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Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots

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Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots

During the sixteenth century there where many conflicts which occurred between Catholics and Protestants. The Kings and Queens of England especially kept on changing between both religions. This made it very difficult for the people of England to choose a religion because laws kept on getting changed in regard to practicing religion. When Elizabeth I became Queen she became the new defender of the faith, thus making Protestantism the official religion. One of the harshest parts of Elizabeth's reign was the whole Mary, Queen of Scots, ordeal. Mary was Elizabeth's cousin and next in line to the throne. Of course Mary was Catholic and that is what made the whole issue an issue. This paper will talk about Elizabeth's involvement in the tragic story of Mary, Queen of Scots and the events which led to the execution of Mary.

Elizabeth's involvement in the tragic story of Mary, Queen of Scots was possibly the harshest experience of her long reign. Mary had been brought up in the French Court and was married to the Dauphin who became King Francis II a year after Elizabeth's accession to the thrown. 1 Two years later Mary's husband prematurely died and Mary reluctantly returned to Scotland as a youthful widow. 2 Mary's arrival posed an obvious threat to Elizabeth and the recently established Protestant settlement in England, for the presence of an obvious Catholic was likely to attract the support of Catholics on both sides of the border. 3 Mary was also a great-grand-daughter of Henry VII and therefore an heir apparent to the English thrown. 4 Although Elizabeth refused to recognize her cousin's claims to the throne, her policy was to find a working relationship between them. They kept on friendly terms and wrote letters to each other, although they never met. 5 By 1565 Mary had tired of her widowed state and she married her cousin Henry Darnley. Both Mary and Darnley shared a common grandmother, Margaret Tudor. 6 Mary's marriage to Darnley led to comprehensive disaster for Scotland, England, Elizabeth, and above all, for Mary herself. This marriage quickly fell apart and late one night when Mary was sulking to her secretary David Rizzio, Darnley's friend burst into the room and stabbed him to death with Darnley's sword. A few month's later, Mary had her revenge on Darnley when the house he was staying at was blown up and his body was found in the orchard strangled. 7 Within three months of Darnley's death, Mary was abducted by Earl of Bothwell and after a rigged trial which acquitted Bothwell of the murder, she married him. Protestants and Catholics alike were outraged, and the tide rapidly turned against the Queen and her lover. 8 The Scots reacted by forcing her to abdicate in favor of her infant son in July 1567 and imprisoned her at Lochleven Castle. The following May she escaped and rallied much of Scotland to her cause, but in the end she was outgeneraled by her opponents and fled to England. 9 Mary's arrival in England recreated the problem which had bedeviled English politics in the 1540's and 1550's: that of successor. Of course Elizabeth never acknowledged her as heir, but that made little difference because Mary's proximity of blood was enough in itself with out any further legal endorsements. 10 Once back in England, Mary quickly reinvented herself as a Roman Catholic, and the horns of the old dilemma rose once more: Protestant Elizabeth had a Catholic successor. 11 England's most dangerous foe was in their hands and they had no intention of sending her back to Scotland where she would provoke more civil war, or France where she would renew old alliance against England. Nonetheless, keeping her in England was not without danger either. She would plot with dissatisfied English people to get the English thrown, an especially sweet idea to English Catholics. 12 Elizabeth ordered her unwelcome refugee to be kept in custody pending an enquiry into her alleged complicity in Darnley's murder. The trial came to an impasse and already Elizabeth had made up her mind to finish off the whole business. On January 10 she had pronounced her verdict, there had been nothing sufficiently produced by them against Mary, whereby the Queen of England should conceive or take any evil opinion of Mary. 14 Mary's arrival in England was a source of embarrassment to Elizabeth because she refused to renounce her claims to the English thrown and she was a rallying figure for Catholics. Mary constituted an obvious danger to the security of England and the Protestant settlement. 15 Some people believe that if Elizabeth would have just released Mary no religious revolt would have occurred because the Catholic world would have been influenced by Mary's recent behaviors and would have treated her with cold contempt. 16 When in January 1569, Mary was moved south to Tutbury Castle she knew that she could not expect help from her cousin Elizabeth , but she was already turning elsewhere in England for help. Ambitious nobles and disgruntled Catholics naturally turned to her with enthusiasm. 17 Cecil and other leading ministers wasted no time in advising Elizabeth that as long as Mary remained in England, the country was in danger. But Elizabeth was bound to Mary by Family ties and by the touching letters and poems of supplication which Mary sent her. Elizabeth favored a solution to the problem which would have included Mary's restoration to the Scottish throne under various conditions. But this plan had to be changed due to Mary's reckless involvement in a series of plots against the English throne. 18 The last phase of Mary's marital history is her attempts to marry the Duke of Norfolk. She became the darling of the Northern Catholics who hoped to remove that upstart commoner William Cecil and his Protestant Queen, replacing them with Mary. It seems to have been purely a political arrangement and it failed almost before it began, but the northern earls rose in revolt and died for the idea. 19 Parliament and the country at large clamored for the execution of the two principles. Norfolk was exacuted as a traitor and Mary's life was saved only by Elizabeth who refused to agree to Parliament's demands for her death. 20 Mary never learned from her past experience and continued to conspire against Elizabeth. Finally in 1586 letters were intercepted from Mary which conclusively proved her involvement in a plot organized by Anthony Babington to murder Elizabeth and a commission was set up to examine and try Mary at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire.



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