On 8 February 1587 at the age of 44 and after 20 years of imprisonment, Mary Queen of Scots was executed at Fotheringhay Castle after being implicated in the Babington plot. She was only told she would be executed the day before and she wrote several things, including her last and testament.
Mary to her almoner de Prean the evening before her death, 7th February 1587 :
“I have striven this day for my religion and against receiving my last consolation from the heretics. You will hear from Bourgoyne and the others that at least I made protestation of my faith, in the which I will die. I require to have you to make my confession and to receive from you my sacrament. This has been cruelly refused to me, as well as permission to carry away my body and the power of leaving by will freely, or of writing anything, except it pass through their hands and by the good pleasure of their mistress. I must therefore, confessing grief for my sins in general, as I had intended to do to you in particular, imploring you in the name of God this night to watch for me, praying that my sins may be remitted, and to send me your absolution and pardon, if at any time I have offended you.
I shall endeavour to see you, though in their presence as they have accorded to me my maitre d’hotel (Melville), and if it is permitted me, before them all on my knees I will ask your benediction.
Advise me as to the most proper prayers for this night and for tomorrow morning. The time is short and I have no leisure to write, but I will recommend you with the rest (of her household) above all. Your benefice shall be assured to you, and I will recommend you to the King (of France). Advise me of all you can think of for my soul’s help—by writing. I will send you a last little
‘*Fotheringay, 8th February 1587 :
”Monsieur, my Brother-in-law,—Having been permitted by God, as I believe for my sins, to throw myself into the arms of this Queen my cousin, where I have had many troubles, and where I have spent nearly twenty years, I am at last by her and her Government condemned to death, and having requested my papers (takenaway by them), to the end that I might make my testament, I have not been able to select anything that might be of use to me, nor to obtain liberty to make a register of them, nor that after my death my body might be conveyed according to my desire to your kingdom, where I have had the honour to be Queen, your sister, and former ally.
”This day, after dinner, I received notice of my sentence, that I should be executed to-morrow like a criminal at eight o’clock in the morning.” I have not had leisure to give you a full recital of all that has happened, but if it please you to believe my physician, and the rest of these my heart-broken attendants, you will hear the truth, and how, thanks to God, I despise death, and truthfully protest that I receive it innocent of any crime so long as I have been in their power.
The Catholic religion and the maintenance of the right which God has given me to this crown are the two points of my condemnation—and yet they will not allow me to say that it is for the Catholic religion that I die, but for the fear of changing theirs ; and as a proof of this, they have taken away my chaplain (to my sorrow), whom, although he is in the house, I have not been able to receive, either that he might come to confess me or to administer the sacrament at my death, but they have greatly insisted on my receiving the consolation and instruction of their minister, brought hither for this purpose. The bearer of
this and his companions, the greater part of whom are your subjects, will testify to you how I bear myself in this my last act. It remains that I pray you, as the most Christian King, my brother in-law and former ally, and as one who has always professed your love for me, that at this time you make proof of your virtue in all the points following : first, of your charity—relieving me in a matter which to satisfy my conscience I cannot accomplish without your aid—to reward my broken-hearted attendants, continuing to them their wages ; second, causing prayers to be made to God for a Queen who has borne the title of most Christian, and dies a Catholic, stript of all her goods.
*’As to my son, I recommend him to you so far as he shall deserve, for I cannot answer for him.*’
I have taken the liberty of sending you two rare stones for your health, wishing for you that it may be perfect, with a happy and long life. You will receive them as from your very affectionate sister-in-law, who thus testifies to you in the presence of death her kindly feelings towards you.
“I recommend to you once more my attendants. You will give orders, if it please you, that for my soul I may receive payment of part of that which you owe to me, and that to the glory of Jesus Christ, to whom I shall pray for you tomorrow at my death, you allow thereof sufficient to found an obit for me, and to make the necessary alms.
” Wednesday, two hours after midnight.—Your very affectionate and loving sister,
Mary Queen of Scots Last Will and Testament
“In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I,Mary, by the grace of God, Queen of Scotland and Dowager of France, being on the point of death and not having any means of making my will, have myself committed these articles in writing, and I will and desire that they have the same force as if they were made in due form :
In the first place, I declare that I die in the Catholic Apostolic and Romish faith. First, I desire that a complete service be performed for my soul in the Church of St. Denis in France, and another in St. Peter’s at Rheims, where all my servants are to attend in such manner as they may be ordered to do by those to whom I have given directions and who are named therein. Further, that an annual obit be founded for prayers for my soul in perpetuity in such place and after such manner as shall be deemed most convenient.
To furnish funds for this I will that my houses at Fontainebleau be sold, hoping that the King will render me assistance, as I have requested him to do in my memorandum. I will that my estate of Trespagny be kept by my cousin de Guise for one of his daughters, if she should come to be married. In these quarters I relinquish half of the arrears due to me, or a part, on condition that the others be paid, in order to be expended by my executors in perpetual alms. To carry this into effect the better, the documents shall be looked out and delivered according to the assignment for accomplishing this. I will also that the money which may arise from my lawsuit with Secondat, be distributed as follows :
—First, in the discharge of my debts and orders hereafter mentioned and which are not yet paid : in the first place, the 2000 crowns to Curie, which I desire to be paid without any hesitation, they being a marriage portion, upon which neither Nau nor any other person has any claim, whatever obligation he may hold, inasmuch as it is only fictitious, and the money is mine, and not borrowed, which since I did but show him, and afterwards withdrew it ; and it was taken from me with the rest at Chartley ; the which I give him, provided he can recover it agreeably to my promise in payment of the four thousand francs as promised at my death, one thousand as a marriage portion for an own sister, and he having asked me for the rest for his expenses in prison. As to the payment of a similar sum to Nau it is not obligatory, and therefore it has always been my intention that it should be paid last, and then only in case he should make it appear that he has not acted contrary to the conditions upon which I gave it him, and to which my servants were witnesses. As regards the 1200 crowns which he has placed to my account as having been borrowed by him for my use—600 of Beauregard, 300 from Jervis, and the remainder from I know not whom, he must repay them out of his own money, and I must be quit and my order annulled, as I have not received any part of it, consequently it must be still in his possession, unless he has paid it away. Be this as it may, it is necessary that this sum should revert to me, I having received nothing; and in case it has not been paid away, I must have recourse to his property. I further direct that Fasquier shall account for the moneys that he has expended and received by order of Nau, from the hands of the servants of Mons. de Chateauneuf, the French Ambassador.
