Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Boyd, Robert (d.1590)

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BOYD, ROBERT, fourth Lord Boyd (d. 1590), son of Robert the third lord, is mentioned by Herries (Hist. of the Reign of Mary Queen of Scots, 10) as defeating the Earl of Glencairn at Glasgow in 1544, thereby rendering material aid to the regent, the Earl of Arran, in quelling the insurrection of Lennox. Two years later (19 Dec. 1546) we find him present at a meeting of the privy council at St. Andrews. On the outbreak of the civil war between the lords of the congregation and the queen regent he took part with the former, being present with them at Perth in May 1559. He signed the letter addressed by the lords to Sir William Cecil (19 July) explaining their policy, and another of the same date to Elizabeth asking for support. He also took part in the negotiations with the queen regent for a compromise, which were entirely without result. Apparently at this time Boyd's zeal in the cause of the congregation was growing lukewarm, for Balnaves, accounting to Sir James Crofts for the way in which he had applied the English subsidy, writes under date 4 Nov. 1559: 'And I delivered to the Earl of Glencairn and Lord Boyd 500 crowns, which was the best bestowed money that ever I bestowed, either of that or any other; the which if I had not done our whole enterprise it hath been stayed, both in joining with the duke (Chatelherault) and coming to Edinburgh, for certain particular causes that were betwixt the said lords and the duke, which were set down by that means by me so secret that it is not known to many.'

In February 1559-60 he was one of the signatories of the treaty of Berwick, by which Elizabeth engaged 'with all convenient speed to send into Scotland a convenient aid of men of warr,' for the purpose of driving out the French, and in the following April joined the English army at Prestonpans. On the 27th of that month he signed the contract in defence of the liberty of the 'evangel of Christ,' by which the lords of the congregation sought to encourage and confirm one another in the good work. He was present, on 7 May, at the unsuccessful attempt made by the English army to carry Leith by escalade, and on the 10th signed the document by which the treaty of Berwick was confirmed. On 27 Jan. 1560-1 he subscribed the 'Book of Discipline of the Kirk,' and at Ayr, on 3 Sept. 1562, he signed a bond to 'maintain and assist the preaching of the evangel.' Shortly after the marriage of Darnley (28 July 1564) the lords, despairing of prevailing on the queen to abolish 'the idolatrous mass,' and incensed by some acts of a rather high-handed character done by her, surprised Edinburgh during her temporary absence, but hastily abandoned the city on hearing that she was returning. Upon this Boyd, with Argyle, Murray, Glencairn, and others, was summoned to appear at the next meeting of parliament, which was fixed for 3 Feb. 1565, to answer for their conduct on pain of being denounced rebels and put to the horn. Parliament, however, did not meet in February, and before its next session, which began on 14 April 1567, Boyd's political attitude had undergone a complete change. If any credit is to be given to the so-called dying declaration of Bothwell, Boyd, according to that version of it which is found in Keith's 'History of Scotland' (App. 144), was privy to the murder of Darnley. His name, however, is not mentioned in the copy, or rather abstract, preserved in the Cottonian Library (Titus, c. vii. fol. 396), nor is the fragment Cal. D. ii. fol. 519 in the same collection; the original was in all probability a forgery. Though a member of the packed jury which acquitted Bothwell of the deed (April 1567), he, after Bothwell's marriage to Mary, joined a confederacy of nobles who bound themselves to protect the young prince against the sinister designs with which Bothwell was credited. Afterwards, however, he united himself with the faction which by a solemn 'league and covenant' engaged to take part with Bothwell 'against his privy or public calumniators,' 'with their bodies, heritage, and goods.'

