as found in the public records, despatches of ambassadors in original private letters, and other contemporary documents
Author: Jean Mary Stone
Publisher: SANDS & CO
Category: Great Britain
At a time when prejudiced historical verdicts are being largely revised, and when it is universally admitted that history must be studied on broader and more discriminating lines than heretofore, the restatement of the case for our first Queen Regnant scarcely needs an apology. Two books, one The Privy Purse Expenses of the Princess Mary, with an Introductory Memoir by Sir Frederick Madden, some time Keeper of the Manuscripts in the British Museum, and the other, The Life of Jane Dormer, Duchess of Feria, edited by the Rev. Joseph Stevenson, from the original manuscript in the possession of Lord Dormer, first revealed Queen Mary to me as an attractive and sympathetic personality. Subsequent diligent examination of documents relating to her life and reign, scattered about the various archives of Europe, has not belied that impression, but has further shown that more interest attaches to her dire struggle with the difficulties which beset her than has generally been supposed. This material has proved to be extremely rich and abundant, especially as regards the archives of Venice, Austria, Belgium and England. The valuable papers formerly at Brussels have, it is true, disappeared, but fortunately we are provided with transcripts of them in the Record Office. And where the despatches of ambassadors, those of Giustinian, Chapuys, Renard, Michiel, de Noailles, Surian and others, drop the thread of the story, our own chroniclers, Stowe, Holinshed, Machyn, Wriothesley, Foxe, etc., take it up, so that an almost continuous narrative is formed, reaching from Mary’s earliest childhood to her death. I have endeavoured, where possible, to give the story in the words of each individual ambassador or annalist, in order to preserve, if it might be, the atmosphere of the times, in a manner unattainable by our modern phraseology. In most instances, I have been careful to reproduce even the eccentricities of the spelling in the English documents quoted, but in others, where I have given somewhat lengthy extracts from our chroniclers, the spelling has been modernised to avoid tedium. It has not come within the scope of the present work to deal exhaustively with Mary’s correspondence, and many of her most interesting letters have been unavoidably omitted, preference being given to those which relate to the more crucial points in her history. One word may not be out of place here, as to the now fully recognised necessity of bringing historical imagination to bear upon any period under consideration; for unless we throw ourselves into the spirit, the views, the interests of that period, we shall utterly fail to form a correct notion of its merits and its short-comings. The thoughts and opinions, the virtues and vices of the sixteenth century are not those of our own day, and the only way in which we can form a just estimate of them is by divesting ourselves of every preconceived notion, and by judging each individual case according to the standard which then prevailed. Whether, bearing this necessity in mind, and with the colours at my disposal, I have succeeded in painting a picture vivid enough to supersede the old traditional, but generally spurious, portraits of Queen Mary, I must leave to the kind judgment of my readers.