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Chapter 4 - Queen Mary - Part 2


She had no love for Mary Stewart. The day on which she, the mother of the king, had to give precedence to the young beauty who had become reigning queen, stamped its mark on her black heart. Mary stung the dowager occasionally with her sarcastic tongue; for few were better adepts at that dangerous accomplishment which torments and makes enemies. For all its illustrious history, the house of Medici was an anomaly among the feudalities, from having founded its wealth and power on commerce instead of rapine, and it lay open to sneers as not legitimately regal; hence Mary called her mother-in-law the fille de Marchand—a sneer which Catherine committed to her dangerous and retentive memory. She was pretty freely accused, indeed, of having shortened her son’s life, because she thought she would have more power were he out of the way; and no doubt she was quite capable of the deed. The only thing in which she showed any of the confiding weakness of mankind was in being a devotee of astrology and divination; but these, if they were supernatural, yet were agencies put in the power of man which she might turn to her own immediate purpose, and which were therefore far more to be respected than the religion which belonged to another world, in which she could not command obedience.

Well, Catherine was against the Spanish match, for the obvious reason that it would render the power of the Lorraine Guises preponderant over that of herself and her sons. She was indefatigable in carrying her point. M. Chéruel has published some of her letters on the affair to the Bishop of Limoges, the French ambassador in Spain. Strange documents they are, subtle almost to unintelligibility, full of ingenious suggestion and eager pleading, with a shadowy half-hidden under-current of menace. It was difficult to bring very powerful arguments to bear against an arrangement so advantageous to both the parties concerned. She tried to make out that it would be extremely detrimental to the Catholic cause, because, if her hand were weakened by the aggrandisement of the Guises, it would be the Huguenot King of Navarre, and not she, who would really obtain the chief influence in France. She endeavoured to work through King Philip’s confessor and several of his confidential advisers. Her daughter was Philip’s third wife—to her the most plausible arguments were addressed.

It was proposed that Don Carlos, instead of having Mary, should be married to the younger sister of his stepmother, the Queen of Spain. Thus that Queen would have a sister with her and her position would be strengthened by an alliance with the heir to the throne, on whom her own personal claim as his stepmother would be but small. Catherine even endeavoured to move Queen Elizabeth to her ends by presenting to her a prospect, no doubt sufficiently alarming, both for the cause of Protestantism and her own personal interest. But how Elizabeth could have acted in the matter save through the influence of Murray, afterwards the Regent, on his sister is not very clear. The match, however was defeated. People so unscrupulous as Catherine are very successful in accomplishing their ends. She had in her employment a countryman of her own, one Bianci, or Blanc, as the French annalists call him, an expert confectioner who got the title of Queen Catherine’s poisoner—that being the function by which he was reputed to gain his living. A powerful effect would be produced on the mind by such a thought passing over it as—" Well, if I push her to the wall, that woman will poison me." From whatever cause, however she had her way on this occasion, and one of the most brilliant of the dreams of ambition was dispersed.

So ends the first act; but the tragedy in which the King of Spain, the Lorraine Guises, and Queen Mary, continue to be the chief characters, is not yet acted out. The first casualty is among the Guises. Mary has not long endured her dreary banishment to her own kingdom, when a despatch arrives telling her how the brave Balafré has been murdered by the fanatic Poltrot. The blow is a severe one. The uncle and niece had an abundant fund of common sympathies. Both were princely, not alone by descent and conventional rank, but by the original stamp of the Deity, which had given them majesty and beauty in externals, balanced by bravery, wit, geniality, and high spirit as their intellectual and moral inheritance. She was proud of the great warrior and the wise statesman who had guided her youthful steps to greatness, and he was proud to be the parent and instructor of the most fascinating princess of her age.

It was just after his death that the dark days of Mary came upon her. Her maternal house still kept up a close intercourse with her but personally their relation had widened. They were cousins now, not uncle and niece, and their intercourse was rather diplomatic than affectionate.

