TOWARDS the end of 1581, the Scotish Queen’s health seemed past recovery; owing to her want of air, and exercise, and to her continual vexation, and daily wo: So that “nature oppressed, and harassed out with care, almost sunk down to rest.” In the midst of this distress, and that disease, Beal, the clerk of the Privy Council, constantly attended upon her, with enquiries, and questions, from Burghley’s suggestion. Even Beal, who was not of a very melting mood, seeing the situation she was in, recommended, “that the restraint on her should be relaxed, and that she should be allowed to have the coach, made for her, by the French ambassador; but, intimated, that previously to granting any such indulgence, some acknowledgment of her Majesty’s title should be procured from her, similar to what was agreed on, by the treaty of Edinburgh, 1560.” But, what confirmation did the one queen want, or could the other give? Elizabeth was in possession, with the law on her side, and Mary did not dispute her right. Beal, however, added, in a subsequent letter to Burghley, “that he really knew not what to advise, she is so wily; but, she is, certainly, very ill, and so weak, that she is not able to stand, or to be out of bed; she is continually, taking medicines, and using poultices, and throws up abundance of phlegm.” These representations seem to have had some effect; as it was obvious, that a little rigour might have pushed her from the dreary stage. Elizabeth allowed, that the Queen of Scots might take airings, in her carriage, with proper precautions.
The meeting of Parliament, in 1582, was connected with the Scotish Queen; as we may recollect, from Burghley’s remarkable letter to Walsingham, in September 1581. In it, were enacted new, and more severe laws, against the papists; supposing that avowed persecution was wiser policy, than conciliatory forbearance. But, prejudice was the ruling passion of Elizabeth, of her court, of her people. The Scotish Queen, however, did not allow the meeting of that Parliament, to pass unheeded by her. She sent up “a declaration of her right to the succession of the crown of England, to be presented to Elizabeth, and with her permission, to the lords, and commons.”
While this attempt was made to terrify the papists, by pains, and penalties, and Mary presented her declaration, a fourth negotiation was entered into with the Scotish Queen, under the conduct of the respectable Mildmay: But, it is quite apparent, from the management of so many treaties, that Elizabeth’s object was, “to keep the word of promise to her ear, and break it to her hope.”
Shrewsbury, also, was ruined in his temper, in his health, and in his interests, by hope deferred. He kept up a continual claim upon Elizabeth, for his diminished allowance, and for such a charge, and for the keeping of 40 soldiers, daily, in his house. In a letter to his agent at court, Thomas Bawdewyn, he expresses his anxiety, for his suit: I have been moved, to take into my service Lady Lennox’s men; but specially, Nelson, and his wife, but have refused them: “I have too many spyes in my house already, and mind, to make choice of others, I may trust.”
At the beginning of April 1582, commenced the treaty, with the Scotish Queen, which has been already mentioned, for the odious purpose of deluding the unhappy captive. Mary began now to correspond with her son, as often as her wardens would allow her. On the 16th of April, she wrote him, in French; expressing her affection; and desiring his attention to Elizabeth. The object of the Scotish Queen seems to have been, to confirm to him a legitimate right to the crown, as she had hitherto considered it, to be, merely, supposititious. She seems, to have found means, through France, of engaging Lennox, and Arran, the two favourites of the youthful King, to concur, in this project, to which they saw no strong objection, whatever Elizabeth may have felt. King James certainly wrote to his mother, soon after; expressing his duty, and desiring to hear further from her; though it may have been intercepted.
Owing to the before-mentioned causes, the Scotish Queen became so bad, that the waters of Buxton were prescribed, when every other remedy had failed. About the middle of June 1582, she was carried to Buxton; “Lord Cumberland, and the rest of the company being departed.” She remained here, till the second week, in July; but, did not enjoy the full benefit of such an excursion, and residence; as she was not allowed to ride, or walk out. When she departed, she took her leave, in this distich; being Cæsar’s verses upon Feltria, which were applied, by her, to Buxton:
Buxtona quæ calidæ celebrabere nomine lymphæ,
Fortè mihi posthac non adeunda, vale.
Buxton, whose fame thy baths shall ever tell,
Which I, perhaps, shan’t see again, farewel.
There soon after ensued a correspondence, between Elizabeth and Mary, in which the former took much amiss, that the Scotish Queen should have also written to the Privy Council. Walsingham was directed to write a querulous letter, on this misunderstanding, to Shrewsbury, who mentioned the matter to Mary. The Scotish Queen answered him, with her usual distinctness, and dignity: That she had never conceived, for a moment, that the privy counsellors possessed any part of her dignity, or power; but, being often told, by the French ambassador, as an excuse for not answering her letters, sooner, that they had been referred to the privy council, she had thought it might facilitate the business to write to that body, in the first instance. Elizabeth, who had been flattered almost into frenzy, received this exposition with bad grace: and would not consent, that the Queen-mother should correspond, directly, with her son; as he had shown some want of deference to that domineering sovereign: And, Elizabeth soon made the Scotish King feel, that he must not affect to be independent on her, who did not admit the greatest kings to be her equals.
Elizabeth never forgave, nor forgot, the punishment of Morton, for his crimes, in opposition to her influence, and her power. By her constant intrigues, she maintained an English faction among the Scotish Nobles, who were easily persuaded, that whatever conspiracy they might form against James, or his ministers, they would be protected, in England. They wanted not pretences, or inclination, to effect their own designs, and Elizabeth’s wishes. The Earl of Mar, Lord Lindsay, Lord Boyd, and other persons of that faction, with Earl Gowry, at their head, took advantage of the absence, from court, of Lennox, and Arran, to invite the King, who was now turned of sixteen, to Ruthven castle, in Perthshire, where they forcibly restrained his person, on the 22d of August 1582; and soon made him feel, that he no longer enjoyed the independence of a king. They not only changed his ministers, and his measures; but they obliged him, in all things, to submit to their dictates, and to hear, from the church assembly, and the convention of estates, that the acts of their treason were legal, and fit. Elizabeth, hearing of the success of her own suggestions, sent envoys to the king; advising him to take in good part, this godly enterprize, and to restore the Earl of Angus, who had been expatriated, in England, since the execution of Morton. The King did not free himself, from this treasonous domination, till the subsequent summer; when he obtained his liberty, by greater efforts of address, and vigour than he was supposed to possess.
When Mary heard, in her prison, of those events, and of her son’s degradation, and danger, she became so dangerously ill, that her English physicians supposed, and said, she would die. She, meantime, recollected, forcibly, her own misfortunes, which she suffered, in the same country, from the same faction. She remembered, keenly, all the miseries, which she had so long endured, in the prisons of Elizabeth; And feeling, with the sensibilities of a mother, the sufferings of her son, her cares, her agitations, and her anguish, were mitigated, only, by her frequent tears, and final resolution, to communicate her wrongs, and her sufferings, to Elizabeth, in a letter, which displayed, at once, her acuteness, and ability, her dignified spirit, and intrepid temperament: She sent it, by Mauvisiere, to the Queen’s Majesty. Mary may have received some consolation, from a letter, which the Duchess of Guise, wrote her, on the 28th of October; acquainting her, that the King of France had sent Mons. de la Motte to England and Scotland: and from another letter, on the 29th of October, from the Queen-mother, which expressed her kindness. Mary had now the consolation of seeing, that the French court, seriously interested themselves in her affairs: And their great object was to induce the Scotish King, to receive his mother, as an associate, in his government: But when the French ambassador arrived, in Scotland, he found the King a sort of prisoner, in the hands of Gowry, and his treasonous associates.
Mary’s letter to Elizabeth made a great sensation, which was so unexpected, in its matter, and so able in its manner. Various measures were proposed to be taken upon it, both rigorous, and moderate: But, whatever might be the wisdom and energy of Elizabeth’s ministers, they could not answer, satisfactorily, the Queen of Scots’s letter: For, the original wrong of her imprisonment could not be defended, by any principles. The continuation of that wrong, for more than a dozen of dreary years, was only an aggravation of an unjustifiable outrage.
After all those preparations, Elizabeth endeavoured, to free herself, from the disquietude, which the letter of Mary created, by sending Beal, the usual messenger, on such occasions, a man uncivil in his manners, to expostulate, sharply, with the Scotish Queen, for her letters of complaint. He was entrusted with a further commission. He was joined with Shrewsbury, to negotiate with the imprisoned Queen, about her enlargement. But, this treaty, like all former ones, was merely intended to raise hopes, which were not gratified.
La Motte, the French ambassador, who arrived in London during October, was chiefly instructed, to endeavour to obtain the association of the Scotish Queen, in the government, with her son. He was amused, during several months, while the ministers endeavoured, to obtain the secret of his commission. It was, at length, resolved to allow him to go into Scotland, on condition, that Davison should accompany him, and associate himself with Elizabeth’s minister, Bowes, at Edinburgh. Such were the jealousy, and artifices of the English court. Mons. de la Motte, on the 21st of December, wrote to the Scotish Queen; notifying his mission to her son.
The French ambassador, on his road to Scotland, met Lenoir, near Northallerton, about the 30th of December; when they enlightened each other, on the wretched state of that country. De la Motte, and Davison, the spy, upon him, soon after arrived, at Edinburgh; and had a public audience of the King, before the English ambassador. There were now so many eyes fixed upon de la Motte, and so much secret service money, in distribution, that the secret of this embassy was discovered before it was communicated to the King, on the 20th of January 1583. When Elizabeth, at length, learned this secret, her indignation knew no bounds, that any other person, than herself, should practise the accomplishment of dissimulation. She wrote to Bowes, and Davison, on the 29th of January; commanding them to advertise the Scotish King, that since la Motte had been sent into Scotland, with another commission, than what he pretended; that as he has, since his arrival there, presumed to give the King such advice, as if he (a stranger) were to direct the polity of that realm; and as the King has declared, that in all important affairs, he will steer himself, by her advice; she counsels the King, to dispatch la Motte, from thence, as soon as may be, and promises him further assistance, upon all occasions. The King was now scarcely fifteen; and he was in the hands of a treasonous faction, consisting chiefly of the old plotters against his mother. De la Motte, though he was disappointed, in his chief object, was civilly treated; and left Edinburgh, on his return, on the 10th of February 1583: the other French ambassador, Mons. Mazenville, remained, at Edinburgh, as resident minister. About the same time, Bowes, and Davison, reported to Walsingham their negotiations, and their endeavours to counteract de la Motte. Soon after, Elizabeth, and her ministers, took into consideration the whole negotiation; and seem to have felicitated themselves, that they had prevailed, in their negotiations at Edinburgh; and disappointed the hopes of the Scotish Queen.
But, they could not so easily answer Mary’s energetic letter of grievances, which Mauvisiere, pressed upon them, in April 1583. But, in order to amuse the injured Queen, negotiation, after negotiation, ensued, till the 17th of June, when Mildmay wrote to Burghley, “that he left the Queen of Scots, with some difficulty to believe, that the treaty would proceed towards a match for her, when she had passed forty-one.” It was much more easy, for Elizabeth, to prompt her guilty faction, in Scotland, to raise a violent outcry against the association of Mary, with her son, in his government. James VI, young as he was, freed himself, on the 28th of January 1583, from the thraldom of Elizabeth’s faction, which had endured, since his insidious capture, at Ruthven castle, on the 23d of August 1582. The Earl of Gowry was pardoned, by the King’s clemency, or weakness: But, continuing his traitorous practices, he was arrested, at Dundee; and being tried, for his treasons, and found guilty, he was executed, as in cases of high treason, aggravated, as his case was, by a thousand crimes, and a thousand pardons. To this miscreant was traced the boxful of supposititious papers, which Morton swore he had found, though they were certainly, forged, by the skilful hand of Secretary Maitland. But, whether they went, from Gowry, has not yet been discovered. This wretched noble was the son of that Lord Ruthven, who stabbed Rizzio, in the Queen’s closet; and soon after died of a consumption, in England: The same character was the father of that Earl Gowry, who, having been restored, by King James, to his estate, and honours, attempted in August 1600, within Gowry-house, in Perth, to assassinate the same King; but was slain, in the very act, by Sir John Ramsey. Of this last Gowry, whose estate was annexed to the crown, and his surname of Ruthven abolished, by Parliament, we may say with MILTON,
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