Historical Children's Literature Collection

The life and history of Mary, Queen of Scots [between 1840 and 1857?]

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,1   I
Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, was the third
child of James the Fifth and his wife Mary of
Guise. That lady had already born him two
sons, who died in infancy. Mary was born on the
7th December, 1542, at Linlithgow, and was only
seven days old when she lost her father. James,
it is said, died of a broken heart, occasioned by the
defection of his nobles at the battle of Solway,
where they rebelled against their sovereign, and
suffered themselves to be defeated and dispersed
by a handful of English.
This disgraceful  transaction aflected him so
much, that he retired to his palace at Falkland
and refused to listen to any consolation.    When
on his death-bed, they brought him word that hi
Wife bad given birth to a daughter^ he only re
THE instOR? OF
plied, " It (meaning the crown) came with a lass,
and it will go with a lass V
When Mary attained her fifth year, it was determined to send her to France, that she might
receive an education befitting her exalted station.
She was accompanied by four young ladies of her
own age, destined to be her play-fellows in infancy, and her companions when she grew up. They
all bore the same name with their mistress, and
were called the Queen's Maries.
Mary's education in France was strictly attended to, and she profited by the opportunities of
instruction she enjoyed. She was mistress of several languages, and was not only the most accomplished of her sex, but was also, without exception, the most beautiful woman of her time.
Her countenance was lovely; she was tall, well
formed, graceful in all her actions, and her amiable
and condescending manners gained the heart of
all who approached her.
At this period, two powerful parties contended
for the favour of the Scottish Queen. Henry
VIII. of England, her paternal uncle, backed by
the interest of her Protestant subjects in Scotland,
wished her to marry his son, Prince Edward;
and, on the other hand, her mother, the Queen
Regent, with her uncles the Dukes of Guise, laboured to bring about a marriage betwixt her and
the eldest son of the King of France. This they
ultimately accomplished; and nhe was accordingly
MARf, $t7EBN OF SCOTS. .„        $
married to the Dauphin, or eldest son of tri*
French King. The old King soon after died,
and Mary became Queen of France.
This period seems to have been the brighter
portion of Mary's life. But it did not continue
long; for, little more than a year after his accession to the throne of France, her husband died,
and Mary was left a widow at the age of eighteen
This melancholy change in her fortunes was,
in some measure, alleviated by the pressing entreaties of her own subjects in Scotland that she
would return to her native country, and take the
government into her own hands. This she con*
sented to do, and set sail for Scotland on the
15th of August, 1561. She lingered long on the
deck of the galley which was conveying her
home, her eye fixed on the coast of France; and
when they vanished from her eyes, she exclaimed
in sorrow,—" Farewell, farewell, happy France;
I shall never see thee more !"
On the 20th of August Mary arrived in Leith;
but little or no preparation had been made to receive her. Horses were sent to bring her and
her train to Edinburgh, but they were wretched
ponies, and had such tattered furniture and accoutrements, that poor Mary, when she thought
of the splendid palfreys and rich apartments at
the court of France, could net forbear shedding
tears. The people were, however, in their way,
glad to see her   and about two hundred citizens
of Edinburgh, each doing his best upon a three*
stringed fiddle, played below her window all night
by way of welcome—a noisy serenade, which deprived her of sleep, after her fatigue.
Unfortunately for the happiness of Mary's future life, she had been educated in the strictest
doctrines of the Catholic religion : the progress
of the Reformation, therefore, added to the turbulent state of parties in Scotland at the time,
filled her mind with anxious forebodings. She,
however, behaved with great prudence, and, by
her affability and condescension to all, soon
made herself extremely popular.
Mary had been left a widow without children ; and she was sole heir not only to the Scottish throne, but also to that cf England, after
the death of Queen Elizabeth. Her subjects
were therefore very desirous that she should marry a second husband, a purpose which she herself
encouraged and entertained. Several noblemen
at home were proposed, and her hand was also
solicited by foreign princes. Her views, however,
were drawn towards Henry Stuart, LordDarnley,
eldest son of the Earl of Lennox. Young Darn-
ley was remarkably tall and handsome, and perfect in all external and shewy accomplishments,
but, unhappily, destitute of prudence or steadiness of character, and very loose and immoral in
his habits. He was, moreover, no favourite with
Queen Elizabeth of England, who began at this
time to have very great influence in the affairs of
Scotland. The Queen's illegitimate brother, the
Earl of Murray, a man of great abilities and power,
was also strongly opposed to the marriage, and
used all his influence to prevent it Notwithstanding of all these obstacles, thi/ were married at
Edinburgh on the 29th July, 15Jo.
