« PreviousContinue »
astrous circumstances, and of his present power, Cardinal Beatoun, by a forged testament, thrust himself into the Regency; but the unanimous voice of the nation soon expelled him from that dignified station, and James Hamilton, Earl of Arran, next heir to the queen, was chosen in his
The Cardinal was by nature of immoderate ambition. By long experience he had acquired address and refinement, and insolence grew upon him from continual success. His high station in the church placed him in the way of great employments; his abilities were equal to the greatest of these, nor did he, reckon any of them to be above his merit. As his own eminence was founded upon the power of the church of Rome, he was a zealous defender of that superstition, and for the same reason an avowed enemy to the doctrine of the reformers. Political motives alone determined him to support the one or oppose the other. His early application to public business, kept him unacquainted with the learning and controversies of the age; he gave judgment, however, upon all points in dispute, with a precipitancy, violence and rigour, which contemporary historians mention with indignation.
The character of Cardinal Beatoun is drawn by Dr. Stuart in the following manner: "No Scotish ecclesiastic had been ever invested with greater authority, and the reformers had every thing to fear from so formidable an enemy. The natural violence of his temper had fixed itself in an overbearing insolence, from the success which had attended him his youth had been passed in scenes of policy and intrigue, which, while they communicated to him address, and the knowledge of men, corrupted altogether the simplicity and candour of his mind; he was dark, designing, and artificial; no principles of justice were any bar to his schemes.
His heart did not open to any impressions of pity; his ruling passion was an inordinate love of power, and the support of his consequence depending alone upon the church of Rome, he was animated to maintain its superstitions with the warmest zeal. He seemed to take a delight in perfidiousness and dissimulation; he had no religion, and he was stained with inhuman cruelty, and the most open profligacy of manners. In connection with these defects, he possessed a persevering obstinacy in pursuing his measures, the ability to perceive and to practise all the arts which were necessary to advance them, and the allurements of ostentation and prodigality."
The measures which this crafty politician pursued to retard the Reformation, and to oppose the Regent, procured his imprisonment. He soon however had sufficient remaining influence to obtain his liberty, and then watched every opportunity to raise himself to power upon the ruins of his rival. He was successful, and by the fluctuating nobles, hailed as the defender of the honour and liberty of his country.
Aided by some of these, he seized on the persons of the young queen and her mother; and added to his party the splendour and authority of the royal name. He betrayed the Regent into a recantation of his religious and political principles, so that he was condemned by one half of the nation, and mistrusted by the other. Accordingly he acquired the possession of every thing his ambition could desire, and exercised all the authority of a Regent, without the envy of the name. He soon found another rival in Stewart, Earl of Lennox, whom he had ungenerously sacrificed to purchase the favour of Arran. Their rivalships continued with variable success, until an event occurred, which terminated their political struggle.
Cardinal Beatoun had not used his power with moderation, equal to the prudence with which he attained it. Notwithstanding his great abilities, he had too many of the passions and prejudices of an angry leader of a faction, to govern a divided people with temper: his resentment against one party of the nobility, his insolence towards the rest, his severity to the reformers, and, above all, the barbarous and illegal execution of the famous George Wishart, a man of honourable birth, and of primitive sanctity, wore out the patience of a fierce age, and nothing but a bold hand was wanting to gratify the public wish by his destruction. Private revenge, inflamed and sanctified by a false zeal for religion, quickly supplied this want. Norman Lesly, the eldest son of the Earl of Rothes, had been treated by the Cardinal with injustice and contempt. It was not the temper of the man, or the spirit of the times, quietly to digest an affront; and as the profession of his adversary screened him from the effects of what is called an honourable resentment, he resolved to take that satisfaction which he could not demand. This resolution deserves as much censure, as the singular courage and conduct with which he put it in execution excite wonder. The Cardinal at that time resided in the castle of St. Andrews, which he had fortified at great expense, and in the opinion of the age had rendered impregnable. His retinue was numerous, the town at his devotion, and the neighbouring country full of his dependants. In this situation, sixteen persons undertook to surprise his castle, and to assassinate himself, and their success was equal to the boldness of the attempt. Early in the morning they seized on the gate of the castle, which was set open to the workmen, who were employed in finishing the fortifications; and having placed sentries at the door of the Cardinal's apart
ment, they awakened his numerous domestics one by one, and turning them out of the castle, they without noise or tumult, or violence to any other person, delivered their country, though by a most unjustifiable action, from an ambitious man, whose pride was unsupportable by the nobles, as his cruelty and cunning were the great checks to the Reformation.
THE REGENT ARRAN.
THE death of Cardinal Beatoun was fatal to the catholic religion, and to the French interest in Scotland. The Earl of Arran was unqualified to support a tottering system, either in church or state; his character was almost the reverse of the Cardinal's; he was neither infected with ambition, nor inclined to cruelty: the love of ease extinguished the former, the softness of his temper preserved him from the latter: timidity and irre solution were his predominant failings; the one occasioned by his natural constitution, and the other arising from a consciousness that his abilities were not equal to his station. With these dispositions, he might have enjoyed and adorned private life, but his public conduct was without courage, or dignity, or consistence: The perpetual slave of his own fears, and by consequence the perpetual tool of those who found their advantage in practising upon them. But as no other person could be set in opposition to the Cardinal, with any probability of success, the nation declared in his favour with so general a consent, that the artifices of his rival could not withstand its united strength.
The Earl of Arran had scarcely taken possession of his new dignity, when a negociation, about the marriage of Edward, the only son of Henry
VIII. of England, gave birth to events of the most fatal consequences to himself and to his kingdom. The rough and impatient temper with which Henry conducted this proposal, and the terms upon which he proposed this royal alliance, so roused the indignation of the nation, that they scorned to purchase an alliance with England at the price of their own liberty. Baffled in his first attempt, he yielded more to the Scots; but still the terms were sq manifestly advantageous to England that the Cardinal complained that the Regent had betrayed the kingdom to its most inveterate enemies, and sacrificed its honour to his own ambition. The nobles applauded the Cardinal as the defender of the honour and liberty of his country. After various political struggles, the unpopular Regency of Arran terminated in his constrained surrender of the same to the Queen Dowager, and his departure for -France, there to enjoy the emoluments, and to reap the honours of his fallen dignity. Thus, induced by one of the passing circumstances of political life, the nation, with their own approbation, advan:ced a woman and a stranger to the supreme authority over a fierce and turbulent people, who seldom submitted without reluctance to the legal and ancient government of their native monarchs.
Upon the death of Francis II. the violent Popish Princes of Lorrain determined, by some severe measure, to strike the reformers in Scotland with terror, and stop the progress of reformation, selected for their victim Arran, who, by his rank, the splendour of his birth, and the eminence of his station, might convince them that none could be exempted from punishment, who opposed the interests of the catholic church. A few unwary expressions roused the suspicions of the Earl, and by a timely flight he escaped the intended blow. The various strong passions of his mind awaken