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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

The Love Token

Queen Mary's Presence Chamber

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

Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity

Ten Years After

Before The Commissioners

The End


Plots and intrigues.--How far Mary was involved.--Babington's
conspiracy.--Secret correspondence.--Seizure of Mary's papers.--Her
son James.--Elizabeth resolves to bring Mary to trial.--Fotheringay
Castle.--Great interest in the trial.--Preparations for it.--The
throne.--Mary refuses to plead.--The commission.--The great
hall.--Mary pronounced guilty.--Elizabeth's pretended sorrow.--Signing
the warrant.--Shuffling of Elizabeth.--Mary's letter to
Elizabeth.--Interposition of Mary's friends.--Elizabeth signs the
warrant.--It is read to Mary.--Mary hears the sentence with
composure.--Protests her innocence.--Mary refused a priest.--Mary
alone with her friends.--Affecting scene.--Supper.--Mary's farewell
to her attendants.--Mary's last letters.--Her directions as to the
disposal of her body.--Arrangements for the execution.--The
scaffold.--Proceeding to the hall.--Interview with Melville.--Mary's
last message.--She desires the presence of her attendants.--Mary's
dress and appearance.--Symbols of religion.--Mary's firmness in her
faith.--Her last prayer.--The execution.--Heart-rending
scene.--Disposition of the body.--Elizabeth's affected surprise.--Her
conduct.--The end of Mary's ambition realized.--Accession of James
I.--Tomb of Mary at Westminster Abbey.--Mary's love and ambition.--She
triumphs in the end.

Mary did not always discourage the plots and intrigues with which her
name was connected. She, of course, longed for deliverance from the
thraldom in which Elizabeth held her, and was ready to embrace any
opportunity which promised release. She thus seems to have listened
from time to time to the overtures which were made to her, and
involved herself, in Elizabeth's opinion, more or less, in the
responsibility which attached to them. Elizabeth did not, however, in
such cases, do any thing more than to increase somewhat the rigors of
her imprisonment. She was afraid to proceed to extremities with her,
partly, perhaps, for fear that she might, by doing so, awaken the
hostility of France, whose king was Mary's cousin, or of Scotland,
whose monarch was her son.

At length, however, in the year 1586, about eighteen years from the
commencement of Mary's captivity, a plot was formed in which she
became so seriously involved as to subject herself to the charge of
aiding and abetting in the high treason of which the leaders of the
plot were proved to be guilty. This plot is known in history by the
name of Babington's conspiracy. Babington was a young gentleman of
fortune, who lived in the heart of England. He was inspired with a
strong degree of interest in Mary's fate, and wished to rescue her
from her captivity. He joined himself with a large party of
influential individuals of the Catholic faith. The conspirators
opened negotiations with the courts of France and Spain for aid. They
planned an insurrection, the assassination of Elizabeth, the rescue
of Mary, and a general revolution. They maintained a correspondence
with Mary. This correspondence was managed very secretly, the letters
being placed by a confidential messenger in a certain hole in the
castle wall where Queen Mary was confined.

One day, when Mary was going out to ride, just as she was entering
her carriage, officers suddenly arrived from London. They told her
that the plot in which she had been engaged had been discovered; that
fourteen of the principal conspirators had been hung, seven on each
of two successive days, and that they had come to arrest some of her
attendants and to seize her papers. They accordingly went into her
apartments, opened all her desks, trunks, and cabinets, seized her
papers, and took them to London. Mary sat down in the scene of
desolation and disorder which they left, and wept bitterly.

The papers which were seized were taken to London, and Elizabeth's
government began seriously to agitate the question of bringing Mary
herself to trial. One would have thought that, in her forlorn and
desolate condition, she would have looked to her son for sympathy and
aid. But rival claimants to a crown can have little kind feeling to
each other, even if they are mother and son. James, as he gradually
approached toward maturity, took sides against his mother. In fact,
all Scotland was divided, and was for many years in a state of civil
war: those who advocated Mary's right to the crown on one side, and
James's adherents on the other. They were called king's men and
queen's men. James was, of course, brought up in hostility to his
mother, and he wrote to her, about a year before Babington's
conspiracy, in terms so hostile and so devoid of filial love, that
his ingratitude stung her to the heart. "Was it for this," she said,
"that I made so many sacrifices, and endured so many trials on his
account in his early years? I have made it the whole business of my
life to protect and secure his rights, and to open before him a
prospect of future power and glory: and this is the return."

