Sketch of the History of Mary
Queen of Scots.
The loves and troubles of
Revealed for him that reads:
And whether she was over chary
In all her acts and deeds.
With much truth has it been
said, that no man ever read the life of Mary Queen of Scotland, without
letting his pity for this most unfortunate of women overcome every other
passion within his bosom.
Whether the queen was really
an object of virtue and innocence, let others decide as they think or feel:
certain it is, so great is our interest in her, so great do we confess her
misfortunes to have been, whether of her own making or not, and so
unnecessarily severe do we declare her enemies to have been against her,
that we are disposed to make every excuse, to catch at the smallest point to
explain away the accusation, and willingly proffer our full pardon, although
it may be that our consciences tell us that such pardon may not be rigid
The condition of the nation
in her time was that of anarchy, and distraction, and cabal: the nobles were
looking after their own interests rather than after those of the state ; the
clash of the too religions, struggling for supremacy, was breeding rancour
between man and man ; and the machinations of France and England, jealous of
each other's influence in Scotland, kept all three countries not only
internally divided amongst themselves, but also at enmity against each
Several successive kings of
this northern kingdom met with violent deaths; some through unforeseen
accident, some through irresistible misfortune, and some through
premeditated assassination. This necessity, long continued,—for a regency
had rendered the nobles powerful, turbulent, insolent, and ambitious;—had
disrupted all order, had weakened all respect for law, and had done much
towards creating the bands of Catereens, banditti,' and moss-troopers, that
at this period harassed the whole land, but especially the borders.
Mary Stuart, sometime queen
of the Scots, was thrice married, as has been duly set forth in the pages of
other histories besides this now in the hands of the companionable reader;
neither time actually married at Gretna Green, but twice within the confines
of that kingdom of which that remarkable parish forms a part—an important
part too—thus connecting her with the matter in discussion, but especially
by the progresses she made into this district, and so, walking as it were,
directly into our book.
Much of her youth was spent
in France, and by her union with Francis II. she shared with him the throne
of that country. Educated at the court of her father-in-law Henry II., the
natural capacities of her mind were drawn out under every care and
advantage, such as the age in which she lived, together with her position
and rank, powerfully afforded; she was instructed in the Latin tongue as was
then the custom amongst personages of elevated station ; French, Spanish,
and Italian, she spoke with fluency, grace, and precision: she wrought
tapestry, or deftly employed her needle at white-seam and shell-work: poetry
was her delight;—"Elle composait de vers," says Bran-tome, "dont j'eu ay veu
aucun dc beaux et tres bien faits:" with a good eye for colour, she could
paint with truth; her skill in music, as displayed on the virginal, was the
jealousy, envy, and vexation of her rival, Elizabeth of England: and
furthermore, says one of her biographers, "she walked, danced, and rode with
enchanting gracefulness." Where, we would inquire, was ever the man that
could forbear falling in love, that saw this princess?
The history of her loves is
the history of misadventure : and yet, so fair, so enticing, so sweet are
the first approaches toward the rough course of this passion, that few enter
the portal, that do not fight on madly to the end.
"Alas, that love, so gentle in
Should be so tyrannous and rough in proof."
"Libertas, career, pax, pugna,
Spes-metuens, mel-fel, seria, ludus, Amor."
Thus wrote Joannes Owenus,
Cambro-Britan-nus; and the old nursery verse runs to the same effect,—
"Res est solieiti, plena
If love be a thing full of
solicitude and fear, accompanied by crosses, hopes deferred,
disappointments, and the like—all of them emotions most desirable to be
eschewed,—surely, it cannot be well-advised in any to harbour so much misery
in his bosom ? Perchance this is true: but the sweetness of the beginning no
one can well forego, though his judgment assure him that the end will be
bitter. It is a sweet bait that entices the fish to gorge his own
" Prineipium dulee est, at
finis amoris amarus:
Lseta venire Venus, tristis abire solet."
At the death of her husband
Francis, Mary was sorely grieved in so much that she took pen and ink, and
then poured forth her afflictions upon paper, — for poetry is the
safety-valve to every confined passion at high pressure.
