It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen was, from her teens, a great admirer of Mary, Queen of Scots. Austen’s The History of England (1791), together with her marginalia in Vicesimus Knox’s Elegant Extracts, shows her reaction both against the prevalent view of the Scottish queen and against the two types of historical writing seen in the late-eighteenth century: one is what Catherine Morland famously calls “‘real solemn history’” (NA 109) and the other, new type of historical writing like Hume’s, Robertson’s, and Goldsmith’s. Probably because her enthusiasm for the queen is so obvious in these works, there hasn’t been much study of her interest in the queen. Critics mostly have considered it as an example of Jane Austen’s sympathy for the Stuart cause rather than an interest in Mary as an individual. For instance, Brigid Brophy points out Jane’s interest and self-identification with Mary but treats the queen as representing the tragic fate of the Stuart monarchy (27).
I will explore Jane Austen’s early writings to clarify how her interest in history from an early age had a lasting influence on her works, with particular focus on her enthusiasm for Mary, Queen of Scots. Although young Jane passionately reacted against any critical comments on the Scottish queen in the excerpt from Robertson’s popular The History of Scotland in Elegant Extracts, we can clearly see its influence on her own historical writing in The History of England. She adopts the romanticized image of Mary created by Robertson: Mary as an attractive, open-hearted, and passionate woman. Furthermore, the figure of Mary takes a new turn and is made into a fictional character, the heroine of a novel Catharine, or the Bower (1792). Examining the similarities among Robertson’s Mary, Austen’s Mary, and Catharine will help us think about why Jane Austen was so much attracted to the historical figure of Mary, Queen of Scots, and allow us to trace how Austen’s interest in historical writing develops into a new direction for her fiction.
Catherine’s and Eleanor’s views on historical writing
In Northanger Abbey, Catherine’s country-bred naïveté and inexperience are often comically dramatized. The conversation while walking round Beechen Cliff is also part of an episode that contrasts her immaturity in knowledge and reading experience with the more intellectually and mentally mature and sophisticated Tilneys. Therefore, when Catherine confesses her dislike of “‘real solemn history’” (109) and Eleanor Tilney in reply expresses her fondness for history, their contrasting views of history books should also be understood in that way.1
On the other hand, Catherine’s complaint against the history books she has read―that they are mostly about political and religious upheavals and dominated by descriptions of great men―properly grasps the characteristics of the traditional type of historical writing at the time. Mark Philips explains:
The classical tradition in historiography was founded on the assumption of the primacy of public life. Not only the literary form of historiography but its scope, value, and dignity were predicated on the view that history is a record of the public actions of public men. (319)
As scholars like Christopher Kent and Peter Knox-Shaw have surmised, Catherine’s criticism is based on her reading of “old-fashioned school history” as “‘duty’” (Kent 60; Knox-Shaw Enlightenment 116; NA 110). This view is reinforced by her remark that she has thought that historians were “‘labouring only for the torment of little boys and girls’” (110): for Catherine, reading history is associated with tedious and painful study in one’s youth.
Following the eighteenth-century expansion in readership, however, a new tendency in historical writing became increasingly popular. To attract the interest of a wider class of readers, historical writing grew closer to the novel of the period, not only in its focus on the inward feelings of the person and the personal life but also in its appeal to the reader’s emotions (Philips 327–33). Among the examples of these “sentimental effects” widespread in eighteenth-century historiography, critics have listed David Hume’s History of England (1754–1761) and William Robertson’s The History of Scotland (1759) (Philips 327–32; Knox-Shaw, Enlightenment 115–16). These are the two historians whose narratives Eleanor Tilney enjoys:
“I am fond of history—and am very well contented to take the false with the true. . . . If a speech be well drawn up, I read it with pleasure, by whomsoever it may be made—and probably with much greater, if the production of Mr. Hume or Mr. Robertson, than if the genuine words of Caractacus, Agricola, or Alfred the Great.” (NA 110)
Interestingly, Eleanor takes more pleasure in reading what Hume and Robertson created out of their imagination than the documented facts. This speech suggests that historical writing should be taken as the imaginative work of historians, premised on historical fact. Although in Northanger Abbey Hume and Robertson are given as examples of excellent historians, in her mid-teens Jane Austen wrote critical comments into the excerpts from their books in Elegant Extracts.
Mary, Queen of Scots, and Robertson’s The History of Scotland
It would make sense to think that Mary’s episode was among the sections that readers like Eleanor enjoyed. In his 1801 biography of Robertson, Dugald Stewart argues that the immediate and long-lasting success of The History of Scotland was largely owing to his romanticized representation of Mary, Queen of Scots. While praising “Dr. Robertson’s genius and taste” as a historical writer, Stewart also admits the appeal of Mary’s character: “without the aid of so interesting a character, the affairs of Scotland . . . could not have derived, even from his hand, a sufficient importance and dignity to engage the curiosity of present age” (39).
Robertson’s History in turn contributed to increase Mary’s popularity: according to Stewart, “the story of the beautiful and unfortunate Queen, as related by him, excites on the whole a deeper interest in her fortunes, and a more lively sympathy with her fate, than have been produced by all the attempts to canonize her memory” (35). The new, sentimental representation of Mary in the History stimulated readers’ interest and sympathy. Indeed, the passage on Mary’s character included in Elegant Extracts is by no means harsh. Robertson pities “that long and almost uninterrupted succession of calamities which befel her,” while reminding the reader it was partly her own fault because “she was often imprudent” (qtd. in J 354).
What, then, did the young Austen criticize through these marginal comments? I have already discussed her marginalia elsewhere,2 and here I’d just like to point out that these emphatic comments show the teenage Austen’s direct reaction to these passages, perhaps hastily written before giving them a second thought. Most of them are retorts in short and strong words such as “‘No’” and “‘A Lie’” (353–54), passionately denying the veracity of Robertson’s description of the flaws in Mary’s character.
“[P]artial” and “prejudiced,” the features that young Austen mockingly gives herself as a “historian” at the beginning of her History (176), can be attributed in her marginalia to Austen as a reader of history. In some cases she seems so determined to refuse any negative views of Mary that her comments contradict each other. For example, while she denies Mary’s affection for Bothwell with the comment that “[s]he was not attached to him,” in the next sentence she immediately justifies what she has just denied, writing that the “licentious” manners of the Elizabethan age can be “more than sufficient” apology for her affection (354). Thus, young Jane’s overenthusiasm for Mary leads to these contradictory comments.
Austen’s The History of England and Mary, Queen of Scots
Austen’s The History of England was written at around the same time as these marginal comments and similarly demonstrates her impassioned support for Mary.3 The History of England can be called the exact opposite of “real solemn history,” while it also becomes Austen’s own version of the new type of historical writing. Austen famously defines herself as “a partial, prejudiced, and ignorant Historian” (176) as opposed to claiming a historian’s traditional authority, using these negative traits as a convenient excuse to write an unconventional history.
The purpose of The History of England, the narrator proclaims, is “to prove the innocence of the Queen of Scotland . . . and to abuse Elizabeth” (188). Though the two queens’ rivalry was a popular subject for historians, including Hume and Robertson, Austen is unique in reconstructing English history with Mary, Queen of Scots, at its center. Like Robertson, “she pulls out all the romantic stops,” as McMaster puts it (167). Interestingly, she makes use of fiction to promote the romantic image of Mary as the heroine of a tragedy. For example, the narrator emphasizes Mary’s isolation and lack of friends by pointing out that Mary’s “only [friends] are now Mr Whitaker, Mrs Lefroy, Mrs Knight and myself” (184). If we consider Mary’s popularity at the time, such lack of sympathy is itself a fiction made up by Austen. The supposed readers of this History were her family circle, including the two ladies listed as Mary’s supporters, and they would have easily recognized and enjoyed this fiction.4 Austen intends her readers to enjoy dramatic fiction rather than uninteresting facts―just as Miss Tilney does in her reading of history.
As we can see in the playful dedication to her sister, Cassandra, and the references to her family members and friends (176, 184, 185), this work was intended to be read within her family circle and is therefore fundamentally different from the works by Hume or Robertson, who wrote for the public. As the miniature portraits by Cassandra mock the authority of English sovereigns, Austen frankly and laughingly questions the authority of established historians in her deliberately subjective and prejudiced historical writing, sometimes adding fiction to historical facts according to her purpose.
Mary, Kitty, and Jane Austen
It is no wonder, then, that Austen turned to making a fictional character based on the Scottish queen. Nine months after The History of England, she wrote another dedication to Cassandra, for her unfinished novel Catharine, or the Bower. While this work is often regarded as the closest to her later novels in the juvenilia and tends to be discussed in relation to them, we should pay more attention to its connection with her History of England. Peter Sabor has noted the association of characters’ names (e.g., Percival, Dudley, and Stanley) with the Tudor Age and the Scottish queen (J 490–91). What is more, Kitty, or Catharine, Percival seems to have many similarities in disposition as well as situation with Mary, Queen of Scots, and Austen herself.
We can clearly hear the echo of The History of England’s author in the voice of Kitty. Like Austen herself, Kitty is “a great reader, . . . well read in Modern history” (249). When Mrs. Percival, Kitty’s conservative maiden aunt, expresses a wish to restore “the Manners of the People in Queen Elizabeth’s reign,” Kitty immediately retorts that she doesn’t like the idea of restoring Elizabeth herself (251).5 Her remark that Elizabeth “‘might do as much Mischeif and last as long as she did before’” (251) corresponds to Austen’s criticism in The History of England that Elizabeth “committed such extensive Mischeif” (183).
At the same time, Austen attributes some of Mary’s major features to Kitty. Both young, full of vivacity and good humor, unreserved and enthusiastic, but lonely and isolated. They have similar troubles, too, as both get blamed for immodest and imprudent behavior with men caused by their natural frankness. We can see the striking similarities of description among the passages taken from Catharine, Robertson’s History, and Austen’s History, depicting Kitty and Mary. Kitty’s aunt is in “constant apprehension of her marrying imprudently” as well as disapproving of Kitty’s behavior toward young men; “for it was,” the narrator explains, “from her natural disposition remarkably open and unreserved” (246, emphasis added). In Mrs. Percival’s eye, “‘Kitty is one of the most impudent Girls that ever existed’” because she has seen her niece “‘sit and laugh and whisper with a young Man whom she has not seen above half a dozen times’” (282). By describing Mr. Stanley’s discomfort at hearing this, the narrator implies that Kitty does not deserve such harsh accusation, but in a conservative view like Mrs. Percival’s, a young lady’s frank and unreserved behavior to young men may lead to dangerous sexual deviations—“errors . . . and crimes” (354) as Robertson puts it.
Historians, including Jane Austen herself, have used similar words in describing Mary, Queen of Scots. Robertson points out her failings: “The vivacity of her spirit, not sufficiently tempered with sound judgment, and the warmth of her heart, which was not at all times under the restraint of direction, betrayed her both into errors and into crimes.” Mary’s tragedy was partly her own fault, for “she was often imprudent” (J 354, emphasis added). Young Jane Austen wrote of Mary: “she was entirely innocent; having never been guilty of anything more than Imprudencies into which she was betrayed by the openness of her Heart, her Youth, and her Education” (185, emphasis added). While she expresses her disapproval of Robertson’s criticism of Mary with a comment “a third [lie]” (354), she borrows some of his phrases in her History, though to assert Mary’s innocence, not her guilt.
At the same time, these two heroines are placed in similar situations—alone and friendless. The narrator of Catharine repeatedly stresses the loneliness and tediousness of Kitty’s life after her best friends, the Wynne sisters, are gone. Her longing for “agreable Companions” (247) naturally grows strong, but when she meets Camilla Stanley and starts a conversation on books, her favorite topic, her delight and expectation quickly turn into disappointment. Camilla’s response reveals she is ignorant and has no real interest in history or even in novels by Charlotte Smith. Nor can Mrs. Stanley, who “never hazarded a remark on History that was not well founded,” meet Kitty’s expectation. What she says about Queen Elizabeth is “true” (251) as Kitty agrees, but it is a mere, boring fact and doesn’t contribute to stimulate the discussion. Thus, Kitty is still isolated even during the Stanleys’ visit, unable to find a friend whose taste and interest equal hers.
A historical dispute between Edward and Kitty
Edward Stanley seems more likely to fulfill Kitty’s longing for a suitable friend, at least in the beginning. Although Kitty is pleased with this handsome and agreeable young man, what attracts her more is his superiority to his sister both in natural ability and knowledge. During their evening walk in the garden, Kitty hurries to “take every opportunity of turning the Conversation on History” (285), her favorite subject, and soon a “historical dispute” takes place between them: Kitty criticizes Richard III, and Stanley defends him.
