The Funeral of Mary, Queen of Scots
NOTE. — All that is of interest or value in the following pages has been selected from a large number of manuscripts, collected with infinite labor and care by the late Doyne C. Bell from every available source, as the groundwork of an exhaustive history of Royal Interments, the completion of which his regretted death unfortunately prevented. That this article is far beneath, and perhaps altogether aside from, the form it would have taken under his own hand is a fact, I fear, painfully conspicuous. He had not himself made any attempt to arrange this portion of the materials, and in endeavoring to establish some record of his painstaking research I have been guided alone by the desire to put forward what might appeal to the general reader rather than to the archæologist or the historian, for whom his work was designed.
It is but fair to his memory to state that only the facts were obtained from his papers, and that he is in no way responsible for the opinions expressed; from some or all of which he may have radically differed.
“ PAST one o’clock, and a fine, warm night.”
Thus, according to his wonted custom, the old watchman cried along the quaint, gabled streets of the little city of Peterborough, in Northamptonshire, on the night of Sunday, the 30th of July, — or, reckoning by the reformed calendar, the 8th of August, — in the year 1587.
If, however, he was but fulfilling his ordinary duties, he was doing so under altogether exceptional and unprecedented circumstances. The place which is described by a contemporary French writer, a member of the household of Queen Mary of Scotland, as a small town, not walled any more than the other towns of England,” was, as a rule, at that hour silent and deserted ; the houses close shut and darkling ; the watchman’s step the sole one on the street; his voice and the clanging hells of the cathedral the only disturbers of the calm. But now every house was illuminated, all doors were open, and each honest citizen, who should have been wrapped in well-earned slumber, was watching on the outskirts of the town, or making his way through the hurrying throng, with his wife and children, across the populous market-place and under the old stone gateway into the open space before the lofty arches and battlemented towers of the cathedral church of St. Peter.
Presently, those who were looking out through the darkness beheld, far away across the rich, flat land, a cluster of distant lights advancing from the direction of Fotheringhay, Fotheringay, or Fotheringham Castle, as it is variously called.
“ They are coming ! They are coming ! ” The murmur ran and spread until it was whispered in the bishop’s palace and cried in the close. Nearer and nearer, slowly they drew on. The rumble of wheels, the clatter of hoofs, and lastly the softer fall of footsteps and the low hum of voices broke upon the listening ear.
The town was reached ; the glare of flickering torches threw leaping lights and shadows upon the walls and crowded casements on either hand, and the silent procession swept on between the ranks of citizens, who reverently unbonneted as the strange vehicle which the new arrivals were escorting creaked heavily past, and then, with the gravity of respect, not of grief, fell into the train and followed on behind.
A strange array, truly, well befitting time and place; one which mothers held their children high to see. that they might tell of it to their successors, by the fireside, in years to come, when their own heads were gray.
At the head rode Sir William Dethick, Garter King at Arms, attired in deep mourning, accompanied by five heralds in their embroidered coats ; next, a body of horsemen, “ gentlemen and others, and some servitors and lacqueys, all dressed in mourning; ” and then, surrounded by footmen carrying the flaring torches that had lighted the way, and followed by six servants of the illustrious dead (some French, some Scotch, but all Gallicized by the recorder of these events as Melvin, Master of the Household, Burgoin, Pierre Corion, Anuibal Steuard, Jean Lauder, and Nicholas de la Mare), came on the central object of interest to the hushed and gaping towns-folk, — a royal carriage, drawn by four horses in long funereal trappings emblazoned with the arms of Scotland. The coach, itself overlaid also with black velvet, and “ covered all round with small bannerolls, exhibiting partly the arms of Scotland, partly those of the house of Anjou,” at a cost of eighteen pounds, six shillings, and eightpence, contained, “ enclosed in lead and the same coffined in wood,” the body of her to whose honor all this gloomy display was addressed.
At the great door of the cathedral, as soon as the arrival of the cortege was made known, all was ready for its reception.
