Mary Queen of Scots her Trail and Execution
STRATEGIC POLITICS INVOLVED IN THE IMPRISONMENT, TRIAL, AND EXECUTION OF MARY STUART, QUEEN OF SCOTS
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Table of Contents
TOC o “1-3” h z u 1.Introduction PAGEREF _Toc534506740 h 21.1.Performance and Spectacle at Court PAGEREF _Toc534506741 h 31.2.The Concept of Kairos PAGEREF _Toc534506742 h 42.The Making of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland PAGEREF _Toc534506743 h 62.1.Early Life (1542 – 1548) PAGEREF _Toc534506744 h 62.2.Education and Integration into French Society (1549 – 1556) PAGEREF _Toc534506745 h 62.3.Mary’s Marriages PAGEREF _Toc534506746 h 92.3.1.King Francis II of France PAGEREF _Toc534506747 h 92.3.2.Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley PAGEREF _Toc534506748 h 102.3.3.James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell PAGEREF _Toc534506749 h 122.4.The Role of Mary’s Personal Life in Her Imprisonment and Execution PAGEREF _Toc534506750 h 133.The Imprisonment of Mary Stuart PAGEREF _Toc534506751 h 153.1.Imprisonment in Scotland PAGEREF _Toc534506752 h 153.2.The Trial Years (1568-1572) PAGEREF _Toc534506753 h 163.3.Appeal for Mercy (1582) PAGEREF _Toc534506754 h 173.4.The Last Two Years (1585 – 1587) PAGEREF _Toc534506755 h 194.The Trial and Execution of Mary Stuart PAGEREF _Toc534506756 h 224.1.Charges Placed Against the Queen of Scots PAGEREF _Toc534506757 h 224.2.Charges Placed Against Queen Elizabeth I by Mary Queen of Scots (1582) PAGEREF _Toc534506758 h 244.3.The Cecil Manuscripts PAGEREF _Toc534506759 h 254.4.The Execution PAGEREF _Toc534506760 h 284.4.1.Mary’s Burial PAGEREF _Toc534506761 h 305.Conclusion PAGEREF _Toc534506762 h 32References PAGEREF _Toc534506763 h 35a.Primary Sources PAGEREF _Toc534506764 h 35b.Secondary Sources PAGEREF _Toc534506765 h 35
IntroductionFor decades after her execution by her cousin and peer, Queen Elizabeth I from England, Mary Stuart – the Scottish Queen was painted as a weak woman and a victim of 16th-century politics by bibliographers and historians alike. They saw her as the opposite of Elizabeth whose rule fared better regarding strategic alliances, religious affiliations, and political prowess. However, John Guy – an acclaimed modern bibliographer, reexamined the evidence against Mary Stuart and discovered that rather than being weak, Mary exhibited a certain cunning in the way she carried herself, made choices, and interacted with others so she could get what she wanted. This manipulative ability led many people to believe that Mary was a Catholic extremist whose aim was to undo the Protestant Reformation that was taking place in Scotland, and that Elizabeth imprisoned her because of her religion. However, this image was far from the truth. When Richardson reviews the data about Mary that came to light during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, he concludes that instead of being a religious fanatic, Mary ‘ruled as a Politique’ and was constantly motivated by a need to have people acknowledge her right to claim the English throne. This dissertation analyzes the primary and secondary evidence to show that 16th-century politics were aimed at pushing personal ambition and religion was only used as a convenient tool to gain mass support. By revisiting the letters, state papers, official records, and bibliographies related to Mary’s case, this thesis also reveals that strategic decision-making was key in securing the Tudor State during Elizabeth I’s reign by earning a win for Protestants across Europe.
Although Mary managed to twist the facts surrounding her imprisonment and execution, convincing people that she was a Martyr, Guy holds that bad luck resulted in Mary’s spectacular downfall. Guy attributes them to luck because these events were out of her control and they were the underlying issues in her exile. The situations include; (a) the choice made by Hertford, the Duke of Somerset, to free John Knox and bring him to London; (b) the untimely deaths of Mary’s first and second husbands; and (c) Mary’s lack of powerful allies. While existing data shows that Mary always tried to turn the tide in her favour whenever things went wrong, the long-term effect of the stated incidents and Mary’s reluctance to respond to change were exploited by her enemies to bring about her end and fortify Elizabeth I’s supremacy. Growing up in France and receiving all her education there made Mary Stuart more familiar with its language, customs, and leadership styles than she was with those in Scotland. While there, she had developed a love of poetry, dancing, and writing, even though her letters were often marred by poor handwriting because she did not have the patience to compose lengthy pieces. Mary’s life was so dominated by letters, leading her to state, during her trial, “I am not to be convicted except by mine word or writing.” Some of the letters that Mary’s enemies claimed were written by her and contained the evidence required to charge her were acknowledged by Mary Stuart herself, and they, more than anything else, drove Mary to the executioner’s block.
Performance and Spectacle at CourtPublic performance and display was one way that monarchs could use to exploit political possibilities, and here, it seemed like Elizabeth outdid Mary. Conferring to John Knox, a staunch Protestant reformer who strongly opposed Mary Stuart, the excessive spectacle and performance found in the Queen’s court “straightforwardly revealed the moral and religious shortcomings of its monarch.” However, Carpenter states that the investment Mary made regarding performance in her court was a strategic move meant to create an atmosphere that supported interactions between public figures in an environment that would otherwise be too formal. Additionally, since Mary had learned all her court etiquette in France, a country that thrived in performance, her application of the same in Scotland weakened her position because it alienated her from her subjects who were not accustomed to these practices. It gave reformers like Knox, the evidence to argue that Mary was promoting religion and culture in France that was not a reflection of faith, which meant that she had to be stopped.
The Concept of KairosKairos is an opportunity that one canuse to realize success. Erick Charles White defines Kairos not simply an opening at the moment, but also the action that is taken during that time. The act requires a combination of power, precision, justice, conviction, response, delivery, and tact in a way that enables a person to adapt to mutating situations. Individuals who apply Kairos, therefore, must amply reassess their roles and act accordingly. Potential monarchs in the 16th century were taught to master Kairos to enable them to wisely navigate the volatile political world during their reign. Mary used it early in her reign as the Queen of Scotland, when she actively professed Catholicism after sherealized that as a Catholic-leaning monarch, she could be the focal point for Catholic hopefuls in the British Isles and get the support of the locals and the church.During her imprisonment, Mary was open to the opportunities that were available to her and use them accordingly.
Whether it was to use the determination of her political allies and Catholic supporters to free her or Elizabeth’s reluctance to pass judgment, Mary Stuart played both sides to try and get what she wanted.Mary Stuartdemonstrated a good mastery of Kairos, but so did her enemies. At the core of her trial, was a battle of strategy between those who were promoting the adaptation of a unified Protestant Church in the British Isles, and those who wanted to remain under the Roman Catholic Church. The truth was embellished with lies so it could remain relatively reliable, alliances were made and broken easily, and many people died for treason. However, although the English Privy Council got what it wanted, which was Mary Stuart’s death and progression of the Protestant religion, Elizabeth exercised caution in her personal life to the extent she never got married or had a Tudor heir to inherit the English throne. Therefore, Elizabeth was the last in the Tudor line to rule England because she was afraid of making a mistake, while Mary Stuart made a series of bad choices that alienated her from those who had given her their trust, and they were the ones to imprison her and gather evidence that destroyed Mary’s honour and led to her death.
The Making of Mary Stuart, Queen of ScotlandEarly Life (1542 – 1548)Mary Stuart was born in 1542, December 8th to the Scottish King – James V and Mary of Guise – a French woman from a politically powerful and wealthy French family. Mary Stuart became Queen after her father passed away when she was six days old. Her mother was her closest role model until Mary Stuart was five and was taken to France. Mary of Guise already had her daughter’s coronation done when Mary Stuart was only a year old, and the betrothal arrangement came with a treaty between Scotland and France, outlining France’s dedication to the safety and autonomy of Scotland on the condition that the two countries will retain their status as “auld allies.”
Mary Stuart was born into three powerful families; the ruling Stuarts in Scotland, the competent military Guises in France, and the ruling Tudors in England putting her in a position to amass a lot of power but also gain numerous enemies. As Lewis puts it, Mary’s blood and faith seemed to place her everywhere or specifically, at the intersection of several areas including France, Scotland, and English and the Catholic-leaning remote lands of Italy and Spain. At the same time, everyone who met Mary in her young age recognized her vivacious character, beauty, polite manner, and the excellent education she received under the careful supervision of her family, all of which contributed to her influence as an adult.
Education and Integration into French Society (1549 – 1556)King Henry II was adamant that Mary Stuart receives her education in France because he wanted her to speak French instead of Scots as her native language, and to get accustomed to life in the French court with his other children and learn the gentler customs of France. At that young age, MaryStuart learned that at court, it paid to be attentive to the weaknesses of others and play them to one’s advantage in due time. She maintained a positive image for being tall despite her age, fluent in gesture and speech, industrious, attentive, and high-spirited.In 1552, the Cardinal of Lorraine, Mary’s uncle, and the most experienced and boldest politician in Henry II’s court, Charles Guise, became her mentor and key adviser, taking care of Mary’s finances, education, and health.If Charles was absent, Mary Stuart consulted Charles’ brother Francis, the Duke of Guise, an excellent military commander who became her surrogate father. These men controlled Mary’s life completely that she described her themas being equally responsible for her well-being.
As Mary Stuart received her education under the strict supervision of her Guise family, she spent hours with King Henry II, who grew more attached to her. Charles informed Mary Guise in a letter that at eleven years, his niece was“as well able to entertain him with pleasant and sensible talk as if she were a woman of twenty-five.” From the interactions she had with people, Mary Stuartrealized that she had a way with people, and used it well during her reign as the Queen of Scotland.The aim of the Guises had been“to secure the person of the infant queen physically or else to marry her into the English or French royal family as a guarantee of future influence.” King Henry II, on the other hand, ensured thatMary Stuartgrew up the French way to make it easy for her to becomethe Queen Consort of France and his son, the King of Scotland.
Mary Stuart, therefore, took a course much like that of her betrothed, Francis II. At the time, it was customary for royal families to train female monarchs with texts similar to those used for their male counterparts, so Queen Elizabeth I of England also studied some subjects with her brother Edward. However, Beemer asserts that female monarchs lacked feminine examples of leadership that they could emulate, so they had to adapt custom strategies to fit the unique situations they found themselves in.After gaining the intellectual competence that Henry II and the Guises felt Mary needed, she was free to choose the kind of literature she would read, and poetry, mainly French literature were among her top picks.
Due to Mary Stuart’s dedication to French culture, she became fully immersed in French society, their associations, and the French language like any native.Mary also learned to embroider, a skill that came in handy during her imprisonment since she used it to fill her empty hours, she played the lute, sang, and danced. When it came to dancing, Mary had ‘real flair’, mastering intricate routines and invoking emotions that matched the music. Mary Stuart sought every opportunity available to dance because she loved it, but it made some people see her as a sexual and adulterous woman. Throughout Mary Stuart’s life, French was her language of choice.
The successful efforts of Mary of Guise to secure the Scottish throne on behalf of her daughter are important in understanding the influence that the Guise family had on the political wisdom that the Queen of Scots gained under their guidance. Her uncles were Mary’s closest advisers during her stay in France, a family that obtained power and wealth within the French court through military prowess and a series of shrewd marriages. Mary Stuart was one of their most important assets, the one person who could possibly become the ruler of Scotland, England, and France, taking the Guise family to the very top of the power circles.
