Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Last letter of Mary, Queen of Scots: Display extended by three hours

Mary, Queen of Scots letter Pic: Morag Kinniburgh

The last letter of Mary, Queen of Scots, is to be displayed for an extra three hours due to high public demand.

The letter was written just six hours before her execution on 8 February 1587.

The 430-year-old handwritten letter has not been on display in Edinburgh since 2009.

For preservation reasons, the letter was only to be on show for six hours between 10:00 and 16:00. It will now be on show until 19:00. Entry is free.

Queues have started forming at the National Library of Scotland where the letter is on display.

Image copyright NAtional Library of Scotland

Mary is one of the most fascinating figures in Scottish history.

She became queen of Scotland when she was six days old but spent most of her childhood in France.

On her return her brief reign resulted in disastrous marriages, murder and war.

She gave up the throne at the age of 24 and was a prisoner in England for most of the next 20 years until she executed on the orders of her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.

Her son James became king of Scotland and England.

Catholic faith

Mary's last letter was written at two o'clock in the morning on Wednesday 8 February 1587 as she prepared to meet her death at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire.

Writing in French to Henri III, King of France - the brother of her first husband - she said: "I am to be executed like a criminal at eight in the morning."

In the letter she said her "crime" was her loyalty to her Catholic faith which, together with her claim to the English throne, made her a considerable threat to her cousin, Elizabeth.

She also expressed concern for the servants she would leave behind who had served her so loyally during her 19-year imprisonment in England.

Towards the end of the letter, she beseeched King Henri to have "prayers offered to God for a queen who has borne the title Most Christian, and who dies a Catholic, stripped of all her possessions".

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