Three or four days previously, the heralds had ridden down from London in order to lix upon a place for the interment, which, with the assistance of the bishop and dean, had been done ; the spot chosen being in the south aisle of the cathedral, on the right side within the choir, immediately opposite the canopied monument erected over the tomb of “ that good Queen Catherine, wife of the late King Henry VIII.” Here “ was made a grave, bricked all round and of sufficient, depth ; ” ten pounds having been paid for breaking the earth and constructing the vault.
As the equipage halted before the entrance to the cathedral, the bishop, Dr. Howland, “in his episcopal habit, but without mitre, crosier, or cope; ” the dean and chapter “ in their canonicals ; ” Mr. Fortescue, the Master of the Wardrobe ; Robert Cooke, Esquire. Clarcncieux King at Arms, and various other officials came out to receive it; and with such speed as was consistent with due reverence, the ponderous coffin, weighing in all nine hundredweight, was lifted from the chariot, and carried in procession to the grave. One pound sterling was deemed sufficient reward for the sturdy bearers.
The interior of the cathedral, under the directions of the Master of the Wardrobe, had been duly draped in mourning. Each second pillar in the nave was hung with two breadths of black baize, “ six or seven yards from the floor,” embroidered with the arms of the dead queen surmounted by an imperial crown. The choir and the semicircular space to the east of the bishop’s throne were similarly adorned, the baize alone costing twenty pounds. “ In the midst of this part,” says one writer, “ near the steps ascending from the choir, a stately and beautiful hearse was erected; ” but according to other accounts, it would seem to have been placed in the middle of the choir itself. As, however, the first statement occurs in a manuscript belonging to the dean and chapter of the cathedral, it is probably correct.
That this unqualified encomium of an eye-witness was not altogether undeserved may be gathered from the description he proceeds to give, though the French attendant, who, with his fellow-servants, seems to have been determined to approve of nothing, dismisses it with a very brief mention, stating that it resembled somewhat the chapelles ardentes of his native land, and giving a few general details.
“ The top,” says the fuller account, “ was octagonal, raised like a tent, covered with black baize, and ornamented with escutcheons of metal, and pinnacles at the corners. On some of these was depicted the shield of Scotland alone, on others France and Darnley impaling Scotland ; a saltire argent in a field or ; and a unicorn argent collared, crowned, and chained or, on a field azure. On the top of the hearse were three escutcheons of Scotland gilded, and an imperial crown. The valence was of black velvet a yard and a half deep, fringed with gold three inches deep, adorned with four compartments of silver, two on each side. In these were small shields of arms in metal, with buckram between; and beneath the shield of Scotland this motto, ‘ In my defence God me defend.’ At every corner over the valence was an escutcheon surmounted by an imperial crown, and fastened to black staves projecting a foot from the hearse; and round this part of the hearse were pencils of silk in form of streamers. The six principal posts were covered with black velvet, and over each a compartment, with a motto and a small escutcheon of metal.”
To this minute word-picture may be added the following facts, gathered from the Camden Society’s Mary, Queen of Scots. The timber frame of the hearse was twenty feet square, twenty-seven feet in height, and cost sixteen pounds ; the hearse was surrounded by double rails covered with black cloth, the inner rails being lined with black baize ; and the total expense of furnishing and preparing the erection was upwards of one hundred and fifty pounds.
Beneath the shadow of this imposing structure, lighted only by the candles of the church and the torches of the escort, in deathly silence, “ without chanting, or tolling, or saying a word,” the coffin was lowered into the vault. The bishop was prepared to continue at once with the funeral service, but after some eager whispered consultation among the principal assistants it was decided to defer all other rites until the following Tuesday, the day appointed for the ceremony ; and in accordance with this resolution the cathedral was forthwith deserted, save by the few idlers who still lingered to watch the workmen who were engaged in arching over the grave with brick level with the floor, “ leaving only an aperture of about a foot and a half, through which might be seen what was within, and also for admitting the broken staves of the officers, and the flags which it is customary to put down at the funerals of sovereigns.”
There are two reasons given for this precipitate inclosure. The first is that the coffin “ was so extreme heavy by reason of the lead that the gentlemen could not have endured to have carried it with leisure in the solemn proceeding.” The second “occasion” is more naive than pleasant to a modern mind, but some light may he thrown upon it by the fact that in the bishop’s accounts we find the item of two shillings and sixpence for “ Perfumes,”
The death of Mary, Queen of Scots, whose body was thus unceremoniously hurried into the earth, has been too often and too fully recounted to need recapitulation here. It is, however, necessary to note that, six months before, the head of the fascinating, scheming, and ambitious woman, whose existence within or without its borders had been a standing threat and constant peril to the state of England and the Protestant religion, had fallen beneath the headsman’s axe ; and while Henry Talbot, son of the Earl of Shrewsbury, was spurring along the country roads to carry to London the news that the long-brooding incubus was lifted from the national breast, the body of the unfortunate queen was lying in an apartment adjoining the hall in which she perished, still clad in the strange crimson garments she had herself chosen to wear that fatal day, and covered with a piece of old green baize stripped from a billiard - table, — strange contrast to that “ rich pall of velvett embroidered with the Armes of the mightie Princesse,” which was laid over her tomb, sixteen years afterwards, by the same Sir William Dethick who conducted her obsequies.
A pathetic account is given, in Blackwood’s History of Mary, of the behavior of her maids, who. being harshly excluded from the chamber where she lay, gazed upon her from afar with streaming eyes, “ thorowe a little hole of the chamber wall,” of which melancholy satisfaction they were also rigorously deprived by the suspension before the aperture of a “ eloath.”
The bitter grief of her attendants was not shared by the bulk of the English people. As the tidings spread, bonfires and joy-bells greeted its arrival; to quote Charles Kingsley’s words in Westward Ho ! “All England, like a dreamer who shakes off some hideous nightmare, has leaped up in one tremendous shout of jubilation, as the terror and the danger of seventeen anxious years is lifted from its heart forever.”
Elizabeth, it is true, burst into a spasm of real or affected anger, and for a time visited her displeasure upon all who had taken any part in the execution of her warrant, — a proceeding that the wily Walsingham had foreseen, and guarded against on his own account by a timely sickness, from which, after the event, he speedily and miraculously recovered.
It may be permissible to doubt how far these expressions of wrath were the product of actual passion. The late Professor Green accepted them as perfectly genuine. At any rate, it is certain that the politic queen would have preferred that her rival should have been removed by the secret assassination to which she endeavored to prompt Sir Amias Paulet and Sir Drew Drury, — a proposal to which, to their credit be it said, they returned a firm and positive refusal, at the risk of offending mortally a by no means amiable ruler.
This excited thrill of popular delight was probably the main reason why Mary’s body lay for six months, embalmed, salted, and wrapped in lead, before orders were given for its sepulture. During that period, the servants of her household had been detained practically as prisoners in Fotheringay Castle ; and as no intimation of the intended removal had reached them, great indeed was their consternation and dismay when, at eight o’clock on that Sunday night, the coach and trappings, together with the officers and gentlemen already mentioned, arrived before the gateway of the castle.
In flightened groups they clustered together, discussing in doubt and terror what these things might mean. When they saw the strange men, all dressed in black, go into that woful chamber which they ‘were never permitted to enter, and prepare to carry down all that remained of their beloved queen, they debated fearfully among themselves what course they should pursue. The women wept and trembled, but the men, with firmer purpose, whispered to one another that it was meet that some of them should follow the body, to see what was about to become of it; “ deeming that it was not their duty to let it he carried away without being accompanied by some of them.”
Seeing the perturbation that he and his assistants had created in these faithful breasts, Sir William Dethick, displaying a consideration for their feelings to which, it is to be feared, they were little used, went to them and explained fully his commission and the reasons for his departure that night, namely, the distance to be traversed, the weight of the coffin, the readiness of the vault, and. what was doubtless the true one, that the ceremony “ could not take place on the first of August appointed without collecting a great concourse of people, and producing confusion or default of some kind.” He further invited some of them to accompany the corpse for the satisfaction of their fears, while the rest could follow the next day, in order to be present at the funeral. This arrangement was finally agreed to ; but the negotiations had taken time, and it was not until ten o’clock that the body was “brought down, and reverently put into the coach, at which time the heralds put on their coats of arms, and, bareheaded, with torches light, brought the same forth of the castle.”
