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Chronicles of Gretna Green
Chapter XVIII


Loves of Mary and Bothwell.

Some more about the Queen is said,
And how the Earl got wounded:
How she towards him to see him fled—
The which she very soon did.

Looking at matters in this position, wherein we find her a widow and him a bachelor—or in a state equivalent—it will be no disparagement to either if they be suffered to love. That she really loved Bothwell, her historiographers allow; and this, her letters, if genuine, manifestly prove. "No time is pleasing to me," she writes to him, "that is not spent in giving you new demonstrations of my affections : well may I err in the rules of government and state, when all my thoughts are taken up with love." Furthermore, this ardent liking was not a concealed flame visible only to themselves, but was well wot of by most persons who lived in those times, being witnesses and gossippers of the little dalliances betwixt them. "If it were put to her choice," says Sir N. Throgmorton, "to relinquish her crown and kingdom, or the Lord Bothwell, she would leave her kingdom and dignity to go a simple damsel with him."

Some time previously to this, Bothwell received certain hurts in a skirmish on the western borders near Gretna; and during the period of his convalescence, the Queen came over from Jedburgh to inquire into his estate, and to condole with him about the mishap. It happened in the valley of Liddesdale, and he was borne away bleeding to Hermitage Castle by his companions and vassals. The face of the country lying round about the Debateable Land was wild, barren, and in many spots marshy,—indeed, even in the present day it is little otherwise where this affray took place; all over Solway Moss, stretching from the Sark nearly to the wall of Severus; and in other districts bounding the Firth. The valley of Annandale presented the same features on the flat banks of its rivers, especially near their mouths; but the uplands and hills, though not cultivated as now, were dry, woody, and capable .of being fertilized. The traces of a Roman military road are visible through the country; and the camps of Birrins in Middlebie, and on Burnswark hill, are entire. The castles of Comlongan and Auch-incass once pertained to the Murrays, lords of Annandale: the latter, now gone to decay, was the seat of the potent Thomas Randolph, regent of Scotland in the minority of David II.: its ruins cover above an acre of ground, and prove its former extent, strength, and magnificence. The stronghold of Lochmaben, near the town of Annan, was built by the Braces, after they became barons of this region : it was considered the key of the Western Marches, and consequently oft-times the scene of warfare. Upon the death of David II. it came into the power and possession of the same Thomas Randolph, together with many other fortilices here about : then to the Dunbars, earls of March ; then to the Douglasses ; then to Alexander Duke of Albany; and, lastly, to the crown. As this stewartry of Annandale was the great thoroughfare into this part of Scotland, and as therefore it was continually, in a barbarous age, the field of strife, it had never for centuries had the coulter of civilization run through it, seeing that it were foolish for Scotchmen to sow corn, when, peradventure, Englishmen might reap it with the sword blade next summer. Wherefore we are told that it continued a wild heath or uncultivated common until the beginning of the present century, when divers new roads were laid down and the country enclosed. By this modern practice of enclosing, it is astonishing how may fine and convenient battlegrounds have been destroyed: surely the English never mean to fight again, if we may judge by what they are continually doing; for he who destroys a place whereon to fight, has a peaceful disposition, in the same way that he who turns his sword into a domestic carving knife, never means to draw it again against an enemy. There are few open spaces, now left in the kingdom whereon ten thousand men could quarrel conveniently,—especially if one half of them wished to run away without the hinderance of climbing hastily over hedges.

