Queen of Scotland at six days old, grandaughter of Henry VIII’s elder sister, and betrothed to the Dauphin of France at three, Mary’s life would have seemed destined for fortune. Alas, having been brought up in France, married to the Dauphin at fourteen, Queen of France at sixteen, Francis, the king, would die shortly after of an ear infection, leaving her to return to her waring and embittered country of Scotland. Mary, a staunch catholic, was bewildered to find her home country tight in the grip of protestant fervor, and thus no friend to her. An extremely passionate and politically stupid person, she made one disastrous marriage after another, and was even accused of abetting the murder of her second husband to make room for the third.
In a revolution led by her bastard brother, she was imprisoned by her father’s old concubine in an old tower in the middle of a large lake known as Loch Leven.
With the aid of a sympathizer, she escaped and ran for the English border, hoping to enlist the aid and sympathy of her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth feinted succor and sanctuary but in reality she was only too glad to finally have this viper tucked away where she could keep an eye on her. Mary was furious to find herself imprisoned where she had sought refuge, and despite numerous attempts to speak personally with Elizabeth she was never granted an audience with the queen. For the next sixteen years she was moved from one musty old mansion to another, always under close guard and never allowed any freedom of movement.
Elizabeth had been urged by her councilors from day one to be done with the pretentious Scottish queen and send her to the block. But she was loath to set such a precident as to send to the scaffold an anointed queen. For both her own mother Anne Boleyn and her cousin Catherine Howard had been merely queen consort, while Mary, like herself, was queen in her own right. The Queen’s hand must be forced, Mary must hang herself.
Elizabeth’s spymaster, Walsingham, lured Mary through planting spies amid true enemies of the crown and let herself become involved in a coup to assasinate Elizabeth and set herself up as queen. Mary took the bait and in a matter of months Elizabeth was forced to acknowledge that her own life depended on taking the life of the other. Elizabeth finally signed the warrant for her execution.
There was no visible tremor in her countenance as the Scottish Queen knelt on a cushion and quoted a psalm in Latin before laying her head on the block. The executinoer was perhaps overcome with awe at the occasion as the first blow of the axe only succeeded in knocking her senseless and it took three more swings to completely sever her head. Afterwards he hoisted up the head and cried: “God save the Queen”. Spectators saw her lips move for some fifteen minutes after the impact of the axe.
O my lord and my God, I have trusted in Thee.
O my dear Jesus, now liberate me.
In shackle and chain, in torture and pain, I long for Thee
In weakness and sighing, in kneeling an crying,
I adore and implore Thee to liberate me.
— Marie Rex, the morning of her death