The next morning being Monday, the bishop’s household were early astir, preparing for the banquet, or “ supper,” to be held that day. The Master of the Wardrobe saw that the great chamber was properly hung with black, and a canopy of state, constructed of purple velvet, on the right side of it; while Mr. Dorrel and Mr. Cox, who had been especially sent down from the royal household for that purpose, superintended “ the preparation for the diet.” Still constant in his thoughtfulness for the late queen’s servants, Sir William Dethick instructed a herald to invite them most courteously “ to look at and consider the whole, explaining how he intended to proceed, that if they saw anything that needed amending or correcting, whatever it might be that they thought not proper, it should he made to their satisfaction ; that such was the pleasure of his mistress, that nothing was to be spared; and that if he had failed to obey these directions it would be his fault, wishing the whole to be done in the most honorable manner possible.” But not even this kindly and humble submission to their wishes could soften the proud hearts of the Scotch and French, still smarting under the loss of their adored mistress and their own unwarranted confinement, and to these overtures of peace “ answer was very coldly made that it was not for them to find fault; that his mistress and he were discreet enough to do what was right, as they had agreed, and that the whole was dependent, on their pleasure.” With which chill rebuff, though scarcely deserved, Sir William presumably bad to be content.
It is to be inferred that after this the implacable attendants were not present at the banquet, but nevertheless the same afternoon “ the nobility and a large company assembled at the bishop’s palace, and were entertained at supper.” As this supper and the dinner next day cost altogether two hundred and ninety-nine pounds, nine shillings, and fourpence, Mr. Dorrel and Mr. Cox must have carried out their part of the proceedings in a generous and unstinting spirit.
By daybreak next morning, Tuesday, the 1st of August, old style, the country-folk far and near were up and at work, finishing such daily toil as must be done in order to be present in time to witness the stately ceremony appointed for that day ; and the looker-out from the cathedral tower might have beheld in the flush of dawn the roads thronged with people pressing into the town from all the country-side, so that by eight o’clock “ the concourse of people was so great as to amount to several thousands.”
Within the bishop’s palace, in the mean time, all was ready, and “ about eight of the clock, the chief mourner, being the Countess of Bedford, was attended upon by all the Lords and Ladies, and brought into the presence chamber.” This also was hung with black cloth, and a cloth of estate of purple velvet provided, “ somewhat under ” which the great dame was placed by the gentlemen ushers of the queen, whose duty it was to see that all was done in order.
“ Having given to the great officers their staves of office, namely, to the Lord Steward ” (Lord St. John of Basing), “ Lord Chamberlayne ” (Lord Dudley), “ the treasurer” (Sir Edward Montague), “and comptroller” (Mr. Melvin, the last two having been officers to Queen Mary), “ she took her way into the great hall where the corps stood.”
This “ corps,” to which frequent reference is made in the descriptions of the subsequent ceremonial, was merely a symbol of that which lay in the vault, and consisted of “ a representation in the form of a bier,” covered over with a pall of black velvet: from which circumstance it may be concluded that there was no actual waxen effigy of the deceased, such as it was customary to display at royal interments.
Upon the pall “lay a purple velvett cushion, fringed and tasseled with gold, and upon the same a close crown of gold set with stones ; ” and to this emblem of departed power all the fitting respect was paid until the conclusion of the service.
For a time the heralds were fully occupied in marshaling the great procession, but at length they set out solemnly to pace the distance from the palace to the cathedral. The silence of the previous Sunday night was no longer maintained. and the great bell boomed out its mournful note above the city roofs ; for we find in the bishop’s “ duties ” three pounds, six shillings, and eightpence for “ ringing bells.”
First in the slow advance came the Sheriff Bailiff and the Bailiff of Peterborough, followed by one hundred poor men, arrayed in mourning at the queen’s expense, as we learn from the irreconcilable Frenchman, who says,“So anxious was the sweet Elizabeth to have it believed that she was sorry for the death of her Majesty that she furnished all the mourning dresses worn hy those who walked in the procession, more than three hundred and fifty in number, paying the whole expense.” This piece of unappreciated generosity must have formed a considerable item in the three hundred and twenty pounds, fourteen shillings, and sixpence certified by the Lord Treasurer as the cost of the queen’s funeral, but which must refer to Elizabeth’s expenditure alone, as the total outlay was upwards of two thousand pounds.
Next came John Hamshire and John Keyer, “ two yeomen hamengers,” preceding Sir George Savill, Knight (subsequently raised to a baronetcy by James I.), who bore the standard of Scotland, and was followed by “ gentlemen in clokes to the number of fifty, being attendants on the Lords and Ladies.” Mr. Eaton, Mr. Bykye, Mr. Flint, Mr. Charlton, Mr. Ceacavall, and Mr. Lyle, six grooms of the chamber to Queen Elizabeth, intervened between these and a further gathering of “ men,” “ the Dean of Peterborough’s man ” leading, the number of twenty-eight being concluded by “ the old Countess of Bedford’s three men.”
Nine “ gentlemen sewers to the Queen’s Majesty,” namely, Mr. Fynes, Mr. Horseman, Mr. Martin, Mr. Holland, Mr. Crewster, Mr. Watson, Mr. Allington, Mr. Marmaduke Darrel, and Mr. Thomas Fescue, “ in gowns,” passed in advance of “Scots in elokes, seventeen in number,” and ” a Scottish priest,” who wore a large cross pendent on his breast, and who, it was popularly whispered, was in reality a French Jesuit, which is far from improbable.
After these the greater dignitaries appeared : the chaplains to the Bishops of Peterborough and Lincoln; Mr. Fortescue, Master of the Wardrobe to the Queen’s Majesty ; Dr. Richard Fletcher, the Dean of Peterborough; Dr. Howland, Bishop of Peterborough ; and Dr. William Wickham, Bishop of Lincoln. Behind them waved the great banner borne by Sir Andrew Know ell, Knight, beneath the folds of which marched the four officers with their staves of office, while two ushers in cloaks, with black staves, escorted the “ Achievements of Honour borne by Heralds ” as follows: “ the Healme and Crest by Portcullis, the Target by York, the Sword by Rouge Dragon, and the Coat by Somersett.”
Immediately following “Clareneieux King of Armes with a gentleman usher with him ” (Mr. Conyngsbye), Mr. Francis Fortescue, Mr. William Fortescue, Mr. Thomas Stafford, Mr. Nicholas Smith, Mr. Nicholas Hyde, and a sixth, who was either Mr. Howland, the bishop’s brother, or Mr. Fortescue, Senior, of Aywootl, all “esquires in cloltes,” “bore the corps ” with the proper “ leisure in the solemn proceeding” which had been so carefully provided for. The canopy of black velvet fringed with gold was borne above it by four knights, — Sir Thomas Manners (fourth son of the Earl of Rutland), Sir George Hastings (son of Earl Huntingdon), Sir James Harrington (of Exton, Rutland, where he lies buried), and Sir Richard Knightly (of Fawsley, Northamptonshire); while the “ assistants to the body, four barons which bore up the corners of the pall of velvett,” were the Lord Mordaunt, the Lord Willoughby of Parham, the Lord Compton, and Sir Robert Cecil (eldest son of Lord Burleigh). The first and third of these, strangely enough, took part in the condemnation of her to whom they were now paying honor. “ Eight banuerolles borne by esquires,” namely, William Fitzwilliams, Mr. Griffin of Dingley, Mr. Robert Wingfield, Mr. Bevill, Mr. Lynne, Mr. John Wingfield, Mr. Spencer, and Mr. John Fortescue of Aywood, succeeded ; of which “ banuerolles ” in their due order, together with the standard and “ atehievements,” engravings will be found in the Camden Society’s Mary, Queen of Scots, copied from a drawing, with Dethick’s account of the funeral.
