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Manuscript by Mary, Queen of Scots up for sale

A very rare piece of history will take centre stage at an American auction on 18th September as a manuscript that was signed by Mary, Queen of Scots before her execution is being put up for sale.

The document in question relates to an estate in France where one of the country’s biggest and bloodiest massacres took place. More than 60 Protestant worshippers were slayed in a barn in Wassy in North East France in 1562. The massacre sent shockwaves not just through France but throughout Europe. Mary, Queen of Scots signed the document that effectively ordered the killing of these 60 innocent people.


The manuscript that Mary signed, handed over control of the castle at Wassy to Jacques de la Montaigne who was a close aide of Francis, Duke of Guise, Mary’s uncle. The French written document specifically states that ‘Captaincy’ of the castle would be passed to Montaigne from Henri, who was the son of the Duke of Guise. It is probable that Montaigne was present at the massacre.

The document is expected to fetch around £12,000 at auction and RR Auction executive vice-president Bobby Livingston had this to say, “When we saw it we were really thrilled. Its signed so close to her execution- she is already been imprisoned and is awaiting her fate. Our estimate is £12,000 but I wouldn’t be surprised if the price exceeds this.”

What makes this story more astonishing, and as Bobby Livingston points out, is that at the time that Mary signed the document she was imprisoned, on the orders of Queen Elizabeth I, at Chartley Castle in Staffordshire. Ten months after Mary put pen to paper, she was beheaded.

A spokesperson for the auctioneers commented, “In 1560 Mary had been granted the right to the profit of Wassy, located in eastern Champagne, as part of her jointure as widow of the recently deceased French King Francis III, and the rights were managed on her behalf by her uncle, the Duke of Guise. In 1562 Wassy was the site of a massacre of Huguenots by troops under Francis and sparked the bloody French Wars of Religion.”


The manuscript seems to have an unknown seller although it has been speculated that it is a private collector in Europe. The document is known to have been part of a London exhibition in 1888 dedicated to the Stuart dynasty.

Mary Queen of Scots was the only daughter of James V, King of Scots and his French wife Mary. She became Queen at only six days of age and went on to rule from 1542 until her forced abdication in 1567. She was executed in 1587 after she was supposedly tricked into agreeing to a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I.
photo credit: lisby1 via photopin cc

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