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But that turbulent nobleman, whose whole life seems to have consisted in sudden changes and lawless commotion, though warmly attached, it is said, to the person of James III., would never evince his affection by steady allegiance; and at the hour of that monarch's fall he was found among the ranks of his destroyers.*
Immediately after the date of the conflict of Sauchie, which took place on the 11th June 1488, Lord Dernely still retained that minor style and title, though Lord Avandale was recently dead, and his liferent grant no longer burdened theLennox.f Upon the 12th July 1488, one month after the death of James III., Elizabeth Menteith, relict of John Napier of Merchiston, obtains a decree of the Lords of Council to secure obedience to her in her quarter of the Lennox. Among the Lords who compose the sederunt upon this occasion is John Stewart, who sits as " Dernle" and not as Levenax.t Of the same date letters pass the privy-seal of James IV., in terms of this decree, in favour of Elizabeth Menteith; and the first witness to their proclamation is Alexander Stewart of Avandale.* Obviously this proceeding of the lady of Rusky (as she was generally styled) was in consequence of Lord Avandale's liferent having lapsed, and as a preliminary step towards the securing her own peaceable possession and full enjoyment of the lands.
* There are letters of safe-conduct, recorded both in the Fcedera and Rotuli Scotiae, of date 5th May 1488, the month preceding the battle of Sauchie, from Henry VIII. "Ambassiatoribus Scotiw." Among these is " Mathew Stewart, Magistrum de Dernely." These were the ambassadors of the faction against James III. Ridpath, in his Border History, p. 457, notices this safe-conduct, and puts the question, "Was Mathew Stewart of Dernlee son to the Earl of Lennox?" The answer is, he was son to Lord Dernely, that nobleman not resuming the title of Earl until the Parliament of July following, when James IV. commenced his reign.
t One of the witnesses to a charter of James III. dated 11th March 1487, being the close of that year, is " Andrea Domino Avandale."—Mag. Sig. x. 136. I cannot discover his name in any record, public or private, beyond this month of March 1487-8.
% Ada Dom. Con.
The conduct of this lady with regard to her patrimonial rights, supposing her to have been the eldest coheiress of the Lennox, appears to have been dictated by prudence and spirit, though controlled by necessity. She appears to have made no struggle for the dormant earldom, but at the same time fortified her right to a fourth part of the lands by every form of law requisite to protect her possession. But she was a widow, her eldest son was a minor, and her husband and his father had never swerved from that loyalty to James III. which was apt to be construed into treason at the commencement of the reign of his son.t Lord Dernely, on the other hand, was now a distinguished leader among the popular party which surrounded the young King, and, accordingly, the records instruct that he actually took. his seat as Earl of Levenax in the first Parliament of James IV. held at Edinburgh upon the 6th October 1488, just four months after the battle of Sauchie. His pretension, though based upon nothing but the fact that the period was most favourable for his usurpation, rises at once to the loftiest pitch. Upon the 10th of the same month in which the Parliament met he obtains, under the style of Earl of Levenax, a royal commission, bestowing upon him and his son and heir, Mathew Stewart, the important custody of the Castle of Dunbarton ; and by the eighth act of the Parliament 1489, the Earl of Levenax, the Lord Lyle, and Mathew Stewart, are named
* Merchiston Papers. t See Memoirs of Merchiston.
as commissioners to maintain peace in the districts of Renfrew, Bothwell, Glasgow, Kilbride, and Avandale.
Yet in the summer of that same year, Dernely incurs a doom of forfeiture for being in arms against James IV.; and at that period his son Mathew, and his friend Lord Lyle, hold the Castle of Dunbarton against the very government that had committed it to their keeping. It was in this rising that the Lord Forbes made himself conspicuous by riding the north, with the bloody shirt of the late King displayed as the beacon and banner of insurrection. Dernely, on his way to join this nobleman, was surprised in his encampment at TillyMoss by the Lord Drummond, and completely routed. This defeat crushed the enterprise, and " in the month of June 1489," to quote the words of Andrew Stewart, "a sentence of forfeiture was passed, in the Parliament of Scotland, against John Earl of Lennox and his son Mathew, and against Robert Lord Lyle ; but the act of forfeiture itself is not now to be found in the records of Parliament, for it was upon the 5th February 1489-90, rescinded and annulled by the King and Parliament, and in consequence thereof, his Majesty, upon the 6th of that month, issued a precept directed to the clerk-register, ordering him to take furth of the books of Parliament the said process of forfeiture, and to deliver the same to the said John Earl of Lennox, and to Robert Lord Lyle, and to destroy the said process in such a way that it be never seen in time to come."* The whole of this proceeding proves the restless turbulence of Dernely, his utter disregard of law and order, and at the same time, his great power and influence in the state.
Having thus escaped the pains of rebellion, and feeling himself more powerful than ever, Dernely now vigorously commenced, in the face of an existing decree of the privy-council which had silenced his claim for thirteen years, to render his dominion in the Lennox as certain as power without right could effect. It was his object to obtain complete feudal command of the whole Comitatus, by attaching to himself all the superiorities, patronages, and liberties of the fief; and also to effect such a compromise with the weaker parties, having a prior right to the honours of Lennox, as might afford at least a colour of legality to the assumption he had already perpetrated.
* Andrew Stewart's History, p. 192.
Elizabeth Menteith had followed up the decree of obedience proclaimed in her favour, by taking out brieves of division from chancery, for the purpose of having her special share of the lands allotted by the verdict of a jury. The instrument taken upon producing her brieves, and demanding an inquest, is dated 26th of March (day after New-Year's day) 1490* But upon the 17th of May following, she had been persuaded or concussed into a contract of excambion with Dernely, the tenor of which very plainly shows his anxiety to establish himself in a loftier position in the Lennox than was his birth-right.
This curious document bears to have been concluded at Glasgow upon the 18th day of May 1490, " between a noble and mighty Lord John Earl of Lennox and Lord Dernely, and Mathew Stewart his son and apparent heir, on the one part, and Elizabeth of Menteith, the spouse of umquhile John Napier of Merchiston, as one of the parceners and heirs of the said earldom, and Archibald Naper her son and apparent heir, on the other part, anent the division and allotment of the said Elizabeth's part and portion of the lands of the said earldom of the Levenax, and also for her part' of the pro* Merchiston Papers.
fyt and commoditevys that inycht fall till hir, or till hir aeris, of the superiorite and tenandry of the fre tenandis of the said erldome, be wardis, manages, relevis, Courtis, eschaetis of courtis, be resoun of superiorite, profytis of blanchfermys, offices of heritage, advocationis, dona touris of kirks, chapellis, presentationis of provestriis, chanouriiys, personagis, chaplanriis, and otheris patronagis quhatsumever,' " &c. There is not a single expression in this contract which would convey to modern conceptions the idea of a transference of the dignity of Earl, nor is the sovereign made a party to the transaction; but it must be confessed that the clause quoted, as well as other clauses in the various deeds connected with this transaction, is of the most sweeping description, and, in a territorial sense at least, involves all the highest rights, privileges, and dignities appertaining to the fief.
In consideration of this sacrifice on the part of Elizabeth Menteith, Dernely on his part grants and concedes that she shall obtain in property a quarter of the lands of the whole Comitatus, with its woods, and islands, fishings in waters and lochs, &c. &c. and this fourth part is "to be lade and assignit hale and togidder be the self," and to be'secured to her by " vigour and autorite of the Kyngis breffis of depertysing." Moreover, for the rights of superiority yielded, a separate estate of lands in the Lennox, adjacent to the quarter to be allotted to Elizabeth Menteith, is granted to her, over and above her original share. Both parties are taken bound not to part with their lands to strangers, nor to admit such into the fief, but, if constrained by necessity or otherwise to sell or alienate in any manner, "that it sal be offerit ilkane of thaim till otheris apon resonabill and sobyr price,"—a condition much more likely to benefit Dernely