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

frightened himself at the crime he had committed, and while the
assassins, assembled by Murray, were resolving that he should have
that greatly desired crown matrimonial, Darnley, as fickle as he was
violent, and as cowardly as he was cruel, in Mary's very room, before
the scarcely dried blood, made another compact, in which he engaged
to deliver up his accomplices.  Indeed, three days after the event
that we have just related, the murderers learned a strange piece of
news--that Darnley and Mary, accompanied by Lord Seyton, had escaped
together from Holyrood Palace.  Three days later still, a
proclamation appeared, signed by Mary and dated from Dunbar, which
summoned round the queen, in her own name and the king's, all the
Scottish lords and barons, including those who had been compromised
in the affair of the "run in every sense," to whom she not only
granted full and complete pardon, but also restored her entire
confidence.  In this way she separated Murray's cause from that of
Morton and the other assassins, who, in their turn, seeing that there
was no longer any safety for them in Scotland, fled to England, where
all the queen's enemies were always certain to find a warm welcome,
in spite of the good relations which reigned in appearance between
Mary and Elizabeth.  As to Bothwell, who had wanted to oppose the
assassination, he was appointed Warden of all the Marches of the

Unfortunately for her honour, Mary, always more the woman than the
queen, while, on the contrary, Elizabeth was always more the queen
than the woman, had no sooner regained her power than her first royal
act was to exhume Rizzio, who had been quietly buried on the
threshold of the chapel nearest Holyrood Palace, and to have him
removed to the burial-place of the Scottish kings, compromising
herself still more by the honours she paid him dead than by the
favour she had granted him living.

Such an imprudent demonstration naturally led to fresh quarrels
between Mary and Darnley: these quarrels were the more bitter that,
as one can well understand, the reconciliation between the husband
and wife, at least on the latter's side, had never been anything but
a pretence; so that, feeling herself in a stronger position still on
account of her pregnancy, she restrained herself no longer, and,
leaving Darnley, she went from Dunbar to Edinburgh Castle, where on
June 19th, 1566, three months after the assassination of Rizzio, she
gave birth to a son who afterwards became James VI.


Directly she was delivered, Mary sent for James Melville, her usual
envoy to Elizabeth, and charged him to convey this news to the Queen
of England, and to beg her to be godmother to the royal child at the
same time.  On arriving in London, Melville immediately presented
himself at the palace; but as there was a court ball, he could not
see the queen, and contented himself with making known the reason for
his journey to the minister Cecil, and with begging him to ask his
mistress for an audience next day.  Elizabeth was dancing in a
quadrille at the moment when Cecil, approaching her, said in a low
voice, "Queen Mary of Scotland has just given birth to a son".  At
these words she grew frightfully pale, and, looking about her with a
bewildered air, and as if she were about to faint, she leaned against
an arm-chair; then, soon, not being able to stand upright, she sat
down, threw back her head, and plunged into a mournful reverie.  Then
one of the ladies of her court, breaking through the circle which had
formed round the queen, approached her, ill at ease, and asked her of
what she was thinking so sadly.  "Ah! madam," Elizabeth replied
impatiently, "do you not know that Mary Stuart has given birth to a
son, while I am but a barren stock, who will die without offspring?"

Yet Elizabeth was too good a politician, in spite of her liability to
be carried away by a first impulse, to compromise herself by a longer
display of her grief.  The ball was not discontinued on that account,
and the interrupted quadrille was resumed and finished.

The next day, Melville had his audience.  Elizabeth received him to
perfection, assuring him of all the pleasure that the news he brought
had caused her, and which, she said, had cured her of a complaint
from which she had suffered for a fortnight.  Melville replied that
his mistress had hastened to acquaint her with her joy, knowing that
she had no better friend; but he added that this joy had nearly cost
Mary her life, so grievous had been her confinement.  As he was
returning to this point for the third time, with the object of still
further increasing the queen of England's dislike to marriage--

"Be easy, Melville," Elizabeth answered him; "you need not insist
upon it.  I shall never marry; my kingdom takes the place of a
husband for me, and my subjects are my children.  When I am dead, I
wish graven on my tombstone: 'Here lies Elizabeth, who reigned so
many years, and who died a virgin.'"

