If a man does not know to what port he is sailing, no wind is favourable. — Seneca

Story of the English - Helene Guerber




Captivity of Mary Stuart

Now, you must know that the story of Mary Stuart is perplexing. Some people say she was a very good but a very unfortunate woman, while others say that she was very wicked. The reformers thought she was so bad that she had killed Darnley so as to marry Bothwell, and they indignantly rose up against her.

Murray, one of her relatives, headed the rebels, defeated her troops, and took her prisoner. Bothwell, however, managed to escape, and, knowing it would never be safe for him to come back to Scotland, he went to the Orkney Islands. There he became a pirate; but after some years spent thus he was captured and put into a Danish dungeon, where he died, a raving maniac.

Murray now took charge of the government, sending Mary to Lochleven Castle, in the middle of a Scotch lake, whence he fancied she could not escape. The Scotch Parliament next decided that Mary ought to give up the crown to her son James VI., and that Murray should be regent until he could reign alone. So a paper was carried to Mary in Lochleven Castle, and she was forced to sign it and give the crown to her infant son.

Prison life soon became so irksome to Mary that she made several efforts to escape. Once she bribed a washerwoman to exchange clothes with her, and then left the castle in the boat which had brought the woman. But she was soon detected by the whiteness and delicacy of her hands, and was brought back to her prison.

Mary made several other unsuccessful attempts, but finally escaped with the help of a boy called George Douglas. Friends were waiting to meet her, and Mary, having raised a small army, marched against Murray, who was coming to recapture her.

Although she commanded her troops in person, Mary was defeated. Fearing that the Scotch would again imprison her, she fled in haste from the battlefield. Without pausing once to rest, she rode sixty miles to the frontier, and, crossing Solway Firth, came into England.

Then she wrote a letter to Elizabeth, begging her protection. On receiving this message, Elizabeth pretended that she would be very glad to welcome Mary as her guest, but she said that she could not do so until the Queen of Scots was cleared from the charge of helping to murder Darnley.

Elizabeth therefore sent attendants to Mary, who was lodged in a castle, while a committee was appointed to try her. There were witnesses for and against her, but it was not settled whether she was innocent or guilty. Elizabeth said that as long as the matter was undecided she could neither receive her kinswoman nor allow her to leave England, and on this pretext kept her a prisoner.

At first the Queen of Scots was not kept in close captivity, for we are told that she was allowed to go out as much as she pleased, and to receive visitors. But when Elizabeth saw that Mary's beauty, intelligence, and patience won her many friends, she began to grow uneasy. Her uneasiness was increased by a plot which was made by the Catholics to kill her, free Mary, and place the latter on the throne of England.

This conspiracy was discovered in time, as well as two others formed by Norfolk and Babington, and most of those who took part in them were executed. After each attempt to set Mary free, her residence was changed, and at last she was taken to Fotheringay Castle. Here she was tried, found guilty of plotting against Elizabeth, and although she insisted that she was innocent of all crime, she was condemned to death as a traitor.

The news of this sentence was received with horror by the French and the Scotch, who both sent ambassadors to England to protest against its being carried out. But Parliament insisted that neither the queen nor the country would be safe so long as Mary lived, so Elizabeth reluctantly signed the death-warrant.

Mary calmly heard this paper read to her, prepared for death, wrote her will, and, after sleeping peacefully for a few hours, rose and dressed as richly as possible. At her request, a few of her most faithful servants were allowed to accompany her to the scaffold, which was erected in the great hall of the castle.

There, after freely forgiving the executioners who knelt before her to beg her pardon, Mary, Queen of Scotland, committed her soul to God, and, laying her head upon the block, gave the signal for her death. She had been a prisoner about nineteen years.

When she was dead, Elizabeth seemed to regret her execution. She even wore mourning for her, and sent away one of her ministers, on the ground that he had had the death-warrant executed after she had recalled it.



Contents

Front Matter
Review

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
"Remember"
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee