Elizabeth I to Mary Queen of Scots, 24 February 1567 (SP 52/13 f.17)
The finger of blame for Darnley’s murder soon pointed to the Earl of Bothwell and Mary herself. Bothwell had long been suspected of having designs on the throne, and his close relationship with the queen gave rise to rumours they were sexually intimate. Suspicions that Mary had colluded in her husband’s death sparked the downward spiral that led to her loss of the Scottish crown. Elizabeth was so shocked when she heard of this latest turn of events that she wrote at once to urge Mary to prove her innocence and salvage her reputation – and her throne.
My ears have been so astounded and my heart so frightened to hear of the horrible and abominable murder of your husband and my own cousin that I have scarcely spirit to write: yet I cannot conceal that I grieve more for you than him. I should not do the office of a faithful cousin and friend, if I did not urge you to preserve your honour, rather than look through your fingers at revenge on those who have done you that pleasure as most people say. I counsel you so to take this matter to heart, that you may show the world what a noble Princess and loyal woman you are. I write thus vehemently not that I doubt, but for affection. [Translated from the French; extract – lines 1-12]