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Elizabeth was acutely aware that the Scots objection to their former Queen was based on the accusation she had colluded in the murder of her husband, Lord Darnley. Elizabeth adopted the position that she could not support Mary until this slur was removed, and promised that after an inquiry, all would be straightforward in restoring her to the Scots throne. Mary who assumed this was a foregone conclusion had no choice but to accept that this was the road ahead, and she was comforted by a letter in which Elizabeth explained they would not meet but:

“If you find it strange not to see me you must make a ‘metamorphose’ of our persons, and then you will see it would be ‘malaise’ for me to receive you before your justification… But once honourably acquitted of this crime, I swear to you before God that among all worldly pleasures that will hold the first rank”. (J B Black, 1959 p110)

Thus Elizabeth was still claiming she was prepared to back the restoration of her cousin to the Scottish throne. She told the French ambassador that “She would take the cause of her sister the Queen in hand, and was resolved to place her again in her country in her former degree and authority royal, either by a good appointment and reconciliation… between her and her subjects, or by force” (op cit p111-112).

Mary replied on the 13th June refusing to take part in a confrontation with her accusers, writing “Here I neither can nor will answer their false accusations, although I will with pleasure justify myself voluntarily as friend to friend, but not in the form of a process with my subjects”, but the Privy Council stated that “her majesty can neither in honour or with surety aid her (Mary), nor permit her to come into her presence, nor restore her, nor suffer her to depart without a trial” (Black 1959 p111)

Elizabeth was able to take from the views she was given the device of a commission in inquiry – it was never called a trial – which Mary had to accept as giving the chance to clear her name, and allowed Elizabeth to maintain the apparently clear position of imposing Mary on the Scots if Mary was found innocent of the charges made by Moray and her opponents in Scotland. However this compromise position was not to survive the commission which began in York in October. This was clearly biased against Mary, who was forbidden to attend and make her own case while her half brother Moray was allowed to attend bringing with him the ‘Casket’ letters which he claimed were written by Mary and showed she colluded with Bothwell with whom she was in an adulterous relationship. Mary was furious that she could not attend, while the bias of the process was shown as Darnley’s father was not allowed to come though as Jenny Wormald comments, “At Elizabeth’s insistence, the matter to be discussed was whether Mary was innocent or guilty of the murder of Darnley; for that alone provided straightforward grounds for deciding whether she should be restored to her throne or not” (Wormald 2001/2017 p183). The inquiry was not designed to hear both sides in an even handed way.

The Casket letters were produced by Moray when the commission – or more realistically ‘trial’ – moved to Westminster to bring in additional commissioners. Whether they were forged or not is still a major issue, and one which cannot be decided since the originals vanished in 1584 when in the possession of James Stuart. It is a material factor that he had no desire to see his mother continually accused of aiding the killing of his father so it is not surprising the original letters vanished. The Duke of Norfolk who was one of the original commissioners is supposed to have said the casket letters were too extensive to have been forged (Fraser op cit 2002 p480). (The casket was said to contain eight letters allegedly from Mary to Bothwell, a long love sonnet and two marriage contracts). Norfolk’s conclusiond meant that Mary was guilty, so Mary’s defenders argue they were forged. Whether they were genuine or forged is not really the main issue. If forged, then the conclusion was that powerful interests in Scotland would go to any lengths to stop Mary coming back – which would be proven the next summer when a vote of the nobles barred her returning.