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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

The Little Waif


The Fall Of Bothwell

Mary's Birth And Subsequent Residence At The French Court

Mary's Escape From Lochleven And The Battle Of Langside

Least Viewed

The Ebbing Well

Loch Leven Castle

The Love Token

My Lady's Remorse

The Huckstering Woman

Wingfield Manor

A Lioness At Bay

Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity

Queen Mary's Presence Chamber


Mary's Death And Character

On the 7th of February 1587, the Earls, who had been commissioned to
superintend Mary's execution, arrived at Fotheringay. After dining
together, they sent to inform the Queen, that they desired to speak with
her. Mary was not well, and in bed; but as she was given to understand
that it was an affair of moment, she rose, and received them in her own
chamber. Her six waiting maids, together with her physician, her surgeon,
and apothecary, and four or five male servants, were in attendance. The
Earl of Shrewsbury, and the others associated with him, standing before
her respectfully, with their heads uncovered, communicated, as gently as
possible, the disagreeable duty with which they had been intrusted. Beal
was then desired to read the warrant for Mary's execution, to which she
listened patiently; and making the sign of the cross, she said, that
though she was sorry it came from Elizabeth, she had long been expecting
the mandate for her death, and was not unprepared to die. "For many
years," she added, "I have lived in continual affliction, unable to do
good to myself or to those who are dear to me;--and as I shall depart
innocent of the crime which has been laid to my charge, I cannot see why I
should shrink from the prospect of immortality." She then laid her hand on
the New Testament, and solemnly protested that she had never either
devised, compassed, or consented to the death of the Queen of England. The
Earl of Kent, with more zeal than wisdom, objected to the validity of this
protestation, because it was made on a Catholic version of the Bible; but
Mary replied, that it was the version, in the truth of which she believed,
and that her oath should be therefore only the less liable to suspicion.
She was advised to hold some godly conversation with the Dean of
Peterborough, whom they had brought with them to console her; but she
declined the offer, declaring that she would die in the faith in which she
had lived, and beseeching them to allow her to see her Catholic Confessor,
who had been for some time debarred her presence. This however they in
their turn positively refused.

Other topics were introduced, and casually discussed. Before leaving the
world, Mary felt a natural curiosity to be informed upon several subjects
of public interest, which, though connected with herself, and generally
known, had not penetrated the walls of her prison. She asked if no foreign
princes had interfered in her behalf,--if her secretaries were still
alive,--if it was intended to punish them as well as her,--if they brought
no letters from Elizabeth or others,--and above all, if her son, the King
of Scotland, was well, and had evinced any interest in the fate of a
mother who had always loved and never wronged him. Being satisfied upon
these points, she proceeded to inquire when her execution was to take
place? Shrewsbury replied, that it was fixed for the next morning at
eight. She appeared startled and agitated for a few minutes, saying that
it was more sudden than she had anticipated, and that she had yet to make
her will, which she had hitherto deferred, in the expectation that the
papers and letters which had been forcibly taken from her, would be
restored. She soon, however, regained her self-possession; and informing
the Commissioners that she desired to be left alone to make her
preparations, she dismissed them for the night.

During the whole of this scene, astonishment, indignation, and grief,
overwhelmed her attendants, all of whom were devoted to her. As soon as
the Earls and their retinue retired, they gave full vent to their
feelings, and Mary herself was the only one who remained calm and
undisturbed. Bourgoine, her physician, loudly exclaimed against the
iniquitous precipitancy with which she was to be hurried out of existence.
More than a few hours' notice was allowed, he said, to the very meanest
criminal; and to limit a Princess, with numerous connections both at home
and abroad, to so brief a space, was a degree of rigour which no guilt
could authorize. Mary told him, that she must submit with resignation to
her fate, and learn to regard it as the will of God. She then requested
her attendants to kneel with her, and she prayed fervently for some time
in the midst of them. Afterwards, while supper was preparing, she employed
herself in putting all the money she had by her into separate purses, and
affixed to each, with her own hand, the name of the person for whom she
intended it. At supper, though she sat down to table, she eat little. Her
mind, however, was in perfect composure; and during the repast, though she
spoke little, placid smiles were frequently observed to pass over her
countenance. The calm magnanimity of their mistress, only increased the
distress of her servants. They saw her sitting amongst them in her usual
health, and, with almost more than her usual cheerfulness, partaking of
the viands that were set before her; yet they knew that it was the last
meal at which they should ever be present together; and that the
interchange of affectionate service upon their part, and of condescending
attention and endearing gentleness on her's, which had linked them to her
for so many years, was now about to terminate for ever. Far from
attempting to offer her consolation, they were unable to discover any for
themselves. As soon as the melancholy meal was over, Mary desired that a
cup of wine should be given to her; and putting it to her lips, drank to
the health of each of her attendants by name. She requested that they
would pledge her in like manner; and each, falling on his knee, and
mingling tears with the wine, drank to her, asking pardon at the same
time, for all the faults he had ever committed. In the true spirit of
Christian humility, she not only willingly forgave them, but asked their
pardon also, if she had ever forgotten her duty towards them. She
beseeched them to continue constant to their religion, and to live in
peace and charity together, and with all men. The inventory of her
wardrobe and furniture was then brought to her; and she wrote in the
margin, opposite each article, the name of the person to whom she wished
it should be given. She did the same with her rings, jewels, and all her
most valuable trinkets; and there was not one of her friends or servants,
either present or absent, to whom she forgot to leave a memorial.

These duties being discharged, Mary sat down to her desk to arrange her
papers, to finish her will, and to write several letters. She previously
sent to her confessor, who, though in the Castle, was not allowed to see
her, entreating that he would spend the night in praying for her, and that
he would inform her what parts of Scripture he considered most suited for
her perusal at this juncture. She then drew up her last will and
testament; and without ever lifting her pen from the paper, or stopping at
intervals to think, she covered two large sheets with close writing,
forgetting nothing of any moment, and expressing herself with all that
precision and clearness which distinguished her style in the very happiest
moments of her life. She named as her four executors, the Duke of Guise,
her cousin-german; the Archbishop of Glasgow, her ambassador in France;
Lesley, Bishop of Ross; and Monsieur de Ruysseau, her Chancellor. She next
wrote a letter to her brother-in-law, the King of France, in which she
apologized for not being able to enter into her affairs at greater length,
as she had only an hour or two to live, and had not been informed till
that day after dinner that she was to be executed next morning. "Thanks be
unto God, however," she added, "I have no terror at the idea of death,
and solemnly declare to you, that I meet it innocent of every crime. The
bearer of this letter, and my other servants, will recount to you how I
comported myself in my last moments." The letter concluded with earnest
entreaties, that her faithful followers should be protected and rewarded.
Her anxiety on their account, at such a moment, indicated all that amiable
generosity of disposition, which was one of the leading features of Mary's
character. About two in the morning, she sealed up all her papers and
said she would now think no more of the affairs of this world, but would
spend the rest of her time in prayer and commune with her own conscience.
She went to bed for some hours; but she did not sleep. Her lips were
observed in continual motion, and her hands were frequently folded and
lifted up towards Heaven.

On the morning of Wednesday the 8th of February, Mary rose with the break
of day; and her domestics, who had watched and wept all night immediately
gathered round her. She told them that she had made her will, and
requested that they would see it safely deposited in the hands of her
executors. She likewise beseeched them not to separate until they had
carried her body to France; and she placed a sum of money in the hands of
her physician to defray the expenses of the journey. Her earnest desire
was, to be buried either in the Church of St Dennis, in Paris, beside her
first husband Francis, or at Rheims, in the tomb which contained the
remains of her mother. She expressed a wish too, that, besides her friends
and servants, a number of poor people and children from different
hospitals should be present at her funeral, clothed in mourning at her
expense, and each, according to the Catholic custom, carrying in his hand
a lighted taper.

