Esme Stuart, 1st Duke of Lennox

Esme STUART, sixth SEIGNEUR AUBIGNY and first DUKE OF LENNOX (1542 ? - 1583), only son of John Stuart or Stewart, fifth seigneur of Aubigny, youngest son of John Stewart, third or eleventh earl of Lennox, by his wife, Anne de La Quelle.


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From the "Dictionary of National Biography", Stuart, Esme
STUART ESME sixth SEIGNEUR AUBIGNY and first DUKE OF LENNOX (1542 ? - 1583), only son of John Stuart or Stewart, fifth seigneur of Aubigny, youngest son of John Stewart, third or eleventh earl of Lennox, by his wife, Anne de La Quelle, was born about 1542, and succeeded his father as seigneur of Aubigny in 1567. In 1576 he was engaged in an embassy in the Low Countries (Cal. State Papers, For. 1576-8, No. 968); on 25 Nov. he was instructed to go with all speed to the Duke of Alencon and thank him in the name of the estates for his goodwill (ib No 1030); and a little later he was instructed to proceed to England (ib No 1036).
After the partial return of Morton to power in 1579 the friends of Mary, whose hopes of triumph had been so rudely dashed by the sudden death of the Earl of Atholl, resolved on a special coup for the restoration of French influence and the final overthrow of protestantism. As early as 15 May Leslie, bishop of Ross, informed the Cardinal de Como that the king 'had written to summon his cousin, the Lord Aubigny, from France' (FORBES-LEITH, Narratives of Scottish Catholics, p 136). He was, however, really sent to Scotland at the instigation of the Guises and as their agent. Calderwood states that Aubigny, who arrived in Scotland on 8 Sept., 'pretended that he came only to congratulate the young king's entry to his kingdom [that is, his assumption of the government], and was to return to France within short space' (History, iii 457) But he did not intend to return. As early as 24 Oct. De Castelnau, the French ambassador in London, announced to the king of France that he had practically come to stay, and would be created Earl of Lennox, and, as some think, declared successor to the throne of Scotland should the king die without children (TEULET, Relations Politiques, iii 56). These surmises were speedily justified; in fact no more apt delegate for the task he had on hand could have been chosen. If he desired to stay, no one had a better right, for he was the king's cousin; and if he stayed, he was bound by virtue of his near kinship to occupy a place of dignity and authority, to which Morton could not pretend, and which would imply Morton's ruin. Moreover his personal qualifications for the role entrusted to him were of the first order; he was handsome, accomplished, courteous, and (what was of more importance), while he impressed every one with the conviction of his honesty, he was one of the adroitest schemers of his time, with almost unmatched powers of dissimulation. It was impossible for the young king to resist such a fascinating personality. On 14 Nov. 1579 he received from the king the rich abbacy of Arbroath in commendam (Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1546-1580, No 2920), and on 5 March 1579-80 he obtained the lands and barony of Torbolton (ib No 2970); the lands of Crookston, Inchinnan, &c, in Renfrewshire (ib No 2791), and the lordship of Lennox (ib No 2972), Robert Stewart having resigned these lands in his favour, and receiving instead the lordship of March.
Playing for such high stakes, Lennox did not scruple to forswear himself to the extent that the circumstances demanded. According to Calderwood, he purchased a supersedere from being troubled for a year for religion (History, iii 460); but the ministers of Edinburgh were so vehement in their denunciation of the 'atheists and papists' with whom the king consorted that the king was compelled to grant their request that Lennox should confer with them on points of religion (MOYSIE, Memoirs p 26). This, Lennox according to the programme arranged beforehand with the Guises, willingly did; and undertook to give a decision by 1 June. As was to be expected, he on that day publicly declared himself to have been converted to protestantism (Reg. P.C. Scotl. iii 289); and on 14 July penned a letter beginning thus : 'It is not, I think, unknown to you how it hath God of his infinite goodness to call me by his grace and mercy to the knowledge of my salvation, since my coming in this land;' and ending with a 'free and humble offer due obedience,' and the hope 'to be participent in all time coming' of their 'godly prayers and favours' (CALDERWOOD iii 469). A little later he expressed a desire to a minister in his house for 'the exercise of true religion;' and the assembly resolved to supply one from among the pastors of the French kirk in London (ib p 477). On 13 Sept. he is mentioned as keeper of Dumbarton Castle (Reg. P.C. Scotl. iii 300), and on 11 Oct. Lennox was nominated lord chancellor and first gentleman of the royal chamber. In the excessive deference he showed to the kirk Lennox was mainly actuated by desire for the overthrow of Morton. Although regarded by Mary and the catholics as their arch enemy, Morton was secretly detested by the kirk authorities. His solo recommendation was his alliance with Elizabeth and his opposition to Mary; but the kirk having, as they thought, obtained a new champion in Lennox, were not merely content to sacrifice Morton, but contemplated his downfall and even his execution with almost open satisfaction. When Morton was brought before the council on 6 Jan. 1580-1 and accused of Darnley's murder, Lennox declined to vote one way or other, on the ground of his near relationship to the victim; but it was perfectly well known that the apprehension was made at his instance, and that Captain James Stewart (afterwards Earl of Arran) was merely his instrument. Ranolph, the English ambassador, had declined to hold communication with Lennox, on the ground that he was an agent of the pope and the house of Guise (Randolph to Walsingham, 22 Jan. 1580-1, quoted in TYTLEE, ed 1864 iv 32), as was proved by an intercepted letter of the archbishop of Glasgow to the pope; but Lennox hud no scruple in flatly denying this, the king stating that Lennox was anxious for the fullest investigation, and would 'refuse no manner of trial to justify himself from so false a slander' (the king and council's answer to Mr Randolph, 1 Feb 1580-1 ib.) After the execution of Morton on 6 June 1581 the influence of Lennox, not merely with the king but in Scotland generally, had reached its zenith. So perfect was the harmony between him and the kirk that even Mary Stuart herself became suspicious that he might intend to betray her interests and throw in his lot with the protestants (Mary to Beaton, 10 Sept 1581 in LABANOFF v 258); but the assurances of the Duke of Guise dispelled her doubts (ib p 278). On 5 Aug 1581 he was created duke (Reg. P.C. Scotl. iii 413), and on the 12th he was appointed master of the wardrobe.
As early as April 1581 De Tassis had, in the name of Mary, assured Philip II of Spain of the firm resolution of the young king to embrace Roman catholicism, and had sent an earnest request for a force to assist in effecting the projected revolution. It was further proposed that James should meanwhile be sent to Spain, in order that he might be secure from attempts against his crown and liberty; that he might be educated in catholicism, and that arrangements might be completed for his marriage to a Spanish princess. To the objection that Lennox, having special relations with France, might not be favourable to such a project, De Tassis answered that he was wholly devoted to the cause of the Queen of Scots, and ready if necessary to break with France in order to promote her interests (De Tassis to Philip II in Relations Politiques, v 224-8). For the furtherance of these designs, Lennox early in 1582 was secretly visited by two jesuits, Creighton and Holt, who asked him to take command of an army to be raised by Philip II for the invasion of England, in order to set Mary at liberty and restore Catholicism. In a letter to De Tassis, Lennox expressed his readiness to undertake the execution of the project (ib pp 235-6); and in a letter of the same date to Mary he proposed that he should go to France to raise troops for this purpose, but stipulated that her son, the prince, should retain the title of king (ib p 237). Further, he made it a condition that the Duke of Guise should have the chief management of the plot (De Tassis to Philip, 18 May, ib p 548). The Duke of Guise therefore went to Paris, where he had a special interview with Creighton and Holt, when it was arranged that a force should be raised on behalf of Catholicism under pretext of an expedition to Brittany (ib p 254). Difficulties, however, arose on account of the timidity or jealousy of Philip II, and the delay proved fatal.
The fact was that after Morton's death Lennox, deeming himself secure, ceased to maintain his submissive attitude to the kirk authorities, whose sensitiveness was not slow to take alarm, Thus at the assembly held in October 1581 the king complained that Walter Balcanquhal was reported to have stated in a sermon that popery had entered 'not only in the court but in the king's hall, and was maintained by the tyranny of a great champion who is called Grace' ( CALDERWOOD iii 583). A serious quarrel between the duke and Captain James Stewart (lately created Earl of Arran) led also to dangerous revelations. As earl of Arran, the duke's henchman now deemed himself the duke's rival. He protested against the duke's right to bear the crown at the meeting of parliament in October, and matters went so far that two separate privy councils were held — the one under Arran in the abbey, and the other under the duke in Dalkeith (ib iii 592-3; SPOTISWOOD, ii 281). They were reconciled after two months' 'variance;' but meanwhile Arran, to 'strengthen himself with the common cause,' had given out 'that the quarrel was for religion, and for opposing the duke's courses, who craftily sought the overthrow thereof' (SPOTISWOOD). After the reconciliation, the duke on 2 Dec. made another declaration of the sincerity of his attachment to protestantism (Reg. P.C. Scotl. iii 431), but mischief had been done which no further oaths could remedy. In addition to this the duke had come into conflict with the kirk in regard to Robert Montgomerie, whom he had presented to the bishopric of Glasgow (CALDERWOOD iii 577); and Arran and the duke, being now reconciled, did not hesitate to flout the commissioners of the assembly when on 9 May 1582 they had audience of the king. On 12 July a proclamation was issued in the king's name, in which the rumour that Lennox was a 'deviser' of 'the erecting of Papistrie' was denounced as a 'malicious' falsehood, inasmuch as he had 'sworn in the presence of God, approved with the holy action of the Lord's Table,' to maintain protestantism, and was 'ready to seal the same with his blood' (ib p 783). The proclamation might have been effectual but for the fact that in some way or other the kirk had obtained certain information of the plot that was in progress (ib p 634). This information had reached them on 27 July through James Colville, the minister of Easter Wemyss, who had arrived from France with the Earl of Bothwell; and the news hastened, if it did not originate, the raid of Ruthren on 22 Aug., when the king was seized near Perth by the protestant nobles.
On learning what had happened, the duke, who was at Dalkeith, came to Edinburgh; and, after purging himself 'with great protestations that he never attempted anything against religion,' proposed to the town council that they should write to the noblemen and gentlemen of Lothian to come to Edinburgh 'to take consultation upon the king's delivery and liberty' (ib p 641); but they politely excused themselves from meddling in the matter. Next day, Sunday the 26th, James Lawson depicted in a sermon 'the duke's enormities' (ib p 642); and, although certain noblemen were permitted to join him, and were sent by him to hold a conference with the king, the only answer they obtained was that Lennox 'must depart out of Scotland within fourteen days' (ib p647). Leaving Edinburgh on 5 Sept. 1582 on the pretence that he was 'to ride to Dalkeith, the duke, after he had passed the borough muir, turned westwards, and rode towards Glasgow' (ib p 648) On 7 Sept. a proclamation was made at Glasgow forbidding any to resort to him except such as were minded to accompany him to France, and forbidding the captain of the castle of Dumbarton to receive more into the castle than he was able to master and overcome (ib.) At Dumbarton the duke on 20 Sept. issued a declaration 'touching the calumnies and accusations set out against him' (ib p 665). Meanwhile he resolved to wait at Dumbarton in the hope of something turning up, and on the 17th he sent a request to the king for a 'prorogation of some few days' (ib p 673). A little later he sent to the king for liberty to go by England (ib p681); but his intention was to organise a plot for the seizure of the king, which was accidentally discovered. The king, it is said, earnestly desired that the duke might be permitted to remain in Scotland; but was 'sharply threatened by the lords that if he did not cause him to do part he should not be the longest liver of them all' (FORBES-LEITH, Narrative of Scottish Catholics p 183). Finally, after several manoeuvrings, Lennox did set out on 21 Dec. from Dalkeith on his journey south (CALDERWOOD iii 693). On reaching London he sent word privately Mendoza, the Spanish ambassador, that he would send his secretary to him secretly to give him an account of affairs in Scotland (Cal. State Papers, Spanish ii 435); and the information given to Mendoza was that Lennox had been obliged to leave Scotland in the first place in consequence of a promise made by King James to Elizabeth, and in the second place in consequence of the failure of the plot arranged for the rescue of the king from the Ruthven raiders on his coming to the castle of Blackness (ib. p 438). On 14 Jan. 1583 Lennox had an audience of Elizabeth, who 'charged him roundly with such matters as she thought culpable' (Cal. State Papers, Scottish pp 431-2); but of course the duke, without the least hesitation, affirmed his entire innocence, appears to have succeeded in at least rendering Elizabeth doubtful of his catholic leanings. Walsingham endeavoured through a spy, Fowler, to discover from Mauvissiere the real religious sentiments of the duke; but as the duke had prevaricated to Mauvissiere — assuring him that James was so constant to the reformed faith that he lose his life rather than forsake it, and declaring that he professed the same faith as royal master — Walsingham succeeded in deceiving himself (TYTLER iv 56-7).
Early in 1583 Lennox arrived in Paris, resolved to retain the mask to the last. On the duke's secretary being asked by Mendoza whether his master would profess protestantism in France, he replied that he had been specially instructed by the duke to tell Mendoza that he would, in order that he might signify the same to the pope, the king of Spain, and Queen Mary (Cal. State Papers, Spanish ii 439). For one reason he had not given up hope of returning to Scotland; and indeed, although in very bad health, he had 'schemed out a plan' of the success of which he was very sanguine (De Tassis to Philip II, 4 May, in TEULET, v 265) He did not live to begin its execution; but, in order to lull the Scots to security, he at his death on 26 May 1583 continued to profess himself a convert to the faith which he was doing his utmost to subvert. He also gave directions that while his body was to be buried at Aubigny, his heart should be embalmed and sent to the king of Scots, to whose care he commended his children. An anonymous portrait of Lennox belonged in 1866 to the Earl of  Home (Cat. First Loan Exhib. No 459). By his wife, Catherine de Balsac d'Entragues, Lennox had two sons and three daughters : Ludovick, second duke; Esme, third duke; Henrietta, married to George first marquis of Huntly; Mary, married to John earl of Mar; and Gabrielle, a nun.
Sources: Cal. State Papers, For., Eliz., Scot., and Spanish; Teulet's Relations Politiques; Forbes-Leith's Narratives of Scottish Catholics; Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot.; Reg. Priry Council Scotl; Labanoff's Letters of Mary Stuart; Histories by Calderwood and Spotiswood; Moysie's Memoirs and History of King James the Sext (Bannatyne Club); Bowes's Correspondence (Surtees Soc); Lady Elizabeth Cust's Stuarts of Aubigny; Sir William Fraser's Lennox; Douglas's Scottish Peerage, ed Wood, i 99-100