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Mary's Marriage Personal Appearance And Popularity

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

A Tangle

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

Occurrences Immediately Preceding Darnley's Death

The Little Waif

Paul's Walk



Mary's Birth And Subsequent Residence At The French Court

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Return To Scotland

The Bewitched Whistle

Hunting Down The Deer

My Lady's Remorse

Queen Mary's Presence Chamber

The Love Token

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

Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity

Before The Commissioners

Ten Years After

Mary's Escape From Lochleven And The Battle Of Langside

With few comforts and no enjoyments, Mary remained closely confined in the
Castle of Loch-Leven. Her only resources were in herself, and in the
religion whose precepts she was ever anxious not only to profess, but to
practise. Though deprived of liberty and the delights of a court, she was
able to console herself with the reflection, that there is no prison for a
soul that puts its trust in its God, and that all the world belongs to one
who knows how to despise its vanities. Yet the misfortunes which had
overtaken her were enough to appal the stoutest heart. Her husband had
been murdered, she herself forced into an unwilling marriage, her kingdom
taken from her, her child raised up against her, her honour defamed, and
her person insulted,--all within the short space of four months. History
records few reverses so sudden and so complete. Many a masculine spirit
would have felt its energies give way under so dreadful a change of
fortune; and if Mary was able to put in practice the Roman maxim, Ne
cedere malis, sed contra audentior ire, it would be to exalt vice and
libel virtue to suppose, that she could have been inspired with strength
for so arduous a task by aught but her own integrity.

It was not these more serious calamities alone whose load she was doomed
to bear; there were many petty annoyances to which she was daily and
hourly subject. Margaret Erskine, the Lady of Loch-Leven, and widow of Sir
Robert Douglas, who fell at the battle of Pinkie one-and-twenty years
before, was a woman of a proud temper and austere disposition. Soured by
early disappointment, for, previous to her marriage with Sir Robert, she
had been one of the rejected mistresses of James V., she chose to indulge
her more malignant nature in continually exalting her illegitimate
offspring the Earl of Murray above his lawful Queen, now her prisoner. Her
servants, of course, took their tone from their mistress; and there was
one in particular, named James Drysdale, who held a place of some
authority in her household, and who, having had some concern in the murder
of Rizzio, and being a bigoted and unprincipled fanatic, entertained the
most deadly hatred against Mary, and had been heard to declare, that it
would give him pleasure to plunge a dagger into her heart's blood. This
savage probably succeeded in spreading similar sentiments among the other
domestics; and thus the Queen's very life seemed to hang upon the
prejudices and caprices of menials.

But numerous and violent as Mary's enemies may have been, few could
remain near her person, without becoming ardently attached to her. Hence,
throughout all her misfortunes, her own immediate attendants continued
more than faithful. At Loch-Leven, it is true, although her rebellious
nobles had been willing to allow her a suitable train, the absence of
accommodation would have rendered their residence there impossible. One or
two female, and three or four male servants, were all, over whom Mary, the
Queen of Scotland, and Dowager of France, could now exercise the slightest
control. Of these, John Beaton was the individual upon whose assiduity she
placed most reliance. But the influence which the fascination of her
manners, and the beauty of her person, obtained for her, over two of the
younger branches of the House of Loch-Leven, made up for the want of many
of her former attendants. The persons alluded to were George Douglas, the
youngest son of Lady Douglas, about five-and-twenty years of age, and
William Douglas, an orphan youth of sixteen or seventeen, a relative of
the family, and resident in the Castle. So forcibly was George Douglas, in
particular, impressed with the injustice of Mary's treatment, that he
resolved on sparing no pains till he accomplished her escape; and his
friend William, though too young to be of equal service, was not less
ardent in the cause. George commenced operations, by informing Mary's
friends in the adjoining districts of Scotland, of the design he had in
view, and establishing a communication with them. At his suggestion, Lord
Seaton, with a considerable party, arrived secretly in the neighbourhood
of Loch-Leven, and held themselves in readiness to receive the Queen as
soon as she should be able to find her way across the lake. Nor was it
long before Mary made an attempt to join her friends. On the 25th of March
1568, she had a glimpse of liberty so enlivening, that nothing could
exceed the bitterness of her disappointment. Suffering as she did, both in
health and spirits, she had contracted a habit of spending a considerable
part of the morning in bed. On the day referred to, her laundress came
into her room before she was up, when Mary, according to a scheme which
Douglas had contrived, immediately rose, and resigning her bed to the
washer-woman, dressed herself in the habiliments of the latter. With a
bundle of clothes in her hand, and a muffler over her face, she went out,
and passed down unsuspected to the boat which was waiting to take the
laundress across the lake. The men in it belonged to the Castle; but did
not imagine any thing was wrong, for some time. At length one of them
observing, that Mary was very anxious to keep her face concealed, said in
jest,--"Let us see what kind of a looking damsel this is;" and attempted
to pull away her muffler. The Queen put up her hands to prevent him, which
were immediately observed to be particularly soft and white, and a
discovery took place in consequence. Mary, finding it no longer of any
use, threw aside her disguise, and, assuming an air of dignity, told the
men that she was their Queen, and charged them upon their lives to row
her over to the shore. Though surprised and overawed, they resolutely
refused to obey, promising, however, that if she would return quietly to
the castle, they would not inform Sir William Douglas or his mother that
she had ever left it. But they promised more than they were able to
perform, for the whole affair was soon known, and George Douglas, together
with Beaton and Sempil, two of Mary's servants, were ordered to leave the
island, and took up their residence in the neighbouring village of

But neither the Queen nor her friends gave up hope. George Douglas
continued indefatigable, though separated from her; and William supplied
his place within the Castle, and acted with a degree of cautious and
silent enterprise beyond his years. It was probably in reference to what
might be done by him, that a small picture was secretly conveyed to Mary,
representing the deliverance of the lion by the mouse. Little more
than a month elapsed from the failure of the first attempt, before another
was adventured, and with better success. On Sunday, the second of May,
about seven in the evening, William Douglas, when sitting at supper with
the rest of the family, managed to get into his possession the keys of the
Castle, which his relation, Sir William, had put down beside his plate on
the table. The young man immediately left the room with the prize, and,
locking the door of the apartment from without, proceeded to the Queen's
chamber, whom he conducted with all speed, through a little postern gate,
to a boat which had been prepared for her reception. One of her maids, of
the name of Jane Kennedy, lingered a few moments behind, and as Douglas
had locked the postern gate in the interval, she leapt from a window, and
rejoined her mistress without injury. Lord Seaton, James Hamilton of
Rochbank, and others who were in the neighbourhood, had been informed by a
few words which Mary traced with charcoal on one of her handkerchiefs, and
contrived to send to them, that she was about to make another effort to
escape, and were anxiously watching the arrival of the boat. Nor did they
watch in vain. Sir William Douglas and his retainers, were locked up in
their own castle; and the Queen, her maid, and young escort, had already
put off across the lake. It is said that Douglas, not being accustomed to
handle the oar, was making little or no progress, until Mary herself,
taking one into her own hands, lent him all the aid in her power. It was
not long before they arrived safely at the opposite shore, where Lord
Seaton, Hamilton, Douglas, Beaton, and the rest, received the Queen with
every demonstration of joyful loyalty. Little time was allowed, however,
for congratulations; they mounted her immediately upon horseback, and
surrounding her with a strong party, they galloped all night, and having
rested only an hour or two at Lord Seaton's house of Niddry, in West
Lothian, they arrived early next forenoon at Hamilton. Mary's first
tumultuous feelings of happiness, on being thus delivered from captivity,
can hardly be imagined by those who have never been deprived of the
blessing of liberty. It is fair, however, to state, that her happiness was
neither selfish nor exclusive; and it deserves to be recorded to her
honour, that till the very latest day of her life, she never forgot the
services of those who so essentially befriended her on this occasion. She
bestowed pensions upon both the Douglases,--the elder of whom, became
afterwards a favourite with her son James VI., and the younger is
particularly mentioned in Mary's last will and testament. Nor was the
faithful Beaton allowed to go unrewarded.

