Elizabeth's Intervention in Scotland Between 1559-1560

Categories: Scotland

Elizabeth was by no means the first monarch to have problems with Scotland but her intervention differed from other cases namely because of the involvement of France in Scottish affairs. This brought into play a unique set of motives for intervening, the biggest one being a fear of French power north of the border spilling over, and eventually overtaking England. This fear was culminated by other factors such as Mary Queen of Scots being the next heir to the English throne and allied to the French by marriage, and an alliance forming between Spain and France (the joining of two Catholic nations, possibly against Protestant ones).

It was in this light that English ministers sought to persuade their reluctance mistress to support Protestant rebels in Scotland in an effort to remove French troops. When she did, secretly at first and then more openly later on, it was heralded as a great success. The impact Scottish intervention was far reaching within England, as it affected not only Elizabeth, but also her ministers (especially Cecil), and her national policy.

It also had profound effects for France and Scotland as well.

The official motives for intervention in Scotland were set out to Elizabeth by Cecil in order to show the grave danger to her crown and to her country. Cecil started off by pointing out the disposition of the French to conquer England. Mary ” the Scottish Queen, whose right was next in succession”1, was a Catholic, raised in France and also allied to France through her marriage to Francis II.

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Although soon King and Queen of both France and Scotland, power lay with their relatives, the House of Guise, “which was always hostile to England”2.

The English were particularly suspicious towards them, as they had been the ones who had taken away Calais in 1559. This culminated in a fear that they were making Scotland into a French colony and “have entered upon the invasion of England by means of Scotland”3, it being the “the easiest road”4,”pressing with all possible means Mary’s claims to the English Crown”5. France itself was putting a “band of soldiers already there planted”6 as well as “warlike munitions”7. So therefore intervention was “necessary for the defence of the realm to arm some convenient force”8.

However there were voices of opposition in the cabinet from people like Arundel who claimed that intervention in Scotland would be seen as provocative. England could not currently fight a war against France, as it had neither the money nor the men to do so whereas France obviously had. In connection with the suspicion of French designs in Scotland, Cecil went on to give further evidence of their ill intent towards England. This could be seen in the attempts of the French to get a separate peace treaty with Spain in 1559 following Cateau -Cambresis and thereby try and undermine the Anglo-Spanish alliance that existed.

The alliance was further threatened when it was announced that “The King hath lately matched with France, hath gotton a young lady”9. A marriage thus joined the two catholic countries and England saw in it the “possibility of united action by the two catholic governments against the protestant cause” 10. Therefore Elizabeth’s ministers were split. It could be argued that intervention could be approved because Spain was already lost to England and would eventually turn on England later. So why not gain other Protestant allies in the north.

But the Anglo-Spanish relationship could also work to England’s advantage as Philip was caught between two sides, and didn’t want to alienate either. So this might cause him to stay out of the conflict (which he did to certain extent) and rather play the role of mediator. Those that argued against intervention believed that action in Scotland might sour relations with Spain, making them even worse that they already were. It would complete Spain’s estrangement from England and drive it firmly onto France’s side.

The warning of alienating others came particularly from people abroad like the bishop of Arras who claimed that England was “wilfully provoking of wars with France… ye have given so just a colour and excuse to the world to break with you”11. As well as French attempts to bring Spain on its side Cecil claimed they had also cast doubts on the Queen’s title and had “began to say that the Queen of England was illegitimate”12. In ” catholic eyes, the legitimate ruler” 13 was considered to be Mary, and Cecil cleverly knew that this threat was the one that would upset Elizabeth the most.

Having just newly come to the throne and not yet being firmly established “she was especially susceptive to any slightest aspersion on her title to the throne”14. It greatly aroused her suspicion and animosity towards them. Finally Cecil pointed to “their malice by the usurpation of her arms and style”15. Not only was Mary’s marriage seen as a deliberate provocation but also their use of the English arms on their dinner plates was taken personally by Elizabeth. It was seen as another attempt to prove her illegitimate “an action calculated to touch the most sensitive nerves of the Queen of England”16.

Being new to the throne Cecil also pointed to the fact that the French might attack sooner rather than later. They had more confidence to push their ideas in Scotland now that they officially ruled it and were getting more and more suspicious of Elizabeth’s Protestant feelings by the day. So Cecil bid his mistress hasten to aid the rebels for fear of imminent French action. Although these were the official reasons given for why intervention in Scotland should happen there is no doubt that there were other motives for involvement. One obvious one was a common religious cause, that of Protestantism.

