CHAPTER XXII. ELIZABETH (vii), 1583-87 - THE END OF QUEEN MARY
Still through December and January Elizabeth continued to vacillate. The sentiment as to the sanctity of an anointed Queen still influenced her; yet it is sufficiently clear that her real motive for hesitation was the desire, not to spare Mary, but herself to escape the odium of sanctioning the execution. At last however the warrant was signed, and received the Chancellor's seal. Yet she made the Secretary Davison write to Paulet and urge him to put Mary to death without waiting for the warrant. Paulet flatly refused. She used such terms to Davison that he feared on his own responsibility to forward the warrant to the appointed authorities Shrewsbury and Kent. He went to Burghley: Burghley summoned privately all members of the Council then in London. They agreed to share the responsibility for acting without further reference to the Queen. On February 4th, the letters were issued. On the 7th, in the afternoon, Kent and Shrewsbury presented themselves at Fotheringay and told Mary that on the following morning she must die.
[Death of Mary]
It was characteristic of her that during the few hours of life left to her, she forgot neither loyal servant nor victorious foe. Her last written words were to bid her friends remember both. When the morrow came, she mounted the low scaffold in the great hall with unfaltering step, far less moved outwardly than the six attendants whom she had chosen for her last moments, a splendid tragic figure; every word, every gesture those of a woman falsely charged and deeply wronged, majestic in her proud self-control. Was it merely a superb, an unparalleled piece of acting? [Footnote: See Appendix C. Mr. Froude is dramatically at his best in telling the story; but his partisan bias is correspondingly emphasized.] Was it the heroism of a martyr? The voice of England had doomed her; she appealed to a higher Tribunal than England. King or Queen never faced their end more triumphantly. Mary Stewart, royal in the fleeting moments of her prosperity, royal throughout the long years of her adversity, was never so supremely royal as in her last hour on earth.