Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gray, Patrick (d.1612)

GRAY, PATRICK, sixth Lord Gray (d. 1612), commonly known as the ‘Master of Gray,’ was the eldest son of Patrick, fifth Lord Gray, by his wife Barbara, fourth daughter of William, lord Ruthven. He was educated at the university of St. Andrews, where he ‘professed the true [protestant] religion, and communicated with the faithful at the table of the Lord’ (‘Discourse of the Injuries and Wrongs used against the Noblemen distressed’ in Calderwood, History, iv. 253). Not long after leaving the university he married Elizabeth, second daughter of Lord Glamis, chancellor of Scotland, ‘whom he repudiated like as his father also cast away his mother’ (ib.) The separation took place within a year of his marriage, and the Master of Gray then went to France, where through Friar Gray, probably a relation of his own, he was introduced to James Beaton, the exiled archbishop of Glasgow, and was received into the inner circle of the friends of Mary Queen of Scots. For his supposed services to the French cause in Scotland he was highly rewarded by the Duke of Guise, of whose ambitious schemes he was probably one of the chief inspirers. The Spanish ambassador resident at Paris also presented him with ‘a cupboard of plate,’ to the ‘value of five or six thousand crowns’ (Davison to Walsingham, 23 Aug. 1584, in Gray Papers, p. 3). He returned to Scotland either in the train of Esme Stuart, afterwards Duke of Lennox, or shortly after the fall of Morton (1581). Being reputed a catholic he was dealt with by the ministers of the kirk and ‘promised to renounce papistrie and embrace the true Christian religion’ (Calderwood, iv. 253), but before the day appointed to subscribe the articles he had returned to France. There he remained for about a year, probably returning to Scotland after the escape of the king to the catholic lords at St. Andrews, on 27 June 1583. By the king he was sent to convey the son of the Duke of Lennox to Scotland, and landed at Leith with his charge on 13 Nov. (ib. iii. 749; Historie of James the Sext, p. 192).

James Stuart, earl of Arran, who had been recently reconciled to the king, was now the reigning favourite. Gray, who had a previous acquaintance with Arran, became his special confidant. He was, however, too able in diplomacy to be the tool of any man, and his ability in intrigue was only equalled by his utter blindness to honourable obligations. He was reputed the handsomest man of his time, though his beauty was of a rather feminine cast; he possessed a brilliant wit and fascinating manners, and by long experience in France had acquired a comprehensive knowledge of men and affairs. He had been commissioned by Mary to represent her interests at the court of her son, and he commended himself to James by betraying her secrets. The king bestowed on him in 1584 the commendatorship of the monastery of Dunfermline. Gray was acting in concert with Arran, who deemed it for his own interest that Mary should remain a prisoner in England. With this view negotiations were entered into for James's reconciliation with Elizabeth, and a proposal was made to send the Master of Gray to London to arrange a treaty with the king of Scots, from which his mother should be excluded. On 20 Aug. Elizabeth expressed her consent to receive the Master of Gray, although she doubted ‘greatly of his good meaning’ (Burghley to Hunsdon, Cal. State Papers, Scott. Ser. p. 484). After considerable delay, Gray received his commission as ambassador, 13 Oct. 1584 (Gray Papers, pp. 9–10). He also brought with him a letter from the king to Burghley, intimating that he had been commissioned to ‘deell mast specially and secreitly with you nixt the quene, our dearest sister’ (Cal. State Papers, Scott. Ser. p. 489; printed in full in Froude's History of England, cab. ed. xi. 521–2). As Elizabeth cherished naturally a strong prejudice against Gray, Arran introduced him in October to Lord Hunsdon at Berwick. To Hunsdon, Gray appeared in the character of an exemplary protestant. ‘But for his papistrie,’ writes Hunsdon, ‘I wish all ours were such; for yesterday being Sunday he went to the church with me, having a service-book of mine; sitting with me in my pew he said all the service, and both before the sermon and after he sang the psalms with me as well as I could do’ (Hunsdon to Burghley, 19 Oct., Gray Papers, p. 12). The avowed purpose of the mission was to obtain the extradition or expulsion from England of the banished lords, on which condition Gray was prepared to reveal to Elizabeth the offers made to his master by the catholics, and to propose a defensive league between the two countries (Instructions from the Earl of Arran to the Master of Gray, 14 Oct. 1584, in Gray Papers, p. 11). The instructions contained no reference to Queen Mary, while the main purpose of the embassy was to secure her exclusion from the league with Elizabeth. Since Gray had been one of Mary's principal agents he could reveal to Elizabeth undoubted facts of such a character as irretrievably to damage her cause. He now wrote to Mary that to disarm suspicion it was necessary that in the first instance the young king, her son, should treat solely for himself, and that after he gained Elizabeth's confidence he might negotiate for her liberty. Mary indignantly replied that any one who proposed such a separation between her interests and those of her son must be her enemy, whereupon Gray philosophically advised her against giving ‘way to violent courses’ (Papers of the Master of Gray, pp. 30–7). Gray could not long conceal the double part he was now acting. On 5 Jan. 1584–5 Mary wrote to Fontenay that from communications made to her by Elizabeth she suspected Gray had been unfaithful (Labanoff, vi. 80). When she finally learned that James had expressly repudiated her proposed association with him in the Scottish crown, she invoked the malediction of heaven on the Master of Gray, and her ‘fils dénaturé’ (Mary to Mauvissière, 12 March 1585; Labanoff, vi. 123).

