Friday, January 19, 2018

The Imprisonment of Mary Stuart

From Smithsonian:
This frosty missive belongs to a trove of 43 letters that was recently donated to the American Trust for the British Library. The documents in this remarkable collection, which include four letters signed by Elizabeth I and others written by high-ranking officials like Sir Francis Walsingham, all relate to Mary’s imprisonment in England, where she was held for 19 years before her execution.

Mary fled to England in 1568, after an uprising forced her to abdicate the Scottish throne in favor of her infant son. She hoped that her cousin, Elizabeth, would offer refuge, but Mary’s arrival unnerved the English queen. Mary was Catholic; Elizabeth was a Protestant. Concerned that Mary would become the focus of plots to depose her and install a Catholic monarch, Elizabeth ordered her cousin to be placed under the strict supervision of English noblemen.

For most of her long confinement, Mary was kept at a manor in Derbyshire, in the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury. But in 1584, she was moved to a dreary castle further inland, and transferred to the charge of the statesman Ralph Sadler. The British Library’s newest collection of letters span the period in which Mary was in Sadler’s care, from the summer of 1584 to the spring of 1585. It was a tumultuous time for both the Scottish queen and Europe at large. Religious wars were raging in France, the Protestant William of Orange had been assassinated by a “fanatical Catholic,” and a plot against Elizabeth’s life had recently been foiled. With the possibility of insurrection and assassination lurking constantly in the shadows, Elizabeth and her supporters became increasingly nervous about Mary. (Read more.)

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