I give this heavy weight from off my head,
And this unwieldy sceptre from my hand;
With mine own tears I wash away my balm,
With mine own hand I give away my crown,
With mine own tongue deny my sacred state,
With mine own breath release all duteous oaths.
Lord Ruthven had the look and bearing which became a soldier and a
statesman, and the martial cast of his form and features procured him
the popular epithet of Greysteil, by which he was distinguished by his
intimates, after the hero of a metrical romance then generally known.
His dress, which was a buff-coat embroidered, had a half-military
character, but exhibited nothing of the sordid negligence which
distinguished that of Lindesay. But the son of an ill-fated sire, and
the father of a yet more unfortunate family, bore in his look that
cast of inauspicious melancholy, by which the physiognomists of that
time pretended to distinguish those who were predestined to a violent
and unhappy death.
The terror which the presence of this nobleman impressed on the
Queen's mind, arose from the active share he had borne in the
slaughter of David Rizzio; his father having presided at the
perpetration of that abominable crime, although so weak from long and
wasting illness, that he could not endure the weight of his armour,
having arisen from a sick-bed to commit a murder in the presence of
his Sovereign. On that occasion his son also had attended and taken an
active part. It was little to be wondered at, that the Queen,
considering her condition when such a deed of horror was acted in her
presence, should retain an instinctive terror for the principal actors
in the murder. She returned, however, with grace the salutation of
Lord Ruthven, and extended her hand to George Douglas, who kneeled,
and kissed it with respect; the first mark of a subject's homage which
Roland Graeme had seen any of them render to the captive Sovereign.
She returned his greeting in silence, and there was a brief pause,
during which the steward of the castle, a man of a sad brow and a
severe eye, placed, under George Douglas's directions, a table and
writing materials; and the page, obedient to his mistress's dumb
signal, advanced a large chair to the side on which the Queen stood,
the table thus forming a sort of bar which divided the Queen and her
personal followers from her unwelcome visitors. The steward then
withdrew after a low reverence. When he had closed the door behind
him, the Queen broke silence--"With your favour, my lords, I will
sit--my walks are not indeed extensive enough at present to fatigue me
greatly, yet I find repose something more necessary than usual."
She sat down accordingly, and, shading her cheek with her beautiful
hand, looked keenly and impressively at each of the nobles in turn.
Mary Fleming applied her kerchief to her eyes, and Catherine Seyton
and Roland Graeme exchanged a glance, which showed that both were too
deeply engrossed with sentiments of interest and commiseration for
their royal mistress, to think of any thing which regarded themselves.
"I wait the purpose of your mission, my lords," said the Queen, after
she had been seated for about a minute without a word-being
spoken,--"I wait your message from those you call the Secret
Council.-I trust it is a petition of pardon, and a desire that I will
resume my rightful throne, without using with due severity my right of
punishing those who have dispossessed me of it."
"Madam," replied Ruthven, "it is painful for us to speak harsh truths
to a Princess who has long ruled us. But we come to offer, not to
implore, pardon. In a word, madam, we have to propose to you on the
part of the Secret Council, that you sign these deeds, which will
contribute greatly to the pacification of the State, the advancement
of God's word, and the welfare of your own future life."
"Am I expected to take these fair words on trust, my lord? or may I
hear the contents of these reconciling papers, ere I am asked to sign
"Unquestionably, madam; it is our purpose and wish, you should read
what you are required to sign," replied Ruthven.
"Required?" replied the Queen, with some emphasis; "but the phrase
suits well the matter-read, my lord."
The Lord Ruthven proceeded to read a formal instrument, running in the
Queen's name, and setting forth that she had been called, at an early
age, to the administration of the crown and realm of Scotland, and had
toiled diligently therein, until she was in body and spirit so wearied
out and disgusted, that she was unable any longer to endure the
travail and pain of State affairs; and that since God had blessed her
with a fair and hopeful son, she was desirous to ensure to him, even
while she yet lived, his succession to the crown, which was his by
right of hereditary descent. "Wherefore," the instrument proceeded,
"we, of the motherly affection we bear to our said son, have renounced
and demitted, and by these our letters of free good-will, renounce and
demit, the Crown, government, and guiding of the realm of Scotland, in
favour of our said son, that he may succeed to us as native Prince
thereof, as much as if we had been removed by disease, and not by our
own proper act. And that this demission of our royal authority may
have the more full and solemn effect, and none pretend ignorance, we
give, grant, and commit, fall and free and plain power to our trusty
cousins, Lord Lindesay of the Byres, and William Lord Ruthven, to
appear in our name before as many of the nobility, clergy, and
burgesses, as may be assembled at Stirling, and there, in our name and
behalf, publicly, and in their presence, to renounce the Crown,
guidance, and government of this our kingdom of Scotland."
The Queen here broke in with an air of extreme surprise. "How is this,
my lords?" she said: "Are my ears turned rebels, that they deceive me
with sounds so extraordinary?--And yet it is no wonder that, having
conversed so long with rebellion, they should now force its language
upon my understanding. Say I am mistaken, my lords--say, for the
honour of yourselves and the Scottish nobility, that my right trusty
cousins of Lindesay and Ruthven, two barons of warlike fame and
ancient line, have not sought the prison-house of their kind mistress
for such a purpose as these words seem to imply. Say, for the sake of
honour and loyalty, that my ears have deceived me."
"No, madam," said Ruthven gravely, "your ears do _not_ deceive
you--they deceived you when they were closed against the preachers of
the evangele, and the honest advice of your faithful subjects; and
when they were ever open to flattery of pickthanks and traitors,
foreign cubiculars and domestic minions. The land may no longer brook
the rule of one who cannot rule herself; wherefore, I pray you to
comply with the last remaining wish of your subjects and counsellors,
and spare yourself and us the farther agitation of matter so painful."
"And is this _all_ my loving subjects require of me, my lord?"
said Mary, in a tone of bitter irony. "Do they really stint themselves
to the easy boon that I should yield up the crown, which is mine by
birthright, to an infant which is scarcely more than a year old--fling
down my sceptre, and take up a distaff--Oh no! it is too little for
them to ask--That other roll of parchment contains something harder to
be complied with, and which may more highly task my readiness to
comply with the petitions of my lieges."
"This parchment," answered Ruthven, in the same tone of inflexible
gravity, and unfolding the instrument as he spoke, "is one by which
your grace constitutes your nearest in blood, and the most honourable
and trustworthy of your subjects, James, Earl of Murray, Regent of the
kingdom during the minority of the young King. He already holds the
appointment from the Secret Council."
The Queen gave a sort of shriek, and, clapping her hands together,
exclaimed, "Comes the arrow out of his quiver?--out of my brother's
bow?--Alas! I looked for his return from France as my sole, at least
my readiest, chance of deliverance.--And yet, when I heard he had
assumed the government, I guessed he would shame to wield it in my
"I must pray your answer, madam," said Lord Ruthven, "to the demand
of the Council."
"The demand of the Council!" said the Queen; "say rather the demand of
a set of robbers, impatient to divide the spoil they have seized. To
such a demand, and sent by the mouth of a traitor, whose scalp, but
for my womanish mercy, should long since have stood on the city gates,
Mary of Scotland has no answer."
"I trust, madam," said Lord Ruthven, "my being unacceptable to your
presence will not add to your obduracy of resolution. It may become
you to remember that the death of the minion, Rizzio, cost the house
of Ruthven its head and leader. My father, more worthy than a whole
province of such vile sycophants, died in exile, and broken-hearted."
The Queen clasped her hands on her face, and, resting her arms on the
table, stooped down her head and wept so bitterly, that the tears were
seen to find their way in streams between the white and slender
fingers with which she endeavoured to conceal them.
"My lords," said Sir Robert Melville, "this is too much rigour. Under
your lordship's favour, we came hither, not to revive old griefs, but
to find the mode of avoiding new ones."
"Sir Robert Melville," said Ruthven, "we best know for what purpose we
were delegated hither, and wherefore you were somewhat unnecessarily
sent to attend us."
