On This Day 6th February 1587
On 6th February 1587, in the Great Hall at Fotheringhay Castle, the warrant for her execution was read aloud to Mary, Queen of Scots. It bore the flamboyant signature of her cousin, Elizabeth I, Queen of England, and was the culmination of nearly 20 years of captivity. Mary had come to England as a supplicant, following the defeat of her forces at the Battle of Langside in 1568. She hoped the English Queen would support her in regaining the throne that she had lost following the tumult that erupted after the assassination of her husband. Elizabeth, strongly influenced by her Secretary, Sir William Cecil, who had an implacable distrust of the Catholic Mary, had held her captive in a series of locations across the north and midlands of England. Numerous plots to free her and put her on the English throne, some undoubtedly with Mary’s support, had finally culminated in a trial that Mary refused to recognise and a death sentence.
On this day, 14th of January 1526 in Tudor time:
On 14th January 1526, François I of France and Emperor Charles V signed the Treaty of Madrid. François claimed later it was done under duress, and, in fact, he had little choice. His forces had been completely defeated by Charles at the Battle of Pavia, and François himself captured. In summary, the terms of the Treaty were that François would cede his claim to the Duchy of Milan, and to the Burgundian territories which had been denied to Charles’ grandmother, Mary of Burgundy, because French law would not recognise female succession. Francois was obliged to offer up his two sons as hostages, and agree to marry Charles’s sister, Eleonor, the widowed Queen of Portugal. As soon as he was safe in France, François repudiated the treaty.
On This Day 31st December 1580
On 31st December 1580, James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton was arrested for complicity in the murder of Lord Darnley. Morton was the fourth of the regents who had been appointed during the minority of James VI, after the deposition of his mother, Mary, Queen of Scots. Of the other three, two had been assassinated (Moray and Lennox) and one had died, probably of natural causes. Morton was a more successful regent than his predecessors, in that he finally overcame the Queen’s Party, and he also had the backing of the Queen of England. However, he had many enemies, and lost control of the government for a period in 1578, before regaining his position. By 1580, he was on exceptionally bad terms with James Stewart, Earl of Arran – cousin and close friend of 14 year old James VI. Arran accused him in Council of involvement in the murder of Darnley, the King’s father, and he was tried and executed.
On This Day 19th December 1521
On 19th December 1521, Henry VIII wrote in his own hand to his nephew-by-marriage, the Emperor Charles V. Henry, notorious for disliking writing, excused the shortness of his note by saying he was suffering from catarrh and headache. The letter was full of the usual compliments – thanks to Charles for receiving Cardinal Wolsey, and writing to Henry, and confirmation that any injury done to Charles would be considered an injury to Henry himself.
On This Day 8th November 1576
On 8th November 1576, the provinces of the Netherlands, regardless of their religious affiliations, signed an agreement whereby the whole of the Netherlands agreed to mutiny against the rule of Philip II of Spain, their hereditary duke. Philip’s great-grandmother, Mary of Burgundy, had inherited the lands from her father, Charles the Bold (or Rash, as he was sometimes termed). Mary had died young, falling from a horse, to be succeeded by her son, Philip, then her grandson, the Emperor Charles V. Charles had been brought up largely in Ghent and was therefore accepted as overlord, even though the day to day running of the Netherlands had been left first to his aunt, Marguerite, daughter of Mary, and then to his sister, Mary of Hungary. By the time Philip, born and brought up in Spain, succeeded, the familial link seemed very tenuous. By the 1570s around half the territories had converted to the Calvinist Reformed faith, whilst the southern areas remained largely Catholic. Whilst Philip came to terms with the leaders of the various provinces, peace did not last long.