Douglas, James (d.1581) (DNB00)
|←Douglas, James (1426-1488)||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 15
Douglas, James (d.1581)
|Douglas, James (1617-1645)→|
DOUGLAS, JAMES, fourth Earl of Morton (d. 1581), regent of Scotland, was the younger son of Sir George Douglas of Pittendriech [q. v.], younger brother of Archibald, sixth earl of Angus [q. v.], by his wife Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of David Douglas of Pittendriech. In his early years his father carefully superintended his education until compelled to take refuge in England by the act of forfeiture in 1528. From this time young Douglas was left very much to his own devices. His education was therefore ‘not so good as was convenient for his birth’ (Historie of James the Sext, p. 182); and he contracted habits which rendered him in private life one of the least exemplary of the special supporters of Knox. For some time he lived under the name of Innes with his relations the Douglases of Glenbervie, Kincardineshire, but fearing discovery there he went to the ‘northern parts of Scotland,’ where he filled ‘the office of grieve and overseer of the lands and rents, the corn and cattle of him with whom he lived’ (Hume, House of Douglas, ii. 138). His employment enabled him to acquire a knowledge of the details of business, and Hume states that the acquaintance he thus obtained, ‘with the humour and disposition of the vulgar and inferior sort of common people,’ afforded him important insight into the method of ‘dealing with them and managing them according as he had occasion.’
Through his mother, young Douglas inherited the lands of Pittendriech, and in right of his wife, Elizabeth Douglas, daughter of James, third earl of Morton, he succeeded in 1553 to that earldom, having previously been styled Master of Morton. In 1545 he took part in the invasion of England, which, through the ‘deceit of George Douglas’ (his father) ‘and the vanguard’ (Diurnal of Occurrents, p. 40), resulted in a shameful retirement before inferior numbers. He was taken prisoner in 1548 on the capture of the castle of Dalkeith, which he held for his father, possibly not obtaining liberty till the pacification in April 1550. As his father was a supporter of Wishart, Morton no doubt received an early bias towards the reformation; but although he subscribed the first band of the Scottish reformers, 3 Dec. 1557 (Knox, Works, i. 274), he ‘did not plainly join them’ during the contest with the queen regent (ib. i. 460), and in November 1559 definitely withdrew his support, his defection being noted by Randolph in a letter of the 11th (Cal. State Papers, Scot. Ser. i. 122). He did not, however, give to the queen regent anything more than moral aid. On 2 May Maitland announces to Cecil that he is expected in the camp on the morrow (ib. 148), and on the 10th, along with other lords of the congregation, he ratified the agreement entered into with Elizabeth at Berwick on 27 Feb. (Knox, Works, ii. 53). He was a commissioner for the treaty at Upsettlington on 31 May, and in October accompanied Maitland and Glencairn to London to propose a marriage between Elizabeth and the Earl of Arran. After the arrival of Queen Mary in Scotland he was named one of the privy council. He opposed the proposal made in 1561 to deprive Mary of the mass (ib. ii. 291), and when, on the occasion of a second anti-popish riot in 1563, Knox, summoned before the council as abetting it, boldly retaliated by charging Mary ‘to forsake that idolatrous religion,’ Morton, then lord chancellor, ‘fearing the queen's irritation,’ charged him to ‘hold his peace and go away’ (Spotiswood, History, ii. 25). Morton had been appointed lord chancellor 1 Jan. of this year in succession to Huntly, head of the papal party, whose conspiracy in the previous October he had aided Moray in suppressing, he and Lord Lindsay bringing with them one hundred horse and eight hundred foot (Herries, Hist. Marie Queen of Scots, p. 65). Randolph on 22 Jan., intimating Morton's appointment, writes: ‘I doubt not now we shall have good justice.’
Morton must be classed among those persons referred to by Cecil in a memorandum of 2 June 1565 as supporting the marriage of Mary and Darnley because they were ‘devoted’ to the latter by ‘bond of blood,’ with the qualification in Morton's case that the devotion was never more than lukewarm. To secure his support Lady Lennox, mother of Darnley, had on 12 and 13 May renounced her claims on the earldom of Angus, which Morton held in trust for his nephew, the young earl (Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. 394), but he never had any personal predilection for Darnley. Randolph, on Darnley's arrival in Scotland, reports on 19 Feb. to Cecil that Morton ‘much disliked him and wished him away’ (Keith, History, ii. 265). As, however, Lady Lennox had renounced her claims on the earldom of Angus, Morton was too prudent to commit himself to the rebellious enterprises of the extreme protestant party led by Moray. At the banquet which followed the marriage ceremony on 25 July 1565 he served the queen as carver (Randolph to Leicester, printed in Wright's Elizabeth and her Times, i. 203), and he assisted in the ‘roundabout raid’ for the suppression of Moray's rebellion, accompanying the king, and having in fact the military command (Reg. Privy Counc. Scot. i. 379; Knox, Works, ii. 500). On account of his former friendship with Moray and Argyll, he was, however, held by the queen in strong suspicion. She was at least not sanguine of winning him over to support the schemes which were being hatched by the Italian Rizzio, and therefore took precautions for his delivering up the castle of Tantallon for her use in case of war (Reg. Privy Counc. Scot. i. 383). This naturally made him more watchful of her designs. When it became known that she intended to have sentence of forfeiture passed against Moray and the other banished lords, Morton recognised that momentous purposes were in contemplation, which would involve him in ruin. Rizzio, supposed to be the inspirer of these purposes, had awakened also Darnley's ill-will through the favour shown him by Mary, and the plot now elaborated by Morton seems to have been the development of an earlier one conceived by Darnley and his father. ‘Their purpose,’ says Calderwood, ‘was to have taken him coming out of a tennis-court … but it was revealed’ (History, ii. 312; see also Randolph's letter to Leicester, 13 Feb. 1565–6, in Tytler's Hist. Scot. ed. 1864, iii. 215). It was after the failure of this plot that the direct assistance of Morton was called in, who in taking the project in hand may have been influenced by the rumour that at the ensuing parliament he was to be deprived of certain lands, and that the office of lord chancellor was to be transferred to Rizzio (Cal. State Papers, Scot. Ser. i. 230; Spotiswood, Hist. ii. 35). Mr. Froude represents Morton as suddenly adding his name to the bond for Rizzio's murder ‘in a paroxysm of anger,’ but at the least he was the first whom Ruthven induced to take a practical share in the plot (Ruthven's ‘Relation’ in Keith's Hist. iii. 264), and the idea of a bond was his own suggestion. While the author of the ‘Historie of James the Sext’ (p. 5) and Calderwood (History, ii. 311) name Maitland of Lethington as at the bottom of the whole conspiracy, the credit of it is given by Sir James Melville to Morton, by means of his cousin George Douglas, who, says Melville, ‘was constantly about the king,’ and put ‘suspicion in his head against Rizzio’ (Memoirs, p. 148). Herries goes further and asserts that Morton's purpose was to cause a breach between the king and queen (Hist. Marie Queen of Scots, p. 65). In any case Darnley was to be used as a mere puppet, the real power being placed in the hands of Moray. The course to be adopted to the queen would depend upon the policy she pursued (Randolph to Cecil, 6 March 1565–6). In the bond signed on 6 March the conspirators promised to Darnley the crown matrimonial, he engaging to maintain the protestant religion and restore the banished lords. The principal leaders of the protestant party, including even Knox, seem to have been privy to the scheme, but its chief elaborators were Maitland and Morton. The method of its execution was left entirely to Morton, who, however, cannot be held responsible for the brutal ferocity with which summary vengeance was inflicted on Rizzio, on the threshold of the queen's chamber. Besides despatching Rizzio, it was necessary to secure the person of the queen, and with skilful audacity Morton took means which would guarantee the accomplishment of both purposes. At dusk on Saturday, 9 March, a body of armed men, secretly collected by Morton, swarmed into the quadrangle of Holyrood Palace, the keys being seized from the porter and the gates locked to prevent further egress or ingress. Morton with a select band then held the staircase communicating with the queen's supper-room and the other apartments. Into the supper-room Ruthven and others had been admitted from Darnley's apartment, Darnley having joined the queen a few minutes before. The original intention of the conspirators was that Rizzio should be publicly executed (Morton and Ruthven to Cecil, 27 March 1566; Calderwood, Hist. ii. 314), and Knox states that they had with them a rope for this purpose (Works, ii. 521); but either a sudden alarm or overpowering passion made them dispense with formalities, and as soon as he had been dragged from the apartment they fell upon him with their daggers (ib.) Herries asserts that Morton gave him the first stroke (Hist. Marie Queen of Scots, p. 77), but other writers agree that this was done by George Douglas with Darnley's dagger, which he plucked from Darnley's sheath, and, with the words ‘Take this from the king,’ left it in Rizzio's body. An alarm of the citizens was quieted by the appearance of Darnley, who assured them that all was well, and the queen was locked up in her room, the palace being left in charge of Morton.
While Moray, Morton, and Ruthven, lulled to carelessness by Mary's proposals for a general reconciliation, were deliberating at midnight of the 11th in Morton's house, Mary, escorted by Darnley, was riding swiftly to Dunbar. Morton, Ruthven, and others, denounced as the originators of the plot by Darnley—who, with obtuse effrontery, now denied that it ever had his wish or approval—thereupon fled precipitately towards England. From Berwick, Morton and Ruthven, on 27 March, sent a letter asking Elizabeth's clemency and favour (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1566–8, entry 229; Scot. Ser. i. 232), and on 2 April sent to Cecil ‘the whole discourse of the manner of their proceedings in the slaughter of David,’ expressing also their intention to send copies of the narrative to France and Scotland (Cal. State Papers, Scot. Ser. i. 232; see Ruthven's ‘Narrative’ published first in 1699, reprinted in Appendix to ‘Some Particulars of the Life of D. Rizzio,’ forming No. vi. of Miscellanea Antiqua Anglicana, 1815; in Tracts illustrative of the History of Scotland, 1826, pp. 326–60; and in Keith's Hist. No. xi. in Appendix). Meantime on 19 March they had been summoned before the privy council of Scotland (Reg. i. 437), and on 9 June they were denounced as rebels (ib. i. 462). Though Elizabeth had countenanced the plot, its failure made it necessary to disavow connection with it, and the welcome she gave the conspirators was of a dubious character. Morton on 16 June set sail for Flanders (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1566–8, entry 497), but had returned to England by 4 July (ib. Scot. Ser. i. 236), and a week afterwards was ordered to ‘convey himself to some secret place, or else to leave the kingdom’ (ib. 237).
Morton had in Scotland a powerful friend in Moray, but though unmolested Moray only remained to witness the engrossment of the queen's favour by Bothwell, whom he knew to be his mortal enemy. Each, however, had his own ends to serve by a temporary amnesty. The recall of Morton was to the party of Moray of supreme importance, and this could be obtained only through Bothwell. The breach between the queen and Darnley had been hopelessly widened by the revelation of the bond signed by him for Rizzio's murder. Bothwell, the chief succourer of Mary in her distresses, now resolved to make use of her antipathy to Darnley and of the contemptuous hatred cherished towards Darnley by the friends of Morton to further his own ambition. On condition that the queen would agree to pardon Morton, his friends offered to find means to enable her to be ‘quit of her husband without prejudice to her son,’ and although she answered that she would ‘do nothing to touch her honour and conscience’ (‘Protestation of the Earls of Argyll and Huntly’ in Keith, Appendix No. xvi), she at last agreed, about the end of December, to pardon Morton and the other conspirators, with the exception of George Douglas and Andrew Car (Bedford to Cecil, 30 Dec. 1566; Cal. Scot. Ser. i. 241). Bothwell's mediation had been purchased by the consent of a party of Morton's friends to the murder of Darnley; and in Morton's recall Darnley seems to have read his doom, for ‘without word spoken or leave taken he stole away from Stirling and fled to his father.’ When Morton and Bothwell met in the yard of Whittinghame, Bothwell, according to Morton, proposed to him the murder, inquiring ‘what would be his part therein, seeing it was the queen's mind that the king should be tane away’ (Morton's confession in Richard Bannatyne's Memorials, p. 318); but Morton, being, as he expressed it, ‘scarcely clear of one trouble,’ had no wish to rush headlong into another, and adroitly met the reiterated solicitations of Bothwell with a demand for the ‘queen's handwrite of that matter,’ of ‘which warrant,’ he adds, Bothwell ‘never reported to me.’ The position of Morton was one of extraordinary perplexity. He knew, as is evident from Ruthven's ‘Narrative,’ that the queen had sworn to be revenged on the murderers of Rizzio, and he could not suppose that Bothwell had consented to his recall except for the promotion of his own designs. What security had Morton that his own ruin as well as that of Darnley was not intended by entangling him in the murder and making him suffer—as he finally did—as the scapegoat of Bothwell and Mary? But if he had resolved not to endanger his life by murdering Darnley, he also shrank from endangering it by endeavouring to save him. He said he was ‘myndit’ to warn him, but knew him ‘to be sic a bairne that there was naething tauld him but he would reveal it to the queen again’ (ib. 319). Argyll and others had allowed themselves to be made the tools of Bothwell by signing the Craigmillar bond, but neither Moray nor Morton had compromised themselves by writing of any kind, and when the tragedy happened at Kirk-o'-Field neither was in Edinburgh. Shortly afterwards Morton at a midnight interview with the queen received again the castle of Tantallon and other lands, but when summoned to serve as a juryman on the trial of Bothwell for Darnley's murder he warily declined; ‘for that the Lord Darnley was his kinsman,’ he said, ‘he would rather pay the forfeit.’ Before the trial Moray had, on 9 April, left Edinburgh on foreign travel, but had taken care, according to Herries, to set in motion a scheme for Bothwell's overthrow, and had left ‘the Earl of Morton head to the faction, who knew well enough how to manage the business, for he was Moray's second self’ (Hist. Marie Queen of Scots, p. 91).
