Last letter of Mary Queen of Scots appears briefly

Wed Sep 16, 2009 7:17am EDT
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By Ian MacKenzie

EDINBURGH (Reuters Life!) - At 2 a.m. on a frigid February morning in 1587, Mary Queen of Scots sat at her table and penned a last letter before her execution in the great hall of Fotheringhay Castle in the English midlands.

"Tonight, after dinner, I have been advised of my sentence: I am to be executed like a criminal at eight in the morning," she wrote to her brother-in-law, the king of France.

Fragile with age but in remarkably good condition, the letter by one of the great tragic figures of Scottish history is making a rare appearance until Sept 21 at the National Library of Scotland.

Library spokesman Bruce Blacklaw said the library wanted to promote a new visitors' center and bring to public view treasures tucked away in the library's vaults.

"What we wanted to do is bring people in...There's no better way than to get one of the real iconic treasures from Scottish history out to be seen," he said.

He added Mary's last letter was unlikely to emerge again from its dark air-conditioned safe for "a long time."

Mary, who had been briefly queen of France, was ousted from the Scottish throne by a rebellious aristocracy and fled south in 1568 at the age of 25, throwing herself on the mercy of her cousin, England's Queen Elizabeth I.

Mary was an unwelcome visitor.   Continued...