The Spanish

This was
another plot in 1592 by the Catholic Earls of Huntly,
Erroll and Angus resuming their correspondence and
plotting of three years earlier with Spain. The English
secret service gained wind of the plot and informed Andrew
Knox, minister in Paisley, who boarded a ship in the River
Clyde and seized a George Ker, a Catholic from the
Borders, who was carrying incriminating letters. Among the
letters were eight `blanks` bearing the signatures of the
Earls and Sir Patrick Gordon of Auchindoune. Despite
prompting from Queen Elizabeth and ministers James again
declined to take action against the Earls. A minor player
Graham of Fintry was executed 15 February 1593 but the
Earls did not compear to their summonses nor were steps
taken to to punish them.

`Blanks`, eight of them, were pieces of paper without a
designation or address other than a customary courteous
conclusion used with royalty – ` your Majesty`s very
humble and very obedient servant ` . Two were signed by
Angus and Erroll jointly; two by Huntly; one by Angus
another by Erroll and two in Latin which were signed by
all three Earls and Gordon of Auchindoune. None of the
other letters provided clear evidence of treason and
torture was used to reveal their intention. This revealed
that the central plotter was Father William Crichton, a
Jesuit, living in Spain who had convinced Philip of Spain
to attempt another invasion. Crichton had represented that
the Scottish Catholics were amenable to a rising and
proposed that an army of 30,000 Spanish troops should
invade, restore the faith and march into England and
avenge Mary Queen of Scots. To encourage and confirm
Philip`s concurrence the Blanks were to be filled in by
himself when negotiations were completed, and intended for
use as proclamations.

James was
aware of the enterprise in June 1592 which was proven by a
memorandum from himself to Crichton but this document was
`withdrawn for safety of his Majesty`s honour`. It showed
plainly that James was playing a dangerous middle course
policy , holding off from directly inviting Spain`s
intervention while he sought to treat with Elizabeth for
his title to the English Crown. James was, however, wrong
in his estimation of the purpose – it did not seek to
place him on the throne of England but that he would be
held at Philip of Spain`s disposal.

consequence of the affair was a loathing of James and an
outcry against his inactivity. The Synod of Fife summarily
excommunicated the conspirators who disdainfully
`consented` to stand trial in their heartland at Perth.
This was regarded with great suspicion by the Kirk and on
17 November 1593 they convened a Committee of Security
requiring James to postpone the trial until they were
ready to prosecute. In the alternative they proposed to
assemble in force at Perth to pursue the defendants ` to
the uttermost`. This threat of civil war finally raised
James to action. The Estates declared a compromise which
proscribed the Catholic religion and required the Earls to
to conform by 1 February 1594; it also effectively
rejected the Blanks as evidence and thus the charges of
treason. None of the conspirators complied and neither did
they obey orders to go into ward.