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Charles Dickens
A Child's History of England 31
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CHAPTER XXXI
ENGLAND UNDER ELIZABETH



THERE was great rejoicing all over the land when the Lords of the
Council went down to Hatfield, to hail the Princess Elizabeth as
the new Queen of England. Weary of the barbarities of Mary's
reign, the people looked with hope and gladness to the new
Sovereign. The nation seemed to wake from a horrible dream; and
Heaven, so long hidden by the smoke of the fires that roasted men
and women to death, appeared to brighten once more.

Queen Elizabeth was five-and-twenty years of age when she rode
through the streets of London, from the Tower to Westminster Abbey,
to be crowned. Her countenance was strongly marked, but on the
whole, commanding and dignified; her hair was red, and her nose
something too long and sharp for a woman's. She was not the
beautiful creature her courtiers made out; but she was well enough,
and no doubt looked all the better for coming after the dark and
gloomy Mary. She was well educated, but a roundabout writer, and
rather a hard swearer and coarse talker. She was clever, but
cunning and deceitful, and inherited much of her father's violent
temper. I mention this now, because she has been so over-praised
by one party, and so over-abused by another, that it is hardly
possible to understand the greater part of her reign without first
understanding what kind of woman she really was.

She began her reign with the great advantage of having a very wise
and careful Minister, SIR WILLIAM CECIL, whom she afterwards made
LORD BURLEIGH. Altogether, the people had greater reason for
rejoicing than they usually had, when there were processions in the
streets; and they were happy with some reason. All kinds of shows
and images were set up; GOG and MAGOG were hoisted to the top of
Temple Bar, and (which was more to the purpose) the Corporation
dutifully presented the young Queen with the sum of a thousand
marks in gold - so heavy a present, that she was obliged to take it
into her carriage with both hands. The coronation was a great
success; and, on the next day, one of the courtiers presented a
petition to the new Queen, praying that as it was the custom to
release some prisoners on such occasions, she would have the
goodness to release the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and
John, and also the Apostle Saint Paul, who had been for some time
shut up in a strange language so that the people could not get at
them.

To this, the Queen replied that it would be better first to inquire
of themselves whether they desired to be released or not; and,
as a means of finding out, a great public discussion - a sort of
religious tournament - was appointed to take place between certain
champions of the two religions, in Westminster Abbey. You may
suppose that it was soon made pretty clear to common sense, that
for people to benefit by what they repeat or read, it is rather
necessary they should understand something about it. Accordingly,
a Church Service in plain English was settled, and other laws and
regulations were made, completely establishing the great work of
the Reformation. The Romish bishops and champions were not
harshly dealt with, all things considered; and the Queen's Ministers
were both prudent and merciful.

The one great trouble of this reign, and the unfortunate cause of
the greater part of such turmoil and bloodshed as occurred in it,
was MARY STUART, QUEEN OF SCOTS. We will try to understand,
in as few words as possible, who Mary was, what she was, and
how she came to be a thorn in the royal pillow of Elizabeth.

She was the daughter of the Queen Regent of Scotland, MARY OF
GUISE. She had been married, when a mere child, to the Dauphin,
the son and heir of the King of France. The Pope, who pretended
that no one could rightfully wear the crown of England without his
gracious permission, was strongly opposed to Elizabeth, who had
not asked for the said gracious permission. And as Mary Queen
of Scots would have inherited the English crown in right of her birth,
supposing the English Parliament not to have altered the
succession, the Pope himself, and most of the discontented who
were followers of his, maintained that Mary was the rightful Queen
of England, and Elizabeth the wrongful Queen. Mary being so closely
connected with France, and France being jealous of England, there
was far greater danger in this than there would have been if she
had had no alliance with that great power. And when her young
husband, on the death of his father, became FRANCIS THE SECOND,
King of France, the matter grew very serious. For, the young
couple styled themselves King and Queen of England, and the Pope
was disposed to help them by doing all the mischief he could.

Now, the reformed religion, under the guidance of a stern and
powerful preacher, named JOHN KNOX, and other such men, had
been making fierce progress in Scotland. It was still a half savage
country, where there was a great deal of murdering and rioting
continually going on; and the Reformers, instead of reforming those
evils as they should have done, went to work in the ferocious old
Scottish spirit, laying churches and chapels waste, pulling down
pictures and altars, and knocking about the Grey Friars, and the
Black Friars, and the White Friars, and the friars of all sorts of
colours, in all directions. This obdurate and harsh spirit of the
Scottish Reformers (the Scotch have always been rather a sullen
and frowning people in religious matters) put up the blood of the
Romish French court, and caused France to send troops over to
Scotland, with the hope of setting the friars of all sorts of
colours on their legs again; of conquering that country first, and
England afterwards; and so crushing the Reformation all to pieces.
The Scottish Reformers, who had formed a great league which
they called The Congregation of the Lord, secretly represented to
Elizabeth that, if the reformed religion got the worst of it with
them, it would be likely to get the worst of it in England too; and
thus, Elizabeth, though she had a high notion of the rights of
Kings and Queens to do anything they liked, sent an army to
Scotland to support the Reformers, who were in arms against
their sovereign. All these proceedings led to a treaty of peace at
Edinburgh, under which the French consented to depart from the
kingdom. By a separate treaty, Mary and her young husband
engaged to renounce their assumed title of King and Queen of
England. But this treaty they never fulfilled.

It happened, soon after matters had got to this state, that the
young French King died, leaving Mary a young widow. She was
then invited by her Scottish subjects to return home and reign
over them; and as she was not now happy where she was, she,
after a little time, complied.

Elizabeth had been Queen three years, when Mary Queen of Scots
embarked at Calais for her own rough, quarrelling country. As she
came out of the harbour, a vessel was lost before her eyes, and she
said, 'O! good God! what an omen this is for such a voyage!' She
was very fond of France, and sat on the deck, looking back at it
and weeping, until it was quite dark. When she went to bed, she
directed to be called at daybreak, if the French coast were still
visible, that she might behold it for the last time. As it proved
to be a clear morning, this was done, and she again wept for the
country she was leaving, and said many times, ' Farewell, France!
Farewell, France! I shall never see thee again!' All this was
long remembered afterwards, as sorrowful and interesting in a fair
young princess of nineteen. Indeed, I am afraid it gradually came,
together with her other distresses, to surround her with greater
sympathy than she deserved.

When she came to Scotland, and took up her abode at the palace of
Holyrood in Edinburgh, she found herself among uncouth strangers
and wild uncomfortable customs very different from her experiences
in the court of France. The very people who were disposed to love
her, made her head ache when she was tired out by her voyage,
with a serenade of discordant music - a fearful concert of bagpipes,
I suppose - and brought her and her train home to her palace on
miserable little Scotch horses that appeared to be half starved.
Among the people who were not disposed to love her, she found the
powerful leaders of the Reformed Church, who were bitter upon her
amusements, however innocent, and denounced music and dancing
as works of the devil. John Knox himself often lectured her,
violently and angrily, and did much to make her life unhappy. All
these reasons confirmed her old attachment to the Romish religion,
and caused her, there is no doubt, most imprudently and dangerously
both for herself and for England too, to give a solemn pledge to
the heads of the Romish Church that if she ever succeeded to the
English crown, she would set up that religion again. In reading
her unhappy history, you must always remember this; and also that
during her whole life she was constantly put forward against the
Queen, in some form or other, by the Romish party.

That Elizabeth, on the other hand, was not inclined to like her, is
pretty certain. Elizabeth was very vain and jealous, and had an
extraordinary dislike to people being married. She treated Lady
Catherine Grey, sister of the beheaded Lady Jane, with such
shameful severity, for no other reason than her being secretly
married, that she died and her husband was ruined; so, when a
second marriage for Mary began to be talked about, probably
Elizabeth disliked her more. Not that Elizabeth wanted suitors of
her own, for they started up from Spain, Austria, Sweden, and
England. Her English lover at this time, and one whom she much
favoured too, was LORD ROBERT DUDLEY, Earl of Leicester - himself
secretly married to AMY ROBSART, the daughter of an English
gentleman, whom he was strongly suspected of causing to be
murdered, down at his country seat, Cumnor Hall in Berkshire, that
he might be free to marry the Queen. Upon this story, the great
writer, SIR WALTER SCOTT, has founded one of his best romances.
But if Elizabeth knew how to lead her handsome favourite on, for
her own vanity and pleasure, she knew how to stop him for her own
pride; and his love, and all the other proposals, came to nothing.
The Queen always declared in good set speeches, that she would
never be married at all, but would live and die a Maiden Queen. It
was a very pleasant and meritorious declaration, I suppose; but it
has been puffed and trumpeted so much, that I am rather tired of it
myself.

