The Reign of Queen Elizabeth. (Continued) page 10
Knollys had, indeed, very unpleasant duties to perform. The nobility and gentry of the north naturally were anxious to pay their respects to the Scottish queen, and nothing could excite the jealousy of Elizabeth more than this. She kept Mary close prisoner in Carlisle Castle; and when the Earl of Northumberland, attended by Sti Nicholas and Sir William Fairfax, and other gentlemen, came to wait upon her, Lowther, as deputy-warder, refused to admit any one with him except his page, Knollys, on his arrival, replied to the earl's complaint that he understood that he wished to take the Scottish queen out of Lowther's hands, which was unwarranted by any order of her Majesty, and, therefore, Lowther had only done his duty. Northumberland replied that it was true; that he considered Lowther too base a man to have the charge of the Queen of Scotland; and that he had brought warrants from, the Council at York empowering him. to enter on that duty. But Northumberland and all these gentlemen were Romanists, and therefore the jealousy that arose.
Notwithstanding the ebullitions of public opinion, condemning the conduct of the English Court in treating the Queen of Scots as a prisoner and an enemy, rather than as an independent sovereign in distress, it was resolved to keep Mary a prisoner for life, arid to support Murray in his usurped power. This proceeding was so totally at variance with all the past professions of Elizabeth, that it has cost some of our historians much rhetoric to raise a plausible vindication of what is altogether incapable of vindication. On the insurrection of the Scottish lords against Mary, Elizabeth had expressed the most virtuous indignation. She had vowed that she would reinstate her on the throne; she had prohibited Randolph and Throckmorton, her ambassadors, attending the coronation of her son; she had refused to confirm Murray in the title of regent, and had called upon him loudly to return to his duty and liberate his rightful sovereign. She had endeavoured to obtain access to Mary by her ambassadors, and to the last moment had maintained the mask of friendship and the words of condolence or congratulation. But all this time she had been in secret and close correspondence with her enemies; had furnished them money, even while giving them, publicly, reproof; and had given an asylum at her Court, or in the kingdom, to the rebels whom she affected to denounce.
In reality, therefore, she did not now alter in the least her policy, except in that it became more honestly hostile; she was still the same woman - she only dropped her mask. Elizabeth and her subtle minister Cecil now so planned their proceedings as to secure the greatest amount of injustice under the greatest appearance of fairness. Mary urged her demand for a personal interview with Elizabeth, when she promised to state to her things that had never yet been uttered by her to any mortal. But these disclosures the politic queen, and her equally politic servant, were too well aware would touch too nearly, not only the guilty conspiracies of Murray and his colleagues, but on those of Elizabeth and Cecil themselves. They, as we are now fully informed, were all along cognisant of the murder scheme which the Scotch lords had carried out. With the charges which Mary could bring home to Murray and Maitland - for she openly accused them and Morton of the murder of Darnley - it would not be so easy for them, with a show of honour, to support these nobles against their queen. Therefore, it was used as a precaution against any such interview, that Mary lay herself under charge of participation, in this murder, and also of adultery, from which she must first clear herself.
Eor this purpose Elizabeth dispatched Mr. Middlemore to Mary, and thence to the regent. To Mary she disclaimed all intention of detaining her as a prisoner; her object, she said, was merely to secure her from immediate pursuit of her enemies: but as to a personal interview, that was at present inadmissible, because Mary having chosen the Queen of England as her judge, it was necessary, to prevent any charge of partiality, not to receive either party before the trial, or indeed, as regarded her, till she had established her innocence.
"Judge! trial!" exclaimed Mary, in indignant amazement. "What did the Queen of England mean? She had appointed no one her judge, and could accept no trial, where she could have no peers. She had come freely to seek the protection of Elizabeth, and was as freely willing to accept her mediation. She had offered to explain all the circumstances of her case to her sister, the queen; but she could submit to no trial, being an independent sovereign like herself. As to Murray and the rest of the rebels, it seemed that Elizabeth proposed to hear them against their queen, who was not to be allowed to be present to hear and rebut their traitorous charges. Was that impartial? Was that due to a sovereign to listen to the charges of traitors against their prince? Yet, if they must needs be heard, let them come, but let her be there to answer them, and she suspected that they would not be very eager for the opportunity."
