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

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his books, French treatises and translations on history and mili-
tary matters, remain to attest at once his love of reading and his


taste in bookbinding. Familiar with the Court and the wits of
France, he wrote French well, in the new Roman hand — elegant,
firm, and clear. At Carberry, later, du Croc admired in him "a
great captain," who could gaily quote an appropriate classical
anecdote. He was young, handsome, reckless ; he had been
loyal in Mary's utmost need, and he had the Byronic charm of
a reputation for mysterious guilt. Such a wooer needed no magic

From this point history becomes a mere criminal trial, wrangled
over by prejudice, and confused by dubious evidence. From the
contemporary Buchanan and Blackwood, to Froude and Skelton,
Schiern and Bresslau, the topic of Mary's guilt has been debated
by acute advocates rather than by historians. Authors like Buch-
anan have prejudiced their own case against Mary by palpable
naccuracies and exaggerations. The evidence is partly derived
from confessions of men condemned, in that age of judicial torture
especially suspicious. Much of it comes from partisan statements :
much from the disputed " Casket letters," attributed to Mary. But
while documents are disputable, and while the counsel against
Mary damage their own cause by their handling of papers, the
whole series of events begins to be conclusive against Mary's
innocence. On almost every individual fact a fight may be made
by the advocates of the queen. Each single damning event may
be plausibly contested or explained away. But the whole sway and
stream of occurrences moves steadily in favour of but one con-
clusion, — that Mary was at the very least conscious of, and was to
the highest degree of probability an active agent in, her husband's
murder. It is necessary, though tedious, to follow dates with as
much precision as possible. The paper called " Cecil's Journal," or
" Murray's Diary," used by Cecil in the pseudo-trial of the queen,
was a statement (far from accurate) of the case for the prosecution.
It gives the wounding of Bothwell by a Border reiver on October 7.
On October 8 "the queen was advertised," and hasted from Jed-
burgh, and from thence to the Hermitage, and contracted her
sickness.^^ Against this date of Mary's journey on the 8th we
have a letter of hers to the Pope, dated Edinburgh, October 9.^^
The ' Diurnal ' makes Mary leave Edinburgh on October 7, to
hold the court of justice " which was proclaimed to be held at
Jedburgh on the eighth day " of the same month.°*^

On the other hand, the headlong Buchanan, in his ' Detection,'


makes Mary speed from Borthwick to Hermitage as soon as she
heard of Bothwell's wound. This is given up by all writers :
Mary was at Jedburgh for about a week before (on October 15,
says the ' Diurnal ') she rode to Hermitage to see her wounded
officer. There was no frenzied haste : the journey, however, was
long, difficult, and dangerous. Buchanan makes Mary ride to
Hermitage with ruffians. If so, Murray was one of them.'-*^
Mary's health had never been sound : she now fell into a dan-
gerous illness on October 17. On the 23rd the Council —
Huntly (Chancellor), Murray, Atholl, and Lethington — reported
to Archbishop Beaton ; on the 24th du Croc wrote to the same
diplomatist, "The King" (Darnley) "is at Glasgow, and has not
come here. It is certain he has been told of the facts, and has
had time to come if he chose: I cannot excuse him."^^ But,
according to the ' Diurnal,' Darnley hastened to Jedburgh as soon
as he heard the bad news, arrived on October 28, "was not so
well entertained as he ought to have been," and returned on
October 29 to Edinburgh, and so to Stirling.^^ Meanwhile
Bothwell had been carried to Jedburgh, to recover from his
wounds. On the 25th he was able to attend a Privy Council.
Buchanan speaks here of his " guilty intercourse " with Mary, a
thing not very plausible in their circumstances.'^*

About November 10 Mary, having recovered, made a progress by
Kelso, Hume Castle, Berwick, and Dunbar, reaching Craigmillar
Castle, near Edinburgh, about November 24. Darnley visited her
somewhere about the 25th, but du Croc regarded reconciliation as
impossible, " unless God effectually put to his hand." Darnley
would not humble himself: INIary could not see him speak to
any lord without jealousy.^^ Mary was often heard to wish for

Now occurs the evidence of a document constantly cited as
"The Protestation of Huntly and Argyll." It is not contem-
porary with the events, nor is it signed. Says Dr Hay Fleming,
" It was drawn up by Lord Boyd's advice, ' conforme to the
Declaratioun ' Huntly had made to Bishop Lesley, and was sent by
Mary from Bolton on January 5, 1568-69, to Huntly, with a letter
directing him and Argyll to subscribe ; but leaving it to their dis-
cretion ' to eik and pair ' (add or subtract) ' as they thought most
necessary, before returning it to her signed and sealed.' The paper
was intercepted by Cecil, and never reached Huntly and Argyll," ^^