Upwards of twenty years have passed, and preparation is made for the chamber of execution at Fotheringay, yet still the chief persons in the drama are the same. A whisper arises and passes over Europe, is a King of France, a descendant of St Louis, a grandson of the great Francis, going to permit his sister-in-law, who wore the crown, and yet bears the title of a Dowager Queen of France, to be put to death like a felon? Certainly not. There is a certain Monsieur Belliévre accredited to the Court of Elizabeth, for the purpose of bringing her to reason, and stopping any attempt at violence. He seems to have acted in some degree like the consul who quoted Bynkershook and Pufendorf and Grotius, and proved from Vatel, &c.; and in the text of the inviolability of princes, he quoted Cicero, and referred to Mark Antony, Mutius Scævola, and Porsenna with such apt, diplomatic scholarship, that De Thou thought his speeches to Elizabeth, as reported by the speaker, worthy of being incorporated in full in his great History. But in reality Belliévre had a wondrously difficult part to perform, and his big classic talk was all intended to blazon over and hide his real helplessness.

Had the King of France determined to act ?—that was the critical question. He had come to no such determination; or rather he had determined, if such a term is appropriate, not to act, and Elizabeth knew it. His object in the embassy was to hide his real abandonment of his sister-in-law from the eye of Europe. The ambassador, however, had personally too much chivalry for such a task. When he was done with his classical citations, at a long personal interview he at last distinctly threatened Elizabeth, should she persist, with the vengeance of the French Government. The virago fired up at this; she put it sharply to Belliévre, had he the authority of the King her brother to hold such language to her? Yes, he had, expressly. Well, she must have a copy of this, under the ambassador’s own hand. If Belliévre gave her the genuine instructions communicated to him, they would be found but faintly to warrant his brave words of defiance; for after some rather unchivalric proposals for adjusting the affair without the necessity of a beheading, they contain a vague sort of threat of resentment if they be not adopted.

Elizabeth, after the tragedy was over, wrote a jeering letter to King Henry about this threat, showing how lightly she esteemed it—if not, indeed, showing that there was a common understanding between them on the point. After the execution, which was supposed to take everybody by surprise, the next question was, whether the King of France would avenge it. M. Chéruel, who has the inner history of the French part of the affair ready to his hand, says the country was filled with cries of vengeance. He selects as the key-note of this sentiment the words in which it was echoed by l’Ecossais Blackwood :— "Le Roi, parent et beau-frère de cette dame, laisserat-il son meurtre impunil il ne souffrira jamais que cette tache déshonore son très illustre nom, ni que telle infamie tombe sur le royaume de France."

But he was just going, with his own hands, to drop a darker blot on his illustrious name. M. Chéruel notices the significant little fact, that when Renaud de Beaurne, Archbishop of Bourges, preached a funeral sermon on Queen Mary, in which he called her relations, the Guises, foudres de guerre, or thunder-bolts of war, he was required to suppress this expression when he published the sermon. The question between the Guises and the house of Valois was coming to an issue; within a few months after the execution of Mary, the first war of barricades was fought on the streets of Paris; a month or two later the Duke of Guise was murdered in the King’s audience-chamber, and the family broken. Henry’s lukewarmness to Queen Mary had its practical explanation—he was not going to commit himself against a powerful monarch like Elizabeth, either to frustrate or to avenge the fate of a member of the detested family doomed by him to destruction.

The drama is not yet entirely played out. A great scene remains before the curtain drops, in which Spain has to play apart; it has been dictated by the departed enchantress, and is the last, as it is the grandest, instance of her power. The history of this affair, as now pretty well filled up by the documents printed by the Frenchmen, is extremely curious, both for the minuteness of the particulars, and the vastness of the historical events on which they bear. It will be remembered that, in her latter days, Queen Mary rested her hopes on the King of Spain, feeling that, unless her cousins the Guises were successful, she need expect nothing from France, and conscious, at the same time, that countenance and help from Spain would be the most powerful means of accomplishing their success. Accordingly, with marvellous perseverance and adroitness, she kept up a close correspondence during her imprisonment with Philip II., and every new document discovered renders it clearer than ever that it was at her instigation chiefly that Philip undertook the invasion of England.

Mary left behind her a last will, which Ritson the antiquary said he saw, blotted with her tears, in the Scottish College at Paris. It was, like her ostensible acts, a monument of kindness and generosity, performed with a mournful dignity becoming her rank and her misfortunes. All who had been kind and faithful to her, high and low, were gratified by bequests, which were precious relics, more dear than the riches she could no longer bestow. She had, however, issued another will of a more important character, which, with her other papers, was seized at Chartley. This will contained such strange and ominous matter that it was deemed wise at once to burn it; and lest there should be any doubt that it was effectually destroyed, or any suspicion that its purport had gone abroad, Elizabeth burnt it with her own hands. It gave its warning—it showed the enemy—it should go no further on its mischievous path; so thought Cecil and his mistress. But they had to deal with one not easily baffled in the accomplishment of her fixed designs. She confided her testamentary bequests verbally to two different persons, on whose fidelity she could rely.

Her executor was the King of Spain. The nature of these bequests had not been entirely concealed. James himself; in his lubberly schoolboy-like complaints about his mother, showed that he knew about them. They now make their appearance in the shape of a statement of the reception which the King of Spain gave to the testamentary injunctions. If we are to suppose—which we are at liberty to do—that they were utter falsehoods, invented by the persons who pretended to be accredited to the King of Spain, there is, at all events, this much of fact in the whole affair, that the King of Spain believed them to be genuine, and acted on them fully and emphatically. It is the record of his so acting that we now possess.

Gorion, Queen Mary’s French physician, was one of the recipients of this deposit. He was commissioned to convey to the King of Spain her desire that he would pay certain debts and legacies, and distribute pensions and other rewards among her more faithful adherents. As to the debts and the smaller recompenses of services, the Queen appealed to his religious feeling, on the ground that to leave the world without the prospect of these things being paid, pressed heavily on her conscience. The sums of money absolutely named in these requests were considerable; and in asking that the pensions of the English Catholics, including the Earl of Westmoreland, Lord Paget, Charles Arundel, Charles Paget, Throckmorton, and Morgan, might be continued, she evidently drew upon a liberal hand. Philip appears not only to have unhesitatingly met the larger and ostensible demands thus made on him, but with a religious zeal to have sought out the more obscure objects of Mary’s goodwill, that he might rigidly perform her injunctions to the utmost farthing.

One great injunction still remained—it was that, notwithstanding her death, he would not abandon his enterprise on England—an enterprise devised in the cause of God, and worthy of a true Catholic king. This bequest also, as all the world knows, the King of Spain did his best to carry into effect. There were some little subsidiary services to be performed by him when he had accomplished it. Mary’s account with the world had a debtor as well as a creditor side. If the King of Spain could reward friends, it was also hoped that he would be in a position to punish enemies: her last request, therefore, was, that when once master of England, he would not forget how she had been treated by Cecil, Leicester, Secretary Walsingham, Lord Huntington, Sir Amyas Paulet, and Wade, the clever Secretary of the Council, who had discovered the designs of Spain by putting the fragments of a torn letter together.

While the French physician bore to the King of Spain what might be termed the burdens and obligations of the testament, it was commissioned to other messengers—being the Queen’s two faithful attendants, Elizabeth Curle and Jane Kennedy—to intimate what may be called the beneficial portion, which was no less than the bequeathing to the King of Spain the crowns of Scotland and England, in the event of her son James continuing obstinate in his heresy. It is with almost ludicrous gravity that M. Teulet says, "Philippe II. accepta sans hésiter les charges d’une succession qui lui offrait des éventualités si avantageuses." Advantageous eventualities indeed—but, as they proved to the executor, calamitous realities.

Within eighteen months after the death of Mary, the Armada was in the Channel. It was the last grand explosion of the ancient crusading chivalry,— an expedition to restore the Catholic Church to its supremacy, and at the same time to carry out the dying wish and avenge the wrongs of an injured woman and a holy martyr. The great actual drama is now completed, and it is wonderful with what a close contiguity in time its long-suspended issues complete themselves. Early in the year 1587 Queen Mary is executed; in the summer of the ensuing year the Armada comes forth and is destroyed. That winter the Duke of Guise is murdered and his family crushed; and again, before another year passes, the perfidious perpetrator of the deed, Henry IlI., is murdered by a Popish fanatic, who thus clears the throne for the tolerant monarch who did more than any other for the real greatness of France.

