A Translation from the French by Pascale Jooste
Mary, Queen of Scots Home Page
The following narrative of the events preceding Bothwell's flight from Scotland, was completed on 5 January 1568 while Bothwell was in the Castle of Copenhagen. Originally written in French under the title "Les Affaires du Conte de Boduel", it was intended to procure his release. There exists another document called "Confession" allegedly written by Bothwell on his death bed, but this was probably written much later on Mary's behalf to secure her release. As will also be remembered, Bothwell died insane in extremely dire conditions. (The original text is available from the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh. Also, see note below. )
In order that the King of Denmark and the Council of his Realm may better and
more clearly understand the malice and treachery of my accusers named below: I
have, as concisely as possible, included and truthfully exposed the reason for
the unrest and upheavals which ensued, of which they only are the chief authors
and instigators, from the year 1559 until today.
|The reason for and start of their hatred and annoyance against me||
However, (because of the aid which they received from England) the said town was returned by the agreement reached between her said Majesty and the Queen of England, which agreement was negotiated by their Ambassadors and according to which it was ordered that all the old hatred and resentment on both sides be extinguished. Nevertheless, their hearts were so embittered, that they had those who had previously offended them and harmed them during the said siege hunted down, especially myself, who (of which I am unworthy) had been elected Lieutenant-General to the Queen my lady, in order to attend to matters of war, and during which time I did my best, within my rights as soldier, to capture several Scots and Englishmen, and behaved impeccably in all matters as duty commended it. I also seized on the Borders a certain sum of deniers sent from England for the remuneration and upkeep of their soldiers.
|The Queen returns to Scotland from France||
Not long after the town of Leith had been returned, and the French gone back to France, the most Christian King died. Then, the Queen on the advice of her friends and at the request of her loyal subjects, decided to return to her Realm. This she did in order to maintain and strengthen the said alliance and agreement, and also in acknowledgment of the loyal services rendered to her in her absence by her said subjects. She rewarded me much more generously and honourably than I deserved; which so displeased my enemies that with their devious inventions and deceit, they managed to overturn the remarkable benevolence and goodwill which the Queen bestowed upon me. Similarly, they had the Earls of Arran and Huntly ousted; and all this, because the said Earl of Arran was a close relative of her Majesty, and was eligible to succeed to the throne; as for the Earl of Huntly and myself, because we might hinder their designs.
|Subtle moves and practices to succeed to the crown||
The leader of this sedition was the Earl of Moray,
bastard brother of her said Majesty, former canon and prior of St Andrews,
who considered that our demise would be most advantageous to him, and that
once we were defeated he would easily attain the goal to which he aspired,
which was to be the second person in the Realm, and bargained that the
Queen, the ordinary nobility and all the other subjects and generally all
the Scottish Estates, would unanimously consent to him inheriting the
crown, along with his issue or his close relatives, should the Queen die
without an heir.
Thanks to such false accusations, it was ordered that we be thrown in a narrow jail of Edinburgh Castle, no matter how much we demanded to be heard in this matter, and protested that the due process of law should be followed as in any other such case; which was declined.
|The Earl of Huntly captured and killed||
The Earl of Huntly, who had been charged with the same
deed, unaware of their intentions, was caught off guard as he went about
the country, and secretly murdered by the said Earl of Moray. The Earl of
Huntly’s son was also apprehended, brought to justice and condemned, and
all their properties and goods forfeited to the crown.
|My release and her cause
I become Captain of the Scottish Guard
I am sent back to Scotland instead of France
This answer was the reason why I endeavoured to escape from jail and, once free, decided to travel to France by sea; but the storm and gales pushed me towards England, where the Queen of England demonstrated the greatest amicability, as strangely did also some of her loyal subjects, far beyond my expectations, considering that during the war, I had done irreparable damage to the borders and those who lived there. I then left England to pursue my goal of going to France, after receiving certain letters from the Queen of Scotland, which she had sent to me in England, for the most Christian King and the Lords of his Council, so that I may enjoy the status with which the nobility of my country is honoured over there, thanks to the content of the old contract agreed between the two said realms of France and Scotland. Being thus equipped, I received letters from the Queen of Scotland in which she ordered me to return to Scotland for the reasons which follow.
