BHO

Venice: May 1568

Pages 413-416

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 7, 1558-1580. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1890.

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Citation:

May 1568

May 14. Original Despatch, Venetian Archives. 424. Giovanni Correr, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
The French Ambassador in England [Mons. de la Forest] sends news, that on the 4th instant the Queen of Scotland had escaped from prison with the assistance of one Lord de Herries (Heris), her confidant, a very good Catholic, who had brought upon carts some boats with which he carried off the Queen, who was imprisoned in a place surrounded by a lake; and then he took her to Dumbarton, an impregnable fortress, which alone of all other fortresses was devoted to her. Thus all the Kingdom is now in arms, and very great convulsions are expected.
Paris, 14th May 1568.
[Italian.]
May 26. Original Letter Book, Venetian Archives. 425. Giovanni Correr, Venetian Ambassador in France, to the Signory.
A gentleman came from Scotland with confirmation of the Queen's flight, which took place thus.
The Queen of Scotland was advised by Lord Seton (Sciatun), her most confidential Catholic friend, and a very brave gentleman, by means of a lad of the house who never returned, that he on an appointed day would be with about fifty horsemen at the lake of Lochleven, where the Queen was held a prisoner. Seton remained with forty horsemen in the mountains at a short distance, so as not to be discovered by the occupants of the castle in the lake, and the other ten, approaching nearer, entered a village, pretending to be travellers; and one of these men went to the edge of the lake itself, and prostrating himself on the ground, so as not to be seen, waited, according to the order given, until the Queen should come forth, as arranged.
Guard was continually kept at the castle gate day and night, except during supper, at which time the gate was locked with a key, every one going to supper, and the key was always placed on the table where the Governor took his meals, and before him. The Governor is the uterine brother of the Earl of Murray, Regent of Scotland, the Queen's illegitimate brother and her mortal enemy. The Queen, having attempted to descend from a window unsuccessfully, contrived that a page of the Governor's, whom she had persuaded to this effect, when carrying a dish, in the evening of the 2nd of May, to the table of his master with a napkin before him, should place the napkin on the key, and in removing the napkin take up the key with it, and carry it away unperceived by anyone. Having done so, the page then went directly to the Queen, and told her all was ready; and she, having in the meanwhile been attired by the elder of the two maids who waited upon her, took with her by the hand the younger maid, a girl ten years old, and with the page went quietly to the door, and he having opened it, the Queen went out with him and the younger girl (et con la putta), and locked the gate outside with the same key, without which it could not be opened from within. They then got into a little boat which was kept for the service of the castle, and displaying a white veil of the Queen's with a red tassel, she made the concerted signal to those who awaited her, that she was approaching. On seeing this, the person stretched on the ground on the bank of the lake arose, and by another signal summoned the horsemen from the village, amongst whom a principal person was he [John Beaton] who is now come to give account of these facts to these Majesties, and who is the brother of the Scottish Ambassador here [James Beaton, Bishop of Glasgow]. The horsemen from the mountains being also informed came immediately to the lake, and received the Queen with infinite joy, and having placed her on horseback with the page and the girl, they conveyed her to the sea coast, at a distance of five miles from thence, because to proceed by land to the place which had been designated appeared manifestly too dangerous. All having embarked, the Queen was conducted to Niddry (Nidre), a place belonging to Lord Seton, and from thence to Hamilton, a castle of the Duke of Chàtellerault, where his brother, the Archbishop of St. Andrew's, with other principal personages of those parts, acknowledged her as Queen.
Hamilton is a favourable basis for military operations, and four leagues distant from Dumbarton, which is a seaport and a very strong fortress, but the Queen will not proceed thither because she feels quite safe in Hamilton, for the Archbishop of St. Andrew's has command over all the adjacent country, and she can thus more easily receive at Hamilton the friends who may come to her assistance than in the fortress of Dumbarton, whither, however, she might proceed at any time in case of necessity.
All Scotland is in motion, some declaring for the Queen, and some against her and for the Earl of Murray.
She sends this gentleman to ask the King of France, for her present need, for a thousand harquebusiers, but should she wish to recover Edinburgh and other fortresses occupied by the rebels, she would require to be assisted by a greater number. She has also written a letter to the Cardinal of Lorraine which should move every hard heart to have compassion upon her; the first lines express that she begs pardon of God, and of the world, for the past errors of her youth, which she promises to amend for the future; then she acknowledges her release solely from His Divine Majesty, and returns Him most humble thanks for having given her so much strength in these her afflictions; and she declares that she has never swerved in the least from her firm purpose to live and die a Catholic, as she now intends to do more than ever.
With regard to her flight it is judged here, by those who know the site, and how strictly she was guarded, that her escape was most miraculous, most especially having been contrived by two lads, under ten years of age, who could not be presupposed to have the requisite judgment and secrecy.
To the greater satisfaction with the result may be added, that the inmates of Lochleven castle perceived the flight; but being shut up within it, and thus made prisoners, they had to take patience, and to witness the Queen's escape, while they remained at the windows of the castle.
But now, if the current report be true, the Queen of Scotland, following the course of her fickle fortune, gives news of her troops having been routed near Glasgow; all her chief adherents being killed, or made prisoners, and the Captain (sic) of Domberdran (Dumilrenan) having fled to England by sea. We are now awaiting information, as the Scotch here support themselves with the hope that all may not be true, assigning reasons for their doubts.
The English Ambassador [Sir Henry Norris], before he knew this last fact, went to his most Christian Majesty, and told him he had heard that there was a project to succour the Queen of Scotland, which in his opinion would be superfluous, because his Queen would not fail to favour and assist her with what was needed. These words were instantly repeated to the Queen [of France], who told the Ambassador that this was precisely the time to have compassion on the Queen of Scotland and to favour her, after having taken refuge in England.
The Ambassador seemed not to know the last news, but affirmed that his Queen would certainly do as anticipated.
Her Majesty [of France] has despatched a gentlemen to know in what condition the Queen of Scotland is, and whether she is in Scotland or in England.
Paris, 26th May 1568.
[Italian.]