MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS.* SOME years have elapsed since Mr. Hosack published the first volume of his masterly defence of Mary Queen of Scots. The patient labour bestowed upon that volume, the admirable skill with which the writer arranged his materials, the interest he im- parted to what might have been regarded as a worn-out subject, called forth, and justly, the praise of critics who were far indeed from accepting all the author's conclusions. The pleading was forcible, if the arguments were not always satisfactory ;
and the most cursory reader must have been conscious of the intellectual vigour with which the writer had grasped his subject. If Mr. Hosack erred in his conclusions, it was not from ignor- ance or incapacity, but rather, we think, from a persistent resolu-
tion to act the part of an advocate, instead of observing the impartiality of an historian. Nevertheless, much of the work, as we remarked at the time (Spectator, October 23, 1869), is of great historical value. Mr. Hosack examined with the utmost care every source of information, and by his researches, in the Record Office and elsewhere, was enabled to bring forward a number of interesting facts unknown to earlier historians. In the first volume, for example, the specific charges made against Mary at Westminster were published for the first time, from a copy of the articles preserved among the Hopetoun Manu- scripts, and in the volume before us very much will be found of which even the student of that period of history is likely to be ignorant. Research in this direction is still rewarded by fresh discoveries, and Mr. Hosack observes that since his previous pub- lication it has been ascertained that the Queen of Scots was never legally married to Bothwell :—
" It is well known that in the previous year—namely, in 1366—he bad been married to the Lady Jane Gordon, a sister of the Earl of Huntly, and that before his pretended marriage with the Queen he obtained a divorce from hie wife, on the ground that he was related to her in the fourth degree of consanguinity. Bet it is now certain that • Mary Queen of Scots and her Accusers, embracing a Narrative of Events from Me Death of James V. in 1542, until the Death of Queen Nary, in 1587. By John Haack, Barrister-at-Law. Second Edition, much enlarged. 2 cols. Vol. IL London and Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sous.
before their marriage they had obtained a dispensation from the Pope's Legate in Scotland, and they were therefore legally married, according to the Canons of the Catholic Church. It follows that as marriage had been publicly declared to be indissoluble by the Canons of that Church, the Queen could contract no lawful marriage with Bothwell during the life-time of his wife."
The question arises whether Mary was aware of this obstacle. Mr. Hosack, judging from her conduct and correspondence, con- tends that she was not ; but he remarks that at a subsequent period she appears to have been informed of the fact, since in writing to the Pope in 1571, she speaks of Bothwell's "pretended divorce" from his wife. Why Bothwell, a rigid Protestant, should have troubled himself to obtain a dispensation from Archbishop Hamilton does not appear ; it could not have been to satisfy his wife's scruples, since it was at her suit he was divorced by the Protestant Consistorial Court. Among the original documents published by Mr. Hosack are a number of letters, now in Blair's College, Aberdeen. Some of these letters prove that the Earl of Morton, while Regent of Scotland, made friendly overtures to Queen Mary, and even offered to do all in his power to restore her 'to her kingdom. This, as Mr. Hosack observes, is a remarkable fact, for Morton had been the most active of all Mary's enemies in Scotland, and not only charged her with Darnley's murder, but produced against her the casket letters .—
" He had subsequently, in the years 1572 and 1574, expressed to Cecil his readiness to have her put to death in Scotland; yet, in 1576, we find him professing the most ardent loyalty to the Sovereign he had undertaken to murder, and offering to make every sacrifice to restore her to her throne."
No doubt the extreme difficulties of his position prompted this change of conduct. Morton, like Murray, was utterly unscrupulous, and his public and private vices created a feeling against him which he was acute enough to see might result in his destruction.
Mr. Hosack considers that Morton's overtures, made probably from the belief that the tide was turning in Mary's favour, and the mode in which the Queen of Scots received them, show the consciousness of guilt on the Regent's part, and of innocence on the part of the Queen :—
" He sought to win back her favour to screen him from the ven- geance of his enemies; and she, though a helpless prisoner pining for liberty and ready to make the greatest sacrifices to obtain it, shrank from the proffered friendship of the man who, in spite of his fine words, she knew to be the most unscrupulous of all her enemies."
We do not quite see why, even if Mary had been conscious of the guilt with which Morton had previously charged her, she should have now leapt, as Mr. Hosack thinks she would, at his proposals of assistance. Mary was surrounded by foes, and had few friends whom she could trust. She knew perfectly well the perils that surrounded her, and Morton's past conduct would lead her to receive his advances with the utmost caution. Twice within a few years Morton had bargained with Elizabeth for the price of Mary's blood ; the English Queen wanted to get rid of the rival who troubled her so sorely, and Morton was willing to undertake the deed for a proper consi- deration. Mary was ignorant of these conspiracies against her, conspiracies in which the highest personages in Eng- land and in Scotland did not scruple to take a part, but she was aware that the Regent would stick at no crime to advance his ends. The man whose conduct since his accession to he Regency had " redoubled " her fears for the safety of her son, was not a man whose overtures she could accept readily, or regard without suspicion. Mr. Hosa,ck's argu- ment with reference to Mary's conduct when she heard of the death of Bothwell carries more weight. She understood that he had made a declaration, in the presence of the Danish authorities, that he, along with others, had been guilty of Darniey's death, but that the Queen was innocent of that crime :—
" On receiving intelligence of these important facts, Mary immedi- ately desired her Ambassador in Paris to send some one to Denmark to ascertain if the statement was true, adding that she would willingly defray all necessary expenses. This, however, for some reason not clearly explained, was not done, and Mary some months afterwards stated that she had ascertained that the confession of Bothwell had been transmitted to Elizabeth, and that she had suppressed it."