An unsigned document, to be altered at pleasure by the sub-
scribers, who never had a chance to subscribe, is poor evidence.
It avers that Murray and Lethington, at Craigmillar, aroused Argyll
from bed. They pointed out that Murray ought in honour to
secure the return of Morton. The best plan of winning Mary's
assent would be to find a mode of divorce between her and
Darnley. Argyll saw no way to it ; Lethington promised to dis-
cover a means if Murray and Huntly would merely look on " and
not be offended thereat." Huntly was brought, he and Argyll
were promised full restoration to lands and offices, all four men
added Bothwell to their number, and visited the queen. To her
they promised "to make divorce" without her intervention. Mary
said she would consent to a lawful divorce, if not prejudicial to
her son's legitimacy. Bothwell consoled her on that head, but
Mary suggested that she should retire to France. Lethington then,
in ambiguous terms, said that a way would be found, " and albeit
that my Lord of Murray be little less scrupulous for a Protestant
than your Grace is for a Papist, I am assured he will look through
his fingers thereto, and will behold our doings, saying nothing to
the same." Mary answered, " I will that ye do nothing whereby
any spot may be laid to my honour and conscience, and therefore
I pray you rather let the matter be as it is, abiding till God of his
goodness put remedy thereto ; lest ye, believing to do me service,
may possibly turn to my hurt and displeasure." Lethington
answered, " Let us guide the matter amongst us, and your Grace
shall see nothing but good, and approved by Parliament."

Much criticism has been bestowed, to no purpose, on these
statements.^ They are corroborated by a real manifesto of Mary's
party, signed by Huntly and Argyll, in September 1568. Mary,
some think, consented to let matters pass, or did not refuse.
Murray did not deny that some things were debated at Craig-
millar : he denied that in his presence anything unlawful or dis-
honourable was mooted, or that he had any knowledge (which is
not asserted in the Protestation) of signing any band.^^ Murray
doubtless referred here, not to the Protestation, but to what later
was confessed by Ormiston (not one of the Protestant Ormistoun
House in Lothian), that Huntly, Argyll, Lethington, and Sir James Bal-
four did sign a band for slaying Darnley. Hay of Talla said he had
seen the band, subscribed also by Bothwell and other lords, and
approved by Mary, and Bothwell told him (falsely, it would seem)


that Morton signed.^^ Confessions are not much to be trusted,
but nobody accused Murray of signing, nor does it appear why
he denied what was nowhere alleged. As to the whole affair,
Buchanan avers that Mary urged the nobles to procure a divorce
through annulling the papal dispensation (which, as Father Pollen
shows, probably arrived after she married Darnley) ; but when she
saw that the thing would not pass, "many of the nobles being
present," she meditated murder. By both versions the divorce
was discussed : the Protestation may contain an unknown element
of truth. " Of the truth of the main features there is no room
for doubt," says Mr Froude. Mr Froude's statement, from Calder-
wood, that Mary vowed " she would put hand to it herself," outruns
Buchanan even. Calderwood's tale is that she "would put hand
i7ito herself," commit suicide. ^°*' It is a pity that the prosecution
manages its case so badly.

The Craigmillar conference, as heretofore reported, leaves matters
as Maitland put them. He would find out a way, not illegal, of
getting rid of Darnley. The Lennox MSS. tell us, vaguely, and
without naming any authority, what that way was. Darnley was to be
arrested, there were plenty of grounds for an arrest, and killed if he
resisted. Lennox heard of this, he does not say how, and warned
Darnley, who left Stirling, after the baptism of his child, and joined
his father at Glasgow. Lennox wavers about the facts, which are
differently stated in three different indictments of Mary, composed
or corrected by him. Meanwhile two rumours flew about. Accord-
ing to the first, reported by one Walker, Darnley was plotting to
seize the infant prince and govern in his name. According to the
other, circulated by Hiegait, town clerk of Glasgow, Darnley was
to be arrested. Mary called the gossips before the Council : she
could find no consistency in their stories, and from a letter by
Walker, now at Hatfield, we know that she had him committed
to Edinburgh Castle.

