The Last Will of Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary Queen of Scots. National Portrait Gallery, Unknown Artist.
Mary Queen of Scots. National Portrait Gallery, Unknown Artist.

On the eve of her execution, 7 February 1587, Mary I of Scotland wrote her last will and testament. It was at night when she began and ended the following day at two o’clock of the morning.

Today, after dinner, I was advised of my sentence. I am to be executed like a criminal at eight o’clock in the morning. I haven’t had enough time to give you a full account of all that has happened, but if you will listen to my physician and my other sorrowful servants, you will know the truth, and how, thanks be to God, I scorn death and faithfully protest that I face it innocent of any crime.
The Catholic faith and the defense of my God-given right to the English throne are two reasons for which I am condemned, and yet they will not allow me to say that it is for the Catholic faith that I die.
I beg you as Most Christian Majesty, my brother-in-law and old friend, who have always protested your love for me, to give proof now of your kindness on all these points: both by paying charitably my unfortunate servants their arrears of wages (this is a burden on my conscience that you alone can relieve), and also by having prayers offered to God for a Queen who has herself been called Most Christian, and who dies a Catholic, stripped of all her possessions.
Concerning my son, I commend him to you inasmuch as he deserves it, as I cannot answer for him.
I venture to send you two precious stones, amulets against illness, trusting that you will enjoy good health and a long happy life.

With only six hours to go, she tried to sleep and rest but she could not. When she was readied for her execution, she chose a red petticoat as the one Elizabeth’s mother had worn on the day of her execution. Red was the color of martyrdom. If Mary’s servants weren’t going to be allowed to attend, then she would wear something that would be powerful enough to make a statement. Unfortunately, she would be remembered but not the reasons she would have preferred. All historians and herstorians agree that she was “bludgeoned” to death by an inexperienced executioner; hacked to pieces. A sad end to Scotland’s first and last female monarch.

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