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819
MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS


and six days after the murder of her husband she became the wife of her husband's murderer. On the 11th of February she wrote to the bishop of Glasgow, her ambassador in France, a brief letter of simple eloquence, announcing her providential escape from a design upon her own as well as her husband's life. A reward of two thousand pounds was offered by proclamation for discovery of the murderer. Bothwell and others, his satellites or the queen's, were instantly placarded by name as the criminals. Voices were heard by night in the streets of Edinburgh calling down judgment on the assassins. Four days after the discovery of the bodies, Darnley was buried in the chapel of Holyrood with secrecy as remarkable as the solemnity with which Rizzio had been interred there less than a year before. On the Sunday following, Mary left Edinburgh for Seton Palace, 12 miles from the capital, where scandal asserted that she passed the time merrily in shooting-matches with Bothwell for her partner against Lords Seton and Huntly; other accounts represent Huntly and Bothwell as left at Holyrood in charge of the infant prince. Gracefully and respectfully, with statesmanlike yet feminine dexterity, the demands of Darnley's father for justice on the murderers of his son were accepted and eluded by his daughter-in-law. Bothwell, with a troop of fifty men, rode through Edinburgh denantly denouncing vengeance on his concealed accusers. As weeks elapsed without action on the part of the royal widow, while the cry of blood was up throughout the country, raising echoes from England and abroad, the murmur of accusation began to rise against her also. Murray, with his sister's ready permission, withdrew to France. Already the report was abroad that the queen was bent on marriage with Bothwell, .whose last year's marriage with the sister of Huntly would be dissolved, and the assent of his wife's brother purchased by the restitution of his forfeited estates. According to the M emoirs of Sir James Melville, both Lord Herries and himself resolved to appeal to thequeen in terms of bold and earnest remonstrance against so desperate and scandalous a design; Herries, having been met with assurances of its unreality and professions of astonishment at the suggestion, instantly fled from court; Melville, evading the danger of a merely personal protest without backers to support him, laid before Mary a letter from a loyal Scot long resident in England, which urged upon her consideration and her conscience the danger and disgrace of such a. project yet more freely than Herries had ventured to do by word of mouth; but the sole result was that it needed all the queen's courage and resolution to rescue him from the violence of the man for whom, she was reported to have said, she cared not if she lost France, England and her own country, and would go with him to the world's end in a white petticoat before she would leave him. On the 28th of March the privy council, in which Bothwell himself sat, appointed the 12th of April as the day of his trial, Lennox, instead of the crown, being named as the accuser, and cited by royal letters to appear at “ the humble request and petition of the said Earl Bothwell, ” who, on the day of the trial, ha/d 4000 armed men behind him in the streets, while the castle was also at his command. Under these arrangements it was not thought wonderful that Lennox discreetly declined the danger of attendance, even with 3000 men ready to follow him, at the risk of desperate street fighting. He pleaded sickness, asked for more time, and demanded that the accused, instead of enjoying special favour, should share the treatment of other suspected criminals. But, as no particle of evidence on his side was advanced, the protest of his representative was rejected, and Bothwell, acquitted in default of witnesses against him, was free to challenge any persistent accuser to the ancient ordeal of battle. His wealth and power were enlarged by gift of the parliament which met on the 14th and rose on the 19th of April-a date made notable by the subsequent supper at Ainslie's tavern, where Bothwell obtained the signatures of its leading members to a document affirming his innocence, and pledging the subscribers to maintain it against all challengers, to stand by him in all his quarrels and finally to promote by all means in their power the marriage by which they recommended the queen to reward his services and benefit the country. On the second day following Mary went to visit her child at Stirling, where his guardian, the earl of Mar, refused to admit more than two women in lier train. It was well known in Edinburgh that Bothwell had a body of men ready to intercept her on the 'way back, and carry her to Dunbar-not, as was naturally inferred, without good assurance of her consent. On the 24th of April, as she approached Edinburgh, Bothwell accordingly met her at the head of Soo spearmen, assured her (as she afterwards averred) that she was in the utmost peril, and escorted her, together with Huntly, Lethington and Melville, who were then in attendance, to Dunbar Castle. On the 3rd of May Lady Jane Gordon, who had become countess of Bothwell on the 22nd of February of the year preceding, obtained, on the ground of her husband's infidelities, a separation which, however, would not under the old laws of Catholic Scotland have left him free to marry again; on the 7th, accordingly, the necessary divorce was pronounced, after two days' session, by a clerical tribunal which ten days before had received from the queen a special commission to give judgment on a plea of somewhat apocryphal consanguinity alleged by Bothwell as the ground of an action for divorce against his wife. The fact was studiously evaded or concealed that a dispensation had been granted by the archbishop of St Andrews for this irregularity, which could only have arisen through some illicit connexion of the husband with a relative of' the wife between whom and himself no affinity by blood or marriage could be proved. On the day when the first or Protestant divorce was pronounced, Mary and Bothwell returned to Edinburgh with every prepared appearance of a peaceful triumph. Lest her captivity should have been held to invalidate the late legal proceedings in her name, proclamation was made of forgiveness accorded by the queen to her captor in consideration of his past and future services; and her intention was announced to reward them by further promotion; and on the same day (May 12), he was duly created duke of Orkney and Shetland. The duke, as a conscientious Protestant, refused to marry his mistress according to the rites of her Church, and she, the chosen champion of its cause, agreed to be married to him, not merely by a Protestant but by one who before his conversion had been a Catholic bishop, and should therefore have been more hateful and contemptible in her eyes than any ordinary heretic, had not religion as well as policy, faith as well as reason, been absorbed or superseded by some more mastering passion or emotion. This passion or emotion, according to those who deny her attachment to Bothwell, was simply terror-the blind and irrational prostration of an abject spirit before the cruel force of circumstances and the crafty wickedness of men. Hitherto, according to all evidence, she had shown herself on all occasions, as on all subsequent occasions she indisputably showed herself, the most fearless, the most keen-sighted, the most ready-withed, the most high-gifted and high-spirited of women; gallant and generous, skilful and practical, never to be cowed by fortune, never to be cajoled by craft; neither more unselfish in her ends nor more unscrupulous in her practice than might have been expected from her training and her creed. But at the crowning moment of trial there are those who assert their belief that the woman who on her way to the field of Corrichie had uttered her wish to be a man, that she might know all the hardship and all the enjoyment of a soldier's life, ” riding forth “ in jack and k naps cull ”-the woman who long afterwards was to hold her own for two days together without help of counsel against all the array of English law and English statesmanship, armed with irrefragable evidence and supported by the resentment of a nation-showed herself equally devoid of moral and of physical resolution; too senseless to realize the significance and too heartless to face the danger of a situation from which the "simplest exercise of reason, principle or courage must have rescued the most unsuspicious and inexperienced of honest women who was not helplessly deficient in self-reliance and self-respect. The famous correspondence produced next year in evidence against her at the conference of York may have been, as her partisans affirm, so craftily garbled and falsified by interpolation, suppression, perversion, or