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

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and half clad, and her aspect bred some pity. She is reported to
have written a love-letter to Bothwell, which was betrayed by the
bearer. If this were true, the letter would have been produced
with the casket letters. But the story, with Lethington's statement
that, in conversation with him, she declined to abandon Bothwell,
gave the lords an excuse for holding her as a prisoner.^* Accord-
ing to Melville, Grange resented her treatment : it was to him that
she had yielded herself. The letter, however, impeded Grange's
desire to help her. The circumstances are obscure, but may partly
account for Grange's later attitude.

Here it is to be remarked that Nau, Mary's secretary, gives an
account of the whole circumstances which cannot be neglected.
Mary, when taken at Carberry, accused Morton of a hand in
Darnley's murder, and of this fact we have independent evidence.
Nau also alleges that Bothwell, at their last parting on the field,
gave Mary a copy of the murder band with signatures. Thus
informed, Mary, on the day after Carberry (June i6), accused
Lethington of his part in the deed. There is good reason to
believe, from Mary's letters to Sir James Balfour, before the fall
of Morton (1581), that Mary did not possess the murder band.
But some document she had. At Lochleven, in prison, she was
heard to say that she possessed " that in black and white which
would cause Lethington to hang by the neck " ; so a letter in the
Lennox MSS. declares. Therefore, on June 16, in an interview
with Lethington (says Nau), she told him what she knew of his
guilt. A few weeks ago she had saved his life at her own peril,
placing her body between him and Bothwell's dirk, in the ruelle
of her bedroom. And now Lethington was the most cruel of her


captors. As a fact, she detested him henceforth, ahve and dead,
as is proved by the Memoirs of Nau. Lethington of course gave
a very different account of their interview on June 16, while she
was a prisoner in Edinburgh. He posed as a man reluctantly
obliged to leave her cause, but most anxious to serve her if he
could. Nay, he presently did try to conciliate her, but (as Ran-
dolph plainly told him in a letter of a later date) not till he had
failed to induce the lords to put her to death. As she lived, and
as she had proof of his guilt in Darnley's murder, he was compelled
to conciliate her. We shall find that, while he showed the casket
letters, privately, to the English commissioners at York (October
1568), to attain a special end, he next tried to shake the belief of
Norfolk in the authenticity of the letters, and opposed their public
production at Westminster. Once the letters were widely known,
Lethington had shot his bolt, while hers, her proof of his guilt,
was in her quiver. Thus he was forced into her service later, and
died in it, unforgiven. By this theory, previously unknown to our
historians, the strangely tortuous later policy of Lethington may be
explained. His ruin was the signing of the murder band, a thing
which he should have foreseen to be hostile to his interests, as it
left Mary at the mercy of Bothwell, his deadly foe. Meanwhile,
in Edinburgh, after Carberry, Mary found in Lethington a measure
of ingratitude which made him, of all men, the most hateful in
her eyes. He produced, on the mind of du Croc, the impres-
sion that Mary was guilty. " The mihappy facts are only too well
proved." ^^

Later, Mary was led to Holyrood under an escort bearing the
banner painted with the death of Darnley. She tried to send a
message to Sir James Balfour, praying him to keep the castle for
her, but that wretch had been making his peace with the lords. She
begged her maid to implore for the pity and kindness of Lethington,
whom she had saved from the brutal threats of Bothwell. So wrote
James Beaton to his brother, the Archbishop, in Paris.^^ At mid-
night she was hurried to the Castle of Lochleven, on the little island
near the northern shore of the loch. The lord of the castle was Sir
William Douglas, half-brother of Mary's own half-brother, the Earl of
Murray. Here, in the narrow chambers of the tower on the islet, she
could draw breath, and know herself deserted, stripped of everything,
insulted, and in peril of death, all for "a little of dear-bought love."
That Mary parted from Bothwell readily, and did not love him, is the


argument of Mi Hosack. What evidence exists looks contrary to this
opinion. The lords were now safe for the moment. Bothwell had
fled to Spynie, the castle of his aged kinsman, the Bishop of Murray,
whence he retired to his new duchy, the Orkney Islands. Mary was
secured in a prison, where she soon fascinated Ruthven (she declared,
through Nau, that he insulted her by his passion), and won over most
of the dwellers in the little isle. Ehzabeth was writing severe letters
to Mary, and threatening the lords if they injured her. Presently
she sent Throckmorton, an unwilling envoy, to see Mary, if possible,
and to take measures for her protection. Elizabeth wished the child
prince to be conveyed to England ; du Croc desired that he might
be removed to France : the lords could play alternately on French
and English ambition. This was their strength, at once against the
queen's party (the Hamiltons, with Argyll and Huntly) and the
anger of Elizabeth. But their legal position was bad : they were
certainly rebels, and in danger while Mary lived and was uncon-
demned. That she should die, after or before legal condemnation,
was the eager desire of the populace and the preachers.

