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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

A Tangle

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

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 Love Token

Loch Leven Castle

The Ebbing Well

Before The Commissioners

My Lady's Remorse

The Huckstering Woman

Wingfield Manor

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

Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity

A Lioness At Bay

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

If there had been a single generous feeling still lurking in Elizabeth's
bosom, the time was now arrived when it should have discovered itself.
Mary was no longer a rival Queen, but an unfortunate sister, who, in her
hour of distress, had thrown herself into the arms of her nearest
neighbour and ally. During her imprisonment in Scotland, Elizabeth had
avowed her conviction of its injustice; and, if it was unjust that her own
subjects should retain her in captivity, it would of course be much more
iniquitous in one who had no right to interfere with her affairs, and who
had already condemned such conduct in others. If it was too much to expect
that the English Queen would supply her with money and arms, to enable her
to win back the Crown she had lost, it was surely not to be doubted that
she would either allow her to seek assistance in France, or, if she
remained in England, would treat her with kindness and hospitality. All
these hopes were fallacious; for, "with Elizabeth and her counsellors,"
as Robertson has justly observed, "the question was, not what was most
just or generous, but what was most beneficial to herself and the English

On the 29th of May 1568, Lord Scroope and Sir Francis Knollys arrived at
Carlisle. They were met at some little distance from the town by Lord
Herries, who told them, that what the Queen his mistress most desired, was
a personal interview with Elizabeth. But they had been instructed to
answer, that they doubted whether her Majesty could receive the Queen of
Scots, until her innocence from any share in the murder of her husband was
satisfactorily established. Thus, the ground which Elizabeth had
resolved to take was at once discovered. She was to affect to treat the
Scottish Queen with empty civility, whilst in reality she detained her a
prisoner, until she had arranged with Murray the precise accusation which
was to be brought against her, and which, if it succeeded in blackening
her character, might justify subsequent severities. Mary could not at
first believe that she would be treated with so much treachery; but
circumstances occurred every day to diminish her confidence in the good
intentions of the English Queen. Under the pretence that there was too
great a concourse of strangers from Scotland, Lord Scroope and Sir Francis
Knollys ordered the fortifications of Carlisle Castle to be repaired, and
Mary was not allowed to ride out to any distance. The most distinguished
of the few friends who were now with her, and who remained faithful to
her to the end of her life, were Lesley, Bishop of Ross,--the Lords
Herries, Livingston, and Fleming, and George and William Douglas. She had
also her two secretaries, Curl and Nawe, who afterwards betrayed her,--and
among other servants, Beaton, and Sebastian the Frenchman; there were
likewise the Ladies Livingston and Fleming, Mary Seaton, Lord Seaton's
daughter, and other female attendants.

Mary's first interview with the envoys from Elizabeth, prepossessed them
both in her favour. "We found her," they said, "to have an eloquent tongue
and a discreet head, and it seems by her doings, that she has stout
courage, and a liberal heart adjoined thereto." When they told her that
the Queen, their mistress, refused to admit her to her presence, Mary
burst into tears, and expressed the bitterest disappointment. Checking her
grief, however, and assuming a tone of becoming dignity, she said, that if
she did not receive without delay, the aid she had been induced to expect,
she would immediately demand permission to pass into France, where she did
not doubt she would obtain what the English Queen denied. In the
meantime, as she was not allowed to proceed to London herself, she
despatched Lord Herries to superintend her interests there; and shortly
afterwards, it being represented to her that her person was not in safety
so long as she continued so near the Borders, she consented to be removed
further into England, and was conveyed to Bolton Castle, a seat of Lord
Scroope, in the North Riding of Yorkshire.

The Regent Murray, on his part, was any thing but inactive. He forced the
Earl of Huntly, who had collected upwards of 2000 men, and was marching to
the Queen's assistance when he heard of the unfortunate battle of
Langside, to retire to the North, and disband the greater part of his
troops; he put to flight the remains of the Queen's army, which had been
again gathered by Argyle and Cassils; and, assembling a Parliament, he
procured acts of forfeiture and banishment against many of the most
powerful Lords of the opposite party. Elizabeth, perceiving his success,
had no desire to check the progress of his usurped authority, whatever
professions to the contrary she chose to make to Mary. On the 8th of June,
she wrote Murray a letter, in which she addressed him as her "right
trusty, and right well-beloved cousin;" told him falsely that the Queen of
Scots had confided to her the examination of the differences between
herself and her subjects; and advised him to take such steps as would
place his own side of the question in the most favourable point of view.
Murray had no objection to make Elizabeth the umpire between himself and
his sister, well assured that she would ultimately decide in his favour,
lest the rival, whom she had once found so formidable, should again become
a source of jealousy and alarm.

But Mary had never dreamt of appealing to Elizabeth as to a judge, and she
now learned with indignation that her rebellious nobles were to be
encouraged to come before that Queen on the same footing with herself.
When she asked for a personal interview, it was that she might speak to
her cousin as to a friend and equal, of the wrongs she had suffered. She
had voluntarily undertaken to satisfy the English Queen, as soon as they
conversed together, of her innocence from all the charges which had been
brought against her; but she was not to degrade herself by entering into a
controversy with her subjects regarding these charges. Accordingly, as
soon as she discovered Elizabeth's insidious policy, she addressed a
letter to her, in which she openly protested against it. The letter was in
French, and to the following effect:--

"Madam, my good sister, I came into your dominions to ask your assistance,
and not to save my life. Scotland and the world have not renounced me. I
was conscious of innocence; I was disposed to lay all my transactions
before you; and I was willing to do you honour, by making you the
restorer of a Queen. But you have afforded me no aid, and no consolation.
You even deny me admittance to your presence. I escaped from a prison, and
I am again a captive. Can it expose you to censure, to hear the complaints
of the unfortunate? You received my bastard brother when he was in open
rebellion; I am a Princess, and your equal, and you refuse me this
indulgence. Permit me then to leave your dominions. Your severity
encourages my enemies, intimidates my friends, and is most cruelly
destructive to my interests. You keep me in fetters, and allow my enemies
to conquer my realm. I am defenceless; and they enjoy my authority,
possess themselves of my revenues, and hold out to me the points of their
swords. In the miserable condition to which I am reduced, you invite them
to accuse me. Is it too small a misfortune for me to lose my kingdom? Must
I, also, be robbed of my integrity and my reputation? Excuse me, if I
speak without dissimulation. In your dominions I will not answer to their
calumnies and criminations. To you, in a personal conference, I shall at
all times be ready to vindicate my conduct; but to sink myself into a
level with my rebellious subjects, and to be a party in a suit or trial
with them, is an indignity so vile, that I can never submit to it. I can
die, but I cannot meet dishonour. Consult, I conjure you, what is right
and proper, and entitle yourself to my warmest gratitude; or, if you are
inclined not to know me as a sister, and to withhold your kindness,
abstain at least from rigour and injustice. Be neither my enemy nor my
friend; preserve yourself in the coldness of neutrality; and let me be
indebted to other princes for my re-establishment in my kingdom."

Unmoved by the forcible representations contained in this and other
letters, Elizabeth resolved to treat the Queen of Scots only with greater
severity than before, in the hope of intimidating her into a compliance
with her wishes. It was with this view that she had removed her to Bolton,
where she took care that she should be strictly guarded, and not allowed
to hold any intercourse with the loyal part of her Scottish subjects. Lord
Fleming, too, whom Mary wished to send as her ambassador to France, was
stopped; and she was given distinctly to understand, that she must not
expect any of her commands to be obeyed, unless they met with Elizabeth's
approval. The English Privy Council, of course, sanctioned their
Sovereign's severity; and gave it as their opinion, that, until an inquiry
had taken place into the whole conduct of the Scottish Queen, it would not
be consistent with the honour or safety of the realm to afford her the aid
she required. The result of all these machinations,--a result which
Elizabeth contrived to bring about with the most consummate art,--was,
that Mary agreed to nominate Commissioners to meet the Earl of Murray and
the Lords associated with him, and to authorize them, before Commissioners
to be appointed by Elizabeth, to state the grievances of which their
mistress, the Queen of Scots, complained. Murray approved of this
arrangement, because he foresaw from the first how it would end; and Mary
consented to it, because she was led to believe, that Murray and his
accomplices were summoned solely that they might answer to her complaints.
Well aware that their answer could not be satisfactory, she fondly
imagined that she would soon be restored to the power they had usurped.

