|Queen of Scots|
Queen consort of France
|Reign:||14 December 1542 – 24 July 1567|
|Coronation:||9 September 1543|
|Spouse:||Francis II of France|
m. 1558; dec. 1560
Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley
m. 1565; dec. 1567
James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell
m. 1567; dec. 1578
|Issue:||James VI of Scotland & I of England|
|House:||House of Stuart|
|Father:||James V of Scotland|
|Mother:||Mary of Guise|
|Date Of Birth:||8 December 1542|
|Place Of Birth:||Linlithgow Palace, Linlithgow|
|Place Of Death:||Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire|
|Place Of Burial:||Peterborough Cathedral|
Mary I (popularly known in the English-speaking world as Mary, Queen of Scots and, in France, as Marie Stuart) (8 December 1542 - 8 February 1587) was Queen of Scots from 14 December 1542 to 24 July 1567.
She was the only surviving legitimate child of King James V. She was only six days old when her father died and left her Queen of Scots. Her mother, Mary of Guise, assumed regency and the baby sovereign was crowned nine months later.
In 1558, she married Francis, Dauphin of France, who ascended the French throne as Francis II a year later. However, Mary did not hold the position of Queen of France for long; she was widowed by 1560. Soon after her husband's death, Mary returned to Scotland, arriving in Leith on 19 August 1561. Four years later, Mary remarried, choosing her first cousin, Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, as her second husband. Their union was not happy and following the birth of their son, James, on 19 June 1566, a plot was hatched to remove Darnley. In February 1567, an explosion occurred in the house at Kirk o'Field, and Darnley was found dead in the garden.
She soon married James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell - today, it is believed that she was forced into marriage. Mary was imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle on 15 June and forced to abdicate the throne in favour of her one-year-old son. After an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne, Mary fled to England seeking protection from her father's first cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, whose kingdom she was to inherit. Elizabeth I, however, ordered her arrest, because of threat of being deposed by Mary, who was considered the rightful ruler of England by English Catholics.
After a long period of custody in England, she was tried and executed for treason following her alleged involvement in three plots to assassinate Elizabeth I of England and place herself on the English throne.
During the 15th century reign of Robert III of Scotland, it had been confirmed that the Scottish Crown would only be inherited by males in the line of Robert's children - all sons - who were listed in that parliamentary Act. Females and female lines could inherit only after extinction of male lines.
Mary ascended to the throne because, with the demise of her father, James V, Robert II had no remaining direct male descendants of unquestionably legitimate origins. John Stewart, Duke of Albany, grandson of James II of Scotland and at one time regent for the young James V, was the last direct male heir of Robert II (other than the king himself) when he died in 1536.
Mary was the first member of the royal House of Stuart to use the Gallicised spelling Stuart, rather than the earlier Stewart. Mary had adopted the French spelling Stuart during her time in France, and she and her descendants continued to use it.
Mary was born at Linlithgow Palace, Linlithgow, Scotland, on 8 December 1542 to King James V of Scotland and his French wife, Mary of Guise. A popular legend, written by John Knox, states that James, upon hearing of the birth of a daughter, ruefully exclaimed, "It came with a lass, it will pass with a lass!". The House of Stewart, which originated in Brittany, had gained the throne of Scotland by the marriage of Marjorie Bruce, daughter of Robert the Bruce, to the high steward of Scotland. James thus felt that since the crown came with a woman, a woman would be responsible for the loss of the crown from their family. This legendary statement came true, when Sophia of Hanover, daughter of Elizabeth Stuart, became the heir to Anne of Great Britain and with her son George Louis of Hanover becoming King of Great Britain, replacing the House of Stuart in England.
The six or seven day old Mary became Queen of Scotland when her father died at the age of 30, probably from cholera, although his contemporaries believed his death to have been caused by grief over the Scots' loss to the English at the Battle of Solway Moss. James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran was the next in line for the throne after Mary; he acted as regent for Mary until 1554, when he was succeeded by the Queen's mother, who continued as regent until her death in 1560.
In July 1543, when Mary was six months old, the Treaties of Greenwich promised Mary to be married to Edward, son of King Henry VIII of England in 1552, and for their heirs to inherit the Kingdoms of Scotland and England. Mary's mother was strongly opposed to the proposition, and she hid with Mary two months later in Stirling Castle, where preparations were made for Mary's coronation. At the age of nine months Mary was crowned Queen of Scots in the Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle on 9 September 1543. The ceremony, conducted in a hasty manner, was described as solemn with little rejoicing, and the pro-English party was conspicuously absent.
The Treaties of Greenwich fell apart soon after Mary's coronation. The betrothal did not sit well with the Scots, especially since Henry VIII suspiciously tried to change the agreement so that he could possess Mary years before the marriage was to take place. He also wanted them to break their traditional alliance with France. Fearing an uprising among the people, the Scottish Parliament broke off the treaty and the engagement at the end of the year. Henry then began his "rough wooing" designed to impose the marriage to his son on Mary. This consisted of a series of raids on Scottish territory and other military actions. It lasted until June 1551, costing over half a million pounds and many lives. In May 1544, the English Earl of Hertford (later created Duke of Somerset by Edward VI) arrived in the Firth of Forth hoping to capture the city of Edinburgh and kidnap Mary, but Mary of Guise hid her in the secret chambers of Stirling Castle.On 10 September 1547, known as "Black Saturday", the Scots suffered a bitter defeat at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. Mary of Guise, fearful for her daughter, sent her temporarily to Inchmahome Priory, and turned to the French ambassador Monsieur D'Oysel for help.
The French, remaining true to the Auld Alliance, came to the aid of the Scots. The new French King, Henry II, was now proposing to unite France and Scotland by marrying the little Queen to his three-year old son, the Dauphin François. This seemed to Mary of Guise to be the only sensible solution to her troubles. In February 1548, hearing that the English were on their way back, Mary of Guise moved Mary to Dumbarton Castle. The English left a trail of devastation behind once more and seized the strategically located town of Haddington. By June, the much awaited French help had arrived. On 7 July with it the French Marriage Treaty was signed at a nunnery near Haddington.
With her marriage agreement in place, five-year-old Mary was sent to France in 1548 to spend the next thirteen years at the French court. Henry II had offered to guard and raise her. On 7 August 1548, the French fleet sent by Henry II sailed back to France from Dumbarton carrying the five-year-old Queen of Scots on board. She was accompanied by her own little court consisting of two lords, two half-brothers, and the "four Marys", four little girls her own age, all named Mary, and the daughters of some of the noblest families in Scotland: Beaton, Seton, Fleming, and Livingston.
Vivacious, beautiful, and clever (according to contemporary accounts), Mary had a promising childhood. While in the French court, she was a favourite. She received the best available education, and at the end of her studies, she had mastered French, Latin, Greek, Spanish, and Italian in addition to her native Scots. She also learned how to play two instruments and learned prose, poetry, horsemanship, falconry, and needlework. She formed a close friendship with her future sister-in-law, Elisabeth of Valois, of whom Mary retained the most nostalgic memories in later life. Her grandmother Antoinette de Bourbon exerted one of the strongest influences on her childhood, and acted as one of her principal advisors.
Portraits of Mary show that she had a small, well-shaped head, a long, graceful neck, bright auburn hair, hazel-brown eyes, under heavy lowered eyelids and finely arched brows, smooth lustrous skin, a high forehead, and regular, firm features. While not a beauty in the classical sense, she was an extremely pretty child who would become a strikingly attractive woman. In fact, her effect on the men with whom she later came into contact was certainly that of a beautiful woman.
Despite the fact that Mary was tall for her age (she attained an adult height of 5'11") and fluent in speech, while Henry II's son and heir Francis was abnormally short and stuttered, Henry commented that "from the very first day they met, my son and she got on as well together as if they had known each other for a long time" On 24 April 1558 Mary married the Dauphin Francis at Notre Dame de Paris, Francis assuming the title King consort of Scots. When Henry II died on 10 July 1559, Mary, Queen of Scots, became Queen consort of France; her husband becoming Francis II of France.
Under the ordinary laws of succession, Mary was next in line to the English throne after her father's cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, who was childless. In the eyes of many Catholics, Elizabeth was illegitimate, thus making Mary the true heir as Mary II of England. However the Third Succession Act of 1543 provided that Elizabeth would succeed Mary I of England on the throne.
