Mary's Return To Scotland And Previous Negotiations With Elizabeth

Elizabeth being informed of Mary's intended movements, thought the

opportunity a favourable one, for adjusting with her one or two of their

mutual disagreements. Mary's refusal to ratify the celebrated treaty of

Edinburgh, had particularly galled the English Queen. Most of the

essential articles of that treaty had already been carried into effect;

and as Francis and Mary had sent their ambassadors into Scotland with full

> powers, they were bound according to the ordinary laws of diplomacy, to

agree to whatever concessions their plenipotentiaries made. But, as

Robertson has remarked, Cecil "had proved greatly an overmatch for

Monluc." In the sixth article, which was by far the most offensive to the

Scottish Queen, he had got the French delegates to consent to a

declaration, that Francis and Mary should abstain from using and bearing

the title and arms of the kingdom of England, not only during the life of

Elizabeth, but "in all times coming." There was here so palpable a

departure from all law and justice, that, if there was ever a case in

which a sovereign was justified in refusing to sanction the blunders of

his representatives, it was this. Robertson's observations on the point

are forcible and correct. "The ratification of this article," says he,

"would have been of the most fatal consequence to Mary. The Crown of

England was an object worthy of her ambition. Her pretensions to it gave

her great dignity and importance in the eyes of all Europe. By many, her

title was esteemed preferable to that of Elizabeth. Among the English

themselves, the Roman Catholics, who formed at that time a numerous and

active party, openly espoused this opinion; and even the Protestants, who

supported Elizabeth's throne, could not deny the Queen of Scots to be her

immediate heir. A proper opportunity to avail herself of all these

advantages, could not, in the course of things, be far distant, and many

incidents might fall in to bring this opportunity nearer than was

expected. In these circumstances, Mary, by ratifying the article in

dispute, would have lost that rank which she had hitherto held among

neighbouring princes; the zeal of her adherents must have gradually

cooled; and she might have renounced, from that moment, all hopes of ever

wearing the English crown."

Mary, therefore, cannot be, in fairness, blamed for her conduct regarding

this treaty. But, as has been already said, she allowed herself to be

persuaded to a very great imprudence, when she advanced, what she declared

to be a present and existing claim on the English Crown. This was an

aggravation of the offence, which Elizabeth could never pardon. She

determined to retort upon Mary, as efficiently though not quite so

directly. She found means to hint to her friends in Scotland, that it

would not be disagreeable to her, were the Earl of Arran, eldest son of

the Duke of Chatelherault, and, after his father, presumptive heir to the

throne, to propose himself to her as a husband. This was accordingly done,

and must have touched Mary very closely, especially as she had no children

by her husband Francis. But as Elizabeth had never any serious intention

of accepting of Arran's proposals, she was resolved upon taking another

and much more unjustifiable method of harassing Mary.

Knowing that she possessed the command of the seas, the English Queen

imagined that she had it in her power to prevent, if she chose, Mary's

return to her own kingdom. Before granting her, therefore, as in common

courtesy she was bound to do, a free passage, she determined on seizing

the opportunity for again pressing the ratification of the treaty of

Edinburgh. With this view, she desired Sir Nicolas Throckmorton, her

ambassador at Paris, to wait on the Queen of Scots, ostensibly to

congratulate her on her recovery from an attack of ague, but in reality to

press this matter upon her attention. The audience which Mary granted to

Throckmorton upon this occasion, together with another which she gave him

a few weeks afterwards, introduce us to her, for the first time, acting

for herself, in her public and important capacity of Queen of Scotland.

All historians unite in expressing their admiration of the talented and

dignified manner in which she conducted herself, though only in her

nineteenth year. We have fortunately a full account of both conferences,

furnished by Sir Nicolas Throckmorton himself, in his letters to the Queen

of England.

