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greater mishap could have befallen a beautiful and innocent child, than to be taken from a mother's care to be reared in the bosom of the Court of France, under the eye and immediate superintendence of her uncle the Cardinal of Lorraine, the most infamous member of the house of Guise, and under the maternal care and example of her mother-in-law, Catharine of Medici, that type and byword of falsehood and cruel treachery? Of this court M. Mignet gives us the following picture:
* This court was then the most magnificent, the most elegant, the most joyous, and, we must add, the most lax in Europe. Still retaining certain military customs of the middle ages, and at the same time conforming to the intellectual usages of the time of the renaissance, it was half-chivalric and half-literary, mingling tournaments with studies, hunting with erudition, mental achievements with bodily exercises, the ancient and rough games of skill and strength with the novel and delicate pleasures of the arts. Nothing could equal the splendour and vivacity which Francis I. had introduced into his court, by attracting thither all the principal nobility of France, by educating as pages therein young gentlemen of all the provinces, by adorning it with nearly two hundred ladies belonging to the greatest families in the kingdom, and by establishing it sometimes in the splendid palaces of Fontainebleau and S. Germain, which he had either built or beautified on the banks of the Seine, and sometimes in the spacious castles of Blois and Amboise, which his predecessors had inhabited on the banks of the Loire. A careful imitator of his father's example, Henry II. kept up the same magnificence at his court, which was presided over with as much grace as activity by the subtle Italian, Catherine de Medici, whose character had been formed by Francis I., who had admitted her into the petite bande de ses dames favorites with whom he used to hunt the stag, and frequently sport with alone in his pleasure-houses! The men were constantly in the company of the women; the queen and her ladies were present at all the games and amusements of Henri II. and his gentlemen, and accompanied them in the chase. The king, on his part, together with the noblemen of his retinue, used to pass several hours every morning and evening in the apartments of Catherine de Medici. “There,” says Brantôme, “there was a host of human goddesses, some more beautiful than the others ; every lord and gentleman conversed with her whom he loved best; whilst the king talked to the queen, his sister, the Dauphiness, (Mary Stuart,) and the princesses together with those lords and princes who were seated nearest him.” As the kings themselves had avowed mistresses, they were desirous that their subjects should follow their example, "and if they did not do so,” says Brantôme," they considered them coxcombs and fools.” -Mignet, vol. i. p. 37.
It is of this court, and its influence upon the susceptible mind of childhood, that M. Mignet ventures to say, that Mary
during this period only gained benefit from it,' (p. 40,) as if, because she was not old enough to take an active share in its immoralities, that therefore her moral sense was not infected by the atmosphere in which she lived. Whereas it was this union of elegance and polish with deep depravity which constituted its chief danger. She might under another aspect have learnt to view sin with horror and disgust; but in this gay domestic social scene
of wickedness, in which even religion was by no means shut out, and was universally acknowledged and respected, such a foundation of laxity and tolerance of evil was laid, as offers the readiest solution for all the subsequent errors of her life. Mary bad infinite charms and graces, but there is hardly any indication of her possessing a conscience; as far as in them lay, those polished princes and cardinals strangled it in the cradle, to make her more like themselves, more the creature of their designs. Nothing is more fearful amongst these masters of dissimulation and profligacy, of which that bad court furnished so many examples, than the absence of remorse after their ill deeds are done. Less sinners show us a mind in torment, full of anguish, if not repentance, when the tempter abandons them to their fate; but these gigantic criminals, these wholesale plotters, and poisoners, and assassins, who filled the earth with their deeds of violence, seem to have been able to sustain their courage and their audacity to the end. No lifted veil reveals what should have been the terrors of Charles IX.'s last hours: he died calmly, his hand clasped in that of his mother Catharine. We might call it an exemplary end, but that there is no sign, no confession, not one symptom of repentance for one of the blackest crimes that disgrace our nature.
