James Stuart, earl of Murray - Encyclopedia

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MURRAY (or MORAY), [[James Stuart, Earl Of]] (c. 1531-1570), regent of Scotland, was an illegitimate son of James V. of Scotland by Margaret Erskine, daughter of John Erskine, earl of Mar. In 1538 he was appointed prior of the abbey of St Andrews in order that James V. might obtain possession of its funds. Educated at St Andrews University, he attacked, in September 1549, an English force which had made a descent on the Fife coast, and routed it with great slaughter. In addition to the priory of St Andrews, he received those also of Pittenweem and Macon in France, but manifested no vocation for a monastic life. The discourses of Knox, which he heard at Calder, won his approval, and shortly after the return of the reformer to Scotland in 1559, James Stuart left the party of the queen regent and joined the lords of the congregation, who resolved forcibly to abolish the Roman service. After the return of Queen Mary in 1561, he became her chief adviser, and his cautious firmness was for a time effectual in inducing her to adopt a policy of moderation towards the reformers. At the beginning of 1562 he was created earl of Murray, a dignity also held by George Gordon, earl of Huntly, who, however, had lost the queen's favour. Only a few days later he was made earl of Mar, but as this title was claimed by John, Lord Erskine, Stuart resigned it and received a second grant of the earldom of Murray, Huntly by this time having been killed in battle. Henceforward he was known as the earl of Moray, the alternative Murray being a more modern and less correct variant. About this time the earl married Anne (d. 1583), daughter of William Keith, 1st Earl Marischal.

After the defeat and death of Huntly, the leader of the Catholic party, the policy of Murray met for a time with no obstacle, but he awakened the displeasure of the queen by his efforts in behalf of Knox when the latter was accused of high treason; and as he was also opposed to her marriage with Darnley, he was after that event declared an outlaw and took refuge in England. Returning to Scotland after the murder of Rizzio, he was pardoned by the queen. He contrived, however, to be away at the time of Darnley's assassination, and avoided the tangles of the marriage with Bothwell by going to France. After the abdication of Queen Mary at Lochleven, in July 1567, he was appointed regent of Scotland. When Mary escaped from Lochleven (May 2, 1568), the duke of Chatelherault and other Catholic nobles rallied to her standard, but Murray and the Protestant lords gathered their adherents, defeated her forces at Langside, near Glasgow (May 13, 1568), and compelled her to flee to England. Murray displayed promptness in baffling Mary's schemes, suppressed the border thieves, and ruled firmly, resisting the temptation to place the crown on his own head. He observed the forms of personal piety; possibly he shared the zeal of the reformers, while he moderated their bigotry. But he reaped the fruits of the conspiracies which led to the murders of Rizzio and Darnley. He amassed too great a fortune from the estates of the Church to be deemed a pure reformer of its abuses. He pursued his sister with a calculated animosity which would not have spared her life had this been necessary to his end or been favoured by Elizabeth. The mode of producing the casket letters and the false charges added by Buchanan, deprive Murray of any claim to have been an honest accuser. His reluctance to charge Mary with complicity in the murder of Darnley was feigned, and his object was gained when he was allowed to table the accusation without being forced to prove it. Mary remained a captive under suspicion of the gravest guilt, while Murray ruled Scotland in her stead, supported by nobles who had taken part in the steps which ended in Bothwell's deed. During the year between his becoming regent and his death several events occurred for which he has been censured, but which were necessary for his security: the betrayal to Elizabeth of the duke of Norfolk and of the secret plot for the liberation of Mary; the imprisonment of the earl of Northumberland, who after the failure of his rising in the north of England had taken refuge in Scotland; and the charge brought against Maitland of Lethington of complicity in Darnley's murder. Lethington was committed to custody, but was rescued by Kirkaldy of Grange, who held the castle of Edinburgh, and while there "the chameleon," as Buchanan named Maitland in his famous invective, gained over those in the castle, including Kirkaldy. Murray was afraid to proceed with the charge on the day of trial, while Kirkaldy and Maitland held the castle, which became the stronghold of the deposed queen's party. It has been suspected that Maitland and Kirkaldy were cognizant of the design of Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh to murder Murray, for he had been with them in the castle. This has been ascribed to private vengeance for the ill-treatment of his wife; but the feud of the Hamiltons with the regent is the most reasonable explanation. As he rode through Linlithgow Murray was shot on the 21st of January 1570 from a window by Hamilton, who had made careful preparation for the murder and his own escape. He was buried in the south aisle of St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, amid general mourning. Knox preached the sermon and Buchanan furnished the epitaph, both panegyrics. The elder of his two daughters, Elizabeth, married James Stuart (d. 1592), son of James, 1st Lord Doune, who succeeded to the earldom of Murray in right of his wife.

The materials for the life of Murray are found in the records and documents of the time, prominent among which are the various Calendars of State Papers. Mention must also be made of the many books which treat of Mary, Queen of Scots, and of the histories of the time - especially J. A. Froude, History of England, and Andrew Lang, History of Scotland.

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