On this day in Tudor history, 8th February 1601, Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex and Queen Elizabeth I’s former favourite, did a rather foolish thing and raised a rebellion against the queen and her council.

Spoilers: It didn’t go well and he ended up being executed as a traitor.

Find out exactly what happened in this talk…

Also on this day in Tudor history, 8th February 1587, Mary, Queen of Scots was executed at Fotheringhay Castle.

You can find out more about why Mary was executed in this video…

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One thought on “8 February – The Queen’s favourite rebels and the Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots”
  1. Mary Queen of Scots was a true Catholic martyr. Elizabeth had no right to lock her up to begin with and gave discontented and persecuted Catholics an alternative claimant for the throne. The North of England is bigger than the rest put together, it is also more densely populated and still mostly neglected by the Government. It has pockets of extreme poverty. The same applied under the Tudors who carelessly abolished the Council of the North, put down any resistance with extreme cruelty and tried to impose a top down alien religion. The Midlands could tell a similar story, even as far down as Oxfordshire and Cambridgeshire, especially Warwickshire and Lincolnshire.

    Resentment had brewed since Henry Viii and the Pilgrimage of Grace. Elizabeth I repressed a second Northern Rising with double the deaths at least. She was Excommunicated as a result and wasn’t even legitimate as far as the majority of people were concerned. What did she think would happen by imprisoning the only other viable claimant and ruling Queen on English soil?

    Elizabeth had alienated her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots and most of her Catholic subjects with her. Those who were not in rebellion felt neglected and abandoned and put upon. Mary on English soil gave them fresh hope. I can’t say I might not put my signature to a plan to put Mary on the throne.

    Mary was unjustly imprisoned without a trial and condemned by a Tudor kangaroo Court. She had been held for 19 years and her living conditions were very restrictive, worse than under Covid. She couldn’t even have fresh air. I don’t know about anyone else, but that would drive me around the bend.

    She wasn’t able to ride and she was constantly watched. I don’t believe she consented to the early plots or that she wanted Elizabeth dead but she certainly wanted her freedom and by 1586 was likely to give the nod to anything which led to her freedom.

    Everyone says how intelligent Elizabeth I was, how good a political leader she was, how she could balance things and come up with a workable result etc. Maybe this is true but in her dealing with Mary she was a fool. She set herself up for whatever happened over the next 19 years. A wiser decision would have been to welcome Mary and send her to France, preferably without a penny to her name. They were unlikely to support her invasion if she was without means and she would have to live as a pensioner there. Keeping her locked up had the opposite effect of her being powerless. Mary became an icon and now with her death, a martyr. Elizabeth was seeing the future of the Monarchy in her execution. The possibility that an English King would be executed was a reality only too soon realised. The grandson of Mary, Charles I was another royal martyr in 1649.

    Mary might have been a threat when she was alive, but her death raised her status to martyr and victim. Elizabeth was always condemned for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. Unfortunately, she always will be. Even though in reality she had little choice because one day an assassin might actually succeed and the invasion of the Spanish Amarda might succeed as well. Elizabeth may agonise over her decision and like a coward, blame someone else, but it was her choice and one which she couldn’t avoid.

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