Pope Sixtus V
Mary, Queen of Scots
Published Date: 04 January 2010
A letter written from Mary Queen of Scots' Northamptonshire prison cell three months before she was executed has been released from the Vatican's 'secret archive'.
The letter to Pope Sixtus V sees the well known figure ask forgiveness for her sins.
In the letter, she also warns the pope of treacherous cardinals.
It was written by Mary Queen of Scots on November 23, 1586 from her prison cell at Fotheringay Castle in the north of Northamptonshire.
The letter has been published as part of a new book called The Vatican Secret Archives.
The book collects together 105 documents from the Vatican's archives, 19 of which have never been seen before in public.
Mary Queen of Scots was executed at Fotheringhay Castle, near Oundle, at 8am on February 8, 1587 because of the threat she posed to Queen Elizabeth I as she was considered the rightful ruler of England by many Catholics.
Mary had fled to England after an unsuccessful attempt to regain the throne in Scotland.
She initially sought protection from Queen Elizabeth, but because of the perceived threat she posed was instead imprisoned before being tried and executed for treason.
As well as the Fotheringhay letter, the book of Vatican documents also includes letters written to Hitler by Pope Pius XI in 1934 and one received by his controversial (Not true-Ashley) successor, Pius XII, from Japan's Emperor Hirohito.
There is also an entreaty to Rome written on birch bark by a tribe of North American Indians.
The Vatican's 'secret archive' currently occupies a total of 85 kilometres of bookshelves but it is constantly growing.