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The History of England in Three Volumes, Vol.I., Part D. - From Elizabeth to James I.
by David Hume
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When Ballard began to open his intentions to Babington, he found his zeal suspended, not extinguished: his former ardor revived on the mention of any enterprise which seemed to promise success in the cause of Mary and of the Catholic religion. He had entertained sentiments conformable to those of Paget, and represented the folly of all attempts which, during the lifetime of Elizabeth, could be formed against the established religion and government of England. Ballard, encouraged by this hint, proceeded to discover to him the design undertaken by Savage;[*] and was well pleased to observe that, instead of being shocked with the project, Babington only thought it not secure enough, when intrusted to one single hand, and proposed to join five others with Savage in this desperate enterprise.

* Camden, p. 515. State Trials, p. 114.

In prosecution of these views, Babington employed himself in increasing the number of his associates; and he secretly drew into the conspiracy many Catholic gentlemen, discontented with the present government. Barnwell, of a noble family in Ireland, Charnoc, a gentleman of Lancashire, and Abington, whose father had been cofferer to the household readily undertook the assassination of the queen. Charles Tilney, the heir of an ancient family, and Titchborne of Southampton, when the design was proposed to them, expressed some scruples, which were removed by the arguments of Babington and Ballard. Savage alone refused, during some time, to share the glory of the enterprise with any others;[*] he challenged the whole to himself; and it was with some difficulty he was induced to depart from this preposterous ambition.

* State Trials, vol. i. p. 111.

The deliverance of the queen of Scots, at the very same instant when Elizabeth should be assassinated, was requisite for effecting the purpose of the conspirators; and Babington undertook, with a party of a hundred horse, to attack her guards while she should be taking the air on horseback. In this enterprise, he engaged Edward Windsor, brother to the lord of that name, Thomas Salisbury, Robert Gage, John Travers, John Jones, and Henry Donne; most of them men of family and interest. The conspirators much wanted, but could not find, any nobleman of note whom they might place at the head of the enterprise; but they trusted that the great events, of the queen's death and Mary's deliverance, would rouse all the zealous Catholics to arms; and that foreign forces, taking advantage of the general confusion, would easily fix the queen of Scots on the throne, and reestablish the ancient religion.

These desperate projects had not escaped the vigilance of Elizabeth's council, particularly of Walsingham, secretary of state. That artful minister had engaged Maud, a Catholic priest, whom he retained in pay, to attend Ballard in his journey to France, and had thereby got a hint of the designs entertained by the fugitives. Polly, another of his spies, had found means to insinuate himself among the conspirators in England; and, though not entirely trusted, had obtained some insight into their dangerous secrets. But the bottom of the conspiracy was never fully known, till Gifford, a seminary priest, came over and made a tender of his services to Walsingham. By his means, the discovery became of the utmost importance, and involved the fate of Mary, as well as of those zealous partisans of that princess.

Babington and his associates, having laid such a plan as, they thought, promised infallible success, were impatient to communicate the design to the queen of Scots, and to obtain her approbation and concurrence. For this service they employed Gifford, who immediately applied to Walsingham, that the interest of that minister might forward his secret correspondence with Mary. Walsingham proposed the matter to Paulet, and desired him to connive at Gifford's corrupting one of his servants; but Paulet, averse to the introducing of such a pernicious precedent into his family, desired that they would rather think of some other expedient. Gifford found a brewer, who supplied the family with ale; and bribed him to convey letters to the captive queen. The letters, by Paulet's connivance, were thrust through a chink in the wall; and answers were returned by the same conveyance.

Ballard and Babington were at first diffident of Gifford's fidelity; and to make trial of him, they gave him only blank papers made up like letters; but finding by the answers that these had been faithfully delivered, they laid aside all further scruple, and conveyed by his hands the most criminal and dangerous parts of their conspiracy. Babington informed Mary of the design laid for a foreign invasion, the plan of an insurrection at home, the scheme for her deliverance, and the conspiracy for assassinating the usurper, by six noble gentlemen, as he termed them, all of them his private friends; who, from the zeal which they bore to the Catholic cause and her majesty's service, would undertake the "tragical execution." Mary replied, that she approved highly of the design; that the gentlemen might expect all the rewards which it should ever be in her power to confer; and that the death of Elizabeth was a necessary circumstance, before any attempts were made, either for her own deliverance or an insurrection.[*]

* State Trials, vol. i. p 135. Camden, p. 515.

These letters, with others to Mendoza, Charles Paget, the archbishop of Glasgow, and Sir Francis Inglefield, were carried by Gifford to Secretary Walsingham; were deciphered by the art of Philips, his clerk; and copies taken of them. Walsingham employed another artifice, in order to obtain full insight into the plot: he subjoined to a letter of Mary's a postscript in the same cipher; in which he made her desire Babington to inform her of the names of the conspirators. The indiscretion of Babington furnished Walsingham with still another means of detection, as well as of defence. That gentlemen had caused a picture to be drawn, where he himself was represented standing amidst the six assassins; and a motto was subjoined, expressing that their common perils were the band of their confederacy. A copy of this picture was brought to Elizabeth, that she might know the assassins, and guard herself against their approach to her person.

Meanwhile Babington, anxious to insure and hasten the foreign succors, resolved to despatch Ballard into France; and he procured for him, under a feigned name, a license to travel. In order to remove from himself all suspicion, he applied to Walsingharn, pretended great zeal for the queen's service, offered to go abroad, and professed his intentions of employing the confidence which he had gained among the Catholics, to the detection and disappointment of their conspiracies. Walsingham commended his loyal purposes; and promising his own counsel and assistance in the execution of them, still fed him with hopes, and maintained a close correspondence with him. A warrant, meanwhile, was issued for seizing Ballard; and this incident, joined to the consciousness of guilt, begat in all the conspirators the utmost anxiety and concern. Some advised that they should immediately make their escape; others proposed that Savage and Charnoc should without delay execute their purpose against Elizabeth; and Babington, in prosecution of this scheme, furnished Savage with money, that he might buy good clothes, and thereby have more easy access to the queen's person. Next day, they began to apprehend that they had taken the alarm too hastily; and Babington, having renewed his correspondence with Walsingham, was persuaded by that subtle minister, that the seizure of Ballard had proceeded entirely from the usual diligence of informers in the detection of popish and seminary priests. He even consented to take lodgings secretly in Walsingham's house, that they might have more frequent conferences together before his intended departure for France; but observing that he was watched and guarded, he made his escape, and gave the alarm to the other conspirators. They all took to flight, covered themselves with several disguises, and lay concealed in woods or barns; but were soon discovered and thrown into prison. In their examinations they contradicted each other, and the leaders were obliged to make a full confession of the truth. Fourteen were condemned and executed, of whom seven, acknowledged the crime on their trial; the rest were convicted by evidence.

The lesser conspirators being despatched, measures were taken for the trial and conviction of the queen of Scots; on whose account, and with whose concurrence, these attempts had been made against the life of the queen, and the tranquillity of the kingdom. Some of Elizabeth's counsellors were averse to this procedure, and thought that the close confinement of a woman who was become very sickly, and who would probably put a speedy period to their anxiety by her natural death, might give sufficient security to the government without attempting a measure of which there scarcely remains any example in history. Leicester advised that Mary should be secretly despatched by poison; and he sent a divine to convince Walsingham of the lawfulness of that action: but Walsingham declared his abhorrence of it; and still insisted, in conjunction with the majority of the counsellors, for the open trial of the queen of Scots. The situation of England, and of the English ministers, had, indeed, been hitherto not a little dangerous. No successor of the crown was declared; but the heir of blood, to whom the people in general were likely to adhere, was, by education, an enemy to the national religion; was, from multiplied provocations, an enemy to the ministers and principal nobility; and their personal safety, as well as the safety of the public, seemed to depend alone on the queen's life, who was now somewhat advanced in years. No wonder, therefore, that Elizabeth's counsellors, knowing themselves to be so obnoxious to the queen of Scots, endeavored to push every measure to extremities against her; and were even more anxious than the queen herself, to prevent her from ever mounting the throne of England.

Though all England was acquainted with the detection of Babington's conspiracy, every avenue to the queen of Scots had been so strictly guarded, that she remained in utter ignorance of the matter; and it was a great surprise to her, when Sir Thomas Gorges, by Elizabeth's orders, informed her, that all her accomplices were discovered and arrested. He chose the time for giving her this intelligence when she was mounted on horseback to go a hunting; and she was not permitted to return to her former place of abode, but war conducted from one gentleman's house to another, till she was lodged in Fotheringay Castle, in the County of Northampton, which it was determined to make the last stage of her trial and sufferings. Her two secretaries, Nau, a Frenchman, and Curle, a Scot, were immediately arrested: all her papers were seized, and sent up to the council: above sixty different keys to ciphers were discovered: there were also found many letters from persons beyond sea, and several too from English noblemen containing expressions of respect and attachment. The queen took no notice of this latter discovery; but the persons themselves, knowing their correspondence to be detected, though that they had no other means of making atonement for their imprudence, than by declaring themselves thenceforth the most inveterate enemies of the queen of Scots.[*]

* Camden, p. 518.

