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Book of Scottish Story
Mary Queen of Scots and Chatelar


There are no mysteries into which we arc so fond of prying as the mysteries of the heart. The hero of the best novel in the world, if he could not condescend to fall in love, might march through his three volumes and excite no more sensation than his grandmother; and a newspaper without a breach of promise of marriage is a thing not to be endured.

It is not my intention to affect any singular exception from this natural propensity, and I am ready to confess that the next best thing to being in love oneself, is to speculate on the hopes, and fears, and fates of others. How truly interesting are the little schemes and subterfuges, the romancing and story-telling of our dove-eyed and gentle-hearted playfellows! I have listened to a lame excuse for a stolen ride in a tilbury, or a duet in the woods. with wonderful sensibility; and have witnessed the ceremony of cross-questioning with as much trepidation as I could have felt had I been the culprit myself. It is not, however, to be maintained that the love adventures of the present age can, in any way, compete with the enchantment of days agone; when tender souls were won by tough exploits, and Cupid's dart was a twenty-foot lance, ordained only to reach the lady's heart through the ribs of the rival. This was the golden age of love, albeit I am not one to lament it, thinking, as I do, that it is far more sensible to aid and abet my neighbour in toasting the beauty of his mistress, than to caper about with him in the lists, for contradiction's sake, to the imminent danger and discomfort of us both. After this came the middle or <lark ages of love, when it had ceased to be a glory, but had lost nothing of its fervour as a passion. If there is here less of romance than in the tilting days, there is considerably more of interest, because there is more of mystery. In the one, the test of true love was to make boast, in the other it was to keep secret. Accordingly, for an immense space of time, we have nothing but such fragments of adventures as could be gathered by eavesdroppers, who leave us to put head and tail to them as best suits our fancy; and the loves of Queen Elizabeth, who lived, as it were, only yesterday, are less known than the loves of queen Genevra, who perhaps never lived at all.

These amatory reflections occurred to me some little time ago, during a twilight reverie in the long, gloomy banqueting-room of Holyrood. It was the very land of love and mystery, for there was scarcely one of the grim visages which glared upon the walls, but had obtained his share of celebrity in lady's bower, as well as in tented field; and of scarcely one of whom any certain and defined adventures have been handed down. I continued speculating through this line of kings, blessing the mark and confounding the painter, who has given us so little of their history in their faces, till I grew quite warm upon the subject, and found myself uniting and reasoning upon the few facts of which we are in possession, till I fancied I could penetrate through two or three centuries at least, and had a pretty shrewd idea as to who and who had been together.

Scotland has, I think, in spite of its sober, money-making character, always excited a more romantic curiosity than England. This, perhaps, is more owing to its peculiar misfortunes than to any particular difference of disposition. English heroes have been as brave, and no doubt as loving, but they do not walk under such a halo of pity; and whilst we pry with eagerness into the secrets of the gallant Jameses, we suffer those of their English contemporaries to be "interred with their bones." I have always felt this strongly, and at the time of which I speak, I felt it stronger than ever. I was treading upon the very boards which had bounded to their manly steps, and was surrounded by the very walls which possessed the secret whisperings of their hearts. From that identical window, perhaps, had the first James gazed upon the moon, which I saw rising, and fancied that he almost held commune with the eyes of his English beauty. There, perhaps, had the royal poet entwined her name with the choicest hopes of his bosom, and woven a late of happiness which concealed but too securely the assassin and the dagger behind it. There, too, might the courteous and courageous victims of Flodden Field and Solway Moss have planned the loves which characterised their lives, and the wars which concluded them, almost at the same moment. And there might the hapless Mary have first listened to the poisonous passion of a Darnley, or a Bothwell, and afterwards shed the tears of bitterness and self-reproach.

