Historic Church DocumentsArticles and Links to Creeds and Confessions
A First Interview with Queen Mary (1561) by John Knox
Excerpted and converted from
REFORMATION OF RELIGION
WITHIN THE REALM OF SCOTLAND
EDITED FOR POPULAR USE BY
C. J. GUTHRIE, Q. C.
With Notes, Summary, Glossary, Index, and Fifty-six Illustrations
BOOK 4 1561-1564
From the return to Scotland of Mary, Queen of Scots, on 19th August 1561, to the rise of David Rizzio in 1564.
PREFACE TO BOOK 4
IN the former Books, Gentle Reader, thou mayest clearly see how potently God hath performed, in these our last and wicked days, as well as in the ages before us, the promises made to the Servants of God by the Prophet Esaias, ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall lift up the wings as the eagles: they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.'
What was our force? What was our number? What wisdom or worldly policy was in us, to have brought to a good end so great an enterprise? 4 our very enemies can bear witness. Yet in how great purity did God establish among us His True Religion, as well in doctrine as in ceremonies! As touching the doctrine taught by our Ministers, and as touching the Administration of Sacraments used in our Churches, we are bold to affirm, that there is no realm this day upon the face of the earth, that hath them in greater purity. Yea 4 we must speak the truth, whomsoever we offend 4 there is no realm that hath them in the like purity. All others 4 how sincere so ever the doctrine be that by some is taught 4 retain in their Churches, and in the Ministers thereof, some footsteps of Antichrist, and some dregs of Papistry; but we, all praise to God alone! have nothing within our Churches that ever flowed from that Man of Sin. This we acknowledge to be the strength given to us by God, because we esteemed not ourselves wise in our own eyes, but, understanding our own wisdom to be but foolishness before the Lord our God, we laid it aside, and followed only that which we found approved by Himself.
In this point could never our enemies cause us to faint, for our First Petition was, ‘That the reverend face of the Primitive and Apostolic Church should be reduced (brought back) again to the eyes and knowledge of men.' In that point, our God hath strengthened us till the work was finished, as the world may see.
FROM THE RETURN TO SCOTLAND OF MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS, ON 19TH AUGUST 1561, TO HER FIRST INTERVIEW WITH JOHN KNOX AT HOLYROOD ON 26TH AUGUST 1561.
WHENCE, alas! cometh this miserable dispersion of God’s people within this Realm, this day, Anno 1566, in May? What is the cause that now the just are compelled to keep silence, good men are banished, murderers and such as are known unworthy of the common society 4 if just laws were put in due execution 4 bear the whole regiment and swing within this realm? We answer, because suddenly the most part of us declined from the purity of God’s Word, and began to follow the world; and so again to shake hands with the devil, and with idolatry, as in this Fourth Book we will hear. The troubles of the Kirk within Scotland flowed from the Courtiers that seemed to profess the Evangel.
While Papists were so confounded, that none within the Realm dared more avow the hearing or saying of Mass, than the thieves of Liddesdale durst avow their stowth (theft) in presence of an upright judge, there were Protestants found, that ashamed not at tables and other open places to ask, ‘Why may not the Queen have her own Mass, and the form of her religion? What can that hurt us or our religion?’ And from these two 4 ‘Why’ and ‘What’ 4 at length sprang out this affirmative, ‘The Queen’s Mass and her Priests will we maintain. This hand and this rapier shall fight in their defense!’
The Truth of God was almost forgot; and from this fountain 4 to wit, that flesh and blood was, and yet, alas, is preferred to God, and to His messengers rebuking vice and vanity 4 hath all our misery proceeded. For, as before, so even yet, although the Ministers be set to beg, the Guard and the Men of war must be served! Though the blood of the Ministers be spilt, it is the Queen’s Servants that did it! Although Masses be multiplied in all quarters of the Realm, who can stop the Queen’s subjects to live in the Queen’s religion? Although innocent men be imprisoned, it is the Queen’s pleasure; she is offended at such men! Although, under pretense of justice, innocents be cruelly murdered, the Lords shall weep, but the Queen’s mind must be satisfied! Nobles of the Realm, Barons and Councilors are banished, their escheats dispolled (forfeited estates given to others), and their lives most unjustly pursued. The Queen has lost her trusty servant Davy (David Rizzio): he was dear unto her; and therefore, for her honor’s sake, she must show rigor to revenge his death!
Yet farther, albeit that some know that she has plainly purposed to wreck the Religion within this Realm; that to the Roman Antichrist she hath made her promise; and that from him she hath taken money to uphold his pomp within this Realm; yet will they let the people understand, that the Queen will establish Religion, and provide all things orderly, if she were once delivered.
If such dealings, which are common among our Protestants, be not to prefer flesh and blood to God, to His truth, to justice, to religion, and unto the liberty of this oppressed realm, let the world judge. The plagues have been, and in some part are present, that were before threatened; the rest approach. And yet, who from the heart crieth ‘I have offended; the Lord knows; in Thee only is the trust of the oppressed; for vain is the help of man?’ But now return we to our History.
The nineteenth day of August, the year of God 1561, betwixt seven and eight hours before noon, arrived at Leith Marie, Queen of Scotland, then widow, with two galleys furth of France. In her company, besides her gentlewomen, called the Maries [Mary Fleming, Mary Seton, Mary Beaton, and Mary Livingstone], were her three uncles, Claude de Lorraine, the Duke d’Aumale, Francis de Lorraine, the Grand Prior, and Rene de Lorraine, Marquis d’Elboeuf. There accompanied her also the Seigneur de Damville, son to the Constable of France, with other gentlemen of inferior condition, besides servants and officers.
The very face of heaven, the time of her arrival, did manifestly speak what comfort was brought into this country with her, to wit, pain, darkness, and all impiety. In the memory of man, that day of the year, was never seen a more dolorous face of the heaven. Besides the surfeit (immoderate) wet, and corruption of the air, the mist was so thick and so dark, that scarce might any man espy another the length of two pair of butts. The sun was not seen to shine two days before, nor two days after. That forewarning gave God unto us; but, alas, the most part were blind!
At the sound of the cannons which the galleys shot, the multitude being advertised, happy were he and she that first might have the presence of the Queen! The Protestants were not the slowest, and therein they were not to be blamed. Because the Palace of Holyroodhouse was not thoroughly put in order 4 for her coming was more sudden than many looked for 4 she remained in Leith till towards evening, and then repaired thither. In the way, betwixt Leith and the Abbey, met her the rebels of the Crafts, of whom we spoke before, to wit, those that had violated the authority of the Magistrates, and had besieged the Provost. But, because she was sufficiently instructed that all they did was done in despite of the Religion, they were easily pardoned. Fires of joy were set forth all night, and a company of the most honest, with instruments of music, and with musicians, gave their salutations at her chamber window. The melody, as she alleged, liked her well; and she willed the same to be continued some nights after.
With great diligence the Lords repaired unto her from all quarters. And so was nothing understood but mirth and quietness till the next Sunday, which was the 24th of August. Then preparation began to be made for that idol, the Mass, to be said in the Chapel of Holyroodhouse, which pierced the hearts of all. The godly began to holden; and men began openly to speak. ‘Shall that idol be suffered again to take place within this Realm? It shall not.’ The Lord Lyndsay 4 then but Master 4 with the Gentlemen of Fife and others, plainly cried in the Close, ‘The idolater Priest shall die the death, according to God’s law.’ One that carried in the candle was evil afraid; but the Lord James Stewart, the man whom all the godly did most reverence, took upon him to keep the Chapel Door. His best excuse was, that he would stop all Scotsmen to enter in to the Mass. But it is sufficiently known that the door was kept that none should have entress to trouble the Priest, who, after the Mass, was committed to the protection of Lord John Stewart, Prior of Coldingham, and Lord Robert Stewart, Abbot of Holyroodhouse the Queen’s natural brothers], who then were both Protestants, and had communicate at the Table of the Lord. Betwixt these two was the Priest convoyed to his chamber.
The godly departed with great grief of heart, and at afternoon repaired to the Abbey in great companies, and gave plain signification that they could not abide that the land which God by His power had purged from idolatry, should in their eyes be polluted again. Which understood, there began complaint upon complaint. The old dontibours (loose characters), and others that long had served in the Court, and had no remission of sins, but by virtue of the Mass, cried, ‘They would to France without delay; they could not live without the Mass.’ The same affirmed the Queen’s uncles. And would to God that that menyie (crowd), together with the Mass, had taken good-night at this realm forever; for so had Scotland been rid of an unprofitable burden of devouring strangers, and of the malediction of God that has stricken, and yet will strike, for idolatry!
