The Genial Bastien Pagez

Marie Stuart Society Home Page

Tuesday, 8th October 2002

Mr Graeme Cruickshank was our first guest speaker of the winter lectures. Mr Cruickshank introduced the subject by announcing that he had made a discovery, of which he hoped nobody else in the audience was already aware.

The object of this first lecture was Bastien Pagez, one of Mary's servants, whose role in her life was as versatile as the spelling of his name. Bastien was a Frenchman from Auvergne, who joined Mary's retinue some time after her return to Scotland. The date is uncertain as his name was not among those who accompanied Mary to Scotland in August 1561.

It is clear from the slides that Mr Cruickshank showed us, that Mary held Bastien in high esteem. Copies of accounts reveal that Bastien was entrusted with substantial sums of money destined for the purchase of various fabrics and materials. These purchases were to provide garments for events such as the baptism of Mary's son James, but also as a gift for the wedding dress of Bastien's own bride.

Bastien was responsible for a very narrowly averted diplomatic disaster during the christening festivities at Stirling Castle in 1566. Bastien, who like Mary was very fond of masques, organised the entertainment for the French and English representatives who had convened for the event. The merry atmosphere turned sour though, when a bunch of performers dressed as Satyrs entered lifting and wagging their long tails. The English representatives took great offence but Mary tactfully diffused the situation by persuading them that there was no insult intended. In the sixteenth century the "long tails" were a common derogatory reference to the English, probably generated by the type of coats that they wore. There is no evidence however that Mary reprimanded Bastien for this faux pas.

On 9th February 1566, the eve of the Kirk o'Field explosion during which Darnley mysteriously lost his life, Bastien was again part of the picture. As is well known to those familiar with Mary's story, Mary had just returned to Holyrood after spending the evening at Kirk o'Field where Darnley was still convalescing. She had promised the reluctant Darnley that she would return later to spend the night there. Her reason for returning to Holyrood at this late hour, was to attend the masque given in honour of Bastien's wedding to Christian Hogg. Bastien and Christian had been joined in matrimony earlier in the abbey adjacent to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, a remarkable fact in itself since most marriages of any rank in this area took place in the Kirk of the Canongate (now the bottom part of the Royal Mile). Following the explosion, placards started appearing on the streets of Edinburgh. The first of those accused Bothwell represented as a crested hare, and Mary as a mermaid (meaning a whore). The second one, posted on 18th February, named three foreigners in Mary's household namely, Francisco Busso, Joseph Riccio and Bastien Pagez. Consequently Francisco and Bastien were locked up in the Tolbooth for a time. This was probably no more than an anonymous xenophobic attack, but shows the influence Bastien was perceived to hold in Mary's household.

When Mary completely lost her footing in Scotland and escaped to England, Bastien followed her as her groom of the chamber accompanied by his wife Christian. While in England, Mary continued to show great magnimity towards her servants, which was a source of constant acrimony between her and her jailers. While in Amyas Paulet's custody, Christian gave birth to a child, but then found herself expelled from the Queen's household as part of a strict curtailment of her entourage, in the aftermath of the thwarted Babington Plot. Bastien was always regarded suspiciously by the English, and Paulet described him as "cunning in his kind, full of sleights to corrupt young men". Bastien probably played a significant role in the facilitation of Mary's secret correspondence. Both Bastien and Christian remained loyal to Mary until the end, and attended her funeral.

But what of Mr Cruickshank's discovery? There is indeed a twist in the tail of the story of Mary's loyal servant, and to find it one needs to examine the records of the Kirk of the Canongate referred to earlier. In the 16th century, the Canongate was a completely separate burgh with its own tolbooth (prison) and parish church. The Kirk, anxious to rid the streets of Edinburgh of "whoredom and harlots", took upon itself to pull up those offenders during a process which lasted two days, so many there were! To our surprise, we heard that a certain "Christian Hogg" had been accused of providing such services. As for Bastien, there it was in black and white on one of the slides brought by Mr Cruickshank: Bastien Pagez stood accused of having engaged the services of an anonymous woman of ill-repute...could it be Christian? Mary could not have failed to have known about the nature of the relationship between Bastien and Christian, and her conciliatory attitude towards them shows that she was indeed ahead of her times and very tolerant at an age when moral standards were high on the agenda of newly established Presbytarianism.