Execution of Mary Queen of Scots

History’s Eye Witness Account, 8 February 1587

By Robert Wingfield (Edited by Jocelyn Wingfield, 8 July, 1987)

For years Queen Elizabeth of England hesitated to have Mary Queen of Scots executed or assassinated. In 1569-70 and 1584-85, she was held prisoner at Wingfield Manor, near North and South Wingfield, Derbyshire (whence the Derbyshire Wingfield’s take their name?).

Young Robert Wingfield III of Upton (near both Tickencote and Fotheringhay Castle) was held in reserve to smother Mary—and no doubt would have met the same fate, rather than be­ing knighted as he was in 1603, but Elizabeth never gave the order.

Robert was nephew of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, the Lord Treasurer—his father Robert Wingfield II had married the Lord Treasurer’s sister Elizabeth.

For years no one knew who the “R.W.” was who wrote the 1587 report below, which was first published in 1752, and is reproduced (in part only) here.

Robert Wingfield III was the great uncle of John Wingfield, York Herald (1623-78) and great great uncle of Thomas Wingfield of York River, Virginia (1664-1720).

“It maye pleafe your good Lordfhipp, to be advertifed, that according as your Honour gave me in command, I have heer fett downe in writ ting the trew Order and Manner of the Execu­tion of the Lady Mary, laft Queen of Scots, the 8th of February laft, in the great Hall within the Caftle of Fetheringtray, togither with relation of all such Speeches and Actions fpoken, and done by the fayde Queen, or any others, and all other Circumftances and Proceedings con­cerning the fame, from and after the Delivery of the faid Scottish Queen, to Thomas An­drews, Efq; high Sherife for hir Majeftyes Coun­try of Norfolk, vnto the End of the fayde Ex­ecution, as followeth:

The Queen kneeled downe on the Cufhion refolutely, and without any Token of Fear of Death, fayde allowde in Lattine, the Pfalme, In to domine confido: Then groaping for the block, thee layde down hir Head, putting hir cheane over hir backe with bothe hir hands, which holding there fill, had been cut off, had they not been efpyed.

Att laft while one of the Executioners held hir ftreightly with one of his Hands, the other gave two Stroakes with an Axe before he did cutt of hir Head, and yet left a little grifsle behinde.

She made very famll noyfe, no Part ftirred from the Place where thee laye. The Execu­tioners lifted upp the Head, and bad God fave the Queen. Then her dreffing of Lawne fell from hir Head, which apeared as a greye as if the had been threefcore and ten Years old, powled very fhorte, her Face much atered, her lips stirred upp and downe almoft a Quarter of an Hower after her Head was cutt off.

One of the Executioners plucking off her Garters, efpyed her little Dogg, which had crept vner her Cloathes, which would not be gotten forth but with Force; and afterwards would not departe from the dead corps, but came and layde between hir Head and Shoulders, a Thing much noted. The Dogg, embrewed in her bloud, was carryed awaye and wathed…

Signed R.W.”