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Friday, February 24, 2017
Mary Queen of Scots execution document saved for the nation
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¬†Lambeth Palace Library - the historic library and record office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, founded in 1610 - has acquired a document intimately involved with one of Britain's most dramatic historical events, after benefactors of the Library donated funds to keep a copy of the warrant for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots in the UK. In November 2007, Minister of State for Culture Margaret Hodge placed a temporary export bar on the document, following a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). The Committee recommended that the manuscript is so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune, and awarded a starred rating to the document. This effectively provided a last chance to raise the money to keep the document in this country. Lambeth Palace Library took up this challenge and has purchased the document for £72,485.50, thanks to the combined generosity of the Friends of the National Libraries, the Friends and Trustees of Lambeth Palace Library, the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, and the National Heritage Memorial Fund. All of the funding has come from bodies concerned with heritage, without depleting resources available for the Church's mission. Dr. Richard Palmer, the Lambeth Librarian, said: "The Library is delighted to have played its part in saving this document for the nation. The warrant is now reunited with the papers with which it belongs and accessible for the benefit of all". The Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, with her claims to the crowns of England and Scotland, her beauty and charisma, and years of imprisonment, has long been a heroine in the popular imagination. Her execution on 8 February 1587, on the order of her cousin Elizabeth I, is one of the best known events in British history. Robert Beale, principal clerk to the Privy Council of the time, was responsible for bearing the warrant to the commissioners who were instructed to 'repair to our Castell of Fotheringhaye where the said queene of Scottes is in custodie and cause by your commaundement execution to be don uppon her person'. Elizabeth I signed the warrant, but claimed afterwards that she had given no instruction for its enactment. The original warrant disappeared in the recriminations which followed. This copy, which includes Beale's annotation, was delivered by him to Henry Grey, 6th Earl of Kent, one of the two commissioners tasked with organising the execution. It was accompanied by a covering letter to the Earl from the Privy Council which has long been part of the collections of Lambeth Palace Library. These two documents, which played a central role in the drama, are now reunited in the Library's care. Lambeth Palace Library is one of England's oldest public libraries. Its entire collections are designated by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council as outstanding in national and international importance. The Library holds significant archives relating to Mary Queen of Scots, including papers not only of Henry Grey, 6th Earl of Kent, but of George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, who was for many years custodian of the Queen in her captivity and the second commissioner responsible for her execution. The Library also holds the sermon which was to have been preached at the execution, but which Mary declined to hear. An illustrated subject guide to these sources on the Queen is accessible on the Library's website, at Lambeth Palace Library is freely open to the public for research. The copy of the warrant will now be available for research and exhibition, including loans for exhibitions on both sides of the Scottish border. For further information on the Library see: Source: CoE Communications Office
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