Mary Queen of Scots

On this day in 1587, Mary Queen of Scots was judicially murdered by the government of her cousin, Elizabeth I. A controversial figure in her own time and ours, there can be no doubt of her personal piety, nor the fact that her life and reign would have ended quite differently had she been willing to apostasise. Forgiving her murderers at her death, she wrote a number of prayers before and during her captivity, including this one:

Keep us, Oh God, from pettiness; let us be large in thought, in word, in deed.
Let us be done with fault-finding and leave off self-seeking.
May we put away all pretense and meet each other, face to face, without self-pity and without prejudice.
May we never be hasty in judgement and always generous.
Let us take time for all things; make us to grow calm, serene, gentle.
Teach us to put in action our better impulses – straight forward and unafraid.
Grant that we may realize it is the little things of life that create difficulties; that in the big things of life we are as one.

Oh, Lord, let us not forget to be kind.

The cause for her beatification was begin in the late 19th century, but despite being personally favoured by Leo XIII and Benedict XV, has languished without being closed. Part of the problem, of course, is that there would have to be an enquiry into both Darnley’s death and the Babington Plot, either of which are as murky and complicated as the Kennedy Assasination. Nevertheless, as with Henry VI, Charles I, James II, and Mary of Modena, it is a cause that may be taken up one day by Ordinariate members – particularly those of the SKCM, in either its British or American branches.

The great tragedy of Mary’s life is that she was called upon to try to rule a Kingdom whose perpetual turbulence had literally been the death of most of her male predecessors – to which had been added the conflict of the Protestant revolt, and the undying enmity of John Knox. The men in her life – Francis II, Rizzio, Darnley, and Bothwell – were none of them up to the task of assisting her properly in this mission – hence GKC’s “If Don John of Austria had married Mary Queen of Scots.” Of course, neither her son, James VI and I, her grandson, Charles I, her great grandsons, Charles II and James VII and II, her great great grandson, James VIII and III, her great great great grandsons Charles III and Henry IX , nor even her protestant Hanoverian descendant George III, were able, in the end, to rescue the Three Kingdoms from the Oligarchy Henry VIII had unwittingly created when he dispersed the monastery lands. It may well be that the whole tragic story of the House of Stuart is proof of Chesterton’s comment ending the above-mentioned essay: “Perhaps there are things that are too great to happen, and too big to pass through the narrow doors of birth. For this world is too small for the soul of man; and, since the end of Eden, the very sky is not large enough for lovers.”

However that may be, let us, on this day pray for the repose of her soul and her descendants – and renew that prayer if ever we visit her apartments at Holyrood, or her tomb at Westminster.

5 thoughts on “Mary Queen of Scots

    • Yes, after the so-called Glorious Revollution, his morals improved, and he did constant penance for his prior peccadilloes (believing his misfortunes to be Divine punishment for them. The English Benedictines were the champions of the cause and composed a number of prayers for his canonisation; the cause was introduced in 1734, and a number of miracles were authenticated. But the French Revolution derailed it, and there it remains.


  1. An old copy of the Ave Maria magazine, published at Notre Dame at South Bend, has an article on her stating that her last words were,” I go forth to die for the CatholicFaith”.

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  2. I lament the Scots Queen’s sad and martyr-like death, but one must not wholly neglect her incredible political ineptiude, manifested over and over again once she returned to Scotland, and especially her incomprehensible decision in 1561, prior to her return to Scotland, not to challenge (and overturn) the illegal suppression of Catholicism and its replacement by Protestantism – “illegal” because she vetoed the acts of the August 1560 Scottish Parliament purporting to effect it. Before her return the Earl of Huntly and a host of northern lords and lairds besought her to land at Aberdeen, where they would meet her in arms and sweep the Protestant faction out of power – but she refused, thus making anything like a successful reign impossible (unless she herself were to turn Protestant, which she was unwilling to do).. (And a year later the Protestant officialdom egged Huntly into revolt, with the result that any coherent “Catholic party” was destroyed.) Mary’s reason for doing it appears to have been a desire to impress Elizabeth I of England with her religious “broadmindedness,” and so induce the latter to declare Mary her heir apparent – and since Elizabeth was never willing to face her own mortality, let alone to envisage a future without her, it was from the beginning an incredibly naive expectation.


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