And the reason for this must be that with them the very salt had lost its savour; their religion was corrupt, as being disconnected with purity of life. Party spirit, no less than self-indulgence, led to this fatal result. With many a grievous failing in Christian love and charity, the Reformers did yet preach morality; and because they did so, and had used the universal decay of it as a powerful weapon against the religion in power, therefore those in spiritual high places did too often only the more defy and disregard the moral precepts of the Gospel, only the more held monstrous transgressions of purity and truth as venial, because that opposite party sternly upheld them. And when Mary early learnt to abhor John Knox, and to reverence and to yield herself to the guidance of her profligate uncle, she learnt, alas! at the same time, to hate along with him the stern moral law which he preached. She learnt to form a wholly different standard of what constituted a faithful child of the Church; and in spite of the sins of her life, it does not seem that according to her own judgment she ever fell short of it.
The difficulties which exist against forming a correct and unanimous judgment on the character of this queen cannot certainly be attributed to a want of materials. No period of history was ever laid more bare, more completely exposed for subsequent investigation; and this constantly in the very handwriting of the parties most concerned. What was scarcely
whispered three hundred years ago, is now proclaimed on the house-tops—plots and dark designs, which it would have been rack, and torture, and death to reveal then, all the world may now peruse in all the comfort of fair type and drawing-room security. The schemes against this nation in particular, what Mary wrote to Philip, and Philip wrote to the Pope, and all that the Pope replied, and all that Alva advised and projected, which would once have made the faint-hearted give up their country for lost, are now food for easy triumph or amused speculation. In addition to the innumerable histories and narratives contemporary, or composed at intervals for different ends down to the present current year, we are informed by Prince Labanoff that in our State-paper Office alone the letters and papers relating to Mary Queen of Scots, collected and classed with the greatest care in chronological order, amount to sixty-nine bound folio volumes. The archives of France and Spain also contribute their share of curious confirmation. Mary's own letters which have escaped to this time amount to 736, and in the midst of documents of little interest, formal anpouncements, demands for safe-conduct, and professions of friendship, which flowed so readily from Mary's pen, and meant so little, are some which reveal her
very letters written in the heat of passion, and with a startling force of expression which brings her whole soul before us--and many equally remarkable for dignity of remonstrance, for a clear terse statement of facts, and for readiness in turning those facts to her own advantage. At a time when most ladies could not write a letter at all ; when they could neither spell the words, nor compose a sentence, nor knew how to use these accomplishments for the purpose of expressing their thoughts, had they possessed them, Mary was an accomplished letter-writer; the pen was her weapon,-her letters, as compositions, may stand à comparison with those of the wisest and greatest men of her time. She began to write early, and the melancholy circumstances of her life, and her own indomitable spirit and restless temper, kept her in continual practice. Writing was the occupation of her life.
We need not remind our readers that Mary, a . beautiful infant' in her sixth year, accompanied by her four Maries,' the daughters of noble Scotch houses, of the same age and name as herself, after being affianced to the Dauphin, was committed by her inother, Mary of Lorraine and Queen Dowager of Scotland, to the care of her relations and the French king, to be educated in her adopted country till she was of age to complete the marriage contract:-a measure deemed necessary from the disturbed state of Scotland, and the constant attempts of each party to obtain possession of the person of the young queen.
In France she received an education fitted to develop every gift of nature.
•She early displayed the varied gifts of her rich and charming nature. At ten years of age she astonished all who knew her by her maturity, and wrote to the Queen Dowager with delicate and precocious good sense. When thirteen years old she recited a Latin speech of her own composition in presence of the King, the Queen, and the whole Court, in the hall of the Louvre.'-Ibid. p. 41.
And again :
* Her mental and personal attractions were early developed. She was tall and beautiful; her eyes beamed with intelligence and sparkled with animation. She had the most elegantly shaped hands in the world. Her voice was sweet, her appearance noble and graceful, and her conversation brilliant. She early displayed those charms which were destined to make her an object of universal admiration, and which rendered even her infancy seductive. She had been brought up with the daughters of Catherine de Medici, and under the superintendence of the learned Margaret of France, the sister of Henry II.'- Ibid. p. 36.
