Most ViewedMary's Marriage Personal Appearance And Popularity
Mary The Queen Dauphiness The Queen And The Queen Dowager Of France
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
Mary's Birth And Subsequent Residence At The French Court
Least ViewedThe Love Token
Ten Years After
Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity
Return To Scotland
Loch Leven Castle
My Lady's Remorse
The Ebbing Well
Hunting Down The Deer
In due time the boat drew up at the stairs leading to the palace of
Richmond. Cicely, in the midst of her trepidation, perceived that
Diccon was among the gentlemen pensioners who made a lane from the
landing to receive them, as she was handed along by M. de Bellievre. In
the hall there was a pause, during which the mufflings were thrown off,
and Cicely appeared in her simple black, a great contrast to her
cavalier, who was clad from neck to knee in pale pink satin, quilted,
and with a pearl at each intersection, earrings in his ears, perfumed
and long-fringed gloves in his hand--a perfect specimen of the foppery
of the Court of France. However, he might have been in hodden gray
without her perceiving it. She had the sensation of having plunged
into deep, unknown waters, without rope or plank, and being absolutely
forced to strike out for herself; yet the very urgency of the moment,
acting on her high blood and recent training, made her, outwardly,
perfectly self-possessed and calm. She walked along, holding her head
in the regal manner that was her inheritance, and was so utterly
absorbed in the situation that she saw nothing, and thought only of the
This was to be a private audience, and after a minute's demur with the
clerk of the chamber, when Chateauneuf made some explanation, a door
was opened, a curtain withdrawn, and the two ambassadors and the young
lady were admitted to Elizabeth's closet, where she sat alone, in an
arm-chair with a table before her. Cicely's first glance at the Queen
reminded her of the Countess, though the face was older, and had an
intellect and a grandeur latent in it, such as Bess of Hardwicke had
never possessed; but it was haggard and worn, the eyelids red, either
with weeping, or with sleeplessness, and there was an anxious look
about the keen light hazel eyes which was sometimes almost pathetic,
and gave Cicely hope. To the end of her days she never could recollect
how the Queen was arrayed; she saw nothing but the expression in those
falcon eyes, and the strangely sensitive mouth, which bewrayed the
shrewish nose and chin, and the equally inconsistent firmness of the
The first glance Cicely encountered was one of utter amazement and
wrath, as the Queen exclaimed, "Whom have you brought hither,
Before either could reply, she, whom they had thought a raw, helpless
girl, moved forward, and kneeling before Elizabeth said, "It is I, so
please your Majesty, I, who have availed myself of the introduction of
their Excellencies to lay before your Majesty a letter from my mother,
the Queen of Scots."
Queen Elizabeth made so vehement and incredulous an exclamation of
amazement that Cicely was the more reminded of the Countess, and this
perhaps made her task the easier, and besides, she was not an untrained
rustic, but had really been accustomed to familiar intercourse with a
queen, who, captive as she was, maintained full state and etiquette.
She therefore made answer with dignity, "If it will please your Majesty
to look at this letter, you will see the proofs of what I say, and that
I am indeed Bride Hepburn, the daughter of Queen Mary's last marriage.
I was born at Lochleven on the 20th of February of the year of grace
1567," (footnote--1568 according to our calendar) "and thence secretly
sent in the Bride of Dunbar to be bred up in France. The ship was
wrecked, and all lost on board, but I was, by the grace of God, picked
up by a good and gallant gentleman of my Lord of Shrewsbury's
following, Master Richard Talbot of Bridgefield, who brought me up as
his own daughter, all unknowing whence I came or who I was, until three
years ago, when one of the secret agents who had knowledge of the
affairs of the Queen of Scots made known to her that I was the babe who
had been embarked in the Bride of Dunbar."
"Verily, thou must be a bold wench to expect me to believe such a mere
minstrel's tale," said Elizabeth.
"Nevertheless, madam, it is the simple truth, as you will see if you
deign to open this packet."
"And who or where is this same honourable gentleman who brought you
up--Richard Talbot? I have heard that name before!"
"He is here, madam. He will confirm all I say."
The Queen touched a little bell, and ordered Master Talbot of
Bridgefield to be brought to her, while, hastily casting her eyes on
the credentials, she demanded of Chateauneuf, "Knew you aught of this,
"I know only what the Queen of Scotland has written and what this
Monsieur Talbot has told me, madam," said Chateauneuf. "There can be
no doubt that the Queen of Scotland has treated her as a daughter, and
owns her for such in her letter to me, as well as to your Majesty."
"And the letters are no forgery?"
"Mine is assuredly not, madam; I know the private hand of the Queen of
Scots too well to be deceived. Moreover, Madame Curll, the wife of the
Secretary, and others, can speak to the manner in which this young lady
"Openly treated as a daughter! That passes, sir. My faithful subjects
would never have left me uninformed!"
