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

the north, she placed herself at the head of a small army, commanded
by her brother, the Earl of Mar and Murray.

The Earl of Huntly was the less duped by the apparent pretext of this
expedition, in that his son, John Cordon, for some abuse of his
powers, had just been condemned to a temporary imprisonment.  He,
notwithstanding, made every possible submission to the queen, sending
messengers in advance to invite-her to rest in his castle; and
following up the messengers in person, to renew his invitation viva
voce.  Unfortunately, at the very moment when he was about to join
the queen, the governor of Inverness, who was entirely devoted to
him, was refusing to allow Mary to enter this castle, which was a
royal one.  It is true that Murray, aware that it does not do to
hesitate in the face of such rebellions, had already had him executed
for high treason.

This new act of firmness showed Huntly that the young queen was not
disposed to allow the Scottish lords a resumption of the almost
sovereign power humbled by her father; so that, in spite of the
extremely kind reception she accorded him, as he learned while in
camp that his son, having escaped from prison, had just put himself
at the head of his vassals, he was afraid that he should be thought,
as doubtless he was, a party to the rising, and he set out the same
night to assume command of his troops, his mind made up, as Mary only
had with her seven to eight thousand men, to risk a battle, giving
out, however, as Buccleuch had done in his attempt to snatch James V
from the hands of the Douglases, that it was not at the queen he was
aiming, but solely at the regent, who kept her under his tutelage and
perverted her good intentions.

Murray, who knew that often the entire peace of a reign depends on
the firmness one displays at its beginning, immediately summoned all
the northern barons whose estates bordered on his, to march against
Huntly.  All obeyed, for the house of Cordon was already so powerful
that each feared it might become still more so; but, however, it was
clear that if there was hatred for the subject there was no great
affection for the queen, and that the greater number came without
fixed intentions and with the idea of being led by circumstances.

The two armies encountered near Aberdeen.  Murray at once posted the
troops he had brought from Edinburgh, and of which he was sure, on
the top of rising ground, and drew up in tiers on the hill slope all
his northern allies.  Huntly advanced resolutely upon them, and
attacked his neighbours the Highlanders, who after a short resistance
retired in disorder.  His men immediately threw away their lances,
and, drawing their swords, crying, "Cordon, Cordon!" pursued the
fugitives, and believed they had already gained the battle, when they
suddenly ran right against the main body of Murray's army, which
remained motionless as a rampart of iron, and which, with its long
lances, had the advantage of its adversaries, who were armed only
with their claymores.  It was then the turn of the Cordons to draw
back, seeing which, the northern clans rallied and returned to the
fight, each soldier having a sprig of heather in his cap that his
comrades might recognise him.  This unexpected movement determined
the day: the Highlanders ran down the hillside like a torrent,
dragging along with them everyone who could have wished to oppose
their passage.  Then Murray seeing that the moment had come for
changing the defeat into a rout, charged with his entire cavalry:
Huntly, who was very stout and very heavily armed, fell and was
crushed beneath the horses' feet; John Cordon, taken prisoner in his
flight, was executed at Aberdeen three days afterwards; finally, his
brother, too young to undergo the same fate at this time, was shut up
in a dungeon and executed later, the day he reached the age of

Mary had been present at the battle, and the calm and courage she
displayed had made a lively impression on her wild defenders, who all
along the road had heard her say that she would have liked to be a
man, to pass her days on horseback, her nights under a tent, to wear
a coat of mail, a helmet, a buckler, and at her side a broadsword.

Mary made her entry into Edinburgh amid general enthusiasm; for this
expedition against the Earl of Huntly, who was a Catholic, had been
very popular among the inhabitants, who had no very clear idea of the
real motives which had caused her to undertake it: They were of the
Reformed faith, the earl was a papist, there was an enemy the less;
that is all they thought about.  Now, therefore; the Scotch, amid
their acclamations, whether viva voce or by written demands,
expressed the wish that their queen, who was without issue by Francis
II, should re-marry: Mary agreed to this, and, yielding to the
prudent advice of those about her, she decided to consult upon this
marriage Elizabeth, whose heir she was, in her title of granddaughter
of Henry VII, in the event of the Queen of England's dying without
posterity.  Unfortunately, she had not always acted with like
circumspection; for at the death of Mary Tudor, known as Bloody.
Mary, she had laid claim to the throne of Henry VIII, and, relying on
the illegitimacy of Elizabeth's birth, had with the dauphin assumed
sovereignty over Scotland, England, and Ireland, and had had coins
struck with this new title, and plate engraved with these new
armorial bearings.