The Council assembled, disputation was had of the next remedy. Politic heads were sent unto the Gentlemen with these and the like persuasions-‘Why, alas, will ye chase our Sovereign from us? She will incontinent return to her galleys, and what then shall all Realms say of us? May we not suffer her a little while? We doubt not but she shall leave it. If we were not assured that she might be won, we should be as great enemies to her Mass as ye should be. Her uncles will depart; and then shall we rule all at our pleasure. Would not we be as sorry to hurt the Religion as any of you would be?’ With these and the like persuasions was the fervency of the Brethren quenched.
The next Sunday [31st August 1561], John Knox, inveighing against idolatry, showed what terrible plagues God had taken on realms and nations for the same, and added 4 ‘One Mass’ 4 there were no more suffered at the first 4 ‘ is more fearful to me than if ten thousand armed enemies were landed in any part of the Realm of purpose to suppress the whole Religion. In our God there is strength to resist and confound multitudes if we unfeignedly depend upon Him, whereof heretofore we have had experience. But when we join hands with idolatry, both God’s amiable presence and comfortable defense leaveth us, and what shall then become of us? Alas, I fear that experience shall teach us, to the grief of many.’
At these words the guiders of the Court mocked, and plainly spoke 4 ‘ Such fear was no point of their faith. It was beside his text, and was a very untimely admonition.’ But we heard this same John Knox, in the audience of the same men, recite the same words again in the midst of troubles. In the audience of many, he asked God’s mercy that he was not more vehement and upright in the suppressing of that idol in the beginning. ‘Albeit I spake that which offended some, which this day they see and feel to be true, yet did I not what I might have done. God had not only given me knowledge and tongue to make the impiety of that idol known, but He had given me credit with many who would have put in execution God’s judgments, if I would only have consented thereto. But so careful was I of that common tranquillity, and so loth to offend those of whom I had conceived a good opinion, that in secret conference with earnest and zealous men, I travailed rather to mitigate, yea, to slocken that fervency that God had kindled in others, than to animate or encourage them to put their hands to the Lord’s work. Wherein I unfeignedly acknowledge myself to have done most wickedly, and from the bottom of my heart ask of my God grace and pardon.’ These words did many hear John Knox speak in public place, in the month of December, the year of God 1565, when such as at the Queen’s arrival maintained [her right to have] the Mass, were exiled the realm, summoned for treason, and decreet of forfeiture intended against them.  But to return from whence we have digressed.
Whether it was by counsel of others, or of Queen Mary’s own desire, we know not, but the Queen spake with John Knox at Holyrood and had long reasoning with him, none being present except the Lord James Stewart, while two gentlewomen stood in the other end of the house.
The Queen accused John Knox that he had raised a part of her subjects against her mother and against herself; that he had written a book against her just authority, 4 she meant the treatise against the Regiment of Women 4 which she should cause the most learned in Europe to write against; that he was the cause of great sedition and great slaughter in England; and that it was said to her, that all which he did was by necromancy.
To the which the said John answered: 4 ‘Madam, may it please Your Majesty patiently to hear my simple answers? First, if to teach the Truth of God in sincerity, if to rebuke idolatry and to will a people to worship God according to His Word, be to raise subjects against their Princes, then can I not be excused; for it hath pleased God of His Mercy to make me one among many to disclose unto this Realm the vanity of the Papistical Religion, and the deceit, pride, and tyranny of that Roman Antichrist. But, Madam, if the true knowledge of God and His right worshipping be the chief causes, that must move men from their heart to obey their just Princes, as it is most certain they are, wherein can I be reprehended? I am surely persuaded that Your Grace has had, and presently has, as unfeigned obedience of such as profess Jesus Christ within this Realm, as ever your father or other progenitors had of those that were called Bishops.
‘And, touching that Book which seemeth so highly to offend Your Majesty, it is most certain that I wrote it, and I am content that all the learned of the world judge of it. I hear that an Englishma hath written against it, but I have not read him. If he hath sufficiently improved (disproved) my reasons, and established his contrary propositions with as evident testimonies as I have done mine, I shall not be obstinate, but shall confess my error and ignorance. But to this hour I have thought, and yet think, myself alone to be more able to sustain the things affirmed in my work, than any ten in Europe shall be able to confute it.’
Queen Mary . ‘Ye think then that I have no just authority?’
