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In 1584, the partisans of Mary were busied in a conspiracy against Elizabeth, called the Great Plot, or Designment, which she no sooner dis. covered, than she resolved to take Mary out of the hands of the ear) of Shrewsbury, who had had the care of her fifteen years, and appointed Sir Amias Paulet and Sir Drue Drury to be her keepers. Soon after this an act was passed, which rendered Mary accountable not only for her own actions, but for those of others, in consequence of which she might forfeit her right of succession, and even her life itself. From this period Mary was treated with increased rigour; almost all her servants were dismissed, she was removed to Tetbury, and, shortly after, was tried and executed.
The next event of importance connected with the court of Scotland, was the marriage of James to the princess Ann.of Denmark, which took place November 24, 1589. As the prospect of succeeding to the crown of: England drew near, James thought it prudent to endeavour to gain a party in that country. Edward Bruce, his ambassador at the court of Elizabeth, solicited her in the most earnest manner to recognize his title by some public deed; but a general and evasive answer was all that James could obtain. As no impression could be made on the queen, the ambassador was then ordered to sound the disposition of her subjects. In this he succeeded, and many of the highest rank gave him repeated assurances of their resolution to assert his master's right against every pretender.
During the summer of 1600, Scotland enjoyed an unusual tranquillity, when, in the midst of this security, the king's life was exposed to the ut. most danger, by a conspiracy altogether unexpected, and almost inexplicable. The authors of it were John Ruthven, earl of Gowrie, and his brother Alexander, the sons of that earl who was beheaded in the year 1584. On the 4th of August, as the king, who during the hunting season resided at Falkland, was going out to his sport early in the morning, he was accosted by Mr. Alexander Ruthven, who, with an air of importance, told him, that the evening before he had met an unknown man, of a suspicious appearance, walking alone in a by-path, near his brother's house at Perth, and on searching him, had found under his cloak a pot filled with a great quantity of foreign gold; that he had immediately seized both him and his treasure, and, without communicating the matter to any person, had kept him confined and bound in a solitary house, and that he thought it his duty to impart such a singular event first of all to his majesty. James immediately suspected this person to be a seminary priest supplied with foreign gold, in order to excite new commotions in the kingdom, and resolved to empower the magistrates of Perth to call the person before them, and inquire into all the circumstances of the story. Ruthven violently opposed this resolution, and, with many arguments, induced the king to ride directly to Perth, and to examine the matter in person. When within a mile of the town, Ruthven rode forward to inform his brother of the king's arrival, with about twenty attendants. No prep. arations were made for his entertainment; although the earl appeared pen. sive and embarrassed, he took great pains to atone, by his courtesy, for the common fare with which he treated his guest. As soon as the king's repast was over, his attendants were conducted to dinner in another room. Ruthven told him now was the time to go to the chamber where the unknown person was kept; and, conducting the king up a staircase, and then through several apartments, the doors of which he locked behind him, led him at last to a small study, in which stood a man clad in armour, with a sword and a dagger by his side. The king, who expected to have found one disarmed and bound, started at the sight. Ruthven, snatching che dagger from the girdle of the man in armour, and holding it to the king's breast, “Remeniber," said he, “how unjustly my fainer suffered by your command. You are now my prisoner ; submit to my disposal with: out resistance or outcry, or this dagger shall instantly revenge his blond *
james expostulated with Ruthven, entreated, and flattered him. Words had no effect. Ruthven told him that he must die, and attempted to bind his hands. James, unarmed as he was, scorned to submit to that indig nity, and, wsing with the assassin, a fierce struggle ensued, the man in armour standing motionless all the while, and the king dragging Ruthven towards a window which was open. The king .then, with a voice of ter. ror, loudly exclaimed, " Treason! treason! help! I am murdered !" His attendants heard and knew his voice, and saw at the window a hand which grasped the king's neck with violence. They flew to his assistance, and Sir John Ramsay first entering the apartment, rushed upon Ruthven, who was still struggling with his royal master, struck him twice with his dagger, and thrust him towards the stairs, where Sir Thomas Erskine and Sir Hugh Herries inet and killed him. Gowrie now rushed into the room, with a sword in each hand, followed by seven of his attendants well armed, and, with a loud voice, threatened them all with instant death. Notwithstanding the inequality of numbers, they encountered the earl, and Sir John Ramsay pierced Gowrie to the heart, who fell without uttering a word. His followers having received several wounds, immediately fled. The parliament lost no time in proceeding against the conspirators. The dead bodies of the two brothers were produced there according to law, an indictment for high treason was preferred against them, witnesses were examined, and, by an unanimous sentence, the punishment due to traitors was inflicted on their dead bodies. The parliament also enacted that the surname of Ruthven should be abolished.
