Mary's Arrival At Holyrood With Sketches Of Her Principal Nobility

Mary landed in Scotland with a mind full of anxiety and uncertainty. She

came alone and unprotected, to assume the government of a country which

had long been distinguished for its rebellious turbulence. The masculine

spirit of her father had quailed before the storm. Her mother, whose

intellectual energy she well knew, had in vain attempted to bring order

out of confusion, and harassed and worn out, had at length surrendered her
life in the struggle. For the last two years, it is true, the country had

enjoyed, not peace and tranquillity, but a cessation from an actual state

of warfare. Nevertheless, the seeds of discontent, and of mutual distrust

and hatred, were as abundant as ever. Mary's religion was well known; and

her confirmed devotion to it, was by one party magnified into bigotry, and

pronounced criminal; whilst by another, it was feared she would show

herself too lukewarm in revenging the insults which the ancient worship

had sustained. Such being the state of things, how could a young, and

comparatively inexperienced queen, just nineteen years of age, approach

her kingdom otherwise than with fear and trembling?

Contrasted too with her former situation, that which she was now about to

fill, appeared particularly formidable. In France, even during the life of

her husband, and while at the very height of her power, few of the severer

duties of government rested upon her. She had all the essential authority,

without much of the responsibility of a sovereign. Francis consulted her

upon every occasion, and followed her advice in almost every matter in

which she chose to interfere; but it was to him, or her uncles of Guise,

that the nation looked, when any of the state-machinery went wrong. It

would be very different in Scotland. By whatever counsel she acted, the

blame of all unpopular measures would be sure to rest with her. If she

favoured the Protestants, the Catholics would renounce her; if she

assisted the Catholics, the Protestants would again be found assembling at

Perth, listening, with arms in their hands, to the sermons of John Knox,

pulling down the remaining monasteries, and subscribing additional

covenants. Is it surprising then, that she found it difficult to steer her

course between the rocks of Scylla and the whirlpools of Charybdis? If

misfortunes ultimately overtook her, the wonder unquestionably ought to

be, not that they ever arrived, but that they should have been guarded

against so long. Nothing but the wisest and most temperate policy, could

have preserved quietness in a country so full of the elements of internal

discord. Mary's system of government throughout all its ramifications,

must have been such as no Queen of her age could have established, had

there not been more than an empty compliment, in those lines of Buchanan,

in which he addresses his Royal mistress as one

"Quae sortem antevenis meritis, virtutibus annos,

Sexum animis, morum nobilitate genus."

There is, besides, a natural feeling of loyalty, which, though it may be

evanescent, hardly fails to be kindled in the breasts of the populace, at

the sight of their native sovereign. The Scots, though they frequently

were far from being contented with the measures pursued by their monarchs,

have been always celebrated for their attachment to their persons. Mary,

on her first landing, became aware of this truth. As soon as it was known

that she intended returning from all the splendours of France, to the more

homely comforts of the land of her birth, the people, flattered by the

preference she was about to show them, abated somewhat of their previous

asperity. They were the more pleased, that she came to them, not as the

Queen of France, who might have regarded Scotland as only a province of

her empire, but as their own exclusive and independent sovereign. They

recollected that she had been at the disposal of the Estates of the

country, from the time she was seven days old, and they almost felt as if

she had been a child of their own rearing. They knew, also, that she had

made a narrow escape in crossing the seas; and the confidence she

evidently placed in them, by casting anchor in Leith Roads, with only two

galleys, did not pass unnoticed. But she had arrived sooner than was

expected; for, so little were they aware of her intended motions, that

when her two ships were first observed in the Frith, from the Castle of

Edinburgh, no suspicion was entertained that they carried the Queen and

her suite. It was not, till a royal salute was fired in the Roads, that

her arrival was positively known, and that the people began to flock in

crowds to the shore.

On the 20th or 21st of August, 1561, the Queen landed at Leith. Here she

was obliged to remain the whole day, as the preparations for her reception

at Holyroodhouse were not completed. The multitude continued in the

interval to collect at Leith, and on the roads leading to the Palace. On

the road between Leith and Restalrig, and from thence to the Abbey, the

different trades and corporations of Edinburgh were drawn up in order,

lining the way with their banners and bands of music. Towards evening,

horses were brought for the Queen and her attendants. When Mary saw them,

accustomed as she had been to the noble and richly caparisoned steeds of

the Parisian tournaments, she was struck both with the inferiority of

their breed, and the poorness of their furnishings. She sighed, and could

not help remarking the difference to some of her friends. "But they mean

well," said she, "and we must be content." As she passed along, she was

every where greeted with enthusiastic shouts of applause--the involuntary

homage which the beauty of her countenance, the elegance of her person,

and the graceful dignity of her bearing, could not fail to draw forth.

