Her Own Words

Mary, Queen of Scots Home Page

This is known as the Jedburgh Mask. All of Mary's death masks are controversial, 
but this one was found in the 19th century at Peterborough Cathedral,where Mary was originally interred.
"En ma Fin gît mon Commencement..."
"In my End is my Beginning..."

This is the saying which Mary embroidered on her cloth of estate whilst in prison in England and is the theme running through her life. It symbolises the eternity of life after death and Mary probably drew her inspiration from the emblem adopted by her grandfather-in-law, François I of France: the salamander. The Salamander self-ignites at the end of its life, and then rises up from the ashes re-born...

@ owner, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris

Mary as Queen Dauphiness of France
aged sixteen by François Clouet

@ owner, Giraudon, Musée Condé
Mary aged nine, by an unknown artist, probably
commissioned by Catherine de Medicis


"My subjects in Scotland do their duty in nothing...nor have they performed their part in one thing that belongeth to them. I am their Queen and so they call me, but they use me not so...they must be taught to know their duties...Yes, the Queen my good sister may be assured to have a better neighbour of me being her cousin, than of the rebels, and so I pray you signify."

"I will be plain with you, the religion which I profess I take to be the most acceptable to God; and, indeed, neither do I know, nor desire to know any other. Constancy becometh all folks well, and none better than princes, and such as have rule over realms, and specially in matters of religion. I have been brought up in this religion; and who aught would credit me in anything if I should show myself lighter in this case."

"Monsieur l'Ambassadeur, if my preparation were not so much advanced as they are, peradventure the Queen, your Mistress' unkindness might stay my voyage; but now I am determined to adventure the matter, whatsoever come of it; I trust the wind will be so favourable as I shall not need to come on the coast of England; and if I do, Monsieur l'Ambassadeur, the Queen your Mistress shall have me in her hands to do her will of me; and if she be so hard-hearted as to desire my end, she may then do her pleasure, and make sacrifice of me; peradventure that casualty might be better for me than to live. In this matter, God's will be fulfilled"

(To Throckmorton before her return to Scotland in 1561)

@ owner, Victoria & Albert Museum

Mary by a follower of Clouet

@ owner, Her Majesty the Queen

Miniature by an unknown artist of Mary placing a wedding ring on her hand.

@ owner, Duke of Atholl

Mary and her son James, imaginary portrait by an unknown artist.


"Well then, I perceive that my subjects shall obey you, and not me; and shall do what they list and not what I command, and so must I be subject to them and not they to me...but ye are not the Kirk that I will nurse. I will defend the Kirk of Rome, for, I think, it is the true Kirk of God."

"Have I not borne with you more patiently than any other ruler in all your rigorous manner of speaking both against my self and my uncles; yea, I have sought your favours by all possible means. I offered unto you presence and audience whensoever it pleased you to admonishe me; and yet I cannot be quit of you. What have you to do with my marriage? What are you within this commonwealth?"(To John Knox)

"How much better everything would be, if the two queens were indeed friends! For I see now that the world is not that that we do make of it, nor yet are they most happy that continue longest in it." (To Randolph after the death of two of her Guise relatives)

"Some of our subjects and council by their proceedings have declared manifestly what men they are...slain our most special servant in our own presence and thereafter held our proper person captive treasonably...but of truth we are so tired and evil at ease, what through riding of twenty miles in five hours of the night, as with the frequent sickness and evil disposition by the occasion of our child." (To Queen Elizabeth of England on 15th March 1566 after the murder of Rizzio)

"The matter is so horrible and strange, as we believe the like was never heard of in any country...There is nothing remaining, no, not a stone above another, but all carried far away, or dung in dross to the very groundstone. It must have been done with the force of powder, and appears to be a mine...With the diligence our Council has begun already to use...the same being discovered...we hope to punish the same with such rigour as shall serve for example of this cruelty to all ages to come...Always who ever have taken this wicked enterprise in hand, we assure our self it was dressed always for us as for the King; for we lay the most part of all the last week in that same lodging, and was there accompanied with night at midnight, and of very chance tarried not all night, by reason of some mask in the abbey; but, we believe it was not chance but God that put it in our head." (To Queen Elizabeth after the murder of Darnley)

"Bothwell awaited us by the way, accompanied with a great force, and led us with all diligence to Dunbar...Albeit we found his doings rude, yet were his words and answers gentle." (To the Bishop of Dunblane regarding her abduction by the Earl of Bothwell)

"As envy follows virtues, and this country is of itself somewhat subject to factions; others began to mislike his proceeding, and so far by reports and misconstructing his doings, went about to put him out of our good grace...He obtained an writing subscribed with all their hands, wherein they not only granted their consent to our marriage with him, but also obliged them to set him forward with their lives and goods...This realm being divided in factions as it is, cannot be contained in order, unless our authority be assisted and forthset by the fortification of a man who must take upon his person in the execution of justice...the travail therof we may no longer sustain in our own person, being already wearied, and almost broken with the frequent uproars and rebellions raised against us since we came in Scotland." (To the Bishop of Dunblane after her marriage to Bothwell)

"It may have originated in some secret feuds among the lords of recent date, or possibly from grievances of remoter origin which though long hidden, at last came to scatter their poison on the surface." (To Nau about the birth of a new conspiracy)

"How is this, my lord Morton? I am told that all this is done in order to get justice against the king's murderers. I am told also that you are one of the chief of them." (After the Carberry Hill confrontation and marched on her way to Lochleven)

"He who does not keep faith where it is due, will hardly keep it where it is not due." (Maxim quoted to her half-brother James Moray during her forced abdication at Lochleven)

"I have endured injuries, calumnies, imprisonment, famine, cold, heat, flight not knowing wither, ninety two miles across the country without stopping or alighting, and then I have had to sleep upon the ground and drink sour milk, and eat oatmeal without bread, and have been three nights like the owls." (To her uncle in France about her escape from Lochleven)

"But I commanded my best friends to permit me to have my own way..." (To Beaton towards the end of her life, about her decision to flee to England after the Battle of Langside)


"Alas! Do not as the serpent that stoppeth his hearing, for I am no enchanter but your sister and natural cousin. If Caesar had not disclaimed to hear or heede the complaint of an advertiser he had not so died...I am not of the nature of the basilisk and less of the chameleon, to turn you to my likeness." (To Elizabeth of England during the conference of York)

"I would and did mean to have uttered such matter unto her as I would have done to no other...No one can compel me to accuse myself, and yet if I would say anything of my self, I would say of myself to her and to no other." (To Middlemore about Elizabeth)

"If I shall be holden here perforce, you may be sure then being as a desperate person I will use any attempts that may serve my purpose either by myself or my friends." (To Knollys during her imprisonment at Bolton Castle)

"My Norfolk, you bid me command you, that would be beside my duty many ways, but pray you I will, that you counsel me not to take patiently my griefs...I trust none that shall say I ever mind to leave you, nor to anything that may displease you, for I have determined never to offend you, but remain yours. I think all well bestowed for your friendly dealings with me, all undeserved. Our fault were not shameful: you have promised to be mine, and I yours; I believe the Queen of England and country should like of it." (To the Duke of Norfolk in 1570)

"Dear Son, I send three bearers to see you and bring me word how ye do, and to remember you that ye have in me a loving mother that wishes you to learn in time to love know and fear God." (To her son James - the note never reached him)

"I have borne him and God Knoweth with what danger to him and to me both, and of you he is descended, so I mean not to forget my duty to you." (To Lady Lennox, James's grand-mother)

"Tribulation has been to them as a furnace to fine gold - a means of proving their virtue, of opening their so-long blinded eyes, and of teaching them to know themselves and their own failings". (Mary Queen of Scots on the lives of rulers, Essay on Adversity, 1580)

@ owner, Glasgow Art Gallery & Museum, Kelvingrove

"The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots"
by Robert Herdman (1867)

Mary's Trial

"I am myself a Queen, the daughter of a King, a stranger, and the true Kinswoman of the Queen of England. I came to England on my cousin’s promise of assistance against my enemies and rebel subjects and was at once imprisoned...As an absolute Queen, I cannot submit to orders, nor can I submit to the laws of the land without injury to myself, the King my son and all other sovereign princes...For myself I do not recognize the laws of England nor do I know or understand them as I have often asserted. I am alone without counsel, or anyone to speak on my behalf. My papers and notes have been taken from me, so that I am destitute of all aid, taken at a disadvantage."

"I came into this kingdom under promise of assistance, and aid, against my enemies and not as a subject, as I could prove to you had I my papers; instead of which I have been detained and imprisoned... I do not deny that I have earnestly wished for liberty and done my utmost to procure it for myself. In this I acted from a very natural wish...Can I be responsible for the criminal projects of a few desperate men, which they planned without my knowledge or participation?"

"I cannot walk without assistance nor use my arms, and I spend most of my time confined to bed by sickness...My advancing age and bodily weakness both prevent me from wishing to resume the reins of government. I have perhaps only two or three days to live in this world, and I do not aspire to any public position, especially when I consider the pain and desperance which meet those who wish to do right, and act with justice and dignity in the midst of so perverse a generation, and when a whole world is full of crimes and troubles."

"I do not desire vengeance. I leave it to Him who is the just Avenger of the innocent and of those who suffer for His Name under whose power I will take shelter. I would rather pray with Esther than take the sword with Judith."

"Nau had many peculiarities, likings and intentions that I cannot mention in public...For my part, I do not wish to accuse my secretaries, but I can see plainly that what they have said is from fear of torture and death. Under promise of their lives and in order to save themselves, they have accused themselves at my expense, fancying that I could thereby more easily save myself, at the same time, not knowing where I was, and not suspecting the manner in which I am treated...If they were in my presence now they would clear me on the spot of all blame and would have put me out of case."

"There is not one, I think, among you, let him be the cleverest man you will, but would be incapable of resisting or defending himself were he in my place."

"I have desired nothing but my own deliverance...my subjects became sad and haughty and abused my clemency; indeed they now complain that they were never so well off as under my government...My lords and gentlemen, I place my cause in the hands of God...May God keep me from having to do with you all again."

@ owner, Scottish National Portrait Gallery

"Mary, Queen of Scots" by an unknown artist, painted
for one of her supporters after her death

"I thank you for such welcome news. You will do me great good in withdrawing me from this world out of which I am very glad to go...all my life I have had only sorrow...If I swear on the book which I believe to be the true version, will your lordship not believe my oath more than if I were to swear on a translation in which I do not believe?"

"Well, Jane Kennedy, did I not tell you this would happen? I knew they would never allow me to live, I was too great an obstacle to their religion."

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