The church and the highlands


THE SCOTTISH CATHOLICS AND SPAIN



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THE SCOTTISH CATHOLICS AND SPAIN

In the struggle of the creeds for political supremacy in the last third of the sixteenth century no phase is more curious than the gradual weakening of the tendency that drew the Scottish Catholics towards France for sympathy and support. For ages the keystone of the European political system had been the maintenance of a close friendship between Scotland and France, in order to protect the former against England and the latter against a coalition of England and Spain. So long as no vital religious differences existed to cut athwart the ancient lines of affinity and cleave new political sections, the English attempts, persistent though they were, to undermine the independence of Scotland either by force or craft were always met, and usually frustrated, by counteraction on the part of Scot­land's secular ally. But when the disintegrating influence of religious dissent made itself felt, and France as well as Scotland was split into antago­nistic faiths, whilst England and Holland went over almost entirely to the newer ideas, it was inevitable that the Protestants in each country should make common cause, oblivious to ancient national group­ing, and that the Catholics of Scotland and Eng­land should gradually be driven in mere despair

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to seek aid from Spain, the only power in Europe where religious dissent had found no footing. Like all national movements rendered necessary by the creation of new circumstances, the drawing together of the Scottish Catholics and Spain was only effected with infinite hesitation and many instinctive efforts on the parts of the actors to revert to the old grooves rendered familiar by centuries of tradition. They, like men in all ages, were for the most part unable to gauge or under­stand the mighty forces which moved them, as a glacier moves the pebbles on its breast. They only knew, or rather felt, that from the day when the widowed Queen Mary landed at Leith, half French though she was by training and descent, she could no longer count, as all her forefathers had done, upon national French force, if needed, to maintain the independence of her ancient realm against English aggression. Her Guise uncles might per­chance help her because of her kinship with them, but France was split in twain by Catholics and Huguenots, the Guises themselves would soon be fighting for their own existence, and whilst the wily Italian, Catharine de Medici, depended for her power upon the nice balance of the two religious parties she would never allow French national resources to be used for making either Guise or his Scottish niece inconveniently power­ful. And so it happened that, though Scottish blood ran in the veins of the best French nobles, though Scotsmen went still to Paris for polish and for learning, and though one French envoy after another came to Mary with hollow words of sym­pathy and to Elizabeth with equally hollow re­monstrances in her favour, Mary Stuart had to fight her battle in Scotland and England by means

of her own wit, pitted as it was against some of the craftiest brains in Christendom. In these circumstances she naturally turned to the King of Spain to support her claims to the English succession in case the efforts of her Anglophil ministers failed to wring from Elizabeth a recogni­tion of her rights. How the keen war of intrigue was waged for years by England and France to prevent Mary from gaining effectual support from Philip, which would at least have ensured equality of treatment for Catholics in England and Scotland, cannot be told here, for the subject is extensive and intricate. Suffice to say that the Guises were gradually eliminated from the problem, partly by circumstances in France and partly by Philip's diplomacy, and for years before Mary's martyrdom at Fotheringay she and her adherents looked for rescue alone to Spain. That part of the story has already been told by me fully elsewhere; but the later efforts of Scottish Catholics and moderate men to secure by the aid of Spain the succession of England for their King when the old Queen Elizabeth should die, and the counter-intrigues of the English Catholic exiles to prevent it, have never hitherto been dealt with as they deserved. James himself was as desirous as his Catholic subjects that he should succeed to the great inheritance, but he was constitutionally unable to run straight, and bis shifty bad faith made him distrusted with ample reason by every one. The struggle, indeed, developed at last into the traditional antagonism between Scots and Englishmen rather than a desire on the one side for the personal elevation of James or for his rejection on the other ; and James's tergiversation about his religion was only one of the factors that enabled the English Catholic exiles

to turn the King of Spain finally against the pro­posals of the Scottish nobles, and so to drive the King of Scots into the intrigue with Robert Cecil, which ended in his accession to the English throne under circumstances that allowed him basely to break his promises to his Catholic subjects.

In May, 1586, eight months before Mary's execution, the Catholic Scottish lords, Huntly, Claude Hamilton and John Earl of Morton, sent to Spain Robert Bruce, of Bemie,1 to ask for aid in Guise's plan to liberate Mary and James under Catholic auspices. When Bruce arrived in Spain in September, 1586, Philip had, after years of hesitation, decided to take the plunge and force England to be friendly with Spain by means of invasion. In such an enterprise the co-operation of Guise would have been unwelcome; and Bruce was sent back to Paris with vague messages of sympathy for Huntly and his colleagues. The latter had, however, made one offer which might be useful to Philip's plans, namely, to hand to the Spaniards two good Scottish ports near the English border; and the Spanish Ambassador in Paris was secretly instructed to keep Bruce in hand until the opinion of the Duke of Parma, the Spanish governor of Flanders, had been obtained as to the desirability of accepting the offer of the Scottish lords. The Ambassador (Mendoza) in Paris, a devoted adherent of Mary, hotly urged upon Parma the acceptance of the offer. " Seeing," he says, " that the Scottish Catholics make this move at the present time, which for many reasons

1 The existence of the signed blanks sent by the lords, to be filled in in Paris, and carried by Bruce, has often been disputed. I have, however, unearthed the documents themselves it Simancas and can answer for their genuineness.

is the most favourable that could be, and that they intend to extirpate heresy from their country, it is quite evident that great apprehension will be caused thereby to the Queen of England, who has so large a number of Catholics amongst her sub­jects whom she oppresses, but upon whom she will have partly to depend whenever she tries to impede the Scottish designs, so many of the northern counties near Scotland being Catholic. . . . The Queen looks upon herself as unsafe the day she has not in her favour the majority of the people of Scotland; and this she has hitherto managed to secure, as the English faction being paramount." Scotland, urges Mendoza, had fought England again and again without losing a league of land, and with the help now demanded may hold Elizabeth in check until the Catholic cause triumphs; and he prays Parma to send a good answer to the Scots on the receipt of satisfactory replies to certain questions to be asked on matters of detail. But* Parma was surrounded by English Catholics of the Jesuit faction, who were ceaseless in their assertions that England wanted no Scottish aid and would accept no Scottish sovereign. Parma himself, moreover, was sulky at not being taken more fully into Philip's plans, and he was coolly non-committal in his attitude towards the Scottish scheme. Simultaneously with the arrival in Paris of Parma's reply Colonel Stuart (afterwards Earl of Arran), captain of James VI.'s bodyguard, came to Mendoza with another message from the Scottish Catholics, telling of their determination to restore Mary to the throne if only a little help came to them from Spain. In this plan, they said, James VI. himself was a party; and Mendoza wrote to his King a fervent petition that the prayer of the

Scots should not go unheeded, even if only to furnish Spain with the harbours of refuge so urgently needed for the safety of the projected Armada. " I cannot help urging Your Majesty to seize the opportunity offered by the Scots; for if it is let slip it can hardly come again." The nobles who joined in the offer were Lennox, Claude Hamilton, Crawford, Rothes, Montrose, Moray, Caithness, Sutherland, Glencairn, Ogilvie, Fleming, Carrington, Seton, Hume, Herries, Lovat, Inver-meith, Don and Ochiltree, a stronger combination than the Catholic party had ever before effected in Scotland. The English influence in Philip's councils, however, was strong. Whilst the Welsh and Scottish priests in Rome sought to persuade the Pope of the possibility of James's conversion, in order that a Spanish domination of England and Scotland might be discountenanced, Father Persons, Cardinal Allen, the Duchess of Feria and the rest of the English exiles repeated with­out cease that they and their countrymen would prefer a thousand times the overlordship of Philip, of his daughter, or of any Spanish nominee, to the accession of a Scot to the throne of England. In the meanwhile the execution of Mary some­what simplified the issues. Whilst she lived her right to the succession could not be overlooked by any Catholic interest; but with James it was quite a different matter; and, in view of his proved falsity, some of the Scottish Catholic nobles even came round to the view that he could never be trusted to deal fairly with them or their faith. Bruce, who still remained on the Continent, was instructed to convey this to the Spanish agents, whilst praying for an answer to his mission. His message made all the difference; and Bruce sud­denly found himself made much of by Parma. Aid should be sent at once to the Scots in money: 150,000 crowns more should be sent three months after the muster of the Catholic forces. The King of Scots was to be converted, if possible; and, above all, a Scottish port must be secured for a Spanish base. The difficulty, he was told, was the conveyance of the auxiliary force from Flanders to the Scottish coast, as Parma had no boats available; but Bruce made light of this. If money for the purpose were given to him he would undertake to freight thirty vessels in Scot­land, ostensibly to load wheat at Dantzig, but really to ship men at Dunkirk. So Bruce was sent to Scotland in May, 1587, with 10,000 crowns, accompanied by one Captain Foster, who would take charge of the flotilla to be freighted. Leith was to be secured as a port of debarkation, and all was to be ready for a move in the autumn, at the time when it was hoped the great Armada from Spain would be ready. It is certain, from the correspondence now accessible, that Philip intended this only as a feint; and that, whatever hopes King James may have entertained that it portended the recognition of his rights to the English succession, on a more or less hesitating acceptance by him of Catholicism, they were mis­taken. James, indeed, was no match, clever as he thought himself, for the Spaniards in diplomacy, and his falsity was seen through from the first. The advantage to the Spaniards in disarming him during the attack upon England, and the obtaining of a port and the admission of Spanish troops in Scotland, were enormous. But from the first Bruce's mission went awry. Numberless obstacles delayed him until September when he arrived at

