Scott, George; Melville, Sir James; [Mary Stuart]; [Elizabeth I]; [James I]
The Memoires of Sir James Melvil of Hal-Hill: Containing an Impartial Account of the most Remarkable Affairs of State During the last Age, not mention'd by other Historians: More particularly Relating to the Kingdoms of England and Scotland, Under the Reigns of Queen Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots, and King James
London: Printed by E.H. for Robert Boulter at the Turks-head in Corn-hill, against the Royal-Exchange, 1683. Folio in fours, contemporary full speckled calf, raised bands, red morocco spine label lettered in gilt, spine ruled and ornamented in gilt, all edges marbled. Preliminaries include letters from George Scott and James Melville; index and glossary of Scottish words and phrases at rear. A few stray ink marks to front free endpaper, light wear to corners and joints, light embrowning to text.
First edition of this charged political memoir, offering insight into the courts of Mary Stuart, Elizabeth I, and James I. As a teenager, James Melville was dispatched to France to serve as a page for Mary, Queen of Scots. He soon became a diplomat, sent on missions for Henry II, and later served in Mary’s household in Scotland. The controversy over Mary’s engagement to Lord Darnley, which complicated the royal line of succession and alarmed the English, prompted Mary to send Melville as her emissary to Elizabeth I: “I was dispatched to England, [w]ith these following Instructions out of the Queens own mouth, to deal with the Queen of England . . . I found her Majesty walking in an Alley. And after I had kissed her hand, and presented my Letter of Credence, I told her Majesty in French the effect of my Commission, as near to the aforesaid Instructions as I could, and sometimes being interrupted by her demands, I answered as I judged most pertinent. . . . Her first demand was concerning the Letter, that the Queen [Mary] had written to her with such despiteful Language, that she thence conjectured all friendship and familiarity to have been given up. Which made her resolve never to write any more, but another as despiteful.” Over the years, Melville grew close to Mary and her son James, and eventually served as advisor to James VI (later James I) after he ascended to the throne. This work, unknown until after Melville’s death, was published by his grandson after the manuscript was discovered at Edinburgh Castle. First state, with page 65 misnumbered 67, and page 128 misnumbered 118. ESTC R201. A beautiful copy of a key primary source for the court of Mary, Queen of Scots, scarce in unrestored contemporary calf.