Otterburne, Adam (DNB00)
OTTERBURNE, Sir ADAM (d. 1548), king's advocate of Scotland and ambassador, is generally described down to 1533 as 'of Auldhame' (Aldham), a small parish close to Tantallon Castle on the Haddingtonshire coast, now incorporated with that of Whitekirk. It may be presumed that Aldham was his birthplace, or at all events the seat of his family.
Otterburne first appears in 1518 as one of the receivers of Margaret Tudor's jointure rents in Scotland (Letters and Papers, ii. 4677). Three years later he was already a member of the royal council, and by 1525 king's advocate and recorder of Edinburgh, of which city he was lord provost in 1531 and 1544, if not oftener (Hamilton Papers, ii. 106; Acts of Scots. Parl. ii. 332; Fœdera, xiii. 744; State Papers, iv. 376). We ought, perhaps, to assign to the former year his energetic effort as provost to stamp out an outbreak of the plague which the 'Diurnal of Occurrents' (p. 14) places in 1529. Otterburne's diplomatic skill was in constant requisition from 1521 in the critical state of the relations of England and Scotland. Henry VIII was endeavouring, with the aid of his sister [see Margaret Tudor], to break up the Scoto-French alliance during the nonage of his nephew James V and in 1524, while the English commissioners were negotiating for a truce at Berwick with Otterburne, they had reason to believe that 'they had made him a convert. Thomas Magnus [q.v.], Henry VIII's envoy, wrote of him, in November, as 'a sad and one of the wisest men in Edinburgh, well learned, and of good experience and practice, and very favourable and forward in our causes' (State Papers, iv. 232, 236). After Angus had forced his way into the regency early in the next year, Magnus recommended Otterburne to Henry for a pension 'for good service done' (ib. iv. 376). If the advocate had grown up under the shadow of Angus's stronghold at Tantallon, this might help to explain his preference of an English to a French connection. In the truce negotiations during the later months of 1525, Magnus was more pleased with him than with Angus : 'Good Mr. Otter- burne hath taken pain in my company both riding and going at sundry times' (ib. iv. 415). He had presented him with 'cramp-rings' with which Otterburne had 'relieved a man in the falling sickness in the sight of much people' (ib. iv. 449). But when James threw off the tutelage of Angus in the summer of 1528, and drove him into England, Magnus complained that the advocate sought to win 'other far foreign friends than England' (Letters and Papers, iv. 5004). There is some reason to believe that he would have preferred an imperial alliance as the best guarantee of the independence of Scotland, long as James cultivated friendly relations with England, Angus was powerless, and Otterburne stood high in his young sovereign's confidence, and was employed in all his negotiations with England. He helped to conclude the five years' truce of December 1528, and when it ran out was sent to London in November 1533, charged with James's 'inward mind' to discuss the basis of the peace, of which Henry, owing to the complications arising out of his divorce, was now desirous (State Papers, iv. 664). In conjunction with Stewart, bishop of Aberdeen, he concluded peace with England on 11 May 1534, for the joint lives of the two kings and one year beyond (Letters and Papers, vii. 83, 114, 171, 194, 214, 393, 530, 647). A week later Otterburne informed the imperial ambassador, Chapuys, with whom he had frequent interviews, that if a mandate came from the pope against England the Scots would make no difficulty in repudiating the treaty; but in the spring he assured Cromwell that the peace would never be broken (ib. p. 690; viii. 333). While in England he had been knighted, and was henceforth known as Sir Adam Otterburne of Reidhall (Redhall), on the water of Leith, a mile or two south of Edinburgh (ib. vii. 194; Diurnal, p. 18).
In March 1536, when Henry was seeking an interview at York with his nephew, in the hope of persuading him to imitate his ecclesiastical policy, Otterburne was once more despatched to London (Letters and Papers, x. 421). James had made up his mind not to yield to his uncle's wishes, and in the autumn went to France to bring back a wife. The Douglasses at once began to move and made overtures to Otterburne. It was reported from France that those around the ting threatened to have the advocate hanged for speaking to Angus and his brother, Sir George Douglas, when in London (ib. x. 536, xi. 916). It was not, however, until 12 Oct. 1538 that Otterburne was put under arrest at Dumbarton for 'interleagings with the Douglasses.' He lay there nearly a year and was then pardoned on payment of a great fine (Diurnal, p. 23; State Papers, v. 141, 160). In the negotiations which preceded the outbreak of war with England in 1542 he was again employed, but does not seem to have been restored to the office of advocate (Hamilton Papers, i. 170). After Solway Moss, Otterburne was naturally one of the embassy charged to make the best terms with the victor that circumstances allowed. But neither his dislike of the French connection nor his relations with the Douglasses could reconcile him to the marriage of the Scots queen with the heir of the English crown, which Henry made a condition of peace. He frankly told Sadler, the English ambassador, that the treaty, which had been accepted in the first moment of helplessness, would never be performed. 'If,' said he, 'your lad was a lass and our lass a lad, would you then be so earnest in this matter? Our nation, being a stout nation, will never agree to have an Englishman to be king of Scotland. And though the whole nobility of the realm would consent to it, yet our common people and the stones in the street would rise and rebel against it' (Sadler Papers, iii. 326). The event did not belie Otterburne's reputation as 'a wise man as any was in Scotland' (ib.) Henceforth Sadler counted him a member 'of the Cardinal's faction, and a great enemy of the king's majesty's purposes' (Hamilton Papers, ii. 106). He naturally attached himself to Cardinal Beaton, who regarded the French connection as the guarantee for Scottish independence of England, rather than to the queen-dowager, Mary of Guise [q. v.], who would have made Scotland little more than a province of France. It is true that one authority of the time has been appealed to as showing that Otterburne was ready to betray his country to the English. When the Earl of Hertford landed a large force near Leith in the first days of May 1544, to enforce the marriage by burning and slaying, 'the town of Edinburgh,' says the 'Diurnal of Occurrents' (p. 31), 'came forth in their sight, but the provost, Mr. Adam Otterburne, betrayed them, and fled home.' But the account of these events in the 'Diurnal' is not strictly contemporary and in other points inaccurate and confused. The letter of an English eye-witness printed in the same year, and recently reprinted by Mr. Goldsmid, agrees with Bishop Lesley (p. 180) that the provost only went out to parley with the invaders after the regent Arran and the cardinal had withdrawn their small force before Hertford's overwhelming numbers, and that he, nevertheless, rejected the demand for unconditional submission. Otterburne continued to sit in almost every Scots parliament down to 1548, and in 1548 was sent to England with David Panter [q. v.] to convey the ratification of Scotland's inclusion in a treaty of Campe between France and England (Act of Scots Parl. ii. 451, &c.; Fœdera, xv. 93). May 1547 he was again accredited to England, this time by Mary of Guise herself (Thorpe, Calendar, i. 63). More than a year later he was with the army besieging the English in Haddington, and about the beginning of July received a wound in the head from which he seems to have died (ib. i. 90).
[Acts of the Scots Parliament; Rymer's Fœdera, original edit.; Calendar of Letters and Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII, ed. Brewer and Gairdner; State Papers of the Reign of Henry VIII, ed. by the Record Commission; Thorpe's Calendar of State Papers relating to Scotland, 1509–1560; Sadler Papers, ed. Sir Walter Scott; Hamilton Papers, ed. Jos. Bain; Diurnal of Remarkable Occurrents, 1514–75, and Lesley's History of Scotland (both published by the Bannatyne Club).]