Lochrian. It was too late in the season then to freight ships, even if Dantzig was not blocked by ice as it would be later. So Bruce was in­troduced by the lords to a secret interview with James himself. The King pretended to approve of the coming of Spanish forces, but his confidant, the Justice Clerk Ballenden, soon turned him to another way of thinking; and a cloud of proposals for other arrangements with Spain and Parma were raised by James with the object of embroiling and obscuring the business. Huntly and the lords made up their minds that with so shifty a colleague as James they could do nothing and determined to act independently of him. They would, they said, hold themselves ready to seize Leith and receive the Spanish force independently of the King rather than allow the Catholic faith in Scot­land to be utterly crushed, as it would be unless a stand was made. John Earl of Morton went to Flanders from Spain, where he was in exile since July, 1587, personally to confer with Parma; and in March, 1588, returned to Scotland accompanied by Colonel Semple, one of Philip's pensioners, with the project to capture Leith by means of a rising of the Catholic nobles; whilst Semple was to make a last attempt, if it was deemed advisable, to win James to the Spanish cause. Semple found James as shifty as ever and gave up the task in despair, whilst Morton, imprudently endeavouring to pre­cipitate the rising, was captured for treason. In vain Huntly clamoured for help and succour from Flanders : none could come, for the North Sea was crowded with enemies who watched Parma's ports as a terrier watches a rat hole. The great Armada was already under weigh, Morton was in prison, and the Scottish Catholic nobles lurked powerless in their own fastnesses, watching with dismay the crumbling of all their hopes with the scattering of the Armada. Even Robert Bruce began to palter with his faith and sell himself for lucre to the enemy, for the 10,000 Spanish crowns he held could not be used and English paymasters as well were numerous and ready. Semple went back to Flanders in September, 1588, with Bishop Chisholm to urge personally the case of the Scottish Catholics. But, alas! nothing could be done, for Philip, as he said, was determined not to lift a finger to increase the power of James; and the latter made no secret of his opinion that a Spanish conquest of England could only tend to his own advancement. There was still too much talk, more­over, amongst the Scottish Catholics in Rome about the possibility of the conversion of the King of Scots to please Philip, and, with the exception of Huntly and some of James's personal enemies, even the Scottish Catholic nobles were not pre­pared to throw their King over altogether. All appeals to Philip from Scotland for some time after the Armada were therefore in vain. Father Persons and the English pensioners were all in favour of the " Irish enterprise," of the murder of Elizabeth, of the adoption of an English claimant, of anything to prevent a Scots paramountcy over England. James was as eager as ever with his embassies to Spain and Rome—Ker, Fentry, Pury Ogilvie and the rest of his tools ; but his duplicity was well understood, and it was seen by the Spaniards that his only object was to bring ressure upon Elizabeth to acknowledge him as er heir. The Pope, however, was hoodwinked, and sent money by Father Gordon to James in 1591, and the King of Scots smiled effusively upon the Catholics for a time. But in 1593 he: had again fallen under the English influence. Then] it was that the nobles sent to Spain a treacherous priest, an Englishman named John Cecil, to mak| a decided bid for rescue. They wanted, they saidl 3,000 foot soldiers landed at Lochrian in CarricH and 100,000 ducats in money; and if these were] sent they would undertake to capture James, and] "deal with him as His Majesty may desire". Cecil] had been brought up at the English college at Valladolid, of which Father Persons was rectora and he was sure of a welcome from his old master] Persons, as has been said, had previously bitterly opposed all the Scottish plans ; but Cecil's message] quite altered his opinions for a time. If the Scottish nobles were ready to capture James, as they said, " and deal with him as the King of Spairn desired" all his objections would disappear, and Persons was as desirous as Huntly himself that no! time should now be lost in sending the Catholic] lords the aid they demanded. If James was to] be eliminated from the problem, the solution in] favour of Catholicism was easy both in Scotland] and in England. It looked tempting; but the Irish Catholics were more vociferous in their de-1 mands for preference even than the Scots; and] matters hung fire yet another year. Then Walter] Lindsay of Balgarys and Cecil again went to Spain] with fervent letters from Huntly, Angus, Erroll Semple and Herries, praying for aid to restore the] Catholic faith. But James had kept his finger om the intrigue by pretending to approve of Spanish! help being asked for; and at the given moment] Huntly, Semple and Francis Earl of Bothwelfl were exiled, although James feigned that he exiled] Huntly only temporarily, and for appearance sake.!

