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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

Rizzio

The Fall Of Bothwell

Mary's Birth And Subsequent Residence At The French Court

Mary's Escape From Lochleven And The Battle Of Langside



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The Love Token

Loch Leven Castle

The Ebbing Well

My Lady's Remorse

The Huckstering Woman

A Lioness At Bay

Wingfield Manor

Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity

Evidence

The Rebellion Of The Nobles The Meeting At Carberry Hill And Its Consequences






Mary's Trial And Condemnation








The closing scene of Mary's life was now rapidly approaching. Debilitated
as she was by her long confinement, and the many painful thoughts which
had been incessantly preying on her peace of mind, it is not likely that
she could have long survived, even though she had been left unmolested
within the walls of her prison. But she had been the source of two much
jealousy and uneasiness to Elizabeth, to be either forgotten or forgiven.
Weak as she was in body, and destitute alike of wealth and power, her name
had nevertheless continued a watchword and a tower of strength, not only
to all her own friends throughout Christendom, but to all who were
disposed, from whatever cause, to stir up civil dissensions and broils in
England. Scarcely a conspiracy against Elizabeth's person and authority
had been contrived for the last sixteen years, with which the Queen of
Scots was not supposed to be either remotely or immediately connected. Nor
is it to be denied, that appeals were made to her sufferings and cruel
treatment, to give plausibility to many an enterprise which was
anti-constitutional in its object, and criminal in its execution. Other
less objectionable enterprises Mary herself expressly countenanced, for
she always openly declared, that being detained a captive by force, she
considered herself fully entitled to take every means that offered to
effect her escape. She acted solely upon a principle of self-defence.
Whenever a nobleman of influence like Norfolk, or a man of integrity like
Lesley, undertook to arrange a scheme for her release, she willingly
listened to their proposals, and was ever ready to act in concert with
them. She had been detained in strict ward in a realm into which she had
come voluntarily, or rather into which she had been seduced by specious
promises and offers of assistance; and it would have been against every
dictate of common sense and common justice, to suppose that she had not a
right to free herself from her unwarrantable imprisonment. It is true,
that many of her attempts, mixed up as they were with the interested and
ambitious projects of others, gave Elizabeth no little inconvenience and
anxiety. But this was the price she must have laid her account with paying
for the pleasure of seeing the Queen of Scots a helpless hostage in her
hands.

To discourage the numerous plots which were formed, either by Mary's real
or pretended adherents, a number of persons of the first rank in the
kingdom entered into a solemn "Association," in which they bound
themselves to defend Elizabeth against all her enemies, "and if any
violence should be offered to her life, in order to favour the title of
any pretender to the crown, not only never to allow or acknowledge the
person or persons by whom, or for whom such a detestable act should be
committed, but, as they should answer to the Eternal God, to prosecute
such person or persons to the death, and pursue them with the utmost
vengeance to their overthrow and extirpation." The Parliament, which met
in 1585, sanctioned this Association; and, alarmed by the recent discovery
of a fanatical design, on the part of a Roman Catholic, to assassinate the
Queen, because she had been excommunicated by the Pope, they passed an
Act, by which they determined, with the most arbitrary injustice, "That if
any rebellion should be excited in the kingdom, or any thing attempted to
the hurt of her Majesty's person, by or for any person pretending a
title to the crown, the Queen should empower twenty-four persons, by a
commission under the Great Seal, to examine into and pass sentence upon
such offences; and that, after judgment given, a proclamation should be
issued, declaring the persons whom they found guilty excluded from any
right to the crown; and her Majesty's subjects might lawfully pursue every
one of them to the death; and that, if any design against the life of the
Queen took effect, the persons by or for whom such a detestable act
was executed, and their issues, being in any wise assenting or privy to
the same, should be disabled for ever from pretending to the crown, and be
pursued to death, in the like manner." That the persons by whom any of
these faults were committed, should be punished, was in strict accordance
with equity; but that the persons for whom they might be supposed to be
done, should be considered as much involved in their guilt, was alike
contrary to law and reason. The discontented were forming plots every year
against Elizabeth, and, with the very existence of many of these plots,
Mary was unacquainted; yet, by this statute, she was made answerable for
all of them. There is little wonder, therefore, if she considered it only
a forerunner of greater severities; and it was not long before an occasion
occurred which afforded a plausible pretext for making a practical
application of it.

