Ch. 20: Mary in Scotland




On August 19, 1561, in a dense fog, and almost unexpected and unwelcomed, Mary landed in Leith. She had told the English ambassador to France that she would constrain none of her subjects in religion, and hoped to be unconstrained. Her first act was to pardon some artisans, under censure for a Robin Hood frolic: her motive, says Knox, was her knowledge that they had acted "in despite of religion."

The Lord James had stipulated that she might have her Mass in her private chapel. Her priest was mobbed by the godly; on the following Sunday Knox denounced her Mass, and had his first interview with her later. In vain she spoke of her conscience; Knox said that it was unenlightened. Lethington wished that he would "deal more gently with a young princess unpersuaded." There were three or four later interviews, but Knox, strengthened by a marriage with a girl of sixteen, daughter of Lord Ochiltree, a Stewart, was proof against the queen's fascination. In spite of insults to her faith offered even at pageants of welcome, Mary kept her temper, and, for long, cast in her lot with Lethington and her brother, whose hope was to reconcile her with Elizabeth.

The Court was gay with riotous young French nobles, well mated with Bothwell, who, though a Protestant, had sided with Mary of Guise during the brawls of 1559. He was now a man of twenty-seven, profligate, reckless, a conqueror of hearts, a speaker of French, a ruffian, and well educated.

In December it was arranged that the old bishops and other high clerics should keep two-thirds of their revenues, the other third to be divided between the preachers and the queen, "between God and the devil," says Knox. Thenceforth there was a rift between the preachers and the politicians, Lethington and Lord James (now Earl of Mar), on whom Mary leaned. The new Earl of Mar was furtively created Earl of Murray and enjoyed the gift after the overthrow of Huntly.

In January 1562 Mary asked for an interview with Elizabeth. Certainly Lethington hoped that Elizabeth "would be able to do much with Mary in religion," meaning that, if Mary's claims to succeed Elizabeth were granted, she might turn Anglican. The request for a meeting, dallied with but never granted, occupied diplomatists, while, at home, Arran (March 31) accused Bothwell of training him into a plot to seize Mary's person. Arran probably told truth, but he now went mad; Bothwell was imprisoned in the castle till his escape to England in August 1562. Lethington, in June, was negotiating for Mary's interview with Elizabeth; Knox bitterly opposed it; the preachers feared that the queen would turn Anglican, and bishops might be let loose in Scotland. The masques for Mary's reception were actually being organised, when, in July, Elizabeth, on the pretext of persecutions by the Guises in France, broke off the negotiations.

The rest of the year was occupied by an affair of which the origins are obscure. Mary, with her brother and Lethington, made a progress into the north, were affronted by and attacked Huntly, who died suddenly (October 28) at the fight of Corrichie; seized a son of his, who was executed (November 2), and spoiled his castle which contained much of the property of the Church of Aberdeen. Mary's motives for destroying her chief Catholic subject are not certainly known. Her brother, Lord James, in February made Earl of Mar, now received the lands and title of Earl of Murray. At some date in this year Knox preached against Mary because she gave a dance. He chose to connect her dance with some attack on the Huguenots in France. According to 'The Book of Discipline' he should have remonstrated privately, as Mary told him. The dates are inextricable. (See my 'John Knox and the Reformation,' pp. 215-218.) Till the spring of 1565 the main business was the question of the queen's marriage. This continued to divide the ruling Protestant nobles from the preachers. Knox dreaded an alliance with Spain, a marriage with Don Carlos. But Elizabeth, to waste time, offered Mary the hand of Lord Robert Dudley (Leicester), and, strange as it appears, Mary would probably have accepted him, as late as 1565, for Elizabeth let it be understood that to marry a Catholic prince would be the signal for war, while Mary hoped that, if she accepted Elizabeth's favourite, Dudley, she would be acknowledged as Elizabeth's heiress. Mary was young, and showed little knowledge of the nature of woman.

In 1563 came the affair of Chatelard, a French minor poet, a Huguenot apparently, who, whether in mere fatuity or to discredit Mary, hid himself under her bed at Holyrood, and again at Burntisland. Mary had listened to his rhymes, had danced with him, and smiled on him, but Chatelard went too far. He was decapitated in the market street of St Andrews (Feb. 22, 1563). It is clear, if we may trust Knox's account, singularly unlike Brantome's, that Chatelard was a Huguenot.