Bonfires were lighted in all directions; and though illuminations were

then but indifferently understood in Scotland, something of the kind seems

to have been attempted. On her arrival at the Palace, all the musicians of

Edinburgh collected below her windows, and in strains of most discordant

music continued all night to testify their joy for her return. Some of the

more rigid Reformers, willing to yield in their own way to the general

feeling, assembled together in a knot, and sung psalms in her honour.

Among the musical instruments, the bagpipes were preeminently

distinguished, which, not exactly suiting the uncultivated taste of

Brantome, he pathetically exclaims, "He! quelle musique! et quel repos

pour sa nuit!"

It is worth while remarking here, how Knox, in his History of the

Reformation, betrays his chagrin at the affectionate manner in which Mary

was received. "The very face of the heavens, at the time of her arrival,"

he says, "did manifestly speak what comfort was brought into this country

with her, by sorrow, dolor, darkness, and all impiety; for in the memory

of man that day of the year was never seen a more dolorous face of the

heavens, than was at her arrival, which two days after did so continue;

for, besides the surface wet, and the corruption of the air, the mist was

so thick and dark, that scarce could any man espy another the length of

two pair of butts. The sun was not seen to shine two days before, nor two

days after. That forewarning gave God to us, but alas! the most part were

blind." Knox proceeds to reprobate, in the severest terms, the

unhallowed amusements which Mary permitted at Holyroodhouse. "So soon as

ever her French fillocks, fiddlers, and others of that band, got the house

alone, there might be seen skipping not very comely for honest women. Her

common talk was, in secret, that she saw nothing in Scotland but gravity,

which was altogether repugnant to her nature, for she was brought up in

joyeusitye." If Knox really believed in the omens he talks of, or thought

the less of a young and beautiful woman for indulging in innocent

recreation, his judgment is to be pitied. If he, in truth, did not give

any credence to the one, and saw no sin in the other, his candour and

sincerity cannot be very highly praised.

M'Crie, the able but too partial biographer of Knox, and the defender of

all his errors and failings, speaking of Mary at this period,

says;--"Nursed from her infancy in a blind attachment to the Roman

Catholic religion, every means had been employed before she left France,

to strengthen this prejudice, and to inspire her with aversion to the

religion which had been embraced by her people. She was taught that it

would be the great glory of her reign, to reduce her kingdom to the

obedience of the Romish See, and to co-operate with the Popish Princes on

the Continent in extirpating heresy. With these fixed prepossessions, Mary

came into Scotland, and she adhered to them with singular pertinacity to

the end of her life." The whole of this statement is in the highest

degree erroneous. We have seen that Mary was not nursed in a blind

attachment to the Catholic religion--some of her best friends, and even

one or two of her preceptors, being attached to the new opinions. We have

seen, that so far from having any "prejudice" strengthened before she left

France, she was expressly advised to give her support to the Reformers;

and we have heard from her own lips, her mature determination to tolerate

every species of worship throughout her kingdom. That she ever thought of

"co-operating with the Popish Princes of the Continent, that she might

reduce her kingdom to the obedience of the Romish See, and extirpate

heresy," will be discovered immediately to be a particularly preposterous

belief, when we find her intrusting the reins of Government to the leaders

of the Reformed party. To this system of moderation, much beyond that of

the age in which she lived, Mary adhered, "with singular pertinacity, to

the end of her life." M'Crie, in proof of his gratuitous assertions,

affirms, that she never examined the subjects of controversy between the

Papists and Protestants. This also is incorrect, as he would have known,

had he read that letter of Throckmorton's, in which, as has been seen, she

informed the Ambassador of the frequent opportunities she had enjoyed of

hearing the whole matter discussed in the presence of the Cardinal

Lorraine; and the confession which that discussion extorted both from the

Cardinal and herself, of the necessity of some reformation among the

Catholics, though not to the extent to which the Protestants pushed it.

M'Crie further objects, that Mary never went to hear Knox, or any of the

Reformed divines, preach. Knox, from the invariable contempt with which he

affected to treat Mary, no doubt particularly deserved such a compliment;

and as to the other divines, by all of whom she was hated, what would have

been the use of leaving her own chapel to listen to sermons which could

not have altered the firm conviction of her mind, and which, consequently,

it would have been hypocrisy to pretend to admire? We return from this


The nobility, who now flocked to Holyrood from all parts of the country,

constituted that portion of the inhabitants of Scotland, who, for many

centuries, had exercised almost unlimited influence over their native

sovereigns. Their mutual dissensions during the late long minority, had a

good deal weakened their respective strength; and the progress of time was

gradually softening the more repulsive features of the feudal system. But

still the Scottish barons deemed themselves indispensable to the councils

of their monarch, and entitled to deliver opinions, which they expected

would be followed, on every affair of state. They collected at present,

under the influence of a thousand contending interests and wishes. With

some of the more distinguished figures in the group, it will be necessary

to make the reader better acquainted.

Of the Lord James, who was now shortly to become the Earl of Murray, the

title by which he is best known in Scottish history, a good deal has

already been said. That he must secretly have regretted his sister's

return to Scotland, may be safely concluded, from the facts formerly

stated. He was too skilful a politician, however, to betray his

disappointment. Had he openly ventured to oppose Mary, the result would

have been at all events uncertain, and his own ruin might have been the

ultimate consequence. He considered it more prudent to use every means in

his power to conciliate her friendship; and wrought so successfully, that

before long, he found himself the person of by far the most consequence in

the kingdom. Mary, perhaps, trusted too implicitly to his advice, and left

too much to his controul; yet it is difficult to see how she could have

managed otherwise. It is but fair also to add, that for several years

Murray continued to keep his ambition (which, under a show of moderation,

was in truth enormous) within bounds. Nor does there appear to be any

evidence sufficient to stamp Murray with that deeper treachery and blacker

guilt, which some writers have laid to his charge. The time, however, is

not yet arrived for considering his conduct in connexion with the darker

events of Mary's reign. The leading fault of his administration is, that

it was double-faced. In all matters of importance, he allowed himself to

be guided as much by the wishes of Elizabeth, secretly communicated to

him, as by those of his own Sovereign. He probably foresaw that, if he

ever quarrelled with Mary, it would be through the assistance of the

English Queen alone he could hope to retrieve his fortunes. This

subservience to Elizabeth, among those in whom she confided, was, indeed,

the leading misfortune of Mary's reign. Had her counsellors been

unbiassed, and her subjects undistracted by English intrigue, her prudent

conduct would have got the better of the internal dissensions in her

kingdom, and she would have governed in peace, perhaps in happiness. But

it was Elizabeth's jealous and narrow-minded policy, to prevent, if

possible, this consummation. With infinite art, and, if the term is not

debased by its application, with no little ability, she accomplished her

wishes, principally through the agency of the ambitious and the

self-interested, among Mary's ministers. One of these, the Earl of Murray,

unquestionably was. At the time of which we are writing, he was in his

thirty-first year, possessing considerable advantages both of face and

person, but of reserved, austere, and rather forbidding manners. Murray's

mother, who was the Lady Margaret Erskine, daughter of Lord Erskine, had

married Sir Robert Douglas of Lochleven. He had also, as has been

mentioned, several illegitimate brothers, particularly Lord John and Lord

Robert, and one sister, Jane, who married the Earl of Argyle, and to whom

Mary became very sincerely attached.

Associated with the Earl of Murray, both as a leader of the Reformers, and

as a servant of Elizabeth, but not allowing his ambitious views to carry

him quite so far as the Earl, was William Maitland of Lethington, Mary's

Secretary of State. He was the eldest son of Sir Richard Maitland of

Lethington, and was about five years older than Murray. He had been

educated at the University of St Andrews, and had travelled a good deal on

the Continent, where he studied civil law. John Knox, in his History,

claims the honour of having converted Maitland to the Reformed opinions.

Whether this be true or not, it is certain that, after having for some

time co-operated with Mary of Guise, he finally deserted her, and

continued to act with the Reformers, as Secretary of State, an office to

which he had been appointed for life, in 1558. It has been already seen,

that a close and confidential intercourse subsisted between him and Cecil;

and that he too would have been glad, had Mary's return to Scotland been

prevented. That Maitland possessed an acute and subtle genius, there can

be no doubt; that he had cultivated his mind to good purpose, and

understood the art of composition as well as any man of the age, is

undeniable. That his manners were more polished than those of most of the

Scottish nobility, is also true; but, that his talents were of that high

and exquisite kind, which Robertson and some other historians have

described, does not appear. During his political career, many instances

occur, which seem to imply a vacillating and unsteady temperament, a fault

which can hardly be forgiven in a statesman.

