The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots

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The execution of Mary, Queen of Scots on February 8, 1587 was a landmark moment in the reign of Elizabeth I and history  has often given the English queen a bit of a side eye for her handling of it.  Likely there would be more sympathy for Elizabeth’s position if Mary hadn’t, at face value, appeared so sympathetic – a beautiful woman, a mother, a widow, a deposed queen, a Catholic punished for her faith.

But Mary certainly isn’t without detractors. Though she ascended the Scottish throne as an infant after the premature death of her father, James V, she would only directly rule Scotland from within its confines for less than seven years. Raised in France as a Catholic, Scotland and its increasingly Protestant people were wholly foreign to her when she returned to it as an adult in 1561. Her rule was clumsy, her government fractured, her personal life scandalous and she continued to make herself a thorn in the side of England and her cousin, Elizabeth. What helped to solidify Mary’s legacy as a martyr-like figure is, in fact, her behavior during her execution.

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January 15: The Coronation of Elizabeth I

Today, on January 15, in 1559, Elizabeth I was crowned queen of England at Westminster Abbey in London. To commemorate the event, History Today has re-published an article from A.L. Rowse first released in May 1953 in honor of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It’s worth a read.

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The coronation of Elizabeth I, at the age of 25, was pivotal in the history of England. Not only was her reign one of the country’s most successful, but it also oversaw the segue of England from the uncertain days of the early Reformation to the religious sentiment that the Stuarts oversaw in the 17th century. Coming on the heels of the reign of her half-sister, Mary I, which had made martyrs of an estimated 300 Protestants and brought England back into the fold of the Catholic Church, religious sensitivity was at an all-time high and those of the Reformed faith were eager to do away with Catholicism altogether.

But Elizabeth’s crowning was also a personal victory, which could easily have gone sideways any number of times, from when she was declared illegitimate by her father at the age of two-and-a-half to when Mary I imprisoned her in the Tower of London for her supposed participation in Wyatt’s Rebellion of 1554. At various points in her formative years, it seemed that Elizabeth had everything working against her – her mother, Anne Boleyn, had been publicly hated, divorced and executed; she spent several years labeled the bastard daughter of Henry VIII; and even when she was included back into the line of succession, she came after her younger brother, the future Edward VI, and Mary I, both of whom it could be reasonably expected would marry and produce heirs.

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