Wednesday February 8, 1587 – the execution of Mary Queen of Scots in Fotheringhay.
It took two swings of the axe, which was then used as a saw, to separate the forty-four-year-old Scottish queen from her head. The story of Mary is a sad one, as she heads off a month littered with the anniversaries of queenly executions — no pun intended.
Queen of Scotland at only six days old, raised in France (she signed herself ‘Marie R’), Dauphiness and then Queen consort of France at fifteen and sixteen, widowed for the first time at eighteen, Mary Stewart/Stuart is ‘One of the most romantic and controversial figures of British history.’
After her execution following a nineteen-year imprisonment by her English cousin Elizabeth I, the following account is re-told by historian Antonia Fraser on page 541 of her book Mary Queen of Scots (1969):
It was now time for the executioners to strip the body of its remaining adornments before handing it over to the embalmers. But at this point a strange and pathetic memorial to that devotion which Mary Stuart had always aroused in those who knew her intimately was discovered: her little lap dog, a Skye terrier, who had managed to accompany her into the hall under her long skirts, where her servants had been turned away, had now crept out from beneath her petticoat, and in its distress had stationed itself piteously beneath the severed head and shoulders of the body.
While I don’t know that much about Mary compared to some other women of the sixteenth century, I still find her story incredibly tragic and my heart goes out to her. She died with dignity and grace and maintained her faith till the very end.
Further reading about this Scottish queen:
- Fraser, Antonia. Mary Queen of Scots, Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 1969.
- Guy, John. My Heart is My Own, Fourth Estate. 2004.
- Mary Queen of Scots — Part One
- Mary Queen of Scots — Part Two