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.

The Peak Cavern The Rebellion Of The Nobles The Meeting At Carberry Hill And Its Consequences facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail