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A history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) online

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and so she had concentrated on her head the jealousy of Darnley ;
of the neglected Lethington ; of Morton, who feared to be deprived
of the seals ; of all the kindred of Murray and Ochiltree ; of Lennox,
who, in disgrace, lived apart in Glasgow, and longed to see his son,
Darnley, king indeed ; and, above all, Mary had alarmed the Kirk
and the Brethren. To defend her she had only Bothwell and
Huntly ; and she was marrying Huntly's sister, Lady Jane, to
Bothwell. The young lady was in love with Ogilvy of Boyne,
but she had to yield to the Border lord, who, after marriage, won
her heart.^^

Here, then, began the conspiracy to murder Riccio, and the
reason of Darnley's wrath is obvious. The wretched creature added
to his grievances about his shadow of ro3'alty the incredible state-
ment that Mary was Riccio's mistress, a charge which is not to be
accepted on the word of the angry boy, who had another cause of
offence. Ruthven declares that, when consulted (February 10), he
held aloof till about February 20, distrusting Darnley. None the
less, on February 1 3 Randolph wrote to Leicester thus : The
queen, he said, hates Darnley and all his kin. Darnley knows
that she is an adulteress. Riccio is to be slain within ten days.
Things are intended against Mary's own person. ^^ Darnley now
began to screw his courage to the sticking-point by hard drinking.
He took to whisky, aqua cof/iposiia, intoxicated the young French-
men who came with Rambouillet, was drunk and insolent to Mary
at a dinner in a burgess's house, and disgraced himself in an orgie
at Inchkeith, at least if we believe the tattle of Drury.^ It was
with this devout and drunken " king " that the discontented Lords
now allied themselves " to fortify and maintain " the Protestant
religion. Ruthven and George Douglas drew up bands. On one
side they were to be signed by Murray, Argyll, Glencairn, Rothes,
Boyd, Ochiltree (father-in-law of Knox), and "other complices."
Darnley signed for himself. The Lords were to take his part in all


quarrels " ivith whomsoever it be " (" lawful and just quarrels " in
some copies), including the queen (?), and they were to maintain
Protestantism, and Darnley's crown matrimonial, and succession,
thus excluding the Hamiltons, the legal heirs. Darnley was to
secure them from the consequences ^^ of whatsoever crime,'" and
restore the banished Lords, Murray and the rest. Murder is not
mentioned, but is included in "whatsoever crime." ^^

Meanwhile Darnley told Ruthven that he would slay Riccio
himself, even in the queen's chamber, if the deed was not hasted.
Ruthven thought this indecent, but named a day for Riccio's
death, " though he would have him rather to be judged by the
nobility." Mary and Darnley went to Seton (apparently on March
I and 2 ; Randolph says February 28),^"^ whence Darnley sent
letters urging Ruthven to action. In this interval Ruthven brought
Morton (related to Darnley) and Lindsay (whose wife was a
Douglas), with others, into the plot. In addition to the leaders
— Morton, the Ruthvens, father and son, Lindsay, and the bas-
tard George Douglas — were enrolled Andrew Ker of Faldonside ;
Douglas of Whittingham, worthy brother of the infamous Archibald
Douglas who took part in Riccio's as in Darnley's murder ; Cock-
burn of Ormistoun, Bothwell's old enemy ; Douglas of Lochleven ;
Sandilands of Calder; Patrick Bellenden, brother to Sir John
Bellenden ; Johnston of Westraw ; James Makgill, later so notor-
ious ; Alexander Ruthven, of a house later mixed up in the Gowrie
conspiracy of 1600; several retainers of Lethington ; but the majority
were Douglases. ^^ They were "to have their religion established"
" conform to Christ's Book," says Ruthven. " Conform to Christ's
Book " ! The plot is the re-arisen corpse of the old inveterate
Douglas treasons.

