Part 3 out of 4
It was not enough, but when evening came Mary Seyton was to unroll it
and let fall the end from the window, and George would fasten the
remainder to it: the thing was done as arranged, and without any
mishap, an hour after the hunters had returned.
The following day George left the castle.
The queen and Mary Seyton lost no time in setting about the rope
ladder, and it was finished on the third day. The same evening, the
queen in her impatience, and rather to assure herself of her
partisans' vigilance than in the hope that the time of her
deliverance was so near, brought her lamp to the window: immediately,
and as George Douglas had told her, the light in the little house at
Kinross disappeared: the queen then laid her hand on her heart and
counted up to twenty-two; then the light reappeared; they were ready
for everything, but nothing was yet settled. For a week the queen
thus questioned the light and her heart-beats without their number
changing; at last, on the eighth day, she counted only as far as ten;
at the eleventh the light reappeared.
The queen believed herself mistaken: she did not dare to hope what
this announced. She withdrew the lamp; then, at the end of a quarter
of an hour, showed it again: her unknown correspondent understood.
with his usual intelligence that a fresh trial was required of him,
and the light in the little house disappeared in its turn. Mary
again questioned the pulsations of her heart, and, fast as it leaped,
before the twelfth beat the propitious star was shining on the
horizon: there was no longer any doubt; everything was settled.
Mary could not sleep all night: this persistency of her partisans
inspired her with gratitude to the point of tears. The day came, and
the queen several times questioned her companion to assure herself
that it was not all a dream; at every sound it seemed to her that the
scheme on which her liberty hung was discovered, and when, at
breakfast and at dinner time, William Douglas entered as usual, she
hardly dared look at him, for fear of reading on his face the
announcement that all was lost.
In the evening the queen again questioned the light: it made the same
answer; nothing had altered; the beacon was always one of hope.
For four days it thus continued to indicate that the moment of escape
was at hand; on the evening of the fifth, before the queen had
counted five beats, the light reappeared: the queen leaned upon Mary
Seyton; she was nearly fainting, between dread and 'delight. Her
escape was fixed for the next evening.
The queen tried once more, and obtained the same reply: there was no
longer a doubt; everything was ready except the prisoner's courage,
for it failed her for a moment, and if Mary Seyton had not drawn up a
seat in time, she would have fallen prone; but, the first moment
over, she collected herself as usual, and was stronger and more
resolute than ever.
Till midnight the queen remained at the window, her eyes fixed on
that star of good omen: at last Mary Seyton persuaded her to go to
bed, offering, if she had no wish to sleep, to read her some verses
by M. Ronsard, or some chapters from the Mer des Histoires; but Mary
had no desire now for any profane reading, and had her Hours read,
making the responses as she would have done if she had been present
at a mass said by a Catholic priest: towards dawn, however, she grew
drowsy, and as Mary Seyton, for her part, was dropping with fatigue,
she fell asleep directly in the arm-chair at the head of the queen's
Next day she awoke, feeling that someone was tapping her on the
shoulder: it was the queen, who had already arisen.
"Come and see, darling," said she,--"come and see the fine day that
God is giving us. Oh! how alive is Nature! How happy I shall be to
be once more free among those plains and mountains! Decidedly, Heaven
is on our side."
"Madam," replied Mary, "I would rather see the weather less fine: it
would promise us a darker night; and consider, what we need is
darkness, not light."
"Listen," said the queen; "it is by this we are going to see if God
is indeed for us; if the weather remains as it is, yes, you are
right, He abandons us; but if it clouds over, oh! then, darling, this
will be a certain proof of His protection, will it not?"
Mary Seyton smiled, nodding that she adopted her mistress's
superstition; then the queen, incapable of remaining idle in her
great preoccupation of mind, collected the few jewels that she had
preserved, enclosed them in a casket, got ready for the evening a
black dress, in order to be still better hidden in the darkness: and,
these preparations made, she sat down again at the window,
ceaselessly carrying her eyes from the lake to the little house in
Kinross, shut up and dumb as usual.
The dinner-hour arrived: the queen was so happy that she received
William Douglas with more goodwill than was her wont, and it was with
difficulty she remained seated during the time the meal lasted; but
she restrained herself, and William Douglas withdrew, without seeming
to have noticed her agitation.
Scarcely had he gone than Mary ran to the window; she had need of
air, and her gaze devoured in advance those wide horizons which she
was about to cross anew; it seemed to her that once at liberty she
would never shut herself up in a palace again, but would wander about
the countryside continually: then, amid all these tremors of delight,
from time to time she felt unexpectedly heavy at heart. She then
turned round to Mary Seyton, trying to fortify her strength with
hers, and the young girl kept up her hopes, but rather from duty than
But slow as they seemed to the queen, the hours yet passed: towards
the afternoon some clouds floated across the blue sky; the queen
remarked upon them joyfully to her companion; Mary Seyton
congratulated her upon them, not on account of the imaginary omen
that the queen sought in them, but because of the real importance
that the weather should be cloudy, that darkness might aid them in
their flight. While the two prisoners were watching the billowy,
moving vapours, the hour of dinner arrived; but it was half an hour
of constraint and dissimulation, the more painful that, no doubt in
return for the sort of goodwill shown him by the queen in the
morning, William Douglas thought himself obliged, in his turn, to
accompany his duties with fitting compliments, which compelled the
queen to take a more active part in the conversation than her
preoccupation allowed her; but William Douglas did not seem in any
way to observe this absence of mind, and all passed as at breakfast.
Directly he had gone the queen ran to the window: the few clouds
which were chasing one another in the sky an hour before had
thickened and spread, and--all the blue was blotted out, to give
place to a hue dull and leaden as pewter. Mary Stuart's
presentiments were thus realised: as to the little house in Kinross,
which one could still make out in the dusk, it remained shut up, and
Night fell: the light shone as usual; the queen signalled, it
disappeared. Mary Stuart waited in vain; everything remained in
darkness: the escape was for the same evening. The queen heard eight
o'clock, nine o'clock, and ten o'clock strike successively. At ten
o'clock the sentinels were relieved; Mary Stuart heard the patrols
pass beneath her windows, the steps of the watch recede: then all
returned to silence. Half an hour passed away thus; suddenly the
owl's cry resounded thrice, the queen recognised George Douglas's
signal: the supreme moment had come.
In these circumstances the queen found all her strength revive: she
signed to Mary Seyton to take away the bar and to fix the rope
ladder, while, putting out the lamp, she felt her way into the
bedroom to seek the casket which contained her few remaining jewels.
When she came back, George Douglas was already in the room.
"All goes well, madam," said he. "Your friends await you on the
other side of the lake, Thomas Warden watches at the postern, and God
has sent us a dark night."
The queen, without replying, gave him her hand. George bent his knee
and carried this hand to his lips; but on touching it, he felt it
cold and trembling.
"Madam," said he, "in Heaven's name summon all your courage, and do
not let yourself be downcast at such a moment."
"Our Lady-of-Good-Help," murmured Seyton, "come to our aid!"
"Summon to you the spirit of the kings your ancestors," responded
George, "for at this moment it is not the resignation of a Christian
that you require, but the strength and resolution of a queen"
"Oh, Douglas! Douglas," cried Mary mournfully, "a fortune-teller
predicted to me that I should die in prison and by a violent death:
has not the hour of the prediction arrived?"
"Perhaps," George said, "but it is better to die as a queen than to
live in this ancient castle calumniated and a prisoner."
"You are right, George," the queen answered; "but for a woman the
first step is everything: forgive me". Then, after a moment's pause,
"Come," said she; "I am ready."
George immediately went to the window, secured the ladder again and
more firmly, then getting up on to the sill and holding to the bars
with one hand, he stretched out the other to the queen, who, as
resolute as she had been timid a moment before, mounted on a stool,
and had already set one foot on the window-ledge, when suddenly the
cry, "Who goes there?" rang out at the foot of the tower. The queen
sprang quickly back, partly instinctively and partly pushed by
George, who, on the contrary, leaned out of the window to see whence
came this cry, which, twice again renewed, remained twice unanswered,
and was immediately followed by a report and the flash of a firearm:
at the same moment the sentinel on duty on the tower blew his bugle,
another set going the alarm bell, and the cries, "To arms, to arms!"
and "Treason, treason!" resounded throughout the castle.
"Yes, yes, treason, treason!" cried George Douglas, leaping down into
the room. "Yes, the infamous Warden has betrayed us!" Then,
advancing to Mary, cold and motionless as a statue, "Courage, madam,"
said he, "courage! Whatever happens, a friend yet remains for you in
the castle; it is Little Douglas."
Scarcely had he finished speaking when the door of the queen's
apartment opened, and William Douglas and Lady Lochleven, preceded by
servants carrying torches and armed soldiers, appeared on the
threshold: the room was immediately filled with people and light.
"Mother," said William Douglas, pointing to his brother standing
before Mary Stuart and protecting her with his body, "do you believe
me now? Look!"
The old lady was for a moment speechless; then finding a word at
last, and taking a step forward--
"Speak, George Douglas," cried she, "speak, and clear yourself at
once of the charge which weighs on your honour; say but these words,
'A Douglas was never faithless to his trust,' and I believe you".
"Yes, mother," answered William, "a Douglas!... but he--he is not a
"May God grant my old age the strength needed to bear on the part of
one of my sons such a misfortune, and on the part of the other such
an injury!" exclaimed Lady Lochleven. "O woman born under a fatal
star," she went on, addressing the queen, "when will you cease to be,
in the Devil's hands, an instrument of perdition and death to all who
approach you? O ancient house of Lochleven, cursed be the hour when
this enchantress crossed thy threshold!"
"Do not say that, mother, do not say that," cried George; "blessed
be, on the contrary, the moment which proves that, if there are
Douglases who no longer remember what they owe to their sovereigns,
there are others who have never forgotten it."
"Douglas! Douglas!" murmured Mary Stuart, "did I not tell you?"
"And I, madam," said George, "what did I reply then? That it was an
honour and a duty to every faithful subject of your Majesty to die
"Well, die, then!" cried William Douglas, springing on his brother
with raised sword, while he, leaping back, drew his, and with a
movement quick as thought and eager as hatred defended himself. But
at the same moment Mary Stuart darted between the two young people.
"Not another step, Lord Douglas," said she. "Sheathe your sword,
George, or if you use it, let be to go hence, and against everyone
but your b other. I still have need of your life; take care of it."
"My life, like my arm and my honour, is at your service, madam, and
from the moment you command it I shall preserve it for you."
With these words, rushing to the door with a violence and resolve
which prevented anyone's stopping him--
"Back!" cried he to the domestics who were barring the passage; "make
way for the young master of Douglas, or woe to you!".
"Stop him!" cried William. "Seize him, dead or alive! Fire upon him!