"So please your Majesty," here the maiden ventured, "I have always
borne the name of Cicely Talbot, and no one knows what is my real birth
save those who were with my mother at Lochleven, excepting Mrs. Curll.
The rest even of her own attendants only understood me to be a Scottish
orphan. My true lineage should never have been known, were it not a
daughter's duty to plead for her mother."
By this time Mr. Talbot was at the door, and he was received by the
Queen with, "So ho! Master Talbot, how is this? You, that have been
vaunted to us as the very pink of fidelity, working up a tale that
smacks mightily of treason and leasing!"
"The truth is oft stranger than any playwright can devise," said
Richard, as he knelt.
"If it be truth, the worse for you, sir," said the Queen, hotly. "What
colour can you give to thus hiding one who might, forsooth, claim royal
blood, tainted though it be?"
"Pardon me, your Grace. For many years I knew not who the babe was
whom I had taken from the wreck, and when the secret of her birth was
discovered, I deemed it not mine own but that of the Queen of Scots."
"A captive's secrets are not her own, and are only kept by traitors,"
said Elizabeth, severely.
At this Cicely threw herself forward with glowing cheeks. "Madam,
madam, traitor never was named in the same breath with Master Talbot's
name before. If he kept the secret, it was out of pity, and knowing no
hurt could come to your Majesty by it."
"Thou hast a tongue, wench, be thou who thou mayst," said Elizabeth
sharply. "Stand back, and let him tell his own tale."
Richard very briefly related the history of the rescue of the infant,
which he said he could confirm by the testimony of Goatley and of
Heatherthwayte. He then explained how Langston had been present when
she was brought home, and had afterwards made communications to the
Queen of Scots that led to the girl, already in attendance on her,
being claimed and recognised; after which he confessed that he had not
the heart to do what might separate the mother and daughter by
declaring their relationship. Elizabeth meanwhile was evidently
comparing his narrative with the letters of the Queen of Scots, asking
searching questions here and there.
She made a sound of perplexity and annoyance at the end, and said,
"This must be further inquired into."
Here Cicely, fearing an instant dismissal, clasped her hands, and on
her knees exclaimed, "Madam! it will not matter. No trouble shall ever
be caused by my drop of royal blood; no one shall ever even know that
Bride of Scotland exists, save the few who now know it, and have kept
the secret most faithfully. I seek no state; all I ask is my mother's
life. O madam, would you but see her, and speak with her, you would
know how far from her thoughts is any evil to your royal person!"
"Tush, wench! we know better. Is this thy lesson?"
"None hath taught me any lesson, madam. I know what my mother's
enemies have, as they say, proved against her, and I know they say that
while she lives your Grace cannot be in security."
"That is what moves my people to demand her death," said Elizabeth.
"It is not of your own free will, madam, nor of your own kind heart,"
cried Cicely. "That I well know! And, madam, I will show you the way.
Let but my mother be escorted to some convent abroad, in France or
Austria, or anywhere beyond the reach of Spain, and her name should be
hidden from everyone! None should know where to seek her. Not even the
Abbess should know her name. She would be prisoned in a cell, but she
would be happy, for she would have life and the free exercise of her
religion. No English Papist, no Leaguer, none should ever trace her,
and she would disquiet you no more."
"And who is to answer that, when once beyond English bounds, she should
not stir up more trouble than ever?" demanded Elizabeth.
"That do I," said the girl. "Here am I, Bride Hepburn, ready to live
in your Majesty's hands as a hostage, whom you might put to death at
the first stirring on her behalf."
"Silly maid, we have no love of putting folk to death," said Elizabeth,
rather hurt. "That is only for traitors, when they forfeit our mercy."
"Then, O madam, madam, what has been done in her name cannot forfeit
mercy for her! She was shut up in prison; I was with her day and
night, and I know she had naught to do with any evil purpose towards
your Majesty. Ah! you do not believe me! I know they have found her
guilty, and that is not what I came to say," she continued, getting
bewildered in her earnestness for a moment. "No. But, gracious Queen,
you have spared her often; I have heard her say that you had again and
again saved her life from those who would fain have her blood."
"It is true," said Elizabeth, half softened.
"Save her then now, madam," entreated the girl. "Let her go beyond
their reach, yet where none shall find her to use her name against you.
Let me go to her at Fotheringhay with these terms. She will consent
and bless and pray for you for ever; and here am I, ready to do what
you will with me!"
"To hang about Court, and be found secretly wedded to some base groom!"
"No, madam. I give you my solemn word as a Queen's daughter that I
will never wed, save by your consent, if my mother's life be granted.
