This is volume 5, covering the time from Murray to the King of Many Enemies. In many volumes of several thousand combined pages the series "The History of Scotland" deals with something less than two millenniums of Scottish history. Every single volume covers a certain period in an attempt to examine the elements and forces which were imperative to the making of the Scottish people, and to record the more important events of that time.
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The History Of Scotland – Volume 5
From Murray To The King Of Many Enemies
The Prisons Of Mary Stuart (1567 – 1568)
Regencies Of Murray And Lennox (1568 – 1572)
Regency Of Morton (1572 – 1577 – 1581)
King And Kirk (1581-1584)
The End Of Mary Stuart & The Truth About The Master Of Gray (1584 – 1587)
The King Of Many Enemies.
THE HISTORY OF SCOTLAND – VOLUME 5, Andrew Lang
Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck
86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9
AN affair so important as the murder of the queen's husband was certain to leak out before its execution. Murray probably knew what was being conspired. Morton, before his execution in 1581, admitted that Bothwell had tried to enlist him; but he would not join without Mary's signed warrant, which Bothwell could not procure. Overtures were again made to him by Archibald Douglas, his cousin, who was with him later, when the famous silver casket with Mary's letters was broken open and inspected. Morton admitted that he did not try to dissuade his cousin from the deed, nor cease to associate with him, though Archibald was confessedly present on the scene of the crime of Kirk-o'-Field. Yet Morton it was who led the prosecution of Mary. Morton confessedly signed a band to aid Bothwell if he were charged with the murder. On the scaffold he exclaimed, " I testify before God I have professed the evangel." Another of the murderers, Ormiston, a man of abominable life, thanked God, for, said he, "I am assured that I am one of His Elect." Clearly these men expected to be saved by faith, not by works. Such were the conspirators, active or passive. Mary's attitude appears from her letter, or the letter written for her by Lethington, to her ambassador in France on February 11. Beaton had warned her to look closely to her safety, and, taking the cue, she thanked him for the advice, and said that the suspected plot had partially failed. She had lately slept in Kirk-o'-Field: the criminals expected her to do so again on that Sunday night, but she "of very chance tarried not all night, by reason of some masque at Holyrood; but we believe that it was not chance, but that God put it in our head." Persons of both religions make very free with that awful name.
Probably gunpowder was used for the very purpose of the pretence that Mary and the lords were aimed at as well as Darnley. Beaton replied that it were better for her to lose " life and all " than not to punish the crime. Men averred that " all was done by her command." She was now the common talk of Europe. Mary did not in her position she could not take the advice of her faithful servant. Even if innocent, what could she do, with Bothwell, Argyll, Huntly, and Lethington all concerned in the plot? As Beaton predicted, all went from bad to worse. The inquiry which was begun ceased as soon as it became dangerous. No man durst earn the reward which was offered for a discovery. Caricatures of Bothwell and the queen were posted on the walls, and (March 13) James Murray of Tullibardine was denounced as the artist and fled. Nocturnal voices denounced the guilty. Mary's mourning was regarded as a farce. James Murray of Tullibardine in vain offered to denounce and fight the culprits. Lennox, granted a trial, accused Bothwell, who overawed justice as the friends of the preachers had done, as everybody did, by a display of force. Lennox, on the other hand, was not allowed to bring in his own following. Yet even here Mr. Hosack makes out a fair forensic defence of the queen.
Lennox asked Elizabeth to back his petition for the adjournment of the trial. Elizabeth's messenger reached Holyrood on the morning of the "day of law." He was not allowed to enter Holyrood, and was insulted. Finally, Bothwell took the letter of Elizabeth in, but returned and said that Mary was asleep. His horse (once Darnley's) was brought, he mounted, and glanced back at the palace; the messenger saw Mary nod to him from her window. At the trial a friend of Lennox, Cunningham, entered a protest, behaving with great courage. After long debate the jury, for fear or favour, and helped by a technical error in the pleas, acquitted Bothwell in the lack of evidence, some giving no vote. Parliament met (April 14-19), and an attempt was made to conciliate all parties. The spiritual members sat, and some of them acted as Lords of the Articles. All old laws against Protestantism were annulled, and holders were secured in their possession of Church lands. The General Assembly " obtained for every borough" the altarages and obits, for the maintenance of ministers, schools, and the poor. Edinburgh Castle had been taken from Mar, who received Stirling Castle, where he protected the infant prince as honourably as he had acted in his tenure of Edinburgh Castle. Bothwell got Dunbar Castle, a strong place of retreat, with power of escape by sea. The placarding of charges against Mary was denounced under severe penalties. As Kirkcaldy avers, in a letter to Bedford, that the queen "caused ratify the cleansing of Bothwell," it is difficult to doubt a fact not chronicled in the public records. Many lords, including Huntly, were confirmed in their estates, some of which Mary might have legally resumed. Among the names of the nobles -present in Parliament that of Murray does not appear; Lethington and his kinsman, Atholl, are also absent, which is strange. On March 13 Murray had asked Cecil, in haste, for a safe-conduct. Archbishop Beaton, in Paris, was just then warning Mary that the Spanish Ambassador knew of, but would not reveal, another plot against her. Murray had a remarkable knack of keeping out of the way when conspiracies were about to come to a head. Just before asking Cecil for a safe-conduct, Murray had entertained the new English envoy, Killigrew, at dinner (March 8). The other guests, Argyll, Huntly, Bothwell, and Lethington, were all in the band to murder Darnley. Is it not clear that Murray had no suspicions as to the character of these designing men? The ardent advocates of Mary will urge that she was as guileless as her brother. Bothwell had, indeed, been placarded as the chief assassin; but Murray was not the man to be moved by anonymous accusations. Things had even been said against himself. Of Mary his generous nature entertained no suspicion. Just as he chose a select party of murderers to meet the English envoy, so, before leaving Scotland, he made his will, leaving Mary guardian to his infant daughter (April 3, 1567). Then Murray departed on a visit to France, taking England on the way.