It was resolved to try Mary, not by the common statute of treasons, but by the act which had passed the former year with a view to this very event; and the queen, in terms of that act, appointed a commission, consisting of forty noblemen and privy counsellors, and empowered them to examine and pass sentence on Mary, whom she denominated the late queen of Scots, and heir to James V. of Scotland. The commissioners came to Fotheringay Castle, and sent to her Sir Walter Mildmay, Sir Amias Paulet, and Edward Barker, who delivered her a letter from Elizabeth, informing her of the commission, and of the approaching trial. Mary received the intelligence without emotion or astonishment. She said, however, that it seemed strange to her, that the queen should command her, as a subject, to submit to a trial and examination before subjects; that she was an absolute, independent princess, and would yield to nothing which might derogate either from her royal majesty, from the state of sovereign princes, or from the dignity and rank of her son: that, however oppressed by misfortunes, she was not yet so much broken in spirit as her enemies flattered themselves; nor would she, on any account, be accessary to her own degradation and dishonor: that she was ignorant of the laws and statutes of England; was utterly destitute of counsel; and could not conceive who were entitled to be called her peers, or could legally sit as judges on her trial: that though she had lived in England for many years, she had lived in captivity; and not having received the protection of the laws, she could not, merely by her involuntary residence in the country, be supposed to have subjected herself to their jurisdiction: that, notwithstanding the superiority of her rank, she was willing to give an account of her conduct before an English parliament; but could not view these commissioners in any other light than as men appointed to justify, by some color of legal proceeding, her condemnation and execution: and that she warned them to look to their conscience and their character in trying an innocent person; and to reflect, that these transactions would somewhere be subject to revisal, and that the theatre of the whole world was much wider than the kingdom of England.

In return, the commissioners sent a new deputation, informing her, that her plea, either from her royal dignity or from her imprisonment, could not be admitted; and that they were empowered to proceed to her trial, even though she should refuse to answer before them. Burleigh, the treasurer, and Bromley, the chancellor, employed much reasoning to make her submit; but the person whose arguments had the chief influence, was Sir Christopher Hatton, vice-chamberlain. His speech was to this purpose: "You are accused, madam," said he, "but not condemned, of having conspired the destruction of our lady and queen anointed. You say you are a queen; but, in such a crime as this, and such a situation as yours, the royal dignity itself, neither by the civil or canon law, nor by the law of nature or of nations, is exempt from judgment. If you be innocent, you wrong your reputation in avoiding a trial. We have been present at your protestations of innocence; but Queen Elizabeth thinks otherwise, and is heartily sorry for the appearances which lie against you. To examine, therefore, your cause, she has appointed commissioners; honorable persons, prudent and upright men, who are ready to hear you with equity, and even with favor, and will rejoice if you can clear yourself of the imputations which have been thrown upon you. Believe me, madam, the queen herself will rejoice, who affirmed to me, at my departure, that nothing which ever befell her had given her so much uneasiness, as that you should be suspected of a concurrence in these criminal enterprises. Laying aside, therefore, the fruitless claim of privilege from your royal dignity, which can now avail you nothing, trust to the better defence of your innocence, make it appear in open trial, and leave not upon your memory that stain of infamy which must attend your obstinate silence on this occasion." [*]

* Camden, p. 523.

By this artful speech, Mary was persuaded to answer before the court; and thereby gave an appearance of legal procedure to the trial, and prevented those difficulties which the commissioners must have fallen into, had she persevered in maintaining so specious a plea as that of her sovereign and independent character. Her conduct in this particular must be regarded as the more imprudent; because formerly, when Elizabeth's commissioners pretended not to exercise any jurisdiction over her, and only entered into her cause by her own consent and approbation, she declined justifying herself, when her honor, which ought to have been dearer to her than life, seemed absolutely to require it.

On her first appearance before the commissioners, Mary, either sensible of her imprudence, or still unwilling to degrade herself by submitting to a trial, renewed her protestation against the authority of her judges: the chancellor answered her, by pleading the supreme authority of the English laws over every one who resided in England; and the commissioners accommodated matters, by ordering both her protestation and his answer to be recorded.

The lawyers of the crown then opened the charge against the queen of Scots. They proved, by intercepted letters, that she had allowed Cardinal Allen and others to treat her as queen of England; and that she had kept a correspondence with Lord Paget and Charles Paget, in view of engaging the Spaniards to invade the kingdom. Mary seemed not anxious to clear herself from either of these imputations. She only said that she could not hinder others from using what style they pleased in writing to her; and that she might lawfully try every expedient for the recovery of her liberty.

An intercepted letter of hers to Mendoza was next produced; in which she promised to transfer to Philip her right to the kingdom of England, if her son should refuse to be converted to the Catholic faith; an event, she there said, of which there was no expectation while he remained in the hands of his Scottish subjects.[*]

* State Trials, vol. i. p 138.

Even this part of the charge she took no pains to deny, or rather she seemed to acknowledge it. She said that she had no kingdoms to dispose of; yet was it lawful for her to give at her pleasure what was her own, and she was not accountable to any for her actions. She added, that she had formerly rejected that proposal from Spain; but now, since all her hopes in England were gone, she was fully determined not to refuse foreign assistance. There was also produced evidence to prove, that Allen and Parsons were at that very time negotiating, by her orders, at Rome, the conditions of transferring her English crown to the king of Spain, and of disinheriting her heretical son.[*] [21]

It is remarkable, that Mary's prejudices against her son were at this time carried so far, that she had even entered into a conspiracy against him, had appointed Lord Claud Hamilton regent of Scotland, and had instigated her adherents to seize James's person, and deliver him into the hands of the pope, or the king of Spain; whence he was never to be delivered, but on condition of his becoming Catholic.[**] [24]

The only part of the charge which Mary positively denied, was her concurrence in the design of assassinating Elizabeth. This article, indeed, was the most heavy, and the only one that could fully justify the queen in proceeding to extremities against her. In order to prove the accusation, there were produced the following evidence: copies taken in Secretary Walsingham's office of the intercepted letters between her and Babington, in which her approbation of the murder was clearly expressed; the evidence of her two secretaries, Nau and Curle, who had confessed, without being put to any torture, both that she received these letters from Babington, and that they had written the answers by her order; the confession of Babington, that he had written the letters and received the answers,[***] and the confession of Ballard and Savage, that Babington had showed them these letters of Mary, written in the cipher which had been settled between them.

* See note U, at the end of the volume.

** See note X, at the end of the volume.

*** State Trials, vol. i. p. 113.

It is evident, that this complication of evidence, though every circumstance corroborates the general conclusion, resolves itself finally into the testimony of the two secretaries, who alone were certainly acquainted with their mistress's concurrence in Babington's conspiracy, but who knew themselves exposed to all the rigors of imprisonment, torture, and death, if they refused to give any evidence which might be required of them. In the case of an ordinary criminal, this proof, with all its disadvantages, would be esteemed legal, and even satisfactory, if not opposed by some other circumstances which shake the credit of the witnesses: but on the present trial, where the absolute power of the prosecutor concurred with such important interests, and such a violent inclination to have the princess condemned, the testimony of two witnesses, even though men of character, ought to be supported by strong probabilities, in order to remove all suspicion of tyranny and injustice. The proof against Mary, it must be confessed, is not destitute of this advantage; and it is difficult, if not impossible, to account for Babington's receiving an answer written in her name, and in the cipher concerted between them, without allowing that the matter had been communicated to that princess. Such is the light in which this matter appears, even after time has discovered every thing which could guide our judgment with regard to it: no wonder, therefore, that the queen of Scots, unassisted by counsel, and confounded by so extraordinary a trial, found herself incapable of making a satisfactory defence before the commissioners. Her reply consisted chiefly in her own denial: whatever force may be in that denial was much weakened by her positively affirming, that she never had had any correspondence of any kind with Babington; a fact, however, of which there remains not the least question.[*] [25] She asserted, that as Nau and Curle had taken an oath of secrecy and fidelity to her, their evidence against her ought not to be credited. She confessed, however, that Nau had been in the service of her uncle, the cardinal of Lorraine, and had been recommended to her by the king of France, as a man in whom she might safely confide. She also acknowledged Curle to be a very honest man, but simple and easily imposed on by Nau. If these two men had received any letters, or had written any answers, without her knowledge, the imputation, she said, could never lie on her. And she was the more inclined, she added, to entertain this suspicion against them, because Nau had, in other instances, been guilty of a like temerity, and had ventured to transact business in her name, without communicating the matter to her.[**] [26]

* See note Y, at the end of the volume.

** See note Z, at the end cf the volume.

The sole circumstance of her defence which to us may appear to have some force, was her requiring that Nau and Cure should be confronted with her, and her affirming that they never would to her face persist in their evidence. But that demand, however equitable, was not then supported by law in trials of high treason, and was often refused, even in other trials where the crown was prosecutor. The clause contained in an act of the thirteenth of the queen, was a novelty; that the species of treason there enumerated must be proved by two witnesses, confronted with the criminal. But Mary was not tried upon that act; and the ministers and crown lawyers of this reign were always sure to refuse every indulgence beyond what the strict letter of the law, and the settled practice of the courts of justice, required of them. Not to mention, that these secretaries were not probably at Fotheringay Castle during the time of the trial, and could not, upon Mary's demand, be produced before the commissioners.[*]

* Queen Elizabeth was willing to have allowed Curle and Nau to be produced in the trial, and writes to that purpose to Burleigh and Walsingham, in her letter of the seventh of October, in Forbes's MS collections. She only says, that she thinks it needless, though she was willing to agree to it. The not confronting of the witnesses was not the result of design, but the practice of the age.

There passed two incidents in this trial which may be worth observing. A letter between Mary and Babington was read, in which mention was made of the earl of Arundel and his brothers: on hearing their names, she broke into a sigh. "Alas," said she, "what has the noble house of the Howards suffered for my sake!" She affirmed, with regard to the same letter, that it was easy to forge the handwriting and cipher of another; she was afraid that this was too familiar a practice with Walsingham, who, she also heard, had frequently practised both against her life and her son's. Walsingham, who was one of the commissioners, rose up. He protested that, in his private capacity, he had never acted any thing against the queen of Scots: in his public capacity, he owned, that his concern for his sovereign's safety had made him very diligent in searching out, by every expedient, all designs against her sacred person or her authority. For attaining that end, he would not only make use of the assistance of Ballard or any other conspirator; he would also reward them for betraying their companions. But if he had tampered in any manner unbefitting his character and office, why did none of the late criminals, either at their trial or execution accuse him of such practices? Mary endeavored to pacify him, by saying that she spoke from information; and she begged him to give thenceforth no more credit to such as slandered her, than she should to such as accused him. The great character, indeed, which Sir Francis Walsingham bears for probity and honor, should remove from him all suspicion of such base arts as forgery and subornation; arts which even the most corrupt ministers, in the most corrupt times, would scruple to employ.

Having finished the trial, the commissioners, adjourned from Fotheringay Castle, and met in the star chamber at London, where, after taking the oaths of Mary's two secretaries, who voluntarily, without hope or reward, vouched the authenticity of those letters before produced, they pronounced sentence of death upon the queen of Scots, and confirmed it by their seals and subscriptions. The same day, a declaration was published by the commissioners and the judges "that the sentence did nowise derogate from the title and honor of James, king of Scotland; but that he was in the same place, degree, and right, as if the sentence had never been pronounced."[*]

* Camden, p. 526.

The queen had now brought affairs with Mary to that situation which she had long ardently desired; and had found a plausible reason for executing vengeance on a competitor, whom, from the beginning of her reign, she had ever equally dreaded and hated. But she was restrained from instantly gratifying her resentment, by several important considerations. She foresaw the invidious colors in which this example of uncommon jurisdiction would be represented by the numerous partisans of Mary, and the reproach to which she herself might be exposed with all foreign princes, perhaps with all posterity. The rights of hospitality, of kindred, and of royal majesty, seemed in one signal instance to be all violated; and this sacrifice of generosity to interest, of clemency to revenge, might appear equally unbecoming a sovereign and a woman. Elizabeth, therefore, who was an excellent hypocrite, pretended the utmost reluctance to proceed to the execution of the sentence; affected the most tender sympathy with her prisoner; displayed all her scruples and difficulties; rejected the solicitation of her courtiers and ministers; and affirmed that, were she not moved by the deepest concern for her people's safety, she would not hesitate a moment in pardoning all the injuries which she herself had received from the queen of Scots.

That the voice of her people might be more audibly heard in the demand of justice upon Mary, she summoned a new parliament; and she knew, both from the usual dispositions of that assembly, and from the influence of her ministers over them, that she should not want the most earnest solicitation to consent to that measure which was so agreeable to her secret inclinations. She did not open this assembly in person, but appointed for that purpose three commissioners, Bromley, the chancellor, Burleigh, the treasurer, and the earl of Derby. The reason assigned for this measure was, that the queen, foreseeing that the affair of the queen of Scots would be canvassed in parliament, found her tenderness and delicacy so much hurt by that melancholy incident, that she had not the courage to be present while it was under deliberation, but withdrew her eyes from what she could not behold without the utmost reluctance and uneasiness. She was also willing, that, by this unusual precaution, the people should see the danger to which her person was hourly exposed; and should thence be more strongly incited to take vengeance on the criminal, whose restless intrigues and bloody conspiracies had so long exposed her to the most imminent perils.[*]

The parliament answered the queen's expectations: the sentence against Mary was unanimously ratified by both houses, and an application was voted to obtain Elizabeth's consent to its publication and execution.[**] She gave an answer ambiguous, embarrassed; full of real artifice, and seeming irresolution. She mentioned the extreme danger to which her life was continually exposed; she declared her willingness to die, did she not foresee the great calamities which would thence fall upon the nation; she made professions of the greatest tenderness to her people; she displayed the clemency of her temper, and expressed her violent reluctance to execute the sentence against her unhappy kinswoman; she affirmed, that the late law, by which that princess was tried, so far from being made to insnare her, was only intended to give her warning beforehand, not to engage in such attempts as might expose her to the penalties with which she was thus openly menaced; and she begged them to think once again, whether it were possible to find any expedient, besides the death of the queen of Scots, for securing the public tranquility.[***]

* D'Ewes, p. 375.

** D'Ewes, p. 379.

*** D'Ewes, p. 402, 403.

The parliament, in obedience to her commands, took the affair again under consideration; but could find no other possible expedient. They reiterated their solicitations, and entreaties, and arguments: they even remonstrated, that mercy to the queen of Scots was cruelty to them, her subjects and children: and they affirmed, that it were injustice to deny execution of the law to any individual; much more to the whole body of the people, now unanimously and earnestly suing for this pledge of her parental care and tenderness. This second address set the pretended doubts and scruples of Elizabeth anew in agitation; she complained of her now unfortunate situation; expressed her uneasiness from their importunity; renewed the professions of affection to her people; and dismissed the committee of parliament in an uncertainty what, after all this deliberation, might be her final resolution.[*] [27]

But though the queen affected reluctance to execute the sentence against Mary, she complied with the request of parliament in publishing it by proclamation; and this act seemed to be attended with the unanimous and hearty rejoicings of the people. Lord Buckhurst, and Beale, clerk of the council, were sent to the queen of Scots, and notified to her the sentence pronounced against her, its ratification by parliament, and the earnest applications made for its execution by that assembly, who thought that their religion could never, while she was alive, attain a full settlement and security. Mary was nowise dismayed at this intelligence: on the contrary, she joyfully laid hold of the last circumstance mentioned to her; and insisted, that since her death was demanded by the Protestants for the establishment of their faith, she was really a martyr to her religion, and was entitled to all the merits attending that glorious character. She added, that the English had often imbrued their hands in the blood of their sovereigns: no wonder they exercised cruelty against her, who derived her descent from these monarchs.[**] Paulet, her keeper, received orders to take down her canopy, and to serve her no longer with the respect due to sovereign princes. He told her, that she was now to be considered as a dead person, and incapable of any dignity.[***] This harsh treatment produced not in her any seeming emotion. She only replied, that she received her royal character from the hands of the Almighty, and no earthly power was ever able to bereave her of it.

* See note AA, at the end of the volume.

** Camden, p. 528.

*** Jebb, vol. ii. p. 293.

The queen of Scots wrote her last letter to Elizabeth; full of dignity, without departing from that spirit of meekness and of charity which appeared suitable to this concluding scene of her unfortunate life. She preferred no petition for averting the fatal sentence: on the contrary she expressed her gratitude to Heaven for thus bringing to a speedy period her sad and lamentable pilgrimage. She requested some favors of Elizabeth; and entreated her that she might be beholden for them to her own goodness alone, without making applications to those ministers who had discovered such an extreme malignity against her person and her religion. She desired, that after her enemies should be satiated with her innocent blood, her body, which it was determined should never enjoy rest while her soul was united to it, might be consigned to her servants, and be conveyed by them into France, there to repose in a Catholic land, with the sacred relics of her mother. In Scotland, she said, the sepulchres of her ancestors were violated, and the churches either demolished or profaned; and in England, where she might be interred among the ancient kings, her own and Elizabeth's progenitors, she could entertain no hopes of being accompanied to the grave with those rites and ceremonies which her religion required. She requested, that no one might have the power of inflicting a private death upon her, without Elizabeth's knowledge; but that her execution should be public, and attended by her ancient servants, who might bear testimony of her perseverance in the faith, and of her submission to the will of Heaven. She begged that these servants might afterwards be allowed to depart whithersoever they pleased, and might enjoy those legacies which she should bequeath them. And she conjured her to grant these favors by their near kindred; by the soul and memory of Henry VII., the common ancestor of both; and by the royal dignity of which they equally participated.[*] Elizabeth made no answer to this letter; being unwilling to give Mary a refusal in her present situation, and foreseeing inconveniencies from granting some of her requests.

* Camden p. 529. Jebb, vol. ii. p. 295.

While the queen of Scots thus prepared herself to meet her fate, great efforts were made by foreign powers with Elizabeth to prevent the execution of the sentence pronounced against her. Besides employing L'Aubespine, the French resident at London, a creature of the house of Guise, Henry sent over Bellievre, with a professed intention of interceding for the life of Mary. The duke of Guise and the league at that time threatened very nearly the king's authority; and Elizabeth knew, that though that monarch might, from decency and policy, think himself obliged to interpose publicly in behalf of the queen of Scots, he could not secretly be much displeased with the death of a princess, on whose fortune and elevation his mortal enemies had always founded so many daring and ambitious projects.[*] It is even pretended, that Bellievre had orders, after making public and vehement remonstrances against the execution of Mary, to exhort privately the queen, in his master's name, not to defer an act of justice so necessary for their common safety.[**] But whether the French king's intercession were sincere or not, it had no weight with the queen; and she still persisted in her former resolution.