She now renewed her devotions, and was in the midst of them, with her
servants praying and weeping round her, when a messenger from the
Commissioners knocked at the door, to announce that all was ready. She
requested a little longer time to finish her prayers, which was granted.
As soon as she desired the door to be opened, the Sheriff, carrying in his
hand the white wand of office, entered to conduct her to the place of
execution. Her servants crowded round her, and insisted on being allowed
to accompany her to the scaffold. But contrary orders having been given by
Elizabeth, they were told that she must proceed alone. Against a piece of
such arbitrary cruelty they remonstrated loudly, but in vain; for as soon
as Mary passed into the gallery, the door was closed, and believing that
they were separated from her forever, the shrieks of the women and the
scarcely less audible lamentations of the men were heard in distant parts
of the castle.

At the foot of the staircase leading down to the hall below, Mary was met
by the Earls of Kent and Shrewsbury; and she was allowed to stop to take
farewell of Sir Andrew Melvil, the master of her household, whom her
keepers had not allowed to come into her presence for some time before.
With tears in his eyes, Melvil knelt before her, kissed her hand, and
declared that it was the heaviest hour of his life. Mary assured him, that
it was not so to her. "I now feel, my good Melvil," said she, "that all
this world is vanity. When you speak of me hereafter, mention that I died
firm in my faith, willing to forgive my enemies, conscious that I had
never disgraced Scotland my native country, and rejoicing in the thought
that I had always been true to France, the land of my happiest years. Tell
my son," she added, and when she named her only child of whom she had been
so proud in his infancy, but in whom all her hopes had been so fatally
blasted, her feelings for the first time overpowered her, and a flood of
tears flowed from her eyes,--"tell my son that I thought of him in my last
moments, and that I have never yielded, either by word or deed, to aught
that might lead to his prejudice; desire him to preserve the memory of his
unfortunate parent, and may he be a thousand times more happy and more
prosperous than she has been."

Before taking leave of Melvil, Mary turned to the Commissioners and told
them, that her three last requests were, that her secretary Curl, whom she
blamed less for his treachery than Naw, should not be punished; that her
servants should have free permission to depart to France; and that some of
them should be allowed to come down from the apartments above to see her
die. The Earls answered, that they believed the two former of these
requests would be granted; but that they could not concede the last,
alleging, as their excuse, that the affliction of her attendants would
only add to the severity of her sufferings. But Mary was resolved that
some of her own people should witness her last moments. "I will not submit
to the indignity," she said, "of permitting my body to fall into the hands
of strangers. You are the servants of a maiden Queen, and she herself,
were she here, would yield to the dictates of humanity, and permit some of
those who have been so long faithful to me to assist me at my death.
Remember, too, that I am cousin to your mistress, and the descendant of
Henry VII.; I am the Dowager of France, and the anointed Queen of
Scotland." Ashamed of any further opposition, the Earls allowed her to
name four male and two female attendants, whom they sent for, and
permitted to remain beside her for the short time she had yet to

The same hall in which the trial had taken place, was prepared for the
execution. At the upper end was the scaffold, covered with black cloth,
and elevated about two feet from the floor. A chair was placed on it for
the Queen of Scots. On one side of the block stood two executioners, and
on the other, the Earls of Kent and Shrewsbury; Beal and the Sheriff were
immediately behind. The scaffold was railed off from the rest of the
hall, in which Sir Amias Paulet with a body of guards, the other
Commissioners, and some gentlemen of the neighbourhood, amounting
altogether to about two hundred persons, were assembled. Mary entered
leaning on the arm of her physician, while Sir Andrew Melvil carried the
train of her robe. She was in full dress, and looked as if she were about
to hold a drawing-room, not to lay her head beneath the axe. She wore a
gown of black silk, bordered with crimson velvet, over which was a satin
mantle; a long veil of white crape, stiffened with wire, and edged with
rich lace, hung down almost to the ground; round her neck was suspended an
ivory crucifix; and the beads which the Catholics use in their prayers,
were fastened to her girdle. The symmetry of her fine figure had long been
destroyed by her sedentary life; and years of care had left many a trace
on her beautiful features. But the dignity of the Queen was still
apparent; and the calm grace of mental serenity imparted to her
countenance at least some share of its former loveliness. With a composed
and steady step she passed through the hall, and ascended the
scaffold,--and as she listened unmoved, whilst Beal read aloud the warrant
for her death, even the myrmidons of Elizabeth looked upon her with