John Knox. ‘Please Your Majesty, learned men in all ages have had their judgments free. They have most commonly disagreed from the common judgment of the world. Such also have they published, both with pen and tongue, and yet, notwithstanding, they themselves have lived in common society with others, and have borne patiently with the errors and imperfections which they could not amend. Plato, the philosopher, wrote his book of The Commonwealth, in the which he damneth many things that then were maintained in the world, and requireth many things to be reformed. Yet, he lived under such policies as then were universally received, without further troubling of any estate. Even so, Madam, am I content to do in uprightness of heart, and with testimony of a good conscience. I have communicated my judgment to the world. If the Realm finds no inconvenience from the government of a woman, that which they approve shall I not further disallow than within my own breast, but shall be as well content to live under Your Grace as Paul was to live under Nero. My hope is, that so long as ye defile not your hands with the blood of the Saints of God, neither I nor that book shall either hurt you or your authority. In very deed, Madam, that book was written most especially against that wicked Jezebel of England’ (Queen Mary Tudor).
Queen Mary. ‘But ye speak of women in general?’
John Knox. ‘Most true, Madam. Yet it appeareth to me that wisdom should persuade Your Grace, never to raise trouble for that, which to this day hath not troubled Your Majesty, neither in person nor yet in authority. Of late years many things which before were holden stable have been called in doubt; yea, they have been plainly impugned. Yet, Madam, I am assured that neither Protestant nor Papist shall be able to prove, that any such question was at any time moved in public or in secret. Now, Madam, if I had intended to have troubled your estate, because ye are a woman, I might have chosen a time more convenient for that purpose, than I can do now, when your own presence is within the Realm.
‘But now, Madam, shortly to answer to the other two accusations. I heartily praise my God through Jesus Christ, if Satan, the enemy of mankind, and the wicked of the world, have no other crimes to lay to my charge, than such as the very world itself knoweth to be most false and vain. In England I was resident the space of five years. The places were Berwick, where I abode two years; so long in Newcastle; and a year in London. Now, Madam, if in any of these places, during the time that I was there, any man shall be able to prove that there was either battle, sedition, or mutiny, I shall confess that I myself was the malefactor and the shedder of the blood. I shame not, Madam, to affirm, that God so blessed my weak labors, that in Berwick 4 where commonly before there used to be slaughter by reason of quarrels among soldiers 4 there was as great quietness, all the time that I remained there, as there is this day in Edinburgh. And where they slander me of magic, necromancy, or of any other art forbidden of God, I have witnesses, besides my own conscience 4 all congregations that ever heard me 4 to what I spake both against such arts and against those that use such impiety.'
Queen Mary. ‘But yet ye have taught the people to receive another religion than their Princes can allow. How can that doctrine be of God, seeing that God commandeth subjects to obey their Princes?’
John Knox . ‘Madam, as right religion took neither original strength nor authority from worldly princes, but from the Eternal God alone, so are not subjects bound to frame their religion according to the appetites of their princes. Princes are oft the most ignorant of all others in God’s true religion, as we may read in the Histories, as well before the death of Christ Jesus as after. If all the seed of Abraham should have been of the religion of Pharaoh, to whom they were long subjects, I pray you, Madam, what religion should there have been in the world? Or, if all men in the days of the Apostles should have been of the religion of the Roman Emperors, what religion should there have been upon the face of the earth? Daniel and his fellows were subjects to Nebuchadnezzar and unto Darius, and yet, Madam, they would not be of their religion; for the three children said: “We make it known unto thee, O King, that we will not worship thy Gods.” Daniel did pray publicly unto his God against the expressed commandment of the King. And so, Madam, ye may perceive that subjects are not bound to the religion of their princes, although they are commanded to give them obedience.’
Queen Mary . ‘Yea, but none of these men raised the sword against their princes.’
John Knox. ‘Yet, Madam, ye can not deny that they resisted, for those who obey not the commandments that are given, in some sort resist.’
Queen Mary. ‘But yet, they resisted not by the sword?’
John Knox . ‘God, Madam, had not given them the power and the means.’
Queen Mary. ‘Think ye that subjects, having the power, may resist their princes?’
John Knox. ‘If their princes exceed their bounds, Madam, no doubt they may be resisted, even by power. For there is neither greater honor, nor greater obedience, to be given to kings or princes, than God hath commanded to be given unto father and mother. But the father may be stricken with a frenzy, in which he would slay his children. If the children arise, join themselves together, apprehend the father, take the sword from him, bind his hands, and keep him in prison till his frenzy be overpast 4 think ye, Madam, that the children do any wrong? It is even so, Madam, with princes that would murder the children of God that are subjects unto them. Their blind zeal is nothing but a very mad frenzy, and therefore, to take the sword from them, to bind their hands, and to east them into prison, till they be brought to a more sober mind, is no disobedience against princes, but just obedience, because it agreeth with the will of God.’
