Catalogue description Secretaries of State: State Papers Scotland Series I, Mary Queen of Scots

Search within or browse this series to find specific records of interest.

Date range

Details of SP 53
Reference: SP 53
Title: Secretaries of State: State Papers Scotland Series I, Mary Queen of Scots

A special collection of documents (some transferred from SP 59) particularly concerning Mary, Queen of Scots from her flight from Scotland into England in 1568 until her execution in 1587. Thus the records span only part of Elizabeth I's reign.

The series contains correspondence between the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, their ministers and representatives, not least Mary's custodian's evidence of Mary's and her supporters' machinations, including her 'casket letters' to the Earl of Bothwell, her third husband, and, above all, the papers seized at Chartley Castle on the discovery of the Babington conspiracy in 1586 which were used, when deciphered, to implicate Mary and bring her to trial.

The series includes a collection of over 100 ciphers, most of them used in communication with Mary. and used to decipher calendared letters. Different ciphers were used by the Queen's correspondents. Some of these correspondents are identified, but some remain 'anonymous'.

Date: 1568-1587
Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English
Physical description: 23 volume(s)
Publication note:

Calendared briefly in the: Calendar of State Papers relating to Scotland preserved in H.M. Public Record Office ed M J Thorpe 2 vols (Edinburgh 1858) Calendar of State Papers relating to Scotland and Mary Queen of Scots 1547-1603 eds J Bain W K Boyd H W Meikle A I Cameron M S Guiseppi and J D Mackie 13 vols (Edinburgh 1898-1969). Please speak to staff at the Map and Large Document Room enquiry desk for the precise location. One of the more recent examples of extracts in full from this series isLetters of James VI and I ed G P V Akrigg (London 1984). Papers in the series relating to the Babington conspiracy were published inQueen Mary and the Babington Plot ed J H Pollen Scottish Historical Society 3rd series vol III (Edinburgh 1922). The allegation that the Babington plot papers were forged or tampered with is dismissed byConyers Read Mr Secretary Walsingham and the Policy of Queen Elizabeth (Oxford 1925).

Administrative / biographical background:

At the time of the Babington plot against Elizabeth I in 1586, the cipher letters passed through government hands and were deciphered by Sir Francis Walsingham's factotum, Thomas Phelippes, but before his time deciphering was the work of John Somers, clerk of the signet.

Have you found an error with this catalogue description?

Help with your research