Women in Bygone Days
Sports and Pastimes of Mary Queen of Scots
James V. lay dying after the defeat of Solway
Moss, his daughter Mary was born. A messenger was sent from Linlithgow to
acquaint the King that his wife had borne him a child. "Is it a man child
or a woman ?" asked the King. "It is a fair daughter," was the answer.
"Adieu, farewell," replied the King; it came with a lass and it will pass
with a lass." So saying, he commended himself to the mercy of Almighty
God, and, so says his historian, "he spake little then from that time
forth, but turned his back unto his lords, and his face into the wall. [History
of Scotland. Lindsay of Pitscottie.]
If he, heart-broken and weary, found rest, there was
little rest in the country he had left—a foreign wife, a helpless baby, a
ruthless enemy across the border—a people that were slowly but surely
throwing off their old religion and turning to the new faith. Henry the
Eighth was busy planning to secure the person of the infant, as a treaty
had been concluded shortly after James’s death, to the effect that when
Mary was ten years old she was to marry Edward Tudor, son of Henry. Henry
hoped to secure Mary, wishing her to be brought up in England, but to this
the Scottish nobles would not agree, and from one castle to another she
was hurried for safety. At last, a sure asylum was found for her on the
island of Inchmahome in the Lake of Menteith; there she lived until she
was six years old. The garden and
box hedge, said to be planted by the royal child, are still there. While
she played and worked in her garden under the shelter of the Abbey, her
lords disputed with the English, and, finally, relations between the two
countries were broken off. A new treaty had been made regarding Mary’s
marriage; this time she was to be the bride, not of Edward Tudor but of
Francis the Dauphin of France.
The Scottish nobles rightly
considered that a marriage with the hereditary foe of England would be
particularly displeasing to Henry, and as they were now at loggerheads
with the English, their aim was how most effectively to annoy Henry and
his people, so they concluded a treaty with the French people, which was
to unite France and Scotland by the marriage of the Dauphin of France with
the Queen of Scotland.
Henry, however, was not one who
accepted defeat easily, nor had he a pleasant way with those who opposed
his wishes. He was soon busy with many plots whose object was to secure
the person of the royal child. The Scottish nobles were afraid that he
might succeed, so after deliberation and thought they decided to send Mary
to France, to be educated in the French court, for well they knew that
once she and her suite had reached France her safety was assured.
Accordingly, she was taken from
Inchmahome to Dunbarton, and from there she, in company with her
governors, the Lords Erskine and Livingston, and accompanied by Lord
James, her natural brother, afterwards the Regent Moray, and with her four
Marys, children of a like name and age with herself, selected as her
playmates from the families of Fleming, Beaton, Seton and Livingston, she
embarked. Six days later the little squadron cast anchor in the harbour of
Mary had been sent to France for
safety and that she might be brought up in "the feir of God," as one
historian wrote, but men see differently, each person regards things from
his own point of view, and Knox is equally explicit that she was brought
up "to the end that in hir youth she should drink of that lycour that
should remain with hir, all her lifetyme, for a plague to this realme, and
for her final destruction."
If Knox thought her education
defective, her uncle, the Cardinal, on the other hand, wrote to the
Queen-Mother, "Your daughter improves and increases every day in stature,
goodness, beauty and wisdom and worth. She is so perfect and accomplished
in all things, honoured and virtuous, that the like of her is not to be
seen in the realm, whether noble damsel, maiden of low degree, or in the
middle station. The King has taken such a liking for her that he spends
much of his time in chatting with her, sometimes by the hour together, and
she knows as well how to entertain him with pleasant and sensible subjects
of conversation as if she were a woman of five and twenty."
The Duke of Guise, her soldier
uncle, is reputed to have said, "My niece, there is one trait in which,
above all others, I recognize my own blood in you; you are as brave as my
bravest men-at-arms. If women went into battle now, as they did in ancient
times, I think you would know how to die well."
Prophetic words, for his niece not
only led in battle, but died bravely.