If we are to believe the analysis of a despatch (dated March 20)
from de Foix, in London, to Catherine de' Medici, ^^ Darnley had
found Mary's door locked, and been admitted, and discovered Riccio
in his shirt in her closet. Possibly this fable was told by Darnley
in his cups.

So the plot stood in the first days of March. Meanwhile Randolph
had been dismissed by Mary on the charge of aiding Murray with
3000 crowns, and he joined Bedford at Berwick. He had already
(February 25) announced Bothwell's marriage to a sister of Huntly,
and had reported to Cecil the bands between Darnley and the
nobles.^^ On March 6 Bedford and Randolph wrote to Cecil.


Darnley, they said, was determined to be present at the slaying of
Riccio, insisting on his adultery with Mary. Besides the nobles
mentioned already, Murray, said Randolph, was privy to the plots,
as were Lethington, Kirkcaldy of Grange, Randolph, and Bedford.^
On March 8 Bedford and Randolph reported that Murray would
arrive in Berwick on the 9th, and reach Edinburgh on Sunday,
" But that which is intended shall be executed before his coming
there." The stainless Murray had provided his alibi as usual. On
March 1 1 Bedford reported the death of Riccio.^^

In the interval between IMarch 6 and the murder, Mary, as we
saw, had arranged to reintroduce to Parliament members of the
Spiritual Estate, and (according to Ruthven's narrative) had herself
named the Lords of the Articles. Nothing, if this were true, could
be more unconstitutional. But, if we believe Ruthven, her nominees
had not consented to the attainder of Murray and of his allies. Mr
Froude avers that Mary "carried her point," and cites Knox, but
Knox's continuator does not exactly say so. He says " they were
still seeking proof, for there was no other way but that the queen
would have them " (Murray and his friends) " all attainted, albeit the
time was very short; the 12th of March should have been the day,
which was the Tuesday following." ^^

There are many accounts of the murder of Riccio.-^^ In the
evening of March 9, about eight o'clock, Morton was to enter the
chief room of Mary's suite by the great stair and gallery of Holyrood.
Darnley and Anthony Standen, with Ruthven, George Douglas, and
another (Morton later made George Bishop of Moray), invaded the
queen's boudoir by way of the privy staircase from Darnley's own
room. Mary, Lady Argyll, and Riccio were supping in the tiny
boudoir : Arthur Erskine was in attendance, with her brother. Lord
Robert. Darnley entered and put his arm round Mary's waist.
Behind him came the white face of the hated sorcerer lord, the
baleful mask of the dying Ruthven. Ruthven bade Riccio go
forth, and, by his own tale, gave a long account of the man's offences.
Darnley, says Mary, then denied that he knew anything of this enter-
prise. Apparently his cue was to have entered by accident, while
Ruthven had seized the chance to follow him. Riccio sheltered
himself behind Mary, "leaning back over the window." Ruthven
admits that he himself now drew his dagger, to resist Arthur Erskine,
Keith, and others. The crowd of Morton and his accomplices now
burst in from the outer chamber ; the table was upset. Lady Argyll



seized a candle as it fell ; Ruthven thrust Mary into Darnley's arms,
saying that no harm was intended to her. But Mary declares that
Riccio was stabbed at over her shoulder, and that pistols were
pointed at herself. All agree that Riccio was hurled forth of her
boudoir, and, though Ruthven says he bade the men take him to
Darnley's room, he was dragged to the outer chamber, and " slain
at the queen's fore-door in the other chamber." Either the thirst of
blood, or some movement below in the court by Huntly, Bothwell,
Atholl, Fleming, and Livingstone, caused the murderers to give
Riccio short shrift.

