1. The Scottish advocate Mr Thomas Craig [1538-1608] is often found mis-referred to as “Sir Thomas.” He was in fact never knighted, despite his various signal services to the Scottish crown, not least as a writer of public, ceremonial poetry which has received very little comment over the centuries. Craig is well known to historians as the author of Ius Feudale, De Hominio, De Unione Regnorum Britanniae and The Right of Succession to the Kingdom of England. Much can be learned about Craig the lawyer and legal philosopher from John W. Cairns’s article in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and from John Finlay, ‘The Early Career of Thomas Craig, Advocate’ (Edinburgh Law Review 8.3, Edinburgh University Press, September 2004). However, while acknowledging that the successful advocate and brilliant jurist wrote Latin poetry throughout his adult life, neither of these sources has much to say about it. In October 2014, David McOmish greatly added to our knowledge of Craig's social and family connections in the first of two online publications, (which may be read here), the second of which is to deal with Craig's poetry Almost all the verse that survives is in printed form, and is more extensive and important than is sometimes realised. A list of Craig’s extant poems is to be found in the Appendix. Most of them can be easily consulted in EEBO under “Craig, John.”
2. His largest poem is also his earliest, the 1,834 word long Henrici Illustrissimi Ducis Albaniae... et Mariae Serenissimae Scotorum Reginae Epithalamiumm published in 1565. NOTE 1 Inexplicably, this important work was not republished in Arthur Johnstone’s 1637 Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum, the main but by no means exhaustive source for Craig’s published verse before the advent of EEBO. Until the discovery of the two short elegiac poems on the assassination of the Regent Moray presented in this edition, there was a large gap in Craig’s poetic activity between 1565 and the appearance of the Genethliacon for Prince Henry Frederick of 1594. The two poems lamenting James Stewart, Earl of Moray and Regent of Scotland survived thanks to an anonymous fair copy, sent to England and filed in the English State Papers. The existence of these two MS poems was noted by the late Ian McFarlane, Buchanan, p.331, to whose work I express my deep posthumous gratitude. McFarlane assumed these poems were Buchanan’s work, asking “who else in Scotland at that time would wish to celebrate Moray in Latin verse,” a curious question, given his awareness (p.317) of Craig’s Epithalamium of 1565. NOTE 2 But although the MS is anonymous, Thomas Craig would thirty years later redeploy, almost verbatim, a striking passage of the Epicedion in a poem of 1603 lamenting James VI’s departure from his ancestral realm (see note to Epicedion, 27).
3. If the technical execution of these poems (occasionally contorted syntax) is not characteristic of Craig at his polished best, the apparent sincerity of utterance is distinctly moving. The poems were almost certainly written in haste and under emotional pressure: the murder of the much-loved and respected “Good Regent” came as an enormous shock to Scotland. NOTE 3 The English ambassador famously wrote that Moray’s great admirer and friend, George Buchanan, did not smile for weeks after the news arrived. Buchanan, who by December 1569 had already written the MS of De iure regni apud Scotos NOTE 4 in support of Moray’s overthrow of Queen Mary, wrote no elegies for the man who would be the hero of his last work, the Rerum Scoticarum Historia, although he would a little later contribute his two extant vernacular works to the struggle against the supporters of the exiled, imprisoned Queen, Ane Admonition Direct to the Trew Lordis of April 1570, printed 1571, and Chamalaeon, circulating in MS in 1571. It is not know whether, like Buchanan, Craig was an active supporter of the ‘king’s party’ which had overthrown Mary, Queen of Scots, crowned her infant son James, and appointed as Regent her illegimitate Protestant half-brother, James, Earl of Moray. The deeply religious Moray had been committed to the active establishment (and energetic upholding) of justice throughout the realm, and Craig’s reference to Astraea’s return to Moray’s Scotland is not merely conventional: whatever Craig’s own politics, the Regent's brutal elimination on the morning of 23 January, in Linlithgow, would have been keenly felt by a lawyer interested in constitutional law and legal theory. NOTE 5
4. There was an outpouring of enraged vernacular broadside verse deploring the assassination and calling for the punishment of those responsible, namely the noble family of Hamilton, whose members had planned and carried out the assassination. NOTE 6 The fears for the future voiced in these public lamentations for the murdered Moray are a major feature of Craig’s conspicuously less strident verses, and proved all too prophetic: the Regent’s slaughter led to a long drawn out Civil War in which Edinburgh — the seat of Court of Session before which the advocate Craig pled — suffered badly: it was regularly shelled by cannon from the Castle, held by Queen Mary’s supporters, who had seized control of the virtually impregnable fortress in early 1571. Two more regents would have died in office before the Queen’s Men admitted defeat after ten days of bombardment by heavily armed English force in May 1573 — nearly three and a half years after the Earl of Moray had been gunned down in the high street of Linlithgow.