But she soon found to her cost, that she was to
experience any thing but happiness in the husband she had chosen. In a very short time after
the marriage, he began to treat her with great disrespect, and by his headstrong temper, and the indulgence of low and disgraceful vices, her affections were soon completely aJienated from him.
Amongst other subjects of disagreement, Darn-
ley was jealous of the power and influence of
David Rizzio, Mary's Italian secretary. This
man had been formerly his chosen friend, but he
now hated him as his deadliest foe, and, with the
assistance of some discontented noblemen, determined to destroy him.
This horrid design was effected in the most barbarous manner. One evening, while Mary was
sitting at supper in a small cabinet adjoining to
her bed-chamber, in company with the Countess
of Argyle, Rizzio, and some other attendants,
Darnley suddenly entered by a private passage.
He was immediately followed by Lord Ruthven,
clad in complete armour, looking pale and ghastly,
having just  recovered from  long sickness, and
others crowded in  after him, till the closet was
Aill of armed men.    While Mary demanded the
purpose of their coming, Darnley stood for a mo
ment gloomily eyeing his victim;   and Rizzio.
who saw that his life was aimed at, ran behind
the Queen, seized hold of her gown, and implored
her protection.    The assassins threw down the
table, and seized on the unfortunate object of then
vengeance, while Darnley himself took hold of
the Queen, and in spite of her tears and entreat
ies, Rizzio was dragged from her presence int'
an anti-chamber, and despatched with fifty-six
Vounds.—(See Frontispiece.)
Ruthven, after all was over, fatigued with his
exertions, sat down in the Queen's presence, and
called for a drink to refresh him, as if he had been
doing the most harmless thing in the world.
" The witnesses, the actors, and the scene of
this cruel tragedy/' says an elegant historian,
'f render it one of the most extraordinary which
history records to us. The cabinet and the bedroom still remain in the same condition in which
they were at the time; and the floor near the
head of the stair bears visible marks of the blood
of the unhappy Rizzio."
The Queen continued to beg his life with
prayers and tears; but when she learned that he
was dead, she dried her tears—" I will now," she
said, u study revenge J"
It was not to be expected, after this shocking
outrage, that Mary could ever be reconciled to
her husband. His brutal conduct entirely destroyed her happiness, and a deep and settled melancholy preyed upon her heart.
A few months after this tragical event, she was
delivered of a son in the Caslle of Edinburgh. A
curious account is recorded of the behaviour ot
Elizabeth at this time,—When news of this event
reached London, Queen Elizabeth was merrily
engaged in dancing; but upon hearing what had
happened, she left the dance, and sat down, leaning her head on her hand, and exclaiming passionately to her ladies, " Do you not hear how
the Queen of Scots hath a fine son, and I am but
a barren stock!"
The birth of her son did not by any means reconcile Mary to her husband: on the contrary, her
dislike continued to increase to such a degree, that
many of the nobility about her court began to
think, that it would not be disagreeable to her to
De entirely freed from such an ill-tempered husband.
Amongst those who first agitated this scheme
was James, Earl of Bothwell, a man in middle
age, and the head of the powerful family of Hepburn in East Lothian. He had always shown
great zeal for Mary's service, and being one of
those who strongly opposed the murder of Rizzio,
this naturally led her to  distinguish  him with
many marks of her favour and regard; so much
so, that the public voice, and among others that
of John Knox, the distinguished reformer, accused her of being fonder of Bothwell than she ought
to have been, he being a married man, and herself a married woman.
While these schemes were in agitation, Darnley
fell ill at Glasgow of the small-pox.   The Queen,
whose affection seemed to have revived with his
illness, sent him her own physician, and afterwards
went  herself to  him.    They came  together  to
Edinburgh; and that he might enjoy free air, and
be removed from the noise and bustle of the city,
he was lodged without the walls, in a house called
Kirk of Field.   The Queen, with her infant prince,
lodged in the Palace of Holyrood, from whence
she frequently visited her husband, and they never
seemed to have been on better terms than at the
time a dreadful conspiracy against his life was on
the eve of being executed.
% On the evening of the 9th February, several
persons, kinsmen, retainers, and servants of the
Earl of Bothwell, came in secret to the Kirk of
Field. They had with them a great quantity of
gunpowder; and by means of false keys they obtained entrance into the cellars of the building,
where they disposed the powder in the vaults below Darnley's apartment, and especially below
the spot where his bed was placed.
" About two hours after midnight, upon the en-
suing morning, Bothwell himself came, disguised
in a riding-cloak, to see the execution of the cruel
project. Two of his ruffians went in and tools
means of firing the powder, by lighting a piece of
slow-burning match at one end, and placing the
other amongst the gunpowder. They remained
for some time watching the event. The explosion presently took place, blew up the Kirk of
Field, and alarmed the whole city. The body of
Darnley was found in the adjoining orchard/'
This horrible murder excited the strongest sensation throughout the kingdom, and all eyes were
turned on Bothwell as the perpetrator; nor did
Mary herself escape from partaking of the general
Bothwell now no longer concealed his ambitious views.    Having applied for, and obtained, a
divorce from his former wife, he prevailed upon
some of the most powerful nobles to recommend
him as the most proper husband for the Queen ;
and although Mary could not with decency at
once accept of the hand stained with the blood
of her late husband, yet, it must be confessed, she
showed little inclination to resist the efforts made
by Bothwell to accomplish his purpose.   Being on
a visit to the young prince at Stirling, on her return to Edinburgh, she was met by Bothwell at
Cramond Bridge with a thousand horse.   Having
disarmed her attendants, he seized the bridle of
the Queen's palfrey, and without much resistance
on her part, carried her to the strong Cas
Dunbar in East Lothian,    Mary, soon after
with   the most unpardonable indiscretion,
to Edinburgh, and publicly married this
gate and ambitious nobleman.
But this ill-fated marriage, instead of proma
ing Mary's happiness, had the contrary effect, fo
Bothwell used her grossly ill, and being disap
pointed in getting the young prince into his keep*
ing, used such upbraiding language to her, that
she was heard to pray for a knife to stab herself
rather than endure his cruel treatment.    To add
to her distress, many of the most powerful nobles
rose in arms, and avowed their determination to
rescue the young prince,—revenge the death of
Darnley,—and remove Bothwell from his usurped
Bothwell and Mary assembled a body of troops
to oppose this confederacy, and the two armies
met on Carberry Hill, seven miles to the eastward
of Edinburgh. The troops of Mary were, however, ill affected to her cause, and Bothwell, after
various attempts to animate their courage, was
persuaded by the Queen to leave the field. Mary,
upon a promise of kind treatment, delivered her*
self up to the Laird of Grange, who conducted
her to Edinburgh,
As the unhappy Queen approached the capita*,
led as it were in triumph, the most coarse and
insulting language was used towards her by the
populace. A banner was exhibited before her,
displaying on the one side the portrait of Darnley.
as he lay murdered under a tree in the fatal orchard, with these words embroidered, " Judge and
avenge my cause, O Lord!" and on the other side
the little prince on his knees, holding up his hands,
as if praying to Heaven against his father's murderers ; and as the Queen rode through the streets,
with her hair loose, her garments disordered,
covered with dust, and overpowered with grief,
the multitude loudly upbraided her with having
been an accomplice in ner husband's murder.
The Lords of the confederacy, however, apprehending danger to their cause from some symptoms of returning loyalty amongst the better order
of citizens, conveyed her to the strong Castle of
Lochleven, which stands on a little island surrounded by a lake of the same name, and detained
her as a prisoner,
Bothwell escaped in a boat to Denmark, but
being suspected of plundering some vessel at sea,
he was thrown into prison; and, after languishing
ten years in confinement, died without the sympathy of one friendly tear,
Mary was imprisoned in a rude and inconvenient tower, where there was scarcely room to
walk thirty yards, and her brother the Earl of
Murray, was made Regent of the kingdom durin|
the minority of her son,    They even compelled
her to sign a deed, surrendering her crown to her
son; and Lord Lindsay, the ., most brutal and bigoted of the confederated Lords, was so unmanly
as to pinch with his iron glove the arm of the poor
Queen, to compel her to subscribe the deeds.
