Regicide: Mary, Queen of Scots - MARY IS CHARGED WITH TREASON

In this 1830 illustration, its creator—John Charles Bromley—imagines what it must have been like for Francis Walsingham to show the Babington evidence to Queen Elizabeth I.  He had tried, for years, to convince Her Majesty that the Scottish Queen had to be tried for treason.  Now, he believed, he had what he needed.  Image online courtesy the British Museum via Wikimedia Commons.  PD


Mary, Queen of Scots, failed to discourage Babington from plotting to kill the Queen while she encouraged him to plan for her escape. A prosecutor could argue her failure to say anything at all about "dispatching" Elizabeth was tacit approval of a plot.

Mary was arrested and charged with plotting to kill Queen Elizabeth. Since Parliament had just passed a law making such actions punishable by death, Mary would stand trial as a traitor.

If convicted, she would face execution.

She was brought to the English castle of Fotheringhay where she stood trial without representation. Even a queen was subject to the ancient tradition of "no lawyer allowed" when the charge was treason.

If Mary had been allowed to have a lawyer, the entire proceeding would have been questioned. Her counsel would have argued along these lines:

  • Since when did Elizabeth, and her court, have the right to charge the sovereign of another country with high treason against the English queen?
  • Under what authority did Elizabeth, and her court, have the right to deny another sovereign the right to counsel?
  • With what authority did Elizabeth and her court disregard Mary's legal protections?
  • Why didn't Elizabeth try Mary herself since she was the only person who had a position remotely equal to Mary's?

Mary's abdication in favor of her son, of course, surely lessened her status since she was no longer ruler of Scotland.  

However ... she was still the daughter and mother of a king.  

And ... when she signed the abdication document, she reportedly signed only with her first name, "Marie," not as "Marie R" or "Marie Regina" (which were her official titles).  Her counsel could have argued that she did not officially abdicate and, therefore, she was still the reigning monarch of Scotland.

Would those facts help her?

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Jul 01, 2007

Updated Last Revision: Jul 15, 2019

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"MARY IS CHARGED WITH TREASON" AwesomeStories.com. Jul 01, 2007. Jan 19, 2020.
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