©National Archives

Allegorical sketch of Mary Queen of Scots, 1567 Mary, Queen of Scots is depicted as a mermaid, a recognized symbol of prostitution, in this allegorical sketch of around June 1567.

The ill-fated Mary had lost popular support in Scotland when she married James, earl of Bothwell, who was widely believed to have killed her second husband, Lord Darnley. In a separate sketch Bothwell is represented as a hare.

Mary fled to England in 1568 and was held captive there for the next nineteen years. As a Catholic with a strong claim to the English throne, Mary posed a grave threat to Elizabeth and was at the centre of various Catholic plots and conspiracies. She was eventually implicated for her supposed involvement in the Babington conspiracy of 1586, and executed on Queen Elizabeth's orders at Fotheringay the following year.

See item in the collection's timeline