Herbert Maxwell.

Official guide to the Abbey-church, palace, and environs of Holyroodhouse online

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Commissioners, sitting at Dalkeith on 7th February 1652

Taylor, the water poet, who visited Edinburgh in 1618,
describes this palace in his " Pennylesse Pilgrimage " as " a
stately and princely seat, wherein I saw a sumptuous
chapell most richly adorned with all appurtenances be-
longing to so sacred a place or so Royall an owner."

From Gordon of Rothiemay's plan it may be seen that
the Palace occupied the same quadrangle upon which the
present building, erected to the designs of Sir William
Bruce in 1679, now stands. 1

In 1562 there befel an interlude in the merrymaking

at Holyrood caused by the rebellion of the Earl of Huntly,

head of the Gordon clan and of the Roman Catholic party

in Scotland. Queen Mary marched against

The raid

against him in person in the autumn of 1562, and

Huntly, 1562. defeated his forces at the battle of Corrichie

about 2oth October. The earl himself being taken
prisoner, suddenly fell dead as he was being placed on
a horse by his captor, thereby escaping, as might be
supposed, the judicial penalty for treason. But the
majesty of the law could not be vindicated thus easily.
On 26th May following, Mary rode in procession from
Holyrood to the Tolbooth to hold her first Parliament.
The four Marys rode beside her; before her rode the
Duke of Chatelherault carrying the crown, the Earl of
Argyll the sceptre, and James Stuart, Earl of Moray, the
sword. The sitting on 28th May was the occasion of a
ghastly ceremony. The Estates being assembled, and the
Queen present, an open coffin was set erect at the bar
of the House, containing the corpse of the great Earl of
Huntly, upon which Parliament passed solemn sentence,
1 See fig. 8, p. 58.


decreeing that Huntly's lands and goods were forfeited,
his arms cancelled, his name and memory extinct, and his
posterity debarred for ever from office, honour, and dignity.

" Whatever the object of Mary's progress to the north may have
been whether it was planned by the Lord James for his own aggran-
disement, as some Mariolaters affirm, or intended by Mary for his
destruction, as Knox suspected, or undertaken for her deliverance from
his power and for her marriage to Sir John Gordon, 1 as Huntly's grand-
son gravely records, or occasioned merely by Mary's desire to see the
country and to establish good order it had resulted in the disgrace,
defeat, and death of the virtual ruler of the north." 2

Meanwhile, Holyrood had been the scene of the first
of that long series of dubious transactions which so
grievously obscure the lustre of this fair Queen. A
young gentleman of France, Chastelard by name, nephew
of the Chevalier Bayard, had arrived in November at the
Court of Holyrood. Handsome, romantic, and fond of
literature, he found easy favour with Mary, who never
was prudent in her friendships. Randolph was shocked
by her familiarity with " so abject a varlet." Innocent as
one may assume that it was, it encouraged
Chastelard to an unpardonable offence. On

32nd Feb. t h e n jght of 1 2th February 1563, before the
Queen retired to rest, he was found concealed
under her bed. Informed of this in the morning, Mary
dismissed the poet from her train ; but he followed her
to Burntisland, whither she went that day, and had the
hardihood to repeat his offence on the night of the i4th,
forcing his way into the Queen's bed-chamber as she was
going to bed. This time he paid for it with his life,
being executed at St Andrews on the 22nd an exorbi-
tant penalty, it may seem, for the escapade of a hare-

1 Huntly's second son, taken at Corrichie and executed.

2 D. Hay Fleming's Mary Queen of Scots, p. 80.


brained lad ; but it was alleged at the time that Chastelard
was a Huguenot emissary, employed by persons in France
to compromise the Catholic Queen.

All through 1563 and 1564 the chief subject of specula-
tion and anxiety among courtiers and diplomatists was the
marriage of the Queen, none doubting that the widowhood
of such a sweet lady must be of short duration. "The
mariage of our Queyn," says Knox, "was in all mannis
mouth. Some wold have Spaine ; some the Emperouris
brother ; some Lord Robert Dudlye ; some Duck de
Nemours ; and some unhappilie gessed at the Lord
Darnlye." 1 Mary, within the Palace, was quite of a
humour to enjoy the situation which, we may feel sure,
was discussed thoroughly and often as she sat with her
four Marys over their needlework. Just outside the gates
Knox was thundering against the Spanish match. Mary
sent for him and begged him with tears, if he must
reprove her, to do so in private, as prescribed in the
Book of Discipline, and not to hold her up to public
scorn. Knox protested that he "never delyted in the
weaping of any of Goddis creatures," but that he might
not hurt his conscience or betray the commonwealth by
holding his peace. The Queen indignantly bade him " to
pass furth of the cabinet." He spent an hour in the
anteroom, scolding the light-hearted ladies of the Court
because of their thoughtless lives and gay attire.

' ' ' Oh fair ladies ! ' quoth he, ' how pleasing is this life of yours if it
would ever abide, and then in the end that ye pass into heaven with all
this gay gear ! But fie upon the knave Death, that will come whether
we will or not ; and when he has laid on his arrest, the foul worms will
be busy with this flesh, be it never so fair and tender ; and the silly
soul, I fear, shall be so feeble that it can neither carry with it gold,
garnishing, targatting, pearl nor precious stones. ' "

1 Laing's Knox t ii. 360.


In August 1563, while Queen Mary was travelling in

the west, Mass was celebrated in Holyrood Chapel for

the Roman Catholic members of the royal

The Mass

and the household. Reasonable as this may seem to
ses, 1563. a more to i eran t generation, it was contrary to
the settlement, which permitted the Mass to be sung only
when and where the Queen herself was present. A crowd
of angry " brethren," headed by two zealots named Cranston
and Armstrong, broke into the chapel, interrupting the
service. On the Queen's return the brawlers were appre-
hended and committed for trial on a charge of intended
murder and invasion of the Palace. Knox espoused their
cause, and collected a vast number of the faithful to
intimidate the judges withal a favourite expedient in the
sixteenth century. Summoned to answer for his lawless-
ness before the Queen and Privy Council, he bade Mary
"forsake her idolatrous religion," and actually obtained
acquittal for his offence. Already the pulpit was more
powerful than the throne : the judges dared nothing against
the preachers.

For more than a year intrigues and negotiations went
forward on behalf first of one suitor, then of another, for
Mary's hand. In September 1564 the Earl of Lennox
arrived in Edinburgh, released from two-and-twenty years
of exile. The Queen having commanded him to her
presence, he rode down to the Palace on the 2yth, pre-
ceded by twelve gentlemen in black velvet, and followed
by thirty serving- men in his liveries. It was no secret
that Lennox had come to press the suit of his son,
Lord Darnley, who, through his mother Margaret Tudor,
stood next to Mary herself in succession to the English

Mary received the earl very graciously, accepting costly


gifts from his hand. He also sought to win favour from
the four attendant Marys by making them pretty presents.
Lennox's restoration was made the occasion of banqueting
and prolonged festivities in the Palace ; his forfeiture was
reversed by Parliament, and in the following February
Darnley was presented for approval by the Queen.

" Hir Majeste tok weill with him, and said that he was the lustiest
and best proportionit lang man that sche had scan ; for he was of a
heich stature, lang and small [slim], even and brent up [well set up] ;
weill instructed from his youth in all honest and comely exercyses." 1

On Monday 2 6th February Darnley attended a sermon
by Knox, dined with Lord Moray and the English am-
bassador Randolph, and danced a galliard with the Queen.
All men and women looked with favour on such a comely,
courtly youth : Mary herself fell in love with him at once.
Ah ! fatal caprice of a widow of three-and-twenty for a lad
of nineteen.

Other actors in the approaching tragedy appeared on
the scene about this time, David Riccio, a Piedmontese
musician, appointed secretary to the Queen in December
1564; and James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, who had
obtained leave to return to Scotland from his exile in
France, to answer charges laid against him by the Earl
of Moray. A " day of law " was appointed for the trial ;
but Bothwell prudently avoided the ordeal, for Moray came
with 6000 troops at his back. Pitscottie puts it bluntly
enough :

"In the moneth of Marche the erle bothwell came furth of france to
Scotland bot he remanit nocht for feir of my lord Murray the querns
broder for the erle of Murray was ane protestane and the erle bothwell
ane papist." 2

1 Sir James Melville's Memoirs, p. 134.
8 Pitscottie's Croniclis, ii. 182.


Such free rein did Queen Mary give to her " vehement
love " for the handsome Darnley, that rumours of a secret
marriage were flying thickly about the town. On i6th July
she left the Palace with him at 8 o'clock in the evening
and rode to Seton, where they remained two days. " Here-
upon," wrote Randolph to Cecil, " rose maynie fowle tales,
whear libertie inoughe is geven for men to speake what
theie wyll."

Returning to Edinburgh on the

"she and my Lord Darlye walked up and downe the towne dysguysed
untyll suppertyme, and retorned thyther agayne, but laye that nighte
in the Abbaye; thys manner of passinge to and fro gave agayne
occasion to maynie men to muse what might be her meaninge. The
nexte daye in lyke sorte she comethe after dyner upon her feete from
the Abbaye, the Lord Darlye ledinge her by the one arme and Fowler
by thother. . . . These vagares mayke mens tonges to chatter faste."

Let no man grudge the beautiful Queen of Scots the

rapture of those fleeting summer days. If there was more

than indiscretion, it was to be atoned for bit-

Marriage of ter i y jf Darnley and she had gone through

Queen Mary

with Henry a secret form of marriage, it was not legally

dis P ensation did not come

to hand till 22nd July, on which day the banns
were proclaimed; and at 6 A.M. on Sunday the 2gth, the
marriage ceremony was performed by the Bishop of
Brechin according to the Roman ritual in the Queen's
private chapel in Holyroodhouse. According to Ran-
dolph, who, though in Edinburgh, was not present, the
Queen wore

"the greate mouminge gowne of blacke, with thegreate wyde mourninge
hoode, not unlyke unto that which she wore the dolefull daye of the
buriall of her husbande [the Dauphin]. . . . She was ledde unto the
chappell by the Fries of Lenox and Athol, and there she was lefte
untyll her housband came, who was also conveide by the same


lords. . . . The words were spoken ; the rings, which were three,
the middle a riche diamonde, were put upon her finger, theie kneel
together, and manie prayers saide over them. She tarrieth owte the
masse, and he taketh a kysse and leaveth her there and wente to
her chamber, whither in a space she followeth ; and there being
required, accordinge to the solemnitie, to cast off her care, and lay
asyde those sorrowfull garments, and give herself to a pleasanter lyfe,
after some prettie refusall, more I believe for manner sake than greef of
harte, she suffreth them that stood by, everie man that coulde approche
to take owte a pyn, and so being commytted unto her ladies changed
her garments. . . . After the marriage followeth commonly cheere and
dancinge. To their dynner theie were conveide by the whole nobles.
The trompets sounde, a larges [largesse] cried, and monie thrown
abowte the howse in greate abundance to suche as were happie to gete
anye parte. . . . After dyner theie dance awhyle, and retire themselves
tyll the hower of supper, and as thei dyned so do theie suppe, Some
dancing ther was, and so theie go to bedd."

Next morning the heralds proclaimed Darnley as Henry,
King of Scots, in presence of the lords who happened to
be in Edinburgh an act of doubtful legality without the
concurrence of Parliament. When it was declared that all
letters henceforth should be set forth in the names con-
jointly of King Henry and Queen Mary, none responded
save Lennox, who cried, " God save his Grace ! "







Moray's rebellion . . . . . . 1565

Court of Mary and Darnley at Holyrood . . . 1565-66

Murder of David Riccio s 1 > . . . gth March 1566

Mary escapes from Holyrood .... I2th March 1566

Birth of James VI. in Edinburgh Castle . . igth June 1566

The plot against Darnley ..... 1566-67

His murder . * . . loth February 1 567

Bothwell tried and acquitted . . -'. ; " . 1 2th April 1567

Abduction of the Queen by Bothwell . . . 24th April 1567

Marriage of the Queen to Bothwell . . . 1 5th May 1567

Their flight from Holyrood . ';,., . . 6th June 1567

MEN will never be got to agree upon the Earl of Moray's
character and motives. To some it appears that his

opposition to the Darnley match was grounded
be^HonVste u P on sincere conviction that nothing but evil

could follow upon Mary, as Queen of the
Protestant Scots, taking a consort of the Roman Catholic
faith. Others can perceive nothing but hypocrisy in his
solicitude for the reformed religion, and believe that there
was full justice in Queen Mary's assertion that her bastard
brother wished to set the crown upon his own head. For
the purpose of this rapid survey of events, it may be
assumed that Moray, like other men, acted from mixed
motives : in his earnest determination to maintain the


Protestant religion, he was influenced as much by political
as by theological considerations ; and should events prove
Mary's rule to be impossible, why, there was he ready to
ascend the vacant throne.

Anyhow, by the end of August 1565 Moray was in
arms against his Queen and sister. The insurrection was
dispersed by the " Chase-about Raid," in which both the
Queen's forces and those of the rebel lords melted unac-
countably away. Moray and his confederates took refuge
in England, and Bothwell, reappearing once more from
France, took Moray's place at the Queen's right hand, and
was appointed by her Lieutenant of the Marches.

