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Sir Walter Scott
The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border
The Queen’s Marie

Never Before Published

"In the very time of the General Assembly, there comes to public knowledge a haynous murther, committed in the court; yea, not far from the queen's lap; for a French woman, that served in the queen's chamber, had played the whore with the queen's own apothecary. The woman conceived and bare a childe, whom, with common consent, the father and mother murthered; yet were the cries of a newborne childe hearde, searche was made, the childe and the mother were both apprehended, and so were the man and the woman condemned to be hanged in the publicke street of Edinburgh. The punishment was suitable, because the crime was haynous. But yet was not the court purged of whores and whoredoms, which was the fountaine of such enormities; for it was well known that shame hasted marriage betwixt John Sempill, called the Dancer, and Mary Levingston * sirnamed the Lusty. What bruit the Maries, and the rest of the dancers of the court had, the Ballads of that age does witnesse, which we for modestie's sake omit; but this was the common complaint of all godly and wise men, that if they thought such a court could long continue, and if they looked for no better life to come, they would have wished their sonnes and daughters rather to have been brought up with fiddlers and dancers, and to have been exercised with flinging upon a floore, and in the rest that therof followes, than to have been exercised in the company of the godly, and been exercised in virtue, which in that court was hated, and filthenesse not only maintained, but also rewarded; witnesse the Abbey of Abercorne, the Barony of Auchtermuchtie, and divers others, pertaining to the patrimony of the crown, given in heritage to skippers and dancers, and dalliers with dames. This was the beginning of the regiment of Mary, Queen of Scots, and these were the fruits that she brought forth of France. - Lord! look on our miseries! and deliver us from the wickedness of this corrupt court!" - Knox's History of the Reformation, p. 373-4.

Such seems to be the subject of the following ballad, as narrated by the stern apostle of Presbytery. It will readily strike the reader, that the tale has suffered great alterations, as handed down by tradition; the French waiting-woman being changed into Mary Hamilton, and the queen's apothecary into Henry Darnley. Yet this is less surprising, when we recollect, that one of the heaviest of the queen's complaints against her ill-fated husband was his infidelity, and that even with her personal attendants. I have been enabled to publish the following complete edition of the ballad, by copies from various quarters; that principally used was communicated to me, in the most polite manner, by Mr. Kirkpatricke Sharpe, of Hoddom, to whom I am indebted for many similar favours. 

*"John Semple, son of Robert, Lord Semple (by Elizabeth Carlisle, a daughter of the Lord Torthorald,) was ancestor of the Semples of Beltrees. He was married to Mary, sister to William Livingston, and one of the maids of honour to Queen Mary; by whom he had Sir James Semple, his son and heir," &c. afterwards ambassador to England, for King James VI, in 1599. - CRAWFORD'S History of Renfrew, p. 101.


Marie Hamilton's to the kirk gane,
Wi' ribbon's in her hair;
The King thought mair o' Marie Hamilton,
Than ony that were there.

Marie Hamilton's to the kirk gane,
Wi' ribbons on her breast;
The King thought mair o' Marie Hamilton,
Than he listen'd to the priest.

Marie Hamilton's to the kirk gane,
Wi' gloves upon her hands;
The King though mair o' Marie Hamilton,
Than the Queen and a' her lands.

She hadna been about the King's court
A month, but barely one,
Till she was beloved by a' the King's court
And the King the only man.

The King is to the Abbey gane,
To pu' the Abbey tree,
To scale the babe frae Marie's heart;
But the thing it wadna be. *

O she has row'd it in her apron,
And set it on the sea, -
"Gae sink ye, or swim ye, bonny babe,
Ye'se get nae mair o' me." -

Word is to the kitchen gane,
And word is to the ha',
And word is to the noble room,
Amang the ladyes a',
That Marie Hamilton's brought to bed,
And the bonny babe's mist and awa'.

Scarcely had she lain down again,
And scarcely fa'en asleep,
When up then started our gude Queen,
Just at her bed-feet;
Saying - "Marie Hamilton, where's your babe?
For I am sure I heard it greet."

"O, no, O no, my noble Queen!
Think no such thing to be;
"Twas but a stitch into my side,
And sair it troubles me."

"Get up, get up, Marie Hamilton:
Get up and follow me;
For I am going to Edinburgh town,
A rich wedding for to see." - 

O slowly, slowly raise she up,
And slowly put she on;
And slowly rode she out the way,
Wi' mony a weary groan.

The Queen was clad in scarlet,
Her merry maids all in green;
And every town that they cam to,
They took Marie for the Queen. 

"Ride hooly, hooly, gentlemen,
Ride hooly now wi' me!
For never, I am sure, a wearier burd
Rade in your companie." -

But little wist Marie Hamilton,
When she rade on the brown,
That she was ga'en to Edinburgh town,
And a' to be put down.

"Why weep ye so, ye burgess wives,
Why look ye so on me?
O, I am going to Edinburgh town,
A rich wedding for to see." -

When she gaed up the tolbooth stairs,
The corks frae her heels did flee;
The lang or e'er she cam down again,
She was condemn'd to die.

When she cam to the Netherbow port,
She laughed loud laughters three;
But when she cam to the gallows foot,
The tears blinded her ee.

"O, often have I dress'd my Queen,
And put gold upon her hair;
But now I've gotten for my reward
The gallows to be my share.

"Often have I dress'd my Queen,
And often made her bed;
But now I've gotten for my reward,
The gallows tree to tread.

"I charge ye all, ye mariners
When ye sail ower the faem,
Let neither my father nor mother get wit,
But that I'm coming hame.

"I charge ye all, ye mariners,
That sail upon the sea,
Let neither my father nor mother get wit,
This dog's death I'm to die.

"For if my father and mother got wit,
And my bold brethren three,
O mickle wad be the gude red blude
This day wad be spilt for me!

"O little did my mother ken,
That day she cradled me,
The lands I was to travel in,
Or the death I was to die!"

* {"The Prince's bed it was sae saft
The spices they were sae fine,
That out of it she could not be
While she was scarce fifteen.

"She's gane to the garden gay,
To pu' o' the savin tree;
But for a' that she could say or do,
The babie it would not die." - MOTHERWELL, p. 317.

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