MARY did not always discourage the plots and intrigues with which her name was connected. She, of course,
longed for deliverance from the thraldom in which Elizabeth held her, and was ready to embrace any opportunity
which promised release. She thus seems to have listened from time to time to the overtures which were made to
her, and involved herself, in Elizabeth's opinion, more or less, in the responsibility which attached to them.
Elizabeth did not, however, in such cases, do any thing more than to increase somewhat the rigors of her
imprisonment. She was afraid to proceed to extremities with her, partly, perhaps, for fear that she might, by
doing so, awaken the hostility of France, whose king was Mary's cousin, or of Scotland, whose monarch was her
At length, however, in the year 1586, about eighteen years from the commencement of
 Mary's captivity, a plot
was formed in which she became so seriously involved as to subject herself to the charge of aiding and abetting
in the high treason of which the leaders of the plot were proved to be guilty. This plot is known in history by
the name of Babington's conspiracy. Babington was a young gentleman of fortune, who lived in the heart of
England. He was inspired with a strong degree of interest in Mary's fate, and wished to rescue her from her
captivity. He joined himself with a large party of influential individuals of the Catholic faith. The
conspirators opened negotiations with the courts of France and Spain for aid. They planned an insurrection, the
assassination of Elizabeth, the rescue of Mary, and a general revolution. They maintained a correspondence with
Mary. This correspondence was managed very secretly, the letters being placed by a confidential messenger in a
certain hole in the castle wall where Queen Mary was confined.
One day, when Mary was going out to ride, just as she was entering her carriage, officers suddenly arrived from
London. They told her that the plot in which she had been engaged had been discovered; that fourteen of the
prin-  cipal conspirators had been hung, seven on each of two successive days, and at they had come to arrest some
of her attendants and to seize her papers. They accordingly went into her apartments, opened all her desks,
trunks, and cabinets, seized her papers, and took them to London. Mary sat down in the scene of desolation and
disorder which they left, and wept bitterly.
The papers which were seized were taken to London, and Elizabeth's government began seriously to agitate the
question of bringing Mary herself to trial. One would have thought that, in her forlorn and desolate condition,
she would have looked to her son for sympathy and aid. But rival claimants to a crown can have little kind
feeling to each other, even if they are mother and son. James, as he gradually approached toward maturity, took
sides against his mother. In fact, all Scotland was divided and was for many years in a state of civil war:
those who advocated Mary's right to the crown on one side, and James's adherents on the other. They were called
king's men and queen's men. James was, of course, brought up in hostility to his mother, and he wrote to her,
about a year before Babington's conspiracy, in terms so
hos-  tile and so devoid of filial love, that his
ingratitude stung her to the heart. "Was it for this," she said, "that I made so many sacrifices, and endured
so many trials on his account in his early years? I have made it the whole business of my life to protect and
secure his rights, and to open before him a prospect of future power and glory: and this is the return."
The English government, under Elizabeth's direction, concluded to bring Mary to a public trial. They removed
her, accordingly, to the Castle of Fotheringay. Fotheringay is in Northamptonshire, which is in the very heart
of England, Northampton, the shire town, being about sixty miles northwest of London. Fotheringay Castle was on
the banks of the River Nen, or Avon, which flows northeast from Northampton to the sea. A few miles below the
castle is the ancient town of Peterborough, where there was a monastery and a great cathedral church. The
monastery had been built a thousand years before.
They removed Mary to Fotheringay Castle for her trial, and lawyers, counselors, commissioners, and officers of
state began to assemble there from all quarters. The castle was a spacious structure. It was surrounded with
 moats, and with double walls, and was strongly fortified. It contained numerous and spacious apartments,
and it had especially one large hall which was well adapted to the purposes of this great trial. The
preparations for the solemn ordeal through which Mary was now to pass, brought her forth from the obscurity in
which she had so long been lost to the eyes of mankind, and made her the universal object of interest and
attention in England, Scotland, and France. The people of all these nations looked on with great interest at
the spectacle of one queen tried solemnly on a charge of high treason against another. The stories of her
beauty, her graces, her misfortunes, which had slumbered for eighteen years, were all now revived, and every
body felt a warm interest in the poor captive, worn down by long confinement, and trembling in the hands of
what they feared would be a merciless and terrible power.
