ELHAS Meeting Report - November 2014

Meeting Report November 2014

Our November meeting was attended by 57 members and guests who gathered to hear a fascinating lecture on Mary Queen of Scots, the Captive Queen, by David Templeman. David, a former business man, retired nine years ago and since then has honed his skills as an Elizabethan historian and lecturer who is much in demand nationwide. He is also Chair of the Friends of Sheffield Manor Lodge, one of the several manor houses in Yorkshire where Mary Queen of Scots was held during her imprisonment in the county.

David began his lecture by explaining that although much has been written about Mary, very few publications have concentrated on her imprisonment which took up such a large part of her life. In fact she was held prisoner for 19 years which amounted to almost half her life. David explained that when she first arrived in England in May 1568, Elizabeth was faced with the dilemma of what to do with her. Fearing an uprising or plots to free her, Elizabeth decided to keep her in England but subject to a form of house arrest. Thus began a series of stays in castles and manor houses in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and the Midlands, although the majority of her time was spent at Sheffield Castle in Yorkshire.

At first she was allowed much freedom and could still indulge in her favourite pastimes of riding and hunting. She was also afforded all the privileges which were her right as a monarch with a court of some 40 attendants including her personal priest. David told us that as her years of imprisonment lengthened and her privileges were removed she had to concentrate on indoor pursuits and produced, along with her ladies-in-waiting, over 200 pieces of embroidery and wrote over 2,000 letters. We were intrigued to be told that Mary was allowed two barrels of white wine per month which she not only drank, but also bathed in thus giving her beautiful skin and a flawless complexion.

Describing her years of imprisonment David explained how her health deteriorated along with that of her custodian George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, since he was subject to the same privations as she was. In fact the task which Elizabeth had imposed upon him eventually cost him his health, his wealth and his marriage to the formidable Bess of Hardwick. By the 1580's Mary's health had become so bad that she was unable to walk unaided and had to be carried from room to room by sedan chair.

Throughout her imprisonment there were numerous plots and escape attempts all of which were dealt with brutally when discovered. The Rebellion of the North resulted in the burning of 500 towns and villages and the execution of 1,000 men. Although Elizabeth had no desire to execute her cousin she could not ignore her involvement in the Babington Plot of 1586 and Mary was eventually tried for high treason and executed at Fotheringhay Castle in February 1587 aged forty four.

We had thoroughly enjoyed David's interesting and fact filled telling of the sad story of Mary Queen of Scots and it proved a fitting end to our autumn programme. The evening concluded with hot drinks and mince pies.

The next meeting on Monday 26th January 2015 will be an illustrated talk by Lucy Moore entitled - "Leeds Museums & Galleries & the First World War".