The fear of the French partly stemmed because they were Catholic and there was significant pressure from protestants in England to got the whole way in supporting the Protestants, thus entirely riding Scotland of the Catholic Church. Cecil himself was a zealous Protestant and he and other fellow Protestants feared that if France pushed Catholicism in Scotland and crushed the Reformation there, it would be a “spearhead of a deeper move to restore catholic ascendancy throughout Europe”17. It was thought that France was eager for peace in 1559 only so it could take “action against Scottish heretics”18 and other heresy within its realm.

Support to Protestant groups would bring unity to its cause against catholic countries and help groups to resist this general Inquisition that was happening on the continent. However these motives were never cited as reasons to invade because there was too much potential in them for unrest with England. The situation in England was fragile with Elizabeth preferring to be moderate rather than support any kind of extremism and also realising that outside London there were many who were still pro-catholic. Outright help on religious grounds could prove to be domestically disastrous.

Elizabeth was also not pleased with their “bruits of their (the Scottish rebels) disobedience, where they refused to resort to their Sovereign and had confederated themselves against her (Mary) and levied a force”19. She also had a personal disliking for their leader John Knox, due to his ill timed attack on women rulers in 1559. However pressure from Cecil and the argument that the nobles were “advancing God’s cause”20, attacking a French dominated government, and that no Scottish blood would be spilt. “Elizabeth’s’ support was given despite the existence of Knox”21 although there is no evidence that she ever forgave him

Besides the motive of a common religion, Elizabeth also appealed to the role of benevolent protector of the Scots as “the greater part of the nobility of Scotland have presently sent to the Queen a request”22. They had a “desire for an English alliance”23 and therefore given that they had at times begged her for aid, she had “take the liberty thereof into her protection”24 and had sent her army north at the end of March 1560. Its role in besieging Leith and also the role of the English navy had been invaluable. The English also had a lot of empathy with the Scots at this time, due to their dependency on foreign power.

In Scotland there had been an “explosion of injured national feeling against alien dominance”25 as the monarch’s foreign match had not only led to foreign dependency but also “an absentee sovereign, a foreign regent and a foreign garrison to back her up”26. The presence of French troops was an “affront to national sentiment”27 and in this atmosphere of talk romantic ideas of an Atlantic Arpeligo (union of England and Scotland under one rule) began to arise again and also the more practical considerations of a need for friendly allies against France.

It was also seen as practically the right and unique time to attack. France would not be able to being over more troops until winter was over and during that time England could make a swift strike before reinforcements arrived. Spain was also a long way off and probably wouldn’t interfere unless it absolutely had to. Hesitant ministers were also comforted by rumours that were circulating of Mary Stuart’s bad health, the fact that she was unlikely to have children and the possibility of an early death.

A unique opportunity existed, one not likely to recur, as Cecil himself said “any wise kindle the fire, for if quenched, the opportunity will not come in our lives”28. The Scots were more worried about French domination than English and were therefore prepared to accept English help when at other times they didn’t. Also within Scottish politics “a stroke of luck for the reformers in that their interests happened to suit the politicians”29, thus uniting different groups with a strong cement of religious ideology, an ideology it held in common with England. Therefore there was a “fragile basis for Anglo Scottish co-operation”30.

Elizabeth had many worries about how intervention in Scotland would be viewed, whatever motives she deemed as her official ones for going in. So to counter these worries her support to the Protestants was mainly unofficial and kept secret, even from many of her own ministers. Her support was given in the way of money as “some small comfort”31 and even when she did this, she often denied knowledge of it claiming that her ministers sent it.

However the French didn’t always buy into this story “4,000 crowns surprised by the French, which was sent in relief of the Scottish rebels… portion sent only by M. de Cecil… ye cannot make the French believe so… their rebels are covertly threto induced and maintained by your Queen”32. Elizabeth also maintained that her armies in the north were simply strengthening the borders and that she had sent “Lord Grey to enter Scotland with his army and first try to settle matters by negotiation and afterwards by force (her only option)”33. She also sent ships to Scotland on the basis that they were looking for pirates, when in reality their presence acted to cut off French supplies and communication lines.

Another clever way of avoiding Spanish agitation was to write to Philip asking very flatteringly for “her good brothers wisdom and friendship”34 and calling for him to mediate. Thus he offers to replace French troops with Spanish troops and thus maintain Catholicism in Scotland but alleviate English fear of French. So Elizabeth’s fears over her motives were assuaged in different ways. The most important motive that made Elizabeth act was proof of an immediate threat of invasion and a “grave threat to her throne”35.