At these words, the Queen stood as it were amazed, more than the quarter of an hour. Her countenance altered, so that Lord James began to entreat her and to demand, ‘What hath offended you, Madam?'
At length she said to John Knox: ‘Well then, I perceive that my subjects shall obey you, and not me. They shall do what they list, and not what I command; and so must I be subject to them, and not they to me.’
John Knox . ‘God forbid that ever I take upon me to command any to obey me, or yet to set subjects at liberty to do what pleaseth them! My travail is that both princes and subjects obey God. Think not, Madam, that wrong is done you, when ye are willed to be subject to God. It is He that subjects peoples under princes, and causes obedience to be given unto them. Yea, God craves of Kings that they be foster-. fathers to His Church, and commands Queens to be nurses to His people. This subjection, Madam, unto God, and unto His troubled Church, is the greatest dignity that flesh can get upon the face of the earth; for it shall carry them to everlasting glory.’
Queen Mary . ‘Yea, but ye are not the Kirk that I will nourish. I will defend the Kirk of Rome, for it is, I think, the true Kirk of God.’
John Knox . ‘ Your will, Madam, is no reason;  neither doth your thought make that Roman harlot to be the true and immaculate spouse of Jesus Christ. Wonder not, Madam, that I call Rome an harlot; for that Church is altogether polluted with all kind of spiritual fornication, as well in doctrine as in manners. Yea, Madam, I offer myself to prove, that the Church of the Jews which crucified Christ Jesus, was not so far degenerate from the ordinances which God gave by Moses and Aaron unto His people, when they manifestly denied the Son of God, as the Church of Rome is declined, and more than five hundred years hath declined, from the purity of that religion which the Apostles taught and planted.’
Queen Mary. ‘My conscience is not so.’
John Knox . ‘Conscience, Madam, requireth knowledge; and I fear that right knowledge ye have none.’
Queen Mary. ‘But I have both heard and read.’
John Knox. ‘So, Madam, did the Jews who crucified Christ Jesus read both the Law and the Prophets, and heard the same interpreted after their manner. Have ye heard any teach, but such as the Pope and his Cardinals have allowed? Ye may be assured that such will speak nothing to offend their own estate.’
Queen Mary. ‘Ye interpret the Scriptures in one manner, and they in another. Whom shall I believe? Who shall be judge?’
John Knox. ‘Ye shall believe God, that plainly speaketh in His Word; and further than the Word teacheth you, ye shall believe neither the one nor the other. The Word of God is plain in itself. If there appear any obscurity in one place, the Holy Ghost, which is never contrarious to Himself, explaineth the same more clearly in other places; so that there can remain no doubt, but unto such as obstinately will remain ignorant.
‘Take one of the chief points, Madam, which this day is in controversy betwixt the Papists and us. The Papists have boldly affirmed that the Mass is the ordinance of God, and the institution of Jesus Christ, and a sacrifice for the sins of the quick and the dead. We deny both the one and the other. We affirm that the Mass, as it is now used, is nothing but the invention of man, and, therefore, is an abomination before God, and no sacrifice that ever God commanded. Now, Madam, who shall judge betwixt us two thus contending? It is no reason that either of the parties be further believed, than they are able to prove by insuspect witnessing. Let them prove their affirmatives by the plain words of the Book of God, and we shall give them the plea granted. What our Master Jesus Christ did, we know by His Evangelists; what the priest doeth at his Mass, the world seeth. Now, doth not the Word of God plainly assure us, that Christ Jesus neither said Mass, nor yet commanded Mass to be said, at His Last Supper, seeing that no such thing as their Mass is made mention of within the whole Scriptures?’
Queen Mary. ‘Ye are ower sair (too hard) for me, but if they were here whom I have heard, they would answer you.
John Knox. ‘Madam, would to God that the learnedest Papist in Europe, and he that ye would best believe, were present with Your Grace to sustain the argument; and that ye would patiently abide to hear the matter reasoned to the end! Then, I doubt not, Madam, but ye should hear the vanity of the Papistical Religion, and how small ground it hath within the Word of God.’
Queen Mar y. ‘Well, ye may perchance get that sooner than ye believe.’
John Knox . ‘Assuredly, if ever I get that in my life, I get it sooner than I believe. The ignorant Papists can not patiently reason, and the learned and crafty Papist will never come in your audience, Madam, to have the ground of their religion searched out. They know that they are never able to sustain an argument, except fire and sword and their own laws be judges.’
Queen Mary . ‘So say you; but I can[ not] believe that.’
John Knox. ‘It hath been so to this day. How oft have the Papists in this and other Realms been required to come to conference, and yet could it never be obtained, unless themselves were admitted for Judges. Therefore, Madam, I must say again that they dare never dispute, but when they themselves are both judge and party. Whensoever ye shall let me see the contrary, I shall grant myself to have been deceived in that point.’
With this, the Queen was called upon to dinner, for it was afternoon. At departing, John Knox said unto her: ‘I pray God, Madam, that ye may be as blessed within the Commonwealth of Scotland, if it be the pleasure of God, as ever Deborah was in the Commonwealth of Israel.’
Of this long conference, whereof we only touch a part, were diverse opinions. The Papists grudged, and feared that which they needed not. The godly, thinking at least that the Queen would have heard the preaching, rejoiced; but they were all utterly deceived, for she continued in her Massing, and despised and quietly mocked all exhortation.
John Knox, his own judgment being by some of his familiars demanded, What he thought of the Queen? ‘If there be not in her,’ said he, ‘a proud mind, a crafty wit, and an indurate heart against God and His truth, my judgment faileth me.'
Return to the Documents page at CRTA….
’I know nothing more touching in history than the way in which the Commons of Scotland took their places by the side of Knox. Broken they might have been; trampled out as the Huguenots were trampled out in France, had Mary Stuart been less than the most imprudent or the most unlucky of sovereigns. But Providence, or the folly of those with whom they had to deal, fought for them. The aristocracy of Scotland were eager to support Mary. John Knox alone, and the Commons, whom Knox had raised into a political power, remained true. Good reason has Scotland to be proud of Knox. He only in this wild crisis saved the Kirk which he had founded, and saved with it Scotch and English freedom.’ 4 J. A. FROUDE in The Influence of the Reformation on the Scottish Church, p. 21.
’Knox’s object was to free Christianity from the deformation and disguises which it had suffered in the dogmas, worship and hierarchy of the Roman Church, and to bring its genuine, original, or natural truth in faith and morals again to recognition. ‘ 4 Professor PRLEXDERER’S Gifford Lectures, vol. i. p. 4.
’This “dispersion of God’s people” refers to what occurred shortly after the murder of David Rizzio, when, besides the persons implicated in that outrage, many others, like Knox himself, who had rendered themselves obnoxious to the Queen, were obliged to fly from Edinburgh for safety. As Knox was employed at this time in compiling his History, this may serve to explain, although not to justify, the very strong language which he frequently uses in mentioning Queen Mary, and the license of the courtiers.’ 4 Dr. LAING’S Notes.
’Amongst us were such as more sought the purse than Christ’s glory.’ 4 Knox to Mrs. Anna Locke, 18th November 1559.
On the truth or falsehood of this statement, the whole question of Knox’s conduct to Mary, down to the murder of Darnley and the marriage to Bothwell, turns. If she was sincere in her professions of readiness to tolerate Protestantism, then, from our modern point of view, no language can be too strong to denounce John Knox’s treatment of the Queen. If, on the other hand, he 4 and he almost alone 4 was correct in branding these professions as deliberately false, then his acts become not only intelligible, but praiseworthy. To those who have studied Mary’s own letters, as printed in Prince Labanoff’s collection (vol. i. pp. 177, 179, 355, 369; vol. vii. 6), it may well appear difficult to understand how any unprejudiced reader can come to any other conclusion than that at which John Knox arrived at his first interview with the Queen. The original materials for deciding this question will be found impartially noted in Mr. Hay Fleming’s Mary Queen of Scots, vol. i. pp. 267-269, 376. Compare Booksby to Cecil (Hatfield, i. 339), and Forbes-Leith’s Narratives, p. 67.
’I1 nous est bien permis au xix siecle d’etre pour Marie Stuart contre Knox. Mais, au xvi sibcle, le Protestantisme fanatique servait mieux ]a cause du progres que le Catholicisme, meme relache’ 4 (‘In the nineteenth century, it is quite allowable for us to be all for Mary Stuart and against Knox. But, at the same time, in the sixteenth century, fanatical Protestantism served the cause of progress better than Catholicism, even of a liberal sort ‘). ERNEST RENAN’S Histoire du Peuple d’Israel, vol. iii. p. 155.
The memoir writer Brantome, who accompanied the Queen to Scotland, tells us that he saw nothing but grand brouillard 4 a dense fog!
Brantbme gives in his Memoirs the following account: 4 ‘Le soir ainsi qu’elle se’vouloit eoucher, vindrent sous le fenetre cinq ou six cent marduds (rascals) de la ville, lui donner aubade (serenade) de mchants violons et petits rebecs (. fiddles), dont il n’y en a faute en ce pays-la, et se mirent chanter Psaumes, tant mal chantez et si real accordez que rien plus. He! Quelle musique! Et quel repos pour sa nuit!’ So far as the psalm-singing goes, Brantome’s account is confirmed by the entry in the Town Treasurer’s accounts of 24s. ‘for a dozen of torches that yead afore (went before) the Provost, Bailies, and Town when they yead to the Abbey to sing the Psalms to the Queen’s Grace.’
This was not the church of the Abbey, the ruins of which still exist, but the Chapel Royal attached to the Palace.
’Near an hundred years after this period, when the violence of religious animosities had begun to subside, when time and the progress of learning had enlarged the views of the human mind, an English House of Commons refused to indulge the wife of their sovereign in the private use of the Mass.’ 4 Principal ROBERTSON’S History of Scotland, Book iii. p.-59.
This sentence has often been quoted as a typical instance of Knox’s fanaticism. Not so thought Mr. Froude the historian, neither a compatriot nor a co-religionist of John Knox. In a letter to Sir John Skelton, he wrote: 4 ‘Whatever was the cause, the Calvinists were the only fighting Protestants. It was they whose faith gave them courage to stand up for the Reformation. In England, Scotland, France, Holland, they, and they only, did the work, and but for them the Reformation would have been crushed. This is why I admire them, and feel there was something in their creed that made them what they were. .. I entirely agree with Knox in his horror of that one Mass. If it had not been for Calvinists, Huguenots, Puritans, and whatever you like to call them, the Pope and Philip would have won, and we should either be Papists or Socialists. ‘ 4 Sir JOHN SKELTON’S Mary Stuart, p. 192.
The situation of Mary 4 trained as a child to detest Protestantism, and as a Queen to suppress it 4 at the head of a nation in which the Reformation leaven was strongly working, was impossible. Randolph, the sagacious English Ambassador, soon saw this. With prophetic instinct he wrote to Queen Elizabeth on 26th May 1562: 4 ‘To make it more plain unto Your Majesty, as long as this Queen is in heart divided from her subjects through the diversity of religion, they neither have that quietness of mind nor peace in conscience that is most to be desired in true worship of their Sovereign, nor yet see how her state can long continue, seeing the self-same seeds remain that were the occasion of a former mischief.’ Four years later, on 27th August 1566, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Orindal) wrote to Henry Bullinger, the Swiss Reformer: 4 ‘The churches in Scotland still retain the pure confession of the Gospel; but the Queen of Scotland seems to be doing all in her power to extirpate it. She has lately given orders that six or seven Popish Masses should be celebrated daily in her Court, where all are admitted who choose to attend; whereas she was till now content with only one Mass, and that a private one, no Scotsman being allowed to be present. She has lately banished John Knox from her Royal City of Edinburgh, where he has hitherto been chief minister, nor can she be induced to allow him to return.’
It is probable that conversation was carried on at this first interview between the Queen and Knox in French, which Knox spoke fluently. This question is discussed in volume iv. of Hill Burton’s History of Scotland, p. 211. Mr. Taylor Innes (Life of Knox, in Famous Scots Series, p. 123) suggests that it may have been the Earl of Moray who proposed this first interview, which took place seven days after Mary’s arrival in Scotland from France. The Queen had probably never met a Protestant teacher before, except those whom she and her husband had seen earn a martyr’s crown in France.
John Aylmer, afterwards Bishop of London. His answer bore the title of, ‘An Harborowe for faithful and true subjects against the late blown blast concerning the Government of Women.’ He severely condemns Knox’s views, but bears testimony to Knox’s candor: 4 ‘I have that opinion of John Knox’s honesty and godliness, that he will not disdain to hear better reasons, nor be loath to be taught in anything he misseth.’ Aylmer also uses language about women, which goes farther than anything to be found in the First Blast. Without drawing breath, he pronounces ‘the worst sort’ to be ‘foolish, fiibbergibs, tattlers, triflers, wavering, witless, without counsel, feeble, careless, rash, proud, talebearers, eavesdroppers, rumor-raisers, evil-tongued, worse-minded, and in every wise doltified with the dregs of the Devil’s dunghill’! The book is not paged; but this choice parosage will bo found by the curious on the twenty-seventh leaf, counting the title-page.
In Knox the people of Berwick got the very man whose character had been drawn by John Brende, while Knox was still a galley slave. Brende, the ‘Master of the Musters,’ wrote to the Protector Somerset on 14th November 1548: 4 ‘There is better order among the Tartars than in this town of Berwick. It will require a stern disciplinarian in the pulpit, as well as a stirring preacher to work out a moral and social reform.’
When Knox was credited by his followers with prophetic gifts, he replied: ‘My assurances are not marvels of Merlin, nor yet the dark sentences of profane prophecies. But first, the plain truth of God’s Word, second, the invincible justice of the everlasting God, and third, the ordinary course of His punishments and plagues from the beginning, are my assurances and grounds.’ 4 Faithful Admonition to the Professors of God’s Truth in England.
’Knox’s conduct to Queen Mary, the harsh visits he used to make in her own palace, to reprove her there, have been much commented upon. Such cruelty, such coarseness, fills us with indignation! On reading the actual narrative of the business, what Knox said and what Knox meant, I must say, one’s tragic feeling is rather disappointed. They are not so coarse, these speeches; they seem to me about as fine as the circumstances would permit. Whoever reading these colloquies thinks they are vulgar insolences of a plebeian priest to a delicate, high lady, mistakes the purport and essence of them altogether. It was, unfortunately, not possible to be polite with the Queen of Scots, unless one proved untrue to the Nation and Cause of Scotland. A man who did not wish to see the land of his birth made a hunting-field for intriguing ambitious Guises, and the Cause of God trampled under foot of Falsehoods, Formulas and the Devil’s Cause, had no method of making himself agreeable. The hapless Queen! 4 But the still more hapless country, if she were made happy!’ 4 THOMAS CARLYLE in Heroes and Hero-Worship.
’For her own freedom of will and of way, of passion and of action, Mary cared much; for her creed she cared something; for her country she cared less than nothing. Elizabeth of England, so shamefully her inferior in personal loyalty, fidelity, and gratitude, was as clearly her superior on the all-important point of patriotism. Overmuch as she loved herself, Elizabeth did yet love England more.’ 4 A. C. SWINBURNE in ‘Mary Stuart’ (Encyclopedia Britannica).
Queen Mary was well able to hold her own in discussion. Thus Randolph wrote to Cecil from Edinburgh, on 4th September 1563: 4 ‘The first of this instant I dined with the Lord of Murray and the Laird of Lethington. I received many good words, and gave as many. We repaired after dinner all together to the Queen. At good length, I declared my Sovereign’s mind given me in my instructions, in uttering whereof, many interruptions were made by the Queen herself, and many questions demanded, so that scarce in one hour I could utter that that might have been spoken in one quarter.’
’Master Knox spoke upon Tuesday with the Queen. He knocked so hardly upon her heart that he made her to weep. Well you know, there be of that sex that will do that, as well for anger as for grief! The bruit that he hath talked with the Queen maketh the Papists doubt what will become of the world!… Where Your Honor exhorteth us to stoutness, I assure you the voice of one man [John Knox] is able in one hour to put more life in us than five hundred trumpets continually blustering in our ears.’ 4 Randolph to Cecil, 7th October 1561. ‘The Queen neither is, neither shall be, of our opinion. In very deed her whole proceedings do declare that the lessons of the Cardinal [of Lorraine] are so deeply printed in her heart, that the substance and the quality are like to perish together. I would be glad to be deceived; but I fear I shall not. In communication with her, I espied such craft as I have not found in such age. Since, hath the Court been dead to me and I to it.’ 4 Knox to Cecil, 12th October 1561. ‘Whatsoever policy is in all the chief and best practiced heads in France, whatsoever craft, falsehood or deceit there is in all the subtle brains in Scotland is either fresh in this woman’s [Mary’s] memory, or she can fett it (bring it back) with a wet finger.’ 4 Randolph to Cecil, 27th October 1561. ‘Master Knox hath written unto Your Honor his mind. I am not always of his opinion for his exact severity. Yet I find it doth most good.’ 4 Randolph to Cecil, 7th September 1561.