5. I am grateful to the Public Record Office in London for sending me scans of the two poems (Collection of State Papers (Foreign), 1569 -7 1, item 721), and to Professor Roger Green, Glasgow, Mr Ian Cunningham, formerly of the National Library of Scotland, and Professor Philip Ford, Cambridge, for advice and suggestions concerning the translations.
NOTE 1 A verse translation was published by Rev. Francis Wrangham (Epithalamia Tria Mariana, Chester, 1837). The text had been reprinted by David Laing (Edinburgh, 1821, private print), whose introduction comments that Craig unquam a Camoenis et amoenioribus literis est avulsus, and says that this Epithalamium viro cl. Arthuro Johnstono ne cognitum quidem videri, eo saltem tempore, quo caetera Craigi carmina, anno, M.DC.XXXVII in Deliciis Poetarum Scotorum orbi literato donavit. It is odd that so astoundingly diligent a scholar as Laing did not note that a number of liminary verses by Craig also failed to make it into Delitiae Poetarum. See Appendix.
NOTE 2 McFarlane does not seem to have realised that the poet and the lawyer are the same man; on p. 317 the poet is named – correctly – “Thomas Craig,” whereas on p. 415, “Sir Thomas Craig” appears as the author of De Iure Successionis Regni Angliae libri duo; separate index entries are given for these two names.
NOTE 3 A poignantly brief epitaph, inscribed on a brass plate still to be seen in the High Kirk of St Giles, captured the mood: Iacobo Stewarto, Moraviae Comiti, Scotiae Proregi, viro aetatis suae longe optimo, ab inimicis, omnis memoriae deterrimis, ex insidiis extinct, ceu patri communi, patria moerens posuit; see Calderwood, History of the Kirk of Scotland, II.510 - 27, for an account of the murder and the reactions to it, including the despair felt by John Knox (pp. 513 - 15). For the authorship of the epitaph, long attributed to George Buchanan, see Amy Blakeway, “The Response to the Regent Moray's Assassination,” Scottish Historical Review vol. 88 (2009) pp.9 - 33, p.26.
NOTE 5 James Stewart, whose lifelong home was in St Andrews, would have been a familiar figure to Craig ever since the latter’s days as a student in St Andrews (at the crypto-Protestant St Leonard’s College) in the mid 1550’s.
NOTE 6 See Satirical Poems of the Time of the Reformation, ed. James Cranstoun (2 vols., Scottish Text Society: Edinburgh, 1891 - 93) I.82 - 127. For a contextualisation and analysis of the broadside verse, see Jamie Reid Baxter, “‘Judge and revenge my cause’: the Earl of Morton, Andro Blackhall, Robert Sempill and the Fall of the House of Hamilton in 1579,” in Sally Mapstone (ed.) Older Scots Literature (John Donald: Edinburgh, 2005), 467 - 92. For the prose contributions to the anti-Hamilton campaign, see Roger Mason, “George Buchanan’s vernacular polemics, 1570-1572,” The Innes Review 54:1 (Spring 2003) 47 - 58, which covers a great deal more than Buchanan’s two pamphlets. Tricia A. McElroy's coverage of the vernacular verse surrounding Moray's murder in her “Imagining the ‘Scottis Natioun’: Populism and Propaganda in Scottish Satirical Broadsides” (Texas Studies in Literature and Language 49:4, Winter 2007, pp. 320 - 339) usefully indicates just how unpopulistic and unpropagandistic Craig's response is. While voicing horror at the heartlessness of the “infamous clan” that killed the Regent, Craig refrains from naming the Hamiltons. The tone of his poems, which sound personal and at the same speak on behalf of Scotland, strengthens the case for their having been written in the strange, uneasy calm that obtained between 23 January and the outbreak of civil war after Moray’s state funeral; this had been delayed in order to give the “King’s Men” time to organise the event as a massive show of unity and strength.