Stewart, John (1481-1536) (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


STEWART, JOHN, Duke of Albany (1481–1536), regent of Scotland, was the only son of Alexander Stewart, duke of Albany [q. v.], by his second wife, Anne de la Tour d'Auvergne, third daughter of Bertrand II, comte d'Auvergne et de Boulogne. Early left an orphan by the death of his father in 1485, Albany was brought up by his mother in France, and continued through life to consider France his native country, its king his master, and to sign his name Jehan. He held the office of admiral of France, and was a knight of St. Michel, the tutelary saint of France. He married, on 8 June 1505, his cousin, Anne de la Tour, comtesse de la Tour d'Auvergne, elder child and heiress of his mother's brother, Jehan III, comte d'Auvergne, whose younger sister married, ten years later, Lorenzo de' Medici, duke of Urbino, nephew of Leo X, and was mother of Catherine de' Medici.

The Scots, however, treated him as a Scot, described him as John, duke of Albany, and their parliament not only elected him regent, but declared him next heir to the crown. Before the first parliament or general council met after Flodden at Perth, on 26 Nov. 1513, a request was sent by Cumming, the Lyon king, to Louis XII, that Albany might come and assume the government of Scotland. He was unable or unwilling, but sent Antony d'Arcy de la Bastie as his representative. With De la Bastie came James Ogilvy (afterwards abbot of Dryburgh) as ambassador of Louis XII, and at the meeting of the general council at Perth they expressed the desire of the French king to renew the old alliance with Scotland, and that Scottish ambassadors should visit France with full powers. The French king, they said, was willing, if the Scots desired it, to send Albany to Scotland for its defence. The lords of council declared their consent to the renewal of the alliance, and their wish that Albany should be sent with Robert Stuart, seigneur d'Aubigny, the captain of the bodyguard of Scottish archers, and all other Scotsmen who could get license from the French king, to protect their country against the English [see under Stewart, John, first (or ninth) Earl of Lennox]. The influence of Henry VIII, who then supported his sister, Margaret Tudor, in the regency of Scotland, and was carrying on the negotiations which resulted in the marriage of his sister Mary to Louis XII, was sufficient to prevent Albany's departure until after the accession of Francis I, at whose consecration, on 25 Jan. 1515, Albany was present. While still in France he acted as the representative of Scotland, and on 2 April 1514 sold in Paris to the French king for forty thousand crowns of Tours the Great St. Michael, the pride of the Scottish fleet, which had been built by James IV.

It was not till May 1515 that Albany sailed from St. Malo to the west coast, to avoid English cruisers. Landing at Dumbarton on 18 May, he at once went to Glasgow, where, on the 22nd, he wrote as regent of Scotland to Francis I signifying his assent to the treaty between France and England, in which Scotland was to be included. On the 26th he was received with acclamation in Edinburgh, and comedies, says Leslie, were acted to welcome him. Parliament met on 12 July, when Albany was declared tutor and governor both of the kingdom and the king, the queen mother having forfeited her right of guardianship and regency by her marriage to the young Earl of Angus [see Douglas, Archibald, sixth Earl of Angus]. Early in August she was forced to surrender Stirling and her children to Albany. Though closely watched, she escaped to Tantallon, and thence on 23 Sept. to Harbottle, where she gave birth on 30 Oct. to Lady Margaret Douglas [q. v.], afterwards Countess of Lennox and mother of Darnley. Albany resided at Holyrood. Among the nobles who had urged his coming to Scotland was Lord Hume or Home, the chamberlain [see Home, Alexander, third Lord Home]; but an imprudent remark Albany made when he first saw Hume, who was a little man, ‘Minuit præsentia famam,’ alienated the proud border chief. He and his clan rebelled, and towards the end of August Albany assembled a large army on the Borough Muir, with which he marched to the borders, visited on his way De la Bastie at Dunbar, and seized Hume Castle and the chamberlain before 12 Sept. Hume was put in charge of James Hamilton, first earl of Arran [q. v.]; but that feeble noble liberated Hume, and entered into a band or league with him and Angus against Albany, which was abetted by Lord Dacre of the north, the English warden of the marches. Albany returned north and seized Arran's estates; but at Hamilton Castle, the chief seat of Arran, terms were made. Arran was pardoned and detached from the league. Albany also endeavoured by conciliatory language to induce Margaret, who had fled to England, to return to Scotland, but without success. The sudden death of her infant son, the Duke of Ross, led to suspicion of poison, with which Margaret did not hesitate to charge Albany. In February 1516 he was at Linlithgow, and from 19 April to 20 June at Falkland. Between these dates he appears to have come to the north of England and to have made an offer to visit Henry VIII, which Wolsey declined. Henry addressed a letter to the Scottish estates, asking them to dismiss Albany, but the parliament of Edinburgh, on 1 July 1516, sent an emphatic and spirited refusal. On 24 July 1516 Albany agreed with Wolsey to prolong the truce with England to St. Andrew's day, 1517, and this was ratified in January 1517 by the commissioners of the estates.