A singular incident, however, for a short time,
changed the face of things, and gave a gleam of
hope to the unfortunate  Queen of Scots.     Sir
William Douglas, the Laird of Lochleven, discharged the,task of Mary's jailor with.considerable severity; but his youngest brother, George
Douglas, a youth of eighteen, was deeply inter
ested by her beauty and misfortunes, and had for
some time been anxiously meditating her deliver
ance.    By the help of a little boy, a kinsman of
his own, called Little Douglas, he contrived to
steal the key of the castle while the family were
at supper.    He let Mary and her attendant out of
the tower when all had gone to rest,—locked tho
gate behind them to prevent pursuit,—placed the
Queen in a little boat provided for that purpose,
find rowed them to the shore, throwing the keys
of the castle into the lake in the course of theii
passage.    Lord Seaton, a party of the Hamiltons,
and many of her friends, were waiting at the landing-place.    They hurried her off to Niddry in
West-Lothian, from which she went next day to
The news of the Queen's escape flew like lightning, and spread enthusiasm every where.    Her
errors were now forgotten—they thought only of
her misfortunes, her gentleness, grace and beauty.
At the end of the week, she found herself at the
head of a powerful confederacy, by which nine
Bishops, eighteen Lords, and many gentlemen of
high rank, engaged to defend her person, and restore her power. >
But these bright prospects were soon obscured.
The Regent Murray was lying at Glasgow, and
although his troops were much inferior to Mary's
in point of number, yet, with a just confidence in
his own abilities, assisted by the experience of
Kirkaldy, Morton, and other tried officers, he determined to meet the Queen's Lords, and give
them battle.
The two armies met at the village of Langside,
near Paisley. Too confident in their number
and valour, the Hamiltons, and others of Mary's
party, rushed heedlessly on to the engagement.
Both parties fought with obstinacy, but the Earl of
Morton decided the battle, by attacking the Hamiltons in flank, while their columns were closely
engaged in front. This movement was decisive,
and the Queen's army was completely routed.
From a rising ground in the neighbourhood
Mary witnessed this fatal defeat, whereby all her
brilliant prospects were completely extinguished.
Filled with distress and terror, she instantly rode
off at full speed, accompanied by a few faithful followers, and never closed her eyes till she reached
  ■ THE HISTORY    '^^^^^^^^^
the Abbey of Dundrennan in Galloway, sixty
miles from the field of battle. From this place
she had it in her power either to go to France,
or cross the frontier to England, and put herself
under the protection of Queen Elizabeth. This
last step she determined upon, contrary to the
advice of her wiser attendants, who kneeled and
entreated in vain.
In throwing herself upon the protection of the
English Queen, Mary seems to have acted from
the impulses of her own generous nature, and
trusted to her feelings as a woman, and a near
relation. But Elizabeth considered the Scottish
Queen, not as a sister or friend in distress, but
as an enemy, and determined to reduce her to the
condition of a captive.
In pursuance of this line of conduct, the unfortunate Mary was surrounded with guards, and removed to Bolton Castle in Yorkshire.
For eighteen long years was Mary detained a
prisoner under various pretexts of plotting with
the enemies of the state, as if it was a crime for
the poor Scottish Queen to long for liberty, and
to favour the plans contrived by her friends for
her deliverance.
Meantime, Scotland was filled with war and
bloodshed; all natural ties were forgotten in the
distinction of Kingsmen and Queensmen, and fathers, sons, and brothers took opposite sides, and
fought against each other. The very children of
the towns and villages are said to have formed
themselves into bands for King James or Queen
Mary, and fought inveterately with stones, sticks,
and knives.
The Earl of Murray, being now Regent of the
kingdom, had attained to the height of his ambition. But it happens frequently, that when men
appear most secure of the object they have been
long toiling for, their views are suddenly and
strangely disappointed. A blow was impending
over Murray from a quarter, which, if named to
the haughty Regent, he would probably have despised, since it originated in the resentment of a
private man.
After the battle of Langside, six of the Hamiltons were condemned to die, but through the intercession of John Knox, received a pardon, although with the loss of their property. One of
these pe^ons was Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh, a
man of a fierce and vindictive character. His
lands of Woodhouselee, near Roslin, were given
to one of Murray's favourites, who, in taking possession, rudely turned Hamilton's wife out of her
own house, undressed, and exposed to a stormy
and tempestuous night. In consequence of this
brutal treatment, she became insane and died.
Her husband vowed revenge against the Regent
Murray, whom he considered the author of all his
Learning that the Regent was to pass through
Linlithgow on a certain day, Bothwellhaugh secretly introduced himself into a house whose window looked to the street. He hung a black cloth
on the wall of the apartment where he lay, that
his shadow might not be seen from without, and
spread a mattress on the floor, that the sound of
his feet might not be heard from beneath. To
secure his escape, he fastened a fleet horse in the
garden behind the house, and barricaded the door
which opened to the street. Thus prepared, he
armed himself with a loaded carabine, and waited
the arrival of his unsuspecting victim.
It is said that the Regent was warned of the
danger, but thinking it beneath him to show any
signs of fear, he kept on his way down the crowded street. As he came opposite to the fatal window, his horse was retarded by the crowd. This
gave Bothwellhaugh time to take a deliberate
aim; he fired his carabine, and the Regent fell,
mortally wounded.
The ball, after passing through his body, killed
the horse of a gentleman who rode on his right
hand. His attendants rushed furiously at the
door of the house from which the shot had issued;
nut Bothwellhaugh's precautions had been so securely taken, that they were unable to force their
entrance till he had mounted his good horse, and
escaped through the garden gate. He was notwithstanding pursued so closely, that he had very
nearly been taken ; but after spur and whip had
both failed, he pricked his horse with his dagger,
and compelled him to take a desperate leap over
a ditch, which his pursuers were unable to cross,
and thus made his escape.—The Regent died in
the course of the night, leaving a character, which
has been, perhaps, too highly extolled by one
class of authors, and too much depreciated by
another, according as his conduct to his sister was
approved or condemned.
The death of Murray seems to have been expected by Mary's friends, for the very night after
it happened, the Scotts and Kerrs, two border
clans, broke into England, and laid waste the
country in all directions. When threatened with
the vengeance of the Regent, a borderer replied
that the Regent was as cold as his bridle-bit.
In consequence of the murder of the Regent,
men's minds were much exasperated against one
another. Various castles still held out for Mary,
and among others was Dumbarton Castle. It was,
however, taken from her party in the following
extraordinary manner:—
Dumbarton is one of the strongest places in
Scotland. It is situated on a rock, which rises
almost perpendicularly from a level plain to the
height of several hundred feet. On the. summit
of this rock the buildings are situated, and as
there is only one access from below, which rises
by steps, and is strongly guarded and fortified,
the fort might be almost held to be impregnable,
that is, incapable of being taken. One Captain
Crawfurd of Jordanhill resolved, nevertheless, to
make an attempt on this formidable castle.
He took advantage of a misty and moonless
night to bring to the foot of the castle-rock the
scaling-ladders which he had provided, choosing
for his terrible experiment the place where the
rock was highest, and where, of course, less pains
were taken to keep a regular guard.   This choice
was fortunate; for the first ladder broke with the
weight of the men who attempted to mount, and
the noise of the fall must have betrayed them,
had there been any sentinel within hearing. Crawford, assisted by a soldier who had deserted from
the castle,  and was  acting as his guide,   next
scrambled up, and contrived to  make fast the
second ladder, by tying it to the roots of a tree,
which grew about midway up the rock.    Here
they found a small flat surface, that held the whole
party, which was, of course, very few in number.
In scaling the second precipice, another accident
took place: One of the party, subject to epileptic
fits, was seized by one of those attacks, brought
on perhaps by terror, while he was in the act of
climbing up the ladder.    His illness made it impossible for him either to ascend or descend.    To
have slain the man would have been a cruel expedient, besides that his fall from the ladder must
have alarmed the garrison.   Crawford caused him,
Mary, queen of scots,
therefore, to be tied to the ladder: then all In
rest descending, they turned the ladder, and thus
mounted with ease over the belly of the epileptic
person. When the party gained the summit, they
slew the sentinel ere he had time to give the
alarm, and easily surprised the slumbering garrison, who had trusted too much to the security of
their castle. This exploit of Crawford may compare with any thing oi the kind which we read oi
in history.
In the meantime, poor Mary was kept in close
confinement, carried from castle to castle, and put
under various keepers. At last Elizabeth determined to bring her unhappy cousin to a publiG
trial, for having encouraged and aided some zealous Catholics to assassinate Queen Elizabeth.
And, in spite of the absurdity of trying the Queen
of Scotland by the laws of England, she was found
guilty by her judges, and the Parliament of England ratified this iniquitotts sentence. A warrant
for her execution immediately followed, and the
Earls of Kent and Shrewsbury, with the High
Sheriff of the county, were commanded to see this
fatal mandate carried into effect.
Mary received the news of her immediate execution with the utmost firmness. "The soul,'*
she said, a was undeserving of the joys of heaven,
which would shrink from the blow of an executioner. She had not/* she added, " expected that
her   kinswoman would ha?e consented to h«r
death,^but submitted not the less willingly to
fate/'    She earnestly requested the assistanc
a Catholic priest; but this favour, although gr
ed to the worst of criminals, was cruelly denied
her.     The   Queen  then wrote   her will,
short  and   affectionate letters to her  friends
France.—Amidst the tears   and lamentations
her attendants, she distributed her little valuable
among them, and desired  them to keep them for
her sake.    This occupied the evening before the
day appointed for her execution.
On the 8th February, lo£7, the Queen, still
maintaining the same calm and undisturbed appearance that she had displayed at her trial, was
brought down to the gr^gt hall of the Castle of
Fotheringay, where a scaffold was erected, on
which was placed a I)lock and a chair, covered
with black cloth. As she passed through the hall,
Sir Andrew Meivil'e, the master of her household, was permitted to take a last leave of the
mistress whom he had served long and faithfully.
He burst into tears, loudly bewailing her fate, and
lamenting his own in being destined to carry such
news to Scotland
" Weep not, my good Melville," said the Queen
" but rather rejoice, for thou shalt this day see
Mary Stuart relieved from all her sorrows."
She obtained permission, with some difficulty,
that her maids should be permitted to accompany
her to the scaffold.
Seated in the fatal chair, she heard the death-
warrant read with an unmoved countenance. The
Dean of Peterborough exhorted her to renounce
the errors of the Church of Rome. She listened
to him with impatience, repeatedly assuring him
that his exhortations were in vain, since she was
resolved to die in the Catholic faith. She implored the mercy of Heaven, after the form prescribed by that church, and then prepared herself
for execution, by taking off such parts of her
dress as might interfere with the deadly blow.
The executioners offered their assistance, but she
modestly refused it, saying, she had neither been
accustomed to undress before so many spectators,
nor to be assisted by such servants.
The grief of her attendants now broke forth in
loud lamentations; but she put her finger to her
lips, as a sign for them to be silent, gave them
her blessing, and desired their prayers. One of
her maids covered her eyes with a handkerchief.
She then laid her head upon the block, and while
one of the executioners held her hands, the other,
at the second stroke, severed her head from her
body. The headsman held it up in his hand,
streaming with blood, and the Dean of Peterborough cried out, " So perish all Queen Elizabeth's enemies \" No voice save that of the Earl
of Kent answered Amen ; the rest of the spectators stood in silent horror, their voices choked
with &ighs and tear
We cannot conclude this account of the unfortunate Mary better than in the words of an eminent author :«—
u Thus died Mary, aged a little above forty-four
H years. She was eminent for beauty, for talents,
"and accomplishments, nor is there reason to
" doubt her natural goodness of heart, and courageous manliness of disposition. Yet she was,
"in every sense, one of the most unhappy prin-
u cesses that ever lived, from the moment when
u she came into the world, in an hour of defeat
H and danger, to that in which a bloody and vio-
u lent death closed a weary captivity of eighteen
" years/'
ms to*©.


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