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with much hesitation and forcibly torn away by her
courtiers slowly moves out. Seeing her go, I feel that



MARY STUART 131

I have conquered her, and grasping the hand of Hannah
in a transport of joy, coming forward to the footlights,
I say:

" Gone hence in wrath!

She carries death within her heart! I know it.
Now I am happy, Hannah, and, at last
After whole years of sorrow and abasement
One moment of victorious revenge!"

I then leave the stage, with long strides, followed by
Hannah.

From the remarks made here, the reader will under-
stand that in representing this third act, the most striking
feature of the drama, I above all endeavoured to bring
into striking contrast the different characters of the two
queens, who were at the same time rivals, one unhappy,
the other most powerful and already conscious of the
wicked purpose of slaying her victim.

In order to appreciate to its full extent the justice of
this interpretation, it is well to remember what has been
already mentioned, that is, that the meeting of the two
queens was boldly introduced by the author, in order to
have the chance of taking advantage of the dramatic
effect produced by such contrasts; and for the sake of
making a conspicuous feature of the loftiness of the nature
of Mary, who knew herself to be a queen.

I took care to bring into marked relief the religious
sentiment with which Mary was pervaded, a most essen-
tial manifestation, which could not be detached from the
excited state of mind of the woman.

As the reader knows, Mary Stuart does not appear in
the fourth act of the drama. But before I begin my
analytical study of the fifth act, it is justifiable to precede
it by telling the reasons which have induced me not to
take into consideration all the indications of Schiller,
concerning the costumes which Mary Stuart should wear
in the fifth act.

The opinions concerning the dress that the miserable
Mary Stuart should wear in the act of her execution, are
very contradictory. Therefore, I feel justified in stating
that the cause of all this diversity of views is based upon
the fantastic imagination of painters and writers. There



132 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

are some who send her to death dressed entirely in black,
others, dressed with royal pomp, and Schiller would have
her don a majestic white robe ornamented with jewels,
with her royal crown on her head, and covered with a
black veil, while holding a crucifix in her hands.

Concerning this last mentioned attire, one must remem-
ber that Mary Stuart was a prisoner from the age in which
the impressions of grief are the most profound — that she
was hurled from the height of greatness into an abyss of
misery: that she had endured nineteen years of torture,
of anguish, of tears — and was reduced to such a state of
weakness as to be obliged to ask the good Lord Melville
to help her to ascend the steps on her way to the scaffold,
her weakness being caused by the swelling of her knees,
a result of the unhealthy condition of the different prisons
in which she had been kept a martyr. It is scarcely
admissible, or possible, then that she should still maintain
the sense of feminine vanity and still think of making an
impression with her beauty on those who are to see her
for the last time.

In the second place, Mary would not have been able
to adorn herself in that way without the consent of
Elizabeth. Can one think it at all probable that a woman
with the temperament of that queen would allow her rival
to make a display of those qualities which had, above all,
been the cause of hatred and persecution of her? Even
admitting such an hypothesis, it is not to be presumed
that Mary would have requested so much.

These are the convictions I formed myself, from the
first days I began to study the very difficult character
of Mary Stuart.

In fact, from my first appearance, at the age of eight-
een, in the role of the unhappy queen, I have adopted
the costumes which seemed to me to be the most logically
historic. Owing to a fortunate circumstance I found
myself in London in 1857, at the time when, under the
patronage of H. R. H. Prince Albert, the husband of
Queen Victoria, the Archaeological Institute, of London,
was holding a large exhibition of all souvenirs and relics
of the unfortunate Mary that could be gathered. I had
the good luck to be able to visit that exhibition. There




ADELAIDE RISTORI AS MARY STUART



MARY STUART 133

were there several objects which had belonged to Mary-
Stuart up to the time of her last day on earth, which had
been preserved by some old Scottish Catholic families
devoted to the memory of the unhappy Mary. Among
the various articles, one could see a white and blue
enamelled rosary — and for the sake of the scenic effect I
had one similar made entirely of gold; and also an
imitation of the veil she wore ascending the scafifold,
which was woven of gold and white silk ornamented at the
edge by narrow white lace, with the royal arms in each
of the four comers.

Among the numberless pictures which represent her
in various attitudes, and whose authenticity is incon-
testable, as they were executed a few days after her death,
there is one which impressed me and which even now I
see with my mind's eye. It represents her execution at
Fotheringay, and is attributed to the painter My tens.

She is standing and wears a black velvet dress, sur-
mounted by a sort of bodice without sleeves, according to
the custom of the time.

A white scarf is around her neck. She wears on her
head a white lace hood of the shape which has taken her
name, and she is covered to her feet by the white veil, of
which I have already spoken. A little ivory crucifix
hangs from her neck and two small chains unite her
bodice under her bosom. In a word, that was the costume
I had selected, with the exception that I had substituted
a black veil for the white one over the hood, that seeming
to me more appropriate for the scenic effect.

In that remarkable picture, she holds a crucifix in her
right hand, at the lower end of which is a skull. Mary
Stuart, while stretching out her arm, holds the sacred
image, leaning on the table, upon which the artist has
represented the final scene of her martyrdom. In this
one, we see Mary kneeling on the scaffold. They had
removed the bodice of her dress, and it is, perhaps, the
damask vest of various colours that she were beneath,
which may have given rise to the fantastic imagina-
tions I have mentioned. From the neck, which had
already received the first blow of the axe, runs a rivulet
of blood.



134 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

The executioner is in the act of inflicting the second
blow. Many Lords are present at the execution and also
other characters. At the rear you can discern the faith-
ful Maries, dressed in mourning.

Three Latin inscriptions complete the picture. The
first on the right upper comer says:

"Reginam serenissimant return filiam nxoreyn et matrem
astantibus comniissariis et imnistris R. Eliz. carnifcx secure
percutit atque uno et altero ietti truculenter saiiciatae tertio
caput ascindit. ' '

(The executioner with one or two blows of the axe wounds
the most serene Queen, the daughter, the wife and mother of
Kings, in the presence of Commissaries and Ministers of the
Queen Elizabeth, and with a third blow he cruelly severs the
head from the body.)

The second inscription under the effigy which repre-
sents the execution reads :

"Maria Scotiae Regina Angliae et Hiberniae vere princeps
et haeres legitima Jacobi Magnae Britanniae Regis mater, quam
suorum haeresi vexatam, rebellione oppressam, refiigii causa
verbo Eliz. Reginae et cognatae inixatn in Angliam an. 1568
descendenteyn 19 annas captivafn perfidia detinuit: tnilleque
calumniis Senatus Angliae sententia haeresi instigante neci
traditur ac 12. Calend. Mart. 1587 a servit carnifice obtruncatur
an. aetat. regnis 45."

(Mary Queen of Scotia, a true Princess and legitimate heir of
England and Ireland, Mother of James, King of Great Britain,
who, vexed by the heresy, oppressed by the revolt of her sub-
jects, trusting to the word of Queen Elizabeth, her own cousin,
finds refuge in England in the year 1568, where she was kept
prisoner for nineteen years by the perfidious Queen Elizabeth
and with many calumnies sentenced by the English Senate,
provoked by Heresy, she is put to death the i8th of February
1587 by the hand of a coward executioner, at the age of 45
years of her life and kingdom.)

The third inscription at the feet of Mary, reads :

"Sic funestum ascendit tabidatum Regina quondam Galliarunt
et Scotiae florentissiniae, invicto sed pio animo tirannidem
exprobat et perfidiam. Fidem. catholicam profitetur Romanae
Ecclesiae semper fuisse et esse fi,liam plane palamq. testatur."

(Thus ascended upon the funeral scaffold the one who was
the Queen of France and of florid Scotland ; and with an un-
conquered but pious mind, she reproached the tyranny of the
perfidious queen, confessed her catholic faith and protested
openly that she had always been a devout daughter of the
Roman Church.)



MARY STUART 135

Returning to the execution of my role, I must especially
remark, that my change from the third to the fifth act
should be very noticeable to the spectators. Nothing
royal appears in my bearing but dignity. Every trace of
what had tormented the queen and tortured the existence
of the victim has disappeared from my person ; I make a
manifestation of all gentle sentiments and communicate
all my wishes with the sweetness of a martyr resigned to
her martyrdom. Therefore, when I present myself to
my servants at the threshold of my room, I should in-
spire nothing but admiration and reverence, as if I were
a holy vision.

At the sight of my weeping servants, I kindly reprove
their importunate grief, telling them they should rejoice
instead of grieve that I have reached the end of outrages
and sufferings.

A slight smile crosses my lips when saying that I wish
to meet death as I would a sweet friend, as a healing balm
for all my pains. Noticing among those present my
faithful Lord MelviUe, I regard his return to me as a
heavenly grace, knowing at least one faithful tongue
would tell the world how I had ended my life.

I was in the disposition to allow nothing but sweetness
and affection to transpire, but feeling my courage weaken-
ing, and wishing to put a stop to that heartrending scene,
with a resolute mien I say :

"Oome all and now receive my last farewell."

Act V, Scene vii.

They all rushed to my feet.

Beholding those grieving faces and those extended arms,
I cannot restrain my emotion and I exclaim:

" I have been much hated

And yet much beloved "

At last I tear myself away from that touching group
of people and with a sad and prolonged "Farewell," I
separate myself from those faithful friends.

From that moment I no longer belong to earth — ^all
my sentiments, all the passions of the world have no longer



136 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

any power over my mind. I only deplore that I have been
denied the comfort of a minister of my own religion :

"I see eternity's abyss before me;
And have not yet appeased the Holy One.
A priest of my rehgion is denied me.
And I disdain to take the sacrament,
The holy, heav'nly nourishment, from priest
Of a false faith "

In a transport of ineffable joy, I discover in a comer of
the hall Lord Melville, as if sent to me by Heaven, in
order to absolve me of all my sins and give me his blessing.
Looking around attentively to see if anyone would be
liable to come and surprise me, I take the crucifix that I
had placed in my belt, and with an expression of greatest
compunction, I kneel down before Melville, beginning
my confession in a feeble voice. With an intonation, in
which all the truth was revealed, I accuse myself of hav-
ing borne strong hatred, of having conceived thoughts of
revenge, and of not being able to forgive the one who had
so bitterly wronged me. Where I lack courage and
energy is when Melville, after having inquired of me if
other faults are lying on my heart, I answer:

"I humbly acknowledge to have err'd,
Most gr'evously, I tremble to approach
Sullied with sin, the God of purity."

This part of the confession, which the author puts in
the mouth of the unhappy queen, could not be expressed
by me in a tone of conviction, as it is my full belief that
the accusations hurled against Mary Stuart were false,
and invented solely by her numerous and powerful
enemies.

Mary protested her innocence on the scaffold, and she
could not lie on the point of appearing before the Supreme
Judge. The fact that her enemies never granted her the
opportunity of justifying herself publicly, and of pointing
out to the Parliament that had to judge her, the truth
of her assertions is, according to my modest opinion, an
evident proof that the different authors who have scorned
to consider her guilty are right.

During the confession, after having heard from Mary
that she has no other sin to confess, Melville assumes a



MARY STUART 137

severe aspect, accuses her of lying, of trying to conceal
her most incriminating fault, that for which she has been
condemned — that of having taken part in the conspiracy
of Paris and Babington to kill Elizabeth. With a serene
expression and the calmness born of a tranquil conscience,
after a short pause, I say:

"I am prepar'd to meet eternity;
Within the narrow limits of an hour,
I shall appear before the judge's throne;
But, I repeat it, my confession's ended."

But as Lord Melville insists that Mary should not delude
him with a subtle artifice, I again protest my innocence,
without denying, however, that I had endeavoured to
enlist the sympathy of all the princes that they might
free me from the unmerited captivity to which my
accusers had condemned me :

"Thou mount'st, then, satisfied,
Of thy innocence, the fatal scaffold?"

Melville says, and I answer:

"God suffers me in mercy to atone
By undeserved death, my youth's transgressions. "

making allusion to the death of Damley.

Through the tears which fill my eyes, I know how to
express so well the light of truthfulness, and have so much
faith in heavenly justice as to cause the emotion of Mel-
ville to appear sublime. He absolves me with Christian
words, and ends his invocation to God by placing his
hand upon my head as a blessing. I am then kneeling
down holding in my hand the crucifix, with my head
raised and a smile of fervent faith upon my lips. I speak
as if the beatitudes of heaven were already open before
me.

After remaining for a few moments in that religious
ecstasy, Hannah steps forward and, approaching Lord
Melville, whispers something in his ear. After emitting
a deep sigh, he raises me up, while my eyes never waver
from that luminous point which my exalted imagination
seems to show me :

"A painful conflict is in store for thee."



138 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI
Lord Melville says sadly to me:

"Feel'st thou within thee strength enough to smother
Each impulse of malignity and hate? "

In a soft and hannonious voice I answer :

"I fear no relapse, I have to God
Devoted both my hatred, and my love."

On hearing the announcement of the coming of Bur-
leigh, and of the Earl of Leicester, who at one time was
supposed to be my suitor, I act in such a way as not to
alter the expression of my face, and only come back to
my earthly misery when Cecil says to me :

"I came, my Lady Stuart, to receive
Your last commands and wishes."

Act v, Scene viii.

At this point, being absorbed in the thought of God,
with an expression of complete calmness I thank Lord
Cecil, addressing to him some request for the benefit of
my servants, and prayers for the rest of my soul, and at
the end I make him the bearer of my last "farewell" to
Queen Elizabeth. But after Lord Burleigh has queried :

"Say, do you still adhere to your resolve
And still refuse assistance from the Dean? "

I answer with a firm voice :

"My Lord, I've made my peace with God."

I give the words "with God" a very marked accent,
meant to express that the Catholic faith had been my
constant guide through life.

After asking Paulet forgiveness for having been the
involuntary cause of the death of his nephew, Mortimer,
I am aroused by a painful cry of my maids. I turn
suddenly around. The large door at the rear of the stage
opens. At the sight of the executioner, the sheriff, and
the guards holding lighted torches in their hands, I show
human frailty can reappear in me for an instant — I
stagger — ^my eyes close. Lord Melville anxiously holds
me up, taking the cross, which has slipped through my



MARY STUART 139

hands. Then I recover my consciousness and softly
say:

" Yes — my hour is come —

The Sheriff comes to lead me to my faith,
And part we must, — farewell —
You, worthy Sir, and my dear faithful Hannah,
Shall attend my last moments."

Leaning on them, with an unsteady step, I walk to the
scaffold.

Lord Burleigh wished to deprive Mary of that last
comfort, to prevent her from being accompanied by her
faithful ones, saying that he had no orders to authorise
that. To this Mary answered, that her royal sister would
never permit that her body should be offended by the
contact of the rough hands of the executioner. She also
assures him that Hannah will not disturb the execution
with her crying.

At the request directed by Paulet to Burleigh that
he grant Mary's wish, he consents. From that moment
my face is transformed with the most fervent religious
expression and, turning my eyes to Heaven thus, I speak :

" . . I now

Have nothing in this world to wish for more.
My God! My Comforter! My blest Redeemer!
As once Thy arms were stretch 'd upon the cross
Let them be now extended to receive me! "

Having said this, I slowly join my hands upon my
breast. Lord Melville at my side, holding the crucifix
in his hand, directs my trembling steps. Suddenly, on
perceiving Leicester, I am overcome by a great wave of
emotion. All my past appears before me. ... I
stagger and not having strength to prevent it, fall in the
arms of the Earl, who has hurriedly approached me in
order to hold me. Recovering my strength, little by
little, in a weak voice I say :

"You keep your word, my Lord Leicester: for
You promised me your arm to lead me forth
From prison, and you lend it to me now."

Noticing how confused Lord Leicester is at my words,



I40 MEMOIRS UF ADELAIDE RISTORI

which arc pronounced with a sweet voice, filled with both
resignation and a slight tone of reproach, I continue :

"Farewell, my lord, and if you can, be happy!
To woo two Queens has been your daring aim ;
You have disdained a tender, loving heart,
To win a proud one! "

I had prearranged that the Earl should show himself
very much affected by those words, that he should turn
to me with a beseeching gesture, as if to exculpate him-
self, in order to give a stronger meaning to the following
words, which I then pronounce with an almost prophetic
expression :

"Kneel at the feet of Queen Elizabeth!
May your reward not prove your punishment! "

At this point one could hear the slow strokes of the
bell, followed by the beating of drums. Being thus
recalled to earthly power. Lord Melville, filled with
Christian sentiment and with an appearance of reproach,
pushes me slowly to the front of the stage, in order to give
me the opportunity of contemplating the cross before
which I kneel, repenting my past emotion.

