Home  -  Tutor Videos / Shows   -  Queen Victoria   -  Queen Elizabeth   -  Queen Mary   -  Queen Adelaide   -  Catherine of Aragon   -  King Henry the VIII   -  Windsor Castle

Most Viewed

Mary's Marriage Personal Appearance And Popularity

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

A Tangle

Occurrences Immediately Preceding Darnley's Death

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

The Little Waif

Rizzio

Addendum

Mary's Birth And Subsequent Residence At The French Court

The Fall Of Bothwell



Least Viewed

Loch Leven Castle

The Ebbing Well

The Love Token

My Lady's Remorse

Wingfield Manor

Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity

Return To Scotland

Mary's Reception In England And The Conferences At York And Westminster

Ten Years After

The Huckstering Woman






Mary's Birth And Subsequent Residence At The French Court








Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, was the third child of James V. and his wife,
Mary of Guise. That lady had born him previously two sons, both of whom
died in infancy. Mary came into the world on the 7th of December 1542, in
the Palace of Linlithgow. She was only seven days old when she lost
her father, who at the time of her birth lay sick in the Palace of
Falkland. James died, as he had lived, with a kingly and gallant spirit.
In the language of Pitscottie, he turned him upon his back, and looked and
beheld all his nobles and lords about him, and, giving a little smile of
laughter, kissed his hand, and offered it to them. When they had pressed
it to their lips for the last time, he tossed up his arms, and yielded his
spirit to God. James was considered one of the most handsome men of his
day. He was above the middle stature; his hair flowed luxuriantly over his
shoulders in natural ringlets, and was of a dark yellow or auburn colour;
his eyes were gray, and very penetrating; his voice was sweet toned; and
the general expression of his countenance uncommonly prepossessing. He
inherited a vigorous constitution, and kept it sound and healthy by
constant exercise, and by refraining from all excesses in eating or
drinking. He was buried in the Royal Vault in the Chapel of Holyrood
House, where his embalmed body, in a state of entire preservation, was
still to be seen in the time of the historian Keith.

The young Queen was crowned by Cardinal Beaton at Stirling, on the 9th of
September 1543. Her mother, who watched over her with the most careful
anxiety, had been told a report prevailed that the infant was sickly, and
not likely to live. To disprove this calumny, she desired Janet Sinclair,
Mary's nurse, to unswaddle her in the presence of the English Ambassador,
who wrote to his own court that she was as goodly a child as he had seen
of her age.

Soon after her birth, the Parliament nominated Commissioners, to whom they
intrusted the charge of the Queen's person, leaving all her other
interests to the care of her mother. The two first years of her life, Mary
spent at Linlithgow, where it appears she had the small-pox, a point of
some importance, as one of her historians remarks, in the biography of a
beauty and a queen. The disease must have been of a particularly
gentle kind, having left behind no visible traces. During the greater
part of the years 1545, 46 and 47, she resided at Stirling Castle, in the
keeping of Lords Erskine and Livingstone. Here she received the first
rudiments of education from two ecclesiastics, who were appointed her
preceptors, more, however, as matter of form, than from any use they could
be of to her at so early an age. When the internal disturbances of the
country rendered even Stirling Castle a somewhat dangerous residence, Mary
was removed to Inchmahome, a sequestered island in the Lake of Monteith.
That she might not be too lonely, and that a spirit of generous emulation
might present her with an additional motive for the prosecution of her
studies, the Queen Dowager selected four young ladies of rank as her
companions and playmates. They were each about her daughter's age, and
either from chance, or because the conceit seemed natural, they all bore
the same surname. The four Maries were, Mary Beaton, a niece of Cardinal
Beaton, Mary Fleming, daughter of Lord Fleming, Mary Livingstone, whose
father was one of the young Queen's guardians, and Mary Seaton, daughter
of Lord Seaton.

Mary having remained upwards of two years in this island, those who had,
at the time, the disposal of her future destiny, thought it expedient, for
reasons which have been already explained, that she should be removed to
France. She was accordingly, in the fifth year of her age, taken to
Dumbarton, where she was delivered to the French Admiral, whose vessels
were waiting to receive her, and attended by the Lords Erskine and
Livingstone, her three natural brothers, and her four Maries, she left
Scotland.