By making this opportune jaunt Murray missed a singular event the signing, by many nobles, of the Ainslie band advising Mary to marry Bothwell. To this band the signatures were placed, after a supper given by Bothwell at Ainslie's Tavern, on the night of April 19. In December 1568, when the Commission on Mary met at Westminster, a copy of this band was given to Cecil by John Read, a clerk of George Buchanan. The signatures were not appended, and Cecil himself has written them as supplied by Read from memory. Murray, we are certain, was not present at the supper, yet Read heads the list with his name. Nothing is much darker in these intrigues than the truth about Ainslie's band, an association for supporting Bothwell, and recommending him as a husband to Mary. When Murray, Morton, and Lethington prosecuted Mary before the English commission in 1568 they do not appear, as a body, to have put in an official copy of this band, at least not of the signatures. Murray's name, as we saw, is in the list supplied by the memory of Read, but Murray was not even in the country on April 19. Mary's confessor told the Spanish Ambassador, in London, in July 1567, that Murray did not sign. There was for long a copy of the band in the Scots College at Paris, attested by Sir James Balfour as authentic. The signatures differ from those in Read's list, and include Archbishop Hamilton, the Bishop of Orkney, and Lesley, Bishop of Ross. The second of these performed in May the marriage service between Mary and Bothwell, yet he was one of the Scottish commissioners who prosecuted the queen. Lesley avers that he cannot account (unless by art magic) for Mary's conduct in wedding Bothwell. According to a MS. of Lethington's son (1616), Lesley was a hanger-on at this time of the Hepburns.
It is to be remarked that Lethington did not sign, nor did his kinsman, Atholl, though Nau, Mary's secretary, avers that Lethington urged her to the marriage. He cannot have approved of it; he was now on the worst terms with Bothwell. The lords later averred that they had Mary's warrant for signing; they showed it at the York meeting, October 1568, but it is not mentioned in the subsequent proceedings at Westminster. Thus we know not exactly what lords signed (Morton certainly did) or why. "Ainslie's band" was clearly a subject on which the God-fearing men who later prosecuted Mary wished to say as little as possible. Later they denounced her for wedding Bothwell, though in Ainslie's band they had urged her to marry him. Their excuses were, now that they were frightened into signing by the musketeers of the guards, now that they had a warrant for signing from Mary. Neither apology, nor both combined, seems worthy of high-spirited, sagacious, and deeply religious men. A more valuable, if more subtle, apology is that of modern admirers of the lords. They had advised Mary to marry Bothwell, but that did not imply that Bothwell was licensed to carry her off by force. However, they still publicly maintained that he had carried her off by force, after they had professed privately that they knew her to be in collusion with him (June 30, 1567). Thus Ainslie's band remained a stone of stumbling to the men who first signed it, and then prosecuted the queen. On April 20 Kirkcaldy, giving a fresh account of the doings of the previous day, told Bedford that Bothwell, " the night Parliament was dissolved, called most of the noblemen to supper, to desire their promise in writing and consent to the queen's marriage, which he will obtain, for she has said she cares not to lose France, England, and her own country for him, and shall go with him to the world's end in a white petticoat ere she leave him." Kirkcaldy probably did not hear her say so, but her behaviour made the report credible to him. He says nothing here about the employment of force and terror at Ainslie's tavern. He asked whether Elizabeth would aid his allies in avenging Darnley's murder. Drury reports that, on the night after Ainslie's supper, Bothwell's men mutinied for pay in the queen's presence, and were pacified by her with 400 crowns. On the 21st (Monday) she went to Stirling to see her child, and Kirkcaldy reported that she meant to place him in Bothwell's hands. Mar was not the man to permit this, if intended. Drury tells an absurd tale, that Mary offered her child an apple, a natural dainty for a child of nine months. The young Solomon declined the fruit, so tempting to a toothless nursling; but it was thankfully shared by a greyhound and her puppies, which all incontinently expired. Greyhounds are not usually fond of raw apples. Such are the legends of Drury to Mary's disadvantage.
The next event was the abduction of Mary by Bothwell on her way from Stirling to Edinburgh. Was she in collusion? Mr. Hosack, in his defence, does not remark on the circumstance that, if Mary was ignorant of the enterprise, many of her subjects were not. Intelligence of the scheme is given in a letter of the day of the deed (April 24), signed " by him that is yours, who took you by the hand. At midnight." Drury knew the purpose on the same day. As early as April 23, Lennox, in the west, knew, determined to fly, and wrote about the plot from his ship to Lady Lennox. Bothwell apparently did not rely on the Ainslie band, and he, or Mary, was in a hurry. Mr. Froude prints, and dates "April 23," one of the disputed casket letters, alleged to have been written at this time by Mary from Stirling (letter vii.) There are, in fact, three letters on this subject of the abduction iii. (viii.), vi., vii. They express distrust of Huntly, the brother of that wife whom Bothwell was about to divorce. There are difficulties concerning these letters. In vii. Mary says that Sutherland is with her at Stirling, and many who would rather die than let her be taken. We have no proof or hint that Sutherland was at Stirling. Moreover, as Lethington was apparently with Mary, why does she bid Bothwell say " many fair words to Lethington "? Again, letter viii. is clearly not third in order, as is alleged in " Murray's Diary " of dates supplied to Cecil, but, if genuine, was written at Linlithgow the night before the abduction. This extraordinary piece of euphuistic jargon is discussed in the author's ' Mystery of Mary Stuart.'
On April 24, at some undetermined spot near Edinburgh, Mary was abducted by Bothwell with a large force, and carried to Dunbar. Huntly (in collusion), Sir James Melville, and Lethington were taken with her. Had Lethington been aware of the scheme he would not have been there. Did Mary know more than Lethington? Drury reports that he would have been slain on the first night " if the queen had not hindered Huntly, and said that if a hair of Lethington's head perished, she would cause him to forfeit lands, goods, and life." Sir James Melville says that Lethington was in danger from Bothwell, not Huntly, and Lethington's son (MS. of 1616) gives a minute account of how Mary bravely rescued her secretary. Mary implies, in a letter to the French Court, that Bothwell actually violated her person this as an excuse for her consent to marry him. All this line of defence is inconsistent with Mary's determined courage, as just proved by her rescue of Lethington. It is the natural inference that she, like many other women, was not proof against the charms of Bothwell, who, moreover, had practically saved her after Riccio's murder.
No man can record this opinion without regret. Charm, courage, kindness, loyalty to friends and servants, all were Mary's. But she fell; and passion overcame her, who to other hostile influences presented a heart of diamond. They who have followed her fortunes, cruel in every change, must feel, if convinced of her passion, an inextinguishable regret, a kind of vicarious remorse, a blot, as it were, on their personal honour. Not all earth's rivers flowing in one channel can wash the stain away. As in the tragedy of Aeschylus, the heroic queen has sacrificed herself, and the noble nature that was born with her, to the love of the basest of mankind. "Strange tragedies," Lethington had predicted, would follow her coming to Scotland, as if foreseeing not only her, but his own, mischance.
Events hurried on: two days after the elopement Kirkcaldy told Bedford that he must avenge Darnley's death or leave the country. Many would aid him, but they fear Elizabeth. Mary remained with Bothwell at Dunbar till May 6. A double process of divorce between Bothwell and his wife, in Catholic and Protestant courts, was shuffled through. The Protestants found Bothwell guilty of adultery with a maid-servant; the Catholics declared that the marriage had always been null for lack of a dispensation, which, none the less, existed, and has been found by Dr. Stewart, but which contains an extraordinary error in the dating. The decisions which set Bothwell free to marry were on May 3 and May 7. On the 6th Bothwell and Mary entered Edinburgh in state. On May 9 their banns of marriage were read, Craig, the preacher, publicly proclaiming his horror at the task which he could not legally decline. Craig throughout displayed extraordinary courage: not many men dared to beard Bothwell in that hour. In Craig we see the best aspect of the Reformation, austere and dauntless virtue. Mary now created Bothwell Duke of Orkney; she safeguarded her exclusive regal rights in a way impossible to a helpless victim. The Protestant Bishop of Orkney married the pair by the Protestant ceremony on May 15. For Bothwell Mary temporarily deserted even her Church. But few nobles were present; du Croc, representing France, declined to attend. Already was Mary's a life of tears and bitterness. Bothwell was brutally jealous of her, saying that he thoroughly understood her love of licence; she was still jealous of Lady Bothwell. On her wedding-day she told du Croc that she longed to die. Later, being alone with Bothwell, she was heard, says du Croc, to call for a knife to slay herself. These facts may be regarded as presumptions in favour of her reluctance to marry Bothwell, but they admit of another explanation wretchedness, caused by jealousy on both sides.
