Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 22.djvu/187

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Gordon
Gordon
181

solved to place herself so entirely under the guidance of her brother, Lord James Stuart, as to demonstrate that the schemes of Huntly would receive from her no countenance. When the question in regard to the public celebration of the mass in Holyrood was before the council, Huntly expressed his willingness, if the queen said the word, to set up the mass in three shires (Randolph to Cecil, 24 Sept. 1561, in Keith, ii. 86); but so far from encouraging his proposal, she agreed that in future the services in her chapel at Holyrood should be private. In addition to this a blow was struck at the power of Huntly, when, on Lord Erskine objecting to Lord James Stuart being created Earl of Mar, the earldom of Moray, which Huntly had for some time held informally under the crown, was secretly bestowed on Lord James. The motives which actuated Mary in her policy towards Huntly have been the subject of much dispute, the question being as to how far she was merely acting a part, and as to how far Huntly was aware that she was doing so. There can be no doubt that the Guises, whether to punish him or not, had been playing on Huntly's ambition, and had encouraged him to oppose Moray and the reformers, in the hope that a match might be made between Mary and his son, Sir John Gordon. The infatuation which characterised the son's conduct he himself attributed to the madness of his love, but there is no evidence to show whether or not Mary had given him direct personal encouragement. In June 1562 Sir John had been imprisoned for severely wounding Lord Ogilvy in the streets of Edinburgh, but had made his escape and fled to the north. Mary, accompanied by Lord James Stuart, set out on her northern progress in the following August. Though Lord James had previously to setting out received a patent of the earldom of Moray, he did not assume it till he was in Huntly's dominions. Beyond entering on possession of the earldom of Moray, there is no proof that he desired further to interfere with Huntly. At Aberdeen Mary was met by the Countess of Huntly, who exerted her utmost skill to win Mary's favour, and begged her to pardon her son's indiscretion in making his escape from prison; but Mary was peremptory in insisting that before this could be granted he must show his contrition by returning to ward in Stirling. Sir John allowed himself to be placed under arrest, but shortly afterwards, making his escape from his guards, gathered a force of one thousand horse, with which he hovered on the track of Mary, with the purpose, as he afterwards admitted, of carrying her off, should the opportunity present itself. On account of Sir John's flagrant defiance of her authority, Mary declined the invitation of the Earl of Huntly to visit him at Strathbogie, and passed onwards to Inverness. It was afterwards stated—and there is no reason to doubt the truth of the story—that Huntly intended to have cut off Moray, Maitland, and Morton at Strathbogie, had his invitation been accepted. The light in which the royal progress was regarded by Huntly's followers was also evidenced by the fact that Alexander Gordon, the keeper of the castle of Inverness, refused to permit the queen to enter it until he next day received the special command of the Earl of Huntly to do so. For his contumacy he was by Moray's orders hanged over the battlements. On the return journey from Inverness an attempt was made to surprise some of the queen's followers at Cullen. Huntly was therefore summoned to appear before the council within six days, and failing to do so was denounced a rebel. When the queen approached Aberdeen, Huntly marched towards it with about eight hundred men. His forces were much inferior to those with which Moray marched to meet him, but Huntly had reason to suppose that the bulk of Moray's forces would prove treacherous. Without the least hesitation he therefore made a stand at the hill of Corrichie, about fifteen miles from the city. The skirmish on 5 Nov. which followed can scarcely be termed a battle, for Huntly's followers, hopelessly outnumbered, were at once overpowered. Huntly was either crushed to death, or died suddenly from excitement. According to Herries, ‘being a corpulent man, he died upon horseback in the throng’ (Memoirs, p. 66); but Randolph, who accompanied the expedition, states that ‘without blow or stroke, being set on horseback before him that was his taker, he suddenly fell from his horse stark dead’ (Randolph to Cecil, 28 Oct. 1562). His son, Sir John, was taken prisoner, and executed in Aberdeen next day. Mary, on the advice of Moray, and to silence the rumours that she had countenanced Sir John in his folly, attended the execution. Sir John stated that her presence was a solace to him, as he was about to suffer for loving her, and Mary, on witnessing the execution, fainted, and had to be carried in utter prostration to her bedchamber. While Knox admits his ignorance as to whether there had been ‘any secret faction and confederacy between the queen and the Earl of Huntly’ (Works, ii. 346), he states that when the Earl of Moray sent her word of the victory at Corrichie, she ‘glowmed’ at the messenger, and for many days ‘she bore no better countenance’ (ib. p. 358). Sir Robert Gordon also asserts that the true occasion of the conflict at Corrichie, and of