Monday 29th May. 4 PM – The Nave and Crossing, Ely Cathedral. Various scenes today in our ‘corridors of power’ – the beautiful interior of Ely Cathedral.
Of these perhaps the most dramatic is Elizabeth’s reaction to the news that Mary Queen of Scots has been executed. Elizabeth’s response to the news of the execution was a host of contradictions. In the first instance she had signed Mary’s death warrant so she could hardly claim to be unaware of what would now happen, yet she maintained that she had not wanted the document delivered to Fotheringhay. She declared instead that she had wanted it ‘kept’ to see how events unfolded. Indeed she turned so furiously on the poor man who dispatched the warrant that she had him thrown in the Tower. Yet if she had genuinely not wanted the execution to proceed she could simply have continued to stall in signing the warrant in the first place – she’d already been doing that for months.
So why was she so panicked, so worried at the news that the execution had taken place? Mary was hardly the first person she had sent to the scaffold. Mary was, however, different. She was not an English subject, not even an ordinary mortal, but a Queen like Elizabeth herself. In an era when it was believed that the anointing of monarchs at their coronation put them above ordinary men and women and made them answerable only to God, killing one queen said something about all queens. Was Elizabeth herself also simply another mortal to be judged by others?