The anti-Catholic Act of Settlement was not passed until 1701, but the last will and testament of Henry VIII, (given legal force by the Third Succession Act), had excluded the Stuarts from succeeding to the English throne. Mary's troubles were still further increased by the Huguenot rising in France, called le tumulte d'Amboise (6 March-17 March 1560), making it impossible for the French to help Mary's supporters in Scotland. The question of the succession was therefore a real one.
François died on 5 December 1560, of an ear infection which led to an abcess in his brain. Mary's mother-in-law, Catherine de' Medici, became regent for the late king's brother Charles IX, who inherited the French throne. Under the terms of the Treaty of Edinburgh, signed by Mary's representatives on 6 July 1560 following the death of her mother, France undertook to withdraw troops from Scotland and recognise Elizabeth's right to rule England. The 17-year-old Mary, still in France, refused to ratify the treaty.
Mary returned to Scotland soon after her husband's death and arrived in Leith on 19 August 1561. Despite her talents, Mary's upbringing had not given her the judgment to cope with the dangerous and complex political situation in the Scotland of that time.
Mary, being a devout Catholic, was regarded with suspicion by many of her subjects as well as by Elizabeth, who was her father's cousin and the monarch of the neighbouring Protestant country. Scotland was torn between Catholic and Protestant factions, and Mary's illegitimate half-brother, James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, was a leader of the Protestant faction. The Protestant reformer John Knox also preached against Mary, condemning her for hearing Mass, dancing, dressing too elaborately, and many other real and imagined offences.
To the disappointment of the Catholic party, however, Mary tolerated the newly-established Protestant ascendancy, and kept James Stewart as her chief advisor. In this, she was acknowledging her lack of effective military power in the face of the Protestant Lords. She joined with James in the destruction of Scotland's leading Catholic magnate, Lord Huntly, in 1562 after he led a rebellion in the Highlands against her.
Mary was also having second thoughts about the wisdom of having crossed Elizabeth, and attempted to make up the breach by inviting Elizabeth to visit Scotland. Elizabeth refused, and the bad blood remained between them. Mary then sent William Maitland of Lethington as an ambassador to the English court to put the case for Mary as a potential heir to the throne. Elizabeth's response is said to have included the words "As for the title of my crown, for my time I think she will not attain it." However, Mary, in her own letter to her maternal uncle Francis, Duke of Guise, reports other things that Maitland told her, including Elizabeth's supposed statement that, "I for my part know none better, nor that my self would prefer to her." Elizabeth was mindful of the role Parliament would have to play in the matter.
In December 1561 arrangements were made for the two queens to meet, this time in England. The meeting had been fixed for York "or another town" in August or September 1562, but Elizabeth sent Sir Henry Sidney to cancel in July because of the Civil War in France. In 1563, Elizabeth made another attempt to neutralize Mary by suggesting she marry Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester (Sidney's brother-in-law), whom Elizabeth trusted and thought she could control. Dudley, being a Protestant, would have solved a double problem for Elizabeth. She sent an ambassador to tell Mary that, if she would marry someone (as yet unnamed) of Elizabeth's choosing, Elizabeth would "proceed to the inquisition of her right and title to be our next cousin and heir". This proposal was rejected.
At Holyrood Palace on 29 July 1565, Mary married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, her half first cousin (The validity of this marriage has been disputed, as some say she was forced into it by Lord Darnley. However, the issue was not brought up during her lifetime). Henry was a member of the House of Stewart (or Stuart) like Mary was, but he was not an agnatic descendant of Stewart Kings, but rather of their immediate ancestors, the High Stewarts of Scotland. The union infuriated Elizabeth, who felt she should have been asked permission, as Darnley was an English subject. Elizabeth also felt threatened by the marriage, because both Mary and Darnley were claimants to the English throne, being direct descendants of Margaret Tudor, the elder sister of Henry VIII. Their children would inherit both parents' claims, and thus, be next in line for the English throne.
This marriage, to a leading Catholic, precipitated Mary's half-brother, the James Stewart, Earl of Moray, to join with other Protestant Lords in open rebellion. Mary set out for Stirling on 26 August 1565 to confront them, and returned to Edinburgh the following month to raise more troops. Moray and the rebellious lords were routed and fled into exile, the decisive military action becoming known as the Chaseabout Raid.
Before long, Darnley became arrogant and demanded power commensurate with his courtesy title of "King". On one occasion he attacked Mary in an unsuccessful attempt to cause her to miscarry their unborn child. Darnley was jealous of Mary's friendship with her private secretary, David Rizzio, and, in March 1566 Darnley allegedly entered into a secret conspiracy with the nobles who had rebelled against Mary in the Chaseabout Raid. On 9 March a group of the lords, accompanied by Darnley, murdered Rizzio in front of Mary while the two were in conference at Holyrood Palace. Darnley changed sides again and betrayed the lords, but the murder was the catalyst for the breakdown of their marriage.Following the birth of their son, James, on 19 June 1566, a plot was hatched to remove Darnley, who was already ill (possibly suffering from syphilis) . He was recuperating in a house in Edinburgh where Mary visited him frequently, so that it appeared a reconciliation was in prospect. In February 1567, an explosion occurred in the house at Kirk o'Field, and Darnley was found dead in the garden, apparently of strangulation; historian Alison Weir, however, concludes he died of post-explosion suffocation. This event, which should have been Mary's salvation, only harmed her reputation. James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, an adventurer who would become her third husband, was generally believed to be guilty of the assassination, and was brought before a mock trial but acquitted. Mary attempted to regain support among her Lords while Bothwell got some of them to sign the Ainslie Tavern Bond, in which they agreed to support his claims to marry Mary.
On 24 April 1567, Mary visited her son at Stirling for the last time. On her way back to Edinburgh Mary was abducted, willingly or not, by Bothwell and his men and taken to Dunbar Castle, where she was allegedly raped and mentally destroyed by Bothwell. She became pregnant with twins. On 6 May they returned to Edinburgh and on 15 May, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Mary and Bothwell were married according to Protestant rites. He had divorced his first wife, Jean Gordon twelve days previously.
The Scottish nobility turned against Mary and Bothwell and raised an army against them. Mary and Bothwell confronted the Lords at Carberry Hill on 15 June, but there was no battle as Mary agreed to follow the Lords on condition that they let Bothwell go. However, the Lords broke their promise, and took Mary to Edinburgh and imprisoned her in Loch Leven Castle, situated on an island in the middle of Loch Leven. Between 18 July and 24 July 1567, Mary miscarried the twins. On 24 July 1567, she was also forced to abdicate the Scottish throne in favour of her one-year-old son James.
On 2 May 1568, Mary escaped from Loch Leven and once again managed to raise a small army. After her army's defeat at the Battle of Langside on 13 May, she fled to England. When Mary entered England on 19 May, she was imprisoned by Elizabeth's officers at Carlisle. During her imprisonment, she famously had the phrase En ma Fin gît mon Commencement ("In my end is my beginning") embroidered on her cloth of estate.
After some wrangling over the question of whether Mary should be tried for the murder of Darnley, Elizabeth ordered an inquiry instead of a trial, which was held in York between October 1568 and January 1569. The inquiry was politically influenced, but Elizabeth did not wish to convict Mary of murder.Mary refused to acknowledge the power of any court to try her since she was an anointed Queen, and the man ultimately in charge of the prosecution, James Stewart, Earl of Moray, was ruling Scotland in Mary's absence. His chief motive was to keep Mary out of Scotland and her supporters under control. Mary was not permitted to see them or to speak in her own defence at the tribunal. She refused to offer a written defence unless Elizabeth would guarantee a verdict of not guilty, which Elizabeth would not do.
The inquiry hinged on the "Casket letters" - eight letters purportedly from Mary to Bothwell, reported by James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton to have been found in Edinburgh in a silver box engraved with an F (supposedly for Francis II), along with a number of other documents, including the Mary/Bothwell marriage certificate. The authenticity of the Casket Letters has been the source of much controversy among historians. The originals have since been lost, and the copies available in various collections do not form a complete set. Mary argued that her handwriting was not difficult to imitate, and it has frequently been suggested either that the letters are complete forgeries, that incriminating passages were inserted before the inquiry, or that the letters were written to Bothwell by some other person. Comparisons of writing style have often concluded that they were not Mary's work.