During that winter 1565-66 Mary and Darnley kept
their Court at Holyrood ; but the Queen's love for her boy
husband had been cruelly strangled. The good impression
formed of Darnley by men of all ranks had not survived
the marriage. Intemperate, and violent in his cups, in-
tolerably haughty to nobles, overbearing and cruel to
inferiors, he had earned the hatred of all men except his
immediate sycophants ; moreover, the grossness of his
unveiled licentiousness put grievous affront upon the
Queen. He took deep umbrage because, having received
the kingly title, his name was not given precedence over
the Queen's upon the coinage and in public acts. He
absented himself for long periods from Holyrood " in hunt-
ing and hawking, and such other pleasures as were agree-
able to his appetite." l

During his absence David Riccio was employed by the
Queen so confidentially and constantly as to give rise to
grievous scandal. Randolph mentioned it in his letters to
Cecil as matter " not to be named for reverence sake '' ; to
Leicester he wrote that " many mislike that a stranger, a
1 Laing's Knox, ii. 541.


varlet, shall have the whole guiding of this Queen and
country." He declared that Darnley knew that the Queen
was false to him ; that he and his father, Lennox, were con-
spiring to dethrone her ; and that " if that take effect which
is purposed, Riccio shall have his throat cut, with Darn-
ley's consent, within ten days." He even hinted that
violence was intended against the Queen's life.

This was written on i3th February 1565 ; on the even-
ing of gth March Queen Mary, Lady Argyll, and Riccio
were at supper in the small boudoir, little more than a
closet, opening off her bed-chamber. Arthur Erskine,
captain of the guard, and Lord Robert Stuart were also
present. Suddenly the door of the boudoir was flung
open, Darnley entering from the private winding staircase,
which still communicates with the south-west corner of the
church. He had been drinking heavily for some days,
and now threw his arm round the Queen's waist. Behind
Murder of t ' ie King stalked Lord Ruthven, ghastly with
Riccio, pth the pallor of recent illness. Mary bade him
begone ; but Ruthven drew his dagger, and
Riccio screened himself behind the Queen. Poets who
court immortality ought not to skulk behind petticoats.
Douglas, Earl of Morton, who, as previously arranged, had
secured the gates of the Palace, now passed up the main stair
and through the gallery, leading his band into the Chamber
of Presence and the Queen's bed-chamber. The din in-
creased as other conspirators, headed by George Douglas,
future Bishop of Moray, crowded up the private stairway.
The little supper-room was crammed to suffocation ; the
table was overturned, Lady Argyll seizing one of the
candlesticks as it fell. Riccio was dragged out shrieking,
Ruthven commanding that he should be taken to Darnley's
room. Ker of Faldonside, as is said, held a pistol at the


Queen's breast, threatening to fire if she interfered. It
was intended, probably, to put Riccio through some form
of trial, but his executioners were short of patience.
Huntly, Bothwell, and other friends of the Queen, were
below, and would be roused by the scuffle. Somebody
the man of God, George Douglas, as nearly all writers
avow seized a dagger from Darnley's belt and plunged
it into the victim's bosom. If that were not the death-
blow, many others followed, and the carrion, at Darnley's
command, was flung downstairs and taken to the porter's
lodge. At the spot where the murder took place at the
outer door of the Chamber of Presence certain dark
stains used to be shown, alleged to be those of Riccio's
blood. The place is now marked by a brass plate in
the floor.

The deed done, Ruthven and Darnley turned back into
the Queen's suite of apartments, where, the Queen meeting
them, bitter altercation arose. Darnley accused his wife
of infidelity with Riccio since the previous September. If
that were true, then was the child, the future James VI.
and I., with which she was five months pregnant, no son
of his. It is supposed that had shock of her favourite's
murder, committed in her presence, been fatal to the
Queen's life, as it might well have proved to one in her
state of body, neither Darnley nor the other leading con-
spirators had been disappointed of their reckoning.