Divers princes proposed to marry Mary, but the English court had
reasons for being jealous of them all, and even proposed as a
matter of policy that she should marry that very Earl of Leicester
who had aspired to be the husband of Elizabeth. At last, LORD
DARNLEY, son of the Earl of Lennox, and himself descended from
the Royal Family of Scotland, went over with Elizabeth's consent
to try his fortune at Holyrood. He was a tall simpleton; and could
dance and play the guitar; but I know of nothing else he could do,
unless it were to get very drunk, and eat gluttonously, and make
a contemptible spectacle of himself in many mean and vain ways.
However, he gained Mary's heart, not disdaining in the pursuit of
his object to ally himself with one of her secretaries, DAVID
RIZZIO, who had great influence with her. He soon married the
Queen. This marriage does not say much for her, but what
followed will presently say less.

Mary's brother, the EARL OF MURRAY, and head of the Protestant
party in Scotland, had opposed this marriage, partly on religious
grounds, and partly perhaps from personal dislike of the very
contemptible bridegroom. When it had taken place, through Mary's
gaining over to it the more powerful of the lords about her, she
banished Murray for his pains; and, when he and some other nobles
rose in arms to support the reformed religion, she herself, within
a month of her wedding day, rode against them in armour with
loaded pistols in her saddle. Driven out of Scotland, they presented
themselves before Elizabeth - who called them traitors in public,
and assisted them in private, according to her crafty nature.

Mary had been married but a little while, when she began to hate
her husband, who, in his turn, began to hate that David Rizzio,
with whom he had leagued to gain her favour, and whom he now
believed to be her lover. He hated Rizzio to that extent, that he
made a compact with LORD RUTHVEN and three other lords to get
rid of him by murder. This wicked agreement they made in solemn
secrecy upon the first of March, fifteen hundred and sixty-six, and
on the night of Saturday the ninth, the conspirators were brought
by Darnley up a private staircase, dark and steep, into a range of
rooms where they knew that Mary was sitting at supper with her
sister, Lady Argyle, and this doomed man. When they went into the
room, Darnley took the Queen round the waist, and Lord Ruthven,
who had risen from a bed of sickness to do this murder, came in,
gaunt and ghastly, leaning on two men. Rizzio ran behind the Queen
for shelter and protection. 'Let him come out of the room,' said
Ruthven. 'He shall not leave the room,' replied the Queen; 'I read
his danger in your face, and it is my will that he remain here.'
They then set upon him, struggled with him, overturned the table,
dragged him out, and killed him with fifty-six stabs. When the
Queen heard that he was dead, she said, 'No more tears. I will
think now of revenge!'

Within a day or two, she gained her husband over, and prevailed
on the tall idiot to abandon the conspirators and fly with her to
Dunbar. There, he issued a proclamation, audaciously and falsely
denying that he had any knowledge of the late bloody business;
and there they were joined by the EARL BOTHWELL and some other
nobles. With their help, they raised eight thousand men; returned
to Edinburgh, and drove the assassins into England. Mary soon
afterwards gave birth to a son - still thinking of revenge.

