Queen of Scots, was held prisoner at Chartley under the watchful
eye of Sir Amias Paulet, a Protestant loyal to Elizabeth I. In Paulet’s
custody Mary’s contact with the outside world was limited to
correspondence encrypted by her cipher secretary, Gilbert
Curle, and smuggled out in casks of ale. Every letter was intercepted
by a Catholic double agent, Gilbert
Gifford, who had offered his services to Walsingham
‘I have heard of the work you do and I want to serve you.
I have no scruples and no fear of danger. Whatever you order me
to do I will accomplish.’
Gifford to Sir Francis
Letters between Mary and her allies in England and abroad were
painstakingly deciphered and copied by Walsingham’s master
forger and cipher secretary, Thomas
Phelippes. Letters were then carefully re-sealed and sent on
to their intended recipients, who blithely continued with their
scheme to establish Mary on the throne.
Different ciphers using unique combinations of symbols, letters,
words and nulls
were used for different recipients. This document illustrates some
of the ciphers used by Mary during her imprisonment at Chartley.