The End


Plots and intrigues.--How far Mary was involved.--Babington's

conspiracy.--Secret correspondence.--Seizure of Mary's papers.--Her

son James.--Elizabeth resolves to bring Mary to trial.--Fotheringay

Castle.--Great interest in the trial.--Preparations for it.--The

throne.--Mary refuses to plead.--The commission.--The great

hall.--Mary pronounced guilty.--Elizabeth's pretended sorrow.--Signing

the warrant.--Shuffling of Elizabeth.--Mary's letter to

Elizabeth.--Interposition of Mary's friends.--Elizabeth signs the

warrant.--It is read to Mary.--Mary hears the sentence with

composure.--Protests her innocence.--Mary refused a priest.--Mary

alone with her friends.--Affecting scene.--Supper.--Mary's farewell

to her attendants.--Mary's last letters.--Her directions as to the

disposal of her body.--Arrangements for the execution.--The

scaffold.--Proceeding to the hall.--Interview with Melville.--Mary's

last message.--She desires the presence of her attendants.--Mary's

dress and appearance.--Symbols of religion.--Mary's firmness in her

faith.--Her last prayer.--The execution.--Heart-rending

scene.--Disposition of the body.--Elizabeth's affected surprise.--Her

conduct.--The end of Mary's ambition realized.--Accession of James

I.--Tomb of Mary at Westminster Abbey.--Mary's love and ambition.--She

triumphs in the end.

Mary did not always discourage the plots and intrigues with which her

name was connected. She, of course, longed for deliverance from the

thraldom in which Elizabeth held her, and was ready to embrace any

opportunity which promised release. She thus seems to have listened

from time to time to the overtures which were made to her, and

involved herself, in Elizabeth's opinion, more or less, in the

responsibility which attached to them. Elizabeth did not, however, in

such cases, do any thing more than to increase somewhat the rigors of

her imprisonment. She was afraid to proceed to extremities with her,

partly, perhaps, for fear that she might, by doing so, awaken the

hostility of France, whose king was Mary's cousin, or of Scotland,

whose monarch was her son.

At length, however, in the year 1586, about eighteen years from the

commencement of Mary's captivity, a plot was formed in which she

became so seriously involved as to subject herself to the charge of

aiding and abetting in the high treason of which the leaders of the

plot were proved to be guilty. This plot is known in history by the

name of Babington's conspiracy. Babington was a young gentleman of

fortune, who lived in the heart of England. He was inspired with a

strong degree of interest in Mary's fate, and wished to rescue her

from her captivity. He joined himself with a large party of

influential individuals of the Catholic faith. The conspirators

opened negotiations with the courts of France and Spain for aid. They

planned an insurrection, the assassination of Elizabeth, the rescue

of Mary, and a general revolution. They maintained a correspondence

with Mary. This correspondence was managed very secretly, the letters

being placed by a confidential messenger in a certain hole in the

castle wall where Queen Mary was confined.

One day, when Mary was going out to ride, just as she was entering

her carriage, officers suddenly arrived from London. They told her

that the plot in which she had been engaged had been discovered; that

fourteen of the principal conspirators had been hung, seven on each

of two successive days, and that they had come to arrest some of her

attendants and to seize her papers. They accordingly went into her

apartments, opened all her desks, trunks, and cabinets, seized her

papers, and took them to London. Mary sat down in the scene of

desolation and disorder which they left, and wept bitterly.

The papers which were seized were taken to London, and Elizabeth's

government began seriously to agitate the question of bringing Mary

herself to trial. One would have thought that, in her forlorn and

desolate condition, she would have looked to her son for sympathy and

aid. But rival claimants to a crown can have little kind feeling to

each other, even if they are mother and son. James, as he gradually

approached toward maturity, took sides against his mother. In fact,

all Scotland was divided, and was for many years in a state of civil

war: those who advocated Mary's right to the crown on one side, and

James's adherents on the other. They were called king's men and

queen's men. James was, of course, brought up in hostility to his

mother, and he wrote to her, about a year before Babington's

conspiracy, in terms so hostile and so devoid of filial love, that

his ingratitude stung her to the heart. "Was it for this," she said,

"that I made so many sacrifices, and endured so many trials on his

account in his early years? I have made it the whole business of my

life to protect and secure his rights, and to open before him a

prospect of future power and glory: and this is the return."

