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WARRANT OF EXECUTION.
the Harleian Collection.
This is, in substance, the same account as that given by Camden. But there are other statements by this unfortunate secretary, who was prosecuted in the Star Chamber for not obeying Elizabeth's commands in the matter of the warrant, which are familiar to the most cursory reader of history, and which are usually accepted as evidence of a desire of the queen that Mary should be privately murdered. Camden refers to these statements of how Davison "excused himself in private," which he gives "compendiously," with this addition to what we have related as found. in the other narrative: "Moreover she blamed Paulet and Drury that they had not eased her of this care, and wished that Walsingham would feel their minds in this matter." On a subsequent day," she asked me whether I had received any answer from Paulet, whose letter, when I had showed her, wherein he flatly refused to undertake that which stood not with honour and justice, she waxing angry, accused him and others, which had bound themselves by the Association, of perjury and breach of their vow." We forbear to enter here upon this remarkable story, of which, holding the evidence to be very doubtful as regards assassination, we have thrown the minuter details into the form of a note, so as not to interrupt the main narrative.*
The last hours of Mary Stuart have been described with an exactness which is far more interesting than the highest efforts of imaginative art. Indeed, the art of Schiller has borrowed its most effective touches from an official narrative whose authenticity is established by an indorsement in lord Burleigh's hand. † The scenes immediately preceding the fatal morning of the 8th of February have been derived from various sources, and some of the incidents are conflicting. The relations, however, agree in the most essential particulars. The earls of Shrewsbury and Kent, to whom the Lords of the Council had specially sent Mr. Beale, arrived at Fotheringay on the 7th of February, after dinner. They communicated to Mary the purpose for which they had arrived; and Beale read the queen's commission for her execution. She bowed her head, made the sign of the cross, and thanked her God that the summons so long expected had come at last. She asked at what time she should die, and was informed at eight the following morning. Having desired the presence of her priest and almoner, she was refused; and was told that in the place of her confessor she might have the spiritual assistance of the dean of Peterborough. She necessarily declined this. This ferocious bigotry would be incomprehensible, if we did not bear in mind that the severe Protestant and the rigid Catholic were equally convinced that it was their duty to urge their own doctrines, even whilst the axe or the fagot were ready for those who were about to perish for their opinions. The "bachelor of Divinity, named Elye, of Brazennose College," who pressed Cranmer to recant when he was chained to the stake; and the earl of Kent, who attempted to convert Mary, on the evening before her death, were misjudging zealots, but they meant not cruelty. Camden has it, that the earl of Kent said to Mary, "Your life will be the death of our religion, as, contrariwise, your death will be the life thereof." The doomed one saw her advantage in this speech; and afterwards said to her physician, "They say that I must die
See page 205.
+"8 Feb. 1586. The manner of the Q. of Scott's death at Fodryngbay, wr. by R. Wy." This is amongst the Lansdowne MS. Ellis, Second Series, vol. ii. p. 102.
MARY BEHEADED AT FOTHERINGAY.
because I have plotted against the queen's life; yet the earl of Kent sig nifieth unto me that there is no other cause of my death but that they doubt their religion because of me." Mary then looked over her will; distributed money to her attendants; wrote letters; prayed long and fervently; and went quietly to sleep.
At the upper end of the great hall of Fotheringay had been erected a scaffold, two feet in height and twelve feet in breadth, railed round, and covered with black cloth. On that scaffold were a low stool, a long cushion, ard a block; all covered also with black. There were many persons assembled in that hall. The queen had dressed herself "gorgeously and curiously," says Camden, "as she was wont to do on festival days." She came forth from her chamber, at the bidding of Thomas Andrews, sheriff of Northamptonshire; and was met in the entry next the hall, by Shrewsbury and Kent, “with divers knights and gentlemen." Melvin, one of her old servants, fell on his knees before her; and said that it would be the most sorrowful message he ever carried when he should report in Scotland that his queen and mistress was dead. The official narrative thus continues: "Then the queen of Scots, shedding tears, answered him, 'You ought to rejoice rather than weep for that the end of Mary Stuart's troubles is now come. Thou knowest, Melvin, that all this world is but vanity, and full of troubles and sorrows; carry this message from me, and tell my friends that I die a true woman to my religion, and like a true Scottish woman and a true French woman. But God forgive them that have long desired my end; and he that is the true Judge of all secret thoughts knoweth my mind, how that ever it hath been my desire to have Scotland and England united together. Commend me to my son, and tell him that I have not done any thing that may prejudice his kingdom of Scotland; and so, good Melvin, farewell;' and kissing him, she bade him pray for her."
We have again a scene characteristic of an age in which to be tender was too often accounted to be weak, and to be tolerant was held to be impious. Mary requested that her servants might be present at her death. The earl of Kent refused, lest they should trouble her grace, and disquiet the company by their speeches. She replied that she would give her word that they should do nothing of the kind. After some consultation two of her female servants and Melvin, with two medical attendants and an old man, were allowed to enter the hall. Melvin carrying her train, she stepped up the scaffold with a cheerful countenance, and sat down on the stool; and there stood by her side the two earls, and the sheriff, and two executioners. The commission was read; Mary "listening unto it with as small regard as if it had not concerned her at all." The dean of Peterborough, Dr. Fletcher, standing outside the rail, directly before her, began an exhortation; but she stopped him, saying, "Mr. Dean, I am settled in the ancient Catholic Roman religion, and mind to spend my blood in defence of it." The pertinacious dignitary replied, with more zeal than charity, "Madam, change your opinion, and repent of your former wickedness, and settle your faith only in Jesus Christ, by him to be saved." Mary told him to trouble himself no further; and Shrewsbury and Kent said they would pray for her. She thanked them, "but to join with you in prayer I will not, for that you and I are not of one religion." The dean then prayed aloud from the English liturgy; and Mary
ELIZABETH DISAVOWS THE PROCEEDINGS.
with stedfast voice, having in her hand a crucifix, began to pray in Latin; and she finally prayed in English for Christ's afflicted church, for her son, and for the queen of England. The callous earl of Kent was not moved even by this solemn earnestness, but told her to "leave those trumperies." fanaticism, from whatever perverted view of the religion of love it may spring.
The last dread trial was sustained with equal fortitude and stedfastness by Mary, in whom, whatever were her faults, were many of the elements of true heroism. As her two women wept, she besought them to be calm: “I have promised for you." A Corpus-Christi cloth being pinned over her face, she knelt down upon the cushion " most resolutely," reciting aloud the Latin psalm, In te confido, "In thee, O Lord, do I trust." Groping for the block, she laid down her head, and cried, In manus tuas, Domine, "Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit." Her head was severed in two strokes. One poor servant there was who went upon that scaffold without permission. Her little dog was taken from beneath her robes; and "afterwards would not depart from the dead corpse."
Fifteen months after this tragedy, Elizabeth wrote to James, "God, the searcher of all hearts, ever so have misericorde of my soul as my innocency in that matter deserveth, and no otherwise; which invocation were too dangerous for a guilty conscience." Opposed as the narratives of Davison are to each other, in many essential particulars, we cannot wholly reject them. We must believe, with one of these, that Elizabeth only desired the non-performance of the warrant for execution, that her prompting of some form that would shift the burthen from herself might be adopted-for which purpose she caused letters to be written to Paulet and Drury: or, with the other, that she was always resolved upon the execution; and accept the statement of both "apologies" of Davison, that the very day before that of the Scottish queen's death," she fell of herself into some earnest expostulation with me about the execution of her said warrant, complaining greatly of myself and the rest of her Council, as men careless of her safety and our own duties, commanding me to write a sharp letter to sir Amias Paulet to that effect." And yet the Council, when the news of the execution arrived, says Davison, "did not think fit to break suddenly to her majesty, who nevertheless, by other means, understood thereof that night." The next morning he met the other members of the Council, who told him that "her majesty seemed greatly offended against them all about this action, disavowing that she had either commanded or intended any such proceeding therein." Davison was sent to the Tower, and tried in the Star Chamber. Burleigh was forbidden to appear in court. The assertions of Elizabeth have been attributed to "the earnestness of a dreadful self-deception." * Her conduct during the four months from the trial to the last act of this terrible drama, has been designated as "hollow affectation." But nevertheless we believe that she was not of those whose "feet are swift to shed blood;" that there was a real contest in her mind between her private and her public feelings; and that in her violent declarations of innocency she deceived herself into throwing the whole blame upon parliament and her ministers. Six days after
Bruce, in Introduction to "Letters of Elizabeth," &c.
ELIZABETH DISAVOWS THE PROCEEDINGS.
the execution she wrote to James to express "the extreme dolor that overwhelms my mind, for that miserable accident which, far contrary to my meaning, hath befallen." She further says, "As I know this was deserved, yet if I had meant it I would never lay it on other shoulders." She persisted in this assertion, without any variation. There can be little doubt that she shielded herself by some technical objection to the mode in which her Council had proceeded, upon the representations of Davison. Davison's trial in the Star Chamber, on the 28th March, sir Roger Manwood, lord chief baron, said, "This thing, then, being so high a point of justice, was not in any respect to be done otherwise than her majesty's express commandment would bear. The instrument' was not so peremptory and irrevocable as he [Davison] took it; nor a sufficient warrant for any kind of proceeding against the Scottish queen, neither for his associates, nor for any other for the last statute, besides the condition and proclamation, doth require the queen's direction; and that must be either general, that all men may do it, which is not here granted, or particular, who or by what means; neither is there here any such, especially her majesty having no knowledge of the thing done."* The statute of the 27th Elizabeth certainly says, that after sentence and judgment, and proclamation of the same, "all her highness's subjects shall and may lawfully, by virtue of this Act, and her majesty's direction in that behalf, by all forcible and possible means pursue to
death every such wicked person.' Elizabeth had signed a general instru
ment of this nature; which the chief baron says was not a sufficient warrant for any kind of proceeding against the Scottish queen." The Council, upon the representations of Davison, chose, honestly interpreting the queen's wishes, to supply what was deficient in that instrument. Burleigh told the Council, having read the instrument to them, that they were met to advise of "such means as might be most honourable and expedient for the dispatch thereof; seeing her majesty had for her part performed as much as in any honour, law, or reason, was to be required at her hands." They took upon themselves the responsibility, fully understanding "her doubted inclination to drive this burthen, if it might be, from herself;" and they determined to apply no more to the queen, lest she, "upon such a needless motion, should have fallen into any new conceit of interrupting and staying the course of justice." There was some slight foundation for a "dreadful self-deception."
* Report of the Trial, by an eye-witness. Nicolas, p. 313.
+ Davison's Discourse.' Nicolas, p. 241.
NOTE ON DAVISON'S STATEMENTS.
NOTE ON THE STATEMENTS THAT ELIZABETH DESIRED THAT THE QUEEN OF SCOTS MIGHT BE PRIVATELY ASSASSINATED.
THE popular impression of the guilt of Elizabeth with regard to the death of Mary Stuart has been considerably aggravated in modern times. The worst belief formerly was, that the queen of England was most anxious for the execution of the queen of Scots, but long dissembled; was exhorted by her council and by parliament to issue the fatal warrant; resisted only that she might cast the odium of the act upon others; and meanly persecuted Davison the secretary for really obeying her commands. Hume and Robertson briefly notice a far more odious charge against Elizabeth. Robertson says, "She often hinted to Paulet and Drury, as well as to some other courtiers, that now was the time to discover the sincerity of their concern for her safety, and that she expected their zeal would extricate her out of her present perplexity. But they were wise enough to seem not to understand her meaning." It is now the almost uniform practice of historical writers perfectly to understand that the meaning was, private assassination. This accusation against Elizabeth is now generally related in the most circumstantial manner, and as generally accepted as resting upon unquestionable testimony. It appears to us, at the risk of being tedious, a duty to examine the evidence upon which this accusation is founded.
There are four narratives, or "apologies," attributed to Davison. The one with which the general reader is best acquainted is given in Robertson's "History of Scotland," Appendix xix. vol. ii. It contains no word respecting any suggestion for the removal of Mary, except by public execution. The original is amongst the Cottonian MSS.* The second "apology," with which Hume, Robertson, and other historians of the last century were acquainted, is printed in Kippis' "Biographia Britannica," Art. “ Davyson," as "transcribed by Mr. John Urry, of Christchurch, from the papers of Sir Amias Paulet."+ But it was first printed in the third volume of Dr. George Mackenzie's "Lives and Characters of Scottish Worthies," in 1722; and he derived his knowledge of it from Mr. John Urry. In this "apology," the command of Elizabeth to Davison, that he and Walsingham should write to Paulet and Drury "to sound their dispositions, aiming still at this, that it might be so done as the blame might be removed from herself," is detailed at some length. These are the materials which, with two letters which we shall have especially to notice, were known before the close of the last century. These letters, according to the ordinary belief, have converted the doubtful into the positive. Robertson says, "Even after the warrant was signed, she commanded a letter to be written to Paulet, in less ambiguous terms, complaining of his remissness in sparing so long the life of her capital enemy, and begging him to remember at last what was incumbent on him as an affectionate subject, and to deliver his sovereign from continual fear and danger, by shortening
Printed by Nicolas, "Life of Davison," Appendix D.
Printed by Nicolas, Appendix C.