Mary's Letters

Mary, Queen of Scots Home Page

Relive Mary's escape from Scotland and last hours through her own letters to Elizabeth I and Henry III. The originals were written in French.

This letter was written to Elizabeth during Mary's one-year incarceration in Lochleven after her defeat at Carberry Hill. Mary truly believed that her cousin would come to her rescue but Elizabeth's friendliness was just a front.

Madame, my Good Sister

The length of my weary imprisonment, and the wrongs I have received from those on whom I have conferred so many benefits, are less annoying to me than not having it in my power to acquaint you with the realities of my calamities, and the injuries that have been done to me in various ways. It may please you to remember that you have told me several times "that on receiving that ring you gave me, you would assist me in any time of trouble". You know that Lord James has seized all I have. Melville, to whom I have often sent secretly for this ring, as my most precious jewel, says that he dare not let me have it. Therefore I implore you to have compassion on your good sister and cousin, and believe that you have not a more affectionate relative in the world. You should also consider the importance of the example practised against me.

I entreat you to be careful that no one knows that I have written to you, for it would cause me to be treated worse than I am now. They boast that their friends at your court inform them of all you say and do. God keep you from misfortunes, and grant me patience and His grace that I may one day recount my calumnies to yourself, when I will tell you more than I dare to write, which may prove of no small service to yourself.

Your obliged and affectionate good sister and cousin,

Mary's signatureat my prison at Lochleven.

Having escaped from Lochleven and been again defeated at the battle of Langside, Mary made the fatal mistake of deciding to seek Elizabeth's help for good. She sent the following letter to her but, in her impatience and belief in Elizabeth's sincerity, she sailed for England without waiting for a reply.

Dundrennan, May 15, 1568

To the high and mighty Prince, Elizabeth-

You are not ignorant, my dearest sister, of great part of my misfortunes, but these which induce me to write at present, have happened too recently yet to have reached your ears. I must therefore acquaint you as briefly as I can, that some of my subjects whom I most confided in, and had raised to the highest pitch of honour, have taken up arms against me, and treated me with the utmost indignity. By unexpected means, the Almighty Disposer of all things delivered me from the cruel imprisonment I underwent.

But I have since lost a battle, in which most of those who preserved their loyal integrity fell before my eyes. I am now forced out of my kingdom, and driven to such straits that, next to God, I have no hope but in your goodness. I beseech you therefore, my dearest sister, that I may be conducted to your presence, that I may acquaint you with all my affairs.

In the meantime, I beseech God to grant you all heavenly benedictions, and to me patience and consolation, which last I hope and pray to obtain by your means.

To remind you of the reasons I have to depend on England, I send back to its Queen this token, the jewel of her promised friendship and assistance.

Your affectionate sister,

Mary's signature

This is Mary's last letter to Elizabeth in which she expressed her final requests which, like all others, would never be granted.

Now having been informed, on your part, of the sentence passed in the last session of your Parliament, and admonished by Lord Beale to prepare myself for the end of my long and weary pilgrimage, I prayed them to return my thanks to you for such agreeable intelligence, and to ask you to grant some things for the relief of my conscience.

I will not accuse any person, but sincerely pardon every one, as I desire others, and, above all, God, to pardon me. And since I know that your heart, more than that of any other, ought to be touched by the honour or dishonour of your own blood, and of a Queen, the daughter of a king, I require you, Madam, for the sake of Jesus, that after my enemies have satisfied their black thirst for my innocent blood, you will permit my poor disconsolate servants to remove my corpse, that it may be buried in holy ground, with my ancestors in France, especially the late Queen my mother, since in Scotland the remains of the Kings my predecessors have been outraged, and the churches torn down and profaned.

As I shall suffer in this country, I shall not be allowed a place near your ancestors, who are also mine, and persons of my religion think much of being interred in consecrated earth. I trust you will not refuse this last request I have preferred to you, and allow, at least, free sepulture to this body when the soul shall be separated from it, which never could obtain, while united, liberty to dwell in peace.

Dreading the secret tyranny of some of those to whom you have abandoned me, I entreat you to prevent me from being dispatched secretly, without your knowledge, not from fear of the pain, which I am ready to suffer, but on account of the reports they would circulate after my death. It is therefore that I desire my servants to remain witnesses and attestators of my end, my faith in my Saviour, and obedience to His church. This I require of you in the name of Jesus Christ in respect to our consanguinity, for the sake of King Henry VII, your great-grandfather and mine, for the dignity we have both held, and for the sex to which we both belong.

I beseech the God of mercy and justice to enlighten you with His holy Spirit, and to give me the grace to die in perfect charity, as I endeavour to do, pardoning my death to all those who have either caused or cooperated in it; and this will be my prayer to the end.

Accuse me not of presumption if, leaving this world and preparing myself for a better, I remind you will one day to give account of your charge, in like manner as those who preceded you in it, and that my blood and the misery of my country will be remembered, wherefor from the earliest dawn of your comprehension we ought to dispose our minds to make things temporal yield to those of eternity.

Your sister and cousin wrongfully a prisoner,

Mary's signature)

Mary's last letter ever, written in the early morning of the day of her execution. Click here to see the original French transcription and handwritten sample.

To Henri III, the Most Christian King of France.

8 February 1587.

Monsieur mon beau-frère, estant par la permission de Dieu...

Royal brother, having by God's will, for my sins I think, thrown myself into the power of the Queen my cousin, at whose hands I have suffered much for almost twenty years, I have finally been condemned to death by her and her Estates. I have asked for my papers, which they have taken away, in order that I might make my will, but I have been unable to recover anything of use to me, or even get leave either to make my will freely or to have my body conveyed after my death, as I would wish, to your kingdom where I had honour to be queen, your sister and old ally.

Tonight, after dinner, I have been advised of my sentence: I am to be executed like a criminal at eight in the morning. I have not had time to give you a full account of everything that has happened, but if you will listen to my doctor and my other unfortunate servants, you will learn the truth, and how, thanks be to God, I scorn death and vow that I meet it innocent of any crime, even if I were their subject. The Catholic faith and the assertion of my God-given right to the English throne are the two issues on which I am condemned, and yet I am not allowed to say that it is for the Catholic religion that I die, but for fear of interference with theirs. The proof of this is that they have taken away my chaplain, and, although he is in the building, I have not been able to get permission for him to come and hear my confession and give me the Last Sacrament, while they have been most insistent that I receive the consolation and instruction of their minister brought here for that purpose.

The bearer of this letter and his companions, most of them your subjects, will testify to my conduct at my last hour. It remains for me to beg Your Most Christian Majesty, my brother-in-law and old ally, who have always protested your love for me, to give proof now of your goodness on all these points: firstly by charity, in paying my unfortunate servants the wages due to them-this is a burden on my conscience that only you can relieve: further, by having prayers offered to God for a queen who has borne the title Most Christian, and who dies a Catholic, stripped of all her possessions. As for my son, I commend him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him.

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. Again I commend my servants to you. Give instruction, 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 loving and most true sister.

Mary's signature Queen of Scotland

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