The English government, under Elizabeth's direction, concluded to

bring Mary to a public trial. They removed her, accordingly, to the

Castle of Fotheringay. Fotheringay is in Northamptonshire, which is

in the very heart of England, Northampton, the shire town, being

about sixty miles northwest of London. Fotheringay Castle was on the

banks of the River Nen, or Avon, which flows northeast from

Northampton to the sea. A few miles below the castle is the ancient

town of Peterborough, where there was a monastery and a great

cathedral church. The monastery had been built a thousand years


They removed Mary to Fotheringay Castle for her trial, and lawyers,

counselors, commissioners, and officers of state began to assemble

there from all quarters. The castle was a spacious structure. It was

surrounded with two moats, and with double walls, and was strongly

fortified. It contained numerous and spacious apartments, and it had

especially one large hall which was well adapted to the purposes of

this great trial. The preparations for the solemn ordeal through

which Mary was now to pass, brought her forth from the obscurity in

which she had so long been lost to the eyes of mankind, and made her

the universal object of interest and attention in England, Scotland,

and France. The people of all these nations looked on with great

interest at the spectacle of one queen tried solemnly on a charge of

high treason against another. The stories of her beauty, her graces,

her misfortunes, which had slumbered for eighteen years, were all now

revived, and every body felt a warm interest in the poor captive,

worn down by long confinement, and trembling in the hands of what

they feared would be a merciless and terrible power.

Mary was removed to the Castle of Fotheringay toward the end of

September, 1586. The preparations for the trial proceeded slowly.

Every thing in which kings and queens, or affairs of state were

concerned in those days, was conducted with great pomp and ceremony.

The arrangements of the hall were minutely prescribed. At the head

of it a sort of throne was placed, with a royal canopy over it, for

the Queen of England. This, though it was vacant, impressed the court

and the spectators as a symbol of royalty, and denoted that the

sovereignty of Elizabeth was the power before which Mary was


When the preparations were made, Mary refused to acknowledge the

jurisdiction of the court. She denied that they had any right to

arraign or to try her. "I am no subject of Elizabeth's," said she. "I

am an independent and sovereign queen as well as she, and I will not

consent to any thing inconsistent with this my true position. I owe

no allegiance to England, and I am not, in any sense, subject to her

laws. I came into the realm only to ask assistance from a sister

queen, and I have been made a captive, and detained many years in an

unjust and cruel imprisonment; and though now worn down both in body

and mind by my protracted sufferings, I am not yet so enfeebled as to

forget what is due to myself, my ancestors, and my country."

This refusal of Mary's to plead, or to acknowledge the jurisdiction

of the court, caused a new delay. They urged her to abandon her

resolution. They told her that if she refused to plead, the trial

would proceed without her action, and, by pursuing such a course, she

would only deprive herself of the means of defense, without at all

impeding the course of her fate. At length Mary yielded. It would

have been better for her to have adhered to her first intention.

The commission by which Mary was to be tried consisted of earls,

barons, and other persons of rank, twenty or thirty in number. They

were seated on each side of the room, the throne being at the head.

In the center was a table, where the lawyers, by whom the trial was

to be conducted, were seated. Below this table was a chair for Mary.

Behind Mary's chair was a rail, dividing off the lower end of the

hall from the court; and this formed an outer space, to which some

spectators were admitted.

Mary took her place in the seat assigned her, and the trial

proceeded. They adduced the evidence against her, and then asked for

her defense. She said substantially that she had a right to make an

effort to recover her liberty; that, after being confined a captive

so long, and having lost forever her youth, her health, and her

happiness, it was not wonderful that she wished to be free; but

that, in endeavoring to obtain her freedom, she had formed no plans

to injure Elizabeth, or to interfere in any way with her rights or

prerogatives as queen. The commissioners, after devoting some days to

hearing evidence, and listening to the defense, sent Mary back to her

apartments, and went to London. There they had a final consultation,

and unanimously agreed in the following decision: "That Mary,

commonly called Queen of Scots and dowager of France, had been an

accessory to Babington's conspiracy, and had compassed the death of

Elizabeth, queen of England."

Elizabeth pretended to be very much concerned at this result. She

laid the proceedings before Parliament. It was supposed then, and has

always been supposed since, that she wished Mary to be beheaded, but

desired not to take the responsibility of it herself; and that she

wanted to appear unwilling, and to be impelled, greatly against her

own inclinations, by the urgency of others, to carry the sentence

into execution. At any rate, Parliament, and all the members of the

government, approved and confirmed the verdict, and wished to have it

carried into effect.

