Saturday, 21 November 2009

The Last Letter of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Written at 2am on Wednesday 8 February 1587 to her former
brother-in-law, Henri III of France six hours before her execution
at Fotheringay Castle.
Queen of Scotland
8 Feb. 1587
Royal brother, having by God's will, for my sins I think,
thrown myself into the power of the Queen my cousin,
at whose hands I have suffered much for almost twenty
years, I have finally been condemned to death by her
and her Estates. I have asked for my papers, which they
have taken away, in order that I might make my will,
but I have been unable to recover anything of use to me,
or even get leave either to make my will freely or to have
my body conveyed after my death, as I would wish, to
your kingdom where I had the honour to be queen, your
sister and old ally.
Tonight, after dinner, I have been advised of my
sentence: I am to be executed like a criminal at eight in
the morning. I have not had time to give you a full
account of everything that has happened, but if you will
listen to my doctor and my other unfortunate servants,
you will learn the truth, and how, thanks be to God, I
scorn death and vow that I meet it innocent of any
crime, even if I were their subject. The Catholic faith
and the assertion of my God-given right to the English
crown are the two issues on which I am condemned,
and yet I am not allowed to say that it is for the Catholic
religion that I die, but for fear of interference with
theirs. The proof of this is that they have taken away my
chaplain, and although he is in the building, I have not
been able to get permission for him to come and hear
my confession and give me the Last Sacrament, while
they have been most insistent that I receive the
consolation and instruction of their minister, brought
here for that purpose. The bearer of this letter and his
companions, most of them your subjects, will testify to
my conduct at my last hour. It remains for me to beg
Your Most Christian Majesty, my brother-in-law and
old ally, who have always protested your love for me, to
give proof now of your goodness on all these points:
firstly by charity, in paying my unfortunate servants the
wages due them - this is a burden on my conscience that
only you can relieve: further, by having prayers offered
to God for a queen who has borne the title Most
Christian, and who dies a Catholic, stripped of all her
possessions. As for my son, I commend him to you in so
far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him. I have
taken the liberty of sending you two precious stones,
talismans against illness, trusting that you will enjoy
good health and a long and happy life. Accept them
from your loving sister-in-law, who, as she dies, bears
witness of her warm feeling for you. Again I commend
my servants to you. Give instructions, if it please you,
that for my soul's sake part of what you owe me should
be paid, and that for the sake of Jesus Christ, to whom I
shall pray for you tomorrow as I die, I be left enough to
found a memorial mass and give the customary alms.
Wednesday, at two in the morning
Your most loving and most
true sister Mary R
To the most
Christian king,
my brother and old
Reyne descosse
8 feu 1587
Monssieur mon beau frere estant par la permission
de Dieu pour mes peschez comme ie croy venue
me iecter entre les bras de ceste Royne ma
cousine ou iay eu beaucoup dennuis & passe
pres de vingt ans ie suis enfin par elle & ses
estats condampnee a la mort & ayant demande
mes papiers par eulx ostez a ceste fin de fayre
mon testament ie nay peu rien retirer qui me
seruist ny obtenir conge den fayre ung libre
ny quapres ma mort mon corps fust transporte
sellon mon desir en votre royaulme ou iay eu
lhonneur destre royne vorte soeur & ancienne
Ceiourdhuy apres disner ma este desnonsse
ma sentence pour estre executee demain comme
une criminelle a huict heures du matin
ie nay eu loisir de vous fayre ung ample discours
de tout ce qui sest passe may sil vous plaist
de crere mon medesin & ces aultres miens
desolez seruiters vous oyres la verite & comme
graces a dieu ie mesprise las mort & fidellement
proteste de la recepuoir innocente de tout crime
quant ie serois leur subiecte la religion chatolique
& la mayntien du droit que dieu ma donne a
ceste couronne sont les deulx poincts de ma
condampnation & toutesfoy ilz ne me veullent
permettre de dire que cest pour la religion catolique
que ie meurs may pour la crainte du champge
de la leur & pour preuue ilz mont oste mon
aulmonier lequel bien quil soit en la mayson ie
nay peu obtenir quil me vinst confesser ny
communier a ma mort mays mont faict grande
instance de recepuoir la consolation & doctrine
de leur ministre ammene pour ce faict. Ce porteur
& sa compaigne la pluspart de vos subiectz
vous tesmoigneront mes deportemantz en ce
mien acte dernier il reste que ie vous suplie
comme roy tres chrestien mon beau frere & ansien
allye & qui mauuez tousiours proteste de
maymer qua ce coup vous faysiez preuue en
toutz ces poincts de vostre vertu tant par
charite me souslageant de ce que pour descharger
ma conssiance ie ne puis sans vous qui
est de reconpenser mes seruiteurs desolez leur
layssant leurs gaiges laultre faysant prier dieu
pour une royne qui a estay nommee tres chrestienne
& meurt chatolique desnuee de toutz ses biens
quant a mon fylz ie le vous recommande autant
quil le meritera car ie nen puis respondre
Iay pris la hardiesse de vous enuoier deulx
pierres rares pour la sante vous la desirant
parfaicte auuec heurese & longue vie Vous le
recuperez comme de vostre tres affectionee
belle soeur mourante en vous rendant tesmoygnage
de son bon cueur enuers vous ie vous recommande
encore mes seruiteurs vous ordonneres si il vous
plaict que pour mon ame ie soye payee de
partye de ce me que debuez & qu'en l'honnheur
de Jhesus Christ lequel ie priray demayn a
ma mort pour vous me laysser de quoy fonder
un obit & fayre les aulmosnes requises
ce mercredy a deulx heures aprex minuit
Vostre tres affectionnee & bien
bonne soeur Mari R
Au Roy tres chrestien
monssieur mon beau
frere & ansien

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