Today's Memory

Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots

Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots

Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots


Originally shared by Ed Pearce

Mary Queen of Scots was sentenced to be executed on February 8, 1567 at Fotheringhay Castle due to the alleged Roman Catholic plots to place her on the English throne in place of her cousin Elizabeth.

On the day of her execution she got up at 6.00 and spent her last two and half-hours before the summons praying in her oratory. She wrote in her Book of Devotion:

„O Lord my God, I have trusted in thee;

O Jesu my dearest one now set me free.

In prison’s oppression, in sorrow’s obsession,

I weary for thee.”

Mary dressed for her execution like a bride of death entirely in black apart from a white linen veil. Underneath Mary wore an undergarment of tawny red satin, thereby declaring herself a Catholic martyr.

At her execution the Executioner asked Mary to pardon what he was about to do „I forgive you with all of my heart”, she replied „for now I hope you shall make an end to my troubles.” Then the Catholic Mary shouted in Latin to drown the Protestant prayers of the English chaplain. The Scottish queen knelt, holding her rosary and placed her head upon the block and said, „Into your hands, O lord do I commend my soul.”

The execution was badly carried out and it is said to have taken three blows. The first blow missed her neck and struck the back of her head. The second blow severed the neck, except for a small bit of sinew, which the executioner cut through using the axe.

Mary’s devoted little Skye Terrier was her companion throughout her long imprisonment. The dog as concealed in her skirts during her execution. It refused to be coaxed away from her body and it took several washings to get his mistress’ blood out of the dog’s fur. The terrier wouldn’t eat afterwards and died from grief and starvation.

A satirical rhyme circulated around Protestant households mocking her tragic life.

„Mary, Mary, quite contrary

How does your garden grow?

With Silver belts” (silver belts are used in Mass)

„And cockle shells” (A cockle shell is the badge of compostela worn by pilgrims)

„And Pretty Maids all in a row.” (This is referring to the famous four Marys who attended the Queen of Scots)

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