James Douglas, Earl of Morton, another associate of Murray, was one of the

most powerful and least respectable of those who had embraced the

Reformation. Restless, factious, crafty, avaricious and cruel, nothing

could have saved him from general odium, but his pretended zeal for

religion. This was a cloak for many sins; by flattering the vanity of Knox

and the other gospel-ministers, he contrived to cover the hollowness of

his character, and to patch up a reputation for sanctity. In consequence

of the rebellion of the Earl of Angus, his uncle, during the reign of

James V., Morton had been obliged to spend several years in England, where

he lived in great poverty. But the only effect adversity had produced upon

him, was a determination to be more rapacious when he recovered his power.

His ambition was of a more contracted and selfish kind than Murray's, and

he had not so cool a head, or so cautious a hand.

The Duke of Chatelherault, Mary's nearest relation, being advanced in

years, had retired from public life. The Earl of Arran, his son, who, it

will be remembered, had been induced to propose himself as a husband for

Elizabeth, was of a weak and almost crazed intellect. Indeed it was not

long before the increasing strength of the malady made it necessary to

confine him. He came to Court, however, upon Mary's arrival, and having

been unsuccessful with Elizabeth, chose to fall desperately in love with

his own Queen. But Mary had always an aversion to him, originating no

doubt in the want of delicacy towards her, which had characterized his

negociations with Elizabeth, and confirmed by his own presuming and

disagreeable manners. His father's natural brother, the Archbishop of St

Andrews, is the only other member of the family worth mentioning. He was

still staunch to the Roman Catholic party; but had of late seen the wisdom

of remaining quiet, and though he became rather a favourite with Mary, it

does not appear that he henceforth took a very active interest in public


James Hepburne, Earl of Bothwell, though some of the leading features of

his character had hardly shown themselves at the period of which we speak,

merits nevertheless, from the part he subsequently acted, especial notice

at present. He had succeeded his father in his titles and estates in the

year 1556, when he was five or six and twenty years of age. He enjoyed not

only large estates, but the hereditary offices of Lord High Admiral of

Scotland, Sheriff of Berwick, Haddington and Edinburgh, and Baillie of

Lauderdale. With the exception of the Duke of Chatelherault, he was the

most powerful nobleman in the southern districts of Scotland. Soon after

coming to his titles, he began to take an active share in public business.

In addition to his other offices, he was appointed the Queen's Lieutenant

on the Borders, and Keeper of Hermitage Castle, by the Queen Regent, to

whom he always remained faithful, in opposition to the Lord James, and

what was then termed the English faction. He went over to France on the

death of Francis II. to pay his duty to Mary, and on his return to

Scotland, was by her intrusted with the discharge of an important

commission regarding the Government. Though all former differences were

now supposed to have been forgotten, there was not, nor did there ever

exist, a very cordial agreement between the Earls of Murray and Bothwell.

They were both about the same age, but their dispositions were very

different. Murray was self-possessed, full of foresight, prudent and wary.

