In the following year Crichton, laird of Brunston, informed Henry VIII that Kirkcaldy and the Master of Rothes were prepared to apprehend or slay the cardinal if assured of his support. Henry VIII approved of the scheme, but through precautions taken by the cardinal it was for the time frustrated (see especially ‘Historical Remarks on the Assassination of Cardinal Beaton’ in Appendix to Tytler, History of Scotland). Kirkcaldy, however, never lost sight of his purpose; although he did not take an actual part in the assassination of the cardinal in 1546, he was one of its main instigators, and on the evening succeeding the assassination joined the murderers in the castle of St. Andrews. On 9 March he, along with others in the castle, signed a contract with the king of England, engaging to promote a marriage between Prince Edward and Mary Queen of Scots and to further the unity of the two realms. On the surrender of St. Andrews castle in the following July he was carried a prisoner to France, where he was confined in the castle of Cherbourg (Knox, i. 225). According to Knox, strenuous efforts were made to induce Kirkcaldy and the other prisoners to attend the mass, but they remained obdurate (ib.) Through the intercession of the queen-dowager they were released in July 1550 (ib. p. 233). Kirkcaldy died some time in 1556. By his wife, Janet Melville, daughter of Sir James Melville of Raith, he had five sons: Sir William [q. v.], Sir James, hanged on the same scaffold with Sir William in 1573, Sir David, Thomas, and George. Of his four daughters: Marjory was married to Sir Henry Ramsay of Coluthie; Agnes, to Sir Robert Drummond of Carnock; Marion, to William Semple, second baron of Cathcart; and Elizabeth, to Sir John Mowbray of Barnbougle.
[Knox's Works; Sir James Melville's Memoirs; Crawfurd's Officers of State, pp. 374–5.]
KIRKALDY, Sir WILLIAM (d. 1573), of Grange, was the eldest son of Sir James Kirkcaldy [q. v.] Randolph, minister of Elizabeth, in a letter to him, 1 May 1570, refers to the time ‘when we were both students in Paris,’ but nothing further is known regarding Kirkcaldy's education. He was respected for his character and abilities both in England and in Scotland. In his father's absence he waited on James V at Hallyards, his father's house in Fifeshire, in November 1542, after the disaster at Solway Moss. Deputed by his father to superintend the arrangements for the murder of Cardinal Beaton at St. Andrews in May 1546, he arrived at the city some time before the other conspirators. Getting entrance to the castle early in the morning of the 29th, while the drawbridge was let down to admit building material, he held the porter in parley till the approach of Norman Leslie [q. v.] with his company. The porter was then thrown into the fosse, and, while the other conspirators went to seek the cardinal, Kirkcaldy took charge of the privy postern to prevent his escape (ib. pp. 173–5; Cal. State Papers, Scott. Ser. i. 58). After the murder he proceeded to England to obtain assistance for the conspirators, who had taken refuge in the castle. He was brought back to the castle by English ships (Knox, i. 182), and articles of agreement were entered into between the defenders and Henry VIII (Cal. State Papers, Scott. Ser. i. 61). On the surrender of the castle to the French in July of the following year, Kirkcaldy was carried a prisoner to France and confined in Mount St. Michael, Normandy; but by the aid of a page he and other Scottish prisoners there escaped, 5 Jan. 1549–50 (the eve of Epiphany), while the drunken garrison were asleep. Along with another Scotsman, Peter Carmichael, Kirkcaldy, in the guise of a mendicant, reached the French coast at Le Conquet, and ultimately, as ‘poor mariners,’ they embarked on a French ship, which conveyed them to the west coast of Scotland (Knox, i. 231). Thence Kirkcaldy escaped south to England, where he obtained a pension from Edward VI, who employed him on secret diplomatic service. In February 1550–1 he was at Blois, acting as the secret agent of England, the name under which he is known in political correspondence being ‘Coraxe’ (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1549–53, p. 77). Being deprived of his English pension on the accession of Mary, Kirkcaldy entered the service of France, and as captain of a hundred light horse (Sir James Melville, Memoirs, p. 256) distinguished himself in the campaigns against Charles V. According to Sir James Melville he acquired special repute both for his valour in battle and his skill in knightly contests, Henry II pointing him out on one occasion as ‘one of the most valiant men of our time.’ The French king conferred on him a pension, which, however, according to Melville, Kirkcaldy never drew (Memoirs, p. 257).
Although a special favourite of the French king, Kirkcaldy appears to have been secretly hostile to the influence exercised by France in Scotland, and was already taking means to thwart it. Writing to Queen Mary of England from Boissy, 30 Nov. 1556, Dr. Wotton states that Grange had offered ‘to