A culmination of all other motives soon won her over bit by bit and as all of her ministers came around and backed Cecil Elizabeth couldn’t dare oppose them in the end. Thus the motives were set for intervention and it is in this light that the impact of these events must be viewed. Firstly there was a big impact of events within England, particularly on Elizabeth herself. For her it had been a painful episode, forced on her by unavoidable circumstances. She had been respectfully but relentlessly been forced down a path she did not wish to follow.

Furthermore what she did in supporting the rebels was against her own grain and what she established in Scotland in the end was really contrary to her own authoritarian likings. Her bid for Calais, whilst Cecil was away from court, during the negotiations for the Treaty of Edinburgh showed that she didn’t the current feeling of powerlessness and wanted to exert her will again. The cabinet did indeed learn a lot about their mistress during the crisis, namely “the Queen’s whole vision of politics differed from that of her minister”36.

She was like her father in that she believed in the divine and infragilable rights of all monarchs and therefore was less progressive in what she wanted to achieve. Thus there was a gulf between her and her servants as they looked beyond immediate threats to threats to the nation and also opportunities for English safety and glory in the future whereas Elizabeth was “deaf to arguments for long-term benefits”37. There was also a great impact within the cabinet, especially upon Cecil and other personnel of high politics.

The successes of Scotland particularly transformed Cecil’s status from a newcomer to a first rank politician and decisive leader in the government. Although it gained him many rivals he was noted to have a good understanding of his mistress and how particularly to bring her to certain decisions. Also within the cabinet the successes brought down the reputations of those who had actively opposed it, particularly Arundel. He became an outsider of the cabinet and became soured by the fall from the great place he had had in the politics of the late regime.

The events in Scotland also brought new faces into the cabinet, such as the Duke of Norfolk and Sadler; men who had been appointed to charge of the borders and had almost worried a minor revolution in the regional politics in the north. They had removed Catholics from power such as the Earl of Northumberland and had therefore brought the northern region temporarily more in line with the government. As the intervention in Scotland had been a “dazzling success”38, it had opened up “the brightest possibilities for the future”39 within English national policy.

National policy had now taken a strong ideological bent of Protestantism and within the counsel, conservative opponents had been beaten (those that were more cautious) and those that were left had nudged their mistress reluctantly into the role of Protestant champion within the island and within the larger theatre. Therefore “the drive for action and for change came from servants of the crown, alternately harassing and cajoling the reluctant queen”40 thus presenting themselves as a stronger force in government.

Their success meant they were able to put more pressure on Elizabeth to embark on other Protestant endeavours later on in her reign. There was also a significant impact on both France and Scotland. The Treaty of Edinburgh concluded peace in July 1560 and there was an extent where one can say that France had not lost but had rather been distracted by conspiracies of Calvinists within its own borders and therefore couldn’t send enough troops to quell the rebels. Coupled with blow that Mary of Guise died in 1560, the French really couldn’t see any way of holding onto power without a huge commitment to it.

Therefore Circumstances at home and in Scotland (series of defeats) and also not able to get their reinforcements because of the weather meant threw in their hand and agreed to withdrawal of all but merest token forces. English troops also withdrew at the same time. At the same time Scotland was having all of its demands the “request to be ruled by their own nation and laws, to keep the religion they have received, and that the French be revoked out of Scotland”41 fulfilled. The Lords of the Congregation set up new counsels and the Reformation Parliament met for the first time on the 1st August 1560.

The Protestant religion was established with a Calvinistic confession of faith adopted, whilst the Roman Catholic Church was abolished along with mass and the jurisdiction of the pope. However it has to be noted that the majority of the population were still Catholic and that Mary then soon arrived in Scotland to lead a counter-reformation the result of which was murder, rebellion and civil war. So the intervention in Scotland, although bringing the climax point of the reformation and strengthening “the reformed church of Europe by their victory”42, meant there was a lot of hardship and change ahead for the general people.

Thus the motives of the intervention were fulfilled as shown by the impact of events. Fears of French domination of Scotland, and England, subsided with the removal of French troops and the Protestant cause was greatly strengthened in Scotland. All the motives played a part in causing Elizabeth to act, the main one being the imminent threat to her crown. However her involvement would bring further long-term effects; soon her ministers would once again be pleading her to intervene on the continent in order to help the Protestant cause.

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Elizabeth's Intervention in Scotland Between 1559-1560. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/elizabeths-intervention-in-scotland-between-1559-1560-essay

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