Monday, March 3, 2014

Love and Hate in February 1567, Part III by Linda Root

Prelude to Catastrophe:

Of the original Four Maries, only Marie Seton remained in the service of the queen. 
By mid-January 1567, the others were married. Of the four women, Seton had been the most devout. Rather than returning to Scotland in 1561, she would have preferred to remain at Saint Pierre les Dames with the queen’s aunt Rene and taken her holy vows, but she had bound herself to the Queen of Scots and took the commitment seriously. With outspoken Marie Flemyng finally married to Foreign Secretary Maitland, Seton became her mistress’s conscience. She had filled that role once before, warning the queen that people were uncomfortable with her late night card games with the Piedmontese musician David Rizzio, who had become the queen’s French language correspondence secretary.

 Now the queen was spending a great deal of time closeted in her chambers in the company of Scotland's notorious roué James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. In the case of the earl, the gossips of Holyrood Palace did not suspect the pair of merely playing cards. No one had observed any compromising conduct, but Bothwell’s reputation as a womanizer was enough to make Seton bite her lip and raise her brows. When that had no effect upon her mistress, she discussed her concerns with the queen. As she had feared, Marie reprimanded her: had she not observed Bothwell entering the queen’s chambers carrying batches of state papers in his arms? And later when he left her, did he not sort through the stack and issue instructions and commands to her counsellors and staff? No one had complained when the queen’s late night visitor had been her brother Moray.

 The Unusual Trip to Glasgow:

Without a word to her confidants beforehand, in late January the queen announced that she was traveling north with a horse litter to fetch her husband home again. Her usual retinue would accompany her only as far as the Livingston stronghold at Callendar House. They would spend a day there.  Then the earl and his men would travel back to Edinburgh and on to Liddesdale to resume dealing with the unruly Borderers while the queen continued on her journey. Bothwell's whereabouts after he parted from the queen  are confirmed by events on the Borders that required him to interface with the English warden at Berwick who kept records. For the second stage of the journey, the powerful Hamiltons appeared with a small army to escort her on to Glasgow. Since the Hamiltons were bitter enemies of the Lennox-Stewarts, so large a contingent of them announced to Lennox to watch himself. Obviously the queen was cognizant that the trip had an element of danger but it does not explain why she took the risk.

Gnarled tree at Callendar House where the queen stopped enroute to Glasgow
Different historians have differing points of view as to what inspired the Queen of Scots to put herself back in a relationship from which she had so recently extracated herself. It had to be something more than her empathy toward the ill and injured brought about by Darnley's outbreak of what he said was pox but which everyone suspected was syphilis. There are as many explanations aimed at  the queen's conduct in the current histories as there were factions rampant in the Sixteenth Century. Her severest  critic was her former friend and tutor George Buchanan who claimed the queen was bringing her husband into range of an assailant's knife.

Perhaps she was trying to impress her royal cousin Elizabeth with whom she was in significant negotiations that her virtue was intact and her marital fidelity assured? The inveterate gossip, politician and scribe James Melville of Hallhill reports that the English queen was within days of naming Marie Stuart as her heir. This was not just a rumor. Melville's  brother Robert was in England working out the details. One would think that the queen would have been on her best behavior at so critical a time. Was the trip taken in grim realization that in boycotting the baptism, Darnley had rekindled doubts about the prince’s paternity—doubts that needed to be resolved if Elizabeth was to become his 'Protector' as the negotiators had anticipated?

Or was it simply the queen's  acceptance that the sixteenth century was populated by bad husbands who were tolerated because, however royal, that was a 16th century wife’s role? Had she not chastised her sister Jean for refusing to accept that dynamic when dealing with her overbearing husband Argyll? Even the queen’s formidable former mother-in-law Catherine de Medici had to wait for her beloved husband’s death to be rid of his mistress Diane dePoitier.

The position taken by eminent historian John Guy in his outstanding history The Life of Mary Queen of Scots: My Heart is My Own, London, 2004, is that the queen had a reasonable fear based on reports of a man named Heigate and others that Darnley was planning to kidnap the prince and rule Scotland as his regent. Marie had been meeting with informants and her own brother Robert about Darnley's latest mischief, a proposal that involved kidnapping the prince and locking the queen in someplace desolate and remote for the rest of her life.

One explanation that apparently no one dared voice at the time and which has only been alluded to and discarded by the queen’s recent biographers including Alison Weir is that she was pregnant or thought she was. There is no indication that she and Darnley were cohabiting after the hunting trip to Traquair, where the queen used the possibility that she was pregnant to beg off hunting with Darnley. That trip is generally placed as occurring in late August. It lasted almost a month but ended abruptly after Darnley insulted the queen at dinner in the presence of the laird.  But that did not mean that more recent contact had not occurred.

Traqair Castle , PD Art
Darnley was not entirely out of the picture until after December 24th, and had made brief appearances at Alloa, Stirling, and Jedburgh as well as other locations where the queen stayed during her progress that autumn. Guy indicates that he declined to accompany her to Craigmillar in late November, but in Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley, Alison Weir states that he did show up there long enough to demand his conjugal rights, and when refused, took off for Dunbar.

In the sixteenth century, even an educated woman like Marie Stuart was ignorant of gynecology, and there is no definite indication as to when the king and queen's final act of intercourse occurred. Marie had believed herself to be pregnant and worn a smock while married to Francois II, in spite of evidence that his testicles had not descended. It is generally believed that she was still a virgin when she married Darnley.

And then there is her troubling new intimacy with Bothwell. No one really knows what occurred behind closed doors after Darnley left for Glasgow following the baptism, leaving the queen's stalwart supporters fearing that she was becoming irrational and falling under Bothwell's thrall. However, as Alison Weir points out,there is no credible evidence that they were sexually involved unless one finds credibility in the queen's former friend Buchanan's vitriolic fable that with the aid of Lady Reres she had been climbing out of windows and trysting with Bothwell  in the early fall.

What almost certainly did not transpire was any sort of meeting of the queen and her stalwart band from Craigmillar in January in which she might have ordered her champions to back off on any plan to eliminate the husband she was planning to restore. That never happened. Instead, she rode north to collect her perfidious consort and haul him home. And that is troubling.

It is at the point when Marie  leaves Glasgow during the last week of January with her husband in tow that students of Marian history are overwhelmed by the evidence suggesting her complicity in what transpired next. There are entire books written about the letters the queen is alleged to have penned while she was in Glasgow. However, the best argument that contemporary writers can come up with on the issue of her guilt is that she might have written parts of some of the self-condemning letters but likely did not write all of all of them. Her writing was distinctive and would have been easily copied especially by someone who had shared the same tutors, such a Marie Fleming or Marie Beaton, whose handwriting was very similar.  In other words, there is an excellent case that the Queen of Scots was framed.

Like the Craigmillar and Whittinghame Bonds, the damning documents known to history as the Casket Letters have disappeared,  and the surviving copies, to a large extent, are copies of copies. When they were used at the tribunal held in York the following winter, Elizabeth did not find them sufficiently compelling to resolve the issue of the queen's participation in the events that killed the king. And the persons who had possessed them for months before the hearing were the same three men who were governing Scotland after her surrender at Carberry Hill --her brother Moray, her duplicitous foreign secretary William Maitland, and her mortal enemy James Douglas, Earl of Morton. Other than a few salient and immutable facts, all of the rest is hearsay.

It is true that with Darnley's doting father begging him not to leave the safety of the Lennox enclave, she had to do some fast talking to get him to see things her way. In a likely authentic note written in her own hand and probably  inserted into the damning second Casket letter, she promised him she would resume sleeping with him if he came back. Since she had a good idea of what really ailed him and syphilis was known to be contagious, her plan was to lodge him at Craigmillar until his pustules dried and his loathsome mercury baths were suspended. Even Darnley was too smart to agree to that. He insisted on a residence of his own choosing and delayed announcing his choice until it was too late for his enemies to lay a trap. He finally settled on the Provost's house at Kirk o' Field. The property he chose was near to a house in the control of the Douglases and turned out to be a huge mistake on his part.

By the time the entourage arrived at Kirk o'Field, dealing with the king had become very much a Douglas-Bothwell enterprise with Morton, his cousin Archibald Douglas, and James Balfour  in charge. It is suspected that Balfour slipped the details to Elizabeth's minister Cecil who knew something evil was coming. Guy's position is that while Cecil was not implicated and did not know the details, he knew the personalities well enough to guess the plot.

 Kirk o' Field:

Sketch of the crime scene at Kirk o' Field prepared for Cecil 
by the English agent Drury who was in Scotland at the time.

The campus known as Kirk o' Field was located just outside the city wall of Edinburgh. The Provost's House was a two-story dwelling. After Darnley elected to stay there, the queen had extravagantly appointed a second story room for Darnley and had installed his travel bed--the one that had been her mothers. The walls were hung with fine tapestries and a bath was placed beside his bed. A room directly below it was furnished so that she could sleep there occasionally while his treatment continued.

During the days from his arrival on January 31st or February 1st until the events of February 9, a Sunday, Marie  assumed the role of nurse, companion and coquette. He wrote to his father on February 7 assuring him that the queen "yet doth use herself like a natural and loving wife." On Monday he was to move into the king's chambers at Holyrood. If the queen dreaded the reunion, she did a fine job of hiding it.

February 9, 1567 fell on the last Sunday before the beginning of Lent, a final opportunity for the queen and her companions to engage in fun and frolic before the austerity of Ash Wednesday.  The queen did not waste it sitting by her husband's bed. One of the principal events scheduled was the wedding of her favorite page Bastien Paget to her gentlewoman Christina Hogg. But there were intervening events including a farewell reception for the Duke of Savoy's ambassador. It was eight in the evening before Marie, Bothwell, Argyll and Huntly arrived at her husband's temporary retreat.

True to form, her illegitimate half-brother Moray had taken off for his estate in Fife, claiming health issues involving his wife. Darnley urged Marie to spend the night and was especially sexually advancive. The queen begged off. She had promised to be present at a masque that her servant Bastien Paget had planned and planned to be present at the bedding-in ceremony.

On her way out of the complex she was surprised to see her own servant Nicholas Hubert, known by the moniker French Paris, a former servant of Bothwell's, crossing the quad. She remarked about the dirt on his face and clothing. According to John Guy, if she had looked into the ground floor bedchamber where she had sometimes slept during Darnley's stay, she would have seen two of Balfour's henchmen hiding there.

The queen returned to Holyrood in Bothwell's company, arriving too late to enjoy the masque but in time for the bedding of the bride. Weir reports that she was the leader in the risque merrymaking. Then she went to bed. Bothwell was playing cards with friends when she left him. Apparently he did not stay there long, for in the wee hours of the morning of March 10, 1567, the Provost House at Kirk O' Field blew up in an explosion that rocked the city and lit the sky.

The silver box believed to have contained the Casket Letters,
Wikimedia Commons

The force of the explosion had not sent Darnley catapulting through the roof as was originally believed. His body and his valet’s were found in a garden near the city wall. He had escaped in a manner similar to the means used by Bothwell and Huntley at Holyrood the year before—on a chair tied to a rope. However, a contingent of Douglases caught him and his manservant making their escape and strangled them. Archibald Douglas even left a bedroom slipper behind.

Apparently the fuses Bothwell had ordered set had not detonated and when Bothwell arrived and finally lit them, he had no idea that the king and his man had escaped one form of death for another. All in all, it made for a very confusing crime scene until some women in a house overlooking the wall reported what they had heard—the king, who was a Douglas on his mother’s side, was imploring assailants he addressed as his kinsmen to spare his life.

When the news that Darnley was dead reached Marie, she made a series of disastrous moves. Nothing her enemies could possibly have done to thwart her was as effective as her own  actions. Cecil, who loathed her,  must have been ecstatic.  Public sentiment had already condemned the queen long before Balfour did his hocus pocus and made what was said to be Bothwell’s silver casket crammed with documents and papers appear.  By the time the condemning documents mysteriously appeared late in the summer, the queen had already lost her crown.

Allegedly instigated by the Earl of Lennox who was certain that his daughter-in-law had stage-managed the death of his favorite son, placards began appearing in the capitol and the other Scottish population centers. They showed a caricature of a mermaid and a hare. Mermaids were commonly hung on doors of taverns that included  sexual favors in the bill of fare. The hare was an old Hepburn icon. After a few days of general disbelief, fingers were pointing at the queen, and one of the them was on the hand of Elizabeth Tudor, who had been within days of naming Marie Stuart heir apparent to the English throne. Cecil had been right and she had been wrong, and Elizabeth did not like being out-guessed.  The Queen of Scots had a penchant for disaster.

It upset  Marie Stuart's regard for protocol to learn that Darnley's nearly nude corpse had been left in public view. Her first priority was seeing that he was covered up and transported to where he could be properly prepared to lie in state. Then she frenetically began draping her chamber at Holyrood in black.

