James Renwick Lurking and the Holyrood Plot of 1685
On third May 1685, Edinburgh was on edge. As Parliament awaited news that the Earl of Argyll’s invasion had landed, intelligence came from the West that James Renwick and the Society people had infiltrated the heart of the regime to strike a blow against two of the leading figures in the Scottish regime, Queensberry, the King’s Commissioner to Parliament, and the Earl of Perth, the Lord Chancellor. Were assassinations about to take place?
According to Lauder of Fountainhall:
‘3 May 1685.—A strict search is made throw the wholle præcincts of the Abbey of Halirud-house, on ane account from the West to the Commissioner [William Douglas, duke of Queensberry] and Chancelor [James Drummond, earl of Perth], that Mr James Rennet [Renwick] the feildpreacher, was lurking in Edinburgh, and in the Abbey, with some designe against them. Ther was nothing found nor discovered; however the guards ware doubled, both ther at Court, and within the Toune.’ (Lauder, Historical Notices, II, 639.)
The fear of a Societies’ plot was followed up on 9 May:
‘The Magistrats of Edinburgh renew ane Act of thers, injoyning all inhabitants to give in the names of ther strangers lodging with them to the main guard, under payne of 5 lb. Sterling, and to repute disaffected persons, because many disloyall peeple are reset; and it promises 5 lb. Sterling to any discoverer and apprehender of such vagrant persons.’ (Lauder, Historical Notices, II, 640.)
The Statue of Charles II before Parliament
At that time, most of Scotland’s elite was gathered in Edinburgh for James VII’s first Parliament. The mood of some Edinburgh folk was hostile towards Parliament and the regime, especially over the erection of “Nebuchadnezzar’s golden idol” outside Parliament.
Following the Societies’ Apologetical Declaration of November, 1684, and the handful of assassination which followed it, the regime was probably justified in taking intelligence of a Societies’ plot seriously. The suspected Gunpowder Plot of 1680 reinforced that view.
However, there is absolutely no evidence in the Societies’ sources that they intended to carry out an attack at Holyrood.
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