A "Border raid" during the golden age of " the good old times " was the almost daily amusement of a certain set of thieves, banditti, and outlaws that lurked in the fens of the Debateable Land; in practising the which, they plundered and slew at pleasure all whomsoever it might concern. My Lord Bothwell, — or, craving his forgiveness, the Duke of Orkney, for unto such rank he had now attained through courtly favour,— James Hepburn Duke of Orkney, was warden of the whole Marches on the Scottish frontier, an honour that called him constantly into service, together with a numerous train of armed followers, who from time to time scoured the country, and hunted out the evil subjects that lay hid in the fastnesses of the Cheviots. One day he buckled on his armour and mounted his charger, and issued forth with halberdiers, hand-gunners, and bowmen, coursing through Liddesdale above Gretna. Here they came upon divers outlaws and the like, who opposed them sword for sword, and lance for lance, standing to it stoutly, and fighting with valour. But the Lord Warden was no recreant: he feared not the face of a foe, nor the glitter of naked steel: fierce looks daunted not his heart, nor did the slogan terrify his ear. He couched lance and charged like a hurricane ; and death indeed followed his course: he charged again upon one of the stalwart who seemed fashioned of steel and born from a mother of brass—one whom strokes could not subdue nor weapons pierce. The duke grappled with this stranger, and the two combatants strove in each other's arms for the mastery : the duke essayed to bring him down, but the other debated hard, as one unwilling to succumb: and as they were bound in each other's grasp with the thongs of their muscular limbs, the duke received a piteous wound from a blade that his foe now drew in his stress. This was not all:—the mosstrooper thrust at him again and again ; so that the duke was sore pressed and bewildered, till such time as the blood gushed from his sides, and his followers came to the rescue.

There are few things more sickening to the hot impetuosity of headlong courage in a warrior, than the fact of feeling a long piece of cold steel rapidly slipping between his ribs, and rudely accosting the viscera that repose withinside. Independently of its calling up grim pictures of probable death before his eyes, and hereby making him reflect in such a manner as he never did before, it likewise goes far to wither up the pride of his great manhood, by the bodily anguish that it sends through his members :—and there is no argument, whether wrought by philosopher or stoic, that could ever persuade away the smartings of bodily anguish. "La douleur du corps," nous dit Mons. le Due de la Rochefoucauld, "est le senl mal de la vie, que la raison ne peut guerir, ni affoiblir."

Bothwell was borne away to his castle of Hermitage, where he lay in some danger; and the Queen, having been advertised of this misadventure, brought about through dutiful service, came over in some haste to ascertain the extent of his hurt.

In her famous sonnet, which she writ to her lover some space after this mishap, a copy of which has been preserved to posterity, she thuswise alludes to it.

"Puis me donna un autre dur alarme,
Quand il versa de sang mainte dragme;
Dont de grief me vint laisser douleur,
Qui m'en pensa oster la vie, et frayeur
De perdre las ! le seul rampart qui m'arme."

Buchanan, the chronicler of notable events that befel in these times, and a contemporary of Mary, was nevertheless her majesty's enemy: he may have told great truth in his writings, but that truth he most assuredly set forth in uncivil words. His narrative of this affair runs thus:

"Within few days after, when the Queen determined to go to Jedworth," says he, " to the assizes to be there holden, about the beginning of October, Bothwell maketh his journey into Liddesdale. There, behaving himself neither according to the place whereto he was called, nor according to his nobility of race or estimation, he was wounded by a poor thief, that was himself ready to die, and carried into the castle called the Hermitage, with great uncertainty of his recovery. When news hereof was brought to Broth-wick to the Queen, she flingeth away in haste like a mad woman, by great journeys in post, in the sharp time of winter, first to Melrose, and then to Jedworth. There, though she heard sure news of his life, yet her affection, impatient of delay, could not temper itself, but needs she must bewray her outrageous lust, and in an inconvenient time of year, despising all discommodities of the way and weather, and all dangers of thieves, she betook herself headlong to her journey, with such a company as no man of any honest degree would have adventured his life and his goods among them.

Thence she returned again to Jedworth, and with most earnest care and diligence, provideth and prepareth all things to remove Bothwell thither.'"

Her Majesty was no hypocrite towards her lover; but whatsoever she felt, that she broached liberally without reserve; if she were warm, she told him so; if she were anxious for his society, she bid him come: if he had offended her, she said so: and as she passionately loved him, so she wrote.

"Alace!" she writes in one of her letters, "I nevir dissavit any body: but I remit me altogid-der to your will. Send me advertisement quhat I sail do, and quhatsaever'thing come therof, I sail obey yow."

Toward the end of this epistle she excuses the haste and unmeritableness with which it had been done :—"Excuse my evil writing,"" are her words, "and read it twice over. Excuse the thing that is scribbled, for I had no paper yesterday when I writ that of the memorial. Remember your love, (that is, herself,) and write unto her, and that very oft. Love me as I shall do you."