In England, Henry VIII’s only son, Edward VI, died when he was fifteen, creating room for Mary Tudor – a pious Catholic to become the Queen of England. To cement her position in the British Isles, Mary Tudor married Philip II of Spain, who was to inherit the throne and was focused on going to war against France.To protect Scotland from the political impact of an England-Spain alliance, Charles proposed that Mary Stuart be declared able to rule as the Queen of Scots either personally or using a selected deputyeven though Mary was eleven, four years short of the minimum age required for a royal to gain such power.
The Guise plan was strategic on two fronts. First, it showed that there was capable leadership in Scotland under which its armies and masses could pursue a common cause. Second, it made it possible for Mary to dismiss the Earl of Arran, the current regent in Scotland, and elect Mary of Guise, her mother, as her deputy. Through one act, the Guise family spread its reach solidly into Scotland and improved “their status at the French court as the relatives of a reigning queen.” Even with her new status as Queen, Mary Stuart could not sustain her lifestyle as a generous mistress and Charles’ unwillingness to help her financially slowly made Mary realize she had to look out for herself. She later came to mistrust her uncle,Charles.
Mary’s MarriagesKing Francis II of FranceAt the age of fifteen, shortly after completing her studies, Mary Stuart got married to Francis II. In July of 1559,Mary Stuart and Francis became the King and Queen of France and Scotland, after Henry II’s death. However, in 1561, Francis II also died,and in August that year, Mary Stuart had to return to Scotland because her mother had also passed away, and there was political upheaval in the French court caused by struggles for power between her mother-in-law, Catherine de Medici, and the Guise family.Unfortunately, Mary Stuartand Francis did not have any children.
Back in Scotland, key Protestant leaders were turning their religious uprising into a national rebellion and even looking towards England for financial support as they secured political power in Parliament by involving as many kin in the proceedings as possible. As a result, Protestants were the majority in Parliament by the time Mary Stuart returned to Scotland. Mary Stuart, therefore, had to compromise by accepting their authority and involving them in her future plans.
Henry Stewart, Lord DarnleyOn July 29, 1565, Mary married Lord Darnley even though the Scottish Lords objected to the match. It was the first disastrous mistake Mary made because it created a major rift between her and her government. Many felt that it was inappropriate for a queen to choose a king for her people since on the eve of her wedding, Mary declared Darnley“King of this our Kingdom” and reportedly stated, “I would rather miss the mass than miss the bridegroom.”By willfully going through with this union, Mary irreversibly ruined her reputation as a reasonable monarch who was willing to defer to her betters and elders, and instead, became the Queen who put her desires over her kingdom and religion.It, therefore, was not hard for her enemies to convince the public that Mary was capable of murder in the pursuit of selfish motives.
Before Mary married Lord Darnley, her uncle Charles had organized a marriage between her and Condé, a Protestant prince, believing Mary would convert from Catholicism so that Elizabeth who remained unmarried could name Mary, her successor. Charles’plan did not work because after manipulating her affairs in France, Mary did not trust him and believed that he did not care what happened to her. Charles disapproved of Darnley who was Mary’s cousin and gave her a better claim to the English throne, describing Darnley as an ‘agreeable nincompoop’.This is because Darnleywas violent, foolish, abusive to Mary, and made her miserable. A short time after their marriage,he began forcing Mary to issue him with the crown matrimonial, which would ensure he remained King if Mary died before him. The confederate lords of Scotland and Mary did not approve of this and ensured he did not get it.
On June 19, 1566, Mary Stuartbore Darnley a son, who later became King James VI of Scotland and King James I of England. At the time of his conception and birth, it was rumoured that the child’s father was Rizzio, Mary’s secretary and close friendsince relations were strained between Mary and her husband. However, Darnley accepted James as his,andsubsequently, the news of Mary’s heir distressed Elizabeth who did not have children that she would be the last of the Tudor line.
After safely having an heir, Mary now felt she had no use for Darnley and spurned him publicly for their failed marriage, while she grew close to the Earl of Bothwell whom she had come to trust explicitly among her council.Lord Darnley was murderedin February 1567 when his lodgings at Edinburgh blew to rubble.Bothwell was a suspect in the murder, but after a trial, he was acquitted. Bothwell proceeded to abduct Queen Mary and hold her captive at Dunbar Castle where it was rumoured that he raped her.
James Hepburn, Earl of BothwellOn May 15th1567, Mary Stuartmarried Bothwell, after he annulled his marriage to Jean Gordon, and their alliance was met with violent opposition by the Scots. They saw this union as Mary’s admission of guilt, especially because when they tried to get Bothwell to answer for the alleged crime, Mary defended him. Due to Mary’sapparent lack of loyalty to her late husband, Darnley, Mary’s brother defected and formed an army that opposed the Queen. On June that year, after a chain of conflicts between Protestant and Catholic factions, Mary Stuart was put in prison in Loch Leven and on July 24, 1568, she abdicated under duress in service to her son James.
After Mary’s marriage to Bothwell, Elizabeth wrote to her expressing shock over Mary’s choice of a husband. Elizabeth stated that hastily marrying Bothwell was one of the worst choices that Mary Stuart could have made especially because it put her honour into question and caused her to fall out of favour with the public. Elizabeth wanted to form an alliance with Mary StuartFor a long time for the peace between their kingdoms. However, Mary’s deteriorating fame foiled the plan.
The Role of Mary’s Personal Life in Her Imprisonment and ExecutionThe details of Mary’s personal life are vital in understanding how she handled matters at court when she returned to Scotland, and how her personal tastes, beliefs, and character alienated her from her subjects. Her ability to use words and court performances to garner support earned her the label ‘seductress’ and in part, prevented Mary Stuartfrom ever speaking to Elizabeth face to face. Elizabeth once received a report of Mary’s cunning which stated that “there is something sublime in the words and bearing of the Queen of Scots that constraints even her enemies to speak well of her.”Her character gave Mary’s enemies reason to show people that she was not trustworthy and did not have their interests at heart, which successfully alienated her from her allies.
In a letter to Sir William Cecil by John Knox, Knox retells of his interactions with Mary Stuart where he reiterated that he could have been deceived by her act. However, he did not because while “in communication with her, he espied such craft as he had not found in such age.” Due to being raised in a Catholic-centered court and with a family that taught her to use religion to gain public favour, Mary Stuartrealized that taking a strong Catholic stand while leading a Parliament full of Protestants would enable her to take control from those who would oppose her. Cristopher Rooksby who had frequent private meetings with Mary in 1566 stated that Mary’s hope after invading England was to “find many friends […] especially among those of the old religion, which she meant to restore, and thereby win the hearts of the common people.”This showed her true opinion about religion that it was essential only as far as it offered Marypublic support.
Mary Stuart, however, was the most relevant Catholic figure in the British Isles between the 1560s and 70s, andher resolute claim over Englandwere the key issues that led to Mary’s imprisonment and subsequent execution.In Scotland, Mary may have been confinedfor allegedly murdering Lord Darnley, but in England, this accusation was not enough for Elizabeth to sentence her. It was the fact that Mary posed a threat to the English Queen and the Protestant faction that mattered to the English Privy Council. Mary’s execution was based on the fact that Mary had every intention of killing Elizabeth andtaking England.
The ambitious nature of Mary Stuart was acquired in France where both Henry II and Mary’s uncles emphasized that Mary was the rightful queen of England, Scotland, and France. When Elizabeth ascended to the throne, there were doubts about her legitimacy that the Roman Church confirmed in February 1570 when the Pope excommunicated Queen Elizabeth II from the church.Staunch Catholics in England and France did not acknowledge Elizabeth’s right to the throne and gave support to Mary Stuart which blinded her into believing that regardless of what she did, she would always have the public behind her. Henry II had supported Mary Stuart and Francis when they adopted English arms to show that they intended to claim Elizabeth’s position. All this talk about being the rightful queen fed Mary’s ego to the extent that although her second and third marriages were meant to give her a better claim over the English throne, she chose Darnley and supported Bothwell without considering the effect her actions would have on her allies.
The Imprisonmentof Mary StuartImprisonment in ScotlandThe Scottish Lords who rebelled against Mary after her marriage to Bothwell were the ones who put her in confinement in 1567. At the time, Bothwell had already been tried and executed for Darnley’s murder after trying to elope with Mary when he was accused.In a pamphlet written by George Buchanan, a Protestant scholar and writer from Scotland, Mary’s imprisonment at Loch Leven was lenient because though she also deserved execution, she was only being restrained to prevent her from further mischief. He described Mary Stuart as a slave of passion and a captive of desire which depicted her moral failureas a monarch.
Mary Stuartescaped from Loch Leven by supposedly winning over the son of her captor in May 1568 after the Earls of Lindesey and Ruthven forced her to resign her crown.For a while, Mary Stuart tried to take back her throne by gathering her remaining supporters and putting up a fight, but a devastating defeat had her fleeing. She went to England through Solway Firth, hoping to find both financial and military help from Queen Elizabeth I that would ensure her restoration as Queen of Scotland.Instead of receiving a warm welcome, Mary Stuartwas confined because Scottish lords had followed her across the border demanding a trial for the former Queen of Scotland.
The Trial Years (1568-1572)Mary Stuart and those who accused her assembled at York for Mary’s first trial. The issues that had been raised against Mary Stuart included conspiracy and treason against King Darnley and adultery, but the outcome of the trial was largely ambiguous. It seemed more like the due process necessary for accusation and defence since the evidence brought against Mary was inconclusive, and Mary was neither declared innocent nor guilty.
In November of 1569, Mary’s allies decided it was no longer enough for Elizabeth to recognize Mary as her legitimate heir. They made a plan to take the English throne for MaryStuart forcefully. However, their plot was foiled when they received word from the Duke of Norfolk who was imprisoned in the Tower that they were not to do anything because it would mean that Norfolk would lose his head. In addition, words of this revolt reached Queen Elizabeth, and she had Mary Stuartmoved from Tutbury where her allies were to rescue her from, and into Coventry which was more secure. At this time, the plan failed, and the gathered troops had to regroup. The Ridolfi Plot was discoveredtowards the end of 1571. The plot involved a planned uprising in England, an invasion led by the Duke of Alva from Spain, liberation of the Queen of Scotland, and her subsequent marriage to the Duke of Norfolk which will give her the power to depose Elizabeth from the throne and restore the Catholicism as the key religion in Europe.
When Elizabeth responded to two Parliamentary Petitions Urging the Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, she rejected them on account of what that action meant for her.The first time she was concerned that her “doings would come to the scanning of many fine wits, not only within the realm but in foreign countries” and the next time, she was concerned about what people will “now say when it shall be spread that for the safety of her life, a maiden queen could be content to spill the blood even of her own kinswoman.” Boyd observes that Elizabeth’s reluctance to issue the death sentence for Mary was because she wanted to have no hand in the demise of her cousin and a fellow monarch. He is convinced that Elizabeth intended to wait until there was no doubt regarding Mary’s guilt before she issued the execution verdict. When she finally issued the edict for Mary’s death, Elizabeth hoped it would appease the people who were demanding for justice, and that Elizabeth could negotiate with her Lords for Mary to be released and give the Monarchs an opening to create an English-Scot alliance.Boyd notes that for the remainder of her rule, Elizabeth tried hard to improve her reputation through “clemency and leniency, to make herself in the end, famous by an action of such apparent cruelty and by so dolorous a sentence, as no heart that were not made of marble or steel” would not pass a similar judgment unless it was persuaded of the guilt of the accused.
Appeal for Mercy (1582)On November 8, 1582, Mary Stuartwrote to her cousin and captor for 13 years, Queen Elizabeth I requesting for freedom while tacking other issues, in a ten-page address. Mary showed her desperation through the words she used, pled for her innocence, and certain that Elizabeth would need confirmation of Mary’s treason, confessed to never aligning with the Duke of Norfolk in a plan to dethrone Elizabeth. In her letter, Mary was aware that her tone would displease the Queen, so she asserted that it was her innocence that gave her the courage to act so boldly. Mary goes ahead to request that Elizabeth allows her to spend the last years of her life outside England, in a quiet place, free from captivity. At this point, Mary was aware that she did not have long to live, so she mentions the facts of her deteriorating health to make Elizabeth see that Mary posed no more threat to her seat on the English throne.
Mary Stuartalso states that her letter was meant to warn Elizabeth about the consequences of her actions, and a memorial piece for the Queen of Scots. In the opening section, Mary informs Elizabeth that the letter was intended to “serve you [Elizabeth] as long as you live after me for a perpetual testimony and engraving upon your conscience” and toward the conclusion, she warns, “I must remind you, that one day you will have to answer for your charge, and for all those whom you doom, and I desire that my blood and my country be remembered at that time”. Mary was also keen to advise Elizabeth to take caution because she will “set a very bad example to the Princes of Christendom, to act towards their subjects with the same rigour that you will show to me, a sovereign queen, and your nearest relation.” Taking this warning to heart, Elizabeth employed a lot of care when handling Mary’s trial in 1586 when she transferred the duty of collecting evidence on the principal judges and Privy Council of England.
With the opportunity that this letter gave Mary, she ensured that the document acted on her behalf to show exactly how she felt and convey her requests to the ruling monarch. While maintaining a respectful stance, Mary conveys a sense of companionship with Elizabeth, banking on the fact that they were related and governing women in positions that were primarily meant for men. However, Mary knew that she was a subject of interest in the British Isles, so there was a high chance that her letters would be preserved for future reference. Therefore, within her letter, she tells her story from her perspective, creating a detailed record of her imprisonment in Scotland for two years, and in England for fourteen, that would be separate from what her enemies in both countries would later say about her. She also maintains her innocence of the charges placed against her, makes an appeal to her captor in the name of Jesus Christ whom they both serve, and tries to secure a place for her son by asking Elizabeth to protect him.
Throughout their tumulus relationship, Queen Elizabeth I was reluctant to impart swift action after learning of Mary’s plot to usurp her. First, Elizabeth was aware of the possibility that a regicide would shift power to Parliament, promoting the idea that true political power lies in a nation’s citizens, not its rulers. Guy reiterates that Elizabeth “had done everything possible to prevent Mary’s execution until she felt it could not be delayed more, and then to shift the blame for it onto the shoulders of others.” According to Guy, Elizabeth knew that allowing regicide would ultimately lead to the undermining of the Monarchy’s divine right to the throne, which contributed to her indecision regarding Mary’s fate.
The Last Two Years (1585 – 1587)On April 1585, Sir Ralph Sadler was succeeded by Sir Amias Poulet as the person in charge of Mary Stuart, and he carried these duties until her execution. During the two years, five months, and eighteen days that Poulet was in charge of the Scottish Queen, he recorded that the expenditure amounted to 9,139l. 2s. 6d. At the time, Mary Stuartwas still being kept at Tutbury, a castle with less security compared to Wingfield Manor, her previous lodgings.Mary Stuart, in January of 1585, wrote a letter to Elizabeth, complaining about her accommodations at Tutbury since the castle was poorly furnished and in a state of neglect.
Although Elizabeth responded in anger at Sadler for overlooking these details, her letter arrived with another one from Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s spymaster, who assured Sadler that Elizabeth’s letter was only written to gratify the Scottish Queen, meaning that Queen Elizabeth I did not find fault with Sadler. Despite the offered guarantee, Sadler resigned his position to Poulet who dealt more harshly with Mary than anyone had before. According to the available records of this time, Poulet’s severe treatment worsened after the Babington Conspiracy was discovered, and Queen Elizabeth I encouraged it. In August 1586, the Queen wrote to Poulet asking him to “let the wicked murderess know how her vile deserts compel these orders,” and expressing her gratitude ‘for his most troublesome charge so well discharged’ thus far. Poulet also received another letter from Walsingham granting permission for Mary’s transfer to Chartley and issuing a command that Poulet treat her as a prisoner. Even her guards were directed to shoot Mary Stuartin case she made an escape attempt, or someone tried to rescue her.
The Babington plot, propagated by Mary’s former page, Anthony Babington in 1586, was a detailed plan that involved Elizabeth’s assassination, a Spanish invasion, and the installation of Mary Stuart on the English throne. Since Walsingham was intercepting the correspondences between Mary and Babington, the Privy Council became aware of the plot early, but they were waiting for incriminating evidence to appear before taking it to Elizabeth and convincing her to do away with Mary Stuart for good. The opportunity presented itself when Mary Stuartsent Babington a letter approving the plans they were making and issuing the go-ahead. With this evidence in hand, Elizabeth agreed to a trial for Mary in the Autumn of 1586 where Mary was found guilty of violating the legislation passed in 1585 meant to protect the life of a ruling monarch.
Even knowing how far Mary would go to get the English throne, Elizabeth was uncertain about issuing a death warrant. Elizabeth eventually issued that execution order, gave it to William Davison, another state secretary, but did not give any instructions about how the Privy Council will use it. This ambiguity did not stop the council, however, and after a lot of deliberation, they agreed to support Davison if he was blamed for acting without the Queen’s consent, so they acted with haste, andon February 8, 1587, Mary was executed. Due to the ambiguity of Mary’s death warrant, Elizabeth pled innocence in Mary’s death and had Davison fired and imprisoned in the tower. However, about one year later, Davison was quietly released, offered valuable lands, and paid his secretary’s salary right until he died in 1608. In one of her private writings, Queen Elizabeth I had expressed her belief that rulers were divinely appointed, and deserved obedience from their subjects. She expressly states that although “rulers must put the common good above personal interest,” it is their responsibility to “distribute honours in person but mete out punishment through intermediaries.”The Trial and Execution of Mary StuartThere were two types of evidence brought forward during the Trial at York. One was a collection of materials dubbed the ‘Casket Letters’ while the other was a piece done by George Buchanan called Detectiosive de Maria or collectively, the Book of articles which contained eyewitness accounts, presumptions, and circumstances derived from the contents of the casket letters, that provided a bigger picture of Mary’s unsatisfactory marriage to Lord Darnley. The book also contained tales of Mary’s plans with Bothwell for Darnley’s murder and the scandalous way she behaved with both husbands. When it could not be determined at York whether Mary was guilty, Elizabeth could not ensure Mary’s reinstatement in Scotland because her people did not believe her. Therefore, Mary remained confined in England.
Charges Placed Against the Queen of ScotsIn May 1572, a petition was presented by the English parliament to Queen Elizabeth I outlining the charges they were placing against Mary Stuart. According to the Bardon Papers, the case against Mary was built upon these issues:
Untruly and wickedly challenging the current possession and estate of the English crown, and injuriously usurping the crown’s arms.
Failing to revoke the usurpation in question as she was requested by the English ambassadors who were sent by Queen Elizabeth I and refused to ratify the treaty suggested by the Queen’s commissioners.
Together with her ministers, regularly practising ways that were set to advance her claim on the English title.
Attempting to withdraw the late Norfolk from his obedience to the English Queen, and going against her Majesty’s express prohibition to marry that Duke so that Mary could gain an advantage that will promote her goal to usurp the Queen.
Forcefully soliciting the Duke of Norfolk for the intended marriage, and then stirring the Earls of Westmorland and Northumberland together with their confederates so they could wage open war and rebel against the Queen of England.
Soliciting the help of the Pope and other confederates from other kingdoms through an Italian merchant by the name Ridolphi so that Mary could maintain a foreign army that will be used to invade England. While doing this, Mary was working with her ministers and the Duke of Norfolk and her ministers to set up a rebellion within the realm.
Conspiring with some fellows in the English court to overtake Queen Elizabeth’s custody and power, and receiving correspondence from the Pope who requires her assistance to restore the Roman Church in England so that she can gain Papal support in crushing her enemies and those who oppose Mary’s entitlement to the English sovereignty.
Accepting an amount of up to 100,000 crowns from the Pope that she was supposed to use to promote the Catholic religion in the realm after she ascended the English throne.
Her ministers were devising to disturb and break up the parliament set up by Elizabeth, and trying to seize Her Majesty so that Mary can achieve her goal.
Her ministers were in possession of pedigrees, books, and divers that were published in foreign countries, which promote Mary’s status using false titles to justify her claim and subsequent ascent to the English throne.
Continuing with her wicked plans to invade England even after her earlier plots had been discovered and she had been placed in English custody.
Charges Placed Against Queen Elizabeth I by Mary Queen of Scots (1582)In a letter addressed to Queen Elizabeth I by the Queen of Scots, Mary makes accusations of her own against her captor, listing a few occurrences when Elizabeth acted unjustly. Mary claimed that on the request or command of Queen Elizabeth I;
Secret messengers, spies, and agents were sent into Scotland to corrupt and rally the locals against Mary to destroy the Scottish Queen and bring about all the troubles she had been facing thus far.
Throgmorton counselled Mary to sign the release that abdicated the Scottish throne to her son James, assuring her that the document would not be held valid in England, but Elizabeth was not doing anything to nullify its implications.
Military and financial aid was promised to Mary to help in the fight against her enemies on the condition that Mary would come to the border of Scotland and England so that Elizabeth will meet her in person and give the promised help. However, when Mary came into England on the Queen’s word, she was instead placed under guard, locked in castles, and shamed while in captivity, an experience equitable to a thousand deaths.
English forces pursued and besieged Mary’s supporters and friends in the Edinburgh Castle, ordered them to disarm themselves in Elizabeth’s name so no harm would be inflicted on them, and then proceeded to imprison and hang Mary’s allies.
Mary was constantly forbidden to help her son in the face of impending trouble or to have an acquaintance with him in the time of her captivity.
Mary’s body was destroyed by the unjust imprisonment that she was subjected to.
Queen Elizabeth replied to Mary’s letter, and although the original document was lost, there are records kept on the issues she addressed. Read, and Cotton surmise that since Elizabeth avoids talking about the fourth accusation, it possibly points to her guilt in the matter. Otherwise, Elizabeth responds to all the other issues raised by Mary, insisting that all of the promises that Mary had been offered by Elizabeth were based on the premise that Mary and Elizabeth were friends, and they took place at a time when Mary had a good reputation both in Scotland and England. However, Elizabeth made it clear that after charges of treason and murder were placed on Mary, it was difficult to trust her or any of her friends unless they were proven innocent.
The Cecil ManuscriptsThe Cecil Manuscripts are a collection of more than 30,000 papers that include political memoranda, correspondence of public individuals, treaties, and state papers. They are detailed enough to give a thorough account of events that took place during the life of Sir William Cecil and his son. They are important because they provide relevant information about the religious reformation taking place around the British Isles and the information Cecil received from his allies that came to be used as evidence (both factual and circumstantial) during Mary’s trial. They also offer all the intelligence that Cecil received regarding the nature of Mary’s imprisonment in England, the plots made in her name or with her consent by her allies, her trial, the Casket letters used to convict her, and her execution.