Melville availed himself of this opportunity to remind Elizabeth of
the desire she had shown to see Mary, three or four years before; but
Elizabeth said, besides her country's affairs, which necessitated her
presence in the heart of her possessions, she did not care, after all
she had heard said of her rival's beauty, to expose herself to a
comparison disadvantageous to her pride.  She contented herself,
then, with choosing as her proxy the Earl of Bedford, who set out
with several other noblemen for Stirling Castle, where the young
prince was christened with great pomp, and received the name of
Charles James.

It was remarked that Darnley did not appear at this ceremony, and
that his absence seemed to scandalise greatly the queen of England's
envoy.  On the contrary, James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, had the
most important place there.

This was because, since the evening when Bothwell, at Mary's cries,
had run to oppose the murder of Rizzio, he had made great way in the
queen's favour; to her party he himself appeared to be really
attached, to the exclusion of the two others, the king's and the Earl
of Murray's.  Bothwell was already thirty-five years old, head of the
powerful family of Hepburn, which had great influence in East Lothian
and the county of Berwick; for the rest, violent, rough, given to
every kind of debauchery, and capable of anything to satisfy an
ambition that he did not even give himself the trouble to hide.  In
his youth he had been reputed courageous, but for long he had had no
serious opportunity to draw the sword.

If the king's authority had been shaken by Rizzio's influence, it was
entirely upset by Bothwell's.  The great nobles, following the
favourite's example, no longer rose in the presence of Darnley, and
ceased little by little to treat him as their equal: his retinue was
cut down, his silver plate taken from him, and some officers who
remained about him made him buy their services with the most bitter
vexations.  As for the queen, she no longer even took the trouble to
conceal her dislike for him, avoiding him without consideration, to
such a degree that one day when she had gone with Bothwell to Alway,
she left there again immediately, because Darnley came to join her.
The king, however, still had patience; but a fresh imprudence of
Mary's at last led to the terrible catastrophe that, since the
queen's liaison with Bothwell, some had already foreseen.

Towards the end of the month of October, 1566, while the queen was
holding a court of justice at Jedburgh, it was announced to her that
Bothwell, in trying to seize a malefactor called John Elliot of Park,
had been badly wounded in the hand; the queen, who was about to
attend the council, immediately postponed the sitting till next day,
and, having ordered a horse to be saddled, she set out for Hermitage
Castle, where Bothwell was living, and covered the distance at a
stretch, although it was twenty miles, and she had to go across
woods, marshes, and rivers; then, having remained some hours tete-d-
tete with him, she set out again with the same sped for Jedburgh, to
which she returned in the night.

Although this proceeding had made a great deal of talk, which was
inflamed still more by the queen's enemies, who chiefly belonged to
the Reformed religion, Darnley did not hear of it till nearly two
months afterwards--that is to say, when Bothwell, completely
recovered, returned with the queen to Edinburgh.

Then Darnley thought that he ought not to put up any longer with such
humiliations.  But as, since his treason to his accomplices, he had
not found in all Scotland a noble who would have drawn the sword for
him, he resolved to go and seek the Earl of Lennox, his father,
hoping that through his influence he could rally the malcontents, of
whom there were a great number since Bothwell had been in favour.
Unfortunately, Darnley, indiscreet and imprudent as usual, confided
this plan to some of his officers, who warned Bothwell of their
master's intention.  Bothwell did not seem to oppose the journey in
any way; but Darnley was scarcely a mile from Edinburgh when he felt
violent pains none the less, he continued his road, and arrived very
ill at Glasgow.  He immediately sent for a celebrated doctor, called
James Abrenets, who found his body covered with pimples, and declared
without any hesitation that he had been poisoned.  However, others,
among them Walter Scott, state that this illness was nothing else
than smallpox.

Whatever it may have been, the queen, in the presence of the danger
her husband ran, appeared to forget her resentment, and at the risk
of what might prove troublesome to herself, she went to Darnley,
after sending her doctor in advance.  It is true that if one is to
believe in the following letters, dated from Glasgow, which Mary is
accused of having written to Bothwell, she knew the illness with
which he was attacked too well to fear infection.  As these letters
are little known, and seem to us very singular we transcribe them
here; later we shall tell how they fell into the power of the
Confederate lords, and from their hands passed into Elizabeth's, who,

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: