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Timeline of Scottish History

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The revolution was now under way, and as it had begun so it continued.  There was practically no resistance by the Catholic nobility and gentry: in the Lowlands, apparently, almost all were of the new persuasion.  The Duc de Châtelherault might hesitate while his son, the Protestant Earl of Arran, who had been in France as Captain of the Scots Guard, was escaping into Switzerland, and thence to England; but, on Arran’s arrival there, the Hamiltons saw their chance of succeeding to the crown in place of the Catholic Mary.  The Regent had but a small body of professional French soldiers.  But the other side could not keep their feudal levies in the field, and they could not coin the supplies of church plate which must have fallen into their hands, until they had seized the Mint at Edinburgh, so money was scarce with them.  It was plain to Knox and Kirkcaldy of Grange, and it soon became obvious to Maitland of Lethington, who, of course, forsook the Regent, that aid from England must be sought,—aid in money, and if possible in men and ships.

Meanwhile the reformers dealt with the ecclesiastical buildings of St Andrews as they had done at Perth, Knox urging them on by his sermons.  We may presume that the boys broke the windows and images with a sanctified joy.  A mutilated head of the Redeemer has been found in a latrine of the monastic buildings.  As Commendator, or lay Prior, James Stewart may have secured the golden sheath of the arm-bone of the Apostle, presented by Edward I., and the other precious things, the sacred plate of the Church in a fane which had been the Delphi of Scotland.  Lethington appears to have obtained most of the portable property of St Salvator’s College except that beautiful monument of idolatry, the great silver mace presented by Kennedy, the Founder, work of a Parisian silversmith, in 1461: this, with maces of rude native work, escaped the spoilers.  The monastery of the Franciscans is now levelled with the earth; of the Dominicans’ chapel a small fragment remains.  Of the residential part of the abbey a house was left: when the lead had been stripped from the roof of the church it became a quarry.

“All churchmen’s goods were spoiled and reft from them . . . for every man for the most part that could get anything pertaining to any churchmen thought the same well-won gear,” says a contemporary Diary.  Arran himself, when he arrived in Scotland, robbed a priest of all that he had, for which Châtelherault made compensation.

By the middle of June the Regent was compelled to remove almost all her French soldiers out of Fife.  Perth was evacuated.  The abbey of Scone and the palace were sacked.  The Congregation entered Edinburgh: they seem to have found the monasteries already swept bare, but they seized Holyrood, and the stamps at the Mint.  The Regent proclaimed that this was flat rebellion, and that the rebels were intriguing with England.

Knox denied it, in the first part of his History (in origin a contemporary tract written in the autumn), but the charge was true, and Knox and Kirkcaldy were, since June, the negotiators.  Already his party were offering Arran (the heir of the crown after Mary) as a husband for Elizabeth, who saw him but rejected his suit.  Arran’s father, Châtelherault, later openly deserted the Regent (July 1).  The death of Henri II., wounded in a tournament, did not accelerate the arrival of French reinforcements for the Regent.  The weaker Brethren, however, waxed weary; money was scarce, and on July 24, the Congregation evacuated Edinburgh and Leith, after a treaty which they misrepresented, broke, and accused the Regent of breaking. 

Knox visited England, about August 1, but felt dissatisfied with his qualification for diplomacy.  Nothing, so far, was gained from Elizabeth, save a secret supply of £3000.  On the other hand, fresh French forces arrived at Leith: the place was fortified; the Regent was again accused of perfidy by the perfidious; and on October 21 the Congregation proclaimed her deposition on the alleged authority of her daughter, now Queen of France, whose seal they forged and used in their documents.  One Cokky was the forger; he saw Arran use the seal on public papers. Cokky had made a die for the coins of the Congregation—a crown of thorns, with the words Verbum Dei.  Leith, manned by French soldiers, was, till in the summer of 1560 it surrendered to the Congregation and their English allies, the centre of Catholic resistance.

In November the Congregation, after a severe defeat, fled in grief from Edinburgh to Stirling, where Knox reanimated them, and they sent Lethington to England to crave assistance.  Lethington, who had been in the service of the Regent, is henceforth the central figure of every intrigue.  Witty, eloquent, subtle, he was indispensable, and he had one great ruling motive, to unite the crowns and peoples of England and Scotland.  Unfortunately he loved the crafty exercise of his dominion over men’s minds for its own sake, and when, in some inscrutable way, he entered the clumsy plot to murder Darnley, and knew that Mary could prove his guilt, his shiftings and changes puzzle historians.  In Scotland he was called Michael Wily, that is, Macchiavelli, and “the necessary evil.”