The ambassador, on his first interview, having expressed Elizabeth's

happiness at Mary's recovery, proceeded to renew the demand which had so

frequently been made to her regarding the treaty of Edinburgh. Mary, in

answer, said, that she begged to thank the Queen her good sister for her

congratulations, and though she was not yet in perfect health, she thanked

God for her evident convalescence. As to the treaty of Edinburgh, she

begged to postpone giving any final answer in the affair until she had

taken the advice of the nobles and estates of her own realm. "For though

this matter," she said, "doth touch me principally, yet doth it also touch

the nobles and estates of my realm; and, therefore, it is meet that I use

their advice therein. Heretofore they have seemed to be grieved that I

should do any thing without them, and now they would be more offended if I

should proceed in this matter of myself without their advice." She added,

that she intended to return home soon, and that she was about to send an

ambassador to Elizabeth, to require of her the common favour of a free

passage which princes usually ask of each other in such cases. In a spirit

of conciliation and sound policy, she concluded with these words. "Though

the terms wherein we have stood heretofore have been somewhat hard, yet I

trust, that from henceforth we shall accord together as cousins and good

neighbours. I mean to retire all the Frenchmen from Scotland who have

given jealousy to the Queen my sister, and miscontent to my subjects; so

that I will leave nothing undone to satisfy all parties, trusting the

Queen my good sister will do the like, and that from henceforth none of my

disobedient subjects shall find aid or support at her hands."--Seeing that

Mary was not to be moved from the position she had taken regarding this

treaty, Throckmorton went on to sound her upon the subject of religion.

His object was to ascertain what course she intended to pursue towards the

Scottish Reformers. Mary stated to him distinctly her views upon this

important matter, and there was a consistency and moderation in them

hardly to have been expected from the niece of the Cardinal of Lorraine,

had we not been previously aware of the strength of her superior mind. "I

will be plain with you," said she to the ambassador. "The religion which I

profess I take to be most acceptable to God; and indeed, I neither know,

nor desire to know, any other. Constancy becometh all people well, but

none better than princes, and such as have rule over realms, and

especially in matters of religion. I have been brought up in this

religion, and who might credit me in any thing if I should show myself

light in this case." "I am none of those," she added, "that will change

their religion every year; but I mean to constrain none of my subjects,

though I could wish that they were all as I am; and I trust they shall

have no support to constrain me." It will be seen, in the sequel, whether

Mary ever deviated for a moment from the principles she here laid down.

Throckmorton ventured to ask, if she did not think many errors had crept

into her church, and whether she had ever seriously weighed the arguments

in support of the Reformed opinions. "Though I be young, and not well

learned," she replied modestly, "yet have I heard this matter oft disputed

by my uncle,--my Lord Cardinal, with some that thought they could say

somewhat in the matter; and I found no great reason to change my opinion.

But I have oft heard him confess, that great errors have come into the

church, and great disorder among the ministers and clergy, of which errors

and disorders he wished there might be a reformation." Here this

conference concluded.

Elizabeth, as soon as she understood that Mary waited for the advice of

her Privy Counsellors and her Parliament, before ratifying the treaty of

Edinburgh, addressed a letter to the "States of Scotland," as she was

pleased to term them, but, in point of fact, only to her old allies the

Lords of the Congregation. The object of this letter was to convey, in

haughty and even insolent terms, a threat that, unless they secured their

Queen's assent to the treaty, they might cease to look for any aid or

protection from her. In other words, its meaning was this:--Through my

interference, you have been able to establish the new Gospel; your Queen

you know to be a Catholic; and as it is not unlikely that she may

associate in her councils your old enemies the Catholic nobility, it is in

me you trust to enable you to rebel successfully against your lawful

Sovereign. But I have no intention to give you my support for nothing; and

unless your reformed consciences will permit of your insisting that Mary

Stuart shall sign away her hereditary right of succession to the English

throne, I shall henceforth have nothing more to do with you. No other

interpretation can be put on such expressions as the following, couched in

terms whose meaning sophistry itself could not hide. "In a matter so

profitable to both the realms, we think it strange that your Queen hath no

better advice; and therefore we do require ye all, being the States of

that realm upon whom the burden resteth, to consider this matter deeply,

and to make us answer whereunto we may trust. And if you shall think meet,

she shall thus leave the peace imperfect, by breaking of her solemn

promise, contrary to the order of all princes, we shall be well content to

accept your answer, and shall be as careless to see the peace kept, as ye

shall give us cause; and doubt not, by the grace of God, but whosoever of

ye shall incline thereto, shall soonest repent. You must be content with

our plain writing."