Gray had also begun to betray his associates. His revelations of Mary's secrets helped to bring her to the block; but already he was mooting a proposal for the assassination of Arran. Sir James Melville, who refers to the Master of Gray as at this time his ‘great friend,’ states that before his departure to England Gray had begun to suspect that Arran was jealous of his influence with the king (Memoirs, p. 330). Gray had determined to supplant Arran. He had no preference for the interests of Mary or the interests of James, except as they affected his own. Arran was the person who now stood between him and his interests. It curiously happened that nothing was more fitted to win the confidence of Elizabeth than an expression of distrust in Arran; for this distrust was the reason why she had looked coldly upon the proposed negotiations. Gray seems to have succeeded in rendering her, at least for the time, oblivious to the double treachery of which she must have known him to be guilty. At all events it suited her purpose that Arran should be ruined; and when Gray proposed that in order to effect this the exiled lords should be sent to Scotland to hurl Arran from power, she expressed her high pleasure at the proposal, and Gray, before the league had been completed, was permitted to return to Scotland to put the plot into execution. For the special purpose of assisting Gray in his designs, Sir Edward Wotton was chosen to succeed Davison as ambassador in Scotland. Wotton affected the character rather of a pleasant companion than a grave ambassador. Sir James Melville vainly warned the king that under his careless manner he hid deep and dangerous designs. He and the king were soon almost inseparable companions. The king and Arran were convinced that the mission of Gray had been an entire success. To deepen this impression the banished lords had been commanded to remove from Newcastle towards Cambridge or Oxford (Letter of Colville, 31 Dec. 1584). Wotton meanwhile co-operated with Gray in a plot against Arran, and in preparing the recall of the banished lords. With the approval of Elizabeth, Gray contrived a plot for Arran's assassination, but when it was about to be put into execution, Elizabeth deprecated recourse to violence. Gray replied that unless his own life was in danger he would do nothing violently against his enemies (Gray to Walsingham, 31 May 1585, Cal. State Papers, Scottish Ser. p. 496).

