquillity. The clergy, after many struggles, were brought under great subjection; the popish earls were restored to their estates and honours, by the authority of parliament, and with the consent of the church; the rest of the nobles were at peace among themselves, and obedient to the royal authority; when, in the midst of this security, the king's life was exposed to the utmost
danger, by a conspiracy altogether unexpected, and almost inexplicable. The authors of it were John Ruthven, earl of Gowrie, and his brother Alexander, the sons of that earl who was beheaded in the year one thousand five hundred and eighty-four. Nature had adorned both these young men, especially the elder brother, with many accomplishments, to which education had added its most elegant improvements. More learned than is usual among persons of their rank; more religious than is common at their age of life; generous, brave, popular; their countrymen, far from thinking them capable of any atrocious crime, conceived the most sanguine hopes of their early virtues. Notwithstanding all these noble qualities, some unknown motive engaged them in a conspiracy, which, if we adhere to the account commonly received, must be transmitted to posterity as one of the most wicked, as well as one of the worst concerted, of which history makes any mention.
On the fifth of August, as the king, who resided during the hunting season in his palace of Falkland, was going out to his sport early in the morning, he was accosted by Mr. Alexander Ruthven, who, with an air of great importance, told the king, that the evening before he had met an unknown man, of a suspicious aspect, walking alone in a by-path, near his brother's house at Perth; and on searching him, had found, under his cloak, a pot filled with a great quantity of foreign gold; that he had immediately seized both him and his treasure, and without communicating the matter to any person, had kept him confined and bound in a solitary house; and that he thought it his duty to impart such a singular event first of all to his majesty. James immediately suspected this unknown person to be a seminary priest, supplied with foreign coin, in order to excite new