To this piece of "plain writing," the Reformers, probably at the

instigation of the Lord James, sent a submissive and cringing answer.

"Your Majesty," they say, "may be well assured, that in us shall be noted

no blame, if that peace be not ratified to your Majesty's

contentment."--"The benefit that we have received is so recent, that we

cannot suddenly bury it in forgetfulness. We would desire your Majesty

rather to be persuaded of us, that we, to our powers, will study to leave

it in remembrance to our posterity." In other words,--Whatever our own

Queen Mary may determine on doing, we shall remain steady to your

interests, and would much rather quarrel with her than with you. To this

state of mind had Elizabeth's machinations contrived to bring the

majority of the young Queen's subjects.

In the meantime, Mary had sent an ambassador into England to demand a safe

conduct for her approaching voyage. This was expressly refused; and

Throckmorton was again ordered to request an audience with Mary, to

explain the motives of this refusal. "In this conference," observes

Robertson, "Mary exerted all that dignity and vigour of mind of which she

was so capable, and at no period of her life, were her abilities displayed

to greater advantage." Throckmorton had recourse to the endless subject of

the treaty of 1560, or, as it is more commonly called, the treaty of

Edinburgh, as the apology his mistress offered for having, with studied

disrespect, denied the suit made by Mary's ambassador, in the presence of

a numerous audience,--a direct breach of courtly etiquette. Mary, before

answering Throckmorton, commanded all her attendants to retire, and then

said,--"I like not to have so many witnesses of my passions as the Queen,

your mistress, was content to have, when she talked with M. D'Oysel. There

is nothing that doth more grieve me, than that I did so forget myself, as

to require of the Queen, your mistress, that favour, which I had no need

to ask. I may pass well enough home into my own realm, I think, without

her passport or license; for, though the late king, your master, used all

the impeachment he could, both to stay me and catch me, when I came

hither, yet you know, M. l'Ambassadeur, I came hither safely, and I may

have as good means to help me home again, if I could employ my friends."

"It seemeth," she added, with much truth, "that the Queen, your mistress,

maketh more account of the amity of my disobedient subjects, than she doth

of me, their sovereign, who am her equal in degree, though inferior in

wisdom and experience, her nighest kinswoman, and her next neighbour." She

then proceeded very forcibly to state, once more, her reasons for refusing

to ratify the treaty. It had been made, she said, during the life of

Francis II., who, as her lord and husband, was more responsible for it

than she. Upon his death, she ceased to look for advice to the council of

France, neither her uncles nor her own subjects, nor Elizabeth herself,

thinking it meet, that she should be guided by any council but that of

Scotland. There were none of her ministers with her; the matter was

important; it touched both them and her; and she, therefore, considered it

her duty to wait, till she should get the opinions of the wisest of them.

As soon as she did, she undertook to send Elizabeth whatever answer might

appear to be reasonable. "The Queen, your mistress," observed Mary, "saith

that I am young; she might say that I were as foolish as young, if I

would, in the state and country that I am in, proceed to such a matter, of

myself, without any counsel; for that which was done by the King, my late

lord and husband, must not be taken to be my act; and yet I will say,

truly, unto ye, and as God favours me, I did never mean otherwise, unto

the Queen, your mistress, than becometh me to my good sister and cousin,

nor meant her any more harm than to myself. God forgive them that have

otherwise persuaded her, if there be any such."

It may seem strange, that as the sixth article was the only one in the

whole treaty of Edinburgh, which occasioned any disagreement, it was not

proposed to make some alteration in it, which might have rendered it

satisfactory to all parties. Mary would have had no objection to have

given up all claim upon the Crown of England, during the lifetime of

Elizabeth, and in favour of children born by her in lawful wedlock,--if,

failing these children, her own right was acknowledged. There could have

been little difficulty, one would have thought, in expressing the

objectionable article accordingly. But this amendment would not by any

means have suited the views of Elizabeth. To have acknowledged Mary's

right of succession would have been at once to have pointed out to all the

Catholics of Europe, the person to whom they were to pay their court, on

account not only of her present influence, but of the much greater which

awaited her. Besides, it might have had the appearance of leaving it

doubtful, whether Elizabeth's possession of the throne was not conceded to

her, more as a favour than as a right. This extreme jealousy on the part

of the English Queen, originated in Mary having imprudently allowed

herself to be persuaded to bear the arms of England, diversely quartered

with her own, at the time Elizabeth was first called to the crown. At the

interview we have been describing, Throckmorton, being silenced with

regard to the ratification of the treaty, thought he might with propriety

advert to this other subject of complaint.

