When the Confession of Faith was ratified by the Scottish Parliament on 17 July 1560, William Keith the 56-year old 4th Earl Marischal made a remarkable speech condemning the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland for their failure to speak up for the ‘auld religion’. Through their silence, the Marischal proclaimed, the bishops were endorsing the new religion to be, in his words, “the very truth of God”.
Seven days previously, the Scottish parliament had passed The Papal Jurisdiction Act 1560. This Act declared the Pope to have no jurisdiction in Scotland. By the end of August 1560, the “Reformation Parliament” as it became known had approved a Treaty with the English, and given James Stewart, Earl of Moray (the Marischal’s future son-in-law) amnesty for the Lords of the Congregation.
This is important because of what happened after. While preaching Protestant Reform in 1546, Wishart was betrayed to Cardinal David Beaton and subsequently tried for heresy, condemned to death and burnt at the stake. Some weeks later Wishart’s friends killed the Cardinal and hung his body from the battlements of the Castle in St. Andrews.
The Earl Marischal is implicated in the plot to take revenge on the Cardinal.
In December the following year, a group of Scottish lords who opposed the marriage of the young Queen Mary to the French Dauphin vowed to make Scotland Protestant. Following religious riots in Perth, the Lords of the Congregation, as they were styled, gained support and provided military help to John Knox in opposing the troops of the Dowager Queen Regnant, Mary of Guise.
Among the Lords named by Knox are William Keith and two of his future sons-in-law, Colin Campbell, heir presumptive to the earldom of Argyll and James Stewart, the future Earl of Moray and regent, half-sister of Queen Mary. The Lords fielded enough military strength to face off a French and Scottish army and by July 1559 they had taken Edinburgh. In late 1559, French reinforcements pushed the Protestant army back to Stirling and Fife. Then in March 1560, a revolt by French Protestant Huguenots caused the French to withdraw their troops removing the prop that was holding up the regime of Mary of Guise. The Lords of the Congregation and their English supporters now had the upper hand. By the Treaty of Berwick in February 1560 the Lords had brought in an English army to resist the French troops. With the French gone, and after the death of the Queen Regent in June, hostilities ceased. The reformation Parliament promptly commenced its work.
On the return of Queen Mary from France in August 1561, William Keith was appointed to her Privy Council. In December 1563, he was one of the committee appointed to revise the Book of Discipline. But he was now a widower and preferring the familiarity of his castle at Dunnottar to the political circuits of Edinburgh. There he seemed to occupy himself with the study of scripture in their original Greek and Hebrew texts. Indulging in the intellectualism and interest in the mystical that was a hallmark of his grandson (and heir) and later successors.