Mr. Froude, overlooking Morton's own confession that he signed the bond for Bothwell's marriage with the queen (Bannatyne, Memorials, pp. 319–20)—in addition to the endorsement in Randolph's hand on a copy of the bond, ‘Upon this was founded the accusation of the Earl of Morton’—asserts that Morton can be proved distinctly not to have signed. This confident negative seems to rest wholly on a letter of Drury to Cecil, 27 April, in which he says: ‘The lords have subscribed a bond to be Bothwell's in all actions, saving Morton and Lethington, who, though they yielded to the marriage, yet in the end refused to be his in so general terms;’ but the information of Drury must have been secondhand, and probably having heard of the defection of Morton and Lethington he simply put his own interpretation upon their conduct. Morton excused his signature on the ground that Bothwell had been cleared by an assize, and that he was charged to sign it by the ‘queen's write and command.’ Morally the excuse is inadequate, but its legal validity cannot be questioned. Nor by his subsequent conduct did Morton violate any promise, for Bothwell practically absolved the signers of the bond from their obligations by avowedly on 24 April carrying off the queen by force.
No sooner had Bothwell committed himself by compromising the honour of the queen before the world, than Morton threw off his mask of friendship. While the queen was still at Dunbar in Bothwell's nominal custody, Morton took the initiative in the formation of a ‘secret council’ of the lords, who at Stirling signed a bond to ‘seek the liberty of the queen to preserve the life of the prince, and to pursue them that murdered the king.’ For this purpose they sought the help of Elizabeth (Melville to Cecil, 8 May 1567), but as she did ‘not like that Mary's subjects should by any force withstand that which they do see her bent unto’ (Randolph to Leicester, 10 May), the marriage took place on 15 May. The party of Morton, now largely recruited by catholic noblemen, exasperated at the queen's folly, resolved, at a meeting at Stirling in the beginning of June, on the bold stroke of capturing Bothwell and Mary in Holyrood Palace. Their purpose having been betrayed, it was frustrated by the abrupt departure of Bothwell and Mary to the strong fortress of Borthwick Castle. Thereupon Morton and Lord Home galloped to the castle on the night of 10 June, and surrounded it in the darkness; but Bothwell escaped through a postern gate, and went to Dunbar. After a violent war of words with Mary (Drury to Cecil, 12 June), Morton and Home returned to the main body of the confederates, and two days afterwards Mary, in male attire, reached Dunbar in safety. The confederates resolved to augment their credit by seizing upon Edinburgh, although the castle was held for Mary by Sir James Balfour, and, entering it at four in the afternoon of 11 June by forcing the gates (Birrel, Diary, p. 5), emitted at the cross a proclamation commanding all subjects, and especially the citizens of Edinburgh, to assist them in their designs (printed in Anderson's Collections, i. 128). The ‘secret council’ on the following day made an act which in somewhat halting language professed to declare Bothwell ‘to be the principall author and murtherer of the king's grace of good memorie, and ravishing of the queen's majestie’ (imprinted at Edinburgh by Robert Lickprevick, 1567, reprinted in appendix to Calderwood's ‘History,’ ii. 576–8). Bothwell, chiefly supported by his border desperadoes, now resolved with the queen to march on the capital, and the lords under the command of Morton thereupon determined to confront the royal forces in the open. Then followed the strange and dramatic surrender of Mary on Sunday, 14 June, at Carberry Hill. To the desire of Mary, as expressed by the French ambassador, that the ‘matter should be taken up without blood,’ Morton replied that they ‘had taken up arms not against the queen, but against the murderer of the king, whom if she would deliver to be punished, or at least part from her company, she would find a continuation of dutiful obedience’ (Knox, Works, ii. 560). Bothwell now offered to fight for trial of his innocence, singling out Morton, who was nothing loth; but Lindsay having claimed precedence as a nearer kinsman of Darnley, Morton gave place, presenting Lindsay for the combat with the famous two-handed sword of Archibald Bell-the-Cat. Here, however, Mary, after an agitated scene with Bothwell, haughtily interposed, on the ground that Bothwell as her husband was above the rank of any of her subjects, and passionately appealed to those around her to advance and ‘sweep the traitors from the hillside.’ Her words obtained no response except in the breaking up and dispersion of Bothwell's followers; and Bothwell, realising at once that his cause was lost, bade Mary a gloomy farewell, and in sullen desperation rode off unmolested. Herries states that Morton gave Bothwell privately to understand ‘that if he would slip asyde he may go freily wither he pleased in securitie’ (Hist. Marie Queen of Scots, p. 94), and the fact that he mentioned this alternative to the French ambassador is in itself perhaps sufficient evidence that he regarded Bothwell's escape as less embarrassing than would have been his capture.
It was between Morton, the murderer of Rizzio, and Atholl, the chief of the catholic party (‘Narrative of the Captain of Inchkeith’ in Teulet's Lettres de Marie Stuart, 1859, p.123; Beaton, 12 June, in Laing's Hist. ii. 196), that towards the close of the warm June day Mary, ‘her face all disfigured with dust and tears’ (Calderwood, ii. 365), entered the city of Edinburgh amid the execrations of the people from the windows and stairs (Sir James Melville, Memoirs, p. 184). On the day following many of the council, irritated by her threats and the discovery that she was already in communication with Bothwell, were for her summary execution, but Morton intervened to have ‘her life spared with provision of securitie to religion’ (Calderwood, ii. 366). For this he was denounced by some as ‘a stayer of justice,’ but his intervention was effectual, and it was at his suggestion that on 12 June she was conveyed to the fortalice of Lochleven, and placed under the charge of his relative, Sir William Douglas, afterwards seventh earl of Morton [q. v.] On 20 June Morton, if his story is to be believed (for the exact version see quotation from copy of his declaration made at Westminster 29 Dec. 1568, in Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. 309), obtained possession of the celebrated silver casket of Bothwell, containing the bonds which Bothwell had induced the noblemen to sign at different times on his behalf, and various songs and letters of Mary which, if genuine, implicated her beyond the possibility of doubt in the murder of her husband. The receipt granted by the regent to Morton for the casket on 16 Sept. 1568 declared that he ‘had trewlie and honestlie observit and kepit the said box and haill writtis and pecis foirsaidis within the same, without ony alteratioun, augmentatioun, or diminutioun thairof in ony part or portion’ (Reg. Privy Council, i. 641). The question as to the genuineness of the documents cannot, however, be discussed here [see Buchanan, George, 1506–1582, and Mary Queen of Scots]. It must suffice to state that if no casket was discovered Morton most probably was the inventor of the story, and that if the documents in the casket were forged, Morton, whether or not he supplied the forgeries before delivering up the casket to Moray, must share the chief responsibility of the forgery. However that may be, it is worthy of remark that on 26 June, or shortly after the alleged time when the casket was discovered, Bothwell was denounced as the ‘committer’ of the murder ‘with his own hands’ (Calderwood, ii. 367; Diurnal of Occurrents, p. 110). An enterprise of a similar kind is recorded of Morton in a letter of Drury to Cecil, 12 July 1567: ‘Yesterday,’ he says, ‘at two in the morning, the Earl of Morton with a hundred horse and two hundred footmen marched to Fawside House, and got out of the same certain jewels of the queen's;’ and he adds, ‘if it were the coffer she had carried heretofore with her, it is of great value’ (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1566–8, entry 1433).
