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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. V


Kik-of-Field.] THE PROVOST?S HOUSE. by the gate elsewhere already described as being at the head of the College Wynd, in those days known as ? The Wynd of the Blessed Virgin Maryin- the-Fields.? It was on the 31st of January, 1567, that the weak, worthless, and debauched, but handsome, Henry, Lord Darnley, King-consort of Scotland, was brought to the place of his doom, in the house of the Provost of the Kirk-of-Field. Long ere that time his conduct had deprived hini of authority, character, and adherents, and he had been confined to bed in Glasgow by small-pox There he was visited and nursed by Mary, who, as Carte states, had that disease in her infancy, and having no fears for it, attended hini with a sudden and renewed tenderness that surprised and-as her enemies say-alarmed him. By the proceedings before the Commissioners at York, 9th December, 1568, it would appear that it had been Mary?s intention to take him to her favourite residence, Craigmillar, when one of his friends, named Crawford, hinted that she treated him ? too like a prisoner j ? adding, ? Why should you not be taken to one of your own houses in Edinburgh ? ? Mary and Darnley left Glasgow on the 27th of January, and travelled by easy stages to Edinburgh, which they reached four days after, and Bothwell met them with an armed escort at a short distance from the city on the western road, and accompanied them to the House of the Kirk-of-Field, which the ambitious earl and the secretary Lethington were both of opinion was well suited for an invalid, being suburban, and surrounded by open grounds and gardens, and occupied by Robert Balfour, brother of Sir Janies Baltour of Pittendreich, who, though Lord Clerk Register, and author of the well-known ? Practicks of Scots Law,? had nevertheless drawn up the secret bond for the murder of the king. The large and commodious house of the Duke of Chatelherault in the Kirk-of-Field Wynd was about to be prepared for his residence ; but that idea was overruled. Balfour?s house was selected ; a chamber therein was newly hung with tapestry for him, 2nd a new bed of black figured velvet provided for his use, by order of the queen. ? The Kirk-of-Field,? says Melvil, ? in which the king was lodged, in a place of good air, where he might best recover his health,? was so called, we have said, because it was beyond the more ancient city wall ; but the new wall built after Flodden enclosed the church as well as the houses of the Provost and Prebendaries. ?In the extended line of wall,? says Bell, ?? what was (latterly) called the (Laing, Vol 11.) 3 Potterrow Port was at first denominated the Kirkof- FFld Port, from its vicinity to the. church of that name. The wall ran from this port along the south side of the present College Street and the north side of Drunimond Street, where a part is still to be seen in its original state. The house stood at some distance from the kirk, and the latter from the period of the Reformation had fallen into decay. The city had not yet stretched in this direction much farther than the Cowgate. Between that street and the town wall were the Dominican Convent of the Black Friars, with its alms-houses for the poor, and gardens covering the site of the old High School and the Royal Infirmary, and the Kirk-of-Field, with its Provost?s residence. The Kirk-of-Field House stood very nearly on the site of the present north-west corner of Drummond Street. It fronted the west, having its southern gavel so close upon the town wall that a little postern door entered immediately through the wall into the kitchen. It contained only four apartments. . . . Below, a small passage went through from the front door to the back of the house, upon the right-hand of which was the kitchen, and upon the left a room furnished as a bedroom for the queen when she chose to remain all ? night. Passing out at the back door there was a turnpike stair behind, which, after the old fashion of Scottish houses, led up to the second storey.? Above, there were two rooms corresponding with those below. Damley?s chamber was immediately over Mary?s; and on the other side of the lobby above the kitchen, ? a garde robe,? or ? little gallery,? which was used as a servant?s room, and which had a window in the gavel looking through the town wall, and corresponding with the postern door below. Immediately beyond this wall was a lane, shut in by another wall, to the south of which were extensive gardens.?? (?Life of Queen Mary,? chap. XX.) Darnley occupied the upper chamber mentioned, while his three immediate servants, Taylor, Nelson, and Edward Simmons, had the gallery. The door at the foot of the staircase having been removed, and used as a cover for ?the vat,? or species of bath in which Darnley during his loathsome disease was bathed, the house was without other security than the portal doors of the gateway. During much of the time that he was here Mary attended him with all her old affection and with assiduous care, passing most of each day in his society, and sleeping for several nights in the lower * chamber. The marks of tenderness and love which she showed him partially dispelled those fears which the sullen and suspicious Darnley had
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4 OLD AND NEW EDINBURGH. [Kirk-of-Field. begun to entertain of his own safety ; for he knew that he had many bitter enemies, against whom he trusted that her presence would protect him, Many persons are said to have suspected Bothwell?s fell purpose, but none dared apprise him of his danger, ? as he revealed all,? says Mehil, ? to some of his own servants, who were not honest.? Three days before the murder, the Lord Robert Stuart, Mary?s illegitimate brother, warned Darnley that if he did not quit the Kirk-of-Field ?? it would cost him his life.? Darnley informed Mary of this, on which she sent for her brother, and inquired his meaning in her husband?s presence ; but Lord Robert, afraid of involving himself with Bothwell and the many noble and powerful adherents of that personage, denied ever having made any such statement. ?? This information,? adds Melvil, ?? moved the Earl of Bothwell to haste forward with his enterprise.? He had secured either the tacit assent or active co-operation of the Earls of Huntley, Argyle, Caithness, and the future Regent Morton, of Archibald Douglas, and many others of the leading lords and officers of state ; and in addition to these conspirators of high rank, he had received a number of other unscrupulous wretches, with whom Scotland seemed at that time to abound. Four of these, Wilson, Powrie, Dalgleish, and French Paris, were only humble retainers; but other four who were active in the Kirk-of-Field tragedy were John Hepburn of Bolton, John Hay of Tallo, the Laird of Ormiston, and Hob Ormiston his uncle. Bothwell artfully contrived to get the Frenchman Paris, who had been long in his service, taken into that of the queen about this period, and thus render important service by obtaining the door-key of the Kirk-of-Field House, from which impressions were taken and counterfeits made. If the depositions of this villain are to be credited, it was not until Wednesday, the 5th of February (1567), that the plot was revealed to him, and that on seeing him grow faint-hearted at dread of his own danger, Bothwell asked him, impatiently, more than once, what he thought of it. ?Pardon me, sir,? replied Paris, ? if I tell you my opinion according to my poor mind.? ?What ! are you going to preach to me ? asked Bothwzll, scornfully. Paris ultimately consented to act; and it would seem that Bothwell for a few days was un. decided, like his four chief accomplices, whether to slay Darnley when walking in the garden or sleep ing in bed, or to blow the house and its inmates up together. Eventually a quantity of Government ?owder was brought from the Castle of Dunbar to Bothwell?s house, near Holyrood, and Paris was nstructed to admit Hay, Hepburn, and Ormiston .nto the queen?s room, below that of Darnley, from which he, to blacken her, alleged she removed a valuable coverlet-a very unlikely act of parsimony 3n her part. On the night of Sunday, the 9th of February, all was ready for the dreadful project. When the dusk fell Bothwell assembled the conspirators at his own house, znd, according to the depositions of Powrie, Dalgleish, Tallo, and others, allotted to each the prim part he was to play. He was well aware that the queen had dined that day at the palace, and that in the evening she was to sup with the Bishop of Argyle in the house of Mr. John Balfour, with whom the prelate lodged. At nine she left the supper-table, and, accompanied by the Earls of ?Argyle, Huntley, and Cassilis, went to visit Darnley at the Kirk-of- Field before returning to Holyrood, where she was to be present at a masque in honour of the marriage of Margaret Carwood, one of her favourite attendants. Meanwhile, Dalgleish, Powrie, and U?ilson, were conveying the powder in bags from Bothwell?s house to the convent gate at the foot of the Blackfriars Wynd, where it was received by Hay of Tallo, Hepburn of Bolton and Ormiston, who desired them to return home. Bothwell, who had been present with her at the banquet of the bishop, quitted the table at the same time as Mary, but left her and walked up and down the Cowgate while the powder was being received and deposited. By his orders a large empty barrel was deposited in the Dominican garden. Into this all the bags of powder were to have been placed, but as the lower back door of the Provost?s house was too small to admit it, they were conveyed in separately, and placed in a heap on the floor of the room beneath that in which the victim then lay a-bed. At length all was in readiness ; the queen had departed by torchlight to the Holyrood masque, attended by Bothwell, and Ormiston had withdrawn; but Hay and Hepburn, with their false keys, remained in the room with the powder. Paris, who had in his pocket the key of the queen?s room in the Kirk-of-Field, followed her train to the palace. If, again, any credit can be given to the confession of Pans, he stated that on entering the . ball-room where the masquers were dancing, a melancholy seized him, and he remained apart from all; on which Bothwell accosted him angrily, saying that if he retained that gloomy visage in
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