In France she was happy, she learnt
easily and was famed for her beauty, charm and bearing. From an early
description we learn: "Her main course of study was directed towards the
attainment of the best European languages. So graceful was her French that
the judgment of the most learned men recognised her command of the
language; nor did she neglect Spanish or Italian.... Her penmanship was
clear, and (what is rare in a woman) swift. Her excellence in singing
arose from a natural, not an acquired, ability to modulate her voice: the
instruments she played were the cittern, the harp, and the harpsichord.
Being very agile, she danced admirably to a musical accompaniment, yet
with beauty and comeliness, for the silent and gentle movement of her
limbs kept time to the harmony of the chords. She devoted herself to
learning to ride so far as it is necessary for travelling or for her
favourite exercise of hunting...
Several tapestries worked by her with wonderful skill are yet to be seen
in France, dedicated to the altars of God, especially in the monastery in
which she was nurtured on her first arrival in the kingdom.
Mary was early noted for her
learning; her clear writing and easy style were acknowledged by her
contemporaries. A historian, commenting upon one of her letters addressed
to the French Ambassador during the time of her captivity in England, says
:—" It was written with that elegance, fluency and force of expression
peculiar to her, and which place her compositions ahead of all English
prose literature before the time of Bolingbroke."
It was fortunate for Mary that she
was a skilled needle-woman, for sewing must have filled in many dreary
hours in her long captivity.
After the Dauphin’s death, Mary
returned to Scotland. She was a beautiful and young widow only eighteen
years of age. We are told that, as they left France, the first day she sat
on deck straining her eyes to watch the receding land in which she had
been happy and beloved. As it faded away, she cried, " Farewell, France,
beloved France, I shall never see thee more." As the vessel approached the
Scottish coast a dark mist appeared. "The very face of heaven," writes
John Knox, "the time of her arrival did manifestly speak what comfort was
brought into this country with her—to wit, sorrow, dolour, darkness and
And to Mary the gloom may well have
seemed an ill omen.
Poor Mary! Nevertheless her subjects
welcomed her with enthusiasm, and she was conducted, in such state as
Scotland had to offer, to Holyrood. When she wished to sleep she was
awakened by a serenade, not of troubadours singing gay ditties, but of her
worthy citizens singing psalms under her window.
Brantôme, who accompanied her, very
frankly gives us his view of the entertainment, in the following words:
"In the evening, when she wished to
go to bed, five or six hundred rascals of the town came under her window,
to give her a serenade with bad violins and small rebecks, of which there
is no lack in that country, and began to sing psalms, so badly sung and so
out of tune that nothing could be worse. Oh! What music! and what repose
for her night !
Knox, on the contrary, says that "a
company of the most honest, with instruments of music and with musicians,
gave their salutations at her chamber window." Honest men no doubt, and it
is to be hoped their psalms and hymns cheered the young Queen, who must
have felt bewildered and forlorn in a strange land.
Next day she was duly presented with
a large Bible and treated to a few more psalms. She gracefully, if not
gratefully, accepted the Bible, and thanked her subjects for their loving
In spite of this singular reception
she was welcomed, and soon her wit and grace, her beauty and goodness of
heart attracted round her a band of admirers. Bonfires blazed, and the
Many things must have astonished
Queen Mary in her northern kingdom, not only the zeal of the Reformers,
but their intolerance. Shortly after her arrival in Edinburgh, she took
part in a triumphant progress from Holyrood to the Castle. Five black
slaves, magnificently apparelled, received her at the west gate of the
city, twelve of the chief citizens bore a canopy, under which she rode in
state; and a public banquet was given to the Queen and the noble strangers
by whom she was accompanied. The pageants exhibited on this occasion
marked the character of the times, and Mary, as she watched, must have
wished herself back in France, far removed from "her loyal and gentle
subjects." An interlude was performed, in which Korah, Dathan, and Abiram
were destroyed as they offered strange fire upon the altar; and it
required the interference of Huntly to prevent an indecent parody of the
Mass, in which the effigy of a priest was to have been burnt as he
elevated the Host. The populace, on the whole, were delighted with the
display, arguing that these dramas contained a wholesome signification of
God’s vengeance against idolaters; to some, however, these displays
appeared an unwise incitement to persecution: while those against whom
they were directed, although they noticed them, prudently ignored them and
hid their feelings.
Mary had been educated in a gay and
cultured court, she came back to a country in the throes of the
Reformation, to a people whose leaders frowned upon sports and plays and
masques as "a’ airts and pairts of the devil."
The very observance of Yule
(Christmas), Pasch (Easter) and the various saints’ days on which they
used to act "Robin Hood", "An Abbot of Unreason", and other games, had
been repressed by the zealous Reformers. [Acts of the Parliaments of
Scotland. Vol. II.] They decreed that such festivals "were idolatrous,
superstitious and slanderous." "All sic unprofitable sports" were to be
cried down. In all time coming no manner of person was to be chosen
"Robert Hude ", nor Little John, nor Queens of May within boroughs, the
choosers of such to tine their freedom for the space of five years, and be
otherwise punished at the Queen’s grace’s will, and the acceptor of sik-like
office to be banished forth of the realm. "And if any women, or others,
about summer trees (maypoles) singing, make perturbation for scaffery
(extortion) of money, or otherwise, (they) shall be taken, handled, and
put upon the cuck-stools."
Thus did the Reformers suppress the
plays, known as Mysteries. The plays were popular, and the Reformers had
their work cut out. From John Knox’s own writings we find that even in the
"good old days "—days in which the Reformers were repressing and exhorting
the people—church-going was not as popular with the masses as was
play-acting. The worthy Mr. Wishart, at Haddington, preached apparently to
an empty church, while to the play the people flocked. Knox recounts how
Wishart in his last sermon, preaching at Haddington, said: "I have heard
of thee, Haddingtoun, that in thee wold have bein at ane vane play two or
three thousand people; and now to be here, to hear the messenger of the
eternal God, of all thy toune nor parishe can not be nombered a hundreth
souls." [Sayings of Knox. Vol. I. page 38.]
Mary, by re-introducing the Masques
and by her perseverance in keeping the feast days of the church in which
she had been reared, and of which she was a devoted follower, drew upon
her head the wrath of the sanctimonious men who had forbidden such acts as
"devices of the devil."
Knox blamed her for encouraging the
Masques or Triumphs. [Knox’s History of the Reformation. Vol. II.]
They were, in spite of Knox’s denunciations, very popular, and no
entertainment was complete without a Masque. The Queen herself and her
four Marys, frequently took part in them, either acting in dumb show, or
reciting Buchanan’s verses, or singing Rizzio’s songs. No matter how
shocked the stern Knox might be, the people were delighted with these
Masques; some were given indoors and some out of doors—one at least was
given near the little lake at Arthur’s Seat. When the French King sent the
Order of St. Michael to Darnley, we read that "Mary and her four Marys,
disguised in men’s apparel," presented the French Ambassador and suite
with Scottish daggers in black velvet sheaths as remembrances of the day.
A Masque was given at Holyrood in which Mary and Darnley and eight others,
including Rizzio, took part.
Soon after Mary’s marriage with
Bothwell, pageants and tourneys were organized to amuse the people, to
divert them and to give them something new to think of, to make them
forget the evil whispers that were being so eagerly circulated against the
personal character of Mary and Bothwell. The Queen cast aside "the
mourning weed" she had hitherto worn, and assumed a gay dress.
When one of her Marys, Mary
Livingston, was married to John Sempill, the Queen gave the wedding and
entertained the guests to a feast and a masque, and amongst the Court
expenses we get the item: "To the painter for the masque on Fastens-even
to Mary Livingston’s marriage.’‘ [Inventories of Mary Queen of Scots.
Bannatyne Club.] Another masque was given on a similar occasion when
another of her ladies was married.
Mary was young and gay, and, living
as she did in turbulent times, surrounded as she was by gloomy reformers
and ambitious statesmen, she turned with delight to such innocent
diversions as she could snatch. Unfortunately, those diversions were
frowned upon by the Reformers, and the consequence was that the people,
too, learnt to disapprove and criticize. Dancing—feast days—masques—all
came under the ban.