The important Conference, as it was termed, between the three sets of
Commissioners, was appointed to be held at York. Mary's Commissioners were
Lesley, Bishop of Ross, the Lords Herries, Livingston, and Boyd, Gavin
Hamilton, Commendator of Kilwinning, Sir John Gordon of Lochinvar, and Sir
James Cockburn of Stirling. Murray associated with himself the Earl
of Morton, Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney, Pitcairn, Commendator of
Dunfermlin, and Lord Lindsay. Macgill and Balnaves, two civilians,
Buchanan, whose pen was always at the Regent's command "through good
report and bad report," Secretary Maitland, and one or two others, came
with them as legal advisers and literary assistants. On the part of
Elizabeth, the Commissioners were Thomas Howard Duke of Norfolk, Thomas
Ratcliffe Earl of Sussex, and Sir Ralph Sadler; and they were invested
with full authority to arrange all the differences and controversies
existing between her "dear sister and cousin, Mary Queen of Scots," and
James Earl of Murray.

On the 4th of October 1568, the conference was opened with much solemnity
at York. "The great abilities of the deputies on both sides," observes
Robertson, "the dignity of the judges before whom they were to appear, the
high rank of the persons whose cause was to be heard, and the importance
of the points in dispute, rendered the whole transaction no less
illustrious than it was singular. The situation in which Elizabeth
appeared on this occasion, strikes us with an air of magnificence. Her
rival, an independent queen, and the heir of an ancient race of monarchs,
was a prisoner in her hands, and appeared, by her ambassadors, before her
tribunal. The Regent of Scotland, who represented the Majesty, and
possessed the authority of a king, stood in person at her bar, and the
fate of a kingdom, whose power her ancestors had often dreaded, but could
never subdue, was now absolutely at her disposal." It may, however, be
remarked, that the "magnificence" of power depends, in a great degree, on
the manner in which that power has been acquired; and when it is
recollected that, by secretly and diligently fomenting civil disturbances
in Scotland, Elizabeth first attacked Mary's peace, and then undermined
her authority, and that, having subsequently assumed the mask of a friend,
only to conceal the scowl of an enemy, she had forcibly arrogated the rank
of a judge, her "air of magnificence" is discovered to be little else than

The "Instructions" given to her Commissioners, are of themselves
sufficient to show that her desire was not to extinguish, but to encourage
animosities between the Queen of Scots and her subjects. She had
previously assured Mary, in order to induce her to send Commissioners to
York at all, that so far from intending to use any form or process by
which her subjects should become her accusers, "she meant rather to have
such of them, as the Queen of Scots should name, called into the realm, to
be charged with such crimes as the said Queen should please to object
against them; and if any form of judgment should be used, it should be
against them." But as soon as she had persuaded Mary, by these
specious promises, to come into Court, she resolved to alter the features
of the cause. She instructed her Commissioners to listen particularly to
the requests and complaints of the Earl of Murray, and to assure him
privately, that if he could prove Mary to have been implicated in her
husband's murder, she should never be restored to the throne. Nay, she
went further; she desired it to be intimated to the Regent, that even
though he could not prove Mary's guilt, yet, that if he could attach
sufficient suspicion to her, it would be left to himself and his friends
to determine under what conditions they would again consent to receive her
into Scotland. This was as much encouragement as Murray could desire; for
he knew that, by artifice and effrontery, a shade of suspicion might be
made to attach itself even to the most perfect. Mary's Commissioners, on
the other hand, though doubting much the impartiality of the party which
was to arbitrate between them, felt strong in the justice of their cause;
and after protesting that their appearance was not to be construed as
implying any surrender of her independence on the part of their mistress,
or of feudal inferiority to the Crown of England, they proceeded to give
in their complaint. It contained a short review of the injuries the Queen
of Scots had suffered since her marriage with Bothwell;--of the rebellion
of Morton and others,--of her voluntary surrender at Carberry Hill,--of
her imprisonment in Loch-Leven,--of the abdication that had been forced
from her,--of the coronation of her infant son, and the assumed regency of
the Earl of Murray,--of her defeat at Langside,--and of the undutiful
conduct in which the Regent had since persevered.