From this great epoch history starts afresh with new actors, who are to bring out a new development of events. The mighty empire of Spain from that period collapses like the bankrupt estate of an over-sanguine trader who has risked all his capital on some great adventure ending in shipwreck. A powerful little colony of industrious Protestants rises up where her yoke has been thrown off in Holland. France is no longer in the hand of the Guise or of the Medici, but is ruled by one who, if he dare not be Protestant, will at all events be tolerant, and in the balance of the European powers, Protestantism, if not predominant, is at least made secure. In the great recasting of the position of the European powers, Scotland’s relations to France and England respectively have undergone a revolution. Let us take a glance backwards, then, and sketch the events which bring our own special story—that of the Ancient League—to its natural conclusion.

The firm footing of Protestantism in the north of Europe, and the fusion of England and Scotland, must have seemed among the most unlikely of human events, on that 10th of July 1559, when Henry II. died of the wound he got in a tournament, and his son Francis succeeded him, with Mary of Scotland for queen. Elizabeth had not been quite eight months on the throne of England. She had kept her leaning towards Protestantism—it was little more than a leaning—so close, that foreign nations seem for some time to have known nothing of it. Philip II., the widower of her Popish sister Mary, had no conception of the change that was coming. He could see nothing in the general state of Europe, except the symptoms that things were righting themselves again, after the partial storm of the Reformation, and settling quietly under the wings of the Popedom. He looked on England, next to his own dear Spain and the Netherlands, as the most Catholic kingdom in Europe. He wished the English crown to have been entailed on him in case of his surviving his wife. He thought it strange and rather unreasonable that this should not have been done; but he took the personal disappointment with magnanimity, intimating that he would still take a paternal interest in his late wife’s dominions. He was prepared, if duty required him, to marry Elizabeth on a dispensation from the Pope, and was astonished beyond measure when he heard that a hint of the possible distinction in store for her had not been received by the eccentric young Queen with the grateful deference which it should have commanded. But it was long before he could permit himself to doubt that her kingdom would stand by him for the Popedom, against the lax notions which the monarchs of France had allowed to arise in the Gallican Church. In the calculations of the Continental powers, the prospect of England continuing at the command of Philip and the Court of Rome was a thing so probable, that, in the negotiations for the great treaty of Chateau Cambresis, France, when called on to give back Calais to England, had the face to plead as a reason for declining, at least deferring this sacrifice, the probability that this fortress might thus be put at the command of the King of Spain, and help him to invade France from his Flemish dominions.

Some of the most picturesque movements of the diplomacy of the day wind round the affair of Calais. France, having got it, was determined to keep it. Elizabeth and her advisers were determined to get it back by any means short of capture, but that was just short of the only means by which it was to be had. Elizabeth pleaded, rather ludicrously, that the English people considered it so essential a possession of the English crown that they would not submit to its loss. It was maintained rather more reasonably on the other hand, that, as part of the soil of France, it would be a dangerous offence to the French people to give it up. The argument more to the point on the present occasion, however, was one that carried keen alarm to Elizabeth’s Court. It was thus briefly put by the French to the English commissioners at Chateau Cambresis: "Put the case that Calais was to be re-delivered, and that we did owe such debts to the crown of England, to whom shall we deliver Calais? to whom shall we pay the debts? Is not the Queen of Scots true Queen of England? Shall we deliver Calais and those debts to another, and thereby prejudice the rights of the Queen of Scotland and the Dauphin, her husband?"

When such words could be spoken while the young couple were waiting for the death of a man in the prime of life to succeed to the throne of France, it was to be expected, when the succession suddenly opened to them, that there would be more audacious pretensions still. The affair was no empty bravado, such as the pretensions of the Tudors to the throne of France had come to be. With Roman Catholics, at home as well as abroad, Mary was the heiress to the throne of England. A large portion of England was still Romanist, and it was not yet known what effect Elizabeth’s Reformation tendencies might have on the popular mind. The pretensions of the young couple to the throne of England were not the less ominous that they were made in coinage and heraldry, in a very quiet way, and as a matter of course. The English ambassador observed it all, reporting home in angry letters to his angrier mistress. It came to the climax of insult when he had either to abstain from the good things at state banquets, or eat off platters on which the arms of England were quartered with those of France and Scotland.

