|Mary Queen of Scots
Holyrood Castle, Edinburgh February 1539
Seven O'clock in the morning, Sir Ralph Sadler, principal
secretary to King Henry VIII, and ambassador to the Scottish Court
has been waiting in his appointed seat in the Royal Chapel to catch
a glimpse of Mary of Guise, Queen consort of James V of Scotland.
Now she is there kneeling in front of him and to the side, in her
pew. He can see her lips moving to the Latin mass, he can see her
eyes flickering as she stares at the priest who preaches his sermon
to her in French. He can see her top lip protruding slightly.
- Henry has good reason to be jealous. To lay on top of this
instead of.. Beautiful and fruitful, this French one– and he cast
aside the Spanish. Now she's here buried away in Scotland. Beaten
to the chase by his nephew by God! At any rate I cant stay here
much longer in this half light I shall fall back to sleep. Will this priest
never wind up? She's too beautiful to spend all day here. A fruitful
lip, her belly proves the adage, sex in those protruding teeth. It stirs
princes in the loins that's certain, we can see it , it'll be born in
spring. As cold here as winter. What can a French think of that?
Future kings spring out of her ..and into her. Benedicum benedicat
per jesum – now we are ready. Get her before she sweeps away, I
can see her breath its so cold in here, I can see her breath from
inside her body, and I haven’t yet spoken to her. Stand now so she
knows I'm here. Unless she's known all along? Cutting a fine profile
for the Ambassador, leaving her tongue resting on her lower lip,
knowing I am looking.. Salvation through the mass no matter what
you do. 37 candles I counted, twice per day so 730, times 4 is 1460...
2920 times 10 is 29200 (take away three extra is 2190, how many
was the number I had>what was it, 2900, no 29200, take away 2190
that’s 27,010 candles each year for this woman to hear mass.
Unless they don’t light so much in summer perhaps, but its dark in
here anyway. Not to mention lighting fires....ah she's moving off, go
up to her now. As Sinclair said I should, a decent fellow but a fool,
friendly but..she's seen me. French or English? French.
-Your majesty, my master commends me to you
-Mister Sadler, anything I can do to to further advance the
perfect friendship that exists between my husband and his uncle -
She's smooth. Smooth as her own cheek. She misters me though
I am a knight. Loyal to her own king I can feel it. I wonder if she
knows as we do that he has two mistresses, one at the tollbooth and
the Douglas whore at Lochleven? Even tried to marry that one.
Some arse went to see the pope. She is as tough as leather boots.
Smiles only gently, wants to go. She doesn’t trust me or herself,
wants to quit. She hasn’t been coronetted yet. Born to it, but only a
Guise. Heaven help her in this dark savage place, can never go
home. Wonder if she...A true spirit, adrift in this dream we are all in
together. Apparently she has left a son at home. Nursed by some fat
titted French dame. She's floating away now with her French gaggle
of geese. What will she do all day, waiting for the next mass; she's
alone here among these crude Scottish; think only of their families.
What is she to them? What are they to her? She promises to what?
Henry would have her, but she is too subtle for him. I cant see her
paddling for him.
Oliver Sinclair, keeper of the Scottish king's purse, seeks out Sir
Ralph Sadler, finds him lingering in the Royal Chapel wondering
perhaps at a church that still has God in it, where kings and queens
go on their knees.
He seems to linger to look at the places where they have been.
-Come the King will speak with you now . You like our mass?
-Yes I like it well.
They walk across the stone courtyard dark as if it has a black
roof but it has only the white grey sky.
-You have no sun in Scotland.
Oliver looks up as if he never has before.
Sir Ralph Sadler standing next to the King himself, at a bay
window, new built for secrets and “colloques” like these. The two
men are the same; the same height, the same age, the same subtle,
delicate face with fine features, with lascivious small mouth, as
handsome as girls, both seeking and spying from behind piercing
small eyes, seeking women; one is the son of a king fallen in battle
sword in hand, dead at Flodden in the mud up to his hips, the other
the son of a minor official the proud builder and resident of the
largest house in Hackney near London, a neat brick block as good
as any home anywhere. The other, slight body too, stretches his
existence across a dozen castles, riding through the night to arrive
at dawn, shrinks his realm by soaring over it like a winged horse
under the moon, his black realm of burns; the wind howls in his ears
sometimes, his tiny frame dressed in red , always in red, and then
great furs and silks, trim hat and beard, gentle as a girl, fierce in his
will like a serpent; both men can hawk and ride exactly as well as the
other; like two young school masters they whisper while fatter lords
and cardinals look on with sideways eyes fearing the dark haired
one will work on the red haired one.
-My master, your uncle, wonders why you don’t expand your
exchequer by taking church lands and properties as he has done? It
is a good way, and just before God and before the people.
