Thursday, September 10, 2015

Queen Elizabeth I - 1587 orders execution of Mary Queen of Scots - Eyewitness Account

Mary Queen of Scots, Mary Stuart, Mary I of Scotland

Mary, Queen of Scots (1542–1587), also known as Mary Stuart or Mary I of Scotland, was queen regnant of Scotland from 1542-1567 and queen consort of France from 1559-1560.

François Clouet (French artist, 1510-1572) Mary Stuart Queen Mary of Scotland age 13

Mary was the only surviving legitimate child of King James V of Scots. She was 6 days old when her father died; and she was crowned 9 months later. In 1558, when she was 16, she married Francis, Dauphin of France. He ascended the French throne as King Francis II in 1559; and Mary became queen consort of France, until she was widowed in 1560 at the age of 18.

François Clouet (French artist, 1510-1572) Mary Queen of Scots Mourning

Mary then returned to Scotland, arriving in Leith in August 1561. Four years later, she married her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Their union was unhappy & in February 1567, there was a huge explosion at their house; where Darnley was found dead, apparently strangled, in the garden.

1558 attributed to François Clouet (French artist, 1510-1572) Mary Stuart

She soon married the 4th Earl of Bothwell, who was generally believed to be Darnley's murderer. Following an uprising against the couple, Queen Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle on 15 June 1567, & forced to abdicate in favour of her 1-year-old son, King James VI.

After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, Mary fled to England seeking the protection of her cousin Queen Elizabeth I of England. This may have been an unwise choice, as Mary had previously claimed Elizabeth's throne as her own & was considered the legitimate sovereign of England by many English Catholics. Perceiving her as a threat, Queen Elizabeth had her arrested. After 18 years & 9 months in custody in a number of castles & manor houses in England, Mary finally was tried & executed for treason for her alleged involvement in 3 plots to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I.

1565 Mary Stuart

Although Elizabeth signed the warrant for Mary's execution, Elizabeth tore it up. Advisors challenged her decision & another copy was signed- by someone- & immediately the council sent if off. Elizabeth was torn between protecting her throne & taking the life of a fellow sovereign & relative, even one she did not respect or like.

Elizabeth I sent Mary, Queen of Scots a letter, written in French, at the opening of her trial at Fotheringhay on 12 October 1586.

"You have in various ways and manners attempted to take my life and to bring my kingdom to destruction by bloodshed. I have never proceeded so harshly against you, but have, on the contrary, protected and maintained you like myself. These treasons will be proved to you and all made manifest. Yet it is my will, that you answer the nobles and peers of the kingdom as if I were myself present. I therefore require, charge, and command that you make answer for I have been well informed of your arrogance. Act plainly without reserve, and you will sooner be able to obtain favour of me. Elizabeth"

François Clouet (French artist, 1510-1572) Mary Stuart

The second signed warrant was sent from London on 4th February, reaching Fotheringhay the following evening. On the 7th the Earls of Shrewsbury and Kent, who were in charge of the execution, warned Mary to prepare for death on the following day. On the 9th news of the execution reached London, and was received by the Queen with surprise and horror. She openly raged against her councilors. She sent her secretary Davison, who had given her the 2nd warrant, to the Tower.

Queen Elizabeth I orders execution of Mary Queen of Scots February 8, 1587

"Her prayers being ended, the executioners, kneeling, desired her Grace to forgive them her death: who answered, "I forgive you with all my heart, for now, I hope, you shall make an end of all my troubles.

"Then they, with her two women, helping her up, began to disrobe her of her apparel: then she, laying her crucifix upon the stool, one of the executioners took from her neck the Agnus Dei, which she, laying hands off it, gave to one of her women, and told the executioner, he should be answered money for it. Then she suffered them, with her two women, to disrobe her of her chain of pomander beads and all other apparel most willingly, and with joy rather than sorrow, helped to make unready herself, putting on a pair of sleeves with her own hands which they had pulled off, and that with some haste, as if she had longed to be gone.

1578 Mary Stuart after Nicholas Hilliard

"All this time they were pulling off her apparel, she never changed her countenance, but with smiling cheer she uttered these words, 'that she never had such grooms to make her unready, and that she never put off her clothes before such a company.

"Then she, being stripped of all her apparel saving her petticoat and kirtle, her two women beholding her made great lamentation, and crying and crossing themselves prayed in Latin. She, turning herself to them, embracing them, said these words in French, 'Ne crie vous, j'ay prome pour vous', and so crossing and kissing them, bad them pray for her and rejoice and not weep, for that now they should see an end of all their mistress's troubles.

1570s Mary Stuart

"Then she, with a smiling countenance, turning to her men servants, as Melvin and the rest, standing upon a bench nigh the scaffold, who sometime weeping, sometime crying out aloud, and continually crossing themselves, prayed in Latin, crossing them with her hand bade them farewell, and wishing them to pray for her even until the last hour.

