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Elizabeth page 7

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These plausible arguments did not, however, abate the suspicions of the Lords of the Congregation, that Elizabeth was prepared to make a peace without them, nor that several of their own party, including the Duke of Chatelherault, who were lukewarm and dubious Protestants, were ready to join in it. Fortunately for the Congregation, Elizabeth and the queen-regent, undaunted and uncompromising in death, could not agree; the negotiations were broken off, and Elizabeth gave orders to renew the siege with fresh vigour, still commanding her officers to "contemn no reasonable offers of agreement" that might be made by the French.

No such offers, however, appeared likely to come from the brave defenders of Leith. They continued to fight with a spirit and gallantry which gave them a brilliant reputation all over Europe; and the English, on their part, worked doggedly, if not skilfully, to make a breach in the walls. At length they accomplished such a breach, and rushed headlong and in blind fury to force their way into the town; but one of the storming parties lost its way, and the rest, when they reached the ramparts and raised their scaling-ladders, found them too short; and, though they fought like bull-dogs, they were obliged to give way, leaving 1,000 of their comrades in the ditches, and mowed down by the enemy's artillery.

The queen, who had recommended treating in preference to fighting, was greatly chagrined by this failure, and the soldiers were much discouraged. The Government sent down more money, with orders to continue the siege with all vigour, and the Duke of Norfolk dispatched fresh, reinforcements of 2,000 men, with promises of more, declaring that the besiegers should not lack men whilst there were any betwixt the Trent and Tweed. The investment was thus continued with the utmost rigour, and famine became terrible within the walls.

On the 10th of June the queen-regent died in the castle. On her death-bed she earnestly entreated the Lord James, in her presence, and some others of the Lords of the Congregation, as well as her own courtiers, to support the rightful power of her daughter; but, as the events showed, and the treacherous, ambitious character of the bastard brother of Queen Mary rendered probable, to very little purpose, The queen-regent's decease, however, opened a way to negotiation. The insurrectionary feeling in France made the French court readily tender such a proposition, and it was agreed that the French and English commissioners should meet at Berwick on the 14th of June. The English commissioners were Cecil and Dr. Wotton, Dean of Canterbury; the French, Monluc, Bishop of Valence, and Count de Randon. Perhaps four more acute diplomatists never met. On the 16th of Jane they proceeded to Edinburgh, passing through the English camp on the way, where they were saluted by a general discharge of firearms. By the 6th of July all the conditions of peace were settled, and it was announced both to the besiegers and besieged that hostilities were at an end. Leith was surrendered, and D'Oyselles, the French commander, entertained the English and Scotch officers, by whom he had been so nearly famished, at an entertainment, "where", says Stow, "was prepared for them a banquet of thirty or forty dishes, and yet not one either of flesh or fish, saving one of a powdered horse, as was avouched by one that vowed himself to have tasted thereof."

The French commissioners stood stoutly for the rights and prerogatives of the crown, but they were compelled to yield many points to the imperturbable firmness of Cecil. Dunbar and Inchkeith were surrendered as well as Leith. The French troops, expecting a small garrison in Dunbar and another in Inchkeith, were to be sent home and no more to be brought over. An indemnity for all that had passed since March, 1558, in Scotland, was granted; every man was to regain the post or position which he held before the struggle, and no Frenchman was to hold any office in that kingdom. A convention of the three estates was to be summoned by the king and queen, and four-and-twenty persons were to be named by this convention, out of whom should be chosen a council of twelve for the government of the country, of whom the queen should name seven and the estates five. The king and queen were not to declare war, or conclude peace, without the concurrence of the estates; neither the lords nor the members of the Congregation should be molested for what they had done, and the Churchmen were to be protected in their persons, rights, and properties, and to receive compensation for their losses according to the award of the estates in Parliament.

On one point, and that the chief point of the quarrel, the leaders of the Congregation did not obtain their demand, which naturally was for the establishment of their religion. We may suppose that Cecil and his colleague were not very desirous of carrying this; for the Queen of England regarded the Scotch Reformers as fanatical and "outre" and she especially abominated the character and doctrines of Knox. It was conceded, however, that Parliament should be summoned without delay, and that a deputation should lay this request before the king and queen.

By a second treaty betwixt England and France, it was determined that the right to the crowns of England and Ireland lay in Elizabeth, and that Mary should no longer bear the arms or use the style of these two kingdoms. Another proposition, however, was refused in this treaty, and that was the surrender of Calais to England.

The war thus brought to an end reflected little credit on the diplomatic principles of Elizabeth and her ministers, however much it might display their ability and address. To excite the subjects of a neighbouring sovereign to rebellion, at the same time that she was bound by a treaty of peace, and was solemnly professing to maintain it, can never be vindicated on any system of morals, either public or private. If Mary of Scotland infringed, by her assumption of the arms or title of Elizabeth, the treaty betwixt them, that was a cause of fair but open appeal. If Elizabeth regarded her own national tranquillity as endangered, that was another just cause of protest; if she wished to protect the interests of the struggling Protestants in Scotland, nothing could have been more honourable, had the attempt been made by open and direct means, by earnest application to Francis and Mary; but so long as Elizabeth neglected these means and offices, by fomenting clandestine resistance amongst the subjects of the Scottish queen, she at once violated every honourable principle of international law, and perpetrated a felony on the rights of sovereigns.

Cecil, whilst busy with the negotiations now terminated, saw enough of the Reformers of Scotland to convince him that the French troops would be no sooner removed than they would trample under foot all the engagements into which they had entered whilst under that restraint. This was immediately verified. The Parliament assembled on the 1st of August, and the very first act which it passed was one of abolishing the Papal jurisdiction in Scotland, and decreeing severe punishment, in the very style of the church against which they had been battling, for those who presumed to worship according to the Romish creed. A crowd of lesser barons had attended at the call of the Lords of the Congregation, so that they carried everything their own way. They prohibited mass both publicly and privately. Whoever officiated at mass, or attended it in church, chapel, or private house, was amenable to confiscation of his goods and imprisonment at the discretion of the magistrate, for the first offence; to banishment for the second; and death for the third.

A confession of faith, according to the austere model of Geneva, was framed by Knox and his confederates, and the moment that this bill was passed, was put into execution. Every member of the Parliament who refused to subscribe to this new creed was instantly expelled, and, with a strange injustice, they then called over twice the names of the ejected, and, of course, receiving no answer, refused them all compensation for their losses during the war, according to the provisions of the treaty which they thus violated.

One of the most singular proceedings of the Parliament was, that it deputed the Earls of Morton and Glencairn, and Maitland of Lethington, to wait on Queen Elizabeth and propose to her a marriage with Arran, the son of the presumptive heir to the Scottish crown; a scheme supposed to originate with Cecil, who thought thus to give the queen a strong plea for uniting the kingdoms; in this, however, the queen's own obstinacy regarding matrimony defeated him.

It remained now to obtain the consent of Francis and Mary to these decisions; and Sir James Sandilands, a knight of Malta, was dispatched to Paris for this purpose. His reception was such as might be expected, more especially as the two earls had been sent to Elizabeth with the proposal of marriage. Mary refused to sanction the proceedings of a Parliament which had been summoned without her authority, and which had acted in the very face of the treaty, and sought to destroy the religion in which she had been educated. When Throckmorton waited on her for the ratification of the treaty, she declined that also, alleging that her subjects had already violated every article of it; that they had acted in absolute independence of her sanction; and that Elizabeth had not only continued to support her subjects in their disloyalty, but had herself infringed the treaty by admitting to her presence deputies from the Parliament who had proceeded without the consent of their sovereign. The princes of Lorraine, Mary's uncles, expressed the utmost indignation at the whole proceeding, and are said to have taken measures for invading Scotland with much greater forces than before, and punishing the audacious Reformers.