About Easter priests were locked up in Ayrshire, the centre of Presbyterian fanaticism, for celebrating Mass. This was in accordance with law, and to soften Knox the girl queen tried her personal influence. He resisted "the devil"; Mary yielded, and allowed Archbishop Hamilton and some fifty other clerics to be placed "in prison courteous." The Estates, which met on May 27 for the first time since the queen landed, were mollified, but were as far as ever from passing the Book of Discipline. They did pass a law condemning witches to death, a source of unspeakable cruelties. Knox and Murray now ceased to be on terms till their common interests brought them together in 1565.

In June 1563 Elizabeth requested Mary to permit the return to Scotland of Lennox (the traitor to the national cause and to Cardinal Beaton, and the rival of the Hamiltons for the succession to the thrones), apparently for the very purpose of entangling Mary in a marriage with Lennox's son Darnley, and then thwarting it. (It was not Mary who asked Elizabeth to send Lennox.) Knox's favourite candidate was Lord Robert Dudley: despite his notorious character he sometimes favoured the English Puritans. When Holyrood had been invaded by a mob who, in Mary's absence in autumn 1563, broke up the Catholic attendants on Mass (such attendance, in Mary's absence, was illegal), and when both parties were summoned to trial, Knox called together the godly. The Council cleared him of the charge of making an unlawful convocation (they might want to make one, any day, themselves), and he was supported by the General Assembly. Similar conduct of the preachers thirty years later gave James VI. the opportunity to triumph over the Kirk.

In June 1564 there was still discord between the Kirk and the Lords, and, in a long argument with Lethington, Knox maintained the right of the godly to imitate the slayings of idolaters by Phineas and Jehu: the doctrine bore blood-red fruits among the later Covenanters. Elizabeth, in May 1564, in vain asked Mary to withdraw the permission (previously asked for by her) to allow Lennox to visit Scotland and plead for the restitution of his lands. The objection to Lennox's appearance had come, through Randolph, from Knox. "You may cause us to take the Lord Darnley," wrote Kirkcaldy to Cecil, to stop Elizabeth's systems of delays; and Sir James Melville, after going on a mission to Elizabeth, warned Mary that she would never part with her minion, now Earl of Leicester.

Lennox, in autumn 1564, arrived and was restored to his estates, while Leicester and Cecil worked for the sending of his son Darnley to Scotland. Leicester had no desire to desert Elizabeth's Court and his chance of touching her maiden heart.

The intrigues of Cecil, Leicester, and Elizabeth resemble rather a chapter in a novel than a page in history. Elizabeth notoriously hated and, when she could, thwarted all marriages. She desired that Mary should never marry: a union with a Catholic prince she vetoed, threatening war; and Leicester she offered merely "to drive time." But Mary, evasively tempted by hints, later withdrawn, of her recognition as Elizabeth's successor, was, till the end of March 1565, encouraged by Randolph, the English ambassador at her Court, to remain in hope of wedding Leicester.

Randolph himself was not in the secret of the English intrigue, which was to slip Darnley at Mary. He came (February 1565): Cecil and Leicester had "used earnest means" to ensure his coming. On March 17 Mary was informed that she would never be recognised as Elizabeth's successor till events should occur which never could occur. On receiving this news Mary wept; she also was indignant at the long and humiliating series of Elizabeth's treacheries. Her patience broke down; she turned to Darnley, thereby, as the English intriguers designed, breaking up the concord of her nobles. To marry Darnley involved the feud of the Hamiltons, and the return of Murray (whom Darnley had offended), of Chatelherault, Argyll, and many other nobles to the party of Knox and the preachers. Leicester would have been welcome to Knox; Darnley was a Catholic, if anything, and a weak passionate young fool. Mary, in the clash of interests, was a lost woman, as Randolph truly said, with sincere pity. Her long endurance, her attempts to "run the English course," were wasted.

David Riccio, who came to Scotland as a musician in 1561, was now high in her and in Darnley's favour. Murray was accused of a conspiracy to seize Darnley and Lennox; the godly began to organise an armed force (June 1565); Mary summoned from exile Bothwell, a man of the sword. On July 29th she married Darnley, and on August 6th Murray, who had refused to appear to answer the charges of treason brought against him, though a safe-conduct was offered, was outlawed and proclaimed a rebel, while Huntly's son, Lord George, was to be restored to his estates. Thus everything seemed to indicate that Mary had been exasperated into breaking with the party of moderation, the party of Murray and Lethington, and been driven into courses where her support, if any, must come from France and Rome. Yet she married without waiting for the necessary dispensation from the Pope. Her policy was henceforth influenced by her favour to Riccio, and by the jealous and arrogant temper of her husband. Mary well knew that Elizabeth had sent money to her rebels, whom she now pursued all through the south of Scotland; they fled from Edinburgh, where the valiant Brethren, brave enough in throwing stones at pilloried priests, refused to join them; and despite the feuds in her own camp, where Bothwell and Darnley were already on the worst terms, Mary drove the rebel lords across the Border at Carlisle on October 8.