In his mission to England Lethington was successful.  By December 21 the English diplomatist, Sadleyr, informed Arran that a fleet was on its way to aid the Congregation, who were sacking Paisley Abbey, and issuing proclamations in the names of Francis and Mary.  The fleet arrived while the French were about to seize St Andrews (January 23, 1560), and the French plans were ruined.  The Regent, who was dying, found shelter in Edinburgh Castle, which stood neutral.  On February 27, 1560, at Berwick, the Congregation entered into a regular league with England, Elizabeth appearing as Protectress of Scotland, while the marriage of Mary and Francis endured.

Meanwhile, owing to the Huguenot disturbances in France (such as the Tumult of Amboise, directed against the lives of Mary’s uncles the Cardinal and Duc de Guise), Mary and Francis could not help the Regent, and Huntly, a Catholic, presently, as if in fear of the western clans, joined the Congregation.  Mary of Guise had found the great northern chief treacherous, and had disgraced him, and untrustworthy he continued to be.  On May 7 the garrison of Leith defeated with heavy loss an Anglo-Scottish attack on the walls; but on June 16 the Regent made a good end, in peace with all men.  She saw Châtelherault, James Stewart, and the Earl Marischal; she listened patiently to the preacher Willock; she bade farewell to all, and died, a notable woman, crushed by an impossible task.  The garrison of Leith, meanwhile, was starving on rats and horseflesh: negotiations began, and ended in the Treaty of Edinburgh (July 6, 1560).

This Treaty, as between Mary, Queen of France and Scotland, on one hand, and England on the other, was never ratified by Mary Stuart: she appears to have thought that one clause implied her abandonment of all her claims to the English succession, typified by her quartering of the Royal English arms on her own shield.  Thus there never was nor could be amity between her and her sister and her foe, Elizabeth, who was justly aggrieved by her assumption of the English arms, while Elizabeth quartered the arms of France.  Again, the ratification of the Treaty as regarded Mary’s rebels depended on their fulfilling certain clauses which, in fact, they instantly violated.

Preachers were planted in the larger town, some of which had already secured their services; Knox took Edinburgh.  “Superintendents,”—by no means bishops—were appointed, an order which soon ceased to exist in the Kirk: their duties were to wander about in their provinces, superintending and preaching.  By request of the Convention (which was crowded by persons not used to attend), some preachers drew up, in four days, a Confession of Faith, on the lines of Calvin’s rule at Geneva: this was approved and passed on August 17.  The makers of the document profess their readiness to satisfy any critic of any point “from the mouth of God” (out of the Bible), but the pace was so good that either no criticism was offered or it was very rapidly “satisfied.”  On August 24 four acts were passed in which the authority of “The Bishop of Rome” was repudiated.  All previous legislation, not consistent with the new Confession, was rescinded.  Against celebrants and attendants of the Mass were threatened (1) confiscation and corporal punishment; (2) exile; and (3) for the third offence, Death.  The death sentence is not known to have been carried out in more than one or two cases.  (Prof. Hume-Brown writes that “the penalties attached to the breach of these enactments” (namely, the abjuration of Papal jurisdiction, the condemnation of all practices and doctrines contrary to the new creed, and of the celebration of Mass in Scotland) “were those approved and sanctioned by the example of every country in Christendom.”  But not, surely, for the same offences, such as “the saying or hearing of Mass”?—’ History of Scotland,’ ii. 71, 72: 1902.)  Suits in ecclesiastical were removed into secular courts (August 29).

In the Confession the theology was that of Calvin.  Civil rulers were admitted to be of divine institution, their duty is to “suppress idolatry,” and they are not to be resisted “when doing that which pertains to their charge.”  But a Catholic ruler, like Mary, or a tolerant ruler, as James VI. would fain have been, apparently may be resisted for his tolerance.  Resisted James was, as we shall see, whenever he attempted to be lenient to Catholics.

The Book of Discipline, by Knox and other preachers, never was ratified by the Estates, as the Confession of Faith had been.  It made admirable provisions for the payment of preachers and teachers, for the Universities, and for the poor; but somebody, probably Lethington, spoke of the proposals as “devout imaginations.”  The Book of Discipline approved of what was later accepted by the General Assembly, The Book of Common Order in Public Worship.  This book was not a stereotyped Liturgy, but it was a kind of guide to the ministers in public prayers: the minister may repeat the prayers, or “say something like in effect.”  On the whole, he prayed “as the Spirit moved him,” and he really seems to have been regarded as inspired; his prayers were frequently political addresses.  To silence these the infatuated policy of Charles I. thrust the Laudian Liturgy on the nation.

The preachers were to be chosen by popular election, after examination in knowledge and as to morals.  There was to be no ordination “by laying on of hands.”  “Seeing the miracle is ceased, the using of the ceremony we deem not necessary”; but, if the preachers were inspired, the miracle had not ceased, and the ceremony was soon reinstated.  Contrary to Genevan practice, such festivals as Christmas and Easter were abolished.  The Scottish Sabbath was established in great majesty.  One “rag of Rome” was retained, clerical excommunication—the Sword of Church Discipline.  It was the cutting off from Christ of the excommunicated, who were handed over to the devil, and it was attended by civil penalties equivalent to universal boycotting, practical outlawry, and followed by hell fire: “which sentence, lawfully pronounced on earth, is ratified in heaven.”  The strength of the preachers lay in this terrible weapon, borrowed from the armoury of Rome.