"This done, one of the women have a Corpus Christi cloth lapped up three-corner-ways, kissing it, put it over the Queen of Scots' face, and pinned it fast to the caule of her head. Then the two women departed from her, and she kneeling down upon the cushion most resolutely, and without any token or fear of death, she spake aloud this Psalm in Latin, In Te Domine confido, non confundar in eternam, etc. Then, groping for the block, she laid down her head, putting her chin over the block with both her hands, which, holding there still, had been cut off had they not been espied. Then lying upon the block most quietly, and stretching out her arms cried, In manus tuas, Domine, etc., three or four times. Then she, lying very still upon the block, one of the executioners holding her slightly with one of his hands, she endured two strokes of the other executioner with an axe, she making very small noise or none at all, and not stirring any part of her from the place where she lay: and so the executioner cut off her head, saving one little gristle, which being cut asunder, he lift up her head to the view of all the assembly and bade God save the Queen. Then, her dress of lawn (her wig) from off her head, it appeared as grey as one of threescore and ten years old, polled very short, her face in a moment being so much altered from the form she had when she was alive, as few could remember her by her dead face. Her lips stirred up and a down a quarter of an hour after her head was cut off.

1565 Mary Stuart

"Then Mr. Dean [Dr. Fletcher, Dean of Peterborough] said with a loud voice, 'So perish all the Queen's enemies', and afterwards the Earl of Kent came to the dead body, and standing over it, with a loud voice said, 'Such end of all the Queen's and the Gospel's enemies.'

"Then one of the executioners, pulling off her garters, espied her little dog which was crept under her cloths, which could not be gotten forth by force, yet afterward would not depart from the dead corpse, but came and lay between her head and her shoulders, which being imbrued with her blood was carried away and washed, as all things else were that had any blood was either burned or washed clean, and the executioners sent away with money for their fees, not having any one thing that belonged unto her. And so, every man being commanded out of the hall, except the sheriff and his men, she was carried by them up into a great chamber lying ready for the surgeons to embalm her." Recorded by Robert Wynkfield (spelling & grammar updated)

Mary Stuart wrote this letter to her former brother-in-law, King Henry III of France just 6 hours before her execution at Fotheringhay Castle. Here Mary writes that she is dying as a martyr to her Catholic faith, & she expresses concern for the loyal servants who joined her English imprisonment.

"8 February 1587
"To the most Christian king, my brother and old ally,
"Royal brother, having by God's will, for my sins I think, thrown myself into the power of the Queen my cousin, at whose hands I have suffered much for almost twenty years, I have finally been condemned to death by her and her Estates. I have asked for my papers, which they have taken away, in order that I might make my will, but I have been unable to recover anything of use to me, or even get leave either to make my will freely or to have my body conveyed after my death, as I would wish, to your kingdom where I had the honor to be queen, your sister and old ally.

"Tonight, after dinner, I have been advised of my sentence: I am to be executed like a criminal at eight in the morning. I have not had time to give you a full account of everything that has happened, but if you will listen to my doctor and my other unfortunate servants, you will learn the truth, and how, thanks be to God, I scorn death and vow that I meet it innocent of any crime, even if I were their subject. The Catholic faith and the assertion of my God-given right to the English crown are the two issues on which I am condemned, and yet I am not allowed to say that it is for the Catholic religion that I die, but for fear of interference with theirs. The proof of this is that they have taken away my chaplain, and although he is in the building, I have not been able to get permission for him to come and hear my confession and give me the Last Sacrament, while they have been most insistent that I receive the consolation and instruction of their minister, brought here for that purpose. The bearer of this letter and his companions, most of them your subjects, will testify to my conduct at my last hour. It remains for me to beg Your Most Christian Majesty, my brother-in-law and old ally, who have always protested your love for me, to give proof now of your goodness on all these points: firstly by charity, in paying my unfortunate servants the wages due them - this is a burden on my conscience that only you can relieve: further, by having prayers offered to God for a queen who has borne the title Most Christian, and who dies a Catholic, stripped of all her possessions. As for my son, I commend him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him. I have taken the liberty of sending you two precious stones, talismans against illness, trusting that you will enjoy good health and a long and happy life. Accept them from your loving sister-in-law, who, as she dies, bears witness of her warm feeling for you. Again I commend my servants to you. Give instructions, if it please you, that for my soul's sake part of what you owe me should be paid, and that for the sake of Jesus Christ, to whom I shall pray for you tomorrow as I die, I be left enough to found a memorial mass and give the customary alms.Wednesday, at two in the morning, Your most loving and most true sister,  Mary R"

Queen Elizabeth I sent a letter, King James VI of Scotland just 4 days after the execution. In it, she asserts her innocence in his mother's death.

"My dear Brother, I would you knew (though not felt) the extreme dolor that overwhelms my mind, for that miserable accident which (far contrary to my meaning) hath befallen. I have now sent this kinsman of mine, whom ere now it hath pleased you to favour, to instruct you truly of that which is too irksome for my pen to tell you. I beseech you that as God and many more know, how innocent I am in this case : so you will believe me, that if I had bid aught I would have bid by it. I am not so base minded that fear of any living creature or Prince should make me so afraid to do that were just; or done, to deny the same. I am not of so base a lineage, nor carry so vile a mind. But, as not to disguise, fits not a King, so will I never dissemble my actions, but cause them show even as I meant them. Thus assuring yourself of me, that as I know this was deserved, yet if I had meant it I would never lay it on others' shoulders; no more will I not damnify myself that thought it not.

"The circumstance it may please you to have of this bearer. And for your part, think you have not in the world a more loving kinswoman, nor a more dear friend than myself; nor any that will watch more carefully to preserve you and your estate. And who shall otherwise persuade you, judge them more partial to others than you. And thus in haste I leave to trouble you: beseeching God to send you a long reign.  Your most assured loving sister and cousin,   Elizabeth R."

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