Mary in England, 1567-1587

Mary in England, 1567-1587


  • After fleeing Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots sought refuge with her cousin, Elizabeth I of England. This marked the start of her 19-year captivity in England.

Mary’s Goals in England

  • Mary hoped that her cousin Elizabeth might assist her in regaining her throne in Scotland.
  • She also believed that, as a fellow queen, Elizabeth wouldn’t harm her or allow harm to befall her.

Mary’s Threat to Elizabeth

  • Mary, as a Catholic, was seen as a viable alternative to the Protestant Elizabeth, and thus a threat to Elizabeth’s reign.
  • Some Catholics in England and abroad saw the ousted Scottish queen as the legitimate ruler of England.

Plots against Elizabeth

  • Mary’s presence in England led to a number of Catholic plots to remove Elizabeth and place Mary on the throne, notably the Ridolfi Plot (1571) and Babington Plot (1586).
  • Mary was implicated in these plots, leading to enquiries and debates about her fate.

The Trial of Mary

  • The Babington Plot ultimately led to Mary being put on trial for treason in 1586.
  • Although she protested her innocence and the fairness of the trial, evidence from Mary’s coded letters suggested her guilt.
  • The court found her guilty and she was sentenced to death.


  • Elizabeth was reluctant to execute another monarch and delayed the execution order. However, in 1587, Mary was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle.
  • Mary conducted herself with dignity at her execution, enhancing her posthumous reputation as a Catholic martyr.


  • Mary’s stay in England was marked by political intrigue, plots against the queen, and lengthy imprisonment.
  • Her execution marked the end of a significant Catholic challenge to Elizabeth’s rule. It also set a precedent for the practice of executing monarchs, which would have future implications in the English Civil War.