February 8, 1587 – Mary, Queen of Scots, is executed on suspicion of having been involved in the Babington Plot to murder her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.
The Dean of Peterborough, the Protestant ecclesiastio whom Mary had refused to see, then came forward to the foot of the platform, and most absurdly commenced an address to her, with a view to convert her to the Protestant faith. Mary interrupted him, saying that she had been born and had lived a Catholic, and she was resolved so to die; and she asked him to spare her his useless reasonings. The dean persisted in going on. Mary turned away from him, kneeled down, and began to offer a Latin prayer.
The dean soon brought his ministrations to a close, and then Mary prayed for some time, in a distinct and fervent voice, in English, the largo company listening with breathless attention, She prayed for her own soul, and that she might have comfort from heaven in the agony of death. She implored God's blessing upon France; upon Scotland; upon England; upon Queen Elizabeth; and, more than all, upon hei no. During this time she held the ivory crucifix in her hand, clasping it and raising it from time to time toward heaven.
When her prayer was ended, she rose, and, with the assistance of her attendants, took off her veil, and such other parts of her dress as it was necessary to remove in order to leave the neck bare, and then she kneeled forward and laid her head upon the block. The agitation of the assembly became extreme. Some turned away from the scene faint and sick at heart; some looked more eagerly and intensely at the group upon the scaffold; some wept and sobbed aloud. The assistant executioner put Mary's two hands together and held them; the other raised his axe, and, after the horrid sound of two or three successive blows, the assistant held up the dissevered head, saying, "So perish all Queen Elizabeth's enemies."
The assembly dispersed. The body was taken into an adjoining apartment, and prepared for interment. Mary's attendants wished to have it delivered to them, that they might comply with her dying request to convey it tc France; but they were told that they could not be allowed to do so. The body was interred with great pomp and ceremonv in the Cathedral at Peterborough, where it remained is peace for many years.
Now that the deed was done, tne great problem with Elizabeth was, of course, to avert the consequences of the terrible displeasure and thirst for revenge which she might naturally suppose it would awaken in Scotland and in France. She succeeded very well in accomplishing this. As soon as she heard of the execution of Mary, she expressed the utmost surprise, grief, and indignation. She said that she had, indeed, signed the death warrant, but it was not her intention at all to have it executed; and that, when she delivered it to the officer, she charged him not to let it go out of his possession. This the officer denied.
Elizabeth insisted, and punished the officer by a long imprisonment, and perpetual disgrace, for his pretended offense. She sent a messenger to James, explaining the terrible accident, as she termed it, which had occurred, and deprecating his displeasure. James, though at first filled with indignation, and determined to avenge his mother's death, allowed himself to be appeased.
Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, at about the time of her marriage to the French heir Francis of Valois, the later King Francis II of France, son of King Henry II of France and Catherine de Medici, Royal Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
By: Artist François Clouet (1515–1572) Date: 1558. Work period c. 1536-1572. Work location: Paris. Medium: watercolor and gouache on vellum rebacked with card. Accession number: RCIN 401229.
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François Clouet [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
TEXT CREDIT: Mary, queen of Scots Volume 2 of Makers of history, Jacob Abbott. Author: Jacob Abbott. Publisher Harper, 1901. Original from: Harvard University. Digitized: Feb 21, 2008. Length: 286 pages. Subjects: Biography & Autobiography › Royalty, Biography & Autobiography / Royalty.