Mary seemed triumphant, but the men with her--Lethington, and Morton the Chancellor--were disaffected; Darnley was mutinous: he thought himself neglected; he and his father resented Mary's leniency to Chatelherault, who had submitted and been sent to France; all parties hated Riccio. There was to be a Parliament early in March 1566. In February Mary sent the Bishop of Dunblane to Rome to ask for a subsidy; she intended to reintroduce the Spiritual Estate into the House as electors of the Lords of the Articles, "tending to have done some good anent the restoring of the old religion." The Nuncio who was to have brought the Pope's money later insisted that Mary should take the heads of Murray, Argyle, Morton, and Lethington! Whether she aimed at securing more than tolerance for Catholics is uncertain; but the Parliament, in which the exiled Lords were to be forfeited, was never held. The other nobles would never permit such a measure.

George Douglas, a stirring cadet of the great House was exciting Darnley's jealousy of Riccio, but already Randolph (February 5, 1566) had written to Cecil that "the wisest were aiming at putting all in hazard" to restore the exiled Lords. The nobles, in the last resort, would all stand by each other: there was now a Douglas plot of the old sort to bring back the exiles; and Darnley, with his jealous desire to murder Riccio, was but the cat's-paw to light the train and explode Mary and her Government. Ruthven, whom Mary had always distrusted, came into the conspiracy. Through Randolph all was known in England. "Bands" were drawn up, signed by Argyll (safe in his own hills), Murray, Glencairn, Rothes, Boyd, Ochiltree (the father of Knox's young wife), and Darnley. His name was put forward; his rights and succession were secured against the Hamiltons; Protestantism, too, was to be defended. Many Douglases, many of the Lothian gentry, were in the plot. Murray was to arrive from England as soon as Riccio had been slain and Mary had been seized.

Randolph knew all and reported to Elizabeth's ministers.

The plan worked with mechanical precision. On March 9 Morton and his company occupied Holyrood, going up the great staircase about eight at night; while Darnley and Ruthven, a dying man, entered the queen's supper-room by a privy stair. Morton's men burst in, Riccio was dragged forth, and died under forty daggers. Bothwell, Atholl, and Huntly, partisans of Mary, escaped from the palace; with them Mary managed to communicate on the morrow, when she also held talk with Murray, who had returned with the other exiles. She had worked on the fears and passions of Darnley; by promises of amnesty the Lords were induced to withdraw their guards next day, and in the following night, by a secret passage, and through the tombs of kings, Mary and Darnley reached the horses brought by Arthur Erskine.

It was a long dark ride to Dunbar, but there Mary was safe. She pardoned and won over Glencairn, whom she liked, and Rothes; Bothwell and Huntly joined her with a sufficient force, Ruthven and Morton fled to Berwick (Ruthven was to die in England), and Knox hastened into Kyle in Ayrshire. Darnley, who declared his own innocence and betrayed his accomplices, was now equally hated and despised by his late allies and by the queen and Murray,--indeed, by all men, chiefly by Morton and Argyll. Lethington was in hiding; but he was indispensable, and in September was reconciled to Mary.

On June 19, in Edinburgh Castle, she bore her child, later James VI.; on her recovery Darnley was insolent, and was the more detested, while Bothwell was high in favour. In October most of the Lords signed, with Murray, a band for setting Darnley aside--not for his murder. He is said to have denounced Mary to Spain, France, and Rome for neglecting Catholic interests. In mid-October Mary was seriously ill at Jedburgh, where Bothwell, wounded in an encounter with a Border reiver, was welcomed, while Darnley, coldly received, went to his father's house on the Forth. On her recovery Mary resided in the last days of November at Craigmillar Castle, near Edinburgh. Here Murray, Argyll, Bothwell, Huntly, and Lethington held counsel with her as to Darnley. Lethington said that "a way would be found," a way that Parliament would approve, while Murray would "look through his fingers." Lennox believed that the plan was to arrest Darnley on some charge, and slay him if he resisted.