Beal having finished, the Dean of Peterborough presented himself at the
foot of the scaffold, and with more zeal than humanity, addressed Mary on
the subject of her religion. She mildly told him, that as she had been
born, so she was resolved to die, a Catholic, and requested that he would
not annoy her any longer with useless reasonings. But finding that he
would not be persuaded to desist, she turned away from him, and falling on
her knees, prayed fervently aloud,--repeating, in particular, many
passages from the Psalms. She prayed for her own soul, and that God would
send his Holy Spirit to comfort her in the agony of death; she prayed for
all good monarchs, for the Queen of England, for the King her son, for her
friends, and for all her enemies. She spoke with a degree of earnest
vehemence, and occasional strength of gesticulation, which deeply affected
all who heard her. She held a small crucifix in her hands, which were
clasped, and raised to Heaven; and at intervals a convulsive sob choked
her voice. As soon as her prayers were ended, she prepared to lay her head
on the block. Her two female attendants, as they assisted her to remove
her veil and head-dress, trembled so violently that they were hardly able
to stand. Mary gently reproved them,--"Be not thus overcome," she said; "I
am happy to leave the world, and you also ought to be happy to see me die
so willingly." As she bared her neck, she took from around it a cross of
gold, which she wished to give to Jane Kennedy; but the executioner, with
brutal coarseness, objected, alleging that it was one of his perquisites.
"My good friend," said Mary, "she will pay you much more than its value;"
but his only answer was, to snatch it rudely from her hand. She turned
from him, to pronounce a parting benediction on all her servants, to kiss
them, and bid them affectionately farewell. Being now ready, she desired
Jane Kennedy to bind her eyes with a rich handkerchief, bordered with
gold, which she had brought with her for the purpose; and laying her head
upon the block, her last words were,--"O Lord, in thee I have hoped, and
into thy hands I commit my spirit." The executioner, either from a want of
skill, or from agitation, or because the axe he used was blunt, struck
three blows before he separated her head from her body. His comrade then
lifted the head by the hair, (which, falling in disorder, was observed to
be quite grey), and called out, "God save Elizabeth, Queen of England!"
The Earl of Kent added, "Thus perish all her enemies;"--but, overpowered
by the solemnity and horror of the scene, none were able to respond,

Mary's remains were immediately taken from her servants, who wished to pay
them the last sad offices of affection, and were carried into an adjoining
apartment, where a piece of old green baize, taken from a billiard-table,
was thrown over that form which had once lived in the light of a nation's
eyes. It lay thus for some time; but was at length ordered to be embalmed,
and buried, with royal pomp, in the Cathedral at Peterborough,--a vulgar
artifice used by Elizabeth to stifle the gnawing remorse of her own
conscience, and make an empty atonement for her cruelty. Twenty-five years
afterwards, James VI. wishing to perform an act of tardy justice to the
memory of his mother, ordered her remains to be removed from Peterborough
to Henry VII.'s Chapel, in Westminster Abbey. A splendid monument was
there erected, adorned with an inscription, which, if it spoke truth,
James must have blushed with shame and indignation whenever he thought of
his mother's fate.

Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, died in the forty-fifth year of her age. If
the events of her life have been faithfully recorded in the preceding
pages, the estimate which is to be formed of her character cannot be a
matter of much doubt. To great natural endowments,--to feelings
constitutionally warm,--and to a disposition spontaneously excellent, were
added all the advantages which education could confer or wealth purchase.
That she was one of the most accomplished and talented women of the age,
even her enemies allow. But talents do not always insure success, nor
accomplishments command happiness; and by few persons in the whole range
of history was this truth more fatally experienced than by Mary Stuart. At
first sight, her life and fate seem almost a paradox. That one upon whom
most of the common goods of fortune had been heaped with so lavish a
hand,--one who was born to the enjoyment of all the rank and splendour
which earth possesses,--one whose personal charms and fascinations
obtained for her an empire over the heart, more lasting and honourable
than that which her birth gave her over a nation,--that even she should
have lived to lament that she had ever beheld the light of day, is one of
those striking examples of the uncertainty of all human calculations
regarding happiness, which, while it inspires the commonest mind with
wonder, teaches a deeper lesson of philosophy to the wisely reflective.
Circumstances are not so much the slaves of men, as men are of
circumstances. Mary lived at an age, and in a country, which only rendered
her risk the greater the more exalted her station. In France, where
civilization had made more progress, she might perhaps have avoided the
evils which overtook her at home; but in Scotland, a Princess possessing
the refinement of a foreign court, and though with a large proportion of
the virtues and captivations of her sex, not entirely destitute of some of
its weaknesses, could hardly expect to cope with the turbulent spirit, the
fanatical enthusiasm, the semi-barbarous prejudices of the times, without
finding her own virtues immerged in the crowd of contending interests, and
the vortex of fierce passions that surrounded her.

Mary's failings, almost without an exception, "leant to virtue's side."
They arose partly from too enthusiastic a temperament, and partly from a
want of experience. Although she lived forty-four years and two months, it
ought to be remembered that she was just twenty-five when she came into
England, and that all the most important events of her history happened
between sixteen and twenty-five. With feelings whose strength kept pace
with the unsuspicious generosity of her nature, Mary was one who, in an
especial manner, stood in need of experience, to teach what the world
calls wisdom. The great mass of mankind, endowed with no finer
susceptibilities, and influenced by no hidden impulses of soul or sense,
fall into the common track naturally and easily. But they whom heaven has
either cursed or blessed with minds, over which external circumstances
exercise a deeper sway, whose fancies are more vivid, and whose
impressions are more acute, require the aid of time to clip the wings of
imagination,--to cast a soberer shade over the glowing pictures of
hope,--and to teach the art of reducing an ideal standard of felicity and
virtue, to one less romantic, but more practical. Had she continued longer
in public life, there is every probability that the world would have been
forced to own, without a dissenting voice, the talent which Mary
possessed. In youth, genius is often indicated only by eccentricity and
imprudence; but its errors are errors of judgment, which have their origin
in an exuberance of sensibility. The sentiments of the heart have burst
forth into precocious blossom long before the reasoning faculties have
reached maturity. Her youth was Mary's chief misfortune, or rather it was
the source from which most of her misfortunes sprung. She judged of
mankind not as they were, but as she wished them to be. Conscious of the
sincerity of her own character, and the affectionate nature of her own
dispositions, she formed attachments too rashly, and trusted too
indiscriminately. She often found, when it was too late, that she had been
deceived; and the consequence was, that she became diffident of her own
judgment, and anxious to be guided by that of others. Here again, however,
she fell into an opposite extreme. In yielding, on her return to Scotland,
so implicitly to the counsels of Murray, she did what few queens, young
and flattered as she had been, would have done, and what, had she been
older, or more experienced, she ought not to have done.

But the highest degree of excellence, both in the material and the moral
world, arises out of the skilful combination of many discordant elements.
Time must be allowed them to settle down into an harmonious arrangement;
and time is all that is required. Before the age of five-and-twenty, it is
not to be supposed that Mary's character had acquired that strength and
stability which it would afterwards have attained. Nor was it desirable
that it should; for an old head upon youthful shoulders is contrary to
nature, and the anomaly frequently ends with a youthful head upon old
shoulders. Mary was young--she was beautiful--she was admired--she was a
woman; and to expect to have found, in the spring-time of her life, the
undeviating consistency, and the cool calculations of riper years, would
have been to imagine her that "faultless monster whom the world ne'er
saw." But, considering the situation in which she was placed--the persons
by whom she was surrounded--the stormy temper of the age--the pious and
deep-rooted prejudices of her subjects against the creed which she
professed--the restless jealousy of the Sovereign who reigned over the
neighbouring and more powerful country of England--the unfortunate though
not precipitate marriage with Lord Darnley,--it may be very safely asked,
where there is to be found an example of so much moderation, prudence, and
success, in one so recently introduced to the arduous cares of government?
Had Mary been vain, headstrong, opinionative, and bigotted, she would
never have yielded, as she did, to the current of popular opinion which
then ran so tumultuously;--she would never have condescended to
expostulate with Knox,--she would never have been ruled by Murray,--she
would never have so easily forgiven injuries and stifled resentments. She
was in truth only too facile. She submitted too tamely to the insolence of
Knox; she was too diffident of herself, and too willing to be swayed by
Murray; she was too ready to pardon those who had given her the justest
cause of offence; she was too candid and open, too distrustful of her own
capacity, too gentle, too generous, and too engaging.

But if her faults consisted only in an excess of amiable qualities, or in
those strong feelings which, though properly directed, were not always
properly proportioned, the question naturally occurs, why the Queen of
Scots should have suffered so much misery? "To say that she was always
unfortunate," observes Robertson, "will not account for that long and
almost uninterrupted succession of calamities which befel her; we must
likewise add, that she was often imprudent." Here the historian first
mistates the fact, and then draws an inference from that mistatement. No
"long and uninterrupted succession of calamities" befel Mary. She
experienced an almost unparalleled reverse of fortune, but that reverse
was sudden and complete. She sunk at once from a queen into a
captive,--from power to weakness,--from splendor to obscurity. So long as
she was permitted to be the arbitress of her own fortune, she met and
overcame every difficulty; but when lawless and ambitious men wove their
web around her, she was caught in it, and could never again escape from
its meshes. Had she stumbled on from one calamity to another, continuing
all the while a free agent, Robertson's remark would have been just. But
such was not her case;--the morning saw her a queen, and the evening found
her a captive. The blow was as sudden as it was decisive; and her future
life was an ineffectual struggle to escape from the chains which had been
thrown round her in a moment, and which pressed her irresistibly to the
ground. A calamity which no foresight could anticipate, or prudence avert,
may overtake the wisest and the best; and such to Mary was the murder of
Darnley, and Bothwell's subsequent treason and violence. If to these be
added the scarcely less iniquitous conduct of Elizabeth, the treachery of
Morton, the craftiness of Murray, and the disastrous defeat at Langside,
it needs no research or ingenuity to discover, that her miseries were not
of her own making.

Should a still more comprehensive view of this subject be taken, and the
whole life of the Queen of Scots reviewed, from her birth to her death, it
will be found that, however great her advantages, they were almost always
counterbalanced by some evil, which necessarily attended or sprung out of
them. She was a queen when only a few months old; but she was also an
orphan. She was destined, from her earliest childhood, to be the wife of
the future monarch of France; but she was, in consequence, taken away from
her native country, and the arms of her mother. The power and talents of
her uncles of Guise were constantly exerted in her behalf; but she shared,
therefore, in the hatred and jealousy in which they were held by a
numerous party, both at home and abroad. Her residence and education, at
the Court of Henry II., insured the refinement of her manners and the
cultivation of her mind; but it excited the suspicions and the fears of
the people of Scotland. She was beautiful even to a proverb; but her
beauty obtained for her as much envy as praise. She possessed the heart of
her husband Francis; but she only felt his loss the more acutely. She
returned to her own kingdom as the Queen-dowager of France; but her power
and her pretensions made the English dread, and did not prevent her
heretical subjects from openly braving, her authority. She married Darnley
in the hopes of brightening her prospects, and securing her happiness; but
he was the main cause of overclouding the one, and destroying the other.
She was freed, by his death, from the wayward caprices of his ill-governed
temper; but she escaped from one yoke only to be forced into another a
thousand times worse. She loved her brother, and loaded him with favours;
but he repaid them by placing himself upon her throne, and chasing her
from the country. She escaped into England; but there she met with
reproaches instead of assistance, a prison instead of an asylum, a mortal
enemy instead of a sister, an axe and a scaffold instead of sympathy and