Some short time afterwards
she returned to her own kingdom ; not, howbeit, without much regret at
leaving the country wherein she was brought up, and over which she had
reigned Queen. There is a song by Beranger, purposed to express her
feelings, as she withdrew from the coast of Normandy ; but the French have
preserved some lines composed by herself on that occasion—as see here:—
"Adieu! plaisant pays de
O ma patrie, La plus cherie,
Qui a nourri ma jeune enfance:
Adieu France; adieu mes beaux jours,
La nef que disjoint nos amours,
N'a eu de moi que la moitie.
Une part te reste; elle est tienne:
Je la fie a ton amitic,
Pour que de l'autre il te souvienne."
For three years she governed
Scotland prosperously, when it became necessary, for the peace ami stability
of her kingdom, that she should wed once again. Divers foreign powers had
offered alliances, but these it was her policy to decline, seeing that she
was heir to the crown of England, and did not wish to bring strangers into
the land. She had previously, through the evil counsel of others,
imprudently quartered the arms of England along with her own bearing on the
Scottish shield, thereby not a little offending the imperious Elizabeth; as
much as to say, "Look, Elizabeth; see how pleasantly I am reckoning upon the
possession of your patrimony, even before you have been lamentably gathered
unto your fathers."
Owing to the conflicting and
contradictory testimony of her various historiographers, it is hard to say
whether she afterwards married Darnley through choice, policy, or compulsion
yet, if there be truth in the passage here following, said to have been
written by her own hand, surely the fire of love had never enkindled up her
affections towards him.
"Lord Darnley is perpetually
with me," she says in her letter, " and pretends to testify his passion by
his jealousy; and backed by that assuming arbitress of my fate, the English
Queen, [for it should seem that Darnley was one of the lovers that Elizabeth
had suggested as desirable for Mary,] already takes upon him the authority
of a husband."
It is not our province here
to discuss the authenticity of the series of love letters written to the
Earl of Bothwell by the Queen, from one of which the above is taken. They
have been accepted as genuiue by many of the erudite ; and were discovered
in "ane small gylt coffer, not fully ane fnte lang," and "garnischit in
sindrie places with the romaine letter F., under ane Kingis crowne," the F.
beiug the initial letter of Francis.
In another letter, found in
the same casket, written in 1564, we are told of another proposition of
Elizabeth's, as see:—"I am for ever doomed to be the vassal of the English
Queen, the tool of her cursed policy, the property of her ambition, without
a friend to aid me. She writes me now, that the reasons for breaking off the
match with Darnley were, because she thinks Leicester more worthy of my bed
and crown! "
Whenever her pen traced words
for Bothwell, its point had been dipped in the honey of a passionate love.
These letters betray that she desired and languished for him even before she
had wedded her second husband; and that, to her second husband she never
bore aught but repugnance, albeit some have said otherwise. Wherefore, there
existed some cogent reason why she forewent the man of her election, and
espoused another. "France, Spain, England, and Rome," she says, "were
providing me husbands ; Murray was depriving me of everything but the name
of Queen ! How, but by marriage, could I put a stop to the solicitations of
the one side, or have curbed the insolence of the other? Well you know that
it was not in my power to make choice of you, without I could have been
content not onely to see my crown torn from me, but also resign both our
lives to glut the implacable malice of our foes.'" After her unfortunate
marriage, she says thus of her husband,—"I never loved this Darnley [fAis
/], and his ingratitude has made me hate him." And elsewhere, excusing
herself for not having wedded as her heart could have desired:—"I believe
you are now perfectly convinced that there was an absolute necessity for my
marriage, though the regret with which you behold me in another's arms, will
not permit you to acknowledge it." She then concludes : — "Adieu, my dear
Bothwell. I have time to add no more than that I am, and ever shall be,
"Yours, M. R."
According to her own words,
in another letter, her choice of Darnley, who was the next heir to the
Scottish succession, and who would have been declared king to her exclusion,
had her father introduced the Salique Law as he had contemplated, was of a
nature political and prudent solely. "What induced me to make choice of
him," she says, "rather than any other, was because I would avoid giving any
umbrage to the contending Princes, whose equal pretensions might have
expected equal favours: but in this marriage, which, in the world's eye will
induced by inclination,
neither Rome, nor France, nor Spain, can be disobliged; nor can Elizabeth,
with any show of justice, blame me; because it was on her recommendation
that I first listened to his suit; and in preferring him to Leicester, I
cannot but have the approbation of the whole judging world. Think not that
it was love that furnished me with arguments to justify my choice ; for I
protest by the same dread power by which I have so often swore, that
Bothwell was the dearest thing on earth, that he is so, and ever will be so
while I have life."
The personal appearance of
Henry Stuart Lord Darnley was comely and prepossessing: he was tall, well
made, and handsome; but the bounty of nature did not extend to his mind,
since his understanding was narrow, his obstinacy pertinacious, his ambition
excessive, though not directed by any good principle, and he was whimsical,
passionate, and capricious.
The ill-fated pair were
united on the 29th of July, 1565, and continued so until February 10th,
1567. Some of her biographers declare, that "the Queen gave her husband
every possible evidence of the most extravagant love;" but that it was not
in humanity to cherish this love long towards one who, by his inordinate and
base ambition, soon entered into a conspiracy to dethrone his wife, and seat
himself in her place. Putfed up with pride and preposterous vanity,
unreasonable in his desires, fickle in his choice of favourites, and
unstable in his friendships, he lost the confidence of all ranks; he became
little in the eyes of the people, and despised in the estimation of the
nobles. Yet Mary, we are told, continued to love beyond expectation, and to
endure above belief.
But one night Darnley was
blown up into the air: yea, after the fashion of a sky-rocket, he ascended
through the roof of his house, up towards the firmament; his body described
a parabola, and then lighted heavily in a neighbouring field. It was in
February—a cold night: but he lay there reposedly with nothing on but a
Who shall now discover the
perpetrators of so foul a crime ? Conjecture is nothing—suspicion is no
argument—supposition is no evidence—belief is no proof. Draw the curtain and
hold your tongue;
Some threw aspersion at James
Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, but he was afterwards declared innocent ; and
many of the nobles of the realm drew up and signed a paper wherein they
indeed proposed and recommended him as a fitting husband for the Queen, so
soon as her twice widowed tears should be assuaged. If it be that the love
letters of the gilt casket may truly be accepted for belief, these tears
might soon dry away like a passing shower, leaving the sun of love to burst
forth afterwards, and shine brightly upon Bothwell.
I3ut Bothwell had a wife—ay,
verily, Bothwell was bound up in the knots of matrimony. The only thing left
was divorce. "As for the divorce you write me concerning, I would not have
you think of it as yet. The times are at present too much unsettled, and
your wife has powerful friends." It was early in their correspondence that
she wrote to him in this strain; for the dissuasion here insisted on, was
not subsequently adhered to, as the process was drawn up, and Bothwell was
It was a curious matter this
divorcement—or rather, these divorcements, for there were two ; each one
severally made out against the other; his wife, the Lady Jane Gordon,
preferring one against him, and he, on his part, preferring one against her.
Her bill was founded on the charge of his treason, want of allegiance, and
disregard of the oaths that he had sworn to her before the altar; his, that
she was his cousin, allied to him too nearly by blood, and within the
prohibited degrees, as sanctioned by the Church of Rome wherefore his tender
conscience was but ill at ease under a connexion so illicit. Her suit was
brought against him in the Court of Commissaries; his against her before the
Court of the Archbishop of St. Andrews; and in both their union was declared
void—thus it is, they were mutually and doubly divorced.
"The divorce," observes
Buchanan, "was posted forward without any slackness either in the witnesses
or in the judges. Within the space of ten days the matter was taken in hand,
began and intended, joyned unto, tryed, and judged, before both the
companies of judges."
At this time the Earl of
Bothwell was Warden of the 'whole Marches; a dignity that ofttimes imposed
upon him certain warlike expeditions on the borders, as the hunting down of
outlaws, the apprehending of thieves, or the chastisement of rebels.
The earl's divorce was not
merely a mensa et thoro, because that would not have answered his purpose,
but altogether a vinculo matrimonii, whereby he was free to take the rash
steps which verily he afterwards did take. Many there were of that day who
cried out loud against these matters, as not conscientiously satisfied with
that which the law permitted ; some objecting to the separation because it
had not been brought about through the suggestions of any really good
motive, and others spurned at the practice of divorce altogether.