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The Reign of Queen Elizabeth. (Continued) page 7

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But such jailors and such a prison did not crush the spirit of Mary Stuart. She continued to convey an account of her situation and sentiments to the courts of both France and England. The French monarch dispatched M. Villeroy to have an interview with her, but this was not allowed, and the messenger whom she had chosen to state her case to Elizabeth, we have seen was a traitor.

By various letters of this Melville on his return to Edinburgh, in the State Paper Office, dated June and July, and addressed to Cecil, we find him engaged in a scheme for prevailing on Mary to resign in favour of her son, and, as it would appear, under threat of bringing her to trial for the murder of her husband if she refused. Accordingly, though on the very day on which one of his most significant letters to Cecil is dated, the 1st of July, Melville went to Lochleven, and delivered to her the letter of the Queen of England. At this interview, Ruthven, Lindsay, and Douglas were present, so that, had he wished it, he could enter into no private communication; but eight days after they sent him again to her, and allowed him to be alone with her. On this occasion he endeavoured to persuade her to abandon Bothwell, but she refused.

Both France and England were anxious to obtain the person of the prince, and whilst France was ready to give up the queen for that object, Elizabeth of England professed to wish for her enlargement and the punishment of the murderers. Neither of these plans found favour with the confederate lords. If France obtained the person of the prince, it would be in a condition to dictate to every party in Scotland, and the lords themselves saw no security for their own ascendancy. If they set the queen at liberty, they assured Throckmorton they should only sign their own death-warrants. France tried to win over Murray by splendid offers, to join with it and desert the confederates; but Murray, who saw only his interest in maintaining the rights of the queen and the prince against the confederate lords, now joined Elizabeth in demanding justice for the queen; and he dispatched his confidential servant, Nicholas Elphinstone, to Mary to assure her of his devotion to her cause. How far he was honest subsequent events soon proved. Elphinstone in his passage through London had a private interview with Elizabeth, who entered into all his views, which were to support the confederates to a certain extent, but not by destroying the queen to render them independent of her. She ordered Cecil to write a letter in her name to Mary, confessing that she could not write herself because "she had not used Mary well in those broken matters that were passed." She bade him assure Mary that Murray had never defamed her in regard to the death of her husband, never plotted for the secret conveying of the prince to England, but was the most faithful and honourable servant that she had in Scotland. Elizabeth, with her deep insight into character and events, saw clearly that so long as she supported Murray in conjunction with the interests of his own family, she might continue to lean on him for aid; whilst the Protestant lords, once free of Mary and united with the Church, would set her at defiance.

But the confederate lords, having the queen in their hands, alike refused admission to the envoys of France, England, or Murray. They themselves endeavoured to induce her through Melville, whom they admitted to her presence as a friend, and as a favour, to resign the crown, abandon Bothwell, and consent to the crowning of her son. Melville had a third interview with her, on the 18th of July, for this purpose, and conveyed to her a letter from Throckmorton advising her to the same course. Mary, who believed herself with child, would not even consent to the divorce from Bothwell, because it would illegitimate her expected offspring, and on Melville's retiring, she presented him with a letter to Bothwell, which Melville refused to take charge of, and which she then angrily threw into the fire.

This resistance of the queen was noised abroad by the confederates, through both press and pulpit; and the public mind was worked up to such a pitch, that the populace began to cry for her head if she would not consent to give up Bothwell. There was now a new doctrine advanced, calculated not only to alarm Mary but Elizabeth herself; it was that of the right of the nation to call its sovereign to account for any crimes that he or she might commit. "It is a public speech," wrote the astonished Throckmorton to Elizabeth, "that their queen hath no more liberty nor privilege to commit murder or adultery than any private person, neither by the laws of God nor the laws of the realm."

