Last Letter: Mary Queen of Scots
I find Mary Queen of Scots to be one of the more fascinating characters from the pages of history. I needn't say too much about her story as most of you are likely familiar with this lady but should she be unknown to you I will present her story briefly.
Mary Stuart, born December 8, 1542 was the only surviving legitimate child of James V of Scotland. She had the misfortune of being a sickly child and also of becoming queen at 6 days old. Losing a parent in infancy is difficult for any child but where a crown is involved childhood becomes particularly perilous. Much of her childhood was spent in France among her mother's relatives while Scotland was ruled by regents. She married the Dauphin who ascended the throne as King Francis II in 1559 making Mary the Queen of two countries. Fast forwarding a few years and skipping over a series of unfortunate events, Mary is now twice widowed and imprisoned in Loch Leven Castle and forced to abdicate. It seems that the Protestant lords of Scotland do not much care for having a Catholic Queen.
As Europe undergoes a religious reformation nations are divided between Catholic and Protestant. Catholics in England view Elizabeth Tudor as an illegitimate offspring of her father Henry VIII (nothing needs to be said about that particular character and his famous eight wives) and believe her cousin, Mary Stuart to be the rightful Queen of England. Not only is Mary's legitimacy not in question, she is Roman Catholic and recognized by Elizabeth as Mary Tudor's heir. It turns out that Elizabeth doesn't much care for having a rival and after another series of unfortunate events Mary finds herself imprisoned in Fotheringhay Castle where she is beheaded on February 8, 1587. Six hours before her death she pens her final letters. English Transcript follows.
I have taken the liberty of sending you two precious stones, talismans against illness, trusting you will enjoy good health and a long and happy life. Accept them from your loving sister-in-law, who, as she dies, bears witness of her warm feelings for you. Give instructions if it please you, that for my soul’s sake part of what you owe me should be paid, and that for the sake of Jesus Christ, to whom I shall pray for you tomorrow as I die, I be left enough to found a memorial mass and give the customary alms.
Wednesday at two in the morning,
Your most moving and most true sister,
Marie R. Queen of Scotland.