Mary Queen Of Scots Death Decree Returns To Scotland

By Culture24 Staff | 18 November 2008
A picture of Mary Queen of Scots in regal dress on the day of her execution in 1587

A portrait of the doomed Queen wreathed in a red petticoat, the liturgical colour of Catholic martyrdom.

A complex battle to keep a royal death warrant on UK shores has finally ended.

The dramatic two-page document, ordering the execution of Mary Queen Of Scots in 1587, will be on display at Aberdeen’s Blairs Museum following an agreement engineered by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.

Initially purchased privately in 1996, it had been feared that the historic memento would be purchased by overseas buyers after the Westminster based Culture Minister blocked a £72,500 offer from a foreign collector earlier this year.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, acquired the piece for his private library at a similar cost, but talks between Mr Williams, Mr Salmond and Edinburgh Archbishop Keith Patrick O’Brien have brought the document north of the border for the first time.

yellowed handwritten document with Elizabeth R written in the top left corner

The warrant attracted interest from overseas collectors before the Culture Minister intervened. Courtesy MLA

Mr Salmond, whose West Lothian hometown houses the Linlithgow Palace where Mary was born, expressed his elation at bringing the “chilling document” back to Scotland.

“This testament to her story’s ending will add to the tangible appreciation of Scotland’s heritage,” he said. “It will be a great addition to the cultural treasure chest on offer and help historians and homecomers alike to reconnect with Scotland’s history and romance.”

The original warrant is believed to have been destroyed after Mary’s beheading at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire on February the 8 1587, a bloody culmination to her tumultuous life.

close up of part of the document showing the signature Elizabeth R

Elizabeth I’s signature, which was reluctantly provided by the reigning Queen of England under duress from members of her inner circle. Courtesy MLA

The letter on display was sent to the Earl of Kent as one of six copies drawn up, and is presented next to a portrait of the monarch on the day of her execution.

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