Parliament again met at Edinburgh in the end of September 1516 (24th according to Buchanan), but its record has not been preserved. Albany was present, and Hume, the chamberlain, and his brother were condemned to death for treason, and executed on 8 and 9 Oct. Immediately after these executions Albany went to the borders and took possession of their estates. Returning early in November, on the 12th of that month parliament confirmed the divorce of his father from his first wife, Catherine Sinclair, daughter of the Earl of Orkney [see Stewart, Alexander, Duke of Albany], and declared Albany next heir to the kingdom and only heir of his father, thus bastardising his elder brother Alexander, who, in compensation, was made bishop of Moray and abbot of Scone. At the same time he got the reluctant consent of the estates to his return for six months to France. Before he left a regency, consisting of the two archbishops and the earls of Huntly, Argyll, Angus, and Arran, was appointed. Lord Erskine and the earl marshal were named guardians of the king, De la Bastie warden of the marches, and Lord Fleming of Cumbernauld chamberlain. The fortresses of Dunbar, Inchgarvie, and Dumbarton were placed in the hands of French garrisons. On 6 June 1517 Albany sailed from Dumbarton to France, taking with him as hostages the sons of several leading nobles. During this first period of his regency Albany had been singularly successful. He had removed or conciliated his chief adversaries, baffled Henry VIII, and restored peace on the borders. His expenditure had been lavish, as the exchequer accounts show; but it was repaid by the tranquillity of the realm. So far from being ‘a coward and a wilful and furious fool,’ as Wolsey called him, he had proved an active commander and a prudent governor. His weakness was that his heart was not in Scotland, and he returned to France with his work only half accomplished.

The attempt to conduct the government in Albany's absence by dividing the power between the chief Scottish nobles and De la Bastie and the French commanders failed. No sooner had the duke left Scotland than the old dissensions broke out among the nobles. On 15 June Queen Margaret returned to Scotland, little more than a week after Albany's departure. Towards the end of July or beginning of August De la Bastie was slain by David Hume of Wedderburn in revenge for Albany having put his chief to death. There was a surcease both of the courts and parliament, and the nobles soon became jealous of the growing influence of Angus.

Albany had full power while absent to represent Scotland in foreign affairs, and did not neglect his commission. He promoted the interests of the Scottish merchants who traded with France, and negotiated the treaty of Rouen on 26 Aug. 1517, by which France and Scotland entered into an offensive and defensive alliance against England; and Francis I promised his eldest daughter in marriage to James V if the marriage to the king of Spain or his brother did not take place; or failing her, his second daughter, if he had another. In the spring of 1518 his sister-in-law, Madeline de la Tour d'Auvergne, was married to Lorenzo, duke of Urbino, the nephew of Leo X, who wrote to Francis I he could deny Albany nothing. Through the influence of France and his affinity with the pope, Albany procured on 5 March 1518 from Leo X a confirmation of all the privileges already granted to the kings and kingdom of Scotland by the Holy See. In 1519 a writer called Gremond or Dremond Dornat translated into French for Albany's use the chronicles of Fordun and Bower, a proof of his desire to become acquainted with the history of Scotland. In June 1519 the Scottish estates wrote to the pope, requesting him to use his influence with Francis I to procure the return of Albany to Scotland, and Lord Fleming of Cumbernauld was sent to France as ambassador of James V to solicit the French king's permission; but Francis had, by a secret article of his treaty with England, promised not to allow Albany to leave France while James V was a minor.