Few things in the uncertain future of the destinies of nations had ever approached nearer to a certainty than the steadfastness at that juncture of the Old League between Scotland and France; and yet within it elements of political decomposition were at work, which might bring it down with a crash, as a fair building consumed by dry rot is in a condition to fall to pieces, and is most likely to do so when it is most relied on and put to most trying use. Two hundred years had changed the France which received Buchan’s detachment as the rescuers and guardians of the land. By the acquisition of Burgundy, Brittany, Maine, Anjou, Guienne, and other fiefs, the territories absolutely ruled by the house of Valois had increased some fourfold. Scotland had improved in wealth, yet the relative proportions of the two countries had vastly altered. Their diplomatic relations had changed, at least on the French side, in the assumption of a protecting and patronising nomenclature. There was offence to Scotland even in the marshalling of arms that had enraged England, since the lion occupied the subsidiary quarterings on the royal shield, as indicating a territorial possession, instead of being charged on a pale or some honourable ordinary, as a merely personal difference derived from a matrimonial alliance.

But the mere assumption of superiority was not all,—in fact, the assumption was concealed as well as such a thing could be, under decorous externals, beneath which there were designs to accomplish something far more effective than a magnanimous protectorship.

The papers revealed to the world by M. Teulet show that from the time when the heiress to the crown of Scotland came into the possession of her ambitious kinsfolk, they were laying plans for governing Scotland in Paris, and annexing the country to the throne of France. Dated in the year 1552 is a "Declaration" or Memorandum of the Parliament of Paris on the adjustment of the government of Scotland. In this document one can see, under official formalities, the symptoms of an almost irritable impatience to get the nominal government vested in the young Queen, in order that the real government might be administered by her kinsfolk. She had then entered on her twelfth year. That she ought to take the sovereignty into her own hands is a proposition reached by two steps, which may be defined as a long and a short. The long step reaches the position, that when twelve years old she would be entitled to govern —a proposition fortified by a curiously tortuous application of precedents from the sovereignty of France, to which male heirs only could succeed. A Roman maxim which imports that a day begun is to be counted in law as completed, is then brought up, and it is shown that in proper logical consistency the maxim should apply to a year. Along with the technical argument came two of a wider and more statesman-like character, which are, however, signally open to the charge of being inconsistent with each other. The one was, that the Deity, in consideration of the heavy responsibilities devolved on them, had endowed young royal personages with precocious capacities; the other was, that, however youthful a sovereign may be, there are always at hand wise and clever persons to govern the realm—and this, in fact, pointed to the real object The document was no doubt drawn up by the persons who were ready to take the responsibility of governing Scotland on themselves.

A plan was, however, found for accomplishing the desired end more simple. and practical than the devices of the civilians and feudalists. The Governor of Scotland was the head of the house of Hamilton, who held that office as next in hereditary succession to the crown if the young Queen should die. This office was taken from him, and he was compensated for the loss by the Dukedom of Chatelherault Mary of Guise became Regent of Scotland, under the direction of her brothers, the great Duke and the great Cardinal.

The Scots lords now saw sights calculated, as the Persians say, to open the eyes of astonishment. A clever French statesman, M. d’Osel, was sent over as the adviser of the Regent, to be her Prime Minister, and enable her to rule Scotland after the model of France. A step was taken to get at the high office of Chancellor by appointing Monsieur de Rubay to be Vice-Chancellor, with possession of the Great Seal. The office of Comptroller of the Treasury was dealt with more boldly, and put into the hands of M. Vile-more. At Eyemouth, near the east border, a great fortress was erected, on the new plans of fortification, to confront the English fortress of Berwick, and a Frenchman was appointed its Governor. The Regent cast an eye on the strongholds of the great lords, determining to fill them with garrisons more obedient to the crown than their existing occupants. When she began with Tantallon, which, by its situation and strength, would be a desirable acquisition, the Earl of Angus, with epigrammatic point worthy of her own nation, said his house was at her service, but assuredly he should remain governor, for no other could hold it so well.

