Edinburgh Bookshelf

Memorials of Edinburgh in the Olden Time


YAMES V. TO ABDICATlON OF QUEEN MARK 57 entire nobility, and most influential leaders among the clergy; the Primate of St Andrews, brother of the Regent, being almost the only man of any weight still adhering to him. Moved alike by promises and threats, the imbecile Regent at length resigned the government, and a Parliament thereupon assembled at Edinburgh on the 12th of April 1554, in which the transference of the government was ratified, and a commission produced from Queen Mary, then in her twelfth year, appointing her mother, Mary of Guise, Regent of the realm, which the estates of Parliament confirmed by their subscriptions and seals. The Earl of Arran, or as he was now styled, Duke of Chatelherault, then rose, and delivered up the royal crown, sword, and sceptre, into the hands of Monsieur D’Oysel, the French ambassador, who received them in the name of Queen Mary, by the authority of the King of France, and others, her chosen curators ; and immediately thereafter he produced a mandate from the Queen, in obedience to which he delivered them to the Queen Do~ager.~T he new Regent acknowledged her acceptance of the office, and received the homage and congratulations of the assembled nobility. She was then conducted iu public procession, with great pomp and acclamation, through the city to the Palace of Holyrood, and immediately entered upon the administration of the government. The uncertainty of the government, previous to this settlement, and the enfeebled power of the nominal Regent, exposed the capital as usual to disorders and tumults. From the Council Register of this year 1554, we learn, that owing to the frequent robberies and assaults committed in the streets of Edinburgh at night, the Council ordered “ lanterns or bowets to be -hung out in the streets and closes, by such persons and in such places as the magistrates should appoint, to continue burning from five o’clock in the evening till nine, which was judged a proper time for people to repair to their respective habitations.” a The account is curious and interesting, as furnishing the earliest notice of lighting up the public streets of the Scottish capital. The narratives of these disorders, furnishkd by contemporary authors, exhibit a state of lawless violence that demanded of the magistrates no measured zeal to suppress. The occasion was made available by rival factions to rencw their ancient feuds, “and to quyt querrellis, thinking this to be tyme mod convenient.’’ Various deadly combats took place; the Laird of Buccleuch was slain on the public streets by a party of the Kerrs, and this was followed as usual by sworn strife between the rival clans. “ About the same time,” says Bishop Leslie, “ the Master of Ruthven slew a valiant gentleman, called John C%arteris of Kinclevin, in Edinburgh, upon occasion of old feud, and for staying of a decret of ane proces which the said John pursued against him before the Lords of Session,” which led to the passin’g of an Act by the next Parliament, that whosoever should slay a man for pursuing an action against him, should forfeit the right of judgment in h i action, in addition to his liability to the laws for the crime. This author further records, that the Lord Semple slew the Lord Crichtoun of Sanquhar, in the governor’s own house in Edinburgh; and by the interest of the Archbishop of St Andrews and other friends, escaped free from all consequences of the crime.5 A state of things that must have made the people at large rejoice in seeing the reins of government transferred to vigorous Bishop Leslie, p. 245. Keith’a Hi&, vol. i. p. 142. a Maitland, p. 14. H ’ Bishop Leslie’s Hiatory, p. 217. Ibid, p. 248.
Volume 10 Page 62
  Enlarge Enlarge  
58 MEMORIALS OF EDINBURGH. hands, whatever might be the feelings of a few interested partizans of the Regent Arran. In the midst of these transactions, and while the Queen Dowager was skilfully arranging for the transference of the government into her own hands, the death of Edward VI. had created a total change in the neighbouring kingdom, and rendered the position and future line of policy to be pursued by Scotland in its intercourse with England altogether difFeren t. Probably, no ruler ever assumed the reins of government in Scotland with such general approbation of the people as the Queen Regent now did. She had already manifested both skill and judgment in attaining the Regency. She had secured it, although a decided Catholic, with the full concurrence of the Protestant party; and while, by her prudent concessions to them, she had won their favour, she had managed this with such skill as in no way to alienate from her the powerful Catholic party, among whose leaders were some of the chief men of learning and ability at the Scottish Court. But it has ever, even with the wisest rulers, proved a more dacult thing to maintain authority than to acquire it. To the peoplerindeed, any government capable of securing to them the free exercise of their rights, and curbing the licentious turbulence of the nobles, must have proved a change for the better. Yet, in her very first proceedings, she attacked one of the most deeply-rooted national prejudices, at once disgusting the nobility, and exciting the jealousy of the people,-by placing many of the most important offices of state in the hands of foreigners, and rousing a spirit of opposition to the government which led to the most fatal results. Meanwhile, the Regent devoted herself sedulously to the promotion of peace. A cordial union was established with England, and a Parliament assembled at Edinburgh, June 20th, 1555, many of whose enactment8 were well calculated to promote the interests of the nation. One of them, however, entitled “ An Act anent the speaking evil of the Queen’s Grace, or French-men,” affords evidence not only that the jealousy occasioned by the presence of the foreign troops was unabated, but that the unpopularity of her auxiliaries was already extending to the Queen Regent. Several of the new statutes are directed to restrain the laxity of the people in their religious observances. One is entitled “ Anent eating of flesh in Lentron (Lent) and other daies forbidden.” Another of these Acts ‘‘ Anent Robert Hude and abbot of Un-reason,” exhibits symptoms of the spirit of jealous reform, that was now influencing both parties on every question in the remotest degree affecting religion. It is the first attack on those ancient games and festivals, which this spirit of reform succeeded at length in banishing entirely from Scotland. The Act prohibits, under severest penalties, the choosing any such personage as Robin Hood, Little John, abbot of Un-reason, or Queen of May; and adds (‘ if onie weomen or others, a6out wmmer trees singing, make perturbation to the Queen’s lieges, the weomen perturbatoures sal1 be taken, handled, and put upon the cuck-stules of every burgh or toune. ’” It may well be regretted by others, besides the antiquary, that the singing about summer trees, as it is poetically expressed, should have excited the jealousy of any party, as detrimental to the interests of religion. . Scots Acta, vol. i. p. 294. 9 Ibid, vol. i. p. 307.
Volume 10 Page 63
  Enlarge Enlarge