“How does one dress for an execution, Foi?” Mary combed through her selection of elaborate gowns as her little Maltese dog watched, her tiny white head swiveling from one dress to the next as Mary surveyed her choices.
Foi herself was dressed to perfection, as any proper royal dog would, a delicate blue velvet collar circling her neck. She rested her dainty head on her paws and watched her mistress run her fingers over exquisite robes made of the finest lace, silk and satin in all of Scotland. They were gowns fit for a queen.
“Foi, what do you think of this one?” Mary held out her first choice.
The little white dog danced on her hind legs, pawed at the air and offered Mary kisses with her tiny, pink tongue.
“Oh Foi, I will miss you so.” Mary snuggled the Maltese close to her breast and buried her face in the silky, snow-white fur.
Angry knuckles banged on the door to Mary’s room. “Madame, it is time.”
Foi yipped and ran in protective circles around Mary. She chose her gown and dressed in silence.
The crowd gathered in the great hall of Fotheringhay Castle jeered and hurled expletives at her when she stepped into view in a plain black cloak. Mary remained stoic behind her veil, a barrier between her and the cruel words of the strangers who had gathered for the day’s morbid festivities. She held her head high, with the grace and dignity of a woman who knew her royal birthright.
Flanked on either side by her ladies in waiting, Mary took her final steps toward the platform. Pools of ebony taffeta fabric gathered at her feet as she looked into the eyes of the two men who would take her life. Then the ladies in waiting slowly began to remove her outer garments. Her veil billowed in the wind as they lifted it from her serene face. Mary’s mouth formed into the slighted grin when the layers of somber black fabric were peeled off her body to reveal a chemise of scarlet satin. Blood red. The color of a martyr.
The pair of executioners bowed before her with reverence and begged forgiveness for what they were about to do.
Mary clutched her mother-of-pearl rosary tightly to her chest, her face free of all malice as she told them, “I forgive you with all my heart, for now I hope you shall make an end to all my troubles.”
She kissed the rosary and whispered, “In my end is my beginning.”
Then Mary knelt in front of the wooden slab and laid her head on the smooth surface. She closed her eyes to block out the hostile faces of the spectators and murmured her final words. “Lord, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
The blade came down with an angry slice. Once, twice, three times.
Mary’s blood, the blood of a queen, stained her porcelain skin, flowing from her wound until her lifeless body and her petticoat became indistinguishable. One motionless crimson garment.
The bloodthirsty throng cheered, their voices rising to the heavens until one smaller voice rose above them all. It was a deep mournful howl coming from within the queen’s underclothes.
The executioners cautiously approached the queen. They lifted the bottom of her slip and found Foi, a quivering white form, nestled among the ruby satin. Inconsolable, the little dog sang Mary’s requiem as she was ushered into freedom at last.
Mary, Queen of Scots, ascended to the throne when she was a mere six days old. Her reign was filled with religious tensions and strife between the monarchies of Scotland and England. She was imprisoned at the tender age of 24 and executed twenty years later. She is considered a martyr by many people, particularly those of the Catholic faith.
The story of her faithful little dog is true. The Queen’s ladies in waiting pried the dog from her lifeless body and cared for it, but the shock proved to be too great. The Maltese died shortly after her mistress.
Foi – French for “faith.”
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