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

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from the first. " Let none of them escape ! "^^ While Mary lay in
Carlisle, first under Lowther, then under Knollys, acting for North-
umberland, Cecil drew up balanced memorials which contain the
pros and cons of the situation. Mary deserved help as a voluntary
suppliant who had received many promises of aid. Her subjects
had seized and condemned her unheard. She off"ers to acquit her-
self of Darnley's death in Elizabeth's presence. No private person


even should be condemned unheard. She offers to accuse her sub-
jects. But she is guilty of all the sins imputed to her.^-

If she were, we may say, that was no affair to be judged by
Elizabeth. England was reasserting the old claim of Edward I.
to judge Balliol, and that, of all things, would most infuriate the
Scots. Mary was asking for one of two things : a personal meet-
ing with Elizabeth, when she would exculpate herself, or leave to
go free and seek aid elsewhere. It was highly unjust and dis-
honourable to reject both pleas, but it was inevitably expedient.
If set free, she might go to France and revive the old claim to
the English crown, an offence unexpiated and unforgiven. The
ancient league would be restored : French forces would again enter
Scotland : Protestantism in both countries would be endangered.
If she returned to Scotland, under whatever limitations, the dangers
to England were manifest. If she remained in England, she would
make a party among the Catholics, and revive her claim to the
crown, while France or Spain might intervene. Such were the
three courses ; and the last alternative, to keep Mary prisoner,
was resolved upon as manifestly the least dangerous. But this
policy might be less unfavourably coloured by drawing Mary into
any kind of suit against her rebels. Before Elizabeth Mary must not
be heard in person : her subjects must be heard ; and Mary might
be so much discredited, without injuring the common cause of royalty
by a verdict of "Guilty," that she would be ruined in the eyes of
Catholics. But how was Mary to be led into consenting to any kind
of trial before Elizabeth ? Clearly by leading her to believe that an
appeal to Elizabeth could only end in her restoration.

On May 28 she accredited Herries to Elizabeth, and sent
Fleming, in the hope that he would be allowed to go to France.
This Elizabeth forbade : Fleming was captain of Dumbarton
Castle, the French gate to Scotland. As to Herries's mission,
Elizabeth (June 8) told Mary that she could not see her till
her case was clear. "You put in my hands the handling of this
business." Now Mary had only said (May 28) that she desired
an interview with Elizabeth, and to tell her the truth, "against
all their lies."^^ To Murray, on June 8, Elizabeth wrote that
Mary "is committing the ordering of her cause to us." She then
bade Murray drop military and legal proceedings against Mary's
adherents, which he did not do. Herries was led to believe that
Elizabeth "intends to proceed in my sovereign's cause." '^'^ One


Middlemore was now sent to see Mary, and go on to Murray. As
Mary found his messages dilatory and discouraging, she avowed that
she "had no judge but God." Elizabeth was allowing Murray to
come, as an accuser, into her presence. Mary, the accused, she
would not admit. Mary expressed her desire to meet Lethington
and Morton, before Elizabeth, face to face,^^ She openly said that
she would prove the guilt of Lethington and Morton as to Darnley.
Nothing of her prayers was ever granted : the entire proceedings
were a tissue of duplicity and dishonour. Mary's attitude through-
out is expressed in one line, " I have offered you Westminster Hall."
There, before the peers of England and the foreign ambassadors, she
would retort on and expose her guilty accusers. She would accuse
her rebels face to face, but she would not plead her own cause against
them. Yet she drifted into the shuffling inquiry which followed.

Leaving Carlisle, Middlemore joined Murray, who was persecuting
Herries and Lochinvar in Galloway. Murray informed Elizabeth
that, as she meant to hold a solemn trial, he and his allies were loath
to accuse their queen. But what would Elizabeth do if they proved
their case ? Would the casket letters, of which he had sent a Scots
translation, by John Wood, his retainer, be held as full proof if the
originals, when presented, agreed with the translations.*^*^ Murray's
proposal is of June 22. On June 19 du Croc reported that Elizabeth
had publicly discoursed with Herries. She said that she was deter-
mined to restore Mary, or reconcile her to her lords. She therefore
wished each party to send to her one commissioner. Herries said
that he did not think Mary, a sovereign herself, would accept Eliz-
abeth as a judge. He was ready to assent to a visit by Murray and
Morton. They would be answered, if they spoke of the murder.^'^
On June 28 Herries wrote to Mary. Elizabeth had said that she
would never act as judge, but would do for her what she would do
for herself (restore her), or make a reconciliation. At a meeting
with Elizabeth (June 22) Herries made (and he reports to Mary)
this strange inquiry : " Madame, if, which God forbid, there were
appearance otherwise " (namely, against Mary's innocence), "what
then?" "Still," said Elizabeth, "I would do my best for a recon-
ciliation, consistent with her honour and safety."^ Nothing, of
course, can raise a stronger presumption of Mary's guilt than Herries's
" s'il y'avoit autrement ? que Dieu ne veuille ! "