Especially perhaps, your own people.
-I have no need, for I have the agreement with the church that as
I do not seize their lands they give me 30,000 and 100,000 marks
-They bleed your people with their abuses and drain your
kingdom of its strength.
-I am like my uncle strict in my prosecution of abuses.
-The fat one over there keeps a whore and leaps out of his bed
each morning and runs to matins. Your gentlemen have told me so,
and we know him in Paris.
-It is a venal sin and common amongst great men.
-(and well he must believe it).My master asks why you keep
-Sheep? I keep no sheep, said the farmer of Ballengeich.
(At that moment 1000s of sheep were on Royal lands in Ettrick,
owned and reared by the king himself, but this king was shy about
his good husbandry, little knowing that his uncle had similarly
practical reasons for resenting his nephews interest in wool, it was in
case Scotland could provide an alternative source of the best wool
for the Flanders merchants to buy and send to Italy. )
-My master wonders if it were not more fitting for your majesty to
tax the monks and friars. Their lands stretch from Leith to the Solway
and they send the peasants' pennies to Rome to swell the bellies of
-No, I have no sheep, if there are sheep on my lands they belong
to farmers who rent my lands. I want for nothing. And besides, there
is a certain old French gentleman who will give me whatever I want
only for the asking...
-(What is he talking about, what old French gentlemen.?) Ralph
Sadler cannot help but look askance and the King sees it.
-My father in law, the king of France.
Still askance. (His wife isn't the king of France's daughter though
he has stood for her dowry, and not paid it so we hear?)
-My first wife.
(Ah! The sickly little girl who died within two weeks of coming to
this godforsaken place. Dead at 15 from the Scottish ague. Does he
really think her father was so delighted with his daughter's death that
he will lend him money? This king has the mind of an optimistic
habitual beggar!) -Yes the King of France, of course. But - (Best
leave it. The list.)
-I have an urgent message from your uncle, which touches your
majesty very near to the matter in hand.(Wont he give me more
privacy than this window?) We have certain letters and papers come
into our hands at Dover showing these priests have conspired to
defraud and to make plots against your majesty with the French.
-What papers? Have you them now?
-A letter from Cardinal David Beton, who stands over there.
-I have seen the copy of it already.
-I have the original here in my breast.
-Give it to me now, as if it is some other paper.
(The fat cardinal is staring at me as we speak, how can I?) Here
Sir Ralph takes out the paper, the king reads it smiling falsely.
-You see they fear me. I see nothing amiss here. Oliver Sinclair
will take you to your lodgings. We will talk again tomorrow or some
But at dawn the next day the King had left already to go hawking,
thinking and fearing nothing the affront this made to his uncle and
his spies and their intercepted papers.
Long tall Oliver Sinclair keeper of the King;s Purse, and Patrick
Lindsay, escorted Sir Ralph back to his lodgings along the ringing
streets of Edinburgh
-Whose house is this?
-It is a fine house, the old Provost's lodging in Kirk O' Field.
There they drank French wines in an array of cups that filled the
table with no food but bread.
-This is like Ivan of Russia's board, bread and fine wines only.
-Yes we hear he blesses himself between each morsel. We aren’t
-Someone has to bless him. No-one else dares.
They laughed comfortably and drank on.
-What kind is your master? He seems like a bold fellow, said the
sly Sadler, prying.
-I would serve no other, bragged Lindsay.
-He is a man of the common people. He wanders around dressed
in broad cloth and makes up songs and sings them with bakers and
bakers daughters, waxed Sinclair lyrically.
-We say in England that Scotland is brave and true and yet
barbaric How can that be, I see nothing but French finery here.
-Ha ! Ha! Patrick Lindsay nodded knowingly with a vicious smile
Don’t you know we only lick French spittle to hamper the English. We
have to serve someone don’t we Oliver? And he sneers so long and
hard at Sinclair that Sir Ralph wonders at the mystery behind it.
-England is the old enemy, says Oliver , by way of explanation,
with an urbane smile.
-But surely, says Sir Ralph, sheltering in the conflict between
them, -Surely if that is the case, she is doomed to misery and
obscurity and anarchy?
-You would have us serve England instead?
-Serve Scotland's best interests. The two kingdoms together
might fly in the face of any in the world, including Rome and all her
-James became a better Catholic when his uncle your master
broke from Rome.