Gray and Arran gradually became aware that each was conspiring against the other. On 22 June Robert Carvell informs Sir John Forster that there had been great ‘disdaining’ between Arran and the Master of Gray (ib. p. 498). All attempts to ‘draw Arran from the king’ were, however, vain (several letters of Wotton, ib. pp. 498–9), and finally on 30 June Wotton intimated that proceedings against him were to be deferred till after the conclusion of the league (ib. p. 500). An attempt at a reconciliation between Arran and Gray (ib.) followed, and they were reported to be ‘carrying a better countenance towards each other’ (Wotton to Walsingham, 8 July, ib.) Lord Russell, son of the Earl of Bedford, was soon afterwards killed in a border affray by Kerr of Ferniehirst, an intimate friend of Arran. Wotton expressed his strong suspicion that this ‘brave young English nobleman’ owed his death to Arran's instigation, and the king agreed to commit Arran to the castle of St. Andrews. But the ruin of his enemy at this particular stage of the proceedings did not suit the purpose of Gray, and with a daring stroke of policy, which amounted to genius, he persuaded the king to transfer Arran from his close imprisonment in the castle of St. Andrews to nominal confinement in Kinneil House. With an admirable pretence of penitence for his folly, Gray admitted to Wotton that the large bribes of Arran had been more than his virtue could resist; and Wotton, from the hopes he entertained of ‘recovering him [Gray] thoroughly,’ represented to Walsingham ‘the expedience of overlooking his fault’ (Wotton to Walsingham, 6, 7, and 9 Aug. Cal. State Papers, Scott. Ser. p. 504). Gray's affected kindness to Arran was a ruse to influence Elizabeth. To deliver Elizabeth prematurely from her fear of Arran was to deprive her of one of her chief motives for coming to terms with James. He saw that it was only by the return of the banished lords that he could hope to overthrow the influence of Arran with the king. The Duke of Guise, during the suspension of negotiations, had, at the instance of Arran, entered into negotiations with the Scottish king. On 25 Aug. 1585 Wotton informed Walsingham that the Master of Gray was of opinion that they were running a wrong course in seeking to disgrace Arran with the king, and that the only method certain of success was to ‘let slip’ the banished lords, who would be able to take Arran and seize on the person of the king. The ministers of Elizabeth were unanimous in approving of the proposal, but as usual Elizabeth hesitated. At last Gray plainly informed Wotton that if another fortnight were allowed to elapse ‘he would shift for himself,’ and accept the offers of France (Wotton to Walsingham, 22 Sept.) The threat decided Elizabeth. The plot was now developed by Gray and Wotton with a rapidity and skill which completely outwitted Arran and the king. The universal hatred that prevailed in Scotland against Arran assured its complete success. On the movement of the lords in England becoming known, Wotton made his escape to Berwick. Arran breaking from Kinneil denounced the Master of Gray, then absent in Perthshire collecting his followers, as the author of the conspiracy. The king sent a summons to Gray to appear and answer the charge. It was probably part of Gray's plan to be present with the king when the lords should appear, and with marvellous audacity he resolved not to be baulked of his purpose by the accusation of Arran. He could plead that he had stood Arran's friend against the accusations of the English ambassador, and when he indignantly denied all knowledge of the plot, his denial was at once accepted by the king. In despair Arran and his friends had determined as their last hope to stab Gray to death, even in the king's presence, when news arrived that the banished lords had already reached St. Ninians, within a mile of Stirling (Relation of the Master of Gray, p. 59). Thereupon Arran escaped in disguise by the water-gate. The king also stole down unobserved to a postern gate, but Gray had taken care to have it locked. Gray was now employed by the king to arrange terms with the conspirators, with whom he was acting in concert. These he conducted in such a manner as at the same time to divert any suspicion that he was concerned in the conspiracy, and to secure the gratitude of the king. He was able to announce to Elizabeth that the banished lords were in as good favour as ever they enjoyed (Gray to Walsingham, 6 Nov. 1585), that the king bore no grudge to Elizabeth for what had happened, and that a league might be immediately concluded. His assurances were completely fulfilled, and at a meeting of the estates held at Linlithgow in December, the league with England was finally ratified (Acta Parl. Scot. iii. 381).

In April of the following year Gray intimated to the Earl of Leicester his intention to raise a body of troops to assist him in the Low Countries (Leicester to Gray, 6 April 1586), and in May communications on this subject were opened with Elizabeth (Gray to Walsingham, 5 May; Archibald Douglas to Walsingham, 6 May; Randolph to Walsingham, 9 May, Cal. State Papers, Scott. Ser. p. 519). Gray began to levy soldiers for the expedition, but after he had proceeded so far, Elizabeth and Leicester changed their minds, and, though willing to accept the aid of the troops, preferred that Gray, if he came to the Low Countries, should do so in a private capacity (Walsingham to Gray, 4 June, ib. p. 523). After various changes of plan the queen on 11 Aug. gave her consent, proposing to advance to him 2,000l. (ib. p. 532); but the matter went no further than the sending of troops by Gray to the aid of Leicester, 140 of whom were captured on the coast of Flanders (Gray Papers, p. 112).

After the condemnation of Mary Queen of Scots, Gray was sounded by Walsingham as to the attitude of James towards her proposed execution, and was fain to confess that the king was not disposed to relish the proposal (Gray to Walsingham, 6 Nov. 1586, Cal. State Papers, Scott. Ser. p. 536). He did the utmost that was consistent with prudence to temper the objections of the king, and recommended an increase in James's pension, and a parliamentary recognition of his title. Gray's appointment, along with Sir Robert Melville, as the king's commissioner to London, placed him in a difficult dilemma. As he himself expressed it, the king, ‘if she die, will quarrel with me. Live she, I shall have double harm’ (Gray to Douglas, 27 Nov.) Before setting out from Scotland he endeavoured to find a way out of his difficulty by recommending that Mary should be put to death by poison (Courcelles to Henry III, 31 Dec. 1586), and he also proposed to Elizabeth that if her life was not to be spared he should ‘be stayed by the way or commanded to retire.’ The instructions of King James were of a mild kind (Gray Papers, pp. 120–5), or, as Gray himself expressed it, his mission was ‘modest, not menacing.’ Indeed, the representations of Gray had so modified the attitude of James, and Gray's secret wishes had so modified his representations to Elizabeth, as practically to render his remonstrances against the execution of Mary little more than formal.