Mary's misfortunes, therefore, may be safely asserted not to have been the
result of her imprudence or her errors. But justice is not satisfied with
this merely negative praise. The Queen of Scots was one who needed only to
have been prosperous, to be in the eyes of the world all that was great
and good. And though the narrow-minded are only too ready, at all times,
to triumph over the fallen, and to fancy, that where there is misery
there is also guilt, they must nevertheless own, that there are some whose
character only rises the higher, the more it is tried. If, on the one
hand, the temptations to which Mary was exposed be duly considered,--her
youth,--the prejudices of her education,--and the designing ministers by
whom she was surrounded;--and, on the other, her conduct towards the
Reformers, towards her enemies, towards her friends, towards all her
subjects,--the deliberate judgment of calm impartiality, not of hasty
enthusiasm, must be, that illustrious as her birth and rank were, she
possessed virtues and talents which not only made her independent of the
former, but raised her above them. In her better days, the vivacity and
sweetness of her manners, her openness, her candour, her generosity, her
polished wit, her extensive information, her cultivated taste, her easy
affability, her powers of conversation, her native dignity and grace, were
all conspicuous, though too little appreciated by the less refined
frequenters of the Scottish Court. Nor did she appear to less advantage in
the season of calamity. On the contrary, she had an opportunity of
displaying in adversity a fortitude and nobility of soul, which she
herself might not have known that she possessed, had she been always
prosperous. Her piety and her constancy became more apparent in a prison
than on a throne; and of none could it be said more truly than of
her,--"ponderibus virtus innata resistit." In the glory of victory and
the pride of success, it is easy for a conquering monarch to float down
the stream of popularity; but it is a far more arduous task to gain a
victory over the natural weaknesses of one's own nature, and, in the
midst of sufferings, to triumph over one's enemies. Mary did this; and was
a thousand times more to be envied, when kneeling at her solitary
devotions in the Castle of Fotheringhay, than Elizabeth surrounded with
all the heartless splendor of Hampton Court. As she laid her head upon the
block, the dying graces threw upon her their last smiles; and the sublime
serenity of her death was an argument in her favour, the force of which
must be confessed by incredulity itself. Mary was not destined to obtain
the crown of England, but she gained instead the crown of martyrdom.

"Many of us," said the Archbishop of Bruges, who was appointed to preach
Mary's funeral sermon in the church of Notre Dame at Paris, "Many of us
have seen in this very place the Queen whom we now deplore, on her bridal
morning and in her royal robes, so resplendent with jewels, that they
shone like the light of day, or like her own beauty, which was more
resplendent still. Nothing was to be discovered around or within but
embroidered hangings, and cloth of gold, and precious tapestry, and
couches and thrones occupied by kings and queens, and princes and nobles,
who had come from all parts to be present at the festival. In the palace
were magnificent banquets, and pageants, and masquerades; in the streets
and squares, joustings, tournaments, and processions. It seemed as if the
overwhelming brilliancy of our age was destined to surpass the richest
pomp of every preceding age,--even the times when Greece and Rome were in
all their splendor. A brief space has passed away like a cloud, and we
have seen her a captive whom we saw in triumph,--a prisoner, who set the
prisoners free,--poor, who gave away so liberally,--disdained, who was the
fountain of honour. We have seen her, who was a two-fold Queen, in the
hands of a common executioner, and that fair form, which graced the
nuptial couch of the greatest monarch in Christendom, dishonoured on a
scaffold. We have seen that loveliness, which was one of the wonders of
the world, broken down by long captivity, and at length effaced by an
ignominious death. If this fatal reverse teaches the uncertainty and
vanity of all human things, the patience and incomparable fortitude of the
Queen we have lost, also teach a more profitable lesson, and afford a
salutary consolation. Every new calamity gave her an opportunity of
gaining a new victory, and of evincing new proofs of her piety and
constancy. It seems certain, indeed, that Providence made her affliction
conspicuous, only to make her virtue more conspicuous. Others leave to
their successors the care of building monuments, to preserve their name
from oblivion; but the life and death of this lady are her monument.
Marble, and brass, and iron decay, or are devoured by rust; but in no age,
however long the world may endure, will the memory of Mary Stuart, Queen
of Scots, and Dowager of France, cease to be cherished with affection and

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

Previous: Mary's Trial And Condemnation

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