Friday, November 8, 2013

Mary of Scotland a Martyr? Elena Maria Vidal's Opinion

According to Elena Maria Vidal, there is quite a debate on an Elizabethan fan website about Mary, Queen of Scots, executed by (reluctant) order of Elizabeth I and whether or not she could be considered a martyr for her Catholic faith. She offered her opinion and supporting arguments in the comments and then restated them on her blog, Tea at Trianon:

My opinion is that, yes, Mary can be considered a martyr of the Catholic faith. First of all, Elizabeth should not have been holding Mary prisoner all of those years. As much as I admire Elizabeth, she had no legal right to keep Mary captive. She did so for several reasons, one of which was that Mary was a Catholic contender for the throne of England and thus a rallying point for the Catholics of the realm who were being persecuted by Elizabeth.

Secondly, Mary did not plot to kill Elizabeth; she plotted to *escape* which as the prisoner of a foreign power she had every right to do. Why is it so wrong for Mary to plot against Elizabeth when Elizabeth was holding her as a prisoner?

Thirdly, Antonia Fraser and Alison Weir demonstrate that Mary played no part in Darnley’s murder and she married Bothwell unwillingly, after he raped her. Elizabeth should have helped Mary instead of having her imprisoned.

See her blog for reasons four and five. I found her arguments to be convincing and well-stated, especially the fifth on the unfairness of the trial.

One trap that some of the other commenters fall into is thinking that a martyr--canonized or not--must have been perfect in all prior actions. Mary might not have been as politique as Elizabeth I in her handling of her marriage: especially in choosing Darnley, but it's clear that the marriage to Bothwell was under duress. Perhaps she made mistakes in other political choices as Queen of Scotland, but they have little bearing on whether or not we can say that she died because she was a Catholic.

What do you think?

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