On This Day: Mary, Queen of Scots Executed
430 years ago, Mary, Queen of Scots was executed in the Great Hall of Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire, England. She had been found guilty of treason in October 1586 for her role in the Babington Plot to assassinate the English Queen, Elizabeth I, and take over the throne.
Queen Mary – who had been imprisoned in England for almost 19 years after she fled her native Scotland following her forced abdication in July 1568 – was given less than half a day’s notice that her execution had been scheduled for between the hours of seven and nine in the morning on February 8, 1587. She spent the night and early morning writing her will, splitting her possessions between members of her household, and praying.
When the time came, Mary mounted the execution scaffold under the watch of the Earls of Kent and Shrewsbury, before being disrobed and blindfolded. Her executioners knelt before her to ask forgiveness, which she granted them, saying “I forgive you with all my heart, for now I hope you should make an end of all my troubles.” As she calmly prayed in Latin, the Queen positioned herself in the execution block and was then clumsily beheaded – the executioner took three strikes to complete his task.
Her body was buried at Peterborough Cathedral five months later, in July 1587. After her only child, James VI and I, came to the English throne in 1603, he ordered his mother’s body be exhumed and reburied at Westminster Abbey – ironically opposite the final resting place of Elizabeth I, who had approved Mary’s execution.
An engraving by Sir John Gilbert of Mary, Queen of Scots’ executionFiled under Historical Royals, The United Kingdom
Tagged Anniversary, Death, Execution, Mary Queen of Scots.