Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

with a torch, perceived the King and the lady, and yelled with savage glee : 'Sirs, the bride is found, for whom we have carolled all night.' Two traitors, Sir John Hall and his brother, leaped down with daggers, but the King seized them vigorously, and threw them under his feet, wounding his hands, however, in trying to grasp their daggers. Graham followed, and to the King's entreaty for mercy he answered: 'Thou cruel tyrant, thou never hadst mercy on thy noble kindred, nor others, so expect none.' 'I beseech thee,' implored James, 'that for my soul's salvation thou wilt let me have a confessor.' 'Thou shalt have no confessor save this sword,' and he stabbed him furiously. At their dying King's entreaties for pity, and gasping promises of half his kingdom for his life, the ruffians were hesitating, but those above roared to Graham to finish his work, or he would himself die at their hands; and in a few minutes the man in all the vigour of three-and-forty years, the greatest of his marvellous race, the brightest genius of his country, the father of his people, lay dead, pierced by sixteen wounds.1

The winter morning had scarcely dawned, when the cry that the King was dead awoke the citizens of Perth, and then spread like wild-fire over the land. The assassins made for the mountains, but no retreat could hide them from the outraged nation. They were speedily captured, and torturedto death with the most terrific devices that an age ingenious in such invention could suggest.

The six-years' old King, James II., was crowned at Holyrood instead of Scone, for the panic was great, and Edinburgh was farther from the homes of the terrible Highlanders. Sir Alexander Livingstone became guardian of his person; Sir William Crichton, chancellor of his kingdom; and the

1 He was buried in the church of the Carthusian monastery at Perth, which he himself had founded.

O

history of the regency is the history of the perpetual strife of these statesmen with each other and with the Earl of Douglas, who had become 'very potent in kine and friendis.' His 'kine and friendis' now spread over vast territories in southern Scotland, including Galloway and Annandale, and in France he was Lord of Longueville and possessor of the magnificent duchy of Touraine. Nor was every endowment of a consummate soldier the least inheritance of the sons of this mighty house, and a struggle, with its perilous grandeur, in which the royal faction organized the foulest machinations for its destruction, began, when in 1439, William, at the age of sixteen, became Earl of Douglas. The regents then devised and executed a plan. The Earl and his brother were invited to pay a visit at court. It was most desirable that the King should cultivate the acquaintance of these young noblemen. With anxious inklings, an old family friend besought Douglas, that if he was foolishly bent on accepting this invitation for himself, to leave his brother at home. His advice was unheeded, and the two boys arrived at Edinburgh Castle, where their little King received them with natural delight at the prospect of having such companions instead of the dreary old plotting statesmen by whom he was surrounded and held tight. A feast was given, and all were merry together, when suddenly a dish, the national significance of which was death, was placed upon the table. It was a black bull's head ; and with breathless horror, the two Douglases sprung to their feet, and were rushing from the hall, when strong men in armour gripped their supple forms. We are told that some pretence of a trial was gone through, that the King wept bitterly, and implored Livingstone and Crichton to spare his friends, but those stern functionaries severely reproved the child whom they were thus educating, for his folly in opposing proceedings that were only necessary to secure his happiness. Accordingly the youths were executed, and for a time it would appear that the mightiness of the Douglases received a shock. Touraine reverted to the crown of France; and the Scottish estates were divided between the sister of the betrayed youths, Margaret, the Fair Maid of Galloway, and their uncle, James the Fat, a 'fat, quiet, peaceable person,' neither of whom gave much trouble to any one. When, however, James the Fat was succeeded by his son William in 1443, the struggle with the rival family was recommenced, and it was not till 1454, after much civil discord, and after James had disgraced himself by killing the Earl in a fit of passion at Stirling, that an act of forfeiture was passed against the Douglases, and the head of the house was driven over the Borders. Violent acts and mean plots had failed; but the calm straightforward counsel of a 'simple great one,' whose 'heart, head, and hand' were to be pre-eminently holy, wise, and strong in Church and State for many years, had gained the mastery. This was Bishop James Kennedy,: who in 1440 had succeeded Henry Wardlaw in the see of St. Andrews. The King, exasperated with the Douglases, arrived in a deplorable state of fatigue and depression at the castle of St. Andrews. 'Sire,' said the Bishop, 'I entreat you to partake first of all of some refreshment; and meanwhile I will pass into my chamber and pray to God for you and the commonwealth of this realm.' On rejoining the King, he led him back to his chamber, where they both knelt down together, and besought the guidance of Almighty God. Then the bishop produced a bundle of arrows; and after showing the King how impossible it was even for a strong man to break them so long as they were bound up together, but that the weakest man

1 He was the son of Mary, daughter of Robert III., by her second husband, Sir James Kennedy of Dunnure.

could do so when taken separately, he thus explained to him that it was only by dividing his enemies that he could hope to destroy them.1 Acting on the bishop's guidance, James was ultimately victorious.2 By the breaking up of the Douglas territories the crown gained enormously, and many families were aggrandized. The best of the spoil, however, fell to the Earl of Angus. He was a near kinsman of Douglas, and his race was destined to restore the fallen house to a measure of its old magnificence.

The Queen-mother had been early thrust out of the regency by Livingstone and Crichton. Distrusted because she was by birth one of 'our auld enemies of England,' separated from her son, still comparatively young, and needing a strong protector, she gave her hand to Sir James Stewart, the Black Knight of Lorn. She bore him three sons, John and James, afterwards Earls of Athole and Buchan, and Andrew, who became Bishop of Moray. After her second marriage she sinks out of notice, but enough is told to make it apparent that neglect and suffering accompanied the last years of the winning Jane Beaufort, who had stolen the heart of the King of Scots at Windsor Castle.

1 Lyon, vol. i. p. 224.

2 The head of the house of Douglas remained for many years in England a banished and forgotten man. In 1484, of the following reign, he was made prisoner in attempting an incursion on the borders of Annandale. Pinkerton says :—' Douglas, now old and unwieldy, was conveyed to the royal presence; but either from shame or scorn, turned his back on the son of James II., the destroyer of his house. A ray of pity illuminated the despotic mind of the King, who had now himself tasted misfortune: he sentenced the years and inf1rmities of Douglas, who had been educated to the Church, to the religious retirement of Lindores Abbey, while the Earl's indifference muttered, "He who may no better be must be a monk." In this retreat Douglas perhaps first knew happiness, and died after four years of penitence and peace.'—Vol i. p. 317.

After her death, the two princesses, her daughters Eleanor and Jane, were sent to France.1 They arrived to find their sister the Dauphiness dead. A sad interest hangs round that early deathbed. A childless wife of twenty-two, the Dauphiness Margaret had been married nine years. Very fond of her books and of her pen, she has been accused of sitting up all night to make rondeaux and ballads; and it has been suggested that some of her compositions may still lurk in the libraries of France. Her nature was intensely sensitive. A few words of shameful insinuation having been uttered against her by a courtier, Jamet de Tillay, proved her death-blow. She lay on her couch moaning, ' Ah, Jamet ! Jamet! you have gained your purpose. If I die, it is on your account. . . . May I die if I ever wronged my husband!' Almost her last words were—' But for my conjugal faith, I should repent that I had ever come to France.'2

In 1449 James married Marie, daughter of the Duke of Gueldres, 'a lady young, beautiful, and of a masculine constitution.3 The wedding festivities at Edinburgh took place with 'barbaric pomp;' and well might the knights of France exclaim, when they left their weeping bride at Holyrood, 'Mountainous and strange is the country, and the people rough and savage.' The long minority of James, and the first years of his brief reign, were too much occupied in strife with the Douglases to leave time for good government. 'Maisterful theft and reft' had made the cries

1 After many years, Eleanor married Sigismund Duke of Austria; Jane returned to her own country, and married the Earl of Angus, and subsequently the Earl of Morton. James's remaining daughters were Isabella, married to Francis, Duke of Bretagne, and Mary, to the Count de Boucquan, son to the Lord of Campvere.

2 See Pinkerton, vol. i. p. 200.

8 Drummond of Hawthornden, p. 25.

« AnteriorContinuar »