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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

Before The Commissioners

Ten Years After

The Proposal Of A Divorce Between Mary And Darnley And The Christening Of James Vi

It was in December 1566, during Mary's residence at Craigmillar, that a
proposal was made to her by her Privy Council, which deserves particular
attention. It originated with the Earl of Bothwell, who was now an active
Cabinet Minister and Officer of State. Murray and Darnley, the only two
persons in her kingdom to whom Mary had been willing to surrender, in a
great degree, the reins of government, had deceived her; and finding her
interests betrayed by them, she knew not where to look for an adviser.
Rizzio had been faithful to her, and to him she listened with some
deference; but it was impossible that he could ever have supplied the
place of a Prime Minister. The Earl of Morton was not destitute of
ambition sufficient to have made him aspire to that office; but he chose,
unfortunately for himself, to risk his advancement in espousing Darnley's
cause, in opposition to the Queen. Both, in consequence, fell into
suspicion; Morton was banished from Court, and Murray again made his
appearance there. But, though she still had a partiality for her brother,
Mary could not now trust him, as she had once done. Gratitude and common
justice called upon her not to elevate him above those men, (particularly
Huntly and Bothwell), who had enabled her to pass so successfully through
her recent troubles. She made it her policy, therefore, to preserve as
nice a balance of power as possible among her ministers. Bothwell's rank
and services, undoubtedly entitled him to the first place; but this the
Queen did not choose to concede to him. The truth is, she had never any
partiality for Bothwell. His turbulent and boisterous behaviour, soon
after her return from France, gave her, at that period, a dislike to him,
which she testified, by first committing him to prison, and afterwards
ordering him into banishment. He had conducted himself better since his
recall; but experience had taught Mary the deceitfulness of appearances;
and Bothwell, though much more listened to than before, was not allowed to
assume any tone of superiority in her councils. She restored Maitland to
his lands and place at Court, in such direct opposition to the Earl's
wishes, that, so recently as the month of August (1566), he and Murray
came to very high words upon the subject in the Queen's presence. After
Rizzio's murder, some part of Maitland's lands had been given to Bothwell.
These Murray wished him to restore; but he declared positively, that he
would part with them only with his life. Murray, enraged at his obstinacy,
told him, that "twenty as honest men as he should lose their lives, ere he
saw Lethington robbed;" and through his influence with his sister,
Maitland was pardoned, and his lands given back. Thus Mary endeavoured
to divide her favours and friendship among Murray, Bothwell, Maitland,
Argyle the Justice-General, and Huntly the Chancellor.

It was in this state of affairs, when the contending interests of the
nobility were in so accurate an equilibrium, that Bothwell's daring spirit
suggested to him, that there was an opening for one bold and ambitious
enough to take advantage of it. As yet, his plans were immatured and
confused; but he began to cherish the belief that a dazzling reach of
power was within his grasp, were he only to lie in wait for a favourable
opportunity to seize the prize. With these views, it was necessary for him
to strengthen and increase his resources as much as possible. His first
step was to prevail on Murray, Huntly, and Argyle, about the beginning of
October, to join with him in a bond of mutual friendship and support;
his second was to lay aside any enmity he may have felt towards Morton,
and to intimate to him, that he would himself petition the Queen for his
recall; his third and boldest measure, was that of arranging with the rest
of the Privy Council the propriety of suggesting to Mary a divorce from
her husband. Bothwell's conscience seldom troubled him much when he had a
favourite end in view. He was about to play a hazardous game; but if the
risk was great, the glory of winning would be proportionate. Darnley had
fallen into general neglect and odium; yet he stood directly in the path
of the Earl's ambition. He was resolved that means should be found to
remove him out of it; and as there was no occasion to have recourse to
violence until gentler methods had failed, a divorce was the first
expedient of which he thought. He knew that the proposal would not be
disagreeable to the nobility; for it had been their policy, for some time
back, to endeavour to persuade the nation at large, and Mary in
particular, that it was Darnley's ill conduct that made her unhappy, and
created all the differences which existed. Nor were these representations
altogether unfounded; but the Queen's unhappiness arose, not so much from
her husband's ingratitude, as from the impossibility of retaining his
regard, and at the same time discharging her duty to the country. Though
the nobles were determined to shut their eyes upon the fact, it was
nevertheless the share which they held in the government, and the
necessity under which Mary lay to avail herself of their assistance, which
alone prevented her from being much more with her husband, and a great
deal less with them. There were even times, when, perplexed by all the
thousand cares of greatness, and grievously disappointed in the fulfilment
of her most fondly cherished hopes, Mary would gladly have exchanged the
splendors of her palace for the thatched roof and the contentment of the
peasant. It was on more than one occasion that Sir James Melville heard
her "casting great sighs, and saw that she would not eat for no persuasion
that my Lords of Murray and Mar could make her." "She is in the hands of
the physicians," Le Croc writes from Craigmillar, "and is not at all well.
I believe the principal part of her disease to consist in a deep grief and
sorrow, which it seems impossible to make her forget. She is continually
exclaiming "Would I were dead!" "But, alas!" says Melville, "she had
over evil company about her for the time; the Earl Bothwell had a mark of
his own that he shot at."

