Letters Between Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots
Elizabeth to Mary, 1562.
You know I hate to contradict you but I am really not at all sure how you could think I have forgotten you! I could almost believe you suspected I had drunk from the waters of that river in Hell that makes you forget everything, except for this is England and no such river exists here!! I drink regular water and I keep copies of all my correspondence, so let me relieve your concerns by reminding you that actually it is I who has been awaiting your messenger! And actually I am still awaiting him, for he is not here!
And I have been wanting so much to come and see you, especially since you’re so busy these days and practically always on the road. Unfortunately there has been a lot going on here, and I will not bore you with the tragic details, because to be honest even I am bored with the tragic details! Like I wish my life was just boring because honestly that would be such an improvement over this relentless intrigue!
And those poor Huguenots in France :( :( :( It really puts things like intrigues into perspective. Thank God for family is all I can say. At least even in times like this one we can always rely on family. Feel free to pass that along to your relatives, who maybe have forgotten. BTW I am sending some naval forces to Havre but they’re just there to help, like if anyone needs help picking up or helping the king or running errands. Nothing belligerent. (When I send a belligerent naval force I won’t have to tell you haha!!)
Okay well remember to trust me, and also remember that I know what people have been saying about me to you, but I honestly don’t mind because I know that sisters and cousins can implicitly trust each other no matter what anyone else says. I have to go; I didn’t want to say anything in case you worried but actually the whole time I’ve been writing this letter I have been very very sick, with a really bad fever, but please don’t make a big fuss or mention it to anyone. I hate it when people make a fuss over me. This pen is getting so heavy. Blah!! I wish I wasn’t so pale delicate!
Mary to Elizabeth, March 1566, after the murder of Mary’s secretary David Rizzio.
Well they killed him in front of me, which is at least two strikes right off the bat! Then they held me captive, which I don’t have to tell you is treason, and I wasn’t even able to escape until midnight at least. Now I’m at Holyrood House, and obviously in great fear for my life, and for the life of all princes in Christendom, because if one of us can be kidnapped then what does that mean for the rest of us? Say for example you?
I thought I would write to you myself this time, because it seems like the messages I send through diplomatic channels simply do not interest you, because you simply do not respond to them! Even though I am very tired, having been kidnapped and witness to murder and also like six hours on horseback during my daring escape (I wore my new red hat & looked very dashing). I can’t keep anything down right now, I’m so worried. You’re so lucky that stress never seems to affect your appetite!! Hopefully this is at least exciting enough to warrant your attention,
Your sister and cousin, Mary R
Mary to Elizabeth, July 1566.
Fantastic &c Princess, darling sister, cousin, and so on; in our loudest and best voice, Hiiiiiiii! We heard, of course, what you said to the King of France — the King of France being our very close brother who never keeps anything from us, there are no secrets between Scotland and France, you should know that speaking to France is the same thing as speaking to Scotland, and vice versa (obviously!) …France mentioned that you never assisted, never even planned to assist, the rebels in our kingdom…so sweet of you…of course we never doubted you for a moment…
I do think it’s funny how these rebels were somehow able to support themselves with the sum of three thousand crowns that I happen to know for a fact were sent to the Lady Murray by Master Randolph…you might know him as better as Thomas Randolph…the English ambassador…your English ambassador…he has actually already admitted it, which I have to say I just find so strange, because why would he support the rebels in my kingdom when you keep saying that you personally do not support them? It’s a very strange way for someone who is allegedly in your service to behave.
Maybe you encourage your servants to act in direct opposition to your wishes? Is it Opposite Day in London? I am mailing him back to you. Would you like to handle this? It would be so amazing to have one thing removed from my plate. And it seems like you have so much free time on your hands right now because you are having all these different separate conversations with me and with France and with Randolph and who knows who else!!!
Elizabeth to Mary, February 1567, after the murder of Mary’s husband Lord Darnley.
This is so scary! Oh my God!! Why does everybody you know seem to end up getting murdered??! Aren’t you so scared? I have been honestly too scared to write to you, because of all the murder that surrounds you. But honestly I think you are even worse off than all these murder victims, because at least their danger is over!! Whereas yours just keeps escalating!
I would feel like I was doing a terrible job as your cousin if I did not mention that you should probably try to preserve your honor if this time, if at all possible, and stop worrying about what everyone is saying about you, which if even half of it is true, is saying a lot!! I love you so much, which is why I can say this to you. I think you’re such a good Princess and woman. And you are so brave!! If it were me in your position I honestly don’t think I would have the energy to get out of bed in the morning!!
Elizabeth to Mary, December 1568.
Okay, ma’am, listen: I honestly did not think I would have to write to you while we were reviewing your case, because I thought I could trust your commissioners to do their jobs while I did mine. Maybe that was naive of me! Because they are not doing their jobs and so I am sending them back to you in the hopes that you can get something out of them.
I don’t have to tell you how long I have felt really sorry for you. Because I honestly do. But I’m starting to see how maybe it’s not that you have really bad luck, that actually more often than not you seem to be making things ten times worse for yourself than they have to be, which makes me feel even sorrier for you!
So let’s try again. Send these commissioners back when they’re actually ready to give me an answer, like a real answer, because I would hate to have to escalate. BTW none of this applies to the Bishop of Ross, who I have heard nothing but great things about him. I wish you had a hundred Bishops of Ross working for you! And I really strongly advise you to make a robust case of your innocence. Write back soon.
From Elizabeth to Mary, October 1586.
Getting really sick of this. I’m not going to go over every instance but we both know that on multiple occasions you have tried to have me killed; even though I have been nothing but nice to you since Day One. I have so much evidence against you btw. Stop lying, get ready for court, and let’s go ahead and air everything out. Good luck! I know I feel pretty lucky about my side of things, hope you do too!!!
From Mary to Elizabeth, December 1586.
Ms. Elizabeth, &c.,
Obviously I can’t make you believe anything I say if you’re determined to read it in the worst possible light, or listen to other people who aren’t even queens, but I hope you will at least hear me out, because I really truly honestly don’t even remember how all this started between us. And I really do wish we could have been friends. Actually looking back I really do think I always liked you? I definitely don’t know where the wires might have gotten crossed but I only ever thought you ran a really tight ship and that we had a lot in common. And no one wants to see a peaceful England more than me!
I’ve heard from Lord Buckhurst and Beale (although curiously not from you!!! It’s almost like you were embarrassed to tell me yourself?") that I should prepare myself for the event that will put an end to all my troubles. So I really do want to thank you for freeing me from all my earthly woes. There have been so many! For instance I still do not have my almoner back, even though Sir Paulet said you were sending him back to me. There are so many crossed wires in your kingdom! But soon only you will have to worry about them. It barely makes any difference to me now, except that I would like to be able to distribute my final alms, and you really need an almoner for that. And I would think that you would not enjoy feeling the dishonor of being caught in a lie, so really it is for your own sake that I think you should send him back!
What else. If it’s not too much trouble, I would appreciate being buried in France after all the vultures have finished drinking my blood and dancing around my corpse. (To queens it’s kind of important where they are buried.) By the way it’s a goddamn lie that I ever threatened your safety or rule in even the slightest way.
I am sending back your jewel after my death. Unless you don’t want to wait that long, in which case I can start taking all my jewels off now. I don’t know how impatient you are to get your hands on my jewels; you tell me.
Ideally I would also be allowed to send a letter to my son. You would have no way of knowing this, of course, being sonless, but there’s actually a pretty special relationship between mothers and their children.
In conclusion, I hope God grants you as peaceful a death as he has granted me, and that you should only live long enough to develop a clear and perfect conscience. I forgive everybody. I’m actually doing great. I’m looking forward to going to Heaven, and leaving England, which is a genuinely exhausting place (I do not know how you do it) and just remember that someday you’ll have to answer to God about “What happened to Mary? Where is my good friend Mary, Queen of Scots, who is always praying to me and keeps me updated on what’s going on everywhere? You didn’t hurt my good friend and your kinswoman Mary, Queen of Scots, did you? Et cetera.” So good luck with that!
And remember my blood!!! Heaven is forever!
I have done nothing wrong,
Mary QUEEN (not Princess)