The English government, under Elizabeth's direction, concluded to
bring Mary to a public trial. They removed her, accordingly, to the
Castle of Fotheringay. Fotheringay is in Northamptonshire, which is
in the very heart of England, Northampton, the shire town, being
about sixty miles northwest of London. Fotheringay Castle was on the
banks of the River Nen, or Avon, which flows northeast from
Northampton to the sea. A few miles below the castle is the ancient
town of Peterborough, where there was a monastery and a great
cathedral church. The monastery had been built a thousand years

They removed Mary to Fotheringay Castle for her trial, and lawyers,
counselors, commissioners, and officers of state began to assemble
there from all quarters. The castle was a spacious structure. It was
surrounded with two moats, and with double walls, and was strongly
fortified. It contained numerous and spacious apartments, and it had
especially one large hall which was well adapted to the purposes of
this great trial. The preparations for the solemn ordeal through
which Mary was now to pass, brought her forth from the obscurity in
which she had so long been lost to the eyes of mankind, and made her
the universal object of interest and attention in England, Scotland,
and France. The people of all these nations looked on with great
interest at the spectacle of one queen tried solemnly on a charge of
high treason against another. The stories of her beauty, her graces,
her misfortunes, which had slumbered for eighteen years, were all now
revived, and every body felt a warm interest in the poor captive,
worn down by long confinement, and trembling in the hands of what
they feared would be a merciless and terrible power.

Mary was removed to the Castle of Fotheringay toward the end of
September, 1586. The preparations for the trial proceeded slowly.
Every thing in which kings and queens, or affairs of state were
concerned in those days, was conducted with great pomp and ceremony.
The arrangements of the hall were minutely prescribed. At the head
of it a sort of throne was placed, with a royal canopy over it, for
the Queen of England. This, though it was vacant, impressed the court
and the spectators as a symbol of royalty, and denoted that the
sovereignty of Elizabeth was the power before which Mary was

When the preparations were made, Mary refused to acknowledge the
jurisdiction of the court. She denied that they had any right to
arraign or to try her. "I am no subject of Elizabeth's," said she. "I
am an independent and sovereign queen as well as she, and I will not
consent to any thing inconsistent with this my true position. I owe
no allegiance to England, and I am not, in any sense, subject to her
laws. I came into the realm only to ask assistance from a sister
queen, and I have been made a captive, and detained many years in an
unjust and cruel imprisonment; and though now worn down both in body
and mind by my protracted sufferings, I am not yet so enfeebled as to
forget what is due to myself, my ancestors, and my country."

This refusal of Mary's to plead, or to acknowledge the jurisdiction
of the court, caused a new delay. They urged her to abandon her
resolution. They told her that if she refused to plead, the trial
would proceed without her action, and, by pursuing such a course, she
would only deprive herself of the means of defense, without at all
impeding the course of her fate. At length Mary yielded. It would
have been better for her to have adhered to her first intention.

The commission by which Mary was to be tried consisted of earls,
barons, and other persons of rank, twenty or thirty in number. They
were seated on each side of the room, the throne being at the head.
In the center was a table, where the lawyers, by whom the trial was
to be conducted, were seated. Below this table was a chair for Mary.
Behind Mary's chair was a rail, dividing off the lower end of the
hall from the court; and this formed an outer space, to which some
spectators were admitted.

