Stuart, Earl of Moray (Murray). "The Good Regent."
the death of Francis II , Lord James Stuart visited his
half sister, Mary, now widowed but of age to succeed to
the throne of Scotland. He was coldly received by the
Guise family and the French Court where he received many
insults. It was an eventful trip as after speaking
with Mary, (who agreed to return to Scotland) , he
narrowly avoided an assassination attempt in Paris when a
rabble surrounded him shouting Huguenot. and
started stoning him. Soon after he left Paris and in May
1561 returned to Scotland with a commission from Queen
Mary, appointing him Regent until she returned.
Mary returned in August and
almost immediately fell into dispute with John Knox and
the Church in general when it became clear she was intent
on restoring Catholicism as the official religion. Lord
James had counselled her to keep her personal practices
private but she stubbornly ignored the sound advice.
time there was an outbreak of lawlessness on the Borders
with England and Lord James was sent with a small force to
deal with them. It would appear that Mary`s intention in
sending James was possibly to get him killed as she was
aware of his popularity among the common people and he
annoyed her greatly with his reproaches. The forces
allotted him were woefully inadequate but nevertheless
James captured some twenty eight of the ring leaders, who
were executed, and others were forced to provide hostages
for their future behaviour. For this endeavour he was made
Earl of Mar, and in February 1562 created Earl of Moray.
after he married Lady Agnes Keith, the daughter of
William, 4th Earl Marischal. They had two daughters -
Elizabeth who married James, Lord Down, and Mary who was
married to Francis Hay, Earl of Errol. Lady Moray survived
her husband and married Sir Colin Campbell of
Buquhan who became the 6th Earl of Argyll in 1575 . From
this union came Archibald the 7th Earl of Argyll ( father
of the 8th Earl, and 1st Marquis of Argyll) and Sir
Colin Campbell of Lundie.
consequence of Queen Mary`s return was a fracturing of
relations among the nobility at Court. Prominent among the
troublemakers was the Earl of Bothwell who was jealous of
Moray and stirred up feuds between him and the Hamilton
family . Things came to head with Bothwell intent on
murdering Moray but was frustrated in his deed by the Earl
of Arran, who warned Moray. Bothwell fled to France for a
while but in his stead there was a further unsuccessful
attempt on Moray`s life by the Gordons of Huntly.
The intensity of feeling against Moray speaks volume for
his contribution and defence of the Reformed religion.
Such was the influence that the Pope and her staunch
Catholic relatives, the Guise family, pressed Queen Mary
to be rid of her half brother, as he was preventing their
designs. The Earl of Huntly ( another staunch Catholic)
gathered a force of some 800 men whom Moray resisted
with only a hundred horsemen. Providence was
good once again and Moray obtained a great victory,
killing about 120 and taking over 100 prisoners, including
the Earl of Huntly and his two sons.
The Earl of
Bothwell was recalled from France by Queen Mary and Moray
accused him of treason, starting a process of law against
him. Bothwell knew that his actions would not stand
scrutiny and he turned to Mary for support. The plot
against Moray now thickened as it appears that Mary
connived with Bothwell in yet another attempt on his life.
Moray was to be sent for, with but a few attendants, to
visit the Queen at Perth where he would certainly speak
his mind about the proposed marriage of Mary with Henry,
Lord Darnley. The intention was that the Queen`s
secretary, David Rizzio would strike the first blow and
others would follow. Moray was warned by friends at
Court and was still intent on going when a close friend
Patrick Ruthven advised him urgently to turn aside. Moray
therefore went instead to his mother`s home and laid low
for a while, before going into England until after Mary
and Darnley had married. Following the
murders of Darnley and Raul
Rizzio, in February 1566/7 the Earl of Bothwell became
Queen Mary`s paramour, allegedly carrying her off and then
marrying her in May. With life at Court becoming
unbearable, Moray obtained permission to leave the country
and went to France where he was when word came of the
battle at Carberry Hill and
that Queen Mary had been imprisoned at Lochleven and
Bothwell fled to Denmark.
Queen Mary agreed to abdicate in favour of her one year
old son James VI ( 24 July 1567) and Moray was
on 25 August 1567 [ a fn to Laing`s Works of Knox, vol 2 p566 has this taking place on 22 August when it was proclaimed at the Edinburgh Mercat Cross).
Moray was soon into his stride and proceeded on a tour of
the kingdom, holding Justiciary Courts to hear grievances
and righting wrongs. This of itself stirred up the
likes of the Hamilton`s whose interests were suffering and
who were still intent on murdering Moray. It was to the
Hamilton`s that Mary turned when she escaped from
Lochleven Castle and subsequently gave battle at
Langside on 13 May 1568.
Defeated, Mary fled to England and exile.
and tribulations of Scotland were not over. Although
victorious and highly popular, Moray still had strong
opposition from some nobles and Queen Elizabeth wrote
affronted at the treatment given her kinswoman. In
the event Moray brought together a small group of
advisers, including George Buchanan, and with a guard of a
hundred horse went to a conference at York. The meeting on
4 October got nowhere and was reconvened in Westminster in
November. At York the explanation offered for removing
Mary was that she had shown excessive affection
towards Bothwell and it was impossible to punish him under
the law for his involvement in the murder of Lord Darnley.
At Westminster a harder stance was taken and the infamous
casket of letters were produced allegedly showing that
Mary was an accessory to her husband`s murder. Both
parties of Commissioners were dismissed by Queen Elizabeth
with a declaration that `nothing had been found
to impeach the Regent`s dutiful conduct to his
sovereign, and that nothing had been
produced to cause her to form an unfavourable
opinion of the action of the Queen of Scots.` This
sitting on the fence response did not really help the
situation, although Elizabeth acted privately as if she
believed Mary guilty and was supportive of Regent Moray.
settled matters with England, Moray was now able to turn
to natters of state and he saw through a number of laws
in favour of civil and religious liberty. But from her
exile Mary was still in contact with the Hamiltons and the
desire to remove Moray reached a fever pitch. Into the
scenario came James Hamilton of Bothwell Haugh, a nephew
of the Archbishop of St Andrews who, with others, incited
him to murder Moray as soon as possible. Hamilton
lay in wait in Glasgow and again at Stirling to no avail
but decided to wait in his uncle`s house in Linlithgow, a
place likely to be visited by Moray. Came the
day that Moray, warned again of a possible attempt on his
life, entered Linlithgow relying on his swift steed and
his own horsemanship to avoid trouble. On this occasion,
however, the people crowded so close to see him that he
was unable to pass quickly by the ambush point. He was
shot from a wooden balcony with the bullet passing through
his navel and killing the horse of a companion,
George Douglas, riding behind. At first it was
thought that the wound was not mortal but increasing pain
indicated otherwise. Moray then settled his affairs and
deputed the care of the young King James VI to the nobles
about him, before he died on 23 January 1569/70.
Stuart, Earl of Moray, was buried at St Giles Church,
Edinburgh on 14 February 1569/70 in a splendid
ceremony. Some three thousand people in the church saw
five earls and three barons carry the coffin in, led by
Grange carrying the standard. John Knox preached the
sermon from "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord"
The following day Knox again preached and gave a
remarkable prayer :
" Oh Lord,
in what misery and confusion found he this realm !
and to what rest and quietness now by his labours suddenly
he brought the same, all estates, but especially the poor
commons, can witness."
Spottiswoode`s History p 234, describes him thus:
truly good, and worthy to be ranked amongst the best
governors that this kingdom hath enjoyed, and therefore to
this day honoured with the title of the Good Regent."