The thirteen happiest years of Mary's life were spent in France. Towards
the end of July 1548, she sailed from Dumbarton, and, after a tempestuous
voyage, landed at Brest on the 14th of August. She was there received, by
Henry II.'s orders, with all the honours due to her rank and royal
destiny. She travelled, with her retinue, by easy stages, to the palace at
St Germain En Laye; and to mark the respect that was paid to her, the
prison-gates of every town she came to were thrown open, and the prisoners
set free. Shortly after her arrival, she was sent, along with the King's
own daughters, to one of the first convents in France, where young ladies
of distinction were instructed in the elementary branches of education.

The natural quickness of her capacity, and the early acuteness of her
mind, now began to manifest themselves. She made rapid progress in
acquiring that species of knowledge suited to her years, and her lively
imagination went even the length of attaching a more than ordinary
interest to the calm and secluded life of a nunnery. It was whispered,
that she had already expressed a wish to separate herself forever from the
world; and it is not improbable, that had this wish been allowed to foster
itself silently in her bosom, Mary might ultimately have taken the veil,
in which case her life would have been a blank in history. But these views
were not consistent with the more ambitious projects entertained by Henry
and her uncles of Lorraine. As soon as they were informed of the bent
which her mind appeared to be taking, she was again removed from the
convent to the palace. To reconcile her to parting with the vestal
sisters, Henry, whose conduct towards her was always marked by affection
and delicacy, selected, from all the noble Scotch families then residing
in France, a certain number to constitute her future household. The tears
which Mary shed, however, upon leaving the nunnery, proved the warmth of
her young heart; and that her feelings were not of merely momentary
duration, is evinced by the frequent visits she subsequently paid this
asylum of her childhood,--and by the altar-piece she embroidered with her
own hands for the chapel of the convent.

In no country of Europe was education better understood than it then was
in France. Francis I., who remodelled, upon a magnificent scale, the
University of Paris, only followed the example which had already been set
him by Louis XII. The youth of all countries flocked to the French
schools. The liberal principles which induced the government to maintain,
at its own expense, professors, who lectured to as many students as chose
to hear them, was amply repaid by the beneficial consequences arising from
the great influx of strangers. A competent knowledge of Latin, Greek,
Hebrew, Mathematics, Moral Philosophy and Medicine, could be acquired in
France for literally nothing. Nor was it necessary, that he who sought for
the blessings of education, should profess any particular system of
religious faith. The German Protestant, and the Spanish Catholic, were
allowed, in these noble institutions, to take their seat side by side.
Henry supported the church as an engine of state, whilst he detested the
arrogant pretensions and empty insolence of many of the clergy, and was
determined that they should not interfere with the more enlightened views
which he himself entertained. In this, he only followed the opinions of
his illustrious father, Francis, who used to remark, that monks were
better at teaching linnets to whistle, playing at dice, tippling, and
gormandizing, than in doing good either to religion or morality.

The host of authors, and men of genius, who flourished in France about
this period, was another cause of its literary eminence. "Learning," says
Miss Benger, "far from being the badge of singularity, had become the
attribute of a superior station." "There was," observes the ingenious
Pasquier, "a glorious crusade against ignorance." Many of the names then
celebrated have since, it is true, passed into oblivion, but the multitude
who cultivated letters, show the spirit of the times. Beza, Seve,
Pelletier and others, led the van in the severer departments of intellect;
whilst Bellay, Ronsard and Jodelle, showed the way, to a host of
followers, in the cultivation of poetry, and the softer arts of
composition.

Nor must the great statesmen and warriors, whose presence lent a lustre to
the court, be forgotten in this view of the existing pre-eminence of
France. The two Houses of Bourbon and Guise, had each given birth to many
names destined for immortality. The present chiefs of Bourbon were
Anthony, Duke of Navarre, and Louis, known in the history of the world as
the first Prince of Conde. There were six brothers of the Guises, of whom
the two most illustrious were Francis Duke of Guise, and Charles Cardinal
of Lorraine. But they all held the very highest offices in the church or
state; one was a Cardinal, and another a Grand Prior; a third, the Duke
d'Aumale, commanded the army then in Italy; and the fourth, the Marquis
d'Elbeuf, was intrusted with the charge of the French troops in Scotland.
But he who held the balance of power between all these contending
interests, was the great Montmorency, Constable of France. He had, by this
time, become a veteran in the service of the French monarchs. Louis XII.
had acknowledged his virtues, and Francis I. looked to him for advice and
aid in every emergency. Henry felt almost a filial affection and reverence
for so distinguished a statesman and patriot; and Diana de Poictiers
herself, the fascinating widow of the Duke de Valentinois, frequently
found that she possessed less influence with the monarch than the
venerable and unostentatious Montmorency. The minister was at all times
surrounded by a formidable phalanx of friends and supporters. Of these his
own sons were not the least considerable; and his nephews, the two
Colignys, need only to be mentioned, to awaken recollections of some of
the most remarkable events of French history.

