So, I have spent a deal of time on the last 30 years, time to summarise James V’s reign. Two contemporary opinions for you then which demonstrate that the pendulum of historical opinion has swung firmly to the other side of the clock case; Professor Jane Dawson
Whatever the problems to come, when he died the kingdom was stable and had become used to firm and effective government
OK, great; and Dr Andrea Thomas in the Oxford Database of National Biography
Had he lived to consolidate and develop the remarkable achievements of the years 1528–42, his historical reputation might have been as glorious as his father’s
The more recent historical opinion then has firmly redressed the biases of the past. Accepting that my opinion is worth considerably less than both of these quoted historians, I think we should leaven the bread of praise though should we not? James seems indeed to have displayed the strengths of his father, and the idea that Scotland was some sort of unconnected, uncivilised kingdom ignorant of the renaissance – that reputation has been thankfully fully slain But James cannot be divorced from the problems that came later since he either contributed to them, or failed to address them – and showed no great inclination to do so. His approach to using the church as a personal goldmine will contribute significantly to the success of the reformation – which you may legitimately believe is a good thing, but James himself would not have done so. He did little to address the lack of integration of the Highlands and Islands. And while the level of distress caused by feuing has been moderated, the loss of tenancies for 40% of Scottish landholders cannot surely be described as stability. So, like most political leaders there are many impacts. I am going to continue my new tradition of not coming up with a final score.
Okally dokally, so, welcome to the new Goodwood Horseracing Scottish Minority Stakes, lining up this winter evening, coming under starters orders. We have James V’s will, suggesting a smorgasboard of regents; or there’s the King’s Mother, Margaret Tudor and she has some experience of course. Or the current Queen Mum Mary of Guise, mother of the heir, little Miss QoS. Or, how about James Hamilton, 26 year old 2nd Earl of Arran? On the basis that the Hamilton family are in the line of succession, and before Mary’s birth the Earl was the heir presumptive. While we are on that, you might like to bear in mind, for it will be relevant, that the Stewart Earls of Lennox were next in line after that. Either way, Cardinal Beaton had made sure the James V’s will was set aside on a technicality, so there was a choice to be made – and clearly after last time Margaret Tudor was a rank 100-1 outsider, and probably she’d queered the pitch for her daughter in law too.
The answer was worked out behind closed doors by a bunch of blokes, otherwise known as a regency council at which Mary of Guise was not present. Cardinal Beaton and Arran did not get on – to the point of being physically separated at one point, but despite this they came to a deal. Arran would be sole governor; Beaton would be chancellor, and have use of the office swivel chair on Wednesday afternoons. All of this means that I need to introduce the new man to you, because our James Hamilton will be with us for a while. He is a man whose reputation has not been glittering it has to be said, and as yet he has not had the revisionist make over, so it appears to be a judgement that has stood the test of time. Essentially there are two main things to take away. Firstly, Arran’s main priority was probably for his family and kindred. Now, it would be harsh to say that he looked after his family first and his country second but it’s a photo finish. But in that regard he could be pretty brutal, and indeed we have already seen example of his brutality in his destruction with James’s connivance of Hamilton of Finnart. Ok, so that’s number 1 – a Hamilton east, west, north and south. Secondly, there’s a bit of the Del Boy about him. By which I mean that you might find him ducking and weaving round the old Tollbooth market, cutting a deal here, a deal there. This is an analogy with two principal faults – firstly I can hear the mobile and princely Arran turning in his grave, and secondly it’s not a very good one. What I mean is that for Arran policy and politics were more important than principle, He was pretty good at cutting deals, but when the deal is all, you can end up being inconstant, frequently changing direction, leading to a lack of trust because people can’t be sure you mean what you say you mean and won’t change your mind in the future. And this was true with Arran.
This was A point demonstrated early on at a most dramatic first parliament. Arran completely reversed his deal with Beaton, sacked him as Chancellor and sent him into prison. Wham. He announced the release of Donald Dubh, descendant of the Lords of the Isles. Bang. And he welcomed back into the fold the Douglases, exiles in England, and the Earl of Angus was back in town too. Thank you Sam. It’s worth noting that Arran’s wife was a Douglas by the way – I commend again unto you the chart on the website.
Finally, however, Arran also dramatically announced that the Pope was nothing but a Bishop, and a bad one at that, and that he was fully convinced of the idea of justification by faith alone. In essence, he was an evangelical, and indeed in the same year the reading of the bible in the vernacular would be approved. Wow. I mean, wow. As far as Henry VIII of England was concerned, this was all he needed; there was no follow up from the victory of Solway Moss, because Henry had no desire to conquer or annex Scotland; his ambition lay in France. Now that there was no longer a confessional frontier, England and Scotland could exist in religious harmony. And if His son Edward, heir to the English throne, and James’s heir Mary were married then there would be a union of crowns and he would have nothing to worry about as far as the French using the back door was concerned. And for a heady moment it looked as though that would be the case; the Treaty of Greenwich was agreed between Scotland and England in 1543 and brought back for ratification to the Scottish parliament..
Now then let us look up a bit. We have a couple of themes between now and the reign of James VI. Number one, confessional politics has entered the building with Arran’s dramatic announcement; some families and lords would favour evangelism, others, traditional religion. Do not, at this point separate the world into Catholic and Protestant – remember that the evangelicals hope and expect to reform a church that will remain catholic in the sense of universal. Hold that thought. Number two, we have what might be described as a battle for Britain, a triangular relationship between Scotland, and her suitors England and France. Put from your mind, firmly, modern nationalist stereotypes that France = friendly and a route to Scottish independence and English = the bullying old enemy and route to servitude. That is not to say there were not many at the time who thought that way, but just like the wars of independence it is nowhere near that simple – there is a pro English and a pro French party. And I’ll leave you with a quote at the end of the episode to demonstrate that we are looking at 3 possible outcomes here; the status quo of 3 kingdoms; a united Britain; or a Greater France into which Scotland was incorporated through a union of crowns.
Another point worth making is that it would be simple to assume that since England was also advanced down an evangelical route, and would go further up to 1554 under Edward VI, it is two easy to form two camps – one for an English alliance and Evangelism, and other for French and traditional, but although there is a tendency for that, it that would not be inevitably be the case; it would be quite possible to be evangelical and a supporter of the French alliance in particular, as indeed Mary Queen of Scots 3rd husband, Bothwell, appears to have been.
So back to the narrative. The Treaty of Greenwich is one of the great ‘what if’s’ of British history as it happens. If it had been ratified, with a progressive reformation in Scotland, union of the crowns…whatever else would have happened, a lot of lives would have been saved. But it did not happen. Beaton, Mary of Guise, the lords who favoured a French alliance and/or traditional religion re-asserted themselves and by the end of 1543, Arran was still Governor, but now tied to Beaton – so much so that he said sorry, sorry sorry, didn’t mean it about the Pope, so sorry forget I said that. It’s a period which has acquired the title of Arran’s Godly fit’ which is quite good. But he was back now. Beaton turned his mind and that of the church to both catholic reform and to persecution, which we will come to next time.
The volte face and rejection of the Treaty of Greenwich also then meant that Henry VIII went nuclear. He dusted off claims to English suzerainty over Scotland, and the border was soon in flames with English raids reaching deep into southern Scotland. This is a period Walter Scott memorably called the Rough Wooing, and Henry’s objective here was to enforce the agreed Treaty of Greenwich and bring little Mary down to England there to lie in adamantine chains and penal fire until she durst marry his son.
Meanwhile the ‘release Donald Dubh!’ decision, though generous, turned out to be foolish, Donald had no intention of being grateful and living a life of ease. Instead, he sought an alliance between highland and island and Henry, which was eagerly given and the Isles came enthusiastically to the banner of the revived Lord of the Isles, and along with support in Ireland, Dubh had mobilised a major force of 4,000 men and 180 ships. It came to nothing; Donald died of fever, and the clansmen sailed home. The revolt continued to be symptomatic of the weakness of Highland and Island integration; the idea of the lordship as a separate entity had not yet died, and even now the new crown representatives, Argyll and Huntly, did not have full control. At the same time as Argyll was unable to prevent Donald’s revolt, Huntly was forced to suffer humiliation at the hands of the Islemen. At a clan battle called the Field of Shirts, 400 allies of Huntly, clan Fraser, were ambushed and killed by Clan Ranald, and in April 1545 Huntly Huntlyt Huntl;y Huntly was also powerless to respond to a month-long raid on another of their clients, the Grants.
The English campaigns of 1544-6 were designed to bring destruction rather than conquest, while the Empire and England took the war to France. The raids brought one of the many reversals which make it such a stunningly complicated period in terms of people. So as you all well know, Angus had once been the leader of the Anglophiles; but in February 1545 it was nonetheless Angus who led the Scottish forces at Ancrum Moor which gave the English a good beating, and Angus was therefore able to bask in patriotic praise, while Arran and Beaton were Beaton up (arf arf) for their failure to protect them from the English, And Meanwhile Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox, who had until recently fought in person for the French, was firmly established as the head of the English party.
Beaton was reasonably successful in holding things together politically, but was under enormous strain; the French military commander would answer to the French king, and he and the cardinal almost came to blows. Scottish magnates refused to invade England under his command, and English propaganda focussed on the cardinal as a weak link. Beaton also made some attempts to undermine the evangelist cause as well, through some well directed persecution; 6 were burned at Perth in 1544, but Beaton’s main target was one George Wishart, the most effective and indeed incendiary evangelical preacher, a man who inspired John Knox. Eventually, he was taken by Beaton and tried at the Archbishops episcopal home at St Andrews, and unsurprisingly executed. The execution was double edged; on the one hand, it removed the spiritual leader of the evangelical movement, in so far as there was one, and left the movement without an effective head until Knox got going after 1555. On the other hand it created a martyr for the cause.
Watching Wishart’s execution were personal friends of Wishart, and in these men two needs came together; revenge and a political coup. So, on 29th May 1546, Cardinal Beaton was safely ensconced in his seat, the castle of St Andrews. This is a rather magnificent thing, perched right on the edge of the sea on cliffs, and thoroughly difficult to get at. However, when the doorman was approached by a group of local lairds he saw nothing to worry about. Which turned out to be a mistake, there was in fact a lot to worry about, for these were rebels and assassins, who killed him and dumped his body in a ditch. The conspirators were joined by others who had snuck in with stone masons, and through the castle they all went until they found the man himself, Cardinal Beaton. Beaton was stabbed to death, his body hung over the wall, and the drawbridge pulled up – and St Andrews Castle was in rebellion.
For Arran, the rebellion was not necessarily a bad thing, to be brutal, because it gave him some political elbow room. He was able to bring men like Huntly into the government as Chancellor, and meanwhile the Castilians at St Andrews were isolated. Others did join them, and notably John Knox was among them, and they fought off attempts to take the castle by mine and counter mine – but the longer term future looked bleak for them. It was a rather open affair the siege, and one notable occasion came when the John Winram, the vicar general of the diocese decided to organise a spot of competitive preaching in St Andrews’ parish church. Knox’s unorthodox views then led to a disputation at St Leonards College, also in the town. The incident might illustrate that for many it was still hoped that the religious differences could be resolved by reformation of the existing church, and that room for debate should exist.
All this finally came to an end when a French contingent, freed from the war by the peace with England, landed some canon at Sallies – St Salvator’s college to you lot – and pulverised the castle into submission. Knox was led off to serve in French galleys, not to return until 1555.
The death of Henry VIII and Francis I brought a radical change to the diplomatic situation. Edward VI in England was a minor, but a convinced protestant. Through his minority radical reforms finally took place in the English church under the guiding hand of Thomas Cranmer; while the Protector Somerset decided that there should be a new strategy for the war with Scotland.
Somerset’s objectives remained the same as Henry’s – in that the objective was to enforce the treaty of Greenwich and achieve a union of the crowns by marrying Mary and Edward. But Somerset, as a dyed in the wool protestant, had a grander plan. His idea was to promote the concept of a glorious union of Britain, England and Scotland coming together in a political union but most importantly in a religious union. In 1547, Somerset invaded Scotland and defeated Arran at the battle of Pinkie, and then set up garrisons in Scotland, creating almost an English Pale. Then through printed publications and proclamations, he sold the idea of the glorious union.
Now this might sound absurd, and doomed to failure. And probably it was. Certainly, a tradition of fighting the English, the bombastic claims of Henry VIII to suzerainty over Scotland and oh, the murder, destruction and chaos of the last 3 years of fighting, made it super unlikely. But it was not quite as absurd as you might suppose; there was support – for example, an Edinburgh merchant called Herrisoun published a series of tracts such as the Exhortation arguing the case for a United kingdom, where there would no Scot or English but only Brit. A fine dream. But there were rather more who leaped to refute the idea, publications such as the Complaynt of Scotland for example.
In the Treaty of Haddington in 1548, Arran and the new French king took a large gleaming scythe and chopped the legs firmly from under the English. Mary Queen of Scots was betrothed to the 4 year old French Dauphin, and shipped over to France where the English could not get at her. It brought a substantial increase in the war effort from France, which simply overwhelmed an England which was financially over stretched and in political turmoil at home. The Treaty of Boulogne in 1550 brought a final peace between England and France, and included Scotland, though a separate peace between Scotland and England was not signed until June 1551. For the moment, the battle for Britain had been comprehensively won by a Scottish-French alliance, and by traditional religion too. The evangelical cause had not been helped by its association with the brutally destructive English invasion, and would take a while to recover its confidence. The lords who had fought for the English either bought their peace with Arran, such as Lord Grey who paid a fine of £1,000, or fled. Most significant was Lennox, who fled to estates in England he’d been granted by Henry VIII. There he was joined by his wife, Lady Margaret Douglas, daughter of Margaret Tudor and the Earl of Angus, and their son, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley. Whose name we will of course hear of again.
I should not pass over the rough wooing so easily, so a few more words about that. It was an immensely destructive war; so if you travel around the beautiful Scottish borders, you will see reminders of the war in the ruin created amongst the abbeys even now – partly because this is not long before Scotland’s reformation of course, and so the damage was not always repaired, but still. Scotland’s economy was still, at this stage, less of a national economy and more a collection of regional economies, so the worst damage was probably regionalised to where the wars had taken place; but the towns of the east coast, so crucial to trade, took a beating. Dundee, for example experiences a severe slump from which it had not fully recovered by the mid 1550s. Haddington’s cloth trade virtually disappeared; exports generally fell to 1/7th of their level in 1542; though partially of course, that was the effect of the English-Hapsburg alliance cutting off their markets. It’s difficult to know, but there may have been a subsistence crises, and certainly measures were introduced to try to protect agricultural production.
The experience of the wars influenced a following generation of English political leaders too. Although a failure now, both English and Scots held onto that idea of joint religious values and the potential for a union of Britain. William Cecil had been part of the war, and it convinced him that Scotland would never be conquered into Union, and that the walk would need to match the talk if a union was to be achieved.
Scotland faced now an issue of how attractive a deep relationship with the French really was, or whether the relationship represented the jumping from the frying pan into the fire. There is little doubt who considered themselves to be the winner. Henry II was triumphant. For Henry II, the marriage between Dauphin and Mary represented the first step towards a greater France, incorporating Scotland into France. And of course through Mary, the French royal house now had a place in the English succession. And so he boasted to Sulieman the Magnificent that
I have pacified the kingdom of Scotland, which I hold and possess with such authority and obedience as I do in France, to which two kingdoms I am joining another, namely England…