Gateway to the Classics: Scotland's Story by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall
Scotland's Story by  Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall

James VI.—King's Men and Queen's Men

The Earl of Murray now ruled Scotland in the name of James vi. , who was still scarcely more than a baby. He had a hard task, for the whole country was divided between King's men and Queen's men, and was full of unrest and war. Murray had behaved meanly and cruelly to the Queen, but now he proved to be a wise ruler. Indeed, he was called the Good Regent.

But if he was good, he was stern, and many people hated him, and a man called Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh swore to kill him.

Bothwellhaugh waited long, but at last his opportunity came. The Regent, on his way from Dumbarton to Edinburgh, stayed one night at Linlithgow. Next morning, he mounted his horse and rode through the town. This was what Bothwellhaugh had hoped for. In those days, many of the houses had outside staircases and wooden balconies, jutting out into the street. Upon one of these Bothwellhaugh took his stand. The balcony was hung with cloth, so that no one could see him. Upon the floor he placed a feather mattress, so that no one below should hear his footsteps. At the garden gate behind the house, stood a horse ready saddled and bridled. Having made all his preparations, Bothwellhaugh, with his gun in his hand, stood and waited for the Regent.

The streets were so crowded with people come out to see the Regent pass, that he could go but slowly. That was all the better for Bothwellhaugh, for his aim would be the surer. Heavily the minutes dragged along. At last the Earl came. Opposite the house in which Bothwellhaugh lay hidden, the procession seemed to pause. A shot rang out. The Regent reeled in his saddle and fell. His work done, the unseen murderer fled through the garden, leaped upon his horse, and sped away.

The Regent was not killed; though sorely wounded, he had strength to walk back to the palace, and at first it was thought that he would recover. But soon it was seen that there was no hope, and in a few hours he died.

There was much grief at the Regent's death. He was buried with great pomp in the church of St. Giles in Edinburgh, when John Knox preached a grand sermon, taking for his text, "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord."

Murray had been scarcely three years Regent, and was killed on 23rd January 1570 a.d. Six months of trouble and quarrelling followed. Then the Earl of Lennox, Darnley's father, was made Regent. But Lennox was a weak man—far too weak for these fierce times, and soon the whole country was in a blaze of civil war. Fathers, sons, and brothers fought against each other. The very children in their games took sides, and fought, King's men against Queen's men.

The Governor of Edinburgh castle, who was called Kirkcaldy of Grange, and who had been a King's man, suddenly turned round and became a Queen's man. With him was another, called Maitland of Lethington. He was very clever, and when you are older, you will read much about him and all he did during the reign of Mary. He had been one of Mary's greatest statesmen, but he was so changeable, that a writer of the time called him a chameleon, which is a little animal that takes the colour of whatever it lies upon. Now Maitland openly took the Queen's side, and joined with Kirkcaldy of Grange.

The King's men tried to hold a Parliament in Edinburgh. But cannon thundered from the castle, till they were obliged to leave, and go to Stirling. There they held a Parliament, and there for the first time the little King was brought, and made to sit at the head of the table, among all the wise men. He was only about five years old, and could not understand what was going on. So seeing a hole in the table-cloth, he began to play with it, sticking his fingers into it.

"What house is this?" he asked one of the lords who sat beside him.

"The House of Parliament, your Majesty," was the reply.

"Then this Parliament has a hole in it," said the little King, not knowing how true his words were, and what a very large hole there was in his Parliament, and that it was indeed torn in two.

The war raged on. The Queen's men followed the King's men to Stirling, and attacked them there. They were driven back, but the Regent was hurt in the fight and died in a few hours. He had ruled for little more than a year.

A new Regent was chosen. This Regent was the Earl of Mar. He was a good man, and he longed for peace. He struggled and worked so hard for it that he died, worn out, having been Regent only thirteen months.

The next Regent was the Earl of Morton. Under him the civil war grew fiercer than ever. Battles were fought daily, each side hanging their prisoners or cutting off their heads with dreadful cruelty. "No quarter," which means no mercy, was the cry on both sides, and no quarter was either asked or given. These wars were called the Douglas wars, from the Earl of Morton's name, which was James Douglas.

The King's men were on the whole the stronger, but all this time the castle of Edinburgh had held out for the Queen. Regent Morton, however, resolved to take the castle, cost what it might. He had not cannon enough of his own, so he sent to Queen Elizabeth of England, and she, always willing to mix herself up with Scottish matters, sent him both guns and men.

Then the siege of Edinburgh began. Gallant Kirkcaldy, the bravest soldier of his times, held out for more than a month. But strong though the castle walls were, they could not stand against the fearful cannonade of the English guns. They crumbled to pieces, as if they had been sandhills washed away by the incoming tide. The wells within the castle became choked with the ruins. The soldiers at last had neither anything to eat nor to drink. Maddened with thirst, and worn with hunger, they would fight no longer. There was nothing left but to yield.

