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Mary's Marriage Personal Appearance And Popularity

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

A Tangle

An Examination Of The Letters Sonnets And Other Writings Adduced In Evidence Against Mary Queen Of Scots

Occurrences Immediately Preceding Darnley's Death

The Little Waif

Paul's Walk



Mary's Birth And Subsequent Residence At The French Court

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Return To Scotland

The Bewitched Whistle

My Lady's Remorse

Hunting Down The Deer

Mary's Eighteen Years' Captivity

Queen Mary's Presence Chamber

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

The Love Token

Before The Commissioners

Loch Leven Castle

Summary Of Queen Mary

During the reigns of James IV. and James V., Scotland emerged from
barbarism into comparative civilization. Shut out, as it had previously
been, from almost any intercourse with the rest of Europe, both by the
peculiarities of its situation, and its incessant wars with England, it
had long slumbered in all the ignorance and darkness of those remote
countries, which even Roman greatness, before its dissolution, found it
impossible to enclose and retain within the fortunate pale of its
conquests. The refinement, which must always more or less attend upon the
person of a king, and shelter itself in the stronghold of his court, was
little felt in Scotland. Though attached, from long custom, to the
monarchical form of government, the sturdy feudal barons, each possessing
a kind of separate principality of his own, took good care that their
sovereign's superior influence should be more nominal than real.
Distracted too by perpetual jealousies among themselves, it was only upon
rare occasions that the nobles would assemble peaceably together, to aid
the king by their counsel, and strengthen his authority by their
unanimity. Hence, there was no standard of national manners,--no means of
fixing and consolidating the wavering and turbulent character of the
people. Each clan attached itself to its own hereditary chieftain; and,
whatever his prejudices or follies might be, was implicitly subservient to
them. The feuds and personal animosities which existed among the leaders,
were thus invariably transmitted to the very humblest of their retainers,
and a state of society was the consequence, pregnant with civil discord
and confusion, which, on the slightest impulse, broke out into anarchy and

Many reasons have been assigned why the evils of the feudal system should
have been more severely felt in Scotland than elsewhere. The leading
causes, as given by the best historians, seem to be,--the geographical
nature of the country, which made its baronial fastnesses almost
impregnable;--the want of large towns, by which the vassals of different
barons were prevented from mingling together, and rubbing off, in the
collision, the prepossessions they mutually entertained against each
other;--the division of the inhabitants, not only into the followers of
different chiefs but into clans, which resembled so many great families,
among all whose branches a relationship existed, and who looked with
jealousy upon the increasing strength or wealth of any other clan;--the
smallness of the number of Scottish nobles, a circumstance materially
contributing to enhance the weight and dignity of each;--the frequent
recourse which these barons had, for the purpose of overawing the crown,
to leagues of mutual defence with their equals, or bonds of reciprocal
protection and assistance with their inferiors;--the unceasing wars which
raged between England and Scotland, and which were the perpetual means of
proving to the Scottish king, that the very possession of his crown
depended upon the fidelity and obedience of his nobles, whose good-will it
was therefore necessary to conciliate upon all occasions, by granting them
whatever they chose to demand; and, lastly--the long minorities to which
the misfortunes of its kings exposed the country at an early period of its
history, when the vigour and consistency, commonly attendant upon the acts
of one mind, were required more than any thing else, but instead of which,
the contradictory measures of contending nobles, or of regents hastily
elected, and as hastily displaced, were sure to produce an unnatural
stagnation in the government, from which it could be redeemed only by
still more unnatural convulsions.

The necessary consequences of these political grievances were, of course,
felt in every corner of the country. It is difficult to form any accurate
estimate, or to draw any very minute picture of the state of manners and
nicer ramifications of society at so remote a period. But it may be stated
generally, that the great mass of the population was involved in poverty,
and sunk in the grossest ignorance. The Catholic system of faith and
worship, in its very worst form, combined with the national superstitions
so prevalent among the vulgar, not only to exclude every idea of rational
religion, but to produce the very lowest state of mental degradation.
Commerce was comparatively unknown,--agriculture but imperfectly
understood. If the wants of the passing hour were supplied, however
sparely, the enslaved vassal was contented,--almost the only happiness of
his life consisting in that animal gratification afforded him by the
sports of the chase, or the bloodier diversion of the field of battle.
Education was neglected and despised even by the wealthy, few of whom were
able to read, and almost none to write. As for the middle and lower
orders, fragments of rude traditionary songs constituted their entire
learning, and the savage war-dance, inspired by the barbarous music of
their native hills, their principal amusement. At the same time, it is
not to be supposed that virtue and intelligence were extinct among them.
There must be many exceptions to all general rules, and however
unfavourable the circumstances under which they were placed for calling
into activity the higher attributes of man's nature, it is not to be
denied, that their chronicles record, even in the lowest ranks, many
bright examples of patience, perseverance, unsinking fortitude, and
fidelity founded upon generous and exalted attachment.