Knox, Craig, the rest of the ministers of the Church, with the celebrated Buchanan, promulgated loudly this startling doctrine, destined to take such effect on the grandson of Queen Mary, and to produce such marvellous consequences in this and other kingdoms. It was a doctrine greedily imbibed by the people, and the General Assembly taking advantage of it, proceeded to call upon the Lords of the Secret Council to bring the queen to trial and put her to death. Throckmorton remonstrated with them most solemnly against any such proceeding, and the Assembly, lowering its tone, determined to send to her Lords Lindsay and Ruthven and Robert Melville. They carried with them three instruments ready prepared for the queen's signature: by the first she resigned the crown to her son; by the second she appointed Murray regent till lie was of age; and by the third constituted the Duke of Chatelherault, the Earls of Lennox, Argyll, Atholl, Morton, Glencairn, and Mar, a council of regency till the arrival of Murray, with power to continue in that office if he refused the charge.

Melville was employed to prepare Mary by exciting her terrors. He was first admitted, and assured her that if she refused to sign these papers her death was certain. To induce her more readily to comply, he hinted to her that her signing under restraint would be wholly invalid, and might enable her at some fortunate moment to repudiate them, and he brought messages to the same purport from Atholl, Maitland, and Throckmorton. Mary indignantly refused, but on the entrance of Lindsay, who had never forgotten her menace of the loss of his head at Carberry, his stern countenance and fierce manner so overawed her that, probably inwardly adopting Melville's suggestion, she took the pen and without even reading the documents signed them all. So far the confederates had obtained a grand triumph, but before it was completed they must perpetrate another illegal outrage. It was necessary that this resignation and appointment should pass the privy seal, and when Ruthven and Lindsay presented the deeds to Thomas Sinclair, deputy-keeper, he refused to affix the seal, the queen being under restraint; on which Lindsay collected a posse of his retainers, assaulted the keeper in his house, and compelled him to affix the seal by force.

The Lords of the Secret Council now lost no time in completing their work, and crowning the young king. The Hamiltons, however, refused to admit of it, till it was conceded that it should in no way prejudice the right of the Duke of Chatelherault; and Knox contended that he should not be anointed, which was a mere Jewish rite, but simply crowned. This latter point was overruled; and the infant being carried in the arms of Mar, his governor, from the castle to the high church in Stirling, and the Lords Lindsay and Ruthven swearing a most false oath - a little matter to them - that the queen resigned the crown to her son of her own free will, James VI. was there crowned by the Bishop of Orkney, on the 29th of July, 1567. Bonfires, dancing, and universal mirth throughout the city testified the real exultation of the people.

Elizabeth, on receiving the news of the deposition of the Queen of Scots, expressed the utmost indignation. She did not like Mary, but she respected in her the rights of sovereigns, and regarded with horror such new and ominous proceedings as that of subjects at will discrowning their sovereigns. Besides, the confederates had taken care to hold their new king fast, and to send for Murray, so that there was a great probability that the Scottish Government would adopt a tone of independence to which it had long been unaccustomed. She, therefore, instructed Throckmorton to keep aloof from the coronation, which he did, and to put in her most decided remonstrance against the whole proceeding. But the confederate lords, who had come to Edinburgh to await the arrival of Murray, paid a visit to Throckmorton though he would not go to them, and after hearing his remonstrance, showed him the folly of it. They communicated to him that the Hamiltons, through the Archbishop of St. Andrew's and the Abbot of Kilwinning, had proposed to execute the queen, as the best mode of reconciling all parties. They contended that if she ever recovered her liberty she might marry and have numbers of children, whereas now there was nobody but this crowned child betwixt their claim and the throne.

Throckmorton expressed his horror at this disclosure of the murderous treachery of the Hamiltons, who had so lately professed themselves the stanch friends of the queen; and suggested that it was policy as foolish as it was wicked, for the queen might be brought to divorce herself from Bothwell, and marry a son of the duke's or a brother of Argyll's. To this Murray of Tullibardine replied, that all that had been discussed, and the Hamiltons deemed nothing so secure as the queen's death.

All obstacles being removed to his triumphant return, the Earl of Murray set out from France for Scotland. This able, but cold-blooded and unprincipled man, had, as we have seen, always taken care, after putting into play the machinery which should serve his own ambition, to retire out of the way, and leave others to do the dirty and bloody work. Like the spider, however, he kept up a close watch in the distant obscurity of his retreat, and was ready to start forward at the right moment, and secure his own advantage. Had he been as generous and just as he was clever, he would have been one of the great men of the age. Had he stood firmly by his sister, he might have corrected the defects in her character, protected her from her enemies, the most dangerous of which were her own ardent feelings, and led her and himself through a noble career of prosperity and material blessing.

He had sent to Elizabeth, by Elphinstone, to represent himself as his sister's friend and defender, and, therefore, Elizabeth received him on his way through London, and expected to find him such as he had professed himself. She calculated that, with his friendship, the Queen of Scots would be maintained in her private position in security as a check against the ambition of the nobles; but Murray, with all his art, had not the policy to conceal his true sentiments, and Elizabeth perceived, with astonishment and anger at the deceit which he had practised upon her, that he was a decided enemy to his sister, the ex-queen. They rose in their conversation to high words, and parted with mutual ill-will.

Murray now pretended that much as he had been disposed to support the cause of Mary, he had recently received such proofs of her guilt as entirely changed his sentiments towards her; at the same time it was well known that he had been in the most constant and complete communication with the confederates, through their whole proceedings. But he now saw the supreme power within his grasp, during the minority of his nephew, and he began to withdraw his mask.

This arch-dissimulator proceeded on his way, accompanied by M. de Lignerolles, the French envoy commissioned to convey a message to the lords of the Council, but in reality sent to keep a strict watch on the proceedings of both them and the regent. He was met at Berwick by Sir James Makgill, lord clerk-registrar, and Sir James Melville, sent by the two parties, those most desperate against the queen, and those inclined to more moderate measures. Makgill urged on Murray the absolute necessity of his accepting the regency; but the hypocritical statesman professed to have many scruples, and rode on.

At the Bound Rode, a line separating the two countries, he found 400 noblemen and gentlemen assembled to receive him. They rode on with him to Whittingham, where Morton and Maitland also received him. Only eighteen months before, the death of Darnley had been planned by Bothwell and these very men, and afterwards the resolution communicated to Murray. He had now reaped the benefit of the deed from which he had seemed to keep aloof; and on Morton and Maitland congratulating him on the success of their plans, the pious Murray now expressed deep horror of the deed and declared his resolution to take vengeance for it.

On arriving in the capital, he was received by the assembled population of nobles, clergy, and commons, with enthusiastic acclamations, for they all looked to him as the man who was to establish all their claims, to fix Protestantism as the established faith, to give the clergy confirmation of the Church property, to please the people by maintaining a noble guardianship of their infant king, and to sanction all the revolutionary measures by his near kinship to the king they had set up and the queen they had put down. Such was his pretended conscientiousness, that he would decide on nothing till the whole history of the late transactions, with all the proofs, had been duly laid before him, and he had had time to weigh them well. The evidences of Mary's guilt were spread before him; and so well did he act his part, that the deep and practised Throckmorton was satisfied that he was proceeding on most sincere and honourable motives. The English minister promised his best endeavours to reconcile his mistress to the new state of things; De Lignerolles anticipated no lasting difficulties on the part of France; the opposition of the Hamiltons appeared to nielt away; and the conscientious Murray at length expressed himself almost persuaded to accept the regency. Only one point repelled him: the resignation of the crown, the transfer of it to her son, and his own appointment as regent, he said, was asserted to have been extorted by force. If that were the fact, nothing could induce him to accept the office, and he demanded to see the queen and learn from her own lips the truth. This demand appeared to startle the lords, for Murray had expressed to Throckmorton, if not to others, much pity and concern for his sister; but he had no doubt expressed himself otherwise to some of the lords, for, after a seeming reluctance, his request was conceded.

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