At Stirling (December 17), when the young prince was baptised with Catholic rites, Darnley did not appear; he sulked in his own rooms. A week later, the exiles guilty of Riccio's murder were recalled, among them Morton; and Darnley, finding all his enemies about to be united, went to Glasgow, where he fell ill of smallpox. Mary offered a visit (she had had the malady as a child), and was rudely rebuffed (January 1-13, 1567), but she was with him by January 21. From Glasgow, at this time, was written the long and fatal letter to Bothwell, which places Mary's guilt in luring Darnley to his death beyond doubt, if we accept the letters as authentic. {129}

Darnley was carried in a litter to the lonely house of Kirk o' Field, on the south wall of Edinburgh. Here Mary attended him in his sickness. On Sunday morning, February 9, Murray left Edinburgh for Fife. In the night of Sunday 9-Monday 10, the house where Darnley lay was blown up by gunpowder, and he, with an attendant, was found dead in the garden: how he was slain is not known.

That Bothwell, in accordance with a band signed by himself, Huntly, Argyll, and Lethington, and aided by some Border ruffians, laid and exploded the powder is certain. Morton was apprised by Lethington and Bothwell of the plot, but refused to join it without Mary's written commission, which he did not obtain. Against the queen there is no trustworthy direct evidence (if we distrust her alleged letters to Bothwell), but her conduct in protecting and marrying Bothwell (who was really in love with his wife) shows that she did not disapprove. The trial of Bothwell was a farce; Mary's abduction by him (April 24) and retreat with him to Dunbar was collusive. She married Bothwell on May 15. Her nobles, many of whom had signed a document urging her to marry Bothwell, rose against her; on June 15, 1567, she surrendered to them at Carberry Hill, while they, several of them deep in the murder plot, were not sorry to let Bothwell escape to Dunbar. After some piratical adventures, being pursued by Kirkcaldy he made his way to Denmark, where he died a prisoner.

Mary, first carried to Edinburgh and there insulted by the populace, was next hurried to Lochleven Castle. Her alleged letters to Bothwell were betrayed to the Lords (June 21), probably through Sir James Balfour, who commanded in Edinburgh Castle. Perhaps Murray (who had left for France before the marriage to Bothwell), perhaps fear of Elizabeth, or human pity, induced her captors, contrary to the counsel of Lethington, to spare her life, when she had signed her abdication, while they crowned her infant son. Murray accepted the Regency; a Parliament in December established the Kirk; acquitted themselves of rebellion; and announced that they had proof of Mary's guilt in her own writing. Her romantic escape from Lochleven (May 2, 1568) gave her but an hour of freedom. Defeated on her march to Dumbarton Castle in the battle of Langside Hill, she lost heart and fled to the coast of Galloway; on May 16 crossed the Solway to Workington in Cumberland; and in a few days was Elizabeth's prisoner in Carlisle Castle.

Mary had hitherto been a convinced but not a very obedient daughter of the Church; for example, it appears that she married Darnley before the arrival of the Pope's dispensation. At this moment Philip of Spain, the French envoy to Scotland, and the French Court had no faith in her innocence of Darnley's death; and the Pope said "he knew not which of these ladies were the better"--Mary or Elizabeth. But from this time, while a captive in England, Mary was the centre of the hopes of English Catholics: in miniatures she appears as queen, quartering the English arms; she might further the ends of Spain, of France, of Rome, of English rebels, while her existence was a nightmare to the Protestants of Scotland and a peril to Elizabeth.

After Mary's flight, Murray was, as has been said, Regent for the crowned baby James. In his council were the sensual, brutal, but vigorous Morton, with Mar, later himself Regent, a man of milder nature; Glencairn; Ruthven, whom Mary detested--he had tried to make unwelcome love to her at Lochleven; and "the necessary evil," Lethington. How a man so wily became a party to the murder of Darnley cannot be known: now he began to perceive that, if Mary were restored, as he believed that she would be, his only safety lay in securing her gratitude by secret services.

On the other side were the Hamiltons with their ablest man, the Archbishop; the Border spears who were loyal to Bothwell; and two of the conspirators in the murder of Darnley, Argyll and Huntly; with Fleming and Herries, who were much attached to Mary. The two parties, influenced by Elizabeth, did not now come to blows, but awaited the results of English inquiries into Mary's guilt, and of Elizabeth's consequent action.




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