Howbeit, Mary lived, and the sot, Darnley, sought to
patch up peace with her. Never in the whole course of her
stormy life did she display such ready resource such
grasp of circumstance. The Palace stairs had dripped
with her favourite's blood, ostensibly because he was a
Papist. Knox highly approved (retrospectively, at least)
of his removal, for Riccio's ascendancy in the Queen's


counsels gave legitimate ground for apprehension on the
part of all those who upheld the reformed religion with
greater or less singleness of purpose. Riccio's murder was
a stroke in the strife of party, little more reprehensible,
according to sixteenth-century ethics and practice, than a
" snap division " might be reckoned in the twentieth
century. Mary's friends Huntly, Athol, Both well, and
the rest accepted their defeat, escaping from the Palace
that night, lest they, too, should share the secretary's fate.
So the Queen, a close prisoner in her own house, had need
to dissemble. True that on the morrow, standing with
Darnley at Riccio's fresh-turned grave in the Abbey Church,
she vowed " that a fatter than he should lie as low ere the
year was out " ; nevertheless, she cajoled her husband into
the belief that she was all for amnesty. He disavowed his
confederates ; he did more, he ended by deserting them.

On Sunday morning, the loth, the Queen wrung re-
luctant leave from Morton and Ruthven to have her ladies
with her. This enabled her to have letters conveyed to
Huntly, Both well, and the others. That evening Moray
and the banished Protestant lords rode into Edinburgh,
and Mary had a friendly interview with her brother. On
Monday, the nth, the guards were removed from the
Palace, on Darnley's assurance that his Queen " was a true
Princess, and he would set his life for what
sne promised." Next morning the birds had

Hoiyrood, flown. Mary and Darnley had ridden out
1566. from Hoiyrood before dawn, and news came

that they were safe in Dunbar Castle, with the
forces of the Catholic lords mustering fast. That Mary
had ridden five - and - twenty miles at speed in her then
delicate condition must be esteemed striking testimony to
a splendid constitution.


Even Elizabeth's gold, which they had in plenty, availed
not to make the Protestant lords sUnd firm.

" Upon the xij day of Merche, quhilk wes Sonday, the haill Lordis,
Committaris of the slauchter and cryiiies abonewrittin, with the Lordis
that was banist in Ingland of befoir (except Alexander, Erie of Glen-
cairne, quha red to Dunbar to speak with our Soveranis), with all their
complices and men of weir, with dollorous hartis departit of Edinburgh
towart Lynlithgow, at sevin houris in the mornyng." x

On the 1 8th March Mary and Darnley made triumphant
re-entry into Edinburgh. Had it been possible for these
two to live together in harmony at Holyrood, good govern-
ment might have been restored to their afflicted realm a
slender chance, at best, considering the inveterate cleavage
between Protestant and Papist : as matters stood, no chance
at all, so invincible was the disgust that Mary had conceived
for her husband's double perfidy. He had sworn to her
that he had no part in the plot against Riccio : there had
been laid before her the " band " drawn up by the assassins
before the deed, and there was Henry Darnley's signature
appended thereto in his own hand. His price was provided
for in the " band " : he was to have the " crown matri-
monial," hitherto withheld from him, which should secure
the succession to himself should the Queen predecease
him, thus excluding the legal heirs, the Hamiltons. He
stood pledged to secure his confederates from punishment
" of whatsoever crime " ; the banished lords were to be
restored ; but he had betrayed all parties. Deeper treachery
could hardly be; but that was not the whole mischief.
Mary's " vehement love " was dead ; nay, it was turned to
bitter contempt, and her heart had gone out to another.
At a time when all men failed her, there stood out James
Hepburn, Earl of Both well, as her deliverer. Ruthless,

1 Diurnal of Occurretits, p. 94.


reckless, profligate as he was well known to be, he had
proved himself a man at her sorest need. Mary owed her
restoration to his bold spirit and strong arm. He was not
one to forgo his reward ; she had not the fortitude,
perhaps not the inclination, to withhold it.

Meanwhile a grisly memorial of the murder had been
displayed on Holyrood. Not Morton's head, nor George
Douglas's, nor even the ruffian Ker's, who had threatened
the Queen's life, but the head of Thomas Scott, Sheriff-
depute of Perth, which was spiked on a pinnacle of the
Palace. He had been hanged, drawn, and quartered
on 2nd April for the offence of warding the Queen in
Holyrood ! Thus rudely did justice jolt along in the
sixteenth century.

After her return to the capital Mary disdained to reside
in Holyrood the scene of her humiliation. She occupied
various houses in Edinburgh, until she went to the Castle
in June 1566, where, on the igth, she was
jamesvi., delivered of a son, who, within thirteen
i pth June months, was to be proclaimed James VI.
This event, peculiarly auspicious as it should
have been deemed, appears to have softened Mary's heart
towards Henry ; but he rudely repulsed all her advances,
declaring that he intended to live on the Continent, and
behaving in an utterly intractable manner.

The Queen was alone at Holyrood at various times

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