Mary's Reception In England And The Conferences At York And Westminster

If there had been a single generous feeling still lurking in Elizabeth's

bosom, the time was now arrived when it should have discovered itself.

Mary was no longer a rival Queen, but an unfortunate sister, who, in her

hour of distress, had thrown herself into the arms of her nearest

neighbour and ally. During her imprisonment in Scotland, Elizabeth had

avowed her conviction of its injustice; and, if it was unjust that her own
br /> subjects should retain her in captivity, it would of course be much more

iniquitous in one who had no right to interfere with her affairs, and who

had already condemned such conduct in others. If it was too much to expect

that the English Queen would supply her with money and arms, to enable her

to win back the Crown she had lost, it was surely not to be doubted that

she would either allow her to seek assistance in France, or, if she

remained in England, would treat her with kindness and hospitality. All

these hopes were fallacious; for, "with Elizabeth and her counsellors,"

as Robertson has justly observed, "the question was, not what was most

just or generous, but what was most beneficial to herself and the English


On the 29th of May 1568, Lord Scroope and Sir Francis Knollys arrived at

Carlisle. They were met at some little distance from the town by Lord

Herries, who told them, that what the Queen his mistress most desired, was

a personal interview with Elizabeth. But they had been instructed to

answer, that they doubted whether her Majesty could receive the Queen of

Scots, until her innocence from any share in the murder of her husband was

satisfactorily established. Thus, the ground which Elizabeth had

resolved to take was at once discovered. She was to affect to treat the

Scottish Queen with empty civility, whilst in reality she detained her a

prisoner, until she had arranged with Murray the precise accusation which

was to be brought against her, and which, if it succeeded in blackening

her character, might justify subsequent severities. Mary could not at

first believe that she would be treated with so much treachery; but

circumstances occurred every day to diminish her confidence in the good

intentions of the English Queen. Under the pretence that there was too

great a concourse of strangers from Scotland, Lord Scroope and Sir Francis

Knollys ordered the fortifications of Carlisle Castle to be repaired, and

Mary was not allowed to ride out to any distance. The most distinguished

of the few friends who were now with her, and who remained faithful to

her to the end of her life, were Lesley, Bishop of Ross,--the Lords

Herries, Livingston, and Fleming, and George and William Douglas. She had

also her two secretaries, Curl and Nawe, who afterwards betrayed her,--and

among other servants, Beaton, and Sebastian the Frenchman; there were

likewise the Ladies Livingston and Fleming, Mary Seaton, Lord Seaton's

daughter, and other female attendants.

Mary's first interview with the envoys from Elizabeth, prepossessed them

both in her favour. "We found her," they said, "to have an eloquent tongue

and a discreet head, and it seems by her doings, that she has stout

courage, and a liberal heart adjoined thereto." When they told her that

the Queen, their mistress, refused to admit her to her presence, Mary

burst into tears, and expressed the bitterest disappointment. Checking her

grief, however, and assuming a tone of becoming dignity, she said, that if

she did not receive without delay, the aid she had been induced to expect,

she would immediately demand permission to pass into France, where she did

not doubt she would obtain what the English Queen denied. In the

meantime, as she was not allowed to proceed to London herself, she

despatched Lord Herries to superintend her interests there; and shortly

afterwards, it being represented to her that her person was not in safety

so long as she continued so near the Borders, she consented to be removed

further into England, and was conveyed to Bolton Castle, a seat of Lord

Scroope, in the North Riding of Yorkshire.

The Regent Murray, on his part, was any thing but inactive. He forced the

Earl of Huntly, who had collected upwards of 2000 men, and was marching to

the Queen's assistance when he heard of the unfortunate battle of

Langside, to retire to the North, and disband the greater part of his

troops; he put to flight the remains of the Queen's army, which had been

again gathered by Argyle and Cassils; and, assembling a Parliament, he

procured acts of forfeiture and banishment against many of the most

powerful Lords of the opposite party. Elizabeth, perceiving his success,

had no desire to check the progress of his usurped authority, whatever

professions to the contrary she chose to make to Mary. On the 8th of June,

she wrote Murray a letter, in which she addressed him as her "right

trusty, and right well-beloved cousin;" told him falsely that the Queen of

Scots had confided to her the examination of the differences between

herself and her subjects; and advised him to take such steps as would

place his own side of the question in the most favourable point of view.

