The Queen of Scots at Fotheringhay      

The Queen of Scots at Fotheringhay

Prays all night and sews all day:

At dusk her maids of honour sing

Of love forever triumphing.


Her prayers, unanswered, bring her peace:

The Queen of England must release

A dove embroidered white on red:

The silver scissors cut the thread.


Her chair of state has lost its crown;

Her baldacchino is pulled down:

Sir Amyas Paulet, dressed in steel,

Bothers no longer now to kneel.


The Queen of England bites her pen,

Circled by murderous serving men:

She signs her name in Gothic style,

Then screams at Cecil a little while.


The Queen of Scots has Christ concealed -

A pyx beside her heart will yield

The white Host on her triumph day,

Though every priest be locked away.


She writes a letter to the Pope:

‘I die for Holy Church, and hope

Your prayers will follow after me,

Who, at my end, begin to be.’


Her maids of honour dress her hair.

‘Take care! The lords are sure to stare.

I had a name for beauty when

I danced in France with kingly men.’


They curtsey, kiss her hand, and go,

Each with a ring. ‘Remember, O

My Marys, I am grateful to

God that He gave me four of you.’


Derby attends her pleasure now:

‘Madame, believe me when I vow

Her Grace of England swoons with grief.’

‘Sir, let forgiveness bring relief.’


The Queen of Scots is disarrayed,

While drums, as for a witch, are played:

Her little dog, once black, is red,

Crying beside her separate head.


The barren Queen of England dies

With flames reflected from her eyes:

‘I see myself in fiery chains.’

The King of Scots at Richmond reigns.


The castle crowning Fotheringhay –

A hill of dust, where children play.

The only ghost to wander there

Is England’s Queen with scarlet hair.