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October 14, 1586 – Mary Stuart Goes on Trial for Conspiracy

Clare Eames in the Broadway production of John Drinkwater's Mary Stuart, photographed by Charles Albin (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
Clare Eames in the Broadway production of John Drinkwater’s Mary Stuart, photographed by Charles Albin (public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

 I’ve written other posts about the legal arguments that Mary would use in this trial, also about the letter she wrote to Anthony Babington that got her into this mess in the first place. But I have not yet written about why she decided to attend the trial – since her presence lent it the legitimacy that would allow them to convict and condemn her.

Because Mary was a foreign queen – and one who had sought asylum and been held against her will….so it was a bit of a stretch for England to claim jurisdiction over her. Mind you, Parliament had passed an Act of Association that would give them that right, but she still did not have to follow their rules.  

Jane Dunn in her wonderful “Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens” points to Mary’s “dramatic temperament” that “led her to prefer to be centre stage in any arena.” And because the whole world was watching, this would be her one change to refute the charges (which she did try to do – she started out by claiming she had neither heard of Anthony Babington nor corresponded with him…though that quickly broke down). And perhaps even more important, it would also be her opportunity to position herself as a martyr for the Catholic cause and the proceedings as a witch hunt, and hopefully spur a European power to finally rescue her after all these years….


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Published inOn This Day


  1. Barbara Cross-Nicolosi Barbara Cross-Nicolosi

    For further reading on Mary, Might I recommend John Guy’s wonderful biography, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. It includes the Casket Letters.

  2. bo frumson bo frumson

    I follow religious and biblical history from John Wickliffe to the Huguenots, Tindale, Coverdale, Luther, Calvin, King James and all of the 16th century, and “Start of the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France” would be of great interest. So am looking forward. Thank you.

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