Seven day earlier, William Davison, Elizabeth I's secretary, was asked by the queen to bring Mary's death warrant in order that she could sign it. Elizabeth handed it back to Davison for safe keeping. However, contrary to her order the warrant found its way into the hands of William Cecil. Cecil was quick to act upon Elizabeth's wishes stated within the warrant....
“repaire to our Castle of Fotheringhaye where the said Queene of Scottes is in custodie of our right trustie servant and Counsellor Sir Amyas Poulet Knight, and then taking her into your charge to cause by your commandment execution to be done upon her person”.
It is clear that Elizabeth certainly had some doubts about Mary's execution. Although there is no evidence, it is probable that William Cecil and Francis Walsingham used their positions to influence the Privy Council to convince the queen Mary's death was necessary, and her Parliament to get the warrant approved.
According to French nobleman Pierre de Bourdeille, who had been with Mary during her imprisonment, the Scottish queen welcomed the news of her demise, stating that she 'longed for an end to her miseries, and had been prepared for death ever since she had been sent as a prisoner to England.' She asked for time to prepare herself, but this was not granted, Mary was told in no uncertain terms
'No, no, Madam you must die, you must die! Be ready between seven and eight in the morning. It cannot be delayed a moment beyond that time.'
Tonight, after dinner, I have been advised of my sentence: I am to be executed like a criminal at eight in the morning. I have not had time to give you a full account of everything that has happened, but if you will listen to my doctor and my other unfortunate servants, you will learn the truth, and how, thanks be to God, I scorn death and vow."
Mary knelt, and as a cloth was tied across her eyes she felt for the block and laying her head down she repeated
‘In manus tuas, Domine’ - ‘Into thy hands, Lord’
With more than one stroke of the axe Elizabeth's nemesis was dead.
Mary's executioner is said to have picked up her severed head and, showing it to those present shouted
"God save Queen Elizabeth! May all the enemies of the true Evangel thus perish!'
Despite her famous reaction on finding out her cousin was dead, it is clear from the death warrant what Elizabeth's wishes were. Cecil, Walsingham and Davison, all staunch Protestants, had their reasons to rid of the country of the Catholic heir to the English throne. They knew that Elizabeth's hesitation could prove problematic, and they acted fast. However, Cecil and Walsingham would not feel the wrath of a distraught and guilt racked queen, but Davison would.
Mary was buried in a Protestant service at Peterborough Cathedral, her body would later be exhumed and reinterred in Westminster Abbey. Her crucifix and cover of her prayer book were quickly taken from the scene, no doubt by her loyal ladies for safe keeping, but you can see in the above image that most of Mary's belongings were burnt to prevent them becoming Catholic icons.