"I refer it to your own judgment, Madam," said he, "if any thing can be

more prejudicial to a prince, than to usurp the title and interest

belonging to him." Mary's answer deserves particular attention. "M.

L'Ambassadeur," said she, "I was then under the commandment of King Henry

my father, and of the king my lord and husband; and whatsoever was then

done by their order and commandments, the same was in like manner

continued until both their deaths; since which time, you know I neither

bore the arms, or used the title of England. Methinks," she added, "these

my doings might ascertain the queen your mistress, that that which was

done before, was done by commandment of them that had power over me; and

also, in reason, she ought to be satisfied, seeing I (now) order my

doings, as I tell ye." With this answer Throckmorton took his leave.

Seeing that matters could not be more amicably adjusted, Mary prepared to

return home, independent of Elizabeth's permission. Yet it was not without

many a bitter regret that she thought of leaving all the fascinations of

her adopted country, France. When left alone, she was frequently found in

tears; and it is more than probable, that, as Miss Benger has expressed

it, "there were moments when Mary recoiled with indescribable horror from

the idea of living in Scotland--where her religion was insulted, and her

sex contemned; where her mother had languished in misery, and her father

sunk into an untimely grave." At last, however, the period arrived when it

was necessary for her to bid a final adieu to the scenes and friends of

her youth. She had delayed from month to month, as if conscious that, in

leaving France, she was about to part with happiness. She had originally

proposed going so early as the spring of 1561, but it was late in July

before she left Paris; and as she lingered on the way, first at St

Germains, and afterwards at Calais, August was well advanced before she

set sail. The spring of this year, says Brantome poetically, was so

backward, that it appeared as if it would never put on its robe of

flowers; and thus gave an opportunity to the gallants of the Court to

assert, that it wore so doleful a garb to testify its sorrow for the

intended departure of Mary Stuart. She was accompanied as far as St

Germains by Catharine de Medicis, and nearly all the French Court. Her six

uncles, Anne of Este, and many other ladies and gentlemen of distinction,

proceeded on with her to Calais. The historians Castelnau and Brantome

were both of the Queen's retinue, and accompanied her to Scotland. At

Calais she found four vessels, one of which was fitted up for herself and

friends, and a second for her escort; the two others were for the

furniture she took with her.

Elizabeth, meanwhile, was not inattentive to the proceedings of the

Scottish Queen. Through the agency of her minister, Cecil, she had been

anxiously endeavouring to discover whether she would render herself

particularly obnoxious either to Catharine de Medicis, or the leading men

in Scotland, by making herself mistress of Mary's person on her passage

homewards, and carrying her a prisoner into England. Her ambassador,

Throckmorton, had given her good reason to believe that Catharine was not

disposed to be particularly warm in Mary's defence. As to Scotch

interference, Camden expressly informs us, that the Lord James, when he

passed through England on his return from France, warned Elizabeth of

Mary's intended movements, and advised that she should be intercepted.