Queen Elizabeth died on the 24th of March, 1604, in the seventieth year of her age, and the forty-fifth of her reign. A short time previous to her death, she declared to Cecil and the lord-admiral, “ that her cousin, the king of Scots, should be her successor." This she confirmed on her death-bed. As soon as she had breathed her last, the lords of the council proclaimed James king of England. All the intrigues carried on by foreigners in favour of the infanta, all the cabals formed within the kingdom to support the title of Lady Arabella Stuart and the earl of Hertford disappeared in a moment. Sir Charles Percy, brother to the earl of Northumberland, and Thomas Somerset, son of the earl of Worcester, were dispatched to Scotland with a letter to James, signed by all the peers and privy councillors then in London, informing him of Elizabeth's decease, and of his accession to the throne. He prepared to set out for London, and appointed the queen to follow him within a few weeks.
CHAPTER IV.. THE ACCESSION OF JAMES THE SIXTH OF SCOTLAND, AND THE FIRST OF ENGLAND
On the 5th of April James began his journey with a splendid train, and entering London on the 7th of May, took peaceable possession of the throne of England. But from this period to the legislative union of the kingdoms, Scotland declined not only in importance but in wealth. Instead of enjoying any advantages by the alliance, it was considered rather as an appendage of England than an important part of Great Britain, and it was consequently neglected.
We shall in this place introduce the reflections of that able historian, Dr. Robertson, on the alteration produced in the political and social state of Scotland by this event. “The Scots," he says, “ dazzled with the glory of giving a sovereign to their powerful enemy, relying on the partiality of their native prince, and in full expectation of sharing liberally in the wealth and honours which he now would be able to bestow, attended little to the most obvious consequences of that great event, and rejoiced at his accession to the throne of England, as if it had been na less beneficial to the kingdom than honourable to the king. By his accession, James acquired such an immense increase of wealth, power, and splendour, that the nobles, astonished and intimidated, thought it vain to struggle for privileges which they were now unable to defend. Nor was it from fear alone they submitted to the yoke ; James, partial to his countrymen, and willing that they should partake in his good fortune, loaded them with riches and honours; and the hope of his favour concurred with the dread of his power, in taming their fierce and independent spirits. The will of the prince became the supreme law in Scotland, and the nobles strove, with emulation, who should most implicitly obey commands which they had formerly been accustomed to contemn. Satisfied with having subjected the nobles to the crown, the king left them in full possession of their ancient jurisdiction over their own vassals. The extensive rights vested in a feudal chief, hecame in their hands dreadful instruments of oppression, and the military ideas on which these rights were founded, being gradually lost or disregarded, nothing remained to correct or to mitigate the rigour with which they were exercised. The nobles exhausting their fortunes by the expense of frequent attendance upon the English court, and by attempts to imitate the manners and luxury of their more wealthy neighbours, multiplied exactions upon the people, who durst hardly utter complaints which they knew would never reach the ear of their sovereign, nor move him to grant them any redress. From the union of the crowns to the revolution in 1688, Scotland was placed in a political situation of all others the most singular and unhappy; subjected at once to the absolute will of a monarch, and to the oppressive jurisdiction of an aristocracy, it suffered all the miseries peculiar to both these forms of government. Its kings were despotic, its nobles were slaves and tyrants, and the people groaned under the rigorous domination of both."
As the nobles were deprived of power, the people acquired liberty. Exempted from burdens to which they were formerly subject, screened from oppression, to which they had long been exposed, and adopted into a constitution whose genius and laws were more liberal than their own, they extended their commerce, refined their manners, made improvemenis in the elegancies of life, and cultivated the arts and sciences. Since the union, the commons, anciently neglected by their kings, and seldom courted by the nobles, have emerged into dignity, and, being admitted to a participation of all the privileges which the English had purchased at the expense of so much blood, must now be deemed a body not less considerable in the one kingdom than in the other. The church felt the effects of the power which the king acquired by his accession, and its revolutions are worthy of notice. James, delighted with the splendour and authority which the English bishops enjoyed, and eager to effect a union in the ecclesiastical policy, which he had, in vain, attempted in the civil government of the two kingdoms, resolved to bring both churches to an exact conformity with each other. Three Scotchmen were consecrated bishops at London. From them their brethren were commanded to receive orders. Ceremonies unknown in Scotland were imposed, and though the clergy, less obsequious than the nobles, boldly opposed these innovations, James, long practised and well skilled in the arts of managing them, obtained at length their compliance. But Charles I., a super stitious prince, unacquainted with the genius of the Scots, imprudent and precipitant in all the measures he pursued in that kingdoin, pressing too eagerly the reception of the English liturgy, and indiscreetly attempting a resuniption of church lands, kindled the flarnes of civil war; and the people being lest at liberty to indulge their own wishes, the episcopal church was overturned, and the presbyterian government and discipline