In the year 1586, three English priests, who had been educated in a
Catholic seminary at Rheims, and over whose minds the most illiberal
superstition held unlimited sway, actually conceived the belief, that the
bull of excommunication, issued by Pope Pius V. against Elizabeth, had
been dictated under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost. They
looked, consequently, upon that Sovereign with a fanatical hatred, which
they determined, if possible, to gratify. Having contrived to win over one
or two others to their own way of thinking, and, in particular, an officer
of the name of Savage, and another priest of the name of Ballard, they
sent them into England to disseminate their principles among all on whose
co-operation they thought they could depend; and, in the meantime, they
set on foot a negotiation with the Spanish ambassador in Paris, through
whose means they hoped to obtain the assistance of a foreign force. He
gave them a promise of encouragement, only on condition that they secured
a strong party in England, and that means were taken to remove Elizabeth.
Among the first persons to whom Savage and Ballard communicated their
designs, was Anthony Babington, a young gentleman of estate and fortune in
Derbyshire. Having resided for some time in France, he had formed an
acquaintance with the Archbishop of Glasgow, and from him had heard so
many eulogiums on Mary, that he became inspired with the most enthusiastic
feelings in her favour, and cherished a romantic desire of performing some
exploit which might secure for him her gratitude and esteem. By his advice
and assistance, a knowledge of the conspiracy was intrusted to a number of
persons of respectability of the Roman Catholic persuasion; and a secret
correspondence was set on foot with the Queen of Scots, through the medium
of her Secretaries Naw and Curl. Mary, however, was not disposed to give
the conspirators much encouragement. She had been now so long accustomed
to despair, and was so convinced of the fallaciousness of hope, that she
was almost inclined to turn away from it, as from something painful. She
had grown indifferent about her future fate, and had endeavoured to resign
herself to the prospect of ending her days in captivity. Besides, she had
the recent Act of Parliament before her eyes; and she was well aware, that
though she did nothing but attempt an escape, she would be held
responsible for the whole plot, whatever its extent or criminality might
be. It is, however, not at all unlikely that she may, notwithstanding,
have authorized her Secretaries to write once or twice to Babington and
his associates; but that she gave them any support in their designs
against Elizabeth, was never proved, and is not to be believed. It was
indeed with no little difficulty that Mary was able to hold any epistolary
communication at all with her friends, so strictly was she watched by Sir
Amias Paulet and Sir Drue Drury, to whose custody she had been committed,
and who kept her in the Castle of Chartley in Staffordshire. The
conspirators were obliged to bribe one of the servants, who conveyed to
the Queen or her Secretaries, the letters which they deposited in a hole
in the wall, and put the answers into the same place, from which they took
them privately, when it was dark.

Every thing seemed to proceed smoothly, and all the necessary arrangements
were now concluded. The different conspirators had different tasks
allotted to them; by some a rebellion was to be excited in several parts
of the kingdom at once; six others bound themselves by solemn oaths to
assassinate Elizabeth; and Babington himself undertook to head a strong
party, which he was to lead to the rescue of the Queen of Scots. Nor were
they to be destitute of foreign assistance as soon as the first blow was
struck, and the first symptoms of internal commotion appeared. So inspired
were these infatuated men with an idea of the glory of the revolution they
were about to achieve, that they had medals prepared representing
themselves assembled together, with Babington in the midst, and bearing
the motto,--"Hi mihi sunt comites quos ipsa pericula ducunt." But in all
their fancied security and enthusiasm, they were ignorant that every step
they took was known to Elizabeth and her minister Walsingham, and that
they were advancing only to the foot of their own scaffold. It was through
the treachery of one of their own associates of the name of Polly, one of
Walsingham's accredited spies, who had joined them only that he might
betray them, that all their proceedings were discovered, and attentively
watched. Savage, Ballard, and the other four who were bent on the murder
of Elizabeth, had already come up to London, and were lying in wait for
the first favourable opportunity to execute their purpose; and, as
Walsingham was anxious to have complete evidence of their guilt in his
possession before apprehending them, they were allowed to remain
unmolested for some time. The Queen, however, fearing for her personal
safety, at length insisted on their being seized, remarking, that, "in not
taking heed of a danger when she might, she seemed more to tempt God than
to hope in him." Ballard was first arrested; his accomplices, struck with
astonishment and dismay, fled out of London; but, after lurking for some
days in woods and byeways, cutting off their hair, disfiguring their
faces, and submitting to every kind of deprivation and hardship to avoid
the hot search which was made for them, they were at length taken; and so
much had the public feeling been excited against them, that, when they
were brought into London, the bells of the city were rung, and bonfires
kindled in the streets. Walsingham had arranged his measures so
effectively, that all the other conspirators, who were scattered
throughout the kingdom, were also seized and brought to the capital within
a very short time. Fourteen of the principal inventors of the plot were
immediately tried, condemned, and executed. No mercy whatever was shown
to them; for Elizabeth seldom forgave her enemies.