* Camden, p. 494.

** Du Maurier.

The interposition of the young king of Scots, though not able to change Elizabeth's determination, seemed on every account to merit more regard. As soon as James heard of the trial and condemnation of his mother, he sent Sir William Keith, a gentleman of his bed-chamber, to London; and wrote a letter to the queen, in which he remonstrated in very severe terms against the indignity of the procedure. He said, that he was astonished to hear of the presumption of English noblemen and counsellors, who had dared to sit in judgment and pass sentence upon a queen of Scotland, descended from the blood royal of England; but he was still more astonished to hear, that thoughts were seriously entertained of putting that sentence in execution: that he entreated Elizabeth to reflect on the dishonor which she would draw on her name by imbruing her hands in the blood of her near kinswoman, a person of the same royal dignity and of the same sex with herself: that, in this unparalleled attempt, she offered an affront to all diadems, and even to her own; and by reducing sovereigns to a level with other men, taught the people to neglect all duty towards those whom Providence had appointed to rule over them: that for his part, he must deem the injury and insult so enormous, as to be incapable of all atonement; nor was it possible for him thenceforward to remain in any terms of correspondence with a person who, without any pretence of legal authority, had deliberately inflicted an ignominious death upon his parent: and that, even if the sentiments of nature and duty did not inspire him with this purpose of vengeance, his honor required it of him; nor could he ever acquit himself in the eyes of the world, if he did not use every effort, and endure every hazard, to revenge so great an indignity.[*]

Soon after, James sent the master of Gray and Sir Robert Melvil to enforce the remonstrances of Keith, and to employ with the queen every expedient of argument and menaces. Elizabeth was at first offended with the sharpness of these applications; and she replied in a like strain to the Scottish ambassadors. When she afterwards reflected, that this earnestness was no more than what duty required of James, she was pacified; but still retained her resolution of executing the sentence against Mary.[**] It is believed, that the master of Gray, gained by the enemies of that princess, secretly gave his advice not to spare her, and undertook, in all events, to pacify his master.

* Spotswood, p. 351.

** Spotswood, p. 353.

The queen also, from many considerations, was induced to pay small attention to the applications of James, and to disregard all the efforts which he could employ in behalf of his mother. She was well acquainted with his character and interests, the factions which prevailed among his people, and the inveterate hatred which the zealous Protestants, particularly the preachers, bore to the queen of Scots. The present incidents set these dispositions of the clergy in a full light. James, observing the fixed purpose of Elizabeth, ordered prayers to be offered up for Mary in all the churches; and knowing the captious humor of the ecclesiastics, he took care that the form of the petition should be most cautious, as well as humane and charitable: "That it might please God to illuminate Mary with the light of his truth, and save her from the apparent danger with which she was threatened." But, excepting the king's own chaplains, and one clergyman more, all the preachers refused to pollute their churches by prayers for a Papist, and would not so much as prefer a petition for her conversion. James, unwilling or unable to punish this disobedience, and desirous of giving the preachers an opportunity of amending their fault, appointed a new day when prayers should be said for his mother; and that he might at least secure himself from any insult in his own presence, he desired the archbishop of St. Andrews to officiate before him.

In order to disappoint this purpose, the clergy instigated one Couper, a young man who had not yet received holy orders, to take possession of the pulpit early in the morning, and to exclude the prelate. When the king came to church, and saw the pulpit occupied by Couper, he called to him from his seat, and told him, that the place was destined for another; yet since he was there, if he would obey the charge given, and remember the queen in his prayers, he might proceed to divine service. The preacher replied, that he would do as the Spirit of God should direct him. This answer sufficiently instructed James in his purpose; and he commanded him to leave the pulpit. As Couper seemed not disposed to obey, the captain of the guard went to pull him from his place; upon which the young man cried aloud, that this day would be a witness against the king in the great day of the Lord; and he denounced a woe upon the inhabitants of Edinburgh for permitting him to be treated in that manner.[*] The audience at first appeared desirous to take part with him; but the sermon of the prelate brought them over to a more dutiful and more humane disposition.

* Spotswood, p. 354.

Elizabeth, when solicited, either by James or by foreign princes, to pardon the queen of Scots, seemed always determined to execute the sentence against her: but when her ministers urged her to interpose no more delays, her scruples and her hesitation returned; her humanity could not allow her to embrace such violent and sanguinary measures; and she was touched with compassion for the misfortunes, and with respect for the dignity, of the unhappy prisoner. The courtiers, sensible that they could do nothing more acceptable to her than to employ persuasion on this head, failed not to enforce every motive for the punishment of Mary, and to combat all the objections urged against this act of justice. They said, that the treatment of that princess in England had been, on her first reception, such as sound reason and policy required; and if she had been governed by principles of equity, she would not have refused willingly to acquiesce in it: that the obvious inconveniencies, either of allowing her to retire into France, or of restoring her by force to her throne, in opposition to the reformers and the English party in Scotland, had obliged the queen to detain her in England, till time should offer some opportunity of serving her, without danger to the kingdom, or to the Protestant religion that her usage there had been such as became her rank; her own servants, in considerable numbers, had been permitted to attend her, exercise had been allowed her for health, and all access of company for amusement; and these indulgences would, in time, have been carried further, if by her subsequent conduct she had appeared worthy of them: that after she had instigated the rebellion of Northumberland, the conspiracy of Norfolk, the bull of excommunication of Pope Pius, an invasion from Flanders; after she had seduced the queen's friends, and incited every enemy, foreign and domestic, against her; it became necessary to treat her as a most dangerous rival, and to render her confinement more strict and rigorous: that the queen, notwithstanding these repeated provocations, had, in her favor, rejected the importunity of her parliaments, and the advice of her sagest ministers;[*] and was still, in hopes of her amendment, determined to delay coming to the last extremities against her: that Mary, even in this forlorn condition, retained so high and unconquerable a spirit, that she acted as competitor to the crown, and allowed her partisans every where, and in their very letters addressed to herself, to treat her as queen of England: that she had carried her animosity so far as to encourage, in repeated instances, the atrocious design of assassinating the queen; and this crime was unquestionably proved upon her by her own letters, by the evidence of her secretaries, and by the dying confession of her accomplices; that she was but a titular queen, and at present possessed nowhere any right of sovereignty; much less in England, where, the moment she set foot in the kingdom, she voluntarily became subject to the laws, and to Elizabeth, the only true sovereign; that even allowing her to be still the queen's equal in rank and dignity, self-defence was permitted by a law of nature which could never be abrogated: and every one, still more a queen, had sufficient jurisdiction over an enemy, who, by open violence, and still more, who, by secret treachery, threatened the utmost danger against her life; that the general combination of the Catholics to exterminate the Protestants was no longer a secret; and as the sole resource of the latter persecuted sect lay in Elizabeth, so the chief hope which the former entertained of final success consisted in the person and in the title of the queen of Scots; that this very circumstance brought matters to extremity between these princesses; and rendering the life of one the death of the other, pointed out to Elizabeth the path which either regard to self-preservation, or to the happiness of her people, should direct her to pursue: and that necessity, more powerful than policy, thus demanded of the queen that resolution which equity would authorize, and which duty prescribed.[**]

* Digges, p. 276. Strype, vol. ii. p. 48, 135, 136, 139.

** Camden, p. 533.

{1587.} When Elizabeth thought that as many importunities had been used, and as much delay interposed, as decency required, she at last determined to carry the sentence into execution: but even in this final resolution she could not proceed without displaying a new scene of duplicity and artifice. In order to alarm the vulgar, rumors were previously dispersed, that the Spanish fleet was arrived in Milford Haven; that the Scots had made an irruption into England; that the duke of Guise was landed in Sussex with a strong army; that the queen of Scots was escaped from prison, and had raised an army; that the northern counties had begun an insurrection; that there was a new conspiracy on foot to assassinate the queen, and set the city of London on fire; nay, that the queen was actually assassinated.[*] An attempt of this nature was even imputed to L'Aubespine, the French ambassador; and that minister was obliged to leave the kingdom. The queen, affecting to be in terror and perplexity, was observed to sit much alone, pensive and silent; and sometimes to mutter to herself half sentences, importing the difficulty and distress to which she was reduced.[**]

* Camden, p. 533.

** Camden, p. 534.

She at last called Davison, a man of parts, but easy to be imposed on, and who had lately for that very reason been made secretary, and she ordered him privately to draw a warrant for the execution of the queen of Scots; which, she afterwards said, she intended to keep by her, in case any attempt should be made for the deliverance of that princess. She signed the warrant; and then commanded Davison to carry it to the chancellor, in order to have the great seal appended to it. Next day she sent Killigrew to Davison, enjoining him to forbear, some time, executing her former orders; and when Davison came and told her that the warrant had already passed the great seal, she seemed to be somewhat moved, and blamed him for his precipitation. Davison, being in perplexity, acquainted the council with this whole transaction; and they endeavored to persuade him to send off Beale with the warrant: if the queen should be displeased, they promised to justify his conduct, and to take on themselves the whole blame of this measure.[*] The secretary, not sufficiently aware of their intention, complied with the advice; and the warrant was despatched to the earls of Shrewsbury and Kent, and some others, ordering them to see the sentence executed upon the queen of Scots.