Elizabeth was nine years older than Mary--that is to say, that at
this time she had not yet attained her thirtieth year; she was not
merely her rival as queen, then, but as woman.  As regards education,
she could sustain comparison with advantage; for if she had less
charm of mind, she had more solidity of judgment: versed in politics,
philosophy, history; rhetoric, poetry and music, besides English, her
maternal tongue, she spoke and wrote to perfection Greek, Latin,
French, Italian and Spanish; but while Elizabeth excelled Mary on
this point, in her turn Mary was more beautiful, and above all more
attractive, than her rival.  Elizabeth had, it is true, a majestic
and agreeable appearance, bright quick eyes, a dazzlingly white
complexion; but she had red hair, a large foot,--[Elizabeth bestowed
a pair of her shoes on the University of Oxford; their size would
point to their being those of a man of average stature.]--and a
powerful hand, while Mary, on the contrary, with her beautiful ashy-
fair hair,--[Several historians assert that Mary Stuart had black
hair; but Brantome, who had seen it, since, as we have said, he
accompanied her to Scotland, affirms that it was fair.  And, so
saying, he (the executioner) took off her headdress, in a
contemptuous manner, to display her hair already white, that while
alive, however, she feared not to show, nor yet to twist and frizz as
in the days when it was so beautiful and so fair.]--her noble open
forehead, eyebrows which could be only blamed for being so regularly
arched that they looked as if drawn by a pencil, eyes continually
beaming with the witchery of fire, a nose of perfect Grecian outline,
a mouth so ruby red and gracious that it seemed that, as a flower
opens but to let its perfume escape, so it could not open but to give
passage to gentle words, with a neck white and graceful as a swan's,
hands of alabaster, with a form like a goddess's and a foot like a
child's, Mary was a harmony in which the most ardent enthusiast for
sculptured form could have found nothing to reproach.

This was indeed Mary's great and real crime: one single imperfection
in face or figure, and she would not have died upon the scaffold.
Besides, to Elizabeth, who had never seen her, and who consequently
could only judge by hearsay, this beauty was a great cause of
uneasiness and of jealousy, which she could not even disguise, and
which showed itself unceasingly in eager questions.  One day when she
was chatting with James Melville about his mission to her court,
Mary's offer to be guided by Elizabeth in her choice of a husband,--a
choice which the queen of England had seemed at first to wish to see
fixed on the Earl of Leicester,--she led the Scotch ambassador into a
cabinet, where she showed him several portraits with labels in her
own handwriting: the first was one of the Earl of Leicester.  As this
nobleman was precisely the suitor chosen by Elizabeth, Melville asked
the queen to give it him to show to his mistress; but Elizabeth
refused, saying that it was the only one she had.  Melville then
replied, smiling, that being in possession of the original she might
well part with the copy; but Elizabeth would on no account consent.
This little discussion ended, she showed him the portrait of Mary
Stuart, which she kissed very tenderly, expressing to Melville a
great wish to see his mistress.  "That is very easy, madam," he
replied: "keep your room, on the pretext that you are indisposed, and
set out incognito for Scotland, as King James V set out for France
when he wanted to see Madeleine de Valois, whom he afterwards

"Alas!" replied Elizabeth, "I would like to do so, but it is not so
easy as you think.  Nevertheless, tell your queen that I love her
tenderly, and that I wish we could live more in friendship than we
have done up to the present".  Then passing to a subject which she
seemed to have wanted to broach for a long time, "Melville," she
continued, "tell me frankly, is my sister as beautiful as they say?"

"She has that reputation," replied Melville; "but I cannot give your
Majesty any idea of hex beauty, having no point of comparison."

"I will give you one," the queen said.  "Is she more beautiful than

"Madam," replied Melville, "you are the most beautiful woman in
England, and Mary Stuart is the most beautiful woman in Scotland."

"Then which of the two is the taller?" asked Elizabeth, who was not
entirely satisfied by this answer, clever as it was.

"My mistress, madam," responded Melville; "I am obliged to confess

"Then she is too tall," Elizabeth said sharply, "for I am tall
enough.  And what are her favourite amusements?" she continued.

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: