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Elizabeth page 12

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The account continues: - "The man, being afterwards taken for a felony in the marches of Wales, and offering the matter of the said murder, was made privily away in the prison; and Sir Richard Varney himself, who died about the same time in London, cried piteously and blasphemed God, and said to a gentleman of worship not long before his death, that all the devils in hell did tear him to pieces. The wife, also, of Baldwin Butler, kinsman to my lord, gave out the whole fact a little before her death." Nor was this the firm belief of the multitude only, but of men of the highest estate and best information in the realm. Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, the queen's ambassador at Paris, one of her most sagacious statesmen, was so horrified at the idea of the queen's marrying this man, that, as we have seen, when he could not move Cecil to dare this representation, he sent his own secretary, Jones, to make a full statement of the murder of his wife by Leicester. Throckmorton declared that such a marriage would render Englishmen the opprobrium of men and the contempt of all people: "God and religion, which be the fundamentals, shall be out of estimation; the queen our sovereign discredited, contemned, and neglected; our country ruined, undone, and made a prey."

Yet so little effect had this honest representation, and the general abhorrence of Leicester, on Elizabeth, that for three years after it she continued her open and infatuated dalliance with this man, and then made him Earl of Leicester, and proposed him as the husband of the Scottish Queen, the real truth being, that as she never meant to marry at all, so she never meant the Queen of Scots to have him. The fact was that she liked to tease both Leicester and Queen Mary; she often quarrelled with Leicester, and then made it up by valuable presents. "His treasure was vast," says Lloyd, "his gains unaccountable, all passages to preferment being in his hand, at home and abroad. He was never reconciled to her Majesty under 5,000, nor to a subject under 500, and was ever and anon out with both."

Lord Darnley, "the long lad," as Elizabeth called him, was the son of that Earl of Lennox who in the time of Henry VIII. joined with Glencairn, Cassillis, and others in attempting to betray Scotland to Henry. For these services, and especially for attempting to betray Dumbarton Castle to the English, he was banished and suffered forfeiture of his estates, but received from Henry VIII., as the promised reward for his treason, the hand of the Lady Margaret Douglas, daughter of Margaret Queen of Scotland, and sister of Henry VIII., one of the lewdest and most turbulent women of the age. Thus Darnley was the son of Mary's aunt, the Lady Margaret Douglas, and grandson of Elizabeth's aunt, Margaret Tudor. He was thus near enough to have laid claim to the crowns of England, and Scotland too, in case of the failure of issue by the present queens. His nearness to the thrones of both kingdoms seems to have suggested the idea of marrying him to the Queen of Scots, whereby her claim on the English throne would receive augmentation. Mary was induced to favour the family, her near relatives. She corresponded with the Countess of Lennox, and invited Lennox to return to Scotland and reversed his attainder. He did not recover the patrimony of Angus, his father, for that was in possession of the powerful Earl of Morton, chancellor of the kingdom, but Mary promised to make that up to him by other means. Once restored to favour and rank in Scotland, Lennox pushed on the scheme of marrying his son Darnley to the queen. Melville was commissioned to intercede for his return to Scotland, but Elizabeth, who could not be blind to the danger of Darnley's wedding the Queen of Scots, for a time would not listen to it. We may believe too that Cecil did his best to prevent this, for of all his desires, the most earnest was that of the removal of Leicester from the Court, and therefore he used all his eloquence to get Leicester chosen for that honour. The great favourite was a perpetual thorn in his side, usurping all favour, all honour, all power and patronage. Whilst he was in the ascendant Cecil was never safe, for they hated one another. Cecil, therefore, watched every motion of both Leicester and the queen. He soon perceived that though Elizabeth pretended to urge the marriage of Leicester with Mary, so soon as matters appeared coming to a point, she always slackened her negotiations. He conceived hope again when he perceived any symptoms of the queen's returning to a foreign courtship. "This I see in the queen's Majesty," he wrote to his confidant, Sir Thomas Smith, "a sufficient contentation to be moved to marry abroad; and, if it may so please God Almighty to lead by the hand some meet person to come and lay hand on her to her contentation, I then could wish myself more health to endure my years somewhat longer, to enjoy such a world here as I trust will follow; otherwise, I assure you, as now things hang in. desperation, I have no comfort to live."