But Mary now thought herself safe, Elizabeth, in any case, would
befriend her, and thus she drifted into an arrangement which she


expected to end in a compromise to be managed by Elizabeth
for her restoration. Under this delusion she submitted to what she
could not resist, removal from Carlisle, so near the freedom of the
friendly Border, to Bolton, near York, where neither Buccleuch nor
Ferniehirst could rescue her. Thither she was taken by Knollys
on July 13. The least disreputable of Bothwell's friends, Riccar-
toun, attended her : at Carlisle one of Bothwell's lambs, one of
the actual murderers, " Black Ormiston," had been wont to visit
her — so Willock averred. She had not yet cast off Bothwell. In
precisely the same way a member of the band to murder Darnley
was in favour with ]\Iurray, to the general disgust. ^^ While she
now amused Knollys and EUzabeth by playing at Anglicanism,
and at a purpose to substitute the surplice, in Scotland, for the
Genevan gown ; while she was writing in half-friendly fashion even
to Murray, — she was at the same time appealing for aid to all
Christian princes ; she was assuring the Queen of Spain that her
presence in England helped the Catholic cause, which she would
never desert ; and, in an hour of wild hope of French assistance,
she was urging her Scottish partisans to secure her child, and take
and slay her chief enemies.'^'^ We are not to ask for sincerity
from a betrayed prisoner, but we may admire the dauntless con-
fidence of Mary in her emissaries. Herries was communicating
to Huntly the terms on which he expected Elizabeth to pilot INIary
through the breakers, " after this reasoning " with Murray or his
commissioners (July 31). Scotland was an armed anarchy, barely
checked by Elizabeth's and Mary's orders for a provisional peace.
But Murray held his Parliament on August 16, forfeited Hepburns
and Hamiltons, safeguarded himself for his sale of Mary's personal
property, her jewels, and passed persecuting statutes.'^

Mary appointed Chatelherault, still in France, as her lieutenant
of her realm. " Howsoever I be kept a prisoner," she told Knollys,
"yet my party will stand fast against my lord of Murray." ^^ Not
a jot did she bate of hope or heart : she was in the toils of Eliz-
abeth and of Fate, but she could only be tamed by death. " Sin-
cere " she was not : who could be sincere when matched with the
inveterate mendacity of Elizabeth? Mr Froude observes: "To
the French Ambassador, to de Silva, and Lord Herries, Elizabeth
distinctly and repeatedly said that at all events, and whatever came
of the investigation, the Queen of Scots should be restored. She
made this positive declaration because, without it, the Queen of


Scots would not have consented that the investigation should take
place. Yet a memoir of Cecil, dated on the 23rd of September,
states, with an emphasis marked by the underhning of the words,
that "?V was not meant, if the Queen of Scots should be fou7id guilty
of the murder, to restore her to Scotland, however her friends might
brag to the contrary." ^^ Cecil said more than Mr Froude has
quoted. In any case Mary was to remain a prisoner at Elizabeth's
pleasure. Let fione of them escafe \va.s the ceaseless refrain. "Nor
shall there be any haste made of her delivery," wrote Cecil, "until
the success of the matters of France and Flanders be seen."^*
Mary might have been innocent : guilty she was never proved to
be in the shambling and shuffling inquiry. But, guilty or innocent,
Let none of them escape /

While the queens were rivalling each other in lack of sincerity,
the arrangements for a meeting of envoys of both parties at York,
before Elizabeth's commissioners, drew to their close. Elizabeth
had appointed three representatives, Norfolk, Sussex, and Sadleyr,
who had no love of the perilous task. Their instructions bore that
if mere presumptions of guilt were alleged against Mary, Elizabeth
would need to think about restoring her. But if plain proof be
brought, Elizabeth will regard Mary as " unworthy of a kingdom." '^^
Many stipulations were made in case an agreement was concluded,
but these, of course, came to nothing. In Mary's instructions the
point of interest is her remark on incriminating writings of hers
which her rebels may say that they possess. Her commissioners
must demand the production of the originals for her own inspection,
and reply, " For ye shall affirm in my name that I never wrote
anything concerning that matter to any living creature. And if any
such writings be, they are false and feigned, forged and invented by
themselves ; . . . and there are divers in Scotland, hoth men and
women, that can counterfeit my handwriting, and write the like
manner of writing which I use as well as myself, and principally
such as are in company with themselves." ^^ Mary refers to the
new-fashioned Italian or Roman hand, which Murray did not write,
though Bothwell did. Perhaps this is the only passage where Mary
deliberately and publicly denounces the letters as forgeries. But
then she never, despite her earnest entreaties, and even applications
to the French Ambassador, was allowed to see the alleged originals
of the letters. The lords of her party on September 12, 1568,
declared the letters forged, or garbled " in substantious clauses."


On October 6 Elizabeth's representatives reported preliminary
discourses with Mary's men, chiefly Bishop Lesley (who had no
belief in her innocence, and no courage) and Herries, and with
Murray and Lethington. With these, among many others, was
George Buchanan, who had taken the part of an accusing advo-
cate. His ' Detection ' and his ' Book of Articles ' already existed,
it is probable, in manuscript ; early forms of them are in the
Lennox MSS., and are very instructive. Lennox himself was in
York ; since June he had been drawing up indictments against
Mary; drafts of these, with many variations and some absurd
mythical inventions, exist in MS. in the University Library at
Cambridge. Murray and Lethington, very early in the proceed-
ings at York, spoke of what they could reluctantly reveal, if
they must. The necessity would arise if Mary did not accept
an arrangement by which she should reside in England, with
a large pension (in addition to her dowry from France), while
Murray would keep the regency. This is stated by Robert ]Mel-
ville, who managed the transaction. The MS. of this report is
unluckily fragmentary."^ Mary's lords accused Murray and his
accomplices of rebellion. Murray then asked to be told, among
other things, how Elizabeth would act if Mary were proved guilty.
Would she hand her over to him, or would she hold her a pris-
oner ? On October 1 1 Lethington and Buchanan, unofficially,
showed the English lords the casket letters. Doubtless they saw
the originals, but their extracts were made from the Scots transla-
tions."^ Norfolk and the others were horrified, and expressed their
feelings in a long letter, which they altered in passages, so as not to
indicate complete conviction.^*^

Now Mary, up to this moment, had reason to think Norfolk
favourable to her, and the idea of their marriage had been m.ooted.
Lethington, by showing the casket letters, and by letting Lesley
and Boyd, and, through them, Mary, know that he had done so,
had put pressure on Mary. She would be more likely to accept
a compromise, the letters would be hushed up, and nothing would
come out to implicate Lethington himself. But it was also his
game that Norfolk should marry Mary. He therefore, during a
long ride with Norfolk (October i6), deliberately shook his belief
in the letters, as Norfolk later confessed ; urging, apparently, the
ease with which Mary's handwriting could be imitated. ^^ During
the same ride Norfolk told Lethington that it was Elizabeth's


secret design to make Mary's accusers say their worst, which
did not suit Lethington : for if Mary were allowed to reply,
she would certainly convict him of a share in Darnley's death.
What did suit Lethington was a quiet compromise, Mary wedded to
Norfolk, and, as to himself, silenced by gratitude, and the necessity
of never reopening the dangerous question. Lethington's plan was
astute : he well knew Mary's ardent hatred of himself, her ungrate-
ful and treacherous Minister, whose very life she had saved, and
who had then turned against her. But Lethington had succeeded
only too well in shaking Norfolk's belief in Mary's guilt. The
Duke presently bade Mary refuse all compromise, not wishing
to marry a bride with such a stain on her reputation. This we
learn from Robert Melville's MS., already cited. Lethington had
overreached himself. This interpretation of his strangely tortuous
action is unfamiliar to our historians, and is offered as not an
inconsistent hypothesis on the evidence,

