“IT has now  been fashionable, for half a century, to defame, and vilify, the house of Steuart, and to exalt, and magnify the reign of Elizabeth. The Steuarts have found few apologists: For, the dead cannot pay for praise; and who will, without reward, oppose the tide of popularity? Yet, there remains still among us, not wholly extinguished, a zeal for truth, and a desire fore us, has attempted a vindication of Mary of Scotland, whose name has, for some years, been, generally, resigned to infamy; and who has been considered as the murderer of her husband; and as condemned, by her own letters.”
Such was the appropriate language of [Samuel] Johnson, in 1760, when he reviewed Mr. Tytler’s ‘Enquiry into the evidence, which has been produced against Mary Queen of Scots.’ But since that epoch, great changes have taken place, in respect to all those topicks: In private investigations, in public opinion, in the fortune of families, in the fame of Sovereigns, much alteration has occurred. The house of Steuart has fallen for ever. The conduct of Elizabeth has been more minutely examined; while the policy of her reign has been more precisely investigated. The more the evidence, which artifice produced, and ambition propagated, against the Scotish Queen, has been examined, by criticism, as well as by candour; the more has her conduct been cleared, her innocence established, and her misfortunes pitied: Much does her increasing fame owe to the Examination of Goodall; much to the Enquiries of Tytler; but, much more to the argument, and the eloquence of Whitaker, in his Vindication. Truth may be concealed, for a time; but cannot be exploded, by whatever artifice.
It was owing to accident, rather than design, that I undertook this work. Hearing that the successful vindicator of the Scotish Queen, was employed, in writing her private life. I thought it a respect which I owed to him and his subject, to communicate such documents, concerning her, as had occurred, in my enquiries, with regard to the History of Scotland, during her troubled age. But he unfortunately, died, before he had completed the task, which he had imposed upon himself. His widow, and two daughters, knowing how much I had interested myself in his success, sent me his manuscript, and my own communications, with the kindness, that is natural to women; desiring that I would publish the whole, without, perhaps, knowing how imperfect he had left his biographical labours.
But, various avocations, and some years of ill health, have hitherto prevented me, from executing her desires, as well as my own wishes, by publishing this life of the Queen of Scots, with such new matter as had collected, from public, and private sources.
In executing this work, I have found it necessary to new-write the whole. In doing this I perceive the convenience, s well as the use, of dividing this extensive subject, into two volumes: The first will comprehend the Queen’s life; the second will contain six memoirs of subsidiary matter: (1) Of the calumnies, concerning the Scotish Queen; (2) Of the life of Francis II. her first husband; (3) Of the life of Lord Darnley, her second husband; (4) Of the life of James Earl Bothwell, her third husband; (5) Of the life of the Regent Murray, her bastard brother and minion; (6) A sketch of the Life of her Secretary Maitland. All those memoirs will be found to bear materially, on this life of the Scotish Queen; by illustrating its obscurities; and ascertaining its facts. As the interesting question, whether the Queen of Scots were guilty, or innocent, of Darnley’s death, must occur, the answer to this question will be more familiarly treated, in those separate memoirs, than in a formal dissertation, which might require an attention of more disgust than amusement, and might fatigue, without the comfort of conviction.
Yet, should I never have thought of publishing the singular life of the Scotish Queen, if I had not convinced myself, by my own labours, and reflections, that she was a calumniated woman, and an injured princess; who was innocent of the crimes, which were committed by others, and imputed to her, by the evil doers themselves, who found it no hard matter, during the delusive circumstances of corrupt times, to cast their own guilt upon her conduct: Calumniation became the great object of her ruin, while religion was debased, by fanaticism; while domestic faction was actuated, by criminal ambition; and while both religion, and faction, were inflamed, by foreign policy, which was itself urged, by hatred, and prompted, by malignity. Under such circumstances of Mary’s government; having for her servants, the ambitious, the wicked, and the perfidious; it might have been truly said of her, in Shakspeare’s speech:
‘Be thou, as chaste as ice, as pure as snow,
Thou shalt not escape calumny.’
The state papers, both published, and unpublished, have been ransacked, for new documents, in order to establish additional facts: Nor, has the labour of years, I trust, been bestowed altogether in vain. Many old falsehoods will be detected, and many new truths will be established. Robertson could not, from the contradictoriness of the contemporary writers, determine what was the real disease of Darnley, when he was taken ill, at Glasgow. It was given out, and believed, to be poison. I have found letters, in the Paper Office, which demonstrate, that he was infected with the small-pox, which then prevailed, in that town. This fact will free the Queen, from many pages of calumny. The declaration of French Paris, who was executed, as one of the King’s murderers, was supposed by some, to be satisfactory proof of the Queen’s privity, to her husband’s death. But, I have discovered, in the Paper Office, the original declaration, which exhibits G. Buchanan, and J. Wood, two busy enemies of the Scotish Queen, in the very act of forging that declaration. This will relieve the calumniated Mary, from a whole volume of the grossest slander. It is only from the State Papers, that a proper answer can be given to the interesting question, who murdered Darnley? There are documents, in the Paper Office, which clearly show, that a conspiracy of nobles murdered Darnley: But, with those nobles, the Queen had no privity, and could have no participation, in their guilt. Connecting that conspiracy of nobles, with the Acts of Parliament, attainting the three plotters, the enquiry, as to the death of Darnley, is finally closed, by establishing their guilt, and evincing the Queen’s innocence. In this manner, then, may we perceive, the truth of Shakspeare’s remark:
‘Many worthy and chaste dames thus,
All guiltless, meet reproach.’
From the certainty, arising out of this wide range over the state Papers, and Statute Book, another truth results, which is of equal importance. The whole documents, which were created, by the murderers, to connect the Queen, with their cat’s-paw, while he was connected, as a conspirator, with her enemies, are, by the same State Papers, and the Statute Book, equally, proved to be forgeries: Here, then, is another point of great interest established, in favour of the Queen’s innocence. They, who were guilty of the murder, may be easily supposed, to be capable of forgery: And, they, who were detected, in one forgery, were very probably guilty of similar impostures.
We now begin to see what has been called the Marian controversy drawing to a close: For, the Queen’s innocence being demonstrated: It becomes equally certain, that she was innocent of writing such immoral documents, as the letters, sonnets, marriage contracts, which were attributed to her, by the forgers, who had a strong interest, in casting the guilt from themselves upon her. Now; both those points of charge being decided, in favour of the injured Queen, by the concurring authority of the State Papers, and the Statute Book, the Marian controversy here must close: So efficacious are such powerful documents, when properly perused, and clearly understood. When the Parliament decided on the guilt, or innocence of whatever party, who is to contend, that the highest judicature was probably mistaken?