When Mary learned that a message was actually on its way to call Murray and his accomplices to England, to prefer their charges against her, she protested vehemently against such a proceeding, and declared that she would rather die than submit to such indignity. The conduct of Elizabeth was, indeed, a violation of all the rights of sovereign princes, and as unjust as it was mean. Murray received his summons with his usual artful coolness. He was required by Elizabeth to prefer his charges against the Queen of Scots, but in the meantime to refrain from all hostilities. He obeyed the requisition; placed his soldiers in quarters; but demanded to know what was to be the result of the inquiry. If the queen was declared innocent, what guarantee was he to receive for his own security? If guilty, what then? He said he had already sent copies of his proofs by his servant Wood; and if they were found to be faithful to the originals, would they be deemed conclusive?
Thus the cunning regent was seeking to ascertain whether he had already evidence deemed by the selected judge sufficiently damnatory, or whether he should fabricate more. Nothing can be conceived more unwarrantable than such a proceeding, and nothing ever was more serpentine than Elizabeth's dealings in reply. She assured Murray, and also Mary, that she did not set herself up as a judge of the Scottish queen, far less as an accuser; that her sole object was to settle all the disputes betwixt Mary and her subjects, and to reinstate her at once in their good opinion and in her full power; but in secret she assured Murray, as we learn from Goodall and Anderson, that, whatever were her assurances to Mary, she really meant to try her, and, if she could find her I guilty, to retain her in perpetual imprisonment.
Thus encouraged, Murray engaged to meet her Majesty's commissioners at York; and, indeed, it was high time for him to do something to sustain his position. His unpopularity was become extreme. His unnatural situation as the dethroner of his sister and benefactor, when he had declared that he would be her champion, and his severity in punishing those who had espoused her cause, offended the people's natural sense of right, and alarmed even his supporters. Murray of Tullibardine, who had so vigorously pursued Both well, now excited discontent by pointing out the discrepancy betwixt the regent's pretended zeal against the king's murderers and his real lukewarmness. He pointed to the infamous Sir James Balfour, who had openly confessed himself one of the murderers, and bargained for his security and reward, as now the confidential and right-hand man of the soi-disant virtuous Murray. Encouraged by the manifest discontent, Argyll, Huntley, and the Hamiltons were once more on foot; they met at Largs on the 28th of July, and determined to raise the borders to make incursions on England, and applied to the Duke of Alva for his aid. It was absolutely necessary, both for the security of Murray and his own borders, that the conference at York should come off as early as possible. Lord Herries was therefore sent post haste to Bolton Castle, to which Mary had been removed, where, in the presence of Scroope and Knollys, he delivered these distinct proposals from Elizabeth: - "That if the Queen of Scots would commit her cause to be heard by her high-ness's order, but not to make her highness judge over her, but rather, as to her dear cousin and friend, to commit herself to her advice and counsel, - that if she would thus do, her highness would surely set her again in her seat of regiment, and dignity regal, in this form and order: First, her highness would send for the noblemen of Scotland that be her adversaries, to ask account of them, before such noblemen as this queen herself should like of, to know their answer, why they have deposed their queen and sovereign from her regiment, and that if in their answers they do allege some reason for them in their so doing (which her highness thinks they cannot do), that her highness would set this queen in her seat regal, conditionally that those her lords and subjects should continue their honours, estates, and dignities to them appertaining. But if they should not be able to allege any reason of their doings, that then her highness would absolutely set her in her seat regal, and that by force of hostility if they should resist."
