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Copies or drafts of letters and memoranda of Mary, Queen of Scots, or associated closely with her, probably written by various secretaries.

Identifier: MS.6135

Scope and Contents

The items are also closely associated with William Maitland of Lethington, and are chiefly concerned with the diplomatic negotiations of the period with England and France; they are apparently unpublished. Where no exact date is given on the document, the letters have been dated from internal evidence.

The contents are as follows.

(i) Copy letter, [end of February 1563], of William Maitland of Lethington to François, Duc de Guise, reporting the course of his negotiations in London with Queen Elizabeth. He discusses relations between France and England, the question of Elizabeth's successor as raised by the English parliament, and current events and gossip in London. (Folio 1.)

(ii) Copy letter, [late March or early April 1562], of Mary, Queen of Scots to her uncles, François, Duc de Guise, and Charles, Cardinal de Lorraine. She refers to: the reconciliation of a feud between Bothwell and Arran; the attitudes of 'mondit oncle monsieur le marquis' (i.e. René de Lorraine, Marquis d'Elboeuf) and of Arran and his faction towards a possible meeting with Elizabeth; the sincerity of Mar (Moray) and Maitland in conducting her affairs; and the exercise of her religion in private. (Folio 5.)

(iii) Copy letter, [late January 1562], of Mary to her uncles. She refers to: the arrival of 'Sainct Cosme' (i.e. Sir James Stewart of Doune, Commendator of St Colm Abbey) with letters in cipher from her uncles; her constancy in religion, and the possibility of the reception of an English form of worship in Scotland; the interest of the Estates and of Arran's faction in her choice of a husband; and the letters she sent to Guise by Montignac (see ‘A letter from Mary Queen of Scots to the Duke of Guise’). (Folio 9.)

(iv) Copy letter, [7 March 1563], probably of John Wishart of Pitarrow, written from London to M de Sens du P [illegible]. He refers to: his association with Maitland of Lethington's mission to England and France; Maitland's discussions with the Spanish ambassador in London for the marriage of Mary to Don Carlos of Spain; conflict with Guise proposals for her marriage to Archduke Charles of Austria; the effect of such marriages in England and Scotland; the possibility of a meeting between Mary and Elizabeth. (Folio 11.)

(v) Copy letter, [circa 20 May 1563], of Mary to her uncles, sent by Philibert, Sieur du Croc. She refers to: Maitland's mission accompanied by the Comptroller (John Wishart of Pitarrow); proposals for a meeting with Elizabeth which she hopes will be held at York. (Folio 13.)

(vi) Copy letter, St Andrews, 24 February 1563, of Mary to her uncle, the Duc de Guise. She refers in detail to her association with Pierre de Châtelard which resulted in his execution at St Andrews. (Folio 15.)

(vii) Copy letter, 24 February 1563, of Mary to her uncle, the Cardinal de Lorraine. She refers to: Throckmorton's capture and wounding in France; the request by the English parliament to Elizabeth to marry or to settle the succession problem; Throckmorton's advice to her to press her claims to succession. (Folio 17 verso.)

(viii) Notes relating to Maitland's visit to the Cardinal, 30 March 1563, to form the contents of two letters. The second letter (folio 19) refers to the succession to the English throne, insisting that Mary's interests be safeguarded; the first letter (folio 20) discusses the possibility of a reconciliation between Elizabeth and the Guises.

(ix) Copy letter to Mary, Queen of Scots, 10 September [1568], possibly from Maitland. The writer refers to: his obedience to the Queen's commands in the presence of Scrope and Moray on the frontier; his affection to her; his visit to Edinburgh to hear the news brought by Robert Stewart and John Wood to Moray; rumours of 1000 arquebusiers from France ready to embark for Scotland in Mary's support; the possible reaction of Elizabeth. In a postscript he states that John Wood reports that Elizabeth will declare for Moray, not Mary, and that he hopes to be able to see Mary at the meeting to be held at York at the end of the month; this probably refers to the investigation of the Casket letters. (Folio 21.)

(x) Notes concerning a meeting to be held between Maitland and Elizabeth [late May-early June 1562], possibly a summary of Mary's instructions to Maitland. Elizabeth wishes to meet Mary, but the difficulty of continental affairs prevents her prolonged absence from London; suggests meeting at 'Nutignen' [? Nottingham]. Maitland is to reply that Mary is advised against such a long journey, but on the advice of her council would come to York. (Folio 23.)

(xi) Minute of a memoir sent to the Cardinal de Lorraine by du Croc, 20 May 1563. It refers principally to the proposed marriages of Mary, Queen of Scots: negotiations with Archduke Charles should be delayed until the English succession question is resolved, and until the Spanish ambassador can get an answer from Spain about negotiations with Don Carlos; the latter is to be preferred because a powerful husband would assist in the succession question; although Mary wishes to follow the Cardinal's advice, the Archduke would require to be subsidized if he were to be in Scotland. Financial matters are important because Mary's dowry has not been paid and Scottish revenues are low; advice on finance is requested from the Cardinal. Mary agreed to allow religious matters to remain as she found them, but the Archbishop of St Andrews has broken this edict by publicly administering the sacrament; he is not reliable, seeking only the advancement of the Hamilton family, and has been placed under open arrest. Mass may be held in private, which gives a degree of freedom to Catholics. (Folio 24.)

(xii) Inventories of jewellery, etc., of Mary, Queen of Scots, similar to but not identical with those published in ‘Inventaires de la Royne Descosse Douairiere de France’. (Folio 28.)


  • Creation: [1562]-1563, [1568].

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Normal access conditions apply.

Conditions Governing Use

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53 Leaves ; Folio.

Language of Materials



xvi + 37 folios.

The items were originally separate, and were bound together, not in chronological order, in the 19th century.

Custodial History

The volume was bought by the National Library of Scotland with the aid of the Reid Fund.

The material was formerly in the library of Sir Thomas Phillipps.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bought, Sotheby's, 11 November 1946, lot 96.


'Catalogus Librorum Manuscriptorum in Bibliotheca D. Thomae Phillipps, Bt.' (1837-1871): manuscripts 18586 and 19992. ‘Inventaires de la Royne Descosse Douairiere de France’, edited by Joseph Robertson (Bannatyne Club, 1863). ‘A letter from Mary Queen of Scots to the Duke of Guise’, edited by J H Pollen (Scottish History Society, 1904).
National Library of Scotland Catalogue of Manuscripts
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Repository Details

Part of the National Library of Scotland Archives and Manuscripts Division Repository

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