There is no dissemblance here ; and some of her historians have thought that she was not quite so coyly and reservedly spoken, as might beseem her estate. But ladies in those days had wider latitude of tongue than now—the times were not so highly polished—society was less artificial—manners were more marked for their simplicity and nature—so that what the bosom conceived the lips might freely express. Hugh Campbell, a publisher of some of Mary's Letters, and one of the controversialists as to their authenticity, not only excuses the Queen's freedom of speech, but also gives to every lady greater latitude in matters of love than in any other matters whatsoever.

"Women in love," says he, "are not always limited by the cold and frigid rules which custom on other occasions has imposed on their sex. Hence I think it within the pale of reason that these letters and sonnets should not be considered spurious, on the ground that they are not so elegant and delicate as might be expected from a young lady of rank in our days."

But let us hasten to the event; we have seen that Mary was now a widow, and Bothwell enfranchised by a twofold process of divorcement—a process that was achieved in May 15G7. For several years past, she had been sorely troubled in church, state, and matrimony: cabals, leagues, plots, and seditious outbreaks had all in turn conspired against her peace, or violated her repose, or excited her apprehension; but now the wheel of a better" fortune had revolved sunshine upon her afflictions, and dried up the damps of her oppression. Her exultation hereat is manifestly portrayed in the passages here sequent, to wit,—

"Fortune," she cries, "grown weary of persecuting me, at length grows as extravagant in her blessings as she was in the former part of my life in her cruelty: and your divorce being looked upon as good as completed [in reality it was completed at the time, but the Queen did not know it], Murray himself proposed you to me as an husband—nay seemed eager in his pressures that I would give him my promise that you should become so immediately you were in condition.

"Scarce could I contain the joy of my exulting soul,—scarce keep my tongue from letting him know how much my heart took part in his persuasions.

* * * *

"Though I know you are to be in Edinburgh in so short a time, I could not delay making you the partaker of those transports you are the author of. There is a delicacy in such love as mine, which will not suffer me to be blessed alone; and when I think this happy news has reached you, I shall indulge myself in sympathy with those ecstacies which I flatter myself you will feel at the receipt of so unexpected an information. Make all the convenient speed you can to town; I now long with double impatience for your presence: it is not Bothwell, a man whose freedom with me love alone could authorize, but my intended husband and future king, that I shall now embrace.

"Haste then to the arms, though ever present to the heart of M. R."

There is no mistake (as modern historiographers phrase it) about the sentiments set forth in the above. Bothwell, thus advertised, made all due haste to hie away to Edinburgh: but three days only ere he did so, her Majesty's impatience again writ loving protestations uuto him.

"Oh, my Bothwell!" she exclaims toward the end of one of her epistles, "my heart beats high with expectation, and every faculty of my soul is on fire with the impatient hope. 'T is but three days before the grande catastrophe arrives; yet do they seeme so manie ages ! Bee you more cool to attend the longed-for issue, or you will bee little able to carry on the charge entrusted to your care, and on which depends not onely our lives, but fortune and fame ! Indulge in secret the swelling rapture; but let no outward sign of joy appear, till you are past prevention in the arms of

"M. R."

Neither is there much "mistake" about this, or much coy dissemblance of affection. Of a truth she had in aforetime suffered much persecution for his sake—much anxiety lest the nation should oppose their union — and infinite dissuasion from certain ones of her counsellors: and such is the inherent perversity of human nature, and has been through all ages, that if there be an object which is hard to be obtained, or withheld from our grasp, that object is the thing we desire, and the one we most wish to possess.

We should not conclude the narrative of the loves of Mary and Bothwell in a manner either just or perfect, if we omitted to give the marriage contracts, for there were two of them—which were about this time drawn up, and by the authority of which they were bound round with the cords of matrimony. The first of theser twain is written in antiquated French ; it is taken from the Cotton Library, and is signed by the Queen only. It runs as follows:—

"Nous Marie, par la grace de Dieu, Royne d'Escosse, douaryere de France, &c., promettons fidellement, et de bonne foy, et sans contraynte, a Jaques Hepburn Conte be Boduel, de n'avoir ja-mays autre espoulx et mary que luy, et de le prendre pour tel toute et quant fois qu'il m'en requerira, quoy que parents, amys ou autres, y soient con-trayres. Et puis que Dieu a pris mon feu mary Henry Stuart, dit Darnlay, et que par ce moin je sois libre, n'estant soubs obeisance de • pere, ni de mere, des mayntenant je proteste que, luy estant en mesme liberte, je seray preste, et d'accomplir les ceremonies dequises au marriage: que je luy promets devant Dieu que j'en prantz a temoig-nasge, et la presente, signee de ma mayne; ecrit ce-[no date.]

