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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 29.djvu/168

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James I
of England

with Andrew Melville at its head, resisted, and before long many of the Scottish nobility, indignant at the predominance of a favourite, joined the party of the ministers. The result was the so-called Raid of Ruthven. On 22 Aug. 1582 James was seized by the Earl of Gowrie and his allies. Though he was treated with all outward respect, he was compelled to conform to the will of his captors and to issue a proclamation against Lennox and Arran. Before the end of the year Lennox retired to Paris, where he shortly afterwards died. Arran was for the present excluded from power.

James was now in his seventeenth year, a precocious youth, whose character was developed early under the stress of contending factions. His position called on him to continue the policy of Morton—on the one hand, to reduce to submission both the nobles and the clergy; and on the other, to cultivate friendship with England, which might lead to the maintenance of his claim to the English throne after Elizabeth's death. If he had attempted to carry out this policy with a strong hand he would probably have failed ignominiously. As it was, he succeeded far better than a greater man would have done. He was, it is true, inordinately vain of his own intellectual acquirements and intolerant of opposition, but he was possessed of considerable shrewdness and of a desire to act reasonably. Moreover, in seeking to build up the royal authority he had more than personal objects in view. He regarded it as a moderating influence exercised for the good of his subjects, and employed to keep at bay both the holders of extreme and exclusive theories like the presbyterian clergy, and the heads of armed factions like the Scottish nobles. The love of peace which was so characteristic of him thus attached itself in his mind to his natural tendency to magnify his office. His life, though his language was sometimes coarse, was decidedly pure, so that he did not come into conflict with the presbyterian clergy on that field of morality on which they had obtained their final victory over his mother. On the other hand, there was a want of dignity about him. If he had not that extreme timidity with which he has often been charged, he certainly shrank from facing dangers; and this shrinking was allied in early life with a habit of cautious fencing with questioners, without much regard for truth, which was the natural outcome of his position among hostile parties. Add to this that he was to the end of his life impatient of the intellectual labour needed for the mastery of details, and therefore never stepped forward with a complete policy of his own, and it can be easily understood how, though he was never the directing force in politics, he was able by throwing himself on one side or the other to contribute not a little to his special object, the establishment of peace under the monarchy.

James in the custody of the raiders professed to have discovered the enormity of Lennox's conduct, and the obvious explanation is that he spoke otherwise than he thought. It is not, however, quite impossible that explanations given to him on one point may have changed his feelings towards Lennox. Lennox had been the channel through which he had received a proposal for associating his mother with himself in the sovereignty over Scotland, and some progress had been made in the affair. Objections made to the scheme by his new guardians, on the ground that by accepting it he would derogate from the sufficiency of his own title to the crown, would be likely to sink into his mind; and it is certain that when Bowes, the English ambassador, attempted to gain a sight of the papers relating to the proposed association, the young king baffled all his inquiries. (For a harsher view of James's conduct, see Burton, Hist. of Scotland, p. 458.)

James I in any case did not like being under the control of his captors, and this dislike was quickened by an equally natural dislike of the presbyterian clergy, who under the guidance of Andrew Melville put forward extreme pretensions to meddle with all affairs which could in any way be brought into connection with religion. The Duke of Guise, who wanted to draw James back to an alliance with France, sent him six horses as a present. An alliance with France meant hostility to protestantism. The horses, therefore, in the eyes of the ministers, covered an attack on religion, and two of their number were sent to remonstrate with the king. James promised submission, but kept the horses. On 27 June 1583 he slipped away from Falkland and threw himself into St. Andrews, where he was supported by Huntly and Argyll, together with other noblemen hostile to Gowrie and to the other raiders. There were always personal quarrels enough among Scottish nobles to account for any divisions among them; but the leading difference was hostility to the rising power of royalty on the one side, and hostility to the clergy on the other.

James had now placed himself in the hands of those who were hostile to the clergy. Of course the clergy lectured him on what he had done, and James, knowing that the lords from whom he had escaped were