Queen Mary's Bower,
When the widowed Mary, Queen of Scots, left France, where she had
dwelt since her fifth year—where she had shared in the
education of the French King's own daughters, in one of the
convents of the kingdom, and been the idol of the French Court and
people, it is said that, as the coast of the happy land faded from
her view, she continued to exclaim, "Farewell, France! farewell,
dear France—I shall never see thee more!" And her first
view of Scotland only increased the poignancy of these touching
regrets. So little pains had been taken to "cover over the
nakedness and poverty of the land," that tears sprang into her
eyes, when, fresh from the elegant luxurious Court of Paris, she saw
the wretched ponies, with bare, wooden saddles, or dirty and ragged
trappings, which had been provided to carry her and her ladies from
the water-side to Holyrood. And then the palace itself; how different
from the palaces in which she had lived in France! Dismal and small,
it consisted only of what is now the north wing. The state-room and
the bed-chamber which were used by her yet remain, with the old
furniture, and much of the needle-work there is said to have been the
work of her hands. During her long and melancholy imprisonment in
England, the art of needle-work and reading were almost her only mode
of relieving the dreary hours.
From the moment Mary of Scotland took the fatal resolution of
throwing herself upon the supposed kindness and generosity of
Elizabeth, her fate was sealed, and it was that of captivity, only to
be ended by death. She was immediately cut off from all communication
with her subjects, except such as it was deemed proper to allow; and
was moved about from place to place, the better to ensure her safety.
The hapless victim again and again implored Elizabeth to deal
generously and justly with her. "I came," said she, in one
of her letters, "of mine own accord; let me depart again with
yours: and if God permit my cause to succeed, I shall be bound to you
for it." But her rival was unrelenting, and, in fact, increased
the rigours of her confinement. Whilst a prisoner at Chatsworth, she
had been permitted the indulgence of air and exercise; and the bower
of Queen Mary is still shown in the noble grounds of that place, as a
favourite resort of the unfortunate captive. But even this absolutely
necessary indulgence was afterwards denied; she was wholly confined
to the Castle of Fotheringay, and a standing order was issued that
"she should be shot if she attempted to escape, or if others
attempted to rescue her."
Burns, in his "Lament of Mary, Queen of Scots,"
touchingly expresses the weary feelings that must have existed in the
breast of the Royal captive:—
"Oh, soon to me may summer suns
Nae mair light up the morn!
Nae mair to me the autumn winds
Wave o'er the yellow corn!
And in the narrow house of death,
Let winter round me rave;
And the next flowers that deck the spring,
Bloom on my peaceful grave."