I paced this sad-looking room of rejoicing quite unconscious of the hours that were passing; for I was alone, and in a train of thought which nothing but a hearty shake could have interrupted. Mary, and all her beauty, and talents, and acquirements, continued floating before me. Her world of lovers and admirers, who, for the most part, were sleeping in a bloody bed seemed rising one by one to my view, and I wandered with them through their hopes, and their fears, and their sorrows, even to the scaffold, as though I had been the ghost of one of them myself, and were possessed of secrets of which there is no living record.

Many of these ill-fated hearts have, by their nobility, or their exploits, or by the caprice of historians, received full meed of applause and pity ; many, no doubt, have sunk into oblivion ; and some, in addition to their misfortunes, have left their memories to combat with the censure which has been thought due to their presumption;—of these last I have always considered the unfortunate Chatelar to have been the most hardly used, and in the course of my musings I endeavoured to puzzle out something satisfactory to myself upon his dark and distorted history.

The birth of Chatelar, if not noble, was in no common degree honourable, for he was great-nephew to the celebrated Bayard, le Chevalier sans peur et sans tachc. It is said that he likewise bore a strong resemblance to him in person, possessing a handsome face and graceful figure; and equally in manly and elegant acquirements, being an expert soldier and an accomplished courtier. In addition to this, says Brantome, who knew him personally, he possessed a most elegant mind, and spoke and wrote, both in prose and poetry, as well as any man in France.

Dangerous indeed are these advantages; and Chatelar's first meeting with Mary was under circumstances calculated to render them doubly dangerous. Alone, as she conceived herself, cast off from the dearest ties of her heart, the land which she had learnt to consider her native land fading fast from her eyes, and the billows bearing her to-the banishment of one with which, as it contained none that she loved, she-could feel no sympathy;—in this scene of wailing and tears, the first tones of' the poet were stealing upon her ear with the spirit of kindred feelings and kindred pursuits. We are to consider that Mary at this time had obtained bur little experience, and was probably not overstocked with prudence, having scarcely attained the age of nineteen years. Not only, are we told, did she listen with complacency and pleasure to Chatelar's warm and romantic praises of her beauty, but employed her poetic talent in approving and replying to-them; putting herself upon a level with. her gifted companion, a course which was morally certain to convert his veneration into feelings more nearly allied to his nature. Had he not been blamed for his presumption, it is probable that he would have been condemned for his stoicism; and his luckless passion is by no means a singular proof that where hearts are cast in kindred moulds, it is difficult to recognise extrinsic disparities. Chatelar saw the woman, and forgot the queen; Mary felt the satisfaction, and was blind to the consequences.

It is much to be lamented by the lovers of truth, that none of the poetical pieces which are said to have passed between Mary and Chatelar have been handed down to us. One song would have been a more valuable document in the elucidation of their history than all the annals we possess, and would have taught us at once the degree of encouragement and intimacy which was permitted. Whatever it was, it was such as to rivet the chains which had been so readily and unadvisedly put on; and from the period of their first meeting, we may consider him the most enthusiastic of her lovers.

How long he continued the admiration and the favourite of Holyrood does not, I believe, appear. It could not, however, be any considerable time ere he was compelled to return with his friend and patron, Damville, to France, with full reason to lament his voyage to Scotland, and with, probably, a (inn determination to revisit it whenever opportunity should permit. This opportunity his evil stars were not long in bringing about. The projected war of faith between Damville's party and the Huguenots afforded him a fair pretext for soliciting a dispensation of his services. Of the first lie was a servant, of the last he was a disciple. It was therefore contrary to his honour and inclinations to fight against either of them, and, accordingly, in about fifteen months, we find him again at Holyrood.

Mary, it may reasonably be inferred, from her extreme love of France, and unwillingness to leave it, was not very speedily to be reconciled to her change of scene and society; a face, therefore, from the adopted land of her affections, and a tongue capable of gratifying them with the minutest accounts of the beloved objects it contained, must, at this time, have been acquisitions of no small interest. Chatelar, too, had already worked a welcome on his own account.

Few of my readers need be reminded how insensibly and certainly the tongue which speaks of that which is dear to our hearts is stored up with it in the same treasury. The talc and the teller of it,—the leaf and the wave it falls upon,—arrive at the same time at the same destination. Histories, for the most part, insinuate that Mary's carriage towards Chatelar was merely that of kindness and courtesy; but this, I think, is an inference not warranted by the various facts which they have been unable to repress, and not even the silence of the inveterate John Knox upon this head can convince me that Chatelar had not reason to believe himself beloved.

Let us then imagine, if we can, what was likely to be the intoxication produced in the brain as well as the bosom of a man of an enthusiastic temperament by a free and daily intercourse, during three months, with the fascinations of a creature like Mary. What tales could that old misshapen boudoir—famous only, in common estimation, for the murder of Rizzio and the boot of Darnley—tell of smiles and tears over the fortunes of dear and distant companions of childhood, as narrated by the voice of one to whom, perhaps, they were equally dear i What tales could it tell of mingling music, and mingling poetry, and mingling looks, and vain regrets, and fearful Anticipations 1 Here had the day been passed in listening to the praises of each other, from lips in which praise was a talent and a profession; and here had the twilight stolen upon them when none were by, and none could know how deeply the truth of those praises was acknowledged. Let us imagine all this, and, likewise, how Chatelar was likely to be wrought upon by the utter hopelessness of his case.

Had the object of his passion been upon anything like a level with him,— had there been the most remote possibility of a chance of its attainment,— his subsequent conduct would, most likely, not have been such as to render it a subject for investigation. But Mary must have been as inaccessible to him as the being of another world. The devotion which he felt for her was looked upon by the heads of her court as a species of sacrilege; and he was given to believe, that each had a plan for undermining his happiness and removing him from her favour. If this could not be effected, it was a moral certainty that Mary, in the bloom of her youth and the plentitude of her power, must become to some one of her numerous suitors all which it was impossible that she could ever become to him. Of these two cases, perhaps, the one was as bad as the other, and Chatelar was impelled to an act of desperation, which, in these matter-of-fact days, can scarcely be conceived. On the night of the 12th of February, 1563, he was found concealed in the young queen's bed-chamber.

It would, I fear, be a difficult undertaking, in the eyes of dispassionate and reasoning persons, to throw a charitable doubt upon the motives of this unseasonable intrusion. The fair and obvious inference is, that he depended upon the impression he had made upon Mary's heart, and the impossibility of their lawful union. In some degree, too, he might have been influenced by the perilous consequences of a discovery, to which he possibly thought her love would not permit her to expose him. The propriety of this argument, if he made use of it, was not put to the test, for his discovery fell to the lot of Mary's female attendants before she retired.

There is, however, another class of readers who will give him credit for other thoughts. I mean those best of all possible judges of love-affairs, in whom the commonplaces of life have not entirely destroyed that kindly feeling of romance which Nature thought it necessary to implant in them, and which the usage of modern days renders it necessary for them to be ashamed of. The readers of whom I speak will decide more from the heart than the head; and then what an interminable field of defence is laid open! What strange feelings and unaccountable exploits might be furnished from the catalogue of love vagaries! Were Chatelar to be judged by other examples, the simple circumstance of his secreting himself for the mere purpose of being in the hallowed neighbourhood of his mistress, and without the most distant idea of making her acquainted with it, would appear a very commonplace and very pardonable occurrence. And if we keep in mind his poetical character and chivalrous education, this belief is materially strengthened.

On the following morning the affair was made known to the Queen by her ladies. Had they been wise enough to hold their peace, it is odds but the lover's taste for adventure would have been satisfied by the first essay. Instead of this, being forbidden all future access to her presence, he became more desperate than ever. His motives had been misconstrued; his actions, he thought, had been misrepresented; he was bent on explanation, and he hoped for pardon. Thus it was that when Mary, on the same day, quitted Edinburgh, her disgraced admirer executed his determination of following her, and, on the night of the 14th, seized the only opportunity of an interview by committing the very same offence for which he was then suffering: Mary had no sooner entered her chamber than Chatelar stood before her.

Whatever her feelings may have been towards him,' it is not surprising that this sudden apparition should have proved somewhat startling, and have produced an agitation not very favourable to his cause. It may be presumed that she was not mistress of her actions, for certain it is, that she did that which, if she possessed one half of the womanly tenderness for which she has credit, must have been a blight and a bitterness upon her after 1ife. Chatelar comes, wounded to the quick, to supplicate a hearing, and the Queen, it is said, "was fain to cry for help," and desire Murray, who came at her call, to "put his dagger into him."

Thus, by dint of unnecessary terrors and unmeaning words, was Chatelar given over to an enemy who had always kept a jealous eye upon him, and to justice, which seemed determined to strain a point for his sake, and give him something more than his due. In a few days he was tried, and experienced the usual fate of favourites by being condemned to death.

Alas! how bitter is the recollection of even trifling injuries towards those who loved and are lost to us! Vet what had this been in counterpoise to the reflections of Mary? She had given over a fond and a fervent heart to death for no fault but too much love, and any attempt to recall the deed might have afforded a colour to the aspersions which malignant persons were ever ready to cast upon her character, but could have availed no further.

For Chatelar there was little leisure for reflection. The fever of the first surprise,—the strange, the appalling conviction as to the hand which hurled him to his fate,— the shame, the humiliation, the indignation, had scarce-time to cool in his forfeit blood, before he was brought out to die the death of a culprit upon the scaffold.

It has been the fashion for writers upon this subject, in the quiet and safety of their firesides, to exclaim against his want of preparation for his transit ; but, under such circumstances, I cannot much wonder that he should rather rebel against the usual ceremonies of psalm-singing and last speeches. If he chose to nerve himself for death by reading Ronsard's hymn upon it, it is no proof that he looked with irreverence upon what was to follow it. His last words are extremely touching; for they prove that, though he considered that Mary had remorselessly sacrificed his life, his sorrow was greater than his resentment, and his love went with him to the grave. "Adieu," he said, turning to the quarter in which he supposed her to be, "adieu, most beautiful and most cruel princess in the world!" and then submitting himself to the executioner, he met the last stroke with a courage consistent with his character.

Of Mary's behaviour on this event, history, I believe, gives no account.

My ponderings upon this singular story had detained me long. The old pictures on the walls glistened and glimmered in the moonshine like a band of spectres; and, at last, I fairly fancied that I saw one grisly gentleman pointing at me with his truncheon, in the act of directing his Furies to "seize on me and take me to their torments." It was almost time to be gone, but the thought of Chatelar seemed holding me by the skirts. I could not depart without taking another look at the scene of his happiest hours, and I stole, shadow-like. with as little noise as I could, through the narrow passages and staircases, till I stood in Mary's little private apartment. As I passed the antechamber, the light was shining only on the stain of blood; the black shadows here and elsewhere made the walls appear as-though they had been hung with mourning. I do not know that ever I fell so melancholy; and had not the owl just then given a most dismal whoop, there is no telling but that I might have had courage and sentiment enough to have stayed until I had been locked up for the night. I passed by the low bed. under which Chatelar is said to have hidden himself. It must have cost him some trouble to get there! I glanced hastily at the faded tambour work, which, it is possible, he might have witnessed in its progress; and I shook my head with much satisfaction to think that I had a head to shake. "If," said I, "there is more interest attached to the old times of love, it is, after all, in some degree, counterbalanced by the safety of the present ; and I know not whether it is not better to be born in the age when racks and torments are used metaphorically, than in those in which it is an even chance that I might have encountered the reality."—Literary Souvenir, 1825.


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