In the discussions regarding the final disposal of the queen, Morton, probably acting in accordance with instructions from Moray, did not commit himself definitely to any of the first proposals. It was chiefly through his mediation that the demission of the government in favour of the prince and the establishment of a regency under Moray was agreed upon. At the coronation of the infant prince at Stirling, Morton took the oath on his behalf, promising to maintain the protestant religion (Reg. Privy Council, i. 542). He was restored to his office of lord chancellor, and appointed one of the council of regency to carry on the government until the arrival of Moray. With Atholl he accompanied Moray to Lochleven on 15 Aug., and had a conference with the queen previous to her remarkable private interview with Moray. Mary afterwards took leave of Atholl and Morton with the words (doubtless referring to her extraordinary recriminations on the way to Edinburgh), ‘You have had experience of my severity and of the end of it’ (Throckmorton to Elizabeth, 20 Aug. 1567, in Keith, ii. 738), but Morton was one of those specially excepted from her amnesty after her escape from Lochleven (Froude, viii. 313). Morton led the van at the battle of Langside on 13 May 1568, and he was one of the four commissioners who accompanied Moray to York, when, after a very lame public accusation of Mary, the contents of the silver casket were privately exhibited to Norfolk. During the short regency of Moray, Morton was his chief adviser both in his policy towards Mary and in the measures he undertook for the pacification of Scotland. He approved of, if he did not counsel, the apprehension of his old ally Maitland of Lethington, who had now joined the queen's party, and of the influence of whose diplomacy on Elizabeth, Moray and Morton were no doubt greatly in dread. On the day appointed for Maitland's trial for Darnley's murder, Morton lay at Dalkeith with three thousand men, ready to obey the regent's commands should the necessity arise (Calderwood, ii. 506); but according to Sir James Melville the purpose of the regent to ‘pass fordwart’ with the trial was prevented by Kirkaldy of Grange, who ‘desired the like justice to be done upon the Erle of Mortoun, and Mester Archebald Douglas, for he offerit to feicht with Mester Archebald, and Lord Heris offerit to feicht with the Erle of Mortoun that he was upon the consell and airt and part of the kingis mourther’ (Memoirs, 218).
At the funeral of the regent on 14 Feb. Morton assisted in bearing the body to St. Giles's Church. The fact that Moray's death was approved of, if not instigated, by Mary, who liberally rewarded the assassin, had incalculably injured her cause in Scotland, and rendered Morton's hostility more implacable than ever. He was now strenuous in his efforts to induce Elizabeth to declare for the king, informing her at last that if she would not supply him with money and men to punish the Hamiltons, the instigators of the murder, ‘he would not run her course any longer’ (instructions to the commendator of Dunfermline, 1 May). The threat was effectual, and she permitted Sussex to advance into Scotland to aid in suppressing the Hamilton rebellion. Notwithstanding Elizabeth's dubious attitude towards the proposal for the election of Lennox, father of Darnley, to the regency, Morton persisted in it, and the election finally took place on 12 July. Lennox was, however, only the nominal head of the government, which was really controlled by Morton. Drury in a letter to Cecil pronounces Morton the ‘strongest man in Scotland’ (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1569–71, entry 184), and now that Moray was no more, and Maitland and Kirkaldy had gone over to the queen's party, he was, if Knox be excepted, the only strong man left of the king's party. Between Morton and Knox there was now an intimate alliance. During an embassy to London in February 1571, Morton succeeded in deferring indefinitely the proposals for an arrangement with Mary, and on his return his party expressed their gratitude by bestowing on him the incongruous office of bishop of St. Andrews, as a compensation for the expenses he had at various times incurred in the public service. With his return the efforts were renewed against the queen's party. Kirkaldy and Maitland held Edinburgh Castle on the queen's behalf. The varying moods of Elizabeth protracted the uncertainty. By her secret encouragement both of Morton and Maitland, and her denial of help to either, Scotland was desolated by a prolonged feud. The regent was unpopular among the nobles, and, as appears from numerous letters in the ‘State Papers,’ the dislike was fully shared in by Morton, who now succeeded in winning to the king's party the Earls of Argyll, Cassilis, and Eglinton, and also Lord Boyd (ib. Scot. Ser. i. 323). Elizabeth was endeavouring to gain Morton's services for purposes which do not appear to have been quite plain even to herself. Morton, while acknowledging with gratitude her somewhat stingy bribes, was courteously professing himself to be at her commands (ib. For. Ser. 1569–71, entry 1937); and Drury seems to have supposed that ‘she might use him to quench the fire among them [the nobles] or to make the flame break out further’ (Drury to Burghley, ib. 1943). The plain fact seems to have been that Morton was scheming to effect the regent's overthrow. Morton's embarrassment in regard to Lennox was terminated by the party of the queen, whose bold stratagem, 4 Sept. 1571, of surprising the lords at Stirling had just sufficient success to defeat their own plans. By a curious accident it was also the strenuous resistance offered by Morton until the house he lodged in was set on fire that prevented the catastrophe to his party from being complete (anonymous letter to Drury, 4 Sept.; ib. to Burghley, 5 Sept.; Maitland to Drury, 6 Sept.). The regent was shot by a trooper, Cawdor, at the instance of Lord Claud Hamilton, but Morton, on whom the Hamiltons intended also to have taken vengeance, was saved by the interposition of the laird of Buccleuch, who took him prisoner, and whom Morton, when the retreat began, in turn took prisoner, remarking ‘I will save ye as ye savit me’ (Diurnal of Occurrents, p. 248; Bannatyne, Memorials, p. 184).
On Mar being chosen regent, Morton, who with Argyll had been a candidate at the same time, was appointed lord general of the kingdom. Mar enjoyed such general respect that probably under his auspices a general pacification might soon have been brought about but for the extraordinary sensation caused by the news of the massacre of St. Bartholomew. The result of this was the proposal of Elizabeth for the delivering up of Mary to her enemies in Scotland. The blood of the reforming party was then at fever heat, and, counselled and incited by Knox, Morton entered into the project with fervour. It was less congenial to the milder nature of Mar, but Morton either overcame his scruples or compelled him to conceal them. At a conference on 11 Oct. in Morton's bedchamber at Dalkeith, where he was confined by sickness, Morton ‘raised himself in his bed, and said that both my lord regent and himself did desire it as a sovereign salve for all their sores.’ Morton, however, with his thorough knowledge of Elizabeth's peculiarities, was determined that her part in the project should be manifest to the world. It has been the habit of historians to denounce Morton for being concerned in the infamy of a proposal for a secret execution. Such a stigma undoubtedly attaches to Elizabeth, but Morton, if not too moral, was too wise to engage in it. He ‘stipulated for some manner of ceremony and a kind of process,’ and made it one of the essential conditions that a force of two thousand English soldiers should be present at the execution (notes given to Killigrew in writing by the abbot of Dunfermline, 24 Oct.) The negotiations suspended on account of the sudden death of Mar on 29 Oct. were subsequently renewed, but the ‘great matter,’ owing to Morton's determination that Elizabeth should share an equal responsibility for it with himself, though frequently referred to afterwards in the State Papers, was not accomplished until after Morton's own death.
The death of Knox on the 24th of the following month tended on the whole to strengthen Morton's position, and gave him a freer hand. The secret of the bond of sympathy between Morton and Knox—which Morton's irregularities of conduct and impatience of ecclesiastical control somewhat severely tried—was no doubt revealed when Morton uttered at the grave of the reformer the eulogy which with several variations has become proverbial, the oldest version being apparently that preserved by James Melville, that ‘he nather fearit nor flatterit any fleche’ (Diary, p. 47). (The version given by Hume is ‘who wert never afraid of the face of man in delivering the message from God,’ ii. 284. That in Calderwood is more theatrical, ‘Here lyeth a man who in his life never feared the face of man,’ iii. 242.) On the very day of Knox's death Morton by universal consent succeeded to the regency. Though Elizabeth on the death of Mar had sent him a very flattering letter, styling him her ‘well-beloved cousin’ (Elizabeth to Morton, 4 Nov. 1572), Morton insisted on some definite promise of support before stepping into the vacant breach. Killigrew, the English ambassador, by ingeniously pretending sickness, succeeded in delaying to return a distinct answer until Morton was elected; but Morton, determined not to be duped, thought good also to become unwell, until he was in a position to put Elizabeth in a dilemma. Having at last ‘recovered from his sickness,’ he gave her plainly to understand that if she would not assist him with troops and money for the siege of the castle he should ‘renounce the regimen’ (Killigrew to Burghley, 1 Jan. 1572–3). How Morton had been employing himself during his sickness is revealed by Sir James Melville. Morton, ‘so schone as he was chosen,’ had sent for Melville, and employed him to negotiate an agreement with the defenders of the castle, with the offer of restoration ‘to their lands and possessions as before’ (Memoirs, p. 249). They not only accepted the conditions, but offered to reconcile to the regent ‘the rest of the queen's faction,’ including the Hamiltons. This latter proposal was more than Morton bargained for, and he plainly told Melville that he did not wish ‘to agree with them all’ (ib. p. 250), for that then they would be as strong as he was, and might some day circumvent him. Grange scorned to betray his friends, but Morton, according to Melville, ‘apperit to lyke him the better because he stode stif upon his honestie and reputation,’ and after giving Melville ‘great thanks’ for his trouble, seemed willing to consent to a general pacification, when, as Melville expresses it, ‘he took incontinent another course.’ (In this connection see a curious and ingenious letter of Maitland for Morton, and an equally characteristic reply of Morton in Bannatyne's Memorials, pp. 339–44.) In fact when Morton had obtained promise of support from Elizabeth he saw that his best course was to make terms with Huntly and the Hamiltons, of whose willingness to treat he had been thus accidentally informed. Chiefly through the mediation of Argyll the negotiations were successful, the agreement being ratified by the pacification of Perth, 23 Feb. 1572–3. (For the exact terms of the ‘Pacification,’ see the document printed in Reg. Privy Council, ii. 193–200, from the original copy; versions not materially differing are printed in Bannatyne's Memorials, pp. 305–315; Historie of James Sext, pp. 129–39; and in Calderwood's History, iii. 261–71.) With the secession of Huntly and the Hamiltons from the queen's party, and the assistance of money and troops from Elizabeth, Morton's difficulties were at an end. The surrender of the castle was delayed only by the persevering intrigues of Maitland. Easy terms having been more than once refused, Morton, when the fall of the castle was inevitable, insisted on the unconditional surrender of Kirkaldy of Grange, Maitland, Melville, Home, and four others. Maitland died immediately afterwards, ‘some,’ as Sir James Melville quaintly puts it, ‘supponing he tok a drink and died as the old Romans were wont to do’ (Memoirs, p. 256). Morton has been severely blamed for consenting to the execution of Grange, the ablest soldier in Scotland, but doubtless he believed it to be a stern necessity. Not merely had Grange by his romantic faithfulness to the cause of Mary in such desperate circumstances exasperated public feeling to the uttermost (see Morton's letter to Killigrew, 5 Aug. 1573, printed in Tytler's Hist. ed. 1864, iii. 422), but it was unsafe to give the friends of Mary a chance of again having the services of so able a general.
The surrender of the castle of Edinburgh was a deathblow to the cause of Mary. For several years the supremacy of Morton was unquestioned, for in truth all his great allies or foes had passed away. As a governor in times of peace Morton earned for himself a place in the very front rank of those who have wielded supreme power in Scotland. ‘The regent,’ writes Huntingdon to Sir Thomas Smith, ‘is the most able man in Scotland to govern; his enemies confess it’ (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1575–7, entry 299). ‘His fyve years,’ writes James Melville, ‘were estimed to be als happie and peacable as euer Scotland saw; the name of a papist durst nocht be hard of; there was na a theiffe nor oppressor that durst kythe’ (Diary, p. 47). The sense of security was greatly increased by Morton's contempt for personal danger. Though he knew that he was the object of the concentrated hate of the catholic world, he walked about the streets of Edinburgh without a guard, and on his estate at Dalkeith pursued almost alone the sport of hunting or fishing (‘Occurrents in Scotland,’ August 1575, Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1575–7, entry 294; and in Burghley State Papers, ii. 283). A matter which occupied much of his attention was the pacification of the borders, the tedious difficulties connected with which can only be understood by a study of the records of the privy council (Register, vols. ii. and iii.). To accomplish this effectually it was not sufficient to aim at the extinction of thieving and plunder in Scotland and the suppression of internecine feuds, but to come to an agreement as to the cessation of the petty border wars. Accordingly, on 25 Oct. 1575 a special act was passed against ‘ryding and incursions in Ingland,’ and to aid in carrying the act into effect a taxation of 4,000l. was granted by the estates, one half of the sum being raised by the spiritual estate (ib. ii. 466–9). Probably the immediate cause of the act was a dispute between Sir John Forster, English warden, and Sir John Carmichael, which led to blows, resulting in the death of Sir George Heron. The incident caused a furious outbreak of remonstrances on the part of Elizabeth, whose anger Morton succeeded in appeasing partly by a gift of choice falcons, which led to a saying among the borderers, that Morton for once had the worst of the bargain, since he had given ‘live hawks for a dead heron’ (see numerous letters regarding this affair in the Cal. State Papers, Scot. Ser. and For. Ser. from July to October 1575). The principal means employed by Morton to punish crime, treason, injustice, and nonconformity to the protestant faith, was the infliction of fines, levied by itinerant courts called justice eyres—a method which had the advantage of helping to refill the almost empty coffers of the government. (The fullest account of the methods employed by Morton to raise money is, in addition to Reg. P.C., the Historie of James Sext, but the author of the ‘Historie’ is strongly biassed against Morton.) One important tendency of his resolute administration was towards the extinction of the irresponsible authority of the nobles, ‘whose great credit’ Killigrew had already noted as beginning to ‘decay in the country,’ while the ‘barons, boroughs, and such like take more upon them’ (Killigrew to Burghley, 11 Nov. 1572). Morton, however, chiefly relied upon the friendship of the ‘artificers’ in the towns, shrewdly calculating that they outnumbered the other classes as ten to one (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1575–1577, entry 294). The sincerity of his desire to establish the government on a new and firm basis was evidenced by his appointment of a commission to prepare ‘a uniform and compendious order of the laws’ (ib. entry 82), an enlightened purpose which his premature death unhappily indefinitely postponed.
