|James Hepburn, 4th Earl|
We have been looking at the Saga of Mary, Queen of Scots—a figure whom Catholic mythology has converted into a saintly woman and a martyr for the faith when in fact she was a woman of somewhat compromised morals and ambition for the death of the Queen of England in hopes of stealing her throne. If you check the previous two posts, you will find that Mary inherited the throne of Scotland as a six-day-old infant, but was raised in France to be Queen there. She was widowed while still in her teens and returned to Scotland where she was caught between the Protestant and Catholic parties attempting to dominate Scots politics. She was freed from the trap of a second and unhappy marriage to a rather slimy and ambitious rake by the assassination of her husband—to which she may (or may not) have been party. And now, as we pick up the story, she is about to be married a third time—to the prime suspect in her husband’s murder. But first he has to be rid of his new wife so he can abduct, rape, and marry the Queen. Yes rape. Or maybe not quite. And so back to our story.
About a year after her marriage to Bothwell, Lady Jean Godorn began divorce proceedings against him, alleging his adultery with one of her servants, a Bessie Crawford. Bothwell’s friends, not his enemies, were urging her to divorce him and providing the evidence she needed to prosecute her case. Bothwell himself wanted out of the marriage—for reasons we shall soon see—and Lady Jean seems to have been happy to be rid of him. The Protestant Court Consistory—the equivalent of a Catholic Tribunal—granted the divorce. A Catholic annulment was also obtained from Archbishop Hamilton of St. Andrews on the grounds that the proper dispensations needed because Bothwell and Lady Jean were related had not been obtained. What is strange in this decree is that Archbishop Hamilton himself had issued the dispensations before the marriage. (An annulment was necessary because at the time the marriage of a Catholic [Lady Jean in this instance] before a Protestant minister was not automatically invalid as it would be today.) What is strange about this divorce and subsequent annulment is that it all seems “arranged” in such a way as to leave Bothwell free to marry someone else. Hmm, I wonder who. Lady Jean for her part seemed content to be done with the marriage and, in fact, it was her brother George who supervised the process of freeing Bothwell from the entanglement.
Of course there was still the matter of Bothwell’s being suspect in the death of Darnley. He was brought to trial in April 1567. He made a public show of his arrival at court with an entourage of his retainers along with leading peers of the realm and after a process of only seven hours was acquitted of the murder. Several days later, an assembly of Lords Spiritual (bishops) and Lords Temporal (Peers of the Realm) presented a petition to Bothwell to hand to the Queen beseeching her to marry a Scotsman and not a foreign husband. Hmmm, I wonder whom they all had in mind?
On April 24th Bothwell, with an armed escort of 800 followers, kidnapped Mary (who seems willingly to have accompanied him) and took her to his castle at Dunbar where he raped her. (I told you this guy was slime, but before you make a judgment about him, read on.) Rape required that he marry the Queen—who many argue was a willing “victim” so as to provide reasons to justify the marriage. (Bizarre as it is to us, among the genteel classes of the time, marriage to the perpetrator was the way to restore a woman’s “honor” after rape, providing that the rapist was a “gentleman” and not a commoner. Arranged rapes were often used to require marriages that otherwise would have been difficult to justify.) Two weeks later, Mary named Bothwell Duke of Orkney and married him on May 15, 1567 in a Protestant ceremony in Holyroodhouse Palace. This marriage took place twelve days after his divorce from Lady Jean Gordon was granted—an indication that the whole affair was being orchestrated to allow for the Mary/Bothwell match. Many of the Scots who were convinced that Bothwell had been Darnley’s murderer were outraged at the Queen’s marriage to him and rose in rebellion. At Carberry Hill, Mary’s army dwindled away and Mary was arrested by the rebels; Bothwell fled. Mary was confined at Loch Leven castle where she was forced to abdicate in favor of her son James (who then became James VI of Scotland and would eventually succeed Elizabeth as James I of England). Mary’s half-brother, the Earl of Moray, was named Regent for the child-king.
Bothwell, for his part, fled to Denmark but instead of finding refuge was arrested by the Trondson family for having abandoned his wife, Anna Trondson. Remember her? He was held in captivity until he would return her dowry. His ship was confiscated in place of the debt but the King of Denmark kept him in prison to please Elizabeth of England who held him guilty for the murder of her cousin, Lord Darnley. O what tangled webs we weave. He died insane in 1578.
Mary, for her part, was able to escape her confinement at Lock Leven. She rallied an army but was defeated at Langside on Mayr 13, 1568 and fled south to England hoping—against all reason—to enlist Elizabeth’s help in regaining her throne. Once across the border she was taken into protective custody at Carlisle. And here we will break the story once more, but you can see already that Mary was no saint.