Friday, February 7, 2014

On This Day in Elizabethan History: Mary Stuart Learns of Her Date with the Executioner

A portrait of Sir Amyas Paulet (c.1536-1588). Picture via Image public domain.

On this day in Elizabethan history in 1587, Mary Stuart learned that her execution for treason would be carried out the following day. Sir Amyas (Amias) Paulet, who had been entrusted with the duty of keeping Mary under house arrest since 1585, informed his prisoner that she was to die, and that she should complete her final affairs. Paulet had been far less tolerant of Mary than his predecessors, and the two had often butted heads. He must have really relished delivering the news. Mary spent her last day on earth writing her will, and in her final six hours she wrote her last letter, which survives. 

The recipient of the letter was her former brother-in-law, Henri III, King of France. Mary's first husband was Francis II, who died in 1560. In the letter, Mary assures Henri III that she has always been a good Catholic, and she adamantly professes her belief that the real reason she is being executed is because of her faith, and for her claim to the English throne (NLS, MS.54.1.1)