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THE

QUE ENS OF SCOTLAND

MARY STUART

CHAPTER XXV.

SUMMARY LIFE OF MARY STUART—Continued. Dangerous position of Queen Mary

after the birth of her son-Selfish policy of her nobles—Her personal proceedings at Stirling and Edinburgh-Her consort's antagonism to Lethington - Her meeting with Lethington at Willie Bell's houseHer continued displeasure with Lennox-She reconciles Lethington and Bothwell— Her Coalition Cabinet—She sorts her jewels-Settles the colours to be worn by the nobles at her baby's christening-Obtains a pecuniary aid to defray the expenses—Declension of the Protestant interest in Scotland-Pope's nuncio in France complains of her lukewarmness to that of Rome-Mary excuses herself from receiving his visit—She sends Bothwell to quell the Border insurgents--He is resisted and wounded — Buchanan's calumnies on Mary exposed — She leaves Edinburgh with her Court on her judicial progress--Darnley absents himself—Mary opens her royal assize at Jedburgh-Visits Bothwell with her Council at Hermitage Castle--Reasons for undertaking that journey–Adventures on her way–Her dangerous illness - She prepares herself for death-Requests the prayers of the Reformed churches, Forgives her enemies—Exhorts her nobles to unity-Commends her infant to their care-Desires he may be brought up in the fear of God—Declares her abhorrence of persecution—Fluctuations of her malady-Her death reported—Darnley's neglect of her–His tardy arrival at Jedburgh-Cool reception and hasty departure-Queen Mary's house at Jedburgh-Apples, citrons, and pomegranates brought to her during her sickness-Her bounty to the poor of Jedburgh-Her clemency to criminals-She leaves Jedburgh for Kelso.

The machinery for the revolution which was to transfer the sceptre of Scotland from the hand of Mary Stuart to that of her infant boy, the unconscious puppet in whose

VOL. V.

A

name the elective sovereignty of a regency might be exercised by the leader of that movement, was suggested by the matrimonial jars between her and her consort; but these were not the exciting causes.

The birth of her son, so far from strengthening the royal mother's throne, was the signal for an extensive conspiracy among her nobles for bringing her reign to a close before the completion of her twenty-fifth year—the age at which the Sovereigns of Scotland were privileged to revoke all Crown grants, whether conceded by their Regents or themselves previously to that period. The grants made by the Duke of Châtelherault and the late Queen-Regent had been enormous, and those of Mary herself, in her youthful inexperience, so lavish, that the regal revenues were reduced to one-third of their proper value. The resumption of this property became, therefore, a matter of absolute necessity for the support of the government and the defence of the realm. But the prospect of such a measure, however constitutional, was so little agreeable to the parties in possession, that, with few exceptions, all were ready to welcome any expedient whereby the evil day of restitution might be postponed for a new term of upwards of four-and-twenty years, involving, withal, the not improbable contingency of retaining the property in perpetuity. The wealth and power of a selfish oligarchy had increased so greatly during six successive regal minorities in Scotland, that a seventh was eagerly desired, and the earliest opportunity for producing it was boldly seized.

While the undercurrents that influenced the adverse tide of Mary Stuart's destiny were working in unsuspected channels for the accomplishment of this event, her attention was divided between preparations for the christening of the Prince, the arrangement of his separate establishment, and plans for securing, as she fondly imagined, the peace and internal happiness of her realm, by effecting a general reconciliation between her contentious nobles, and forming a Coalition Cabinet from the leading members of the two great factions whose strife agitated her councilchamber.

How closely her actions were watched by the spies in her household, and how minutely reported to the English authorities at Berwick, abundant proof is afforded by the Border correspondence at this epoch. The information thus supplied of her proceedings during her rapid transits between Stirling and Edinburgh, in September 1566, casts an important light on the otherwise inscrutable behaviour of Darnley on the 29th and 30th of that month, by filling up the outlines already before the reader of that mysterious passage in the personal history of the unfortunate pair. “ The Secretary (Lethington) came to Stirling the 4th of this instant at night, and did lie at one Willie Bell's; and on the morrow the Queen came to Willie Bell's to the Secretary, and there did dine with him, and remained a good part of the afternoon with him, and liked him very well; and so the Queen returned to the castle of Stirling, and on the morrow came to Edinburgh, the Earls of Moray and Argyll with her. The Countess of Moray remains at Stirling, and hath the government and keeping of the young Prince until the Queen's return to Stirling.”1

The interview between Queen Mary and Lethington was of a purely diplomatic character. She had been nduced by her brother Moray, during her visit to his uncle Mar at Alloa Castle, to accord her pardon to this specious traitor, notwithstanding the angry opposition of her husband. But Darnley having forfeited her confidence by his misconduct, she paid less attention to his passionate denunciations of Lethington's guilty proceedings in the plot for Riccio's murder, than to her cooler Premier's protestations of the innocence of his confederate, his devotion to her service, and the important use she might make of his talents for the good of her realm. Mary knew it was her duty as a Sovereign, to be guided by the advice of her minister rather than the caprices of her husband, who was at that time the most unpopular person in Scotland. Under these circumstances, she was persuaded to admit Lethington to her presence as the preliminary to reinstating him in his former office of Secretary of State.1 To avoid, however, the danger of a personal collision between him and her irascible consort, she ventured not to receive him at Stirling Castle, where she and Darnley were at that time holding their court as King and Queen of Scotland, but resorted to the foolish step of granting him a clandestine interview in the house of a person of inferior degree— with what privacy the English Warden's letter to Cecil has shown; and if the news reached Berwick so soon, it would not, of course, be very long in travelling from Willie Bell's house in the High Street of Stirling to Darnley's apartments in the Castle. That no scandals of the Queen were connected with the report sent to Cecil, must be attributed to the fact that Lethington was the confederate of Moray, and a secretservice man of England. It is certain that no incident of so suspicious a nature has ever been recorded in support of her alleged intimacy with Bothwell, who possessed neither the elegance of person nor the insinuating manners of the accomplished Secretary. But Darnley's jealousy was political, not personal; his anger was excited at the little regard the Queen paid to his marital authority in affairs of State, and by his being utterly excluded from any share in the government, while Moray, who had sinned far more deeply against her than he had ever done, had the whole guiding of her councils, and carried every measure in his despite. The dear-bought experience Darnley had acquired of Moray and his faction, during the fatal league he had made with them against his wife and Sovereign, was unavailing to preserve her from falling into the snares they were weaving round her. She could not be induced to believe his warnings; he had not deserved to be believed, and she imputed all he said to petulance, prejudice, and the evil promptings of his father, whose influence had proved fatal to her connubial peace.

1 Letter from Sir John Forster to Sir W. Cecil, dated Berwick, 8th Sep tember 1566. Inedited State Paper MS., Border Correspondence.

“ The Secretary," continues our authority,2" is appointed to be at Edinburgh the 11th of this instant with the Queen. There shall shortly be a Convention, to appoint them which shall have the government of the Prince. The Queen's coming to Edinburgh at this time is to sit in her Exchequer to understand her whole revenues, and to appoint what shall be for the keeping of her house and the young Prince's house. After the Convention it is thought the Secretary shall come to the Court, if the Parliament hold. The Queen hath her husband in small estimation, and the Earl of Lennox came not in her sight since the death of Davy."1

1 Letter from Sir John Forster to Sir W. Cecil, dated Berwick, 8th September 1566. Inedited State Paper MS., Border Correspondence.

2 Ibid.

The faults of the inexperienced Darnley, a petulant youth in his teens, were excusable in comparison with the guilt of his cold-hearted, plotting father, from whom, as Mary pathetically observed, “he ought to have had far different counsel.” She had forgiven Lennox for his treason against herself and her realm in her orphaned infancy, restored him to his estates, and loaded him with benefits; and he had in return, because she refused to violate her duty to God and her people by an illegal demission of her regal power to hands unmeet to exercise it, poisoned her consort's mind against her, and persuaded him to league with traitors within her realm, and outlawed rebels without, in the most atrocious of conspiracies against her person and authority, for the purpose of usurping her throne. He had imperilled her life, and that of her unborn babe, his grandson, by urging that the murder of David Riccio should be perpetrated in her presence, and allowed his son to commit himself irrevocably by basely introducing the band of assassins into her bedchamber, to agitate, menace, insult, and capture her. Nor should it be forgotten that he, her father-in-law and uncle, had assisted at a council where her death or life-long imprisonment had been decreed. Who, then, can wonder that she suffered him not to enter her presence again? The only marvel is, that, thus intolerably aggrieved, both as Sovereign and woman, by her own subject, she did not bring him to the block his offences had so richly merited. That Mary allowed Lennox to pass

1 Letter from Sir John Forster to Sir W. Cecil, dated Berwick, 8th September 1566. Inedited State Paper MS., Border Correspondence.

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