"Nay, by my hand," said Lord Lindesay, "I know not why we were
cumbered with the good knight, unless he comes in place of the lump of
sugar which pothicars put into their wholesome but bitter medicaments,
to please a froward child--a needless labour, methinks, where men have
the means to make them swallow the physic otherwise."
"Nay, my lords," said Melville, "ye best know your own secret
instructions. I conceive I shall best obey mine in striving to
mediate between her Grace and you."
"Be silent, Sir Robert Melville," said the Queen, arising, and her
face still glowing with agitation as she spoke. "My kerchief,
Fleming--I shame that traitors should have power to move me
thus.--Tell me, proud lords," she added, wiping away the tears as she
spoke, "by what earthly warrant can liege subjects pretend to
challenge the rights of an anointed Sovereign--to throw off the
allegiance they have vowed, and to take away the crown from the head
on which Divine warrant hath placed it?"
"Madam," said Ruthven, "I will deal plainly with you. Your reign, from
the dismal field of Pinkie-cleugh, when you were a babe in the cradle,
till now that ye stand a grown dame before us, hath been such a
tragedy of losses, disasters, civil dissensions, and foreign wars,
that the like is not to be found in our chronicles. The French and
English have, with one consent, made Scotland the battle-field on
which to fight out their own ancient quarrel.--For ourselves every
man's hand hath been against his brother, nor hath a year passed over
without rebellion and slaughter, exile of nobles, and oppressing of
the commons. We may endure it no longer, and therefore, as a prince,
to whom God hath refused the gift of hearkening to wise counsel, and
on whose dealings and projects no blessing hath ever descended, we
pray you to give way to other rule and governance of the land, that a
remnant may yet be saved to this distracted realm."
"My lord," said Mary, "it seems to me that you fling on my unhappy and
devoted head those evils, which, with far more justice, I may impute
to your own turbulent, wild, and untameable dispositions--the frantic
violence with which you, the Magnates of Scotland, enter into feuds
against each other, sticking at no cruelty to gratify your wrath,
taking deep revenge for the slightest offences, and setting at
defiance those wise laws which your ancestors made for stanching of
such cruelty, rebelling against the lawful authority, and bearing
yourselves as if there were no king in the land; or rather as if each
were king in his own premises. And now you throw the blame on me--on
me, whose life has been embittered--whose sleep has been broken--whose
happiness has been wrecked by your dissensions. Have I not myself
been obliged to traverse wilds and mountains, at the head of a few
faithful followers, to maintain peace and put down oppression? Have I
not worn harness on my person, and carried pistols at my saddle; fain
to lay aside the softness of a woman, and the dignity of a Queen, that
I might show an example to my followers?"
"We grant, madam," said Lindesay, "that the affrays occasioned by your
misgovernment, may sometimes have startled you in the midst of a
masque or galliard; or it may be that such may have interrupted the
idolatry of the mass, or the jesuitical counsels of some French
ambassador. But the longest and severest journey which your Grace has
taken in my memory, was from Hawick to Hermitage Castle; and whether
it was for the weal of the state, or for your own honour, rests with
your Grace's conscience."
The Queen turned to him with inexpressible sweetness of tone and
manner, and that engaging look which Heaven had assigned her, as if to
show that the choicest arts to win men's affections may be given in
vain. "Lindesay," she said, "you spoke not to me in this stern tone,
and with such scurril taunt, yon fair summer evening, when you and I
shot at the butts against the Earl of Mar and Mary Livingstone, and
won of them the evening's collation, in the privy garden of Saint
Andrews. The Master of Lindesay was then my friend, and vowed to be my
soldier. How I have offended the Lord of Lindesay I know not, unless
honours have changed manners."
Hardhearted as he was, Lindesay seemed struck with this unexpected
appeal, but almost instantly replied, "Madam, it is well known that
your Grace could in those days make fools of whomever approached you.
I pretend not to have been wiser than others. But gayer men and better
courtiers soon jostled aside my rude homage, and I think your Grace
cannot but remember times, when my awkward attempts to take the
manners that pleased you, were the sport of the court-popinjays, the
Marys and the Frenchwomen."
