Have you ever wondered what it would be like to read the secret coded letters of one of history’s most famous and tragic figures? Thanks to a team of international scholars, you can now get a glimpse into the life of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Recently, a cache of 57 coded letters sent by Mary, Queen of Scots while she was imprisoned in England by Elizabeth I, was discovered and decrypted. Thought until now to be lost or destroyed, the letters were found in the online archives for enciphered documents at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF).
The letters were written between 1578 and 1584 in French, and were unrelated to Italy as the BnF catalog had previously suggested. Upon deciphering the letters, the team quickly revealed mentions of the writer being in captivity, as well as the name “Walsingham” – Queen Elizabeth’s chief spymaster, whose investigations would eventually lead to Mary’s execution on February 8, 1587.
The letters provide a unique window into the religiously-charged time in which Mary lived. As the Catholic Queen “Bloody” Mary’s eldest child and Queen Elizabeth’s half-sister, Mary was the focus of a rebellion by Northern Catholics to replace Elizabeth with a Catholic ruler.
The letters range from the mundane – like complaints about her poor health and captivity conditions – to the lofty, such as her opinions on international relationships and musings on her negotiations for her release. Most of the letters are addressed to Michel de Castelnau de Mauvissière, the French ambassador to England at the time, and a supporter of Mary.
The cache of letters also sheds light on the unsuccessful Rising of the North rebellion and the unsuccessful plots to depose Elizabeth and replace her with Mary. Eventually, one of these plots – the Babington Plot – caught Mary red-handed, plotting to assassinate the Queen.
Thanks to the new trove of letters, researchers hope to reveal more of Mary’s troubled, if gilded, life. If you’re interested in learning more about the secret coded letters of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the dramatic events of her life, then don’t miss out on the findings presented in the journal Cryptologia.