Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The Execution of Queen Mary
By John Spottiswoode (15651639)
From the History of the Church of Scotland
AFTER this, she [Queen Mary] was brought to the hall, in the midst whereof, over against the chimney (where was a great fire), a scaffold was erected of two feet high and twelve feet broad, having two steps to ascend: the scaffold was railed about almost a yard high, and all covered with black cloth, as were the chair, stools, and block, and cushions to kneel upon. Before she went up, turning to the earls, she requested that her servants might stand by at her death. They answered, that their passionate weeping would disquiet her, and do no good else. Nay, said she, I will promise for them, they shall not do so: it is but a small favour, and such as Queen Elizabeth would not deny me, to have my maids present. She named Melvill her steward, Burgoin her physician, her apothecary and chirugeon, with two maids.
Being on the scaffold and silence made, the clerk of the council did read the commission, which she listened to as it had been some other matter. That ended, the dean of Peterborough began to remember her of her present condition, and to comfort her in the best sort he could. She, interrupting his speech, willed him to hold his peace, for that she would not hear him. And when, excusing himself that what he did was by command of her majestys council, he began again to speak,Peace, Mr Dean, said she; I have nothing to do with you, nor you with me. The noblemen desiring him not to trouble her further, she said, That is best, for I am settled in the ancient Catholic religion wherein I was born and bred, and now will die in the same. The earl of Kent saying, that as yet they would not cease to pray unto God for her, that He would vouchsafe to open her eyes, and enlighten her mind with the knowledge of His truth, that she might die therein, she answered, That you may do at your pleasure, but I will pray by myself. So the dean conceiving a prayer, and all the company following him, she likewise prayed aloud in the Latin tongue: and when the dean had finished, she, in the English language, commended unto God the estate of His afflicted Church: prayed for her son, that he might prosper and live happily, and for Queen Elizabeth, that she might live long and govern her subjects peaceably; adding, that she hoped only to be saved by the blood of Christ, at the feet of Whose picture presented on the crucifix she would willingly shed her blood. Then, lifting up the crucifix and kissing it, she said, As Thy arms, O Christ, were spread abroad on the cross; so with the outstretched arms of Thy mercy receive me, and forgive me my sins.
This said she rose up, and was by two of her women disrobed of her upper garments. The executioners offering their help, and putting to their hands, she put them back, saying, She was not accustomed to be served with such grooms, nor dressed before such a multitude. Her upper robe taken off, she did quickly loose her doublet, which was laced on the back, and putting on her arms a pair of silken sleeves, her body covered with a smock only, she kissed her maids again, and bade them farewell. They bursting forth in tears, she said, I promised for you that you should be quiet; get you hence, and remember me. After which, kneeling down most resolutely, and with the least token of fear that might be, having her eyes covered with a handkerchief, she repeated the Psalm, In te, Domine, confido; ne confundar in æternum. Then stretching forth her body with great quietness, and laying her neck over the block, she cried aloud, In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum. One of the executioners holding down her hands, the other at two blows cut off her head, which falling out of her attire seemed to be somewhat gray. All things about her were taken from the executioners, and they not suffered to carry their aprons, or anything else with them that her blood had touched; the clothes and block were also burned, her body embalmed, and in solemn manner buried in the cathedral church at Peterborough; and after many years taken up by the king her son, and interred at Westminster amongst the rest of the kings.
This was the end of Queen Marys life; a princess of many rare virtues, but crossed with all the crosses of fortune, which never any did bear with greater courage and magnanimity to the last. Upon her return from France, for the first two or three years, she carried herself most worthily; but then giving ear to some wicked persons, and transported with the passion of revenge for the indignity done unto her in the murder of David Rizzio, her secretary, she fell into a labyrinth of troubles, which forced her to flee into England, where, after nineteen years captivity, she was put to death in the manner you have heard.