When Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded, her execution was absolutely horrible, even by the standards of the sixteenth century.
Mary was decapitated at Fotheringhay Castle on February 8, 1587, after 19 years in prison for her role in a plot to assassinate her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.
Mary, who was 44 years old at the time, was executed by order of Elizabeth, meanwhile in what became known as the plot of Babington, a plot led by the Roman Catholic nobleman Anthony Babington.
The letters that claim to be of Mary apparently sanctioned the murder of her cousin and, once the letters were discovered, Mary was prosecuted for treason.
Isabel I, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, succeeded in displacing Catherine of Aragon as Queen of England, convincing the king to separate himself from the Catholic Church. But many believed that Elizabeth had no royal right to the throne, since King Henry had annulled her marriage to Anne before taking a new wife.
Related: Mary Queen Of Scots is not the movie you think it is
Catholics saw Mary Stuart as the perfect candidate for the throne of England. But it was not meant to be, and instead, Mary was kept as a virtual prisoner in England before a failed execution that literally left her head "hanging by a thread", leaving the witnesses distressed.
According to an eyewitness: "His lips twitched and fell a quarter of an hour after his head was cut off."
The rivalry between the queens is now the subject of the critically acclaimed film. Mary Queen of the Scots, starring Margot Robbie as Elizabeth and Saoirse Ronan as Mary, the friendship that became a rivalry.
The rise of Mary to the throne.
When she was only six days old, Mary ascended to the Scottish throne in 1542 when her father, King James V, died. She was raised in the French court and, at the age of 16, married the French dolphin, who became King Francisco II of France in 1559. At 18, Maria was briefly Queen of Scotland and France when her husband ascended the throne.
But her reign was short lived, as her husband died of an ear infection barely a year after their marriage. So Mary was sent back to Scotland to take her place as monarch of the country.
But after three years in Scotland, Mary was forced to abdicate and flee across the border to seek refuge in England, where she expected Queen Elizabeth to receive her.
Instead, she was imprisoned by her cousin in a variety of castles, where Elizabeth allowed her to live near several nobles (loyal to Elizabeth) so they could watch over her.
Mary spent the next 19 years moving from one castle to another while the Queen tried to figure out what could be done with her.
During this time there were numerous rumored plots against Elizabeth. In 1587, when a letter was intercepted that said Mary had written that Mary had said she wanted to overthrow her cousin, Elizabeth decided to end her incessant worry about whether she would be defeated or not, and ordered Mary's execution.
The meaningless judgment
During the trial, Mary never had any hope since no legal representative was allowed. However, it was said that he had presented a very lively defense, arguing that he was innocent of the treason charge because it was not really an issue of the Queen of England; reasoning that a charge of treason could not be legally confirmed in court.
But her defense did not take her anywhere, Elizabeth showed no mercy and Mary was convicted of treason on October 25 and sentenced to death.
It must have been unbearable for Mary, since she was forced to wait several months before Elizabeth signed the death warrant. It could not have been easy for Elizabeth because she was signing the death sentence of a cousin, as well as a queen queen.
However, Elizabeth signed the death sentence on February 1, 1587, and the beheading will take place a week later.
The horrible execution
While a decapitation seems to be a horribly frightful death by today's standards, in the sixteenth century, it was considered the easy option compared to other methods, such as hanging, drawing and separating.
Elizabeth's mother, Anne Boleyn, had been decapitated by an expert swordsman, a special privilege for a former queen.
In England, there was no crime considered worse than trying to betray the crown. If you were foolish enough to betray the crown, what kind of execution could non-royalty expect? Being hanged, drawn and quartered is probably as bad as can be achieved with an execution and was not exclusive to England, it was practiced all over Europe.
First, the victim was hanged by the neck, until they were almost dead, then they were dragged behind a horse for execution, which implied "quartering". If you really want details, you can look for it yourself but, clearly speaking, it means that people were cut in several places, often starting with one's genitals.
Mary got rid of the worst of the worst executions but, despite that, her beheading was horrible. Witness Robert Wynkfield later wrote about the execution.
First, she was forced to remove her underwear in front of dozens of witnesses. When he approached his executioners, one of his servants blindfolded him, so his last moments were in the dark. The witnesses say that the former queen had to spend time looking for the block to be able to place her chin on him, ready for the ax to fall.
But, sadly, for Mary, her beheading would not be quick and easy. One executioner held her while the other raised the ax, but he failed, and the blade did not pierce his neck, forcing him to strike again. Mary apparently made "a very small noise or none at all, and did not remove any part of it from the place where it lay" during the execution.
After two blows, Mary's head was not cut so the executioner had a third chance, to try to cut the "small and small cartilage" that tied her neck to her body.
The third time he was lucky, he raised Maria's head so everyone could see her and proclaimed "God save the queen."
Wynkfield also noticed that when the executioner took off Mary's clothes, he noticed that Mary's puppy had hidden under her dress throughout the test. It was said that the dog was so distressed, that it lay in the blood of its dead lovers, that it had formed a puddle on the ground.
From Wynkfield's notes:
"Then one of the executioners, taking off his garters, spied on his little dog that was crawling under his clothes, which could not be removed by force, but then he would not move away from the corpse, but came and lay between his head and "His shoulders, which were imbibed with his blood, were washed away and washed, since all other things that had blood were burned or washed, and the executioners sent money for their fees."
Maria, queen of Scotland, was buried in the cathedral of Peterborough, but soon was exhumada and buried in the abbey of Westminster, to few meters of the cousin who ordered his death.
– LJ Charleston is a freelance feature writer. Continue the conversation @LJCharleston