Mary took her place in the seat assigned her, and the trial
proceeded. They adduced the evidence against her, and then asked for
her defense. She said substantially that she had a right to make an
effort to recover her liberty; that, after being confined a captive
so long, and having lost forever her youth, her health, and her
happiness, it was not wonderful that she wished to be free; but
that, in endeavoring to obtain her freedom, she had formed no plans
to injure Elizabeth, or to interfere in any way with her rights or
prerogatives as queen. The commissioners, after devoting some days to
hearing evidence, and listening to the defense, sent Mary back to her
apartments, and went to London. There they had a final consultation,
and unanimously agreed in the following decision: "That Mary,
commonly called Queen of Scots and dowager of France, had been an
accessory to Babington's conspiracy, and had compassed the death of
Elizabeth, queen of England."

Elizabeth pretended to be very much concerned at this result. She
laid the proceedings before Parliament. It was supposed then, and has
always been supposed since, that she wished Mary to be beheaded, but
desired not to take the responsibility of it herself; and that she
wanted to appear unwilling, and to be impelled, greatly against her
own inclinations, by the urgency of others, to carry the sentence
into execution. At any rate, Parliament, and all the members of the
government, approved and confirmed the verdict, and wished to have it
carried into effect.

It has always been the custom, in modern times, to require the
solemn act of the supreme magistrate of any state to confirm a
decision of a tribunal which condemns a person to death, by signing
what is called a warrant for the execution. This is done by the king
or queen in England, and by the governor in one of the United States.
This warrant is an order, very formally written, and sealed with the
great seal, authorizing the executioner to proceed, and carry the
sentence into effect. Of course, Queen Mary could not be executed
unless Elizabeth should first sign the warrant. Elizabeth would
herself, probably, have been better pleased to have been excused from
all direct agency in the affair. But this could not be. She, however,
made much delay, and affected great unwillingness to proceed. She
sent messengers to Mary, telling her what the sentence had been, how
sorry she was to hear it, and how much she desired to save her life,
if it were possible. At the same time, she told her that she feared
it might not be in her power, and she advised Mary to prepare her
mind for the execution of the sentence.

Mary wrote a letter to Elizabeth in reply. She said in this letter
that she was glad to hear that they had pronounced sentence of death
against her, for she was weary of life, and had no hope of relief or
rest from her miseries but in the grave. She wrote, therefore, not to
ask any change in the decision, but to make three requests. First,
that, after her execution, her body might be removed to France, and
be deposited at Rheims, where the ashes of her mother were reposing.
Secondly, that her execution should not be in secret, but that her
personal friends might be present, to attest to the world that she
met her fate with resignation and fortitude; and, thirdly, that her
attendants and friends, who had, through their faithful love for her,
shared her captivity so long, might be permitted to retire wherever
they pleased, after her death, without any molestation. "I hope,"
said she, in conclusion, "you will not refuse me these my dying
requests, but that you will assure me by a letter under your own hand
that you will comply with them, and then I shall die as I have lived,
your affectionate sister and prisoner, Mary Queen of Scots."

The King of France, and James, Mary's son in Scotland, made somewhat
vigorous efforts to arrest the execution of the sentence which had
been pronounced against Mary. From these and other causes, the
signing of the warrant was delayed for some months, but at length
Elizabeth yielded to the solicitations of her ministers. She affixed
her signature to the instrument. The chancellor put upon it the great
seal, and the commissioners who were appointed by it to superintend
the execution went to Fotheringay. They arrived there on the 7th of
February, 1587.

After resting, and refreshing themselves for a short time from their
journey, the commissioners sent word to Mary that they wished for an
interview with her. Mary had retired. They said that their business
was very important. She rose, and prepared to receive them. She
assembled all her attendants, fourteen or fifteen in number, in order
to receive the commissioners in a manner comporting, so far as
circumstances allowed, with her rank and station. The commissioners
were at length ushered into the apartment. They stood respectfully
before her, with their heads uncovered. The foremost then, in
language as forbearing and gentle as was consistent with the nature
of his message, informed her that it had been decided to carry the
sentence which had been pronounced against her into effect, and then
he requested another of the number to read the warrant for her


