The daughter of James V of Scotland, Mary, Queen of Scots led a frantic and tragic life. Technically Queen of Scotland from within a week of her birth, owing to her father's death, she was raised in France and almost Queen of that country too, following her marriage to the French Dauphin.
He too died prematurely, and Mary returned to Scotland as a Catholic in a country run by Protestants. This tension, and her disastrous marriage to Henry Stewart (who openly murdered her confidante, and whose murder she in turn is thought to have sanctioned) ultimately led to her abdication and flight to England.
She sought refuge with her cousin: Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth gave her shelter but kept her imprisoned , as she was suspicious that Mary wished to be Queen of England, and was regarded by Catholics as the rightful heir to the throne.
The reasoning was that Mary was the great-granddaughter of Henry VII through Henry VIII's sister Margaret. Elizabeth was Henry VIII's daughter with his second wife Anne Boleyn, following his declaration of his divorce from Catharine of Aragon which required breaking from Papal authority.
(Extraordinarily, the letter initiating his attempts to bring about a divorce is available to buy right now.)
Mary was finally executed for consenting to involvement in plots to kill Elizabeth.
Authentic signatures by the hapless Queen are very rare and valuable, but one sold last week at Alexander Autographs in Connecticut. Written in French (one of several languages Mary could speak) to King Henri III of France which translates as:
"Monsieur, I write only this word to thank you for the good wishes sent me by my ambassador, and I shall write tomorrow at greater length, and, holding you in great devotion, most humbly kiss your hands, praying to God that He may keep you, Monsieur, in the best of health through a long life."
The letter is written at in 1581, when Mary had already been under house arrest in England for over a decade.
Although it is written six years before her death other letters of the times to Henri begging him to remember her rights and claims in France, at a time when some Catholics were being executed for plots to depose Elizabeth, suggest that she considered her life at risk in England and wished to flee.
Henri was also the last person she wrote to just hours before her execution in 1587. The letter sold for $25,725, towards the top end of its $20,000-30,000 estimate.
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