Some royal names are predestined to misfortune: in France, there is the
name "Henry". Henry I was poisoned, Henry II was killed in a tournament,
Henry III and Henry IV were assassinated. As to Henry V, for whom the
past is so fatal already, God alone knows what the future has in store
In Scotland, the unlucky name is "Stuart". Robert I, founder of the
race, died at twenty-eight of a lingering illness. Robert II, the most
fortunate of the family, was obliged to pass a part of his life, not
merely in retirement, but also in the dark, on account of inflammation
of the eyes, which made them blood-red. Robert III succumbed to grief,
the death of one son and the captivity of other. James I was stabbed by
Graham in the abbey of the Black Monks of Perth. James II was killed at
the siege of Roxburgh, by a splinter from a burst cannon. James III was
assassinated by an unknown hand in a mill, where he had taken refuge
during the battle of Sauchie. James IV, wounded by two arrows and a blow
from a halberd, fell amidst his nobles on the battlefield of Flodden.
James V died of grief at the loss of his two sons, and of remorse for
the execution of Hamilton. James VI, destined to unite on his head
the two crowns of Scotland and England, son of a father who had been
assassinated, led a melancholy and timorous existence, between the
scaffold of his mother, Mary Stuart, and that of his son, Charles I.
Charles II spent a portion of his life in exile. James II died in
it. The Chevalier Saint-George, after having been proclaimed King of
Scotland as James VIII, and of England and Ireland as James III, was
forced to flee, without having been able to give his arms even the
lustre of a defeat. His son, Charles Edward, after the skirmish at Derby
and the battle of Culloden, hunted from mountain to mountain, pursued
from rock to rock, swimming from shore to shore, picked up half naked
by a French vessel, betook himself to Florence to die there, without the
European courts having ever consented to recognise him as a sovereign.
Finally, his brother, Henry Benedict, the last heir of the Stuarts,
having lived on a pension of three thousand pounds sterling, granted him
by George III, died completely forgotten, bequeathing to the House of
Hanover all the crown jewels which James II had carried off when he
passed over to the Continent in 1688--a tardy but complete recognition
of the legitimacy of the family which had succeeded his.
In the midst of this unlucky race, Mary Stuart was the favourite of
misfortune. As Brantome has said of her, "Whoever desires to write
about this illustrious queen of Scotland has, in her, two very, large
subjects, the one her life, the other her death," Brantome had known her
on one of the most mournful occasions of her life--at the moment when
she was quitting France for Scotland.
It was on the 9th of August, 1561, after having lost her mother and her
husband in the same year, that Mary Stuart, Dowager of France and Queen
of Scotland at nineteen, escorted by her uncles, Cardinals Guise and
Lorraine, by the Duke and Duchess of Guise, by the Duc d'Aumale and M.
de Nemours, arrived at Calais, where two galleys were waiting to take
her to Scotland, one commanded by M. de Mevillon and the other by
Captain Albize. She remained six days in the town. At last, on the 15th
of the month, after the saddest adieus to her family, accompanied by
Messieurs d'Aumale, d'Elboeuf, and Damville, with many nobles, among
whom were Brantome and Chatelard, she embarked in M. Mevillon's galley,
which was immediately ordered to put out to sea, which it did with the
aid of oars, there not being sufficient wind to make use of the sails.
Mary Stuart was then in the full bloom of her beauty, beauty even more
brilliant in its mourning garb--a beauty so wonderful that it shed
around her a charm which no one whom she wished to please could escape,
and which was fatal to almost everyone. About this time, too, someone
made her the subject of a song, which, as even her rivals confessed,
contained no more than the truth. It was, so it was said, by M. de
Maison-Fleur, a cavalier equally accomplished in arms and letters: Here
"In robes of whiteness, lo, Full sad and mournfully, Went pacing to
and fro Beauty's divinity; A shaft in hand she bore From Cupid's cruel
store, And he, who fluttered round, Bore, o'er his blindfold eyes And
o'er his head uncrowned, A veil of mournful guise, Whereon the words
were wrought: 'You perish or are caught.'"
Yes, at this moment, Mary Stuart, in her deep mourning of white, was
more lovely than ever; for great tears were trickling down her cheeks,
as, weaving a handkerchief, standing on the quarterdeck, she who was
so grieved to set out, bowed farewell to those who were so grieved to
At last, in half an hour's time, the harbour was left behind; the vessel
was out at sea. Suddenly, Mary heard loud cries behind her: a boat
coming in under press of sail, through her pilot's ignorance had struck
upon a rock in such a manner that it was split open, and after having
trembled and groaned for a moment like someone wounded, began to
be swallowed up, amid the terrified screams of all the crew. Mary,
horror-stricken, pale, dumb, and motionless, watched her gradually sink,
while her unfortunate crew, as the keel disappeared, climbed into the
yards and shrouds, to delay their death-agony a few minutes; finally,
keel, yards, masts, all were engulfed in the ocean's gaping jaws. For a
moment there remained some black specks, which in turn disappeared one
after another; then wave followed upon wave, and the spectators of this
horrible tragedy, seeing the sea calm and solitary as if nothing had
happened, asked themselves if it was not a vision that had appeared to
them and vanished.
"Alas!" cried Mary, falling on a seat and leaning both arms an the
vessel's stern, "what a sad omen for such a sad voyage!" Then, once more
fixing on the receding harbour her eyes, dried for a moment by terror,
and beginning to moisten anew, "Adieu, France!" she murmured, "adieu,
France!" and for five hours she remained thus, weeping and murmuring,
"Adieu, France! adieu, France!"
Darkness fell while she was still lamenting; and then, as the view was
blotted out and she was summoned to supper, "It is indeed now, dear
France," said she, rising, "that I really lose you, since jealous night
heaps mourning upon mourning, casting a black veil before my sight.
Adieu then, one last time, dear France; for never shall I see you more."
With these words, she went below, saying that she was the very opposite
of Dido, who, after the departure of AEneas, had done nothing but look
at the waves, while she, Mary, could not take her eyes off the land.
Then everyone gathered round her to try to divert and console her. But
she, growing sadder, and not being able to respond, so overcome was she
with tears, could hardly eat; and, having had a bed got ready on the
stern deck, she sent for the steersman, and ordered him if he still saw
land at daybreak, to come and wake her immediately. On this point Mary
was favoured; for the wind having dropped, when daybreak came the vessel
was still within sight of France.
It was a great joy when, awakened by the steersman, who had not
forgotten the order he had received, Mary raised herself on her couch,
and through the window that she had had opened, saw once more the
beloved shore. But at five o'clock in the morning, the wind having
freshened, the vessel rapidly drew farther away, so that soon the land
completely disappeared. Then Mary fell back upon her bed, pale as death,
murmuring yet once again--"Adieu, France! I shall see thee no more."
Indeed, the happiest years of her life had just passed away in this
France that she so much regretted. Born amid the first religious
troubles, near the bedside of her dying father, the cradle mourning was
to stretch for her to the grave, and her stay in France had been a ray
of sunshine in her night. Slandered from her birth, the report was so
generally spread abroad that she was malformed, and that she could not
live to grow up, that one day her mother, Mary of Guise, tired of
these false rumours, undressed her and showed her naked to the English
ambassador, who had come, on the part of Henry VIII, to ask her in
marriage for the Prince of Wales, himself only five years old. Crowned
at nine months by Cardinal Beaton, archbishop of St. Andrews, she was
immediately hidden by her mother, who was afraid of treacherous dealing
in the King of England, in Stirling Castle. Two years later, not finding
even this fortress safe enough, she removed her to an island in the
middle of the Lake of Menteith, where a priory, the only building in the
place, provided an asylum for the royal child and for four young girls
born in the same year as herself, having like her the sweet name which
is an anagram of the word "aimer," and who, quitting her neither in her
good nor in her evil fortune, were called the "Queen's Marys". They were
Mary Livingston, Mary Fleming, Mary Seyton, and Mary Beaton. Mary stayed
in this priory till Parliament, having approved her marriage with the
French dauphin, son of Henry II, she was taken to Dumbarton Castle, to
await the moment of departure. There she was entrusted to M. de Breze,
sent by Henry II to-fetch her. Having set out in the French galleys
anchored at the mouth of the Clyde, Mary, after having been hotly
pursued by the English fleet, entered Brest harbour, 15th August, 1548,
one year after the death of Francis! Besides the queen's four Marys, the
vessels also brought to France three of her natural brothers, among whom
was the Prior of St. Andrews, James Stuart, who was later to abjure the
Catholic faith, and with the title of Regent, and under the name of the
Earl of Murray, to become so fatal to poor Mary. From Brest, Mary
went to St. Germain-en-Laye, where Henry II, who had just ascended the
throne, overwhelmed her with caresses, and then sent her to a convent
where the heiresses of the noblest French houses were brought up. There
Mary's happy qualities developed. Born with a woman's heart and a man's
head, Mary not only acquired all the accomplishments which constituted
the education of a future queen, but also that real knowledge which is
the object of the truly learned.
Thus, at fourteen, in the Louvre, before Henry II, Catherine de Medici,
and the whole court, she delivered a discourse in Latin of her own
composition, in which she maintained that it becomes women to cultivate
letters, and that it is unjust and tyrannical to deprive flowery of
their perfumes, by banishing young girls from all but domestic cares.
One can imagine in what manner a future queen, sustaining such a thesis,
was likely to be welcomed in the most lettered and pedantic court in
Europe. Between the literature of Rabelais and Marot verging on their
decline, and that of Ronsard and Montaigne reaching their zenith, Mary
became a queen of poetry, only too happy never to have to wear another
crown than that which Ronsard, Dubellay, Maison-Fleur, and Brantome
placed daily on her head. But she was predestined. In the midst of those
fetes which a waning chivalry was trying to revive came the fatal joust
of Tournelles: Henry II, struck by a splinter of a lance for want of
a visor, slept before his time with his ancestors, and Mary Stuart
ascended the throne of France, where, from mourning for Henry, she
passed to that for her mother, and from mourning for her mother to that
for her husband. Mary felt this last loss both as woman and as poet; her
heart burst forth into bitter tears and plaintive harmonies. Here are
some lines that she composed at this time:--
"Into my song of woe, Sung to a low sad air, My cruel grief I throw, For
loss beyond compare; In bitter sighs and tears Go by my fairest years.
"Was ever grief like mine Imposed by destiny? Did ever lady pine, In
high estate, like me, Of whom both heart and eye Within the coffin lie?
"Who, in the tender spring And blossom of my youth, Taste all the
sorrowing Of life's extremest ruth, And take delight in nought Save in
"All that was sweet and gay Is now a pain to see; The sunniness of
day Is black as night to me; All that was my delight Is hidden from my
"My heart and eye, indeed, One face, one image know, The which this
mournful weed On my sad face doth show, Dyed with the violet's tone That
is the lover's own.
"Tormented by my ill, I go from place to place, But wander as I will My
woes can nought efface; My most of bad and good I find in solitude.
"But wheresoe'er I stay, In meadow or in copse, Whether at break of
day Or when the twilight drops, My heart goes sighing on, Desiring one
"If sometimes to the skies My weary gaze I lift, His gently shining eyes
Look from the cloudy drift, Or stooping o'er the wave I see him in the
"Or when my bed I seek, And-sleep begins to steal, Again I hear him
speak, Again his touch I feel; In work or leisure, he Is ever near to
"No other thing I see, However fair displayed, By which my heart will be
A tributary made, Not having the perfection Of that, my lost affection.
"Here make an end, my verse, Of this thy sad lament, Whose burden shall
rehearse Pure love of true intent, Which separation's stress Will never
"It was then," says Brantorne, "that it was delightful to see her; for
the whiteness of her countenance and of her veil contended together; but
finally the artificial white yielded, and the snow-like pallor of her
face vanquished the other. For it was thus," he adds, "that from the
moment she became a widow, I always saw her with her pale hue, as long
as I had the honour of seeing her in France, and Scotland, where she
had to go in eighteen months' time, to her very great regret, after her
widowhood, to pacify her kingdom, greatly divided by religious troubles.
Alas! she had neither the wish nor the will for it, and I have often
heard her say so, with a fear of this journey like death; for she
preferred a hundred times to dwell in France as a dowager queen, and to
content herself with Touraine and Poitou for her jointure, than to go
and reign over there in her wild country; but her uncles, at least some
of them, not all, advised her, and even urged her to it, and deeply
repented their error."
Mary was obedient, as we have seen, and she began her journey under such
auspices that when she lost sight of land she was like to die. Then it
was that the poetry of her soul found expression in these famous lines:
"Farewell, delightful land of France,
The best beloved!
Foster-nurse of my young years!
Farewell, France, and farewell my happy days!
The ship that separates our loves
Has borne away but half of me;
One part is left thee and is throe,
And I confide it to thy tenderness,
That thou may'st hold in mind the other part."'
[Translator's note.-It has not been found possible to make a rhymed
version of these lines without sacrificing the simplicity which is their
This part of herself that Mary left in France was the body of the young
king, who had taken with him all poor Mary's happiness into his tomb.
Mary had but one hope remaining, that the sight of the English fleet
would compel her little squadron to turn back; but she had to fulfil her
destiny. This same day, a fog, a very unusual occurrence in summer-time,
extended all over the Channel, and caused her to escape the fleet; for
it was such a dense fog that one could not see from stern to mast. It
lasted the whole of Sunday, the day after the departure, and did not
lift till the following day, Monday, at eight o'clock in the morning.
The little flotilla, which all this time had been sailing haphazard, had
got among so many reefs that if the fog had lasted some minutes longer
the galley would certainly have grounded on some rock, and would have
perished like the vessel that had been seen engulfed on leaving port.
But, thanks to the fog's clearing, the pilot recognised the Scottish
coast, and, steering his four boats with great skill through all the
dangers, on the 20th August he put in at Leith, where no preparation
had been made for the queen's reception. Nevertheless, scarcely had she
arrived there than the chief persons of the town met together and came
to felicitate her. Meanwhile, they hastily collected some wretched nags,
with harness all falling in pieces, to conduct the queen to Edinburgh.
At sight of this, Mary could not help weeping again; for she thought of
the splendid palfreys and hackneys of her French knights and ladies, and
at this first view Scotland appeared to-her in all its poverty. Next day
it was to appear to her in all its wildness.
After having passed one night at Holyrood Palace, "during which," says
Brantome, "five to six hundred rascals from the town, instead of letting
her sleep, came to give her a wild morning greeting on wretched fiddles
and little rebecks," she expressed a wish to hear mass. Unfortunately,
the people of Edinburgh belonged almost entirely to the Reformed
religion; so that, furious at the queen's giving such a proof of
papistry at her first appearance, they entered the church by force,
armed with knives, sticks and stones, with the intention of putting to
death the poor priest, her chaplain. He left the altar, and took refuge
near the queen, while Mary's brother, the Prior of St. Andrews, who
was more inclined from this time forward to be a soldier than an
ecclesiastic, seized a sword, and, placing himself between the people
and the queen, declared that he would kill with his own hand the first
man who should take another step. This firmness, combined with the
queen's imposing and dignified air, checked the zeal of the Reformers.
As we have said, Mary had arrived in the midst of all the heat of the
first religious wars. A zealous Catholic, like all her family on the
maternal side, she inspired the Huguenots with the gravest fears:
besides, a rumour had got about that Mary, instead of landing at Leith,
as she had been obliged by the fog, was to land at Aberdeen. There, it
was said, she would have found the Earl of Huntly, one of the peers who
had remained loyal to the Catholic faith, and who, next to the family
of Hamilton, was, the nearest and most powerful ally of the royal house.
Seconded by him and by twenty thousand soldiers from the north, she
would then have marched upon Edinburgh, and have re-established the
Catholic faith throughout Scotland. Events were not slow to prove that
this accusation was false.
As we have stated, Mary was much attached to the Prior of St. Andrews,
a son of James V and of a noble descendant of the Earls of Mar, who had
been very handsome in her youth, and who, in spite of the well-known
love for her of James V, and the child who had resulted, had none the
less wedded Lord Douglas of Lochleven, by whom she had had two other
sons, the elder named William and the younger George, who were thus
half-brothers of the regent. Now, scarcely had she reascended the throne
than Mary had restored to the Prior of St. Andrews the title of Earl of
Mar, that of his maternal ancestors, and as that of the Earl of Murray
had lapsed since the death of the famous Thomas Randolph, Mary, in her
sisterly friendship for James Stuart, hastened to add, this title to
those which she had already bestowed upon him.
But here difficulties and complications arose; for the new Earl of
Murray, with his character, was not a man to content himself with a
barren title, while the estates which were crown property since the
extinction of the male branch of the old earls, had been gradually
encroached upon by powerful neighbours, among whom was the famous Earl
of Huntly, whom we have already mentioned: the result was that, as the
queen judged that in this quarter her orders would probably encounter
opposition, under pretext of visiting her possessions in the north, she
placed herself at the head of a small army, commanded by her brother,
the Earl of Mar and Murray.
The Earl of Huntly was the less duped by the apparent pretext of this
expedition, in that his son, John Cordon, for some abuse of his
powers, had just been condemned to a temporary imprisonment. He,
notwithstanding, made every possible submission to the queen, sending
messengers in advance to invite-her to rest in his castle; and following
up the messengers in person, to renew his invitation viva voce.
Unfortunately, at the very moment when he was about to join the queen,
the governor of Inverness, who was entirely devoted to him, was refusing
to allow Mary to enter this castle, which was a royal one. It is true
that Murray, aware that it does not do to hesitate in the face of such
rebellions, had already had him executed for high treason.
This new act of firmness showed Huntly that the young queen was
not disposed to allow the Scottish lords a resumption of the almost
sovereign power humbled by her father; so that, in spite of the
extremely kind reception she accorded him, as he learned while in camp
that his son, having escaped from prison, had just put himself at
the head of his vassals, he was afraid that he should be thought, as
doubtless he was, a party to the rising, and he set out the same night
to assume command of his troops, his mind made up, as Mary only had with
her seven to eight thousand men, to risk a battle, giving out, however,
as Buccleuch had done in his attempt to snatch James V from the hands of
the Douglases, that it was not at the queen he was aiming, but solely
at the regent, who kept her under his tutelage and perverted her good
Murray, who knew that often the entire peace of a reign depends on the
firmness one displays at its beginning, immediately summoned all the
northern barons whose estates bordered on his, to march against Huntly.
All obeyed, for the house of Cordon was already so powerful that each
feared it might become still more so; but, however, it was clear that
if there was hatred for the subject there was no great affection for
the queen, and that the greater number came without fixed intentions and
with the idea of being led by circumstances.
The two armies encountered near Aberdeen. Murray at once posted the
troops he had brought from Edinburgh, and of which he was sure, on the
top of rising ground, and drew up in tiers on the hill slope all his
northern allies. Huntly advanced resolutely upon them, and attacked
his neighbours the Highlanders, who after a short resistance retired
in disorder. His men immediately threw away their lances, and, drawing
their swords, crying, "Cordon, Cordon!" pursued the fugitives, and
believed they had already gained the battle, when they suddenly ran
right against the main body of Murray's army, which remained motionless
as a rampart of iron, and which, with its long lances, had the advantage
of its adversaries, who were armed only with their claymores. It was
then the turn of the Cordons to draw back, seeing which, the northern
clans rallied and returned to the fight, each soldier having a sprig
of heather in his cap that his comrades might recognise him. This
unexpected movement determined the day: the Highlanders ran down the
hillside like a torrent, dragging along with them everyone who could
have wished to oppose their passage. Then Murray seeing that the moment
had come for changing the defeat into a rout, charged with his entire
cavalry: Huntly, who was very stout and very heavily armed, fell and
was crushed beneath the horses' feet; John Cordon, taken prisoner in
his flight, was executed at Aberdeen three days afterwards; finally, his
brother, too young to undergo the same fate at this time, was shut up in
a dungeon and executed later, the day he reached the age of sixteen.
Mary had been present at the battle, and the calm and courage she
displayed had made a lively impression on her wild defenders, who all
along the road had heard her say that she would have liked to be a man,
to pass her days on horseback, her nights under a tent, to wear a coat
of mail, a helmet, a buckler, and at her side a broadsword.
Mary made her entry into Edinburgh amid general enthusiasm; for this
expedition against the Earl of Huntly, who was a Catholic, had been very
popular among the inhabitants, who had no very clear idea of the real
motives which had caused her to undertake it: They were of the Reformed
faith, the earl was a papist, there was an enemy the less; that is all
they thought about. Now, therefore; the Scotch, amid their acclamations,
whether viva voce or by written demands, expressed the wish that their
queen, who was without issue by Francis II, should re-marry: Mary agreed
to this, and, yielding to the prudent advice of those about her, she
decided to consult upon this marriage Elizabeth, whose heir she was, in
her title of granddaughter of Henry VII, in the event of the Queen of
England's dying without posterity. Unfortunately, she had not always
acted with like circumspection; for at the death of Mary Tudor, known
as Bloody. Mary, she had laid claim to the throne of Henry VIII, and,
relying on the illegitimacy of Elizabeth's birth, had with the dauphin
assumed sovereignty over Scotland, England, and Ireland, and had had
coins struck with this new title, and plate engraved with these new
Elizabeth was nine years older than Mary--that is to say, that at this
time she had not yet attained her thirtieth year; she was not merely
her rival as queen, then, but as woman. As regards education, she could
sustain comparison with advantage; for if she had less charm of mind,
she had more solidity of judgment: versed in politics, philosophy,
history; rhetoric, poetry and music, besides English, her maternal
tongue, she spoke and wrote to perfection Greek, Latin, French, Italian
and Spanish; but while Elizabeth excelled Mary on this point, in her
turn Mary was more beautiful, and above all more attractive, than her
rival. Elizabeth had, it is true, a majestic and agreeable appearance,
bright quick eyes, a dazzlingly white complexion; but she had red hair,
a large foot,--[Elizabeth bestowed a pair of her shoes on the University
of Oxford; their size would point to their being those of a man of
average stature.]--and a powerful hand, while Mary, on the contrary,
with her beautiful ashy-fair hair,--[Several historians assert that Mary
Stuart had black hair; but Brantome, who had seen it, since, as we have
said, he accompanied her to Scotland, affirms that it was fair. And, so
saying, he (the executioner) took off her headdress, in a contemptuous
manner, to display her hair already white, that while alive, however,
she feared not to show, nor yet to twist and frizz as in the days when
it was so beautiful and so fair.]--her noble open forehead, eyebrows
which could be only blamed for being so regularly arched that they
looked as if drawn by a pencil, eyes continually beaming with the
witchery of fire, a nose of perfect Grecian outline, a mouth so ruby
red and gracious that it seemed that, as a flower opens but to let
its perfume escape, so it could not open but to give passage to gentle
words, with a neck white and graceful as a swan's, hands of alabaster,
with a form like a goddess's and a foot like a child's, Mary was a
harmony in which the most ardent enthusiast for sculptured form could
have found nothing to reproach.
This was indeed Mary's great and real crime: one single imperfection in
face or figure, and she would not have died upon the scaffold. Besides,
to Elizabeth, who had never seen her, and who consequently could only
judge by hearsay, this beauty was a great cause of uneasiness and of
jealousy, which she could not even disguise, and which showed itself
unceasingly in eager questions. One day when she was chatting with James
Melville about his mission to her court, Mary's offer to be guided
by Elizabeth in her choice of a husband,--a choice which the queen
of England had seemed at first to wish to see fixed on the Earl of
Leicester,--she led the Scotch ambassador into a cabinet, where she
showed him several portraits with labels in her own handwriting: the
first was one of the Earl of Leicester. As this nobleman was precisely
the suitor chosen by Elizabeth, Melville asked the queen to give it him
to show to his mistress; but Elizabeth refused, saying that it was
the only one she had. Melville then replied, smiling, that being in
possession of the original she might well part with the copy; but
Elizabeth would on no account consent. This little discussion ended, she
showed him the portrait of Mary Stuart, which she kissed very tenderly,
expressing to Melville a great wish to see his mistress. "That is very
easy, madam," he replied: "keep your room, on the pretext that you are
indisposed, and set out incognito for Scotland, as King James V set out
for France when he wanted to see Madeleine de Valois, whom he afterwards
"Alas!" replied Elizabeth, "I would like to do so, but it is not so easy
as you think. Nevertheless, tell your queen that I love her tenderly,
and that I wish we could live more in friendship than we have done up to
the present". Then passing to a subject which she seemed to have wanted
to broach for a long time, "Melville," she continued, "tell me frankly,
is my sister as beautiful as they say?"
"She has that reputation," replied Melville; "but I cannot give your
Majesty any idea of hex beauty, having no point of comparison."
"I will give you one," the queen said. "Is she more beautiful than I?"
"Madam," replied Melville, "you are the most beautiful woman in England,
and Mary Stuart is the most beautiful woman in Scotland."
"Then which of the two is the taller?" asked Elizabeth, who was not
entirely satisfied by this answer, clever as it was.
"My mistress, madam," responded Melville; "I am obliged to confess it."
"Then she is too tall," Elizabeth said sharply, "for I am tall enough.
And what are her favourite amusements?" she continued.
"Madam," Melville replied, "hunting, riding, performing on the lute and
"Is she skilled upon the latter?" Elizabeth inquired. "Oh yes, madam,"
answered Melville; "skilled enough for a queen."
There the conversation stopped; but as Elizabeth was herself an
excellent musician, she commanded Lord Hunsdon to bring Melville to her
at a time when she was at her harpischord, so that he could hear her
without her seeming to have the air of playing for him. In fact, the
same day, Hunsdon, agreeably to her instructions, led the ambassador
into a gallery separated from the queen's apartment merely by tapestry,
so that his guide having raised it. Melville at his leisure could hear
Elizabeth, who did not turn round until she had finished the piece,
which, however, she was playing with much skill. When she saw Melville,
she pretended to fly into a passion, and even wanted to strike him;
but her anger calmed down by little and little at the ambassador's
compliments, and ceased altogether when he admitted that Mary Stuart
was not her equal. But this was not all: proud of her triumph, Elizabeth
desired also that Melville should see her dance. Accordingly, she kept
back her despatches for two days that he might be present at a ball that
she was giving. These despatches, as we have said, contained the wish
that Mary Stuart should espouse Leicester; but this proposal could
not be taken seriously. Leicester, whose personal worth was besides
sufficiently mediocre, was of birth too inferior to aspire to the
hand of the daughter of so many kings; thus Mary replied that such an
alliance would not become her. Meanwhile, something strange and tragic
came to pass.
Among the lords who had followed Mary Stuart to Scotland was, as we have
mentioned, a young nobleman named Chatelard, a true type of the nobility
of that time, a nephew of Bayard on his mother's side, a poet and a
knight, talented and courageous, and attached to Marshal Damville, of
whose household he formed one. Thanks to this high position, Chatelard,
throughout her stay in France, paid court to Mary Stuart, who, in the
homage he rendered her in verse, saw nothing more than those poetical
declarations of gallantry customary in that age, and with which she
especially was daily overwhelmed. But it happened that about the time
when Chatelard was most in love with the queen she was obliged to leave
France, as we have said. Then Marshal Damville, who knew nothing of
Chatelard's passion, and who himself, encouraged by Mary's kindness,
was among the candidates to succeed Francis II as husband, set out
for Scotland with the poor exile, taking Chatelard with him, and, not
imagining he would find a rival in him, he made a confidant of him, and
left him with Mary when he was obliged to leave her, charging the
young poet to support with her the interests of his suit. This post
as confidant brought Mary and Chatelard more together; and, as in her
capacity as poet, the queen treated him like a brother, he made bold
in his passion to risk all to obtain another title. Accordingly, one
evening he got into Mary Stuart's room, and hid himself under the bed;
but at the moment when the queen was beginning to undress, a little
dog she had began to yelp so loudly that her women came running at
his barking, and, led by this indication, perceived Chatelard. A woman
easily pardons a crime for which too great love is the excuse: Mary
Stuart was woman before being queen--she pardoned.
But this kindness only increased Chatelard's confidence: he put down
the reprimand he had received to the presence of the queen's women, and
supposed that if she had been alone she would have forgiven him still
more completely; so that, three weeks after, this same scene was
repeated. But this time, Chatelard, discovered in a cupboard, when the
queen was already in bed, was placed under arrest.
The moment was badly chosen: such a scandal, just when the queen was
about to re-marry, was fatal to Mary, let alone to Chatelard. Murray
took the affair in hand, and, thinking that a public trial could alone
save his sister's reputation, he urged the prosecution with such vigour,
that Chatelard, convicted of the crime of lese-majeste, was condemned to
death. Mary entreated her brother that Chatelard might be sent back to
France; but Murray made her see what terrible consequences such a use of
her right of pardon might have, so that Mary was obliged to let
justice take its course: Chatelard was led to execution. Arrived on the
scaffold, which was set up before the queen's palace, Chatelard, who had
declined the services of a priest, had Ronsard's Ode on Death read; and
when the reading, which he followed with evident pleasure, was ended, he
turned--towards the queen's windows, and, having cried out for the last
time, "Adieu, loveliest and most cruel of princesses!" he stretched
out his neck to the executioner, without displaying any repentance or
uttering any complaint. This death made all the more impression upon
Mary, that she did not dare to show her sympathy openly.
Meanwhile there was a rumour that the queen of Scotland was consenting
to a new marriage, and several suitors came forward, sprung from the
principal reigning families of Europe: first, the Archduke Charles,
third son of the Emperor of Germany; then the Duke of Anjou, who
afterwards became Henry III. But to wed a foreign prince was to give up
her claims to the English crown. So Mary refused, and, making a merit
of this to Elizabeth, she cast her eyes on a relation of the latter's,
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, son of the Earl of Lennox. Elizabeth, who
had nothing plausible to urge against this marriage, since the Queen of
Scotland not only chose an Englishman for husband, but was marrying
into her own family, allowed the Earl of Lennox and his son to go to
the Scotch court, reserving it to herself, if matters appeared to take
a serious turn, to recall them both--a command which they would be
constrained to obey, since all their property was in England.
Darnley was eighteen years of age: he was handsome, well-made, elegant;
he talked in that attractive manner of the young nobles of the French
and English courts that Mary no longer heard since her exile in
Scotland; she let herself be deceived by these appearances, and did not
see that under this brilliant exterior Darnley hid utter insignificance,
dubious courage, and a fickle and churlish character. It is true that he
came to her under the auspices of a man whose influence was as striking
as the risen fortune which gave him the opportunity to exert it. We
refer to David Rizzio.
David Rizzio, who played such a great part in the life of Mary Stuart,
whose strange favour for him has given her enemies, probably without any
cause, such cruel weapons against her, was the son of a Turin musician
burdened with a numerous family, who, recognising in him a pronounced
musical taste, had him instructed in the first principles of the art. At
the age of fifteen he had left his father's house and had gone on foot
to Nice, where the Duke of Savoy held his court; there he entered the
service of the Duke of Moreto, and this lord having been appointed,
some years afterwards, to the Scottish embassy, Rizzio followed him to
Scotland. As this young man had a very fine voice, and accompanied on
the viol and fiddle songs of which both the airs and the words were of
his own composition, the ambassador spoke of him to Mary, who wished
to see him. Rizzio, full of confidence in himself, and seeing in the
queen's desire a road to success, hastened to obey her command, sang
before her, and pleased her. She begged him then of Moreto, making
no more of it than if she had asked of him a thoroughbred dog or a
well-trained falcon. Moreta presented him to her, delighted at finding
such an opportunity to pay his court; but scarcely was Rizzio in her
service than Mary discovered that music was the least of his gifts, that
he possessed, besides that, education if not profound at least varied,
a supple mind, a lively imagination, gentle ways, and at the same time
much boldness and presumption. He reminded her of those Italian artists
whom she had seen at the French court, and spoke to her the tongue of
Marot and Ronsard, whose most beautiful poems he knew by heart: this was
more than enough to please Mary Stuart. In a short time he became
her favourite, and meanwhile the place of secretary for the French
despatches falling vacant, Rizzio was provided for with it.
Darnley, who wished to succeed at all costs, enlisted Rizzio in his
interests, unconscious that he had no need of this support; and as, on
her side, Mary, who had fallen in love with him at first sight, fearing
some new intrigue of Elizabeth's, hastened on this union so far as the
proprieties permitted, the affair moved forward with wonderful rapidity;
and in the midst of public rejoicing, with the approbation of the
nobility, except for a small minority, with Murray at its head, the
marriage was solemnised under the happiest auspices, 29th July 1565. Two
days before, Darnley and his father, the Earl of Lennox, had received a
command to return to London, and as they had not obeyed it, a week
after the celebration of the marriage they learned that the Countess of
Lennox, the only one of the family remaining in Elizabeth's power, had
been arrested and taken to the Tower. Thus Elizabeth, in spite of her
dissimulation, yielding to that first impulse of violence that she
always had such trouble to overcome, publicly displayed her resentment.
However, Elizabeth was not the woman to be satisfied with useless
vengeance: she soon released the countess, and turned her eyes towards
Murray, the most discontented of the nobles in opposition, who by this
marriage was losing all his personal influence. It was thus easy for
Elizabeth to put arms in his hand. In fact, when he had failed in
his first attempt to seize Darnley, he called to his aid the Duke
of Chatellerault, Glencairn, Argyll, and Rothes, and collecting what
partisans they could, they openly rebelled against the queen. This was
the first ostensible act of that hatred which was afterwards so fatal to
The queen, on her side, appealed to her nobles, who in response hastened
to rally to her, so that in a month's time she found herself at the
head of the finest army that ever a king of Scotland had raised. Darnley
assumed the command of this magnificent assembly, mounted on a superb
horse, arrayed in gilded armour; and accompanied by the queen, who, in
a riding habit, with pistols at her saddle-bow, wished to make the
campaign with him, that she might not quit his side for a moment. Both
were young, both were handsome, and they left Edinburgh amidst the
cheers of the people and the army.
Murray and his accomplices did not even try to stand against them,
and the campaign consisted of such rapid and complex marches and
counter-marches, that this rebellion is called the Run-about Raid-that
is to say, the run in every sense of the word. Murray and the rebels
withdrew into England, where Elizabeth, while seeming to condemn their
unlucky attempt, afforded them all the assistance they needed.
Mary returned to Edinburgh delighted at the success of her two first
campaigns, not suspecting that this new good fortune was the last she
would have, and that there her short-lived prosperity would cease.
Indeed, she soon saw that in Darnley she had given herself not a devoted
and very attentive husband, as she had believed, but an imperious and
brutal master, who, no longer having any motive for concealment, showed
himself to her just as he was, a man of disgraceful vices, of which
drunkenness and debauchery was the least. Accordingly, serious
differences were not long in springing up in this royal household.
Darnley in wedding Mary had not become king, but merely the queen's
husband. To confer on him authority nearly equalling a regent's, it
was necessary that Mary should grant him what was termed the crown
matrimonial--a crown Francis II had worn during his short royalty, and
that Mary, after Darnley's conduct to herself, had not the slightest
intention of bestowing on him. Thus, to whatever entreaties he made, in
whatever form they were wrapped, Mary merely replied with an unvaried
and obstinate refusal. Darnley, amazed at this force of will in a young
queen who had loved him enough to raise him to her, and not believing
that she could find it in herself, sought in her entourage for some
secret and influential adviser who might have inspired her with it. His
suspicions fell on Rizzio.
In reality, to whatever cause Rizzio owed his power (and to even the
most clear-sighted historians this point has always remained obscure),
be it that he ruled as lover, be it that he advised as minister, his
counsels as long as he lived were always given for the greater glory
of the queen. Sprung from so low, he at least wished to show himself
worthy, of having risen so high, and owing everything to Mary, he tried
to repay her with devotion. Thus Darnley was not mistaken, and it was
indeed Rizzio who, in despair at having helped to bring about a union
which he foresaw must become so unfortunate, gave Mary the advice not to
give up any of her power to one who already possessed much more than he
deserved, in possessing her person.
Darnley, like all persons of both weak and violent character,
disbelieved in the persistence of will in others, unless this will was
sustained by an outside influence. He thought that in ridding himself
of Rizzio he could not fail to gain the day, since, as he believed,
he alone was opposing the grant of this great desire of his, the crown
matrimonial. Consequently, as Rizzio was disliked by the nobles in
proportion as his merits had raised him above them, it was easy
for Darnley to organise a conspiracy, and James Douglas of Morton,
chancellor of the kingdom, consented to act as chief.
This is the second time since the beginning of our narrative that we
inscribe this name Douglas, so often pronounced, in Scottish history,
and which at this time, extinct in the elder branch, known as the Black
Douglases, was perpetuated in the younger branch, known as the Red
Douglases. It was an ancient, noble, and powerful family, which, when
the descent in the male line from Robert Bruce had lapsed, disputed the
royal title with the first Stuart, and which since then had constantly
kept alongside the throne, sometimes its support, sometimes its enemy,
envying every great house, for greatness made it uneasy, but above all
envious of the house of Hamilton, which, if not its equal, was at any
rate after itself the next most powerful.
During the whole reign of James V, thanks to the hatred which the king
bore them, the Douglases had: not only lost all their influence, but had
also been exiled to England. This hatred was on account of their having
seized the guardianship of the young prince and kept him prisoner till
he was fifteen. Then, with the help of one of his pages, James V had
escaped from Falkland, and had reached Stirling, whose governor was
in his interests. Scarcely was he safe in the castle than he made
proclamation that any Douglas who should approach within a dozen
miles of it would be prosecuted for high treason. This was not all: he
obtained a decree from Parliament, declaring them guilty of felony, and
condemning them to exile; they remained proscribed, then, during the
king's lifetime, and returned to Scotland only upon his death. The
result was that, although they had been recalled about the throne, and
though, thanks to the past influence of Murray, who, one remembers, was
a Douglas on the mother's side, they filled the most important posts
there, they had not forgiven to the daughter the enmity borne them by
This was why James Douglas, chancellor as he was, and consequently
entrusted with the execution of the laws, put himself at the head of a
conspiracy which had for its aim the violation of all laws; human and
Douglas's first idea had been to treat Rizzio as the favourites of James
III had been treated at the Bridge of Lauder--that is to say, to make a
show of having a trial and to hang him afterwards. But such a death did
not suffice for Darnley's vengeance; as above everything he wished to
punish the queen in Rizzio's person, he exacted that the murder should
take place in her presence.
Douglas associated with himself Lord Ruthven, an idle and dissolute
sybarite, who under the circumstances promised to push his devotion so
far as to wear a cuirass; then, sure of this important accomplice, he
busied himself with finding other agents.
However, the plot was not woven with such secrecy but that something of
it transpired; and Rizzio received several warnings that he despised.
Sir James Melville, among others, tried every means to make him
understand the perils a stranger ran who enjoyed such absolute
confidence in a wild, jealous court like that of Scotland. Rizzio
received these hints as if resolved not to apply them to himself;
and Sir James Melville, satisfied that he had done enough to ease his
conscience, did not insist further. Then a French priest, who had a
reputation as a clever astrologer, got himself admitted to Rizzio, and
warned him that the stars predicted that he was in deadly peril, and
that he should beware of a certain bastard above all. Rizzio replied
that from the day when he had been honoured with his sovereign's
confidence, he had sacrificed in advance his life to his position; that
since that time, however, he had had occasion to notice that in general
the Scotch were ready to threaten but slow to act; that, as to the
bastard referred to, who was doubtless the Earl of Murray, he would take
care that he should never enter Scotland far enough for his sword to
reach him, were it as long as from Dumfries to Edinburgh; which in other
words was as much as to say that Murray should remain exiled in England
for life, since Dumfries was one of the principal frontier towns.
Meanwhile the conspiracy proceeded, and Douglas and Ruthven, having
collected their accomplices and taken their measures, came to Darnley to
finish the compact. As the price of the bloody service they rendered the
king, they exacted from him a promise to obtain the pardon of Murray
and the nobles compromised with him in the affair of the "run in every
sense". Darnley granted all they asked of him, and a messenger was sent
to Murray to inform him of the expedition in preparation, and to invite
him to hold himself in readiness to reenter Scotland at the first notice
he should receive. Then, this point settled, they made Darnley sign
a paper in which he acknowledged himself the author and chief of the
enterprise. The other assassins were the Earl of Morton, the Earl of
Ruthven, George Douglas the bastard of Angus, Lindley, and Andrew,
Carew. The remainder were soldiers, simple murderers' tools, who did not
even know what was afoot. Darnley reserved it for himself to appoint the
Two days after these conditions were agreed upon, Darnley having been
notified that the queen was alone with Rizzio, wished to make himself
sure of the degree of her favour enjoyed by the minister. He accordingly
went to her apartment by a little door of which he always kept the key
upon him; but though the key turned in the lock, the door did not open.
Then Darnley knocked, announcing himself; but such was the contempt
into which he had fallen with the queen, that Mary left him outside,
although, supposing she had been alone with Rizzio, she would have had
time to send him away. Darnley, driven to extremities by this, summoned
Morton, Ruthven, Lennox, Lindley, and Douglas's bastard, and fixed the
assassination of Rizzio for two days later.
They had just completed all the details, and had, distributed the parts
that each must play in this bloody tragedy, when suddenly, and at the
moment when they least expected it, the door opened and, Mary Stuart
appeared on the threshold.
"My lords," said she, "your holding these secret counsels is useless.
I am informed of your plots, and with God's help I shall soon apply a
With these words, and before the conspirators hid had time to collect
themselves, she shut the door again, and vanished like a passing but
threatening vision. All remained thunderstruck. Morton was the first to
find his tongue.
"My lords," said he, "this is a game of life and death, and the winner
will not be the cleverest or the strongest, but the readiest. If we do
not destroy this man, we are lost. We must strike him down, this very
evening, not the day after to-morrow."
Everyone applauded, even Ruthven, who, still pale and feverish from
riotous living, promised not to be behindhand. The only point changed,
on Morton's suggestion, was that the murder should take place next day;
for, in the opinion of all, not less than a day's interval was needed to
collect the minor conspirators, who numbered not less than five hundred.
The next day, which was Saturday, March 9th, 1566, Mary Stuart, who had
inherited from her father, James V, a dislike of ceremony and the need
of liberty, had invited to supper with her six persons, Rizzio among
the number. Darnley, informed of this in the morning, immediately gave
notice of it to the conspirators, telling them that he himself would let
them into the palace between six and seven o'clock in the evening. The
conspirators replied that they would be in readiness.
The morning had been dark and stormy, as nearly all the first days of
spring are in Scotland, and towards evening the snow and wind redoubled
in depth and violence. So Mary had remained shut up with Rizzio, and
Darnley, who had gone to the secret door several times, could hear the
sound of instruments and the voice of the favourite, who was singing
those sweet melodies which have come down to our time, and which
Edinburgh people still attribute to him. These songs were for Mary a
reminder of her stay in France, where the artists in the train of the
Medicis had already brought echoes from Italy; but for Darnley they were
an insult, and each time he had withdrawn strengthened in his design.
At the appointed time, the conspirators, who had been given the password
during the day, knocked at the palace gate, and were received there so
much the more easily that Darnley himself, wrapped in a great cloak,
awaited them at the postern by which they were admitted. The five
hundred soldiers immediately stole into an inner courtyard, where they
placed themselves under some sheds, as much to keep themselves from
the cold as that they might not be seen on the snow-covered ground. A
brightly lighted window looked into this courtyard; it was that of
the queen's study: at the first signal give them from this window,
the soldiers were to break in the door and go to the help of the chief
These instructions given, Darnley led Morton, Ruthven, Lennox, Lindley,
Andrew Carew, and Douglas's bastard into the room adjoining the study,
and only separated from it by a tapestry hanging before the door. From
there one could overhear all that was being said, and at a single bound
fall upon the guests.
Darnley left them in this room, enjoining silence; then, giving them
as a signal to enter the moment when they should hear him cry, "To me,
Douglas!" he went round by the secret passage, so that seeing him come
in by his usual door the queen's suspicions might not be roused by his
Mary was at supper with six persons, having, say de Thou and Melville,
Rizzio seated on her right; while, on the contrary, Carapden assures
us that he was eating standing at a sideboard. The talk was gay and
intimate; for all were giving themselves up to the ease one feels at
being safe and warm, at a hospitable board, while the snow is beating
against the windows and the wind roaring in the chimneys. Suddenly Mary,
surprised that the most profound silence had succeeded to the lively and
animated flow of words among her guests since the beginning of supper,
and suspecting, from their glances, that the cause of their uneasiness
was behind her, turned round and saw Darnley leaning on the back of her
chair. The queen shuddered; for although her husband was smiling when
looking at Rizzio, this smile lead assumed such a strange expression
that it was clear that something terrible was about to happen. At the
same moment, Mary heard in the next room a heavy, dragging step drew
near the cabinet, then the tapestry was raised, and Lord Ruthven, in
armour of which he could barely support the weight, pale as a ghost,
appeared on the threshold, and, drawing his sword in silence, leaned
The queen thought he was delirious.
"What do you want, my lord?" she said to him; "and why do you come to
the palace like this?"
"Ask the king, madam," replied Ruthven in an indistinct voice. "It is
for him to answer."
"Explain, my lord," Mary demanded, turning again towards Darnley; "what
does such a neglect of ordinary propriety mean?"
"It means, madam," returned Darnley, pointing to Rizzio, "that that man
must leave here this very minute."
"That man is mine, my lord," Mary said, rising proudly, "and
consequently takes orders only from me."
"To me, Douglas!" cried Darnley.
At these words, the conspirators, who for some moments had drawn nearer
Ruthven, fearing, so changeable was Darnley's character, lest he had
brought them in vain and would not dare to utter the signal--at these
words, the conspirators rushed into the room with such haste that they
overturned the table. Then David Rizzio, seeing that it was he alone
they wanted, threw himself on his knees behind the queen, seizing the
hem of her robe and crying in Italian, "Giustizia! giustizia!" Indeed,
the queen, true to her character, not allowing herself to be intimidated
by this terrible irruption, placed herself in front of Rizzio and
sheltered him behind her Majesty. But she counted too much on the
respect of a nobility accustomed to struggle hand to hand with its
kings for five centuries. Andrew Carew held a dagger to her breast and
threatened to kill her if she insisted on defending any longer him whose
death was resolved upon. Then Darnley, without consideration for the
queen's pregnancy, seized her round the waist and bore her away from
Rizzio, who remained on his knees pale and trembling, while Douglas's
bastard, confirming the prediction of the astrologer who had warned
Rizzio to beware of a certain bastard, drawing the king's own dagger,
plunged it into the breast of the minister, who fell wounded, but not
dead. Morton immediately took him by the feet and dragged him from the
cabinet into the larger room, leaving on the floor that long track of
blood which is still shown there; then, arrived there, each rushed upon
him as upon a quarry, and set upon the corpse, which they stabbed in
fifty-six places. Meanwhile Darnley held the queen, who, thinking that
all was not over, did not cease crying for mercy. But Ruthven came back,
paler than at first, and at Darnley's inquiry if Rizzio were dead, he
nodded in the affirmative; then, as he could not bear further fatigue
in his convalescent state, he sat down, although the queen, whom Darnley
had at last released, remained standing on the same spot. At this Mary
could not contain herself.
"My lord," cried she, "who has given you permission to sit down in my
presence, and whence comes such insolence?"
"Madam," Ruthven answered, "I act thus not from insolence, but from
weakness; for, to serve your husband, I have just taken more exercise
than my doctors allow". Then turning round to a servant, "Give me
a glass of wine," said he, showing Darnley his bloody dagger before
putting it back in its sheath, "for here is the proof that I have well
earned it". The servant obeyed, and Ruthven drained his glass with as
much calmness as if he had just performed the most innocent act.
"My lord," the queen then said, taking a step towards him, "it may be
that as I am a woman, in spite of my desire and my will, I never find
an opportunity to repay you what you are doing to me; but," she added,
energetically striking her womb with her hand, "he whom I bear there,
and whose life you should have respected, since you respect my Majesty
so little, will one day revenge me for all these insults". Then, with a
gesture at once superb and threatening, she withdrew by Darnley's door,
which she closed behind her.
At that moment a great noise was heard in the queen's room. Huntly,
Athol, and Bothwell, who, we are soon about to see, play such an
important part in the sequel of this history, were supping together in
another hall of the palace, when suddenly they had heard outcries and
the clash of arms, so that they had run with all speed. When Athol, who
came first, without knowing whose it was, struck against the dead
body of Rizzio, which was stretched at the top of the staircase, they
believed, seeing someone assassinated, that the lives of the king and
queen were threatened, and they had drawn their swords to force the door
that Morton was guarding. But directly Darnley understood what was going
on, he darted from the cabinet, followed by Ruthven, and showing himself
to the newcomers--
"My lords," he said, "the persons of the queen and myself are safe, and
nothing has occurred here but by our orders. Withdraw, then; you will
know more about it in time. As to him," he added, holding up Rizzio's
head by the hair, whilst the bastard of Douglas lit up the face with a
torch so that it could be recognised, "you see who it is, and whether it
is worth your while to get into trouble for him".
And in fact, as soon as Huntly, Athol, and Bothwell had recognised the
musician-minister, they sheathed their swords, and, having saluted the
king, went away.
Mary had gone away with a single thought in her heart, vengeance. But
she understood that she could not revenge herself at one and the same
time on her husband and his companions: she set to work, then, with
all the charms of her wit and beauty to detach the kind from his
accomplices. It was not a difficult task: when that brutal rage which
often carried Darnley beyond all bounds was spent, he was frightened
himself at the crime he had committed, and while the assassins,
assembled by Murray, were resolving that he should have that greatly
desired crown matrimonial, Darnley, as fickle as he was violent, and as
cowardly as he was cruel, in Mary's very room, before the scarcely
dried blood, made another compact, in which he engaged to deliver up
his accomplices. Indeed, three days after the event that we have just
related, the murderers learned a strange piece of news--that Darnley
and Mary, accompanied by Lord Seyton, had escaped together from Holyrood
Palace. Three days later still, a proclamation appeared, signed by Mary
and dated from Dunbar, which summoned round the queen, in her own name
and the king's, all the Scottish lords and barons, including those who
had been compromised in the affair of the "run in every sense," to whom
she not only granted full and complete pardon, but also restored her
entire confidence. In this way she separated Murray's cause from that
of Morton and the other assassins, who, in their turn, seeing that there
was no longer any safety for them in Scotland, fled to England, where
all the queen's enemies were always certain to find a warm welcome, in
spite of the good relations which reigned in appearance between Mary and
Elizabeth. As to Bothwell, who had wanted to oppose the assassination,
he was appointed Warden of all the Marches of the Kingdom.
Unfortunately for her honour, Mary, always more the woman than the
queen, while, on the contrary, Elizabeth was always more the queen than
the woman, had no sooner regained her power than her first royal act was
to exhume Rizzio, who had been quietly buried on the threshold of
the chapel nearest Holyrood Palace, and to have him removed to the
burial-place of the Scottish kings, compromising herself still more by
the honours she paid him dead than by the favour she had granted him
Such an imprudent demonstration naturally led to fresh quarrels between
Mary and Darnley: these quarrels were the more bitter that, as one can
well understand, the reconciliation between the husband and wife, at
least on the latter's side, had never been anything but a pretence; so
that, feeling herself in a stronger position still on account of her
pregnancy, she restrained herself no longer, and, leaving Darnley, she
went from Dunbar to Edinburgh Castle, where on June 19th, 1566, three
months after the assassination of Rizzio, she gave birth to a son who
afterwards became James VI.
Directly she was delivered, Mary sent for James Melville, her usual
envoy to Elizabeth, and charged him to convey this news to the Queen of
England, and to beg her to be godmother to the royal child at the same
time. On arriving in London, Melville immediately presented himself at
the palace; but as there was a court ball, he could not see the queen,
and contented himself with making known the reason for his journey to
the minister Cecil, and with begging him to ask his mistress for an
audience next day. Elizabeth was dancing in a quadrille at the moment
when Cecil, approaching her, said in a low voice, "Queen Mary of
Scotland has just given birth to a son". At these words she grew
frightfully pale, and, looking about her with a bewildered air, and as
if she were about to faint, she leaned against an arm-chair; then, soon,
not being able to stand upright, she sat down, threw back her head, and
plunged into a mournful reverie. Then one of the ladies of her court,
breaking through the circle which had formed round the queen, approached
her, ill at ease, and asked her of what she was thinking so sadly. "Ah!
madam," Elizabeth replied impatiently, "do you not know that Mary Stuart
has given birth to a son, while I am but a barren stock, who will die
Yet Elizabeth was too good a politician, in spite of her liability to
be carried away by a first impulse, to compromise herself by a longer
display of her grief. The ball was not discontinued on that account, and
the interrupted quadrille was resumed and finished.
The next day, Melville had his audience. Elizabeth received him to
perfection, assuring him of all the pleasure that the news he brought
had caused her, and which, she said, had cured her of a complaint
from which she had suffered for a fortnight. Melville replied that his
mistress had hastened to acquaint her with her joy, knowing that she had
no better friend; but he added that this joy had nearly cost Mary her
life, so grievous had been her confinement. As he was returning to this
point for the third time, with the object of still further increasing
the queen of England's dislike to marriage--
"Be easy, Melville," Elizabeth answered him; "you need not insist upon
it. I shall never marry; my kingdom takes the place of a husband for
me, and my subjects are my children. When I am dead, I wish graven on my
tombstone: 'Here lies Elizabeth, who reigned so many years, and who died
Melville availed himself of this opportunity to remind Elizabeth of
the desire she had shown to see Mary, three or four years before; but
Elizabeth said, besides her country's affairs, which necessitated her
presence in the heart of her possessions, she did not care, after
all she had heard said of her rival's beauty, to expose herself to a
comparison disadvantageous to her pride. She contented herself, then,
with choosing as her proxy the Earl of Bedford, who set out with
several other noblemen for Stirling Castle, where the young prince was
christened with great pomp, and received the name of Charles James.
It was remarked that Darnley did not appear at this ceremony, and that
his absence seemed to scandalise greatly the queen of England's envoy.
On the contrary, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, had the most important
This was because, since the evening when Bothwell, at Mary's cries, had
run to oppose the murder of Rizzio, he had made great way in the queen's
favour; to her party he himself appeared to be really attached, to
the exclusion of the two others, the king's and the Earl of Murray's.
Bothwell was already thirty-five years old, head of the powerful family
of Hepburn, which had great influence in East Lothian and the county
of Berwick; for the rest, violent, rough, given to every kind of
debauchery, and capable of anything to satisfy an ambition that he did
not even give himself the trouble to hide. In his youth he had been
reputed courageous, but for long he had had no serious opportunity to
draw the sword.
If the king's authority had been shaken by Rizzio's influence, it
was entirely upset by Bothwell's. The great nobles, following the
favourite's example, no longer rose in the presence of Darnley, and
ceased little by little to treat him as their equal: his retinue was cut
down, his silver plate taken from him, and some officers who remained
about him made him buy their services with the most bitter vexations.
As for the queen, she no longer even took the trouble to conceal her
dislike for him, avoiding him without consideration, to such a degree
that one day when she had gone with Bothwell to Alway, she left there
again immediately, because Darnley came to join her. The king, however,
still had patience; but a fresh imprudence of Mary's at last led to the
terrible catastrophe that, since the queen's liaison with Bothwell, some
had already foreseen.
Towards the end of the month of October, 1566, while the queen was
holding a court of justice at Jedburgh, it was announced to her that
Bothwell, in trying to seize a malefactor called John Elliot of Park,
had been badly wounded in the hand; the queen, who was about to attend
the council, immediately postponed the sitting till next day, and,
having ordered a horse to be saddled, she set out for Hermitage Castle,
where Bothwell was living, and covered the distance at a stretch,
although it was twenty miles, and she had to go across woods, marshes,
and rivers; then, having remained some hours tete-a-tete with him, she
set out again with the same sped for Jedburgh, to which she returned in
Although this proceeding had made a great deal of talk, which was
inflamed still more by the queen's enemies, who chiefly belonged to the
Reformed religion, Darnley did not hear of it till nearly two months
afterwards--that is to say, when Bothwell, completely recovered,
returned with the queen to Edinburgh.
Then Darnley thought that he ought not to put up any longer with such
humiliations. But as, since his treason to his accomplices, he had not
found in all Scotland a noble who would have drawn the sword for him,
he resolved to go and seek the Earl of Lennox, his father, hoping that
through his influence he could rally the malcontents, of whom there
were a great number since Bothwell had been in favour. Unfortunately,
Darnley, indiscreet and imprudent as usual, confided this plan to
some of his officers, who warned Bothwell of their master's intention.
Bothwell did not seem to oppose the journey in any way; but Darnley was
scarcely a mile from Edinburgh when he felt violent pains none the less,
he continued his road, and arrived very ill at Glasgow. He immediately
sent for a celebrated doctor, called James Abrenets, who found his body
covered with pimples, and declared without any hesitation that he had
been poisoned. However, others, among them Walter Scott, state that this
illness was nothing else than smallpox.
Whatever it may have been, the queen, in the presence of the danger her
husband ran, appeared to forget her resentment, and at the risk of what
might prove troublesome to herself, she went to Darnley, after sending
her doctor in advance. It is true that if one is to believe in the
following letters, dated from Glasgow, which Mary is accused of having
written to Bothwell, she knew the illness with which he was attacked too
well to fear infection. As these letters are little known, and seem to
us very singular we transcribe them here; later we shall tell how they
fell into the power of the Confederate lords, and from their hands
passed into Elizabeth's, who, quite delighted, cried on receiving them,
"God's death, then I hold her life and honour in my hands!"
"When I set out from the place where I had left my heart, judge in what
a condition I was, poor body without a soul: besides, during the whole
of dinner I have not spoken to anyone, and no one has dared to approach
me, for it was easy to see that there was something amiss. When I
arrived within a league of the town, the Earl of Lennox sent me one of
his gentlemen to make me his compliments, and to excuse himself for not
having come in person; he has caused me to be informed, moreover, that
he did not dare to present himself before me after the reprimand that I
gave Cunningham. This gentleman begged me, as if of his own accord, to
examine his master's conduct, to ascertain if my suspicions were well
founded. I have replied to him that fear was an incurable disease, that
the Earl of Lennox would not be so agitated if his conscience reproached
him with nothing, and that if some hasty words had escaped me, they were
but just reprisals for the letter he had written me.
"None of the inhabitants visited me, which makes me think they are all
in his interests; besides, they speak of him very favourably, as well as
of his son. The king sent for Joachim yesterday, and asked him why I
did not lodge with him, adding that my presence would soon cure him, and
asked me also with what object I had come: if it were to be reconciled
with him; if you were here; if I had taken Paris and Gilbert as
secretaries, and if I were still resolved to dismiss Joseph? I do not
know who has given him such accurate information. There is nothing,
down to the marriage of Sebastian, with which he has not made himself
acquainted. I have asked him the meaning of one of his letters, in
which he complains of the cruelty of certain people. He replied that
he was--stricken, but that my presence caused him so much joy that he
thought he should die of it. He reproached me several times for being
dreamy; I left him to go to supper; he begged me to return: I went back.
Then he told me the story of his illness, and that he wished to make a
will leaving me everything, adding that I was a little the cause of his
trouble, and that he attributed it to my coldness. 'You ask me,' added
he, 'who are the people of whom I complain: it is of you, cruel one,
of you, whom I have never been able to appease by my tears and my
repentance. I know that I have offended you, but not on the matter that
you reproach me with: I have also offended some of your subjects, but
that you have forgiven me. I am young, and you say that I always relapse
into my faults; but cannot a young man like me, destitute of experience,
gain it also, break his promises, repent directly, and in time improve?
If you will forgive me yet once more, I will promise to offend you never
again. All the favour I ask of you is that we should live together
like husband and wife, to have but one bed and one board: if you are
inflexible, I shall never rise again from here. I entreat you, tell me
your decision: God alone knows what I suffer, and that because I occupy
myself with you only, because I love and adore only you. If I have
offended you sometimes, you must bear the reproach; for when someone
offends me, if it were granted me to complain to you, I should not
confide my griefs to others; but when we are on bad terms, I am obliged
to keep them to myself, and that maddens me.'
"He then urged me strongly to stay with him and lodge in his house; but
I excused myself, and replied that he ought to be purged, and that he
could not be, conveniently, at Glasgow; then he told me that he knew I
had brought a letter for him, but that he would have preferred to make
the journey with me. He believed, I think, that I meant to send him to
some prison: I replied that I should take him to Craigmiller, that he
would find doctors there, that I should remain near him, and that we
should be within reach of seeing my son. He has answered that he will go
where I wish to take him, provided that I grant him what he has asked.
He does not, however, wish to be seen by anyone.
"He has told me more than a hundred pretty things that I cannot repeat
to you, and at which you yourself would be surprised: he did not want to
let me go; he wanted to make me sit up with him all night. As for me, I
pretended to believe everything, and I seemed to interest myself really
in him. Besides, I have never seen him so small and humble; and if I had
not known how easily his heart overflows, and how mine is impervious to
every other arrow than those with which you have wounded it, I believe
that I should have allowed myself to soften; but lest that should alarm
you, I would die rather than give up what I have promised you. As for
you, be sure to act in the same way towards those traitors who will do
all they can to separate you from me. I believe that all those people
have been cast in the same mould: this one always has a tear in his
eye; he bows down before everyone, from the greatest to the smallest;
he wishes to interest them in his favour, and make himself pitied. His
father threw up blood to-day through the nose and mouth; think what
these symptoms mean. I have not seen him yet, for he keeps to the house.
The king wants me to feed him myself; he won't eat unless I do. But,
whatever I may do, you will be deceived by it no more than I shall
be deceiving myself. We are united, you and I, to two kinds of very
detestable people [Mary means Miss Huntly, Bothwell's wife, whom he
repudiated, at the king's death, to marry the queen.]: that hell may
sever these knots then, and that heaven may form better ones, that
nothing can break, that it may make of us the most tender and faithful
couple that ever was; there is the profession of faith in which I would
"Excuse my scrawl: you must guess more than the half of it, but I know
no help for this. I am obliged to write to you hastily while everyone
is asleep here: but be easy, I take infinite pleasure in my watch; for
I cannot sleep like the others, not being able to sleep as I would
like--that is to say, in your arms.
"I am going to get into bed; I shall finish my letter tomorrow: I have
too many things to tell to you, the night is too far advanced: imagine
my despair. It is to you I am writing, it is of myself that I converse
with you, and I am obliged to make an end.
"I cannot prevent myself, however, from filling up hastily the rest of
my paper. Cursed be the crazy creature who torments me so much! Were
it not for him, I could talk to you of more agreeable things: he is not
greatly changed; and yet he has taken a great deal o f %t. But he has
nearly killed me with the fetid smell of his breath; for now his is
still worse than your cousin's: you guess that this is a fresh reason
for my not approaching him; on the contrary, I go away as far as I can,
and sit on a chair at the foot of his bed.
"Let us see if I forget anything.
"His father's messenger on the road;
The question about Joachim;
The-state of my house;
The people of my suite;
Subject of my arrival;
Conversation between him and me;
His desire to please me and his repentance;
The explanation of his letter;
"Ah! I was forgetting that. Yesterday Livingston during supper told de
Rere in a low voice to drink to the health of one I knew well, and
to beg me to do him the honour. After supper, as I was leaning on his
shoulder near the fire, he said to me, 'Is it not true that there are
visits very agreeable for those who pay them and those who receive them?
But, however satisfied they seem with your arrival, I challenge their
delight to equal the grief of one whom you have left alone to-day, and
who will never be content till he sees you again.' I asked him of whom
he wished to speak to me. He then answered me by pressing my arm: 'Of
one of those who have not followed you; and among those it is easy for
you to guess of whom I want to speak.'
"I have worked till two o'clock at the bracelet; I have enclosed a
little key which is attached by two strings: it is not as well worked
as I should like, but I have not had time to make it better; I will make
you a finer one on the first occasion. Take care that it is not seen on
you; for I have worked at it before everyone, and it would be recognised
to a certainty.
"I always return, in spite of myself, to the frightful attempt that you
advise. You compel me to concealments, and above all to treacheries that
make me shudder; I would rather die, believe me, than do such things;
for it makes my heart bleed. He does not want to follow me unless I
promise him to have the selfsame bed and board with him as before, and
not to abandon him so often. If I consent to it, he says he will do all
I wish, and will follow me everywhere; but he has begged me to put off
my departure for two days. I have pretended to agree to all he wishes;
but I have told him not to speak of our reconciliation to anyone,
for fear it should make some lords uneasy. At last I shall take him
everywhere I wish.... Alas! I have never deceived anyone; but what would
I not do to please you? Command, and whatever happens, I shall obey. But
see yourself if one could not contrive some secret means in the shape of
a remedy. He must purge himself at Craigmiller and take baths there;
he will be some days without going out. So far as I can see, he is
very uneasy; but he has great trust in what I tell him: however, his
confidence does not go so far as to allow him to open his mind to me.
If you like, I will tell him every thing: I can have no pleasure in
deceiving someone who is trusting. However, it will be just as you wish:
do not esteem me the less for that. It is you advised it; never would
vengeance have taken me so far. Sometimes he attacks me in a very
sensitive place, and he touches me to the quick when he tells me that
his crimes are known, but that every day greater ones are committed that
one uselessly attempts to hide, since all crimes, whatsoever they be,
great or small, come to men's knowledge and form the common subject of
their discourse. He adds sometimes, in speaking to me of Madame de Rere,
'I wish her services may do you honour.' He has assured me that many
people thought, and that he thought himself, that I was not my own
mistress; this is doubtless because I had rejected the conditions he
offered me. Finally, it is certain that he is very uneasy about you
know what, and that he even suspects that his life is aimed at. He is
in despair whenever the conversation turns on you, Livingston, and my
brother. However, he says neither good nor ill of absent people; but, on
the contrary, he always avoids speaking of them. His father keeps to the
house: I have not seen him yet. A number of the Hamiltons are here, and
accompany me everywhere; all the friends of the other one follow me each
time I go to see him. He has begged me to be at his rising to-morrow. My
messenger will tell you the rest.
"Burn my letter: there would be danger in keeping it. Besides, it is
hardly worth the trouble, being filled only with dark thoughts.
"As for you, do not be offended if I am sad and uneasy to-day, that to
please you I rise above honour, remorse, and dangers. Do not take in bad
part what I tell you, and do not listen to the malicious explanations
of your wife's brother; he is a knave whom you ought not to hear to the
prejudice of the most tender and most faithful mistress that ever was.
Above all, do not allow yourself to be moved by that woman: her sham
tears are nothing in comparison with the real tears that I shed, and
with what love and constancy make me suffer at succeeding her; it is for
that alone that in spite of myself I betray all those who could cross
my love. God have mercy on me, and send you all the prosperity that a
humble and tender friend who awaits from you soon another reward wishes
you. It is very late; but it is always with regret that I lay down my
pen when I write to you; however, I shall not end my letter until I
shall have kissed your hands. Forgive me that it is so ill-written:
perhaps I do so expressly that you may be obliged to re-read it several
times: I have transcribed hastily what I had written down on my tablets,
and my paper has given out. Remember a tender friend, and write to her
often: love me as tenderly as I love you, and remember
"Madame de Rere's words;
The Earl of Argyll;
The Earl of Bothwell;
The Edinburgh dwelling."
"It seems that you have forgotten me during your absence, so much the
more that you had promised me, at setting out, to let me know in detail
everything fresh that should happen. The hope of receiving your news was
giving me almost as much delight as your return could have brought me:
you have put it off longer than you promised me. As for me, although you
do not write, I play my part always. I shall take him to Craigmiller on
Monday, and he will spend the whole of Wednesday there. On that day I
shall go to Edinburgh to be bled there, unless you arrange otherwise at
least. He is more cheerful than usual, and he is better than ever.
"He says everything he can to persuade me that he loves me; he has a
thousand attentions for me, and he anticipates me in everything: all
that is so pleasant for me, that I never go to him but the pain in my
side comes on again, his company weighs on me so much. If Paris brought
me what I asked him, I should be soon cured. If you have not yet
returned when I go you know where, write to me, I beg you, and tell me
what you wish me to do; for if you do not manage things prudently, I
foresee that the whole burden will fall on me: look into everything and
weigh the affair maturely. I send you my letter by Beaton, who will set
out the day which has been assigned to Balfour. It only remains for me
to beg you to inform me of your journey.
"Glasgow, this Saturday morning."
"I stayed you know where longer than I should have done, if it had not
been to get from him something that the bearer of these presents will
tell you it was a good opportunity for covering up our designs: I have
promised him to bring the person you know to-morrow. Look after the
rest, if you think fit. Alas! I have failed in our agreement, for you
have forbidden me to write to you, or to despatch a messenger to you.
However, I do not intend to offend you: if you knew with what fears I am
agitated, you would not have yourself so many doubts and suspicions.
But I take them in good part, persuaded as I am that they have no other
cause than love--love that I esteem more than anything on earth.
"My feelings and my favours are to me sure warrants for that love,
and answer to me for your heart; my trust is entire on this head: but
explain yourself, I entreat you, and open your soul to me; otherwise,
I shall fear lest, by the fatality of my star, and by the too fortunate
influence of the stars on women less tender and less faithful than I, I
may be supplanted in your heart as Medea was in Jason's; not that I
wish to compare you to a lover as unfortunate as Jason, and to parallel
myself with a monster like Medea, although you have enough influence
over me to force me to resemble her each time our love exacts it, and
that it concerns me to keep your heart, which belongs to me, and which
belongs to me only. For I name as belonging to me what I have purchased
with the tender and constant love with which I have burned for you, a
love more alive to-day than ever, and which will end only with my
life; a love, in short, which makes me despise both the dangers and
the remorse which will be perhaps its sad sequel. As the price of this
sacrifice, I ask you but one favour, it is to remember a spot not far
from here: I do not exact that you should keep your promise to-morrow;
but I want to see you to disperse your suspicions. I ask of God only one
thing: it is that He should make you read my heart, which is less mine
than yours, and that He should guard you from every ill, at least during
my life: this life is dear to me only in so far as it pleases you, and
as I please you myself. I am going to bed: adieu; give me your news
to-morrow morning; for I shall be uneasy till I have it. Like a bird
escaped from its cage, or the turtle-dove which has lost her mate, I
shall be alone, weeping your absence, short as it may be. This letter,
happier than I, will go this evening where I cannot go, provided that
the messenger does not find you asleep, as I fear. I have not dared to
write it in the presence of Joseph, of Sebastian, and of Joachim, who
had only just left me when I began it."
Thus, as one sees, and always supposing these letters to be genuine,
Mary had conceived for Bothwell one of those mad passions, so much
the stronger in the women who are a prey to them, that one the less
understands what could have inspired them. Bothwell was no longer young,
Bothwell was not handsome, and yet Mary sacrificed for him a young
husband, who was considered one of the handsomest men of his century. It
was like a kind of enchantment. Darnley, the sole obstacle to the union,
had been already condemned for a long time, if not by Mary, at least
by Bothwell; then, as his strong constitution had conquered the poison,
another kind of death was sought for.
The queen, as she announces in her letter to Bothwell, had refused
to bring back Darnley with her, and had returned alone to Edinburgh.
Arrived there, she gave orders for the king to be moved, in his turn, in
a litter; but instead of taking him to Stirling or Holyrood, she decided
to lodge him in the abbey of the Kirk of Field. The king made some
objections when he knew of this arrangement; however, as he had no power
to oppose it, he contented himself with complaining of the solitude of
the dwelling assigned him; but the queen made answer that she could not
receive him at that moment, either at Holyrood or at Stirling, for
fear, if his illness were infectious, lest he might give it to his son:
Darnley was then obliged to make the best of the abode allotted him.
It was an isolated abbey, and little calculated by its position to
dissipate the fears that the king entertained; for it was situated
between two ruined churches and two cemeteries: the only house, which
was distant about a shot from a cross-bow, belonged to the Hamiltons,
and as they were Darnley's mortal enemies the neighbourhood was none the
more reassuring: further, towards the north, rose some wretched huts,
called the "Thieves' cross-roads". In going round his new residence,
Darnley noticed that three holes, each large enough for a man to get
through, had been made in the walls; he asked that these holes, through
which ill-meaning persons could get in, should be stopped up: it was
promised that masons should be sent; but nothing was done, and the holes
The day after his arrival at Kirk of Field, the king saw a light in that
house near his which lie believed deserted; next day he asked Alexander
Durham whence it came, and he heard that the Archbishop of St. Andrew's
had left his palace in Edinburgh and had housed there since the
preceding evening, one didn't know why: this news still further
increased the king's uneasiness; the Archbishop of St. Andrew's was one
of his most declared enemies.
The king, little by little abandoned by all his servants lived on the
first floor of an isolated pavilion, having about him only this same
Alexander Durham, whom we have mentioned already, and who was his valet.
Darnley, who had quite a special friendship for him, and who besides, as
we have said, feared some attack on his life at every moment, had made
him move his bed into his own apartment, so that both were sleeping in
the same room.
On the night of the 8th February, Darnley awoke Durham: he thought he
heard footsteps in the apartment beneath him. Durham rose, took a sword
in one hand, a taper in the other, and went down to the ground floor;
but although Darnley was quite certain he had not been deceived, Durham
came up again a moment after, saying he had seen no one.
The morning of the next day passed without bringing anything fresh.
The queen was marrying one of her servants named Sebastian: he was an
Auvergnat whom she had brought with her from France, and whom she liked
very much. However, as the king sent word that he had not seen her for
two days, she left the wedding towards six o'clock in the evening, and
came to pay him a visit, accompanied by the Countess of Argyll and the
Countess of Huntly. While she was there, Durham, in preparing his bed,
set fire to his palliasse, which was burned as well as a part of the
mattress; so that, having thrown them out of the window all in flames,
for fear lest the fire should reach the rest of the furniture, he found
himself without a bed, and asked permission to return to the town to
sleep; but Darnley, who remembered his terror the night before, and
who was surprised at the promptness that had made Durham throw all his
bedding out of the window, begged him not to go away, offering him one
of his mattresses, or even to take him into his own bed. However, in
spite of this offer, Durham insisted, saying that he felt unwell, and
that he should like to see a doctor the same evening. So the queen
interceded for Durham, and promised Darnley to send him another valet to
spend the night with him: Darnley was then obliged to yield, and, making
Mary repeat that she would send him someone, he gave Durham leave for
that evening. At that moment Paris; of whom the queen speaks in her
letters, came in: he was a young Frenchman who had been in Scotland for
some years, and who, after having served with Bothwell and Seyton, was
at present with the queen. Seeing him, she got up, and as Darnley still
wished to keep her--
"Indeed, my lord, it is impossible," said she, "to come and see you. I
have left this poor Sebastian's wedding, and I must return to it; for I
promised to came masked to his ball."
The king dared not insist; he only reminded her of the promise that she
had made to send him a servant: Mary renewed it yet once again, and went
away with her attendants. As for Durham, he had set out the moment he
It was nine o'clock in the evening. Darnley, left alone, carefully shut
the doors within, and retired to rest, though in readiness to rise to
let in the servant who should come to spend the night with him. Scarcely
was he in bed than the same noise that he had heard the night before
recommenced; this time Darnley listened with all the attention fear
gives, and soon he had no longer any doubt but that several men were
walking about beneath him. It was useless to call, it was dangerous to
go out; to wait was the only course that remained to the king. He made
sure again that the doors were well fastened, put his sword under his
pillow, extinguished his lamp for fear the light might betray him, and
awaited in silence for his servant's arrival; but the hours passed away,
and the servant did not come. At one o'clock in the morning, Bothwell,
after having talked some while with the queen, in the presence of the
captain of the guard, returned home to change his dress; after some
minutes, he came out wrapped up in the large cloak of a German hussar,
went through the guard-house, and had the castle gate opened. Once
outside, he took his way with all speed to Kirk of Field, which he
entered by the opening in the wall: scarcely had he made a step in the
garden than he met James Balfour, governor of the castle.
"Well," he said to him, "how far have we got?
"Everything is ready," replied Balfour, "and we were waiting for you to
set fire to the fuse". "That is well," Bothwell answered--"but first I
want to make sure that he is in his room."
At these words, Bothwell opened the pavilion door with a false key,
and, having groped his way up the stairs; he went to listen at Darnley's
door. Darnley, hearing no further noise, had ended by going to sleep;
but he slept with a jerky breathing which pointed to his agitation.
Little mattered it to Bothwell what kind of sleep it was, provided that
he was really in his room. He went down again in silence, then, as he
had come up, and taking a lantern from one of the conspirators, he went
himself into the lower room to see if everything was in order: this room
was full of barrels of powder, and a fuse ready prepared wanted but a
spark to set the whole on fire. Bothwell withdrew, then, to the end
of the garden with Balfour, David, Chambers, and three or four others,
leaving one man to ignite the fuse. In a moment this man rejoined them.
There ensued some minutes of anxiety, during which the five men looked
at one another in silence and as if afraid of themselves; then,
seeing that nothing exploded, Bothwell impatiently turned round to the
engineer, reproaching him for having, no doubt through fear, done his
work badly. He assured his master that he was certain everything was
all right, and as Bothwell, impatient, wanted to return to the house
himself, to make sure, he offered to go back and see how things stood.
In fact, he went back to the pavilion, and, putting his head through a
kind of air-hole, he saw the fuse, which was still burning. Some seconds
afterwards, Bothwell saw him come running back, making a sign that all
was going well; at the same moment a frightful report was heard, the
pavilion was blown to pieces, the town and the firth were lit up with
a clearness exceeding the brightest daylight; then everything fell back
into night, and the silence was broken only by the fall of stones and
joists, which came down as fast as hail in a hurricane.
Next day the body of the king was found in a garden in the
neighbourhood: it had been saved from the action of the fire by the
mattresses on which he was lying, and as, doubtless, in his terror he
had merely thrown himself on his bed wrapped in his dressing-gown and in
his slippers, and as he was found thus, without his slippers, which were
flung some paces away, it was believed that he had been first strangled,
then carried there; but the most probable version was that the murderers
simply relied upon powder--an auxiliary sufficiently powerful in itself
for them to have no fear it would fail them.
Was the queen an accomplice or not? No one has ever known save herself,
Bothwell, and God; but, yes or no, her conduct, imprudent this time
as always, gave the charge her enemies brought against her, if not
substance, at least an appearance of truth. Scarcely had she heard the
news than she gave orders that the body should be brought to her, and,
having had it stretched out upon a bench, she looked at it with more
curiosity than sadness; then the corpse, embalmed, was placed the same
evening, without pomp, by the side of Rizzio's.
Scottish ceremonial prescribes for the widows of kings retirement for
forty days in a room entirely closed to the light of day: on the twelfth
day Mary had the windows opened, and on the fifteenth set out with
Bothwell for Seaton, a country house situated five miles from the
capital, where the French ambassador, Ducroc, went in search of her,
and made her remonstrances which decided her to return to Edinburgh; but
instead of the cheers which usually greeted her coming, she was received
by an icy silence, and a solitary woman in the crowd called out, "God
treat her as she deserves!"
The names of the murderers were no secret to the people. Bothwell having
brought a splendid coat which was too large for him to a tailor,
asking him to remake it to his measure, the man recognised it as having
belonged to the king. "That's right," said he; "it is the custom for
the executioner to inherit from the-condemned". Meanwhile, the Earl of
Lennox, supported by the people's murmurs, loudly demanded justice for
his son's death, and came forward as the accuser of his murderers.
The queen was then obliged, to appease paternal clamour and public
resentment, to command the Earl of Argyll, the Lord Chief Justice of the
kingdom, to make investigations; the same day that this order was given,
a proclamation was posted up in the streets of Edinburgh, in which the
queen promised two thousand pounds sterling to whoever would make known
the king's murderers. Next day, wherever this letter had been affixed,
another placard was found, worded thus:
"As it has been proclaimed that those who should make known the king's
murderers should have two thousand pounds sterling, I, who have made
a strict search, affirm that the authors of the murder are the Earl
of Bothwell, James Balfour, the priest of Flisk, David, Chambers,
Blackmester, Jean Spens, and the queen herself."
This placard was torn down; but, as usually happens, it had already been
read by the entire population.
The Earl of Lennox accused Bothwell, and public opinion, which also
accused him, seconded the earl with such violence, that Mary was
compelled to bring him to trial: only every precaution was taken to
deprive the prosecutor of the power of convicting the accused. On the
28th March, the Earl of Lennox received notice that the 12th April was
fixed for the trial: he was granted a fortnight to collect decisive
proofs against the most powerful man in all Scotland; but the Earl of
Lennox, judging that this trial was a mere mockery, did not appear.
Bothwell, on the contrary, presented himself at the court, accompanied
by five thousand partisans and two hundred picked fusiliers, who guarded
the doors directly he had entered; so that he seemed to be rather a king
who is about to violate the law than an accused who comes to submit to
it. Of course there happened what was certain to happen--that is to say,
the jury acquitted Bothwell of the crime of which everyone, the judges
included, knew him to be guilty.
The day of the trial, Bothwell had this written challenge placarded:
"Although I am sufficiently cleared of the murder of the king, of which
I have been falsely accused, yet, the better to prove my innocence, I
am, ready to engage in combat with whomsoever will dare to maintain that
I have killed the king."
The day after, this reply appeared:
"I accept the challenge, provided that you select neutral ground."
However, judgment had been barely given, when rumours of a marriage
between the queen and the Earl of Bothwell were abroad. However strange
and however mad this marriage, the relations of the two lovers were so
well known that no one doubted but that it was true. But as everyone
submitted to Bothwell, either through fear or through ambition, two men
only dared to protest beforehand against this union: the one was Lord
Herries, and the other James Melville.
Mary was at Stirling when Lord Herries, taking advantage of Bothwell's
momentary absence, threw himself at her feet, imploring her not to lose
her honour by marrying her husband's murderer, which could not fail to
convince those who still doubted it that she was his accomplice. But the
queen, instead of thanking Herries for this devotion, seemed very much
surprised at his boldness, and scornfully signing to him to rise,
she coldly replied that her heart was silent as regarded the Earl of
Bothwell, and that, if she should ever re-marry, which was not probable,
she would neither forget what she owed to her people nor what she owed
Melville did not allow himself to be discouraged by this experience,
and pretended, to have received a letter that one of his friends, Thomas
Bishop, had written him from England. He showed this letter to the
queen; but at the first lines Mary recognised the style, and above all
the friendship of her ambassador, and giving the letter to the Earl of
Livingston, who was present, "There is a very singular letter," said
she. "Read it. It is quite in Melvine's manner."
Livingston glanced through the letter, but had scarcely read the half of
it when he took Melville by the hand, and drawing him into the embrasure
of a window,
"My dear Melville," said he, "you were certainly mad when you just now
imparted this letter to the queen: as soon as the Earl of Bothwell gets
wind of it, and that will not be long, he will have you assassinated.
You have behaved like an honest man, it is true; but at court it is
better to behave as a clever man. Go away, then, as quickly as possible;
it is I who recommend it."
Melville did not require to be told twice, and stayed away for a week.
Livingston was not mistaken: scarcely had Bothwell returned to the
queen than he knew all that had passed. He burst out into curses against
Melville, and sought for him everywhere; but he could not find him.
This beginning of opposition, weak as it was, none the less disquieted
Bothwell, who, sure of Mary's love, resolved to make short work of
things. Accordingly, as the queen was returning from Stirling to
Edinburgh some days after the scenes we have just related, Bothwell
suddenly appeared at the Bridge of Grammont with a thousand horsemen,
and, having disarmed the Earl of Huntly, Livingston, and Melville, who
had returned to his mistress, he seized the queen's horse by the bridle,
and with apparent violence he forced Mary to turn back and follow him to
Dunbar; which the queen did without any resistance--a strange thing for
one of Mary's character.
The day following, the Earls of Huntly, Livingston, Melville, and the
people in their train were set at liberty; then, ten days afterwards,
Bothwell and the queen, perfectly reconciled, returned to Edinburgh
Two days after this return, Bothwell gave a great dinner to the nobles
his partisans in a tavern. When the meal was ended, on the very same
table, amid half-drained glasses and empty bottles, Lindsay, Ruthven,
Morton, Maitland, and a dozen or fifteen other noblemen signed a bond
which not only set forth that upon their souls and consciences Bothwell
was innocent, but which further denoted him as the most suitable husband
for the queen. This bond concluded with this sufficiently strange
"After all, the queen cannot do otherwise, since the earl has carried
her off and has lain with her."
Yet two circumstances were still opposed to this marriage: the first,
that Bothwell had already been married three times, and that his three
wives were living; the second, that having carried off the queen, this
violence might cause to be regarded as null the alliance which she
should contract with him: the first of these objections was attended to,
to begin with, as the one most difficult to solve.
Bothwell's two first wives were of obscure birth, consequently he
scorned to disquiet himself about them; but it was not so with the
third, a daughter of that Earl of Huntly who been trampled beneath
the horses' feet, and a sister of Gordon, who had been decapitated.
Fortunately for Bothwell, his past behaviour made his wife long for
a divorce with an eagerness as great as his own. There was not much
difficulty, then, in persuading her to bring a charge of adultery
against her husband. Bothwell confessed that he had had criminal
intercourse with a relative of his wife, and the Archbishop of St.
Andrews, the same who had taken up his abode in that solitary house at
Kirk of Field to be present at Darnley's death, pronounced the marriage
null. The case was begun, pushed on, and decided in ten days.
As to the second obstacle, that of the violence used to the queen, Mary
undertook to remove it herself; for, being brought before the court,
she declared that not only did she pardon Bothwell for his conduct as
regarded her, but further that, knowing him to be a good and faithful
subject, she intended raising him immediately to new honours. In fact,
some days afterwards she created him Duke of Orkney, and on the 15th of
the same month--that is to say, scarcely four months after the death of
Darnley--with levity that resembled madness, Mary, who had petitioned
for a dispensation to wed a Catholic prince, her cousin in the third
degree, married Bothwell, a Protestant upstart, who, his divorce
notwithstanding, was still bigamous, and who thus found himself in the
position of having four wives living, including the queen.
The wedding was dismal, as became a festival under such outrageous
auspices. Morton, Maitland, and some base flatterers of Bothwell alone
were present at it. The French ambassador, although he was a creature of
the House of Guise, to which the queen belonged, refused to attend it.
Mary's delusion was short-lived: scarcely was she in Bothwell's power
than she saw what a master she had given herself. Gross, unfeeling, and
violent, he seemed chosen by Providence to avenge the faults of which
he had been the instigator or the accomplice. Soon his fits of passion
reached such a point, that one day, no longer able to endure them, Mary
seized a dagger from Erskine, who was present with Melville at one
of these scenes, and would have struck herself, saying that she would
rather die than continue living unhappily as she did; yet, inexplicable
as it seems, in spite of these miseries, renewed without ceasing, Mary,
forgetting that she was wife and queen, tender and submissive as a
child, was always the first to be reconciled with Bothwell.
Nevertheless, these public scenes gave a pretext to the nobles, who
only sought an opportunity for an outbreak. The Earl of Mar, the young
prince's tutor, Argyll, Athol, Glencairn, Lindley, Boyd, and even Morton
and Maitland themselves, those eternal accomplices of Bothwell, rose,
they said, to avenge the death of the king, and to draw the son from
hands which had killed the father and which were keeping the mother
captive. As to Murray, he had kept completely in the background during
all the last events; he was in the county of Fife when the king was
assassinated, and three days before the trial of Bothwell he had
asked and obtained from his sister permission to take a journey on the
The insurrection took place in such a prompt and instantaneous manner,
that the Confederate lords, whose plan was to surprise and seize both
Mary and Bothwell, thought they would succeed at the first attempt.
The king and queen were at table with Lord Borthwick, who was
entertaining them, when suddenly it was announced that a large body of
armed men was surrounding the castle: Bothwell and Mary suspected that
they were aimed at, and as they had no means of resistance, Bothwell
dressed himself as a squire, Mary as a page, and both immediately taking
horse, escaped by one door just as the Confederates were coming in by
the other. The fugitives withdrew to Dunbar.
There they called together all Bothwell's friends, and made them sign
a kind of treaty by which they undertook to defend the queen and her
husband. In the midst of all this, Murray arrived from France, and
Bothwell offered the document to him as to the others; but Murray
refused to put his signature to it, saying that it was insulting him to
think he need be bound by a written agreement when it was a question
of defending his sister and his queen. This refusal having led to an
altercation between him and Bothwell, Murray, true to his system of
neutrality, withdrew into his earldom, and let affairs follow without
him the fatal decline they had taken.
In the meantime the Confederates, after having failed at Borthwick,
not feeling strong enough to attack Bothwell at Dunbar, marched upon
Edinburgh, where they had an understanding with a man of whom Bothwell
thought himself sure. This man was James Balfour, governor of the
citadel, the same who had presided over the preparation of the mine
which had blown up Darnley, and whom Bothwell had, met on entering the
garden at Kirk of Field. Not only did Balfour deliver Edinburgh Castle
into the hands of the Confederates, but he also gave them a little
silver coffer of which the cipher, an "F" crowned, showed that it
had belonged to Francis II; and in fact it was a gift from her first
husband, which the queen had presented to Bothwell. Balfour stated
that this coffer contained precious papers, which in the present
circumstances might be of great use to Mary's enemies. The Confederate
lords opened it, and found inside the three genuine or spurious letters
that we have quoted, the marriage contract of Mary and Bothwell, and
twelve poems in the queen's handwriting. As Balfour had said, therein
lay, for her enemies, a rich and precious find, which was worth more
than a victory; for a victory would yield them only the queen's life,
while Balfour's treachery yielded them her honour.
Meanwhile Bothwell had levied some troops, and thought himself in a
position to hold the country: accordingly, he set out with his army,
without even waiting for the Hamiltons, who were assembling their
vassals, and June 15th, 1567, the two opposed forces were face to face.
Mary, who desired to try to avoid bloodshed, immediately sent the French
ambassador to the Confederate lords to exhort them to lay aside their
arms; but they replied "that the queen deceived herself in taking
them for rebels; that they were marching not against her, but against
Bothwell." Then the king's friends did what they could to break off the
negotiations and give battle: it was already too late; the soldiers knew
that they were defending the cause of one man, and that they were going
to fight for a woman's caprice, and not for the good of the country:
they cried aloud, then, that "since Bothwell alone was aimed at, it was
for Bothwell to defend his cause". And he, vain and blustering as usual,
gave out that he was ready to prove his innocence in person against
whomsoever would dare to maintain that he was guilty. Immediately
everyone with any claim to nobility in the rival camp accepted the
challenge; and as the honour was given to the bravest, Kirkcaldy of
Grange, Murray of Tullibardine, and Lord Lindsay of Byres defied him
successively. But, be it that courage failed him, be it that in the
moment of danger he did not himself believe in the justice of his cause,
he, to escape the combat, sought such strange pretexts that the queen
herself was ashamed; and his most devoted friends murmured.
Then Mary, perceiving the fatal humour of men's minds, decided not to
run the risk of a battle. She sent a herald to Kirkcaldy of Grange, who
was commanding an outpost, and as he was advancing without distrust to
converse with the queen, Bothwell, enraged at his own cowardice, ordered
a soldier to fire upon him; but this time Mary herself interposed,
forbidding him under pain of death to offer the least violence. In the
meanwhile, as the imprudent order given by Bothwell spread through the
army, such murmurs burst forth that he clearly saw that his cause was
for ever lost.
That is what the queen thought also; for the result of her conference
with Lord Kirkcaldy was that she should abandon Bothwell's cause, and
pass over into the camp of the Confederates, on condition that
they would lay down their arms before her and bring her as queen to
Edinburgh. Kirkcaldy left her to take these conditions to the nobles,
and promised to return next day with a satisfactory answer. But at the
moment of leaving Bothwell, Mary was seized again with that fatal love
for him that she was never able to surmount, and felt herself overcome
with such weakness, that, weeping bitterly, and before everyone,
she wanted Kirkcaldy to be told that she broke off all negotiations;
however, as Bothwell had understood that he was no longer safe in camp,
it was he who insisted that things should remain as they were; and,
leaving Mary in tears, he mounted, and setting off at full speed, he did
not stop till he reached Dunbar.
Next day, at the time appointed, the arrival of Lord Kirkcaldy of Grange
was announced by the trumpeters preceding him. Mary mounted directly
and went to meet him; them, as he alighted to greet her, "My lord;" said
she, "I surrender to you, on the conditions that you have proposed to
me on the part of the nobles, and here is my hand as a sign of entire
confidence". Kirkcaldy then knelt down, kissed, the queen's hand
respectfully; and, rising, he took her horse by the bridle and led it
towards the Confederates' camp.
Everyone of any rank in the army received her with such marks of respect
as entirely to satisfy her; but it was not so at all with the soldiers
and common people. Hardly had the queen reached the second line, formed
by them, than great murmurs arose, and several voices cried, "To the
stake, the adulteress! To the stake, the parricide!" However, Mary bore
these outrages stoically enough but a more terrible trial yet was in
store for her. Suddenly she saw rise before her a banner, on which
was depicted on one side the king dead and stretched out in the fatal
garden, and on the other the young prince kneeling, his hands joined
and his eyes raised to heaven, with this inscription, "O Lord! judge and
revenge my cause!" Mary reined in her horse abruptly at this sight, and
wanted to turn back; but she had scarcely moved a few paces when the
accusing banner again blocked her passage. Wherever she went, she met
this dreadful apparition. For two hours she had incessantly under her
eyes the king's corpse asking vengeance, and the young prince her son
praying God to punish the murderers. At last she could endure it no
longer, and, crying out, she threw herself back, having completely lost
consciousness, and would have fallen, if someone had not caught hold of
her. In the evening she entered Edinburgh, always preceded by the cruel
banner, and she already had rather the air of a prisoner than of a
queen; for, not having had a moment during the day to attend to her
toilet, her hair was falling in disorder about her shoulders, her face
was pale and showed traces of tears; and finally, her clothes were
covered with dust and mud. As she proceeded through the town, the
hootings of the people and the curses of the crowd followed her. At
last, half dead with fatigue, worn out with grief, bowed down with
shame, she reached the house of the Lord Provost; but scarcely had
she got there when the entire population of Edinburgh crowded into the
square, with cries that from time to time assumed a tone of terrifying
menace. Several times, then, Mary wished to go to the window, hoping
that the sight of her, of which she had so often proved the influence,
would disarm this multitude; but each time she saw this banner unfurling
itself like a bloody curtain between herself and the people--a terrible
rendering of their feelings.
However, all this hatred was meant still more for Bothwell than for
her: they were pursuing Bothwell in Darnley's widow. The curses were
for Bothwell: Bothwell was the adulterer, Bothwell was the murderer,
Bothwell was the coward; while Mary was the weak, fascinated woman, who,
that same evening, gave afresh proof of her folly.
In fact, directly the falling night had scattered the crowd and a little
quiet was regained, Mary, ceasing to be uneasy on her own account,
turned immediately to Bothwell, whom she had been obliged to abandon,
and who was now proscribed and fleeing; while she, as she believed,
was about to reassume her title and station of queen. With that eternal
confidence of the woman in her own love, by which she invariably
measures the love of another, she thought that Bothwell's greatest
distress was to have lost, not wealth and power, but to have lost
herself. So she wrote him a long letter, in which, forgetful of herself,
she promised him with the most tender expressions of love never to
desert him, and to recall him to her directly the breaking up of the
Confederate lords should give her power to do so; then, this letter
written, she called a soldier, gave him a purse of gold, and charged
him to take this letter to Dunbar, where Bothwell ought to be, and if he
were already gone, to follow him until he came up with him.
Then she went to bed and slept more calmly; for, unhappy as she was, she
believed she had just sweetened misfortunes still greater than hers.
Next day the queen was awakened by the step of an armed man who entered
her room. Both astonished and frightened at this neglect of propriety,
which could augur nothing good, Mary sat up in bed, and parting the
curtains, saw standing before her Lord Lindsay of Byres: she knew he was
one of her oldest friends, so she asked him in a voice which she vainly
tried to make confident, what he wanted of her at such a time.
"Do you know this writing, madam?" Lord Lindsay asked in a rough voice,
presenting to the queen the letter she had written to Bothwell at night,
which the soldier had carried to the Confederate lords, instead of
taking to its address.
"Yes, doubtless, my lord," the queen answered; "but am I already a
prisoner, then, that my correspondence is intercepted? or is it no
longer allowed to a wife to write to her husband?"
"When the husband is a traitor," replied Lindsay, "no, madam, it is no
longer allowed to a wife to write to her husband--at least, however, if
this wife have a part in his treason; which seems to me, besides, quite
proved by the promise you make to this wretch to recall him to you."
"My lord," cried Mary, interrupting Lindsay, "do you forget that you are
speaking to your queen."
"There was a time, madam," Lindsay replied, "when I should have spoken
to you in a more gentle voice, and bending the knee, although it is
not in the nature of us old Scotch to model ourselves on your French
courtiers; but for some time, thanks to your changing loves, you have
kept us so often in the field, in harness, that our voices are hoarse
from the cold night air, and our stiff knees can no longer bend in our
armour: you must then take me just as I am, madam; since to-day, for
the welfare of Scotland, you are no longer at liberty to choose your
Mary grew frightfully pale at this want of respect, to which she was not
yet accustomed; but quickly containing her anger, as far as possible--
"But still, my lord," said she, "however disposed I may be to take
you as you are, I must at least know by what right you come here. That
letter which you are holding in your hand would lead me to think it is
as a spy, if the ease with which you enter my room without being asked
did not make me believe it is as a gaoler. Have the goodness, then, to
inform me by which of these two names I must call you."
"Neither by one nor the other, madam; for I am simply your
fellow-traveller, chef of the escort which is to take you to Lochleven
Castle, your future residence. And yet, scarcely have I arrived there
than I shall be obliged to leave you to go and assist the Confederate
lords choose a regent for the kingdom."
"So," said Mary, "it was as prisoner and not as queen that I surrendered
to Lord Kirkcaldy. It seems to me that things were agreed upon
otherwise; but I am glad to see how much time Scotch noblemen need to
betray their sworn undertakings".
"Your Grace forgets that these engagements were made on one condition,"
"On which?" Mary asked.
"That you should separate for ever from your husband's murderer;
and there is the proof," he added, showing the letter, "that you had
forgotten your promise before we thought of revoking ours."
"And at what o'clock is my departure fixed?" said Mary, whom this
discussion was beginning to fatigue.
"At eleven o'clock, madam."
"It is well, my lord; as I have no desire to make your lordship wait,
you will have the goodness, in withdrawing, to send me someone to help
me dress, unless I am reduced to wait upon myself."
And, in pronouncing these words, Mary made a gesture so imperious, that
whatever may have been Lindsay's wish to reply, he bowed and went out.
Behind him entered Mary Seyton.
At the time appointed the queen was ready: she had suffered so much at
Edinburgh that she left it without any regret. Besides, whether to spare
her the humiliations of the day before, or to conceal her departure from
any partisans who might remain to her, a litter had been made ready.
Mary got into it without any resistance, and after two hours' journey
she reached Duddington; there a little vessel was waiting for her, which
set sail directly she was on board, and next day at dawn she disembarked
on the other side of the Firth of Forth in the county of Fife.
Mary halted at Rosythe Castle only just long enough to breakfast, and
immediately recommenced her journey; for Lord Lindsay had declared that
he wished to reach his destination that same evening. Indeed, as the sun
was setting, Mary perceived gilded with his last rays the high towers of
Lochleven Castle, situated on an islet in the midst of the lake of the
No doubt the royal prisoner was already expected at Lochleven Castle,
for, on reaching the lake side, Lord Lindsay's equerry unfurled his
banner, which till then had remained in its case, and waved it from
right to left, while his master blew a little hunting bugle which he
wore hanging from his neck. A boat immediately put off from the island
and came towards the arrivals, set in motion by four vigorous oarsmen,
who had soon propelled it across the space which separated it from the
bank. Mary silently got into it, and sat down at the stern, while Lord
Lindsay and his equerry stood up before her; and as her guide did not
seem any more inclined to speak than she was herself to respond, she had
plenty of time to examine her future dwelling.
The castle, or rather the fortress of Lochleven, already somewhat gloomy
in its situation and architecture, borrowed fresh mournfulness still
from the hour at which it appeared to the queen's gaze. It was, so far
as she could judge amid the mists rising from the lake, one of those
massive structures of the twelfth century which seem, so fast shut up
are they, the stone armour of a giant. As she drew near, Mary began
to make out the contours of two great round towers, which flanked the
corners and gave it the severe character of a state prison. A clump of
ancient trees enclosed by a high wall, or rather by a rampart, rose
at its north front, and seemed vegetation in stone, and completed the
general effect of this gloomy abode, while, on the contrary, the eye
wandering from it and passing from islands to islands, lost itself in
the west, in the north, and in the south, in the vast plain of Kinross,
or stopped southwards at the jagged summits of Ben Lomond, whose
farthest slopes died down on the shores of the lake.
Three persons awaited Mary at the castle door: Lady Douglas, William
Douglas her son, and a child of twelve who was called Little Douglas,
and who was neither a son nor a brother of the inhabitants of the
castle, but merely a distant relative. As one can imagine, there were
few compliments between Mary and her hosts; and the queen, conducted to
her apartment, which was on the first floor, and of which the windows
overlooked the lake, was soon left with Mary Seyton, the only one of the
four Marys who had been allowed to accompany her.
However, rapid as the interview had been, and short and measured the
words exchanged between the prisoner and her gaolers, Mary had had time,
together with what she knew of them beforehand, to construct for herself
a fairly accurate idea of the new personages who had just mingled in her
Lady Lochleven, wife of Lord William Douglas, of whom we have already
said a few words at the beginning of this history, was a woman of from
fifty-five to sixty years of age, who had been handsome enough in her
youth to fix upon herself the glances of King James V, and who had had a
son by him, who was this same Murray whom we have already seen
figuring so often in Mary's history, and who, although his birth was
illegitimate, had always been treated as a brother by the queen.
Lady Lochleven had had a momentary hope, so great was the king's love
for her, of becoming his wife, which upon the whole was possible, the
family of Mar, from which she was descended, being the equal of the most
ancient and the noblest families in Scotland. But, unluckily, perhaps
slanderously, certain talk which was circulating among the young
noblemen of the time came to James's ears; it was said that together
with her royal lover the beautiful favourite had another, whom she had
chosen, no doubt from curiosity, from the very lowest class. It was
added that this Porterfeld, or Porterfield, was the real father of the
child who had already received the name of James Stuart, and whom the
king was educating as his son at the monastery of St. Andrews. These
rumours, well founded or not, had therefore stopped James V at the
moment when, in gratitude to her who had given him a son, he was on the
point of raising her to the rank of queen; so that, instead of marrying
her himself, he had invited her to choose among the nobles at court; and
as she was very handsome, and the king's favour went with the marriage,
this choice, which fell on Lord William Douglas of Lochleven, did not
meet with any resistance on his part. However, in spite of this direct
protection, that James V preserved for her all his life, Lady Douglas
could never forget that she had fingered higher fortune; moreover, she
had a hatred for the one who, according to herself, had usurped her
place, and poor Mary had naturally inherited the profound animosity that
Lady Douglas bore to her mother, which had already come to light in the
few words that the two women had exchanged. Besides, in ageing, whether
from repentance for her errors or from hypocrisy, Lady Douglas had
become a prude and a puritan; so that at this time she united with the
natural acrimony of her character all the stiffness of the new religion
she had adopted.
William Douglas, who was the eldest son of Lord Lochleven, on his
mother's side half-brother of Murray, was a man of from thirty-five to
thirty-six years of age, athletic, with hard and strongly pronounced
features, red-haired like all the younger branch, and who had inherited
that paternal hatred that for a century the Douglases cherished against
the Stuarts, and which was shown by so many plots, rebellions, and
assassinations. According as fortune had favoured or deserted Murray,
William Douglas had seen the rays of the fraternal star draw near or
away from him; he had then felt that he was living in another's life,
and was devoted, body and soul, to him who was his cause of greatness or
of abasement. Mary's fall, which must necessarily raise Murray, was thus
a source of joy for him, and the Confederate lords could not have chosen
better than in confiding the safe-keeping of their prisoner to the
instinctive spite of Lady Douglas and to the intelligent hatred of her
As to Little Douglas, he was, as we have said, a child of twelve, for
some months an orphan, whom the Lochlevens had taken charge of, and whom
they made buy the bread they gave him by all sorts of harshness. The
result was that the child, proud and spiteful as a Douglas, and knowing,
although his fortune was inferior, that his birth was equal to his proud
relatives, had little by little changed his early gratitude into lasting
and profound hatred: for one used to say that among the Douglases there
was an age for loving, but that there was none for hating. It results
that, feeling his weakness and isolation, the child was self-contained
with strength beyond his years, and, humble and submissive in
appearance, only awaited the moment when, a grown-up young man, he could
leave Lochleven, and perhaps avenge himself for the proud protection of
those who dwelt there. But the feelings that we have just expressed did
not extend to all the members of the family: as much as from the bottom
of his heart the little Douglas detested William and his mother, so much
he loved George, the second of Lady Lochleven's sons, of whom we have
not yet spoken, because, being away from the castle when the queen
arrived, we have not yet found an opportunity to present him to our
George, who at this time might have been about twenty-five or twenty-six
years old, was the second son of Lord Lochleven; but by a singular
chance, that his mother's adventurous youth had caused Sir William to
interpret amiss, this second son had none of the characteristic features
of the Douglases' full cheeks, high colour, large ears, and red hair.
The result was that poor George, who, on the contrary, had been given
by nature pale cheeks, dark blue eyes, and black hair, had been since
coming into the world an object of indifference to his father and of
dislike to his elder brother. As to his mother, whether she were indeed
in good faith surprised like Lord Douglas at this difference in race,
whether she knew the cause and inwardly reproached herself, George had
never been, ostensibly at least, the object of a very lively maternal
affection; so the young man, followed from his childhood by a fatality
that he could not explain, had sprung up like a wild shrub, full of sap
and strength, but uncultivated and solitary. Besides, from the time when
he was fifteen, one was accustomed to his motiveless absences, which the
indifference that everyone bore him made moreover perfectly explicable;
from time to time, however, he was seen to reappear at the castle, like
those migratory birds which always return to the same place but only
stay a moment, then take their way again without one's knowing towards
what spot in the world they are directing their flight.
An instinct of misfortune in common had drawn Little Douglas to George.
George, seeing the child ill-treated by everyone, had conceived an
affection for him, and Little Douglas, feeling himself loved amid the
atmosphere of indifference around him, turned with open arms and heart
to George: it resulted from this mutual liking that one day, when the
child had committed I do not know what fault, and that William Douglas
raised the whip he beat his dogs with to strike him, that George, who
was sitting on a stone, sad and thoughtful, had immediately sprung up,
snatched the whip from his brother's hands and had thrown it far from
him. At this insult William had drawn his sword, and George his, so that
these two brothers, who had hated one another for twenty years like two
enemies, were going to cut one another's throats, when Little Douglas,
who had picked up the whip, coming back and kneeling before William,
offered him the ignominious weapon, saying,
"Strike, cousin; I have deserved it."
This behaviour of the child had caused some minutes' reflection to the
two young men, who, terrified at the crime they were about to commit,
had returned their swords to their scabbards and had each gone away in
silence. Since this incident the friendship of George and Little
Douglas had acquired new strength, and on the child's side it had become
We dwell upon all these details somewhat at length, perhaps, but no
doubt our readers will pardon us when they see the use to be made of
This is the family, less George, who, as we have said, was absent at
the time of her arrival, into the midst of which the queen had fallen,
passing in a moment from the summit of power to the position of a
prisoner; for from the day following her arrival Mary saw that it was
by such a title she was an inmate of Lochleven Castle. In fact, Lady
Douglas presented herself before her as soon as it was morning, and
with an embarrassment and dislike ill disguised beneath an appearance
of respectful indifference, invited Mary to follow her and take stock of
the several parts of the fortress which had been chosen beforehand for
her private use. She then made her go through three rooms, of which one
was to serve as her bedroom, the second as sitting-room, and the third
as ante-chamber; afterwards, leading the way down a spiral staircase,
which looked into the great hall of the castle, its only outlet, she had
crossed this hall, and had taken Mary into the garden whose trees the
queen had seen topping the high walls on her arrival: it was a little
square of ground, forming a flower-bed in the midst of which was an
artificial fountain. It was entered by a very low door, repeated in the
opposite wall; this second door looked on to the lake and, like all the
castle doors, whose keys, however, never left the belt or the pillow of
William Douglas, it was guarded night and day by a sentinel. This was
now the whole domain of her who had possessed the palaces, the plains,
and the mountains of an entire kingdom.
Mary, on returning to her room, found breakfast ready, and William
Douglas standing near the table he was going to fulfil about the queen
the duties of carver and taster.
In spite of their hatred for Mary, the Douglases would have considered
it an eternal blemish on their honour if any accident should have
befallen the queen while she was dwelling in their castle; and it was
in order that the queen herself should not entertain any fear in this
respect that William Douglas, in his quality of lord of the manor, had
not only desired to carve before the queen, but even to taste first in
her presence, all the dishes served to her, as well as the water and the
several wines to be brought her. This precaution saddened Mary more
than it reassured her; for she understood that, while she stayed in the
castle, this ceremony would prevent any intimacy at table. However, it
proceeded from too noble an intention for her to impute it as a crime to
her hosts: she resigned herself, then, to this company, insupportable as
it was to her; only, from that day forward, she so cut short her meals
that all the time she was at Lochleven her longest dinners barely lasted
more than a quarter of an hour.
Two days after her arrival, Mary, on sitting down to table for
breakfast, found on her plate a letter addressed to her which had been
put there by William Douglas. Mary recognised Murray's handwriting, and
her first feeling was one of joy; for if a ray of hope remained to her,
it came from her brother, to whom she had always been perfectly kind,
whom from Prior of St. Andrew's she had made an earl in bestowing on him
the splendid estates which formed part of the old earldom of Murray,
and to whom, which was of more importance, she had since pardoned, or
pretended to pardon, the part he had taken in Rizzio's assassination.
Her astonishment was great, then, when, having opened the letter, she
found in it bitter reproaches for her conduct, an exhortation to do
penance, and an assurance several times repeated that she should never
leave her prison. He ended his letter in announcing to her that, in
spite of his distaste for public affairs, he had been obliged to accept
the regency, which he had done less for his country than for his sister,
seeing that it was the sole means he had of standing in the way of the
ignominious trial to which the nobles wished to bring her, as author, or
at least as chief accomplice, of Darnley's death. This imprisonment was
then clearly a great good fortune for her, and she ought to thank
Heaven for it, as an alleviation of the fate awaiting her if he had not
interceded for her.
This letter was a lightning stroke for Mary: only, as she did not wish
to give her enemies the delight of seeing her suffer, she contained her
grief, and, turning to William Douglas--
"My lord," said she, "this letter contains news that you doubtless know
already, for although we are not children by the same mother, he who
writes to me is related to us in the same degree, and will not have
desired to write to his sister without writing to his brother at the
same time; besides, as a good son, he will have desired to acquaint his
mother with the unlooked-for greatness that has befallen him."
"Yes, madam," replied William, "we know since yesterday that, for the
welfare of Scotland, my brother has been named regent; and as he is a
son as respectful to his mother as he is devoted to his country, we hope
that he will repair the evil that for five years favourites of every
sort and kind have done to both."
"It is like a good son, and at the same time like a courteous host, to
go back no farther into the history of Scotland," replied Mary Stuart,
"and not to make the daughter blush for the father's errors; for I have
heard say that the evil which your lordship laments was prior to the
time to which you assign it, and that King James V. also had formerly
favourites, both male and female. It is true that they add that the ones
as ill rewarded his friendship as the others his love. In this, if
you are ignorant of it, my lord, you can be instructed, if he is still
living, by a certain. Porterfeld or Porterfield, I don't know which,
understanding these names of the lower classes too ill to retain and
pronounce them, but about which, in my stead, your noble mother could
give you information."
With these words, Mary Stuart rose, and, leaving William Douglas crimson
with rage, she returned into her bedroom, and bolted the door behind
All that day Mary did not come down, remaining at her window, from which
she at least enjoyed a splendid view over the plains and village of
Kinross; but this vast extent only contracted her heart the more, when,
bringing her gaze back from the horizon to the castle, she beheld its
walls surrounded on all sides by the deep waters of the lake, on whose
wide surface a single boat, where Little Douglas was fishing, was
rocking like a speck. For some moments Mary's eyes mechanically rested
on this child, whom she had already seen upon her arrival, when suddenly
a horn sounded from the Kinross side. At the same moment Little Douglas
threw away his line, and began to row towards the shore whence the
signal had come with skill and strength beyond his years. Mary, who
had let her gaze rest on him absently, continued to follow him with her
eyes, and saw him make for a spot on the shore so distant that the
boat seemed to her at length but an imperceptible speck; but soon it
reappeared, growing larger as it approached, and Mary could then observe
that it was bringing back to the castle a new passenger, who, having
in his turn taken the oars, made the little skiff fly over the tranquil
water of the lake, where it left a furrow gleaming in the last rays of
the sun. Very soon, flying on with the swiftness of a bird, it was near
enough for Mary to see that the skilful and vigorous oarsman was a young
man from twenty-five to twenty-six years of age, with long black hair,
clad in a close coat of green cloth, and wearing a Highlander's cap,
adorned with an eagle's feather; then, as with his back turned to the
window he drew nearer, Little Douglas, who was leaning on his
shoulder, said a few words which made him turn round towards the queen:
immediately Mary, with an instinctive movement rather than with the
dread of being an object of idle curiosity, drew back, but not so
quickly, however, but that she had been able to see the handsome
pale face of the unknown, who, when she returned to the window, had
disappeared behind one of the corners of the castle.
Everything is a cause of conjecture to a prisoner: it seemed to Mary
that this young man's face was not unknown to her, and that he had seen
her already; but though great the care with which she questioned her
memory, she could not recall any distinct remembrance, so much so that
the queen ended in thinking it the play of her imagination, or that some
vague and distinct resemblance had deceived her.
However, in spite of Mary, this idea had taken an important place in her
mind: she incessantly saw this little boat skimming the water, and the
young man and the child who were in it drawing near her, as if to bring
her help. It followed that, although there had been nothing real in all
these captive's dreams, she slept that night a calmer sleep than she had
yet done since she had been in Lochleven Castle.
Next day, on rising, Mary ran to her window: the weather was fine, and
everything seemed to smile on her, the water, the heavens and the earth.
But, without being able to account for the restraining motive, she did
not want to go down into the ga den before breakfast. When the door
opened, 'she turned quickly round: it was, as on the day before, William
Douglas, who came to fulfil his duty as taster.
The breakfast was a short and silent one; then, as soon as Douglas had
withdrawn, Mary descended in her turn: in crossing the courtyard she
saw two horses ready saddled, which pointed to the near departure of a
master and a squire. Was it the young man with the black hair already
setting out again? This is what Mary did not dare or did not wish to
ask. She consequently went her way, and entered the garden: at the first
glance she took it in in its full extent; it was deserted.
Mary walked there a moment; then, soon tiring of the promenade, she
went up again to her room: in passing back through the courtyard she had
noticed that the horses were no longer there. Directly she returned into
her apartment, she went then to the window to see if she could discover
anything upon the lake to guide her in her conjectures: a boat was
in fact receding, and in this boat were the two horses and the two
horsemen; one was William Douglas, the other a simple squire from the
Mary continued watching the boat until it had touched the shore. Arrived
there, the two horsemen got out, disembarked their horses, and went away
at full gallop, taking the same road by which the queen had come; so
that, as the horses were prepared for a long journey, Mary thought that
William Douglas was going to Edinburgh. As to the boat, scarcely had it
landed its two passengers on the opposite shore than it returned towards
At that moment Mary Seyton announced to the queen that Lady Douglas was
asking permission to visit her.
It was the second time, after long hatred on Lady Douglas's part and
contemptuous indifference on the queen's, that the two women were face
to face; therefore the queen, with that instinctive impulse of coquetry
which urges women, in whatever situation they find themselves, to desire
to be beautiful, above all for women, made a sign to Mary Seyton, and,
going to a little mirror fastened to the wall in a heavy Gothic frame,
she arranged her curls, and readjusted the lace of her collar; then;
having seated herself in the pose most favourable to her, in a great
arm-chair, the only one in her sitting-room, she said smilingly to
Mary Seyton that she might admit Lady Douglas, who was immediately
Mary's expectation was not disappointed: Lady Douglas, in spite of her
hatred for James Vs daughter, and mistress of herself as she thought she
as, could not prevent herself from showing by a movement of surprise the
impression that this marvelous beauty was making on her: she thought she
should find Mary crushed by her unhappiness, pallid from her fatigues,
humbled by captivity, and she saw hers calm, lovely, and haughty as
usual. Mary perceived the effect that she was producing, and addressing
herself with an ironical smile partly to Mary Seyton, who was leaning
on the back of her chair, and partly to her who was paying her this
"We are fortunate to-day," said she, "for we are going as it seems to
enjoy the society of our good hostess, whom we thank besides for having
kindly maintained with us the empty ceremony of announcing herself--a
ceremony with which, having the keys of our apartment, she could have
"If my presence is inconvenient to your grace," replied Lady Lochleven,
"I am all the more sorry for it, as circumstances will oblige me to
impose it twice daily, at least during the absence of my son, who is
summoned to Edinburgh by the regent; this is of what I came to inform
your grace, not with the empty ceremonial of the court, but with the
consideration which Lady Lochleven owes to everyone who has received
hospitality in her castle."
"Our good hostess mistakes our intention," Mary answered, with affected
good-nature; "and the regent himself can bear witness to the pleasure we
have always had in bringing nearer to us the persons who can recall
to us, even indirectly, our well-beloved father, James V. It will
be therefore unjustly that Lady Douglas will interpret in a manner
disagreeable to herself our surprise at seeing her; and the hospitality
that she offers us so obligingly does not promise us, in spite of her
goodwill, sufficient distractions that we should deprive ourselves of
those that her visits cannot fail to procure us."
"Unfortunately, madam," replied Lady Lochleven, whom Mary was keeping
standing before her, "whatever pleasure I myself derive from these
visits, I shall be obliged to deprive myself of, except at the times
I have mentioned. I am now too old to bear fatigue, and I have, always
been too proud to endure sarcasms."
"Really, Seyton," cried Mary, seeming to recollect herself, "we had
not dreamed that Lady Lochleven, having won her right to a stool at
the court of the king my father, would have need to preserve it in the
prison of the queen his daughter. Bring forward a seat, Seyton, that we
be not deprived so soon, and by a failure of memory on our part, of our
gracious hostess's company; or even," went on Mary, rising and pointing
out her own seat to Lady Lochleven, who was making a motion to withdraw,
"if a stool does not suit you, my lady, take this easy-chair: you will
not be the first member of your family to sit in my place."
At this last allusion, which recalled to her Murray's usurpation, Lady
Lochleven was no doubt about to make some exceedingly bitter reply,
when the young man with the dark hair appeared on the threshold, without
being announced, and, advancing towards Lady Lochleven, without saluting
"Madam," said he, bowing to the former, "the boat which took my brother
has just returned, and one of the men in it is charged with a pressing
charge that Lord William forgot to make to you himself."
Then, saluting the old lady with the same respect, he immediately went
out of the room, without even glancing at the queen, who, hurt by this
impertinence, turned round to Mary Seyton, and, with her usual calm--
"What have they told us, Seyton, of injurious rumours which were spread
about our worthy hostess apropos of a child with a pale face and dark
hair? If this child, as I have every reason to believe, has become the
young man who just went out of the room, I am ready to affirm to all the
incredulous that he is a true Douglas, if not for courage, of which we
cannot judge, then for insolence, of which he has just given us proofs.
Let us return, darling," continued the queen, leaning on Mary Seyton's
arm; "for our good hostess, out of courtesy, might think herself obliged
to keep us company longer, while we know that she is impatiently awaited
With these words, Mary went into her bedroom; while the old lady, still
quite stunned with the shower of sarcasms that the queen had rained on
her, withdrew, murmuring, "Yes, yes, he is a Douglas, and with God's
help he will prove it, I hope."
The queen had had strength as long as she was sustained by her enemy's
presence, but scarcely was she alone than she sank into a chair, and no
longer having any witness of her weakness than Mary Seyton, burst into
tears. Indeed, she had just been cruelly wounded: till then no man had
come near her who had not paid homage either to the majesty of her rank
or to the beauty of her countenance. But precisely he, on whom she had
reckoned, without knowing why, with instinctive hopes, insulted her at
one and the same time in her double pride of queen and woman: thus she
remained shut up till evening.
At dinner-time, just as Lady Lochleven had informed Mary, she ascended
to the queen's apartment, in her dress of honour, and preceding four
servants who were carrying the several dishes composing the prisoner's
repast, and who, in their turn, were followed by the old castle steward,
having, as on days of great ceremony, his gold chain round his neck
and his ivory stick in his hand. The servants' placed the dishes on the
table, and waited in silence for the moment when it should please the
queen to come out of her room; but at this moment the door opened, and
in place of the queen Mary Seyton appeared.
"Madam," said she on entering, "her grace was indisposed during the day,
and will take nothing this evening; it will be useless, then, for you to
"Permit me to hope," replied Lady Lochleven, "that she will change her
decision; in any case, see me perform my office."
At these words, a servant handed Lady Lochleven bread and salt on a
silver salver, while the old steward, who, in the absence of William
Douglas, fulfilled the duties of carver, served to her on a plate of the
same metal a morsel from each of the dishes that had been brought; then,
this transaction ended.
"So the queen will not appear to-day?" Lady Lochleven inquired.
"It is her Majesty's resolve," replied Mary Seyton.
"Our presence is then needless," said the old lady; "but in any case the
table is served, and if her grace should have need of anything else, she
would have but to name it."
With these words, Lady Lochleven, with the same stiffness and the same
dignity with which she had come, withdrew, followed by her four servants
and her steward.
As Lady Lochleven had foreseen, the queen, yielding to the entreaties of
Mary Seyton, came out of her room at last, towards eight o'clock in the
evening, sat down to table, and, served by the only maid of honour left
her, ate a little; then, getting up, she went to the window.
It was one of those magnificent summer evenings on which the whole of
nature seems making holiday: the sky was studded with stars, which were
reflected in the lake, and in their midst, like a more fiery star, the
flame of the chafing-dish shone, burning at the stern of a little boat:
the queen, by the gleam of the light it shed, perceived George Douglas
and Little Douglas, who were fishing. However great her wish to profit
by this fine evening to breathe the pure night air, the sight of this
young man who had so grossly insulted her this very day made such a keen
impression on her that she shut her window directly, and, retiring into
her room, went to bed, and made her companion in captivity read several
prayers aloud; then, not being able to sleep, so greatly was she
agitated, she rose, and throwing on a mantle went again to the window
the boat had disappeared.