Murray had no objection to make Elizabeth the umpire between himself and

his sister, well assured that she would ultimately decide in his favour,

lest the rival, whom she had once found so formidable, should again become

a source of jealousy and alarm.

But Mary had never dreamt of appealing to Elizabeth as to a judge, and she

now learned with indignation that her rebellious nobles were to be

encouraged to come before that Queen on the same footing with herself.

When she asked for a personal interview, it was that she might speak to

her cousin as to a friend and equal, of the wrongs she had suffered. She

had voluntarily undertaken to satisfy the English Queen, as soon as they

conversed together, of her innocence from all the charges which had been

brought against her; but she was not to degrade herself by entering into a

controversy with her subjects regarding these charges. Accordingly, as

soon as she discovered Elizabeth's insidious policy, she addressed a

letter to her, in which she openly protested against it. The letter was in

French, and to the following effect:--

"Madam, my good sister, I came into your dominions to ask your assistance,

and not to save my life. Scotland and the world have not renounced me. I

was conscious of innocence; I was disposed to lay all my transactions

before you; and I was willing to do you honour, by making you the

restorer of a Queen. But you have afforded me no aid, and no consolation.

You even deny me admittance to your presence. I escaped from a prison, and

I am again a captive. Can it expose you to censure, to hear the complaints

of the unfortunate? You received my bastard brother when he was in open

rebellion; I am a Princess, and your equal, and you refuse me this

indulgence. Permit me then to leave your dominions. Your severity

encourages my enemies, intimidates my friends, and is most cruelly

destructive to my interests. You keep me in fetters, and allow my enemies

to conquer my realm. I am defenceless; and they enjoy my authority,

possess themselves of my revenues, and hold out to me the points of their

swords. In the miserable condition to which I am reduced, you invite them

to accuse me. Is it too small a misfortune for me to lose my kingdom? Must

I, also, be robbed of my integrity and my reputation? Excuse me, if I

speak without dissimulation. In your dominions I will not answer to their

calumnies and criminations. To you, in a personal conference, I shall at

all times be ready to vindicate my conduct; but to sink myself into a

level with my rebellious subjects, and to be a party in a suit or trial

with them, is an indignity so vile, that I can never submit to it. I can

die, but I cannot meet dishonour. Consult, I conjure you, what is right

and proper, and entitle yourself to my warmest gratitude; or, if you are

inclined not to know me as a sister, and to withhold your kindness,

abstain at least from rigour and injustice. Be neither my enemy nor my

friend; preserve yourself in the coldness of neutrality; and let me be

indebted to other princes for my re-establishment in my kingdom."

Unmoved by the forcible representations contained in this and other

letters, Elizabeth resolved to treat the Queen of Scots only with greater

severity than before, in the hope of intimidating her into a compliance

with her wishes. It was with this view that she had removed her to Bolton,

where she took care that she should be strictly guarded, and not allowed

to hold any intercourse with the loyal part of her Scottish subjects. Lord

Fleming, too, whom Mary wished to send as her ambassador to France, was

stopped; and she was given distinctly to understand, that she must not

expect any of her commands to be obeyed, unless they met with Elizabeth's

approval. The English Privy Council, of course, sanctioned their

Sovereign's severity; and gave it as their opinion, that, until an inquiry

had taken place into the whole conduct of the Scottish Queen, it would not

be consistent with the honour or safety of the realm to afford her the aid

she required. The result of all these machinations,--a result which

Elizabeth contrived to bring about with the most consummate art,--was,

that Mary agreed to nominate Commissioners to meet the Earl of Murray and

the Lords associated with him, and to authorize them, before Commissioners

to be appointed by Elizabeth, to state the grievances of which their

mistress, the Queen of Scots, complained. Murray approved of this

arrangement, because he foresaw from the first how it would end; and Mary

consented to it, because she was led to believe, that Murray and his

accomplices were summoned solely that they might answer to her complaints.

Well aware that their answer could not be satisfactory, she fondly

imagined that she would soon be restored to the power they had usurped.