Kill him like a dog!"
Two or three soldiers, not daring to disobey William, pretended to
pursue his brother. Then some gunshots were heard, and a voice
crying that George Douglas had just thrown himself into the lake.
"And has he then escaped?" cried William.
Mary Stuart breathed again; the old lady raised her hands to Heaven.
"Yes, yes," murmured William,--"yes, thank Heaven for your son's
flight; for his flight covers our entire house with shame; counting
from this hour, we shall be looked upon as the accomplices of his
"Have pity on me, William!" cried Lady Lochleven, wringing her hands.
"Have compassion o your old mother! See you not that I am dying?"
With these words, she fell backwards, pale and tottering; the steward
and a servant supported er in their arms.
"I believe, my lord," said Mary Seyton, coming forward, "that your
mother has as much need of attention just now as the queen has need
of repose: do you not consider it is time for you to withdraw?"
"Yes, yes," said William, "to give you time to spin fresh webs, I
suppose, and to seek what fresh flies you can take in them? It is
well, go on with your work; but you have just seen that it is not
easy to deceive William Douglas. Play your game, I shall play mine".
Then turning to the servants, "Go out, all of you," said he; "and
you, mother, come."
The servants and the soldiers obeyed; then William Douglas went out
last, supporting Lady Lochleven, and the queen heard him shut behind
him and double-lock the two doors of her prison.
Scarcely was Mary alone, and certain that she was no longer seen or
heard, than all her strength deserted her, and, sinking into an arm-
chair, she burst out sobbing.
Indeed, all her courage had been needed to sustain her so far, and
the sight of her enemies alone had given her this courage; but hardly
had they gone than her situation appeared before her in all its fatal
hardship. Dethroned, a prisoner, without another fiend in this
impregnable castle than a child to whom she had scarce given
attention, and who was the sole and last thread attaching her past
hopes to her hopes for the future, what remained to Mary Stuart of
her two thrones and her double power? Her name, that was all; her,
name with which, free, she had doubtless stirred Scotland, but which
little by little was about to be effaced in the hearts of her
adherents, and which during her lifetime oblivion was to cover
perhaps as with a shroud. Such an idea was insupportable to a soul
as lofty as Mary Stuart's, and to an organisation which, like that of
the flowers, has need, before everything, of air, light, and sun.
Fortunately there remained to her the best beloved of her four Marys,
who, always devoted and consoling, hastened to succour and comfort
her; but this time it was no easy matter, and the queen let her act
and speak without answering her otherwise than with sobs and tears;
when suddenly, looking through the window to which she had drawn up
her mistress's armchair--
"The light!" cried she, "madam, the light!"
At the same time she raised the queen, and with arm outstretched from
the window, she showed her the beacon, the eternal symbol of hope,
relighted in the midst of this dark night on Kinross hill: there was
no mistake possible, not a star was shining in the sky.
"Lord God, I give Thee thanks," said the queen, falling on her knees
and raising her arms to heaven with a gesture of gratitude: "Douglas
has escaped, and my friends still keep watch."
Then, after a fervent prayer, which restored to her a little
strength, the queen re-entered her room, and, tired out by her varied
successive emotions, she slept an uneasy, agitated sleep, over which
the indefatigable Mary Seyton kept watch till daybreak.
As William Douglas had said, from this time forward the queen was a
prisoner indeed, and permission to go down into the garden was no
longer granted but under the surveillance of two soldiers; but this
annoyance seemed to her so unbearable that she preferred to give up
the recreation, which, surrounded with such conditions, became a
torture. So she shut herself up in her apartments, finding a certain
bitter and haughty pleasure in the very excess of her misfortune.
A week after the events we have related, as nine o'clock in the
evening had just sounded from the castle bell, and the queen and Mary
Seyton were sitting at a table where they were working at their
tapestry, a stone thrown from the courtyard passed through the window
bars, broke a pane of glass, and fell into the room. The queen's
first idea was to believe it accidental or an insult; but Mary
Seyton, turning round, noticed that the stone was wrapped up in a
paper: she immediately picked it up. The paper was a letter from
George Douglas, conceived in these terms:
"You have commanded me to live, madam: I have obeyed, and your
Majesty has been able to tell, from the Kinross light, that your
servants continue to watch over you. However, not to raise
suspicion, the soldiers collected for that fatal night dispersed at
dawn, and will not gather again till a fresh attempt makes their
presence necessary. But, alas! to renew this attempt now, when your
Majesty's gaolers are on their guard, would be your ruin. Let them
take every precaution, then, madam; let them sleep in security, while
we, we, in our devotion, shall go on watching.
"Patience and courage!"
"Brave and loyal heart!" cried Mary, "more constantly devoted to
misfortune than others are to prosperity! Yes, I shall have patience
and courage, and so long as that light shines I shall still believe
This letter restored to the queen all her former courage: she had
means of communication with George through Little Douglas; for no
doubt it was he who had thrown that stone. She hastened, in her
turn, to write a letter to George, in which she both charged him to
express her gratitude to all the lords who had signed the
protestation; and begged them, in the name of the fidelity they had
sworn to her, not to cool in their devotion, promising them, for her
part, to await the result with that patience and courage they asked
The queen was not mistaken: next day, as she was at her window,
Little Douglas came to play at the foot of the tower, and, without
raising his head, stopped just beneath her to dig a trap to catch
birds. The queen looked to see if she were observed, and assured
that that part of the courtyard was deserted. she let fail the stone
wrapped in her letter: at first she feared to have made a serious
error; for Little Douglas did not even turn at the noise, and it was
only after a moment, during which the prisoner's heart was torn with
frightful anxiety, that indifferently, and as if he were looking for
something else, the child laid his hand on the stone, and without
hurrying, without raising his head, without indeed giving any sign of
intelligence to her who had thrown it, he put the letter in his
pocket, finishing the work he had begun with the greatest calm, and
showing the queen, by this coolness beyond his years, what reliance
she could place in him.
>From that moment the queen regained fresh hope; but days, weeks,
months passed without bringing any change in her situation: winter
came; the prisoner saw snow spread over the plains and mountains, and
the lake afforded her, if she had only been able to pass the door, a
firm road to gain the other bank; but no letter came during all this
time to bring her the consoling news that they were busy about her
deliverance; the faithful light alone announced to her every evening
that a friend was keeping watch.
Soon nature awoke from her death-sleep: some forward sun-rays broke
through the clouds of this sombre sky of Scotland; the snow melted,
the lake broke its ice-crust, the first buds opened, the green turf
reappeared; everything came out of its prison at the joyous approach
of spring, and it was a great grief to Mary to see that she alone was
condemned to an eternal winter.
At last; one evening, she thought she observed in the motions of the
light that something fresh was happening: she had so often questioned
this poor flickering star, and she had so often let it count her
heart-beats more than twenty times, that to spare herself the pain of
disappointment, for a long time she had no longer interrogated it;
however, she resolved to make one last attempt, and, almost hopeless,
she put her light near the window, and immediately took it away;
still, faithful to the signal, the other disappeared at the same
moment, and reappeared at the eleventh heart-beat of the queen. At
the same time, by a strange coincidence, a stone passing through the
window fell at Mary Seyton's feet. It was, like the first, wrapped
in a letter from George: the queen took it from her companion's
hands, opened it, and read:
"The moment draws near; your adherents are assembled; summon all your
"To-morrow, at eleven o'clock in the evening, drop a cord from your
window, and draw up the packet that will be fastened to it."
There remained in the queen's apartments the rope over and above what
had served for the ladder taken away by the guards the evening of the
frustrated escape: next day, at the appointed hour, the two prisoners
shut up the lamp in the bedroom, so that no light should betray them,
and Mary Seyton, approaching the window, let down the cord. After a
minute, she felt from its movements that something was being attached
to it. Mary Seyton pulled, and a rather bulky parcel appeared at the
bars, which it could not pass on account of its size. Then the queen
came to her companion's aid. The parcel was untied, and its
contents, separately, got through easily. The two prisoners carried
them into the bedroom, and, barricaded within, commenced an
inventory. There were two complete suits of men's clothes in the
Douglas livery. The queen was at a loss, when she saw a letter
fastened to the collar of one of the two coats. Eager to know the
meaning of this enigma, she immediately opened it, and read as
"It is only by dint of audacity that her Majesty can recover her
liberty: let her Majesty read this letter, then, and punctually
follow, if she deign to adopt them, the instructions she will find
"In the daytime the keys of the castle do not leave the belt of the
old steward; when curfew is rung and he has made his rounds to make
sure that all the doors are fast shut, he gives them up to William
Douglas, who, if he stays up, fastens them to his sword-belt, or, if
he sleeps, puts them under his pillow. For five months, Little
Douglas, whom everyone is accustomed to see working at the armourer's
forge of the castle, has been employed in making some keys like
enough to the others, once they are substituted for them, for William
to be deceived. Yesterday Little Douglas finished the last.
"On the first favourable opportunity that her Majesty will know to be
about to present itself, by carefully questioning the light each day,
Little Douglas will exchange the false keys for the true, will enter
the queen's room, and will find her dressed, as well as Miss Mary
Seyton, in their men's clothing, and he will go before them to lead
them, by the way which offers the best chances for their escape; a
boat will be prepared and will await them.
"Till then, every evening, as much to accustom themselves to these
new costumes as to give them an appearance of having been worn, her
Majesty and Miss Mary Seyton will dress themselves in the suits,
which they must keep on from nine o'clock till midnight. Besides, it
is possible that, without having had time to warn them, their young
guide may suddenly come to seek them: it is urgent, then, that he
find them ready.
"The garments ought to fit perfectly her Majesty and her companion,
the measure having been taken on Miss Mary Fleming and Miss Mary
Livingston, who are exactly their size.
"One cannot too strongly recommend her Majesty to summon to her aid
on the supreme occasion the coolness and courage of which she has
given such frequent proofs at other times."
The two prisoners were astounded at the boldness of this plan: at
first they looked at one another in consternation, for success seemed
impossible. They none the less made trial of their disguise: as
George had said, it fitted each of them as if they had been measured
Every evening the queen questioned the light, as George had urged,
and that for a whole long month, during which each evening the queen
and Mary Seyton, although the light gave no fresh tidings, arrayed
themselves in their men's clothes, as had been arranged, so that they
both acquired such practice that they became as familiar to them as
those of their own sex.
At last, the 2nd May, 1568, the queen was awakened by the blowing of
a horn: uneasy as to what it announced, she slipped on a cloak and
ran to the window, where Mary Seyton joined her directly. A rather
numerous band of horsemen had halted on the side of the lake,
displaying the Douglas pennon, and three boats were rowing together
and vying with each other to fetch the new arrivals.
This event caused the queen dismay: in her situation the least change
in the castle routine was to be feared, for it might upset all the
concerted plans. This apprehension redoubled when, on the boats
drawing near, the queen recognised in the elder Lord Douglas, the
husband of Lady Lochleven, and the father of William and George. The
venerable knight, who was Keeper of the Marches in the north, was
coming to visit his ancient manor, in which he had not set foot for
It was an event for Lochleven; and, some minutes after the arrival of
the boats, Mary Stuart heard the old steward's footsteps mounting the
stairs: he came to announce his master's arrival to the queen, and,
as it must needs be a time of rejoicing to all the castle inhabitants
when its master returned, he came to invite the queen to the dinner
in celebration of the event: whether instinctively or from distaste,
the queen declined.
All day long the bell and the bugle resounded: Lord Douglas, like a
true feudal lord, travelled with the retinue of a prince. One saw
nothing but new soldiers and servants passing and repassing beneath
the queen's windows: the footmen and horsemen were wearing, moreover,
a livery similar to that which the queen and Mary Seyton had
Mary awaited the night with impatience. The day before, she had
questioned her light, and it had informed her as usual, in
reappearing at her eleventh or twelfth heart-beat, that the moment of
escape was near; but she greatly feared that Lord Douglas's arrival
might have upset everything, and that this evening's signal could
only announce a postponement. But hardly had she seen the light
shine than she placed her lamp in the window; the other disappeared
directly, and Mary Stuart, with terrible anxiety, began to question
it. This anxiety increased when she had counted more than fifteen
beats. Then she stopped, cast down, her eyes mechanically fixed on
the spot where the light had been. But her astonishment was great
when, at the end of a few minutes, she did not see it reappear, and
when, half an hour having elapsed, everything remained in darkness.
The queen then renewed her signal, but obtained no response: the
escape was for the same evening.
The queen and Mary Seyton were so little expecting this issue, that,
contrary to their custom, they had not put on their men's clothes
that evening. They immediately flew to the queen's bed-chamber,
bolted the door behind them, and began to dress.
They had hardly finished their hurried toilette when they heard a key
turn in the lock: they immediately blew out the lamp. Light steps
approached the door. The two women leaned one against the other; for
they both were near falling. Someone tapped gently. The queen asked
who was there, and Little Douglas's voice answered in the two first
lines of an old ballad--
Tender and true."
Mary opened, directly: it was the watchword agreed upon with George
The child was without a light. He stretched out his hand and
encountered the queen's: in the starlight, Mary Stuart saw him kneel
down; then she felt the imprint of his lips on her fingers.
"Is your Majesty ready to follow me?" he asked in a low tone, rising.
"Yes, my child," the queen answered: "it is for this evening, then?"
"With your Majesty's permission, yes, it is for this evening."
"Is everything ready?"
"What are we to do?"
"Follow me everywhere."
"My God! my God!" cried Mary Stuart, "have pity on us!" Then, having
breathed a short prayer in a low voice, while Mary Seyton was taking
the casket in which were the queen's jewels, "I am ready," said she:
"and you, darling?"
"I also," replied Mary Seyton.
"Come, then," said Little Douglas.
The two prisoners followed the child; the queen going first, and Mary
Seyton after. Their youthful guide carefully shut again the door
behind him, so that if a warder happened to pass he would see
nothing; then he began to descend the winding stair. Half-way down,
the noise of the feast reached them, a mingling of shouts of
laughter, the confusion of voices, and the clinking of glasses. The
queen placed her hand on her young guide's shoulder.
"Where are you leading us?" she asked him with terror.
"Out of the castle," replied the child.
"But we shall have to pass through the great hall?"
"Without a doubt; and that is exactly what George foresaw. Among the
footmen, whose livery your Majesty is wearing, no one will recognise
"My God! my God!" the queen murmured, leaning against the wall.
"Courage, madam," said Mary Seyton in a low voice, "or we are lost."
"You are right," returned the queen; "let us go". And they started
again still led by their guide.
At the foot of the stair he stopped, and giving the queen a stone
pitcher full of wine
"Set this jug on your right shoulder, madam," said he; "it will hide
your face from the guests, and your Majesty will give rise to less
suspicion if carrying something. You, Miss Mary, give me that
casket, and put on your head this basket of bread. Now, that's
right: do you feel you have strength?"
"Yes," said the queen.
"Yes," said Mary Seyton.
"Then follow me."
The child went on his way, and after a few steps the fugitives found
themselves in a kind of antechamber to the great hall, from which
proceeded noise and light. Several servants were occupied there with
different duties; not one paid attention to them, and that a little
reassured the queen. Besides, there was no longer any drawing back:
Little Douglas had just entered the great hall.
The guests, seated on both sides of a long table ranged according to
the rank of those assembled at it, were beginning dessert, and
consequently had reached the gayest moment of the repast. Moreover,
the hall was so large that the lamps and candles which lighted it,
multiplied as they were, left in the most favourable half-light both
sides of the apartment, in which fifteen or twenty servants were
coming and going. The queen and Mary Seyton mingled with this crowd,
which was too much occupied to notice them, and without stopping,
without slackening, without looking back, they crossed the whole
length of the hall, reached the other door, and found themselves in
the vestibule corresponding to the one they had passed through on
coming in. The queen set down her jug there, Mary Seyton her basket,
and both, still led by the child, entered a corridor at the end of
which they found themselves in the courtyard. A patrol was passing
at the moment, but he took no notice of them.
The child made his way towards the garden, still followed by the two
women. There, for no little while, it was necessary to try which of
all the keys opened the door; it--was a time of inexpressible
anxiety. At last the key turned in the lock, the door opened; the
queen and Mary Seyton rushed into the garden. The child closed the
door behind them.
About two-thirds of the way across, Little Douglas held out his hand
as a sign to them to stop; then, putting down the casket and the keys
on the ground, he placed his hands together, and blowing into them,
thrice imitated the owl's cry so well that it was impossible to
believe that a human voice was uttering the sounds; then, picking up
the casket and the keys, he kept on his way on tiptoe and with an
attentive ear. On getting near the wall, they again stopped, and
after a moment's anxious waiting they heard a groan, then something
like the sound of a falling body. Some seconds later the owl's cry
was--answered by a tu-whit-tu-whoo.
"It is over," Little Douglas said calmly; "come."
"What is over?" asked the queen; "and what is that groan we heard?"
"There was a sentry at the door on to the lake," the child answered,
"but he is no longer there."
The queen felt her heart's blood grow cold, at the same tine that a
chilly sweat broke out to the roots of her hair; for she perfectly
understood: an unfortunate being had just lost his life on her
account. Tottering, she leaned on Mary Seyton, who herself felt her
strength giving way. Meanwhile Little Douglas was trying the keys:
the second opened the door.
"And the queen?" said in a low voice a man who was waiting on the
other side of the wall.
"She is following me," replied the child.
George Douglas, for it was he, sprang into the garden, and, taking
the queen's arm on one side and Mary Seyton's on the other, he
hurried them away quickly to the lake-side. When passing through the
doorway Mary Stuart could not help throwing an uneasy look about her,
and it seemed to her that a shapeless object was lying at the bottom
of the wall, and as she was shuddering all over
"Do not pity him," said George in a low voice, "for it is a judgment
from heaven. That man was the infamous Warden who betrayed us."
"Alas!" said the queen, "guilty as he was, he is none the less dead
on my account."
"When it concerned your safety, madam, was one to haggle over drops
of that base blood? But silence! This way, William, this way; let
us keep along the wall, whose shadow hides us. The boat is within
twenty steps, and we are saved."
With these words, George hurried on the two women still more quickly,
and all four, without having been detected, reached the banks of the
lake. 'As Douglas had said, a little boat was waiting; and, on
seeing the fugitives approach, four rowers, couched along its bottom,
rose, and one of them, springing to land, pulled the chain, so that
the queen and Mary Seyton could get in. Douglas seated them at the
prow, the child placed himself at the rudder, and George, with a
kick, pushed off the boat, which began to glide over the lake.
"And now," said he, "we are really saved; for they might as well
pursue a sea swallow on Solway Firth as try to reach us. Row,
children, row; never mind if they hear us: the main thing is to get
into the open."
"Who goes there?" cried a voice above, from the castle terrace.
"Row, row," said Douglas, placing himself in front of the queen.
"The boat! the boat!" cried the same voice; "bring to the boat!"
Then, seeing that it continued to recede, "Treason! treason!" cried
the sentinel. "To arms!"
At the same moment a flash lit up the lake; the report of a firearm
was heard, and a ball passed, whistling. The queen uttered a little
cry, although she had run no danger, George, as we have said, having
placed himself in front of her, quite protecting her with his body.
The alarm bell now rang, and all the castle lights were seen moving
and glancing about, as if distracted, in the rooms.
"Courage, children!" said Douglas. "Row as if your lives depended on
each stroke of the oar; for ere five minutes the skiff will be out
"That won't be so easy for them as you think, George," said Little
Douglas; "for I shut all the doors behind me, and some time will
elapse before the keys that I have left there open them. As to
these," added he, showing those he had so skilfully abstracted, "I
resign them to the Kelpie, the genie of the lake, and I nominate him
porter of Lochleven Castle."
The discharge of a small piece of artillery answered William's joke;
but as the night was too dark for one to aim to such a distance as
that already between the castle and the boat, the ball ricochetted at
twenty paces from the fugitives, while the report died away in echo
after echo. Then Douglas drew his pistol from his belt, and, warning
the ladies to have no fear, he fired in the air, not to answer by
idle bravado the castle cannonade, but to give notice to a troop of
faithful friends, who were waiting for them on the other shore of the
lake, that the queen had escaped. Immediately, in spite of the
danger of being so near Kinross, cries of joy resounded on the bank,
and William having turned the rudder, the boat made for land at the
spot whence they had been heard. Douglas then gave his hand to the
queen, who sprang lightly ashore, and who, falling on her knees,
immediately began to give thanks to God for her happy deliverance.
On rising, the queen found herself surrounded by her most faithful
servants--Hamilton, Herries, and Seyton, Mary's father. Light-headed
with joy, the queen extended her hands to them, thanking them with
broken words, which expressed her intoxication and her gratitude
better than the choicest phrases could have done, when suddenly,
turning round, she perceived George Douglas, alone and melancholy.
Then, going to him and taking him by the hand--
"My lords," said she, presenting George to them, and pointing to
William, "behold my two deliverers: behold those to whom, as long as
I live, I shall preserve gratitude of which nothing will ever acquit
"Madam," said Douglas, "each of us has only done what he ought, and
he who has risked most is the happiest. But if your Majesty will
believe me, you will not lose a moment in needless words."
"Douglas is right," said Lord Seyton. "To horse! to horse!"
Immediately, and while four couriers set out in four different
directions to announce to the queen's friends her happy escape, they
brought her a horse saddled for her, which she mounted with her usual
skill; then the little troop, which, composed of about twenty
persons, was escorting the future destiny of Scotland, keeping away
from the village of Kinross, to which the castle firing had doubtless
given the alarm, took at a gallop the road to Seyton's castle, where
was already a garrison large enough to defend the queen from a sudden
The queen journeyed all night, accompanied on one side by Douglas, on
the other by Lord Seyton; then, at daybreak, they stopped at the gate
of the castle of West Niddrie, belonging to Lord Seyton, as we have
said, and situated in West Lothian. Douglas sprang from his horse to
offer his hand to Mary Stuart; but Lord Seyton claimed his privilege
as master of the house. The queen consoled Douglas with a glance,
and entered the fortress.
"Madam," said Lord Seyton, leading her into a room prepared for her
for nine months, "your Majesty must have need of repose, after the
fatigue and the emotions you have gone through since yesterday
morning; you may sleep here in peace, and disquiet yourself for
nothing: any noise you may hear will be made by a reinforcement of
friends which we are expecting. As to our enemies, your Majesty has
nothing to fear from them so long as you inhabit the castle of a
The queen again thanked all her deliverers, gave her hand to Douglas
to kiss one last time, kissed Little William on the forehead, and
named him her favourite page for the future; then, profiting by the
advice given her, entered her room where Mary Seyton, to the
exclusion of every other woman, claimed the privilege of performing
about her the duties with which she had been charged during their
eleven months' captivity in Lochleven Castle.
On opening her eyes, Mary Stuart thought she had had one of those
dreams so gainful to prisoners, when waking they see again the bolts
on their doors and the bars on their windows. So the queen, unable
to believe the evidence of her senses, ran, half dressed, to the
window. The courtyard was filled with soldiers, and these soldiers
all friends who had hastened at the news of her escape; she
recognised the banners of her faithful friends, the Seytons, the
Arbroaths, the Herries, and the Hamiltons, and scarcely had she been
seen at the window than all these banners bent before her, with the
shouts a hundred times repeated of "Long live Mary of Scotland! Long
live our queen!" Then, without giving heed to the disarray of her
toilet, lovely and chaste with her emotion and her happiness, she
greeted them in her turn, her eyes full of tears; but this time they
were tears of joy. However, the queen recollected that she was
barely covered, and blushing at having allowed herself to be thus
carried away in her ecstasy, she abruptly drew back, quite rosy with
Then she had an instant's womanly fright: she had fled from Lochleven
Castle in the Douglas livery, and without either the leisure or the
opportunity for taking women's clothes with her. But she could not
remain attired as a man; so she explained her uneasiness to Mary
Seyton, who responded by opening the closets in the queen's room.
They were furnished, not only with robes, the measure for which, like
that of the suit, had been taken from Mary Fleming, but also with all
the necessaries for a woman's toilet. The queen was astonished: it
was like being in a fairy castle.
"Mignonne," said she, looking one after another at the robes, all the
stuffs of which were chosen with exquisite taste, "I knew your father
was a brave and loyal knight, but I did not think him so learned in
the matter of the toilet. We shall name him groom of the wardrobe."
"Alas! madam," smilingly replied Mary Seyton, "you are not mistaken:
my father has had everything in the castle furbished up to the last
corselet, sharpened to the last sword, unfurled to the last banner;
but my father, ready as he is to die for your Majesty, would not have
dreamed for an instant of offering you anything but his roof to rest
under, or his cloak to cover you. It is Douglas again who has
foreseen everything, prepared everything--everything even to
Rosabelle, your Majesty's favourite steed, which is impatiently
awaiting in the stable the moment when, mounted on her, your Majesty
will make your triumphal re-entry into Edinburgh."
"And how has he been able to get her back again?" Mary asked.
"I thought that in the division of my spoils Rosabelle had fallen to
the fair Alice, my brother's favourite sultana?"
"Yes, yes," said Mary Seyton, "it was so; and as her value was known,
she was kept under lock and key by an army of grooms; but Douglas is
the man of miracles, and, as I have told you, Rosabelle awaits your
"Noble Douglas!" murmured the queen, with eyes full of tears; then,
as if speaking to herself, "And this is precisely one of those
devotions that we can never repay. The others will be happy with
honours, places, money; but to Douglas what matter all these things?"
"Come, madam, come," said Mary Seyton, "God takes on Himself the
debts of kings; He will reward Douglas. As to your Majesty, reflect
that they are waiting dinner for you. I hope," added she, smiling,
"that you will not affront my father as you did Lord Douglas
yesterday in refusing to partake of his feast on his fortunate home-
"And luck has come to me for it, I hope," replied Mary. "But you are
right, darling: no more sad thoughts; we will consider when we have
indeed become queen again what we can do for Douglas."
The queen dressed and went down. As Mary Seyton had told her, the
chief noblemen of her party, already gathered round her, were waiting
for her in the great hall of the castle. Her arrival was greeted
with acclamations of the liveliest enthusiasm, and she sat down to
table, with Lord Seyton on her right hand, Douglas on her left, and
behind her Little William, who the same day was beginning his duties
Next morning the queen was awakened by the sound of trumpets and
bugles: it had been decided the day before that she should set out
that day for Hamilton, where reinforcements were looked for. The
queen donned an elegant riding-habit, and soon, mounted on Rosabelle,
appeared amid her defenders. The shouts of joy redoubled: her
beauty, her grace, and her courage were admired by everyone. Mary
Stuart became her own self once more, and she felt spring up in her
again the power of fascination she had always exercised on those who
came near her. Everyone was in good humour, and the happiest of all
was perhaps Little William, who for the first time in his life had
such a fine dress and such a fine horse.
Two or three thousand men were awaiting the queen at Hamilton, which
she reached the same evening; and during the night following her
arrival the troops increased to six thousand. The 2nd of May she was
a prisoner, without another friend but a child in her prison, without
other means of communication with her adherents than the flickering
and uncertain light of a lamp, and three days afterwards--that is to
say, between the Sunday and the Wednesday--she found herself not only
free, but also at the head of a powerful confederacy, which counted
at its head nine earls, eight peers, nine bishops, and a number of
barons and nobles renowned among the bravest of Scotland.
The advice of the most judicious among those about the queen was to
shut herself up in the strong castle of Dumbarton, which, being
impregnable, would give all her adherents time to assemble together,
distant and scattered as they were: accordingly, the guidance of the
troops who were to conduct the queen to that town was entrusted to
the Earl of Argyll, and the 11th of May she took the road with an
army of nearly ten thousand men.
Murray was at Glasgow when he heard of the queen's escape: the place
was strong; he decided to hold it, and summoned to him his bravest
and most devoted partisans. Kirkcaldy of Grange, Morton, Lindsay of
Byres, Lord Lochleven, and William Douglas hastened to him, and six
thousand of the best troops in the kingdom gathered round them, while
Lord Ruthven in the counties of Berwick and Angus raised levies with
which to join them.
The 13th May, Morton occupied from daybreak the village of Langside,
through which the queen must pass to get to Dumbarton. The news of
the occupation reached the queen as the two armies were yet seven
miles apart. Mary's first instinct was to escape an engagement: she
remembered her last battle at Carberry Hill, at the end of which she
had been separated from Bothwell and brought to Edinburgh; so she
expressed aloud this opinion, which was supported by George Douglas,
who, in black armour, without other arms, had continued at the
"Avoid an engagement!" cried Lord Seyton, not daring to answer his
sovereign, and replying to George as if this opinion had originated
with him. "We could do it, perhaps, if we were one to ten; but we
shall certainly not do so when we are three to two. You speak a
strange tongue, my young master," continued he, with some contempt;
"and you forget, it seems to me, that you are a Douglas and that you
speak to a Seyton."
"My lord," returned George calmly, "when we only hazard the lives of
Douglases and Seytons, you will find me, I hope, as ready to fight as
you, be it one to ten, be it three to two; but we are now answerable
for an existence dearer to Scotland than that of all the Seytons and
all the Douglases. My advice is then to avoid battle."
"Battle! battle!" cried all the chieftains.
"You hear, madam?" said Lord Seyton to Mary Stuart: "I believe that
to wish to act against such unanimity would be dangerous. In
Scotland, madam, there is an ancient proverb which has it that 'there
is most prudence in courage.'"
"But have you not heard that the regent has taken up an advantageous
position?" the queen said.
"The greyhound hunts the hare on the hillside as well as in the
plain," replied Seyton: "we will drive him out, wherever he is."
"Let it be as you desire, then, my lords. It shall not be said that
Mary Stuart returned to the scabbard the sword her defenders had
drawn for her."
Then, turning round to Douglas
"George," she said to him, "choose a guard of twenty men for me, and
take command of them: you will not quit me."
George bent low in obedience, chose twenty from among the bravest
men, placed the queen in their midst, and put himself at their head;
then the troops, which had halted, received the order to continue
their road. In two hours' time the advance guard was in sight of the
enemy; it halted, and the rest of the army rejoined it.
The queen's troops then found themselves parallel with the city of
Glasgow, and the heights which rose in front of them were already
occupied by a force above which floated, as above that of Mary, the
royal banners of Scotland, On the other side, and on the opposite
slope, stretched the village of Langside, encircled with enclosures
and gardens. The road which led to it, and which followed all the
variations of the ground, narrowed at one place in such a way that
two men could hardly pass abreast, then, farther on, lost itself in a
ravine, beyond which it reappeared, then branched into two, of which
one climbed to the village of Langside, while the other led to
On seeing the lie of the ground, the Earl of Argyll immediately
comprehended the importance of occupying this village, and, turning
to Lord Seyton, he ordered him to gallop off and try to arrive there
before the enemy, who doubtless, having made the same observation as
the commander of the royal forces, was setting in motion at that very
moment a considerable body of cavalry.
Lord Seyton called up his men directly, but while he was ranging them
round his banner, Lord Arbroath drew his sword, and approaching the
Earl of Argyll
"My lord," said he, "you do me a wrong in charging Lord Seyton to
seize that post: as commander of the vanguard, it is to me this
honour belongs. Allow me, then, to use my privilege in claiming it."
"It is I who received the order to seize it; I will seize it!" cried
"Perhaps," returned Lord Arbroath, "but not before me!"
"Before you and before every Hamilton in the world!" exclaimed
Seyton, putting his horse to the gallop and rushing down into the
"Saint Bennet! and forward!"
"Come, my faithful kinsmen!" cried Lord Arbroath, dashing forward on
his side with the same object; "come, my men-at-arms! For God and the
The two troops precipitated themselves immediately in disorder and
ran against one another in the narrow way, where, as we have said,
two men could hardly pass abreast. There was a terrible collision
there, and the conflict began among friends who should have been
united against the enemy. Finally, the two troops, leaving behind
them some corpses stifled in the press, or even killed by their
companions, passed through the defile pell-mell and were lost sight
of in the ravine. But during this struggle Seyton and Arbroath had
lost precious time, and the detachment sent by Murray, which had
taken the road by Glasgow, had reached the village beforehand; it was
now necessary not to take it, but to retake it.
Argyll saw that the whole day's struggle would be concentrated there,
and, understanding more and more the importance of the village,
immediately put himself at the head of the body of his army,
commanding a rearguard of two thousand men to remain there and await
further orders to take part in the fighting. But whether the captain
who commanded them had ill understood, or whether he was eager to
distinguish himself in the eyes of the queen, scarcely had Argyll
vanished into the ravine, at the end of which the struggle had
already commenced between Kirkcaldy of Grange and Morton on the one
side, and on the other between Arbroath and Seyton, than, without
regarding the cries of Mary Stuart, he set off in his turn at a
gallop, leaving the queen without other guard than the little escort
of twenty men which Douglas had chosen for her. Douglas sighed.
"Alas!" said the queen, hearing him, "I am not a soldier, but there
it seems to me is a battle very badly begun."
"What is to be done?" replied Douglas. "We are every one of us
infatuated, from first to last, and all these men are behaving to-day
like madmen or children."
"Victory! victory!" said the queen; "the enemy is retreating,
fighting. I see the banners of Seyton and Arbroath floating near the
first houses in the village. Oh! my brave lords," cried she,
clapping her hands. "Victory! victory!"
But she stopped suddenly on perceiving a body of the enemy's army
advancing to charge the victors in flank.
"It is nothing, it is nothing," said Douglas; "so long as there is
only cavalry we have nothing much to fear, and besides the Earl of
Argyll will fall in in time to aid them."
"George," said Little William.
"Well?" asked Douglas.
"Don't you see? "the child went on, stretching out his arms towards
the enemy's force, which was coming on at a gallop.
"Each horseman carries a footman armed with an arquebuse behind him,
so that the troop is twice as numerous as it appears."
"That's true; upon my soul, the child has good sight. Let someone go
at once full gallop and take news of this to the Earl or Argyll."
"I! I!" cried Little William. "I saw them first; it is my right to
bear the tidings."
"Go, then, my child," said Douglas; "and may God preserve thee!"
The child flew, quick as lightning, not hearing or feigning not to
hear the queen, who was recalling him. He was seen to cross the
gorge and plunge into the hollow road at the moment when Argyll was
debouching at the end and coming to the aid of Seyton and Arbroath.
Meanwhile, the enemy's detachment had dismounted its infantry, which,
immediately formed up, was scattering on the sides of the ravine by
paths impracticable for horses.
"William will come too late!" cried Douglas, "or even, should he
arrive in time, the news is now useless to them. Oh madmen, madmen
that we are! This is how we have always lost all our battles!"
"Is the battle lost, then?" demanded Mary, growing pale.
"No, madam, no," cried Douglas; "Heaven be thanked, not yet; but
through too great haste we have begun badly."
"And William?" said Mary Stuart.
"He is now serving his apprenticeship in arms; for, if I am not
mistaken, he must be at this moment at the very spot where those
marksmen are making such quick firing."
"Poor child!" cried the queen; "if ill should befall him, I shall
never console myself."
"Alas! madam," replied Douglas, "I greatly fear that his first battle
is his last, and that everything is already over for him; for, unless
I mistake, there is his horse returning riderless."
"Oh, my God! my God!" said the queen, weeping, and raising her hands
to heaven, "it is then decreed that I should be fatal to all around
George was not deceived: it was William's horse coming back without
his young master and covered with blood.
"Madam," said Douglas, "we are ill placed here; let us gain that
hillock on which is the Castle of Crookstone: from thence we shall
survey the whole battlefield."
"No, not there! not there!" said the queen in terror: "within that
castle I came to spend the first days of my marriage with Darnley; it
will bring me misfortune."
"Well, beneath that yew-tree, then," said George, pointing to another
slight rise near the first; "but it is important for us to lose no
detail of this engagement. Everything depends perhaps for your
Majesty on an ill-judged manoeuvre or a lost moment."
"Guide me, then," the queen said; "for, as for me, I no longer see
it. Each report of that terrible cannonade echoes to the depths of
However well placed as was this eminence for overlooking from its
summit the whole battlefield, the reiterated discharge of cannon and
musketry covered it with such a cloud of smoke that it was impossible
to make out from it anything but masses lost amid a murderous fog.
At last, when an hour had passed in this desperate conflict, through
the skirts of this sea of smoke the fugitives were seen to emerge and
disperse in all directions, followed by the victors. Only, at that
distance, it was impossible to make out who had gained or lost the
battle, and the banners, which on both sides displayed the Scottish
arms, could in no way clear up this confusion.
At that moment there was seen coming down from the Glasgow hillsides
all the remaining reserve of Murray's army; it was coming at full
speed to engage in the fighting; but this manoeuvre might equally
well have for its object the support of defeated friends as to
complete the rout of the enemy. However, soon there was no longer
any doubt; for this reserve charged the fugitives, amid whom it
spread fresh confusion. The queen's army was beaten. At the same
time, three or four horsemen appeared on the hither side of the
ravine, advancing at a gallop. Douglas recognised them as enemies.
"Fly, madam," cried George, "fly without loss of a second; for those
who are coming upon us are followed by others. Gain the road, while
I go to check them. And you," added he, addressing the escort, "be
killed to the last man rather than let them take your queen."
"George! George!" cried the queen, motionless, and as if riveted to
But George had already dashed away with all his horse's speed, and as
he was splendidly mounted, he flew across the space with lightning
rapidity, and reached the gorge before the enemy. There he stopped,
put his lance in rest, and alone against five bravely awaited the
As to the queen, she had no desire to go; but, on the contrary, as if
turned to stone, she remained in the same place, her eyes fastened on
this combat which was taking place at scarcely five hundred paces
from her. Suddenly, glancing at her enemies, she saw that one of
them bore in the middle of his shield a bleeding heart, the Douglas
arms. Then she uttered a cry of pain, and drooping her head
"Douglas against Douglas; brother against brother!" she murmured: "it
only wanted this last blow."
"Madam, madam," cried her escort, "there is not an instant to lose:
the young master of Douglas cannot hold out long thus alone against
five; let us fly! let us fly!" And two of them taking the queen's
horse by the bridle, put it to the gallop, at the moment when George,
after having beaten down two of his enemies and wounded a third, was
thrown down in his turn in the dust, thrust to the heart by a lance-
head. The queen groaned on seeing him fall; then, as if he alone had
detained her, and as if he being killed she had no interest in
anything else, she put Rosabelle to the gallop, and as she and her
troop were splendidly mounted, they had soon lost sight of the
She fled thus for sixty miles, without taking any rest, and without
ceasing to weep or to sigh: at last, having traversed the counties of
Renfrew and Ayr, she reached the Abbey of Dundrennan, in Galloway,
and certain of being, for the time at least, sheltered from every
danger, she gave the order to stop. The prior respectfully received
her at the gate of the convent.
"I bring you misfortune and ruin, father," said the queen, alighting
from her horse.
"They are welcome," replied the prior, "since they come accompanied
The queen gave Rosabelle to the care of one of the men-at-arms who
had accompanied her, and leaning on Mary Seyton, who had not left her
for a moment, and on Lord Herries, who had rejoined her on the road,
she entered the convent.
Lord Herries had not concealed her position from Mary Stuart: the day
had been completely lost, and with the day, at least for the present,
all hope of reascending the throne of Scotland. There remained but
three courses for the queen to take to withdraw into France, Spain or
England. On the advice of Lord Herries, which accorded with her own
feeling, she decided upon the last; and that same night she wrote
this double missive in verse and in prose to Elizabeth:
"MY DEAR SISTER,--I have often enough begged you to receive my
tempest-tossed vessel into your haven during the storm. If at this
pass she finds a safe harbour there, I shall cast anchor there for
ever: otherwise the bark is in God's keeping, for she is ready and
caulked for defence on her voyage against all storms. I have dealt
openly with you, and still do so: do not take it in bad part if I
write thus; it is not in defiance of you, as it appears, for in
everything I rely on your friendship."
"This sonnet accompanied the letter:--
"One thought alone brings danger and delight;
Bitter and sweet change places in my heart,
With doubt, and then with hope, it takes its part,
Till peace and rest alike are put to flight.
Therefore, dear sister, if this card pursue
That keen desire by which I am oppressed,
To see you, 'tis because I live distressed,
Unless some swift and sweet result ensue.
Beheld I have my ship compelled by fate
To seek the open sea, when close to port,
And calmest days break into storm and gale;
Wherefore full grieved and fearful is my state,
Not for your sake, but since, in evil sort,
Fortune so oft snaps strongest rope and sail."
Elizabeth trembled with joy at receiving this double letter; for the
eight years that her enmity had been daily increasing to Mary Stuart,
she had followed her with her eyes continually, as a wolf might a
gazelle; at last the gazelle sought refuge in the wolf's den.
Elizabeth had never hoped as much: she immediately despatched an
order to the Sheriff of Cumberland to make known to Mary that she was
ready to receive her. One morning a bugle was heard blowing on the
sea-shore: it was Queen Elizabeth's envoy come to fetch Queen Mary
Then arose great entreaties to the fugitive not to trust herself thus
to a rival in power, glory, and beauty; but the poor dispossessed
queen was full of confidence in her she called her good sister, and
believed herself going, free and rid of care, to take at Elizabeth's
court the place due to her rank and her misfortunes: thus she
persisted, in spite of all that could be said. In our time, we have
seen the same infatuation seize another royal fugitive, who like Mary
Stuart confided himself to the generosity of his enemy England: like
Mary Stuart, he was cruelly punished for his confidence, and found in
the deadly climate of St. Helena the scaffold of Fotheringay.
Mary Stuart set out on her journey, then, with her little following.
Arrived at the shore of Solway Firth, she found there the Warden of
the English Marches: he was a gentleman named Lowther, who received
the queen with the greatest respect, but who gave her to understand
that he could not permit more than three of her women to accompany
her. Mary Seyton immediately claimed her privilege: the queen held
out to her her hand.
"Alas! mignonne," said she, "but it might well be another's turn: you
have already suffered enough for me and with me."
But Mary, unable to reply, clung to her hand, making a sign with her
head that nothing in the world should part her from her mistress.
Then all who had accompanied the queen renewed their entreaties that
she should not persist in this fatal resolve, and when she was
already a third of the way along the plank placed for her to enter
the skiff, the Prior of Dundrennan, who had offered Mary Stuart such
dangerous and touching hospitality, entered the water up to his
knees, to try to detain her; but all was useless: the queen had made
up her mind.