Mary spent part of the night gazing into the immensity of the heavens,
or into the depths of the lake; but in spite of the nature of the
thoughts agitating her, she none the less found very great physical
alleviation in contact with this pure air and in contemplation of this
peaceful and silent night: thus she awoke next day calmer and more
resigned. Unfortunately, the sight of Lady Lochleven, who presented
herself at breakfast-time, to fulfil her duties as taster, brought back
her irritability. Perhaps, however, things would have gone on smoothly
if Lady Lochleven, instead of remaining standing by the sideboard, had
withdrawn after having tasted the various dishes of the courses; but
this insisting on remaining throughout the meal, which was at bottom a
mark of respect, seemed to the queen unbearable tyranny.
"Darling," said she, speaking to Mary Seyton, "have you already
forgotten that our good hostess complained yesterday of the fatigue she
felt inn standing? Bring her, then, one of the two stools which compose
our royal furniture, and take care that it is not the one with the leg
broken". "If the furniture of Lochleven Castle is in such bad condition,
madam," the old lady replied, "it is the fault of the kings of Scotland:
the poor Douglases for nearly a century have had such a small part of
their sovereigns' favour, that they have not been able to keep up
the splendour of their ancestors to the level of that of private
individuals, and because there was in Scotland a certain musician, as I
am informed, who spent their income for a whole year in one month."
"Those who know how to take so well, my lady," the queen answered,
"have no need of being given to: it seems to me the Douglases have lost
nothing by waiting, and there is not a younger son of this noble family
who might not aspire to the highest alliances; it is truly vexatious
that our sister the queen of England has taken a vow of virginity; as is
"Or rather," interrupted Lady Lochleven, "that the Queen of Scotland
is not a widow by her third husband. But," continued the old lady,
pretending to recollect herself, "I do not say that to reproach your
grace. Catholics look upon marriage as a sacrament, and on this head
receive it as often as they can."
"This, then," returned Mary, "is the difference between them and the
Huguenots; for they, not having the same respect for it, think it is
allowed them to dispense with it in certain circumstances."
At this terrible sarcasm Lady Lochleven took a step towards Mary Stuart,
holding in her hand the knife which she had just been using to cut off a
piece of meat brought her to taste; but the queen rose up with so great
a calm and with such majesty, that either from involuntary respect or
shame of her first impulse, she let fall the weapon she was holding,
and not finding anything sufficiently strong in reply to express her
feelings, she signed to the servants to follow her, and went out of the
apartment with all the dignity that anger permitted her to summon to her
Scarcely had Lady Lochleven left the room than the queen sat down again,
joyful and triumphant at the victory she had just gained, and ate with
a better appetite than she had yet done since she was a prisoner, while
Mary Seyton deplored in a low tone and with all possible respect this
fatal gift of repartee that Mary had received, and which, with her
beauty, was one of the causes of all her misfortunes; but the queen did
nothing but laugh at all her observations, saying she was curious to see
the figure her good hostess would cut at dinnertime.
After breakfast, the queen went down into the garden: her satisfied
pride had restored some of her cheerfulness, so much so that, seeing,
while crossing the hall, a mandolin lying forgotten on a chair, she told
Mary Seyton to take it, to see, she said, if she could recall her old
talent. In reality the queen was one of the best musicians of the time,
and played admirably, says Brantome, on the lute and viol d'amour, an
instrument much resembling the mandolin.
Mary Seyton obeyed.
Arrived in the garden, the queen sat down in the deepest shade, and
there, having tuned her instrument, she at first drew from it lively and
light tones, which soon darkened little by little, at the same time that
her countenance assumed a hue of deep melancholy. Mary Seyton looked at
her with uneasiness, although for a long time she had been used to these
sudden changes in her mistress's humour, and she was about to ask
the reason of this gloomy veil suddenly spread over her face, when,
regulating her harmonies, Mary began to sing in a low voice, and as if
for herself alone, the following verses:--
"Caverns, meadows, plains and mounts,
Lands of tree and stone,
Rivers, rivulets and founts,
By which I stray alone,
Bewailing as I go,
With tears that overflow,
Sing will I
The miserable woe
That bids me grieve and sigh.
Ay, but what is here to lend
Ear to my lament?
What is here can comprehend
My dull discontent?
Neither grass nor reed,
Nor the ripples heed,
While the stream with speed
Hastens from my eye.
Vainly does my wounded heart
Hope, alas, to heal;
Seeking, to allay its smart,
Things that cannot feel.
Better should my pain
To thee who dost constrain
My spirit to such ill.
Goddess, who shalt never die,
List to what I say;
Thou who makest me to lie
Weak beneath thy sway,
If my life must know
Ending at thy blow,
Own it perished so
But at thy behest.
Lo! my face may all men see
Slowly pine and fade,
E'en as ice doth melt and flee
Near a furnace laid.
Yet the burning ray
Wasting me away
Wakens no display
Of pity for my woe.
Yet does every neighbour tree,
Every rocky wall,
This my sorrow know and see;
So, in brief, doth all
Nature know aright
This my sorry plight;
Takest thy delight
To hear me cry and moan.
But if it be thy will,
To see tormented still
Then let my woful ill
This last verse died away as if the queen were exhausted, and at the
same time the mandolin slipped from her hands, and would have fallen to
the ground had not Mary Seyton thrown herself on her knees and prevented
it. The young girl remained thus at her mistress's feet for some time,
gazing at her silently, and as she saw that she was losing herself more
and more in gloomy reverie--
"Have those lines brought back to your Majesty some sad remembrance?"
she asked hesitatingly.
"Oh, yes," answered the queen; "they reminded me of the unfortunate
being who composed them."
"And may I, without indiscretion, inquire of your grace who is their
"Alas! he was a noble, brave, and handsome young man, with a faithful
heart and a hot head, who would defend me to-day, if I had defended him
then; but his boldness seemed to me rashness, and his fault a crime.
What was to be done? I did not love him. Poor Chatelard! I was very
cruel to him."
"But you did not prosecute him, it was your brother; you did not condemn
him, the judges did."
"Yes, yes; I know that he too was Murray's victim, and that is no doubt
the reason that I am calling him to mind just now. But I was able to
pardon him, Mary, and I was inflexible; I let ascend the scaffold a man
whose only crime was in loving me too well; and now I am astonished and
complain of being abandoned by everyone. Listen, darling, there is one
thing that terrifies me: it is, that when I search within myself I find
that I have not only deserved my fate, but even that God did not punish
me severely enough."
"What strange thoughts for your grace!" cried Mary; "and see where those
unlucky lines which returned to your mind have led you, the very day
when you were beginning to recover a little of your cheerfulness."
"Alas!" replied the queen, shaking her head and uttering a deep sigh,
"for six years very few days have passed that I have not repeated those
lines to myself, although it may be for the first time to-day that I
repeat them aloud. He was a Frenchman too, Mary: they have exiled from
me, taken or killed all who came to me from France. Do you remember that
vessel which was swallowed up before our eyes when we came out of Calais
harbour? I exclaimed then that it was a sad omen: you all wanted to
reassure me. Well, who was right, now, you or I?"
The queen was in one of those fits of sadness for which tears are
the sole remedy; so Mary Seyton, perceiving that not only would every
consolation be vain, but also unreasonable, far from continuing to react
against her mistress's melancholy, fully agreed with her: it followed
that the queen, who was suffocating, began to weep, and that her tears
brought her comfort; then little by little she regained self-control,
and this crisis passed as usual, leaving her firmer and more resolute
than ever, so that when she went up to her room again it was impossible
to read the slightest alteration in her countenance.
The dinner-hour was approaching, and Mary, who in the morning was
looking forward impatiently to the enjoyment of her triumph over Lady
Lochleven, now saw her advance with uneasiness: the mere idea of again
facing this woman, whose pride one was always obliged to oppose with
insolence, was, after the moral fatigues of the day, a fresh weariness.
So she decided not to appear for dinner, as on the day before: she was
all the more glad she had taken this resolution, that this time it was
not Lady Lochleven who came to fulfil the duties enjoined on a member of
the family to make the queen easy, but George Douglas, whom his mother
in her displeasure at the morning scene sent to replace her. Thus, when
Mary Seyton told the queen that she saw the young man with dark hair
cross the courtyard on his way to her, Mary still further congratulated
herself on her decision; for this young man's insolence had wounded her
more deeply than all his mother's haughty insults. The queen was not a
little astonished, then, when in a few minutes Mary Seyton returned and
informed her that George Douglas, having sent away the servants, desired
the honour of speaking to her on a matter of importance. At first the
queen refused; but Mary Seyton told her that the young man's air and
manner this time were so different from what she had seen two days
before, that she thought her mistress would be wrong to refuse his
The queen rose then, and with the pride and majesty habitual to her,
entered the adjoining room, and, having taken three steps, stopped with
a disdainful air, waiting for George to address her.
Mary Seyton had spoken truly: George Douglas was now another man. To-day
he seemed to be as respectful and timid as the preceding day he had
seemed haughty and proud. He, in his turn, made a step towards the
queen; but seeing Mary Seyton standing behind her--
"Madam," said he, "I wished to speak with your Majesty alone: shall I
not obtain this favour?"
"Mary Seyton is not a stranger to me, Sir: she is my sister, my friend;
she is more than all that, she is my companion in captivity."
"And by all these claims, madam, I have the utmost veneration for her;
but what I have to tell you cannot be heard by other ears than yours.
Thus, madam, as the opportunity furnished now may perhaps never present
itself again, in the name of what is dearest to you, grant me what I
There was such a tone of respectful prayer in George's voice that Mary
turned to the young girl, and, making her a friendly sign with her
"Go, then, darling," said she; "but be easy, you will lose nothing by
not hearing. Go."
Mary Seyton withdrew; the queen smilingly looked after her, till the
door was shut; then, turning to George--
"Now, sir," said she, "we are alone, speak."
But George, instead of replying, advanced to the queen, and, kneeling on
one knee, drew from his breast a paper which he presented to her. Mary
took it with amazement, unfolded it, glancing at Douglas, who remained
in the same posture, and read as follows:
We, earls, lords, and barons, in consideration that our queen is
detained at Lochleven, and that her faithful subjects cannot have access
to her person; seeing, on the other hand, that our duty pledges us to
provide for her safety, promise and swear to employ all reasonable
means which will depend on us to set her at liberty again on conditions
compatible with the honour of her Majesty, the welfare of the kingdom,
and even with the safety of those who keep her in prison, provided that
they consent to give her up; that if they refuse, we declare that we
are prepared to make use of ourselves, our children, our friends, our
servants, our vassals, our goods, our persons, and our lives, to restore
her to liberty, to procure the safety of the prince, and to co-operate
in punishing the late king's murderers. If we are assailed for this
intent, whether as a body or in private, we promise to defend ourselves,
and to aid one another, under pain of infamy and perjury. So may God
"Given with our own hands at Dumbarton,
"St. Andrews, Argyll, Huntly, Arbroath, Galloway, Ross, Fleming,
Herries, Stirling, Kilwinning, Hamilton, and Saint-Clair, Knight."
"And Seyton!" cried Mary, "among all these signatures, I do not see that
of my faithful Seyton."
Douglas, still kneeling, drew from his breast a second paper, and
presented it to the queen with the same marks of respect. It contained
only these few words:
"Trust George Douglas; for your Majesty has no more devoted friend in
the entire kingdom.
Mary lowered her eyes to Douglas with an expression which was hers only;
then, giving him her hand to raise him--
"Ah!" said she, with a sigh more of joy than of sadness, "now I see that
God, in spite of my faults, has not yet abandoned me. But how is it, in
this castle, that you, a Douglas.... oh! it is incredible!"
"Madam," replied George, "seven years have passed since I saw you in
France for the first time, and for seven years I have loved you". Mary
moved; but Douglas put forth his hand and shook his head with an air of
such profound sadness, that she understood that she might hear what the
young man had to say. He continued: "Reassure yourself, madam; I should
never have made this confession if, while explaining my conduct to you,
this confession would not have given you greater confidence in me. Yes,
for seven years I have loved you, but as one loves a star that one can
never reach, a madonna to whom one can only pray; for seven years I have
followed you everywhere without you ever having paid attention to me,
without my saying a word or making a gesture to attract your notice. I
was on the knight of Mevillon's galley when you crossed to Scotland;
I was among the regent's soldiers when you beat Huntly; I was in the
escort which accompanied you when you went to see the sick king
at Glasgow; I reached Edinburgh an hour after you had left it for
Lochleven; and then it seemed to me that my mission was revealed to
me for the first time, and that this love for which till then, I had
reproached myself as a crime, was on the contrary a favour from God. I
learned that the lords were assembled at Dumbarton: I flew thither. I
pledged my name, I pledged my honour, I pledged my life; and I obtained
from them, thanks to the facility I had for coming into this fortress,
the happiness of bringing you the paper they have just signed. Now,
madam, forget all I have told you, except the assurance of my devotion
and respect: forget that I am near you; I am used to not being seen:
only, if you have need of my life, make a sign; for seven years my life
has been yours."
"Alas!" replied Mary, "I was complaining this morning of no longer being
loved, and I ought to complain, on the contrary, that I am still loved;
for the love that I inspire is fatal and mortal. Look back, Douglas,
and count the tombs that, young as I am, I have already left on my
path--Francis II, Chatelard, Rizzio, Darnley.... Oh to attach one's self
to my fortunes more than love is needed now heroism and devotion are
requisite so much the more that, as you have said, Douglas, it is love
without any possible reward. Do you understand?"
"Oh, madam, madam," answered Douglas, "is it not reward beyond my
deserts to see you daily, to cherish the hope that liberty will be
restored to you through me, and to have at least, if I do not give it
you, the certainty of dying in your sight?"
"Poor young man!" murmured Mary, her eyes raised to heaven, as if she
were reading there beforehand the fate awaiting her new defender.
"Happy Douglas, on the contrary," cried George, seizing the queen's
hand and kissing it with perhaps still more respect than love, "happy
Douglas! for in obtaining a sigh from your Majesty he has already
obtained more than he hoped."
"And upon what have you decided with my friends?" said the queen,
raising Douglas, who till then had remained on his knees before her.
"Nothing yet," George replied; "for we scarcely had time to see one
another. Your escape, impossible without me, is difficult even with
me; and your Majesty has seen that I was obliged publicly to fail in
respect, to obtain from my mother the confidence which gives me the good
fortune of seeing you to-day: if this confidence on my mother's or my
brother's part ever extends to giving up to me the castle keys, then you
are saved! Let your Majesty not be surprised at anything, then: in the
presence of others, I shall ever be always a Douglas, that is an enemy;
and except your life be in danger, madam, I shall not utter a word, I
shall not make a gesture which might betray the faith that I have
sworn you; but, on your side, let your grace know well, that present or
absent, whether I am silent or speak, whether I act or remain inert, all
will be in appearance only, save my devotion. Only," continued Douglas,
approaching the window and showing to the queen a little house on
Kinross hill,--"only, look every evening in that direction, madam, and
so long as you see a light shine there, your friends will be keeping
watch for you, and you need not lose hope."
"Thanks, Douglas, thanks," said the queen; "it does one good to meet
with a heart like yours from time to time--oh! thanks."
"And now, madam," replied the young man, "I must leave your Majesty; to
remain longer with you would be to raise suspicions, and a single doubt
of me, think of it well, madam, and that light which is your sole beacon
is extinguished, and all returns into night."
With these words, Douglas bowed more respectfully than he had yet done,
and withdrew, leaving Mary full of hope, and still more full of pride;
for this time the homage that she had just received was certainly for
the woman and not for the queen.
As the queen had told him, Mary Seyton was informed of everything, even
the love of Douglas, and, the two women impatiently awaited the evening
to see if the promised star would shine on the horizon. Their hope
was not in vain: at the appointed time the beacon was lit. The queen
trembled with joy, for it was the confirmation of her hopes, and her
companion could not tear her from the window, where she remained with
her gaze fastened on the little house in Kinross. At last she yielded
to Mary Seyton's prayers, and consented to go to bed; but twice in the
night she rose noiselessly to go to the window: the light was always
shining, and was not extinguished till dawn, with its sisters the stars.
Next day, at breakfast, George announced to the queen the return of his
brother, William Douglas: he arrived the same evening; as to himself,
George, he had to leave Lochleven next morning, to confer with the
nobles who had signed the declaration, and who had immediately separated
to raise troops in their several counties. The queen could not attempt
to good purpose any escape but at a time when she would be sure of
gathering round her an army strong enough to hold the country; as to
him, Douglas, one was so used to his silent disappearances and to his
unexpected returns, that there was no reason to fear that his departure
would inspire any suspicion.
All passed as George had said: in the evening the sound of a bugle
announced the arrival of William Douglas; he had with him Lord Ruthven,
the son of him who had assassinated Rizzio, and who, exiled with Morton
after the murder, died in England of the sickness with which he was
already attacked the day of the terrible catastrophe in which we have
seen him take such a large share. He preceded by one day Lord Lindsay
of Byres and Sir Robert Melville, brother of Mary's former ambassador to
Elizabeth: all three were charged with a mission from the regent to the
On the following day everything fell back into the usual routine, and
William Douglas reassumed his duties as carver. Breakfast passed without
Mary's having learned anything of George's departure or Ruthven's
arrival. On rising from the table she went to her window: scarcely was
she there than she heard the sound of a horn echoing on the shores of
the lake, and saw a little troop of horsemen halt, while waiting for the
boat to came and take those who were going to the castle.
The distance was too great for Mary to recognise any of the visitors;
but it was clear, from the signs of intelligence exchanged between the
little troop and the inhabitants of the fortress, that the newcomers
were her enemies. This was a reason why the queen, in her uneasiness,
should not lose sight for a moment of the boat which was going to fetch
them. She saw only two men get into it; and immediately it put off again
for the castle.
As the boat drew nearer, Mary's presentiments changed to real fears,
for in one of the men coming towards her she thought she made out Lord
Lindsay of Byres, the same who, a week before, had brought her to her
prison. It was indeed he himself, as usual in a steel helmet without
a visor, which allowed one to see his coarse face designed to express
strong passions, and his long black beard with grey hairs here and
there, which covered his chest: his person was protected, as if it were
in time of war, with his faithful suit of armour, formerly polished and
well gilded, but which, exposed without ceasing to rain and mist, was
now eaten up with rust; he had slung on his back, much as one slings a
quiver, a broadsword, so heavy that it took two hands to manage it, and
so long that while the hilt reached the left shoulder the point reached
the right spur: in a word, he was still the same soldier, brave to
rashness but brutal to insolence, recognising nothing but right and
force, and always ready to use force when he believed himself in the
The queen was so much taken up with the sight of Lord Lindsay of Byres,
that it was only just as the boat reached the shore that she glanced at
his companion and recognised Robert Melville: this was some consolation,
for, whatever might happen, she knew that she should find in him if not
ostensible at least secret sympathy. Besides, his dress, by which one
could have judged him equally with Lord Lindsay, was a perfect contrast
to his companion's. It consisted of a black velvet doublet, with a cap
and a feather of the same hue fastened to it with a gold clasp; his only
weapon, offensive or defensive, was a little sword, which he seemed to
wear rather as a sign of his rank than for attack or defence. As to
his features and his manners, they were in harmony with this peaceful
appearance: his pale countenance expressed both acuteness and
intelligence; his quick eye was mild, and his voice insinuating; his
figure slight and a little bent by habit rather than by years, since
he was but forty-five at this time, indicated an easy and conciliatory
However, the presence of this man of peace, who seemed entrusted with
watching over the demon of war, could not reassure the queen, and as to
get to the landing-place, in front of the great door of the castle, the
boat had just disappeared behind the corner of a tower, she told Mary
Seyton to go down that she might try to learn what cause brought Lord
Lindsay to Lochleven, well knowing that with the force of character
with which she was endowed, she need know this cause but a few minutes
beforehand, whatever it might be, to give her countenance that calm and
that majesty which she had always found to influence her enemies.
Left alone, Mary let her glance stray back to the little house in
Kinross, her sole hope; but the distance was too great to distinguish
anything; besides, its shutters remained closed all day, and seemed to
open only in the evening, like the clouds, which, having covered the
sky for a whole morning, scatter at last to reveal to the lost sailor
a solitary star. She had remained no less motionless, her gaze
always fixed on the same object, when she was drawn from this mute
contemplation by the step of Mary Seyton.
"Well, darling?" asked the queen, turning round.
"Your Majesty is not mistaken," replied the messenger: "it really was
Sir Robert Melville and Lord Lindsay; but there came yesterday with Sir
William Douglas a third ambassador, whose name, I am afraid, will be
still more odious to your Majesty than either of the two I have just
"You deceive yourself, Mary," the queen answered: "neither the name
of Melville nor that of Lindsay is odious to me. Melville's, on the
contrary, is, in my present circumstances, one of those which I have
most pleasure in hearing; as to Lord Lindsay's, it is doubtless not
agreeable to me, but it is none the less an honourable name, always
borne by men rough and wild, it is true, but incapable of treachery.
Tell me, then, what is this name, Mary; for you see I am calm and
"Alas! madam," returned Mary, "calm and prepared as you may be, collect
all your strength, not merely to hear this name uttered, but also to
receive in a few minutes the man who bears it; for this name is that of
Mary Seyton had spoken truly, and this name had a terrible influence
upon the queen; for scarcely had it escaped the young girl's lips than
Mary Stuart uttered a cry, and turning pale, as if she were about to
faint, caught hold of the window-ledge.
Mary Seyton, frightened at the effect produced by this fatal name,
immediately sprang to support the queen; but she, stretching one hand
towards her, while she laid the other on her heart--
"It is nothing," said she; "I shall be better in a moment. Yes, Mary,
yes, as you said, it is a fatal name and mingled with one of my most
bloody memories. What such men are coming to ask of me must be dreadful
indeed. But no matter, I shall soon be ready to receive my brother's
ambassadors, for doubtless they are sent in his name. You, darling,
prevent their entering, for I must have some minutes to myself: you know
me; it will not take me long."
With these words the queen withdrew with a firm step to her bedchamber.
Mary Seyton was left alone, admiring that strength of character which
made of Mary Stuart, in all other respects so completely woman-like, a
man in the hour of danger. She immediately went to the door to close it
with the wooden bar that one passed between two iron rings, but the bar
had been taken away, so that there was no means of fastening the door
from within. In a moment she heard someone coming up the stairs, and
guessing from the heavy, echoing step that this must be Lord Lindsay,
she looked round her once again to see if she could find something to
replace the bar, and finding nothing within reach, she passed her arm
through the rings, resolved to let it be broken rather than allow anyone
to approach her mistress before it suited her. Indeed, hardly had those
who were coming up reached the landing than someone knocked violently,
and a harsh voice cried:
"Come, come, open the door; open directly."
"And by what right," said Mary Seyton, "am I ordered thus insolently to
open the Queen of Scotland's door?"
"By the right of the ambassador of the regent to enter everywhere in his
name. I am Lord Lindsay, and I am come to speak to Lady Mary Stuart."
"To be an ambassador," answered Mary Seyton, "is not to be exempted from
having oneself announced in visiting a woman, and much more a queen;
and if this ambassador is, as he says, Lord Lindsay, he will await his
sovereign's leisure, as every Scottish noble would do in his place."
"By St. Andrew!" cried Lord Lindsay, "open, or I will break in the
"Do nothing to it, my lord, I entreat you," said another voice, which
Mary recognised as Meville's. "Let us rather wait for Lord Ruthven, who
is not yet ready."
"Upon my soul," cried Lindsay, shaking the door, "I shall not wait a
second". Then, seeing that it resisted, "Why did you tell me, then, you
scamp," Lindsay went on, speaking to the steward, "that the bar had been
"It is true," replied he.
"Then," returned Lindsay, "with what is this silly wench securing the
"With my arm, my lord, which I have passed through the rings, as a
Douglas did for King James I, at a time when Douglases had dark hair
instead of red, and were faithful instead of being traitors."
"Since you know your history so well," replied Lindsay, in a rage,
"you should remember that that weak barrier did not hinder Graham, that
Catherine Douglas's arm was broken like a willow wand, and that James I.
was killed like a dog."
"But you, my lord," responded the courageous young girl, "ought also to
know the ballad that is still sung in our time--
"'Now, on Robert Gra'am, The king's destroyer, shame! To Robert Graham
cling Shame, who destroyed our king.'"
"Mary," cried the queen, who had overheard this altercation from her
bedroom,--"Mary, I command you to open the door directly: do you hear?"
Mary obeyed, and Lord Lindsay entered, followed by Melville, who walked
behind him, with slow steps and bent head. Arrived in the middle of the
second room, Lord Lindsay stopped, and, looking round him--
"Well, where is she, then?" he asked; "and has she not already kept us
waiting long enough outside, without making us wait again inside? Or
does she imagine that, despite these walls and these bars, she is always
"Patience, my lord," murmured Sir Robert: "you see that Lord Ruthven has
not come yet, and since we can do nothing without him, let us wait."
"Let wait who will," replied Lindsay, inflamed with anger; "but it will
not be I, and wherever she may be, I shall go and seek her."
With these words, he made some steps towards Mary Stuart's bedroom;
but at the same moment the queen opened the door, without seeming moved
either at the visit or at the insolence of the visitors, and so lovely
and so full of majesty, that each, even Lindsay himself, was silent
at her appearance, and, as if in obedience to a higher power, bowed
respectfully before her.
"I fear I have kept you waiting, my lord," said the queen, without
replying to the ambassador's salutation otherwise than by a slight
inclination of the head; "but a woman does not like to receive even
enemies without having spent a few minutes over her toilet. It is
true that men are less tenacious of ceremony," added she, throwing a
significant glance at Lord Lindsay's rusty armour and soiled and pierced
doublet. "Good day, Melville," she continued, without paying attention
to some words of excuse stammered by Lindsay; "be welcome in my prison,
as you were in my palace; for I believe you as devoted to the one as to
Then, turning to Lindsay, who was looking interrogatively at the door,
impatient as he was for Ruthven to come--
"You have there, my lord," said she, pointing to the sword he carried
over his shoulder, "a faithful companion, though it is a little heavy:
did you expect, in coming here, to find enemies against whom to
employ it? In the contrary case, it is a strange ornament for a lady's
presence. But no matter, my lord, I, am too much of a Stuart to fear the
sight of a sword, even if it were naked, I warn you."
"It is not out of place here, madam," replied Lindsay, bringing it
forward and leaning his elbow on its cross hilt, "for it is an old
acquaintance of your family."
"Your ancestors, my lord, were brave and loyal enough for me not to
refuse to believe what you tell me. Besides, such a good blade must have
rendered them good service."
"Yes, madam, yes, surely it has done so, but that kind of service
that kings do not forgive. He for whom it was made was Archibald
Bell-the-Cat, and he girded himself with it the day when, to justify
his name, he went to seize in the very tent of King James III, your
grandfather, his un worthy favourites, Cochran, Hummel, Leonard, and
Torpichen, whom he hanged on Louder Bridge with the halters of his
soldiers' horses. It was also with this sword that he slew at one blow,
in the lists, Spens of Kilspindie, who had insulted him in the presence
of King James IV, counting on the protection his master accorded him,
and which did not guard him against it any more than his shield, which
it split in two. At his master's death, which took place two years after
the defeat of Flodden, on whose battlefield he left his two sons and two
hundred warriors of the name of Douglas, it passed into the hands of the
Earl of Angus, who drew it from the scabbard when he drove the Hamiltons
out of Edinburgh, and that so quickly and completely that the affair was
called the 'sweeping of the streets.' Finally, your father James V saw
it glisten in the fight of the bridge over the Tweed, when Buccleuch,
stirred up by him, wanted to snatch him from the guardianship of the
Douglases, and when eighty warriors of the name of Scott remained on the
"But," said the queen, "how is it that this weapon, after such exploits,
has not remained as a trophy in the Douglas family? No doubt the Earl of
Angus required a great occasion to decide him to-renounce in your favour
this modern Excalibur". [History of Scotland, by Sir Walter Scott.--"The
Abbott": historical part.]
"Yes, no doubt, madam, it was upon a great occasion," replied Lindsay,
in spite of the imploring signs made by Melville, "and this will have at
least the advantage of the others, in being sufficiently recent for you
to remember. It was ten days ago, on the battlefield of Carberry Hill,
madam, when the infamous Bothwell had the audacity to make a public
challenge in which he defied to single combat whomsoever would dare
to maintain that he was not innocent of the murder of the king your
husband. I made him answer then, I the third, that he was an assassin.
And as he refused to fight with the two others under the pretext that
they were only barons, I presented myself in my turn, I who am earl and
lord. It was on that occasion that the noble Earl of Morton gave me this
good sword to fight him to the death. So that, if he had been a little
more presumptuous or a little less cowardly, dogs and vultures would be
eating at this moment the pieces that, with the help of this good sword,
I should have carved for them from that traitor's carcass."
At these words, Mary Seyton and Robert Melville looked at each other in
terror, for the events that they recalled were so recent that they were,
so to speak, still living in the queen's heart; but the queen, with
incredible impassibility and a smile of contempt on her lips--
"It is easy, my lord," said she, "to vanquish an enemy who does not
appear in the lists; however, believe me, if Mary had inherited the
Stuarts' sword as she has inherited their sceptre, your sword, long as
it is, would yet have seemed to you too short. But as you have only to
relate to us now, my lord, what you intended doing, and not what you
have done, think it fit that I bring you back to something of more
reality; for I do not suppose you have given yourself the trouble to
come here purely and simply to add a chapter to the little treatise Des
Rodomontades Espagnolles by M. de Brantome."
"You are right, madam," replied Lindsay, reddening with anger, "and you
would already know the object of our mission if Lord Ruthven did not so
ridiculously keep us waiting. But," added he, "have patience; the matter
will not be long now, for here he is."
Indeed, at that moment they heard steps mounting the staircase and
approaching the room, and at the sound of these steps, the queen, who
had borne with such firmness Lindsay's insults, grew so perceptibly
paler, that Melville, who did not take his eyes off her,--put out his
hand towards the arm-chair as if to push it towards her; but the queen
made a sign that she had no need of it, and gazed at the door with
apparent calm. Lord Ruthven appeared; it was the first time that she had
seen the son since Rizzio had been assassinated by the father.
Lord Ruthven was both a warrior and a statesman, and at this moment his
dress savoured of the two professions: it consisted of a close coat of
embroidered buff leather, elegant enough to be worn as a court undress,
and on which, if need were, one could buckle a cuirass, for battle: like
his father, he was pale; like his father, he was to die young, and, even
more than his father, his countenance wore that ill-omened melancholy by
which fortune-tellers recognise those who are to die a violent death.
Lord Ruthven united in himself the polished dignity of a courtier and
the inflexible character of a minister; but quite resolved as he was to
obtain from Mary Stuart, even if it were by violence, what he had come
to demand in the regent's name, he none the less made her, on entering,
a cold but respectful greeting, to which the queen responded with a
courtesy; then the steward drew up to the empty arm-chair a heavy table
on which had been prepared everything necessary for writing, and at a
sign from the two lords he went out, leaving the queen and her companion
alone with the three ambassadors. Then the queen, seeing that this table
and this arm-chair were put ready for her, sat down; and after a moment,
herself breaking this silence more gloomy than any word could have
"My lords," said she, "you see that I wait: can it be that this message
which you have to communicate to me is so terrible that two soldiers
as renowned as Lord Lindsay and Lord Ruthven hesitate at the moment of
"Madam," answered Ruthven, "I am not of a family, as you know, which
ever hesitates to perform a duty, painful as it may be; besides, we hope
that your captivity has prepared you to hear what we have to tell you on
the part of the Secret Council."
"The Secret Council!" said the queen. "Instituted by me, by what right
does it act without me? No matter, I am waiting for this message: I
suppose it is a petition to implore my mercy for the men who have dared
to reach to a power that I hold only from God."
"Madam," replied Ruthven, who appeared to have undertaken the painful
role of spokesman, while Lindsay, mute and impatient, fidgeted with the
hilt of his long sword, "it is distressing to me to have to undeceive
you on this point: it is not your mercy that I come to ask; it is, on
the contrary, the pardon of the Secret Council that I come to offer
"To me, my lord, to me!" cried Mary: "subjects offer pardon to their
queen! Oh! it is such a new and wonderful thing, that my amazement
outweighs my indignation, and that I beg you to continue, instead of
stopping you there, as perhaps I ought to do."
"And I obey you so much the more willingly, madam," went on Ruthven
imperturbably, "that this pardon is only granted on certain conditions,
stated in these documents, destined to re-establish the tranquillity of
the State, so cruelly compromised by the errors that they are going to
"And shall I be permitted, my lord, to read these documents, or must I,
allured by my confidence in those who present them to me, sign them with
my eyes shut?"
"No, madam," Ruthven returned; "the Secret Council desire, on the
contrary, that you acquaint yourself with them, for you must sign them
"Read me these documents, my lord; for such a reading is, I think,
included in the strange duties you have accepted."
Lord Ruthven took one of the two papers that he had in his hand, and
read with the impassiveness of his usual voice the following:
"Summoned from my tenderest youth to the government of the kingdom
and to the crown of Scotland, I have carefully attended to the
administration; but I have experienced so much fatigue and trouble that
I no longer find my mind free enough nor my strength great enough to
support the burden of affairs of State: accordingly, and as Divine
favour has granted us a son whom we desire to see during our lifetime
bear the crown which he has acquired by right of birth, we have resolved
to abdicate, and we abdicate in his favour, by these presents, freely
and voluntarily, all our rights to the crown and to the government of
Scotland, desiring that he may immediately ascend the throne, as if he
were called to it by our natural death, and not as the effect of our
own will; and that our present abdication may have a more complete
and solemn effect, and that no one should put forward the claim of
ignorance, we give full powers to our trusty and faithful cousins, the
lords Lindsay of Byres and William Ruthven, to appear in our name before
the nobility, the clergy, and the burgesses of Scotland, of whom they
will convoke an assembly at Stirling, and to there renounce, publicly
and solemnly, on our part, all our claims to the crown and to the
government of Scotland.
"Signed freely and as the testimony of one of our last royal wishes, in
our castle of Lochleven, the ---- June 1567". (The date was left blank.)
There was a moment's silence after this reading, then
"Did you hear, madam?" asked Ruthven.
"Yes," replied Mary Stuart,--"yes, I have heard rebellious words that I
have not understood, and I thought that my ears, that one has tried to
accustom for some time to a strange language, still deceived me, and
that I have thought for your honour, my lord William Ruthven, and my
lord Lindsay of Byres."
"Madam," answered Lindsay, out of patience at having kept silence so
long, "our honour has nothing to do with the opinion of a woman who has
so ill known how to watch over her own."
"My lord!" said Melville, risking a word.
"Let him speak, Robert," returned the queen. "We have in our conscience
armour as well tempered as that with which Lord Lindsay is so prudently
covered, although, to the shame of justice, we no longer have a sword.
Continue, my lord," the queen went on, turning to Lord Ruthven: "is
this all that my subjects require of me? A date and a signature? Ah!
doubtless it is too little; and this second paper, which you have kept
in order to proceed by degrees, probably contains some demand more
difficult to grant than that of yielding to a child scarcely a year old
a crown which belongs to me by birthright, and to abandon my sceptre to
take a distaff."
"This other paper," replied Ruthven, without letting himself be
intimidated by the tone of bitter irony adopted by the queen, "is the
deed by which your Grace confirms the decision of the Secret Council
which has named your beloved brother, the Earl of Murray, regent of the
"Indeed!" said Mary. "The Secret Council thinks it needs my confirmation
to an act of such slight importance? And my beloved brother, to bear
it without remorse, needs that it should be I who add a fresh title to
those of Earl of Mar and of Murray that I have already bestowed upon
him? But one cannot desire anything more respectful and touching than
all this, and I should be very wrong to complain. My lords," continued
the queen, rising and changing her tone, "return to those who have sent
you, and tell them that to such demands Mary Stuart has no answer to
"Take care, madam," responded Ruthven; "for I have told you it is only
on these conditions that your pardon can be granted you."
"And if I refuse this generous pardon," asked Mary, "what will happen?"
"I cannot pronounce beforehand, madam; but your Grace has enough
knowledge of the laws, and above all of the history of Scotland and
England, to know that murder and adultery are crimes for which more than
one queen has been punished with death."
"And upon what proofs could such a charge be founded, my lord? Pardon
my persistence, which takes up your precious time; but I am sufficiently
interested in the matter to be permitted such a question."
"The proof, madam?" returned Ruthven. "There is but one, I know; but
that one is unexceptionable: it is the precipitate marriage of the widow
of the assassinated with the chief assassin, and the letters which have
been handed over to us by James Balfour, which prove that the guilty
persons had united their adulterous hearts before it was permitted them
to unite their bloody hands."
"My lord," cried the queen, "do you forget a certain repast given in
an Edinburgh tavern, by this same Bothwell, to those same noblemen who
treat him to-day as an adulterer and a murderer; do you forget that at
the end of that meal, and on the same table at which it had been given,
a paper was signed to invite that same woman, to whom to-day you make
the haste of her new wedding a crime, to leave off a widow's mourning to
reassume a marriage robe? for if you have forgotten it, my lords,
which would do no more honour to your sobriety than to your memory, I
undertake to show it to you, I who have preserved it; and perhaps if we
search well we shall find among the signatures the names of Lindsay of
Byres and William Ruthven. O noble Lord Herries," cried Mary, "loyal
James Melville, you alone were right then, when you threw yourselves at
my feet, entreating me not to conclude this marriage, which, I see it
clearly to-day, was only a trap set for an ignorant woman by perfidious
advisers or disloyal lords."
"Madam," cried Ruthven, in spite of his cold impassivity beginning to
lose command of himself, while Lindsay was giving still more noisy and
less equivocal signs of impatience, "madam, all these discussions are
beside our aim: I beg you to return to it, then, and inform us if,
your life and honour guaranteed, you consent to abdicate the crown of
"And what safeguard should I have that the promises you here make me
will be kept?"
"Our word, madam," proudly replied Ruthven.
"Your word, my lord, is a very feeble pledge to offer, when one so
quickly forgets one's signature: have you not some trifle to add to it,
to make me a little easier than I should be with it alone?"
"Enough, Ruthven, enough," cried Lindsay. "Do you not see that for an
hour this woman answers our proposals only by insults?"
"Yes, let us go," said Ruthven; "and thank yourself only, madam, for
the day when the thread breaks which holds the sword suspended over your
"My lords," cried Melville, "my lords, in Heaven's name, a little
patience, and forgive something to her who, accustomed to command, is
today forced to obey."
"Very well," said Lindsay, turning round, "stay with her, then, and try
to obtain by your smooth words what is refused to our frank and loyal
demand. In a quarter of an hour we shall return: let the answer be ready
in a quarter of an hour!"
With these words, the two noblemen went out, leaving Melville with
the queen; and one could count their footsteps, from the noise that
Lindsay's great sword made, in resounding on each step of the staircase.
Scarcely were they alone than Melville threw himself at the queen's
"Madam," said he, "you remarked just now that Lord Herries and my
brother had given your Majesty advice that you repented not having
followed; well, madam, reflect on that I in my turn give you; for it
is more important than the other, for you will regret with still more
bitterness not having listened to it. Ah! you do not know what may
happen, you are ignorant of what your brother is capable."
"It seems to me, however," returned the queen, "that he has just
instructed me on that head: what more will he do than he has done
already? A public trial! Oh! it is all I ask: let me only plead my
cause, and we shall see what judges will dare to condemn me."
"But that is what they will take good care not to do, madam; for they
would be mad to do it when they keep you here in this isolated castle,
in the care of your enemies, having no witness but God, who avenges
crime, but who does not prevent it. Recollect, madam, what Machiavelli
has said, 'A king's tomb is never far from his prison.' You come of a
family in which one dies young, madam, and almost always of a sudden
death: two of your ancestors perished by steel, and one by poison."
"Oh, if my death were sudden and easy," cried Mary, "yes, I should
accept it as an expiation for my faults; for if I am proud when I
compare myself with others, Melville, I am humble when I judge myself. I
am unjustly accused of being an accomplice of Darnley's death, but I am
justly condemned for having married Bothwell."
"Time presses, madam; time presses," cried Melville, looking at the
sand, which, placed on the table, was marking the time. "They are coming
back, they will be here in a minute; and this time you must give them an
answer. Listen, madam, and at least profit by your situation as much
as you can. You are alone here with one woman, without friends, without
protection, without power: an abdication signed at such a juncture will
never appear to your people to have been freely given, but will always
pass as having been torn from you by force; and if need be, madam, if
the day comes when such a solemn declaration is worth something, well,
then you will have two witnesses of the violence done you: the one will
be Mary Seyton, and the other," he added in a low voice and looking
uneasily about him,--"the other will be Robert Melville."
Hardly had he finished speaking when the footsteps of the two nobles
were again heard on the staircase, returning even before the quarter of
an hour had elapsed; a moment afterwards the door opened, and Ruthven
appeared, while over his shoulder was seen Lindsay's head.
"Madam," said Ruthven, "we have returned. Has your Grace decided? We
come for your answer."
"Yes," said Lindsay, pushing aside Ruthven, who stood in his way, and
advancing to the table,--"yes, an answer, clear, precise, positive, and
"You are exacting, my lord," said the queen: "you would scarcely have
the right to expect that from me if I were in full liberty on the other
side of the lake and surrounded with a faithful escort; but between
these walls, behind these bars, in the depths of this fortress, I shall
not tell you that I sign voluntarily, lest you should not believe it.
