Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/234

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28 SIR JAMES MELVILLE.


matrimony. He takes credit to himself for having given sage and excellent ad- vice to the Scottish queen, on the occurrence of her various unfortunate predi- lections, particularly on her conduct towards Both well during the life of Darn- ley, and happened to be among those attendants of the queen who were so very easily taken prisoners by the aspirant to the crown. After this event, he con- sidered it prudent to obtain leave to return home, and enjoy his " rents ;" but so long as he was able to transact messages and carry pictures, the atmosphere of a court seems to have been to him the breath of life ; he appears to have waited in quiet expectation for whatever little transactions might fall to his lot, and, among other occasions, was present at the marriage of the queen to Both well, after that nobleman's " fury" against him, before which he had been obliged to flee on account of his advice to the queen, " more honest than wise," had been propitiated. On the formation of the party for crowning the young prince, he was, as far as his book is concerned, still a zealous servant of his fallen mistress. He was chosen commissioner or emissary to the opposite party, a post he de- clined to accept, until advised to become the instrument of peace, by Maitland, Kirkaldy, and " other secret favourers of the queen." On the same principle of attention to the interests of Mary, he acted as emissary to meet Murray at Berwick, on his approaching Scotland to assume the regency. He was equally accommodating in furthering the introduction of Lennox, and was engaged in his usual employments under Mar and Morton. It would be tedious to follow him in his list of negotiations, any thing which is important in them being more nearly concerned with the history of the times, than with the subject of our memoir. The character in which he acted is sufficiently exemplified by the de- tails already unfolded ; and it would require more labour and discernment than most men command, to determine for what party he really acted, or on what principles of national policy he combated. It may be mentioned, that he al- leges the busy temper of finding fault with the proceedings of the great, with which he so complacently charges himself on divers occasions, to have lost him the countenance of Morton, while with superlative generosity he recommended the laird of Carmichael to avoid a similar course; and the laird, profiting by the advice, forgot that injured man, the giver of it. When James wished to free himself from the unceremonious authors of the Raid of Ruthven, he requested the counsel and assistance of Melville, who, although he had taken leave of the court, and resolved to live " a quiet contemplative life all the rest of his days," graciously assented to the royal petition. He read his majesty a lecture on the conduct of young princes, and assisted in enabling him to attend the convention at St Andrews ; or, according to his own account, was the sole procurer of his liberty. He was appointed a gentleman of the bedchamber, and a member of the privy council ; but Arran, whom he opposed, managed to supplant him, notwithstanding an unmercifully long letter, reminding James of his services, and the royal promises, and bestowing much advice, useful for governors. He was deprived of his offices, and had no more opportunity " to do good." But he was not entirely excluded from the sun of royalty ; he was directed to pre- pare instructions for himself as an ambassador to the court of England, and held a long conference with the king about the state of the nation, full of much sage advice. He was appointed to " entertain " the three Danish ambassadors, whose mission concerning the restoration of the islands of Orkney, terminated hi the king's marriage with a Danish princess: and when these gentlemen were plunged into a state of considerable rage at their reception, he was found a most use- ful and pacific mediator. He was appointed the confidential head of that embassy proposed to Altry, and afterwards accepted by the earl Marischal, for bringing over the royal bride ; but he had arrived at that period of life, when