At that, moment Lowther approached her. "Madam," said he, "accept
anew my regrets that I cannot offer a warm welcome in England to all
who would wish to follow you there; but our queen has given us
positive orders, and we must carry them out. May I be permitted to
remind your Majesty that the tide serves?"
"Positive orders!" cried the prior. "Do you hear, madam? Oh! you
are lost if you quit this shore! Back, while there is yet time! Back;
madam, in Heaven's name! To me, sir knights, to me!" he cried,
turning to Lord Herries and the other lords who had accompanied Mary
Stuart; "do not allow your queen to abandon you, were it needful to
struggle with her and the English at the same time. Hold her back,
my lords, in Heaven's name! withhold her!"
"What means this violence, sir priest?" said the Warden of the
Marches. "I came here at your queen's express command; she is free
to return to you, and there is no need to have recourse to force for
that". Then, addressing the queen--
"Madam," said he, "do you consent to follow me into England in full
liberty of choice? Answer, I entreat you; for my honour demands that
the whole world should be aware that you have followed me freely."
"Sir," replied Mary Stuart, "I ask your pardon, in the name of this
worthy servant of God and his queen, for what he may have said of
offence to you. Freely I leave Scotland and place myself in your
hands, trusting that I shall be free either to remain in England with
my royal sister, or to return to France to my worthy relatives".
Then, turning to the priest, "Your blessing, father, and God protect
"Alas! alas!" murmured the abbot, obeying the queen, "it is not we
who are in need of God's protection, but rather you, my daughter.
May the blessing of a poor priest turn aside from you the misfortunes
I foresee! Go, and may it be with you as the Lord has ordained in
His wisdom and in His mercy!"
Then the queen gave her hand to the sheriff, who conducted her to the
skiff, followed by Mary Seyton and two other women only. The sails
were immediately unfurled, and the little vessel began to recede from
the shores of Galloway, to make her way towards those of Cumberland.
So long as it could be seen, they who had accompanied the queen
lingered on the beach, waving her signs of adieu, which, standing on
the deck of the shallop which was bearing her, away, she returned
with her handkerchief. Finally, the boat disappeared, and all burst
into lamentations or into sobbing. They were right, for the good
Prior of Dundrennan's presentiments were only too true, and they had
seen Mary Stuart for the last time.
On landing on the shores of England, the Queen of Scotland found
messengers from Elizabeth empowered to express to her all the regret
their mistress felt in being unable to admit her to her presence, or
to give her the affectionate welcome she bore her in her heart. But
it was essential, they added, that first of all the queen should
clear herself of the death of Darnley, whose family, being subjects
of the Queen of England, had a right to her protection and justice.
Mary Stuart was so blinded that she did not see the trap, and
immediately offered to prove her innocence to the satisfaction of her
sister Elizabeth; but scarcely had she in her hands Mary Stuart's
letter, than from arbitress she became judge, and, naming
commissioners to hear the parties, summoned Murray to appear and
accuse his sister. Murray, who knew Elizabeth's secret intentions
with regard to her rival, did not hesitate a moment. He came to
England, bringing the casket containing the three letters we have
quoted, some verses and some other papers which proved that the queen
had not only been Bothwell's mistress during the lifetime of Darnley,
but had also been aware of the assassination of her husband. On
their side, Lord Herries and the Bishop of Ross, the queen's
advocates, maintained that these letters had been forged, that the
handwriting was counterfeited, and demanded, in verification, experts
whom they could not obtain; so that this great controversy, remained
pending for future ages, and to this hour nothing is yet
affirmatively settled in this matter either by scholars or
After a five months' inquiry, the Queen of England made known to the
parties, that not having, in these proceedings, been able to discover
anything to the dishonour of accuser or accused, everything would
remain in statu quo till one or the other could bring forward fresh
As a result of this strange decision, Elizabeth should have sent back
the regent to Scotland, and have left Mary Stuart free to go where
she would. But, instead of that, she had her prisoner removed from
Bolton Castle to Carlisle Castle, from whose terrace, to crown her
with grief, poor Mary Stuart saw the blue mountains of her own
However, among the judges named by Elizabeth to examine into Mary
Stuart's conduct was Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk. Be it that he
was convinced of Mary's innocence, be it that he was urged by the
ambitious project which since served as a ground for his prosecution,
and which was nothing else than to wed Mary Stuart, to affiance his
daughter to the young king, and to become regent of Scotland, he
resolved to extricate her from her prison. Several members of the
high nobility of England, among whom were the Earls of Westmoreland
and Northumberland, entered into the plot and under, took to support
it with all their forces. But their scheme had been communicated to
the regent: he denounced it to Elizabeth, who had Norfolk arrested.
Warned in time, Westmoreland and Northumberland crossed the frontiers
and took refuge in the Scottish borders which were favourable to
Queen Mary. The former reached Flanders, where he died in exile; the
latter, given up to Murray, was sent to the castle of Lochleven,
which guarded him more faithfully than it had done its royal
prisoner. As to Norfolk, he was beheaded. As one sees, Mary
Stuart's star had lost none of its fatal influence.
Meanwhile the regent had returned to Edinburgh, enriched with
presents from Elizabeth, and having gained, in fact, his case with
her, since Mary remained a prisoner. He employed himself immediately
in dispersing the remainder of her adherents, and had hardly shut the
gates of Lochleven Castle upon Westmoreland than, in the name of the
young King James VI, he pursued those who had upheld his mother's
cause, and among them more particularly the Hamiltons, who since the
affair of "sweeping the streets of Edinburgh," had been the mortal
enemies of the Douglases personally; six of the chief members of this
family were condemned to death, and only obtained commutation of the
penalty into an eternal exile on the entreaties of John Knox, at that
time so powerful in Scotland that Murray dared not refuse their
One of the amnestied was a certain Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh, a man
of ancient Scottish times, wild and vindictive as the nobles in the
time of James I. He had withdrawn into the highlands, where he had
found an asylum, when he learned that Murray, who in virtue of the
confiscation pronounced against exiles had given his lands to one of
his favourites, had had the cruelty to expel his sick and bedridden
wife from her own house, and that without giving her time to dress,
and although it was in the winter cold. The poor woman, besides,
without shelter, without clothes, and without food, had gone out of
her mind, had wandered about thus for some time, an object of
compassion but equally of dread; for everyone had been afraid of
compromising himself by assisting her. At last, she had returned to
expire of misery and cold on the threshold whence she had been
On learning this news, Bothwellhaugh, despite the violence of his
character, displayed no anger: he merely responded, with a terrible
smile, "It is well; I shall avenge her."
Next day, Bothwellhaugh left his highlands, and came down, disguised,
into the plain, furnished with an order of admission from the
Archbishop of St. Andrews to a house which this prelate--who, as one
remembers, had followed the queen's fortunes to the last moment--had
at Linlithgow. This house, situated in the main street, had a wooden
balcony looking on to the square, and a gate which opened out into
the country. Bothwellhaugh entered it at night, installed himself on
the first floor, hung black cloth on the walls so that his shadow
should not be seen from without, covered the floor with mattresses so
that his footsteps might not be heard on the ground floor, fastened a
racehorse ready saddled and bridled in the garden, hollowed out the
upper part of the little gate which led to the open country so that
he could pass through it at a gallop, armed himself with a loaded
arquebuse, and shut himself up in the room.
All these preparations had been made, one imagines, because Murray
was to spend the following day in Linlithgow. But, secret as they
were, they were to be rendered useless, for the regent's friends
warned him that it would not be safe for him to pass through the
town, which belonged almost wholly to the Hamiltons, and advised him
to go by it. However, Murray was courageous, and, accustomed not to
give way before a real danger, he chid nothing but laugh at a peril
which he looked upon as imaginary, and boldly followed his first
plan, which was not to go out of his way. Consequently, as the
street into which the Archbishop of St. Andrews' balcony looked was
on his road, he entered upon it, not going rapidly and preceded by
guards who would open up a passage for him, as his friends still
counselled, but advancing at a foot's pace, delayed as he was by the
great crowd which was blocking up the streets to see him. Arrived in
front of the balcony, as if chance had been in tune with the
murderer, the crush became so great that Murray was obliged to halt
for a moment: this rest gave Bothwellhaugh time to adjust himself for
a steady shot. He leaned his arquebuse on the balcony, and, having
taken aim with the necessary leisure and coolness, fired.
Bothwellhaugh had put such a charge into the arquebuse, that the
ball, having passed through the regent's heart, killed the horse of a
gentleman on his right. Murray fell directly, saying, "My God! I am
As they had seen from which window the shot was fired, the persons in
the regent's train had immediately thrown themselves against the
great door of the house which looked on to the street, and had
smashed it in; but they only arrived in time to see Bothwellhaugh fly
through the little garden gate on the horse he had got ready: they
immediately remounted the horses they had left in the street, and,
passing through the house, pursued him. Bothwellhaugh had a good
horse and the lead of his enemies; and yet, four of them, pistol in
hand, were so well mounted that they were beginning to gain upon him.
Then Bothwellhaugh; seeing that whip and spur were not enough, drew
his dagger and used it to goad on his horse. His horse, under this
terrible stimulus, acquired fresh vigour, and, leaping a gully
eighteen feet deep, put between his master and his pursuers a barrier
which they dared not cross.
The murderer sought an asylum in France, where he retired under the
protection of the Guises. There, as the bold stroke he had attempted
had acquired him a great reputation, some days before the Massacre of
St. Bartholomew, they made him overtures to assassinate Admiral
Coligny. But Bothwellhaugh indignantly repulsed these proposals,
saying that he was the avenger of abuses and not an assassin, and
that those who had to complain of the admiral had only to come and
ask him how he had done, and to do as he.
As to Murray, he died the night following his wound, leaving the
regency to the Earl of Lennox, the father of Darnley: on learning the
news of his death, Elizabeth wrote that she had lost her best friend.
While these events were passing in Scotland, Mary Stuart was still a
prisoner, in spite of the pressing and successive protests of Charles
IX and Henry III. Taking fright at the attempt made in her favour,
Elizabeth even had her removed to Sheffield Castle, round which fresh
patrols were incessantly in motion.
But days, months, years passed, and poor Mary, who had borne so
impatiently her eleven months' captivity in Lochleven Castle, had
been already led from prison to prison for fifteen or sixteen years,
in spite of her protests and those of the French and Spanish
ambassadors, when she was finally taken to Tutbury Castle and placed
under the care of Sir Amyas Paulet, her last gaoler: there she found
for her sole lodging two low and damp rooms, where little by little
what strength remained to her was so exhausted that there were days
on which she could not walk, on account of the pain in all her limbs.
Then it was that she who had been the queen of two kingdoms, who was
born in a gilded cradle and brought up in silk and velvet, was forced
to humble herself to ask of her gaoler a softer bed and warmer
coverings. This request, treated as an affair of state, gave rise to
negotiations which lasted a month, after which the prisoner was at
length granted what she asked. And yet the unhealthiness, cold, and
privations of all kinds still did not work actively enough on that
healthy and robust organisation. They tried to convey to Paulet what
a service he would render the Queen of England in cutting short the
existence of her who, already condemned in her rival's mind, yet
delayed to die. But Sir Amyas Paulet, coarse and harsh as he was to
Mary Stuart, declared that, so long as she was with him she would
have nothing to fear from poison or dagger, because he would taste
all the dishes served to his prisoner, and that no one should
approach her but in his presence. In fact, some assassins, sent by
Leicester, the very same who had aspired for a moment to the hand of
the lovely Mary Stuart, were driven from the castle directly its
stern keeper had learned with what intentions they had entered it.
Elizabeth had to be patient, then, in contenting herself with
tormenting her whom she could not kill, and still hoping that a fresh
opportunity would occur for bringing her to trial. That opportunity,
so long delayed, the fatal star of Mary Stuart at length brought.
A young Catholic gentleman, a last scion of that ancient chivalry
which was already dying out at that time, excited by the
excommunication of Pius V, which pronounced Elizabeth fallen from her
kingdom on earth and her salvation in heaven, resolved to restore
liberty to Mary, who thenceforth was beginning to be looked upon, no
longer as a political prisoner, but as a martyr for her faith.
Accordingly, braving the law which Elizabeth had had made in 1585,
and which provided that, if any attempt on her person was meditated
by, or for, a person who thought he had claims to the crown of
England, a commission would be appointed composed of twenty-five
members, which, to the exclusion of every other tribunal, would be
empowered to examine into the offence, and to condemn the guilty
persons, whosoever they might be. Babington, not at all discouraged
by the example of his predecessors, assembled five of his friends,
Catholics as zealous as himself, who engaged their life and honour in
the plot of which he was the head, and which had as its aim to
assassinate Elizabeth, and as a result to place Mary Stuart on the
English throne. But this scheme, well planned as it was, was
revealed to Walsingham, who allowed the conspirators to go as far as
he thought he could without danger, and who, the day before that
fixed for the assassination, had them arrested.
This imprudent and desperate attempt delighted Elizabeth, for,
according to the letter of the law, it finally gave her rival's life
into her hands. Orders were immediately given to Sir Amyas Paulet to
seize the prisoner's papers and to move her to Fotheringay Castle.
The gaoler, then, hypocritically relaxing his usual severity,
suggested to Mary Stuart that she should go riding, under the pretext
that she had need of an airing. The poor prisoner, who for three
years had only seen the country through her prison bars, joyfully
accepted, and left Tutbury between two guards, mounted, for greater
security, on a horse whose feet were hobbled. These two guards took
her to Fotheringay Castle, her new habitation, where she found the
apartment she was to lodge in already hung in black. Mary Stuart had
entered alive into her tomb. As to Babington and his accomplices,
they had been already beheaded.
Meanwhile, her two secretaries, Curle and Nau, were arrested, and all
her papers were seized and sent to Elizabeth, who, on her part,
ordered the forty commissioners to assemble, and proceed without
intermission to the trial of the prisoner. They arrived at
Fotheringay the 14th October 1586; and next day, being assembled in
the great hall of the castle, they began the examination.
At first Mary refused to appear before them, declaring that she did
not recognise the commissioners as judges, they not being her peers,
and not acknowledging the English law, which had never afforded her
protection, and which had constantly abandoned her to the rule of
force. But seeing that they proceeded none the less, and that every
calumny was allowed, no one being there to refute it, she resolved to
appear before the commissioners. We quote the two interrogatories to
which Mary Stuart submitted as they are set down in the report of M.
de Bellievre to M. de Villeroy. M. de Bellievre, as we shall see
later, had been specially sent by King Henry III to Elizabeth.
[Intelligence for M. Villeroy of what was done in England by M. de
Bellievre about the affairs of the Queen of Scotland, in the months
of November and December 1586 and January 1587.]
The said lady being seated at the end of the table in the said hall,
and the said commissioners about her--
The Queen of Scotland began to speak in these terms:
"I do not admit that any one of you here assembled is my peer or my
judge to examine me upon any charge. Thus what I do, and now tell
you, is of my own free will, taking God to witness that I am innocent
and pure in conscience of the accusations and slanders of which they
wish to accuse me. For I am a free princess and born a queen,
obedient to no one, save to God, to whom alone I must give an account
of my actions. This is why I protest yet again that my appearance
before you be not prejudicial either to me, or to the kings, princes
and potentates, my allies, nor to my son, and I require that my
protest be registered, and I demand the record of it."
Then the chancellor, who was one of the commissioners, replied in his
turn, and protested against the protestation; then he ordered that
there should be read over to the Queen of Scotland the commission in
virtue of which they were proceeding--a commission founded on the
statutes and law of the kingdom.
But to this Mary Stuart made answer that she again protested; that
the said statutes and laws were without force against her, because
these statutes and laws are not made for persons of her condition.
To this the chancellor replied that the commission intended to
proceed against her, even if she refused to answer, and declared that
the trial should proceed; for she was doubly subject to indictment,
the conspirators having not only plotted in her favour, but also with
her consent: to which the said Queen of Scotland responded that she
had never even thought of it.
Upon this, the letters it was alleged she had written to Babington
and his answers were read to her.
Mary Stuart then affirmed that she had never seen Babington, that she
had never had any conference with him, had never in her life received
a single letter from him, and that she defied anyone in the world to
maintain that she had ever done anything to the prejudice of the said
Queen of England; that besides, strictly guarded as she was, away
from all news, withdrawn from and deprived of those nearest her,
surrounded with enemies, deprived finally of all advice, she had been
unable to participate in or to consent to the practices of which she
was accused; that there are, besides, many persons who wrote to her
what she had no knowledge of, and that she had received a number of
letters without knowing whence they came to her.
Then Babington's confession was read to her; but she replied that she
did not know what was meant; that besides, if Babington and his
accomplices had said such things, they were base men, false and
"Besides," added she, "show me my handwriting and my signature, since
you say that I wrote to Babington, and not copies counterfeited like
these which you have filled at your leisure with the falsehoods it
has pleased you to insert."
Then she was shown the letter that Babington, it was said, had
written her. She glanced at it; then said, "I have no knowledge of
this letter". Upon this, she was shown her reply, and she said
again, "I have no more knowledge of this answer. If you will show me
my own letter and my own signature containing what you say, I will
acquiesce in all; but up to the present, as I have already told you,
you have produced nothing worthy of credence, unless it be the copies
you have invented and added to with what seemed good to you."
With these words, she rose, and with her eyes full of tears--
"If I have ever," said she, "consented to such intrigues, having for
object my sister's death, I pray God that He have neither pity nor
mercy on me. I confess that I have written to several persons, that
I have implored them to deliver me from my wretched prisons, where I
languished, a captive and ill-treated princess, for nineteen years
and seven months; but it never occurred to me, even in thought, to
write or even to desire such things against the queen. Yes, I also
confess to having exerted myself for the deliverance of some
persecuted Catholics, and if I had been able, and could yet, with my
own blood, protect them and save them from their pains, I would have
done it, and would do it for them with all my power, in order to save
them from destruction."
Then, turning to the secretary, Walsingham--
"But, my lord," said she, "from the moment I see you here, I know
whence comes this blow: you have always been my greatest enemy and my
son's, and you have moved everyone against me and to my prejudice."
Thus accused to his face, Walsingham rose.
"Madam," he replied, "I protest before God, who is my witness, that
you deceive yourself, and that I have never done anything against you
unworthy of a good man, either as an individual or as a public
This is all that was said and done that day in the proceedings, till
the next day, when the queen was again obliged to appear before the
And, being seated at the end of the table of the said hall, and the
said commissioners about her, she began to speak in a loud voice.
"You are not unaware, my lords and gentlemen, that I am a sovereign
queen, anointed and consecrated in the church of God, and cannot, and
ought not, for any reason whatever, be summoned to your courts, or
called to your bar, to be judged by the law and statutes that you lay
down; for I am a princess and free, and I do not owe to any prince
more than he owes to me; and on everything of which I am accused
towards my said sister, I cannot, reply if you do not permit me to be
assisted by counsel. And if you go further, do what you will; but
from all your procedure, in reiterating my protestations, I appeal to
God, who is the only just and true judge, and to the kings and
princes, my allies and confederates."
This protestation was once more registered, as she had required of
the commissioners. Then she was told that she had further written
several letters to the princes of Christendom, against the queen and
the kingdom of England.
"As to that," replied Mary Stuart, "it is another matter, and I do
not deny it; and if it was again to do, I should do as I have done,
to gain my liberty; for there is not a man or woman in the world, of
less rank than I, who would not do it, and who would not make use of
the help and succour of their friends to issue from a captivity as
harsh as mine was. You charge me with certain letters from
Babington: well, I do not deny that he has written to me and that I
have replied to him; but if you find in my answers a single word
about the queen my sister, well, yes, there will be good cause to
prosecute me. I replied to him who wrote to me that he would set me
at liberty, that I accepted his offer, if he could do it without
compromising the one or the other of us: that is all.
"As to my secretaries," added the queen, "not they, but torture spoke
by their mouths: and as to the confessions of Babington and his
accomplices, there is not much to be made of them; for now that they
are dead you can say all that seems good to you; and let who will
With these words, the queen refused to answer further if she were not
given counsel, and, renewing her protestation, she withdrew into her
apartment; but, as the chancellor had threatened, the trial was
continued despite her absence.
However, M. de Chateauneuf, the French ambassador to London, saw
matters too near at hand to be deceived as to their course:
accordingly, at the first rumour which came to him of bringing Mary
Stuart to trial, he wrote to King Henry III, that he might intervene
in the prisoner's favour. Henry III immediately despatched to Queen
Elizabeth an embassy extraordinary, of which M. de Bellievre was the
chief; and at the same time, having learned that James VI, Mary's
son, far from interesting himself in his mother's fate, had replied
to the French minister, Courcelles, who spoke to him of her, "I can
do nothing; let her drink what she has spilled," he wrote him the
following letter, to decide the young prince to second him in the
steps he was going to take:
"21st November, 1586.
