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The Reign of Queen Elizabeth. (Continued) page 4


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Whilst he was lying ill, Morton returned to Edinburgh. Bothwell and Maitland met him at Whittingham, the seat of Archibald Douglas, where they pressed him to join the conspiracy for the murder of Darnley, professing that it was all done at the queen's desire. Morton insisted that they should bring him the queen's warrant, under her own hand, but this they failed to do. At the time that these plottings were going on, in the month of January, 1567, the queen set out to visit Darnley, who had received some hints of the plots against him, and was greatly alarmed by the tidings that the queen, whose severe censure of him he was well acquainted with, was on the way to see him. He sent a messenger to meet her, apologising for not waiting on her in person. The queen replied there was no medicine against fear, and rode on. She went direct to his father's, entered his room, and greeted him kindly. Darnley professed deep repentance of his faults, pleading his youth, and the few friends and advisers that he had. He complained of a plot got up at Craigmillar, and that it was said that the queen knew of it but would not sign it. He entreated that all should be made up, and that she should not withdraw herself from him, as he complained she had done. Mary conducted him by short journeys to Edinburgh, herself travelling on horseback, and Darnley being carried in a litter. They rested two days at Linlithgow, and reached Edinburgh on the last day of January. It was intended to take Darnley to Craigmillar, on account of Holyrood being thought to lie too low for a convalescent: but probably Darnley, after what he had heard, objected to go thither, and he was, therefore, taken to a suburb called Kirk-of-Field, an airy situation, where the Duke of Chatelherault had a palace. The attendants proceeded to the duke's house, but the queen told them the lodging prepared for the king was not there, but in a house just by, and also by the city wall, near the ruinous monastery of the Black Friars,

The place appeared a singular one for a king, for it was confined in size and not over well furnished. What was more suspicious was, that it was the property of Robert Balfour, the brother of that Sir James Balfour who was of the league sworn to destroy Darnley, and the same who drew up the document. He was a dependant of Bothwell's, who held the bond, and who met the king and queen a little way before they reached the capital, and accompanied them to this place. All these circumstances compared with those which followed, show that the whole had reference to the catastrophe, and the great question which has divided historians to this hour is, how far the queen was a party to the proceedings. That we shall be called upon anon to discuss. For the present, so far as the queen was concerned, all appeared fair and sincere. She seemed to have resumed all her interest in her husband. She was constantly with him, and attended to everything necessary for his comfort and restoration. She passed the greater part of the day in his chamber, and slept in the room under his. Though Darnley was apprehensive of danger from the circumstance that all his mortal enemies were now in power, and about the Court, the constant presence and affection of the queen was a guarantee for his safety, and appeared to give him confidence.

But the conspirators were watching assiduously for an opportunity to destroy him. Morton, Maitland, and Balfour had now gathered into the plot the Earls of Huntley, Argyll, and Caithness, Archibald Douglas, the Archbishop of St. Andrew's, and many other lords and leading men of the bench and bar. Murray alone seemed to stand aloof; though, from the evidence existing, there can be no question that he was privy to the whole.

Darnley during this time received a warning of his danger from the Earl of Orkney, who, finding opportunity, told him that if he did not get quickly out of that place it would cost him his life. Darnley told this to the queen, who questioned the earl, and he then denied having said so. This was precisely what Morton stated would take place, when on his death-bed, confessing a knowledge of the plot, he was asked why he had not revealed it. He replied, that there was nobody to tell it to; that it was no use telling it to the queen, for he was assured that she was in the plot; and that if he had told Darnley, he was such a fool that he would immediately tell it to the queen. The circumstance, however, startled the conspirators, and determined them to expedite the terrible business. The desired opportunity arrived. The queen agreed to be present on the evening of the 9th of February at the marriage of Sebastiani and Margaret Car wood, two of her servants, which was to be celebrated with a masque. The queen remained with the king the greater part of the day, which was passed in the most apparent cordiality, and Mary declared her intention of remaining all night at Kirk-of-Field.

It is said that whilst she was talking there with the king, Hay of Tallo, John Hepburn of Bolton, Pourie, Dalgleish, and others in the pay of Both well, entered the room below the king's and deposited bags of gunpowder. These men, who were afterwards examined under torture, and confessed to strangling the king, could not in this instance, as we shall see, have told the truth. However, Mary, still sitting with her husband, suddenly recollected her promise to attend the marriage, and taking leave of Darnley, kissed him, and taking a ring from her finger placed it on his own. Darnley, according to the evidence of these ruffians, retired to his bedchamber on the departure of the queen. He seemed much changed since his illness, had become thoughtful and repentant of his past conduct, and this state of mind will account for the change in the queen's manner towards him. But still he was melancholy; complained that he had no friends, and was impressed with the conviction that he should be murdered. From those feelings he sought refuge in religion, and before retiring to rest he repeated the fifty-fifth psalm, which he often sung. After he fell asleep Taylor, his page, continued still to sit by his side.

It was now that the hired assassins executed their appointed task. How Darnley and his page were murdered is yet a disputed point. The house was blown up with gunpowder, but the bodies of the king and his page were found in the orchard adjoining the garden wall, the king only in his night-dress, his pelisse lying by his side, and no marks of fire upon the body. There is a story of the murderers going to commence their operations, and the king hearing their false keys in the lock of his apartment, and rushing down in his shirt and pelisse, endeavouring to escape; of his being seized and strangled, and his cries being heard by some women in the nearest house. On the other hand, the ruffians who did it, swore that only gunpowder was employed, and that the king's bed-clothes must have defended him from the action of the fire, and the crushing effect of the fall. "Why, indeed, should they have taken the trouble to strangle Darnley, when the gunpowder was sufficient to destroy him? It was also stated that two of his servants had perished in the ruins, and two others had escaped with very little hurt. How does the presence of so many attendants agree with the strangling story?

However doubtful may be other matters, there is no question of the presence of Bothwell at the tragedy. He attended the queen from Kirk-of-Field to Holyrood, but about midnight quitted the palace, changed his rich dress, and in disguise joined the murderers, who were waiting for him. About two o'clock two of them entered the house and lit a slow burning match, the other end of which was placed amongst the powder. They remained some time expecting the catastrophe, till Bothwell grew so impatient, that he was with difficulty withheld from entering the house to ascertain whether the match still burnt. This was done by one of the fellows, who looked through a window and perceived the match a-light. The explosion soon after took place, and with a concussion which seemed to shake the whole city. Bothwell hurried away and got to bed before a servant rushed in with the news. He then started up with well-acted astonishment, and rushed forth shouting, "Treason! treason!" Huntley and some others of the conspirators then proceeded to the queen's chamber, and informed her of what had taken place. She seemed petrified with horror, gave herself up to the most violent expression of grief, and shutting herself up in her chamber, continued as if paralysed by so horrible and diabolical a tragedy.

But how far had Mary been cognisant of this conspiracy? Was she wholly or only partially innocent of participation in it? These are questions which have been, and continue to be, agitated by different historians with much zeal. We are disposed to believe the queen entirely innocent of any direct guilt in the matter. Her character was that of open, warm, and forgiving sincerity. Much as she had been tortured and humiliated by Darnley's conduct, she had refused to be divorced from him when it was proposed to banish him from the kingdom. She had hastened to forgive the past, and to renew her kindly intercourse with him, and to the last moment maintained a conduct towards him in keeping with her own warm-hearted character.

But we are not so clear that even now she was not strongly, though perhaps unconsciously, influenced by Bothwell. It was at his suggestion that she had taken him to Kirk-of-Field instead of to some more stately mansion, where the concerted explosion would not be so easily affected; and her conduct from this period bore more and more the marks of one of those paralysing and infatuated passions, which have converted into tragedy the story of so many lives.

Multitudes in the morning rushed to Kirk-of-Field to examine the ruins, but Bothwell hastening thither with a guard drove them back, and carried the king's body into a neighbouring house, where it was in the custody of one Alexander Drurem, who refused Melville a sight of him. Melville then went to the palace to inquire after the queen. Bothwell came out to him^ and said that her Majesty was sorrowful but quiet, and he told him a clumsy story of the strangest accident that ever chanced - that the thunder came out of the sky and burnt the king's house, and killed the king, but so wonderfully that there was not the least mark upon him, desiring him to go and look at him.

The public were impatient to have the affair thoroughly investigated, and were amazed at the apparent apathy of the queen and Court. Two days, however, passed before any step was taken, when a reward of 2,000 was offered for the discovery of the assassins. In the night a paper was affixed to the door of the Tolbooth denouncing Bothwell, James Balfour, and David Chambers, as the perpetrators of the king's murder. Voices at the dead of night also were heard in the streets accusing the same persons, and calling for their punishment. But to the astonishment of the public, the queen, who had hitherto acted with so much spirit and energy, now remained perfectly quiescent. She was surrounded by the conspirators; Bothwell, whom all judged to be the leader of the assassins, was in the highest favour; and after remaining several days in her chamber, Mary removed to the house of Lord Seaton, at a little distance from the castle, accompanied by Bothwell, Huntley, Argyll, Maitland, and others of the well-known conspirators. Darnley was privately buried in the Royal Chapel of Holyrood, none of the nobility attending.

The demands of the indignant public for inquiry continued. The city was placarded with the names of Bothwell, James Balfour, David Chambers, black John Spens, Signers Francisco, Joseph Rizzio - the brother of David - Bartiani, and John de Bourdeaux, as the leading murderers. The Earl of Lennox, the father of Darnley, called on the queen to bring them to trial; but he demanded in vain. Bothwell, the man whom the whole public denounced, continued the first in favour with the queen. At this time Lutyni, an Italian, and companion of Joseph Rizzio, who had been on his way to the Continent, and had been recalled by the queen's warrant, on a charge of theft, and was believed to be concerned in the plot, was examined by Bothwell and dismissed, the queen presenting him with thirty crowns to assist him on his journey. Nine days after the explosion, Sir William Drury wrote to Cecil from Berwick, informing him that Dolu, the queen's treasurer, had arrived in the town with Bartiani, who was denounced in the placards and eight others. Francisco, another of the denounced, was expected to pass that way in a day or two; and other foreigners had left Scotland by sea.

Morton and Murray kept still away from Court, and Lennox, when demanded by Mary to repair thither, dismissed her messenger without reply. The people, astonished at this state of things, talked loudly, and hinted a variety of means of coming at the truth, if it were desired. The smith, said a placard affixed to the Iron, who furnished the false keys to the Kirk-of-Field house, was ready to name his employers; and the person who furnished James Balfour with the powder was well known. Other placards and drawings pointed broadly at the queen and Bothwell. The only effect of all this was, that whilst there was no attempt to inquire after the authors of the murder, there was a sharp search after the authors of the placards. Bothwell himself rode into the city in great fury, surrounded by fifty guards, declaring, with furious oaths and gestures, that if he knew who were the authors of the placards, he would wash his hands in their heart's blood. At the same time the queen was attended, as guard, by Captain Cullen, a notorious creature of Bothwell's, and his company; and Mary, it was repeated, so far from being overwhelmed by grief, was leading a gay life at Seaton with the conspirator lords. She and Bothwell amused themselves with shooting at the butts against Huntley and Seaton; and so incongruous was this conduct of the queen with the recent terrible death of her husband, and the rumours busy all over the country, that public feeling was shocked;, and the very evening after Bothwell's furious appearance in the city, there were displayed two placards, one with the initials M.R, and a hand holding a sword, the other with the initials of Bothwell, and above them a mallet, alluding to the only wound discovered on the king as if perpetrated by such an implement.

Everything demonstrated the necessity of the queen exerting herself to discover the murderers of her husband. Sir Harry Killigrew arrived from Elizabeth, bearing a message of condolence, but at the same time urging the absolute necessity of the trial of Bothwell. Killigrew found the capital in a most excited state, clamorous for inquiry, and loud in its censures of the queen. At the same time a letter arrived from Bishop Beaton, her ambassador in France, stating in plainest terms that she was publicly accused there of being herself the chief mover of the whole dark business, and telling her that if she did not exert herself to take a rigorous vengeance she had better have lost life and all. Mary promised Killigrew that Bothwell should be brought to strict trial; but so soon as he was gone means were taken to secure Bothwell more completely from, any effectual inquiry. The Earl of Mar was induced to give up the possession of the castle of Edinburgh to Bothwell, Morton had his lands and his castle of Tantallan restored to him, and, in return, supported Both-well with all his influence. The castle of Blackness, the Inch, and the superiority of Leith were conferred on Bothwell; and Murray, who neither liked to play the second to the aspiring favourite, nor to run any risk of exposure in those inquiries which must sooner or later ensue, requested permission to visit France.

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