Mary The Queen Dauphiness The Queen And The Queen Dowager Of France

Shortly after the espousals, Mary and her husband retired to one of their

princely summer residences. Here she unostentatiously discharged the

duties of a respectful and attentive wife, in a manner which gained for

her the admiration of all who visited them. Delightful as society and

amusements must at that age have been to her, she readily accommodated

herself to the peculiar temper of Francis, and seemed willing, for his
/> sake, to resign all the gaieties of the court.

But the intriguing and restless ambition of her uncles could not allow her

to remain long quiet. About this time, Mary Tudor, who had succeeded

Edward VI. on the English throne, died; and although the Parliament of

that country had declared that the succession rested in her sister

Elizabeth, it was thought proper to claim for Mary Stuart a prior right.

The ground upon which they built this claim was the following. Henry VIII.

married for his first wife Catharine of Arragon, widow of his brother

Arthur, and by her he had one child, Mary. Pretending after having lived

with her eighteen years, that his conscience rebuked him for making his

brother's wife the partner of his bed, he procured a divorce from

Catharine for the purpose of marrying Anne Boleyn, by whom he had also one

daughter, Elizabeth. Growing tired of this new wife, she was sent to the

scaffold to make way for Jane Seymour, by whom he had one son, Edward. Of

this uxorious monarch's other three wives, it is unnecessary to speak.

Henry had procured from the British Parliament a solemn act, declaring

both his daughters illegitimate, and he left his crown to Edward VI., who

accordingly succeeded him. Upon Edward's death, the Parliament, rescinding

their former act, in order to save the nation from a civil war, called to

the throne Henry's eldest daughter Mary,--not, however, without a protest

being entered in behalf of the Scotch Queen by her guardians. Upon Mary's

death, the opportunity again occurred of pressing the claims of the

daughter of James V. The mother of that king, it will be remembered, who

married his father James IV., was the eldest daughter of Henry VII., and

sister, consequently, of Henry VIII. Henry was, therefore, Mary's maternal

grand-uncle; and if his wives, Catharine and Anne Boleyn, were legally

divorced, she had certainly a better right to the English Crown than any

of their illegitimate offspring. Soon after the accession, however, of

Edward VI., the Parliament, complying with the voice of the whole nation,

had declared them legitimate; and as Elizabeth now quietly took possession

of the throne, and could hardly by any chance have been dispossessed, it

was, to say the least, extremely ill-advised to push Mary forward as a

rival claimant.

For various reasons, however, this was the policy which the Guises chose

to pursue. Nor did they proceed to assert her right with any particular

delicacy or caution. Whenever the Dauphin and his Queen came into public,

they were greeted as the King and Queen of England; and the English arms

were engraved upon their plate, embroidered upon their scutcheons and

banners, and painted on their furniture. Mary's favourite device,

also, at this time, was the two crowns of France and Scotland, with the

motto, Aliamque moratur, meaning that of England. The prediction made by

the Duke of Alva, on observing this piece of empty parade, was but too

fatally fulfilled,--"That bearing of Mary Stuart's," said he, "will not be

easily borne."

About this time Mary seems to have been attacked with the first serious

illness which had overtaken her in France. It was not of that acute

description which confined her to bed, but was a sort of general debility

accompanied with a tendency to frequent fainting. It is mentioned in

Forbes's State Papers, that on one occasion, to prevent her from swooning

in church, her attendants were glad to bring her wine from the altar.

There were some at the French Court who would have felt little grief had

this illness ended fatally, considering how serious a blow Mary's death

would have been to the too predominating influence of the House of Guise.

