Make your own free website on

List Of Contents | Contents of Mary Stuart, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

to maintain that I have killed the king."

The day after, this reply appeared:

"I accept the challenge, provided that you select neutral ground."

However, judgment had been barely given, when rumours of a marriage
between the queen and the Earl of Bothwell were abroad.  However
strange and however mad this marriage, the relations of the two
lovers were so well known that no one doubted but that it was true.
But as everyone submitted to Bothwell, either through fear or through
ambition, two men only dared to protest beforehand against this
union: the one was Lord Herries, and the other James Melville.

Mary was at Stirling when Lord Herries, taking advantage of
Bothwell's momentary absence, threw himself at her feet, imploring
her not to lose her honour by marrying her husband's murderer, which
could not fail to convince those who still doubted it that she was
his accomplice.  But the queen, instead of thanking Herries for this
devotion, seemed very much surprised at his boldness, and scornfully
signing to him to rise, she coldly replied that her heart was silent
as regarded the Earl of Bothwell, and that, if she should ever re-
marry, which was not probable, she would neither forget what she owed
to her people nor what she owed to herself.

Melville did not allow himself to be discouraged by this experience,
and pretended, to have received a letter that one of his friends,
Thomas Bishop, had written him from England.  He showed this letter
to the queen; but at the first lines Mary recognised the style, and
above all the friendship of her ambassador, and giving the letter to
the Earl of Livingston, who was present, "There is a very singular
letter," said she.  "Read it.  It is quite in Melvine's manner."

Livingston glanced through the letter, but had scarcely read the half
of it when he took Melville by the hand, and drawing him into the
embrasure of a window

"My dear Melville," said he, "you were certainly mad when you just
now imparted this letter to the queen: as soon as the Earl of
Bothwell gets wind of it, and that will not be long, he will have you
assassinated.  You have behaved like an honest man, it is true; but
at court it is better to behave as a clever man.  Go away, then, as
quickly as possible; it is I who recommend it."

Melville did not require to be told twice, and stayed away for a
week.  Livingston was not mistaken: scarcely had Bothwell returned to
the queen than he knew all that had passed.  He burst out into curses
against Melville, and sought for him everywhere; but he could not
find him.

This beginning of opposition, weak as it was, none the less
disquieted Bothwell, who, sure of Mary's love, resolved to make short
work of things.  Accordingly, as the queen was returning from
Stirling to Edinburgh some days after the scenes we have just
related, Bothwell suddenly appeared at the Bridge of Grammont with a
thousand horsemen, and, having disarmed the Earl of Huntly,
Livingston, and Melville, who had returned to his mistress, he seized
the queen's horse by the bridle, and with apparent violence he forced
Mary to turn back and follow him to Dunbar; which the queen did
without any resistance--a strange thing for one of Mary's character.

The day following, the Earls of Huntly, Livingston, Melville, and the
people in their train were set at liberty; then, ten days afterwards,
Bothwell and the queen, perfectly reconciled, returned to Edinburgh

Two days after this return, Bothwell gave a great dinner to the
nobles his partisans in a tavern.  When the meal was ended, on the
very same table, amid half-drained glasses and empty bottles,
Lindsay, Ruthven, Morton, Maitland, and a dozen or fifteen other
noblemen signed a bond which not only set forth that upon their souls
and consciences Bothwell was innocent, but which further denoted him
as the most suitable husband for the queen.  This bond concluded with
this sufficiently strange declaration:

"After all, the queen cannot do otherwise, since the earl has carried
her off and has lain with her."

Yet two circumstances were still opposed to this marriage: the first,
that Bothwell had already been married three times, and that his
three wives were living; the second, that having carried off the
queen, this violence might cause to be regarded as null the alliance
which she should contract with him: the first of these objections was
attended to, to begin with, as the one most difficult to solve.

Bothwell's two first wives were of obscure birth, consequently he
scorned to disquiet himself about them; but it was not so with the
third, a daughter of that Earl of Huntly who been trampled beneath
the horses' feet, and a sister of Gordon, who had been decapitated.
Fortunately for Bothwell, his past behaviour made his wife long for a
divorce with an eagerness as great as his own.  There was not much
difficulty, then, in persuading her to bring a charge of adultery
against her husband.  Bothwell confessed that he had had criminal
intercourse with a relative of his wife, and the Archbishop of St.
Andrews, the same who had taken up his abode in that solitary house
at Kirk of Field to be present at Darnley's death, pronounced the
marriage null.  The case was begun, pushed on, and decided in ten

As to the second obstacle, that of the violence used to the queen,
Mary undertook to remove it herself; for, being brought before the
court, she declared that not only did she pardon Bothwell for his
conduct as regarded her, but further that, knowing him to be a good
and faithful subject, she intended raising him immediately to new
honours.  In fact, some days afterwards she created him Duke of
Orkney, and on the 15th of the same month--that is to say, scarcely
four months after the death of Darnley--with levity that resembled
madness, Mary, who had petitioned for a dispensation to wed a
Catholic prince, her cousin in the third degree, married Bothwell, a
Protestant upstart, who, his divorce notwithstanding, was still
bigamous, and who thus found himself in the position of having four
wives living, including the queen.

The wedding was dismal, as became a festival under such outrageous
auspices.  Morton, Maitland, and some base flatterers of Bothwell
alone were present at it.  The French ambassador, although he was a
creature of the House of Guise, to which the queen belonged, refused
to attend it.

Mary's delusion was short-lived: scarcely was she in Bothwell's power
than she saw what a master she had given herself.  Gross, unfeeling,
and violent, he seemed chosen by Providence to avenge the faults of
which he had been the instigator or the accomplice.  Soon his fits of
passion reached such a point, that one day, no longer able to endure
them, Mary seized a dagger from Erskine, who was present with
Melville at one of these scenes, and would have struck herself,
saying that she would rather die than continue living unhappily as
she did; yet, inexplicable as it seems, in spite of these miseries,
renewed without ceasing, Mary, forgetting that she was wife and
queen, tender and submissive as a child, was always the first to be
reconciled with Bothwell.

Nevertheless, these public scenes gave a pretext to the nobles, who
only sought an opportunity for an outbreak.  The Earl of Mar, the
young prince's tutor, Argyll, Athol, Glencairn, Lindley, Boyd, and
even Morton and Maitland themselves, those eternal accomplices of
Bothwell, rose, they said, to avenge the death of the king, and to
draw the son from hands which had killed the father and which were
keeping the mother captive.  As to Murray, he had kept completely in
the background during all the last events; he was in the county of
Fife when the king was assassinated, and three days before the trial
of Bothwell he had asked and obtained from his sister permission to
take a journey on the Continent.

The insurrection took place in such a prompt and instantaneous
manner, that the Confederate lords, whose plan was to surprise and
seize both Mary and Bothwell, thought they would succeed at the first

The king and queen were at table with Lord Borthwick, who was
entertaining them, when suddenly it was announced that a large body
of armed men was surrounding the castle: Bothwell and Mary suspected
that they were aimed at, and as they had no means of resistance,
Bothwell dressed himself as a squire, Mary as a page, and both
immediately taking horse, escaped by one door just as the
Confederates were coming in by the other.  The fugitives withdrew to

There they called together all Bothwell's friends, and made them sign
a kind of treaty by which they undertook to defend the queen and her
husband.  In the midst of all this, Murray arrived from France, and
Bothwell offered the document to him as to the others; but Murray
refused to put his signature to it, saying that it was insulting him
to think he need be bound by a written agreement when it was a
question of defending his sister and his queen.  This refusal having
led to an altercation between him and Bothwell, Murray, true to his
system of neutrality, withdrew into his earldom, and let affairs
follow without him the fatal decline they had taken.

In the meantime the Confederates, after having failed at Borthwick,
not feeling strong enough to attack Bothwell at Dunbar, marched upon
Edinburgh, where they had an understanding with a man of whom
Bothwell thought himself sure.  This man was James Balfour, governor
of the citadel, the same who had presided over the preparation of the
mine which had blown up Darnley, and whom Bothwell had, met on
entering the garden at Kirk of Field.  Not only did Balfour deliver
Edinburgh Castle into the hands of the Confederates, but he also gave
them a little silver coffer of which the cipher, an "F" crowned,
showed that it had belonged to Francis II; and in fact it was a gift
from her first husband, which the queen had presented to Bothwell.
Balfour stated that this coffer contained precious papers, which in
the present circumstances might be of great use to Mary's enemies.

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: