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SOME NOTES ON THE LAST MONTHS OF THE LIFE OF MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS, HITHERTO UNPUBLISHED IN ENGLAND.
BY JOSIAH MARPLES.
Ir requires no little courage to venture to add another word to the enormous number already written on Mary Queen of Scots. The subject, however, is in itself so full of interest, and all books published bearing the magic name on the title page, are so eagerly sought for, that I trust this small effort to add to the knowledge available for future historians will not be without value.
These notes were partly written two years ago, but my interest in the subject was revived by the reading of a most valuable contribution to its literature, a work which well deserves the hearty reception with which it has met. I allude to Mary Queen of Scots in Captivity, by Mr. J. D. Leader, of Sheffield.
The foundations upon which the paper is based are principally to be found in two books, both written at the time of the occurrences they describe, but neither published till recently. The more important one is the Journal of M. Bourgoing, the physician of Mary, who entered her service before A.D. 1580, under date of which year a letter of his is quoted by Mr. Leader,* and who remained in constant and close attendance upon her till her death.
On November 23, 1586, shortly after the announcement to Mary, by Lord Buckhurst, that the Council had sentenced her to death, she wrote to the Pope, Sixtus V, a letter, in which she says, "You shall have a true account of the mode
Mary Queen of Scots in Captivity, p. 437.
of my final arrest (that of the removal from Chartley to Tixall), and all the proceedings for and against me; that, knowing the truth, the calumnies of the enemies of the Church will not impose upon you; being able to refute them by the publication of the truth. For this purpose I have sent to you this report."*
It is easy to understand the reason for this on Mary's part. She was the representative of the Church of Rome in England, and in that capacity had received from Rome signal marks of favour, extending so far, indeed, that to her was given a power, never perhaps bestowed on a woman before or since, that she could administer the Eucharist to herself during the period in which she was by Elizabeth's orders deprived of the services of her priest.†
The report spoken of by Mary in this letter has never yet been found, but there has recently been discovered in the town of Cluny, in France, a manuscript which bears evidence of great antiquity, and which it is believed was originally in the Library of the Benedictines of the Abbey of Cluny prior to its destruction in 1793. Of this abbey Claude of Guise, nephew of Cardinal Lorraine, and therefore cousin of Mary, was abbot from 1575 to 1612. Mary probably arranged for the writing of this book, for under date of the day following that on which she wrote to the Pope, in a letter to the Duke of Guise, she gives some particulars of the proceedings, and says, "You shall hear all that passed." This manuscript bears strong internal evidence that it is the copy of the
* Labanoff, Lettres, Instructions et Mémoires de Marie Stuart, &c., tom. vi, 447.
+ Quo circa olim tempore persecutionum Christiani omnes quotidie communicabant, ut se roborarent at Martyrium, immo Eucharistiam donum deferebant, illamque mave suis manibus sumebant, uti fecit nuper Maria Stuarta, Scotiae Regina, dum in Anglia captiva detineretur, nec sacerdotem secum habere posset."-Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide (Ed. Antwerp, 1639) on the xxvi chap. S. Matthew, v. 27.
Hosack's Mary Queen of Scots, &c., ii, 439.
report in question, made at the time that the original was sent to the Pope. It was hurriedly copied, and is full of grammatical and orthographical blunders, and what are now archaisms, but its personal and pointed allusions, and its close agreement with other published information, no less than its religious tone, which is just what might be expected from so clever a woman as Mary writing to her spiritual father, quite warrant the belief that it is a genuine document. It has recently been published by M. Chantelauze, verbatim et literatim, and it is from his book that I have translated some passages which appear of interest, and which have not been published before. To correct the natural one-sidedness of this account, I have compared it with the letters written by Sir Amias Paulet, Mary's keeper, to his superiors, Elizabeth's secretaries. The duplicate book of these letters has recently been published by Father Morris, the Jesuit historian, and, though I cannot always agree with his deductions, I have no doubt that his quotations are correct. We are thus, I think, enabled to obtain a fair account of that portion of the final scenes of Mary's life of which I propose to treat.
I should say that the translations are in all cases my own, and I have endeavoured rather to give a literal translation than a free paraphrase.
Shortly after the death of Mary, an anonymous writer published a small book, entitled La Morte de la Royne d'Ecosse, and it has usually been attributed to Bourgoing. That it was not written by him is evident from the fact that its author says he was not present at the last moments of Mary's life, of which we know Bourgoing was a spectator. The author, however, was aware of the existence of Bourgoing's journal, to which he doubtless refers, under the title
* Marie Stuart, son procés et son Exécution. Paris, 1879.
of "the other discourse," while Bourgoing, having probably inspired the account already written of the death of Mary, gives but a short and meagre description of it in the diary.
As my remarks will be more of a personal than a political nature, it will perhaps be desirable to say here what I have to say as to the justice of Mary's death; and I think I shall be able to show that, while it was a political necessity, it was one from which Elizabeth shrank to a far greater extent than is usually credited to her, and I am quite disposed to pronounce her innocent of the final act which has brought upon her so much contumely.
The following lines from Mr. Swinburne's recentlypublished tragedy, Mary Stuart, seem to describe accurately the feelings of Elizabeth:
"I would rather
Stand in God's sight so signed with mine own blood
As being a queen I may not surely-no-
On the death of Mary Tudor, Elizabeth had been at once proclaimed Queen. Her rights were derived from her father's will, and the people recognised them so promptly and heartily, that they forgot that the Act of 1st Mary, repealing the Acts of Henry VIII which had declared the King's marriage with Katherine of Arragon null and void,t while it declared Mary legitimate in her birth, had the contrary effect upon that of Elizabeth. Hence the partisans of Mary Stuart, who was the next heir, claimed for her the rightful succession, and Mary herself not only claimed it, but adopted the title, and quartered the Arms of England with those of Scotland, which she had from her birth, and of
Mary Stuart, p. 66.
Weisener's Youth of Queen Elizabeth, i, 163.
France, which had accrued at her marriage with the Dauphin. From this claim really arose that feud, the only end of which was necessarily the death of one or other of the Queens. That Elizabeth, when her rival fell into her power, kept her in an easy and luxurious imprisonment for many years, living in a style superior to anything she could hope for in her own country-for Sheffield Castle, in which she spent fourteen years of her captivity, was a finer palace than any that Scotland could then boast-and bore with all her scheming and plotting, goes far to prove, I think, that she had no strong feeling of antagonism to Mary personally. Speaking of her at an earlier period, Hosack says, "she forgot that Mary Stuart had once worn the Arms and aspired to the Crown of England. She only saw her sister Queen and nearest kinswoman a helpless captive in the hands of men whose characters and aims she knew too well, and she would at any cost obtain her deliverance ;* and he says, further, that her ambassador saved Mary's life at that time from the violence of her own subjects. In all previous reigns to be a pretender to the Crown was considered ample reason for a prompt extirpation of the claimant, but Elizabeth and her Ministers bore for eighteen years with the chicanery and duplicity of which Mary's letters give abundant proof, and they would probably have kept Mary in the same light captivity till a natural death had eased them of their burden, had not the growing bitterness between Protestantism and Popery converted her into a martyr, to succour whom was to deserve well of Mother Church, and made her a cynosure of plotting which threatened the peace of the land, and rendered her death a political necessity. Elizabeth's Ministers knew that on the death of their mistress, if she predeceased Mary, their lives would be imperilled, and they felt the importance of terminating this state of affairs by
* Mary Queen of Scots and her Accusers, by John Hosack, i, 356.