In England, the news would have been particularly agreeable to Elizabeth,

whose ambassador at Paris eagerly consoled her with the intelligence that

Mary was not expected to be of long continuance. The natural strength of

her constitution, however, soon restored her to her former health and


But it was destined that there was to be another and more unexpected death

at the French Court. Henry II., while exhibiting his prowess at a

tournament, on the occasion of the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth to

Philip of Spain, in July 1559, received a wound in the head from the spear

of his antagonist, the Count Montgomery, which, though apparently not of

much consequence at first, occasioned his dissolution eight days

afterwards. A considerable change immediately took place in the aspect of

the Court. The stars of the Duchess de Valentinois, and of the Constable

Montmorency, set at once; and that of Catharine de Medicis, though not

entirely obscured, shone lower in the horizon. She was now only the

second lady in France, Mary Stuart taking the precedence. The Guises

reigned along with her, and the House of Bourbon trembled. Catharine, who

could bear no superior, more especially one young enough to be her own

daughter, could ill disguise her chagrin. As a guardian, however, of her

late husband's younger sons, the presumptive heirs to the crown, she was

entitled to maintain her place and authority in the Government. There is a

curious little anecdote of her which shows how much the change in her

situation was preying on her mind. As she was leaving the Palace of the

Tournelles, to accompany Francis to the Louvre, where he was to appear as

the new Sovereign, she fell into a reverie, and in traversing the gallery,

took a wrong turn, and was entirely separated from her party before she

discovered her mistake. She soon overtook them, however, and as they

passed out, said to Mary,--"Pass on, Madam, it is now your turn to take

precedence." Mary accepted the courtesy, but with becoming delicacy

insisted that Catharine should enter the carriage first. There is

something more affecting in the change which Henry's death produced in the

condition of the venerable Montmorency and his family. He whom three

monarchs had loved and respected, who had given dignity to their counsels,

and ensured success to their arms, was not considered worthy of remaining

in the palace of the feeble and entrammelled Francis. With a princely

retinue, he retired honourably to his mansion at Chantilly.

Mary was now at the very height of European grandeur. The Queen of two

powerful countries--and the heir-presumptive of a third,--in the flower of

her age,--and, from her superior mental endowments, much more worshipped,

even in France, than her husband, she affords at this period of her

history as striking an example as can be found of the concentration of all

the blessings of fortune in one person. She stood unluckily on too high

and glorious a pinnacle to be able to retain her position long, consistent

with the vices vitae mortalium. Whilst she conducted herself with a

prudence and propriety altogether remarkable, considering her youth and

the susceptibility of her nature, she began to be regarded with suspicion

at once by France, England, and Scotland. In France, she was obliged to

bear the blame of many instances of bigotry and over-severity in the

government of her uncles;--in England, Elizabeth took every opportunity to

load with opprobrium a sister Queen, whose descent, birth, station, and

accomplishments, were so much superior to her own;--in Scotland, the

Reformers, inspired by James Stuart, who, with ulterior views of his own,

was contented to act as the tool of Elizabeth, laboured to make it be

believed that Mary was an uncompromising and narrow-minded Catholic.

In September 1559, Francis was solemnly crowned at Rheims; and during the

remainder of the season, he and Mary, attended by their nobles, made

various progresses through the country. In December, Francis, whose health

was evidently giving way, went, by the advice of his physicians, to Blois,

celebrated for the mildness of its climate. It affords a very vivid idea

of the ignorant superstition of the French peasantry to learn, that on

his journey thither, every village through which he passed was deserted.

An absurd story had been circulated, and was universally believed, that

the nature of Francis's complaints were such, that they could only be

cured by the royal patient bathing in the blood of young children. Francis

himself, although probably not informed of the cause, observed with pain

how he was every where shunned; and, notwithstanding the soothing

tenderness of Mary, who accompanied him, is said to have exclaimed to the

Cardinal Lorraine, "What have I done to be thus shunned and detested? They

fly me; my people abhor me! It is not thus that the French used to receive

their King."

Misfortunes, it is said, never come singly. Whilst Mary was performing the

part of an affectionate nurse to her husband, she sustained an

irretrievable loss in the death of her mother, the Scottish Regent, in

June 1560; and in the December following, her husband, Francis, died at

Orleans, in the 17th year of his age, and the 17th month of his reign.