|The Queen of Scotland marries a young Prince named Henry Stuart||
When the Queen discovered their wily and malicious designs, desirous to sort out and enforce law and order in her Realm for the benefit and relief of her subjects, she decided to marry a young Prince of her blood, who had gone over to Scotland from England for that purpose, hoping (as stands to reason) that nobody would hinder it, but which the said rebels nevertheless tried their best to do because they wished above all things that the Queen remained childless, for the previously mentioned reasons; and also because they could not suffer that anyone else apart from them had authority in the Realm, and anticipated that they would be deprived of this by the said marriage.
|Third Sedition and the designs of my enemies||
For that reason, after consorting with each other, they decided to kill the said Prince and summoned their friends and allies to this effect. Thus, shortly after the wedding celebrations of the said Queen and the said Prince, the said conspirators decided to abduct the said Queen and keep her prisoner, as they later did with malice, contrary to their faithful promises, and the conditions to which they had agreed; as will become clear in what follows.
|The conspirators are driven out||
As I had returned from France in the meantime, she put me in charge of a certain number of soldiers, her loyal subjects, and of my own friends, with whom I endeavoured to chase the said Earl of Moray out of the Realm of Scotland into England, which I succeeded in doing; in the meantime, all the estates were convened to ascertain and decide which goods could be forfeited to the crown.
|Fourth Sedition for the death of Sir David||
Some of the said Earl of Moray’s accomplices, who were following the Queen’s court, in order to prevent the sentence stirred troubles anew, by the perpetration of the murder of an Italian, Sir David, which murder took place in the Queen’s chamber at Edinburgh Castle during her supper, where none of his guards were to be found, not even the Queen’s; and if (to avoid the danger) a few Lords and I had not passed through a window behind the said dwelling, we would not have received better treatment, especially that they had thus agreed amongst themselves, or at least been forced to approve of such an evil and loathsome deed.
|The Earl of Morton, Lord Lindsay, Lord Ruthven and others||
The said murder thus perpetrated following the advice and instance of the said Earl of Moray’s accomplices, the latter returned from England, hoping to take over the government and hold the Queen prisoner, whom they had already previously incarcerated in her own home named the Holy Cross.
|Their false pretext to tinge the said
The Earl of Moray driven out for the second time
Declaration by the King of Scotland concerning the letters and permission which the murderers claimed having received from his Majesty
The hatred which they developed against the King because of his declaration
To excuse the said murder, they said that
they had acted under the express order of their King and even had his
letters (bearing the Seal) to prove it.
|The subtleties they used to achieve their aims||
Some time later, in order to facilitate the achievement of their malicious designs, they promised to forget what had happened in the past, and by showing themselves to be true friends, would compensate those they had previously offended and hated. And by such demonstrations and fine words, they appealed to those who were in a position to help them regain the favour of the Queen and, among that of the other Lords, they also sought my help for that purpose. I did what I could, under the pressure of their requests, as they relied heavily on me due to the favour which her Majesty bestowed upon me and the access I had to her. This I had only acquired thanks to the loyal duty with which I served not only during the wars of Madam, her late mother’s time but also her own, risking my life on several occasions and at my great expense, for which she has very generously rewarded me not only with presents but also with the additional responsibilities with which she honoured me.
After I had procured them their pardon and they were allowed to accompany the court, I decided to rest and lead a peaceful life after suffering in prison and exile, and to think no more of revenge and feuds.
But those to whom such a pardon had been
granted, as they followed the court displayed such obedience and goodwill
towards everyone, that all the Lords and gentlemen of the Realm were
rejoicing, especially as former feuds had abated within the said court.
Nevertheless, they continued to persevere in their malicious designs,
seeking day and night a way of bringing about the death of the said King.