Huntly went to Flanders, where Angus soon joined him, and there renewed the demands for help from Spain; but, as before, in vain. Gradually, by the duplicity of James, and the wavering of the lords, most of them found their way back to Scotland; but one there was who, more out of enmity to James personally than steadfastness in the Catho­lic faith, remained in Philip's pay for the rest of his life; weaving plans for the destruction of his enemy the Bang, if not for the restoration of the Church in Scotland, as he pretended. This was Francis Stuart, Earl of Bothwell, Lord Admiral of Scotland, son of John of Coldingham, the base brother of Queen Mary. From being a staunch Protestant in appearance, and a pensioner of Eng­land, he had changed now to the other side ; and had fled to Spanish territory after his plot to seize James at Falkland had failed. In 1601, when old Philip was in his grave, and his son ruled as Lerma's puppet, Bothwell wrote from Flanders to tìle King a detailed plan for the raising of Scotland, as a means of securing England to the Catholic side. His plan was to send from Flanders 4,000 troops to Orkney, where his brother the Earl of Orkney would welcome them, and simultaneously another 4,000 to Kirkcudbright, where they would be joined by the English Catholic contingent. Measures would be taken, he said, to secure Broughty, Perth, Stirling and Dumbarton; and the expenses of the war might be defrayed by ithe appropriation of one-third of the Scottish ec­clesiastical temporalities. Bothwell, unfortunately, complicated his recommendation and showed his interested aims, by asking that an embassy should be sent from Spain to demand of James the resti­tution of his (Bothwell's) estates, on condition that he remained in exile for the rest of his life. He gives a long list of the Scottish nobles, not by any means all Catholics, who had pledged themselves to support such an invasion as that proposed. Colonel Semple,1 another Spanish pensioner, pre­sented a somewhat similar plan in Flanders: but, alas! there was neither money nor energy now in the Spanish councils. Dry rot had set in, and the administration was decadent. A half-hearted attempt to invade Ireland was made; but James Stuart was still an obstacle, and of all people in the world he was the last whom Spaniards, or indeed any Catholics, would aid to elevate. So the Scots prayed in vain to be rescued from the religious dispensation under which they lived. But at least Bothwell, who was almost penniless, was granted his pension of 250 or 300 ducats a month, which, however, was paid with sad irregu­larity and he was often in poverty. Early in 1603 Bothwell again returned to the charge, and him­self went to Spain to see the King. Again he related how eager the Scottish nobles were to welcome a force that should coerce James. The four principal fortresses of the country would, he said, be delivered to him (Bothwell) for the security of the Spaniards. All his kinsmen Stuarts would follow his lead, and what was first needful was a sum of money to raise and equip an armed force, ostensibly as a bodyguard for James, but really for his coercion. Hostages, too, were to be forth­coming, the sons and heirs of himself, Ochiltree



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