At this critical moment (June 19-21) Dalgleish, a servant of Both-
•well's, visited the castle, was arrested, and was found in possession
of a small casket, silver gilt, a present from Mary to Bothwell. The
casket, according to a formal statement of Morton's before Elizabeth's
commissioners in December 1568, was forced open in the presence
of himself and of many gentlemen, including Lethington, Atholl,
Home, and Archibald Douglas, cousin of Morton, and one of Darn-
ley's murderers.^" The contents of the coffer were the celebrated
incriminating " casket letters " of Mary to Bothwell, her " sonnets,"
and a promise of marriage. The question of the authenticity of
these MSS. is discussed in an appendix (A). Meanwhile, genuine
or not, they furnished a secret reserve of strength to the lords, as
justifying their treatment of the guilty Mary. Dalgleish's deposition
contains no word of the casket, but this is unimportant. He could
know nothing of its contents.^^ An important point to note, though
our historians have overlooked it, is this : on June 21, the day of the
inspection of the casket papers, a messenger was sent post-haste, "on
sudden despatch," by the lords to Cecil. He bore a letter from
Lethington, who, since Bothwell carried him and Mary off on April
24, had not sat in the Privy Council : his name does not occur even
in the list of June 21. From Lethington's letter, and from the cir-
cumstances, it is plain that the messenger, George Douglas, carried


a verbal message about the contents of the casket to Cecil, and also
to Robert Melville, who had been sent to London by Mary and
Bothwell on June 5. He had also, secretly, carried messages
from the lords, who were preparing to rise in arms. Melville
argued with Elizabeth on Mary's side. Probably it was he who
induced Elizabeth to express to the Spanish Ambassador her dis-
belief in the authenticity of the letters, and her opinion that
Lethington had " acted badly in that matter." Nor is it impos-
sible that Lethington had tampered with the papers. For several
days Lethington had been in touch with Sir James Balfour, the
custodian of the casket, and Randolph accuses Lethington and
Balfour of opening a small casket or coffer of Bothwell's, covered
with green velvet (as we know that such coffers usually were),
and of abstracting the band for Darnley's murder. They who
abstracted one paper could insert or alter others.^^

As late as July 21, a month after the capture of the casket, the
lords still proclaimed that Bothwell had " treasonably ravished her
majesty's most noble person," though, if they believed the letters,
he had done nothing of the kind.'**' Probably they were keeping
back their strongest card ; but their conduct was highly incon-
sistent. Presently they were obliged to play their card. By July
14 Throckmorton was in Edinburgh, to save Mary if he could.
He found himself in hard case. He dared not attempt, as Eliza-
beth desired, to prevent Parliament from meeting (in December).
Lethington let him see that France counterbalanced England at
this juncture. The general rage' against Mary was violent. A
movement of the Hamiltons had come to nothing : they really
threatened action, the ambassador thought, merely to drive the
lords to kill Mary, and leave only her child between them and the
crown. Throckmorton and de Lignerolles, the French envoy,
were not allowed to visit Mary. She refused to be divorced from
Bothwell, urging (it seems truly) that she was with child by him.
The lords at first spoke " reverently and charitably " of Mary ; but
on July 24 Lindsay visited her at Lochleven, and extorted her
signature to her abdication, and to the appointment of Murray as
Regent, or, failing him, of a Council. As early as July iS Throck-
morton reported that Mary had herself proposed, in a letter, thus
to " commit the realm " to Murray, or to the same committee."*^
She did not even reserve her nominal queenship. This, if true,
is curious, and does not suggest that threats were needed on July