We may admit, with Mr. Hosack, that her earnest desire to bring this document to light is "a strong circumstance in favour of the Scottish Queen." Other proofs of Mary's innocence are advanced by Mr. Hosack, and sustained, it must be allowed, by eloquent pleading ; but the verdict pronounced against her by history will not, we think, be essentially changed in consequence of this defence. The writer succeeds best, perhaps, in repre- senting the falsehood and murderous hatred with which the Scottish Queen had to contend, and he justly argues that under the circumstances in which she was placed, and the long years
she had spent in prison, the charge of double-dealing made against her by Mr. Froude is one scarcely worth rebutting. In such peril, in such misery, it was natural that Mary should try any expedient by which she might regain liberty and save her life. So long as Elizabeth kept her in bondage, so long it was evident the prisoner would fight against her fetters. In her prison she had to contend against a number of enemies who were bent on her destruction. Burleigh hated her, and Burleigh was the Queen's right hand. Walaingham hated her, and sought her destruction by the meanest artifices. Sussex had opposed her in a blunter fashion, and had advised Elizabeth to declare openly for the party of the young King. Leicester, once a suitor for Mary's hand, had done her irreparable injuries. The Master of Gray, after professing the most ardent devotion to her cause, was base enough to betray her. Turn which way she might, in England and in Scotland, there seemed little hope of escape from the toils of her enemies. What wonder, the,n, if she dissembled,. and looked with hope in the later years of her captivity to the prospect of a foreign invasion ? As a prisoner in the hands of powerful enemies, Mary's conduct was marked by dignity and shrewdness. She avoided with singular ability many of the pitfalls laid for her, and all that was really noble in her character became conspicuous in adversity. Mr. Hosack, with abundant skill, presents every favourable. trait in her character, and the reader who accepts his view. of Mary as a woman and as a Queen will close this defence with a feeling of admiration for her virtues as well as of sympathy with her protracted sufferings. Students of English history will' find in this volume a number of statements that are not likely to be accepted without discussion. Mr. Kingsley, for instance, im a recent essay upon George Buchanan, allows that, by his conduct to Queen Mary, he must stand or fall, and takes the part of the great scholar with his accustomed energy. He excuses him for the well- nigh incredible charges he heaps up against the Queen on the ground that in these charges he expressed the popular feeling, and that if he has overstated his case, he should not be blamed too severely "for- yielding to a temptation common to all men of genius, when their- creative power is roused to its highest energy by a great cause and a great indignation." Mr. Hosack, on the contrary, avers that Buchanan was first the sycophant and then the slanderer of his Sovereign, that his pen was ever at the service of the highest bidder, that his history is all but worthless, that he was the prince of literary prostitutes, that the statements in the " Detection " are monstrous fictions, and that his conduct was marked by utter- baseness. Again, few men of that age have received more praise from historians than Lord Burleigh, but Mr. Hosack, after ex- posing what he considers his treacherous conduct to Queen Mary, does not even give him credit for wise statesmanship :— "It is," he writes, "a serious imputation upon a statesman that although ever ready to provoke hostility, he was helpless in the hour of danger ; yet his manifest inability to deal with the Northern rebellion in 1569, and still more, the total want of vigour and foresight which he subsequently displayed when England was threatened with the Armada, prove incontestably that Lord Burghley lay open to this grave charge.. From the influence which he acquired over Elizabeth, and the prominent part he took in the establishment of the Reformation in England, the virtues of this celebrated person have been much extolled, and it must be admitted that in industry and vigilance no Minister ever surpassed him. But in other and rarer qualities he will not bear comparison even with contemporary statesmen. He possessed neither the deep, im- penetrable craft of Murray, the versatility of Maitland, the commanding intellect of Sussex, nor the vigour and dexterity of Walsingham."
John Knox, too, becomes in Mr. Hosack's estimate a very- doubtful character. "He was the Hildebrand of Calvinism, and in his own narrow sphere was every whit as intolerant and over- bearing as the most ambitious of the Pontiffs." The author evi- dently thinks that Knox was an accomplice in Burleigh's scheme to send Mary to Scotland that she might be put to death there, and he observes that "when Knox asserted that Kirkaldy was a murderer in his heart, it probably never occurred to him that the charge might have been made with far more justice against himself." It will be seen that Mr. Hosack does not spare the opponents of Queen Mary, and it may be allowed that the vigour with which he assails them adds considerably to the piquancy of his narrative. Whether it increases our reliance on his trustworthiness as an historian is another question. Im- partiality is a virtue which we scarcely expect to meet with in an enthusiastic partisan. Mary Queen of Scots has had many de- fenders, by whom even the worst passages in her story have been skilfully, if not successfully, explained away, but Mr. IIosack's elaborate and painstaking defence is the most important hitherto produced. If it were possible to reverse the general verdict of history, and to believe in the innocence of Mary, the author's ingenious pleading might incline one to say, "Not guilty." But this is a task too difficult even for Mr. Hosack.