23 AUGUST 1851, Page 16


IIIGNET'S HISTORY OF MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS.* THE sex, the fascinations, and the misfortunes of Mary Stuart, as well as the probable influence of her deposition, imprisonments, and death, in shaking the superstitious reverence for authority and originating the modern democracy, have attracted more attention to her story than to that of any modern or even ancient monarch. Mary has not, like her prototype Cleopatra, been depicted by Shak- spere, but she has been the theme of more poets and romancists than any other historical personage ; her history has been treated by authors of every cast and calibre ; the documents professing to illustrate it surpass any collection upon any other historical subject, where the events were not patent to the world at the time of their occurrence or recorded in public muniments ; the contro- versies respecting her guilt or innocence only yield in number to

those on the authorship of Junius. To the histories M. Mignet has added another work, which

originated in a series of papers published in the Journal des Sa- vans during the years 1847-1850; Prince Labanoff's vast collec- tion of documents being taken as the basis or book reviewed. The articles are now recast as a continuous narrative ; and this narrative derives its main characteristic from being the last. The author has availed himself of the latest materials which modern in- dukry has brought to light upon the subject, and added some in- formation of his own, derived from inedited Spanish documents. These relate to different subjects reported to the Spanish Court ; but their chief novelty regards the negotiations for the marriage between Mary and the unfortunate Don Carlos, son of Philip the Second of Spain. The book thus contains the pith of all the new information upon Mary's career, and of the evidence against or in favour of her


The historian's conclusions on this vexed question are put forth with a calmness approaching to indifference, but with the decision of a judgment or a verdict. Mary's imprudence and levity before her marriage with Darnley, her adultery with Bothwell, her pro- bable complicity in her husband's murder, and her connivance at Bothwell's abduction, are rather received as evident than treated as matters requiring argument to prove. Her alleged guilt with Bizin and some other mean persons is left unsettled, though the charges are stated. No new weight, however, will be attached to Mignet's opinions by Mary's thorough partisans, because M. Mignet receives as valid the evidence which they impugn,—as the letters and verses found in the celebrated casket.

The utility of the work when completed will consist in its pre- senting a.full account of Mary's life drawn up from all the now known documents, by a philosophical foreigner, who, if not so en- tirely free from " prepossession " as he claims to be, is yet not so biased as native writers, many of whom form their judgment on Mary Queen of Scots' less from evidence than party feeling. The literary merit of the work consists in a clearly flowing, sustained narrative, quiet without weakness ; in impressing subjects dis- tinctly upon the reader by fixing the attention on single but im- portant points ; and in leading to ajust estimate of Mary's poli- tical character, by pointing out the difficulties of her position at any critical time, and noting how much of her conduct was owing to fate or fortune and how much to herself. Like several of his countrymen, M. Mignet quotes freely from contemporary docu- ments ; which sometimes gives an air of quaint reality, but some- times, by the minuteness, is injurious to breadth and force of effect.

We would instance Robertson's description of Darnley's murder, and of Mary's captivity after the affair of Carberry Hill, to be com- pared with Mignet's story of the same events, as examples of what we mean.

This remark applies to actions where the narrative should par- take of the colour of the event,—as the suddenness and mystery of Darnley's murder. In what may be called intellectual questions, of course the words of the parties themselves convey character and truth,—such as this account of Xnox's interview with Mary in relation to the Spanish match.

"These negotiations were not conducted so mysteriously that no rumour of them reached the ears of the Protestant ministers. These became alarmed at the proposed marriage of their Queen with a Catholic prince ; and Knox, according to his custom, made it the subject of a public remonstrance. In an address to the Protestant nobility, he warned them of the dangers which threatened them, and said, 'I hear of the Queen's marriage. Dukes, breth- ren to Emperors and Kings, strive all for the best gain. But this, my Lords, will I say, note the day, and bear witness hereafter. Whenever the nobility of Scotland, who profess the Lord Jesus, consent that an infidel (and all Pa- pists are infidels) shall be head to our Sovereign, ye do as far as in you lieth to banish Christ Jesus from this realm, and to bring God's vengeance on the country.' "The Queen was very indignant at this language, and notwithstanding the uselessness of her previous remonstrances, she summoned Knox again before her. She upbraided him with his ingratitude and temerity. She told him that she had used every effort to please and satisfy him, but that she had obtained no return of kindness from his untractable nature. She then burst out against him for having dared to discuss her marriage, with which he bad nothing to do ; and finally bade him beware of her vengeance. Knox replied, that in the pulpit he was not master of himself, but must obey His commands who had ordered him 'to speak plain, and flatter no flesh' ; that his vocation was neither to visit the courts of princes nor the chambers of ladies. grant it so,' answered the Queen ; ' but what have you to do with my marriage, or what are you within the commonwealth ? " A sub- ject born within the same,' said the undaunted Reformer ; and albeit, Ma- dam, neither baron, lord, nor belted earl, yet hath God made me, how ab- ject soever in your eyes, a useful and profitable member. As such, it is my

• The History of Mary Queen of Scots. By F. A. Mignet, Member of the Insti- tute, and of the French Academy ; Perpetual Secretary of the Academy of Moral and Political Science. In two volumes. Vol. I. Published by Bentley.

duty, as much as that of any one of the nobility, to forewarn the people of danger ; and therefore, what I have said in public, I here repeat to your own face. Whenever the nobility of this realm shall so far forget themselves as to consent that you shall be subject to an unlawful husband, they do as much as in them lieth to renounce Christ, to banish the truth, betray the freedom of the realm, and, perchance, may be but cold friends to yourself.' The

