James Stuart, Earl of Moray (Murray).  "The Good Regent."

Following 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.

About this 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.

Shortly 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.

One 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.

In Scotland Queen Mary agreed to abdicate in favour of her one year old son James VI  ( 24 July 1567) and Moray was appointed Regent 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.

The trials 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.

Having 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.

Lord James 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:

"A man 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."

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