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Mary's Marriage Personal Appearance And Popularity

Mary The Queen Dauphiness The Queen And The Queen Dowager Of France

Occurrences Immediately Preceding Darnley's Death

An Examination Of The Letters Sonnets And Other Writings Adduced In Evidence Against Mary Queen Of Scots

A Tangle

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Queen Mary's Presence Chamber

Evidence






John Knox The Reformers And The Turbulent Nobles








Mary had been only a few days in Scotland when she was painfully reminded
of the excited and dangerous state of feeling which then prevailed on the
important subject of Religion. Her great and leading desire was to
conciliate all parties, and to preserve, unbroken, the public peace. With
this view she had issued proclamations, charging her subjects to conduct
themselves quietly; and announcing her intention to make no alteration in
the form of religion as existing in the country at her arrival.
Notwithstanding these precautions, the first breach of civil order took
place at the very Palace of Holyroodhouse. Mary had intimated her
intention to attend the celebration of a solemn mass in her chapel, on
Sunday the 24th of August, 1561, the first Sunday she spent in Scotland.
The Reformers, as soon as they got the upper hand, had prohibited this
service under severe penalties, and these principles of intolerance they
were determined to maintain. Mary had not interfered with their mode of
worship; but this was not enough;--they considered themselves called upon
to interfere with hers. In anticipation of the mass, for which she had
given orders, the godly, Knox tells us, met together and said,--"Shall
that idol be suffered again to take place within this realm? It shall
not." They even repented that they had not pulled down the chapel itself
at the time they had demolished most of the other religious houses; for
the sparing of any place where idols were worshipped was, in their
opinion, "the preserving the accursed thing." When Sunday arrived, a crowd
collected on the outside of the chapel; and Lord Lindsay, whose bigotry
has been already mentioned, called out with fiery zeal,--"The idolatrous
priests shall die the death, according to God's law." The Catholics were
insulted as they entered the chapel, and the tumult increased so much,
that they feared to commence the service. At length, the Lord James, whose
superior discrimination taught him, that his party, by pushing things to
this extremity, were doing their cause more harm than good, stationed
himself at the door, and declared he would allow no evil-disposed person
to enter. His influence with the godly was such, that they ventured not to
proceed to violence against his will. He was a good deal blamed, however,
by Knox for his conduct. When the service was concluded, Lord James's two
brothers were obliged to conduct the priests home, as a protection to them
from the insults of the people; and in the afternoon, crowds collected in
the neighbourhood of the palace, who, by their disloyal language and
turbulent proceedings, signified to the Queen their disapprobation, that
she had dared to worship her God in the manner which seemed to herself
most consistent, both with the revealed and natural law. Many of Mary's
friends, who had accompanied her from France, were so disgusted with the
whole of this scene, that they announced their intention of returning
sooner than they might otherwise have done. "Would to God," exclaims Knox,
"that altogether, with the mass, they had taken good-night of the realm
for ever!"

On the following Sunday, Knox took the opportunity of preaching, what
Keith might have termed, another "thundering sermon" against idolatry. In
this discourse he declared, that one mass was more fearful to him than ten
thousand armed enemies would be, landed in any part of the realm on
purpose to suppress the whole religion. No one will deny, that the earlier
Reformers of this and all other countries would, naturally and properly,
look upon Popish rites with far greater abhorrence than is done by the
strictest Protestants of more modern times. Nor is it wonderful that the
ablest men among them, (and John Knox was one of those), should have given
way so far to the feelings of the age, as to be unable to draw the exact
line of distinction between the improvements of the new gospel, and the
imperfections of the old. The faith which they established, was of a
purer, simpler, and better kind than that from which they were converted.
Yet, making all these allowances, there does seem to have been something
unnecessarily overbearing and illiberal in the spirit which animated Knox
and some of his followers. When contrasted with the mildness of Mary at
least, and even with the greater moderation observed in some of the other
countries of Europe, where the Reformation was making no less rapid
progress, the anti-Catholic ardor of the good people of Scotland must be
allowed to have over-stepped considerably the just limits of Christian
forbearance. It is useful also to observe the inconsistencies which still
existed in the Reformed faith. Whilst the Catholic religion was
reprobated, Catholic customs springing out of that religion do not seem to
have called forth any censure. On the very day on which Knox preached the
sermon already mentioned, a great civic banquet was given by the city of
Edinburgh to Mary's uncles, the Duke Danville, and other of her French
friends; and, generally speaking, Sunday was, throughout the country, the
favourite day for festivities of all kinds.