Mary says that Bothwell and the rest were also aimed at, and that
Sir James Balfour was to be hanged. Probably she learned this
later from Darnley, who may have lied. Ruthven, when Riccio had
been hurled forth, returned to Mary's room, where Darnley was, or
met the pair in Mary's great chamber. A dispute arose. Darnley,
says Ruthven, accused Mary of too great familiarity with Riccio since
September : now Mary became pregnant in November : Darnley was
thus destroying his son's legitimacy. Bedford, Lennox, and Ran-
dolph make him date the sin since November, or since the last Hvo
months. According to Ruthven, Mary cried, " I shall never like
well till I make you have as sorrowful a heart as I have at this
present." Ruthven fell into a chair and cried for wine, being sick :
Mary turned and menaced him : he said that Darnley was the cause,
"which he confessed to be true." Outside, there was a tumult in
the yard, Bothwell and his friends were at sword-strokes with the
murderers. They were brought to Bothwell's rooms, where Ruthven
told them all ; thence he went to Atholl's rooms, while Mary and
Darnley wrangled alone. She charged Darnley with having impeded
Murray's return, which is probable enough, especially if Murray (as
is said) had bribed Riccio with a diamond. Then the town tocsin
tolled to arms, and the citizens marched by torchlight on the palace.
Thereon in her chamber threats of " cutting her to collops," she
says, were uttered. Darnley bade the burgesses disperse, all was
well. Mary and Ruthven disputed over an enchanted ring which
he had given to her, and over her nomination of the Lords of the
Articles. How Darnley and Mary passed the night is differently
narrated : Bedford and Randolph have a tale based on a misunder-
standing of Ruthven, and not worthy of notice. Atholl withdrew to
his fastnesses. Bothwell and Huntly had escaped by a window.
Darnley now dismissed the Parliament : it is Ruthven who says


that his dagger was found in Riccio's side. So passed this night
of horror.

That jNIary did not die, considering her condition, may have
been a disappointment to the assassins. In an age when palace
floors often ran with blood, no ghastlier or more needlessly cruel
deed was wrought under pretence of religion. IMary is said, in
many versions, to have threatened revenge. Doubtless she medi-
tated revenge in her heart. But first she must escape. On the
morning after the murder she got leave to have her ladies with
her. Ruthven and Morton foresaw the result : she wrote and passed
her letters through to Argyll, Huntly, Bothwell, Atholl, and others.
After dinner she feared, or affected to fear, a miscarriage. In the
evening the banished Lords arrived, and Mary had a not unfriendly
interview with Murray.*^^ Next day Mary persuaded Darnley that
she was in a mood for general amnesties. Darnley had come to
calling INIary "a true princess, and he would set his life for what she
promised." Articles were drawn up, which Mary was to subscribe.
The Lords were induced, reluctantly, to remove their men from
the palace. On Tuesday morning they woke to find that the bird
had flown : Mary had extracted from Darnley all that he knew,
had cajoled him, and had escaped with him, by a secret way,
among the royal tombs. Lennox avers, in an unpublished MS.,
that, pausing at Riccio's new-made grave, Mary promised Darnley
that "a fatter than he should lie as low ere the year was out."
At a place near the ruined Abbey of Holyrood Arthur Erskine,
Standen, an English squire, Traquair, and another were waiting
with horses. Shortly they were within Dunbar, after a wild ride
through the night, and were safe. In a few days Mary had
pardoned and gained over Glencairn and Rothes : Ruthven and
Morton sped to Berwick, Bothwell and Huntly had joined her in
force, the country was summoned to meet her in arms, Murray
was forgiven (his accomplices bidding him act without regard to
them), the godly were filled with terror and amazement, and
Knox fled into Ayrshire. It is not worth while to discuss his
knowledge of the conspiracy : the evidence to that effect is
valueless. Darnley declared his own entire innocence. In
Bothwell Mary saw her preserver.

