The regency and administration of James Douglas, fourth earl of Morton

Hewitt, George R. (1979). The regency and administration of James Douglas, fourth earl of Morton. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000deac

Abstract

Morton, the obvious successor to Mar in November, 1572, effectively commenced his regency in June, 1573, by which date all opposition had been pacified or overcome.

His overthrow in March, 1578 was, at least partly, the result of his own maladroit tactics. Although he was subsequently reinstated, he never recovered his former dominance - hence, so it would appear, a stratagem such as the proscription of the Hamiltons. He was disastrously indecisive in 1580, thus permitting the Lennox-Arran faction to attain an overwhelming supremacy against which he and his supporters found it impossible to offer a serious challenge.

His reorganisation of the Kirk's finances and accompanying reforms provoked some criticism, albeit not on a considerable scale until 1578. While he did not halt dilapidation, there is no evidence of excessive plundering of ecclesiastical wealth, and questions of patrimony seem to have been overshadowed by those of polity. Here, an ill-defined policy led to growing hostility particularly towards episcopacy. This was largely a consequence of Morton's equivocal treatment of the second Book of Discipline. Nonetheless, it seems conceivable that both sides, aware of the consequences, exercised some measure of restraint.

The kernel of his foreign policy was the English alliance. He failed to secure a permanent league with England primarily because Elizabeth saw no necessity, even in 1580, for such a commitment.

His border administration was notable competent while he remained regent but latterly, with his own decline, the frontier was governed less satisfactorily. His other domestic achievements were limited and there is a controversial taint of corruption.

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