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THE GOWRY CONSPIRACY.
Amidst the tranquillity for such it was, comparatively speaking-in which James spent the latter years of his residence in Scotland, there occurred a transaction, in which his dignity was more violently disturbed, and his life also more imminently threatened, than on any former occasion. This was the affair known by the epithet of the Gowry Conspiracy, which occurred at Perth, on the 5th of August 1600.
The reader will readily call to mind the Earl of Gowry, who was executed at Stirling in 1584, for his concern in the Raid of Ruthven. That nobleman left a large family, in which there were five sons. After the expulsion of the Earl of Arran in 1585, James did all that he could to compensate for a harsh measure which he could not formerly prevent, by restoring the title and estates to Gowry's eldest son, and taking all the younger members of the family immediately under his own protection. Two of the young ladies he placed in confidential stations under his consort ; others he married to respectable noblemen-one, in particular, to his most favoured courtier, and the
premier nobleman of Scotland, Ludovick Duke of Lennox.
The eldest son, dying in 1586, was succeeded by his next brother, John, a young man of talent, accomplishments, and the most prepossessing exterior, but who, it afterwards appeared, cherished passions which are not calculated to lead to happi
This nobleman, when yet under age, was induced to engage in the intrigues of the Catholic nobles, mainly, it is supposed, through the inflaence of the Earl of Athole, who was married to one of his sisters. He afterwards went abroad, along with his younger brother Alexander, and completed his education at the famed university of Padua, where, among other branches of learning, he studied the pretended science of magic, for which Italy was then distinguished above all other countries. Returning in 1599, be was received by Elizabeth, as he passed through England, with marks of high distinction, allowed a retinue of guards, and in every respect treated as if he bad been the Prince of Wales. Her Majesty's only reason for doing so was unquestionably to pique the King of Scots, Gowry being a remote pretender to the succession. This eclat, hows ever, acting upon a mind naturally ambitious, and perbaps strengthening impressions which had been previously made upon it by the responses of Italian eonjurors, seems to have inspired the young man with a most extravagant notion of his own destiny, and to have disposed him to a conspiracy against his native sovereign, to which the recollection of his father's fate was no doubt a strong additional incentive.
His reception in Scotland, where he arrived in May 1600, was of a nature calculated to confirm such a mind in its wildest schemes. The fame of his accomplishments, his handsome person, and of Elizabeth's kindness to him, preceded his arrival, and, being associated in the minds of the multitude with a recollection that his father was a sort of martyr in the cause of Prebyterianism and popular government, every where excited a lively interest in his favour. Like every other ambitious man, even wbile he listened with gratification to the applauses of the crowd, he secretly despised the flatterers ; he remarked, as he made his way through the mob which received bim at Edinburgh, “Pshaw, there were as many, I believe, to see my father's execution at Stirling. Still, these marks of popular favour must have tended to foment that very ambition which enabled him to despise them.
What precise form his views assumed, has not yet, and probably never will be discovered. Though he no doubt cherished some vague and indefinite design of revenging his father's death, it cannot be made to appear that he designed to murder the King. The more probable supposition is, that he intended an enterprise like that of his father and others at Ruthven, whereby, having secured the royal person, he might revolutionize the cabinet in favour of himself and friends. But the most extraordinary thing about this conspiracy, is, that he does not appear to have bad, besides his own brother, more than one associate ; and with that associate --the famous Logan of Restalrig—he was only on the point of making the concluding arrangements, when he and his brother, of themselves, and without the foreknowledge of a single servant, put the
plot into execution. We find that this feature in the transaction was entirely the result of a theory entertained by the young nobleman, regarding the best way of conducting a dangerous enterprise. William Rhind, his tutor, gave evidence afterwards, that, having several times conversed with the Earl on this subject in their walks, his lordship always professed, for his opinion, that “ he was not a wise man, that, having intended the execution of a high and dangerous purpose, communicates the same to any second person because, keeping it to himself, he could never be discovered or disappointed. That he should have attempted to seize the King, without any other assistance than that of his brother, and without having made any arrangements for the subsequent management of his prisoner, is only to be accounted for by allowing a great deal for the miscalculations of an extravagant mind, which was further deranged by assurances of supernatural assistance.
His associate, Logan, was a gentleman of ancient family and considerable landed property, the uterine brother of Lord Home. His chief estate was that of Restalrig near Edinburgh; but the family had recently become possessed, by marriage, of another on the coast of Berwickshire, which formerly belonged to a branch of the Homes. In the fortalice belonging to that newly acquired property, * perched on a lofty precipice, from the bottom of which the tide of the German ocean never recedes, Logan lived in baronial state, occasionally giving protection, in his unapproachable eyry, to
* Fastcastle, or Falsecastle, now a ruin--the Wolf's Crag, of the Author of Waverley.
such outlaws as Bothwell, despite of all the threats, of King and council. . In addition to dissolute character, irreligion, and other matters which are. apt to dispose men to engage in hazardous enterprises, this baron seems to have had some personal grudge at the King, some unstaunched Scottish feud, which made him readily enter into Gowry's views. We learn this from some letters of his which have. been preserved, in which he speaks of his prospects of revenge with the complacent feeling of one who expects presently to have a feast
tbat terrible dainty. It is strange that, although four of these letters are addressed either to the Earl of Gowry, or to some fourth conspirator whose name is not: known, very little is to be learned from them.. Allusion is repeatedly made to a story of a gentle.. man of Padua, which Mr Alexander Ruthven had told him, and which he says is a propos to the design in hand-probably some dark tale of Italian vengeance. He talks with lively and self-gra.. tulatory feeling of a dinner which he proposed to give to the person addressed, next year, in case of their enterprise being successful. He speaks with keen anxiety of a promise made by Gowry to give bim, in the event of success, a present of the estate of Dirleton in East Lothian, (then his lordship's, property ;) from which it would appear, that he was in a great measure only an agent in the entere prise. To assure the person addressed of his resolution to go through with the plot, he describes his desire of revenge as so keen, that he would not be deterred from gratifying it although the scaffold. were set up. But, further than these dark hints, the ultimate and chief object of the conspiracy--if it really had any such receives very little illustra-) tion from these letters.