Mary was removed to the Castle of Fotheringay toward the end of September, 1586. The preparations for the trial
proceeded slowly. Every thing in which kings and queens, or affairs of state were concerned in those days, was
conducted with great pomp and ceremony. The arrangements of the hall were minutely
pre-  scribed. At the head of
it a sort of throne was placed, with a royal canopy over it, for the Queen of England. This, though it was
vacant, impressed the court and the spectators as a symbol of royalty, and denoted that the sovereignty of
Elizabeth was the power before which Mary was arraigned.
When the preparations were made, Mary refused to acknowledge the jurisdiction. of the court. She denied that
they had any right to arraign or to try her. "I am no subject of Elizabeth's," said she. "I am an independent
and sovereign queen as well as she, and I will not consent to any thing inconsistent with this my true
position. I owe no allegiance to England, and I am not, in any sense, subject to her laws. I came into the
realm only to ask assistance from a sister queen, and I have been made a captive, and detained many years in an
unjust and cruel imprisonment; and though now worn down both in body and mind by my protracted sufferings, I am
not yet so enfeebled as to forget what is due to myself, my ancestors, and my country."
This refusal of Mary's to plead, or to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the court, caused a new delay. They
urged her to abandon her
 resolution. They told her that if she refused to plead, the trial would proceed
without her action, and, by pursuing such a course, she would only deprive herself of the means of defense,
without at all impeding the course of her fate. At length Mary yielded. It would have been better for her to
have adhered to her first intention.
The commission by which Mary was to be tried consisted of earls, barons, and other persons of rank, twenty or
thirty in number. They were seated on each side of the room, the throne being at the head. In the center was a
table, where the lawyers, by whom the trial was to be conducted, were seated. Below this table was a chair for
Mary. Behind Mary's chair was a rail, dividing off the lower end of the hall from the court; and this formed an
outer space, to which some spectators were admitted.
Mary took her place in the seat assigned her, and the trial proceeded. They adduced the evidence against her,
and then asked for her defense. She said substantially that she had a right to make an effort to recover her
liberty; that, after being confined a captive so long, and having lost forever her youth, her health, and her
happiness, it was not wonderful that she wished to
 be free; but that, in endeavoring to obtain her freedom, she
had formed no plans to injure Elizabeth, or to interfere in any way with her rights or prerogatives as queen.
The commissioners, after devoting some days to hearing evidence, and listening to the defense, sent Mary back
to her apartments, and went to London. There they had a final consultation, and unanimously agreed in the
following decision: "That Mary, commonly called Queen of Scots and dowager of France, had been an accessory to
Babington's conspiracy, and had compassed the death of Elizabeth, queen of England."
Elizabeth pretended to be very much concerned at this result. She laid the proceedings before Parliament. It
was supposed then, and has always been supposed since, that she wished Mary to be beheaded, but desired not to
take the responsibility of it herself; and that she wanted to appear unwilling, and to be impelled, greatly
against her own inclinations, by the urgency of others, to carry the sentence into execution. At any rate,
Parliament, and all the members of the government, approved and confirmed the verdict, and wished to have it
carried into effect.
It has always been the custom, in modern
 times, to require the solemn act of the supreme magistrate of any
state to confirm a decision of a tribunal which condemns a person to death, by signing what is called a warrant
for the execution. This is done by the king or queen in England, and by the governor in one of the United
States. This warrant is an order, very formally written, and sealed with the great seal, authorizing the
executioner to proceed, and carry the sentence into effect. Of course, Queen Mary could not be executed unless
Elizabeth should first sign the warrant. Elizabeth would herself, probably, have been better pleased to have
been excused from all direct agency in the affair. But this could not be. She, however, made much delay, and
affected great unwillingness to proceed. She sent messengers to Mary, telling her what the sentence had been,
how sorry she was to hear it, and how much she desired to save her life, if it were possible. At the same time
she told her that she feared it might not be in her power, and she advised Mary, to prepare her mind for the
execution of the sentence.
Mary wrote a letter to Elizabeth in reply. She said in this letter that she was glad to hear that they had
pronounced sentence of death
 against her, for she was weary of life, and had no hope of relief or rest from her
miseries but in the grave. She wrote, therefore, not to ask any change in the decision, but to make three
requests. First, that, after her execution her body might be removed to France, and be deposited at Rheims,
where the ashes of her mother were reposing. Secondly, that her execution should not be in secret, but that her
personal friends might be present, to attest to the world that she met her fate with resignation and fortitude;
and, thirdly, that her attendants and friends, who had, through their faithful love for her, shared her
captivity so long, might be permitted to retire wherever they pleased, after her death, without any
molestation. "I hope," said she, in conclusion, "you will not refuse me these my dying requests, but that you
will assure me by a letter under your own hand that you will comply with them, and then I shall die as I have
lived, your affectionate sister and prisoner, Mary Queen of Scots."
