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The Casket Letters: 1567

According to Mary's Protestant enemies, a servant of Bothwell's is apprehended in June 1567 carrying a silver casket. It contains eight letters and some sonnets written by Bothwell to Mary. One letter in particular, if authentic, implicates Mary in the murder of her husband, Darnley.

The letters are shown to Mary in her captivity in Loch Leven, and are said to be instrumental in persuading her to abdicate. A year later, after Mary's flight to England, the letters are also shown to the commissioners appointed by Elizabeth to report on the circumstances surrounding Mary's presence in the country.

It has long been a matter of debate whether the letters were forged by Mary's enemies - in whole, or more likely in part by the addition of incriminating sentences. It is a debate which can never be resolved, since the originals disappeared in Scotland during the 1580s.

Other evidence does suggest that Mary was almost certainly aware of the plot to murder Darnley. At a council held in Craigmillar castle, late in 1566, the issue is discussed - in the presence of both Mary and Bothwell - of how the queen might be rid of her husband.

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