Weather - If it rains on the day of Saint Protais and Gervais, it will rain for forty days after.
Today in 1566, the future King James VI of Scotland and I of England was born to Mary, Queen of Scots and her husband King Henry (aka Lord Darnley), in Edinburgh Castle.
That the child was born alive and healthy and of a goodly size was no thanks to his father, who, the previous March, had entered into a pact with certain rebellious nobles to murder his wife’s private secretary in her presence, with the tacit understanding that if – you know – the Queen (six months pregnant at the time) somehow – you know – DIED in the confusion, either directly or by a miscarriage, Henry would – you know – become king of Scotland in his own right, instead of merely the queen’s husband.
The murder of Rizzio is well-known, as is Queen Mary’s escape from almost certain death at the hands of the rebels (one of whom held a pistol to her stomach and threatened to fire) and her grueling five-hour ride to safety.
Three months later, again in command, with the assassins hiding at a safe distance, the queen ceremoniously entered her well-appointed lying-in chamber in Edinburgh Castle, according to the use of the time, on the 3rd of June. In the intervening time, as she waited for the birth, she wrote out her will, summoned her principal nobility (those who had not been ordered to quit the realm) to come to Edinburgh, took the air within the precincts of the castle and at least once beyond it (always with an eye out for those who might return and finish the murderous night of the previous March), and wrote a preliminary letter to the Queen of England announcing the arrival of an heir, leaving a blank to be filled with either “son” or “daughter”, as God would be pleased to grant her.
On Wednesday, the 19th day of June, between nine and ten in the morning, the queen was safely delivered of a fair and goodly son, after a long and hard labor which further threatened her already frail health. The blank space in the letter to Elizabeth was filled in, and between eleven and twelve that morning, Lady Boyne came to James Melville and told him that their prayers being granted, he must carry Mary's letter to London with all diligence. "It struck twelve hours," says Sir James, "when I took my horse, and I was at Berwick that same night.”
King Henry, known better to us as Lord Darnley, wrote immediately to Mary’s uncle, the Cardinal of Guise:
“From the Castle of Edinburgh, this 19th day of June, 1566, in great haste. Sir, my uncle,—Having so favourable an opportunity of writing to you by this gentleman, who is on the point of setting off, I would not omit to inform you that the queen, my wife, has just been delivered of a son, which circumstance, I am sure, will not cause you less joy than ourselves; and also to inform you how, on this occasion, I have, on my part, as the queen, my said wife, has also on hers, written to the king, begging him to be pleased to oblige and honour us by standing sponsor for him, by which means he will increase the debt of gratitude I owe him for all his favours to me, for which I shall always be ready to make every return in my power.
So, having nothing more agreeable to inform you of at present, I conclude, praying God, monsieur my uncle, to have you always in His holy and worthy keeping.
Your very humble and very obedt. nephew,
Please to present my commendations to madame the Dowager de Guise."
At two o'clock the same afternoon, Henry, attended by his equerry Sir William Standen, came to visit the Queen and see his child. Knowing, as she did, that her husband was not to be trusted and even at this hour might endanger the eventual succession of her child by a petty act of malice, Mary forestalled any possible claim of illegitimacy by assembling a numerous company in her chambers for the purpose of witnessing the presentation of her child to her husband for his public affirmation of paternity. Holding the baby in her arms and uncovering his face, she presented him to her husband.
"My Lord, God has given you and me a son whose paternity is of none but you. Here I protest to God, and as I shall answer to Him at the great day of judgment, this is your son, and no other man's son; and I am desirous that all here, both ladies and other, bear witness.” In her own spurt of malice, she could not forbear adding, as Henry kissed the baby and acknowledged him, “For he is so much your own son that I fear it may be the worse for him hereafter." A remonstrance from her husband that she had promised to forgive all and forget all then opened the floodgates of reproach. "I have forgiven all," she replied "but can never forget. What if Faudonside's pistol had shot?—what would have become of him [her son] and me both? or what estate would you have been in? God only knows, but we may suspect."