In this conversational scene at the bower, which culminates a tension-filled climax, Austen seems to make a double critique on the speakers and their contrasting attitudes toward history. Edward is “so far from being really of any party, that he had scarcely a fixed opinion on the Subject” and can “always take either side, and always argue with temper” (285). Freya Johnston is right in suggesting that such indifference appears, at first sight, to be “the eighteenth-century ideal” of an impartial and unprejudiced historian. Yet he is in fact no better than his sister and mother in “his indifference on all such topics” (285), only superior to them in his historical knowledge and simulation of passion.
Austen stresses Kitty’s genuine passion for history, which makes striking contrast with Edward’s lack of interest: her “judgement being guided by her feelings which were eager and warm,” she defends her opinion “with a Spirit and Enthouisasm which marked her own reliance on it” (285–86). Critics have seen the traces of Austen’s own partiality and partisanship in Kitty (Sabor 492; McMaster 116). Certainly, Kitty’s “Spirit and Enthouisasm” resemble the eagerness with which young Austen wrote her marginal comments. As McMaster has noted, it is possible to “hear a touch of self-criticism by Austen of her own earlier enthusiasms” (117). Kitty is too engrossed in supporting her opinion and does not notice that Edward merely plays devil’s advocate to bring more excitement to the conversation and attract her attention. While Catherine Morland’s love of gothic novels misleads her into imagining General Tilney’s wife-killing in Northanger Abbey, here Catharine Percival is likewise blinded by her own enthusiasm about history. She naively assumes and expects that Edward shares her passion and fails to detect his true motive.
But whereas Austen mocks Kitty’s excessive passion for history, Austen’s criticism of Stanley is more serious and severe. Kitty and Stanley have a debate on the question of Richard III’s guilt in the murder of his two nephews, a topic much discussed in those days (Sabor 459). Austen puts Stanley’s character into question in two ways: first, by showing him “warmly defending” the king (286). Austen herself makes two contradictory judgments in her History and “contrives to support both,” as Sabor points out (459).6 Yet while expressing her inclination to believe the king’s innocence, she delightfully undermines her own statement. It is hard to imagine Austen as an eager defender of Richard III.
While Stanley is not guilty of killing innocent people, his merciless egotism appears in a much more trivialized but realistic way—in his “infinite pleasure” at willfully raising old Mrs. Percival’s “jealous fears” by pretending to be in love with her niece, “without considering what effect [it] might have” on Kitty herself (283)―not physically threatening, but still cruel and damaging to the feelings of others. Austen at the same time suggests Stanley’s dubious sincerity by disclosing that his warm defense of Richard III is fake. Theresa Kenney has argued that Austen makes such self-professed false emotion “the mark of her villains,” which she learned from the depictions of dubious sincerity of English monarchs’ mourning over their rivals in histories, while Catherine Morland’s frankness and sincerity “mark her as the heroine” in Northanger Abbey. One of the “traditional doubts” reported in Goldsmith’s History is about Elizabeth’s sincerity in her mourning at Mary’s death (Kenney 101).
Both Hume and Robertson give detailed description of Elizabeth’s dissimulation in a reproachful tone.7 In The History of England, Austen similarly depicts the contrasting characters of the two queens: she calls Elizabeth “the deceitful Betrayer” of Mary’s trust (183) while Mary, “who condescended to place confidence in her [Elizabeth], had every reason to expect Assistance and protection” (184).
Edward Stanley’s pretended romantic passion for Kitty, together with his feigned passion for defending Richard III, certainly marks him as another “deceitful Betrayer,” just as Elizabeth’s affected shock and sorrow make her seem guiltier of Mary’s execution. His selfish desire of controlling others with such acting is another mark of Austen’s villains. The seemingly agreeable and sexually attractive villains in her novels—Willoughby, Wickham, Frank Churchill, Henry Crawford, and William Elliot—;all pretend to be seriously courting the heroines or other women, but their pleasure-seeking and self-interested motives are eventually revealed.
Thus while the narrator seems to mock Kitty’s enthusiasm for history, she also makes it clear that it is certainly better than having no interest in history, which indicates either lack of intellectual ability as in Mrs. and Miss Stanley or, what is worse, a lack of sincerity and integrity, as in Edward Stanley’s disguise of passion. Indeed, in the following scene at the bower, Kitty is portrayed as an innocent victim of Edward’s dissimulation. On Mrs. Percival’s approaching the bower, he dramatically displays his passion by kissing Kitty’s hand and runs away. Confused and unable to make out his behavior herself, Kitty has to face her shocked and infuriated aunt. Here again we can find parallels between Kitty and Mary, Queen of Scots. Both are accused of sexual immodesty, which can be so dangerous as to disrupt the nation. Mary’s third marriage to Bothwell, most likely a murderer of her second husband, Darnley, scandalized the nation. It raised so much hostility among the Scottish noblemen that it eventually led to her abdication of the throne to her infant son, James.
Against such criticism of Mary, in the final part of the story of “this ill-fated Queen” in The History of England, Austen strongly insists on Mary’s innocence:
she had been accused of several crimes during the time of her reigning in Scotland, of which I now most seriously do assure my Reader that she was entirely innocent; having never been guilty of anything more than Imprudencies into which she was betrayed by the openness of her Heart, her Youth, and her Education. (185)
In a similar way, the narrator stresses Kitty’s innocence by describing her confusion at Edward’s behavior. Yet Mrs. Percival is shocked: “‘Such Impudence, I never witnessed before in such a Girl!’” Her indignation at Kitty leads to her favorite formula that “‘every thing is going to sixes and sevens and all order will soon be at an end throughout the Kingdom’” (287). When her niece humbly defends herself, Mrs. Percival firmly replies: “‘You are mistaken Child. . . . [T]he welfare of every Nation depends upon the virtue of it’s individuals, and anyone who offends it in so gross a manner against decorum and propriety, is certainly hastening it’s ruin’” (287).8 Thus Kitty is blamed for the same crime as the Scottish queen. Austen ironically shows that women like Mary and Kitty—women with vivacious and unreserved disposition—are subject to severe moral censure, not only in Scotland of the historical past but also in the English gentry society of the present day.
When it seems almost impossible to stop Mrs. Percival’s lengthy rebuke, however, Austen puts an end to it in an unexpected way. Kitty suddenly and successfully turns the topic to her aunt’s health, by calling attention to the ill effect of staying outside late in the evening. As Kitty “well knew” she would, at this tiny hint her aunt “instantly rose, and hurried away under so many apprehensions for her health, as banished for the time all anxiety about her Neice.” Instead of blaming Kitty, Mrs. Percival now blames her “‘own imprudence’” (288) and feels so much alarm at catching a cold that, on returning the house, she immediately retires to her bed.
Thus, with a little manipulation Kitty successfully evades the unreasonable reproach from her aunt. Although both Mary and Kitty are severely accused of sexual immodesty, Austen prepares quite a different solution for her heroine’s crisis from the tragic fate of the Scottish queen. By turning it into the comedy of a health-obsessed old aunt and her clever niece, she comically questions the conservative expectation that a woman should “‘give an example of Modesty and Virtue’” (287) to the world. In this scene, Kitty resembles the unruly heroines of other fictions in Austen’s juvenilia: in Henry and Eliza and The Beautifull Cassandra, for example, Austen similarly mocks the strictures of moral and female propriety by describing her heroines’ powerful, independent, and comically unprincipled actions. In these comic short fictions, Austen allows her heroines freedom of action and self-expression beyond the socially acceptable level by presenting them through laughter.
In historical writing based on facts and in a realistic fiction, however, it is impossible that the society should approve of such violations of female modesty and morality. According to Austen’s History, Mary’s “crimes” (185) of marrying Bothwell provoked the Scots so much that they “dared to . . . rebel against, dethrone and imprison the unfortunate Mary” (188). As for Catharine, although Kitty manages to escape from her aunt’s censure with her quick wit, she hasn’t succeeded in convincing her aunt of her innocence. Although the novel ends before she sees Mrs. Percival again, we can easily imagine that her aunt will be more cautious and suspicious of Kitty’s conduct hereafter. Instead of such dramatic misfortune as dethronement and imprisonment, Austen here suggests another kind of misfortune for Kitty: “the dullness of a constant tete-a tete with her Aunt” (247) under stricter surveillance and reproach. It is certainly less violent than Mary’s physical imprisonment, but more familiar and realistic, and therefore would have been no less tragic to the young female readers of Georgian middle-class society, like Austen herself. Although not physically imprisoned nor deprived of her freedom, Kitty is obliged to stay in a retired country house, having no one to share her interests or with whom to enjoy conversation on equal terms.
These early works thus reveal Austen’s strong interest in the fictionality of the new type of historical writing of Hume and Robertson, as well as in the figure of Mary, Queen of Scots. In Miss Tilney’s remark to Catherine, Austen seems to suggest how readers should receive the new type of historical writing: “‘If a speech be well drawn up, I read it with pleasure, by whomsoever it may be made—and probably with much greater, if the production of Mr. Hume or Mr. Robertson, than if the genuine words of Caractacus, Agricola, or Alfred the Great’” (NA 110). Austen, as a writer of fiction, is interested in historians’ creations and subjective interpretations—i.e., their partiality—rather than in the historical facts. At the same time Miss Tilney’s remark presents a new standard for judging the value of historical writing: whether a work is well-written or not. This standard is usually applied to novels, as Catharine Percival eagerly praises Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde (1789) by declaring that “‘if a book is well written, I always find it too short’” (249). For Austen, therefore, historical narrative is a kind of fiction that should be judged according to its artistic mastery.
Austen’s interest and sympathy with Mary, Queen of Scots, developed in two ways. On one hand she placed Mary at the center of her historical narrative The History of England and playfully demonstrated how a historian presents historical facts according to her own partiality and prejudice. On the other hand she created a heroine resembling the Scottish queen and herself in her first attempt at a realistic full-length novel, Catharine, or the Bower.
In many of her works in the juvenilia, she mockingly depicts the bold, sometimes wild actions of the female characters. They often transgress the social and moral norm of female behavior and even violate the law, as the heroine of The Beautifull Cassandra does. Young Austen lets them enjoy their unrealistic freedom in the imaginative world of her fiction.
Given the same openheartedness as Mary, Queen of Scots, Kitty in the realistic novel is blamed by her conservative aunt for an imprudent behavior possibly leading to a national threat. While deeply attracted to the frank, vivacious, and passionate character of Mary, Queen of Scots, Austen also learned about her hard fate from history books, where historians argued that her suffering was brought on by her own faults. Thus, Austen in her teens must have recognized that women like Mary would undergo serious difficulties in a society that, in Georgian England as well as in Mary’s Scotland, imposes restrictions on women. That recognition is, in my view, the underlying reason that Austen felt so much sympathy with Mary. In Catharine, or the Bower, Austen perhaps could not find a satisfactory way to develop the plot and illustrate how a girl like Kitty could be liberated from the psychological imprisonment by plausible means. For Austen, it would take a few years more to try again—in the figure of another enthusiastic girl, Marianne Dashwood.
1For the view that regards Eleanor’s opinion as closer to the author’s, see Kent 68 and Looser 196.
2See Doi 52–56. For my analysis of Austen’s The History of England, see also 56–59.
3Sabor assumed the marginalia were written probably by November 1791, when she completed The History of England (352). Knox-Shaw, on the other hand, argues the marginalia were written a few years earlier, when Austen was around twelve or thirteen years old (“Jane Austen and the Myth” 3).
4Indeed, even among the books that are in the 1818 Godmersham Library Catalogue and are still in the Knight collection at Chawton House today, I found a couple of books that give sympathetic accounts of Mary, Queen of Scots. In one of them, its anonymous author insists on the queen’s innocence of the crimes she was charged with, as young Jane did (Historical and Critical Enquiry).
5McMaster suggests that Kitty is longing to start a discussion over whether Elizabeth was right in her order to execute Mary (116). Her idea reinforces the connection between Kitty and Mary.
6In her History, while she writes that Edward V “was murdered by his Uncle’s Contrivance, whose name was Richard the 3d,” she later declares she takes his side because “he was a York” and denies that he murdered his two nephews and his wife (179). Her vindication of the king, however, should be read as a tongue-in-cheek comment. Her assumption of the innocence of Richard III is immediately followed by playful and unrealistic assumptions about two famous pretenders to the throne of Henry VII; hence the overall impression is that they are nonsensical and unreliable.
7Hume calls her “an excellent hypocrite,” who “pretended the utmost reluctance to proceed to the execution” and “affected the most tender sympathy with her prisoner” (236, also 252–54). Robertson similarly sums up that “Evident marks of dissimulation and artifice may be traced through every period of Elizabeth’s proceedings against the life of the Scottish queen” and “the boldest and most solemn deceit” came when she pretended Mary had been executed “without her knowledge, and against her will” (183).
8This view follows the claims of conservative writers in the 1790s and 1800s who maintained the importance of female virtues and modesty for the national stability (Sabor 502).