The mark of attention paid to her relations pleased Mary, but her pleasure
was rendered imperfect, by perceiving how powerful and unlooked for an
enemy both she and they had in John Knox. Aware of the liberal manner in
which she had treated him and his party, she thought it hard that he
should so unremittingly exert his influence to stir up men's minds against
her. That this influence was of no insignificant kind, is attested by very
sufficient evidence. Knox was not a mere polemical churchman. His friends
and admirers intrusted to him their temporal as well as spiritual
interests. He was often selected as an umpire in civil disputes of
importance; and persons whom the Town-council had determined to punish for
disorderly conduct, were continually requesting his intercession in their
behalf. When differences fell out even among the nobility, he was not
uncommonly employed to adjust them. He was besides, at that time, the only
established clergyman in Edinburgh who taught the Reformed doctrines.
There was a minister in the Canongate, and another in the neighbouring
parish of St Cuthberts, but Knox was the minister of Edinburgh. He
preached in the church of St Giles, which was capable of holding three
thousand persons. To this numerous audience he held forth twice every
Sunday, and thrice on other days during the week. He was regular too in
his attendance at the meetings of the Synod and the General Assembly, and
was frequently commissioned to travel through the country to disseminate
gospel truth. In 1563, but not till then, a colleague was appointed to
him.

Animated by a sincere desire to soften if possible our Reformer's austere
temper, Mary requested that he might be brought into her presence two days
after he had delivered his sermon against idolatry. Knox had no objection
whatever to this interview. To have it granted him at all would show his
friends the importance attached to his character and office; and from the
manner in which he determined to carry himself through it, he hoped to
strengthen his reputation for bold independence of sentiment, and
undeviating adherence to his principles. This was so far well; but Knox
unfortunately mingled rudeness with his courage, and stubbornness with his
consistency.

Mary opened the conversation by expressing her surprise that he should
have formed so very unfavourable an opinion of herself; and requested to
know what could have induced him to commence his calumnies against her so
far back as 1559, when he published his book upon the "monstrous
government of women." Knox answered, that learned men in all ages
considered their judgments free, and that, if these judgments sometimes
differed from the common judgment of mankind, they were not to blame. He
then ventured to compare his "First Blast of the Trumpet" to Plato's work
"On the Commonwealth," observing, with much self-complacency, that both
these books contained many new sentiments. He added, that what he had
written was directed most especially against Mary--"that wicked Jezabel of
England." The Queen, perceiving that this was a mere subterfuge, said, "Ye
speak of women in general." Knox confessed that he did so, but again went
the length of assuring her, though the assurance seems to involve a
contradiction, that he had said nothing "intended to trouble her estate."

Satisfied with this concession, Mary proceeded to ask, why he could not
teach the people a new religion without exciting them to hold in contempt
the authority of their Sovereign? Knox found it necessary to answer this
question in a somewhat round-about manner. "If all the seed of Abraham,"
said he, "should have been of the religion of Pharaoh, what religion
should there have been in the world? Or if all men, in the days of the
Roman Emperors, should have been of the religion of the Roman Emperors,
what religion should have been on the face of the earth? Daniel and his
fellows were subject to Nebuchadnezzar and unto Darius, and yet they would
not be of their religion." "Yea," replied Mary promptly, "but none of
these men raised the sword against their princes." "Yet you cannot deny
that they resisted," said Knox, refining a little too much; "for those who
obey not the commandment given them, do in some sort resist." "But yet,"
said the Queen, perceiving the quibble, "they resisted not with the
sword." The Reformer felt that he had been driven into a corner, and
determined to get out of it at whatever cost. "God, Madam," said he, "had
not given unto them the power and the means." "Think ye," asked Mary,
"that subjects having the power may resist their princes?" "If princes
exceed their bounds, Madam," said Knox, evidently departing from the
point, "no doubt they may be resisted even by power." He proceeded to
fortify this opinion with arguments of no very loyal kind; and Mary,
overcome by a rudeness and presumption she had been little accustomed to,
was for some time silent. Nay, Randolph, in one of his letters, affirms
that he "knocked so hastily upon her heart that he made her weep." At
length she said, "I perceive then that my subjects shall obey you, and not
me, and will do what they please, and not what I command; and so must I be
subject to them, and not they to me." Knox answered, that a subjection
unto God and his Church was the greatest dignity that flesh could enjoy
upon the face of the earth, for it would raise it to everlasting glory.
"But you are not the Church that I will nourish," said Mary; "I will
defend the Church of Rome, for it is, I think, the true Church of God."
Knox's coarse and discourteous answer shows that he was alike ignorant of
the delicacy with which, in this argument, he should have treated a
lady, and of the respect a queen was entitled to demand. "Your will,
Madam," said he, "is no reason; neither doth your thought make the Roman
harlot to be the true and immaculate spouse of Jesus Christ. Wonder not,
Madam, that I call Rome a harlot, for that Church is altogether polluted
with all kinds of spiritual fornication, both in doctrine and manners."
Whilst this speech must have deeply wounded the feelings of Mary, a
sincere Catholic as she was, it cannot entitle the Reformer to any praise
on the score of its bravery and independence. Knox knew that the whole
country would, in a few days, be full of his conference with the Queen. By
yielding to her, he had nothing to gain; and, as his reputation was his
dearest possession, he hoped to increase it by an unmanly display of his
determined zeal. Mary, perceiving what sort of a man she had to deal
with, soon afterwards broke off the conversation.

On the same day that the Queen gave Knox this audience, she made her first
public entry into Edinburgh. She rode up the Canongate and High Street, to
the Castle, where a banquet had been prepared for her. She was greeted, as
she passed along, with every mark of respect and loyalty; and pains had
been taken to give to the whole procession, as striking and splendid an
air as possible. The Town had issued proclamations, requiring the citizens
to appear in their best attire, and advising the young men to assume a
uniform, that they might make "the convoy before the court more
triumphant." When Mary left the castle after dinner, on her way back, a
pageant which had been prepared was exhibited on the Castle Hill. The
Reformers could not allow this opportunity to pass, without reminding her
that she was now in a country where their authority was paramount. The
greater part of this pageant, represented the terrible vengeance of God
upon idolaters. It was even, at one time, intended to have had a priest
burned in effigy; but the Earl of Huntly declared, he would not allow so
gross an insult to be offered to his sovereign.

Soon after paying this compliment to the City of Edinburgh, Mary
determined upon making a progress through the country, that she and her
subjects might become better acquainted with each other. She made this
progress upon horseback, accompanied by a pretty numerous train. There
appears at the time to have been only one wheeled carriage in Scotland. It
was a chariot, (as it is called in the treasurer's books), probably of a
rude enough construction, which Margaret of England brought with her when
she married James IV. Mary, no doubt, knew that it would have been rather
adventurous to have attempted travelling on the Scotch roads of that day
in so frail and uncertain a vehicle. It is not, however, to be supposed,
that a Queen such as Mary, with her Lords and Ladies well-mounted around
her, could pass through her native country without being the object of
universal admiration, even without the aid of so wonderful a piece of
mechanism as a coach or a chariot. Her first stage was to the palace at
Linlithgow. Here she remained a day or two, and then proceeded to
Stirling. On the night of her arrival there, she made a very narrow
escape. As she lay in bed asleep, a candle, that was burning beside her,
set fire to the curtains; and had the light and heat not speedily awakened
her, when she immediately exerted her usual presence of mind, she might
have been burned to death. The populace said at the time, that this was
the fulfilment of a very old prophecy, that a Queen should be burned at
Stirling. It was only the bed, however, not the Queen that was burned, so
that the prophet must have made a slight mistake. On the Sunday she spent
at Stirling, the Lord James, finding perhaps, that his former apparent
defence of the mass, had hurt his reputation among the Reformers,
corrected the error by behaving with singular impropriety in the Royal
chapel. He was assisted by the Lord Justice General, the Earl of Argyle,
in conjunction with whom he seems to have come to actual blows with the
priests. This affair was considered good sport by many. "But there were
others," says Randolph, alluding probably to Mary, "that shed a tear or
two." "It was reserved," Chalmer's remarks, "for the Prime Minister and
the Justice General, to make a riot in the house which had been
dedicated to the service of God, and to obstruct the service in the
Queen's presence."

Leaving Stirling, Mary spent a night at Lesly Castle, the seat of the Earl
of Rothes, a Catholic nobleman. On the 16th of September she entered
Perth. She was everywhere welcomed with much apparent satisfaction; but in
the midst of their demonstrations of affection, her subjects always took
care to remind her that they were Presbyterians, and that she was a
Papist. In the very pious town of Perth, pageants greeted her arrival
somewhat similar to those which had been exhibited to her on the Castle
Hill at Edinburgh. Mary was not a little affected by observing this
constant determination to wound her feelings. In riding through the
streets of Perth, she became suddenly faint, and was carried from her
horse to her lodging. Her acute sensibility often produced similar effects
upon her health, although the cause was not understood by the unrefined
multitude. With St Andrews, the seat of the Commendatorship of the Lord
James, she seems to have been most pleased, and remained there several
days. She returned to Edinburgh by the end of September, passing, on the
way, through Falkland, where her father had died. Knox was much distressed
at the manifestation of the popular feeling in favour of Mary during this
journey. He consoles himself by saying, that she polluted the towns
through which she passed with her idolatry; and in allusion to the
accident at Stirling, remarks, "Fire followed her very commonly on that
journey."

It was, perhaps, to counteract, in some degree, the impression which
Mary's affability and beauty had made upon her subjects, that soon after
her return to Edinburgh, a very singular proclamation was issued by the
civil authorities of that town. It was couched in the following
terms:--"October 2. 1561. On which day the Provost, Baillies, Council, and
all the Deacons, perceiving the Priests, Monks, Friars, and others of the
wicked rabble of the Anti-Christ the Pope, to resort to this town,
contrary to the tenor of a previous proclamation; therefore ordain the
said proclamation, charging all Monks, Friars, Priests, Nuns, Adulterers,
Fornicators, and all such filthy persons, to remove themselves out of this
town and bounds thereof, within twenty-four hours, under the pain of
carting through the town, burning on the cheek, and perpetual
banishment." The insult offered to the Sovereign of the realm, by thus
attempting to confound the professors of the old religion with the most
depraved characters in the country, was too gross to be allowed to pass
unnoticed. Mary did not bring these bigoted magistrates to trial,--she did
not even imprison them, but with much mildness, though with no less
firmness, she ordered the Town-Council instantly to deprive the Provost
and Baillies of the offices they held, and to elect other better qualified
persons in their stead.

During the remainder of the year 1561, the only public affairs of
consequence, were the appointment of the Lord James as the Queen's
Lieutenant on the Borders, where he proceeded to hold courts, and
endeavoured, by great severity and many capital punishments, to reduce the
turbulent districts to something like order; and the renewal on the part
of Queen Elizabeth of the old dispute concerning the treaty of Edinburgh.
Mary, having now had the benefit of advice from her Council, without
directly refusing what Elizabeth asked, gave her, in pretty plain terms,
to understand, that she could never think of signing away her hereditary
title and interest to the Crown of England. "We know," she says, in a
letter she wrote to Elizabeth on the subject, "how near we are descended
of the blood of England, and what devices have been attempted to make us,
as it were, a stranger from it. We trust, being so nearly your cousin, you
would be loth we should receive so manifest an injury, as entirely to be
debarred from that title, which, in possibility, may fall to us."

Most of Mary's French friends had, by this time, returned home. Her uncle,
the Marquis D'Elbeuf, however, remained all winter with her. In losing the
Duke of Danville, Mary lost one of her warmest admirers; but it appears,
that from his being already married, (though he could have obtained a
divorce,) and from other considerations, Mary rejected his addresses. Many
foreign princes were suing for the honour of her alliance, among whom were
Don Carlos of Spain, the Archduke Charles of Austria, the King of Sweden,
the Duke of Ferrara, and the Prince of Conde; but Mary did not yet see the
necessity of an immediate marriage. Among her own subjects, there were two
who ventured upon confessing their attachment, and nourishing some hopes
that she might be brought to view it propitiously. These were the Earl of
Arran, already mentioned, and Sir John Gordon, second son of the Earl of
Huntly. The former of these Mary never liked; and though the latter far
excelled him in accomplishments, both of body and mind, she does not seem
to have given him encouragement either. Inspired by mutual jealousy, these
noblemen, of course, detested each other; but Arran was the more factious
and absurd. Having taken offence at some slights which he supposed had
been offered him, he had retired to St Andrews, where he was believed, by
those who knew his restless temperament, to be hatching sedition. Upon one
occasion--a Sunday night in November--just before the Queen had retired to
bed, a report was suddenly spread through the palace, that Arran had
crossed the water at the head of a strong body of retainers, and was
marching direct for Holyroodhouse, with the intention of carrying off the
Queen to Dumbarton Castle, which was in the possession of his father, or
to some other place of strength. This report, which gained credit, it was
scarcely known how, excited the greatest alarm. Mary's friends collected
round her with as much speed as possible; the gates were closed, and the
Lords remained in arms within the court all night. Arran did not make his
appearance, and the panic gradually subsided,--though the nobles
determined to keep guard every night for some time. This is the foundation
of the assertion made by some writers, that Mary kept a perpetual body
guard, which, unfortunately, she never did during the whole of her reign.
The Duke of Chatelherault, who came to Court soon after, alleged, that the
rumour which had gained credence against his son, was only a manoeuvre
of his enemies; and though his son's conduct was, on all occasions,
sufficiently outre, it is not unlikely that this allegation was true.

Another tumult, which soon afterwards occurred, shows how difficult it
was, at this time, to preserve quietness and good order. It had been
reported among the more dissolute nobles, that the daughter of a
respectable merchant in Edinburgh, was the chere amie of the Earl of
Arran. Bothwell, always at home in any affair of this kind, undertook to
introduce the Marquis D'Elbeuf to the lady; Lord John, brother of the
Commendator of St Andrews, was also of the party. They went to her house
the first night in masks, and were admitted, and courteously entertained.
Returning next evening, they were disappointed to find, that the object of
their admiration refused to receive their visits any longer. They
proceeded, therefore, to break open the doors, and to create much
disturbance in the house and neighbourhood. Next day the Queen was
informed of their disorderly conduct, and she rebuked them sharply. But
Bothwell and the Lord John, animated partly by their dislike to the house
of Hamilton, and partly by a turbulent spirit of contradiction, declared
they would repeat their visit the very next night in despite of either
friend or foe. Their intentions being understood, the servants of the Duke
of Chatelherault and Arran thought themselves called upon to defend a lady
whom their masters patronized. They assembled accordingly with jack and
spear in the streets, determined to oppose force to force. Bothwell wished
for nothing else, and collected his friends about him in his own lodgings.
The opposite party, however, increased much more rapidly than his, and
began to collect in a threatening manner before his house. The magistrates
saw the necessity of interfering; the alarm-bell was rung, and despatches
were sent off to Holyrood, to know what course was to be taken. The Earls
of Argyle and Huntly, together with the Lord James, joined the civic
authorities, and, proceeding out to the mob, made proclamation, that all
men should instantly depart on pain of death. This had the desired effect;
the streets gradually became quiet, and Bothwell gave up his wild scheme.
Mary, next day, ordered both the Duke of Chatelherault and the Earl of
Bothwell to appear before her. The first came accompanied by a crowd of
Protestants, and the latter with an equal number of Catholics. But the
Queen was not to be over-awed, and having investigated the matter,
Bothwell was banished from Court for ten days.

