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Mary and Elizabeth never actually met, although the Scottish queen often asked for a face-to-face conversation. The English queen, who was a much more astute politician and diplomat than her cousin, never let it happen. Giuseppe Bardari, who wrote the libretto for the Donizetti opera, based it on Friedrich von Schiller's play Maria Stuart. It is the playwright who wrote of the imaginary meeting of the two queens, which forms the dramatic crux of the opera.

On 7 February 1587, Mary was notified that she was to be executed early the next morning. That night she wrote a new will and she sent a letter to Henry III of France asking him to pay her servants. She had no money or property left. Elizabeth had confiscated all of Mary's possessions. Henry paid no attention to her pleas, but Philip II of Spain, familiar to opera goers from Verdi's Don Carlo, paid her remaining servants.

Elizabeth (Kate Aldrich) signs Mary's death warrant with Cecil (Andrew Greenan) in attendance. Photo © 2008 Ken Howard
Elizabeth (Kate Aldrich) signs Mary's death warrant with Cecil (Andrew Greenan) in attendance. Photo © 2008 Ken Howard

With the death of Mary, Elizabeth was free of a constant threat. However, when the English queen passed away, Mary's son was crowned King James I of England and it is her descendants who have ruled the United Kingdom ever since.

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Copyright © 10 March 2008 Maria Nockin, Arizona USA

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