The King of Scots knows not that there is such a being. He need never
know it. I will thank and bless you whether you throw me into the
Tower, or let me abide as the humblest of your serving-women, under the
name I have always borne, Cicely Talbot."
"Foolish maid, thou mayest purpose as thou sayest, but I know what
wenches are made of too well to trust thee."
"Ah madam, pardon me, but you know not how strong a maiden's heart can
be for a mother's sake. Madam! you have never seen my mother. If you
but knew her patience and her tenderness, you would know how not only
I, but every man or woman in her train, would gladly lay down life and
liberty for her, could we but break her bonds, and win her a shelter
among those of her own faith."
"Art a Papist?" asked the Queen, observing the pronoun.
"Not so, an't please your Majesty. This gentleman bred me up in our
own Church, nor would I leave it."
"Strange--strange matters," muttered Elizabeth, "and they need to be
"I will then abide your Majesty's pleasure," said Cicely, "craving
license that it may be at Fotheringhay with my mother. Then can I bear
her the tidings, and she will write in full her consent to these terms.
O madam, I see mercy in your looks. Receive a daughter's blessing and
"Over fast, over fast, maiden. Who told thee that I had consented?"
"Your Majesty's own countenance," replied Cicely readily. "I see pity
in it, and the recollection that all posterity for evermore will speak
of the clemency of Elizabeth as the crown of all her glories!"
"Child, child," said the Queen, really moved, "Heaven knows that I
would gladly practise clemency if my people would suffer it, but they
fear for my life, and still more for themselves, were I removed, nor
can I blame them."
"Your Majesty, I know that. But my mother would be dead to the world,
leaving her rights solemnly made over to her son. None would know
where to find her, and she would leave in your hands, and those of the
Parliament, a resignation of all her claims."
"And would she do this? Am I to take it on thy word, girl?"
"Your Majesty knows this ring, sent to her at Lochleven," said Cicely,
holding it up. "It is the pledge that she binds herself to these
conditions. Oh! let me but bear them to her, and you shall have them
signed and sealed, and your Majesty will know the sweet bliss of
pardoning. May I carry the tidings to her? I can go with this
gentleman as Cis Talbot returning to her service."
Elizabeth bent her head as though assenting thoughtfully.
"How shall I thank you, gracious Queen?" cried Cicely, joining hands in
a transport, but Elizabeth sharply cut her short.
"What means the wench? I have promised nothing. I have only said I
will look into this strange story of thine, and consider this
proposal--that is, if thy mother, as thou callest her, truly intend
it--ay, and will keep to it."
"That is all I could ask of your Majesty," said Cicely. "The next
messenger after my return shall carry her full consent to these
conditions, and there will I abide your pleasure until the time comes
for her to be conducted to her convent, if not to see your face, which
would be best of all. O madam, what thanks will be worthy of such a
"Wait to see whether it is a grace, little cousin," said Elizabeth, but
with a kiss to the young round cheek, and a friendliness of tone that
surprised all. "Messieurs," she added to the ambassadors, "you came,
if I mistake not, to bring me this young demoiselle."
"Who has, I hope, pleaded more effectually than I," returned Bellievre.
"I have made no promises, sir," said the Queen, drawing herself up
"Still your Majesty forbids us not to hope," said Chateauneuf.
Wherewith they found themselves dismissed. There was a great increase
of genuine respect in the manner in which Bellievre handed the young
lady from the Queen's chamber through the gallery and hall, and finally
to the boat. No one spoke, for there were many standing around, but
Cicely could read in a glance that passed between the Frenchmen that
they were astonished at her success. Her own brain was in a whirl, her
heart beating high; she could hardly realise what had passed, but when
again placed in the barge the first words she heard were from Bellievre.
"Your Royal Highness will permit me to congratulate you." At the same
time she saw, to her great joy, that M. de Chateauneuf had caused her
foster-father to enter the barge with them. "If the Queen of Scotland
were close at hand, the game would be won," said Bellievre.
"Ah! Milord Treasurer and M. le Secretaire are far too cunning to have
let her be within reach," said Chateauneuf.
"Could we but have bound the Queen to anything," added Bellievre.
"That she always knows how to avoid," said the resident ambassador.
"At least," said Cicely, "she has permitted that I should bear the
terms to my mother at Fotheringhay."
"That is true," said Chateauneuf, "and in my opinion no time should be
lost in so doing. I doubt," he added, looking at Richard, "whether,
now that her Highness's exalted rank is known, the embassy will be
permitted to remain a shelter to her, in case the Queen should demand
her of me."
"Your Excellency speaks my thought," said Richard. "I am even disposed
to believe that it would be wiser to begin our journey this very day."