This was only the prelude to a still more serious difference, which took
place between these untamed and irascible nobles. The Earl of Arran
appeared before the Queen, and declared that a powerful conspiracy had
been formed against the life of the Lord James, upon whom the title of
Earl of Mar, as preliminary to that of Murray, had recently been
conferred. This conspiracy, he said, had originated with himself and his
father, who were beginning to tremble, lest the newly created Earl's
influence with the Queen, might induce her to set aside the Hamilton
succession, in favour of her illegitimate brother. That the Earl of Mar
had really proposed some such arrangement, seems to be established on good
authority. The Earl of Huntly, together with Mar's old enemy,
Bothwell, had been induced by the Hamiltons to join in this plot. The
intention was, to shoot the Earl of Mar when hunting with the Queen, to
obtain for the Hamiltons his authority in the government, and to give the
Catholic party greater weight in the state. Huntly's eldest son, the Lord
Gordon, was also implicated in Arran's confession. A few days before the
whole of these plans were to be carried into execution, the weak and
vacillating Arran, according to his own declaration, had been seized with
remorse of conscience; and, actuated by his ancient friendship for Mar,
and his love for the Queen, determined on disclosing every thing.

Historians seem to have been puzzled, what degree of dependence they
should place upon the truth of this strange story, told by one who was
already half crazed, and soon afterwards altogether insane. That there is
good reason, however, for giving credit to his assertions, is evident,
from the manner in which all contemporary writers speak, and the fact,
that the Queen sent both him and Bothwell to prison. When the affair was
further investigated, it was found to involve so many of the first
nobility of the land, and among others, Arran's own father,
Chaltelherault, whom he could never be expected publicly to accuse, that
Mary resolved not to push matters to extremity against any one. She
ordered the Duke of Chatelherault, however, to deliver up the Castle of
Dumbarton; and, at the Earl of Mar's instigation, she kept Bothwell a
prisoner, first in the Castle of St Andrews, and afterwards in that of
Edinburgh, until he made his escape, and left the country for upwards of
two years. It is remarkable, that this conspiracy should not have been
hitherto dwelt upon at greater length, tending as it does to develope the
secret motives by which the Earl of Mar was actuated in his subsequent
feuds with the Earl of Huntly. It is worth recollecting too, though
the fact has not been previously noticed, that this was the first
occasion on which Bothwell aimed at making himself master of the Queen's
person. The design, though unsuccessful, shows the spirit which long
continued to actuate him. Had Mary fallen into his hands at this period,
it is not likely that she would ever have had it in her power to marry
Darnley, and the whole complexion of her fate might have been changed.

In February 1562, Mary gave a series of splendid entertainments, on the
occasion of the marriage of her favourite brother, James. He was then in
the thirty-first year of his age, and chose for his wife Lady Agnes Keith,
eldest daughter of the Earl of Marschal. The marriage was solemnized in
the church of St Giles; and Knox took advantage of the occasion, to offer
the Lord James a wholesome, but somewhat curiously expressed advice;
"for," said the preacher to him, "unto this day has the kirk of God
received comfort by you, and by your labours; in the which, if hereafter
you shall be found fainter than you were before, it will be said that your
wife has changed your nature." Knox and his friends were subsequently much
scandalized by "the greatness of the banquetting, and the vanity thereof,"
which characterized the honeymoon. The issue of this marriage was three
daughters, two of whom married Scotch noblemen, and the third died
young.

In August 1562, Mary commenced the progress into the North, which, in so
far as some of her principal nobility were concerned, was attended with
such very important consequences.





Next: Mary's Expedition To The North

Previous: Mary's Arrival At Holyrood With Sketches Of Her Principal Nobility



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