George Gordon, sixth Earl of Huntly and the politics of the counter-reformation in Scotland, 1581-1595.
This thesis is a study of George Gordon, sixth earl of Huntly, from July 1581 to March 1595, analysing the role he played in the confessional politics of the period (both national and internation) and how a strong Catholic magnate affected the balance of power and wider policy decisions in Scotland. The thesis is a narrative, with comentary on the political events of the reign of James VI, including the relationship Huntly had with James VI and the wider repercussions thereof. Huntly returned to Scotland from France in July 1581, becoming a courtier and an adherent of Esme Stewart, duke of Lennox. He served a political apprenticeship to Lennox and was exposed to covert Catholic politicking, as well as to the nascent Jesuit mission in Scotland. After James was captured by the Ruthven Raiders in August 1582, Huntly entered politics in his own right, becoming influential in the opposition to the rithven regime. Huntly assisted in enforcing the regime change when James escaped from the Ruthven lords in June 1583, his loyalty to the king winning James's trust and close friendship - the dividends of which he reaped throughout his life. Huntly initially supported the new administration under James Stewart, earl of Arran and assiduously attended to his duties in both the locality and the central government. Following Arran's fall in November 1585, Huntly deliberately distanced himself from the Court and the new Anglophile government. He opposed the anglo-Scottish treaty which was concluded in July 1586 and worked hard to counter the rise of John Maitland of Thirlestane. For the first time, Huntly made contact with the European counter-Reformation in Apriland May 1586. The period June 1587 to April 1589 was marked by faction fighting between Huntly and Maitland, who were both instrumental in James' pursuit of diametrically opposed policies. The discovery of Huntly's covert correspondece with Spain in February 1589 made his Catholic politicking public, subsequently colouring the conflict vetween Maitland and Huntly with confessional politics. Events excalated until Huntly mustered troops on the field of Brig o' Dee near Aberdeen, Although Huntly refused to meet the king on the field, Maitland's vitory was only parial. Brig o' Dee was not the manifestation of the politics of the Counter-Reformation in Scotland, but the productof years of faction fighting between Maitland and Huntly. The period of January 1590 to March 1595 was characterised by Hunrly's continuing influence at Court with marked favour from James and his bloodfeud with James Stewart, second earl of Moray. Huntly used his twin centres of influnce, the Court and power in the region, to fight a vivious and protacted bloodfeud with Moray and his faction. The interception of the Spanish Blanks at the end of 1592 brought confessional politics to bear on a purely secular bloodfeud. Political agitation from the Kirk and Stewarts caused James to commission an army under Archibald Campbell, seventh earl of Argyll to pursue Huntly in October 1594. The result was the battle of Glenlivet between Huntly and Argyll which came to represent the fight against Catholicism, although its root cause was Huntly's bloodfeud with Moray and the Stewarts. When James later raised his own army and marched north against Huntly, the early refused to face James on the field and in March 1595 he voluntarily went into exile abroad. This ended the most active phase of huntly's participation in national and international politics; after his political rehabilitation in 1597, he no longer played an influential role in the king's domestic or foreign policies. Overall, the thesis agues that Huntly needs to be understood as a political faction leader, whose Catholicism was a tool he eomplyed to widen his political influence but not the determinant of all his actions.