"My lord, I grieve if I have offended you through idle gaiety," said
the Queen; "and can but say it was most unwittingly done. You are
fully revenged; for through gaiety," she said with a sigh, "will I
never offend any one more."
"Our time is wasting, madam," said Lord Ruthven; "I must pray your
decision on this weighty matter which I have submitted to you."
"What, my lord!" said the Queen, "upon the instant, and without a
moment's time to deliberate?--Can the Council, as they term
themselves, expect this of me?"
"Madam," replied Ruthven, "the Council hold the opinion, that since
the fatal term which passed betwixt the night of King Henry's murder
and the day of Carberry-hill, your Grace should have held you prepared
for the measure now proposed, as the easiest escape from your numerous
dangers and difficulties."
"Great God!" exclaimed the Queen; "and is it as a boon that you
propose to me, what every Christian king ought to regard as a loss of
honour equal to the loss of life!--You take from me my crown, my
power, my subjects, my wealth, my state. What, in the name of every
saint, can you offer, or do you offer, in requital of my compliance?"
"We give you pardon," answered Ruthven, sternly--"we give you space
and means to spend your remaining life in penitence and seclusion--we
give you time to make your peace with Heaven, and to receive the pure
Gospel, which you have ever rejected and persecuted."
The Queen turned pale at the menace which this speech, as well as the
rough and inflexible tones of the speaker, seemed distinctly to
infer--"And if I do not comply with your request so fiercely urged, my
lord, what then follows?"
She said this in a voice in which female and natural fear was
contending with the feelings of insulted dignity.--There was a pause,
as if no one cared to return to the question a distinct answer. At
length Ruthven spoke: "There is little need to tell to your Grace, who
are well read both in the laws and in the chronicles of the realm,
that murder and adultery are crimes for which ere now queens
themselves have suffered death."
"And where, my lord, or how, found you an accusation so horrible,
against her who stands before you?" said Queen Mary. "The foul and
odious calumnies which have poisoned the general mind of Scotland, and
have placed me a helpless prisoner in your hands, are surely no proof
"We need look for no farther proof," replied the stern Lord Ruthven,
"than the shameless marriage betwixt the widow of the murdered and the
leader of the band of murderers!--They that joined hands in the fated
month of May, had already united hearts and counsel in the deed which
preceded that marriage but a few brief weeks."
"My lord, my lord!" said the Queen, eagerly, "remember well there were
more consents than mine to that fatal union, that most unhappy act of
a most unhappy life. The evil steps adopted by sovereigns are often
the suggestion of bad counsellors; but these counsellors are worse
than fiends who tempt and betray, if they themselves are the first to
call their unfortunate princes to answer for the consequences of their
own advice.--Heard ye never of a bond by the nobles, my lords,
recommending that ill-fated union to the ill-fated Mary? Methinks,
were it carefully examined, we should see that the names of Morton and
of Lindesay, and of Ruthven, may be found in that bond, which pressed
me to marry that unhappy man.--Ah! stout and loyal Lord Herries, who
never knew guile or dishonour, you bent your noble knee to me in vain,
to warn me of my danger, and wert yet the first to draw thy good sword
in my cause when I suffered for neglecting thy counsel! Faithful
knight and true noble, what a difference betwixt thee and those
counsellors of evil, who now threaten my life for having fallen into
the snares they spread for me!"
"Madam," said Ruthven, "we know that you are an orator; and perhaps
for that reason the Council has sent hither men, whose converse hath
been more with the wars, than with the language of the schools or the
cabals of state. We but desire to know if, on assurance of life and
honour, ye will demit the rule of this kingdom of Scotland?"
"And what warrant have I," said the Queen, "that ye will keep treaty
with me, if I should barter my kingly estate for seclusion, and leave
to weep in secret?"
"Our honour and our word, madam," answered Ruthven.
"They are too slight and unsolid pledges, my lord," said the Queen;
"add at least a handful of thistle-down to give them weight in the
"Away, Ruthven," said Lindesay; "she was ever deaf to counsel, save of
slaves and sycophants; let her remain by her refusal, and abide by
"Stay, my lord," said Sir Robert Melville, "or rather permit me to
have but a few minutes' private audience with her Grace. If my
presence with you could avail aught, it must be as a mediator--do not,
I conjure you, leave the castle, or break off the conference, until I
bring you word how her Grace shall finally stand disposed."
