Essay, Pages 5 (1089 words)
Mary, queen of Scots left England, so to speak, in the same way that she had entered it – with a trial over her conduct and a debate over the legitimacy of the enquiry. Against Mary’s claim that, as a queen, she was above the law of England, the prosecution replied that nobody was above the law in such a crime. The guilty verdict was a foregone conclusion, though that does not mean the trail was rigged. Mary was given a fair trial… at least by Tudor standards, which meant: – no defence counsel; – no secretarial aid to assist in planning her defence.
Elizabeth took her time about signing the death warrant, trying first to persuade Mary’s jailor, Sir Amyas Paulet, to “do the deed” unofficially and on the quiet. Paulet refused, shrewdly recognizing that he could easily be made a scapegoat, if Elizabeth wished to assuage criticism by denying responsibility. In the end Elizabeth did sign the death warrant on 1 February 1587, then tried to ensure that it was not carried out (or to evade responsibility) by issuing contradictory instructions.
However, this time her Privy Council ensured that there would be no reprieve for Mary.
The execution was carried out at Fotheringay a week later without Elizabeth being informed in advance. She was buried initially in Peterborough cathedral, being moved later to Westminster Abbey when her son became James I of England. On receiving the news of Mary’s execution the streets of Scotland, France and Spain resounded to cries of outrage and vows of revenge, but it was mainly shock speaking, not considered policy.
Only Philip II put his money where his mouth was, since Mary’s demise made him the official Catholic claimant to Elizabeth’s throne.
From the time of her marriage to Darnley, Mary had been subject to printed criticism on a scale which had never previously troubled a reigning sovereign. The extent to which this can be attributed solely to religious motives cannot be conclusively judged. Some contemporary attacks, like that of Thomas Jeney in Master Randolphes Phantasy preferred to concentrate on the way in which her physical passion for Darnley had overcome more rational considerations. After Darnley’s murder, the Protestant propagandists had a field-day: eg The bawdy ballads of Robert Sempill; eg George Buchanon’s Detection of the doings… eg Thomas Wilson’s Action against Mary ; eg John Knox’s History of the Reformation in Scotland. The Protestant (or, rather, the anti-Marian) emphasis was constantly stressed the Queen’s immorality. It was a line of attack which only had to be toned down – only in as much as it might undermine the general line of Tudor propaganda on the nature of monarchy; – only after the accession of James I in 1603.
There were only two defences that Marian defenders could muster against such material (which meant of course the only possibility of retaining a Catholic monarch): One centred on a Scottish nationalist interpretation, in which Mary’s downfall and even Rizzio’s murder were attributed to English plots; The classic example of this approach came from Adam Blackwood in his Martyrdom of the Queen of Scotland (1587) and Death of the Queen of Scotland (1588). – The other defence was to attribute the vitriol to blind religious prejudice. This was clearly the line taken by such Marian apologists as John Leslie, David Chambers, and the poet Robert Southwell – whose portrayals of Mary as a patient and guiltless saint must have strained the credulity of hose who knew her.
It was in order to dispel just this argument that Mary’s opponents sought to avoid the question of religion when it came to her indictment for treason. 1. How responsible was Mary for the actions of her friends and advisers? A question of some moment before as well as after her arrival in England. Certainly, Mary’s habitual poor choice of intimates and advisers extended to these men: George, Lord Seton, Bishop Leslie of Ross, Thomas Morgan (her land agent in France), Archbishop Beaton of Glasgow (Mary’s ambassador in France). The list hardly inspires confidence.
On the one hand, many (like Thomas Morgan and Archbishop Beaton) resided in France and were therefore difficult to communicate with and control. On the other hand, Mary did have a say in who ran her affairs in France, and might have taken a stronger line with them by emphasising the danger to which their antics exposed her. Perhaps she welcomed the goal they were striving for, and did not want to control them? Her brother-in-law, Charles IX of France, believed so, stating after Ridolfi’s plot that it was a question of Mary’s fault and folly.
2. Given that Mary saw herself as a political prisoner, held illegally without a trial, had ot she the right to seek her freedom by any means available? Mary’s character, as summoned up by Sir Francis Knollys in June 1568, shortly after his first meeting with her after her flight to England: ‘She showeth a readiness to expose herself to all perils in [the] hope of victory. ‘ To Knollys’ mind, Mary was someone for whom ends justified means. She was a Machiavellian princess and true daughter of the Renaissance. Mary was certainly not content to waste her life under house arrest, even the genteel captivity that cost Elizabeth an enormous i??52 a week to maintain.
She had been born and brought up to rule. For Mary, her captivity was gilded, but it was a cage – not for her, the more placid view that was a cage, but at least it was gilded. 3. To what extent was she a marked woman, deemed too dangerous to live long, and thus someone to be ensnared by agent provocateurs? There was no clear Protestant alternative to Mary as Elizabeth’s successor; even James VI in Scotland could hardly claim the English throne while his mother lived. On the other hand, while Mary lived, there was little chance of Philip II launching a crusading invasion against Elizabeth.
Mary’s claim was accepted as the premier Catholic one, and Philip would hardly have diverted vital resources from Netherlands just to place a French puppet on the English throne. That Philip only began preparations for the Armada within days of learning of Mary’s execution in 1587, speaks volumes. Moreover, there was never a stage when English Catholics flocked around Mary, creating a rival, mini-court about her. The ambitious and disgruntled might occasionally make their way there, but no mass movement of support ever arose. She was never one to accept adversity with equanimity.