« ZurückWeiter »
rity. She entreated the two houses to find some expedient to save her from the necessity 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 dispatched Keith, a gentleman of his bed-chamber, with a letter to Elizabeth, conjuring 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 Scotish 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 every thing 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 half-sentences, 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 seal 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 Shrewsbury, Derby, Kent, and Cumberland; and these together set out for Fotheringay castle, accompanied by two executioners, to dispatch their bloody commission. -Mary heard of the arrival of her executioners, who ordered her to prepare for death by eight o'clock the next morning. Without any alarm, she heard the death-warrant 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 desired 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 forgivemess; 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, Feb. 8, then entering the room, informed her that the 1587. 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 limen 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 misfortune, 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) in 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 through her sufferings, and was still remarkable in this fatal moment. The earl of Kent, observing that in her devotions she made frequent use of the crucifix, could not forbear reproving her, exhorting her to have Christ in her heart, not in her hand. She replied, with presence of mind, that it was difficult to hold such an object in her hand, without feeling her heart touched for the sufferings of him whom it represented. She now began, with the aid of her two women, to undress for the block; and the executioner also lent his hand to assist them. She smiled, and said that she was not accustomed to undress herself before so large a company; or to be attended by such servants.