The reports added to Mary's distresses at StirUng during the
feast for the baptism of James. Darnley sulked : Mary and he
quarrelled, and Lennox says that, when Darnley flushed, the queen
told him that he would benefit by being "a little daggered, and by
bleeding as much as my Lord Bothwell had lately done." The
French envoy, du Croc, refused to meet Darnley : we do not hear
that the English Ambassador made any advances. The child prince
was baptised, with Catholic rites, on December 1 7 ; a week later

THE AFFAIR OF HIEGAIT (1566-1567). 173

Morton and all the exiles for the cause of Riccio's death were
pardoned. The English Ambassador, Bedford, interceded for them,
as did the French Ambassador, Murray, and Bothwell. The ap-
proaching return of Morton and the others whom he had betrayed
probably caused Darnley to withdraw, as we have seen he did, to his
father's castle at Glasgow. There he fell ill, but Lennox in none of
his papers hints that Darnley had been poisoned. That allegation
is made by Buchanan. The disease was probably smallpox, as Bed-
ford avers ; it had broken out at Glasgow. -^"^ Bedford, from Berwick
(January 9, 1567), reports that Mary sent to Darnley her own physi-
cians : Buchanan says that she " would not suffer a physician to
come at him."

From one point of view, Mary now took a most suspicious
step. On December 23 she restored Archbishop Hamilton
to his consistorial jurisdiction : this, of course, that he might
divorce Bothwell from his bride. But Knox and the General
Assembly protested, and in his letter of January 9, just cited,
Bedford writes that, at Murray's request, Mary revoked her de-
cree. Mary had been staying at country houses : with Bothwell,
and for the worst purposes, say her accusers. About January 14,
Mary, returning from her country-house visits, took her child to
Holyrood. Thence, as she had done earlier, she wrote, offering
to visit Darnley. According to Lennox, in his MS. Indictments
of Mary, he sent an insulting verbal reply, " I wish Stirling to
be Jedburgh, and Glasgow to be the Hermitage, and I the Earl
Bothwell as I lie here, and then I doubt not but that she would be
quickly with me undesired." From the mention of Stirling, where
Mary was on January 2-13, her offer of a visit must have been made
thence soon after the beginning of Darnley's illness; and he must
have later repented of his rudeness and asked for a visit from the
queen. On January 20, 1567, Mary wrote to Archbishop Beaton
about the affair of Walker and Hiegait. She had heard, as we
saw, from Walker, a servant of the Archbishop's, that Hiegait,
another of the Archbishop's retainers, was telling about a plot of
Darnley's to seize and crown little James, and exercise government.
This was probably the plot about which the Spanish Ambassador
in London warned Beaton, and he the queen. Hiegait denied all
this : what he had heard was that Darnley should be laid in prison.
His authority was the Laird of Minto, who told Lennox, who told
Darnley. As for Darnley, Mary declared that her subjects con-


demned his behaviour ; and she would leave nothing evil for his
spies to observe in her conduct. ^*^-

Thus nothing, up to January 20, indicated that Mary had forgiven
Darnley, who had anew been rude about her proposed visit from
Stirling. On the 20th of January, according to two contemporary
Diaries,^°^ Mary left Edinburgh for Glasgow. She stayed, in Both-
well's company, at Lord Livingstone's house, and, according to Drury,
reached Glasgow on January 22. The paper called " Cecil's Journal,"
put in by her accusers, makes her arrive on the 23rd. Neither date
is consistent with the possible authenticity of the second of the guilty
Casket letters, alleged to have been written by Mary, and establish-
ing her crime. But she may have reached Glasgow on January 21.
What occurred at Glasgow ? The evidence rests (i) on the disputed
Casket letters ; (2) on dying confessions, and depositions under
torture; (3) on a disputed deposition of Crawford, a retainer of
Darnley. None of these is very good evidence, and Crawford's
deposition agrees with the Casket letter No. 2 only too sus-
piciously well. (See Appendix A., " Casket Letters.")

On the other hand, if we discredit all these sources, Mary's
conduct after Darnley's death remains an insoluble enigma. If
she had a passion, or a passionate caprice, for Bothwell (as the
debated evidence declares), all is clear and consistent in her be-
haviour. If these sources of evidence are absolutely baseless, we
can only suggest that she had an interval of extreme feebleness of
purpose. Briefly, the letters which she is alleged to have written to
Bothwell, the Casket letters, represent her as cajoling Darnley, dis-
cussing with him such matters as Hiegait's story, already spoken of,
and bringing him with her, as she did, to a small and decaying
religious dwelling hard by Edinburgh wall, the Kirk-o'-Field. The
place was well known to Bothwell — it belonged to an adherent of
his ; and in the adjacent house of the Hamiltons he had met Knox,
and been reconciled to Arran. This unsafe and unwholesome
dwelling, with doors absent or insecure, would not have been chosen
for a king's residence except for one purpose. There must have
been better sanatoria for a smallpox patient. Mary was often with
Darnley in the following days ; sometimes she passed the night in
the room beneath his, and she is said to have played music and
sung in the warm precincts of the garden in the genial darkness
of a Scottish February. Darnley at this time wrote a happy and
reassuring letter to Lennox, inserted in the Lennox MSS.