The Casket Letters came to light on December 14, 1568, when earls of the realm an Elizabeth’s Privy Council met at the Hampton Court to determine the innocence or guilt of Mary Queen of Scots. The evidence that later came to be known as Casket Letters consisted a sequence of sonnets, two marriage contracts, and eight letters that were found inside a silver box that Mary Stuart had been given by her first husband, King Francis II of France. Before being presented to the court, however, it is believed that the Scottish Lords had come across them in June 1567 at the Holyrood royal apartments, and they used the content to justify the removal and abdication of Mary Stuart. However, warnings are issued against using the available ‘casket letters’ as true evidence in Mary’s case since these documents were copies written in a hand that looked like Mary’s but was clearly not. The summation is that these papers were copies of other copies altered along the way to fit certain prejudices and push specific agendas.
One of these letters was written in handwriting that resembled Mary’s but was evidently not hers, and it appears to have been heavily altered. The others are not very credible either, since they were translated from French which was Mary’s primary language into English, and they are possibly copies of copies. These letters consisted of two types of correspondences to Bothwell; they were twelve poems, and eight love lettersweresent by Mary while she was still married to Darnley. Referencing Mary’s love of court performances and dancing, the Duke of Norfolk who presented these items to Elizabeth described them as long, horrible, abominable and containing foul matter that was a poor reflection of a monarch. Though they were officially incriminating, these letters served another purpose of reinforcing Mary’s image as an adulteress who sought to trap her reader in her passions.
In the second sonnet that was presented to the court, the words that were allegedly written by Mary Stuart to Bothwell showed her willingness to desert her royal duty for love. Part of it read; “In his handis and in his full power, / I put my sonne, my honour, and my lyif, / My country, my subjects, my soule al subdewit.” This provided enough justification that Mary Stuart ought to abdicate her position as queen because she was in no position to return the loyalty that her subjects had offered her. Most of the information in these materials was meant to show the development of a plot to murder Darnley and depict Mary as a murderer. If not, they showed the ‘depravity’ with which Mary expressed her love and loyalty to Bothwell, dismissing her as a devoted queen.
As the lords of the Privy Council found evidence of Mary’s guilt, George Buchanan was tasked with the responsibility of composing the legal argument against this Queen. His papers formed the foundation of the narrative that was spun around the Casket letters, which means that the interpretation of their content was also influenced by the opinion of Mary’s enemies. Before composing these documents, the Scottish scholar, Buchanan had published a few pieces about Mary because he knew her well and had taught her Latin while she was in France.However, at the time of her trial, Buchanan had come to detest Mary, with his opinion of her worsening after he read the letters. Believed to be a credible witness, Buchanan confirmed that it was indeed Mary’s writing on the Casket letters, but it is possible that they were merely genuine letters from Mary interposed with incriminating phrases and words.
In 1585, the Act for the Queen’s Safety was established so that anyone who posed a danger to the Queen of England would be tried under that law. When Mary’s case was revisited in 1586, the facts surrounding her intent to harm Queen Elizabeth were judged according to this new law, wherein she was found guilty.With the several plots that had been uncovered by Elizabeth’s Council, it was easy to find Mary in violation of the Act, the punishment for that being death. With the several plots that had been uncovered by Elizabeth’s Council in addition to the information contained in the casket letters, it was easy to find Mary in violation of the Act, the punishment for that being death.
The ExecutionMary Stuart had been raised to become a queen, and from a young age, she displayed an impressive amount of confidence in her gait, speech, and everything else she did. To add to her reputation, Mary had the allure and physical beauty, and when it came to her character, she was often praised for her vivacious nature, razor-sharp wit, ability to be a natural conversationalist, amiability, unreserved generosity, glamour, and attentive. While it is uncertain that her character had changed because of an almost non-existent social life, Mary’s health and beauty deteriorated greatly during the last two decades of her life.
After leading such an active lifestyle filled with horse riding, dancing, court performances and occasional battles, eighteen years of no exercise and an almost permanent state inertia left Mary with no hair, a slight stoop, rounded shoulders, and thickened features. On the last day of her life, Mary Stuartdid not let her confidence waver. Although she had rheumatism which caused her knees to swell, Mary began the walk from her chamber to the execution room alone and as confident as ever. She hid her bald head under a wig that resembled her hair so that it was only after her head had been severed and the executioner was holding it by the hair for everyone to see that her head fell away from the wig and people saw the true extent of Mary’s physical decline.
However, she remained as stoic and cunning as ever, managing to get the Earls of Kent and Shrewsbury, who were escorting her to the execution chamber, to go against the orders they had been given and allow Mary’s servants to join the procession leading her to the block. The English Lords were concerned that if Mary’s servants stayed close, they would be tempted to verbally oppose the proceedings with lengthy speeches, or wipe the blood on Mary’s belongings with napkins to use as relics of their martyred Queen. Mary promised the Earls that none of her servants would behave in such a manner, and reminded them that regardless of her state, she was still their Queen’s cousin, the dowager queen of France, and Scotland’s anointed queen.
Mary Stuart was known to be dramatic and theatric when she deemed it necessary to help meet her ends. During her execution, Mary played the part of an innocent martyr to the letter, spending her last night in a prayerful vigil with her servants. On the day of the execution, she dressed the part, ‘carrying a crucifix of ivory in one hand and a Latin prayer book in the other’, a golden cross attached to a string of rosary beads hanging around her waist, and from her neck, a gold or silver chain with a medallion that depicted an image of Jesus as the Lamb of God. While kneeling in front of the executioner’s block, agreed to forgive her executioner for the part he played in her death when the man asked for it, claiming she was relieved he was ending her torment. When the time came for a prayer to be made over her as the individual under judgment, Mary fervently recited Catholic prayers to outdo the Protestant prayers being offered by the English council that was overseeing her death. Mary then openly committed her soul to God before the executioner severed her head.
