Mary, Queen of Scots: Life Story

Chapter 15 : Growing Tension

Moray requested a subsidy from England, in order, he said, to protect the Protestant faith, but it was apparent to everyone that his objections to the marriage were anger at his loss of influence, rather than religious feeling. Mary outlawed him on 6th August 1565, when he refused to attend the queen as he had been commanded to do. Chatelherault and Argyll were left in no doubt that they, too, would be outlawed if they supported Moray.

Mary confiscated Moray’s lands, publicly confirmed her commitment to maintain Protestantism as the religion of Scotland, then gathered her troops to march against her half-brother. In what became known as the Chaseabout Raid, Moray dodged capture, and eventually slipped over the border to exile in England. After a public dressing-down by Elizabeth, who was probably privately far more sympathetic, he retired to Newcastle, to wait events.

To counterbalance any attempt by Moray to return to influence, Mary now reinstated Lord George Gordon as Earl of Huntly, and pardoned Bothwell, as an enemy of the Hamiltons.

Whilst most of Mary’s nobles were prepared to support her against Moray, it was very soon apparent that their general misgivings over King Henry were not groundless. He quickly showed that he wanted all of the pleasures of royalty, without any of the work. He demanded both more money than Mary could afford, and also that she petition Parliament for him to be granted the Crown Matrimonial, whilst holding up public business by spending his time hunting and hawking, rather than attending to his work as king.

He had, however, attended to his work as a husband, and by December, Mary’s pregnancy was widely known. By then, the delights of the honeymoon had worn off, and Mary was aware that her choice of husband was likely to increase, rather than decrease, her difficulties. He had taken it into his head – or had been fed the idea – that his power as king was not dependent on Mary’s grace, but that he was widely preferred as monarch by nobles and commons alike.

Not only that, he was indulging in public drunkenness and lechery, unbecoming to his estate, and humiliating for Mary.

Mary was beginning to lose the support of her nobles – quite why, is difficult to ascertain. Perhaps it was her choice of husband, perhaps her increasing reliance on her non-Scottish servants, of whom her secretary, the Italian David Riccio, was her favourite. Perhaps it was the fears of Moray and the others who had supported him that the forthcoming Parliament would see a confiscation of their lands. Or it may have been concern by Knox and the hardline Protestants that Parliament would be asked to overturn the Protestant religious settlement.

Enough of the nobles were disaffected for a plot to be laid to inveigle King Henry into agreeing to a bond which on the face of it, was to have him granted the Crown Matrimonial, Moray and his colleagues pardoned, and Protestantism confirmed as the faith of Scotland (Mary had never actually ratified the bill).

Nothing was said about how this was to be effected, but clearly it was to involve the abduction of the queen, and, although no names were mentioned, the murder of anyone who stood in their way. At least ten of Mary’s nobles (including Moray, in Newcastle) signed the bond, as well as King Henry. Whilst the murder of Riccio was not mentioned in the bond, the English government was aware that that was part of the plan.

Elizabeth sent Moray £1,000 and wrote to Mary criticising her treatment of Mary’s own subject, and complaining that Mary had banished her ambassador, Randolph, from Scotland, even though Randolph’s servant had been found giving money to Scots rebels.

Amongst those still loyal to Mary were the restored Earl of Huntly, and the Earl of Bothwell, who married Huntly’s sister at a Protestant ceremony, which Mary attended.