I fervently bring to my lips the crucifix of my rosary,
while Lord Melville presents the cross to me, as if to
signify: Think that you must appear in the presence of
the One who will shortly judge you, purified as you are by
the victory you have gained over earthly passions !

Being profoundly penetrated and shaken by that
thought I stand up, sustained by my confessor, and with
my look always fixed upon the sign of Redemption, still
in front of me, I turn slowly around, and move toward
the rear of the stage. Reaching the steps of the scaffold,
with Lord Melville still by my side pointing the cross to
me, I make my maids and servants, who were weeping
kneeling down, imderstand with a gesture that I will pray
for them in Heaven, and stretch out my hand to bless
them.

Then, with a supreme motion having kissed the cross,
I bid them an eternal "Farewell" and ascend the stair
followed by the executioner and some other people.




e. Hirtesy of Charles L. Ritiimr.n, N^a York

ADELAIDE RISTORI AS QUEEN ELIZABETH



CHAPTER II



ELIZABETH, QUEEN OF ENGLAND — A DRAMA BY
P. GIACOMETTI

It cannot be denied that the task of reproducing the
historical character 'of EHzabeth, Queen of England, in
a manner true to life, is a most difficult undertaking. To
be able to combine the haughtiness, the royal dignity,
the transcendent genius, the dissimulation, the hypocrisy,
and the most striking absolutism, with the frivolity, the
futility of a woman, vulgar at times, at others a queen,
to portray all these different traits in one nature is a most
arduous task, particularly for an actress from whom a
critic expects, with justice, a personation in accordance
with her fame.

When in the year 1854, I first thought of adding to
my repertoire the title role of the drama " Elizabeth
Queen of England," by the illustrious playwright Paolo
Giacometti, I had necessarily to dedicate myself body
and soul to the research of all that might enlighten
me as to the character, and nature of this famous
queen.

The result of all this study brought me to the con-
clusion that, though the virtues of Elizabeth as a
sovereign, as a political character, were very great and
rendered her famous through the whole world, and par-
ticularly beloved in England, still her well-known cruel-
ties, her hypocrisy and her unrestrained indulgences of
hatred, all of which has been transmitted to us by history,
could not help but render her the object of greater dislike
than admiration for the gentler people of our times.
Therefore, the reader will easily understand with what
effort I overcame my intimate sentiments in order to
portray that unique type of woman, and of sovereign.

Whenever I undertook the study of a new part, a
necessary and "absolute" condition for me to consider

141



142 MEMOIRS OF ADELAIDE RISTORI

was that not only a noteworthy difficulty and precon-
ceived interpretation was before me, but that this should
not turn out to be either revolting or repugnant to my
nature and my individuality.

I was on the point of renouncing the presentation of
the role of Elizabeth. An aversion to the part had
gradually been growing within me, as I learned of the cruel
deeds of this queen, especially of her animosity toward
the unhappy Mary Stuart. However, our leading man,
who at that time was also the Director of the Royal
Dramatic Company in the service of the king, caused
me to reflect on all the trouble my refusal to accept the
role would bring upon me. During my investigation of
this character study, the preparations for the performance
had been going on. Everything was ready ; and a formal
announcement had been made public. I had no alter-
native but to resign my position, or to interpret the part.
'Still, even though the character of Elizabeth appeared
odious to me, and such as to deter me from its enthusiastic
interpretation, yet owing to the care I had taken, regard-
less of my own sentiments, to familiarise myself with it,
I think I am not in error when I say that the public found
this role among the most elaborate and complete studies
of my repertoire.

At her first appearance on the scene, the carriage, the
gesture, the tone of voice of Elizabeth, should be those
of a person familiar with the ordering of important state
affairs, whose opinion is not to be disputed, whose culture
and knowledge of foreign languages give her more than
common gratification, and who was equal one day to
rebuking severely in the Latin language a Polish am-
bassador, who, having addressed her in that tongue, had
revealed some indiscreet pretensions, thinking that the
Queen was not well versed in the knowledge of Latin.
She complained once to her favourites of having been
forced to "destroy her old Latin."

I took particular care to make it plain to the spectators
that, in spite of the affection which Elizabeth at that
time felt for the Earl of Essex, her haughty nature would,
with her sarcasm and disdain, place all on the same level,
whenever she supposed that any one of her favourites



ELIZABETH, QUEEN OF ENGLAND 143


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