The important Conference, as it was termed, between the three sets of

Commissioners, was appointed to be held at York. Mary's Commissioners were

Lesley, Bishop of Ross, the Lords Herries, Livingston, and Boyd, Gavin

Hamilton, Commendator of Kilwinning, Sir John Gordon of Lochinvar, and Sir

James Cockburn of Stirling. Murray associated with himself the Earl

of Morton, Bothwell, Bishop of Orkney, Pitcairn, Commendator of

Dunfermlin, and Lord Lindsay. Macgill and Balnaves, two civilians,

Buchanan, whose pen was always at the Regent's command "through good

report and bad report," Secretary Maitland, and one or two others, came

with them as legal advisers and literary assistants. On the part of

Elizabeth, the Commissioners were Thomas Howard Duke of Norfolk, Thomas

Ratcliffe Earl of Sussex, and Sir Ralph Sadler; and they were invested

with full authority to arrange all the differences and controversies

existing between her "dear sister and cousin, Mary Queen of Scots," and

James Earl of Murray.

On the 4th of October 1568, the conference was opened with much solemnity

at York. "The great abilities of the deputies on both sides," observes

Robertson, "the dignity of the judges before whom they were to appear, the

high rank of the persons whose cause was to be heard, and the importance

of the points in dispute, rendered the whole transaction no less

illustrious than it was singular. The situation in which Elizabeth

appeared on this occasion, strikes us with an air of magnificence. Her

rival, an independent queen, and the heir of an ancient race of monarchs,

was a prisoner in her hands, and appeared, by her ambassadors, before her

tribunal. The Regent of Scotland, who represented the Majesty, and

possessed the authority of a king, stood in person at her bar, and the

fate of a kingdom, whose power her ancestors had often dreaded, but could

never subdue, was now absolutely at her disposal." It may, however, be

remarked, that the "magnificence" of power depends, in a great degree, on

the manner in which that power has been acquired; and when it is

recollected that, by secretly and diligently fomenting civil disturbances

in Scotland, Elizabeth first attacked Mary's peace, and then undermined

her authority, and that, having subsequently assumed the mask of a friend,

only to conceal the scowl of an enemy, she had forcibly arrogated the rank

of a judge, her "air of magnificence" is discovered to be little else than


The "Instructions" given to her Commissioners, are of themselves

sufficient to show that her desire was not to extinguish, but to encourage

animosities between the Queen of Scots and her subjects. She had

previously assured Mary, in order to induce her to send Commissioners to

York at all, that so far from intending to use any form or process by

which her subjects should become her accusers, "she meant rather to have

such of them, as the Queen of Scots should name, called into the realm, to

be charged with such crimes as the said Queen should please to object

against them; and if any form of judgment should be used, it should be

against them." But as soon as she had persuaded Mary, by these

specious promises, to come into Court, she resolved to alter the features

of the cause. She instructed her Commissioners to listen particularly to

the requests and complaints of the Earl of Murray, and to assure him

privately, that if he could prove Mary to have been implicated in her

husband's murder, she should never be restored to the throne. Nay, she

went further; she desired it to be intimated to the Regent, that even

though he could not prove Mary's guilt, yet, that if he could attach

sufficient suspicion to her, it would be left to himself and his friends

to determine under what conditions they would again consent to receive her

into Scotland. This was as much encouragement as Murray could desire; for

he knew that, by artifice and effrontery, a shade of suspicion might be

made to attach itself even to the most perfect. Mary's Commissioners, on

the other hand, though doubting much the impartiality of the party which

was to arbitrate between them, felt strong in the justice of their cause;

and after protesting that their appearance was not to be construed as

implying any surrender of her independence on the part of their mistress,

or of feudal inferiority to the Crown of England, they proceeded to give

in their complaint. It contained a short review of the injuries the Queen

of Scots had suffered since her marriage with Bothwell;--of the rebellion

of Morton and others,--of her voluntary surrender at Carberry Hill,--of

her imprisonment in Loch-Leven,--of the abdication that had been forced

from her,--of the coronation of her infant son, and the assumed regency of

the Earl of Murray,--of her defeat at Langside,--and of the undutiful

conduct in which the Regent had since persevered.