The general belief in Scotland was that Gray had privately advised the death of Mary, and from this time, though he retained the king's favour, he ceased to have any influence in political affairs. Not long after his return he was accused by Sir William Stewart of having confessed that he himself, the secretary Maitland, and others, had been concerned in the action at Stirling in November 1585, but he denied on oath that he had ever made such a statement (Reg. Privy Council Scotl. iv. 164). Notwithstanding this he was committed to ward in the castle of Edinburgh, and on 15 May 1587 he was formally accused before the convention (1) of having trafficked with Spain and the pope for the injury of the protestant religion in Scotland; (2) of having planned the assassination of the vice-chancellor Maitland; (3) of having counterfeited the king's stamp, and made use of it to prevent the king's marriage; and (4) of having for rewards in England consented to Queen Mary's death (Reg. Privy Council Scotl. iv. 166; Gray Papers, pp. 149–51; Pitcairn, Criminal Trials, i. 157–8; Historie of James the Sext, p. 227). After his voluntary confession of sedition, and of having sought to impede the marriage of the king with Anne of Denmark, he was pronounced a traitor, but at the intercession of the estates, especially of Lord John Hamilton (Moysie, Memoirs, p. 63), his life was spared by the king, no doubt gladly enough. In several of the charges on which Gray was condemned the king was deeply implicated; the prevalent suspicion, ‘that there was some mystery lurking in the matter’ (Calderwood, iv. 613), was fully justified. Gray was commanded to leave the country within a month under a penalty of 40,000l.; but probably no break occurred in his friendship with the king. He continued in the possession of the rents of his estates, only being deprived of the abbacy of Dunfermline, which the king found it convenient to bestow on the Earl of Huntly. Gray left Scotland on 7 June 1587, and on the 17th the cause of his banishment was proclaimed at the market cross of Edinburgh (ib. iv. 614). He went to Paris, and afterwards to Italy. Through the interposition of Walsingham he was permitted in 1589 to return (Memorial of instructions to intercede for the Master of Gray, April 1589), and on the last day of May arrived in Scotland from England, along with Lord Hunsdon (Calderwood, v. 59). On 27 Nov. he took his seat in the privy council (Reg. Privy Council Scotl. iv. 441). In June 1585 Gray had been appointed master of the wardrobe, and not long after his return he was again restored to that office. In 1592, along with Francis Stewart Hepburn, fifth earl of Bothwell [q. v.], he tried to capture the king at Falkland, but on resistance being offered they retired, after having plundered the king's stables of the best horses (Historie of James the Sext, p. 250). The same year he brought an accusation against the presbyterian minister, Robert Bruce (1554–1631) [q. v.], of having schemed with Bothwell against the king (Calderwood, v. 190). Meantime Gray had promised Bothwell to secure for him the king's favour on condition that Bothwell supported his accusation against Bruce, but Bothwell, fearing treachery, failed to appear at the court. Gray, having therefore no evidence, ‘left the court for shame,’ and afterwards ‘denied all accusation of Mr. Robert Bruce, and offered to fight his honest quarrel in that behalf with any man’ (ib.) After James ascended the English throne Gray acted frequently in a lawless manner, and more than once was summoned to answer for his conduct before the council or the estates. He, however, always retained the favour of the king. On 11 July 1606 the members of the privy council appointed by the king to inquire into the sums due by him to the Master of Gray found them to amount to 19,983l. 4s. 11d. Scots, which was ordered to be paid him (Reg. Privy Council Scotland, vii. 745). He succeeded his father as sixth Lord Gray in 1609, and died in 1612. By his first wife, Elizabeth, the daughter of Lord Glamis, from whom he soon separated, he had no issue. By his second wife, Lady Mary Stewart, eldest daughter of Robert, earl of Orkney, whom he married in July 1585 (Cal. State Papers, Scottish Series, p. 501), he had two sons (Andrew, sixth lord Gray, and William) and six daughters.

[Relation of the Master of Gray (Bannatyne Club); Gray Papers (Bannatyne Club; not by any means exhaustive, and provided neither with introduction nor index); Calderwood's Hist. of the Church of Scotland; Historie of James the Sext (Bannatyne Club); Sir James Melville's Memoirs (Bannatyne Club); Keith's Hist. of Scotland; Cal. State Papers, Scott. Ser.; Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, vols. ii.–vii.; Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, vol. i.; Labanoff's Correspondence of Mary Queen of Scots, vols. vi. and vii.; Leicester Correspondence (Camden Soc.); Teulet's Relations Politiques de la France et de l'Espagne avec l'Écosse, passim; Correspondence of Elizabeth and James VI (Camden Soc.); Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), i. 671; Histories of Tytler, Burton, and Froude; Mignet's Mary Queen of Scots; Hosack's Mary Queen of Scots; Cal. Hatfield MSS. iii. passim.]

T. F. H.