24, when the abdication was signed. Had the casket letters been
used to put pressure on Mary ? This we do not know. Murray's
wife was with her, on very friendly terms. On July 25 Throck-
morton wrote that, if Mary would not abdicate, the lords meant
to charge her (i) with "tyranny" for not keeping the laws of the
illegal Parliament of 1560; (2) with incontinency with Bothwell
"and others"; (3) "They mean to charge her with the murder of
her husband, whereof they say they have proof by the testimony
of her own handwriting as also by sufficient witnesses." The
Lennox MSS. speak of witnesses who saw Mary in male costume
at her husband's murder. They were never produced : it was a
fable. The lords invited Throckmorton to the coronation of James
VI. at Stirling on July 29. Throckmorton declined to go, Knox
preached, and the preachers had already attacked him.*- But this,
of course, was not his motive for refusal. In his opinion he had
preserved Mary's life.*^

On August 1 1 Murray, who had taken London on his way from
France, reached Edinburgh. On the 15 th he revisited Mary at
Lochleven. He had not come too early.'*^ Tullibardine (appar-
ently a man of honour) and Lethington separately informed
Throckmorton that envoys had come from the Archbishop of St
Andrews, and that Duncan Forbes had been sent to the lords by
Huntly. The queen's party, by these messengers, promised to join
the lords if they would kill the queen. ^^ Murray, after his arrival,
spoke as bitterly as any man " against the tragedy " of Darnley
"and the players therein" (August 12). He had, however, stayed
at Whittingham with the brother of Archibald Douglas, one of the
murderers, on his way to Edinburgh.*^ He was " in great com-
miseration for the queen, his sister," though he knew, and had told
de Silva, about her alleged long murderous letter to Bothwell, — a
letter never produced, for it is not letter ii. of the casket series. '^'^
As to Murray's dealing with his sister, Throckmorton informed
Elizabeth on August 20. First, Murray, Atholl, and Morton
together met the queen, who wept, and drew Murray apart. Murray
spoke in darkling and ambiguous terms. They had a later con-
versation, till an hour after midnight, Murray behaving "like a
ghostly father rather than a counsellor." He left her to go to bed
" in hope of nothing but God's mercy " — that is, with a prospect of
imminent death. Next morning he promised her life, and, as far as
he could, "the preservation of her honour." Thereon the poor


queen kissed him, and asked him (it was her only chance) to be
Regent. So he yielded : he would take the regency, and also take
care of her jewels. (Some he sold, others of the best he intrusted
to his wife.) All this Murray told Throckmorton, adding that the
promise of life was conditional — and depended on his power to
assure her safety. The affair was adroitly managed, but historians
differ as to the candour and disinterestedness of Murray.*^ Mr
Froude speaks of Murray as " the one man in all the world who
loved her" (Mary) "as his father's daughter, who had no guilt on
his heart, like so many of those who were clamouring for her death."
Murray had guilt enough on his heart : he had been made privy to
Riccio's murder, and few can doubt that he concealed his fore-
knowledge of the plot to murder Darnley. Then as to the " others,"
— Lethington, Morton, Balfl)ur, and the rest, who were conspirators,
active or passive, to kill Darnley, — what had Murray to say to Mary ?
He warned her to bear no " revenge to the lords and others who
had sought her reformation.^'' *^ Murray himself actually told Throck-
morton that he had lectured Mary about " the lords who sought her
reformation " !

"Thenceforth," says Mr Froude, "she hated him with an in-
tensity to which her past dislike was pale and colourless." It is
no marvel if she did hate him, as men hate Pecksniff or Tar-
tuffe. Murray cannot have been ambitious of the regency, Mr
Froude thinks, because " a less tempting prospect to personal
ambition has been rarely offered." Yet for the regency, or the
crown, with authority over a poor, fierce, treacherous, and now
hypocritical band of high-born ruffians. Houses and men were ready
to brave all perils and to attempt all crimes. The feeble Lenno.x
presently grasped at the same power, and his ambition had the same
end. Much has been written about the character of Murray ; but
no minutely critical account of his life and character exists. He
has fascinated some students ; in others, not especially favourable
to Mary, as in Tytler and Monsieur Philippson, he has excited either
suspicion or loathing. At this moment, and during his regency,
he had a most invidious task. His courage and his self-restraint
have never been doubted : his character was free from the sensual
vices, and it is probable that his religion was sincere. In accepting
the regency, and steering the State through perilous passages of
time, he did his duty with patience and fortitude. It was a duty
that some one must do. But when he plays " the ghostly father," —



when he tells his sister that the lords desired her " reformation," —
we must regard him either as innocent beyond the innocence of
childhood or as an accomplished hypocrite. He came to Mary
from the Council, where he sat with men banded to procure her
late husband's murder, and with men who, knowing that the deed
was planned, as he himself must have known it, had cowardly held
their peace. He himself, on his passage through England, had
not concealed his sister's shame. On the strength of a report of a
letter of Mary's, a letter which, as described by de Silva from
Murray's report, never was in existence, he had revealed her guilt
(Mr Froude informs us) to the ambassador of an " Idolatrous "
Power. This was the kinsman who, Mr Froude tells us, assured
her that " if possible he would shield her reputation, and prevent
the publication of her letters." ^^

Mary's own account of her interview with Murray, in Claude
Nau, naturally differs much from Murray's version to Throck-
morton. The part which Murray played, in his private relations
with his sister, cannot be made to appear graceful or magnani-
mous. But he could not possibly release her from prison without
provoking civil war. Lethington and he made Throckmorton
understand that, if hard pressed by Elizabeth, they had no refuge
from ruin except by justifying their conduct (with the aid of the
casket letters probably) and proceeding to extremities. Elizabeth
might, and did, intrigue with the Hamiltons, but " we have in
our . hands to make the accord " (with the Hamiltons) " when we
will." Lethington doubtless meant to repeat his previous state-
ment, that if the lords put Mary to death, the Hamiltons would
join them.^^ Murray declared that he would spend his life in the
cause of reducing all men to obedience in the king's name. He
kept his promise ; and for the hour he saved Scotland from the
civil war which Elizabeth would fain have lighted. He awed the
western and northern malcontents, and Throckmorton withdrew to
England. Murray then secured his authority by prudent measures.
Balfour, for a large consideration, resigned Edinburgh Castle, of
which Kirkcaldy, to his undoing, was appointed captain. He had
just failed to catch Bothwell in the Orkney Isles. Dunbar Castle,
strongly held for Bothwell, capitulated on October i. A few days
later Bothwell was summoned to appear at Parliament in December,
and Sir William Stewart, the herald, was sent to Denmark to de-
mand Bothwell's extradition. This Stewart was later burned on a


charge of sorcery at St Andrews, doubtless, really, for some political

Presently (October 28) Drury reported that INIary was on too
good terms with George Douglas, younger brother of William
Douglas of Lochleven, her jailer. Not much is ascertained as to
their love-affair, if love-affair there was, but Mary had already found
and won the author of her deliverance. That the lords would keep
her prisoner while they could was assured in the Parliament of
December, when they acquitted themselves of rebellion by an Act
announcing that they had proof of her guilt in the casket letters. ^^
They declined to allow her to appear in person, and plead her own
cause. She would have exposed Morton and Lethington, perhaps
with others.

Before this Parliament Murray had tried to restore order on the
Marches by hanging and drowning a number of rievers at Hawick.^^
The Black Laird of Ormiston, one of Darnley's murderers, made
his escape. The severities of Murray, however needful, did not in-
crease his popularity, which^was probably still more diminished by
the public confession of Ray, younger of Talla, when executed for
Darnley's murder on January 3, 1568. He declared that Huntly,
Argyll, Lethington, Sir James Balfour, " with divers other nobles," had
signed the band for Darnley's murder, " whereto the queen's grace
consented," according to the ' Diurnal.' Public indignation caused
the men denounced to leave Edinburgh, so that the alleged destruc-
tion of the band had been of no avail, the secret was out, and
Murray's party was now rent by internal suspicions.^* Moreover,
the intolerance of Murray, in re-enacting the penal statutes of 1560,
helped to break Scotland into divisions. Catholic noblemen like
AthoU were driven into the arms of the Hamiltons. Murray's oath,
as Regent, bound him to " root out all heretics and enemies to the
true worship of God, that shall be convicted by the True Kirk of
God of the aforesaid crimes." ^^ But presently we find Murray
offering to renew the ancient league with idolatrous France, and
offering his humblest service to the French king and Catherine de'
Medici. Murray was not "a consistent walker." ^^ He was soon
selling Mary's pearls secretly to Elizabeth.^'' Ballads about the
shielding of the chief conspirators to murder Darnley, now members
of the Government pledged to avenge Darnley, rained upon the

In Lochleven Mary had found means to write, and send letters,


though rarely, and at peril of her life. On May i she wrote en-
treating aid from Elizabeth and Catherine de' Medici. She had no
opportunity save at the dinner-time of the Douglas family, "for
their girls sleep with me." Her friend, George Douglas, had been
banished from the islet after her failure to escape (March 25) in the
disguise of a laundress. Her letters were sent on the eve of her
escape, on May 2. The romantic details — the stealing of the keys
by " little Douglas " (William, a foundling lad of seventeen) ; the
casting by him of the keys " to the kelpie's keeping " ; the landing,
under the protection of George Douglas ; the meeting with Both-
well's kinsman, Hepburn of Riccartoun, who was sent, too late, to
secure Dunbar ; the wild ride to Seton's house of Longniddry, and
the tryst with the queen's party at Hamilton — are too well known to
need a minute narrative. If we believe Claude Nau, the queen's
secretary, the key was thrown into the mouth of a cannon, natheless
the keys were long after recovered from the lake. It seems probable
that the lady of Lochleven, Murray's mother, was no stranger to the

Murray at once summoned the king's party to meet at Glasgow.
He collected the forces of the Protestant lords in general, though
Argyll was with Mary. There exists a curious proclamation, drawn
up by her or for her — at all events it is attributed to her. Murray
is referred to as a " beastly " and " bastard " traitor : the Hamiltons
are " that good House of Hamilton." The language used about
Lethington is copious and florid. Yet at this date (May 6) Leth-
ington and the other " beastly traitor " were reported to be on bad
terms. ^^ Probably the proclamation is a hoax, or never was issued,
Dr Hay Fleming publishes a reasonable and clement proclamation
of May 5.^^ Willingly, or unwillingly (accounts differ), Mary on
May 13 tried the ordeal of battle. She approached Glasgow, on
her way to the strong Castle of Dumbarton ; she was met at Lang-
side, and the tactics of Kirkcaldy, the better discipline of Murray's
men, and a fit of epilepsy or cowardice on the part of Argyll, caused
her entire defeat. Murray occupied Langside Hill, "the western
division of Queen's Park " to-day; while Kirkcaldy, mounting 200
musketeers behind horsemen for better speed, stationed these marks-
men under cover in the cottages and enclosures of Langside village.
Murray followed with his infantry, his left wing extending behind
the farm of Pathhead. The right wing held the village of Langside,
at the crest of the Lang Loan. Mary had been anticipated in


seizing the hill, and from Clincart Hill there began an artillery duel.
Under cover of the fire the Hamiltons, first passing behind Clincart
Hill, advanced to storm the village, supported by the cavalry under
Lord Herries, Warden of the Western Marches. Drumlanrig led
Murray's horse against Herries, who had one successful and one
disastrous charge. Routed by the archers, Herries could not aid
the Hamiltons, who, climbing the long narrow lane, were galled by
Murray's musketeers. Finally the infantry of both parties drove at
each other with levelled spears, so serried, owing to the narrow
space, that the missiles thrown, pistols and daggers, lay as on a floor
of interlaced lance-shafts. Kirkcaldy led fresh troops from the
village, charged the Hamiltons on front and flank, and drove them
pell-mell downhill on the queen's main body. The rout began,
slaughter being checked by the activity and clemency of Murray.
Many prisoners were taken, such as Seton and the Masters of
Eglinton and Cassilis. Knox's father-in-law. Lord Ochiltree, and
his successor in the affections of Mrs Knox, Ker of Faldonside, were
severely wounded. From the Court Knowe of Cathcart, a hundred
yards from Cathcart Castle, Mary probably looked on at her own

Mary fled south to Herries's country, covering sixty miles in the
first day, and writing to Elizabeth from Dundrennan on May 15.
She implored leave to visit Elizabeth at once : next day she most
unadvisedly crossed the Solway to Workington, accompanied by
Herries, George Douglas, and fourteen others. She had entered
without a passport the realm of her deadliest foe : the rest of her
life was a long imprisonment. From this hour Mary became a kind
of centre on which concentrated every wave of all the electric forces
of European politics. Nothing could stir, in France, Spain, Rome,
England, or Scotland, but it offered her chances. It is not possible,
in our space, even to condense the record of each of the hourly
wavering policies. The position was, and remained, one of extra-
ordinary perplexity. But one point was fixed, in Elizabeth's name,

Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 21 of 60)