But he had grounds of anxiety; for Lennox, at least, declares
that he received a warning from Mary's brother, Lord Robert,
that he imparted this to Mary, and that Mary tried to bring on
a quarrel between her brother and her husband. As Murray was
present, she cannot have intended them to fight, as is averred.
Early on the morning of Sunday, February 9, Murray received
news that his wife was ill in Fifeshire : he went to comfort
her, and, as usual, secured his alibi. Mary supped with the
Bishop of Argyll, going on to Darnley's. Bothwell, with two
Ormistons ; Powrie, his porter ; George Dalgleish, his valet ;
young Hay of Talla ; and Hepburn of Bowton, carried powder
in two travelling - trunks, on a horse's back, within the grounds
of Darnley's house. While Mary was with Darnley on the first
floor, they moved the powder into her room on the ground-
floor, by way of a door giving on the garden (as the con-
fessions of the accomplices indicate), or stored it in a mine
under the house, according to another theory of the accusers.
Bothwell and his servant Paris, now in Mary's employment, then
went up to Darnley's room, when the queen rose, was reminded
that she had promised to grace the wedding -masque of her
servant, Bastian, at Holyrood, and returned thither on horseback,
men with torches walking before her. The conspirators saw the
lights, and Bothwell went back to the palace. They had left
Talla and Bowton, they say, locked up with the powder in
Mary's room. Bothwell changed his rich evening dress, and re-
turned to his accomplices at Kirk-o'-Field. Darnley, who was
not without apprehensions, had sung the fifth psalm and gone to
bed : a page named Taylor slept in his room.

What followed is wrapt in mystery. Long afterwards the dying
evidence of Morton averred that Archibald Douglas was on the
scene. Binning, a servant of Archibald, added that two brothers
of Lethington, and representatives of Sir James Balfour, were
there. That this was arranged between the conspirators is cor-
roborated by evidence of Hepburn of Bowton, which exists in
MS., but was suppressed by the accusers of Mary, among whom
were Lethington and Morton.^"* (The discovery of this fact
is due to Father Ryan, S.J.) It is certain that about 2 a.m.
of February 10 Darnley's house was blown up. His body and
that of Taylor were found, almost uninjured and not touched by
fire, Darnley's fur-lined velvet dressing-gown unscathed, in an ad-

176 DEATH OF DARNLEY (FEB. lo, 1567).

jacent garden. The contemporary opinion unanimously averred
that Darnley had been strangled or choked, with his servant, and
that their bodies were carried into the garden. A large com-
memorative picture, painted for Lennox, represents the assassins
seizing Darnley in bed. If this was done, the accomplices of
Bothwell denied all knowledge of it ; and though Archbishop
Hamilton is accused (by Buchanan) of sending ruffians to do
the deed, we have no evidence on the point. Mary's accusers
altered their versions, and their charges, just as in each case
seemed most convenient.^"''

" Over the events of that night," says Mr Froude, " a horrible
mist still hangs, unpenetrated and impenetrable for ever." This is,
indeed, true ; but Mr Froude's detailed narrative of the events about
which so little is known must remain a classical passage in English
literature. This great writer has felt himself justified in constructing
a story out of the disputable and sometimes self-contradictory con-
fessions of the underlings executed for the murder, and out of the
Casket letters, the epistles which her accusers declare that Mary
wrote to Bothwell. These sources of information are untrustworthy.
Many of the " pursuers " of Bothwell were themselves deep in the
plot : others, their allies, if personally guiltless, were acquainted
with their partners' guilt. Thus the confessions of Bothwell's
minor accomplices were garbled, to conceal the crime of Lething-
ton. Sir James Balfour, and the Douglases, till the party of the
accusers broke up, when evidence was at once produced, or manu-
factured, against the deserters. The chief points of doubt are,
whether Darnley was killed by the explosion, or strangled and
removed into the garden before the explosion occurred. If the
latter theory be correct (and it is that of the author of the
' Diurnal,' writing at the moment, as well as of Drury, and Moretta,
the Ambassador of Savoy, and all contemporaries), then two gangs
were engaged : Bothwell's party, which blew up the house ; and
another party, probably under Morton's cousin, Archibald Douglas,
brother of Douglas of Whittingham. But this element of the inquiry
was burked by the allied lords under Murray.

Secondly, Was the gunpowder placed in Mary's bedroom, under
that of Darnley, or " under the ground, and corner-stones, and
within the vaults," as the indictment against Morton runs ? This
is the story given also by Buchanan in his ' Detection.' lO" In
this latter case the guilt of Mary is not so apparent as if the


powder was placed in her bedroom, according to the confession
of Paris and other culprits. An interminable historical quarrel
rages around these questions. The curious point is that Buchanan
speaks of a mine, yet gives two confessions which allege that the
powder lay in Mary's bedroom. The authenticity of the various
confessions has been disputed. We may feel certain that they
were not forged in the mass ; on the other hand, omissions were
certainly made, and torture was certainly applied. The discrep-
ancies in statement are numerous ; but they are defended on the
ground that statements without discrepancies would be a proof of
correctness introduced by collusion.

As an example of the methods employed : the English edition of
Buchanan's ' Detection ' contains certain dying confessions made on
January 3, 1568. But we do not find in these what the 'Diurnal'
records — namely, Hay of Talla's confession, " in presence of the
whole people," that Bothwell, Huntly, Argyll, Lethington, Sir James
Balfour, and others made a band for Darnley's death, " to which the
queen's grace consented " : a remark made, doubtless, on the
strength of oral information, true or false, from Bothwell.^°^ The
second confession of Paris (1569), obviously under torture or fear of
torture, contains assertions about his open discussion of the deed
with Mary which border on the incredible. While the depositions
and confessions attest the strewing of the powder in Mary's bed-
room, every account of the effects of the explosion makes it seem
more probable that the powder was really laid in the vaults on which
old Scottish houses are usually built. Hepburn of Bowton's con-
fession that Bothwell, till within a day or two of the murder, meant
to slay Darnley " in the fields," harmonises ill with the passages in
which Paris makes Bothwell examine the entrances of the house,
and provide fourteen false keys, a fortnight before the explosion.
Where the evidence is so perplexed and veiled, certainty is im-
possible.^'*^ On the author's mind the impression that Darnley and
his page were strangled, not blown for many yards through the air,
is decidedly the stronger. The account of Nau, Mary's secretary,
published by Father Stevenson, is seldom cited here : it is what
Mary wished to be believed. But Nau's statement that Mary, seeing
Paris after he had been at work with the powder, exclaimed, " Jesu !
Paris, how begrimed you are," has a natural ring about it ; and, un-
luckily, if Paris was begrimed, then Mary ought to have inferred
that his master, Bothwell, was the murderer.




^ Calendar, ii. 190. - Calendar, ii. 185-187.

" Keith, iii. 228-232. * Keith, ut stipra ; Calendar, ii. 191-193.

° Knox, ii. 497, 498. ® For. Cal. Eliz., 1565, 464.

'' Teulet, ii. 93. Compare Hay Fleming, pp. 380, 381.

5 Froude, vii. 318, 319. The italics are my own.

^ Calendar, ii. 202. •'^ Teulet, ii. 53, 54.

" Calendar, ii. 207. ^- Teulet, ii. 74. ^* Calendar, ii. 217.

^^ Froude, vii. 335 ; For. Cal. Eliz., vii. 480. ^* Froude, vii. 338.

'S Bedford to Cecil, For. Cal. Ehz., 1565, 491. ^"^ Calendar, ii. 224.

1* Calendar, ii. 227, 228. ^^ Hay Fleming, p. 368.

-» Calendar, ii. 228; Froude, vii. 348, 349; Melville, 135, 136 (1827). It
appears that Mr Froude read "she" in place of "he" in the official report.
Calendar, ii. 228, line 25, " whyther he were ever privee," et seq.

-1 Knox, ii. 513. ~ Calendar, ii. 217, Cockburn to Cecil, October 2.

'^•^ Calendar, November 8, ii. 235. -^ Calendar, ii. 242,

'■^^ Knox, ii. 520 ; Randolph in Calendar, ii. 236-241.

-* Buchanan, fol. 210. -'' Keith, ii. 399.

2S pj-ivy Council Register, i. 413. ^^ Calendar, ii. 248.

"" Lennox MSS. in Cambridge University Library.

^1 Hay Fleming, p. 3S2. M'Crie, citing Lochleven Papers.

^- Privy Council Register, i. 338-343.

^^ Labanoff, i. 281. ^4 Knox, ii. 283.

35 Privy Council Register, i. 372. ^^ Keith, ii. 412, 413.

^" Forbes Leith, Narratives of Scottish Catholics, p. 108.

^^ Calendar, ii. 247. '^^ Labanoff, vii. 107.

■*" Hay Fleming, p. 380. The conflicting evidence may be studied in Dr Hay

Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 19 of 60)