Presently, early in April or late in March, Randolph reports
that Mary has seen Darnley's bands with the Lords. ^^ Darnley
was thus at deadly feud both with the nobles whom he had


betrayed and with the vvife whom his insults had outraged. His
doom was sealed. Meantime the wretched lad was reaping the
contempt of mankind. He had denounced certain men, whose
guilt was known to him alone, and one of them was hanged
on April 2.^^ Lethington, who had certainly been in the plot,
had fled to Atholl at Dunkeld.^^ "All that belonged to Leth-
ington is given to Bothwell." ^'^ The lords murderers were put
to the horn on March 30, which they regarded as highly un-
constitutional. The queen was reconciling all feuds, and chiefly
(ill omen for Darnley) that between Murray and Bothwell.
Randolph believed that Mary was sending to Rome to sue
for a divorce (April 4). Worse still for Darnley, Joseph Riccio,
David's brother, with an Italian vendetta in his heart, became
Mary's private secretary. Some strange secret there was between
them as to diamonds of the queen's : a romance which hangs
thereon allures and evades the most curious research. On April 26
the Privy Council accepted sureties for poor, mad, forgotten Arran,
the friend of Knox, the wooer of two queens, the accuser of Both-
well. He was to dwell in Hamilton, not passing beyond a four-
mile radius.*^^ He was suffering from aphasia, and had to write what
he could not speak. ''•^ On May 6 Darnley wrote, in French, to
Charles IX. He denied the rumour accusing him of Riccio's
murder, "lequel j'aborre tant."^'' Vain falsehood! Darnley was
detested, and rumour said that he would fly to Flanders. On May
16 Morton, at Alnwick, reported the death of Ruthven, "so godly
that all men that saw it did rejoice." ^ The piety of these men
is more admirable than their crimes. Ruthven may have been
very godly. He only did what Knox calls " a just act and most
worthy of all praise." There is nothing to show that Knox
foreknew the deed ; but, far from reckoning it discreditable to
the Reformed Church, Knox deemed it " most worthy of all
praise." ^^

As Mary's hour was approaching, she and Darnley, so Randolph
heard (June 7), were reconciled. She made her will, and left, said
her accusers later, nothing to her husband. The will is not known
to exist, but an inventory of her personal jewels was discovered in
1854. Many bequests are therein made to Darnley, including her
wedding-ring.''^'^ The contempt into which Darnley had fallen, the
hatred which pursued him, were infinite. If he had an ally for a
week, it was Bothwell. " Murray and Argyll," wrote Randolph,

BIRTH OF JAMES VI, (1566). ' 165

have " such misliking of their king as never was more of man "
(May 13).''^ Claude Nau, Mary's secretary, inspired by her, says
that Huntly and Bothwell urged Darnley to ruin Murray, and
Lethington, who was unpardoned and in hiding. Morton, in a
letter from his English exile, corroborates Nau. Bothwell and
Darnley were trying to bring home the murderer, George Douglas,
to implicate Murray in the outrage of Holyrood. " The queen
likes nothing their desire," adds Morton."^ We must observe that
though Bothwell, who had organised a guard of musketeers for the
queen, was now high in favour, Mary was working in unison with
Murray. She protected him from Bothwell and Darnley ; despite
Bothwell's fury she restored Lethington (Murray siding with her)
to favour ; she would not let Bothwell lodge in the castle while she
lay in child-bed, but admitted Murray, Mar, Atholl, and Argyll."^
Though the jealous complained of Bothwell's favour with the queen,
history proves that at this period she invariably took Murray's side
when Murray and Bothwell differed in opinion.