To this complaint it was answered, at great length, by Murray, that the

Earl of Bothwell having forcibly carried off the person of the Queen to

the Castle of Dunbar, and kept her there a prisoner for some time, had, in

the end, suddenly accomplished "a pretended marriage," which, confirming

the nobility in the belief that the Earl was the chief author of the

murder of the King, made them determine to take up arms to relieve those

who were unjustly calumniated, and to rescue the Queen from the bondage of

a tyrant, who had presumptuously attempted to ravish and marry her, though

he could neither be her lawful husband, nor she his lawful wife;--that

Bothwell came against these nobility, "leading the Queen in his company,

as a defence and cloak to his wickedness;" but that, as the quarrel was

intended only against him, the Queen was received by the nobles, and led

by them into Edinburgh, as soon as she consented to part from the

Earl;--that she was then requested to agree that the murderers should be

punished, and that the pretended marriage into which she had been led,

should be dissolved;--that to this request she only answered, by

rigorously menacing all who had taken up arms in her cause, and declaring

she would surrender her realm altogether, "so she might be suffered to

possess the murderer of her husband;"--that, perceiving the inflexibility

of her mind, they had been compelled to "sequestrate her person" for a

season;--that, during this time, she had voluntarily renounced the

Government, finding herself wearied by its fatigues, and perceiving that

she and her people could not well agree; and that she had appointed,

during the minority of her son, the Earl of Murray Regent of the realm,

and that every thing he had done since had been in accordance with the

legal authority with which she had thus invested him;--and that he

therefore required, in behalf of his Sovereign Lord the King, to be

allowed peaceably to enjoy and govern the country.

The "Reply" of Mary's Commissioners, to this feeble and disingenuous

"Answer" of the Earl of Murray, was quite as candid as it was conclusive.

It was stated for Mary, that, so far from having been aware, at the time

of her marriage, that Bothwell was "known," or "affirmed," to be the

"chief author" of the horrible murder committed on her late husband, she

had seen him solemnly acquitted of all suspicion by a regular trial,

according to the laws of the realm, and that most of her principal

nobility had solicited her to accept of him as a husband, promising him

service, and her Highness loyal obedience,--not one of them, either before

or after the marriage, having warned her to avoid it, or expressed their

discontent with it, till they suddenly appeared in arms;--that, at

Carberry Hill, she willingly parted with Bothwell, as they themselves had

seen; but that, if he were in truth guilty of the crimes imputed to him,

which she did not then believe, they were to blame for permitting him to

escape;--that, upon being taken into Edinburgh, where they had promised to

reverence her as their Queen, she found herself treated as their

captive;--that, so far from showing any persevering attachment to

Bothwell, she repeatedly declared it to be her wish, that the estates of

the realm should examine into all the charges which had been made against

him;--that, notwithstanding, she had been forcibly carried off under shade

of night, and imprisoned against her will in the Castle of Loch-Leven,

where she was afterwards made to subscribe instruments of abdication, only

through the fear of present death;--that, consequently, the pretended

coronation of her son was an unlawful and treasonable proceeding, and the

pretended nomination of the Earl of Murray as Regent, a proof of itself

that force and fraud had been used; for, even supposing she had been

willing to abdicate, if she had been left to her own free choice, there

were others whom she would have preferred to appoint to the chief rule

during her son's minority;--that, therefore, she required the Queen of

England to support and fortify her in the peaceable enjoyment and

government of her realm, and to declare the pretended authority usurped by

others null from the beginning.

"So far," says Hume, "the Queen of Scots seemed plainly to have the

advantage in the contest; and the English Commissioners might have been

surprised, that Murray had made so weak a defence." The truth is, that not

only were the English Commissioners surprised, but the Regent himself felt

painfully conscious, that he had entirely failed to offer even a plausible

pretext for the dethronement of his sister, and his own usurpation.

Elizabeth also, anxious as she was to befriend him, saw that she would be

imperatively required, by every principle of justice and good government,

to take measures against him, were the discussion allowed to terminate at

the point to which it had now been brought. Means were therefore taken to

inform Murray, that unless he was able to strengthen his case, and to

bring his charges more directly home, the matter would in all probability

go against him. Upon this the Regent held a consultation with his friends,

Maitland and Buchanan, and the necessity of bringing into play a new

device, which had been prepared as a corps-de-reserve, was by all of them

felt and acknowledged. Though no evidence had been adduced against her,

Mary had already been accused by her brother of having had a share in the

murder of Darnley. But as the charge was made soon after his return from

France, it was strongly suspected to have been invented only to justify

himself for retaining her in Loch-Leven. Now, however, seeing the

emergency of his affairs, he determined that something like evidence of

its truth should be produced. This evidence consisted of a collection of

certain letters and sonnets, alleged to be in the Queen's own hand, and

addressed to the Earl of Bothwell, containing passages which testified at

once her love for him, and her guilt towards Darnley. But here the

question very naturally occurs, why these important documents should not

have been brought forward in the earlier part of the conference; and as

Robertson, in endeavouring to account for the delay, appears to have

fallen into a mistake, it will be worth while examining, for a moment, the

soundness of his hypothesis.

