JAMES VI.— ABOUT THE DEATH OF TWO QUEENS AND
THE JOINING OF TWO CROWNS
All these years, while the King had been growing up,
Queen Mary, his mother, had been kept in England, a
From castle to castle she had been moved. As the
years went on, she was treated more and more hardly,
kept more and more closely a prisoner. For, although
her own son had been taught to look upon her as an
enemy, Mary had still many friends, and plot after plot
was formed to free her, and to place her upon the throne
of England. But sooner or later, every plot was found
The last and greatest of these plots was called the
Babington Conspiracy. It was so called from the name
of a gentleman called Babington, who was at the head of
it. The plot was discovered, and Babington and all his
friends were put to death in cruel fashion.
It was then decided that Mary too should be tried for
her share in the plot.
She was at this time imprisoned in the castle of
Fotheringay, in Northamptonshire. There, forty of the
greatest lords and gentlemen of England came for the
In the great banqueting hall of the castle they
gathered, and with grave, stern faces, sat awaiting the
ABOUT THE DEATH OF TWO QUEENS 329
coming of their prisoner. At one end of the hall there
was an empty throne, with a canopy over it. This was
not meant for Queen Mary, but only to show where
Queen Elizabeth would have sat, had she been there. At
the side was placed a chair for Mary.
As Queen Mary entered the hall, it was seen that she
walked with difficulty, for the long years in damp prisons
had made her lame. When she saw that she was not to
be allowed to sit upon the throne, but only on a common
chair, she looked proudly and sadly at the lords. ‘ I am a
Queen,’ she said, pointing to the throne ; ‘ my seat ought
to be there.’
But there was no pity nor kindliness in all the stern
faces as she looked round upon them. ‘ Alas,’ she said,
after a moment‘s silence, ‘ here are many counsellors, yet
there is not one for me.’ Then she quietly took her seat.
The trial began, if trial it could be called, for Mary
was not allowed to have any one to help her, or to plead
for her. She did not even know of what she was accused.
It was one poor woman against forty stern men.
All that was said or done mattered little, for it was
meant that Mary should die. So her forty stern judges
condemned her to death. But Elizabeth, although she
hated and feared Mary, although she would have been
glad to hear that she was dead, did not want to bear the
reproach of having put her to death. So she would not,
at first, sign the death warrant, as the paper commanding
a person to be put to death is called. Elizabeth gave her
wise men and counsellors many hints as to what she
would like them to do. She even tried to make Mary’s
jailer murder her. But although he was a stern, rough
man, he would not do so wicked a deed.
At last, seeing nothing else for it, Elizabeth signed
330 SCOTLAND’S STORY
Very quietly Mary received the news that she was to
die. ‘ When is it to be ? ’ she asked.
‘ Tomorrow, at eight in the morning,’ was the reply.
She had only a few more hours to live. Her maids
gathered round her, weeping bitterly. ‘ Come, come,’ she
said, ‘ cease weeping and be busy. Did I not warn
you, my children, that it would come to this ? Now
blessed be God it has come, and fear and sorrow are at
She divided her money among her servants, putting
each sum into a little purse, and writing the name of the
person for whom it was intended on a piece of paper.
She wrote letters, and made her will, and at last lay down
Early next morning she was awake and dressed her
self with great care. She wore a black satin dress, and a
long white veil, and round her neck hung a golden crucifix.
So, leaning upon the arm of one of the officers of the
guard, she entered the great hall of the castle. It was
crowded with people and bright with firelight. Upon a
low platform, covered with black, stood a block. The last
sad hour of all her troubled life had come, and soon Mary,
who was perhaps the most unfortunate queen who ever
set foot upon a throne, lay dead. ‘ So perish all the
enemies of the Queen,’ cried the Dean of Peterborough,
as the executioner held up the head. He was answered
by the sound of tears. Mary was only forty-five, yet her
hair was white, and her face was the face of an old woman.
When all was over, dreary silence settled down on
Fotheringay. For a moment there was stir and clatter
in the courtyard as a horseman rode out of the gates, and
turning his horse southward, galloped wildly. It was a
messenger to tell Elizabeth that her great rival was
ABOUT THE DEATH OF TWO QUEENS 331
But no welcome messenger was he. When the Queen
heard the news she was very angry, or at least pretended
to be angry. She put one of her advisers in prison, and
sent others away in disgrace. But she could not remove
from herself the blame, for she had signed the warrant.
Mary had not many friends left in Scotland. But
Elizabeth by putting her to death, made many into friends
who had before been enemies. James had never seen his
mother. He had been taught not to love her, but rather to
think of her as an enemy. But now he was angry. He
would not receive Elizabeth’s messenger, and it seemed
as if there might be war. There was none, however.
James knew that if he went to war with England, many
of his nobles would not follow him, and that he had
neither men enough, nor money enough, with which to
conquer England. He knew, too, that when Elizabeth
died, he was the next heir to the English throne. So in
a little time he let his anger die away, and became friends
again with the English Queen.
Sixteen years later that English Queen lay dying.
‘ Will you have your cousin of Scotland to reign after
you ? ‘ asked her wise men. She did not speak, but made
a sign which seemed to mean ‘ yes.’
But whether the great despotic Queen would or would
not, the King of Scots was the rightful heir. He was the
great-grandson of Henry VII., and there was neither man
nor woman in all England who had so good a right to
As soon as Queen Elizabeth was dead, a lady who sat
beside her drew a ring from her finger. Going to the
window she opened it. Below sat a horseman, booted
and spurred. The lady threw the ring down to him, and
the horseman, knowing what it meant, turned his horse’s
head northward and galloped off to Scotland. Hardly
332 SCOTLAND’S STORY
pausing for rest, he rode day and night, until he reached
The King had gone to bed, but hearing that a
messenger had arrived post haste from England, he rose
again. So, dusty, travel-stained, and weary, the messenger
knelt to kiss the hand of his new King—the King of
England, Scotland, and Ireland.
A few days later, King James said good-bye to Scot
land, and set out for his new kingdom. It had taken the
messenger who came to tell him that he was King, just
three days to ride through all the kingdom. James spent a
month on the way. He crossed the border at Berwick, the
town over which, perhaps, more than over any other, the
Scots and English had fought and quarrelled, and which
they had torn from each other again and again. Now the
King was received with great rejoicings. Everywhere as
he passed, balls, plays, hunting parties, and all kinds of
entertainments were got up for his amusement, and when
he at length entered London, cannon boomed, and bells
rang, and the people cheered until they were hoarse.
So at last, after hundreds of years of war and blood
shed, England and Scotland were joined. What almost
every King of England, since the days of Edward the Con
fessor had longed for, had come to pass. But not in the
way they thought. Scotland was still unconquered. She
had given England a King.
This union of the crowns, as it was called, happened
in 1608 A.D.
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