Feeling that his exhausted constitution was sinking rapidly, and that his

death was at hand, almost the last words he spoke were to testify his

affection for Mary, and his sense of her virtues. He earnestly beseeched

his mother to treat her as her own daughter, and his brother to look upon

her as a sister. He was a prince, says Conaeus, in whom, had he lived,

more merit would probably have been discovered than most people

suspected. The whole face of things in France was by this event

instantly changed again. Francis the Little, as he was contemptuously

termed by the French, in opposition to his father Francis the Great, was

succeeded by his younger brother, Charles IX. He being still a minor, his

mother, Catharine, contrived to get herself appointed his guardian, and

thus became once more Queen of France, the nobility, as Chalmers remarks,

being more inclined to relish a real minority, than an imaginary

majority. Catharine's jealousy of Mary Stuart, of course extended

itself, with greater justice, to her uncles of Guise. It was now their

turn to make way for Montmorency; and the Cardinal of Lorraine, one of the

most intriguing statesmen of the age, retired, in no very charitable mood

of mind, to his archbishopric at Rheims, where, in a fit of spleen, he

declared he would devote himself entirely to religion.

There is something exceedingly naive and amusing in Sir James Melville's

account of this "gret changement." "The Queen-mother," says he, "was blyth

of the death of King Francis, her son, because she had na guiding of him,

but only the Duke of Guise and the Cardinal, his brother, by raisoun that

the Queen, our maistress, was their sister's dochter. Sa, the Queen-mother

was content to be quit of the government of the house of Guise; and for

their cause (sake) she had a great mislyking of our Queen." Of

Montmorency, who, as soon as he heard of the illness of Francis,

commenced his journey towards the Court, he says,--"The Constable, also

chargit to come to the court, looked for na less, and seamed to be seak,

making little journees, caried in a horse-litter, drew time sae lang by

the way, that the King, in the meantime, died. Then he lap on horsbak and

cam freely to the Court and commandit, like a Constable, the men of war

that gardit the Croun, by the Duke of Guise commandement, to pack them aff

the toune. The Queen-mother was also very glaid of his coming, that by his

autority and frendship with the King of Navarre, she mycht the better

dryve the house of Guise to the door." Of Mary, who, it may well be

supposed, felt this change more than any one, Melville says,--"Our Queen

also, seeing her friends in disgrace, and knawing hirself no to be weil

liked, left the Court, and was a sorrowful widow when I took my leave at

hir, in a gentilman's house, four myle fra Orleans." To this "gentilman's

house," or chateau, in the neighbourhood of Orleans, Mary had retired to

shed in private those tears, which the death of her husband called forth.

In losing Francis, she had lost the playmate of her childhood, the husband

of her youth, and what, by many women, would be considered as serious a

loss as either, the rank and title of Queen of France. It was here,

probably, that she composed those verses to the memory of her deceased

husband, which her biographers have so frequently copied, and which are so

full of gentle and unaffected feeling.

Mary, however, was at this time a personage of too much importance in the

politics and affairs of Europe, to be left long unmolested to the

indulgence of that sincere, but commonly temporary, sorrow of a widow of

eighteen. New suitors were even now beginning to form hopes of an alliance

with her; and two of the earliest in the field were, Don Carlos of Spain,

and the King of Navarre. But Mary was determined to listen to no proposals

of a matrimonial nature, till she had arranged the plan of her future

life. France was no longer for her the country it had once been. Her

affectionate father-in-law Henry, and her amiable, though weak, husband

Francis, both of whom commanded for her the first rank in the State, were

dead; her mother would never visit her more, for her tomb had already been

erected at Rheims, and her proud uncles had been banished from the Court.

Mary had too high a spirit, and knew her own superiority too well, to

brook for a moment the haughty control of Catharine de Medicis. She felt

that not all the blood of all the merchants of Italy, could ever elevate

the Queen-Dowager to an equality with one who, as it is said she herself

once expressed it, drew her descent from a centinary line of Kings.

Catharine felt this painfully, and the more so, that when Mary once more

made her appearance at Court, she perceived, in the words of Miss Benger,

that "the charms of her conversation, her graceful address, her

captivating accomplishments, had raised the woman above the Queen."

In the mean time, by the Reformed party in Scotland, the news of the death

of Francis was received with any thing but sorrow. Knox declared

triumphantly that "his glory had perished, and that the pride of his

stubborn heart had vanished into smoke." The Lord James, her natural

brother, was immediately deputed by the Congregation to proceed to

France, to ascertain whether the Queen intended returning to her native

country, and if she did, to influence her as much as possible in favour of

the true gospel and its friends. Nor were the Catholics inactive at this

critical juncture. A meeting was held, at which were present the

Archbishop of St Andrews, the Bishops of Aberdeen, Murray, and Ross, the

Earls of Huntly, Athol, Crawfurd, and Sutherland, and many other persons

of distinction, by whom it was determined to send as their ambassador to

Mary, John Lesly, afterwards Bishop of Ross, and one of the Queen's

staunchest friends, both during her life and after it. He was of course

instructed to give her a very different account of the state of matters

from that which the Lord James would do. He was to speak to her of the

power and influence of the Catholic party; and to contrast their fidelity

both to her and to her mother, with the rebellious proceedings of those

who supported the covenant.

The Lord James went by the way of England, and Lesly sailed from Aberdeen

for Holland. Both made good speed; and Lesly arrived at Vitry in

Champagne, where Mary was then residing, only one day before the Prior of

St Andrews. He lost no time in gaining admission to the Queen; and though

there is little doubt that his views were more sincere and honourable than

those of her brother, it is at the same time very questionable whether the

advice he gave her was judicious; and it is probably fortunate that Mary's

good sense and moderation led her to reject it. Lesly commenced with

cautioning her against the crafty speeches which he knew the Lord James

was about to make to her, assuring her that his principal object was to

insinuate himself into her good graces, to obtain the chief management of

affairs, and crush effectually the old religion. The Prior, Lesly assured

her, was not so warm in the cause of the Reformers, from any conviction of

its truth, as from his wish to make it a stepping-stone for his own

ambition. For these reasons, he advised her to bring with her to Scotland

an armed force, and to land at Aberdeen, or some northern port, where the

Earl of Huntly and her other friends would join her with a numerous army,

at the head of which she might advance towards Edinburgh, and defeat at

once the machinations of her enemies. The Queen, in reply to all this,

merely desired that Lesly should remain with her till she returned to

Scotland, commanding him to write, in the mean time, to the Lords and

Prelates who sent him, to inform them of her favourable sentiments towards

them, and of her intention to come speedily home.

The day after Lesly's audience, Mary's old friend the Lord James (for it

will be remembered, that thirteen years before he had come to France with

her, and he had in the interval paid her one or two visits) obtained an

interview with his sister. He had every desire to retain the favourable

place which he flattered himself he held in her estimation; and, though so

rigid a Reformer among his Scottish friends, his conscience does not seem

to have prevented him from paying all the court he could to his Catholic

Sovereign. In the course of his conversation with her, he carefully

avoided every subject which might have been disagreeable to Mary. He

beseeched her to believe, that she would not find the remotest occasion

for any foreign troops in Scotland, as the whole nation was prepared

faithfully to obey her. This assurance was true, as it turned out; but it

is not quite certain whether the Prior of St Andrews was thinking, at the

time, so much of its truth, as of its being convenient, for various

reasons, that Mary should have no standing force, at her command, in her

own kingdom. Mary gave to her brother the same general sort of answer that

she had previously given to Lesly. At the same time, she was secretly

disposed to attribute greater weight to his arguments, and treat him with

higher consideration, for a reason which Melville furnishes. It appears

that the French noblemen, who, on the conclusion of peace with England had

returned from Scotland, had all assured her, that she would find it most

for her interest to associate in her councils the leaders of the

Reformers,--particularly the Prior himself,--the Earl of Argyle, who had

married her natural sister, the Lady Jane Stuart,--and Maitland of


It is worthy of notice, that, affairs of state having been discussed, the

Prior ventured to speak a word or two for his own interest. He requested

that the Earldom of Murray might be conferred on him, and the Queen

promised to attend to his request on her return to Scotland. Having thus

prudently discharged his commission, the Lord James took his leave,

visiting Elizabeth on his way home, as he had already done before passing

over into France. About the same time, many of the Scotch nobility, in

anticipation of her speedy return, came to pay their duty to the Queen,

and, among them, was the celebrated Earl of Bothwell.