Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/233

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SIR JAMES MELVILLE. 27


a union betwixt him and the queen, while he bestowed on him as much praise as Elizabeth chose to exact, and consented to join in invectives against the per- sonal appearance of Darnley his being " lang, lusty, beardless, and lady- faced," &c. " albeit," continues the narrator, " I had a secret charge to pur- chase leave for him to pass in Scotland, where his father was already." Mel- ville spent nine days at the court of England, and made excellent use of his time. His memorial of the period contains many most ingenious devices, by which he contrived to support the honour of the queen of Scotland, while he flattered the queen of England on her superiority. He delighted her much, by telling her the Italian dress became her more than any other one, be- cause he saw she preferred it herself, this was no disparagement to his own queen. He said they were both the fairest women in their country ; and, be- ing driven to extremities, told Elizabeth he thought her the whiter, but that his own queen was very " luesome ;" leaving the inference, when Elizabeth chose to make it, that she was as much more " luesome" as she was whiter, though by no means making so discreditable an admission. It happened fortunately that the queen of Scotland, being taller than the queen of England, the latter decided the former to be too tall. Melville, who had no foresight of the more enlarged opinions of posterity, reviews all his petty tricks and successful flatteries, with the air of one claiming praise for acts which increase the happiness of the hu- man race. The following paragraph is exemplary to all courtiers. He had been giving moderate praise to the musical abilities of Mary. " That same day after dinner, my lord of Hunsden drew me up to a quiet gallery, that I might hear some music ; but he said he durst not avow it, where I might hear the queen play upon the virginals. But after I had hearkened a while, I took by the tapestry that hung before the door of the chamber, and seeing her back was towards the door, I entered within the chamber, and stood still at the door cheek, and heard her play excellently well ; but she left off so soon as she turned about and saw me, and came forward, seeming to strike me with her left hand, and to think shame ; alleging that she used not to play before men, but when she was solitary her alane, to eschew melancholy ; and asked how I came there. I said, as I was walking with my L. of Hunsden, as I passed by the chamber door, 1 heard such melody that ravished and drew me within the chamber I wist not how ; excusing my fault of homelyness, as being brought up in the court of France, and was willing to suffer what kind of punishment would please her lay upon me for my offence." The result was, that he acknow- ledged Elizabeth a better musician than Mary, and she said his French was good. After so much politeness, the opinion of Elizabeth, which he retailed to Mary, was, " there was neither plain dealing, nor upright meaning, but great dissi- mulation, emulation that her (Mary's) princely qualities should over soon chase her out and displace her from the kingdom."

The next public duty in which Melville was engaged, was as bearer of the intelligence of the birth of the prince, afterwards James VI., to the court of England, for which purpose he left Edinburgh on the 19th June, 1566. He found Elizabeth dancing after supper, in a state of jovially and merriment,, which was momentarily quashed on the reception of what she termed the wel- come intelligence. But next morning the queen had prepared herself to receive her complimentary friend, who had excused his homeliness on the ground of his having been brought up in France, and the spirit of their previous confer- ence was renewed ; the courtier turning his complimentary allusions into a very hideous picture of the evils of marriage, as experienced by his own queen, that no little bit of endeavour on his part, (according to his avowal,) might be lost r conducive to settling in the mind of the English queen, a solid detestation of