John Knox and the Reformation eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 293 pages of information about John Knox and the Reformation.

The biographers of Knox do not quote “The Historie of the Estate of Scotland,” where it touches on the beginning of the Revolution, without disparaging the Regent’s honour.  We have another dubious witness, Sir James Melville, who arrived on a mission from France to the Regent on June 13; he left Paris about June 1.  This is the date of a letter {278b} in which Henri II. offers the Regent every assistance in the warmest terms.  Melville writes, however, that in his verbal orders, delivered by the Constable in the royal presence, the Constable said, “I have intelligence that the Queen Regent has not kept all things promised to them.”  But Melville goes on to say that the Constable quoted d’Elboeuf’s failure to reach Scotland with his fleet, as a reason for not sending the troops which were promised by Henri.  As d’Elboeuf’s failure occurred long after the date of the alleged conversation, the evidence of Melville is here incorrect.  He wrote his “Memoirs” much later, in old age, but Henri may have written to the Regent in one sense, and given Melville orders in another. {279a}

We find that Knox’s charge against the Regent is not made in our earliest information, Croft’s letter of May 19:  is not made by the Protestant (and, we think, contemporary) author of the “Historie,” and, of course, is not hinted at by Lesley, a Catholic.  We have seen throughout that Knox vilifies Mary of Guise in cases where she is blameless.  On the other hand, Knox is our only witness who was at Perth at the time of the events, and it cannot be doubted that what he told Mrs. Locke was what he believed, whether correctly or erroneously.  He could believe anything against Mary of Guise.  Archbishop Spottiswoode says, “The author of the story” ("History”) “ascribed to John Knox in his whole discourse showeth a bitter and hateful spite against the Regent, forging dishonest things which were never so much as suspected by any, setting down his own conjectures as certain truths, yea, the least syllable that did escape her in passion, he maketh it an argument of her cruel and inhuman disposition . . . " {279b} In the MS. used by Bishop Keith, {279c} Spottiswoode added, after praising the Regent, “these things I have heard my father often affirm”; he had the like testimony “from an honourable and religious lady, who had the honour to wait near her person.”  Spottiswoode was, therefore, persuaded that the “History” “was none of Mr. Knox his writings.”  In spite of this opinion, Spottiswoode, writing about 1620-35, accepts most of the hard things that Knox says of the Regent’s conduct in 1559, and indeed exaggerates one or two of them; that is, as relates to her political behaviour, for example, in the affair of the broken promise of May 10.  It may be urged that here Spottiswoode had the support of the reminiscences of his father, a Superintendent in the Knoxian church.


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John Knox and the Reformation from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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