IN July 1565, Mary married her youthful cousin, Henry, Lord Darnley, son of the Earl of Lennox. This was a match not without its politic aspect, as things stood at that time, for, by accepting Darnley as her husband, the Scottish queen took a rival out of her way to the English throne, and added his pretensions to her own.* As Darnley, however, was a Catholic, the union was disrelished by Queen Elizabeth, as well as by all the leaders of the Protestant interest in Scotland. A still greater objection to it lay in his weak and childish character.
Moray and his friends were thrown by the event into a rebellion; which, however, quickly ended in his defeat and exile. The queen then ruled for some time with the assistance of her husband and of her Italian secretary, David Riccio. In such circumstances, it was unavoidable that the confidence of her Protestant people should abate. Riccio was assassinated at Holyroodhouse, in the queen’s presence (March 9, 1566). The horrible outrage took a strong hold of Mary’s feelings, and was allowed too much to sway her subsequent actions. She seemed, however, to be reconciled to her husband; and not long after, her son, who afterwards became James VI., was born (June 19, 1566).
The childishness and low habits of Darnley completely unfitted him to become an adviser and help to the queen. As the only remaining resource, she began to give her confidence to the Earl of Bothwell and the Earl of Huntly, two nobles of great power, but whose administration could not bring her so much popularity. Bothwell was a man of coarse character, fully as much disposed as any man in that age to gain his ambitious ends by violence. He seems now to have thought that an opportunity was presented for his acquiring a mastery in Scotland. He caused the wretched Darnley to be murdered at his lodging in the Kirk of Field, near Edinburgh (February 10, 1567). Being suspected and accused of this act, he submitted to a trial, but was able to overbear justice, and to maintain his place in the queen’s councils.**
Mary, consequently, suffered in reputation, though whether she was aware of Bothwell’s guilt is to this day a matter of doubt; much less is it certain that she had, as has been suspected, a guilty knowledge of her husband’s death.
Having procured the countenance of some of the nobility to his plans, Bothwell seized the queen near the river Almond (April 24), and conducted her to his castle of Dunbar, where he kept her a prisoner, as was generally believed, by her own consent. His wife being hastily divorced, he married the queen (May 15), and thus seemed to have fully attained the object of his ambition; but the Protestant leaders rose in arms, took the queen away from him, and drove him into banishment. Mary, as one suspected of horrible crimes, was imprisoned in Lochleven Castle (June 17), and forced to sign a deed of abdication in favour of her infant son, who was consequently crowned as James VI., with the Earl of Moray as regent during his minority (July 29).
‘Ane guid summer and har’est.’ – C. F.
Aug. – The queen and her husband were obliged, immediately after their marriage, to set about the suppression of a rebellion. The measure they adopted for raising troops was according to the custom and rule of the Scottish government. The feudal mode of raising an army was felt as a serious burden, particularly in the larger towns, where industry had attained, of course, the highest organisation. For the Rothschilds of Edinburgh, such as they were, there was another trouble. The mode of raising money adopted by Henry and Mary was not quite what would suit the views of modern men of that class. Sept. 27, ‘Our soveranes causit certain of the principals of Edinburgh to come to them to Halyrudehouse, and after their coming, some of free will, and some brought agains their will, our soverane lady made ane orison to them, desiring them to lend her certain sowms of money, whilk they refusit to do; and therefore they were commandit to remain in ward within the auld tower wherein my lord of Morray lodgit, wherein they remainit.’ Ultimately, the two difficulties were in a manner solved by each other. On the 6th of October, the above-mentioned notables of the city ‘agreeit with our soveranes in this manner, to lend their majesties ten thousand merks, upon the superiority of Leith, under reversion,… and alse to give their highnesses ane thousand pounds, to suffer the haill town to remain at hame.’
For some time after, the criminal records abound in cases of persons ‘delatit for abiding from the queen’s host.’
Nov. – The town-council of Edinburgh were accustomed annually, at this time, to bestow upon their chief a bullock, which was called The Provost’s Ox, twelve pounds Scots being allowed for the purpose of buying the best that was to be had. They also now gave him a tun of wine, and twelve ells of velvet to make him a gown, as an acknowledgement of special services he had done to the city.
June 19. – A prince, who subsequently became James VI., was born to the queen in Edinburgh Castle, within that small irregularly shaped room, of about eight feet each way, which is still to be seen in the angle of the old palace.
Dec. 17. – The young prince was baptised at Stirling Castle, and named Charles James. The preparations in apparel and decorations were magnificent beyond everything of the kind hitherto known. ‘The said prince was borne out of his chalmer to the chapel by the French ambassador, my Lady of Argyle, cummer for the Queen of England by commission, and Monsieur La Croc for the Duke of Savoy. All the barons and gentlemen bore prickets of wax, wha stood in rank on ilk side, frae the prince’s chalmer door to the said chapel. Next the French ambassador, and great serge of wax by the Earl of Athole, the salt-vat by the Earl of Eglintoun, the cude by the Lord Semple, the basin and laver by the Lord Ross; and at the chapel door, the prince was receivit by my Lord Sanct Androis, with staff, mitre, cross, and the rest. The prince was baptisit in the said font’ [which was ‘twa stane wecht, of fine gold,’ a gift from Queen Elizabeth], ‘and their solemnities endit by near five hours afternoon, with singing and playing on organs.’ – D. O.
It appears that at these festivities the skeleton was not wanting. ‘There was sitting in the entry of the castle a poor man asking alms, having a young child upon his knee, whose head was so great [hydrocephalus?] that the body of the child could scarce bear it up. A certain gentleman perceiving it, could scarce refrain from tears, for fear of the evils he judged to be portended.’ – Knox.
Feb. 10. – ‘… at twa hours in the morning, there come certain traitors to the provost’s house [in the Kirk of Field], wherein was our sovereign’s husband Henry, and ane servant of his, callit William Taylor, lying in their naked beds; and there privily with wrang keys openit the doors, and come in upon the said prince, and there without mercy worried him and his said servant in their beds; and thereafter took him and his servant furth of that house, and cuist him naked in ane yard beside the Thief Raw, and syne come to the house again, and blew the house in the air, sae that there remainit not ane stane upon ane other, undestroyit… At five hours, the said prince and his servant was found lying dead in the said yard, and was ta’en into ane house in the Kirk of Field, and laid while [till] they were buriet.’ – D. O.
Buchanan relates two ‘prodigies’ which happened in connection with the death of Darnley. ‘One John Lundin, a gentleman of Fife, having long been sick of a fever, the day before the king was killed, about noon, raised himself a little in his bed, and, as if he had been astonished, cried out to those that stood by him, with a loud voice, “to go help the king, for the parricides were just then murdering him;” and a while after he called out with a mournful tone, “Now it is too late to help him; he is already murdered;” and he himself lived not long after he had uttered these words.’ The other circumstance occurred just at the time the murder happened. ‘Three of the familiar friends of the Earl of Athole, the king’s cousin, men of reputation for valour and estate, had their lodgings not far from the king’s. When they were asleep about midnight, there was a certain man seemed to come to Dugald Stewart, who lay next the wall, and to draw his hand gently over his beard and cheek, so as to awake him, saying, “Arise, they are offering violence to you.” He presently awaked, and was considering the apparition within himself, when another of them cries out presently in the same bed, “Who kicks me?” Dugald answered, “Perhaps it is a cat, which used to walk about in the night;” upon which the third, who was not yet awake, rose presently out of his bed, and stood upon the floor demanding, “who it was that had given him a bos on the ear.” As soon as he had spoken, a person seemed to go out of the house by the door, and that not without some noise. Whilst they were descanting on what they had heard and seen, the noise of the blowing up of the king’s house put them into a very terrible consternation.’