1635: A Parcel of Rogues – Snippet 21

“Aye? I’d heard you were made Lord Lieutenant over us, but from the sounds, you’ve all but been made viceroy.”

Montrose rocked a hand back and forth. “Ye might call it that, ye might not. Certain sure I am that I could govern as one right up until the rebellion it created.”

“There’s always that,” Mackay answered. He’d felt a mounting sense of unease, and not simply from the pain he was in. He himself was none of the movers and shakers of Clan Mackay, still less now he was a cripple. He was personally acquainted with Lord Reay, was a cousin four times removed or something on the close order of that, and had a number of closer kin in the Mackay regiment in the Germanies. So why was His Lordship the Earl of Montrose, Chief of Clan Graham, whom he had met perhaps twice before, treating him with such friendly familiarity?

“Aye, that,” Montrose sighed. “And ye needn’t fear for me on that score. I’ve no intention of creating mair trouble than the nation truly needs. We’ve had and signed the National Covenant in my grandfather’s time and the less said about that the better. England’s misfortunes will be to Scotland’s benefit in at least that much. His Majesty won’t be trying to press the matter of the liturgy or the power of the prelates any further, he having larger matters to occupy him. There’s a smaller matter he’s paid mind to, though, and it’s the reason I came first to you, for on it hangs much else.”

“Aye? I can do little but advise, crippled as I am.”

Montrose fixed him with a stare. “There’s a lot more you can do, Mackay of the Mackays. Father-in-law of Baroness Bornholm. Cousin to Lord Reay, however distant. Old drinking companion of Robert Leslie. And others I might list, but choose not to for the moment.”

“You mean those gone for soldiers in the Germanies, of course. I take it His Majesty means for them to come home peacefully or not at all?”

“Somewhat more, in which regard I want your help in the persuading of those men. You among others, of course, you’re not the only man with kin and companions currently serving the king of Sweden. His Majesty Charles has already made shift to see that some of those who stood against him on the other history cannot do it in this. Cromwell, for one, some others in England the names of which I can’t recall. There would have been more in Scotland, save that Leslie was in Germany, and others it was not … practical to take captive.”

Mackay laughed at that. “You mean Argyll let it be known, beyond any manner o’ doubt, that if any man north of the border was so much as touched for his part in that other history, he being at the top of the list, the Bishops’ War would start ten years early and wouldn’t stop at Newcastle? You know he already has a fine body of men about him that would answer such a call, beyond even the usual clans he can call on at need?”

Mackay had only learned the full extent of that particular correspondence days before. At the time it actually happened, he’d missed much of the detail. When he’d heard the full story he’d pissed the bed laughing and not regretted a drop. He knew Argyll was a peppery wee bastard, but the likely reaction of Strafford and His Majesty to such a naked defiance, however privately expressed, would have been a sight to see. It was Mackay’s guess, supported by a few other fellows he’d written to, that the only thing that was stopping him for now was that he wasn’t yet Earl of Argyll in his own right, at least until his father died in his self-imposed exile in London. For every worthwhile purpose, though, he was Chief of the Campbells and his Lordship of Lorne sufficed to give him lawful authority in that matter.

“If I was to put my hand on my heart, I’d agree with him,” Montrose said, “and it’s exactly that manner of thing I mean not to have with the German veterans. Ye ken Leslie would have been arrested if he’d been in the country, and Argyll had not spoken as he did? I was a mite troubled my name was on the list when I heard, too, though it seems His Majesty cares for the end result rather than the first thoughts. As matters stand, I’ve been given the Lord Lieutenancy only after Strafford, Laud and the like have heated it to a red glow for me, and I mean to have the matter of the veterans be the least of my troubles. I can delay and delay and delay the sending of letters patent to those men demanding their return, allegiance and good behavior on pain of forfeiture, but there’ll come a day when His Majesty must take notice of my doing nothing in the matter. I mean by then to have a solution all, or at least most, are content with, that they may return home or have their affairs in order for exile. I’ll chafe as I may at some of His Majesty’s charges, Mister Mackay, but he and I are of one mind that Scotland is to be peaceful. There’ll be no lamentations of Scotland to match the same in Germany, if at all it can be helped. Heaping up a pan of fresh embers from the smouldering of Germany to tip them into the bedding of Scotland strikes me as no help at all in that regard.”

“I have every warmest sentiment toward your aims, my lord,” Mackay said, temporising while he thought. How much had Reay been in communication with Montrose? Argyll? How much were the Scots officers in Gustavus Adolphus’ service in agreement on the matter? Nothing suggested itself as a way forward. “What would His Majesty have, precisely, of the Scots abroad?” he asked, hoping to buy time to think.

Montrose’s face brightened a little. Perhaps he had been expecting an immediate refusal. Mackay had a clear idea of what perhaps a dozen of those lords and gentlemen thought, and some of their followers besides, what the king’s spies might have told him was a closed book. There was also the possibility that Charles Stuart, being Charles Stuart, had got hold of some other notion of his own about what the veterans abroad thought.