This assertion, though its truth has been doubted, is rendered exceedingly

probable by the contents of two letters, which have been preserved. The

first is from Throckmorton, who assures Elizabeth that the Lord James

deserves her most particular esteem;--"Your Majesty," he says, "may, in my

opinion, make good account of his constancy towards you; and so he

deserveth to be well entertained and made of by your Majesty, as one that

may stand ye in no small stead for the advancement of your Majesty's

desire. Since his being here (in France), he hath dealt so frankly and

liberally with me, that I must believe he will so continue after his

return home." The other letter is from Maitland of Lethington, one of

the ablest men among the Scotch Reformers, and the personal friend and

co-adjutor of the Lord James, to Sir William Cecil. In this letter he

says;--"I do also allow your opinion anent the Queen our Sovereign's

journey towards Scotland, whose coming hither, if she be enemy to the

religion, and so affected towards that realm as she yet appeareth, shall

not fail to raise wonderful tragedies." He then proceeds to point out,

that, as Elizabeth's object, for her own sake, must be to prevent the

Catholics from gaining ground in Scotland, her best means of obtaining

such an object, is to prevent a Queen from returning into the kingdom, who

"shall so easily win to her party the whole Papists, and so many

Protestants as be either addicted to the French faction, covetous,

inconstant, uneasy, ignorant, or careless."--"So long as her Highness is

absent," he adds, "in this case there is no peril; but you may judge what

the presence of a prince being craftily counselled is able to bring to

pass." "For my opinion," he concludes, "anent the continuance of amity

betwixt these two realms, there is no danger of breach so long as the

Queen is absent; but her presence may alter many things."

To make assurance doubly sure, Cecil desired Randolph, the English

resident in Scotland, to feel the pulse of the nobility. On the 9th of

August 1561, only a few days before Mary sailed from France, Randolph

wrote from Edinburgh an epistle to Cecil, in which he assures him that it

will be a "stout adventure for a sick crazed woman," (a singular mode of

designating Mary), to venture home to a country so little disposed to

receive her. "I have shewn your Honour's letters," he says, "unto the Lord

James, Lord Morton, Lord Lethington; they wish, as your Honour doth, that

she might be stayed yet for a space; and if it were not for their

obedience sake, some of them care not tho' they never saw her face."--And

again--"Whatsomever cometh of this, he (Lethington), findeth it ever best

that she come not." Knox also, it seems, had been written to, and had

expressed his resolution to resist to the last Mary's authority. "By such

letters as ye have last received," says Randolph, "your Honour somewhat

understandeth of Mr Knox himself, and also of others, what is

determined,--he himself to abide the uttermost, and others never to leave

him, until God hath taken his life."--"His daily prayer is, for the

maintenance of unity with England, and that God will never suffer men to

be so ungrate as by any persuasion to run headlong unto the destruction of

them that have saved their lives, and restored their country to


Elizabeth having thus felt her way, and being satisfied that she might

with safety pursue her own inclinations, was determined not to rest

contented with the mere refusal of passports. Throckmorton was ordered to

ascertain exactly when and how Mary intended sailing. The Scottish Queen

became aware of his drift, from some questions he put to her, and said to

him cuttingly,--"I trust the wind will be so favourable, as I shall not

need to come on the coast of England; and if I do, then M. l'Ambassadeur,

the Queen, your mistress, shall have me in her hands to do her will of me;

and if she be so hard-hearted as to desire my end, she may then do her

pleasure, and make sacrifice of me. Peradventure, that casualty might be

better for me than to live." Throckmorton, however, made good his point,

and was able to inform Elizabeth that Mary would sail either from

Havre-de-Grace or Calais, and that she would first proceed along the coast

of Flanders, and then strike over to Scotland. For the greater certainty,

he suggested the propriety of some spies being sent across to the French

coast, who would give the earliest intelligence of her movements.

Profiting by this and other information, all the best historians of the

time agree in stating, that Elizabeth sent a squadron to sea with all

expedition. It was only a thick and unexpected fog which prevented these

vessels from falling in with that in which Mary sailed. The smaller craft

which carried her furniture, they did meet with, and, believing them to be

the prize they were in search of, they boarded and examined them. One ship

they detained, in which was the Earl of Eglinton, and some of Mary's

horses and mules, and, under the pretence of suspecting it of piracy,

actually carried it into an English harbour. The affectation of "clearing

the seas from pirates," as Cecil expresses it, was a mere after-thought,

invented to do away with the suspicion which attached itself to this

unsuccessful attempt. Its real purpose was openly talked of at the time.

Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper, in a speech he made at a meeting of the

Privy Council in 1562, said frankly,--"Think ye that the Scottish Queen's

suit, made in all friendly manner, to come through England at the time she

left France, and the denial thereof, unless the treaty were ratified, is

by them forgotten, or else your sending of your ships to sea at the time

of her passage?" Camden, Holinshed, Spottiswoode, Stranguage, and

Buchanan, all speak to the same effect; and Elizabeth's intentions, though

frustrated, hardly admit of a doubt.

