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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Riccio was wounded by a thrust over her shoulder


the low, narrow, and gloomy rooms of Holyrood House there is a little chamber to which the Queen retired when she would be alone: it was connected by an inner staircase with the King's lodgings. Here Mary was sitting at supper on Saturday the 9th March 1566, with her natural sister the Countess of Argyle, her natural brother the Laird of Creich, who commanded the guard at the palace, and some other members of her household, among whom was also Riccio; when the King, who had been expected somewhat earlier, appeared and seated himself familiarly by his wife. But at the same moment other unexpected guests also entered. These were Lord Ruthven, who had undertaken to execute the vengeance of King and country on Riccio, and his companions; under his fur-fringed mantle were seen weapons and armour: the Queen asked in affright what brought him there at that unwonted hour. He did not leave her long in doubt. 'I see a man here,' said Ruthven, 'who takes a place that does not become him; by a servant like this we in Scotland will not let ourselves be ruled,'[219] and so prepared to lay hands on him.

Riccio took refuge near her; the Queen declared that she would punish an attack on him as high treason, but swords were bared before her eyes, Riccio was wounded by a thrust over her shoulder, and dragged away: on the floor and on the steps he received more than fifty wounds: the King's own dagger was said to have been seen in the body of the murdered man. This

may be doubted, as his jealousy was by no means so real; yet he said soon after that he was responsible for the honour of his wife. In the turmoil he had only just stretched out his hand, to guard her person from any accident. For the nobles, who though acting with the utmost violence yet did not wish to risk their whole future, it was enough that he was there: his presence would authorise their act and give it impunity. When the murder was done Ruthven returned to the Queen and declared to her that the influence she had given Riccio had been unendurable to them, as had been also his counsels for the restoration of the old religion, his enmities against the great men of the land, his connexions with foreign princes; he announced to her plainly the return of the banished lords, with whom the others would unite in an opposite policy. For they had not merely aimed at Riccio: at the same time the Lords Morton and Lindsay, who had collected a number of trustworthy men, had advanced with them and beset the approaches to the palace-yard. Their plan was to get into their hands all their enemies who had gathered round the Queen. But while their attention was fastened on Riccio's murder, most of the threatened persons succeeded in escaping. All the rest who did not belong to the household, and were taken in the palace, were removed without distinction: the Queen was treated like a prisoner.[220] She still possessed a certain popularity, as being hereditary sovereign: a movement arose in the city in her favour, but this was counterbalanced by the antipathies of the Protestants, and a declaration of the King sufficed to still it. The next day a proclamation appeared in his name which directed the members of the Parliament, who had already arrived, to depart again.

It was at any rate secured that a restoration of Catholicism or a legal prosecution of the banished lords was not to be thought of; the original plan however was not completely carried out. As it appears, the temper of the country had not been so far prepared beforehand as to make it possible to deprive the Queen of her power. And the spirited princess did not let herself be so easily subdued. Above all she succeeded in gaining over her husband again, to whom the predominance of the lords was itself derogatory; he helped her to escape and accompanied her in her flight. When they were once safe in a strong place, her partisans gathered round her; she placed herself at the head of a force, small though it was, and occupied the capital; the chief accomplices in the attack of Holyrood, Morton and Ruthven, fled from the country. She did not however revert to her old plans: she resumed her earlier connexions instead, her half-brother Murray again obtained influence, the old members of the Privy Council stood by his side, after some time Morton was able to return. Foreigners found that Scotland was as quiet as before.

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