To this complaint it was answered, at great length, by Murray, that the
Earl of Bothwell having forcibly carried off the person of the Queen to
the Castle of Dunbar, and kept her there a prisoner for some time, had, in
the end, suddenly accomplished "a pretended marriage," which, confirming
the nobility in the belief that the Earl was the chief author of the
murder of the King, made them determine to take up arms to relieve those
who were unjustly calumniated, and to rescue the Queen from the bondage of
a tyrant, who had presumptuously attempted to ravish and marry her, though
he could neither be her lawful husband, nor she his lawful wife;--that
Bothwell came against these nobility, "leading the Queen in his company,
as a defence and cloak to his wickedness;" but that, as the quarrel was
intended only against him, the Queen was received by the nobles, and led
by them into Edinburgh, as soon as she consented to part from the
Earl;--that she was then requested to agree that the murderers should be
punished, and that the pretended marriage into which she had been led,
should be dissolved;--that to this request she only answered, by
rigorously menacing all who had taken up arms in her cause, and declaring
she would surrender her realm altogether, "so she might be suffered to
possess the murderer of her husband;"--that, perceiving the inflexibility
of her mind, they had been compelled to "sequestrate her person" for a
season;--that, during this time, she had voluntarily renounced the
Government, finding herself wearied by its fatigues, and perceiving that
she and her people could not well agree; and that she had appointed,
during the minority of her son, the Earl of Murray Regent of the realm,
and that every thing he had done since had been in accordance with the
legal authority with which she had thus invested him;--and that he
therefore required, in behalf of his Sovereign Lord the King, to be
allowed peaceably to enjoy and govern the country.

The "Reply" of Mary's Commissioners, to this feeble and disingenuous
"Answer" of the Earl of Murray, was quite as candid as it was conclusive.
It was stated for Mary, that, so far from having been aware, at the time
of her marriage, that Bothwell was "known," or "affirmed," to be the
"chief author" of the horrible murder committed on her late husband, she
had seen him solemnly acquitted of all suspicion by a regular trial,
according to the laws of the realm, and that most of her principal
nobility had solicited her to accept of him as a husband, promising him
service, and her Highness loyal obedience,--not one of them, either before
or after the marriage, having warned her to avoid it, or expressed their
discontent with it, till they suddenly appeared in arms;--that, at
Carberry Hill, she willingly parted with Bothwell, as they themselves had
seen; but that, if he were in truth guilty of the crimes imputed to him,
which she did not then believe, they were to blame for permitting him to
escape;--that, upon being taken into Edinburgh, where they had promised to
reverence her as their Queen, she found herself treated as their
captive;--that, so far from showing any persevering attachment to
Bothwell, she repeatedly declared it to be her wish, that the estates of
the realm should examine into all the charges which had been made against
him;--that, notwithstanding, she had been forcibly carried off under shade
of night, and imprisoned against her will in the Castle of Loch-Leven,
where she was afterwards made to subscribe instruments of abdication, only
through the fear of present death;--that, consequently, the pretended
coronation of her son was an unlawful and treasonable proceeding, and the
pretended nomination of the Earl of Murray as Regent, a proof of itself
that force and fraud had been used; for, even supposing she had been
willing to abdicate, if she had been left to her own free choice, there
were others whom she would have preferred to appoint to the chief rule
during her son's minority;--that, therefore, she required the Queen of
England to support and fortify her in the peaceable enjoyment and
government of her realm, and to declare the pretended authority usurped by
others null from the beginning.

"So far," says Hume, "the Queen of Scots seemed plainly to have the
advantage in the contest; and the English Commissioners might have been
surprised, that Murray had made so weak a defence." The truth is, that not
only were the English Commissioners surprised, but the Regent himself felt
painfully conscious, that he had entirely failed to offer even a plausible
pretext for the dethronement of his sister, and his own usurpation.
Elizabeth also, anxious as she was to befriend him, saw that she would be
imperatively required, by every principle of justice and good government,
to take measures against him, were the discussion allowed to terminate at
the point to which it had now been brought. Means were therefore taken to
inform Murray, that unless he was able to strengthen his case, and to
bring his charges more directly home, the matter would in all probability
go against him. Upon this the Regent held a consultation with his friends,
Maitland and Buchanan, and the necessity of bringing into play a new
device, which had been prepared as a corps-de-reserve, was by all of them
felt and acknowledged. Though no evidence had been adduced against her,
Mary had already been accused by her brother of having had a share in the
murder of Darnley. But as the charge was made soon after his return from
France, it was strongly suspected to have been invented only to justify
himself for retaining her in Loch-Leven. Now, however, seeing the
emergency of his affairs, he determined that something like evidence of
its truth should be produced. This evidence consisted of a collection of
certain letters and sonnets, alleged to be in the Queen's own hand, and
addressed to the Earl of Bothwell, containing passages which testified at
once her love for him, and her guilt towards Darnley. But here the
question very naturally occurs, why these important documents should not
have been brought forward in the earlier part of the conference; and as
Robertson, in endeavouring to account for the delay, appears to have
fallen into a mistake, it will be worth while examining, for a moment, the
soundness of his hypothesis.