On the 25th of August 1561, Mary sailed out of the harbour of Calais,--not

without shedding, and seeing shed many tears. She did not, however, part

with all the friends who had accompanied her to the coast. Three of her

uncles,--the Duke d'Aumale, the Marquis D'Elbeuf, and the Grand

Prior,--the Duke Danville, son to Montmorency, and afterwards Constable of

France, one of the most ardent and sincere admirers that Mary perhaps ever

had,--and many other persons of rank, among whom was the unfortunate poet

Chatelard, who fluttered like a moth round the light in which he was to be

consumed,--sailed with her for Scotland. Just as she left the harbour, an

unfortunate accident happened to a vessel, which, by unskilful management,

struck upon the bar, and was wrecked within a very short distance of her

own galley. "This is a sad omen," she exclaimed, weeping. A gentle breeze

sprang up; the sails were set, and the little squadron got under way,

consisting, as has been said, of only four vessels, for Mary dreaded lest

her subjects should suppose that she was coming home with any military

force. The feelings of "la Reine Blanche," as the French termed her,

from the white mourning she wore for Francis, were at all times

exceedingly acute. On the present occasion, her grief amounted almost to

despair. As long as the light of day continued, she stood immoveable on

the vessel's deck, gazing with tearful eyes upon the French coast, and

exclaiming incessantly,--"Farewell, France! farewell, my beloved country!"

When night approached, and her friends beseeched her to retire to the

cabin, she hid her face in her hands, and sobbed aloud. "The darkness

which is now brooding over France," said she, "is like the darkness in my

own heart." A little afterwards, she added,--"I am unlike the Carthaginian

Dido, for she looked perpetually on the sea, when AEneas departed, whilst

all my regards are for the land." Having caused a bed to be made for her

on deck, she wept herself asleep, previously enjoining her attendants to

waken her at the first peep of day, if the French coast was still visible.

Her wishes were gratified; for during the night the wind died away, and

the vessel made little progress. Mary rose with the dawn, and feasted her

eyes once more with a sight of France. At sunrise, however, the breeze

returned, and the galley beginning to make way, the land rapidly receded

in the distance. Again her tears burst forth, and again she

exclaimed,--"Farewell, beloved France! I shall never, never, see you

more." In the depth of her sorrow, she even wished that the English

fleet, which she conjectured had been sent out to intercept her, would

make its appearance, and render it necessary for her to seek for safety,

by returning to the port from whence she had sailed. But no interruption

of this kind occurred.

It is more than likely, that it was during this voyage Mary composed the

elegant and simple little song, so expressive of her genuine feelings on

leaving France. Though familiarly known to every reader, we cannot deny

ourselves the pleasure of inserting it here.

Adieu, plaisant pays de France!

O my patrie,

La plus cherie;

Qui a nourri ma jeune enfance.

Adieu, France! adieu, mes beaux jours!

La nef qui dejoint mes amours,

N'a cy de moi que la moitie;

Une parte te reste; elle est tienne;

Je la fie a ton amitie,

Pour que de l'autre il te souvienne!

Brantome, who sailed in the same vessel with Mary, and gives a particular

account of all the events of this voyage, mentions, that the day before

entering the Frith of Forth, so thick a mist came on, that it was

impossible to see from the poop to the prow. By way of precaution, lest

they should run foul of any other vessel, a lantern was lighted, and set

at the bow. This gave Chatelard occasion to remark, that it was taking a

very unnecessary piece of trouble, so long at least as Mary Stuart

remained upon deck, and kept her eyes open. When the mist, at length,

cleared away, they found their vessel in the midst of rocks, from which it

required much skill and no little labour to get her clear. Mary declared,

that so far as regarded her own feelings, she would not have looked upon

shipwreck as a great calamity; but that she would not wish to see the

lives of the friends who were with her endangered (among whom not the

least dear were her four Maries), for all the kingdom of Scotland. She

added, that as a bad omen had attended her departure so this thick fog

seemed to be but an evil augury at her arrival. At length, the harbour of

Leith appeared in sight, and Mary's eye rested, for the first time, upon

Arthur Seat and the Castle of Edinburgh.