]\Ieanwhile Norfolk was dealing secretly with Murray, to what
extent is doubtful, as to his own marriage Avith Mary.**'^ Sussex
(October 22) wrote to London, expressing his strong opinion that
Mary's defence, and her accusation of her accusers, " will judicially
fall out best." ^^ Sussex thinks that, for dynastic reasons, Murray
and Lethington will use Robert Melville " to work a composition,"
the regency being confirmed to Murray. " Neither will Murray like
of any order whereby he shall not be Regent styled," despite his
lack of ambition. Murray and the Hamiltons " care neither for the
mother nor the child (as I think before God), but to serve their own
turns." In any case, Sussex would have Mary detained in England.
Elizabeth, " by virtue of her superiority over Scotland " (the old
song !), may find Mary guilty, if Murray proves his case. But
Sussex fears that Murray cannot prove his case ; that it will not
"fall out sufficiently (as I doubt it will not) to determine judicially,
if she denies her letters." This is probably the best evidence of
the weakness of proof from the casket letters. If Mary denies
them, they are, Sussex fears, not legally evidence. Unsigned, and
undirected, proof would rest on handwriting, or on evidence of the
bearers. Of these, Beaton was with Mary at Bolton.- Where was
the other, Paris, Bothwell's servant ? On October 30, a week
after Sussex wrote, John Clerk, an agent of Murray, acknowledged
receipt of the person of Paris at Roskilde, in Zealand. He was
not hurriedly conveyed to England as a witness. According to


Murray, he did not arrive in Scotland till June in the following
year ; and (after confessions) he was executed at St Andrews on
August 16, 1569.^* Thus the lords had no evidence except the
casket letters, which Sussex thought inadequate, and certain to
be met by a stronger counter-charge.

At this moment Elizabeth seems to have heard the rumour of
Norfolk's marriage with Mary, — an amazing marriage indeed, after
Norfolk's letters of October 11.^^ If so, nothing appears of it in
her letter to Norfolk of October 16. She transfers the case to
London. INIary's commissioners are to be flattered with hopes, and
imagine that only her restitution is intended.^^ On October 22
Mary wrote to Elizabeth, assenting to the change, but refusing to
discuss new propositions, if advanced by her adversaries.^'' Mary
now sent Robert Melville to Elizabeth. ^^ At Hampton Court, on
October 30, Cecil and the Privy Council were arranging traps for
the Scots of both parties. Mary's commissioners were to be put off
with generalities, lest they should suspect a regular inquest and
break off. Murray's representatives were to be told that they were
in no danger from Elizabeth, if they produced good evidence, and
that Mary, in that case, should not be restored ; but even this
promise was to be " hedged." Mary, for fear of escape, ought to
be taken to Tutbury. Additional peers were to be called in, if
Murray produced valid proof. Was it necessary that Mary, on
demand, should be heard in person ? In that case some expert in
civil law should be consulted.^^ Experts were consulted. They,
or some of them, decided that all jNIary's demands for a public
hearing, in London, before Elizabeth, the peers, and the French
and Spanish Ambassadors, ought to be granted. They were never
granted.^'' The refusal was an infamy. On November 22, from
Bolton, Mary wrote to her commissioners. The York Conference,
she said, had been only for reconcilement and reconciliation. Now
the commissioners may approach Elizabeth, and say that Mary is
still ready to be reconciled, saving her crown and honour. If this
is not accepted, her commissioners are to break off negotiations.^^
Mr Froude represents this as " sending word to Murray." ^- On
the same day Mary sent her friends their commission. If Murray
is admitted into Elizabeth's presence, so must she be. She will
appear publicly, as the experts declared that she ought to be allowed
to do. Now she is a prisoner, and remote : if she is not admitted,
her envoys must break ofT the negotiations. These things were written


after Mary learned, on November 21, from Hepburn of Riccartoun,
that Elizabeth was " bent much against her," and thought of remov-
ing her from Bolton."^ Obviously she was wise, in the circumstances,
when she made her demands.

Meanwhile Murray, on arriving in London, found that his own
affairs were perplexed. According to Robert Melville, in his MS.
deposition, the alliance struck between Murray and Norfolk at
York had been betrayed to Elizabeth, while Mary informed Mel-
ville, as we saw, that a message to her from Norfolk forbade her
to resign her crown. Was Murray to betray Norfolk, or to break
with Morton (who was all for an extreme course), and disoblige
Elizabeth, by keeping back his accusations ? He waited on events.
On November 23, at Hampton Court, the parties met Elizabeth.
Mary's letters (November 22), of course, had not reached Lesley
and the rest. Chatelherault was present. Mary's men demanded
Mary's admission : as Murray had already seen Elizabeth. Protests
against judgeship by Elizabeth were made, and accepted.^* On
November 26 Murray was assured that, if Mary be found guilty,
the proceedings of the lords would be approved, and James
regarded as king, Murray as Regent. These concessions were
carefully " hedged," but the purpose of judging and trying Mary
was avowed. ^^