However, her behavior after Darnley’s death was vastly different from her period of sequester while she was in France. Marian critic Jenny Wormald in Mary, Queen of Scots- Politics, Passion and a Kingdom Lost points out that she attended a wedding the very next day. The queen did not remain in cloister the entire 45 days dictated by custom. Instead she cited her physician’s concerns about keeping to a dark stuffy room and departed to Seton House where the air was fresher.

Original condolences received from Elizabeth Tudor and Catherine de Medici advised that her best course was to assume a conservative image as Elizabeth had after Amy Robsart's death and Catherine had assumed after the massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Day, and soon the matter would blow over. While public opinion was that Bothwell and Queen were behind the affair, there was very little evidence to support it. However, when Marie did not take the advice, the second round of letters were less sympathetic.

While traipsing off to Seton the queen capriciously allowed Lennox’s henchmen to infiltrate the political arena of the capitol. Her least intelligent act was appointing Bothwell to investigate the regicide of which he was suspected. His critics were quick to note that Hepburn seemed much more enthusiastic in his efforts to apprehend those who were papering the capital with seditious pamphlets than in catching Darnley's killers.

Elizabeth wrote Marie a stern follow-up letter advising her to get serious about catching Darnley's murderers, even if they turned out to be persons very close to her. Elizabeth did not need to name names to make the point.  It was tacitly understood that any chance of becoming Elizabeth's heir was contingent upon Marie rehabilitating herself in the eyes of ordinary Scots and Englishmen. But Marie Stuart had never taken kindly to advice that did not suit her plan.

from the First Marie and the Queen of Scots
It did not help her reputation with her subjects when she gave many of the king's most valuable possessions to the man most of Scotland thought to be his murderer. Soon Bothwell was sporting Darnley's gold armor as well as sharing his leisure hours with Darnley's widow. It is rumored that Marie had taken to sitting on a low chair so she would not appear quite so much taller than her right hand man.

Lennox was outraged. He wanted Bothwell tried,  and to shut him up, the queen gave him what he wanted, but on terms that made it almost impossible for him to prevail. When Lennox asked for time to prepare his case, it was denied him.  When Elizabeth sent a special envoy to urge the queen to grant a short continuance, Bothwell and Maitland barred him access while the complicit queen watched from a window. Bothwell imported thousands of his Border Reivers to bully Lennox's agent until the man was afraid to present his case.  Lennox was no fool.  He did not appear other than by written declaration, and Bothwell was acquitted. He challenged anyone who took exception to the verdict to hand-to-hand combat.  There were no takers.

Marie naively  considered the matter settled. But then came the events of April and the queen's high speed race to doom.

According to Wormald, it was never Darnley's murder that brought the queen to ruin, but the manner in which she handled it.  Dr. Wormald asserts that had she managed the April Parliament in the manner her ancestor James II handled his under similar circumstances, she might have weathered the events of February with relative ease.  James II had taken steps to convince his Parliament that business was going forth as usual.

The Queen of Scots did the opposite.  On her way from Holyrood to the Tollbooth for the opening session, she rode with Bothwell,who carried the sceptre. Argyll carried the crown and Lord Crawford carried the sword of state.

She turned Parliament into a three act play designed to solidify her position but which did nothing to ease the tensions.  A review of the proceedings independent of Wormald's analysis which some find harsh indicates it was little more than a feeble attempt to exaggerate the successes of the queen's six years of personal rule. The queen ratified  the acts of the Reformation Parliament that had met before she came to Scotland. John Guy writes that  'Bothwell oversaw every aspect of the parliament.' Toward the end, she presented a series of grants and releases from forfeiture  that benefited not just Bothwell, but the Douglases including Morton, her brother Moray and most of all the Gordons whose cooperation would be needed if she intended to wed the already married Earl of Bothwell.  And if that was not foremost in her mind, it certainly was in his.

On the evening after Parliament adjourned,  Bothwell hosted a dinner party alleged to have been held at Ainslee's Tavern in the Canongate, although it may have started there and ended up at Holyrood.  The most prominent of the Parliamentarians were there.

The wine must have a flowed freely, because before the night was out, the most powerful men in Scotland had signed a bond that not only ratified Bothwell's acquittal but recommended him to the queen as the man she should marry.  Maitland and Atholl did not show up although invited, and apparently Argyll refused  to cooperate and walked out.

