The last letter written by Mary, Queen of Scots, was done in the early hours of the morning of her execution. It was addressed to Henry III, King of France, who was the younger brother to her first husband, Francis II.
|“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 may 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 that 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 that 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 ands old ally, who have always protested your love to me, to give proof now of your goodness on all these points: firstly by charity, in paying my unfortunate servants the wages due to 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 you loving sister-in-law, who, as she dies, bears witness of her warm feeling to 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 dies, 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 my ally.”
Though Mary asked Henry III of France to pay off her servants, it was Philip II of Spain – who had married Mary Tudor – who paid the wages and the pensions of Mary’s servants.