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The Great Historic Families of Scotland 

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page 299

WILLIAM, third Earl, had considerable trouble in making good his title to the family inheritance; and before his difficulties with the Crown were removed he was killed, along with the King and the flower of the Scottish nobility, on the fatal field of Flodden, 9th of September, 1513. His son GEORGE, fourth Earl, inherited not only the titles and estates of the family, along with their ability and courage, but also some other qualities which appear to have 'run in the blood' of the Rothes Leslies. He filled various high offices of State, among others that of ambassador to Denmark, in 1550, and was one of eight Commissioners elected by the Estates to represent the Scottish nation at the marriage of Queen Mary to the Dauphin, at Paris, April 24, 1558. On their way home the Earls of Rothes and Cassillis, and Bishop Reid, President of the Court of Session, died at Dieppe all in one night, and Lord Fleming died about the same time at Paris. It was universally believed at the time that the Commissioners had been poisoned because they had firmly refused to settle on the Dauphin the crown matrimonial of Scotland, or to promise that on their return to their own country they would endeavour to effect that object. Earl George was five times married. His first [p.299] wife, Margaret Crichton, was a niece of James IV., who inherited the passions and misfortunes of her lineage. During her husband's absence as ambassador at the Court of Denmark, she had an intrigue with Patrick Panter, Abbot of Cambuskenneth, Secretary of State, one of the most learned men of his age, and bore to him a son, who ultimately became Bishop of Ross. On the 27th of December, 1580, the Earl obtained a divorce in the Consistory Court, not, however, on the ground of his wife's unfaithfulness to him, but the marriage was declared null and void from the first, on the plea that the Earl confessed to having illicit intercourse before his marriage with Matilda Striveling, who was related to Margaret Crichton in the second and third degree of consanguinity, thus making the Earl and Margaret related to each other in the same degrees of affinity, and rendering their marriage incestuous and illegal according to existing law. This remarkable proceeding, connected as it is with 'one of the strangest and darkest stories to be found in Scottish family history,' throws a flood of light on the state of morals at that period among the upper classes in Scotland through the operation of the law of marriage and divorce instituted by the Papal Court.

page 5

It appears that during his captivity in England, Lord Maxwell had become favourable to the doctrines ofthe Reformed Church, though there is no evidence that he had joined its communion. It was he whointroduced into the first Parliament of Queen Mary— 1542-43—a Bill to secure the people liberty topossess and to read the sacred Scriptures in the vernacular tongue, but under the restriction that 'na mandespute or hold opinions under the pains contenit in the Acts of Parliament.' The measure was approved by the Regent Arran, and passed into a law. 'So,' says John Knox, 'by Act of Parliament it was maid free to all men and women to reid the Scriptures in their awen toung, or in the English toung: and so was all actes maid on the contrait abolished…Then mycht have been seen the Byble lying almaist upoun evrie gentlemanis table. The New Testament was borne about in many manis handes. We grant that some(alace) prophaned that blessed wourd; for some that, perchance, had never it maist common in thare hand; thei would chope thare familiares on the cheak with it, and say, "This has lyne hyd under my bedfeitt these ten years." Others wold glorie, "O how oft have I bein in danger for this booke: how secreatlie have I stollen fra my wyff at mydnicht to reid upoun it."'
page 327

Huntly's first step was to seize and fortify the city of Aberdeen. Having learned that a meeting of Covenanters was to be held at Turriff on February 14, he resolved to disperse them, and marched thitherat the head of two thousand men. But Montrose having received intimation of Huntly's purpose,anticipated this movement, and by a rapid march across a range of hills called the Grangebean, reached Turriff before his arrival. The Marquis, finding that he had been forestalled, retreated to Aberdeen without venturing on an attack, alleging that he had authority to act only on the defensive. On the approach of Montrose, however, to Aberdeen, Huntly precipitately retreated northward, and theinhabitants surrendered without resistance to the Covenanting general. It was on this occasion [p.327] that distinctive colours were for the first time adopted by the Royalist and the Presbyterianparties. Spalding says, 'Here it is to be noted, that few or none of the haill army wanted ane blew ribbin hung about his craig [neck], down under his left arme, which they called the "Covenanters' Ribbon." But the Lord Gordon, and some other of the Marquess's bairnes and familie, had ane ribbin when he was dwelling in the toun of ane reid flesh cullor, which they wore in their hatts, and called it the "Royall Ribbin," as a sign of their love and loyaltie to the King. In despyte and derision thereof, this blew ribbin was worne, and called the "Covenanters' Ribbon" be [by] the haill souldiers of the army, and would not hear of the "Royall Ribbin," such was their pryde and malice.' Spalding, i. 94.*





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