Matters were in this position, when Melville spent his nine days at the English Court. She saw him, he says, every day, often three times a day, "aforenoon, afternoon, and after supper." The great topic was Mary's marriage, and she declared if Mary would take Leicester she would set the best lawyers in England to ascertain who had the best right to the succession, and that she had rather her dear sister had the crown than any other. "She herself, she said, 'never minded to marry except compelled by the queen her sister's hard behaviour to her.' I said, 'Madam, ye need not tell me that; I know your stately stomach. Ye think, gin ye were married, ye would be but Queen of England; and now ye are king and queen, baith, ye may not suffer a commander.'"

Elizabeth, who was assuredly one of the most finished Dissemblers that ever lived, affected great kindness for Mary, kept her portrait by liar, often gazed on it in Melville's presence, and would then kiss it. She showed Melville a fair ruby like a racket-ball and the portrait of Leicester, and told him that his mistress would get them both in time if she followed her counsel, and all that she had. She interrogated Melville regarding every particular of Mary's person, dress, and habits. She had female costume from various countries, and would appear in a fresh dress every day, and ask Melville which best became her. Melville replied the Italian, because it best displayed her golden coloured hair under a caul and bonnet. He adds, as it were aside, her hair was redder than yellow, and curled apparently by nature. She then wanted to know which had the handsomest hair, she or Mary, and there Melville was obliged to be evasive; then which had the handsomest person, and Melville was at his wits'-end, but replied they were both the handsomest women in their own Courts, but that Elizabeth was whitest. Then she wanted to know which was tallest; and Melville thought he might speak the truth there without offence, and said his queen. "Then she is over high," said Elizabeth, "for I am neither too high nor too low." She next wanted to know what were Mary's amusements and accomplishments; and learning that she played well on the lute and virginals, the same day he was taken, as it were without the queen's knowledge, to where he could hear her playing on the virginals. Then Elizabeth asked which played best, Mary or her, and, of course, Melville was obliged to say she did. She spoke to Melville in French, Italian, and Dutch, to display her knowledge of languages; and she detained him two days, that he might see her dance, after which came the regular question, which danced best, she or Mary? and Melville got out of that by saying that his queen danced not so high or disposedly as she did. A more exquisite exhibition of female vanity is nowhere to be found, and well would it have been if this womanly jealousy had produced no worse fruits.

On returning from Hampton Court, where this last scene took place, Leicester conducted Melville to London by water, and on the way he asked him what the Queen of Scots thought of him as a husband. The answer of Melville, who did not care so nicely to flatter the favourite, was not very complimentary, and thereupon Leicester made haste to assure the Scotch envoy that he had never presumed so much as to think of marrying so great a queen; that he knew that he was not worthy to wipe her shoes, but that it was the plot of Cecil to ruin him with both the queens.

Melville, on his return to Edinburgh, assured the Queen of Scots that she could never expect any real friendship from, the Queen of England, for that she was overflowing with jealousy, and was made up of falsehood and deceit. These Eoyal courtships and rivalries went on still for some time : Queen Mary finally determined to refuse the Archduke Charles of Austria, probably to avoid giving umbrage to Elizabeth, and Elizabeth received one more suitor in no less a personage than the young King of France. This was a scheme of the busy and intriguing Catherine de Medici, who thought it would be a fine thing to link England and France together by marriage, but Elizabeth was not likely to perpetrate anything so shallow. The king was only sixteen, and Elizabeth replied that "her good brother was too great and too small; too great as a king, and too small, being but young, and she already thirty." Catherine, however, again pressed it, by De Foix, the ambassador; but Elizabeth, laughing, said, she thought her neighbour, Mary Stuart, would suit him better; this, however, was only thrown out because Elizabeth had heard of some such project, which, if real, she would oppose resolutely. But a circumstance now took place which it seems difficult to account for. Having refused to permit Lord Darnley to go to Scotland, lest he should marry the Queen of Scots, and add to her claims on the English throne, all at once her objection seemed to vanish, and in February, 1565, she permitted him to travel to Edinburgh. Darnley was at this time in his twentieth year, very tall and handsome, possessing the courtly accomplishments of the age, and free in the distribution of his money. He waited on the young queen at Wemyss Castle, in Fife, and was well received by Mary, who was now about four-and-twenty. There appears no doubt but that the marriage had been planned and promoted by the Lennox party, and it is said that Murray encouraged it, thinking that with a young man of Darnley's weak and pleasure-loving character, he could easily retain the power of the State in his hands. Be that as it may, Darnley soon proposed, and was rejected; but Elizabeth, contrary to her own intentions, contributed to alter Mary's resolution. Elizabeth, probably apprehensive that Darnley being present might obtain the queen's goodwill, again sent Randolph to press the marriage with Leicester; on which Mary, bursting into tears, declared that the Queen of England treated her as a child, and immediately favoured the pretensions of Darnley.

