herself. To what extent was Mary responsible for her own death?
In 1567 Scotland rebelled against their Catholic Queen, Mary. She was imprisoned at Loch Leven castle where she remained until her escape in May 1568 when she fled to England. This was the action which triggered a series of events leading to her eventual execution on February 8th 1587.
Before her arrival in England, Mary s reputation had already been tarnished by allegations of her involvement in the murder of her husband, Lord Darnley. This, coupled with the fact that she was Elizabeth s cousin and heir to the throne made her arrival potentially problematic. Her religion also posed a threat to Elizabeth. Catholics regarded Mary as the rightful Queen ( [we] accept her for the true and right Heir apparent of this Realm of England ) and were ready to serve her.
After taking these points into careful consideration the Privy Council advised Elizabeth to keep her as a prisoner until she could explain why she had previously claimed to be Queen of England and account for the death of Darnley. Elizabeth agreed and Mary was kept at various places such as Carlisle, Bolton and Sheffield. However, it was obvious that imprisonment could not be a long term solution and so Elizabeth and her government evaluated their alternatives carefully.
Foreign powers and influences limited Elizabeth s options; Mary could not be allowed to return to France because of the danger that she might raise support for her earlier claim to be Queen. She could not be sent back to Scotland, either, because any attempt Mary made reassert herself was doomed to failure and result in the Protestant Lords executing her. This effectively forced Elizabeth to allow Mary to remain in England either under imprisonment or as at citizen.
In 1569 rumours of an ideal opportunity to make Mary s stay in England more acceptable to the government spread; a plan to marry her to the Duke of Norfolk. This would have been an ideal solution to the growing problem as the people of England would have been happy to see her married to a greatly respected, Protestant noble rather than a foreign prince. Also, members of the Privy Council felt strongly that the elevation of Norfolk as Mary s bridegroom a good way of balancing the dominance of Cecil. However, the Queen was not formally consulted about the plan and when she found out she was annoyed and called the Duke immediately to her gallery to say she would not permit the marriage. These actions seem to be typical of Elizabeth who generally wanted complete authority in state and government matters. She may have resented her lack of control and dismissed the idea before realising that it could have been a perfect way to settle the circumstances. However the collapse of this arrangement may also be blamed on Elizabeth s advisors who should have discussed the plan with her to begin with.
Shortly after this several northern nobles including the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland attempted a rebellion. Their aims were to depose Elizabeth, replacing her with Mary and to restore Catholicism to England. However, Elizabeth s army quickly defeated the rebels. Mary then proceeded to disconnect herself from the incident as much as possible, saying that she disapproved of it on the grounds that she hated violence and regarded Elizabeth as the rightful queen. These were probably the right actions for Mary to take as any evidence of her involvement could have led to her execution. Although this did not give the government a good enough reason to take such drastic measures the uprising did show that Mary was serving as a catalyst for Elizabeth s disaffected subjects.
Elizabeth s expulsion from the Catholic Church by the Pope in 1570 encouraged Catholic plots against Elizabeth and was another warning for her and her government to take some action against Mary. Perhaps if Elizabeth had taken some decisive action at this point, the more serious rebellion which was to follow could have been avoided.
In 1571 the problem of Mary Queen of Scots reached its climax. The Florentine, Ridolfi plotted to bring Mary to the throne with the Duke of Norfolk as her consort. This proved that Elizabeth s earlier reaction to this relationship had been the right one. Again, the rebellion failed but this time the Duke of Walsingham managed to intercept a letter proving that both Mary and Norfolk were key figures in the plot.