How did Mary Queen of Scots die?

27 January 2021
When and why did Mary Queen of Scots die? Why was she executed? Find out key facts about the death of the Stewart queen in History Scotland's fact file.

Mary Queen of Scots was forced to abdicate on 24 July 1567 (see our timeline) in favour of her son James. In 1568, following her defeat at the battle of Langside she fled to England, hoping that she could gain the protection of her cousin and fellow queen, Elizabeth I. But this was not to be.

Mary's prisons

During her ensuing years in England, Mary was kept in a number of prisons around the country, which varied in the quality of their accommodation and the degree of freedom offer. Read about these in prisons of Mary Queen of Scots.

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Mary and Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots would never meet in person, despite their reported curiosity about each other. Eventually, after Mary's involvement in the Babington Plot, Elizabeth was persuaded that Mary was a threat to her throne and signed her death warrant.

Where did Mary Queen of Scots die?

Mary was executed on 8 February 1587 at Fotheringay Castle in Nottinghamshire. A well-known memorial portrait provides a look at the execution scene. She was accompanied to the scaffold by her pet dog, who was with her, along with ladies in waiting, during her final moments.

Where is Mary buried?

Mary is buried at Westminster Abbey in London. A replica of her tomb effigy is on display at National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh and is shown here. 

QUICK LINK: Mary Queen of Scots timeline