Mary listened to it calmly and patiently. Her attendants, one after
another, were overcome by the mournful and awful solemnity of the
scene, and melted into tears. Mary, however, was calm. When the
reading of the warrant was ended, she said that she was sorry that
her cousin Elizabeth should set the example of taking the life of a
sovereign queen; but for herself, she was willing to die. Life had
long ceased to afford her any peace or happiness, and she was ready
to exchange it for the prospect of immortality. She then laid her
hand upon the New Testament, which was near her, of course a Catholic
version, and called God to witness that she had never plotted
herself, or joined in plots with others, for the death of Elizabeth.
One of the commissioners remarked that her oath being upon a Catholic
version of the Bible, they should not consider it valid. She rejoined
that it ought to be considered the more sacred and solemn on that
account, as that was the version which she regarded as the only one
which was authoritative and true.

Mary then asked the commissioners several questions, as whether her
son James had not expressed any interest in her fate, and whether no
foreign princes had interposed to save her. The commissioners
answered these and other inquiries, and Mary learned from their
answers that her fate was sealed. She then asked them what time was
appointed for the execution. They replied that it was to take place
at eight o'clock the following morning.

Mary had not expected so early an hour to be named. She said it was
sudden; and she seemed agitated and distressed. She, however, soon
recovered her composure, and asked to have a Catholic priest allowed
to visit her. The commissioners replied that that could not be
permitted. They, however, proposed to send the Dean of Peterborough
to visit her. A dean is the ecclesiastical functionary presiding over
a cathedral church; and, of course, the Dean of Peterborough was the
clergyman of the highest rank in that vicinity. He was, however, a
Protestant, and Mary did not wish to see him.

The commissioners withdrew, and left Mary with her friends, when
there ensued one of those scenes of anguish and suffering which those
who witness them never forget, but carry the gloomy remembrance of
them, like a dark shadow in the soul, to the end of their days. Mary
was quiet, and appeared calm. It may however, have been the calm of
hopeless and absolute despair. Her attendants were overwhelmed with
agitation and grief, the expression of which they could not even
attempt to control. At last they became more composed, and Mary asked
them to kneel with her in prayer; and she prayed for some time
fervently and earnestly in the midst of them.

She then directed supper to be prepared as usual, and, until it was
ready, she spent her time in dividing the money which she had on hand
into separate parcels for her attendants, marking each parcel with
the name. She sat down at the table when supper was served, and
though she ate but little, she conversed as usual, in a cheerful
manner, and with smiles. Her friends were silent and sad, struggling
continually to keep back their tears. At the close of the supper Mary
called for a cup of wine, and drank to the health of each one of
them, and then asked them to drink to her. They took the cup, and,
kneeling before her, complied with her request, though, as they did
it, the tears would come to their eyes. Mary then told them that she
willingly forgave them for all that they had ever done to displease
her, and she thanked them for their long-continued fidelity and
love. She also asked that they would forgive her for any thing she
might ever have done in respect to them which was inconsistent with
her duty. They answered the request only with a renewal of their

Mary spent the evening in writing two letters to her nearest
relatives in France, and in making her will. The principal object of
these letters was to recommend her servants to the attention and care
of those to whom they were addressed, after she should be gone. She
went to bed shortly after midnight, and it is said she slept. This
would be incredible, if any thing were incredible in respect to the
workings of the human soul in a time of awful trial like this, which
so transcends all the ordinary conditions of its existence.

At any rate, whether Mary slept or not, the morning soon came. Her
friends were around her as soon as she rose. She gave them minute
directions about the disposition of her body. She wished to have it
taken to France to be interred, as she had requested of Elizabeth,
either at Rheims, in the same tomb with the body of her mother, or
else at St. Denis, an ancient abbey a little north of Paris, where
the ashes of a long line of French monarchs repose. She begged her
servants, if possible, not to leave her body till it should reach its
final home in one of these places of sepulture.

In the mean time, arrangements had been made for the last act in this
dreadful tragedy, in the same great hall where she had been tried.
They raised a platform upon the stone floor of the hall large enough
to contain those who were to take part in the closing scene. On this
platform was a block, a cushion, and a chair. All these things, as
well as the platform itself, were covered with black cloth, giving to
the whole scene a most solemn and funereal expression. The part of
the hall containing this scaffold was railed off from the rest. The
governor of the castle, and a body of guards, came in and took their
station at the sides of the room. Two executioners, one holding the
axe, stood upon the scaffold on one side of the block. Two of the
commissioners stood upon the other side. The remaining commissioners
and several gentlemen of the neighborhood took their places as
spectators without the rail. The number of persons thus assembled was
about two hundred. Strange that any one should have come in,
voluntarily, to witness such a scene!

When all was ready, the sheriff, carrying his white wand of office,
and attended by some of the commissioners, went for Mary. She was at
her devotions, and she asked a little delay that she might conclude
them: perhaps the shrinking spirit clung at the last moment to life,
and wished to linger a few minutes longer before taking the final
farewell. The request was granted. In a short time Mary signified
that she was ready, and they began to move toward the hall of
execution. Her attendants were going to accompany her. The sheriff
said this could not be allowed. She accordingly bade them farewell,
and they filled the castle with the sound of their shrieks and

Mary went on, descending the stair-case, at the foot of which she was
joined by one of her attendants, from whom she had been separated for
some time. His name was Sir Andrew Melville, and he was the master of
her household. The name of her secretary Melville was James. Sir
Andrew kneeled before her, kissed her hand, and said that this was
the saddest hour of his life. Mary began to give him some last
commissions and requests. "Say," said she, "that I died firm in the
faith; that I forgive my enemies; that I feel that I have never
disgraced Scotland, my native country, and that I have been always
true to France, the land of my happiest years. Tell my son--" Here
her voice faltered and ceased to be heard, and she burst into tears.

She struggled to regain her composure. "Tell my son," said she, "that
I thought of him in my last moments, and that I have never yielded,
either by word or deed, to any thing whatever that might lead to his
prejudice. Tell him to cherish the memory of his mother, and say that
I sincerely hope his life may be happier than mine has been."

Mary then turned to the commissioners who stood by, and renewed her
request that her attendants, who had just been separated from her,
might come down and see her die. The commissioners objected. They
said that if these attendants were admitted, their anguish and
lamentations would only add to her own distress, and make the whole
scene more painful. Mary, however, urged the request. She said they
had been devotedly attached to her all her days; they had shared her
captivity, and loved and served her faithfully to the end, and it was
enough if she herself, and they, desired that they should be present.
The commissioners at last yielded, and allowed her to name six, who
should be summoned to attend her. She did so, and the six came down.

The sad procession then proceeded to the hall. Mary was in full court
dress, and walked into the apartment with the air and composure of a
reigning queen. She leaned on the arm of her physician. Sir Andrew
Melville followed, bearing the train of her robe. Her dress is
described as a gown of black silk, bordered with crimson velvet, over
which was a satin mantle. A long veil of white crape, edged with rich
lace, hung down almost to the ground. Around her neck was an ivory
crucifix--that is, an image of Christ upon the cross, which the
Catholics use as a memorial of our Savior's sufferings--and a rosary,
which is a string of beads of peculiar arrangement, often employed by
them as an aid in their devotions. Mary meant, doubtless, by these
symbols, to show to her enemies and to the world, that though she
submitted to her fate without resistance, yet, so far as the contest
of her life had been one of religious faith, she had no intention of

Mary ascended the platform and took her seat in the chair provided
for her. With the exception of stifled sobs here and there to be
heard, the room was still. An officer then advanced and read the
warrant of execution, which the executioners listened to as their
authority for doing the dreadful work which they were about to
perform. The Dean of Peterborough, the Protestant ecclesiastic whom
Mary had refused to see, then came forward to the foot of the
platform, and most absurdly commenced an address to her, with a view
to convert her to the Protestant faith. Mary interrupted him, saying
that she had been born and had lived a Catholic, and she was resolved
so to die; and she asked him to spare her his useless reasonings. The
dean persisted in going on. Mary turned away from him, kneeled down,
and began to offer a Latin prayer. The dean soon brought his
ministrations to a close, and then Mary prayed for some time, in a
distinct and fervent voice, in English, the large company listening
with breathless attention. She prayed for her own soul, and that she
might have comfort from heaven in the agony of death. She implored
God's blessing upon France; upon Scotland; upon England; upon Queen
Elizabeth; and, more than all, upon her son. During this time she
held the ivory crucifix in her hand, clasping it and raising it from
time to time toward heaven.