Randolph, writing to his mistress,
disapproves of the Easter festivities. " Organs," he writes in April,
1565, "were wont to be common music, but she wanted now neither trumpet,
drum nor fife, bagpipes nor tabor..." instead "upon Monday she and divers
of her women apparelled themselves like burghers’ wives, went upon their
feet up and down the town, and of every man they met they took some pledge
for money towards the banquet."
Frequently the Queen and her Marys
donned masculine attire, but this apparently caused neither surprise nor
disapproval. At the "Maskery or Mumschawe" given one Sunday evening in
honour of the French Ambassador, not only was "the Queen’s Grace" and all
her Marys and ladies in men’s clothes, but not one word of indignation was
expressed either at their clothes or their Sunday evening’s entertainment.
Fifty years afterwards, the question
of how far one sex is forbidden by Scripture to assume the dress of the
other would appear to have been discussed in relation to the magnificent
masques so common at Whitehall in the reign of James VI.
At the baptism of James VI. at
Stirling on the 18th December, 1566, a kind of rude attempt at theatrical
representation was exhibited to the courtiers. We are informed by Sir
James Melville, that "a Frenchman called Bastien devised a number of men
formed like satyrs, with long tails, and whips in their hands, running
before the meat, which was brought through the great hall upon a trim
engine, marching, as appeared, it alone, with musicians, clothed like
maidens, playing upon all sorts of instruments and singing of music. But
the satyrs were not content only to redd (clear) room, but put their hands
behind them to their tails, which they wagged with their hands, in such
sort as the Englishmen supposed of May, and such others on the Sabbath day
be discharged. Two years later, a resolution was carried that such
individuals as after due admonition persisted in frequenting May plays,
should not be admitted to the Communion of the Church, without yielding
satisfaction for the spiritual offence.
Mary danced and acted and shocked
the Reformers. John Knox was not one to let even a young and beautiful
Queen sin with impunity and without an admonition. He dealt as faithfully
with her as with the most lowly born and greatest sinners in the land. One
day, as he left the royal apartments and his Sovereign in tears, he had to
pass through an ante-room in which he saw a circle of ladies sitting near
in gorgeous apparel. He cannot let the chance pass: "O fair ladies," said
he, between jest and earnest, "how pleasant were this life of yours, if it
should ever abide, and then in the end that ye might pass to heaven with
all this gay gear! But fie upon that knave Death, that will come whether
ye will or not; and when he has laid on his arrest, the foul worms will be
busy with this flesh, be it never so fair and so tender, and the silly
soul, I fear, shall be so feeble that it can neither carry with it gold,
garnishing, targeting (target-like trimming), pearl nor precious stones."
He was still in full song when the Laird of Dun came out of the Queen’s
cabinet, and peremptorily requested Knox to go home.
With such men as Knox and his
brethren ever at hand to admonish them, the ladies attending the Queen
would require some diversion—something to make them forget their harsh
Mary played cards and chess, the
game which her son James condemned as "over wise and philosophic as a
folly"; she played backgammon or tables, and billiards. Randolph writes to
Cecil that he had played billiards with the beautiful Mary Beaton against
the Queen and Darnley while they were at St. Andrews. Many years later,
when Mary was a prisoner at Fotheringay, just after her trial, when she
had been condemned to the scaffold, her gaoler, Amyas Paulet, ever cruel
and stern, causes her billiard table to be removed, saying: "This is no
time for you to indulge in exercise or amusement."
If Mary felt his insolent cruelty
she did not shew it; she was able to look him calmly in the face and
answer with her usual courage: "I have never made use of it since it was
put up, since you have kept me sufficiently employed in other ways."
If she had few diversions in prison,
she had her books and fancy-work. When at Tutbury, Nicholas White asked
her how she passed her time indoors when the bad weather prevented her
having out-of-door exercise. She replied that "all that day she wrought
with her needle, and that the diversity of the colours made the work seem
Puppets were another diversion of
her Court days. Of outdoor sports she had many. In 1567 we read that "the
Queen exercised openly in the fields at golf."
