On the morning of February 8, 1587, Mary Stewart (or Stuart), dowager queen of France and deposed queen of Scotland, was led out to the great hall of Fotheringay Castle to be beheaded for conspiring to kill Elizabeth I of England. Protesting her innocence to the last, and fully cognizant of the significance of her final moments on earth as a queen, Mary invested her execution with as much symbolic meaning and iconic representation as she could muster. Her performance was flawless. Literally dressed to die, she wore black satin and a veil, as a thrice widowed woman, with an abundance of accessories that proclaimed her devotion to the Roman Catholic faith. After ostentatiously reciting loud prayers to drown out the words of a Protestant clergyman, her attendants peeled off layers of clothing that revealed her bright crimson red petticoats, symbolizing the martyrdom she was claiming as the cause of her death. All accounts agree that she met her death both bravely and serenely, a final display of queenly courage and fortitude. Twenty-five years later, Mary’s son James VI & I reinterred her in a marble tomb inside the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster Abbey, where her remains rest with those of the Tudor Queens Elizabeth of York, Mary I, and Elizabeth I.
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