So gallant Kirkcaldy and wise Lethington gave themselves up. Kirkcaldy was so brave, that even the fiercest of the King's men begged that his life might be spared. But Morton, the stern Regent, had made up his mind that he must die. So this brave man, who was "humble, gentle, and meek—like a lamb in the house, but like a lion in the field, and beloved of all honest men," died, as so many another good man and true had died, in the cause of his beautiful and unhappy Queen.

Lethington was found dead one day. He had poisoned himself, as the old Romans used to do, rather than be hanged by his enemies.

With the taking of Edinburgh castle, with the deaths of Kirkcaldy and Lethington, the last hope of the Queen's men vanished. Morton had triumphed.

For five years Morton continued to rule. He was firm and brave, and gradually peace came to the land.

But the Regent was greedy. He loved gold, and he wrung money out of the people in all kinds of ways, till they began to hate him. The nobles hated him too for his pride, and when the King was about twelve years of age, they persuaded him that he was old enough to rule. The Regent was taken by surprise. He saw that it was then no use to fight against the lords, so he gave up his office of Regent, and went away to live quietly in his country house—the Lion's Den, the people called it.

But Morton had no thought of really giving up his office; he was only biding his time. One day he came posting back to court, and once more got the boy King into his power. He was no longer called Regent, but he was ruler all the same. James, however, was growing up, and he did not want to be ruled by Morton. Besides, he had two friends whom he liked so much that they could make him do as they pleased.

These were Esme Stewart, a Scottish gentleman who had lived nearly all his life in France, and a soldier called James Stewart. The King made one of these friends Earl of Lennox, the other Earl of Arran, and heaped many more honours upon them.

These two men hated Morton, and soon James, listening to their counsels, had the Regent arrested and condemned to death, because he had helped Bothwell to murder Darnley. There was no doubt that he had known something of the murder, but so had Regent Murray, so had many of the other lords. It had all happened many years before, and some of the conspirators who were far more guilty than Morton had never been punished. But all that did not save the Regent, and he was executed.

The lords, who hated Morton, were quite pleased at his death, but they soon found out that instead of one ruler they had now two. For after the death of Morton, Lennox and Arran became greater and greater. And the more powerful they became, the more were they hated and dreaded by the nobles. At last, some of the lords resolved to rid themselves of Lennox and Arran, and to get possession of the King.

James was fond of hunting, and one of the nobles, called the Earl of Gowrie, asked him to come to his castle of Ruthven to hunt. James went, and was received with great honour. But the invitation was a trap. Secretly the castle was surrounded by soldiers. Then the nobles went to the King, and begged him to send away his favourites, swearing that they would no longer be ruled and oppressed by them.

Too late, James saw why he had been invited to that lonely castle far from his favourites. Instead of replying to the lords, he tried to leave the room. But one of the nobles placed his back against the door, roughly telling the King that he must stay where he was. At that, James began to cry with shame and anger.

But that did no good. "Better that bairns should greet than bearded men," said the noble sternly. So James had to submit. He was a prisoner.

When Arran heard of what had happened, he hurried to Ruthven, vowing vengeance on the lords. But as soon as he entered the castle, he was seized and thrown into prison. Lennox was banished and returned to France, where he died.

James was now obliged to do as the lords told him. No doubt, they were better friends and advisers than Arran and Lennox had been, but every day he grew more and more weary of being a prisoner. For although he was allowed to ride about, and to hunt, and seemed to be free, he was really nothing but a prisoner.

At last he managed to escape from the lords, and fled to the castle of St. Andrews. As soon as he was within the gates, they were closed, and guarded by his own soldiers. The King was master again.

While a prisoner, James had tried to make the best of things, and he had pretended so well that the lords did not believe that he was very angry with them. They did not now think that he would punish them. But they were mistaken. James had been made to cry, and had been called "a bairn," and he had neither forgotten nor forgiven. The Earl of Gowrie was beheaded, and the rest of the lords who had helped him fled away to England. So ended the Raid of Ruthven, as it was called.

Arran, the King's favourite, now returned to court more proud and haughty than before. For two years he ruled as he liked, and his insolence and vanity became greater and greater.

At last the lords could no longer bear his insolence. Many of those who had fled to England returned, and gathering an army of ten thousand men, they marched to Stirling. Backed by rows of sharp swords and bristling spears, they forced James to listen to them, and to take them into his council. Arran was driven from court, and after living for some years a miserable, hunted wanderer among the hills and valleys of Scotland, he was killed by one of his many enemies.

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