There followed an extraordinary scene. After Murray, as usual,
had expressed reluctance, he produced his "eik," or addition to
his charges, a formal accusation of Mary.^*' It is Sir James Melville
who tells how Wood, a creature of Murray, had this document " in
his bosom " ; how the Bishop of Orkney snatched it from him ;
how, amidst laughter and banter, the deed was done at last. Leth-
ington, who was outside at the moment, came in and told Murray
that he "had shamed himself" All but Lethington were laughing,
and Murray went to his rooms "with tears in his eyes."^"^ On
November 29 Lennox appeared as an accuser of Mary. Mary's
commissioners were shown the "eik," and asked for time to con-
sider it. Lesley consulted the French Ambassador, La Mothe,
who glanced at the hypothesis that Mary had been "bewitched,"
but advised delay. On December i Mary's men cited her open
instructions, not her letter as to a compromise of November 22,
reiterated her appeal to be heard, and asked for an interview with
Elizabeth. On December 3 they visited her at Hampton Court.
The conference, they said, had been broken by Murray, but the


slander remained. They demanded the arrest of Murray's party
and the admission of Mary to a free hearing.^^ Elizabeth next
day said that she must first hear the lords' proofs. Mary's com-
missioners declined to proceed on these terms.^^ So far, Mary's
commissioners were in the right. The meanest amateur of petty
larceny could not be tried on the conditions proposed for their
queen. But as she was absent, as communication could not be
held with her save after long delays (part of the infamous injustice
of the whole proceedings), they ventured on ill-advised steps.

First, before seeing Elizabeth, they had held a private interview
with Leicester and Cecil. Here they once again spoke of a re-
conciliation, and asked Cecil to carry their words to Elizabeth.
Cecil carried the commissioners to Elizabeth ; they repeated their
desires for accommodation. Throughout, Lesley and Herries did
not behave as if convinced of Mary's innocence. " Suppose, which
God forbid, appearances are othenvise ! " But had they known her
stainless, it was still their interest to end a discussion which would
•certainly never be handled with common fairness and honour.
Their proposal for a reconciliation gave Elizabeth her chance.
It would be inconsistent, she said, with her sister's honour. So
it would have been, if her sister was to have a fair common
chance of retrieving her honour. But against ^haf the deter-
mination of Elizabeth was adamant. She promptly involved her-
self, to be sure, in a contradiction in terms. She told the com-
missioners, now that " I think it very reasonable that she should be
heard in her own cause, beifig so weighty," now that she did not wish
Mary to appear in person, " without their accusation might first
appear to have more likelihood of just cause than she did find
therein." ^'^'^ Such, at least, is the story of the Scottish negotiators.
The case was at once so weighty that Mary ought to be heard, and,
so far, seemed so ill bottomed that Mary need not take the trouble
to appear. ^^^

Mary's commissioners replied that their last request for a re-
conciliation was of their own motion. Mar}' did not, and could
not, know anything of the matter. Mary herself, we know, had told
Knollys that, if charges against her were once made, " they were past
all reconciliation." On December 6 ISIary's commissioners begged
that proceedings might be stayed till they heard from their mistress,
and put in a protest that she could not be compromised. That
"" probation " should be taken by Elizabeth, of Murray's charges,

THE "articles" AGAINST MARY. 20/

before Mary was summoned, they justly declare to be " preposterous."
Cecil and his assessors refused to listen to this : Lesley and his friends
were obliged to withdraw to amend their protest, and before the
English would receive it, Murray, Morton, and the rest came in,
and Morton made his declaration as to how he obtained the casket
with the letters.-^^- Then the chivalrous Murray and his friends, ex-
pressing their absence of pleasure in their duty, produced, first,
a book of " Articles containing certain conjectures, presumptions,
likelihoods, and circumstances," making the guilt of Mary seem
probable.* What these Articles were, in what terms the lords
accused Mary, and by what arguments, we are not allowed to
know. Documents, indeed, exist, but (as may be seen in the
footnote) the accuracy of criticism will not permit us to allege
that the lords relied on these inconsistent and incorrect attempts

Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 22 of 60)