But, in the death of these men, only one part of Elizabeth's vengeance was
gratified. The wrongs and the merits of the Queen of Scots had been the
means of imparting to this conspiracy a degree of respectability; and she,
therefore, was regarded as the chief culprit. Walsingham had ascertained,
that communications of some sort or another had passed between Mary's
secretaries and the conspirators; and before she was aware that
Babington's plot had been discovered, he sent down Sir Thomas Gorges to
Chartley to take her by surprise, and endeavour to discover some
additional grounds of suspicion. Sir Thomas arrived just as she was about
to ride out in a wheeled carriage which had been procured for her, and,
without permitting her to alight, he rudely told her of Babington's fate;
then entering the Castle, he committed Naw and Curl into custody; and,
breaking into the private cabinets of the Queen, he seized all her letters
and papers, and sent them off immediately to Elizabeth. He took possession
too of all her money, "lest she should use it for corruption." She herself
was not allowed to return to Chartley for some days, but conveyed about
from one castle to another. When she was at length brought back, and saw
how she had been plundered in her absence, she could not refrain from
weeping bitterly. "There are two things, however," she said in the midst
of her tears, "which they cannot take away,--my birth and my
religion."

In the excited state of feeling which then prevailed in the nation, and
the fears which her subjects entertained for the safety of their
Sovereign, Elizabeth perceived that she might now safely proceed to those
extremities against Mary which she had so long meditated, but which
considerations of selfish prudence had hitherto prevented her from putting
into execution. She asserted, that not only her own life, but the religion
and peace of the country were at stake, and that either the Queen of Scots
must be removed, or the whole realm given up as a sacrifice. By her own
injustice, she had involved herself in inconveniences; and as soon as she
began to feel their effects, she pretended to be indignant at the innocent
victim of her tyranny. But it was not without difficulty that she brought
all her ministers to think on this subject precisely as she herself did.
Many of them did not hesitate to state their conviction, that Mary had
neither set on foot nor countenanced Babington's plot, and that, however
the conspirators might have interwoven her name with it, she could not be
punished for what she could not have prevented. Besides, they urged that
she was not likely to live long at any rate, and that it would be more for
the honour of the kingdom to leave her unmolested for the short remainder
of her days. Nevertheless, by Elizabeth's exertions, and those of
Walsingham, who had always courted the favour of his mistress by the most
persevering persecution of Mary, opposition was at length silenced, and
the trial of the Queen of Scots finally determined. To give as much
dignity, and as great a semblance of justice as possible to a proceeding
so unwarrantable as that of calling upon her to answer for an imaginary
offence, forty of the most illustrious persons in the kingdom were
appointed Commissioners, and were intrusted with the charge of hearing the
cause, and deciding upon the question of life or death.