The Duke of Norfolk, Elizabeth's principal Commissioner, was one of the

most powerful of all her nobility, and, since Mary's arrival in England,

he had formed the ambitious project of ascending the Scottish throne by

means of a marriage with her. With this view, he had already engaged

extensively in secret intrigues, and had, in particular, prevailed on

Lethington to approve of his plans, and promise him his support. But

Robertson asserts further, that soon after his arrival at York, he won

over Murray also to his views, and persuaded him to keep back, for a time,

the heaviest part of his accusation against Mary, that her character might

not be so fatally blackened. The historian's assertion, however, is

unsupported by the evidence he adduces in its favour, his references to

Anderson, to Goodall, and to his own Appendix, being quite unsatisfactory.

Whatever promises Murray may, at a subsequent date, have made to Norfolk,

it clearly appears that no charge against Mary was delayed one hour at

York, in consequence of any understanding between these two noblemen.

It had been all along the Regent's determination, not to have recourse to

the letters, if he could make out a case without them; and even after he

perceived that he would require their aid, he did not produce them openly,

till they had been first shown privately to the English Commissioners, and

their opinion obtained concerning them. It was on the 4th of October that

the conference commenced; and on the 10th, Lethington, Macgill, and

Buchanan, in a secret interview with Norfolk, Sussex, and Sadler, laid

before them the mysterious documents. The nature of their contents was

communicated to Elizabeth on the 11th, and she was requested to mention in

reply, whether, when publicly adduced and authenticated, they would be

sufficient to secure Mary's condemnation. Murray, therefore, cannot at

this time, have entered into any agreement with the Duke of Norfolk; for,

so far from keeping back his box-full of letters, he was nervously anxious

to ascertain, as speedily as possible, whether Elizabeth would attach any

weight to them, or allow them to be branded as palpable forgeries. Had

Robertson attended a little more to dates, he would have discovered, that

so far from wishing to favour the views of the Duke of Norfolk, Murray

informed Elizabeth regarding the letters and their contents, on the very

day on which he gave in his first "Answer" to Mary's Commissioners. Nor

had these letters been entirely unheard of till now; for, though they had

never been exhibited, they had been expressly alluded to nearly a year

before, in an act published by the Lords of Secret Council, on the 4th of

December 1567, in which it was asserted, that by the discovery of certain

of the Queen's private letters, sent by her to the Earl of Bothwell, it

was "most certain that she was art and part of the actual device and deed

of the murder of the King." The same assertion was subsequently

repeated, founded upon the same alleged proof, in one of the Acts of the

Parliament called by Murray. The only legitimate conclusion therefore to

be drawn from his unwillingness to bring forward these letters at York,

and make good, by their means the sole charge against the Queen which

could justify his usurpation of her authority, is, that he was afraid to

expose such fabrications to the eye of day, until he should have received

Elizabeth's assurance that she would treat them with becoming

consideration, and assign to them an air of importance, even though

forgery, with brazen audacity, was stamped upon their face.

As soon as Elizabeth heard of the letters, and reflected on the turn which

they might give to the case, she determined on taking the whole of the

proceedings under her own immediate superintendence, and with this view

removed the conference from York to Westminster. To the Commissioners

previously appointed, she there added the Earls of Arundel and Leicester,

Lord Clinton, Sir Nicolas Bacon, and Sir William Cecil. Mary at first

expressed satisfaction at this new arrangement, but several circumstances

soon occurred which proved, that no favour was intended to her by the

change. That which galled her most, was the marked attention paid to the

Earl of Murray. Though Elizabeth refused Mary a personal interview, she

admitted her rebellious brother to that honour, and thus glaringly

deviated from the impartiality which ought to have been observed by an

umpire. Accordingly, the Queen of Scots commanded her Commissioners, the

Bishop of Ross and Lord Herries, to complain of this injustice. Not to be

received into Elizabeth's presence, she could regard in no other light but

as an assumption of superiority,--a parade of rigid righteousness,--and an

affected dread of contamination, which, whilst it was meant to imply the

purity of the maiden Queen, aimed at exciting suspicion of the purity of

another. Continuing to believe that her Scottish rebels had been called

before the English Commissioners at her instance, Mary had consented that

her representatives should proceed from York to Westminster, to make her

complaints as a free Sovereign. In her instructions to the Bishop of Ross,

and those associated with him, she expressly told them, that the

conference was appointed "only for making a pacification between her and

her rebellious subjects, and restoring her to her realm and authority."

