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December 2, 1586 – Elizabeth Finally Sentences Mary Stuart

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

I use the term “finally” because of how long this process was! Remember – it was back in August that Mary had been caught plotting Elizabeth’s murder. While co-conspirator (some would say “inducer”) Babington was quickly brought to trial and executed, Mary’s case languished until she was finally convicted and sentenced on October 25. Still, her case dragged. Parliament tried to nudge things along: first they approved the sentence in early November, then they issued a joint petition from the Houses of Lords and Commons to get Elizabeth to do the same. So technically Elizabeth did not actually sentence Mary Stuart, she simply issued a public proclamation of the sentence imposed by law…

Point being, Elizabeth had tried desperately to avoid this moment, delaying every step of the way. She would continue to drag her feet even after this – it took another two months of vacillation before she would sign the death warrant, and even then she claimed she had merely been delivering it to the Council Secretary for “safekeeping,” to discourage further plots against her life.

Still, there was really no way to avoid the ultimate end in this case. Proclaiming the sentence was a key step in the process…

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Published inOn This Day

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