Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Warrant saved

A copy of the warrant for the execution of Mary Queen of Scots has been saved for Britain. The document has been acquired by the library of the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace for £72,485, with the help of heritage bodies' donations.

It faced being taken overseas by a private buyer until the government put a block on its export last year.

The Catholic Queen was executed on 8 February 1587 at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire. Her cousin, Elizabeth I, signed the warrant but later claimed she had given no instruction for its enactment. The original warrant disappeared in the recriminations which followed.

Robert Beale, principal clerk to the Privy Council, was responsible for bearing the warrant to the commissioners.

They 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".

The document, which includes Beale's annotation, was delivered by him to Henry Grey, 6th Earl of Kent - one of the two commissioners who organised the execution.

The purchase by Lambeth Palace Library, the library and record office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, comes after a temporary export ban was put in place last November by the government after a private owner applied for a licence to take it overseas.

The reviewing committee on the export of works of art and objects of cultural interest, administered by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, (MLA), had recommended that the manuscript was "so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune".

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