Some say that it was misrepresented to the signatories that the queen desired to marry Bothwell and was seeking their ratification. Whether they were coerced or simply afraid to defy a man of Bothwell's reputation,  the bond was signed by enough of the men in power in Scotland that Bothwell was ready to make his move. He and Maitland took the bond to the Queen of Scots the following day.

Bothwell fully expected her to honor  the bond her lairds had signed and accept his proposal of marriage.  But the Queen of Scots often did not do the expected thing.  The best she offered was an indication that she would think about whether or not it would be detrimental to her honor.  Bothwell did not take it well.

From Stirling to Dunbar:  April 21-April 24, 1567:

The events that occurred two days later are one of history's  greatest puzzles, and one that is not easily solved in the context of twenty first century values.  It begins innocuously and centers on a mother's concern for her child.  It is what happens thereafter that is so difficult to fathom.

Stirling Castle - John Slezer, Public Domain
Even before the Christening, probably  just after  the king and queen's disastrous hunting trip to Traquair House when according to Alison Weir, infant Charles James Stuart was in the party, the prince had been  living at Stirling Castle under the care of the Earl of Mar.  It was the traditional treatment of heirs to the Scottish throne.  The Queen of Scots had  been the exception to the rule, primarily because from the time of her coronation there was an English army on her trail that kept her in her mother's care and  on the run until she was ultimately sent to France and the protection of Henri II. The Queen of Scots did not enjoy such options when it came to safeguarding her son.  But like her mother Marie of Guise, she decided to handle matters herself. It bothered her that Mar's wife was a kinswoman of the Douglases.

Anonymous- a fictional portrayal
At the time Marie left her son with Mar in 1566, she had instructed him not to give him over to anyone the earl did not trust to keep him safe, even in the face of violence. Then after the encounter with Hepburn on April 21st when she rejected his suit for her hand, she developed a mother's natural urge to bring the prince to Edinburgh Castle, the most secure fortress in Scotland.

She rode to Stirling with a contingent of approximately thirty, including Secretary Maitland and her friend and long time confidant, Sir James Melville of Raith who had known her since her childhood in France.  When they arrived at Stirling, the Earl of Mar greeted her in the courtyard and to her utter shock, informed her that he was denying her access to her son.  He had taken her earlier instructions seriously and due to her association with Bothwell, numbered her among those persons who presented a danger to Prince James. The queen was flabbergasted.

Because he was not an insensitive man, Mar allowed the queen  to enter the prince's nursery with two of her ladies so she could play with her son.  She and her entourage lodged in the compound overnight and she bid her son farewell the following morning.  It was the last time the Queen of Scots saw the child who would become James VI of Scotland before the year was out.

On the morning of April 24, a most unhappy queen and her entourage headed for Edinburgh, totally unaware that the worst part of the misadventure had yet to happen.  Unless, of course, the queen had foreknowledge of what  was waiting for them at the bridge that crossed the Almond River near Cramond.

Says Melville,who was there:

"and in her back-coming betwixt Linlithgow and Edinburgh the Earl of Bothwell rencountered her with a great company and took  Her Majesty's horse by the bridle; his men took the Earl of Huntly, Lethington and me and carried us captives to Dunbar. ...Then the Earl of Bothwell boasted that he would marry the queen; who would or who would not; yea,whether she  would herself or not."
(The Memoirs of Sir James Melville of Halhill, Gordon Donaldson, Ed. London, The Folio Society, 1969)

At Dunbar, the queen was attended by ladies chosen by Bothwell, and by all accounts, he ravished her. Just as is often the case in modern times, the issue was one of consent. One of Bothwell's men, Captain Blackadder, who had been charged with supervising Melville, told him that the queen had conspired in her own kidnapping. But even if that is true, there is a reasonable explanation for it which does not make the queen a wanton.

The queen's behavior both before and after Darnley's murder suggests that she had focused on Bothwell as a suitable husband. She had lived her entire life depending upon strong men for support. In France it had been her uncles of the House of Guise. In Scotland it had been her half-brother James Stewart, Earl of Moray, with a strong assist from Maitland. It had never been Darnley,  which is part of what prompted him to act so rashly.

At a point close in time to Rizzio's murder the queen began to openly favor Bothwell. In spite of what she had said to him in Maitland's presence, it makes sense that she and Bothwell privately planned to meet on the queen's return from of Stirling, anticipating that she would have obtained custody of the prince. Then the three of them would go to Dunbar and Huntly would assist in getting his sister Jean to agree to a divorce. Using Dunbar as a power base, they would engage Maitland to bring the lairds around. As much as the lairds of the congregation complained about his methods, Maitland had a way of bringing them into line. Besides, most of them had already signed the Ainslie tavern bond.

Some witnesses to the event at the bridge indicated that the queen seemed shocked when Bothwell appeared with his 800 armed Borderers. That, too makes sense if she believed that Bothwell had received word that she had been refused custody of the prince, in which case the rendezvous would have been called off. Maitland and Melville both believed her reaction was one of honest surprise. Most accounts agree that Bothwell drew her aside and the two had a heated discussion before she called off her men and agreed to go with him.

What Is more, what Melville put down on paper in his memoirs is not what he and Maitland indicated when they were first released. It was their feeling that after they arrived at Dunbar, the queen had been raped -- Bothwell's solution to her honor problem.  Melville was cut loose to return to court after  the first night at Dunbar with a message from the queen indicating that the earl's behavior had been rude in the beginning but meant for her protection. Any modern day rape crisis counselor would have made short shrift of that.

The citizens of Edinburgh were not persuaded. Melville accompanied a large contingent of citizens armed with picks and farm implements to Dunbar the following day, to learn that the queen and Bothwell were in Hailes where she was teaching him the game of golf. The announcement had a sobering effect of the men who came to rescue her. Maitland remained in Bothwell's custody until the earl escorted the queen back to the capitol, showing her whatever deference he thought was due. Thus, by the time April had merged with May, Bothwell was very much in control of the queen's life and the queen was suffering mood swings revealed in speech patterns which were sometimes crude and at other times, suicidal.

Maitland stayed around until Bothwell tried to kill him. Maitland's smug intellect would have been grating on a man as arrogant as the earl. Then, Maitland and his wife Mally Flemyng rode to Halyards, the house of Melville's nephew Sir William Kirkcaldy who was already engaged with the Earl of Morton in mustering  a rebel army. The only one of the cast of characters at Craigmillar left behind in Edinburgh was James Balfour, who was the governor of Edinburgh Castle and had been secretly recruited by the rebels for the purpose of withholding possession of Scotland's great fortress from the queen and Bothwell if they demanded it.

Bothwell got his divorce from Jean on grounds of consanguinity in spite of the fact that there had been a dispensation granted at the time of their marriage. A week later, on May 15, 1567, the queen and Bothwell were married in the Chapel at Holyrood in a protestant service that left the bride in deep depression. There was a wedding breakfast for which the queen cast off her widow's weeds for a gown of yellow, but it brought little cheer.

New placards were appearing in the capital. They proclaimed that:

Only harlots wed in May.

Carberry Hill:

Little occurred between the queen’s wedding to Bothwell and their final kiss on the hill while the queen's army dwindled to a disillusioned few. Balfour at least kept his pledge to the lairds and refused the queen and her consort--now known as the Duke of Orkney-- access to the fortress and its devastating artillery. They moved from one location to another while Bothwell tried to build an army. He was not nearly as successful as he and the queen anticipated. Marie had misjudged the public sentiment that had built against her since Darnley’s death. Even the hand drawn white rebel battle flag was artful propaganda…the likeness of a small child in prayer, calling out ‘Hear and revenge my plea, O Lord!'

Much has been written about the confrontation at Carberry Hill that ended in the surrender of the queen. It is incorrect to call it a battle, since it never went that far. As the battle lines were being drawn, neither force was obviously superior to the other. There were tactical mistakes made by Bothwell and the queen. They were expecting Huntly to arrive with a large contingent of forces from the Catholic houses in the north. In a flash of Stewart impetuosity, the queen refused to wait. It was unusually hot for Scotland. The ragtag bands of rebels were drinking water and marching out of the sun. The royals were marching into the sun and they were drinking wine. The rebels forces were tended and victualed by the people along the way,  many of whom had tied white bands on their upper arms. The queen’s forces had marched without enthusiasm for their cause and desertions were wide spread.

The queen sat on a rock atop a rise ironically called Queen Mary’s Hill, and from there she watched  her title as Queen of Scots slip away. When she saw the rebel general and recognized him as her old champion Kirkcaldy, the soldier who had earned his fame in France riding beside her beloved father-in-law Henri II, it all came apart, and she sent for him to ascend the hill. When he did so, one of Bothwell’s men acting on his master's orders tried to shoot him, but the queen stood in the way and soundly chastised Bothwell for the effort.

Just as he had done after his controversial acquittal, Bothwell offered to settle the matter in single combat, but there were no takers he would accept as his equal. Kirkcaldy was the obvious choice of the lairds, but he was a mere baron. Even the Earl of Morton was rejected. It was obvious that Bothwell, now Duke of Orkney, would find no one to suit him.

As the sun lowered, so did the aspirations of the queen, who proposed to surrender if Bothwell were allowed to freely leave the field and if she was assured that she would be taken to Holyrood and allowed to perform her role as queen. The lairds declared that if she renounced Bothwell, she would remain Queen of Scots. There was a passionate kiss between Marie and Bothwell before he reluctantly rode away.

According to one version, before he left the field, he called out to her, warning her not to believe them. Two days later, she was imprisoned at Loch Leven Castle, home of her half-brother Moray’s mother Margaret Erskine, the Dowager Countess Douglas of Lochleven. The queen's half-brother Moray was on his way back to Scotland from France to assume the role of Regent of Marie's infant son, and thus, the leadership of the nation. His mother Margaret had always claimed that he was Scotland's rightful sovereign and that she had been King James V's handfasted wife.

By the end of July, the Queen of Scots  had been forced to abdicate under threat of death and her son had been crowned James VI of Scotland. When Marie Stuart surrendered to Kirkcaldy of Grange at Carberry as he knelt before her and kissed her hand, a much disturbed Bothwell rode away. She never saw him again.

Linda Root from The Last Knight and the Queen of Scots


It is impossible not to have an opinion about the events surrounding Darnley's death. As to the conspiracy at Craigmillar, my opinion is that Marie Stuart at the very least knew the crux of what her advisers were planning. She wanted to be free of Darnley but she was not about to instruct her men as to how to achieve their goal. She asked them to solve the problem in a manner that would preserve her honor and the legitimacy of the prince. It is important to remember that they were as anxious as she was to be rid of their obstreperous king. Ironically, the manner in which they proceeded defeated Marie Stuart's claim to the English throne and brought her to her ruin.

It would be easy to agree with John Guy that she carted Darnley home to Edinburgh to keep an eye on him. I do not think her act was that benign. I believe she enticed him home so the men she depended upon could handle her Darnley problem while allowing her to retain the credible deniability that is the hallmark of kings and emperors and presidents then and now.

Thank you for joining me in this tripartite exploration into the death of Henry Darnley and the part played by Marie Stuart, Queen of Scots.

Linda Root is the author of the books in the Queen of Scots Suite on Amazon.The Queen of Scots Suite by Linda Root


  1. I'm not at all certain that Elizabeth and Cecil were as innocent of any active involvement in Darnley's murder as historians assume. Remember, Darnley had a reasonable claim on the English throne as well. In the months before his death, in his feckless, babbling way, he was talking of overthrowing not just his wife, but Elizabeth as well. He was contacting Philip of Spain and the Pope of his plans, hoping to enlist their support in getting rid of both the queens and uniting England and Scotland under him as a strongly Catholic kingdom.

    It would have suited Elizabeth and Cecil just too perfectly to get rid of one threat (Darnley) by killing him, and using the murder to get rid of another (Mary.)

    Incidentally, from all I've read of the Casket Letters, I think what we have of them are crude translations (or translations of translations) rather than out-and-out forgeries. I believe Mary did indeed write them, but in their original form they gave no explicit evidence she was involved in the murder, although they certainly gave proof that she loved Bothwell--which, considering that everyone had united in making the earl the scapegoat for Darnley's death, was enough to make people assume she was in on the plot.

    The originals of the Casket Letters were definitely in existence until the end of the 16th century. According to some accounts, they were still extant at least until the 18th century. I'd sure like to know where they are now.

  2. Was the Robert who warned the Queen of Darnley's plot to kidnap her and the Prince, Sir Robert Stewart of Strathdon, later made 1st Earl of Orkney after Bothwell had the Dukedom taken away ... Robert Stewart was a recognized illegitimate son of James V, King of Scotland, and his mistress Eupheme Elphinstone?


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