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The Northern Rebellion

200px-Thomas_Percy_Earl_of_Northumberland_15661558.   Queen Mary I lost Calais as a result of becoming involved in Philip II’s policy against the French. She  died on the 17 November the same year. Her half-sister, Elizabeth, sitting beneath an oak tree at Hatfield became queen.  On the borders between England and Scotland, life continued as usual – that is to say raiding and cross-border forays.  I might dress it up as Scottish loyalty to their French allies and English obedience to Phillip II’s foreign policy but in reality it had nothing to do with continental Europe.

In 1558 on the East March the 7th Earl of Northumberland set out on a cattle raid with the Berwick garrison and was heading for home when the Scots turned up in what can only be described as high dudgeon. There was an English victory of sorts at Swinton.  John Knox having done a stint on the French galleys (which perhaps accounts for his hostility to the nation) had sought refuge in Edward VI’s protestant realm before fleeing to Geneva.  During the summer of 1558he published The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.  He did not mean that they were deeply unpleasant merely that a reigning queen was an unnatural phenomenon.  He was referencing Mary Tudor in England and the regent of Scotland Mary of Guise who ruled on behalf of her daughter Mary Queen of Scots.  It was perhaps unfortunate for him that in November the monstrous regiment of Catholic queens was joined by Protestant Elizabeth.

I am not going to recount the next decade’s history.  Suffice it to say there was the novel sight in 1560 of an English fleet joining with the Protestant Scots against the Catholics and the French besieged in Leith.  The following year the recently widowed dowager queen of France, Mary Queen of Scots, arrived back in her homeland at the very same location.  Initially guided by her half-brother, James Stewart (Earl of Moray), all went smoothly but then in 1567 having made an ill advised marriage to Lord Darnley swiftly followed by murder at Kirk O Field she lost her throne and on 16 May 1568 found herself seeking sanctuary in Workington.  She was to remain in England for the next nineteen years before being executed.

mary queen of scots aged 18Mary’s arrival was not good news so far as her cousin Elizabeth was concerned.  Mary spelled trouble.  For a start she was Catholic and Mary’s father-in-law, Henri II, had quartered the French arms with those of England on hearing the news that Mary Tudor had died.  His logic was very simple. Elizabeth was illegitimate and therefore the next claimant to the English throne was the grand daughter of Margaret Tudor, the eldest daughter of Henry VII of England.  Mary did not help matters by refusing to recognise the Treaty of Edinburgh which identified Elizabeth as the rightful queen of England.  The treaty, negotiated by Cecil, should have been ratified in July 1560 and it accounted for Mary’s long sea voyage  to Scotland rather than a land journey through England. The arrival of Mary in England undoubtedly signposted rebellion and plotting to come – not to mention some light cousinly jealousy.

Elizabeth did not know what to do with her cousin and although she moved her south into the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury it swiftly became clear that she was not as keen to meet Mary as Mary was to meet her. Mary’s trial at York was a device to ensure that Elizabeth should never meet her cousin and that Moray could produce the so-called “Casket Letters” that would keep his half-sister in England. Meanwhile various Catholic nobles (and non-Catholic nobles for that matter) bent their minds to the problem of what to do with Mary.  The Percy family were Papists and it is perhaps not surprising that Thomas Percy the 7th Earl of Northumberland was sympathetic to the young Scottish queen’s cause.  He even tried to have her turned over into his custody.  Unsurprisingly “Simple Tom”  pictured at the start of this post was not given her guardianship.  He was, however, encouraged in his increasingly illegal actions by his wife Ann.  His conspiracy was joined by Charles Neville the Earl of Westmorland.  The two earls shared their plans with their wider families and the northern affinity of gentry including Leonard Dacre.  The plotters met at Topcliffe and agreed that they wanted Catholicism restored and Elizabeth’s bad advisors to be disposed of – so the usual rubric.  They did intend to free Mary Queen of Scots from Tutbury but they claimed that they wished to return her to Scotland rather than unseat Elizabeth.

Meanwhile Robert Dudley supported the idea of Mary being returned to Scotland with a new and reliable husband to keep an eye on her.  William Maitland of Lethington,  Mary’s ambassador had suggested that the Duke of Norfolk was just the chap in 1560 despite the fact that the first Duchess of Norfolk was very much alive at the time.  Thomas Howard had been appointed Lieutenant General of the North in 1569 by Elizabeth.  She was, if you like, extending the hand of friendship to her Howard cousins who had connived at the downfall of her mother Anne Boleyn and ultimately been associated with Catholicism rather than reform. She was also getting him as far away from court as possible not least because his grandmother was Anne of York one of Edward IV’s daughters making him Plantagenet and a possible claimant to the throne.  By now Howard had been widowed twice over and as such was a suitable spouse for the captive queen.  He was rather taken with the idea but quite horrified to find himself carted off to the Tower when Dudley confessed to the queen what was planned in terms of an English-Scottish marriage.