Private morals were watched by the elders, and offenders were judged in kirk-sessions.  Witchcraft, Sabbath desecration, and sexual laxities were the most prominent and popular sins.  The mainstay of the system is the idea that the Bible is literally inspired; that the preachers are the perhaps inspired interpreters of the Bible, and that the country must imitate the old Hebrew persecution of “idolaters,” that is, mainly Catholics.  All this meant a theocracy of preachers elected by the populace, and governing the nation by their General Assembly in which nobles and other laymen sat as elders.  These peculiar institutions came hot from Geneva, and the country could never have been blessed with them, as we have observed, but for that instrument of Providence, Cardinal Beaton.  Had he disposed of himself and Scotland to Henry VIII. (who would not have tolerated Presbyterian claims for an hour), Scotland would not have received the Genevan discipline, and the Kirk would have groaned under bishops.

The Reformation supplied Scotland with a class of preachers who were pure in their lives, who were not accessible to bribes (a virtue in which they stood almost alone), who were firm in their faith, and soon had learning enough to defend it; who were constant in their parish work, and of whom many were credited with prophetic and healing powers.  They could exorcise ghosts from houses, devils from men possessed.

The baldness of the services, the stern nature of the creed, were congenial to the people.  The drawbacks were the intolerance, the spiritual pretensions of the preachers to interference in secular affairs, and the superstition which credited men like Knox, and later, Bruce, with the gifts of prophecy and other miraculous workings, and insisted on the burning of witches and warlocks, whereof the writer knows scarcely an instance in Scotland before the Reformation.

The pulpit may be said to have discharged the functions of the press (a press which was all on one side).  When, in 1562, Ninian Winzet, a Catholic priest and ex-schoolmaster, was printing a controversial tractate addressed to Knox, the magistrates seized the manuscript at the printer’s house, and the author was fortunate in making his escape.  The nature of the Confession of Faith, and of the claims of the ministers to interfere in secular affairs, with divine authority, was certain to cause war between the Crown and the Kirk.  That war, whether open and armed, or a conflict in words, endured till, in 1690, the weapon of excommunication with civil penalties was quietly removed from the ecclesiastical armoury.  Such were the results of a religious revolution hurriedly effected.

The Lords now sent an embassy to Elizabeth about the time of the death of Amy Robsart, and while Amy’s husband, Robert Dudley, was very dear to the English queen, to urge, vainly, her marriage with Arran.  On December 5, 1560, Francis II. died, leaving Mary Stuart a mere dowager; while her kinsmen, the Guises, lost power, which fell into the unfriendly hands of Catherine de Medici.  At once Arran, who made Knox his confidant, began to woo Mary with a letter and a ring.  Her reply perhaps increased his tendency to madness, which soon became open and incurable by the science of the day.

Here we must try to sketch Mary, la, Reine blanche, in her white royal mourning.  Her education had been that of the learned ladies of her age; she had some knowledge of Latin, and knew French and Italian.  French was to her almost a mother-tongue, but not quite; she had retained her Scots, and her attempts to write English are, at first, curiously imperfect.  She had lived in a profligate Court, but she was not the wanton of hostile slanders.  She had all the guile of statesmanship, said the English envoy, Randolph; and she long exercised great patience under daily insults to her religion and provocations from Elizabeth.  She was generous, pitiful, naturally honourable, and most loyal to all who served her.  But her passions, whether of love or hate, once roused, were tyrannical.  In person she was tall, like her mother, and graceful, with beautiful hands.  Her face was somewhat long, the nose long and straight, the lips and chin beautifully moulded, the eyebrows very slender, the eyes of a reddish brown, long and narrow.  Her hair was russet, drawn back from a lofty brow; her smile was captivating; she was rather fascinating than beautiful; her courage and her love of courage in others were universally confessed.

In January, 1561, the Estates of Scotland ordered James Stuart, Mary’s natural brother, to visit her in France.  In spring she met him, and an envoy from Huntly (Lesley, later Bishop of Ross), who represented the Catholic party, and asked Mary to land in Aberdeen, and march south at the head of the Gordons and certain northern clans.  The proposal came from noblemen of Perthshire, Angus, and the north, whose forces could not have faced a Lowland army.  Mary, who had learned from her mother that Huntly was treacherous, preferred to take her chance with her brother, who, returning by way of England, moved Elizabeth to recognise the Scottish queen as her heir.  But Elizabeth would never settle the succession, and, as Mary refused to ratify the Treaty of Edinburgh, forbade her to travel home through England.

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