Beaton, David

, archbishop of St. Andrew’s in Scotland, and cardinal of the Roman church, was born 1494, and educated in the university of St. Andrew’s. He was afterwards sent over to the university of Paris, where he studied divinity; and when he attained a proper age, entered into orders. In 1519 he was appointed resident at the court of France; about the same time his uncle James Beaton, archbishop of Glasgow, conferred upon him the rectory of Campsay; and in 1523 this uncle, being then archbishop of St. Andrew’s, gave him the abbacy of Aberbrothock, or Arbroath. David | returned to Scotland in 1525, and in 1528 was made lord privy seal. In 1533 he was sent again to France, in con-­junction with sir Thomas Erskine, to confirm the leagues subsisting between the two kingdoms, and to bring about a marriage for king James V. with Magdalene, daughter of the king of France; but the princess being in a very bad state of health, the marriage could not then take effect. During his residence, however, at the French court, he received many favours from his Christian majesty. King James having gone over to France, had the princess Magdalene given him in person, whom he espoused on the first of January 1537. Beaton returned to Scotland with their majesties, where they arrived the 29th of May; but the death of the queen happening the July following, he was sent over again to Paris, to negotiate a second marriage for the king with the lady Mary, daughter to the duke of Guise and during his stay at the court of France, he was consecrated bishop of Mirepoix. All things being settled in regard to the marriage, in the month of June, he embarked with the new queen for Scotland, where they arrived in July: the nuptials were celebrated at St. Andrew’s, and the February following the coronation was performed with great splendour and magnificence in the abbey church of Holyrood -house.

Beaton, though at this time only coadjutor of St. Andrew’s, yet had all the power and authority of the archbishop; and in order to strengthen the catholic interest in Scotland, pope Paul III. raised him to a cardinalship, by the title of St. Stephen in Monte Ccelo, Dec. 20, 1538. King Henry VIII. having intelligence of the ends proposed! by the pope in creating him a cardinal, sent a very able ^minister to king James, with particular instructions for a deep scheme to procure the cardinal’s disgrace; but it did not take effect. A few months after, the old archbishop flying, the cardinal succeeded: and it was upon this promotion that he began to shew his warm and persecuting zeal for the church of Rome. Soon after his instalment, Jie got together, in the cathedral of St. Andrew’s, a great confluence of persons of the first rank, both clergy and laity; to whom, from a throne erected for the purpose, he made a speech, representing to them the danger wherewith tha church was threatened by the increase of heretics, who had the boldness to profess their opinions even in the king’scourt; where, said he, they find but too great countenance: | and he mentioned by name sir John Borthwicl:, whom he had caused to be cited to that diet, for dispersing heretical books, ^nd holding several opinions contrary to the doctrine of the Roman church. Then the articles of accusation were read against him, and sir John appearing neither in person nor by proxy, was declared a heretic, his goodsconfiscated, and himself burnt in effigy. Sir John retired to England, where he was kindly received by king Henry, who seat him into Germany, in his name, to conclude a treaty with the protestant princes of the empire. Sir John Borthwick was not the^only person proceeded against for heresy; several others were also prosecuted, and among the rest, George Buchanan, the celebrated poet and historian: and as the king left all to the management of the cardinal, it is difficult to say to what lengths such a furious zealot might have gone, had not the king’s death put a stop to his arbitrary proceedings.

When the king died, there being none so near him as the cardinal, it was suggested by his enemies that he forged his will; and it was set aside, notwithstanding he had it proclaimed at the cross of Edinburgh, in order to establish the regency in the earls of Argyle, Huntley, Arran, and himself. He was expressly excluded from the government, and the earl of Arran was declared sole regent during the minority of queen Mary. This was chiefly effected by the noblemen in the English interest, who, after having-sent the cardinal prisoner to Blackness-castle, managed the public affairs as they pleased. Things did not remain long, however, in this situation for the ambitious enterprising“cardinal, though confined, raised so strong a party, that the regent, not knowing how to proceed, began to dislike his former system, and having at length resolved to abandon it, released the cardinal, and became reconciled to him. Upon the young” queen’s coronation, the cardinal was again admitted of the council, and had the high office of chancellor conferred upon him; and such was now his influence with the regent, that he got him to solicit the court of Rome to appoint him legate a latere from the pope, which was accordingly done.

