mined on the latter course, and having disposed of ‘all his corn and movables’ (ib. 1234) had obtained a license to leave Scotland for seven years (ib. 1275), when his plans were altered by the resolution of the nobles in the beginning of June to seize Mary and Bothwell in Holyrood Palace. Kirkcaldy immediately joined the forces of the lords. At Carberry Hill he held command of the horse, and placed them in a position that would prevent a retreat towards Dunbar. Mary on learning this desired to have a conference with him. While they were in conversation a soldier sent by Bothwell took aim at him, but ‘the Queen gave a cry and said that he should not do her that shame’ (Melville, Memoirs, p. 183). When Bothwell declared his willingness to maintain his innocency by single combat, Kirkcaldy with characteristic alacrity took up the challenge, but Bothwell, no doubt well aware of his prowess, declined to fight with one who was only a baron (ib.) Finally the queen surrendered to Kirkcaldy, and Bothwell was permitted to escape.
As Kirkcaldy had pledged his word for the queen's safety, he strongly opposed the harsh treatment accorded to her, and especially her removal to Lochleven, after her letter to Bothwell pledging herself to constancy was intercepted. Even then he was willing to excuse, and he hoped that further difficulties might be removed by Bothwell's capture. On 11 Aug. he received, along with Sir William Murray of Tullibardine, a commission to fit out ships for the pursuit of Bothwell (Reg. P. C. Scotl. i. 544–6). While Bothwell was on shore he came up with his ships in Bressay Sound; but, as Kirkcaldy himself confesses, he was ‘no good seaman,’ and subsequently Bothwell outsailed him and escaped to Norway [see Hepburn, James, fourth Earl of Bothwell].
After his return to Scotland Kirkcaldy succeeded Sir James Balfour as governor of Edinburgh Castle. He attended the meeting of the ‘lords of the secret council and others’ on 4 Dec., when it was declared that Mary was a conspirator with Bothwell in the murder of the king. On Mary's escape from Lochleven he joined the forces of the regent against her, and at Langside the regent committed to him the ‘special care as an experimented captain to oversee every danger’ (Sir James Melville, Memoirs, p. 201). He rode from wing to wing, giving advice and direction at the most critical moments, and by his skilful generalship turned the tide of battle against the queen.
Kirkcaldy's subsequent transference to the queen's party is not difficult to explain. When Mary, after the conferences in England, finally agreed to a divorce from Bothwell, he was of opinion that an arrangement with her was possible. He was doubtless also strongly influenced by the plausible schemes of Maitland of Lethington. Nevertheless he for some time disguised his sentiments. On 8 May 1568 he and the provost of Edinburgh had entered into a mutual band to retain the town and castle for the young king's party (printed in Calderwood, ii. 412–413), and this severely hampered his subsequent action. His first decided step was the rescue in September 1569 of Maitland while under arrest in Edinburgh; but he pleaded as an excuse that the arrest was unjustifiable, and his professed purpose was to bring about a reconciliation with the regent. With that intent he in October had a friendly conference with Maitland at Kelso (Drury to Cecil, 22 Oct. 1569, Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1569–71, entry 479). From the castle Maitland wrote to Mary that Kirkcaldy would be ‘conformable to a good accord’ in her favour. The assassination of the regent on 20 Jan. 1569–70 somewhat altered the aspect of events. It rendered a peaceable arrangement impossible, and while it weakened the cause of Mary it deprived King James's party of an invaluable leader. So odious was the murder to ‘all that faction’ (including Maitland and Kirkcaldy) that they were ‘presently all reconciled and vowed to revenge’ (ib. 677). At the funeral of the regent Kirkcaldy bore his standard before the body (Knox, vi. 571). But while shocked at the assassination Kirkcaldy was not minded to subject himself over far to any surviving member of the king's party (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1569–71, entry 854), and when Lennox was chosen regent he refused either to come to the election or to permit a salute to be fired in his honour (ib. 1097). Still he continued for some time to profess neutrality, and it was not until a proclamation had been made forbidding any to serve him that he declared himself by announcing that for his own security and that of the castle he was ‘forced to join with such of the nobility as would concur with him’ (ib. 1668). His conduct in rescuing from the Tolbooth one of his followers who had been concerned in the slaughter of George Durie (for particulars see Richard Bannatyne, Memorials, pp. 72 et seq.) had already caused Knox to denounce him as a ‘murderer and throat-cutter.’ Violent letters passed between them, and a reference by Knox in one of his sermons to Kirkcaldy's conduct provoked loud protestations on Kirkcaldy's part, who was present. The breach between them was never healed.