For the rest of the day, and for several days after, the intelligence was received everywhere throughout Scotland, with sincere demonstrations of joy. The happy tidings of the safety of the Queen, and the birth of the Prince of Scotland, were announced by a triumphant discharge of the castle guns and hailed with unbounded transports of joy in Edinburgh; bonfires blazed the same night on Arthur Seat and the Calton Hill, which were repeated on all the beacon stations through the length and breadth of the land.
On the following day, all the nobility in the town, the civil dignitaries, and a vast concourse of citizens, went in solemn procession to the church of St. Giles, and offered up thanksgiving for so signal a mercy shown to the queen and the whole realm. The Protestant divine Spottiswood was deputed to wait on the queen, and testify to the gladness of the Kirk for the birth of the Prince, at the same time desiring that he should be baptized after the manner practised in the Reformed Church. Mary, a staunch Catholic, was determined to have her son christened according to the rites which had governed the baptism of Scottish princes for centuries, but she received Spottiswood in her lying-in chamber, and accepted his congratulations very graciously. In a politic move of toleration, she placed her son in the arms of the venerable man, who immediately knelt and delivered a short but very eloquent prayer in behalf of the newborn heir of Scotland. At the conclusion of the prayer, Spottiswood playfully addressed the little prince, desiring him to "say Amen for himself," to which the baby made some little cooing murmur as if in response to the prayer of the delighted Presbyterian minister.
When the news was conveyed to England, it was far from being heard with so much satisfaction. Melville arrived in London four days after leaving Edinburgh and found queen and court at Greenwich. Everyone knows how Elizabeth received the news – one minute dancing, the next sinking down in an excess of emotion exclaiming that the Queen of Scotland was lighter of a fair son, and that she was but a barren stock. On the following day, she consented to be godmother to the new prince of Scotland, and although she could not attend the christening in person, would send both honorable lords and ladies in her place.
In September, Mary’s infant son was established in a princely household in Stirling Castle, with the Earl of Mar as his governor, Lady Mar as his governess, and Lady Reres in charge of his chamber. A certain Mistress Margaret Little was his head nurse, with four or five women under her as "keepers of the royal clothes.” Five ladies of distinction were appointed to the honorable office of "rockers" of the prince's cradle. For his kitchen, James had a master-cook, a pastry-cook, a foreman, and three other servitors, also one for his pantry, one for his wine, and two for his ale-cellar. He had also three valets de chambre, a "furnisher of coals," and five musicians. For this household there was a fixed allowance of provisions, consisting of bread, beef, veal, mutton, capons, chickens, pigeons, fish, pottages, wine, and ale.
The following memorandum written by Queen Mary concerning the furnishing of the prince’s chamber was found in David Hay Fleming’s book, Mary Queen of Scots: from her birth to her flight into England. Fleming notes that “this is apparently the order for the furnishing of the first nursery of the infant Prince at Stirling.”
I have provided a translation below based on the Dictionary of the Scots Language.
"Ane Memoriall of sik necessaris as are neidfull and requeseit for my Loirde prince chalmer.
First tuay cofferis.
Ten hankis off gold and ten hankis of silver the fynest that can be gottin. Threttie elnis of fyne camberage.
Four pound of fyne suyng threide.
Sax pound of secundar threid in divers sortis.
Fourtie tuay elne of blew ostage to be ane cuvering of ane bed and ane cannabie to the Laidie Reres.
Sax elnis of plaiding to lyne the cuvering with.
Tuelf ellis of fustean to be ane matt and bowster with ane codde.
Tuay stane of woll to put in the matt.
Ane stane of fedderis to put in the bowster.
Auchtein elnis of camves to be the pavilyeas and the cuvering of the pavilyeas.
Five elnis of blankattis. And the trees of ane bedde.
Tuay skenyeis of girdis to bind up the bedde.
Thre scoir elnis of small linnyng to be schetis to the Ladie Reres and the maistres nureis.
Fyftein elne of blew plading for to mak ane cannabie to the rokaris.
Twentie four elnis of fustean to mak tuay mattis and tuay bowsteris.
Nyn elne of camves to dowbill thame.