"We will remain in the hall," said Lindesay, "for half an hour's
space; but in despising our words and our pledge of honour, she has
touched the honour of my name--let her look herself to the course she
has to pursue. If the half hour should pass away without her
determining to comply with the demands of the nation, her career will
be brief enough."
With little ceremony the two nobles left the apartment, traversed the
vestibule, and descended the winding-stairs, the clash of Lindesay's
huge sword being heard as it rang against each step in his descent.
George Douglas followed them, after exchanging with Melville a gesture
of surprise and sympathy.
As soon as they were gone, the Queen, giving way to grief, fear, and
agitation, threw herself into the seat, wrung her hands, and seemed to
abandon herself to despair. Her female attendants, weeping themselves,
endeavoured yet to pray her to be composed, and Sir Robert Melville,
kneeling at her feet, made the same entreaty. After giving way to a
passionate burst of sorrow, she at length said to Melville, "Kneel not
to me, Melville--mock me not with the homage of the person, when the
heart is far away--Why stay you behind with the deposed, the
condemned? her who has but few hours perchance to live? You have been
favoured as well as the rest; why do you continue the empty show of
gratitude and thankfulness any longer than they?"
"Madam," said Sir Robert Melville, "so help me Heaven at my need,
my heart is as true to you as when you were in your highest place."
"True to me! true to me!" repeated the Queen, with some scorn; "tush,
Melville, what signifies the truth which walks hand in hand with my
enemies' falsehood?--thy hand and thy sword have never been so well
acquainted that I can trust thee in aught where manhood is
required--Oh, Seyton, for thy bold father, who is both wise, true, and
Roland Graeme could withstand no longer his earnest desire to offer
his services to a princess so distressed and so beautiful. "If one
sword," he said, "madam, can do any thing to back the wisdom of this
grave counsellor, or to defend your rightful cause, here is my weapon,
and here is my hand ready to draw and use it." And raising his sword
with one hand, he laid the other upon the hilt.
As he thus held up the weapon, Catherine Seyton exclaimed, "Methinks
I see a token from my father, madam;" and immediately crossing the
apartment, she took Roland Graeme by the skirt of the cloak, and asked
him earnestly whence he had that sword.
The page answered with surprise, "Methinks this is no presence in
which to jest--Surely, damsel, you yourself best know whence and how I
obtained the weapon."
"Is this a time for folly?" said Catherine Seyton; "unsheathe the
"If the Queen commands me," said the youth, looking towards his royal
"For shame, maiden!" said the Queen; "wouldst thou instigate the poor
boy to enter into useless strife with the two most approved soldiers
"In your Grace's cause," replied the page, "I will venture my life
upon them!" And as he spoke, he drew his weapon partly from the
sheath, and a piece of parchment, rolled around the blade, fell out
and dropped on the floor. Catherine Seyton caught it up with eager
"It is my father's hand-writing," she said, "and doubtless conveys his
best duteous advice to your Majesty; I know that it was prepared to be
sent in this weapon, but I expected another messenger."
"By my faith, fair one," thought Roland, "and if you knew not that I
had such a secret missive about me, I was yet more ignorant."
The Queen cast her eye upon the scroll, and remained a few minutes
wrapped in deep thought. "Sir Robert Melville," she at length said,
"this scroll advises me to submit myself to necessity, and to
subscribe the deeds these hard men have brought with them, as one who
gives way to the natural fear inspired by the threats of rebels and
murderers. You, Sir Robert, are a wise man, and Seyton is both
sagacious and brave. Neither, I think, would mislead me in this
"Madam," said Melville, "if I have not the strength of body of the
Lord Herries or Seyton, I will yield to neither in zeal for your
Majesty's service. I cannot fight for you like these lords, but
neither of them is more willing to die for your service."
"I believe it, my old and faithful counsellor," said the Queen, "and
believe me, Melville, I did thee but a moment's injustice. Read what
my Lord Seyton hath written to us, and give us thy best counsel."
He glanced over the parchment, and instantly replied,--"Oh! my dear
and royal mistress, only treason itself could give you other advice
than Lord Seyton has here expressed. He, Herries, Huntly, the English
ambassador Throgmorton, and others, your friends, are all alike of
opinion, that whatever deeds or instruments you execute within these
walls, must lose all force and effect, as extorted from your Grace by
duresse, by sufferance of present evil, and fear of men, and harm to
ensue on your refusal. Yield, therefore, to the tide, and be assured,
that in subscribing what parchments they present to you, you bind
yourself to nothing, since your act of signature wants that which
alone can make it valid, the free will of the granter."
"Ay, so says my Lord Seyton," replied Mary; "yet methinks, for the
daughter of so long a line of sovereigns to resign her birthright,
because rebels press upon her with threats, argues little of royalty,
and will read ill for the fame of Mary in future chronicles. Tush! Sir
Robert Melville, the traitors may use black threats and bold words,
but they will not dare to put their hands forth on our person."
"Alas! madam, they have already dared so far and incurred such peril
by the lengths which they have gone, that they are but one step from
the worst and uttermost."
"Surely," said the Queen, her fears again predominating, "Scottish
nobles would not lend themselves to assassinate a helpless woman?"
"Bethink you, madam," he replied, "what horrid spectacles have been
seen in our day; and what act is so dark, that some Scottish hand has
not been found to dare it? Lord Lindesay, besides his natural
sullenness and hardness of temper, is the near kinsman of Henry
Darnley, and Ruthven has his own deep and dangerous plans. The
Council, besides, speak of proofs by writ and word, of a casket with
letters--of I know not what."
"Ah! good Melville," answered the Queen, "were I as sure of the
even-handed integrity of my judges, as of my own innocence--and
"Oh! pause, madam," said Melville; "even innocence must sometimes
for a season stoop to injurious blame. Besides, you are here--"
He looked round, and paused.
"Speak out, Melville," said the Queen, "never one approached my person
who wished to work me evil; and even this poor page, whom I have
to-day seen for the first time in my life, I can trust safely with
"Nay, madam," answered Melville, "in such emergence, and he being the
bearer of Lord Seyton's message, I will venture to say, before him and
these fair ladies, whose truth and fidelity I dispute not--I say I
will venture to say, that there are other modes besides that of open
trial, by which deposed sovereigns often die; and that, as Machiavel
saith, there is but one step betwixt a king's prison and his grave."
"Oh I were it but swift and easy for the body," said the unfortunate
Princess, "were it but a safe and happy change for the soul, the woman
lives not that would take the step so soon as I--But, alas! Melville,
when we think of death, a thousand sins, which we have trod as worms
beneath our feet, rise up against us as flaming serpents. Most
injuriously do they accuse me of aiding Darnley's death; yet, blessed
Lady! I afforded too open occasion for the suspicion--I espoused
"Think not of that now, madam," said Melville, "think rather of the
immediate mode of saving yourself and son. Comply with the present
unreasonable demands, and trust that better times will shortly
"Madam," said Roland Graeme, "if it pleases you that I should do so, I
will presently swim through the lake, if they refuse me other
conveyance to the shore; I will go to the courts successively of
England, France, and Spain, and will show you have subscribed these
vile instruments from no stronger impulse than the fear of death, and
I will do battle against them that say otherwise."
The Queen turned her round, and with one of those sweet smiles which,
during the era of life's romance, overpay every risk, held her hand
towards Roland, but without "speaking a word. He kneeled reverently,
and kissed it, and Melville again resumed his plea.
"Madam," he said, "time presses, and you must not let those boats,
which I see they are even now preparing, put forth on the lake. Here
are enough of witnesses--your ladies--this bold youth--myself, when it
can serve your cause effectually, for I would not hastily stand
committed in this matter--but even without me here is evidence enough
to show, that you have yielded to the demands of the Council through
force and fear, but from no sincere and unconstrained assent. Their
boats are already manned for their return--oh! permit your old servant
to recall them."
"Melville," said the Queen, "thou art an ancient courtier--when didst
thou ever know a Sovereign Prince recall to his presence subjects who
had parted from him on such terms as those on which these envoys of
the Council left us, and who yet were recalled without submission or
apology?--Let it cost me both life and crown, I will not again
command them to my presence."
"Alas! madam, that empty form should make a barrier! If I rightly
understand, you are not unwilling to listen to real and advantageous
counsel--but your scruple is saved--I hear them returning to ask your
final resolution. Oh! take the advice of the noble Seyton, and you may
once more command those who now usurp a triumph over you. But hush!
I hear them in the vestibule."
As he concluded speaking, George Douglas opened the door of the
apartment, and marshalled in the two noble envoys.
"We come, madam," said the Lord Ruthven, "to request your answer to
the proposal of the Council."
"Your final answer," said Lord Lindesay; "for with a refusal you must
couple the certainty that you have precipitated your fate, and
renounced the last opportunity of making peace with God, and ensuring
your longer abode in the world."
"My lords," said Mary, with inexpressible grace and dignity, "the
evils we cannot resist we must submit to--I will subscribe these
parchments with such liberty of choice as my condition permits me.
Were I on yonder shore, with a fleet jennet and ten good and loyal
knights around me, I would subscribe my sentence of eternal
condemnation as soon as the resignation of my throne. But here, in the
Castle of Lochleven, with deep water around me--and you, my lords,
beside me,--I have no freedom of choice.--Give me the pen, Melville,
and bear witness to what I do, and why I do it."
"It is our hope your Grace will not suppose yourself compelled by any
apprehensions from us," said the Lord Ruthven, "to execute what must
be your own voluntary deed."
The Queen had already stooped towards the table, and placed the
parchment before her, with the pen between her fingers, ready for the
important act of signature. But when Lord Ruthven had done speaking,
she looked up, stopped short, and threw down the pen. "If," she said,
"I am expected to declare I give away my crown of free will, or
otherwise than because I am compelled to renounce it by the threat of
worse evils to myself and my subjects, I will not put my name to such
an untruth--not to gain full possession of England, France, and
Scotland!--all once my own, in possession, or by right."
"Beware, madam," said Lindesay, and, snatching hold of the Queen's arm
with his own gauntleted hand, he pressed it, in the rudeness of his
passion, more closely, perhaps, than he was himself aware of,--"beware
how you contend with those who are the stronger, and have the mastery
of your fate!"
He held his grasp on her arm, bending his eyes on her with a stern and
intimidating look, till both Ruthven and Melville cried shame; and
Douglas, who had hitherto remained in a state of apparent apathy, had
made a stride from the door, as if to interfere. The rude Baron then
quitted his hold, disguising the confusion which he really felt at
having indulged his passion to such extent, under a sullen and
The Queen immediately began, with an expression of pain, to bare the
arm which he had grasped, by drawing up the sleeve of her gown, and it
appeared that his gripe had left the purple marks of his iron fingers
upon her flesh--"My lord," she said, "as a knight and gentleman, you
might have spared my frail arm so severe a proof that you have the
greater strength on your side, and are resolved to use it--But I thank
you for it--it is the most decisive token of the terms on which this
day's business is to rest.--I draw you to witness, both lords and
ladies," she said, "showing the marks of the grasp on her arm, "that I
subscribe these instruments in obedience to the sign manual of my Lord
of Lindesay, which you may see imprinted on mine arm."
[Footnote: The details of this remarkable event are, as given in the
preceding chapter, imaginary; but the outline of the events is
historical. Sir Robert Lindesay, brother to the author of the Memoirs,
was at first intrusted with the delicate commission of persuading the
imprisoned queen to resign her crown. As he flatly refused to
interfere, they determined to send the Lord Lindesay, one of the
rudest and most violent of their own faction, with instructions, first
to use fair persuasions, and if these did not succeed, to enter into
harder terms. Knox associates Lord Ruthven with Lindesay in this
alarming commission. He was the son of that Lord Ruthven who was prime
agent in the murder of Rizzio; and little mercy was to be expected
from his conjunction with Lindesay.