However, in 1570, Elizabeth was persuaded by representatives of Charles IX of France to promise to help Mary regain her throne. As a pre-condition, she demanded the ratification of the Treaty of Edinburgh, something Mary would still not agree to. Nevertheless, William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, continued negotiations with Mary on Elizabeth's behalf.
The Ridolfi Plot, which attempted to unite Mary and the Duke of Norfolk in marriage, caused Elizabeth to reconsider. With the queen's encouragement, Parliament introduced a bill in 1572 barring Mary from the throne. Elizabeth unexpectedly refused to give it the royal assent. The furthest she ever went was in 1584, when she introduced a document (the "Bond of Association") aimed at preventing any would-be successor from profiting from her murder. It was not legally binding, but was signed by thousands, including Mary herself.Mary eventually became a liability that Elizabeth could no longer tolerate. Elizabeth did ask Mary's final custodian, Amias Paulet, if he would contrive some accident to remove Mary. http://books.google.com.au/books?id=CXRMAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA548&lpg=PA548&dq=Amias+Paulet+stain+posterity&source=bl&ots=l3tlDFGWnY&sig=h9XfECIHapHlQmdwLmE-eyv_RN8&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=6&ct=result He refused on the grounds that he would not allow such "a stain on his posterity." In 1569, Elizabeth's chief minister William Cecil had unofficially appointed one Sir Francis Walsingham to organize a secret service for the protection of the realm, particularly the Queen's person. Mary was thus implicated in a succession of plots.
Elizabeth considered Mary's designs on the English throne to be a serious threat, and so eighteen years of confinement followed, much of it in Sheffield Castle and Sheffield Manor in the custody of George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury and his redoubtable wife Bess of Hardwick. Bothwell was imprisoned in Denmark, became insane, and died in 1578, still in prison. In 1580 Mary's confinement was transferred to Sir Amias Paulet, and she was under his care for the rest of her life.
Mary was put on trial for treason by a court of about 40 noblemen, including Catholics, after being implicated in the Babington Plot and after having allegedly sanctioned the attempted assassination of Elizabeth. Mary denied the accusation and was spirited in her defence. One of her more memorable comments from her trial was "Remember Gentlemen the Theatre of history is wider than the Realm of England." She drew attention to the fact that she was denied the opportunity to review the evidence or her papers that had been removed from her, that she had been denied access to legal counsel, and that she had never been an English subject and thus could not be convicted of treason. The extent to which the plot was created by Sir Francis Walsingham and the English Secret Services will always remain open to conjecture.
In a trial presided over by England's Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas Bromley. and Attorney General Sir John Popham, (later Lord Chief Justice), Mary was ultimately convicted of treason, and was sentenced to beheading.
Although Mary had been found guilty and sentenced to death, Elizabeth hesitated to actually order her execution. She was fearful of the consequences, especially if, in revenge, Mary's son James of Scotland formed an alliance with the Catholic powers, France and Spain, and invade England. She was also concerned about how this would affect the Divine Right of Kings. In fact she went so far as to request that Paulet simply murder Mary, thus taking the matter out of her hands, and threw a tantrum when he refused.
She did eventually sign the death warrant and entrusted it to William Davison, a privy councillor. Later, the privy council, having been summoned by Lord Burghley without Elizabeth's knowledge, decided to carry out the sentence at once before she could change her mind.
At Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire, on 7th February 1587, Mary was told that she was to be executed the next day. She spent the last hours of her life in prayer and also writing letters and her will. She expressed a request that her servants should be released. She also requested that she should be buried in France. The scaffold that was erected in the great hall was three feet tall and draped in black. It was reached by five steps and the only things on it were a disrobing stool, the block, a cushion for her to kneel on, and a bloody butcher's axe that had been previously used on animals. At her execution the executioners knelt before her and asked forgiveness. According to a contemporary account by Robert Wynkfield, she replied that she forgave them, for "you are about to end my troubles!" The executioners and her two servants helped remove a black outer gown, two petticoats, and her corset to reveal a deep red chemise - the liturgical colour of martyrdom in the Catholic Church. As she disrobed she smiled faintly to the executioner and said, "Never have I had such assistants to disrobe me, and never have I put off my clothes before such a company." She was then blindfolded and knelt down on the cushion in front of the block. She positioned her head on the block and stretched her arms out behind her.
In Lady Antonia Fraser's biography, Mary Queen of Scots, the author writes that it took two strikes to decapitate Mary: The first blow missed her neck and struck the back of her head, at which point the Queen's lips moved. (Her servants reported they thought she had whispered the words "Sweet Jesus.") The second blow severed the neck, except for a small bit of sinew that the executioner severed by using the axe as a saw. Robert Wynkfield recorded a detailed account of the moments leading up to Mary's execution, also describing that it took two strikes to behead the Queen. Afterward, the executioner held her head aloft and declared, "God save the Queen." At that moment, the auburn tresses in his hand came apart and the head fell to the ground, revealing that Mary had very short, grey hair. The chemise that Mary wore at her execution is displayed at Coughton Court near Alcester in Warwickshire, which was a Catholic household at that time. It has been suggested that it took three strikes to decapitate Mary instead of two. If so, then Mary would have been executed with the same number of axe strikes as Essex. It has been postulated that said number was part of a ritual devised to protract the suffering of the victim.
There are several (possibly apocryphal) stories told about the execution. One already mentioned and thought to be true is that, when the executioner picked up the severed head to show it to those present, it was discovered that Mary was wearing a wig. The headsman was left holding the wig, while the late queen's head rolled on the floor. It was thought that she had tried to disguise the greying of her hair by wearing an auburn wig, the natural colour of her hair before her years of imprisonment began. She was 24 when first imprisoned by Protestants in Scotland, and she was only 44 years of age at the time of her execution. Another well-known execution story related in Robert Wynkfield's first-hand account concerns a small dog owned by the queen, which is said to have been hiding among her skirts, unseen by the spectators. Because her dress and layers of clothing were so immensely regal, it would have been easy for the tiny pet to have hidden there as she slowly made her way to the scaffold. Following the beheading, the dog refused to be parted from its owner and was covered in blood. It was finally taken away by her ladies-in-waiting and washed.
When the news of the execution reached Elizabeth she was extremely indignant, and her wrath was chiefly directed against Davison, who, she asserted, had disobeyed her instructions not to part with the warrant. The secretary was arrested and thrown into prison. He was later released, after paying a heavy fine, but his career was ruined.
Not long after Mary's death, the Spanish Armada sailed to England to depose Elizabeth, but it sailed into a North Sea storm, was dispersed and then lost 5 ships in the Battle of Gravelines and retreated sailing around England and Ireland. (The traditional view that Mary's execution was the trigger for Spain sending the Armada is now disputed.)
Mary's body was embalmed and left unburied at her place of execution for a year after her death. Her remains were placed in a secure lead coffin (thought to be further signs of fear of relic hunting). She was initially buried at Peterborough Cathedral in 1588, but her body was exhumed in 1612 when her son, King James I of England, ordered she be reinterred in Westminster Abbey. It remains there, along with at least 40 other descendants, in a chapel on the other side of the Abbey from the grave of her father's cousin Elizabeth I. In the 1700s her tomb and that of Elizabeth were opened to try to ascertain where James I was buried; he was ultimately found buried with Henry VII.
In February 2008, a copy of the warrant for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots was purchased for £72,485 by the Archbishop of Canterbury's library at Lambeth Palace, therefore preserving it for the nation.
Although the Casket Letters were accepted by the inquiry as genuine after a study of the handwriting, and of the information contained therein, and were generally held to be certain proof of guilt if authentic, the inquiry reached the conclusion that nothing was proven. From the start, this could have been predicted as the only conclusion that would satisfy Elizabeth. James MacKay comments that one of the stranger 'trials' in legal history ended with no finding of guilt with the result that the accusers went home to Scotland and the accused remained detained in 'protective custody'."