As an instance of her indifference
to Darnley’s fate, her adversaries affirmed that, a few days after his
murder, she was seen playing golf and pall-mall, croquet as we should now
call it, in the fields beside Seton.
Golf was played in Scotland in 1457,
when it was forbidden by Parliament as an unprofitable pastime, which drew
people away from archery and other warlike
sports. The prohibition was renewed in 1471
and again in 1491. [Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland.
Mary was a wonderful horsewoman and could endure
hardships with equanimity. Randolph writes to his mistress, Elizabeth,
describing Mary’s feats when she went to the Highlands. "I assure you I
never saw her merrier, never dismayed, nor never thought that so much be
in her as that I find . . . She
was hardy as well as brave and she repented nothing but that she was not a
man, to know what life it was to lie all night in the fields or to walk on
the causeway with a jack and knapsack, a Glasgow buckler and a broad
Her journey is cumbersome and
marvellous long, the weather extreme foul and cold." But the dauntless
Mary meets all her troubles with a smile. Mary’s courage is her first and
Queen Elizabeth, always anxious to
hear about her sister Queen, and preferring to hear little good, asks Sir
James Melville what kind of exercises she (Mary) used. To which he
replied, "I said . . .
that the Queen was but new come back
from the highland hunting; and when she had leisure from the affairs of
her country, she read upon good books, the histories of divers countries,
and sometimes would play upon lute and virginals. She speirt," goes on
Melville, "if she played well. I said, reasonably for a Queen."
Queen Elizabeth that day played the
virginals herself, and then asked whether Queen Mary or she played best,
and the pawky Melville says, "In that I gave her the praise."
"She enquired at me," he says later,
"whether she or the Queen danced best. I said the Queen danced not so high
and disposedly as she did." He does not venture upon a straightforward
answer. From many sources we learn that Mary was fond of dancing. As
usual, Knox has something to complain of. He writes disprovingly about the
Queen and James Stuart, Prior of Coldingham, who likewise was a dancer.
". . .
the Queen would dance," said Knox; "nay, once when on
good news from Paris, she was merry excessively, dancing till after
midnight; she had on this occasion the bad example of the Prior to
encourage her." The Prior, amongst other accomplishments, was a dancer of
repute. Randolph comments thus to Cecil: "The Prior hath not least favour
with the Queen by his leaping and dancing." Again Knox shakes his head at
When Darnley came to Scotland he was
introduced to the Queen at Wemyss Castle on the Firth of Forth, where she
was then staying. He found immediate favour with the Queen, and, anxious
to propitiate the Protestants, he at once put himself under the guidance
of Moray and went to hear Knox preach. As an antidote to Knox he returned
with the Queen to the palace, where he was introduced to the beauties of
the Court and, as the evening wore on, at the suggestion of Moray, Damley
danced a galliard with the Queen.
The reformers, as usual, thundered
forth rebukes against "the balling and dancing and banquetting at the
court." In 1564, Knox remarks, "The Queen making a progress in Fife,
caused so much banquetting as to produce a scarcity of wild-fowl."
Partridges, he chronicles, were sold for a crown a-piece. "Even the price
of food went up as a result of the feasting."
Mary practised archery and was a
good shot. We read of a match at Tranent where she was victorious and won
a dinner. At St. Andrews, in the Priory gardens, Mary, with the Master of
Lindsay, shoots against the Earl of Moray and Mary Livingston, whose skill
is reported to have been as good as that of her mistress.
Mary Stuart’s ancestors had all been
lovers of the sport of archery.
When James I. was a prisoner in
England, he saw and admired the dexterity of the English archers, and he
was himself an excellent archer. When he returned to Scotland he
endeavoured to revive the exercise of archery among his own subjects, by
whom it had been too much neglected. With this view, he ridiculed their
awkward manner of handling their bows, in his humorous poem of "Christ’s
Kirk on the Green." In his first Parliament he made the following law—this
was immediately after his return to Scotland in 1424:
"That all men busk (prepare) them to
be archers from they be 12 years of age, and that in ilk ten pounds’ worth
of land there be made bow-marks, and specially near parish kirks, where
upon holy days men may come, and at the least shoot thrice about, and have
usage of archery; and whoso uses not the said archery, the lord of the
land shall raise (levy) of him a wether; and if the lord raise not the
said pain (penalty), the king’s sheriff, or his ministers, shall raise it
to the king."
King James I. died before this law
could be put into execution; both he and his descendants were skilled
archers. Mary’s father, James V., was proficient in archery.
Pitscottie tells the following story
illustrative of the period:
"In this year there came an
ambassador out of England, named Lord William (Howard), with a bishop with
him, in company with many other gentlemen, to the number of three-score of
horse in train, which was all able men and waled (picked) men for all kind
of games and pastimes, as shooting, leaping, riding, and wrestling. But
they were well sayed (essayed or tried) ere they passed out of Scotland,
(and) that by their own provocation; but ever they tint (lost) : till at
last, the Queen of Scotland, the King’s mother, favoured the Englishmen so
because she was the King of England’s sister; and, therefore, she took an
enterprise of archery upon the Englishmen’s hands contrary the King’s
grace her son, and any six in Scotland that he would wale, either
gentlemen or yeomen, that the said Englishmen should shoot against them,
either at pricks, rovers, or at butts, as the Scots pleased. The King,
hearing this of his mother, was contented of her bonspiel, and garred her
pawn a hundred crowns and a tun of wine upon the Englishmen’s hands; and
he incontinent laid down so meikle for the Scotsmen. The field and the
ground was in St. Andrews, and the men chosen, three landed gentlemen and
three yeomen, to shoot against the Englishmen, to wit, David Wemyss of
that ilk, David Arnot of that ilk, Mr. John Wedderburn, vicar of Dundee;
the yeomen, John Thomson of Leith, Stephen Taburner, with one Baillie, a
piper, that shot felon (terribly) near and warred the Englishmen of times
by near shooting, but the rest of the archers shot far and wight (strong)
and warred (worsted) the Englishmen of the enterprise, and won the hundred
crowns and the tun of wine from the Queen’s grace, and so made the King
very merry that his men had won the game."
In France one of Mary’s childish
amusements had been "riding La Chasse." In Scotland she hunted the hare,
and was such a fast rider that she was always ahead of her followers. She
visited Atholl and Argyll for "Royal Hunting"; at one hunt "were killed
three hundred and sixty deer, five wolves and some wild goats."
Mary had a frame of iron, and seemed
incapable of fatigue, she galloped ninety miles after the defeat at
Langside without a pause except to change horses.
This endurance on horseback was
inherited. Her grandfather, James IV., in penitence for having been
concerned in the death of his father, wore an iron chain to which he added
a link every year. He also made pilgrimages to the shrines of favourite
saints. In the year 1507, on the 30th of August, he rode from Stirling to
Elgin, by way of Perth and Aberdeen, being about 187 miles; and on the
subsequent day, which was the festival of the saint, he rode to St. Duthac,
being about fifty miles more, and arrived in time to attend the
celebration of the Mass, and to receive Holy Sacrament.
In captivity, and crippled by
rheumatism and ill-health, Mary writes, " I can still use my cross-bow
against a deer and gallop after the hounds." Indomitable spirit, it was a
hard fate that sent one so cultured and so full of the joy of life to
reign over a stern and poor people, a people in the throes of a
Reformation, in which she had no part, a people who later suffered one so
brave and resourceful to spend so many years a prisoner in the hands of a
To the end she kept her jailers
anxious and ever watchful of what she would do. When a prisoner at
Carlisle and before she "was crippled by rheumatism," Sir Francis Knollys
advised "that her windows should be carefully fastened, otherwise escape
would be easy to a lady of her agility and spirit."
Mary had a fondness for dogs, which
was inherited by more than one generation of her descendants. We read of
blue velvet for collars for the Queen’s little dogs. [Inventories
of Mary Queen of Scots.]
In ordering her household, a daily
ration of two loaves was set apart for them. They were under the charge of
a keeper, and some of them were occasionally sent to France.
In January, 1561-2, there are
payments from the Treasury of £12 to Anthone Guidio for keeping of the
Queenis Grace doggis, and in March, 1564-5, £33 for services to the "boy
that keepes the doggis, and to a boy of the Queen’s French tailor."