The rumour of the queen's intention to marry Darnley soon reached the English Court. De Foix hastened to consult Elizabeth upon it, and found her playing at chess, and, whispering the news, added, as he surveyed the position of the game, "This game is an image of the words and deeds of men. If, for example, we lose a pawn, it seems but a small matter; nevertheless the loss often draws after it that of the whole game." "I understand you," observed Elizabeth; "Darnley is but a pawn, but may well checkmate me if he is promoted!" She rose and gave over the play. A council was immediately called, and Sir Nicholas Throckmorton was dispatched to dissuade or intimidate the Queen of Scots from the match. He found that ineffectual. Mary told him that she might have married into the houses of Austria, France, or Spain; but as none of those matches could please Elizabeth, she gave them up to oblige her, and had now resolved to marry one who was not only her subject, which she had so earnestly recommended to her, but her kinsman. "And why," she asked, "is she offended?" All she offered was to defer the marriage three months, to give time for Elizabeth's opposition to subside, and dismissed Throckmorton with the present of a gold chain. But that wily minister had contrived to breathe suspicion into the mind of Murray. Darnley, and Lennox, his father, were represented as Papists, and the fears of the Lords of the Congregation were thus aroused.

Murray withdrew from Court, declaring that he could not remain to witness idolatry. The gospel was declared to be in danger; the Protestants were summoned in defence of their religion, and the most scandalous stories of the intimacy of Darnley and the queen were propagated. Such was the excitement, that Randolph informed his own Court that the assassination of Darnley, now created Earl of Boss, was openly menaced. In England, Elizabeth showed her resentment by seizing the Countess of Lennox, Darnley's mother, and shutting her up in the Tower. She also sent word, through Randolph, to the Scottish leaders of the Congregation, bidding them maintain their religion, and the union betwixt the kingdoms, and on these conditions promising her support.

Encouraged by these assurances, the Kirk presented to Mary a memorial, bluntly informing her that they could no longer tolerate idolatry in the sovereign, any more than in the subject. Private information was given to Mary that the Protestant lords had laid their plan to seize both herself, Lennox, and Darnley, as they proceeded to the baptism of a child of Lord Livingstone's, at Callendar: that Chatelherault was at Kinneil, Murray at Lochleven, Argyll at Castle Campbell, and Rothes at Parretwall. To prevent this, Mary was on horseback at five in the morning, and dashed through their intended ambush before they were aware. Two hours later, Argyll, Boyd, and Murray met at the appointed spot, only to learn that the bird had escaped the snare. The traitors, to cover their defeated design, authorised Randolph to assure the queen that she had unnecessarily alarmed herself. But as, after this, there could be no safety for them, they implored Elizabeth to send them 3,000, and they would still endeavour to seize Lennox and Darnley. To defeat that object, Mary, on the 9th of July, privately married Darnley at Edinburgh. The intimacy which now subsisted betwixt the queen and her husband attracted the attention of the spies of the lords, and the utmost horror was expressed at the profligacy of their queen.

Matters were now hastening to an extremity. The lords assembled at Stirling, and entered into a bond to stand by each other. They sent off a messenger to urge speedy aid from Elizabeth, and actively diffused reports that Lennox had plotted to take away the life of Murray, This, both Lennox and Darnley stoutly denied, and the queen, to leave no obscurity in the case, gave Murray a safe conduct for himself and eighty others, and ordered him to attend in her presence and produce his proofs. She declared that such a thing as enforcement of the religion or consciences of her subjects had never entered her mind, and she called on her loyal subjects to hasten to her defence. This call was promptly and widely responded to, and Mary, finding herself now in security, declared the choice of Darnley as her husband, created him Duke of Albany, and married him openly, in the chapel of Holyrood. He was by proclamation declared king during the time of their marriage, and all writs were ordered to run in the joint names of Henry and Mary, King and Queen of Scotland.

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