James Stuart, `Lord James`.

The Reformation had many prominent persons that helped shape the establishment of the Protestant - Presbyterian, Church in Scotland. James Stuart, Earl of Moray was possibly the most eminent layman who, like Erskine of Dun, was a mediator and conciliator at times of crisis.

James Stuart was born  about 1531, a natural son of James V, and on his father`s side, brother to Mary Queen of Scots. Known as simply `Lord James` until elevated to the Earldom, his mother was Margaret, the daughter of  John, twelfth Lord Erskine, fifth Earl of Mar. She later married Sir Robert Douglas, laird of Lochgoin. As was the practice of the time, James was given the ecclesiastical benefice of Lord Prior of  St Andrews at the age of three. The revenues from the post he continued to receive until he was created Earl of Moray, on 10 February 1561/2. His first direct contact with the evangelism of John Knox was when the latter preached at Calder in 1555. He would have learnt also from associating with other like minded nobles such as the Earls of Argyll, Glencairn, the Lord of Lorne and Erskine of Dun. He and Argyll wrote to Knox inviting him to return to Scotland in 1556. 

Being of royal blood, James was at the heart of Court affairs and for some time he was a loyal servant to the Regent, Mary of Guise, widow of James V. As a staunch Catholic Mary was bent on maintaining Popery and intolerant of the free speaking evangelists. She summoned four preachers—Paul Methven, John Christison, William Harlow, and John Willock—to Stirling to answer charges of usurping the ministerial office and preaching sedition.  Methven had preached at the first formal Reformed Congregation meeting in Dundee and had a part in a remonstrance to the Regent petitioning for reform in the Church and the State, including hearing religion in the Scots tongue. Mary first agreed that a meeting could be held outside of Edinburgh, then changed her mind and called their meeting an illegal conventicle. Against this background there were concerns for the trial of the four preachers which had been appointed for 10 May 1559. Their many supporters therefore assembled in Perth with the intention of accompanying them to Court. Knox meanwhile returned to Scotland on 2 May in time to join the gathering, and add a new impetus. Lord  James and Argyll were sent by the Regent to ascertain  the circumstances and purpose of the congregation assembled in Perth to which Knox sent a challenging reply .

"That her enterprise would not prosper in the end, seeing that she intended to fight against God".

Regent Mary`s response was to order the gathering to disperse from Perth, but she had to agree to give them time to leave peaceably because of the great numbers. The gathering broke up and went its way, but Mary then turned on Perth aided by French troops and loudly proclaimed  that "no faith should be kept with heretics". When the preachers did not compear at Stirling (seemingly because they had previously been dismissed)  the Regent  declared them to be rebels and imposed fines on their sureties. The treacherous treatment of the preachers raised the temperature considerably, enraging both the professors of Protestantism and the populace. The following day, 11 May, Knox preached in Perth, and a boy threw a stone at an idol on the altar of a church - the rabelling of the churches and monasteries began.

The outcome of the breaches of faith by the Regent was that Lord James and Argyll both joined the Lords of the Congregation, and signed the Perth Covenant of 31st May 1559. They then invited the leaders of the movement to a meeting at St Andrews on 3 June, bringing with them 3000 men at arms - sufficient to fend off the Regent`s French guard and the armed supporters of the Archbishop of St Andrews.  The Regent called it rebellion and alleged that there was a plot to place Lord James on the throne, even resorting to forging letters from Francis II, King of France, and wife Mary (Queen of Scots) upbraiding him for his ingratitude. James responded to the letters firmly, saying that he was unaware of having misplaced loyalties and stated clearly his support for the reformation of religion.

Over 3,000 French troops were landed at Leith forcing the Congregation to remove to Stirling. When the French troops descended on Fife and began pillaging the land, Lord James and Argyll with about 600 supporters went to Dysart to confront them. For  some twenty four days the valiant Congregation force contained some 4,000 French troops. It is said that Lord James and Argyll "never put off their clothes during the whole time, and slept but little."   A Treaty with England and the arrival of English troops forced a truce,  followed by a Treaty  in July 1560 that saw the end of French influence in Scotland and the independence of a Protestant Scotland. Meanwhile, Providence had intervened with the death of Regent Mary (June 1560) and shortly afterwards King Francis II of France. This left the young widow, Mary Queen of Scots free to return to her native Scotland.

Next: Regent Moray

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