"Marie R."

Craving the amiable reader's further indulgence we will also lay before him or her, a copy of the second contract ; seeing that as we have gone thus far into the matter, we could scarcely come creditably out of it, unless we furnished every information that is to be culled from ancient chronicles, or found in the archives of the curious. Wherefore this document here ensueth, videlicet:-

Marriage Contract.

"At Seyton, the fifth day of April, in the year of God, 1567. The right excellent, right high and mighty Princess Mary, by the grace of God Queen of Scots, consideringe the place and estate wherein Almightie God hath constituted her Highnesse, and how by the decease of the Kinge her husband her Majestie is now destitute of a husband, livinge solitary in the state of widowhoode, in the which kinde of life her Majestie most willingly woulde continue, if the will of her realm and subjects would permit it. But on the other parte, consideringe the inconveniences may follow, and the neces-sitie which the realm hath that her Majestie be coupled with an husband, her Highnesse hath an inclination to marry ; and seeinge what incommo-dity may come to this realm, in case her Majestie should joyne in marriage with any foreign prince of a strange nation, her Highnesse has thought rather to yield unto one of her own subjects; amongst whom, her Majestie finds none more able, nor endued with better qualities, than the right noble, and her dear cousin James Earl Bothwell, &c. Of whose thankful and true service her Highnesse in all the times bye-past has had large proof and infallible experience. And seeinge not onely the same good mind constantlie persevering in him, but with that an inward affection and hearty love towards her Majestie, her Highnesse amongst the rest hath made her choice of him. '

"And therefore, in the presence of the eternall God, faithfully, and in the Avord of a Prince, by these presents takes the said James, Earl Bothwell, as her lawful husband, and promises and obliges her Highness that, as soon as the pro-cesse of divorce intended betwixt the said Earl Bothwell and Dame Jane Gordon, now his pretended spouse, be ended by the order of the laws, her Majestie shall, God willing, thereafter shortlie marry, and take the said Earl to her husband, and compleat the band of matrimony with him in the face of Holy Church ; and shall never marry any other husband but him onely during his lifetime. And as her Majestie, of her gracious humanitie and proper motive, without deserving of the said Earl, hath thus inclined her favour and affection towards him, he humbly and reverently acknowledging the same, according to his bounden dutie, and being as free and able to make promise of marriage, in respect of the said process of divorce intended for divers reasonable causes, and that the said pretended spouse hath thereunto consented, he presentlie takes her Majestie as his lawful spouse, in the presence of God; and promises and obligeth him, as he will answere to God, and upon his fidelitie and honour, that in all diligence possible, he shall prosecute and set forward the said process of divorce already began and intended betwixt him and the said Dame Jane Gordon, his pretended spouse, unto the final end of a decree and declaration therein.

"And incontinent thereafter, at her Majesty's good will and pleasure, and when her Highnesse thinks convenient, shall compleat and solemnise in face of holie church, the said' band of matrimonie with her Majestie, and love, honour, and serve her Highnesse, accordinge to the place and honour that it hath pleased her Majestie to accept him unto, and never to have any other to his wife during her Majesty's life time. In faith and witnessing wherefore, her Highnesse and the said Earl hath subscribed this present faithful promise with their hands, as followeth, day, year, and place aforesaid, before these witnesses; George Earl Huntley, and Master Thomas Hepburn, Parson of Old Hanstock, &c.

" Sic subscribitur, Mary R.

James, Earl Bothwell.

They were married, gentle reader — not at Gretna Green—albeit it was altogether a match not much more discrete than many "Gretna Green weddings," so called; and they lived afterwards as happily as many others have done, who have been united to each other within the boundary of that amorous parish.


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