Nothing could be plainer than this proposition. In any case it was declared to be Elizabeth's resolve to restore Mary to her throne: nothing could be more hollow and false. By these fair pretences did Elizabeth and her icy calculator Cecil draw Mary to concede to the conference. As the conditions on which all this was to be done, Mary was to renounce all claim to the throne of England during the life of Elizabeth or her issue, to abandon mass and adopt the Common Prayer. Mary finally accepted the conditions, but she had speedy cause to repent of her acquiescence. At the request of Elizabeth, she sent to demand that Huntley and Argyll, now at the head of a strong force and hastening to crush Murray before he could summon Parliament to proclaim them traitors, should cease hostilities. They obeyed; but Murray, whom Elizabeth promised to keep in check, immediately took advantage to assemble Parliament and pass a bill for their attainder and forfeitures. Maitland, generally so deceitful, on this occasion stood forward boldly for the barons; but, notwithstanding, the Archbishop of St. Andrew's, Lord Claud Hamilton, the Bishop of Ross, and others, became the Victims of his vengeance. Murray followed up his advantage, marched out with a powerful force, overran Galloway and Annandale, and was only arrested by a peremptory order of Elizabeth to lay down his arms and appear at York, or she would liberate Mary and restore her at the head of an army, as an innocent person whom, he dared not to meet.
There was no possibility of farther delay; Murray, therefore, appointed his commissioners - the Earl of Morton, the Bishop of Orkney, Lord Lindsay, and the commendator of Dunfermline, who were to be assisted by Maitland, Buchanan, and Makgill. Elizabeth appointed, as hers, the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Sussex, and Sir Ralph Sadler. Maitland, at this juncture, whilst engaged on the part of Murray, sent Mary copies of the letters which Murray intended to present against her, and begged her to say what he could do to assist her. She replied, that he should use his influence to abate the rigour of Murray, influence the Duke of Norfolk as much as possible in her favour, and rely on the Bishop of Ross as her sincere friend. She then named, on her part, the said Bishop of Ross, the Lords Herries, Boyd, Livingstone, the abbot of Kilwinning, Sir John Gordon of Lochinvar, and Sir John Cockburn of Stirling.
The commissioners, Murray attending in person with his own, met at York, on the 4th of October. Some obstruction of business was occasioned by the Duke of Norfolk insisting that, as the regent had consented to plead before Elizabeth, he must first do homage to the English crown. This was refused, and was, therefore, waived. This step discovered the desire of Elizabeth to seize on this occasion to achieve what none of her ancestors could accomplish - the acknowledgment of the feudal vassalage of Scotland. The next betrayed the duplicity of her promises to the two parties. Mary's commissioners claimed that the engagement of Elizabeth to place Mary on the throne of Scotland in any case, should appear in their powers; and Murray's, on the contrary, pleaded the queen's promise that if Mary were pronounced guilty she should remain a prisoner. These contradictory powers were granted, and Mary's commissioners opened the conference with their charges that Murray and his associates had rebelliously risen in arms against their lawful sovereign, had deposed and imprisoned her, and compelled her to seek justice from her royal kinswoman.
Murray was now called upon to reply, but, instead of openly and boldly stating his reasons for the course he had pursued, and of producing and substantiating, as Elizabeth hoped and expected, the charges of her participating in her husband's murder, which he had so long and loudly vaunted, he solicited a private interview with the English commissioners, before whom he stated his defence. In this defence, to the unmitigated astonishment and disappointment of Elizabeth and her ministers, he made no charge against Mary of participation in the murder of Darnley; but reiterated the charges against her of marrying Bothwell, and the danger thereby incurred by the prince. Nor was this all: Mary's commissioners did not so far excuse him they accused him boldly of complicity with Bothwell and the murderers, and of being on the most friendly terms with Bothwell whilst the marriage with the queen was in progress. Murray, with all his art, was confounded and silenced.
It is said that the arguments and disclosures of the Duke of Norfolk had, at this moment, greatly staggered him. Norfolk had conceived the design of marrying the Queen of Scots; and, in order to deter Murray from pressing the worst charges, intimated to him privately that he was pursuing a dangerous course, for that Elizabeth, it was well known, never meant to decide against Mary. Murray was rendered sufficiently cautious to abstain from the public accusation of the queen; but he laid privately before Norfolk, Suffolk, and Sadler the alleged contents of the celebrated silver casket, consisting of love-letters and sonnets, addressed by Mary to Bothwell, and a contract of marriage in the handwriting of Huntley. Copies of these wero transmitted to Elisabeth.
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