Death of the King
Then the traitors, finding the moment so appropriate, carried a quantity of gun powder to where the King was, which they placed under his bed, and then set fire to it so that he was ejected and killed. This was done at the home of Sir James Balfour, on whom the Queen had conferred a benefit and also given the governorship of Edinburgh Castle, with all its treasures, jewels, silverware, clothes and furniture, because it was the most powerful position of the Realm.
|Testimony concerning my whereabouts when the King was betrayed||
On the same night as this event, a few Lords of her Council were staying at the Queen’s home, called the Holy Rood, as they usually are, and I was residing in the circumference, normally the seat of the guard, a body of fifty men. I was lying in bed, by my first Princess, sister of the Earl of Huntly, when her brothers came to me in the morning to inform me of the King’s death, which displeased me greatly, as it did several other Lords.
|Thorough investigation carried out by
myself and the Earl of Huntly at the behest of the Queen and the Lords of
Their manoeuvres to turn others into suspects
The said Earl of Huntly voiced the opinion
that a meeting should be convened immediately to discuss the means of
catching the traitors who had committed the said deed. The Queen, who was
greatly distressed and chagrined, and the said Lords of the Council then
ordered us to muster soldiers to carry out a thorough investigation and
capture the said traitors. This we did, and finding ourselves at the house
where the King lay dead, we firstly recovered his body and had it guarded
with due honour, and then we found a barrel (or vat) in which the powder
had been stored, which we kept after examining its markings.
|My urgent pleadings for my case to be heard||
When I found out that I was being blamed and accused by such devices of having committed such a crime of which I and all my followers were innocent (as God is my witness), I begged the Queen and Gentlemen of the Council to allow me to be brought to trial; and that, if after a thorough examination I was found guilty, I should be punished accordingly for such a heinous crime; but if I was found innocent (as I really am), then let the rumours and blame be silenced, and let me be given my due and the day of my appearance be set.
|The first time I appeared in court and my
My adversaries' protests
The Gentlemen of the Council assembled and with them, many of the nobility and the common people, at the location where I was summoned to appear. Among the Gentlemen of the Council and the said nobility who were to try my case were those who follow, and who sided against me: the Earl of Morton, Lord Ruthven, Lord Lindsay, Lord Sempel, the Secretary, the Lord Justice Clerk and the Registrar and after that the charges against me were read and that my adversaries (and chiefly my adversary the Earl of Lennox who had been delayed and did not appear) acknowledged that they had no fair case whatsoever against me, against my bodily person, my property, nor my honour I was, according to the laws and customs of the country, the order of my judges and consent of my parties present, declared innocent, acquitted and discharged of all accusations, which were that I had taken part in the plot and execution of the murder of the King Henry my Lord and Master, for which there was no proof whatsoever, but on the contrary, I proved by the good testimonies which I provided, where I was when this misfortune occurred. After that my enemies and adversaries realised that I had been acquitted and discharged and won my case, they got up and begged me instantly not to pursue them for the unjust complaints they had made against me. But their discourse was as far from their hearts as it was close to their mouths, as I have since then experienced and still do today.
|The notices I posted in my just cause||
For the second time, as is the custom in the said country and following the rules of war, I had proclaimed by the town crier in Edinburgh and posted notices sealed with my seal on church doors, the tolbooth and other public locations in the following wording: For the defence of my honour and reputation, if there be anyone, noble or base, rich or poor, who wishes to accuse me of open or secret treason, let him come forward so that I may challenge him in personal combat in this just cause; whereupon no man ever answered me.
|My sentence ratified by Parliament
For the third time, I apologised before a
general assembly of three estates, which comprised the common nobility of
the country, all the bishops, abbots and priors, and all the main citizens
of the Realm, where my whole trial and sentence were reviewed and re-read,
all points thoroughly considered, to decide whether my case had been
legitimately tried or not, and whether there was not some item or evidence
|The honest offers, alliances and promises made to me by the Lords of Parliament||
Firstly, they recognised that I had done my duty in defending my honour in all the things they had wanted to accuse me of, and for this reason they would use their bodies, property, relatives and friends and anything which may depend on it, in order to defend me against those who would from then on pursue me in any way for the said crime. Furthermore, they thanked me each in particular for having behaved so amicably towards them, and gave me this speech: That they could see that the Queen was widowed, and could still have children, having only one young Prince at present. That they would not allow her to marry a foreigner, and that it seemed to them that I was the most worthy in the Realm. This considered, they had decided to do their utmost to bring about this marriage, and they would oppose all those who tried to hinder it.
|My wife repudiated||
At the same time, they debated how I could legitimately repudiate my first Princess, according to the divine laws of the Church, and the custom of the country, and they convened forthwith.
|My wedding to the Queen of Scotland
The Lords of the Council wish me to set off for the borders to enforce law and order
Similarly, they conferred promptly with the Queen on the way in which our marriage could be solemnly celebrated before themselves and the Church assembly. The marriage having been consummated and all conducted in good and due order, they presented me with the government of the Realm so that I may enforce law and order, especially on the English border, where murder, looting and theft were taking place on both sides; this I granted them and left Edinburgh with the Queen who wished to accompany me as far as a castle located seven leagues from the town of Borthwick, where she had decided to stay until my return.
The two armies on the field
On the said border, I found the enemies to
be so strong that it was impossible for me to turn them away, and I
returned forthwith to Borthwick (where the said Queen was) in order to
muster larger forces.
|They declare the reasons which motivated them to take up arms||
Shortly after there arrived a gentleman sent
by them, who presented us the main reasons why they had come here, printed
as follows. Firstly, to free the Queen from the captivity in which I held
her, and also, to avenge the death of the King, as I described above, of
which I and my men were accused.
|I accepted to confront Lord Lindsay in personal combat||
Secondly, I continued to deny that I had
taken part in or consented to the death of his said Majesty. And albeit I
had previously been clearly and sufficient absolved, I declared once again
that, if there be any honourable gentleman of irreproachable lineage, who
wished to accuse me of such a deed, I was ready on the spot to defend my
honour and my life, between the two armies, in accordance with the notices
which I had had published in Edinburgh earlier, and the ancient customs of
|He who challenged me to personal combat is nowhere to be found||
Shortly after, I went to the spot where the personal combat was to take place to wait for my enemy, and where I remained until late that night, but he did not show himself nor did he show any sign of wanting to appear, as I will prove (when the need arises) with the backing of a thousand gentlemen, with my life at stake. As night was falling, I prepared to fight them and organised my harquebusiers, ready to march against them, as they did on their side.
|The Queen's answer in relation to the
captivity in which they considered she was held
The Queen negotiates with the rebels
The advice I gave the Queen not to trust their fine words
A guarantee is requested for the Queen
The Queen seeing me and her loyal subjects
on one side and the rebels on the other ready to join us, Lord of Grange
(who was one of the best warriors on the other side) reminded her the
reason why all these people were gathered there, which was to deliver her
Majesty from the abject servitude in which I held her, which she openly
denied before all those present.
|A false guarantee is given to the Queen||
For let it be understood that the said Lord
of Grange made out that he had been sent for the sole purpose, at the
request of all the others as a whole, of offering the Queen, as their
superior, genuine loyalty, and of giving her their assurance of a
safe-conduct to come and go before them, and that each and everyone of
them, according to their rank and dignity, wished nothing more than to
show her (after God) all due honour and obedience in everything it pleased
her Majesty to order them. Once everything had been granted under the
promise that it would be inviolably adhered to and honoured by the two
armies, in the presence of the nobility and the community there present,
she asked me to return to Dunbar with my army, where she would shortly
come to find me or at least, send for news.
|The Queen is taken prisoner
She is led to Edinburgh
This done, I took leave of the Queen and she went towards them, who suddenly subjugated her under their guard. They took her first to Edinburgh Castle where she stayed only one night. The following day they took her to another castle located on a small island named Lochleven, to make sure that she would not be able to warn me or receive word from me, and also for fear that I would attempt to release her from the said castle.
|The Council convenes to discuss the Queen's deliverance||
Seeing that the long treacherous manoeuvres succeeded in such fashion, we met up with the Lords named below and the ordinary nobility. Firstly in the West and then in the North, considering all ways in which we could bring about her deliverance.
The Duke of Châtelherault
|The Earls||of Huntly||The Archbishop of St Andrews||The Lords||Herries|
|of Argyle||The Archbishop of Glasgow||Seton|
|of Crawford||The Bishops||of Dunkeld||Oliphant|
|of Errol||of Aberdeen||Boyd|
|of Marischal||of Moray||Borthwick|
|of Eglinton||of Ross||Gray|
|of Cassillis||of Dunblane||Ogilvie|
|of Rothes||of Galloway||Glamis|
|of Montrose||of Argyle||Hay|
|of Caithness||of Brechin||Somerville|
|of Sutherland||of the Isles||Drummond|
|of Monteith||The Abbots||Lovat|
We all agreed to wait a little and not to pursue them in too much haste, as enraged as they were, they would be wary that we wanted to free the Queen whom they held captive, and whose life would have been in great danger if we had put them under pressure.
|The Council concluded that I should go to France via Denmark||
However, the unanimous decision was reached by all those present, and by the letters and seals ratified by those who could not be present at the time, that I should make my way to France, through the Kingdom of Denmark, where I could acquire all things necessary for my enterprise, and to send soldiers to Scotland by sea as well as by land; and also to acquaint the King of Denmark with my complaints and the full facts, believing that this would incite the said King to give me his good advice, assistance, aid and favour, and in order to obtain it more easily, I had to put myself at his service and offer all that was in my power: and they were confident that the Queen would approve. However, to be on the safe side, I endeavoured to obtain her opinion which was, that she thought that the Lords had given me very good advice, and asked me to carry it all out as diligently as possible.
|I embark in the North of Scotland
I reach the island of Orkney
I went ashore in Shetland
Thus I embarked somewhere in the
North of Scotland, as mentioned above, having decided to follow this
advice. And passing by the Orkney and Shetland Islands I stopped there
staying only two days, but I went ashore in Shetland, where I encountered
some ships from Bremen and Hamburg, and negotiated with the Boatswains
what I would give them per month as long as they would serve me, as I
could not in such haste and under such pressure, acquire the ships I
wanted, apart from small vessels, which I then managed to find.
|My enemies pursue me with four ships||
The above named rebels had gathered four well armed ships and fitted out with soldiers and artillery, whose leaders were the said Lord of Grange and Tullibardine, who at the break of dawn entered a harbour of the said island called Bressay Sound, where four of my vessels were moored; and as the boatswains caught sight of them, my Captains and soldiers being ashore, they cut loose the towropes of their ships and moved to another harbour to the north of the said country, called Unst.
|Our fight at sea
My great mast snapped
I reach the coast of Norway
However, their main ship, which
was pursuing us, was closely observing one of my vessels which had the
slowest sail and to which they gave chase. My ship went ahead while the
other followed behind. But it so happened that the enemy ship (which was
chasing my slow one) and my own hit an open rock concealed under the sea,
so that their said ship, which was the better one and served as flagship,
remained there while mine, although somewhat damaged, escaped. When I
heard that my enemies intended to go ashore and pursue my people, I
embarked suddenly with them at the said harbour of Unst, where my
intention was not to stay but only to confront my said enemies, but these
three ships caught me so much by surprise and exerted such pressure (as
they had previously done), that I could not put up any resistance and was
obliged to set sail, and ordered one of my ships (the one in which was the
remainder of my silverware, clothes and furniture which I had brought from
Edinburgh Castle) to go to another harbour called Scalloway, and there to
convene with the said Hamburgers, and catch up with me on my way to
Denmark, as had been previously decided, and as he had promised the rest
of my people whom I had left behind in the said island. The said rebels
pursued me with such intensity that we fought for three whole hours and by
a strike of the canon, they snapped the great mast of my best ship. At the
same moment, a storm coming from the south-west broke out, which was of
such strength that I could not continue my said journey, and was pushed
towards the Norwegian coast, where I had to repair my vessels and
replenish their supplies as, due to my hurried departure these had not
been properly provisioned.
|The reason why I did not want to disclose my identity at first||
Captain Aalborg asked to see my
passports (or letters) to find out what we had on board. But because my
equipment was such, as it still is today, namely empty and devoid of all
things necessary to someone in my position, due to the fact that I had
left one of my vessels, which I awaited from one moment to the next, I did
not want to reveal who I was before I had recovered it, nor even go ashore
before reaching Denmark, however I sent him one of my gentlemen to make
him understand that due to the intense pursuit carried out against me in
Scotland, I had had no time to take the certificate nor the letters which he
requested, and that she who was supposed to release them was detained
under close guard. He then asked if there was anyone who spoke several
languages, who would come with him and converse for a while, which request
|Letters of engagement by Captain Aalborg which he breached||
Moreover, he asked me to allow
my men to go aboard his ship, to the number of eighty, not because of any
bad opinion or suspicion he had of us, but only for the benefit of the
goods, which could not be recovered at the said place for the money; and
he gave us his word of honour that he would let us each return to our
respective ship and leave whenever we deemed fit (to which effect he gave
us a written engagement sealed with his seal) and furthermore, that we
would have a safe-conduct to go without delay where we wished; however, he
did not honour any of these points.