Even before the marriage (April 27) the lords of the North, from Aberdeen, had offered to rescue Mary. By May 5 Drury announced that the lords, including Morton, Atholl, and Bothwell's accomplices, were banded at Stirling in a scheme to crown little James VI. Robert Melville added that France had offered to aid them (for the purpose of renewing the old alliance), but that they preferred help from Elizabeth. Kirkcaldy announced their purpose, to rescue Mary, guard the child prince, and avenge Darnley. He indicated the danger of a French alliance, and wished Murray to be in readiness on the coast of Normandy. Mary knew her peril: by May 31 Drury reports that she has coined Elizabeth's beautiful golden font and much of her plate. Ballads and caricatures against the queen were circulated. Mary hastened a Border expedition for the purpose of levying men: she and Both well were now deserted by Lethington (June 7). He joined Atholl, and with him entered Edinburgh. Mary and Bothwell moved to Borthwick Castle, tending towards a Border tour, while Lethington had a long interview with Balfour in the castle, and detached him from Bothwell. On the night of June 10-11 the hostile lords surrounded Borthwick. Bothwell slipped away, Mary issued a proclamation; but on the night of June 11 rode to join him on the road to Dunbar, in male attire. From Edinburgh the lords issued their proclamation; they would rescue Mary, guard James, and avenge Darnley. They accused Bothwell of the murder, many of them, as accomplices, knowing the truth. He had bewitched Mary, they said, " by unlawful ways "; had hypnotised her, as it were. Her own innocence of the murder was not disputed. The best account of what followed is in papers sent to France by du Croc, the French Ambassador. Mary was clad in a short red petticoat, kilted to the knee. She marched on Edinburgh with Bothwell's retainers; the lords, in about equal force, some 1000 men, manoeuvred on the old cock-pit of Scotland, the banks of Esk, near the scenes of Pinkie fight and Prestonpans. Mary occupied Carberry Hill (June 15). Du Croc tried to negotiate, but failed, and retired to Edinburgh. The hostile armies watched each other, but gradually Mary's men slipped away to look for provender. The lords knew that Mary's force must retreat for want of supplies. Bothwell now sent a challenge to single combat: Tullibardine took up the gage; Mary denied his quality. Lindsay offered himself, but Mary could not be persuaded to let her lover hazard his life. The lords' army now advanced under a banner painted with Darnley dead, and little James praying to heaven for vengeance. The captain of Inchkeith, a French officer whose report du Croc sent to his Government, says that Mary offered to surrender herself if Bothwell was not pursued. James Beaton, writing to the Archbishop of Glasgow, rather gives the idea that Mary " drove time " till Bothwell had a start of two miles. Mary herself alleged that the lords promised loyalty if she joined them. But to what extent the lords made promises, which, if made, were broken, remains uncertain. It certainly seems that, as regards Bothwell, the lords were glad to be rid of so compromising a captive. Mary, in her red petticoat, rode into Edinburgh, threatened and threatening. She was lodged in the house of Henderson of Fordel, a Fifeshire laird of her acquaintance, the house being then occupied by the Provost. The rabble howled at her: she appeared at the window dishevelled and half clad, and her aspect bred some pity. She is reported to have written a love-letter to Bothwell, which was betrayed by the bearer. If this were true, the letter would have been produced with the casket letters. But the story, with Lethington's statement that, in conversation with him, she declined to abandon Bothwell, gave the lords an excuse for holding her as a prisoner. According to Melville, Grange resented her treatment: it was to him that she had yielded herself. The letter, however, impeded Grange's desire to help her. The circumstances are obscure, but may partly account for Grange's later attitude.
Here it is to be remarked that Nau, Mary's secretary, gives an account of the whole circumstances which cannot be neglected. Mary, when taken at Carberry, accused Morton of a hand in Darnley's murder, and of this fact we have independent evidence. Nau also alleges that Bothwell, at their last parting on the field, gave Mary a copy of the murder band with signatures. Thus informed, Mary, on the day after Carberry (June 16), accused Lethington of his part in the deed. There is good reason to believe, from Mary's letters to Sir James Balfour, before the fall of Morton (1581), that Mary did not possess the murder band. But some document she had. At Lochleven, in prison, she was heard to say that she possessed "that in black and white which would cause Lethington to hang by the neck "; so a letter in the Lennox MSS. declares. Therefore, on June 16, in an interview with Lethington (says Nau), she told him what she knew of his guilt. A few weeks ago she had saved his life at her own peril, placing her body between him and Bothwell's dirk, in the ruelle of her bedroom. And now Lethington was the most cruel of her captors. As a fact, she detested him henceforth, alive and dead, as is proved by the Memoirs of Nau. Lethington of course gave a very different account of their interview on June 16, while she was a prisoner in Edinburgh. He posed as a man reluctantly obliged to leave her cause, but most anxious to serve her if he could. Nay, he presently did try to conciliate her, but (as Randolph plainly told him in a letter of a later date) not till he had failed to induce the lords to put her to death. As she lived, and as she had proof of his guilt in Darnley's murder, he was compelled to conciliate her. We shall find that, while he showed the casket letters, privately, to the English commissioners at York (October 1568), to attain a special end, he next tried to shake the belief of Norfolk in the authenticity of the letters, and opposed their public production at Westminster. Once the letters were widely known, Lethington had shot his bolt, while hers, her proof of his guilt, was in her quiver. Thus he was forced into her service later, and died in it, unforgiven. By this theory, previously unknown to our historians, the strangely tortuous later policy of Lethington may be explained. His ruin was the signing of the murder band, a thing which he should have foreseen to be hostile to his interests, as it left Mary at the mercy of Bothwell, his deadly foe. Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, after Carberry, Mary found in Lethington a measure of ingratitude which made him, of all men, the most hateful in her eyes. He produced, on the mind of du Croc, the impression that Mary was guilty. " The unhappy facts are only too well proved."
Later, Mary was led to Holyrood under an escort bearing the banner painted with the death of Darnley. She tried to send a message to Sir James Balfour, praying him to keep the castle for her, but that wretch had been making his peace with the lords. She begged her maid to implore for the pity and kindness of Lethington, whom she had saved from the brutal threats of Bothwell. So wrote James Beaton to his brother, the Archbishop, in Paris. At midnight she was hurried to the Castle of Lochleven, on the little island near the northern shore of the loch. The lord of the castle was Sir William Douglas, half-brother of Mary's own half-brother, the Earl of Murray. Here, in the narrow chambers of the tower on the islet, she could draw breath, and know herself deserted, stripped of everything, insulted, and in peril of death, all for "a little of dear-bought love." That Mary parted from Bothwell readily, and did not love him, is the argument of Mi Hosack. What evidence exists looks contrary to this opinion. The lords were now safe for the moment. Bothwell had fled to Spynie, the castle of his aged kinsman, the Bishop of Murray, whence he retired to his new duchy, the Orkney Islands. Mary was secured in a prison, where she soon fascinated Ruthven (she declared, through Nau, that he insulted her by his passion), and won over most of the dwellers in the little isle. Elizabeth was writing severe letters to Mary, and threatening the lords if they injured her. Presently she sent Throckmorton, an unwilling envoy, to see Mary, if possible, and to take measures for her protection. Elizabeth wished the child prince to be conveyed to England; du Croc desired that he might be removed to France: the lords could play alternately on French and English ambition. This was their strength, at once against the queen's party (the Hamiltons, with Argyll and Huntly) and the anger of Elizabeth. But their legal position was bad: they were certainly rebels, and in danger while Mary lived and was uncondemned. That she should die, after or before legal condemnation, was the eager desire of the populace and the preachers.
At this critical moment (June 19-21) Dalgleish, a servant ofBothwell's, visited the castle, was arrested, and was found in possession of a small casket, silver gilt, a present from Mary to Bothwell. The casket, according to a formal statement of Morton's before Elizabeth's commissioners in December 1568, was forced open in the presence of himself and of many gentlemen, including Lethington, Atholl, Home, and Archibald Douglas, cousin of Morton, and one of Darnley's murderers. The contents of the coffer were the celebrated incriminating " casket letters " of Mary to Bothwell, her " sonnets," and a promise of marriage. The question of the authenticity of these MSS. is discussed in an appendix (A). Meanwhile, genuine or not, they furnished a secret reserve of strength to the lords, as justifying their treatment of the guilty Mary. Dalgleish's deposition contains no word of the casket, but this is unimportant. He could know nothing of its contents. An important point to note, though our historians have overlooked it, is this: on June 21, the day of the inspection of the casket papers, a messenger was sent post-haste, "on sudden despatch," by the lords to Cecil. He bore a letter from Lethington, who, since Bothwell carried him and Mary off on April 24, had not sat in the Privy Council: his name does not occur even in the list of June 21. From Lethington's letter, and from the circumstances, it is plain that the messenger, George Douglas, carried a verbal message about the contents of the casket to Cecil, and also to Robert Melville, who had been sent to London by Mary and Bothwell on June 5. He had also, secretly, carried messages from the lords, who were preparing to rise in arms. Melville argued with Elizabeth on Mary's side. Probably it was he who induced Elizabeth to express to the Spanish Ambassador her disbelief in the authenticity of the letters, and her opinion that Lethington had "acted badly in that matter." Nor is it impossible that Lethington had tampered with the papers. For several days Lethington had been in touch with Sir James Balfour, the custodian of the casket, and Randolph accuses Lethington and Balfour of opening a small casket or coffer of BothwelPs, covered with green velvet (as we know that such coffers usually were), and of abstracting the band for Darnley's murder. They who abstracted one paper could insert or alter others.
As late as July 21, a month after the capture of the casket, the lords still proclaimed that Bothwell had " treasonably ravished her majesty's most noble person," though, if they believed the letters, he had done nothing of the kind. Probably they were keeping back their strongest card; but their conduct was highly inconsistent. Presently they were obliged to play their card. By July 14 Throckmorton was in Edinburgh, to save Mary if he could. He found himself in hard case. He dared not attempt, as Elizabeth desired, to prevent Parliament from meeting (in December). Lethington let him see that France counterbalanced England at this juncture. The general rage against Mary was violent. A movement of the Hamiltons had come to nothing: they really threatened action, the ambassador thought, merely to drive the lords to kill Mary, and leave only her child between them and the crown. Throckmorton and de Lignerolles, the French envoy, were not allowed to visit Mary. She refused to be divorced from Bothwell, urging (it seems truly) that she was with child by him. The lords at first spoke " reverently and charitably " of Mary; but on July 24 Lindsay visited her at Lochleven, and extorted her signature to her abdication, and to the appointment of Murray as Regent, or, failing him, of a Council. As early as July 18 Throckmorton reported that Mary had herself proposed, in a letter, thus to " commit the realm " to Murray, or to the same committee. She did not even reserve her nominal queenship. This, if true, is curious, and does not suggest that threats were needed on July 24, when the abdication was signed. Had the casket letters been used to put pressure on Mary? This we do not know. Murray's wife was with her, on very friendly terms. On July 25 Throckmorton wrote that, if Mary would not abdicate, the lords meant to charge her (1) with "tyranny" for not keeping the laws of the illegal Parliament of 1560; (2) with incontinency with Bothwell "and others"; (3) "They mean to charge her with the murder of her husband, whereof they say they have proof by the testimony of her own handwriting as also by sufficient witnesses." The Lennox MSS. speak of witnesses who saw Mary in male costume at her husband's murder. They were never produced: it was a fable. The lords invited Throckmorton to the coronation of James VI. at Stirling on July 29. Throckmorton declined to go, Knox preached, and the preachers had already attacked him. But this, of course, was not his motive for refusal. In his opinion he had preserved Mary's life.
On August 11 Murray, who had taken London on his way from France, reached Edinburgh. On the i5th he revisited Mary at Lochleven. He had not come too early. Tullibardine (apparently a man of honour) and Lethington separately informed Throckmorton that envoys had come from the Archbishop of St. Andrews, and that Duncan Forbes had been sent to the lords by Huntly. The queen's party, by these messengers, promised to join the lords if they would kill the queen. Murray, after his arrival, spoke as bitterly as any man " against the tragedy " of Darnley "and the players therein" (August 12). He had, however, stayed at Whittingham with the brother of Archibald Douglas, one of the murderers, on his way to Edinburgh. He was "in great commiseration for the queen, his sister," though he knew, and had told de Silva, about her alleged long murderous letter to Bothwell, a letter never produced, for it is not letter ii. of the casket series. As to Murray's dealing with his sister, Throckmorton informed Elizabeth on August 20. First, Murray, Atholl, and Morton together met the queen, who wept, and drew Murray apart. Murray spoke in darkling and ambiguous terms. They had a later conversation, till an hour after midnight, Murray behaving "like a ghostly father rather than a counsellor." He left her to go to bed " in hope of nothing but God's mercy " that is, with a prospect of imminent death. Next morning he promised her life, and, as far as he could, "the preservation of her honour." Thereon the poor queen kissed him, and asked him (it was her only chance) to be Regent. So he yielded: he would take the regency, and also take care of her jewels. (Some he sold, others of the best he intrusted to his wife.) All this Murray told Throckmorton, adding that the promise of life was conditional and depended on his power to assure her safety. The affair was adroitly managed, but historians differ as to the candour and disinterestedness of Murray. Mr. Froude speaks of Murray as " the one man in all the world who loved her " (Mary) " as his father's daughter, who had no guilt on his heart, like so many of those who were clamouring for her death." Murray had guilt enough on his heart: he had been made privy to Riccio's murder, and few can doubt that he concealed his foreknowledge of the plot to murder Darnley. Then as to the " others," Lethington, Morton, Balfour, and the rest, who were conspirators, active or passive, to kill Darnley, what had Murray to say to Mary? He warned her to bear no " revenge to the lords and others who had sought her reformation" Murray himself actually told Throckmorton that he had lectured Mary about " the lords who sought her reformation "!
"Thenceforth," says Mr. Froude, "she hated him with an intensity to which her past dislike was pale and colourless." It is no marvel if she did hate him, as men hate Pecksniff or Tartuffe. Murray cannot have been ambitious of the regency, Mr. Froude thinks, because "a less tempting prospect to personal ambition has been rarely offered." Yet for the regency, or the crown, with authority over a poor, fierce, treacherous, and now hypocritical band of high-born ruffians, Houses and men were ready to brave all perils and to attempt all crimes. The feeble Lennox presently grasped at the same power, and his ambition had the same end. Much has been written about the character of Murray; but no minutely critical account of his life and character exists. He has fascinated some students; in others, not especially favourable to Mary, as in Tytler and Monsieur Philippson, he has excited either suspicion or loathing. At this moment, and during his regency, he had a most invidious task. His courage and his self-restraint have never been doubted: his character was free from the sensual vices, and it is probable that his religion was sincere. In accepting the regency, and steering the State through perilous passages of time, he did his duty with patience and fortitude. It was a duty that some one must do. But when he plays " the ghostly father," when he tells his sister that the lords desired her " reformation," we must regard him either as innocent beyond the innocence of childhood or as an accomplished hypocrite. He came to Mary from the Council, where he sat with men banded to procure her late husband's murder, and with men who, knowing that the deed was planned, as he himself must have known it, had cowardly held their peace. He himself, on his passage through England, had not concealed his sister's shame. On the strength of a report of a letter of Mary's, a letter which, as described by de Silva from Murray's report, never was in existence, he had revealed her guilt (Mr. Froude informs us) to the ambassador of an " Idolatrous " Power. This was the kinsman who, Mr. Froude tells us, assured her that " if possible he would shield her reputation, and prevent the publication of her letters."
Mary's own account of her interview with Murray, in Claude Nau, naturally differs much from Murray's version to Throckmorton. The part which Murray played, in his private relations with his sister, cannot be made to appear graceful or magnanimous. But he could not possibly release her from prison without provoking civil war. Lethington and he made Throckmorton understand that, if hard pressed by Elizabeth, they had no refuge from ruin except by justifying their conduct (with the aid of the casket letters probably) and proceeding to extremities. Elizabeth might, and did, intrigue with the Hamiltons, but " we have in our hands to make the accord " (with the Hamiltons) " when we will." Lethington doubtless meant to repeat his previous statement, that if the lords put Mary to death, the Hamiltons would join them. Murray declared that he would spend his life in the cause of reducing all men to obedience in the king's name. He kept his promise; and for the hour he saved Scotland from the civil war which Elizabeth would fain have lighted. He awed the western and northern malcontents, and Throckmorton withdrew to England. Murray then secured his authority by prudent measures. Balfour, for a large consideration, resigned Edinburgh Castle, of which Kirkcaldy, to his undoing, was appointed captain. He had just failed to catch Bothwell in the Orkney Isles. Dunbar Castle, strongly held for Bothwell, capitulated on October 1. A few days later Bothwell was summoned to appear at Parliament in December, and Sir William Stewart, the herald, was sent to Denmark to demand Bothwell's extradition. This Stewart was later burned on a charge of sorcery at St. Andrews, doubtless, really, for some political reason.
Presently (October 28) Drury reported that Mary was on too good terms with George Douglas, younger brother of William Douglas of Lochleven, her jailer. Not much is ascertained as to their love-affair, if love-affair there was, but Mary had already found and won the author of her deliverance. That the lords would keep her prisoner while they could was assured in the Parliament of December, when they acquitted themselves of rebellion by an Act announcing that they had proof of her guilt in the casket letters. They declined to allow her to appear in person, and plead her own cause. She would have exposed Morton and Lethington, perhaps with others.
Before this Parliament Murray had tried to restore order on the Marches by hanging and drowning a number of rievers at Hawick. The Black Laird of Ormiston, one of Darnley's murderers, made his escape. The severities of Murray, however needful, did not increase his popularity, which was probably still more diminished by the public confession of Hay, younger of Talla, when executed for Darnley's murder on January 3, 1568. He declared that Huntly, Argyll, Lethington, Sir James Balfour, " with divers other nobles," had signed the band for Darnley's murder, " whereto the queen's grace consented," according to the ' Diurnal.' Public indignation caused the men denounced to leave Edinburgh, so that the alleged destruction of the band had been of no avail, the secret was out, and Murray's party was now rent by internal suspicions. Moreover, the intolerance of Murray, in re-enacting the penal statutes of 1560, helped to break Scotland into divisions. Catholic noblemen like Atholl were driven into the arms of the Hamiltons. Murray's oath, as Regent, bound him to " root out all heretics and enemies to the true worship of God, that shall be convicted by the True Kirk of God of the aforesaid crimes." But presently we find Murray offering to renew the ancient league with idolatrous France, and offering his humblest service to the French king and Catherine de' Medici. Murray was not " a consistent walker." He was soon selling Mary's pearls secretly to Elizabeth. Ballads about the shielding of the chief conspirators to murder Darnley, now members of the Government pledged to avenge Darnley, rained upon the Regent.
In Lochleven Mary had found means to write, and send letters, though rarely, and at peril of her life. On May 1 she wrote entreating aid from Elizabeth and Catherine de' Medici. She had no opportunity save at the dinner-time of the Douglas family, "for their girls sleep with me." Her friend, George Douglas, had been banished from the islet after her failure to escape (March 25) in the disguise of a laundress. Her letters were sent on the eve of her escape, on May 2. The romantic details the stealing of the keys by " little Douglas " (William, a foundling lad of seventeen); the casting by him of the keys " to the kelpie's keeping "; the landing, under the protection of George Douglas; the meeting with Bothwell's kinsman, Hepburn of Riccartoun, who was sent, too late, to secure Dunbar; the wild ride to Seton's house of Longniddry, and the tryst with the queen's party at Hamilton are too well known to need a minute narrative. If we believe Claude Nau, the queen's secretary, the key was thrown into the mouth of a cannon, natheless the keys were long after recovered from the lake. It seems probable that the lady of Lochleven, Murray's mother, was no stranger to the plot.
Murray at once summoned the king's party to meet at Glasgow. He collected the forces of the Protestant lords in general, though Argyll was with Mary. There exists a curious proclamation, drawn up by her or for her at all events it is attributed to her. Murray is referred to as a " beastly " and " bastard " traitor: the Hamiltons are " that good House of Hamilton." The language used about Lethington is copious and florid. Yet at this date (May 6) Lethington and the other " beastly traitor " were reported to be on bad terms. Probably the proclamation is a hoax, or never was issued, Dr. Hay Fleming publishes a reasonable and clement proclamation of May 5. Willingly, or unwillingly (accounts differ), Mary on May 13 tried the ordeal of battle. She approached Glasgow, on her way to the strong Castle of Dumbarton; she was met at Langside, and the tactics of Kirkcaldy, the better discipline of Murray's men, and a fit of epilepsy or cowardice on the part of Argyll, caused her entire defeat. Murray occupied Langside Hill, "the western division of Queen's Park " to-day; while Kirkcaldy, mounting 200 musketeers behind horsemen for better speed, stationed these marksmen under cover in the cottages and enclosures of Langside village. Murray followed with his infantry, his left wing extending behind the farm of Pathhead. The right wing held the village of Langside, at the crest of the Lang Loan. Mary had been anticipated in seizing the hill, and from Clincart Hill there began an artillery duel. Under cover of the fire the Hamiltons, first passing behind Clincart Hill, advanced to storm the village, supported by the cavalry under Lord Herries, Warden of the Western Marches. Drumlanrig led Murray's horse against Herries, who had one successful and one disastrous charge. Routed by the archers, Herries could not aid the Hamiltons, who, climbing the long narrow lane, were galled by Murray's musketeers. Finally the infantry of both parties drove at each other with levelled spears, so serried, owing to the narrow space, that the missiles thrown, pistols and daggers, lay as on a floor of interlaced lance-shafts. Kirkcaldy led fresh troops from the village, charged the Hamiltons on front and flank, and drove them pell-mell downhill on the queen's main body. The rout began, slaughter being checked by the activity and clemency of Murray. Many prisoners were taken, such as Seton and the Masters of Eglinton and Cassilis. Knox's father-in-law, Lord Ochiltree, and his successor in the affections of Mrs. Knox, Ker of Faldonside, were severely wounded. From the Court Knowe of Cathcart, a hundred yards from Cathcart Castle, Mary probably looked on at her own defeat.
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