 

Inevitably things are not so straight forward and ultimately Norfolk and the Northern Lords would be betrayed by Leonard Dacre who was narked by the fact that Howard who had been married to Elizabeth Leyburne (the widow of the 4th Lord Dacre) had become guardian to the 5th lord and the 5th lord’s three sisters.  In 1569 little George Dacre had an accident on a vaulting horse and died.  Howard now took the opportunity to marry the Dacre girls off to sons from his previous two marriages and  claim that his three daughters-in-law were co-heiresses and that the whole estate was now Howard property.

Leonard Dacre was not a happy man.  A judgement of Edward IV had entailed the title and estates to male heirs so by rights he should have had the title and the loot.  Even worse the case was heard by the Earl Marshal’s court – and yes, the Dukes of Norfolk are hereditary earl marshals of England.  Let’s just say Leonard was a man with a grudge and the borderers were rather good at holding grudges for a very long time. He betrayed the northern earls and of course the Duke of Norfolk in the hope that he would see the estates that were rightfully his returned.

Dacre would encourage the northern lords in their plan to free Mary and overturn Protestant England but at the same time, when he judged the time was ripe, spill the beans to Elizabeth.  Elizabeth would later describe him as a “cankred suttl traitor.” However, I am jumping the gun.  Elizabeth ordered Northumberland and Westmorland to London to explain themselves.  The two hapless peers panicked and rebelled. On the 10th November 1569 the Earl of Sussex wrote to say that Northumberland had fled from Topcliffe. Three thousand or so men gathered in Durham on the 14th November where a Mass was heard and Protestant texts destroyed.  Men set off for Hartlepool where the Duke of Alva was supposed to land troops and to Barnard Castle to besiege troops loyal to Elizabeth.  The castle held out for a week before it surrendered. The Earl of Sussex would come under suspicion for not gaining the upper hand quickly enough. From Barnard Castle the plan was to march on York.  The earls were declared traitors on the 26th of November and the hunt began.

Steven_van_Herwijck_Henry_Carey_1st_Baron_HunsdonOn the West March a plan was now unfurling which would have seen the Bishop of Carlisle murdered and the castle in rebel hands.  Lord Scrope, Warden of the West March, who had set out from Carlisle to confront the rebels heard news of the plot and scurried back to the castle correctly judging that Elizabeth’s famous temper would not have been placated by excuses regarding the loss of a key border fortress. Meanwhile the queen’s cousin, some would say brother, Henry Carey Lord Hunsdon, was sent north to deal with the crisis. He had been made the Captain of Berwick the previous year.

The Warden of the Middle March Sir John Forster, a notable rogue in his own right, now rode agains the rebels accompanied by the Earl of Northumberland’s younger brother Henry. Together they occupied Newcastle and Alnwick and began to move south.  The earls fled in the direction of Hexham together with Lady Anne Percy and about forty or fifty retainers when it became clear that they were out manoeuvred by Forster from the North and Carey from the South. For reasons best known to themselves, despite the fact that Leonard Dacre had not joined the rebellion the fleeing party made for North Castle.  Leonard was not pleased to see them as he as no doubt thinking of the Dacre estates and Elizabeth’s goodwill. His brother Edward on the other hand provided assistance to the stricken earls. The party had to escape into Scotland or face Elizabeth’s wrath. With that in mind the Armstrongs of Liddesdale seemed like a good idea at the time.  The Debateable Lands of Liddesdale belonged neither to Scotland or England and whilst the Armstrongs were notionally Scottish they were Armstrong more than anything else. The hapless earls fell in to the hands of Black Ormiston and Jock of the Side.  Jock was a notorious reiver.

At this point the Earl of Moray entered the equation and politely suggested that the Armstrongs hand over their “guests.”  He sent a party of Elliots, another family of border hard-men to have a little chat.  Elliot explained that he was under pledge to Moray and that he would be sorry to enter a state of feud with Ormiston if the two English earls weren’t booted out of Scotland and back into England within the next twenty-four hours.  Somehow the earls’ horses had gone “missing” – which is what you get for stabling them with notorious horse thieves- and Lady Anne, heavily pregnant, was exhausted beyond the point where she could travel with her husband. She was robbed and perhaps worse by Ormiston before she was rescued by a party of Ferniehurst Kerrs (the ancestor of Robert Carr, King James I’s favourite).  It says something that Kerr was at feud with the Percys but felt that it was beneath his honour to see Lady Anne suffer at the hands of Ormiston – though having said that he was also a loyal subject of Mary Queen of Scots demonstrating that border history is nothing if not complex in its workings.

On Christmas Eve 1569 the Armstrongs managed to separate the two earls and Northumberland found himself in the clutches of Moray’s men.  The Earl of Westmorland did attempt a rescue with the few men he had but it was unsuccessful. Percy would be returned to England  for a cash payment in  June 1572 and executed for treason in York that August.  Sussex, having got his act together, along with Sir John Forster and Henry Hunsden set the border alight in the greatest raid that Liddesdale had ever seen.  MacDonald Fraser states that Forster took £4000 in loot.  Let’s just say that rather a lot of homes were burned and livestock pilfered.

Ultimately Dacre who thought he had played a clever game found himself at the end of one of Hunsdon’s cavalry lances but only after the border which had only just settled down after the Earls’ rising was set loose again by the assassination of James Stewart Earl of Moray on January 23 1570.   A mighty raid gathered pace as Scots began to cross the border in the name of their queen. Dacre who had not benefitted from tattle taling on the earls now came out in supports of the Scots. He  managed to put together a band of 3000 men.  Henry Carey was not so foolish as to take this band on without support, especially as Naworth was defended by artillery and there was a large party of Scots en route to Naworth.  And had Dacre stayed put then my story might have had another chapter but he was spoiling for a fight and he took on Hunsdon at Gelt Wood.  If Dacre had won the skirmish then Carlisle might have been in difficulties but as it was Hunsdon who was a tough man led a cavalry charge against the revolting baron and  Dacre fled into Scotland with approximately 2000 more rebels according to Lord Scrope.  The majority of them remained in the borders joining with the Scottish Marian party against the lords who held the infant James VI. Dacre left the British Isles and travelled to Flanders where he exhorted anyone who would listen to invade England.

The rebellion was over.  It just left the  mopping up operation.  Norfolk was released from the Tower but became involved in the Ridolfi Plot so was executed in 1572. The Earl of Westmorland escaped to Flanders dying in 1601 having eked out his existence living on a pension from Philip II. Dacre died in 1573.  For Elizabeth it was the start of a series of plots and rebellions revolving around Mary Queen of Scots.

MacDonald Fraser  The Steel Bonnets

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Mary Queen of Scots executes besotted suitor…

mary queen of scots aged 18Mary was widowed at just eighteen-years-old when her first husband, King Francois II of France died as the result of an abscess developing from an ear infection.  In order to continue the Stuart dynasty she needed to remarry.  Ultimately this led to arguments about the Crown Matrimonial – i.e. would her husband be allowed to rule if she died but in the short term there was the small matter of possible candidates for the job.

don carlosDon Carlos, son of Philip II of Spain had been mentioned whilst she was still in France. Aside from the fact that the young man was Philip’s heir there was also the issue of his mental health.  Ultimately he would be locked up by his father and die in 1568 after six months in a small room on his own. Mary Queen of Scots uncle, the Cardinal of Lorraine was less concerned about the sanity of Don Carlos than the power that the marriage would give to Philip II.

charles of austriaCharles, Archduke of Austria was identified as a suitable heir but Mary wasn’t keen. Charles would go on to negotiate for Elizabeth I’s hand.

 

Elizabeth I helpfully suggested a match that she felt might work – Sir Robert Dudley, her master of horse and alleged lover – not to mention participant in yet another conspiracy theory i.e. the deathRobert_Dudley_Leicester.jpg of his wife Amy Robsart in Abingdon in suspicious circumstances. Historians think that Amy had cancer but at the time her fall down some stairs looked rather a lot like the removal of one wife to make way for one with a crown. Elizabeth possibly thought that if Mary accepted Dudley that she could trust him to work in England’s interests or else she was being deliberately provocative. At any rate Dudley became the Earl of Leicester in a bid to be made to look more appealing.

And then there was Pierre de Chatelard or Chastelard.  He was a young french poet.  Essentially Pierre fell in love with the queen and she failed to spot that it wasn’t love of the courtly kind and consequentially encouraged him. This sounds slightly cruel but the concept of courtly love was that a man should express devotion to a woman beyond his reach – the whole thing reached new heights in the court of Elizabeth – think of Spencer’s Fairie Queen for example. In Scotland the misunderstanding between affectation of passion and passion itself went badly awry.  Pierre hid in Mary’s bedroom at Holyrood.  Fortunately he was discovered by Mary’s servants and booted out.  He was told to leave Scotland.

Pierre agreed that it was probably best if he returned to France – except he didn’t.  He followed Mary on a progress and at Rossend Castle, Pierre managed to get into her bedroom once more. On this occasion the queen was in situ and in a state of undress. Pierre accosted the queen and there was rather a lot of shouting and screaming, followed by the arrival of Lord Moray (James Stewart Mary’s illegitimate half-brother) who removed the offending frenchman, arresting him and locking him up in one of the castle’s dungeons.

Mary was so outraged by proceedings that she felt that de Chatelard should have been killed on the spot but Moray insisted that the poet be given a trial and executed in the market place at St Andrews which was where the court travelled from Rossend.

pierre de chastelard.jpg

The National Portrait Gallery collection contains the above image which dates from 1830 depicting the lovelorn de Chatelard playing the lute for Mary.

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The murder of Lord Darnley

kirk o fields.jpgI seem to be passing through a phase of whodunits and primary sources with lots of wriggle room.  The chap  this post revolves around  is Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley – he was born at Temple Newsam near Leeds. His mother was Lady Margaret Douglas daughter of Margaret Tudor and Mathew Stewart 4th earl of Lennox. Margaret was the half-sister of James V meaning that Darnley and Mary, Queen of Scots were cousins. His father being a Stewart was also in line for the Scottish throne.

On the surface Darnley was tall, good-looking and urbane.  He’d changed the spelling of his name following his education in France. He danced well and he was charming. He must have been a breath of fresh air to Mary when he arrived in Scotland at the beginning of 1565 after her diet of plain speaking Scottish males telling her what to do and what to believe.

Mary_Stuart_James_DarnleyBy July the banns were being called and Elizabeth I was writing stern notes from England to both Darnley and Mary as not only did Elizabeth take a lively interest in what was happening in Scotland but both the bride and the groom were in line for the English throne by virtue of their descent from Margaret Tudor, the eldest surviving daughter of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York . The pair married on the 29 July 1565 before the papal dispensation for their marriage arrived. Darnley didn’t accompany Mary to the marriage mass which followed the actual wedding.

Unfortunately for Mary she’d been deceived by her new husband’s good looks and soft words.  It turned out he was vain, arrogant, drank more than was good for him and irritated most of her nobility including her illegitimate half-brother James Stewart who wasn’t terribly keen on Mary marrying anyone on account of the fact he wanted to be her key adviser.  Darnley sulked heavily when Mary refused to give him the crown matrimonial  which would have meant that had she died before him that he would have ruled Scotland but less than a month later rumours abounded that Mary was pregnant.

Obviously the best way to win friends and influence people, if you are called Darnley, is to kill your pregnant wife’s Italian secretary.  Rizzio – and this does sound like a game of Cleudo- was stabbed in Mary’s private dining room at Holyrood Palace more than fifty times on 9th March 1566 by Darnley and a cluster of protestant nobles.  Whilst my words strongly suggest that he was there and wielding a knife  with deadly effect he was swift to issue a statement that he knew nothing about the matter – we’re back to the basis of proof again. For the sake of clarity I should probably also mention that there were rumours at the time that the baby that Mary carried actually belonged to Rizzio rather than Darnley – which isn’t credible but serves to demonstrate how unpopular the queen had become.

Not too surprisingly Mary did not trust her spouse one jot after that although they did appear to become closer once Mary’s son baptised Charles James was born on 19th June 1566. She’d been persuaded to forgive her husband and also some of the lords who’d conspired with him to commit the murder.

Darnley fell ill in Glasgow – it is said with small pox although that prevalent Tudor catch all of syphilis is often bandied around. At the beginning of February 1567 he moved to Edinburgh where he stayed  at a house in Kirk o’ Fields.  Mary sometimes spent the night there, in the chamber below the one that Darnley inhabited. She was due to stay the night on the evening of the 9th of February – but didn’t.

In the wee small hours of 10th February 1567 a huge explosion  tore through the house killing two of Darnley’s servants.  It would have been unfortunate had Darnley been found dead in his bed.  The house had been selected by his wife Mary, Queen of Scots. There small matter of a store of gunpowder allegedly stored in the queen’s bed chamber might have raised more than one eyebrow but it could probably have been neatly tidied away.  No, the problem was that Darnley was not discovered in his bed dead as a result of the explosion.  He was discovered dead in a nearby orchard, unmarked by the explosion, strangled with his own shirt.  Nearby lay his servant – William Taylor,wearing a cap, his night-shirt and one slipper- also dead. There was also a chair, a dagger and possibly a quilt. Hard to blame that on an explosion of any kind!

Mary and powerful border baron James Hepburn, earl of Bothwell, were suspected of the deed – it was suggested that Darnley was on the wrong end of a love triangle.  The problem was that whilst Bothwell remains the chief suspect not least because he married Mary very shortly afterwards there were an awful lot of people who weren’t terribly keen on Darnley – or put another way if Agatha Christie had written a historical novel on the subject – everyone would have done it! The case which is short on facts and long on speculation covers the following:

  • Bothwell, who was undoubtedly high in Mary’s favour, sought to rid the Scottish queen of her spouse so that he could assume the royal role – let’s just set aside the small matter of his own wife – Lady Jean Gordon.
  • Mary was unhappy with Darnley for a number of reasons including the murder of Rizzio, his arrogance and let’s not forget the syphilis.  However, she realised that divorce wasn’t an option as it was essential that there were no shadows over the legitimacy of baby James.
  • Mary was worried that Darnley would harm James or attempt to rule Scotland through him – it is thought that Rizzio was brutally murdered in front of her in part to bring about a miscarriage.  If Mary died without an heir Darnley could have attempted to rule the kingdom, raising the interesting possibility of Darnley accidentally blowing himself up and then getting murdered afterwards.
  • The Lords who’d plotted with Darnley to murder Rizzio had to flee to England in the aftermath of the deed.  Darnley had sold them down the river, so as to speak, consequentially they may have been motivated to get their own back.
  • James Stewart, Mary’s capable but illegitimate half-brother may have been motivated to kill both Darnley and Mary (remember she was supposed to have stayed the night) – an abdication wouldn’t have been displeasing either. In the event of either he could have taken charge of his little nephew and ruled Scotland.
  • Witnesses identify a group of eleven men in the vicinity at the time – all of them anonymous.
  • Cecil was told that a chap called James Balfour, who owned the house next door to the one where Darnley was murdered, had made a purchase of gunpowder just before the explosion. Just to muddy the waters he was employed in Edinburgh Castle.
  • James Hamilton had a house in the neighbourhood – in common with much of the rest of the nobility Hamilton didn’t like Darnley very much.
  • James Douglas, earl of Morton was ambitious for power.  It was his servants who found the so-called Casket Letters which incriminated Mary. He was Protestant.  He had been with the men who murdered Rizzio.

The image at the start of the post, which is in the National Archives, was drawn for Lord Cecil  so is deemed to be primary source material- think of it as the very first illustration of a murder scene (albeit in cartoon form) but not necessarily unbiased.  It tells a story, everything in the image means something – though whether its telling the truth is another ratter entirely.  It wasn’t long before the rumour mill was spreading the word that the gun powder which destroyed the house had been stored in the queen’s bed chamber – pointing the finger at her. Actually it probably wasn’t there but lower down in the building. Also she was supposed to be in the building that night.  She’d gone out to a wedding party and had not returned…evidence of her guilt if you think she was after an alibi or evidence that she was an intended victim who narrowly missed being killed.

Could Darnley and Taylor have been blown out of their bedroom along with the peculiar assemblage of items around them? The bodies are in remarkably good condition – the marks on Darnley’s partially clad body are taken to be indicators of unpleasant social diseases rather than blast damage.  Both bodies are in tact and apparently unmarked by burns. Equally, although there is a knife at the scene of the crime neither of the men had any stab woulds. It is usually accepted that they were suffocated. There is no evidence as to whether they were alive or dead when they arrived in the orchard – if dead one can’t help wondering what their murderers were trying to achieve.  If alive, it suggests that they must have been fleeing considerable danger as both were in a state of undress. It has been suggested that the chair was used to lower Darnley from the first floor window before the building collapsed/before his murderers burst in upon him.

In 1568, a casket of letters would be produced in York at the first trial of Mary Queen of Scots which implicated her in the murder of her second husband.  Many- most- historians believe these letters to be forgeries designed to keep Mary incarcerated in England.  The Casket Letters disappeared from history so their legitimacy cannot be proved or disproved.  What is significant is that they are the only evidence which points the finger of guilt at Mary. John Guy’s book about Mary  My Heart is My Own : The Life of Mary Queen at Scots looks in detail at transcriptions of the letters and at the flaws in them.

Clearly there is much more in terms of interpretation but the key is that Dudley’s murder remains unsolved.

 

 

 

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Mary Queen of Scots, Sixteenth Century