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Elizabeth Q&A

Elizabeth Q&A: Did Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots Ever Meet?

A Victorian image of Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots "meeting"

Ah, the Elizabeth and Mary saga. Of course, everyone in Hollywood (and often, in the world of historical fiction, too) loves to have the two cousins meeting one another, often in a very dramatic fashion, and if a bit of slapping-around takes place, it is all the better. As a bit of a background, Elizabeth and Mary, QoS were first cousins once removed. And no, they never met in person. Letters were exchanged between them, and their envoys visited one another, but that was where their communication stopped. The beginning of the two queens’ very uncomfortable dual occupation of England began in May 1568, when Mary sent Elizabeth the following missive after her escape from Scotland:

…God, through his infinite goodness, has preserved me, and I escaped to my Lord Herris’s, who, as well as other gentlemen, have come with me into your country, being assured that, hearing the cruelty of my enemies, and how they have treated me, you will, comfortably to your kind disposition and the confidence I have in you, not only receive for the safety of my life, but also aid and assist me in my just quarrel, and I shall solicit other princes to do the same. I entreat you to send to fetch me as soon as you possibly can, for I am in a pitiable condition, not only for a queen, but for a gentlewoman; for I have nothing in the world, but what I had on my person when I made my escape, traveling across the country the first day, and not having since ever ventured to proceed, except in the night, as I hope to declare before you, if it pleases you to have pity, as I trust you will, upon my extreme misfortune… [A Translation From Felix Pryor’s Elizabeth: Her Life in Letters, pg. 51].

Elizabeth’s reception was not quite the warm welcome Mary expected (something about Mary’s use of England’s royal coat of arms when Elizabeth became Queen just rubbed Elizabeth the wrong way, you know?). According to an ambassador quoted by Pryor, Elizabeth’s response to her cousin’s letter was to send her a bundle of clothing: “two worn-out chemises, a length of black velvet and a pair of shoes” [Pryor, 51]. Pryor went on to note that, “Elizabeth’s representative was so embarrassed that he was forced to pretend that some sort of mix-up had occurred, and that the parcel had really been intended for one of Mary’s maids” [Ibid].

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Discussion

3 thoughts on “Elizabeth Q&A: Did Elizabeth and Mary, Queen of Scots Ever Meet?

  1. I had a history teacher in college about 20 years ago who insisted the two women met. When I told her (after class–I’m not that stupid) she was wrong, she told me in a sweetly condescending voice that it was interesting how there were all these different stories, or words to that effect (the verbal equivalent of patting me on the head and telling me not to worry my pretty little head about it). Barely trusted a word she said the rest of the semester.

    Posted by Dawn | August 13, 2013, 9:25 pm
    • It’s amazing how many people think that the story of Mary and Elizabeth meeting was true – people certainly want them to have met! Your story reminds me of a teacher I pulled aside to tell him that the story of Babel and the Babylonians were not one in the same – thankfully, he realized his mistake immediately and thanked me for telling him privately!

      Posted by thecreationofanneboleyn | August 13, 2013, 10:24 pm

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