AsMary Stuart was undressed for the beheading, it was evident that she had chosen her inner garments carefully. They were of a tawny shade, the colour used by the Catholic Church to represent Martyrdom. She did all this for people to see her as a pawn in Europe’s longstanding religious struggles, proving that she was ready to use her influence to change public opinion one last time. When the time came for the executioner to sever Mary’s head, he did not deliver a clean blow like he normally would, which meant that he had to cut through the rest of her neck after he had missed and hit her skull with his axe.
At the point of her death, Mary Stuart had ensured that her memory would live on.She left behind some servants who adored her and saw her as one of the most generous mistresses, biding them to spread the word that she had died ‘a true woman to [her] religion, and like a true Scottish woman and a true French woman’. Some accounts of the execution state that after Mary’s head was separated from her body, her lips moved for a few minutes, with no one discerning what she said. The English lords charged with ensuring the process went smoothly did not give this account,however, but they had every item in that room which bore Mary’s blood burned to ash so none of her supporters would preserve symbols of her death.
Mary’s BurialMary’s funeral took place on August 1, 1587, after she had been embalmed, and she was buried in a vault opposite Katherine of Aragon’s tomb on the south side of the quire in Peterborough Cathedral. In 1612, the body was exhumed to be reinterred at Saint Peter’s Church in Westminster on the south side of the Chapel Royall where a royal tomb had been built for Mary, and she rests there until today. No records show that Mary was given the normal rights that royals and sometimes even commoners enjoyed at the time of their death during the Tudor and Stuart periods. According to Cressy, when Queen Elizabeth I, a Tudor, died in 1603, select lords and ladies watched her body all night long in a vigil held that the drawing chamber of Whitehall Castle. The watch for Elizabeth lasted three nights, with aristocrats and courtiers coming in and out of the room to represent the end of an era. Cressy notes that the same rite was offered to Queen Anne, the wife of King James I who succeeded Elizabeth, and some English families at the bottom of the social scale did the same for their departed. However, the Queen of Scots was not given the same respect, since she did not die an English woman with honour.
ConclusionSince Mary became queen as an infant during a time when all the kingdoms around her were vying for sovereignty,and her family focused on amassing as much power as they could, most of Mary’s goals were imposed on her. With England and France trying to win her hand, she grew up with a sense of entitlement, until things began to fall apart around her and she realized compromises had to be made. After making some of the greatest mistakes of her life, Mary used her time in prison to find ways of turning around her situation. No level of deteriorated health was enough to make Elizabeth risk facing Mary’s charm, and Elizabeth never went to see Mary while she was in prison. Mary was simply good at creating the image she desired.
As is evident in the portrayal of Mary Stuart by several authors and historians, there are very few facts about her character and political skill that her critics and supporters agree on. On the one hand, Mary Stuart appeared to be an innocent casualty of the power struggles that had been running rampant in the 15th and 16th centuries between England and France. The monarchies of these two countries had political goals for their families, with each one trying to expand territories and gain authority over the British Isles. Drifting these families further apart was the issue of religion, England asserting the superiority of the Protestant faith on its subjects and those beyond, while France worked towards creating an alliance with Rome and the Catholic faith. When Mary Stuart was born, England and France were already fighting over the control of her kingdom, and her existence made her the perfect tool that King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France could use to impose their power and religion over Scotland.
Due to the importance that people attached to advantageous marriages during the Tudor and Stuart dynasties, it is no wonder that Mary Queen of Scots spent her entire life trying to find a husband who would increase her political power. However, Mary forgot that a husband could die suddenly, and without a personal influence over people, no one can hold power by simply relying on the reach of others. When Elizabeth had offered Mary a compromise, Mary should have listened and tried to bargain with her cousin so they could benefit from each other. Such lack of tact demonstrates that either she was unable to recognize the opportunity available to her, or she was misled to believe that maintaining her position as Elizabeth’s adversary was her best choice. It is possible that with her upbringing and the fact that Mary and Elizabeth were fighting on opposing religious fronts, Mary had created an image of her cousin in her head which made her believe that Elizabeth was untrustworthy. Additionally, most of the people who advised Mary and Elizabeth on their strategic choices were Catholic and Protestant respectively, and they had been on longstanding confrontation with each other, so it would have been difficult for them to approve a Mary-Elizabeth alliance. Maintaining this standoff, therefore, might have seemed like the best course of action, but it resulted in Mary losing her life and being estranged from her son, and Elizabeth being the last Tudor monarch to sit on the English throne.
At the same time, Mary’s intent to create a spectacle during her execution and for her story to be remembered went on perfectly. Across Europe, and especially in the British Isles, people were already rising up to defend Mary’s position and declare her a true saint according to the Catholic faith. From her association with the French and the alliances that Mary wanted to make with Spain and the Pope in Italy, her name and reputation spread far and wide. The fact that Mary Stuart did not have proper allies who could give her the adequate advice she needed and guide her to make the correct choices led to Mary’s failure. Both Mary and Elizabeth were women who came to the throne at a time when the British Isles were at war regarding matters related to religion, territory, and kingship rights. Although they were trained almost as well as their male counterparts to take on the responsibility that came with being the reigning monarch, the roles they had to play to reunite a people who were divided among themselves religiously was no small feat. Elizabeth, knowing how it felt to be accused of a crime that one did not do made her unwilling to pass sentence on Mary unless there was no uncertainty involved in her case. She also spent the rest of her reign making up for the execution of her cousin, and she possibly had a hand in ensuring Mary’s son, a Stuart, would rule on the English throne after her, thereby ending the Tudor reign over England.
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