The Duke of Norfolk, Elizabeth's principal Commissioner, was one of the
most powerful of all her nobility, and, since Mary's arrival in England,
he had formed the ambitious project of ascending the Scottish throne by
means of a marriage with her. With this view, he had already engaged
extensively in secret intrigues, and had, in particular, prevailed on
Lethington to approve of his plans, and promise him his support. But
Robertson asserts further, that soon after his arrival at York, he won
over Murray also to his views, and persuaded him to keep back, for a time,
the heaviest part of his accusation against Mary, that her character might
not be so fatally blackened. The historian's assertion, however, is
unsupported by the evidence he adduces in its favour, his references to
Anderson, to Goodall, and to his own Appendix, being quite unsatisfactory.
Whatever promises Murray may, at a subsequent date, have made to Norfolk,
it clearly appears that no charge against Mary was delayed one hour at
York, in consequence of any understanding between these two noblemen.

It had been all along the Regent's determination, not to have recourse to
the letters, if he could make out a case without them; and even after he
perceived that he would require their aid, he did not produce them openly,
till they had been first shown privately to the English Commissioners, and
their opinion obtained concerning them. It was on the 4th of October that
the conference commenced; and on the 10th, Lethington, Macgill, and
Buchanan, in a secret interview with Norfolk, Sussex, and Sadler, laid
before them the mysterious documents. The nature of their contents was
communicated to Elizabeth on the 11th, and she was requested to mention in
reply, whether, when publicly adduced and authenticated, they would be
sufficient to secure Mary's condemnation. Murray, therefore, cannot at
this time, have entered into any agreement with the Duke of Norfolk; for,
so far from keeping back his box-full of letters, he was nervously anxious
to ascertain, as speedily as possible, whether Elizabeth would attach any
weight to them, or allow them to be branded as palpable forgeries. Had
Robertson attended a little more to dates, he would have discovered, that
so far from wishing to favour the views of the Duke of Norfolk, Murray
informed Elizabeth regarding the letters and their contents, on the very
day on which he gave in his first "Answer" to Mary's Commissioners. Nor
had these letters been entirely unheard of till now; for, though they had
never been exhibited, they had been expressly alluded to nearly a year
before, in an act published by the Lords of Secret Council, on the 4th of
December 1567, in which it was asserted, that by the discovery of certain
of the Queen's private letters, sent by her to the Earl of Bothwell, it
was "most certain that she was art and part of the actual device and deed
of the murder of the King." The same assertion was subsequently
repeated, founded upon the same alleged proof, in one of the Acts of the
Parliament called by Murray. The only legitimate conclusion therefore to
be drawn from his unwillingness to bring forward these letters at York,
and make good, by their means the sole charge against the Queen which
could justify his usurpation of her authority, is, that he was afraid to
expose such fabrications to the eye of day, until he should have received
Elizabeth's assurance that she would treat them with becoming
consideration, and assign to them an air of importance, even though
forgery, with brazen audacity, was stamped upon their face.

As soon as Elizabeth heard of the letters, and reflected on the turn which
they might give to the case, she determined on taking the whole of the
proceedings under her own immediate superintendence, and with this view
removed the conference from York to Westminster. To the Commissioners
previously appointed, she there added the Earls of Arundel and Leicester,
Lord Clinton, Sir Nicolas Bacon, and Sir William Cecil. Mary at first
expressed satisfaction at this new arrangement, but several circumstances
soon occurred which proved, that no favour was intended to her by the
change. That which galled her most, was the marked attention paid to the
Earl of Murray. Though Elizabeth refused Mary a personal interview, she
admitted her rebellious brother to that honour, and thus glaringly
deviated from the impartiality which ought to have been observed by an
umpire. Accordingly, the Queen of Scots commanded her Commissioners, the
Bishop of Ross and Lord Herries, to complain of this injustice. Not to be
received into Elizabeth's presence, she could regard in no other light but
as an assumption of superiority,--a parade of rigid righteousness,--and an
affected dread of contamination, which, whilst it was meant to imply the
purity of the maiden Queen, aimed at exciting suspicion of the purity of
another. Continuing to believe that her Scottish rebels had been called
before the English Commissioners at her instance, Mary had consented that
her representatives should proceed from York to Westminster, to make her
complaints as a free Sovereign. In her instructions to the Bishop of Ross,
and those associated with him, she expressly told them, that the
conference was appointed "only for making a pacification between her and
her rebellious subjects, and restoring her to her realm and authority."
She never lost sight of the fact, that she did not appeal to Elizabeth as
a suppliant, but as an equal; and she always took care to preserve high
and dignified ground. But to depart from this, and before the tribunal of
Hampton Court, in which such men as Cecil were able to procure any
decision they chose, to undertake to answer every calumnious charge which
might be brought against her, never entered into her imagination. "It is
not unknown to us," she wrote to her Commissioners from Bolton, "how
hurtful and prejudicial it would be to us, our posterity and realm, to
enter into foreign judgment or arbitrement before the Queen our good
sister, her Council, or Commissioners, either for our estate, Crown,
dignity or honour;--we will and command you, therefore, that you pass to
the presence of our said dearest sister, her Council and Commissioners,
and there, in our name, extend our clemency toward our disobedient
subjects, and give them appointment for their offences committed against
us and our realm,--so that they may live, in time coming, in surety under
us their head."--"And, in case they will otherwise proceed, then we will
and command you to dissolve this present diet and negotiation, and proceed
no further therein, for the causes foresaid."

