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rejected the proposal to grant even a delay for twelve days to ascertain Henry's approval of its terms, and marched to Lauder on the 7th, to Annan on the 9th, and on the 11th pitched his tents on the debatable ground near the Chapel of Solan, within four miles of Carlisle. The situation was critical for England. Up to this point Albany had wisely rejected every dilatory proposal. But in a private interview, where only interpreters were present—for Albany could not speak English, nor Dacre French—an abstinence or truce was agreed on between Albany and Dacre for one month, and without waiting for its expiry Albany disbanded his army and returned to Edinburgh before the end of the month. Perhaps it would be more correct to say the army disbanded itself, for, according to Leslie, the Scots absolutely refused to fight out of Scotland. On the 27th he despatched his secretary, Jehan de Barron, to England to request the extension of the truce till midsummer, and that France should be included. This condition was of course impossible. After appointing a new council of regency, the chancellor, Huntly, Argyll, and Arran, with Gonzolles, a French officer (called Grosellis or Grosillis by Scottish writers and records), he sailed, on a galley with oars, from Dumbarton to France on 25 Oct., promising to return before 15 Aug. 1523 on pain of forfeiting the regency. The conduct of Albany at this juncture has been variously judged. France was still his first interest; Scotland was to him only a means to promote the interest of France. He declared in his letters to Francis that he was absolutely at the disposal of Francis, his master. He pointed out the increasing influence of England in the Scottish parliament, now the queen dowager had gone over to it, and the reluctance of the Scots to fight. He concluded by asking the French king to say whether he was to go or stay in Scotland, but hinted that he was tired of the country and its customs. Supplies were not sent. No orders came to stay. The Scots lords refused to fight, and practically no course was open but to retreat, and it is unreasonable to accuse him of personal cowardice or pusillanimity. But his diplomatic skill may be reasonably impugned. To allow his whole army to disperse and leave the borders open to new English raids was to throw up the game. His hasty return to France without receiving positive orders was evidently prompted by personal desire. Possibly another private reason combined with this. His wife was already ill of the disease of which she died in 1524. Even if there was, as seems likely, no great affection between them, her will had not yet been made, and after her death Albany was engaged in discussions as to her inheritance, which was left to her niece, Catherine de' Medici.
Albany remained in France till the middle of September 1523, taking an active part in the scheme by which Richard de la Pole [q. v.] was to invade England with the aid of Christian, duke of Holstein, afterwards king of Denmark. Meanwhile the queen dowager was corresponding with her brother and Dacre, and endeavouring to bring over the Scottish lords to the English side; while the English, under Surrey, were constantly wasting the Scottish borders. On 25 Sept., the day when Jedburgh was burnt by them, Albany, who had again evaded the English cruisers, landed in the Clyde. He brought with him four thousand French infantry, one hundred knights, and eighty cavalry, as well as artillery, provisions, and gold. The gold was freely used to influence the needy Scottish barons. The queen wished to retreat to England, but Wolsey and Henry declined to receive her, and she now tried to play off Albany and the French against the English, ready to take part with whichever would help her most.
In the beginning of October the Scottish parliament sanctioned a muster at Edinburgh on the 20th, with provisions for twenty days. On 22 Oct. Albany started from Edinburgh by the road to Lauder, and, despatching Robert, fifth lord Maxwell [q. v.], with five thousand men to the west border, advanced himself with the main body of his troops by way of Melrose, which he reached on the 24th. But after a fruitless attack on Wark, which failed partly because the Scots refused to second the assault by the French troops, Albany on 3 Nov. made a precipitate retreat.
The English ministers and generals, and Skelton, the poet-laureate, scoffed at Albany who, ‘void of all brain, shamefully retreated back to his great lack when he heard tell that my Lord Amirell [Admiral] was coming down to make him frown.’ His prestige in Scotland, which had survived the misfortunes of the former year, was now lost. It did not help his popularity that while he was always running away to France when he was most wanted in Scotland, he left Frenchmen in some of the most important posts, and was for them, as for himself, always exigent about money. He received upwards of 1,200l. for his personal expenses at Wark, made a demand that royal domains should be sold to pay for the bootless campaign, and for forty thousand crowns of the Sun for the cost of his voyage to France (though this was to be repaid at Dieppe). The parliament in