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FAMOUS AFFINITIES OF HISTORY
THE ROMANCE OF DEVOTION
BY LYNDON ORR
VOLUME I OF IV.
THE STORY OF ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
ABELARD AND HELOISE
QUEEN ELIZABETH AND THE EARL OF LEICESTER MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS AND LORD BOTHWELL
QUEEN CHRISTINA OF SWEDEN AND THE MARQUIS MONALDESCHI KING CHARLES II. AND NELL GWYN
MAURICE OF SAXONY AND ADRIENNE LECOUVREUR THE STORY OF PRINCE CHARLES EDWARD STUART
THE STORY OF ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA
Of all love stories that are known to human history, the love story of Antony and Cleopatra has been for nineteen centuries the most remarkable. It has tasked the resources of the plastic and the graphic arts. It has been made the theme of poets and of prose narrators. It has appeared and reappeared in a thousand forms, and it appeals as much to the imagination to-day as it did when Antony deserted his almost victorious troops and hastened in a swift galley from Actium in pursuit of Cleopatra.
The wonder of the story is explained by its extraordinary nature. Many men in private life have lost fortune and fame for the love of woman. Kings have incurred the odium of their people, and have cared nothing for it in comparison with the joys of sense that come from the lingering caresses and clinging kisses. Cold-blooded statesmen, such as Parnell, have lost the leadership of their party and have gone down in history with a clouded name because of the fascination exercised upon them by some woman, often far from beautiful, and yet possessing the mysterious power which makes the triumphs of statesmanship seem slight in comparison with the swiftly flying hours of pleasure.
But in the case of Antony and Cleopatra alone do we find a man flinging away not merely the triumphs of civic honors or the headship of a state, but much more than these–the mastery of what was practically the world–in answer to the promptings of a woman’s will. Hence the story of the Roman triumvir and the Egyptian queen is not like any other story that has yet been told. The sacrifice involved in it was so overwhelming, so instantaneous, and so complete as to set this narrative above all others. Shakespeare’s genius has touched it with the glory of a great imagination. Dryden, using it in the finest of his plays, expressed its nature in the title “All for Love.”
The distinguished Italian historian, Signor Ferrero, the author of many books, has tried hard to eliminate nearly all the romantic elements from the tale, and to have us see in it not the triumph of love, but the blindness of ambition. Under his handling it becomes almost a sordid drama of man’s pursuit of power and of woman’s selfishness. Let us review the story as it remains, even after we have taken full account of Ferrero’s criticism. Has the world for nineteen hundred years been blinded by a show of sentiment? Has it so absolutely been misled by those who lived and wrote in the days which followed closely on the events that make up this extraordinary narrative?
In answering these questions we must consider, in the first place, the scene, and, in the second place, the psychology of the two central characters who for so long a time have been regarded as the very embodiment of unchecked passion.
As to the scene, it must be remembered that the Egypt of those days was not Egyptian as we understand the word, but rather Greek. Cleopatra herself was of Greek descent. The kingdom of Egypt had been created by a general of Alexander the Great after that splendid warrior’s death. Its capital, the most brilliant city of the Greco-Roman world, had been founded by Alexander himself, who gave to it his name. With his own hands he traced out the limits of the city and issued the most peremptory orders that it should be made the metropolis of the entire world. The orders of a king cannot give enduring greatness to a city; but Alexander’s keen eye and marvelous brain saw at once that the site of Alexandria was such that a great commercial community planted there would live and flourish throughout out succeeding ages. He was right; for within a century this new capital of Egypt leaped to the forefront among the exchanges of the world’s commerce, while everything that art could do was lavished on its embellishment.
Alexandria lay upon a projecting tongue of land so situated that the whole trade of the Mediterranean centered there. Down the Nile there floated to its gates the barbaric wealth of Africa. To it came the treasures of the East, brought from afar by caravans– silks from China, spices and pearls from India, and enormous masses of gold and silver from lands scarcely known. In its harbor were the vessels of every country, from Asia in the East to Spain and Gaul and even Britain in the West.
When Cleopatra, a young girl of seventeen, succeeded to the throne of Egypt the population of Alexandria amounted to a million souls. The customs duties collected at the port would, in terms of modern money, amount each year to more than thirty million dollars, even though the imposts were not heavy. The people, who may be described as Greek at the top and Oriental at the bottom, were boisterous and pleasure-loving, devoted to splendid spectacles, with horse-racing, gambling, and dissipation; yet at the same time they were an artistic people, loving music passionately, and by no means idle, since one part of the city was devoted to large and prosperous manufactories of linen, paper, glass, and muslin.
To the outward eye Alexandria was extremely beautiful. Through its entire length ran two great boulevards, shaded and diversified by mighty trees and parterres of multicolored flowers, amid which fountains plashed and costly marbles gleamed. One-fifth of the whole city was known as the Royal Residence. In it were the palaces of the reigning family, the great museum, and the famous library which the Arabs later burned. There were parks and gardens brilliant with tropical foliage and adorned with the masterpieces of Grecian sculpture, while sphinxes and obelisks gave a suggestion of Oriental strangeness. As one looked seaward his eye beheld over the blue water the snow-white rocks of the sheltering island, Pharos, on which was reared a lighthouse four hundred feet in height and justly numbered among the seven wonders of the world. Altogether, Alexandria was a city of wealth, of beauty, of stirring life, of excitement, and of pleasure. Ferrero has aptly likened it to Paris–not so much the Paris of to-day as the Paris of forty years ago, when the Second Empire flourished in all its splendor as the home of joy and strange delights.
Over the country of which Alexandria was the capital Cleopatra came to reign at seventeen. Following the odd custom which the Greek dynasty of the Ptolemies had inherited from their Egyptian predecessors, she was betrothed to her own brother. He, however, was a mere child of less than twelve, and was under the control of evil counselors, who, in his name, gained control of the capital and drove Cleopatra into exile. Until then she had been a mere girl; but now the spirit of a woman who was wronged blazed up in her and called out all her latent powers. Hastening to Syria, she gathered about herself an army and led it against her foes.
But meanwhile Julius Caesar, the greatest man of ancient times, had arrived at Alexandria backed by an army of his veterans. Against him no resistance would avail. Then came a brief moment during which the Egyptian king and the Egyptian queen each strove to win the favor of the Roman imperator. The king and his advisers had many arts, and so had Cleopatra. One thing, however, she possessed which struck the balance in her favor, and this was a woman’s fascination.
According to the story, Caesar was unwilling to receive her. There came into his presence, as he sat in the palace, a group of slaves bearing a long roll of matting, bound carefully and seeming to contain some precious work of art. The slaves made signs that they were bearing a gift to Caesar. The master of Egypt bade them unwrap the gift that he might see it. They did so, and out of the wrapping came Cleopatra–a radiant vision, appealing, irresistible. Next morning it became known everywhere that Cleopatra had remained in Caesar’s quarters through the night and that her enemies were now his enemies. In desperation they rushed upon his legions, casting aside all pretense of amity. There ensued a fierce contest, but the revolt was quenched in blood.
This was a crucial moment in Cleopatra’s life. She had sacrificed all that a woman has to give; but she had not done so from any love of pleasure or from wantonness. She was queen of Egypt, and she had redeemed her kingdom and kept it by her sacrifice. One should not condemn her too severely. In a sense, her act was one of heroism like that of Judith in the tent of Holofernes. But beyond all question it changed her character. It taught her the secret of her own great power. Henceforth she was no longer a mere girl, nor a woman of the ordinary type. Her contact with so great a mind as Caesar’s quickened her intellect. Her knowledge that, by the charms of sense, she had mastered even him transformed her into a strange and wonderful creature. She learned to study the weaknesses of men, to play on their emotions, to appeal to every subtle taste and fancy. In her were blended mental power and that illusive, indefinable gift which is called charm.
For Cleopatra was never beautiful. Signor Ferrero seems to think this fact to be discovery of his own, but it was set down by Plutarch in a very striking passage written less than a century after Cleopatra and Antony died. We may quote here what the Greek historian said of her:
Her actual beauty was far from being so remarkable that none could be compared with her, nor was it such that it would strike your fancy when you saw her first. Yet the influence of her presence, if you lingered near her, was irresistible. Her attractive personality, joined with the charm of her conversation, and the individual touch that she gave to everything she said or did, were utterly bewitching. It was delightful merely to hear the music of her voice, with which, like an instrument of many strings, she could pass from one language to another.
Caesar had left Cleopatra firmly seated on the throne of Egypt. For six years she reigned with great intelligence, keeping order in her dominions, and patronizing with discrimination both arts and letters. But ere long the convulsions of the Roman state once more caused her extreme anxiety. Caesar had been assassinated, and there ensued a period of civil war. Out of it emerged two striking figures which were absolutely contrasted in their character. One was Octavian, the adopted son of Caesar, a man who, though still quite young and possessed of great ability, was cunning, cold- blooded, and deceitful. The other was Antony, a soldier by training, and with all a soldier’s bluntness, courage, and lawlessness.
The Roman world was divided for the time between these two men, Antony receiving the government of the East, Octavian that of the West. In the year which had preceded this division Cleopatra had wavered between the two opposite factions at Rome. In so doing she had excited the suspicion of Antony, and he now demanded of her an explanation.
One must have some conception of Antony himself in order to understand the events that followed. He was essentially a soldier, of excellent family, being related to Caesar himself. As a very young man he was exceedingly handsome, and bad companions led him into the pursuit of vicious pleasure. He had scarcely come of age when he found that he owed the enormous sum of two hundred and fifty talents, equivalent to half a million dollars in the money of to-day. But he was much more than a mere man of pleasure, given over to drinking and to dissipation. Men might tell of his escapades, as when he drove about the streets of Rome in a common cab, dangling his legs out of the window while he shouted forth drunken songs of revelry. This was not the whole of Antony. Joining the Roman army in Syria, he showed himself to be a soldier of great personal bravery, a clever strategist, and also humane and merciful in the hour of victory.
Unlike most Romans, Antony wore a full beard. His forehead was large, and his nose was of the distinctive Roman type. His look was so bold and masculine that people likened him to Hercules. His democratic manners endeared him to the army. He wore a plain tunic covered with a large, coarse mantle, and carried a huge sword at his side, despising ostentation. Even his faults and follies added to his popularity. He would sit down at the common soldiers’ mess and drink with them, telling them stories and clapping them on the back. He spent money like water, quickly recognizing any daring deed which his legionaries performed. In this respect he was like Napoleon; and, like Napoleon, he had a vein of florid eloquence which was criticized by literary men, but which went straight to the heart of the private soldier. In a word, he was a powerful, virile, passionate, able man, rough, as were nearly all his countrymen, but strong and true.
It was to this general that Cleopatra was to answer, and with a firm reliance on the charms which had subdued Antony’s great commander, Caesar, she set out in person for Cilicia, in Asia Minor, sailing up the river Cydnus to the place where Antony was encamped with his army. Making all allowance for the exaggeration of historians, there can be no doubt that she appeared to him like some dreamy vision. Her barge was gilded, and was wafted on its way by swelling sails of Tyrian purple. The oars which smote the water were of shining silver. As she drew near the Roman general’s camp the languorous music of flutes and harps breathed forth a strain of invitation.
Cleopatra herself lay upon a divan set upon the deck of the barge beneath a canopy of woven gold. She was dressed to resemble Venus, while girls about her personated nymphs and Graces. Delicate perfumes diffused themselves from the vessel; and at last, as she drew near the shore, all the people for miles about were gathered there, leaving Antony to sit alone in the tribunal where he was dispensing justice.
Word was brought to him that Venus had come to feast with Bacchus. Antony, though still suspicious of Cleopatra, sent her an invitation to dine with him in state. With graceful tact she sent him a counter-invitation, and he came. The magnificence of his reception dazzled the man who had so long known only a soldier’s fare, or at most the crude entertainments which he had enjoyed in Rome. A marvelous display of lights was made. Thousands upon thousands of candles shone brilliantly, arranged in squares and circles; while the banquet itself was one that symbolized the studied luxury of the East.
At this time Cleopatra was twenty-seven years of age–a period of life which modern physiologists have called the crisis in a woman’s growth. She had never really loved before, since she had given herself to Caesar, not because she cared for him, but to save her kingdom. She now came into the presence of one whose manly beauty and strong passions were matched by her own subtlety and appealing charm.
When Antony addressed her he felt himself a rustic in her presence. Almost resentful, he betook himself to the coarse language of the camp. Cleopatra, with marvelous adaptability, took her tone from his, and thus in a moment put him at his ease. Ferrero, who takes a most unfavorable view of her character and personality, nevertheless explains the secret of her fascination:
Herself utterly cold and callous, insensitive by nature to the flame of true devotion, Cleopatra was one of those women gifted with an unerring instinct for all the various roads to men’s affections. She could be the shrinking, modest girl, too shy to reveal her half-unconscious emotions of jealousy and depression and self-abandonment, or a woman carried away by the sweep of a fiery and uncontrollable passion. She could tickle the esthetic sensibilities of her victims by rich and gorgeous festivals, by the fantastic adornment of her own person and her palace, or by brilliant discussions on literature and art; she could conjure up all their grossest instincts with the vilest obscenities of conversation, with the free and easy jocularity of a woman of the camps.
These last words are far too strong, and they represent only Ferrero’s personal opinion; yet there is no doubt that she met every mood of Antony’s so that he became enthralled with her at once. No such woman as this had ever cast her eyes on him before. He had a wife at home–a most disreputable wife–so that he cared little for domestic ties. Later, out of policy, he made another marriage with the sister of his rival, Octavian, but this wife he never cared for. His heart and soul were given up to Cleopatra, the woman who could be a comrade in the camp and a fount of tenderness in their hours of dalliance, and who possessed the keen intellect of a man joined to the arts and fascinations of a woman.
On her side she found in Antony an ardent lover, a man of vigorous masculinity, and, moreover, a soldier whose armies might well sustain her on the throne of Egypt. That there was calculation mingled with her love, no one can doubt. That some calculation also entered into Antony’s affection is likewise certain. Yet this does not affect the truth that each was wholly given to the other. Why should it have lessened her love for him to feel that he could protect her and defend her? Why should it have lessened his love for her to know that she was queen of the richest country in the world–one that could supply his needs, sustain his armies, and gild his triumphs with magnificence?
There are many instances in history of regnant queens who loved and yet whose love was not dissociated from the policy of state. Such were Anne of Austria, Elizabeth of England, and the unfortunate Mary Stuart. Such, too, we cannot fail to think, was Cleopatra.
The two remained together for ten years. In this time Antony was separated from her only during a campaign in the East. In Alexandria he ceased to seem a Roman citizen and gave himself up wholly to the charms of this enticing woman. Many stories are told of their good fellowship and close intimacy. Plutarch quotes Plato as saying that there are four kinds of flattery, but he adds that Cleopatra had a thousand. She was the supreme mistress of the art of pleasing.
Whether Antony were serious or mirthful, she had at the instant some new delight or some new charm to meet his wishes. At every turn she was with him both day and night. With him she threw dice; with him she drank; with him she hunted; and when he exercised himself in arms she was there to admire and applaud.
At night the pair would disguise themselves as servants and wander about the streets of Alexandria. In fact, more than once they were set upon in the slums and treated roughly by the rabble who did not recognize them. Cleopatra was always alluring, always tactful, often humorous, and full of frolic.
Then came the shock of Antony’s final breach with Octavian. Either Antony or his rival must rule the world. Cleopatra’s lover once more became the Roman general, and with a great fleet proceeded to the coast of Greece, where his enemy was encamped. Antony had raised a hundred and twelve thousand troops and five hundred ships–a force far superior to that commanded by Octavian. Cleopatra was there with sixty ships.
In the days that preceded the final battle much took place which still remains obscure. It seems likely that Antony desired to become again the Roman, while Cleopatra wished him to thrust Rome aside and return to Egypt with her, to reign there as an independent king. To her Rome was almost a barbarian city. In it she could not hold sway as she could in her beautiful Alexandria, with its blue skies and velvet turf and tropical flowers. At Rome Antony would be distracted by the cares of state, and she would lose her lover. At Alexandria she would have him for her very own.
The clash came when the hostile fleets met off the promontory of Actium. At its crisis Cleopatra, prematurely concluding that the battle was lost, of a sudden gave the signal for retreat and put out to sea with her fleet. This was the crucial moment. Antony, mastered by his love, forgot all else, and in a swift ship started in pursuit of her, abandoning his fleet and army to win or lose as fortune might decide. For him the world was nothing; the dark- browed Queen of Egypt, imperious and yet caressing, was everything. Never was such a prize and never were such great hopes thrown carelessly away. After waiting seven days Antony’s troops, still undefeated, finding that their commander would not return to them, surrendered to Octavian, who thus became the master of an empire.
Later his legions assaulted Alexandria, and there Antony was twice defeated. At last Cleopatra saw her great mistake. She had made her lover give up the hope of being Rome’s dictator, but in so doing she had also lost the chance of ruling with him tranquilly in Egypt. She shut herself behind the barred doors of the royal sepulcher; and, lest she should be molested there, she sent forth word that she had died. Her proud spirit could not brook the thought that she might be seized and carried as a prisoner to Rome. She was too much a queen in soul to be led in triumph up the Sacred Way to the Capitol with golden chains clanking on her slender wrists.
Antony, believing the report that she was dead, fell upon his sword; but in his dying moments he was carried into the presence of the woman for whom he had given all. With her arms about him, his spirit passed away; and soon after she, too, met death, whether by a poisoned draught or by the storied asp no one can say.
Cleopatra had lived the mistress of a splendid kingdom. She had successively captivated two of the greatest men whom Rome had ever seen. She died, like a queen, to escape disgrace. Whatever modern critics may have to say concerning small details, this story still remains the strangest love story of which the world has any record.
ABELARD AND HELOISE
Many a woman, amid the transports of passionate and languishing love, has cried out in a sort of ecstasy:
“I love you as no woman ever loved a man before!”
When she says this she believes it. Her whole soul is aflame with the ardor of emotion. It really seems to her that no one ever could have loved so much as she.
This cry–spontaneous, untaught, sincere–has become almost one of those conventionalities of amorous expression which belong to the vocabulary of self-abandonment. Every woman who utters it, when torn by the almost terrible extravagance of a great love, believes that no one before her has ever said it, and that in her own case it is absolutely true.
Yet, how many women are really faithful to the end? Very many, indeed, if circumstances admit of easy faithfulness. A high- souled, generous, ardent nature will endure an infinity of disillusionment, of misfortune, of neglect, and even of ill treatment. Even so, the flame, though it may sink low, can be revived again to burn as brightly as before. But in order that this may be so it is necessary that the object of such a wonderful devotion be alive, that he be present and visible; or, if he be absent, that there should still exist some hope of renewing the exquisite intimacy of the past.
A man who is sincerely loved may be compelled to take long journeys which will separate him for an indefinite time from the woman who has given her heart to him, and she will still be constant. He may be imprisoned, perhaps for life, yet there is always the hope of his release or of his escape; and some women will be faithful to him and will watch for his return. But, given a situation which absolutely bars out hope, which sunders two souls in such a way that they can never be united in this world, and there we have a test so terribly severe that few even of the most loyal and intensely clinging lovers can endure it.
Not that such a situation would lead a woman to turn to any other man than the one to whom she had given her very life; but we might expect that at least her strong desire would cool and weaken. She might cherish his memory among the precious souvenirs of her love life; but that she should still pour out the same rapturous, unstinted passion as before seems almost too much to believe. The annals of emotion record only one such instance; and so this instance has become known to all, and has been cherished for nearly a thousand years. It involves the story of a woman who did love, perhaps, as no one ever loved before or since; for she was subjected to this cruel test, and she met the test not alone completely, but triumphantly and almost fiercely.
The story is, of course, the story of Abelard and Heloise. It has many times been falsely told. Portions of it have been omitted, and other portions of it have been garbled. A whole literature has grown up around the subject. It may well be worth our while to clear away the ambiguities and the doubtful points, and once more to tell it simply, without bias, and with a strict adherence to what seems to be the truth attested by authentic records.
There is one circumstance connected with the story which we must specially note. The narrative does something more than set forth the one quite unimpeachable instance of unconquered constancy. It shows how, in the last analysis, that which touches the human heart has more vitality and more enduring interest than what concerns the intellect or those achievements of the human mind which are external to our emotional nature.
Pierre Abelard was undoubtedly the boldest and most creative reasoner of his time. As a wandering teacher he drew after him thousands of enthusiastic students. He gave a strong impetus to learning. He was a marvelous logician and an accomplished orator. Among his pupils were men who afterward became prelates of the church and distinguished scholars. In the Dark Age, when the dictates of reason were almost wholly disregarded, he fought fearlessly for intellectual freedom. He was practically the founder of the University of Paris, which in turn became the mother of medieval and modern universities.
He was, therefore, a great and striking figure in the history of civilization. Nevertheless he would to-day be remembered only by scholars and students of the Middle Ages were it not for the fact that he inspired the most enduring love that history records. If Heloise had never loved him, and if their story had not been so tragic and so poignant, he would be to-day only a name known to but a few. His final resting-place, in the cemetery of Pere Lachaise, in Paris, would not be sought out by thousands every year and kept bright with flowers, the gift of those who have themselves both loved and suffered.
Pierre Abelard–or, more fully, Pierre Abelard de Palais–was a native of Brittany, born in the year 1079. His father was a knight, the lord of the manor; but Abelard cared little for the life of a petty noble; and so he gave up his seigniorial rights to his brothers and went forth to become, first of all a student, and then a public lecturer and teacher.
His student days ended abruptly in Paris, where he had enrolled himself as the pupil of a distinguished philosopher, Guillaume de Champeaux; but one day Abelard engaged in a disputation with his master. His wonderful combination of eloquence, logic, and originality utterly routed Champeaux, who was thus humiliated in the presence of his disciples. He was the first of many enemies that Abelard was destined to make in his long and stormy career. From that moment the young Breton himself set up as a teacher of philosophy, and the brilliancy of his discourses soon drew to him throngs of students from all over Europe.
Before proceeding with the story of Abelard it is well to reconstruct, however slightly, a picture of the times in which he lived. It was an age when Western Europe was but partly civilized. Pedantry and learning of the most minute sort existed side by side with the most violent excesses of medieval barbarism. The Church had undertaken the gigantic task of subduing and enlightening the semi-pagan peoples of France and Germany and England.
When we look back at that period some will unjustly censure Rome for not controlling more completely the savagery of the medievals. More fairly should we wonder at the great measure of success which had already been achieved. The leaven of a true Christianity was working in the half-pagan populations. It had not yet completely reached the nobles and the knights, or even all the ecclesiastics who served it and who were consecrated to its mission. Thus, amid a sort of political chaos were seen the glaring evils of feudalism. Kings and princes and their followers lived the lives of swine. Private blood-feuds were regarded lightly. There was as yet no single central power. Every man carried his life in his hand, trusting to sword and dagger for protection.
The cities were still mere hamlets clustered around great castles or fortified cathedrals. In Paris itself the network of dark lanes, ill lighted and unguarded, was the scene of midnight murder and assassination. In the winter-time wolves infested the town by night. Men-at-arms, with torches and spears, often had to march out from their barracks to assail the snarling, yelping packs of savage animals that hunger drove from the surrounding forests.
Paris of the twelfth century was typical of France itself, which was harried by human wolves intent on rapine and wanton plunder. There were great schools of theology, but the students who attended them fought and slashed one another. If a man’s life was threatened he must protect it by his own strength or by gathering about him a band of friends. No one was safe. No one was tolerant. Very few were free from the grosser vices. Even in some of the religious houses the brothers would meet at night for unseemly revels, splashing the stone floors with wine and shrieking in a delirium of drunkenness. The rules of the Church enjoined temperance, continence, and celibacy; but the decrees of Leo IX. and Nicholas II. and Alexander II. and Gregory were only partially observed.
In fact, Europe was in a state of chaos–political and moral and social. Only very slowly was order emerging from sheer anarchy. We must remember this when we recall some facts which meet us in the story of Abelard and Heloise.
The jealousy of Champeaux drove Abelard for a time from Paris. He taught and lectured at several other centers of learning, always admired, and yet at the same time denounced by many for his advocacy of reason as against blind faith. During the years of his wandering he came to have a wide knowledge of the world and of human nature. If we try to imagine him as he was in his thirty- fifth year we shall find in him a remarkable combination of attractive qualities.
It must be remembered that though, in a sense, he was an ecclesiastic, he had not yet been ordained to the priesthood, but was rather a canon–a person who did not belong to any religious order, though he was supposed to live according to a definite set of religious rules and as a member of a religious community. Abelard, however, made rather light of his churchly associations. He was at once an accomplished man of the world and a profound scholar. There was nothing of the recluse about him. He mingled with his fellow men, whom he dominated by the charm of his personality. He was eloquent, ardent, and persuasive. He could turn a delicate compliment as skilfully as he could elaborate a syllogism. His rich voice had in it a seductive quality which was never without its effect.
Handsome and well formed, he possessed as much vigor of body as of mind. Nor were his accomplishments entirely those of the scholar. He wrote dainty verses, which he also set to music, and which he sang himself with a rare skill. Some have called him “the first of the troubadours,” and many who cared nothing for his skill in logic admired him for his gifts as a musician and a poet. Altogether, he was one to attract attention wherever he went, for none could fail to recognize his power.
It was soon after his thirty-fifth year that he returned to Paris, where he was welcomed by thousands. With much tact he reconciled himself to his enemies, so that his life now seemed to be full of promise and of sunshine.
It was at this time that he became acquainted with a very beautiful young girl named Heloise. She was only eighteen years of age, yet already she possessed not only beauty, but many accomplishments which were then quite rare in women, since she both wrote and spoke a number of languages, and, like Abelard, was a lover of music and poetry. Heloise was the illegitimate daughter of a canon of patrician blood; so that she is said to have been a worthy representative of the noble house of the Montmorencys– famous throughout French history for chivalry and charm.
Up to this time we do not know precisely what sort of life Abelard had lived in private. His enemies declared that he had squandered his substance in vicious ways. His friends denied this, and represented him as strict and chaste. The truth probably lies between these two assertions. He was naturally a pleasure-loving man of the world, who may very possibly have relieved his severer studies by occasional revelry and light love. It is not at all likely that he was addicted to gross passions and low practices.
But such as he was, when he first saw Heloise he conceived for her a violent attachment. Carefully guarded in the house of her uncle, Fulbert, it was difficult at first for Abelard to meet her save in the most casual way; yet every time that he heard her exquisite voice and watched her graceful manners he became more and more infatuated. His studies suddenly seemed tame and colorless beside the fierce scarlet flame which blazed up in his heart.
Nevertheless, it was because of these studies and of his great reputation as a scholar that he managed to obtain access to Heloise. He flattered her uncle and made a chance proposal that he should himself become an inmate of Fulbert’s household in order that he might teach this girl of so much promise. Such an offer coming from so brilliant a man was joyfully accepted.
From that time Abelard could visit Heloise without restraint. He was her teacher, and the two spent hours together, nominally in the study of Greek and Hebrew; but doubtless very little was said between them upon such unattractive subjects. On the contrary, with all his wide experience of life, his eloquence, his perfect manners, and his fascination, Abelard put forth his power to captivate the senses of a girl still in her teens and quite ignorant of the world. As Remusat says, he employed to win her the genius which had overwhelmed all the great centers of learning in the Western world.
It was then that the pleasures of knowledge, the joys of thought, the emotions of eloquence, were all called into play to charm and move and plunge into a profound and strange intoxication this noble and tender heart which had never known either love or sorrow. … One can imagine that everything helped on the inevitable end. Their studies gave them opportunities to see each other freely, and also permitted them to be alone together. Then their books lay open between them; but either long periods of silence stilled their reading, or else words of deepening intimacy made them forget their studies altogether. The eyes of the two lovers turned from the book to mingle their glances, and then to turn away in a confusion that was conscious.
Hand would touch hand, apparently by accident; and when conversation ceased, Abelard would often hear the long, quivering sigh which showed the strange, half-frightened, and yet exquisite joy which Heloise experienced.
It was not long before the girl’s heart had been wholly won. Transported by her emotion, she met the caresses of her lover with those as unrestrained as his. Her very innocence deprived her of the protection which older women would have had. All was given freely, and even wildly, by Heloise; and all was taken by Abelard, who afterward himself declared:
“The pleasure of teaching her to love surpassed the delightful fragrance of all the perfumes in the world.”
Yet these two could not always live in a paradise which was entirely their own. The world of Paris took notice of their close association. Some poems written to Heloise by Abelard, as if in letters of fire, were found and shown to Fulbert, who, until this time, had suspected nothing. Angrily he ordered Abelard to leave his house. He forbade his niece to see her lover any more.
But the two could not be separated; and, indeed, there was good reason why they should still cling together. Secretly Heloise left her uncle’s house and fled through the narrow lanes of Paris to the dwelling of Abelard’s sister, Denyse, where Abelard himself was living. There, presently, the young girl gave birth to a son, who was named Astrolabe, after an instrument used by astronomers, since both the father and the mother felt that the offspring of so great a love should have no ordinary name.
Fulbert was furious, and rightly so. His hospitality had been outraged and his niece dishonored. He insisted that the pair should at once be married. Here was revealed a certain weakness in the character of Abelard. He consented to the marriage, but insisted that it should be kept an utter secret.
Oddly enough, it was Heloise herself who objected to becoming the wife of the man she loved. Unselfishness could go no farther. She saw that, were he to marry her, his advancement in the Church would be almost impossible; for, while the very minor clergy sometimes married in spite of the papal bulls, matrimony was becoming a fatal bar to ecclesiastical promotion. And so Heloise pleaded pitifully, both with her uncle and with Abelard, that there should be no marriage. She would rather bear all manner of disgrace than stand in the way of Abelard’s advancement.
He has himself given some of the words in which she pleaded with him:
What glory shall I win from you, when I have made you quite inglorious and have humbled both of us? What vengeance will the world inflict on me if I deprive it of one so brilliant? What curses will follow such a marriage? How outrageous would it be that you, whom nature created for the universal good, should be devoted to one woman and plunged into such disgrace? I loathe the thought of a marriage which would humiliate you.
Indeed, every possible effort which another woman in her place would employ to make him marry her she used in order to dissuade him. Finally, her sweet face streaming with tears, she uttered that tremendous sentence which makes one really think that she loved him as no other woman ever loved a man. She cried out, in an agony of self-sacrifice:
“I would rather be your mistress than the wife even of an emperor!”
Nevertheless, the two were married, and Abelard returned to his lecture-room and to his studies. For months they met but seldom. Meanwhile, however, the taunts and innuendos directed against Heloise so irritated Fulbert that he broke his promise of secrecy, and told his friends that Abelard and Heloise were man and wife. They went to Heloise for confirmation. Once more she showed in an extraordinary way the depth of her devotion.
“I am no wife,” she said. “It is not true that Abelard has married me. My uncle merely tells you this to save my reputation.”
They asked her whether she would swear to this; and, without a moment’s hesitation, this pure and noble woman took an oath upon the Scriptures that there had been no marriage.
Fulbert was enraged by this. He ill-treated Heloise, and, furthermore, he forbade Abelard to visit her. The girl, therefore, again left her uncle’s house and betook herself to a convent just outside of Paris, where she assumed the habit of a nun as a disguise. There Abelard continued from time to time to meet her.
When Fulbert heard of this he put his own interpretation on it. He believed that Abelard intended to ignore the marriage altogether, and that possibly he might even marry some other woman. In any case, he now hated Abelard with all his heart; and he resolved to take a fearful and unnatural vengeance which would at once prevent his enemy from making any other marriage, while at the same time it would debar him from ecclesiastical preferment.
To carry out his plot Fulbert first bribed a man who was the body- servant of Abelard, watching at the door of his room each night. Then he hired the services of four ruffians. After Abelard had retired and was deep in slumber the treacherous valet unbarred the door. The hirelings of Fulbert entered and fell upon the sleeping man. Three of them bound him fast, while the fourth, with a razor, inflicted on him the most shameful mutilation that is possible. Then, extinguishing the lights, the wretches slunk away and were lost in darkness, leaving behind their victim bound to his couch, uttering cries of torment and bathed in his own blood.
It is a shocking story, and yet it is intensely characteristic of the lawless and barbarous era in which it happened. Early the next morning the news flew rapidly through Paris. The city hummed like a bee-hive. Citizens and students and ecclesiastics poured into the street and surrounded the house of Abelard.
“Almost the entire city,” says Fulques, as quoted by McCabe, “went clamoring toward his house. Women wept as if each one had lost her husband.”
Unmanned though he was, Abelard still retained enough of the spirit of his time to seek vengeance. He, in his turn, employed ruffians whom he set upon the track of those who had assaulted him. The treacherous valet and one of Fulbert’s hirelings were run down, seized, and mutilated precisely as Abelard had been; and their eyes were blinded. A third was lodged in prison. Fulbert himself was accused before one of the Church courts, which alone had power to punish an ecclesiastic, and all his goods were confiscated.
But, meantime, how did it fare with Heloise? Her grief was greater than his own, while her love and her devotion were absolutely undiminished. But Abelard now showed a selfishness–and indeed, a meanness–far beyond any that he had before exhibited. Heloise could no more be his wife. He made it plain that he put no trust in her fidelity. He was unwilling that she should live in the world while he could not; and so he told her sternly that she must take the veil and bury herself for ever in a nunnery.
The pain and shame which she experienced at this came wholly from the fact that evidently Abelard did not trust her. Long afterward she wrote:
God knows I should not have hesitated, at your command, to precede or to follow you to hell itself!
It was his distrust that cut her to the heart. Still, her love for him was so intense that she obeyed his order. Soon after she took the vows; and in the convent chapel, shaken with sobs, she knelt before the altar and assumed the veil of a cloistered nun. Abelard himself put on the black tunic of a Benedictine monk and entered the Abbey of St. Denis.
It is unnecessary here to follow out all the details of the lives of Abelard and Heloise after this heart-rendering scene. Abelard passed through many years of strife and disappointment, and even of humiliation; for on one occasion, just as he had silenced Guillaume de Champeaux, so he himself was silenced and put to rout by Bernard of Clairvaux–“a frail, tense, absorbed, dominant little man, whose face was white and worn with suffering,” but in whose eyes there was a light of supreme strength. Bernard represented pure faith, as Abelard represented pure reason; and the two men met before a great council to match their respective powers.
Bernard, with fiery eloquence, brought a charge of heresy against Abelard in an oration which was like a charge of cavalry. When he had concluded Abelard rose with an ashen face, stammered out a few words, and sat down. He was condemned by the council, and his works were ordered to be burned.
All his later life was one of misfortune, of humiliation, and even of personal danger. The reckless monks whom he tried to rule rose fiercely against him. His life was threatened. He betook himself to a desolate and lonely place, where he built for himself a hut of reeds and rushes, hoping to spend his final years in meditation. But there were many who had not forgotten his ability as a teacher. These flocked by hundreds to the desert place where he abode. His hut was surrounded by tents and rude hovels, built by his scholars for their shelter.
Thus Abelard resumed his teaching, though in a very different frame of mind. In time he built a structure of wood and stone, which he called the Paraclete, some remains of which can still be seen.
All this time no word had passed between him and Heloise. But presently Abelard wrote and gave to the world a curious and exceedingly frank book, which he called The Story of My Misfortunes. A copy of it reached the hands of Heloise, and she at once sent to Abelard the first of a series of letters which have remained unique in the literature of love.
Ten years had passed, and yet the woman’s heart was as faithful and as full of yearning as on the day when the two had parted. It has been said that the letters are not genuine, and they must be read with this assertion in mind; yet it is difficult to believe that any one save Heloise herself could have flung a human soul into such frankly passionate utterances, or that any imitator could have done the work.
In her first letter, which was sent to Abelard written upon parchment, she said:
At thy command I would change, not merely my costume, but my very soul, so entirely art thou the sole possessor of my body and my spirit. Never, God is my witness, never have I sought anything in thee but thyself; I have sought thee, and not thy gifts. I have not looked to the marriage-bond or dowry.
She begged him to write to her, and to lead her to God, as once he had led her into the mysteries of pleasure. Abelard answered in a letter, friendly to be sure, but formal–the letter of a priest to a cloistered nun. The opening words of it are characteristic of the whole:
To Heloise, his sister in Christ, from Abelard, her brother in Him.
The letter was a long one, but throughout the whole of it the writer’s tone was cold and prudent. Its very coldness roused her soul to a passionate revolt. Her second letter bursts forth in a sort of anguish:
How hast thou been able to frame such thoughts, dearest? How hast thou found words to convey them? Oh, if I dared but call God cruel to me! Oh, most wretched of all creatures that I am! So sweet did I find the pleasures of our loving days that I cannot bring myself to reject them or to banish them from my memory. Wheresoever I go, they thrust themselves upon my vision, and rekindle the old desire.
But Abelard knew only too well that not in this life could there be anything save spiritual love between himself and Heloise. He wrote to her again and again, always in the same remote and unimpassioned way. He tells her about the history of monasticism, and discusses with her matters of theology and ethics; but he never writes one word to feed the flame that is consuming her. The woman understood at last; and by degrees her letters became as calm as his–suffused, however, with a tenderness and feeling which showed that in her heart of hearts she was still entirely given to him.
After some years Abelard left his dwelling at the Paraclete, and there was founded there a religious house of which Heloise became the abbess. All the world respected her for her sweetness, her wisdom, and the purity of her character. She made friends as easily as Abelard made enemies. Even Bernard, who had overthrown her husband, sought out Heloise to ask for her advice and counsel.
Abelard died while on his way to Rome, whither he was journeying in order to undergo a penalty; and his body was brought back to the Paraclete, where it was entombed. Over it for twenty-two years Heloise watched with tender care; and when she died, her body was laid beside that of her lover.
To-day their bones are mingled as she would have desired them to be mingled. The stones of their tomb in the great cemetery of Pere Lachaise were brought from the ruins of the Paraclete, and above the sarcophagus are two recumbent figures, the whole being the work of the artist Alexandra Lenoir, who died in 1836. The figure representing Heloise is not, however, an authentic likeness. The model for it was a lady belonging to a noble family of France, and the figure itself was brought to Pere Lachaise from the ancient College de Beauvais.
The letters of Heloise have been read and imitated throughout the whole of the last nine centuries. Some have found in them the utterances of a woman whose love of love was greater than her love of God and whose intensity of passion nothing could subdue; and so these have condemned her. But others, like Chateaubriand, have more truly seen in them a pure and noble spirit to whom fate had been very cruel; and who was, after all, writing to the man who had been her lawful husband.
Some of the most famous imitations of her letters are those in the ancient poem entitled, “The Romance of the Rose,” written by Jean de Meung, in the thirteenth century; and in modern times her first letter was paraphrased by Alexander Pope, and in French by Colardeau. There exist in English half a dozen translations of them, with Abelard’s replies. It is interesting to remember that practically all the other writings of Abelard remained unpublished and unedited until a very recent period. He was a remarkable figure as a philosopher and scholar; but the world cares for him only because he was loved by Heloise.
QUEEN ELIZABETH AND THE EARL OF LEICESTER
History has many romantic stories to tell of the part which women have played in determining the destinies of nations. Sometimes it is a woman’s beauty that causes the shifting of a province. Again it is another woman’s rich possessions that incite invasion and lead to bloody wars. Marriages or dowries, or the refusal of marriages and the lack of dowries, inheritance through an heiress, the failure of a male succession–in these and in many other ways women have set their mark indelibly upon the trend of history.
However, if we look over these different events we shall find that it is not so much the mere longing for a woman–the desire to have her as a queen–that has seriously affected the annals of any nation. Kings, like ordinary men, have paid their suit and then have ridden away repulsed, yet not seriously dejected. Most royal marriages are made either to secure the succession to a throne by a legitimate line of heirs or else to unite adjoining states and make a powerful kingdom out of two that are less powerful. But, as a rule, kings have found greater delight in some sheltered bower remote from courts than in the castled halls and well-cared-for nooks where their own wives and children have been reared with all the appurtenances of legitimacy.
There are not many stories that hang persistently about the love- making of a single woman. In the case of one or another we may find an episode or two–something dashing, something spirited or striking, something brilliant and exhilarating, or something sad. But for a woman’s whole life to be spent in courtship that meant nothing and that was only a clever aid to diplomacy–this is surely an unusual and really wonderful thing.
It is the more unusual because the woman herself was not intended by nature to be wasted upon the cold and cheerless sport of chancellors and counselors and men who had no thought of her except to use her as a pawn. She was hot-blooded, descended from a fiery race, and one whose temper was quick to leap into the passion of a man.
In studying this phase of the long and interesting life of Elizabeth of England we must notice several important facts. In the first place, she gave herself, above all else, to the maintenance of England–not an England that would be half Spanish or half French, or even partly Dutch and Flemish, but the Merry England of tradition–the England that was one and undivided, with its growing freedom of thought, its bows and bills, its nut-brown ale, its sturdy yeomen, and its loyalty to crown and Parliament. She once said, almost as in an agony:
“I love England more than anything!”
And one may really hold that this was true.
For England she schemed and planned. For England she gave up many of her royal rights. For England she descended into depths of treachery. For England she left herself on record as an arrant liar, false, perjured, yet successful; and because of her success for England’s sake her countrymen will hold her in high remembrance, since her scheming and her falsehood are the offenses that one pardons most readily in a woman.
In the second place, it must be remembered that Elizabeth’s courtships and pretended love-makings were almost always a part of her diplomacy. When not a part of her diplomacy they were a mere appendage to her vanity. To seem to be the flower of the English people, and to be surrounded by the noblest, the bravest, and the most handsome cavaliers, not only of her own kingdom, but of others–this was, indeed, a choice morsel of which she was fond of tasting, even though it meant nothing beyond the moment.
Finally, though at times she could be very cold, and though she made herself still colder in order that she might play fast and loose with foreign suitors who played fast and loose with her–the King of Spain, the Duc d’Alencon, brother of the French king, with an Austrian archduke, with a magnificent barbarian prince of Muscovy, with Eric of Sweden, or any other Scandinavian suitor– she felt a woman’s need for some nearer and more tender association to which she might give freer play and in which she might feel those deeper emotions without the danger that arises when love is mingled with diplomacy.
Let us first consider a picture of the woman as she really was in order that we may understand her triple nature–consummate mistress of every art that statesmen know, and using at every moment her person as a lure; a vain-glorious queen who seemed to be the prey of boundless vanity; and, lastly, a woman who had all a woman’s passion, and who could cast suddenly aside the check and balance which restrained her before the public gaze and could allow herself to give full play to the emotion that she inherited from the king, her father, who was himself a marvel of fire and impetuosity. That the daughter of Henry VIII. and Anne Boleyn should be a gentle, timid maiden would be to make heredity a farce.
Elizabeth was about twenty-five years of age when she ascended the throne of England. It is odd that the date of her birth cannot be given with precision. The intrigues and disturbances of the English court, and the fact that she was a princess, made her birth a matter of less account than if there had been no male heir to the throne. At any rate, when she ascended it, after the deaths of her brother, King Edward VI., and her sister, Queen Mary, she was a woman well trained both in intellect and in physical development.
Mr. Martin Hume, who loves to dwell upon the later years of Queen Elizabeth, speaks rather bitterly of her as a “painted old harridan”; and such she may well have seemed when, at nearly seventy years of age, she leered and grinned a sort of skeleton smile at the handsome young courtiers who pretended to see in her the queen of beauty and to be dying for love of her.
Yet, in her earlier years, when she was young and strong and impetuous, she deserved far different words than these. The portrait of her by Zucchero, which now hangs in Hampton Court, depicts her when she must have been of more than middle age; and still the face is one of beauty, though it be a strange and almost artificial beauty–one that draws, attracts, and, perhaps, lures you on against your will.
It is interesting to compare this painting with the frank word- picture of a certain German agent who was sent to England by his emperor, and who seems to have been greatly fascinated by Queen Elizabeth. She was at that time in the prime of her beauty and her power. Her complexion was of that peculiar transparency which is seen only in the face of golden blondes. Her figure was fine and graceful, and her wit an accomplishment that would have made a woman of any rank or time remarkable. The German envoy says:
She lives a life of such magnificence and feasting as can hardly be imagined, and occupies a great portion of her time with balls, banquets, hunting, and similar amusements, with the utmost possible display, but nevertheless she insists upon far greater respect being shown her than was exacted by Queen Mary. She summons Parliament, but lets them know that her orders must be obeyed in any case.
If any one will look at the painting by Zucchero he will see how much is made of Elizabeth’s hands–a distinctive feature quite as noble with the Tudors as is the “Hapsburg lip” among the descendants of the house of Austria. These were ungloved, and were very long and white, and she looked at them and played with them a great deal; and, indeed, they justified the admiration with which they were regarded by her flatterers.
Such was the personal appearance of Elizabeth. When a young girl, we have still more favorable opinions of her that were written by those who had occasion to be near her. Not only do they record swift glimpses of her person, but sometimes in a word or two they give an insight into certain traits of mind which came out prominently in her later years.
It may, perhaps, be well to view her as a woman before we regard her more fully as a queen. It has been said that Elizabeth inherited many of the traits of her father–the boldness of spirit, the rapidity of decision, and, at the same time, the fox- like craft which often showed itself when it was least expected.
Henry had also, as is well known, a love of the other sex, which has made his reign memorable. And yet it must be noted that while he loved much, it was not loose love. Many a king of England, from Henry II. to Charles II., has offended far more than Henry VIII. Where Henry loved, he married; and it was the unfortunate result of these royal marriages that has made him seem unduly fond of women. If, however, we examine each one of the separate espousals we shall find that he did not enter into it lightly, and that he broke it off unwillingly. His ardent temperament, therefore, was checked by a certain rational or conventional propriety, so that he was by no means a loose liver, as many would make him out to be.
We must remember this when we recall the charges that have been made against Elizabeth, and the strange stories that were told of her tricks–by no means seemly tricks–which she used to play with her guardian, Lord Thomas Seymour. The antics she performed with him in her dressing-room were made the subject of an official inquiry; yet it came out that while Elizabeth was less than sixteen, and Lord Thomas was very much her senior, his wife was with him on his visits to the chamber of the princess.
Sir Robert Tyrwhitt and his wife were also sent to question her, Tyrwhitt had a keen mind and one well trained to cope with any other’s wit in this sort of cross-examination. Elizabeth was only a girl of fifteen, yet she was a match for the accomplished courtier in diplomacy and quick retort. He was sent down to worm out of her everything that she knew. Threats and flattery and forged letters and false confessions were tried on her; but they were tried in vain. She would tell nothing of importance. She denied everything. She sulked, she cried, she availed herself of a woman’s favorite defense in suddenly attacking those who had attacked her. She brought counter charges against Tyrwhitt, and put her enemies on their own defense. Not a compromising word could they wring out of her.
She bitterly complained of the imprisonment of her governess, Mrs. Ashley, and cried out:
“I have not so behaved that you need put more mistresses upon me!”
Altogether, she was too much for Sir Robert, and he was wise enough to recognize her cleverness.
“She hath a very good wit,” said he, shrewdly; “and nothing is to be gotten of her except by great policy.” And he added: “If I had to say my fancy, I think it more meet that she should have two governesses than one.”
Mr. Hume notes the fact that after the two servants of the princess had been examined and had told nothing very serious they found that they had been wise in remaining friends of the royal girl. No sooner had Elizabeth become queen than she knighted the man Parry and made him treasurer of the household, while Mrs. Ashley, the governess, was treated with great consideration. Thus, very naturally, Mr. Hume says: “They had probably kept back far more than they told.”
Even Tyrwhitt believed that there was a secret compact between them, for he said, quaintly: “They all sing one song, and she hath set the note for them.”
Soon after this her brother Edward’s death brought to the throne her elder sister, Mary, who has harshly become known as Bloody Mary. During this time Elizabeth put aside her boldness, and became apparently a shy and simple-minded virgin. Surrounded on every side by those who sought to trap her, there was nothing in her bearing to make her seem the head of a party or the young chief of a faction. Nothing could exceed her in meekness. She spoke of her sister in the humblest terms. She exhibited no signs of the Tudor animation that was in reality so strong a part of her character.
But, coming to the throne, she threw away her modesty and brawled and rioted with very little self-restraint. The people as a whole found little fault with her. She reminded them of her father, the bluff King Hal; and even those who criticized her did so only partially. They thought much better of her than they had of her saturnine sister, the first Queen Mary.
The life of Elizabeth has been very oddly misunderstood, not so much for the facts in it as for the manner in which these have been arranged and the relation which they have to one another. We ought to recollect that this woman did not live in a restricted sphere, that her life was not a short one, and that it was crowded with incidents and full of vivid color. Some think of her as living for a short period of time and speak of the great historical characters who surrounded her as belonging to a single epoch. To them she has one set of suitors all the time–the Duc d’Alencon, the King of Denmark’s brother, the Prince of Sweden, the russian potentate, the archduke sending her sweet messages from Austria, the melancholy King of Spain, together with a number of her own brilliant Englishmen–Sir William Pickering, Sir Robert Dudley, Lord Darnley, the Earl of Essex, Sir Philip Sidney, and Sir Walter Raleigh.
Of course, as a matter of fact, Elizabeth lived for nearly seventy years–almost three-quarters of a century–and in that long time there came and went both men and women, those whom she had used and cast aside, with others whom she had also treated with gratitude, and who had died gladly serving her. But through it all there was a continual change in her environment, though not in her. The young soldier went to the battle-field and died; the wise counselor gave her his advice, and she either took it or cared nothing for it. She herself was a curious blending of forwardness and folly, of wisdom and wantonness, of frivolity and unbridled fancy. But through it all she loved her people, even though she often cheated them and made them pay her taxes in the harsh old way that prevailed before there was any right save the king’s will.
At the same time, this was only by fits and starts, and on the whole she served them well. Therefore, to most of them she was always the good Queen Bess. What mattered it to the ditcher and yeoman, far from the court, that the queen was said to dance in her nightdress and to swear like a trooper?
It was, indeed, largely from these rustic sources that such stories were scattered throughout England. Peasants thought them picturesque. More to the point with them were peace and prosperity throughout the country, the fact that law was administered with honesty and justice, and that England was safe from her deadly enemies–the swarthy Spaniards and the scheming French.
But, as I said, we must remember always that the Elizabeth of one period was not the Elizabeth of another, and that the England of one period was not the England of another. As one thinks of it, there is something wonderful in the almost star-like way in which this girl flitted unharmed through a thousand perils. Her own countrymen were at first divided against her; a score of greedy, avaricious suitors sought her destruction, or at least her hand to lead her to destruction; all the great powers of the Continent were either demanding an alliance with England or threatening to dash England down amid their own dissensions.
What had this girl to play off against such dangers? Only an undaunted spirit, a scheming mind that knew no scruples, and finally her own person and the fact that she was a woman, and, therefore, might give herself in marriage and become the mother of a race of kings.
It was this last weapon, the weapon of her sex, that proved, perhaps, the most powerful of all. By promising a marriage or by denying it, or by neither promising nor denying but withholding it, she gave forth a thousand wily intimations which kept those who surrounded her at bay until she had made still another deft and skilful combination, escaping like some startled creature to a new place of safety.
In 1583, when she was fifty years of age, she had reached a point when her courtships and her pretended love-making were no longer necessary. She had played Sweden against Denmark, and France against Spain, and the Austrian archduke against the others, and many suitors in her own land against the different factions which they headed. She might have sat herself down to rest; for she could feel that her wisdom had led her up into a high place, whence she might look down in peace and with assurance of the tranquillity that she had won. Not yet had the great Armada rolled and thundered toward the English shores. But she was certain that her land was secure, compact, and safe.
It remains to see what were those amatory relations which she may be said to have sincerely held. She had played at love-making with foreign princes, because it was wise and, for the moment, best. She had played with Englishmen of rank who aspired to her hand, because in that way she might conciliate, at one time her Catholic and at another her Protestant subjects. But what of the real and inward feeling of her heart, when she was not thinking of political problems or the necessities of state!
This is an interesting question. One may at least seek the answer, hoping thereby to solve one of the most interesting phases of this perplexing and most remarkable woman.
It must be remembered that it was not a question of whether Elizabeth desired marriage. She may have done so as involving a brilliant stroke of policy. In this sense she may have wished to marry one of the two French princes who were among her suitors. But even here she hesitated, and her Parliament disapproved; for by this time England had become largely Protestant. Again, had she married a French prince and had children, England might have become an appanage of France.
There is no particular evidence that she had any feeling at all for her Flemish, Austrian, or Russian suitors, while the Swede’s pretensions were the laughing-stock of the English court. So we may set aside this question of marriage as having nothing to do with her emotional life. She did desire a son, as was shown by her passionate outcry when she compared herself with Mary of Scotland.
“The Queen of Scots has a bonny son, while I am but a barren stock!”
She was too wise to wed a subject; though. had she married at all, her choice would doubtless have been an Englishman. In this respect, as in so many others, she was like her father, who chose his numerous wives, with the exception of the first, from among the English ladies of the court; just as the showy Edward IV. was happy in marrying “Dame Elizabeth Woodville.” But what a king may do is by no means so easy for a queen; and a husband is almost certain to assume an authority which makes him unpopular with the subjects of his wife.
Hence, as said above, we must consider not so much whom she would have liked to marry, but rather to whom her love went out spontaneously, and not as a part of that amatory play which amused her from the time when she frisked with Seymour down to the very last days, when she could no longer move about, but when she still dabbled her cheeks with rouge and powder and set her skeleton face amid a forest of ruffs.
There were many whom she cared for after a fashion. She would not let Sir Walter Raleigh visit her American colonies, because she could not bear to have him so long away from her. She had great moments of passion for the Earl of Essex, though in the end she signed his death-warrant because he was as dominant in spirit as the queen herself.
Readers of Sir Walter Scott’s wonderfully picturesque novel, Kenilworth, will note how he throws the strongest light upon Elizabeth’s affection for Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. Scott’s historical instinct is united here with a vein of psychology which goes deeper than is usual with him. We see Elizabeth trying hard to share her favor equally between two nobles; but the Earl of Essex fails to please her because he lacked those exquisite manners which made Leicester so great a favorite with the fastidious queen.
Then, too, the story of Leicester’s marriage with Amy Robsart is something more than a myth, based upon an obscure legend and an ancient ballad. The earl had had such a wife, and there were sinister stories about the manner of her death. But it is Scott who invents the villainous Varney and the bulldog Anthony Foster; just as he brought the whole episode into the foreground and made it occur at a period much later than was historically true. Still, Scott felt–and he was imbued with the spirit and knowledge of that time–a strong conviction that Elizabeth loved Leicester as she really loved no one else.
There is one interesting fact which goes far to convince us. Just as her father was, in a way, polygamous, so Elizabeth was even more truly polyandrous. It was inevitable that she should surround herself with attractive men, whose love-locks she would caress and whose flatteries she would greedily accept. To the outward eye there was very little difference in her treatment of the handsome and daring nobles of her court; yet a historian of her time makes one very shrewd remark when he says: “To every one she gave some power at times–to all save Leicester.”
Cecil and Walsingham in counsel and Essex and Raleigh in the field might have their own way at times, and even share the sovereign’s power, but to Leicester she intrusted no high commands and no important mission. Why so? Simply because she loved him more than any of the rest; and, knowing this, she knew that if besides her love she granted him any measure of control or power, then she would be but half a queen and would be led either to marry him or else to let him sway her as he would.
For the reason given, one may say with confidence that, while Elizabeth’s light loves were fleeting, she gave a deep affection to this handsome, bold, and brilliant Englishman and cherished him in a far different way from any of the others. This was as near as she ever came to marriage, and it was this love at least which makes Shakespeare’s famous line as false as it is beautiful, when he describes “the imperial votaress” as passing by “in maiden meditation, fancy free.”
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS AND LORD BOTHWELL
Mary Stuart and Cleopatra are the two women who have most attracted the fancy of poets, dramatists, novelists, and painters, from their own time down to the present day.
In some respects there is a certain likeness in their careers. Each was queen of a nation whose affairs were entangled with those of a much greater one. Each sought for her own ideal of love until she found it. Each won that love recklessly, almost madly. Each, in its attainment, fell from power and fortune. Each died before her natural life was ended. One caused the man she loved to cast away the sovereignty of a mighty state. The other lost her own crown in order that she might achieve the whole desire of her heart.
There is still another parallel which may be found. Each of these women was reputed to be exquisitely beautiful; yet each fell short of beauty’s highest standards. They are alike remembered in song and story because of qualities that are far more powerful than any physical charm can be. They impressed the imagination of their own contemporaries just as they had impressed the imagination of all succeeding ages, by reason of a strange and irresistible fascination which no one could explain, but which very few could experience and resist.
Mary Stuart was born six days before her father’s death, and when the kingdom which was her heritage seemed to be almost in its death-throes. James V. of Scotland, half Stuart and half Tudor, was no ordinary monarch. As a mere boy he had burst the bonds with which a regency had bound him, and he had ruled the wild Scotland of the sixteenth century. He was brave and crafty, keen in statesmanship, and dissolute in pleasure.
His first wife had given him no heirs; so at her death he sought out a princess whom he pursued all the more ardently because she was also courted by the burly Henry VIII. of England. This girl was Marie of Lorraine, daughter of the Duc de Guise. She was fit to be the mother of a lion’s brood, for she was above six feet in height and of proportions so ample as to excite the admiration of the royal voluptuary who sat upon the throne of England.
“I am big,” said he, “and I want a wife who is as big as I am.”
But James of Scotland wooed in person, and not by embassies, and he triumphantly carried off his strapping princess. Henry of England gnawed his beard in vain; and, though in time he found consolation in another woman’s arms, he viewed James not only as a public but as a private enemy.
There was war between the two countries. First the Scots repelled an English army; but soon they were themselves disgracefully defeated at Solway Moss by a force much their inferior in numbers. The shame of it broke King James’s heart. As he was galloping from the battle-field the news was brought him that his wife had given birth to a daughter. He took little notice of the message; and in a few days he had died, moaning with his last breath the mysterious words:
“It came with a lass–with a lass it will go!”
The child who was born at this ill-omened crisis was Mary Stuart, who within a week became, in her own right, Queen of Scotland. Her mother acted as regent of the kingdom. Henry of England demanded that the infant girl should be betrothed to his young son, Prince Edward, who afterward reigned as Edward VI., though he died while still a boy. The proposal was rejected, and the war between England and Scotland went on its bloody course; but meanwhile the little queen was sent to France, her mother’s home, so that she might be trained in accomplishments which were rare in Scotland.
In France she grew up at the court of Catherine de’ Medici, that imperious intriguer whose splendid surroundings were tainted with the corruption which she had brought from her native Italy. It was, indeed, a singular training-school for a girl of Mary Stuart’s character. She saw about her a superficial chivalry and a most profound depravity. Poets like Ronsard graced the life of the court with exquisite verse. Troubadours and minstrels sang sweet music there. There were fetes and tournaments and gallantry of bearing; yet, on the other hand, there was every possible refinement and variety of vice. Men were slain before the eyes of the queen herself. The talk of the court was of intrigue and lust and evil things which often verged on crime. Catherine de’ Medici herself kept her nominal husband at arm’s-length; and in order to maintain her grasp on France she connived at the corruption of her own children, three of whom were destined in their turn to sit upon the throne.
Mary Stuart grew up in these surroundings until she was sixteen, eating the fruit which gave a knowledge of both good and evil. Her intelligence was very great. She quickly learned Italian, French, and Latin. She was a daring horsewoman. She was a poet and an artist even in her teens. She was also a keen judge of human motives, for those early years of hers had forced her into a womanhood that was premature but wonderful. It had been proposed that she should marry the eldest son of Catherine, so that in time the kingdom of Scotland and that of France might be united, while if Elizabeth of England were to die unmarried her realm also would fall to this pair of children.
And so Mary, at sixteen, wedded the Dauphin Francis, who was a year her junior. The prince was a wretched, whimpering little creature, with a cankered body and a blighted soul. Marriage with such a husband seemed absurd. It never was a marriage in reality. The sickly child would cry all night, for he suffered from abscesses in his ears, and his manhood had been prematurely taken from him. Nevertheless, within a twelvemonth the French king died and Mary Stuart was Queen of France as well as of Scotland, hampered only by her nominal obedience to the sick boy whom she openly despised. At seventeen she showed herself a master spirit. She held her own against the ambitious Catherine de’ Medici, whom she contemptuously nicknamed “the apothecary’s daughter.” For the brief period of a year she was actually the ruler of France; but then her husband died and she was left a widow, restless, ambitious, and yet no longer having any of the power she loved.
Mary Stuart at this time had become a woman whose fascination was exerted over all who knew her. She was very tall and very slim, with chestnut hair, “like a flower of the heat, both lax and delicate.” Her skin was fair and pale, so clear and so transparent as to make the story plausible that when she drank from a flask of wine, the red liquid could be seen passing down her slender throat.
Yet with all this she was not fine in texture, but hardy as a man. She could endure immense fatigue without yielding to it. Her supple form had the strength of steel. There was a gleam in her hazel eyes that showed her to be brimful of an almost fierce vitality. Young as she was, she was the mistress of a thousand arts, and she exhaled a sort of atmosphere that turned the heads of men. The Stuart blood made her impatient of control, careless of state, and easy-mannered. The French and the Tudor strain gave her vivacity. She could be submissive in appearance while still persisting in her aims. She could be languorous and seductive while cold within. Again, she could assume the haughtiness which belonged to one who was twice a queen.
Two motives swayed her, and they fought together for supremacy. One was the love of power, and the other was the love of love. The first was natural to a girl who was a sovereign in her own right. The second was inherited, and was then forced into a rank luxuriance by the sort of life that she had seen about her. At eighteen she was a strangely amorous creature, given to fondling and kissing every one about her, with slight discrimination. From her sense of touch she received emotions that were almost necessary to her existence. With her slender, graceful hands she was always stroking the face of some favorite–it might be only the face of a child, or it might be the face of some courtier or poet, or one of the four Marys whose names are linked with hers– Mary Livingstone, Mary Fleming, Mary Beaton, and Mary Seton, the last of whom remained with her royal mistress until her death.
But one must not be too censorious in thinking of Mary Stuart. She was surrounded everywhere by enemies. During her stay in France she was hated by the faction of Catherine de’ Medici. When she returned to Scotland she was hated because of her religion by the Protestant lords. Her every action was set forth in the worst possible light. The most sinister meaning was given to everything she said or did. In truth, we must reject almost all the stories which accuse her of anything more than a certain levity of conduct.
She was not a woman to yield herself in love’s last surrender unless her intellect and heart alike had been made captive. She would listen to the passionate outpourings of poets and courtiers, and she would plunge her eyes into theirs, and let her hair just touch their faces, and give them her white hands to kiss–but that was all. Even in this she was only following the fashion of the court where she was bred, and she was not unlike her royal relative, Elizabeth of England, who had the same external amorousness coupled with the same internal self-control.
Mary Stuart’s love life makes a piteous story, for it is the life of one who was ever seeking–seeking for the man to whom she could look up, who could be strong and brave and ardent like herself, and at the same time be more powerful and more steadfast even than she herself in mind and thought. Whatever may be said of her, and howsoever the facts may be colored by partisans, this royal girl, stung though she was by passion and goaded by desire, cared nothing for any man who could not match her in body and mind and spirit all at once.
It was in her early widowhood that she first met the man, and when their union came it brought ruin on them both. In France there came to her one day one of her own subjects, the Earl of Bothwell. He was but a few years older than she, and in his presence for the first time she felt, in her own despite, that profoundly moving, indescribable, and never-to-be-forgotten thrill which shakes a woman to the very center of her being, since it is the recognition of a complete affinity.
Lord Bothwell, like Queen Mary, has been terribly maligned. Unlike her, he has found only a few defenders. Maurice Hewlett has drawn a picture of him more favorable than many, and yet it is a picture that repels. Bothwell, says he, was of a type esteemed by those who pronounce vice to be their virtue. He was “a galliard, flushed with rich blood, broad-shouldered, square-jawed, with a laugh so happy and so prompt that the world, rejoicing to hear it, thought all must be well wherever he might be. He wore brave clothes, sat a brave horse, and kept brave company bravely. His high color, while it betokened high feeding, got him the credit of good health. His little eyes twinkled so merrily that you did not see they were like a pig’s, sly and greedy at once, and bloodshot. His tawny beard concealed a jaw underhung, a chin jutting and dangerous. His mouth had a cruel twist; but his laughing hid that too. The bridge of his nose had been broken; few observed it, or guessed at the brawl which must have given it to him. Frankness was his great charm, careless ease in high places.”
And so, when Mary Stuart first met him in her eighteenth year, Lord Bothwell made her think as she had never thought of any other man, and as she was not to think of any other man again. She grew to look eagerly for the frank mockery “in those twinkling eyes, in that quick mouth”; and to wonder whether it was with him always– asleep, at prayers, fighting, furious, or in love.
Something more, however, must be said of Bothwell. He was undoubtedly a roisterer, but he was very much a man. He made easy love to women. His sword leaped quickly from its sheath. He could fight, and he could also think. He was no brawling ruffian, no ordinary rake. Remembering what Scotland was in those days, Bothwell might well seem in reality a princely figure. He knew Italian; he was at home in French; he could write fluent Latin. He was a collector of books and a reader of them also. He was perhaps the only Scottish noble of his time who had a book-plate of his own. Here is something more than a mere reveler. Here is a man of varied accomplishments and of a complex character.
Though he stayed but a short time near the queen in France, he kindled her imagination, so that when she seriously thought of men she thought of Bothwell. And yet all the time she was fondling the young pages in her retinue and kissing her maids of honor with her scarlet lips, and lying on their knees, while poets like Ronsard and Chastelard wrote ardent love sonnets to her and sighed and pined for something more than the privilege of kissing her two dainty hands.
In 1561, less than a year after her widowhood, Mary set sail for Scotland, never to return. The great high-decked ships which escorted her sailed into the harbor of Leith, and she pressed on to Edinburgh. A depressing change indeed from the sunny terraces and fields of France! In her own realm were fog and rain and only a hut to shelter her upon her landing. When she reached her capital there were few welcoming cheers; but as she rode over the cobblestones to Holyrood, the squalid wynds vomited forth great mobs of hard-featured, grim-visaged men and women who stared with curiosity and a half-contempt at the girl queen and her retinue of foreigners.
The Scots were Protestants of the most dour sort, and they distrusted their new ruler because of her religion and because she loved to surround herself with dainty things and bright colors and exotic elegance. They feared lest she should try to repeal the law of Scotland’s Parliament which had made the country Protestant.
The very indifference of her subjects stirred up the nobler part of Mary’s nature. For a time she was indeed a queen. She governed wisely. She respected the religious rights of her Protestant subjects. She strove to bring order out of the chaos into which her country had fallen. And she met with some success. The time came when her people cheered her as she rode among them. Her subtle fascination was her greatest source of strength. Even John Knox, that iron-visaged, stentorian preacher, fell for a time under the charm of her presence. She met him frankly and pleaded with him as a woman, instead of commanding him as a queen. The surly ranter became softened for a time, and, though he spoke of her to others as “Honeypot,” he ruled his tongue in public. She had offers of marriage from Austrian and Spanish princes. The new King of France, her brother-in-law, would perhaps have wedded her. It mattered little to Mary that Elizabeth of England was hostile. She felt that she was strong enough to hold her own and govern Scotland.
But who could govern a country such as Scotland was? It was a land of broils and feuds, of clan enmities and fierce vendettas. Its nobles were half barbarous, and they fought and slashed at one another with drawn dirks almost in the presence of the queen herself. No matter whom she favored, there rose up a swarm of enemies. Here was a Corsica of the north, more savage and untamed than even the other Corsica.
In her perplexity Mary felt a woman’s need of some man on whom she would have the right to lean, and whom she could make king consort. She thought that she had found him in the person of her cousin, Lord Darnley, a Catholic, and by his upbringing half an Englishman. Darnley came to Scotland, and for the moment Mary fancied that she had forgotten Bothwell. Here again she was in love with love, and she idealized the man who came to give it to her. Darnley seemed, indeed, well worthy to be loved, for he was tall and handsome, appearing well on horseback and having some of the accomplishments which Mary valued.
It was a hasty wooing, and the queen herself was first of all the wooer. Her quick imagination saw in Darnley traits and gifts of which he really had no share. Therefore, the marriage was soon concluded, and Scotland had two sovereigns, King Henry and Queen Mary. So sure was Mary of her indifference to Bothwell that she urged the earl to marry, and he did marry a girl of the great house of Gordon.
Mary’s self-suggested love for Darnley was extinguished almost on her wedding-night. The man was a drunkard who came into her presence befuddled and almost bestial. He had no brains. His vanity was enormous. He loved no one but himself, and least of all this queen, whom he regarded as having thrown herself at his empty head.
The first-fruits of the marriage were uprisings among the Protestant lords. Mary then showed herself a heroic queen. At the head of a motley band of soldiery who came at her call–half- clad, uncouth, and savage–she rode into the west, sleeping at night upon the bare ground, sharing the camp food, dressed in plain tartan, but swift and fierce as any eagle. Her spirit ran like fire through the veins of those who followed her. She crushed the insurrection, scattered its leaders, and returned in triumph to her capital.
Now she was really queen, but here came in the other motive which was interwoven in her character. She had shown herself a man in courage. Should she not have the pleasures of a woman? To her court in Holyrood came Bothwell once again, and this time Mary knew that he was all the world to her. Darnley had shrunk from the hardships of battle. He was steeped in low intrigues. He roused the constant irritation of the queen by his folly and utter lack of sense and decency. Mary felt she owed him nothing, but she forgot that she owed much to herself.
Her old amorous ways came back to her, and she relapsed into the joys of sense. The scandal-mongers of the capital saw a lover in every man with whom she talked. She did, in fact, set convention at defiance. She dressed in men’s clothing. She showed what the unemotional Scots thought to be unseemly levity. The French poet, Chastelard, misled by her external signs of favor, believed himself to be her choice. At the end of one mad revel he was found secreted beneath her bed, and was driven out by force. A second time he ventured to secrete himself within the covers of the bed. Then he was dragged forth, imprisoned, and condemned to death. He met his fate without a murmur, save at the last when he stood upon the scaffold and, gazing toward the palace, cried in French:
“Oh, cruel queen! I die for you!”
Another favorite, the Italian, David Rizzio, or Riccio, in like manner wrote love verses to the queen, and she replied to them in kind; but there is no evidence that she valued him save for his ability, which was very great. She made him her foreign secretary, and the man whom he supplanted worked on the jealousy of Darnley; so that one night, while Mary and Rizzio were at dinner in a small private chamber, Darnley and the others broke in upon her. Darnley held her by the waist while Rizzio was stabbed before her eyes with a cruelty the greater because the queen was soon to become a mother.
From that moment she hated Darnley as one would hate a snake. She tolerated him only that he might acknowledge her child as his son. This child was the future James VI. of Scotland and James I. of England. It is recorded of him that never throughout his life could he bear to look upon drawn steel.
After this Mary summoned Bothwell again and again. It was revealed to her as in a blaze of light that, after all, he was the one and only man who could be everything to her. His frankness, his cynicism, his mockery, his carelessness, his courage, and the power of his mind matched her moods completely. She threw away all semblance of concealment. She ignored the fact that he had married at her wish. She was queen. She desired him. She must have him at any cost.
“Though I lose Scotland and England both,” she cried in a passion of abandonment, “I shall have him for my own!”
Bothwell, in his turn, was nothing loath, and they leaped at each other like two flames.
It was then that Mary wrote those letters which were afterward discovered in a casket and which were used against her when she was on trial for her life. These so-called Casket Letters, though we have not now the originals, are among the most extraordinary letters ever written. All shame, all hesitation, all innocence, are flung away in them. The writer is so fired with passion that each sentence is like a cry to a lover in the dark. As De Peyster says: “In them the animal instincts override and spur and lash the pen.” Mary was committing to paper the frenzied madness of a woman consumed to her very marrow by the scorching blaze of unedurable desire.
Events moved quickly. Darnley, convalescent from an attack of smallpox, was mysteriously destroyed by an explosion of gunpowder. Bothwell was divorced from his young wife on curious grounds. A dispensation allowed Mary to wed a Protestant, and she married Bothwell three months after Darnley’s death.
Here one sees the consummation of what had begun many years before in France. From the moment that she and Bothwell met, their union was inevitable. Seas could not sunder them. Other loves and other fancies were as nothing to them. Even the bonds of marriage were burst asunder so that these two fiery, panting souls could meet.
It was the irony of fate that when they had so met it was only to be parted. Mary’s subjects, outraged by her conduct, rose against her. As she passed through the streets of Edinburgh the women hurled after her indecent names. Great banners were raised with execrable daubs representing the murdered Darnley. The short and dreadful monosyllable which is familiar to us in the pages of the Bible was hurled after her wherever she went.
With Bothwell by her side she led a wild and ragged horde of followers against the rebellious nobles, whose forces met her at Carberry Hill. Her motley followers melted away, and Mary surrendered to the hostile chieftains, who took her to the castle at Lochleven. There she became the mother of twins–a fact that is seldom mentioned by historians. These children were the fruit of her union with Bothwell. From this time forth she cared but little for herself, and she signed, without great reluctance, a document by which she abdicated in favor of her infant son.
Even in this place of imprisonment, however, her fascination had power to charm. Among those who guarded her, two of the Douglas family–George Douglas and William Douglas–for love of her, effected her escape. The first attempt failed. Mary, disguised as a laundress, was betrayed by the delicacy of her hands. But a second attempt was successful. The queen passed through a postern gate and made her way to the lake, where George Douglas met her with a boat. Crossing the lake, fifty horsemen under Lord Claude Hamilton gave her their escort and bore her away in safety.
But Mary was sick of Scotland, for Bothwell could not be there. She had tasted all the bitterness of life, and for a few months all the sweetness; but she would have no more of this rough and barbarous country. Of her own free will she crossed the Solway into England, to find herself at once a prisoner.
Never again did she set eyes on Bothwell. After the battle of Carberry Hill he escaped to the north, gathered some ships together, and preyed upon English merchantmen, very much as a pirate might have done. Ere long, however, when he had learned of Mary’s fate, he set sail for Norway. King Frederick of Denmark made him a prisoner of state. He was not confined within prison walls, however, but was allowed to hunt and ride in the vicinity of Malmo Castle and of Dragsholm. It is probably in Malmo Castle that he died. In 1858 a coffin which was thought to be the coffin of the earl was opened, and a Danish artist sketched the head– which corresponds quite well with the other portraits of the ill- fated Scottish noble.
It is a sad story. Had Mary been less ambitious when she first met Bothwell, or had he been a little bolder, they might have reigned together and lived out their lives in the plenitude of that great love which held them both in thrall. But a queen is not as other women; and she found too late that the teaching of her heart was, after all, the truest teaching. She went to her death as Bothwell went to his, alone, in a strange, unfriendly land.
Yet, even this, perhaps, was better so. It has at least touched both their lives with pathos and has made the name of Mary Stuart one to be remembered throughout all the ages.
QUEEN CHRISTINA OF SWEDEN AND THE MARQUIS MONALDESCHI
Sweden to-day is one of the peaceful kingdoms of the world, whose people are prosperous, well governed, and somewhat apart from the clash and turmoil of other states and nations. Even the secession of Norway, a few years ago, was accomplished without bloodshed, and now the two kingdoms exist side by side as free from strife as they are with Denmark, which once domineered and tyrannized over both.
It is difficult to believe that long ago, in the Middle Ages, the cities of southern Sweden were among the great commercial centers of the world. Stockholm and Lund ranked with London and Paris. They absorbed the commerce of the northern seas, and were the admiration of thousands of travelers and merchants who passed through them and trafficked with them.
Much nearer to our own time, Sweden was the great military power of northern Europe. The ambassadors of the Swedish kings were received with the utmost deference in every court. Her soldiers won great battles and ended mighty wars. The England of Cromwell and Charles II. was unimportant and isolated in comparison with this northern kingdom, which could pour forth armies of gigantic blond warriors, headed by generals astute as well as brave.
It was no small matter, then, in 1626, that the loyal Swedes were hoping that their queen would give birth to a male heir to succeed his splendid father, Gustavus Adolphus, ranked by military historians as one of the six great generals whom the world had so far produced. The queen, a German princess of Brandenburg, had already borne two daughters, who died in infancy. The expectation was wide-spread and intense that she should now become the mother of a son; and the king himself was no less anxious.
When the event occurred, the child was seen to be completely covered with hair, and for this reason the attendants at first believed that it was the desired boy. When their mistake was discovered they were afraid to tell the king, who was waiting in his study for the announcement to be made. At last, when no one else would go to him, his sister, the Princess Caroline, volunteered to break the news.
Gustavus was in truth a chivalrous, high-bred monarch. Though he must have been disappointed at the advent of a daughter, he showed no sign of dissatisfaction or even of surprise; but, rising, he embraced his sister, saying:
“Let us thank God. I hope this girl will be as good as a boy to me. May God preserve her now that He has sent her!”
It is customary at almost all courts to pay less attention to the birth of a princess than to that of a prince; but Gustavus displayed his chivalry toward this little daughter, whom he named Christina. He ordered that the full royal salute should be fired in every fortress of his kingdom and that displays of fireworks, balls of honor, and court functions should take place; “for,” as he said, “this is the heir to my throne.” And so from the first he took his child under his own keeping and treated her as if she were a much-loved son as well as a successor.
He joked about her looks when she was born, when she was mistaken for a boy.
“She will be clever,” he said, “for she has taken us all in!”
The Swedish people were as delighted with their little princess as were the people of Holland when the present Queen Wilhelmina was born, to carry on the succession of the House of Orange. On one occasion the king and the small Christina, who were inseparable companions, happened to approach a fortress where they expected to spend the night. The commander of the castle was bound to fire a royal salute of fifty cannon in honor of his sovereign; yet he dreaded the effect upon the princess of such a roaring and bellowing of artillery. He therefore sent a swift horseman to meet the royal party at a distance and explain his perplexity. Should he fire these guns or not? Would the king give an order?
Gustavus thought for a moment, and then replied:
“My daughter is the daughter of a soldier, and she must learn to lead a soldier’s life. Let the guns be fired!”
The procession moved on. Presently fire spurted from the embrasures of the fort, and its batteries thundered in one great roar. The king looked down at Christina. Her face was aglow with pleasure and excitement; she clapped her hands and laughed, and cried out:
“More bang! More! More! More!”
This is only one of a score of stories that were circulated about the princess, and the Swedes were more and more delighted with the girl who was to be their queen.
Somewhat curiously, Christina’s mother, Queen Maria, cared little for the child, and, in fact, came at last to detest her almost as much as the king loved her. It is hard to explain this dislike. Perhaps she had a morbid desire for a son and begrudged the honors given to a daughter. Perhaps she was a little jealous of her own child, who took so much of the king’s attention. Afterward, in writing of her mother, Christina excuses her, and says quite frankly:
She could not bear to see me, because I was a girl, and an ugly girl at that. And she was right enough, for I was as tawny as a little Turk.
This candid description of herself is hardly just. Christina was never beautiful, and she had a harsh voice. She was apt to be overbearing even as a little girl. Yet she was a most interesting child, with an expressive face, large eyes, an aquiline nose, and the blond hair of her people. There was nothing in this to account for her mother’s intense dislike for her.
It was currently reported at the time that attempts were made to maim or seriously injure the little princess. By what was made to seem an accident, she would be dropped upon the floor, and heavy articles of furniture would somehow manage to strike her. More than once a great beam fell mysteriously close to her, either in the palace or while she was passing through the streets. None of these things did her serious harm, however. Most of them she luckily escaped; but when she had grown to be a woman one of her