Neither must we omit to mention the two ladies who held the highest places
in the French Court. The sister and the wife of Henry II. resembled each
other but faintly, yet both secured the admiration of the country. The
Princess Margaret had established herself by her patronage of every
liberal art, and her universal beneficence, in the hearts of the whole
people. Her religion did not degenerate into bigotry, and her charity,
whilst it was at all times efficient, was without parade. She became
afterwards the Duchess of Savoy; but till past the meridian of life, she
continued constantly at her brother's Court,--a bright example of all that
was virtuous and attractive in female character. To her, France was
indebted for discovering and fostering the talents of its great Chancellor
Michel L'Hopital; and the honourable name by which she was universally
known was that of Minerva. The King's wife, Catherine de Medicis, was more
respected for her talents than loved for her virtues. But as yet, the
ambition of her nature had not betrayed itself, and little occasion had
been afforded for the exercise of those arts of dissimulation, or the
exposure of that proneness to envy and resentment, which at a later period
became so apparent. She was still in the bloom of youth, and maintained a
high character, not without much show of reason.

Such being the general aspect of the country and the Court, it cannot fail
to become evident, that so far from being a just cause of regret, nothing
could have redounded more to Mary's advantage than her education and
residence in France. If bigotry prevailed among the clergy, it was not
countenanced at the Court, for Henry cared little about religion, and his
sister Margaret was suspected of leaning to the Reformed opinions. If
Parisian manners were known to be too deeply tinctured with
licentiousness, the palace of Catherine must be excepted from the charge;
for even the deportment of Diana herself was grave and decorous, and for
his sister's sake, the King dared not have countenanced any of those
grosser immoralities in which Henry VIII. of England so openly indulged.
The Cardinal of Lorraine, who was at the head of the Parisian University,
quickly discovering Mary's capabilities, directed her studies with the
most watchful anxiety. She was still attended by the two preceptors who
had accompanied her from Scotland, and before she was ten years old, had
made good progress in the French, Latin, and Italian languages. French was
all her life as familiar to her as her native tongue; and she wrote it
with a degree of elegance which no one could surpass. Her acquaintance
with Latin was not of that superficial kind but too common in the present
day. This language was then regarded as almost the only one on whose
stability any reliance could be placed. It was consequently deemed
indispensable, that all who aspired at any eminence in literature, should
be able to compose in it fluently. Mary's teacher was the celebrated
George Buchanan, who was then in France, and who, whatever other praise he
may be entitled to, was unquestionably one of the best scholars of his
time. The young Queen's attention was likewise directed to Rhetoric, by
Fauchet, author of a treatise on that subject which he dedicated to his
pupil,--to history by Pasquier,--and to the delightful study of poetry,
for which her genius was best suited, and for which she retained a
predilection all her life, by Ronsard.

Nor must it be imagined that Mary's childhood was exclusively devoted to
these more scholastic pursuits. She and her young companions, the Scotch
Maries and the daughters of Henry, were frequently present at those
magnificent galas and fetes, in which the King himself so much delighted,
and which were so particularly in unison with the taste of the times,
though no where conducted with so much elegance and grace, as at the
French Court. The summer tournaments and fetes champetres, and the winter
festivals and masquerades, were attended by all the beauty and chivalry of
the land. In these amusements, Mary, as she grew up, took a lively and
innocent pleasure. The woods and gardens also of Fontainbleau, afforded a
delightful variation from the artificial splendours of Paris. In summer,
sailing on the lakes, or fishing in the ponds; and in winter, a
construction of fortresses on the ice,--a mimic battle of snow-balls,--or
skating, became royal pastimes. Mary's gait and air, naturally dignified
and noble, acquired an additional charm from the attention she paid to
dancing and riding. The favourite dance at the time was the Spanish
minuet, which Mary frequently performed with her young consort, to the
admiration of the whole court. In the livelier gailliarde, she was
unequalled, as was confessed, even by the beautiful Anne of Este, who, in
a pas des deux, acknowledged that she was eclipsed by Mary.

