Mary Queen of Scots

The Marie Stuart Society

Registered Scottish Charity Number SC044300

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Imprisonment in England

Mary's arrival at Workington was of course unexpected and the local squire Sir Henry Curwen was not present. However Mary was made welcome at Workington Hall by his wife and from there Mary wrote to Elizabeth requesting her assistance. Word of Mary's arrival however spread quickly and the following day Lowther the deputy governor of Carlisle Castle arrived to escort Mary there. Mary had fled to England to seek Elizabeth's assistance but her arrival presented Elizabeth with a dilemma in that she could not retain her without reason to do so. Mary was regarded by many as the rightful Queen of England and perceived therefore as very much a threat to Elizabeth.

There were lingering suspicions of Mary's involvement in the death of her second husband and Elizabeth took the line that she could not receive one who was under suspicion (although she "doubted not her innocence") and that therefore enquiry should be made into the events surrounding the death. In October 1568 representatives of Mary, Elizabeth and her half brother the Earl of Moray, who was now regent in Scotland, met at York. Meantime Mary had been moved to Bolton Castle in North Yorkshire.

It was only at this point that the so called 'Casket Letters' were produced. These were allegedly letters written by Mary to Bothwell during the time she was in Glasgow immediately prior to the murder. If valid these would at least suggest Mary's involvement in the murder. Much inquiry has subsequently been made into the validity or otherwise of these letters which have now disappeared. See Fast Castle.

The Conference at York achieved little and the matter was transferred to Westminster where a decision was taken without condemning Mary that there was enough evidence to hold her as a prisoner.

Mary was transferred to various Castles in England, Tutbury and Wingfield Manor before being transferred to Sheffield Castle where she spent the bulk of the period of her imprisonment. During this time there had been various plots and conspiracies to free Mary and place her on the throne of England; in particular perhaps the Ridolfi Plot which involved a Spanish invasion of England coupled with a Catholic rising.

By 1586 when Mary was being held at Chartley there were real fears almost verging on paranoia of a Catholic uprising in England and of Spanish invasion. A young noblemen, Sir Anthony Babington, probably a double agent, managed to persuade Mary to give consent to one such plot. Letters however were intercepted, the plot was uncovered and Babington was duly arrested and executed.

Mary was moved to Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire and put on trial. At the trial Mary was not allowed counsel nor witnesses in her defence. She was duly found guilty and condemned to death.

Westminster wreath

wreath laid by Marie Stuart Society
at Westminster Abbey

The execution took place in the great Hall of the Castle at Wednesday 8th. November 1587 at approximately 9 o'clock in the morning.

Mary was originally buried in an unmarked grave at Peterborough Cathedral.

On the accession of Mary's son, James VI and I, to the throne of the United Kingdoms of Great Britain in 1603, he had his mother's remains transferred to Westminster Abbey where a handsome monument was erected - very much outdoing that to Elizabeth.

Every year on the Saturday nearest the anniversary of her birth, the Society holds a short service and a bouquet of flowers is laid on her tomb.