Suspicious surveys and inventories were made of property, and it was declared, almost more to the amazement than to the indignation of the country, that a tax was to be levied for the support of a standing army. Now, the feudal array, which by old custom could be called by the sovereign, each freeholder contributing to it so many men-at-arms for a short period, was the only military force known in Scotland, and any attempt to create a royal army in any other shape was always received with the most nervous jealousy. On this occasion three hundred of the chief persons interested assembled in the church of Holyrood and declared resistance.

There were ugly stories afloat about attempts, on the occasion of the Queen’s marriage, to juggle with the official nomenclature which represented the independence of Scotland as a sovereignty. It was requested that the crown and other "honours," as they were termed, might be sent to Paris; but there was suspicion about the use these might be put to—such as crowning the Dauphin, perhaps— and the request was refused. It was said that Mary had been required to sign a deed importing her husband’s absolute right to the crown on survivor-ship; and, whether true or not, belief in such a story had its influence. It is certain that an expression which afterwards gave a deal of trouble was then used in conferring on the Dauphin the "crown matrimonial." It was stated by the Lords of the Congregation in Scotland to have been an invention of the Guises, who had some hidden meaning in it. When the question of its meaning afterwards came up in the refusal of the crown matrimonial to Darnley, it was explained that it would pervert the line of succession—that the crown matrimonial meant the sovereignty in the survivor and the survivor’s heirs, whether descendants of Queen Mary or of another wife. In this sense, the arrangement was equivalent to the kind of entail which Philip thought it so unreasonable that he did not get of the crown of England.

The state papers of France at that time speak of Scotland as of a highly-favoured dependency. An act of the French Government, which externally was one of grace and free-hearted generosity, did not mend matters. There had been many acts of naturalisation in favour of Scotsmen, and now, by one sweep of hospitality, the whole nation was naturalised. The privilege was a large one, for France, by her droit d’aubaine, was conspicuously inhospitable to unprivileged foreigners; but the phraseology of the document made its object too plain, and some comments referring to the practice of the Roman empire in admitting the inhabitants of distant provinces to a limited citizenship did not improve its effect.

When the eight commissioners sent from Scotland to assist at the marriage were on their way home, a special epidemic seemed to break out among them, which killed four out of the eight at Dieppe, and their death was as naturally attributed to poison as the disappearance of watches in a London mob is attributed to pocket-picking; it was maintained that they knew some facts about the affairs of the marriage which it was desirable that they should not have an opportunity of communicating to the Scots Estates.

These facts fitting in with the method of the Regent’s government in Scotland, resistance and war came at last. The Regents finding at the commencement that she might have the worst of it, accepted in a very frank manner of a treaty, which she broke on the first opportunity, and with a rapidity which had in it a sort of deliberateness, since it showed that she did not yield reluctantly to sore temptation, but acted on deliberate design. This united those who were otherwise shy of each other, and a war, the events of which are well known in history, broke forth against Popery and French influence.

The great turning-point in the destinies of the British empire had now come, and to bring it on with the tide depended on the skill of the English Government. The wounds of Henry’s tyrannous invasions were still fresh. How narrowly England escaped the wrong tack is shown in the later revelations from the State Paper Office, which set forth a plan for declaring and enforcing the old feudal claim of superiority over Scotland. So was that poor country pulled on the other side. But, fortunately, the new Queen of England had advisers about her who could read the tenor of old experience, and see that force was not the way to make good the precious opportunity. Indeed, it behoved them to be rid of their own fears before they bullied others. England was in imminent danger. France had grand designs of annexation and empire; Spain was relaxing her friendly grasp; and if these two Popish powers, with Scotland at their service, fell on England, where would Elizabeth’s throne be? The instructions to the English commissioners at the great treaty of Chateau Cambresis might have given comfort to the Scots, had they known the anxiety of their powerful enemy for peace with them. "We think the peace with Scotland of as great moment for us as that with France, and rather of greater; so, as to be plain with you, if either there should not be a peace there fully concluded betwixt us and Scotland, we see not but it were as good to leave the matter in suspense with the French as to conclude with them, and to have no other assurance of the French but a bare comprehension of Scotland." The French, it seems, were ready in their haughty manner to stipulate for Scotland, but Cecil knew the temper of his neighbours too well to be content with such an assurance. The instructions come back to the topic, and press it on the commissioners: "And for our satisfaction beside the matter of Calais, nothing in all this conclusion with the French may in surety satisfy us, if we have not peace with Scotland: and so we will that ye shall plainly inform our said good brother’s commissioners, and that with speed."

The Queen reminds her trusty counsellors that they, "not ignorant of the state of our realm having been much weakened of late with sickness, death, and loss by wars, can very well consider how unmeet it is for us to continue in these manner of wars, if we may be otherwise provided of a peace like to continue; and how fit it is and necessary to have peace." The commissioners are directed at great length to bully powerfully for the restoration of Calais. But the real dangers visible, and the acute hungering for peace, squeeze out a brief and agonising permission to sacrifice everything for peace: "We do give you authority at the very last end, being as loath thereunto as may be desired, rather than continue these wars, to make the peace as you best and most honourably may, and as the difficulty of the time may serve, so that we may have certainly peace with Scotland, with reservation of our claims as well to Calais as to all other our titles, pensions, and arrearages heretofore due by France."

The negotiation of the treaty was attended by some incidents, ludicrous in themselves, and far beneath the dignity of history, yet curious as indicative of that stubborn pride which bore up the Scots in all their difficulties and calamities. Where was the treaty to be negotiated? Of course, England, the greater power, was not to go to Scotland; but, on the other hand, Scotland refused so far to acknowledge a superiority as to step over the border into England. On the 12th of May 1559, Bishop Tunstall writes to say, that they had extreme difficulty in being absolutely certain of neutral ground, and "our first meeting was in the midst of the river between us both; for the Scots do regard their honour as much as any other king doth;" and he rather naturally adds that he will not fail to be at the next meeting, "God granting him health."

In some inexplicable manner the Scots seem to have pulled too strong in the matter of the meeting-place for their diplomatic opponents, for on the 5th of January the Earl of Northumberland makes this ludicrous complaint to Cecil: "They were ready to meet the Scottish commissioners on the first day, on the bounders that are in the midstream; but they claimed customs, and caused the messengers to go to and fro so often, that they forced the English commissioners to come over the water into Scottish ground, or else would not have met at all."

Peace being established, the next step was the dissolution of the old French League and a fusion of interests with England. We have now, thanks to the documents published by Mr Stevenson, a minute insight into the difficult and perilous course of hints and promises and bargains which constitute the diplomacy of this revolution. The gradual unfolding of the mysteries is exceedingly curious, and so exciting as to carry a reader with ease over the six hundred pages already issued, and make him long for the rest. The general picture left in the mind is a vision of the cluster of sagacious men who surrounded the young Queen’s throne, discovering in the condition of Scotland a tower of strength which had only to be honestly occupied in that hour of peril, but baffled and paralysed by the perfidy and caprices of their mistress. She wanted them to do everything, but to do it on their own responsibility without any authority from her; and, indeed, with the certainty that at any moment, when it suited her policy or caprice, she would assert that they acted the part of rebels and traitors, and "in-top" them, to use a favourite expression of hers, without remorse. Cecil was provoked almost beyond endurance and proper respect to his royal mistress, when he found that a few thousand pounds would do the business, yet could not get them.

Hints, indeed, were thrown out that it would be good service in her advisers to invest some of their own cash in the adventure; but their patriotism was not strong enough to induce them to part with what under no circumstances would be repaid, while it suspended over their heads a charge of treason.

There was one feature, indeed, in the affair, which the Queen intensely disliked. It had a very ugly resemblance to the backing of subjects in rebellion against their sovereign—a kind of proceeding against which she had fundamentally rooted objections. She tried in vain to get the matter put into the shape of a war of succession, in which she could advocate the cause which she might acknowledge as the rightful sovereign’s. The heir of the house of Hamilton, who, as the descendant of James II., was next heir to the crown, had many allurements thrown in his way to start as king; but he was unequal to the occasion. Murray—afterwards the Regent—was spoken to, and it is pretty clear that that sagacious and cautious statesman, had he chosen to run risks before his sister’s return, might have had a chance of gaining a crown about equivalent to his chance of retaining a head to wear it on.