Meantime the quarrel between Margaret Tudor and her husband Angus had reached a crisis, and the rivalry between Arran and Angus led to a contest for the possession of Edinburgh. Angus gained the upper hand in April 1520. Arran fled to France, and probably returned with Albany in the following year. The distracted state of Scotland, which made the Scots more than ever anxious to have Albany back, is reflected in two poems of William Dunbar: one, ‘When the Governor passed to France,’ prays God to ‘help this pure realm in partys all divydit,’ and the other, written in 1520 or early in 1521, speaking in the name of the nobles, entreats him ‘to return and not to absent himself for the sake of “worldly gear.”’

At last, in November, or perhaps not till 3 Dec. 1521, Albany returned to Scotland. He remained less than a year, till 27 Oct. 1522, but the short period was a time of busy intrigues. Already, in November 1521, it had been bruited that Albany was aiding Margaret at the court of Rome in her suit for divorce from Angus, which was true, with the object of marrying her himself, which was certainly false. The first trace in the voluminous correspondence of Henry VIII of the latter rumour is in a letter by Wolsey to his master from Calais, in which he says he has done what he could with the pope's ambassador to prevent the divorce, ‘which shall not proceed when the pope shall be informed that the same is procured only for marriage betwixt the Duke of Albany and the queen, whereby the destruction of the young king shall ensue.’ It is probable that Wolsey was himself the originator of the calumny. There is no proof that either Albany or Margaret had designs on the life of her son, James V. As to the divorce, there was a serious obstacle: Albany had a wife still living. There were plausible grounds for a divorce between Margaret and Angus, which was in fact procured in 1527, mainly by the influence and money of Albany. But there is no proof that Albany wished, or could have obtained, a divorce from Anne de la Tour d'Auvergne, whose sister was married to the pope's nephew. Nor, though the rumour was persistently spread, is there any reason to believe there were amatory relations between them. Their temporary reconciliation and mutual support were entirely politic, and on Margaret's part, as soon appeared, insincere. Albany aided her in procuring the payment of part of her dowry, which had been withheld, as well as her divorce. In the balance of parties in Scotland and in his conflict with England it was important for him to have the queen dowager and the sister of the English king as his ally. At a meeting at Kirk of Steele on 14 Dec. 1521 between Angus, Hume, and John, third lord Somerville, they drew up a series of charges against Albany, in which they accused him of having been too intimate with the queen on his return to Scotland. Dacre, who forwarded it to Henry VIII, followed it up by a letter of 20 Dec., in which he magnified the scandal, alleging that ‘aid must be given to the Scotch lords, or the young king will be destroyed, and a Frenchman will be king and marry the king's sister.’ There were many meetings between Albany and Margaret in the end of 1521 and beginning of 1522; but they had quite enough legitimate business to transact without the invention of so nefarious a plot. Charles V, to whom its alleged existence had been communicated by Wolsey, shrewdly remarked that ‘he did not think any pope would have given the duke the dispensation he would require [for marrying Margaret], especially as he has children by his present wife;’ though, if this latter statement was not an error, the children died young, for none survived their mother.

Henry VIII and Wolsey were not, however, to be stayed in prosecuting the charge which was formally made in a letter brought by the Clarencieux herald to the Scottish estates, accusing Albany with ‘endangering the life of the young king and working the perdition of his sister’ by procuring the divorce of Margaret and marrying her himself. Albany, Margaret, and the estates in separate answers indignantly repudiated the accusation. Albany privately informed Clarencieux that he preferred his French estates to the crown of Scotland, and that one wife was enough for him. The lords in parliament on Monday, 8 Feb. 1522, unanimously assured Clarencieux, who brought Henry's letter, that they had invited Albany and would not dismiss him. The truce between England and Scotland expired on 2 Feb., and both sides prepared for war. Hostilities began by seven vessels which Henry sent early in April to the Forth. They seized Scottish ships and ravaged the villages on the coast. In July a raid was made across the western border and Kelso partially burnt. On 18 July the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh, at which Albany was present, agreed that the king should be sent for safe custody to Stirling, under the custody of Lord Erskine, and a muster for the invasion of England in September was sanctioned.