' Queen, no lone.er able to restrain her anger, commanded him to leave her presence. As he passed through the antechambers, in which were assembled a number of young ladies of the royal household, gaily dressed and talking merrily together, he apostrophized them with bitter irony. Ah, fair ladies,' he said, how pleasant were, this life of yours, if it should ever abide, and then in the end we might pass to heaven with this gear. But, fie on that knave, Death, that will come whether ye will or not; and when he bath laid on the arrest, then foul worms will be busy with this flesh, be it never so fair and tender ; and this silly soul, I fear, shall be so feeble, that it can neither carry with it gold, garnishing, targeting, pearl, nor precious stones: "

The part which the Jesuits had in shaking kingly .authority and advancing a democratic spirit, by writing against princes to whom they were opposed, has been broadly noted. Perhaps the similar effects which the Scotch Reformed preachers in their pulpits and their writings, and the nobility in their different assemblies, pro- duced on the same subjects but in a more constitutional and practical way, has not received so much attention. Yet the seeds of resistance to her grandson Charles, which ended in his trial and death, three-quarters of a century later, as well as of the final expulsion of the Stuarts by the regular vote of Parliament in 1688, were probably sown at Edinburgh when the Lords resolved to compel the abdication of Mary, or to try her for her life. "The Queen's obstinate determination not to desert Bothwell, alarmed and irritated the Lords of the Secret Council. They resolved to preclude the possibility of her doing them any future injury, by deposing her. This de- position was prepared under the form of a voluntary abdication, which would deprive her of power without degrading her. Three acts were accordingly drawn up for Mary Stuart's signature. By the first, she renounced the go- vernment of the kingdom, declining that it was a burden of which she was weary, and which she no longer had strength or will to bear; and author- ized the immediate coronation of her son. The second and third conferred the regency on the Earl of Murray, during the minority of the young King ; and appointed the Duke of Chatelherault, with the Earls of Lennox, Argyle, Morton, Athol, Glencairn, and Mar, regents of the kingdom till the return of Murray from France, with power to continue in that high office if he refused it. In case Mary Stuart should refuse to sign these acts, the assembled Lords had determined to prosecute and condemn her for these three crimes : first, for breach and violation of their laws ; secondly, for incontinency, as well with the Earl Bothwell as with others ; and thirdly, for the murder of her husband, whereof, they say, they have as apparent proof against her as may be, as well by the testimony of her own handwriting as also by suffi- cient witnesses.'

" On the morning of the 25th of July, the ferocious Lindsay and the in- sinuating Melvil left Edinburgh on their way to Lochleven. One was the bearer of the three acts which were to strip her of her authority ; the other was directed to warn the Queen of the dangers to which she would expose herself by refusing to sign them. Melvil saw her first, and told her all. That a public trial would be substituted for an abdication, that the hostility of the Lords towards her would become implacable, that her defamation would be certain and the loss of her crown inevitable, and that her life would probably be endangered, were some of the consequences which Mclvil assured Mary Stuart would result from refusal; whilst he did not fail to in- sinuate, on the other hand, that any deed signed in captivity and under fear of her life would be invalid. He did not, however, succeed in convincing her. The royal prisoner found it a hard and humiliating thing thus to con- demn and depose herself, and she passionately declared that she would sooner renounce her life than her crown. But the dangers by which she was threatened bad shaken her firmness of mind, and she passed from ex- pressions of generous courage to demonstrations of timid depression. She was still wavering between submission and resistance when Lindsay entered with the three acts of the Secret Council. He placed them silently before the Queen, and presented them for her signature. Mary Stuart, as if terri- fied by his presence, took the pen without uttering a single word, and, with eyes filled with tears and a trembling hand, put her name to the papers. Lindsay then compelled Thomas Sinclair to affix the privy seal beside the royal signature, notwithstanding his protest that, as the Queen was in ward, her resignation was ineffectual."

The crowning of James the Sixth may be taken as a conclusion to this part of the singular drama, the final denouement of which will be narrated in another volume ; for although the present comes down to the battle of Langside and Mary's escape into England, the stirring action of this part terminates with the depo- sition of the Queen and the crowning of her son.

" But these reasons and menaces [of Elizabeth] neither persuaded nor in- timidated the Scottish Lords. They boldly carried out their designs, and, in company with many members of the Parliament, repaired to Stirling on the day appointed for the coronation. The ceremony took place with great so- lemnity in the High Church of the city. In the procession, Athol bore the crown, Morton the sceptre, and Glencairn the sword, whilst Mar carried the infant Prince in his arms into the church. After the deeds of resignation by the Queen had been read, and Lindsay and Ruthven had sworn that Mary's demission was her own free act, Morton, laying his hand upon the Gospels, took the oaths on behalf of the new Monarch, James VI. The Bishop of Ork- ney then crowned the baby King; the Lords swore allegiance, placing their hands on his head; and Knox inaugurated his stormy reign by a sermon. This revolution, which had been entirely accomplished by a few of the no- bility, whose supremacy it insured during the long minority of a Sovereign only thirteen months old, met with the hearty concurrence of the people ; who manifested their joy by bonfires, dances, and illuminations. It encoun- tered no opposition in any part of the kingdom ; which the leaders of the confederates continued to "ovens until the return of Murray, who had been informed without delay of his appointment as Regent of Scotland."