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HO can think of the times of Queen Mary

without thinking of her as the central figure to whom all contemporary persons, events, and circumstances form but the setting in which she works out her destiny? It is her dramatic story that has made the sixteenth century the one period of our annals that has commanded the attention of the world. Historians, poets, and romancers of every country have striven to paint, to analyse, and to explain her character and her fortunes as a woman and a queen, with the result that no historical personage outside Scripture is better known to the world at large than Mary Stewart.

Yet it is to be remembered that the period of Mary Stewart's reign possesses a larger interest than her individual character and fortunes. In "s of her

strictest truth it may be said that it was the most momentous period in the history of the Scottish people. It saw the beginnings of a new society, the birth of new national ideals, the first distinct awakening of the nation to a sense of its own destinies. And, as a survey of the moving forces of the time amply proves, this development was not bound up with the existence of Mary Stewart. Had she never lived, Scotland must have broken with her past, must have cast off her ancient religion, and placed herself in new relations to the other countries of Christendom. What were called in her own day the “

strange accidentis”, public and personal career were mere eddies in the irresistible stream which bore her people onward to fulfil “the orb of their fate."

Apart from Mary Stewart, therefore, the period of her reign presents a field of interest at once wider and more important than the incidents of her personal career. The history of no individual, however great or fascinating, is to be weighed against the interest that belongs to a people evolving the fate conditioned by its own natural forces and the changing circumstances in which these forces must be exercised.

It will be readily understood that within the limits of six lectures it is hardly possible to present a complete picture of a country and its people at any period of their history. Some process of selection, therefore, was unavoidably necessary, and it

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may be as well to specify by what considerations I have been determined in the selection of the facts which I shall lay before you. In connection with the reign of Mary questions of religion and policy have been so often and so voluminously treated that it would be a work of supererogation to deal with these subjects on the present occasion. Moreover,

. in this temple of science, politics and religion have no fitting place; the recording angel could hardly discuss Queen Mary and John Knox and all the issues which these names suggest without troubling the serenity even of the Society of Antiquaries—a body sworn to the passionless pursuit of truth. In the choice of materials, therefore, I have been guided partly by considerations of comparative novelty and partly by regard to the spirit and aims of the Society itself. It is of the physical, the social, the economic aspects of Scotland in the time of Mary Stewart that I shall mainly speak—themes which it should be possible to handle in the driest light of reason.

In studying any period in the history of a nation a question we first naturally ask is,—What were the physical condition and aspect of the country in which its people lived their lives and performed the actions which it is the business of the historian to chronicle? In the case of a period so remote as the sixteenth century it is needless to say that the question can be answered neither so definitely nor so comprehensively as we could wish. The reason

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