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our own day. We must for the moment live in the dim haze, where the light faintly struggles through the dense darkness which has settled on the land. We must surround ourselves with a semi-barbarous people, among whom letters are almost unknown, life is held of little value, and laws are but little regarded. We must make the acquaintance of a society in which thieving is literally a lordly profession, and bloodshed a lordly pastime. Civilization, (in the true sense of the word,) like a backwoods pioneer, makes the road along which it travels ; and we must transport ourselves to the rugged starting-point of that path along which it has been for three centuries advancing slowly, and contesting every foot of the way.
The greatest calamity of Mary's life, and the source whence arose the flood which ultimately overwhelmed her, is to be found in her early and intimate connexion with the court of France. The Scots, regarding England with jealousy, clung tenaciously to an unnatural alliance with France. Mary was a victim to this national blindness : for she was betrothed to the Dauphin, and at eight years of age sent over to be educated there. It was the worst possible school for a future sovereign. Mackintosh, speaking of the French court at this period, says: “In falsehood and circuinvention, in faithless disregard of engagements, and in every black crime which requires hateful forethought, the court of Catharine de Medicis was un. matched; while in shameless and gross dissoluteness of manners it surpassed all others.” This is strong language ; yet, we may assert with little fear of contradiction, it is within, rather than beyond, the truth. It mattered not whether Catharine and her party, or her rivals, the Guises and their party, for the time, swayed the policy of the court; there was the same highhanded oppression, with cold-blooded cruelty, treachery, bigotry, and licentiousness. There was a splendour far beyond anything that Scotland, poor and rude, could present ; but it was only a thin veil, not concealing, and scarcely intended or attempting to conceal, the abominations which prevailed. Wicked men and wicked woinen crowded the salons. A brilliant throng of rakes, courtesans, and infidels congregated around the throne. Every principle of truth, virtue, and charity was openly disregarded ; and that, frequently, under the most sacred forms of religion. A fierce and unrelenting persecution was launched against the Protestants. It is true, that, to serve the interests of political party and intrigue, they were sometimes courted and flattered with fair promises : but these, no matter how solemnly made, were shamelessly violated. For, the Satanic maxim, that “ faith ought not to be kept with heretics," was a favourite article in the creed of the French court. After a temporary lull, that fierce storm which swept, during a long succession of years, over the Huguenots, burst out with renewed severity. In such a place Mary was educated. Over this court she presided as Queen, after her marriage with the Dauphin. We can well understand how, breathing such an atmosphere, beholding daily such scenes of gallantry, (which, if we used plainness of speech, would be described by a harsher naine,) and being so intimately connected with such
falseness, during the most susceptible years of her life, she should become blunted in her moral sense. Whatever may be our estimate of Mary's character, (and it must be confessed that her memory is sadly beclouded) we ought, in all fairness, to remember the circle in the midst of which she had been brought up, reeking with wantonness, infidelity, and superstition. She was educated in a court which may most fitly be described in the Fards of an apostle, which Lord Macaulay applies to the dramatic literatare of the seventeenth century, as being “earthly, sensual, devilish ;" and her tutors were among the most accomplished masters of iniquity a Christian age has ever seen.
During her absence, great and important changes transpired in Scotland. Ciril war broke out. Her Regent was deposed. The Reformation, conixrated by the blood and suffering of a long roll of martyrs and confessors, tas, by the genius and intrepidity of Knox, brought to a successful issue. Mary became a widow. An earnest request was sent, that she would return, sod assume in person the government, which, during her long minority and absence, had been administered by a Regency. Influenced more by the coldness with which she had been treated since her widowhood by Catharine de Medicis, (perhaps, also, in accord with the counsel of the Guises,) than by the desire of the nation, she reluctantly consented. Mary arrived in Scotland, August, 1561, and was forth with installed in the palace of her Deestors. Beholding from her throne the assemblage that surrounded her, she could not fail-if with some chagrin, it may be excused—to observe the contrast which the palace of Holyrood offered to the brilliant court she had recently left. There were a few courtiers from France, who were readily distinguished by their superior manners and gayer dress. There were great barons of the kingdom, who had been foremost in the Reformation, who had encamped before Leith, and sat in the Council which deposed the Regent; and others who were yet secretly attached to the Popish Church ; bat all as conspicuous for their haughty and independent bearing, as the French courtiers for their polish. Ecclesiastics of the fallen hierarchy, smarting under their late humiliation, all the anathemas of their creed written in their scowling brows, frowned on the promoters of this “sacrilegions” spoliation. Here and there a Reformed minister moved, gravely arrayed in Geneva gown and bands. Border and Highland chieftains, more familiar with camps, feuds, and forays, than with courts, rendered an awkward homage. Youths, scions of noble houses, gazed with undisguised admiration on Mary's rare beauty, and felt abashed, for the first time in their lives, before that queenly presence. There was not that courtly splendour or obsequious homage to which she had been accustomed. Though the times demanded a firm and sagacious ruler, and might seem to be somewhat inauspicious for a youthful queen, yet some of the circumstances were promising and favourable. There had been civil war, it is true ; but the nation had been in arms against the Regents. They had been the objects of its enmity. Mary was not in the position of a monarch who, having been resisted and overcome by his subjects, has to inaugurate a fresh policy. There were no grudges, no animosities, against her, smouldering, and ready to break out in fierce flame. She was hailed with an ovation, rude enough certainly, but sincere ; and it was hoped that her presence would tend to check, if not actually to extinguish, the strifes by which the land had been long disturbed. She was not a little aided by the fascination of her personal charms and graceful carriage. Her accomplishments could not be deemed mean among the crowned heads of our day ; but in that time, when many of her nobles might say, with the Abbot of Canterbury's shepherd,
“Now stay, my liege ; be not in such speed;
For, alack ! I can neither write nor read,''they must have appeared to be little short of supernatural. She commenced well. Her Council was wisely chosen. Her policy was conciliatory. Her treatment of the Reformers was tolerant. Murray, her natural brother, was her chief minister.* Seldom, in so turbulent a country as Scotland then was, ruled in the name of a young woman, and but just escaped from civil war, has any administration been conducted with such firmness, or attended with such success, as that which Murray guided during a critical period of four years. The reputation of Mary's government, we are told, spread over all countries. A firm and equal hand reduced the Borders and Highlands to an obedience unknown for centuries. As the Protestants entirely trusted Murray's zeal for their religion, he was enabled to temper occasional fanaticism, and, at least, prevent its breaking out into civil war. He alone was able to protect the tranquillity of his sister by balancing the ascendency of Knox, and by mitigating in some measure the spirit of that upright, sincere, heroic, but stern Reformer.+ This is the fairest period of Mary's reign,-alas! too brief. Afterward, the brightness was overcast, and her path was marked by almost unbroken gloom and tempest.
Her marriage, ardently desired by the people, who were not unreasonably anxious about the succession, was the hinge on which her fortunes turned. It was the subject of much intrigue. The courts of France, Spain, and Austria, eagerly sought her favour. But a foreign alliance was, for many reasons, inexpedient ; and all these proposals were declined. No one was more concerned in this matter than Elizabeth, who watched it with a jealous eye. Lord Darnley, nearly related to the royal families of Scotland and England, entered the lists as a competitor for her hand. To use Melville's words, she “took well with him," and said, in the quaint language of the times, “ he was the lustiest and best-proportioned lang man she had ever seen ; for he was of high stature, lang and small, even and brent up.” It was an evil day for her when she married him. He was passionate, and even brutal ; vicious and effeminate ; in short, contemptible both in head and heart. The event took place in 1565. His known sympathies with Popery excited the fears of the Protestants. Suspicions pre
* Mackintosh, vol. iii., p. 81. + For a vindication of Knox, see Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine, for October, 1862.
Failed, and there is too much reason for supposing them to have been well founded,) that Mary's conciliatory policy was only part of a deep-laid scheme, suggested by the Guises, for throwing the Reformers off their guard, till some favourable moment to restore the Romish Church. She had abated nothing of her attachment to that Church. She observed all its ris, and many of the nobles were emboldened to follow her example. She had studiously avoided ratifying the acts of the Convention of 1560. The Reformed Church only existed by her will, “ until she should take sene final order in matters of religion.” Hitherto the preachers had had the grumbling to themselves, and had been thought churlish ; but this Darriage was accepted as a public protest in favour of Romanism, and excited general murmurs and apprehensions of a most serious kind.
Matters were in this state when the assassination of Rizzio occurred; and this tended to increase the popular agitation. The place of his murder is pointed out a hundred times in a week during the season; and thus a man The would otherwise have sunk into oblivion becomes historical. With the strange want of judgment which too frequently characterized her pub& sets, Mary received this man, a foreigner of low extraction, and a Dovician, (Knox calls him, contemptuously,“ a fiddler,”) into high favour. It is conclusive evidence that the meanness of his birth in no degree exceeded the meanness of his mind, that he strove publicly to exhibit the ascendency he had gained over the Queen. Before the whole court, he hung over her chair, and affected the utmost familiarity. “The vanity and arrogance of the man himself were so great, as, not content to exceed the chief of the court, he would outbrave the King himself in his apparel, in his domestic furniture, and the number and sorts of his horses ; so as, for the time, no speech was more common than that of David's greatness, of the credit and honour whereunto he had risen, and of the small account which was taken of the King.*" This had been a dangerous course for a pobler man to take; but in his case it was sure to lead to ruin. The court looked with anger and contempt on the lowborn and alien upstart. The people beheld with indignation the insolent familiarity of an unworthy favourite. Scandals, to which, above all others, a queen and a wife ought to have been sensitive, freely circulated. It is needless to insinuate against her, in this instance, any greater criminality than that of a wanton indiscretion, in the last degree unseemly. She was perfectly aware of the discreditable rumours which were abroad; and yet, with highly culpable disregard for ber good name, and the peace of the kingdom, she did not condescend to alter her course. Mary had not been long married, when her affection (perhaps we may more correctly say, her passion) for her husband sensibly declined. Day by day she became increasingly cold, and many public indications were given of the contempt in which she held him. For this, sombe will say, his own meanness and brutality form a tolerable excuse. The King was racked with jealousy. “Divers tales were brought him, as
* Spotiswood's History, vol. ii., p. 35.
there are never wanting at court some to stir coals, of the contempt he was held in,” and of Rizzio's familiarity and favour.
At last the crisis came. That tragedy was enacted, the story of which is so often told in the palace of Holyrood. On the evening of the 9th of March, 1566, Earl Morton, at the head of a numerous body of men, seized the approaches to the palace. The King conducted Earl Ruthven,“ a man of brutal energy, and competent to every black crime,” with others, by private ways, to the Queen's apartments. Darnley entered. At his back came Ruthven, clad in armour, ghastly and pallid with recent illness. The Queen, who was seated at supper with some ladies of her court, beheld with amazement this ominous intrusion. Rizzio was also present. “Let Rizzio leave this room," the King demanded. Then followed a bitter altercation between Mary and Darnley, in which he heaped upon her the foulest reproaches. Rizzio clung to the Queen, who strove by tears, threatenings, and entreaties, all equally in vain, to protect the favourite. Armed men, who had been summoned to the room, gathered round, and dragged him away, struggling, and vainly praying for mercy. Dagger after dagger was sent home on its dreadful errand. In a few seconds the purpose was accomplished, and the body of the victim was pierced with more than fifty wounds. To realize the deep shades of this tragedy, we must remember that Morton, who secured the perpetrators from interruption, was Chancellor of the kingdom ; that the King promoted it, and gave an assurance, under his own hand, " of keeping them scathless, who were employed in cutting off and slaying certain persons who had abused the Queen's confidence;" and that the chief assassin was a peer, who, only a few months before he died, wrote out a circumstantial account of the affair with as much composure as if it had been the most meritorious deed possible. We must not overlook that refinement of cruelty which selected the time and the place for seizing the victim.
Any lingering spark of regard for Darnley, which Mary might have yet cherished, was now effectually extinguished. He caused his innocence in the matter of the murder to be proclaimed from the market-cross : “yet was the contrary known unto all men, so as this served to the undoing of his reputation.” Mary regarded him with intense aversion. It was no secret that the surest way to her displeasure was to show him any countenance. Shortly after this, a prince was born, James the Sixth of Scotland, and the First of England. The circumstances of the christening will show the relation of the King and Queen. The ceremony was performed with great pomp, but the husband and father was not permitted to be present. Thrice on that day he was denied an interview with the French ambassador, and was told that “ seeing he was in no good countenance with the Queen, he [the ambassador] was instructed by His Most Christian Majesty to hold no conference with him.” Humbled, sick at heart, degraded before Europe, he stole away to hide his mortification and dishonour in his father's house at Glasgow
And now we come to another crime,-one of those which with startling