Why did Elizabeth execute Mary in 1587?
Throughout Elizabeth's reign, she faced many problems from both extreme Catholics and Protestants. For example, many Catholics believed that Elizabeth was an illegitimate heir to the throne, therefore she should be killed and replaced with her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, who was the “rightful heir to the throne”. Mary was a threat to Elizabeth and the throne, simply by being in England, therefore Elizabeth needed to make a decision on how to deal with this threat.
In order to assess why Elizabeth executed Mary in 1587, it is important to look at her other options in dealing with Mary, such as allowing her to go back to France or to help her ...view middle of the document...
Elizabeth's aim was to remove threats to the throne – if she allowed Mary to go abroad, this aim would be achieved, however the consequences of French invasion made this decision too risky, and therefore, Elizabeth decided against this.
Another of Elizabeth's options was to send Mary back to Scotland, where she had escaped from, and help her to regain her throne, as Queen of Scots. Elizabeth believed that if she helped Mary to regain her throne in Scotland, that she would be removing the threat to the English throne as Mary would have no real reason for wanting the English throne, as she would already be Queen of Scots. However, this was not the case as Mary refused to renounce her claim to the English throne. Elizabeth now knew that if she sent Mary back to Scotland, she could be creating a dangerous enemy on her Northern border, and perhaps increasing the threat to the English throne, rather than reducing it.
Elizabeth's solution, and the only realistic choice at the time, was to keep Mary in England. Her intention in this was to keep an eye on Mary and control her, stopping threats to the throne. Mary made it very clear to everybody that she felt that she was the rightful heir to the throne, and that she should be Queen of England. Whilst imprisoned, Mary had been plotting against Elizabeth, with the aim to take over the English throne.
The Ridolfi Plot of 1571 was an attempt to assassinate Elizabeth, by securing an invasion of England from the Spanish general in the Netherlands, resulting in a Catholic uprising in England. The aim of these actions involved in the plot was to free Mary from captivity and allow her to take over the throne in England. However, this did not go to plan as the plot was discovered, and it was believed that Mary had been personally involved. This lead to Elizabeth's second huge decision in 1572, on Mary's future, as the Parliament was now demanding for Mary's execution.
Parliament demanded Mary's execution with the intention of removing threats to the English throne, however Elizabeth knew that if she executed Mary, this would not be the case. Although the Ridolfi plot was aimed at placing Mary on the throne, there was no evidence that Mary was directly involved in the plot, or whether it was Elizabeth's Catholic enemies who were responsible for the plots. Therefore, it is not possible to say that Mary was guilty, and Elizabeth could be accused of executing an innocent heir to the throne. Also, the Ridolfi plot involved the Duke of Norfolk, the Philip of Spain and the Pope. Elizabeth knew that if she followed Parliament's demands for Mary's execution, she ran the risks of foreign invasions, or a Catholic rebellion in England, which England was not prepared for. By keeping Mary alive,...