|Arrival in Bergen||
Once arrived in Bergen, I asked Erich Rosenkrantz to help me find, for my money, fresh vessels, to row me along the coast (especially that I was seasick) so that I may reach Denmark, and would he give me a passport for that purpose. In the meantime, I sometimes stayed at the castle and sometimes aboard the ship with some of my men during one month, and I walked several times in the space of twenty days, through the town, wherever I pleased; even if I had felt guilty of some misdeed, I would have been free to go wherever I wanted. But I thank this good Sir Erich Rosenkrantz for the trust he placed in me.
|I was deprived of my men, then sent to
Denmark with 4 or 5 of my own people
My vessel which was supposed to follow me, having reached the coast of Norway, turns straight back
After having waited a long time
for my passport, without which I did not want to leave, I was informed by
some town councillors, that Erich Rosenkrantz and the said councillors had
ordered that I should follow the ships of the said King to Denmark,
without allowing my men to follow, except four of five, and they dismissed
the others telling them to return to Scotland or wherever else they wished
|Second Letter of the Earl James of Bothwell to the King of Denmark|
As it is not permitted to me to speak in person to his
Majesty nor to these Gentlemen of his Council, to inform them of the
reason why I decided to come to this Realm, I am obliged to put in
writing, what I had hoped to declare face to face with his Majesty, and I
ask the good Sir Peter Oxe, grand master [Lord High Steward] of the said
Realm, to present this letter to his said Majesty. Firstly: great upheaval
and discord have taken place in Scotland, as much between the Magistrates*
as the common people of the said Realm, because some of the said
Magistrates have, under the cover of religion sought their own
advancement, wishing in the future, by the use of such illegitimate and
false pretexts, to subjugate the Realm under their power and authority.
And for this reason, the said Realm is divided in two parts. Whereupon,
the Queen and I having considered and acknowledged, that we could not
appease them nor forcefully put an end to it without infinite calamity
and great bloodshed, we endeavoured to tackle and ward off such
misfortunes and inconvenience with gentleness. And to this effect, the
Queen asked for the engagement and safe-conduct from our adversaries to
enable her to go to them freely and to confer and come to a mutually
satisfactory agreement, which would firstly serve a perfect union and
concord of her subjects, and the utility and benefit of the Realm.
I received these instructions at Malmö Castle on the 13th January of the year 1568 from Sir James of Bothwell, Earl of Bothwell, Duke of the Islands of Orkney, Husband of the Queen of Scotland, etc.; and I presented it in Helsingborg to Sir Peter Oxe, in the presence of Jehan Fris, Chancellor, on the 16th of January. Whereupon I received their own answer at Copenhagen Castle; the xxi of the said month.
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After the above text is a note by the person who collated the different parts of the volume which contains the latter. This note reads:
“The complete title of the manuscript, from which the preceding extract is taken and which constitutes its beginning, is the following:
Les Affaires du Conte de Boduel, l’an 1568 nec non Caroli Dantzaei, Galliarum Regis Legati, Literae ab anno 1575 ad annum 1586 ad Regem, Reginam Proceresque Galliae datae, durante Legatione in Dania.
(Then by another hand)
Quibus adjunctae sunt variae Principum et Illustrium virorum ad Dantzaeum Literae.
At the top of the page, above the name of Bothwell, is written by the same hand the following other comment: Historia de vita et exitu Jacobi Heburni Buthuelia Comitis plenius descripta extat apud Buchananum Historiae Scoticae, Lib, xvii, xviii, et xix. Item apud Thuanum Histor. Lib. Xl.
Bothwell’s Memoirs only occupy sixteen sheets of the volume (which contains over two hundred). It is written fairly neatly, although with a lot of abbreviations which made deciphering difficult. Every now and then, there are additions and corrections by another hand and very illegible. The author always talks about himself using the first person (I), and this circumstance leaves us to presume that Bothwell, after having had his manuscript tidied up, re-read it and added these corrections himself, especially since the manuscript came from Denmark.
The undersigned has carefully collated the copy requested by Professor Rask, with the original manuscript, which is currently at the Library of Drottningholm, leisure castle of His Majesty the King of Sweden and Norway. Stockholm, the 5th of July 1828.
P A Walmark
Royal Librarian and Adviser of the Chancery"