The queen, though apparently still acting in concert with Albany, had now entered into a secret correspondence with Dacre, in which she not only betrayed Albany's plans, but undertook to do her best to prevent the invasion of England and procure peace. Albany advanced from Edinburgh on 2 Sept. towards Carlisle with one of the largest armies ever collected in Scotland; it was said to number eighty thousand men, but this is probably an exaggeration. An attempt to conclude a truce was made on 6 Sept. Albany 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 Edinburgh, on 17 Nov., rejected this proposal, and new guardians, one the Frenchman Gonzolles, now captain of Dunbar, were appointed for the king. The king was to remain at Stirling, where his mother's visits were carefully regulated. Leave of absence was readily granted to Albany on condition that if he did not return in four months he should forfeit the regency. Gonzolles was nominated treasurer, but it is doubtful whether he ever exercised the office.

Albany sailed from Dumbarton on 20 May 1524, and never saw Scotland again. On 30 July, before the expiry of the four months, James V, now a boy of twelve, was, in Scottish phrase, erected king at Holyrood, and an instrument signed by the leading nobles and prelates which annulled Albany's regency. The parliament which met on 14 Nov. passed an act declaring that he had broken his promise to return, and thereby forfeited the office of tutor and governor. Albany lived for twelve years after his departure from Scotland. Though he continued a not unimportant factor in continental politics, he never attained the same position as when governor of Scotland. Shortly after his return he accompanied Francis I in the campaign of Italy against Charles V which ended in the disaster of Pavia on 24 Feb. 1525, where Francis was taken prisoner. He had been detached at Milan from the main army, and sent with two hundred lances, six hundred light horse, and eight thousand infantry to make a diversion against the Spaniards in Naples. In the middle of February he was stopped by an illness, and the capture of Francis I put an end to the expedition. Albany retreated to the papal territory, where his presence in Rome led to fights between the faction of the Colonna who favoured the emperor, and the papal faction of the Orsini. Albany and his troops went to the coast, and were soon after recalled by the queen regent, in June 1525. His appointment to this important command shows that in the opinion of Francis I he was not an incompetent general. The French ambassador in England at this time engaged that Albany should not return to Scotland during the minority of James V, but he had no wish go thither. Through his influence with Clement VII he was instrumental in obtaining, on 11 March 1527, the decree for Margaret's divorce from Angus. He paid the cost of the divorce, which her agent, Duncan, at Rome assured him would amount to not less than six hundred ducats. The English court and Henry VIII himself in 1527 revived the rumour that Margaret desired to marry Albany, but in March 1528 she declared her secret marriage to Henry Stewart, brother of Lord Avandale, with whom she had already had an illicit amour.

Between 1530 and 1533 Albany, as we learn from the Spanish state papers, several times visited Rome as French ambassador. He was narrowly watched by the envoys of the emperor, who suspected, not without reason, that the chief object of his diplomatic activity was to get a footing again for the French in Italy, and renew the league against the emperor. But the only result achieved was the marriage of his wife's niece Catherine to the Duke of Orleans, which gave the pope a family interest in the French royal succession. When absent from Italy Albany carried on an active correspondence with M. d'Inteville, the French ambassador who succeeded him at Rome; Strozzi, the pope's ambassador in France, and more than one cardinal. This correspondence, which is in the French archives, has not yet been published. It probably related to the expenses of the divorce, and to the marriage of his wife's niece, Catherine de' Medici, with Henry, duke of Orleans, the second son of Francis I, which was celebrated at Marseilles by the pope on 28 Oct. 1534, and the arrangements prior to this marriage as to the inheritance of Auvergne and Boulogne between Albany, the Duke of Orleans, and Catherine de' Medici. Albany was selected by Francis I to conduct Catherine to France, probably on account of his office as high admiral as well as his relationship. When in Italy he obtained a cardinal's hat for his uterine brother, Philip de la Chambre.

