Campbell, Colin, sixth Earl of Argyll d. 1584, was the second son of Archibald, fourth earl of Argyll [qv.], his mother being the earl's second wife, Margaret Graham, only daughter of William, third earl of Menteith. He succeeded to the estates and title on the death, in 1573, of his half-brother, Archibald, fifth earl of Argyll [qv.], having previously to this been known as Sir Colin Campbell of Boquhan. After the death of his first wife, Janet, eldest daughter of Henry, first lord Methven, he married Agnes Keith, eldest daughter of William, fourth earl Marischal, and widow of the regent Moray. During the regency Moray had been entrusted with the custody of the queen's jewels, and his widow had thus come into possession of the famous diamond, the Great Harry as it was called, which had been given to Mary as a wedding present by her father-in-law, King Henry of France, and which she, on her demission, had bequeathed to the Scottish crown as a memorial of herself. After her second marriage the lady, at the instance of Morton, had been summoned to deliver up the jewels belonging to the queen, and for not doing so the Earl and Countess of Argyll were, 3 Feb. 1573-4, put to the horn (Register of the Privy Council, ii. 330). The countess appealed to parliament, and even sought the intervention of Elizabeth, but the result was that on 5 March 1574-5 the earl, in his own name and that of his wife, delivered up the jewels (ib. p. 435). The version of the story which represents the countess summoned as the fifth countess of Argyll, the half-sister of Moray, is erroneous, and had its origin in placing the death of the fifth earl in 1575 instead of in 1573. The circumstance, as was to be expected, caused a complete estrangement between Argyll and Morton, and other events soon happened to aggravate the quarrel. In virtue of his hereditary office of justice-general of Scotland, Argyll claimed that a commission of justiciary, formerly given by Queen Mary to the Earl of Atholl over his own territory of Atholl, should be annulled. The question as to their jurisdictions had been raised by Atholl seizing a dependant of Argyll, who was charged with a crime committed on the territory of Atholl. To settle their differences the two earls were mustering their forces for an appeal to arms, when Morton interfered, and obliged them to disband, and it is also said that they learned that he meditated a charge of high treason against them for appearing in arms. In any case each had serious cause of resentment against Morton, and no sooner was their quarrel with each other suspended than they resolved to make common cause against him, and oust him from the regency. On the secret invitation of Alexander Erskine, the governor of the king and the commander of Stirling Castle, Argyll appeared suddenly at Stirling, 4 March 1577-8, and, being admitted to an interview with the young king, complained to him of the overbearing and insolent behaviour of Morton to the other nobles, and implored him to appoint a convention to examine their grievances, and, if he found them true, to take the government on himself. Afterwards he was joined by Atholl and other nobles, who, as well as George Buchanan [qv.], the king's tutor, gave strong expression to similar views. The result was that at a convention of the nobles the king was unanimously advised to take the government on himself, and Morton, seeing resistance vain, publicly, at the market-cross of Edinburgh, resigned with seeming cheerfulness the ensigns of his authority. Argyll was then appointed one of the council to direct the king, but while he was in charge of him at Stirling Castle the Earl of Mar, at the instance of Morton, suddenly, at five of the morning of 20 April, appeared before it and surprised the garrison. An agreement was shortly afterwards come to between Argyll, Atholl, and Morton that they should repair together to Stirling and adjust their differences, but after they had reached Edinburgh together, Morton, starting before daybreak, galloped to Stirling and again resumed his ascendency over the king. At the instance of Morton a parliament was then summoned to be held in the great hall of Stirling, upon which Argyll, Atholl, and their adherents, after protesting that a parliament held within an armed fortress could not be called free, and refusing therefore to attend it, occupied Edinburgh, whence they sent out summonses to their vassals to assemble in defence of the liberties of the king. With a force of a thousand men they marched to the rendezvous at Falkirk, where their supporters mustered nine thousand strong. By the mediation of Sir Robert Bowes [qv.], the English ambassador, the conflict was, however, averted, and an agreement entered into which, for the time being, proved acceptable to both parties. On 10 Aug. 1579, shortly after the death of Atholl, Argyll was appointed lord high chancellor. On 26 April 1580 Argyll and Morton were reconciled (Calderwood, History, iii. 462) by the king, but enmity still lurked between them, and Argyll was one of the jury who brought in a verdict against Morton, 1 June 1581, for the murder of Darnley. Though he took part in the raid of Ruthven, at which the person of the king was seized by the protestant nobles, Argyll also joined the plot, 24 June 1583, for his restoration to liberty. He died in October 1584. By his first wife he had no issue, but by his second he had two sons, of whom the elder, Archibald, seventh earl [qv.], succeeded him in the earldom, and the second, Colin, was created a baronet in 1627.
Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, vols. ii. and iii.
Calendar State Papers, Scottish Series, vol. i.
Inventaires de la Royne Descosse Douairière de France (Bannatyne Club, 1863)
Registrum Honoris de Morton (Bannatyne Club, 1853)
Calderwood's History of the Kirk of Scotland (Wodrow Society), vols. iii. and iv.
Historie of King James the Sext (Bannatyne Club, 1825)
Douglas's Scotch Peerage, i. 93
Crawford's Officers of State, 136-7
the Histories of Tytler and Hill Burton.
Contributor: T. F. H. [Thomas Finlayson Henderson]