A more sensible man would have foreseen that marriage would mean certain ruin for himself and the Queen. But he was accustomed to despise all difficulties in his path, being intellectually incapable of measuring them, and believing in nothing but audacity and brute force. Husband of the Queen, why should he not be master of the kingdom? Why not King? The wretched victim had alienated all his friends among the nobility. Some owed him a deadly grudge for his treachery. Others had been offended by his insolence.
To all he was an encumbrance and a nuisance. Several, therefore, of the leading personages were more or less engaged in the compact for putting him out of the way. Moray, Argyll, and Maitland offered to assist in ridding Mary of her husband by way of a Protestant sentence of divorce, on condition that Morton and his friends in exile should be pardoned and recalled.
The bargain was struck, and Mary assented to it. Nothing was said about murder. No one had any interest in murder except Mary and Bothwell, whose project of marriage was as yet unsuspected. At the same time, if Bothwell liked to kill Darnley on his own responsibility, as no doubt he made it pretty plain that he would—why, so much the better. It relieved the other lords of all trouble. It was a simple, thorough, old-fashioned expedient, which had never been attended with any discredit in Scotland, and had only one inconvenience —that it usually saddled the murderer with a blood feud.
In the present case Lennox was the only peer who would feel the least aggrieved; and he was in no condition to wage blood-feuds. So obvious was all this that it was hardly worth while to observe secrecy except as to the exact occasion and mode of execution. Many persons were more or less aware of what was going to be done; but none cared to interfere. Moray was an honourable and conscientious man, if judged by the standard of his environment—the only fair way of estimating character.
That Darnley was murdered by Bothwell is not disputed. That Mary was cognisant of the plot, and lured him to the shambles, has been doubted by few investigators at once competent and unbiassed. She lent herself to this part not without compunction. Bothwell had the advantage over her that the loved has over the lover; and he used it mercilessly for his headlong ambition, hardly taking the trouble to pretend that he cared for the unhappy woman who was sacrificing everything for him. He in fact cared more for his lawful wife, whom he was preparing to divorce, and to whom he had been married only six months.
Mary was tormented by jealousy of her after the divorce as well as before. The murder of Darnley 10 February was universally ascribed to Mary at the time by Catholics as well as Protestants at home and abroad, and it fatally damaged her cause in England and the rest of Europe. In Scotland itself—such was the backward and barbarous state of the country—it would probably not have shaken her throne if she had followed it up with firm and prudent government. She might even have indulged her illicit passion for Bothwell, with little pretence of concealment, if she had not advanced him in place and power above his equals.
There was probably not a noble in Scotland, from Moray downwards, who would have scrupled to be her Minister.
The Protestant commonalty indeed, who with all the national laxity as to the observance of the sixth commandment, were shocked by any trifling with the seventh, would no doubt have made their bark heard. But their bite had not yet become formidable; and in any case they were not to be propitiated. The lords, Catholic and Protestant alike, allowed the murder to pass uncondemned and unpunished; but they were furious when they found that Darnley had only been removed to make room for Bothwell, and that they were to have for their master a noble of by no means the highest lineage, bankrupt in fortune, and generally disliked for his arrogant and bullying demeanour.
The project of marriage was not disclosed till ten weeks after the murder 19 April Five days later, Bothwell, fearing lest he should be frustrated by public indignation or interference from England, carried off the Queen, as had been previously arranged between them. His idea was that, when Mary had been thus publicly outraged, it would be recognised as impossible that she should marry any one but the ravisher. In this coarse expedient, as in the clumsy means employed for disposing of Darnley, we see the blundering foolhardiness of the man. Just a month later Mary surrendered to the insurgent lords at Carberry Hill, and Bothwell, flying for his life, disappears from history.
The feelings with which Elizabeth had contemplated the course of events in Scotland during the last six months were no doubt of a mixed nature.
1 thought on “Chapter 2 of Forced to Marry”
The last bold thrust, aimed in her interest if not by her hand —the murder of Rizzio—had not improved her position. It seemed that she would soon be obliged to make her choice between two equally dreaded alternatives: she must either recognise Mary as her heir or take a husband. From this unpleasant dilemma she was released by the headlong descent of her rival in the first six months of But all other feelings were soon swallowed up in alarm and indignation at the spectacle of subjects in revolt against their sovereign.
If they deposed or punished her, she would revenge it upon them. This language, addressed as it was to the only men in Scotland who were disposed to support the English interest, was imprudent. In her fellow-feeling for a sister sovereign, and her keen perception of the revolutionary tendencies of the time, Elizabeth spoilt an unique opportunity of placing her relations with Scotland on a footing of permanent security, of providing for the English succession in a way at once advantageous to the nation and free from risk to her own life, and lastly, of escaping from the constant worry about her own marriage.
She had seen clearly enough what might be made of the situation. Throgmorton had been despatched to Scotland with instructions to do his best to get the infant Prince confided to her care. Once in England, she would virtually have adopted him.
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She would have possessed a son and heir without the inconvenience of marriage. To a Parliamentary recognition, indeed, of his title she would assuredly not have consented. It would have made him independent and dangerous. But if he behaved well to her, his succession would be more certain than any Act of Parliament could make it.
Mary, if released and restored to power, would no longer be formidable. If she were deposed or put to death, Elizabeth would indirectly govern Scotland, at all events, till James should be of age. This splendid opportunity Elizabeth lost by her peremptory and domineering language. The old Scotch pride took fire. The Anglophile lords, who would have been glad enough to send the young Prince to England, could not afford to appear less patriotic than the Francophiles.
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He was told that, before the Prince could be sent to England, his title to the English succession must be recognised; a condition which Elizabeth could not grant. Her claim that Mary should be restored without conditions was equally unacceptable to the Anglophile lords. They might have been induced to release her if she would have consented to give up Bothwell, or if they could have caught and hanged him.
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But such was her devotion to him, that no threats or promises availed to shake it. It was in vain that they offered to produce letters of his to the divorced Lady Bothwell, in which he assured her that he regarded her still as his lawful wife, and Mary only as his concubine. The unhappy Queen had been aware even before her marriage—as a pathetic letter to Bothwell shows—that her passionate love was not returned. Two days after the marriage, his unkindness had driven her to think of suicide. But nothing they could say could shake her constancy.
She would live and die with him. If it were put to her choice to relinquish her crown and kingdom or the Lord Bothwell, she would leave her kingdom and dignity to go as a simple damsel with him; and she will never consent that he shall fare worse or have more harm than herself. Let them put Bothwell and herself on board ship to go wherever fortune might carry them. They were disappointed and angry that Elizabeth, instead of approving their enterprise, and sending the money for which, as usual, they were begging, should treat them as rebels, and even secretly urge the Hamiltons to rescue Mary by force.
The Hamiltons were in arms at Dumbarton. Lady Douglas of Loch Leven herself, for whom Sir Walter Scott has invented such magnificent tirades, desired nothing better than to be her mother-in-law. The prompt action of the confederate lords foiled these schemes. Elizabeth would not recognise him; partly from a natural fear lest she should be suspected of having been in collusion with him all along, partly from genuine abhorrence of such revolutionary proceedings.
The French Government, on the other hand, casting principle and sentiment alike to the winds, courted his alliance. He might keep his sister in prison, or put her to death, or send her to be immured in a French convent: only let him embrace the French interests, and an army should be sent to support him —a Huguenot army if he did not like Catholics. After the defeat of Langside 13 May it would perhaps have been difficult for the fugitive Queen to make her way to France or Spain.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
But it was not the difficulty which deterred her from making the attempt. Both Catherine and Philip, later on, were disposed to befriend her, or, rather, to make use of her; but at the time of her escape from Scotland, she had nothing to expect from them but severity. Elizabeth was the only sovereign who had tried to help her.
Moreover, Mary had always laboured under the delusion that because most Englishmen regarded her as the next heir to the crown, and a great many preferred the old religion to the new, she had as good a party in England as Elizabeth herself, if not a better. During her prosperity, she had made repeated applications to be allowed to visit the southern kingdom. If she now crossed the Solway without waiting for the permission which she had requested by letter, it was not because she was hard pressed. The Regent had gone to Edinburgh after the battle. Her haste was rather prompted by the expectation that Elizabeth, alarmed by her application, would refuse to receive her.
To Elizabeth the arrival of the Scottish Queen was, indeed, as unwelcome as it was unexpected. For ten years she had governed successfully, because she had managed to hold an even course between conflicting principles and parties, and to avoid taking up a decisive attitude on the most burning questions.
The very indecision, which was the weak spot in her character, and which so fretted her Ministers, had, it must be confessed, contributed something to the result.
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