Morton's ecclesiastical policy was shaped in a great degree by his relations with Elizabeth. The dream of his life was a protestant league with England preparatory to a union of the two kingdoms under one crown. Though an adherent of Knox he was destitute of religious dogmatism. His strength lay in the fact that he was severely practical. The introduction of the ‘Tulchan’ episcopacy in January 1572 was chiefly a clever expedient to enable the nobles to share in ecclesiastical spoils; but Morton now endeavoured to convert this sham episcopacy into a real one. His desire, says James Melville, was to ‘bring in a conformitie with England in governing of the kirk be bischopes and injunctiones, without the quhilk he thought nather the kingdome could be gydet to his fantasie nor stand in guid aggriement and lyking with the nibour land’ (Diary, p. 35). His efforts to perpetuate the episcopal system led to very severe friction between him and the assembly of the kirk, and to the preparation by the kirk in 1578 of the ‘Second Book of Discipline,’ but by ingenious expedients Morton succeeded in postponing a final settlement of the questions raised. In his policy towards the kirk he made Elizabeth his model, and warmly resented the pretensions of the kirk to interfere in civil matters. He ‘mislyked,’ says James Melville, ‘the assemblies generall and wuld haiff haid the name thereof changit’ (ib. p. 47). In fact, he studiously ignored their proceedings whenever they sought to encroach beyond the strictly spiritual sphere. The regency of Morton is thus notable in the initiation of the two great controversies of Scottish ecclesiasticism—that in regard to episcopacy, and that as to the power of the civil magistrate in religion. The assembly made strenuous efforts to induce Morton to accept office as a lay elder, and to act as an ‘instrument of righteousness’ (‘Supplication to the Lord Regent,’ in Buik of the Universal Kirk, p. 292). But apart from other considerations, Morton deemed it advisable not to give the clergy a chance of beginning by exercising church discipline on himself. To repeated requests of the assembly that he would attend and countenance their proceedings he was accustomed to give the stereotyped answer that he had ‘no leisure to talk with them,’ until, exasperated beyond endurance by three importunate deputations in one day, he haughtily ‘threatened some of them with hanging, alledging that otherwise there could be no peace nor order in the country.’ ‘So ever resisting the worke in hand,’ says the sorrowful Calderwood, ‘he boore forward his bishops, and preassed to his injunctiouns and conformitie with England’ (Hist. iii. 394). The clergy had also a more substantial grievance. By acts passed 22 Dec. 1561 and 15 Feb. 1561–2 (Reg. Privy Counc. i. 192–4 and 201–2), it had been arranged that while two-thirds of the revenues of the benefices should remain in the hands of the ‘auld possessors,’ the other third should be applied to the support of the reformed clergy, any surplus that remained being used for crown purposes. There had, however, always been a difficulty in collecting the money, and Morton now proposed that the whole sum should be collected by the government, who were then to distribute their quota to the clergy. This being agreed to, he at once proceeded to reduce the number of the clergy by assigning two, three, or even four churches to one minister, while a reader at a small salary was appointed to every parish to officiate in the minister's absence. To their remonstrances he replied that as the surplus of the thirds belonged to the king, it was fitter that the regent and council rather than the church should determine its amount. This treatment of the clergy assisted to swell the general cry of avarice raised against him by his enemies. Modern historians generally have repeated the cry without any examination into its justice or its meaning. As regards the surplus of the thirds, it was well known that money was urgently needed at this time for the pacification of the borders. The nobles, who were greatly scandalised by his exertions to recover the crown jewels and lands alienated from the crown, also joined in the cry, but the avarice to which they principally objected was the honesty which prevented him from so distributing the ‘kingis geare as to satisfie all cravers’ (see letter of Morton in Reg. Honor. de Morton, i. 91). How jealous he was of his integrity as an administrator is seen in his anxiety to have an inventory taken of the king's property (which he had recovered with great difficulty and the penalty of much ill-will) in the castle of Edinburgh when required to deliver it up in 1578. ‘It is my wrack,’ he writes, ‘that is sought, and a great hurt to the king, gif his jewellis, moueables and munition suld be deliverit without Inventorie. Gif this be in heid to proceid thus, I pray yow laboure at your uttermaist power at all the Lordes handes to stop it’ (Earl of Morton to the Laird of Lochleven, 19 March 1577–8 in Reg. Honor. de Morton, i. 103). Morton was justly proud that he had been able during his regency, besides placing the revenues of the king on a proper footing, to put the king's palaces in good repair, and especially to restore and furnish the castle of Edinburgh, and Spotiswood, who had no presbyterian prejudice to distort his judgment, asserts that by these great services he ‘won both love and reverence, with the opinion of a most wise and prudent governor’ (Hist. ii. 195). Morton's faithfulness to Elizabeth also was assigned by the catholics to avarice, many, probably quite sincerely, placing his annual pension at 10,000l. As a matter of fact, during his regency he never received, and did not ask, from Elizabeth one penny for himself, and while importunate for money to defray military expenses, all his requests, though always backed up strongly by the English ambassadors in Scotland, were refused, even the payment of the rents of the king's estates in England being withheld (see numerous letters in the State Papers during the whole of this period). While the favour of Elizabeth was both fickle and sterile, the friendship of France was constantly pressed upon him with the offers of large bribes if he would only move to procure Mary's liberty; but to these offers he curtly replied that ‘as he was chosen the king's regent during his minority, he would not know any other sovereignty so long as the king lived’ (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1575–7, entry 294). It would appear, therefore, that the avarice which his enemies condemned in Morton, if it existed, was avarice of which the king reaped the chief if not the sole advantage. The cry led to the rumour that he possessed a fabulous store of treasure concealed in some secret place. After Morton's apprehension, one of his servants on being put to the torture stated ‘part of it to be lying in Dalkeith yaird under the ground; a part in Aberdour under a braid stane before the gate; and a part in Leith’ (Calderwood, Hist. iii. 506); but all efforts to discover it were vain. Sir James Melville asserts that a great part of it was carried off in barrels by his natural son James Douglas and one of his servants, and that a portion came into the possession of persons ‘wha maid ill compt of it again’ (Memoirs, p. 267). Hume, on the other hand, who had perhaps special means of knowing, says that ‘those on whom he would have bestowed them’ (the treasures) ‘if he had had power and opportunity to distribute them according to his mind lighted on them’ (House of Douglas, ii. 285). He also names the persons, but does not attempt even an estimate of the amount received.
Morton had alienated by his domestic policy the church and the nobles, and while his faithfulness to Elizabeth had awakened jealousy of English influence, it secured him no substantial support. The prime occasion of his fall was the hostility of Argyll [see Campbell, Colin, sixth earl], which Morton had provoked by his action in regard to the crown jewels. The breach was further widened by the regent's interference in a quarrel between Argyll and Atholl to prevent them settling it by the old method (for various references see Reg. P. C. vol. ii.). Both nobles, deeply indignant, resolved to combine against him. Morton had already expressed to the king his desire to demit his charge for the ‘relief of his wearie age’ (Hist. James Sext, p. 162), a proposal made possibly with a view to strengthen his position by the king's nominal assumption of government, but his enemies took advantage of it to oust him altogether from power. At a packed convention called by Argyll and Atholl and held at Stirlingon on 8 March 1578, the king took the government nominally into his own hands, with the aid of a council of twelve, of which Morton was not a member. Morton at once bent before the storm, guarding himself, however, by the protest at the cross of Edinburgh, that if the king ‘sould accept the regiment upon him for the preheminence of any subject of the cuntrie uther then himself, that his demission sould availl nathing’ (ib. p. 164). From expressions in his private letters it is evident that Morton was weary of the cares of office, and that if with safety to himself a stable government, preserving a similar attitude towards Mary, could have been established, he would have been glad to retire. ‘I would,’ he wrote in confidence to the laird of Lochleven, ‘be at the poynt, to have nathing ado now but to leif quietlie to serve my God and the king, my master’ (19 March 1577–8, Reg. Honor. de Morton, i. 103). For greater security he went to Lochleven, where he occupied himself with ‘devysing the situation of a fayre garden with allayis’ (Hist. James Sext, p. 165; also Melville, Memoirs, p. 264). But he soon saw that for him there could be no safety except at the head of affairs. His overthrow awakened the eager hopes of the catholics, and rumours arose of a joint invasion by France and Spain. Morton therefore persuaded the young Earl of Mar to assert his hereditary right to the governorship of Stirling Castle by seizing it from his relative, Alexander Erskine; and after the family quarrel had been settled, he, with the connivance of Mar, appeared at the castle on 5 May and resumed his ascendency over the king. By a convention in the castle on 12 June he was appointed to the ‘first roume and place’ in the council, and at a meeting of parliament in July, changed from the Tolbooth to the great hall of Stirling Castle, while his demission was accepted an act was passed discharging him of all the acts done during his regency (Acts Parl. Scot. iii. 94–114). Argyll and Atholl, having protested against the parliament as held in an armed fortress, assembled their forces at Edinburgh, and the Earl of Angus, lately proclaimed lieutenant-general of the kingdom, advanced to the succour of his uncle with five thousand men. When a contest near Stirling seemed imminent, it was averted through the mediation of the English ambassador, Sir Robert Bowes, and a compromise effected, Morton retaining his chief place on the council (see documents in Calderwood, iii. 419–36). It was, however, evident that Morton's position was precarious, its stability depending chiefly on the attitude of Elizabeth. Elizabeth's refusal to pay the king's English rents had no doubt considerable effect in making Morton disregard her remonstrances against the prosecution of the Hamiltons for the murder of the two regents, Moray and Lennox. By the pacification of Perth it was provided that the regent Morton could not of his own authority engage in it, and would be guided by the advice of Elizabeth, but Morton could plead that he was not now regent, and that the king having accepted the government the matter could no longer be deferred. It was therefore prosecuted with the utmost energy and vigour, and although the two principals escaped, all the estates of the family were sequestrated (for particulars see Reg. P. C. vol. iii.)
The sudden death of the Earl of Atholl on 25 April 1579, after his return from a banquet of reconciliation given by Mar to the nobility at Stirling, gave rise to the rumour that he had been poisoned by Morton. If he did contrive Atholl's death, he reaped from it, as from the proscription of the Hamiltons, calamity rather than advantage. It soon became evident that the subversion of the Hamiltons, the nearest heirs after James to the Scottish crown, had immeasurably strengthened the cause of Mary. The vacant place in the leadership of the catholic party caused by Atholl's death was also soon filled by Esme Stuart, son of the grand-uncle of the king, infinitely Atholl's superior in ability, address, and unscrupulous daring. He landed at Leith from France on 8 Sept. 1579, and as early as the 2nd of the following April the whole secret of his extraordinary errand was fully known to Morton and Bowes (Bowes to Burghley, Bowes Corresp. Surtees Soc. p. 23), so far as it concerned Morton. It was to demonstrate that Morton, the chief accuser of Mary, was himself guilty of Darnley's murder. It is not improbable that Morton on first learning of Stuart's designs conceived the purpose of carrying the king to Dalkeith, and thence possibly to England, but again it is conceivable that the story was an invention of Morton's enemies. In any case, on Morton protesting his innocence and demanding the punishment of his calumniators, an act was passed on 28 April by the privy council declaring it to have been ‘invented and forgit of malice’ (Reg. iii. 283). Hardly had the alarm regarding Morton's design subsided, when another arose that Stuart, now raised to the high dignity of Earl of Lennox, had determined on 10 April to carry the king to the castle of Dumbarton and thence to France. Lennox, with equal emphasis, denied that he had knowledge of any such plot (Bowes to Walsingham, 16 April, Bowes Corresp. p. 28), but that such a project was part of the mission of Lennox is placed beyond doubt by a letter of the Archbishop of Glasgow to the general of the jesuits at Rome (Labanoff, vii. 154). The project could, however, if necessary, be deferred. The polished courtesy of Lennox towards James contrasted greatly to his advantage with the rough friendliness of Morton, and when he persuaded the youthful monarch that his precocious theological dialectics had gradually undermined his catholic belief he completely won his heart. The presbyterian clergy again, in excess of congratulations over the conversion of Lennox, forgot altogether their former doubts and fears. To secure the support of a powerful section of the nobility, headed by Argyll, in any plot against Morton was perhaps the least difficult of his tasks. Between Morton and ruin there thus stood scarcely anything more than the worse than doubtful assistance of Elizabeth. Morton expressed his readiness to undertake a certain ‘platt for the common benefit’ (Bowes to Walsingham, 23 May, Bowes Corresp. p. 68), only stipulating that Elizabeth would ‘deliver the king from foreign practices by relieving him with some good liberality;’ but at last, disgusted by her double dealing, he was fain to predict that her actions were likely to serve no better purpose than to illustrate a proverb of his country: ‘The steid is stollen, let steik the stable dure’ (Morton to Burghley, 29 July 1580, ib. p. 91). At last, when Elizabeth learned that the stronghold of Dumbarton was to be delivered into the keeping of Lennox, she, on 30 Aug., empowered Bowes to incite Morton to prevent it by laying ‘violent hands on him,’ but, immediately repenting of her precipitancy, she, two days afterwards, forbad him to promise any assistance in the matter. The whole plot then came to the ears of Lennox, and Morton's fate was thus practically sealed. The king, who through Lennox was now in correspondence with his mother, was taken into the secret, and as the avowed purpose of Lennox was to avenge Darnley's death, he could not but give it his approval. Morton on being charged with treasonable dealings with England had offered himself for trial, but by an open surrender and a trial by citation the purpose of Lennox would probably have been defeated. It was therefore decided to apprehend him by surprise. An accuser was found in the reckless James Stuart, afterwards Earl of Arran. Though warned of his danger, Morton scorned to leave the court, and on 29 Dec. Stuart, with the special command of the king (ib. p. 158), accused Morton in presence of the council of the murder. Morton with great disdain denounced Stuart as a ‘perjured tool,’ upon which followed a violent scene. After both parties were removed, it was decided to apprehend Morton in his apartments in the palace, and on the second day he was removed to the castle. On the way thither some of his friends advised him to make his escape, but he chid them with great bitterness, saying ‘that he had rather die ten thousand deaths than betray his innocency in declining trial’ (Spotiswood, ii. 272). After a few days he was removed to the stronghold of Dumbarton. Mary, in a letter to the Archbishop of Glasgow on 12 Jan. (Labanoff, v. 188), advised haste in carrying out his execution lest it should be frustrated by Elizabeth; but after the failure of a plot, contrived under the auspices of Randolph, for the seizure of the king, Lennox came to estimate the exertions of Elizabeth at their proper value, and her warlike preparations failed to terrify him. Completely discouraged by Elizabeth's indecision, the supporters of Morton made terms with the king's party, and now, certain that his victim could not escape him, Lennox resolved to bring Morton to trial.
