Fleming, John (d.1572) (DNB00)

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FLEMING, JOHN, fifth Lord Fleming (d. 1572), was the younger brother of James, fourth lord Fleming [q. v.], and the second son of Malcolm, third lord Fleming, by his wife Johanna or Jonet Stewart, natural daughter of James IV. He succeeded to the title on the death of his brother, 18 Dec. 1558. He is mentioned in a letter of Randolph to Cecil, 3 June 1565, as one of those who ‘shamefully left Moray when he endeavoured to prevent the marriage between Mary and Darnley’ (Keith, ii. 292). By commission dated 30 June 1565 he was appointed great chamberlain of Scotland, and he took the oaths on 1 Aug. following (Reg. Privy Council Scot. i. 347). In the ‘round-about raid’ against Moray he accompanied the king, who led the battle (ib. 379). He was one of those in waiting on Mary when Rizzio was murdered (Letter of Queen Mary to the Archbishop of Glasgow, 9 May 1566, printed in Keith, ii. 418), but succeeded in making his escape from the palace of Holyrood. In 1567 he was made justiciary within the bounds of the overward of Clydesdale, appointed to the sheriffdom of Peebles, and received the important office of governor of Dumbarton Castle. Though he was in Edinburgh at the time of the murder of Darnley, he had no connection with the tragedy. He, however, signed the bond in favour of the marriage of Mary and Bothwell. After the flight of Bothwell from Carberry Hill, Fleming, along with Lord Seton, accompanied him to the north of Scotland, but both ultimately abandoned him (Illustrations of the Reign of Mary, p. 223). He joined the party of the queen's lords, who resolved to take measures to effect her escape from Lochleven (Keith, ii. 656). Refusing the invitation to attend a parliament to be held at Edinburgh on 15 Dec. (Calderwood, ii. 388), he withdrew with other lords to Dumbarton Castle, of which he was keeper, where a bond was entered into for the queen's liberty (Keith, ii. 718). In the hope of obtaining assistance from France he refused to deliver up the castle (Calderwood, ii. 402). After Queen Mary's escape from Lochleven, he assembled with other lords at Hamilton to take measures for securing the triumph of her cause. Rather than trust herself to the Hamiltons, Mary would have preferred meanwhile to shut herself up in the stronghold of Dumbarton under the protection of Fleming, but the Hamiltons, who had determined that she should marry Lord Arbroath, would not permit her out of their hands, and resolved against her wishes to stake the cause of the queen on a battle against the forces of Moray. The result was the disaster at Langside. Fleming was one of the three noblemen who with the queen watched the battle from an adjoining eminence. He, along with Lords Herries and Livingstone, conducted her from the field (Herries, Memoirs, p. 103), and accompanied her in her gallop for life through the Ayrshire and Galloway moors. The small party crossed the Solway in a fishing-boat, and on 15 May arrived at Workington. A day or two afterwards they lodged her in the castle of Carlisle (State Papers, For. Ser. 1566–8, entry 2199). Shortly afterwards Fleming was sent along with Lord Herries to ask Elizabeth's assistance to restore her to her throne (Labanoff, Lettres de Marie Stuart, ii. 87). Mary also asked for Elizabeth's permission for Fleming to go on a mission to France (for the exact nature of the mission see ‘Instructions données par Marie Stuart à Lord Fleming, envoyé vers le roi de France,’ in Labanoff, ii. 86–90; and ‘Instructions données &c., vers le Cardinal de Lorrain,’ ib. 90–3), but Elizabeth declined her permission, asserting that the only object of a mission of the chatelain of Dumbarton to France must be to take measures for bringing the French into the country. Fleming sounded the Spanish ambassador as to whether it might not be possible to bribe Cecil, Pembroke, and Bedford, but de Silva gave no countenance to the proposal, and advised that for the present it would be best for the interests of Mary that she should submit to Elizabeth's wishes (Froude, Hist. England, cab. ed. viii. 362). Mary made more than one effort to obtain Elizabeth's consent to Fleming's embassy to France, but at last, finding it hopeless to break her resolution, Fleming left for the north. Reaching Mary at Carlisle on 5 July, he went thence to Scotland and joined the forces under Huntly and Argyll. Fleming was one of the commissioners appointed by Mary to represent her cause at the conference at York (Sir James Melville, Memoirs, p. 265). On his return he shut himself up in Dumbarton Castle, which he held in Queen Mary's name, thus keeping open a door of communication with France. At a parliament held at Edinburgh he and his relative, John Fleming of Boghall, were denounced, on 17 Nov. 1569, as traitors, and their arms were ‘riven’ at the cross, in presence of the regent and the lords (Calderwood, ii. 506). In his stronghold he bade defiance for a time to all proclamations and threats. It became the centre of intrigues on Mary's behalf. De Virac, the French ambassador, took up his residence in it to superintend the arrival of supplies of arms and money. According to Buchanan, Fleming had persuaded the king of France that he ‘held the fetters of Scotland in his own hands; and that, whenever the French had leisure from other wars, if they would but send him a little assistance he would easily clap them on and bring all Scotland to their assistance.’ In January 1569–70 the regent Moray went to Dumbarton in the hope that the favourable terms he proposed, and his own personal interposition, would induce Fleming to deliver it up, but returned disappointed. In fact his visit suggested to the Hamiltons and others who were in the castle the scheme for his assassination, and it was within its walls that the plot was completed and the assassin chosen (ib. iii. 570). After the assassination Hamilton, uncle of the assassin, and an indirect agent in the murder, took refuge in the castle, which was supposed to be almost impregnable to assault. In May 1570 Drury was sent to Scotland to treat with those in arms in the cause of Mary (Cal. State Papers, Scot. Ser. i. 287), and when attempting a parley with Fleming he was stated to have been treacherously shot upon (ballad of ‘The Tressoun of Dumbartune,’ printed at Edinburgh by Lekprevick, 1570). For more than a year after the death of the regent Moray, the flag of Mary waved above the battlements of Wallace's Tower. Suddenly, on the morning of 2 May, its precipices were scaled by Captain Thomas Crawford [q. v.], and the garrison overpowered with scarcely an attempt at resistance (see narrative in Richard Bannatyne's Memorials, pp. 106–7). Fleming made his way out alone by a postern gate; and, the tide being full, obtained a boat and escaped to Argyll (Herries, Memoirs, p. 132; Calderwood, History, iii. 57). He left Lady Fleming in the castle, but she was very courteously treated by the regent Lennox, and permitted to pass out freely with all her plate and baggage (Herries, p. 133). She also subsequently obtained a part of the forfeited rents of Lord Fleming for her support. Fleming proceeded to France, where he endeavoured to concert measures for foreign assistance to the friends of Mary. An expedition under his direction was wrecked on the coast of England, but although his papers were seized he himself escaped (Correspondance de Fénelon, iv. 401). Ultimately he succeeded in returning to Scotland, and obtained entrance to Edinburgh Castle, still held by the supporters of Mary. On 5 July 1572 he was mortally wounded by French soldiers discharging their pieces on their entrance into Edinburgh, some of the bullets rebounding from the pavement and striking him in the knee. After lying for some time in the castle he was removed in a litter to Biggar, where he died of his wounds on 6 Sept. By his marriage to Elizabeth, only child of Robert Master of Ross, killed at the battle of Pinkie in 1547, he had, besides three daughters, one son,

