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were heard, in the middle of the night, charging him with that barbarous action. But the authors of these rumours did not confine their accusations to Bothwell alone; they insinuated that the queen herself was accessory to the crime. This bold accusation, which so directly attacked Mary's reputation, drew the attention of her council; and by engaging them in an inquiry after the authors of these libels, diverted them from searching after the murderers of the king. It could scarcely be expected that Mary herself would be extremely solicitous to discover those who had rid her of an husband whom she had so violently hated. It was Bothwell's interest, who had the supreme direction of this, as well as of all other affairs, to stifle and suppress whatever evidence should be offered, and to cover, if possible, the whole transaction under the veil of darkness and of silence. Some inquiry, however, was made, and some persons called before the council ; but the examination was conducted with the most indecent remissness, and in such a manner as to let in no light upon that scene of guilt.
Lennox, at the same time, incited Mary to vengeance with incessant importunity. This nobleman had shared in his son's disgrace, and being treated by Mary with neglect, usually resided at a distance from court. Roused, however, by an event no less shocking to the heart of a father, than fatal to all his schemes of ambition, he ventured to write to
and to offer his advice with respect to the most effectual method for discovering and convicting those who had so cruelly deprived him of a son, and her of a husband. He urged her to prosecute those who were guilty with vigour, and to bring them to a speedy trial ; he declared his own suspicion of Bothwell, and of those who were named as his accomplices; he required that out of
regard to decency, and in order to encourage evidence to appear against them, the persons accused of such an atrocious crime should be committed to custody, or at least from her court and presence.
Mary was then at Seaton, whither she had retired after the burial of the king, whose body was deposited among the monarchs of Scotland, in a private, but decent manner. The former part of the earl's demand could not, on any pretence, bę eluded ; and it was resolved to bring Bothwell immediately to trial. But, instead of confining him to any prison, Mary admitted him into all her councils, and allowed a person, universally reputed the murderer of her husband, to enjoy all the security, the dignity, and the power of a favourite. The offices which Bothwell already possessed gave him the command of all the south of Scotland. The castle of Edinburgh, however, was a place of too much consequence not to wish it in his own power. The queen, in order to prevail on the earl of Mar to surrender it, consented to put the person of the young prince in his hands, and immediately bestowed the government of that important fortress upon Bothwell. So many steps in her conduct, inconsistent with all the rules of prudence and of decency, must be imputed to an excess either of folly or of love. Mary's known character fully vindicates her from the former; of the latter, many and striking proofs soon appeared.
No direct evidence had yet appeared against Bothwell; but as time might bring to light the circumstances of a crime, in which so many accomplices were concerned, it was of great importance to hasten on the trial, while nothing more than general suspicions and uncertain surmises could be produced by his accusers. For this reason, in a meeting of privy council, held on the 28th of March, the 12th of April was appointed for the day of trial. And though the law allowed, and the manner in which criminal causes were carried on in that age, required a much longer interval, it appears, from several circumstances, that this short space was considerably contracted, and that Lennox had only eleven days warning to prepare for accusing a person so far superior to himself, both in power
and in favour. On the day appointed, Bothwell appeared, but with such a formidable retinue, that it would have been dangerous to condemn, and impossible to punish him. Besides a numerous body of his friends and vassals assembled, according to custom, from different parts of the kingdom, he was attended by a band of hired soldiers, who marched with flying colours along the streets of Edinburgh. A court of justice was held with the accustomed formalities. An indictment was presented against Bothwell, and Lennox was called upon to make good his accusation.
In his name appeared Robert Cunningham, one of his dependants. He excused his master's absence, on account of the shortness of the time, which prevented his assembling his friends and vassals, without whose assistance he could not with safety venture to set himself in opposition to such a powerful antagonist. For this reason, he desired the court to stop proceeding, and protested, that any sentence which should be passed at that time ought to be deemed illegal and void. Bothwell, on the other hand, insisted that the court should instantly proceed to trial. One of Lennox's own letters, in which he craved of the queen to prosecute the murderers without delay, was produced. Cunningham's objections were overruled ; and the jury, consisting of peers and barons of the first rank, found Bothwell not guilty of the crime.
No person appeared as an accuser, not a single witness was examined, nor any evidence produced against him. The jury, under these circumstances, could do nothing else but acquit him. Their verdict, however, was far from gratifying the wishes or silencing the murmurs of the people. Every circumstance in the trial gave grounds for suspicion, and excited indignation; and the judgment pronounced, instead of being a proof of Bothwell's innocence, was esteemed an arguinent of his guilt. Pasquinades and libels were affixed to different places, expressing the sentiments of the public, with the utmost virulence of language.
Even Bothwell himself did not rely on the judg. ment which he had obtained in his favour, as a full vindication of his innocence. Immediately after his acquittal, he, in compliance with a custom which was not then obsolete, published a writing, in which he offered to fight, in single combat, any gentleman of good fame, who should presume to accuse him of being accessary to the murder of
Every step taken by Bothwell had hitherto been attended with all the success which his most sanguine wishes could expect. He had entirely gained the queen's heart; the murder of the king had excited no public commotion ; he had been acquitted by his peers of any share in that crime ; and their decision had been, in some sort, ratified in parliament. But in a kingdom, where the regal authority was so extremely limited, and the power of the nobles so formidable, he durst not venture on the last action, towards which all his ambitious projects tended, without their approbation. In order to secure this, he, immediately after the dissolution of parliament, invited all the nobles who were present to an entertainment. Having filled the house with his friends and dependants, and surrounded it with armed men, he opened to the
company his intention of marrying the queen, whose consent, he told them, he had already obtained ; and demanded their approbation of this match, which, he said, was no less acceptable to their sovereign than honourable to himself. Huntly and Seaton, who were privy to all Bothwell's schemes, and promoted them with the utmost zeal; the popish ecclesiastics, who were absolutely devoted to the queen, and ready to sooth all her passions, instantly declared their satisfaction with what he had proposed. The rest, who dreaded the exorbitant power which Bothwell had acquired, and observed the queen's growing affection towards him in all her actions, were willing to make a merit of yielding to a measure which they could neither oppose nor defeat. Some few were confounded and enraged. But, in the end, Bothwell, partly by promises and flattery, partly by terror and force, prevailed on all who were present to subscribe a paper, which leaves a deeper stain than any occurrence in that age, on the honour and character of the nation.
This paper contained the strongest declarations of Bothwell's innocence, and the most ample acknowledgment of his good services to the kingdom. If any future accusation should be brought against him, on account of the king's murder, the subscribers promised to stand by him as one man, and to hazard their lives and fortunes in his defence. They recommended him to the queen, as the most proper person she could choose for a hus. band; and if she should condescend to bestow on him that mark of her regard, they undertook to promote the marriage, and to join him with all their forces, in opposing any person who endeavoured to obstruct it.
Three days after the rising of parliament, Mary went from Edinburgh to Stirling, in order to visit the prince her son. Bothwell had now brought