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towards Galloway, and thence passed into England, hoping to secure the favour of Elizabeth. In this however she was mistaken. Elizabeth refused her an audience, but declared her readiness to act as umpire between her and her subjects. Mary would not yield to this, or consent to be regarded in any other light than as queen of Scotland. The consequence was, that being now in the hands of her great rival, Elizabeth contrived to detain her a captive in her dominions till the end of the year 1586,-a period of about nineteen years,—when she was accused of being accessary to Babington's conspiracy against the queen of England.
173.-BABINGTON'S CONSPIRACY, AND EXECUTION
GOLDSMITH. John Ballard, a popish priest, who had been bred in the English seminary at Rheims, resolved to compass the death of a queen whom he considered as the enemy of his religion ; and, with that gloomy resolution, he came over to England in the disguise of a soldier, with the assumed name of captain Fortescue. He bent his endeavours to bring about at once the project of an assassination, an insurrection, and an invasion. The first person he addressed himself to was Anthony Babington, of Dethick, in the county of Derby, a young gentleman of good family, and possessed of a very plentiful fortune. This person had been long remarkable for his zeal in the catholic cause, and his attachment to the captive queen. He, therefore, came readily into the plot, and procured the concurrence and assistance of some other associates in this dangerous undertaking ; Barnwell, a person of a noble family in Ireland ; Charnock, a gentleman of Lancashire ; Abington, whose father had been cofferer to the household; and, chief of all, John Savage, a man of desperate fortune, who had served in the Low Countries, and came into England under a vow to destroy the queen. He indeed did not seem to desire any associate in the bold enterprise, and refused for some time to permit any to share with him in what he esteemed his greatest glory. He challenged the whole to himseif; and it was with some difficulty that he was induced to depart from his preposterous ambition. The next step was to apprise Mary of the conspiracy formed in her favour; and this they effected by conveying their letters to her (by means of a brewer that supplied the family with ale), through a chink in the wall of her apartment. In these, Babington informed her of a design laid for a foreign invasion, the plan of an insurrection at home, the scheme for her deliverance, and the conspiracy for assassinating the usurper, by six noble gentlemen, as he termed them, all of them his private friends, who, from the zeal which they bore to the catholic cause and her majesty's service, would undertake the tragical execution. To these Mary replied, that she approved highly of the design ; that the gentlemen might expect all the rewards which it should ever be in her power to confer ; and that the death of Elizabeth was a necessary circumstance, previous to any further attempts either for her deliverance or the intended insurrection.
Such was the scheme laid by the conspirators; and nothing seemed so certain as its secresy and its success. But they were all miserably deceived; the active and sagacious ministers of Elizabeth were privy to it in every stage of its growth, and only retarded their discovery till the meditated guilt was ripe for punishment and conviction. Ballard was actually attended by one Maude, a catholic priest, who was a spy in pay with Walsingham, secretary of state. One Polly, another of his spies, had found means to insinuate himself among the conspirators, and to give an exact account of their proceedings. Soon after, one Giffard, a priest, came
over, and, discovering the whole conspiracy to the bottom, made a tender of his service to Walsingham. It was he that procured the letters to be conveyed through the wall to the queen, and received her answers; but he had always taken care to shew them to the secretary of state, who had them deciphered, and took copies of them all.
The plot being thus ripe for execution, and the evidence against the conspirators incontestable, Walsingham resolved to suspend their punishment no longer. A warrant was accordingly issued out for the apprehending of Ballard ; and this giving the alarm to Babington and the rest of the conspirators, they covered themselves with various disguises, and endeavoured to keep themselves concealed. But they were soon discovered, thrown into prison, and brought to trial. In their examination they contradicted each other, and the leaders were obliged to make a full confession of the truth. Fourteen were condemned and executed, some of whom died confessing their crime.
The execution of these wretched men only prepared the way for one of still greater importance, in which a captive queen was to submit to the unjust decisions of those who had no right but that of power, to condemn her. Though all England was acquainted with the detection of Babington's conspiracy, every avenue to the unfortunate Mary was so strictly guarded, that she remained in utter ignorance of the whole matter. But her astonishment was equal to her anguish, when Sir Thomas Gorges, by Elizabeth's order, came to inform her of the fate of her unhappy confederates. She was at that time mounted on horseback, going to hunt; and was not permitted to return to her former place of abode, but conducted from one gentleman's house to another, till she was lodged in Fotheringay castle, in Ncrthamptonshire, where the last scene of her miserable tragedy was to be performed.
The council of England was divided in opinion about the measures to be taken against the queen of Scots. Some members proposed that, as her health was very infirm, her life might be shortened by close confinement; and the earl of Leicester advised that she should be despatched by poison ; but the majority insisted on her being put to death by legal process
. Accordingly a commission was issued for forty-one peers, with five judges, or the major part of them, to try and pass sentence upon Mary daughter and heir of James the Fifth, king of Scotland, commonly called queen of Scots, and dowager of France.
Thirty-six of these commissioners, arriving at the castle of Fotheringay, presented her with a letter from Elizabeth, commanding her to submit to a trial for her late conspiracy. Mary perused the letter with great composure, and, as she had long foreseen the danger that hung over her, received the intelligence without emotion or astonishment. She said, however, that she wondered the queen of England should command her as a subject, who was an independent sovereign, and a queen like herself. She would never, she said, stoop to any condescension which would lessen her dignity, or prejudice the claims of her posterity. The laws of England, she observed, were unknown to her ; she was destitute of counsel ; nor could she conceive who were to be her peers, as she had but one equal in the kingdom. She added, that, instead of enjoying the protection of the laws of England, which she had hoped to obtain, she had been confined in prison ever since her arrival in the kingdom, so that she derived neither benefit nor security from them. When the commissioners pressed her to submit to the queen's pleasure, otherwise they would proceed against her as contumacious, she declared that she would rather suffer a thousand deaths than own herself a subject to any prince on earth : that, however, she was ready to vindicate herself in a full and free parliament; as, for ought she knew, this meeting of commissioners was devised against her life on purpose to take it away with a pretext of justice. She exhorted them to consult their own con
sciences, and to remember that the theatre of the world was much more extensive than that of the kingdom of England. At length the vice-chamberlain Hatton vanquished her objections, by representing that she injured her reputation by avoiding a trial, in which her innocence might be proved to the satisfaction of ail mankind. This observation made such an impression upon her, that she agreed to plead, if they would admit and allow her protest, of disallowing all subjection. This, however they refused, but they satisfied her, by entering it upon record ; and thus they proceeded to a trial.
The principal charge against her was urged by sergeant Gaudy, who accused her of knowing, approving, and consenting to, Babington's conspiracy. This charge was supported by Babington's confession, by the copies which were taken of their correspondence, in which her approbation of the queen's murder was expressly declared; by the evidence of her own secretaries, Nan a Frenchman, and Curll a Scotchman, who swore that she received the letters of that conspirator, and that they had answered them by her orders. These allegations were corroborated by the testimany of Ballard and Savage, to whom Babington had shown some letters, declaring them to have come from the captive queen. To these charges Mary juade a sensible and resolute defence; she said Babington's confession was extorted by his fears of the torture, which was really the case : she alleged that the letters were forgeries, and she defied her secretaries to persist in their evidence, if brought into her presence. She owned, indeed, that she had used her best endeavours to recover her Jiberty, which was only pursuing the dictates of nature ; but as for harbouring a thought against the life of the queen, she treated the idea with horror. In a letter which was read during the trial, mention was made of the earl of Arundel and his brothers. On hearing their names, she shed a flood of tears, exclaiming, “Alas ! · what hath the noble house of Howard endured for my sake !” She took occasion also to observe, that this letter might have been a base contrivance of Walsingham, who had frequently practised both against her life and that of ter son. Walsingham, thus accused, rose up, and protested that his heart was free from malice ; that he had never done anything unbecoming an honest man in his private capacity, nor aught unworthy of the place he occupied in the state. Mary declared herself satisfied of his innocence, and begged he would give as little credit to the malicious accusations of her enemies, as she now gave to the reports which she had heard to his prejudice
Whatever might have been the queen's offences, it is certain that her treatment was very severe. She desired to be put in possession of such' notes as she had taken preparative to her trial ; but this was refused her. She demanded a copy of her protest ; but her request was not complied with : she even required an advocate to plead her cause agaiust so many learned lawyers as had undertaken to urge her accusations ; but all her demands were rejected ; and, after an adjournment of soms days, sentence of death was pronounced against her in the Star-chamber in Westminster all the commissioners except two being present. At the same time a declaration was published by the commissioners, implying, that the sentence against her did in no wise derogate from the title and honour of James, king of Scotland, son to the attainted queen.
Thougа the condemnation of a sovereign princess at a tribunal to which she owed no subjection, was an injustice that must strike the most inattentive, yet the parliament of England did not fail to approve the sentence, and to go still farther, in presenting an address to the queen, desiring that it might speedily be put into execution. But Elizabeth still felt or pretended to feel, a horror for such precipitate severity. She entreated the two houses to find some expedient to save her from the neceseity of taking a step so repugnant to her inclination. But at the same
time she seemed to dread another conspiracy to assassinate her within a month ; which probably was only an artifice of her ministers to increase her apprehensions, and, consequently, her desire of being rid of a rival that had given her so much disturbance. The parliament, however, reiterated their solicitations, arguments, and entreaties; and even remonstrated, that mercy to the queen of Scots was cruelty to them, her subjects, and her children. Elizabeth affected to continue inflexible, but at the same time permitted Mary's sentence to be made public; and lord Buckhurst, and Beale, clerk to the council, were sent to the unhappy queen to apprise her of the sentence, and of the popular clamour for its speedy execution.
Upon receiving this dreadful information, Mary seemed no way moved ; but insisted, that since her death was demanded by the protestants, she died a martyr to the catholic religion. She said, that as the English often embrued their hands in the blood of their own sovereigns, it was not to be wondered at that they exercised their cruelty towards her. She wrote her last letter to Elizabeth, not demanding her life, which she now seemed willing to part with, but desiring that, after her enemies should be satiated with her innocent blood, her body might be consigned to her servants, and conveyed to France, there to repose in a catholic country, with the sacred remains of her mother,
In the mean time, accounts of this extraordinary sentence were spread into all parts of Europe ; and the king of France was among the foremost who attempted to avert the threatened blow. He sent over Believre as an extraordinary ambassador, with a professed intention of interceding for the life of Mary. But James of Scotland, her son, was, as in duty obliged, still more pressing in her behalf. He despatched Keith, a gentleman of his bed-chamber, with a letter to Elizabeth, coujuring her to spare the life of his parent, and mixing threats of vengeance in case of a refusal. Elizabeth treated his remonstrances with the utmost indignation ; and when the Scottish ambassador begged that the execution might be put off for a week, the queen answered with great emotion, “ No, not for an hour.” Thus Elizabeth, when solicited by foreign princes to pardon the queen of Scots, seemed always disposed to proceed to extremities against her ; but when her ministers urged her to strike the blow, her scruples and her reluctance seemed to return.
