Betrayal & Execution: Mary Queen of Scots

DeathMaskInstead of a refuge in England, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, found a prison. Her older cousin, Elizabeth Tudor, the Queen of England, did not trust her to live peaceably in England. Mary was a Catholic and there were still Catholics in England who wanted to see a Catholic on the throne. While in her prison, Mary was involved in two conspiracies-both of which failed. The Ridolfi plot in 1570 involved a conspiracy with Spain who would provide soldiers to place Mary on the English throne. In the Babington Plot of 1584, Mary conspired with Catholics in the assassination of Elizabeth which would have placed her on the throne. Mary was found guilty and sentenced to beheading. Elizabeth signed the warrant but refused to allow the execution. Her counselors, with the tacit approval of Mary’s own son, authorized the execution. Elizabeth was furious but helpless to do anything.

February 8th is the anniversary of Mary’s death. She died well dressed in a bright red chemise in 1587. When the executioner lifted her decapitated head for all to see, her head detached from her wig and went rolling across the platform. Her bloody voluminous gown started moving around to the chagrin of all, until her little dog popped out from his hiding place beneath her skirts. After he was crowned King of England, Mary’s son James who had not seen his mother since infancy moved her body to Westminster Abbey and interred her next to Elizabeth. The picture above is a death mask made soon after her death. More tomorrow, Rita Bay.

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