On the 25th of September 1586, Mary had been taken from Chartley to the
Castle of Fotheringay in Northamptonshire, where she was more strictly
watched than ever by Sir Amias Paulet, who was a harsh and inflexible
gaoler. On the 11th of October, Elizabeth's Commissioners arrived, the
great hall of the Castle having been previously fitted up as a court-room
for their reception. They would have proceeded with the trial immediately;
but a difficulty occurred, which, though they scarcely can have failed to
anticipate, they were not prepared to obviate. Mary refused to acknowledge
their jurisdiction, denying that they possessed any right either to
arraign or try her. "I am no subject to Elizabeth," she said, "but an
independent Queen as well as she; and I will consent to nothing unbecoming
the majesty of a crowned head. Worn out as my body is, my mind is not yet
so enfeebled as to make me forget what is due to myself, my ancestors, and
my country. Whatever the laws of England may be, I am not subject to them;
for I came into the realm only to ask assistance from a sister Queen, and
I have been detained an unwilling prisoner." For two days the
Commissioners laboured in vain to induce Mary to appear before them; and
as she assigned reasons for refusing, which it was impossible for fair
argument to invalidate, recourse was at length had to threats. They told
her that they would proceed with the trial, whether she consented to be
present or not; and that, though they were anxious to hear her
justification, they would nevertheless conclude that she was guilty, and
pronounce accordingly, if she refused to defend herself. It would have
been well had Mary allowed them to take their own way; but, conscious that
she was accused unjustly, she could not bear to think that she excited
suspicion, by refusing the opportunity of establishing her innocence.
Actuated by this honourable motive, she at length yielded, after solemnly
protesting that she did not, and never would, acknowledge the authority
which Elizabeth arrogated over her.

On the 14th of October the trial commenced. The upper half of the great
hall of Fotheringay Castle was railed off, and at the higher end was
placed a chair of state, under a canopy, for the Queen of England. Upon
both sides of the room benches were arranged in order, where the Lord
Chancellor Bromley, the Lord Treasurer Burleigh, fourteen Earls, thirteen
Barons, and Knights and Members of the Privy Council, sat. In the centre
was a table, at which the Lord Chief Justice, several Doctors of the Civil
Law, Popham, the Queen's Attorney, her Solicitors, Sergeants and Notaries,
took their places. At the foot of this table, and immediately opposite
Elizabeth's chair of state, a chair, without any canopy, was placed for
the Queen of Scots. Behind, was the rail which ran across the hall, the
lower part of which was fitted up for the accommodation of persons who
were not in the commission.

There was never, perhaps, an occasion throughout the whole of Mary's life
on which she appeared to greater advantage than this. In the presence of
all the pomp, learning, and talent of England, she stood alone and
undaunted; evincing, in the modest dignity of her bearing, a mind
conscious of its own integrity, and superior to the malice of fortune.
Elizabeth's craftiest lawyers and ablest politicians were assembled to
probe her to the quick,--to press home every argument against her, which
ingenuity could devise and eloquence embellish,--to dazzle her with a
blaze of erudition, or involve her in a maze of technical perplexities.
Mary had no counsellor--no adviser--no friend. Her very papers, to which
she might have wished to refer, had been taken from her; and there was not
one to plead her cause, or defend her innocence. Yet was she not dismayed.
She knew that she had a higher Judge than Elizabeth; and that great as was
the array of Lords and Barons that appeared against her, posterity was
greater than they, and that to its decision all things would be finally
referred. Her bodily infirmities imparted only a greater lustre to her
mental pre-eminence; and not in all the fascinating splendor of her youth
and beauty--not on the morning of her first bridal day, when Paris rang
with acclamations in her praise--was Mary Stuart so much to be admired, as
when, weak and worn out, she stood calmly before the myrmidons of a rival
Queen, to hear and refute their unjust accusations, her eye radiant once
more with the brilliancy of earlier years, and the placid benignity of a
serene conscience, lending to her countenance its undying grace.

Elizabeth's Attorney-General opened the pleadings. He began by referring
to the act of Parliament, in which it was made capital to be the person
for whom any design was undertaken against the life of the Queen. He
then described the late conspiracy, and attempted to establish Mary's
connexion with it, by producing copies of letters which, he alleged, she
had written to Babington himself and several of his accomplices. To these
having added letters from Babington to her, and the declarations and
confessions which had been extorted from her secretaries, he asserted that
the case was made out, and wound up his speech with a laboured display of
legal knowledge and forensic oratory.