The paper of his indictment, which has not been preserved (see, however, the heads given by Calderwood, iii. 557–8, as they ‘are found in Mr. Johne Davidson's memorialls’), extended to nineteen heads, but to shorten the proceedings as much as possible it was by order of the king confined to one, that of implication in the murder of Darnley. The sole witness against Morton was Sir James Balfour (d. 1583) [q. v.], who almost equally with Bothwell was steeped in the guilt of Darnley's murder, was perhaps the only survivor cognisant of the innermost secrets of the crime, and owed his restoration to his estates to Morton's clemency after Morton had been chosen regent. But even Balfour could prove nothing more than that Morton was aware that Bothwell had purposed the murder, and therefore, to give the sentence sufficient colour of legality, it was necessary to stretch a point. It bore that he was convicted of ‘being council, concealing, and being art and part of the king's murder.’ The ‘concealing’ Morton did not deny, but on hearing the last words he forgot his rigid composure, exclaiming with angry vehemence ‘Art and part!’ and striking the table before him with a short staff he was in the habit of carrying, he repeated ‘Art and part! God knoweth the contrary.’ The same reasons which rendered haste in the proceedings of the trial necessary, made it advisable that no delay should take place in carrying the sentence into execution, and it was fixed for the afternoon of the next day (2 June). In the morning Morton had an interview with some of the leading ministers of Edinburgh, who plied him with a number of inquisitorial queries, not conceived in an entirely friendly spirit, but answered by him without demur or any apparent subterfuge (see the ‘Confession’ in Bannatyne, Memorials, 317–32). He ate his déjeuner ‘with great cheerfulness, as all the company saw, and as appeared in his speaking’ (ib.) The ministrations of the clergy he received with deference and humility, asking them ‘to show him arguments of hope on which he could rely; and, seeing flesh was weak, that they would comfort him against the fear of death.’ He was executed at four in the afternoon in the Grassmarket, by the maiden, an instrument which he had introduced into Scotland from Halifax. Among the spectators of the strange spectacle were his enemies Ker of Pharniehurst and Lord Seton, who made no attempt to conceal their exultation. The clergy and more zealous presbyterians apathetically consented; the great mass of the nation were bewildered and perplexed. Before the block Morton made a speech to the crowd, confessing his knowledge of Bothwell's purpose, and ending with the words ‘I am sure the king sall luse a gude servand this day.’ He made no pretence of affected gaiety, but ‘perfectly simple yielded to the awfulness of the moment’ (Froude, xi. 41). ‘He keipit,’ says James Melville, ‘the sam countenance, gestour, and schort sententious form of language upon the skaffalde, quhilk he usit in his princlie government’ (Diary, p. 84). Neither friends nor foes ever whispered a suspicion of his intrepidity, either during his life or at his death; in the words of Hume, ‘he died proudly, said his enemies, and Roman like, as he had lived; constantly, humbly and christianlike, said the pastors who were beholders and ear and eye witnesses of all he said and did’ (House of Douglas, ii. 282). The presbyterian clergy recorded with some self-felicitation that ‘quhatever he had been befoir, he constantlie died the trew servant of God’ (Bannatyne, Memorials, p. 332); the catholics, as represented by Mendoza, saw in the death of so ‘pernicious a heretic’ a ‘grand beginning,’ from which they looked ‘soon for the recovery of that realm to Christ’ (quoted by Froude, xi. 42); and Mary, her hopes of liberty beginning again to brighten, charged George Douglas to give ‘to the lairds that are most neere unto my sonne’ ‘most hartie thanks for their dutie employed against the Erle Morton, who was my greatest enemye’ (Labanoff, v. 264). The corpse of Morton lay on the scaffold till sunset, ‘covered with a beggarly cloak,’ and was afterwards carried by ‘some base fellows to the common sepultre’ (not, however, of criminals as sometimes stated, but to Grey Friars churchyard). His head was fixed on the highest stone of the gable of the Tolbooth; but on the order of the king it was taken down on 10 Dec. 1582, ‘layed in a fyne cloath, convoyed honorablie and layed in the kist where his bodie was buried. The laird of Carmichaell caried it, shedding tears abundantlie by the way’ (Calderwood, iii. 692). The place of burial is marked only by a small stone, with the initials J. E. M. Hume thus describes Morton's appearance: ‘He was of a middle stature, rather square than tall, having the hair of his head and beard of a yellowish flaxen. His face was full and large, his countenance majestick, grave, and princelye’ (House of Douglas, ii. 283). The portrait of Morton at Dalmahoy is now in bad condition. It has been engraved by Lodge. Morton's wife was for a considerable time insane, to which fact Hume attributes the unconcealed irregularities of his conduct. She died in September 1574 (Cooper and Teulet, Correspondance de Fénelon, vi. 247–8). His lands were left to his natural son James Douglas, prior of Pluscarden, but they were forfeited on Morton's death, and the prior and Archibald Douglas, another natural son, were both banished the kingdom. The title passed to John, first lord Maxwell, grandson of the third earl.[The materials for a biography of Morton are unusually copious. Besides letters by him calendared in the volumes of the State Papers, Scottish Ser. and Dom. and For. Ser., in the reign of Elizabeth, there are a large number in private collections, including those at Dalmahoy and Hamilton, and those of the Marquis of Breadalbane and the Duke of Montrose (see Hist. MSS. Comm. Heps. 1–6). There is an extended synopsis of the Morton Papers at Dalmahoy in the Brit. Mus. Harleian MSS. 6432–43. Letters to and from him, with various original documents, have been printed in Bowes' s Correspondence, Wright's Times of Elizabeth, Anderson's Collections, Burghley State Papers, Keith's History of the Kirk of Scotland, and other works, and special reference may be made to his private correspondence in the ' Reg. Honor, de Morton,' published by the Bannatyne Club. The Register of the Privy Council of Scotland affords important information on his whole procedure as governor. He figures prominently in the correspondence of Mary Queen of Scots (see especially Labanoff) and of Fenelon (Cooper and Teulet). The life in the House of Douglas, by Hume of Godscroft, is without value in regard to historical facts, but records some interesting personal traits. The principal contemporary diarists and historians have been quoted in the text. The account of Morton in Chalmers's Mary Queen of Scots is so disfigured by prejudice as to be entirely untrustworthy. The life in Douglas's Scottish Peerage, ii. 270–2, is short and somewhat perfunctory, but Crawfurd in his Officers of State, pp. 94–116, gives a very minute biography. Besides the histories of Scotland by Tytler and Hill Burton, special reference may be made to the History of England by Froude, who was the first to give an adequate narrative of Morton's relations with Elizabeth, and who in chap. lxiii. sketches with great vividness the circumstances which led to his fall.]