One of his bolts Bothwell lost no time in shooting; but it missed the
mark. By undertaking to sue with them for Morton's pardon, and by making
other promises, he prevailed on Murray, Huntly, Argyle and Lethington, to
join him in advising the Queen to consent to a divorce. It could have been
obtained only through the interference of the Pope, and Murray at first
affected to have some religious scruples; but as the suggestion was
secretly agreeable to him, it was not difficult to overcome his
objections. "Take you no trouble," said Lethington to him, "we shall find
the means well enough to make her quit of him, so that you and my Lord of
Huntly will only behold the matter, and not be offended thereat." The
Lords therefore proceeded to wait upon the Queen, and lay their proposal
before her. Lethington, who had a better command of words than any among
them, commenced by reminding her of the "great number of grievous and
intolerable offences, the King, ungrateful for the honour received from
her Majesty, had committed." He added, that Darnley "troubled her Grace
and them all;" and that, if he was allowed to remain with her Majesty, he
"would not cease till he did her some other evil turn which she would find
it difficult to remedy." He then proceeded to suggest a divorce,
undertaking for himself and the rest of the nobility, to obtain the
consent of Parliament to it, provided she would agree to pardon the Earl
of Morton, the Lords Ruthven and Lindsay, and their friends, whose aid
they would require to secure a majority. But Lethington, and the rest,
soon found that they had little understood Mary's real sentiments towards
her husband. She would not at first agree even to talk upon the subject at
all; and it was only after "every one of them endeavoured particularly to
bring her to the purpose," that she condescended to state two objections,
which, setting aside every other consideration, she regarded as
insuperable. The first was, that she did not understand how the divorce
could be made lawfully; and the second, that it would be to her son's
prejudice, rather than hurt whom, she declared she "would endure all
torments." Bothwell endeavoured to take up the argument, and to do away
with the force of these objections, alleging, that though his father and
mother had been divorced, there had never been any doubt as to his
succession to his paternal estates; but his illustrations and
Lethington's oratory met with the same success. Mary answered firmly, "I
will that you do nothing, by which any spot may be laid on my honour and
conscience; and therefore, I pray ye rather let the matter be in the
estate as it is, abiding till God of his goodness put a remedy to it. That
you believe would do me service, may possibly turn to my hurt and
displeasure." As to Darnley, she expressed a hope that he would soon
change for the better; and, prompted by the ardent desire she felt to get
rid, for a season, of her many cares, she said she would perhaps go for a
time to France, and remain there till her husband acknowledged his errors.
She then dismissed Bothwell and his friends, who retired to meditate new

On the 11th of December, Mary proceeded to Stirling, to make the necessary
arrangements for the baptism of her son, which she determined to celebrate
with the pomp and magnificence his future prospects justified. Darnley,
who had been with the Queen a week at Craigmillar Castle, and afterwards
came into Edinburgh with her, had gone to Stirling two days before.
Ambassadors had arrived from England, France, Piedmont, and Savoy, to be
present at the ceremony. The Pope also had proposed sending a nuncio into
Scotland; but Mary had good sense enough to know, that her bigoted
subjects would be greatly offended, were she to receive any such servant
of Antichrist. It may have occurred to her, besides, that his presence
might facilitate the negotiations for the divorce proposed by her
nobility, but which she was determined should not take place. She,
therefore, wrote to the great spiritual Head of her Church, expressing all
that respect for his authority which a good Catholic was bound to feel;
but she, at the same time, contrived to prevent his nuncio, Cardinal
Laurea, from coming further north than Paris.

The splendour of Mary's preparations for the approaching ceremony,
astonished not a little the sober minds of the Presbyterians. "The
excessive expenses and superfluous apparel," says Knox, "which were
prepared at that time, exceeded far all the preparations that ever had
been devised or set forth before in this country." Elizabeth, as if
participating in Mary's maternal feelings, ordered the Earl of Bedford,
her ambassador, to appear at Stirling with a very gorgeous train; and sent
by him as a present for Mary a font of gold, valued at upwards of 1000l.
In her instructions to Bedford, she desired him to say jocularly, that it
had been made as soon as she heard of the Prince's birth, and that it was
large enough then; but that, as he had now, she supposed, outgrown it, it
might be kept for the next child. It was too far in the season to admit of
Elizabeth's sending any of the Ladies of her own realm into Scotland;
she, therefore, fixed on the Countess of Argyle to represent her as
godmother, preferring that lady, because she understood her to be much
esteemed by Mary. To meet the extraordinary expenditure occasioned by
entertaining so many ambassadors, the Queen was permitted to levy an
assessment of 12,000l. It may appear strange, how a taxation of this
kind could be imposed without the consent of Parliament; but it was
managed thus. The Privy Council called a meeting both of the Lords
Temporal and Spiritual, and of the representatives of the boroughs, and
informed them that some of the greatest princes in Christendom had
requested permission to witness, through their ambassadors, the baptism of
the Prince. It was therefore moved, and unanimously carried, that their
Majesties should be allowed to levy a tax for "the honourable expenses
requisite." The tax was to be proportioned in this way; six thousand
pounds from the spiritual estate;--four thousand from the barons and
freeholders;--and two thousand from the boroughs.

Till the ceremony of baptism took place, the Queen gave splendid banquets
every day to the ambassadors and their suites. At one of these a slight
disturbance occurred, which, as it serves to illustrate amusingly the
manners of the times, is worth describing. There seems to have been some
little jealousy between the English and French envoys upon matters of
precedence; and Mary on the whole was inclined to favour the English,
being now more connected with England than with France. It happened,
however, that at the banquet in question, a kind of mummery was got up,
under the superintendance of one of Mary's French servants, called
Sebastian, who was a fellow of a clever wit. He contrived a piece of
workmanship, in the shape of a great table; and its machinery was so
ingeniously arranged, that, upon the doors of the great hall in which the
feast was to be held, being thrown open, it moved in, apparently of its
own accord, covered with delicacies of all sorts. A band of musicians,
clothed like maidens, singing and accompanying themselves on various
instruments, surrounded the pageant. It was preceded, and this was the
cause of the offence, by a number of men, dressed like satyrs, with long
tails, and carrying whips in their hands. These satyrs were not content to
ride round the table, but they put their hands behind them to their tails,
wagging them in the faces of the Englishmen, who took it into their heads
that the whole was done in derision of them, "daftly apprehending that
which they should not seem to have understood." Several of the suite of
the Earl of Bedford, perceiving themselves thus mocked, as they thought,
and the satyrs "wagging their tails or rumples," were so exasperated, that
one of them told Sir James Melville, if it were not in the Queen's
presence, "he would put a dagger to the heart of the French knave
Sebastian, whom he alleged did it for despite that the Queen made more of
them than of the Frenchmen." The Queen and Bedford, who knew that the
whole was a mere jest, had some trouble in allaying the wrath of the
hot-headed Southerns.

In the midst of these festivities, Mary had various cares to perplex her,
and various difficulties to encounter. When she first came to Stirling,
she found that Darnley had not chosen to go, as usual, to the Castle, but
was residing in a private house. He left it, however, upon the Queen's
arrival, and took up his residence in the Castle with her,--a fact of some
consequence, and one which Murray has himself supplied. But Darnley's
sentiments towards Mary's ministers, continued unchanged; and it was
impossible to prevail upon them to act and associate together, with any
degree of harmony, even in presence of the ambassadors. Mary was extremely
anxious to prevent her husband from exposing his weakness and waywardness
to foreigners; but he was as stubborn as ever; and though he had given up
thoughts of going abroad, it was only because he hoped to put into
execution some new plot at home. Surrounded by gayeties, he continued
sullen and discontented, shutting himself up in his own apartment, and
associating with no one, except his wife and the French envoy, Le Croc,
for whom he had contracted a sort of friendship. To heighten his bad
humour, Elizabeth, according to Camden, had forbidden Bedford, or any of
his retinue, to give him the title of King. The anger inspired by his
contempt of her authority, on the occasion of his marriage, had not yet
subsided; and there is not a state paper extant, in which she acknowledges
Darnley in other terms than as "Henry Stuart, the Queen of Scotland's
husband." It seems likely that this, added to the other reasons already
mentioned, was the cause why Darnley refused to be present at the
christening of his son. Mary had another cause of vexation. The
baptism was to be performed after the Catholic ritual, and the greater
part of her nobility, in consequence, not only refused to take any share
in the ceremony, but even to be present at it. All Mary's influence with
Murray, Huntly, and Bothwell, was exerted in vain. They did not choose to
risk their character with the Reformers, to gratify her. "The Queen
laboured much," says Knox, "with the noblemen, to bear the salt, grease,
and candles, and such other things, but all refused."

On the 19th of December 1566, the baptism, for which so many preparations
had been made, took place. The ceremony was performed between five and
six in the afternoon. The Earls of Athol and Eglinton, and the Lords
Semple and Ross, being of the Catholic persuasion, carried the
instruments. The Archbishop of St Andrews, assisted by the Bishops of
Dumblane, Dunkeld, and Ross, received the Prince at the door of the
chapel. The Countess of Argyle held the infant at the font, and the
Archbishop baptized him by the name of Charles James, James Charles,
Prince and Steward of Scotland, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Lord of
the Isles, and Baron of Renfrew; and these names and titles were
proclaimed three times by heralds, with sound of trumpet. Mary called her
son Charles, in compliment to the King of France, her brother-in-law; but
she gave him also the name of James, because, as she said, her father, and
all the good kings of Scotland, his predecessors, had been called by that
name. The Scottish nobles of the Protestant persuasion, together with the
Earl of Bedford, remained at the door of the chapel; and the Countess of
Argyle had afterwards to do penance for the share she took in the business
of the day,--a circumstance which shows very forcibly the power of the
clergy at this time, who were able to triumph over a Queen's
representative, a King's daughter, and their Sovereign's sister. It is
also worthy of notice, that of the twelve Earls, and numerous Lords then
in the castle, only two of the former, and three of the latter, ventured
to cross the threshold of a Catholic chapel.

Elizabeth was probably not far wrong, in supposing that her font had grown
too small for the infant James. He was a remarkably stout and healthy
child, and as Le Croc says, he made his gossips feel his weight in their
arms. Mary was very proud of her son, and from his earliest infancy, the
establishment of his household was on the most princely scale. The Lady
Mar was his governess. A certain Mistress Margaret Little, the spouse of
Alexander Gray, Burgess of Edinburgh, was his head-nurse; and for her good
services, there was granted to her and her husband, in February 1567, part
of the lands of Kingsbarns in Fife, during their lives. The chief nurse
had four or five women under her, "Keepers of the King's clothes," &c.
Five ladies of distinction were appointed to the honourable office of
"Rockers" of the Prince's cradle. For his kitchen, James, at the same
early age, had a master-cook, a foreman, and three other servitors, and
one for his pantry, one for his wine, and two for his ale-cellar. He had
three "chalmer-chields," one "furnisher of coals," and one pastry-cook or
confectioner. Five musicians or "violars," as they are called, completed
the number of his household. To fill so many mouths, there was a fixed
allowance of provisions, consisting of bread, beef, veal, mutton, capons,
chickens, pigeons, fish, pottages, wine and ale. Thus, upon the life of
the infant, the comfortable support of a reasonable number of his subjects

The captivating grace and affability of Mary's manners, won for her, upon
the baptismal occasion, universal admiration. She sent home the
ambassadors with the most favourable impressions, which were not less
loudly proclaimed, because she enriched them, before they went, with gifts
of value. To Bedford, in particular, she gave a chain of diamonds, worth
about six or seven hundred pounds. To other individuals of his suite, she
gave chains of pearl, rings, and pictures. But she was all the time
making an effort to appear happier and more contented than she really was.
"She showed so much earnestness," says Le Croc, "to entertain all the
goodly company, in the best manner, that this made her forget, in a good
measure, her former ailments. But I am of the mind, however, that she will
give us some trouble as yet; nor can I be brought to think otherwise, so
long as she continues to be so pensive and melancholy. She sent for me
yesterday, and I found her laid on the bed weeping sore. I am much grieved
for the many troubles and vexations she meets with." Mary did not weep
without cause. One source of uneasiness, at the present moment, was the
determination of her ministers to force from her a pardon for the Earl of
Morton, and seventy-five of his accomplices. As some one has remarked, her
whole reign was made up of plots and pardons. Her chief failing indeed,
was the facility with which she allowed herself to be persuaded to
forgive the deadliest injuries which could be offered to her. Murray, from
the representations he had made through Cecil, had induced Elizabeth to
desire Bedford to join his influence to that of Mary's Privy Council in
behalf of Morton. The consequence was, that the Queen could no longer
resist their united importunities, and, with two exceptions, all the
conspirators against Rizzio were pardoned. These exceptions were, George
Douglas, who had seized the King's dagger, and struck Rizzio the first
blow; and Andrew Kerr, who, in the affray, had threatened to shoot the
Queen herself. Robertson, with great inaccuracy, has said, that it was to
the solicitations of Bothwell alone that these criminals were indebted for
their recall. It would have been long before Bothwell, whose weight with
Mary was never considerable, could have obtained, unassisted, her consent
to such a measure; and the truth of this assertion is proved by the
clearest and directest testimony. In a letter which Bedford wrote to Cecil
on the 30th of December, we meet with the following passage:--"The Queen
here hath now granted to the Earl of Morton, to the Lords Ruthven and
Lindsay, their relaxation and pardon. The Earl of Murray hath done
very friendly towards the Queen for them, so have I, according to your
advice; the Earls Bothwell and Athol, and all other Lords helped
therein, or else such pardons could not so soon have been gotten." It
is no doubt true, that Bothwell was glad of this opportunity to
ingratiate himself with Morton, and that, in the words of Melville, he
"packed up a quiet friendship with him;"--but it is strange that Robertson
should have been so ignorant of the real influence which secured a
remission of their offences from Mary.

Darnley was of course greatly offended that any of his former accomplices
should be received again into favour. They would return only to force him
a few steps farther down the ladder, to the top of which he had so eagerly
desired to climb. They were recalled too at the very time when he had it
in contemplation, according to common report, to seize on the person of
the young Prince, and, after crowning him, to take upon himself the
government as his father. Whether this report was true or not, (and
perhaps it was a belief in it which induced the Queen to remove shortly
afterwards from Stirling to Edinburgh), it is certain that Darnley
declared he "could not bear with some of the noblemen that were attending
in the Court, and that either he or they behoved to leave the same."
He accordingly left Stirling on the 24th of December, the very day on
which Morton's pardon was signed, to visit his father at Glasgow. But it
was not with Mary he had quarrelled, with whom he had been living for the
last ten days, and whom he intended rejoining in Edinburgh, as soon as she
had paid some Christmas visits in the neighbourhood of Stirling.

Next: Occurrences Immediately Preceding Darnley's Death

Previous: Mary's Expedition To The North

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