« AnteriorContinuar »
and a plentiful effusion of tears attended this last solemn farewel, and exchange of mutual forgiveness.
Mary's care of her servants was the sole remaining affair which employed her concern. She perused her will, in which she had provided for them by legacies: she ordered the inventory of her goods, clotes, and jewels to be brought her; and she wrote down the names of those to whom she bequeathed each particular: to some she distributed money with her own hands; and she adapted the recompence to their different degrees of rank and merit. She wrote also letters of recommendation for her servants to the French King, and to her cousin the Duke of Guise, whom she made the chief executor of her testament. At her wonted time she went to bed; slept some hours; and then rising, spent the rest of the night in prayer. Having foreseen the difficulty of exer-cising the rites of her religion, she had had the precaution to obtain a consecrated hoste from the hands of pope Pius; and she had reserved the use of it for this last period of her life. By this expedient she supplied, as much as she could, the want of a priest and confessor, who was refused her.
Towards the morning she dressed herself in a rich habit of silk and velvet, the only one which she had reserved to herself. She told her maids, that she would willingly have left them this dress rather than the plain garb which she wore the day before: but it was necessary for her to appear at the ensuing solemnity in a decent habit.
Thomas Andrews, sheriff of the county, entered the room, and 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 adieu to her servants, she leaned on two of Sir Amias Paulet's guards, because of an infirmity in her limbs; and she followed the sheriff with a serene and composed countenance. In passing through a hall adjoining to her chamber, she was met by the earls of Shrewsbury and Kent, Sir Amias Paulet, Sir Drue Drury, and many other gentlemen of distinction. Here she also found Sir Andrew Melvil, her steward, who flung himself on his knees before her; and wringing his hands, cried aloud:,,Ah, Madam! unhappy me! What man was ever before the messenger of ,,such heavy tidings as I must carry, when I shall return to ,, my native country, and shall report, that I saw my gracious ,, queen and mistress beheaded in England?" His tears pre
vented further speech; and Mary too felt herself moved more from sympathy than affliction. Cease, my good servant," said she,,,cease to lament: thou hast cause rather ,, to rejoice than to mourn: for now shalt thou see the ,,troubles of Mary Stuart receive their long expected period ,, and completion." Know," (*ntinued she, good ser,,vant, that all the world at best is vanity, and subject still to more sorrow than a whole ocean of tears is able to bewail. But I pray thee carry this message from me, that I die a true woman to my religion and unalterable in my ,affections to Scotland and to France. Heaven forgive them that have long desired my end, and have thirsted for my ,,blood as the hart panteth after the water brooks.“ „,0 God," added she, thou that art the author of truth and truth itself, thou knowest the inmost recesses of my heart: thou knowest that I was ever desirous, to preserve an entire „union between Scotland and England, and to obviate the ,,source of all these fatal discords. But recommend me, ,, Melvil, to my son, and tell him, that, notwithstanding all ,,my distresses, I have done nothing prejudicial to the state and kingdom of Scotland." After these words, reclining herself, with weeping eyes, and face bedewed with tears, she kissed him. And so," said she,,,good Melvil, farewel: once again, farewell, good Melvil; and grant the assistance ,, of thy prayers to thy queen and mistress."
She next turned to the noblemen who attended her, and made a petition in behalf of her servants, that they might be well treated, be allowed to enjoy the presents which she had made them, and be sent safely into their own country. Having received a favourable answer, she preferred another request, that they might be permitted to attend her at her death: in order, said she, that their eyes may behold, and their hearts bear witness, how patiently their queen and mistress can submit to her execution, and how constantly she perseveres in her attachments to her religion. The earl of Kent opposed this desire, and told her, that they would be apt, by their speeches and cries, to disturb both herself and the spectators; he was also apprehensive lest they should practise some superstition, not meet for him to suffer; such as dipping their handkerchiefs in her blood: for that was the instance which he made use of. My lord," said the queen of Scots,,,I will give my word (although it be but dead)
that they shall not incur any blame in any of the actions which you have named. But alas! poor souls! it would ,, be a great consolation to them to bid their mistress farewel. "And I hope," added she,,, that your mistress, being a ,,maiden queen, would vouchsafe, in regard of womanhood, ,, that I should have some of my own people about me at „my death. I know that her majesty hath not given you any ,,such strict command, but that you might grant me a request of far greater courtesy, even though I were a woman of in,, ferior rank to that which I bear.“ Finding that the earl of Kent persisted still in his refusal, her mind, which had fortified itself against the terrors of death, was affected by this indignity, for which she was not prepared. I am cousin „to your queen, "cried she,,,and descend from the bloodroyal of Henry the seventh, and a married queen of France, ,,and an anointed queen of Scotland." The commissioners perceiving how invidious their obstinacy would appear, conferred little together, and agreed, that she might carry a few of her servants along with her. She made choice of four men, and two maid-servants, for that purpose.
She then passed into another hall, where was erected the scaffold, covered with black; and she saw, with an undismayed countenance, the executioners, and all the preparations of death. The room was crowded with spectators; and no one was so steeled against all sentiments of humanity, as not to be moved, when he reflected on her royal dignity, considered the surprising train of her misfortunes, beheld her mild but inflexible constancy, recalled her amiable accomplishments, or surveyed her beauties, which, though faded by years, and yet more by her afflictions, still discovered themselves in this fatal moment. Here the warrant for her execution was read to her; and during this ceremony she was silent, but shewed in her behaviour an indifference and unconcern, as if the business had no wise regarded her. Before the executioners performed their office, the dean of Peterborow stepped forth; and though the queen frequently told him that he needed not concern himself about her, that she was settled in the ancient catholic and Roman religion, and that she meant to lay down her life in defence of that faith h; he still thought it his duty to persist in his lectures and exhortations, and to endeavour her conversion. The terms which he employed were, under colour of pious in
structions, very cruel insults on her unfortunate situation; and, besides their own absurdity, may be regarded as the most mortifying indignities to which she had ever yet been exposed. He told her that the queen of England had on this occasion shewn a tender care of her; and notwithstanding the punishment justly to be inflicted on her, for her manifold trespasses, was determined to use every expedient for saving her soul from that destruction with which it was so nearly threatened; that she was now standing upon the brink of eternity, and had no other means of escaping endless perdition, but by repenting her former wickedness, by justifying the sentence pronounced against her, by acknowledging the queen's favours, and by exerting a true and lively faith in Christ Jesus: that the scriptures were the only rule of doctrine, the merits of Christ the only means of salvation; and, if she trusted in the inventions or devices of men, she must expect in a moment to fall into utter darkness, into a place where shall be weeping, howling and gnashing of teeth: that the hand of death was upon her, the ax was laid to the root of the tree, the throne of the great Judge of heaven was erected, the book of her life was spread wide, and the particular sentence and judgment was ready to be pronounced upon her: and that it was now, during this important moment, in her choice, either to rise to the resurrection of life, and hear that joyful salutation, Come, ye blessed of my Father, or to share the resurrection of condemnation, replete with sorrow and anguish; and to suffer that dreadful denunciation, Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire,
During this discourse Mary could not sometimes forbear betraying her impatience, by interrupting the preacher; and the dean, finding that she had profited nothing by his lecture, at last bade her change her opinion, repent her of her former wickedness, and settle her faith upon this ground, that only in Christ Jesus could she hope to be saved. She answered, again and again, with great earnestness : trouble not your,,self any more about the matter: for I was born in this re,,ligion, I have lived in this religion, and in this religion I ,,am resolved to die." Even the two earls perceived, that it was fruitless to harrass her any farther with theological disputes, and they ordered the dean to desist from his unseasonable exhortations, and to pray for her conversion. During the dean's prayer, she employed herself in private devotion
from the office of the Virgin; and after he had finished, she pronounced aloud some petitions in English, for the afflicted church, for an end of her own troubles, for her son, and for queen Elizabeth; and prayed God, that that princess might long prosper, and be employed in his service. The earl of Kent observing, that in her devotions she made frequent use of the crucifix, could not forbear reproving her attachment to that popish trumpery as he termed it; and he exhorted 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 with some compunction.
She now began, with the aid of her two women, to dis-. robe herself; 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, nor to be served by such valets. Her servants, seeing her in this condition, ready to lay her head upon the block, burst into tears and lamentations; she turned about to them, put her finger upon her lips, as a sign of imposing silence upon them; and having given them her blessing, desired them to pray for her. One of her maids, whom she had appointed for that purpose, covered her eyes with a handkerchief; she laid herself down, without any sign of fear or trepidation; and her head was severed from her body at two strokes by the executioner. He instantly held it up to the spectators, streaming with blood and agitated with the convulsions of death: the dean of Peterborow alone exclaimed: So perish all queen Elizabeth's enemies!" The earl of Kent alone replied, „, Amen!“ the attention of all the other spectators was fixed on the melancholy scene before them; aud zeal and flattery alike gave place to present pity and admiration of the expiring princess.
Thus perished, in the forty fifth year of her age, and the nineteenth of her captivity in England, Mary Queen of Scots ; a woman of great accomplishments both of body and mind, natural as well as acquired; but unfortunate in her life, and during one period very unhappy in her conduct. The beauties of her person, and graces of her air, combined to make her the most amiable of women; and the charms of her address and conversation aided the impression which her lovely figure made on the hearts of all beholders. Ambitious and active in her temper, yet inclined to cheerfulness and society;