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A History of England Principally in the Seventeent

Yet she was subject to the feudal supremacy of England


Mary was writing the above-mentioned letters, she was completely taken up with the proposals made to her. She guarded herself from inserting anything that could hinder their being carried into effect: by the eventual transfer of her son's claims to the foreign King, all opposition on the part of zealous Catholics would be done away. Her hopes and wishes hurried her away with them, so that she lost sight of the danger in which she thus placed herself. And was she not a Queen, raised above the law? Who would take it on himself to attack her?

Mary Stuart was then under the charge of a strict Puritan, Sir Amyas Paulet, of whom she complained that he treated her as a criminal prisoner and not as a queen. The government now allowed a certain relaxation in the external circumstances of her custody, but not in the strictness of the superintendence. There hardly exists another instance of such a striking contrast between projects and facts. Mary composes these letters full of far-ranging and dangerous schemes in the deepest secrecy, as she thinks, and has them carefully re-written in cipher: she has no doubt that they reach her friends safely by a secret way: but arrangements are made so that every word she writes is laid before the man whose business it is to trace out conspiracies, Walsingham, the Secretary of State. He knows her ciphers, he even sees the letters that come for her before she does: while she reads them with haste and in hope of better

fortune at hand, he is only waiting for her answer to use it against her as a decisive proof of her guilt.

Walsingham now found himself in possession of all the threads of the conspiracy; as soon as that letter to Babington was in his hands, he delayed no longer to arrest the guilty persons: they confessed, were condemned and executed. By further odious means--the prisoner being removed from her apartments on some pretence and the rooms then searched--possession was obtained of other papers which witnessed against her. Then the question could be laid before the Privy Council whether she should now be brought to trial and sentenced in due form.

Who had given the English Parliament any right to make laws which should be binding on a foreign queen, and in virtue of which, if she transgressed them, she could be punished with death? In fact these doubts were raised at the time.[259] Against them it was alleged that Mary, who had been forced to abdicate by her subjects and deprived of her dignity, could not be regarded any longer as a queen: while a deposed sovereign is bound by the laws of the land in which he resides. If she was still a queen, yet she was subject to the feudal supremacy of England, and because of her claim to its crown also subject to its sovereignty--two arguments that contradict each other, one of a feudal, the other of a popular character and closely connected with the idea of popular sovereignty. Whether the one or the other convinced any person, we do not hear; it was moreover not a matter for argument any longer.

For how could anything else be expected but that the judicial proceedings prepared several years before would now be put in force? A law had been passed calculated for this case, if it should occur. The case had occurred, and was proved by legal evidence. It was necessary for the satisfaction of the country and Parliament--and Walsingham laid particular stress on this--that the matter should be examined with full publicity.

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