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

her with caresses, and then sent her to a convent where the heiresses
of the noblest French houses were brought up.  There Mary's happy
qualities developed.  Born with a woman's heart and a man's head,
Mary not only acquired all the accomplishments which constituted the
education of a future queen, but also that real knowledge which is
the object of the truly learned.

Thus, at fourteen, in the Louvre, before Henry II, Catherine de
Medici, and the whole court, she delivered a discourse in Latin of
her own composition, in which she maintained that it becomes women to
cultivate letters, and that it is unjust and tyrannical to deprive
flowery of their perfumes, by banishing young girls from all but
domestic cares.  One can imagine in what manner a future queen,
sustaining such a thesis, was likely to be welcomed in the most
lettered and pedantic court in Europe.  Between the literature of
Rabelais and Marot verging on their decline, and that of Ronsard and
Montaigne reaching their zenith, Mary became a queen of poetry, only
too happy never to have to wear another crown than that which
Ronsard, Dubellay, Maison-Fleur, arid Brantome placed daily on her
head.  But she was predestined.  In the midst of those fetes which a
waning chivalry was trying to revive came the fatal joust of
Tournelles: Henry II, struck by a splinter of a lance for want of a
visor, slept before his time with his ancestors, and Mary Stuart
ascended the throne of France, where, from mourning for Henry, she
passed to that for her mother, and from mourning for her mother to
that for her husband.  Mary felt this last loss both as woman and as
poet; her heart burst forth into bitter tears and plaintive
harmonies.  Here are some lines that she composed at this time:--

"Into my song of woe,
Sung to a low sad air,
My cruel grief I throw,
For loss beyond compare;
In bitter sighs and tears
Go by my fairest years.

Was ever grief like mine
Imposed by destiny?
Did ever lady pine,
In high estate, like me,
Of whom both heart and eye
Within the coffin lie?

Who, in the tender spring
And blossom of my youth,
Taste all the sorrowing
Of life's extremest ruth,
And take delight in nought
Save in regretful thought.

All that was sweet and gay
Is now a pain to see;
The sunniness of day
Is black as night to me;
All that was my delight
Is hidden from my sight.

My heart and eye, indeed,
One face, one image know,
The which this morrnful weed
On my sad face doth show,
Dyed with the violet's tone
That is the lover's own.

Tormented by my ill,
I go from place to place,
But wander as I will
My woes can nought efface;
My most of bad and good
I find in solitude.

But wheresoe'er I stay,
In meadow or in copse,
Whether at break of day
Or when the twilight drops,
My heart goes sighing on,
Desiring one that's gone.

If sometimes to the skies
My weary gaze I lift,
His gently shining eyes
Look from the cloudy drift,
Or stooping o'er the wave
I see him in the grave.

Or when my bed I seek,
And-sleep begins to steal,
Again I hear him speak,
Again his touch I feel;
In work or leisure, he
Is ever near to me.

No other thing I see,
However fair displayed,
By which my heart will be
A tributary made,
Not having the perfection
Of that, my lost affection.

Here make an end, my verse,
Of this thy sad lament,
Whose burden shall rehearse
Pure love of true intent,
Which separation's stress
Will never render less."

"It was then," says Brantorne, "that it was delightful to see her;
for the whiteness of her countenance and of her veil contended
together; but finally the artificial white yielded, and the snow-like
pallor of her face vanquished the other.  For it was thus," he adds,
"that from the moment she became a widow, I always saw her with her
pale hue, as long as I had the honour of seeing her in France, and
Scotland, where she had to go in eighteen months' time, to her very
great regret, after her widowhood, to pacify her kingdom, greatly
divided by religious troubles.  Alas! she had neither the wish nor
the will for it, and I have often heard her say so, with a fear of
this journey like death; for she preferred a hundred times to dwell
in France as a dowager queen, and to content herself with Touraine
and Poitou for her jointure, than to go and reign over there in her
wild country; but her uncles, at least some of them, not all, advised
her, and even urged her to it, and deeply repented their error."

Mary was obedient, as we have seen, and she began her journey under
such auspices that when she lost sight of land she was like to die.
Then it was that the poetry of her soul found expression in these
famous lines:

"Farewell, delightful land of France,
     My motherland,
     The best beloved!
Foster-nurse of my young years!
Farewell, France, and farewell my happy days!
The ship that separates our loves
Has borne away but half of me;
One part is left thee and is throe,
And I confide it to thy tenderness,
That thou may'st hold in mind the other part."'

[Translator's note.-It has not been found possible to make a rhymed
version of these lines without sacrificing the simplicity which is
their chief charm.]

This part of herself that Mary left in France was the body of the
young king, who had taken with him all poor Mary's happiness into his

Mary had but one hope remaining, that the sight of the English fleet
would compel her little squadron to turn back; but she had to fulfil
her destiny.  This same day, a fog, a very unusual occurrence in
summer-time, extended all over the Channel, and caused her to escape
the fleet; for it was such a dense fog that one could not see from
stern to mast.  It lasted the whole of Sunday, the day after the
departure, and did not lift till the following day, Monday, at eight
o'clock in the morning.  The little flotilla, which all this time had
been sailing haphazard, had got among so many reefs that if the fog
had lasted some minutes longer the galley would certainly have
grounded on some rock, and would have perished like the vessel that
had been seen engulfed on leaving port.  But, thanks to the fog's
clearing, the pilot recognised the Scottish coast, and, steering his
four boats with great skill through ail the dangers, on the 20th
August he put in at Leith, where no preparation had been made for the
queen's reception.  Nevertheless, scarcely had she arrived there than
the chief persons of the town met together and came to felicitate
her.  Meanwhile, they hastily collected some wretched nags, with
harness all falling in pieces, to conduct the queen to Edinburgh.

At sight of this, Mary could not help weeping again; for she thought
of the splendid palfreys and hackneys of her French knights and
ladies, and at this first view Scotland appeared to-her in all its
poverty.  Next day it was to appear to her in all its wildness.

After having passed one night at Holyrood Palace, "during which,"
says Brantome, "five to six hundred rascals from the town, instead of
letting her sleep, came to give her a wild morning greeting on
wretched fiddles and little rebecks," she expressed a wish to hear
mass.  Unfortunately, the people of Edinburgh belonged almost
entirely to the Reformed religion; so that, furious at the queen's
giving such a proof of papistry at her first appearance, they entered
the church by force, armed with knives, sticks and stones, with the
intention of putting to death the poor priest, her chaplain.  He left
the altar, and took refuge near the queen, while Mary's brother, the
Prior of St. Andrews, who was more inclined from this time forward to
be a soldier than an ecclesiastic, seized a sword, and, placing
himself between the people and the queen, declared that he would kill
with his own hand the first man who should take another step.  This
firmness, combined with the queen's imposing and dignified air,
checked the zeal of the Reformers.

As we have said, Mary had arrived in the midst of all the heat of the
first religious wars.  A zealous Catholic, like all her family on the
maternal side, she inspired the Huguenots with the gravest fears:
besides, a rumour had got about that Mary, instead of landing at
Leith, as she had been obliged by the fog, was to land at Aberdeen.
There, it was said, she would have found the Earl of Huntly, one of
the peers who had remained loyal to the Catholic faith, and who, next
to the family of Hamilton, was, the nearest and most powerful ally of
the royal house.  Seconded by him and by twenty thousand soldiers
from the north, she would then have marched upon Edinburgh, and have
re-established the Catholic faith throughout Scotland.  Events were
not slow to prove that this accusation was false.

As we have stated, Mary was much attached to the Prior of St.
Andrews, a son of James V and of a noble descendant of the Earls of
Mar, who had been very handsome in her youth, and who, in spite of
the well-known love for her of James V, and the child who had
resulted, had none the less wedded Lord Douglas of Lochleven, by whom
she had had two other sons, the elder named William and the younger
George, who were thus half-brothers of the regent.  Now, scarcely had
she reascended the throne than Mary had restored to the Prior of St.
Andrews the title of Earl of Mar, that of his maternal ancestors, and
as that of the Earl of Murray had lapsed since the death of the
famous Thomas Randolph, Mary, in her sisterly friendship for James
Stuart, hastened to add, this title to those which she had already
bestowed upon him.

But here difficulties and complications arose; for the new Earl of
Murray, with his character, was not a man to content himself with a
barren title, while the estates which were crown property since the
extinction of the male branch of the old earls, had been gradually
encroached upon by powerful neighbours, among whom was the famous
Earl of Huntly, whom we have already mentioned: the result was that,
as the queen judged that in this quarter her orders would probably
encounter opposition, under pretext of visiting her possessions in

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: