Percy's Reliques - The Bonny Earl of Murray.

The Bonny Earl of Murray.


            In December 1591, Francis Stewart, Earl of Bothwell, had made an attempt to seize on the person of his sovereign James VI. but being disappointed, had retired towards the north. The king unadvisedly gave a commission to George Gordon Earl of Huntley, to pursue Bothwell and his followers with fire and sword. Huntley, under cover of executing that commission, took occasion to revenge a private quarrel he had against James Stewart Earl of Murray, a relation of Bothwell's. In the night of Feb. 7, 1592, he beset Murray's house, burnt it to the ground, and slew Murray himself; a young nobleman of the most promising virtues, and the very darling of the people. See Robertson's History.

            The present Lord Murray hath now in his possession a picture of his ancestor naked and covered with wounds, which had been carried about, according to the custom of that age, in order to inflame the populace to revenge his death. If this picture did not flatter, he well deserved the name of the BONNY EARL, for he is there represented as a tall and comely personage. It is a tradition in the family, that Gordon of Bucky gave him a wound in the face: Murray, half expiring, said, "You hae spilt a better face than your awin." Upon this, Bucky, pointing his dagger at Huntley's breast, swore, "You shall be as deep as I;" and forced him to pierce the poor defenceless body.

            King James, who took no care to punish the murderers, is said by some to have privately countenanced and abetted them, being stimulated by jealousy for some indiscreet praises which his queen had too lavishly bestowed on this unfortunate youth.-- See the preface to the [next] ballad.-- See also Mr. Walpole's Catalogue of Royal Authors, vol. i. p. 42.

YE highlands, and ye lawlands,
Oh! quhair hae ye been?
They hae slaine the Earl of Murray,
And hae laid him on the green.

Now wae be to thee, Huntley!
And quhairfore did you sae?
I bade you bring him wi' you,
But forbade you him to slay.

He was a braw gallant,
And he rid at the ring;
And the bonny Earl of Murray,
Oh! he might hae been a king.

He was a braw gallant,
And he played at the ba';
And the bonny Earl of Murray
Was the flower among them a'.

He was a braw gallant,
And he playd at the gluve;
And the bonny Earl of Murray,
Oh! he was the Queenes luve.

Oh! lang will his lady
Luke owre the castle downe,[ 1]
Ere she see the Earl of Murray
Cum sounding throw the towne.


1. Castle downe here has been thought to mean the Castle of Downe, a seat belonging to the family of Murray.


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