His authority being now firmly established, he began again to promote the popish cause with his utmost efforts. Towards the end of 1545 he visited some parts of his diocese, attended with the lord governor, and others of the nobility, and ordered several persons to be executed for | heresy. In 1546 he summoned a provincial assembly of the clergy at the Black friars in Edinburgh, in order to concert measures for restraining heresy. How far they proceeded is uncertain; but it is generally allowed that the cardinal was diverted from the purposes he had then in hand, by information he received of Mr. George Wisbart, the most famous protestant preacher in Scotland, being at the house of Mr. Cockburn at Ormiston. The cardinal, by an order from the governor, which was indeed with difficulty obtained, caused him to be apprehended. He was for some time confined in the castle of Edinburgh, and removed from thence to the castle of St. Andrew’s. The cardinal, having resolved to proceed without delay to his trial, summoned the prelates to St. Andrew’s. At this meeting the archbishop of Glasgow gave as his opinion, that application should be made to the governor, to grant a commission to some nobleman to try so famous a prisoner, that the whole blame might not lie upon the clergy. He was accordingly applied to; and notwithstanding his refusal, and his message to the cardinal, not to precipitate his trial, and notwithstanding Mr. Wishart’s appeal, as being the governor’s prisoner, to a temporal jurisdiction; yet the furious prelate went on with the trial, and this innocent gentleman was condemned to be burnt at St. Andrew’s. He died with amazing firmness and resolution: and it is averred by some writers, that he prophesied in the midst of the flames, not only the approaching death of the cardinal, but the circumstances alsa that should attend it. Buchanan’s account is as follows: After relating the manner in which Mr. Wishart spent the morning of his execution, he proceeds thus: “A while after two executioners were sent to him by the cardinal; one of them put a black linen shirt upon him, and the other bound many little bags of gun-powder to all the parts of his body. In this dress they brought him forth, and commanded him to stay in the governor’s outer chamber, and at the same time they erected a wooden scaffold in the court before the castle, and made up a pile of wood. The windows and balconies over against it were all hung with tapestry and silk hangings, with cushions for the cardinal and his train, to behold and take pleasure in the joyful sight, even the torture of an innocent man; thus courting the favour of the people as the author of so notable a deed. There was also a great guard of soldiers, not so much to secure the execution, as for a vain ostentation of power | and beside, brass guns were placed up and down in all convenient places of the castle. Thus, while the trumpets sounded, George was brought forth, mounted the scaffold, and was fastened with a cord to the stake, and having scarce leave to pray for the church of God, the executioners fired the wood, which immediately taking hold of the powder that was tied about him, blew it up into flame and smoke. The governor of the castle, who stood so near that he was singed with the flame, exhorted him in a few words to be of good cheer, and to askpardon of God for his offences. To whom he replied, ` This flame occasions trouble to my body indeed, but it hath in no wise broken my spirit; but he, who now looks down so proudly upon me from yonder lofty place (pointing to the cardinal) shall ere long be as ignominiously thrown down, as now he proudly lolls at his ease.' Having thus spoken, they straitened the rope which was tied about his neck, and so strangled him; his body in a few hours being consumed to ashes in the flame.

This prophecy, however, is called in question by others, who treat it as a story invented after the cardinal’s death. Archbishop Spotswood and Mr. Petrie follow Buchanan in regard to the circumstances of Mr. Wishart’s death and his prophecy. On the other side, Mr. Keith suggests that the story is very doubtful, if not false. “I confess,” says he, “I give but small credit to this, and to some other persons that suffered for religion in our country, and which upon that account I have all along omitted to narrate. I own I think them ridiculous enough, and seemingly contrived, at least magnified, on purpose to render the judges and clergymen of that time odious and despicable in the eyes of men. And as to this passage concerning Mr 1 Wishart, it may be noticed, that there is not one word of it to be met with in the first edition of Mr. Knox’s History; and if the thing had been true in fact, I cannot see how Mr. Knox, who was so good an acquaintance of Mr. Wishart’s, and no farther distant from the place of his execution than East Lothian, and who continued some months along with the murderers of cardinal Beaton in the castle of St. Andrew’s, could either be ignorant of the story, or neglect in history so remarkable a prediction. And it has even its own weight, that sir David Lindsay, who lived at that time, and wrote a poem called ‘ The tragedy of cardinal Beaton,’ in which he rakes together all the worst | things that could be suggested against this prelate, yet makes no mention either of his glutting himself inhumanly with the spectacle of Mr. Wishart’s death, nor of any prophetical intermination made by Mr. Wishart concerning the cardinal; nor does Mr. Fox take notice of either of these circumstances, so that I am much of the mind, that it has been a story trumped up a good time after the murder.

This proceeding, however, made a great noise throughout the kingdom; the zealous papists applauded his conduct, and the protestants exclaimed against him as a murderer; but the cardinal was pleased with himself, imagining he had given a fatal blow to heresy, and that he had struck a terror into his enemies.

Soon after the death of Mr. Wishart, the cardinal went to Finhaven, the seat of the earl of Crawford, to solemnize a marriage between the eldest son of that nobleman and his daughter Margaret. Whilst he was thus employed, intelligence came that the king of England was making great preparations to invade the Scottish coasts. Upon this he immediately returned to St. Andrew’s; and appointed a day for the nobility and gentry of that country, which lies much exposed to the sea, to meet and consult what was proper to be done upon this occasion. He likewise began to fortify his own castle much stronger than ever it had been before. Whilst he was busy about these matters, there came to him Norman Lesley, eldest son to the earl of Rothes, to solicit him for some favour; who, having met with a refusal, was highly exasperated, and went away in great displeasure. His uncle Mr. John Lesley, a violent enemy to the cardinal, greatly aggravated this injury to his nephew; who, being passionate and of a daring spirit, entered into a conspiracy with his uncle and some other persons to cut off the cardinal. The accomplices met early in the morning, on Saturday the 29th of May. The first thing they did was to seize the porter of the castle, and to secure the gate: they then turned out all the servants and several workmen. This was performed with so little noise, that the cardinal was not waked till they knocked at his chamber door upon which he cried out, “Who is there?John Lesley answered, “My name is Lesley.” “Which Lesley?” replied the cardinal, “Is it Norman?” It was answered, “that he must open the door to those who were there,” but being afraid, he secured the door in the best | manner he could. Whilst they were endeavouring to force it open, the cardinal called to them, “Will you have my life?John Lesley answered, “Perhaps we will.” “Nay,” replied the cardinal, “swear unto me, and I will open it.” Some authors say, that upon a promise being given that no violence should be offered, he opened the door; but however this be, as soon as they entered, John Lesley smote him twice or thrice, as did likewise Peter Carmichael; but James Melvil, as Mr. Knox relates the fact, perceiving them to be in choler, said, “This work and judgment of God, although it be secret, ought to be done with greater gravity; and, presenting the point of his sword, said, Repent thee of thy wicked life, but especially of the shedding the blood of that notable instrument of God, Mr. George Wishart, which albeit the flame of fire consumed before men, yet cries it for vengeance upon thee; and we from God are sent to revenge it. For here, before my God, I protest, that neither the hatred of thy person, the love of thy riches, nor the fear of any trouble thou couldst have done to me in particular, moved or moveth me to strike thee; but only because thou hast been, and remainest, an obstinate enemy against Christ Jesus and his holy gospel.” After having spoken thus, he stabbed him twice or thrice through the body: thus fell that famous prelate, a man of great parts, but of pride and ambition boundless, and withal an eminent instance of the instability of what the world calls fortune. This event is said to have taken place May 29, 1546. Though cardinal Beaton’s political abilities were undoubtedly of the highest kind, and some false stories may have been told concerning him, it is certain that his ambition was unbounded, that his insolence was carried to the greatest pitch, and that his character, on the whole, was extremely detestable. His violence, as a persecutor, must ever cause his memory to be held in abhorrence, by all who have any feelings of humanity, or any regard for religious liberty. It is to the honour of Mr. Guthrie, that, in his History of Scotland, he usually speaks of our prelate with indignation.

With respect to the story of cardinal Beaton’s having forged king James the Fifth’s will, the fact is considered as an undoubted one, by the generality of modern, as well as the more early historians. Dr. Robertson and Mr. Guthrie both speak of it in this light. Mr. Hume, in the following words, expresses himself with a certain degree | of caution upon the subject. “He (Beaton) forged, it is said, a will for the king, appointing himself, and three noblemen, regents of the kingdom during the minority of the infant princess: at least, for historians are not well agreed in the circumstances of the fact, he had read to James a paper of that import, to which that monarch, during the delirium which preceded his death, had given an imperfect assent and approbation.

The story of Wishart’s prediction, concerning the fate of his malignant persecutor, seems to be controverted on good grounds. If there be any thing in the fact, it certainly was not a prophecy properly so called, but a mere denunciation of the divine vengeance, which Wishart might naturally think would fall upon the cardinal for his iniquities. He could not but know, too, how hateful Beaton was to many persons, and that he might be expected to become a victim to his arrogance and cruelty. Mr. Hume, who admits the prediction, says that it was probably the immediate cause of the event which it foretold. Whatever becomes of this part of the story concerning Wishart’s martyrdom, the other part of it, relative to the cardinal’s viewing the execution from a window, is highly credible, and perfectly suitable to his character.

The sons of the archbishop were James, Alexander, and John. They were all legitimated in his own life-time, and are termed the natural sons of the right reverend, &c.

We shall add Dr. Robertson’s character of our prelate, when he mentions his pretensions to the regency. “The cardinal was by nature of immoderate ambition; by long experience he had acquired address and refinement; and insolence grew upon him from continual success. His high station in the Church placed him in the way of great employments; his abilities were equal to the greatest of these; nor did he reckon any of them to be above his merit. As his own eminence was founded upon the power of the Church of Rome, he was a zealous defender of that superstition, and for the same reason an avowed enemy to the doctrine of the reformers. Political motives alone determined him to support the one or to oppose the other. His early application to public business kept him unacquainted with the learning and controversies of the age: He gave judgment, however, upon all points in dispute, with a precipitancy, violence, and rigour, which contemporary historians mention with indignation.| Cardinal Beaton wrote, if we may depend upon Dempster, “Memoirs of his own Embassies;” “a treatise of Peter’s primacy,” which had been seen by William Barclay, and “Letters to several persons:” Of these last there are still some copies, said to be preserved in the library of the French king. 1

1 Biog% Brit. Mackenzie’s Scotch write.rs, vol. III. 19. Hume and Robertsou’s Histories, &c.