It may well be conceived, therefore, that when Mary heard of Elizabeth's
kind and familiar treatment of the Earl of Murray, "the principal of her
rebels," she was not a little indignant. She immediately sent word to her
Commissioners, that, before proceeding a step further in the negotiation,
she considered it right that she should be put on at least an equal
footing with the pretended Regent,--for she did not choose that greater
respect should be shown to her rebels than to her and her true subjects.
There were other three points, of which she thought she had also just
cause to complain. First, that though she had come into England on the
assurance of friendship, and of her own free will, she had not only seen
no steps taken to restore her to her realm and authority, but had most
unexpectedly found herself detained a prisoner, and her confinement
rendered closer every day;--second, that though, at Elizabeth's request,
she had desired her loyal subjects in Scotland to abstain from
hostilities, yet the Earl of Murray had not been prevented from molesting
and invading them;--and, third, that having already established the
utter groundlessness of the charges brought against her, instead of
finding herself reinstated on her throne, the conference had been merely
removed to a greater distance, where she could not communicate with her
Commissioners so frequently and speedily as was necessary. In
consideration of these premises, and especially in consideration of the
treatment of the Earl of Murray, "you shall break the conference," she
continued, "and proceed no further therein, but take your leave, and come
away. And if our sister allege that, at the beginning, she were content
our cause should be conferred on by Commissioners, it is true. But since
our principal rebels have free access towards her to accuse us in her
presence, and the same is denied to us, personally to declare our
innocence, and answer to their calumnies, being held as prisoner, and
transported from place to place, though we came into her realm, of our
free will, to seek her support and natural amity, we have resolved to have
nothing further conferred on, except we be present before her, as the said

In the mean time, before these letters arrived, the Commissioners had held
several sittings at Westminster; and Elizabeth having personally informed
Murray, that if he would accuse the Queen of Scots of a share in the
murder of Darnley, and produce the letters he had in his possession, she
would authorize his continuance in the Regency, he no longer hesitated. On
the 26th of November, after protesting that he had been anxious to save,
as long as possible, the mother of his gracious King, James VI., from the
perpetual infamy which the discovery of her shame would attach to her, and
that he was now forced to disclose it, in his own defence, because it was
maintained, that his previous answer to the complaint made against him was
not sufficient, Murray, in conjunction with his colleagues, presented to
the English Commissioners an "Eik" or addition to their "Answer," in which
they formally charged Mary with the murder. As to the reluctance so
hypocritically avowed, it has been already seen, that so far back as
December 1567, precisely the same charge, though unsupported by any
evidence, was brought forward in the Scottish Parliament; and having then
served its purpose, was allowed to lie dormant for eleven months. It is
true, that there was then, no less than now, a palpable contradiction
between this accusation, and the grounds which had always previously been
assigned, both for Mary's "sequestration" in Loch-Leven, and her alleged
voluntary abdication. It was not till the public mind had been inflamed,
and till opposing interests contributed to involve the truth in obscurity,
that the notorious fact was denied or concealed, that Mary had been forced
into an unwilling marriage with Bothwell, and that her abduction, and
imprisonment in the Castle of Dunbar, were themselves an answer to any
suspicion, that she was one of his accomplices in Darnley's slaughter. But
now that Mary was a prisoner, in the hands of a jealous rival, the Regent
naturally supposed, that some contradictions would be overlooked; and all
at once, assuming a tone of the utmost confidence, and undertaking "to
manifest the naked truth," he ventured on couching his assertion in these
terms:--"It is certain, and we boldly and constantly affirm, that as
James, some time Earl of Bothwell, was the chief executor of the horrible
and unworthy murder, perpetrated in the person of King Henry, of good
memory, father to our Sovereign Lord, and the Queen's lawful husband,--so
was she of the fore-knowledge, counsel, and device, persuader and
commander of the said murder to be done, maintainer and fortifier of the
executors thereof, by impeding and stopping of the inquisition and
punishment due for the same, according to the laws of the realm, and,
consequently, by marriage with the said James, some time Earl Bothwell,
dilated and universally esteemed chief author of the above named
murder." In support of this new charge, the letters and other
documents were referred to, and it was promised to produce them as soon as
they were called for.

