Story of Liberty - Charles Coffin

The Queen of the Scots

The girl who bade adieu to France with many tears is in Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh. It was a stormy voyage which Mary had from Calais to Leith, on the Firth of Forth. In France she had been accustomed to grand pageants; but although the nobles of Scotland come with their best outfits to welcome her, though the people receive her with joy, they can make but a sorry display. As she enters Edinburgh, the only music that greets her ears is the singing of a psalm, and the scraping of three-stringed fiddles, and the playing of bagpipes. She is beautiful and refined; but the people whom she has come to rule are uncouth. She is a Papist; they, for the most part, Presbyterians, and intolerant of Papists. Before Mary lies a sea of troubles.

[Illustration] from The Story of Liberty by Charles Coffin


Elizabeth never has forgotten that Mary claims to be the rightful heir to the throne of England; nor will Mary renounce her claim.

Elizabeth wishes her to marry a man of her choosing, Robert Dudley; but Mary will bestow her hand upon whom she pleases, and declines the marriage. She loves literature, and, besides attending to the cares of State, finds time to study Latin, and elects for her instructor George Buchanan, who wrote her nuptial ode when she married Francis. The tutor is fifty years old, and his has been a varied life. He was a poor boy, but an uncle sent him to Paris, where the was educated. He wrote a poem exposing the wickedness of the monks. Cardinal Beaton thrust him into prison for the offence, but Buchanan made his escape. In Portugal, the Jesuits arrested him again, but he escaped a second time. He has been professor in several universities, and is a great scholar. We shall see farther along what he will do for liberty.

Mary's cousin comes to see her—Henry Stuart—a tall, beardless young man, who can play the guitar, and sing a song. He can dance gracefully. He is Margaret's grandson—the Margaret who spent a night in the old house at Scrooby. Henry Stuart's father is the Earl of Lennox, who has planned a marriage between his son and Mary. The son is Lord Darnley. They are privately married at Holyrood.

"Te Deum laudamus!" It is done, and cannot be undone.

[Illustration] from The Story of Liberty by Charles Coffin


A little, swarthy Italian, David Rizzio, Mary's secretary, who, it is said, is a Jesuit priest, shouts it. Why is he so jubilant? Because it will greatly strengthen, he thinks, the Pope's party in Scotland. Mary does not know what a sad mistake she has made—that her husband is a weak-brained, worthless fellow. He claims the right to rule. He is angered with Rizzio, who has great influence with Mary. He concerts with a ruffian—Lord Ruthven—to put Rizzio out of the way; and one evening when Rizzio is in Mary's apartments, Ruthven and his fellow-conspirators creep softly up a winding stairway, and murder Rizzio in her presence. Darnley tries to persuade Mary that he had nothing to do with the murder. She partly believes him.

On June 19th, 1566, Mary becomes a mother. There is great rejoicing, not only in Scotland, but in England, over the event, for the boy will be heir to both thrones. He is christened with much pomp and ceremony. His mother calls him James, and appoints six women to rock his cradle.

Lord Darnley is so debased that he does not attend the christening, but is having a carouse with some drunken ruffians. Mary has lost all respect for him. The nobles of Scotland are rough, unscrupulous men. The Earl of Bothwell, to whom Mary has given Dunbar Castle, plans a wicked scheme to obtain a divorce from his young and beautiful wife, kill Darnley, marry Mary, and so make himself ruler of Scotland. Mary has shown him many favors, and her letters are full of tender regards. She is still kind to Lord Darnley. He has forsaken her, but, when sick with the smallpox, she does not hesitate to visit him. She remains with him one night till eleven o'clock. On her way back to Holyrood she meets a man carrying a bag of gunpowder.

[Illustration] from The Story of Liberty by Charles Coffin


"What are you going to do with it?" she asks.

The man makes no reply, but runs away. At midnight there is an explosion which shakes all Edinburgh. The house in which Darnley was sick is a heap of ruins, and he is a mangled corpse beneath the rubbish. It is soon discovered that Bothwell caused the powder to be placed in the cellar, and hired a man to fire it. He is arrested and tried, but, being rich and powerful, manages to escape conviction.

A few weeks pass. Mary has been out to Stirling Castle to see her baby, and is quietly returning, when suddenly she meets Bothwell and a party of horsemen, who compel her to go with them to Dunbar Castle. She is a prisoner. The earl asks her to marry him. She yields to his solicitations, and they are privately married. Scotland is in an uproar. The nobles will not permit Bothwell to be at the head of Government. They rise against him, and he is driven from the country, to end his days as a pirate. The nobles imprison Mary in a stone castle on a little island in Loch Leven, consigning her to the care of Lord and Lady Douglas. And who are they? Everybody in Scotland knows that Lady Douglas, before marrying Lord Douglas, kept company with Mary's father, and that she is the mother of Mary's half-brother, the Earl of Murray. Lady Douglas claims that she was married to Mary's father, and that the Earl of Murray, and not Mary, is rightful heir to the throne; but very few persons believe that she was ever married to the king.

Mary's best friends desert her. They fear that she knew that Bothwell intended to murder Darnley, and connived at the crime. Her instructor, George Buchanan, writes a pamphlet, in which he sets forth her guilt. He also writes a pamphlet entitled "De Jure Regni"—the Right to Rule. He begins by asking this question, "What is the source of power?" This is his answer:

"The will of the people is the only legitimate source of power."

It is a discovery for which the world has been waiting. Possibly some other man may have thought the same; but George Buchanan puts his thought into print. There is not a king, queen, pope, or priest who will agree with him.

"It originates from a natural, instinctive perception of the principle that men, to have government, must have a governor; and the same principle gives them the right to say who shall govern them."

Kings say that they are appointed by God to rule—their right is divine.

"The people have a right to choose their rulers, and, if they prove to be bad, they have the right to depose them."

The world never heard such a doctrine before. People in England read Buchanan's pamphlet, and begin to take new views of their relations to their rulers. The nobles of Scotland, to carry out the teachings of Buchanan, resolve to compel Mary to resign the crown in favor of her babe, who is not a year old. Two of them visit Mary at Loch Leven, and inform her that she must lay down the sceptre. Of all the sad days of her life, this is one of the saddest. She protests—she pleads with them, with tears; but they are inexorable. We are not to think of the nobles as acting in behalf of the people. Many years must pass before the people will have a voice in government. But if she resigns, the baby will be crowned king, and the nobles, for a long period of years, will be in power, in the baby's name. She is a prisoner, and, against her will, resigns.

On the 25th of July, 1567, Mary's baby is crowned King James I. The ceremony is performed at Stirling Castle, in the room where, a quarter of a century before, Mary herself had been crowned. And now, through the aid of Lady Douglas's sons, Mary escapes from the Castle of Loch Leven. The nobles who believe in the Pope spring to arms, and war begins. On a hill near Dumbarton the two armies meet, and a fierce battle is fought. The ground is covered with killed and wounded; and when it is ended, Mary sees her followers scattered to the winds. She flees southward. Gladly would she find refuge in France, but there is no ship to bear her to those friendly shores. She reaches England, surrendering herself into the hands of Elizabeth, trusting that she will treat her kindly.