Изображения страниц

rather to the natural evil and infirmity of their own hearts.

And now we must leave the affairs of the Reformation for a while, and this auspicious beginning of Elizabeth's reign, and turn to a very different subject,—to one too which will show the Queen in a less favourable light than hitherto. You may remember I told you that though Elizabeth was a great queen, and one to whom we owe much, yet she was not free from faults and weaknesses. The story before us will shew this. What I am going to tell you is connected with the affairs of Scotland; it is a long story, and the events belonging to it occupied a long series of years, but it will interest you more if I relate it all at once, and without interruption from other matters ;

can return afterwards to any thing intervening which it may be neces

You remember, I dare say, the disputes which took place between this country and Scotland in the reign of Edward VI., and that Mary, the young Queen, was sent for education to France, where she was married to the prince, afterwards King Francis II. The education which Mary received was not likely to make her either a wise or a happy woman ; and so, though there was much in

and we

sary to mention.

her that was naturally pleasing and promising, she grew up vain and frivolous.

Some years passed away; her husband Francis died, and the young widow prepared to return to Scotland, there to reign as queen. A sad day for Mary was that on which she left France. Her brightest years had been spent there; she loved that country far better than her native land, and as she sailed away from its shores she wept bitterly, and cried, “ Farewell, beloved France, farewell ; I shall never see thee more !” Poor Mary! could she then have foreseen all the trouble and sorrow that lay before her, she would have felt her departure for Scotland more bitterly still!

Great changes had taken place in Scotland during Mary's absence. The doctrines of the Reformation had found their way there, and were publicly and powerfully preached, espe. cially by the zealous reformer of Scotland, Johů Knox. Mary was, as you know, a papist; and therefore, though she was welcomed with joy and affection by many on her return, yet the Protestant party felt vexed to think, that they should not receive from her that support which Elizabeth was so ready to bestow on those of similar sentiments in England.

A few years after Mary's return to Scotland, she was married to Lord Darnley, with the con

sent, and indeed at the recommendation of her cousin Elizabeth. But it was not long before Lord Darnley was murdered, in a dreadful and somewhat mysterious manner, by order of the Earl of Bothwell, who was himself soon after married to Mary. All this occasioned a great deal of disturbance in Scotland. Mary was supposed to have been concerned in the murder of her husband; Bothwell was obliged to fly for his life, and she was made a prisoner, and confined in Lochleven Castle. Here she remained nearly a year, and then contrived to make her escape. After a great many adventures which I need not mention, a battle took place between her party and that of the Earl of Murray, who headed the opposite side. In this battle Mary was defeated, and compelled to save herself by flight. She then wrote to Elizabeth, throwing herself on her compassion, asking her assistance, and begging for a refuge in England. Elizabeth sent a kind reply. She made many fair promises to her unfortunate cousin, though not, as you will soon see, very sincere ones; and Mary accordingly hastened to England, full of hope in these assur

When she arrived, Elizabeth had her conveyed to Carlisle, under a pretence of greater security, but really from motives of a very different kind. From the first, Elizabeth had felt jealous of the Scottish Queen. She feared Mary might one day prove an enemy and a rival, and so she at once determined to keep her entirely in her own power, as a captive in the country, not as a guest, or a friend. She refused to see her ; sent her from one prison to another, and at last, confined her in Fotheringay Castle, in Northamptonshire, where she remained the rest of her life.


During all this tiine, Mary made many struggles to obtain her liberty, and she was, at last, supposed to have been concerned in a conspiracy against Elizabeth. Whether this accusation were true or false, it was at least made the reason for bringing Mary to a trial, and she was condemned, and sentenced to death. But it was some time before Elizabeth would give the order for her execution ; and when she did so, it was with so much hesitation and ambiguity, that those who received the order hardly knew how to act. The truth was, that Elizabeth wished, if possible, to get rid of her rival without implicating herself in any share of responsibility; and so she adopted this insincere and uncertain line of conduct. And thus it is that people are often induced to act, when they try to do something which is in accordance with their wishes, but contrary to the dictates of their conscience. The whole behaviour of Elizabeth towards her unhappy cousin was full of duplicity, and quite unworthy of a great queen,

an amiable woman, or a kind relative. Mary was indeed to blame for many parts of her conduct; but this cannot justify the artifice of Elizabeth in first inviting her to England in a friendly manner, and then, when in her power, treating her with so much harshness; and at last permitting her to be executed as a criminal, without sufficient evidence of her guilt. There was much cruelty, and injustice too, in all this. But you

will be interested in hearing something of the death of this unbappy queen, for whom we cannot but feel pity, notwithstanding all her faults and follies. When Mary was told that she was to die the next day, she received the sad news calmly, and began to arrange her affairs with great composure, and to make her will, and to distribute presents as remembrances among her attendants and friends. On the morning of the fatal day, she arose early, and spent some hours in prayer. A great part of Mary's life had been given up to vain and frivolous pursuits; but now, at its close, she found, as all people must find, that it is only religion that can give peace in the prospect of death. But alas, the religion to which Mary still clung, was not one able to afford her real and solid comfort. She did not, like Lady Jane Grey when preparing for her execution, seek for support only in the word

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »