Sunday, July 25, 2010

Question from Ee - Source of Mary Queen of Scots quote

I found a quote that was listed as being from Mary Queen of Scots, "No more tears now, I will think of revenge"

I had hoped to use the quote in a short story I am writing, but when I went to verify the quote (and hopefully find when and why it was said) I was not able to find any reference to it at all.

If anyone has any info for me I'd really like to track this quote down.


Foose said...

The quote shows up in several versions in Mary Stuart biographies and accounts of Rizzio's murder ("Farewell tears," "No more weeping," etc.) but it appears to be traceable to the History of the Church of Scotland, by John Spottiswoode:

"Then the queen, wiping her eyes with a handkerchief, said: 'No more tears; I will think upon a revenge.'"

Here's what I found on Spottiswoode, from the online Columbia Encyclopedia:

"John Spottiswoode, 1565-1639, Scottish prelate and church historian. Under James and Andrew Melville he studied for the ministry but later veered from strict Presbyterianism to the royal policy of Erastianism. James I named him archbishop of Glasgow in 1603, member of the privy council of Scotland in 1605, and archbishop of St. Andrews in 1615. As moderator of the general assembly (1618) of the church at Perth, Spottiswoode obtained its sanction of the king's plans for introducing episcopacy into Scotland, as embodied in the Articles of Perth. Charles I made him (1635) chancellor of Scotland, but Spottiswoode gradually lost his favor by trying to modify the monarch's plan of imposing the Anglican liturgy on the Scottish church. In 1638 he was deprived of his office, excommunicated, and deposed by the general assembly. He died in London."

The eyewitness accounts of Rizzio's murder include the "Narrative of Morton and Ruthven," which was sent to Queen Elizabeth by the two murderers. In it, they claim that Mary had threatened revenge, but it lacks the Spottiswoode's quotable line and talks more generally:

"Then the Queen said, if she died of her child, or her Commonweal perished, she would leave the revenge thereof to her friends, to be taken of the said Lord Ruthven and his posterity ..."

Bedford and Randolph, the English envoys in Scotland, sent Elizabeth and the Council a dispatch dated March 27, 1566 (Rizzio was murdered on the 9th), that also suggests a more general revenge threat, after Rizzio was dragged out of the room:

"[Mary] made, as we hear, great intercession that David should have no harm ... The lord Ruthven said, this man was mean, base, enemy to the nobility, shame to her, and destruction to herself and the country. Well, saith she, that shall be dear blood to some of you, if his be spilt."

So Spottiswoode may have touched up the original sources to make Mary's threat more melodic, evocative and regal, something a player queen might say. Possibly Biblical or classical influences were utilized in his development of the quote. He was successful in that the quote has been picked up and repeated in most of Mary's biographies ever since.

Foose said...

In 1836, there was published a document that appeared to support the authenticity of the quote independently of Spottiswoode's History. This was the Historical Memoirs of the Reign of Mary Queen of Scots, which allegedly contains the authentic account of the fourth Lord Herries, Mary's contemporary and supporter -- but many historians, even in the 19th century, considered them dubious. They had been "recast" -- copied from an original or several original manuscripts, and possibly doctored. A.E. MacRobert partly addresses the issue:

"The Herries Memoirs were almost certainly not written by the fourth Lord Herries who accompanied Mary across the Solway in 1568, but possibly they may contain information from him or his heir. The Memoirs may not have been compiled until the mid-17th century."

The quote you refer to does appear in Herries' Memoirs:

"The original [manuscript] says, that one of her maids came running in and told that the man [Rizzio] was killed. The Queen asked her how she knew. And the maid replyed, she saw him dead! Then the Queen wypt her eyes and said "No more tears! I will now think upon revenge!"

I'm not quite sure why the Herries Memoirs are discounted today -- they seem to have been utilized extensively in the 19th century and were probably the chief vector for the dissemination of the quote. There was a widespread cult of Mary Stuart throughout the age (I think the novels of Sir Walter Scott kicked it off, and the death of the last Stuart pretender made the old dynasty safe to sentimentalize; Queen Victoria was a huge fan) so there was a lot of bogus "discoveries" of marketable relics and records along with the genuine scholarship. Modern scholars don't seem to use Herries, at least in scholarly publications.

John Guy, author of the most recent scholarly biography of Mary Stuart (Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart, also published as My Heart is My Own, says:

"There are six more or less independent accounts of the Rizzio plot and its aftermath: those by Mary, Ruthven, Randolph and Bedford, Sir James Melville, the Diurnal of Occurrents and Claude Nau ... The fullest and most valuable accounts are Ruthven's and Mary's."

The quote or something similar does not appear in Melville's memoirs (Memoirs of his Own Life, by Sir James Melville of Halhill), the Diurnal or Nau's account (published as The History of Mary Stuart, edited by the Rev. James Stevenson in the 19th century). If anything, these accounts emphasize Mary's inclination to mercy and pardon. Mary's own account, in a letter to the Archbishop of Glasgow, doesn't mention revenge or tears at all.