She never lost sight of the fact, that she did not appeal to Elizabeth as

a suppliant, but as an equal; and she always took care to preserve high

and dignified ground. But to depart from this, and before the tribunal of

Hampton Court, in which such men as Cecil were able to procure any

decision they chose, to undertake to answer every calumnious charge which

might be brought against her, never entered into her imagination. "It is

not unknown to us," she wrote to her Commissioners from Bolton, "how

hurtful and prejudicial it would be to us, our posterity and realm, to

enter into foreign judgment or arbitrement before the Queen our good

sister, her Council, or Commissioners, either for our estate, Crown,

dignity or honour;--we will and command you, therefore, that you pass to

the presence of our said dearest sister, her Council and Commissioners,

and there, in our name, extend our clemency toward our disobedient

subjects, and give them appointment for their offences committed against

us and our realm,--so that they may live, in time coming, in surety under

us their head."--"And, in case they will otherwise proceed, then we will

and command you to dissolve this present diet and negotiation, and proceed

no further therein, for the causes foresaid."

It may well be conceived, therefore, that when Mary heard of Elizabeth's

kind and familiar treatment of the Earl of Murray, "the principal of her

rebels," she was not a little indignant. She immediately sent word to her

Commissioners, that, before proceeding a step further in the negotiation,

she considered it right that she should be put on at least an equal

footing with the pretended Regent,--for she did not choose that greater

respect should be shown to her rebels than to her and her true subjects.

There were other three points, of which she thought she had also just

cause to complain. First, that though she had come into England on the

assurance of friendship, and of her own free will, she had not only seen

no steps taken to restore her to her realm and authority, but had most

unexpectedly found herself detained a prisoner, and her confinement

rendered closer every day;--second, that though, at Elizabeth's request,

she had desired her loyal subjects in Scotland to abstain from

hostilities, yet the Earl of Murray had not been prevented from molesting

and invading them;--and, third, that having already established the

utter groundlessness of the charges brought against her, instead of

finding herself reinstated on her throne, the conference had been merely

removed to a greater distance, where she could not communicate with her

Commissioners so frequently and speedily as was necessary. In

consideration of these premises, and especially in consideration of the

treatment of the Earl of Murray, "you shall break the conference," she

continued, "and proceed no further therein, but take your leave, and come

away. And if our sister allege that, at the beginning, she were content

our cause should be conferred on by Commissioners, it is true. But since

our principal rebels have free access towards her to accuse us in her

presence, and the same is denied to us, personally to declare our

innocence, and answer to their calumnies, being held as prisoner, and

transported from place to place, though we came into her realm, of our

free will, to seek her support and natural amity, we have resolved to have

nothing further conferred on, except we be present before her, as the said


In the mean time, before these letters arrived, the Commissioners had held

several sittings at Westminster; and Elizabeth having personally informed

Murray, that if he would accuse the Queen of Scots of a share in the

murder of Darnley, and produce the letters he had in his possession, she

would authorize his continuance in the Regency, he no longer hesitated. On

the 26th of November, after protesting that he had been anxious to save,

as long as possible, the mother of his gracious King, James VI., from the

perpetual infamy which the discovery of her shame would attach to her, and

that he was now forced to disclose it, in his own defence, because it was

maintained, that his previous answer to the complaint made against him was

not sufficient, Murray, in conjunction with his colleagues, presented to

the English Commissioners an "Eik" or addition to their "Answer," in which

they formally charged Mary with the murder. As to the reluctance so

hypocritically avowed, it has been already seen, that so far back as

December 1567, precisely the same charge, though unsupported by any

evidence, was brought forward in the Scottish Parliament; and having then

served its purpose, was allowed to lie dormant for eleven months. It is

true, that there was then, no less than now, a palpable contradiction

between this accusation, and the grounds which had always previously been

assigned, both for Mary's "sequestration" in Loch-Leven, and her alleged

voluntary abdication. It was not till the public mind had been inflamed,

and till opposing interests contributed to involve the truth in obscurity,

that the notorious fact was denied or concealed, that Mary had been forced

into an unwilling marriage with Bothwell, and that her abduction, and

imprisonment in the Castle of Dunbar, were themselves an answer to any

suspicion, that she was one of his accomplices in Darnley's slaughter. But

now that Mary was a prisoner, in the hands of a jealous rival, the Regent

naturally supposed, that some contradictions would be overlooked; and all

at once, assuming a tone of the utmost confidence, and undertaking "to

manifest the naked truth," he ventured on couching his assertion in these

terms:--"It is certain, and we boldly and constantly affirm, that as

James, some time Earl of Bothwell, was the chief executor of the horrible

and unworthy murder, perpetrated in the person of King Henry, of good

memory, father to our Sovereign Lord, and the Queen's lawful husband,--so

was she of the fore-knowledge, counsel, and device, persuader and

commander of the said murder to be done, maintainer and fortifier of the

executors thereof, by impeding and stopping of the inquisition and

punishment due for the same, according to the laws of the realm, and,

consequently, by marriage with the said James, some time Earl Bothwell,

dilated and universally esteemed chief author of the above named

murder." In support of this new charge, the letters and other

documents were referred to, and it was promised to produce them as soon as

they were called for.

Before they were able to inform their mistress of the unexpected turn

which affairs had taken, Mary's Commissioners received her instructions

from Bolton, to proceed no further in the conference. They therefore

stated to Elizabeth, that though they were heartily sorry to perceive

their countrymen, with a view to colour their unjust and ungrateful

doings, had committed to writing a charge of so shameful a sort, they

nevertheless could not condescend to answer it, having begun the

conference at York as plaintives, and having afterwards found their

relative positions altered, Murray being admitted into her Majesty's

presence, to advance his calumnious falsehoods, and Mary being expected to

defend herself against them, though kept in imprisonment at a distance. At

the same time, according to Mary's commands, they said that, although the

proceedings of the Regent were altogether intolerable and injurious, they

would not yet dissolve the conference, provided their mistress were

permitted to appear in her own person before the Queen of England and her

nobility. To this request Elizabeth would not agree. Her real motive

was the fear of truth; that which she assigned was sufficiently

preposterous. "As to your desire," she said to Mary's Commissioners, "that

your Sovereign should come to my presence to declare her innocence in this

cause, you will understand, that from the beginning why she was debarred

therefrom, was through the bruit and slander that was passed upon her,

that she was participant of such a heinous crime as the murder of her

husband; and I thought it best for your mistress's weal and honour, and

also for mine own, that trial should be taken thereof before her coming to

me; for I could never believe, nor yet will, that ever she did assent

thereto." If Elizabeth had been anxious to see justice done, she

could very easily have overcome the squeamish dread of being brought into

contact with Mary, the more especially as she arrogated for herself the

superior character of judge, as it was only "bruit and slander" that

implicated her "dearest sister," and as she did not, according to her own

confession, believe her guilty, even after she had been informed of the

existence of the love-letters, and made acquainted with their contents.

Both parties, however, continuing alike resolute, the Commissioners of the

Queen of Scots intimated, that in so far as they were concerned, the

conference might be considered closed.

It is here of some importance to point out, that both Robertson and Hume

have deduced an argument against Mary, from their own erroneous manner of

stating the proceedings of the conference at Westminster. According to the

narrative of both these historians, the reader is led to believe, that

Mary was perfectly willing to go on till the moment that Murray accused

her of being a sharer in Darnley's murder, but that, as soon as this

charge was made, she drew back as if afraid to meet it. Robertson and Hume

would have themselves discovered how unfair this view of the matter was,

had they taken the trouble to attend to the dates of the documents

connected with the transaction. By these they would have seen, that Mary

refused to proceed on the 22d of November 1568, unless admitted equally

with the Earl of Murray into Elizabeth's presence, and that Murray's

accusation was not produced till the 26th. Thus so far from

"recoiling from the inquiry at the critical moment," as Hume expresses it,

she did not hesitate to proceed until she had rebutted every thing which

had been advanced against her, and stood on even higher ground than

before. It will besides be immediately found, that notwithstanding her

previous determination to the contrary, she was no sooner informed of the

existence of letters alleged to have been written by her to Bothwell, than

she was willing to enter into a proof of their authenticity.

It would not have suited Elizabeth's views to allow the contending parties

to slip through her fingers, before arriving at any definite conclusion.

