Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 29.djvu/169

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James I
of England
163

friendly to Elizabeth, wrote to the Duke of Guise in approbation of a design for setting his own mother free, and for establishing the joint right of her and himself to the English crown (James to the Duke of Guise, 9 Aug. 1583, Froude, xi. 592). James soon recalled Arran to favour. Gowrie and his allies, anticipating evil, made a dash at Stirling Castle. They were anticipated by Arran, and most of them fled to England. Arran was made chancellor. Melville was ordered into confinement in the castle of Blackness; but he too succeeded in escaping to England.

In February 1584 James made fresh overtures to the Duke of Guise, and even wrote to the pope, holding out no expectation that he intended to change his religion, but asking the pope to support his mother and himself against Elizabeth (ib. xi. 637–40). James was himself always in favour of a middle course in politics and religion. He had no love for either papal or presbyterian despotism. Before long Arran took advantage of James's greatest moral weakness, his love of pleasure and his dislike of business. He persuaded James to amuse himself with hunting instead of attending the meetings of the council, and to receive information of affairs of state from Arran alone. Arran made use of his master's confidence to entrap the Earl of Gowrie into a confession of treason, on promise that it should not be used against him, and then had him condemned to death and executed (Bruce, ‘Observations on the Life and Death of William, Earl of Gowrie,’ in Archæologia, vol. xxxiii.) [see Ruthven, William, first Earl of Gowrie].

James's subserviency to the base and arrogant Arran was, far more than his subserviency to Esmé Stuart, an indication of the most mischievous defect in his character. It was not that James weakly took his views of men and things from his favourites. He thought very badly of Gowrie, and was glad that Arran should assail him; but he took no pains to investigate the points at issue for himself, or to understand the character and motives of those with whom he had to deal. His character at this time is admirably painted by a French agent, Fontenay: ‘He is wonderfully clever, and for the rest, he is full of honourable ambition, and has an excellent opinion of himself. Owing to the terrorism under which he has been brought up, he is timid with the great lords, and seldom ventures to contradict them; yet his especial anxiety is to be thought hardy and a man of courage. … He dislikes dances and music and amorous talk, and curiosity of dress and courtly trivialities. … He speaks, eats, dresses, and plays like a boor, and he is no better in the company of women. He is never still for a moment, but walks perpetually up and down the room, and his gait is sprawling and awkward; his voice is loud and his words sententious. He prefers hunting to all other amusements, and will be six hours together on horseback. … His body is feeble, yet he is not delicate; in a word, he is an old young man. … He is prodigiously conceited, and he underrates other princes. He irritates his subjects by indiscreet and violent attachments. He is idle and careless, too easy, and too much given to pleasure, particularly to the chase, leaving his affairs to be managed by Arran, Montrose, and his secretary. … He told me that, whatever he seemed, he was aware of everything of consequence that was going on. He could afford to spend time in hunting, for that when he attended to business he could do more in an hour than others could do in a day’ (Letter of Fontenay to Nau, in Froude, xi. 457).

It was not in James's power to maintain Arran in authority long. The nobles and the clergy were alike hostile to the favourite. Circumstances soon involved James in a policy which drew him in another direction. A crisis was approaching in the struggle between the two great forces into which Europe was divided, and of these forces the representatives in Britain were Elizabeth and Mary. Mary hoped to make her son an instrument in her designs, and had for that object favoured the rise successively of Lennox and Arran. James thought far too much of himself and of his crown to accept the subordinate position which was assigned to him, and of filial affection there could be no question, as he had never seen his mother since he was an infant. He entered into communication, through a rising favourite, the Master of Gray, with Queen Elizabeth, and though Arran took part in these negotiations, their tendency was manifestly hostile to himself. In April 1585 an English ambassador, Edward Wotton, arranged terms with James. He was to have a pension of 5,000l. a year, and to ally himself with England. Then there was a disturbance on the border, in which Lord Russell was killed. Wotton declared that Arran was implicated in the affair, and demanded and obtained his arrest. James had to choose between an alliance with England and Elizabeth and an alliance with the Guises and the catholic powers. Not heroically, but with some consideration for the interests of his country, as well as his own, he preferred the former. Before the end of July the estates agreed to a protestant league between England and Scotland. James, however, was still per-