THE Scotish Queen might have, easily, foreseen, from the jealousies of Elizabeth, and the vigilance of Cecil, that her intercourse, with Norfolk, would neither release her, from confinement, nor contribute to her comfort. But, the Queen, from her arrival, in England, had allowed confident hope, to delude her into notions, and expectations, which probability did not warrant, and possibility could alone justify. Acting upon such delusive principles, she could, only, expect to meet disappointment, in her progress. What she wrote, however, to the Bishop of Ross, in answer to his first letter to her, after his imprisonment, merits our approbation: She had now been confined, said she, for ten weeks to one chamber, which, considering her disorder, endangered her life; and, however her death might gratify her enemies, she called God to witness, she considered herself, in no danger, from the Earl of Shrewsbury, who would have a due regard to his honour: She was determined to do her duty, in preserving her life; but if it please God to take it, it would not be much to her grief; yet would she die, with the constancy of a good christian, and of a Queen, descended of such blood as hers: She should rejoice to leave this false world, with a fair conscience; knowing she had left a son, and heir, who had friends, that were able to defend her cause, and his, after she was gone. This letter to her faithful agent contains a notable mixture of despondency and firmness.
In the subsequent month, Shrewsbury was summoned, by Elizabeth, to attend her on special business, in January then next: And old Ralph Sadler was dispatched, to take charge of the Scotish Queen, in the absence of her warden. Sir Ralph arrived, at Sheffield, before the commencement of the new year. And, he had, immediately, his first interview with the fair object of his charge. He assured her of his wish to do every thing acceptable to her, consistent with his duty. She replied, that she was in Elizabeth’s hands, who would order as she pleased: But, she thought herself, hardly, and undeservedly, treated. To this intimation, Sir Ralph replied, in the cant of the court, that her own conscience would tell her, that the Queen had good cause, to do more than she had done, as he would convince her, if she pleased. But, Mary declined to go into fruitless crimination. Sir Ralph, however, seems to have soon after renewed his conversation, though the Scotish Queen came not out of her chamber, where Lady Shrewsbury often saw her. The Queen, who had so much cause to feel, that she was not free, complained much of Elizabeth’s hard usage, in depriving her of her liberty. The time was now come, for Sir Ralph to enlarge on the mildness of his mistress’s government. The Scotish Queen, said he, had only herself to blame, by constantly stirring up plots against her government; and yet no other prince would have used so much courtesy. It is apparent, that Sir Ralph, with all his experience, slurred over the fundamental complaint of Mary, which comprehended all other grievances. I came into England a fugitive, to ask my relation, for aid; and she imprisoned me: What moral right had she, to deprive me of my liberty? Cecil, we may remember, attempted to answer this question, and failed, egregiously, and Sir Ralph was silent. This immoral, and illegitimate, conduct of Elizabeth, gave Mary a right, to use her best endeavours to regain her freedom: And as Elizabeth placed herself in a hostile attitude against Mary; so the Scotish Queen acquired the same right to treat Elizabeth, as an enemy. Mary, added, she knew not what the Duke of Norfolk, and others, might have done: They must be answerable for their own actions: but for her own part, she was innocent of any attempts against her Majesty, or her government. As to the Bishop of Ross; he was a fearful priest, who would say any thing; and if he was at liberty, and out of the realm, would unsay it again. She disclaimed all connection with the man, named Rudolphi; and denied Sir Ralph’s charges of plots, though he suspected, that she knew more of such matters than she would acknowledge. He was soon tired of his situation at Sheffield, and wished to return to London; as he could not, easily, please either Queen.
Shrewsbury relieved Sir Ralph, in this invidious charge, on the 3d of February 1572. He brought with him an epistle from Cecil, in the name of his mistress. The secretary disapproved highly of the Scotish Queen’s last letter to her majesty, which was filled, said he, with “uncomely, passionate, ireful, and vindictive speeches;” and he referred the Scotish Queen to a memorial, which Shrewsbury would deliver; and to which her majesty desired a rational and temperate answer. Elizabeth was so used to flattery, and submission, that she could not relish the plain, and vigorous writing of such a character, as the Scotish Queen, who derived animation from her feelings. The two Queens could not easily join issue, on any point; so differently did they feel, and think. Shrewsbury informed Cecil, that the Queen of Scots had written her mind, at great length, to her Majesty. Since his return, the Scotish Queen had been once out; “and she was so eager to walk out, that she was content to step over her shoes into the snow;” such was the anxiety of a prisoner. Shrewsbury had been called to London, to give his advice, about the measures, which were, plainly, in contemplation, with regard to the Scotish Queen. And, his charge having some intimation of his advice, treated her warden, with less ceremony of manner, and more sharpness of speech, than her usual courtesy dictated.
Meantime, Scotland was distracted, as well by foreign, as by civil war, arising from Elizabeth’s guilty passions of hatred, interest, and ambition. By her expeditions, her armies laid waste the southern, and western districts of that unhappy kingdom. The Queen’s friends found new leaders, in Maitland, the ablest statesman, and in Grange, the best soldier. But, the Queen, and her friends, sustained a great loss, in April 1571, by the capture of Dunbarton castle, and with it, Archbishop Hamilton; who being tried for crimes, whereof he was not guilty, was soon after barbarously executed. Lennox, the Regent of Elizabeth, did not please her; as he disobeyed her instructions, and violated his engagements. He ere long met his fate, in September 1571: while he was holding a convention, at Stirling, he was surprised, and slain, by a detachment, which had been sent, from Edinburgh; and which had it been as well conducted, as the expedition was ably planned; the whole of the King’s party had been destroyed. The Earl of Mar was chosen successor to Lennox: But, being thwarted by Morton, the agent of Elizabeth, in his endeavours for peace, died in October 1572, some said of poison, some, of a broken heart. Morton now succeeded Mar, as Regent; and ruled this unhappy kingdom, for many a year, with an iron rod, forged by Elizabeth, and exercised by him.
The French King, though not the French government, seems to have been sincere, but feeble, in his endeavours, to protect the Queen of Scots. The year 1572, opened with a treaty, between England, and France: and Charles IX, strenuously, insisted, that the Scotish Queen, and her cause, should be introduced into the treaty, which was then under negotiation. The English ambassadors, easily, answered, in technical language, that they had no authority, to treat of that Queen, or her pretensions. As an ancient ally, and Dowager of France, the French King might have insisted, that the treaty might be postponed, till they obtained powers, for so just a purpose. But, the whole conversation of the English envoys evinced, sufficiently, what had now become apparent, that Elizabeth had, finally, determined, to imprison the Scotish Queen for life: But, the questions of fitness, and of right, in making the Queen of Scots answerable, in her person, for the supposititious security of Elizabeth, will always recur. That Queen coming into England, peaceably, to ask, for safety, could not be imprisoned upon any principle of national law, of any moral system, or of any religious establishment.
But, scenes of a somewhat different sort were, at hand. Burghley had exhausted his whole policy, and artifices, to induce Elizabeth to proceed, effectually against the Duke of Norfolk, who had lain long, in the Tower, and against the Queen of Scots, whom he intended, to pursue, criminally. Owing to Elizabeth’s temperament, the Scotish Queen became, daily, a greater object of jealousy, dread, and vexation, while France, and Italy, and Spain, pitied her hard fate, and endeavoured her relief.
In this state of things, with regard to both those great persons, Burghley advised the calling of a Parliament, which he could influence, for consultation, and advice. Meanwhile, he applied to the English bishops, for their spiritual advice, in respect to the Scotish Queen. The Parliament assembled, on the 8th of May 1572. The Scotish Queen had been, sufficiently, calumniated, both at home, and abroad, by Burghley’s artifices, to admit of any member, of either house of Parliament, to be ignorant of what was laid to her charge, either proved, or unproved, by whatever means. There seems to have been no speech from the throne, pointing to the causes of the Parliamentary meeting: But, we perceive Burghley very busy, in managing the several members of both houses of Parliament. We see what he had communicated, privately, to both: We see the “reasons, drawn out of the Scriptures, for proceeding severely against the Scotish Queen:” We see “an argument, persuading the Queen’s majesty to have great care of the safety of her own person:” We see “reasons, out of the civil law, against the Scotish Queen:” We see “reasons, to prove the fitness, both in honour, and in justice, of proceeding against the Queen of Scots, for the treasons committed by her.” Both houses, owing to these causes, were violently heated, as well by their zeal for religion, as their enmity to the Scotish Queen, and by their attachment to Elizabeth: They saw every object through the mist of prejudice. Under this influence, it was said, in the humble petition to her majesty, “that the late Queen of Scots being driven through violence, to take harbour in your realm, had not only your majesty’s most gracious protection, but was saved, by your authority, from the execution of death, within her own kingdom.” But, protection, and imprisonment are quite different, in their nature; and supply very different inferences: The fact is, that the Scotish Queen was imprisoned, and not protected, when she landed, peaceably, in England: And neither Elizabeth, nor Cecil, ever justified this act of imprisonment; because, it could not be defended, by any law, or any policy: It was a mere act of violence, which continued to the present moment; and nullified the reasonings of those, who called for the blood of the Scotish Queen. The Commons voted a petition, for the execution of the Duke of Norfolk; which was, accordingly done, on the second of June 1572. The Lords sent to the Commons a bill of attainder of the daughter of James V. the late Queen of Scots: This bill was passed; and was returned to the Lords. But, the Parliament were, immediately commanded, by the Queen, to adjourn themselves; yet, this adjournment, saith D’Ewes, put an end to this present session; her majesty giving her assent to thirteen public, and four private acts, though the bill of attainder was, virtually, rejected, by Elizabeth; who seems to have been alarmed, by the zeal, and vehemence, of the two houses, which Burghley had promoted, and which induced her, to put a sudden end to their proceedings, even sooner than her minister expected.
Meanwhile, Burghley, in the usual style of his policy, sent commissioners, soon after the execution of Norfolk, to accuse the Scotish Queen of certain matters, with which she may be charged.
This measure was communicated, by Elizabeth, to Shrewsbury, on the 11th of June 1572. There was a more elaborate epistle written to the Scottish Queen; informing her of the same measure; and that both houses of Parliament had earnestly petitioned her that measures might be taken against that Queen, as a person, continually, employed, in schemes to deprive Elizabeth of her crown, and to foment rebellion, in England: The Queen of Scots was now required to answer the questions which would be put to her, by the royal commissioners, plainly, and not give way to frivolous answers, which, she was told, would only injure her cause.
The Scotish Queen might have said, generally, if I be such a character, as you describe, send me a passport, to carry me out of England: She, undoubtedly, protested against the jurisdiction of the Queen of England, and against the authority of her commissioners, to demand answers of her.
The Scotish Queen now answered those several charges, with a settled mind, and countenance, as we learn, from Camden, who has given both the charges, and answers. The first charge might have been worded in this manner: You claimed the crown of England, with the style, and arms thereof, in the life of Francis II. and since his demise, and have not relinquished this claim, though you were bound, by the treaty of Edinburgh, so to do, and have been often requested. No: She ought not to have been charged, with this article, because, before she left France, she gave a decisive reason, why she ought not to be so charged. She said, that she was a married woman, under the power of her husband; and they were both under the authority of the French King, who commanded them, to assume the title, and arms of England; but, since her husband’s death, she had never used such title, and arms, and never intended to use them, during the life of Elizabeth, and her legitimate issue: As to the treaty of Edinburgh, with the making of which the several negotiators ought to be ashamed, she had a right, as a sovereign, to refuse her ratification; because it was made by her negotiators, who stated, they had no authority to consent to such a clause; which was in itself unfit to be ratified; as it conveyed a different meaning, from the true one. Now; this reasoning never was answered, because, it could not be, fairly, answered; Yet, was this charge always brought forward, unfairly, by Cecil, one of the negotiators of the treaty of Edinburgh, in order by the accumulation of petty charges, to make out one great act of efficient crimination.
As an introduction to her particular answer to each several charge, the Scotish Queen might have reasoned, in this manner: Upon the assurances of your Queen, I came voluntarily into England, to claim that asylum, and protection, which, contrary to treaty, you gave, year after year, to every plotter, murderer, and traitor, who fled from my realm to yours: But, instead of an asylum, and protection, you immediately placed me in ward, and have imprisoned my person, from that epoch to this moment, without pretending to justify my imprisonment, which is against all law, all morals, and all religion: And, because you acted against law, morals, and religion, when you imprisoned me; you thereby gave me a right to free myself, from your unwarrantable imprisonment, by all the means, and all the persons, within my power, however inconvenient to you; as you brought that inconvenience upon yourselves, by your own wrong, to my injury: You have carried on enquiries, with regard to my conduct, within my own kingdom, in the unfairest manner, for the odious purposes of calumniation, and detraction; and you have published libels against me, which you have sent into France, with the base design of depriving me of my friends, by representing me, as a person unworthy of their protection, or kindness. Thus might Mary have remonstrated to those commissioners, who came, to tempt, and betray, rather than to discuss, and settle, any point: What they charged her with; and what she answered, may be seen, in Camden, Strype, and the public papers that have been printed; and she sent both the charges, and answers, to the French ambassador, on the 19th of June 1572.
Owing to all those events, the year 1572, may be considered, as fatal to the hopes of the Scotish Queen, who was now at the age of thirty. An attainder, by the two Houses of Parliament, stood recorded against her. Her correspondences had been almost all intercepted: And, the answers, however guarded, which had been, by Burghley’s artifices, obtained from her to those supposititious charges, laid open many of her intrigues, for her freedom. Her faithful, and zealous agent, the Bishop of Ross, after a long imprisonment, was ordered, to quit the kingdom. Her party, in Scotland, by neglect, and mismanagement, had almost melted away, if we except the persons, who remained, in Edinburgh-castle, which was taken, in the subsequent year, by Elizabeth’s army. And above all, the massacre of Paris, by exciting general indignation, gave a severe stroke to every pretension of the unfortunate Queen.
The unhappy Queen, like the man in deep waters, catched at the straw, which was the most likely to save her. Such feeble efforts, were easily baffled, by the pretences of Elizabeth, who had, by the imprisonment of Mary, done her such an injury, as nothing, which the Scottish Queen had done, could balance. The Earl of Northumberland, who had escaped to Scotland, was surrendered, by Morton, in consideration of money paid him; and the ill-fated earl was soon after executed, as a traitor, at York. It is the remark of Camden, that Morton had received from Northumberland, many favours, when he had fled into England, after the murder of Rizzio: But, who ever, he adds, were grateful to the unfortunate.
The policy of Elizabeth, in not assenting to the act of attainder against the Queen of Scots was, formerly, communicated to her, by Shrewsbury. The favoured Queen expressed herself much pleased; and said, “she hoped, as her Majesty had respected the justice of her cause, in one point, she would do so in others; and that her enemies would not attempt to prejudice her Majesty farther against her:” The Earl advised her to continue in that disposition; and to lay aside all sinister dealings, as the only way to continue her Majesty’s favour: But, said he to Burghley, “I cannot pretend to say, that she will forbear her accustomed practices.” No: while the warden continued to intercept, and open, her letters, she received them, from his hands, with expressions of indignation. But, that a high spirited Queen should not, under an unprincipled, and unjust, imprisonment, sit down, without a struggle, was supposed, by Elizabeth, and her statesmen, to be vastly unnatural, and absurd. Yet, was the absurdity, and the unreasonableness, all their own: as the conduct of the imprisoned Queen was exactly what might have been expected; being so natural. Elizabeth had indulged her guilty passions, respecting the Scottish Queen, till she became crazy; and being crazy, supposed that she could not exist, if the Queen of Scots were free: It may, however, be asked, how Elizabeth existed, while her rival queen enjoyed her freedom. Wickedness, is a kind of voluntary frenzy, and a chosen distraction, saith TILLOTSON: And we may thus infer, what must have been the state of Elizabeth’s mind, when, about that time, she told her ministers, “that the Queen of Scots’s head should never be in quiet.”