She was educated with great care. She understood and spoke Latin with facility-she had considerable knowledge of history, knew several living languages, and we learn from Brantôme that she had a fine poetical taste.
'She loved poetry and poets; but, above all, M. de Ronsard, M. du Bellay, and M. de Maisonfleur, who have written beautiful verses and elegies on her. She herself composed and wrote verses, of which I have seen some beautiful and well written. She sang very well, accompanying herself on the lute, which she touched very prettily with that beautiful white hand of hers, and those fair well-shaped fingers.'-Ibid. p. 43.
Her uncle, the Cardinal, thus writes of her to his sister, the Queen Dowager of Scotland, when she had attained her tenth year:
• After having assured you of the prosperity and health of the said lords, I will tell you those things which are most important to yourself, and from which you will receive most pleasure and satisfaction. It is, that the said lady, your daughter, is so grown, and indeed increases every day in height, goodness, beauty, wisdom, and virtues, that she is as perfect and accomplished in all things honest and virtuous as it is possible for her to be, and there is no one like her to be found, either among noble ladies or others, of what low or mean condition they may be. And I am constrained to tell you, Madame, that the King takes such å liking to her, that he often amuses himself in chatting with her for an hour at a time, and she knows as well how to entertain him with good and wise conversation as any woman of five-and-twenty would.'-—Labanoff, vol. i. p. 9. And going on to make arrangements with his sister for forming a separate establishment for her, suited to her rank, not being satisfied with the existing state of things :
"I advise that there should be nothing superfluous in the order of it, nor yet mean or sordid, which is what she hates more than anything in the world. And believe me, Madame, she has already so high and noble a
courage, that she makes great demonstrations of being vexed, seeing herself in this inferior position, and for this reason desires to see herself removed from the present guardianship, and to live in authority.' And at the end of the same letter :
• As for me, Madame, all my happiness will lie in serving the mother and the daughter, and I will always attend to what it will please you to command me, and I hope so to manage that you shall be content. I only beg you, Madame, to believe me satisfied that never was a daughter calculated to give greater contentment, or better brought up; and I must pot conceal from you that Madame de Parroys (her governess) does the best that it is possible to do, and be sure that God is well served, and after the old fashion. The bearer of this will tell you of the harangue which the queen, your daughter, made to the king.'-- Ibid. p. 14.
Elsewhere he says:
• I can assure you, Madame, that there is no one more beautiful and more virtuous than the Queen, your daughter; she governs both the King and the Queen.'-Ibid. vol. i. p. 36.
It was probably unhappy for Mary's moral training that she was so charming and so teachable. Besides the importance for their own ends, which was the primary motive with her guardians, there was a positive pleasure in witnessing her aptitude for the part they designed her to play, and her quickness and docility in receiving their lessons: the earliest lesson of this school—the great weapon of their policy—the art to be initiated into with the first dawn of reason and pursued and perfected through life, being duplicity and dissimulation. This poor child at ten showed herself no mean proficient-she showed herself at least thoroughly alive to its importance, and jealous of her own credit in this particular. There is something at once pretty and melancholy in the following letter to her mother, written at ten years old, which is justly quoted as an evidence of her precocious talent, and with less reason, for the promise which these early years held out. Children dearly love a secret, it is quite congenial to their nature to have mysteries, and with requisite training they may become early adepts at concealment. It was Mary's misfortune, rather than her fault, that this natural propensity should have been cultivated and developed, and set off to her own mind with a great show of duty towards her mother:
. 1552. “Madame,- I have received the letters which you have been pleased to write to me by Aztus Asquin, by which I have learnt the pleasure you have felt that I have kept secret the things which it pleased you to send me. I can assure you, Madame, that nothing that comes from you shall be known by me (ne sera sceu par moy). .... I humbly beg you to believe that I shall not fail to obey you in everything in which you are pleased to command me, and to think that the chief wish I have in the world is to be obedient and agreeable to you, doing you every possible service as I am bound. I have seen, by your letters, that you beg me to approve the marriage-gift of the late M. Asquin to his son, who is here. "I humbly