Not in the blood-stained chambers of Holyrood, but in Scotland's
securest place, within the walls of the Castle of the Maiden, did
Mary give birth to her son. Sir James Melville had been waiting,
with horses saddled. On Wednesday, June 19, he was told the
news by Mary Beaton (herself now a bride), and he galloped out of
the gates to London. On Sunday he carried in the tidings : Cecil
told Elizabeth, and she moaned that " the Queen of Scotland was
lighter of a fair son, while she was but a barren stock." But Eliza-
beth (June 13) had wished Mary "brief pain and happy hour" in
accents that, for once, seem to ring true. Elizabeth's heir was born
at last, though scarce acknowledged till her awful hour of haunted
death. By June 24 an envoy of Elizabeth's, Killigrew, reported on
affairs in Edinburgh. Matters and men were "uncertain and dis-
quieted." Bothwell was in one of his Liddesdale holds, not liking
the junction of Mar, Murray, Atholl, and Argyll. Lethington had
been bound for Flanders, but retired to Argyll, as Bothwell, the
High Admiral, had vessels watching for him on the seas. Sir James
Balfour was being superseded by Lesley, Bishop of Ross, the

About June 25 the General Assembly met : it was the usual date,
and they complained of unpaid stipends.'''^ Poor Paul Methven
(who, we know, had an ancient woman to wife, and preferred a
younger lady) was bidden to appear, bareheaded, barefooted, and in

i66 "darxlev threatens Murray.

sackcloth, and stand a penitent at St Giles', also at Jedburgh and
Dundee. Paul persevered, though reluctantly, in penance at St
Giles' and at Jedburgh, but at Dundee he could endure it no
longer and returned to England. Bothwell ceased to go to sermon ;
Cassilis turned Presbyterian ; and Murray and Killigrew desired
Cecil's and Leicester's presence, "which would do much good to
religion." The good that Leicester could do religion is inconspic-
uous. It Avas desired that he should attend the royal child's
baptism, but that ceremony was long deferred.

Mary, early in August, wished to reconcile Murray, Bothwell, and
Lethington, and hoped to do so at Stirling on the 24th. In the last
days of July she had gone to Alloa, where Buchanan reports licentious
froUcs and harshness to Darnley. Mary may have gone secretly to
Alloa to escape Damley's company : she fared by water up the
Forth, Buchanan says, with Bothwell and his *' pirates." She
resided, Nau tells us, with the Earl of Mar, and the Mars were
always relatively reputable, for Scottish nobles of the age. Len-
nox avers that Mary disported herself at Stirling " in most un-
comely manner, arrayed in homely sort, dancing about the
market-place of the town." Probably there was some folks-
festival (there is one still at Queensferry, men going about
arrayed in flowers) at that date.""^ We know that the queen held
a meeting of the Privy Council at Alloa (July 28). The lawless
feuds of the age were denounced. Darnley and Mary declared
that they were about to make progresses through the realm, be-
ginning with the Borders. The lieges were ordered to meet their
highnesses, in arms, and with provisions for fifteen days, at Peebles
on August 13, and go on to Jedburgh, for the settling of the Border.
The Elliots proposed to skulk on the English side during this raid of
justice. All this was arranged at Alloa on July 28; but the thing
was postponed, and Mary went not to Jedburgh, and then to her
sorrow, till October 8 or gJ''

On August 3 Bedford reports that Mary and Darnley are separate
at bed and board, and that she concealed her movements from him,
and spoke of him in terms not to be repeated. Anonymous " In-
formations out of Scotland" (August 15) declare that Darnley had
threatened to kill Murray, and that Mary had reported the words to
her brother, '=" and informed him about a small instalment received
from the Pope's subsidy. Darnley had been hunting with Mary in
Meggatdale ; the sport was bad ; he was brutally insolent, and with-


drew from her company : in no company was he welcome. Mean-
while (September 5) Lethington dined at Stirling with Mary : his
peace seemed to be made. Murray and Mary welcomed him back ;
Bothwell fretted, but was unheeded. Lennox she had not seen
since the death of Riccio.'^^ By September 20 Lethington could
tell Cecil that Mary, in company with Murray, had made up the
feud between himself and Bothwell.^*^

Part of Mary's business in Edinburgh at this time was to under-
stand Exchequer affairs. Buchanan avers, in his * Detection,'
that in the Exchequer House Mary intrigued so scandalously with
Bothwell, a newly married man, that the tale reads like a story from'
Boccaccio. The date is given as September 24 in the list of events
called "Cecil's Journal." ^^ Buchanan not only owed certain favours
to Mary, and not only (it is possible) regarded these favours as un-
worthy rewards of his poetical begging-letters, but he was also a Lennox
man, a Darnleyite, by birth. He had thus several reasons for mak-
ing out the worst case against Mary, and has rather harmed his case
by overstating it. Whatever else occurred on September 24, the
Privy Council then summoned loyal lieges of the Border to meet
Mary and Darnley at Jedburgh on October 8.^"^

While Buchanan recounts the amorous misdeeds of Mary at
this time, a different complexion is given to matters by Mary's
Privy Council. Writing to Catherine de' Medici on October 8,
speaking of "ten or twelve days ago," — that is, September 26 to
28, — they say that Mary then came to Edinburgh on public
business by their desire. She wanted to bring Darnley ; but he
preferred to stay at Stirling, where Lennox, his father, visited
him. Lennox next wrote to Mary, warning her that, despite his
persuasions, Darnley had a ship ready, and meant to leave the
country by Michaelmas (September 29). Mary informed the
Council, who denounced Darnley's graceless behaviour. Mary,
behaving most graciously, tried to win Darnley from his moods,
and passed the night with him, but found early next day that he
was leaving for Stirling. The Council and du Croc met Darnley
in Mary's chamber, and blamed him for his ingratitude to his
wife and queen. Neither the lords nor Mary, si sage et vertueuse,
were conscious of any ofTence. Mary entreated him to explain
the cause of his anger, but nothing could be wrung out of Darn-
ley. Later he wrote to Mary, complaining that he had not his
due honours, and was shunned by the lords. Mary replied that


she had caused jealousy by honouring him even too much, and
that while the murderers of Riccio had entered her room soidz
son adieii (as if he had been taking leave of her when they burst
in), yet she had never been willing to believe in his guilt. As
for the nobles, if he would not be amiable he could not be loved ;
much less obeyed, to which the nobles would not assent.®^ We
do not know what nobles signed the letter of the Privy Council,
but the Privy Council was clearly siding with the queen. It is
quite certain that at this very date (October 1566) all the lords,
and Murray, signed a band against Darnley. Murray himself
admits that he signed a band early in October, and from other
sources we know that the band bound the nobles to protect
Mary against Darnley. Him they never would obey, as they also
wrote to Catherine de' Medici. The band (which Morton signed
in his English exile) said nothing of murdering Darnley. He
was merely to be put on one side as a thing without authority.^
Deserted, hated, shunned, conscious of a formal league against
him, Darnley " had a mind to go beyond sea in a sort of des-
peration."^^ Mary went to Jedburgh, arriving probably on
October 9 : she was bent on the expedition for justice on the
Borders, already arranged. Darnley loitered near Edinburgh, tak-
ing du Croc into the confidence of his chagrin and wounded
pride. *^^ There seems to be truth in Knox's continuator's tale
that Darnley wrote to the Pope, the King of Spain, and the
King of France, complaining that Mary neglected the Catholic
cause.^'^ Mary knew this, and was the more annoyed, as she
was trying to induce the Pope's nuncio, Laureo, to bring over
the long-delayed papal subsidy, many thousands of crowns of
gold. But Darnley, anxious to be a king indeed, thought to
gain his desire by winning over Mary's Catholic allies.

There was now, and was to be, slight question of restoring
Catholicism, or of striving for freedom of conscience. The day of
Mary's policy, so long prepared, so astutely and vigorously fol-
lowed, was over : the day of passion had begun. " Had begun,"
we infer it from Mary's later conduct, for the scandalous tales of
her debauchery, told by Buchanan, are of doubtful authority. One
thing is certain : Bothwell was no stupid Border ruffian merely,
but a man of courtly accomplishments and of letters. Two of

Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 18 of 60)