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Mary, Queen of Scots Letter

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Mary, Queen of Scots, 1542-1587.
Title: Mary, Queen of Scots Letter
Inclusive Dates: 1565
Quantity: 1 item.
Abstract: Letter from Mary, Queen of Scots, to a Lord Grey, concerning religious tolerance in her realm. Accompanied by several engravings of portraits of her, the earliest dated 1729.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-1587), also known as Mary Stuart or Mary I of Scotland, was queen of Scotland from 1542 to 1567. Through her husband Francis II, King of France, she was also briefly queen consort of France (1559-1560). Mary was the daughter of James V of Scotland and through him the grand-daughter of Margaret Tudor, elder sister of Henry VIII; as such she had a legitimate claim to the throne of England as well. Mary's reign was tempestuous, partly due to her choice of unsuitable husbands and partly due to the religious upheaval of the time. Mary was a Catholic while many of the Scottish nobles were Protestant; however, Mary declined to persecute Protestants which earned her the distrust of the Catholic faction as well. Mary's relations with Queen Elizabeth of England (daughter of Henry VIII) were also difficult since she had laid claim to Elizabeth's throne and since many Catholics in England viewed her as the rightful Queen of England due to their belief that Elizabeth was illegitimate. In July of 1567 Mary was forced by her own nobles to abdicate the Scottish throne in favor of her year-old son James VI and fled to England. She was treated well but was regarded by Elizabeth as a persistent threat and a potential rallying point for her enemies, and so spent the rest of her life in English custody. In 1586 she was tried and convicted of treason for conspiracy to assassinate Elizabeth, and she was executed on February 8, 1587.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Mary, Queen of Scots Letter consists of a single letter from Mary to a Lord Gray (probably Patrick, 4th Lord Gray, a Scottish landowner and supporter of the Scottish Reformation). The letter, dated 16 July 1565 from Edinburgh, was probably written by a secretary, but Mary's own signature appears at the end. The letter is important because it spells out Mary's toleration for religious worship. It reads, in part:

...that we should have intended to impede or molest our subjects in the using of their religion and conscience freely...never entered our mind...The effect is to certifie and assure you that as hitherto we have never permitted stop stay or molestation to you or any others in using your religion and conscience, so may ye look for the same good will and clemency in time coming...

Accompanying the above is a photostat of a letter from Edwin John Byard of the British Museum attesting to its authenticity, a handwritten transcript of the letter, and several engravings of portraits of Mary, the earliest dated 1729.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings


Mary, Queen of Scots, 1542-1587.


Dissenters, Religious -- Scotland.
Religion and politics -- Scotland -- History -- 16th century.
Religious tolerance -- Scotland -- History.


Scotland -- History -- 16th century.
Scotland -- History -- Mary Stuart, 1542-1567.

Genres and Forms

Engravings (prints)

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Mary, Queen of Scots Letter,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Transfer from Frances Ward Harrington Collection.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: MRC
Date: 7 Nov 2011
Revision history:

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Package 1 to Lord Gray 16 Jul 1565

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