Thursday, 15 August 2013

Leicester, Cecil and those pesky Scots. Part Two:

Linda Root

Leicester, Cecil and the marital intrigues of the Queen of Scots

While at times they worked together amicably to achieve a result both men considered to be in the best interests of Elizabeth and England, Leicester and Cecil were often at odds.  During the early years of Marie Stuart's personal rule after she returned to Scotland as Dowager Queen of France, Cecil brokered a plan to marry Dudley to the widowed Scottish queen, and Elizabeth endorsed the project, even suggesting that the threesome might live together for part of the year.   
Dudley, however, did not buy into the project, and neither
did the prospective bride.  The Scottish queen who had so recently been the French consort did not think that marrying her cousin Elizabeth’s suspected lover and former horse master a suitable choice.  Dudley suspected that the proposal was a plot designed by Cecil to rid the kingdom of a political rival.  It was widely believed on both sides of the Border that Cecil was willing to place Dudley in the role of Scottish consort in order to be  rid of him, and that in Cecil’s view, it was safer to see Dudley sharing the Scottish throne than the English one.    
When Marie Stuart first received the proposition from Elizabeth’s ambassador, she laughed heartily, thinking it was a joke.  When she discovered that the idea was advanced in earnest, she wrote an angry letter to Elisabeth, but finally agreed to consider it.  She was merely buying herself some time to explore the other candidates.

The first candidate on Marie Stuart’s list was Don Carlos
of Spain, son of Philip II. She had promoted the ideas while she was still in France, and did no better in her second efforts.  Don Carlos suffered bouts of madness bordering on the homicidal and his father King Philip did not wish his reputation exported.  Her second candidate was her cousin, Henri Stuart, Lord Darnley, another of Margaret Tudor’s grandchildren. While Darnley was known to be dandified and spoiled, his homicidal tendencies did not manifest themselves until later when he began to display symptoms of second stage tertiary syphilis.  He did, however, have a claim to the English throne.

Nevertheless, while the Dudley proposal was dying a lingering death, through a series of machinations not clearly understood, Elizabeth let her cousin Lady Margaret Douglas’s oldest son Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, traipse off to Scotland and into the affections of its husband-hunting queen. 

Darnley did have some attributes to commend him.  He was a
good dancer, handsome although somewhat effete, and most notably, he was taller than the nearly six foot tall Queen of Scots, who had grown tired of staring at bald pates of men a half foot shorter than she was.   In discussing him with Sir James Melville, Elizabeth referred to Henry as ‘yon lang lad.’  When he took off for Scotland at the behest of his mother who had been secretly promoting him to the Queen of Scots, Elizabeth was livid.  But was she really? 
There is still an ongoing debate as to whether the English queen was cognizant of the disaster Darnley’s arrival in Scotland might cause.  The negative side of his personality cannot have been that easily disguised, since after six months in Scotland, he was reviled by nearly everyone other than the smitten queen.  Indeed, if Elizabeth had foretold the outcome of that romance, she was as gifted as Nostradamus. Historian John Guy and others argue that it was the Darnley marriage that sent Marie Stuart on a course to ruin.  

While the queen's disastrous second marriage to Henry Stuart and her even less defensible third one to the principal suspect in his bizarre murder may have removed Marie Stuart from her throne, her serial missteps did not eliminate her as an item of contention between Dudley and Cecil. 
 Not surprisingly, William Maitland remained in the
Norfolk (US PD-art)
thick of things. Although there is some question as to exactly who hatched the plot, when Maitland of Lethington went to London while the York hearings were moved to Westminster by order of Elizabeth, he apparently met with Dudley at a private dinner party where the dinner table topic was a scheme to wed the captive Queen of Scots to England’s highest ranking peer, new widower Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk.
Maitland sought out Norfolk who was hawking on his estates on the following day.  He, too, was taking a break in the hearings, at which he was the presiding judge. Initially the duke was not particularly impressed, but he did not cry ‘Foul!’ in outrage, in spite of the fact that the proposition was against royal protocol, and presented a clear conflict of interest, considering Norfolk’s position as an officer at the tribunal.  Although he made some remark that by virtue of the evidence he considered the Scottish queen a dangerous lady, by the time the hearings adjourned in stalemate in the spring of 1569 and the Scots went home, Norfolk was seriously considering the idea.   

For a period, Maitland, the man many called Mickel Wiley for Machiavelli, had actually sold the Scottish queen’s treacherous brother Moray on the idea.  But as the group who knew about the plan expanded, whispers finally reached the English queen.  Elizabeth was not amused.  She had a long history of vigorously enforcing the protocol that subjects in line of succession to the English throne not marry without their sovereign’s permission.  She had locked up both of the Grey sisters and their suitors and had sent her cousin Lady Margaret Douglas into house arrest for promoting her son Darnley’s marriage to the Queen of Scots.  
 Just as in the Darnley matter, the present offender was not the Queen of Scots, who was not an English subject, but the ambitious Norfolk.  Queen Anne Boleyn’s mother was a Howard, and the duke and the queen were second cousins. To make matters more egregious, the Howards were suspected of Catholic leanings.  The marriage would have achieved that which Elizabeth feared most, by providing her Northern Catholics with an alternative to her own illusive dynastic scheme.  She took out her wrath on Norfolk, but after some ranting she excused the Queen of Scots. Cecil was livid. He preferred giving the Scottish queen to the lairds so they could kill her off, not marry her to a bona fide English hero with a pedigree. Moray quickly distanced himself from the proposal when Norfolk joined the parade of persons who ended up under house arrest for considering a union so patently offensive to Elizabeth.  But the matter did not end there, at least not for Norfolk.[1]

Norfolk had become mesmerized by the idea of marrying the Queen of Scots and began corresponding with Marie Stuart and members of the Marian faction, as well as with Maitland.  Dudley also remained in communication with Moray and Maitland, but cautioned his Scottish contacts to take care that communications were worded to make it appear that the idea of a Norfolk marriage had originated with the Scots.  When Elizabeth began to cool toward him and publicly took Cecil’s side in the dispute.  Dudley sulked off to one of his estates and took to his bed. When the queen came to nurse him back to health as was her habit, he confessed to everything.  It was probably fortuitous that he did so, because it limited his guilt to that of merely engaging in behind-the-scenes- brokering of an unsanctioned marriage, when unbeknownst to Dudley, the intrigues went far deeper and were patently treasonous. When the full scope of the enterprise known as the Ridolfi plot unraveled, it revealed far more perfidy than a disfavored marriage.   
It included an uprising of the Northern Catholics to be led by Norfolk and his brother-in-law Westmoreland, and the concurrent launching of an invasion from the Spanish Netherlands by the Duke of Alva.  The plot was to culminate in a regicide that would place Marie Stuart and Norfolk on the throne of a Catholic England.  Although Dudley had distanced himself sufficiently to remain relatively unscathed, Cecil was very much the man of the hour. Elizabeth made him into a baron, and thereafter he was known as Burghley to his face and by whatever name those who spoke of him behind his back thought they could get away with.

‘Go --go to yonder man in the castle whom you know I have loved so dearly …to warn him to leave that evil cause…but he shall be disgracefully dragged forth to punishment and hanged on the gallows in the face of the setting sun, unless he hastily amend his life and flee to the Mercy of God.’  ~JOHN KNOX

Across the Border, Morton tried to expose Maitland as a Marian sympathizer and arranged to have a straw man accuse him of complicity in Darnley’s murder, which Morton himself had helped orchestrate. The plan had to have involved silencing Maitland before he had a chance to speak out from the gibbet. Maitland was being held temporarily at the Provost’s House in Edinburgh, awaiting transport to a remote coastal castle controlled by one of the Red Douglases when his old friend Kirkcaldy staged a rescue using forged documents and hauled him up the hill to Edinburgh Castle. When he agreed to appear at a public trial in Edinburgh, no one was interested in giving the silver-tongued Maitland a public forum and the matter evaporated. Morton’s effort had the opposite effect from what he planned and drove Maitland openly into the ranks of the Marians. 
Soon he was entrenched at Blair-Atholl operating a school for Marians called the Schoolhouse and he was henceforth called the Schoolmaster. It was the political core of the Marian party. At this point, another principal in the story enters center stage, Maitland’s rescuer, French military hero and Scottish general Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange, one of the most controversial players in the drama of the Queen of Scots.  
Come back tomorrow for the next part of Leicester, Cecil and those pesky Scots.

About the author

Linda Root lives in Yucca Valley, California with her husband Chris and two giant Alaskan Malamutes. Root is a former prosecutor with more than 140 trials to her credit, several sufficiently newsworthy to attract the national media. Two were featured episodes of The Prosecutors and Arrest and Trial. She has taught research and writing at the law school level. Since college, Root has pursued an avocation provoked by the duality of the historical treatment of the Queen of Scots. Following an early retirement she combines her expertise as a researcher with her love of Tudor-Stuart history to a quest to rediscover the Queen of Scots. The result is a series of stand alone but related historical novels beginning with the epic The First Marie and the Queen of Scots, a tale of Marie Flemyng, one of the famous Four Maries who had served the queen since they were five years old. The second segment, The Last Knight and the Queen of Scots explores Marie Stuart through the fictional adventures of colorful and controversial William Kirkcaldy of Grange, Europe's first-ranked soldier who later became her last champion. The third book , a work soon to be released, is The Midwife's Secret:Book One The Mystery of La Belle Ecossaise, a look at the stunning aftermath of the years of Marie's personal rule, imprisonment and death as it impacted the life of a young woman of mysterious origin, hidden in France. A fourth book coming in mid to late 2013 is The Midwife's Secret, Book Two, The Other Daughter, the adventures of the illegitimate child born posthumously to the knight of Grange, and her personal quest. Book five, The Reluctant Countess, is in the early planning stages.and its tragic aftermath from the prospective of a Scottish expatriate sent to France as a secret agent of her son, James VI and I. Root is a member of the Marie Stuart Society and a regular contributor to the Marie Stuart discussion group, an in active member of the State Bar of California and numerous historical and indie writer forums. Reach her on her Facebook page or at

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