Before they were able to inform their mistress of the unexpected turn
which affairs had taken, Mary's Commissioners received her instructions
from Bolton, to proceed no further in the conference. They therefore
stated to Elizabeth, that though they were heartily sorry to perceive
their countrymen, with a view to colour their unjust and ungrateful
doings, had committed to writing a charge of so shameful a sort, they
nevertheless could not condescend to answer it, having begun the
conference at York as plaintives, and having afterwards found their
relative positions altered, Murray being admitted into her Majesty's
presence, to advance his calumnious falsehoods, and Mary being expected to
defend herself against them, though kept in imprisonment at a distance. At

the same time, according to Mary's commands, they said that, although the
proceedings of the Regent were altogether intolerable and injurious, they
would not yet dissolve the conference, provided their mistress were
permitted to appear in her own person before the Queen of England and her
nobility. To this request Elizabeth would not agree. Her real motive
was the fear of truth; that which she assigned was sufficiently
preposterous. "As to your desire," she said to Mary's Commissioners, "that
your Sovereign should come to my presence to declare her innocence in this
cause, you will understand, that from the beginning why she was debarred
therefrom, was through the bruit and slander that was passed upon her,
that she was participant of such a heinous crime as the murder of her
husband; and I thought it best for your mistress's weal and honour, and
also for mine own, that trial should be taken thereof before her coming to
me; for I could never believe, nor yet will, that ever she did assent
thereto." If Elizabeth had been anxious to see justice done, she
could very easily have overcome the squeamish dread of being brought into
contact with Mary, the more especially as she arrogated for herself the
superior character of judge, as it was only "bruit and slander" that
implicated her "dearest sister," and as she did not, according to her own
confession, believe her guilty, even after she had been informed of the
existence of the love-letters, and made acquainted with their contents.
Both parties, however, continuing alike resolute, the Commissioners of the
Queen of Scots intimated, that in so far as they were concerned, the
conference might be considered closed.

It is here of some importance to point out, that both Robertson and Hume
have deduced an argument against Mary, from their own erroneous manner of
stating the proceedings of the conference at Westminster. According to the
narrative of both these historians, the reader is led to believe, that
Mary was perfectly willing to go on till the moment that Murray accused
her of being a sharer in Darnley's murder, but that, as soon as this
charge was made, she drew back as if afraid to meet it. Robertson and Hume
would have themselves discovered how unfair this view of the matter was,
had they taken the trouble to attend to the dates of the documents
connected with the transaction. By these they would have seen, that Mary
refused to proceed on the 22d of November 1568, unless admitted equally
with the Earl of Murray into Elizabeth's presence, and that Murray's
accusation was not produced till the 26th. Thus so far from
"recoiling from the inquiry at the critical moment," as Hume expresses it,
she did not hesitate to proceed until she had rebutted every thing which
had been advanced against her, and stood on even higher ground than
before. It will besides be immediately found, that notwithstanding her
previous determination to the contrary, she was no sooner informed of the
existence of letters alleged to have been written by her to Bothwell, than
she was willing to enter into a proof of their authenticity.

