Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

sioners,”—and, their jurisdiction being acknowledged, the trial proceeded in due form. The Court assembled the next day in the Presence Chamber, [Oct. 14.] the Lord Chancellor, as President, being seated on the * **, right hand Grå väääns thrömererected under a canopy of estate in honour of Elizabeth, and the other Commissioners on benches at the walls on both sides. The counsel for the Crown were stationed at a table at the lower end opposite the throne. The Queen of Scots entered, and occupied a chair placed for her near the middle of the room. Silence being proclaimed, the Dord President, turning to her, thus spoke, “The most high and mighty Queen Elizabeth being, not without great grief of mind, advertised that you have conspired the destruction of her and of England, and the subversion of religion, hath out of her office and duty, lest she might seem to have neglected God, herself, and her people, and out of no malice at all, appointed these Commissioners to hear the matters that shall be objected unto you, and how you can clear yourself of them and make known your innocency.” IMary, rising up, said that “she came into England to crave aid which had been promised her, and yet was she detained ever since in prison. She protested that she was no subject of Elizabeth, but had been and was a free and absolute Queen, and not to be constrained to appear before the Commissioners or any other Judge whatsoever, for any cause whatsoever, save before God alone the highest Judge, lest she should prejudice her own royal majesty, the King of Scots her son, her successors, or other absolute princes. But so protesting she now appeared personally to the end to refute the crimes objected against her.” . The Lord President answered, “that this protestation was in vain, for that whosoever, of what place or degree soever, should offend against the laws of England in England, was subject to the laws of England, and the late act might be examined and tried ; the said protestation, therefore, so made in prejudice of the laws and Queen of England, was not to be admitted.” She was about to withdraw, when, to secure the great advantage they had gained by inducing her to plead, the Court ordered as well her protestation as the Lord President's answer to be recorded. Gawdy, the Queen's Serjeant, then opened the case against her, and adduced his proofs, consisting of copies of letters in cipher between her and Babington, and the alleged confessions and examinations of her secretaries Nau and Curle, and the confessions of Babington, and Ballard his associate. She asked that an advocate might be assigned to her to plead her cause, and this prayer being refused she defended herself with great spirit and presence of mind. Without formally admitting, she did not struggle against the charge of being privy to the plan for procuring her enlargement, and she contended that even consenting to a foreign invasion for this purpose would not subject her to the pains of treason. All complicity in the plot to assassinate Elizabeth she most solemnly, and earnestly, and with many tears, denied. This charge resting entirely on certain expressions in the copy of a letter she was supposed to have written in cipher to Babington, and on the private depositions of her secretaries, she said her letter had been interpolated, and dared them to produce the original,—she urged that if her secretaries had so deposed, it was from compulsion and to save their own lives, and she repeatedly required that they should be produced as witnesses, so that she might be confronted with them. Burghley, that he might not appear too conspicuous, had put forward the Chancellor and others as his puppets to move as he guided them, but he was in truth both the adviser and the conductor of the prosecution. Now becoming alarmed lest she should make an impression on some of her Judges, he superseded the Chancellor as well as Gawdy and the Attorney and Solicitor General, and himself undertook to answer her, attempting to show the regularity of the proceedings, and the sufficiency of the proof against her. Still, not entirely trusting to his artful pleading, he did not venture to call for the verdict in her presence at Fotheringay, and at the end of the second day of the trial, the Court was adjourned to the 25th of October, in the Star Chamber at Westminster.” Then and there the Chancellor having taken his place as President, Nau and Curle were produced and examined, while the aććüsed was immured in a distant prison, and the Commissioners all agreed in a general verdict of guilty against her, with the exception of Lord Zouch, who was for acquitting her on the charge of assassination.f But Elizabeth, though she had resolved that the sentence should be carried into execution, had to prepare the [Oct. 29.] nation for this appalling step, and a few days after- ... -wards parliament assembled. Thinking it not decent to appearin person, she was represented on the first day of the session by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Burghley, and the Earl of Derby. The letters patent appointing them being read, they left their places, and went to a seat prepared for them on the right side of the throne; and then the Lord Chancellor Bromley, after going first to them and conferring with them, addressed the two Houses from his accustomed place to the following effect:—

* In the reign of George III, it was justly thought unconstitutional and improper that the Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench should be a member of the Cabimet, lest he should sit as Judge on the trial of a prosecution which, as minister, he had concurred in instituting. Upon the success of this prosecution depended all that Burghley held most valuable in the world, and he was at once judge, jury, and prosecutor. .

f f l St. Tr. 1161.

VOI, II, 11

“That the present parliament was summoned for no usual causes; not for making new laws, whereof her Majesty thought there were more made than executed; nor for subsidies with which, although there was some occasion for them, her Majesty would not burden her faithful subjects at this time, but the cause was rare and extraordinary ; of great weight, great peril, and dangerous consequence. He next declared what plots had been contrived of late, and how miraculously the merciful providence of God, by the discovery thereof, beyond all human policy, had preserved her Majesty, the destruction of whose sacred person was most traitorously imagined, and designed to be compassed. He then showed what misery the loss of so noble a Queen would have brought to all estates; that, although some of these traitors had suffered according to their demerits, yet one remained, that, by due course of law, had received her sentence, which was the chief cause of this assembly and wherein her Majesty required their faithful advice.” After the election and confirmation of the Speaker, the Lord [Nov. 5.] Chancellor made another speech to the Lords, “set"1 ting forth the foul and indiscreet dealings practised by the Queen of Scots against her Majesty and the whole realm, notwithstanding the many great benefits and favours which had been bestowed upon her since her arrival in this kingdom.” This performance, however was not at all satisfactory; and the prime minister himself standing up, said: “The whole proceedings of the said Queen of Scots were better known to him from his having had the honour to serve her Majesty from the commencement of her reign ; ” and he showed, at great length, the justice of the prosecution, and the necessity for carrying the sentence into effect. No One ventured to say a word for the condemned criminal, or even to hint that she had not had a fair trial. Both Houses agreed upon an address to the Queen, which was delivered by the Lord Chancellor, urging that the sentence against the Queen of Scots might be immediately carried into execution; “because, upon advised and grave consultation, we cannot find that there is any possible means to provide for your Majesty's safety, but by the just and speedy death of the said Queen, the neglecting whereof may procure the heavy displeasure and punishment of Almighty God, as by Sundry severe examples of his great justice in that behalf, left us in the sacred Scriptures, doth appear; and if the same, be not put in present, execution, we, your most loving and dutiful subjects, shall thereby (so far as man's reason can reach) be brought into utter despair of the continuance amongst us of the true religion of Almighty God, and of your Majesty's life, and of the safety of all your subjects, and the good estate of this most flourishing commonwealth.” Elizabeth, in her answer, in justifying the recent statute, and the trial under it, fell foul of the poor Lord Chancellor and the gentlemen of the long robe:—“You lawyers are so curious in scanning the nice points of the law, and proceeding according to forms rather than expounding and interpreting the laws themselves, that if your way were observed, she must have been indicted in Staffordshire, and have holden up her hand at the bar, and have been tried by a jury of twelve men. A proper way forsooth, of trying a Princess To avoid, therefore, such absurdities, I thought it better to refer the examination of so weighty a cause to a select number of the noblest personages of the land, and the most learned of my Judges.” However, she would not yet give a decisive answer as to the execution of the sentence ; but concluded with a prayer to Almighty God, so to illuminate and direct her heart, that she might see clearly what might be best for the good of his Church, and the prosperity of the commonwealth.* This irresolution was affected, in the hope that Mary might be removed by a natural death, or some other means, FEB. 1, 1587 so as to avoid the odium to be incurred by be- [FEB. 1, ..] heading upon the scaffold a Queen, her guest, her nearest relative, and the heir presumptive to the throne: but she at last signed the warrant for Mary's execution, directed to the Earl of Shrewsbury, as Earl Marshal, and ordered it to be carried to the Great Seal by Davison, her secretary. The Chancellor immediately appended the Great Seal to it; and having informed Burghley that the instrument was now perfect, a Council was called, and they unanimously resolved that it should be sent off immediately, on the ostensible ground that the Queen had done all the law required on her part, and that to trouble her further was needless, and would be offensive to her feelings. Bromley, being at the head of the administration of justice, incurred the greatest responsibility in taking this step ; but he considered himself safe in co-operating with Burghley, who had before settled with Elizabeth that Davison should be the scape-goat. In two days the warrant was executed, and Mary Stuart, in the last scene of her life, displayed such fortitude, composure, dignity, tenderness, kindness of heart, resignation, and piety, as to throw a shade over the errors she had committed, and to make us disposed to regard her as one less criminal than unfortunate, and more to be pitied than condemned.i.

* 1 Parl. Hist. 834.

* I Parl. Hist. 842.

t I am far from being her indiscriminate defender, and I am sorry to acknowledge that the proofs of her being privy to the murder of Darnley are quite overwhelming. Yet her death was not creditable to the English nation. It was a national act. When the judgment of the Commissioners was proclaimed in London by sound of trumpet, the bells tolled merry peals for twenty-four hours, bonfires blazed in the streets, and the citizens appeared intoxicated with joy, as if a great victory had been obtained over a foreign enemy. These rejoicings were redoubled on the news of her execution. “La nouvelle de cette execution vint à Londres; furent sonnés les cloches pe toutes les églises wingt-quatre heures durant, et sur.le soir furent faites feux de joie parles rues de la ville,” Bellivre's Despatch. The sentiments of the upper classes may be learned from the unanimous petition of the two Houses of parliament that the judgment might be immediately carried Bromley, who presided at her trial, was soon to present himself with her at the bar of that great Judge to whom all secrets are known. He had suffered much anxiety while the prosecution was going on; he was deeply affected when he heard of the catastrophe; and he felt dreadful alarm when he found that the Queen affected indignation and resentment against all who were concerned in it. Suddenly he took to his bed, and parliament meeting by adjournment on the 15th of February, no-business could be done on that or the following day on account of his sickness, for which no provision had been made. On the 17th, Sir Edmund Anderson, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, read publicly, in the House of Lords, a commission from the Quen, directed to himself, by which he was authorised, in the absence of the Chancellor, to act in his stead; and on the 23d of March by reason of the continued sickness of the Chancellor, the deputy closed the session and dissolved the parliament.*

Bromley never rallied, and on the 12th of April following he expired, in the fifty-eighth year of his age. The Close Roll is quite pathetic in giving an account of the transmission of the Great Seal to the Queen on his demise. After stating that he breathed his last at three o'clock in the morning, and that the Queen, being informed of this event, ordered John Fortescue, Master of her Wardrobe, to go and fetch her the Great Seal, observes, that he proceeded to the house of the late Chancellor, and entering it between seven and eight o'clock, found a large number of distinguished persons bewailing the loss of so great a man.f

From incidental notices of him by his immediate contemporaries, he appears to have enjoyed considerable reputation in his own time, but afterwards he rather slipped from the recollection of

into execution.—The national character of Scotland was tarnished by the Scottish army delivering up her grandson, on condition that their arrears of pay were discharged; but this was the sordid act of a few leaders, of which all Scotsmen have since been ashamed,—while the murder of Mary for political expediency has still defenders in England. If I am accused of national prejudice in my strictures on the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, I will cite the words of Clarendon, a true Englishman, who describes it as a great blemish on Elizabeth's reign, and as “an unparalleled act of blood upon the life of a crowned neighbour, queen, and ally.”

* I Parl. Hist, 853,

t “Eodem die inter horas septimam et octavam ante meridiem ejusdem diei idem Iohannes Fortescue ad domum dicti nuper Cancellarii veniens ac in diversorum generosorum mortem dicti nobilis viri plagentium presencia,” &c. It then goes on to narrate how the Great Seal in its leather and velvet bags under three private seals was found locked up in a chest, was delivered to Fortescue, the Queen's messenger, by Henry Bromley, the eldest son of the Chancellor, and how Fortescue arriving with it at the Court at Greenwich, waited with it in the Queen's outer chamber, where he remained for a little time, till her Majesty coming from her inner chamber where she had slept, received it from his hands, and retained it in her own custody. “Idem Iohannes Fortescue exeriorem privatam cameram dicte Dne Regime cum predicto sigillo Solus intravit ac ibidem paulisper moram faciens dicta sacra Majestas Regina ab interiore privata camera ubi requiescebat veniens,” &c.—Rot. Cl. 29 Eliz.

« AnteriorContinuar »