Page images

evidence. The editors suggest that Montrose himself delayed in the hope of obtaining further instructions from the King. It is possible that they may be right, though it is also possible that he was waiting for a large reinforcement, which Lord Eythin, who had been Newcastle's military adviser at Marston Moor, and had now returned to the Swedish service, had promised to bring with him.* At last he despatched his last consignment of men without news either from Charles or Eythin. On or about February 22 he set out by way of Norway, and, sailing from Bergen, reached Kirkwall about the middle of March.

In the meanwhile Charles's resolution to join Ormond in Ireland, combined with his rejection of the extreme demands of the Scottish Covenanters, had not been without effect in Scotland. About the beginning of July, 1649, a conference was held at Edinburgh, in which Argyll appears to have supported a policy of concession. The appearance of Will Murray, Argyll's confidential agent, on the 15th, with private letters from Charles to Argyll and other leading Scottish statesmen, came in the nick of time to encourage Argyll to persevere, and he succeeded in carrying a motion in a thin Parliament for the despatch of Lothian, the husband of his niece, to pick up the threads of the dropped negotiation. So loud, however, was the outcry raised against this family arrangement, that Lothian thought it better to decline the mission offered to him, and on August 7 the name of George Winram, of Liberton, was substituted for his. As Winram was one of Argyll's party, the policy of concession had still, as far as persons were concerned, the upper hand in the Parliament. When, however, it came to drawing up Winram's instructions, it appeared that, in a Parliament packed in the interest of the Kirk, even Argyll's influence availed little; and though Winram was ordered only to ask Charles to acknowledge the legality of the existing Parliament, and to consent to the opening of fresh negotiations, he was plainly told that when commissioners were again sent they would reiterate the old demands. No wonder that Winram, like Lothian before him, refused to set out on a fool's errand, and it was only after news arrived of Cromwell's success at Drogheda that, imagining that Charles would now prove more humble, he at last consented to go,

* The editors of The Deeds of Montrose' (pp. 270, 286, note) say that Montrose appointed him Lieutenant-General on March 19. This is a mistake. The appointment was made by Charles.

starting on October 11. He went by way of Holland, where he had to consult with the Engagers and certain English Presbyterians, who were believed to command the purses of the London citizens.

It is true that Winram's ideas on the subject of concession did not go very deep. In a letter written from Holland to a friend, after dwelling on Charles's poverty, he continues as follows:

'I am confident no ingenuous spirit will take advantage of his necessities; but for all this. use him princely. . . . His case is very deplorable, being in prison where he is, living in penury, surrounded by his enemies, not able to live anywhere else in the world unless he would come to Scotland by giving them satisfaction to their just demands; yet his pernicious and devilish Council will suffer him to starve before they will suffer him to take the League and Covenant. I am persuaded no rational man can think he will come that length at first; but if he could once be extricated from his wicked Council, there might be hope.'*

Whether Argyll's policy was exactly the same as that of his follower must be left in uncertainty. It is probable that, if he had been left to himself, he would have given Charles a free hand in England. It was not, however, probable that he would defy the Kirk in this matter, if the Kirk's scruples proved insuperable.

As was expected in Scotland, Cromwell's successes weighed upon Charles's spirits. For some weeks indeed he was distracted by conflicting rumours. At one time he was told that Cromwell was carrying all before him. At another time lying tales of an alleged defeat of Cromwell tickled his ears. Ormond had lost his cipher at Rathmines, and dared not send accurate information of his own misfortunes, lest his despatch might be intercepted and read by the enemy. In October, Charles, eager for news, sent Henry Seymour to Ireland to learn the truth. Before an answer could be received, it was known in Jersey that Winram was on his way. Neither Charles nor his followers were favourable to a resumption of negotiations with the Kirk party. In November, Charles sent an envoy to Sweden, chiefly to 'satisfy the Queen of the unreasonableness of the Scots.' †

[ocr errors]

'I had forgot to tell you,' wrote a Royalist, 'that Winram was expected at Jersey before my coming from thence. I believe he will think he hath made a good voyage if he escape with a broken pate.

* Baillie, iii. 522.

[ocr errors]

+ Hoskins's Charles II. in the Channel Islands,' ii. 348.

The gallants talked, before I came away, of throwing him over the wall.'*

Charles, however, had sufficient control over the gallants' to secure Winram from such a fate. He spoke him fairly, but would give no promises till Seymour's return. It was not till December 27 that Seymour brought the sad intelligence of the wreck of Ormond's fortunes in Ireland, and then, much against his will, Charles turned to Winram. Yet he fancied that he had guarded himself against misconception. He did not, as he was asked to do, recognise the legality of Argyll's packed Parliament, but he wrote a letter to the Committee of Estates, offering to open fresh negotiations with Scottish commissioners at Breda. In this letter, Charles gave a clear indication of his wish to see a union of all his suljects in Scotland in defence of his rights in his other kingdoms. Though he did not expressly mention Montrose, it can hardly be doubted that he hoped to include him in the general accommodation. Charles's letter to Montrose of January 12 has often been printed, but a consideration of the more important parts is indispensable to a correct understanding of his position:

'And to the end,' wrote Charles, you may not apprehend that we intend, either by anything contained in those letters, or by the treaty we expect, to give the least impediment to your proceedings, we think fit to let you know that, as we conceive that your preparations have been an effectual motive that hath induced them to make the said address to us, so your vigorous proceedings will be a good means to bring them to such moderation in the said treaty as probably may produce an agreement and a present union of that whole nation in our service. We assure you, therefore, that we will not, before or during that treaty, do anything contrary to that power and authority which we have given you by our commission, nor consent to anything that may bring the least diminution of it.'

To demonstrate his confidence in Montrose, Charles sent him the Garter, accompanied by a private letter, in which he spoke still more strongly.

'I conjure you, therefore,' he wrote, 'not to take alarm at any reports or messages from others; but to depend upon my kindness; and to proceed in your business with your usual courage and alacrity.'

That Charles had any thought of abandoning Montrose, is a supposition which can be mentioned only to be dis

[ocr errors]

*Berkeley to Hyde, November 23-December 3, Clarendon MSS.,' ii., No. 73,

missed. Montrose was to go on with his undertaking to frighten the Argyll government into moderation, if it could be done, if not to suppress it by force of arms. Montrose at least perfectly understood what was intended.

'As for my coming at this time,' he said, when standing on his defence before Parliament, it was by his Majesty's just commands, in order to the accelerating the treaty betwixt him and you.'

Yet though there was nothing to object to in Charles's entering into a negotiation with the Scots, the mode in which he took it up was fatal to his honour. No one could have blamed him if he had replied to the overtures of the Committee of Estates by laying down the terms-such as the waiving of the Solemn League and Covenant-without which he could not agree even to open negotiations. To offer to meet commissioners before these preliminaries were settled was to announce that he was capable of being squeezed into further concessions. All that can be said is that he was young and inexperienced, miserably poor, and too easy-going to refuse to submit to dishonour as the price of continuance of exile.

That Charles's resolution would bear hardly on Montrose is beyond doubt. The sober truth was that few of those who were prepared to rally round the royal standand in Montrose's hands would stir as soon as they learnt that the King himself was thinking of leaguing himself with those whom Montrose urged them to attack. Yet we can easily understand that this view of the case was not likely to present itself to Charles.

How deeply Montrose himself felt the blow is revealed in the cramped and half-intelligible phrases, evidently written under strong emotion, with which on March 26 he acknowledged from Kirkwall the receipt of Charles's letter, which had been brought him three days before.

'I received your Majesty's of the 12th of January,' he writes, 'by Mr. May, the 23rd of this present, together with that mark of your Majesty's favour* wherewithall you have been pleased to honour me; for which I can make your Majesty no other humble acknowledgment but with the more alacrity and bensell, abandon still my life to search my death for the interests of your Majesty's honour and service, with that integrity and clearness as your Majesty and all the world shall see that it is not your fortunes in you, but your Majesty, in whatsomever fortune, that I make sacred to serve.'

*The Garter.

+ According to the new edition of Jamieson's Dictionary, this word is equivalent to force or violence of any kind.

If no other line had reached us in Montrose's hand, this letter would have been sufficient to justify all that his warmest admirers have said of the nobility of his character. Heavily weighted as he was through Charles's negotiation, it was not in him to despair. It has been the habit of writers to speak of Montrose's last campaign as the enterprise of a hare-brained enthusiast, and indeed it is difficult to suppose that Montrose would have succeeded, in the teeth of Cromwell, in establishing Charles on the throne at Westminster. Montrose, however, unlike Argyll, was a Scottish, not a British politician, and, so far as Scotland alone was concerned, though we cannot agree with all that the editors of "The Deeds of Montrose' say about the chances originally in his favour, we are inclined to estimate them more highly than those who look upon his invasion as the act of a madman.

There is, at all events, much truth in the following sentences:

'In the North, especially, only a spark of enthusiasm and success seemed wanting to rekindle the fitful loyalty of those who had shared Pluscardine's rising. Again, the great Mackenzie, Gordon, and Mackay followings would rise in their thousands. Seaforth had promised all but the one thing needful-his own presence. Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromartie, Colonels John Monro of Durlain, and Hugh Frazer, the new Lord Reay, even Lewis Gordon-despite his debt to Argyll for the Marquisate t-Lord Ogilvie, Middleton, the Earl Marischall, and the faithful clans of Athole and Badenoch-all had been out with Pluscardine, and would rally to the King's standard.' +

The editors, indeed, seem to have overlooked the significance of one of the names here given. Though Montrose was likely to find a larger following than he had found in 1645, he had also against him an enemy whom he had not met except at Philiphaugh. David Leslie was at the head of a small but disciplined army, and a disciplined army under a skilful general might be counted on to dispose of many

*Thomas Mackenzie of Pluscardine, brother of the Earl of Seaforth. He had risen for the King in 1649.

This means that Argyll had made him Marquis of Huntly by cutting off his father's head. What Montrose thought of him may be gathered from May's letter to Nicholas of March 30:-'Tis conceived my Lord Huntly will be very right, but if he should prove only a superficial friend, his name,' i.e., the Gordons who bear his name, will certainly follow his Majesty's interest' (State Papers, Domestic,' ix. 18).

( Deeds of Montrose,' 290.

« PreviousContinue »