The King of France, and James, Mary's son in Scotland, made somewhat vigorous efforts to arrest the execution
of the sentence which had been pronounced against Mary. From these and other causes, the signing of the warrant
 was delayed for some months, but at length Elizabeth yielded to the solicitations of her ministers. She affixed
her signature to the instrument. The chancellor put upon it the great seal, and the commissioners who were
appointed by it to superintend the execution went to Fotheringay. They arrived there on the 7th of February,
After resting, and refreshing themselves for a short time from their journey, the commissioners sent word to
Mary that they wished for an interview with her. Mary had retired. They said that their business was very
important. She rose, and prepared to receive them. She assembled all her attendants, fourteen or fifteen in
number, in order to receive the commissioners in a manner comporting, so far as circumstances allowed, with her
rank and station. The commissioners were at length ushered into the apartment. They stood respectfully before
her, with their heads uncovered. The foremost then, in language as forbearing and gentle as was consistent with
the nature of his message, informed her that it had been decided to carry the sentence which had been
pronounced against her into effect, and then he requested another of the number to read the warrant for her
VIEW OF FOTHERINGAY, IN ITS PRESENT STATE.
 Mary listened to it calmly and patiently. Her attendants, one after another, were overcome by the mournful and
awful solemnity of the scene, and melted into tears. Mary, however, was calm. When the reading of the warrant
was ended, she said that she was sorry that her cousin Elizabeth should set the example of taking the life of a
sovereign queen; but for herself, she was willing to die. Life had long ceased to afford her any peace or
happiness, and she was ready to exchange it for the prospect of immortality. She then laid her hand upon the
New Testament, which was near her, of course a Catholic version, and called God to witness that she had never
plotted herself, or joined in plots with others, for the death of Elizabeth. One of the commissioners remarked
that her oath being upon a Catholic version of the Bible, they should not consider it valid. She rejoined that
it ought to be considered the more sacred and solemn on that account, as that was the version which she
regarded as the only one which was authoritative and true.
Mary then asked the commissioners several questions, as whether her son James had not expressed any interest in
her fate, and whether
 no foreign princes had interposed to save her. The commissioners, answered these and
other inquiries, and Mary learned from their answers that her fate was sealed. She then asked them what time
was appointed for the execution. They replied that it was to take place at eight o'clock the following morning.
Mary had not expected so early an hour to be named. She said it was sudden; and she seemed agitated and
distressed. She, however, soon recovered her composure, and asked to have a Catholic priest allowed to visit
her. The commissioners replied that that could not be permitted. They, however, proposed to send the Dean of
Peterborough to visit her. A dean is the ecclesiastical functionary presiding over a cathedral church; and of
course, the Dean of Peterborough was the clergyman of the highest rank in that vicinity. He was, however, a
Protestant, and Mary did not wish to see him.
The commissioners withdrew, and left Mary with her friends, when there ensued one of those scenes of anguish
and suffering which those who witness them never forget, but carry the gloomy remembrance of them, like a dark
shadow in the soul, to the end of their days. Mary was quiet, and appeared calm. It may,
 however, have been the
calm of hopeless and absolute despair. Her attendants were overwhelmed with agitation and grief, the expression
of which they could not even attempt to control. At last they became more composed, and Mary asked them to
kneel with her in prayer; and she prayed for some time fervently and earnestly in the midst of them.
She then directed supper to be prepared as usual, and, until it was ready, she spent her time in dividing the
money which she had on hand into separate parcels for her attendants, marking each parcel with the name. She
sat down at the table when supper was served, and though she ate but little, she conversed as usual, in a
cheerful manner, and with smiles. Her friends were silent and sad, struggling continually to keep back their
tears. At the close of the supper Mary called for a cup of wine, and drank to the health of each one of them,
and then asked them to drink to her. They took the cup, and kneeling before her, complied with her request,
though, as they did it, the tears would come to their eyes. Mary then told them that she willingly forgave them
for all that they had ever done to displease her, and she thanked them for their long-continued
fidel-  ity and love. She also asked that they would forgive her for any thing she might ever have done in respect to them
which was inconsistent with her duty. They answered the request only with a renewal of their tears.
Mary spent the evening in writing two letters to her nearest relatives in France, and in making her will. The
principal object of these letters was to recommend her servants to the attention and care of those to whom they
were addressed, after she should be gone. She went to bed shortly after midnight, and it is said she slept.
This would be incredible, if any thing were incredible in respect to the workings of the human soul in a time
of awful trial like this, which so transcends all the ordinary conditions of its existence.
At any rate, whether Mary slept or not, the morning soon came. Her friends were around her as soon as she rose.
She gave them minute directions about the disposition of her body. She wished to have it taken to France to be
interred, as she had requested of Elizabeth, either at Rheims, in the same tomb with the body of her mother, or
else at St. Denis, an ancient abbey a little north of Paris, where the ashes of a long line of French monarchs
 begged her servants, if possible, not to leave her body till it should reach its final home in one
of these places of sepulture.
In the mean time, arrangements had been made for the last act in this dreadful tragedy, in the same great hall
where she had been tried. They raised a platform upon the stone floor of the hall large enough to contain those
who were to take part in the closing scene. On this platform was a block, a cushion, and a chair. All these
things, as well as the platform itself, were covered with black cloth, giving to the whole scene a most solemn
and funereal expression. The part of the hall containing this scaffold was railed off from the rest. The
governor of the castle, and a body of guards, came in and took their station at the sides of the room. Two
executioners, one holding the axe, stood upon the scaffold on one side of the block. Two of the commissioners
stood upon the other side. The remaining commissioners and several gentlemen of the neighborhood took their
places as spectators without the rail. The number of persons thus assembled was about two hundred. Strange that
any one should have come in voluntarily, to witness such a scene!
When all was ready, the sheriff, carrying his
 white wand of office, and attended by some of the commissioners,
went for Mary. She was at her devotions, and she asked a little delay that she might conclude them: perhaps the
shrinking spirit clung at the last moment to life, and wished to linger a few minutes longer before taking the
final farewell. The request was granted. In a short time Mary signified that she was ready, and they began to
move toward the hall of execution. Her attendants were going to accompany her. The sheriff said this could not
be allowed. She accordingly bade them farewell, and they filled the castle with the sound of their shrieks and
Mary went on, descending the stair-case, at the foot of which she was joined by one of her attendants, from
whom she had been separated for some time. His name was Sir Andrew Melville, and he was the master of her
household. The name of her secretary Melville was James. Sir Andrew kneeled before her, kissed her hand, and
said that this was the saddest hour of his life. Mary began to give him some last commissions and requests.
"Say," said she, "that I died firm in the faith; that I forgive my enemies; that I feel that I have never
 disgraced Scotland, my native country, and that I have been always true to France, the land of my happiest
years. Tell my son—" Here her voice faltered and ceased to be heard, and she burst into tears.
She struggled to regain her composure. "Tell my son," said she, "that I thought of him in my last moments, and
that I have never yielded, either by word or deed, to any thing whatever that might lead to his prejudice. Tell
him to cherish the memory of his mother, and say that I sincerely hope his life may be happier than mine has
Mary then turned to the commissioners who stood by, and renewed her request that her attendants, who had just
been separated from her, might come down and see her die. The commissioners objected. They said that if these
attendants were admitted, their anguish and lamentations would only add to her own distress, and make the whole
scene more painful. Mary, however, urged the request. She said they had been devotedly attached to her all her
days; they had shared her captivity, and loved and served her faithfully to the end, and it was enough if she
herself, and they, desired that they should be present. The
com-  missioners at last yielded, and allowed her to
name six, who should be summoned to attend her. She did so, and the six came down.
The sad procession then proceeded to the hall. Mary was in full court dress, and walked into the apartment with
the air and composure of a reigning queen. She leaned on the arm of her physician. Sir Andrew Melville
followed, bearing the train of her robe. Her dress is described as a gown of black silk, bordered with crimson
velvet, over which was a satin mantle. A long veil of white crape, edged with rich lace, hung down almost to
the ground. Around her neck was an ivory crucifix—that is, an image of Christ upon the cross, which the
Catholics use as a memorial of our Savior's sufferings—and a rosary, which is a string of beads of peculiar
arrangement, often employed by them as an aid in their devotions. Mary meant, doubtless, by these symbols, to
show to her enemies and to the world, that though she submitted to her fate without resistance, yet, so far as
the contest of her life had been one of religious faith, she had no intention of yielding.
Mary ascended the platform and took her seat in the chair provided for her. With the
 exception of stifled sobs
here and there to be heard, the room was still. An officer then advanced and read the warrant of execution,
which the executioners listened to as their authority for doing the dreadful work which they were about to
perform. The Dean of Peterborough, the Protestant ecclesiastic whom Mary had refused to see, then came forward
to the foot of the platform, and most absurdly commenced an address to her, with a view to convert her to the
Protestant faith. Mary interrupted him, saying that she had been born and had lived a Catholic, and she was
resolved so to die; and she asked him to spare her his useless reasonings. The dean persisted in going on. Mary
turned away from him, kneeled down, and began to offer a Latin prayer. The dean soon brought his ministrations
to a close, and then Mary prayed for some time, in a distinct and fervent voice, in English, the large company
listening with breathless attention. She prayed for her own soul, and that she might have comfort from heaven
in the agony of death. She implored God's blessing upon France; upon Scotland; upon England; upon Queen
Elizabeth; and, more than all, upon her son. During this time she held the ivory
cru-  cifix in her hand, clasping it, and raising it from time to time toward heaven.
When her prayer was ended, she rose, and, with the assistance of her attendants, took off her veil, and such
other parts of her dress as it was necessary to remove in order to leave the neck bare, and then she kneeled
forward and laid her head upon the block. The agitation of the assembly became extreme. Some turned away from
the scene faint and sick at heart; some looked more eagerly and intensely at the group upon the scaffold; some
wept and sobbed aloud. The assistant executioner put Mary's two hands together and held them; the other raised
his axe, and, after the horrid sound of two or three successive blows, the assistant held up the dissevered
head, saying, "So perish all Queen Elizabeth's enemies."
The assembly dispersed. The body was taken into an adjoining apartment, and prepared for interment. Mary's
attendants wished to have it delivered to them, that they might comply with her dying request to convey it to
France; but they were told that they could not be allowed to do so. The body was interred with great pomp and
ceremony in the
Cathe-  dral at Peterborough, where it remained in peace for many years.
Now that the deed was done, the great problem with Elizabeth was, of course, to avert the consequences of the
terrible displeasure and thirst for revenge which she might naturally suppose it would awaken in Scotland and
in France. She succeeded very well in accomplishing this. As soon as she heard of the execution of Mary, she
expressed the utmost surprise, grief, and indignation. She said that she had, indeed, signed the death warrant,
but it was not her intention at all to have it executed; and that, when she delivered it to the officer, she
charged him not to let it go out of his possession. This the officer denied. Elizabeth insisted, and punished
the officer by a long imprisonment, and perpetual disgrace, for his pretended offense. She sent a messenger to
James, explaining the terrible accident, as she termed it, which had occurred, and deprecating his displeasure.
James, though at first filled with indignation, and determined to avenge his mother's death, allowed himself to
About twenty years after this, Elizabeth died, and the great object of Mary's ambition
 throughout her whole life was attained by the union of the Scotch and English crowns on the head of her son. As soon as Elizabeth
ceased to breathe, James the Sixth of Scotland was proclaimed James the First of England. He was at that time
nearly forty years of age. He was married, and had several young children. The circumstances of King James's
journey to London, when he went to take possession of his new kingdom, are related in the History of Charles
I., belonging to this series. Though James thus became monarch of both England and Scotland, it must not be
supposed that the two kingdoms were combined. They remained separate for many years—two independent kingdoms
governed by one king.
When James succeeded to the English throne, his mother had been dead many years, and whatever feelings of
affection may have bound his heart to her in early life, they were now well-nigh obliterated by the lapse of
time, and by the new ties by which he was connected with his wife and his children. As soon as he was seated on
his new throne, however, he ordered the Castle of Fotheringay, which had been the scene of his mother's trial
and death, to be leveled with the ground, and he transferred her
 remains to Westminster Abbey, where they still repose.
MARY'S TOMB AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY.
 If the lifeless dust had retained its consciousness when it was thus transferred, with what intense emotions of
pride and pleasure would the mother's heart have been filled, in being thus brought to her final home in that
ancient sepulcher of the English kings, by her son, now, at last, safely established, where she had so long
toiled and suffered to instate him, in his place in the line. Ambition was the great, paramount, ruling
principle of Mary's life. Love was, with her, an occasional, though perfectly uncontrollable impulse, which
came suddenly to interrupt her plans and divert her from her course, leaving her to get back to it again, after
devious wanderings, with great difficulty and through many tears. The love, with the consequences which
followed from it, destroyed her; while the ambition, recovering itself after every contest with its rival, and
holding out perseveringly to the last, saved her son; so that, in the long contest in which her life was spent,
though she suffered all the way, and at last sacrificed herself, she triumphed in the end.
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