11 AM Hatfield House, Hertfordshire. The last three scenes today with Mary Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton). In the first Paulet appears in Mary’s rooms to tell her that she is to be executed on the following morning.
Although Mary was kept a Fotheringhay from the time of her trial to her execution we have set this scene back in Chartley to simplify the story and provide some visual narrative. The setting is the same as for the earlier scenes but redressed. Now there is more order and fewer possessions on show. Partly this is to reflect the increasingly sparse conditions Mary found herself in as her captivity continued. Paulet repeatedly complained of the expense of Mary’s household and took every opportunity to pare it down. The more ordered look – with travelling trunks now partly packed – is also intended to intimate the passing of those strange months between Mary hearing she had been condemned and being told of her execution. This is the time in which Elizabeth agonised over signing Mary’s death warrant and in which Mary alternately hoped and despaired of her future.
Later we move on to a scene of Mary apparently praying whilst actually writing a letter and then finally to her arrest. Mary was actually arrested whilst out riding – a rare treat by this time and one only granted so her Chartley apartments could be thoroughly searched. Again to make the most of the wonderful Hatfield set we have moved this scene to her rooms at Chartley. Here she is confronted by Paulet with the news that the Babington plot has been uncovered. To explain the mechanism of the plot in a single scene Paulet appears with the brewer who had provided the mode of communication between Babington and Mary – their ciphered letters being hidden in the bungs of the ale barrels delivered to Chartley.
At this date weak ale was a part of everyday life for households, as the brewing process required the boiling of water (which killed potentially dangerous bacteria) whilst the alcohol acted as a mild preservative (although hops which provide much longer life for ale were not yet used in this country). Drinking beer was not so much a luxury as a necessity if you were to avoid disease.
With Mary arrested, her secretaries in custody and the decrypts of her secret conversations in government hands it now only remained for Walsingham and the Privy Council to persuade Elizabeth that only her rival’s death could protect her own life.