The Murder of the King of Scots.
The catastrophe of Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, the unfortunate husband of Mary Queen of Scots, is the subject of this ballad. It is here related in that partial imperfect manner, in which such an event would naturally strike the subjects of another kingdom; of which he was a native. Henry appears to have been a vain, capricious, worthless young man, of weak understanding and dissolute morals. But the beauty of his person, and the inexperience of his youth, would dispose mankind to treat him with an indulgence, which the cruelty of his murder would afterwards convert into the most tender pity and regret: and then imagination would not fail to adorn his memory with all those virtues he ought to have possessed. This will account for the extravagant eulogium bestowed upon him in the first stanza, &c.
Henry Lord Darnley was eldest son of the Earl of Lennox, by the Lady Margaret Douglas, niece of Henry VIII. and daughter of Margaret Queen of Scotland by the Earl of Angus, whom that Princess married after the death of James IV. Darnley, who had been born and educated in England, was but in his twenty-first year, when he was murdered, Feb. 9, 1567-8. This crime was perpetrated by the Earl of Bothwell, not out of respect to the memory of Rizzio, but in order to pave the way for his own marriage with the queen.
This ballad (printed, with a few corrections, from the Editor's folio MS.) seems to have been written soon after Mary's escape into England, in 1568, see ver. 65. It will be remembered (at ver. 5), that this princess was Queen Dowager of France, having been first married to Francis II. who died Dec. 4, 1560.
WOE worth, woe worth thee, false Scotlānde
For thou hast ever wrought by sleight;
The worthyest prince that ever was borne,
You hanged under a cloud by night.
The queene of France a letter wrote,
And sealed itt with harte and ringe;
And bade him come Scotland within,
And shee wold marry and crowne him kinge.
To be a king is a pleasant thing,
To bee a prince unto a peere:
But you have heard, and soe have I too,
A man may well buy gold too deare.
There was an Italyan in that place,
Was as well beloved as ever was hee,
Lord David was his name,
Chamberlaine to the queene was hee.
If the king had risen forth of his place,
He wold have sate him downe in the cheare,
And tho itt beseemed him not so well,
Altho the kinge had been present there.
Some lords in Scotlande waxed wroth,
And quarrelled with him for the nonce;
I shall you tell how it befell,
Twelve daggers were in him att once.
When the queene saw her chamberlaine was slaine,
For him her faire cheeks shee did weete,
And made a vowe for a yeare and a day
The king and shee wold not come in one sheete.
Then some of the lords they waxed wrothe,
And made their vow all vehementlye;
For the death of the queenes chamberlaine,
The king himselfe, how he shall dye.[ 1]
With gun-powder they strewed his roome,
And layd greene rushes in his way:
For the traitors thought that very night
This worthye king for to betray.
To bedd the king he made him bowne;
To take his rest was his desire;
He was noe sooner cast on sleepe,
But his chamber was on a blasing fire.
Up he lope, and the window brake,
And hee had thirtye foote to fall;
Lord Bodwell kept a privy watch,
Underneath his castle wall.
"Who have wee here?" Lord Bodwell sayd:
"Now answer me, that I may know."
"King Henry the Eighth my uncle was;
For his sweete sake some pitty show."
"Who have we here?" Lord Bodwell sayd,
"Now answer me when I doe speake."
"Ah, Lord Bodwell, I know thee well;
Some pitty on me I pray thee take."
"Ile pitty thee as much," he sayd,
"And as much favor show to thee,
As thou didst to the queenes chamberlains,
That day thou deemedst him to die."
Through halls and towers the king they ledd,
Through towers and castles that were nye,
Through an arbor into an orchard,
There on a peare-tree hanged him hye.
When the governor of Scotland heard
How that the worthye king was slaine;
He persued the queen so bitterlye,
That in Scotland shee dare not remaine.
But she is fledd into merry England,
And here her residence hath taine;
And through the Queene of Englands grace,
In England now shee doth remaine.
1. Pronounced after the northern manner dee.