It has always been the custom, in modern times, to require the

solemn act of the supreme magistrate of any state to confirm a

decision of a tribunal which condemns a person to death, by signing

what is called a warrant for the execution. This is done by the king

or queen in England, and by the governor in one of the United States.

This warrant is an order, very formally written, and sealed with the

great seal, authorizing the executioner to proceed, and carry the

sentence into effect. Of course, Queen Mary could not be executed

unless Elizabeth should first sign the warrant. Elizabeth would

herself, probably, have been better pleased to have been excused from

all direct agency in the affair. But this could not be. She, however,

made much delay, and affected great unwillingness to proceed. She

sent messengers to Mary, telling her what the sentence had been, how

sorry she was to hear it, and how much she desired to save her life,

if it were possible. At the same time, she told her that she feared

it might not be in her power, and she advised Mary to prepare her

mind for the execution of the sentence.

Mary wrote a letter to Elizabeth in reply. She said in this letter

that she was glad to hear that they had pronounced sentence of death

against her, for she was weary of life, and had no hope of relief or

rest from her miseries but in the grave. She wrote, therefore, not to

ask any change in the decision, but to make three requests. First,

that, after her execution, her body might be removed to France, and

be deposited at Rheims, where the ashes of her mother were reposing.

Secondly, that her execution should not be in secret, but that her

personal friends might be present, to attest to the world that she

met her fate with resignation and fortitude; and, thirdly, that her

attendants and friends, who had, through their faithful love for her,

shared her captivity so long, might be permitted to retire wherever

they pleased, after her death, without any molestation. "I hope,"

said she, in conclusion, "you will not refuse me these my dying

requests, but that you will assure me by a letter under your own hand

that you will comply with them, and then I shall die as I have lived,

your affectionate sister and prisoner, Mary Queen of Scots."

The King of France, and James, Mary's son in Scotland, made somewhat

vigorous efforts to arrest the execution of the sentence which had

been pronounced against Mary. From these and other causes, the

signing of the warrant was delayed for some months, but at length

Elizabeth yielded to the solicitations of her ministers. She affixed

her signature to the instrument. The chancellor put upon it the great

seal, and the commissioners who were appointed by it to superintend

the execution went to Fotheringay. They arrived there on the 7th of

February, 1587.

After resting, and refreshing themselves for a short time from their

journey, the commissioners sent word to Mary that they wished for an

interview with her. Mary had retired. They said that their business

was very important. She rose, and prepared to receive them. She

assembled all her attendants, fourteen or fifteen in number, in order

to receive the commissioners in a manner comporting, so far as

circumstances allowed, with her rank and station. The commissioners

were at length ushered into the apartment. They stood respectfully

before her, with their heads uncovered. The foremost then, in

language as forbearing and gentle as was consistent with the nature

of his message, informed her that it had been decided to carry the

sentence which had been pronounced against her into effect, and then

he requested another of the number to read the warrant for her



Mary listened to it calmly and patiently. Her attendants, one after

another, were overcome by the mournful and awful solemnity of the

scene, and melted into tears. Mary, however, was calm. When the

reading of the warrant was ended, she said that she was sorry that

her cousin Elizabeth should set the example of taking the life of a

sovereign queen; but for herself, she was willing to die. Life had

long ceased to afford her any peace or happiness, and she was ready

to exchange it for the prospect of immortality. She then laid her

hand upon the New Testament, which was near her, of course a Catholic

version, and called God to witness that she had never plotted

herself, or joined in plots with others, for the death of Elizabeth.

One of the commissioners remarked that her oath being upon a Catholic

version of the Bible, they should not consider it valid. She rejoined

that it ought to be considered the more sacred and solemn on that

account, as that was the version which she regarded as the only one

which was authoritative and true.

Mary then asked the commissioners several questions, as whether her

son James had not expressed any interest in her fate, and whether no

foreign princes had interposed to save her. The commissioners

answered these and other inquiries, and Mary learned from their

answers that her fate was sealed. She then asked them what time was

appointed for the execution. They replied that it was to take place

at eight o'clock the following morning.

Mary had not expected so early an hour to be named. She said it was

sudden; and she seemed agitated and distressed. She, however, soon

recovered her composure, and asked to have a Catholic priest allowed

to visit her. The commissioners replied that that could not be

permitted. They, however, proposed to send the Dean of Peterborough

to visit her. A dean is the ecclesiastical functionary presiding over

a cathedral church; and, of course, the Dean of Peterborough was the

clergyman of the highest rank in that vicinity. He was, however, a

Protestant, and Mary did not wish to see him.

The commissioners withdrew, and left Mary with her friends, when

there ensued one of those scenes of anguish and suffering which those

who witness them never forget, but carry the gloomy remembrance of

them, like a dark shadow in the soul, to the end of their days. Mary

was quiet, and appeared calm. It may however, have been the calm of

hopeless and absolute despair. Her attendants were overwhelmed with

agitation and grief, the expression of which they could not even

attempt to control. At last they became more composed, and Mary asked

them to kneel with her in prayer; and she prayed for some time

fervently and earnestly in the midst of them.

She then directed supper to be prepared as usual, and, until it was

ready, she spent her time in dividing the money which she had on hand

into separate parcels for her attendants, marking each parcel with

the name. She sat down at the table when supper was served, and

though she ate but little, she conversed as usual, in a cheerful

manner, and with smiles. Her friends were silent and sad, struggling

continually to keep back their tears. At the close of the supper Mary

called for a cup of wine, and drank to the health of each one of

them, and then asked them to drink to her. They took the cup, and,

kneeling before her, complied with her request, though, as they did

it, the tears would come to their eyes. Mary then told them that she

willingly forgave them for all that they had ever done to displease

her, and she thanked them for their long-continued fidelity and

love. She also asked that they would forgive her for any thing she

might ever have done in respect to them which was inconsistent with

her duty. They answered the request only with a renewal of their


Mary spent the evening in writing two letters to her nearest

relatives in France, and in making her will. The principal object of

these letters was to recommend her servants to the attention and care

of those to whom they were addressed, after she should be gone. She

went to bed shortly after midnight, and it is said she slept. This

would be incredible, if any thing were incredible in respect to the

workings of the human soul in a time of awful trial like this, which

so transcends all the ordinary conditions of its existence.

At any rate, whether Mary slept or not, the morning soon came. Her

friends were around her as soon as she rose. She gave them minute

directions about the disposition of her body. She wished to have it

taken to France to be interred, as she had requested of Elizabeth,

either at Rheims, in the same tomb with the body of her mother, or

else at St. Denis, an ancient abbey a little north of Paris, where

the ashes of a long line of French monarchs repose. She begged her

servants, if possible, not to leave her body till it should reach its

final home in one of these places of sepulture.

In the mean time, arrangements had been made for the last act in this

dreadful tragedy, in the same great hall where she had been tried.

They raised a platform upon the stone floor of the hall large enough

to contain those who were to take part in the closing scene. On this

platform was a block, a cushion, and a chair. All these things, as

well as the platform itself, were covered with black cloth, giving to

the whole scene a most solemn and funereal expression. The part of

the hall containing this scaffold was railed off from the rest. The

governor of the castle, and a body of guards, came in and took their

station at the sides of the room. Two executioners, one holding the

axe, stood upon the scaffold on one side of the block. Two of the

commissioners stood upon the other side. The remaining commissioners

and several gentlemen of the neighborhood took their places as

spectators without the rail. The number of persons thus assembled was

about two hundred. Strange that any one should have come in,

voluntarily, to witness such a scene!

When all was ready, the sheriff, carrying his white wand of office,

and attended by some of the commissioners, went for Mary. She was at

her devotions, and she asked a little delay that she might conclude

them: perhaps the shrinking spirit clung at the last moment to life,

and wished to linger a few minutes longer before taking the final

farewell. The request was granted. In a short time Mary signified

that she was ready, and they began to move toward the hall of

execution. Her attendants were going to accompany her. The sheriff

said this could not be allowed. She accordingly bade them farewell,

and they filled the castle with the sound of their shrieks and


Mary went on, descending the stair-case, at the foot of which she was

joined by one of her attendants, from whom she had been separated for

some time. His name was Sir Andrew Melville, and he was the master of

her household. The name of her secretary Melville was James. Sir

Andrew kneeled before her, kissed her hand, and said that this was

the saddest hour of his life. Mary began to give him some last

commissions and requests. "Say," said she, "that I died firm in the

faith; that I forgive my enemies; that I feel that I have never

disgraced Scotland, my native country, and that I have been always

true to France, the land of my happiest years. Tell my son--" Here

her voice faltered and ceased to be heard, and she burst into tears.

She struggled to regain her composure. "Tell my son," said she, "that

I thought of him in my last moments, and that I have never yielded,

either by word or deed, to any thing whatever that might lead to his

prejudice. Tell him to cherish the memory of his mother, and say that

I sincerely hope his life may be happier than mine has been."

Mary then turned to the commissioners who stood by, and renewed her

request that her attendants, who had just been separated from her,

might come down and see her die. The commissioners objected. They

said that if these attendants were admitted, their anguish and

lamentations would only add to her own distress, and make the whole

scene more painful. Mary, however, urged the request. She said they

had been devotedly attached to her all her days; they had shared her

captivity, and loved and served her faithfully to the end, and it was

enough if she herself, and they, desired that they should be present.

The commissioners at last yielded, and allowed her to name six, who

should be summoned to attend her. She did so, and the six came down.

The sad procession then proceeded to the hall. Mary was in full court

dress, and walked into the apartment with the air and composure of a

reigning queen. She leaned on the arm of her physician. Sir Andrew

Melville followed, bearing the train of her robe. Her dress is

described as a gown of black silk, bordered with crimson velvet, over

which was a satin mantle. A long veil of white crape, edged with rich

lace, hung down almost to the ground. Around her neck was an ivory

crucifix--that is, an image of Christ upon the cross, which the

Catholics use as a memorial of our Savior's sufferings--and a rosary,

which is a string of beads of peculiar arrangement, often employed by

them as an aid in their devotions. Mary meant, doubtless, by these

symbols, to show to her enemies and to the world, that though she

submitted to her fate without resistance, yet, so far as the contest

of her life had been one of religious faith, she had no intention of


Mary ascended the platform and took her seat in the chair provided

for her. With the exception of stifled sobs here and there to be

heard, the room was still. An officer then advanced and read the

warrant of execution, which the executioners listened to as their

authority for doing the dreadful work which they were about to

perform. The Dean of Peterborough, the Protestant ecclesiastic 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 large 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 her son. 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 to France; but they were told that they could

not be allowed to do so. The body was interred with great pomp and

ceremony in the Cathedral at Peterborough, where it remained in

peace for many years.

* * * * *

Now that the deed was done, the 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.

About twenty years after this, Elizabeth died, and the great object

of Mary's ambition throughout her whole life was attained by the

union of the Scotch and English crowns on the head of her son. As

soon as Elizabeth ceased to breathe, James the Sixth of Scotland was

proclaimed James the First of England. He was at that time nearly

forty years of age. He was married, and had several young children.

The circumstances of King James's journey to London, when he went to

take possession of his new kingdom, are related in the History of

Charles I., belonging to this series. Though James thus became

monarch of both England and Scotland, it must not be supposed that

the two kingdoms were combined. They remained separate for many

years--two independent kingdoms governed by one king.

When James succeeded to the English throne, his mother had been dead

many years, and whatever feelings of affection may have bound his

heart to her in early life, they were now well-nigh obliterated by

the lapse of time, and by the new ties by which he was connected with

his wife and his children. As soon as he was seated on his new

throne, however, he ordered the Castle of Fotheringay, which had been

the scene of his mother's trial and death, to be leveled with the

ground, and he transferred her remains to Westminster Abbey, where

they still repose.


If the lifeless dust had retained its consciousness when it was thus

transferred, with what intense emotions of pride and pleasure would

the mother's heart have been filled, in being thus brought to her

final home in that ancient sepulcher of the English kings, by her son,

now, at last, safely established, where she had so long toiled and

suffered to instate him, in his place in the line. Ambition was the

great, paramount, ruling principle of Mary's life. Love was, with her,

an occasional, though perfectly uncontrollable impulse, which came

suddenly to interrupt her plans and divert her from her course,

leaving her to get back to it again, after devious wanderings, with

great difficulty and through many tears. The love, with the

consequences which followed from it, destroyed her; while the

ambition, recovering itself after every contest with its rival, and

holding out perseveringly to the last, saved her son; so that, in

the long contest in which her life was spent, though she suffered all

the way, and at last sacrificed herself, she triumphed in the end.