Regent Moray: Life Story

Chapter 10 : A Wife & Two Earldoms

In January 1562 Mary received Arran kindly at court and patched up some sort of reconciliation between the Hamiltons and James, and it was agreed that they would attend James’ wedding. For, whilst the Hamiltons had lost Dunbarton, Mary was honouring James with the grant of two earldoms – Moray on 30th January 1562, and Mar on 7th February. The first grant was, initially, kept secret, but the second made a splendid present for his wedding the following day, Shrove Tuesday, to Agnes Keith, daughter of the Earl Marischal.

The ceremony was performed by John Knox, in the presence of the Queen, who was already fond of her new sister-in-law. Knox warned James in his sermon to be sure to continue his support of the Protestant Kirk, lest his new wife be blamed for any falling off of enthusiasm!The ceremony was followed by feasting and dancing at Holyrood, much to Knox’s disgust, and the knighting of various of James’ associates. James and Agnes had been betrothed for some years, and, as James was of age and in complete control of his destiny, we can assume that this was as close to a love-match as aristocratic marriages in the sixteenth century ever were.

The reason for secrecy over the grant of the Earldom of Moray was the slight technical hitch that Huntly, although not granted the title, had been administering the lands since 1549. It is hard to understand why Mary gave Moray the title – she must have known that Huntly would be provoked.There had been bad blood between Huntly and James for years, as noted above, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the new Earl of Moray was using his sister’s trust in him to triumph over his enemy, who just happened to be the leading Catholic Earl.

Despite all of these quarrels and feuds – Huntly with James, James with the Lennox family (the Earl was still in England), the Lennoxes with the Hamiltons and the Hamiltons with the Earl of Bothwell, Mary endeavoured to keep the balance between them all, trying to keep the Crown above faction, but it was hard work.

During the spring of 1562, the Earl of Arran appeared to lose his mind. He had quarrelled, not for the first time, with James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell (the background facts are a complex web of attacks, counter-attacks, cattle-raids, abductions and rescues – the usual Borderers fare).Bothwell apologised handsomely and the two made up like long-lost brothers – a fact that surprised the Queen and her Council to such an extent that the Queen proposed to ride to Dumbarton to see what Arran and his father, the Duke, were up to.Arran later alleged that Bothwell had suggested that, in order to restore the Hamiltons to favour, Mary should be abducted en route by the two of them, whilst James and Maitland, who would, as a matter of course be with her, should be killed.

Apparently, Chatelherault was keen on the plan, but, he, Arran, suffering from a fit of conscience, confessed the matter to Mary and James and then told his father what he had done. Chatelherault was furious, and locked his son up, but Arran smuggled a letter out for James, before escaping from his room using his bedsheets!No sooner had James received the letter, whilst hunting with Mary, than another messenger raced up from Chatelherault, saying that Arran was making the whole story up.

Unsurprisingly, James and Mary did not know what to believe. Bothwell was sent for and locked up whilst the matter was investigated, and James went to see Arran, who was hiding out with William Kirkcaldy of Grange. Arran, was, by then, raving – talking of devils and witches, one of whom was, apparently, James’ mother, Margaret Erskine.The next day, somewhat recovered, he was brought to Mary herself. By then, he seemed to be in his right mind, but said he would only confirm his story under certain conditions. The Queen rejected that idea immediately – he must either re-affirm what he had written in his letter to James, or confess he had made the whole thing up.

Chateleherault did not come to court, but said that his son was out of his mind – pointing out that Arran’s mother and two aunts had also ‘been distempered with an unquiet humour’.Eventually, Arran retracted his allegations and seemed to be restored to health. Ambassador Randolph, nevertheless, did not entirely disbelieve the tale.

In August 1562, the first cracks in the relationship between James and Mary appeared. The Pope, Pius IV, sent a nuncio to visit Mary, in the hope that Scotland would send representatives to the reconvened Council of Trent. Mary, not wishing to aggravate her brother or the other Protestant lords, did not make much of the nuncio, but arranged with Maitland to meet him secretly whilst James and the others were attending Knox’s sermon at St Giles.Long though Knox’s perorations were, Mary mistook the time, and when James returned, he almost found them together. Mary made some excuse, but James was suspicious. Randolph thought that there was more to the visit than Mary had told Maitland, and he added that James might repent his decision not to allow the nuncio to be quietly murdered.

The dispute between the Hamiltons and James rumbled on, and it was suggested that Maitland should try to mediate – a united front between the Protestant lords was considered important.