But no matter, you want my signature; well, I am going to give it to
you. Melville, pass me the pen."
"But I hope," said Lord Ruthven, "that your Grace is not counting on
using your present position one day in argument to protest against what
you are going to do?"
The queen had already stooped to write, she had already set her hand to
the paper, when Ruthven spoke to her. But scarcely had he done so, than
she rose up proudly, and letting fall the pen, "My lord," said she,
"what you asked of me just now was but an abdication pure and simple,
and I was going to sign it. But if to this abdication is joined this
marginal note, then I renounce of my own accord, and as judging myself
unworthy, the throne of Scotland. I would not do it for the three united
crowns that I have been robbed of in turn."
"Take care, madam," cried Lord Lindsay, seizing the queen's wrist with
his steel gauntlet and squeezing it with all his angry strength--"take
care, for our patience is at an end, and we could easily end by breaking
what would not bend."
The queen remained standing, and although a violent flush had passed
like a flame over her countenance, she did not utter a word, and did not
move: her eyes only were fixed with such a great expression of contempt
on those of the rough baron, that he, ashamed of the passion that had
carried him away, let go the hand he had seized and took a step back.
Then raising her sleeve and showing the violet marks made on her arm by
Lord Lindsay's steel gauntlet,
"This is what I expected, my lords," said she, "and nothing prevents me
any longer from signing; yes, I freely abdicate the throne and crown of
Scotland, and there is the proof that my will has not been forced."
With these words, she took the pen and rapidly signed the two documents,
held them out to Lord Ruthven, and bowing with great dignity, withdrew
slowly into her room, accompanied by Mary Seyton. Ruthven looked after
her, and when she had disappeared, "It doesn't matter," he said;
"she has signed, and although the means you employed, Lindsay, may be
obsolete enough in diplomacy, it is not the less efficacious, it seems."
"No joking, Ruthven," said Lindsay; "for she is a noble creature, and
if I had dared, I should have thrown myself at her feet to ask her
"There is still time," replied Ruthven, "and Mary, in her present
situation, will not be severe upon you: perhaps she has resolved to
appeal to the judgment of God to prove her innocence, and in that case a
champion such as you might well change the face of things."
"Do not joke, Ruthven," Lindsay answered a second time, with more
violence than the first; "for if I were as well convinced of her
innocence as I am of her crime, I tell you that no one should touch a
hair of her head, not even the regent."
"The devil! my lord," said Ruthven. "I did not know you were so
sensitive to a gentle voice and a tearful eye; you know the story of
Achilles' lance, which healed with its rust the wounds it made with its
edge: do likewise my lord, do likewise."
"Enough, Ruthven, enough," replied Lindsay; "you are like a corselet
of Milan steel, which is three times as bright as the steel armour
of Glasgow, but which is at the same time thrice as hard: we know one
another, Ruthven, so an end to railleries or threats; enough, believe
And after these words, Lord Lindsay went out first, followed by Ruthven
and Melville, the first with his head high and affecting an air of
insolent indifference, and the second, sad, his brow bent, and not even
trying to disguise the painful impression which this scene had made
on him.' ["History of Scotland, by Sir Walter Scott.--'The Abbott":
The queen came out of her room only in the evening, to take her place
at the window which looked over the lake: at the usual time she saw the
light which was henceforth her sole hope shine in the little house in
Kinross; for a whole long month she had no other consolation than seeing
it, every night, fixed and faithful.
At last, at the end of this time, and as she was beginning to despair
of seeing George Douglas again, one morning, on opening the window, she
uttered a cry. Mary Seyton ran to her, and the queen, without having
strength to speak, showed her in the middle of the lake the tiny boat at
anchor, and in the boat Little Douglas and George, who were absorbed in
fishing, their favourite amusement. The young man had arrived the day
before, and as everyone was accustomed to his unexpected returns, the
sentinel had not even blown the horn, and the queen had not known that
at last a friend had come.
However, she was three days yet without seeing this friend otherwise
than she had just done-that is, on the lake. It is true that from
morning till evening he did not leave that spot, from which he could
view the queen's windows and the queen herself, when, to gaze at a wider
horizon, she leaned her face against the bars. At last, on the morning
of the fourth day, the queen was awakened by a great noise of dogs and
horns: she immediately ran to the window, for to a prisoner everything
is an event, and she saw William Douglas, who was embarking with a pack
of hounds and some huntsmen. In fact, making a truce, for a day, with
his gaoler's duties, to enjoy a pleasure more in harmony with his rank
and birth, he was going to hunt in the woods which cover the last ridge
of Ben Lomond, and which, ever sinking, die down on the banks of the
The queen trembled with delight, for she hoped that Lady Lochleven would
maintain her ill-will, and that then George would replace his brother:
this hope was not disappointed. At the usual time the queen heard the
footsteps of those who were bringing her her breakfast; the door opened,
and she saw George Douglas enter, preceded by the servants who were
carrying the dishes. George barely bowed; but the queen, warned by
him not to be surprised at anything, returned him his greeting with a
disdainful air; then the servants performed their task and went out, as
they were accustomed.
"At last," said the queen, "you are back again, then."
George motioned with his finger, went to the door to listen if all the
servants had really gone away, and if no one had remained to spy. Then,
returning more at ease, and bowing respectfully--
"Yes, madam," returned he; "and, Heaven be thanked, I bring good news."
"Oh, tell me quickly!" cried the queen; "for staying in this castle is
hell. You knew that they came, did you not, and that they made me sign
"Yes, madam," replied Douglas; "but we also knew that your signature
had been obtained from you by violence alone, and our devotion to your
Majesty is increased thereby, if possible."
"But, after all, what have you done?"
"The Seytons and the Hamiltons, who are, as your Majesty knows, your
most faithful servants,"--Mary turned round, smiling, and put out her
hand to Mary Seyton,--"have already," continued George, "assembled their
troops, who keep themselves in readiness for the first signal; but as
they alone would not be sufficiently numerous to hold the country, we
shall make our way directly to Dumbarton, whose governor is ours, and
which by its position and its strength can hold out long enough against
all the regent's troops to give to the faithful hearts remaining to you
time to come and join us."
"Yes, yes," said the queen; "I see clearly what we shall do once we get
out of this; but how are we to get out?"
"That is the occasion, madam," replied Douglas, "for which your Majesty
must call to your aid that courage of which you have given such great
"If I have need only of courage and coolness," replied the queen, "be
easy; neither the one nor the other will fail me."
"Here is a file," said George, giving Mary Seyton that instrument which
he judged unworthy to touch the queen's hands, "and this evening I shall
bring your Majesty cords to construct a ladder. You will cut through
one of the bars of this window, it is only at a height of twenty feet;
I shall come up to you, as much to try it as to support you; one of the
garrison is in my pay, he will give us passage by the door it is his
duty to guard, and you will be free."
"And when will that be?" cried the queen.
"We must wait for two things, madam," replied Douglas: "the first, to
collect at Kinross an escort sufficient for your Majesty's safety; the
second, that the turn for night watch of Thomas Warden should happen to
be at an isolated door that we can reach without being seen."
"And how will you know that? Do you stay at the castle, then?"
"Alas! no, madam," replied George; "at the castle I am a useless and
even a dangerous fried for you, while once beyond the lake I can serve
you in an effectual manner."
"And how will you know when Warden's turn to mount guard has come?"
"The weathercock in the north tower, instead of turning in the wind with
the others, will remain fixed against it."
"But I, how shall I be warned?"
"Everything is already provided for on that side: the light which shines
each night in the little house in Kinross incessantly tells you that
your friends keep watch for you; but when you would like to know if the
hour of your deliverance approaches or recedes, in your turn place
a light in this window. The other will immediately disappear; then,
placing your hand on your breast, count your heartbeats: if you reach
the number twenty without the light reappearing, nothing is yet settled;
if you only reach ten, the moment approaches; if the light does not
leave you time to count beyond five, your escape is fixed for the
following night; if it reappears no more, it is fixed for the same
evening; then the owl's cry, repeated thrice in the courtyard, will be
the signal; let down the ladder when you hear it".
"Oh, Douglas," cried the queen, "you alone could foresee and calculate
everything thus. Thank you, thank you a hundred times!" And she gave him
her hand to kiss.
A vivid red flushed the young man's cheeks; but almost directly
mastering his emotion, he kneeled down, and, restraining the expression
of that love of which he had once spoken to the queen, while promising
her never more to speak of it, he took the hand that Mary extended, and
kissed it with such respect that no one could have seen in this action
anything but the homage of devotion and fidelity.
Then, having bowed to the queen, he went out, that a longer stay with
her should not give rise to any suspicions.
At the dinner-hour Douglas brought, as he had said, a parcel of cord. It
was not enough, but when evening came Mary Seyton was to unroll it and
let fall the end from the window, and George would fasten the remainder
to it: the thing was done as arranged, and without any mishap, an hour
after the hunters had returned.
The following day George left the castle.
The queen and Mary Seyton lost no time in setting about the rope ladder,
and it was finished on the third day. The same evening, the queen in
her impatience, and rather to assure herself of her partisans' vigilance
than in the hope that the time of her deliverance was so near, brought
her lamp to the window: immediately, and as George Douglas had told her,
the light in the little house at Kinross disappeared: the queen then
laid her hand on her heart and counted up to twenty-two; then the light
reappeared; they were ready for everything, but nothing was yet settled.
For a week the queen thus questioned the light and her heart-beats
without their number changing; at last, on the eighth day, she counted
only as far as ten; at the eleventh the light reappeared.
The queen believed herself mistaken: she did not dare to hope what this
announced. She withdrew the lamp; then, at the end of a quarter of an
hour, showed it again: her unknown correspondent understood with his
usual intelligence that a fresh trial was required of him, and the light
in the little house disappeared in its turn. Mary again questioned the
pulsations of her heart, and, fast as it leaped, before the twelfth beat
the propitious star was shining on the horizon: there was no longer any
doubt; everything was settled.
Mary could not sleep all night: this persistency of her partisans
inspired her with gratitude to the point of tears. The day came, and the
queen several times questioned her companion to assure herself that it
was not all a dream; at every sound it seemed to her that the scheme
on which her liberty hung was discovered, and when, at breakfast and at
dinner time, William Douglas entered as usual, she hardly dared look at
him, for fear of reading on his face the announcement that all was lost.
In the evening the queen again questioned the light: it made the same
answer; nothing had altered; the beacon was always one of hope.
For four days it thus continued to indicate that the moment of escape
was at hand; on the evening of the fifth, before the queen had counted
five beats, the light reappeared: the queen leaned upon Mary Seyton; she
was nearly fainting, between dread and 'delight. Her escape was fixed
for the next evening.
The queen tried once more, and obtained the same reply: there was no
longer a doubt; everything was ready except the prisoner's courage, for
it failed her for a moment, and if Mary Seyton had not drawn up a seat
in time, she would have fallen prone; but, the first moment over, she
collected herself as usual, and was stronger and more resolute than
Till midnight the queen remained at the window, her eyes fixed on that
star of good omen: at last Mary Seyton persuaded her to go to bed,
offering, if she had no wish to sleep, to read her some verses by M.
Ronsard, or some chapters from the Mer des Histoires; but Mary had no
desire now for any profane reading, and had her Hours read, making the
responses as she would have done if she had been present at a mass said
by a Catholic priest: towards dawn, however, she grew drowsy, and as
Mary Seyton, for her part, was dropping with fatigue, she fell asleep
directly in the arm-chair at the head of the queen's bed.
Next day she awoke, feeling that someone was tapping her on the
shoulder: it was the queen, who had already arisen.
"Come and see, darling," said she,--"come and see the fine day that God
is giving us. Oh! how alive is Nature! How happy I shall be to be once
more free among those plains and mountains! Decidedly, Heaven is on our
"Madam," replied Mary, "I would rather see the weather less fine: it
would promise us a darker night; and consider, what we need is darkness,
"Listen," said the queen; "it is by this we are going to see if God is
indeed for us; if the weather remains as it is, yes, you are right, He
abandons us; but if it clouds over, oh! then, darling, this will be a
certain proof of His protection, will it not?"
Mary Seyton smiled, nodding that she adopted her mistress's
superstition; then the queen, incapable of remaining idle in her great
preoccupation of mind, collected the few jewels that she had preserved,
enclosed them in a casket, got ready for the evening a black dress, in
order to be still better hidden in the darkness: and, these preparations
made, she sat down again at the window, ceaselessly carrying her eyes
from the lake to the little house in Kinross, shut up and dumb as usual.
The dinner-hour arrived: the queen was so happy that she received
William Douglas with more goodwill than was her wont, and it was with
difficulty she remained seated during the time the meal lasted; but she
restrained herself, and William Douglas withdrew, without seeming to
have noticed her agitation.
Scarcely had he gone than Mary ran to the window; she had need of air,
and her gaze devoured in advance those wide horizons which she was about
to cross anew; it seemed to her that once at liberty she would
never shut herself up in a palace again, but would wander about the
countryside continually: then, amid all these tremors of delight, from
time to time she felt unexpectedly heavy at heart. She then turned round
to Mary Seyton, trying to fortify her strength with hers, and the young
girl kept up her hopes, but rather from duty than from conviction.
But slow as they seemed to the queen, the hours yet passed: towards the
afternoon some clouds floated across the blue sky; the queen remarked
upon them joyfully to her companion; Mary Seyton congratulated her upon
them, not on account of the imaginary omen that the queen sought in
them, but because of the real importance that the weather should be
cloudy, that darkness might aid them in their flight. While the two
prisoners were watching the billowy, moving vapours, the hour of dinner
arrived; but it was half an hour of constraint and dissimulation, the
more painful that, no doubt in return for the sort of goodwill shown him
by the queen in the morning, William Douglas thought himself obliged,
in his turn, to accompany his duties with fitting compliments, which
compelled the queen to take a more active part in the conversation than
her preoccupation allowed her; but William Douglas did not seem in any
way to observe this absence of mind, and all passed as at breakfast.
Directly he had gone the queen ran to the window: the few clouds which
were chasing one another in the sky an hour before had thickened and
spread, and--all the blue was blotted out, to give place to a hue dull
and leaden as pewter. Mary Stuart's presentiments were thus realised:
as to the little house in Kinross, which one could still make out in the
dusk, it remained shut up, and seemed deserted.
Night fell: the light shone as usual; the queen signalled, it
disappeared. Mary Stuart waited in vain; everything remained in
darkness: the escape was for the same evening. The queen heard eight
o'clock, nine o'clock, and ten o'clock strike successively. At ten
o'clock the sentinels were relieved; Mary Stuart heard the patrols pass
beneath her windows, the steps of the watch recede: then all returned to
silence. Half an hour passed away thus; suddenly the owl's cry resounded
thrice, the queen recognised George Douglas's signal: the supreme moment
In these circumstances the queen found all her strength revive: she
signed to Mary Seyton to take away the bar and to fix the rope ladder,
while, putting out the lamp, she felt her way into the bedroom to seek
the casket which contained her few remaining jewels. When she came back,
George Douglas was already in the room.
"All goes well, madam," said he. "Your friends await you on the other
side of the lake, Thomas Warden watches at the postern, and God has sent
us a dark night."
The queen, without replying, gave him her hand. George bent his knee and
carried this hand to his lips; but on touching it, he felt it cold and
"Madam," said he, "in Heaven's name summon all your courage, and do not
let yourself be downcast at such a moment."
"Our Lady-of-Good-Help," murmured Seyton, "come to our aid!"
"Summon to you the spirit of the kings your ancestors," responded
George, "for at this moment it is not the resignation of a Christian
that you require, but the strength and resolution of a queen."
"Oh, Douglas! Douglas," cried Mary mournfully, "a fortune-teller
predicted to me that I should die in prison and by a violent death: has
not the hour of the prediction arrived?"
"Perhaps," George said, "but it is better to die as a queen than to live
in this ancient castle calumniated and a prisoner."
"You are right, George," the queen answered; "but for a woman the first
step is everything: forgive me". Then, after a moment's pause, "Come,"
said she; "I am ready."
George immediately went to the window, secured the ladder again and more
firmly, then getting up on to the sill and holding to the bars with one
hand, he stretched out the other to the queen, who, as resolute as she
had been timid a moment before, mounted on a stool, and had already set
one foot on the window-ledge, when suddenly the cry, "Who goes there?"
rang out at the foot of the tower. The queen sprang quickly back, partly
instinctively and partly pushed by George, who, on the contrary, leaned
out of the window to see whence came this cry, which, twice again
renewed, remained twice unanswered, and was immediately followed by a
report and the flash of a firearm: at the same moment the sentinel on
duty on the tower blew his bugle, another set going the alarm bell,
and the cries, "To arms, to arms!" and "Treason, treason!" resounded
throughout the castle.
"Yes, yes, treason, treason!" cried George Douglas, leaping down into
the room. "Yes, the infamous Warden has betrayed us!" Then, advancing
to Mary, cold and motionless as a statue, "Courage, madam," said he,
"courage! Whatever happens, a friend yet remains for you in the castle;
it is Little Douglas."
Scarcely had he finished speaking when the door of the queen's apartment
opened, and William Douglas and Lady Lochleven, preceded by servants
carrying torches and armed soldiers, appeared on the threshold: the room
was immediately filled with people and light.
"Mother," said William Douglas, pointing to his brother standing before
Mary Stuart and protecting her with his body, "do you believe me now?
The old lady was for a moment speechless; then finding a word at last,
and taking a step forward--
"Speak, George Douglas," cried she, "speak, and clear yourself at once
of the charge which weighs on your honour; say but these words, 'A
Douglas was never faithless to his trust,' and I believe you".
"Yes, mother," answered William, "a Douglas!... but he--he is not a
"May God grant my old age the strength needed to bear on the part of
one of my sons such a misfortune, and on the part of the other such an
injury!" exclaimed Lady Lochleven. "O woman born under a fatal star,"
she went on, addressing the queen, "when will you cease to be, in the
Devil's hands, an instrument of perdition and death to all who approach
you? O ancient house of Lochleven, cursed be the hour when this
enchantress crossed thy threshold!"
"Do not say that, mother, do not say that," cried George; "blessed be,
on the contrary, the moment which proves that, if there are Douglases
who no longer remember what they owe to their sovereigns, there are
others who have never forgotten it."
"Douglas! Douglas!" murmured Mary Stuart, "did I not tell you?"
"And I, madam," said George, "what did I reply then? That it was an
honour and a duty to every faithful subject of your Majesty to die for
"Well, die, then!" cried William Douglas, springing on his brother with
raised sword, while he, leaping back, drew his, and with a movement
quick as thought and eager as hatred defended himself. But at the same
moment Mary Stuart darted between the two young people.
"Not another step, Lord Douglas," said she. "Sheathe your sword, George,
or if you use it, let be to go hence, and against everyone but your b
other. I still have need of your life; take care of it."
"My life, like my arm and my honour, is at your service, madam, and from
the moment you command it I shall preserve it for you."
With these words, rushing to the door with a violence and resolve which
prevented anyone's stopping him--
"Back!" cried he to the domestics who were barring the passage; "make
way for the young master of Douglas, or woe to you!".
"Stop him!" cried William. "Seize him, dead or alive! Fire upon him!
Kill him like a dog!"
Two or three soldiers, not daring to disobey William, pretended to
pursue his brother. Then some gunshots were heard, and a voice crying
that George Douglas had just thrown himself into the lake.
"And has he then escaped?" cried William.
Mary Stuart breathed again; the old lady raised her hands to Heaven.
"Yes, yes," murmured William,--"yes, thank Heaven for your son's flight;
for his flight covers our entire house with shame; counting from this
hour, we shall be looked upon as the accomplices of his treason."
"Have pity on me, William!" cried Lady Lochleven, wringing her hands.
"Have compassion o your old mother! See you not that I am dying?"
With these words, she fell backwards, pale and tottering; the steward
and a servant supported er in their arms.
"I believe, my lord," said Mary Seyton, coming forward, "that your
mother has as much need of attention just now as the queen has need of
repose: do you not consider it is time for you to withdraw?"
"Yes, yes," said William, "to give you time to spin fresh webs, I
suppose, and to seek what fresh flies you can take in them? It is well,
go on with your work; but you have just seen that it is not easy to
deceive William Douglas. Play your game, I shall play mine". Then
turning to the servants, "Go out, all of you," said he; "and you,
The servants and the soldiers obeyed; then William Douglas went out
last, supporting Lady Lochleven, and the queen heard him shut behind him
and double-lock the two doors of her prison.
Scarcely was Mary alone, and certain that she was no longer seen
or heard, than all her strength deserted her, and, sinking into an
arm-chair, she burst out sobbing.
Indeed, all her courage had been needed to sustain her so far, and the
sight of her enemies alone had given her this courage; but hardly
had they gone than her situation appeared before her in all its
fatal hardship. Dethroned, a prisoner, without another fiend in this
impregnable castle than a child to whom she had scarce given attention,
and who was the sole and last thread attaching her past hopes to her
hopes for the future, what remained to Mary Stuart of her two thrones
and her double power? Her name, that was all; her, name with which,
free, she had doubtless stirred Scotland, but which little by little was
about to be effaced in the hearts of her adherents, and which during her
lifetime oblivion was to cover perhaps as with a shroud. Such an
idea was insupportable to a soul as lofty as Mary Stuart's, and to
an organisation which, like that of the flowers, has need, before
everything, of air, light, and sun.
Fortunately there remained to her the best beloved of her four Marys,
who, always devoted and consoling, hastened to succour and comfort her;
but this time it was no easy matter, and the queen let her act and speak
without answering her otherwise than with sobs and tears; when suddenly,
looking through the window to which she had drawn up her mistress's
"The light!" cried she, "madam, the light!"
At the same time she raised the queen, and with arm outstretched from
the window, she showed her the beacon, the eternal symbol of hope,
relighted in the midst of this dark night on Kinross hill: there was no
mistake possible, not a star was shining in the sky.
"Lord God, I give Thee thanks," said the queen, falling on her knees
and raising her arms to heaven with a gesture of gratitude: "Douglas has
escaped, and my friends still keep watch."
Then, after a fervent prayer, which restored to her a little strength,
the queen re-entered her room, and, tired out by her varied successive
emotions, she slept an uneasy, agitated sleep, over which the
indefatigable Mary Seyton kept watch till daybreak.
As William Douglas had said, from this time forward the queen was a
prisoner indeed, and permission to go down into the garden was no longer
granted but under the surveillance of two soldiers; but this annoyance
seemed to her so unbearable that she preferred to give up the
recreation, which, surrounded with such conditions, became a torture.
So she shut herself up in her apartments, finding a certain bitter and
haughty pleasure in the very excess of her misfortune.
A week after the events we have related, as nine o'clock in the evening
had just sounded from the castle bell, and the queen and Mary Seyton
were sitting at a table where they were working at their tapestry, a
stone thrown from the courtyard passed through the window bars, broke
a pane of glass, and fell into the room. The queen's first idea was
to believe it accidental or an insult; but Mary Seyton, turning round,
noticed that the stone was wrapped up in a paper: she immediately picked
it up. The paper was a letter from George Douglas, conceived in these
"You have commanded me to live, madam: I have obeyed, and your Majesty
has been able to tell, from the Kinross light, that your servants
continue to watch over you. However, not to raise suspicion, the
soldiers collected for that fatal night dispersed at dawn, and will not
gather again till a fresh attempt makes their presence necessary. But,
alas! to renew this attempt now, when your Majesty's gaolers are on
their guard, would be your ruin. Let them take every precaution, then,
madam; let them sleep in security, while we, we, in our devotion, shall
go on watching.
"Patience and courage!"
"Brave and loyal heart!" cried Mary, "more constantly devoted to
misfortune than others are to prosperity! Yes, I shall have patience
and courage, and so long as that light shines I shall still believe in
This letter restored to the queen all her former courage: she had means
of communication with George through Little Douglas; for no doubt it
was he who had thrown that stone. She hastened, in her turn, to write a
letter to George, in which she both charged him to express her gratitude
to all the lords who had signed the protestation; and begged them, in
the name of the fidelity they had sworn to her, not to cool in their
devotion, promising them, for her part, to await the result with that
patience and courage they asked of her.
The queen was not mistaken: next day, as she was at her window, Little
Douglas came to play at the foot of the tower, and, without raising his
head, stopped just beneath her to dig a trap to catch birds. The queen
looked to see if she were observed, and assured that that part of the
courtyard was deserted, she let fall the stone wrapped in her letter:
at first she feared to have made a serious error; for Little Douglas did
not even turn at the noise, and it was only after a moment, during
which the prisoner's heart was torn with frightful anxiety, that
indifferently, and as if he were looking for something else, the child
laid his hand on the stone, and without hurrying, without raising his
head, without indeed giving any sign of intelligence to her who had
thrown it, he put the letter in his pocket, finishing the work he had
begun with the greatest calm, and showing the queen, by this coolness
beyond his years, what reliance she could place in him.
From that moment the queen regained fresh hope; but days, weeks, months
passed without bringing any change in her situation: winter came; the
prisoner saw snow spread over the plains and mountains, and the lake
afforded her, if she had only been able to pass the door, a firm road
to gain the other bank; but no letter came during all this time to bring
her the consoling news that they were busy about her deliverance; the
faithful light alone announced to her every evening that a friend was
Soon nature awoke from her death-sleep: some forward sun-rays broke
through the clouds of this sombre sky of Scotland; the snow melted,
the lake broke its ice-crust, the first buds opened, the green turf
reappeared; everything came out of its prison at the joyous approach
of spring, and it was a great grief to Mary to see that she alone was
condemned to an eternal winter.
At last; one evening, she thought she observed in the motions of the
light that something fresh was happening: she had so often questioned
this poor flickering star, and she had so often let it count her
heart-beats more than twenty times, that to spare herself the pain
of disappointment, for a long time she had no longer interrogated it;
however, she resolved to make one last attempt, and, almost hopeless,
she put her light near the window, and immediately took it away; still,
faithful to the signal, the other disappeared at the same moment, and
reappeared at the eleventh heart-beat of the queen. At the same time, by
a strange coincidence, a stone passing through the window fell at Mary
Seyton's feet. It was, like the first, wrapped in a letter from George:
the queen took it from her companion's hands, opened it, and read:
"The moment draws near; your adherents are assembled; summon all your
"To-morrow, at eleven o'clock in the evening, drop a cord from your
window, and draw up the packet that will be fastened to it."
There remained in the queen's apartments the rope over and above what
had served for the ladder taken away by the guards the evening of the
frustrated escape: next day, at the appointed hour, the two prisoners
shut up the lamp in the bedroom, so that no light should betray them,
and Mary Seyton, approaching the window, let down the cord. After a
minute, she felt from its movements that something was being attached to
it. Mary Seyton pulled, and a rather bulky parcel appeared at the bars,
which it could not pass on account of its size. Then the queen came
to her companion's aid. The parcel was untied, and its contents,
separately, got through easily. The two prisoners carried them into the
bedroom, and, barricaded within, commenced an inventory. There were two
complete suits of men's clothes in the Douglas livery. The queen was at
a loss, when she saw a letter fastened to the collar of one of the two
coats. Eager to know the meaning of this enigma, she immediately opened
it, and read as follows:
"It is only by dint of audacity that her Majesty can recover her
liberty: let her Majesty read this letter, then, and punctually follow,
if she deign to adopt them, the instructions she will find therein.
"In the daytime the keys of the castle do not leave the belt of the old
steward; when curfew is rung and he has made his rounds to make sure
that all the doors are fast shut, he gives them up to William Douglas,
who, if he stays up, fastens them to his sword-belt, or, if he sleeps,
puts them under his pillow. For five months, Little Douglas, whom
everyone is accustomed to see working at the armourer's forge of the
castle, has been employed in making some keys like enough to the
others, once they are substituted for them, for William to be deceived.
Yesterday Little Douglas finished the last.
"On the first favourable opportunity that her Majesty will know to be
about to present itself, by carefully questioning the light each day,
Little Douglas will exchange the false keys for the true, will enter the
queen's room, and will find her dressed, as well as Miss Mary Seyton,
in their men's clothing, and he will go before them to lead them, by
the way which offers the best chances for their escape; a boat will be
prepared and will await them.
"Till then, every evening, as much to accustom themselves to these new
costumes as to give them an appearance of having been worn, her Majesty
and Miss Mary Seyton will dress themselves in the suits, which they must
keep on from nine o'clock till midnight. Besides, it is possible that,
without having had time to warn them, their young guide may suddenly
come to seek them: it is urgent, then, that he find them ready.
"The garments ought to fit perfectly her Majesty and her companion, the
measure having been taken on Miss Mary Fleming and Miss Mary Livingston,
who are exactly their size.
"One cannot too strongly recommend her Majesty to summon to her aid on
the supreme occasion the coolness and courage of which she has given
such frequent proofs at other times."
The two prisoners were astounded at the boldness of this plan: at
first they looked at one another in consternation, for success seemed
impossible. They none the less made trial of their disguise: as George
had said, it fitted each of them as if they had been measured for it.
Every evening the queen questioned the light, as George had urged, and
that for a whole long month, during which each evening the queen
and Mary Seyton, although the light gave no fresh tidings, arrayed
themselves in their men's clothes, as had been arranged, so that they
both acquired such practice that they became as familiar to them as
those of their own sex.
At last, the 2nd May, 1568, the queen was awakened by the blowing of a
horn: uneasy as to what it announced, she slipped on a cloak and ran
to the window, where Mary Seyton joined her directly. A rather numerous
band of horsemen had halted on the side of the lake, displaying the
Douglas pennon, and three boats were rowing together and vying with each
other to fetch the new arrivals.
This event caused the queen dismay: in her situation the least change
in the castle routine was to be feared, for it might upset all the
concerted plans. This apprehension redoubled when, on the boats drawing
near, the queen recognised in the elder Lord Douglas, the husband of
Lady Lochleven, and the father of William and George. The venerable
knight, who was Keeper of the Marches in the north, was coming to visit
his ancient manor, in which he had not set foot for three years.
It was an event for Lochleven; and, some minutes after the arrival of
the boats, Mary Stuart heard the old steward's footsteps mounting the
stairs: he came to announce his master's arrival to the queen, and, as
it must needs be a time of rejoicing to all the castle inhabitants
when its master returned, he came to invite the queen to the dinner in
celebration of the event: whether instinctively or from distaste, the
All day long the bell and the bugle resounded: Lord Douglas, like a true
feudal lord, travelled with the retinue of a prince. One saw nothing
but new soldiers and servants passing and repassing beneath the queen's
windows: the footmen and horsemen were wearing, moreover, a livery
similar to that which the queen and Mary Seyton had received.
Mary awaited the night with impatience. The day before, she had
questioned her light, and it had informed her as usual, in reappearing
at her eleventh or twelfth heart-beat, that the moment of escape was
near; but she greatly feared that Lord Douglas's arrival might have
upset everything, and that this evening's signal could only announce a
postponement. But hardly had she seen the light shine than she placed
her lamp in the window; the other disappeared directly, and Mary Stuart,
with terrible anxiety, began to question it. This anxiety increased when
she had counted more than fifteen beats. Then she stopped, cast down,
her eyes mechanically fixed on the spot where the light had been. But
her astonishment was great when, at the end of a few minutes, she did
not see it reappear, and when, half an hour having elapsed, everything
remained in darkness. The queen then renewed her signal, but obtained no
response: the escape was for the same evening.
The queen and Mary Seyton were so little expecting this issue, that,
contrary to their custom, they had not put on their men's clothes that
evening. They immediately flew to the queen's bed-chamber, bolted the
door behind them, and began to dress.
They had hardly finished their hurried toilette when they heard a
key turn in the lock: they immediately blew out the lamp. Light steps
approached the door. The two women leaned one against the other; for
they both were near falling. Someone tapped gently. The queen asked who
was there, and Little Douglas's voice answered in the two first lines of
an old ballad--
"Douglas, Douglas, Tender and true."
Mary opened, directly: it was the watchword agreed upon with George
The child was without a light. He stretched out his hand and encountered
the queen's: in the starlight, Mary Stuart saw him kneel down; then she
felt the imprint of his lips on her fingers.
"Is your Majesty ready to follow me?" he asked in a low tone, rising.
"Yes, my child," the queen answered: "it is for this evening, then?"
"With your Majesty's permission, yes, it is for this evening."
"Is everything ready?"
"What are we to do?"
"Follow me everywhere."
"My God! my God!" cried Mary Stuart, "have pity on us!" Then, having
breathed a short prayer in a low voice, while Mary Seyton was taking the
casket in which were the queen's jewels, "I am ready," said she: "and
"I also," replied Mary Seyton.
"Come, then," said Little Douglas.
The two prisoners followed the child; the queen going first, and Mary
Seyton after. Their youthful guide carefully shut again the door behind
him, so that if a warder happened to pass he would see nothing; then
he began to descend the winding stair. Half-way down, the noise of the
feast reached them, a mingling of shouts of laughter, the confusion of
voices, and the clinking of glasses. The queen placed her hand on her
young guide's shoulder.
"Where are you leading us?" she asked him with terror.
"Out of the castle," replied the child.
"But we shall have to pass through the great hall?"
"Without a doubt; and that is exactly what George foresaw. Among the
footmen, whose livery your Majesty is wearing, no one will recognise
"My God! my God!" the queen murmured, leaning against the wall.
"Courage, madam," said Mary Seyton in a low voice, "or we are lost."
"You are right," returned the queen; "let us go". And they started again
still led by their guide.
At the foot of the stair he stopped, and giving the queen a stone
pitcher full of wine--
"Set this jug on your right shoulder, madam," said he; "it will hide
your face from the guests, and your Majesty will give rise to less
suspicion if carrying something. You, Miss Mary, give me that casket,
and put on your head this basket of bread. Now, that's right: do you
feel you have strength?"
"Yes," said the queen.
"Yes," said Mary Seyton.
"Then follow me."
The child went on his way, and after a few steps the fugitives found
themselves in a kind of antechamber to the great hall, from which
proceeded noise and light. Several servants were occupied there with
different duties; not one paid attention to them, and that a little
reassured the queen. Besides, there was no longer any drawing back:
Little Douglas had just entered the great hall.
The guests, seated on both sides of a long table ranged according to the
rank of those assembled at it, were beginning dessert, and consequently
had reached the gayest moment of the repast. Moreover, the hall was so
large that the lamps and candles which lighted it, multiplied as
they were, left in the most favourable half-light both sides of the
apartment, in which fifteen or twenty servants were coming and going.
The queen and Mary Seyton mingled with this crowd, which was too much
occupied to notice them, and without stopping, without slackening,
without looking back, they crossed the whole length of the hall, reached
the other door, and found themselves in the vestibule corresponding to
the one they had passed through on coming in. The queen set down her jug
there, Mary Seyton her basket, and both, still led by the child, entered
a corridor at the end of which they found themselves in the courtyard. A
patrol was passing at the moment, but he took no notice of them.
The child made his way towards the garden, still followed by the two
women. There, for no little while, it was necessary to try which of all
the keys opened the door; it--was a time of inexpressible anxiety. At
last the key turned in the lock, the door opened; the queen and Mary
Seyton rushed into the garden. The child closed the door behind them.
About two-thirds of the way across, Little Douglas held out his hand as
a sign to them to stop; then, putting down the casket and the keys on
the ground, he placed his hands together, and blowing into them, thrice
imitated the owl's cry so well that it was impossible to believe that a
human voice was uttering the sounds; then, picking up the casket and the
keys, he kept on his way on tiptoe and with an attentive ear. On getting
near the wall, they again stopped, and after a moment's anxious waiting
they heard a groan, then something like the sound of a falling body.
Some seconds later the owl's cry was--answered by a tu-whit-tu-whoo.
"It is over," Little Douglas said calmly; "come."
"What is over?" asked the queen; "and what is that groan we heard?"
"There was a sentry at the door on to the lake," the child answered,
"but he is no longer there."
The queen felt her heart's blood grow cold, at the same tine that a
chilly sweat broke out to the roots of her hair; for she perfectly
understood: an unfortunate being had just lost his life on her account.
Tottering, she leaned on Mary Seyton, who herself felt her strength
giving way. Meanwhile Little Douglas was trying the keys: the second
opened the door.
"And the queen?" said in a low voice a man who was waiting on the other
side of the wall.
"She is following me," replied the child.
George Douglas, for it was he, sprang into the garden, and, taking the
queen's arm on one side and Mary Seyton's on the other, he hurried them
away quickly to the lake-side. When passing through the doorway Mary
Stuart could not help throwing an uneasy look about her, and it seemed
to her that a shapeless object was lying at the bottom of the wall, and
as she was shuddering all over.
"Do not pity him," said George in a low voice, "for it is a judgment
from heaven. That man was the infamous Warden who betrayed us."
"Alas!" said the queen, "guilty as he was, he is none the less dead on
"When it concerned your safety, madam, was one to haggle over drops of
that base blood? But silence! This way, William, this way; let us keep
along the wall, whose shadow hides us. The boat is within twenty steps,
and we are saved."
With these words, George hurried on the two women still more quickly,
and all four, without having been detected, reached the banks of the
lake. 'As Douglas had said, a little boat was waiting; and, on seeing
the fugitives approach, four rowers, couched along its bottom, rose, and
one of them, springing to land, pulled the chain, so that the queen and
Mary Seyton could get in. Douglas seated them at the prow, the child
placed himself at the rudder, and George, with a kick, pushed off the
boat, which began to glide over the lake.
"And now," said he, "we are really saved; for they might as well pursue
a sea swallow on Solway Firth as try to reach us. Row, children, row;
never mind if they hear us: the main thing is to get into the open."
"Who goes there?" cried a voice above, from the castle terrace.
"Row, row," said Douglas, placing himself in front of the queen.
"The boat! the boat!" cried the same voice; "bring to the boat!" Then,
seeing that it continued to recede, "Treason! treason!" cried the
sentinel. "To arms!"
At the same moment a flash lit up the lake; the report of a firearm was
heard, and a ball passed, whistling. The queen uttered a little cry,
although she had run no danger, George, as we have said, having placed
himself in front of her, quite protecting her with his body.
The alarm bell now rang, and all the castle lights were seen moving and
glancing about, as if distracted, in the rooms.
"Courage, children!" said Douglas. "Row as if your lives depended on
each stroke of the oar; for ere five minutes the skiff will be out after
"That won't be so easy for them as you think, George," said Little
Douglas; "for I shut all the doors behind me, and some time will elapse
before the keys that I have left there open them. As to these," added
he, showing those he had so skilfully abstracted, "I resign them to the
Kelpie, the genie of the lake, and I nominate him porter of Lochleven
The discharge of a small piece of artillery answered William's joke;
but as the night was too dark for one to aim to such a distance as that
already between the castle and the boat, the ball ricochetted at twenty
paces from the fugitives, while the report died away in echo after echo.
Then Douglas drew his pistol from his belt, and, warning the ladies to
have no fear, he fired in the air, not to answer by idle bravado the
castle cannonade, but to give notice to a troop of faithful friends, who
were waiting for them on the other shore of the lake, that the queen had
escaped. Immediately, in spite of the danger of being so near Kinross,
cries of joy resounded on the bank, and William having turned the
rudder, the boat made for land at the spot whence they had been heard.
Douglas then gave his hand to the queen, who sprang lightly ashore, and
who, falling on her knees, immediately began to give thanks to God for
her happy deliverance.
On rising, the queen found herself surrounded by her most faithful
servants--Hamilton, Herries, and Seyton, Mary's father. Light-headed
with joy, the queen extended her hands to them, thanking them with
broken words, which expressed her intoxication and her gratitude better
than the choicest phrases could have done, when suddenly, turning round,
she perceived George Douglas, alone and melancholy. Then, going to him
and taking him by the hand--
"My lords," said she, presenting George to them, and pointing to
William, "behold my two deliverers: behold those to whom, as long as I
live, I shall preserve gratitude of which nothing will ever acquit me."
"Madam," said Douglas, "each of us has only done what he ought, and he
who has risked most is the happiest. But if your Majesty will believe
me, you will not lose a moment in needless words."
"Douglas is right," said Lord Seyton. "To horse! to horse!"
Immediately, and while four couriers set out in four different
directions to announce to the queen's friends her happy escape, they
brought her a horse saddled for her, which she mounted with her usual
skill; then the little troop, which, composed of about twenty persons,
was escorting the future destiny of Scotland, keeping away from the
village of Kinross, to which the castle firing had doubtless given the
alarm, took at a gallop the road to Seyton's castle, where was already a
garrison large enough to defend the queen from a sudden attack.
The queen journeyed all night, accompanied on one side by Douglas, on
the other by Lord Seyton; then, at daybreak, they stopped at the gate of
the castle of West Niddrie, belonging to Lord Seyton, as we have said,
and situated in West Lothian. Douglas sprang from his horse to offer his
hand to Mary Stuart; but Lord Seyton claimed his privilege as master
of the house. The queen consoled Douglas with a glance, and entered the
"Madam," said Lord Seyton, leading her into a room prepared for her for
nine months, "your Majesty must have need of repose, after the fatigue
and the emotions you have gone through since yesterday morning; you may
sleep here in peace, and disquiet yourself for nothing: any noise
you may hear will be made by a reinforcement of friends which we are
expecting. As to our enemies, your Majesty has nothing to fear from them
so long as you inhabit the castle of a Seyton."
The queen again thanked all her deliverers, gave her hand to Douglas to
kiss one last time, kissed Little William on the forehead, and named him
her favourite page for the future; then, profiting by the advice given
her, entered her room where Mary Seyton, to the exclusion of every other
woman, claimed the privilege of performing about her the duties with
which she had been charged during their eleven months' captivity in
On opening her eyes, Mary Stuart thought she had had one of those dreams
so gainful to prisoners, when waking they see again the bolts on their
doors and the bars on their windows. So the queen, unable to believe the
evidence of her senses, ran, half dressed, to the window. The courtyard
was filled with soldiers, and these soldiers all friends who had
hastened at the news of her escape; she recognised the banners of her
faithful friends, the Seytons, the Arbroaths, the Herries, and the
Hamiltons, and scarcely had she been seen at the window than all these
banners bent before her, with the shouts a hundred times repeated of
"Long live Mary of Scotland! Long live our queen!" Then, without giving
heed to the disarray of her toilet, lovely and chaste with her emotion
and her happiness, she greeted them in her turn, her eyes full of tears;
but this time they were tears of joy. However, the queen recollected
that she was barely covered, and blushing at having allowed herself to
be thus carried away in her ecstasy, she abruptly drew back, quite rosy
Then she had an instant's womanly fright: she had fled from Lochleven
Castle in the Douglas livery, and without either the leisure or the
opportunity for taking women's clothes with her. But she could not
remain attired as a man; so she explained her uneasiness to Mary Seyton,
who responded by opening the closets in the queen's room. They were
furnished, not only with robes, the measure for which, like that of
the suit, had been taken from Mary Fleming, but also with all the
necessaries for a woman's toilet. The queen was astonished: it was like
being in a fairy castle.
"Mignonne," said she, looking one after another at the robes, all the
stuffs of which were chosen with exquisite taste, "I knew your father
was a brave and loyal knight, but I did not think him so learned in the
matter of the toilet. We shall name him groom of the wardrobe."
"Alas! madam," smilingly replied Mary Seyton, "you are not mistaken:
my father has had everything in the castle furbished up to the last
corselet, sharpened to the last sword, unfurled to the last banner;
but my father, ready as he is to die for your Majesty, would not have
dreamed for an instant of offering you anything but his roof to rest
under, or his cloak to cover you. It is Douglas again who has foreseen
everything, prepared everything--everything even to Rosabelle, your
Majesty's favourite steed, which is impatiently awaiting in the stable
the moment when, mounted on her, your Majesty will make your triumphal
re-entry into Edinburgh."
"And how has he been able to get her back again?" Mary asked. "I thought
that in the division of my spoils Rosabelle had fallen to the fair
Alice, my brother's favourite sultana?"
"Yes, yes," said Mary Seyton, "it was so; and as her value was known,
she was kept under lock and key by an army of grooms; but Douglas is
the man of miracles, and, as I have told you, Rosabelle awaits your
"Noble Douglas!" murmured the queen, with eyes full of tears; then, as
if speaking to herself, "And this is precisely one of those devotions
that we can never repay. The others will be happy with honours, places,
money; but to Douglas what matter all these things?"
"Come, madam, come," said Mary Seyton, "God takes on Himself the debts
of kings; He will reward Douglas. As to your Majesty, reflect that they
are waiting dinner for you. I hope," added she, smiling, "that you will
not affront my father as you did Lord Douglas yesterday in refusing to
partake of his feast on his fortunate home-coming."
"And luck has come to me for it, I hope," replied Mary. "But you are
right, darling: no more sad thoughts; we will consider when we have
indeed become queen again what we can do for Douglas."
The queen dressed and went down. As Mary Seyton had told her, the chief
noblemen of her party, already gathered round her, were waiting for
her in the great hall of the castle. Her arrival was greeted with
acclamations of the liveliest enthusiasm, and she sat down to table,
with Lord Seyton on her right hand, Douglas on her left, and behind her
Little William, who the same day was beginning his duties as page.
Next morning the queen was awakened by the sound of trumpets and bugles:
it had been decided the day before that she should set out that day
for Hamilton, where reinforcements were looked for. The queen donned an
elegant riding-habit, and soon, mounted on Rosabelle, appeared amid her
defenders. The shouts of joy redoubled: her beauty, her grace, and her
courage were admired by everyone. Mary Stuart became her own self once
more, and she felt spring up in her again the power of fascination she
had always exercised on those who came near her. Everyone was in good
humour, and the happiest of all was perhaps Little William, who for the
first time in his life had such a fine dress and such a fine horse.
Two or three thousand men were awaiting the queen at Hamilton, which she
reached the same evening; and during the night following her arrival
the troops increased to six thousand. The 2nd of May she was a prisoner,
without another friend but a child in her prison, without other means of
communication with her adherents than the flickering and uncertain light
of a lamp, and three days afterwards--that is to say, between the Sunday
and the Wednesday--she found herself not only free, but also at the head
of a powerful confederacy, which counted at its head nine earls, eight
peers, nine bishops, and a number of barons and nobles renowned among
the bravest of Scotland.
The advice of the most judicious among those about the queen was to shut
herself up in the strong castle of Dumbarton, which, being impregnable,
would give all her adherents time to assemble together, distant and
scattered as they were: accordingly, the guidance of the troops who were
to conduct the queen to that town was entrusted to the Earl of Argyll,
and the 11th of May she took the road with an army of nearly ten
Murray was at Glasgow when he heard of the queen's escape: the place was
strong; he decided to hold it, and summoned to him his bravest and most
devoted partisans. Kirkcaldy of Grange, Morton, Lindsay of Byres, Lord
Lochleven, and William Douglas hastened to him, and six thousand of the
best troops in the kingdom gathered round them, while Lord Ruthven in
the counties of Berwick and Angus raised levies with which to join them.
The 13th May, Morton occupied from daybreak the village of Langside,
through which the queen must pass to get to Dumbarton. The news of the
occupation reached the queen as the two armies were yet seven miles
apart. Mary's first instinct was to escape an engagement: she remembered
her last battle at Carberry Hill, at the end of which she had been
separated from Bothwell and brought to Edinburgh; so she expressed
aloud this opinion, which was supported by George Douglas, who, in black
armour, without other arms, had continued at the queen's side.
"Avoid an engagement!" cried Lord Seyton, not daring to answer his
sovereign, and replying to George as if this opinion had originated
with him. "We could do it, perhaps, if we were one to ten; but we
shall certainly not do so when we are three to two. You speak a strange
tongue, my young master," continued he, with some contempt; "and you
forget, it seems to me, that you are a Douglas and that you speak to a
"My lord," returned George calmly, "when we only hazard the lives of
Douglases and Seytons, you will find me, I hope, as ready to fight as
you, be it one to ten, be it three to two; but we are now answerable for
an existence dearer to Scotland than that of all the Seytons and all the
Douglases. My advice is then to avoid battle."
"Battle! battle!" cried all the chieftains.
"You hear, madam?" said Lord Seyton to Mary Stuart: "I believe that
to wish to act against such unanimity would be dangerous. In Scotland,
madam, there is an ancient proverb which has it that 'there is most
prudence in courage.'"
"But have you not heard that the regent has taken up an advantageous
position?" the queen said.
"The greyhound hunts the hare on the hillside as well as in the plain,"
replied Seyton: "we will drive him out, wherever he is."
"Let it be as you desire, then, my lords. It shall not be said that Mary
Stuart returned to the scabbard the sword her defenders had drawn for
Then, turning round to Douglas
"George," she said to him, "choose a guard of twenty men for me, and
take command of them: you will not quit me."
George bent low in obedience, chose twenty from among the bravest men,
placed the queen in their midst, and put himself at their head; then the
troops, which had halted, received the order to continue their road. In
two hours' time the advance guard was in sight of the enemy; it halted,
and the rest of the army rejoined it.
The queen's troops then found themselves parallel with the city of
Glasgow, and the heights which rose in front of them were already
occupied by a force above which floated, as above that of Mary, the
royal banners of Scotland, On the other side, and on the opposite
slope, stretched the village of Langside, encircled with enclosures and
gardens. The road which led to it, and which followed all the variations
of the ground, narrowed at one place in such a way that two men could
hardly pass abreast, then, farther on, lost itself in a ravine, beyond
which it reappeared, then branched into two, of which one climbed to the
village of Langside, while the other led to Glasgow.
On seeing the lie of the ground, the Earl of Argyll immediately
comprehended the importance of occupying this village, and, turning to
Lord Seyton, he ordered him to gallop off and try to arrive there
before the enemy, who doubtless, having made the same observation as the
commander of the royal forces, was setting in motion at that very moment
a considerable body of cavalry.
Lord Seyton called up his men directly, but while he was ranging them
round his banner, Lord Arbroath drew his sword, and approaching the Earl
"My lord," said he, "you do me a wrong in charging Lord Seyton to
seize that post: as commander of the vanguard, it is to me this honour
belongs. Allow me, then, to use my privilege in claiming it."
"It is I who received the order to seize it; I will seize it!" cried
"Perhaps," returned Lord Arbroath, "but not before me!"
"Before you and before every Hamilton in the world!" exclaimed Seyton,
putting his horse to the gallop and rushing down into the hollow road--
"Saint Bennet! and forward!"
"Come, my faithful kinsmen!" cried Lord Arbroath, dashing forward on
his side with the same object; "come, my men-at-arms! For God and the
The two troops precipitated themselves immediately in disorder and ran
against one another in the narrow way, where, as we have said, two men
could hardly pass abreast. There was a terrible collision there, and
the conflict began among friends who should have been united against the
enemy. Finally, the two troops, leaving behind them some corpses stifled
in the press, or even killed by their companions, passed through the
defile pell-mell and were lost sight of in the ravine. But during this
struggle Seyton and Arbroath had lost precious time, and the detachment
sent by Murray, which had taken the road by Glasgow, had reached the
village beforehand; it was now necessary not to take it, but to retake
Argyll saw that the whole day's struggle would be concentrated there,
and, understanding more and more the importance of the village,
immediately put himself at the head of the body of his army, commanding
a rearguard of two thousand men to remain there and await further orders
to take part in the fighting. But whether the captain who commanded them
had ill understood, or whether he was eager to distinguish himself in
the eyes of the queen, scarcely had Argyll vanished into the ravine, at
the end of which the struggle had already commenced between Kirkcaldy of
Grange and Morton on the one side, and on the other between Arbroath and
Seyton, than, without regarding the cries of Mary Stuart, he set off
in his turn at a gallop, leaving the queen without other guard than the
little escort of twenty men which Douglas had chosen for her. Douglas
"Alas!" said the queen, hearing him, "I am not a soldier, but there it
seems to me is a battle very badly begun."
"What is to be done?" replied Douglas. "We are every one of us
infatuated, from first to last, and all these men are behaving to-day
like madmen or children."
"Victory! victory!" said the queen; "the enemy is retreating, fighting.
I see the banners of Seyton and Arbroath floating near the first houses
in the village. Oh! my brave lords," cried she, clapping her hands.
But she stopped suddenly on perceiving a body of the enemy's army
advancing to charge the victors in flank.
"It is nothing, it is nothing," said Douglas; "so long as there is only
cavalry we have nothing much to fear, and besides the Earl of Argyll
will fall in in time to aid them."
"George," said Little William.
"Well?" asked Douglas.
"Don't you see?" the child went on, stretching out his arms towards the
enemy's force, which was coming on at a gallop.
"Each horseman carries a footman armed with an arquebuse behind him, so
that the troop is twice as numerous as it appears."
"That's true; upon my soul, the child has good sight. Let someone go at
once full gallop and take news of this to the Earl or Argyll."
"I! I!" cried Little William. "I saw them first; it is my right to bear
"Go, then, my child," said Douglas; "and may God preserve thee!"
The child flew, quick as lightning, not hearing or feigning not to hear
the queen, who was recalling him. He was seen to cross the gorge and
plunge into the hollow road at the moment when Argyll was debouching
at the end and coming to the aid of Seyton and Arbroath. Meanwhile,
the enemy's detachment had dismounted its infantry, which, immediately
formed up, was scattering on the sides of the ravine by paths
impracticable for horses.
"William will come too late!" cried Douglas, "or even, should he arrive
in time, the news is now useless to them. Oh madmen, madmen that we are!
This is how we have always lost all our battles!"
"Is the battle lost, then?" demanded Mary, growing pale.
"No, madam, no," cried Douglas; "Heaven be thanked, not yet; but through
too great haste we have begun badly."
"And William?" said Mary Stuart.
"He is now serving his apprenticeship in arms; for, if I am not
mistaken, he must be at this moment at the very spot where those
marksmen are making such quick firing."
"Poor child!" cried the queen; "if ill should befall him, I shall never
"Alas! madam," replied Douglas, "I greatly fear that his first battle
is his last, and that everything is already over for him; for, unless I
mistake, there is his horse returning riderless."
"Oh, my God! my God!" said the queen, weeping, and raising her hands to
heaven, "it is then decreed that I should be fatal to all around me!"
George was not deceived: it was William's horse coming back without his
young master and covered with blood.
"Madam," said Douglas, "we are ill placed here; let us gain that hillock
on which is the Castle of Crookstone: from thence we shall survey the
"No, not there! not there!" said the queen in terror: "within that
castle I came to spend the first days of my marriage with Darnley; it
will bring me misfortune."
"Well, beneath that yew-tree, then," said George, pointing to another
slight rise near the first; "but it is important for us to lose no
detail of this engagement. Everything depends perhaps for your Majesty
on an ill-judged manoeuvre or a lost moment."
"Guide me, then," the queen said; "for, as for me, I no longer see
it. Each report of that terrible cannonade echoes to the depths of my
However well placed as was this eminence for overlooking from its summit
the whole battlefield, the reiterated discharge of cannon and musketry
covered it with such a cloud of smoke that it was impossible to make out
from it anything but masses lost amid a murderous fog. At last, when an
hour had passed in this desperate conflict, through the skirts of this
sea of smoke the fugitives were seen to emerge and disperse in all
directions, followed by the victors. Only, at that distance, it was
impossible to make out who had gained or lost the battle, and the
banners, which on both sides displayed the Scottish arms, could in no
way clear up this confusion.
At that moment there was seen coming down from the Glasgow hillsides all
the remaining reserve of Murray's army; it was coming at full speed to
engage in the fighting; but this manoeuvre might equally well have for
its object the support of defeated friends as to complete the rout of
the enemy. However, soon there was no longer any doubt; for this reserve
charged the fugitives, amid whom it spread fresh confusion. The queen's
army was beaten. At the same time, three or four horsemen appeared on
the hither side of the ravine, advancing at a gallop. Douglas recognised
them as enemies.
"Fly, madam," cried George, "fly without loss of a second; for those who
are coming upon us are followed by others. Gain the road, while I go to
check them. And you," added he, addressing the escort, "be killed to the
last man rather than let them take your queen."
"George! George!" cried the queen, motionless, and as if riveted to the
But George had already dashed away with all his horse's speed, and as
he was splendidly mounted, he flew across the space with lightning
rapidity, and reached the gorge before the enemy. There he stopped, put
his lance in rest, and alone against five bravely awaited the encounter.
As to the queen, she had no desire to go; but, on the contrary, as if
turned to stone, she remained in the same place, her eyes fastened on
this combat which was taking place at scarcely five hundred paces from
her. Suddenly, glancing at her enemies, she saw that one of them bore
in the middle of his shield a bleeding heart, the Douglas arms. Then she
uttered a cry of pain, and drooping her head--
"Douglas against Douglas; brother against brother!" she murmured: "it
only wanted this last blow."
"Madam, madam," cried her escort, "there is not an instant to lose: the
young master of Douglas cannot hold out long thus alone against five;
let us fly! let us fly!" And two of them taking the queen's horse by the
bridle, put it to the gallop, at the moment when George, after having
beaten down two of his enemies and wounded a third, was thrown down in
his turn in the dust, thrust to the heart by a lance-head. The queen
groaned on seeing him fall; then, as if he alone had detained her, and
as if he being killed she had no interest in anything else, she put
Rosabelle to the gallop, and as she and her troop were splendidly
mounted, they had soon lost sight of the battlefield.
She fled thus for sixty miles, without taking any rest, and without
ceasing to weep or to sigh: at last, having traversed the counties of
Renfrew and Ayr, she reached the Abbey of Dundrennan, in Galloway, and
certain of being, for the time at least, sheltered from every danger,
she gave the order to stop. The prior respectfully received her at the
gate of the convent.
"I bring you misfortune and ruin, father," said the queen, alighting
from her horse.
"They are welcome," replied the prior, "since they come accompanied by
The queen gave Rosabelle to the care of one of the men-at-arms who had
accompanied her, and leaning on Mary Seyton, who had not left her for
a moment, and on Lord Herries, who had rejoined her on the road, she
entered the convent.
Lord Herries had not concealed her position from Mary Stuart: the day
had been completely lost, and with the day, at least for the present,
all hope of reascending the throne of Scotland. There remained but three
courses for the queen to take to withdraw into France, Spain or England.
On the advice of Lord Herries, which accorded with her own feeling, she
decided upon the last; and that same night she wrote this double missive
in verse and in prose to Elizabeth:
"MY DEAR SISTER,--I have often enough begged you to receive my
tempest-tossed vessel into your haven during the storm. If at this pass
she finds a safe harbour there, I shall cast anchor there for ever:
otherwise the bark is in God's keeping, for she is ready and caulked for
defence on her voyage against all storms. I have dealt openly with you,
and still do so: do not take it in bad part if I write thus; it is not
in defiance of you, as it appears, for in everything I rely on your
"This sonnet accompanied the letter:--
"One thought alone brings danger and delight; Bitter and sweet change
places in my heart, With doubt, and then with hope, it takes its part,
Till peace and rest alike are put to flight.
"Therefore, dear sister, if this card pursue That keen desire by which
I am oppressed, To see you, 'tis because I live distressed, Unless some
swift and sweet result ensue.
"Beheld I have my ship compelled by fate To seek the open sea, when
close to port, And calmest days break into storm and gale; Wherefore
full grieved and fearful is my state, Not for your sake, but since, in
evil sort, Fortune so oft snaps strongest rope and sail."
Elizabeth trembled with joy at receiving this double letter; for the
eight years that her enmity had been daily increasing to Mary Stuart,
she had followed her with her eyes continually, as a wolf might a
gazelle; at last the gazelle sought refuge in the wolf's den. Elizabeth
had never hoped as much: she immediately despatched an order to the
Sheriff of Cumberland to make known to Mary that she was ready to
receive her. One morning a bugle was heard blowing on the sea-shore: it
was Queen Elizabeth's envoy come to fetch Queen Mary Stuart.
Then arose great entreaties to the fugitive not to trust herself thus to
a rival in power, glory, and beauty; but the poor dispossessed queen
was full of confidence in her she called her good sister, and believed
herself going, free and rid of care, to take at Elizabeth's court the
place due to her rank and her misfortunes: thus she persisted, in
spite of all that could be said. In our time, we have seen the same
infatuation seize another royal fugitive, who like Mary Stuart confided
himself to the generosity of his enemy England: like Mary Stuart, he was
cruelly punished for his confidence, and found in the deadly climate of
St. Helena the scaffold of Fotheringay.
Mary Stuart set out on her journey, then, with her little following.
Arrived at the shore of Solway Firth, she found there the Warden of
the English Marches: he was a gentleman named Lowther, who received the
queen with the greatest respect, but who gave her to understand that
he could not permit more than three of her women to accompany her. Mary
Seyton immediately claimed her privilege: the queen held out to her her
"Alas! mignonne," said she, "but it might well be another's turn: you
have already suffered enough for me and with me."
But Mary, unable to reply, clung to her hand, making a sign with her
head that nothing in the world should part her from her mistress. Then
all who had accompanied the queen renewed their entreaties that she
should not persist in this fatal resolve, and when she was already a
third of the way along the plank placed for her to enter the skiff,
the Prior of Dundrennan, who had offered Mary Stuart such dangerous
and touching hospitality, entered the water up to his knees, to try to
detain her; but all was useless: the queen had made up her mind.
At that, moment Lowther approached her. "Madam," said he, "accept anew
my regrets that I cannot offer a warm welcome in England to all who
would wish to follow you there; but our queen has given us positive
orders, and we must carry them out. May I be permitted to remind your
Majesty that the tide serves?"
"Positive orders!" cried the prior. "Do you hear, madam? Oh! you are
lost if you quit this shore! Back, while there is yet time! Back; madam,
in Heaven's name! To me, sir knights, to me!" he cried, turning to Lord
Herries and the other lords who had accompanied Mary Stuart; "do not
allow your queen to abandon you, were it needful to struggle with her
and the English at the same time. Hold her back, my lords, in Heaven's
name! withhold her!"
"What means this violence, sir priest?" said the Warden of the Marches.
"I came here at your queen's express command; she is free to return to
you, and there is no need to have recourse to force for that". Then,
addressing the queen--
"Madam," said he, "do you consent to follow me into England in full
liberty of choice? Answer, I entreat you; for my honour demands that the
whole world should be aware that you have followed me freely."
"Sir," replied Mary Stuart, "I ask your pardon, in the name of this
worthy servant of God and his queen, for what he may have said of
offence to you. Freely I leave Scotland and place myself in your hands,
trusting that I shall be free either to remain in England with my royal
sister, or to return to France to my worthy relatives". Then, turning to
the priest, "Your blessing, father, and God protect you!"
"Alas! alas!" murmured the abbot, obeying the queen, "it is not we who
are in need of God's protection, but rather you, my daughter. May the
blessing of a poor priest turn aside from you the misfortunes I foresee!
Go, and may it be with you as the Lord has ordained in His wisdom and in
Then the queen gave her hand to the sheriff, who conducted her to the
skiff, followed by Mary Seyton and two other women only. The sails were
immediately unfurled, and the little vessel began to recede from the
shores of Galloway, to make her way towards those of Cumberland. So long
as it could be seen, they who had accompanied the queen lingered on the
beach, waving her signs of adieu, which, standing on the deck of the
shallop which was bearing her, away, she returned with her handkerchief.
Finally, the boat disappeared, and all burst into lamentations or
into sobbing. They were right, for the good Prior of Dundrennan's
presentiments were only too true, and they had seen Mary Stuart for the
On landing on the shores of England, the Queen of Scotland found
messengers from Elizabeth empowered to express to her all the regret
their mistress felt in being unable to admit her to her presence, or to
give her the affectionate welcome she bore her in her heart. But it was
essential, they added, that first of all the queen should clear herself
of the death of Darnley, whose family, being subjects of the Queen of
England, had a right to her protection and justice.
Mary Stuart was so blinded that she did not see the trap, and
immediately offered to prove her innocence to the satisfaction of
her sister Elizabeth; but scarcely had she in her hands Mary Stuart's
letter, than from arbitress she became judge, and, naming commissioners
to hear the parties, summoned Murray to appear and accuse his sister.
Murray, who knew Elizabeth's secret intentions with regard to her rival,
did not hesitate a moment. He came to England, bringing the casket
containing the three letters we have quoted, some verses and some other
papers which proved that the queen had not only been Bothwell's
mistress during the lifetime of Darnley, but had also been aware of the
assassination of her husband. On their side, Lord Herries and the Bishop
of Ross, the queen's advocates, maintained that these letters had
been forged, that the handwriting was counterfeited, and demanded, in
verification, experts whom they could not obtain; so that this great
controversy, remained pending for future ages, and to this hour nothing
is yet affirmatively settled in this matter either by scholars or
After a five months' inquiry, the Queen of England made known to the
parties, that not having, in these proceedings, been able to discover
anything to the dishonour of accuser or accused, everything would remain
in statu quo till one or the other could bring forward fresh proofs.
As a result of this strange decision, Elizabeth should have sent back
the regent to Scotland, and have left Mary Stuart free to go where she
would. But, instead of that, she had her prisoner removed from Bolton
Castle to Carlisle Castle, from whose terrace, to crown her with grief,
poor Mary Stuart saw the blue mountains of her own Scotland.
However, among the judges named by Elizabeth to examine into Mary
Stuart's conduct was Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. Be it that he was
convinced of Mary's innocence, be it that he was urged by the ambitious
project which since served as a ground for his prosecution, and which
was nothing else than to wed Mary Stuart, to affiance his daughter
to the young king, and to become regent of Scotland, he resolved to
extricate her from her prison. Several members of the high nobility of
England, among whom were the Earls of Westmoreland and Northumberland,
entered into the plot and under, took to support it with all their
forces. But their scheme had been communicated to the regent: he
denounced it to Elizabeth, who had Norfolk arrested. Warned in time,
Westmoreland and Northumberland crossed the frontiers and took refuge
in the Scottish borders which were favourable to Queen Mary. The former
reached Flanders, where he died in exile; the latter, given up to
Murray, was sent to the castle of Lochleven, which guarded him more
faithfully than it had done its royal prisoner. As to Norfolk, he was
beheaded. As one sees, Mary Stuart's star had lost none of its fatal
Meanwhile the regent had returned to Edinburgh, enriched with presents
from Elizabeth, and having gained, in fact, his case with her, since
Mary remained a prisoner. He employed himself immediately in dispersing
the remainder of her adherents, and had hardly shut the gates of
Lochleven Castle upon Westmoreland than, in the name of the young King
James VI, he pursued those who had upheld his mother's cause, and among
them more particularly the Hamiltons, who since the affair of "sweeping
the streets of Edinburgh," had been the mortal enemies of the Douglases
personally; six of the chief members of this family were condemned to
death, and only obtained commutation of the penalty into an eternal
exile on the entreaties of John Knox, at that time so powerful in
Scotland that Murray dared not refuse their pardon.
One of the amnestied was a certain Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh, a man of
ancient Scottish times, wild and vindictive as the nobles in the time
of James I. He had withdrawn into the highlands, where he had found an
asylum, when he learned that Murray, who in virtue of the confiscation
pronounced against exiles had given his lands to one of his favourites,
had had the cruelty to expel his sick and bedridden wife from her own
house, and that without giving her time to dress, and although it was
in the winter cold. The poor woman, besides, without shelter, without
clothes, and without food, had gone out of her mind, had wandered about
thus for some time, an object of compassion but equally of dread; for
everyone had been afraid of compromising himself by assisting her. At
last, she had returned to expire of misery and cold on the threshold
whence she had been driven.
On learning this news, Bothwellhaugh, despite the violence of his
character, displayed no anger: he merely responded, with a terrible
smile, "It is well; I shall avenge her."
Next day, Bothwellhaugh left his highlands, and came down, disguised,
into the plain, furnished with an order of admission from the Archbishop
of St. Andrews to a house which this prelate--who, as one remembers,
had followed the queen's fortunes to the last moment--had at Linlithgow.
This house, situated in the main street, had a wooden balcony looking
on to the square, and a gate which opened out into the country.
Bothwellhaugh entered it at night, installed himself on the first floor,
hung black cloth on the walls so that his shadow should not be seen from
without, covered the floor with mattresses so that his footsteps might
not be heard on the ground floor, fastened a racehorse ready saddled and
bridled in the garden, hollowed out the upper part of the little gate
which led to the open country so that he could pass through it at a
gallop, armed himself with a loaded arquebuse, and shut himself up in
All these preparations had been made, one imagines, because Murray was
to spend the following day in Linlithgow. But, secret as they were, they
were to be rendered useless, for the regent's friends warned him that
it would not be safe for him to pass through the town, which belonged
almost wholly to the Hamiltons, and advised him to go by it. However,
Murray was courageous, and, accustomed not to give way before a real
danger, he did nothing but laugh at a peril which he looked upon as
imaginary, and boldly followed his first plan, which was not to go out
of his way. Consequently, as the street into which the Archbishop of St.
Andrews' balcony looked was on his road, he entered upon it, not going
rapidly and preceded by guards who would open up a passage for him, as
his friends still counselled, but advancing at a foot's pace, delayed as
he was by the great crowd which was blocking up the streets to see him.
Arrived in front of the balcony, as if chance had been in tune with the
murderer, the crush became so great that Murray was obliged to halt
for a moment: this rest gave Bothwellhaugh time to adjust himself for a
steady shot. He leaned his arquebuse on the balcony, and, having taken
aim with the necessary leisure and coolness, fired. Bothwellhaugh had
put such a charge into the arquebuse, that the ball, having passed
through the regent's heart, killed the horse of a gentleman on his
right. Murray fell directly, saying, "My God! I am killed."
As they had seen from which window the shot was fired, the persons in
the regent's train had immediately thrown themselves against the great
door of the house which looked on to the street, and had smashed it
in; but they only arrived in time to see Bothwellhaugh fly through
the little garden gate on the horse he had got ready: they immediately
remounted the horses they had left in the street, and, passing through
the house, pursued him. Bothwellhaugh had a good horse and the lead of
his enemies; and yet, four of them, pistol in hand, were so well mounted
that they were beginning to gain upon him. Then Bothwellhaugh; seeing
that whip and spur were not enough, drew his dagger and used it to goad
on his horse. His horse, under this terrible stimulus, acquired fresh
vigour, and, leaping a gully eighteen feet deep, put between his master
and his pursuers a barrier which they dared not cross.
The murderer sought an asylum in France, where he retired under the
protection of the Guises. There, as the bold stroke he had attempted had
acquired him a great reputation, some days before the Massacre of St.
Bartholomew, they made him overtures to assassinate Admiral Coligny. But
Bothwellhaugh indignantly repulsed these proposals, saying that he was
the avenger of abuses and not an assassin, and that those who had to
complain of the admiral had only to come and ask him how he had done,
and to do as he.
As to Murray, he died the night following his wound, leaving the regency
to the Earl of Lennox, the father of Darnley: on learning the news of
his death, Elizabeth wrote that she had lost her best friend.
While these events were passing in Scotland, Mary Stuart was still a
prisoner, in spite of the pressing and successive protests of Charles
IX and Henry III. Taking fright at the attempt made in her favour,
Elizabeth even had her removed to Sheffield Castle, round which fresh
patrols were incessantly in motion.
But days, months, years passed, and poor Mary, who had borne so
impatiently her eleven months' captivity in Lochleven Castle, had been
already led from prison to prison for fifteen or sixteen years, in spite
of her protests and those of the French and Spanish ambassadors, when
she was finally taken to Tutbury Castle and placed under the care of Sir
Amyas Paulet, her last gaoler: there she found for her sole lodging two
low and damp rooms, where little by little what strength remained to her
was so exhausted that there were days on which she could not walk, on
account of the pain in all her limbs. Then it was that she who had been
the queen of two kingdoms, who was born in a gilded cradle and brought
up in silk and velvet, was forced to humble herself to ask of her gaoler
a softer bed and warmer coverings. This request, treated as an affair of
state, gave rise to negotiations which lasted a month, after which
the prisoner was at length granted what she asked. And yet the
unhealthiness, cold, and privations of all kinds still did not work
actively enough on that healthy and robust organisation. They tried to
convey to Paulet what a service he would render the Queen of England in
cutting short the existence of her who, already condemned in her rival's
mind, yet delayed to die. But Sir Amyas Paulet, coarse and harsh as he
was to Mary Stuart, declared that, so long as she was with him she would
have nothing to fear from poison or dagger, because he would taste all
the dishes served to his prisoner, and that no one should approach her
but in his presence. In fact, some assassins, sent by Leicester, the
very same who had aspired for a moment to the hand of the lovely Mary
Stuart, were driven from the castle directly its stern keeper had
learned with what intentions they had entered it. Elizabeth had to be
patient, then, in contenting herself with tormenting her whom she could
not kill, and still hoping that a fresh opportunity would occur for
bringing her to trial. That opportunity, so long delayed, the fatal star
of Mary Stuart at length brought.
A young Catholic gentleman, a last scion of that ancient chivalry which
was already dying out at that time, excited by the excommunication of
Pius V, which pronounced Elizabeth fallen from her kingdom on earth
and her salvation in heaven, resolved to restore liberty to Mary, who
thenceforth was beginning to be looked upon, no longer as a political
prisoner, but as a martyr for her faith. Accordingly, braving the law
which Elizabeth had had made in 1585, and which provided that, if any
attempt on her person was meditated by, or for, a person who thought
he had claims to the crown of England, a commission would be appointed
composed of twenty-five members, which, to the exclusion of every other
tribunal, would be empowered to examine into the offence, and to condemn
the guilty persons, whosoever they might be. Babington, not at all
discouraged by the example of his predecessors, assembled five of his
friends, Catholics as zealous as himself, who engaged their life and
honour in the plot of which he was the head, and which had as its aim
to assassinate Elizabeth, and as a result to place Mary Stuart on the
English throne. But this scheme, well planned as it was, was revealed to
Walsingham, who allowed the conspirators to go as far as he thought
he could without danger, and who, the day before that fixed for the
assassination, had them arrested.
This imprudent and desperate attempt delighted Elizabeth, for, according
to the letter of the law, it finally gave her rival's life into her
hands. Orders were immediately given to Sir Amyas Paulet to seize the
prisoner's papers and to move her to Fotheringay Castle. The gaoler,
then, hypocritically relaxing his usual severity, suggested to Mary
Stuart that she should go riding, under the pretext that she had need
of an airing. The poor prisoner, who for three years had only seen the
country through her prison bars, joyfully accepted, and left Tutbury
between two guards, mounted, for greater security, on a horse whose feet
were hobbled. These two guards took her to Fotheringay Castle, her new
habitation, where she found the apartment she was to lodge in already
hung in black. Mary Stuart had entered alive into her tomb. As to
Babington and his accomplices, they had been already beheaded.
Meanwhile, her two secretaries, Curle and Nau, were arrested, and all
her papers were seized and sent to Elizabeth, who, on her part, ordered
the forty commissioners to assemble, and proceed without intermission to
the trial of the prisoner. They arrived at Fotheringay the 14th October
1586; and next day, being assembled in the great hall of the castle,
they began the examination.
At first Mary refused to appear before them, declaring that she did not
recognise the commissioners as judges, they not being her peers, and not
acknowledging the English law, which had never afforded her protection,
and which had constantly abandoned her to the rule of force. But seeing
that they proceeded none the less, and that every calumny was allowed,
no one being there to refute it, she resolved to appear before the
commissioners. We quote the two interrogatories to which Mary Stuart
submitted as they are set down in the report of M. de Bellievre to M.
de Villeroy. M. de Bellievre, as we shall see later, had been specially
sent by King Henry III to Elizabeth. [Intelligence for M. Villeroy of
what was done in England by M. de Bellievre about the affairs of the
Queen of Scotland, in the months of November and December 1586 and
The said lady being seated at the end of the table in the said hall, and
the said commissioners about her--
The Queen of Scotland began to speak in these terms:
"I do not admit that any one of you here assembled is my peer or my
judge to examine me upon any charge. Thus what I do, and now tell you,
is of my own free will, taking God to witness that I am innocent and
pure in conscience of the accusations and slanders of which they wish
to accuse me. For I am a free princess and born a queen, obedient to no
one, save to God, to whom alone I must give an account of my actions.
This is why I protest yet again that my appearance before you be not
prejudicial either to me, or to the kings, princes and potentates, my
allies, nor to my son, and I require that my protest be registered, and
I demand the record of it."
Then the chancellor, who was one of the commissioners, replied in his
turn, and protested against the protestation; then he ordered that there
should be read over to the Queen of Scotland the commission in virtue of
which they were proceeding--a commission founded on the statutes and law
of the kingdom.
But to this Mary Stuart made answer that she again protested; that the
said statutes and laws were without force against her, because these
statutes and laws are not made for persons of her condition.
To this the chancellor replied that the commission intended to proceed
against her, even if she refused to answer, and declared that the
trial should proceed; for she was doubly subject to indictment, the
conspirators having not only plotted in her favour, but also with her
consent: to which the said Queen of Scotland responded that she had
never even thought of it.
Upon this, the letters it was alleged she had written to Babington and
his answers were read to her.
Mary Stuart then affirmed that she had never seen Babington, that she
had never had any conference with him, had never in her life received
a single letter from him, and that she defied anyone in the world to
maintain that she had ever done anything to the prejudice of the said
Queen of England; that besides, strictly guarded as she was, away from
all news, withdrawn from and deprived of those nearest her, surrounded
with enemies, deprived finally of all advice, she had been unable to
participate in or to consent to the practices of which she was accused;
that there are, besides, many persons who wrote to her what she had
no knowledge of, and that she had received a number of letters without
knowing whence they came to her.
Then Babington's confession was read to her; but she replied that
she did not know what was meant; that besides, if Babington and his
accomplices had said such things, they were base men, false and liars.
"Besides," added she, "show me my handwriting and my signature, since
you say that I wrote to Babington, and not copies counterfeited like
these which you have filled at your leisure with the falsehoods it has
pleased you to insert."
Then she was shown the letter that Babington, it was said, had written
her. She glanced at it; then said, "I have no knowledge of this letter".
Upon this, she was shown her reply, and she said again, "I have no more
knowledge of this answer. If you will show me my own letter and my own
signature containing what you say, I will acquiesce in all; but up
to the present, as I have already told you, you have produced nothing
worthy of credence, unless it be the copies you have invented and added
to with what seemed good to you."
With these words, she rose, and with her eyes full of tears--
"If I have ever," said she, "consented to such intrigues, having for
object my sister's death, I pray God that He have neither pity nor mercy
on me. I confess that I have written to several persons, that I
have implored them to deliver me from my wretched prisons, where I
languished, a captive and ill-treated princess, for nineteen years and
seven months; but it never occurred to me, even in thought, to write
or even to desire such things against the queen. Yes, I also confess to
having exerted myself for the deliverance of some persecuted Catholics,
and if I had been able, and could yet, with my own blood, protect them
and save them from their pains, I would have done it, and would do it
for them with all my power, in order to save them from destruction."
Then, turning to the secretary, Walsingham--
"But, my lord," said she, "from the moment I see you here, I know whence
comes this blow: you have always been my greatest enemy and my son's,
and you have moved everyone against me and to my prejudice."
Thus accused to his face, Walsingham rose.
"Madam," he replied, "I protest before God, who is my witness, that
you deceive yourself, and that I have never done anything against
you unworthy of a good man, either as an individual or as a public
This is all that was said and done that day in the proceedings, till
the next day, when the queen was again obliged to appear before the
And, being seated at the end of the table of the said hall, and the said
commissioners about her, she began to speak in a loud voice.
"You are not unaware, my lords and gentlemen, that I am a sovereign
queen, anointed and consecrated in the church of God, and cannot, and
ought not, for any reason whatever, be summoned to your courts, or
called to your bar, to be judged by the law and statutes that you lay
down; for I am a princess and free, and I do not owe to any prince more
than he owes to me; and on everything of which I am accused towards my
said sister, I cannot, reply if you do not permit me to be assisted
by counsel. And if you go further, do what you will; but from all your
procedure, in reiterating my protestations, I appeal to God, who is the
only just and true judge, and to the kings and princes, my allies and
This protestation was once more registered, as she had required of the
commissioners. Then she was told that she had further written several
letters to the princes of Christendom, against the queen and the kingdom
"As to that," replied Mary Stuart, "it is another matter, and I do not
deny it; and if it was again to do, I should do as I have done, to gain
my liberty; for there is not a man or woman in the world, of less rank
than I, who would not do it, and who would not make use of the help and
succour of their friends to issue from a captivity as harsh as mine was.
You charge me with certain letters from Babington: well, I do not deny
that he has written to me and that I have replied to him; but if you
find in my answers a single word about the queen my sister, well, yes,
there will be good cause to prosecute me. I replied to him who wrote
to me that he would set me at liberty, that I accepted his offer, if
he could do it without compromising the one or the other of us: that is
"As to my secretaries," added the queen, "not they, but torture spoke
by their mouths: and as to the confessions of Babington and his
accomplices, there is not much to be made of them; for now that they are
dead you can say all that seems good to you; and let who will believe
With these words, the queen refused to answer further if she were not
given counsel, and, renewing her protestation, she withdrew into
her apartment; but, as the chancellor had threatened, the trial was
continued despite her absence.
However, M. de Chateauneuf, the French ambassador to London, saw matters
too near at hand to be deceived as to their course: accordingly, at
the first rumour which came to him of bringing Mary Stuart to trial,
he wrote to King Henry III, that he might intervene in the prisoner's
favour. Henry III immediately despatched to Queen Elizabeth an embassy
extraordinary, of which M. de Bellievre was the chief; and at the same
time, having learned that James VI, Mary's son, far from interesting
himself in his mother's fate, had replied to the French minister,
Courcelles, who spoke to him of her, "I can do nothing; let her drink
what she has spilled," he wrote him the following letter, to decide the
young prince to second him in the steps he was going to take:
"21st November, 1586.
"COURCELLES, I have received your letter of the 4th October last, in
which I have seen the discourse that the King of Scotland has held with
you concerning what you have witnessed to him of the good affection
I bear him, discourse in which he has given proof of desiring to
reciprocate it entirely; but I wish that that letter had informed me
also that he was better disposed towards the queen his mother, and that
he had the heart and the desire to arrange everything in a way to assist
her in the affliction in which she now is, reflecting that the prison
where she has been unjustly detained for eighteen years and more has
induced her to lend an ear to many things which have been proposed to
her for gaining her liberty, a thing which is naturally greatly desired
by all men, and more still by those who are born sovereigns and rulers,
who bear being kept prisoners thus with less patience. He should also
consider that if the Queen of England, my good sister, allows herself
to be persuaded by the counsels of those who wish that she should stain
herself with Queen Mary's blood, it will be a matter which will bring
him to great dishonour, inasmuch as one will judge that he will have
refused his mother the good offices that he should render her with the
said Queen of England, and which would have perhaps been sufficient to
move her, if he would have employed them, as warmly, and as soon as his
natural duty commanded him. Moreover, it is to be feared for him, that,
his mother dead, his own turn may come, and that one may think of doing
as much for him, by some violent means, to make the English succession
easier to seize for those who are likely to have it after the said Queen
Elizabeth, and not only to defraud the said King of Scotland of the
claim he can put forward, but to render doubtful even that which he has
to his own crown. I do not know in what condition the affairs of my said
sister-in-law will be when you receive this letter; but I will tell
you that in every case I wish you to rouse strongly the said King of
Scotland, with remonstrances, and everything else which may bear on this
subject, to embrace the defence and protection of his said mother, and
to express to him, on my part, that as this will be a matter for which
he will be greatly praised by all the other kings and sovereign princes,
he must be assured that if he fails in it there will be great
censure for him, and perhaps notable injury to himself in particular.
Furthermore, as to the state of my own affairs, you know that the queen,
madam and mother, is about to see very soon the King of Navarre, and
to confer with him on the matter of the pacification of the troubles of
this kingdom, to which, if he bear as much good affection as I do for
my part, I hope that things may come to a good conclusion, and that my
subjects will have some respite from the great evils and calamities that
the war occasions them: supplicating the Creator, Courcelles, that He
may have you in His holy keeping.
"Written at St. Germain-en-Laye, the 21st day of November 1586.
"And below, BRULART."
This letter finally decided James VI. to make a kind of demonstration in
his mother's favour: he sent Gray, Robert Melville, and Keith to Queen
Elizabeth. But although London was nearer Edinburgh than was Paris, the
French envoys reached it before the Scotch.
It is true that on reaching Calais, the 27th of November, M. de
Bellievre had found a special messenger there to tell him not to lose an
instant, from M. de Chateauneuf, who, to provide for every difficulty,
had chartered a vessel ready in the harbour. But however great the speed
these noble lords wished to make, they were obliged to await the wind's
good-will, which did not allow them to put to sea till Friday 28th at
midnight; next day also, on reaching Dover at nine o'clock, they were so
shaken by sea-sickness that they were forced to stay a whole day in
the town to recover, so that it was not till Sunday 30th that M. de
Bellievre was able to set out in the coach that M. Chateauneuf sent him
by M. de Brancaleon, and take the road to London, accompanied by the
gentlemen of his suite, who rode on post-horses; but resting only a
few hours on the way to make up for lost time, they at last arrived
in London, Sunday the 1st of December at midday. M. de Bellievre
immediately sent one of the gentlemen of his suite, named M. de
Villiers, to the Queen of England, who was holding her court at Richmond
Castle: the decree had been secretly pronounced already six days, and
submitted to Parliament, which was to deliberate upon it with closed
The French ambassadors could not have chosen a worse moment to approach
Elizabeth; and to gain time she declined to receive M. de Villiers,
returning the answer that he would himself know next day the reason for
this refusal. And indeed, next day, the rumour spread in London that
the French Embassy had contagion, and that two of the lords in it having
died of the plague at Calais, the queen, whatever wish she might have to
be agreeable to Henry III, could not endanger her precious existence by
receiving his envoys. Great was the astonishment of M. de Bellievre at
learning this news he protested that the queen was led into error by a
false report, and insisted on being received. Nevertheless, the delays
lasted another six days; but as the ambassadors threatened to depart
without waiting longer, and as, upon the whole, Elizabeth, disquieted
by Spain, had no desire to embroil herself with France, she had M. de
Bellievre informed on the morning of the 7th of December that she was
ready to receive him after dinner at Richmond Castle, together with the
noblemen of his suite.
At the appointed time the French ambassadors presented themselves at the
castle gates, and, having been brought to the queen, found her seated on
her throne and surrounded by the greatest lords in her kingdom. Then MM.
de Chateauneuf and de Bellievre, the one the ambassador in ordinary and
the other the envoy extraordinary, having greeted her on the part of the
King of France, began to make her the remonstrances with which they were
charged. Elizabeth replied, not only in the same French tongue, but also
in the most beautiful speech in use at that time, and, carried away by
passion, pointed out to the envoys of her brother Henry that the Queen
of Scotland had always proceeded against her, and that this was the
third time that she had wished to attempt her life by an infinity of
ways; which she had already borne too long and with too much patience,
but that never had anything so profoundly cut her to the heart as her
last conspiracy; that event, added she with sadness, having caused her
to sigh more and to shed more tears than the loss of all her relations,
so much the more that the Queen of Scotland was her near relative
and closely connected with the King of France; and as, in their
remonstrances, MM. de Chateauneuf and de Bellievre had brought forward
several examples drawn from history, she assumed, in reply to them on
this occasion, the pedantic style which was usual with her, and told
them that she had seen and read a great many books in her life, and a
thousand more than others of her sex and her rank were wont to, but
that she had never found in them a single example of a deed like that
attempted on her--a deed pursued by a relative, whom the king her
brother could not and ought not to support in her wickedness, when it
was, on the contrary, his duty to hasten the just punishment of it: then
she added, addressing herself specially to M. de Bellievre, and coming
down again from the height of her pride to a gracious countenance, that
she greatly regretted he was not deputed for a better occasion; that in
a few days she would reply to King Henry her brother, concerning whose
health she was solicitous, as well as that of the queen mother, who must
experience such great fatigue from the trouble she took to restore peace
to her son's kingdom; and then, not wishing to hear more, she withdrew
into her room.
The envoys returned to London, where they awaited the promised reply;
but while they were expecting it unavailingly, they heard quietly the
sentence of death given against Queen Mary, which decided them to return
to Richmond to make fresh remonstrances to Queen Elizabeth. After two or
three fruitless journeys, they were at last, December 15th, admitted for
the second time to the royal presence.
The queen did not deny that the sentence had been pronounced, and as it
was easy to see that she did not intend in this case to use her right
of pardon, M. de Bellievre, judging that there was nothing to be done,
asked for a safe-conduct to return to his king: Elizabeth promised it to
him within two or three days.
On the following Tuesday, the 17th of the same month of December,
Parliament as well as the chief lords of the realm were convoked at the
Palace of Westminster, and there, in full court and before all, sentence
of death was proclaimed and pronounced against Mary Stuart: then this
same sentence, with great display and great solemnity, was read in the
squares and at the cross-roads of London, whence it spread throughout
the kingdom; and upon this proclamation the bells rang for twenty-four
hours, while the strictest orders were given to each of the inhabitants
to light bonfires in front of their houses, as is the custom in France
on the Eve of St. John the Baptist.
Then, amid this sound of bells, by the light of these bonfires, M. de
Bellievre, wishing to make a last effort, in order to have nothing
with which to reproach himself, wrote the following letter to Queen
"MADAM:--We quitted your Majesty yesterday, expecting, as it had pleased
you to inform us, to receive in a few days your reply touching the
prayer that we made you on behalf of our good master, your brother, for
the Queen of Scotland, his sister in-law and confederate; but as this
morning we have been informed that the judgment given against the said
queen has been proclaimed in London, although we had promised ourselves
another issue from your clemency and the friendship your bear to the
said lord king your good brother, nevertheless, to neglect no part of
our duty, and believing in so doing to serve the intentions of the king
our master, we have not wanted to fail to write to you this present
letter, in which we supplicate you once again, very humbly, not to
refuse his Majesty the very pressing and very affectionate prayer that
he has made you, that you will be pleased to preserve the life of the
said lady Queen of Scotland, which the said lord king will receive as
the greatest pleasure your Majesty could do him; while, on the contrary,
he could not imagine anything which would cause him more displeasure,
and which would wound him more, than if he were used harshly with regard
to the said lady queen, being what she is to him: and as, madam,
the said king our master, your good brother, when for this object he
despatched us to your Majesty, had not conceived that it was possible,
in any case, to determine so promptly upon such an execution, we implore
you, madam, very humbly, before permitting it to go further, to grant us
some time in which we can make known to him the state of the affairs of
the said Queen of Scotland, in order that before your Majesty takes a
final resolution, you may know what it may please his very Christian
Majesty to tell you and point out to you on the greatest affair which,
in our memory, has been submitted to men's judgment. Monsieur de
Saint-Cyr, who will give these presents to your Majesty, will bring us,
if it pleases you, your good reply.
"London, this 16th day of December 1586.
"(Signed) DE BELLIEVRE,
"And DE L'AUBESPINE CHATEAUNEUF."
The same day, M. de Saint-Cyr and the other French lords returned to
Richmond to take this letter; but the queen would not receive them,
alleging indisposition, so that they were obliged to leave the letter
with Walsingham, her first Secretary of State, who promised them to send
the queen's answer the following day.
In spite of this promise, the French lords waited two days more: at
last, on the second day, towards evening, two English gentlemen sought
out M. de Fellievre in London, and, viva voce, without any letter to
confirm what they were charged to say, announced to him, on behalf of
their queen, that in reply to the letter that they had written her, and
to do justice to the desire they had shown to obtain for the condemned a
reprieve during which they would make known the decision to the King
of France, her Majesty would grant twelve days. As this was Elizabeth's
last word, and it was useless to lose time in pressing her further, M.
de Genlis was immediately despatched to his Majesty the King of France,
to whom, besides the long despatch of M. de Chateauneuf and de Bellievre
which he was charged to remit, he was to say 'viva voce' what he had
seen and heard relative to the affairs of Queen Mary during the whole
time he had been in England.
Henry III responded immediately with a letter containing fresh
instructions for MM. de Chateauneuf and de Bellievre; but in spite of
all the haste M. de Genlis could make, he did not reach London till the
fourteenth day--that is to say, forty-eight hours after the expiration
of the delay granted; nevertheless, as the sentence had not yet been put
into execution, MM. de Bellievre and de Chateauneuf set out at once for
Greenwich Castle, some miles from London, where the queen was keeping
Christmas, to beg her to grant them an audience, in which they could
transmit to her Majesty their king's reply; but they could obtain
nothing for four or five days; however, as they were not disheartened,
and returned unceasingly to the charge, January 6th, MM. de Bellievre
and de Chateauneuf were at last sent for by the queen.
As on the first occasion, they were introduced with all the ceremonial
in use at that time, and found Elizabeth in an audience-chamber. The
ambassadors approached her, greeted her, and M. de Bellievre began to
address to her with respect, but at the same time with firmness, his
master's remonstrances. Elizabeth listened to them with an impatient
air, fidgeting in her seat; then at last, unable to control herself, she
burst out, rising and growing red with anger--
"M. de Bellievre," said she, "are you really charged by the king, my
brother, to speak to me in such a way?"
"Yes, madam," replied M. de Bellievre, bowing; "I am expressly commanded
to do so."
"And have you this command under his hand?" continued Elizabeth.
"Yes, madam," returned the ambassador with the same calmness; "and the
king, my master, your good brother, has expressly charged me, in letters
signed by his own hand, to make to your Majesty the remonstrances which
I have had the honour to address to you."
"Well," cried Elizabeth, no longer containing herself, "I demand of you
a copy of that letter, signed by you; and reflect that you will answer
for each word that you take away or add."
"Madam," answered M. de Bellievre, "it is not the custom of the kings of
France, or of their agents, to forge letters or documents; you will have
the copies you require to-morrow morning, and I pledge their accuracy on
"Enough, sir, enough!" said the queen, and signing to everyone in the
room to go out, she remained nearly an hour with MM. de Chateauneuf and
de Bellievre. No one knows what passed in that interview, except that
the queen promised to send an ambassador to the King of France, who, she
promised, would be in Paris, if not before, at least at the same time as
M. de Bellievre, and would be the bearer of her final resolve as to the
affairs of the Queen of Scotland; Elizabeth then withdrew, giving the
French envoys to understand that any fresh attempt they might make to
see her would be useless.
On the 13th of January the ambassadors received their passports, and at
the same time notice that a vessel of the queen's was awaiting them at
The very day of their departure a strange incident occurred. A gentleman
named Stafford, a brother of Elizabeth's ambassador to the King of
France, presented himself at M. de Trappes's, one of the officials
in the French chancellery, telling him that he was acquainted with
a prisoner for debt who had a matter of the utmost importance to
communicate to him, and that he might pay the greater attention to it,
he told him that this matter was connected with the service of the King
of France, and concerned the affairs of Queen Mary of Scotland. M. de
Trappes, although mistrusting this overture from the first, did not
want, in case his suspicions deceived him, to have to reproach himself
for any neglect on such a pressing occasion. He repaired, then, with;
Mr. Stafford to the prison, where he who wished to converse with him was
detained. When he was with him, the prisoner told him that he was
locked up for a debt of only twenty crowns, and that his desire to be
at liberty was so great that if M. de Chateauneuf would pay that sum for
him he would undertake to deliver the Queen of Scotland from her danger,
by stabbing Elizabeth: to this proposal, M. de Trappes, who saw the
pitfall laid for the French ambassador, was greatly astonished, and said
that he was certain that M. de Chateauneuf would consider as very evil
every enterprise having as its aim to threaten in any way the life of
Queen Elizabeth or the peace of the realm; then, not desiring to hear
more, he returned to M. de Chateauneuf and related to him what had
just happened. M. de Chateauneuf, who perceived the real cause of this
overture, immediately said to Mr. Stafford that he thought it strange
that a gentleman like himself should undertake with another gentleman
such treachery, and requested him to leave the Embassy at once, and
never to set foot there again. Then Stafford withdrew, and, appearing
to think himself a lost man, he implored M. de Trappes to allow him to
cross the Channel with him and the French envoys. M. de Trappes referred
him to M. de Chateauneuf, who answered Mr. Stafford directly that he had
not only forbidden him his house, but also all relations with any person
from the Embassy, that he must thus very well see that his request
could not be granted; he added that if he were not restrained by the
consideration he desired to keep for his brother, the Earl of Stafford,
his colleague, he would at once denounce his treason to Elizabeth. The
same day Stafford was arrested.
After this conference, M. de Trappes set out to rejoin his travelling
companions, who were some hours in advance of him, when, on reaching
Dover he was arrested in his turn and brought hack to prison in London.
Interrogated the same day, M. de Trappes frankly related what had
passed, appealing to M. de Chateauneuf as to the truth of what he said.
The day following there was a second interrogatory, and great was his
amazement when, on requesting that the one of the day before should
be shown him, he was merely shown, according to custom in English law,
counterfeit copies, in which were avowals compromising him as well as M.
de Chateauneuf: he objected and protested, refused to answer or to
sign anything further, and was taken back to the Tower with redoubled
precaution, the object of which was the appearance of an important
Next day, M. de Chateauneuf was summoned before the queen, and there
confronted with Stafford, who impudently maintained that he had treated
of a plot with M. de Trappes and a certain prisoner for debt--a plot
which aimed at nothing less than endangering the Queen's life. M.
de Chateauneuf defended himself with the warmth of indignation, but
Elizabeth had too great an interest in being unconvinced even to attend
to the evidence. She then said to M. de Chateauneuf that his character
of ambassador alone prevented her having him arrested like his
accomplice M. de Trappes; and immediately despatching, as she had
promised, an ambassador to King Henry III, she charged him not to excuse
her for the sentence which had just been pronounced and the death which
must soon follow, but to accuse M. de Chateauneuf of having taken part
in a plot of which the discovery alone had been able to decide her to
consent to the death of the Queen of Scotland, certain as she was by
experience, that so long as her enemy lived her existence would be
On the same day, Elizabeth made haste to spread, not only in London, but
also throughout England, the rumour of the fresh danger from which she
had just escaped, so that, when, two days after the departure of the
French envoys, the Scottish ambassadors, who, as one sees, had not used
much speed, arrived, the queen answered them that their request came
unseasonably, at a time when she had just had proof that, so long as
Mary Stuart existed, her own (Elizabeth's) life was in danger. Robert
Melville wished to reply to this; but Elizabeth flew into a passion,
saying that it was he, Melville, who had given the King of Scotland
the bad advice to intercede for his mother, and that if she had such an
adviser she would have him beheaded. To which Melville answered--
"That at the risk of his life he would never spare his master good
advice; and that, on the contrary, he who would counsel a son to let his
mother perish, would deserve to be beheaded."
Upon this reply, Elizabeth ordered the Scotch envoys to withdrew,
telling them that she would let them have her answer.
Three or four days passed, and as they heard nothing further, they asked
again for a parting audience to hear the last resolve of her to whom
they were sent: the queen then decided to grant it, and all passed,
as with M. de Bellievre, in recriminations and complaints. Finally,
Elizabeth asked them what guarantee they would give for her life in
the event of her consenting to pardon the Queen of Scotland. The envoys
responded that they were authorised to make pledges in the name of the
King of Scotland, their master, and all the lords of his realm, that
Mary Stuart should renounce in favour of her son all her claims upon the
English crown, and that she should give as security for this undertaking
the King of France, and all the princes and lords, his relations and
To this answer, the queen, without her usual presence of mind, cried,
"What are you saying, Melville? That would be to arm my enemy with two
claims, while he has only one".
"Does your Majesty then regard the king, my master, as your enemy?"
replied Melville. "He believed himself happier, madam, and thought he
was your ally."
"No, no," Elizabeth said, blushing; "it is a way of speaking: and if you
find a means of reconciling everything, gentlemen, to prove to you, on
the contrary, that I regard King James VI as my good and faithful ally,
I am quite ready to incline to mercy. Seek, then, on your side" added
she, "while I seek on mine."
With these words, she went out of the room, and the ambassadors retired,
with the light of the hope of which she had just let them catch a
The same evening, a gentleman at the court sought out the Master of
Gray, the head of the Embassy, as if to pay him a civil visit, and while
conversing said to him, "That it was very difficult to reconcile the
safety of Queen Elizabeth with the life of her prisoner; that besides,
if the Queen of Scotland were pardoned, and she or her son ever came
to the English throne, there would be no security for the lords
commissioners who had voted her death; that there was then only one way
of arranging everything, that the King of Scotland should himself give
up his claims to the kingdom of England; that otherwise, according
to him, there was no security for Elizabeth in saving the life of the
Scottish queen". The Master of Gray then, looking at him fixedly, asked
him if his sovereign had charged him to come to him with this talk. But
the gentleman denied it, saying that all this was on his own account and
in the way of opinion.
Elizabeth received the envoys from Scotland once more, and then told
"That after having well considered, she had found no way of saving the
life of the Queen of Scotland while securing her own, that accordingly
she could not grant it to them". To this declaration, the Master of Gray
replied: "That since it was thus, he was, in this case, ordered by his
master to say that they protested in the name of King James that all
that had been done against his mother was of no account, seeing that
Queen Elizabeth had no authority over a queen, as she was her equal in
rank and birth; that accordingly they declared that immediately after
their return, and when their master should know the result of their
mission, he would assemble his Parliament and send messengers to all the
Christian princes, to take counsel with them as to what could be done to
avenge her whom they could not save."
Then Elizabeth again flew into a passion, saying that they had certainly
not received from their king a mission to speak to her in such a way;
but they thereupon offered to give her this protest in writing under
their signatures; to which Elizabeth replied that she would send an
ambassador to arrange all that with her good friend and ally, the King
of Scotland. But the envoys then said that their master would not listen
to anyone before their return. Upon which Elizabeth begged them not to
go away at once, because she had not yet come to her final decision upon
this matter. On the evening following this audience, Lord Hingley
having come to see the Master of Gray, and having seemed to notice some
handsome pistols which came from Italy, Gray, directly he had gone,
asked this nobleman's cousin to take them to him as a gift from him.
Delighted with this pleasant commission, the young man wished to perform
it the same evening, and went to the queen's palace, where his relative
was staying, to give him the present which he had been told to take to
him. But hardly had he passed through a few rooms than he was arrested,
searched, and the arms he was taking were found upon him. Although these
were not loaded, he was immediately arrested; only he was not taken to
the Tower, but kept a prisoner in his own room.
Next day there was a rumour that the Scotch ambassadors had wanted to
assassinate the queen in their turn, and that pistols, given by the
Master of Gray himself, had been found on the assassin.
This bad faith could not but open the envoys' eyes. Convinced at last
that they could do nothing for poor Mary Stuart, they left her to her
fate, and set out next day for Scotland.
Scarcely were they gone than Elizabeth sent her secretary, Davison, to
Sir Amyas Paulet. He was instructed to sound him again with regard to
the prisoner; afraid, in spite of herself, of a public execution, the
queen had reverted to her former ideas of poisoning or assassination;
but Sir Amyas Paulet declared that he would let no one have access
to Mary but the executioner, who must in addition be the bearer of a
warrant perfectly in order, Davison reported this answer to Elizabeth,
who, while listening to him, stamped her foot several times, and when he
had finished, unable to control herself, cried, "God's death! there's
a dainty fellow, always talking of his fidelity and not knowing how to
Elizabeth was then obliged to make up her mind. She asked Davison
for the warrant; he gave it to her, and, forgetting that she was the
daughter of a queen who had died on the scaffold, she signed it without
any trace of emotion; then, having affixed to it the great seal of
England, "Go," said she, laughing, "tell Walsingham that all is ended
for Queen Mary; but tell him with precautions, for, as he is ill, I am
afraid he will die of grief when he hears it."
The jest was the more atrocious in that Walsingham was known to be the
Queen of Scotland's bitterest enemy.
Towards evening of that day, Saturday the 14th, Beale, Walsingham's
brother-in-law, was summoned to the palace! The queen gave into his
hands the death warrant, and with it an order addressed to the Earls of
Shrewsbury, Kent, Rutland, and other noblemen in the neighbourhood of
Fotheringay, to be present at the execution. Beale took with him the
London executioner, whom Elizabeth had had dressed in black velvet for
this great occasion; and set out two hours after he had received his
Queen Mary had known the decree of the commissioners these two months.
The very day it had been pronounced she had learned the news through her
chaplain, whom they had allowed her to see this once only. Mary Stuart
had taken advantage of this visit to give him three letters she had just
written-one for Pope Sixtus V, the other to Don Bernard Mendoza, the
third to the Duke of Guise. Here is that last letter:--
14th December, 1586
"My Good Cousin, whom I hold dearest in the world, I bid you farewell,
being prepared to be put to death by an unjust judgment, and to a death
such as no one of our race, thanks to God, and never a queen, and still
less one of my rank, has ever suffered. But, good cousin, praise the
Lord; for I was useless to the cause of God and of His Church in this
world, prisoner as I was; while, on the contrary, I hope that my death
will bear witness to my constancy in the faith and to my willingness to
suffer for the maintenance and the restoration of the Catholic Church
in this unfortunate island. And though never has executioner dipped his
hand in our blood, have no shame of it, my friend; for the judgment of
heretics who have no authority over me, a free queen, is profitable in
the sight of God to the children of His Church. If I adhered, moreover,
to what they propose to me, I should not suffer this stroke. All of
our house have been persecuted by this sect, witness your good father,
through whose intercession I hope to be received with mercy by the just
judge. I commend to you, then, my poor servants, the discharge of my
debts, and the founding of some annual mass for my soul, not at your
expense, but that you may make the arrangements, as you will be required
when you learn my wishes through my poor and faithful servants, who are
about to witness my last tragedy. God prosper you, your wife, children,
brothers and cousins, and above all our chief, my good brother and
cousin, and all his. The blessing of God and that which I shall give to
my children be on yours, whom I do not commend less to God than my own
son, unfortunate and ill-treated as he is. You will receive some rings
from me, which will remind you to pray God for the soul of your poor
cousin, deprived of all help and counsel except that of the Lord, who
gives me strength and courage to alone to resist so many wolves howling
after me. To God be the glory.
"Believe particularly what will be told you by a person who will give
you a ruby ring from me; for I take it on my conscience that the truth
will be told you of what I have charged him to tell, and especially
in what concerns my poor servants and the share of any. I commend this
person to you for his simple sincerity and honesty, that he may be
placed in some good place. I have chosen him as the least partial and as
the one who will most simply bring you my commands. Ignore, I beg you,
that he told you anything in particular; for envy might injure him. I
have suffered a great deal for two years and more, and have not been
able to let you know, for an important reason. God be praised for all,
and give you grace to persevere in the service of His Church as long as
you live, and never may this honour pass from our race, while so many
men and women are ready to shed their blood to maintain the fight for
the faith, all other worldly considerations set aside. And as to me, I
esteem myself born on both father's and mother's sides, that I
should offer up my blood for this cause, and I have no intention of
degenerating. Jesus, crucified for us, and all the holy martyrs, make
us by their intercession worthy of the voluntary offering we make of our
bodies to their glory!
"From Fotheringay, this Thursday, 24th November.
"They have, thinking to degrade me, pulled down my canopy of state, and
since then my keeper has come to offer to write to their queen, saying
this deed was not done by his order, but by the advice of some of the
Council. I have shown them instead of my arms on the said canopy the
cross of Our Lord. You will hear all this; they have been more gentle
since.--Your affectionate cousin and perfect friend,
"MARY, Queen of Scotland, Dowager of France"
From this day forward, when she learned the sentence delivered by the
commissioners, Mary Stuart no longer preserved any hope; for as she knew
Elizabeth's pardon was required to save her, she looked upon herself
thenceforward as lost, and only concerned herself with preparing to die
well. Indeed, as it had happened to her sometimes, from the cold and
damp in her prisons, to become crippled for some time in all her limbs,
she was afraid of being so when they would come to take her, which would
prevent her going resolutely to the scaffold, as she was counting on
doing. So, on Saturday the 14th February, she sent for her doctor,
Bourgoin, and asked him, moved by a presentiment that her death was
at hand, she said, what she must do to prevent the return of the pains
which crippled her. He replied that it would be good for her to medicine
herself with fresh herbs. "Go, then," said the queen, "and ask Sir Amyas
Paulet from me permission to seek them in the fields."
Bourgoin went to Sir Amyas, who, as he himself was troubled with
sciatica, should have understood better than anyone the need of the
remedies for which the queen asked. But this request, simple as it was,
raised great difficulties. Sir Amyas replied that he could do nothing
without referring to his companion, Drury; but that paper and ink might
be brought, and that he, Master Bourgoin, could then make a list of the
needful plants, which they would try to procure. Bourgoin answered that
he did not know English well enough, and that the village apothecaries
did not know enough Latin, for him to risk the queen's life for some
error by himself or others. Finally, after a thousand hesitations,
Paulet allowed Bourgoin to go out, which he did, accompanied by the
apothecary Gorjon; so that the following day the queen was able to begin
to doctor herself.
Mary Stuart's presentiments had not deceived her: Tuesday, February
17th, at about two o'clock in the afternoon, the Earls of Kent and
Shrewsbury, and Beale sent word to the queen that they desired to speak
with her. The queen answered that she was ill and in bed, but that if
notwithstanding what they had to tell her was a matter of importance,
and they would give her a little time, she would get up. They made
answer that the communication they had to make admitted of no delay,
that they begged her then to make ready; which the queen immediately
did, and rising from her bed and cloaking herself, she went and seated
herself at a little table, on the same spot where she was wont to be
great part of the day.
Then the two earls, accompanied by Beale, Arnyas Paulet, and Drue Drury,
entered. Behind them, drawn by curiosity, full of terrible anxiety,
came her dearest ladies and most cherished servants. These were, of
womenkind, the Misses Renee de Really, Gilles Mowbray, Jeanne Kennedy,
Elspeth Curle, Mary Paget, and Susan Kercady; and of men-kind, Dominique
Bourgoin her doctor, Pierre Gorjon her apothecary, Jacques Gervais her
surgeon, Annibal Stewart her footman, Dither Sifflart her butler, Jean
Laudder her baker, and Martin Huet her carver.
Then the Earl of Shrewsbury, with head bared like all those present, who
remained thus as long as they were in the queen's room, began to say in
English, addressing Mary--
"Madam, the Queen of England, my august mistress, has sent me to you,
with the Earl of Kent and Sir Robert Beale, here present, to make known
to you that after having honourably proceeded in the inquiry into the
deed of which you are accused and found guilty, an inquiry which has
already been submitted to your Grace by Lord Buckhurst, and having
delayed as long as it was in her power the execution of the sentence,
she can no longer withstand the importunity of her subjects, who press
her to carry it out, so great and loving is their fear for her. For
this purpose we have come the bearers of a commission, and we beg very
humbly, madam, that it may please you to hear it read."
"Read, my lord; I am listening," replied Mary Stuart, with the greatest
calmness. Then Robert Beale unrolled the said commission, which was
on parchment, sealed with the Great Seal in yellow wax, and read as
"Elizabeth, by the grace of God, Queen of England, France, and Ireland,
etc., to our beloved and faithful cousins, George, Earl of Shrewsbury,
Grand Marshal of England; Henry, Earl of Kent; Henry, Earl of Derby;
George, Earl of Cumberland; Henry, Earl of Pembroke, greeting: [The
Earls of Cumberland, Derby, and Pembroke did not attend to the queen's
orders, and were present neither at the reading of the sentence nor at
"Considering the sentence by us given, and others of our Council,
nobility, and judges, against the former Queen of Scotland, bearing
the name of Mary, daughter and heiress of James v, King of Scotland,
commonly called Queen of Scotland and Dowager of France, which sentence
all the estates of our realm in our last Parliament assembled not only
concluded, but, after mature deliberation, ratified as being just
and reasonable; considering also the urgent prayer and request of our
subjects, begging us and pressing us to proceed to the publication
thereof, and to carry it into execution against her person, according as
they judge it duly merited, adding in this place that her detention was
and would be daily a certain and evident danger, not only to our life,
but also to themselves and their posterity, and to the public weal of
this realm, as much on account of the Gospel and the true religion of
Christ as of the peace and tranquillity of this State, although the said
sentence has been frequently delayed, so that even until this time
we abstained from issuing the commission to execute it: yet, for the
complete satisfaction of the said demands made by the Estates of
our Parliament, through which daily we hear that all our friends and
subjects, as well as the nobility, the wisest, greatest, and most pious,
nay, even those of inferior condition, with all humility and affection
from the care they have of our life, and consequently from the fear they
have of the destruction of the present divine and happy state of the
realm if we spare the final execution, consenting and desiring the said
execution; though the general and continual demands, prayers, counsels,
and advice were in such things contrary to our natural inclination; yet,
being convinced of the urgent weight of their continual intercessions
tending to the safety of our person, and also to the public and private
state of our realm, we have at last consented and suffered that justice
have its course, and for its execution, considering the singular
confidence we have in your fidelity and loyalty together for the love
and affection that you have toward us, particularly to the safe-guarding
of our person and our country of which you are very noble and chief
members; we summon, and, for the discharge of it we enjoin you, that at
sight of these presents you go to the castle of Fotheringay, where the
former Queen of Scotland is, in the care of our friend and faithful
servant and counsellor, Sir Amyas Paulet, and there take into your
keeping and do that by your command execution be done on her person, in
the presence of yourselves and the said Sir Amyas Paulet, and of all the
other officers of justice whom you command to be there: in the meantime
we have for this end and this execution given warrant in such a way
and manner, and in such a time and place, and by such persons, that
you five, four, three, or two, find expedient in your discretion;
notwithstanding all laws, statutes, and ordinances whatsoever, contrary
to these presents, sealed with our Great Seal of England, which will
serve for each of you, and all those who are present, or will make
by your order anything pertaining to the execution aforesaid full and
sufficient discharge for ever.
"Done and given in our house at Greenwich, the first day of February
(10th February New Style), in the twenty-ninth year of our reign."
Mary listened to this reading with great calmness and great dignity;
then, when it was ended, making the sign of the cross--
"Welcome," said she, "to all news which comes in the name of God!
Thanks, Lord, for that You deign to put an end to all the ills You have
seen me suffer for nineteen years and more."
"Madam," said the Earl of Kent, "have no ill-will towards us on account
of your death; it was necessary to the peace of the State and the
progress of the new religion."
"So," cried Mary with delight, "so I shall have the happiness of dying
for the faith of my fathers; thus God deigns to grant me the glory
of martyrdom. Thanks, God," added she, joining her hands with less
excitement but with more piety, "thanks that You have deigned to destine
for me such an end, of which I was not worthy. That, O my God, is indeed
a proof of Your love, and an assurance that You will receive me in the
number of Your servants; for although this sentence had been notified to
me, I was afraid, from the manner in which they have dealt with me for
nineteen years, of not yet being so near as I am to such a happy end,
thinking that your queen would not dare to lay a hand on me, who, by the
grace of God, am a queen as she is, the daughter of a queen as she is,
crowned as she is, her near relative, granddaughter of King Henry VII,
and who has had the honour of being Queen of France, of which I am still
Dowager; and this fear was so much the greater," added she, laying her
hand on a New Testament which was near her on the little table, "that,
I swear on this holy book, I have never attempted, consented to, or even
desired the death of my sister, the Queen of England."
"Madam," replied the Earl of Kent, taking a step towards her and
pointing to the New Testament; "this book on which you have sworn is not
genuine, since it is the papist version; consequently, your oath cannot
be considered as any more genuine than the book on which it has been
"My lord," answered the queen, "what you say may befit you, but not me,
who well know that this book is the true and faithful version of the
word of the Lord, a version made by a very wise divine, a very good man,
and approved by the Church."
"Madam," the Earl of Kent returned, "your Grace stopped at what you were
taught in your youth, without inquiry as to whether it was good or bad:
it is not surprising, then, that you have remained in your error, for
want of having heard anyone who could make known the truth to you;
this is why, as your Grace has but a few hours longer to remain in this
world, and consequently has no time to lose, with your permission we
shall send for the Dean of Peterborough, the most learned man there is
on the subject of religion, who, with his word, will prepare you for
your salvation, which you risk to our great grief and that of our
august queen, by all the papistical follies, abominations, and childish
nonsense which keep Catholics away from the holy word of God and the
knowledge of the truth."
"You mistake, my lord," replied the queen gently, "if you have believed
that I have grown up careless in the faith of my fathers, and without
seriously occupying myself with a matter so important as religion.
I have, on the contrary, spent my life with learned and wise men who
taught me what one must learn on this subject, and I have sustained
myself by reading their works, since the means of hearing them has been
taken from me. Besides, never having doubted in my lifetime, doubt
is not likely to seize me in my death-hour. And there is the Earl of
Shrewsbury, here present, who will tell you that, since my arrival
in England, I have, for an entire Lent, of which I repent, heard your
wisest doctors, without their arguments having made any impression on my
mind. It will be useless, then, my lord," she added, smiling, "to summon
to one so hardened as I the Dean of Peterborough, learned as he is.
The only thing I ask you in exchange, my lord, and for which I shall be
grateful to you beyond expression, is that you will send me my almoner,
whom you keep shut up in this house, to console me and prepare me for
death, or, in his stead, another priest, be he who he may; if only a
poor priest from a poor village, I being no harder to please than God,
and not asking that he have knowledge, provided that he has faith."
"It is with regret, madam," replied the Earl of Kent, "that I find
myself obliged to refuse your Grace's, request; but it would be contrary
to our religion and our conscience, and we should be culpable in doing
it; this is why we again offer you the venerable Dean of Peterborough,
certain that your Grace will find more consolation and content in him
than in any bishop, priest, or vicar of the Catholic faith."
"Thank you, my lord," said the queen again, "but I have nothing to-do
with him, and as I have a conscience free of the crime for which I
am about to die, with God's help, martyrdom will take the place of
confession for me. And now, I will remind you, my lord, of what you told
me yourself, that I have but a few hours to live; and these few hours,
to profit me, should be passed in prayer and meditation, and not in idle
With these words, she rose, and, bowing to the earls, Sir Robert Beale,
Amyas, and Drury, she indicated, by a gesture full of dignity, that she
wished to be alone and in peace; then, as they prepared to go out--
"Apropos, my lords," said she, "for what o'clock should I make ready to
"For eight o'clock to-morrow, madam," answered the Earl of Shrewsbury,
"It is well," said Mary; "but have you not some reply to make me, from
my sister Elizabeth, relative to a letter which I wrote to her about a
"And of what did this letter treat, if it please you, madam?" asked the
Earl of Kent.
"Of my burial and my funeral ceremony, my lord: I asked to be interred
in France, in the cathedral church of Rheims, near the late queen my
"That may not be, madam," replied the Earl of Kent; "but do not trouble
yourself as to all these details: the queen, my august mistress, will
provide for them as is suitable. Has your grace anything else to ask
"I would also like to know," said Mary, "if my servants will be allowed
to return, each to his own country, with the little that I can give him;
which will hardly be enough, in any case, for the long service they have
done me, and the long imprisonment they have borne on my account."
"We have no instructions on that head, madam," the Earl of Kent said,
"but we think that an order will be given for this as for the other
things, in accordance with your wishes. Is this all that your Grace has
to say to us?"
"Yes, my lord," replied the queen, bowing a second time, "and now you
"One moment, my lords, in Heaven's name, one moment!" cried the old
physician, coming forward and throwing himself on his knees before the
"What do you want?" asked Lord Shrewsbury.
"To point out to you, my lords," replied the aged Bourgoin, weeping,
"that you have granted the queen but a very short time for such an
important matter as this of her life. Reflect, my lords, what rank and
degree she whom you have condemned has held among the princes of this
earth, and consider if it is well and seemly to treat her as an ordinary
condemned person of middling estate. And if not for the sake of this
noble queen, my lords, do this for the sake of us her poor servants,
who, having had the honour of living near her so long, cannot thus part
from her so quickly and without preparation. Besides, my lords, think of
it, a woman of her state and position ought to have some time in which
to set in order her last affairs. And what will become of her, and of
us, if before dying, our mistress has not time to regulate her jointure
and her accounts and to put in order her papers and her title-deeds? She
has services to reward and offices of piety to perform. She should
not neglect the one or the other. Besides, we know that she will only
concern herself with us, and, through this, my lords, neglect her
own salvation. Grant her, then, a few more days, my lords; and as our
mistress is too proud to ask of you such a favour, I ask you in all our
names, and implore you not to refuse to poor servants a request which
your august queen would certainly not refuse them, if they had the good
fortune to be able to lay it at her feet."
"Is it then true, madam," Sir Robert Beale asked, "that you have not yet
made a will?"
"I have not, sir," the queen answered.
"In that case, my lords," said Sir Robert Beale, turning to the two
earls, "perhaps it would be a good thing to put it off for a day or
"Impossible, sir," replied the Earl of Shrewsbury: "the time is fixed,
and we cannot change anything, even by a minute, now."
"Enough, Bourgoin, enough," said the queen; "rise, I command you."
Bourgoin obeyed, and the Earl of Shrewsbury, turning to Sir Amyas
Paulet, who was behind him--
"Sir Amyas," said he, "we entrust this lady to your keeping: you will
charge yourself with her, and keep her safe till our return."
With these words he went out, followed by the Earl of Kent, Sir Robert
Beale, Amyas Paulet, and Drury, and the queen remained alone with her
Then, turning to her women with as serene a countenance as if the event
which had just taken place was of little importance--
"Well, Jeanne," said she, speaking to Kennedy, "have I not always told
you, and was I not right, that at the bottom of their hearts they wanted
to do this? and did I not see clearly through all their procedure the
end they had in view, and know well enough that I was too great an
obstacle to their false religion to be allowed to live? Come," continued
she, "hasten supper now, that I may put my affairs in order". Then,
seeing that instead of obeying her, her servants were weeping and
lamenting, "My children," said she, with a sad smile, but without a tear
in her eye, "it is no time for weeping, quite the contrary; for if you
love me, you ought to rejoice that the Lord, in making me die for His
cause, relieves me from the torments I have endured for nineteen years.
As for me, I thank Him for allowing me to die for the glory of His faith
and His Church. Let each have patience, then, and while the men prepare
supper, we women will pray to God."
The men immediately went out, weeping and sobbing, and the queen and
her women fell on their knees. When they had recited some prayers, Mary
rose, and sending for all the money she had left, she counted it and
divided it into portions, which she put into purses with the name of the
destined recipient, in her handwriting, with the money.