Behind this hollow show, conducted by Sir William Dethick “ with the gentleman usher,” Mr. Brackenburye, “ supported by the Earls of Rutland and Lincoln,” and “her train borne up by the Lady St. John of Basing, and assisted by Mr. John Manners, Vice Chamberlain,” came the chief mourner.
This lady, who was Bridget, second wife of Francis, Earl of Bedford, and herself the widow of two husbands. Sir Richard Morrison and Henry, Earl of Rutland, was attended by two countesses, those of Rutland and Lincoln, eight ladies, and two commoners, with one of whom, Mrs. Curie, described as a “ Scots gentlewoman,” a curious and incredible legend is connected.
There is a monument in the church of St. Andrew, at Antwerp, of which it is asserted that “Barbara Mowbray and Elizabeth Curie, both ladies of the bedchamber to Mary, Queen of Scots, and faithful companions of her various fortunes. after her execution were permitted to retire hither, and to take the head of their mistress with them, which they interred near a pillar opposite to the chapel of the Holy Sacrament.” 1
In the train came two yeomen of the guard, and “ eight Scottish gentlewomen, two and two.” It was these, presumably, who distinguished themselves by an exhibition of rancor against Queen Elizabeth, thus set down: “ The Queen of England had some days before sent cloth to make mourning for the servants of her Majesty as much as was necessary for the men to make a cloak apiece for Monsr. Melvin and Monsr. Burgoin, and a gown for each of the women, but some of them declined it, making shift with their own dresses which they had got made for mourning, immediately after the death of the deceased ; and as the head-dresses of the ladies and women were not according to the fashion of the country for mourning, a woman was sent on purpose to make others in their fashion, to be worn by them on the day of the funeral, and to be theirs afterwards.”
The long procession was concluded by: “ The gentlewomen of Countesses and Baronesses, according to their degree, all in black, with Paris heads,” thirty in number. “ Servants in black coates. The Countess of Bedford. Ten. The Countess of Rutland. Eight. The Countess of Lincoln. Eight. The Lady St. Jolm of Basing. Five. All lords and ladyes. Five. All knights and their wives. Five. All esquires. One.” And lastly, five hundred poor women.
While the end of this train was still on its way, its head had been already received at the door of the cathedral by the prebendaries and choir; and an anthem having been sung, the “ corps ” was carried into the choir and laid in the hearse before referred to. Some period of confusion ensued while the heralds arranged “ the mourners according to their degree,” during which “ the Scots, except Mr. Melvin, quitted the Cathedral,” which they regarded as “ prophaned like all the churches of England,” “ and would not be present at the service or sermon.”
When all were placed, the Bishop of Lincoln preached a sermon upon Psalm xxxix. 5. and 7, in which “ he only dwelt on the general doctrine of the vanity of all flesh,” concluding with a prayer. It was no easy task to steer a steady course between the danger of pricking Elizabeth’s jealous conscience and that of failing in respect to the dead, but he acquitted himself of the task like a veteran courtier. “Let us give thanks,” he said, for the happy dissolution of the high and mighty Princess, Mary, late Queen of Scotland, and Dowager of France, of whose life and death, at this time, 1 have not much to say, because I was not acquainted with the one, neither was I present at the other.”
Other anthems were then sung while a long piece of velvet and a cushion were lid at the bishop’s feet, after which the four chief officers were placed, “two at the top of the stairs under the Bishop’s throne, and two beneath them,” and then “ the offering began very solemnly.”
First, the chief mourner, preceded by the two principal heralds, and supported by the Earls of Rutland and Lincoln, Lady St. John of Basing bearing her train, attended by all the ladies, advanced to the cushion, and, kneeling, offered for the queen, all returning afterwards to their place. “ The two Earls being stationed without the pale, before the Countess, one of the Kings at Arms brought from the hearse the coat-armour, gave it to the other King at Arms, and he delivered it to the two Earls ; they carried it (obeisance being done to the Countess) to the Bishop, and kissed it on delivering it; a third herald took it of the Bishop and laid it down on the altar.” The sword, target, helm, and crown were each in turn treated with the same elaborate courtesy. The two banners were next placed by their bearers upright upon the altar, “ leaning to the wall,” and “ the other eight bannerets were put into the hearse, as they stood.”
“ Then the Countess of Bedford went a second time, Sir John Manners bearing her train, and offered alone to the Bishop. After, the Ladies and Gentlemen, two and two, went up and offered.”
Another account gives a slightly different order : “ The Trayne bearer alone. The two Earles together. The Lord Steward, the Lord Chamberlaine, together. The Bishop of Lincoln alone. The four lords assistants to the body. The Treasurer, Comptroller, and Vice Chamberlaiue. The four Knights that bore the canopy. On which offering every course was led up by a herald for the more order.”
The Bishop of Lincoln was last of all conducted from the pulpit by a herald, and, the obsequies being finished, “ the greater part of the mourners left the church in the same order in which they came.”
The solemnity of this outgoing was relieved by a pretty and touching proceeding. “ Towards the door of the choir the Scottish women stood, parted on either side, and as the English ladies passed they kissed them all; ” assuaging, let us hope, by this display of fellow-womanhood, some of the bitter resentment that burned in those wounded hearts.
Those who remained drew together round the vault, where the Dean of Peterborough read the funeral service. As the last words of this died away under the vaulted roof, each of the officers raised his staff above his head, and breaking it in two threw the ends into the vault, upon the coffin, and all was done.
While a dole was being given to the poor, and the guests were partaking of a handsome banquet ” at the bishop’s palace, previous to leaving Peterborough to settle down once more into its wonted quiet dullness, an epitaph, written “by Mr. Blackwood ” in Latin on parchment, was hung up near the grave, but was very shortly afterwards removed ; by order, it was rumored, of Queen Elizabeth. Certainly, its contents, as may be seen in the following translation, were not of a kind to be gratifying to her : —
“ Mary, Queen of Scots, a King’s daughter, widow of the King of tlie French, cousin and next heir to the Queen of England, adorned with royal virtue and a royal mind (the royal authority being often implored in vain), by the barbarous cruelty and tyrannical sentence of the English, the ornament of our age, and the true royal light is extinguished. And by the same nefarious judgment, both Mary, Queen of Scots, and all other Princes (made plebeian) suffer a civil death. A new and unheardof kind of tomb is this in which the living are included with the dead. Know, with the sacred ashes of the divine Mary, here lies prostrate and violate the majesty of all Kings and Princes. And because this silent royal monument abundantly admonishes Kings of their duty, traveler, I say no more.”
Five and twenty years afterwards, and not until the tenth of his reign, James I., having constructed the monument still to be seen in Westminster Abbey, decided upon the removal thither of the body of his mother, against whose execution he had protested only in a feeble and half-hearted fashion. Even in the letter he sent to Peterborough to arrange the matter, he calls the woman whom all Mary’s followers regarded as her murderess, his “late dear sister;” nor is this the only curious trait of his character which peeps out in the document. In 1603, the year he ascended the throne, he had sent down a pall of velvet to grace his mother’s tomb; and now he prefers rather to regain that from the cathedral authorities, who might regard it as a fee, at “ a reasonable redemption,” than to go to the expense of a new one.
Of the removal and reinterment no more need be said. The helmet and escutcheons were seen by Dugdale, in 1641, suspended high upon a pillar above the place where Mary had lain ; but even their height did not preserve them in the popular outbreak of fury during the revolution, and they were destroyed.
Now “ a plain black marble slab, close without the south door of the choir,” alone indicates the spot round which, that August day, so much mournful pomp and funeral splendor centred.
- Mackie’s Castles, etc. This legend may have taken its rise from the probable circumstance of the two ladies bearing’ with them in their exile a portrait of their late mistress, which might well have been hung upon the pillar, though not “interred” near it.↩