Elizabeth's Reaction to the Execution of Mary Queen of Scots
Important Dates: 1st February 1587: Death Warrant Signed
8th February 1587: Mary Queen of Scots executed.
In October of 1586, Mary was put on trial at Fotheringhay for plotting
to kill Elizabeth and claim the English throne. Elizabeth's last
letter to Mary was delivered at the start of the trial:
You have in various ways and manners attempted to take my life and to
bring my kingdom to destruction by bloodshed. I have never proceeded
so harshly against you, but have, on the contrary, protected and
maintained you like myself. This treason will be proved to you and all
made manifest. Yet it is my will, that you answer the nobles and peers
of the kingdom as if I were myself present. I therefore require,
charge, and command that you make answer for I have been well informed
of your arrogance.
Act plainly without reserve, and you will sooner be able to obtain
favour of me. Elizabeth.
Mary defended herself, though she had no friends or supporters at the
trial and, essentially, the verdict had been decided before it had
begun. Mary admitted her desire to escape but stated, 'I have not
procured or encouraged any hurt against Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth.'
And she appealed for mercy, mentioning her own reputation for
tolerance and kindness: 'My subjects now complain they were never so
well off as under my government.' But she also accepted the
inevitable, telling the assembled nobles, 'May God keep me from having
to do with you all again.' When the verdict was read to her, she said,
'I do not fear to die in a good cause.'
Upon Hearing the news of Mary's execution Elizabeth was furious and in
her storm she sent the man who took the death warrant (William
Davison) to the Tower but allowed him to keep the secretary's pay.
Burghley claimed that Elizabeth also sought the advice of a judge to
see if it was legally possible for her to hang Davison. The council
was also in disgrace and so Elizabeth also asked for advice to find if
by prerogative she could pardon the council. However in 18 months
Davison had been released and by June 1587 the council was forgiven by
the gesture of Elizabeth making a visit to Burghley's home at
Penry Williams: Claims that though her rage may have been calculated
at times, such as the treatment of Davison, she was genuinely appalled
at her councillors and parliament as she had been forced by them and
by public opinion into taking action.
However other historians have claimed that her ""rage"" was
Elizabeth's efforts to shift the blame onto others as the execution of
a fellow monarch gave out the message that all monarchs could be
disposed of, including herself. Also Elizabeth could not be too
egotistical and thus could not end parliament, she still...