All such speculations were cut short by the death of Francis II., the husband of Mary, on the 2nd of December, 1560. He had always been a sickly personage, and his reign had lasted only eighteen months. His successor, Charles IX., was only nine years of age, and with a mind and constitution not exhibiting more promise of health and vigour than those of his late brother. His mother, Catherine de Medici, became regent, and his uncles of Lorraine lost the direction of affairs. Catherine and Mary were no friends; the young queen-dowager of France, only nineteen, was now treated harshly and contemptuously by the lady-regent, and she retired to Rheims, where she spent the winter amongst her relatives of Lorraine. But, if she was coldly treated by the new court of France, she was not likely to receive any the more genial treatment from her cousin of England. It were hard to say whether her own subjects of Scotland or Elizabeth contemplated her return with more aversion. Her subjects saw in her a princess whose religious ideas were totally opposed to their own, and to their schemes for its predominance. Elizabeth, though she felt that the union of France and Scotland was severed by the death of Francis, knew that Mary's beauty, accomplishments, and crown would soon attract new lovers, and that some alliance might be formed which might become as formidable as the one just extinct. In conjunction, therefore, with Mary's refractory, and, in fact, traitorous subjects, Elizabeth proceeded to take the most arbitrary and unwarrantable measures for preventing the return of the Scottish queen to her kingdom, and for dictating to her such a marriage as should suit her own views.

The fleet of Winter, therefore, continued cruising in the Frith of Forth, and Randolph pressed the Lords of the Congregation to enter into a perpetual league with England, ere their own sovereign could return, as well as to unite in the great object of preventing their mistress marrying a foreign prince, by compelling her to give her hand to one of her own subjects. These lords of the new religion fell into Elizabeth's plans with the utmost alacrity, and promised to keep up the lucrative connection with the English court. Chatelherault, Morton, Glencairn, and Argyll promised their most devoted services; Maitland, as secretary, agreed to betray to Cecil all the plans of Mary and the party with whom she would naturally act; and the Lord James, her half-brother, proceeded to France, ostensibly to condole with his sister, but really to make himself master of her views and intentions, and, returning by England, revealed them to Elizabeth, and encouraged her to intercept the young queen by the way. Perhaps in all history there is no instance of a more dark and ungenerous conspiracy against a young and generous queen than this against Mary of Scotland.

The envoys of Elizabeth lost no time in pressing Mary to ratify the treaty. Again and again they returned to the charge, and on every occasion Mary gave the same answer - a most reasonable one - which she had given to Throckmorton - namely, that, as it was a subject which vitally affected her crown and people, as her husband was dead, and her uncles refused to give her advice upon it lest they should seem to interfere with Scotland, she could not decide till she had reached her kingdom, and had consulted with her council. She might have repeated what she had at first stated, that the treaty had been openly violated both by Elizabeth and her own subjects.

In one respect Mary was ill- advised, and that was to ask permission of Elizabeth to pass through England on her way to Scotland. The proud English queen, incensed at Mary's prudent resistance to her attempts to force her into the ratification of the abused treaty, now, on D'Oyselles' preferring this request in writing, answered him with great passion, and in the presence of a crowded court, that the Queen of Scots must ask no favour till she had signed the treaty of Edinburgh. When this ungenerous and unqueenly refusal was communicated to Mary, she sent for Throckmorton, and requesting all present to retire to a distance, in a manner to mark the sense of the rude conduct of his own queen, she thus addressed him: - "My lord ambassador, as I know not how far I may be transported by passion, I like not to have so many witnesses of my infirmity as the queen your mistress had, when she talked, not long since, with M. d'Oyselles. There is nothing that doth more grieve me than that I did so forget myself as to have asked of her a favour which I could well have done without. I came here in defiance of the attempts made by her brother Edward to prevent me, and, by the grace of God, I will return without her leave. It is well known that I have friends and allies who have power to assist me, but I chose rather to be indebted to her friendship. If she choose, she may have me for a loving kinswoman and useful neighbour, for I am not going to practise against her with her subjects as she has done with mine: yet I know there be in her realm those that like not the present state of things. The queen says I am young, and lack experience. I confess I am younger than she is, yet I know how to carry myself lovingly and justly with my friends, and not to cast any word against her which may be unworthy of a queen and a kinswoman; and, by her permission, I am as much a queen as herself, and can carry my carriage as high as she knows how to do. She hath hitherto assisted my subjects against me; and now I am a widow it may be thought strange that she would hinder me in returning to my own country." She added that she had never been wanting in all friendly offices towards Elizabeth, but that she disbelieved or overlooked these offices; and that she heartily wished that she was as nearly allied to her in affection as in blood, for that would be a most valuable alliance.

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