Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots: Monarch used the ‘spiral lock’ technique to keep her last letter a secret

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Written by By Sana Noor Haq, CNN

Mary, Queen of Scots, used a ‘spiral locking’ technique to seal the last letter she wrote before her execution, indicating that she wanted the contents to be kept a secret, according to to research published in the Electronic British Library Journal.

An example of letter locking – where people lined letters in envelopes to ensure the security of a document – the fallen monarch used a spiral locking process to seal a message that was “a last will and a testament.” and an offer for martyrdom, ”research released Friday said.

Mary has been surrounded by political controversies throughout her life. She was next to the throne after the children of Henry VIII and was the target of conspirators during the reign of her English cousin, Elizabeth I. Mary was interned for 19 years, after which she was executed at age 44, according to the royal family website.

“Powerful and moving”

Marie wrote the letter, which was addressed to her brother-in-law, Henry III of France, on the morning of her execution at Chateau de Fotheringhay in 1587, according to research.

She used a series of intricate folding and slitting techniques to close the letter, which the researchers describe as “one of the most spectacular examples of spiral locking” in the article.

A “powerful and moving” testimony, the letter was probably folded by the monarch herself while she was in her prison cell. There are also stains on the letter, which some historians believe could be evidence that Mary’s tears stained the paper, research has found.

Mary became a political target during the reign of Elizabeth I and was executed at the age of 44. Credit: Archives of Universal History / Getty Images

“Sire, my brother-in-law, being me by the will of God, for my sins I think, thrown into the power of the queen my cousin, at whose hands I have suffered greatly for nearly twenty years, I have eventually sentenced to death by her and her estates, ”the letter read, according to an English translation published in the National Library of Scotland.

“I asked for my papers, which they took away from me, so that I could make my will, but I could not recover anything useful to me, nor even obtain the authorization to make my will freely. or to have my body transported after my death, as I would like, to your kingdom where I had the honor of being queen, your sister and former ally, “says the letter.

“I must be executed like a criminal at eight in the morning,” the letter adds.

Since Mary did not have access to most of her possessions at the time, including her letter writing utensils, she should have cut the letter using another blade – and may have been helped by his ladies-in-waiting Jane Kennedy and Elizabeth. Curle.

Lock letters

Mary used a spiral locking technique to seal the last letter she wrote before her execution.

Mary used a spiral locking technique to seal the last letter she wrote before her execution. Credit: National Library of Scotland / Unlocking History / British Library Journal

Locking letters was widely used throughout modern Europe and was an essential process in keeping letters secure before mass-produced gummed envelopes were made in the 19th century.

It played a crucial role in “the history of secrecy systems,” enabling “global correspondence in the early modern period as fundamentally as computer coding underpins digital communication today,” according to the research paper. .

The research, which is part of the Elizabeth and Mary: Royal Cousins, Rival Queens exhibit at the British Library in London, also discloses the use of the spiral lock by other famous European monarchs, including Queen Elizabeth I in 1573. and Catherine de Médicis in 1570.


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