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Minority Of James
The Sixth

The Cradle King
The Cradle King


Minority Of James The Sixth

“Let none of them escape” was Elizabeth’s message to the gaolers of Mary and her companions at Carlisle. The unhappy queen prayed to see her in whose hospitality she had confided, or to be allowed to depart free. Elizabeth’s policy was to lead her into consenting to reply to her subjects’ accusations, and Mary drifted into the shuffling English inquiries at York in October, while she was lodged at Bolton Castle. Murray, George Buchanan, Lethington, now distrusted by Murray, and Morton produced, for Norfolk and other English Commissioners at York, copies, at least, of the incriminating letters which horrified the Duke of Norfolk. Yet, probably through the guile of Lethington, he changed his mind, and became a suitor for Mary’s hand. He bade her refuse compromise, whereas compromise was Lethington’s hope: a full and free inquiry would reveal his own guilt in Darnley’s murder. The inquiry was shifted to London in December, Mary always being refused permission to appear and speak for herself; nay, she was not allowed even to see the letters which she was accused of having written. Her own Commissioners, Lord Herries and Bishop Lesley, who, as Mary knew in Herries’s case, had no faith in her innocence, showed their want of confidence by proposing a compromise; this was not admitted. Morton explained how he got the silver casket with the fatal letters, poems to Bothwell, and other papers; they were read in translations, English and Scots; handwritings were compared, with no known result; evidence was heard, and Elizabeth, at last, merely decided—that she could not admit Mary to her presence. The English Lords agreed, “as the case does now stand,” and presently many of them were supporting Norfolk in his desire to marry the accused. Murray was told (January 10, 1669) that he had proved nothing which could make Elizabeth “take any evil opinion of the queen, her good sister,” nevertheless, Elizabeth would support him in his government of Scotland, while declining to recognise James VI. as king.

All compromises Mary now utterly refused: she would live and die a queen. Henceforth the tangled intrigues cannot be disengaged in a work of this scope. Elizabeth made various proposals to Mary, all involving her resignation as queen, or at least the suspension of her rights. Mary refused to listen; her party in Scotland, led by Châtelherault, Herries, Huntly, and Argyll, did not venture to meet Murray and his party in war, and was counselled by Lethington, who still, in semblance, was of Murray’s faction. Lethington was convinced that, sooner or later, Mary would return; and he did not wish to incur “her particular ill-will.” He knew that Mary, as she said, “had that in black and white which would hang him” for the murder of Darnley. Now Lethington, Huntly, and Argyll were daunted, without stroke of sword, by Murray, and a Convention to discuss messages from Elizabeth and Mary met at Perth (July 25-28, 1569), and refused to allow the annulment of her marriage with Bothwell, though previously they had insisted on its annulment. Presently Lethington was publicly accused of Darnley’s murder by Crawford, a retainer of Lennox; was imprisoned, but was released by Kirkcaldy, commander in Edinburgh Castle, which henceforth became the fortress of Mary’s cause.

The secret of Norfolk’s plan to marry the Scottish queen now reached Elizabeth, making her more hostile to Mary; an insurrection in the North broke out; the Earl of Northumberland was driven into Scotland, was betrayed by Hecky Armstrong, and imprisoned at Loch Leven. Murray offered to hand over Northumberland to Elizabeth in exchange for Mary, her life to be guaranteed by hostages, but, on January 23, 1570, Murray was shot by Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh from a window of a house in Linlithgow belonging to Archbishop Hamilton. The murderer escaped and joined his clan. During his brief regency, Murray had practically detached Huntly and Argyll from armed support of Mary’s cause; he had reduced the Border to temporary quiet by the free use of the gibbet; but he had not ventured to face Lethington’s friends and bring him to trial: if he had, many others would have been compromised. Murray was sly and avaricious, but, had he been legitimate, Scotland would have been well governed under his vigour and caution.

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