The employment of such rude tools argued a resolution on the part of
those who had the Queen's person in their power, to proceed to the
utmost extremities, should they find Mary obstinate. To avoid this
pressing danger, Sir Robert Melville was despatched by them to
Lochleven, carrying with him, concealed in the scabbard of his sword,
letters to the Queen from the Earl of Athole, Maitland of Lethington,
and even from Throgmorton, the English Ambassador, who was then
favourable to the unfortunate Mary, conjuring her to yield to the
necessity of the times, and to subscribe such deeds as Lindesay should
lay before her, without being startled by their tenor; and assuring
her that her doing so, in the state of captivity under which she was
placed, would neither, in law, honour, nor conscience, be binding upon
her when she should obtain her liberty. Submitting by the advice of
one part of her subjects to the menace of the others, and learning
that Lindesay was arrived in a boasting, that is, threatening humour,
the Queen, "with some reluctancy, and with tears," saith Knox,
subscribed one deed resigning her crown to her infant son, and another
establishing the Earl of Murray regent. It seems agreed by historians
that Lindesay behaved with great brutality on the occasion. The deeds
were signed 24th July, 1567.]
Lindesay would have spoken, but was restrained by his colleague
Ruthven, who said to him, "Peace, my lord. Let the Lady Mary of
Scotland ascribe her signature to what she will, it is our business to
procure it, and carry it to the Council. Should there be debate
hereafter on the manner in which it was adhibited, there will be time
enough for it."
Lindesay was silent accordingly, only muttering within his beard, "I
meant not to hurt her; but I think women's flesh be as tender as
The Queen meanwhile subscribed the rolls of parchment with a hasty
indifference, as if they had been matters of slight consequence, or of
mere formality. When she had performed this painful task, she arose,
and, having curtsied to the lords, was about to withdraw to her
chamber. Ruthven and Sir Robert Melville made, the first a formal
reverence, the second an obeisance, in which his desire to acknowledge
his sympathy was obviously checked by the fear of appearing in the
eyes of his colleagues too partial to his former mistress. But
Lindesay stood motionless, even when they were preparing to withdraw.
At length, as if moved by a sudden impulse, he walked round the table
which had hitherto been betwixt them and the Queen, kneeled on one
knee, took her hand, kissed it, let it fall, and arose--"Lady," he
said, "thou art a noble creature, even though thou hast abused God's
choicest gifts. I pay that devotion to thy manliness of spirit, which
I would not have paid to the power thou hast long undeservedly
wielded--I kneel to Mary Stewart, not to the Queen."
"The Queen and Mary Stewart pity thee alike, Lindesay," said Mary--
"alike thee pity, and they forgive thee. An honoured soldier hadst
thou been by a king's side--leagued with rebels, what art thou but a
good blade in the hands of a ruffian?--Farewell, my Lord Ruthven, the
smoother but the deeper traitor.--Farewell, Melville--Mayest thou find
masters that can understand state policy better, and have the means to
reward it more richly, than Mary Stewart.--Farewell, George of
Douglas--make your respected grand-dame comprehend that we would be
alone for the remainder of the day--God wot, we have need to collect
All bowed and withdrew; but scarce had they entered the vestibule, ere
Ruthven and Lindesay were at variance. "Chide not with me, Ruthven,"
Lindesay was heard to say, in answer to something more indistinctly
urged by his colleague--"Chide not with me, for I will not brook it!
You put the hangman's office on me in this matter, and even the very
hangman hath leave to ask some pardon of those on whom he does his
office. I would I had as deep cause to be this lady's friend as I have
to be her enemy--thou shouldst see if I spared limb and life in her
"Thou art a sweet minion," said Ruthven, "to fight a lady's quarrel,
and all for a brent brow and a tear in the eye! Such toys have been
out of thy thoughts this many a year."
"Do me right, Ruthven," said Lindesay. "You are like a polished
corslet of steel; it shines more gaudily, but it is not a whit
softer--nay, it is five times harder than a Glasgow breastplate of
hammered iron. Enough. We know each other."
They descended the stairs, were heard to summon their boats, and the
Queen signed to Roland Graeme to retire to the vestibule, and leave
her with her female attendants.
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