The activity of her body indeed, kept, upon all occasions, full pace with
that of her mind. She was particularly fond of hunting; and she and her
maids of honour were frequently seen following the stag through the
ancestral forests of France. Her attachment to this amusement, which
continued all her life, exposed her, on several occasions, to some danger.
So early as the year 1559, when hunting in France, some part of her dress
was caught by the bough of a tree, and she was cast off her horse when
galloping at full speed. Many of the ladies and gentlemen in her train
passed by without observing her, and some so near as actually to tread on
her riding-dress. As soon as the accident was discovered, she was raised
from the ground; but, though the shock had been considerable, she had too
manly a spirit to complain, and, readjusting her hair, which had fallen
into confusion, she again mounted her horse, and rode home smiling at the
accident.

Another, but more sedentary amusement with Mary, was the composition of
devices. To excel in these, required some wit and judgment. A device was
the skilful coupling of a few expressive words with any engraved figure or
picture. It was an art intimately connected with the science of heraldry,
and seems to have suggested the modern seal and motto. The composition of
these devices was, as it is somewhere called, only "an elegant species of
trifling;" but it had something intellectual in it, which the best
informed ladies of the French court liked. An old author, who writes upon
this subject, elevates it to a degree of importance rather amusing. "It
delights the eye," he says, "it captivates the imagination, it is also
profitable and useful; and therefore surpasseth all other arts, and also
painting, since this only represents the body and exquisite features of
the face, whereas a device exposes the rare ideas and gallant sentiments
of its author; it also excels poetry, in as much as it joineth profit with
pleasure, since none merit the title of devices unless they at once please
by their grace, and yield profit by their doctrine."

Mary's partialities were commonly lasting, and when in very different
circumstances, she frequently loved to return to this amusement of her
childhood. Some of the emblems she invented, betray much elegance and
sensibility of mind. On the death of her husband Francis, she took for her
device a little branch of the liquorice-tree, whose root only is sweet,
all the rest of the plant being bitter, and the motto was, Dulce meum
terra tegit. On her cloth of state was embroidered the sentence, En ma
fin est mon commencement; "a riddle," says Haynes, "I understand not;"
but which evidently meant to inculcate a lesson of humility, and to remind
her that life, with all its grandeur, was the mere prologue to eternity.
The French historian, Mezeray, mentions also that Mary had a medal struck,
on which was represented a vessel in a storm, with its masts broken and
falling, illustrated by the motto, Nunquam nisi rectam; indicating a
determination rather to perish than deviate from the path of
integrity. When she was in England, she embroidered for the Duke of
Norfolk a hand with a sword in it, cutting vines, with the motto Virescit
vulnere virtus. In these and similar fancies, she embodied strong and
often original thoughts with much delicacy.

In the midst of these occupations and amusements, Mary was not allowed to
forget her native country. Frequent visits were paid her from Scotland, by
those personally attached to herself or her family. In 1550, her mother,
Mary of Guise, came over to see her, accompanied by several of the
nobility. The Queen-dowager, a woman of strong affections, was so
delighted with the improvement she discovered in her daughter's mind and
person, that she burst into tears of joy; and her Scottish attendants were
hardly less affected by the sight of their future Sovereign. Henry, with
his young charge, was at Rouen, when the Queen-dowager arrived. To testify
his respect for her, he ordered a triumph to be prepared, which consisted
of one of those grotesque allegorical exhibitions then so much in vogue;
and, shortly afterwards, the two Queens made a public entry into Paris.
Mary of Guise had there an opportunity likewise of seeing her son by her
first husband, the Duke de Longueville, Mary's half-brother, but who seems
to have spent his life in retirement, as history scarcely notices him. It
may well be conceived, that the widow of James V. returned even to the
regency of Scotland with reluctance, since she purchased the gratification
of her ambition by a final separation from her children.

It was about the same time that Mary first saw Sir James Melville, who was
then only a few years older than herself, and who was sent over in the
train of the Bishop of Monluc, when he returned after signing the Treaty
of Edinburgh, to be one of Mary's pages of honour. Sir James was
afterwards frequently employed by the Queen as her foreign ambassador, and
his name will appear more than once in the sequel. We have spoken of him
here for the purpose of introducing an amusing anecdote, which he gives us
in his own Memoirs, and which illustrates the state of manners at that
period. Upon landing at Brest, the Bishop proceeded direct to Paris. But
Sir James, who was young, and could hardly have endured the fatigue of
this mode of travelling, was intrusted to the care of two Scotch
gentlemen, who had come over in the same ship. Their first step was to
purchase three little "naigies," on which they proposed riding to Paris,
any thing in the shape of a diligence being out of the question. To
ensure greater safety on the journey, three others joined the party,--two
Frenchmen, and a young Spaniard, who was on his way to the College at
Paris. On the evening of the first day, they arrived at the town of
Landerneau, where all the six were lodged in one room, containing three
beds. The two Frenchmen slept together in one, the two Scotsmen in
another, and Melville and the Spaniard in the third. The company on the
whole does not appear to have been of the most respectable kind; for, as
Melville lay awake, he heard "the twa Scotchmen devising how they were
directed to let him want naething; therefore, said they, we will pay for
his ordinair all the way, and shall count up twice as meikle to his master
when we come to Paris, and sae shall win our ain expenses." The two
Frenchmen, on their part, thinking that nobody in the room understood
French, said to each other, "These strangers are all young, and know not
the fashion of the hostelries; therefore we shall deal and reckon with the
hosts at every repast, and shall cause the strangers pay more than the
custom is, and that way shall we save our expenses." At all this Melville,
as he tells us, could not refrain from "laughing in his mind," and
determined to be upon his guard. "Yet the twa Scotch young men," he adds
in his antique phraseology, "would not consent that I should pay for
myself, hoping still to beguile the Bishop, but the Spaniart and I writ up
every day's compt." The Frenchmen being foiled in their swindling
intentions, had recourse to a still bolder manoeuvre. One day, as the
party were riding through a wood, two other Frenchmen, who had joined them
a short time before, suddenly leapt off their horses, and, drawing their
swords, demanded that the others should deliver up their purses. Melville
and his Scotch friends, however, were not to be thus intimidated. They
also drew their swords, and prepared for resistance; on seeing which, the
Frenchmen affected to make a joke of the whole affair, saying that they
merely wanted to try the courage of the Scotchmen, in case they should
have been attacked by robbers. "But the twa last loons," says Melville,
"left us at the next lodging; and the twa Scotch scholairs never obtenit
payment frae the Bishop for their pretendit fraud." Sir James arrived in
safety at Paris, having taken thirteen days to ride from Brest to the
capital.

Thus diversified by intercourse with her friends and with her books, by
study and recreation, Mary's early life passed rapidly away. It has been
already seen, that whatever could have tended to corrupt the mind or
manners was carefully removed from the young Queen. As soon as Mary
entered upon her teens, she and her companions, the two young princesses,
Henry's daughters, spent several hours every day in the private apartment
of Catherine de Medicis, whose conversation, as well as that of the
foreign ambassadors and other persons of distinction who paid their
respects to her, they had thus an opportunity of hearing. Conaeus mentions,
that Mary was soon observed to avail herself, with great earnestness, of
these opportunities of acquiring knowledge; and it has been hinted, that
the superior intelligence she evinced, in comparison with Catherine's own
daughters, was the first cause of exciting that Queen's jealousy. It was
perhaps at some of these conferences that Mary imperceptibly imbibed, from
her future mother-in-law, and her not unfrequent visitor, Nostradamus, a
slight portion of that tendency to superstitious belief then so prevalent.
One of the most remarkable characters about Henry's court, was Nicolas
Cretin, or Nostradamus, as he was more commonly called, who combined in
his own person the three somewhat incongruous professions of physician,
astrologer, and philosopher. He asserted, that he was not only perfectly
acquainted with the laws of planetary influence, but that, by the
inspiration of divine power, he could predict the events of futurity. The
style of his prophecies was in general sufficiently obscure; yet such was
the reverence paid to learning in those days (and Nostradamus was a very
library of learning), that he was courted and consulted even by the first
statesmen in France. Mary had far too lively a fancy to escape the
infection; and the force of this early bias continued to be felt by her
more or less all her life.





Next: Mary's Marriage Personal Appearance And Popularity

Previous: Scotland And The Scottish Reformers Under The Regency Of The Queen-dowager



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 1424