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LITERARY WEEKLY INTELLIGENCER,
WEDNESDAY JANUARY 4. 1792.
SKETCH OF THE LIFE
JOHN, EARL OF MARR,
SON OF THE REGENT.
To the Editor of the Bee.
JOHN ERSKINE, earl of Marr, governor of Henry prince of Wales, lord high treasurer of Scotland, and knight of the garter, was the son of John, earl of Marr, regent of the Scots, and Arabella Murray daughter of William Murray of Tullibardine *. He was born at Alloa house in the year 1558+. The premature and unfortunate death of his father, left him the inheritance of his family in nonage; but his mother, who was a sensible woman, and George Buchanan, who was his preceptor, prevented him from suffering the utmost extent of so great a misfortune. But the tuition of Buchanan came rather too late for the proper instruc tion of Marr, who was previously under the care VOL. vii.
* Ancestor of the Murrays Dukes of Athole.
+ Crawfurd's lives of the Scotch officers of State, fol. 1726
of Mr John Colvill*, a strict presbyterian, but of no great scope of genius. On the death of the regent, which happened on the 29th of October 1572, the care of his children as well as of King James VI. was committed to the, regent's brother, Sir Alexander Erskine of Gogar, to George Buchanan, Mefs. Adam † and David Erskines ‡, and Mr Young, under the government and direction of the old Countefs of Marr, whofe loyalty and tenderness to the royal family of Stuart, had induced her to suckle the young king and afterwards to be his nurse and attendant, under the commifsion of the regent and parliament of Scotland ||.
*See Randolph's memorial to Queen Elizabeth, hereafter to be inserted in this memoir, who calls him Marr's Pedagogue.
Adam Erskine, commendator of Cambuskenneth, was the natural fon of Thomas, mafter of Erskine, the immediate elder brother of the regent, who was ambassador in England in the year 1551, and marrying Margaret, daughter of Macolm Lord Fleming, died without lawful issue.
David Erskine, natural son of Robert, master of Erskine, the im❤ mediate elder brother of Thomas, by Jean Home, he was first abbot and then commendator of Dryburgh; from whom are descended the families of Shieldfield in Lauderdale, Ralph and Ebenezer Erskines, the famous Scotch seceders, their families, and several others. Mr Peter Young sub-preceptor, was chosen by Buchanan】
A curious account is given of a cholic with which her royal charge was seized at Stirling, whereupon, in the dead hour of the night, the la dies were all called out of bed to attend the child, when it was remarked by the recorder of this accident, that none of the ladies had any shifts, except the auld Countefs of Marr, her ladyship being tender, (sickly.) The young king having one day got for his theme from Buchanan, the history of the conspiracy against James III. at Lauder, where Archibald, Earl of Angus obtained the name of Bell the Cat, from his telling them the fable of some rats that had combined against a cat, when they proposed to seize and tye a bell about his neck, to
In the year 1570, after Buchanan's public situations were at an end, and the young king became of an age to receive the seeds of useful learning, Lord Marr, being then twelve years old, began to imbibe the instructions of that admirable preceptor, together with his cousins Alexander, Thomas, and George Erskines, the sons of Sir Alexander the king's governor, and some other relations of the house of Marr; the whole illustrious group forming as it were a little academy; the most favourable education for a young monarch that can be imagined, and which must have made James á great sovereign, if his understanding had been equal to his advantages. Of these companions and fellow scholars of the king, Alexander was
warn them of their danger; but as they were going to put their project in execution, one of the old rats asked which of them would be the first to seize the cat. This witty question created a profound silence, when Angus exclaimed, "I'll bell the cat!"? After dinner this day, the young king romping and trifling with the master of Erskine, the Earl of Marr's eldest son, Buchanan ordered the king to be silent and not to interrupt Erskine in his reading; to which command James paying no attention, Buchanan said, that if he did not hold his peace he would whip his breech. "Will you so ? said the king, I would fain see who will bell the cat." Up starts Buchanan, and throwing away his book, performs his promise to the king, with a sound drubbing. The old Countefs being in her apartment, which was immediately adjoining, runs up to the poor kingling, takes him up into her arms, and asks him what is the matter? Which being told by the bawling sovereign, she fiercely asks Buchanan how he durst lay his hand on the Lord's anointed? To which Buchanan very gravely replied, "madam, I have whipt the king for disobedience and rudeness in the usual way, you may heal it with a kiss if you please."
Upon another occasion, the master of Erskine having a tame sparrow the king resolved to take it from him; Erskine resisted, and the
killed at the surprise of Stirling castle 1578, Thomas, who became a great favourite of the king's, and was supposed to save him from Gowrie's afsafsination, was made Viscount Fenton and Earl of Kelly, and after the king went to London, a knight of the garter, George became one of the Lords of sefsion or Scotch judges, and living to a good old age, used to recount many of the little anecdotes of the royal college at Stirling, to his grandson the learned Earl of Cromarty; by whom they were imparted to Dr George Mackenzie, author of the lives and characters of the most eminent writers of the Scotch nation; a book, which though loaded with extraneous matter, contains many authentic
king in the struggle, killed the poor fparrow. Buchanan gave the king a box on the ear for his tyranny and cruelty!
Would to God we had a breed of Buchanans, to train young princes to humanity and justice! MACKENZIE'S LIVES.
After the appointment of Morton to the regency, the Lords of the secret council by the admonition of the estates of Parliament, gave a charge to Alexander Erskine, the late regent's brother, the original of which, is in the archives of the family of Marr at Alloa castle, wherein are the following decrees and admonitions: "That the faid Alexander be himself, and the friends of the young Earl of Mar his nephew, for quilks he sall be answerable, sall keip the castel of Striveling, in name, and to the use and behufe of our Sovereign Lord; and sall alswa surely and faithfully, keip and observe the maist nobill person of his Hienefs within the said castle, at the devotion of his said present regent, his Hieness continuing as afore, under the noriture of the lady Countesse of Marr his Majesty's governante, as toward his mouthe and ordering of his person, &t. And that the instruction and education of our said sovereign Lord on literature and religion, under Maisters George Buchanan and Peter Young his present pedagogis, or such as sall hereaftir be appointit be the said Lord Regent, agreeing in religion with the said George and Peter, as it is approvit in Parlia ment, and usit in the said castell, &c. &c.
and curious memorials worthy of being separated from the mafs.
In a bundle of old papers belonging to one of this school, I found lately some of the prima cura of Buchanan's satires, which had been transcribed by Lord Innerteil, or some of his acquaintance, and differ considerably from Buchanan's printed works.
In the year 1578, when Mar had attained to his twentieth year, and looked forward to the full pofsefsion of his estate, Morton, backed by the English interest, filled Erskine with high expectations, and prompted him to emancipate the young king from the councils of the bishop of Rofs, and the adherents of his mother. With this view he induced Marr to the Raid, as it was called, for investing James with the government, by the surprise of Stirling castle; in which attempt his cousin Alexander, the eldest son of his uncle Sir Alexaner Erskine of Gogar, was killed.
A compromise took place, by which it was agreed, that the Earl of Marr, being now come to resaonable age, should attend the king's person, and have the custody of the castle of Stirling, and that Sir Alexander Erskine, his uncle, should be governor of the castle of Edinburgh, one of the gentlemen of his Majesty's bed chamber, and, when he came to court, to have his table at the king's charge as formerly*: That the Earl of Marr should guard the castle, attend the king's person therein,
*Spottiswoode's Ecelesiastical history.