It would not have suited Elizabeth's views to allow the contending parties
to slip through her fingers, before arriving at any definite conclusion.
She therefore fell upon an expedient by which she hoped, although the
Queen of Scots had withdrawn from the conference, and it consequently
should have been considered at an end, to attach to her so great a degree
of suspicion, that she might safely detain her from her own realm. She
ordered Murray and his colleagues to be called before her Commissioners;
and the scene having been arranged before-hand with them, she commanded
the Regent to be rebuked for accusing his native Sovereign of a crime so
horrible, that if it could be proved true, she would be infamous to all
princes in the world. The Regent readily answered, that finding he had
displeased her Majesty, he had no objections to show the Commissioners "a
collection made in writing of the presumptions and circumstances" by which
he had been guided in the charge he had advanced against Mary, and which
would satisfy them that it had not been made without due grounds and
consideration. This was all that Elizabeth wished. In however glaring a
point of view it placed her injustice, she rejoiced that Mary's
Commissioners were no longer attending the conference; for she would now
be able to represent to the world, without fear of contradiction, the
overwhelming strength of Murray's evidences, and hold them out as the
justification of her own severity. These hopes and plans, however, were
very nearly frustrated by the boldness and decision of Mary's conduct. As
soon as she received intelligence of this new accusation, and of the means
by which it was to be supported, she resolved that her own innocence and
its falsehood should be made apparent; and for this purpose, she even
consented to depart from her former demand of being personally admitted to
Elizabeth's presence. She wrote to her Commissioners to resume the duties
which they had intermitted, and to renew the conference once more. "We
have seen the copy," she said, "which you have sent us of the false and
unlawful accusation presented against us by some of our rebels, together
with the declarations and protestations made by you thereon before the
Queen of England, our good sister's Commissioners, wherein you have obeyed
our commands to refuse consenting to any further proceedings, if the
presence of our sister were refused us. But that our rebels may see that
they have not closed your mouths, you may offer a reply to the pretended
excuse and cloak of their wicked actions, falsity and disloyalty, whereof
you had no information before, it being a thing so horrible, that neither
we nor you could have imagined it would have fallen into the thoughts of
the said rebels."

A reply was accordingly made, in which the "Eik" was maintained to be
false in every particular, and nothing but a device, contrived to justify
Murray's own "detestable doings and ambitious purpose." The writings, or
at least copies of them, which had been adduced in support of the Regent's
charge, were required to be delivered; and it was intimated, that Mary
would undertake to prove, that the very men who now accused her of murder,
were themselves the first inventors, and some of them the executors of the
deed. It will at first appear hardly credible, but it is nevertheless
true, that Elizabeth refused to allow duplicates of the evidence against
her to be sent to Mary. On the contrary, she now hastened to break up the
conference; Murray was sent back to his Regency, and the Queen of Scots
detained in closer captivity than ever; and though she even yet petitioned
to see the writings, Elizabeth refused to surrender them, except upon
conditions with which Mary's Commissioners would not comply. They had
formally accused the Regent and his adherents of a share in Bothwell's
guilt; yet the latter had been permitted "to depart into Scotland without
abiding to hear the defence of the Queen of Scotland's innocency, nor the
trial and proof of their detection, which was offered to verify and prove
them guilty of the same crime, but were fully released, and no end put to
the cause, according to the equity and justice thereof. It did not appear
meet, therefore, that their Sovereign should make any further answer,
unless her rebels were made to remain within the realm until the trial

As no decision had been pronounced against Mary, and as the Regent had
been allowed to depart, leave was also asked for her to return to
Scotland, or proceed to France, as she might think fit. This, however, was
expressly refused; but it was insultingly promised, that if she would
yield up the crown and government of Scotland in favour of her son the
Prince, she would be permitted to remain privately and quietly in England.
Mary, of course, rejected the proposal with scorn. "The eyes of all
Europe," she said, "are upon me at this moment; and were I thus tamely to
yield to my adversaries, I should be pronouncing my own condemnation. A
thousand times rather would I submit to death, than inflict this stain
upon my honour. The last words I speak shall be those of the Queen of

Thus ended this famous conference, which Elizabeth had opened with so many
professions of friendship, which she conducted with so much duplicity, and
which she concluded without any conclusion, except that of endeavouring to
blacken the character of her sister Mary, and give plausibility to her
continued imprisonment. To a certain extent it answered her purpose. She
had won the reputation, in the eyes of those who looked only at the
surface of things, of having endeavoured to do justice between the Queen
of Scots and her nobility; she had secured the favour of the Regent; and
had obtained a strong hold of the person of her rival, whom she now doomed
to lingering and hopeless captivity.

Next: Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity

Previous: Mary's Escape From Lochleven And The Battle Of Langside

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