Among the somewhat clumsy projects for giving unacknowledged assistance to the Protestant and English party in Scotland was to get a body of English soldiers induced to cross the Border, and then to proclaim them rebels for breaking the peace with France and Scotland—rebels who must needs fight where they were, since they could not return to England. One cheap and rather effective method of stirring up the Scots was to ply them with news of the bloody intentions of France; and, so far as intentions went, they could not well be too highly coloured.

Kirkaldy of Grange, who afterwards cut some figure in politics, is revealed in these papers as one of the most active and ingenious agents in the national revolution. His hand appears before the conclusion of the treaty of Chateau Cambresis. The Earl of Northumberland wrote, on 11th February 1559, to Queen Elizabeth, that "one William Kirkaldy, a Scotchman, came to his brother to Norham and entered into communication for abstinence of wars, to the intent that peace might follow." Three months afterwards, when matters had practically advanced a step or two, we find him writing to Sir Henry Percy that the Protestant gentry, after the Queen Regent, Mary of Guise, had played them false, "have gathered themselves together, and have pulled down all the friaries within their bounds." "Herefore," he continues, "I pray you let me understand what will be your mistress’s part, if we desire to be joined in friendship with her; for I assure you there was never a better time to get our friendship nor at this time; therefore make labours, and lose no time when it is offered." Two months afterwards, when the rising against French influence was in still better shape, he wrote to Cecil intelligence thus rendered: "At present they dare not make the matter known to many, for fear of sudden disclosing the secrecy of their purpose; for the Queen Regent already suspects that there is some intelligence with England in this case, insomuch that she has spoken openly that there is a servant sent from the Earl of Northumberland to the Earl of Argyle and the Prior. Also some of their number are poor, and corruption by money is feared, but in the end they fear them not. If these latter were removed from their council, they would not be much weaker, as the hearts of the whole barons and commonalty are so bent to this action, and so influenced against France, that if any of the nobility would decline—of which they see no appearance— they could not withdraw their friends nor servants from the professing of Christ and the maintaining of the liberty of their country."

Co-operating with Kirkaldy was a more potent spirit—the great John Knox, who had just returned from tasting the tender mercies of France as a galley-slave. In July, while Cecil had still no others but Kirkaldy and Knox committed to him, he wrote an extremely cautious letter to Sir Henry Percy, observing that it was misliked that no better personages had opened themselves than these two, being private persons; though Knox had got to himself a position of no small credit. Of him it is said, "He desireth, in his letter to me, to have licence to come hitherward, wherein it is ordered that he should thus use it. For his coming hitherward, it may be permitted to him, so as it be used with secrecy and his name altered; for otherwise the sequel will be fruitless, yea, very hurtful. Ye may appoint him to come to my house, called Burley, near Stamford (where I mean to be about the 24th or 25th inst.) If he come, changing his name, he may be directed not to come through Stamford, but on the back side. If his chance should be to come before my coming thither, he may have this paper included, whereby he shall be there used to his contentation."

It would have been of questionable safety to himself and his friends had Knox ventured upwards of three hundred miles into England to negotiate, having to return again to Scotland. The first embassy, however, was conducted by him. We have his powers in eleven articles of a very distinct and practical kind, without too much admixture of religion. In the most comprehensive and emphatic of them he is authorised to say for his countrymen—" That they and their posterity will bind themselves to be enemies to the enemies and friends to the friends of the English, if they thoroughly agree in this league; and that they will never contract with France without the consent of the English, so as to be united with them in one body, so that neither can make war nor peace without the consent of the other."

With credentials of this momentous import in his pocket, Knox touched English ground by taking boat to Holy Island, where Crofts picked him up, taking him for secret conference to Berwick, whence his entertainer wrote to Cecil, giving as much of the matter as he could trust to a despatch, and observing that it could not be carried out "without charges—and, peradventure, cum sudore et sanguine; therefore the matter requires good deliberation, and what aid to be given, and what charges, and when to spend and when to spare."


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