Little Bits of History

“Off With Her Head,” Said the Queen

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 8, 2014
Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots

February 8, 1587: Familial in-fighting comes to end when Mary, Queen of Scots is executed. She was the only legitimate child of King James V of Scotland and took over the throne when her father died just six days after she was born. She spent most of her childhood in France leaving Scotland to be ruled by regents. She married the Dauphin of France, Francis, in 1558, a year before he became King. He died a year and a half later. Mary returned to Scotland and married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. She was widowed again in February 1567. She next married James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell in April and by July she was forced to abdicate in favor of her one year old son, James VI of Scotland and later James I of England.

Mary tried, unsuccessfully to regain her throne and then fled south to her first cousin once removed, Elizabeth I. The cousins were already in a dispute regarding the throne of England since Mary had claimed it as her own and was supported by many English Catholics (Elizabeth was not Catholic). Elizabeth allowed her cousin to come South, but she was held in several different castles and manor houses. After nearly twenty years, Mary was found guilty of plotting to kill Elizabeth and was sentenced to death.

The Babington Plot came to light in 1586 as Catholics hoped to unseat the Protestant Queen and replace her with a Catholic. Mary was implicated when a letter she had sent after eighteen years of imprisonment. Queen Mary consented indirectly and conditionlly to the murder of Elizabeth. The overarching goal of the plot was an invasion by both Spanish and French forces which would put Mary on the throne and eradicate the Protestant religions from England. The plot was discovered by Walsingham who then used his information to entrap Mary. He used Babington to deliver the letter who was also a pawn used by Jesuit priest, John Ballard.

Babington sent a coded letter to Queen Mary on July 7, 1586 and she responded, also in code on July 17. In that letter, she allowed that people trying to rescue her could kill Elizabeth if that was needed to free Mary. And she wanted desperately to be rescued. Ballard was the first to be arrested on August 4, 1586 and he implicated others. The conspirators were sentenced to death and they were to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. Mary herself was brought to trial in October 1586. Elizabeth signed the death warrant. On this day, in front of 300 witnesses, Mary, Queen of Scots, was beheaded.

My subjects in Scotland do their duty in nothing…nor have they performed their part in one thing that belongeth to them. I am their Queen and so they call me, but they use me not so…they must be taught to know their duties.

Well then, I perceive that my subjects shall obey you, and not me; and shall do what they list and not what I command, and so must I be subject to them and not they to me…but ye are not the Kirk that I will nurse. I will defend the Kirk of Rome, for, I think, it is the true Kirk of God.

Alas! Do not as the serpent that stoppeth his hearing, for I am no enchanter but your sister and natural cousin. If Caesar had not disclaimed to hear or heede the complaint of an advertiser he had not so died…I am not of the nature of the basilisk and less of the chameleon, to turn you to my likeness. (to Elizabeth)

I came into this kingdom under promise of assistance, and aid, against my enemies and not as a subject, as I could prove to you had I my papers; instead of which I have been detained and imprisoned… I do not deny that I have earnestly wished for liberty and done my utmost to procure it for myself. In this I acted from a very natural wish…Can I be responsible for the criminal projects of a few desperate men, which they planned without my knowledge or participation? (at her trial) – all from Mary, Queen of Scots

Also on this day: Orangeburg, South Carolina – In 1968, the Orangeburg massacre took place.
Stars and Stripes – In 1918, the US military newspaper resumed publication.
The Devil’s Footprints – In 1855, the Devil’s Footprints appeared.
Time is on Our Side – In 1879, the idea of time zones was presented.

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