"I grieve for the apparent inhospitality and disrespect to one whom I
honour so highly," said Chateauneuf, "but I verily believe it would be
the wiser plan. Look you, sir, the enemies of the unfortunate Queen of
Scotland have done all in their power to hinder my colleague from
seeing the Queen, but to-day the Lord Treasurer is occupied at
Westminster, and Monsieur le Secretaire is sick. She sent for us in
one of those wilful moods in which she chooses to assert herself
without their knowledge, and she remains, as it were, stunned by the
surprise, and touched by her Royal Highness's pleading. But let these
gentlemen discover what has passed, or let her recover and send for
them, and bah! they will inquire, and messengers will go forth at once
to stop her Highness and yourself. All will be lost. But if you can
actually be on the way to this castle before they hear of it--and it is
possible you may have a full day in advance--they will be unable to
hinder the conditions from being laid before the Queen of Scots, and we
are witnesses of what they were."
"Oh, let us go! let us go at once, dear sir," entreated Cicely. "I
burn to carry my mother this hope."
It was not yet noon, so early had been the audience, and dark and short
as were the days, it was quite possible to make some progress on the
journey before night. Cicely had kept the necessaries for her journey
ready, and so had Mr. Talbot, even to the purchase of horses, which
were in the Shrewsbury House stables.
The rest of the mails could be fetched by the Mastiff's crew, and
brought to Hull under charge of Goatley. Madame de Salmonnet was a
good deal scandalised at Son Altesse Royale going off with only a male
escort, and to Cicely's surprise, wept over her, and prayed aloud that
she might have good success, and bring safety and deliverance to the
good and persecuted Queen for whom she had attempted so much.
"Sir," said Chateauneuf, as he stood beside Richard, waiting till the
girl's preparations were over, "if there could have been any doubts of
the royal lineage of your charge, her demeanour to-day would have
disproved them. She stood there speaking as an equal, all undaunted
before that Queen before whom all tremble, save when they can cajole
"She stood there in the strength of truth and innocence," said Richard.
Whereat the Frenchman again looked perplexed at these incomprehensible
Cicely presently appeared. It was wonderful to see how that one effort
had given her dignity and womanhood. She thanked the two ambassadors
for the countenance they had given to her, and begged them to continue
their exertions in her mother's cause. "And," she added, "I believe my
mother has already requested of you to keep this matter a secret."
They bowed, and she added, "You perceive, gentlemen, that the very
conditions I have offered involve secrecy both as to my mother's future
abode and my existence. Therefore, I trust that you will not consider
it inconsistent with your duty to the King of France to send no word of
Again they assured her of their secrecy, and the promise was so far
kept that the story was reserved for the private ear of Henri III. on
Bellievre's return, and never put into the despatches.
Two days later, Cicely enjoyed some of the happiest hours of her life.
She stood by the bed where her mother was lying, and was greeted with
the cry, "My child, my child! I thought I never should see thee more.
Domine, nunc dimittis!"
"Nay, dearest mother, but I trust she will show mercy. I bring you
Mary laid her head on her daughter's shoulder and listened. It might
be that she had too much experience of Elizabeth's vacillations to
entertain much hope of her being allowed to retire beyond her grasp
into a foreign convent, and she declared that she could not endure that
her beloved, devoted child should wear away her life under Elizabeth's
jealous eye, but Cis put this aside, saying with a smile, "I think she
will not be hard with me. She will be no worse than my Lady Countess,
and I shall have a secret of joy within me in thinking of you resting
among the good nuns."
And Mary caught hope from the anticipations she would not damp, and
gave herself to the description of the peaceful cloister life,
reviewing in turn the nunneries she had heard described, and talking
over their rules. There would indeed be as little liberty as here, but
she would live in the midst of prayer and praise, and be at rest from
the plots and plans, the hopes and fears, of her long captivity, and be
at leisure for penitence. "For, ah! my child, guiltless though I be of
much that is laid to my charge, thy mother is a sinful woman, all
unworthy of what her brave and innocent daughter has dared and done for
Almost equally precious with that mother's greeting was the grave
congratulating look of approval which Cicely met in Humfrey's eyes when
he had heard all from his father. He could exult in her, even while he
thought sadly of the future which she had so bravely risked, watching
over her from a distance in his silent, self-restrained, unselfish
The Queen's coldness towards Humfrey had meantime diminished daily,
though he could not guess whether she really viewed his course as the
right one, or whether she forgave this as well as all other injuries in
the calm gentle state into which she had come, not greatly moved by
hope or fear, content alike to live or die.
Richard, in much anxiety, was to remain another day or two at
Fotheringhay, on the plea of his wearied horses and of the Sunday rest.
Meantime Mary diligently wrote the conditions, but perhaps more to
satisfy her daughter than with much hope of their acceptance.
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