The Earl was now at the height of his power in the west, but at the same
time entangling himself in the net of Catholic intrigue. He was a mark for political
as well as personal enemies; and these latter were not given to forgetting. In
the spring of 1586 Sir John Johnstone was in the field and threatening the towns of
Dumfries and Annan, from which he was beaten off by the weather. ¹ But he
raided the powerful and "well-beloved" Sir Alexander Jardine of Applegarth, and
subjected his houses and property to the usual outrage. ² This was followed up by
burning and spoiling of about a dozen hamlets of Maxwell tenantry, these "poor
commons" having "to paye for the sins of others." ³ By May both Maxwell and
Johnstone were under detention, but their friends were left to carry on. Thus in the
first week of that same month, Herries, Drumlanrig, Amisfield (Empsfield), Apple-
garth, and brother Robert Maxwell, with other allies, again harried the Johnstone
lands in Annandale, burning Bonshawside and the Johnstone lands along the Nith,
the Dryfe, and the upper Annan, killing two tenants only but bearing away a great
booty. ⁴ The Maxwells went even greater lengths, for in June Maxwells and Douglases
were over the Border in England in order to get at the Grahams, who favoured their
rival. ⁵ In June of the following year Johnstone ⁶ died, and Herries replaced
Maxwell in the wardenry. ⁷
But Mawell had bigger things to occupy his energies. The plotting of the
powerful Catholic group in Scotland with Spain was growing more definite. In order
to strengthen his position on the Border for eventualities, Maxwell was even earnest
to let bygones be bygones and reconcile himself with the young chief of Johnstone. ⁸
He was preparing to facilitate a Spanish invasion of England through Scotland,
and in the course of 1587 was in Spain on this business. The royal dealings with
him were tender, because the King himself was not above suspicion of trafficking
with the Catholic interest. But his bargain was finally made with England, and when
Maxwell returned in the spring of 1588 to complete preparations, King James in person
led a force into Dumfriesshire, secured the Maxwell castles, burning those of Langholm,
Castlemilk, and Morton, and capturing that Lord himself. Only Lochmaben held
out against Sir William Stewart for two days, when the garrison surrendered on promise
of their lives. But James had the commander David Maxwell and five of the leaders
hanged on the plea that he had made no promise, Sir William having "counterfoote
his hand writ." ⁹
After this outburst a pause. King James made it a worthy hobby to reconcile
family feuds, and his hand perhaps was behind the friendly approach of Maxwells
and Johnstones in 1590. ¹⁰ In 1592 Maxwell was once more Warden, though his
activities on behalf of Spain were still proceeding, and on this account he was an
object of suspicion to England, where his "unaccustomed kyndnes" to the Laird
of Johnstone in 1593 was remarked, also his having two hundred men employed daily
in fortifying Caerlaverock. ¹¹ But it was this year which was to change all. About
twelve months before, the Wamphray Johnstones had raided the lands of Crichton
and Drumlanrig, and there had been a tough struggle, with some loss in the retreat.
It took all that time to bring the Crown and the Warden to see the desirability
of visiting this offence upon the responsible chief, who was caution for the behaviour
of his clan. To encourage Maxwell, the injured lairds, Drumlanrig, Sanquhar,

1 Border Papers, i. No.418.
2 Ibid., No. 419.
3 Ibid., No. 420.
4 Ibid., No. 425.
5 Ibid., No. 432.
6 Annandale Family Book, i. ci.
7 Reg. P.C., iv. p. 188.
8 Border Papers, i. No. 462.
9 Calderwood, iv. p. 679.
10 See Johnstone MSS., No. 68.
11 Border Papers, i. No. 845.

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