That she should have had a greater scorn for her husband after his
late cowardice and treachery than she had had before, was natural
enough. There is little doubt that she now began to love Bothwell
instead, and to plan with him means of getting rid of Darnley.
Bothwell had such power over her that he induced her even to pardon
the assassins of Rizzio. The arrangements for the Christening of
the young Prince were entrusted to him, and he was one of the most
important people at the ceremony, where the child was named JAMES:
Elizabeth being his godmother, though not present on the occasion.
A week afterwards, Darnley, who had left Mary and gone to his
father's house at Glasgow, being taken ill with the small-pox, she
sent her own physician to attend him. But there is reason to
apprehend that this was merely a show and a pretence, and that she
knew what was doing, when Bothwell within another month proposed
to one of the late conspirators against Rizzio, to murder Darnley,
'for that it was the Queen's mind that he should be taken away.'
It is certain that on that very day she wrote to her ambassador in
France, complaining of him, and yet went immediately to Glasgow,
feigning to be very anxious about him, and to love him very much.
If she wanted to get him in her power, she succeeded to her heart's
content; for she induced him to go back with her to Edinburgh, and
to occupy, instead of the palace, a lone house outside the city
called the Kirk of Field. Here, he lived for about a week. One
Sunday night, she remained with him until ten o'clock, and then
left him, to go to Holyrood to be present at an entertainment given
in celebration of the marriage of one of her favourite servants.
At two o'clock in the morning the city was shaken by a great
explosion, and the Kirk of Field was blown to atoms.

Darnley's body was found next day lying under a tree at some
distance. How it came there, undisfigured and unscorched by
gunpowder, and how this crime came to be so clumsily and strangely
committed, it is impossible to discover. The deceitful character
of Mary, and the deceitful character of Elizabeth, have rendered
almost every part of their joint history uncertain and obscure.
But, I fear that Mary was unquestionably a party to her husband's
murder, and that this was the revenge she had threatened. The
Scotch people universally believed it. Voices cried out in the
streets of Edinburgh in the dead of the night, for justice on the
murderess. Placards were posted by unknown hands in the public
places denouncing Bothwell as the murderer, and the Queen as his
accomplice; and, when he afterwards married her (though himself
already married), previously making a show of taking her prisoner
by force, the indignation of the people knew no bounds. The women
particularly are described as having been quite frantic against the
Queen, and to have hooted and cried after her in the streets with
terrific vehemence.

Such guilty unions seldom prosper. This husband and wife had lived
together but a month, when they were separated for ever by the
successes of a band of Scotch nobles who associated against them
for the protection of the young Prince: whom Bothwell had vainly
endeavoured to lay hold of, and whom he would certainly have
murdered, if the EARL OF MAR, in whose hands the boy was, had
not been firmly and honourably faithful to his trust. Before this
angry power, Bothwell fled abroad, where he died, a prisoner and
mad, nine miserable years afterwards. Mary being found by the
associated lords to deceive them at every turn, was sent a prisoner
to Lochleven Castle; which, as it stood in the midst of a lake,
could only be approached by boat. Here, one LORD LINDSAY, who
was so much of a brute that the nobles would have done better if
they had chosen a mere gentleman for their messenger, made her
sign her abdication, and appoint Murray, Regent of Scotland. Here,
too, Murray saw her in a sorrowing and humbled state.

She had better have remained in the castle of Lochleven, dull
prison as it was, with the rippling of the lake against it, and the
moving shadows of the water on the room walls; but she could not
rest there, and more than once tried to escape. The first time she
had nearly succeeded, dressed in the clothes of her own washer-
woman, but, putting up her hand to prevent one of the boatmen from
lifting her veil, the men suspected her, seeing how white it was,
and rowed her back again. A short time afterwards, her fascinating
manners enlisted in her cause a boy in the Castle, called the
little DOUGLAS, who, while the family were at supper, stole the
keys of the great gate, went softly out with the Queen, locked the
gate on the outside, and rowed her away across the lake, sinking
the keys as they went along. On the opposite shore she was met by
another Douglas, and some few lords; and, so accompanied, rode
away on horseback to Hamilton, where they raised three thousand
men. Here, she issued a proclamation declaring that the abdication
she had signed in her prison was illegal, and requiring the Regent to
yield to his lawful Queen. Being a steady soldier, and in no way
discomposed although he was without an army, Murray pretended
to treat with her, until he had collected a force about half equal to
her own, and then he gave her battle. In one quarter of an hour he
cut down all her hopes. She had another weary ride on horse-back
of sixty long Scotch miles, and took shelter at Dundrennan Abbey,
whence she fled for safety to Elizabeth's dominions.

Mary Queen of Scots came to England - to her own ruin, the trouble
of the kingdom, and the misery and death of many - in the year one
thousand five hundred and sixty-eight. How she left it and the
world, nineteen years afterwards, we have now to see.


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