Front Page Titles (by Subject) 81.: Mary Stuart - Judgments on History and Historians
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81.: Mary Stuart - Jacob Burckhardt, Judgments on History and Historians 
Judgments on History and Historians, ed. Alberto R. Coll (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999).
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(I) Mary Stuart is the child of a dynasty which in a poor country fought with a fearsome nobility that in the form of clan chieftains was able to sway the people.
The first four Jameses all died violent deaths, and Mary’s father James V at least died of grief in 1542 when the nobility left him at the moment when he was supposed to fight the English. At that time the child was a few days old. James’s widow and Mary’s mother was Marie de Guise. In 1538 the Guises had succeeded in getting one of themselves onto a throne.
From the outset, all sorts of plans were connected with the child Mary. On his mission to Scotland in 1547, Edward Seymour did not succeed in effecting an engagement with Edward VI, who was her senior by only five years, because the Scots, although at a disadvantage, did not let him extort their princess from them. And now the Guises decided to make this niece, who was already Queen of Scots, the Queen of France. Thus Mary was brought up at the French court and married to the dauphin Francis during the last part of the war of St. Quentin.
Did the adoption of the title and coats of arms of England take place at that time or a little later, only through the will of the Guises or of Henry II? It was this deal which Paul IV wanted to decide.
This drove Elizabeth toward Protestantism. Scotland itself, however, was the most unsteady ground for ambitious dynastic plans.
Protestantism penetrated there, and against it the crown and the clergy certainly stuck together. But while the desire for robbing churches might already have been stirring in the Scottish nobility, it had to happen that Scotland produced one of the most ruthless Calvinists who must have made an extremely great personal impression: John Knox. Under the regent, since 1554 Marie de Guise, he had fled, returning in 1559. At the end of May of the same year, the convents were stormed. The loot from this was distributed among the congregation of the nobility, which made any Catholic royalty almost impossible. The regent, however, offered open resistance with French aid.
And now Knox had to do what no Scottish “people’s” party had ever done: apply to England for aid. After some scruples, Elizabeth sent ships and Knox’s faction was able to maintain itself. Elizabeth made a treaty with the Scottish lords in order to drive the French from Scotland. Shortly before this the regent had died (June, 1560).
(II) A queen in the most insecure position has been on trial to this day.
To some she is the idolatrous Jezebel who conspired with Spain and the pope to make Scotland Catholic again by trickery and force. To others she is the object of infinite sympathy and, especially later, of boundless compassion, and this is where poetry has entered.
In any case, the extent of Mary Stuart’s actual participation in events must be greatly limited. The really powerful elements were the Scottish chieftains with their clans, and even Knox had no power over them once they had safeguarded their church spoils. Why and according to what inner impulses these people act in each case is as uncertain as it is with savages.
A part of this clique, in association with the expelled Murray, Mary’s illegitimate half-brother, murdered Rizzio at the royal table on March 9, 1566. Now there really is proof that Rizzio was the mediator for papal and Spanish contacts with Mary Stuart. But it is madness to speak of the possibility of a Catholic restoration in Scotland in 1566, at a time when the second religious war was approaching in France, and in the Netherlands the great Gueux uprising. The only certain things are that for some reason the clique wanted to frighten and humiliate the queen very deeply, and that Rizzio was in its way.
The motive given for the participation of Darnley is that Rizzio withheld the matrimonial crown from him. That he had knowledge of the plot is almost a matter of indifference, considering his slight personality. The plot against Darnley himself, as it was carried out on February 10, 1567, was, according to more recent students, the doing of the same clique. The queen saw something coming, remained passive, and had to let things happen. It is quite erroneous to believe that she promoted or instigated the death of her spouse because a divorce would not have been feasible on account of the young prince. At any rate, Darnley was not killed merely for his own sake, but because he was in the way of the clique materially.
There followed Bothwell’s divorce and marriage to Mary Stuart.