It is impossible now to prove the case either way. Without the Casket Letters, there would have been no case against Mary, and with hindsight it is difficult to say that any of the major parties involved considered the truth to be a priority. However, it is notable that Lady Antonia Fraser, James MacKay, and John Guy who have written well-respected biographies of Mary come to the same conclusion that they were forged. Guy has actually examined the Elizabethan transcripts of the letters rather than relying upon later printed copies. He points out that the letters are disjointed. He also draws attention to the fact that the French version of one of the letters is bad in its use of language and grammar. Mary was an educated woman who could read, write, and speak French fluently; the construction of one of the letters in French has mistakes that a woman with her understanding would not make.
Another point made by these commentators is that the Casket Letters did not appear until the Conference of York. Mary had been forced to abdicate in 1567 and held captive for the best part of a year in Scotland. No reference can be found to the letters being used as evidence against Mary during this period. There was every reason for these letters to be made public to support her imprisonment and forced abdication. The originals disappeared after the Conference of York, thus adding to the sense that the letters were probably forged.Though Mary Stuart has not been canonised by the Catholic Church, many consider her a martyr, and there are relics of her. Her prayer book was long shown in France. Her apologist published, in an English journal, a sonnet which Mary was said to have composed, written with her own hand in this book. A celebrated German actress, Frau Hendel-Schutz, who excited admiration by her attitudes, and performed Friedrich Schiller's "Maria" with great applause in several German cities, affirmed that a cross which she wore on her neck was the very same that once belonged to the unfortunate queen.
Relics of this description have never yet been subjected to the proof of their authenticity. If there is anything which may be reasonably believed to have once been the property of the queen, it is the veil with which she covered her head on the scaffold, after the executioner had wounded the unfortunate victim in the shoulder by a false blow (whether from awkwardness or confusion is uncertain). This veil came into the possession of Sir John Coxe Hippisley, who claimed to be descended from the House of Stuart on his mother's side. In 1818, he had an engraving made from it by Matteo Diottavi in Rome and gave copies to his friends. However, the eagerness with which the executioners burned her clothing and the executioners' block may mean that it will never be possible to be certain.The veil is embroidered with gold spangles by (as is said) the queen's own hand, in regular rows crossing each other, so as to form small squares, and edged with a gold border, to which another border has been subsequently joined, in which the following words are embroidered in letters of gold:
"Velum Serenissimæ Mariæ, Scotiæ et Galliæ Reginæ Martyris, quo induebatur dum ab Heretica ad mortem iniustissimam condemnata fuit. Anno Sal. MDLXXXVI. a nobilissima matrona Anglicana diu conservatum et tandem, donationis ergo Deo, Societati Jesu consecratum."
On the plate there is an inscription, with a double certificate of its authenticity, which states, that this veil, a family treasure of the expelled house of Stuart, was finally in possession of the last branch of that family, Henry Benedict Stuart, the Cardinal of York, who preserved it for many years in his private chapel, among the most precious relics, and at his death bequeathed it to Sir John Coxe Hippisley, together with a valuable Plutarch, a Codex with painted (illuminated) letters, and a gold coin struck in Scotland during Mary's reign.The plate was specially consecrated by Pope Pius VII in his palace on the Quirinal, 29 April 1818. Hippisley, during a former residence at Rome, had been very intimate with the cardinal of York, and was instrumental in obtaining for him, when he with the other cardinals emigrated to Venice in 1798, a pension of £4,000 a year from King George IV of the United Kingdom, then Prince of Wales. But for the pension, the fugitive cardinal, whose revenues were all seized by the forces of the French Revolution, would have been exposed to the greatest distress.
The cardinal desired to requite this service by the bequest of what he considered so valuable. According to a note on the plate, the veil is eighty-nine English inches long and forty-three broad, so that it seems to have been rather a kind of shawl or scarf than a veil. Melville in his Memoirs, which Schiller had read, speaks of a handkerchief belonging to the queen, which she gave away before her death, and Schiller founds upon this anecdote the well-known words of the farewell scene, addressed to Hannah Kennedy.
"Accept this handkerchief! with my own hand
For thee I've work'd it in my hours of sadness
And interwoven with my scalding tears:
With this thou'lt bind my eyes."
Mary's remains rest in Westminster Abbey on the instructions of her son, James VI. Christine Grahame, Member of the Scottish Parliament, is calling for her remains to be returned to Scotland.
(appointed 6 September 1561 following Mary's return to Scotland from France)
See main article: Mary I of Scotland in popular culture.