The last letter of Mary Queen of Scots - National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh


07 August 2017
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The final letter of Mary Queen of Scots, written on 8 February 1587, just hours before her execution, is cared for by National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The final letter of Mary Queen of Scots, written on 8 February 1587, just hours before her execution, is cared for by National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The document, written at 2am at Fotheringay Castle in Northamptonshire, was addressed to Henri III of France, the brother of Mary's first husband Francis.

Mary had been writing to Henri regularly during her 19-year captivity and in this final letter, she expresses her belief that she is dying a religious martyr. She also expressed concern for the loyal servants who had served her during her time in England.

The history of the last letter of Mary Queen of Scots

After being received by Henri III after Mary's execution, the letter was kept in the French royal archives and later given to the Scots College in Paris.

When the college was closed during the French Revolution the document fell into private hands and was eventually purchased by 19th-century autograph collector Alfred Morrison. In 1918 it was bought by a group of subscribers and presented to the Scottish nation through the National Art Collections Fund. It was held by the Advocates Library, until 1925, when the National Library of Scotland was created.

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The Mary Queen of Scots letter is part of the National Library of Scotland's manuscript collections. (NLS reference: Adv.MS.54.1.1). Read an English translation of the letter; and the French transcription. The letter is occasionally put on public display (most recently in 2009) but due to its age and significance is not on general display.

(Letter image copyright National Library of Scotland)