Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. I


with whom she took up her abode. After having effectually lulled all suspicion, she affected to remember a vow she had made to visit the White Kirk of Brechin (according to the '' Chronicles of Pitscottie "), and bade adieu to the Chancellor overnight, with many tender recommendations of the young king to his care. She set forth betimes next morning with her retinue, and baggage borne on sumpter horses. In one of the arks or chests :trapped on one of these she had the young king concealed, with his own consert. He was thus conveyed to Leith, and from thence by water to Stirling, where she placed him in the hands of the Regent Livingstone, while the haughty Douglas kept aloof, as one who took no interest in the petty intrigues around the throne. Livingstone now unfurled the royal standard, levied troops, and laid siege to the Castle of Edinburgh ; but the wary Chanceflor, finding that he had been outwitted, pretended to compromise matters by delivering the keys of the gates into the hands of the king, after which they all supped together in the great hall of the fortress. Crichton was confirmed in his ofice of Chancellor, and the other as regent and guardian of the royal person, a state of affairs not fated to last long. Livingstone having quarrelled with the queen, she carried off the young king again, and restored him to the custody of the Chancellor in the Castle of Edinburgh. Under the guidance of the Bishops of Moray and Aberdeen, then resident in the city, a conference was held in the church of St. Giles, ' making him and his rival joint guardians, which, from their mutual dread and hatred of the Earl of Douglas, led to an amicable arrangement, and the young king chose the Castle as his future place of residence. The great house..of. Dauglas,had naw reached the zenith of its baronial power and pride. The earl possessed Annabdale, Galloway, and other extensive dominions in. the southern counties, where all men bowed to his authority. He had the dukedom of Touraine and lordship of Longueville in France. He was allied to the royal family of Scotland, and had at his back a powerful force of devoted vassals, trained to arms, led by brave knights, who were ripe at all times for revolt and strife. '' The Regent and the Chancellor are both alike to me," said he, scornfully ; " 'tis no matter which may overcome, and if both perish the country will be the better ; and it is a pleasant sight for honest men to.see such fencers yoked together." But soon after the potent Douglas died at Restalrig-h June, 144o-and was succeeded by his son William, then in his sixteenth year ; and now the subtle and unscrupulous old Chancellor thought that the time had come to destroy with safety a family he alike feared and detested. In the flush of his youth and p...12, fired by the flattery of his dependents, the young earl, in the retinue and splendour that surrounded him far surpassed his sovereign. He never rode abroad with less than two thousand lances under his banner, well horsed, and sheathed in mail, and he actually, according to Buchanan, sent as his ambassadors to the court of France Sir Malcolm Fleming and Sir John Lauder of the Bass, to obtain for him a new patent of the duchy of Touraine, which had been conferred on his grandfather by Charles VII. Arrogance so unwonted and grandeur so great alarmed both Crichton and Livingstone, who could not see where all this was to end. Any resort to violence would lead to civil war. He was therefore, with many flatteries, lured to partake of a banquet in the Castle of Edinburgh, accompanied by his brother the little Lord David and Sir Malcolm Fleming of Cumbernauld. With every show of welcome they were placed at the same table with the king, while the portcullis was suddenly lowered, the gates carefully shut, and their numerous and suspicious train excluded. Towards the close of the entertainment a black bull's head-an ancient Scottish symbol that some one was doomed to death-was suddenly placed upon the board. The brave boys sprang up, and drew their swords; but a band of Crichton's vassals, 'in complete armour, rushed in from a chamber called the Tiring-house, and dragged forth the three guests, despite the tears and entreaties of the young king. I They were immediately beheaded-on the 24th of November, I 440-according to Godscroft, '' in the back court of the Castle that lyeth to the west" (where the barracks now stand); in the great hall, according to Balfour. They were buried in the fortress, and when, in 1753, some workmen, in digging a foundation there, found the plate and. handles of a coffin all of which were pure gold, they were supposed tp belong to that in which the Earl of Douglas was placed. Singular to say, Crichton was never brought to trial for this terrible outrage. " Venomous viper ! I' exclaims the old historian of the Douglases, "that could hide so deadly poyson under so faire showes ! unworthy tongue, unelesse to be cut oute for example to all ages ! A lion or tiger for cruelty of heart-a waspe or spider for spight ! " He also refers to a rude ballad on the subject, beginning
