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Casket letters

to Andrew Lang for use in his book, The Mystery of Mary Stuart (1900–1904).

Not one of the Lennox documents is dated; all but one are endorsed in an English hand of the period. It may be conjectured that they were selected by Lennox from his papers, and lent by him to some one who was writing against Mary. Among them (Cambridge University MSS. Oo. 7. 47. fol. 17 b.) is a long indictment of Mary, in which Lennox describes a wicked letter of hers. As has been said, he closely follows Moray's version reported by de Silva in July 1567. Lennox also gives several stories of cruel words of Mary spoken to Darnley in the hearing of her servants.

Now, on the 11th of June 1568, Lennox was in the company of John Wood, a creature of Moray's, and Wood, as we saw, brought copies of the Scots renderings of the Letters into England in May–June 1568. It was argued by Andrew Lang that Wood was likely to show these letters to Lennox; and that as Lennox follows Moray's version of Mary's long and murderous letter, and does not follow Letter II., the murderous letter (a forgery) was then part of the dossier of Mary's accusers. Again, as Lennox's indictment of Mary (Cambridge Oo. 7. 47. fol. 17 b.) is rife in "reports and sayings of Mary's servants" about her cruel words to Darnley, and as Lennox had not these reports on the 11th of June 1568, for on that day he wrote to Scotland asking his friends to discover them and send them to him, the indictment (Oo. 7. 47) must have been composed long after the 11th of June. This must be so, for Lennox's letters of the 11th of June were intercepted by his foes, the Hamiltons, and were found in the Hamilton Muniment Room. Thus answers to his inquiries were delayed. (The letters of Lennox were published in Miscellany of the Maitland Club, vol. iv.)

Henderson, on the other side, believes that Wood "indubitably" showed to Lennox the Scots copies of the Casket Letters about the 11th of June 1568. But Lennox, he says, could not quote Letter II. in his indictment against Mary, and had to rest on Moray's version of July 1567, because Lennox's indictment was completed, and even laid before Elizabeth, as early as the 28th of May 1568. Henderson seeks to prove that this is so by quoting from Chalmers's Mary Queen of Scots (vol. ii. p. 289) the statement that Lennox and his wife on that day presented to Elizabeth a "Bill of Supplication"; and (though he submits that the indictment [Oo. 7. 47] is a draft for the Bill) he strengthens his case by heading the indictment, which he publishes, Bill of Supplication. The document, in fact, is unendorsed, and without a title, and there is not a word of "supplication" in it. It is a self-contradictory history of the relations between Mary and Darnley.

Henderson's contention therefore seems erroneous. Lennox could not begin to prepare an English indictment against Mary till she was in England and in Elizabeth's power. He could not hear of this fact—Mary's arrival in England (May 16, 1568)—before, say, the 19th of May; and between the 19th of May and the 28th of May he could not write for and receive from Scotland "the reports and sayings of her servants." He did not possess them on the 11th of June, when he asked for them; he did not get them at once, for his letters were intercepted; the indictment (Oo. 7. 47) is rich in them; therefore that paper is not the "Bill of Supplication" of the 28th of May.

Thus the question remains, why, if Wood about the 11th of June showed to Lennox Letter II. in Scots, did Lennox follow Moray's erroneous version of July 1567? Because in June 1568 that version, forged, was in the Scots collection of the Casket Letters? If so, there was time for Lennox to lend to the accusers certain notes which a retainer of his, Thomas Crawford of Jordan Hill, swore (December 9, 1568) that he had made for Lennox (about January 22, 1567) of secret conversations between Darnley and Mary. Lennox (June 11, 1568) asked Crawford for his reminiscences, not of Darnley's reports of his talks with Mary, but of Crawford's own interview with her as she entered Glasgow to visit Darnley, probably on the 21st of January 1567. It follows that Lennox possessed Crawford's written notes of the Darnley and Mary conversations. If he had not possessed them on the 11th of June 1568, he must have asked Crawford for his reminiscences of these talks. But he did not ask.

Crawford's evidence was all-important, because it corroborated Mary's own account of her interviews with Darnley in Letter II. That part of the letter then, it is argued by many, is a forged interpolation based on Crawford's notes and memories. The force of this contention lies in the close verbal identities between Crawford's account of the Darnley-Mary interviews (see Crawford's Declaration of December 9, 1568, in Lang's Mystery of Mary Stuart, pp. 428–431; from State Papers Scotland, Elizabeth vol. xiii. No. 14. Record Office) and the corresponding passages in Letter II. (Mystery of Mary Stuart, pp. 396–398). The verbal identities can only be explained in one of the following ways. Either Letter II. is here based on Crawford; or Crawford has copied Letter II. by way of corroborating it (a fatal step, if the case came before a modern English court of justice); or Darnley's memory of his conversation with Mary was so fresh, when he dictated his recollection of it to Crawford on 21st–22nd January 1567, that he reported speeches in almost the very same words as Mary used in writing Letter II. Henderson prefers the hypothesis that Lennox had lost Crawford's notes; and that the identities are explained by the "remarkably good memories of Crawford and Mary, or by the more likely supposition that Crawford, before preparing his declaration for the conference" (at Westminster, December 1568) "refreshed his memory by the letter." (Letter II., Mary Queen of Scots, p. 650.)

Mary did not need a particularly good memory; if she wrote, she wrote unchecked her recollections of the day's talk. But no human memory of a conversation reported on the 22nd of January 1567, could be so nearly "word perfect" as Crawford's must have been two years later. If Crawford "refreshed his memory by the letter," he exposed himself, and the entire case, by copying whole passages, often with few verbal changes. If he had access to his original notes of the 21st and 22nd of January 1567, then he was safe—that is, if Darnley's memory of the conversations tallied so exactly with Mary's. Whether that could be, Darnley dictating while still hot from the exciting interchange of words which he meant to report, is a question for psychologists. Experiments made by a person who possesses a good memory seem to show that the thing is very possible, especially if Darnley revised Crawford's notes.

Thus the probabilities are delicately balanced. But if any one compares Crawford's whole declaration with Letter II. in Scots, he will find that Crawford has sources of information not yielded by Letter II.; while Letter II. abounds in matter spoken by Mary and Darnley which could not be borrowed by the hypothetical forger from Crawford's Declaration, for it does not contain the facts. These facts, again, in Letter II., are worthless to a forger, because they concern matters never alluded to in any of the records; never employed in any indictment (though Lennox's are copious in private talk between Darnley and Mary, "reports of her servants"), and totally useless for the purposes of the accusers. Here is one of several examples. Letter II. has, and Crawford has not, the statement that Darnley "showed me, amongst other talk, that he knew well enough that my brother had revealed to me what he (Darnley) had spoken at Stirling. Of this he (Darnley) denies half, and above all that he (the brother?) ever came to his (Darnley's) chamber."

Nothing is known about this matter. The Lennox papers are full of reports of bitter words that passed between Darnley and Mary at Stirling (December 1566), where Darnley was sulking apart while the festivities of the baptism of his son (later James VI.) were being held. But nothing is said in the Lennox papers of words spoken by Darnley to Mary's brother (probably Lord Robert of Holyrood) and revealed by Lord Robert to Mary. Lord Robert was the only friend of Darnley in Mary's entourage; and he even, according to the accusers, warned him of his danger in Kirk o' Field, to which they said that a Casket Letter (III.) referred. The reference is only to be seen by willing eyes.

Is it credible that a forger, using Crawford's Declaration, which is silent as to Mary's brother at Stirling, should have superfluously added what is not to any purpose? Could he have combined