Mary was now called upon for her defence; and she entered on it with
composure and dignity. She denied all connexion with Babington's
conspiracy, in so far as he entertained any designs injurious to
Elizabeth's safety or the welfare of her kingdom;--she allowed that the
letters which he was said to have addressed to her might be genuine, but
it had not been proved that she ever received them;--she maintained that
her own letters were all garbled or fabricated; that as to the
confessions of her secretaries, they had been extorted by fear, and were
therefore not to be credited; but that, if they were in any particulars
true, these particulars must have been disclosed at the expense of the
oath of fidelity they had come under to her when they entered her service,
and that men who would perjure themselves in one instance were not to be
trusted in any;--she objected besides that they had not been confronted
with her according to an express law enacted in the thirteenth year of
Elizabeth's reign "that no one should be arraigned for intending the
destruction of the Prince's life, but by the testimony and oath of two
lawful witnesses, to be produced face to face before him;"--she
maintained, that even supposing she were to allow the authenticity of many
of the papers adduced against her, they would not prove her guilty of any
crime; for she was surely doing no wrong, if, after a calamitous captivity
of nineteen years, in which she had lost forever her youth, her health,
and her happiness, she made one last effort to regain the liberty of
which she had been so unfairly robbed; but that as to scheming against the
life of the Queen her sister, it was an infamy she abhored;--"I would
disdain," said she "to purchase all that is most valuable on earth by the
assasination of the meanest of the human race; and worn out, as I now am,
with cares and sufferings, the prospect of a crown is not so inviting that
I should ruin my soul in order to obtain it. Neither am I a stranger to
the feelings of humanity, nor unacquainted with the duties of religion,
and it is my nature to be more inclined to the devotion of Esther, than to
the sword of Judith. If ever I have given consent by my words, or even by
my thoughts, to any attempt against the life of the Queen of England, far
from declining the judgment of men, I shall not even pray for the mercy of
God."

Elizabeth's advocates were not a little surprised at the eloquent and able
manner in which Mary conducted her defence. They had expected to have
every thing their own way, and to gain an easy victory over one
unacquainted with the forms of legal procedure, and unable to cope with
their own professional talents. But they were disappointed and baffled;
and in order to maintain their ground even plausibly, they were obliged to
protract the proceedings for two whole days. Nor, after all, did the
Commissioners venture to pronounce judgment, but adjourned the court to
the Star-Chamber at Westminster, where they knew that Mary would not be
present, and where, consequently, they would have no opposition to
fear. On the 25th of October, they assembled there, and having again
examined the Secretaries, Naw and Curl, who appear to have been persons of
little fidelity or constancy, and who confirmed their former declarations,
a unanimous judgment was delivered, that "Mary, commonly called Queen of
Scots and dowager of France, was accessary to Babington's conspiracy, and
had compassed and imagined divers matters within the realm of England,
tending to the hurt, death, and destruction of the royal person of
Elizabeth, in opposition to the statute framed for her protection."

Elizabeth ordered this verdict to be laid before her Parliament, which
assembled a few days afterwards; and, at Walsingham's instigation, its
legality was not only confirmed, but the Lord Chancellor was sent up with
an address to the Queen, in which, after stating their conviction that her
security was incompatible with Mary's life, they requested that she would
give the sentence effect, by ordering her immediate execution. Elizabeth,
though conscious that, if her personal safety had been endangered, she had
herself to blame, was rejoiced at the opportunity at length afforded her,
for gratifying her long cherished hatred. She affected, however, to be
greatly perplexed how to act. She declared that, if she were not afraid of
endangering the welfare of her people, she would freely pardon Mary for
all her treasonable practices, and she beseeched the House to endeavour to
discover some less severe method of procedure. The Parliament, as she
expected, replied firmly, that they could not recommend any more lenient
measure; and in the pedantic language of the day, called to Elizabeth's
remembrance the examples of God's vengeance upon Saul for sparing Agag,
and on Ahab for sparing Benhadad. Elizabeth still affected to be
irresolute; and indeed it was not unlikely that she was so in reality;
for, though anxious to have Mary removed, she was not so hardened and
insane as not to know, that however it might be sanctioned by the world,
murder was as criminal and as contrary to the unchanging code of moral
justice, when commanded by a Queen, as when perpetrated by a peasant. She
desired that her Parliament should be content for the present "with an
answer without an answer." "If I should say, that I will not do what you
request, I might say perhaps more than I intend; and if I should say I
will do it, I might plunge myself into as much inconvenience as you
endeavour to preserve me from." All this manoeuvring was for the purpose
of conveying to the nation an impression of her extreme sensibility, and
generous hesitation.

Another reason why Elizabeth did not choose to be over-precipitate, was
her fear of giving any deadly offence to foreign courts. She ordered the
sentence against Mary to be published both throughout her own kingdom and
abroad, and she waited anxiously to observe the sensation which it should
create, and the steps that might be taken in consequence. She need not,
however, have given herself much uneasiness upon this score. Henry III. of
France had never been more than a very lukewarm advocate for the Queen of
Scots, and the remonstrances he occasionally made in her behalf, were
rather for the sake of appearances, than because he was anxious that they
should be successful. On the present occasion, startled by the imminence
of his cousin's danger, he seems to have been a little more in earnest,
and ordered his ambassador to make as forcible a representation as
possible against the iniquitous severity that was intended. But Elizabeth
knew that his rage would evaporate in words, and paid little attention to
the harangue. In Scotland, the young King, James, was surrounded by
ministers who had sold themselves to England, and Elizabeth was well
aware, that though he might bark, he dared not bite. Besides, the
sentiments regarding his mother, which had been carefully instilled into
him from his earliest years, were not such as were likely to inspire him
with any decided wish to protect and avenge her. He had been constantly
surrounded by her deadliest enemies, and the lesson which Buchanan taught
him daily, was a lesson of hatred towards his only surviving parent. His
succession also to the English crown, greatly depended on the friendship
of Elizabeth; and she was able, in consequence, to maintain an ascendancy
over him, which he dared not venture to resist. He was not, however, so
entirely destitute of all ordinary filial sentiments as to consent to
remain a quiet spectator of his mother's execution. "His opinion is,"
said his worthless minion the Master of Gray, "that it cannot stand with
his honour to be a consenter to take his mother's life, but he does not
care how strictly she be kept; and is content that all her old knavish
servants should be hanged." To prevent if possible a catastrophe
which "did not stand with his honour," he sent the Master of Gray and Sir
Robert Melville as his ambassadors to London, to press his objections upon
the attention of Elizabeth. The latter was true to the cause in which he
had been sent, and his remonstrances were vigorous and sincere. But Gray,
wishing to curry favour with Elizabeth, assured her that she had no cause
to fear the King's resentment, for he was of an irresolute character and
timid disposition, and that whatever might happen, he would never think of
embroiling himself in a disastrous war with England. Elizabeth listened
with evident satisfaction to these artful insinuations; and desired her
minister Walsingham, to inform the Scottish monarch, that Mary's doom was
already fixed by the decision of the nation, and that his mistress the
Queen had it not in her power to save her. James received this
intelligence with grief, but not with the spirit that became the only
child of Mary Stuart. Instead of putting himself at the head of an army,
and marching into the heart of England, he was contented to communicate
his mother's unfortunate condition to his subjects, and order prayers to
be said for her in all the churches,--"that it might please God to
enlighten her with the light of his truth, and to protect her from the
danger which was hanging over her."

