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Mary, Queen Of Scots


Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots

Queen Mary's Execution
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It was not until the Babington plot of 1586 that Elizabeth finally relented, and only then because there was proof of Mary's complicity. Elizabeth was hurt and angry that Mary had personally endorsed her murder, when for almost twenty years, she had protected Mary's life. She wrote a letter to Mary to this effect. It was the plan of Sir Anthony Babington and his co-conspirators to release Mary from the House at Chartely where she was kept, and to depose and kill Elizabeth. Their plans failed, however, as Sir Francis Walsingham, one of Elizabeth's most influential ministers, had created a very effective spy-network, that monitored the actions of English Catholics by using double agents and spies. Anthony Babington and his supporters were tortured and put to death, and Mary was put on trial. She was found guilty of treason, and condemned to death. But despite this judgement by Elizabeth's judges, Elizabeth could not bring herself to sign her cousin's death warrant. The very thought of executing a crowned sovereign terrified her, and the whole matter effected her health profoundly. In the end she reluctantly signed the warrant. Her ministers secretly rushed through the execution, and Elizabeth was not told until it was over. Mary was executed at Fotheringay Castle in the February of 1587.

Elizabeth's fury was tremendous. She had her Private secretary, William Davidson, arrested, and turned against those of her Council who had taken part in the execution, even her old trusted servant, William Cecil. She threatened to have Davidson hanged, saying that she never intended the execution to take place, only to use the warrant as a threat to stop Mary from taking part in such activities again. No one really believed her, and few have believed her since. Frightening as it was, her anger receded, and in time she was reunited with Cecil. Davidson was released from imprisonment, but was never returned to his post as secretary.

Mary was buried in Peterborough Cathedral, but was moved to Westminster Abbey in 1612. In life, Mary and Elizabeth never met, but in death, they lie only feet away from each other in perhaps the greatest of English Abbeys.

Mary's Grave

Grave of Mary, Queen Of Scots
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Mary was a gifted woman, and reputedly very tall, elegant and beautiful, but in the often bitter struggle for power between her and Elizabeth, Mary lost because unlike her English cousin, she let her heart rule her head, sacrificing politics for passion. After Amy Dudley's mysterious death, which many put down to her husband, Robert Dudley, Elizabeth knew that marrying the man she undoubtedly loved would be political death. In contrast, when Bothwell was publicly regarded as the murderer of Mary's husband, and her people were incensed against him, Mary ignored all advice to distance herself from the man reputed to be her lover, and married him. But tragic and misguided as her short life was, Mary has left her legacy to history, and following Elizabeth's death in 1603, her son was proclaimed King James I of England, and his accession brought a new dynasty to the English throne - the Stuarts.

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Bell, Robin, "Bittersweet Within My Heart" The Collected Poems of Mary, Queen of Scots
Swain, Margaret, The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots
Plowden, Alison, Two Queens in One Isle
Lewis, Jayne Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots, Romance and Nation

Mary, Queen of Scots: A website by The Marie Stuart Society of Scotland
For Portraits of Mary, Queen of Scots, see: The Mary, Queen of Scots Gallery at The National Portrait Gallery
For links on Mary, Queen of Scots, see my links section.

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