-And is that a bad thing Lindsay? Oliver says boldly staring into
the brutal face. Lindsay looks right past him, directs his reply to the
-We have a lot more to complain of in the church than England
ever had. Here babies and laymen are given benefices; here you
had better look out for the dagger under the cassock. And if you
English would leave us alone we'd throw off the yoke of these clerics
all the sooner. Tell your Henry that , and see if he believes it or
Lindsay , so obviously a man of ill-temper, couldn’t be contained
by propriety. Sadler took it as best he could. Many a fool in his cups
could be run through. This one looks like he could kill at a moments
-Well, don’t you have your parliament, don’t you have your Privy
Council? Argue it out there.
-The kings faction holds a parliament, the others keep away.
-What do you expect us to do Oliver, snarls Lindsay. Sadler
noticed for the first time how long his hair was, madly long, slate
grey though he is no more than 25. Filthy, like flat rope, it slid down
his back like 100 rats tails, fleeing from a burning ship.
Oliver though foppish seemed unafraid of the dangerous
Lindsay, as if he knew some reason why he was safe from his bite.
-The chaos and obscurity you detect Sadler, comes not from
following France. On the contrary, it comes from the fact that the
lords cannot countenance a king that is more than just one of
themselves. They are jealous. And if he follows a policy enough of
them don’t like then they will steal him away as if he is no more than
a banner they can stick in the mud inside a castle keep and call
themselves kings too, they're all kings, all of them, so there is no
taxation, no revenue , no order.
-What do you know of the state Oliver? You just buy feathers for
him, hats and livery.
-I can think.
-Then think of this; Apart from your prelates who do indeed tax
the people and send it to Rome to fund their profligacy, what other
forces stand behind the king and make him like a dwarf? The
northern lands beyond Scotland, the prehistoric savages, the red
shanks. All of them subdued and marshalled by Huntly and Argyll, in
vast unpeopled lands, except for those savages. - These are your
Romish champions, and these are the ones make a mock of your
king and his empty purse that you are the proud holder of, and his
-Did you ever see these people, Sadler? says Oliver, swerving
away from Lindsay's point to only make one of passing interest out
of it - They speak their strange tongue no-one can understand
anymore; we call them Huntly's cattle. Some say they are Irish, but
they are Scots. Some say they are all witches.
-I have never been so far up into your country.
Both Sinclair and Lindsay laughed together
-And don’t think the king's majesty will ever conduct you so far
into the land, to look at his defences nor let you into Ettrick where he
keeps his sheep.
And with that they go, as Sadler is tired, out into the street
together very likely to cut each other's throats.
Paris, the greatest city in the world, three times the size of
London, whose beauty and mystic offhand a-symmetrical grace
defies the mind to believe it is anywhere but in a book of hours, the
most graceful and fantasmagorical fact in the world, with its
characteristic stench of sewage of such foulness and age it is almost
sweet like painted Parisian roses, Paris in its alien glory, makes the
muddle of London look like grey small blocks of chaotic shabbiness,
shanties and hovels surrounded by a mass of fields and carpeted
with filth and patrolled by chickens, a backwater of the mind.
In a workshop on the banks of the Seine one of the score of
printing presses in Europe. It's blocks are pages from the Bible, in
English, the Great Bible, commissioned by Thomas Cromwell and
authorised by Henry, King of England and Head of the Church in
England. It is a mixture of the work of William Tyndale and Miles
William Tyndale, whose work makes up four fifths of this bible in
English, in exile for opposing the King's divorce, had been strangled
to death and then his body burnt at the stake, in Brussels by the
forces of the Emperor Charles V, for heresy. He was fifty years old.
His last words on this earth were “May the King of England's eyes be
Now, three years after his death that king's eyes were opened.
The rebellion in the north of England dubbed the Pilgrimage of
Grace, a protest against the closure of the monasteries and the
enclosure of arable fields for sheep, was in his mind exacerbated by
the use of false quotes from scripture, which traded on the
ignorance and superstition of the people, so that the devout and
poor of that strongly catholic part of England were used and misled
by fanatics, heretics, and criminals, of both the old and the new
learning. To remedy this, Thomas Cromwell, the king's Vicar
General, ordered that each parish make a Bible in English available
to its parishioners to read. Hitherto, and in all Roman Catholic
countries, it was illegal to read the bible.
But here in Paris, where the best printers are, the pages on the
blocks are torn out and scattered on the floor, and the blocks
themselves are dashed to pieces. The officers of the French
Inquisition, King François' men move about the room inspecting and
destroying. Outside, the printers themselves are under arrest and
stand by the wall, while soldiers chew bread and spit on the ground,
at their feet.
François, the great patron of the arts in France, in whose arms
the great Leonardo da Vinci had died, has sent his Inquisition to
destroy the English Bible, and burn the French heretics who print it.
Later he will sell the press and the surviving blocks to the English
who will transport it to England to continue its work, the Chained
Bible. They will call it the Chained Bible because it was necessary to
chain it to the table in the churches to stop it from being stolen.