At that moment, supper being served, she seated herself at table with
her women as usual, the other servants standing or coming and going, her
doctor waiting on her at table as he was accustomed since her steward
had been taken from her. She ate no more nor less than usual, speaking,
throughout supper, of the Earl of Kent, and of the way in which he
betrayed himself with respect to religion, by his insisting on wanting
to give the queen a pastor instead of a priest. "Happily," she added,
laughing, "one more skilful than he was needed to change me". Meanwhile
Bourgoin was weeping behind the queen, for he was thinking that he was
serving her for the last time, and that she who was eating, talking,
and laughing thus, next day at the same hour would be but a cold and
When the meal was over, the queen sent for all her servants; then;
before the table was cleared of anything, she poured out a cup of wine,
rose and drank to their health, asking them if they would not drink to
her salvation. Then she had a glass given to each one: all kneeled down,
and all, says the account from which we borrow these details, drank,
mingling their tears with the wine, and asking pardon of the queen for
any wrongs they had done her. The queen granted it heartily, and asked
them to do as much for her, and to forget her impatient ways, which she
begged them to put down to her imprisonment. Then, having given them a
long discourse, in which she explained to them their duties to God, and
exhorted them to persevere in the Catholic faith, she begged them, after
her death, to live together in peace and charity, forgetting all the
petty quarrels and disputes which they had had among one another in the
This speech ended, the queen rose from table, and desired to go into her
wardrobe-room, to see the clothes and jewels she wished to dispose of;
but Bourgoin observed that it would be better to have all these separate
objects brought into her chamber; that there would be a double advantage
in this, she would be less tired for one thing, and the English would
not see them for another. This last reason decided her, and while the
servants were supping, she had brought into her ante-room, first of all,
all her robes, and took the inventory from her wardrobe attendant, and
began to write in the margin beside each item the name of the person it
was to be given to. Directly, and as fast as she did it, that person to
whom it was given took it and put it aside. As for the things which were
too personal to her to be thus bestowed, she ordered that they should
be sold, and that the purchase-money should be used for her servants'
travelling expenses, when they returned to their own countries,
well knowing how great the cost would be and that no one would have
sufficient means. This memorandum finished, she signed it, and gave it
as a discharge to her wardrobe attendant.
Then, that done, she went into her room, where had been brought her
rings, her jewels, and her most valuable belongings; inspected them all,
one after the other, down to the very least; and distributed them as she
had done her robes, so that, present or absent, everyone had something.
Then she furthermore gave, to her most faithful people, the jewels she
intended for the king and queen of France, for the king her son, for the
queen-mother, for Messieurs de Guise and de Lorraine, without forgetting
in this distribution any prince or princess among her relatives. She
desired, besides, that each should keep the things then in his care,
giving her linen to the young lady who looked after it, her silk
embroideries to her who took charge of them, her silver plate to her
butler, and so on with the rest.
Then, as they were asking her for a discharge, "It is useless," said
she; "you owe an account to me only, and to-morrow, therefore, you will
no longer owe it to anyone"; but, as they pointed out that the king her
son could claim from them, "You are right," said she; and she gave them
what they asked.
That done, and having no hope left of being visited by her confessor,
she wrote him this letter:
"I have been tormented all this day on account of my religion, and
urged to receive the consolations of a heretic: you will learn, through
Bourgoin and the others, that everything they could say on this matter
has been useless, that I have faithfully made protestation of the
faith in which I wish to die. I requested that you should be allowed
to receive my confession and to give me the sacrament, which has been
cruelly refused, as well as the removal of my body, and the power to
make my will freely; so that I cannot write anything except through
their hands, and with the good pleasure of their mistress. For want of
seeing you, then, I confess to you my sins in general, as I should have
done in particular, begging you, in God's name, to watch and pray
this night with me, for the remission of my sins, and to send me your
absolution and forgiveness for all the wrongs I have done you. I shall
try to see you in their presence, as they permitted it to my steward;
and if it is allowed, before all, and on my knees, I shall ask your
blessing. Send me the best prayers you know for this night and for
to-morrow morning; for the time is short, and I have not the leisure to
write; but be calm, I shall recommend you like the rest of my servants,
and your benefices above all will be secured to you. Farewell, for I
have not much more time. Send to me in writing everything you can find,
best for my salvation, in prayers and exhortations, I send you my last
Directly she had written this letter the queen began to make her will,
and at a stroke, with her pen running on and almost without lifting
it from the paper, she wrote two large sheets, containing several
paragraphs, in which no one was forgotten, present as absent,
distributing the little she had with scrupulous fairness, and still more
according to need than according to service. The executors she chose
were: the Duke of Guise, her first cousin; the Archbishop of Glasgow,
her ambassador; the Bishop of Ross, her chaplain in chief; and M. du
Ruysseau, her chancellor, all four certainly very worthy of the charge,
the first from his authority; the two bishops by piety and conscience,
and the last by his knowledge of affairs. Her will finished, she wrote
this letter to the King of France:
SIR MY BROTHER-IN-LAW,--Having, by God's permission and for my sins, I
believe, thrown myself into the arms of this queen, my cousin, where I
have had much to endure for more than twenty years, I am by her and
by her Parliament finally condemned to death; and having asked for my
papers, taken from me, to make my will, I have not been able to obtain
anything to serve me, not even permission to write my last wishes
freely, nor leave that after my death my body should be transported, as
was my dearest desire, into your kingdom, where I had had the honour of
being queen, your sister and your ally. To-day, after dinner, without
more respect, my sentence has been declared to me, to be executed
to-morrow, like a criminal, at eight o'clock in the morning. I have not
the leisure to give you a full account of what has occurred; but if it
please you to believe my doctor and these others my distressed servants,
you will hear the truth, and that, thanks to God, I despise death,
which I protest I receive innocent of every crime, even if I were their
subject, which I never was. But my faith in the Catholic religion and my
claims to the crown of England are the real causes for my condemnation,
and yet they will not allow me to say that it is for religion I die, for
my religion kills theirs; and that is so true, that they have taken my
chaplain from me, who, although a prisoner in the same castle, may
not come either to console me, or to give me the holy sacrament of the
eucharist; but, on the contrary, they have made me urgent entreaties to
receive the consolations of their minister whom they have brought for
this purpose. He who will bring you this letter, and the rest of my
servants, who are your subjects for the most part, will bear you witness
of the way in which I shall have performed my last act. Now it remains
to me to implore you, as a most Christian king, as my brother-in-law, as
my ancient ally, and one who has so often done me the honour to protest
your friendship for me, to give proof of this friendship, in your virtue
and your charity, by helping me in that of which I cannot without you
discharge my conscience--that is to say, in rewarding my good distressed
servants, by giving them their dues; then, in having prayers made to God
for a queen who has been called most Christian, and who dies a Catholic
and deprived of all her goods. As to my son, I commend him to you as
much as he shall deserve, for I cannot answer for him; but as to my
servants, I commend them with clasped hands. I have taken the liberty of
sending you two rare stones good for the health, hoping that yours may
be perfect during a long life; you will receive them as coming from your
very affectionate sister-in-law, at the point of death and giving proof
of her, good disposition towards you.
"I shall commend my servants to you in a memorandum, and will order you,
for the good of my soul, for whose salvation it will be employed, to pay
me a portion of what you owe me, if it please you, and I conjure you for
the honour of Jesus, to whom I shall pray to-morrow at my death,
that you leave me the wherewithal to found a mass and to perform the
"This Wednesday, two hours after midnight--Your affectionate and good
Of all these recommendations, the will and the letters, the queen at
once had copies made which she signed, so that, if some should be seized
by the English, the others might reach their destination. Bourgoin
pointed out to her that she was wrong to be in such a hurry to close
them, and that perhaps in two or three hours she would remember that she
had left something out. But the queen paid no attention, saying she was
sure she had not forgotten anything, and that if she had, she had only
time now to pray and to look to her conscience. So she shut up all the
several articles in the drawers of a piece of furniture and gave the key
to Bourgoin; then sending for a foot-bath, in which she stayed for about
ten minutes, she lay down in bed, where she was not seen to sleep, but
constantly to repeat prayers or to remain in meditation.
Towards four o'clock in the morning, the queen, who was accustomed,
after evening prayers, to have the story of some male or female saint
read aloud to her, did not wish to depart from this habit, and, after
having hesitated among several for this solemn occasion, she chose the
greatest sinner of all, the penitent thief, saying humbly--
"If, great sinner as he was, he has yet sinned less than I, I desire to
beg of him, in remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ; to, have pity
on me in the hour of my death, as Our Lord had pity on him."
Then, when the reading was over, she had all her handkerchiefs brought,
and chose the finest, which was of delicate cambric all embroidered in
gold, to bandage her eyes with.
At daybreak, reflecting that she had only two hours to live, she rose
and began dressing, but before she had finished, Bourgoin came into
her room, and, afraid lest the absent servants might murmur against the
queen, if by chance they were discontented at the will, and might accuse
those who had been present of having taken away from their share to
add to their own, he begged Mary to send for them all and to read it in
their presence; to which Mary agreed, and consented to do so at once.
All the servants were then summoned, and the queen read her testament,
saying that it was done of her own free, full and entire will, written
and signed with her own hand, and that accordingly she begged those
present to give all the help in their power in seeing it carried out
without change or omission; then, having read it over, and having
received a promise from all, she gave it to Bourgoin, charging him to
send it to M. de Guise, her chief executor, and at the same time
to forward her letters to the king and her principal papers and
memorandums: after this, she had the casket brought in which she had put
the purses which we mentioned before; she opened them one after
another, and seeing by the ticket within for whom each was intended, she
distributed them with her own hand, none of the recipients being aware
of their contents. These gifts varied from twenty to three hundred
crowns; and to these sums she added seven hundred livres for the poor,
namely, two hundred for the poor of England and five hundred for the
poor of France; then she gave to each man in her suite two rose nobles
to be distributed in alms for her sake, and finally one hundred and
fifty crowns to Bourgoin to be divided among them all when they should
separate; and thus twenty-six or twenty-seven people had money legacies.
The queen performed all this with great composure and calmness, with no
apparent change of countenance; so that it seemed as if she were only
preparing for a journey or change of dwelling; then she again bade her
servants farewell, consoling them and exhorting them to live in peace,
all this while finishing dressing as well and as elegantly as she could.
Her toilet ended, the queen went from her reception-room to her
ante-room, where there was an altar set up and arranged, at which,
before he had been taken from her, her chaplain used to say mass; and
kneeling on the steps, surrounded by all her servants, she began the
communion prayers, and when they were ended, drawing from a golden box a
host consecrated by Pius V, which she had always scrupulously preserved
for the occasion of her death, she told Bourgoin to take it, and, as
he was the senior, to take the priest's place, old age being holy and
sacred; and in this manner in spite of all the precautions taken
to deprive her of it, the queen received the holy sacrament of the
This pious ceremony ended, Bourgoin told the queen that in her will she
had forgotten three people--Mesdemoiselles Beauregard, de Montbrun, and
her chaplain. The queen was greatly astonished at this oversight, which
was quite involuntary, and, taking back her will, she wrote her wishes
with respect to them in the first empty margin; then she kneeled down
again in prayer; but after a moment, as she suffered too much in this
position, she rose, and Bourgoin having had brought her a little bread
and wine, she ate and drank, and when she had finished, gave him her
hand and thanked him for having been present to help her at her last
meal as he was accustomed; and feeling stronger, she kneeled down and
began to pray again.
Scarcely had she done so, than there was a knocking at the door: the
queen understood what was required of her; but as she had not finished
praying, she begged those who were come to fetch her to wait a moment,
and in a few minutes' she would be ready.
The Earls of Kent and Shrewsbury, remembering the resistance she had
made when she had had to go down to the commissioners and appear before
the lawyers, mounted some guards in the ante-room where they were
waiting themselves, so that they could take her away by force if
necessary, should she refuse to come willingly, or should her servants
want to defend her; but it is untrue that the two barons entered her
room, as some have said. They only set foot there once, on the occasion
which we have related, when they came to apprise her of her sentence.
They waited some minutes, nevertheless, as the queen had begged them;
then, about eight o'clock, they knocked again, accompanied by the
guards; but to their great surprise the door was opened immediately, and
they found Mary on her knees in prayer. Upon this, Sir Thomas Andrew,
who was at the time sheriff of the county of Nottingham, entered alone,
a white wand in his hand, and as everyone stayed on their knees praying,
he crossed the room with a slow step and stood behind the queen: he
waited a moment there, and as Mary Stuart did not seem to see him--
"Madam," said he, "the earls have sent me to you."
At these words the queen turned round, and at once rising in the middle
of her prayer, "Let us go," she replied, and she made ready to follow
him; then Bourgoin, taking the cross of black wood with an ivory Christ
which was over the altar, said--
"Madam, would you not like to take this little cross?"
"Thank you for having reminded me," Mary answered; "I had intended to,
but I forgot". Then, giving it to Annibal Stewart, her footman, that he
might present it when she should ask for it, she began to move to
the door, and on account of the great pain in her limbs, leaning on
Bourgoin, who, as they drew near, suddenly let her go, saying--
"Madam, your Majesty knows if we love you, and all, such as we are, are
ready to obey you, should you command us to die for you; but I, I have
not the strength to lead you farther; besides, it is not becoming that
we, who should be defending you to the last drop of our blood, should
seem to be betraying you in giving you thus into the hands of these
"You are right, Bourgoin," said the queen; "moreover, my death would
be a sad sight for you, which I ought to spare your age and your
friendship. Mr. Sheriff," added she, "call someone to support me, for
you see that I cannot walk."
The sheriff bowed, and signed to two guards whom he had kept hidden
behind the door to lend him assistance in case the queen should resist,
to approach and support her; which they at once did; and Mary Stuart
went on her way, preceded and followed by her servants weeping and
wringing their hands. But at the second door other guards stopped them,
telling them they must go no farther. They all cried out against such a
prohibition: they said that for the nineteen years they had been shut up
with the queen they had always accompanied her wherever she went; that
it was frightful to deprive their mistress of their services at the last
moment, and that such an order had doubtless been given because they
wanted to practise some shocking cruelty on her, of which they desired
no witnesses. Bourgoin, who was at their head, seeing that he could
obtain nothing by threats or entreaties, asked to speak with the earls;
but this claim was not allowed either, and as the servants wanted
to pass by force, the soldiers repulsed them with blows of their
arquebuses; then, raising her voice--
"It is wrong of you to prevent my servants following me," said the
queen, "and I begin to think, like them, that you have some ill designs
upon me beyond my death."
The sheriff replied, "Madam, four of your servants are chosen to follow
you, and no more; when you have come down, they will be fetched, and
will rejoin you."
"What!" said the queen, "the four chosen persons cannot even follow me
"The order is thus given by the earls," answered the sheriff, "and, to
my great regret, madam, I can do nothing."
Then the queen turned to them, and taking the cross from Annibal
Stewart, and in her other hand her book of Hours and her handkerchief,
"My children," said she, "this is one more grief to add to our other
griefs; let us bear it like Christians, and offer this fresh sacrifice
At these words sobs and cries burst forth on all sides: the unhappy
servants fell on their knees, and while some rolled on the ground,
tearing their hair, others kissed her hands, her knees, and the hem of
her gown, begging her forgiveness for every possible fault, calling
her their mother and bidding her farewell. Finding, no doubt, that this
scene was lasting too long, the sheriff made a sign, and the soldiers
pushed the men and women back into the room and shut the door on them;
still, fast as was the door, the queen none the less heard their cries
and lamentations, which seemed, in spite of the guards, as if they would
accompany her to the scaffold.
At the stair-head, the queen found Andrew Melville awaiting her: he was
the Master of her Household, who had been secluded from her for
some time, and who was at last permitted to see her once more to say
farewell. The queen, hastening her steps, approached him, and kneeling
down to receive his blessing, which he gave her, weeping--
"Melville," said she, without rising, and addressing him as "thou" for
the first time, "as thou hast been an honest servant to me, be the same
to my son: seek him out directly after my death, and tell him of it in
every detail; tell him that I wish him well, and that I beseech God to
send him His Holy Spirit."
"Madam," replied Melville, "this is certainly the saddest message with
which a man can be charged: no matter, I shall faithfully fulfil it, I
swear to you."
"What sayest thou, Melville?" responded the queen, rising; "and what
better news canst thou bear, on the contrary, than that I am delivered
from all my ills? Tell him that he should rejoice, since the sufferings
of Mary Stuart are at an end; tell him that I die a Catholic, constant
in my religion, faithful to Scotland and France, and that I forgive
those who put me to death. Tell him that I have always desired the union
of England and Scotland; tell him, finally, that I have done nothing
injurious to his kingdom, to his honour, or to his rights. And thus,
good Melville, till we meet again in heaven."
Then, leaning on the old man, whose face was bathed in tears, she
descended the staircase, at the foot of which she found the two earls,
Sir Henry Talbot, Lord Shrewsbury's son, Amyas Paulet, Drue Drury,
Robert Beale, and many gentlemen of the neighbourhood: the queen,
advancing towards them without pride, but without humility, complained
that her servants had been refused permission to follow her, and asked
that it should be granted. The lords conferred together; and a moment
after the Earl of Kent inquired which ones she desired to have,
saying she might be allowed six. So the queen chose from among the men
Bourgoin, Gordon, Gervais, and Didier; and from the women Jeanne Kennedy
and Elspeth Curle, the ones she preferred to all, though the latter was
sister to the secretary who had betrayed her. But here arose a fresh
difficulty, the earls saying that this permission did not extend to
women, women not being used to be present at such sights, and when they
were, usually upsetting everyone with cries and lamentations, and, as
soon as the decapitation was over, rushing to the scaffold to staunch
the blood with their handkerchiefs--a most unseemly proceeding.
"My lords," then said the queen, "I answer and promise for my servants,
that they will not do any of the things your honours fear. Alas! poor
people! they would be very glad to bid me farewell; and I hope that your
mistress, being a maiden queen, and accordingly sensitive for the honour
of women, has not given you such strict orders that you are unable to
grant me the little I ask; so much the more," added she in a profoundly
mournful tone, "that my rank should be taken into consideration; for
indeed I am your queen's cousin, granddaughter of Henry VII, Queen
Dowager of France and crowned Queen of Scotland."
The lords consulted together for another moment, and granted her
demands. Accordingly, two guards went up immediately to fetch the chosen
The queen then moved on to the great hall, leaning on two of Sir Amyas
Paulet's gentlemen, accompanied and followed by the earls and lords, the
sheriff walking before her, and Andrew Melville bearing her train. Her
dress, as carefully chosen as possible, as we have said, consisted of
a coif of fine cambric, trimmed with lace, with a lace veil thrown back
and falling to the ground behind. She wore a cloak of black stamped
satin lined with black taffetas and trimmed in front with sable, with a
long train and sleeves hanging to the ground; the buttons were of jet
in the shape of acorns and surrounded with pearls, her collar in the
Italian style; her doublet was of figured black satin, and underneath
she wore stays, laced behind, in crimson satin, edged with velvet of the
same colour; a gold cross hung by a pomander chain at her neck, and two
rosaries at her girdle: it was thus she entered the great hall where the
scaffold was erected.
It was a platform twelve feet wide, raised about two feet from the
floor, surrounded with barriers and covered with black serge, and on it
were a little chair, a cushion to kneel on, and a block also covered
in black. Just as, having mounted the steps, she set foot on the fatal
boards, the executioner came forward, and; asking forgiveness for the
duty he was about to perform, kneeled, hiding behind him his axe. Mary
saw it, however, and cried--
"Ah! I would rather have been beheaded in the French way, with a
"It is not my fault, madam," said the executioner, "if this last wish
of your Majesty cannot be fulfilled; but, not having been instructed to
bring a sword, and having found this axe here only, I am obliged to use
it. Will that prevent your pardoning me, then?"
"I pardon you, my friend," said Mary, "and in proof of it, here is my
hand to kiss."
The executioner put his lips to the queen's hand, rose and approached
the chair. Mary sat down, and the Earls of Kent and Shrewsbury standing
on her left, the sheriff and his officers before her, Amyas Paulet
behind, and outside the barrier the lords, knights, and gentlemen,
numbering nearly two hundred and fifty, Robert Beale for the second time
read the warrant for execution, and as he was beginning the servants
who had been fetched came into the hall and placed themselves behind the
scaffold, the men mounted upon a bench put back against the wall, and
the women kneeling in front of it; and a little spaniel, of which the
queen was very fond, came quietly, as if he feared to be driven away,
and lay down near his mistress.
The queen listened to the reading of the warrant without seeming to
pay much attention, as if it had concerned someone else, and with a
countenance as calm and even as joyous as if it had been a pardon and
not a sentence of death; then, when Beale had ended, and having ended,
cried in a loud voice, "God save Queen Elizabeth!" to which no one made
any response, Mary signed herself with the cross, and, rising without
any change of expression, and, on the contrary, lovelier than ever--
"My lords," said she, "I am a queen-born sovereign princess, and not
subject to law,--a near relation of the Queen of England, and her
rightful heir; for a long time I have been a prisoner in this country,
I have suffered here much tribulation and many evils that no one had
the right to inflict, and now, to crown all, I am about to lose my life.
Well, my lords, bear witness that I die in the Catholic faith, thanking
God for letting me die for His holy cause, and protesting, to-day as
every day, in public as in private, that I have never plotted, consented
to, nor desired the queen's death, nor any other thing against her
person; but that, on the contrary, I have always loved her, and have
always offered her good and reasonable conditions to put an end to the
troubles of the kingdom and deliver me from my captivity, without my
having ever been honoured with a reply from her; and all this, my lords,
you well know. Finally, my enemies have attained their end, which was
to put me to death: I do not pardon them less for it than I pardon
all those who have attempted anything against me. After my death, the
authors of it will be known. But I die without accusing anyone, for fear
the Lord should hear me and avenge me."
Upon this, whether he was afraid that such a speech by so great a queen
should soften the assembly too much, or whether he found that all
these words were making too much delay, the Dean of Peterborough placed
himself before Mary, and, leaning on the barrier--
"Madam," he said, "my much honoured mistress has commanded me to come to
you--" But at these words, Mary, turning and interrupting him:
"Mr. Dean," she answered in a loud voice, "I have nothing to do with
you; I do not wish to hear you, and beg you to withdraw."
"Madam," said the dean, persisting in spite of this resolve expressed in
such firm and precise terms, "you have but a moment longer: change your
opinions, abjure your errors, and put your faith in Jesus Christ alone,
that you may be saved through Him."
"Everything you can say is useless," replied the queen, "and you will
gain nothing by it; be silent, then, I beg you, and let me die in
And as she saw that he wanted to go on, she sat down on the other side
of the chair and turned her back to him; but the dean immediately walked
round the scaffold till he faced her again; then, as he was going to
speak, the queen turned about once more, and sat as at first. Seeing
which the Earl of Shrewsbury said--
"Madam, truly I despair that you are so attached to this folly of
papacy: allow us, if it please you, to pray for you."
"My lord," the queen answered, "if you desire to pray for me, I thank
you, for the intention is good; but I cannot join in your prayers, for
we are not of the same religion."
The earls then called the dean, and while the queen, seated in her
little chair, was praying in a low tone, he, kneeling on the scaffold
steps, prayed aloud; and the whole assembly except the queen and her
servants prayed after him; then, in the midst of her orison, which she
said with her Agnus Dei round her neck, a crucifix in one hand, and her
book of Hours in the other, she fell from her seat on to, her knees,
praying aloud in Latin, whilst the others prayed in English, and when
the others were silent, she continued in English in her turn, so that
they could hear her, praying for the afflicted Church of Christ, for an
end to the persecution of Catholics, and for the happiness of her son's
reign; then she said, in accents full of faith and fervour, that she
hoped to be saved by the merits of Jesus Christ, at the foot of whose
cross she was going to shed her blood.
At these words the Earl of Kent could no longer contain himself, and
without respect for the sanctity of the moment--
"Oh, madam," said he, "put Jesus Christ in your heart, and reject all
this rubbish of popish deceptions."
But she, without listening, went on, praying the saints to intercede
with God for her, and kissing the crucifix, she cried--
"Lord! Lord! receive me in Thy arms out stretched on the cross, and
forgive me all my sins!"
Thereupon,--she being again seated in the chair, the Earl of Kent asked
her if she had any confession to make; to which she replied that, not
being guilty of anything, to confess would be to give herself, the lie.
"It is well," the earl answered; "then, madam, prepare."
The queen rose, and as the executioner approached to assist her
"Allow me, my friend," said she; "I know how to do it better than you,
and am not accustomed to undress before so many spectators, nor to be
served by such valets."
And then, calling her two women, she began to unpin her coiffure, and as
Jeanne Kennedy and Elspeth Curle, while performing this last service for
their mistress, could not help weeping bitterly--
"Do not weep," she said to them in French; "for I have promised and
answered for you."
With these words, she made the sign of the cross upon the forehead of
each, kissed them, and recommended them to pray for her.
Then the queen began to undress, herself assisting, as she was wont to
do when preparing for bed, and taking the gold cross from her neck, she
wished to give it to Jeanne, saying to the executioner--
"My friend, I know that all I have upon me belongs to you; but this is
not in your way: let me bestow it, if you please, on this young lady,
and she will give you twice its value in money."
But the executioner, hardly allowing her to finish, snatched it from her
"It is my right."
The queen was not moved much by this brutality, and went on taking off
her garments until she was simply in her petticoat.
Thus rid of all her garb, she again sat down, and Jeanne Kennedy
approaching her, took from her pocket the handkerchief of
gold-embroidered cambric which she had prepared the night before, and
bound her eyes with it; which the earls, lords; and gentlemen looked
upon with great surprise, it not being customary in England, and as she
thought that she was to be beheaded in the French way--that is to say,
seated in the chair--she held herself upright, motionless, and with her
neck stiffened to make it easier for the executioner, who, for his part,
not knowing how to proceed, was standing, without striking, axe in
hand: at last the man laid his hand on the queen's head, and drawing
her forward, made her fall on her knees: Mary then understood what was
required of her, and feeling for the block with her hands, which were
still holding her book of Hours and her crucifix, she laid her neck on
it, her hands joined beneath her chin, that she might pray till the last
moment: the executioner's assistant drew them away, for fear they should
be cut off with her head; and as the queen was saying, "In manes teas,
Domine," the executioner raised his axe, which was simply an axe far
chopping wood, and struck the first blow, which hit too high, and
piercing the skull, made the crucifix and the book fly from the
condemned's hands by its violence, but which did not sever the head.
However, stunned with the blow, the queen made no movement, which gave
the executioner time to redouble it; but still the head did not fall,
and a third stroke was necessary to detach a shred of flesh which held
it to the shoulders.
At last, when the head was quite severed, the executioner held it up to
show to the assembly, saying:
"God save Queen Elizabeth!"
"So perish all Her Majesty's enemies!" responded the Dean of
"Amen," said the Earl of Kent; but he was the only one: no other voice
could respond, for all were choked with sobs.
At that moment the queen's headdress falling, disclosed her hair, cut
very short, and as white as if she had been aged seventy: as to her
face, it had so changed during her death-agony that no one would have
recognised it had he not known it was hers. The spectators cried out
aloud at this sign; for, frightful to see, the eyes were open, and
the lids went on moving as if they would still pray, and this muscular
movement lasted for more than a quarter of an hour after the head had
been cut off.
The queen's servants had rushed upon the scaffold, picking up the book
of Hours and the crucifix as relics; and Jeanne Kennedy, remembering
the little dog who had come to his mistress, looked about for him on all
sides, seeking him and calling him, but she sought and called in vain.
He had disappeared.
At that moment, as one of the executioners was untying the queen's
garters, which were of blue satin embroidered in silver, he saw the
poor little animal, which had hidden in her petticoat, and which he was
obliged to bring out by force; then, having escaped from his hands,
it took refuge between the queen's shoulders and her head, which the
executioner had laid down near the trunk. Jeanne took him then, in spite
of his howls, and carried him away, covered with blood; for everyone had
just been ordered to leave the hall. Bourgoin and Gervais stayed behind,
entreating Sir Amyas Paulet to let them take the queen's heart, that
they might carry it to France, as they had promised her; but they were
harshly refused and pushed out of the hall, of which all the doors were
closed, and there there remained only the executioner and the corpse.
Brantome relates that something infamous took place there!
Two hours after the execution, the body and the head were taken into the
same hall in which Mary Stuart had appeared before the commissioners,
set down on a table round which the judges had sat, and covered over
with a black serge cloth; and there remained till three o'clock in the
afternoon, when Waters the doctor from Stamford and the surgeon from
Fotheringay village came to open and embalm them--an operation which
they carried out under the eyes of Amyas Paulet and his soldiers,
without any respect for the rank and sex of the poor corpse, which was
thus exposed to the view of anyone who wanted to see it: it is true
that this indignity did not fulfil its proposed aim; for a rumour spread
about that the queen had swollen limbs and was dropsical, while, on the
contrary, there was not one of the spectators but was obliged to confess
that he had never seen the body of a young girl in the bloom of health
purer and lovelier than that of Mary Stuart, dead of a violent death
after nineteen years of suffering and captivity.
When the body was opened, the spleen was in its normal state, with the
veins a little livid only, the lungs yellowish in places, and the brain
one-sixth larger than is usual in persons of the same age and sex;
thus everything promised a long life to her whose end had just been so
A report having been made of the above, the body was embalmed after a
fashion, put in a leaden coffin and that in another of wood, which was
left on the table till the first day of August--that is, for nearly five
months--before anyone was allowed to come near it; and not only that,
but the English having noticed that Mary Stuart's unhappy servants,
who were still detained as prisoners, went to look at it through the
keyhole, stopped that up in such a way that they could not even gaze at
the coffin enclosing the body of her whom they had so greatly loved.
However, one hour after Mary Stuart's death, Henry Talbot, who had been
present at it, set out at full speed for London, carrying to Elizabeth
the account of her rival's death; but at the very first lines she read,
Elizabeth, true to her character, cried out in grief and indignation,
saying that her orders had been misunderstood, that there had been too
great haste, and that all this was the fault of Davison the Secretary
of State, to whom she had given the warrant to keep till she had made up
her mind, but not to send to Fotheringay. Accordingly, Davison was
sent to the Tower and condemned to pay a fine of ten thousand pounds
sterling, for having deceived the queen. Meanwhile, amid all this grief,
an embargo was laid on all vessels in all the ports of the realm, so
that the news of the death should not reach abroad, especially France,
except through skilful emissaries who could place the execution in the
least unfavourable light for Elizabeth. At the same time the scandalous
popular festivities which had marked the announcement of the sentence
again celebrated the tidings of the execution. London was illuminated,
bonfires lit, and the enthusiasm was such that the French Embassy was
broken into and wood taken to revive the fires when they began to die
Crestfallen at this event, M. de Chateauneuf was still shut up at
the Embassy, when, a fortnight later, he received an invitation from
Elizabeth to visit her at the country house of the Archbishop of
Canterbury. M. de Chateauneuf went thither with the firm resolve to
say no word to her on what had happened; but as soon as she saw him,
Elizabeth, dressed in black, rose, went to him, and, overwhelming him
with kind attentions, told him that she was ready to place all the
strength of her kingdom at Henry III's disposal to help him put down
the League. Chateauneuf received all these offers with a cold and severe
expression, without saying, as he had promised himself, a single word
about the event which had put both the queen and himself into mourning.
But, taking him by the hand, she drew him aside, and there, with deep
"Ah! sir, since I saw you the greatest misfortune which could befall me
has happened: I mean the death of my good sister, the Queen of Scotland,
of which I swear by God Himself, my soul and my salvation, that I
am perfectly innocent. I had signed the order, it is true; but my
counsellors have played me a trick for which I cannot calm myself; and
I swear to God that if it were not for their long service I would have
them beheaded. I have a woman's frame, sir, but in this woman's frame
beats a man's heart."
Chateauneuf bowed without a response; but his letter to Henry III and
Henry's answer prove that neither the one nor the other was the dupe of
this female Tiberius.
Meanwhile, as we have said, the unfortunate servants were prisoners,
and the poor body was in that great hall waiting for a royal interment.
Things remained thus, Elizabeth said, to give her time to order a
splendid funeral for her good sister Mary, but in reality because the
queen dared not place in juxtaposition the secret and infamous death
and the public and royal burial; then, was not time needed for the first
reports which it pleased Elizabeth to spread to be credited before the
truth should be known by the mouths of the servants? For the queen hoped
that once this careless world had made up its mind about the death of
the Queen of Scots, it would not take any further trouble to change it.
Finally, it was only when the warders were as tired as the prisoners,
that Elizabeth, having received a report stating that the ill-embalmed
body could no longer be kept, at last ordered the funeral to take place.
Accordingly, after the 1st of August, tailors and dressmakers arrived at
Fotheringay Castle, sent by Elizabeth, with cloth and black silk stuffs,
to clothe in mourning all Mary's servants. But they refused, not having
waited for the Queen of England's bounty, but having made their funeral
garments at their own expense, immediately after their mistress's death.
The tailors and dressmakers, however, none the less set so actively to
work that on the 7th everything was finished.
Next day, at eight o'clock in the evening, a large chariot, drawn by
four horses in mourning trappings, and covered with black velvet like
the chariot, which was, besides, adorned with little streamers on which
were embroidered the arms of Scotland, those of the queen, and the arms
of Aragon, those of Darnley, stopped at the gate of Fotheringay Castle.
It was followed by the herald king, accompanied by twenty gentlemen on
horseback, with their servants and lackeys, all dressed in mourning,
who, having alighted, mounted with his whole train into the room where
the body lay, and had it brought down and put into the chariot with all
possible respect, each of the spectators standing with bared head and in
This visit caused a great stir among the prisoners, who debated a while
whether they ought not to implore the favour of being allowed to follow
their mistress's body, which they could not and should not let go alone
thus; but just as they were about to ask permission to speak to the
herald king, he entered the room where they were assembled, and told
them that he was charged by his mistress, the august Queen of England,
to give the Queen of Scotland the most honourable funeral he could;
that, not wishing to fail in such a high undertaking, he had already
made most of the preparations for the ceremony, which was to take place
on the 10th of August, that is to say, two days later,--but that the
leaden shell in which the body was enclosed being very heavy, it was
better to move it beforehand, and that night, to where the grave was
dug, than to await the day of the interment itself; that thus they might
be easy, this burial of the shell being only a preparatory ceremony; but
that if some of them would like to accompany the corpse, to see what
was done with it, they were at liberty, and that those who stayed behind
could follow the funeral pageant, Elizabeth's positive desire being that
all, from first to last, should be present in the funeral procession.
This assurance calmed the unfortunate prisoners, who deputed Bourgoin,
Gervais, and six others to follow their mistress's body: these
were Andrew Melville, Stewart, Gorjon, Howard, Lauder, and Nicholas
At ten o'clock at night they set out, walking behind the chariot,
preceded by the herald, accompanied by men on foot, who carried torches
to light the way, and followed by twenty gentlemen and their
servants. In this manner, at two o'clock in the morning, they reached
Peterborough, where there is a splendid cathedral built by an ancient
Saxon king, and in which, on the left of the choir, was already interred
good Queen Catharine of Aragon, wife of Henry VIII, and where was her
tomb, still decked with a canopy bearing her arms.
On arriving, they found the cathedral all hung with black, with a dome
erected in the middle of the choir, much in the way in which 'chapelles
ardentes' are set up in France, except that there were no lighted
candles round it. This dome was covered with black velvet, and overlaid
with the arms of Scotland and Aragon, with streamers like those on the
chariot yet again repeated. The state coffin was already set up under
this dome: it was a bier, covered like the rest in black velvet fringed
with silver, on which was a pillow of the same supporting a royal crown.
To the right of this dome, and in front of the burial-place of Queen
Catharine of Aragon, Mary of Scotland's sepulchre had been dug: it was
a grave of brick, arranged to be covered later with a slab or a marble
tomb, and in which was to be deposited the coffin, which the Bishop of
Peterborough, in his episcopal robes, but without his mitre, cross,
or cope, was awaiting at the door, accompanied by his dean and several
other clergy. The body was brought into the cathedral, without chant or
prayer, and was let down into the tomb amid a profound silence. Directly
it was placed there, the masons, who had stayed their hands, set to
work again, closing the grave level with the floor, and only leaving an
opening of about a foot and a half, through which could be seen what was
within, and through which could be thrown on the coffin, as is customary
at the obsequies of kings, the broken staves of the officers and the
ensigns and banners with their arms. This nocturnal ceremony ended,
Melville, Bourgoin, and the other deputies were taken to the bishop's
palace, where the persons appointed to take part in the funeral
procession were to assemble, in number more than three hundred and
fifty, all chosen, with the exception of the servants, from among the
authorities, the nobility, and Protestant clergy.
The day following, Thursday, August the 9th, they began to hang the
banqueting halls with rich and sumptuous stuffs, and that in the sight
of Melville, Bourgoin, and the others, whom they had brought thither,
less to be present at the interment of Queen Mary than to bear witness
to the magnificence of Queen Elizabeth. But, as one may suppose,
the unhappy prisoners were indifferent to this splendour, great and
extraordinary as it was.
On Friday, August 10th, all the chosen persons assembled at the bishop's
palace: they ranged themselves in the appointed order, and turned their
steps to the cathedral, which was close by. When they arrived there,
they took the places assigned them in the choir, and the choristers
immediately began to chant a funeral service in English and according to
Protestant rites. At the first words of this service, when he saw it
was not conducted by Catholic priests, Bourgoin left the cathedral,
declaring that he would not be present at such sacrilege, and he was
followed by all Mary's servants, men and women, except Melville and
Barbe Mowbray, who thought that whatever the tongue in which one prayed,
that tongue was heard by the Lord. This exit created great scandal; but
the bishop preached none the less.
The sermon ended, the herald king went to seek Bourgoin and his
companions, who were walking in the cloisters, and told them that
the almsgiving was about to begin, inviting them to take part in this
ceremony; but they replied that being Catholics they could not make
offerings at an altar of which they disapproved. So the herald king
returned, much put out at the harmony of the assembly being disturbed by
this dissent; but the alms-offering took place no less than the sermon.
Then, as a last attempt, he sent to them again, to tell them that the
service was quite over, and that accordingly they might return for the
royal ceremonies, which belonged only to the religion of the dead; and
this time they consented; but when they arrived, the staves were broken,
and the banners thrown into the grave through the opening that the
workmen had already closed.
Then, in the same order in which it had come, the procession returned
to the palace, where a splendid funeral repast had been prepared. By a
strange contradiction, Elizabeth, who, having punished the living woman
as a criminal, had just treated the dead woman as a queen, had also
wished that the honours of the funeral banquet should be for the
servants, so long forgotten by her. But, as one can imagine, these ill
accommodated themselves to that intention, did not seem astonished
at this luxury nor rejoiced at this good cheer, but, on the contrary,
drowned their bread and wine in tears, without otherwise responding to
the questions put to them or the honours granted them. And as soon as
the repast was ended, the poor servants left Peterborough and took the
road back to Fotheringay, where they heard that they were free at last
to withdraw whither they would. They did not need to be told twice; for
they lived in perpetual fear, not considering their lives safe so long
as they remained in England. They therefore immediately collected all
their belongings, each taking his own, and thus went out of Fotheringay
Castle on foot, Monday, 13th August, 1587.
Bourgoin went last: having reached the farther side of the drawbridge,
he turned, and, Christian as he was, unable to forgive Elizabeth, not
for his own sufferings, but for his mistress's, he faced about to those
regicide walls, and, with hands outstretched to them, said in a loud and
threatening voice, those words of David: "Let vengeance for the blood
of Thy servants, which has been shed, O Lord God, be acceptable in
Thy sight". The old man's curse was heard, and inflexible history is
burdened with Elizabeth's punishment.
We said that the executioner's axe, in striking Mary Stuart's head, had
caused the crucifix and the book of Hours which she was holding to fly
from her hands. We also said that the two relics had been picked up
by people in her following. We are not aware of what became of the
crucifix, but the book of Hours is in the royal library, where those
curious about these kinds of historical souvenirs can see it: two
certificates inscribed on one of the blank leaves of the volume
demonstrate its authenticity. These are they:
"We the undersigned Vicar Superior of the strict observance of the Order
of Cluny, certify that this book has been entrusted to us by order of
the defunct Dom Michel Nardin, a professed religious priest of our said
observance, deceased in our college of Saint-Martial of Avignon, March
28th, 1723, aged about eighty years, of which he has spent about thirty
among us, having lived very religiously: he was a German by birth, and
had served as an officer in the army a long time.
"He entered Cluny, and made his profession there, much detached from
all this world's goods and honours; he only kept, with his superior's
permission, this book, which he knew had been in use with Mary Stuart,
Queen of England and Scotland, to the end of her life.
"Before dying and being parted from his brethren, he requested that, to
be safely remitted to us, it should be sent us by mail, sealed. Just
as we have received it, we have begged M. L'abbe Bignon, councillor of
state and king's librarian, to accept this precious relic of the piety
of a Queen of England, and of a German officer of her religion as well
as of ours.
"(Signed) BROTHER GERARD PONCET,
"We, Jean-Paul Bignon, king's librarian, are very happy to have an
opportunity of exhibiting our zeal, in placing the said manuscript in
His Majesty's library.
"8th July, 1724."
"(Signed) JEAN-PAUL BIGNAN."
This manuscript, on which was fixed the last gaze of the Queen of
Scotland, is a duodecimo, written in the Gothic character and containing
Latin prayers; it is adorned with miniatures set off with gold,
representing devotional subjects, stories from sacred history, or from
the lives of saints and martyrs. Every page is encircled with arabesques
mingled with garlands of fruit and flowers, amid which spring up
grotesque figures of men and animals.
As to the binding, worn now, or perhaps even then, to the woof, it is in
black velvet, of which the flat covers are adorned in the centre with
an enamelled pansy, in a silver setting surrounded by a wreath, to which
are diagonally attached from one corner of the cover to the other, two
twisted silver-gilt knotted cords, finished by a tuft at the two ends.