She therefore fell upon an expedient by which she hoped, although the

Queen of Scots had withdrawn from the conference, and it consequently

should have been considered at an end, to attach to her so great a degree

of suspicion, that she might safely detain her from her own realm. She

ordered Murray and his colleagues to be called before her Commissioners;

and the scene having been arranged before-hand with them, she commanded

the Regent to be rebuked for accusing his native Sovereign of a crime so

horrible, that if it could be proved true, she would be infamous to all

princes in the world. The Regent readily answered, that finding he had

displeased her Majesty, he had no objections to show the Commissioners "a

collection made in writing of the presumptions and circumstances" by which

he had been guided in the charge he had advanced against Mary, and which

would satisfy them that it had not been made without due grounds and

consideration. This was all that Elizabeth wished. In however glaring a

point of view it placed her injustice, she rejoiced that Mary's

Commissioners were no longer attending the conference; for she would now

be able to represent to the world, without fear of contradiction, the

overwhelming strength of Murray's evidences, and hold them out as the

justification of her own severity. These hopes and plans, however, were

very nearly frustrated by the boldness and decision of Mary's conduct. As

soon as she received intelligence of this new accusation, and of the means

by which it was to be supported, she resolved that her own innocence and

its falsehood should be made apparent; and for this purpose, she even

consented to depart from her former demand of being personally admitted to

Elizabeth's presence. She wrote to her Commissioners to resume the duties

which they had intermitted, and to renew the conference once more. "We

have seen the copy," she said, "which you have sent us of the false and

unlawful accusation presented against us by some of our rebels, together

with the declarations and protestations made by you thereon before the

Queen of England, our good sister's Commissioners, wherein you have obeyed

our commands to refuse consenting to any further proceedings, if the

presence of our sister were refused us. But that our rebels may see that

they have not closed your mouths, you may offer a reply to the pretended

excuse and cloak of their wicked actions, falsity and disloyalty, whereof

you had no information before, it being a thing so horrible, that neither

we nor you could have imagined it would have fallen into the thoughts of

the said rebels."

A reply was accordingly made, in which the "Eik" was maintained to be

false in every particular, and nothing but a device, contrived to justify

Murray's own "detestable doings and ambitious purpose." The writings, or

at least copies of them, which had been adduced in support of the Regent's

charge, were required to be delivered; and it was intimated, that Mary

would undertake to prove, that the very men who now accused her of murder,

were themselves the first inventors, and some of them the executors of the

deed. It will at first appear hardly credible, but it is nevertheless

true, that Elizabeth refused to allow duplicates of the evidence against

her to be sent to Mary. On the contrary, she now hastened to break up the

conference; Murray was sent back to his Regency, and the Queen of Scots

detained in closer captivity than ever; and though she even yet petitioned

to see the writings, Elizabeth refused to surrender them, except upon

conditions with which Mary's Commissioners would not comply. They had

formally accused the Regent and his adherents of a share in Bothwell's

guilt; yet the latter had been permitted "to depart into Scotland without

abiding to hear the defence of the Queen of Scotland's innocency, nor the

trial and proof of their detection, which was offered to verify and prove

them guilty of the same crime, but were fully released, and no end put to

the cause, according to the equity and justice thereof. It did not appear

meet, therefore, that their Sovereign should make any further answer,

unless her rebels were made to remain within the realm until the trial


As no decision had been pronounced against Mary, and as the Regent had

been allowed to depart, leave was also asked for her to return to

Scotland, or proceed to France, as she might think fit. This, however, was

expressly refused; but it was insultingly promised, that if she would

yield up the crown and government of Scotland in favour of her son the

Prince, she would be permitted to remain privately and quietly in England.

Mary, of course, rejected the proposal with scorn. "The eyes of all

Europe," she said, "are upon me at this moment; and were I thus tamely to

yield to my adversaries, I should be pronouncing my own condemnation. A

thousand times rather would I submit to death, than inflict this stain

upon my honour. The last words I speak shall be those of the Queen of


Thus ended this famous conference, which Elizabeth had opened with so many

professions of friendship, which she conducted with so much duplicity, and

which she concluded without any conclusion, except that of endeavouring to

blacken the character of her sister Mary, and give plausibility to her

continued imprisonment. To a certain extent it answered her purpose. She

had won the reputation, in the eyes of those who looked only at the

surface of things, of having endeavoured to do justice between the Queen

of Scots and her nobility; she had secured the favour of the Regent; and

had obtained a strong hold of the person of her rival, whom she now doomed

to lingering and hopeless captivity.