Whether the queen was really sincere in her reluctance to execute Mary, is a question which, though usually given against her, I will not take upon me to determine. Certainly there were great arts used by her courtiers to determine her to the side of severity, as they had everything to fear from the resentment of Mary, in case of her succeeding to the throne. Accordingly, the kingdom was now filled with rumours of plots, treasons, and insurrections; and the queen was continually kept in alarm by fictitious dangers. She therefore appeared to be in great terror and perplexity; she was observed to sit much alone, and to mutter to herself halfsentences, importing the difficulty and distress to which she was reduced. In this situation she one day called her secretary, Davidson, whom she ordered to draw out secretly the warrant for Mary's execution, informing him, that she intended to keep it by her in case any attempt should be made for the delivery of that princess. She signed the warrant, and then commanded it to be carried to the chancellor to have the scal affixed to it. Next morning, however, she sent two gentlemen successively, to desire that Davidson would not go to the chancellor, until she should see him ; but the secretary telling her that the warrant had been already sealed, she seemed displeased at his precipitation. Davidson, who probably wished to see the sentence executed, laid the affair before the council, who unanimously resolved, that the warrant should be immediately put in execution, and promised to justify Davidson to the queen. Accordingly, the fatal instrument was delivered to Beale, who summoned the noblemen to whom it was directed, namely, the earls of Shrews
bury, Derby, Kent, and Cumberland ; and these together set out for Fotheringay castle, accompanied by two executioners, to despatch their bloody commission.
Mary heard of the arrival of her executioners, who ordered her to prepare for death by eight o'clock the next morring. Without any alarm, she heard the deathwarrant read with her usual composure, though she could not help expressing her surprise, that the queen of England should consent to her execution. She even abjured her being privy to any conspiracy against Elizabeth, by laying her hand upon a New Testament, which happened to lie on the table. She desireu that her confessor might be permitted to attend her ; which, however, these zealots refused. After the earls had retired, she ate sparingly at supper, while she comforted her attendants (who continued weeping and lamenting the fate of their mistress) with a cheerful countenance, telling them they ought not to mourn, but to rejoice, at the prospect of her speedy deliverance from a world of misery. Towards the end of supper, she called in all her servants, and drank to them ; they pledged her in order on their knees, and craved her pardon for any past neglect of duty. She craved mutual forgiveness ; and a plentiful effusion of tears attended this last solemn separation.
After this she reviewed her will, and perused the inventory of her effects. These she bequeathed to different individuals, and divided her money among her domestics, recommending them in letters to the king of France and the duke of Guise. Then going to bed at her usual hour, she passed part of the night in uninterrupted repose, and, rising, spent the remainder in prayer and acts of devotion. Towards morning, she dressed herself in a rich habit of silk and velvet, the only one which she had reserved for this solemn occasion. Thomas Andrews, the under-sheriff of the county, then entering the room, informed her that the hour was come, and that he must attend her to the place of execution. She replied, that she was ready ; and, bidding her servants farewell, she proceeded, supported by two of her guards, and followed the sheriff with a serene composed aspect, with a long veil of linen on her head, and in her hand a crucifix of ivory. In passing through a hall adjoining to her chamber, Sir Andrew Melvil, master of her household, fell upon his knees, and, shedding a flood of tears, lamented his misforture in being doomed to carry the news of her unhappy fate to Scotland. “ Lament not,” said she, “ but rather rejoice. Mary Stuart will soon be freed from all her cares. Tell my friends that I die constant in my religion, and firm in my affection and fidelity to Scotland and France. God forgive them that have long desired my end, and have thirsted for my blood as the hart panteth for the water brook! Thou, O God, who art truth itself, and perfectly understandest the inmost thoughts of my heart, knowest how greatly I have desired that the realms of Scotland and England might be united, Commend me to my son, and assure him I have done nothing prejudicial to the state or the crown of Scotland. Admonish him to persevere in amity and friendship with the queen of England ; and, for thy own part, do him faithful service. And so, good Melvil, farewell ; once again farewell
, good Melvil
, and grant the assistance of thy prayers to thy queen and thy mistress.” In this place she was received by the four noblemen, who with great difficulty were prevailed upon to allow Melvil, with her physician, apothecary, and two female attendants, to be present at her execution. She then passed (the noblemen and the sheriff going before, and Melvil bearing up her train) into another hall, where was a scaffold erected, and covered with black. As soon as she was seated, Beale began to read the warrant for her execution. Then Fletcher, dean of Peterborough, standing without the rails, repeated a long exhortation, which she desired him to forbear, as she was firmly resolved to die in the catholic religion. The room was crowded with spectators, who beheld her with pity and distress, while her beauty, though dimmed by age and affliction, gleamed