Chapter 9 : The Return of the Queen
Although Maitland had been extremely fearful of the outcome of Mary arriving in Scotland, in late June, she re-appointed him to royal service, writing candidly that she would forgive and forget the fact that he had been the chief instigator of the ‘pratiques’ [plots or sinister practices] he and the Scottish nobles had entertained with England, if he would desist immediately from continuing them, and would arrange for the Scottish hostages, sent to England after the Treaty of Berwick, to be returned.She promised she would not listen to ‘talebearers’ but that, if he served her loyally, she would treat him well.If, on the other hand, things went wrong, she would blame him, as he was the ring-leader amonst the Lords. Despite this olive branch, in August, Randolph wrote to Cecil that James, Maitland, and their ally, the Earl of Morton, would all have preferred Mary to stay in France.
Maitland continued his treachery by writing to Cecil on 10th August informing him that James and he had been in the north, advancing religion, and that, should Mary return, it would be bad for the Protestant cause.He entreated Cecil to guard his letter carefully, and confirmed his commitment to keeping James and Chatelherault on good terms, for the Protestant cause in Scotland was dependent on their concord.
On 19th August 1561, Mary, Queen of Scots arrived in Leith after an absence of thirteen years from her homeland. Her arrival was swifter than anticipated, and few of her subjects were there to greet her. Only her half-brother, Lord Robert Stewart, was there to meet the Queen and her three Guise uncles who had accompanied her.
On hearing of her arrival, her other nobles hurried to meet her – first Chatelherault, then Lord James, followed by Chatelherault’s son, Arran.
For the first five days after the Queen’s arrival, no mention was made of religion.On the first Sunday, she heard Mass privately, with her own household and uncles, together with the Earl of Montrose and Lord Graham, with James and Lord Robert barring the door against those who objected.Lord Home stayed indoors, whilst the Protestant nobles went to hear Knox preaching his usual Sunday sermon.
The following day, Mary confirmed that she would make no attempt to change the religious settlement of the 1560 Parliament, but that she and her household would hear Mass in private.
It was immediately apparent that Mary intended to put her trust in Lord James and Maitland. She may genuinely have relied on her brother to support her, or she may have been playing a longer game, but for the first years of her personal rule, she gave every appearance of trusting James and relying on his advice. Together with Maitland, Huntly, Atholl and Marischal, he was at the heart of her Council of sixteen.
James was still attempting to have the matter of the English succession confirmed – writing a reminder letter to Cecil to say he had not heard an answer to his proposal that Mary be confirmed as Elizabeth’s heir.
As well as supporting Mary in this, he was soon obliged to comfort her following her first meeting with John Knox, which reduced her to tears. Knox had harangued her at great length, pointing out that idolatry (which he reckoned the Mass to be) had brought down plagues from God.She was sufficiently mistress of herself to suggest to him that he should not be so severe with people who disagreed with his opinions, and that he should ‘use more meekness’ in his sermons. He was assured that he could always speak freely from his conscience to her, and he agreed that he owed her obedience as a subject. Apparently, James stood by throughout the whole interview, saying nothing.
Nevertheless, Lord James was not happy with his sister’s religion. Whilst her chaplains were singing a Mass on 14th September, he and his brother-in-law, Argyll, created a fracas resulting in fisticuffs. No-one in Scotland, including the Queen, seems to have been be particularly perturbed by this, demonstrating that violence even amongst the upper classes was endemic – it is hard to imagine a riot in Queen Elizabeth’s chapel going unpunished!
Before long, Huntly and James, who were both advising Mary, quarrelled openly. Huntly claimed that, if Mary would but say the word, he would reinstitute the Catholic religion in his earldom, and James told him he would soon find himself mistaken in his power if he tried it (a vision of a couple of school boys comes to mind ‘I can do x!’, ‘Yeah, right, you and whose army?’, ‘Mine, actually!’) Rumours again surfaced that James was less concerned about religion than he was about feathering his own nest.
Perhaps wishing to capitalise on James’ good relations with England, he was dispatched in autumn 1561 as the Queen’s Lieutenant, to keep peace in the Borders – attending a ‘diet’ that is, one of the days set out for joint prosecution of malefactors from both sides. But whilst James was in favour with Mary, he had quarrelled with the Duke of Chatelherault and Arran, for some unknown cause.
The Duke was in bad odour with the Queen too, leaving court in a huff, because Mary intended to force him to relinquish Dumbarton Castle.Dumbarton had been taken by Chatelherault by force from its rightful owner, the Earl of Lennox, but Chatelherault claimed that Marie of Guise had agreed he could keep it for 19 years, a period not due to end until 1566.Mary was talking of bringing Lennox back from England, which was anathema to Chatelherault and the other Hamiltons, as they had been in feud with the Lennox Stewarts for years – Lennox believing he had a better claim to be Mary’s heir in default of children. Lennox and James were also enemies, which, according to the English Ambassador, Randolph, lessened Lennox’ chances of restoration.