Volume 1 Page 30
  Enlarge Enlarge  
" Edinburgh Castle, tome and tower, God grant thou sinke for sinne, An that even for the black dinner Earle Douglas got therein." This affair instead of pacifying the country only led to ruin and civil strife. The Douglas took arms under James IV., Duke of Touraine and seventh Earl of Douglas and Angus, and for a long space the city and neighbourhood were the scene of contest and ravage by the opposite factions. The Chancellor remained secure in the Castle, and, to be revenged on Sir John Forrester, who had laid waste his lands at Crichton in 1445, he issued forth with his troopers and garrison, and gave to fire and sword all the fertile estates of the Douglases and Forresters westward of the city, including Blackness, Abercorn, Strathbroc, aid Corstorphine ; and, with other pillage, carrying off a famous breed of Flanders mares, he returned to his eyry. Douglas, who, to consolidate his power had espoused his cousin the Fair Maid of Galloway, adding thus her vast estates to his own, and had now, as hereditary lieutenant-general of the kingdom, obtained the custody of the young king, came to Edinburgh with a vast force composed of the Crown vassals and his own, and laid siege to the Castle, which the Chancellor defended for nine months, nor did he surrender even to a summons sent in the king's name till he had first seciued satisfactory terms for himself; whfle of his less fortunate coadjutors, some only redeemed their lives with their estates, and the others, including three members of the Livingstone family, were beheaded within its walls. The details of this long siege are unknown, but to render the investment more secure the Parliament, which had begun its sittings at Perth, was removed to Edinburgh on the 15th of July, 1446. After all this, Earl Douglas visited Italy, and in his absence during the jubilee at Rome in 1450, Crichton contrived to regain the favour of James II., who haviyg now the government in his own hands, naturally beheld with dread the vast power of the house of Touraine. How Douglas perished under the king's dagger in Stirling in 1452 is a matter of general history. His rival died at a very old age, three years afterwards, and was interred among his race in the present noble church of Crichton, which he founded. Beneath the Castle ramparts the rising city was now fast increasing; and in 1450, after the battle of Sark, in which Douglas Earl of Ormond de. feated the English with great slaughter, it was deemed necessary to enclose the city by walls, scarcely a trace of which now remains, except the picturesque old ruin known as the Well-house Tower, at the base of the Castle rock. They ran along the southern declivity of the ridge on which the most ancient parts of the town were built, and after crossing the West Bow -then deemed the grand entrance to Edinburgh-ran between the High Street and the hollow, where the Cowgate (which exhibited then but a few minor edifices) now stands; they then crossed the main ridge at the Nether Bow, and terminated at the east end of the North Loch, which was then formed as a defence on the north, and in the construction of which the Royal Gardens were sacrificed. From this line of defence the entire esplanade of the Castle was excluded. " Within these ancient limits," says Wilson, '' the Scottish capital must have possessed peculiar means of defence-a city set on a hill and guarded by the rocky fortress, there watching high the least alarms; it only wanted such ramparts, manned by its burgher watch, to enable it to give protection to its princes and to repel the' inroads of the southern invader. 'The important position which it now held may be inferred from the investment in the following year of Pntrick Cockburn of Newbigging (the Provost of Edinburgh) in the Chancellor's office as governor of the Castle, as well as his appointment, along with other commissioners, after the great defeat of the English at the battle of Sark, to treat for the renewal of a truce." It seemed then to be always '' truce " and never peace ! In the Parliament of 1455 we find Acts passed for watching the fords of the Tweed, and the erection of bale-fires to give alarm, by day and night, of inroads from England, to warn Hume, Haddington, Dunbar, Dalkeith, Eggerhope, and Edinburgh Castle, thence to Stirling and the north -arrangements which would bring all Scotland under arms in two hours, as the same system did at the time of the False Alarm in 1803. One bale-he was a signal that the English were in motion; two that they were advancing; four in a row signified that they were in great strength. All men in arms westward of Edinburgh were ta muster there ; all eastward at Haddington ; and every Englishman caught in Scotland was lawfully the prisoner of whoever took him (Acts, 12th Pal. James 11.). But the engendered hate and jealousy of England wopld seem to have nearly reached its culminating point when the 11th Parliament of James VI., chap. 104, enacted, ungallantly, "that no Scotsman marrie an Englishwoman without the king's license under the Great Seal, under pain of death and escheat of moveables."
Volume 1 Page 31
  Enlarge Enlarge