John Fleming, first Earl of Wigtown or Wigton (d. 1619). He held the office of chief ‘janitor et custos domus et cubiculi regis’ from 30 July 1587, and was granted large estates united into the lordship of Cumbernauld (18 Jan. 1588–9 and 31 Jan. 1595–6). He was created Earl of Wigtown or Wigton 19 March 1606–7, and died in April 1619. By his first wife, Lillias, daughter of John, earl of Montrose, he had four sons and six daughters.

His heir, John Fleming, second Earl of Wigtown or Wigton (d. 1650), was one of the committee of estates in 1640; became a privy councillor in 1641; entered into an association framed at his house at Cumbernauld in support of Charles I, and died at Cumbernauld 7 May 1650. He married Margaret, second daughter of Alexander Livingston, second earl of Linlithgow, by whom he left issue. The earldom became extinct on the death of Charles Fleming, seventh earl, in 1747.

[Illustrations of the Reign of Mary (Maitland Club); Lord Herries's Memoirs (Abbotsford Club); Sir James Melville's Memoirs (Bannatyne Club); Diurnal of Occurrents (Bannatyne Club); History of James Sext (Bannatyne Club); Richard Bannatyne's Memorials; Labanoff's Lettres de Marie Stuart; Fénelon's Correspondance; Register of the Privy Council of Scotland; State Papers, Reign of Elizabeth; Histories of Keith, Calderwood, Buchanan, Tytler, Burton, and Froude; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 634–5; Crawfurd's Officers of State, pp. 330–1; Hunter's Biggar and the House of Fleming, pp. 525–44.]

T. F. H.