Further, I will that my accounts be audited and my treasure paid. Further, that the wages and sums due to my household, as well for the last as for the present year, be paid them before all other things, both wages and pensions, excepting the pensions of Nau and Curie, until it be ascertained what there is remaining, or whether they have merited any pensioning from me, unless the wife of Curie be in necessity or be ill-treated on my account: the wages of Nau after the same manner. I will that the 2400 francs which I have given to Jane Kennedy (afterwards married to Sir Andrew Melville ; and was drowned by the upsetting of a boat, the year of the marriage of James Vl.) be paid to her in money, as it was stated in my first deed of gift, which done, the pension of Willie Douglas shall revert to me, which 1 give to Fontenay (Nau’s brother) for services and expenses for which he has had no compensation. I will that the 4000 francs of that banker’s be applied for and repaid : I have forgotten his name, but the Bishop of Glasgow will readily recollect it ; and if the first order be not honoured, I desire that another may be given in the first money from Secondat. The 10,000 francs which the ambassador has received for me, I will that they be distributed among my servants who are now going away, viz.—First, 2000 francs to my physician ; 2000 francs to Elizabeth Curie ; 2000 to Sebastian Page ; 2000 to Mary Page, my goddaughter ; 1000 to Beauregard ; 1000 to Gourgon; 1000 to Jervis.
Further, that out of the rest of my revenue, with the remainder of Secondats and all other casualties, I will that 5000 francs be given to the Foundling Hospital at Rheims ; to my scholars, 2000 francs. To four mendicants such sum as my executors may think fit, according to the means in their hands; 500 francs to the hospitals; to Martin escuyer de cuisiney 1000 francs; 1000 francs to Annibal, whom I recommend to my cousin de Guise, his godfather, to place in some situation for his life, in his service. I leave 500 francs to Nicholas, and 500 for his daughters when they marry. I leave 500 francs to Robert Hamilton, and beg my son to take him and Monsieur de Glasgow, or the Bishop of Ross. I leave to Didier his registership, subject to the approbation of the King. I give 5000 francs to Jean Lauder, and beg my cousin of Guise, or of Mayne, to take him into their service, and Messieurs de Glasgow and de Ross to see him provided for. I will that his father be paid his wages, and leave him 500 francs ; 1000 francs to be paid to Gourgon for money and other things with which he supplied me in my necessity. I will that if Bourgoyne should perform the journey agreeably to the vow which he made for me to St. Nicholas, that 1 500 francs be paid to him for this purpose. I leave, according to my slender means, 6000 francs to the Bishop of Glasgow, and 3000 to the Bishop of Ross. And I leave the gift of casualties and reserved seigneurial rights to my godson the son of Monsieur de Ruissieu. I give 300 francs to Laurenz, and 300 to Suzanne; and I leave 10,000 francs among the four persons who have been my sureties and to Varmy the solicitor. I will that the money arising from the furniture which I have ordered to be sold in London shall go to defray the travelling expenses of my servants to France.
My coach I leave to carry my ladies, and the horses, which they can sell or do what they like with. There remain about 300 crowns due to Bourgoyne for the wages of past years, which I desire may be paid him. I leave 2000 francs to Sir Andrew Melville, my steward. I appoint my cousin, the Duke of Guise, principal executor of my will ; after him, the Archbishop of Glasgow, the Bishop of Ross, and Monsieur de Ruissieu, my chancellor. I desire that Le Prean may without obstacle hold his two prebends. I recommend Mary Page, my goddaughter, to my cousin Madame de Guise, and beg her to take her into her service, and my aunt de Saint Pierre to get Mowbray some good situation or retain her in her service for the honour of God.
Done this day 7th February 1587.
Memorandum of the Last Requests which I make to the King
“To cause to be paid to me all that is due to me, of my pensions, as also of money advanced by the late Queen, my mother, in Scotland, for the service of the King, my father-in-law, in those parts, that at least an annual obit may be founded for my soul, and that the alms and little endowments promised by me may be carried into effect. Further, that he may be pleased to grant me the benefit of my dowry for one year after my death to recompense my servants. Further, that he may be pleased to allow them their wages and pensions during their lives as was done to the officers of Queen Aliener (of Austria, sister of Charles v.).
Further, I entreat him to take my physician into his service, according to his promise to consider him as recommended. Further, that my almoner Prean may be replaced in his profession, and for my sake have some trifling benefice conferred upon him so that he may pray to God for my soul during the rest of his life. Further, that Didier, an old officer of my household, whom I have recompensed with a registership, may be permitted to enjoy it for his life, being already far advanced in years.
Written on the morning of my death this 8th