Scotlands History

Captivity in England

At first Elizabeth I was unsure what to do with Mary. Mary was a Catholic queen but a queen nonetheless. For months her unexpected guest was secured in English castles until Elizabeth finally decided to investigate the claims that Mary was complicit in the murder of her husband Darnley and consider Mary’s claims against Moray.

In the winter of 1568 the Earl of Moray presented ‘the Casket Letters’ before the inquiry. They were said to be letters written to Bothwell by Mary proving that she had conspired to murder Darnley. The Letters were forgeries, carefully created to discredit Mary.

Elizabeth’s inquiry judged that there was no evidence that Mary was guilty and that Moray should return to Scotland as regent. Mary would remain in England.

After the inquiry Mary was taken to the austere Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire. She effectively became a prisoner.

On 23 January 1570 Mary’s half brother, James Stewart, the Earl of Moray, was riding through Linlithgow. He was shot dead by James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh in what is thought to be the first assassination carried out with a gun. The next regent, Lord Darnley’s father, the Earl of Lennox, was killed in September 1571 - a victim of the worsening conflict between the supporters and opponents of Mary. Soon supporters of Mary were ruthlessly crushed.

In England, Mary lived with her entourage in Tutbury, Sheffield Castle, Sheffield Manor Lodge, Wingfield Manor and Chatsworth House. She was moved as her health worsened or if there was suspicion of a Catholic plot to rescue her. Mary spent most of her days stitching embroidered panels, some of which survive. Some of Mary’s embroidery has been shown to carry secret symbols with hidden meanings. After the Throckmorton Plot and the Parry Plot were uncovered Mary was lodged in Chartley Hall under the close eye of Sir Amyas Paulet.

Elizabeth’s chief advisor and spymaster William Cecil was convinced that Mary was too dangerous to be allowed to live. All of Mary’s letters were carefully inspected. Cecil set Sir Francis Walsingham to find evidence that would implicate Mary in a Catholic plot against Elizabeth - and he was happy to set a trap if he couldn’t find the evidence he needed.

  • Stained glass window of Mary, Queen of Scots

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