Index for Chapters XXI-XXIX

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Chapter XXV

Chapter XXIV: The Abercorns and the Kirk

The protracted dealings of the Presbytery were now closed. All the accused had at length been excommunicated with the exception of John Naismith. The Earl fled the country, and so escaped being sentenced. Thomas Algeo appeared in the neighbourhood some time after, in the service of the Duke of Lennox, giving “great scandal and offence,” and the Presbytery ordained he was “to have no liberty until he should first give satisfaction to the Kirk.” The sequel as regards the poor Countess is more sad. This unfortunate woman, broken down in health, sought refuge in Edinburgh. She was there apprehended and cast into the Tolbooth, [12] a loathsome prison. Here her confinement produced “many heavy diseases, so as this whole winter she was almost tied to her bed, and she now found a daily decay and weakness in her person.” Her miserable state was at last represented to the King (Charles I.) as “being oppressed with sickness and disease of body, and requiring the benefit of a watering-place.” The King, not wishing on the one hand to slight the authority of the Church, or on the other “that the lady should be brought to the extremity of losing her life for the want of the ordinary remedies,” ordered (July 9, 1629) that she should have a license to go to the baths of Bristol, but only on condition that she should not attempt to appear at Court, and, after her recovery, return and put herself at the disposal of the Council. Her Ladyship did not go to the baths of Bristol, being probably too weak for so long a journey, and after six months more imprisonment in the Cannongate Jail—probably an equally wretched prison with the Tolbooth—she was allowed to reside in the house of Duntarvie on condition that “she sall contain herself so warily and respectfully as she sail not fall under the break of any of his Majesty's laws, also, that she would, while living there, have conference with the ministry, but allow none to Jesuits or mass priests.” In March, 1631, having been under restraint some three years, she was formally licensed to go “to Pasley for the outred of some weighty affairs,” but only on condition that she should not, while there, “reset Thomas Algeo nor no Jesuits, and return by a certain day, under penalty of five thousand merks.” The miserable lady, however, never returned. She reached Paisley worn out and broken down, suffering from squalor carceris, and died there shortly after her arrival. Her body lies in St. Mirin's Chapel, and a leaden tablet on the wall of the vault records the year of her death. She was the victim of odious ecclesiastical persecution, and any who read her history may find in it another illustration of the saying of Milton which we have prefixed to this chapter, “new Presbyter is but old Priest writ large.”

[12] Records of Privy Council, quoted in Chambers' “Domestic Annals,” Vol. II., p. 25.