In the mean time, messengers had been sent to the Queen of Scots, to
report to her the sentence of the Commissioners, and to prepare her for
the consequences which might be expected to follow. So far from receiving
the news with dismay, Mary solemnly raised her hands to heaven, and
thanked God that she was so soon to be relieved from her troubles. They
were not yet, however, at a close; and even during the short remainder of
her life, she was to be still further insulted. Her keepers, Sir Amias
Paulet and Sir Drue Drury, refused any longer to treat her with the
reverence and respect due to her rank and sex. The canopy of state, which
she had always ordered to be put up in her apartment wherever she went,
was taken down, and every badge of royalty removed. It was intimated to
her, that she was no longer to be regarded as a Princess, but as a
criminal; and the persons who came into her presence stood before her
without uncovering their heads, or paying her any obeisance. The
attendance of a Catholic priest was refused, and an Episcopalian bishop
sent in his stead, to point out and correct the errors of her ways. Mary
bore all these indignities with a calm spirit, which rose superior to
them, and which proved their unworthiness, by bringing them into contrast
with her own elevation of mind. "In despite of your Sovereign and her
subservient judges," said she, "I will die a Queen. My royal character is
indelible, and I will surrender it with my spirit to the Almighty God,
from whom I received it, and to whom my honour and my innocence are fully
known." In December 1586, she wrote her last letter to Elizabeth; and
though from an unfriended prisoner to an envied and powerful Sovereign, it
evinces so much magnanimity and calm consciousness of mental serenity,
that it is impossible to peruse it, without confessing Elizabeth's
inferiority, and Mary's triumph. It was couched in the following terms:

"Madam, I thank God from the bottom of my heart, that, by the sentence
which has been passed against me, he is about to put an end to my tedious
pilgrimage. I would not wish it prolonged, though it were in my power,
having had enough of time to experience its bitterness. I write at present
only to make three last requests which, as I can expect no favour from
your implacable ministers, I should wish to owe to your Majesty, and to no
other. First, as in England, I cannot hope to be buried according to the
solemnities of the Catholic church, (the religion of the ancient Kings,
your ancestors and mine, being now changed,) and as in Scotland they have
already violated the ashes of my progenitors, I have to request, that, as
soon as my enemies have bathed their hands in my innocent blood, my
domestics may be allowed to inter my body in some consecrated ground; and,
above all, that they may be permitted to carry it to France, where the
bones of the Queen, my most honoured mother, repose. Thus, that poor
frame, which has never enjoyed repose so long as it has been joined to my
soul, may find it at last when they will be separated. Second, as I
dread the tyranny of the harsh men, to whose power you have abandoned me,
I entreat your Majesty that I may not be executed in secret, but in the
presence of my servants and other persons, who may bear testimony of my
faith and fidelity to the true church, and guard the last hours of my
life, and my last sighs from the false rumours which my adversaries may
spread abroad. Third, I request that my domestics, who have served me
through so much misery, and with so much constancy, may be allowed to
retire without molestation wherever they choose, to enjoy for the
remainder of their lives the small legacies which my poverty has enabled
me to bequeath to them. I conjure you, Madam, by the blood of Jesus
Christ, by our consanguinity, by the memory of Henry VII., our common
father, and by the royal title which I carry with me to death, not to
refuse me those reasonable demands, but to assure me, by a letter under
your own hand, that you will comply with them; and I shall then die as I
have lived, your affectionate sister and prisoner, MARY, Queen of
Scots."

Whether Elizabeth ever answered this letter, does not appear; but it
produced so little effect, that epistles from her to Sir Amias Paulet
still exist, which prove that, in her anxiety to avoid taking upon herself
the responsibility of Mary's death, she wished to have her privately
assassinated or poisoned. Paulet, however, though a harsh and violent man,
positively refused to sanction so nefarious a scheme. Yet in the very act
of instigating murder, Elizabeth could close her eyes against her own
iniquity, and affect indignation at the alleged offences of another.
But perceiving at length, that no alternative remained, she ordered her
secretary Davidson to bring her the warrant for Mary's execution, and
after perusing it, she deliberately affixed her signature. She then
desired him to carry it to Walsingham, saying, with an ironical smile, and
in a "merry tone," that she feared he would die of grief when he saw it.
Walsingham sent the warrant to the Chancellor, who affixed the Great Seal
to it, and despatched it by Beal, with a commission to the Earls of
Shrewsbury, Kent, Derby, and others, to see it put in execution. Davidson
was afterwards made the victim of Elizabeth's artifice,--who, to complete
the solemn farce she had been playing, pretended he had obeyed her orders
too quickly, and doomed him in consequence to perpetual
imprisonment.





Next: Mary's Death And Character

Previous: Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity



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