It has been said, that under the reigns of the Fourth and Fifth James, the
moral and political aspect of the Scotch horizon began to brighten. This
is to be attributed partly to the beneficial changes which the progress of
time was effecting throughout Europe, and which gradually extended
themselves to Scotland,--and partly to the personal character of these two
monarchs. France, Germany, and England, had made considerable strides out
of the gloom of the dark ages, even before the appearance of Francis I.,
Charles V., and Henry VIII. James IV., naturally of a chivalric and ardent
disposition, was extremely anxious to advance his own country in the scale
of nations; and whilst, by the urbanity of his manners, he succeeded in
winning the affections of his nobles, he contrived also to find a place in
the hearts of his inferior subjects, even beside that allotted to their
own hereditary chieftain,--an achievement which few of his predecessors
had been able to accomplish. The unfortunate battle of Flodden, is a
melancholy record both of the vigour of James's reign, and of the national
advantages which his romantic spirit induced him to risk in pursuit of the
worthless phantom of military renown.

James V. had much of the ardour of his father, combined with a somewhat
greater share of prudence. He it was who first made any successful inroads
upon the exorbitant powers of his nobility; and though, upon more
occasions than one, he was made to pay dearly for his determination to
vindicate the regal authority, he was, nevertheless, true to his purpose
to the very last. There seem to be three features in the reign of this
prince which particularly deserve attention. The first is, the more
extensive intercourse than had hitherto subsisted, which he established
between Scotland and foreign nations,--particularly with France. The
inexhaustible ambition of Charles V., which aimed at universal empire, and
which probably would have accomplished its design had he not met with a
rival so formidable as Francis I., was the means of convincing the other
states of Europe, that the only security for their separate independence
was the preservation of a balance of power. Italy was thus roused into
activity, and England, under Henry VIII., took an active share in the
important events of the age. To the continental powers, against whom that
monarch's strength was directed, it became a matter of no small moment to
secure the assistance of Scotland. Both Francis and Charles, therefore,
paid their court to James, who, finding it necessary to become the ally of
one or other, prudently rejected the empty honours offered him by the
Emperor, and continued faithful to France. He went himself to Paris in
1536, where he married Magdalene, daughter of Francis. She died however
soon after his return home; but determined not to lose the advantages
resulting from a French alliance, he again married, in the following year,
Mary of Lorraine, daughter to the Duke of Guise, and the young widow of
the Duke of Longueville. Following the example of their king, most of the
Scotch nobility visited France, and as many as could afford it, sent their
sons thither to be educated; whilst on the other hand, numerous French
adventurers landed in Scotland, bringing along with them some of the
French arts and luxuries. Thus the manners of the Scotch, gradually began
to lose a little of that unbending severity, which had hitherto rendered
them so repulsive.

The second peculiarity in the reign of James V., is the countenance and
support he bestowed upon the clergy. This he did, not from any motives of
bigotry, but solely as a matter of sound policy. He saw that he could not
stand alone against his nobles, and he was therefore anxious to raise into
an engine of power, a body of men whose interests he thus identified with
his own. It is remarkable, that even in the most flourishing days of
Catholicism, when the Pope's ecclesiastical authority extended itself
everywhere, Scotland alone was overlooked. The king was there always the
head of the church, in so far as regarded all ecclesiastical appointments,
and the patronage of his bishoprics and abbeys was no slight privilege to
the Scottish monarch, denied as it was to other kings of more extensive
temporal jurisdiction. James converted into benefices, several of the
forfeited estates of his rebellious nobles, and raised the clergy to a
pitch of authority they had never before possessed in Scotland. He acted
upon principle, and perhaps judiciously; but he was not aware, that by
thus surrounding his priests with wealth and luxury, he was paving the way
for their utter destruction, and a new and better order of things.

It will be useful to observe, as the third characteristic of this reign,
the encouragement James gave to the arts and sciences. For the first time,
education began to take some form and system. He gave stability to the
universities, and was careful to select for them the best teachers. He was
fond of drawing to his court men of learning and genius. He was himself a
poet of considerable ability. He had likewise devoted much of his
attention to architecture--his fondness for which elegant study was
testified, by his anxiety to repair, or rebuild, most of the royal
palaces. He established also on a permanent footing, the Court of Session,
or College of Justice; and though his reign, as a whole, was not a happy
one, it probably redounded more to the advantage of his country than that
of any of his predecessors.

At his death, which took place in 1542, at the early age of 30,
accelerated by the distress of mind occasioned by the voluntary defeats
which his refractory nobles allowed themselves to sustain, both at Falla
and Solway Moss, Scotland speedily fell into a state of confusion and
civil war. The events which followed are indissolubly connected with the
subject of these Memoirs, and are related at length in the succeeding

Next: Scotland And Its Troubles During Mary's Infancy

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