Four stane of woll to the tuay mattis.
Tuay stane of fedderis to the bowsteris.
Threttie sax elnis of camves to be the tuay pavilyeasis and the tuay cuveringis.
Four skenye of girdis to bind thame with.
Tuay cuveringis of tapestrie.
Tuelf elnis of blankattis.
Sax scoir elnis of linnyng for to serve in my Loirde prince chalmer and to be schetis to the rokaris.
Tuelf elne of rownd cleith to be schetis to the servandis that lyis on my Loirde prince uter chalmer.
Aucht elnis of camves to be ane pavilyeas.
Thesaurire, forsamekle as this memoriall being sein be yow, we chairge yow thatt sik necessaris as ar contenit in this former memoriall ye caus the sammyn be ansourit incontinent, becaus the sammyn is requesit and verray neidfull to be had. And this ye feill nocht to do, but ony delay as ye will mak us thankfull service. Subscrivit with our hand, at Striuiling Castell, the fyft of September 1566.
A Memorandum of such necessaries as are needful and requisite for my Lord prince’s chamber
First, two coffers.
Ten hanks [as in a coil or loop, like yarn] of gold and ten hanks of silver, the finest that can be got. Thirty ells of fine cambric.
Four pounds of fine sewing thread.
Six pounds of second-quality thread in diverse kinds.
Then material for a bed for Lady Reres:
Forty-two ells of blue serge to be a covering for a bed and a canopy for [the use of ] the Lady Reres.
Six ells of woolen cloth to line the covering with [plaiding, a woolen cloth of which plaids are made]
Twelve ells of fustian to be a mattress and bolster with one cushion [this would be the upper mattress]
Two stone of wool to put in the mattress [a stone being 28-32 lbs]
A stone of feathers to put in the bolster.
Eighteen ells of canvas to be the palliasse and the covering of the palliasse [a sack of course cloth which was stuffed with straw, chaff, feathers, etc., for use as a mattress. For Lady Reres, this would be the lower mattress]
Five ells of woolen cloth for blankets. And the wood of one bed.
Two skeins of banding to bind up the bed [as in the criss-crossed rope of a rope-bed]
Sixty ells of fine linen to be sheets for the Lady Reres and the head nurse.
Then furnishings for two beds for the Rockers, the attendants whose duty it was to rock a child in its cradle; in the case of royal infants, women of rank:
Fifteen ells of blue woolen cloth to make a canopy for the rockers.
Twenty-four ells of fustian to make two mattresses and two bolsters.
Nine ells of canvas to line the same.
Four stone of wool to the two mattresses.
Two stone of feathers to the bolsters.
Thirty-six ells of canvas to be the two palliasses and the two coverings.
Four skeins of banding to bind the same with.
Two coverings of tapestry.
Twelve ells of woolen cloth for blankets.
One hundred twenty ells of linen for use in my Lord prince’s chamber and to be sheets for the rockers.
The servitors who slept in the outer chamber were not forgotten:
Twelve ells of round cloth to be sheets to the servers that lie in my Lord prince’s outer chamber.
Eight ells of canvas to be a palliasse.
Treasurer, forasmuch as you have seen this memorandum, we charge you to furnish immediately the same necessities as are contained in this memorandum, because they are requisite and very needful. Do not fail to do this, without any delay, if you would give us pleasing service. Signed by our hand at Stirling Castle, the fifth of September 1566.
Meanwhile, Mary recovered her health and planned the christening of her son to be held in December, choosing the names Charles James, James Charles, and his hereditary titles, Prince and Steward of Scotland, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Lord of the Isles, and Baron of Renfrew, to be proclaimed three times by heralds, at the sound of trumpets. ‘Charles’, of course, was in compliment to her brother-in-law Charles IX of France, one of the godfathers; and ‘James’, because, as she said, her father and all the good kings of Scotland, his predecessors, had been called by that name.
Within a year, however, it all changed. King Henry would be murdered, Queen Mary forced to abdicate and flee to the ‘protection’ of the queen of England, and the baby Charles James, James Charles crowned as King James VI of Scotland.