The two earls came to Fotheringay Castle, and being introduced to Mary, informed her of their commission, and desired her to prepare for death next morning at eight o'clock. She seemed nowise terrified, though somewhat surprised, with the intelligence. She said with a cheerful, and even a smiling countenance, that she did not think the queen, her sister, would have consented to her death, or have executed the sentence against a person not subject to the laws and jurisdiction of England. "But as such is her will," said she, "death, which puts an end to all my miseries, shall be to me most welcome; nor can I esteem that soul worthy the felicities of heaven, which cannot support the body under the horrors of the last passage to these blissful mansions."[**] She then requested the two noblemen, that they would permit some of her servants, and particularly her confessor, to attend her; but they told her, that compliance with this last demand was contrary to their conscience; [***] and that Dr. Fletcher, dean of Peterborough, a man of great learning, should be present to instruct her in the principles of true religion. Her refusal to have any conference with this divine inflamed the zeal of the earl of Kent; and he bluntly told her, that her death would be the life of their religion; as, on the contrary, her life would have been the death of it. Mention being made of Babington, she constantly denied his conspiracy to have been at all known to her; and the revenge of her wrongs she resigned into the hands of the Almighty.

* It appears, by some letters published by Strype, vol. iii. book ii c., that Elizabeth had not expressly communicated her intention to any of her ministers, not even to Burleigh: they were such experienced courtiers, that they knew they could not gratify her more than by serving her without waiting till she desired them.

** Camden, p. 534. Jebb, vol. ii. p. 301. MS. in the Advocates Library, p. 2, from the Cott. Lib. Cal. c. 9.

*** Jebb, vol. ii. p. 302.

When the earls had left her, she ordered supper to be hastened, that she might have the more leisure after it to finish the few affairs which remained to her in this world, and to prepare for her passage to another. It was necessary for her, she said, to take some sustenance, lest a failure of her bodily strength should depress her spirits on the morrow, and lest her behavior should thereby betray a weakness unworthy of herself.[*] She supped sparingly, as her manner usually was; and her wonted cheerfulness did not even desert her on this occasion. She comforted her servants under the affliction which overwhelmed them, and which was too violent for them to conceal it from her. Turning to Burgoin, her physician, she asked him, whether he did not remark the great and invincible force of truth. "They pretend," said she, "that I must die, because I conspired against their queen's life: but the earl of Kent avowed, that there was no other cause of my death, than the apprehensions which, if I should live, they entertain for their religion. My constancy in the faith is my real crime: the rest is only a color, invented by interested and designing men." Towards the end of supper, she called in all her servants, and drank to them: they pledged her, in order, on their knees; and craved her pardon for any past neglect of their duty: she deigned, in return, to ask their pardon for her offences towards them; and a plentiful effusion of tears attended this last solemn farewell, and exchange of mutual forgiveness.[**]

* Jebb, vol. ii. p. 489.

** Jebb, vol. ii. p. 302, 626. Camden, p. 534.

Mary's care of her servants was the sole remaining affair which employed her concern. She perused her will, in which she had provided for them by legacies: she ordered the inventory of her goods, clothes, and jewels to be brought her: and she wrote down the names of those to whom she bequeathed each particular: to some she distributed money with her own hands; and she adapted the recompense to their different degrees of rank and merit. She wrote also letters of recommendation for her servants to the French king, and to her cousin the duke of Guise, whom she made the chief executor of her testament. At her wonted time, she went to bed; slept some hours; and, then rising, spent the rest of the night in prayer. Having foreseen the difficulty of exercising the rites of her religion, she had had the precaution to obtain a consecrated host from the hands of Pope Pius; and she had reserved the use of it for this last period of her life. By this expedient she supplied, as much as she could, the want of a priest and confessor, who was refused her.[*]

* Jebb, vol. ii. p, 489.

Towards the morning, she dressed herself in a rich habit of silk and velvet, the only one which she had reserved to herself. She told her maids, that she would willingly have left them this dress, rather than the plain garb which she wore the day before: but it was necessary for her to appear at the ensuing solemnity in a decent habit.

Thomas Andrews, sheriff of the county, entered the room, and informed her that the hour was come, and that he must attend her to the place of execution. She replied, that she was ready; and bidding adieu to her servants, she leaned on two of Sir Amias Paulet's guards, because of an infirmity in her limbs; and she followed the sheriff with a serene and composed countenance. In passing through a hall adjoining to her chamber, she was met by the earls of Shrewsbury and Kent, Sir Amias Paulet, Sir Drue Drury, and many other gentlemen of distinction. Here she also found Sir Andrew Melvil, her steward, who flung himself on his knees before her; and wringing his hands, cried aloud, "Ah, madam! unhappy me! what man was ever before the messenger of such heavy tidings as I must carry, when I shall return to my native country, and shall report, that I saw my gracious queen and mistress beheaded in England?" His tears prevented further speech; and Mary too felt herself moved, more from sympathy than affliction. "Cease, my good servant," said she, "cease to lament: thou hast cause rather to rejoice than to mourn: for now shalt thou see the troubles of Mary Stuart receive their long-expected period and completion. Know," continued she, "good servant, that all the world at best is vanity, and subject still to more sorrow than a whole ocean of tears is able to bewail. But I pray thee carry this message from me, that I die a true woman to my religion, and unalterable in my affections to Scotland and to France. Heaven forgive them that have long desired my end, and have thirsted for my blood as the hart panteth after the water brooks!" "O God," added she, "thou art the author of truth, and truth itself; thou knowest the inmost recesses of my heart: thou knowest that I was ever desirous to preserve an entire union between Scotland and England, and to obviate the source of all these fatal discords. But recommend me, Melvil, to my son; and tell him, that notwithstanding all my distresses, I have done nothing prejudicial to the state and kingdom of Scotland." After these words, reclining herself, with weeping eyes, and face bedewed with tears, she kissed him. "And so," said she, "good Melvil, farewell: once again, farewell, good Melvil; and grant the assistance of thy prayers to thy queen and mistress."[*]

* MS. p. 4. Jebb, vol. ii. p. 634. Strype, vol iii. p. 384.

She next turned to the noblemen, who attended her, and made a petition in behalf of her servants, that they might be well treated, be allowed to enjoy the presents which she had made them, and be sent safely into their own country. Having received a favorable answer, she preferred another request, that they might be permitted to attend her at her death; "in order," said she, "that their eyes may behold, and their hearts bear witness, how patiently their queen and mistress can submit to her execution, and how constantly she perseveres in her attachment to her religion." The earl of Kent opposed this desire, and told her that they would be apt, by their speeches and cries, to disturb both herself and the spectators: he was also apprehensive lest they should practise some superstition, not meet for him to suffer; such as dipping their handkerchiefs in her blood: for that was the instance which he made use of. "My lord," said the queen of Scots, "I will give my word (although it be but dead) that they shall not incur any blame in any of the actions which you have named. But alas! poor souls! it would be a great consolation to them to bid their mistress farewell. And I hope," added she, "that your mistress, being a maiden queen, would vouchsafe, in regard of womanhood, that I should have some of my own people about me at my death. I know that her majesty hath not given you any such strict command, but that you might grant me a request of far greater courtesy, even though I were a woman of inferior rank to that which I bear." Finding that the earl of Kent persisted still in his refusal, her mind, which had fortified itself against the terrors of death, was affected by this indignity, for which she was not prepared. "I am cousin to your queen," cried she, "and descended from the blood royal of Henry VII., and a married queen of France, and an anointed queen of Scotland." The commissioners, perceiving how invidious their obstinacy would appear, conferred a little together, and agreed that she might carry a few of her servants along with her. She made choice of four men and two maid servants for that purpose.

She then passed into another hall, where was erected the scaffold, covered with black; and she saw, with an undismayed countenance, the executioners and all the preparations of death. The room was crowded with spectators; and no one was so steeled against all sentiments of humanity, as not to be moved, when he reflected on her royal dignity, considered the surprising train of her misfortunes, beheld her mild but inflexible constancy, recalled her amiable accomplishments, or surveyed her beauties, which, though faded by years, and yet more by her afflictions, still discovered themselves in this fatal moment. Here the warrant for her execution was read to her; and during this ceremony she was silent, but showed, in her behavior, an indifference and unconcern, as if the business had nowise regarded her. Before the executioners performed their office, the dean of Peterborough stepped forth; and though the queen frequently told him that he needed not concern himself about her, that she was settled in the ancient Catholic and Roman religion, and that she meant to lay down her life in defence of that faith, he still thought it his duty to persist in his lectures and exhortations, and to endeavor her conversion. The terms which he employed were, under color of pious instructions, cruel insults on her unfortunate situation; and besides their own absurdity, may be regarded as the most mortifying indignities to which she had ever yet been exposed. He told her, that the queen of England had on this occasion shown a tender care of her; and notwithstanding the punishment justly to be inflicted on her, for her manifold trespasses, was determined to use every expedient for saving her soul from that destruction with which it was so nearly threatened: that she was now standing upon the brink of eternity, and had no other means of escaping endless perdition, than by repenting her former wickedness, by justifying the sentence pronounced against her, by acknowledging the queen's favors, and by exerting a true and lively faith in Christ Jesus: that the Scriptures were the only rule of doctrine, the merits of Christ the only means of salvation; and if she trusted in the inventions or devices of men, she must expect in an instant to fall into utter darkness, into a place where shall be weeping howling, and gnashing of teeth: that the and of death was upon her, the axe was laid to the root of the tree, the throne of the great Judge of heaven was erected, the book of her life was spread wide, and the particular sentence and judgment was ready to be pronounced upon her: and that it was now, during this important moment, in her choice, either to rise to the resurrection of life, and hear that joyful salutation, "Come, ye blessed of my Father," or to share the resurrection of condemnation, replete with sorrow and anguish; and to suffer that dreadful denunciation, "Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire."[*]