Boyd was now made one of the permanent members of the privy council (17 May), and soon became as decided and energetic a partisan of the queen as he had formerly been of the congregation. In June he attempted to hold Edinburgh for the queen, in conjunction with Huntly, the archbishop of St. Andrews, and the commendator of Kilwinning. The citizens, however, refused to defend the place, and it almost immediately fell into the hands of the other faction. In August we find him, with Argyll, Livingston, and the commendator of Kilwinning, in negotiation with Murray for the release of the queen from captivity. In 1568, after her escape from Lochleven (2 May), he joined her forces at Hamilton, and was present at the battle of Langside (13 May). After the battle he retired to his castle of Kilmarnock, which, however, he was soon compelled to surrender to the council. In September he was appointed one of the bishop of Ross's colleagues for the conference to be held at York. After the conclusion of the negotiations he accompanied the bishop to London, and was admitted to audience of the queen at Hampton Court (24 Oct.) On 6 Jan. 1568-9 Mary made him one of her council. He was employed by her in her intrigues with the Duke of Norfolk, and was entrusted by the latter with a diamond to deliver to the queen at Coventry as a pledge of his affection and fidelity. In a letter to the duke, apparently written in December 1569, she says: 'I took from my lord Boyd the diamond, which I shall keep unseen about my neck till I give it again to the owner of it and me both.' In June 1569 he was despatched to Scotland with authority from Mary to treat with the regent, and a written mandate to institute proceedings for a divorce from Bothwell. Chalmers (Life of Mary, p. 331, published in 1818) asserts that Bothwell's consent to the divorce had been obtained before the commencement of the correspondence with Norfolk, and that the document signifying it 'remained among the family papers of Lord Boyd to the present century.' The papers referred to are presumably identical with those which on the attainder of William Boyd (the fourth earl of Kilmarnock) [q. v.], were placed in the custody of the public officials of the town of Kilmarnock, where they remained until 1837, when a selection from them, comprising all such as were of any historical value, was edited for the Abbotsford Club, and constitutes the first portion of the 'Abbotsford Miscellany.' No such document, however, as Chalmers refers to is there to be found, though a draft of the formal authority to apply for the divorce is among the papers. Boyd had an interview with Murray in July at Elgin, and on the 30th the question of the divorce was submitted to the council at Perth, when it was decided by a large majority that nothing further should be done in the matter. After reporting the failure of his mission to the queen, Boyd appears to have remained in England for some months, during which the record of his life is very scanty. He seems to have stood very high in the estimation of his mistress. In one of her letters (5 Jan. 1568-9) she designates him 'our traist cousigne and counsallour,' and writing to Cecil, under date 11 Feb. 1569-70, she expresses a desire to retain him with the bishop of Ross permanently about her person. At this time, however, he was again in Scotland actively engaged in hatching a plot for a general rising, and much suspected of complicity in the murder of Murray (22 Jan. 1569-70). The following year he was commissioned by Mary to establish in that country 'a lieutenant, ane or twa,' in her name. In the brief insurrection of the summer he was taken prisoner by Lennox at Paisley, but escaped to Edinburgh, and thence went to Stirling in August, and on the 12th, with Argyll, Cassilis, and Eglinton, affixed his seal to a treaty of secession and amity executed on the part of the regent by Morton and Mar. This defection is ascribed by the unknown author of the 'History of King James the Sext' to the 'great promises' of Lennox, but the reason given by Mary is probably nearer the mark. She writes to De la Motte Fénelon, under date 28 June 1571, that she is advised that Argyll, Athole, and Boyd, 'comme désespérés d'aucune aide,' 'commencent à se retirer et regarder qui aura du meilleur.' On 5 Sept. we find Boyd mentioned as a consenting party to the election of Mar to the regency; on the 7th he was made a member of the privy council. He visited Knox on his deathbed (17 Nov.), but except that he said, 'I know, sir, I have offended in many things, and am indeed come to crave your pardon,' what passed on either side is unknown. He was included in the act of indemnity passed 26 Jan. 1571-2, and subscribed the articles of pacification drawn up at Perth on 23 Feb. 1572-3, by one of which he was appointed one of the judges for the trial of claims for restitution of goods arising out of acts of violence committed during the civil war. On 24 Oct. 1573 he was appointed extraordinary lord of session by Morton, of whom from this time forward he was a firm adherent. Relying on the favour of Morton, he signalised his elevation to the bench by ejecting (November 1573) Sir John Stewart from the office of baillie of the regality of Glasgow, held under a grant from the late king, and engrossing the profits himself. About the same time he procured the appointment of his kinsman, James Boyd, to the archiepiscopal see of Glasgow. On Morton's resignation in February 1577-8, Boyd, according to Spottiswoode, 'did chide him bitterly,' pointing out that the king was a mere boy, and that by resigning Morton was in fact playing into the hands of his enemies, the Argyll-Athole faction. In consequence of Morton's eclipse, Boyd for a time lost his seat both at the council table and on the bench, but on the regent's return to power as prime minister in July 1578 he was again made a permanent member of the council, being at the same time appointed visitor of the university of Glasgow and commissioner for examining the book of the policy of the kirk and settling its jurisdiction. The same month (23rd) he was compelled to surrender the bailliary of the regality of Glasgow to the king as Earl of Lennox. On 15 Oct. his seat on the bench was restored to him. In the spring of the next year he was appointed one of the commission to pursue and arrest Lord John Hamilton and his brother, Lord Claud, who, however, made their escape to England. The commissioners received the thanks of the council for their services on 22 May. Boyd was a party to the conspiracy known as the Raid of Ruthven, by which the person of the king was seized as a pledge for the dismissal of the Duke of Lennox then in power, and in consequence was banished the realm in June 1583, James Stuart, earl of Arran, taking his place as extraordinary lord of session. He retired for a time to France, but in June 1586 we find him acting for the king in the negotiations which resulted in the treaty of alliance between the crowns of England and Scotland of that year, and while thus engaged induced the king to restore him to his former place on the bench, which, however, he resigned two years later (4 July 1588). In 1587-8 he was appointed commissioner to raise 100,000l. for the expenses connected with the king's marriage, and in 1589 was placed on a commission to enforce the statute against Jesuits (passed 14 Aug. 1587), and on the king's leaving for Norway (October) was constituted one of the wardens of the marches. He died on 3 Jan. 1589-90, in the seventy-second year of his age, being survived by his wife Margaret or Mariot, daughter of Sir John Colquhoun of Glins, and was succeeded by his second son Thomas.