Bothwell was bold, reckless, and extravagant. His youth had been devoted

to every species of dissipation; and even in manhood, he seemed more

intent on pleasure than on business. This was a sort of life which Murray

despised, and perhaps he calculated that Bothwell would never aim at any

other. But, though guided by no steady principles, and devoted to

licentiousness, Bothwell was nevertheless not the mere man of pleasure. He

was all his life celebrated for daring and lawless exploits, and vanity or

passion, were motives whose force he was never able to resist. Unlike

Murray, who, when he had an end in view, made his advances towards it as

cautiously as an Indian hunter, Bothwell dashed right through, as careless

of the means by which he was to accomplish his object, as of the

consequences that were to ensue. His manner was of that frank, open, and

uncalculating kind, which frequently catches a superficial observer. They

who did not study him more closely, were apt to imagine that he was merely

a blustering, good-natured, violent, headstrong man, whose manners must

inevitably have degenerated into vulgarity, had he not been nobly born,

and accustomed to the society of his peers. But much more serious

conclusions might have drawn by those who had penetration enough to see

under the cloak of dissoluteness, in which he wrapped himself and his

designs. With regard to his personal appearance, it does not seem to have

been remarkably prepossessing. Brantome says, that he was one of the

ugliest men he had ever seen, and that his planners were correspondently

outre. Buchanan, who must have known Bothwell well, and who draws his

character with more accuracy than was to have been expected from so

partial a writer, says, in his "Detection:"--"Was there in him any gift of

eloquence, or grace of beauty, or virtue of mind, garnished with the

benefits which we call of fortune? As for his eloquence and beauty, we

need not make long tale of them, since both they that have seen him can

well remember his countenance, his gait, and the whole form of his body,

how gay it was; they that have heard him, are not ignorant of his rude

utterance and blockishness." As to Bothwell's religious opinions, Buchanan

remarks very truly, that wavering between the different factions, and

despising either side, he counterfeited a love of both. Such was the

man of whom we shall have occasion to say so much in the course of these


In the Lords Ruthven and Lindsay, remained unaltered all the

characteristics of the ruder feudal chiefs, rendered still more repulsive

by their bigoted zeal in favour of the Reformed opinions. They were men of

coarse and contracted minds, fit instigators to villany, or apt tools in

the hands of those who were more willing to plan than to execute.

Opposed to all these nobles, was the great lay head of the Catholic party

in Scotland, John, Earl of Huntly. His jurisdiction and influence extended

over nearly the whole of the north of Scotland, from Aberdeen to

Inverness. He was born in 1510, and had been a personal friend and

favourite of James V. He ranked in Parliament as the Premier Earl of

Scotland, and in 1546, was appointed Chancellor of the kingdom. He was

always opposed to the English party, and had been taken prisoner at the

battle of Pinkie, fighting against the claims of Edward VI., upon the

infant Mary. He made his escape, in 1548, and as a reward for his services

and sufferings, obtained, in the following year, a grant of the Earldom of

Murray, which, however, he again resigned in 1554. He continued faithful

to the Queen Regent till her death. Upon that occasion, we have seen that

he and other nobles sent Lesley, with certain proposals, to Mary. He was

an honourable man and a good subject, though the termination of his career

was a most unfortunate one. The respect which his memory merits, is

founded on the conviction, that he had too great a love for his country

and sovereign ever to have consented to have made the one little better

than tributary to England, or to have betrayed the other into the hands of

her deadliest enemy.

Such were the men who were now to become Mary's associates and

counsellors. The names of most of them occur as members of the Privy

Council which she constituted shortly after her return. It consisted of

the Duke of Chatelherault, the Earl of Huntly, the Earl of Argyle, the

Earl of Bothwell, the Earl of Errol, Earl Marschall, the Earl of Athol,

the Earl of Morton, the Earl of Montrose, the Earl of Glencairn, the Lord

Erskine, and the Lord James Stuart. In this Council, the influence of the

Lord James, backed as it was by a great majority of Protestant nobles,

carried every thing before it.

Elizabeth, finding that Mary had arrived safely in her own country, and

had been well received there, lost no time in changing her tone towards

the Scottish queen. Her English resident in Scotland, was the celebrated

Randolph, whom she kept as a sort of accredited spy at Mary's court. He

has rendered himself notorious by the many letters he wrote to England

upon Scottish affairs. He had an acute, inquisitive, and gossiping turn of

mind. His style is lively and amusing; and though the office he had to

perform is not to be envied, he seems to have entered on it con amore,

and with little remorse of conscience. His epistles are mostly preserved,

and are valuable from containing pictures of the state of manners in

Scotland at the time, not to be found any where else, though not always to

be depended on as accurate chronicles of fact. To Randolph, the Queen of

England now wrote, desiring him to offer her best congratulations to Mary

upon her safe arrival. She sent him also a letter which he was to deliver

to Mary, in which she disclaimed ever having had the most distant

intention of intercepting her on her voyage. Mary answered Elizabeth's

letter with becoming cordiality. She, likewise, sent Secretary Maitland

into England, to remain for some time as her resident at Elizabeth's

Court. She was well aware for what purposes Randolph was ordered to

continue in Edinburgh; and said, that as it seemed to be Elizabeth's wish

that he should remain, she was content, but that she would have another in

England as crafty as he. Maitland was certainly as crafty, but his

craftiness was unfortunately too frequently directed against Mary