"COURCELLES, I have received your letter of the 4th October last, in
which I have seen the discourse that the King of Scotland has held
with you concerning what you have witnessed to him of the good
affection I bear him, discourse in which he has given proof of
desiring to reciprocate it entirely; but I wish that that letter had
informed me also that he was better disposed towards the queen his
mother, and that he had the heart and the desire to arrange
everything in a way to assist her in the affliction in which she now
is, reflecting that the prison where she has been unjustly detained
for eighteen years and more has induced her to lend an ear to many
things which have been proposed to her for gaining her liberty, a
thing which is naturally greatly desired by all men, and more still
by those who are born sovereigns and rulers, who bear being kept
prisoners thus with less patience. He should also consider that if
the Queen of England, my good sister, allows herself to be persuaded
by the counsels of those who wish that she should stain herself with
Queen Mary's blood, it will be a matter which will bring him to great
dishonour, inasmuch as one will judge that he will have refused his
mother the good offices that he should render her with the said Queen
of England, and which would have perhaps been sufficient to move her,
if he would have employed them, as warmly, and as soon as his natural
duty commanded him. Moreover, it is to be feared for him, that, his
mother dead, his own turn may come, and that one may think of doing
as much for him, by some violent means, to make the English
succession easier to seize for those who are likely to have it after
the said Queen Elizabeth, and not only to defraud the said King of
Scotland of the claim he can put forward, but to render doubtful even
that which he has to his own crown. I do not know in what condition
the affairs of my said sister-in-law will be when you receive this
letter; but I will tell you that in every case I wish you to rouse
strongly the said King of Scotland, with remonstrances, and
everything else which may bear on this subject, to embrace the
defence and protection of his said mother, and to express to him, on
my part, that as this will be a matter for which he will be greatly
praised by all the other kings and sovereign princes, he must be
assured that if he fails in it there will be great censure for him,
and perhaps notable injury to himself in particular. Furthermore, as
to the state of my own affairs, you know that the queen, madam and
mother, is about to see very soon the King of Navarre, and to confer
with him on the matter of the pacification of the troubles of this
kingdom, to which, if he bear as much good affection as I do for my
part, I hope that things may come to a good conclusion, and that my
subjects will have some respite from the great evils and calamities
that the war occasions them: supplicating the Creator, Courcelles,
that He may have you in His holy keeping.
"Written at St. Germain-en-Laye, the 21st day
of November 1586.(Signed) HENRI,
"And below, BRULART."
This letter finally decided James VI to make a kind of demonstration
in his mother's favour: he sent Gray, Robert Melville, and Keith to
Queen Elizabeth. But although London was nearer Edinburgh than was
Paris, the French envoys reached it before the Scotch.
It is true that on reaching Calais, the 27th of November, M. de
Bellievre had found a special messenger there to tell him not to lose
an instant, from M. de Chateauneuf, who, to provide for every
difficulty, had chartered a vessel ready in the harbour. But however
great the speed these noble lords wished to make, they were obliged
to await the wind's good-will, which did not allow them to put to sea
till Friday 28th at midnight; next day also, on reaching Dover at
nine o'clock, they were so shaken by sea-sickness that they were
forced to stay a whole day in the town to recover, so that it was not
till Sunday 30th that M. de Bellievre was able to set out in the
coach that M. Chateauneuf sent him by M. de Brancaleon, and take the
road to London, accompanied by the gentlemen of his suite, who rode
on post-horses; but resting only a few hours on the way to make up
for lost time, they at last arrived in London, Sunday the 1st of
December at midday. M. de Bellievre immediately sent one of the
gentlemen of his suite, named M. de Villiers, to the Queen of
England, who was holding her court at Richmond Castle: the decree had
been secretly pronounced already six days, and submitted to
Parliament, which was to deliberate upon it with closed doors.
The French ambassadors could not have chosen a worse moment to
approach Elizabeth; and to gain time she declined to receive M. de
Villiers, returning the answer that he would himself know next day
the reason for this refusal. And indeed, next day, the rumour spread
in London that the French Embassy had contagion, and that two of the
lords in it having died of the plague at Calais, the queen, whatever
wish she might have to be agreeable to Henry III, could not endanger
her precious existence by receiving his envoys. Great was the
astonishment of M. de Bellievre at learning this news he protested
that the queen was led into error by a false report, and insisted on
being received. Nevertheless, the delays lasted another six days;
but as the ambassadors threatened to depart without waiting longer,
and as, upon the whole, Elizabeth, disquieted by Spain, had no desire
to embroil herself with France, she had M. de Bellievre informed on
the morning of the 7th of December that she was ready to receive him
after dinner at Richmond Castle, together with the noblemen of his
At the appointed time the French ambassadors presented themselves at
the castle gates, and, having been brought to the queen, found her
seated on her throne and surrounded by the greatest lords in her
kingdom. Then MM. de Chateauneuf and de Bellievre, the one the
ambassador in ordinary and the other the envoy extraordinary, having
greeted her on the part of the King of France, began to make her the
remonstrances with which they were charged. Elizabeth replied, not
only in the same French tongue, but also in the most beautiful speech
in use at that time, and, carried away by passion, pointed out to the
envoys of her brother Henry that the Queen of Scotland had always
proceeded against her, and that this was the third time that she had
wished to attempt her life by an infinity of ways; which she had
already borne too long and with too much patience, but that never had
anything so profoundly cut her to the heart as her last conspiracy;
that event, added she with sadness, having caused her to sigh more
and to shed more tears than the loss of all her relations, so much
the more that the Queen of Scotland was her near relative and closely
connected with the King of France; and as, in their remonstrances,
MM. de Chateauneuf and de Bellievre had brought forward several
examples drawn from history, she assumed, in reply to them on this
occasion, the pedantic style which was usual with her, and told them
that she had seen and read a great many books in her life, and a
thousand more than others of her sex and her rank were wont to, but
that she had never found in them a single example of a deed like that
attempted on her--a deed pursued by a relative, whom the king her
brother could not and ought not to support in her wickedness, when it
was, on the contrary, his duty to hasten the just punishment of it:
then she added, addressing herself specially to M. de Bellievre, and
coming down again from the height of her pride to a gracious
countenance, that she greatly regretted he was not deputed for a
better occasion; that in a few days she would reply to King Henry her
brother, concerning whose health she was solicitous, as well as that
of the queen mother, who must experience such great fatigue from the
trouble she took to restore peace to her son's kingdom; and then, not
wishing to hear more, she withdrew into her room.
The envoys returned to London, where they awaited the promised reply;
but while they were expecting it unavailingly, they heard quietly the
sentence of death given against Queen Mary, which decided them to
return to Richmond to make fresh remonstrances to Queen Elizabeth.
After two or three fruitless journeys, they were at last, December
15th, admitted for the second time to the royal presence.
The queen did not deny that the sentence had been pronounced, and as
it was easy to see that she did not intend in this case to use her
right of pardon, M. de Bellievre, judging that there was nothing to
be done, asked for a safe-conduct to return to his king: Elizabeth
promised it to him within two or three days.
On the following Tuesday, the 17th of the same month of December,
Parliament as well as the chief lords of the realm were convoked at
the Palace of Westminster, and there, in full court and before all,
sentence of death was proclaimed and pronounced against Mary Stuart:
then this same sentence, with great display and great solemnity, was
read in the squares and at the cross-roads of London, whence it
spread throughout the kingdom; and upon this proclamation the bells
rang for twenty-four hours, while the strictest orders were given to
each of the inhabitants to light bonfires in front of their houses,
as is the custom in France on the Eve of St. John the Baptist.
Then, amid this sound of bells, by the light of these bonfires, M.
de Bellievre, wishing to make a last effort, in order to have nothing
with which to reproach himself, wrote the following letter to Queen
"MADAM:--We quitted your Majesty yesterday, expecting, as it had
pleased you to inform us, to receive in a few days your reply
touching the prayer that we made you on behalf of our good master,
your brother, for the Queen of Scotland, his sister in-law and
confederate; but as this morning we have been informed that the
judgment given against the said queen has been proclaimed in London,
although we had promised ourselves another issue from your clemency
and the friendship your bear to the said lord king your good brother,
nevertheless, to neglect no part of our duty, and believing in so
doing to serve the intentions of the king our master, we have not
wanted to fail to write to you this present letter, in which we
supplicate you once again, very humbly, not to refuse his Majesty the
very pressing and very affectionate prayer that he has made you, that
you will be pleased to preserve the life of the said lady Queen of
Scotland, which the said lord king will receive as the greatest
pleasure your Majesty could do him; while, on the contrary, he could
not imagine anything which would cause him more displeasure, and
which would wound him more, than if he were used harshly with regard
to the said lady queen, being what she is to him: and as, madam, the
said king our master, your good brother, when for this object he
despatched us to your Majesty, had not conceived that it was
possible, in any case, to determine so promptly upon such an
execution, we implore you, madam, very humbly, before permitting it
to go further, to grant us some time in which we can make known to
him the state of the affairs of the said Queen of Scotland, in order
that before your Majesty takes a final resolution, you may know what
it may please his very Christian Majesty to tell you and point out to
you on the greatest affair which, in our memory, has been submitted
to men's judgment. Monsieur de Saint-Cyr, who will give these
presents to your Majesty, will bring us, if it pleases you, your good
"London, this 16th day of December 1586.
"(Signed) DE BELLIEVRE,
"And DE L'AUBESPINE CHATEAUNEUF."
The same day, M. de Saint-Cyr and the other French lords returned to
Richmond to take this letter; but the queen would not receive them,
alleging indisposition, so that they were obliged to leave the letter
with Walsingham, her first Secretary of State, who promised them to
send the queen's answer the following day.
In spite of this promise, the French lords waited two days more: at
last, on the second day, towards evening, two English gentlemen
sought out M. de Fellievre in London, and, viva voce, without any
letter to confirm what they were charged to say, announced to him, on
behalf of their queen, that in reply to the letter that they had
written her, and to do justice to the desire they had shown to obtain
for the condemned a reprieve during which they would make known the
decision to the King of France, her Majesty would grant twelve days.
As this was Elizabeth's last word, and it was useless to lose time in
pressing her further, M. de Genlis was immediately despatched to his
Majesty the King of France, to whom, besides the long despatch of M.
de Chateauneuf and de Bellievre which he was charged to remit, he was
to say 'viva voce' what he had seen and heard relative to the affairs
of Queen Mary during the whole time he had been in England.
Henry III responded immediately with a letter containing fresh
instructions for MM. de Chateauneuf and de Bellievre; but in spite of
all the haste M. de Genlis could make, he did not reach London till
the fourteenth day--that is to say, forty-eight hours after the
expiration of the delay granted; nevertheless, as the sentence had
not yet been put into execution, MM. de Bellievre and de Chateauneuf
set out at once for Greenwich Castle, some miles from London, where
the queen was keeping Christmas, to beg her to grant them an
audience, in which they could transmit to her Majesty their king's
reply; but they could obtain nothing for four or five days; however,