During this discourse, Mary could not sometimes forbear betraying her impatience, by interrupting the preacher; and the dean, finding that he had profited nothing by his lecture, at last bade her change her opinion, repent her of her former wickedness, and settle her faith upon this ground, that only in Christ Jesus could she hope to be saved. She answered, again and again, with great earnestness, "Trouble not yourself any more about the matter; for I was born in this religion, I have lived in this religion, and in this religion I am resolved to die." Even the two earls perceived that it was fruitless to harass her any further with theological disputes; and they ordered the dean to desist from his unseasonable exhortations, and to pray for her conversion. During the dean's prayer, she employed herself in private devotion from the office of the Virgin; and after he had finished, she pronounced aloud some petitions in English, for the afflicted church, for an end of her own troubles, for her son, and for Queen Elizabeth; and prayed God, that that princess might long prosper, and be employed in his service. The earl of Kent, observing that in her devotions she made frequent use of the crucifix, could not forbear reproving her for her attachment to that Popish trumpery, as he termed it; and he exhorted her to have Christ in her heart, not in her hand.[**] She replied, with presence of mind, that it was difficult to hold such an object in her hand without feeling her heart touched with some compunction.[***]

* MS. p 8, 9, 10, 11. Strype vol. iii. p. 385.

** MS. p. 15. Jebb, vol. ii. p 307, 191, 637.

*** Jebb, vol. ii. p. 307, 491, 637.

She now began, with the aid of her two women, to disrobe herself; and the executioner also lent his hand to assist them. She smiled, and said that she was not accustomed to undress herself before so large a company, nor to be served by such valets. Her servants, seeing her in this condition, ready to lay her head upon the block, burst into tears and lamentations: she turned about to them; put her finger upon her lips, as a sign of imposing silence upon them;[*] and having given them her blessing, desired them to pray for her.

* Jebb, p. 307, 492.

One of her maids, whom she had appointed for that purpose, covered her eyes with a handkerchief; she laid herself down without any sign of fear or trepidation, and her head was severed from her body at two strokes by the executioner. He instantly held it up to the spectators, streaming with blood, and agitated with the convulsions of death: the dean of Peterborough alone exclaimed, "So perish all Queen Elizabeth's enemies:" the earl of Kent alone replied, "Amen:" the attention of all the other spectators was fixed on the melancholy scene before them; and zeal and flattery alike gave place to present pity and admiration of the expiring princess.

Thus perished, in the forty-fifth year of her age, and nineteenth of her captivity in England, Mary, queen of Scots; a woman of great accomplishments both of body and mind, natural as well as acquired; but unfortunate in her life, and during one period very unhappy in her conduct. The beauties of her person and graces of her air combined to make her the most amiable of women; and the charms of her address and conversation aided the impression which her lovely figure made on the hearts of all beholders. Ambitious and active in her temper, yet inclined to cheerfulness and society; of a lofty spirit, constant and even vehement in her purpose, yet polite, and gentle, and affable in her demeanor; she seemed to partake only so much of the male virtues as to render her estimable, without relinquishing those soft graces which compose the proper ornament of her sex. In order to form a just idea of her character, we must set aside one part of her conduct, while she abandoned herself to the guidance of a profligate man; and must consider these faults, whether we admit them to be imprudences or crimes, as the result of an inexplicable, though not uncommon inconstancy in the human mind of the frailty of our nature, of the violence of passion, and of the influence which situations, and sometimes momentary incidents, have on persons whose principles are not thoroughly confirmed by experience and reflection. Enraged by the ungrateful conduct of her husband, seduced by the treacherous counsels of one in whom she reposed confidence, transported by the violence of her own temper, which never lay sufficiently under the guidance of discretion; she was betrayed into actions which may with some difficulty be accounted for, but which admit of no apology, nor even of alleviation. An enumeration of her qualities might carry the appearance of a panegyric; an account of her conduct must, in some parts, wear the aspect of severe satire and invective.

* Jebb, p. 307, 492.

Her numerous misfortunes, the solitude of her long and tedious captivity, and the persecutions to which she had been exposed on account of her religion, had wrought her up to a degree of bigotry during her later years; and such were the prevalent spirit and principles of the age, that it is the less wonder, if her zeal, her resentment, and her interest uniting, induced her to give consent to a design which conspirators, actuated only by the first of these motives, had formed against the life of Elizabeth.

When the queen was informed of Mary's execution, she affected the utmost surprise and indignation. Her countenance changed; her speech faltered and failed her; for a long time, her sorrow was so deep that she could not express it, but stood fixed, like a statue, in silence and mute astonishment. After her grief was able to find vent, it burst out in loud wailings and lamentations; she put herself in deep mourning for this deplorable event; and she was seen perpetually bathed in tears, and surrounded only by her maids and women. None of her ministers or counsellors dared to approach her; or if any had such temerity, she chased them from her, with the most violent expressions of rage and resentment; they had all of them been guilty of an unpardonable crime, in putting to death her dear sister and kinswoman, contrary to her fixed purpose,[*] of which they were sufficiently apprised and acquainted.

* Camden, p. 586. Strype, vol. iii. Append. p. 146. Jebb. vol. ii p. 608

No sooner was her sorrow so much abated as to leave room for reflection, than she wrote a letter of apology to the king of Scots, and sent it by Sir Robert Cary, son of Lord Hunsdon. She there told him, that she wished he knew but not felt, the unutterable grief which she experienced on account of that lamentable accident which, without her knowledge, much less concurrence, had happened in England: that as her pen trembled when she attempted to write it, she found herself obliged to commit the relation of it to the messenger her kinsman; who would likewise inform his majesty of every circumstance attending this dismal and unlooked-for misfortune: that she appealed to the supreme Judge of heaven and earth for her innocence; and was also so happy amidst her other afflictions, as to find, that many persons in her court could bear witness to her veracity in this protestation: that she abhorred dissimulation; deemed nothing more worthy of a prince than a sincere and open conduct; and could never surely be esteemed so base and poor-spirited as that, if she had really given orders for this fatal execution, she could on any consideration be induced to deny them: that, though sensible of the justice of the sentence pronounced against the unhappy prisoner, she determined from clemency never to carry it into execution; and could not but resent the temerity of those who on this occasion had disappointed her intention: and that as no one loved him more dearly than herself, or bore a more anxious concern for his welfare, she hoped that he would consider every one as his enemy who endeavored, on account of the present incident, to excite any animosity between them.[*]

In order the better to appease James, she committed Davison to prison, and ordered him to be tried in the star chamber for his misdemeanor. The secretary was confounded; and being sensible of the danger which must attend his entering into a contest with the queen, he expressed penitence for his error, and submitted very patiently to be railed at by those very counsellors whose persuasion had induced him to incur the guilt, and who had promised to countenance and protect him. He was condemned to imprisonment during the queen's pleasure, and to pay a fine of ten thousand pounds. He remained a long time in custody; and the fine, though it reduced him to beggary, was rigorously levied upon him. All the favor which he could obtain from the queen, was sending him small supplies from time to time, to keep him from perishing in necessity.[**]

* Camden, p. 536. Spotswood, p. 358.

** Camden, p. 538.

He privately wrote an apology to his friend Walsingham, which contains many curious particulars. The French and Scotch ambassadors, he said, had been remonstrating with the queen in Mary's behalf; and immediately after their departure, she commanded him, of her own accord to deliver her the warrant for the execution of that princess. She signed it readily, and ordered it to be sealed with the great seal of England. She appeared in such good humour on the occasion, that she said to him in a jocular manner, "Go, tell all this to Walsingham, who is now sick; though I fear he will die of sorrow when he hears of it." She added, that though she had so long delayed the execution, lest she should seem to be actuated by malice or cruelty, she was all along sensible of the necessity of it. In the same conversation, she blamed Drury and Paulet that they had not before eased her of this trouble; and she expressed her desire that Walsingham would bring them to compliance in that particular. She was so bent on this purpose, that some time after she asked Davison whether any letter had come from Paulet with regard to the service expected of him. Davison showed her Paulet's letter, in which that gentleman positively refused to act any thing inconsistent with the principles of honor and justice. The queen fell into a passion, and accused Paulet as well as Drury of perjury; because, having taken the oath of association, in which they had bound themselves to avenge her wrongs, they had yet refused to lend their hand on this occasion. "But others," she said, "will be found less scrupulous." Davison adds, that nothing but the consent and exhortations of the whole council could have engaged him to send off the warrant: he was well aware of his danger; and remembered that the queen, after having ordered the execution of the duke of Norfolk, had endeavored, in a like manner, to throw the whole blame and odium of that action upon Lord Burleigh.[*]

* Camden, p. 538. Strype, vol. iii. p. 375, 376. MS. in the Advocates' Library, A. 3. 28, p. 17, from the Cott. Lib. Calig. c. 9. Biog. Brit. p. 1625, 1627.

Elizabeth's dissimulation was so gross, that it could deceive nobody who was not previously resolved to be blinded; but as James's concern for his mother was certainly more sincere and cordial, he discovered the highest resentment, and refused to admit Cary into his presence. He recalled his ambassadors from England, and seemed to breathe nothing but war and vengeance. The states of Scotland, being assembled, took part in his anger; and professed that they were ready to spend their lives and fortunes in revenge of his mother's death, and in defence of his title to the crown of England. Many of his nobility instigated him to take arms: Lord Sinclair, when the courtiers appeared in deep mourning, presented himself to the king arrayed in complete armor and said, that this was the proper mourning for the queen. The Catholics took the opportunity of exhorting James to make an alliance with the king of Spain, to lay immediate claim to the crown of England, and to prevent the ruin which, from his mother's example, he might conclude would certainly, if Elizabeth's power prevailed, overwhelm his person and his kingdom. The queen was sensible of the danger attending these counsels; and after allowing James some decent interval to vent his grief and anger, she employed her emissaries to pacify him, and to set before him every motive of hope or fear which might induce him to live in amity with her.

Walsingham wrote to Lord Thirlstone, James's secretary, a judicious letter to the same purpose. He said that he was much surprised to hear of the violent resolutions taken in Scotland, and of the passion discovered by a prince of so much judgment and temper as James: that a war, founded merely on the principle of revenge, and that, too, on account of an act of justice which necessity had extorted, would for ever be exposed to censure, and could not be excused by any principles of equity or reason: that if these views were deemed less momentous among princes, policy and interest ought certainly to be attended to; and these motives did still more evidently oppose all thoughts of a rupture with Elizabeth, and all revival of exploded claims to the English throne: that the inequality between the two kingdoms deprived James of any hopes of success, if he trusted merely to the force of his own state, and had no recourse to foreign powers for assistance: that the objections attending the introduction of succors from a more potent monarch, appeared so evident from all the transactions of history, that they could not escape a person of the king's extensive knowledge; but there were in the present case several peculiar circumstances, which ought forever to deter him from having recourse to so dangerous an expedient: that the French monarch, the ancient ally of Scotland, might willingly use the assistance of that kingdom against England, but would be displeased to see the union of these two kingdoms in the person of James; a union which would ever after exclude him from practising that policy, formerly so useful to the French, and so pernicious to the Scottish nation: that Henry, besides, infested with faction and domestic war, was not in a condition of supporting distant allies, much less would he expose himself to any hazard or expense, in order to aggrandize a near kinsman of the house of Guise, the most determined enemies of his repose and authority: that the extensive power and exorbitant ambition of the Spanish monarch rendered him a still more dangerous ally to Scotland; and as he evidently aspired to a universal monarchy in the west, and had in particular advanced some claims to England as if he were descended from the house of Lancaster, he was at the same time the common enemy of all princes who wished to maintain their independence, and the immediate rival and competitor of the king of Scots: that the queen by her own naval power and her alliance with the Hollanders, would probably intercept all succors which might be sent to James from abroad, and be enabled to decide the controversy in this island, with the superior forces of her own kingdom, opposed to those of Scotland: that if the king revived his mother's pretensions to the crown of England, he must also embrace her religion, by which alone they could be justified; and must thereby undergo the infamy of abandoning those principles in which he had been strictly educated; and to which he had hitherto religiously adhered: that as he would, by such an apostasy, totally alienate all the Protestants in Scotland and England, he could never gain the confidence of the Catholics, who would still entertain reasonable doubts of his sincerity: that by advancing a present claim to the crown, he forfeited the certain prospect of his succession; and revived that national animosity which the late peace and alliance between the kingdoms had happily extinguished: that the whole gentry and nobility of England had openly declared themselves for the execution of the queen of Scots; and if James showed such violent resentment against that act of justice, they would be obliged, for their own security, to prevent forever so implacable a prince from ruling over them: and that, however some persons might represent his honor as engaged to seek vengeance for the present affront and injury, the true honor of a prince consisted in wisdom, and moderation, and justice, not in following the dictates of blind passion, or in pursuing revenge at the expense of every motive and every interest.[*]

* Strype, vol. iii. p. 377. Spotswood.

These considerations, joined to the peaceable, unambitious temper of the young prince, prevailed over his resentment, and he fell gradually into a good correspondence with the court of England. It is probable that the queen's chief object in her dissimulation with regard to the execution of Mary, was, that she might thereby afford James a decent pretence for renewing his amity with her, on which their mutual interests so much depended.

While Elizabeth insured tranquillity from the attempts of her nearest neighbor, she was not negligent of more distant dangers. Hearing that Philip, though he seemed to dissemble the daily insults and injuries which he received from the English, was secretly preparing a great navy to attack her, she sent Sir Francis Drake with a fleet to intercept his supplies, to pillage his coast, and to destroy his shipping. Drake carried out four capital ships of the queen's, and twenty-six, great and small, with which the London merchants, in hopes of sharing in the plunder, had supplied him. Having learned from two Dutch ships which he met with in his passage, that a Spanish fleet, richly laden, was lying at Cadiz, ready to sail for Lisbon, the rendezvous of the intended armada, he bent his course to the former harbor, and boldly, as well as fortunately, made an attack on the enemy. He obliged six galleys, which made head against him, to take shelter under the forts: he burned about a hundred vessels laden with ammunition and naval stores; and he destroyed a great ship of the marquis of Santa Croce. Thence he set sail for Cape St. Vincent, and took by assault the castle situated on that promontory, with three other fortresses. He next insulted Lisbon; and finding that the merchants, who had engaged entirely in expectation of profit, were discontented at these military enterprises, he set sail for the Terceras, with an intention of lying in wait for a rich carrack, which was expected in those parts. He was so fortunate as to meet with his prize; and by this short expedition, in which the public bore so small a share, the adventurers were encouraged to attempt further enterprises, the English seamen learned to despise the great unwieldy ships of the enemy, the naval preparations of Spain were destroyed, the intended expedition against England was retarded a twelvemonth, and the queen thereby had leisure to take more secure measures against that formidable invasion.[*]

* Camden, p. 540. Sir William Monson's Naval Tracts in Churchill's Voyages, vol. iii. p. 156.

This year, Thomas Cavendish, a gentleman of Devonshire, who had dissipated a good estate by living at court, being resolved to repair his fortune at the expense of the Spaniards fitted out three ships at Plymouth one of a hundred and twenty tons, another of sixty, and a third of forty; and with these small vessels he ventured into the South Sea, and committed great depredations on the Spaniards. He took nineteen vessels, some of which were richly laden; and returning by the Cape of Good Hope, he came to London, and entered the river in a kind of triumph. His mariners and soldiers were clothed in silk, his sails were of damask, his topsail cloth of gold; and his prizes were esteemed the richest that ever had been brought into England.[*]

* Birch's Memoirs, vol. i. p. 57.

The land enterprises of the English were not, during this campaign, so advantageous or honorable to the nation. The important place of Deventer was intrusted by Leicester to William Stanley, with a garrison of twelve hundred English; and this gentleman, being a Catholic, was alarmed at the discovery of Babington's conspiracy, and became apprehensive lest every one of his religion should thenceforth be treated with distrust in England. He entered into a correspondence with the Spaniards, betrayed the city to them for a sum of money, and engaged the whole garrison to desert with him to the Spanish service. Roland York, who commanded a fort near Zutphen, imitated his example; and the Hollanders, formerly disgusted with Leicester, and suspicious of the English, broke out into loud complaints against the improvidence, if not the treachery, of his administration. Soon after, he himself arrived in the Low Countries; but his conduct was nowise calculated to give them satisfaction, or to remove the suspicions which they had entertained against him. The prince of Parma having besieged Sluys, Leicester attempted to relieve the place, first by sea, then by land; but failed in both enterprises; and as he ascribed his bad success to the ill behavior of the Hollanders, they were equally free in reflections upon his conduct. The breach between them became wider every day: they slighted his authority, opposed his measures, and neglected his counsels; while he endeavored by an imperious behavior, and by violence, to recover that influence which he had lost by his imprudent and ill-concerted measures. He was even suspected by the Dutch of a design to usurp upon their liberties; and the jealousy entertained against him began to extend towards the queen herself. That princess had made some advances towards a peace with Spain: a congress had been opened at Bourbourg, a village near Graveline: and though the two courts, especially that of Spain, had no other intention than to amuse each of them its enemy by negotiation, and mutually relax the preparations for defence or attack, the Dutch, who were determined on no terms to return under the Spanish yoke, became apprehensive lest their liberty should be sacrificed to the political interests of England.[*] But the queen, who knew the importance of her alliance with the states during the present conjuncture, was resolved to give them entire satisfaction, by recalling Leicester, and commanding him to resign his government. Maurice son of the late prince of Orange, a youth of twenty years of age, was elected by the states governor in his place; and Peregrine Lord Willoughby was appointed by the queen commander of the English forces. The measures of these two generals were much embarrassed by the malignity of Leicester, who had left a faction behind him, and who still attempted, by means of his emissaries, to disturb all the operations of the states. As soon as Elizabeth received intelligence of these disorders, she took care to redress them; and she obliged all the partisans of England to fall into unanimity with Prince Maurice.[**] But though her good sense so far prevailed over her partiality to Leicester, she never could be made fully sensible of his vices and incapacity: the submissions which he made her restored him to her wonted favor; and Lord Buckhurst, who had accused him of misconduct in Holland, lost her confidence for some time, and was even committed to custody.

* Bentivoglio, part ii. lib. iv. Strype, vol. iv. No. 246.

* Rymer, tom. xv. p. 66.

Sir Christopher Hatton was another favorite who at this time received some marks of her partiality. Though he had never followed the profession of the law, he was made chancellor, in the place of Bromley, deceased; but, notwithstanding all the expectations, and perhaps wishes of the lawyers, he behaved in a manner not unworthy of that high station: his good natural capacity supplied the place of experience and study; and his decisions were not found deficient, either in point of equity or judgment. His enemies had contributed to this promotion, in hopes that his absence from court, while he attended the business of chancery, would gradually estrange the queen from him, and give them an opportunity of undermining him in her favor.

{1568.} These little intrigues and cabals of the court were silenced by the account which came from all quarters, of the vast preparations made by the Spaniards for the invasion of England, and for the entire conquest of that kingdom. Philip, though he had not yet declared war on account of the hostilities which Elizabeth every where committed upon him, had long harbored a secret and violent desire of revenge against her. His ambition also, and the hopes of extending his empire, were much encouraged by the present prosperous state of his affairs; by the conquest of Portugal, the acquisition of the East Indian commerce and settlements, and the yearly importation of vast treasures from America. The point on which he rested, his highest glory, the perpetual object of his policy, was to support orthodoxy and exterminate heresy; and as the power and credit of Elizabeth were the chief bulwark of the Protestants, he hoped, if he could subdue that princess, to acquire the eternal renown of reuniting the whole Christian world in the Catholic communion. Above all, his indignation against his revolted subjects in the Netherlands instigated him to attack the English, who had encouraged that insurrection; and who, by their vicinity, were so well enabled to support the Hollanders, that he could never hope to reduce these rebels, while the power of that kingdom remained entire and unbroken. To subdue England seemed a necessary preparative to the reestablishment of his authority in the Netherlands; and notwithstanding appearances, the former was in itself, as a more important, so a more easy undertaking than the latter. That kingdom lay nearer Spain than the Low Countries, and was more exposed to invasions from that quarter; after an enemy had once obtained entrance, the difficulty seemed to be over, as it was neither fortified by an or nature; a long peace had deprived it of all military discipline and experience; and the Catholics, in which it still abounded, would be ready, it was hoped, to join any invader who should free them from those persecutions under which they labored, and should revenge the death of the queen of Scots, on whom they had fixed all their affections. The fate of England must be decided in one battle at sea, and another at land; and what comparison between the English and Spaniards, either in point of naval force, or in the numbers, reputation, and veteran bravery of their armies? Besides the acquisition of so great a kingdom, success against England insured the immediate subjection of the Hollanders, who, attacked on every hand, and deprived of all support, must yield their stubborn necks to that yoke which they had so long resisted. Happily, this conquest, as it was of the utmost importance to the grandeur of Spain, would not at present be opposed by the jealousy of other powers, naturally so much interested to prevent the success of the enterprise. A truce was lately concluded with the Turks; the empire was in the hands of a friend and near ally; and France, the perpetual rival of Spain, was so torn with intestine commotions, that she had no leisure to pay attention to her foreign interests. This favorable opportunity, therefore, which might never again present itself, must be seized; and one bold effort made for acquiring that ascendant in Europe, to which the present greatness and prosperity of the Spaniards seemed so fully to entitle them.[*]

These hopes and motives engaged Philip, notwithstanding his cautious temper, to undertake this hazardous enterprise; and though the prince, now created by the pope duke of Parma, when consulted, opposed the attempt, at least represented the necessity of previously getting possession of some seaport town in the Netherlands, which might afford a retreat to the Spanish navy,[**] it was determined by the Catholic monarch to proceed immediately to the execution of his ambitious project.

* Camden. Strype, vol. iii. p. 512.

** Bentivoglio, part ii. lib. iv.

During some time, he had been secretly making preparations, out as soon as the resolution was fully taken, every part of his vast empire resounded with the noise of armaments, and all his ministers, generals, and admirals were employed in forwarding the design. The marquis of Santa Croce, a sea officer of great reputation and experience, was destined to command the fleet; and by his counsels were the naval equipments conducted. In all the ports of Sicily, Naples, Spain, and Portugal, artisans were employed in building vessels of uncommon size and force; naval stores were bought at a great expense; provisions amassed; armies levied and quartered in the maritime towns of Spain; and plans laid for fitting out such a fleet and embarkation as had never before had its equal in Europe. The military preparations in Flanders were no less formidable. Troops from all quarters were every moment assembling to reenforce the duke of Parma. Capizuchi and Spinelli conducted forces from Italy: the marquis of Borgaut, a prince of the house of Austria, levied troops in Germany; the Walloon and Burgundian regiments were completed or augmented: the Spanish infantry was supplied with recruits and an army of thirty-four thousand men was assembled in the Netherlands, and kept in readiness to be transported into England. The duke of Parma employed all the carpenters whom he could procure, either in Flanders or in Lower Germany and the coasts of the Baltic; and he built at Dunkirk and Newport, but especially at Antwerp, a great number of boats and flat-bottomed vessels, for the transporting of his infantry and cavalry. The most renowned nobility and princes of Italy and Spain were ambitious of sharing in the honor of this great enterprise. Don Amadseus of Savoy, Don John of Medicis, Vespasian Gonzaga, duke of Sabionetta, and the duke of Pastrana, hastened to join the army under the duke of Parma. About two thousand volunteers in Spain, many of them men of family, had enlisted in the service. No doubts were entertained but such vast preparations, conducted by officers of such consummate skill, must finally be successful. And the Spaniards, ostentatious of their power, and elated with vain hopes, had already denominated their navy the Invincible Armada.

News of these extraordinary preparations soon reached the court of London; and notwithstanding the secrecy of the Spanish council, and their pretending to employ this force in the Indies, it was easily concluded that they meant to make some effort against England. The queen had foreseen the invasion; and finding that she must now contend for her crown with the whole force of Spain, she made preparations for resistance; nor was she dismayed with that power, by which all Europe apprehended she must of necessity be overwhelmed. Her force, indeed, seemed very unequal to resist so potent an enemy. All the sailors in England amounted at that time to about fourteen thousand men.[*] The size of the English shipping was in general so small, that except a few of the queen's ships of war, there were not four vessels belonging to the merchants which exceeded four hundred tons.[**] The royal navy consisted of only twenty-eight sail,[***] many of which were of small size; none of them exceeded the bulk of our largest frigates, and most of them deserved rather the name of pinnaces than of ships.

* Monson, p. 256.

** Monson, p. 268.

*** Monson p. 157

The only advantage of the English fleet consisted in the dexterity and courage of the seamen, who, being accustomed to sail in tempestuous seas and expose themselves to all dangers, as much exceeded in this particular the Spanish mariners, as their vessels were inferior in size and force to those of that nation.[*] All the commercial towns of England were required to furnish ships for reenforcing this small navy; and they discovered, on the present occasion, great alacrity in defending their liberty and religion against those imminent perils with which they were menaced. The citizens of London, in order to show their zeal in the common cause, instead of fifteen vessels, which they were commanded to equip, voluntarily fitted out double the number.[**] The gentry and nobility hired, and armed, and manned forty-three ships at their own charge;[***] and all the loans of money which the queen demanded were frankly granted by the persons applied to. Lord Howard of Effingham, a man of courage and capacity, was admiral, and took on him the command of the navy: Drake, Hawkins, and Frobisher, the most renowned seamen in Europe, served under him. The principal fleet was stationed at Plymouth. A smaller squadron, consisting of forty vessels, English and Flemish, was commanded by Lord Seymour, second son of Protector Somerset; and lay off Dunkirk, in order to intercept the duke of Parma.

* Monson, p. 321.

** Monsm, p. 267

*** Lives of the Admirals, vol. i. p. 451.

The land forces of England, compared to those of Spain, possessed contrary qualities to its naval power: they were more numerous than the enemy, but much inferior in discipline, reputation, and experience. An army of twenty thousand men was disposed in different bodies along the south coast; and orders were given them, if they could not prevent the landing of the Spaniards, to retire backwards, to waste the country around, and to wait for reenforcement from the neighboring counties, before they approached the enemy. A body of twenty-two thousand foot and a thousand horse, under the command of the earl of Leicester, was stationed at Tilbury in order to defend the capital. The principal army consisted of thirty-four thousand foot and two thousand horse, and was commanded by Lord Hunsdon. These forces were reserved for guarding the queen's person, and were appointed to march whithersoever the enemy should appear. The fate of England, if all the Spanish armies should be able to land, seemed to depend on the issue of a single battle; and men of reflection entertained the most dismal apprehensions, when they considered the force of fifty thousand veteran Spaniards, commanded by experienced officers, under the duke of Parma, the most consummate general of the age; and compared this formidable armament with the military power which England, not enervated by peace, but long disused to war, could muster up against it.

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