The Reign of Queen Elizabeth. (Continued) page 3
Thus the resolute and politic queen once more triumphed over her Parliament, and, in proof of the truth of Cecil's remark, that sometimes she was more than a man, sometimes less than a woman, she went away to consult alchemists and astrologers how she was to triumph over time and age as she did over men. According to Cecil's journal of January, 1567, she committed Cornelius Launoy, a Dutchman, to the Tower, for abusing the Queen's Majesty in promising to make an elixir. This man had promised to convert any metal into gold, and had been allowed to set up his laboratory in Somerset House. The celebrated Dr. Dee was more fortunate with her. He was a truly learned man, who had studied on the Continent, and mixed with all the sound knowledge of the times all its superstitions. He was at once a good mathematician, a good linguist, an astrologer, astronomer, alchemist, and soothsayer. He wrote a book called "The Book of Spirits," and held conversations with them, using as a medium in which he saw them, a black speculum, or a crystal, still preserved in the British Museum. Dr. Dee promised Elizabeth the transmutation of metals and the revelation of future events; but, however often he might fail in them, there were other services in which he was calculated to be successful beyond any man of his age. From his familiar knowledge of the continental languages, and the learned men of all ranks there, he could be used: a secret intelligencer "without the slightest suspicion. He spent a great deal of his youth, in the reign of Henry VIII., on the Continent, studying in Holland and Belgium, particularly at the University of Louvain. He afterwards lectured on Euclid at Rheims and other places with wonderful eclat, and was in communication with the most learned of all countries. He was consulted by Elizabeth's maids, if not by Elizabeth, in Queen Mary's reign; was presented to Edward YI. by the crafty Cecil, and was consulted by Lord Dudley, afterwards the Earl of Leicester, as to the most auspicious day for her coronation. He was constantly sent on pretended scientific missions to France, Germany, Belgium, and other countries; but, no doubt, really to learn everything that Cecil or Elizabeth wanted to know. Hence he was presented to the rectory of Upton-on-Severn by Edward VI., and by Elizabeth to another living and to the chancellorship of St. Paul's. He lived many years at Mortlake in Surrey, and there Elizabeth would ride over, with her whole Court and privy council, on pretence of examining his library; but even then she did not neglect to get a peep into his magic mirror. In his own diary he says: - "September 17th. - The queen's Majesty came from Richmond in her coach, the higher way of Mortlake field; and when she came right against the church, she turned down towards my house; and when she was against my garden, in the field, she stood there a good while, when, espying me at my door, making obeisances to her Majesty, she beckoned me to come to her coach-side. She very speedily pulled off her glove, and gave me her hand to kiss, and, to be short, asked me to resort to her Court, and to give her to wete when I came there."
Dee not only promised the queen perpetual youth and beauty - which she seemed to believe, for she imagined herself handsome at sixty - but he also promised to convert any base metal into silver and gold, and once sent to her Majesty a copper warming-pan, with a piece cut out of it, and the piece converted into real silver, Had he discovered how to electrotype? or did he very exactly fit a piece of silver to the part cut out? Be that as it may, to the last his prestige with her was never shaken. She sent for him from the Continent, when he had stayed there some time; he came travelling like a prince. On landing, a guard of soldiers met him, and accompanied him on the road, to prevent him being plundered. Those who imagine that the queen's love of the occult sciences was the cause of this great honour to Dr. Dee, are, perhaps, not far wrong; for of all the occult sciences, that of diving into the secrets of all the princes who could have any influence on her realm or personal security, was the most profoundly cultivated by Elizabeth and her astute minister, Cecil. In Dr. Dee's coach we may rest assured that there were documents of much more value than silver or gold, and which, for the world, Elizabeth would not have come to the light.
The attention of Elizabeth and her ministers was no sooner released from the contest in Parliament than it was attracted to Scotland by the startling events in progress there. The birth of the young prince had only for the moment had the effect of softening the wayward temper of Darnley. It became absolutely necessary for Mary to construct a strong Government if she was to enjoy the slightest power or tranquillity. Had she known the villanous materials out of which, at best, she must erect such a Government, she would have despaired. All the men of talent and influence were more or less tainted by treason, and in the enjoyment of bribery to work her evil. She leaned on Murray as on a brother, and he was at heart a very Judas. He advised her to recall Morton and reinstate Maitland. By his efforts Bothwell and Maitland were reconciled; the Lairds of Brunston, Ormiston, Hatton, and Calder, the heads of the Church party, were admitted to favour. But the prospect of so many of the traitors, cognisant of his own treason, assembling about the throne, rendered Darnley desperate. He resolved on throwing himself into the arms of the Roman Catholic party, and actually wrote to the Pope, blaming the queen for not taking measures for the restoration of the mass. His letters were intercepted, and, in his indignation, he gave out that he would quit the kingdom.
When this came to the knowledge of the queen, she did everything which a prudent and affectionate woman could do to learn the real cause of his dissatisfaction, in order to find a remedy. She went to him, brought him into the palace, and entreated him in private to open his mind to her upon any grievance which he had. But the wrong-headed man would not confess that he had any cause of grievance, yet not the less continued his reserve and alienation. Then the queen sent for her council, who, in presence of De Croc, the French ambassador, implored him to open his mind, and assured him that if he could show cause of real dissatisfaction against any person in the kingdom, it should be redressed. They said it must be some very serious grievance which could induce a sane man to relinquish so beautiful a queen and so noble a realm, and declared that he should have all the justice that he could demand. This not availing, Mary took him by the hand and affectionately entreated him before those lords to avow openly in what she had offended him. She said that she had a clear conscience, and that in all her life she had done no action which could in any way prejudice either his or her own honour. If, however, she had unfortunately offended him unconsciously, she desired to make every reparation, and she implored him to speak plainly, and not spare her in the least matter.
None but a fool or a maniac could have resisted such amicable and generous conduct; but Darnley was one of those impracticable men who cannot bear high fortune. He declared that the queen had never given him any occasion whatever of discontent or displeasure; yet his sullen stubbornness of humour was in no degree dissipated. De Croc reported the folly of Darnley to his own Court, and added, "It is vain to imagine that he shall be able to raise any disturbance, for there is not a person in all this kingdom, from the highest to the lowest, that regards him any farther than is agreeable to the queen; and I never saw her Majesty so much beloved, esteemed, and honoured, nor so great a harmony amongst all her subjects as at present is, by her wise conduct; for I cannot conceive the smallest division or difference."
Nothing availed to show Darnley the folly of his proceedings, everything tended rather to aggravate his waywardness. He persisted in his declarations that he would leave the kingdom, yet he never went. He denounced Maitland, Bellenden, the justice-clerk, and Makgill, the clerk register, as principal conspirators against Rizzio, an 1 insisted that they should be deprived of office. He opposed the return of Morton, and thus embittered his associates, Murray, Bothwell, Argyll, and Maitland. There was no party, except the Roman Catholics, which did not regard him with suspicion or aversion. The Reformers hated him for his intriguing with their enemies; Cecil suspected him of plotting with the Papists of England; the Hamiltons had detested him from the first for coming in betwixt them and the succession. The queen now became grievously impatient of his intractable stupidity, and deeply deplored her union with the man who had already endangered the life of herself and her child, and now kept the Government in a constant state of struggle and uncertainty.
Matters were in this state when, in the commencement of October, 1566, disturbances on the Borders rendered it necessary for the queen to go thither in person. Her lieutenant, the Earl of Bothwell, in attempting to reduce the borderers to subordination, was severely wounded, and left for dead on the field. He was not dead, however, and was conveyed to Hermitage Castle. Mary arrived at Jedburgh on the 7th of October, and the next day opened her Court. The trials of the marauders lasted till the loth, when she rode over to Hermitage, a distance of twenty miles, to visit her wounded lieutenant. This visit excited much observation and remark amongst her subjects, and the events which succeeded have given deep significance to it. Bothwell was a bold and impetuous man, who had from the first maintained a sturdy attachment to the service of the queen, even when all others had deserted and betrayed her. This had given him a high place in Mary's estimation, and she was not of a character to conceal such preference. He was a man of loose principles, which he had indulged freely, if not acquired, on the Continent. Ambition and gallantry, united to the most unabashed audacity, made up a forcible but most dangerous character. The manifest favour of his young, beautiful, and unhappy sovereign seems very soon to have inspired him with the most daring designs, which still lay locked in his own heart. There is little doubt that he had entered into the conspiracy to kill Darnley, for he was mixed up with that clique; and the miserable and irritating conduct of Darnley towards the queen was now rousing the indignation of far better men than Bothwell. The favour in which Bothwell was with the queen was early observed and encouraged by Murray, Maitland, and their associates, because it tended to punish and might eventually lead to the dismissal of Darnley. Sir James Melville, indeed, attributes Bothwell's scheme for murdering Darnley and gaining possession of the queen to this period.
There is no reason to believe that Mary, however, consciously encouraged the unhallowed passion of Bothwell at this period. As an officer high in her Court, and in her esteem for his fidelity, it was not out of the generous course of Mary's usual proceedings to pay him a visit, which, moreover, was only of two hours, for she rode back to Jedburgh the same day, ordering a mass of official papers to be immediately sent after her. Immediately on reaching Jedburgh she was seized with a fever, so severe and rapid that for ten days her physicians despaired of her life. This was ascribed to the fatigue of her long ride to Hermitage and back; but it probably arose from that fatigue operating on a mind and body already shaken by deep anxiety. Might not a perception of her growing regard for Bothwell, causing her to feel more acutely the misery of her union with Darnley, have had much to do with it? Nothing, however, of a criminal acquiescence in the growth of this passion could exist; for, believing herself dying, she displayed all the resignation of the most unquestionable innocence, exhorting her ministers and nobles to unity for the good of the kingdom, and for the safety of her son.
She recovered, but her peace of mind and cheerfulness were gone. Darnley never went to see her during the extremity of her illness; and though he made her two visits during her convalescence, they were not visits of peace or regard. They left her in a state of deep melancholy, and she often wished that she was dead. The recollection of what Darnley had shown himself capable of in the plot against Rizzio, and his deep duplicity on that occasion, seemed now to inspire her with a dread that he would conspire against her life, and she never saw him speaking to any of the lords but she was in alarm.
Bothwell, Murray, and Maitland now invited Huntley and Argyll to meet them at Craigmillar Castle, and there proposed that a divorce should be recommended to the queen, on condition that she pardoned Morton and his accomplices the death of Rizzio. Mary listened to the scheme with apparent willingness, on the understanding that the measure was not to prejudice the rights of her son; but when it was proposed that Darnley should live in some remote part of the country, or retire to France, the idea appeared to realise their separation too vividly. She evidently felt a remainder of affection for him, and expressed a hope that he might return to better mind. She even offered to pass over to France herself, and remain there till he became sensible of his faults. On this Maitland exclaimed, sooner than that she should banish herself, they would substitute death for divorce. This effectually startled Mary, and she commanded them to let the matter be, for that she would wait and see what God in his goodness would do to remedy the matter.
The conspirators expressed their obedience to the queen's demands, but they still proceeded with the plot. At Craigmillar they met again, and drew up a bond or covenant for the murder of Darnley, which was signed by Huntley, Maitland, Argyll, and Sir James Balfour, of which Bothwell kept possession. It declared Darnley a young fool and tyrant, and bound them to cut him off as an enemy to the nobility, and for his unbearable conduct to the queen.
Soon after the Earl of Bedford arrived to attend the baptism of the child. As we have stated, Darnley, though in the palace, did not attend the ceremony, and the queen was observed to be oppressed with melancholy and to shed tears. The ministers now prevailed on the queen to pardon all the murderers of Rizzio, except Car of Faudonside, who had held a pistol to her breast, and George Douglas, who was the first to stab Rizzio. This gave such offence to Darnley, that he quitted Edinburgh, and went to his father's, at Glasgow. There he was seized with a severe attack of illness, and an eruption which came out all over his body. It was believed to be poison, but proved to "be the small-pox.
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