In prison she manifests the same
solicitude for her dogs. "If my uncle," she wrote from her prison at
Sheffield, in 1574, to the Archbishop of Glasgow, her ambassador at
Paris—" If my uncle, the Cardinal of Guise, has gone to Lyons, I am sure
he will send me a couple of pretty little dogs, and you will buy me as
many more; for except in reading and working, my only pleasure is in all
the little animals that I can get. They must be well stowed so as to keep
them warm." [Lettres de Marie Stuart. Prince Labanoff.]
She herself sends a little dog to a
French friend. A dog, her chosen companion, followed her to the scaffold
at Fotheringay, and, nestling among the clothes which she threw off as she
bared her neck for the blow, lay there till all was over and the clothes
began to be gathered up, when it crept between the severed head and body,
and would not leave them until it was taken away by force.
She could watch a game as well as
take part in one. We read she watched a football match for two hours, and
another time she watched "Running the Ring"; these pastimes always amused
and interested her.
"The football" in olden days was a
favourite sport throughout Scotland, but especially upon the Borders.
Carmichael, of Carmichael, warden of the middle marches, was killed in
1600 by a band of the Armstrongs, returning from a football match. Sir
Robert Carey, in his "Memoirs," tells of a great meeting appointed by the
Scottish riders to be held at Kelso, for the purpose of playing at
football, but which terminated in an incursion upon England.
Another sport she indulged in at St.
Andrews was hawking. Knox informs us that it was at the hawking near
Kinross that she appointed him to meet her.
Mary was a Queen of whom any nation
might have been proud. She enjoyed sport and she enjoyed with her usual
kind-heartedness seeing other people happy. If she herself had trials and
troubles—if she had little peace—she did for her country what none of her
predecessors had done. She allowed during her reign neither foreign foe
nor foreign friend to set foot within her kingdom.
Historians all agree that she was
the most beautiful woman of her age; she was fitter for a cultured court
than for a rude country; she lived bravely and she died proudly.
Her courage was invincible; her
charm was irresistible, difficult to describe, for charm is an elusive
quality, it is hardly possible to say how it comes—suffice it to say, that
Mary Stuart possessed it. She was never one to bow dolefully to
circumstances; she faced the world and her enemies with a gallant air.
Her misfortune was, not how she
lived, but the era in which she lived. The bulk of her subjects were heart
and soul with the Reforming party, whereas she, by instinct, tradition and
education, was a firm upholder of the old Faith, the church in which she
had been cradled, the church to which the Stuarts had owned allegiance.
To preserve her faith was her
object, the church was her beacon, and with an unfaltering hand she
steered towards the light.
It was her misfortune to live during
the time of a tragic cleavage in religious thought, a period when there
was right and conscience on both sides, but a time when the leaders on
both sides lacked wisdom and charity in the furtherance of their
doctrines. Mary had principles and she was steadfastly true to them, but
her principles were in direct opposition to the general principles held by
the leaders of thought in Scotland.
She came to Scotland full of
goodwill, determined to reign wisely, and by toleration to win the
approval of her subjects. Even her gay enthusiasm must have been damped by
the gloom and suspicion which surrounded her; but she suppressed her fears
and held her head high. Seldom in her chequered career did her courage or
faith forsake her. She found it hard to learn that it is not easy to
combine sincerity and diplomacy. Whatever faults she had, she was a real,
living, breathing woman—impulsive perhaps, but with a tenacity of will and
a depth of purpose seldom equalled, and with sympathy for those who
claimed it, together with a charm that would have conquered had she lived
in any other age.
Many years later, in the eighteenth
century, Boswell was, on one occasion, lamenting to Johnson, that by the
passing of the Union Scotland was no more an independent country. He was
silenced by the learned Doctor: "Sir, never talk of your independency, who
could let your Queen remain twenty years in captivity, and then be put to
death without even a pretence of justice, without even attempting to
rescue her; and such a Queen too! as any man of any gallantry of spirit
would have sacrificed his life for."
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