This done, one of the women having a Corpus Christi cloth lapped up three-corner-ways, kissing it, put it over the Queen of Scots’ face, and pinned it fast to the caule of her head.
Then the two women departed from her, and she kneeling down upon the cushion most resolutely, and without any token or fear of death, she spake aloud this Psalm in Latin, “In Te Domine confido, non confundar in eternam”.
Then, groping for the block, she laid down her head, putting her chin over the block with both her hands, which, holding there still, had been cut off had they not been espied.
Then lying upon the block most quietly, and stretching out her arms cried, “In manus tuas, Domine”, etc., three or four times.
Then she, lying very still upon the block, one of the executioners holding her slightly with one of his hands, she endured two strokes of the other executioner with an axe, she making very small noise or none at all, and not stirring any part of her from the place where she lay: and so the executioner cut off her head, saving one little gristle, which being cut asunder, he lift up her head to the view of all the assembly and bade God save the Queen.
Mary Stuart was executed on 8 February 1587 at Fotheringhay Castle, after a trial whose outcome forever troubled Queen Elizabeth I
This famous account of the execution was written by Robert Wynkfielde.
Researched by Francesco Josepa Dougan; February 2020
Accounts such as these, and woodcuts of the scene, were very popular throughout Europe. The great scandals of Mary’s life were forgotten and she was mourned as a Catholic martyr.
The truth of her demise was not so simple.
Elizabeth did execute Mary over the 19-year course of her imprisonment. Eventually, however, the Catholic threat was deemed too great and Elizabeth signed the warrant for execution.
Her [Mary Queen of Scots] prayers being ended, the executioners, kneeling, desired her Grace to forgive them her death: who answered,
‘I forgive you with all my heart, for now, I hope, you shall make an end of all my troubles.’
Then they, with her…
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