Another matter in which Albany took a leading part was the institution of the court of session in Scotland, and the endowment of its judges out of the revenues of the Scottish bishops, which required the sanction of the pope. He had started this project while regent, but the bull of Clement VII was not issued till 15 Sept. 1531, the court was not instituted till 1532, and the bull for its endowment was not procured till 1535. Albany was also largely concerned in the negotiations for the marriage of James V. The marriage of James to a French princess had been agreed to by the treaty of Rouen, which Albany had negotiated in 1517. It was naturally renewed when James became of a marriageable age, and the bride first selected was Madeline, daughter of Francis I. Eventually, however, in 1534 the choice of the Scottish ambassadors, David Beaton and John, lord Erskine, fell on Marie de Bourbon, daughter of the Duc de Vendôme, with whom a contract of marriage was entered into at Crémieux in Dauphiné on 6 March 1536. Albany was named one of the proxies for James in a procuratory dated 29 Jan. 1535, and being unable to attend the signature of the contract through ill-health, the notaries went to his house and read it to him, where he added his signature on 29 March 1536. It was his last public act, for he died on 2 June of that year. Among the unpublished documents in the French archives there is a significant commission to Jean Doutet to verify the debts of the late Duke of Albany, and a decree against him for a small debt has also been preserved. There is some evidence that James V claimed his succession, but no proof that he recovered any estate. He had always been lavish in expenditure, and not improbably died bankrupt. He left no legitimate issue, and contracted no second marriage, acting on his saying that one wife was enough. An illegitimate daughter by Jean Abernethy, his mistress in Scotland, perhaps married Jean de l'Hospital, comte de Choisy, in 1547.

The character of Albany, notwithstanding the different views taken of it both by contemporaries and by historians, does not seem difficult to understand. He was no general, but he was an able negotiator, succeeding in almost all he undertook—the treaty of Rouen, the divorce of Margaret, the protection of the Scots both in France and at Rome, the institution of the court of session, and the marriage of James to a French princess, though after his death Madeline of France was substituted by James's personal choice for Marie de Bourbon. His services were valued equally by James V and Francis I, with whom he was so great a favourite as to have the entry to the royal bedchamber, a privilege not so common as it afterwards became. The miscarriage of his Scottish regency was due to the inherent difficulties of the situation, but his dislike of a life in Scotland, and strong bias in favour of France contributed to it. The history of his relations with Queen Margaret and her son, when fairly examined, refutes the calumnies of Wolsey and Henry VIII. His straightforward manner contrasts favourably with the duplicity of the English ministers and diplomatists, and with the plotting of the Scottish nobles. He was a Frenchman in Scotland, but retained a good deal of the Scot when abroad, and this explains much of his conduct. It is probable that he was passionate; according to Dacre, when displeased he threw hat after hat into the fire. He was certainly superstitious, carrying a relic in an ornament suspended to his neck, and his habit was to swear by it as his favourite oath. There are many signs that he was extravagant, but his conduct to Queen Margaret and to his French followers shows that he was generous, though not particular whether the money he expended was his own or drawn from the French or Scottish revenues; it is probable he spent more than he received.

There is a good portrait of his broad face, dark beard, and handsome features in the enigmatical group now in Lord Bute's collection at Cardiff, in which he is represented as receiving a paper from Margaret, to whom he is making a payment, probably of her dowry, in 1522, as recorded in the exchequer rolls, with the figure of a herald pointing to a butterfly floating in the air between them, which perhaps represents this payment. The picture has been attributed to Holbein, but must have been painted before he came to England, and there is no likelihood that the painter ever saw Albany.

[Acts of Parliament of Scotland, ii., Exchequer Rolls, vol. xiv., where an attempt is made by the present writer to explain the Cardiff picture; State Papers of Henry VIII; Cal. State Papers, Spanish, 1531–5; Teulet's Relations Politiques de la France et de l'Espagne avec l'Ecosse, 1862, tome i.; Contemporary Histories of Buchanan, Leslie, and Lindsay of Pitscottie; Michel's Les Écossais en France, les Français en Écosse gives many minute details as to Albany, and a print of his coat of arms. Of modern historians, Pinkerton and Tytler are the best; Burton is meagre. Brewer, in his History of Henry VIII, has much information, but views Albany too much with the eyes of Wolsey.]

Æ. M.