[State Papers, Scottish Series; Reg. P. C. Scot. i. 57, 192, 335, 365, 386, 409, 509, 608, 614, 616, 617, 625, ii. 8, 12, 193-200, 312, 697, iii. 6, 8, 146, 150, 165, iv. 86 n, 269, 426, 507 n, 652n; Knox's Works (Bann. Club), i. 340-5, 369, 382, 413, 434, ii. 38, 53, 56, 58, 61, 63, 128, 258, 348, 498-503, 552, 556, 563, iii. 413, 425, vi. 35, 43, 640, 657; Spottiswoode's Hist. (Bann. Club), ii. 35, 56, 65-7, 208, 264; Anderson's Coll. i. 112, iii. 13, 33, 43, 52, 61, 70, 96, iv. 33, 156; Hume of Godscroft's Hist. House Angus, 167, 183, 199, 381; Keith's Hist. Scot. 97, 100, 127, 316, 320, 326, 337, 381, 447, App. 44, 145; Lesley's Hist. Scot. (Bann. Club), 151, 177, 274, 284; Froude's Hist. vii. 121, 122, ix. 434; Acts and Proceedings Gen. Ass. Kirk Scot. 93, 102, 750, 755; Book Univ. Kirk Scot. 348, 571; Bann. Misc. iii. 123; Herries's Memoirs (Abbotsford Club), 10, 87, 91, 102, 123, 131, 135, 139; James Melville's Diary (Bann. Club), 37; Hist. King James Sext (Bann. Club), 8, 10, 19, 26, 32, 35, 53, 55, 74, 75, 85, 129, 141, 189, 198; Memoirs of Lords Kilmarnock, Cromartie, and Balmerino (London, 1746, 8vo); Colville's Letters to Walsingham (Bann. Club), 44; Lettres de Marie Stuart (ed. Labanoff), ii. 265, 266, 271, 294, 304, 321, iii. 22, iv. 340; Moysie's Mem. (Bann. Club), 21, 22, 57; Diurnal of Occurrents in Scotland (Bann. Club), 279-82, 313, 324, 328; Acts Parl. Scot. iii. 77, 96, 98, 105; Douglas's Peer. ii. 34.]

J. M. R.