The news that Mary was arrived at Hamilton, and that noblemen and troops
were flocking to her from all quarters, was so astounding, that the
Regent, who was not many miles off, holding courts of justice at Glasgow,
refused at first to credit the report. He would soon, however, (without
other evidence) have discovered its truth, from the very visible change
which took place even among those whom he had previously considered his
best friends. "A strange alteration," says Keith, "might be discovered in
the minds and faces of a great many; some slipped privately away, others
sent quietly to beg the Queen's pardon, and not a few went publicly over
to her Majesty." In this state of matters, Murray was earnestly advised to
retire to Stirling, where the young King resided; but he was afraid that
his departure from Glasgow might be considered a flight, which would at
once have animated his enemies and discouraged his friends. He, therefore,
resolved to continue where he was, making every exertion to collect a
sufficient force with as little delay as possible. He was not allowed to
remain long in suspense regarding Mary's intentions, for she sent him a
message in a day or two, requiring him to surrender his Regency and
replace her in her just government; and before the Earls, Bishops, Lords,
and others, who had now gathered round her, she solemnly protested, that
the instruments she had subscribed at Loch-Leven were all extorted from
her by fear. Sir Robert Melville, one of those who, in this new turn of
affairs, left Murray's party for the Queen's, gave his testimony to the
truth of this protest, as he had been a witness of the whole proceeding.
The abdication, therefore, was pronounced ipso facto null and void; and
Murray having issued a proclamation, in which he refused to surrender the
Regency, both parties prepared for immediate hostilities. The principal
Lords who had joined the Queen, were Argyle, Huntly, Cassils, Rothes,
Montrose, Fleming, Livingston, Seaton, Boyd, Herries, Ross, Maxwell,
Ogilvy, and Oliphant. There were, in all, nine Earls, nine Bishops,
eighteen Lords, and many Barons and Gentlemen. In a single week, she
found herself at the head of an army of 6000 men. Hamilton, not being a
place of strength, they determined to march to Dumbarton, and to keep her
Majesty there peaceably, until she assembled a Parliament, which should
determine on the measures best suited for the safety of the common

On Thursday the 13th of May 1568, Murray was informed that the Queen with
her troops was on her way from Hamilton to Dumbarton, and would pass near
Glasgow. He instantly determined to intercept her on the road; for should
she reach Dumbarton, which was then, and had long been in the possession
of the Hamiltons, she would be comparatively beyond his reach, and would
have time to collect so great a strength, that she might once more chase
him out of Scotland. Besides, the loss of a battle, where the army on
either side consisted of only a few thousand men, though it might in all
probability be fatal to Mary, was not of so much consequence to the
Regent. He therefore assembled his troops, which mustered about 4000
strong, on the Green of Glasgow; and being informed that the Queen was
marching upon the south side of the Clyde, he crossed that river, and met
her at a small village called Langside, on the Water of Cart, about two
miles to the south of Glasgow. Mary was anxious to avoid a battle, for she
knew that Murray himself possessed no inconsiderable military talent, and
that Kircaldy of Grange, the best soldier in Scotland, was with him. But
party spirit ran so high, and the Hamiltons and the Lennoxes, in
particular, were so much exasperated against each other, that as soon as
they came within sight, it was evident that nothing but blows would
satisfy them. The main body of the Queen's army was under the command of
the Earl of Argyle; the van was led by Claud Hamilton, second son of the
Duke of Chatelherault; and the cavalry was under the conduct of Lord
Herries. The Earl of Huntly would have held a conspicuous place in the
battle, but he had set off from Hamilton a few days before to collect his
followers, and did not return till it was too late. Murray himself
commanded his main body, and the Earl of Morton the van; whilst to Grange
was intrusted the special charge of riding about over the whole field, and
making such alterations in the position of the battle as he deemed

Nothing now intervened between the two armies but a hill, of which both
were anxious to gain possession, the one marching from the east, and the
other from the west. It happened, however, that the ascent on the side
next Mary's troops was the steepest, and a stratagem suggested by Grange
secured the vantage-ground to the Regent. He ordered every man who was
mounted to take up a foot soldier behind him, and ride with all speed to
the top of the hill, where they were set down, and instantly formed into
line. Argyle was therefore obliged to take his position on a lesser hill,
over against that occupied by Murray. A cannonading commenced upon both
sides, and continued for about half an hour but without much effect. At
length, Argyle led his forces forward, and determined if possible to carry
the heights sword in hand. The engagement soon became general, and
advantages were obtained upon both sides. The Earl of Morton, who came
down the hill to meet Argyle, succeeded in driving back the Queen's
cannoneers and part of her infantry; whilst on the other hand, Lord
Herries, making a vigorous charge on Murray's cavalry, put them to rout.
Judiciously abstaining from a long pursuit, he returned to attack some of
the enemy's battalions of foot, but as he was obliged to advance directly
up hill, he was unable to make much impression on them. In the meantime,
with the view of obtaining more equal ground, Argyle endeavoured to lead
his troops round towards the west, and it was to counteract this movement
that the most desperate part of the engagement took place. All the forces
of both parties were gradually drawn off from their previous positions,
and the whole strength of the battle on either side was concentrated upon
this new ground. For half an hour the fortune of the day continued
doubtful; but at length the Queen's troops began to waver, and a
re-inforcement of two hundred Highlanders, which arrived just at the
fortunate moment for Murray, and broke in upon Argyle's flank, decided the
victory. The flight soon afterwards became general; and though the loss of
lives on the Queen's side did not exceed three hundred, a great number of
her best officers and soldiers were made prisoners.

Mary had taken her station upon a neighbouring eminence to watch the
progress of the fight. Her heart beat high with a thousand hopes and
fears, for she was either to regain the crown of her forefathers, or to
become a fugitive and a wanderer she knew not where. It must have been
with emotions of no common kind, that her eye glanced from one part of the
field to another;--it must have been with throbbing brow and palpitating
heart, that she saw her troops either advance or retreat; and when at
length she beheld the goodly array she had led forth in the morning,
scattered over the country, and all the Lords who had attended her with
pride and loyalty, seeking safety in flight, no wonder if she burst into a
passion of tears, and lamented that she had ever been born. But the
necessity of the moment fortunately put a check to this overwhelming
ebullition of her feelings. With a very small retinue of trusty friends,
among whom was the Lord Herries, she was quickly hurried away from the
scene of her disasters. She rode off at full speed, taking a southerly
direction towards Galloway, because from thence she could secure a passage
either by sea or land into England or France. She never stopped or closed
her eyes till she reached Dundrennan, an abbey about two miles from
Kirkcudbright, and at least sixty from the village of Langside.

She remained two days at Dundrennan, and there held several anxious
consultations with the few friends, who had either accompanied her in her
flight, or who joined her afterwards. Lord Herries, her principal adviser,
gave it as his decided opinion, that she ought to sail immediately for
France, where she had relations on whose affection she could depend, even
though they should not be able to secure her restoration to the throne of
Scotland. But Mary could not brook the idea of returning as a fugitive to
a country she had left as a Queen; and besides, had she placed herself
under the protection of Catholics, she might have exasperated her own
subjects, and would certainly have displeased Elizabeth and the people of
England. She was disposed also to place some reliance on the assurances of
friendship she had lately received from the English Queen. She was well
aware of the hollowness of most of Elizabeth's promises; but in her
present extremity, she thought that to cross the sea would be to resign
her crown forever. After much hesitation, she finally determined on going
into England, and desired Herries to write to Elizabeth's Warden at
Carlisle, to know whether she might proceed thither. Without waiting for
an answer, she rode to the coast on Sunday the 16th of May, and with
eighteen or twenty persons in her train, embarked in a fishing-boat, and
sailed eighteen miles along the shore, till she came to the small harbour
of Workington, in Cumberland. Thence she proceeded to the town of
Cockermouth, about twenty-six miles from Carlisle. Lord Scroope, the
Warden on these frontiers, was at this time in London; but his deputy, a
gentleman of the name of Lowther, having sent off an express to the Court,
to intimate the arrival of the Queen of Scots, assembled, on his own
responsibility, the men of rank and influence in the neighbourhood, and
having come out to meet the Queen, conducted her honourably to the Castle
of Carlisle, with the assurance, that, until Elizabeth's pleasure was
known, he would protect her from all her enemies.

As soon as the important news reached Elizabeth, that Mary was now within
her dominions, and consequently at her disposal, she perceived that the
great end of all her intrigues was at length achieved. It was necessary,
however, to proceed with caution, for she did not yet know either the
precise strength of Mary's party in Scotland, or the degree of interest
which might be taken by France in her future fate. She, therefore,
immediately despatched Lord Scroope, and Sir Francis Knollys her
Vice-Chamberlain, to Carlisle, with messages of comfort and condolence.
Mary, who anxiously waited their arrival, anticipated that they would
bring consolatory assurances. Her spirits began to revive, and she was
willing to believe that Elizabeth would prove her friendship by deeds, as
well as by words. But this delusion was destined to be of only momentary

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

Previous: Mary At Lochleven Her Abdication And Murray's Regency

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