When her prayer was ended, she rose, and, with the assistance of her
attendants, took off her veil, and such other parts of her dress as
it was necessary to remove in order to leave the neck bare, and then
she kneeled forward and laid her head upon the block. The agitation
of the assembly became extreme. Some turned away from the scene faint
and sick at heart; some looked more eagerly and intensely at the
group upon the scaffold; some wept and sobbed aloud. The assistant
executioner put Mary's two hands together and held them; the other
raised his axe, and, after the horrid sound of two or three
successive blows, the assistant held up the dissevered head, saying,
"So perish all Queen Elizabeth's enemies."

The assembly dispersed. The body was taken into an adjoining
apartment, and prepared for interment. Mary's attendants wished to
have it delivered to them, that they might comply with her dying
request to convey it to France; but they were told that they could
not be allowed to do so. The body was interred with great pomp and
ceremony in the Cathedral at Peterborough, where it remained in
peace for many years.

* * * * *

Now that the deed was done, the great problem with Elizabeth was, of
course, to avert the consequences of the terrible displeasure and
thirst for revenge which she might naturally suppose it would awaken
in Scotland and in France. She succeeded very well in accomplishing
this. As soon as she heard of the execution of Mary, she expressed
the utmost surprise, grief, and indignation. She said that she had,
indeed, signed the death warrant, but it was not her intention at all
to have it executed; and that, when she delivered it to the officer,
she charged him not to let it go out of his possession. This the
officer denied. Elizabeth insisted, and punished the officer by a
long imprisonment, and perpetual disgrace, for his pretended offense.
She sent a messenger to James, explaining the terrible accident, as
she termed it, which had occurred, and deprecating his displeasure.
James, though at first filled with indignation, and determined to
avenge his mother's death, allowed himself to be appeased.

About twenty years after this, Elizabeth died, and the great object
of Mary's ambition throughout her whole life was attained by the
union of the Scotch and English crowns on the head of her son. As
soon as Elizabeth ceased to breathe, James the Sixth of Scotland was
proclaimed James the First of England. He was at that time nearly
forty years of age. He was married, and had several young children.
The circumstances of King James's journey to London, when he went to
take possession of his new kingdom, are related in the History of
Charles I., belonging to this series. Though James thus became
monarch of both England and Scotland, it must not be supposed that
the two kingdoms were combined. They remained separate for many
years--two independent kingdoms governed by one king.

When James succeeded to the English throne, his mother had been dead
many years, and whatever feelings of affection may have bound his
heart to her in early life, they were now well-nigh obliterated by
the lapse of time, and by the new ties by which he was connected with
his wife and his children. As soon as he was seated on his new
throne, however, he ordered the Castle of Fotheringay, which had been
the scene of his mother's trial and death, to be leveled with the
ground, and he transferred her remains to Westminster Abbey, where
they still repose.


If the lifeless dust had retained its consciousness when it was thus
transferred, with what intense emotions of pride and pleasure would
the mother's heart have been filled, in being thus brought to her
final home in that ancient sepulcher of the English kings, by her son,
now, at last, safely established, where she had so long toiled and
suffered to instate him, in his place in the line. Ambition was the
great, paramount, ruling principle of Mary's life. Love was, with her,
an occasional, though perfectly uncontrollable impulse, which came
suddenly to interrupt her plans and divert her from her course,
leaving her to get back to it again, after devious wanderings, with
great difficulty and through many tears. The love, with the
consequences which followed from it, destroyed her; while the
ambition, recovering itself after every contest with its rival, and
holding out perseveringly to the last, saved her son; so that, in
the long contest in which her life was spent, though she suffered all
the way, and at last sacrificed herself, she triumphed in the end.

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